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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Sword Art Online: Alicization – 24 (Fin) – Bigger Fish to Fry

It’s all down to Kirito vs. Administrator now, and their climactic swordfight doesn’t disappoint. Despite having really long hair and only one arm, Administrator is no slouch in the swordsmanship department. She knows all the Aincrad-style moves Kirito showed Eugeo, plus a few that even Kirito doesn’t know about, and seems to revel in the opportunity to teach an insolent cur from the outside world an abject lesson in submitting to his betters.

Kirito looks like he’s just barely hanging on while Administrator is content to draw out his suffering, but Eugeo, barely hanging onto life, reaches out to Kirito, and they have a little tête-à-tête in which Kirito finally recalls the memories he lost of growing up in Rulid Village with Eugeo and Alice. Eugeo tanks Kirito for his friendship, brotherhood, and love these past few years, then bestows upon him the Blue Rose Sword, which becomes the Red Rose Sword in Kirito’s hand.

Now dual-wielding against a one-armed opponent, Kirito would seem to have the upper hand, but it ends up yet another draw, as in exchange for the increasingly crazed Administrator’s last remaining arm, Kirito loses his right one, while Admin reveals her hair is prehensile and can be used to restrain and strangle Kirito, which she does.

Administrator can’t get over how much insolence she has to contend with in this fight, but as Eugeo says, Kirito is going to keep standing up and dusting himself up as many times as it takes. He manages to cut through Admin’s hair, then delivers a strike to her core that does irreparable damage, forcing her to access a console and beam herself out of there.

Before she gets away, promising she’ll be seeing Kirito again in the real world, a naked, burning Chudelkin jumps onto her, seeking her loving embrace, resulting in a huge fiery explosion. Quite the ignominious end for the ruler of the Underworld…though it’s probably not a true end.

With Admin out of Kirito’s hair, he tries to tend to Eugeo, but it’s way too late for anything other than a tearful goodbye, with Eugeo relaying what he now understands about love being something you give, not something you seek. Both a younger Eugeo and a younger Alice appear in Kirito’s head to announce that while their paths may soon separate, their memories of one another will remain forever.

Just after Eugeo passes away, Kirito gets an “external observer call” from Rath: it’s Colonel Kikuoka and Higa. The control room is under assault, either from the military or some other power that wants their hands on the STL tech. They give Kirito instructions to deliver Alice to some place called the “World’s End Altar”, presumably to complete the process of bringing Kirito back to the real world with his brain in one piece. Asuna is also mentioned. But Kikuoka’s foes have other plans.

They seek to sever the main power line, which will cause a surge that could fry Kirito’s fluctlight, killing him before he can be safely extracted from the Underworld. The line is severed, the surge occurs, and Kirito experiences something akin to a lightning strike, inside of which a blurry image of Asuna from above, fitted out in her SAO regalia. Whether it’s Kirito’s memory or Asuna entering the “game” for the first time, I’ll have to wait until October to find out, when the Alicization saga continues with War of Underworld.

Steins;Gate 0 – 22 – Another Logical Sacrifice

Thankfully, the latest setback does not shatter Hououin Kyouma just as soon as he makes his triumphant return; more importantly it does not rob Rintarou of his will to keep trying. It only forces him to jump back two days into the past and come up with a new plan. But first, they must determine what exactly is causing the convergence; it may not be the time machine itself.

Rintarou works it out with Daru and Maho. They know how to foil both Leskinen/Stratfor and DURPA, which leaves the Russians. When Nakabachi defected to Russia, they made the connection between his research and Kurisu’s. Thus, in order to prevent WWIII from occuring, they have to prevent that connection from being made.

The only way to do that is to eliminate Amadeus and all of the associated data. Without Kurisu’s memories, brain patterns, and research in digital form, Russia will never be able to complete the time machine, the war will be averted, and both Kurisu and Mayuri should be saved.

So the path to Steins;Gate requires yet another Kurisu-related sacrifice. As Amakurisu states more than once, she’s “just a program”, but it’s still unsurprisingly difficult for Rintarou and Maho to even consider deleting “her,” so similar she is to Kurisu, and yet also an individual personality in her own right.

Amakurisu has Maho send her to Rintarou’s phone, and the two enjoy a stroll together, that lasts through the night into the morning, with Rintarou showing her the city she doesn’t know and judges to be beautiful and worth saving.

Unlike her dead human self, Amakurisu live in a world where only things with a purpose exist (much like The Matrix). Her purpose is to cease existing so a better world can be unlocked. Like Kurisu, she’s ready and willing to assume that cost…but also like Kurisu, there’s a hint of sadness behind her reassuring smile.

Thanks to Daru’s improvement of D-Mail, the D-RINE (like the real-world LINE), Daru can send a save message only to himself telling him to break into VCU’s server and destroy the Amadeus AI data. Maho sends the necessary key and patch as an attachment, the Phone Microwave is fired up, and Amakurisu says her goodbyes.

When the sparks stop we end up with the divergence number of 1.123581—the Beta World Line, tantalizingly close to the 1.048596 of Steins Gate, yet not quite there. We’ll see how well Rintarou & Co. fare in the finale, which I suspect might run double-length (since there’s no episode 24).

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 12 (Not Fin) – It’s Not You, it’s the Royal We

First, I have to applaud TKnS for shedding its comfortable Japanese high school milieu for something completely different that expands the story’s boundaries a whole hemisphere’s width and lends it a sense of occasion.

Second, I applaud Mitsuyoshi for getting over his aviophobia to make the trip to Larsenburg, for he feared something far more than flying: not knowing why Teresa left, and not telling her how he truly felt about her. (Kaoru also cheers his friend on, but keeps his distance)

Larsenberg is gorgeous, as one would expect of a fictitious Germanic-sounding miniature kingdom. You can’t help but notice how different it is from the Japan he left, right down to the fact it’s now wintertime.

Mitsuyoshi arrives at the address his gramps stipulated as the place where he’d find Reiko, AKA Rachel, but has trouble gaining access, because it’s a goddamn palace, complete with a Royal Guard that won’t answer his questions…or speak at all.

Meanwhile, Teresa, Alec, and Charles are busy with the duties of a royal couple and their bodyguard…only with a little bit of palace drama mixed in. Alec reveals her lifelong love for Charles when Teresa walks into find her hugging his recently-worn jacket.

Teresa also picks up on Alec’s tell, a grabbing of the arm that signifies lying. Alec denies and denies, not because she doesn’t believe Teresa knows about her feelings (she does), but because she knows nothing good could come of her expressing her feelings for Charles; he’s supposed to marry Teresa, not her.

Before Teresa and Alec can continue their discussion, Mitsuyoshi pops in. He had the good fortune of being spotted outside the palace by Rachel, who invites him in and tells him how she used to work at his gramps’ cafe when she was in college, before moving to Larsenburg to serve the royal family.

Rachel and Charles present Mitsuyoshi to a very shocked Teresa. He apologizes for surprising her, but she knows she’s the one who needs to apologize and properly tell him what the dealio is. Their reunion came far later in the episode than I expected, and it’s almost painfully brief and cordial.

In a sumptuous gilded drawing room the two sit across from one another, Mitsuyoshi expresses his relief that she’s okay and relays Teresa the others’ regards. Then Teresa comes out with it: she’s the future queen of Larsenburg, and thus there is, in her mind, “no way she can live the life she wants”, i.e. either as an ordinary woman in Japan, or as queen, but getting to choose her man.

In the latter case, Teresa drops a second bombshell on Mitsuyoshi: her lifelong betrothal to none other than Charles. We never see if or how he reacts to this verbally after his initial pained look; we only see the aftermath, with neither Alec nor Charles able to approach a sobbing Teresa in her darkened chambers, while Kaoru finaly reveals he followed Mitsuyoshi here, only to watch his friend crying for the first time.

And it’s about here when I was wondering “Wait, really? You’re going to end it like this, show?” But the show didn’t. MAL misled me into thinking this was the last episode, but there’s one more. Thus, there’s hope everyone can walk away with some kind of closure!

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 11 – Decluttering

The sudden departure of Teresa and Alec for vague “family reasons” comes as a shock to all, especially when the reality of their absence sinks in via their now-empty apartment and desks at school. But no one is hit as hard as Mitsuyoshi, who is constantly encountering things that remind her of Teresa, and of the fact he had his chance to say something to her and blew it.

I don’t think Mitsuyoshi is mad at Teresa—nor should he be—so much as he’s angry at himself. He can’t hide his change in behavior post-Teresa from his best friend Kaoru, who quickly comes to suspect Tada liked Teresa and has been shaken by her disappearance. Kaoru wants to help him, but doesn’t have enough info, and it’s too sore a subject to broach lightly.

One friend who has no compunctions about broching sore subjects is Nyanko Big, who despite lacking thumbs is able to get into his closet and rifle through the box he filled with mementos of his time with Teresa.

Mitsuyoshi goes off on his own, and senses a great emptiness from all of the spots he’d previously visited on their last day together. Like the new tenants in the apartment, everything has changed, and there’s nothing for it but to move on. Mitsuyoshi tosses his Teresa Box in the trash.

That practical and emotional “decluttering” continues in the photo club, where he unceremoniously erases Teresa and Alec’s names from the whiteboard. Then they find an extra memory card filled with all of Teresa’s photos. They’re mostly of rocks, but the greatest treasure is the sole video file of their game of photo tag.

That’s the day Teresa and Alec truly became two of the gang, and she also managed to capture Hajime and Hinako’s unspoken love. Those memories of Teresa laughing and smiling just keep rushing through Mitsuyoshi until he can’t take it and flees home to retrieve the box from the trash, only to find it’s already gone.

He sulks in his dark room until Kaoru confronts him, though not before showing him the photo he was looking for, which Hajime submitted for him, and which won an Excellence prize. In it, Teresa is beaming, her hair flowing in the wind, rainbows reflected in her eyes. It’s an absolutely gorgeous image full of love—the photographer’s love for the subject in particular. Kaoru says there’s no way such a photo could have been taken if Mitsuyoshi didn’t feel that way about her.

Mitsuyoshi finally opens up about how angry he’s been since Teresa left, and how stupid he was to stay silent and close love out of his life. All he wants is one last chance to see Teresa and talk to her so he can tell her how he feels—even if she rejects them. Gramps comes in with the un-tossed box, telling Mitsuyoshi that now that it’s “stopped raining in his heart” it’s time to search for the rainbow that comes after; i.e. Teresa.

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 10 – The Larsenburgian Princess Makes an Irish Exit

This was a simple, quiet, beautiful episode focused mostly on Teresa and Mitsuyoshi’s date (there’s no other word for it) to the Rainbow Samurai show, which begins with the two meeting where they first met, by the gates of the Imperial Palace.

It’s an episode with a beginning and middle that will warm your heart and an ending that will break it—assuming you’re invested in these two.

It’s obvious how much fun both Mitsuyoshi and Teresa are having, but while they’re both smiling, there’s an underlying romantic tension that neither of them is bold enough to remark on with words.

Instead, they simply enjoy their time together, winning each other prizes at the cork gun stand (Teresa hitting hers thanks to an assist from the Yakuza-ish cafe regular), interact in the live show as “hostages”, and enjoy a rainbow-themed meal.

Meanwhile, in a rare cut from their date, Kaoru asks Alec if she’ll go on a date with him, expecting her to reject him for the umpteenth time…only she doesn’t! Not immediately; she gives him a chance to choose where they’ll go, but he’s too consumed in utter shock to suggest anything, and she retracts her offer.

The two encounter one another at the Tada cafe, where Alec delivered a letter to Gramps from Reiko, AKA Rachel, Teresa’s nanny, who introduced her to the Rainbow Samurai in the first place. What a weird coincidence…

When Mitsuyoshi and Terea scale the Sky Tree to the observation deck, it’s suddenly all gray and rainy, as it tends to be whenever the two meet up (or so Mitsuyoshi jokes). The weather, and the sight of a happy family beside them, reminds him of the last time he saw his parents, on a day just as gray and rainy.

He tells Teresa how he blames himself for not telling his father his true feelings; delaying them just a little could have prevented the accident. This is something he knows is ridiculous, but he’s always felt that way regardless, and hasn’t been able to tell anyone…until Teresa.

As the clouds part to reveal a humongous double rainbow, Teresa tells him if he regrets not sharing his feelings in the past, simply try to share them from now on. If that’s meant to be a hint, Mitsuyoshi doesn’t take it.

After that, the two part ways at the cafe, and Teresa can barely hold back tears when thanking Mitsuyoshi for their wonderful day together, for a souvenir he got her, and for the photo of them posing with the Rainbow Samurai. He asks if she wants some coffee, and she shakes her head and returns to her hotel next door.

The next morning at school, the teacher announces that Teresa and Alec have returned to Larsenburg for “family reasons.” Mitsuyoshi and Kaoru are stunned. His entire day with Teresa turned out to be the last they’d spend together, and he didn’t even know it.

There were ample chances for Mitsuyoshi to take Teresa’s advice and share his feelings. On the other hand, every time she shared hers, it was through muttered words he never quite heard, and followed with “oh, it’s nothing at all.”

I would’ve gone a different way than basically ripping off a relationship like a band-aid, but ultimately it was her choice to decide how to say goodbye to Mitsuyoshi. Perhaps anything more would have only made it harder for her to leave at all…and she has to leave, for he good of her country.

Steins;Gate 0 – 08 – Only a Dream

I got your picture hangin’ on the wall
It can’t see or come to me when I call your name
I realize it’s just a picture in a frame

The much-awaited Steins;Gate sequel started out somewhat languid and listless, owing no doubt in part to the vast grey pall of grief that hung over Okabe living in the Beta World Line. Then we got a new twist on the first season’s ambush and all of a sudden it looked like the old show’s energy was starting to return. Like all good things, it just took time.

Then Steins;Gate 0 went and stuck an electrode in our hippocampus all over again this week, giving us a tantalizing look at the Alpha World Line in which Kurisu lived, only for Okabe’s joy at that being essentially canceled out by his grief over the loss of Mayuri, and his guilt over his role in that loss.

I read your letters when you’re not near
But they don’t move me
And they don’t groove me like when I hear
Your sweet voice whispering in my ear

More than that, though, it’s just so good to see and hear Makise Kurisu in non-AI facsimile form. Ironically along with Hanazawa Kana, Imai Asami is one of my very favorite voice talents, and lends a depth, warmth, and subtlety to her performance as Kurisu that simply makes her feel more human. Miyano Mamoru also does fine work beside her.

It doesn’t take long at all for someone of Kurisu’s towering intellect to deduce that the Okabe before her is not the Okabe of her World Line. Almost in anticipation of such an Okabe arriving and not knowing whether to go or stay, she reconstructed the Phone Microwave, adding (Revised) to its name to indicate she may well have improved upon the original.

I play the game, a fantasy
I pretend I’m not in reality
I need the shelter of your arms to comfort me

It isn’t that Kurisu doesn’t have conflicting feelings about urging Okabe to go back where he belongs; her cold-shouldering belies a genuine affection for the big lug, and every one of their interactions in this World Line is informed by the unspoken love they feel for each other. Amadeus, as Okabe says, truly has nothing on the real thing.

Yet Kurisu doesn’t let emotions deter her. In fact, she’s willing to use emotions to help Okabe see the light—literally, as it turns out—when they take a train to the cemetery where Mayuri is buried.

Kurisu tells Okabe how much time the Okabe of that Line spent there, as if waiting to be taken to heaven. Okabe raises his hand to the sky, much like Mayuri used to do, and Kurisu hopes it means Okabe will wake up from this “dream” and return to his reality.

I got some memories to look back on
And though they help me when you phone
I’m well aware nothing can take the place of your being there

Kurisu gets everything ready, including a D-mail Okabe is to send to herself saying “Don’t come in.” Okabe sees this as sentencing the woman he loves to death all over again, but she urges him to “Do it, even if you can’t…That’s what I want.” Whether she’s putting Mayuri’s life ahead of her own, or simply trying to restore balance to the universe, Kurisu will let Okabe go through with it.

Before he does, she sees the face he’s making, and gives him a parting kiss before hitting “send” herself. From there, we’re transported to the time Okabe “killed” her the first time, but from her POV; running through the streets, about to come in just in time to stop him when she’s delayed just a few seconds from that D-mail: “Don’t come in.” 

She ignores it and rushes in to confess her love…but it’s too late, and now we’re transported to another world line with a divergence number we haven’t seen before:  1.097302…oh-so-close to the 1.048596 of the Steins Gate. Where-or-whenever it ends up being, one thing’s for sure: that infectious Steins;Gate energy is back.

ReLIFE – 17 (Fin)

Aw HELL yeah! I didn’t ask for much, just a happy yet satisfying ending that felt earned, and ReLIFE delivered exactly that. Initially framed by Yoake’s final report, things start out in the afterglow of Kaizaki and Hoshiro’s confessions. All their friends are super-excited for them, but they keep it very cool and low-key, which is just like two teenagers who are actually adults.

They’re both simply savoring every day they have left together, because they don’t have a lot of them. It makes you wish they’d gotten together much sooner…but then again, I couldn’t have asked for a better way for them to finally realize their feelings for another, and their love only deepens as the days pass, as evidenced by their late night phone call when simply messaging on LIME won’t cut it.

Graduation Day comes, and Kanzaki manages to graduate by the skin of his teeth (thanks to Oga). There’s goodbyes, notes of goodwill, flowers, smiles…and tears. But there are no tears more bitter than those shed by both Kanzaki and Hoshiro.

He finally gives her a hug, just when she needs one most, and it turns out he needed that hug just as badly. He says it feels like a break-up, even though they’ll see each other at the start of the college term. Hoshiro thanks him for being such a transparent yet kind liar.

And that’s the last they see of each other in their respective ReLifes—with a tearful embrace, assuring each other they’ll never forget each other, even if they know they can’t keep that promise.

Yoake congratulates Kanzaki for a marvelously successful ReLife, telling him he can look forward to very promising job placement in exchange for his cooperation with the experiment, and should hold his head high. Meanwhile, Onoya has her exit interview with Hoshiro, who never really warmed up to her newer support.

Describing her ReLife, Hoshiro describes how her heart is “ripped open” by getting close to people only to lose them, but admits she does feel like she changed “a little.” After taking her pill and falling asleep, Onoya accidentally discovers a marker Hoshiro used to write “I was in love with Kaizaki Arata”, and breaks down at Hoshiro’s failure to hide it better, as once Onoya sees it, she has to get rid of it along with all other evidence. It’s her job, after all.

Fast-forward to a bit of time after Kanzaki regains his 28-year-old appearance and starts interviewing for the jobs ReLife provided. Ultimately, however, he wants nothing more than to help others as he was helped, so he requests a job with ReLife, and is accepted. Now he is the one visiting shut-ins and other wretches, offering a way for them to find themselves again.

At a ReLife company dinner, Kanzaki arrives a bit late, but a space was saved for him. Turns out the seat he takes belongs to Hoshiro, but it’s no big deal or anything, as someone from another part of the restaurant is calling for her. As she turns to walk away, Kanzaki notices the strap on her bag…

At the end of the dinner (well, the first round, but the only round recommended for newbies), it starts to rain, but Kanzaki doesn’t have an umbrella. Just then, Hoshiro appears once more and opens the very same green umbrella the two shared just after confessing. She offers to share it, but Kanzaki politely declines, and she starts to head off on her own…but turns and says she heard the higher-ups calling him a test subject.

She then mentions her own stint as a subject, how it lasted two years, and how her supporter pushed for her to get a job at ReLife, and she took a position in the pharma section. Kanzaki asks if she’d tell him about her ReLife, and she compares it to…fireworks, like the ones she saw at the festival with her friends.

They both latch onto the spectacular yet fleeting nature of fireworks, and eventually both remember flashes of that night when Hoshiro told Kanzaki he was like fireworks. I tellya, I got an absolute thrill out of watching them gradually put the pieces together in their heads.

You could say the fireworks…sparked their memories, heh-heh. Once he recalls Hoshiro in her red yukata looking up at the sky, Kanzaki calls her by her name. Hoshiro needs just a little bit more, but she eventually remembers writing the note on her hand as she cried after taking the pill. And that’s it: in spite of the lab’s efforts, they found and remembered each other…and it didn’t even take that long!

Now, while the ReLife procedures were concluded with all due diligence, I’d like to think both Yoake and Onoya played roles in facilitating a reunion. Yoake accepting Kanzaki’s request to work for ReLife; Onoya predding Hoshiro to work there as well…even telling Kanzaki that Hoshiro’s seat was his in the restaurant.

But while the supports made the conditions more favorable for a happy ending, at the end of the day they were just that, support. It took Kanzaki and Hoshiro being friendly, open, and honest with each other, and especially Hoshiro bringing up how she heard he test subject, like her, at that crucial moment.

If she hadn’t they might have gone their separate ways, perhaps forever. But I’m immeasurably chuffed she did, and the resulting re-connection was nothing short of mesmerizing. Time for some #Adulting!

ReLIFE returned quite out of the blue to rip my heart out with the prospect of tearing apart two lovely people who had only just found each other…only to painstakingly reconstruct that heart, and fill it back up with love until it almost burst all over again, only in a good way!

Of course, you’re mileage may vary, depending on whether you read the entire web manga (I did not) and your particular emotional investment. Clearly, my investment was significant, and one and a half years of time away didn’t dull it in the slightest. This was a big win.

Darling in the FranXX – 04

Mitsuru is alive, but he’ll never go near a cockpit with Zero Two again; it’s as if he knows he’d never survive. Despite this, and to Ichigo’s frustration, Hiro remains resolved to pilot with Two again if it means he’ll be able to be useful. Meanwhile, Two gets a scolding but ends up coldly writing off the other FranXX as weaklings who will die soon anyway.

Ichigo decides not to fight Hiro on the issue, and rather steels herself for that eventuality. As Hiro trains alone, she manages to get the rest of the team behind her, asserting her leadership role by reminding them of the stakes and how every day could be their last until they all get it together. She also encourages Ikuno to help Mitsuru, who like the rest of them surely doesn’t want to fail again.

Paying him back from the first episode, Zero Two walks in on Hiro bathing and makes another offer for them to run away together, just them and Strelizia against the world. When she senses his hesitation and fear, her mood darkens, and she asks him whether he thinks she’s just a pilot-killing monster like everyone else.

When a Klaxosaur worm appears during a docking procedure, Ichigo’s team sorties, and quickly brings the worm down, but wthout knowing where the core is, it comes back to life and is joined by a second enemy. Just like last week Ichigo’s team seems in over their head; but Nana refuses to allow Zero Two and Hiro to sortie; “Papa’s” orders.

Eventually, Zero Two and Strelizia’s transport lands at the Plantation, and she’s ordered to go with her “escort team” back to the front lines, without Hiro. When she bristles, they train their guns on her, and she says a sad “would’ve been nice” bye-bye to Hiro, filling him with regret and shame for his inaction.

He tries to right this by chasing after Zero Two and yelling through a security barrier, acknowledging his fear then and now, telling her he doesn’t think she’s a monster, and that what he wants most isn’t to pilot a FranXX, but to ride with her again.

With those words from Hiro, Zero Two shakes off her guards, rushes to Hiro’s side, and takes him through the barriers and all the way into Strelizia. Once there, Hiro wonders if he’ll really be able to pilot her again, and Two promises him that he—that they—absolutely can, and will.

When Strelizia enters the battlefield, Ichigo keeps her cool and continues to give the orders, telling Hiro and Two to go after one worm while she and the others tackle the second. It eventually becomes clear the two are really seperate ends of the same single worm, and when Ichigo & Co. end up in trouble again, Strelizia hurries to their rescue, slashing the worm in half and shattering it’s core—but not before showing Ichigo (whose face is repeated in Delphinium) a very smug face.

I was hoping, for once, that instead of moping about not being useful for yet another episode, Hiro would finally be allowed to show he could be useful again. And I got that, so I’m satisfied, even if it happened rather easily, and with likely consequences on the way.

At the same time, the pair has kinda backed their superiors into a corner: Zero Two needs a stamen who won’t die after three sorties, and Hiro is mostly fine after two and may well do fine in a third. They can’t very well put the welfare of civilization above nailing him to the wall for his disobedience.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 14

In what has become a staple of Mahoutsukai no Yome, a cliffhanger that hints that Chise might be in big trouble this time turns out to be something else entirely, and something far less worrisome. In this case, Ashen Eye threw a hide over Chise that turned her into a werebeast, perhaps as a test to see what “home” is to her.

Both Ruth and Elias (also in Beast-Mode) catch up to Fox-Chise, who is having so much fun running through the forest she isn’t quite sure what’s going on unless they tell her. Elias brings her back by repeating his line about it being too cold without her. (Maybe he should invest in a better HVAC system for that house? I kid, I kid.)

In one of the clunkier transitions in this somewhat episodic show, the beside-herself Leannan Sidhe reappears. Joel is on death’s door, and there’s nothing anyone can do. Well, not nothing; Chise can make a faerie ointment that, when applied to Joel’s eyelids, he’ll be able to see the vampire who has been haunting him all these years. This is something both the Sidhe and Joel very much want.

Elias doesn’t want Chise to do it, but he’s never heard her demand anything before, so he doesn’t stop her. However, neither he nor Ruth can assist in the making of the ointment—a process that requires five sleepless nights—and he urges her not to push herself too hard.

The five days and nights pass, and the ointment is made. A very sleep-deprived Chise delivers a daub of it to Sidhe to do with as she pleases, and…it works! Joel gets to see the Sidhe, and tells her he knew she was there all along and can die and return to his late wife a happy man, not blaming the Sidhe for cursing him.

So, it would seem that Chise did one of her friends a big favor, no big deal, right? The Sidhe is going to continue living at Joel’s house…which should give pause to whomever ends up moving in there. All’s well that ends well!

Oh, wait, making a faerie ointment for such a purpose is a taboo and borderline crime in the faerie world, and Oberon comes to Elias and Chise demanding she hand over the jar. Before she can, she coughs up a good deal of blood. I guess she pushed herself too far after all.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 11

Lindel’s fireside infodump-er-saga with Chise continues as he recounts his early travels with his new apprentice Elias. While making a house visit to heal a sick child, the child’s sister has “the sight” and spots Elias in Lindel’s shadow.

The girl assumes it’s an evil demon, and before long the entire village is mobilized against Lindel and Elias. When Lindel is injured by a thrown rock, Elias loses his temper and attacks the villagers with his thorny vine appendages, basically confirming their worst fears.

And here is the start of the trouble with Elias Ainsworth that I’ve had for the past ten weeks; a problem no closer to being solved in its eleventh. As Lindel’s master noted, he has a tiny amount of human in him, but there just isn’t enough humanity for me to fully emotionally connect.

That’s made any exploration of Elias and Chise’s relationship—in terms of her status as his future wife—feel incomplete and unsatisfying. As Lindel said to Chise, Elias “seemed to be missing something”, and for me, he’s still missing it.

(There’s also the little matter of Elias having a vague memory of—and occasionally feeling the urge to—eat humans, though Chise claims she’s never once feared Elias, even during that tense bed scene.)

But perhaps I’m not being open-minded enough with the premise that it isn’t that Elias isn’t human enough, but that for all the years he’s lived, Elias is still a child, and not just in Lindel’s eyes.

As a child, he’s insecure, emotionally stunted, and prefers the shadows. Chise, with her own stunted childhood, is in a similar state, leaving us with two would-be “lovers” who really have no clue what they’re doing.

A large part of that is neither Elias nor Chise have really taken the time to dig that deeply into who they are and what they want, aside from the big things like “survival” and “being wanted/needed”.

But never mind that for now; we’ve got a long way to go with these two crazy kids. For now, Chise gets tossed back into the water by baby dragons, meets a leviathan (neat!) and then sets to work whittling down a wooden log into her wand, which is meant to be an introspective process.

When night falls, Lindel, AKA Echos, sings the song of a hundred flowers, and all number of magical beings emerge and join in a dance. Chise dances for the first time, and then inadvertently opens a “water mirror” through which she can communicate directly with Elias.

Chise says Elias “looks troubled”, which is a bit silly since his bony face never really changes that much, and then the two remark at how much they miss one another, despite not having been apart all that long.

Home is cold without Chise, and Chise wants to show Elias the beautiful scene Lindel has created. “Two kids”, as Lindel said, both trying to figure out who they are and what the other person means to them.

And since Chise has learned so much about Elias—things he couldn’t or wouldn’t say—she wants to reveal to him more about her self; something she hasn’t yet been able to do to her satisfaction.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 10

Lindel sends a selkie along with one of the young dragons (now big enough for a human to ride) to invite Chise to the Land of the Dragons so the “Robin” can have a wand made. For this journey, Elias will stay behind, though Ruth will remain by her side.

Chise’s dragon ride through the wind and clouds is appropriately epic in presentation, with stirring orchestral accompaniment to boot. It’s also nice, for once, to have an episode without any imminent or even perceived threats. There are more sides to Chise’s life than peril…procuring a wand, for instance.

Nevin’s Tree is as big and majestic as ever, and Lindel directs Chise to saw off a piece of it for her wand. Her lack of surefootedness in the tree results in a spill and a demonstration of how crucial it is she have a familiar nearby to, among other things, catch her. Back home, Elias notes how quiet it seems without Chise.

While she’s hardly a Chatty Cathy, she’s a motormouth compared to Silver. Then Elias receives a message via bird-intercom from Adolf Stroud of the College administration, who’d like to learn more about what Elias has in mind for Chise’s future.

That night, Chise arms and hands are covered in scrapes and scratches, which Lindel instantly heals with a touch. As a “bedtime story”, and because Elias hasn’t told her, Lindel regails Chise with the tale of how Lindel met Elias.

Lindel himself didn’t even have a name before his master found him, and Elias has a similar “birth”, one brutally wintry day simply appearing out of seemingly nowhere, nameless, without any memories or idea of what he was. Lindel gave him a place to rest and a meal, but its clear if either of them want any answers, the best bet is to take him to his master.

Lindel finds his master with a sprig of spruce and a red string. When they arrive, when Elias is too big to enter the house, he shrinks himself to child-size. The master, kind and curious, pegs the creature as almost a fairy; as close as one can get, yet still with a bit of human, which pretty much describes the Elias we’ve come to know.

She’d normally chalk his state to the result of a human transformed after abusing black magic, but she keeps her other guess close to her chest. All she can get out of him memory-wise is a color: red. She tells Lindel to take care of him, giving him the name Elias. Lindel is initially hesitant, but when Elias starts to take off (not wanting to be a bother), he agrees, though makes sure to call him his “acquaintance”, not his “apprentice.”

Back in the present, Elias’s bird-call from Adolf is interrupted by Renfred, who warns Elias that he’ll “ruin” Chise if all he does is let her live with him. Everyone from the college to Lindel wants her to spread her wings, but Elias is taking things slow, and Chise, happy simply to be wanted by someone, is being complacent on purpose.

Of course, this episode only provided part of Elias’ past, and we still don’t know exactly who or what he is, particularly before that scene in the forest where he had to fight back wolves. Ultimately, Chise’s future is up to her and no one else, but she’ll need more knowledge before making any concrete plans.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 09

After the dispersal of Cartaphilus, life returns mostly to normal for Chise, who enters a nice, steady routine along with her new familiar Ruth. The part that isn’t normal is Elias: he’s confined himself to his room and Chise doesn’t dare enter. Eventually, Silky tires of her standing by Elias’ door and throws her and Ruth out of the front one with spending money.

It’s not long before Chise runs into Angelica, and the two do some sightseeing and shopping around town. Angelica first tells her she needs to learn to rely on people more, but later wonders out loud if she’s being too dependent and fixed on Elias. While Angelica apologizes for saying too much, Chise latches on to her latter point, and turns it into a larger criticism on her own perceived “selfishness” for not wanting to be abandoned.

Obviously, Chise’s being too hard on herself. Considering how much she’s already lost in her sixteen years (and how few years she may have), I’d say she deserves a measure of selfishness. Besides, even as an apprentice she’s touched a number of lives in meaningful ways. She’s a good person becoming a good mage.

As if she heard my words about her, Chise decides to do what she wants, which is storm in Elias’ room and ask him what exactly is going on. The Elias who she meets is even farther from human than usual, and he warns her (with a steady voice that belies his fearsome appearance) he’s having trouble controlling his body. I couldn’t help but think of Howl (of the Moving Castle) when he’s extended himself too far and become beast-like.

Chise was startled initially, but doesn’t remain afraid for long (thinking it’s because she’s cursed). In fact, she spends the night with Elias, during which she dreams of him on top of her turning into her mother, who tells her she should never have given birth to her. How creepy and messed up is that? She wakes up to find Elias gone and a note saying he’ll be back that night.

That’s not sufficient for Chise, who didn’t get all the answers she wanted, and initiates a search for Elias with Ruth. Along the way, they encounter an old man apparently in thrall to a leannan sidhe, a kind of vampire that gives their host talent in exchange for their blood – but she is invisible to him.

The thing is…while Joel Garland is a big reader and occasional writer, he doesn’t have the talent or fame one would expect the Sidhe to give him. Nor does she even take his blood, because he lacks the ambition that is usually the opening her kind uses to gain a host.

Instead, she fell for him, years ago, when they met eyes. They meet eyes again, and the Sidhe believes it’s because Chise, a sleigh beggy, is there. She gives Chise a couple of kisses as thanks and asks her to come see Joel again some time, but insists, almost tsundere-like, that she doesn’t actually love the guy, since she can’t give him talent or take his blood.

Chise doesn’t think she can talk of love when all she can think about is herself…but is she really doing that? Does she only worry about Elias because he saved her; because gives her a reason to live; because she benefits?

Ruth finds Elias resting in a pool and Chise races to him, demanding more answers even though she expects only a few mixed with half-truths and deflections. Elias always assumed a minimum of information was needed since she understands and accepts him so quickly.

What he didn’t realize was that Chise cares about him to the extent a note and a little bit of explanation isn’t always going to cut it; she’s going to want more sometimes. Elias, taken aback by her “new faces”, now understands, but still needs more time to recover and gather his thoughts.

Just then, Echo’s familiar appears on behalf of Lindel, to invite Elias and Chise to the Land of the Dragons where he has “business” with her, revealing the setting for Chise’s next adventure.