Mahoutsukai no Yome – 22

Chise makes the only deal she believes she can make, not just to save Stella, but her own life as well. That deal puts her in the lion’s den, and Joseph, the lion, makes it clear he still hates her, even if he’ll honor the deal.

The process starts with the two swapping eyeballs—a particularly icky sequence—and when his body doesn’t reject it, he prepares to remove her cursed left arm.

While Chise was awake for the eye-swap, Joe locks her in her memories for the next phase—childhood memories she thought lost forever, in which she and her dad and brother were together and she was a normal, well-adjusted girl.

After painfully bittersweet images of their nearly perfect family life flash by—among them her dad fighting off some kind of demon or faerie—a form of Joseph appears that isn’t so much Joseph, but the piece of him that has now made itself at home in her body—his eye.

One night, the perfect family situation dies. Chise’s father gets out of bed with his infant son, walks out the front door, says goodbye to Chise, and never returns. One could explain his course of action as cutting his losses—perhaps having had enough of living with two Sleigh Beggys—and perhaps he simply did what he felt he had to in order to protect his non-Beggy son.

Whatever the reason, it’s a huge betrayal, and Chise’s mom cannot make up for her husband’s absence. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t try: she works any and all jobs she can to scrape by, but because so many monsters are attracted to her no one else can see, she cannot hold those jobs for long, and she slowly drowns in debt.

Like Chise, her mother had a frail body, and when keeping up with everything simply became too much for it, her mind snapped as well. In a moment of weakness, she listened to the voice that told her it would be easier if Chise weren’t around.

She chokes Chise awake, telling her the words Chise never forgot: “I shouldn’t have given birth to you,”, but in this context she isn’t talking of Chise’s inadequacy as a daughter, but the fact that she exists at all. Her mother knows that her curse is her daughter’s curse. It’s more an act of misguided mercy and desperation than malice.

That’s why her mother snaps out of it before she kills Chise, and overwhelmed by shame for what she tried to do, throws herself out the window. After that day, Chise forgot everything that came before, and it was the genesis of her belief she was worth so little even her mother regretted having her.

But that villainous mother, devoid of the context of her torment or the lengths she went to to keep their family of two together, was nothing but a creation in Chise’s mind. Her real mother didn’t really wish her dead; on the contrary, she decided she’d rather die than live on knowing she even made the attempt.

Chise breaks free of this vision of her mother as the real one, and says goodbye before letting her go entirely in a dreamy field of flowers. She even goes so far as to thank this false artiface of her mother, as she was the reason Chise ultimately ended up meeting so many wonderful people, among whom she still counts Elias, despite what he did to Stella.

With her “dark mother” gone, replaced by the whole picture of how things went so damn wrong with her family, Chise is left with the portion of Joseph’s curse of eternal life embedded in his left eye. That curse promises to be a blessing to Chise for as long as she wants to live—meaning that the moment she wishes to die, it will be a curse.

Joseph is not the first to have hosted this curse, and won’t be the last, but all of them have said the same thing to it throughout the centuries and millenia—”Help me.” Chise, waking up on the operating table, grabs Joseph by the throat and tells him she’s going to do things his way, diving into his past to find out how he became is the person he is—to make sense of his truth. Even if he hates her.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 21

In an episode that opens with Chise sharing a bed with Elias, these two splitting up would have been at the absolute bottom of things I expected to happen. But with her condition deteriorating and the meeting with the witches ending up almost completely fruitless, Elias decides to take Chise’s life out of her own hands, for what he believes to be her own sake…as well as his own happiness. Before they part ways, Mariel reminds Elias that only life can pay for life.

Elias has always been called “half-assed” or a “monster” but Chise was the first and only one who would “look at just me.” Well, thanks to his actions this week, she may never look at him that way, or any other way, ever again.

Just as she relays her suspicions Elias and Ruth are up to something behind her back and asks for Ariel to back her up, Elias knocks Chise out. She guides herself out of the dream with an image of Nevin, telling her that whatever others have planned for her, all she can do is be clear on what she needs to do.

With that, Chise breaks out of the dream by stabbing herself in the leg and does what must be done: stop Elias and/or Ruth from sacrificing anyone to save her. When she finds Elias has brought Stella into the house to be the sacrifice, Chise is, understandably, furious.

