The Rising of the Shield Hero – 21 – Making Things Right

After a strange, ethereal dream, Naofumi wakes up in a bed, having not awakened for three days following the damage caused by Blood Sacrifice, surrounded by Raphtalia, Filo and Melty, who likely rarely left his bedside.

When two “medics” come to change his bandages, he immediately calls them out as Shadows, and sure enough, they’re escorting Queen Mirelia Melromarc herself to his chamber to introduce herself…and to talk about clearing his name and punishing those who poisoned it.

In that regard, this is an episode that’s been a long time coming, and one that rewards everyone who suffered beside Naofumi for so long as his reputation and life (and those of his party) were threatened by the lies and villainy of Malty and her father the King Consort.

After explaining where she was (putting out fires with nations angered that Melromarc summoned all four Heroes) and why no one kept her daughter husband in line (the lord she entrusted died in the first wave), Mirelia lowers her head in apology to Naofumi, promises to clear his name, reward him for his service, and give him justice.

That night, Naofumi has a premonition of the form of that justice: Malty’s and the King’s heads being placed in stocks, defiant and enraged to the last despite their guilt. But when the guillotines fall and Naofumi wakes up, he’s far more disturbed than relieved by the dream.

The next day, Queen Mirelia holds a trial for Malty and the King, placing a Slave Crest upon the former so she cannot lie without being shocked. Since lying comes as easily as breathing for Malty, she’s shocked quite a number of times trying to deny the crimes leveled against her. The only instance of her not being shocked is when she denies colluding with the church to kill the Heroes.

But everything else, right down to her false accusation of sexual assault that started Naofumi’s long path of misery, is exposed as lies. Even when she forms a slave pact with Motoyasu, she can’t help but lie and deny. There’s nowhere left to hide; not from Motoyasu, and not from the public, who are watching on magical screens and gradually turn against her and the King.

Mirelia finds them both guilty of high treason, strips them of their titles, and sentences them to death, to be carried out immediately in the courtyard. Naofumi’s dream starts to repeat itself, but where in the dream Malty is neither repentant nor scared, here she’s both, and increasingly desperate not to die.

That sour feeling returns to Naofumi’s gut; cancelling out whatever weights may have been lifted from his shoulders by the favorable verdict or clearing of his name. When Malty finally calls out to “Naofumi-sama,” the man she tried to kill many times, to spare her life—and her Slave Crest doesn’t react—Naofumi finally calls for the queen to hold up.

He doesn’t want to see Malty or the King executed, but puts on his brash/infamous Shield Hero persona in explaining why: a quick death is too good for them! Instead he suggests they be allowed to live on, but with new names: King Trash and Princess Bitch (with the adventurer’s name of “slut”).

Needless to say, I wasn’t particularly elated upon hearing such sophomoric, misogynistic names being thrown about so casually. But I was happy he realized their deaths wouldn’t make him happy, and, well, both of them do deserve harsh punishment, so Trash and Bitch it is. Now the two unquestionably owe the Shield Hero their lives, and had better not forget it.

With that, the Queen prepares the ceremony to bestow upon Naofumi all the awards he’s due, but he’s ready to leave Melromarc for other parts of the world that suffer the devastation of the Waves of Catastrophe. He leaves the other three Heroes on a good note, and the Queen accepts his decision. While leaving, Melty doesn’t get a chance to say goodbye to Naofumi, at least until her mother says if he hadn’t told her to stay the executions, she would have offered her own life to him for her husband and daughter.

As Naofumi, Raphtalia, and Filo depart the city at the head of a friendly, thankful, even adoring crowd (how fast public opinion turns), Melty manages to catch up, thank Naofumi, and say goodbye properly. He bids her farewell with a smile that moves her to tears. After twenty episodes of beating Naofumi down, his spirits have never looked higher, and he and his party look poised to do great things.

Inuyashiki – 03

As soon as Hiro realizes the old man he killed wasn’t effected by his “air gun”, he bolts, and by bolt I mean launch into the sky and scream off like a fighter jet. Thus, the big standoff between him and Ichirou is postponed. But as he wakes up from a nightmare of the death he witnessed, Ichirou knows he’ll have to find and confront him sometime.

This boy is like him, but whether his powers have twisted him into a monster, or he was always a sociopath and only now has the means to do as he pleases, Ichirou knows he’s the only one who can stop him. Essentially, some whippersnapper needs an ear-boxing.

Hiro isn’t the first evil, nor is he the only evil in the world, or even in the vicinity of Ichirou’s home and work; far from it. You don’t need to be killed and reconstructed by an advanced alien race to be a dickbag that doesn’t care about anyone or anything, as evidenced by the kids who attacked a homeless man, or a group of athletic young toughs who plan to kill a man for daring to tell them to wait in line.

Like any and every great hero, Ichirou doesn’t buy into a world where the strong unrelentingly prey on the weak. Why should he? He may be one of the two strongest beings on the planet. No, with strength comes not carte blanche, but noblesse oblige. Just as Hiro was a bad person before getting reconstructed, Ichirou was always a good and just man.

