Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 12 (36) (Fin)

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The final episode of Durarara!!x2 opens with almost total chaos: Shizuo and Izaya continuing to go at it, the Saika zombies storming Russia Sushi, and Mikado shooting himself in the head with his microgun.

Gradually, order is restored by various means, such as Varona stopping the duel in order to prevent Shizuo from becoming a “beast” like her. Izaya, for his part, eggs her on to kill him, lest she prove to him by not doing so that she’s just an ordinary human being.

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Simon then stops Varona from killing by tossing a flash-bang into the standoff. Then, all the Saika zombies and the bullets in Mikado and Masaomi are neutralized by Celty, now with her memories as a headless rider overriding her memories as a person and Shinra’s girlfriend.

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Shinra knows Celty is lying about not knowing anything about Ikebukuro, or them, but the head won’t budge on her decision to leave town after cleaning up all the chaos she believed she caused by being a disruptive supernatural entity in an ordinary human city.

When she finally gags Shinra and rides Shooter into the night sky, Shinra cashes in on a high school promise and has Shizuo launch him into the sky, so he can be the “villain.”

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And, well, I guess he is the villain—in that the spooky, powerful, supernatural dullahan should be allowed to leave down—only he doesn’t want that. So he uses the Saika ability he gained to separate Celty from her head once more.

The moment he does this, she starts to panic about the possibility of him dying, even when he’s softly and safely landed in a web of her shadows. I like how she held onto her smartphone, as if subconsciously preparing for the eventuality Shinra would foil her plan to slink away.

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And Shinra, we know, isn’t the only one who counts Celty as a valued friend and ally. She saves Mikado and Masaomi, so that Mikado can take a knife from Nasujima in Anri’s place—an action he makes reflexively but also perhaps as amends the way Celty tried to do.

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After Mikado is stabbed—more than once—the show starts wrapping up loose ends, from Kasane denying Ruri’s own attempts to atone for her crimes, to Varona heading back to Mother Russia, promising to duel Shizuo if she ever returns. Shinra and Celty are happily back together. Then Anri, in a rage, turns Saika on Nasujima for hurting Mikado.

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Niekawa stops her blow with her knives, surprising Nasujima, who thought he was controlling her all along (since she always called him “mother”, no doubt) but was mistaken.

While trying to escape Niekawa’s clutches Nasujima ends up crossing paths with the Kodata and the van posse, but before we know whether they run him over, he wakes up in restraints on a table, as Niekawa wheels tools of torture up to him.

As for Mikado, he wakes up. Just before he does, Anri admits to Akabayashi that she likes him, and those feelings are her own. She seems to have accepted that she’s a human; after that night it was a lot less rare to have Saika inside you, after all. Mikado, for his part, isn’t as concerned with whether his life to follow will be ordinary or extraordinary. What matters is that it’s reality.

The twins in the chat room don’t rule out more Durarara!! in the future, but while I enjoyed this latest arc, hopefully it doesn’t come too soon, for I’m little Drrrr‘d out.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 11 (35)

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Her fate on hold for now, Celty is literally above the fray this week, as Erika gets in touch with Kasane, informing her of what Nasujima is up to, Shizuo and Izaya continue their fight in the streets, biker gangs from all over the region who have joined the Dollars amass, and Akabayashi considers Awakusu’s role in all this, if any.

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Now that Masaomi is on that roof, there’s no more reason for Mikado to hold any secrets, and he points his handgun at his best friend, while revealing his ultimate plan: to turn the Dollars into such a nasty group with so many enemies, it will end up collapsed, with nothing left but another urban legend.

The reason? The Dollars, which he founded to escape his ordinary life, have become, well ordinary again. At the end of the day, Mikado shares the same “creative destruction” philosophy as many other villains in anime: he’ll destroy the world as it is, and him with it, hoping it will give way to a better one.

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He’s well on the way to doing just that if someone doesn’t stop him, but here’s the thing: he doesn’t want to be stopped; not by Masaomi, or Anri, or anyone else. Mikado has backed himself into a corner, but it’s exactly where he wants to be when all the pieces he’s set up start lashing out.

Meanwhile, the story of Kasane falling for (!) Shinra seems like something that belongs in a much quieter episode. I appreciate that Kasane realizes Shinra’s feelings for Celty are real, and that she figures if she won’t be loved by anyone, she’ll love him, but as far as Shinra’s concerned Kasane is just a glorified obstacle on his journey to find and reunite with his one true love. The connection with Mikado’s situation is that Celty may have the power to stop him. The problem is, it may be too late.

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Masaomi, knowing how Mikado would be holding his gun by the book, slaps it away and starts trying despertely to beat some sense into him, but Mikado has gone well and truly cuckoo (he’s even aware Izaya is using him, but doesn’t mind).

When he shoots Masaomi in the thigh with a hand-mounted micro-gun, he retreats even further back into that corner, now believing if he could shoot Masaomi, he could shoot Anri. Rather than end up in that scenario, he turns the little gun on himself. He doesn’t see any other way to stop himself from doing worse things and causing more trouble for more people.

