Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 03

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As Shirayuki pays a visit to an overworked Zen and studies by his side as he catches up on some sleep, I’m reminded of a lovely scene from Whisper of the Heart in which the lead couple is simply quietly enjoying each other’s company in the library, exchanging looks of happiness and contentment. The connection is made stronger with orchestral music that calls to mind Nomi Yuji’s score from that film, one of my favorites.

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Things are peachy for Zen and Shirayuki…until, of course, they aren’t. Shirayuki isn’t kidnapped this week, but she is looked down upon by one of Zen’s liege lords, Haruka. A stern, authority and class-obsessed man, he will not tolerate Zen bringing in towngirls of low birth, and considers her hair color “vulgar”.

This guy has clearly painted a picture of a girl who wants to get something from the prince, and honestly believes he’s protecting the prince and his reputation, from her selfish feminine wiles. In other words…he’s a conclusion-jumping asshole.

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This asshole, and a lithe, ninja-like fellow named Obi he’s loosely allied with, conspire to keep Shirayuki out of the castle, but she manages to get back in before they warn the guards, to grab a book she forgot in the prince’s chambers. Once she realizes people who don’t speak for Zen and aren’t acting according to his will are messing with her, and her answer to that is to simply blow past them.

When Lord Haruka bars her way and tells her to leave, she invites him to join her to meet with Zen. He then draws his sword and names her an intruder…but asshole he may be, he doesn’t follow through on his threat to cut her. In fact, he seems downright flummoxed by Shirayuki’s utterly badass defiance. Despite having a sword in her face, she keeps advancing, until Haruka can only sheathe it, defeated.

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It is as Prince Zen told him: this girl is not the kind of girl to continually rely on the strength of others. She has her own strength, too, and she means to use it to become Court Herbalist so she can enter the gates of her own accord. She may be low-born (at least as far as we know), but Haruka saw a nobility in her resolve.

One could say her birth and her hair make Shirayuki someone who “makes enemies easily”, like Zen. But she couldn’t call Haruka an enemy, nor he her, because he didn’t know her, or what she was really doing in the castle. Now he knows: Shirayuki is a resolute badass.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 02

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The OP presages Shirayuki as a Court Herbalist of Clarines, but we’re not quite there yet; this episode opens on her job hunt as a new resident of Wistal, capital of Clarines. She learns there’s an annual exam to become a Court Herbalist, but she wants to educate herself about the herbs of Clarines, knowing that good medicines need good herbs need good land.

Prince Zen is delighted to get out of stodgy paperwork when she visits the palace, and he escorts her to the dock where she’ll travel to the mountain isle Koto to explore, but not before Zen remarks how their desire to learn more about their world and become better at what they do is very similar.

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But when two townsfolk talk about how unusual Shirayuki’s hair is (and what it could make them if sold), along with Shirayuki saying “she’ll be back by nightfall”, it’s pretty much a given that things aren’t going to turn out peachy for her on this trip. Sure enough, she’s captured by a young rogue named Mihaya, who—you guessed it—wants to make money off that hair.

Just when I was hoping Shirayuki would attempt escape as soon as she could, she does just that, sawing at the ropes, locking Mihaya in the cell, then using her knowledge of herbs to make a smoke that temporarily paralyzes him. This captivity represents a roadblock on Shirayuki’s self-decided road, with a detour to a road not of her choosing. And she simply isn’t gonna have it.

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She makes it out of the seemingly abandoned, labyrinthine castle, only to get cornered once more by Mihaya, who is now pissed off. He then gives her patter about how he’ll sell her to someone rich so she can live a comfy life of luxury. Unlike the last time she was kidnapped (by Prince Raj), she doesn’t give in, replying with a “Fuck That Noise” expression.

For this defiance, she’s about to take whatever punishment Mihaya is about to dish out, when Zen appears in the nick of time, which is just when we thought he’d arrive. Yes, the guy is rescuing the girl again, but Shirayuki is hardly a damsel in distress, demonstrating she did everything an unarmed person could have done in her situation. Also, she made things a lot easier for Zen by escaping from the castle.

I’d like to think if Zen hadn’t been able to make it, Shirayuki would have kept fighting Mihaya until she either escaped his clutches or he let her go out of exasperation. That’s how much faith I place in Shirayuki’s strength and resolve to travel her own path. She’s a fighter. I really like her!

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Zen also makes it clear, he’s saving Shirayuki not so he can use her as a tool, or a means to recoup a lost family fortune like Mihaya (I don’t particularly care about his story, he abducted someone, he deserves prison), but because he considers himself Shirayuki’s friend. And friends help their friends out when they’re in trouble.

Sure, I can see things being taken further than friendship, but like Shirayuki’s appointment to the Court, that’s yet to come. For now, Shirayuki resolves to watch her back, as her hair really does cause trouble; yet I like how there’s no discussion of dyeing it. Shirayuki isn’t trying to hide, she’s trying to better herself and live a free and fulfilling life doing what she loves.