Even worse is when Elias tries to explain himself: not liking how Chise looked at Stella (i.e. their friendship), and not being able to stand it, and stating as long as Chise can continue to live he’ll be happy. After urging Stella to run away, she punches Elias in the face and storms out.

Of course, what Chise didn’t know is that Stella had already been possessed by Joseph, AKA Cartiphilus, who only pretended to be Stella in distress. But it doesn’t matter; Stella or Cartiphilus-possessing-Stella, Elias sought to transfer Chise’s curse to them. That makes Elias no different in Chise’s eyes anymore. He is a monster after all.

But here’s the thing: human beings are perfectly capable of becoming monsters, or doing monstrous things, if they feel there are no other options. If anything, Elias taking the steps he did were simultaneously appallingly naive and contemptuous of Chise’s wishes, and just plain wrong, but incredibly human nonetheless.

Chise isn’t the kind of human to put her life or welfare before anyone else’s. Cartiphilus knows this, and also knows how angry Chise is by Elia’s betrayal. So he offers her Stella’s life and a spell that will save her own, in exchange for her cooperation. And Chise accepts without hesitation, teleporting away with Carty and leaving her necklace behind.

Kuromukuro – 20

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Now this is the kind of episode that fully delivers on the promise of Kuromukuro from the start. No more teasing: Yukina is finally stuck aboard an alien mothership, and while before we were only given bits of dialogue from the bigwigs sitting on their thrones on the bridge, here we get a grand tour of the massive vessel, with Yukina as our guide.

Lighting, sound, and visual design get top marks here, creating a suitably alien and oppressive but still wondrous atmosphere. Yukina also benefits, at least initially, from the ship (and its various automated crewmen) believing she’s Muetta. I say initially because it isn’t long before Mirasa finds Yukina and tries to kill her, laughing maniacally the whole time.

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A little less exciting, but still important, is Sophie’s continued chat with Zell, who reveals he’s third world that was conquered and dominated by the Efidolg. He doesn’t want what happened to his world (nothing good) to happen to Earth, and he’d also like some retribution along the way.

At the same time, Major Graham discovers the director’s “mutiny” and acts to restrain her, but as she says, she’s “already won”, because Ken is up in orbit, trying to save her daughter. All anyone down there can do, from Graham and Hiromi to Yukina’s sister, uncle, and friends…is wait.

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Yukina manages to find a hiding place where Mirasa can’t see her, then digs into the ship’s records to try to figure out a way off, to no avail. She also finds what looks either like a clone or artificial “Yukihime head,” disturbingly enough. I appreciate her determination to help herself out, sticking true to what she said to herself in the beginning of the episode: “I can’t have him protect me all the time.”

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When she finally finds some clothes and a weapon, she remembers the gruelling training she went through, and it serves her well, at least in terms of the stamina she no doubt developed, as well as her sword skills, which keep her alive against a Mirasa who may well be compromised from the stress of “Muetta” returning to announce her treachery.

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Little does Mirasa know, until the last possible moment, that Muetta arrived on the ship separately. She reports to her superiors, but can’t keep up the fiction that nothing’s amiss when the ship’s sensors detect Ken roaming the corridors looking for Yukina.

Muetta is immediately treated and attacked as a traitor, which is probably what she expected all along. I for one am glad she doesn’t try to turn Ken and/or Yukina over in exchange for essentially keeping her job and having her past mistakes forgiven. Then again, she’s never actually given the choice to betray Ken, because bringing him here in the first place is all the bigwigs need to condemn her.

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Eventually, Ken finds Yukina, steps in on her fight with Mirasa, and along with Muetta they hurry back to the hangar to make their getaway. Yukina allows herself to cry and embrace Kennosuke with relief and heartfelt gratitude, and her continued thanks makes Ken blush. Sure you were only “fulfilling a promise.” Right.

The Efidolg try to snatch both the Kuromukuro and Muetta’s glongur, but fail when the Ogre flies up into orbit to snatch them out of the enemy tractor beam, allowing them to return to earth. All’s well that ends well…except for the little matter of the Efidolg ship preparing to descend to the Earth’s surface. No rest for the weary…or recently-half-naked.