And considering he shot at both the police and Awakusu, he may not be wrong. I just wish he was, and that Masaomi and Anri and whoever else could tell him there’s still a way out of that corner; he can come back from the precipice; that no amount of trouble he causes will hurt his friends as much as killing himself will.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 10 (34)

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Like water towards a drain, Dx2’s many  characters are accelerating faster and faster towards the epicenter created by Nasujima, and Anri lists all the people who have a reason to go and fight, including herself. First things first: she wants to help Dotachin’s group rescue Erika from the Saikas.

She also feels it’s time to finally reveal her secret to them: that she has Saika within her; that she’s not quite human. Unsurprisingly, no one in the van recoils or condemns Anri; quite the opposite. These are Celty’s friends, after all (not counting Namie, though she’s with Seiji).

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As Shizuo and Izaya’s battle continues, with Shizuo stalking a slow, wounded Izaya, their friend Shinra reminisces on a talk he had with Celty back before she got her head back and lost her memories. He draws contrast between their group of friends at school and the triangle of Anri, Mikado and Masaomi.

In particular, how the their friendships have been defined as much about the secrets they kept from one another than anything else. Izaya and Shizuo never had any secrets about who they were to the rest of the world, while Celty, like Anri now, wanted to be the peacekeeper. Shinra isn’t ready to give up on her yet, as the dark night sky reminds him of her embrace.

Anri, meanwhile, is overcome by gratitude that Dotachin and his crew are so kind and understanding, but Dota makes it clear: even though Celty’s far less human than Anri, they know her, and know her well, and care for her, so they’d never fear either her or Anri.

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As for Erika, she digs into her purse and finds the one thing that will serve her best in the middle of a pack of Saika zombies: red contacts lenses. Able to move more freely by looking and acting the part, Erika’s wandering segues nicely into Niekawa, who Anri calls on her cell.

Nasujima answers for her, telling her how Niekawa now calls him mother, that Mikado and Masaomi have been invited to his “party”, and she should attend as well. This only further steels Anri’s resolve to do what she can both for Erika and for her two best friends.

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Masaomi and Chikage, it turns out, are tricked by Blue Square, by having Chikage lured into a baseball bat ambush while Mikado sneaks up on Masaomi on the rooftop to finally reveal his secret: he’s the founder of the Dollars. It’s a confession so long in the running I could have sworn Masaomi already knew long ago.

But the confession itself is of little consequence compared to whatever Mikado plans to do next. Is that gun for Masaomi? Are they truly beyond the point of no return? Can Anri get to them in time, and when she does, slap some sense into them? Will Shinra be able to reunite with Celty, and will she ever remember him again? Will somebody put Nasujima in his place? This is all going to be answered very soon.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 09 (33)

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Another week closer to the end, another incremental episode that can’t help but feel over-contemplative, repetitive, and dilatory. The suspense is building…I guess…but only in fits and starts, not a surging stream. Last week everyone moved a little closer to a final showdown in front of Russia Sushi; this week everyone moved a little closer to a final showdown in front of Russia Sushi.

Anri and Saki have been milling around, and Nasujima has been standing around smirking for ages. Akabayashi serves as occasional narrator this week, weighing whether he should get involved somehow, for Anri’s sake.

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At the construction site, Mikage fights to a draw with Varona and Kasane; because none of the three actually wish to fight. Mikage even agrees with Varona that Izaya’s chances against Shizuo are slight, but she wants to see Izaya go all out for the first time. The results are…disappointing.

Back in the beginning of Durarara!! fights between Shizuo and Izaya were almost played for comedic effect: these were just two diametrically opposed dogs who no one could convince to ever like. It’s almost as if a kind of twisted relationship deeper than friendship evolved from their intense conflicts. But I fear that conflict’s grown a bit stale, like the Neo-vs.-Smith by the end of the Matrix trilogy.

Izaya decides the best way to kill Shizuo is by carbon dioxide asphyxiation, so he leads him into an area where a pocket of the stuff slowly chokes him. Then Izaya tosses a match, apparently abandoning that method and settling for blowing Shizuo. (Also, CO2 isn’t flammable, so I guess there was something else being pumped in there).

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There’s a big bang, but it’s quickly swallowed up by Celty. Like Izaya, we’re not sure what Celty’s game is; as far as we know her memories are gone, and yet here she is, showing allegience to the explodee rather than the exploder. Is it the basic morality and kindness that made Shinra fall for her in the first place, shining through even in her rebooted state? The episode doesn’t say; we don’t get to see or hear from Celty other than when she consumes the boom.

As for Shizuo, he naturally survives the blast, and pulls down the entire steel structure upon which Izaya stands, sending him plummeting. Before he can hit the ground, Shizuo belts him with a girder like a bat hitting a ball, sending Izaya flying through the starless urban night he loves so much. Much has been made of Shizuo’s monstrous strength and durability, but Izaya is clearly not just a regular human either, as he’s always surviving or dodging Shizuo’s attacks.

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The Kodata gang is reassembled (sans Erika, but plus Saki, Anri, Namie, Mika and Seiji), and Kodata warns Anri to get out of town, but she won’t. Her eyes flashing red (like Shinra’s), she tells him there’s “something she has to do,” which is see this thing, whatever the heck it is, all the way through.

Chitoge and Masaomi get a birds-eye view of the situation on the ground, with swirling masses of ordinary people moving around in strange mechanical patterns, around the Russia Sushi epicenter. They spot un-Saika-fied but masked Blue Square members down below, and Chitoge goes to see if one of them is Mikado; we later see it isn’t, and Mikado is on his own with his gun in his jacket.

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Finally, in one of the more unexpected pairings, Manami ends up helping a wounded Shinra enter a taxi so he too can get to where everyone else seems to be going. While en route, she tries to avail herself of Izaya’s one and only true friend’s insights about the best way to get him to despair as much as possible.

Shinra’s answer probably isn’t satisfying: Izaya, whom Shinra believes may be the most human of all of them, is a bottomless receptacle for all the worst impulses and actions of humans. He’ll accept it all and love humans unconditionally; not because his soul is strong, but because it’s fragile. As for Shinra, as the unnecessary flashbacks repeated, he is willing to lose his humanity and become a demon for the woman he loves.

Another few inches forward we lurch.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 08 (32)

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While I acknowledge it contained some progress and a couple of Durarara!! firsts, this episode had a disappointingly incremental feel about it. Sure, virtually all Durarara!! episodes are incremental, but the better ones do a better job keeping me entertained and distracted enough to overlook the fact there is a dizzying number of players involved. It’s starting to get a little out of hand.

But let me get back to one of those firsts: Celty finally has her head back. In true Dullahan fashion, she doesn’t simply reattach it to her neck, but carry it in her arm. Her horse turns back into a horse, and she regains her original armor, but considering she has no idea who Izaya is when she sees him, it would seem her memories of Ikebukuro to date have been erased.

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If that’s true, that would be a real bummer, but in the meantime Izaya has a fight to the death with Shizuo to take care of, so Celty kinda just…slinks away from the episode. Back at Shinra’s, Kodata shows his face for the first time since the hit-and-run, and wants Erika and everyone else to stay indoors. Tom Tanaka, pissed that neither Shizuo or Varona showed up for their rounds, has some late night Russian sushi, unaware the streets outside are growing more dangerous for him by the minute.

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Nasujima, now some big-shot rogue Saika host, has turned dozens if not hundreds of citizens into Saika zombies, with which he intends to capture Tanaka and use him as a bargaining chip in his dealings with Shizuo. Shijima is with them to, though I’m not sure why.

Back at the construction site, Izaya briefly recalls what Shinra said to him about the benefits of getting along with Shizuo (he’s a tiger who will one day be an urban legend) rather than remaining adversaries (someone will get hurt or killed). Back in the present, Shizuo and Izaya are only circling each other. A big fight seems imminent, but it’s still just sputtering so far.

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Chikage decides the best way to get Masaomi and Mikado to meet is with the chat room and a little bit of theater. He interrupts Namie’s ranting to demand Mikado call Masaomi’s phone…or else. When Mikado calls, Chikage answers, and sets up a meeting to hand over his “hostage.” Mikado agrees, and sets a location very near and dear to him vis-a-vis the Dollars.

That other Durarara!! first? Mikado actually has a gun, given to him by Izumii when they met. I have no idea what he intends to do with it, but it’s clear he doesn’t have the slightest idea how to use it properly; though at the end of the day, point-and-shoot will suffice. Call it another step deeper down the dark inscrutable abyss for Mikado, albeit an incremental one.

Once guns start being shot, the results can quickly become something one can’t simply, as Tom puts it, “let slide.” When bullets fly, impasses and stalemates start to become irreversible conclusions. I’ll hope Mikado takes after the re-booted Celty, and keeps his head.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 07 (31)

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The item Mikado got from Aoba’s brother is not revealed; instead, Mikado is coy to Aoba about the content of their conversation, and then gets distracted by Namie’s meltdown in the Dollars chatroom, witnessed by the twins.

Namie isn’t about to forgive Mikado or let him have his perfect life without reminding him that he defeated her and messed up her life, but didn’t destroy her. Namie is just one of the “loose ends” Mikado will have to reckon with before he can reach his goals.

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As indicated by Anri’s eyes reddening, Kasane’s Saika slaves are out in force, blocking all the roads and alleys that lead to the area where she’s restraining Celty’s body. Shizuo, not one to break the law unless its necessary, dutifully rides past the barriers, but soon realizes that he has to break through to get to Celty. Meanwhile, Izaya has come out to observe Shizuo’s confrontation with Kasane from on high.

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I loved how calm and civil everything was. Sure, Shizuo crumbles a bit of wall and tosses it at Kasane’s associate, President Yagiri, but he and Kasane do not engage in any violence. Kasane merely restrains Shizuo, putting her hand on him. Whatever would have happened next is interrupted by the arrival of Varona with Celty’s head.

I also loved how Shizuo didn’t feel in the least betrayed by his junior, because, well, he wasn’t. He didn’t disallow her from taking other jobs on the side, but does recommend she chose more carefully in the future.

Shizuo appreciates that Kasane has business to conduct, but his friendship with Celty won’t allow them to treat her as a product or thing, even if that’s the best way to describe the state she’s in.

