Magia Record – 25 (Fin) – A Record No One Knows

Step One of the Magia Record finale: dig poor Tamaki Iroha out of the yawning chasm of despair into which she was cast by losing both Ui and Kuroe. First, Iroha shoots a Kyuubey or three in the face, not wanting to hear his platitudes about extending the universe. Harder to silence is her own doppel, who says she couldn’t save Ui or Kuroe because she didn’t ever truly know or understand them.

Iroha is no doubt in a bad way, but thanks to the timely arrival of Yachiyo and the rest of Mikazuki Villa, she’s able to share her pain and failures with them, just as they shared joy and happiness in brighter days. They connect with both hope and despair, sharing everything about each other. This maximum understanding means Iroha is able to conjure a giant crossbow airship that conveys the quintet to Embryo Eye.

Mikazuki and a huge army of magical girls manages to restrain Embryo Eye, while Iroha is able to fly through any and all obstacles to end up with her two remaining little sisters in her arms. Nemu and Touka insist she fall back, stay safe and let them keep her alive for a long, long time. But Iroha assures them more time won’t make her happy if it means they must sully their hands, or disappear. She wants to share as much time as they have left together.

While she’s finally able to get Nemu and Touka to stand down, the victory lasts only a few moments when we’re reminded that the wild card Alina Gray is still on the board, and crazier than ever. Of all the hundreds of magical girls deployed in this battle, it only takes one to muck everything up, and that’s Alina, who above all must be entertained and engrossed by art and excitement, even if it means sacrificing herself to merge her doppel with both Embryo and Walpurgisnacht.

Alina’s destructive actions threaten everyone, magical girl or not, and Iroha can’t hold Nemu and Touka back from doing what they can to stop her. In this case, that is summoning their own doppels, going into overdrive, then catching up with the Alina-Embryo Eye and destroying it before it can merge with Walpurgisnacht—sacrificing themselves in the process.

The resulting explosion turns everything white, and Yachiyo wakes up on a train in space, wondering if she’s dead. She’s soon joined by former villa sisters Mel and Kanae, and then by Momoko and Mifuyu. They tell Yachiyo they’re not ghosts, but fragments of their magic that live on within her. Thus is Yachiyo’s magical ability finally confirmed not as the power to survive by sacrificing friends, but the power to carry on their hopes.

After meeting with Ui and saying goodbye one last time (though Ui also says a part of her will remain with Iroha, specifically every time she experiences happiness), Iroha ends up in one last discussion with her doppel. But since she no longer fears her doppel, and has come to understand her, Iroha is able to remain in control, and even draw upon her doppel’s power, combined with Ui’s collective power, to connect each and every magical girl on the battlefield with glowing pink threads.

They’re not threads that collect despair, but seek understanding and sisterhood. One big happy magical girl family, all of whom know each other, and all of whom have a part of themselves in their others. She and Yachiyo connect and conjure a mammoth half-spear, half-crossbow bolt. Declaring that no matter how sad or regretful she gets, she’s going to keep living, Iroha fires the bolt, finishing the Alina-Eye off and dispursing Walpurgisnacht.

The clous part, the blue sky and gleaming sun bathes Iroha and Yachiyo in its warm light. The rest of Mikazuki Villa joins them, and they revel in their hard-fought victory. After the credits we see new occupants arriving at Mikazuki Villa in some undetermined but not necessarily distant future, with framed pictures of former tenants, including Yachiyo and her original group, as well as Iroha and her little sisters.

But they’re just photos of girls. As the girls in those photos narrate that nobody knows nor will know the struggles they faced, the sacrifices they made, the tears they shed and the blood they spilled. They won’t know they failed, were deceived, were stolen from, or that they fought each other, made up with each other, comforted each other.

The damage caused to the city is explained by a combination of earthquakes, typhoons, and terrorist attacks. What actually happened will never be recorded, and to the rest of humanity, magical girls and their record never existed.

It’s a expectedly sobering and haunting way to close the curtain on this bizarre world. But it doesn’t matter to Iroha if she was remembered, only that she got to be a magical girl, save people, and live and share in the lives of those she loved.

Magia Record – 24 – No Choice at All

As Alina Gray revels in the chaos Touka and Nemu have resumed (and paints a picture of it) and Yachiyo chases after Embryo Eye, Kyuubey calmly waxes philosophic about how he’s actually doing magical girls a favor, since their sacrifice is a small price to pay for, ya know, extending the life of the universe.

He also goes on about how “what is right” depends entirely on when you live in human history. In some times “justice” hast meant protecting the weak; in some times it has meant eliminating them to make humanity stronger.

Those lofty areas of rumination are of no interest to Iroha, who is now safely within Little Kyuubey, which means she finally gets to reunite with Ui. Her goal is to get out of there with Ui, but Ui tells her it’s too late for that. However bad a big sister Iroha believes herself to be, Ui believes she’s been a worse little sister.

She’s not herself anymore, and hasn’t been since she became a magical girl with Touka and Nemu. Unlike those two, Ui is content to admit they failed and gracefully back away (and say what you want about Kyuubey’s designs, the plan ws and is short-sighted at best).

Ui tells Iroha they must part, because while her story is over, Iroha still has a lot of people left to save, starting with Kuroe. Iroha breaks Iroha out of Little Kyuubey just when Kuroe’s doppel is overwhelming her. But while Iroha wants to save Kuroe, Kuroe doesn’t want to be saved, because she doesn’t believe she’s worth saving.

