Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World – 12 (Fin) – Traipsing in Place

Iska can’t protect Sisbell from Masked Lord and the Empire’s Object, but thankfully he gets an assist from his fellow members of Unit N07. He buys time by hacking at Object until Nene can launch a rocket barrage that disables the mecha dragon, all while Sisbell wonders why these supposed enemies are protecting her from their own superweapon.

Meanwhile, Jihn is able to keep up with Masked Lord, despite the fact the guy has backup mages and the ability to teleport weapons and himself. After a brief knife fight, Masked Lord decides to limit his attacks to fire-based, which are nullified when Mismis activates her Astral Crest. Jhin blasts Mask’s Mask off, and he withdraws for now, having not looked particularly powerful.

Since Object is a final boss of sorts, it stands to reason it has multiple stages; in its second, it has a quick-recharging mega-cannon that causes a great deal of collateral destruction. Sisbell finally contributes to the battle by using her time magic to conjure a sandstorm from the past, which Iska uses as cover to shatter Object’s core. However, that just unlocks it’s third and final form, in which it sucks Sisbell into its core and starts babbling in the ancient Astral language.

This third stage proves too much even for Iska, which provides the perfect opportunity for Alice to show up. They once again put aside their individual rivalry to fight side-by-side, and with a bunch of acrobatics and ice magic they manage to destroy the final form and free Sisbell.

It’s all pretty by-the-numbers, really. Masked Lord is basically nerfed in his fight with Jhin, while Iska and Alice don’t do anything that different from their previous team-ups. Also, the fact their main opponent was a mostly mindless giant monster meant their victory doesn’t really move the needle where their peace process is concerned.

All it does is take one of the Empire’s weapons off the board…and the Eight Great Apostles aren’t even that miffed about it! Alice and Sisbell have their obligatory fight over Iska, with Alice in the uncomfortable position of pretending she doesn’t know Iska while protesting Sisbell’s familiarity with him. Iska rejoins his unit, who helped make sure the civilians were safe off-camera.

Then there are a whole lot of scenes of things the show didn’t have time to cover in depth: Mask’s plans for Kissing to enter the election, the Queen bringing Elletear before her and asking if she’s the real Elletear (?), Risya and Nameless tipping their hats to Iska’s skill. Perhaps most relevant to Iska and Alice’s hopes for peace is the meeting of Salinger and the Emperor, but neither character was that well developed, so who knows what that fruit if any that team-up will bear.

Actually, we do know: no fruit at all, because this is the end of the season! It ends with one more scene of our two heroes sharing a bench in the neutral city, promising each other not to let anyone else know they know each other and looking forward to their next meeting, where they’re tentatively planning to finally have their decisive fight, but probably won’t.

The show ends with an ellipsis and a bunch of question marks rather than any full stops, leaving me similarly noncommittal to engaging with a second season. Better shows have done more with just twelve episodes, and looked much better doing so. If I could use Sisbell’s ability and go back in time, I’d probably just skip this.

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World – 11 – When It Rains Princesses, It Pours

Sisbell comes offering some kind of magical bracelet to Iska, as well as the promise of restoring his status, honor, and more. All he has to do is go back with her to the Sovereignty. Familiar request, right? Iska is flattered but loath to accept, and at this point has no idea who Sisbell is other than the “royal servant” he broke out of prison.

When Alice and Rin find an article about Iska in Sisbell’s room, Alice is eager to find out what she’s up to, especially if it involves treason. Thanks to Rin, the Queen agrees to let Alice go on a low-profile long-distance trip to track Sisbell down. Back in Alsamira, Iska has a lot on his mind and can’t quite fully participate in the BBQ fun.

In what seems like an extraneous repeat of their scene last week, Elletear comes out and tells Masked Lord that she suspects her two younger sisters of treason, but is worried her love for them will keep her from “doing what is necessary”, so she bypasses the enmity between the Lou and Zoa houses and asks Masks to take care of her sisters for her.

This does not make Elletear look particularly smart or good! Naturally, Alice is in the desert on her way to Alsamira when her tour bus comes to a screeching halt: there are giant footprints and machine oil stains in the sand…suggesting the Empire has deployed the Witch-hunting “Object” teased at the very end of last week.

Iska changes up the unit’s hotel accommodations, hoping to distance his comrades from getting tangled up with Sisbell. Jhin also recommends as they’re in a neutral city to procure for Mismis the same crest-concealing special bandages Shanorotte used while posing as an Imperial.

Despite his cautiousness, Iska is approached once more by Sisbell, and they continue their discussions at a secluded industrial zone. She reveals her time-manipulating astral power that has enabled her to keep tabs on him, as well as her true identity as Princess Sisbell, Alice’s sister.

Unlike Alice, she isn’t asking Iska to out-and-out defect from the Empire; she merely needs someone she can trust to help her out the Sovereignty’s traitor, who is tyring to destroy both nations by fanning the fires of total war.

Iska respectfully declines the offer, as he believes it doesn’t go far enough towards peace between their peoples. Sisbell deems that unrealistic, but that doesn’t faze Iska. Just then, Masked Lord appears behind Sisbell. He have some kind of teleporting ability, because he sure got there quick after meeting with Elletear!