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Kuromukuro – 19

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Now that’s more like it. The last episode kinda dragged on, building to the surprise abduction of Yukina. But this episode takes full advantage of the severity of that cliffhanger: the Kuromukuro is grounded, Earth is more vulnerable than ever, and everyone is on edge, but powerless to do anything in the immediate present. After all, Yukina is in space.

Their only consolation, and hope, as it happens, is the fact they retrieved the wounded Muetta, whom Dr. Hausen determines has identical DNA to Yukina and Hiromi. They’re definitely related, though Muetta is very old.

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Hiromi is in full-on Mom Panic Mode, Sophie is given mandatory leave by the commander, and Ken is disgraced by how useless he feels. Sophie doesn’t have any sympathy for him moping in the canteen, but that’s for the best, as shortly after she’s alone, she’s contacted by the Ogre, who promises an encounter soon.

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Dr. Hausen is the only one truly happy this week, as he gets to study an Efidolg—or, at least, a human who’s had their memories altered and their body populated by advanced nanomachines. He determines that Ken’s blood is the best way to counteract the effect of Mirasa’s weapon, and after a quick transfusion, Muetta is awake and as feisty and combative as ever.

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The Ogre rudely invades Sophie’s apartment, but properly apologizes, and explains that she was the only person he felt safe contacting. His comment about cosplay culture making it easier to move around modern Japan was pretty amusing, but the fact he’s finally here, with Sophie, ready and willing to explain all (or at least some) is very exciting.

He, or I should say, Zell, is absolutely an enemy of the Efidolg, but not yet an ally of the earthlings. Here’s hoping that will change, becaue the earthlings need all the help they can get.

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Ken knows he can’t do squat about Yukina without the Kuromukuro, and so breaks into Muetta’s cell to try to bargain with her. She agrees to co-pilot it with him, with the story that she stole it and captured him. It’s really the only play they have, and it gets them both what they want: Muetta, freedom from this place, and Ken, a chance to save Yukina.

What I’m glad about is that Ken needs help, and lots of it. He may be a samurai, but he can’t whisk Yukihime out of a high-security international installation on his own. The other civilian lab employees clear a path for them, ending with Hiromi herself giving Ken her blessing (and making him swear he’ll bring her Yukina back).

This is because Hiromi’s superiors told her to give up on Yukina. They proposed using Muetta to pilot Kuromukuro, with Dr. Hausen minutes from administering some dread medication that would likely not give her a choice in the matter.

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Don’t get me wrong: I’m not about to place Yukihime in the “Good Guys” column just yet, but I’ll pencil her in for now. The bottom line is she had few choices to get back to where she belonged other than going along with Ken’s plan, and once they’re up in orbit, Ken is at the mercy of her “people.”

But what makes be believe Yukihime might not bretray him immediately is the recording of…herself she sees once they fire up the Kuromukuro, which she’s amazed powers up so quickly even though it’s her first time. Only it isn’t: she recognizes herself in the recording. There’s an opening here, however small, for her to start entertaining the idea that Ken is right about her.

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That brings us to poor, poor Yukina. The only moment sadder than seeing her sister and mother despair at her abduction is seeing her look down on earth and call for Kennosuke…after asking for some clothes, of course. The Efidolg brought her there not as a hostage, but because they thought she was Muetta.

Mirasa quickly took it upon herself to try to finish what she started, but it seems Yukina was able to escape her stasis chamber in time. Despite her call for her samurai buddy, something tells me she ‘s not simply going to wander the ship, catching her death of cold, waiting for Ken to rescue her. She’s going to have to help herself out, and stay alive and free until help arrives.

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[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility 10

We’ve known for a while now that Kimimaro Yoga would eventually have to dael with Mikuni mano-a-mano, and this episode set up that climactic battle, which will have to wait until the final episode. This week, the question was answered: How can Mikuni be stopped? Mr. Goldteeth (Taketazaki) and Satou counsel Yoga on the need to acquire the “darkness card” from Mikuni; without it, he cannot start the rotary presses that make Midas Money, which saps the future from Japan.

