91 Days – 08

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91 Days’ eighth episode continues the brisk pre-recap pace of the seventh, with sufficient bodies dropping to make a final showdown in three to four weeks’ time seem…not all that far away. Whatever peace Nero got from killing his brother, it doesn’t last due to three men: Delphy, the new, incorruptible sheriff in town; Fango, who thinks it’s time to wipe out the Vanettis…and Corteo.

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Coreto is sick of hanging around the mafia. He wants “Avilio” to get on with it already. But Avilio is playing such a long game, he has no qualms about following Nero’s orders to kill Delphy—or his wife and young daughter—to eliminate the threat.

It’s a cursed loyalty; Avilio does these things because he won’t let Delphy or Fango have his prey. He’s going to keep Nero standing until he’s good and ready to bring him down himself. But it’s an approach that’s isolated him from his friend, who is tired of being a doormat.

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91 Days decides not to go down the very dark road of offing Delphy’s family, but it sure do manage to make me believe it was going to, right up until we see the empty seat in the flaming car.

Delphy’s wife and daughter didn’t have to die for him to halt the investigation; he only needed to experience a scant moment of fear that they were dead. In this, Avilio demonstrates he’s not totally lost.

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As for Corteo, he somehow gets mixed up with Fango, perhaps out of a need to rebel against a situation and a lifestyle that had grown intolerable. He must be desperate to the edge of reason, however, to think he’d have a more tolerable experience hanging out with Fango than the Vanettis.

When Fango tries to take out Nero, it doesn’t take long for Avilio to suspect him, but he doesn’t immediately take action, despite Corteo all but presenting himself as the latest obstacle to Avilio’s ultimate revenge: another party who could potentially steal Nero away from him (by prematurely getting him killed).

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When Corteo is escorted to a room in Fango’s fortress—too his almost certain death—Fango toys with him the way a cat plays with a mouse. Then Corteo bears his fangs in a blaze of violence, beating Fango to death because he threatened to tell Nero about his betrayal.

Corteo may have been trying to simply end the ordeal with Nero’s untimely death, so that he and Avilio could move on with their lives. Instead, the opposite occured: Avilio dug in his heels, and Corteo came to discover that once his friend dragged him into this, there was never any possibility of getting out. Avilio’s vendetta is a black hole; no light escapes.

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91 Days – 07

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Clearly, Angelo’s anger over what happened to his family is so great and unyielding, he’s committed to enacting his revenge through an obscenely intricate long game. It’s not enough to kill everyone involved in his family’s murder; he wants to cause them the maximum amount of pain before he kills them. Such a considerate young man!

By assisting Fango’s coup over Don Orco, Avilio has kept Nero alive. Now he must turn to Nero’s next threat: his own brother Frate, being used as a puppet by Rolando Galassia. He also wrangles Fio into the negotiations, and eventually she plays a significant role in Avilio’s plan. Rather than Galassia’s puppets, the Vanettis have become Avilio’s  (Vincent excluded; who knows where he is this week).

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Avilio seems pretty sure there’s no chance for reconciliation between Nero and Frate, especially with Galassia breathing down Frate’s neck (and giving him all the booze and drugs he needs to become an increasingly unstable puppet). He lets Nero give it a try anyway, and lets the brothers become more frustrated by their diametrically opposed goals.

At the same time, Avilio convinces Volpe to help him attack Frate and Fernando while the former is travelling to mass, making it sound like Volpe will be doing Nero a favor. Hmm…maybe don’t have such a regular Sunday schedule if you’re planning to be the boss of a crime family?

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Volpe only manages to wound Fernando and scare Frate, but Avilio kills him and makes it look like he acted alone. Galassia tries to use his wife Fio to get Nero in a room with him, but Nero stays away.

Avilio comes instead as a messenger, but the messege is for Fio, not Fernando, and she puts two bullets in her husband, apparently sick and tired of his role in tearing her family apart. She doesn’t know that both she and Fernando were only pawns of the Great Avilio.

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In another bit of Venetti manipulation, Avilio leads Nero to Frate, reveals the gun Frate was hiding under a magazine, then leaves the two to hash it out—but only after he takes all the bullets out of Frate’s gun, apparently unbeknownst to either brother.

We end with two more of the biggest obstacles to keeping Nero alive dead, by Nero and Fio’s own hands. Through his machinations, Avilio saw to it the Vanetti family suffered its first blood casualty, but likely not the last. Then he tells Nero he’ll be his brother from now on. Honestly Avilio’s master plan continues to baffle, and the effortlessness with which he gets his way this week makes everyone else in the episode feel like helpless pawns.

It’s pretty ridiculous, but I still enjoyed this gritty, unrelenting episode. As characters drop left and right, 91 Days is starting to feel more and more like a Shakespearean tragedy set in the days of prohibition.

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Rolling Girls – 06

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RG wraps up another arc with its zany blend of over-the-top, stylized action and painfully bland soft J-rock, and the titular Girls manage to go the extra mile for their latest warring factions, but like the Always Comima mission, for all its glitz, the show has simply lacked the same magic as that episode two battle between Maccha Green and Shigyo Kuniko.

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There are lots of reasons for this. Unlike Nozomi during Himeko’s dad’s hospital bed speech, I was never all that emotionally invested either in the father-daughter conflict or the Aichi-Mie one. The whole reason the two countries combined was flimsy, so it never made much sense why they had to find some kind of middle ground, especially considering how different their cultures were. While it’s kind of sad, why not live and let live? The show’s only answer is “because we said so.”

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When Nozomi decides simply taking the stone and moving on isn’t an option, they try to build their own shachihoko, which inspires Himeko to get back into it, during which time she remembers that despite the pressure to succeed or surpass her dad, she still loves simply doing it for its own sake.

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On the track, Dandy, who turns out to be a former racing legend, inspires Tomoki to get back into the race, whereupon he beats his vice-captain fair-and-square, who retaliates by blowing up Tomoki’s bike with missiles. But Tomoki gets that feeling back, the feeling he’d lost after all those easy wins.

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Rolling Girls exhibits its signature elaborate disregard for physics and load weights, and while the animation is appropriately fast and furious during the race, it simply didn’t get my blood pumping as much as Macha/Shigyo duel; though your mileage may vary.

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In the end, the shachihokos get to the top of Nagoya Castle in the most ridiculous way possible, pedaled up a disintegrating ramp on a disintegrating bicycle powered by Tomoki’s shonen will. Father and daughter make automotive and food-based mods to the shachihoko that mostly satisfy everyone, Aichi and Mie alike.

But even this moment of triumph feels a bit too neat and tidy, with time, space, and gravity being warped so much the participants in the story are lost in the chaos. Perhaps I’m just running out of gas with this particular show. There’s plenty to look at, most of it exceedingly pretty…but this week left me pretty cold.

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Rolling Girls – 05

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The Rolling Girls’ next mission comes from a letter asking for help bringing peace to “Mie-Aichi”, also known as “Aichi-Mie”, a new country made up of those two very different prefectures united around the fact that both claim to be the birthplace of a certain kind of regional food, but both former prefectures have vigilante groups that constantly battle each other, while all the public roads double as racing circuits.

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In the midst of such a large conflict is Uotora Himeko, prodigal daughter of Aichi’s master carpenter, the one repsonsible for the city’s famous “shachihoko” fish sculptures, guardian gods that protect the roofs of buildings from fire.

Himeko is back after getting bored with playing around on the road, just when every shachihoko in town explodes. The Mie Motors vigilantes are suspected, and while there isn’t proof, the Aichi tenmusus want to duel them on the circuit to determine who rules the country once and for all.

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The Tenmusus’ captain, a tough dandy and cafe owner, tries to keep the peace, but the young pups are getting restless, and he has to rely on his absurd brute strength to keep the Mie Motors’ vice-captain at bay (in a running gag the vice-captain is constantly revving his engine, so you can never clearly hear what he’s saying). Negotiating peace seems like a tall order for Nozomi & Co.

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The Old Aichi townsfolk, however, are more concerned with getting all the shachihoko repaired. The only problem is, Himeko’s stubborn dad claims he’s lost all feeling in his arm and is thus no longer able to create. This puts the onus on the long-estranged daughter to do the work. When she was a little girl, she wanted nothing more than to follow in her father’s footsteps, but girls grow up and the paths they want to take change.

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It’s a tough spot for Himeko, made worse when she learns her dad’s arm is actually fine, and that he was faking it to make her take on the responsibility. She pays him back with words harsh enough that he slaps her, an action he instantly regrets but only pushes her away further.

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Meanwhile, the Rolling Girls have determined that Suzuka Tomoki, the captain of Mie Motors, reigning circuit champion, and only “Bike Taxi” in town, sent them the letter asking for help, in Himeko’s name (the fact he called the country Mie-Aichi instead of Aichi-Mie gave it away).

But when he zooms by to drop off a fare, the girls don’t have a change to catch his attention before it’s taken away by his loose-cannon vice captain, itching for a battle. Tomoki won’t allow one, but when a squad of Tenmusus arrives, they clash with vice-captain’s squad anyway.

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In all of this, Tomoki and Himeko both seem to be caught up in things far bigger than they are. But these two share a past, and perhaps they share a future in restoring peace to their joint country.

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After all, Tomoki seems to have the equivalent of a moonlight stone, and while shachihoko sculptures are merely symbols of peace, symbols are powerful things. Himeko may be rusty, but she and Tomoki may be the ones who help cooler heads prevail over hot ones. But first…dinner!

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 15

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GARO has never been shy about shuffling off to a totally different story in its world when it feels the urge to. The serial tale of the Makai knights’ struggle against evil has always gone hand and hand with the smaller but still interesting stories of the people they’re protecting. Episodes like this are successful when they find a way to tie the two together. In this case, without meaning to, the common folk’s activities provide another lesson for the Prince Alfie, still young and learning what it means to rule.

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I won’t blame you for not remembering the blacksmith Julio, who had dealings with Herman and Leon and whose dad Sergi (or Jordi, depending on the subs) became a horror and had to be killed. But even if I hadn’t looked back at my older reviews, I’d have recalled him, and I’m glad they brought him back rather than making new characters. We know this kid’s history, and why he’s so determined to build his own Golden Knight; not just so he and his can protect themselves, but be able to help out the real knight.

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I will say, however, that the trial-and-error quality of developing the suit gets a little repetitive, and the sophistication of the technology employed strains credulity quite a bit (the Makai knights’ clearly supernatural armor). I simply don’t buy that elbow grease and some pig iron are capable of building a mobile suit in what is clearly a pre-industrial time period.

It’s also hard not to see this as filler, especially when our main characters get so little time. That being said, the show seems intent to tell us other stories precisely because Leon and Alfie are both kind of in holding patterns. Leon’s one scene with Lara is nice, but it doesn’t provide anything new; these two like each other, but Leon is transient. There’s also something awesome about the prince’s uncle sneaking into the palace through a window just for the hell of it…but it’s hardly substantial stuff.

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In the second half, things pick up when a widow visits the workshop with tales of a monster prowling their farmland. Time to test the anachronistic suit! And despite having, delicate, perishable pig intestines for hydraulic hoses, the suit holds up pretty well…though they’re not actually dealing with a horror, but a big bear made bigger and scarier by the light of the moon.

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Herman and Alfie just happened to be passing by this battle, and Herman is able to step in at the last minute when it seem’s the mecha’s pilot Bruno is about to be blown up with it. The lesson to Alfie is that the people he is sworn to protect are not helpless—indeed, in the ways of the world, they are far stronger—so it’s important not to see them as merely sheep to be tended.

As royalty and a Makai knight, maintaining and protecting the realm is a collaborative effort with his people. They can take care of themselves by and large, but it’s crucial he be there in case whenever they’re in a pinch.

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 14

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90% of last week’s episode was given over to Leon’s rebirth into a simple life of working the land. This week it’s Prince Alfie’s turn to get the lion’s share of the episode, and while his adventures have nowhere close to the emotional impact as Leon’s, it’s still a respectable, if episodic, romp.

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Exhausted by the ample rigors of being the Golden Knight and a prince being groomed for the throne, Alfie gives his portrait artist the slip and hides inside a wagon that just happens to be robbed while on the road, and its young driver is tied up and thrown in the back with him.

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Leon continues to enjoy the company of the fair Lara (voiced by Aiba Madoka, her first role, and a damn good one) and Emma happens to cross paths (it’s probably more like Emma was looking for him.) Emma confirms Leon is okay, tells him Alfie is okay, and they part ways. Short and sweet, but it’s good to know Lara is going to be around more than one episode.

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When the thieves arrive at their abandoned (and haunted) castle hideout, Alfie reveals himself and asks them to surrender, but not only does Herman appear on the balcony, but the Juliet to the tied up guy Mauro’s Romeo; in love with each other, but with feuding families.

Mauro tells tales of Count Juste—the castle’s former lord, whom Alfie always idolized as a great knight—coming home to find his wife Isabelle had become a witch, and killed her. Alfie assumes Uncle Herman came to address a potential horror infestation in the castle. The fact that Herman knows nothing about the curse and merely came to collect white lilies for his new lady friend Himena, the romantic bastard.

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When night falls, Fana springs Mauro from the dungeon, but get cornered by guards, and happen upon a hidden passage that leads to the room where Horror-Juste and Isabelle remain in their deadly embrace.

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Juste takes Fana for his new bride, but Horror-Roland (Juste’s rival for Isabelle’s heart) possesses Fana’s dad, and the two start to fight in Horror Mode. Yes, there’s a lot going on here; not all of it necessary, but the detailed story is surprisingly easy to follow along.

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Since these guys are horrors, that means Herman and Alfie can actually fight them. Lo and behold, they’re both complete pushovers, though when Juste is about to drain poor Fana of all her blood, his face opens up to reveal a gruesome face that wouldn’t be out of place in Parasyte. Herman takes out Roland, Leon takes out Juste, and Mauro reaches out and catches a falling Fana, cushioning her landing.

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In the end, Mauro and Fana, who we don’t really care that much about, end up together (who knew the Garo Knights were yentas?), Alfie has a little adventure away from his palace, along with some exercise, and Herman has to look somewhere else for white flowers for Himena. Nothing super-consequential, but stylish and witty as always, and thus still enjoyable.

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