Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 41

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A funeral service was a given in the aftermath of the battle between Kujan (via Jasley) and the Turbines, resulting in the sacrifice of Naze and Amida. Jasley showing up in his usual pimp outfit to essentially gloat about his rival’s death?

That’s entering a whole new level of scumbaggery, and Jasley doesn’t stop escalating, intent as he is on getting Tekkadan to strike first so he can put them down, along with their last Teiwaz patron, McMurdo.

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But first, Lafter has a choice: McMurdo follows through with putting Naze’s all-female crew under his protection, but it looks like whatever role Lafter will play, it won’t involve a mobile suit. Azee tells her what Amida said about finding someone all her own whom she loves (Akihiro) and how she wanted Lafter to be happy, even if it meant “leaving the nest”.

In one of the better scenes of the series, we finally get Akihiro and Lafter sharing a drink, and finding out just how much in common they both have, having begun life in the darkness but being given second chances at freedom and self-determination. Naze and Amida were Lafter’s saviors; Orga and Tekkadan were Akihiro’s.

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But ultimately the Turbines are Lafter’s family, and as much sense as it would make to go with Akihiro, her place is with that family, so she gives Akihiro a big hug and the two part ways, hopeful they’ll cross paths sometime in the future.

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Last week, Lafter and Azee were “spared” from being among the casualties of Kujan’s completely illegal operation (which Rustal seems to chastise him for this week, if not condemn). Turns out the show was merely saving them for more torture in the very next episode.

When neither the operation nor his attempts to provoke Orga work, Jasley has one of his thugs gun Lafter down while she’s looking at teddy bears. I’m not saying IBO is often the subtlest of shows, but the emotional manipulation here was jacked up to 11.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m heartbroken and furious Lafter’s dead, but she was murdered on the orders of a one-dimensional character in a telegraphed and mawkish manner that bordered on silly. She deserved far better, more significant death. Of course, that’s probably the whole point.

At least Kujan can be somewhat excused for being a rich spoiled brat with delusions of grandeur that are too often affirmed; Jasley is just So Very Evil it’s a bit boring. Of course we want our girls and boys to avenge her by any means necessary, but IBO succeeds best when its antagonists are complex, not foregone conclusions.

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Take McGillis, who throughout these forty-one episodes has always seemed like he’s hiding something from someone. We’ve come to trust him more and more as Orga has, and to see him reaffirm his dedication to backing Tekkadan up after devastated Orga tells him they’re probably going to have to go to war with Teiwaz, it was both reassuring and added to the overall tension. He’s relying on Tekkadan as much as they on him now. Their victories are his victories, and vice-versa.

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Mika was more silent than usual last week, limiting his interaction with Orga to a couple of his classic “looks”. This week, while watching some Turbine babies while their moms attend Naze’s funeral, Mika spends some time with little ones, and the topic comes up with Atra, resulting in Mika stating without equivocation (or embarrassment) that if she’ll have him, he wouldn’t mind making a little scamp with her.

That’s all well and good, apparently, because Mika doesn’t think like Orga or McGillis. He doesn’t allow himself to feel the doubt they feel. It’s not a matter of “will I be able to be useful to Orga” to Mika, but “how far should I go?” Orga answers in a way Mika seems to appreciate: “all the way.”

Now, hopefully, we can look forward to some righteous vengeance being carried out on behalf of Naze, Amida, Lafter, and all the others whose lives Jasley, Iok, and their ilk have devastated. But it won’t change the fact that the damage is done, and there will be a steep cost for revenge as well.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 29

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Whew…I knew we were going to get some answers and stuff was going to go down once Rokuro, Benio, and Sae arrived in Kyoto…I just didn’t know we’d get those answers and everything would go down so quickly. The episode even teases the possibility of a “rest episode” in which Sae and her two de facto parents soak in the city and its many choice ohagi spots.

Then Arima calls them and tells them to get over to Exorcist Union HQ pronto. Rokuro and Benio have to put their plans for fun on hold, but they promise Sae they can go wherever she wants…once the Dragon Spot problem is taken care of. This promise, and the lingering long shot of the three in near silhouette against the river, felt like pretty strong death flags for Lil’ Sae.

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As Roku, Benio, and Sae head for HQ, Arima finds himself ambushed by Kuranashi, and we finally get to see what Arima is made of when he dodges the initial strike, then sends fire and ice summons after Kuranashi when he tries to flee to Magano. Kuranashi, whom we learn for the first time is a Basara…and the most interesting one since Kamui, to boot.

A furious, top-level duel ensues, highlighting SnO’s strengths: hard-hitting action with an above-average score and sound design that really makes blows and magical effects pop. We also see just how wet behind the ears our Twin Stars are, considering all the incantations they have to do in order to launch attacks. Here, Arima exorcises lesser Kegare with a look or a thought; I bet he just said “Begone” for effect.

