Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 12 (Fin)

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Whoops, miscounted: here I was thinking for some reason there’d be two episodes left, but this turns out to be the finale. And you know what? I’m fine with that, even if the epilogue was a little rushed.

The epic final battle between Ripple and Swim Swim goes on while Fav continues to verbally torture Koyuki, who doesn’t want to be a magical girl anymore. The damn cyber-bird-thingy finally broke her spirit.

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But then, when she finally hears the truth she probably should have known for some time now — that this was nothing but a deathmatch for Fav and Cranberry’s shared entertainment — she transforms once again, hoping not to be too late before Ripple and Swim Swim kill each other.

This is Koyuki finally focusing her grief over the patently unfair, grisly ordeal she’s been through into action. It’s very satisfying watching her smash her terminal in rage, even if we know it’s not yet the end of Fav.

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The battle between Ripple and Swim Swim, pockmarked as it is by cuts to Snow and Fav, at least shows Ripple has learned a thing or two, both from her own first fight with Swim and from others who didn’t quite get her.

Ripple uses light and sound to disable Swim Swim, pulling her out of her magical girl form. This is when what had been a satisfying battle between a super-strong kunoichi and a super-powerful magic-user stops being fun.

That’s because Swim’s transformation back to normal shows us that Swim Swim was only a small child, and a deeply troubled one at that. She was doing what she thought she needed to do to become her idol, Ruler, and Ripple takes no joy in finishing the tyke off.

That being said, things got satisfying again when Ripple puts Swim Swim’s magic spear through the Master terminal, which takes Fav off line for good (cue grumpy cat GOOD pic). I also liked the cleverness of Koyuki being able to hear that Fav was in trouble, and that the spear would indeed do him in.

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Snow was too late to save Swim Swim (not that she would have listened to reason if she were still alive when she arrived), but she does end up saving Ripple by inspiring her. With Top Speed avenged, Ripple wants to go back to being a magical girl in the vein of Snow White; that is, someone pure and righteous, not someone who ends up having to stab children.

In the aforementioned speedy epilogue, Koyuki abandons her normal life, and for six months, toughens her mind and body — with Ripple’s help — and pulls off increasingly big, flashy feats — having come a long way from doing little kind deeds here and there.

Going big picture as she does, and rejecting the selection process and the raising project, is likely Koyuki’s way of making up for all the other girls whose lives were lost so that she could, as Fav put it, rise to the top without “dirtying her hands.” Now she’s a little less bright-eyed and naive and more world-weary and wise. And she’s determined to do everything she can to make the world a better place.

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Other than Fune wo Amu, which was handed off to me by Zane, MGRP was the last show standing on my Fall ’16 watchlist. A big part of that was that it was an elimination show that kept me involved right to the end, despite almost never properly developing characters in the right way or at the right time. (A notable exception being Alice).

Anyway, I’m glad I stuck with it, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoyed Madoka. It wasn’t nearly as good, but it was a fun ride.

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Kuromukuro – 19

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Now that’s more like it. The last episode kinda dragged on, building to the surprise abduction of Yukina. But this episode takes full advantage of the severity of that cliffhanger: the Kuromukuro is grounded, Earth is more vulnerable than ever, and everyone is on edge, but powerless to do anything in the immediate present. After all, Yukina is in space.

Their only consolation, and hope, as it happens, is the fact they retrieved the wounded Muetta, whom Dr. Hausen determines has identical DNA to Yukina and Hiromi. They’re definitely related, though Muetta is very old.

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Hiromi is in full-on Mom Panic Mode, Sophie is given mandatory leave by the commander, and Ken is disgraced by how useless he feels. Sophie doesn’t have any sympathy for him moping in the canteen, but that’s for the best, as shortly after she’s alone, she’s contacted by the Ogre, who promises an encounter soon.

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Dr. Hausen is the only one truly happy this week, as he gets to study an Efidolg—or, at least, a human who’s had their memories altered and their body populated by advanced nanomachines. He determines that Ken’s blood is the best way to counteract the effect of Mirasa’s weapon, and after a quick transfusion, Muetta is awake and as feisty and combative as ever.

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The Ogre rudely invades Sophie’s apartment, but properly apologizes, and explains that she was the only person he felt safe contacting. His comment about cosplay culture making it easier to move around modern Japan was pretty amusing, but the fact he’s finally here, with Sophie, ready and willing to explain all (or at least some) is very exciting.

He, or I should say, Zell, is absolutely an enemy of the Efidolg, but not yet an ally of the earthlings. Here’s hoping that will change, becaue the earthlings need all the help they can get.

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Ken knows he can’t do squat about Yukina without the Kuromukuro, and so breaks into Muetta’s cell to try to bargain with her. She agrees to co-pilot it with him, with the story that she stole it and captured him. It’s really the only play they have, and it gets them both what they want: Muetta, freedom from this place, and Ken, a chance to save Yukina.

What I’m glad about is that Ken needs help, and lots of it. He may be a samurai, but he can’t whisk Yukihime out of a high-security international installation on his own. The other civilian lab employees clear a path for them, ending with Hiromi herself giving Ken her blessing (and making him swear he’ll bring her Yukina back).

This is because Hiromi’s superiors told her to give up on Yukina. They proposed using Muetta to pilot Kuromukuro, with Dr. Hausen minutes from administering some dread medication that would likely not give her a choice in the matter.

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Don’t get me wrong: I’m not about to place Yukihime in the “Good Guys” column just yet, but I’ll pencil her in for now. The bottom line is she had few choices to get back to where she belonged other than going along with Ken’s plan, and once they’re up in orbit, Ken is at the mercy of her “people.”

But what makes be believe Yukihime might not bretray him immediately is the recording of…herself she sees once they fire up the Kuromukuro, which she’s amazed powers up so quickly even though it’s her first time. Only it isn’t: she recognizes herself in the recording. There’s an opening here, however small, for her to start entertaining the idea that Ken is right about her.

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That brings us to poor, poor Yukina. The only moment sadder than seeing her sister and mother despair at her abduction is seeing her look down on earth and call for Kennosuke…after asking for some clothes, of course. The Efidolg brought her there not as a hostage, but because they thought she was Muetta.

Mirasa quickly took it upon herself to try to finish what she started, but it seems Yukina was able to escape her stasis chamber in time. Despite her call for her samurai buddy, something tells me she ‘s not simply going to wander the ship, catching her death of cold, waiting for Ken to rescue her. She’s going to have to help herself out, and stay alive and free until help arrives.

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Kuromukuro – 16

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This week, there’s almost equal time spent between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”, as Muetta and Mirasa fall from the sky to infiltrate the Kurobe Lab in search of the “Pivot Stone.” It’s a daring and professional operation led by Muetta, with Mirasa never quite matching her precise moves. For instance, Mirasa hits the water too hard on their landing, but Muetta saves her. By the end of their op she’ll wish she hadn’t.

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Another healthy chunk of “good guy” time is taken up by more Ken and Sophie, with which I have no problem. Its fun to watch the moment Ken realizes Sophie is trying to become a samurai, which she sees as swapping one form of bondage (doing as her parents say and going home) for another (being bonded by loyalty to her fellow warriors in Kurobe).

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What of Yukina? She’s plays only a bit role here, tagging along for Mika’s cosplay film with Akagi, Kaya, Carlos, and the nurse Marina. In a nice bit of narrative symmetry, Muetta and Mirasa also “cosplay” by dressing up in UN maintenance unis that will help them move further into the enemy base. But while Mika & Co. are just trying to have some fun, these two are grinding like their lives depended on it…because they kinda do.

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By sheer coincidence the Efidolg pair end up taking the same lift as Ken, and the smell of blood on the orange jumpsuits (another blunder by Mirasa) gives them away. Thus we’re offered another confrontation between Ken and “Yukihime” far earlier than I expected, and it goes pretty much how I imagined: Ken prostrates himself before the princess, hoping against hope he can jog her memory.

Alas, Muetta claims to have never heard of him, though interestingly she calls him a “peasant” later on. It’s very much up in the air whether she’s playing another role like Mika and Marina, fully brainwashed, or a true and loyal daughter of Efidolg.

Speaking of loyalty, when, in a hostage situation, Muetta seems prepared to kill Ken, it’s Sophie who fires the bullet that knocks the knife from her hand. When Ken shields a retreating Muetta and Mirasa, Sophie makes up her mind: she can’t trust Ken’s brand of loyalty with keeping him alive. She’ll stay in Kurobe and make sure he stays safe.

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In this regard, Sophie takes on a role similar to Yukina, another person intent on saving Ken from his own reckless impluses. It’s also a huge victory for the show, because getting rid of Sophie, or declawing her by giving her scenes in France, would not have been something I particularly wanted to see.

As for Yukina, the cosplay story, beyond being a parallel to the costumes Muetta and Mirasa don, doesn’t come to much other than “Yukina is special now and her normal high school life continues to suffer from that specialness.”

IMO a bit too much time was spent on this plot, though I commend Mika wanting to cheer everyone, including Yukina and Marina, up a bit (plus the costumes and locales were cool).

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Then there’s Mirasa. She started this thrilling, action-packed infiltration op following Muetta’s lead and calling her “sister” with deference and loyalty. She ends it by suddenly but inevitably betraying Muetta, shoving her knife in her belly so she can go home and take all the credit for finding the stone.

It’s another demonstration how bad and fundamentally immoral and messed-up the Efidolg are, more an advanced form of the everyday cruelty and brutality from feudal times much (though certainly not all) of the modern world has left behind.

But Mirasa’s treachery also forces a new choice upon Muetta / Yukihime. Assuming she survives her Fugitive-style jump off the dam (a good bet), she’ll be hurt pretty damn bad, and she’ll be alone.

Chances are the UN finds her first, and they’ll treat her. I wouldn’t even rule out such a fall ringing her bell to the extent some memories of Ken return (if they’re there, and if she doesn’t have them already). In any case, it will be Muetta’s turn to make a choice.

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Kuromukuro – 15

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The battle is over, the chaos paused, and disaster averted, for now. This episode deals with the aftermath of the last one, as Muetta’s stunning assault on the school has made a lot of people make up their minds about leaving town. Others, like Sophie, have hard choices to make, which include going along with the choices others have made for them.

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Sophie Noelle isn’t your typical stuck-up rich kid: yes, she’s very rich and kinda stuck up, but she’s fiercely loyal and kind to her allies and is also perfectly capable of taking care of herself – and making her own choices – despite her unadvanced age.

When she sees Ouma, a real-life samurai like the ones she’s always admired, begging before a food-ordering machine in the canteen, she happily pays for his meal in exchange for listening to her problem.

As he gorges with relish (Dr. Hausen’s hospital food just wasn’t doing it for him), Ouma makes a point about a warrior being responsible for themselves, and sticking with the decision they make to the end. He’s talking about flavors of popsicles, but Sophie still gleans insight. Staying or going is her call, not her parents’.

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For their stunning failure last week, Muetta and Mirasa are essentially neurally tortured by treatments that invoke persistent “primal fear”; both beak out of their torture and crumble to the ground, indicating this isn’t the kind of society we want running Earth.

Even after all the mayhem they caused, I still feel bad for them. They probably knew this would happen when they returned in shame, but they did so anyway, and they’ll gladly go back down to Earth, either to accomplish what they couldn’t before, or die trying.

We see that Mirasa’s a little more hesitant to do a space drop back to Earth, but once Muetta jumps, there’s little she can do but follow her. The choice has been made.

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Even last week’s hectic episode managed to still have some moments of levity, and the comedy is ratcheted up a little more here, what with more funny “Ken vs. Modern Times” moments, Carlos’ family troubles, and what I believe to be the first time an anime scientist was only joking about dissecting someone (…or was he?), or the scene where Yukina thinks he’s saying he’s dead, when he’s sad that he’s fully recovered.

In the beginning of the episode Yukina is with Ouma, but he’s unconscious, so she goes back to school, where we see Mika isn’t letting current events get in the way of her goal for a cosplay film (and enlists Kaya, Ryouta, and Carlos to help her), while other classmates wonder if Yukina’s an alien too.

When Yukina finally finds Ouma to scold him, he’s already healed. She pivots to the uncomfortable subject of the princess who looks just like her. Ouma tells her she’s nothing like her, but the Efidolg warrior is “without a doubt” Yukihime.

The question is what he’s going to do when they meet again, whether she’ll even give him a chance to speak before trying to kill him, and whether he’ll again fail to properly defend himself from the woman who was once his only reason for living…because now he has two; three if you count his friendship with Sophie.

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Kuromukuro – 14

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They’re not playing around, Kaya

Kuromukuro’s second half picks up right where it left off, with Ken suffering a serious wound by Muetta/Yukihime’s hand. She goes after Yukina too, but a huge cloaked ogre jumps in to be her opponent, eventually chasing her off. Sophie and Sebastian also spring into action, surprising their ordinary classmates with their skills.

It’s a state of extreme chaos, where no one can think more than a few seconds ahead. It’s here we see the importance of training and poise under duress (the school nurse, for instance, simply isn’t ready for the wound Ken suffers).

As for Kaya, well, he’s not alone in trying to convince himself this is all some kind of harmles cosplay fun…until a UN soldier saves him from Muetta’s blade. Even so, he keeps the camera rolling, putting the recording of this momentous event over his own life. Priorities.

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“So just DIE already, idiot!”

Speaking of priorities, Ken’s, after his wounds heal quickly but not completely, has his all wrong as well. He wants to “save” the woman who tried and will keep trying to kill him, meaning he’s always going to be a liability against her in a fight.

The fact his wounds are still open and he keeps coughing up blood all tell Yukina he’s breaking his promise not to go off and die. But she sticks with him to make sure he doesn’t, and it’s her advice in the heat of the battle with Muetta and Mirasa that saves the good guys from defeat.

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Sure, talk about “warrior’s honor” when you’re fighting in a mecha with 8 arms

She notices from the way the two Efidolg geoframes are fighting that they’re not working together, and may not even like each other. And she’s right; Muetta wants the glory, and doesn’t consider Mirasa a warrior of equal standing.

Yukina suggests that the Kuromukuro, along with GAUS 1 and 2, pick on one opponent at a time, working together to wear it down while the second one founders. Before long, Mirasa’s frame shuts down, and rather than let the three turn on her, Muetta grabs Mirasa and heads for the nearest atmospheric lift back to orbit.

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Nothing like a cool, refreshing aloe vera drink bath after a battle

The two pilots failed in their mission because Muetta prioritized personal revenge over the mission’s successful completion, while Mirasa prioritized her own honor. They only lasted as long as they did because Ken was never going all out, both because he didn’t want to harm the woman he’s convinced is Yukihime, and because he’s in such rough shape.

Indeed, he can’t keep the blood down moments after the two enemies escape, and after he’s held back by a GAUS from following them up to their space station. No good can come from him going up there alone, especially in his state.

Instead, it’s time to heal, repair, then re-assess and coordinate priorities. If Muetta is Yukihime, that certainly seems to be news to her. As for the Ogre, I don’t know where to start with him. Is he the same guy Ken saw centuries ago (and drew an awful picture of), or is it Yukina’s father in disguise? Whatever the case, events keep proving her dad right.

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Kuromukuro – 13

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Two Efidolg knights seem to have “gone rogue” in order to pursue their own personal ambitions against Earth. The first is Mirasa, who fights the Black Relic and GAUS units to a draw and escapes into the woods to regenerate. The second is “Muetta”, whose hair immediately indicated is Yukihime, or at least some kind of Efidolg clone of her.

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As Takeyama High prepares for their cultural festival in the interests of maintaining normalcy and taking a break from studies and battles alike, Yuki looms over the episode like a silent wraith, crouched and ready to strike.

Yukina’s class decides to do an “Efidolg Forum”, what with three UN pilots in their class. Unfortunately, everyone else at the base is too busy to join the forum, so it’s just Yukina, Ken, and Sophie.

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In a particularly clever bit of plotting, because one of the activities at the school festival is cosplay (with Mika switching her usual school uniform for another), Muetta is able to slip into the school without any trouble. Indeed, she’s commended for the craftsmanship of her armor and arms.

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While Muetta closes in, Yukina and Ken have a grand old time at the festival, with Ken remarking that modern life itself has always felt like a festival to him, but this takes it to another level. Yukina asks him what he plans to do once he avenges Yukihime, because he has his whole future ahead of him (dundundunnnn).

Almost immediately after Yuki mentions how everyone has two doppelgangers, her Efidolg doppelganger leaps on the stage and charges at Ken, who is so shocked by the sight of her (having just seen her in the digitally altered photo of Yukina), he lets his guard down and gets run through.

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The show, knowing we knew who this was all along, still expertly kept most of Muetta’s face out of the frame right up until the very end, when showing it had the most impact. And the camerawork of the stabbing is great stuff, with an extreme closeup of Muetta cutting to a dumbfounded Ken, who then falls to reveal an equally shocked Yukina.

Where goeth things from here? Hard to say. I wonder if Sophie can somehow suppress Muetta, and why Muetta stabbed him. Perhaps, like him, her memories had bene lost on Earth those centuries ago, but now they’re back and she’s punishing him for betraying their people?

In any case, this was quite the exciting cliffhanger to place between Kuromukuro’s two halves: the moment Ken’s two princesses met.

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P.S. The rock band in the auditorium is playing the show’s opening theme, a cover of “Distopia” by GLAY.

Psycho-Pass – 18

Another nice father-son moment
Another nice father-son moment

Kogami Shinya is a sharp felow. Since the day he met Makishima Shougo, and resolved to judge him, he’d probably suspected he wouldn’t be able to get the job done if he remained a detective under the law. The bizarre actions and motivations of Chief Kasei this week serve as the final nail in the coffin for his career as a detective, a career he ends on his own terms. It’s a heartbreaking end, in particular for his colleague and friend Akane, but it was inevitable.

"Yes, prove your usefulness by killing your ex-partner. LET THE HATE FLOOOW."
“Yes, prove your usefulness by killing your ex-partner. LET THE HATE FLOOOW.”

But first, Kasei, or rather, the Sybil “brain trust”. Faced with the prospect of further challenges to their perfect little system at the hands of Makishima makes them bolder and less concerned with decorum. I mean, trying to pass off the plane crash as an opportunity for Ginoza to sweep his failures under the rug is one thing, but doing it after he and others just saw a body being carted away from a plane that only had Makishima and drones aboard – pretty brazen!

In case there was any doubt, yes: Tsunemori Akane is the shit.
In case there was any doubt, yes: Tsunemori Akane is the shit.

Things get worse when Ginoza, fully aware Kogami is his best detective—better than he’ll ever be—tries to bend the rules a little and get Kogami on Division 2, searching for Kagari. It backfires, and this time Kasei puts her hand on Ginoza’s Dominator as it’s being aimed at Kogami, transforming it into a Lethal Eliminator. Ginoza hesitates pulling the trigger long enough for a particularly gutsy Akane to shoot Kogami instead with the Paralyzer (for the second time sinc they’ve met; both times to save him).

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Because she was technically performing her duties, and said she believed Ginoza’s Dom was “malfunctioning”, she gets off without punishment, but there can be no doubt that Sybil will be looking very carefully at Akane from this point on, illustrated by naught but Kasei’s cold cyborg stare. There can be no overstating how masterfully this show stages incredibly tense situations.

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That tension is followed up by some of the best character work yet in a show that’s brimming with it to begin with, as Kogami prepares to go off the reservation. Karanomori lets him take the last remaining helmet, telling him he has six days before Sybil countermeasures render it useless. She knows he may not come back, too, so wonders aloud if she should ever have slept with him. Then Masaoka pours him some of the good stuff and gives him the key to a safe house he used back in the day.

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As this is all going on, Akane is still asleep by his hospital bed. Akane, who made him promise to keep being a detective; not to think of himself as merely a hunting dog to do her dirty work. What Akane didn’t realize is that, if they could talk, a dog would promise anything to you out of loyalty, regardless of whether they could keep it.

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Unlike that hypothetical talking, promising dog, Kogami has the benefit of knowing he’s making a mistake out of a largely selfish determination to pursue Makishima and stop the killing. But he’ll do it anyway, because he won’t be able to live with himself anyway if he lets Makishima get away. Tears well up in Akane’s eyes as she reads his farewell letter, but as Masaoka said, far better to have written that then left without a word.

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What’s her next move?

Kogami has six days, and then he’s a big blinking light on Sybil’s Big Board. I recall Akane saying stopping Makishima is more important than her remaining an inspector. Would she become a latent criminal to save her beloved colleague from himself, or will she let him do what he feels he needs to do, and hope they won’t cross paths. She won’t be able to just use the Paralyzer a third time.

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