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Kasane also appreciates Shizuo’s personal investment in this situation, as well as Varona’s complicated relationship with Shizuo, and decides the best thing to do is retreat for now. Despite her best efforts, her plan ran into a hitch, and that hitch was Shizuo. Howver, Izaya isn’t content to leave things there, and drops “liquid on the litmus paper” in the form of a pile of steel beams on Shizuo. Varona pushes him out of harm’s way, but a beam falls on her leg

Now Shizuo wouldn’t have been hurt by those beams (he flicks the one off of Varona’s leg like a 2×4) but Varona acted to save him anyway, because until she’s able to destroy him under her very specific conditions (i.e. going all out), she doesn’t want him to die. Similarly, when Izaya drops an excavator on Shizuo, he catches it on his shoulder and flicks that away too, saving Varona for real.

Izaya has seen the human chemical reactions he wanted to see, and likely wants to see more tonight, but when he calls Shizuo to chat, all Shizuo says to him is “So long.” No listening to his drivel, no angry outburst, no tossing of the excavator back at him. Shizuo won’t let harming his junior pass. He’s coming for him.

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KonoSuba – 06

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This week lampoons the “Epic Boss Rematch” common to fantasy anime, inverting it in numerous, hilarious ways. First, the Dullahan Verdia has to come to town to confront Team Kazuma and complain about how they haven’t come to his castle yet.

Unbeknownst to Kazuma, Megumin has continued her bombardment of that castle, while Aqua assisted by carrying her home each day. You didn’t think she stopped blowing the joint up just because she didn’t appear on camera doing so, did ya?

Verdia then attempts to look down on the party (having formerly been a noble knight) for not avenging their fallen comrade, only to see Darkness is alive and well and appreciates his praise. It’s only when a fed-up Verdia threatens to slaughter the town that Aqua switches from mocking mode to attack mode.

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Her impressive Holy-based magic proves painful against Verdia, but doesn’t have the effect she intended (utter decimation). Now that she’s shown she’s not the magic novice he assumed, the gloves come off as he summons an undead army to, well, chase Aqua, then Aqua and Kazuma around.

Kazuma gets the idea to lead the army and Verdia into a trap with Aqua so that Megumin can blast them – and she does blast them, creating a giant crater in the earth – but while Megumin is out for the count, her efforts only made Verdia even madder.

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When other adventurers attack him, he uses more of his own magic to apparently kill them, and for a few moments, the show almost seems to enter serious territory, as Darkness is visibly horrified by this turn of events. It’s her turn to take on Verdia, to avenge those dead men, so she leaps into action.

Only problem is, as awesome as she appears as she’s fighting him, her “finishing blow” completely misses, turning her pink with embarrassment. Even so, she wields an effective weapon against Verdia: her ability to weird him out with her masochistic ranting. This is a chaotic party that can keep any foe off balance enough for one of them to discover a weakness, which Kazuma does…and it’s water.

The whole town starts firing water spells at Verdia, turning the battle into a kind of aquatic dodgeball. Amusingly, Aqua wasn’t paying attention this whole time, and when Kazuma insults her, she makes the prevailing issue herself rather than the battle at hand.

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When she finally unleashes her high-level water spell on Verdia, she exhibits the same profound lack of subtlety that is Megumin’s specialty, only with water instead of fire. A vast column of the wet stuff comes crashing down on Verdia, dousing him but also wrecking the city walls. Oops.

Greatly weakened by the torrent, Kazuma is able to steal Verdia’s head, and Aqua finishes him off with Holy magic. Victory is theirs! But Darkness knows that victory came at a cost: she reminisces on her interactions with the three fighters who Verdia killed (another funny send-up of an activity common to the genre), only to turn around to find them alive and well, thanks to Aqua’s resurrection magic, leaving her with egg on her face.

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After a job – well, not well done, but done, the party celebrates at the guild hall (with Aqua getting toasted pretty quickly). Kazuma, to his surprise, his praised by everyone in the hall for his party’s deeds, and they’re awarded a cool 300 million Eris for taking out a General of the Devil King.

With this new fortune, Kazuma announces he’s going to retire and live a simple, quiet life henceforth, abandoning his plans to defeat the Devil King himself. This disappoints his three party-mates, but he doesn’t care. But when the guild official comes back with the bill for all the damage Aqua’s flood did to the city, they end up 40 million Eris in the hole, and Kazuma ends up having to cancel his retirement before he was even finished announcing it.

It’s the very end, when Kazuma laments the possibility of spending the rest of his life fighting battles with this inept party that will often cost more than they’ll make them in profit, that rings a bit false. This life looks like a shitload of fun, with minimal risk. I know Kazuma and I are different personalities, but I don’t see why he’s in such a hurry to leave this world. Methinks he doth protest too much!

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 06 (30)

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This relatively spare (and almost entirely supernatural-free) episode focuses on the major players once more: Mikado, Masaomi, Anri, and Izaya, with Chikage narrating as he learns more about the state of things in Ikebukuro.

While much of that state can be attributed to Izaya, who has Chess, Shoji, Go, and Othello pieces scattered on his game board as he builds a house of tarot cards (a bit too much game imagery here, frankly) he’s correct in stating no one person is to blame, because everyone played little roles that added up.

At this point, he’s super-excited about Mikado’s state in particular, and interested in what he’ll do next, even if it means he himself becomes a pawn. He also wants this to be a humans-only game from here on out, which means taking Anri, Kasane, Celty and Shizuo out of this stage.

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Still, it’s Anri’s human side that shines in her first meeting with Mikajima Saki, which cam as a surprise to me, considering how long this show has gone on. Saki has come prepared for war if Anri was to express feelings for Masaomi. While she heard from her boyfriend that Mikado was crazy about Anri, she wanted to meet her one-on-one to get her own impression of her.

What she finds is a cute, charming, mild-mannered young lady who has convinced herself that she’s a parasite who neither knows how to love anyone nor believes she deserves to love or be loved. It’s a much more nuanced situation than Saki imagined. The reality is, she’s no more certain of what love is than Anri, but being a parasite (or a puppet, as she once was) doesn’t automatically disqualify them from love and happiness.

Mika decides to further explain her relationship with Masaomi by going into her past with him; to a time Anri wasn’t present for. Despite having made a promise to the guys that they’d reveal their respective secrets upon meeting again, Anri is intrigued and lets Mika proceed.

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Izaya’s efforts seem intended to pare down the players, especially limiting them to those who are only plain old flesh-and-blood humans. Mika’s efforts seem intended to enlighten her about the love triangle in which she’s been the fourth vertex for long enough.

And then Chikage, who is titularly “in for a penny, in for a pound”, breaks Masaomi’s dilemma down to brass tacks: He wants to see Mikado and save him (either by punching him or being punched, in the simplest possible terms). Blue Square is in the way, so Chikage will help Masaomi get close. If Mikado won’t answer a call from Masaomi’s phone, then Chikage will call him on his. Easy peasy, right?

…Perhaps not. Izumii Ran visits Mikado (much to Aoba’s consternation), they proceed to have a very civil conversation, Izumii gives Mikado some kind of “gift” hidden in his arm sling, and then leaves in the car of Awakusu’s Aozaki, activity that Aozaki’s rival Akabayashi learns about pretty quickly.

These are presumably the “grown-ups” Chikage is worried about getting tangled up with. His basic plan could work if he could just get two old estranged friends in the same room together to hash it out, but with an apparently important object now in Mikado’s possession that probably wasn’t given to him so he could pull out of his tailspin, it may already be too late for basics.

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KonoSuba – 05

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I’m compelled to borrow my illustrious colleague Oigakkosan’s “My Goodness!”, as there’s so much good stuff to unpack in this latest  KonoSuba (the first episode I’m actually watching on time!).

First, as Kazuma is lamenting how differently the reality of his dream of cutting it up in an awesome fantasy world has turned out to be, Aqua seems to pick up on that frustration by requesting the party strike out on a new quest. The thing is, she also proves his point, because the main reason she wants a quest is money: she’s tired of working part time in the market and being in debt, not of the fact she’s not on a heroic odyssey.

Fortune would seem to smile on Aqua as she discovers a quest that is right up her water goddess’ alley: lake purification, with a chance of scattered alligators. For that latter bit, she intends to depend on Kazuma and the others, which is when Kazuma borrows from his past world by suggesting Aqua perform the purification from within a sturdy cage (a la shark researchers).

Two problems: transporting her in said cage really makes it look, as she puts it, like some rare beast taken away to be sold. And once she’s been dunked in the lake, where nothing of note happens for hours she likens the sensation to being a tea bag steeping. These are wonderful metaphors borne of a very bizarre and specific situation.

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Of course, those alligators do eventually arrive, but Kazuma, Megumin, and Darkness do nothing in response, part bored into a state of apathy, part confident the cage will hold, requiring no action from them. The cage does hold, the lake is purified, the alligators withdraw, and Aqua completes the quest all but single-handedly…

…but there’s a cost: her nerve. She’s profoundly traumatized by two-plus-hours of being harassed by the beasts as she frantically accelerated her purification. So traumatized, in fact, that she won’t leave the cage even when it’s time to do so, deeming the world “too scary” to return to just yet.

I tellya, if I’d experienced what she had for as long as she had, I’d probably be in a similar state!

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Thankfully, that state doesn’t magically disappear in the second half of the episode, 4-koma anime-style. The episode not only remembers it, but adds a fantastic new variable to the equation: the gallant Mitsurugi Kyouya, who is a veritable wellspring of fantasy tropes KonoSuba puts thoroughly through the wringer, to my surprise and delight.

Kyouya, like Kazuma, died (likely in a less hilarious fashion, though we don’t learn that), and was sent to this world by Aqua with her blessing and the mission to defeat the Devil King. Rather than bring Aqua along with him, Kyouya requested Gram, the Cursed Blade that has made him a very rich and powerful adventurer, complete with fancy armor, jewelry, and a couple of loyal groupies constantly bickering over him.

You don’t get any more cliche’d than Kyouya’s kind, but the show squeezes a lot more out of Kyouya than I expected, turning lemons into delicious lemonade. That’s because Kyouya happens to spot his goddess and muse Aqua-sama being paraded in the streets in a horse-drawn cage, which is decidedly not where he thought he’d see her, ever.

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What follows then, is a glorious clash of Kyouya and Kazuma, or rather Kazuma’s party. While Aqua snaps out of her funk when Kyouya reminds her that she is, in fact, a goddess, she wants nothing else to do with the cat. None of Kazuma’s girls do! It’s as if they’re inoculated against the fantasy hero archetype. More than that; they’re allergic to him!

When faced with his arrogance and presumptuousness for just a couple minutes, Aqua just thinks something’s off about the guy; Megumin thinks he’s rude and wants to explode him, and he evokes a rare and undesirable urge in Darkness that flies in the face of her usual instincts: she wants to hit him. She must realize that if she were in Kyouya’s party she’d never have her masochistic desires properly addressed.

Pissing them all off even more is that Kyouya won’t drop the matter and let Kazuma pass. Instead, he challenges Kazuma to a duel, one Kazuma accepts, starts, and ends in the space of a few seconds, with a few lightning-quick yet fluid moments, Kyouya is on his back.

Kazuma’s inner monologue predicted a duel would eventually take place, but I’m so used to that being a bad thing, that fact that Kazuma wasn’t the underdog here didn’t occur to me until he Stole Gram right out of Kyouya’s hands and bonked him on the head with it (great sound effect on that).

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Then, when his two groupies show up to avenge him, Kazuma continues to fly in the fact of convention by threatening to steal their panties if they press him further, really turning the sleeze up to 11 until the girls are running away crying. It’s harsh, but Kazuma didn’t approach them or their honey; they approached him. Mess with the perverted bull, you get the perverted horns.

One would think Kyouya Team would have learned its lesson, but Kyouya can’t help but be the valiant knight standing up against “Kazuma the Brute”, as he’s known in some circles for his inappropriate conduct with girls. He also seeks to “rescue” his goddess from Kazuma’s clutches, but Aqua responds to his second offer by cold-cocking him, delivering on her earlier vow to sock him if she saw him again.

But even if Kyouya is eminently punchable, Aqua’s violence isn’t senseless, it’s justified. She was looking forward to a 300,000-Eris reward for purifying the lake, but the guild deducted 200,000 for “cage repair” – a cage rendered useless when Kyouya prized the bars. Aqua also shows off her sneaky-playful shrewdness by demanding not 200K, but 300K from Kyouya, which he pays her on the spot.

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Now that she’s rolling in cash, Aqua treats herself to a feast. And as if Kyouya hadn’t been stomped on enough, when he asks for his cursed sword Gram back, Kazuma informs him that he doesn’t have it; he sold it! That’s right; “our” hero didn’t ever even want the damn thing, even though it was part of his original dreams.

I’d like to think getting a good look at the “pathetic cheat” Kyouya has changed his thinking a bit on whether or not things have turned out bad. I mean, sure, he still wants to take on the Devil King, but there are worse things than having three not unattractive women by your side, not fighting over you at all! Plus, think of what all that Gram cash could buy. He could snatch up the stables and convert them into luxury lofts, with bidets and a pot-filler…and a trash compactor!

As for Aqua’s true identity being revealed…well, it isn’t, because Megumin and Darkness simply don’t believe her (having food on her face couldn’t have helped her credibility any). The matter is interrupted by another “emergency”, but at this point I know better; there’s no real emergency. Just the Dullahan, who’s really miffed they haven’t come by his place yet. This guy’s reminding me more of the Black Knight all the time…

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 05 (29)

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I misread Kasane’s intent last week: she didn’t come to Shinra’s intending to make a deal. Instead, she’s only implementing the next step in her comprehensive Celty research. She takes control of Shinra with a long kiss, plucks him out of his wheelchair and jumps out the window into the night.

Celty goes berserk, transforming into a big black ball of rage and gives chase just as Kasane intended. We see a lot of emotions going through the darkness of Celty’s mind, but the one that stands out the most is Shinra, Shinra, Shinra. And so her body moves instinctively to retrieve him.

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As Varona stands by a car with Celty’s head inside, Kasane leads Berserk Celty through the skies of Ikebukuro, periodically firing blades to slow her down. Meanwhile, Chikage accompanies Masaomi to his Yellow Scarves hideout after saving him from Izumii earlier in the day, putting their fight on hold for now.

Masaomi, for his part, is shocked to hear Izumii is fighting on Mikado’s behalf as a member of the Dollars, while Chikage wonders what version of the Dollars he’s encountered truly represents them.

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Kasane eventually meets up with Varona, who is this week’s narrator, and unlike everyone else running around this week has a lot of time to think about things. She admits she felt the euphoria that comes from gaining power when she stole the head; but it didn’t last long, and she realizes that it’s because her cover was blown instantly, and by Shizuo, no less.

Varona remains a deeply wounded and scarred young woman, but Ikebukuro and Shizuo have definitely had a profound – and I believe positive – effect on how she looks at the world and her role and values in it. She isn’t denying her feelings, only trying to figure out what they are and why she has them, and it all comes back to Shizuo and the peaceful daily life she enjoyed. She concludes it’s too late to go back now; that life is gone. But is it?

As chance would have it, after teaching some punk kids a lesson, Shizuo ends up with another bike on his shoulder when he encounters Celty’s horse. In the funniest and coolest scene of this entire Ketsu arc, the horse goes through various forms of transportation for Shizuo to ride it until settling on the bike, which he mounts and is then propelled at very un-bike-like speed.

While I’m unsure how interconnected Celty and her horse are, or whether they’re one and the same, it did seem like the horse was acting more reasonably than the mindless black ball of rage being messed with by Kasane. Whatever the case, it’s a given that the horse and Shizuo are on a direct course to the car with both Shinra and her head in it, which just so happens to be driven by his former adoptive protege.

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KonoSuba – 04

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This week’s KonoSuba felt like three separate and distinct KonoSubas in one, all coalescing at the end around a single theme: whether Aqua is any good. We begin with Darkness showing off her repaired armor (and somewhat sadly asking Kazuma to praise her sometimes) and Megumin getting really excited about her new Manatite staff.

Kazuma also isn’t wanting for anything, as he later buys clothes and equipment better suited for his environment (albeit the same green shade as his tracksuit). All three spent their cabbage spoils wisely, but Aqua didn’t. In fact, she spent all the money she had and built up a 100,000-eris bar tab, thinking she’d be good for it, only for most of her cabbages to turn out to be lettuce, which isn’t worth nearly as much.

This is ridiculous and hilarious and makes perfect sense, since Aqua has so little luck. Kazuma, meanwhile, is roling in luck and cash, and wants to move out of the stables, but instead pays Aqua’s tab, after she tries pretty much everything: flattery, begging, and finally shaking her bum.

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Part Two of the three parter is the marvelous story of how Kazuma is forced to tag along on Megumin’s practice sessions far from town (where she won’t get scolded by guards) so she has someone to carry her home (just thinking about the silliness of such arrangement would send any milk I’m drinking out my nose).

She finds an abandoned castle perched atop a cliff, and day after day, once a day, blasts it with explosion magic, and every day, Kazuma carries her home. At first, it’s a chore, but he starts to get into it in spite of himself, gradually becoming a kind of aficianado; the equivalent of an “explosion foodie.”

Every explosion has its own intensity and personality, and Megumin has good and bad days. They bond through the experience, and Kazuma’s previously dismissive attitude toward her gives way to a kind of respect and understanding.

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His attitude towards Aqua, on the other hand, remains extremely dismissive. Aqua seems happy to be bringing home free dinner (and I’d be happy too!) but Kazuma is restless. He doesn’t think they can beat the Devil King, and he thinks a lot of that has to do with Aqua not being the all-powerful goddess he thought he had.

A Megumin aptly puts it, his “verbal lashings are pretty nasty;” subjecting Darkness would bring her tears of joy, but they only bring Aqua tears of sorrow (though Aqua reacts interestingly to Darkness’ interest in being reamed by Kazuma).

Kazuma’s war with Aqua is put on hold when a Dullahan arrives in town – one of the Devil King’s top generals. Looking kinda like Ains Ooal Gown’s cousin, his main grievance is with the constant explosion spells being cast on the castle where he’s taken up residence. Heh, I knew that castle wasn’t abandoned!

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After failing to pass of blame to another town wizard, Megumin steps forward and actually takes responsibility, though she refuses to apologize for or cease doing what is, for her, as natural and necessary as breathing. If she has to fight the Dullahan into submission for him to understand, so be it. Aqua arms herself and stands beside Megumin in solidarity.

Then the Dullahan, out of patience, prepares to his Megumin with a Death curse that will kill her in one week, but Darkness races in front of her and takes the curse instead. Now, I know enough about Death spells to know they’re typically not reversible; once you get one, it’s only a matter of time. This incident actually heightened the peril dynamic of the entire show for me; it looked like it was actually going to get serious.

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Of course, this being KonoSuba, feelings like that don’t last long, but that’s just fine, because the route it takes instead is true to its mission statement to send up every fantasy trope it can find in the most creative way possible. Because the Dullahan death-cursed a masochist, he only made things weirder and more of a hassle for himself, so he retreats before Darkness jumps on his horse.

Before he does, he challenges the party to come after him, and if they can fight their way through his castle fortress and get to him, he just might lift the curse. After he leaves, Megumin again shows she has heart and guts by resolving to take that challenge. Kazuma, who as we saw bonded with her somewhat in training, declares his intent to accompany her. It looks like the party is about to embark on a grand adventure to save their selfless comrade.

But NOPE, Aqua just uses her magic to instantly lift the death curse from Darkness as easily one balls up a tissue and tosses it in a dustbin. JOB DONE. I have so say…I wasn’t expecting that at all, but again, it made perfect sense.

Aqua had been beaten down the entire episode as an underachieving, whiny, pathetic excuse for an arch priest, but ends up the heroine, gaining the adoration of the entire town while utterly sapping Kazuma and Megumin of their motivation. So going back to the question of whether Aqua is any good…well, she is, but only at very specific things at very specific times. If this bizarre party is going to thrive, it will do so mostly by threading needles.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 02 (26)

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This week’s narrator is Shingen, whose wise, matter-of-fact tone is somewhat offset by the fact his voice is slightly muffled by the gas mask he never takes off (He’d be right at home in a Gundam anime). And what does Shingen talk about all episode? Women. No, nothing so crude as how they be shoppin’ all the time, but how women are women, whether they’re human or not.

Just take Anri and Erika at the hospital when Chikage arrives with his harem in tow. The two girls donning black may as well be sisters, but only Erika is fully human; Anri is a vessel for Saika, her calm, timid facade concealing churning multitudes of power and potential for destruction. By comparison Erika can’t do much besides not call Chikage back after giving him her email.

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Later, then Izaya shows up to have his injuries checked out, he tries to lure Saika into losing her cool and proving she’s not human but just a pretender…and Izaya knows humans, loves them, and believes that gives him leave to mess with them all he likes.

His tortured metaphor of Mikado and Masaomi walking a tightrope with nooses around their necks connecting them, and all the various people trying to help or hurt him, is nevertheless enough to get Anri’s Saika blood boiling, until it’s all she can do to not kill him.

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The whole episode, Manami is walking around with a bag we later learn contains Celty’s head. She’s ostensibly working for Izaya but also trying to hurt him wherever she can after failing to kill him before. But Izaya has made it clear humans who hate him are free to try to kill him, but he’ll never stop loving and forgiving them. But that love means nothing to Manami.

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Erika consoles a very disturbed Anri; after all, it’s plenty human to feel like killing Izaya now and again. And just as Izaya will always forgive humans no matter what they tried to to to him, Erika will always love and forgive Anri, even if she becomes the dark instrument of the world’s destruction.

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As Celty, another non-human whose human friend (and lover) Shinra will always love and forgive even if she destroys the world, is run ragged getting all the freeloaders situated in the apartment, her “still unknown enemy”

Kujiragi Kasane shows that she isn’t always Saika, or the shadowy leader of an organization using body doubles as the now-dead Yadogiri Jinnai to conduct business, or Ruri’s mothers half-sister (as we learn from the gossipy Shingen). Sometimes, she’s just a woman who buys cat ears, takes her shoes off and relaxes in the park, contemplating cafes to try out.

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When Erika sees how Anri smiles and cries and feels such concern for her troubled friends, she can’t help but disregard “humanity” as some kind of requisite for being a good person. Anri is a good person, whatever’s stewing within her, and I think she has a crucial role to play in mediating the war between her two friends soon.

It’s a little heartbreaking, then, that just when Anri is accepting Erika’s words of encouragement (and going to buy cat ears for her, only to find they’re sold out), she runs into Niekawa Haruna in the street, who asks her to come with her, or else.

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As I said, Shinra, like Erika with Anri, sees Celty as a woman first and foremost, but a woman who, due to her non-humanity, is disposed to act even kinder than humans usually act towards one another, aware of the stigma of what she is and how hard it is to hide. Without even thinking, Celty is a passionate, warm, caring, generous woman, and all Shinra asks is that she not think any less of herself.

But like Anri with Niewkawa, Celty has her non-humanity thrown in her face, as Manami took her head from Niekawa and unceremoniously hucked it in the bushes for all to see. It even making the news, which after chatting with the twins is how Celty finds out. And when she sees her head, exposed and vulnerable; the very object she was made the head of a new guild to retrieve, she does something a woman is more likely to do than a dullahan – she faints.

Shingen completes his monologue about “women being women” human or not, telling the women listening he has nothing more to say, but warning the men they “can’t be too careful,” implying the woman you choose may be someone like Anri, Ruri, Kasane, Haruna, or Celty, who are all more than just women.

It’s less of a condescending warning to stay away, and more of a warning to make sure you’re worthy of such women, and are resolved and prepared to stand with them when things get tough.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 01 (25)

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This third and final cour of Durarara!!x2 is subtitled Ketsu (結) Japanese for (among other things) “sintering” (compacting a solid mass without melting it) and Chinese for “knot.” (It can also mean “ass”, referring to the end of Dura2…but stay with me.)

We begin where Ten ended: Celty in her and Shinra’s apartment, which is full of random people, and she has no idea why they’re all there. That is the knot, the puzzle that is loosened and unraveled in this episode. On a larger scale, Ikebukuro itself has always been like a knot: a combination of disparate strings periodically tightening and loosening, with often surprising results.

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This episode follows the same pattern as most Dura episodes: a central narrator (this week Shinra) comments on all the various goings on. We dart from string to string in the Ikebukuro knot, from Mikado still mixed up with Aoba in an imminent war with the Yellow Scarves, a potential conflagration Aoba wants to keep Kururi and Mairu out of. Two cops under Saika’s control try to get rid of Heiwajima, but the motorcycle cop Kuzuhara frees him.

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It’s not easy when the only people in her house who aren’t certifiable are Igor and “the driver” (Togusa), Celty gradually learns their reasons for being there. Shingen and Igor descended on Seitarou and Kujiraji Kasane in gas masks to rescue Namie (using gas bomb that made the news in the process). Walker and Togusa are hiding out, as is Yagiri Seiji and Mika.

I must say there’s a great imaginative, insane energy to putting all these kooks together. Shingen, Emilia, Walker, Namie and Mika are each their own special blend of crazy, and knotting them together makes for interesting exchanges and reactions, none of which really help Celty get to the bottom of things.

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As for Izaya, who looked to be in bad shape last cour, was only pretending to be passed out as the Saika-controlled Sloan took him to a hideout of Izaya’s enemies. He had Sharaku and Kine follow Sloan, who he knows is under the influence of Kujiraji, not Niekawa or Anri.

The immediate puzzle of her many houseguests thus solved, Celty lays out her goal: to retrieve her head from Izaya and leave it in the care of Nebula (which Shingen and Emilia belong to). She’d rather they poke and prod it than leave Izaya to use it as a ball or vase; it’s a matter of pride and principle.

The crazies all unite right then and there to form a “guild” on Shinra’s suggestion in order to aid her, with his true reasoning being keeping his lover as minimally involved as possible in the head retrieval process, knowing that she and the Dollars, are at the very center of the storm brewing…which is, after all, nothing new.

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