Accusing her of being a traitor, Mask and his mage guards have come to arrest Sisbell, who quickly flees as Iska stands between them. She’s stopped in her tracks by the Object, whose presence is either a happy coincidence for Mask, or a sign that he is the traitor Sisbell feared.

I’m sure Iska can handle Mask’s troops with one hand tied behind his back—which isn’t the case this time!—but that mecha dragon seems like a tougher customer. Still, even if Iska and Sisbell can’t handle it, both Alice and Unit N07 aren’t far away.

While there are more new developments, this was the second straight table-setting episode where nothing is resolved and a lot is left up in the air. If next week is the final episode, I can’t see how it won’t be thoroughly overstuffed! That suggests a second cour is in the cards, though I’m not sure one is deserved…

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World – 10 – My Dream Knight

Risya and Nameless meet with the Emperor…and they seem to be an androgynous cat-person. Not only that, the Emperor seems all too aware that a “Witch Princess” (i.e. Alice) has fallen for an Imperial Swordsman (i.e. Iska), and seems pleased with that development.

Meanwhile, Third Princess Sisbell is having troubling nightmares about the demise of her mother the queen that she believes to be visions of the future. Needless to say she’s uneasy and is desperate to find a way to alter that future.

Back in the Empire, Iska, Nene and Jhin are worried about Mismis’ crest being exposed, but they’re bailed out by an imperial administrator who castigates Risya for grossly overworking the unit. They are awarded sixty days of vacation, and they decide to spend them in Alsamira, a desert resort nation that while not officially neutral like Ein is considering an alliance with the Empire.

Alsamira also just happens to be the destination of Sisbell, as her mother sends her there to attempt to convince their leaders to side with the Sovereignty. As a pawn in the continuing political game that is the election of the next queen, Sisbell only trusts her personal butler Schwarz to accompany her.

Then we finally meet the First and eldest of princesses in the green-haired Elletear. She meets with Zoa’s Tuxedo Mask to report something most troubling: apparently someone high up in the Sovereignty is working with the Empire. My first thoughts went to Alice, of course, but we learn she’s not the only suspect.

Alsamira closely resembles Dubai or Abu Dhabi IRL, a wealthy emirate currently thriving on tourism and hospitality, which Unit N07, particularly its female members, are all too happy to exploit. Mismis and Nene show off their swimsuits to the boys, and a day of fun and not fighting the Sovereignty ensues.

As the sun sets and the unit heads back to the hotel for dinner, Nene and Iska split off to buy food and Nene goes off to use the restroom. Whenever Iska is left alone in a city he tends to bump into a princess, and this week is no different…but the princess is. He recognizes her as the astral mage he broke out of prison, but when Nene returns to him, Sisbell vanishes without a trace. Still, Sis is convinced she’s found the “knight of her dreams.”

That night, Rin and Alice, stuck in the palace with mountains of paperwork and other official duties, assist the queen in snooping through Sisbell’s chambers. As Sisbell’s mother, the queen is concerned with what she’s been up to cooped up in her room. Alice and Rin find a clue: a newspaper reporting the arrest and life imprisonment of Iska, the Imperial who saved her. Alice is shocked her sister might know her Imperial buddy.

Back in Alsamira, Sisbell decides to make her move…by breaking into Iska’s hotel room. By acting so suspiciously, she should have known she’d be welcomed as an assassin and not a guest, but she doesn’t seem to care. All that matters is that she’s found Iska, her Knight. I’m inclined to believe she considers Iska the key to preventing the bad future she’s been dreaming of. She believes this because Iska helped her, his “enemy”, when he had no other reason to other than kindness and mercy.

That Sisbell is meeting secretly with Iska will no doubt be a red flag for her sisters and mother, and their already flaky retainers may even consider her a traitor for doing so—and that’s assuming they’re not yet aware of Alice’s many meetings with an Imperial swordsman. While laying the groundwork for some interesting developments, this episode was a classic table-setter: necessary, but a bit ho-hum.

Golden Kamuy – 30 – The Flag-Bearer

The dead Russian doesn’t just have a wanted poster with a sketch of Kuroranke, but Wilk as well, as we learn the two worked together to kill the emperor. Ogata’s game of cat-and-mout with Vasily concludes when he makes the Russian shoot first—at the wrong thing.

Vasily saw signs of covered footprints leaving the unmoving cloaked figure, which led to an Uilta coffin in a tree. But it turns out the coffin was the decoy, and when Vasily shoots it, thats when Ogata, the cloaked figure after all, shoots Vasily through the face.

Ogata masked his breath by eating snow, but hours of that and sitting in the bitter cold take their toll, and he end up with a horrible fever. He starts to have delirious dreams of the past when he was still trying to recruit his ultra-pure of blood and heart half brother Yuusaku, the flag-bearer for their unit.

There’s a superstition in the army about the flag-bearer being a virgin as a form of protection from the bullets. Ogata never cared for that, but he can’t really complain when Asirpa and Shiraishi participate in an Uilta healing ceremony designed to draw out the “wicked thing” causing his fever—in his case, lingering memories of his failed attempts to corrupt Yuusaku.

