Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War – 07 – Night of Fallen Souls

The last battle between the Gotei 13 and the Quincy looked a lot like the current one, only in reverse. Yamamoto’s thirteen captains back then were vicious, savage killers who made quick work of the Quincy … yet Yamamoto wasn’t able to take Yhwach’s life.

That day of slaughter is memorialized in a painting in Yamamoto’s dojo, as seen by a young Shunsui. Yamamoto warned Shunsui that if the subject of the painting ever returned to Soul Society it would be a dark day indeed. And so it is, with Yamamoto being sliced in half by the real Yhwach after expending all his energy fighting a fake one.

With the Head Captain defeated, Yhwach orders the Stern Ritter to summon their foot soldiers to complete the slaughter of shinigami. The soldiers meet little resistance, mowing down their opponents with east and leaving Soul Society dark, burning, and drenched in blood.

It would appear Yhwach and the Quincy have had their revenge, but after being unable to simply stand by and watch countless lights of souls in Soul Society wink out, Ichigo manages to power his way out of Quilge’s prison and completes his journey through the Garganta.

The first Quincy to encounter him falls quickly by his sword, but before engaging Yhwach, Ichigo pays a visit to Kuchiki Byakuya. Before the sixth captain dies, he takes solace in knowing Rukia and Renji are still alive, and asks Ichigo for a final favor: protect Soul Society—what’s left of it, that is.

Yhwach is surprised but not totally shocked to see Ichigo before him, having defeated Quilge’s prison. It only reinforces the fact that Kurosaki is one of the five special threats that stand in the way of total victory over Soul Society. Ichigo, meanwhile, is already bloodied and battered and not in the best shape to face off against the Quincy king.

That said, he still puts up a hell of a fight, even if Yhwach is likely holding back from killing him. Their ensuing battle is nothing like the flame-wreathed inferno of Yamamoto vs. Yhwach. Things get downright 2001 trippy with the colors and patterns created by the sheer force of their attacks upon one another. But in the end, Yhwach puts his blade in Ichigo’s throat.

Confident he’s disabled but not killed Ichigo, Yhwach prepares to take him back to their realm so that he can revive him and turn him to his side, But he encounters another surprise: Ichigo is still conscious, Yhwach’s stunning strike blocked by a Quincy technique: Blut Vene.

Yhwach surmises that Ichigo’s persistent contact with Quilge’s prison when he busted himself out caused the Quincy’s spiritual pressure to mix with Ichigo’s, enabling him to unconsciously use the Blut to save himself. Yhwach takes off the kid gloves and surrounds and restrains Ichigo with rocks.

But then, just like that, he gives the order to withdraw. It isn’t a retreat, merely a break in the invasion that will be resumed again soon. The Quincy have only a limited timespan in which they are able to function outside of their realm, and that time comes sooner than Yhwach expected due to a little illusory fuckery from his brief encounter with Aizen.

Speaking of fuckery, Yhwach gives Ichigo something to chew on while heals up and awaits his return: the fact that he’s … a Quincy? Or, at least, possesses Quincy blood. It’s why Yhwach hesitates to refer to himself as Ichigo’s “enemy”—as far as he’s concerned, Ichigo is family: a prodigal son to be brought back into the fold. But something tells me Ichigo won’t be going quietly.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War – 06 – Rug Pull

Old Man Yama is always fun to watch, especially when he casually flexes, like when Yhwach thinks he’s slowly walking towards him, then a moment later Yamamoto is twenty feet away, Zaraki in his arms. When three of Yhwach’s subordinates descend on Yamamoto, he ethers them with a column of flame so big it gives his Captains another morale boost.

But Yamamoto isn’t here to play around. In what comes as a shocking escalation so early in the season, he releases his bankai for the first time in a thousand years. And it’s not a one-trick pony, but a four-cardinal-direction Swiss army knife of overpowered goodness. When he pulls all his flames within his sword, just touching the tip to the ground creates a yawning chasm instantaneously.

That first stage temporarily turned Soul Society into a waterless desert, but the second stage of his bankai makes him as hot as the surface of the sun, melting the very stone beneath him and making it impossible for Yhwach to touch him. This is when Old Man Yama starts his withering trash talk.

When the Quincy King summons the ultimate Quincy defense, Yamamoto changes gears once more, summoning not just any old undead army, but an army made up of Yhwach’s fallen subordinates. He can plow through them, but he must look each one in the face as he does it. It’s enough to make the hardened king weep.

That’s when Yamamoto brings the hammer down, as the fourth stage of his bankai is a blast so devastating it slices Yhwach clean in half at the midsection. But at this point I was already convinced that Something Wasn’t Right.

We just saw way too much of Yamamoto’s repertoire in just the sixth episode of the season, and the Quincy boss can’t already be dead. Sure enough, we learn that Yhwach wasn’t Yhwach at all, but another one of his subordinates disguised as him.

While his double fought Yamamoto, Yhwach infiltrated the dungeon below the 1st Squad barracks to have a few words with Aizen Sousuke, who is imprisoned down there. He doesn’t mince words, and asks Aizen to join him. Aizen may hate Soul Society and Yamamoto, but he may just hate the Quincy just a bit more, because he refuses without hesitation.

As for Yamamoto, his big light show didn’t seem like something he could easily repeat after such a brief rest. His intention from the start of the fight was to end Yhwach’s life, but he was deceived, and not being a Spring chicken anymore, dude is clearly winded. Worse, the defense he held against the Quincy—that they didn’t know enough about his bankai to steal it—goes out the window, since he just showed Yhwach virtually everything he had.

That enables Yhwach to steal Yamamoto’s bankai, then draw his glowing blue Qunicy sword and unleash one of his special attacks on his opponent. The episode ends with Yamamoto’s flames being extinguished, and Yhwach’s strike causing a great deal of blood loss and the clipping of one of his trademark long eyebrows.

But just as Yhwach couldn’t be beaten so quickly, it’s hard to believe Old Man Yama will be out for long. If nothing else, that was one of the best-looking battles in Bleach’s long and illustrious history.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 06 – Scaling the Wall

Lady Prospera has a chilly reunion with her former Vanadis colleague, Bel, AKA Belmeria Winston, who says she had little choice but to join Peil Group in order to survive after the punitive assault on their facility years ago. She asks Prospera why she’s using her daughter as an instrument of revent, but Bel retorts by asking “how many” Gundam pilots there have been before Elan.

