Overlord II – 05

Following his thorough intimidation of the Lizardmen, Lord Ains and his guardians travel to his newly-built forest stronghold. He learns it comes with a super-creepy throne made partially from human bones, and decides he’ll finally dole out Shalltear’s punishment by sitting on her.

Shalltear turning the intended pain into naughty pleasure, combined with Albedo’s violently jealous outburst in the next room, are both examples of OverLord silliness at its best. Things get even sillier when Ains uses a spell to see inside one of the village’s huts, only to catch Zaryusu and Crusch doing the nasty.

The Lizardmen elders and warriors, including Zaryusu, make their one last desperate stand against Cocytus, and are (figuratively) disarmed by his polite and respectful demeanor before being disarmed (literally), halved, and riddled with icy projectiles.

The comedy shifts from the silly to black, as Cocytus calmly, quietly explains how not a single one of his opponents’ magical or physical attacks will have the slightest effect on him; they’re simply too low a level to put a dent in his Guardian-class defenses.

That doesn’t stop Zaryusu & Co. from charging forward, even if it’s right into their grisly deaths. Zaryusu is the last to be killed, but Cocytus promises he’ll remember his name and that of his brothers as the names of warriors.

Back at base, Cocytus is praised for his victory by Lord Ains, and suggests the bodies of the dead Lizardmen be used for undead research. Cocytus makes a counter-proposal: raise Zaryusu, who had been such a valiant fighter, from the dead.

Something like that is well within Ains’ mighty means, but he wishes to make it a transaction, and so asks Crusch to spy on the other Lizardmen in exchange for the resurrection of her lover. (Her momentary assumption he wanted her body enrages both Albedo and Shalltear.)

Crusch agrees, and Zaryusu is brought back to life, and yet even here OverLord doesn’t shy away from having a bit of a laugh; Zaryusu’s speech is all high-pitched and messed-up, like he didn’t quite come back 100% right (rest will apparently restore his former gravitas).

But Ains got what he wanted: the allegiance of the Lizardmen tribes, and a mole who will alert him if that allegiance ever wavers, secured by a “spell” (in reality just a lie) that will kill Zaryusu if Crusch ever betrays him. All in all, some shrewd maneuvering by His Skullfaceiness.

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Overlord II – 04

The Lizardmen are allowed to bask in their victory over an army of the undead for an evening, while back at Nazarick the Great One Ains Ooal Gown is debriefing Cocytus before his other guardians.

Momonga got what he wanted: Cocytus forms an original thought—that he doesn’t want to exterminate the Lizardmen. But when he can’t come up with a good reason to spare them, Demiurge comes through with an alternative plan: they’ll make the Lizardmen an experiment in rule without fear.

Everything is going according to Ains’ plans, and his guardians think that’s only natural, but privately, Momonga is excited at the prospect of his guardians learning independent thought and gaining experience through defeat…not that he likes defeat.

That much is clear the next day when he shows up with an enormous magically-armored undead army, catching the still celebratory Lizardmen unawares.

Ains himself shows up, and makes quite an entrance, freezing an entire lake, using Gargantua to throw a huge cube of rock into the middle of it, then having his grunts form an undead staircase.

Ains climbs to the top of the rock with his retinue of guardians, proud as you please, and when Zaryusu and his brother meet them in the lake, Demiurge has them prostrate themselves.

Zaryusu knows he and his people are at the mercy of Ains and his forces, and that they don’t have a hope of victory against such power. However, he also presumes the Great One does not intend to utterly exterminate his people, but wants a proper battle to make things interesting.

If that requires a few sacrificial lambs, with him among them, Zaryusu can live with that, even if it distresses the woman he loves. He asks that she put up with his selfishness this once and hold out hope he’ll come back from the battle in one piece. She seems willing to go along with this…IF he impregnates her first. Love: it’s all about give-and-take.

Overlord II – 03

In order to build great things, one must construct a solid foundation. The first two episodes accomplished that. At first, I wondered why all of a sudden we were so immersed in the lives and politics of a bunch of Lizardmen. Then, when I got to know a few of them, I became emotionally invested in their fate, even rooting for their victory against the armies of Cocytus, even though Cocytus is a servant of our ostensible protagonist, Momonga.

What was made clear this week is that not only was it well worth all the table-setting, which I enjoyed far more than I ‘endured’; but that Momonga and his court were given heightened mystique by being pushed into the background, such that every time we cut to them (which wasn’t often, or for a very long duration), it felt like an occasion.

Things start out small, with Zaryusu earning Zenberu’s trust and an alliance after fighting him one-on-one. Crusch heals both, and after returning to Zaryusu’s brother Green Claw, the five assembled tribal leaders have a strategy meeting.

The enemy outnumbers them over three to one. Zenberu is confident every lizard can take out three zombies or skeletons each, but they have to plan carefully to avoid being routed. Zaryusu forms an elite squad with Crusch, Zenberu, and his trusty hydra Rororo, to face the enemy commander when they show themselves.

Cocytus orders his army to advance, and Ains Ooal Gown seems slightly disappointed that things aren’t going the way he hoped, and that’s all we see of him. From here on in, it’s all battle, which means it’s all payoff for the careful preparation of the previous two episodes.

