Giant Beasts of Ars – 02 – Covenant of Convenience

With no time to waste, the Paladin Jirou performs the Covenant Ritual that allows him to become a vessel for the Cleric Kuumi’s godlike power. He wields that power in the form of an expandable spear, which he plunges into the eye of the beast to kill it, saving the town from devastation. After the battle, Kuumi returns to her normal state, and Jirou passes out.

The next morning the Imperial commander inspects the pier where Kuumi accidentally dusted some soldiers with her miasma. He deems the prototype successful and orders his underlings to leave no stone unturned in their search for her (or as he calls her, “it”). Clearly, this isn’t someone in whose clutches you want Kumi to be.

Jirou comes to inside Myaa’s airship, waking up from a dream from the past when his former cleric, whom he loved, died in battle. When he overhears Myaa talking about marriage to Kuumi, he makes it clear he only formed a covenant with her because there was no other choice in the matter. But as it was Kuumi’s first time, she’s rightfully confused.

When Kuumi won’t elaborate on why the Empire is after her, Jirou peaces out, not wanting to get involved. But he leaves his spear behind, so Myaa knows they’ll meet again. Once again, she and Kuumi show horrible judgment by walking around town in broad daylight and then having a meal at the tavern, where they’re quickly spotted by Imperial guards. When miasma starts emanating from Kuumi and she kills a guard, Myaa surrenders and the two are taken away.

Because Jirou’s spear is drawn to him like Mjolnir is to Thor, he soon locates them aboard the commander’s hovercraft. Because he’s a former elite Paladin, he has no trouble getting aboard the ship and neutralizing any hostiles. And because it would simply be rude to take his spear and leave the girls behind, he breaks them out of their cell.

He tells Myaa to ready his airship while he and Kuumi merge once more so he can disable the pursuing hovercraft. I wish we had gotten to see more of his ship, but after they get away the ending of the episode is very rushed and awkwardly edited, suddenly sapping the escape of energy and urgency. The animation in general did not impress this week, but I’m still sufficiently intrigued by this world and premise to keep watching for at least one more week.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 12 – School’s Out for Winter

As the Dawn of Fold attack continues, the Dads are on the move. Vim Jeturk decides to pilot his Sol Dilanza rather than be Shaddiq’s puppet any longer. Delling finds Miorine, but true-to-character, his first words aren’t “Thank God you’re alright” but “What are you wearing?” since she’s not in an evac suit.

Poor Suletta is still shut off from the rest of the plant by the emergency bulkheads, but Sophie spots her, and shoots around her area to try to goad her into running off to the Aerial. When Dominicus tries to subdue her with Antidote, Sophie goes up to Permet Level Four … nearly killing herself in the process.

Like the bloody epilogue that got Witch from Mercury off to such a stirring start, this season one finale really accentuates the essential frailty of human beings. Delling is seriously wounded by a piece of errant shrapnel, while using his body to shield his daughter. For all his abuse and neglect, when the chips were down, he chose her over everything else.

When Norea spots GUND-Arm’s spaceship—with Earth House still on board—she takes aim and prepares to destroy it as part of the mission to keep anyone from escaping. She only stays her hand when Nika flashes the correct code with a signal light. Nika saves everyone on that ship, including herself, but Martin sees her signaling to the enemy. The gig is up.

When Guel overhears that a Gundam from Asticassia is on Plant Quetta, he pilots a mobile suit and heads out, determined to move forward “after Suletta”. But in the heat of his first real space battle, he almost loses it. He’s able to do what is necessary to survive—i.e. kill someone—but the one he ends up killing is his own father, Vim.

Suletta manages to crawl her way through the plant and make it to Hangar 78 where Aerial is—just as Lady Prospera knew she would. Mercury gets there first, and is about to be discovered by Dawn when Prospera arrives and kills them all. Mercury is shocked, but her mother lays out the calculus. All she did was move forward and gain two by killing others to save her.

There’s a beautiful, heartbreaking shot of Prospera and Suletta on opposite sides of a doorway, splattered blood between them. It can’t be any clearer: this is where moving forward means you can’t go back. Suletta, so easily manipulated by her mother and their credo, steps onto that blood and crosses the threshold.

When Sophie arrives to play, Suletta is already in Aerial’s cockpit and deflects her attacks with her Bits, then fires up her rockets and shoves Sophie the hell out of the hangar, scolding her for behaving in such a crass manner. That said, it’s my assumption Sophie may never have had a mother to scold her.

