GATE – 15

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My first thought as to why Tuka is crying? Why, because she and the other two main girls have barely been in this second season. And what we have seen – her wandering around, looking for her dead father – was troubling.

When Itami finally has time to visit the trio, he learns that Yao Haa Dushi told her the flat-out truth – that her father was killed by the fire dragon – and Tuka just couldn’t handle it. The result is a state of psychosis in which she searches the camp endlessly for her father, forgetting about food and sleep; it’s so bad Lelei has had to sedate her periodically.

When Tuka sees Itami after waking up from one such sedation, she sees him as her father and embraces him accordingly, much to everyone’s dismay.

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Yao freely admits to “breaking” Tuka, something she did to force the hand of Itami, someone she believes will be able to help her slay the fire dragon and avenge her people. Yao is as fanatical as Tuka in this desire, only she hasn’t succumbed to as deep a madness as Tuka has. It’s cruel manipulation of our blonde elf, but you can’t fault Yao, who had been refused by everyone else in the JSDF.

Now, as she sees it, in order for Tuka to be healed Itami must make sure she gets the same thing Yao wants: revenge. Only then can she accept her father’s death and move forward. Unfortunately, the only way to get that revenge is by slaying the fire dragon, a foe Itami isn’t keen on facing off against anytime soon.

Meanwhile, Pina informs Diabo that Zolzal has been named their father’s heir. I’m not sure if he’s on Zolzal’s side or Pina’s, but he lets Pina know Zolzal told him to pick a side, that he doesn’t think Zolzal’s reign will last long, and that he’ll bring everyone down with him if he can. If Pina wants peace with Japan, she may have to do something about Zolzal, which would mean defying her father.

Finally, we see Tyuule’s true colors, as she’s been manipulating Zolzal into a pliable, unstable state of supreme arrogance, and is now confident he’ll do whatever she says, she tells an informant who sneaks in to make a delivery in exchange for being allowed to lick her leg. Tyuule hopes to incite a war that will destroy the empire, using Misako as the match to light the fire. Tyuule remains an interesting wild card; on no one’s side but her own, herself fueled by revenge.

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Itami is loath to carry out the plan Yao wants, because he wouldn’t be able to secure a large enough group to bring the dragon down (you’re probably talking about sustained air assault with gunships, rockets, and missiles, plus artillery to finish it off). He believes if he goes in with a small group, they’ll get wiped out, and the last thing he wants is to lose anyone in battle, especially for what is essentially a personal mission.

While he ponders the situation, he decides to go all in and pretend he’s Tuka’s father for the time being. Tuka is elated about this, and they hit the town on a father-daughter date, spending every moment of Itami’s R&R together (she even sleeps with him in bed, naked for some reason…)

While it’s nice to see Tuka so happy, it’s a false happiness that cannot be sustained. Eventually Itami will have to tell her the truth, and she’ll go right on denying it, or possibly plunge deeper into madness. Itami himself dealt with the loss of his father (if I’m reading the flashback correctly, his mother, herself mentally unbalanced, killed him and was committed for it, leaving Itami alone), so he can certainly relate to Tuka.

That new tidbit about Itami’s life makes us wonder if he’s ever actually fully processed that loss and moved forward, or if a part of him is still trapped in the past, if not to as extreme degree as Tuka.

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When Itami has to return to the capital to translate – this time a longer-term arrangement, he breaks it to Tuka as best he can, but the pain in her face is plain to see before she replaces it with an understanding smile.

He crosses paths with Yao once more, who reminds him playing house isn’t going to work forever (no shit Shirlock), and even Lelei and particularly Roroy also appear to be concerned about how long the charade should be allowed to go on.

Heck, posing as her father is messing Itami up, to which his comrade Yanagida suggests: why not just go on the damn mission and slay the dragon?

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That night, as he watches the moon to think about whether to do just that, he meets a wizened old man from the special region with an prosthetic arm and leg, things Japan brought that make it possible for him to continue living his normal life. This old man knows what’s eating Itami before he even sits down: he’s worried about the cost of action. His advice is to listen to his heart, which already knows the answer. Sometimes you gotta act even if it’s dangerous.

