GOD EATER – 11

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It’s not often a late-coming backstory outshines the present-day narrative it’s interrupting, but that’s what happened with GOD EATER. That being said now that we’re back in the present, everything Lenka says and does carries new weight, not that we know where he comes from. We’ve broken through his shell just as we did with Alisa.

Speaking of sisters, we also see how lucky Lindow is to still have his in Tsubaki, and the two share a nice moment in the house they grew up in. As for Alisa, she returns the team apparently none the worse for wear, but having a distinctly un-Alisa-like artificial chipper-ness to her. Was she hypnotized simply to save her from her crippling memories, for for a more sinister purpose? Probably still the latter.

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But the core of this episode is the commencement of the ambitious Operation Meteorite, which involves God Eaters of all types from all over the world. While calling out the order of battle, Lindow has his sister make a slight adjustment: he’ll take the front line with Team One, while Lenka (whose God Arc isn’t quite ready yet) will monitor and command the team from the forward base camp. Lenka has proven he can lead, after all, and he’s totally fine with the arrangement.

The night before the operation starts, he has dinner with Kouta and his mom and sister’s, again driving home the family Lenka once but no longer has, and the need/desire for some kind of occasional substitute. If he couldn’t save his own family (because they saved him first), then he’ll just have to save other families, like Kouta’s or the Amamiyas.

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Now that Lenka knows the path he should—wishes to—walk, he feels he no longer needs the compass Lindow gave him a few years ago when they first met. But Lindow has him keep it. Even if he already knows his way, it’s up to him to give it to someone who doesn’t, just as Lindow did.

Once the battle starts, Lenka isn’t angry or restless about not joining the front lines; after all, there’s not much he can do without a God Arc. Instead, he takes instantly to command with a steady confidence and competence that’s visualized nicely by the neatly symmetrical framing of him in the CIC. As for the Meteorite weapons, they pack a impressive opening punch against the amassing Vajra-type Aragami.

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Both before and during the operation, Johannes von Schicksal has had little on his mind beyond the flashback to the exceedingly difficult birth of Souma, which resulted not just in Aisha’s death, but the death of everyone in the room. Only Johannes survived the explosion of oracle cells, protect, to his surprise, by a charm which has circuitry embedded in it that repels the cells. In the present, he activates a device that has the opposite effect—luring many of the Aragami towards the dam village. Why he’s doing so, and acting without telling anyone below him, only he knows.

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However, it may have something to do with the fact Lindow kept the town a secret. When Lindow sees where the Aragami are headed, he goes off on his own (though after getting the okay from Tsubaki and Lenka). When they lose his signal, the only God Eater who can get to him in a reasonable amount of time is, you guessed it, Lenka.

Tsubaki sends him to help Lindow, and Licca and Sakaki finish up his arc just in time to deliver it to him on the way. Now that we know where he got his short cloak from, it’s a lot more meaningful to see him don it on his very badass, purposeful way out of the CIC. Time to see what his new God Arc can do. And lurking not far away is Pita, the Aragami Alisa has sworn to kill.

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GOD EATER – 10

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GOD EATER is back. Repeat: GOD EATER is BACK. And just when I was about to give up hope. Turns out they waited until the point in the season when the rest of the Winter shows were in their final quarter, either because they needed more time or because they didn’t want this show to end when everything else was at episode 4 or 5.

You know what else? My patience was handsomely rewarded. This was the best episode of GOD EATER (and one of the best of the entire Winter) yet, using Lenka’s ordeal with adjusting to a new God Arc as the framing device for a heretofore untold story of Lenka’s childhood, starting with when he was found in the mud by a kind family who tested negative for entry into Fenrir.

More than a story, it is an often horrifically heartbreaking tragedy that is epic in scale, stretching across the fifteen years that precede the show’s present day, and being far more emotionally powerful than any of the black-and-white flashbacks that came before.

A lot of this episode’s power comes from our amassed knowledge of the previous nine. And yet, this could very well have been the first episode of GOD EATER—or even a completely standalone short film—and still been effective.

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After Lenka was rescued and named by his new big sister Iroha, his family lived in a shanty town living off rations and constantly at risk of Aragami attacks. When his mother develops a cough and becomes bedridden, he and his sister strike out with other town members to find medicine, but are ambushed.

Lenka, who wants to become strong enough to protect everyone, hits an Aragami with a stick, but it has no effect. Still, he’s bailed out by a God Eater – Lindow, specifically. Lenka is both jealous of Iroha’s attention towards Lindow, and of Lindow’s strength to protect. Lenka’s father doesn’t like the Fenrir system in which “people choose people” and leave others to die due to limited resources, but that’s exactly what happens in the shanty town as well.