While Earth House reconsiders their opinion on Elan in light of his treatment of their new housemate, Guel is thrown out of House Jeturk and cut off from all but the remaining school tuition. He leaves with his head held high, having done what he (and I believed) to be the right thing in standing up for Suletta. She and Elan meet for pre-duel formalities, but she has yet to decide her stakes.

Earth House know theirs: the 2.7-to-1 odds they’ll enjoy if Suletta wins. Led by Nana’s cautiously-can-do attitude, they scrounge around scrap and spare parts to cobble together a flight unit for Aerial. I can only imagine Suletta’s mom didn’t provide her such a unit because she was confident her daughter would make the necessary connections.

Meanwhile, Elan undergoes more lonely testing and his blurry recurring image of a candle is interrupted by a surprise visitor in Elan … the real Elan Ceres. He’s every bit the smug, privileged aristocrat you’d imagine would be heading up Peil House, and is the rightful recipient of a future face-punch from Chuchu, Miorine, and/or even Suletta herself.

The “Elan” we’ve known thus far is no villain, only a pawn and victim, though he apparently volunteered for this with the promise he’d get his “face” back and a citizens ID should he prevail. I suspect the memories of his past life have been subordinated by the Permet conditioning.

During flight testing out in open space, Suletta is down in the dumps, feeling dumb and annoying after Elan’s hurtful words. Miorine is out there assisting with Nana, and gives her bridegroom a bit of tough love, as well as reflect back Suletta’s “move forward, gain two” credo.

Suletta snaps out of it and gets back to testing, then afterwards visits Peil House insisting to speak to Elan. She’s put over house-wide loudspeakers calling out to Elan, asking if he meant everything he said, and then singing him “Happy Birthday.” He only calls her to tell her to go home, saying he has no birthday. But we know better; her singing briefly brought his hazy memory into focus.

But the die is cast, and the next day the duel unfolds as planned, with Suletta announcing that her stake is that if she wins, Elan has to tell her all about himself. This further rankles an Elan already understandably frustrated by his lot in life; from his perspective he has absolutely nothing, while Suletta has everything, and yet still wants more from him, and won’t let him have this victory.

A thrilling space battle ensues, with both Aerial and Pharact’s Bit Control Systems dueling, and the latter suit’s superior mobility creating a long-range disadvantage for Suletta and her jury-rigged unit. Once again the corporate bigwigs—in this case Peil—arranged for unfair conditions. Perhaps they know that they need every edge they can get against Suletta and Aerial.

The entire school is watching, including Guel from his new home—a tent in the woods (I’ll admit to laughing out loud as this uncommented-on development, and part of me hoped Shimarin or Honda Tooru would show up). It looks bad for Suletta, but she has an advantage Elan doesn’t: time.

Elan has to continually up his Permet Score to maintain his edge, which takes a toll on his already depleted body. He even predicted this would be his last duel, judging from Bel’s reports on his testing. He and Suletta trade flurries of beams, and the latter’s flight suit is damaged.

Now a drifting sitting duck, Pharact’s Bits prepare to envelop Aerial as they did Guel last week, but in a development that may even come as a surprise to Suletta, an emergency defense system is activated that neutralizes the Bits and Pharact. The laughter of children can be heard as Aerial’s Bits form a spinning ring around her and then blast Pharact to hell.

Suletta has won, her house has more than doubled their money, which means they eat next month, and Miorine doesn’t have to worry about Elan becoming the Holder and her new groom. Elan drifts in defeat, but his memory finally comes into focus: a mother, his real mother, with loving eyes, presenting him with a birthday cake.

The light of the candle becomes the light of the glowing debris as Suletta stretches out her hand for him, and he takes it. As they drift together in the void, she assures him he doesn’t have nothing, and she and many others will celebrate his birthday.

As Elan flashes perhaps his first genuine smile, Miorine sits in the repair pod with Nana and endures this bit of “minor two-timing”, which extends to a second date for Suletta and Elan, so he can fulfill the stakes of the duel. Miorine leaves Suletta to await his arrival, but the clock ticks by and he doesn’t show.

Suletta cheerfully sings “Happy Birthday” once more as she waits, but she waits in vain. Elan isn’t standing her up; the Peil bigwigs have decided to scrap him. He was never anything other than a disposable tool for them, and with his failure to gain Aerial he’s no longer of any use to them. That they unceremoniously stick him in what looks like a goddamn sci-fi cremation furnace while he’s fully freaking conscious seems inhumane to the extreme.

Just as they did with new Yuru Camp cast member Guel Jeturk, Gundam successfully rehabilitated Elan’s character into someone with whom we could sympathize and root for. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll also have to grieve for him. Will the real Elan replace him in both the cockpit and at school, or will it be another “spare” with his face? Either way, Suletta’s victory is tempered by a bitter loss; the latest casualty in this corporatocracy’s unrelenting thirst for profits.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 05 – A Patch of Black Ice

For those girls (and guys) for whom the fiery Guel Jetark isn’t their cup of tea, they have the apparent opposite in Elan Ceres. They call him the “ice prince”, and long to melt his icy heart. If they only knew. Elan rarely duels, but he’s 7-0 after winning a 3-on-1 affair that was never close.

Elan is also working on behalf of Piel Technologies, but unlike Guel, he’s treated more employee than son to their four-woman leadership group. After winning, he surprises Suletta with a phone call … and asks her out on a date. Her Earth House girls go giddy (Chuchu excepted).

In another demonstration of how different she and Elan are, Suletta calls her mom, who is supportive of her daughter branching out and getting to know others better—the move forward, gain two ethos. But after getting off the phone with her daughter, Lady Prospera gets a report about Peil “making its move”—faster than anticipated.

Meanwhile, Elan hasn’t been talking to Suletta because she’s a friend; indeed, I do not believe he understands such a concept. He’s been pumping her for information and context on Aerial on behalf of the company he serves. We also see that he’s an “enhanced person” created for the sole purpose of piloting a Gundam.

This culminates in Suletta letting Elan into Aerial’s cockpit for a routine survey of the testing area (which is definitely an idea for a date). He observes how easily she pilots Aerial, and she says she’s never felt suffering doing so, but actually always feels at ease.

Elan then asks to pilot Aerial on his own—an astonishing ask but one Suletta happily grants because she thinks Elan’s a friend. Piloting it convinces him that Aerial is the key to “breaking the curse” of the suffering he feels every time he takes the controls of his mobile suits.

When he returns to Suletta, the kindly mask has dropped. Her usefulness to him and the faux friendship he fostered is no longer needed. Now he has the information he needs, and she’s just an annoyance, especially with her entitled belief that Aerial is “family.”

Seeing this honest side of Elan upsets Suletta, and his cold words cause her to cry. That’s just when Guel arrives, sees Suletta’s eyes, and demands to know what Elan is doing, with the answer determining whether they duel. That’s just fine with Elan. Whether he intended to use Suletta as bait or not, Guel’s timing works out perfectly.

While it’s good of Guel to stand up for Suletta, she hasn’t quite turned against the hope that Elan is a good person and a friend, so she objects to the duel, but it’s not her call: Shaddiq tells her if she doesn’t like current conditions, she’s welcome to change them in a subsequent duel.

The stakes are set: if Guel wins, Elan will stay away from Suletta from now on. If Elan wins—and I had a feeling he was going to win easily—he gets to duel Suletta. Guel’s red mobile suit is out of commission, he uses his brother Lauda’s Dilanza, even though their father forbade him from dueling.

That Guel is willing to incur more of his dear father’s wrath speaks to the genuine affection he’s gained for Suletta and his desire to keep others from making her cry. Underneath the bluster he’s an honorable guy.

But honor, like smiling, laughing, birthdays or family, is not something in Elan’s programming. Suletta’s been interacting with a doll designed to learn as much about her for his employers’ sake, as well as his own (lifting the aforementioned curse). Elan surprises all when he arrives at the duel in a new suit—the Pharact. It’s a menacing, bat-like suit with its own drone swarm system.

It looks every bit like the dark sibling of Suletta’s Aerial. Guel is mad as hell, and kicks up a lot of dust in the dueling ground. This unwittingly creates the conditions by which he is defeated: the dust, charged with static electricity, gets into the gaps and joints in Dilanza’s armor.

Elan’s drones create laser-like webs that in concert with the dust Guel himself kicked up, has the effect of an EMP, shutting down Dilanza’s systems and leaving him immobilized. Elan takes an easy win, and the Peil Group’s engineer (and Elan’s minder) confronts Lady Prospera, who concludes there was “another witch all along.” The Peil woman addresses her as senpai, suggesting she was part of the same research group that developed Aerial.

Elan again makes a prompt phone call to Suletta, to arrange another “date.” This time, it will take the form of an official school duel, and if he wins, he will claim Aerial for himself. And this, folks, is why Suletta should have probably listened to everyone telling her to stay away from people from the three branches—including Guel, someone from those branches.

Now, I can’t imagine Suletta will lose to Elan next week—especially if Miorine lends a hand, nor to I believe Aerial will fall into the hands of a rival company. The only question is whether Suletta, who is no doubt still confused and hurt by Elan’s treatment of her, can switch gears and do what needs to be done to defeat her most implacable enemy yet.

As for Elan? I’ll admit to hating him more than Guel now, but I also understand the kid has suffered his whole life, is looking for release, and the only thing in his way is a silly girl who calls a Gundam “family”, a word that’s meaningless to him since he never had one.

In Elan Ceres, Peil created an organic machine to pilot their metal one. But Suletta is, if nothing else, an ordinary human fueled her whole life by love and support. That should prove the edge in this duel.

Urusei Yatsura – 03 – In Flies Another Hassle

It’s just another day in Ataru’s class with Lum hanging off of him and Shinobu throwing chairs and desks at him in, but then the mega-rich transfer student Mendou Shuutarou leaps out of one of his family’s fleet of private helicopters and is hit by one of the desks Shinobu throws. Shinobu approaches him to apologize and is immediately smitten with Mendou … giving a concerned Ataru a foot to the face.

Ataru doesn’t have to worry … much, as the moment Mendou spots Lum floating around class, he loses all interest in Shinobu. Unfortunately for him, Lum only cares about her Darling, Ataru. Mendou arrives on the day of the election for class president, but worried his administration will be too punitive towards his fellow male students, the lads nominate Ataru to run against him.

When the two tie (Ataru getting all the boys’ votes, Mendou getting all the girls’), Mendou challenges Ataru to a traditional Mendou family duel: a William Tell routine, but with cannon instead of pistols. In order to commence the duel Mendou has to throw a glove at Ataru, but finds it impossible due to Ataru’s ninja-like elusiveness. He ends up hitting Lum with his duel glove instead, and she zaps him for his trouble.

Despite the principal insisting students aren’t allowed to parachute into school, Mendou arrives the same way as his first day, only this time Lum runs into him instead of a desk, and the two get tangled in his parachute. Lum was searching for her Darling, who slipped away to have a private chat with Shinobu.

To Ataru’s dismay, Shinobu plainly admits she has the hots for Mendou and sees no reason why it’s any of his lecherous, cheating-ass’s business. Just then, the parachute falls, and Mendou ends up on top of Shinobu, who is as elated by the experience as Ataru is mortified.

When the class goes on a team-building trip to the woods, we see Lum in human clothes for the first time, and it’s clear she’s got fine fashion sense. As usual, Ataru would prefer to be alone with Shinobu than her, so when Mendou asks Lum if she’ll accompany him to explore a nearby limestone cave, Ataru invites Shinobu.

All four know that a cave means the potential for scary darkness and clinging to the one you like. The only problem is, everyone likes someone who doesn’t like them: Lum wants Ataru, Ataru wants Shinobu, Shinobu wants Mendou, and Mendou wants Lum. It’s a perfect romantic Ouroboros!

As expected, Ataru never ends up with his preferred clingmate, despite conspiring with Mendou to turn out their flashlights simultaneously. He first ends up with Lum while Shinobu gets Mendou. The next time they try it, the two boys end up with each other.

That’s when Ataru learns that Mendou becomes terrified to the point of tears and raving when he’s in a confined dark space … but only when girls aren’t looking at him. As in, even if Lum and Shinobu are right there with him, he wails like a baby when Ataru covers the girls’ eyes.