During the ritual, Shiraishi meets with Asirpa outside, telling her it’s not safe for her in Russia, particularly when their guide killed the emperor. Kiroranke leaves the tent too and comes as clean as you’d expect, telling them his old name was Yulbars, and he and Wilk killed the emperor who forged a treaty that threatened all far-east minority peoples. Asirpa decides not to run away, hoping to find the gold “when the killing is done”.

Ogata’s dreams resolve in a revisiting of the episode 19, when we first learned of Ogata’s unfortunate family situation. When Ogata notes Yuusuke hasn’t killed a single Russian during his tour, he offers up a prisoner for him to execute, but Yuusuke refuses. The next time he marches into battle bearing the flag, Ogata shoots him in the head, ending the failed mission to bring him into the fold with Tsurumi and negating the superstition of the flag-bearer’s invincibility in the same shot.

Because ultimately, Ogata is right: surviving bullets on the battlefield has nothing to do with chastity, nobility of one’s blood or the purity of one’s heart or soul. Yuusuke may have been the most moral man on the battlefield, but that made him an easy target for any bullet, not just Ogata’s. When his blood spilled, it was just blood, like anyone else’s.

After an Uilta fortune-telling ritual involving reading the cracks in burnt reindeer shoulder blade (that apparently goes well), Asirpa joins Kiroranke and a recovered Ogata further north, but Shiraishi is poised to stay behind. They say their goodbyes, but when Shiraishi remembers Sugimoto urging him to keep Asirpa safe, he runs after them.

When we first saw the bone cracks indicating “someone approaching from behind”, I took it to mean Sugimoto’s group was closing on them and they’d eventually meet up. But here it’s revealed Shiraishi, was the person from behind foretold by the bone. Then, after they leave, more cracks appear on that same bone, turning the good sign into a bad one.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Golden Kamuy – 29 – The Way of the Sniper

Sugimoto & Co. put on that big show for nothing; Asirpa & CO. were, as was hinted by the closing poop scene, already far to the north. We don’t check in on Sugimoto this week, and the possibility of the two groups reuniting anytime soon remains remote.

On one level, that’s a shame, because the relationship of Asirpa and Sugimoto forms the emotional heart of Golden Kamuy. Put simply, I care about the two of them more than anyone else, and the prospect of them being apart all season is…frustrating.

So far, Golden Kamuy has ably tempered that lingering frustration to a tolerable trickle, because on another level, the two groups together would simply be too many characters in one place. Separate, the two groups and their unique dynamics have room to breathe.

Also, while the main duo are a critical piece of the whole, they are not the only piece of interest by a long shot. The two split groups also mean double the cultural education and immersion, as demonstrated when Asirpa & Co. enter the lands of the Uilta, whose traditions include suspending the coffins of their dead in the air with planks rather than bury them.

In this part of the island reindeer are the main game, and Ogata immediately commits a cultural faux pas by shooting one. It was a kept Reindeer that, along with the rest of its herd, comprises the sum total of a Uilta family’s material wealth. Their first contact with the Uilta consists of an apology followed by a cooperative reindeer hunt to make up for the lost property.

Kiroranke was hoping for just such an encounter, because Asirpa’s father Wilk made the same mistake as Ogata back in the day. Watching the Uilta’s way of hunting wild reindeer—using their own reindeer as a decoy to mask their approach—awakens more childhood memories for Asirpa and her aca.

Ogata impresses the Uilta elder with his prowess with a three-shot rifle, killing the entire herd of wild reindeer without letting any escape. The Uilta only have a single-shot bolt-action rifle, but as they put it following Ogata’s success, if he lived there then there soon wouldn’t be any reindeer left to hunt!

That night Asirpa gets to satisfy her brain-tooth (and give us a Hinna Face) with the reindeer brains—which taste just like those of the southern deer she’s accustomed to. They also partake of freshly-baked bread and the equivalent of reindeer butter—no part of the animal is wasted, of course.

The nomadic Uilta may be nominally Ainu, but in their game, hunting methods, dwellings, and cuisine, they’re very distinct from their southern cousins, accentuating the cultural diversity that still endured during that time in one of the more remote parts of the world.

The group lucked out by making contact with the Uilta and helping them take down a herd. Hiring the dogsleds to take them north left them broke, but the Uilta don’t care about money, only reindeer. Kiroranke also knows that nomadic tribes are tacitally allowed to cross the Japanese-Russian border, so they disguise themselves as Uilta to cross the border by reindeer sled.

Things go pear-shaped due to an unforeseen development. Turns out Lt. Tsurumi’s maccinations can reach northern Sakhalin from Otaru, and he has no intention of letting Kiroranke move freely. Tsurumi learned that a young Kiroranke was one of the revolutionaries responsible for the assassination of Russian Emperor Alexander II in St. Petersberg back in 1881.

The Russians very much want to catch everyone involved in the regicide, so Tsurumi tips them off that one of them will be crossing the border in Sakhalin. Sure enough, border troops are  hiding in the woods, and a sniper shoots the Uilta elder in the head. Ogata realizes he wasn’t the one shot because he’d switched rifles with the elder, lending his new three-shot model to him.

This also tells Ogata that the sniper who fired isn’t just a good shot, but a suspicious one. Asirpa and the others hide behind sleds and reindeer, but they’re well and truly pinned down. Even so, Kiroranke exposes himself to fire in order to grab the wounded but still breathing elder, and the Russian sniper, Vasily, lets him, later citing “respect for someone risking their life for a comrade”.

That moment of Vasily’s hesitation gives Ogata the opening to shoot Vasily’s comrade, Ilya. He doesn’t shoot him fatally in the head, but in the stomach, which ensures the Russians will be slowed down in caring for him enough for them to give them the slip into the woods. Ogata also seems invigorated and even a little giddy at the prospect of a serious playmate with which to fight a two-man “Part Two of the Russo-Japanese War.”

What follows is an intricate and fascinating chess match between Ogata and Vasily. While the cultures of Russians and Japanese are wildly different, the mind and disposition of a sniper is pretty much the same no matter where you’re from: whoever has the colder ice water in their veins will prevail. Ogata knows the ideal sniper will only be interested in “murder and pursuing their prey”, and so Vasily would soon split off from his unit and wounded comrade for that second thing.

It dawns on Vasily it wasn’t respect that kept him from shooting Kiroranke, but the lack of agency: a sniper kills at a time of their choosing, not when the target says so. Similarly, when Vasily’s men fall for a simple gunpowder trap set by Kiroranke, they start screaming in pain, but Ogata isn’t surprised his opponent doesn’t react—a good sniper can listen to his comrade’s screams all night and not be fazed.

When Kiroranke, Asirpa and Shiraishi double back to the wounded Russian Ilya, he presents the wanted poster featuring a sketch of a young Kiroranke, shocking Asirpa and Shiraishi. But Ogata and Vasily are in their own little Sniper World, waiting for one another to make the first move. Vasily thinks he has the cloaked foe in his sights, but it looks for all the world like a decoy.

The episode ends leaving us in that suspenseful moment before Ogata presumably emerges from an angle Vasily didn’t expect and does him in, clearing their path to the prison where Kiroranke’s comrades are imprisoned. But how will Ogata, Asirpa and Shiraishi react to that wanted poster? And will this incident at the border slow their group down enough for Sugimoto & Co. to gain a little ground?

Alderamin on the Sky – 02

ald21

Alderamin continues to move along with a wonderful briskness, but not so quickly that the events that transpire don’t hold weight. Last week’s predicament is handled fairly easily by Ikuta, but only because he makes it look easy.

In reality, he’s doing something really hard, especially for someone relatively young: he realizes what he can do and what he cannot; when to act and when to let his friends act. Igsem and Torway follow his lead and thanks to their assistance, the three guards are dealt with.

ald22

Torway is shaken by his faltering during a crucial moment, but Igsem is there to support and praise him for his role in securing the princess. As for Chamille herself, the deaths of the three Kioka soldiers weighs heavily on her, to the point she bites her finger to release the “rotten” royal blood.

While Igsem comforted Torway, it’s Ikuta who comforts Chamille, assuring her her blood “tastes just fine” and to take care of the life he and his companions have worked so hard to preserve. His words make the princess blush, but she can also clearly see there is greatness in Ikuta.

ald23

You can see both Chamille and Ikuta sharing a distaste for bloodshed; Chamille due to her imperial status; Ikuta do to his latent ability as well as the nature of the empire he lives in. As such, Ikuta treats the fallen Kioka soldiers’ remains with respect.

The next day, now possessed of a Kioka blimp, Ikuta formulates an ingenious strategem to get the princess safely across the border without firing a shot. Donning a Kioka uniform and armed with great acting ability and balls of steel, he marches right to the Kioka garrison and threatens the commander (his career, not his life) with the errant blimp.

There are a couple issues with this plan—the lieutenant in charge doesn’t ask for any identification, and lets Ikuta escort the others across. We also cut to a full month after they return to the empire, during which much has transpired that will shape their fates.

ald24

But the events that unfold a month later justify the rapid jump in time. During that month, the famous General Rikan is sent to a battle Ikuta knows he’ll lose, since the empire no longer wants the undeveloped territory. But Rikan, the quintessentiall badass military man, is going to do his goddamn job, even if he knows the war is rigged. Honor, loyalty, “unscientific stupidity”; Ikuta can call it what he likes; he can’t stop Rikan.

Shortly after news of Rikan’s defeat, a demoralizing blow to the people of Katjvarna, the emperor gives Ikuta, Igsem, and the others an audience. Igsem had to knock Ikuta down when he was getting in Rikan’s face, but she warns him not to try pulling any of that shit in front of the emperor, and Ikuta seems to get it. I love their relationship!

Ikuta, of course, probably has an inkling of why they’ve been summoned, and his suspicions are confirmed when the emperor bestows upon them the title of imperial knights. That means they’re going to be trained as soldiers, whether that’s what he wanted or not.

ald25

After the ceremony, in a coach with Igsem, Chamille (who is still just a kid, after all) can’t quite control her enthusiasm for making Ikuta into a hero, one of the three things he never wanted to be (the others being a noble and a soldier). She tells him too much about what she knows about his father (disgraced famous general) or his mother (former imperial concubine awarded to his dad).

Here we see just how much trouble Ikuta can get into when his emotions run rampant: he threatens to snap the princess’ neck; Igsem takes him down and warns him she’ll have to kill him if that happens. She doesn’t want do, but you can tell she sure as shit will. She’s a vital check on the wreckless abandon a troubled Ikuta can get into. He’s got the brilliance—and the ability—of Howl.

Later, when everyone’s cooled down a bit, Igsem leaves the festivities on what may be one of the best nights of her life, to sit with her good friend who declares he’s having one of his worst. Igsem doesn’t lecture him, she just listens and sits. Because like Chamille, she sees great things in Ikuta. No doubt he sees this in himself, and it probably scares the hell out of him. But he won’t be alone on this impending journey.

This episode demonstrated Alderamin’s ability to draw in very close to its surprisingly nuanced characters, and yet still draw back to reveal the huge world they inhabit, which is bound to explode into further combat as the show progresses, and in which heroes will rise.

16rating_9

GATE – 02

gate21

When the JSDF force sets up fortifications around the Gate, the Emperor calls for his tributary states to form an allied army to attack them (joining his Imperial Army), and we see just how effective a woefully-outnumbered force modern weaponry is against a massive army of 100,000+ with nothing but Middle AQges-era arms. None of the troops get anywhere near the JSDF, who wipe out most of the force with artillery and machine gun fire, using flares at night.

It’s a bloodbath, but it seems the Emperor was hoping for one, because it means all of the surrounding nations are now significantly weaker, solidifying his reign (though he too lost thousands of soldiers). The Japanese essentially did his dirty work, but he knows he’ll to deal with them again sooner or later, and so sends his daughter (and leader of her own military order), Pinya (Tomatsu Haruka), to infiltrate the enemy force and learn more about them.

gate22

Frankly, other than the lopsided battles, the first half was a little slow, with an awful lot of time spent in audience chambers and military tents full of old men yelling about stuff. Things pick up in the second half as the POV shifts back to Itami, who is given command of Recon Team 3 and the same basic assignment the Emperor gave Pinya: gather information on the other side.

First, Itami has time to stand amidst the utter destruction wrought in repelling the armies, estimating they killed over 120,000 both there and in Ginza; a figure very similar to the number who lost their lives in the dropping of the first atomic bomb, and certainly the most life taken by the Japanese military since WWII.

Of course, with tens of thousands of armored troops and cavalry charging your comparatively puny garrison, the JSDF’s options were obviously limited. This wasn’t a force that was going to back down, as we see from the badass general launching a defiant arrow at the spray of bullets before getting blown up by a shell.

gate23

It’s a somber moment, but it passes, and Itami shows how he runs a laid back command that borders on unprofessional/disrespectful when he and his buddy Kurata sing lyrics to his favorite magical girl anime. Itami’s is an approach that irks one of the sergeants under his command, the far more serious Kurebayashi (Uchida Maaya, an inspired casting choice considering how big an otaku she plays in Chu2Koi).

Surprisingly, the recon team actually makes a bit of progress, though the first contact with the villages they visit are only shown briefly and wordlessly. Suffice it to say, they’re starting to get a rough estimate of the geography of the region. Before they’re about to camp for the night, they encounter a forest being burned by dragon-fire; a forest they know to contain a village. Itami puts two and two together and assumes a massacre is in progress.

gate24

By the time they arrive, there’s nothing but a charred wasteland to welcome them, along with a nearly dry well, at the bottom of which, to Itami and Kurebayashi’s shock, lies a beautiful young woman with pointy elf ears. Is this maiden a member of Pinya’s order, or merely a villager who escaped the carnage the only way she could? Either way, their imminent meeting will likely represent the first persistent Special Region-JSDF interaction.

8_brav2

Akame ga Kill! – 24 (Fin)

agk241

As the big let down that was Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle demonstrated, it’s rare for a long-running series to field a finale that delivers on virtually all of its promises and potential. But Akame ga Kill! succeeded everywhere Chaika failed miserably,  pulling out all the stops for an ending worthy of the excellence that preceded it.

agk242

Akame v. Esdeath was being billed as one for the ages, and in this it did not disappoint, from the moment a surrounded Esdeath seals scores of Revolutionary troops in a jagged ice wall, forming an arena in which to tangle with the raven-haired wielder of Murasame.

agk243

The show could really take its time and do things right with this battle because it so painstakingly took care of everything else on its sizable plate, along with killing off most of the cast. Everything we’ve seen of Akame and Esdeath in combat is brought to the table here, along with a lot of new moves and counter-moves, and it’s just fantastic to see these two go at it like no one on the show has quite gone at it before. There’s the feeling that everything has naturally escalated up to this level.

agk244

When she realizes she won’t be able to defeat Esdeath without her trump card, Akame uses it, merging further with Masamune to increase her speed and power to even more ridiculous levels; a testament to just how tough a customer Esdeath is. Esdeath has basically merged with the soul of a terrifying danger beast and the two share unending bloodlust out of a desire to destroy the weak – all the week.

agk245

The deaths of ‘livestock’ mean nothing to Esdeath, but they mean everything to Akane. Masamune has remembered every life she’s taken, and while the weight of those deaths on her shoulders is considerable, it also gives her the strength she needs to fight not just on Esdeath’s level, but above it.