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When Lenka grows ill and there’s only one dose of medicine, Lenka’s mother demands it be used on him, for he is the future. That’s confirmed when they test him for the first time and he reads positive, making his dream to become strong a more real possibility. It’s Iroha who injects the drugs, as both she and their father weep uncontrollably over tacitly condemning their mother to die. They bury her not long after.

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A few years pass, and Lenka is on the cusp of fifteen, the age when he can join Fenrir. His older sister has also grown more beautiful, and still quite close and protective of her brother. But she’s also mature enough to slap Lenka when, after an Aragami attack, their father is trapped under wreckage. All they can do is escape on a motorbike their father prepared for such an eventuality. Like his mother, Lenka’s father died so that he could live.

But while escaping the Aragami on the bike, one manages to scratch Iroha’s leg. It doesn’t look that bad, but the wound bleeds and festers, and before long, she can no longer walk (an analog to a similar desperate journey he’ll go on with Alisa later on). Once they check the wound and it’s riddled with maggots, once more a choice must be made.

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Lenka can’t make that choice—Iroha is all he has left—so she chooses for him, by slitting her own throat, forcing him to leave her. Before they part, she tells him to go to Fenrir, because he tested positive, and always was positive. That didn’t do the family any good, however, because they weren’t related by blood. But no matter how Fenrir cruelly defines it, Iroha always considered Lenka her brother – she even named him, because like a lotus, they found him in the mud, where lotuses bloom.

To twist the proverbial knife once more, before and then in the process of being devoured by Aragami, Iroha briefly envisions the world she always dreamed of, a beautiful pastoral paradise where plants have returned, and where she’ll be together with her dear brother forever. She looks like a Studio Ghibli character in this fantasy, before a devastating smash cut to her being eaten. No point in trying to hold back the tears here; this was utterly dejecting. Rest in peace, Iroha.

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The Utsugi family, then, sacrificed themselves one after another to save a boy who wasn’t even related to them by blood. But if any of the three of them, including Iroha, had to do it all over again, I doubt they’d change a thing. The choices they made led to Lenka being in the position to “overturn” the world they had no power to change.

When Lenka stops re-living the memories of losing his family members one by one over the course of his life, he awakens to find the adjustments for his new God Arc are complete. All that’s left is to re-declare what he means to do with his newly-resotred (and likely greatly increased) power: to kill Aragami. But also, to be someone whom people can entrust their hope for a better world, the way his family was for him.

GOD EATER is back; with brutal, gorgeous, heart-rending, unyielding authority. Episode 11 has its work cut out for it.

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GOD EATER – 09

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In the final episode before a Fall hiatus (the final four episodes will air in the Winter), GOD EATER comes to something of a logical crossroads to pause at, while looking back at one of the least-used main characters in Soma Schicksal, who up until this week we’d only gathered bits and pieces about. As it did with Alisa previously, the character is improved and made more understandable when the show looks back upon his history and how it shaped the dour, taciturn God Eater.

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This new information comes when Lenka of all people is selected to lead one of the five squads that will set up the devices for the Meteorite Project, and Soma is assigned to Lenka’s team. Lenka’s as surprised as anyone else, but Major Amamiya isn’t aware of his life-threatening situation (only Sakaki and Licca know), so she’s sending him in. He accepts the mission and leadership role, but decides to bone up on Soma’s history, and learns that he was the first God Eater.

His mother Aisha died in childbirth, and his development as a weapon against Aragami hit a number of bloody bumps in the road. As such, everyone around him has thought of him as a harbinger of death (or Shinigami); a label he may not like but certainly seems to accept, especially when his nightmares include looks of fear from injured researchers and a look of resentment and disappointment from his dad, now Fenrir’s director. The father and son share just one brief scene in an elevator, and it’s cold as ice, which isn’t that surprising considering Johann lost Aisha the day he gained a son.

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But Lenka learns an important lesson from Major Amamiya before the operation, after he asks her why she retired from being a God Eater. Rather than get the answer he expected—like him, her God Arc was going to eventually kill her—she said she simply lost hope, after watching so many Aragami emerge from the barren ground right after killing others. Rather, she lost hope that she could do anyting about them, so she decided to put her trust in the future; pass the hope onto those who haven’t been beaten down as she has.

Lenka carries those words to the battlefield where they set up the device, and when everyone, including Soma himself, tells him to run, he refuses, instead using the device to lure the Aragami and ordering Soma to aim his deadly attack directly at him. He trusts in his battered arc’s ability to shield him from the attack, and all the Aragami are wiped out.

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Lenka decided to put his trust in Soma, not as a harbinger of death, but a vessel of hope. That’s why his name is Soma in the first place; for the wine of the gods bestowing life energy to man. That hope was placed in Soma by his mother Aisha, who volunteered to sacrifice herself and her baby for the good of mankind, absent time or other viable options. And for the first time, with Lenka, Soma sees that hope, and value, in himself.