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But then something happens I did not expect: Arima falls into Kuranashi’s trap, something called a “seman” that drains all of his spell power, which is then absorbed by Kuranashi. As Arima slowly descends into his apparent demise (though I doubt we’ve seen the last of him), he wears a defiant grin: Merely getting rid of him won’t give Kuranashi what he wants (to cover the world in darkness). This is his faith in the Twin Stars talking, for as he says, stars shine brightest in the darkest darkness.

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Of course, Arima’s faith doesn’t automatically mean Rokuro and Benio are ready to deliver the world’s salvation, as the most important answer to this cour so far is finally answered: Who or what is Sae? Turns out, she is a broken-off branch of the legendary tree Ame-no-Mihashira, the tree that forms the barrier between Magano and the real world. The dragon spots were caused when she was broken off by Kuranashi.

In the Miyazaki-esque deep core of HQ, Subaru and Tatara are there to explain all this too Rokuro and Benio, and to tell them that the only way to stop the Dragon Spots, and by extention save the world, is for the branch to return to the tree; for Sae to cease being a person.

It’s a hard pill to swallow, and the Twin Stars’ initial shock and denial is replaced by knowing, as Sae has demonstrated time and time again she’s no mere lost girl. Now, it would seem, the fate of the world depends on whether they’re willing to say goodbye to someone they’d come to see as their own child—’pre-Miko’, if you will, bringing the couple that much closer together.

It looks pretty likely Sae is not long for this world in her human form. But who knows? Maybe restoring the branch isn’t the only way. Whatever decision the Twin Stars come to, they’ll have to come to it fast, as the largest Dragon Spot yet opens over Kyoto. What will they do?

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 21

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As expected, Gjallarhorn is coming. More specifically, Carta is coming. The Issue family is the Top Dog of the Seven Stars, and she’s coming in force to restore her pride and that of her fleet. Orga’s plan is to help get Makanai and Kudelia to parliament. Kudelia calls upon Montag for transport and he obeys, happy to be of help in the shadows.

But all this is preceded by a rare “Back on Mars” scene, specifically Biscuit’s sisters waiting for his return from Earth. As I saw the place and family he wanted to get back to as soon as possible (which isn’t as soon as he’d like, hence deferring to Orga), I didn’t know it was a bad omen.

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“We’ll worry about the future after we leave here,” says Mika. In the meantime, they’ll crush whoever’s in their way of that future. The target has had to move by necessity, and Biscuits okay with that. “You’d never complain about my reckless ideas,” Orga says to Biscuit in a dark mess hall. “I did complain.

You just weren’t listening.” And so it is with Biscuit’s many death flags early in this episode. They were clear to see, but like Orga, my eyes were focused elsewhere, on all the other issues at hand, like resisting Carta Issue’s imminent assault.

We even see a potential passing of the torch from Biscuit to Merribit, as she visits Orga and assures him he’ll have “plenty of chances” to tell Biscuit how much he needs him and wants him to stay in Tekkadan. Could the foreboding be any more obvious?

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Alas, like Orga, I wasn’t listening, partly because I didn’t want the worst to happen. Biscuit, even with his wavering resolve, was too important to Tekkadan’s survival. And when Carta brings the pain from land air and sea (and one naval captain is the older brother of Orlis, Tekkadan’s first kill), the focus moves from the characters to the latest battle they must fight.

Carta’s got the numbers, but she was born a few centuries too late. Tekkadan doesn’t cut her any slack for her flashy, chivalrous, but ultimately dubious tactics, like clumping her Blonde Squadron and rushing straight ahead, but not before posing and announcing how great they are. I chuckled when a shirtless, impatient Akihito interrupted her sublime little procession by blasting one of her men.

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That being said, Carta has a lot of steel to throw at Tekkadan, and throw she does. It’s just that most of it gets wasted with terrible gameplan that doesn’t try to poke or prod at Tekkadan’s defense, allowing them to exploit a great number of traps and misdirection.

Carta and her men are also not accustomed to fighting guerrillas like Tekkadan, and the uncouth rough-and-tumble melee combat throws them off balance. Meanwhile, thanks to Biscuit’s strategizing, Carta attacked the wrong side of the island in her desire to achieve her mission objective of capturing Kudelia and Makanai.

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When her men get to Makanai’s residence, only fire and smoke greets them, and in the confusion their targets slip away to the landing area where Tekkadan commandeers their own landing craft. Tekkadan knew exactly what their enemy was after and how they’d go about trying to get it.

Carta didn’t know or care what her enemy was up to or how it would fight, and simply thought everything would work out due to sheer brute force and “fortuitousness.” She thought wrong.

Even so, Carta is in the right place at the right time (and Mika is occupied) at one crucial moment when Orga’s Biscuit-piloted Mobile Worker is exposed. Carta is able to slip away and slash it, and Biscuit is able to warn Orga to let go and be thrown from the worker just in time.

