Fairy Gone – 02 – Wherein Things Happen

This episode doesn’t start on the sunniest of notes, dropping back a few years to chronicle the history of people near Mariya meeting their ends because she sees herself as something of a talisman of bad luck. We also witness a younger Free being bailed out by his friend Jet, who takes a blade to the gut in his place. It’s almost as if both he and Mariya are bad luck to those closest to them.

Thankfully the dreary, muddy browns and grays give way to the greens and blues of the present as Mariya settles into Dorothea and distinguishes herself in target practice. She accompanies Free to some ruins where it’s believed a large-scale “artificial fairy”transaction involving the mafia is about to go down. Mariya seems mostly resolved to honoring her former friend and big sis Ver, who told her the Ver she knew is gone. She also meets Serge, who has a sniper fairy, and Clara, who has a recon fairy.

Free’s old comrade Wolfran Row shows up, apparently now a mercenary hired by the mob to ensure the deal goes down, but Dorothea is there to interdict. Like Ver with Mariya, Wolfran doesn’t hesitate against Free for a second, and while Mariya’s fairy protects her, it loses both of its arms in the process, which means she can’t summon it again the rest of the episode. Thankfully, Serge is able to bail her out and force Wolfran to fall back.

Free and Mariya catch up to Wolfran again, who sics three artificial fairies at them. Once they’re dealt with, Free and Wolfran go one-on-one again, but it basically ends in a stalemate with Wolfran fleeing in a very bizarre transport that uses legs instead of wheels. By the time Free catches up, not only is Wolfran nowhere to be found, but he’s killed everyone on his side, leaving no trail for Dorothea to follow.

This is all still…fine, just fine…but I can’t help but feel like Fairy Gone isn’t leaving much of a trail for me. A lot happened this week, but for the second straight week I didn’t really come away actually caring about any of it. Ichinose Kana does her best, but Mariya is bland…as are her Dorothea comrades, and her and Free’s flashbacks did nothing to change that. Meanwhile the soundtrack, apparently all done by the same band that did the OP, is hit-or-miss.

Mayonaka no Occult Koumuin has some good ideas but lacks the production values to do them justice; Fairy Gone has the production values (better than MOK, anyway) but lacks compelling ideas and characters. I’m not sure how much more I need to watch.

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Darling in the FranXX – 09

Poor Goro. The girl he’s coming to understand that he has feelings for has only ever had eyes for Hiro, whom Goro also likes and values as a person. Yet Goro is better at reading Ichigo’s often wildly shifting moods, and since becoming partners his affection for her has only increased.

Meanwhile, he must stand back and watch Ichigo stand back and watch Hiro get along so well with Zero Two. Ichigo and Goro are the “losers” in this love triangle, as neither has the attention of the person they want. But only Goro has a constant reminder of that staring him in the face: the hair clip Ichigo wears is identical to one he was going to give her; Hiro simply gave her one first.

Since he’s very new to all these feelings, now that he knows them he knows how long they’ve lasted, but he can’t resent or hate Hiro, even though Hiro is oblivious to Ichigo’s feelings. But the time for being silent about his feelings is over. Whether it’s uncomfortable for Hiro or not, Goro tells Hiro that he loves Ichigo just as Ichigo loves Hiro.

While it’s been established since they were youngins at the parasite “orphanage” that Goro and Ichigo are stronger as a duo, Goro’s one flaw as a Stamen is that he’ll always put Ichigo first and himself second, rather than treat the two of them as having equal value. In this regard, he loves Ichigo more than he loves himself, so when a Klaxosaur swallows up Delphinium, Goro hits the ejection button…for Ichigo alone.

The parasites are ordered back to base to regroup, and Nana and Hachi make it clear that the priority moving forward is protecting the Plantation from the Klax, even if it means leaving Goro to die. He did, after all, dig his own grave by ejecting his Pistil; he cannot pilot Delph without her.

When Ichigo wakes up from ejection blackout, she’s furious with everyone; from her squad mates for turning tail to Goro for being so stupid and selfish. She wants to know why he did this, but it’s blindingly obvious to Miku. She gives Ichigo a piece of her mind, saying how Goro has always looked out for her and tempered the volatility in her persona that has always threatened to compromise her leadership (Zorome sheepishly slinks away during their exchange).

The parasites have their orders, which do not prioritize saving Goro, but Ichigo is allowed to contact Goro, who is slowly running out of power and air, stuck in a relatively harmless part of the Klaxosaur but unable to move Delphinium. Ichigo’s exchange is more of a scolding, for Goro never leaning on her a little and taking everything on himself.

When Zero Two mentions a way for a parasite to enter the area of the Klax where Goro is trapped, Goro’s punishment for his “selfishlessness” is for the very person he aimed to save—Ichigo—to go right back in there to save him. It’s a quick and thrilling sequence as Argentea gives a boost to Strelitzia—carrying Ichigo in her palm—and then tosses her down the gullet of the Klaxosaur.

As she passes through the hazardous layers of fuel, Goro reminices on how he first met, befriended, and fell for Ichigo—when she decided to stand and fight bullies beside him. They’ve always worked better together…ejecting her went against that.

While he regrets never having the opportunity to tell Ichigo how he really feels, he takes solace in the fact that he’ll at least take the Klax out with him by self-destructing Delphinium.

He comes oh-so-close to turning the dial when Ichigo bursts in to the rescue, flashing the same peace sign she did when they first teamed up years ago.

She takes her position, Delphinium wakes up, and they blast out of the Klax, leaving the remaining fuel behind to detonate and destroy the Klaxosaur in an epic explosion.

Delphinium lies inoperative and powerless, but the Klaxosaur is gone, and Ichigo and Goro are alive. While swimming to his rescue Ichigo lost the hair clip Hiro gave her, but Goro has always carried the clip he meant to give her, and finally gets to here.

Goro takes the opportunity to confess his love, but asks for nothing else in return. Ichigo’s flustered reaction is priceless, as is her thanking Goro for being her partner and willingness to let their hug last a little longer.

She could learn a thing or two from this moment, as Goro was able to say something he needed to say to the person he needed to say it to, and will no longer worry about living with regret for not doing so, or saying “I should’ve done that back then.”

Ichigo also has something to say to Ichigo, who thanks to Goro at least has a cursory knowledge of what that might be, even if he remains frustratingly dense about it. I’ll be pulling for Ichigo, as always. And please, Trigger: don’t kill her off immediately after she confesses. That would be lame.

Violet Evergarden – 09

A tool cares nothing for itself. It doesn’t even consider itself a “self”. It only has purpose in the hands of its master. No master, no purpose. Violet was only able to get as far as she did as an Auto Memoir Doll because she thought the Major was out there somewhere, they would one day reunite so she could be issued fresh orders.

Despite Gilbert’s attempts to appeal to her humanity, Violet had been so conditioned for carrying out orders and nothing else that even when she loses one arm to a bullet and another to a grenade, she’s still compelled to try to dress his wounds with her teeth, until he has to all but order her to stop.

But now there are no more orders to look forward to, and Violet is lost in her past. She revisits the ruin of the castle where he fell, perhaps harboring a glimmer of hope everyone was wrong, and Gilbert was there after all. It doesn’t take long for that hope to be crushed, which is just about when Claudia and Benedict arrive to pick her up.

Claudia explains his need to withhold the truth from her when she was admitted to the hospital; she was more concerned with Gilbert than herself, but Gilbert demonstrated to Claudia on the eve of battle that he never saw Violet as a tool or weapon, but an ordinary girl he’d taken it upon himself to care for.

Gilbert had hope of his own: that one day Violet could be an ordinary girl with a purpose and emotions and dreams all her own. And even if he wasn’t around to meet that girl, he entrusted Claudia to care for her in his stead. Claudia perhaps understood more than Gilbert did just how difficult a transition from weapon to person would be.

Still, he doesn’t regret how he’s handled things. Cattleya thinks him heartless to tell Violet she’s “burning in the flames of what she’s done”, but it’s true, and it’s not something unique to Violet. Everyone has lost people, and parts of themselves. There’s nothing for it but to accept those flames, and they’ll gradually subside.

Upon returning to Leiden, everyone is worried about Violet, but also keep their distance out of respect. She sits in her dark room, alone with her flames, her grief and regret. She dreams of returning to the steps where she last saw Gilbert, but he’s not very nice.

Dream Gilbert essentially repeats the words his brother said to Violet at the port—words that appeal to her guilt over being able to write letters that connect people with the same hands that took the lives of so many others. She cries. She makes a mess. She puts those hands around her throat and contemplates joining the major.

Then there’s a knock at her door and she receives a letter; her first. Before reading it, she helps deliver some letters an errant delivery boy abandoned, and seems to enjoy ensuring the thoughts and hearts and souls of those who wrote them find their way to where they belong.

The letter addressed to her was written by Iris and Erica, figuring writing Doll-to-Doll was the best way to maintain that respectful distance while making sure Violet knew they were worried about her and are hoping and waiting for her to return. Additionally, Spencer requested her by name to ghostwrite an apology/thank you letter for his sister Luculia.

In this way, Violet gets back to work, the embers still glowing but the flames perhaps gradually subsiding. Spencer’s hope was to express gratitude for the one who got her back on her feet, all the while unaware that he’s helping Violet to do the same.

On her way back to the office, she spots a newspaper article featuring Princess Charlotte and her new husband meeting with children, as well as an advertisement for Oscar Webster’s newest play about Olivia. It’s a little on the nose, but it’s important that she she be reminded of what she’s done since her military career ended.

That’s because when she rushes to Claudia’s office to ask him if it’s really, truly all right for her to live on, he tells her that while the things she did back then can’t be undone, neither can the things she’s doing and will continue to do as an Auto Memoir Doll. Not only is it all right to live on…it’s essential. Both the show and this episode share her name. They are hers, and so is her life. Time to start living it.

Violet Evergarden – 08

There are no fancy clients or letters written this week, as learning of Gilbert’s death pulls Violet back into her dark past. Though it’s never explained exactly how the girl who Gilbert would come to call Violet was molded into such an efficient killing machine, but one thing is certain: absolutely no care was taken into how her emotional development would suffer from her military duties; at least not until Gilbert took custody of her.

Violet was too valuable an asset for the military to keep on the sidelines, so Gilbert was ordered to put her on the front lines of the war, where she distinguished herself as a fearless weapon. But as he watched her slaughter the enemy without any kind of expression on her face, many a pained look came from the major.

He really didn’t want to contribute any further to this child’s torment, but he had little choice, not being the particularly rebellious type. And so he watches the girl everyone considers nothing but a weapon continue to tear her soul apart as he watches with pity and regret.

When Violet treks (in her memoir doll dress no less) to the Bouganvillea mansion and finds Gilbert’s grave beneath a tree, it may be starting to sink in for her that she’ll never see the major again, but as it’s something she’s never before contemplated—any more than she knew what concepts like “beautiful” or “gratitude” meant before meeting him—she just seems utterly lost without the man whose green eyes match the brooch she had him buy for her, calling those eyes “beautiful from the first time they met.”

Gilbert’s and Violet’s relationship was always an utterly tragic one, with the war dictating how Gilbert had to use her, and Violet never properly growing up or mastering human skills of interaction or self-relfection while Gilbert drew breath.

But thanks to him, she at least had a chance to gradually learn; her exploits with the doll company are proof of that. He was always right about her: she was more than a weapon, she was a human being, and it wasn’t too late for her.

Unfortunately, we learn what causes the wound that leads to Gilbert’s demise, and it’s just a cherry on top of the shit life sundae Violet has been handed. Enemy stragglers shoot him in the eye, using the light of the very flare he sent up to alert ground forces to invade the fortress.

It was the last goddamn battle he and Violet had to fight, and thus the war snatched him away from her when she needed him the most—with peace on the horizon. Will she ever recover from that loss? I would hope so, but she’ll need help from those around her, and she’ll have to want to be helped, as opposed to simply wanting to join the major in death.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 46

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Once Shino’s suit blows up, there’s not enough time for Mika to take over the task of destroying Rustal’s bridge (nor is he assured to succeed). Besides, Mika is still busy with a very pesky Julieta. When Shino dies, we see a switch go off in Mika’s head: no more messing around with this relative amateur: Get out of my way.

After that, Julieta is lucky to escape with her life and limbs. But even when her suit is impaled, she still grabs on to Mika. Every moment he must fight her is a victory for her, especially considering she’s merely a human pilot, albeit a talented one; she hasn’t sold her soul to any technological devils. Julieta may be on the wrong side, but I still admire the hell out of her.

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Gaelio, who is tired to no end of McGillis’ bullshit, is determined to kill his former friend and commmander, a man who once inspired him. And to his credit, he seems to be doing quite well in his duel, even mocking McGillis for being so arrogant about piloting a suit with the soul of G-horn’s founder. And to the duel’s credit, it’s another brutal, beam-weapon-less smash-fest.

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In a crucial moment, the hand Almiria stabbed fails Macky, and Gaelio almost gets him, if it weren’t for somebody Gaelio sees his past self in: Isurugi. Someone hypnotised by the BS and whose head is filled with dreams that will never coalesce, but which will end only in his ruin.

Gaelio isn’t wrong about what happens: Isurugi’s last-ditch defense of his commander claims his life. But Isurugi wasn’t from a great family; he was colonist and a commoner, and being with McGillis allowed him to dream big, so big that he didn’t even need to be around to see those dreams fulfilled, as long as he was useful to McGillis.

It’s not a one-sided thing to him, in which Macky takes and the world makes. McGillis gave hope to the hopeless, and they gave him their lives.

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IBO has always had exciting battles, but it’s often the aftermaths of those battles that I’m more invested in, and that’s the case here. The “final battle” wasn’t final and wasn’t a battle so much as a rout, in which McGillis’ shorthanded fleet poked the bear and got mauled.

But Tekkadan isn’t just a military organization like G-horn, they’re a family, and to see Shino and others buy it not for final victory, but just so the rest of the family can live to fight another day (which they were hoping not to do) is particularly despairing.

There’s a great moment when Derma is wishing he had died alongside his friend, rather than losing an arm and becoming less useful as a weapon. Akihiro puts his hand on his head and simply thanks him for surviving. Aki doesn’t care about his adoptive brother’s future effectiveness as a weapon. He cares about being able to talk to him.

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Shaking off the loss of his most loyal lieutenant, it’s full-speed ahead to Mars for McGillis, who has the awkward task of having to call Orga and Eugene to his ship to talk about what happens next, even though the battle they just fought was supposed to be the final one.

At this particular juncture, McGillis believes, or at least gives the impression that he believes, Tekkadan will weather these setbacks and terrible odds as they always have, better than the group’s actual leaders. Orga likely never considered that whatever loses they sustained in the battle with Rustal would only be the beginning; that all those losses gave them was time.

The significance McGillis places on “flying over Mars” and fighting on “home ground” in the next leg of the battle couldn’t feel more hollow, because there wasn’t supposed to be a next leg.

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I loved the scene where Akihiro comforted Derma, but I loved the scene with a recovering Julieta and Gaelio even more. The second he appears, the playful adversity picks right back up, with her wondering what took him so long to visit her after she woke up.

In some Gundams, no doubt this would be a scene in which the injured pilot double down and decides that, like Gaelio, there’s no price she won’t pay, nothing she wouldn’t give up, to become stronger; strong enough to beat Mika. Julieta doesn’t go there.

Having faced off against the terrifying, inhuman might of Mikazuki, she’s decided that’s not her path. Even if she didn’t see the malice in Mika’s real face, his Barbatos’ “expression” mirrored his own. Julieta will become stronger as a human, as herself. No shortcuts.

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Having come back from that deeply unpleasant meeting with McGillis, Orga inspects a room full of body bags filled with comrades for whom he promised a warm place to live and make money without bloodshed. Yamagi, still reeling from the loss of Shino, expresses his resentment for what he sees as cowardly whining by Orga.

When Eugene tracks Yamagi down, he thanks him for tellking Orga what he couldn’t say. Then he tells Yamagi about a time Shino pondered whether Yamagi liked him, and expressed his gratitude that their family is full of so many different types of guys, including a guy who’d love someone like him.

Yamagi knows Shino wouldn’t want him to worry about having not died with him, but to live on, fight on, and make him proud. Just as Isurugi gave his life for a dream he’ll never see, so did Shino, and both went out perfectly fine with that arrangement. No one cursed their lot in life, because they were the lives they chose.

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We end with another excellent Orga-and-Mika scene, in which Orga admits all the lies and big talk he told everyone about money and status and one last battle. Mika, true to his Mika-ness, tells him if there’s someone to blame, it’s him. Orga only “lied” because Mika couldn’t wipe everyone out. His failure to do so only steels him to want to correct that failure in the battles to come.

Orga seems to get it, finally: he’s never had to bear the entire weight of the decisions that have led to their current situation, because they were never his and his alone. They were also Mika’s, and Eugene’s, and Akihiro’s, and everyone else’s, because Orga isn’t a dictator. The things they’ve done are things everyone more or less agreed to or went along with.

On the one hand, most of Tekkadan can’t easily walk away, like Zack could (but likely won’t). But the responsibility lies with everyone. Orga’s most important job is to not have doubts, and as Macky sends Tekkadan and what’s left of his fleet into a Martian trap, a absolute lack of doubt is vital to just keep going.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 45

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The calm is over; the storm is here, and it’s going to be a bad one. IBO wastes no time plunging us into this, what everyone is calling The Final Battle. As there are still five episodes left, I didn’t think the battle would only last an episode, and so it didn’t. But a great deal of damage was done to the good guys, and though key pieces still on the board mean they can still turn things around, they have lost and will lost a lot to do so.

Rustal Elion shows what a ruthless sonofabitch he can be, quickly splitting McGillis’ fleet and focusing on the rebels and Tekkadan, confident if he takes them out the Regulatory fleet will go over to him. He even has a mole among the rebels, who fires a Dainsleif at Rustal’s fleet, making it legal to return fire with the same weapon, only a hundred fold.

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The results are devastating as round after round pierces allied ships. Even Shino takes a big hit, but manages to get back to base, where Yamagi fixes his broken arm, and Yamagi reveals (to us, not Shino) his feelings for him. This…seemed a bit rushed, frankly.

Shino’s great, but from the way he fights I kinda always knew what end he was headed for. Adding this extra wrinkle out of nowhere as incentive to want him to avoid a violent fate doesn’t harm my like of the character, but doesn’t elevate it; it’s just there.

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McGillis tries to dazzle the stage after over half his forces are destroyed (along with Tekkadan’s Hotarubi) but I couldn’t help but think how similar Macky’s posturing felt to Carta’s empty pageantry, which is worth less than nothing if the enemy doesn’t fight with honor, as Rustal certainly doesn’t. He’s playing to win, as well as for survival.

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Even the look in McGillis’ face—a truly “Oh Shit” moment when Rustal looses another massive volley of Dainsleifs—seemed Carta-like in a sort of entitled Things aren’t supposed to go this way! outrage. Bael looks like a shining knight on this stage, but there’s increasingly little he can do to stop the crumbling equipment and spirits that surround him.

Meanwhile, Tekkadan’s only hope is to use one of their crippled ships as a shield in a last-ditch effort to get Shino close enough to Rustal’s bridge to take him out with his “Super Galaxy Cannon.”

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…It doesn’t work. Once more, a potentially huge pressure-releasing moment is denied the audience, just as Naze and Amida were denied their final revenge. In a way, repeating this pattern is a strategy of diminishing returns.

With Julieta somehow holding her own against Mika (which seems dubious) and Gaelio lurking around Macky and Isurugi, Orga down to one beat-up ship, and nowhere left to run, our iron-blooded orphans are in the direst of straits yet.

With Barbaros and Bael still on the board, it’s not quite time to throw in the towel. But will these two namesakes of the franchise possibly be enough to grab victory from the jaws of defeat, and how many more familiar faces won’t live to see it?

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 44

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While it certainly seemed like the start of the “final battle” between McGillis/Tekkadan and Rustal was eminent, that start is pushed back to next week, leaving us with the CBTS to end all CBTS episodes. Turns out piloting Bael isn’t enough for the other families to side with McGillis; the best he gets is their neutrality.

I guess they figure not actively helping someone Rustal has publicly labeled a traitor and murderer may help them down the line, if Rustal is able to defeat him. I’m not sure why one of the family heads is an alien, but between him and the fat one I’m not sure Macky would have gained much by having them on his side anyway.

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Another “loose end” is Almiria, who hears Rustal’s speech and assumes, not wrongly, that she’s been a pawn in this all along. When she can’t force herself to do what she believes is her duty—kill Macky for killing her brother—she turns the blade on herself, only for Macky to stop the thrust with his hand.

Telling her he will fulfill his promise to make her happy, one day, is all well and good, but her head is swimming with so many complex emotions (and she’s just a kid besides), she concludes that Macky is simply going crazy here, and so is she.

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As for Orga, he is not pleased McGillis could not secure a larger fleet to fight Arianrhod. When they meet face to face he makes sure to slug Macky for so blithely bringing up the casualties that will surely result from being outnumbered 2-to-1.

Orga wasn’t expecting to have to sacrifice so many members of his family to gain the Martian crown, and it’s because he fell into a pattern of accepting McGillis’ constant reassurances without question.

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From there, everyone starts taking stock. Merribit and Dexter feel helpless for not being able to fight beside the fighters, but will stand beside them anyway. Zack wonders out loud whether fighting the battle really is the only option.  Gaelio tells Julieta she’s becoming stronger “the right way”, perhaps insinuating he didn’t by relying on taboo measures.

Kudelia tells Atra over the space phone that she finally realizes the contradiction of working to eliminate strife from Tekkadan’s future, even though they wouldn’t be the tight-knit family they are without past strife.

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But because Kudelia is back on Mars, it falls to Atra to be there for Mika, so that’s what she does, and in one of the most tender scenes Mika has ever been involved in, when Atra bursts into tears from his tough talk, he hugs her and won’t let go. He’s only known battle in his life, whether it was his choice to fight or someone else’s. Now he’ll fight so Atra, who he admits is precious to him, won’t have to cry anymore.

The show can’t wriggle out of giving us a battle next week, so however many episodes it lasts, what form will it take? Will it be the beginning of Tekkadan’s future, or will Rustal see to it that future is snuffed out in the flames McGillis’ childish delusions of super-heroism?  There are sure to be casualties, big ones, but who? We’ll have to wait a little longer to find out.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 43

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When the stage is set at the end of this stage-setting episode, Rustal calls McGillis “just a child who can’t grow up,” referring to his obsession with shining monolithic superheroes who can bring righteous light to the world.

Rustal is probably right. McGillis can’t grow up. He’s been portrayed as the upstart kid at the adult’s table; an iron-blooded orphan who suffered just as much trauma as the kids of Tekkadan. Learning that Iznario Fareed was a pedophile who collected blonde boys paints Macky’s past even blacker.

To say he grew up far too fast ignores the fact that the ordeals he had to endure didn’t embue him with all the subtle qualities required for proper development. They only taught him the absolutes of weakness and strength; the only subtleties being in the various forms of power.

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With Mika assisting in capturing Gjallarhorn headquarters, McGillis believes he has finally achieved his goal of resurrecting the hero that propelled him, Agnika Kaieru, the tool that will cleanse a dirty system. He renames his rebuilt Bael Agnika Kaieru to commemorate his imminent victory.

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Vidar turns back into Gaelio Bauduin this week, after spending much time correctly ascertaining McGillis’ true goal. For the time they grew up as friends and brothers, Gaelio thought he already knew the McGillis behind “the mask” (not his physical one), until Gaelio betrayed him and Carta.

Now that he knows what McGillis wants, he’s going to stand in the way, not just for his Gjallarhorn, but his family. And he’s come in a Gundamn frame imbued with an faux-A-V system and Ein Dalton’s brain.

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The results are pretty impressive, as Gaelio is able to keep up with Mika and keep him guessing, even getting him to quietly admit “this dude is big trouble.” It certainly looks like McGillis has been outmaneuvered here, with Rustal’s dog able to fight on the same level as his dog, possibly necessitating his own personal involvement in the fight earlier than he’d like.

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But as it turns out, everything seems to be going the way McGillis had hoped, and he’s more than ready to join the fray immediately. Gaelio/Ein is merely giving him the opportunity to test his research. They are an obstacle he will swat away, and with Tekkadan’s help, complete his conquest of Gjallarhorn.

Mika, Orga, and Tekkadan are all counting on this shirtless, suddenly slightly unhinged-looking McGillis for all their fortunes. They cast their lot with him long ago and it’s far too late to back out, even if they wanted to. Now we’ll see if he’s actually on to something, or if Rustal is right and he’s just a kid who can’t grow up.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 06

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Who’s cuter than Mamushi? LIL’ MAMUSHI! XD

As soon as we were in flashback mode with Mamushi, I knew Ao no Exorcist had a better story to tell than her turn to the dark side and ultimate demise. It was also an early indicator I was in for a good episode, and this turned out to be the best Ao 2 to date. For once, I wasn’t feeling impatient or shortchanged during the credits. Instead, I was pumped up.

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Whether intentional or not, the backstory of Master Tatsuma meeting Fujimoto, and the resulting expanding of his world (and evolution of his beliefs) is, at least so far, the best thing to come out of this Ao 2. I’d say it’s done Rin & Co. a disservice by sidelining and outshining them, if it wasn’t such a good backstory.

Of course, when the guy you thought was a bandit ends up healing your comrades…and your pregnant wife you thought was going to die, that tends to have a profound effect on how you look at the world and how you judge people.

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Despite his bluster and stated plans to kill a kid with the Koma Sword, Fujimoto spends enough time with Fujimoto to know he won’t actually kill the kid he speaks of (the, ahem, spawn of satan, as it turns out). And Tatsuma is done praying to a sword he knows is empty, having unsheathed it as a curious youth.

By being exposed to Fujimoto, Tatsuma learns there may be a better way to protect his people other than strict, at times self-destructive orthodoxy. So ever since his father died and passed on the ultimate secret of the Myoda sect to him, he’s been looking for a way to exit the sect from its 150-year obligation.

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To Mamushi’s surprise, that obligation turns out to be holding the shriveled body of the Impure King, employing the power fire demon Karura and removing the King’s eyes to keep him in a dormant state. Karura not only demands but draws its power from the secrets of men—the more and bigger the better.

Of course, when the guy you thought was a bandit ends up healing your comrades…and your pregnant wife you thought was going to die, that tends to have a profound effect on how you look at the world and how you judge people. Those secrets have done nothing but allow the Myoda to keep, essentially, a nuke in their sub-basement.

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Mamushi, who is also determined to protect her people, is quickly betrayed by her former teacher when he takes the eye she was carrying and re-awakens the Impure King himself, Akira-like in form and expanding to ginormous size.

The twist is that the titular Fujouou isn’t even Todou’s target. He only awakened the King to force Suguro Tatsuma out and compel him to summon Todou’s true target: Karura, whom Todou devours and from whom he gains youth and vigor.

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Todou is now more powerful than ever, but to my relief, Mamushi is no longer his acolyte, now that she knows their interests don’t align at all. Before Karura is taken from him (and before he’s stabbed through the throat) Tatsuma manages to seal the Impure King with a powerful spell. But using that spell means he can no longer defeat him.

He entrusts that task, in his hastily-scrawled letter, to Rin, knowing it’s an unenviable task to be saddled with, and indeed that it could result in Rin’s death, either by failing to take down the King or by being executed by the authorities for using his blue flames. Of course, we all know Rin isn’t just going to sit back and save himself.

Tatsuma saw a good man in Fujomoto, and clearly saw a good young man in Rin. I doubt Rin will let him down.

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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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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 03

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In the dining hall, Konekomaru is taken aback by Shima’s rediscovered chumminess, and later calls him out for it, but Shima repeats his assertion from last week that it’s far more hassle to avoid Rin than simply slip back into their friendship; that, and Rin’s a good guy.

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Meanwhile, the Impure King plot gets mired in infighting when the gathered families gather and it’s believed there’s a traitor in their midst. My first instinct is to go for the snake-people, but that’s kinda profiling; besides, it could just as easily be Shima’s brother…or Bon’s father, who is absent.

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The resulting meeting is tense and full of accusations. This is not how you want to see a group of exorcists tasked with protecting a dangerous artifact like the right eye. But it also creates a sense of intrigue: we’ve got the suspects, but I, at least, will need more info in order to determine whodunit.

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And now, your weekly Ao no Exorcist Shiemi Report: Does Shiemi actually have lines in this, the third episode? She does! Unfortunately, most of them are used running herself down for being so “useless” and “underfoot.” Izumo counters that she shouldn’t stress, since she’s strong, or rather resilient, like a weed. Shiemi is a big greenthumb, so she takes it as a compliment and as motivation to try harder.

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Later, Shiemi spots Rin training, and recommits herself to trying her best so she can catch up to him. So yeah, no contact between the two quite yet, but she’s well on her way to getting there. As is Konekomaru, whose hard line fades when Rin assures him he’ll prove to him he’s not a threat, despite his blue flames.

Of course, the toughest friend in whose good graces to get back into is Bon, who is currently occupied with wondering if his Dad is the traitor in their midst. Another decent episode that balanced Rin’s efforts to make up with his pals with the right eye plot.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 02

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I for one found it refreshing that Rin & Co. didn’t immediately end up in the middle of a war zone upon arriving in Kyoto. There’s definitely casualties whom they must tend to, but the main battle feels far away. Instead, Rin finds himself in the hometown of three friends of his who are feeling very uneasy around him.

He meets Bon’s parents, who are nothing like he imagined. After two minutes with his dad, Rin is prepared to label him a “degenerate monk”, which just so happens to be what a lot of others in his sect have called him for years, much to the frustration of his son Bon.

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Rather than end up in the middle of a fight against the forces trying to revive the Impure King (or whatever), Rin and his mates perform relatively menial tasks, but those tasks still have to be performed, as they’re important.

During their service we see the long-standing rivalry between different clans within the sect, one of which is really into snakes. Bon’s dad is nowhere to be found, so it falls to him to break up fights – and hear what people call Pops.

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We get some nice peaks into Bon’s past, and see how much he loved and admired his dad, who always kept to himself chanting sutras. Bon learned those sutras, but he also watched as the order his father belonged to wither away, to the point they had to align themselves with the True Cross Order in order to stave off oblivion.

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Meanwhile, Rin tries to think of a way to mend fences with Bon, as well as his other spooked friends. Unfortunately he and Shiemi don’t say a peep to each other for the second straight week, but hopefully they’ll reconcile at some point.

For now, Rin has to be content with Shima, who ends up the last person with Rin with no excuse for slinking away, but also finds that it’s a much bigger hassle to avoid Rin than to talk to and treat him like he did before Rin went berserk. Shima’s are probably the easiest good graces to return to, however.

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Bon’s deal is that he always wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps, but he had the kind of father who didn’t want that, and so conflict arose between them, which hasn’t been sufficiently resolved since before he dyed his hair.

But Bon’s no innkeeper, and he never was. He’s an exorcist, a damn good one, and he’ll play a big role in the coming battle against pro-Impure King forces. I think when Rin learned Bon has been having a long fight with his Dad, he was heartened, a bit. Bon only butts heads with those who matter in his life. Relationships will have to be prepared if the good guys are going to have a chance. And despite having Satan as a father, Rin is a good guy.

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