It’s only now, like Hiro, that he’s able to act on his kind and virtuous nature. When it looks bad for the poor man surrounded by much larger ones, Ichirou takes out the trash. But he doesn’t kill anyone, nor is there any malice in his actions; only a desire to stop a great wrong from being committed, and ensure the safety of those who cannot ensure it themselves.

Once his “Grampy-sense” detects a family struggling to escape a house fire, he wills the machinery within his back to come out and propel him to the danger in time to save them. He does so by singing the theme to Astro Boy.

At first, his built-in jetpack is a little too much to handle; he screams bloody murder as he’s flung every which way, a scene that’s as awesome as it is frikkin’ hilarious. In a show that gets as intense as this one, it’s nice to know we’ll always have some moments of levity.

He gets the hang of it pretty quickly, and manages to save not only the crying children’s father, but their grandmother as well. Instead of thanks and praise, he asks that they not mention him to the authorities, and having just been miraculously saved by him, one hopes they would respect his wishes.

Ichirou is an unconditional hero to all, not because he can, with his wondrous new powers, but because he feel he must. He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he stood by and did nothing when his actions can make a positive difference in the world. Compare this to his pre-transformation, when he was just trying to maintain, and was diagnosed with terminal cancer for his trouble. A man of inaction, no longer is he.

Hiro, while a monster, seems to remain tied to his humanity through his best friend Andou, whom he finally convinces to come to school, promising to protect him. He is, or at least is trying to be, a hero of one…unfortunately for the rest of the world, not to mention Andou.

When the bullies return to Andou’s desk and threaten him, Hiro wastes no time taking the wrist of their strongest and squeezing it hard enough to make him cry, apologize, and insult himself and his friends.

I can’t tell whether Hiro is using laser-sharp precision to apply just enough pressure to the guy’s wrist, or struggling as hard as he can not to squeeze to hard, snap his arm off and expose himself at school. I like how there’s uncertainty in something like that.

Hiro takes Andou to the roof where the bullies initially told them to meet, but they already left with some girls. Hiro gives Andou some binoculars and starts pointing out into the distance and saying “BANG.” Eventually, Andou pans to where Hiro was “shooting”, and finds the four bullies dead, all shot in the head with invisible bullets that leave no trace; the scared-shitless girls having no idea what just happened.

It’s too far. Andou is a gentle soul; he can’t take this shit, and wastes no time rejecting Hiro and warning him to stay away when Hiro refuses to turn himself into the police. All of the things Hiro did to that point to impress Andou—humiliate then kill bullies, boast of his ability to nuke China with US missile, steal thousands of dollars from the ATM—only serve to disgust Andou and push him further away.

Their friendship is over, but Hiro reacts the same way he does to everything, save his brief encounter with Ichirou: calmly. Too, calmly, if you ask me. Without Andou to provide even a semblance of a tether, Hiro’s monstrous acts may only increase in scale and scope.

Inuyashiki likes to punch below the belt, as when an adorable mama cat and her kitten walk past a charmed Ichirou, only for the mom to get hit by a car right in front of him. Exhibiting uncommon goodness that makes one’s eyes well up, he takes the cat into his arms, even though he can’t do anything for her…then learns that he actually can.

Ichirou scans that dead cat and fixes her right up, and she and her kitten stride off like nothing ever happened, giving Ichirou the one thank-you he wished he always got: no thank-you at all. Ichirou is overcome with joy and gratitude for the gift he has been given, and immediately stops by a hospital to heal as many people as he can.

And yet, as he’s been going around left and right saving lives, his opposite Hiro is out there taking them, as if the universe itself were maintaining the balance from suddenly having two such immensely powerful beings in such close proximity. If both were evil killers, humanity would be toast, but Ichirou is as good as Hiro is bad.

Witness the ending, in which the camera mercifully doesn’t follow Hiro inside another house for another routine family-killing. It just stays there, frozen, and we realize just how goddamn quickly Hiro purges the house of all life before walking out, spotting two passing boys—clearly friends—running past, and thinks long and hard about killing them too.

By holding his fire, was he trying to prove to himself that he can control himself when he needs to even without Andou? Perhaps he still has a degree of restraint, owing to the same sense of self-preservation that induced him to escape from Ichirou. But that restraint can’t last.

The first two episodes introduced our characters: the third explored their powers further and illustrated how far they can take those powers—in both moral directions. Hiro seems to be on the path to ruin; Ichirou, on the path to sainthood. But in a universe of balance, perhaps neither will ever reach their destination.

Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 06

With its sixth episode, Akashic Records has unfolded in a steady pattern: a first episode of setup (in this case the magical competition) a second episode that raises the stakes (the attempted plot to kill Rumia) and a satisfying third episode that brings everything together with style and panache.

Last week ended with Re=L trying to kill Glenn, but that’s just her nature: rush in headfirst without thinking. Fortunately for Glenn and Rumia, Albert is there to hold Re=L back, and the two court mages decide to help their old buddy out with protecting Rumia and foiling the Imperial Guard’s plot.