Suletta doesn’t know it, but as she scuffles with Sophie and then Norea, she’s buying time for the authorities to arrive with reinforcements. Once an entire patrol fleet enters the area, Naji gives the signal to retreat. While she complains, even Sophie doesn’t disobey, and hopes to see her “Big Sister” again. I’m sure she will.

Shaddiq gets word that the Dawn’s operation failed, and he doesn’t really react, wearing the same serene smile as usual. While I’m sure he’s been careful in trying to keep distance between himself and Earthian terrorists, the fact he doesn’t have Aerial and Delling isn’t confirmed dead will surely come back on him in some manner.

But there’s is nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing more shocking and upsetting than the final scene of the season, in which Miorine is cornered by one straggling member of Dawn while pushing her injured father on a makeshift gurney. Before he can kill Delling, Suletta blasts through the bulkhead and smashes him with Aerial’s hand, turning him into a fine paste of blood and guts just inches from where Miorine stands.

Suletta hops out of the cockpit with her usual chipper demeanor, and even jokes about being such a klutz when she slips on the blood and guts. She reaches out her hand—which again, is covered in blood and guts of a man she just killed—to her bride. Miorine is quite rightly absolutely aghast and terrified at the Suletta before her. “How can you smile right now,” she asks, before declaring her groom a “murderer”.

All season Witch from Mercury had been lulling us into a false sense of security by showing us duel after bloodless duel at space high school. Well, graduation has come early for Guel, Nika, Miorine, and Suletta, in a cruel blast of twisted metal and a spray of blood. Nothing will be the same going forward for any of them. In other words, it’s Gundam being Gundam.

To be fair to Suletta, I’m not sure what else she could have done in that moment when it was either the shooter or Miorine. But now Suletta’s innocence is gone forever, Miorine will never look at her the same way again, and she isn’t even aware. For all she gained by following her mother’s motto to the letter, we’ve yet to see what she’ll lose. That will be revealed in season two this coming Spring.

Giant Beasts of Ars – 01 (First Impressions) – The Cleric and the Paladin

Twenty-Two, AKA Kuumi, is a cute, well-adjusted, hungry young woman who has decided that she doesn’t want to be detained any longer, and overpowers everyone with her speed and strength when she escapes. Her captors’ boss is a grinning jerk who takes drugs and refers to Kuumi as “the prototype” and “it”, so we know he’s not a good guy.

Kuumi ends up in a nearby town that subsists on the various products harvested from the carcasses of titular Giant Beasts, which have to be hunted or they’ll level said town. After getting new clothes from a kindly florist, Kuumi meets a little catgirl shopkeep who sells her a magic ring. It’s said whoever bears the ring will save the world. It fits itself around Kuumi’s finger like the One Ring.

Jiiro “The Already Dead” is a drunk fella who briefly met Kuumi as she fled, and takes up a job hunting the latest Giant Beast. While no one has high hopes for him, he shows he’s not dead weight when he shows off his quick thinking and agility rescuing one of his fellow hunters from certain death. The beast is felled and the hunting crew celebrates into the night.

The Imperial fella who had been holding Kuumi captive introduces himself to Jiiro. He can tell the guy’s a cut above the rest of the rabble in the tavern, and notes that in an imminent war that will split Ars into two sides, he needs all the good fighters he can get. Jiiro not-so-cordially declines and shuffles off, not interested in fighting fights that aren’t his.

That night, Kuumi does a terrible job staying hidden and is immediately spotted by guards. When cornered on a dock, their offensive attacks set off her latent magical powers, which include a black mist that atomizes some of the guards. When she starts to glow out of control she warns the others to stay back, which is when Jiiro swoops in, grabs her, and leaps into the ocean.

There, he connects with Kuumi on what seems to be some kind of shared telepathic plane, and asks her what a Cleric is doing without a Paladin escort. A prologue from 30 years back shows the potential of a Cleric-Paladin partnership—total badassdom and the ability to defeat Giant Beasts with ease.

Of course, Kuumi is unescorted because she’s some kind of overpowered prototype Cleric. That makes her extremely valuable to the Imperial dude. But now that she’s free, has that ring, and has met a washed-up but still serviceable Paladin, this all seems like destiny.

Giant Beasts of Ars offers a well-rendered, understated, efficient fantasy adventure premiere that builds just enough of its world to leave me interested in more, and notably isn’t an isekai. I definitely want to see that airship from the OP in action, not to mention Kuumi and Jiiro collaborating.

To Your Eternity – S2 07 – Prince of Principle

Bon and Todo’s imprisonment continues, and Cylira makes it clear he won’t be released until he confesses to consorting with Fushi, a demon and servant of the devil, and begs for forgiveness and mercy of the church. Bon’s…not in a big hurry to do that.