Yoga doesn’t like Mikuni’s scortched earth strategy, nor his vow to die with his asset Q, if necessary. Yoga doesn’t want Mashyu to die; he even keeps her out of half of his deal with Kutsui. He’s acting more and more like her father, because, well, she is his daughter; his future by any other name. He eventually relents, letting Mashyu fight, and Kutsui is wasted. However, Satou underestimates Mikuni’s power and goes bankrupt, leaving Yoga alone, but bequeathing her cuddly asset Georges to him.

I’m not exactly sure, but something, possibly that, led to Yoga’s card turning black, giving him the power to reverse the presses. Of course, Mikuni has to be neutralized in order to prevent the endless cycle of starting and stopping the press. Meanwhile, Taketazaki is causing hyperinflation and crashing the yen, Mikuni’s power base, making me believe the victor of the coming final deal may have to rely on more than Midas Money to prevail. And then there’s Masakaki, pointing upward at where he gets his orders. Will whoever they are come into play before the end? I’m rearin’ to know. Rating: 4



P.S.: 
Shinjuku LOVE Sign Cameo FTW! I’ve been there…

P.P.S.: I’d be ridiculously remiss if I didn’t mention how totally and completely the soundtrack rocked this week. Epic, cinematic stuff befitting what’s on the line.

 

[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility 6

Fight and win, or pass and protect the possibility of your future? That’s the choice the oft-reluctant to commit Yoga Kimimaro must make once confronted by Sennoza, a very wealthy and successful fellow entre. He’s 56-1 and worth more than 9 billion. In the real world he’s a celebrity philanthropist. He offers Yoga the same thing he offers all his opponents: pass on a deal with him. Doing so costs an amount equal to half the passer’s fortune, but Sennoza offers to front that money, so Yoga essentially loses nothing.

In the real world, mulling over his decision, Yoga is ‘kidnapped’ by Satou, who is armed with french fries, three flavors of hamburger, and information. Satou sees that Yoga isn’t just interested in money, and wants him to join her cause of bringing down the financial world, one system at a time. This includes the Starling Guild he just joined, but doing so would secure the future of the country and balance its economy.

As I said, no one’s ever passed on Sennoza, and only one person has ever beaten him: Mikuni, natch. Mikuni finds his theories interesting, but unproven and unrealistic. Yoga continues to mull right up to the opening of his deal with Kennoza, and kind of half-heartedly decides not to pass. Sennoza attacks with ruthless abandon, crippling and eviserating poor Mashyu within seconds. It seems like its over for Yoga and his cute asset. This was another episode with some nice, if relatively inconsequential, exchanges between them.

Interestingly, the climax of the battle where Yoga turns the tables isn’t shown; only the aftermath, with Sennoza and Yoga on an empty baseball diamond, Sennoza the loser. It’s clear that he’s likely lost much or all of his fortune, but isn’t bitter, angry, or remorseful. IN fact, he seems to be glad to be rid of so much evil Midas cash. It would seem, at least this week, that Yoga agreed with Mikuni: fighting and winning (barely) is the tried-and-true method. But there’s still Satou’s route to consider. She and Yoga were followed by an ominous Crown Majesta – perhaps that was Mikuni keeping an eye on them? Rating: 4

[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility 5

This episode elaborated on Mikuni’s and the Starling Guild’s mission: to balance the two worlds, the ordinary and the financial. Both are realities that aren’t going away, and so Mikuni would rather dirty his hands keeping the balance and the peace than the alternative. There are other, less charitable “men of means” who let greed rule their desicion-making. They enter into extremely violent and expensive deals that make a huge impact on the real world. Negating those effects is also an expensive job.

It’s hard to argue with Mikuni’s strategy, he and the guild are wealthy enough to shoulder Japan’s national debt singlehandedly, and he does this for no other reason than to minimize the suffering of the innocent. Bad deals can ruin not just the lives and futures of the entres involved, but the countless people their real world ventures support. Case in point, when an fat-cat entre loses big, he is indicted for embezzlement in the real world and his pharma corp goes bust. Mikuni has to buy off their debt to prevent 10,000 people from being kicked to the curb.