Even before her trusty friends show up, those who threaten he freedom will find her a wily, resourceful handful. Bottom line: don’t mess with someone who doesn’t want to be messed with…and knows fifty ways to poison you!

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 15

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I LOL’d. Most undignified space shower ever!

Hannah has seen fit to relinquish Gundam G to me alone (THE POWAH…) just when things seem to be picking up.

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And by picking up I mean RARA’S A REAL PERSON NOW. Rara has been such a wasted comic relief mascot up to this point (and Noredo has been resigned to babysitter), it’s fantastic finally listening to her using proper grammar prattling on about proper noun-heavy random stuff just like everyone else.

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Is that so? I’ll bet that mythical creature had a better haircut. If Towasanga has cheerleaders, I bet they accidentally grab his head all the time.

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SUUUURRRGGE!

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No, YOU don’t surge, Aida…you hang back and keep an eye on the Megafauna. Oh, and hey, make the boys some sandwiches while you’re at it! Seriously, all Aida ever does is hang back. I know she’s not a very good mobile suit pilot, but that begs the question, why is she piloting a mobile suit? Put Rara in one.

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Happa equips the G-Self with the Assault Pack, which is designed to UNLEASH HELL and make Bell a much bigger target. Happa quips that even an idiot can use it. Well, that’s not really a quip. Bell is an idiot, he’s just an idiot whose biology happens to work really well with mobile suits. A kind of “flesh battery”, if you will; a necessary evil…though I bet Happa wishes he could just control G-Self by remote.

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OMG YES. Not ‘Yes you can keep playing around’, but ‘Yes, Rara is piloting the captured mobile suit. Lest we forget, she was G-Self’s original pilot, and was capable enough that they sent her on a very important forward mission in it. She’s got skills (unlike Aida); she’s just probably rusty.

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Aw screw it…FIRE EVERYTHING!!!

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Bell is in full Destruction Mode, with a slight adjustment: he’s constantly asking his targets not to die once he fires at them. Mind you, they can’t hear him. He’s just saying this so he can sleep at night.

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Then again, long-range targets he can’t see or hear and tries not to blow up entirely means no faces of those he’s killed when he closes his eyes! Oh, and the Alincato? Another piece of tech introduced just this week that turned out to be a dud against the G-Self. Even the suit models chosen over the experimental G-Self (which Rara says was really called the “YT-111”) have trouble with Bell. He’s a machine.

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Rusty Rara takes it slow, since she’s still technically in developmental rehab, and aids the Megafauna’s defense. Still, even a little action is good to see, and I hope we see more of it.

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The heck is that thing? Looks like a giant finger bone wrapped with lots of gold watches. And it’s gi-normous. The moon was apparently blocking it all this time, but I’m surprised it doesn’t exert tidal forces of its own.

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Nah, it’s probably fine.

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See? It was only a trap for those who entered through Port I, Klim and Mick!

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The Megafauna enters through Port IV, and end up in Rara’s neighborhood, which is home to some kind of Towasanga resistance. I’m sure we’ll be pummeled with more info on that next week.

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 14

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Would Gundam take the Christmas week off? Not a chance! Besides, in the SU-Cordist calendar, Christmas is called Schmistmas and it takes place on Flancember the 46th!

Still, I found it highly amusing that while showing off their new threads Noredo mentions how there are ‘no decent stores’ because this is…ahem…‘holy ground’…

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…And the camera cuts to Aida’s new cocktail dress. First of all, Noredo was lying about there being no decent stores (unless Aida made that red number). Second: how is this appropriate dress on so-called holy ground? Maybe Holy Ground is the name of Sankt Porto’s hottest nightclub?

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Ya hear that, Bell? You gotta do better than “You look nice” when a woman goes to the trouble of contorting herself into a garment of that caliber.

The juxtaposition of Noredo’s holy ground line with the dress makes me wonder if each character’s dialogue is written by a different writer, not knowing what lines the others are writing. If this is the case it’s a novel process, if a bit of a crapshoot.

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I guess even Aida thought her dress was a bit risque for the diplomatic talks, so the next time we see her she’s dressed normally, even though Rara and Noredo are still rocking their new threads (or did the animator forget what Aida was supposed to be wearing?)

Never mind, though…the sight of the delegation from the Moon not only sparks Rara’s memories, but she starts talking in full sentences with proper syntax! This is an awesome development, because the non-talking Rara has become more of a shrug-inducing afterthought than Bellri’s compliments.

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I liked how the quartet left in the middle of the meeting, because it was so damn boring. They even bump into Manny, if only for a moment, in which she tells them she’s a soldier now and she has to go! Hey, you went up to them!

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Manny just wants to be close to Mask at all times, perhaps sensing he’s really her boyfriend Luin, or maybe just has a thing for masks. In any case, she gets a tender moment with him (about as tender as you can get when separated by glass), but then BARARAAA calls him over and the two have a little twirl and Manny is JELLY.

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Yes, only then will you get to spend even more time with that ineffectual blowhard, whom you’ll have to take orders from even though you’d probably by a better pilot. Aim higher, Manny!

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Manny has a point though…whether it’s Mask and BARARAAAA, Bell and Aida, or Klim and Mick here, all the couples seem to be mobile suit partners.

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Mick has even started emulating Klim’s in-cockpit monologue style…

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…though she’s a few decades too early to think about taking his throne in that arena.

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Meanwhile, back in his G-Self, Bell is all about the murderin’ this week. He even counts off his kills: “One horrific death, ah-ah-ah! Two horrific deaths, ah-ah-ah!” It’s all good; he can’t see the pilots inside. No nightmares for him!

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Although interestingly, one of the Towasanga pilots puts up his hands and drops his weapon, and Bell somehow manages to stop his killing blow in time to save him. That was close, as the pilot was out of his cockpit, and while Bell has no problem killing people, the sight of blood makes him woozy!

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Can’t argue with that! But what’s with the slingshot? What is she, Denise the Menace?

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Not sure what Bell was grabbing for there, but it’s seriously great news that as they approach her home on the moon, Rara is finally talking and identifying the others by name. It’s almost like she’s going to start being a character…instead of a vapid mascot!

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Oh great…another ambiguous romance. And does the blondie let his five-year-old niece cut his hair, or what? No matter. This was not a bad episode, and we have the whole moon to look forward to next time.

It even ended with one of the more pointed, true-to-character, Gundam-y exchanges between Aida, Bellri and Noredo, which I’ll leave you with.

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Well said, all of you! All that was missing was a hearty “Chuchumy!” from Rara, for old time’s sake.

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 13

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She does? Well that’s good. What’s also good: I think kinda understand the situation too! Representatives of Capital Tower and Ameria find themselves at Sankt Porto, faced with a common enemy from the Moon. The two entities that have been warring all this time are better off forming a united front against this enemy.

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To that end, the grown-up have to talk it out and discuss the wherefores and particulars and whatnot…

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Hey Bell, this is boring, right? How ’bout we head back out into space and kick some mobile ass!

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RED RUM. RED RUM.

Rara may understand the situation, but it’s still tricky to understand her, or her sudden and cryptic reactions to things. And her vocabulary remains shockingly limited.

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Well, yeah. What are you fogeys going to do…talk the enemy to death? Actually, that might work.

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I like how Kerbes Yoh is the voice of reason in wondering why Bell is going into battle with two civilians stuffed into his cockpit. For their part, Neither Noredo nor Rara want to leave, and Bell is so used to being surrounded by girls in his cockpit that it would have never occured to him to drop them off somewhere safe.

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A tender moment between Mask and BARARA. Of course, he’s telling her they’ll only go so far in their cooperation with the Amerians. If the opportunity arises to get the upper hand on them, they’ll take it. Bara likes how he’s thinking.

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Bell and Aida board the Garanden under a flag of truce, and they’re surprised to find their old friend Manny there, she having followed Luin but lost track of him, probably because now he wears a mask, making all his other distinguishing features invisible to the eye (apparently).

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It’s actually a pretty cool sight to see the Capital Mack Knifes in a joint formation with the G-Self and other various suits, then meeting up with Klim and his sidekick. As the moon fleet sends negotiators to Sankt, Klim decides to use a false white flag to get closer to them.

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It doesn’t work at all, and I’m glad it doesn’t, because it means these Moonies are your typical idiotic tacticians. They launch a torrent of missles at the joint formation, but all are deflected or destroyed, and everyone retreats back to the port. The Moonies cease fire, not wanting to hit the port.

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This leads to maybe one of the best moments in the show, when everyone who had been battling each other all this time, for various purposes (or due to outright misunderstandings) all end up in the same elevator together. The line above really says it all.

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Alright…WHO FARTED? I’m lookin’ at you, Maskie.

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From the elevator, everyone eventually files into a large audience chamber where Aida’s Dad, Bell’s Mom, and His Holiness are already talking things over with the Moonies, and again you get the feeling the youths would rather be somewhere else shooting or punching something. In fact, a fistfight does almost break out between Klim and one of the Moon pilots, but Bell comes between them.

Oh, Klim also is the first to say “reconguista” in the show, because of course he is.

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Ultimately, Aida isn’t going to take the Moonies by their many many boring words. She wants to spring back into action, which means heading to the moon herself and seeing what she sees with eyes unclouded by the motives of other parties. So that’s where she and Bell and likely the rest of the gang are headed next week.

Entering it’s second half, Recon in G is finally starting to make some doggone sense! But the plot still didn’t interest me so much as all the lovely reluctant alliances and strange bedfellows created this week.

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 12

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Raraiya Monday is upset about the G-Self being saddled with an Assault Pack, ostensibly because she doesn’t want the G used for battle…which begs the question, what should it be used for? Was was she up to in it? When will she remember? Maybe sooner than I think; maybe not.

In any case, hitting her with a slingshot-propelled sneeze bomb? I like how Noredo thinks! If only her character had a purpose beyond tagging along beside Bellri and Rara-sitting.

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Meanwhile, Klim, who everyone calls “Genius Klim” this week despite the fact he is not a genius (maybe it’s an inside joke?), has an audacious plan to occupy the Sankt Porto, the highest nut of Capital Tower, holiest site of CU Cordism, and the distribution center for all photon batteries. His reason is, for once, pretty simple: he, and by extension America, wants a piece of the action.

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No you won’t. They’re way, way ahead of you, strategically speaking. You’re just going to fight another pointless battle and retreat, like you always do, because you’re a dreadful disappointment of a nemesis, yes you are!

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Klim is talking rather insensitively about Aida here, and while I can’t say he’s wrong, he could say the same of Mask. Klim himself is not particularly capable either, but at least he’s good and loud and cocky!

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Ummm…not so sure about that, Bunny Lady: there is this thing called anti-aircraft warfare. I’m sure there is a SPACE version of it.

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But you have let them, and continue to let them! And why are you spinning around like that? Are you remotely serious about anything? 

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Okay. Now this was kind of out of left field. Sankt Porto is, I suppose, a holy religious site that many on Earth believe will curse you if you try to enter. But Bellri’s outrage seems so out of left field. I mean, didn’t he know there was going to be a battle around the very place where they were headed? There’s always a battle!

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Even more confusing is AIda’s reaction to Bell’s reaction. She acts as if she forgot he was super-sensitive about fighting near Sankt Porto. But she didn’t forget, because that was never a thing. Bell is just making up character traits as he goes along! And what’s with the persistent lack of romantic development?

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I like this guy. I’ll bet he has to refocus the captain’s attention all the time like this. The captain’s probably writing an anime blog or something. These guys are such amateurs!

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Huh…who know Bellri was into mobile bondage?

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Wait…does she know where she’s going?

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A WARNING.

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Oh wow look: another force of nincompoops! At least their fleet and gridlike moon development looks pretty cool. Here is the long-sought ‘threat from space’, which is really a threat from the moon. Maybe this is where Raraiya is from? Could they give her a pill or something so that she can be a cohesive person? Please?

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WHOA. (Kerbes) Yoh. Sloh your rolhl, Broh. That ain’t cool.

I’m probably being overoptimistic; these are the bad guys, and it’s likely both Ameria and Capital will team up to fight them. And by ‘fight’ I mean more engage-and-retreats of dubious effect using newly-developed, oddly-named mobile suits and accessories that come out of nowhere. Looking forward to it!

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 11

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I held out hope that space would be a kind of clarifying salve for Recon in G; a fitting venue to restore some measure of structure and cohesion to the story after going astray or running into dead ends down on the surface. Something that would encourage me to do more than simply snark-watch.

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But that was only false hope, a fool’s hope; for all who watch this show are fools. But like Mask, I shall embrace my failures and continue to be handsomely rewarded for them!

This week, the G-Self applies SPACE LOTION to Megafauna. But because its pilot Bellri was Bred For Combat and not piddling manual labor, he struggles with even this relatively simple procedure and must be watched like a hawk lest he smash a hole in the ship.

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None of this has anything to do with anything, Bell’s Mom. This is the credo of Recon in G.

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Poor Deck Scruber Fifth Class Manny Ambassada. It’s clear from Mask/Luin’s interactions with Barara the Eureka Seven Reject that the two are sleeping together. Just look at that foot caress. I’ll bet she gives great mask.

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Aida’s Dad (Is it Aida’s Dad? I can’t keep track of all the olds) makes one hell of an entrance, crashing a ship-launching ceremony, and proceeds to have a very public argument about how to proceed with the man at the lectern, whose name is President Zucchini and is apparently Klim’s Dad. The crap these two spew wouldn’t be out of place in that horrible senate babble scene in Star Wars Episode I.

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Either this is an air show, or a very expensive music video is about to start. But no matter what anyone says, I think eleven members is just too many for a rock band!

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Pray, would that be experience as a BODACIOUS Space Pirate, or just a Regular one? Ya know what, forget it. Just stay in the ship and don’t do anything, Princess.

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That line was old in the sixties, man. Get new material.

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DON’T ENCOURAGE HIM! Whoever you are.

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Bellri is face-to-face with his nemesis for the first time, and this is his first observation. Never change, Bellri.

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NOW you’ve done it; he’s never going to shut up! He’s quite proud of that mask. If only it actually helped him win a battle, which he still has yet to do. Probably should have stayed in his cockpit. Why exactly was EVA necessary here? Seemed like a ridiculously unwarranted risk.

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I’m not the biggest fan of Mask’s weird Mack Knife mobile suit with its splaying legs. After getting kicked in the balls by G-Self, I’ll bet Mask isn’t either! How many times now has this state-of-the-art suit gotten its ass handed to it. Now it’ll have to sing “Mack the Knife” in soprano.

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I know that’s the name of his fairy-like comrade, but from the way Mask belts it out it seems like BARARA! is also a curse word.

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LOL YOU’RE JUST REALIZING THIS NOW? Go home you’re drunk Rara.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 09

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Oh Princess Mecha Sexy Violent Exploitation Adventure: this was not one of your best weeks. You either tried to make everyone betray Ange and Hilda, on every possible level, in order to drive our sympathy for these rain-soaked girls to the maximum level, or you tried to make fun of anime that use such melodramatic ham to control our emotions.

In either case, you were a hopeless failure, sad girls crying in the rain and all.

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The Rundown: Hilda goes home to her mom and finds out her mom has had another daughter who she’s also named Hilda, everyone freaks out, Hilda runs away and gets beaten up by cops while crying in the rain.

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Meanwhile, Ange and her maid raid Ange’s high school lacrosse locker room but are discovered by Ahiko, a former team mate. Ahiko betrays Ange, twice, but Ange still manages to fight all the way to the castle, where she is then betrayed by her little sister Sylvia and captured by her evil brother Julio.

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The Good: if you’ve wanted to see people comically freak out over hot girls, then this week’s for you. Hilda’s Mom’s replacement baby, Hilda’s mom obviously calling the cops even though she has no reason to, Ange’s sister stabbing Ange in the arm, it’s all there.

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Likewise, if you don’t like Ange much, it was nice to see her tactics fail constantly. However, It was also fun to see Ange kill a decent number of people with no concern at all.

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The Not-So-Good: we got two flashbacks this episode, and one of those flashbacks was so absurdly soon after the event it flashed back to, it felt like a joke. Otherwise, the entire episode was a cheap mess of over-the-top acting, super betrayals and an out of nowhere evil plan by Ange’s big brother.

Really? The whole message to Arzenal was a trap to get Ange to…escape from Arzenal…so they could capture her? Oh shut up!

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The Verdict: This was a stupid episode fueled by cheap emotions and storytelling clichés and what’s even worse is it as much as tells us Tusk will save Ange from her fate next week because He’s The Man, Dog! Yay.

It scores extra points for Hilda’s mom throwing the cherished apple pie at Hilda but it loses as many for not thinking the details through. I mean, I can’t be the only one who wonders where Hilda’s dad is in all of this. EITHER Hilda’s dad, for that matter…

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 10

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Turns out Lt. Yoh is on Bell and Aida’s side, and he’s not arresting them, he’s getting them out of the Capital in a hurry, so the Megafauna can escape into space. The Capital Army wants the Megafauna, G-Self, and Raraiya Monday to themselves. So off they go on those extremely uncomfortable-looking F-Rugs!

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Meanwhile, some Tintin-villain-looking politcian dude is unveiling yet another new mobile suit; in the middle of a party night, no less! From what I’ve seen of Gundam, it has a strange habit of unveiling new equipment and weapons on both sides out of thin air, and at an impossibly quick pace. Why is it we’ve never heard so much as a whisper about Wuxias before? Or the G-Self’s new flight pack? Or Mask’s Elf Bull earlier?

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She’s a princess, dude…she has to do that. And what’s with the actresses’ girlfriends being all up in the shot there on the right? GET THEM OUT OF THE SHOT!

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In any case, the Caps have new suits and Bell has a new pack and they’ve got to skedaddle. Bell’s Mom and Aida’s Dad remain with the SU-Cordism Pope, with Director Zenam arranging for Surgan to return safely to Ameria. The Capital Army is at odds with the Guard, with the latter willing to help the ‘pirates’ out.

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…Yes, as opposed to the World of Women, where you have three choices for employment: housewife, secretary, or cheerleader. This is The Future, after all: naturally gender roles will devolve to the 1950s, because that makes perfect sense!

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Get some guys to yell and hold up their guns, and the ladies can’t help but break out the pom-poms, followed by white wine spritzers and a Tupperware party! Seriously…why are there no female Wuxia pilots? Or female Capital Guard cadets?

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Oh KNOCK IT OFF already! Yes, Aida is an important person who ideally shouldn’t be on the front lines where she could get killed, and she’s shown she’s not the best in aerial combat, but she’s not some delicate flower to be coddled. I wish the show would stop undermining her agency.

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In this case, Aida buys crucial time for the Megafauna by launching of her own volition, because Bell is delayed by G-Self’s new mods. What she did was stupid and reckless, but it was also necessary, and it would have been just as stupid and reckless if Bell had done what she did.

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So, so that IS what this is about!

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Speaking of reckless, Bell is sent out with the torque pack, which packs a punch (blowing past a sloth was a neat little moment) and proves loud, bright, and hard to control. But in a nifty bit of improv tactics, he removes the pack and uses it as a big loud decoy for the Wuxia holding Aida hostage, allowing him to sneak up from behind and lay a beatdown on him.

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So Bellri ends up rescuing Aida once again, but at least it could be considered paying her back for sortieing and buying time for him to launch, not to mention stopping the Wuxias from blowing up the ‘Fauna’s bridge!

While Bell talks of love with regard to Aida and he takes another admiring look at her when the battle is over, it’s still unclear what makes these two a couple, besides their physical attractiveness and propensity to have each others’ backs. Maybe that’s enough, but it’s not that compelling.

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What’s more interesting than that slow-burn romance is the fact that the ‘Fauna is finally in SPACE. Surely we’ll learn more about the ominous ‘threat’ that lurks up there. The Capital Army and Mask are in pursuit, and I’m sure a lot more all new and improved technology will be hastily rolled out before all’s said and done.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 08

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Aw, sucks to be the only Norma who has to stay on duty…

I won’t lie…I was kind of dreading this episode. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, it wasn’t that bad at all. But why don’t I let Ange herself give us a quick synopsis, speaking as the mascot “Perolina”:

It’s the long-awaited swimsuit episode, pero. But there were only a few slurpy scenes, pero. Running pigs, stinky outfits, and a great escape, pero! Do they really know what a swimsuit episode is, pero? You’re just making me make funny noises, aren’t you? Pero!

I love Ange’s little meta commentaries after the episodes. In addition to being funny, they prove the show has a cheeky sense of awareness that knows when it’s being exploitative and knows when to pull back on the fanservice throttle, for instance, and give us some meat and potatoes.

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Yes, even in Hell, there’s a day off for hope, fun, and happiness, if only one. I’m not averse to this concept; at some point, all the Norma in Arzenal will snap and go nuts and probably cause a great deal of damage…if not given some kind of release valve. Granted other valves already exist — from the marketplace to spend one’s earnings to tacitly permitting conjugation. But the Festa is a day long deep-scrub of all the crap that’s been built up. I daresay the ladies deserve it.

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Ange mentioned a great escape, though. There are actually two that take place this week, and these events thankfully push the Festa into the background where it’s more than tolerable. The first is borne out of Ange’s totally understandable depression over the plight of her sister Sylvia. Initially she believes there’s nothing she can do, but an opportunity presents itself when Misty Rosenblum, whose family administrates Arzenal and who once played lacrosse with Ange a lifetime ago, arrives on the island to meet Ange.

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Ange isn’t the only one not into the spirit of the Festa. Emma seems to resent giving these filthy barbaric Norma a day of sun and fun, and stays stubbornly in her duty uniform, as this isn’t her festa. I liked this little exchange while she was searching for Ange, because it underlines her disapproval with this whole exercise.

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Ange, meanwhile, has shrewedly hidden herself within the Perolina suit, wanders off to the flight deck, scares off a couple of lovers, and broods in peace. Then she spots the Rosenblum crest on the transport ship and hatches a plan: she’ll take Misty hostage and force her to fly her off the island, so she can find Sylvia.

This is important for Ange not just because it’s her little sister, but because Ange blames herself for paralyzing Sylvia when she fell from a horse during a ride. When she though Sylvia was dead she was content to be Ange, but she’s not, so she has to try to save her.

But Ange wasn’t the first person to come up with this plan: Hilda, who has been just as sullen at the Festa, has been waiting for this day to escape.

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Contrast that with Ersha, who suited up as Pero first and then gets a massage, or Salia, who avails herself of the cinema, pop culture aficionado that she is. And then there’s Chris and Roselie, who deal with Hilda avoiding them after they ‘betrayed’  her, in different ways.

Roselie washes her worries in gambling, but Chris decides to put everything into winning all the sporting events and a fat prize check so she can spend it with Roselie…and Hilda. It’s a great character beat for Chris, who we haven’t seen much of, but who genuinely cares about Hilda.

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Speaking of cash, Ange leaves enough to cover the weapons she’s taking aboard the ship (which are guarded by a dog easily bribed by a tub full of cheeseburgers, the functional equivalent of diverting a pursuing dog with a string of wieners).

Ange and Misty arrive at the ship to find Hilda and Momoka already there, and that’s when Hilda suggests they team up, for a better chance of getting away. Ange grudgingly agrees when Hilda points out the arresting locks need to be unlocked to take off.

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After a nifty, carefully-coordinated operation in which they wait until the noisy fireworks start, they get the transport moving. Now Hilda just needs to catch up with it and jump aboard…something Ange isn’t so sure she wants to allow after all.

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“CURSE YOUR SUDDEN BUT INEVITABLE BETRAYAL!”

When Ange starts goading Momoka to take off without Hilda, something that doesn’t sit right with the still morally pure maid, Hilda forces the issue and makes a desperate leap onto the ramp, and we learn the truth about Hilda: everything she’s done, from becoming Zola’s plaything to befriending Roselie and Chris to planning this escape, she’s done to get back home to her mother. She’s going to get off this rock or die trying. At the last moment, Ange lends her an outstretched arm to prevent her from dying, and their alliance holds. And all this in flip-flops!

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Once they reach land, they ditch Misty and the transport quickly, Hilda unearths her motorcycle, and then heads off on her own to the Enderant Union to find her mom, but not before an exchange of respectful looks and promises not to die. While they were bitter enemies at Arzenal, finally putting aside their differences led to their freedom. But how long will that freedom last?

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Aldnoah.Zero – 06

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The Orbital Knights of Vers got what they wanted: an official declaration of war by their emperor. Upon hearing this news, quite a few mecha protagonists would gnash their teeth and tighten their fists in indignation, but Inaho just shoots Asseylum a look that says “Well, looks like your plan went nowhere, Princess!”

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With the war resuming, Captain Magbaredge and the ragtag combination of crew, trainees, and civilians, has little choice but to run and hide where they doubt the Martians would bother them: Tanegashima, an uninhabited land scarred by Heaven’s Fall. It’s a homecoming for Lt. Marito, as that’s where he and his friend Humeray fought Vers kataphrakts with obsolete tanks 15 years ago; a fight only Marito survived.

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Adding fuel to his fire of guilt, Darzana discloses that Humeray was her brother and she blames Marito for his death. I must say I wasn’t expecting that kind of connection between him and what seemed like a side character, but I did enjoy that whole scene of the three adults drinking on the flight deck.

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AZ continues its trend of keeping the peril cranked up and not giving its underdog heroes much of a respite. They could have done a momentum-killing rest episode of mostly character work and it probably would have been just fine, but AZ’s got things to do, so we meet the first female Orbital Knight, someone who apparently was interested in planting her flag on a ruin.

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In fact, it’s that calm, reflective drinking scene on the flight deck she interrupts by launching the four arms of her kataphrakt at the Terran ship like missiles. Even HE rounds won’t penetrate her armor, and the most they can do after Morito himself jumps in the cockpit of a Kat (and after having another panic attack) is to deflect her arms with the blast force of heavy ordinance. Even then, they’re on the verge of defeat when Inaho runs out of bullets.

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They’re saved in the knick of time by Slaine, freshly escaped from Cruhteo and looking for the orange trainee Inaho favors. Now, even if most of them don’t know it yet, the Terrans have the only one on Earth who can control Aldnoah tech (Asseylum), and the son of the lead researcher (Slaine). Combined with the cool-as-a-cucumber Inaho, the vengeful sister, and the functioning alcoholic vet, there’s a nice team coming into focus.

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Stray Observations:

  • I liked how Yuki told Inaho to address her as Warrant Officer Kaizuka on the ship, but when they’re in the cockpit, she allows “Yuki-nee”, which is as good a callsign as any.
  • The rivalry between Slaine and Inaho begins before they formally meet, as Inaho corrects Asseylum on why Earth’s sky is blue; Asseylum having been taught by Slaine.
  • Saazbaum brings up wanting to interogate Slaine now, when Slaine is on the run? Great timing, guy.
  • Even upside down, or out of ammo, Inaho stays cool.
    “Wait…We’re not dead?” Oh Inko…please don’t die!

Kill la Kill – 21

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This show’s propensity to ratchet the intensity to dizzying elevations and then keep it up there for weeks is unparalleled this season; nothing else comes remotely close. This whole episode was a case in point: it never takes its foot off the gas for a minute, and yet there’s somehow ample fuel to spare. In the case of the stakes involved and the dwindling options of the good guys, it may just have been the most stressful yet exhilarating episode yet, and we could tear our eyes away any more then Junketsu could be easily torn from Ryuko’s body.

Frankly, after watching Ryuko’s wild ride, we started to wonder if it would have been preferable if Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader was strictly a matter of the suit making him evil. That’s certainly what goes on here: Ryuko’s rage and self-loathing give Junketsu the opening it needs to wear her completely (that and Ragyo and Nui made sure it was altered to her unique and exacting biology). What’s more, Junketsu continues to mess with Ryuko’s mind as it wears her, lifting the weights of her lifelong emotional burdens and just making her feel better than she ever has.

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However, as Satsuki neatly puts it, it’s only the bliss of slavery, and Ryuko is one more human (or at least half-human) brought under the heel of the Life Fibers, who are mobilizing for world conquest now that Revocs has achieved 100% market share. Wearing Senketsu despite being unable to communicate directly, Satsuki puts up a hell of a fight, especially when you consider she’s been hanging by her fingernails without food or water for untold days. The battle is everything we had hoped for; moreso, since Satsuki isn’t simply dueling with Ryuko out of her own pride and honor.

That’s because she never intended to defeat Ryuko with Senketsu alone. Ever the well-prepared big sister playing a game of chess, she reveals herself as nothing but bait to lure Ryuko into the right spot at the right time so the Elite Four can maneuver her into a position of vulnerability. The gambit fails, but it’s one hell of a good try. Satsuki creates one last opening, through which Senketsu and Mako slip into Ryuko’s consciousness—don’t sweat the metaphysical details.

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Once in there, Ryuko’s about to get married to Junketsu once and for all, but Mako bursts in, Hollywood style. With her there in color and the dreamworld in monochrome, confined to a small frame within the frame tangled with life fibers, it feels far more like a prison than a paradise. When Mako tells Ryuko to go ahead and kill her, and with a casual flick of her scissor, Ryuko appears to do just that, for a moment our hearts sank. Puppet slave or no, there’d be no coming back for Ryuko if that happened.

As it happens, the act merely ejects Mako and Senketsu out of there. It’s only when Nui gets that same scissor through her sternum that we learn they were successful in cutting the strings after all. And yet again, a conflict that could have carried many an excellent show to the end is essentially resolved when the old Ryuko emerges from the tatters of Junketsu. This show is moving way to fast for the Evil Ryuko to be the final plot. There’s still a world to save from the Life Fibers, after all. Maybe at last the new-found sisters will work together side-by-side.


Rating: 10

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Stray Observations:

  • Needless to say, this episode is your usual Kill la Kill Klinik of imaginative angles, expressions, body-positions, explosions, and giant floating letters.
  • Mako’s performance art-like “explanations” (always beginning with “Hallelujah!”) have been a comic standby for one time, but they’re employed well here and have yet to get old.
  • They’ve had inferior resources for a while now, but you’ve gotta rally behind the tenacity and teamwork of the Elite Four (plus Shirou).
  • The explanation for why Senketsu is “skimpier” than Junketsu is the same reason Nudist beach don’t wear clothes: less surface contact with the skin means the human wearer is less likely to fear enslavement. MAKES SENSE TO US.
  • Call us crazy, but we’re starting to feel some sympathy for Harime Nui’s plight. While she’s a similar hybrid being to Ryuko, she’s unable to synch with any clothing. In the same vein, for her whole life she’s been a servant of Ragyo, unable to synch with anyone else, or with a normal life, for that matter. If the show intends to redeem rather than destroy her, it’s a transformation we’d be interested in seeing. Ragyo is probably a lost cause, however.
  • If you han’t noticed by now…Yes, we are no longer rating this showIt is rating us.

Kill la Kill – 20

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Episode the Twentieth: Wherein Ryuko, crying bitter tears inside, abjures Senketsu, Mako, and the others to go alone to Honnouji to destroy Harime Nui and Ragyo; in which Satsuki finally engineers her daring, naked escape; in which Nudist Beach unveils its aircraft carrier courtesy of the Takarada Conglomerate; and in Nui reveals she’s a life fiber being as much as Ryuko, and thus understands her plight; and in which Ragyo forces Junketsu upon Ryuko. Thus Ryuko shifts from being the pawn of her father to that of her mother; and is brainwashed into doing her bidding. Thus do Ryuko and Satsuki officially switch roles, with Ryuko as the frighteningly-powerful and arrogant villain, and Satsuki and her Elite Four as the scrappy underdogs with their backs to the wall.

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What started out as a simple selfish tantrum of self-loathing and anger, leading to her running off on her own, turned into something far more potentially devastating, as Her Hot-headedness is perverted through Junketsu into an instrument that could potentially destroy what’s left of a free mankind. And better still, it’s a transition that makes perfect sense. That’s right: no unsightly leaps in logic or ridiculous contrivances are necessary to justify Ryuko’s inversion: she’s always been susceptible to manipulation, and much of her exploits thus far have taken place while she was unwittingly serving as a guinea pig or pawn to others. Every time she’s learned the truth about her involuntary roles in the schemes of others—many of whom have turned out to be her relatives—she’s grown more bitter and lost. Here she was, thinking she was living her own life, while all along others were truly driving her course.

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She’s not even sure who or what she is anymore, and it disgusts her, so she lashes out at everyone close to her and sets of on a nihilistic errand. Harime, who has the same life-fibrous heart as hers, even asks point-blank what Ryuko hopes to get out of killing her and Ragyo. Ryuko doesn’t have an answer, because she hasn’t thought that far ahead, and falls into yet another trap. The blissful montage she sees when Junketsu wears her is a life that never was, but it’s enough to overpower Ryuko’s already brittle grip on her identity, and thus reality itself. Koshimizu Ami changes up Ryuko’s voice accordingly, to something simultaneously more feminine and unhinged—in other words, a lot more like Ragyo’s!

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Fortunately for Ryuko, there are those less quick to rage and reckless action who are determined to get her back. Among them are Mako, the Mankanshokus, the Elite Four, Mikisugi and Nudist Beach…even Satsuki. She may have had her own problems to deal with this week—breaking out of prison with a sharpened false toenail in unfathomably badass fashion—but as contentious as her interactions have been, we don’t think Satsuki wants to lose Ryuko to darkness and evil. In this, she and Senketsu are of like mind, which is why in a sensational latest twist, Senketsu lets her wear him, thus giving her at least a chance against her sister. The two have been in quite a few scraps, but this one is gonna be something else.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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