We finally learn why (or at least part of why) Kuroe feels that way. Whether she became a magical girl because Iroha did or for some other reason is not clear. However, once she became one, she was weak, and barely able to scrape by. But just as there’s always a bigger fish in the sea, there’s always a weaker magical girl.

When Kuroe meets one who is stuck in a witch’s labyrinth, she rescues her and the stray cat she meant to save. We never see this magical girl’s eyes or learn her name (nor does Kuroe). But when the girl asked for a spare grief seed, Kuroe lied and said she didn’t have one, when in reality she did have one to keep her above water.

Kuroe believes the choice she made back then was no choice at all. She went so far as to save that girl, only to abandon her to a longer, slower death. She has no idea what happened to her, but it’s likely to have been nothing good, considering her Soul Gem was already in bad shape.

So now, having had to say goodbye to her dear little sister, Iroha now finds herself trying to convince her friend that she can and should be saved. Kuroe is far from keen on the idea, especially as her darker side replaces that mystery girl with Iroha in her mind, thus upping her guilt and despair.

While she’s under the heavy emotional influence of her downer doppel, Kuroe decides she’ll make it so that she doesn’t have to save anyone and doesn’t need to be saved. Her doppel breaks through Alina’s barrier and she transforms into a full-on witch, Iroha watching helplessly as Kuroe’s blackened vestigial human body is torn to pieces.

As the witch soars out of earth’s atmosphere, likely up to no good at all, Iroha’s defeated face turns to one of grim duty and determination. If she couldn’t save Kuroe, she’ll at least put her out of her misery, and spare a great number of lives she’d claim as a witch. Three episodes into this four-part finale, I earnestly hope we’ve reached the lowest depths, and that Iroha and her remaining friends can soon begin to ascend from the shadows.

Takt Op. Destiny – 12 (Coda) – Addio, Signor Disperazione

After one more look at the OP, beautifully animated but for the fact Anna and Cosette lack toes (that always bothered me), we go right into the final boss battle. Orpheus packs a punch and has a suitably calm yet menacing voice, but by making it a two-against-one fight, she allows herself to be distracted by a kick to the fact from Takt, allowing Destiny to blast the top half of her away.

She eventually regenerates, but it takes enough time that Takt is able to continue on to Sagan. It then becomes a duel between Destiny and Orpheus, and the lack of a frail human in their midst means they can really let their bedazzled hair down and have a proper brawl, captured with all the requisite concussive Mappa/Madhouse sakuga.

Turns out Orpheus really is the final true boss; Sagan can’t do anything but try to convince Takt that his cause is right and just. Oh, and the show finally lets us in on the secret of why exactly he’s doing all this: he wants to lure all of the D2s in the world to a sacrificial North America so he can take them all out at once, thereby saving the remaining six populated continents. Uh, my dude … Antarctica was right there!

Turns out both Heaven and Hell, and thus Orpheus, aren’t really trying to save the world so much as save their Conductor, whom they love despite his fatal flaw of choosing the wrong continent to sacrifice. Just as Takt isn’t hearing Sagan’s excuses, Destiny most emphatically Does Not Care what Orpheus says or thinks, and somehow powering up, manages to pummel the hell (and heaven!) out of her. Destiny just wanted it more, I guess!

Destiny joins Takt, cementing Sagan’s defeat, as Takt uses her sword to kill him, which shuts down all of the D2s running amok in the crippled Symphonica. Sayonara Sagan…you were never much of a character, and the little bit of pathos the episode tries to squeeze out of your situation in the eleventh hour didn’t really work. You were just another of the dime-a-dozen villains populating lesser anime. Takt Op. Destiny deserved a better baddie.

It’s main duo won me over, however. Destiny has been showing more and more emotion as she’s come into her own as an individual and not just an musical alien inhabiting Takt’s dead soul mate. She basically becomes another soul mate to Takt, staying beside him, holding his non-existent right hand as they lay on the beach, then giving him a farewell kiss before vanishing in a cloud of rose petals. It’s a beautiful scene filled with bittersweet love.

That brings us to the brief epilogue, which indicates Takt made it into suspended animation alive. Anna has joined the Symphonica, trading her belly-bearing tops for the organization’s marching band-y uniform. She also looks after a gold trinket with red trim, the only thing Destiny left behind, and which seems to allow Anna to transform into the next Destiny. As her out-of-left-field kiss hinted, she’s dedicated herself for being there for Takt when—not if—he wakes up. There’s still a lot of D2s out there.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

86 – 18 – A Bat Into Hell

There was no new episode of 86 last week, nor will a new episode air next week. Instead, this eighteenth episode whets our appetite for the final desperate struggle of an alliance of human nations to defeat the apocalyptic Legion the Empire of Giad created. It starts out pretty subdued, with a pair of conversations, once again underscoring the unfortunate production issues apparently plaguing the show just as it nears the home stretch.

Ernst wants the commander’s promise he’s not sending the Eighty-Six to their potential deaths simply because he said they were too dangerous to keep around to begin with. In this particular case, it’s more that they have no one better for a mission that must succeed, or everyone dies. We also learn that Wenzel, who lost someone dear in the war (a spouse, perhaps), isn’t ready to give up on the kids living normal lives after surviving this.

Part of surviving means having the best equipment available, and both Wenzel and her boss know the slow military helicopters won’t get the job done. Instead, she requests and is granted access to an old prototype ground-effect vehicle or ekranoplan, one of the strangest and most nerdy of aerospace inventions.