If it wasn’t clear from our previous dealings with Mendou, he’s just as much a lady-obsessed chowderhead as Ataru, only richer. He’s also voiced by fellow comedy vet Miyano Mamoru, one of the few seiyuu of his generation who can go toe-to-toe with Kamiya Hiroshi.

When the flashlights crap out for real, Lum is fed up and uses her electrical powers to light the way. But by doing so, she activates some kind of alien spaceship that was embedded in the rock, causing it to launch and create a huge hole in the caverns.

Everyone’s safe and sound, with the boys and girls embracing one another this time, but the ship attains Earth orbit and its passenger looks poised to awaken at any time … let’s hope next week. The more zany characters the merrier!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 03 – I’ll Stop the Rain for You

In the third episode, Suletta finally manages to verbalize what she wants, and how marrying Miorine might jeopardize that. It’s nothing so much as a list of normal things one does in high school: making friends, giving them nicknames, lunch on the roof … going on dates. Miorine doesn’t get why marriage would preclude that last part. Miorine also tells Suletta not to worry; the legal age for marriage is 17, and so they won’t get hitched until her birthday at the earliest.

All she needs to focus on is winning the duel, or they’re both finished. On a call with her confirmed mom, Lady Prospera tells her daughter that she didn’t raise no witch. The next day at school, Suletta gets all the attention for the wrong reasons from most of her peers, while Nika proves to be true blue, albeit one a little too into Aerial’s technical specs.

Guel, having test piloted his dad’s company’s new Darilbarde, hides his frustration with it being piloted by AI, with his usual arrogant front and paeans in two. We also learn Prospera blackmailed Guel dad at the inquiry with he knowledge of his assassination plot. Don’t mess with Suletta’s mom.

Suletta is overjoyed to be invited back into Miorine’s garden, but Miorine makes sure she understands that doesn’t make them best friends. Their garden time is interrupted again, but this time by the true-neutral Elan Ceres. He be devoid of outward emotion, but he gives Suletta her first contact from a boy and hopes she’ll fulfill the wishes on her list.

Elan, along with Shaddiq Zenelli, are members of the deulling committee, and bring Suletta and Guel together to go over the terms and stakes and officially approve the duel. There’s another haughty rich girl in the committee, Secelia, who mocks Guel following daddy’s orders. But Suletta scolds Secelia and defends Guel.

Suletta may be pushy with her aw-shucks old-fashioned ideals due to the longtime isolation that galvanized them. But at least in this case (and most cases) she is correct, and Guel acknowledges and appreciates her gesture, all but thanking her when the two are alone in the life after the meeting. He also all but admits to liking her “gaining two” philosophy.

I’m glad these two had this moment together prior to the duel, as Guel has been given a lot more dimension in these last couple episodes. Unlike his father and bootlicking brother, personal honor is important. So he is not coming into this duel in a good place, considering he’s mostly just along for the ride in his new suit.

After a video call from Miorine basically wishing Suletta luck we see that Guel’s dad has made another “arrangement” to assure his son’s victory. His brother tells his dad such “tricks” aren’t needed for his Guel to win.

After Suletta half-heartedly states the dueler’s creed (helped along by Guel), the duel commences. The two mostly just feel each other out, but little does Suletta know that Guel isn’t even at the controls: the joysticks are moving on their own. Such is his dad’s desire to win, his son is merely ballast.

Then the “arrangement” occurs when a false heat error activates the dueling ground’s sprinkler system. The resulting “rain” dissipates Aerial’s ranged beam weapons, making it a close-quarters swordfight. Miorine protests, but Elan says such tricks don’t invalidate the duel, but are a part of it; a part of the duelers’ strength. He believes if Suletta is truly a “witch”, she’ll survive this duel even with the opponent cheating.

With that in mind, Elan also doesn’t stop Miorine from heading out into the dueling ground to correct the error causing the rain, which she learns was caused by Guel’s groupies, as she suspected. With the rain subsided by Miorine, her fiancé shifts into high gear, putting her swarm in play.

Guel protests the actions being taken by his suit’s EV, but his dad warns him to just sit there and let it win the duel for him. But Guel can’t do it; not after he was caught off guard in his first duel, or after hearing Suletta’s credo. Letting his dad decide everything is simply running, which will only gain him one. He wants this win to be his win, so he smashes the autopilot and takes the reins.

Suletta can tell that something has changed, and can also tell that Guel is good as hell at piloting a mobile suit. But she also knows she can’t lose; not with so much left on her school wish list. She takes Guel’s antenna, gains her second win in as many duels, and tightens her grip on both the holder title Miorine’s hand in marriage.

Miorine, or “Mio-Mio” as Suletta attempts to nickname her, releases all her built-up tension by smiling and laughing over Suletta’s victory. Suletta also gets a congratulatory text from Elan (which includes an exclamation point that just seems wrong coming from Elan). She then sees Guel standing outside his defeated suit, and exits her cockpit to meet him.

She first apologizes for underestimating him, saying he really was strong in their duel (Suletta wisely doesn’t say that she’s simply stronger than him, even if it’s true). Hearing those words from Suletta, as well as knowing that even though he lost, he lost with his own will and hands to a superior opponent, stirs something in Guel.

Maybe it’s also the way the dramatic light hits Suletta too, but he takes her outstretched hand with both of his, gets down on one knee, and exercises his will once more, in keeping with the ideals she taught him before the duel. That said, she most definitely did not expect that to result in him asking her to marry him.

Just as rejecting Guel and accepting Suletta as her groom was an act of Miorine’s own will and rejection of her father’s dominance over her life, Guel is also deciding he’ll fight how he wants and love who he wants. I’m glad Guel isn’t just a one-dimensional spoiled rich kid, and thrilled to see how his sudden proposal will make things messier for Suletta and Mio-Mio going forward.

But hey, going forward gains you two, or more!

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 02 – Don’t Touch My Tomatoes

After her decisive win over the overconfident Guel Jeturk, Suletta is now the school’s ace pilot and fiancé to Miorine, heiress to one of the largest corporate concerns in a universe de facto ruled by corporations…Right? Uh, not so fast. The adults cry foul. Suletta’s Aerial is identified as an illegal Gundam, so both she and her suit are swiftly taken into custody.

If the prologue provided the backstory and context for Suletta’s background and legacy and the first episode established the school setting, system of duels, and the pairing off of Suletta and Miorine, this week is all about What Is To Be Done About Suletta, along with her suit that looks, sounds, and smells like a Gundam. We also know What Delling Did, and Aerial represents the ghost of a rival he thought he’d defeated over a decade ago.

While Suletta is interrogated and the old people comb through the implications, life goes on at the school. Rather than hailed as its new idol, Suletta is dragged through the scuttlebutt mud as a cheater, which explains how easily she won. Earthian Nika knows better, and doesn’t rise to the unrelated provocations from Spacians. She just hopes she can see Suletta—and her suit—again soon.

Miorine returns to her garden, her connection to Earth and also the one place where she actually has a measure of control. In true Rich Boy fashion, Guel does not come in person but sends his brother and peons to help clean up the mess he made Miorine accepts the offer, but warns them that if they touch her precious tomatoes, she’ll kill them.

Compare this to Suletta, whom Miorine readily allowed to taste of her tomatoes even when she was just an annoyance. Suletta then fought for her, totally unbidden, and became someone worthy of her hand (unlike Guel, who was merely given that hand). Only now her father is changing the rules Miorine thought she was following: Suletta is to be expelled, her suit scrapped, and he’ll find a new groom for her.

Miorine tries to let out her frustration by tossing the phone with this message, but the gentle tap against the glass accentuates her impotency and sense of being trapped within a birdcage. It’s so bad she can only escape her minders by going to the toilet, where the contractor she hired to smuggle her to Earth arrives to tell her it’s not too late if she still wants to go. The woman asks her to “make a decision she won’t regret”; Miorine decides she’ll run.

Delling once again takes great pains to make clear to everyone that he cares about his daughter less than just about everything else. That backfires here as he didn’t bother vetting the minders she was able to shake off.

Guel is slapped and chastised by his daddy for hurting the Jeturk reputation, but then the representative of Shin Sei, the company that built the Aerial, shows up at his office. Her name is Lady Prospera, presumably the masked “Char” character in this Gundam.

My ears immediately perked up at the name, the feminine version of Prospero from The Tempest: a duke overthrown by his brother years ago, cast adrift in a boat with his baby daughter, and used those years to learn magic. Sounds a lot like what happened to Suletta’s mom, huh!

Suletta is despondent in her cell, but is the recipient of a small kindness from one Elan Ceres, a soft-spoken, unemotional young lad who has “taken an interest” in her. That said, his previous statement about being unable to fall in love makes it seem more like that interest is more that in a fascinating new tool, not a new friend. But we shall see.

The grand inquiry is then held, with all representatives of the Benerit Group in attendance in a dark and brooding tribunal hall, the oppressive darkness a keen symbol that the light of democracy holds no sway there. Lady Prospera is not the slightest bit intimidated being in the literal spotlight, providing answers to all inquiries and pointing out that even if she can’t 100% deny Aerial isn’t a Gundam, they can’t 100% prove it either.

She also removes her bionic arm (more evidence this is Suletta’s mom) saying both her original arm and face fell victim to Mercury’s magnetic field, and that the tech within Aerial will enable the safer mining of Permet, a vital resource in mobile suit production. She merely asks that the group of which Shin Sei is a small but innovative member give them the support they need.

But nothing in this room is ever up for a vote. Delling Rembran sits above all, and his word is law. That word is no. Prospera can mince words and specs all she likes; as far as he’s concerned, Aerial is a Gundam, and both it and its pilot are to be disposed of. No one has the guts to summon even a word of objection.

That’s what makes Miorine’s sudden crashing of the inquiry so righteous. All these powerful people can’t make a peep, but the president’s 17-year-old daughter is more than happy to give him a piece of her mind. Rather than run off to Earth, Miorine had her smugglers take her here instead, which means she owes them a favor.

But no matter, she’s here, and when her dad overwrites his rules and admits that he is a king with all the power, Miorine remembers Suletta telling her she “gains two” by going forward…and challenges dad to a duel. Sensing family friction, Guel’s dad suggests that keeping Aerial around to see what makes it tick could be the boost the group has been looking for to recover their declining market share.

That corporate contrivance would seem to have worked, as Miorine is able to visit Suletta in a lovely reunion with strong romantic vibes—Miorine even gives Suletta a zero-g Wall Slam. Is it just a coincidence that Suletta’s hair is … tomato red? She fills Suletta in: the two of them are to fight her dad to make their betrothal stand. If they lose, Suletta gets expelled and Aerial gets scrapped.

Like last week, Suletta is exasperated, but I imagine she’s not about to lose her fiancée and her metal little sister. Not only that, there’s another Gundam-like suit—a red one—already out there on test runs, slicing and dicing lesser suits. Chances of Suletta and Aerial going up against this red guy are somewhere in the region of 100%.

And just in case there was any doubt that Suletta x Miorine is most definitely A Thing, well … consider the Ship deployed.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 01 – Rich Kids Are Scary

Fast-forward over a decade from the prologue, and Ericht Samaya is now the teenaged Suletta Mercury, pilot of Gundam Aerial, arriving at the Asticassia School of Technology, where she has just transferred. While surveying the giant space station, she spots someone floating free in a spacesuit and executes a rescue operation. The person she rescues, Miorine Rembran, doesn’t want to be rescued.

She was trying to escape, and was about to succeed but for Suletta’s sharp eye and impeccable timing. Now that I know where these two end up by episode’s end, one could call it kismet. I also hasten to add that Miorine is the daughter of Delling Rembran, the man whose actions led to the death of Suletta’s dad and destruction of her family’s home. Obviously Miorine didn’t play a role in that, as she was only four at the time.

Upon arrival at her new school, which is full of rich, stuck-up jerkwards, Suletta is quickly treated like a Mercurian “country bumpkin” and also given the cold shoulder by Miorine. That said, she also meets a potential first new friend in mechanics student Nika Nanaura.

All of a sudden, all of the fake blue sky is replaced by clear windows out to space, and the campus is transformed into the ground for a duel between Guel Jeturk, son of one of Delling’s top business generals, and some nobody who dared to call him “a man with a runaway bride”.

Jeturk, an unrepentant preening jackass of the highest order, is Miorine’s fiance, a decision made not by either of them but by their parents. Her father, however doesn’t even bother to review the bodyguards assigned to his daughter, as he’s too busy financially destroying a business partner who posted too many quarterly losses.