It isn’t until he’s spent a fair amount of time in the cell that Bon even notices he’s not alone: there’s a little boy named Chabo, who is accompanied by the ghost of his mom (Bon tells him his mom is dead, but he doesn’t believe him). When Bon horks down his bread for the day, Todo gives him half of hers, and keeps doing so, because she loves him.

In between inquisitions from the church, Bon, Todo, and Chabo haven’t a lot to do besides sit or lie around. Todo learns that Bon really can see and hear the dead—it’s how he’s able to perfectly recite scripture, and know that Chabo’s mother was murdered by a member of the church. One evening Bon sees Todo’s shadow on the rocks and sees that she’s lost a lot of weight.

As she and Chabo grow thinner and Bon’s beard grows longer, Fushi is still alive, constantly sleeping and waking up. With only a couple of breaths of consciousness each time, he doesn’t have enough time to remember where he is or what he needs to do.

But as the weeks pass, rather than completely forget himself and waste away into nothingness, Fushi learns how to burn red hot like the metal that encased him. He melts the surrounding iron and begins to ascend from his cell, delighting his devotees but angering the followers of the church.

They douse the molten iron with water, resulting crude statue of Fushi frozen at the top of the metal cell. Cylira laughs and declares a great victory has been achieved by the church that will go down in the annals of the city’s history. He didn’t notice that Fushi actually escaped in the form of Tonari’s owl, Ricard.

Fushi flies to Bon’s cell, where Chabo has already wasted away and Todo is quiet on the other side. Once he burns through the bars and puts the gators to sleep, Bon tells him to take Chabo and Todo but create lifeless copies that will remain with him.

He’s decided to stay put and get released by the Church. He gets Fushi’s leave to confess to him being a demon, since that’s how he’ll stay alive. If Bon goes with him now, he’ll be a fugitive and the church won’t stop chasing them. He tells Fushi to tell Todo when she awakes that he’s sorry he didn’t make the right decision.

Of course, when morning comes and the church asks why a demon visited and killed Todo and the boy but not Bon, he claims that God protected him, proving he has God’s blessing. Cylira doesn’t quite buy it, but he does offer Bon a chance to confess and pledge allegiance to the church. But Fushi can’t do it. He won’t. He loves Fushi too much.

If that means he has to die, so be it. And so Bon is taken back to the capital to be publically executed by guillotine as a heretic. Bon is not alone on the walk to meet his end. The kind, gentle ghosts he’s seen and spoken with for years are right there beside him, assuring him death’s not so bad. Bon also meets his death with gratitude that he got to meet and spend time with Fushi.

No matter what the church says or does, It wasn’t able to destroy his faith or love in Fushi. Maybe his noble death will start a larger anti-Bennett uprising; maybe it won’t. But like Hayase’s will in Kahaku’s Nokker, Parona’s will in Fushi, and his ghostly friends, death most likely won’t be the end of Bon.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 11 – It’s Kyou Ethnina’s World, We’re Just Living In It

The Shield Hero Gang is finally reunited, only with Filo sporting a steep decline in attack power due to her change of species and Raphtalia donning an adorable miko outfit. Kizuna also reunites with her comrades L’Arc, Therese, and Glass for the first time in years.

The warm feelings of those reunions are chilled somewhat by the sight of Kazuki, whose two improbably loyal and devoted aides are trying to stich him back together. Unfortunately, he jumps the gun and his top half ends up separated from his bottom half, hopefully fatally.

Oh, and Kyou Ethnina also has an improbably loyal and devoted aide? A samurai girl who is going to kill his enemies? (Throws hands up) Ok, Shield Hero, why not?!

Glass is so happy and relieved to see Kizuna she doesn’t want to stop hugging her, even if Kizuna finds it hard to breath; it’s Peak Endearing Glass, though you could argue she had a lot more edge when she was a baddie. The group ends up in Sikul Castle, where we learn…L’Arc is the young king of Sikul. The hits keep coming!

Naofumi, Kizuna, and their super-sized mega-party are determined to kick Kyou’s ass, but they need equipment. Kizuna hits up her longtime midriff-bearing blacksmith Ramona and gives her the unenviable task of doing a week’s worth of work in a night’s time.

After placing the order, the group is suddenly ambushed by Kyou’s samurai aide, who is determined to end all of them, scolds them for outnumbering her, and bears a creepy sword with an eyeball.

Needless to say, while she has no shortage of spirit, the girl is no match for the combined power of Naofumi and Kizuna’s parties, and when she’s disarmed, the sword takes on a mind of its own, restrains her with tendrils, and seemingly sucks up her energy.

