Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 07 – Gundam Startup

Witch from Mercury has it’s duels down—they’re exciting, fun, dynamic, and pack a punch. But after another episode where not a single character sets foot in a cockpit, I’d argue Mercury’s secret sauce is everything other than the mobile suit duels: the inter-family conflicts and political and economic wrangling. This week it goes full Succession, with a hint of Silicon Valley.

Mine was content not going to the 15th Annual Benerit Group Incubation Event Party, either as a representative of the Rembrans nor as an observer of venture capialist strategies (she’s found past events dull and dusty affairs). But Suletta wants to go in case Elan shows up, so they go.

Suletta hasn’t seen nor heard from Elan since their duel and his standing her up (we know why) and as expected, the death of his clone and the existence of a real, jerk-ass Elan is kept a secret from her. With Elan’s new clone “not ready” yet, the Peil CEOs have a task for the real Elan.

This is a formal event, so Miorine and Suletta are dressed to the nines in elegant blue and red gowns. Suletta learns that Mine and Shaddiq have known each other for years, and from his reckoning, Mine has changed into someone who does things for others’ sakes now. Miorine meets her future mom-in-law face-to-er…mask.

It gets a little awkward when Prospera tightens her grip on Mine’s hand and asks her fiancée if she and her father have always been at odds like that. Prospera then lists all the things Miorine has and can and will be able to do because she’s her father’s daughter, and warns Mine that she’ll have to throw away “that adorable pride” if she truly wants to get anywhere.

When Suletta drops some glasses and her broach, Guel’s brother sneers at the fact his brother fell for such an “oafish woman”. But it’s real-deal Elan who helps Suletta out. Elan plays a more cheerful version of his clone as he explains away his extended absence, then asks if he’ll come with her for an impending presentation.

(We also learn that Shaddiq is in discrete contact with Nika of all people … not sure what that’s about, but it suggests Nika is leaking intel to him. To be continued…)

This is when the scheme that had been cooked up by Peil and Jeturk comes to fruition. Suletta ends up in a trap, answering questions from the four Peil CEOs that end up incriminating Aerial as a Gundam, since the Peils freely admit that Pharact is also a Gundam.

Whether Suletta was aware of this doesn’t change the fact that Gundams are forbidden. So Peil agrees they’ll dispose of their Gundam if their upstart rival from Mercury does the same and disposes of Aerial. Literally in the spotlight, Suletta calls out for her mom to clear up this misunderstanding, but Prospera was drawn outside of the presentation area by Guel’s brother.

With Suletta in the hot seat, what composure she has fading fast, and Delling about to render his judgment, Miorine steps up to protect her fiancee. Having hacked the PA, she takes the stage and argues for keeping Aerial around, as it defeated the best both Peil and Jeturk could develop.

Miorine then gets to show off her skills as a businesswoman by coming up with a business plan on the fly with hand-written notes that will salvage both the Peil research and the Aerial. Her intention is to purchase both Peil and Shin Sei’s developments through M&A and create a new company called GUND-ARM, with the protection of life as top priority.

This, she says, will be the spark that reignites Benerit Group’s flagging profitability. It’s a decent plan, especially considering how rapidly it was put together, and it also diverts attention away from Suletta while demonstrating that Miorine can protect her in her own way.

The only problem is, none of the assembled investors dare make a move to fund Miorine’s venture without the okay from her father, who bluntly tells her to get off the stage as he’s through indulging a willful girl’s whims. While Suletta stood up straight unbidden because she remembered Mine’s words, this time it’s Miorine who hears Prospera’s words about ditching her “adorable pride.”

Realizing what she must do to get funding moving, Miorine kicks off her heels and runs barefoot to her father, bows deeply, and asks him for his support. Delling knows it’s a good business plan that solves a lot of problems and could spell bigger profits, and now his daughter is essentially prostrating herself to show him the deference he believes he’s due.

Delling warns Miorine there’s no shaking the “curse” of Gundams once they’re out of the box, but he still contributes a 3% contribution to her plan. Once Rembran is officially in, the floodgates open and within seconds the plan is successfully funded.

Now not only have Peil and Jeturk lost on the battlefield to the power couple of Suletta and Miorine, they’ve also lost in the boardroom, their gambit foiled as Mine outmaneuvered her by using the tools at her disposal, while also preserving Suletta’s dignity by preventing her innocent words from condemning Shin Sei. Jeturk’s brother can only twist his hair in frustration at the loss.

Lady Prospera once again shakes hands with her future daughter-in-law, knowing Suletta is in good hands. Suletta uses this opportunty to ask her mom to confirm that Aerial isn’t a Gundam, to which Prospera says, no, actually, Aerial is a Gundam, teehee! It may only be a matter of semantics, but this casual revelation hits Suletta like a ton of bricks.

Why, for example, has Suletta never felt any physical or mental ill effects from pushing Aerial—a Gundam—to its limits? Is it simply a matter of her and the Aerial having “grown up” together, or her having just the right collection of genes to prevent damage … or is something more sinister at work? If her mother kept this from her, what else is she concealing?

While these are enticing questions going forward, I really enjoyed the show’s break from piloting and duels in favor of the weapons of the upper crust business battlefield: evening gowns, flowcharts, fancy lighting, funding apps, and, of course, words. This was Miorine’s time to shine and she did not disappoint.

Chainsaw Man – 05 – Don’t Die on Me

Well, color me surprised: Denji doesn’t chicken out. When Power sits there waiting for him to obtain his reward, after some hesitation and heavy breathing, he places his hands on her chest and gives them a squeeze. When he does, foam pads drop from under her shirt. Without skipping a beat Power asks him to go in for seconds, then thirds. And just like that, it’s all over.

Power heads to bed with Meowy, and Denji stands paralyzed in the toilet wondering … Was that IT? Achieving his dream was far more underwhelming than he expected, and it sends him into a haze of confusion, as he’s now suddenly utterly bereft of his primary source of motivation. It might’ve been better to never cop a feel at all than to have copped a feel and felt so … so little.