As Suletta learns by following her like a puppy, Miorine would prefer to be left alone with her garden that emulates earth environs, and even lets Suletta sample a tasty real tomato before downloading the map app of the school and sending her on her way. But before Suletta leaves, Jeturk and his clique of syncophants arrives to declare that Miorine will live with him at his family home from now on.

When Miorine protests, Jeturk starts wrecking her garden. When she tries to stop him, he shoves her aside. Suletta, who has a stutter and is clearly not great with social situations, nevertheless knows very well between right and wrong,. What Jeturk is doing is wrong, so she spanks him. She even gets giggles from his patsies when she calls him a “pushy suitor”.

Jeturk doesn’t take these affronts lightly, and suggests that if Suletta has a problem with him, they can settle it with a duel. Despite learning he is the school’s undefeated “Holder” (i.e. Ace) with a 26-0 record, Suletta doesn’t hesitate to accept the challenge. Jeturk tells her if he wins, she’ll be kicked out of the school. Meanwhile, Jeturk’s dad intends to speed up his and his son’s ascension by arranging to assassinate Delling.

When the duel commences, both Jeturk and Suletta are surprised to find that Miorine has commandeered Suletta’s Aerial, having gained access when she had her school handbook. That said, she has no idea how to pilot a mobile suit, let alone a Gundam, and Jeturk proceeds to make quick work of her.

With an assist from Nika, Suletta is able to get to Aerial before Miorine loses the duel, and those observing the duel accept the second change of Jeturk’s opponent back to Suletta. Having been head-butted when they first met, Suletta returns the favor and takes over in the cockpit, asserting that she and Aerial grew up together (indeed, when she was four, she considered her a little sister).

No one can pilot her but her, and as long as she’s piloting, Aerial won’t lose to the likes of Jeturk. She maintains that running away gains you only “one” by not losing, but going forward and rising to fight gains you “two” – experience and pride…as well as trust (so many three?).

Jeturk repsonds to that insult with a charge, but he’s totally out of his league. His beam weapon is reflected by Aerial’s shield, which then disassembles into a swarm of drones that tear Jeturk’s suit to pieces, giving Suletta a clear path to behead him with her energy sword.

As one would expect of a high-class Sunrise flagship production, the battle is absolutely top-notch in design and execution, fast, fierce, and gorgeous, accompanied by Ohmama Takashi’s stirring cinematic score that calls to mind Hans Zimmer with its blend of classical and futuristic electronic orchestration.

After the episode wasted absolutely no time showing what a sonofabitch Jetark is, I was literally cheering and laughing at the television as Suletta effortlessly put him in his place.

Again, Suletta’s timing is impeccable, as she defeats Jeturk just moments before his dad is about to press the detonate button on Delling’s transport. His aid quickly informs him that Jeturk will inherit neither Miorine nor her father’s company, because he was just defeated in a duel for the first time.

To the victor belongs the spoils, so Suletta not only wins the title of Holder of her very first day, but also becomes Miorine’s new fiancé, effective immediately. When Suletta points out that she’s a woman, Miorine tells her that unlike the apparently more conservative Mercury, such things are commonplace here. Suletta’s look of bewilderment says it all: these rich kids are crazy.

The Witch from Mercury follows up its thrilling, bittersweet prologue with an equally impressive opening sortie, establishing Suletta as a meek but determined and clearly immensely talented heroine (the first female Gundam lead), Miorine as her frenemy-cum-fiancée, the current financial and political power dynamics in play, and the system of duels that determine far more than they probably should. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next week.

Overlord IV – 12 – Song of Ice and…More Ice

As he debriefs Albedo and Pandora’s Actor on their clash with Azuth and Riku, one thing is clear to Ainz: he doesn’t know enough about his adversaries. He praised Pandora improvising by getting on his knees and groveling, even if the real Ainz wouldn’t do that, because it caught Riku off guard.

He’ll still have to “take a loss” to learn more about the strength of his foes, but not so large a loss it might cost him his life…he’s not sure he’d resurrect! It’s not often the overlord ponders his demise. Meanwhile, as Aura and Cocytus’ forces advance on the capital, Blue Roses’ Lakyus enjoys some tea and an audience with Princess Renner.

Lakyus’ comrades start acting very odd and deliberate about how does and doesn’t leave the room, and about making more tea so everyone can have some. This culminates in Tia serving her poison tea, then stabbing her with poison needles, followed by Gagarin raining blows upon her.

But…why? Isn’t Lakyus the Blue Roses’ leader? Well, yes, but Evileye and the others knew she wouldn’t leave the capital with them. Because they value their friend more than the kingdom, they resorted to these extreme measures, including mind control, to get her out of there by force. She’ll surely be cross at them by the time she’s herself again…but by then there probably won’t be a kingdom anymore.

It’s with that fierce devotion to keeping their friend and leader alive that Blue Roses prepares to teleport out, but not of course before asking if Renner, Climb, or Brain wish to join them in retreat. While Climb would obviously follow her anywhere, she politely declines (probably because she knows she won’t necessarily be killed in the imminent invasion).

Brain also declines, preferring to either win glory or meet his end gloriously fighting the invading forces. Heck, maybe punching the bully in the nose will make him think twice about annihilating the capital? He leaves Renner and Climb, giving them Gazef’s magic sword to return to the king. Renner actually briefly wields it—and shows no small amount of skill doing so—but just as quickly sheaths it, lamenting that it doesn’t suit her (though Climb disagrees).

Aura arrives at the walls with a colorful collection of vicious monsters, including Iri, an adorably self-conscious Tyrannosaurus. Aura gives Iri the task of walking around the palace and “squishing all the people”, while she and the other monsters spread out to unleash some mayhem. The guards atop the walls can only stand in awe and terror, and Aura brightly warns them to stay out of her way. They’d be wise to do so!

Far more solemn is Cocytus’ brooding advance into the city with his procession of yuki-onnas, destroying the gates with ice and freezing streets and buildings within their radius. Brain is looking for an enemy to fight when he encounters Cocytus, and…well folks, we knew it wouldn’t be a long fight, didn’t we!

Even with Brain taking three potions and enhancing his abilities to the absolute hilt, the introductions last longer than the duel, in which Cocytus simply breaks out a bigger katana and slashes him. Despite the ease of his win, Cocytus is impressed someone of Brain’s level was in the capital, and orders him frozen, perhaps for later revival.

With the Blue Roses gone, Brain was probably the strongest human left in the capital. When Ainz returns to the capital to finish things, how far will he take things? Will those orphans Renner visited be slaughtered? What about Renner herself, who seemed at least partially allied with Albedo?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Overlord IV – 11 – Knocked Back

After a solemn scene of King Ramposa mourning Zanac’s sure demise and excusing the palace staff in hopes some might get away under cover of night, Ampetif Cocco Doll joins his fellow Eight Fingers, and notes that all of them look all gaunt like “they’re on some fad diet” or “demons wearing the skins” of his former colleagues.

Turns out they’re that way because of what they’ve endured. Shalltear arrives, matter-of-factly gathers the Fingers and their 1,000 men and stows them someplace for the time being, and then it’s Cocco Doll’s turn to undergo the “baptism” Hilma and the others have already been through. But hey, at least now they’re under the protect of His Majesty the Sorcerer King.

As the twins and Cocytus lead his armies to certain victory, Ainz and Albedo (looking menacingly hot in her full black armor) await the ones who defeated the Death Knights. Our old-boy Azuth of Drop of Red is first to arrive. Aiz orders Albedo to take him on but not kill him; this is about information-gathering first and foremost.

Azuth flies off but Albedo stays with him, fully aware he’s leading her away from Ainz-sama on purpose. When he finally unleashes both physical and magical attacks, they bounce off Albedo like nothing, and when she strikes him, she notes that he’s “like tofu.” So, decidedly not the biggest challenge for the good Prime Minister.

Azuth’s chum (?) turns out to be far more formidable. A knight in platinum armor surrounded by four spinning weapons, he introduces himself as Riku Aganeia. He’s able to actually strike Ainz with his axe, and while it does no damage, Ainz is impressed enough to propose a deal. If this Riku Aganeia fellow becomes his subordinate, he’d be inclined to cease the destruction of the Re-Estize Kingdom.

Riku ain’t having it, and a wonderful little duel ensues, with Ainz never looking like he’s in trouble but nevertheless enjoying the bemusement and novelty of an opponent who won’t just die by, ya know, standing too close to him or something. Heck, Ainz can’t even break through the World Isolating Barrier Riku puts up.

While Ainz is keeping the proverbial kid gloves on, he decides to test the limits of this opponent’s power by first summoning a Doom Lord, who trades slashes and strkes with Riku’s four weapons and gives Ainz time to think. He then unleashes an “Elemental Skull”, which we unfortunately never get to see in action but is exquisite in its simple yet dread-inspiring design.

When Riku raises his giant sword to strike Ainz down, Ainz suddenly acts more like the human narrating his thoughts, even getting down on the ground as if groveling. He tries words with Riku, asking if it’s really so wrong for a nation to respond when its food supplies meant for the Holy Kingdom were stolen; Riku simply says he’s gone too far, and must now perish as punishment.

Naturally, that ain’t happening, and Albedo comes crashing through the barrier like it’s made out of stunt glass and starts whaling on Riku, enraged by how he spoke to Ainz-sama. Ainz orders her to stop, and then once more asks Riku to become his subordinate. Instead, Riku teleports away.

He later meets up with a thoroughly defeated Azuth, who laments that the kingdom will surely fall now that they know the strength of their enemies. Ainz’s hunch that Riku was controlling the armor remotely is proven correct; the one pulling the strings was Tsa, a powerful Dragon Lord.

Tsa uses terms like player and NPC, and while he may have lost this round, he believes there is a way to defeat the Sorcerer King, and is going to give it some serious thought. As for the “Ainz” his puppet fought, it wasn’t Ainz at all, but Pandora’s Actor posing as Ainz (with Albedo doing a bang-up job acting like he’s Ainz-sama).

Pando certainly gave up the game when he acted all goofy for that one moment, but it was still a nice surprise. I love how the battle we saw was between two proxies of the two far more powerful entities sitting back and collecting the data. In this case, neither know their counterpart’s true power, only that of the proxies they fought. We’ll see how their next encounter shapes up.

Summertime Render – 19 – Haine-ous Affair

No sooner does Shinpei wake up in what might be his final loop does Haine swoop down on him in the form of a mocking, gloating crow. She copies the little girl, seemingly just to mess with him, then raises a whole mess of shadow minions that surround him and the kids.

But just when it seems like it’s all over…she stops the attack, and withdraws. Shinpei, who had instictively reached into his pocket, pulls out the contents: a single seashell—presumably all that’s left of Ushio. But if there’s still a shell, can she still raise hell?

Haine apparently isn’t content to simply kill and/or eat Shinpei and his friends. She insists on messing with him, which seems like a bad idea, because it raises the chances of her enemies to mount a comeback from zero to less than zero. It’s as if the number of remaining episodes, rather than logic or common sense, are driving Haine’s actions.

Nevertheless, she uses the copy of Shinpei she had stowed in her back pocket to call all his friends while the real Shinpei has no bars. Mio and Sou go to Alan’s Garden where an all-too-suspicious Karikiri is waiting for them, while Hizuru, Nezu, Tokiko and Tetsu go to a remote island accessible on foot during low tide.

The real Shinpei comes home to find Mio pinned Shadow Mio out of fear Ushio’s hack died with her, but Shadow Mio is still on his side. With her offensive power, they definitely have a chance.

Hizuru, smelling a trap, heads to the island alone with a sledgehammer after saying her maybe-goodbyes to Nezu & Co. She meets Haine!Shinpei, doesn’t fall for her charade for a second, and is then confronted by Karikiri.

Ryuunosuke and Karikiri/Shide have a little game-recognize-game moment, and then have at it there on the beach, with Haine transmitting Ryuunosuke’s two-second foresight—which was, it turns out, a glitch that occurred shortly after she copied him way back when.

Ryuunosuke still manages to put up an impressive fight, but the bottom line is Shide has an infinitely regenerative armor of corpses, while he has…his sister’s regular human body, which he knows he’s slowly tearing apart by making her fight.

Hizuru takes over and reminds him that this is probably their last stand, and there’s no reason to hold back. In fact, if he doesn’t hold back for her sake, they’ll lose. But she assures them they can still win. How exactly they’ll do that is a matter for next week.

