Houseki no Kuni – 09

In the winter days and weeks since the loss of Antarcticite, Phosphophyllite has been busy. As the snow and ice starts to melt, heralding the start of spring, we get a very cool slow-build reveal of the individual Phos has become: serious, dutiful, efficient; calm, cool, and deadly. Sounds kinda like Antarc, doesn’t it?

The time jump to Spring wasn’t a surprise, so much as the intense change in Phos, and I have to say, I like it. Even Kurosawa Tomoyo’s lower, sterner voice emulates Mariya Ise’s Antarc’s tone and cadence. There remains a measure of the old Phos’ spunk and rawness (Kongou catches Phos at the end of a successful Lunarian battle) but overall, Phos has become a polished and capable member of the group—and the only one with a alloy membrane that can take any form.

Phos kind of had to, after Antarc was lost; but more than necessity, it is how Phos honors Antarc’s memory; no more slacking off or complaining. Phos also keeps a small shard of Antarc’s remains, and has vivid hallucinations of Antarc resurrecting from the wooden bowl, only to shatter and force Phos to relive Antarc’s final moments. It’s a full-blown case of Gem-PTSD, and Phos can’t forgive herself…or sleep. She also cries gold tears, which is both sad and very cool.

When the other Gems wake up (and are issued Summer uniforms), they’re initially shocked at the change in Phos, then scared of Phos’ alloy membrane, then fascinated to the point of surrounding and demanding that Phos perform a variety of tricks, or be poked and prodded every which way. Phos creates a nifty galloy decoy to thrown them off, but they’re pretty relentless.

Before all of the events that made Phos the way they are took place, Phos was often derided as being dead weight and a source of stress and extra work for everyone. Now Phos has never been more popular (in a good way rather than bad). The thing is, it’s the old Phos who would have loved such adulation; New Phos doesn’t quite know how to deal.

I imagine part of that is Phos long-term isolation, which aligns Phos more closely with someone like Cinnabar. Phos briefly forgets who Cinnabar is, but when the two meet during a patrol, Cinnabar is as cold and aloof as ever, clearly trying not to dignify the changes Phos has gone through with a reaction.

While Phos can now perform all manner of dazzling parlour tricks (but no longer has any intention of performing them for amusement) Phos doesn’t seem to mind demonstrating to Amethyst twins how much has been learned during the solo training and learning from Antarc and Kongou.

Phos is truly a force to be reckoned with, and has absolutely no trouble throttling another Lunarian attack, to the twins’ amazement and elation. But not every Gem is impressed. Bort cannot believe this is the same Phos who used to cause so much trouble and contribute so little, to the point of suspicion. I imagine a test of Pho’s combat abilities is in the offing.

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Houseki no Kuni – 08

I raise my hands in defeat! I mean my hands are probably rising up right now out of the sea in defeat.

Antarcticite isn’t willing to immediately accept that Phos’ arms are lost, but instead braves the frozen depths (and the colliding ice boulders therein) in search of them, to no avail. Upon reporting to Kongou, Antarcticite takes full responsibility, citing inexperience in working in a pair, but Kongou blames his own lack of caution.

He has Antarc and Phos travel to the Chord Shore, where all Gems are “born”, to find material for new arms. There, they witness something akin to such a birth, albeit far less advanced and complete. The reddish crystals simply fall into the snow, lifeless and inert.

The beach is littered with gold and platinum deposits—deemed worthless by Antarc for their high weight and malleability. Still, there’s nothing else around, so Phos is fitted with temporary gold arms in the absence of more suitable material. The results are initially…not promising:

Um… I’m kind of getting engulfed. Wouldn’t you say I’m being engulfed?

Worse still, the clouds part and Lunarians appear both over the Chord Shore and surround headquarters, keeping Kongou from racing to the Gems’ aid.

In an all-but-no-win scenario, Antarcticite shows true grit and valor, using the saw as a snowboard and taking out as many Lunarians as possible before they unveil yet another new tactic: fishing tackle and hooks that entangle Antarc. Only a burst of nearly self-shattering strength severs the connection, but the Lunarians still don’t disperse.

Antarc manages to yank their stolen hand free and cause the Lunarians to disperse, but not without nearly shattering as well. Though extremely fragile, Antarc attempts to break Phos out of the gold prison, but another Lunarian arrow reduces Antarc to a cloud of crystal shards. Before being carried off, Antarc orders Phos to remain silent, buying Phos time.

Phos…doesn’t remain silent, instead managing to find a way to control the new gold “arms”—a term that doesn’t really do the new shapeshifting appendage(s) justice—and attempt a desperate counterattack to retrieve Antarc’s fragments.

Phos pushes the absolute limit the gold’s ability, acting both as a means of propelling their body into the sky, absorbing or blocking projectiles, and grabbing and throwing Antarc’s sword. Also pushed to new dizzying highs – the increasingly intricate CGI, put to good use. The shimmering, “gooey” liquid gold presents a stunning contrast to the brittle frozen backdrop.

It’s a valiant effort, but ultimately futile, as the Lunarians retreat too quickly for Phos’ attacks to reach them. Phos ends up badly cracked and plummeting to the ground, but is caught by Kongou, who arrived too late to save Antarc. Still, were it not for Antarc, Phos would be gone too.

Phos acknowledges that sacrifice while lamenting Antarc’s loss, and is likely now possessed of a new iron determination to master their new golden “inclusions”, to prevent (or at least make it more difficult) for the Lunarians to capture another beloved comrade and friend.

As the end credits roll over a somber view of Antarcticite’s now-abandoned quarters (with a lovely new song sung by Phos’ seiyu), I’m devastated by Antarc’s sudden loss, despite not knowing they existed just two episodes ago. Antarc made a huge impact on the world of Houseki no Kuni, performed momentous deeds and fought for Phos till the bitter end, and in this writer’s opinion, left us far too soon.

Made in Abyss – 08

“If they die now, it just means they didn’t have what it takes to go any further.” Harsh they may be, truer words were never spoken. Despite her ice-cold demeanor and gloomy, threatening affectation, I have no doubt Ozen would be immensely disappointed if Riko and Reg died during their ten-day survival test.

Now obviously they’re not going to die—and she probably knows that. There may be a lot of bugs when they use fire and a grumpy hippo-like beast who doesn’t want them near his water, but Riko and Reg make a great team, and they have, after all, lived and survived off the land up until now.

Thus Ozen would be worried, even if she was capable of being worried about the two kids passing the test. Ozen takes us back to when Lyza introduced her to a frail-looking young man named Torka whom she married. In a classic Ozen move, she fast-forwards to after Torka has passed away from the effects of the Abyss, and Ozen has to deliver a stillborn Riko.

But as much of a ‘hassle’ as it was, Ozen remained faithful to her dear apprentice, who had progressed so far only to go through so much pain and anguish, and assures the suddenly-alive baby Riko of her “strong sense of duty” which continues to the present now that Lyza’s daughter has descended to her lair.

The product of her duty returns, dirty and exhausted but very much alive after ten days. Reg points out it feels like more, and when Ozen invites them to sup with her, she tells them of how being in the Abyss warps one’s sense of time (among other parts of the brain), such that while Riko has lived ten years since coming up to the surface, to Lyza down in the netherworld it may have felt like a scant ten months; possibly even less.

Needless to say, this is very heartening to Riko, but Ozen warns her and Reg to avoid the three White Whistles besides Lyza who are lurking in the lower layers as they speak, and when she says one of them isn’t “kind like I am”, you know she’s not joking: she, and everything we’ve seen of her, is still kinder than The Sovereign of Dawn, Bondrewd the Novel. 

I love the idea of White Whistles being their own tiny, elite tribe of eccentrics, and to think they get more eccentric (and less human) than Ozen is…a little unsettling. She’s also still not sure what to make of the note Riko thought was written by Lyza.

After giving Riko her mother’s pickaxe, Blaze Reap, she sits her and Reg down and begins to tell them all of the things they’ll need to know as they continue their descent. These are secrets usually kept between White Whistles exclusively, but as Riko is the spawn of one and is headed to their realm, it only makes sense. It’s a sobering experience for Reg to hear of all the strange things on the lower layers, and Ozen doesn’t mince words.

But Ozen isn’t trying to discourage them; only to prepare them as much as one can be prepared. When it comes time to say goodbye, Ozen isn’t present, so Marulk and the raiders see off Riko and Reg. Marulk is particularly sad to see them go, and her tears not only cause Riko and Reg to tear up, but me as well!

Ozen recalls one final pivotal exchange she had with Lyza after they returned to the surface. Lyza, whose face is finally fully revealed, has not only taken on an apprentice (Jiruo, AKA Leader), but has made the decision to make another descent in order to allow Riko to decide for herself what kind of life she’ll lead. She asks Ozen to tell Riko about all of the miracles that had to occur so she could live; Ozen agrees.

Back in the present, with her duty now done, Riko and Reg set out for deeper depths approaching the terrifying sheer pale walls of the Great Fault and the Third Layer. While it seemed strange and alien at first, the longer we spent in the Inverted Forest, the more comfortable, even cozy it felt.

The edge of the Fault couldn’t be any less hospitable. It will be exciting to see what other wondrous sights they’ll see in this newest setting—and what fresh devilry with which they’ll have to contend.

Owarimonogatari S2 – 03

The first two 40-odd-minute episodes of this second “season” of Owarimonogatari, were good, but seemed to be lacking in something very crucial to an “Endstory” – an ending. So it’s just as well I was mistaken that there would only be two episodes, because this, the third episode, provides that ending.

And what a frikkin’ ending it is! Few series have been so painstakingly fastidious in their careful preparation of a nearly all-encompassing conclusion to the story of its protagonist than Monogatari has been with Araragi Koyomi. It’s only fitting that if indeed his story is over—a story in which he’s helped save so many cute young women, one after another—that the last person left for him to save is…himself.

At Shirahebi Park, formerly the site of Shirahebi Shrine and the town’s god, which was obliterated along with the lake by Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade landing there 400 years ago—a site of so many conversations between Koyomi and those girls—Izuko lays out the minimum requirements of victory.

First, that Hachikuji Mayoi be enshrined a the new god of North Shirahebi shrine, so that she has a purpose in the material world and won’t be swallowed by “the darkness”. Second: that Oshino Ougi be eliminated. Mind you, Izuko isn’t certain who or what Ougi is, only what she isn’t (i.e. Meme’s niece.)

That Ougi is a near-total unknown makes her a threat to the spiritual and physical health of the town, so she has to go, just as any of the other harmful apparitions that have cropped up.

As Itsuko convinces Koyomi (and me) of Ougi’s need to go, Ougi picks up Tsukihi (who is actually a phoenix in human disguise) from Nadeko’s house, where it was being underscored how much Nadeko thinks about and is working towards a finite future, whereas Tsukihi is content to simply live with others in an everlasting present.

I must admit, it felt for all the world like Ougi was either taking Tsukihi hostage (out of an abundance of caution in case Araragi didn’t join her side) or attempting to recruit the phoenix as a kind of last-ditch ally. In any case, the person Ougi is with quickly transitions from Tsukihi to Koyomi in that iconic ruined cram school classroom, who tells Ougi he’s ascertained her identity.

Ougi is, and always has been, him. She is he.

Eager to clearly explain everything, Owarimonogatari steps back a bit to the original meeting between Itsuko, Koyomi, Kiss-Shot, Mayoi, and Ononoki, and explains to Koyomi how Ougi is really him (all while everyone plays cricket in the park, after having played baseball earlier).

Ougi, originally introduced to Koyomi as a “fan” of Kanbaru, explains her name Ougi. Itsuko’s older sister (Kanbaru’s mother) faced a similar “unknown”, the “Rainy Devil”, who was the materialization of her self-control, and the left arm of which was passed to Suruga, her daughter.

When that arm came in contact with the First Minion’s energy drain, it connected the Devil, Koyomi, and Kiss-Shot, and by that route Koyomi’s desire to criticize himself for his actions were materialized into Oshino Ougi, or “Dark Koyomi.”

It’s a complex yet surprisingly elegant and satisfying explanation that ties together so many threads of the Monogatari mythos. Ougi is a fundamental product of all of Koyomi’s victories saving the girls in his life; victories that didn’t come without a great deal of self-doubt about the rightness or wrongness of the methods he used.

Itsuko used the immortal Tsukihi as a lure to draw Ougi out so Koyomi could do the same thing he’s done all along: “killing himself for the sake of others.” Ougi represents Koyomi’s adolescence, and it’s time to end it, and her.

It’s no coincidence that Koyomi is faced with having to “kill” his adolescence on the eve of graduation from high school and entry into college and adulthood. But when the true “darkness” opens up and is about to swallow Ougi, Koyomi finally goes against the grain and saves himself. 

He loses his right arm (and isn’t a vampire at the moment, so that’s a big deal), but Ougi is saved, and with it his adolescence (both his doubt, unfair self-critique, and love of young ladies)—even if it makes him “the worst” to put himself first.

Ougi is tickled, but saving Ougi only means he’ll be swallowed along with her by the “darkness”—until, that is, Hanekawa finally comes through, bringing Meme to the ruined classroom with only moments to spare, to declare that Oshino Ougi is his niece, and Koyomi has pushed her down and may not have the most honorable intentions with her.

These are lies, but the acknowledgement, like the words in a spell, are what were needed to legitimize Ougi’s existence in the world, and close the darkness. From that moment on, Ougi is no longer Dark Koyomi, or any part of him.

His adolescence is gone, replaced by nothing more or less than Meme’s ‘niece’. His lesson, all along, was that love isn’t forsaking yourself for the sake of others. He’s gotta think about number one from time to time.

But, as the epilogue illustrates, it’s not the end of Koyomi as we know him. He’s still him, which means if a young woman needs help, he’ll come to her aid and do anything he can. The difference is, that “anything” will now have a limit; “anything” is no longer “everything.” Koyomi can save and protect without sacrificing himself.

This is why the new god of North Shirahebi Shrine in Hachikuji Mayoi bows to him rather than the other way ’round; why an otherworldly powerful, fully-restored vampire in Kiss-Shot decides to return to the form of a far less strong young girl in his shadow; and before the graduation ceremony, Hitagi and Tsubasa let him go do his thing when he spots another young woman in distress.

And that’s it for Owarimonogatari! As I said, quite an epic ending; and one that covered a lot more than previous, “smaller” arcs. Chronologically speaking, Ougi Dark covers the second-latest Monogatari events adapted to TV, with only the already-released Hanamonogatari taking place later on the timeline.

I’ve yet to watch last year’s Koyomimonogatari ONA side-story, or the Shinobu-centric Kizumonogatari film trilogy that takes place at the very beginning of the chronological spectrum. Once I do, I’ll have watched everything Monogatari has to offer; a total span of 97 episodes. Of course, there are many novels that have yet to be adapted, so this remarkable run is most likely not quite finished.

Owarimonogatari S2 – 02

Those ‘battles to come’ Izuko mentioned at the end of “Mayoi Hell”? They weren’t fought or shown in Part Two, “Hitagi Rendezvous”. Instead they remain just over the horizon, foreboding in their present invisibility.

“Rendezvous” is instead primarily interested in re-introducing Senjougahara Hitagi as a prominent figure in Koyomi’s life. Even though she’s kinda always been prominent in his heart and thoughts, we’ve seen so little of her since Koimonogatari that even she seems to be struggling with her character…which is pretty hilarious.

In any case, she’s saved up a ton of “points” that she intends to cash in on with a day-long date with her boyfriend (ending promptly by 7pm so she can have dinner with her father.) It’s also White Day, and they both graduate the day after tomorrow, so now’s the time to enjoy one last gasp of high school romance (before it becomes a college romance).

Ononoki is still hanging out in Koyomi’s house, given the mission by Kagenui to keep an eye on him until ordered to stop (and implying if Kagenui never returns to recind the order, she’ll stay by Koyomi’s side the rest of her life). Tsukihi’s cameo consists of her grabbing and walking off with Ononoki, claiming she’s her favorite plushie.

From then, it’s on to the date! Senjougahara has adopted a Hanekawa-style hairdo, and also acquired a driver’s license having aced her driving test on the first try. She also points out that until very recently (since his “return”) Koyomi has been unable to acquire a license, since as a vampire he wouldn’t show up in photos.

Senjougahara is not your cliched bad driving anime woman; she simply drives Koyomi safely and well without any drama to the first stop on their date: the planetarium. We and Koyomi first learn of her dream to draw the “perfect space map” of the celestial bodies that surround earth on all sides; such maps are shaped like a hand fan, which is also called…an ougi.

Having recently experienced string of action-packed days—dying, travelling to the depths of hell, exams—one can forgive Koyomi for nodding off while lying on the comfy beds below the planetarium dome. When he does, he dreams of Ougi, and Dream Ougi seems to be just as “real” as her physical version.

Instead of Senjougahara, it’s Ougi who shows Koyomi various constellations which match the animals that have represented the oddities/apparitions of his exploits. Shinobu is depicted as a Hydra, Hitagi a Crab; Nadeko the serpent.

Ougi also tells Koyomi she represents “the principles of the universe”, further tying into the fan-shaped map of the cosmos, and tells him of her duty to “eject” those who “break the rules.” They include Izuko, Shinobu, and the newly-resurrected Mayoi. And she hopes, for Koyomi’s sake, he “forsakes” them, thereby assisting her in correcting the mistakes of the universe.

With that, Koyomi wakes up beside Senjougahara (who also nodded off), and from there, they jump from place to place on their date, following up the educational planetarium and science museum with lunch, bowling, and karaoke, with Koyomi unexpectedly beating her in the latter two categories. As “punishment” for losing, Senjougahara walks arm-in-arm and even lets him princess-carry her back to the car.

Finally, after Koyomi admits he hasn’t been able to get Senjougahara a White Day gift, she parks the car by the waterfront and scolds him. But he can make it up to her by taking her hand in his and calling her by her first name, Hitagi, which he does, in one of the most genuinely moving romantic scenes in the entire Monogatari series—and they don’t even kiss! It’s all in the signature closeups and Saito Chiwa’s delivery.

After the credits, Koyomi finds himself alone in another dreamlike dark space with Ougi, who implies his date with Senjougahara was his “last”, or might well be, depending on the choices he makes. If he wants to be Ougi’s ally, he’ll have to help her fight Izuko, “the big sister who knows everything”, and avoid her apparent traps.

Koyomi begain Part Two with a monologue about how his story so far was one of self-preservation; preserving not only one’s life, but prioritizing his love for himself, to the point love with anyone else wasn’t possible. But since he fell for Senjougahara, he feels he’s been gradually losing his narcissism. So has that part of him taken the shape of Oshino Ougi, and is now fighting the “New Koyomi” who has come to love Hitagi more than himself?

Sadly, those questions, and the battles for which Koyomi must choose a side, will not be covered here; this is the end of Owarimonogatari after just two episodes (Edit: apparently not)! But we can be fairly certain Koyomi won’t forsake Shinobu or Mayoi…and we’ll also see one of Koyomi’s inner thoughts—“to win there is an absolute need to lose somewhere along the way”—put to the test. Koyomi’s already lost his vampirism, for good and ill. Who or what will he lose in the final battle(s)?

Owarimonogatari S2 – 01

Owarimonogatari is back, and promises to inch ever closer to the endgame of the sprawling story of Araragi Koyomi and the town “where a white snake once reigned.”

At some point after the “hell” he went through over spring break, Araragi Koyomi visits Gaen Izuko at the North Shirahebi Shrine…and she murders him. He wakes up to find none other than Hachikuji Mayoi (her usual age) there to greet him.

After his customary hug (this one being one of the more elaborate and extreme ones) and a lot of inappropriate contact, Mayoi punishes him with her signature pit bull-like chomp. She informs him of what’s going on: he’s dead and currently in real hell (specifically in Avici, the lowest form of hell, due to his vampirism).

Mayoi is in hell because both her parents outlived her, and so spends eternity stacking up stones by the riverbank. Especially for a little kid, she’s remarkably calm and fine with this, with a “that’s the way things go” attitude.

They then commence an epic, trippy ascent up through the layers of hell so that Koyomi can meet someone. He’s shown all of the moments that preceded his making key decisions in his life, from finding Shinobu to catching Senjougahara to everything else; and the recurring reaction is that if given an opportunity to return to those moments, he wouldn’t change a thing.

His only exception is the incident with Nadeko, but Mayoi assures him he’s being overly tough on himself for not being omnipotent, which no one is.

The long, reminicing journey finally brings him to another iteration of the Shirahebi shrine, where Tadatsuru Teori is waiting for him. It turns out Gaen Izuko’s murder was far from random, but part of a larger plan to exorcise Koyomi of his vampirism. Sending him to hell was merely a side effect.

Teori presents Koyomi with a white snake-like rope back to the world of the living where he belongs, and when he returns, he will no longer be a vampire, which if you as me is huge.

Koyomi worries if he’s really the most worthy person to be resurrected, and Mayoi, punches it into him that of course he is: he loves to be alive, and cherishes his girls and has done far too much for them to simply accept death and a life in hell.

Koyomi turns Mayoi’s own positive vibes onto her, grabbing her at the last minute to drag her back into the living world with him, which she doesn’t seem to have expected, but Izuko is nevertheless pleased he did. Izuko, by the way, is on the cusp of being killed by Shinobu until Koyomi returns; clearly the vampire wasn’t pleased about the stunt the specialist pulled on her master.

Teori also informed Koyomi of the person who requested he exterminate him: Oshino Ougi. Izuko leaves Koyomi, Shinobu and the resurrected Mayoi alone, looking forward to the “battles to come” where she hopes to enjoy a slight advantage.

In the meantime, after a mad, psychedelic metaphysical odyssey through the underworld, Koyomi heads off next for something as mundane as his college entrance exams. 

Re:Creators – 10

Believing Chikujouin’s lies about Meteora being Mamika’s murder, Aliceteria goes all out against the sorceress, who borrows several missiles but can’t connect on any of them. Alice also counters Meteora’s summoned weapons with sommoned warriors of her own, who surround Meteora menacingly and try to catch her in a tangle of red laser beams.

Souta calls Kikuchihara, but she and help may not arrive in time, so it’s up to him to try to stop Alice, and he actually gets her to at least pause by coming between her and a wounded Meteora.

He tells her that far from being entertained by the horrors in her world, he’s always felt sad about them, has rooted for her to win a better future for that world, and looks up to her as a lofty role model: a paragon of chivalry, courage and honor. I appreciated Souta finally putting his life on the line for his friend rather than staying on the sideline, even if he’s only armed with words.

Like so many creations now in Souta’s world, Alice doesn’t feel like the heroine Souta describes. She’s something different, and someone she believes doesn’t deserve his esteem. But however flawed and fallen a person she has become, she takes stock in the fact she’s still a knight, and will still avenge her friend’s death, come hell or high water.

While this is taking place, Mirokuji is fighting Chikujouin, who considers their sparring a form of flirtation, and gets him to agree to hand over his female samurai Hangaku (whom he calls a “curse”) if she beats him.

Once Alice has had enough even of the innocent Souta’s talk, she lunges at him, but this time it’s Meteora who gets in the way, taking the full force of her strike. It’s the only one Alice gets, however, before the timely arrival of Celestia. She’s to neutralize Alice, and Kanoya Rui is floating above it all in his Giga as a last-resort.

Just when we thought Rui was going to have to be the difference in this battle, Altair appears and attacks him with a clone of his own Giga, thus neutralizing him. Blitz takes his place by Altair’s side, and suddenly all the (living) players are on the field at once.

Altair also guides Alice’s weapon so it impales Celestia, delivering a seemingly mortal wound. It’s up to Matsubara to throw caution to the wind and quickly “revise” her character by having Marine post a new illustration of her, full of power and resplendent in flames.

The post catches fire itself, gaining thousands of likes and follows, thus imbuing Celestia with the power of that illustration, combined with his written words describing it. While it strains credulity for such a post to go viral so quickly, it’s neat to see the creator ability finally make a difference in a battle.

I also like how Matsubara considers it a matter of pride as a professional creative that his protagonist not lose to the creation of an amateur doujin artist (though it’s a dig at someone whose full story we’ve yet to see, so I’m still reserving judgment on her).

In the act of revising Celestia, Altair is somehow adversely affected, and seemingly shifts slightly out of sync with the world, the opposite of what she was going for. She beats a fast retreat, as the stars are “not yet in alignment” for her.

It would seem she’s been foiled, but only temporarily. Worse, once she dissipates, Celestia reverts to her pre-revised state, complete with acute blood loss and gaping chest wound; she’s rushed to the hospital where hopefully she’ll be okay.

And even worse still, We learn the end result Mirokuji’s battle with Chikujouin: she stole Hangaku from him, which surely drops him way down on the Creation Power Rankings. Still, everyone is still alive (for now) and the world still stands intact; that’s not nothing.

Sagrada Reset – 10

We are made to hear the Witch’s parting words to Kei one last time so we can see his reaction later on: tears of joy. In the last two years, the one thing that has driven Kei is the hope that some day, in a city full of what would be considered miracles in the outside world, he would find the means to bring Souma Sumire back to life.

The Witch essentially confirms that this was the right and proper course all along, because he is destined to meet Souma again, and Souma runs a test to see if he can bring something from a photo world into the real world without that thing vanishing.

The test is a success; a cherry petal from the photo remains even after ten minutes—ironic, considering the nature of sakura. They are something both joyful (because of their stirring beauty) and morose (because they are ephemeral).


But before we get that confirmation the test worked, we’re taken back to the past once more; this time, to when Kei was in the sixth grade and a relative newbie to Sakurada. Even as a little kid he’s a smart cookie, determining before the Bureau rep has to say it that his memory retention ability would work even outside of Sakurada.

Because of this, the Bureau offers him a comfortable life and livelihood in Sakurada…but he can never leave. In effect, Asai Kei is the one ability-user (aside from those who could copy or steal his ability) who could most threaten the city’s very existence by exposing it to the outside world, breaking its Shrödinger’s Cat-like status.

Kei loves this city, so he quickly agrees—discarding his past in the process. Then he experiences a Reset for the first time, and if anything, he’s more excited than ever to be in such a place and such a position. He’s won the lottery, basically.

As Kei sets up the Save Point in the same place where Souma appears in the photo, Haruki resigns herself to the fact Kei will make her and the others forget everything henceforth. As she’s dedicated herself to following his lead, she’s fine with everything, but does wonder if, like Mari, the Souma they save will be the “real” one.

It doesn’t really matter to Kei, but he knows that whoever he revives may not enjoy a “peaceful” life due to her ability. Even so, he must bring her back; follow the script Souma laid out for everyone. He sees the MacGuffin as proof of this: the one who holds it (i.e. Kei, now) will have “all the abilities in Sakurada.”

It was the object whose power was created through rumor and never was anything other than an ordinary stone, and yet it drove Kei to become the protagonist of this story by gathering the ability-users he needed to bring Souma back from the dead.

When the time comes to actually do that, the tension is palpable, and all the tiny hairs on the back of my neck stood up, as the feeling that something momentous was about to take place washed over me. (The show grossly underestimates how hard it is to tear a Polaroid, but no matter.)

Once in the photo, everything happens with a quiet but purposeful haste. Kei doesn’t even run over to Souma, but waits for Sakagami and Murase to do their stuff, then tells Haruki to reset. He’s that sure this will work, even though I wasn’t.

And so it does: by utilizing the abilities of the others, Kei wielded the MacGuffin, rose to become the protagonist of the story, and brought Souma back to life, just as she was sure he would—she shows no surprise in seeing him. Kei hides his delight at having succeeded, in part because he’s a reserved guy and in part because he doesn’t know how the future will progress past this point.

For now, it’s enough that Souma is back. She comments on how he’s grown, both in stature, ability, and in his friendship with Haruki. He also reports how much Haruki has grown, and that he’s come to want her to keep making progress on the road to finding a sense of self, even if it breaks the “pure goodness” he may have fell for earlier.

Souma even set things up with Tomoki so that if she was really Souma and not some kind of copy, she’d receive a voice message meant for her two years in the future. She receives that message, then asks Kei which Souma he’d like to meet, confident he’ll make the correct choice. He is the protagonist, after all. She made him so.

Re:Creators – 09

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While I’ll truly miss her if she’s truly dead, Mamika’s bleeding out marks the first time Re:Creators should be lauded to finally committing to something that will be very difficult to take back, assuming it sticks to its guns with her loss.

As luck would have it, the first one the dying Mamika encounters is Chikujouin, who hears the dying words Mamika wants Alice to hear, then doesn’t hesitate to rearrange them for her own entertainment, telling Alice when she arrives that it was Meteora, not Altair, who killed Mamika and is trying to destroy the world.

Normally I’d protest a character like Alice being so conveniently gullible and obtuse, but in this case I’ll allow it: in addition to being a rigid, noble knight, she’s in emotional turmoil after witnessing the untimely death of another friend; her only true friend in this world.

Felling she’s on a roll, Chikujouin calls in Souta, who arrives right on time at their meeting spot and buys her a soda.

This is a nice world. The food is delicious, the drinks are good, the sky is deep, the air is fresh and everyone is so stupid!

Just as Chiku is the perfect antagonist for generally moral people like Alice—or Souta—this world is the perfect playground for Chiku, and she can barely contain her glee with this fact. Sakamoto Maaya continues to  bring a playful, invigorating joie de vivre everyone else lacks, which gives her more serious, threatening moments more impact.

There’s a creepily predatory vibe to Chiku’s verbal and physical stalking of Souta, growing closer until her legs are wrapped around his head and he’s facing her crotch, subverting what would be the cause of blushing and/or a nosebleed in a comedy.

Still, Chiku seems to abandon Souta as a messenger to Selesia furthering the lie about Meteora being the villain, as she admits Altair is the true mastermind. Just when Chiku seems ready to do another number on Souta, Mirokuji Yuuya arrives. Chiku mockingly plays the troubled maiden before the “bad boy”, but Yuuya has a comeback even she has to admit is pretty cool:

“You’re not a person. You’re just a laughing peice of skin hanging over a bunch of lies.”

While Yuuya keeps Chiku busy, Meteora arrives to comfort Souta and apologize for not getting the truth out of her sooner. She tells him not to forget the mistakes he’s made, whether he was to blame for Shimazaki and Mamika’s deaths or not, because “the world requires choice and resolution”. It isn’t the time to give up and despair, wallowing in the rotting bath of past mistakes. Rather, he must keep learning from those mistakes; discovering and striving to do what’s right.

When Meteora tells Yuuya about Chiku’s cause-and-effect-reversing power, he uses his summon to counter it, but his battle with her is interrupted by the arrival of a furious—and grossly misinformed—Aliceteria February, who doesn’t look ready to stand around and hear all the whys and wherefores. In light of the impending confrontation, and what she told Souta, I wouldn’t rule out Meteora letting Alice kill her, if only to convince her she’s not the true enemy.

In any case, Chikujouin has made a fine mess that she’s quite proud of. She’s living the dream in this playground of a world, and regardless of her alignment (or lack thereof), it’s fun watching a master work.

Sagrada Reset – 09


Sakurada Reset pulled off quite a lot last week, and got particularly exciting when things started coming together, but there’s still something unsatisfying about following it up with another flashback. Momentum had been built up, but this episode killed it, by valuing context-through-lengthy explanation over progress.

Mind you, I’m not mad about learning more about what happened just after Souma Sumire died—the two-year jump was pretty dang abrupt! It’s more a matter of timing, and the fact that I’d grown accustomed to being in the “present” of two years later.

With that said, this is an opportunity to see Kei and Haruki before they figured out how to be a well-oiled reset/recall machine. After Souma dies, both of them suspect the reset ability: Haruki, the ability itself, and Kei, the fact he used it so “thoughtlessly”—and in doing so sealing Souma’s fate.

While Haruki tries in vain over and over to reset on her own, Kei visits the spot where Souma fell, and meets a young Kit-Kat-loving woman named Ukawa Sasane (Koshimizu Ami) who thinks he’s Souma’s boyfriend thinking of offing himself.

She’s wrong about him being a boyfriend, or being suicidal, but Ukawa’s assumption is couched in her desire to save others from dangerous places like the bridge, be it with a Kit-Kat (an invitation to “take a break” and chill out) or with her “fence-making” ability.

A call to the Bureau for answers (and a request to save Souma) goes nowhere, and Kei eventually decides his choice to reset wasn’t what killed Souma, while Haruki realizes she can’t reset on her own because a part of her is scared of being hated by Kei.

Ultimately, the two come together and agree that the people they can help with their combined abilities outweighs the possible suffering resetting might cause. Kei tells Haruki to reset, it works, and they complete their actual first job in the Service Club.

Kei, however, isn’t done trying to find a way to bring Souma back. Her death and his inability to prevent it clearly still haunt him, and he believes if there’s a place where someone can be brought back from the dead, it’s Sakurada.

It would seem that he’ll eventually be proven right, since two years later the “Witch” considers Souma her successor, and assures Asai he’ll see her again. One can’t succeed anyone unless they’re alive, after all.

But this week, at least, is just more fuel for the fire of the show’s detractors. It lent more context to later events and positions, and introduced a new character, but even by Sagrada standards it was a dull trudge, not helped by the fact it took place entirely in a tension-sapping flashback.

Renai Boukun – 05

As expected, the pink-haired sadist doesn’t get to torture Seiji for long, as Akane arrives to rescue him, We learn she’s Shiramine Shikimi, cousin to Akane and Yuzu, who loves receiving pain as much as she loves doling it out. She also likes stealing things, particularly from Akane, and Seiji is one such thing.

A fight ensues, and Shikimi is able to repel Akane’s attacks and restrain her, then scolding her for becoming weaker and being a sorry excuse for a “weapon princess”. She’s more impressed with Yuzu’s shield. This is all to imply that Akane and Yuzu have never been ordinary high school students, but some higher calling they’ve yet to share with Seiji.

This is where Renai Boukun ditches the comedy altogether and gets a lot more serious, especially with the newly-arrived Guri telling Shikimi she can’t make her a part of the harem because there’s no real love inside of her.

Your mileage may vary on whether this show needs to be this serious or dramatic; I’m not the biggest fan of it. In any case, all the excitement leaves Seiji knocked out, and he then dies. Not even a fifteen-minute kiss from Akane can bring him back, Sleeping Beauty-style.

His death segues into the episode’s second segment, in which he meets Guri’s father Kami and his…er…neighbor Tiara? Coraly is also there. “Heaven” is little more than an ordinary Japanese living room.

There, Kami (‘God’) tells him he’s killed him “for the time being” so he could meet the one his daughter has latched herself onto. He wants her to one day succeed him as Kami-sama, so he wants Seiji to teach her about love, something she’s not made much progress with despite being assigned cupid duty.

Maou (‘the devil’) also stops by, wanting to convert Guri to demonhood, but as these are not humans, they don’t have a specific deadline in place for either thing to happen. Seiji can’t promise anything, because as Kami is well aware, Guri is a free spirit who will do what she wants when she wants to, which is rarely the same thing for long periods.

Seiji returns to the world of the living, where Akane is chasing Guri with her knives and Yuzu was about to kiss him as well, only for her and Seiji to knock heads. Seiji asks why Guri never let on about her father or the succession; Guri simply explains that stuff is boring and she doesn’t want to waste time talking about it. Fair enough!

Last week ever-darker elements of violence and sexual deprivation were introduced; this week there’s a lot more character drama and a general plot course is set, with various parties vying for Guri’s future just as the girls vie for Seiji. That’s all well and good, but it was also IMO the least funny, and least surprising, episode of Love Tyrant yet.

Sagrada Reset – 02

Just when Asai determines Mari is the result of her mother’s ability to create a clone of her never-born daughter, an agent of the “Bureau” (or “Kanrikyoku”), Tsushima, arrives to take her away.

The father left town, and now the mother will do the same, leaving the virtual Mari a virtual orphan. That doesn’t sit right with Asai, so he has Haruki reset, and the formulation of a plan commences.

It’s actually pretty impressive how quickly and efficiently Asai directs the service he and Haruki are likely going to be providing throughout the run of the show: “erasing tears” by resetting and fixing the cause of those tears.

Their classmates assist with their own abilities, but when the one who allows Asai to share his memories with Haruki bristles at the prospect of defying the Bureau, Asai cuts himself with a broken ramune bottle until Tsushima gives permission.

Everything works out perfectly: Asai, with the help of the rest of the group, is able to show Mari’s mother the error of her ways; to stay and continue raising the girl who may not technically be her real daughter, but loves her nonetheless.

With Haruki and his classmates’ combined powers, Asai has gained the power to “erase sadness.” In the process, he’s also managed to awaken some feelings in Haruki, though the road is long.

He discusses this in great detail with Souma Sumire, who is a tough nut to crack: you get the feeling she’s glad Asai may have found his calling, but a part of her also regrets bringing him and Haruki closer together.

Mind you, the relationship between Asai and Haruki doesn’t become a romance overnight. After all, Haruki has only gained back a small portion of the full spectrum of emotions most humans carry and experience. She cuts her hair at his suggestion, but also confuses trust with love. Asai proves it when they kiss and there’s no spark.

Then he undoes the premature kiss by asking her to reset. After seeing what they managed to accomplish with Mari and her mother, Haruki believes following Asai’s lead is her “zeroth rule”, so she complies.

But in the period between Haruki’s Save Point and her Reset, Souma Sumire falls from the bridge, into the river, and dies, as we witnessed at the end of last week’s episode. Seeing her wearing the dress and holding the red umbrella rendered her a dead girl walking, and gave her last conversation with Asai far more significance than he could comprehend at the time.

When Haruki finds Asai quietly mourning on the rooftop, she demands he instruct her to reset…unaware she just did, and it’s too late. When she sees Asai crying, she can’t help but do the same. She’s following his lead, but also realizing that this is what the two of them have to stop from happening to others at all costs.

There’s a huge jump of two years to when Asai and Haruki, now high schoolers, are recruited by Tsushima into a Bureau-sanctioned “Service Club”, where they can erase sadness in an official (and supervised) capacity.

It’s a pretty jarring time leap, to be honest, but it means the first two episodes were always meant to be a prologue in which the pairing of Asai and Haruki was made and their shared calling revealed. Now the real work begins: both the sadness-erasure work, and the emotional-awakening-of-Haruki work.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 50 (Fin)

Once the tunnel digging is complete, everyone falls back except for Akihiro and Mika, who stand their ground and continue to buy time for their family. And while Tekkadan’s two toughest pilots put up a hell of a fight, even initially surviving a direct Dainsleif attack from orbit, they’re sufficiently softened up to allow Julieta and Iok to go in for the kill.

Akihiro gets Iok in his giant binders and crushes him, but he in turn is killed by Iok’s subordinates. Julieta, who has vowed to remain human while being as ruthless as Rustal needs her to be, beheads the bestial Barbatos Lupus Rex and raises it in triumph before her elated comrades. It is over. Mika, Akihiro are dead, and so is Tekkadan.

But life goes on, and those who survived thanks to their fallen brothers continue to follow Orga’s final order to keep moving forward. And what to you know, things end up working out both for Gjallarhorn (which reforms from within to a more democratic system under Rustal) and Mars (which gains nominal independence from Earth, as a new union under the chairmanship of Kudelia).

Kudelia and Rustal work together to end the practice of turning destitute orphans into human debris once and for all. Even without the main actors who set the stage alive to see it, and very few people remember who they even were, a measure of their ideals were realized anyway. Atra’s powerful monologue about how one doesn’t notice a flower blooming by the side of the road really drove that point home.

It helps that the “bad guys” who “won” are interesting and likable enough that years after they brutally took Orga, Mika, Macky and Tekkadan down, it’s still satisfying to see Gaelio returning to his old “frivolous” self, only now far more wiser, while Julieta has steady-competenced herself to being the likely successor to Rustal for leadership of Gjallarhorn.

Meanwhile, some survivors, among them Ride, can’t move forward without taking revenge, as he does when he assassinates Nobliss Gordon while he’s sitting on the toilet.

As for Kudelia? She’s overjoyed to learn Merribit and Yukinojou are expecting their second child soon, but can’t go out drinking with Chad and the guys. She heads home to the Sakura Farm, where an older, taller, and very badass Atra is waiting with their kid, with the unmistakable blue eyes and vacant expression of Mikazuki. The kid’s name is, naturally, Mikazuki, and unlike his father, he’ll have a childhood full of love and kindness, not desperation, and violence.

While chatting with Gaelio, Julieta admits the fighters of Tekkadan weren’t devils; she knew that the moment she saw an unconscious Mika when his cockpit cover sheared off. They were, in fact, the most human of us all, belonging on the battlefield for no other reason than to keep living and fighting. So it’s fortunate that there’s civilization to filter out some of our raw, instinctual humanity.

Thanks to the sacrifices of Tekkadan, McGillis and their allies, that civilization has been improved and made available to the next generation of youth, so maybe there won’t be a need for another Tekkadan ever again.

And that’ll do it. Whether you just checked in this week or have been following them since the very beginning, thanks as always for reading my reviews of what I believe to be one of, if not the best Gundam yet. It was a fantastic ride, and the franchise will be hard-pressed to surpass the greatness it achieved in these fifty episodes. But if they make a (non-SD) attempt down the road, I’ll be there to review it.