ID: INVADED – 13 (Fin) – The Right Person in the Right Place

ID:INVADED put a lot of ideas and mysteries out there, but it was never that coy about the Big Bad being the perpetually closed-eyed Chief Hayaseura. That the start of the final showdown with John Walker came down to a one-on-one physical fight—with Narihisago literally kicking at him as he blocked with his cane—almost felt like a surrender at first.

Then Hondoumachi arrives on a huge shark and bites off part of Hayaseura’s face. This is going to be two-against-one, at least in the Id Well.

Hondoumachi steals Hayaseura’s hat and she and Narihisago lure him on a chase to retrieve it that leads back to the first Id Well we ever saw: Fukuda’s world-in-pieces. The three meet on a platform, Hayaseura has a seat, and they talk it out, with Hondoumachi analyzing her former chief as having a God complex, hence all the sevens.

Seven serial killers with seven victims each. When Hondoumachi  counters that Narihisago was the eighth, she parries with the fact that Narihisago isn’t a true serial killer, but a serial “suicide inducer” whose only victims were serial killers. If he’s the “Cornerer”, the last person he was meant to corner was Hayaseira himself.

What Hayaseura doesn’t know his adversaries already have him right where they want him. The seat is actually a cockpit placed there courtesy of Fukuda, and Hondoumachi traps and neutralizes him in a well-within-the-well. But that still leaves her and Narihisago trapped in a well.

To get out, they’ll have to put their hope in a “third pillar” they’re not even aware of—Momoki, in the iso suit in the real world. Asukai’s powers have grown in intensity, testing both his body and the limits of his suit. Mitsuoka just manages to bring him back to life after his lungs fill with vomit and his heart stops.

He eventually finds Asukai, who is initially happy someone has come to help her, but then she sees the gun in Momoki’s hand. Asukai laments that when she was first found, she asked to be killed and put out of her misery, and that that remains to her the best and only solution. The thing is, Momoki can’t do it, and when she tries to, the gun doesn’t work in her hand.

Instead, Momoki has her return to the Mizuhanome pool, which will at least contain her expanding powers. He can’t promise they’ll find a solution that would enable her to leave that pool without murdering her, but they’re not going to murder her, nor are they going to stop looking. Before the Kura is released from her powers, Sakaido meets Kaeru in a beautiful well—seeing her alive for the first time, and bidding her farewell.

Everything related to Hayaseura, his John Walker persona, Asukai and her remaining comatose dreamers are buried from the public, as is Kura’s way, and everyone basically gets back to work. Presumably the difference is that Hondoumachi is now a full-time id well diver beside Narihisago (who may or may not still be a prisoner). The two even participate in joint dives, since they worked so well together to bring down the chief.

This was a solid, good if not great finish to a show that borrowed a lot of ideas from sci-fi and psychology and managed to merge them into a mostly cohesive and original story. Compared to the ambition of the earlier issues it raised, the ending falls a bit short, but the show is still to be commended for not completely coming apart at the seems, and for being ambitious, confident, and smart in the first place. It’s a story I’d love to return to, should favorable circumstances align.

ID: INVADED – 12 – Just Wait, Cane Bastard

All along, the Kura and Mizuhanome have been made possible by, essentially, the superpowers of a mutant: Asukai Kiki, who ensares anyone around her in her dreams. Once she’s released from her holding tank, there’s nothing keeping everyone in the Kura from falling into a coma and waking up in various dreams—a kind of ID:Invaded Greatest Hits scenario.

Such was the plan of Chief Hayaseura, AKA John Walker, AKA Brilliant Detective Unaido (whew). He has a “want and omelette, break some eggs” logic to this scheme, wherein many serial killers were caught and brought to justice at the cost of creating a few; but in the long run it will be a net plus for society. As for facing justice, the chief shoots himself several times while in a cockpit programmed to inject him into his own Id Well.

Narihisago and Hondoumachi manage to dive in after him in time, and find Hayaseura in a dream world full of masks, each of them an id well. He eludes them by putting on Hondoumachi’s (the drill world), and then tries to neutralize her by revealing her true name, causing a well storm.

As Kura employees are killed (and the Wellside team run from boulders), Brilliant Detectives like Sakaido, Hijirido and Unaido can teleport between the wells. Narihisago keeps up the chase and ends up in his own id well again, where he spots his wife and daughter and gives them a nod goodbye.