agk246

Esdeath will always be weaker, because she doesn’t understand and thus can’t properly utilize the weight of the death and destruction she causes. Akame works for the good guys, but she’s not necessarily a good guy herself, just a necessary evil in a world where foes like Esdeath threaten peace and won’t stop killing unless they’re killed.

agk247

A lot of Esdeath’s early confidence in the fight is knowing she can lean on her Makahadoma to freeze Akame if things get that serious. She even says it’s the second time she’s had to use it; the first being to defeat Susanoo. But she’s so confident it will work just as well against Akame, she doesn’t consider the possibility that Makahadoma is exactly what Akame wants her to do.

agk248

Esdeath doesn’t realize this until it’s too late, the Akame before her is merely an afterimage, and the real one is coming down upon her with the full force of her blade. The certainty that Esdeath would use Makahadoma proves to be her downfall.

agk249

After that, Esdeath is not only an arm short, but also mortally wounded from throat to hip, and she concedes defeat. She is not upset; by her own lifelong code, she deserves to die for being the weaker one. If anything, she’s glad it’s something else she can share with Tatsumi, whose body has been lying nearby all along. Before Akame can stop her, Esdeath embraces him and surrounds herself with ice and shatters, in just the latest in a series of gorgeous deaths.

agk2410

In their last talk, Akame tells Esdeath about how she draws strength from taking responsibility for the lives she’s taken, but she just can’t understand. And yet, Esdeath loved Tatsumi, something else she couldn’t understand, but still accepted.

agk2411

With Esdeath now diamond dust, the Empire really is done. Wave and Run aren’t going to fight for it anymore, and Minister Onest is scurrying through the palace like a rat until cornered by Leone. When he uses his Imperial Arms to destroy hers, I thought “Uh-oh…now he’s going to inject himself with something and become a ferocious beast-man.” Fortunately, I was wrong! He takes out a gun a gun! — and simply shoots her with what looks like small-caliber shot.

But Leone, born and raised in/by the slums, is a tough cookie, Imperial Arms or not, and gives Onest the death that, if I’m honest, I always wanted for him: getting his face smashed in by her bare hands. It’s gruesome, undignified, and downright icky, and underlines the fact that Night Raid are vicious killers too, but the difference being they kill for something other than themselves.

agk2412

As Leone later says her goodbyes to Akame (Onest shot her ten times in the abdomen), we also see that the ‘something’ Night Raid has fought for — a peaceful land free of the corruption and bloodshed of Onest and Esdeath — isn’t something they’ll be able to partake in. Leone ignores the calls from the townsfolk asking her to join them for a drink. Instead, she finds a dark alley to lie down in and die with a smile on her face, knowing she’ll be with the others soon. Night Raid gets a different kind of peace.

agk2413agk2414

With Esdeath and Onest gone, all that’s left is for the Rebellion to take one last life: that of the young, naive Emperor. It’s fitting and very nice of the show to give the lad as clean and dignified and honorable death by guilloutene as Onest’s was dirty and pathetic. The Emperor holds his head high until it’s lowered into the stock as the entire capital watches, while Onest died in the dark bowels of the castle, his killer the only witness to his end.

agk2415

Najenda, along with Wave and Run, take up new posts in the New Kingdom (who is actually ruling isn’t made clear yet). After all, those who remember the horrors of the war that brought them this Kingdom are well-equipped to stand and protect it from those who would threaten it again. But Akame leaves the capital, keeping the lives she’s taken on her shoulders. Her work isn’t done, and it will never be done as long as she’s alive, and there is no other course for her.

agk2416

The episode also ends with one last stirring hurrah with a booming narrator talking about everything Night Raid did…and how history will not remember any of it. They were assassins, killers, working in the shadows, doing dirty work for a clean world. They’ll have no honors or monuments or even songs or stories sung or written about them, ever…but what they did have was each other, and that was enough.

agk2417

In the post-credits epilogue, Akame continues her duty, facing those who would destroy the progress made, both burdened and fueled by the ones she killed before. She’s not with Leone, Mine, Sheele, Bulat, Chelsea, Lubbock, Kurome, and Tatsumi…yet, but one day she will be. Until then, she has work to do.

10_mag

Akame ga Kill! – 23

agk231

With just Wave and Run still standing between Night Raid and Onest and the Emperor, AGK!’s milieu has become a much smaller and lonelier. But Wave is, er…wavering, and we already know Run’s designs. Also, this is the last two episodes, so it’s good there aren’t too many people milling around. It was also fairly certain someone would die…but who?

agk232

After one final Night Raid mission briefing, Tatsumi, Akame and Leone blow right into the ornate but flimsily-constructed Imperial Palace, and none of the guards put up much of a fight. But they’re not here to fight grunts or kill unnecessarily.

agk234

The guards won’t stand down until Run himself dismisses them. While he’s all for rebellion, he wants it done bloodlessly, from within, or something. Sorry Run, the ship has sailed on that! Still, he bars their path, but Leone is able to occupy him enough to let Tatsumi and Akame slip past and head to the throne room. This is it!

agk235

With just a handful of palace guards around Onest and the Emperor, this looks like it’s going to be a cinch, but of course, it isn’t. Night Raid and the Jaegers may have had their Imperial Arms, but through the puppet Emperor, Onest has THE Imperial Arm: Shikotazer. Trump-cardier and trump-cardier…

agk236

Backed into a corner and with the rebellion literally at the base of the throne, Onest directs the boy to harden his heart and assert his authority through force. Shikotazer rises from the wreckage of the shoddily-built palace, possessing the ‘Power of God’, which is to say the atom, apparently, and starts firing devastating (though hopefully not radioactive) volleys all over his own beautiful capital, burning and killing hundreds. Nice job, kid.

agk237

Onest’s hold on the kid is as ironclad as Shikotazer’s armor, and Tatsumi is soon overwhelmed, but then Wave shows up, having made up his mind. Actually, pretty sure Onest made it for him by attacking innocent people. Wave is a soldier, and soldiers protect the weak. Even if the Emperor is a lost cause, I’m glad Wave ended up on the right side. Though man, he sure ‘saw no evil, heard no evil’ for a long time!

agk238

The Emperor begs Tatsumi and Wave to give up (not sure why, since he’s fine blowing everything and everyone else up), but Tatsumi obviously perists, driven by his desire not to let those he’s lost down: Sayo and Ieyasu; Sheele, Bulat, Chelsea, Lubbock, and Mine. They all died so Tatsumi could be here and finish the job.

agk239

He awakens a new stage of Incursio, golden and winged, and blasts a hole through Shikotazer’s weakest spot, blowing numerous holes in his own body in the process. His wounds are made worse and ultimately fatal by his final selfless act: slowing the descent of the defeated juggernaut to save a group of bystanders frozen in terror.

agk2310
agk2310a

Akame is not happy that Tatsumi breaks his promise not to die, but she just doesn’t understand how death flags work. She also isn’t aware of the title of the show she’s in, because this isn’t Tatsumi ga Kill!. The final battle was always going to involve Akame, and her opponent will be Esdeath, no doubt just as pissed off about Tatsumi dying…if he’s really dead…which he probably is.

9_mag

Akame ga Kill! – 22

agk221

Even with so little time left and an entire empire on the brink, AGK! decides it was still worth it to slow things down a bit and give Akane and the dying Kurome one final duel to settle things. It’s a decision I happen to agree with and appreciate.

agk222

Giving their final reunion in the church and the duel that follows plenty of room does a service to one of the more tragic character dynamics in a show full of them. Though the presence of redundant backstory and narration felt unnecessary. Akane and Kurome don’t actually have to explain to one another why they’re fighting, but they felt the need to explain it to us, even though we already know.

agk223

Barring an unlikely scenario in which Kurome got a lucky strike on her big sis (followed by her dying shortly afterwards), it never felt like Akame was in any particular mortal danger. Kurome is too weak and spent to stand toe-to-toe with her anymore. But whether Akame was going to die or not wasn’t the point, so much as the fact that both sisters felt this fight had to be fought.

agk224

That fact doesn’t change when Kurome loses her last two puppets and the sisters are cornered by a massive danger beast that awakened from the fury of their attacks; either. Akame saves Kurome, because Kurome is her responsibility.

agk225

It doesn’t change either when Wave comes, against Kurome’s wishes, to break up the fight and save her. Tatsumi shows up too, but not to stop Akame; but to stop anyone from interfering with the sisters. Wave seriously does not like this, but he honors Kurome’s wishes and stands by.

agk226

After that, it only takes a little more for Kurome to fall to Akame. Kurome isn’t bitter about losing; some of her final words to Akame are of love for her, despite everything that’s happened between them. Being killed by Akame was basically the next best thing to Kurome killing her, and Kurome takes it.

agk227

Before carrying Kurome’s body away (leaving Akame to bawl into Tatsumi’s shoulder), Wave asks Tatsumi and Akame an odd question: “Why are we fighting?” I suppose for someone turning a blind eye to the empire’s horrors, it’s not that odd; but Tatsumi and Akame have their reasons, and it’s up to Wave to find his. Maybe he’ll join Run, who announced to him he supports revolution from within?

8_mag

Hitsugi no Chaika – 03

chaika31

The show’s Final Fantasy-like vibe continues as the trio of Chaika, Tooru and Akari arrive in the next town, where they gather info from “NPCs’ and a very secretive informant named “Guy.” The city’s ruler, a mysterious “dragoon cavalier” Dominica Scoda, is in possession of some of Chaika’s dad’s remains, so they have to seek her out, negotiate, and if she refuses to give it up, negotiate more aggressively.

chaika33

In the meantime, the Gillette Corps is hot on the trio’s trail. They’re a colorful bunch who wouldn’t be out of place as the protagonists in a side-story. While Vivi is angry that the trio defied her beloved Gillette, the rest aren’t really after them for any particular personal gain; they’re merely doing their jobs; working to the unthinkable—Gaz rising again. That they’re merely after our trio doesn’t make them villains. I also dig their messenger owl…I want one of those.

chaika33a

The Corps also has something in common with the Acura siblings, Chaika herself, and us, the audience: they don’t know the whole picture, only bits and pieces from other sources. That they’re being so closely pursued is a dead giveaway that Chaika is a very “popular” individual, but she herself has gaps in her memory from around the end of the war. And their pursuers have captured “false Chaikas” in the past, none of whom gave up any useful info on the real one.

chaika34

All this mystery, and the still-disticnt possibility that Chaika is unknowingly acting as her late father’s pawn, floats over an episode in which not a whole lot happens but much is revealed. There’s also a fair amount of something that’s definitely a rarity, especially in recent Final Fantasy, and that’s subtle, effective comedy to break up all the stodgy seriousness.

chaika35

Chaika remains thoroughly endearing throughout this episode, going full tourist in town, fixing and operating a big truck, and blowing up a chicken in an ill-advised attempt at cooking. Akari’s deadpan sniping on her big brother also continue to amuse, and her “ghost stories” were great. On the other end of the spectrum, there’s a tense encounter with vicious dog-like Orthros, culminating in Tooru accidentally meeting the very person they came to see: Dominica, a consummate onna-kishi, gleaming in the moonlight.

7_mag

Hitsugi no Chaika – 02

chaika21

In addition to serving up a delectable buffet of thief/ninja/saboteur action, acerbic brother-sister banter, and giant steampunk tanks during the severed hand heist and the escape that followed, this episode provided us with more context about Chaika and the world, as well as trigger the commencement of the grand journey that lies ahead, to which I for one am very much looking forward.

chaika22

Contrasting viewpoints were as numerous as backflips herein: Abarth may be a hero to many, but the Acura siblings see him for what he is: selfish, arrogant, vindictive, and a would-be murderer of children. The un-murdered child in question, Chaika, is seen as a threat to peace in Verbist, for the simple reason that she’s the daughter of the “Taboo” Emperor Gaz.

chaika23

Gillette’s team of valiant badasses (who nonetheless get schooled by the saboteurs) seek to apprehend Chaika and the hand to preserve the peace they’ve won, but we learn the only reason Chaika is after her father’s remains is so she can give him a proper burial. But as simple as that task may seem, the nature of the man she seeks to make whole, and the sheer scale of outside opposition to her actions, means it won’t be an easy task to complete.

chaika24

In fact, it probably would have been impossible for Chaika alone. I like the equitability in the Acuras siding with her: she’s getting much-needed support in her quest, while they’re escaping the boredom of their postwar existence. They are what they are—sleek, intelligent, efficient weapons. Tooru is tired of hanging on the wall getting dull and rusty.

chaika25

With the arrival of Chaika in his and Akari’s lives, they’re suddenly useful again. These are all motivations I can get behind, and I’m on board with the burial goal, but as they collect(read: steal) more parts of Gaz, we’ll see if Abarth and Gilette turn out to be right. Even if Chaika has the best of intentions, it’s possible Gaz conditioned her to unwittingly aid his eventual resurrection…which I’m guessing wouldn’t be good.

8_mag

Hitsugi no Chaika – 01

chaika11

Well, here it is: my favorite first episode of the Spring so far, slightly edging out Mahouka. It sneaked up on me, too; I had no idea what I’d be getting into, but I didn’t think it would be so stylish, plucky, vibrant, and witty—words with which I’d also describe myself. From the first scene where Chaika pops out of the bushes, surprising the plant-foraging Tooru, who though she was a rabbit—I was almost immediately on board.

I will note that people may find Chaika Trabant’s clipped, concise manner of speaking will charm some and vex others, but I fall into the latter category; she’s cute without being too cloying, and as someone who uses so few words, she chooses and arranges them with that much more care, often to humorous effect. There’s also a wealth of physical comedy inherent in the enormous coffin she lugs around.

chaika12

I also liked being introduced to Tooru and Chaika as apparent models of incompetence, only to see them exhibit exemplary competence (and badassery) in taking down a very unpleasant-looking unicorn, which mutters in a strange language and gallops through the air upon magic circles. There’s a hefty Final Fantasy vibe to the world that really drew me in, yet still exuded an original and novel feel; a new twist, rather than a ripoff. That’s hard to pull off.

Like FF, everyone’s donning super-chic garb and have specific “jobs”: Tooru and his cool, acerbic sis Akari are quick, deadly thieves/saboteurs while Chaika is a gun mage, requiring her to stay still as she prepares her magic, making her and Tooru a good pair in the unicorn battle, during which some pretty awesome boss music plays; I thought the music excelled in general.

chaika13

Akari’s violent introduction in the town tavern was, for me, the comedic centerpiece that also managed to provide a lot of exposition; we learn that Tooru hasn’t been pulling his weight of late, and the sight of him chowing down with Chaika sends her on a hammer(mace?)-swinging rampage. It has the look and feel of a far more serious confrontation, and yet not only does Tooru dodge every blow, but the bystanders take Akari’s side to a man.

He’s clearly a capable fellow (like Akari) but lacks motivation, and has to be threatened with taxidermy to agree to help Chaika steal an article from a lord’s palace. Chaika is apparently the wandering daughter of the land’s defeated emperor. When the lord does a double take at the sight of her when he catches them in his palace. While her ultimate goals remain unknown, her chances of success will surely rise with the two Acura siblings at her side, and I’m looking forward to following their journey.

8_mag