While perhaps Power’s smaller-than-advertised bust size was probably one factor in his disappointment, the fact is touching a boob is an incredibly small dream to base your life off of, just like wanting a soft bed or a warm meal. When Makima sees something’s up and asks him, and he pretty eloquently verbalizes what’s up, she takes swift action to re-motivate her favorite new tool.

Makima tells Denji that sex and the contact that leads up to it feels better when you truly understand the other person. Makima then demonstrates this by sensually caressing Denji’s hand (phenomenal animation, that), giving one of his fingers a nibble, then showing him that not all boob grabs are created equal. Then she offers to make any dream of his come true—and that means anything—if he can defeat the Gun Devil.

The Gun Devil is no bat or leech, but an uber-devil created on this world’s equivalent of 9/11. Once it appeared, the Gun Devil killed millions, including Aki’s mother, father, and a sickly little brother with whom he was only starting to get along. The flashback switches gears from family warmth to utter destruction so fast we’re left in as much horrified shock as young Aki.

The key to finding the Gun Devil is to use pieces of its flesh it has dropped, which are drawn to it like magnets. Aki leads a six-person team of Denji, Power, and himself along with his senpai Himeno and two rookies, Kobeni and Arai, and the flesh leads them to a hotel. When Himeno tries to offer a kiss to whomever gets the Gun Devil, Denji parrots some of Makima’s words, only for Himeno to up her offer to a French kiss.

Himeno’s informal, happy-go-lucky attitude belies her past, as Aki is her sixth partner. She makes sure to clarify that the other five didn’t die because of anything she did or didn’t do, but because they were all useless. Himeno alone senses the first devil they encounter: a head that moves with a hand and foot that leaps at Kobeni, but is held in place by Himeno, allowing Power to slash it in two.

When Power, who as always yearns for blood, casually threatens to kill Kobeni, Himeno demonstrates her ability on her, specifically her throat. Himeno contracted with a Ghost Devil and is able to control a ghost hand (that is, an invisible hand Power cannot touch). Lesson learned: Let’s all get along!

Teamwork will indeed be needed for the coming trials, as the group suddenly finds themselves in a M.C. Escher-style loop, ending up on the same floor they killed the Head Devil even though they went up a flight of steps. Going down a flight gets Arai nowhere. Looks like we’re dealing with a Devil that can either morph reality or morph others’ perception of it. Pretty wicked.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 06 – Scaling the Wall

Lady Prospera has a chilly reunion with her former Vanadis colleague, Bel, AKA Belmeria Winston, who says she had little choice but to join Peil Group in order to survive after the punitive assault on their facility years ago. She asks Prospera why she’s using her daughter as an instrument of revent, but Bel retorts by asking “how many” Gundam pilots there have been before Elan.

While Earth House reconsiders their opinion on Elan in light of his treatment of their new housemate, Guel is thrown out of House Jeturk and cut off from all but the remaining school tuition. He leaves with his head held high, having done what he (and I believed) to be the right thing in standing up for Suletta. She and Elan meet for pre-duel formalities, but she has yet to decide her stakes.

Earth House know theirs: the 2.7-to-1 odds they’ll enjoy if Suletta wins. Led by Nana’s cautiously-can-do attitude, they scrounge around scrap and spare parts to cobble together a flight unit for Aerial. I can only imagine Suletta’s mom didn’t provide her such a unit because she was confident her daughter would make the necessary connections.

Meanwhile, Elan undergoes more lonely testing and his blurry recurring image of a candle is interrupted by a surprise visitor in Elan … the real Elan Ceres. He’s every bit the smug, privileged aristocrat you’d imagine would be heading up Peil House, and is the rightful recipient of a future face-punch from Chuchu, Miorine, and/or even Suletta herself.

The “Elan” we’ve known thus far is no villain, only a pawn and victim, though he apparently volunteered for this with the promise he’d get his “face” back and a citizens ID should he prevail. I suspect the memories of his past life have been subordinated by the Permet conditioning.

During flight testing out in open space, Suletta is down in the dumps, feeling dumb and annoying after Elan’s hurtful words. Miorine is out there assisting with Nana, and gives her bridegroom a bit of tough love, as well as reflect back Suletta’s “move forward, gain two” credo.

Suletta snaps out of it and gets back to testing, then afterwards visits Peil House insisting to speak to Elan. She’s put over house-wide loudspeakers calling out to Elan, asking if he meant everything he said, and then singing him “Happy Birthday.” He only calls her to tell her to go home, saying he has no birthday. But we know better; her singing briefly brought his hazy memory into focus.

But the die is cast, and the next day the duel unfolds as planned, with Suletta announcing that her stake is that if she wins, Elan has to tell her all about himself. This further rankles an Elan already understandably frustrated by his lot in life; from his perspective he has absolutely nothing, while Suletta has everything, and yet still wants more from him, and won’t let him have this victory.

A thrilling space battle ensues, with both Aerial and Pharact’s Bit Control Systems dueling, and the latter suit’s superior mobility creating a long-range disadvantage for Suletta and her jury-rigged unit. Once again the corporate bigwigs—in this case Peil—arranged for unfair conditions. Perhaps they know that they need every edge they can get against Suletta and Aerial.

The entire school is watching, including Guel from his new home—a tent in the woods (I’ll admit to laughing out loud as this uncommented-on development, and part of me hoped Shimarin or Honda Tooru would show up). It looks bad for Suletta, but she has an advantage Elan doesn’t: time.

Elan has to continually up his Permet Score to maintain his edge, which takes a toll on his already depleted body. He even predicted this would be his last duel, judging from Bel’s reports on his testing. He and Suletta trade flurries of beams, and the latter’s flight suit is damaged.

Now a drifting sitting duck, Pharact’s Bits prepare to envelop Aerial as they did Guel last week, but in a development that may even come as a surprise to Suletta, an emergency defense system is activated that neutralizes the Bits and Pharact. The laughter of children can be heard as Aerial’s Bits form a spinning ring around her and then blast Pharact to hell.

Suletta has won, her house has more than doubled their money, which means they eat next month, and Miorine doesn’t have to worry about Elan becoming the Holder and her new groom. Elan drifts in defeat, but his memory finally comes into focus: a mother, his real mother, with loving eyes, presenting him with a birthday cake.

