Zetsuen no Tempest – 23

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The team heads to the shore, where they’ll make their final preparations to implement their plan. Yoshino and Mahiro insist on being involved. This angers Hakaze, as Yoshino knows how she feels about him, but he convinces her to go along with it. When the day arrives, Hakaze disguises herself as the Mage of Exodus and attacks the fleet. Hanemura, dressed as the Dancing Princess, gets the fleet to back him up in fighting the Mage of Exodus, drawing them away from the pillar. When he’s close enough, Hanemura and Tetsuma switch places, Hanemura heads for the tree, and Yoshino and Mahiro hijack the survey boat. While their backs are turned on their hostages, one pulls a gun and shoots Yoshino.

How do seven people and one boat take on a armada of one hundred cruisers? Deception, and lots of it. Mahiro is the director of the ballet to save the world, and everyone has a specific role to play. Hanemura plays the classic hero, only hopefully someone who won’t go out with the Tree of Genesis and have to rely on Mahiro tracking down his ex-girlfriend (he forgets that if he fails, everyone’s screwed). Hakaze plays the evil Mage of Exodus, and Hanemura’s costume fits her just fine…like magic! Samon, Junichiro, Yamamoto, and Natsumura Tetsuma all play supporting roles. And while Aika decided hers would be a one-woman-play, tactically declining his help, Yoshino refuses to stand on the sidelines as others he cares about – including Hakaze – fight and sacrifice.

The mission commences in a wonderfully-drawn and paced sequence of the mission being carried out interspersed with Mahiro describing it. We love how pissed off Samon and Tetsuma are to be dressed like tourists, and that Hanemura must endure at least one more indignity by dressing in drag. Everything goes off without a hitch until Yoshino and Mahiro turn their backs on their prisoners, betraying their relative inexperience with terrorism. The cliffhanger wants us to believe Yoshino’s life is in danger again, and maybe it is, but we also know he’s been cut in half before, and survived. The question is: will Hanemura succeed in destroying Genesis?


Rating: 9 (Superior)

 

Zetsuen no Tempest – 20

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Hakaze prepares to transport back to the past to investigate Aika’s murder and report back. Her findings will determine against whom Mahiro exacts his revenge, even if Hakaze herself turns out to be the murderer. She transports her flesh to the skeleton on the island and uses magic to travel to Aika’s hometown. She runs into her on the street just after she arrives four hours before she meets her end, but it’s no coincidence. Aika follows Hakaze to a rooftop and introduces herself as the true Mage of Exodus, then draws a massive magic sword.

Aha…of course Aika is the real Mage of Exodus! Without going into excessive detail (or resorting to whiteboard diagrams), it makes sense after everything we’ve seen. Aika always seemed to possess an aura of wisdom and sageiness beyond her years, and being the mage explains that. If she wants to confront her Genesis counterpart (no, not Collins), it also explains why Hakaze would fall for Yoshino. The desire to determine the truth for the man she loves led her right into Aika’s burdock-like clutches. The moment they cross paths is filled with tension, and that’s before Aika tells Hakaze who she really is.

As soon as Hakaze announced she was going back in time, the gears in our heads started to turn. That decision leads to a course of action that leads to her confrontation with and, at least in the first go-round, eventual killing of Aika, which results in the present timeline these past twenty episodes inhabited. It’s a chicken-and-egg paradox: Hakaze becomes the very person she was looking for: Aika’s killer. She needs to die as she did before if the timeline is to be preserved…but judging from the size of that sword, killing her won’t be easy, assuming that’s what Hakaze intends to do.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

P.S. Samon finds another opportunity to demonstrate his singular wit – that wig joke was GOLD.

Zetsuen no Tempest – 19

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Hakaze meets with Yamamoto and Hayekawa and tells them Hanemura won’t reach his full strength unless the Tree of Exodus absorbs one final fruit that must be raised. Yamamoto shares with her the theory that the tree(s) are an extraterrestrial weapon designed to head off rival civilizations on other worlds. Yoshino and Mahiro wander around, finally meeting by chance at the graveyard. Yoshino admits that he is Aika’s boyfriend, but Mahiro is surprisingly calm about it. They return to the apartment together, and the next day Hakaze announces she’ll be returning to the past, to a time when Aika was still alive.

We actually really enjoyed how Mahiro took the truth about Aika’s boyfriend. It was certainly a big moment, and a possible turning point for the show, but it was handled with a surprisingly light touch. Yes, there’s the Hamlet-like meetup at the graveyard at dusk; the graveyard; the stare-down…but Mahiro had time to think about things, and once the most logical choice came to light (thanks to Hanemura earlier), when Yoshino finally told him, he’s not that upset about it. It could have been worse; she could have been with some random dick. Yoshino he knows to be a kind and decent guy. That said, having the truth revealed doesn’t release him of the pain of losing the woman it turned out he always loved and continues to love.

Mahiro can’t fault Yoshino for hiding the relationship – and his grief – even after Aika died, because he did the exact same thing: hold it all inside and let it stew. However, Yoshino wants a Tempest ending, a Hamlet ending will do for Mahiro. They may yet become enemies; just not over Yoshino dating Aika. We enjoyed how everyone around these two was prepared for Mahiro to lose it, and their shock when he doesn’t. We also like how neutral parties like Yamamoto and Hanemura talk about their nagging doubt. And since the mystery of who killed Aika remains, Hakaze is going to the past to find out firsthand, which could be interesting, as she’ll essentially be time-stalking Aika and Yoshino of that time…


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 14

Mahiro reawakens on New Years Day, and he’s told by Samon, Evangeline, and Takumi that they’re on the lookout for the Mage of Exodus, the one with the power to change the world that is now controlled by the Tree of Genesis. They believe Yoshino may be the mage. Samon goes on to say Hakaze has a crush on Yoshino, and chosen him as her partner as she travels around assessing the change Genesis has brought. They encounter Hanemura Megumu, who believes he may be the mage. Hakaze tests him with a duel, and while he posssesses the power to neutralize her magic, he lacks Exodu’s merciless will to kill and destroy.

Everything has gotten more complicated in the world, but the long and short of it appears to be this: Kusaribe Hakaze still has the power to decide the fate of the world, Takigawa Yoshino has inadvertently stolen her heart (though neither have quite grasped it yet). That means Yoshino has the power to influence her, which means he has the power to decide the fate of the world. So far, Samon, Evangeline, and Takumi are operating under the possibility Yoshino is the Mage of Exodus, which means he could be trying to erode Hakaze trust in the Tree of Genesis, which has created a world without war or social problems, but at the cost of billions of lives (like Jormungand on steroids).

But wait, who’s this wimpy guy with the red powers who is able to stand up to the Princess, who we get to see in a one-on-one battle for the first time? Well he could be the mage too, though like other “The Ones”, while he has the gift, he’s not ready to use it. In a series full of fated encounters, it’s fitting Yoshino randomly bumps into him on a train platform – and that Hakaze instinctively dropkicks him. But thankfully, he’s not your typical “nice evil guy who loses it”…not yet, at least. And we like how Samon playing Mahiro off Yoshino – and using his dead sister as a carrot – is going to continue.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 10

Yoshino offers his theory: that Samon is trying to fool them by trying to make it seem impossible to save her, while keeping Hakaze in despair. This turns out to be true, which irks Samon. He rebuts Yoshino by pointing out that Hakaze is still just bones in the present, but Yoshino counters that the time prison is also an illusion, caused by the psychology of distance and by keeping Hakaze asleep for two years before sending her to the island  Samon disproves that theory by having Hakaze carved word Yoshino says to her on the barrel. Mahiro remains on the fence, but Yoshino’s efforts were successful in buoying Hakaze’s spirit and deeply troubling Samon, turning the tides in her favor.

We must confess that we were a little disappointed in the lack of progress in this episode. Almost the entire running time is nothing but three people standing around throwing out theories and counterarguments. Considering a huge battle is raging and the Tree of Exodus is about to be awakened, this is a bit of a momentum-killer and the constant diversions into Samon’s inner thoughts reminded us a bit too much of a dragged out shounen battle. But Samon’s thoughts are important, since it’s how we witness his change of mood. For all of Yoshino’s insistence he has Samon figured out, he’s only bluffing, stalling for time, and helping Hakaze get out of her funk – and if Mahiro believes him, so much the better.

Well, Mahiro can’t quite believe him, and Samon does prove that there is a time shift and it isn’t just an elaborate illusion. Hakaze’s in the past, and needs to find a way to cross time in order to deal with Samon. She’s finally in the right state of mind, and Samon is seriously flustered. But the fact remains, last week we ended with Yoshino, Mahiro and Samon in a clearing, wondering how to proceed. This week we ended with Yoshino, Mahiro and Samon in a clearing, wondering how to proceed. We enjoyed the verbal sparring and shifting of the winds, but this episode didn’t take us as far as we thought it would.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 08

The JSDF launches a major offensive against the Kusaribe clan, bombarding the barrier that protects them and the Tree of Exodus. Mahiro and Yoshino break through with a wad of talismans, and not soon thereafter encounter Samon. Mahiro aims the talisman rifle at him and demands he bring back Hakaze. Samon tries to convince them they’re on the wrong side; it is her Tree of Genesis that will reset civilization and destroy the world as they know it, and Exodus that will save the world. Mahiro doesn’t care, as he’s heard the story already. But then Samon presents them with Hakaze’s skeleton in the barrel beside him, and informs Mahiro, Yoshino and Hakaze that she’s communicating with them from two years in the past, and she has since died.

The fate of the world rests in the hands of Mahiro, who hates the world’s guts because it killed Aika. Hakaze is the one who has convinced him she can help him make things right. So whatever Samon says, or no matter how many times he smacks his scabbard against the rock (and he does that a lot) it won’t convince Mahiro to stray from the plan. So Samon’s cornered, right? Checkmate? Game Over? Notsofast…Samon has to whip out that damn skeleton again; the elephant in the room. We were willing to hear Samon out as much as Mahiro, but only as a courtesy. Now…we don’t know who or what to believe. His revelation even spooks Hakaze, who stands on the beach as a storm arrives, literally raining on her parade.

She’s carefully counted her days, adding up to four months, but the year she gives the others was two years ago. So all this time, Mahiro’s been talking to someone just as dead as Aika? If so, how can she help him? This all depends on how seriously Mahiro takes Samon’s insistence that she’s dead. She isn’t dead in the past; perhaps there’s a way to avoid her death and make that skeleton disappear, BTTF-style? So Mahiro may well press on. But Yoshino’s a different story. He had his doubts before he learned this – now he may not be able to let Mahiro wield the power destroy the world he knows – even if the world he wants is also one where Aika is still alive.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 06

Junichiro tells Mahiro and Yoshino how Samon had Hakaze killed by stranding her on an island, showing him her bones as proof. The paradox irks Hakaze, still alive on the island, but before they can investigate, a fruit is raised in Junichiro’s town. Natsumura tries and fails to get him to break his neutrality, while Mahiro and Yoshino escape on a bus with the special talisman in the form of a chained gun.

While in the forest, they are ambushed by soldiers of the Black Iron Syndrome Countermeasures Force. Mahiro is knocked out, while Yoshino willingly goes with Evangeline, as they’ve worked out a deal where he cooperates with her in gathering info on the Kusaribe clan, who the force aims to defeat, along with their Tree of Exodus plans. Mahiro intercepts the convoy Yoshino is on, and Yoshino must bail to avoid appearances of collusion.

The richness and excellence of this series is such that it can introduce a big and seemingly significant revelation one week, only to be almost immediately placed on the back burner in lieu of more pressing matters the next.We also had a little chuckle at the prominent mention of bones in a Bones series. But the new big revelation is that Yoshino is collaborating with Evangeline Yamamoto (long time no see) behind Mahiro’s (and Hakaze’s) back. It comes as an initial shock, but, also makes sense. Yoshino can’t entirely trust them, but nor can he entirely trust Mahiro or Hakaze. (Evangeline seems more concerned with her and Genesis than Samon and Exodus).

Yoshino is no stranger to lying to Mahiro’s face; he did it the entire time he was with Aika. But he starts to feel guilty hanging out with him and getting rescued by someone he’s lied to on so many matters. That guilt makes him feel vulnerable and expectant of some kind of retribution, but none seems forthcoming, which could either be Mahiro being dense or unobservant, or not wanting to confront Yoshino on his “treachery.” Then there’s the nugget about Aika not being Mahiro’s sister by blood, and that his feelings toward her might’ve been a bit more complicated than brotherly love. Regardless, Yoshino can’t fully trust Mahiro to save a world that, in a way, already ended when he lost her.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 02

Hakaze instructs Mahiro to return to the scene of Aika’s death, where he uses talismans to cast a spell that will draw out information on his sister’s killer. While the process unfolds, he advise Yoshino to clear out to find his family (and non-existent gf). Evangeline gets the jump in Yoshino, but he uses talismans Mahiro gave him to use magic to thwart her. The two make a deal, and she learns that Aika was Mahiro’s girlfriend. Samon orders his dog Natsumura to capture Mahiro, who takes him on, ignoring Hakaze’s warnings.

Takigawa Yoshino is in quite a pickle. His world – Aika – is pretty much gone. His best friend, her protective older brother, has no idea, and probably wouldn’t take it well no matter how much Shakespeare Yoshino recited. Mahiro pays lip service about helping Hakaze prevent her family from upturning the world, but he’s really driven by vengeance. Mahiro would destroy the world to get his revenge; Yoshino doesn’t think there’s any point to it. But like we said: his world is gone and has been for a year. If the world is destroyed, would he care?

We really dig Yoshino’s stoic but still potent melancholy in contrast to Mahiro’s barely-contained mouth-foaming rage. We don’t even mind him quoting Prince of Denmark here and there (as opposed to some cliched villain) because it’s something he may have read in class or found in the library that resonated with him – Aika being his Ophelia. Theirs was a quiet, secret love, one her brother would never understand. One can help but wonder with all the references what precisely led to Aika’s death, and whether Yoshino was in any way involved, which would be another reason to keep tight-lipped around Mahiro. But between carving up mages and cleaning Hakaze’s garage, Mahiro may uncover the truth – whatever it is – himself.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 01

Takigawa Yoshino’s best friend Fuwa Mahiro has been missing for a month, not long after his younger sister Aika is murdered in a robbery. One gray afternoon Yoshino visits Aika’s grave and is confronted by Evangeline Yamamoto, a government “volunteer” who wants to know the whereabouts of Mahiro. She pulls a gun on Yashiro, but Mahiro flies in and disables her using magic. He’s made a deal with the powerful mage Kusaribe Hakaze to aid her in exchange for helping him locate Aika’s killer. Hakaze is the heiress to a powerful magic family tried to awaken something, which is causing a metallicizing epidemic to spread across Japan. She has been stranded by her relation Samon.

People deal with grief in different ways. Some of them find a wooden doll in a bottle washed up on the shore, and follow it’s instructions to drive a nail into it so it will grant their wish, at which point it becomes a sort of walkie-talkie for communication between them and a powerful sorceress stranded on a remote island by her family with nothing but a dress and sandals, who promises to help them bring justice to those who took their sister away. Others…don’t go that far. They simply maintain, keeping on their cell phone not only a photo of and last text from the girl who always pretended she hated him around her brother but in reality was his girlfriend. And not being interested in anyone else. This was an awesome twist at the end, by the way. And now, here are these two lads, reunited, with the latter about to be swept up in the tempest his wayward friend brought with him.

This is a very impressive start to what could be a definite keeper among those shows we hadn’t initially considered trying out. However, we took a look, and were very glad we did. Full of complex emotions and dilemmas and populated by interesting, flawed characters, and told primarily from the point of view of someone like us who don’t see enough magic to be comfortable with it. It’s also wonderfully animated, with a badass fight and some creepy rituals. It’s got great scope and epic scale, and is full of intriguing possibilities. There’s no way we’re missing the next episode.


Rating: 9 (Superior)