Many times, we cut away from the end of the competition to Glenn simply running from the Guard with Rumia in his arms. Albert and Re=L take over for Glenn, with Albert saying everything Glenn would say if he was there, keeping Class 2’s heads in the game. Everyone performs like he hoped when he selected them, including Sisti, who makes use of his altered spell advice to defeat her opponent in a duel and grasp victory.

From there, a nifty little twist takes place: the representatives of the winning class get to be presented their award by Queen Alicia herself. In this case, that’s Albert and Re=L…only it ISN’T. Albert and Re=L switched places with Glenn and Rumia back when they met, using self-illusion magic to assume each other’s forms.

That puts Glenn, The Fool, right where he needs to be to (quietly) unleash his Fool’s World spell, nullifying the conditional cursed necklace around Alicia’s neck. Before that, Alicia has to say some very harsh lies about ordering Rumia’s execution and that she never loved her.

That really puts poor Rumia through the emotional ringer, but Rumia’s a tough gal, and once it’s no longer deadly to do so, Queen Alicia lets her true feelings be known, and that in turn leads Rumia to accept and return her mother’s love in a tearful, cathartic embrace.

As for the ringleader in the Guard’s treachery, Eleanor Chalet, a heretic mage of the Researchers of Divine Wisdom, is surrounded by the real Albert and Re=L in a dark alley, but uses a spell to escape before they can place her in custody, offering only one vague, if titular clue, about why she was so keen on killing Rumia AKA Ermiana: “Akashic Records.”

If a RDW traitor could pose as queen’s chief handmaiden, it means the good guys will have to exercise constant vigilance. Albert and Re=L bid goodbye to Glenn, though considering she’s featured heavily in the OP and ED in an academy uniform, I wouldn’t be surprised if Re=L returns, posing as a student in Glenn’s class to assist him in keeping Rumia safe.

After thanking Glenn for helping to save her, along with her mom, and for keeping his three-year-old promise to have her back, Rumia and Glenn head to the tavern where the rest of Class 2 has already gotten the victory celebration started. In fact, I was totally caught off guard yet delighted by the fact Sisti managed to get wasted (on brandy cake of all things!) and is in full-on Lovey-Dovey Shironeko Glom mode with Glenn.

That would be enough discomfort on his plate, but as a final insult, the class ended up spending his entire reward, as well as the three-month salary he won in the bet with his fellow teacher, on the night’s food and drink bill. Not to worry, however: he’s sure to get more homemade meals from Sisti.

Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 05

What seemed most likely to be the conclusion of the magical competition turned out to be something else entirely: something far more significant than Glenn’s wager with Halley; something far more interesting, too.

It starts simply enough, with a lunch break in which Glenn reminds us what a bastard he can be by taking advantage of the fact that Sisti thinks he’s Rumia so he can nab a bite to eat. That being said, he transformed to give Lynn a pointer about illusion magic, so he’s really only a half-bastard.

Quite surprisingly, Glenn and Rumia are approached by Queen Alicia VII, who can’t help but take advantage of the fact her biological daughter is right there before her. Unfortunately, Rumia isn’t in the mood to talk or be conciliatory; she politely tells the queen she’s mistaking her for someone else and bolts.

I can’t say I blame her! Rumia may have just won the Mental Defense round, but that was nothing compared to her dilemma this week as her “former” mother all of a sudden gets in her face. Glenn tracks her down when Sisti is worried about her, and helps Rumia work through the conflicting feelings. For his part, Glenn tells her there’s no way to avoid regrets 100% in life, so one might as well make choices that are true to who they are.

Meanwhile, our two mysterious bluish-haired folks are on the alert after hearing about suspicious activity with the Imperial Guard: Albert and Re=L. Not long after Alicia talks with Glenn and Rumia, she is taken into custody by said guard.

The two are clearly court mages and former colleagues of Glenn’s, have have both a casual rapport with one another (considering how often she lets him pull her hair) and confidence in their abilities (Re=L is all for a fully frontal assault).

It isn’t long before Rumia is tracked down by the guards, accused, tried, and convicted of attempting to assassinate the queen right then and there. Glenn is knocked out and she’s tied to a tree to be executed, and as is typical of Rumia, she’s ready to die…

…But Glenn wasn’t knocked out that badly, and uses flash spells to get the jump on the guards and rescue Rumia…even though Rumia isn’t sure she should be rescued, poor girl.

Once a safe distance away, Glenn contacts Celica, but like the queen, she’s being held hostage by the Guards, which means Glenn is on his own. Only, not really, because Re=L and Albert show up just when they’ll be the most useful; an ace in the hole, if you will.

We’ll see if they consider Glenn a hostile, or if Re=L will stand down shortly after her aerial attack. Whatever the case, between Glenn, his old buddies, and his capable students, I like their odds of saving Alicia and Celica from the Imperial Guard…Unless there’s a good reason Zelos is restraining the queen and Celica, of course.

In any case, it’s another nice setup for both another high-stakes hostage situation and a proper introduction of Albert and Re=L.

Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 08

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It was great to watch Shiemi finally kick some ass after sitting on the sidelines for so long, and for the gang to get back together and head out as a team. The question was, could this episode keep the momentum going as we draw nearer to the final battle with Todo and the Impure King? The answer, unfortunately, is not really.

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Sure, lots of things happen: the exorcists summon a fire vajra to give them more strength against the rot, the kids find Bon’s dad, who Kurara is keeping alive, Kurara is transferred to Bon, which is a pretty big deal, and Bon and Rin ride MegaKuro closer to the place where they’ll have to destroy the Impure King’s heart.

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But none of it feels that significant; it’s as if the show is intentionally holding back and content to show us more preparation for the fight. We’re told many tens of thousands of innocent people are at risk, and the billowing rot of the Impure King is a nearly constant and menacing presence, but the fact remains: the episode felt slow, almost plodding, and I didn’t like Rin’s group splitting up so soon after getting back together, even if it makes sense to the plot.

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Yukio has never been my favorite Exorcist character, what with his occasional temptations to cast away the burdens of his family and cross over to the dark side. Todo spends a lot of time toying with him in an interminable one-sided duel, with the apparent intent of bringing Yukio over to his side. I mean, if that wasn’t the case, he could have killed him many times over.

Chances are Rin will be able to unsheathe the Koma Sword, but only in the moment he needs to the most. That means the Impure King’s heart is probably not long for this world. The true wild card is Todo, especially if he manages to turn Yukio. But it wouldn’t be particularly satisfying if he could be turned so easily by a brief monologue.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 07

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Once Yukio has finished reading Tatsumi’s letter, Shura puts her trust in the master, removing the sword from safekeeping (within her body) and handing it to Rin, who wants to help defeat the Impure King, and heck, may be the only one who can.

There are only two problems: in Rin’s current state of fear and lack of confidence, he can’t physically draw the sword, and Mephisto Pheles pops in and throws Rin in an even more impenetrable prison, as the Vatican has sensed his tail seal from when he flared up, and have sentenced him to death.

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Let’s get one thing out of the way: Rin is not going to be executed. Shura and Yukio don’t want that, but they can only do so much in their positions. So Shura appeals to Rin’s friends, gives Bon his father’s letter and the sword, and tells them to go bust Rin out. If he’s their only hope, they’re his.

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Shiemi is the first to grab a camo poncho, and does so without hesitation. One by one the others agree with various levels of grudging. But once they reach the prison, the sentient door freezes everyone in their tracks, except the one person neither armed nor bearing hostile intent.

That’s right: Shiemi’s purported weakness is a strength here, as she can casually open the door to the prison and stroll in. Her gentle nature and loyalty and affection for Rin are the X-factor that enables everything that follows to occur.

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Once in Mephisto’s prison, there’s supposedly no way out, but Shiemi takes things one step at a time. First, she finds Rin, who starts wondering if maybe he should die before hurting more people; maybe that’s the best way for him to be useful.

Bollocks to that, says Shiemi. Just as she told all the others they’d all regret not trying to save Rin, she knows Rin will regret dying here and now. She also, for the first time, truly sees the weight of his flames, and when he lashes out to try to make her leave, rather than run from the blue flames, she leans into them, and they’re not hot…they’re warm.

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She believes Rin is keeping the flames controlled so as not to harm her, without even thinking about it. Sometimes, you gotta stop thinking and just be, and that seems to be the case here.

Rin’s flames won’t hurt people he cares about, so there’s nothing to fear. To drive the point home, Shiemi draws Rin into a big hug, showing him he has nothing to fear; she’s just fine.

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With that, Rin blasts them out of the “impenetrable” prison with ease Methinks Mephisto knew the conditions under which Rin could escape, and possibly even counted on it. For to get Rin out, his friends would have to band together, set aside their fears (either about him or repercussions from the Vat), and, as Shiemi did, get him to realize he can control his power.

Hell, even Ryuuji is ready to fight with Rin, and the two apologize for their earlier fight. Ryuuji reveals that he’s only mad at Rin because he bore his burdens alone for so long without telling his friends. No more of that. If they’re going to take out that Impure King on the mountain, they have to do it as one.

The second straight great episode from Ao, bringing us back into the present and getting Rin and friends to finally make up as a great battle looms. But Shiemi was the star, doing things no one else could or would do. Honorable mentions go to a gravely injured Mamushi racked by guilt, and a forgiving Juzo who’s not going to let her die.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 05

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Alright: I’m officially frustrated with how slowly this arc is moving. It’s one thing to spend an episode or two in one place, but this is getting ridiculous. Yaozou holds another tedious meeting to bring everyone up to speed, and we keep seeing the same flashbacks of Rin flaring up and standing trial. The show seems to be spending so much time reminiscing while setting the table, I’m starting to lose my appetite.

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Mamushi, still being portrayed with the possibility she could still be redeemed, if barely, is having difficulty bearing the evil of the Right Eye, but Todou claims he can’t bear them both alone. Mamushi honestly thinks she’s doing what’s best for her order, so a little suffering is par for the course.

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The sitting around back at Myoda HQ is all the more frustrating because no one, save Tatsuma, seems to be in any hurry to follow Todou and Mamushi. Granted they vanished without a trace, but…you’re exorcists. Do something exorcisty to detect and find them! Instead we get more meetings, then are treated to Yukio reading a letter by Tatsuma that’s as big as a goddamn book.

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Granted, at least the book-letter takes us to a different place, namely the Myoda Temple years ago, when Tatsuma was a young man with a dying pregnant wife and preparing to take over from the master, his ailing father. We also learn that Rin’s Koma Sword was once the main relic of the Myoda sect…until one day Rin and Yukio’s dad…stole it.

Now that sounds like an interesting story. But in the back of my mind, I know that back in the present Rin and Yukio and Shura are sitting around in a jail doing nothing. What little momentum had been built up isn’t likely to survive such a leisurely stroll down memory lane.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 04

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Bon is our eyes and ears for most of this episode’s first half as he follows Renzou’s bro Juuzou, suspicious of his movements (and of the trail of bodies in his wake), until it’s revealed those exorcists were knocked out by Mamushi, not Juuzou.

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Having been told about the eye when she was a student of Todou’s, her general argument is that neither Saguro Tatsuma nor her own father can be trusted; that they are the real traitors, and she’s acting in the best interests of the Myoda Sect.

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I for one am glad the obviously more sinister-(and awesome!)-looking suspect, while indeed the traitor, at least has halfway viable reasons besides “I’m just evil BWAHAHA!”, though it does take quite a bit of exposition to get her somewhat complex positions and accusations out.

Meanwhile, Rin is making progress with the candles on the roof when the whole earth shakes. He starts to run off but Shura catches him and forbids him from moving and acting on his own, lest he be “put down” as per the agreement that spared his life (for now).

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It’s also good to see Todou back so soon, even if he claims Mamushi is acting on her own (clearly he’s been manipulating her for some time). There’s something appealing about his frumpy, unexceptional, harmless functionary look; especially contrasted with everyone else’s more traditional garb (Shura aside). Mamushi grabs the eye, and she and Todou skedaddle.

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Tatsuma prepares to go after them, but Bon wants a goddamn explanation out of him, now. Tatsuma, for whatever reason, won’t or can’t give him one, only saying “it’s a secret” and other fatherly platitudes to stay out of trouble and be patient. It’s not enough, and Bon all but disowns him, warning if he runs away he better not come back.

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Those sentiments set Rin, who had been pretty passively in the background, off. Understandably so, as he had a similar falling out with his dad Shiro that was never able to be resolved, since Shiro died. Rin may want to repair his friendship with Bon, but trying to stop him from making the same mistake, something he’ll regret forever, takes precedence.

Of course, Rin gets so worked up, his blue flames come out, scaring the crap out of everyone who didn’t know about them and forcing Shura to knock him out with the shock collar-like ring on his tail, but not before he calls her a hag and tells her to buzz off. I admire Rin’s passion regarding Bon, but he really does need to realize how short his leash has become.

Honestly, I wanted to rate this episode higher, but it had a bit too much standing around talking/explaining, the flashbacks to the trial seemed redundant, and I’m bummed Mamushi’s pretty much a bad guy right now and it’s not certain at all whether she’ll be redeemed.

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Macross Delta – 24

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Hayate, Mirage and Freyja are in custody for a good part of this episode, and what with the restraints and show trial and general passivity of Heinz (the only one who can pardon them), things certainly looked pretty bad for our triangle…in a vacuum.

But Arad, Kaname, Makina and Reina were still free, thanks in part to Mikumo and in part to their own competence. While pondering their next move, the still-free members of Chaos are approached by Berger (sporting a new voice actor, as the original is in poor health), who promptly leads them to Chekhov’s Still-working VF-22.

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Lloyd’s courtship of Mikumo continues, as he tells her she’s not only an artificial life form, but also the legendary Star Singer, descended from the Protoculture. Hard to argue with him considering what she’s managed to do.

Furthermore, he believes Walkure was created to provide cover for her. She was once Lady M’s, but now she’s Lloyd’s, and he intends to use her; her own desires are irrelevant to the equation.

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After the show trial (which is a bit dull), we get to the execution, which consists of the three condemned taking flying leaps off the edge of a huge sheer cliff. Hayate stalls as much as he can, assuring both himself and the girls that this isn’t the end.

Sure enough, the VF-22 streaks through the sky and causes a big ol’ ruckus, allowing Hayate and Mirage’s remote-controlled planes to catch them when they jump. It’s a neat stunt, though the whole exercise makes the Windermereans look a bit dumb.

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A huge aerial battle ensues between Delta and the Aerial Knights as Walkure attempts to destroy the protoculture system without Mikumo’s help. It doesn’t go well: Makina takes a sniper’s bullet for Freyja, and while they try to keep it together, Lloyd repeats a mantra enough times to awaken the Star Singer within Mikumo, and her song starts overpowering everyone.

So Walkure/Delta has no choice but to retreat, having left Windermere in much worse shape than when they arrived. Makina may heal, but now Lloyd has perhaps the Ultimate Trump Card in an awakened Star Singer, while an ice crystal appears on Freyja for the first time; it would seem her singing has shortened her already-short life.

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Mayoiga – 03

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Dozens of people of every disposition and background suddenly isolated in a strange place full of mysteries…Mayoiga, I’ve decided, is the Lost of anime. This episode made that decision a lot easier, especially with the group’s need to hastily grope their way through some kind of rudimentary justice system after one of them tries to harm another.

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One reason “Jack” is looking for a new life is that he was heavily bullied in school, lost it, lashed out, and ended up in juvy. Just because he was released doesn’t mean all his trauma and neuroses are gone; so when Judgeness prods him too far, he lashes out again.

That gets him tied up, and ultimately it’s decided they’ll throw him in a creepy undergound prison for the night, even though some (cough-Lovepon-cough) wants him swiftly executed for his wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Valkana searches feverishly for Yottsun after Masaki is found, with a story of him leading her along until he went off on his own an vanished. Valkana’s obsession with finding him stems from his absolute need not to be called a scapegoat—after just such a thing happened in his “previous” life as a systems engineer (ah, the flashback…one of Lost’s primary narrative devices).

That obsession makes Valkana very short-fused, and Koharun gets a taste of his wrath when she suggests deep down he’s lonely, otherwise he’d never embark on an adventure involving so many other people. The truth hurts some more than others.

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In case anyone was in doubt, Maimai kinda likes Mitsumine, despite her standoffish demeanor towards him. When they encounter one another on the bridge, she’s clearly flattered by his desire to keep her safe, even if that desire extends to, say, Masaki.

Lovepon, meanwhile, remains as loopy as ever about doling out swift justice to those who upset the balance or safety of the group. She believes Jack deserves execution, and anyone who stands in her way deserves it to, as she grabs Mitsumine, falls off the bridge, and tries to drown him.

She does not succeed, but while fighting her off, Mitsumine notices the drowned body of Yottsun floating down the stream. Did Masaki kill him when he tried to rape her, or did he just get killed by a bear? The mind races with possibilities based on the scant information we know. And once more, an episode ends with a hook I can’t quite escape from…

…AND YET, were I to keep saying “One more episode”, I may one day turn around and see that I’ve watched the whole thing, and wasn’t worth it. I committed to watching three episodes, and I’ve watched those three. As enticing as the mysteries ahead may be, I think it’s time to move on.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 23

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While it felt like momentum-killing padding at the time, in hindsight it was a good idea to expose Shinichi to Mitsuyo’s worldview and advice before seeking out Gotou for a rematch. She instilled in him the idea of not simply rushing to his death half-cocked, but rather constantly using the noggin in his skull to think of ways, no matter how unlikely or ridiculous, to keep living. In other words, to trust his instincts; the same instincts that drive all other living things on Earth to survive.

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It isn’t all that unfair a fight. Sure, Gotou is nigh invincible and far stronger and faster than Shinichi, (I even felt that mega-punch) but he can’t kill him if he can’t find him. This was one somewhat glaring flaw, however; it seems odd that Gotou has virtually no idea where Shinichi is. For one thing, he’s human, which is Gotou’s food…why wouldn’t he be able to smell out a meal? For another thing, there are still Migi cells in Shinichi’s body, which you’d think Gotou would be able to at least detect a little.

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Another glaring flaw is that Shinichi survives the fight early on mostly because Gotou takes his sweet old time killing him, because he doesn’t consider a human to be any threat. Shinichi could have possibly even talked him into letting him live, or at least run far enough away that Gotou wouldn’t bother fighting him. Of course, that means putting more innocent people at risk.

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And that’s primarily why Shinichi confronted Gotou; not out of anger, or for revenge, or because he wants to be the hero, but to prevent others from dying because of him. With poise that would make Mitsuyo proud, just moments before Gotou skewers him, Shinichi remembers Gotou bleeding in a specific location. Lying in a pile of garbage, he picks up a rusty pipe and stabs the lunging Gotou with it. It turns out to be a vulnerable area, and it pisses Gotou off even more.

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But stabbing him there also broke the link between the “head” and the “rest”, and as I had suspected after the uncertain fate of Migi last week, Migi himself became part of that “rest” and is freed when the rusty pipe introduces life-threatening toxins that make the other “rest” parasytes wake up and resist the “head’s” orders.

For the second time in just a couple of minutes, Shinichi is about to face his death, but this time all he can do is sit there and wait for the blow to come. That’s when the Migi in Gotou’s swinging killing arm meets with the Migi in Shinichi’s stump and BOOM, Migi transfers back to Shinichi right then and there, nullifying the attack. Shinichi’s so damn happy he’s back his eyes glint!

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From there, the duo of Shinichi and Migi is more than enough against the severely weakened and uncoordinated Gotou. It’s very satisfying when Migi goes through him like a wire through clay and he explodes, bringing about the dawn.

Upon inspecting the garbage pile, Migi deduces that the toxins on the pipe that proved fatal to Gotou were proof that “there’s no beating humans,” especially if you corner them atop a garbage pile they made that they can use the contents of to kill you!

It raises questions in Shinichi’s head about whether parasytes came to be to reduce the population of humans, who have spread across the earth and ravaged the environment. Those toxins are representative of human’s status as Earth’s wasting disease…and parasytes could be deemed the cure.

That’s one way to look at things, anyway. So when Migi declines to finish off a member of his kind (to do so would be murder in his eye/s) and leaves Shinichi to decide, Shinichi initially hesitates to finish killing the slowly reconstructing Gotou. When taking enough steps back, Gotou, or what’s left of him, has as much right to exist and survive as Shinichi does.

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Shinichi changes his mind again when he realizes that he can’t live his life all those steps back; not as long as there are people at risk, or people he wants to protect. If Gotounator re-coalesces, he’s not going to stop killing humans; it’s what he exists for. That makes him, in the arena of protecting one’s own small band of humans, not all of humanity, an enemy whose existence is intolerable.

Shinichi sheds a tear before finishin Gotou, and in the brief cuts to the writhing, reconstructing corpse, it does indeed engender a kind of primal human sympathy for the weak and struggling, even if we know full well the monster it will become if allowed to reconstruct.

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Shinichi goes home, having done what was necessary to protect Mitsuyo’s village, along with ensuring he himself will be safe for the time being, along with his father and his beloved Satomi. Gotou is by no means the last parasyte, but he was certainly the toughest. I doubt anything tougher will show up in the finale, which I hope will focus on where Shinichi and Migi go from here, and in particular whether he plans to finally inform Satomi about his deep, battle-tested friendship with the little monster in his right arm.

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Akame ga Kill! – 21

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Note: I have not read the manga, so I have no idea how the events of this episode or the episodes to come will be adapted. It’s all totally new to me.

Tatsumi is in the hands of the enemy. He’s not just alive so that the Empire can make a example of him in a highly public execution. He’s also live bait, in the off-chance Night Raid is foolish enough to attempt a rescue. Of course, they are: Mine doesn’t care if its a trap; she’s going to save her love. Akame decides to come along, so their chances will be better. Leone also volunteers: she scouted and recruited him; he can’t be dying before her. Finally, Najenda states they can’t let a public execution tank rebel morale at this crucial juncture.

Bottom line, the ladies aren’t going to sit back and let Tatsumi get executed. They all love the shaggy-haired little bastard too much, albeit in very different ways, and no one more deeply than Mine.

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Tatsumi, meanwhile, is fully prepared to die, knowing the remaining members of Night Raid got away with their lives. He doesn’t want to be saved, lest they throw those lives away. In this state, it’s understandable if he may not quite grasp just how much Esdeath is exerting every last morsel of her authority and standing in the empire…to save the life he’s willing to give away.

As the embrace they share makes clear, Esdeath’s love for him is real, and strong. So strong, she isn’t even asking him to betray his friends, only hang back and stay close to her. Part of me wanted Tatsumi to take her offer, but he can’t, and not just because he loves another, but because as beautiful and capable of kindness as Esdeath is, he can’t overlook the crimes she’s committed and continues to commit in service of an empire that’s taken everything from him.

Yet even when Tatsumi categorically refuses and pushes her away, it’s not as if she can stop loving him. She can only accept that the only course now is to kill him herself.

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When Wave hears Esdeath will be killing the man she loves, he’s greatly troubled and doesn’t understand…but Kurome understands. As Esdeath hasn’t stopped loving Tatsumi, she hasn’t stopped loving her sister, which is precisely why if Akame is going to be killed, better for Kurome to kill her. Kurome’s problem is, nature may step in and kill her first, as clearly shown when she pulls dead hair from her head.

My eyes welled up quite a bit at this scene, which I’m sure was the episode’s intent. And this was just a side scene with ‘bad guys’; the only scene with these two in the episode. But this serves as a good prologue for the final Akame-Kurome fight we know is coming.

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Did I mention this was a particularly beautiful episode of Akame ga Kill!? It was; it was staged and lit like a movie, an epic movie. The shot above is special. The remaining members of Night Raid, gathered in the sitting room of the late Lubbock’s home, the green upholstery suggesting he’s there to, just not in person. This is the last time this particular group of Night Raid members will ever be in the same room. Everything will change from this point on.

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One of my favorite live-action films is Gladiator, in part because no story about Rome before or since quite captured the slightly weathered but still strong and seemingly invincible power, grandeur, and glory that was the Roman Empire.

The descent through wispy clouds into the Imperial capital’s arena and the theatricality of a grand final battle seems inspired by similar scenes in that film. Only this is an execution, not a rigged duel.

I must say, the little Emperor gives a rousing speech, without the use of cue cards, that pretty comprehensively demonstrates how easy it is to twist words around to make Night Raid the enemy. They are killers, after all, and they are trying to throw the Empire into chaos, though that’s so they can root out its corruption and evil.

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Goosebumps gather as Esdeath draws near to the cross where Tatsumi hangs restrained. Even here, Esdeath prepares to deliver a blow that will look like it kills Tatsumi to the masses, but doesn’t actually kill him; still holding out hope Tatsumi will come to his senses so she won’t have to go through with it.

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Tatsumi refuses, but before Esdeath can kill him, Mine arrives and fires a shot she has to dodge, followed by Leone, Najenda, and Susanoo on the big flying manta ray. This would be a terrific specacle to watch at the arena if the participants’ attacks didn’t cause widespread collateral damage, so the spectators flee, and we’ve got ourselves a battle some people won’t be walking away from.

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Najenda and Susanoo take on Esdeath, which, duh, while the hard-hitting Leone backs up Mine in her fight with Budou. Mine is confident both her love for Tatsumi and the intense pinches Budou will put her in will make Pumpkin’s shots strong enough to defeat him.

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She’s proven right, but in the process, the tiny frail Mine gets tossed around and beaten up quite a bit, and her final shot takes a lot out of her, and more to the point, she may well have known it would take too much out of her, but she had no other choice. Budou is defeated, but we can’t score one for Night Raid, now or later.

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Meanwhile, Najenda’s battle with Esdeath is everything we hoped for from these two powerhouses. Najenda leans heavily on her human-type Arms while Esdeath relies on the ice demon within her. Both use their trump cards, but while Esdeath’s time freeze is a once-a-day affair, Najenda’s ability at this point in her life is one-time-only and unrecoverable. She puts much of her remaining life force into healing Susanoo, knowing she can’t defeat Esdeath but can keep her busy long enough for Tatsumi, Mine, and Leone to escape.

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And yes, Tatsumi gets away with his beloved Mine, scolding her for coming after him as he rushes out of the city at top speed. But Mine is not in a good way at all, and tells him to stop and put her down, not because she’s embarrassed — we’re light years away from that childishness now — but because she doesn’t have long, and she has something to say.

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And this…this just isn’t fair. After all that fighting, after she defeated Seryu and Budou, the toughest badasses anyone from Night Raid has ever taken out, after Tatsumi just manages to catch her before she falls to her death…she’s simply at the end of her never-sturdy-to-begin-with body’s rope. But there’s still time for her to tell Tatsumi she loves him and she’s glad she fell for him, and that they’re on the winning side, and always were, and then share their first and last kiss.

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In a show that’s become very good at farewell scenes, this one really knocked it out of the park, and is all the better due to its simplicity inevitability, and raw emotion. I really really wanted Tatsumi and Mine to come out of this and live a happy, loving life together, to make a family. I wanted this so much that I ignored just how ridiculously unlikely the chance of that happening really was. R.I.P. Mine.

This was the most epic, thrilling, heartbreaking episode of Akame ga Kill! yet, but we’re not done yet. Mine can no longer create the fair, peaceful world she fought for all her life, which led to her meeting and falling for Tatsumi, who wants the same thing. He, Akame, and Leone have three more episodes to make it happen.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go sob in the dark.

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Danganronpa: The Animation – 07

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Due to Yamada’s last words, the students initially believe Hagakure Yasuhiro to be the culprit, while Kirigiri could also be the killer or his accomplice. Naegi finds Kirigiri, who leads them all to Hagakure, who was stuck in a locker wearing the “Justice Robo” suit. After investigating the bodies, the classroom trial begins, with Hagakure and Kirigiri still the most suspected. However, Naegi remembers Celes saying something incriminating, which leads to her conviction. Afterwards, Naegi follows a lead by Kirigiri and gets knocked out.

The most obvious suspect – the one named Yasuhiro – is ruled out as the killer, and while Kirigiri lacks an alibi, she also lacks the name Yasuhiro. The true culprit is the one who had been talking the most, perhaps hoping to stand out and hide in plain sight. Alas, her mouth gets her in trouble, as she mentions more than one person was killed before she should have known such a thing, and it leads to her downfall. For what it’s worth, we didn’t think her stakes for winning were that compelling – surely a “super” gambler would have already amassed a handsome fortune.

While she goes a little nuts and puts up a fight, once she knows she’s lost, she accepts the verdict and her punishment (getting burned at the stake and smashed by a fire truck in a haunting sequence) with grace. So with the execution of the lovely Celes, more than half of the students are gone, and we’re no closer to knowing who’s going to end up winning in the end (Though it’s probably going to be the protagonistic Naegi). The final scenes of this episode were very ambiguous, showing Kirigiri possibly betraying Naegi and the bear and amazon possibly dueling…very odd.


Rating: 6 (Good)