The Lizardmen send out their forces to meet the undead army, while their magical units efficiently keep the foes at bay. Cocytus confides in Demiurge for advice on how to proceed (that is, how to salvage what is starting to resemble a defeat on the field); Demiurge muses that their great lord meant to give Cocytus a weak army and a wide berth in hopes it would promote his awareness.

Cocytus is ready to take his medicine, but first sees how his reserves will fare, led by the Elder Lich Iguva, who launches huge fireballs in Zaryusu’s direction, helpfully revealing to the elite unit the position of the enemy leader.

Zaryusu decides upon a direct frontal assault, using Rororo’s bulk to shield himself, Crusch, and Zenberu. Once close enough, Zenberu starts carving up the reserves while Zaryusu faces off against Iguva, who is a formidable opponent from any range. It’s too bad none of the Lizardmen had Holy magic!

For a moment, Iguva has Zaryusu caught trapped in a Scare spell, but Crusch comes through in the clutch and breaks him out with Lion Heart, in addition to healing Zaryusu’s wounds. Good to see Crusch can hold her own on the battlefield, and indeed plays a vital role keeping Zaryusu up and running.

Iguva is full of hubris until the end, when he wrongfully assumes Zaryusu foolishly unleashed the full power of his Icy Burst against him (as a lich he’s immune to ice). However, the ice was only meant to provide cover for Zaryusu’s attack from above, stabbing Iguva through the eye.

After a struggle, Iguva is vanquished, and the Lizardmen are victorious, in what was a hard-hitting, heart-pounding, perfectly-paced battle. From his base, Cocytus congratulates the Lizardmen; it was a very close victory, but a win’s a win.

Not only that, the battle forced the Lizardmen to give up their tribal squabbles, come together, and sacrifice for the sake of their race’s survival. I would think they would continue in peace the unity that was forged by the threat of annihilation, while Zaryusu and Crusch, having come out of the battle in one piece, are poised to marry.

Overall, this episode was as satisfying, complete victory; a sure-handed execution of an intricately-constructed, multi-layered story in which the lines of heroes and villains are blurred. I’m eager to see what Lord Ains has planned next—and for whom.

Overlord II – 02

Overlord II takes a deep dive into the tribal Lizardmen (and women) corner of Yggdrasil, this week, and in doing so demonstrates that even with non-human characters, the show excels at straightforward yet immersive world-building.

The Green Claw tribe has been given eight days to prepare a “desperate and futile defense” against certain doom, and considering fourth-tier magic was used to deliver the message, the tribe’s head priestess fears the worst.

Zaryusu Shasha, while a traveler and no longer a member of any tribe, is nevertheless sent by his brother and tribal chief to speak with the other four tribes about forming an alliance against their mutual enemy, believing that enemy is depending on their remaining disunited.

We get a cursory look into the Tomb of Nazarick where the confident penguin Assistant Butler Eclair enthusiastically prepares for the day he’ll rule Nazarick—by keeping it thoroughly and obsessively clean.

Zaryusu rides his trusty giant hydra to the lands of the Red Eye Tribe, where he is shocked to find their acting chief and head priestess, Crusch Lulu, is an albino lizard. He is immediately smitten with her, which catches her off guard, but they are able to find common cause with relative ease.

I feel like we spend a great deal of time in that hut with Zaryusu and Crusch, but it also feels like time well spent, as we’re able to learn a great deal about the conditions that led to her leadership.

In a dire food shortage the former chief resorted to cannibalism, which Crusch and the tribe endured for a time, but eventually there was an insurrection, and she was their leader.

Her description of the trials she and her people have endured are vivid and well-told, and Zaryusu, while initially a bit forward, treats her with the respect she’s due. I was legitimately please to hear she’s all for an alliance.

I also appreciated the very human behavior assigned to these anthropomorphic lizards; I never forgot they weren’t human but I could still easily sympathize and empathize with both of them, and there was a good portion of casual humor mixed in to keep the proceedings from getting too stodgy.

Crusch (wearing a bush to protect her pale skin from the sun) accompanies Zaryusu to the next tribe, the war-loving Dragon Tusk. Their leader, Zenberu, knows why they’re there, but Zaryusu will have to prove he is strong before they ally themselves with Green Claw and Red Eye.

Meanwhile, Cocytus prepares for battle, I’m assuming it will be against the Lizardmen tribes (I may well end up being wrong, of course). If true, the show puts us in an interesting position of rooting for the underdogs and caring about their plight, all while feeling a kind of kinship to Momonga and his cohorts.

The lines of hero and villain are blurred, despite the fact one side is fighting for survival, while Cocytus merely seeks to distinguish himself in glorious battle. I’m eager to see where this is all headed.

Fate / Zero – 06

“I may be an ancient king…but I don’t think you should be driving like this!”

And now I’ve come to it: the Fate/Zero equivalent of a meh episode. It had to happen sometime, so better early on than not; also, after last week’s multivector face-off and just-as-rapid standdown, it’s hard for the immediate aftermath episode to not feel a bit…anticlimactic.

And while I’ve enjoyed the moments of levity Zero has managed to weave into the action and drama, Iri’s crazy drive along a twisty mountain road kinda fell flat for me. I totally get the joy she feels from being ‘let out of the birdcage’, so to speak, and perhaps it was the animation, but the drive felt way too reckless for no reason.