So on the dawn when he’s about to head back to the capital via helicopter, after saying his goodbyes he spots a tear on Tuka’s face the moment before the cargo door closes, and jumps out of the helicopter to stay with her. The old man gave him a nudge, but it was Itami who made the leap.

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And that, ladies and gentlemen, means Itami won’t be doing any dreary capital duty anytime soon. No, he’s going on an adventure with Tuka to find and destroy the Fire Dragon. Sure, she still thinks he’s her father, but he can sort that out later.

I don’t know why Itami thinks it will just be him and Tuka, but he’s quickly corrected when Rory makes her presence felt, bites his arm, and forms a contract whereby his soul his hers if he dies. Lelei and Yao also join the party.

At this point I was wondering why he didn’t ask his closer subbordinates with whom he’s been in so many scrapes to volunteer to join him; I’m sure they’d come along if offered the choice. But that’s okay. I’m happy with the five-person group, and looking forward to watching them hopefully kick some fire dragon ass.

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GATE – 14

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Here I thought the earthquake would be a major calamity for the Special Region, utterly unequipped to deal with a natural disaster that does plenty of harm even in modern Japan. But it’s “only a 4 or a 5”, by Itami’s reckoning, as he and Sugawara weather it calmly while Pina and her maid are shaking in their nighties.

The quake passes, but Pina knows she’s not the only one of her people who was scared shitless, so she rushes to the palace to meet with her father, bringing Itami and Sugawara along.

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Their coridal meeting is interrupted by the arrival of Prince Zolzal, who wastes no time at all confirming what a woman-hating creep his is by bringing in Noriko, a Japanese hostage from when their armies invaded the Ginza. Noriko looks as beaten-up and beaten-down as the bunny chief from last week, but Itami and Shino waste no time rescuing her from Zolzal’s clutchs and doling out swift punishment.

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When Zolzal orders his men to attack them back, Itami steps back and lets Shino take care of everything. She bayonets all approaching fighters, then guns down those with shields (the bullets go right through them and their primitive armor).

We’ve seen Shino-As-One-Girl-Wrecking-Crew before, but having her do her thing in the middle of the Imperial throne room sets a new high for audaciousness. It’s also never not fun to watch her go on a spree, even if, again, I’m not so sure SDF protocol is being followed here.

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But while it’s fun, and I’m glad Zolzal quickly gets his just desserts for all the shitty slimy stuff he’s done (and I’m sure he’s done much more we’re not privy to), and Shino’s fists carry with them all the manifest despair and loathing and suffering of Zolzal’s victims, being brought down upon him, it’s also a bit, well, easy. 

I mean, of course this guy is a loathsome little shitstain, and of course when someone actually fight starts whaling on him, he crumbles into a crybaby.

But I’m going to call this scene exactly what it is—Tarantino-esque revenge porn—and while I considered Shino’s actions justified (if a little over-the-top), it would have been more satisfying if there was a little more moral ambiguity to the exchange. The stark black-and-whiteness sapped the scene some of its power.

Interestingly, it’s Tyuule the bunny chief who stands between the prince and Itami, begging the LT not to kill her abuser. I’m thinking perhaps she has her own plans for him, plans for which she’s endured much suffering, and they won’t work if he’s dead. I look forward to the time she can repay him for everything he’s done, but with her people’s safety to consider, she’s playing the long game.

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The Japanese government acts swiftly upon news of Japanese hostages in the Special Region – by bombing the Imperial Senate, sending the message that they’d better release the others if they don’t want to lose anymore buildings.

We learn of the existence of another brother of Pina and Zolzal’s—Diabo, which sounds kinda like “diablo”, only he seems like less of a devil than Zolly…though he may just be better at hiding it. Zolzal also calls his sister a traitor, opening up the possibility he takes her prisoner, stripping her down and beating her, as is his M.O. with captive women.

They have a little chat about how Zolly knows he’ll be named emperor over Diabo, even though his father won’t actually give up all his power. Tyuule’s presence by his side and in his bed is starting to make more sense if she is indeed plotting against him, it’s best to keep your enemies close. And as we know with that tan elf chick who hasn’t shown up yet (Ducy), the warriors of other races resolve to do whatever they can to protect their people.

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Mochizuki Noriko is brought back to base and her injuries are treated. You can feel the traumas she endured in her eyes and the sound of her voice (not sure who the seiyu is, but she does a fine job); but also her relief and joy at being free, something she probably gave up on when she was one of Zolzal’s sex slave. But her troubles aren’t over; it’s heavily implied her family was killed in a Special Region raid while they were distributing flyers about her disappearance. Talk about a rough hand to be dealt.

And speaking of those missing family, Tuka spends the entire episode looking for her father, though again we only see her for a couple of beats. Next week’s episode is titled “Tuka Luna Marceau”, which bodes well for getting her more involved in a show that for the last two weeks has seriously snubbed her, Rory and Lelei.

However, I see that it did that for a pretty good reason: to remind us quite unambiguously that the SG isn’t just some charmingly primitive fantasy land. It’s brutal, and cruel, and dark, and sometimes the only way to deal with it is by knocking out a couple of its teeth.

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GATE – 13

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After a brief stop at Princess Pina’s diplomatic banquet where she and Sugawara prepare to negotiate with various ambassadors and senators, in the episode’s first few minutes we’re subjected to her brother Zolzal having rough sex and slapping around a captive bunny warrior girl, who doesn’t seem that into it.

I know, the show wants to quickly and categorically establish that this guy is scum, but there’s this thing called subtlety. There’s also a thing called boredom, and it exudes from the shallow, evil-for-the-sake-of-evil bad guys like Zolzal.

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Finally meeting Pina’s awful brother makes me sympathize even more she has to be this guy’s sister, after all. As far as I can tell, she’s the only good member of the whole rotten imperial family. As for Zolzal liking the Japanese food and leaving the banquet as quickly as he arrived with a hefty supply in tow…what, was that meant to humanize this abuser of women?

I must say, if we have to deal with this guy on a regular basis, I’m not going to be happy. I can understand Pina’s reluctance to kinslay, but can’t someone accidentally blow him up with a mortar or something?

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Anyway, the JSDF is finally in the capital now, with a small presence in the red light district. They managed to blow away one of the largest gangs, apparently keeping the others away with intimidation, and are distributing health care, including birth control, to the prolific population of half-beast sex workers.

Some shows are slice-of-life; but it would be more appropriate to call GATE slice-of-society, in particular a coming together of two totally different ones. Most of the time, that’s enough to hold my interests.

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But still, with Itami on the periphery and the trio of Rory, Lelei and Tuka barely in this episode, the show put one a hell of a handicap on itself. The episode wasn’t well-served by any frames in which Zolzal appeared, nor any discussion involving the Emperor nor the goofy Japanese politicians back home (ok, we get it; civilian leaders are feckless cowards).

But I’ll admit there’s still much for the JSDF to accomplish, and their progress may be undermined by an impending major earthquake, forewarned by the beast-women who apparently have the same sixth sense that causes Earth animals panic just before a disaster.

Then again, it could also be an opportunity for the JSDF to shine—not as an unstoppable military juggernaut that no power in the special region can ever hope to defeat—but as a force for good.

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Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 05

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When Claire expresses the feeling she and Kal are going in circles, we thought she was commenting on their relationship, rather than the fact they had gotten lost. All the ideal intimate situations in the world won’t change the fact that there’s a significant impediment to their romance getting any further, and it’s the inability for either to tell the other the truth about who they are, or rather who they were.

We say were because Kal is no longer Crown Prince, any more than Louis XX is the current King of France; the monarchy was dissolved. Even if Kal wanted to (and he doesn’t), overthrowing the republic that overthrew him would be a nigh impossible. There may be strict classes aboard Isla, but at the end of the day they’re all exiles from Balsteros, not expected to come back. Kal is no different.

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Meanwhile, Claire may dress up as Nina Viento, but she apparently no longer possesses the power of the wind god. We get her Kotoura-like backstory, in which she’s shunned as a witch, carried off by a money-lender (which her mom lets happen), and in a rage, destroys the town with a tornado. She agreed to fight for the rebels because she wanted to be needed, but when she looks back on her past deeds, she can’t see anyone but a monster.

It gets to the point that she can’t look Kal in the eye, but she’s calmed somewhat when he tells her all he wants to do is fly with her (or rather be with her) as long as he can, whatever the future holds. But Claire’s secret is still gnawing away at hr. We know Kal probably wouldn’t take the news well, nor can we discount the possibility he’ll forgive her. In any case, he’s likely to find out at some point, so it’s best if she’s the one to tell him. Otherwise, they’ll just keep going in circles.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 04

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With Kal and Claire lost at sea and a worried Ariel waiting at the air base for his return, there’s not a lot for anyone to do in the present but wait out the storm…and think about the past! We have to credit the show for giving us an unforced, logical vehicle for conveying a good amount of backstory. The episode gave us fresh insights into several characters and built up interest in the events to follow, while being entertaining in its own right.

Ariel’s friends stay by her side as she waits, so she tells them how her dad came home one day with this blond kid and announced she and her older sisters had a stepbrother. Not surprisingly, Ariel is initially unaccepting (especially as he’s exactly one day older than her) but eventually finds a place in her heart for him, as proven by her intense concern for him in the present and rush of emotion when he returns safe and sound.

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Kal certainly couldn’t ask for a better person to be stranded with then the girl he likes. The storm looks pretty precarious, but eventually the seas calm, the two fall in the drink trying to drain the dinghy and have to strip, and even snuggle up for warmth when night comes, with only the occasional bout of embarrassment. For her part, Claire also seems to enjoy having Kal as her fellow castaway-for-a-night, at least until he picks up the story where Ariel left off, revealing more details about himself in hopes of learning more about Claire in return. But the more Claire learns about Kal, the more worried she gets as she connects the dots.

Kal is looking more and more like the crown prince of Balsteros rumored to have snuck aboard Isla for revenge against Nina Viento. When they return to home and Claire quickly conveyed to her manor where maids strip her of her flight suit and transform her into Nina Viento, we’re left unsure whether she’s upset at the prospect of Kal being the prince because of how it will affect their friendship, or if she’ll feel compelled to kill the last “wicked” la Hire in order to complete the revolution. In any case, Kal is right about he and Claire being alike in at least one way: both are hiding their true identities from the other.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

 

Toaru Hikuushi e no Koiuta – 03

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While he’s still quite young, Kal-el Albus has been through a lot in his life. By cruel fate he happened to be the last Crown Prince of the mighty Balsteros empire when it was overthrown by a populist uprising. His father the emperor was guillotined, and the last he saw of his mother, she was being carted off to her death. Her mother, a strong, fiercely kind woman despite her lofty status, begged her son to forgive those who caused him pain and grief, and not let hatred consume him.

In an act of kindness, the warden allowed a commoner to smuggle Carl out of the prison. Carl La Hire officially died with his parents, while Kal-el Albus was born. But he never forgot the girl whose mythical powers of wind manipulation proved decisive in the coup d’état success: Nina Viento. Ignoring her mother’s dying wish out of outrage she had to die at all, Kal has vowed never to forgive Nina.

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One would think being the youngest member of a royal family when it meets its demise would be enough to endure, but the universe apparently has more in store for Kal. That’s because the girl he fell for the first day he arrived on Isla; the girl he spends most of his days with training in the skies and enjoying meals together; has a secret of her own: she’s Nina Viento. She also seems to be coming around to realizing who Kal really is before he comes around to realizing who she is.

There’s certainly a foreboding quality to the way the adults of Isla are feverishly whipping the students into shape for a still as-yet unknown threat on the horizon. But for the moment, we’re more interested in what will become of Kal and Claire once their secrets are revealed. We’ve seen Kal’s side of the story, but we’re certain there’s far more to Claire’s side than “She’s Evil.” After all, she was just a kid back then, too.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)