The first time Yoga tries to minimize the damage in a deal, he barely loses rather than barely wins. He is unnerved when afterwards his driver tells him sometimes even a minor loss in the financial world can have a disproportionally large negative effect on the real one. Fortunately, for Yoga this consists only of appendicitis for his aunt and a failed test for him. Hanabi is unaffected. But he’ll have to be careful in the future if he wants it to be livable. His poor professor is now alone, his wife having left him, and his place is a mess: a walking, talking admonition. However little future is lost is lost for good.

For now, Yoga still seems to harbor a vague dislike for Midas money, and he isn’t altogether unjustified in doing so. But nor can he find an alternative to what Mikuni and the Guild are doing, so he joins. He also seems to be perhaps the only entre who treats his asset as less of a tool and more of a sidekick, even feeding her ramen. But I hope Yoga takes a clearer stand one way or another and stops waffling about his role moving forward. Rating: 3.5

[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility 4

Yoga’s opponent turns out not to be his father, but one of his professors, Ebara-sensei. Thanks to quick thinking from Mishu, Yoga is able to defeat him, and he learns exactly what defeat means. The fight was continually dotted with a scene in the real world where Ebara’s wife is in the class, pregnant with their third child. But when Yoga meets with Ebara after class, his wife isn’t pregnant anymore, and they have no other children. For Ebara, those children were the future he put on collateral when he became an Entre.

Yoga feels terrible, but Ebara doesn’t blame him; he lost fair and square, but he will have to live with the consequences. Interestingly, the only other person with memories he ever had children is Yoga, his opponent. So he doesn’t want Yoga to lose. Moreover, Mikuni has created an organization – the Starling Guild – that seeks to maximize profit by minimizing the effect of deal outcomes on the real world. Now it’s more clear why Yoga’s dad committed suicide – he had gained so much, that when he went bankrupt, so much of his world changed, he couldn’t deal. Mikuni seeks to avoid that, and puts on quite a show doing just that.

For him, deals is more about winning and losing. It’s about preventing Midas Bank from overly influencing real world events. When Starling Guild has 50% share – and the promise of never going bankrupt is a good recruiting tool – they believe they can start influencing events in the financial world, turning the tables so to speak. What is interesting is that Masakaki allows this behavior; you’d think he’d want to amass as much “future” as possible.

Yoga is weary of his potential, much to the chagrin of his asset – but a lot of that is due to the guilt of defeating people and what it means. He isn’t heartless. So his goal in future deals will not be to “win” outright, but strive to simply “not lose” and thus not totally ruin his opponents. Rating: 4

[C]: Control: The Money and Soul of Possibility 3

This episode is a bit of a “jumper” – dancing from one POV to another, and from another timeframe to another. But it holds together quite well; despite being a bit bemused and dizzy at times, I was never lost about what was going on. And a lot went on. First, there’s a mole of sorts – from the IMF – is in the Far East Financial District. She’s called Satou, she liked lollipops (and to eat in general), and is investigating Yoga, Mida’s banks newest Entre.

Meanwhile, Yoga visits his aunt, who shows him his father’s lifebox (my term, not the shows – a lifebox is a storytelling device that efficiently helps the audience learn about a person or their past). His diary only contains numbers…and a drawing of the design on a Midas bill. Yup, his dad was an entre too, and it’s the reason he abandoned his wife and Yoga. This sends Yoga into a brief angsting session (even drawing his hood over his face so he can cry angsty tears).

But Mikuni sets him straight: he believes Yoga wishing for a normal, predictable life is the same as Mikuni’s father operated: solely for one’s own sake. Yoga’s dad fought and earned in the District for the sake of his family. He sacrificed his normal life so that Yoga could have one. Mikuni strives to earn for the greater good. When one makes money and spends it, others benefit from the spending. Saving only helps the saver (this is not exactly ironclad economic theory, but whatevs.)

Honestly, with their almost identical eye and hair color, I suspected Mikuni could have been Yoga’s father, but Yoga’s deal opponent at the end could be his father. Whoever Yoga’s father turns out to be, or was, if he’s dead, Yoga has the classic “go in his footsteps” or “step out of his shadow” choice to make. Meanwhile, Satou and the IMF are concerned about the Midas money flowing into reality…but fear stopping that flow carelessly could have dire consequences, financial or otherwise. Rating: 4