I believe this is the first time I’ve seen one of these contraptions depicted in anime (if anyone knows of another, shout it out in the comments), but the long, foreboding journey through darkness into its hangar feels like Wenzel and the Nordlicht are descending into a dungeon to wake a dragon that may either help or kill them. It’s also named after a Giadian legend of yore: Nachzehrer, a vampire that drags its shadow along the ground.

Ekranoplan or no ekranoplan, Frederica wants to know what the plan is for getting out of enemy territory if and when they destroy Morpho. Everyone loos around until Shin says getting home alive is secondary to destroying the target and saving human civilization as they know it.

That’s not enough for Frederica, who refuses to return to the rear lines and has a “tantrum” in her room. Shin visits her, and is not particularly sympathetic, saying he’s not her knight, and even expressing doubt she wants him to kill her old one. Frederica hits back that she simply doesn’t want Shin going down the same path as Kiri. She doesn’t want to lose another brother.

But Frederica doesn’t convince Shin not to go, and probably never would have succeeded. He and the other four Eighty-Six might only be doing this for their own pride and because they known nothing else but being bloody swords on the battlefield, but in this case there is literally no alternative; the enemy isn’t someone that can be surrendered to or asked for quarter.

Ernst, donning his army uniform and taking command of the operation, gives the Eighty-Six a pep talk, telling them no one in Giad wants them to die, and that their most important mission is to come back alive. It’s at this point I was almost ready to say “Hey, he’s not such a bad guy after all”…but then the lighting changes, his smile vanishes, and he adds that if they don’t come back alive, he’lls “destroy this world.” So yeah…still evil.

Regardless, Ernst gives a stirring speech to rally the troops as the clock counts down to zero. The always-on point Sawano Hiroyuki score swells, the diversionary forces successfully clear a path,  Wenzel hits the throttle, and the bat-shaped Nachzehrer blasts out of its hanger like, well, a bat out of hell.

Only they’re actually heading into hell. Regal Lily’s “Alchemila” hits different when the sounds of weaponry the diversionary units holding their ground and being massacred mixed in. This heartens the Eighty-Six, as the soldiers of their adopted nation aren’t turning tail and fleeing like the drunk and arrogant San Magnolians almost certainly would. They’re not giving up, so they can’t let them down.

Ernst’s under-his-breath threat aside (does the blue light hint that he’s somehow secretly controlling the Legion?) this battle really is for all the marbles. As the voices of the damned fill Shin’s head and a smirk grows on his face, will he be able to keep his and lead Raiden, Anju, Kurena, Theo, and Giad to victory?

Unfortunately we’ll have to wait at least two weeks to find out. But I’m not bitter over the lack of an episode last week or next. I’m just happy we got this one, and all things considered, it ruled pretty damn hard.

Bokutachi no Remake – 12 (Fin) – Back to Hard Times

Now that we know that Tomioka Keiko has the ability to send Kyouya back and forth through time, the question becomes, does Kyouya want to go back to the past or remain where he is? As Keiko says, there are few people who can claim they’re as happy and successful as he is. But Kyouya concludes that he didn’t want to go back in time to make a happier future; he wanted to experience pain and struggle alongside the talented creative people he idolized.

So even if, say, Aki decided she wanted to start drawing again, the fact remains that she, Tsurayuki, Nanako and Eiko all had their futures changed by Kyouya’s over-meddling, and that will never sit right with him, so it’s back to the past with him. It seems Keiko, whoever or whatever she is, brought Kyouya to this alternate future to teach Kyouya a lesson, in addition to giving him the choice to go or stay.

After a heartfelt sequence of final scenes with Aki and Maki, Kyouya is ready to go back. Keiko sends him back to the same time he left, when Tsurayuki dropped out. Aki and Nanako aren’t sure what to do about it, but Kyouya adivses that they all stay the course. If there’s a way to bring Tsurayuki back into the creative world, he’ll find one, but this time he’s not going to be so forceful and so certain.

Just as the members of the Platinum Generation put their trust in him, this time Kyouya is going to trust in their ability to shine and fluorish without undue interference or compromise. When Nanako is given an offer to work for another doujin group, she sheepishly asks him if he’ll proverbially hold her hand. Having seen what becoming overly dependent on him did to Nanako’s future, he insists she try being independent on this project. Even if he comes off as rude or mean, it’s in Nanako’s best interest.

He’ll still support her, but he won’t let her rely on him entirely again. Aki proves trickier, as she hits the very same rut that would define her future self as she transitioned from a creative life to a domestic one. Kyouya realizes that asking her to work so hard and compromise her artistic vision for the game took a toll, and that coming out of the rut won’t be a fast or easy process, but it will and does eventually happen, and without undue meddling from him.

Kyouya ends up literally bumping into the girl who will one day become Minori Ayaka, sporting her natural black hair color. Akaya seems embarrassed when Kyouya sees she has the game he made along with some promising sketches, but there’s no disputing she’s dedicated to being the best goshdarn illustrator she can be, inspired as she is by Shinoaki’s work. This must feel gratifying to Kyouya, as by abandoning that possible future he also feared he undid the good he did for Ayaka’s future.

But then, that’s just his ego talking; the same ego that thought he was singularly, personally responsible for upheaving everyone’s lives, when in reality it was a whole host of variables. It’s the same with Ayaka; she’s going to be alright, especially if the artist she adores continues to draw, as Aki does.

As for Eiko, Kyouya now realizes that she considers herself more than just a friend, creative colleague, and confidant. The future Eiko loved (past-tense) Kyouya, that means this past Eiko is in the process of falling for him, if she hasn’t already. Her blush as she admits she’d drop everything to help him if he was ever in trouble says a lot.

But Kyouya isn’t interested in dating Eiko, at least not at the moment. His primary goal is to undo the damage he did to Tsurayuki’s creative motivation. His confronting Tsurayuki as he exits a theator marks the beginning of his Remake Version 2.0, and even hints at a possible second season (though there hasn’t been any announcement of one, so who knows).

If this is the end, it’s a moderately satisfying one, as it has Kyouya on a sustainable path where he’s aware of his “power” and no longer breathlessly achieving happiness at the cost of others’ success. Even as he’s reverted to a younger version of himself, he’s grown as a person and a friend to these talented people. And so the struggle continues.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Detective Is Already Dead – 09 – Foregone Conclusion

We’ve now arrived back at that scene on the boat where Siesta, Kimihiko, and Char—who is still not really a character—are headed to Secret Evil SPES Island. It’s as clear as it is by the name of the anime that this will be Siesta’s last mission, especially since Char keeps telling Kimi he’s going to regret not hugging Siesta or having her pat his head.

Kimi and Char go off on their own armed only with guns against an enemy they know to be superpowered. Seems kinda dumb! But then the entire excursion into the deeply unimpressive SPES HQ is a bit of a waste of time, unless you got anything at all out of the deadpan monologue of SPES’ space plant uber-boss. I was just waiting for Kimi to go back to Siesta. When he does, she’s only playing dead…at least at this point.

It’s a trick as cheap as much of the animation, framing, and general direction of the final showdown between Hel and Siesta/Kimi. Giant vines pop out of the ground, but they’re mostly a series of still shots. Our heroes move awkwardly and stiffly across the barren, boring battlefield. Hel reveals that she’s a personality created by Alicia to deal with all the torture, or something.

Then the giant stupid monster comes out of nowhere and tries to eat Kimi, only for Siesta to dive into harm’s way, push Kimi aside, and get killed. Yet even this is so oddly and sloppily presented that finally witnessing how the Detective who was Already Dead dies elicited no more than a shrug, and a bit of a yawn.

As if there weren’t enough clichés in this episode, it ends with Kimi waking up in his bed, presumably in the present when he’s rolling with Nagisa…but who knows? It’s a bit frustrating to think that all these episodes that took place with Siesta, and indeed made up the bulk of this cour, were just one long flashback that undermined the show’s premise. Sure, the Detective is Already Dead…but we’re spending most of the time with her still alive. Now that she’s gone, I’m not sure I care where this show goes next…

Bokutachi no Remake – 08 – How It Oughta Be

Team Harusora‘s time grows short as the deadline draws near. Nanako, Tsurayuki, and Shinoaki are falling behind, and encouragement isn’t enough to get them back on track, so Kyouya has to do what all directors have to at some point: unilaterally make the changes necessary to get the product out on schedule.

This means cutting and changing parts of the music, art, and story. Nanako is easy to convince, as she’s open to trying a new method of composing that also happens to be quicker. So is Shinoaki, as she trusts Kyouya (and not without good reason). But Tsurayuki bucks. If Kyouya is changing the story now, what is he even contributing, creatively?

Kyouya manages to get Tsurayuki to fall in line with his silver tongue, and the team sprints towards the finish line with a focus on progress. Compromises had to be made due to the compressed schedule, and since the bottom line is that the game has to make money so Tsurayuki can pay his tuition.

Thanks to help from the art club, Keiko, and Eiko, and many an all-nighter right up to the 10:00 AM deadline for sending the ROM master to the printer, Bokutachi no Remake really ratchets up the tension, urgency, and excitement of bringing a project to completion in the nick of time.

There’s also a wonderful release once Keiko heads to the printer with the master, as everyone but Kyouya literally passes out from exhaustion. When the brand-new shiny newly-printed game arrives, with Shinoaki’s gorgeous, inviting art on the cover, the sense of accomplishment is only heightened.

They made this; all of them. It could not have happened without their individual contributions and without them hanging in there and relying on each other when things got hectic. But Nanako, Shinoaki and Tsurayuki also all agree that there’s absolutely no way Harusora would have seen the light of day without Kyouya’s confident, diligent direction.

Of course, none of them know that one day, in the future Kyouya came from, that they’d be known collectively as the Platinum Generation, three elite creative at the top of their respective fields. And that they were the ones who inspired Kyouya to remake his life when given a chance.

Yet while out on a crisp evening walk with Shinoaki, she stops and asks something she later apologizes for for sounding “weird”: “Is this really how it oughta be?” The team achieved great success, the game manages to sell the event at Tokyo Big Sight (thanks in no small part to Keiko’s doujin group’s clout). Everyone even makes bank!

But no sooner does Tsurayuki have his tuition money he himself made in his hands than he asks Kyouya to take a walk, stopping somewhere random where he has no other memories, good or bad, in order to tell him he’s dropping out of art school after all, and returning home, no doubt to be a doctor and husband this family and Sayuri want him to be.

The entire point of this project for Kyouya was to help Tsurayuki become the Kawagoe Kyouichi he’d become in the future, but he never stopped to think that Tsurayuki—that all of the Platinum Generation—achieved their greatness without Kyouya’s help. Having seen what Kyouya is capable of and how hard it is to make it writing for a living, this project had the opposite intended effect: Tsurayuki decided he can’t make it.

It’s a devastating scene that perhaps doesn’t need the gathering clouds, thunderstorm, or Kyouya on his hands and knees shouting his lament into the ground. But the added melodrama doesn’t really take away from the fact Kyouya’s entire life-remaking exercise ended up building him up, while erasing the future of one of the Platinum Generation.

The person who encounters him on the ground isn’t Nanako or Aki, but Keiko, who has this knowing tone and look that suggests she’s aware of what has been going on with Kyouya…and could even have a part in it. She smiles softly and asks what the future would be like after all that’s happened in this version of his past.

And then, just like that, Kyouya wakes up back in 2018, his present. Before he knows where or when he is, a tiny Shinoaki runs in and jumps on the bed; her kid’s drawings scattered on the wall behind him. It’s not Shino Aki at all, but Hashiba Maki, his daughter, and Shino Aki is her mother and his wife.

This is the life Kyouya remade. Is Aki even an artist anymore, or is she a housewife and mom full-time? There’s not enough evidence to see, but I wouldn’t be surprised if another member of the Platinum Generation never was due to Kyouya basically interfering in her past. No doubt Tsurayuki is a doctor in this future, while Nanako could well still be a singer.

Whatever their circumstances, and whether this is a future Kyouya is able or willing to correct once more, this is a tremendous time-shattering cliffhanger for next week, breaking the easy slice-of-life nature of the past art school episodes and launching us into the home stretch of the cour with panache.

86 – 09 – No Signal

“If you find yourself alone, riding in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled…for you are in Elysium, and you are already dead!”—Maximus

This week, Spearhead, whose living members now consist only of Kurena, Raiden, Theo, Anju, and Shin, ride out into a vast, dark, and bleak battlefield, where the five of them must face hundreds if not thousands of Legion, because they were never even meant to make it thisfar in their military “careers”.

Of course, Shin has something else in mind: he’s singularly invested in finding his brother and putting him out of his misery. He orders Raiden to take over the unit and find cover in the nearby forest, but his four comrades aren’t about to leave him. Instead, they do what they can to give Shin a clear shot at Shourei.

As it turns out, Lena has a surprise in store for all of them: she managed to get access to the republic mortars, while also being able to swap vision in one of her eyes with Raiden so she can target more precisely. In that split second, Raiden—and only Raiden—catches a glimpse of their “pig princess” Handler.

When Lena prepares to launch a massive mortar attack on Shourei Legion’s position—which is also where Shin is, dodging and grappling—the others are apprehensive: doe she mean to kill Shin too? Far from it; instead, she’s giving Shin the opening he needs.

The impacting mortars are represented in Shourei’s mind by the young Lena slapping him into something resembling coherence, and acceptance that Shin no longer needs his brother to look after him. Instead, his brother needs to know that he’ll be at rest.

The opening is created, and Shin takes his shot, saying goodbye to his brother and then sobbing his eyes out both in grief over his brother’s loss and relief that he’s no longer a technological abomination who wasn’t allowed to die naturally.

From here we shift to Lena’s little control room, and she heeds Raiden’s call to shut off the link for now, as Shin wouldn’t want anyone hearing him cry. She then turns to a sullen-looking Annette sitting in the corner with laptops. We go back a bit to before the battle, when Lena visits Annette despite Annette saying she didn’t want to see her again.

Lena tells Annette that her old neighbor Shin is none other than Undertaker of the Spearhead unit, that she speaks to him every day, and that this is now Annette’s third chance to save him, the first two times having run away. While at first apathetic, knowing it’s Shin forces Annette’s hand. She calls Lena “the devil” for pulling such a stunt, but Lena simply says “that’s right; I am…and so are you.” Better to be devils who care.

With what was supposed to be the battle that should have wiped out Spearhead once and for all ending in unlikely victory thanks in large part to Annette’s hacking, Shin and the others give their heartfelt thanks to Lena, as well as tease her for having turned into a “bad girl” by breaking the rules to save them.

But after that, the group continues their advance without further input from Lena. In fact, all she can say as they head closer and closer to a foreboding “UNKNOWN” area is “please don’t leave me!” It occurs to her that while she made little drawings of them, her only connection to them is the Para-RAID, and soon the distance between them will grow too great to maintain that connection.

Lena bolts out of her control room and runs out of the headquarters, out into the streets, and just keeps running, all while Kurena, Raiden, Anju, Theo, and Shin describe their surroundings, mentioning a “cathedral” the same time we see the one in Lena’s capital, and describing flowers that fall when you touch them carpeting the ground.

As they approach at the barrier of District 86 and the limits of the Republic’s control area, Lena’s desperate dash to maintain reception ends with her losing a heel and ending up collapsed on a lonely cobblestone bridge, suddenly, heartbreakingly alone. Her Para-RAID blinks out, and back at HQ the signals of the five remaining members of Spearhead are lost.

Losing  Spearhead is just one of many burdens Lena will have to bear if she’s truly serious about helping all Eighty Six—not just the ones with which she cultivated a quasi-friendship. Her resolute insistence on Doing What’s Right despite being a devil demands she keep doing what she can—as long as she is able—to end the unjust suffering of the oppressed.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 04 – Little Girl, Big Talk

It’s been three days since the StuCo disbanded, but Kaguya and Miyuki haven’t so much as spoken. Hayasaka finds Kaguya’s lack of progress pathetic considering how many romantic events she and Miyuki have shared.

A frustrated Kaguya lashes out, challenging Hayasaka to get Miyuki to fall for her. Hayasaka accepts, breaking out an adorable new persona with which to seduce Miyuki as Kaguya jealously watches in the shadows.

Hayasaka is a pro at this (what else is new), and gets off to a great start by chatting Miyuki up in a bookstore then getting him to have a coffee with her as she considers a computer purchase. Ultimately, Hayasaka ends up the loser, even though she offers to be a “side piece” should he already like someone.

Turns out liking someone else means Miyuki’s not interested in anyone else, period. A bitter Hayasaka insists her loss was due to the need to get the job done in one day; given more time, she’s confident she would have prevailed. I believe her!

Miyuki determines there’s no one better to write his campaign speeches than Kaguya, but has trouble approaching her in her class. Enter Hayasaka in “Gal” mode (whom he can’t tell is the same person who asked him out the other day), who bursts in and makes a huge production of Miyuki coming to see Kaguya on a matter of great importance.

News that he asked to meet her behind the school causes the entire student body to convulse in anticipation that these two top students are going to become a couple. The hype takes on a mind of its own as their meeting is built up as the can’t-miss school event of the decade.

When the big moment comes, both Miyuki and Kaguya are very much aware of their huge, expectant audience. Only Kaguya says she doesn’t mind it, while Chika is completely oblivious to the vibe and complicates matters by coming off as the third side of a love triangle.

Miyuki knows he’s suffer a political price if he embarasses Kaguya with his piddling speech request, so he makes the request in a whisper, inches from her face. Similarly safe from prying ears, Kaguya tells him the answer is yes—whether it’s to write him speeches or something else entirely.

It’s a good thing Kaguya is on Miyuki’s team, because he may have some stiff competition in the election in the person of first-year Iino Miko, this season’s newest character. Miko is at the top of her class, president of the morals committee, and believes having a “commoner” like Miyuki as president is an affront.

Tomita Miyu (Made in Abyss’ Riko, BokuBen’s Rizu)’s performance is appropriate for a pint-sized character packed with power. Before he knows it, Miyuki is caught up in her competitive, adversarial spirit, seeing her as his political rival in the fight of his life.

He and Yuu even mock her for relying on her pure ideals without a track record of success to fall back on, to the point Chika tries to stop them from sounding like villains. Then Miko brings Chika over to her side by expressing her admiration for Chika’s piano prowess and other positive qualities, and offering her the vice presidency if she joins Team Iino.

Chika later reconsiders her quick turnabout, but the fact remains Miko seems to be a larger threat than Miyuki or Yuu think. When Miyuki sees her wholesome flyer his confidence in beating her only rises, when I really think he shouldn’t be listening to Yuu and be preparing for a tough campaign.

Right off the bat, Miko is thankfully presented as someone who isn’t interested in Miyuki, and not just because she doesn’t know him and he’s in her way. Rather than a rival to Kaguya, I can see Kaguya closing ranks with Miyuki even more in the face of an adversary who thinks so little of the man she loves—a catalyst for their growing closer. In any case, this should be a fun campaign!

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 03 – Okay to Be Selfish

Kaguya and Miyuki are both dedicated combatants in their ongoing War of Love, except for certain special occasions. This week is one of those occasions: there’s a bright harvest moon and a clear sky, and Miyuki wants to gaze at it from the roof of the school.

Kaguya tries to find a way to embarrass him by getting him to lend her his jacket or share the same teacup, but Miyuki is so “moony from the moon” all pride and shame fall by the wayside. When Kaguya brings up her legendary royal namesake as the reason she hates the moon, Miyuki presents his interpretation of the tale.

To him, Princess Kaguya didn’t offer her lover on earth an immortality potion so he could find another love, but as a message that she’d one day return to him, long after a human’s normal lifespan…and he’d wait as long as it took for Kaguya to return.

He continues to wax poetic until an overheated Kaguya can’t endure anymore and flees. However, Miyuki still loses when he comes off his “moon high” the next day and realizes all the embarrassing things he said.

One reason everyone went along with Miyuki’s moongazing session was that the StuCo will be disbanding soon, so opportunities will grow less frequent and carry more weight. In the second and final segment the council members go through the accumulated items from their various adventures together—some of which Yuu is sore about not being present for.

Once everything is packed up, the lights are out, and the doors to the 67th Student Council close for the last time, Chika can’t help but start to tear up, and Kaguya can’t help but cry in response.

During a celebratory dinner at a family restaurant, Kaguya realizes that since Miyuki isn’t President anymore she has to call him something else…but just can’t because it’s too embarrassing and scandalous.

Of course, Chika inadvertently rubs Kaguya’s inability in her face by calling the former president by his first name like it’s nothing. Yuu even gives him a cute nickname “Myu.”

Once Chika and Yuu have gone home and Miyuki has walked Kaguya to her front gate, she considers how few opportunities they’ll have to see each other without the StuCo or any classes to connect them. It makes her feel lonely, but even if she became the new president and Miyuki was her veep, she knows he’d work too hard, when he already has the letter of recommendation from the Board of Trustees.

To want more would be selfish, and she tells herself she shouldn’t be selfish…but when push comes to shove she can’t give up Miyuki that easily. She grabs his arm and asks him if she can be selfish, by asking him to serve as president one more year. Turns out he’d already secretly filled out the candidate application, hoping she’d be the one to bring it up.

So, as is usually the case, Romantic Kaguya wins when Combatant Kaguya loses, as she does here. That is, if Miyuki ends up winning the election; there seems to be a new contender interested in the job!

Elfen Lied – 13 (Fin) – A Brief Dream in This Hell

As Kouta wanders home in a daze, his memories returning thanks to the violent sights he’s seen, Kurama fishes Nana out of the water, saving his daughter once again and admonishing her for not moving much, much further away (though his instructions should have been more detailed). Lucy neutralizes Bando (though notably doesn’t kill him), and Shirakawa’s assistant keeps the dormant Mariko safe—and keeps her self-destruct safely in his hand.

Mariko’s powers return and she escapes her captors, and then she and Lucy find each other and have a duel. It’s a testament to Lucy’s experience and toughness in Diclonius combat that she manages to last as long as she does against a far superior opponent. But while she loses a horn and a fair amount of blood, Mariko fails to kill Lucy off…because her dad arrives in time to stop her.

Just as she could tell her “mother” was a fake, Mariko can instantly sense that Kurama is indeed her father, and is shocked when he pulls his gun on her. When she spots Nana with Kurama, and hears her call him Papa, Mariko’s jealousy spills out and she proceeds to beat Nana up with her Vectors.

Then Kurama drops his gun, draws in close, and wraps his real daughter in his warm embrace…for the first time. He carries her off while ordering the assistant to activate the device. This time the child whose life he takes is his own, but he goes out with her, assuring her that both her parents loved her to their last breaths.

The assistant is about to shoot Nana, but his head is blown off…by Lucy. She can’t go back home to Kouta after what she’s done, but Nana is innocent and good and kind, so she asks Nana to do what she can’t and live a good and happy life. Nana obeys.

Back at the facility, Kurakawa reveals he’s a wannabe Diclonius just like his son, while Arakawa quietly hides Kouta’s record, feeling bad for him. We’ll never know if she ever got that bath…

Then we have an extended and emotional goodbye between Lucy and Kouta, who finally realizes that she, Nyu, and the girl he met at the orphanage were all her. Lucy tells him the happiest days were the ones with him as a boy. They were a brief and beautiful dream in the hell that was her life, and she survived this long so she could tell him how sorry she was for what went down.

She turns to leave, but Kouta won’t let her go just yet. In fact, he wants her to stay, even if he can’t forgive her. They kiss and embrace, reenacting the Klimt painting, with Lucy flashing an El Greco hand. We then see Lucy on the bridge, facing a huge military force, and a battle ensues…with an intentionally ambiguous result.

Some time later, the household of Kouta, Yuka, Mayu and Nana is a happy one. Nana’s cooking skills are improving, and they have an extra place setting for Lucy. Then they hear Wanta barking outside, and Kouta goes to see who it is.

The silhouette behind the paper door looks a lot like Lucy in her dress, but before he can open the door to confirm it, the grandfather clock Nyu always messed with, which he could’ve sworn was permanently silent, begins to chime.

And so we say farewell to the brutal, haunting, and poignant Elfen Lied, a story as much about how some can continue to endure, love, and be loved after living through unspeakable suffering—and how some can’t—as it is about scientific arrogance and ambition gone awry. Heck, it’s about a lot more than that, and I’ll be thinking about its hard-hitting symbols and themes for a long time.

Elfen Lied was also a blast from the past in the best possible way. Anime character design and animation has evolved quite a bit in sixteen years, but like the Dicloniï that evolution wasn’t necessarily all for the better. I’ve also rarely seen a series mix body horror and comedy with such effectiveness. What could have been a tonal mess only draws you in deeper and made me care about the characters more. You feel every horrible act of violence and cruelty, just as you feel every pulse of warmth and kindness.

Finally, the series is greatly elevated by music from the duo of Konishi Kayo and Kondou Yukio (who’d go on to score House of Five Leaves and … sigh … Pupa). I don’t think I’ll ever see or hear an theme as hauntingly beautiful and sad as “Lilium”. Mine eyes welled up Every. Damn. Time. They truly don’t make ’em like they used to.

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 07 – The Witching Hour

As he did with Shizuno and Yabashira, Golem confides in Haitora the truth of his dwindling lifespan, and how like Haitora he won’t be around to see his charge grow up. It’s like he’s getting the weight of the lie off his chest; dropping the facade of pretending everything’s okay with Somali.

Even so, Haitora considers Somali all too lucky to have found Golem, as she gets to live her life with a smile on her face and with peace of mind thanks to her guardian’s care, despite being a human.

Haitora’s words make Golem feel lighter in the chest. Anyone who thinks Somali hasn’t made him more human isn’t paying attention. The next day, Golem and Somali say goodbye to Haitora and Uzoi, but Uzoi promises Somali they’ll meet again once she’s found a cure for Haitora. I for one would have enjoyed them remaining together longer, especially since it makes sense for all four of them should be headed in the same direction.

That’s because Golem and Somali’s new destination is a village filled with witches who bear a solemn duty to amass all of the world’s knowledge. If there was a cure for eating harpy flesh, you’d guess you’d find it there. Alas, it’s just Golem and Somali, who are greeted by a bevy of witches selling all manner of delicious food an drink, in which the food-crazy Somali is all to happy to indulge. The village is gorgeous with its whimsical architecture and glowing light.

The pair are directed to the Witches’ Crest Library, a huge and grand structure containing millions of books of every conceivable topic. Just being led into the libarary and hearing the various voices bounce off the walls has a major impact, a feeling of being truly immersed into this gradually expanding fantasy world. Somali is eager to read a book about food, and I’m surprised she knows how to read!

Among the myriad non-human clans of this world, one would think witches, like harpies, would be able to “sniff out” a human in disguise. But if their magical hosts detect Somali’s true nature, they don’t make an issue of it. Instead, friendly librarian witch Hazel and her bookworm older sister Praline are happy to escort Golem to the location of a biography that makes mention of humans.

Things are derailed a bit when Somali locates the book in question on a shelf and recklessly pulls it off the shelf, dislodging a school of skeletal book-eating fish who are particularly interested in that particular book. Praline summons several little blue penguins to eat the fish, while Hazel produces a cloud of rose petals that squash the remaining beasts out. Their magic, and the accompanying music, adds the whimsical, wondrous atmosphere.

Even Hazel’s spell isn’t enough, however, as the surviving bookfish coalesce into a single giant subspecies. Somali refuses to give up the book, runs off, and inevitably trips over her feet. The book goes flying and the bookfish destroy it before a single page can be written. Worse, Golem must sacrifice the remaining “skin” on his arm and enter into a reflexive Attack Mode to rescue Somali and defeat the fish boss.

Somali is tearfully apologetic for getting Golem hurt, but he’s not concerned as long as she’s okay. Praline also suggests that all is not lost if they can find the previous person to have read the book, who could then share its contents with Golem and Somali. It turns out the last borrower of the book was Isolde Nebsolv, their boss and Head Librarian.


Cop Craft – 04 – Temporary Insanity

Picking right back up from last week, Tilarna and Kei reach the roof where the fairy Leahyah is trapped in a psychic bomb on a timer. Zelada is ready with magical blue flames that horribly burn the better part of Kei’s back.

As Tilarna tries to counterattack with little success, Kei focuses not on what his eyes see but on what he hears, knowing Zelada is hiding himself with illusion magic. His pistol, which Tilarna said had a certain level of latena, briefly glows purple before he gets a shot off, and it’s a direct hit.

Tilarna presses the attack by claiming one of Zelada’s arms, but he throws himself off the building rather than suffer the dishonor of being killed by a human and a pipsqueak knight. With Kei too burned to get up, the clock winding down on the bomb, and no known way to defuse it, Tilarna sits down with Kei and Leahyah for their final shared moments alive.

Realizing the child she helped when she was lost in the forest is ready to die beside her, Leahyah sacrifices her body before the bomb detonates. With no other choice, Tilarna uses the resulting output of latena to cast a healing spell on Kei. With Leahyah dead, Tilarna and Kei have failed in their primary mission.

Tilarna prepares to board a ship back home where she’ll return a disgraced and dishonored knight, but is ready to face the music. He gives her the floral broach he got back from O’Neill, and she thanks Kei for his partnership, praising him as a “gallant doreany soldier” when they part.

And from the time they bid one another farewell, Kei goes through the rest of the day positively miserable—more so than usual for him. Then he comes home and hears the TV is on, tuned to a basketball game. He draws his gun, looks inside…and finds Tilarna, in casual clothes, lazing on the couch with Kuroi.

She changed her mind: Zelada may not be dead, and there are other threats in San Teresa, so she got a field commission to detective in order to continue serving as Kei’s partner. Kei tries to seem put out, but there’s no doubt he’s happy about this.

On their next arrest raid, Tilarna and Kei are front and center when they take the door, but in her medieval overzealousness Tilarna also takes the finger of a gunman. She thinks nothing of it—she was simply serving justice—but their new chief, Zimmer, lights them both up, saying whatever the “alien” (as he racistly refers to Tilarna) does, her partner Kei is just as responsible.

Thus the old earlier dynamic Tilarna and Kei being at each other’s throats continues apace, with Kei refuing to thank Tilarna for rescuing him and Tilarna repeatedly punching Kei in the back. This all looks like flirting to other detectives, who show them an old wooden coffin with Semanian writing…and a Semanian mummy inside.

They take the mummy to the medical examiner (and Kei’s ex), Dr. Cecil Epps, who resents having to perform an autopsy on an archaeological artifact, but becomes fast friends with Tilarna when the two women share their mutual disdain for Kei. Though Tilarna still isn’t quite clear what an “ex” is, she does chalk up her reunion with Kei as a bout of “temporary insanity.”

The pair is summoned to the station to speak with the suspect whose finger Tilarna sliced off, and she immediately establishes herself as the “bad cop” by pulling her dagger and tossing the perp around. It ultimately pays off, as she learns from where they stole the coffin…and realizes that Cecil is in mortal danger.

Back at the M.E.’s office, Cecil has delegated the CT scan of the mummy to her assitant, Chapman, who either hates her or has a secret crush on her he’s not handling well. That means Chapman becomes the mummy’s first victim, as Cecil enters the CT room to find all his blood being drained and drunk by the now fully animate vampire.

Tilarna arrives to save Cecil, and the vampire says something in what she identifies as “the old language.” The vampire is superbly nimble—not to mention extremely creepy—and even naked, unarmed, and without her morning coffee, still proves more than a handful even for Tilarna. Perhaps she’ll get some timely backup from her partner and his latena-infused sidearm.

While Cop Craft’s fish-out-of-water buddy cop dramedy is deceptively simple, it sports some of the summer’s best and most creative cinematography and action animation, and Tilarna’s striking character design is one of the coolest (and cutest) while Yoshioka Mayu does some great work as her seiyu. And despite its perils, San Teresa is still a really fun place to spend time.

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