Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 24

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So, the first attempt to save the village and take out the Witch’s Cult was met by some mishaps, such as the time-consuming misunderstanding that led to a confrontation with Ram, the killing of villagers before evacuation was complete, Emilia taking the field of battle, putting herself at risk, and oh yeah, Subie getting possessed by Betelgeuse.

But when Julius and Felis killed him, he died and came back just like he always did, without any twists due to his possession. And fortune not only smiles, but beams on him, as he wakes up right in the middle of the planning phase, allowing him to casually introduce the new information he gleaned about body-snatching, the traitor in their midst, and Ram.

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His new plan revolves around convincing Emilia to go along with “Crusch’s plan” to evacuate the mansion and village, including Emi-tan herself. She agrees, because she believes the plan put before her, while not entirely or even partially of her own making, is the best plan as far as she can tell.

So she’s put on a wagon with some enthusiastic village kids, and sent off to safety, while Subie and the knights capture the traitor and take the metia he was using to pass information to the cult. It’s important to note Subaru himself wore the recognition-blocking robe Emilia threw at him, so she had no idea he planned all this.

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Suffice it to say, thanks to learning the lessons of last week’s ‘dry run’, everything goes off without a hitch, as Subaru once again confronts a Betelgeuse now weakened by a lack of fingers nearby. Subie also allows Juli to uses a spell, Nect, that lets him see with his eyes, alowing him to see the unseen hands and cut through them.

This achieved one of Subie’s secondary objectives: to properly make up with Julius. He is, after all, a crucial part of the plan and why, when the episode ends, it looks like the end is near for the Sin Archbishop, and very good for Subaru, who has once more learned from his past mistakes, put pride aside, planned carefully, and relied on and trusted in others.

This is how he has truly become Emilia’s knight.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 23

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False Alarm: No Fresh Hell, just not completely dealt-with Old Hell on this week’s menu. Hell leftovers, if you will. Ram puts the convoy under an illusion spell because she fears Subaru switched sides and the convoy is his invading force. This is due to a misunderstanding: the letter sent to the mansion was blank, usually a declaration of war.

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No harm, no foul, then, right? Ram accepts Subaru’s explanations, and while she’s not in love with him like her sister, he and she still have quite a bit of history which lets her withdraw her aggressive stance with confidence.

It’s also confidence Subaru needs in order to tell the people of the village they need to evacuate. At first a couple of malcontents curst the “half-elf” who brought this upon them, but with Ram’s help, Subie successfully persuades the villagers, even the racists, to cooperate.

Just when Subie is about to head for the mansion with Juli and Felis, the latter discovers one of the merchants has been possessed by a member of the witch’s cult. The man self-destructs, nearly killing Felis and Subie, and the remnants of Betelgueses fingers attack the village.

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Smoke (and Unseen Hands) fills the sky, blood stains the ground, adn the scene starts to resemble one of Subie’s past nightmare scenarios. But this time, he isn’t singularly responsible for failing to detect the cult’s, inside men; he’s just one part of an alliance made up of far more capable people than he who also missed this one.

That being said, and in spite of her earlier warnings to the villagers falling on deaf, non-pointed ears, Emilia arrives to help deal with the threat and protect the villagers who still live.

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She and Pick manage to take out all of the fingers…that they know of, all of whom talk and move and act like Betelguese. But even Emi’s last defeated opponent isn’t the end. When one of Juli’s lesser spirits, deployed to protect Subie, leaves Subie’s body, Betelgeuse possesses him.

Since we’ve never seen Betelgeuse leave a body that went on to survive, it sadly looks like the end for this version of Subaru, as he compels a reluctant, emotional Felis and Juli to kill him before Betelgeuse completes his hold. When the curtain falls on the episode, it would seem they obeyed him.

Will we shift to the focus of everyone but Subaru now that he’s left this world, or will we continue to following him as he respawns…wherever it is he respawns? Whatever the case, I doubt this turn of events will be resolved as quickly as Ram’s misunderstanding…

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 22

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With the White Whale(s) defeated, Subaru redirects his allied force towards the Witch’s Cult, which no one will be taking lightly despite the huge advantage they seem to have. This requires Subie more-or-less make up with Julius, who has arrived to help.

Subie still maintains he hates “Juli’s” guts, but the two still exchange apologies and words of gratitude. While Puck assures an exhausted Lia that she and the manor will be safe, Subie uses his stench to lure the cult members, who appear right on cue.

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It’s the return of Smug Subie, as he’s holding all the right cards this time, and it’s the cult and Betelgeuse who don’t have a clue what’s coming. Mimi and Hetaro swoop in and demolish Betel’s base with their shouts, then Old Man Wil bisects Betelguese from behind.

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It’s almost too easy, leading me to wonder when the other shoe will drop. Sure enough, in the midst of celebration and preparation to go after the ex-sin archbishop’s “Fingers”, Unseen Hands quite suddenly appear out of the woods and quickly kill five anonymous members of Subie’s allied force, then an arm drags Subie into the trees.

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There, he meets someone of indeterminate gender but the same exact manic way of speaking and biting their nails raw as Betelgeuse. Their only problem is they dawdle far too long before killing Subie, and Mimi, Hetaro, and Wil are able to arrive in time to kill them and save Subie.

Now that they know the remaining 99 or so cult members could all be Sin Archbishops, Subie laments putting everyone in such grave danger. Wilheim won’t hear of it: he asks Subie to keep fighting as long as he’s still standing. Not to become stronger, but simply to be strong. This guy speaks from experience, so Subie takes the simple but powerful words to heart.

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With that, the hunt for the remaining fingers, and the evacuation of the village and manor in Margrave Mathers’ lands continues. Just as Subie is heeding Felix’s suggestion that he should finish making up with Julis, he sees a blue petal float past his eye, and everything freezes.

He and his ground dragon are left alone in the blue, icy stillness, with a blue flower-clutching Ram before him. What fresh hell is this?

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 16

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In an episode that doesn’t really come close to last week in terms of emotional or visceral impact, Subaru manages to stay alive the whole time. The beatings Subaru receives this week are more intellectual than physical (though he gets beaten up physically too), as he is outwitted, embarrassed, and enraged by each of Emilia’s rivals.

First up, the ever-calculating, ever-level-headed Crusch. Subaru asks her for military aid against the impending Witch’s Cult raid on Mathers’ domain, but Subaru is not able to convince her that it’s in her best interest to help, or offer anything she won’t profit from anyway if Emilia were wiped out.

She never once loses her composure as Subaru fumes and bites his lip bloody, ultimately resorting to begging. Crusch simply sees right through him, that there’s more to what he wants than what he’s saying, though as we know, there are things Subie simply can’t say that has nothing to do with pride or loyalty.

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Next up, Priscilla. Surely she remembers him saving her in that alley, right? Nope. Priscilla doesn’t even pretend to treat Subie with the slightest whiff of respect, offering to help if he’ll kiss her feet, but quite unlike Crusch, loses her cool completely when he actually tries to do so.

Just as he only managed to convince Crusch that he’s, at best, mad as a hatter, he only manages to convince Pris that he’s a detestable pig who will do anything, no matter how debasing, to get what he wants.

Priscilla is disgusted even to be in his presence, and extends her disgust to Emilia’s whole camp. And she’s clearly deeply disappointed; doubtless a part of her wondered if he wasn’t quite as “insignificant” as he seemed; alas.

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o-for-2…will the third time be the charm? Subie didn’t even bother going to Anastasia Hoshin until they bumped into each other in the street. But while Ana seems a lot friendlier on the outside, she’s only playing games with poor Subaru, dangling something he needs (and a trifle at that; a carriage) in order to pump him for info on who Crusch has been meeting with.

Like a common schoolyard bully, the haughty Anastasia drops her mic and walks out of the tavern, taking her private army with her, utterly assured that Subaru is incapable of doing anything, giving him a curt lesson on being prepared for negotiations, and warning him that the things he does “won’t ever go away,” which hits particularly close for the respawning Subaru who has now struck out on securing an army to protect Emilia.

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Chance smiles upon him one more time, however, as he runs into Otto and a convoy of merchants carrying large amounts of oil. Oil that, I’m sure Subaru is thinking, could be repurposed as some kind of weapon against the cult. Getting back to his old resourceful self, he also hires the merchants to help him evacuate Mathers’ domain. It’s a far more modest and improvised plan, but it’s the best plan he has, and time is a wastin’.

Naturally, even this plan runs into a snag, when a carriage he believed was right alongside his turned out never to exist, and a gigantic beast (probably the fog-making white whale Rem mentioned in episode 14) appears in its place, staring its huge eye right in his face as he shines his phone flashlight at it, and then letting out a monstrous roar…

…And that’s where we leave things: wondering if that beast will send him back to the apple merchant’s stall (erasing all those unpleasant failed negotiations in the process), or if he manages to make use of that oil to progress his hasty, threadbare plans.

As Priscilla said, Subie “hasn’t thought this through.” True, but after a few more failed plans, absorbed blows, and lessons learned, perhaps he eventually will. OR perhaps he’ll simply keep suffering and dying shortly after watching those closest to him do the same, growing more and more insane from the trauma.

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Whatever the case, he’s certainly come a long damn way…

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P.S. Lovely new ED…and quite a departure from last week’s “Headless Subie and dead twisted Rem being buried in the snow as blood red credits roll”

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 15

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I honestly didn’t think a second cour episode of Re:Zero could match the cinematic majesty of episode 7, but, well…here we are, eight episodes later, and this show is still topping itself. My expectations for the finale have now risen to unreasonable highs. But never mind that; we’ve got a long, long way to go, as does Natsuki Subaru.

Subaru doesn’t choose to commit suicide. He does die and Return by Death; but not by his choosing. He is slain in the most nightmarish way imaginable, having his fingers and leg cleaved off before freezing solid and cracking. Jeez, this show is rough on ol’ Subaru.

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Surprisingly, he respawns not in a bed, but at the vender’s cart, where he was with Rem seemingly an eternity ago (but in reality, early in last week’s episode). It isn’t long before he’s in a bed, however, as he’s so traumatized by what he witnessed and experienced in his last life, he is still in shock and barely able to speak.

Felis can’t do anything about his mental condition, so Crusch lets Rem take him home to Roswaal’s manor, hopeful being with Emilia and Ram will help him recover. Crusch also asks why Rem is so devoted to Subaru, and she responds “because he’s special.”

Once again, they fail to reach manor without incident, even though it’s Rem and not Subie’s choice to head there.

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The hooded baddies—witch cultists—ambush the cart, bloody a furious Rem, and take Subie captive.

Subie wakes up in chains, still unable to speak, and comes face to face with the grotesque and thoroughly insane Betelgeuse, who would be a goofy character for Re:Zero if we didn’t already have his less evil counterpart, Roswaal.

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Oh, and if this guy wasn’t fucking threatening and terrifying as all Hell, and merely a subordinate to “The Gospel”, and presumably, The Witch. Betel is a high priest of “sloth”, and initially calls Subie “pride” (perhaps why the cultists bowed to him last week?), and while his plans for Subie aren’t precisely clear, he’s intent on finding and killing Rem as soon as possible.

Rem all but grants his wish by busting into their cavern hideout, hopelessly outnumbered and surrounded. For all her power and combat ability and heartfelt desire to save her beloved Subaru, she’s still quite messed up from the initial ambush, and when she gets too close, Betel strings her up in mid air and breaks all the bones in her body, then twists her extremities in the opposite direction just two twist the proverbial knife.

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Betel heads off to prepare for “The Ordeal”, but Rem is amazingly still alive enough to scoot towards Subaru and free him from his chains, and from what is certainly to be more horrible torment at the hands of that monster and his master.

She tells him to live, and that she loves him, then passes away in his arms. While Rem has died before, as has Subaru, I just wasn’t prepared for this. She was found dead suddenly last week, but here the death is drawn out, as is Subaru’s apparent helplessness.

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Not sure what else to do, and still clearly foggy from his multiple ordeals, Subie continues his trek to Roswaal’s manor with Rem’s body in his arms. Again, he finds signs of a massacre, dead villagers, children, and Ram.

He doesn’t get anywhere near the front door before a colossal dark beast with glowing yellow eyes orders him to “sleep now, like my daughter.” Subaru’s head pops of with a splash of blood…and the blood-red credits start to roll as he’s buried by the snow. There’s no merciful fade to black. The camera doesn’t budge. The stirring, soaring, relentlessly tragic score blares.

By God…that was one of the darkest, cruelest, most hopeless endings I’ve ever seen. But this is Re:Zero, where endings usually lead to new beginnings. Still, it still felt like everything was over and there would be no victory, ever. 

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Sure enough, Subie respawns with Rem at the vendor’s. He’s not catatonic this time. He embraces Rem; alive again; in love with him. The vendor tells them to take a hike and stop scaring customers with their PDA.

Subaru takes Rem’s hand like he never intends to let go of it again, and she’s all to happy to hold his as they walk peacefully, quietly down the street.

But Subaru’s smile slowly vanishes as the camera pans up to his face. It’s a beautiful day, but there’s a storm brewing in his eyes. They’re not the dead eyes of defeat. They’re the fanatical eyes of a demon, and Betelgeuse is his prey.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 07

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Psycho-Pass 2 follows an uncharacteristically indulgent episode with one that sets aside the guns, drones, explosives, and boats and gets down to the less shouty and visceral but arguably more interesting police work that’s necessary to learn about, find, and catch Kamui Kirito.

After showing us Mika grudgingly cleaning up area stress mess her superior made for her, we delve briefly into Akane’s own mind, where she shoots the breeze with an echo of her mentor Kogami, who reminds her of the basics of detection: being confronted with something impossible either means wrong assumptions…or insanity.

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Both he and Togane bring up the same possibility: the answers are probably closer than they think. I see Akane continues to light cigarettes, but we have yet to see her puff, unlike Shion, who wonders if Saiga is being so calm because he’s found out a way to stop Kamui. But Matsuda said nothing, so he’s got nothing; as long as Sybil continues to deem Inspector Shisui’s psycho-pass as clear, she — and by extension Kamui — can do as they please.

Speaking of psycho-passes…we finally meet a family member of Akanes, her grandma Aoi, whose hospital Akane rushes to when there’s a report of a medical drone malfunction. Aoi is fine, but encourages her as Kogami did in her head earlier, though in a different way. Her granny tells it like it is, and the way it is is that Akane always puts others before herself and understands the value of life; every life — to the point of neglecting or jeopardizing her own.

It makes Akane a tremendous cop, but it wouldn’t normally be the formula for a happy life, or even a clear psycho-pass. But Akane doesn’t  mind living in a crime scene or not having a boyfriend or putting in the work that’s needed.

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Her main frustration in life is probably having to serve under a system as fundamentally corrupt and flawed as Sybil, simply because the alternative is probably worse; the cure is worse than the disease. In this, she’s diametrically opposed to Kamui, who’s willing to do whatever it takes and sacrifice as much life as is needed to bring Sybil down.

Which begs the question: What does Sybil make of all this? Akane confers with “Chief Kasei” to try to divine that. At this point in the case Akane is not in the mood for playing around; she flat out voices her suspicion Sybil is afraid to take action outside of normal operations, lest it reveal their weakness. Sybil is aware Kamui is unique, but because he’s not the kind of ‘unique’ that made, say, Mikishima an excellent candidate to join the Brain Trust.

When Akane tells her there’s no way to bring Kamui in By The Book, Kasei agrees, but she doesn’t want him brought in period. Sybil would prefer if Kamui quietly disappeared, and points out that Akane and Togane had the means to ‘deal with’ Kamui but refrained from doing so. But Akane isn’t killing anyone if she doesn’t have to. She promises Kasei she’ll arrest him lawfully and bring him to proper justice, not the shadowy, loose end-tying justice Kasei intimates.

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Speaking of Togane: As expected, Mika hasn’t shared her knowledge of his intense clandestine surveillance of Akane with anyone, and particularly not Akane, who remains a thorn in her bushy tail. Not that there’s no value in withholding knowledge and until she finds out more, but as she learns Togane was once an enforcer eighteen years ago, and every inspector he touched was declared a latent criminal and executed with Dominators, she may want to say something to someone soon.

Also,  Togane is totally on to her; both her unsettling of his quarters and the spilling of her drink suggests she may be a bit of a klutz.

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I mentioned the presence of nitty-gritty police work in this episode, and there’s plenty to be done. A lot of progress is made in the case, but that progress was unwittingly delayed by, yup, Mika, who simply sat on Hinakawa’s digital report on the pharmacist holo at the scene of Aoyanagi’s death. That holo was another aged-up version of a child who died on a plane crash fifteen years ago.

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Realizing how Hinakawa’s skills can aid in the case, Akane sets him to work aging up the 184 children (of the 201 passengers) who died on that flight. They also learn that the sole survivor of that plane crash was one Kamui Kirito. Boom.

After locating and inviting the doctor who treated Kamui to answer some questions, Akane tells Mika to look into Kamui’s treatment records to corroborate whatever the doc ends up giving them. Naturally, she pawns this work off on Hinakawa, who’s already got an all-nighter ahead of him.

But when Hinakawa hits a confidentiality wall and suggests it could be due to sensitive drug or medical tech patents, Mika recalls the name of one of the leading organizations in that field: the Togane Foundation. Uh-oh.

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The one tasked with talking with Dr. Masuzaki is Professor Saiga, which is, again, a wise choice on Akane’s part, because it affords us an always welcome Epic Old Guy Staredown, but Masuzaki is actually fine with telling Saiga everything, or at least something about Kamui. Heck, the Doc seems almost paternally proud of the kid.

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But just as Akane depends on the talents of Saiga and Hinakawa, Shion and Yayoi, Ginoza and Togane, and yes, even Mika (who’d be relegated making Starbucks runs if were her boss) in order to achieve her goal of bringing Kamui to justice, so too does Kamui rely on others to achieve his goal to bring Sybil down.

That’s made abundantly and shockingly clear, as is the earlier notion that “the answer is closer than we think”, as the aging up of the remaining 185 children reveals that dozens of holo-impostors of people Akane and the others know are already walking among them.

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Ao no Exorcist 8

This was another great episode of Ao that kept the tension high and offered a lot of action and bonding. Izumo makes peace with Rin, but she and Bon nearly come to blows in a battle of egos, with Rin in the middle. Yukio punishes them with rocks, and the young group of Exwires has to work together to deal with a resurgent ghoul. One weak link and its game over for everyone.

Under duress, feuds are thankfully forgotten. Bon recites the Gospel of John in hopes of finding the ghoul’s fatal verse; protected by Shiemi, who seems to have mastered her little tree spirit, Ni, and can form huge barriers of roots. Even Izumo gets her surly fox spirits to listen to her and buys Bon and everyone else a little more time. I like how they were able to defeat their enemy, but only by a hair. It underscores how they’ll have to improve greatly both as individuals and as a team if they have any hope of being long-lived exorcists.

As for Rin, he tried to lure the ghoul away, but it split in two. Also underscored is just how much stronger Rin is than any other student, as he is able to easily dispatch his ghoul-half when he realizes no one is in sight and he can use his blue son-of-satan flames. It turns out the demon summoning teacher wanted to test Rin’s strength, and it would appear he passed. Rating: 3.5