“We can’t exchange insurance info if you’re all the way over there!”

It’s a good thing Caster seems to be standing in the middle of a straight and not on the other side of a blind turn; otherwise Iri would have hit him (and what a shame that would have been); instead, they get out and have a deeply unpleasant exchange with him.

Since taking out that kid after letting him think he was home free with his dark tentacles, Caster has not endeared himself to me, and his ranting about Saber being Jeanne d’Arc reincarnate does him no favors. I’m totally with Saber that I dislike opponents who you can’t reason with because they lack reason.

Thats…not…good…

In addition to being illogical and maddening to deal with, Caster is also a despicable monster, like his Master Uryuu, crucifying kids while still alive. They’ve abducted fifteen from a couple of towns, which just seems like a lot, though to be honest I’m not sure how much time they’ve had to do it.

In any case, Caster insists they must sacrifice all the children they have as soon as possible, then go out and get more, which, sure, fantastic. Even Uryuu is like, ‘I guess we’re just different kinds of serial killers.’

“Why do I have two Masters…and why are they so lame?”

Archie sits in his hotel room, scolding a brooding Lancer, until his companion Sola-Ui, who despite Archie’s Command Seals, is the Mana behind the Master. She’s not afraid to speak her mind to Archie about his hiding in the shadows, but Lancer then scolds her for badmouthing his Master. Even though technically, the two of them are more like Co-Masters.

In any case, Archie belives (rightly) that Saber will try to attempt a rematch with Lancer before fighting anyone else, to undo her cursed wound. So he’s laid a trap, filling an entire floor of the hotel with magical booby traps, and is very excited to see how everything works out.

“Look, that building had all kinds of code violations anyway.”

And then Kiritsugu just burns the whole mother down. I’ll admit, it’s a fine fake-out, and yet another stealthily bad-ass move from Kiritsugu, who approaches his work in a very deliberate, disciplined, military fashion.

I also appreciated that he’s aware that he has disrupted and possibly ruined more than a few lives by blowing up the building, but he’s going to defeat the other mages by any means necessary—but not by killing innocent people.

Kirei manages to briefly corner Maiya in an adjacent structure, but Kiritsugu bails her out with a well-timed smoke bomb. As for Archie, Sola-Ui and Lancer…I’m sure they’re just fine.

“Hey God Boy—run out and get me some more libations!”

Later, Kirei’s Assassins inform him, Risei and Tokiomi of Caster and his Master’s horrific crimes, which threaten the secrecy of the War. As observer, Risei stands ready to exercise his power to make minor rule changes; in this case, ordering all Masters to take out Caster ASAP. He’s a rogue element, and clearly Saber and Iri (and I) aren’t the only ones who’d rather he went away as soon as possible.

After a long day of morally ambiguous activity, Kirei encounters Archer getting drunk (or attempting/failing to do so) on a couch, who not only voices his disappointment in his Master, but also tries to pry out of Kirei what he’s getting out of this; what he desires. If Kirei doesn’t know, Gil figures he should use his Assassins to determine what motivates the others, so he might gain insight into his own motives.

So while Kiritsugu and Maiya’s special ops exploits were pretty cool and I dug the potential realignment of the War to focus on taking out the most irredeemably loathsome Master-Servant pair, I wasn’t as enamored with Lancer’s Co-Masters (indeed, I kinda just feel sorry for him), Saber and Iri only showed up for two minutes, and Waiver, Rider, Kariya and Berserker took the week off—and at least two of them were missed. So yeah, a 7 seems about right.

Kimi no Na wa. (Your Name.)

Simply diving into a review immediately after watching a film as devastatingly gorgeous and emotionally affecting as Kimi no Na wa is probably not a great idea, but this is an anime review blog, so here goes.

Kimi no Na wa isn’t just a charming body-swap rom-com, or a time-travelling odyssey, or a disaster prevention caper, or a tale of impossibly cruel temporal and physical distance between two soul mates, or a reflection on the fragility and impermanence of everything from memories to cities, or a tissue-depleting tearjerker.

It’s all of those things and more. And it’s also one of, if not the best, movies I’ve ever seen, anime or otherwise.

After a cryptic prologue, Kimi no Na wa starts out modestly: Miyamizu Mitsuha, Shinto shrine maiden and daughter of a mayor, has grown restless in her small town world, so one night, shouts out tot he night that she wants to be reborn as a boy in Tokyo.

This, mind you, happens after an odd incident in which Mitsuha essentially lost a day, during which all her family and friends say she was acting very strange and non-Mitsuha-y…like a different person.

That’s because she was. She and a boy from Tokyo, Tachibana Taki, randomly swap bodies every so often when they’re dreaming. As such, they end up in the middle of their couldn’t-be-any-different lives; the only similarity being that both of them yearn for more.

Despite just meeting these characters, watching Mitsuha and Taki stumble through each other’s lives is immensely fun. And because this is a Shinkai film, that enjoyment is augmented by the master director’s preternatural visual sumptuousness and realism. Every frame of Mitsuha’s town and the grand vastness of Tokyo is so full of detail I found myself wanting to linger in all of them.

As the body-swapping continues, the two decide to lay down “ground rules” when in one another’s bodies—albeit rules both either bend or break with impunity—and make intricate reports in one another’s phone diaries detailing their activities during the swaps.

Interestingly, Mitsuha makes more progress with Taki’s restaurant co-worker crush Okudera than Taki (she like’s Taki’s “feminine side”), while the more assertive Taki proves more popular with boys and girls when Taki’s in her body.

Taki happens to be in Mitsuha’s body when her grandmother and sister Yotsuha make the long, epic trek from their home to the resting place of the “body” of their Shinto shrine’s god, an otherworldly place in more ways than one, to make an offering of kuchikamisake (sake made from saliva-fermented rice).

While the three admire the sunset, Mitsuha’s granny takes a good look at her and asks if he, Taki, is dreaming. Just then he wakes up back in his own body to learn Mitsuha has arranged a date with him and Okudera—one she genuinely wanted to attend.

Okudera seems to notice the change in Taki from the one Mitsuha inhabited; she can tell his mind is elsewhere, and even presumes he’s come to like someone else. Taki tries to call that someone else on his phone, but he gets an automated message.

Then, just like that, the body-swapping stops.

After having cut her hair, her red ribbon gone, Mitsuha attends the Autumn Festival with her friends Sayaka and Teshi. They’re treated to a glorious display in the night sky, as the comet Tiamat makes its once-every-1,200-years visit.

Taki decides if he can’t visit Mitsuha’s world in his dreams anymore, he’ll simply have to visit Mitsuha. Only problem is, he doesn’t know exactly what village she lives in. Okudera and one of his high school friends, who are worried about him, decide to tag along on his wild goose chase.

After a day of fruitless searching, Taki’s about to throw in the towel, when one of the proprietors of a restaurant notices his detailed sketch of Mitsuha’s town, recognizing it instantly as Itomori. Itomori…a town made famous when it was utterly destroyed three years ago by a meteor created from a fragment of the comet that fell to earth.

The grim reality that Taki and Mitsuha’s worlds were not in the same timeline is a horrendous gut punch, as is the bleak scenery of the site of the former town. Every lovingly-depicted detail of the town, and all of its unique culture, were blasted into oblivion.

Taki is incredulous (and freaked out), checking his phone for Mitsuha’s reports, but they disappear one by one, like the details of a dream slipping away from one’s memory. Later, Taki checks the register of 500 people who lost their lives in the disaster, and the punches only grow deeper: among the lost are Teshi, Sayaka…and Miyamizu Mitsuha.

After the initial levity of the body-swapping, this realization was a bitter pill to swallow, but would ultimately elevate the film to something far more epic and profound, especially when Taki doesn’t give up trying to somehow go back to the past, get back into Mitsuha’s body, and prevent all those people from getting killed, including her.

The thing that reminds him is the braided cord ribbon around his wrist, given to him at some point in the past by someone he doesn’t remember. He returns to the site where the offering was made to the shrine’s god, drinks the sake made by Mitsuha, stumbles and falls on his back, and sees a depiction of a meteor shower drawn on the cave ceiling.

I haven’t provided stills of the sequence that follows, but suffice it to say it looked and felt different from anything we’d seen and heard prior in the film, and evoked emotion on the same level as the famous flashback in Pixar’s Up. If you can stay dry-eyed during this sequence, good for you; consider a career being a Vulcan.

Taki then wakes up, miraculously back in Mitsuha’s body, and sets to work. The same hustle we saw in Taki’s restaurant job is put to a far more important end: preventing a horrific disaster. The town itself may be doomed—there’s no stopping that comet—but the people don’t have to be.

Convincing anyone that “we’re all going to die unless” is a tall order, but Taki doesn’t waver, formulating a plan with Teshi and Sayaka, and even trying (in vain) to convince Mitsuha’s father, the mayor, to evacuate.

While the stakes couldn’t be higher and the potential devastation still clear in the mind, it’s good to see some fun return. Sayaka’s “we have to save the town” to the shopkeep is a keeper.

Meanwhile, Mitsuha wakes up in the cave in Taki’s body, and is horrified by the results of the meteor strike. She recalls her quick day trip to Tokyo, when she encountered Taki on a subway train, but he didn’t remember her, because it would be three more years before their first swap.

Even so, he can’t help but ask her her name, and she gives it to him, as well as something to remember her by later: her hair ribbon, which he would keep around his wrist from that point on.

Both Taki-as-Mitsuha and Mitsuha-as-Taki finally meet face-to-face, in their proper bodies, thanks to the mysterious power of kataware-doki or twilight. It’s a gloriously-staged, momentous, and hugely gratifying moment…

…But it’s all too brief. Taki is able to write on Mitsuha’s hand, but she only gets one stoke on his when twilight ends, and Taki finds himself back in his body, in his time, still staring down that awful crater where Itomori used to be. And again, like a dream, the more moments pass, the harder it gets for him to remember her.

Back on the night of the Autumn Festival, Mitsuha, back in her time and body, takes over Taki’s evacuation plan. Teshi blows up a power substation with contractor explosives and hacks the town-wide broadcast system, and Sayaka sounds the evacuation. The townsfolk are mostly confused, however, and before long Sayaka is apprehended by authorities, who tell everyone to stay where they are, and Teshi is nabbed by his dad.