The light of the candle becomes the light of the glowing debris as Suletta stretches out her hand for him, and he takes it. As they drift together in the void, she assures him he doesn’t have nothing, and she and many others will celebrate his birthday.

As Elan flashes perhaps his first genuine smile, Miorine sits in the repair pod with Nana and endures this bit of “minor two-timing”, which extends to a second date for Suletta and Elan, so he can fulfill the stakes of the duel. Miorine leaves Suletta to await his arrival, but the clock ticks by and he doesn’t show.

Suletta cheerfully sings “Happy Birthday” once more as she waits, but she waits in vain. Elan isn’t standing her up; the Peil bigwigs have decided to scrap him. He was never anything other than a disposable tool for them, and with his failure to gain Aerial he’s no longer of any use to them. That they unceremoniously stick him in what looks like a goddamn sci-fi cremation furnace while he’s fully freaking conscious seems inhumane to the extreme.

Just as they did with new Yuru Camp cast member Guel Jeturk, Gundam successfully rehabilitated Elan’s character into someone with whom we could sympathize and root for. Unfortunately, it looks like we’ll also have to grieve for him. Will the real Elan replace him in both the cockpit and at school, or will it be another “spare” with his face? Either way, Suletta’s victory is tempered by a bitter loss; the latest casualty in this corporatocracy’s unrelenting thirst for profits.

Akiba Maid War – 05 – Crimson Swine

Tenchou has the maids making paper roses in their down time; anything to try to make the half-million yen needed to pay off their sweets money or the café will be shuttered. In other words, it’s just another day at the Oinky Doink.

After being as kind as she can in complimenting invitation cards printed with a bare minimum of ink, Nagomi’s acquaintance Nerura (one of the few genuinely nice people in Akiba … at least so far) Suggests she attract business with an event.

When Nagomi learns that Ranko’s birthday is coming up in two days, she asks Tenchou and the other maids if they’ll help her do an event … and they suddenly turn into mean assholes who don’t care about Ranko at all, and let a tearful Nagomi do what she likes.

Following Nerura’s advice to reach out to a fellow Creatureland outfit, Nagomi and Ranko visit Maid Sheep, and are warmly welcomed by its idol, Kaoruko (voiced by Ogura Yui, who can really turn up the syrup when she wants to). She’s friendly, at least, until she learns it’s Ranko’s birthday.

That’s a problem, because it’s also Kaoruko’s party, and these pig maids are stepping on her currently-in-progress birthday event. After enduring some heckling from both Kaoruko (delivered with all the requisite sweetness of a maid on duty) and the customers there, Ranko and Nagomi take their leave.

On the walk home Nagomi confides in Ranko how she’s just not sure she’s cut out for this whole maid thing, especially with their co-workers being so mean, and of course the fact that maids are expected to fight and even kill when called upon. Ranko looks back to when she was new to the game and violence was just starting to become a thing in the maid world. Just because she’s good at violence doesn’t mean she ever liked or wanted to do it.

But when her madame was killed, she accepted her fate as avenging angel, and so it is in the present, when they’re surrounded by Sheep maids. Fellow Creatureland maids aren’t supposed to fight, but Ranko and Nagomi pissed Kaoruko off, so she starts a fight. Ranko holds her own, of course, but Kaoruko takes Nagomi hostage, and Ranko has to stand down.

That’s what brings us to what was hinted at in the now-famous Outrageous Akiba Maid War Stinger: Nagomi and Ranko tied up and weighed down and drowning in a giant barrel full of blood with a damn lamb to keep them company. Turns out Kaoruko doesn’t want any other maids in Akiba to share her birthday, so she’s been killing them all off. Ranko’s next … it doesn’t seem to matter to her that it’s not Nagomi’s birthday.

Never mind that the flowing red liquid turns out to be tomato juice; Nagomi and Ranko are in serious trouble, so it’s a good thing Okachimachi (AKA the Panda) saw what went down. When we cut back to Tenchou and the other maids, we learn that they were only pretending to be mean in order to distract Ranko from the fact they were arranging a surprise party for her birthday. Not only did I sigh in relief, I smiled with joy at learning this!

Ranko and Nagomi believe this might be it for them, so they exchange apologies and thanks for the time they’ve spent together. At first Nagomi feels like her path to maiddom has led to nothing but tragedy and sorrow, but as the tomato juice rises she gets more wistful about her time, and doesn’t regret that time with Ranko and the others.

But as nice as their fellow maids turn out to be, they did subside on nothing but stir-fried bean sprouts for weeks to afford a fancy custom cake for Ranko, so when she and Nagomi are late, they are pissed (especially Tenchou, who has to dress as a maid for the first time, and folks … I’m in love). Okachimachi arrives, shows them the dueling event invites, which (eventually) lead Yumechi, Shiipon, and Zoya to Maid Sheep.

After brandishing pipes, stating their intent, and charging the sheep in a Postcard Memory, we cut to a drowning Nogami hallucinating about living in Tomato Land before her friends bash the barrel open and free her and Ranko. They came through, just as Ranko knew they would. Hell, it’s likely she knew they were just messing with her all along.

When they leave the basement we get to see the carnage that three Oinky Doink maids wrought upon Maid Sheep, but a bruised Kaoruko promises retribution, not by them, but by Creatureland for this assault on an affiliated café. She just can’t keep her mouth shut and take the L, as she unleashes a torrent of insults directed at Ranko…until a bullet to the gut silences her forever.

That bullet is fired by Yumechi, who was not two days ago pretending to be as mean as possible to Ranko to throw her off any possible whiff of a surprise party. But that bullet (and the preceding unseen fracas that couldn’t have just been Zoya) shows us that Yumechi isn’t just fond of her fellow pig maid Ranko, she’s willing to kill to preserve her honor.

The other maids keep acting relatively mean and put-out towards Ranko right up until they enter a strangely dark Oinky-Doink, and then Taichou shows up with the lit (and only partially eaten) birthday cake, and she and everyone else sing “Happy Birthday”. Such a sweet, wholesome end to a day of violence, bloodshed … and tomato juice.

Oh, and Maid Sheep’s record revenues from Kaoruko’s birthday event? Okachimachi snatches them up and presents them to Taichou. Hopefully she won’t gamble them all away, but actually pay off enough of the sweets money to keep the café open at least another week or two! The credits roll as Ranko dances and sings a new number, looking nowhere near her thirty-six years. With friends like hers backing her up, may there be many more!

Golden Kamuy – 41 – Ainupocalypse Now

We’re back with the main gang in the present day, and with time to kill before Tsurumi meets up with them, Sugimoto and Asirpa hang out in the woods while she performs Ainu rituals and hopes a wolverine will come her way so she can taste its brains. They then encounter something completely new: a two-man film crew with a cinematograph.

When a wolverine pounces on the back of one of the men, Sugimoto and Asirpa spring into action with bow and rifle, and the cameraman captures it all. Asirpa gets to taste her wolvy brains (and watch Sugimoto taste them too), but they probably didn’t think much of the little wooden box with the crank until its owner takes it back into town.

There, he explains it’s a relatively new French invention to which he owns the Japanese rights. He then proceeds to play some of the footage of Aniu he’s taken, and everyone is unexpectedly amazed by the dancing pictures. Asirpa, who is of late extremely preoccupied with preserving her culture, decides to don a director’s cap, and Sugimoto reminds the filmmakers that she saved their asses.

Everyone chips in on the ensuing production, which starts with simple folk stories involving dicks and dick copycats (the copycat always dies in the end like the moron he is; Asirpa’s casting of Shiraishi as said moron is an inspired choice).

When she’s not satisfied with how the production is going she shifts from comedy to drama and a story of three brothers, one of whom turns into a bird kamuy. The seriousness is somewhat undone by a nearly-naked Tanigaki bursting out of the bird suit, but Asirpa is happy with the shoot.

Koito arranges for them to screen Asirpa’s masterpiece in a theater, and seeing themselves in the moving pictures is surely an invigorating experience. Then the filmmakers decide to surprise Asirpa with some footage they took ten years ago. In it, she gets to see her father Wilk before his face was lost, and also gets to see her mother for the very first time.

While I laughed during the goofy dick-filled filmmaking scenes earlier, I teared up when I saw Asirpa’s family, and especially her desperately beautiful and powerful mom, from whom she inherited so much without ever knowing her. Kiroranke also makes an appearance in the footage, but it’s her mom who seems to cast a spell on her and everyone in the theater.

But then, as was a not-so-uncommon occurrence in the early days of cinema, the projector light set the film on fire and burned it, not only destroying the all the footage Asirpa & Co. took that day, but also the only images of her mother to ever exist. The first time she saw her was also the last. Utterly dejected, Asirpa walks out into the cold night alone.

Sugimoto follows her to ensure she’s alright, but she’s not. Film, she says, is a wonderful invention, but it’s not nearly enough to keep her people’s culture alive. And she’s right. Literally seeing it through a lens is totally different from learning and living it from other Ainu. The footage was enlightening, but also cold, especially relative to her warm memories of her father telling her stories.

Asirpa is definitely putting far too much of a burden on her slender shoulders to save the Ainu from certain cultural oblivion, and yet she can’t stop. Sugimoto calls it a “curse”, for while much of it is her own will, she can’t deny that will was shaped in her formative years by the likes of Wilk and Kiroranke, who all but forced her to carry on their legacies.

Whatever she has to do to achieve her goals, Asirpa knows it will require gold, and lots of it. But Sugimoto knows that with gold comes blood. He admits to her that part of him wants to preserve the innocence he lost by protecting her, but he also knows that he already inhabits a kind of hell of his own making; a hell he assures Asirpa she won’t like. Nothing will change her more from what she should be than killing.

Leave it to Golden Kamuy to gradually build up our Sugisirpa withdrawl for three straight weeks and then pounce on our back like a wolverine with a gem of an episode that’s both bawdy and fun, and part heartbreaking and redemptive.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 05 – A Patch of Black Ice

For those girls (and guys) for whom the fiery Guel Jetark isn’t their cup of tea, they have the apparent opposite in Elan Ceres. They call him the “ice prince”, and long to melt his icy heart. If they only knew. Elan rarely duels, but he’s 7-0 after winning a 3-on-1 affair that was never close.

Elan is also working on behalf of Piel Technologies, but unlike Guel, he’s treated more employee than son to their four-woman leadership group. After winning, he surprises Suletta with a phone call … and asks her out on a date. Her Earth House girls go giddy (Chuchu excepted).

In another demonstration of how different she and Elan are, Suletta calls her mom, who is supportive of her daughter branching out and getting to know others better—the move forward, gain two ethos. But after getting off the phone with her daughter, Lady Prospera gets a report about Peil “making its move”—faster than anticipated.

Meanwhile, Elan hasn’t been talking to Suletta because she’s a friend; indeed, I do not believe he understands such a concept. He’s been pumping her for information and context on Aerial on behalf of the company he serves. We also see that he’s an “enhanced person” created for the sole purpose of piloting a Gundam.

This culminates in Suletta letting Elan into Aerial’s cockpit for a routine survey of the testing area (which is definitely an idea for a date). He observes how easily she pilots Aerial, and she says she’s never felt suffering doing so, but actually always feels at ease.

Elan then asks to pilot Aerial on his own—an astonishing ask but one Suletta happily grants because she thinks Elan’s a friend. Piloting it convinces him that Aerial is the key to “breaking the curse” of the suffering he feels every time he takes the controls of his mobile suits.

When he returns to Suletta, the kindly mask has dropped. Her usefulness to him and the faux friendship he fostered is no longer needed. Now he has the information he needs, and she’s just an annoyance, especially with her entitled belief that Aerial is “family.”

Seeing this honest side of Elan upsets Suletta, and his cold words cause her to cry. That’s just when Guel arrives, sees Suletta’s eyes, and demands to know what Elan is doing, with the answer determining whether they duel. That’s just fine with Elan. Whether he intended to use Suletta as bait or not, Guel’s timing works out perfectly.

While it’s good of Guel to stand up for Suletta, she hasn’t quite turned against the hope that Elan is a good person and a friend, so she objects to the duel, but it’s not her call: Shaddiq tells her if she doesn’t like current conditions, she’s welcome to change them in a subsequent duel.

The stakes are set: if Guel wins, Elan will stay away from Suletta from now on. If Elan wins—and I had a feeling he was going to win easily—he gets to duel Suletta. Guel’s red mobile suit is out of commission, he uses his brother Lauda’s Dilanza, even though their father forbade him from dueling.

That Guel is willing to incur more of his dear father’s wrath speaks to the genuine affection he’s gained for Suletta and his desire to keep others from making her cry. Underneath the bluster he’s an honorable guy.

But honor, like smiling, laughing, birthdays or family, is not something in Elan’s programming. Suletta’s been interacting with a doll designed to learn as much about her for his employers’ sake, as well as his own (lifting the aforementioned curse). Elan surprises all when he arrives at the duel in a new suit—the Pharact. It’s a menacing, bat-like suit with its own drone swarm system.

It looks every bit like the dark sibling of Suletta’s Aerial. Guel is mad as hell, and kicks up a lot of dust in the dueling ground. This unwittingly creates the conditions by which he is defeated: the dust, charged with static electricity, gets into the gaps and joints in Dilanza’s armor.

Elan’s drones create laser-like webs that in concert with the dust Guel himself kicked up, has the effect of an EMP, shutting down Dilanza’s systems and leaving him immobilized. Elan takes an easy win, and the Peil Group’s engineer (and Elan’s minder) confronts Lady Prospera, who concludes there was “another witch all along.” The Peil woman addresses her as senpai, suggesting she was part of the same research group that developed Aerial.

Elan again makes a prompt phone call to Suletta, to arrange another “date.” This time, it will take the form of an official school duel, and if he wins, he will claim Aerial for himself. And this, folks, is why Suletta should have probably listened to everyone telling her to stay away from people from the three branches—including Guel, someone from those branches.

Now, I can’t imagine Suletta will lose to Elan next week—especially if Miorine lends a hand, nor to I believe Aerial will fall into the hands of a rival company. The only question is whether Suletta, who is no doubt still confused and hurt by Elan’s treatment of her, can switch gears and do what needs to be done to defeat her most implacable enemy yet.

As for Elan? I’ll admit to hating him more than Guel now, but I also understand the kid has suffered his whole life, is looking for release, and the only thing in his way is a silly girl who calls a Gundam “family”, a word that’s meaningless to him since he never had one.

In Elan Ceres, Peil created an organic machine to pilot their metal one. But Suletta is, if nothing else, an ordinary human fueled her whole life by love and support. That should prove the edge in this duel.

Spy x Family – 13 – The Dog Borfs for Thee

After a brief recap of the premise and a nifty, breezy new OP, SpyFam gets right back into the swing of things, as Loid and Yor take Anya on an ooting to adopt a dog as a reward for her gaining her first of eight Stellae. The first pet shop is also the location of his contact, who has a new mission for him. Loid feigns digestive distress and tells Yor and Anya to go ahead while he’s whisked away to meet with Handler.

There’s a plot by terrorists at Berlint University planning to assassinate the Foreign Minister of Westalis in hopes of starting a war, but one of them has already been caught, and Loid barely pulls off the disguise of his leader Keith to get the kid to spill the beans about their operation and hideouts. Turns out they’re going to use…dog bombs, which doesn’t seem like the most efficient means of assassination.

One of these dogs is a gigantic fluffy white dog that doesn’t say “woof” or “bark” but “borf”, which is a lovely bit of onomatopoeia. But this is no ordinary dog, but one with the power of precognition, able to save a running child from a falling sign. Even without some hints that this dog was gong to join the family, it’s clear he and Anya are destined to meet.

That first meeting happens through glass as Anya is in a dog adoption event in a convention area with Yor. But she can tell there’s something about that dog; she sees her family when she reads his mind, and despite Yor telling her not to wander off, wander off is what Anya does.

Her search for the large pup takes her across the street, where she not only finds him (and a host of other poor good boys and girls), but stumbles upon the latest hideout of Keith and his minister-wasting dog bombers. When they realize she’s heard all of their very loud plotting, Keith wastes no time brandishing a pocketknife with which he intends to silence her.

That’s when the ol’ borfer bites through his leash and puts himself between Anya and the bad guys. Yes, he wimps out and later hides behind her, but his precognitive ability saves them both, as he uses the distraction of a phone call (warning the terrorists that someone leaked their plot) to get Anya away.

Anya, who is tiny, is able to ride the great pup like a horse through the streets, and while Yor overhears Anya’s voice and Anya asks the dog to go back to the adoption place, the dog just keeps on running, and Anya starts to revel in the excitement, determined to crack the case as Starlight Anya.

Alas, the dog’s sense of direction is poor, and they end up running right back into the baddies’ clutches. Keith delegates the killing of Anya to his henchman, who tells her no hard feelings and reaches out, presumably to strangle her. That obviously doesn’t happen because Mama Yor arrives and kicks him so hard he pinballs against the alley walls ten times.

Keith is gobsmacked by this sudden feat of strength, while Yor has the wrong idea: in her mind, these aren’t assassins trying to silence a witness to their dirty deeds, but a band of creeps trying to kidnap Anya and make her their bride. No doubt Keith will soon wish he never antagonized the diminutive coral-haired young lady. Or as she might say, he’s in deep shit.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 24 (Fin) – Part of the Flock

Cuckoos eschews any more huge revelations or decisions and instead opts for a laid back finale full of warm family vibes. We begin with Nagi, Sachi, and Erika receiving a gaudy invitation to Papa Yohei’s birthday, a celebration that he prepares and executes all on his own. It’s never explained why, mind you, but it’s safe to say Yohei’s a good and cool dude, so his wife and kids let him have his fun.

I find it odd that it would slip Sachi’s mind that her brother and Erika share a birthday as they were switched at birth, and even odder that Nagi would only now do the math and realize he was conceived before his folks got married. Among the annual family portrait, there’s a pale-haired kid who goes totally unexplained…maybe she’ll show up if this gets a sequel.

The biggest takeaway for Nagi and Erika (and Sachi, who later reports it to Erika’s dad) is that their folks simply want Nagi and Erika to be happy, and for Erika to be in their lives like she is now. They no longer believe they have to follow through on their engagement and get married to maintain that.

Of course, by putting the onus on whether to get married or not, Nagi and Erika actually have to think about it beyond something being forced upon them. Sure, on the bus ride home they worry that Erika’s dad might not agree with Nagi’s folks, but in his head Nagi wonders whether Erika being able to convince him means the “end of their relationship for good.”

The episode then segues into Erika’s Dizzy Fever Day, as she suddenly collapses in the middle of a study session. Sachi and Hiro take her to bed, take her temperature, and prepare to change her into her PJs to rest more comfortably, and of course Nagi barges in while they’re disrobing her.

But while Sachi and Hiro bar Nagi from Erika’s room while she’s sick, they let their enthusiasm and drive to help her recover as fast and completely as possible ends up simply overwhelming her. They look up remedies like sake and leeks tied to the head, and develop the crazy eyes as they go on about how they’ll make Erika better than new.

When all of that fails to lower her fever, Nagi decides to step in and offer her a hot meal to regain her strength. Erika claims not to be hungry, but her grumbling stomach betrays her. Nagi also took exception when Erika told the others “sorry for being a bother”, as she’s been nothing but that for him since they met.

That being said, he doesn’t dislike that Erika, and so wants her to get better so she can get back to being that Erika. He knows that since Sachi and Hiro started living and coming ’round all the time, she’s worked herself hard to keep up with the energy level and it took a physical toll. It’s all well and good to want to be present and active in the group, but not at the cost of one’s health!

When Erika asks why he knows her better than herself, he says simply that they’re engaged. ‘Nuff said. For all of Sachi and Hiro’s good intentions, it’s his job as her fiancé to take care of her, and vice-versa. Hearing Nagi acknowledge their engagement and how it’s still important to him even when his parents have all but given them cover to break it off gives Erika a smile. What was thrust upon them at first has become something neither of them want to give up anytime soon.

When Papa Yohei delivers a copy of the latest family photo, it has Erika front and center. It’s a photo full of love and joy (or, er…RABUJOI) celebrating the addition as the gift that it is. Nagi, Sachi, and their folks are as happy Erika is part of their family as she is to be part of it. The fact that the episode ends with Nagi and Erika nagging each other over house chores just goes to show how close they’ve gotten.

If there’s a sequel that ties up the loose ends (Sosuke, that mystery kid in the photo, whether Nagi and Erika actually marry, etc.) I’ll be sure to watch it out of the affection for this colorful flock of cuckoos.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 01 – Rich Kids Are Scary

Fast-forward over a decade from the prologue, and Ericht Samaya is now the teenaged Suletta Mercury, pilot of Gundam Aerial, arriving at the Asticassia School of Technology, where she has just transferred. While surveying the giant space station, she spots someone floating free in a spacesuit and executes a rescue operation. The person she rescues, Miorine Rembran, doesn’t want to be rescued.

She was trying to escape, and was about to succeed but for Suletta’s sharp eye and impeccable timing. Now that I know where these two end up by episode’s end, one could call it kismet. I also hasten to add that Miorine is the daughter of Delling Rembran, the man whose actions led to the death of Suletta’s dad and destruction of her family’s home. Obviously Miorine didn’t play a role in that, as she was only four at the time.

Upon arrival at her new school, which is full of rich, stuck-up jerkwards, Suletta is quickly treated like a Mercurian “country bumpkin” and also given the cold shoulder by Miorine. That said, she also meets a potential first new friend in mechanics student Nika Nanaura.

All of a sudden, all of the fake blue sky is replaced by clear windows out to space, and the campus is transformed into the ground for a duel between Guel Jeturk, son of one of Delling’s top business generals, and some nobody who dared to call him “a man with a runaway bride”.

Jeturk, an unrepentant preening jackass of the highest order, is Miorine’s fiance, a decision made not by either of them but by their parents. Her father, however doesn’t even bother to review the bodyguards assigned to his daughter, as he’s too busy financially destroying a business partner who posted too many quarterly losses.

As Suletta learns by following her like a puppy, Miorine would prefer to be left alone with her garden that emulates earth environs, and even lets Suletta sample a tasty real tomato before downloading the map app of the school and sending her on her way. But before Suletta leaves, Jeturk and his clique of syncophants arrives to declare that Miorine will live with him at his family home from now on.

When Miorine protests, Jeturk starts wrecking her garden. When she tries to stop him, he shoves her aside. Suletta, who has a stutter and is clearly not great with social situations, nevertheless knows very well between right and wrong,. What Jeturk is doing is wrong, so she spanks him. She even gets giggles from his patsies when she calls him a “pushy suitor”.

Jeturk doesn’t take these affronts lightly, and suggests that if Suletta has a problem with him, they can settle it with a duel. Despite learning he is the school’s undefeated “Holder” (i.e. Ace) with a 26-0 record, Suletta doesn’t hesitate to accept the challenge. Jeturk tells her if he wins, she’ll be kicked out of the school. Meanwhile, Jeturk’s dad intends to speed up his and his son’s ascension by arranging to assassinate Delling.

When the duel commences, both Jeturk and Suletta are surprised to find that Miorine has commandeered Suletta’s Aerial, having gained access when she had her school handbook. That said, she has no idea how to pilot a mobile suit, let alone a Gundam, and Jeturk proceeds to make quick work of her.

With an assist from Nika, Suletta is able to get to Aerial before Miorine loses the duel, and those observing the duel accept the second change of Jeturk’s opponent back to Suletta. Having been head-butted when they first met, Suletta returns the favor and takes over in the cockpit, asserting that she and Aerial grew up together (indeed, when she was four, she considered her a little sister).

No one can pilot her but her, and as long as she’s piloting, Aerial won’t lose to the likes of Jeturk. She maintains that running away gains you only “one” by not losing, but going forward and rising to fight gains you “two” – experience and pride…as well as trust (so many three?).

Jeturk repsonds to that insult with a charge, but he’s totally out of his league. His beam weapon is reflected by Aerial’s shield, which then disassembles into a swarm of drones that tear Jeturk’s suit to pieces, giving Suletta a clear path to behead him with her energy sword.

As one would expect of a high-class Sunrise flagship production, the battle is absolutely top-notch in design and execution, fast, fierce, and gorgeous, accompanied by Ohmama Takashi’s stirring cinematic score that calls to mind Hans Zimmer with its blend of classical and futuristic electronic orchestration.

After the episode wasted absolutely no time showing what a sonofabitch Jetark is, I was literally cheering and laughing at the television as Suletta effortlessly put him in his place.

Again, Suletta’s timing is impeccable, as she defeats Jeturk just moments before his dad is about to press the detonate button on Delling’s transport. His aid quickly informs him that Jeturk will inherit neither Miorine nor her father’s company, because he was just defeated in a duel for the first time.

To the victor belongs the spoils, so Suletta not only wins the title of Holder of her very first day, but also becomes Miorine’s new fiancé, effective immediately. When Suletta points out that she’s a woman, Miorine tells her that unlike the apparently more conservative Mercury, such things are commonplace here. Suletta’s look of bewilderment says it all: these rich kids are crazy.

The Witch from Mercury follows up its thrilling, bittersweet prologue with an equally impressive opening sortie, establishing Suletta as a meek but determined and clearly immensely talented heroine (the first female Gundam lead), Miorine as her frenemy-cum-fiancée, the current financial and political power dynamics in play, and the system of duels that determine far more than they probably should. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next week.

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury (Prologue) – Rise and Shine

This prologue for the newest full-length anime installment in the venerable, 43-year-old Gundam franchise is a perfect balance of worlds small and large. In the former, the Samaya family (mother Elnora, father Namid, and their four-year-old daughter Elricht) are just living their lives, trying to make  space more habitable for humans through the development of the newest Gundam suit Ifrith (i.e. Ifrit).

Their asteroid base home’s name has mythic resonance: Folkvangr, the field ruled by Freyja where half of those who die in war go, the other place being Valhalla). It’s a small, tight-knit group, and it’s little Eri’s fourth birthday. But beyond this little haven that may just hold the hope for mankind, the larger world is scheming to eliminate them and their efforts—the classic Ominous Circle of Old Dudes in a Dark Room.

The Samaya family are cought between a council that has ruled that further development of Gundams must cease immediately. To his credit, the leader of this effort, Delling Rembran, believes that merging man and machine the way Gundams do is an affront to the natural order of things. He does not celebrate violence, murder, or war, but insists that human hands do the killing.

Of course, in his condemnation of Gundams as a technology that claims the lives of its users as well as its targets, he kind of elides humanity’s history of necessary sacrifice, on scales both large and small, for the benefit of scientific advancement. Regardless of how lofty his ideals, the bottom line is he’s sugar-coating a plain old massacre of civilians at Folkvangr.

Mother, father, and child are all separated when the siege commences, with Delling’s Dominicus (i.e. dogs of God) units carrying out the slaughter. Elnora, the pilot of a still-in-progress Ifrith, reunites with Eri in the cockpit, where Dr. Carbo Nabo, Elnora’s savior, mentor, and Gundam project lead (as well as Eri’s “granny” had been showing Eri around.

Eri’s dad Namid sorties in a less sophisticated LF suit and is soon followed by Wendy, who wishes to avenge her colleague who was murdered in the Dominicus raid. We see how the GUND tech takes a physical toll on their bodies, and the enemy’s ace mobile suit Beguir-beu is has a power-draining ability that leaves Wendy’s suit powerless before blowing her up.

Delling’s ultimate goal is to blow Folkvangr out of the stars, and with it all of Carbo Nabo’s new Gundam tech. But the raiders miss the most important target: Ifrith itself, where mother and daughter reunite. To her mother’s surprise and horror, her little Eri’s biological signature is able to “awaken” Ifrith to Level 33, enabling full functionality.

Using Ifrith as an escape pod, Elnora sorties with Eri, and the show’s flagship Gundam dazzles the stage. Eri, who considers Ifrith her “little sister” is just happy that sister finally turned in bed woke up—on Eri’s birthday, no less—but once leaving the warm, safe confines of the asteroid, Eri and Ifrith are officially in the crossroads between big and small worlds.

Thanks to Eri’s inadvertent input, Ifrith puts on a show, making quick work of the enemy’s less mobile suits. When Beguir-beu draws in close and starts to do its power-drain thing, Namid comes between them and goes into fatal overdrive to force Beguir-beu away, giving his wife, his child, and maybe the only hope for sustained human survival in space a chance to escape.

It’s the kind of noble heroic sacrifice ordinary people make every single day in our world, even if it will end up robbing Elricht Samaya of her father so early in her life, the alternative would have seen Eri dying too. Namid tearfully singing “Happy Birthday” and Eri singing along, provides a heartbreaking capper to this, the first act of what felt like an epic, operatic film.

A glance at the MAL page shows that the show proper will likely pick up with Eri a woman grown, carrying on her parents’ and granny’s legacy. This isn’t about developing weapons, which the likes of Delling believe are the only good, right, or just use for Gundam tech. Without this tech, Elnora would have died and Eri wouldn’t be born.

No doubt Eri will be the champion of the underdog, the little guy in the little world, the engineer or scientist who just want to make life better, even if the costs are excruciatingly high. And no doubt she’ll butt up against that big yet small-minded world trying to stamp that out to protect their own narrow and ultimately self-defeating ideals. In other words, it’s an all-new Gundam, and I am hyped up.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 12 (Fin) – Weaving a New Tale

As predicted, Yume knocks it out of the park with her festival yukata and hair, but it’s her who wants a picture of Mizuto in his the second she sees it. Instead, he snaps a pic of her, and happens to know her phone’s password.

In her thoughts, Yume admits to feeling considerably lighter after having a good cathartic cry. Now she can hold hands with her stepbrother without embarrassment, and mimics Madoka’s treatment of Chikuma by helping “steady” Mizuto during the shooting game.

Just when the fireworks are about to start, Mizuto disappears, something Madoka says he always does around this time. All of his relatives have told her to make sure to look after him, like he wouldn’t be able to “survive” without someone watching over him. But as she volunteers to go find him, Yume celebrates how she’s been able to see all these new facts of Mizuto since becoming family.

When they were merely in puppy love and dating, she idolized and glorified him, projecting her ideal of a BoyfriendTM without looking deeper. Meanwhile, while sitting alone at a shrine, Mizuto muses about how he considered the world of books to be the true reality, and the outside world a mere illusion.

The first thing in the world that felt real was Ayai Yume, who was also the first person to evoke the same sentiment everyone had for him: that he would not survive if left alone. That’s why Ayai Yume still occupies that “slot” in his heart that even Isana could never hope to replace.

Yume finds Mizuto at the shrine, and the two have the mother of all passive-aggressive verbal duels with one another, all the while happy they were on the same wavelength. She recounts the phone call they had that he ended abruptly, and she gathered that he called her from this very shrine.

Yume also gathered that Mizuto knew her phone code because it’s 1027, the day of their first kiss, a day they both remember with fondness. Then Yume asks Mizuto why he went out with her, and he says it really just amounted to her finding a seat next to his in a game of musical chairs.

Sitting side by side as the fireworks begin—the fireworks they never got to see together until now—what initially stirred in Mizuto towards Yume stirs again. A tear falls down his cheek before Yume takes his face in her hands and kisses him.

It’s her second first kiss, and with it comes a vow that she, Irido Yume, will eventually win him over, defeating Ayai Yume for that single slot in his heart. The next morning, and then back at school, the two are back to their playfully adversarial selves.

The happiness of the past will never leave either of them, etched into their souls as it is, and they will never feel that particular novel happiness ever again. But that doesn’t matter, because now that they’re both a little older, wiser, honest, and clear-eyed they can now achieve a new happiness; weave a new tale together.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 11 – A Mess Under the Hood

Ahhh, is there anything nicer than a scene of two lovebirds talking on the phone just to hear each other’s voices? That’s how the episode starts, and it’s like being wrapped in a warm, fluffy blanket. So serene…but also so bittersweet. After the credits the Iridous have arrived at their relatives’ country house, and Yume meets Mizuto’s second cousin, who happens to be an absolute babe—a megane babe, at that!

When the fam hits the river for a barbecue, Madoka again compliments Yume’s figure and swimsuit, while also noting she’s “watched over” Mizuto since kindergarten. Mizuto is off in the shade reading and being antisocial, as always, but Yume learns that when his mom died, he and his dad must have endured a good bit of hardship, making her that much more determined to protect their new family by rejecting her feelings.

Later that night Yume enters the study of Mizuto’s late great-grandad’s study to tell him the bath’s ready, and finds him reading an old book entitled The Siberian Dancing Girl. Mizuto notes that it is his great-grandad’s autobiography of when he was interned in Siberia. It was the first book he ever read start to finish, and reads it every year he comes to his relatives.

He invites her to read it, and she takes him up on the offer, reading it through in one sitting. By the end, she’s in tears, and notices an old dried tear right next to her fresh one. She can’t help but feel closer to Mizuto, having now read the book that shaped him, which no one else but the two of them have ever read.

The next day, Madoka has laid out yukatas for the fireworks festival, and notices Yume sighing profusely. She quickly diagnoses it as Yume being in love with Mizuto and…Yume can’t necessarily refute that! Instead, she opens up a little to Madoka, who proves surprisingly deft at analyzing Yume’s whole deal, invalidating her feelings and trying to find excuses not to be with Mizuto

Madoka also figures the only thing for it is some direct action. To that end, she finagles things so Yume ends up alone in a relatively small, dark room with Mizuto for at least a half-hour. She figures that should be enough time for Yume to build up the courage to say what she wants to say and then say it.

At first, all Yume can do is look forlorn and say “Mizuto”, but in her head the words are streaming like the river she sat beside. She recalls the weight off her shoulders when they broke up, but she’s full of regret over things she never did that she should have, like call him over the summer, or sharing Christmas and Valentines with him.

It turns out, Mizuto doesn’t have to hear Yume say any of these things. It’s all in her face, and in the tears that start to fall. So he calls her as Ayai—which was just her old last name but sounds so much more intimate when he says it—and says that just this once, they can go back in time. So they embrace, and just hold one another until it’s dark out. They’re not pretending, they’re just being two people, not collections of ideals.

When Yume tells him how she figured Madoka was his first love, he immediately shoots that down; he never had feelings for her. He then tosses a jab at her—something about having so much good for her “on paper” but being a “mess under the hood.” He then says her nose is running, and she reacts, only for him to be kidding. That makes her laugh, which allows him to tell her who his actual first love was without saying it. He just says she loved to laugh. She still does!

I’m officially convinced that this show suffers from a terrible title, especially the English translation. All it does is tell you the surface scenario: step mom, daughter, ex. This is about that, but it’s also about so much more, about everything that came before that, and has managed to make something so wacky on paper incredibly moving and compelling under the hood.

GODDAMN TEARJERKER™ CERTIFIED

A Couple of Cuckoos – 20 – Nagi Be Shopping

If you want a perfect encapsulation of Nagi’s plight, look no further than when he comes home after a fruitless talk with his biological father, and Erika insists he snap pictures of her in a bikini…but scolds him for starting at her. Even though she told him to take photos of her in her bikini. Sachi joins in calling him a “pervert.” This guy can’t win!

Erika also basically tells him “I told you so” regarding how her dad was never going to be forthcoming with him. He’s still not even 100% sure Sosuke is a real person. This weighs on him, and Hiro can tell, so she invites him on a second date, which consists of a competitive bike ride. It’s a cute, fun outing, but IMO further shunts Hiro into the Friendzone as someone who will be there to help him unwind when he’s troubled.

Sachi ends up having a fancy sushi dinner with Mr. Amano, and learns that he’d be totally fine if she and Nagi got married. That makes things weird when Sachi comes home and Nagi is his usual big brother self. I guess he forgot that treating her like his little sister pisses her off? At any rate, the two go shopping for the first time in forever and make dinner together.

Then Sachi drops the question of whether he’d marry her if she asked. He blushes and asks her what their parents (the Uminos) would think about that, and ultimately Sachi gets the reaction she wanted, which was not outright refusal. I dunno…this episode had some pleasant moments, but it feels like we’re in a holding pattern with no real forward momentum in any direction.

%d bloggers like this: