Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 12 (Fin)

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The night before her fight with Ikki, Touka asks Shizuku to ask him to withdraw, a request she never ends up relaying. Touka makes the request out of concern for Ikki’s health after all he’s been through. But even if he doesn’t withdraw, she’s not sure she can be proud of the outcome, since it’s all been fixed by the adults.

But she can only control what she can control, which is having a fight she can be proud of, something Uta is sure Ikki wants as well. There may be one-dimensional adversaries in RKC, but Touka is most certainly not one of them, and no matter what the peripheral circumstances, she wants to fight Ikki.

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It’s nice to see even fleeting doubt in Touka, whom Ikki places on a pedestal as the paragon of self-assuredness and conviction, while he wallows in despair following his father’s quiet but devastating takedown of him. He’s never been lower, not knowing what he can do with his “empty worthless sword.” Never underestimate the power of a father’s candid words to his son.

At the main arena, Ikki’s battle with Touka is the Main Event, with a packed house, helicopters circling, and TV cameras rolling. It’s all been arranged, Gladiator style, to maximize Ikki’s humiliation should he be defeated, which Akaza believes is a foregone conclusion, after the “softening up” they did on him…and the fact if Ikki fails to show up in fifteen minutes, he forfeits.

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But Ikki is on his way, filthy and beaten and exhausted as he is, he still manages to remember his master’s advice: if he’s frustrated about the fact he’s the weakest, hold onto the feeling, since it’s proof he hasn’t given up. He always chose to take those words as the Gospel, and he’s not about to stop now.

Then he faints, but he wakes up to Shizuku smiling above him. She’s not going to tell him to withdraw from the fight; instead, she’s assembled all of the people rooting for him, who put their dreams in his hands. He’s responsible for taking their defeats and going as far as he can, for the sake of those dreams. Oh yeah, and Stella advanced to Seven Stars, so if Ikki wants to keep his promise, he must, too, even if the odds are extremely against him.

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The fight itself? It ends surprisingly quickly. After exchanging their mutual excitement for fighting one another and Ikki vows to “beat her strongest with his strongest”, he casts Itto Shura immediately, but puts everything he has into one swing, while Touka banks everything on her undefeated Raikiri. Like AsteriskRKC breaks out a special animation style for the singular occasion, but its battle is, as I said, far briefer, but still plenty exciting.

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Then there’s the traditional long pause before we know who won, but c’mon, we knew Ikki was going to win, right? …Right? Well, that’s what he does, he wins, in front of a crowd of thousands and an audience of millions around the world. Akaza tries one last-ditch attempt to deprive Ikki of what he is due (and, incidentally, his life as well), but Stella closes on him fast, blast him out of the way, and embraces Ikki before he falls.

He’s able to stay conscious long enough to publically propose marriage to her in front of those cameras, achieving what he had always dreamed to: present Stella as the one he wishes to share his life and soul with, in front of everyone who matters, along with everyone who doesn’t. The display is enough to move Stella’s father to call Ikki’s, insisting they no longer use their children as pawns in their games.

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Touka, who looked pretty rough after the fight, recovers along with Ikki, who regains his freedom and the admiration of his school. Touka names him school flag-bearer for Seven Stars, and wishes him well. No bad feelings here; he really did beat her strongest with his. Of course, even after the tournament, there’s still two more years of school, during which time Shizuku promises to teach Stella how to be the ideal Kurogane bride, having already assessed her fitness to join the family and determined Stella a worthy match for her big bro.

As far as I know, RKC isn’t continuing for a second season like Asterisk, despite the possibilities for further epic battles and romantic progression. That’s a shame, because I thought RKC was the better show. But I’m also not choked up about it, because the show built up the finale well and delivered a solid payoff. It truly reached the greatest heights of chivalry!

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Rakudai Kishi no Cavalry – 11

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I don’t believe the first and second halves of an episode of RKC have been as different as the the ones in this week’s outing. Things certainly start out foreboding with Ikki and Stella getting photographed kissing and the director warning him about the Ethics Committee chief Akaza (the gangster in the fedora we’ve seen in the shadows) snooping around, while promising she’ll protect him should the need arise.

But then the episode takes a turn for the lighthearted and fluffy, with Ikki and Stella officially meeting Toudo Touka for the first time, and learning she’s not at all the same person when not in the arena. She’s clumsy and highly susceptible to instances of fanservice, but also friendly, kind, and compassionate.

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To whit, she and the council spend a day with underprivileged children from a local orphanage, and Ikki and Stella are invited along; Stella because she’ll be a hit with the kids, and Ikki…well, Ikki helps out with the cooking. It lets him further observe what a generous and wonderful person Touka is (he also hears about it from the tiny white-haired council member, whose humanity Touka restored in his darkest hour).

To him, Touka’s trump card isn’t her lightning or her ability to essentially read the minds of her opponents. It’s a far less easily quantifiable power to make everyone around her better, and more importantly make them feel like they can be better, than their humble origins. Proving it and inspiring people every day is her source of strength, which makes Ikki ponder what his own source might be.

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And boy, is his strength tested in the second half, when things take such a dark and sinister turn, the very palette of the show dissolves into stark black and white with harsh spot color and the grainy texture of film, complete with multiple title cards documenting the passage of time.

After the newspaper with their kissing photo on it is circulated, Ikki is incarcerated by the Ethics Committee and forced to endure days, then weeks of interrogation before a tribunal led by Akaza (his fathers’ henchman), then locked in a room with no furniture and strange noises coming from the walls. The intent is clear: get Ikki out of the picture.

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On its face, his accusers’ case is ridiculously arbitrary and unsubstantiated; it’s all trumped up rumor and intrigue and public opinion. But that’s exactly what those accusers want, and those who control the levers of power and information have their way with Ikki; he never had a chance.

Back at school, Stella, Shizuku, Alice, and the newspaper girl read about Ikki still wining selection matches in captivity, but the cloud of rumors and looks and laughs and side comments eventually gets to Stella, to the point she wonders if it would be best for Ikki if she broke up with him, blaming herself for his treatment.

At this, Shizuku hits her with a splash of cold ultrapure water, and warns her she won’t forgive her if she betrays Ikki, who decided to willingly face his accusers out of his love of Stella, and his desire to be with her out in the open. Of course, with scandal in the air and the subtle truth of their relationship drowned out by innuendo, that may no longer be possible.

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Even so, Stella realizes she erred in considering a breakup as the solution. Ikki is fighting for her, in the arena and the courtroom, so she sends him a lock of her hair (relayed to him by the blood-puking teacher in a neat bit of guard misdirection) as a symbol of her solidarity in his efforts.

Seeing that Stella is still out there fighting for him and for them as well, he decides to swallow his pride and speak to his father Itsuki one-on-one; a request that is granted despite Akaza’s objections. There, Ikki plays the Good Son and tells him of his exploits and victories at school, hoping it’ll be enough for his dad to finally acknowledge his strength.

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Then the final hammer is brought down: his father has always acknowledged him, but only as a mediocre talent not deserving of instruction, who would only create a mediocre result. If he were to succeed, it would create hope in others who aren’t optimally skilled, putting strain on his organization. His father has the opposite aim of Touka: to keep those who are low low, “in their rightful place.” He considers Ikki one of those people who aren’t worth his time, effort, or love.

It’s a devastating blow to Ikki, who thought, perhaps unreasonably, that his father still had a loving bone in his body for him, but no. Further more, that Touka, who works to lift people up rather than let them keep being trampled on? She will be Ikki’s opponent in his 20th and final selection match. Akaza says if he wins, all charges will be dropped.

I know what my first reaction to this was: Maybe Touka will let him win? But I only thought that a viable possibility for a moment; there’s no way Touka would throw a duel. Still, if one is to believe Ikki’s dad, that Shizuku is the superior talent in their family, and she couldn’t come close to defeating Touka, what hope does Ikki have, who still doesn’t know his source of strength (maybe Stella, buddy?) and has just been crushed by his “father?”

First Half:
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Second Half:
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From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 14

Humans are, in many ways, gods. One wonders if there was a lesser species of sentient animal living among us (like queerats), that species would view us as such for all of the amazing things we can do that they can’t…even if we don’t have the power of telekinesis (some monks in Tibet may, we don’t know). In the New World, everyone has a cantus, which makes everyone a potential threat to everyone else. One person can become a district-swallowing fiend. Japan is a land of 60,000 potential nuclear bombs – weapons of almost limitless energy.

Mamoru and Maria are no different from anyone else. They want to live alone in the wilderness to be safe from harm, but if they were to become fiends, they would be the ones doing the harm, and they wouldn’t have a say in the matter. As such, both the Board of Education and Ethics Committee are treating them like missing WMDs. Chairman Tomiko has big plans and faith in Saki – indeed in all of Group One, originally – so she gives her a chance to bring the wayward friends back her own way.

This week, the total scale of Tomiko’s influence comes to light, when she tells Saki how old she is: 267 years, 170 of them as the Ethics Chief. Her longevity, and the resulting knowledge amassed in her head, are the source of her power. Because of the threat humans pose to one another, only the bare minimum are entrusted with knowledge. There must be people who are aware and free-thinking enough to make the tough choices and do the dirty work and protect the others. Tomiko has been that, and she intends for Saki to replace her.

Tomiko also easily sways the Board and its much younger leadership because she points out that they totally screwed up the whole “disposing of Mamoru” thing. That’s a factor of their impatience and inexperience, which is why they defer to her. Their reverence for her is palpable. Tomiko then vouches for Mamoru and Maria’s safety if they’re brought back. We don’t know how she can make that guarantee if Mamoru is truly headed to fiendsville, but in any case, the two aren’t where Saki and Satoru left them. They have three days.


Rating: 8 (Great)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 13

Saki, Maria and Satoru set out to find Mamoru, who has a three hour head start on them. They follow sled tracks across the Holy Barrier, and find queerat tracks alongside it, possibly indicating a chase. The tracks end on the edge of a cliff, and they find the sled buried suspiciously deeply and neatly. They eventually come across a queerat hut, and Mamoru is inside, saved by Squonk, who they helped years ago. He said he had to run from the village because he was being hunted by tainted cats.

Poor Mamoru. Among those still alive in Team 1, he has the weakest Cantus, the weakest talents, and the weakest will. When Maria calls him “quiet and cooperative”, it sounds like a back-handed compliment. It also makes us think of the fiends Tomiko mentioned – how they were always suspected of harboring evil thoughts and such. Mamoru isn’t like them. No, he seems to be next in line for disposal because of what he knows. Information can be a sickness, and if he’s infected enough, he may snap just like a fiend, in spite of his natural disposition. It doesn’t help that his friends are all far superior to him in every way that matters (Cantus skiing and bunny hopping FTW!!), and are keeping secrets from him.

Like everything that happens in this series, something is fishy about the picture that is pieced together by Saki, Maria and Satoru with the tracks and clues they have. It would seem tainted cats were sent to Mamoru (must be fun having a teacher who is plotting to have you killed), causing him to flee in terror. But Saki remembers that queerats are one of the tools in the Ethics Committee’s arsenal. While Squonk is simply repaying kindness (and as he said, saving a god is in their nature), one can’t help but wonder if the Mamoru was simply supposed to quietly vanish, only he didn’t, because the Scooby Gang wouldn’t let him. He may be useless, but he’s still their friend, if anything were to happen to him, Maria may be next, as guilt over what she could’ve done to save him could consume her.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 12

Saki is brought before Asahina Tomiko, head of the Ethics Committee,but she isn’t in trouble; on the contrary, Tomiko intends for Saki to one day succeed her. She overruled the Board of Educations plans to dispose of her for learning the truth, because her personality indexes indicate a high degree of mental stability required of a leader. Tomiko tells her the story of K, a boy who became a fiend twenty years ago, and Izumi, a girl who became a karma demon. As her eventual replacement, Saki will be responsible for dealing with future fiends or karma demons before they fully develop and consume what’s left of mankind. Mamoru goes missing, and Saki, Maria and Satoru go looking for him.

Despite having retained all of the knowledge and history relayed to her by the false minoshiro, the truths that Tomiko relays to Saki this week are still a lot to take in and endure. Essentially, humanity is on the edge of a precipice, and it is its own worst enemy. Fiends voluntarily use their Canti to kill indiscriminately, like a fox in a henhouse. Karma demons’ Canti leak and subconsciously pollute everything around them, even DNA. If either of these are allowed to crop up unchecked, they could easily push the rest humanity off that ledge. K, one  of thirty documented fiends (all but two of them boys) killed 1,000 people in one day – no longer a drop in a bucket. Both Izumi and Shun destroyed entire villages, when only a handful remain. One day they were ordinary humans, the next, existential threats.