Fukuda, despite not being in Brilliant Detective mode, is still able to catch Hondoumachi in mid-air and free her from her well storm. Back in the field of masks, Fukuda is shot by a Inami Nahoshi, as payback for Hondoumachi killing Kazuta. As Hondoumachi gives a somber goodbye (or see-you-later) to Fukuda, Nahoshi travels to her id well, where the half-Kazuta is still there clinging to life, but she’s promptly stabbed to death by Hayaseura.

Narihisago returns to the mask world, reunited with Hondoumachi, and both of them agree to stop Walker and get everyone—including themselves out of this mess safe and sound. It’s good to see both of them with something to live for, not giving in to despair or Hayaseura’s cruel games. And it’s possible dying in the id wells doesn’t automatically mean death, as some of the nurses at Asukai’s hospital eventually woke up from their comas.

Out in the real, Momoki and Mitsuoka have a plan of their own. Momoki will don an isolation suit, walk into the compromised Kura, and neutralize Asukai, preferably by inserting her back in the Mizuhanome tank. If she refuses, Momoki is prepared to kill her, for there are too many other lives at stake to indulge her. The question is, even if he’s willing to kill her, will he be able?

ID: INVADED – 11 – Three is a Nice Number

Whether the outline of John Walker in the sandy winds was a literal phenomenon or artistic license, the grit of the well storm makes the facts of the case clearer to Narihisago. Fukuda trapped him in the well hoping Narihisago would kill him in a rage…but Narihisago can tell this is another manipulation by Walker, and asks Fukuda for his help instead.

Fukuda used to be a whiz with numbers, and in this well his hole is gone, bringing back the arithmomania he drilled out in the real world. Narihisago pieces this together from Fukuda’s past three-stage gestures and even his outfit, which is packed with threes. As the storm churns, the Mizuhanome continually updates, and the cockpit from the lightning version of the well is transported to the desert version. The two of them start digging, hoping to find Hondoumachi.

Meanwhile, still in Kiki Asukai’s dream world, Hondoumachi checks the work Narishisago did while he was there for a year, and comes up with another important number: seven. The dates and times when victims’ bodies were found seemed random, but the M.O. of all the killers was to cause gradual, rather than instant death.

When she records the dates of the killing blows, rather than the times of death, everything matches up neatly: each of the seven serial killers have a designated day when they kill. If Walker arranged it this way, it could be an allusion to the seven days it took to create the world—or in his case, his new one.

Hondoumachi pays the Fukuda of that time a visit in order to get the final piece of the puzzle. After proving she knows things about him she normally couldn’t possibly know, as well as revealing her head-hole kinship, thus gaining his trust, she’s able to get the precise dates and times when he dreamed of John Walker.

Whoever Walker is, they visited Fukuda in his dreams during that time. The one time that’s out of place with normal sleeping hours occurred not while Walker was asleep at work, but in off on a business trip, in a different time zone. The member of the department who was on that trip the day of Fukuda’s dream was Chief Hayaseura, whom she calls to confirm it.

Back in the real world, Togo has Mitsuoka check out Momoki’s house again and carefully observe everything. She notices a picture that was not there last time she visited, and has him scan it. He finds cognition particles, but they’re not Momoki’s. They come from a photo of Narihisago with his wife and daughter. In other words, it was a plant and Momoki was framed as a diversion.

In another demonstration of her almost scary luck, Hondoumachi is ejected from the cockpit moments after confirming Walker’s identity. She informs Narihisago and Fukuda of her findings, and the storm clears sufficiently to allow Togo to have all three extracted. For now, the well-in-a-well shenanigans would seem to be over, at least for these three.

The well storm also ended up working in their favor, and even being a crucial to their success. While the storm was raging, no one from outside could observe them, meaning the outside and inside times weren’t synched. Of course, now that they’re back in the world, it will be a mad dash to detain Hayaseura, who may know from the activities at the Wellside that it’s only a matter of time before he’s caught.

Indeed, just as Togo is ordering an arrest warrant, the Wellside goes dark, and Hayaseura heads to a chamber where Asukai Kiki has been asleep since vanishing from the hospital, serving as the totemic “Kaeru” in Narihisago’s cases. Only now it’s apparently time for her to wake up. No doubt he has a use for her that will further his plans.

At the end of the day, even a casual detective such as myself could tell there was no way Momoki was Walker, and that the most likely candidate among the staff was Hayaseura. I just wish we knew his character a little better, to give the revelation more weight. That said, bringing the mastermind behind the death of his family to justice is what Narihisago deserves. No doubt he’d die to gain that outcome, but with Hondoumachi and Fukuda by his side, it may not have to come to that.

ID: INVADED – 10 – Things Fall Apart

Narihisago makes it his mission to excise each and every one of Kiki’s tormentors from her dreams by apprehending and inducing the death of all of the serial killers in the waking world. This is a process that takes over a year, and in that time he forgets this isn’t the waking world. Doing police work, catching criminals, spending time with his family; he starts to feel like the past events when he was Sakaido in the Mizuhanome were all one long elaborate dream.

But no matter how much progress he makes, Kiki doesn’t recover. In fact, she only grows more frail, and in her final meeting with Narihisago, she tells him catching Walker won’t save her; there is no saving her. The killing in her head won’t stop.

Kiki has two options: slowly lose herself, dissolve, and warp the world with the violence and corruption within her dreams…or have Narihisago end her suffering now, while she’s still recognizably human. Even though she frames it as a necessary act to save the world, Narihisago refuses.

A month or so passes, and one day Kiki vanishes, leaving a pile of unconscious nurses in her wake who later recall sharing the same dream. It would appear Kiki’s prediction about “dissolving” came to pass. That means it’s only a matter of time before the world falls apart.

While about to deal with the Perforator, whom he’d “forgotten”, Narihisago encounters Hondoumachi. By her count she’s only been in the well-within-a-well for twenty minutes, which means even though it’s felt like more than a year to Narihisago, in reality he’s been in the well for less than twenty minutes. Talk about time distortion in dreams.

Narihisago doesn’t want to pick up what Hondoumachi is putting down, and considering how long this has been his reality, who can blame him? Still, when the meeting of the two detectives is followed by the world starting to come apart at the seams, he can no longer deny that none of this is real.

He calls his family, first to ask them to get away, but eventually, to say goodbye in his own way. Suddenly, and heartbreakingly, his memories from the real world rush back into his head in sequence, from the day he married Ayako, chronicling the birth and growth of Muku, and ending with Muku’s death at the hands of Challenger and Ayako committing suicide.

These images, the initial ones being the photos on the wall of his cell, all speak for themselves, so the very loud and melodramatic song felt like overkill. Perhaps it was more the fact the lyrics were in English—and very obvious and bad—than the music itself. It was still a moving scene. It could have been better with more restraint.

With the time in this dream world dwindling rapidly, Narihisago suggests he and Hondoumachi do as much investigating as they can, but his time is up, as Anaido extracts him from the well after ten minutes. He then tells Sakaido that he identified the body in the quicksand. It’s…Narihisago Akihito, someone Sakaido doesn’t know due to the protective amnesia of the Mizuhanome…but due to the condition of his brain, the amnesia function doesn’t work on Anaido/Fukuda.

The Wellsiders didn’t know that, which means Fukuda is up to something, likely under the direction of Walker. When Fukuda shows Sakaido the photo of Narihisago and his family (which he took from the corpse), things…take a turn. This desert isn’t Momoki’s id well at all, but the “end stage” of Narihisago’s. Remembering himself in his own well produces a “well storm”, depicted as a literally wind storm, as a fail-safe to protect the conscious from the unconscious…and Walker’s form appears in that wind.

ID:Invaded is starting to get very tricky with its Inception-style premise, but with the Big Bad finally making a decisive move that would seem to have Narihisago in check, it sure seems like more answers are forthcoming. Somehow, this all manages to hold together. Here’s hoping Narihisago can similarly keep it together, or if he can’t, if Hondoumachi can save the day.

ID: INVADED – 09 – You Can Not (Not) Redo

When Sakaido wakes up in what he assumed would be Asukai Kiki’s Id Well, Kaeru’s dead body is nowhere to be found. Instead, he’s flanked by his very much alive wife and daughter. He remembers he isn’t the Brilliant Detective Sakaido at all, but Narihisago Akihito.

He hugs his family, who react as if he’s acting weird. But as far as Akihito is concerned, if being able to go back in time, fix what broke, and protect those who mattered most to him is “losing it”, then he doesn’t want to have it.

Without dwelling too much about what this reality is, Aki starts by paying a visit to the Challenger. Since this is before Muku was murdered, no one in this world has caught on to his depravities, except Aki, who comes in with outside knowledge from this reality’s version of the future.

Instead of rushing into Challenger’s house in a revenging rage, gun blazing, he challenges the Challenger to a “fair and square” fight, for which the killer is obviously more than game. Aki gets the absolute shit kicked out of him, but he manages to get the upper hand just as Momoki, the only backup he requested, arrives.

With the Challenger in custody, Aki directs Momoki to check out the basement, where a still-living victim sat bleeding in the “arena”. The woman turns out to be Asukai Kiki, and when Aki visits her hospital room, he’s perplexed by the fact she looks just like Kaeru. Kiki tells him how her thoughts have a way of broadcasting themselves to people around her.

Turns out Aki is in Kiki’s dream, because not only is there no sign of her injuries in the waking world (or whatever it is), but in this dream world of hers, serial killers like the Challenger come every night to kill her, with each night designated for a certain killer.

Aki soon wakes in his own bed with his worried wife and daughter by his side, while Momoki informs him the incident with the Challenger is being considered self-defense (a welcome change from the premeditated murder charge of his first “go-round”). He meets with Kiki—for real, this time—but can’t get her, an inhabitant of this “reality”, to explain what the reality is.

What she can tell him is that the person who has been letting one killer after another into her unconscious dreams every night matches the description of one John Walker: top hat, tails, and cane. This not-quite-Id Well-within-an-Id Well scenario created as many questions as it answered, and Hondomachi is still AWOL, but I am nevertheless deeply intrigued.

Magia Record – 05 – The Ones They Lost

Unsurprisingly, the Seance Shrine isn’t so much a means of reuniting with someone you’ve lost as it is a magical girl trap. “Ui” looks like Ui, but the moment she starts talking the illusion is broken for Iroha, as the girl can only string together a few words in various combinations over and over again: “If you want to change your fate, come to Kamihama City.” Iroha is understandably disappointed; her search has hit a dead end.

Meanwhile, “Mifuyu” is far more convincing to Yachiyo, to the point Yachiyo is entranced. But while Mifuyu can draw from the memories they share, she is singlemindedly dedicated to making sure Yachiyo stays put right there, assuring her she’ll perfectly fit the hole in her heart. The whole time both Iroha and Yachiyo convene with their lost people, the chaotic visual cues of witches dance on the margins.

Iroha is able to break Yachiyo from Mifuyu’s hold, but when a witch arrives and neither they nor Tsuruno can easily defeat it, Iroha fights too hard, her soul gem becomes murky, and she transforms into a second witch and fight viciously attacks the first. This felt like a huge deal when it happened, and like the protagonist of the show was going to die in the first five episodes.

Iroha is “rescued” by none other than Mami, marking the first time characters from the two shows meet. Only Mami had no intention of saving Iroha, but to finish her off, assuming she’s a witch in human form. Yachiyo is able to get Mami to stand down and take her leave without further harm to the unconscious but unharmed Iroha, but not before warning Yachiyo and Tsuruno not to trust Iroha, as she’s still “hiding something.”

Iroha comes to at Yachiyo’s house. It’s too late for her to catch a train home so Yachiyo suggests she spend the night. Iroha take her up on the offer and returns to bed to rest, grateful for the hospitality (it’s apparently been a while since anyone has cooked for Iroha—I guess her own folks are too busy).

When Yachiyo checks in, she notices Iroha has been crying, and has a short vision of Mifuyu, whose room this likely once was. I imagine that despite her initially cold attitude towards Iroha, Yachiyo is happy to be hosting someone in that big lonely house.

That brings us to a post-credit sequence that is all over the map, with Kaede encountering both Momoko and Rena passed out while she takes the form of a witch. She isn’t any more sure what’s going on than I was, which is comforting, but it’s clear trouble is brewing for this magical girl trio.

Magia Record – 04 – The Price of Miracles

Iroha is worried she’s already put out her fellow magical girls, but Mitama, Momoko, Kaede and Rena are happy to continue helping in her search for Ui. Turns out the aloof Yachiyo is the exception and not the rule in Kamihama magical girls. Iroha is sent to the restaurant owned by the family of Yui Tsuruno, who is also a magical girl eager to help, but she does know someone who could.

Demonstrating that the network of Kamihama magical girls is a small world, Tsuruno introduces Iroha to…Yachiyo, who has a lead on a new rumor: the Seance Shrine. The three team up to search the nearby Mizuna Shrine, which has a legend of tragic love in which a woman sacrificed an entire town to be reunited with her lover.

However, their stamp-collecting circuit turns up no further clues. Yachiyo still uses the time to impress upon Iroha the importance of becoming stronger, for the times when more powerful magical girls aren’t around to bail her out. She also asks Iroha and Tsuruno to help her out with a limited-time sale at the supermarket.

In the middle of their shopping trip, a Witch’s Labyrinth appears, and the three are locked in a battle. Iroha is overeager and very nearly gets herself killed, but she’s saved by Yachiyo (she may not like Iroha much but she’s not one to let a fellow magical girl die needlessly).

Tsuruno ends up defeating the Witch with authority, demonstrating why she has a strong claim to the title of “mightiest magical girl.” When the Labyrinth is dissipated, Iroha finds that her Soul Gem is starting to become corrupted. Yikes!

On a hunch, Yachiyo decides to give Mizuna Shrine another chance, this time at night, and sure enough, it and Seance Shrine are one and the same. She and Iroha write the names of lost people they wish to see and then pray; Tsuruno is harassed by a Witch for not writing down a name so she can stand guard.

Then Yachiyo and Iroha are transported to a dreamworld full of bridges where they each encounter the one whose name they wrote down. In Yachiyo’s case, a girl named Mifuyu whom both she and Tsuruno knew (perhaps the three were once a team together). In Iroha’s case, Ui. But even if it’s the real Ui, there’s sure to be a not inconsiderable cost to seeing her.

Magia Record – 03 – My Friend Whom I Hate

As Iroha finds herself witnessing a friendship of three girls strain against deep-seated resentment, she has another dream about Ui, this time with her two friends Toka and Nemu. The three are very smart and build amazing things together (which also make amazing messes) but Ui is constantly the glue holding Toka and Nemu together; the Momoko to Kaede and Rena.

Before Iroha can investigate the lead her new dream has provided, her new Kamihama friends Momoko and Rena have a more pressing problem: Kaede is trapped in a Staircase!

The three visit Coordinator Yakumo Mitama, who offers to “adjust” Iroha’s Soul Gem to possibly awaken more power, and also connects them with Nanami Yachiyo, the unfriendly magical girl who already warned Iroha not to return.

Yachiyo puts aside her animosity for Iroha (whom she believes to be so weak as to be a nuisance) and agrees to help the others rescue Kaede. The four have their Magical Girl transformations, all of which are very cool and very stylish. Yachiyo’s sandals and Iroha’s sheer top are particular fashion standouts.

 

Yachiyo and Momoko attempt to draw out the Witch by writing their names on the steps and then apologizing, and when that doesn’t work, Rena tries to apologize to Kaede, but it’s insincere. Finally she goes off on a rant about how she actually hates Kaede, and she’s sorry for “making” Kaede her friend.

That brings for the Witch and an elaborate Labyrinth of branching staircases. They find Kaede, and she and Rena eventually reconcile, promising to compromise in their relationship so that Rena isn’t always made out to be the villain.

Momoko and Yachiyo detach the Witch’s core (in the form of a bell) from the Labyrinth’s summit, and Rena and Kaede combine their powers to eradicate it. But oddly, there’s no Grief Seed, which means the entity they just defeated might not be a Witch.

Rena disguises herself to gain access to the medical center, and learns that while no one remembers Ui, they do remember her friends Toka and Nemu. They were eventually discharged, though they don’t remember where. It’s the first concrete proof Iroha’s dreams aren’t just dreams. They contain truths about the past.

That brings us to a post-credit sequence in which a Magical Girl from the original Madoka series makes an appearance: Madoka’s mentor and friend, Tomoe Mami. Kyuubey has summoned her to investigate the strange goings-on Kamihama City—including the phenomenon that renders him unconscious whenever he tries to enter.

We know that Iroha interacts with a “Baby” Kyuubey in Kamihama of whom “Adult” Kyuubey isn’t aware. It seems inevitable that Iroha will cross paths with Mami at some point. As mysteries continue to be revealed and twist together, my enthusiasm for this new series grows.

Magia Record – 02 – With Friends Like These…

Iroha keeps dreaming of her little sister, Ui. Kyuubey questions if Ui is or was even a real person, wondering why anyone would bother erasing her. But let’s not forget: Kyuubey is a trickster and can’t be trusted! Iroha’s apparent wish was to cure Ui, a wish that might result in Ui being cured, but doesn’t preclude her from disappearing, both from Iroha’s physical world and her memory.

There’s a medical center in her dream that’s a real place in Kamihama, so she sets off in the off-chance Ui is still a patient there. Her bus ride is interrupted by a Witch, who charms all of the passengers and lures them into a Labyrinth. Iroha transforms and follows, but again she is outmatched, as is a red-haired magical girl Akino Kaede. Fortunately Kaede has friends in Togame Momoko and Minami Rena.

Momoko, ostensibly the Mama Bear of their Kamihama trio, offers to help Iroha find her sister. Iroha supports Momoko, but Rena is opposed to any activities that deviate from their mission to investigate and stop the Chain Witch.

Iroha inadvertently serves as the catalyst for a huge dust-up between Rena and Kaede that leads to the latter saying their friendship is over, and Momoko only makes things worse trying to smooth things over. It’s clear that it’s hard in any universe for magical girls to get along, let alone maintain amicable friendships.

The thing about Rena is, she can shift her form to someone else, making a search for her the next day difficult. Momoko and Kaede want reconciliation, and so does Rena, but she’s held back, be it from pride, shame, or regret.

That’s when the infamous “Chain Monster” arrives, fulfilling the urban legend about writing your name and the name of a friend on a certain staircase to formally end your friendship. Just two episodes in and things get dark in a hurry, as the most cheerful and innocent of the magical girls is swallowed up by chains and dragged into the staircase. Rena and Momoko can do nothing to stop it.

The question is, is the Chain Monster the same as the Chain Witch, is the staircase a Labyrinth? If so, perhaps they can go in, rescue Kaede, and defeat the witch in one stroke. Or maybe Kaede is gone, forever. You just don’t know with this show!

Magia Record – 01 (First Impressions) – Changing of the Guard

Same system, new universe. Magia Record’s English subtitle is quite clear: this is a side story, starring a new pink-haired protagonist in Tamaki Iroha (Asakura Momo). She’s an independent, reliable, somewhat lonely low-level magical girl whose school friends are unaware of her double life. Once in a while a Witch will interrupt her elevated train commute and force her into a trippy Labyrinth where she must do battle.

Lately Iroha has been trying to determine what her Wish was—the one Wish granted by Kyuubey in exchange for becoming a Magical Girl—but she’s forgotten, possibly due to part of the wish itself being for her to forget. Meanwhile, a number of Magical Girls are having the same dream about a mysterious girl telling them they’ll be “saved” if they go to Kamihama City.

Iroha’s comrade Kuroe (Hanazawa Kana) intends to visit the city to see for herself. Iroha misses her stop and accompanies her, but on the way they’re enveloped by another Labyrinth and attacked by another Witch, this one too powerful for either of them. In the ensuing fracas, Iroha encounters a tiny, apparently younger version of Kyuubey.

Madoka Magica’s trademark radical shifting of visual styles carries over into this series, and I can say with confidence that whether inside or outside of a Witch’s Labyrinth, this first episode looks like a million bucks. Iroha’s hometown of Takarazaki with its skinny, towering apartment blocks and hanging gardens are among the standout vistas to which we’re treated. The Labyrinth also blasts the girls high above the clouds at dusk. Gorgeous.

Iroha and Kuroe eventually come down to earth, crashing into a huge arcology-like skyscraper in none other than Kamihama City. Their savior is a dark blue-haired witch whose powers vastly surpass theirs, but more than anything she’s miffed to find two interlopers operating in her territory. She tells them that contrary to the dream, Kamihama is no haven for Magical Girls. There are more of them, and they’re more powerful because they have to battle tougher Witches.

Iroha and Kuroe return home with a warning from the third girl not to return, and to discourage any other girls from attempting to visiting; they’ll be considered enemies. Iroha ends up having another elaborate dream as she watches scores of seemingly brainwashed girls headed to Kamihama, luggage in hand, assured of their salvation. Then she remembers her Wish to Kyuubey: to save Ui, an ill girl who may be her sister.

With a stylish presentation, super-cool wardrobe, stirring soundtrack, and cloudy mysteries waiting to be tackled, Magia Record looks to pick up where Madoka Magica left off, showing us the darker sides of Magical Girldom in a new setting with new players. I for one am full steam ahead on this one!

Vinland Saga – 10 – Dawn in the Age of Twilight

Vinland Saga has become an exercise in guarded patience, centered around the question of how long Thorfinn going to pursue revenge, and when he’s going to wake up and live his own damn life. Maybe that’s what he thinks he’s doing, and his father, both in life and in his dreams, is just wrong that there’s a better path than the one he’s on.

Maybe Thorfinn is simply caught in the inertia of the events surrounding him, and would simply rather put effort in what he sees as a sure thing—one day cutting Askeladd’s throat—than the uncertainty of returning to a life of peace with his mother and sister. After all, Thors tried to live that life, and failed when his past caught up to him.

Whether consciously or not, Thorfinn is drawing nearer to ending up just like his old man: strong and distinguished, but in too deep to ever get out. But he’s still young, and as many lives as he’s taken, it probably doesn’t come close to the number his father took. There is still plenty of time to turn his life around into something worthwhile.

His dreams start as an idyllic life that never was with his family in the endless, rolling, fertile hills that look a lot like England (or possibly Vinland). They end with the skies darkening, his village attacked, and his father run through with arrows. Will Thorfinn ever take that dream to mean stop wasting your life chasing revenge and return to his family?

Maybe, maybe not. As Vinland Saga reaches its midpoint, I’ve found Thorfinn’s quest for revenge misguided and increasingly not that interesting. I’d like to know whether it’s going to reach a point where he either finally manages to kill Askeladd and moves on to something else, or walks away from that quest entirely.

But the cloud of uncertainty persists without any regard for my wishes, and in the meantime, the Danish war with England seems to be winding down. Askeladd’s men have been mopping up lesser villages as the main army has headed north to rest. Canute has failed to do anything with his 4,000 men in London, preferring to pray to Jesus in his tent.

Askeladd’s men are so restless, the smallest insults between them become pointless fights to the death. Having awakened from his beautiful, terrible dream before dawn, Thorfinn stays above the encampment, among Roman ruins, where Askeladd finds him.


It’s there where Askeladd attempts small talk but is rebuked by Thorfinn, asserting “they’re not friends” and that he hasn’t given up his goal of slitting his throat. Askeladd likes Thorfinn’s look, but still isn’t scared. He knows time isn’t on his side, and that his would-be killer will continue to grow stronger as he grows older and weaker.

But by that same token, if the Christians are to be believed, Judgment Day and the end of everyone and everything on earth, could be upon them in as few as twenty years (an event Thorfinn likens to Ragnarok). Considering the Romans were a far more advanced society than the Saxons who defeated them (not to mention the Vikings on the cusp of defeating the Saxons), it certainly seems like humans have had their time in the sun, and now live in an age of twilight.

And yet, the sun still rises just as it always has, bathing the land in light and possibility. With the dawn comes a rider from London, who reports that Canutes forces were routed by the English led by Thorkell, who’d grown impatient waiting on the bridge and is marching his men north to meet the main Danish army.

The war is not over as long as Thorkell is with the English, while Askeladd sees the potential for great riches if he and his men rescue Prince Canute. Not wanting to share the glory or spoils of such a victory, he kills the messenger, and will make do with what he has. He fires his men up, and Thorfinn seems poised to continue following him.

If the end is coming for all, Askeladd will be satisfied with “going out with a bang.” But as we know, the world wouldn’t end in twenty years, meaning final blazes of glory are woefully premature, especially for someone like Thorfinn, who still has a mother and sister to protect, and a family and home of his own to build. With so many dawns he has yet to watch rise above the horizon, it would be a shame to descend into night now.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 08 – A Better Dream

This week Takagi and Nishikata get “stuck” in the storage shed after gym class, as Nishikata pretends he can’t open the door in order to scare Takagi. Honestly it’s a pretty sizable “own goal” on his part, as Takagi doesn’t mind being alone in a shed with Nishikata one bit. She even realizes pretty quickly that the door’s not really locked, but if he’s going to make conditions so perfect for teasing, who is she to resist?

While in the dim shed Nishikata scrapes a knee, so Takagi takes him to the conveniently empty nurse’s office to administer antiseptic. Again, the two are all alone, and Takagi makes sure to point this out, sitting on the bed with Nishikata (the second bed of the episode!) and putting her hand just an inch from his, daring him to hold it and claim victory. Unfortunately, Nishikata…just can’t do it.

When the two compare dreams of what they’d do with a million (then ten million) yen, we can see the recurring theme of Nishikata being an unapologetic, helpless…kid. He wants to buy all the video games and comics; she wants to go on vacation with “someone she loves”—someone Nishikata can’t yet realize or accept to be…him.

Presumably, at some point, Nishikata will grow up a little more and take Takagi’s numerous, increasingly obvious hints. Or perhaps the time will come when Takagi will stop “teasing” and simply tell him upfront how she feels, leaving no room for doubt and not following it up with a “just joking.”

Mind you, I’m not saying that’s Takagi’s responsibility to move this thing forward. For all I know, she’s fine with things the way they are—which is why she’s not pressing—or she’s waiting to see how things play out. In any case, her odds of a desirable outcome are surely better than winning a 10 million-yen lotto ticket.

BokuBen – 13 (Fin) – The Lights in the Sky are Stars

This is it—The episode we’ve all been waiting for: when Nariyuki finally chooses which of the girls he’s going to go out with! Pfft, sure. If only it were that simple! Every girl has good qualities—though as discussed ad nauseum last week, some people have a particular preference, depending on their own type—but however Nariyuki feels about them, he’s either unaware of their feelings for him (in the case of Fumino and Rizu) or has been misled or messed with so much he doesn’t know what to think (Uruka, Kirisu, Asumi).

While she’s serving as a kind of “substitute Nariyuki” at an all-girls pajama study session at Rizu’s, Sekijo Sawako impresses upon them how lucky they are to have such a dedicated tutor, though she’s not sure if it’s because he’s a pushover or simply gets “caught up in stuff so easily”—the answer is somewhere in the middle. Alas, that’s the last we see of Sawako, one of BokuBen’s more intriguing but underutilized supporting players.

Later, Nariyuki intends to help his mom with his littlest brother and sister at the summer festival, but when his fam sees his two cute friends in yukata, they quickly ditch him, and Fumino soon follows, leaving Nariyuki with Uruka, which came as a bit of a surprise considering they arrived at a pretty good stopping point last week.

Aside from her showing him her tongue (stained pink from shaved ice) and offering some to him (for an indirect kiss), there’s no further romantic awkwardness between them, as they chip in to help an overworked Rizu and her dad at their udon stand.

Kirisu ends up attending the festival in disguise to keep an eye on students, but when Nariyuki makes her, she runs away, trips, and injures her knee. He has to give her a second piggyback ride (only this time she’s not sauced) to the first aid tent, which of course is being tended by Asumi and her dad.

Asumi leaves Kirisu’s skinned knee to Nariyuki, but he ends up helping out the rest of the night, showing that Sawako is indeed correct about him being a bit of a pushover and easily caught up in things. But hey, if he enjoys helping everyone out, so what if he’s not the one instigating these scenarios?

Fumino, who split off to let Nariyuki and Uruka be alone, ends up losing track of time gazing at the stars, and on her way to the last train, she has to corral a little lost girl and get her back to her mom. Nariyuki also loses track of time at the first aid tent, and ends up finding the little lost girl’s twin sister.

With the twins back with their mom, Fumino and Nariyuki end up missing that last train, and encounter one other at the station. With no taxis (or indeed any cars) around and only an inn to turn to, the do-gooders have to consider an action that, if taken out of context of their situation, could be seen as very bad.

That action, of course, is spending the night together at a ryokan, which only has one room left, and that room has only one futon, and because it’s a chilly night they have to share it. These two have clearly never heard of sleeping head-to-foot to avoid awkwardness, but that’s rarely a comfortable way to sleep anyway.

For the first time, Nariyuki and Fumino find themselves sleeping in a bed with a member of the opposite sex, and it’s tough. Thankfully, it’s a gorgeous, clear, starry night, so they manage to find a topic that sets them both at ease; the very subject Fumino intends to pursue: astronomy.

Fumino tells Nariyuki about a book she first read when her mother was on her death bed, about an old astronaut continuing to chase his dream and conquering his weakness—something she, Rizu, Uruka, and Asumi are all doing. Nariyuki points out how cool he thinks they are for doing so, and expresses envy for not having any particular personal goal of his own.

Fumino tells him she doesn’t consider herself particularly special for having a dream, and it’s clear she doesn’t think he should discount his desire to help make his family more comfortable and prosperous. But if he ever comes up with another dream, she promises to help him, as his “big sis” (they checked in to the room as siblings).

Fumino ends up falling asleep while grasping Nariyuki’s hand, and he doesn’t have the heart to wake her up. Turns out she’s dreaming of that day she read that book with her mom, and when she wakes up, her hand and his are still intertwined. While initially surprised and bashful, she doesn’t see any need to break their embrace, and so curls up a little closer to him.

The night after on the train, the two are mortified by the choice they made last night, but as they part ways, Fumino, back to calling him by his family name Yuiga, smiles and tells him simply that she’ll see him later. And indeed we shall, as a second season of BokuBen is coming this Fall, where I’m sure we’ll be presented with more adventures both wackily comedic and poignantly warm between Nariyuki and the girls he tutors.

I can’t see why I wouldn’t be around to keep watching them. After all, it seems when it comes to this kind of show…I never learn.