With her team out of commission, it’s all up to Mitsuha, who races to her father to make a final plea. On the way, she gets tripped up and takes a nasty spill. In the same timeline, a three-years-younger Taki, her ribbon around his wrist, watches the impossibly gorgeous display in the Tokyo sky as the comet breaks up. Mitsuha looks at her hand and finds that Taki didn’t write his name: he wrote “I love you.”

The meteor falls and unleashes a vast swath of destruction across the landscape, not sparing the horrors of seeing Itomori wiped off the face of the earth—another gut punch. Game Over, too, it would seem. After spending a cold lonely night up atop the former site of the town, he returns to Tokyo and moves on with his life, gradually forgetting all about Mitsuha, but still feeling for all the world like he should be remembering something, that he should be looking for someplace or someone.

Bit by bit, those unknowns start to appear before him; a grown Sayaka and Teshi in a Starbucks; a  passing woman with a red ribbon in her hair that makes him pause, just as his walking by makes her pause. But alas, it’s another missed connection; another classic Shinkai move: they may be on the same bridge in Shinjuku, but the distance between them in time and memory remains formidable.

Mitsuha goes job-hunting, enduring one failed interview after another, getting negative feedback about his suit from everyone, including Okudera, now married and hopeful Taki will one day find happiness.

While giving his spiel about why he wants to be an architect, he waxes poetic about building landscapes that leave heartwarming memories, since you’ll never know when such a landscape will suddenly not be there.

A sequence of Winter scenes of Tokyo flash by, and in light of what happened to Itomori quite by chance, that sequence makes a powerful and solemn statement: this is Tokyo, it is massive and complex and full of structures and people and culture found nowhere else in the world, but it is not permanent.

Nothing built by men can stand against the forces of nature and the heavens. All we can do is live among, appreciate, and preseve our works while we can. We’re only human, after all.

And yet, for all that harsh celestial certainty, there is one other thing that isn’t permanent in this film: Taki and Mitsuha’s separation. Eventually, the two find each other through the windows of separate trains, and race to a spot where they experience that odd feeling of knowing each other, while also being reasonably certain they’re strangers.

Taki almost walks away, but turns back and asks if they’ve met before. Mitsuha feels the exact same way, and as tears fill their eyes, they ask for each others names. Hey, what do you know, a happy ending that feels earned! And a meteor doesn’t fall on Tokyo, which is a huge bonus.

Last August this film was released, and gradually I started to hear rumblings of its quality, and of how it could very well be Shinkai’s Magnum Opus. I went in expecting a lot, and was not disappointed; if anything, I was bowled over by just how good this was.

Many millions of words have been written about Kimi no Na wa long before I finally gave it a watch, but I nevertheless submit this modest, ill-organized collection words and thoughts as a humble tribute to the greatness I’ve just witnessed. I’ll be seeing it again soon.

And if for some reason you haven’t seen it yourself…what are you doing reading this drivel? Find it and watch it at your nearest convenience. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry; you’ll pump your fist in elation.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 40

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With the stage so ably set last week, all that was left for IBO was to put on a show. The final pieces to go into the mix? The excellent Akihiro and Shino, who are more concerned with how cool their callsigns should be than whether they’ll get Tekkadan labeled outlaws like the Turbines.

Just when Orga is at a loss about what to do, they enter his office and offer an alternative plan: they, along with Ride, will simply be testing out their booster systems when they come across the evacuating non-combatants at the Turbine’s relay base. They won’t fight Gjallarhorn, so everything should be fine.

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It’s a good-sounding plan, but everything does not turn out fine. Before everything turns to shit, we get a look at the feverish evacuation of the Turbine innocents as Naze empties the Hammerhead, ready to face the music himself. Watching the Arianhrod fleet bear down on them from the radar screen packs a lot more dread-punch than I thought.

Lafter and Azee are ordered to protect the civilians, leaving Amida to pilot her mobile suit alongside Naze in the ship. Becausde she knows and loves her man so much, Amida knows what’s going on here, and she’s not about to stay out of the coming action.

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If only Iok had stuck to procedure and not let his emotions drive his command. He ignores the Turbines’ white flag and orders the use of the illegal Dainsleif weapons against the transports, which should be some kind of war crime if anyone was (or could be trusted to) observe Iok’s actions (alas, Micky sits this one out, his hands tied).

It’s horrifying to watch the vulnerable transports get run through with the harpoons like whales full of innocent people; people who die in large numbers for no reason other than Iok’s realization of a grand and noble battle in which he makes no distinction between combatants and children. When he starts targeting the launches, he reaches a new nadir.

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Not everyone will be saved as Naze had hoped, but thanks to the timely arrival of the Akihiro cavalry, more lives are saved. I love how businesslike Akihiro is when he comes to Lafter’s side. The tide cannot be turned, but she still appreciates that he risked everything to come, and every little bit helps against a reckless, heartless, merciless foe like Iok.

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When Amida gets up close to Iok’s ship, she’s met by Julieta in Julia, and the two have an excellent fight in which Juli’s lack of experience is badly exposed. She may have the superior machine, but Amida essentially has her way with her. Not only can Juli not take Amida out, she doesn’t know why it’s so hard to fight her.

Amida gets free and sets a collision course for Iok’s flagship’s bridge, which he helpfully left out of combat mode. I really hoped the hubristic Iok and his reign of idiocy could have been wiped out; it might have been a step towards making all this slaughter not in vain. Alas, a Dainsleif spear stops Amida in her tracks, and her last shot only cracks the viewscreen.

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Now truly all alone, Naze tries desperately to finish what Amida started, and comes so tantalizingly close, only to bounce off the side of Iok’s ship, leaving the bridge unscathed, and crashing and destroying another ship along with his own. Seeing all the familiar places in the Hammerhead be consumed by flames awful to behold.

Is this the end of the battle? Not sure why Iok wouldn’t mop up what’s left of the Turbines, or why the forward mobile suits aren’t recognizing Tekkadan forces fighting them, which as Merribit said, could “crush” them. Perhaps Iok is satisfied and retreats before his screen cracks. In either case, plenty of damage is done.

Naze Turbine and Amida Arca are gone, and the Turbines are history. It’s a huge blow to everyone, and the tears flow accordingly. McMurdo promised he’d take care of Naze’s people (by placing them in groups under his direct control), but the lives of the survivors will never be the same. The episode doesn’t take any further steps to indicate what happens next, for first the dead must be mourned.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 25 (Fin)

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This was an episode full of tying up loose ends, the most important of which being Subaru presenting himself before Emilia a better and more useful man than the last time he saw her. He even gets to be a badass action hero! But as a loose-ends episode, it works very nicely, even if it’s not perfect, and leaves a lot hanging in the air (likely for another season, but not anytime soon).

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The first loose end is Betelgeuse, who very annoyingly won’t go down much of the first act. I was pleased Subaru used the Witche’s curse to expel Betelgeuse from his head so Julius could finish him, especially since we got a good look at the Satella herself. She does look a lot like Emilia…if Emilia were all black with a purple outline and glowing eyes!

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I rolled my eyes a little when moments after defeating Betelgeuse, Juli and Subie get a call from Felis another problem fresh out of the blue: an unaccounted-for sack full of fire stones.

There wasn’t any doubt that sack would be stashed in the wagon Emilia and the village children just happen to be riding in, nor was there the slightest chance, even in an often sadistic show like this, that this latest particular bomb would go off.

When Subie and Otto are acting like a comedy duo in a wagon Otto has nitrous’d with his magic in the last episode, it’s reasonable to assume things will work out.

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The whole rescue attempt felt like an excuse for Subaru to confront Emilia as the one who led the army, something she only just learned about from some snot-nosed kids who don’t know how to keep their damn mouths shut. Betelgeuse’s extended demise further delayed the inevitable reunion, and by the time Betel had become a Ghibli Goop Monster with his head on fire, I had long since had my fill of the manic bastard.

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But the how of how Subaru came to triumphantly reunite with Emilia didn’t mar the fact that this episode took great strides to repair what had been an estranged relationship not just between these two, but between myself, representing the non-manga-reading audience, and Emilia. Takahashi Rie does a great job reintroducing Emilia-tan to us, as she gets to express a good number of powerful emotions during the final ordeal.

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Subaru basically gets to make the perfect series of gestures to reunite with Emilia, swooping in, grabbing the bomb, and running off to get it away, but not before telling Emilia he loves her. After smashing the whales, the giant fallen tree is the gift that keeps giving, as its trunk largely shields Subaru from the blast he’s still pretty close to when the stones detonate.

It is here when Emilia, still processing everything Subaru has done for her these last few days/weeks, completely unbidden, springs into action, rushing into the danger, desperate to find Subaru alive and alright. And perhaps because the show is finally done torturing us, he is!

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From there, there’s no long, sprawling epilogue, showing what becomes of who. Just a simple scene of Subaru lying on Emilia’s lap, the two of them overjoyed to be together again.

The way Subaru describes it, Emilia is made happy for the first time by the prospect of “special treatment.” This can’t quite match the Rem Confession episode in emotional power, but it comes darned close with much less time to work with.

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I also appreciated that Emilia doesn’t have an instant reply to Subaru’s confession. It’s all well and good to say “I love you too”, but loving and being loved are so new to her it’s going to take time. Time Subaru assures her she has.

Subaru doesn’t wake up back in front of that convenience store, but merely admires Emilia’s tearful, radiant smile, as the episode fades to white and we’re treated to an extended mix of the original ED.

All in all, an imperfect but still solid and satisfying, and entertaining finale. If a second season comes along one day, I’ll surely be tuning in. If not, it was a fun ride. Often stressful, enraging, and heartbreaking…but also fun.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 24

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So, the first attempt to save the village and take out the Witch’s Cult was met by some mishaps, such as the time-consuming misunderstanding that led to a confrontation with Ram, the killing of villagers before evacuation was complete, Emilia taking the field of battle, putting herself at risk, and oh yeah, Subie getting possessed by Betelgeuse.

But when Julius and Felis killed him, he died and came back just like he always did, without any twists due to his possession. And fortune not only smiles, but beams on him, as he wakes up right in the middle of the planning phase, allowing him to casually introduce the new information he gleaned about body-snatching, the traitor in their midst, and Ram.

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His new plan revolves around convincing Emilia to go along with “Crusch’s plan” to evacuate the mansion and village, including Emi-tan herself. She agrees, because she believes the plan put before her, while not entirely or even partially of her own making, is the best plan as far as she can tell.

So she’s put on a wagon with some enthusiastic village kids, and sent off to safety, while Subie and the knights capture the traitor and take the metia he was using to pass information to the cult. It’s important to note Subaru himself wore the recognition-blocking robe Emilia threw at him, so she had no idea he planned all this.

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Suffice it to say, thanks to learning the lessons of last week’s ‘dry run’, everything goes off without a hitch, as Subaru once again confronts a Betelgeuse now weakened by a lack of fingers nearby. Subie also allows Juli to uses a spell, Nect, that lets him see with his eyes, alowing him to see the unseen hands and cut through them.

This achieved one of Subie’s secondary objectives: to properly make up with Julius. He is, after all, a crucial part of the plan and why, when the episode ends, it looks like the end is near for the Sin Archbishop, and very good for Subaru, who has once more learned from his past mistakes, put pride aside, planned carefully, and relied on and trusted in others.

This is how he has truly become Emilia’s knight.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 23

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False Alarm: No Fresh Hell, just not completely dealt-with Old Hell on this week’s menu. Hell leftovers, if you will. Ram puts the convoy under an illusion spell because she fears Subaru switched sides and the convoy is his invading force. This is due to a misunderstanding: the letter sent to the mansion was blank, usually a declaration of war.

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No harm, no foul, then, right? Ram accepts Subaru’s explanations, and while she’s not in love with him like her sister, he and she still have quite a bit of history which lets her withdraw her aggressive stance with confidence.

It’s also confidence Subaru needs in order to tell the people of the village they need to evacuate. At first a couple of malcontents curst the “half-elf” who brought this upon them, but with Ram’s help, Subie successfully persuades the villagers, even the racists, to cooperate.

Just when Subie is about to head for the mansion with Juli and Felis, the latter discovers one of the merchants has been possessed by a member of the witch’s cult. The man self-destructs, nearly killing Felis and Subie, and the remnants of Betelgueses fingers attack the village.

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Smoke (and Unseen Hands) fills the sky, blood stains the ground, adn the scene starts to resemble one of Subie’s past nightmare scenarios. But this time, he isn’t singularly responsible for failing to detect the cult’s, inside men; he’s just one part of an alliance made up of far more capable people than he who also missed this one.

That being said, and in spite of her earlier warnings to the villagers falling on deaf, non-pointed ears, Emilia arrives to help deal with the threat and protect the villagers who still live.

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She and Pick manage to take out all of the fingers…that they know of, all of whom talk and move and act like Betelguese. But even Emi’s last defeated opponent isn’t the end. When one of Juli’s lesser spirits, deployed to protect Subie, leaves Subie’s body, Betelgeuse possesses him.

Since we’ve never seen Betelgeuse leave a body that went on to survive, it sadly looks like the end for this version of Subaru, as he compels a reluctant, emotional Felis and Juli to kill him before Betelgeuse completes his hold. When the curtain falls on the episode, it would seem they obeyed him.

Will we shift to the focus of everyone but Subaru now that he’s left this world, or will we continue to following him as he respawns…wherever it is he respawns? Whatever the case, I doubt this turn of events will be resolved as quickly as Ram’s misunderstanding…

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 16

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In an episode that doesn’t really come close to last week in terms of emotional or visceral impact, Subaru manages to stay alive the whole time. The beatings Subaru receives this week are more intellectual than physical (though he gets beaten up physically too), as he is outwitted, embarrassed, and enraged by each of Emilia’s rivals.

First up, the ever-calculating, ever-level-headed Crusch. Subaru asks her for military aid against the impending Witch’s Cult raid on Mathers’ domain, but Subaru is not able to convince her that it’s in her best interest to help, or offer anything she won’t profit from anyway if Emilia were wiped out.

She never once loses her composure as Subaru fumes and bites his lip bloody, ultimately resorting to begging. Crusch simply sees right through him, that there’s more to what he wants than what he’s saying, though as we know, there are things Subie simply can’t say that has nothing to do with pride or loyalty.

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Next up, Priscilla. Surely she remembers him saving her in that alley, right? Nope. Priscilla doesn’t even pretend to treat Subie with the slightest whiff of respect, offering to help if he’ll kiss her feet, but quite unlike Crusch, loses her cool completely when he actually tries to do so.

Just as he only managed to convince Crusch that he’s, at best, mad as a hatter, he only manages to convince Pris that he’s a detestable pig who will do anything, no matter how debasing, to get what he wants.

Priscilla is disgusted even to be in his presence, and extends her disgust to Emilia’s whole camp. And she’s clearly deeply disappointed; doubtless a part of her wondered if he wasn’t quite as “insignificant” as he seemed; alas.

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o-for-2…will the third time be the charm? Subie didn’t even bother going to Anastasia Hoshin until they bumped into each other in the street. But while Ana seems a lot friendlier on the outside, she’s only playing games with poor Subaru, dangling something he needs (and a trifle at that; a carriage) in order to pump him for info on who Crusch has been meeting with.