Unfortunately, Lenka doesn’t have a lot of time left; but rather than pass his hope onto others, he’s willing to bet that little time he has left is enough to make more than an impact than retiring. So he asks Sasaki and Licca to repair his God Arc, even if it accelerates his demise. Meanwhile, Johann seems miffed that Lindow has kept a secret village a secret, while an increasingly sinister doctor seems to be brainwashing a drugged/hypnotized Alisa not just to fight Aragami again, but Lindow as well.

There should be plenty of action and character drama in the final fourth of the series. We’ll just have to wait a few months to see it pan out.

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GOD EATER – 08

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I must say, it’s rough having to wait an extra week for every other episode (now I know what Preston went through with Sailor Moon Crystal), but of late, when GOD EATER deigns to air, I can be confident there will be good stuff in store. Alisa is holed up in her messy quarters, apparently continuing to suffer withdrawal from the pills that have always neutralized her fear, which come with a different fear of ever being without them, as she was the last few episodes. With Lenka’s God Arc in need of repairs, both he and Alisa are on leave,  leaving Fenrir Far East shorthanded on the eve of a big operation.

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Professor Sasaki, the father of the God Arcs, arrives, and is shocked that Lenka’s Arc broke; something that’s never happened. Not getting any further answers out of the weapon, he and Licca turns to Lenka himself. Meanwhile, the active part of Unit One joins with Unit Two on an operation at a baseball stadium, led by Sakuya, as Lindow is sent on another mysterious solo mission.

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Shortly after engaging the Aragami, the baseball field crumbles beneath their feet, sending the Eaters underground. Lenka, who has been encouraged to observe the op from the Command Information Center where Major Amamiya spends her days, and it isn’t long before he suggests a course of action contrary to her orders, angering her.

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However, when the Eaters underground follow his suggestions and things turn out for the best, with them bottle-necking the Aragami in a narrow corridor and mopping them up with a pincer attack, Lenka is ultimately absolved rather than punished for speaking out of turn. The successful mission, with everyone returning and praising Lenka for saving them (even Soma, in his way), shows Lenka has value as both a front-line fighter or, if he doesn’t have a God Arc, commanding them from behind.

That’s good to know, because his days as a front-line fighter with a God Arc are uncertain, at best. Sasaki determines he, not the Black Vajra, broke his own God Arc, when his compatibility spiked to a level it couldn’t handle. Sasaki also informs him that this condition also threatens Lenka’s life and will eventually kill him.

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Undergoing psychiatric treatment (i.e., talking to a professional), Alisa realizes if she’s ever going to get back in the fight—and her services are desperately needed—she has to rid herself of her fear, and begs the doctor help make that happen, not matter what the cost. I don’t doubt whatever is done to her will not only affect the personality of the woman we’ve come to know and feel for, but threaten her life, as Lenka’s compatibility threatens his.

As the two most valuable New-Types struggle with their problems, Director Shicksal announces a new strategy for eliminating the Aragami from the immediate vacinity in order to allow work on Aegis. It involves controlling their movements, sorting them by species, and sending God Eaters who specialize in each species to take them out. It sounds like a daring plan, but I’m almost certain it won’t go smoothly, because that’s just not how things tend to go on this show.

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Last but not least (for once), we have another dark flashback, this time to the very evening the Aragami Apocalypse occurs. I was not prepared for how total and unyielding the transformation of the world was, with giant towers of oracle cells jutting out of the earth, dwarfing, piercing, and crumbling all works of mankind like so many sand castles. I was also moved by the last shots of a tranquil world at night before all hell breaks loose.

Schicksal, Sasaki, And Gauche were working feverishly until the end, but losing government support torpedoed their chances of coming up with a solution in time to stop the calamity that befell the earth. It’s looking more and more like mankind’s worst enemy in this whole dark business has been…mankind.

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Majimoji Rurumo – 09

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As little side stories in the main narrative between Rurumo and Kouta, the show delved into the worlds of side characters: namely, Sumiko, Harulily, and this week, Shimomura Masako of the Disciplinary Committee. A less precise comedy would have mocked Masako’s secret passion for otaku, but MMR treats it earnestly, as Masako is not only passionate, but hardworking and driven. When she speaks loftily of the joy of completing a costume and striking a pose, its a sense of accomplishment any creative person can relate to.

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When her otakuness is first revealed in an earlier episode, it seems mostly there for gags, as cosplay is a part of Japanese culture in which real witches would be mistaken for fellow members. And indeed, Masako has no idea Rurumo’s an real witch. But it isn’t because she doesn’t believe her, it’s that she assumes anything Rurumo says on such topics is merely roleplay. And because she admires Rurumo’s “devotion” to “full-time cosplay”, it’s not something she’d ever question.

