Juuni Taisen – 11

After giving Tora a proper death to deny her corpse from becoming another one of Usagi’s slaves, Ushii ponders how best to deal with a necromantist so hell-bent on victory, he somehow managed to enslave himself before dying.

“Burning him to ash with fire” is as good a plan as any, but Usagi, or rather, the grotesque undead creature crudely reconstructed by Zombie Sharyu, catches up. When Ushii tries hacking Usagi to bits again, Sharyu jumps out from inside Usagi’s body to pin Ushii down.

It’s as devious a tactic as it is fucked up, and Ushii knows he’s hosed, and has been hosed since the moment Usagi turned Sharyu.

Ushii would prefer death to becoming a part of  Usagi’s menagerie, and Nezumi, appearing at precisely the perfect moment, grants him that preference, using Hitsujii’s bomb to blow up Usagi, Sharyu and Ushii to win the Juuni Taisen, just like that.

It turns out that “perfect moment” was no coincidence, but rather the only “route” Nezumi could have taken in order to win; the other 99 out of 100 ended with him getting killed and losing.

This week we learn that he possesses the skill “Hundred Paths of Nezumi-san”, but to the episode’s credit, we’re shown how it works before it’s explained, in a bizarre, Groundhog Day-style sequence in which Nezumi keeps refusing to submit to a post-victory interview with Duodecuple and ends up killed in various, often grisly ways, only to reset back in Duo’s office.

It’s apropos for a warrior of the rat—one of the ultimate survivors on earth—to not only have more than the “nine lives” of the cat, but be able to look at one hundred different routes in order to pick the one that will lead to his continued survival. Even weirder, he remembers all of the routes he “deleted” by “locking in” to the “winning” route.

After sitting down and talking with Duo about Sharyu’s role in creating a route for Nezumi to live (which he repaid by killing her as she requested down in the sewer), his alliances with Tiger and even Usagi in other deleted routes, and other matters, before the sun comes up and Nezumi is excused to rest and come up with a wish to be granted.

As is his style, Nezumi will come up with 100 wishes, then go through each one as Duo grants them to determine which one would be most beneficial. That should make for an intriguing finale.

Space Dandy – 10

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Sket Dance was a typically very goofy, loopy show where anything goes that also happened to be really good at serious episodes when it felt like doing them. Space Dandy has been the same way; whether it’s the elderly ramen alien, Adelie, it’s those deeply emotional episodes with a message—even if the message isn’t all that complicated or original—we’ve enjoyed the most.

This week Space Dandy aims to transform its lazy, dirty doofus that is Meow into a more well-rounded, sympathetic, real character by having the Aloha Oe touch down on his home planet of Betelgeuse for repairs. His small, unexceptional hometown that has seen better days, his chaotic but relatively warm family, and a snapshot of the life he left to explore space, all of it is efficiently rendered within a day.

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Then that day becomes another day, and another after that, all exactly the same, and suddenly we’re in a Space Dandy version of Groundhog Day, one of our favorite films. Obviously, that makes us a bit biased towards this story, but we love time loops in general, from TNG’s “Cause and Effect”, all the way to “Endless Eight” and Natsuiro Kiseki’s finale. Like Groundhog Day, once Meow realizes tomorow isn’t coming, he makes use of the loops to improve himself and explore the life he left behind.

When he learns his high school crush is a lesbian, he scours the internet for a fix, and it turns out the calendar itself the camera always fixes on in the beginning of each loop is the key; the source of the Moebius loop created by the energy discharge of an imploded superweapon Dr. Gel insisted wasn’t ready yet but Perry deployed anyway. The resolution is beautiful, requiring the precision metalworking skills of Meow’s blue-collar dad to free the stuck page from the calendar.

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We had been thinking it would have involved machining the part needed for the Aloha Oe, that “piece of a certain appliance” that Meow won an award in school for constructing. The last comment about the lives Meow, Dandy, and QT are returning to are usually pretty monotonous, but as QT said, there’s a huge difference between “pretty much” the same day and the exact same day over and over.

There were a ton of details in the episode we loved: the diverse range of siblings Meow had and all their little quirks; the dad’s unashamed love of boobies and routine of going to the bar after work for a couple; the Countach poster on Meow’s wall; the sheer ridiculousness of Dandy picking a fight with an inanimate wall calendar and losing. But most of all, we liked how it took Meow and really elevated him to a new level. It makes us hope origin stories for QT and Dandy are down the road.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

 

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – 10 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 10 Mar 2011 – Did all that just flipping happen? After fleshing everyone else out previously, all that remained was Homura’s story. We got it, and it was fucking epic. Nothing in this episode would have made any sense without knowing everything that preceeded it, and at the same time, this added so much more dimension to an already excellent series by throwing time and causality into the equation.

Homura was once an innoncent, ditzy human, who transferred to Madoka’s school and befriended her. But in this timeline, Madoka and Mimi were already Maho Shojo. When the Walpurgis night comes, Madoka sacrifices herself to save Homura. Not yet a Maho Shojo herself, Homura contracts with Kyuubey with the wish that she be given the ability to change time – as in reset the timeline to the point she first met Madoka – and protect her instead of the other way around.

Not only is the initial role reversal of Madoka and Homura outstanding – Madoka is, in most timelines, a full-fledged, bow-wielding maho shojo – but the fact that things keep going so wrong – Madoka keeps dying and Homura keeps resetting – really drives home how tortured Homura is by the time we meet her in episode one. Hell, things go so awry, there’s even a scene where Madoka has to kill Mami by her own hand!

So Homura was never so much an aloof bitch. She’d just been downtrodden by so many lives and so many undesirable outcomes, and won’t stop trying to protect Madoka, out of her powerful friendship for her, no matter how many attempts she has to make.

This episode cuts back and forth through time a ton, yet stays expertly and confidently held together without a hint of repetition. We love Groundhog Day-type situations like this, but in this case the causality loop is neither involuntary or unwanted; it’s Homura’s will. The entire series we’ve seen thus far is only one of an untold number of timelines that have already run their course. And yet, Madoka seems almost fated to be seduced by Kyuubey – one way or another – fight Walpurgis, and become a witch so powerful she destroys the world.

The episode ends just as the series begins, only this time we hear what Homura is screaming in Madoka’s “dream”: “Don’t contract.” And to Madoka’s credit, she still hasn’t, as of episode nine. Will this finally be the time Homura is able to defeat Walpurgis on her own, without Madoka contracting? We’ll see. Fantastic stuff.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Natsuiro Kiseki – 12 (Fin)

The day of the audition repeats; Yuka messes up at the audition again; they tour Tokyo, and all wake up back in Sumida again. They realize they wished on the big rock’s cousin for summer to never end. The day repeats numerous times; some days they go to the audition, other times they do other things. The only change to anyone else is Rin’s mother, who sees her off by saying something different each day. When her mom asks her when she comes home, Rin figures it out. The four have to thank the rock and say goodbye to summer vacation and the miracles it gave them. The wish is released and tomorrow comes.

If last week’s episode had ended with the first moment of this one – Natsumi waking up in her bed at home in Sumida, then opening her curtain to see Saki standing there – if it had ended just like that, we would have been satisfied. A sudden end, sure, but one that left open the fascinating possibility of a literally eternal summer. One in which Saki never moves; they have infinite chances to nail their idol audition, and they can essentially do whatever they want. But since this is not a noitaminA series, it has twelve episodes, and it decides to not only show us that timeloop, but how the girls ultimately get out of it, and grow in the process.

One reason we love timeloop episodes so much is that deep down, they’re, well…they’re creepy. For humans, time moves forwards and that’s it. When it starts behaving strangely, it opens up a whole can of worms about the nature of our very existence, which can be be unpleasant. Not only that, it’s fun to watch the characters react to this anomaly. A never-ending summer sounds fantastic, but it gets old fast, because it will always get old fast as long as you wake up in the same place at the same time you did yesterday. Everytime the day resets, you feel you exerted all that energy yesterday for nothing; it wears on you.

As a timeloop, it employed lots of montages, which did a good job of quickly portraying the fact that many days were passing and they were getting a lot done, but Rin’s mom, who introduced them to the big rock, subtly prods her daughter to end it soon, or “come home”, as she calls it. The rock’s miracles are…miraculous, but they aren’t everything. Life for the girls can’t truly continue until they release their wish and return to normal time. Life goes on, and Saki moves, but the girls wish one more time – on the now dormant rock – that they’ll stay friends forever. Bawwww.


Rating: 9 (Superior)