Saki, who’s seen and heard a lot and maintained her poise and sanity, is next in line for a very solemn but essential position in society: one who identifies those weak links that may flare up into fiends or karma demons, and stamp them out. However cruel it may seem to preemptively eliminate fellow human beings (through the use of tainted cats), considering the threats that will sprout up if they don’t, Tomiko would seem to have little choice. Watching her in the flashbacks as a nurse overcome by fear and dread and seeing her serene presence in the present, we see someone who has come to terms with that, and does not simply rule out of a desire for power and control, but to keep the human race, flawed as it may be (looking at you, Mamoru) alive. She does what must be done. And one day, she hopes so will Saki.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 11

The time comes for the school groups to pair off into boy-girl pairs for school duties, ceremonial preparation, and eventually, procreation. A handsome guy named Ryou tells Saki he’ll choose her, but she’s not so sure who he is. Ryou seems to have replaced Shun in everyone’s minds, but Saki and Satoru still remember him. Saki also finds a mirror with her sister’s name etched in, as well as the girl who was in their group years ago. Itou freaks out, and Maria tells Saki to drop it. She can’t give up, but she won’t bring it up again. Two officials from the Ethics Committee appear before them, and the three are brought to the committee’s head, Asahina Tomiko, starting with Saki.

Whatever methods the powers that be employ – be they the Ethics Committee or their bosses – to ensure the people remain blissfully ignorant and only believe and remember what they’re told, they simply haven’t worked on Saki. Aonuma Shun’s growing power, whether from ‘illness’ or ‘ascendance’ was an immediate existential threat to the almighty status quo, and it was dealt with by allowing him to self-destruct in isolation, then swept under the rug. But Saki’s power – that of intense, piercing curiosity and doubt – is far more insidious. One by one, it spreads to her three remaining friends, though they exhibit varying degrees of enthusiasm.

Saki gets things started. Satoru is willing to hear anything out. Maria is unnerved. Mamoru is terrified. This may also be the order from worst to best sense of self-preservation, because not long after the matter between the friends is more or less resolved, a couple of kind, friendly-looking adults shows up, essentially arresting Maria, Satoru, and Saki. Has the Ethics Committee finally had enough of Wantanabe Saki and her incessant digging? They may well wish to ‘purge’ or ‘dispose of’ her, but with all the nice manners, smiles, and insistence that ‘there’s no reason to be nervous’, they may have another use for her altogether – one even she can’t fathom.


Rating: 8 (Great)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 09

With Shun gone for four days, Satoru gathers the others and suggests they go looking for him. He and Saki travel to his house in Pinewood, but it is totally cordoned off in all directions, and they find that a huge gash has been made in the forest, with a burnt-out tree trunk in the bottom of a pit that reminds Saki of the one in Shun’s house. Meanwhile Maria and Mamoru ask around school, but everyone from Pinewood is absent. Curiosity leads them to check out the inner yard, and they see three adults release two tainted cats from their kennels, and mention Shun. Maria comes to Saki in the middle of the night to tell her this, and she sets out alone to find Shun, but its confronted by one of the cats in the forest.

Whatever year it actually is in Saki’s world, it might as well be 1984 (while that monolithic tree they see brought 2001 to mind). People who do not obey and conform to the “society of love” live in constant fear of death, or worse – by the hands of the “Ethics Committee”, which may as well be called the Ministry of Love. People are supposed to stick to their particular vocation, and not pry in anything else, even if it concerns family or friends. In Saki’s case, her older sister vanished long ago, and she forgot about it like a good girl. But now she’s remembered. Now someone she cares about deeply – Shun – is in some very serious trouble. She cares about him so much she’s willing to risk everything – her freedom, her life, her parents’ peace-of-mind – to find him. Which is badass.

We don’t hand out tens willy-nilly; only three first-run episodes have received our highest rating so far, along with a handful of Retro Reviews. But we consider this episode the best and most complete of the series so far; a masterpiece of tone, mood, and tension. It’s not particularly flashy, but never before have the stakes seemed so high, or have Saki and her friends seemed to be in more danger. We’re not even sure what the real deal with Shun is yet – only that he may be turning into a full karma demon (that doesn’t sound good). This episode is the best kind of building-up episode: one that creates so much anticipation for the future, but more than holds up by itself as a comprehensive study in layering trepidation on top of disquiet on top of dread.

The moment Saki hears from Maria, she goes into Full Rescue Mode – suiting up with the talisman Shun gave her (and which she may believe was also a wordless message to come after him, not just a memento mori), and using her Cantus to good effect, bringing a loud wind that will mask her movements, flying through the air, and racing down the river. If she’s discovered, she’ll most certainly die, and the episode projects that perfectly. While a ten need not be totally perfect, we could not list a single flaw in the episode anyway. From the precise pacing to the stirring primeval score to the consistently excellent costume design, this was a winner on all fronts.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

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P.S. The tainted cats have pumps for feet…very strange.