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In that same vein, Rurumo simply isn’t the person who’d think there’d be anything wrong about telling her peers about Masako’s passion, even though Masako treats it as yet another betrayal by a friend who was too good to be true. Rurumo sets her straight, but not consciously, simply by continuing to be a decent person who likes Masako and admires the work she does and the infectious enthusiasm she radiates. Thus a new friendship is borne. I’ll also note, the Sone Miku OP leading into a montage that ends with the song on the radio…that was a really slick sequence.

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The first half of the episode built up a lot of goodwill, so the second half, devoted to boobs and bras, went down a little easier. But full of boobs and bras it may be, the segment still stays true to its characters. When the strap of Ruru’s 170 year old “chestpiece” snaps, she has to go braless, and her well-documented bashfulness kicks in when she’s near Kouta. But because we know Kouta’s a stand-up guy when the chips are down, he reads her strange behavior as a sign something’s wrong, and only wants to help.

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Rurumo may be slow to learn things, but she’s no slouch when it comes to utilizing available resources—or at least crashing into them. Rurumo asks Masako to make her a bra, and Masako admits it’s not really her specialty, but she talks to a few people on the subject and they talk to other people and all of a sudden seemingly every girl in school is on the case, which of course makes her even more self-conscious. When Rurumo shows everyone what she’s looking for, they show her theirs, indicating there’s another, better, more personal way to keep the twins at bay, big or small.

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MMR lays the oppai on thick, but the discussion is all very practical and realistic, and even leads to a rift between the amply bestowed and the…ahem…less amply bestowed. They all go shopping with Rurumo, escorted by the buxom Officer Ruri, and Kouta tags along, but not because he’s being a perv, but because he’s still worried Rurumo isn’t well (Considering she recently marathoned three days’ worth of anime sans sleep, it isn’t a ridiculous notion!). So even when she dons her frilly new pink bra under her clothes, Kouta reacts not with arousal, but relief she “recovered” from her unspecified malady.

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Majimoji Rurumo – 08

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I’ll admit I wasn’t terribly excited for the episode when we meet a second witch. The show got along fine with just the one, after all, and aside from Chiro and Sumiko, the supporting cast is mostly innocuous ciphers. While her bug-eyed, silent cat Mimi is awesome, things get less encouraging still when Harulily offers Kouta a new contract, and her “death-free magical ticket” free sample seems to instantly revert him back into the beastly “Hentai-Shiba.”

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Kouta’s great in Butler Mode

So it wasn’t just a matter of Harulily eating up valuable time late in the show’s run, but also the fact she could swoop in and undo all the progress Kouta has made by living with Rurumo. But then Harulily drops the ploy altogether and reveals she’s an old friend (of sorts) who has always been irked by Rurumo’s unflappable stoicism in the face of her pan-incompetence. She’s not here to mess up Rurumo’s shit, she’s just checking in on her.

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The sudden deflation of Harulily as a threat nicely subverts the traditional “rival witch episode” formula, as Kujirai did a few eps back, and is another sign this show is a lot cleverer than it looks. Somehow, a magical girl duel just wouldn’t feel right on this show. And Rurumo’s personality is such that she’d never rise to taunts or insults, any more than she’d respond to Lily’s demands for her to show more emotion with blank stares and single-word answers. Lily’s better as a foil than an opponent.

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Instead of doing something silly like “battling each other with Kouta as the stakes”, Harullily spends her second following Rurumo around on part-time jobs, all of which Rurumo fails splendidly at, but keeps moving on to the next one, full of quiet optimism and a stiff upper lip. Rurumo exhibits her talent for planning deep ahead in case of multiple same-day firings (borne of her innate clumsiness), as well as her poise and resilience in the face of persistent failure.

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Every time Harulily tries to question what Rurumo is doing or how she’s doing it, Rurumo is ready with a quote from Kouta, mentioning him by name more and more, irking Lily more. She may be jealous of Rurumo’s passion for Kouta, but a part of her is happy that Rurumo is working so hard toward her goal and not letting anything get her down. Lily turned out to be a welcome lens into the hard but happy life Rurumo has settled into with Kouta.

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She’s also the bearer of a portent of doom, though she only thinks it: when Rurumo’s training is complete and she becomes a full-fledged witch again, Kouta will die. At first she curses stupid Rurumo for not knowing this very important detail, but it later occurs to her: maybe she does. Maybe Rurumo is trying to find a way to become a witch without killing Kouta. Maybe she’ll stretch out her training for years, letting Kouta live a long life.

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Or maybe not. This show killed a fluffy kitten, but offing Kouta would really be gutsy. Has Rurumo simply made her peace? His frequent remarks about reaching “ultimate levels”…could they have been foreshadowing his death? Eh…I kinda doubt things will get that serious. But the fact a fleeting guest character could descend on the show, spark that amount of thought, and then fly away back to the underworld, is gratifying in and of itself.

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