Therese, L’Arc, Kizuna, Naofumi, and Glass all work together to separate the sword from the girl and send it high up into the sky, where it self-destructs, taking with it the girl’s undying loyalty for the guy who almost blew her the ef up!

Her name is Yomogi, and as befits a hero who cannot kill another person, Kizuna decides to take her to her party’s home and headquarters, where she herself hasn’t been in years. Naofumi protests such light treatment of an ally of Kyou, but doesn’t stop Kizuna from doing things her way.

Sending everyone else away to prepare for the fight with Kyou, Kizuna removes Yomogi’s restraints, asks her to sit down and relax, and serves her tea. In exchange, she learns that Yomogi and Kyou are childhood friends, that he was always a little off, but apparently in a less evil way at first, such that even someone with a rock for a brain like Yomogi was drawn to the knowledge he possessed and dispensed.

However, in the midst of her discussion of her childhood friend, Yomogi concludes that if Kyou has indeed gone off the deep end behind her back, then she’ll help stop him, while also sharing in whatever punishment is chosen for him, even death. While I doubt Kizuna will take her up on that, I’m sure she’s happy for another strong fighter on her side.

Alas, the next day when the mega-party picks up their completed equipment from Ramona’s, Kyou’s big scheme kicks into gear. The countdown rapidly drops to zero, Waves of Catastrophe appear in the skies, and Naofumi and Kiuna’s parties are separated via warping.

Whatever semblance of positive feelings Yomogi might’ve had for her childhood friend are dissolved in the midst of this spectacle. All this time she thought he was occasionally going a little too far in order to stop the waves, but his actual goal was to summon them. Dude’s gotta go!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 10 – The Rising of the Katana Hero

As Raph-chan is led to her cell in a giant snowy prison, she is worried that Naofumi-sama will be angry at her for staying behind, even though it wasn’t her fault. But she still vows not to die until she sees him again.

Fortunately, dying isn’t in the cards this week, as no sooner does she find herself in the very same cell as L’Arc, Therese, and Glass do the four escape the “Prison of Exhaustion”, thanks to Raph’s low-level but still effective illusion magic.

Once out, they head to Sikul, dress like locals (which is to say, like Japanese), and grind. Raph-chan fights, levels up, and eats, and starts to rapidly grow, as demi-humans tend to do.

We’re introduced to Glass’ softer side, not only when she thanks Raph for helping free her beloved Kizuna from the Infinite Labyrinth, but also helps tailor Raph’s clothes when she starts to grow out of them. These three may have fought her, Filo, and Naofumi in the past, but they’re not bad people.

Kazuki, on the other hand, most certainly is bad, and in a second-string, B-teamy kind of way, as he’s basically a Kyou wannabe. To that end, he intends to draw the Katana Vassal Weapon and become a legit Hero. Unfortunately for him, the sword has other ideas.

The weapon instead wills itself into the hands of Raphtalia, and proceeds to burn away her Slav-erServant Crest that has bonded her to Naofumi all this time. She separates from the others as she breaks into a run, pursued by police and other officials for “stealing” Kazuki’s katana.

Either fate or the sword itself lead Raphtalia to the Temple of the Katana Hero, where a kindly shrine maiden risrobes her and dresses her in a Hero’s Regalia. Then Kazuki and his aides show up, insisting that she return what is rightfully his and he’ll give her a painless death.

Raphtalia, who is now back to her full size and can feel the power of the Katana coursing through her, warns Kazuki many times to simply leave, but he doesn’t listen. He siccs two replicas of a holy white tiger at her, but she dispatches them with ease.

When Kazuki still insists on going toe-to-toe with her, she delivers a strike that will only kill him if he moves. This is it: it’s happening; Raphtalia is no longer Naofumi’s servant or his sword. As she revealed when she first attained the Katana and was on the run, she wants to stand by his side as more of an equal, and has gotten her wish.

That said, even after defeating Kazuki, one more giant white tiger prepares to pounce on her, and she’s used up a lot of her strength on the previous attacks, all of which she used for the first time. Her expression is one of wisful regret and resignation as she wishes she could see Naofumi one last time before she dies.

But she gets her wish again: Naofumi shields her from the tiger, Filo kicks it, and Kizuna finishes it off with her hunting blade. Just like that, the band is back together, complete with newcomer Kizuna. Like the escape from the Labyrinth and Filo’s rescue, it feels a little rushed and easy, but it’s also a credit to this more episodic arc that keep things moving at a good clip and outings have satisfying beginnings, middles and ends.

With the party reunited and the number of Heroes tripled, I’m hoping they can avoid Kyou’s traps and put the jerk in his place soon.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Rising of the Shield Hero S2 – 07 – Sonny Girl

Naofumi’s arrival in another another world doesn’t turn out at all like I’d thought. Instead of being a fish out of water in Glass & Co’s backyard, he ends up in a prison with just Rishia. Both their levels have been reset to 1. Later, Raphtalia jumps out of a pile of hay, revealing that she’s reverted to her previous smaller self. The three may have been tanks in their isekai, but this place seems to follow an entirely different set of rules.

That said, the cell they’re in is unlocked and they still have their weapons (Raph’s sword is way too heavy for her), so they start exploring. They soon find a portal of light that takes them to an isolated island. The sea stretches to the horizon, where it glitches in and out. Instead they head into the jungle, where they slowly start to level up by defeating easy lesser monsters. There’s a refreshing feeling to this, like just starting out on a new JPRG.

When they find a body of fresh water and are attacked by a kappa that’s way too strong for any of them, it looks like they’re about to suffer an ignominious defeat and end up God-knows-where, but they’re saved, by none other than the “Hunting” Hero, Kazayama Kizuna. She’s voiced by Tomita Miyu, who along with Penkin makes this a welcome Abyss reunion.

Before Naofumi, Raph, and Rishia arrived, Kizuna was all alone in this place, which she calls the Infinite Labyrinth. She says she was trapped there by a hostile country, and has long since lost count of how many years it’s been. At one point she even considered suicide, but that was long enough ago that she can talk about it in a cheerful tone. For someone who’s been a alone so long, she’s remarkably well-adjusted and “normal”.

Naofumi proceeds to make an absolute mockery of the untold years she spent here, as the moment she shows them what she believes to be the edge of the Labyrinth, he comes up with a plan to bust them all out. He has her cultivate a Bio Plant Seed, which he then detonates right next to the portal none of them can move through.

The plant starts to grow, and with it the portal grows. I suppose this has the effect of thinning out whatever barrier kept them out of it, because once it reaches a certain size everyone is able to go through it. Naofumi, Raph, and Rishia call out to Kizuna to come with them, and she snags them with her fishing wire, hitching a ride through the infinite.

The four are spat out in a place Kizuna recognizes as the world where she was originally summoned, and as soon as she realizes she’s finally free of the Labyrinth, she leaps on Naofumi and spins around in giddy elation.

While the Labyrinth crisis was solved way too quickly and easily, I still enjoyed this trippy, slightly unnerving, yet fun bridge between the Tortoise arc and whatever’s to come. Similarly, while Kizuna was rapidly introduced and had to spout a lot of exposition (much of it rendered moot by their escape) Tomita made her effortlessly charming and rootable throughout.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Magia Record – 25 (Fin) – A Record No One Knows

Step One of the Magia Record finale: dig poor Tamaki Iroha out of the yawning chasm of despair into which she was cast by losing both Ui and Kuroe. First, Iroha shoots a Kyuubey or three in the face, not wanting to hear his platitudes about extending the universe. Harder to silence is her own doppel, who says she couldn’t save Ui or Kuroe because she didn’t ever truly know or understand them.

Iroha is no doubt in a bad way, but thanks to the timely arrival of Yachiyo and the rest of Mikazuki Villa, she’s able to share her pain and failures with them, just as they shared joy and happiness in brighter days. They connect with both hope and despair, sharing everything about each other. This maximum understanding means Iroha is able to conjure a giant crossbow airship that conveys the quintet to Embryo Eye.

Mikazuki and a huge army of magical girls manages to restrain Embryo Eye, while Iroha is able to fly through any and all obstacles to end up with her two remaining little sisters in her arms. Nemu and Touka insist she fall back, stay safe and let them keep her alive for a long, long time. But Iroha assures them more time won’t make her happy if it means they must sully their hands, or disappear. She wants to share as much time as they have left together.

While she’s finally able to get Nemu and Touka to stand down, the victory lasts only a few moments when we’re reminded that the wild card Alina Gray is still on the board, and crazier than ever. Of all the hundreds of magical girls deployed in this battle, it only takes one to muck everything up, and that’s Alina, who above all must be entertained and engrossed by art and excitement, even if it means sacrificing herself to merge her doppel with both Embryo and Walpurgisnacht.

Alina’s destructive actions threaten everyone, magical girl or not, and Iroha can’t hold Nemu and Touka back from doing what they can to stop her. In this case, that is summoning their own doppels, going into overdrive, then catching up with the Alina-Embryo Eye and destroying it before it can merge with Walpurgisnacht—sacrificing themselves in the process.

The resulting explosion turns everything white, and Yachiyo wakes up on a train in space, wondering if she’s dead. She’s soon joined by former villa sisters Mel and Kanae, and then by Momoko and Mifuyu. They tell Yachiyo they’re not ghosts, but fragments of their magic that live on within her. Thus is Yachiyo’s magical ability finally confirmed not as the power to survive by sacrificing friends, but the power to carry on their hopes.

After meeting with Ui and saying goodbye one last time (though Ui also says a part of her will remain with Iroha, specifically every time she experiences happiness), Iroha ends up in one last discussion with her doppel. But since she no longer fears her doppel, and has come to understand her, Iroha is able to remain in control, and even draw upon her doppel’s power, combined with Ui’s collective power, to connect each and every magical girl on the battlefield with glowing pink threads.

They’re not threads that collect despair, but seek understanding and sisterhood. One big happy magical girl family, all of whom know each other, and all of whom have a part of themselves in their others. She and Yachiyo connect and conjure a mammoth half-spear, half-crossbow bolt. Declaring that no matter how sad or regretful she gets, she’s going to keep living, Iroha fires the bolt, finishing the Alina-Eye off and dispursing Walpurgisnacht.

The clous part, the blue sky and gleaming sun bathes Iroha and Yachiyo in its warm light. The rest of Mikazuki Villa joins them, and they revel in their hard-fought victory. After the credits we see new occupants arriving at Mikazuki Villa in some undetermined but not necessarily distant future, with framed pictures of former tenants, including Yachiyo and her original group, as well as Iroha and her little sisters.

But they’re just photos of girls. As the girls in those photos narrate that nobody knows nor will know the struggles they faced, the sacrifices they made, the tears they shed and the blood they spilled. They won’t know they failed, were deceived, were stolen from, or that they fought each other, made up with each other, comforted each other.

The damage caused to the city is explained by a combination of earthquakes, typhoons, and terrorist attacks. What actually happened will never be recorded, and to the rest of humanity, magical girls and their record never existed.

It’s a expectedly sobering and haunting way to close the curtain on this bizarre world. But it doesn’t matter to Iroha if she was remembered, only that she got to be a magical girl, save people, and live and share in the lives of those she loved.

Magia Record – 24 – No Choice at All

As Alina Gray revels in the chaos Touka and Nemu have resumed (and paints a picture of it) and Yachiyo chases after Embryo Eye, Kyuubey calmly waxes philosophic about how he’s actually doing magical girls a favor, since their sacrifice is a small price to pay for, ya know, extending the life of the universe.

He also goes on about how “what is right” depends entirely on when you live in human history. In some times “justice” hast meant protecting the weak; in some times it has meant eliminating them to make humanity stronger.

Those lofty areas of rumination are of no interest to Iroha, who is now safely within Little Kyuubey, which means she finally gets to reunite with Ui. Her goal is to get out of there with Ui, but Ui tells her it’s too late for that. However bad a big sister Iroha believes herself to be, Ui believes she’s been a worse little sister.

She’s not herself anymore, and hasn’t been since she became a magical girl with Touka and Nemu. Unlike those two, Ui is content to admit they failed and gracefully back away (and say what you want about Kyuubey’s designs, the plan ws and is short-sighted at best).

Ui tells Iroha they must part, because while her story is over, Iroha still has a lot of people left to save, starting with Kuroe. Iroha breaks Iroha out of Little Kyuubey just when Kuroe’s doppel is overwhelming her. But while Iroha wants to save Kuroe, Kuroe doesn’t want to be saved, because she doesn’t believe she’s worth saving.

We finally learn why (or at least part of why) Kuroe feels that way. Whether she became a magical girl because Iroha did or for some other reason is not clear. However, once she became one, she was weak, and barely able to scrape by. But just as there’s always a bigger fish in the sea, there’s always a weaker magical girl.

When Kuroe meets one who is stuck in a witch’s labyrinth, she rescues her and the stray cat she meant to save. We never see this magical girl’s eyes or learn her name (nor does Kuroe). But when the girl asked for a spare grief seed, Kuroe lied and said she didn’t have one, when in reality she did have one to keep her above water.

Kuroe believes the choice she made back then was no choice at all. She went so far as to save that girl, only to abandon her to a longer, slower death. She has no idea what happened to her, but it’s likely to have been nothing good, considering her Soul Gem was already in bad shape.

So now, having had to say goodbye to her dear little sister, Iroha now finds herself trying to convince her friend that she can and should be saved. Kuroe is far from keen on the idea, especially as her darker side replaces that mystery girl with Iroha in her mind, thus upping her guilt and despair.

While she’s under the heavy emotional influence of her downer doppel, Kuroe decides she’ll make it so that she doesn’t have to save anyone and doesn’t need to be saved. Her doppel breaks through Alina’s barrier and she transforms into a full-on witch, Iroha watching helplessly as Kuroe’s blackened vestigial human body is torn to pieces.

As the witch soars out of earth’s atmosphere, likely up to no good at all, Iroha’s defeated face turns to one of grim duty and determination. If she couldn’t save Kuroe, she’ll at least put her out of her misery, and spare a great number of lives she’d claim as a witch. Three episodes into this four-part finale, I earnestly hope we’ve reached the lowest depths, and that Iroha and her remaining friends can soon begin to ascend from the shadows.

Attack on Titan – 86 – A Good Time to Die

Floch’s reinforcements are already on the way when Hange, Magath & Co. finally meet up with the Azumabito. That’s when the world’s scrappy last hope against Eren learns that the flying boat usually takes a whole day to service before it’s ready for flight. At best, they can shave it down to half a day, but Hange estimates they only have four days to stop the rumbling from destroying the entire world.

Kiyomi proposes they tow the flying boat to the Marleyan coastal city of Odiha (the map of which looks a lot like Tokyo on its side) where it can get serviced faster and more safely, but they have to get to the cargo ship and get it ready. As the logistic pile up, Mikasa informs Annie and Reiner, who are just barely holding the line as it is.

The ensuing battle is a sickening Eldian-against-Eldian bloodbath, with the Titans getting battered with lightning spears as th Jaegerist soldiers are carved up by Mikasa, Hange, Connie, and Jean. It must no doubt suck to have to kill so many of their own kind, but if they hesitate they’re the ones who’ll be killed, and it will be game over.

They have to fight, and kill, and slaughter in order to get to the next step, even if they have no idea where Eren is located. That means when push comes to shove, even Falco and Gabi aren’t spared from the fighting, as the former transforms into the Jaw Titan for the first time, while the latter fires the shot that finally takes Floch down…but is he really out?

Prior to his final charge, Floch’s reinforcements are approaching on a train…which is promptly blown up. By who, we don’t know, but there’s no time to worry about it. Once all of the Jaegerist soldiers are taken out, the battered Anti-Eren Alliance limps aboard the readied ship, and they sail off to meet their destinies.

As for Magath, he stays behind to scuttle the docked  Marleyan cruiser before more Jaegerist reinforcements arrive. On the way, his life is saved…by Shadis, who followed the alliance here, his heart moved by seeing his former students think and act for themselves and for the good of the world. Shadis and Magath realize that their stories must end here, and indeed go out in a massive blast that takes the cruiser off the board.

I can’t rule out whether Floch managed to stow aboard the ship bound for Odiha (it’s hard to believe that’s the last we’ve seen of such an annoying antagonist) but one thing’s for certain: the alliance is too late to save Liberio, which means Annie’s reason for fighting is gone (though unbeknownst to her, her dad is already dead).

Hange once again demonstrates their leadership by telling Annie and the others that they’re on that boat because Magath trusted them to save people whose names he’d never know. So Annie, tears in her eyes, asks Mikasa once more if, when the time comes, she’ll be able to kill Eren, or let her kill him.

All Annie is sure of is that she’s tired of fighting—with Mikasa, even with Eren. Hopefully they’ll all be able to live to see a time when the fighting’s over and they can rest. It won’t be long now.

SAKUGAN – 12 (FIN) – THICKER THAN BLOOD

The Big Twist that starts the SAKUGAN finale is that Memenpu actually is a “Rainbow Child”, a child with an exceptionally advanced brain. This not only explains why she’s a genius, but what the “place in her dream” is all about: it was never a dream, it was a memory. Rainbow Children retain vivid memories even from their infancy. As Rainbow Children were bred to be the guardians of the Labyrinth, they are anathema to Shibito, who want them all dead.

Fortunately, Muro’s boss doesn’t let her kill Memenpu right away, even though it’s debatable what if anything he intends to do with her before killing her. This gives the remaining members of Team Memenpu the time they need to zero in on her location and rescue her. It’s definitely a team effort, with Yuri using a second-hand computer in a store to guide Gagumber and Zackletu, then Zack distracting both Shibito and the Bureau with sheer ballistic chaos.

Gagumber locates Memenpu, but by then she’s been placed in a bell jar, which soon shatters due to the Animus dripping on top of it. Memenpu seems to be immune to its deleterious effects due to her Rainbow-ness. But by the time her pops arrives, Muro’s boss (I don’t believe we got his name) has convinced Memenpu that she has no father. Whether their surroundings were meant to evoke that same father-y scene from Empire, I don’t know.

All’s I know is, this Shibito guy is a huge prick for messing with Memenpu’s head, and for all her advanced intellect, Memenpu betrays just how sensitive and naïve she his, simply accepting the guy’s words about Gagumber not being her father. She even puts herself between the guy and Gagumber, offering up herself in exchange for her not-dad’s safety.

Gagumber, rightfully so, says fuck that, treading through the shallow pool of Animus to reach Memenpu, melting away his boots and burning his feet. He tells her he is, always was, and always will be her father, and she is, always was, and always will be his daughter. Whatever she wants to do and wherever it leads them, he’ll be by her side on her journey. Memenpu, realizing she does have a dad in Gagumber after all, has herself a good cry in his arms.

Seemingly moved by this dramatic and cathartic exchange, the Shibito boss decides to let Memenpu and Gagumber go…for now. Gagumber recharges Big Tony and they take the shortest route back to Dream Colony proper—by drilling through the colony’s retaining wall. There, Gagumber zeroes in on Muro and blasts her through a hole in the floor for making his daughter cry.

There’s a ceremony honoring Team Memenpu hosted by Merooro, but when he produces arrest warrants and the team is surrounded by Bureau cops and bots, Memenpu unleashes a cloud of purple smoke from Tony and the quartet escapes with the Bureau in hot pursuit. Not sure why Merooro held a ceremony just to arrest them, but whatevs.

Back on the Labyrinth “road”, Memenpu leads her team on their original mission: to find the place in her dreams, come what may. It’s what she truly wants to do, and that’s more than enough for Gagumber to accompany her, and by extension Zack and Yuri. It’s been fun watching this found family iron out their warts and beat the bad guys…fun enough that I’ll likely give the expected second season a watch.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sonny Boy – 12 (Fin) – Don’t Say Goodbye…

Sonny Boy’s finale begins boldly, with what amounts to a stirring five-minute music video. We follow Nagara, who has slipped right back into his usual existence. Things are so normal, he sometimes wonders if he was ever really adrift in the first place.

Notably absent from Nagara’s high school is Mizuho, whom Nagara looks up and waits outside her school’s gates, only for her to not have any idea who he is. You and I know how much Nagara grew while adrift with Mizuho, Nozomi, and Asakaze, and yet this world seems almost cruelly intent on keeping him isolated and alone.

His present existence back in his original world lies in stark contrast to the surreal, beautiful, and fantastical journey he and Mizuho undertake to get back to a world they’re certain hasn’t changed, even if they have. They tie themselves together, run out of the space elevator, and keep running, even when God tries to stop them. Asakaze bids them farewell, unable to follow even though there’s nothing left for him there.

The flashback to Nagara and Mizuho’s escape serves as a bridge between Nagara’s post-return life and Mizuho’s. Mizuho notes that “everything is gone” from the two-years-plus they were drifting. While Nagara has a part-time job, Mizuho spends her evenings sneaking into their old school and breaking a glass. But a cat doesn’t come delivering a new one; it just stays broken. That’s as it should be…so why is it so sad?

At least we learn that Mizuho was simply messing with Nagara when she pretended not to know him; maybe it was just that seeing him again got her old defenses up. And yet these two people who suddenly find themselves strangers in a simultaneously recognizable and unrecognizable world can’t help but spend time together, basking in both that contradiction and in the knowledge that the two of them are different from everyone else in terms of where they’ve been and what they’ve seen.

There’s a elegiac quality to their interaction, like they were the last surviving members of their unit in some long-finished war. Yet Nagara can’t help but worry that one day he’ll forget what he and Mizuho are feeling right now, and go adrift all over again. Before they part, possibly for good, Mizuho tells him as long as a part of him is still on that island, he’ll be fine. They’ll both be fine.

The episode ends with a third music video, focusing on Nozomi, but wordlessly, until we cut to Nagara preparing to inspect a bird’s nest at the station, only to find Nozomi has already rescued a surviving chick. Nozomi recognizes Nagara from middle school, but unlike him and Mizuho seems to have no other memories of their time in those other dimensions.

Ultimately, Nagara seems fine with that, and fine with the fact Nozomi quickly runs to another guy who I believe is Asakaze. It would seem that by dying in that world, Nozomi’s existence transferred to this one…or something. No matter; I too am glad she’s still alive, bringing light and energy to dark and sullen places.

What I’m not glad about is that this spells the end of Sonny Boy…or at least it should. This just felt like such a wonderfully self-contained and authoritative twelve episodes, my urge for a sequel is tempered. Like Nagara back in his home dimension, everything that should happen will happen.

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