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When Mika sees the worker tumble, he goes into a kind of controlled berserk mode, defeating both the suits hounding him and then beating Carta down (though not killing her in a murderous rage, hence the “controlled”). But the damage is done, and the flags this time didn’t lie: Biscuit is crushed by the worker, and due to blown-out ears, isn’t able to hear Orga’s cries.

Biscuit doesn’t want to die there and then, but he can’t overcome the damage done to his flesh and blood. “We will make Tekkadan…” are his final words to a devastated Orga…not “I told you this would happen.” The “we” and “Tekkadan” suggest Biscuit wanted Orga to know it he was with him and with Tekkadan until the end. That his death wasn’t Orga’s fault. Orga can’t just fall into a pit of regret and despair after all; there are a lot more people depending on him to lead their search for a future.

This episode returned to the Mars-based first ED, which was a nice move. Now I finally understand what the corn at the very end is about. It represents the quiet, peaceful life of farming with his sisters Biscuit was fighting for until the end, but could not quite reach. But for everyone else, the struggle continues.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 10

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Except for the battle at the very end, this episode was even quieter than the last, but also another episode that reminds you in no uncertain terms that This ain’t your Daddy’s Gundam—and it’s all the better for it. Last week was about forming a new family with Teiwaz. The Turbines are still with Tekkadan, but will set them loose on their own before long. This week is heavy with introspection and backstory, but all of it happens to be top-shelf stuff, thanks to a powerful, often tear-inducing script by Okada Mari.

I don’t want it to sound like this was a tear-jerker start to finish: in fact, there were just as many tears of joy over what Tekkadan & Co. have now achieved and their bright future than there were tears of sadness or longing over dark pasts. Laughs, too: all of a sudden Euguene think’s he’s an expert on women and looks down on the still “orphaned” Orga, who claims not to care about women, because he already has a family.

Meanwhile, those who have families outside Tekkadan like Biscuit and Takaki listen to their messages in private so as not to be insensitive to those who have no other family or who lost them long ago. The two share the dream of sending their bright sisters to school so they can one day be strong enough to stand on their own. The Isaribi has really become a home too, judging by all the hand-painted symbols on the walls.

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As a family, Tekkadan grows a little more complex, as Naze introduces Orga to the Teiwaz liason officer that will be joining his crew: Merribit Stapleton, with whom Orga had his meet-cute last week while drunk. Like all newcomers, Orga is cautious, and Merribit’s warm friendly manner with him will take getting used to, but I thoroughly enjoyed every moment these two shared, particularly their elevator scene.  Orga may “just” be obeying orders by “tolerating” a “Teiwaz stooge”, to put it indelicately, but Merribit might just want to be friends too, and I look forward to her continuing to work with, and work on, young Orga.

Kudelia got a message from her mother, as well, but it wasn’t an encouraging one; her mom wants her to stop all this troubling silliness and come home. I don’t think her mom is simply relaying her husband’s sentiments, but expressing her own sheltered, deeply-aloof, “leave everything to others” nature. Then Kudelia asks about Atra’s parents, putting her own troubles into perspective.

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Atra tells Kudelia a dark tale of an orphan who did chores at a nightclub/brothel for food, but wasn’t very good at it, so never had enough to eat. Unlike many girls like her who likely grew up and became prostitutes for better pay at the club, she ran away, and quickly found out the outside world was even worse, but for one thing: she was free out there.

By chance, she was sitting on a stoop, trying to gather the strength to get back up, when she spotted a young Mika across the street, chowing down. Mika, who by then had also  learned a bit about the world, tells her she can’t have any, and that only those who work get to eat. Atra knows the score, and doesn’t beg. She just looks defiantly at Mika and tells him she will work, before fainting.

Because Mika does have a heart, though, he tells the shopkeeper about Atra, and gets her a job. Now we know Atra doesn’t just admire Mika from afar: Mika saved her when she had nothing. And not just with an isolated handout of a fish, but by getting her the means to fish herself.

From that point on, Mika became someone very important to her—so important, that Atra looks at Naze’s harem, and sees how it could theoretically work for both her and Kudelia to be the mothers of Mika’s children. Of course, she’s getting a bit ahead of herself, but it’s fun to see her thought process; not to mention I needed something to laugh at after that tear-inducing flashback.

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Just as Atra’s story beat Kudelia’s for pure initial despair, Akihito’s beat’s Atra’s. I was amazed they were able to stuff one more story into this episode, but I was very glad for it, especially since it ended by tying everything together. While Takaki was with Biscuit talking about their sisters, he was throwing a lot of standard death flags by talking so excitedly about a future he feels he can reach. Out here, he’s a little more subdued with Akihito out of consideration; but Akihito saw him and Biscuit before, and it reminded him of his own brother, Masahito.

Before he was “human debris” (God, how I hate that awful term), he and his brother helped out aboard a ship where their parents worked. It was attacked by pirates (the same kind of pirates the Turbines warn Tekkadan about), his parents killed, and he was separated from his brother and sold. Just when you thought your tear ducts were safe, too.

Akihito laments that he forgot about Masahito for so long, and doubts he’s still alive, but Takaki thinks otherwise, and now that Tekkadan has the backing of Teiwaz, anything is possible. Even Akihito believes this a bit, unconsciously, as Laffter notices he’s no longer fighting like he has a death wish in the simulator.

Just how much that alliance means comes into focus immediately after Akihito’s story is done, when pirates ambush them. This is where I’d expect a lesser show to act on Takaki’s death flags, but GIBO isn’t that kind of show. Instead, it plays a card it had held since the cold open: Tekkadan left Mika behind so that mods on the Barbatos could be completed, at which point he’s more than capable of quickly catching up.

That’s what he does here to bail out Akihito and Takaki. As with Atra years ago, Mika is more often than not, There When You Need Him. And pirates who would prey on Tekkadan will soon learn that the Iron-Blooded Orphans aren’t ones to be messed with.

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Akame ga Kill! – 20

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After last week’s almost total victory, in which the Jaegers took a heavy loss, we knew Night Raid was due for a casualtie or two of their own in battles we knew would get tougher from here on out. The episode helpfully narrows down the choice based on who gets initial scenes of levity in which death flags fly: Lubbock and Mine were our predictions.

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The intricate plan to storm the palace and kill the Minister runs into trouble almost immediately when Tatsumi and Lubbock’s rebel contacts all end up dead by the hands of Shura, Honest’s demented, woman-hating man-child of a son. Shura’s way of life is refreshingly simple: He wants to have fun, and everyone and everything in the world are his toys. Hey, he’s his father’s son!

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So yeah, we’re obviously not sympathizing with Shura. As for Budou, Commander-in-Chief of the Imperial Army, he’s just freakin’ HUGE, as in ‘not-human’ huge, so despite the fact he has no personal quarrel with Tatsumi and even admires his swordsmanship, there’s not much to sympathize with him, either. But that’s okay; these bad guys are meant to impede our heroes, not garner sympathy.

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The two matchups work out pretty tidily, too. While Tatsumi and Budou are primarily hack-and-slash knights, Lubbock’s and Shura’s Imperial Arms employ preparation, deception, and delay. Shura has set up marks all over the city and the skies above with which to teleport using his Shambhala, which Lubbock counters by setting up his Cross Tail’s threads like rigging.

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Lubbock also fights by making it seem like he’s the underdog, when in reality, due to his cunning and Cross Tail’s versatility, he’s a tougher out than Shura. Shura catches a break when the palace informant interferes, stabbing Lubbock in the back in hopes Shura will free her parents for her service…after he already cut her neck open, mind you. Unfortunately for her, Shura already had her parents killed. Yeah, we GET IT. SHURA’S NOT A GREAT GUY.

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That break allows Shura to grab his Shambhala and send Lubbock to a kind of Subspace, but Lubbock has his threads tangled around Shura, and pulls him in too. As Shura blusters and tries to escape, Lubbock throws a thread-spear into his heart and pops it, like he did with one of the Demons a couple weeks back. Hey, if it ain’t broke (and the enemy is as dumb as Shura), why fix it? Night Raid 1, Empire 0.

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When Shura dies, Lubbock is teleported back to the regular world, several hundred feet in the air. His last thoughts are of his would-be love, a particularly adorable-looking Najenda, as he falls to his death atop several well-placed spears. I have to continue to hand it to AGK for giving its characters pretty fantastic death sequences, and Lubbock was cool as a cucumber as green as his hair till the end. Night Raid 1, Empire 1.

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But “Wait,” you say, “What about Tatsumi’s fight with Budou?” Well, it doesn’t go so well for Tatsumi. Budou is regarded as the only person in the empire whose strength is a legitimate match for Esdeath’s, and let’s face it: Tatsumi hasn’t faced an opponent that strong yet, so with very little fanfare, Tatsumi is taken into custody and bound in irons. Minister Honest is upset about the death of his boy…for about five seconds, then starts licking his chops at the possibilities of having Tatsumi as a captive. Empire 2, Night Raid 1.

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And who’s volunteering to interrogate him before his public execution? Why, his true love, General Esdeath, fresh off another successful expedition (I like how she admits she’s better on the battlefield than in the city on guard duty; recent history bears that out). The members of Night Raid still alive and free are down to three: Najenda (with Susanoo), Leone, and Mine. Meanwhile, not counting an ailing Kurome, the Jaegers are down to Esdeath, Wave, and Run. Just four episodes left; I’m starting to get excited here!

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