The Promised Neverland – 21 – More Important than Revenge

By arriving just in time with Mujika and Sonju, Emma is able to talk Norman down and get him to drop his knife. Despite all the time they’ve been apart and the things Norman has done and planned to do, Emma still feels absolutely certain that he doesn’t really want to do those things he planned, even going so far as calling him an “arrogant coward”.

The show deems that she is correct in her assessment, and that, when offered, Norman is willing to share the suffering, pain and fear with Emma, Ray, and the others instead of shouldering it all himself. Mujika then goes around the town administering her blood to those who have degenerated, not only curing them but ensuring they’ll never degenerate again.

As Norman’s plan to annihilate the demons of the village is reversed, Barbara prepares to kill a demon girl and her infant sibling, but when she sees herself in the cowering girl, she finds herself unable to do it. We’re to understand this is the first time she’s been presented with the opportunity to kill a demon child, and was all talk before.

Norman and Emma emerge from the burning town, and Norman tells his comrades the truth: he didn’t want to get revenge on demons, but to save his family. He used the ticking clock on his life to justify taking a path he wouldn’t have otherwise chosen. And he lied about not having succombed to the same Lambda drugs as all of them because he wanted to project reliability.

Barbara, who just stopped herself of her own accord from murdering a child, can’t very well argue, and says Norman is more important than revenge. Cislo and Zazie are also extremely understanding of Norman’s coming clean. Vincent isn’t, but the others tell him to stand down.

Upon returning to the hideout, the kids there tell them they just got word from the Grace Field radio: Phil and everyone else are being shipped. We cut to a scene with Petri and Isabella, who have sent the message as a trap, knowing the kids who escaped will come to the rescue.

What’s odd is that Petri is talking with the demons like Norman and the others just escaped from Lambda; presumably that happened weeks if not months ago. And don’t get me started on Isabella, who we were led to believe was on a short leash, and yet has been allowed to fail for quite some time now.

Of greater import in this scene is Petri’s announcement that the Lambda materials weren’t lost in the bombing, and the entire high-class farming system is poised to be replaced by Lambda-style farming through drug-induced brain enhancements.

Ray rightly suspects the message about the premature shippings is a trap to lure them there, but it doesn’t matter, because they still need to return to Grace Field if they want to save Phil and the others. The fact we haven’t seen one second of Phil or the others at the farm somewhat dulls those particular stakes…as do the developments at the hideout.

Vylk, the grandpa who’d regularly visit the hideout—and who Norman almost killed—and his granddaughter Emma visit so he can tell a story about a small piece of a pen a dying human was grasping, and the remorse he feels for not using his blood to save others besides his own family. When screwed into Emma’s pen, it not only provides blueprints for farming HQ and the gate to the human world, but a cure for the side-effects of the Lambda drugs!

That’s an inordinate amount of coincidence and suspension of disbelief in one little flash drive! But even with all this new information, and with almost everyone on board with returning to Grace Field, the one holdout—Vincent—ends up betraying everyone by using the radio to exchange intel for a deal. I guess he wasn’t moved by the embrace of the Emmas…

Ikebukuro West Gate Park – 01 (First Impressions) – Just a Simple Fruit Vendor

In an Ikebukuro full of rival gangs like the G-Boys, Majima Makoto is a neutral mediator to whom anyone can come with a problem to solve. Thus he is one of the people helping to maintain a delicate balance in the town and keep it from descending into violence.

I’ve been to Ikebukuro, and perhaps due to watching a lot of Durarara!! prior to visiting, I got a very cozy, familiar feeling walking its streets. But aside from the Sunshine 60 building’s super-fast elevator, there’s nothing all that flashy about the town. It’s most prominent feature is a 600-foot…incinerator chimney.

Like the town where it’s set, IWGP is similarly restrained, un-flashy and ordinary. After a more theatrical cold open in which G-Boys leader Takashi is on a literal stage knocking out a junkie his gang has surrounded, things unfold relatively straightforward manner.

Takashi visits his old friend Makoto (who runs a fruit stand with his mom), and presents him with the 12-year-old Kurashina Mion, who tried to burn a whole building down because it was the hideout of a drug addict who hit her mom with a car. He’s hopeful Makoto can get Mion justice without violence.

Practically speaking, Makoto’s case is composed of a number of sit-down meetings in restaurants. That’s not very interesting, but it gradually emerges both to us and to an initially skeptical Mion that Makoto knows everybody who’s anybody in Ikebukuro, from gang higher-ups to cops, making him the best person to help her.

The fact Mion insists on tagging along even when Makoto cases a suspicious smoke shop, leading to her panicking and smashing a jar of “high grade herbs” and resulting in a chase. It’s here where Makoto’s encyclopedic knowledge of his town and its rooftops comes in handy, as he makes sure Mion can manage their escape route.

Makoto naturally also knows a super-hacker rather embarrassingly named Zero One, and once he gets the leads he needs from the official police, he relies on Zero and Takashi’s G-Boys to help stake out the smoke shop owner’s various properties.

Once they learn he’s almost certainly dealing illegal drugs, Makoto and Takashi discover the apartment is a marijuana-filled grow-house and drug lab. It’s here where I must assume that weed is still illegal in Japan (in many U.S. states you buy it legally for medical or recreational use), and that there are harder drugs than weed being made/sold by these guys.

Mion sticks her neck out to delay the smoke shop clerk from discovering Makoto and Takashi in the apartment. The clerk chases her down and nabs her, but Makoto comes to her rescue by delivering a devastating kick. It’s clear he prefers to avoid violence unless absolutely necessary, which makes sense as this is not a “stylized” version of Ikebukuro or Japan where anything goes.

In the end the bad guys are arrested for their illegal deeds, and Mion’s mom is released from the hospital with a clean bill of health. In the titular Ikebukuro West Gate Park, Mion thanks Makoto while introducing her mom. Thanks to him she knows that “some grown-ups are cool” and that she wouldn’t mind if someone like him was her dad.

Makoto and Takashi are confident the drug bust won’t come back on them since no one knows they’re involved…but their assumption is incorrect: someone is watching them, so there may be consequences that may threaten Makoto’s neutral status in the near future.

IWGP isn’t a show that will dazzle with its visuals, over-the-top action, or outrageous characters. It looks like it aims to be a more down-to-earth and realistic version of Durarara!! in which we’re presented with a complex tapestry of relationships and loyalties, with Makoto in the middle.

It’s a show with a quiet, confident competence. If that sounds like “boring”, it might be for some. But I for one enjoyed its relative subtlety and nuance, and will be back next week for more.

The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED – 02 – Unnatural Police

Whether Katou likes it or not, money and not hard work makes the world go ’round. When he stops to watch a pair of street comics believing they’ll benefit from a real audience, Kanbe simply deposits 10,000 yen and they immediately stop performing and go out drinking. Katou is right that they’d probably continue working if they didn’t get a windfall from Kanbe, but Kanbe is right that their end goal was cold hard cash, so why waste everyone’s time?

Just as it got Kanbe on the force in record time, money makes the wheels of justice turn a little smoother, even if the sound of those wheels doesn’t sit right with Katou. Kanbe got in at the ground floor, but clearly has big plans for his new official position, as he smells drugs on the pair of comics and brings them in for questioning.

An old-fashioned detective manages to get the name of their supplier, but Katou’s AI/AR glasses and deep pockets net the same result. This round may be a tie, but the perps wouldn’t be in her were it not for Kanbe’s (or his AI’s) sensitive nose. The dealer is a male model who is popular with female models from a certain agency.

Katou and Kanbe then engage in some good old-fahsioned stakeout on the dealer, and Kanbe tries (and not surprisingly likes) instant Cup Noodles for the first time. But Katou keeps the stakeout up far longer, and his stink intensifies as the junk in his car propagates. Katou learns with help from his human asset Mita that the model is getting his supply from a yakuza underboss, aided by a gorgeous raven-haired go-between.

Katou follows this go-between…to her and Kanbe’s house, or rather their palace. Turns out she’s Kanbe Suzue, and she’s either Daisuke’s wife or sister (they very closely resemble each other). If he’s James Bond, Suzue is both gadget-master Q and attractive information broker Moneypenny.

Suzue also seems to be a bit less of a stuffed shirt than Daisuke, donning casual work clothes as she works on various machinery in what could only be described as the Kanbe’s Batcave. The bottom line is that again Kanbe has acquired as much if not more intel from the power of his purse than Katou has managed with his vintage gumshoeing.

That doesn’t stop Katou from storming out of Kanbe Manor, reconvening with Mita, and securing a spot at the mob boss’s latest drug and sex party. Things start out fine as he nabs the distracted boss’s smartphone, but he doesn’t make it past the massive bouncer, and has to be saved by the police mascot “Patrol”, whom he assumes is Kanbe but is really Mita, who had been paid by Kanbe to secure the smartphone.

On the rooftop, Daisuke and Suzue arrive via goddamn Apache helicopter and, after purchasing the whole building, proceeds to gas the entire place, using the floor-penetrating missile devised by Suzue. The boss and twenty others are arrested for drug-related charges, as well as suspected in the murder of a model that came up in the beginning of the episode.

That something that felt like a throwaway line at the time grew into an entire season of The Wire (only with a happy ending) speaks to the strength and agility of the storytelling.

Still, Katou still isn’t okay with Kanbe’s methods. Katou feels insulted on behalf of everyone Kanbe pays off to achieve his goals, and yet he can’t argue with the results. Lives were saved, bad guys caught, and justice will be done, and all at the nifty price of US $770 million. All while he got bogged down and almost killed trying to do things his way.

I mentioned The Wire above because it did indeed take an entire season of episodes to achieve what Kanbe did in a matter of days. Katou feels a lot like a sober McNulty before the systems stacked against the Good Guys fully crushed his spirit. He’s good at his job; what one on The Wire would call “Natural Po-lice”.

Meanwhile Kanbe is about as unnatural a po-lice as you can get. But despite coming off as a bit of an asshole, he’s not in this for the money, but to do something good and worthwhile with it. As incompatible a package as Kanbe presents to Katou, the contents are the same. He’s good police too, and they’ll achieve a lot more good by working together.


P.S. The cars in this show are very well-cast so far. Katou drives a staid, reliable Toyota Corolla E160 Axio. Kanbe’s daily driver is a third-gen Bentley Continental GT. The casanova they’re tailing drives a loud bright-red Porsche Cayenne Turbo. And a woman no doubt after sesameacrylic’s heart, Suzue gets around in a slick yellow Alfa Romeo 4C, an appropriate machine for a true gearhead.

P.P.S. Unfortunately, this is the last episode of Millionaire Detective we’ll be getting for a while, as the remaining episodes have been delayed due to you-know-what-19. We’ll miss it, as it had Top-5 potential, and will most definitely pick it back up if and when future episodes air. UPDATE: It is now scheduled to re-air, starting with the first episode, on July 16. Fingers crossed!

Overlord II – 06

And now for something completely different. Head Butler Sebas Tian witnesses a man tossing a sack into the street; a sack containing a horribly battered and bloodied human girl. Because Sebas does not detest humans as many Guardians of Nazarick do, he takes pity on the girl, takes her back to the mansion, and has Solution heal her wounds.

Solution considers it beneath Sebas to bring human in, and beneath herself to heal her, but Sebas offers no explanations; he only issues orders, which Solution obeys. The girl is a new person when Sebas sees her post-healing, and offers her some porridge. The girl, whose name is Tuare, offers tearful thanks to Seba for saving her when no one else would.

Meanwhile, we check in with Brain Unglaus, who has been shaken to the core by his defeat at the hands of Shalltear. Gazef Stronoff plucks Brain off the rain-soaked streets where he had apparently lost the will to live, insisting he eat something before making the rash decision to go off and die. All Brain can think about is how weak and puny even the strongest humans are against the likes of Shalltear.

Sebas, Solution, Brain, and Gazef not enough for you? Don’t worry, there’s more: two kunoichi stealthily kill a patrol, then set a series of fields ablaze.

We learn the twin ninja are part of a group of powerful-looking adventurers determined to destroy as much of the of the super underworld syndicate Eight Fingers’ drug production and distribution network as possible. Solution mentioned that Tuare was most likely addicted to a drug; most likely the “Black Dust” the adventurers speak of.

Finally, we get a look in at a meeting between the leaders of Eight Fingers, including the one in charge of human trafficking and slaving, who laments he recently lost the girl we know as Tuare. Something tells me that as tough and connected as these guys might be (an adventurer says 8F can “topple nations”), they’re no match for Sebas, who won’t be letting Tuare get hurt anymore.

While I almost lament the conspicuous lack of lizardmen in this episode, a change of scenery is welcome. This is a huge, rich world, after all; focusing on just one small part of it would be a shame.

Devilman: Crybaby – 01 (First Impressions)

So begins my foray into the venerable Devilman franchise, which dates to 1974, its latest iteration available on Netflix at the same time in America as Japan. It’s actually been available for a while now, but I didn’t get around to cracking it open until now.

The first episode of Crybaby is brisk, starting with some heady philosophizing, giving us a quick glimpse of friends Asuka Ryou (a cold realist even in his youth) and Fudou Akira (the titular crybaby, who has enough empathy for both of them).

It isn’t long before the mundaneness of P.E. (and the somewhat head-scratchiness of a random attack by beatboxing rappers) is left behind in a cloud of Ryou’s Mitsuoka Orochi exhaust and the innocent, sensitive Akira finds himself in a debaucherous orgy of hedonism in which drugs and sex reign supreme, the escape of the young, rich, and bored.

Ryou brought Akira here to pop his cherry…in a sense. Ryou’s experience abroad has led him to believe a human can merge with a devil/demon and gain its power while maintaining their humanity, and Akira is the perfect vessel to test that theory.

However, the orgy isn’t, well, bloody or gory enough to draw out any devils, so Ryou rectifies that by wrecking up the place. He and Akira are very nearly beaten to death in the fracas, and before long devils start sprouting from the orifices of women and what were once areas of pleasure become weapons of evisceration.

It’s a huge mess, but Ryou gets what he came for: the demon Amon possesses Akira and merges with him, resulting in the titular Devilman. Perhaps because of how good and pure Amon’s human vessel is, Devilman is particularly powerful, and dispatches the other nasties without too much trouble, and with quite a bit of satisfaction.

And there you have it! Oh wait, why is Ryou doing this? For SCIENCE, I suppose; humans aren’t evolving fast enough for him; perhaps he believes it’s time to shake things up by nurturing such mergings as Akira with Amon. Or maybe that one merge was all he cared about, in hopes his friend, always a crybaby, would benefit in some way.

Yuasa Masaaki’s unique style is unmistakable here, and though this is certainly more violent than the only other work of his I’ve seen. As I said, it’s a brisk and relatively straightforward episode with a decent hook: what the hell will become of Akira now that Ryou has condemned him to share his existence with a demon?

GANGSTA. – 11

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As Corsica’s hunters (AKA the “Destroyers”) begin bombing the Paulklee district to dull Twilight senses, Delico leaves Monroe’s mansion to find his sister Erica and deal with her, with his colleague Yang tagging along. Doug tries to get back to base, but gets an X-slash across the chest. And the axe girl with the everlasting lollipop and funky manicure is unimpressed with the quality of opponents, calling them “a pile of crap.”

Notable in their total (rather than partial) absence from the episode? Nic and Worick. And yet the episode does just fine without the Handymen, giving the supporting cast room to breathe and be fleshed out a tad more (though without any lengthy flashbacks).

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Central to the episode is the semi-secret romance between Marco and Connie, the latter of whom says goodbye with sign language in a way that suggests she’s going to end up in danger before the day is done. Yet between this, Ally taking care of the kid at the Handymen’s, and Delico’s Erica-Hunt, the Destroyer’s chaos isn’t as far reaching as last week suggested…at least not yet.

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It doesn’t take long for Sig to carve her way to Gina Paulklee’s bedroom window, where she’s just waking up (with Ginger, who we now know is also her lover). But Gina ends up agreeing with Sig that the place is a cesspool. Her point is, so what? Now that Sig has come to this point, neither she nor her Destroyer partner are authorized to act, and even when her partner does go after Gina, Ginger snaps his knife with her bare hand. Sig’s axed her way through soft wood, but now she’s up against tougher stuff, and it’s good to see the doubt in her eyes for the first time.

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That particular standoff ends in a Destroyer retreat, but the rest of them continue to move, and the damage is done. Delico and Yang run into Heather, the sister of a six-year-old killed by Erica, hoping she’ll lead them to her, and Doug bleeds out in Gal’s arms rather than accept a downer Celebrer. It would seem Doug has had enough of the Gangsta life, and is content to take his chances in the afterlife.

One Destroyer is a raven-haired beauty who wants smokes, and the town tobacconist just happens to be Connie’s grandmother, who is out. Connie gets her the smokes, but the woman can’t help but smell Marco on her. Marco, sensing Connie is in danger arrives only to find her hat. If the Destroyers are going to start taking normal hostages, the Twilights care about, that’s only going to make things more difficult in the finale next week, where I’m guessing Nic and Worick will pop back out of the shadows.

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GANGSTA. – 10

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No Summer show is better at setting a specific mood and atmosphere and flow to its episodes than the sometimes painfully hip GANGSTA., and a lot of the credit has to go to the super-smooth hip-hop stylings of Tsutchie, also known for his work on Samurai Champloo.

And while there’s certainly dread in the air in the aftermath of the first of many battles in Ergastulum, the mood the score evokes tends more to the tentative, and to a status quo everyone is struggling against fate to maintain. Many Twilights died, but many more remain alive, many of them children, who need to be protected here, in the only place there is for them.

That’s definitely going to be more difficult with a fresh squad of serious-looking Twilight Hunters entering the town, ready to continue what Erica and Mikhail started at Bastard.

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Rather than a calm before a storm, we’re in the relatively calm eye for much of this week. Connie reveals she’s Marco’s lover as the two embrace in Dr. Theo’s clinic, while Connie also embraces Ally as thanks for protecting Miss Christiano. Ally takes care of the orphaned baby of a Twilight killed in the fray as Loretta rests. Nina makes sure Nicolas rests up and heals. Everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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That shoe starts to drop, as the eye of this storm begins to drift away from Ergastulum and the clouds and rains of violence proceed. Worick accidentally bumps into one of the new Hunters in town, whose look and smirk he doesn’t like one bit, while a scantily-clad, crazy-eyed blonde with an ax in her hands and a lollipop in her mouth, begins a one-woman assault.

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As Loretta assures Ally in the Handymens’ office that Bastard will open for business tomorrow, without delay, because it has to—as Al says, the people who rely on Loretta have nowhere else to go—Doug is sent out to meet the ax girl, and the guys who go with him are quickly taken out. While I’ve seen my fair share of cute homicidal girls, I can’t remember a time when a guy was viciously hacked in half to the tune of such chill music.

Once again, the bad guys have fired the first shots. At this point, I’d advise putting Ginger on the front line and letting her have at it. But I know no one Twilight will be able to stop this brash new posse of overpowered super-hunters, of whom Ally’s bro is a member. It’s going to take more teamwork, and a lot of luck.

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GANGSTA. – 09

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Alex’s gorgeous song, and the momentary tranquility it brought, is over less than a minute before the Corsicas attack Bastard, first with a token B-rank twilight whose daughter is being held hostage, then with the two twilight hunters, Mikhail and Erica, who prove more than a match even for Loretta’s best men, Galahad and Marco.

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Mind you, there was almost enough time after Alex’s song for Loretta to finish inviting her to stay at a room at Bastard if she needs a place, but then the club proceeds to be torn apart as Loretta’s men battle the hunters. Gal and Marco are able to restrain Mikhail, but when Erica is ordered in by Ivan Glaziev, the tables turn quickly, and are then turned into kindling.

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The Handymen get word of the chaos unfolding at Bastard, and Worick sends Nic in to buy him five minutes while he fires a flare that the Paulklee Guild, Dr. Theo, and the police all see. I liked how the flare was reflected in so many different windows, connecting all the people in various parts of Ergastulum’s labyrinth and drawing them to the action.

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When Erica is about to kill Marco, the honorable Loretta can’t help but defend her man, but both she and Alex empty their clips at Erica, she deflects them all and they end up on the wrong side of her sword. That’s when Nic arrives to save Alex and Loretta and buy Worick five minutes to assemble backup, during which Galahad tells Ally that Nic is only an A/0 when he overdoses on Celebrer Uppers; otherwise he’s a B/5 at best. In other words, a “faker.” Nic also pegs Erica as Delico’s estranged sister.

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A/0 or no, Nic gets Worick his five minutes, but no more, as Erica’s about to kill him too when Ginger blasts in and shuts Erica and Mikhail down, with Doug in tow. There’s every indication Ginger is one of if not the strongest twilight in Ergastulum, and her presence forces the hunters to retreat as the police also arrive.

We then see Uranos Corsica talking with Ivan, who has Erica licking her wounds in his lap, when the newest member of their little team, эсминец (“Destroyers”), arrives, and it’s yet another sibling: Alex’s brother. Emilio. Now one of her primary rationales for leaving Ergastulum has followed her there, and he’s with the bad guys.

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GOD EATER – 06

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Hey, remember that show GOD EATER? Which airs sometimes, when it feels like it, but not necessarily every week? Well, it’s still around, and you know what? Those who have been patient with it, like myself, have been rewarded: the last two episodes have been excellent. Episode five tore away the invincibility of the titular God Eaters, and Episode six stripped them of their weapons, making these supposed hunters the hunted, at the mercy of the elements and their own fear.

Fighting the Aragami, saving the world; these are meaningless this week. The mission, the only mission, for Lenka and Alisa, is to stay alive. And the harsh, rain-soaked, Aragami-infested world doesn’t make it easy. But we’re drawn into this basic, visceral, at times pathetic struggle for survival.

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Lenka saves Alisa’s life by giving her CPR, and they then hole up in a hotel room. His God Eater is broken, her’s is missing, and he’s at the end of his tether, bleeding out in the corner. Alisa first considers leaving him behind to go look for her God Eater, but instead gets him on the bed and patches him up. It may be an uncharacteristic act of kindness, or a pragmatic move, seeing as how she only had one pill left when she woke up, and she took it. After that, she’ll need Lenka.

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The crux of the episode is that without her drugs, Alisa falls into a state of intense anxiety and helplessness, almost reverting to when she was a small child happily playing hide-and-seek with her parents when an Aragami killed them before her eyes. I didn’t see this as neutering or weakening Alisa as a character. On the contrary, I saw this as finally revealing who Alisa really is beneath the tough-as-nails exterior. The drugs don’t just repress her fear, they repress everything else that makes her a person, making her nothing but a tool for killing Aragami.

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It’s gratifying to see the curtain pulled back and to see some actual emotion in Alisa’s eyes, voice, and body language. In a way, both God Eaters are rendered inert: Lenka because his Arc is dead; Alisa because she’s lost what the Cowardly Lion called “Da Noive”, which had been drug-induced up to this point. Now, she’s back to playing hide-and-seek, against Aragami she could pummel in her sleep under ideal circumstances.

What I appreciate most about GOD EATER’s recent foray into hopelessness is that it’s so utterly and mercilessly stripped away all those ideal circumstances. Now the Aragami have all the advantage, just as they do over all the other helpless humans scattered around the rainy wasteland. Seeing the disheartened look on Alisa’s face, and the look of fear whenever the Aragami find them, really draws us into their plight, where even a simple gesture like Lenka offering his cape thingy is given extra significance.

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When her parents were killed, she was left all alone before she was old enough. Now, at least, Lenka is by her side, and while he’s probably scared too, he’s not as profoundly scarred by his past. He’s for lack of a better term, simply better-adjusted to this world, and doesn’t need drugs to stare down Aragami. And that’s exactly what he ends up having to do, since even when Alisa finds her God Arc, it doesn’t magically make her better in the head. She’s still paralyzed by fear when the Aragami surround her.

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Lenka is bandaged up, but his Arc isn’t long enough to reach the foes, and when it is, he’s only able to deliver a tap to them. You can see the Aragami figuring out these guys are no threat; only food. Lenka knows when it’s pretty much Game Over too, so he drops his useless weapon, puts himself between the Aragami and Alisa, and either makes peace with his end or prays for a miracle. He gets the latter when Lindow comes out of nowhere and easily defeats the low-level baddies.

After making a slightly sexist remark about protecting people being “a man’s job”, he admonishes Lenka for almost giving up and putting his life in someone else’s hands. Lenka, not wrongly, protests that there really wasn’t shit he could do, unless his God Arc magically came back to life, which would be no less a miracle. He and Alisa are safe now, and Alisa is sure to get back on the meds as soon as they get back to Fenrir. But now Lenka, and we, know and understand her a little better, and the rough hand she’s been dealt.

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Back in Flashback Land, Aisha discovers Johannes has been falsifying reports, blah blah blah, then comes to his house, ostensibly to comfort him. Their relationship will eventually produce the dour Souma, and their work will be insufficient against the approaching Aragami explosion and apocalypse.

Alisa’s flashback made perfect sense this week, and added to the power of her arc, but we didn’t even see Johannes or Souma, so I continue to be perplexed by the show’s need to end episodes this way, aside from reminding us that they’re starting to figure out how doomed they are. At least it didn’t interrupt anything important in the present.

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GANGSTA. – 08

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GANGSTA.’s finest episode yet gets off to a wonderful start, as the Handymen are…actually doing handyman work, fixing up Constance’s shot-up gun shop. They’re even wearing matching overalls. It shows us that their service to their community isn’t just “dirty work” involving intimidation, violence and/or bloodshed.

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This show sometimes runs the risk of getting too serious, stodgy, or sappy, but avoids all of them by getting a little cheeky this week, from Constance grabbing what she thought was Ally’s fake boob (it isn’t), to her Granny sticking her cane into Worick’s buttcrack for loafing. These little moments of incidental comedy keep the darker stuff going on from taking over completely.

When Constance starts asking Ally innocuous questions about her family, Ally remembers she has a little brother at East Gate, but her memories of him are blurred and transition into more hallucinations of bloody Barry, indicating she needs to take her stabilizer. When her hands are shaking too much, Nic is there to calm her.

As you can see, the screencap can be very misleading; a big burly guy suddenly coming from behind would usually spell trouble, but here it’s Nic saving Ally from descending in a more serious episode. He brings her back.

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Worick apologizes for letting Ally out of her sight, but it’s telling that Nic has his back even in this instance. He also tells Ally that her memories will return as the drugs leave her system. Ally really is in a kind of purgatory right now, without sufficient information to go one way or another. What Worick suggest, however, is that whatever her memories are, when she gets them back would be a good time to leave Ergastulum.

He can’t promise her she won’t end up back under the control of drugs or the heel of another pimp if she stays, because he’s not sure if he’s going to still be alive tomorrow. It’s a volatile place that just happens to be calm…now.

Also for now, Ally is for all intents and purposes, one of the Handymen, so Worick brings her along to a Christiano soiree at their nightclub, Bastard; a fitting name for a club where Twilights—essentially the bastards of science and humanity’s hubris—are welcome.

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Once at the club, Ally curls up in a balcony window and loses track of Worick and Nic, who are busy rescuing Twilights from Anti-Twilight hunters. But on this otherwise clear, serene night, with her gorgeous evening dress and glass of wine, Ally feels perfectly at ease for the first time in a long, long time.

When she starts to hum the song being played downstairs, Loretta’s right-hand Twilight Galahad lets her in on Christiano’s under-the-table protection of Twilights, using the club as a front of sorts, just as the soiree is a front of sorts for the Handymen’s activities. Then he insists she take the stage and sing, which is why Worick brought her, having heard her humming before.

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I don’t know if this is what Worick planned for all along (he’s a pretty sharp, chess-playing kinda guy after all), but when Ally is literally put on the spot, she doesn’t disappoint, giving a gorgeous, soulful rendition of a song that almost plays like a lullaby, a song about putting your fears aside because everything’s going to be okay, and a new day will come. The show expertly cuts from her singing to Worick and Nic brawling, and I drew a parallel between the soundless fighting and how it’s a lot like how Nic lives in the world.

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The song takes up a lot of time, but rather than feel like too long, I almost didn’t want it to end. I love GANGSTA.’s penchant for giving parts of its episodes room to breathe, drawing us deeper into its world. And Ally’s song turns out to be a form of therapy when the blurry images of her little brother come into focus and she remembers singing it to comfort him when he was sad.

So her memories did come back just as Worick said they would, and faster than I expected. She’s also found out quite by accident that she’s not a bad nightclub songstress, further excising her of the persistent self-hatred and perceived worthlessness the drugs induced. So, will she stay or go…or go, find her bro, and come back?

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Worick isn’t wrong when he says Ergastulum isn’t the best place for souls such as Ally’s, because the guys he and Nic were fighting were merely ineffectual foot soldiers. The elites have yet to strike, and when they do, they will surely destroy all of the peace and serenity Ally got a well-needed taste of that night.

Ally isn’t a Twilight, nor is she a soldier, but before she knows it, her present residence will become a battlefield, and Worick and Nic may not have an eye to spare for her in the impending chaos.

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GANGSTA. – 07

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Another night, another nightmare Worick has about the day his life changed and became inextricably tied with Nicolas’. Only this time, Ally is there to give him a comforting hug to calm him down. This week fills in most of the remaining blanks of that fateful day, giving us a full picture of that early scene of a blood-soaked Nic standing over Worick, missing an eye. In short: it isn’t quite what I thought went down, but that’s a good thing.

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But first, both thanks to Theo and Nina, Nic and Doug are all fixed up, and Nic thanks Nina by taking her on a ride as he does his flying-between-buildings thing, which looks terrifying and hella fun at the same time. It’s a great little scene, because it shows how close Nina and Nic are, and how much Nina trusts him, but also that neither Doug nor Nic hold any grudges against each other. If anything, Doug is embarrassed most of what he said during the fight went unheard by his one-time opponent. Doug also learns that Nic is a rogue, like him, and from the West Gate, which is a big deal.

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As Monroe, Paulklee, Corsica and Christiano (whose boss is a schoolgirl) meet in a dark smoky room trying to maintain balance in Ergastulum, Ally is with Dr. Theo trying to do the same thing with her head. He has her on mild tranq to keep her calm and is optimistic she’ll eventually recover now that she’s not seeing her dead pimp anymore.

Ally also gets to break out her newly-learned sign language to thank Nic and ask if she can hang around for the time being. Does Nic really not understand her “weird” signs, or was her message fully received, with Nic essentially replying that of course she can stay; that she didn’t even have to ask. Thus Ally really connected with both of her handymen roommates this week.

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That brings us to that day, or rather that night the show has given us glimpses of for many weeks now. Turns out Nicolas didn’t randomly kill Wallace’s family in some kind of contract job. In reality, Wallace saved Nic’s life by buying a supply of Celebrer to keep him alive. The mercenaries fired him, leaving him with Wallace.

When Wallace’s abusive father found out Wallace was smoking, he puts the cigarette out in Wallace’s eye, a scar he still carries on his face. Nic made the sign for “kill”, and saw Wallace’s lips word something, which he took as an order to kill…everyone, including himself, when he was done with everyone else. Wallace stops him, telling him he can’t die until he’s suffered more; much more.

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So there you have it: Wallace sic’ed  Nic on his father and family, not knowing the full extent Nic would go, and unable to undo what he did, took it upon himself to stay with Nic to ensure he’d endure the punishment of a long, tortured life. But has the life Nic has lived really been worse than a quick death? In reality, it hasn’t been all bad, what with he and Worick developing a friendship and symbiotic business relationship…not to mention getting to hang out with Good People like Nina and Ally.

These years have proven Nic hasn’t just been pretending to act like a human. He is one, albeit a deeply damaged one. Still, every time his bad eye hurts, Worick remembers that night, and remembers the hatred he had for Nic and all Twilights, while simultaneously pitying him/them. And there’s a nasty, efficient-looking pair out there hunting down and mutilating great numbers of Twilights. Nic is almost certainly one of their targets. And it’s clear there’s a part of Worick—perhaps residing in that festering eye socket—that doesn’t care if this is where Nic finally exits.

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GANGSTA. – 06

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Nic spends the episode recovering from his injuries (Paulklee shot him with drugs, not bullets) under Nina’s admirable ministrations as the clouds continue to dump rain on Ergastulum, as if to wash away the blood of the last battle. But the duel with Doug and the shootouts that accompanied it may only be a taste of what’s to come, as the Corsicans are about to throw off the delicate balance that has been sustained by going after the Christianos, a family beholden to Monroe.

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It’s fitting in an episode called “THORN” that everyone deals with various literal and emotional thorns in their sides or minds. Both Nic and Worick carry a lot of baggage from their highly traumatic pasts. Nic was the son of a prostitute shanghaied into mercenary service; Wallace is the unwanted and unloved son of a drunk, violent crime boss whose light we know is destined to go out.

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Wallace got over his prejudice for his perceived low-rent bodyguard and befriends Nic and even teaches him to read and write, most likely out of a desire to have one friend in his life; someone who doesn’t curse his existence. While we’re still missing a couple of bits and pieces in the middle, the genesis of their friendship, which would persist for decades to the present, is making more and more sense.

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Ally has her own thorn in the form of  withdrawal due to an appalling drug her pimp plied her with regularly in order to keep her submissive and in line. The horror movie scene that ended last week’s episode turned out to be hallucinations from that withdrawal, and Dr. Theo informs Worick that Ally has yet to fully recover, though it will happen with time. Some thorns can’t be removed too quickly.

When a shoeless, rain-soaked Ally kisses Worick on the street, it’s filmed as if it were a climactic, passionate romantic scene, right up until she tries to undo Worick’s pants and we realize she’s still hallucinating Barry, and is ready to do anything to him if only he doesn’t hurt her. Ironically, Worick does technically hurt her—by head-butting—in order to snap her out of it (not sure how that works medically, but whatever), but since her head’s harder than his he ends up hurting himself more.

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At any rate, it’s one of the show’s best scenes, and combined with Nic’s recovery, the Handymen and their administrative assistant are back in business…just in time for another war. Even in his hospital bed, Nic looks as ready as ever to take on whole battalions on his own, but a part of me thinks Worick would really rather just kick back in his apartment and talk about his crappy day with Ally-chan.

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GANGSTA. – 05

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As fellow A/0 Tags Nic and the dreadlocked kid fight furiously up on the rooftops, the normal gangsters take bets below. but when Worick arrives, he determines not only that Nic is depending on an overdose of Celebrer to fight and shrug off his stab wounds, but that the kid words for the Paul Klee Guild, and Nic shouldn’t even be fighting him.

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Of course, the kid, Doug, took the job to take out Monroe for the opportunity to fight a fellow A/0, and is loving the fight, but when he’s winded and Nic hasn’t broken a sweat, he realizes the fight is tainted. This is drugs, not merely natural talent and skill, at work. Finally, Doug’s master, Gina Paulklee of the guild, arrives with her very able assistant Ginger, to break up the fight and punish both Doug and Nic with multiple gunshots.

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Such is the price of going against the “Three Laws” instituted once Tags were freed from slavery. We finally learn what they are thanks to Gina: “Don’t take action against Normals”, “Obey your master”, and “Defend Yourself”. To break one of those laws is to upset the delicate balance of Ergastulum, which Gina and her guild work to maintain.

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Doug is left for dead, but Worick can and wishes to only carry one person, and that’s the wounded Nic, to Dr. Theo’s, where Nina looks after him. Meanwhile, Alex is seeing her old pimp in the alley even though he’s supposed to be dead, and even hears him coming up the stairs to the Handymen’s office. When Worick calls, the office is abandoned.

Did the pimp survive, or is Alex merely hallucinating due to PTSD? I’m guessing the latter. Either way, the fifth episode ends with our trio of protagonists roughed up physically and emotionally. I’m guessing next week won’t be the beach episode…

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