Like a common schoolyard bully, the haughty Anastasia drops her mic and walks out of the tavern, taking her private army with her, utterly assured that Subaru is incapable of doing anything, giving him a curt lesson on being prepared for negotiations, and warning him that the things he does “won’t ever go away,” which hits particularly close for the respawning Subaru who has now struck out on securing an army to protect Emilia.

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Chance smiles upon him one more time, however, as he runs into Otto and a convoy of merchants carrying large amounts of oil. Oil that, I’m sure Subaru is thinking, could be repurposed as some kind of weapon against the cult. Getting back to his old resourceful self, he also hires the merchants to help him evacuate Mathers’ domain. It’s a far more modest and improvised plan, but it’s the best plan he has, and time is a wastin’.

Naturally, even this plan runs into a snag, when a carriage he believed was right alongside his turned out never to exist, and a gigantic beast (probably the fog-making white whale Rem mentioned in episode 14) appears in its place, staring its huge eye right in his face as he shines his phone flashlight at it, and then letting out a monstrous roar…

…And that’s where we leave things: wondering if that beast will send him back to the apple merchant’s stall (erasing all those unpleasant failed negotiations in the process), or if he manages to make use of that oil to progress his hasty, threadbare plans.

As Priscilla said, Subie “hasn’t thought this through.” True, but after a few more failed plans, absorbed blows, and lessons learned, perhaps he eventually will. OR perhaps he’ll simply keep suffering and dying shortly after watching those closest to him do the same, growing more and more insane from the trauma.

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Whatever the case, he’s certainly come a long damn way…

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P.S. Lovely new ED…and quite a departure from last week’s “Headless Subie and dead twisted Rem being buried in the snow as blood red credits roll”

Attack on Titan – 02

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As the first waves of Titan victims become a feast for crows, Eren, Mikasa and Armin retreat from Shiganshina and the breached Wall Maria to Wall Rose. Initially carried by Hannes, Eren fumes over running away, but there’s nothing else to do: he lacks the strength, as does all of humanity.

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As for the Titans themselves, there’s a bizarrely charming dumpy childishness to many of the smaller ones, acting like the humans spread out before them are simply fun toys that happen to double as food. But then there are some that seem much more purely evil, or at least more evolved to dispatch humans on a massive scale, like the Titan that blasts through the gate and uses fire breath to roast the garrison.

There’s a sickening inhuman cruelty at work, but also the sense that this is simply how nature has progressed; humans are no longer the top dogs, and life is going to get more difficult. The Titans are simply doing what they’ve evolved to do: feed on humans. Sorry, humans.

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The kids end up on a boat with a few hundred other survivors, who then become refugees within Wall Rose. Whatever picturesque, idealized town Shiganshina was, their new temporary home is far bleaker and harsher, with a populace already experiencing a food shortage, there’s great animosity for the newcomers; even wishes that the Titans ate more of them.

Once he’s over the initial shock of witnessing his mother’s death and the death of hundreds of others before his eyes, Eren switches to anger and goals that, at this point, are absurdly unreasonable and premature. He tries to run before he can crawl, or at least talk about running, i.e. driving the Titans out.

Thank goodness then, he has the more sensible Armin to keep him from getting an even more severe beating from a guard, and a no-nonsense Mikasa who isn’t above punching Eren out and stuffing bread down his throat if it means keeping him alive.

I’m already enjoying the dynamic of these three, in particular Mikasa, the steadfast rock of the trio with no patience for Eren’s empty speeches about wiping out the Titans when clearly, at present, nothing can be done.

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That fact is underlined when, after putting the refugees to work in the wastelands cultivating food doesn’t arrest the food shortage, 250,000 of them are sent back out to “fight” the Titans. Of course, they only serve as a massive buffet (only 200 survive), and a sign of how callous those behind an inner wall can be to preserve what they have.

A lot of time passes this week, making these first two episodes  a solid foundation chronicling the trauma endured by our protagonists that motivate them to enlist in the military, that they might do something, anything to try to push the Titans back.

Meanwhile, Eren has intense, disturbing dreams and/or visions of future events; his dad is still alive somewhere, and there was a secret in the basement of the family home his dad intended Eren to see. All of this points to Eren being more than just talk, but whatever power he possesses seems a long way from being unleashed.

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Reminder: Comments are welcome as always, but please limit discussion to this episode and avoid spoilers, as I am watching AoT for the first time. Many thanks—HB

Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 44

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With only five minutes left till the warhead hits its target, Ryouko is having trouble grabbing the dimensional controller (her body is too voluptuous to fit through the gap in the rock, ironically). While waiting, Momo’s body appears to de-compile before Tenchi touches her with his lightsaber, which cures her, at least temporarily. He’s trying to keep her together, but a more permanent solution is indicated.

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With Yuki and Rui in custody, Kurihara continues her reign of terror, but is stopped by the Jurai sisters, who exercise their authority as members of the royal family. Kurihara is unmoved and calls for their arrest too…

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…and then Gouriki shows up. Forgot about that guy! Washuu has him absorb the wreckage of a building to grow to enormous size and brandish a bat with which to knock out the warhead. He makes contact, and there’s a huge explosion, which the caves are shielded from — but the warhead remains intact and embedded in the earth. Crisis averted…for now. But now will be over soon.

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