DanMachi IV – 05 – Gong of Ice and Fire

Without Bell, the party finds itself well and truly against the wall, to the point both Lili and Aisha decide it’s time to bring out their fox in the hole, Haruhime. Thanks to her study of the grimoires, she’s now able to summon five tails from a fox spirit that bestow Level Boost on Welf, Daphne, Aisha, Ouka, and Mikoto. Suddenly, fighting back the monsters is easier.

But there are so many, and even when they’ve slaughtered them all, the Moss Huge eats all the crystals they dropped and becomes even stronger. I don’t know if it knew the party had someone like Haruhime, but it was counting on using their power and effort to increase its own.

The last couple episodes have really built up the fact that this is a smug, ugly brute of a monster whom I simply could not wait to see ethered by Bell.  But before that happens his party has to endure more setbacks. It takes a huge bite out of Aisha’s shoulder with its toothed trunk.

Aisha then proceeds to demonstrate just how tough she is by continuing to try to fight off the Huge, since she’s the only one who can, even with vines growing out of her gaping wound. Meanwhile, her and everyone else’s level boost fades as the monsters continue to swarm around her.

It’s at this point the injured party they found can’t sit around and do nothing anymore. They decide as a group to make their last stand here, to give Hestia Familia a chance to escape and spread the vital news of the Moss Huge. And Lili knows that a Strategist must sometimes be coldhearted and underhanded.

But she doesn’t leave the injured allies behind. She can’t, and still live with herself or look Bell in the eye. She uses her lightning blade to push back the monsters and save those who were about to give their lives for her. And just then, Haruhime’s fox ears hear a tolling bell, signifying that they just managed to hold out long enough for the one-man cavalry.

Everyone finds cover so Bell can unleash a Firebolt that blasts the Moss Huge clean out of and about a hundred meters below the cavern they’re in. There, in a much larger space, Bell, demonstrates how being on these Lower Floors have helped his mana and physique synchronize better. In short, he’s figured shit out.

As a result, he’s able to observe his opponent rationally, and revels in the fact that it’s neither as fast as the Iguazu nor nearly as strong as Minotaur. The rest of the party is relegated to the grandstands, but that’s fine; at this point both they and we the viewers have earned the right to sit back and enjoy this decisive battle.

DanMachi brings out all its most epic and bombastic battle music for this one. When all of Bell’s melee attacks amount to nothing due to Moss’ ridiculous regenerative abilities, he takes off the kid gloves, imbues his black dagger with Firebolt and awakens its runes, naming the attack “Argo Vesta” after an alternate name of his goddess.

This finally does the trick, and if I have any complaint about the Moss Huge’s demise, it’s that it doesn’t suffer nearly as much or as long as it made so many others suffer. For a being of such obvious intelligence to use it purely to hurt and kill and make itself stronger…it was a bad dude and I won’t miss it!

With the defeat of the Moss Huge, the parasitic vines growing in Chigusa and everyone else vanish, restoring them back to normal. Marie, not interested in meeting his friends, thanks Bell, says she loves him, then waves goodbye. I was hoping for more Marie Time!

But that’s okay, there’s no shortage of allies and hugs waiting for Bell after his impressive feat. But the members of Hestia Familia and their colleagues must understand that their role wasn’t simply to await rescue. Everything they did bought them and Bell crucial minutes he needed to get to where they were.

Everyone contributed, from Cassandra’s well-timed heals to Haruhime’s clutch five-fold boost. And conducting it all was Liliruca, who like Bell learned a lot from being down here. For her, that meant learning that a Strategist doesn’t have to be coldhearted or underhanded, and sometimes luck will reward them.

Overlord IV – 04 – Away Game

As soon as Albedo departs from E-Rantel for her special envoy mission, Ainz takes a trip of his own, using Gate to slip into the Imperial capital of Arwintar with his new pal Ainzach. He’s there to begin enacting his plan to recruit adventurers who actually go on adventures, and also checks in on his old pal Flugel, giving him The Book of the Dead from Earth and just a tiny taste of the secrets it holds.

Ainzach is actually the one to suggest Ainz himself fight in the coliseum in order to advertise his recruiting plan, but you also get the feeling Ainz has been itching for a good old-fashioned fight. He meets with the Warrior King’s tiny-eyed promoter Osk, who has not only thoroughly researched Ainz, but uses a Bunny Person Maid’s heightened senses to gauge his power.

As you’d expect, fighting one-on-one with any other individual would be too short a fight, so Ainz not only agrees not to use magic, but also commits to not using magical items (other than his own body and its built-in attributes). Also, if Albedo knew her beloved Ainz-sama would be fighting in an arena while dressed so cool, she’d probably teleport right over there.

Overlord is great at quickly building up grizzled, noble characters, and the Warrior King, a War Troll named Go Gin, is as grizzled and noble as they get. He and Ainz actually exchange some banter and laughter before getting down to it, when we see that the very best warrior an empire can offer is absolutely no match for even an Ainz Superleggera.

When Ainz indicates he’s about to go in for the kill, the Warrior King removes all of his armor. He knows Ainz has been holding back, and asks him if he’s really so weak. Ainz assures him that it’s more a matter of him being so strong. But he acquiesces to the King’s demand that he show him at least a “fraction” of his full strength.

Once he does, Ainz’s defense is so strong, a flurry of blows from the great Warrior King’s massive club bounces harmlessly off him, allowing him to get within point blank range and casually plunge his blade into the Warrior King’s chest, killing him. Ainz then flips on his magic mic and announces his adventurer recruitment plan.

To do so before a stone-silent crowd who just saw their beloved champion so comically bested shows Ainz’s lack of showmanship. It turns out he also didn’t come just to mess with El-Nix, though he is irked that the emperor rooted loudly for the Warrior King throughout the match.

Ainz’s intent hardly matters, however. By so easily killing the empire’s greatest warrior—then bringing him back to life during his speech—El-Nix is convinced right then and there that surrender is the only way to save his empire and its people. When Ainz visits his box after the bout, El-Nix offers his empire to Ainz as a vassal state.

Hilariously, Inner Ainz has no idea what that means, so makes up an excuse to skedaddle with haste. But El-Nix even interprets that as some kind of shrewed 5D-Chess move. At least one of his generals suggests that maybe Ainz wasn’t really thinking of anything…which was the truth!

%d bloggers like this: