Sonny Boy – 11 – Excelsior

I would have been content with episode 8 being Peak Sonny Boy, but I knew it probably had at least one more ten or Lister in it. So we come to the Achingly sad, joyful, empty, bursting, whimsical, utilitarian, lonely, warm, humdrum and epic episode yet. It begins with two humans, a dog, and three cats celebrating the life of Nozomi—the episode confirming what I’d feared without using words (though the explicit words come later).

After preparing the funeral venue with the kind of mirth Nozomi would have totally gotten down with, the sun eventually goes down, no one comes to mourn her, and Mizuho and Nagara set her shrine into the sea to be carried away to parts unknown. Mizuho starts to cry, but Nagara is both too awkward to comfort her and a steady emotional rock sitting beside her.

When live takes away a Nozomi in This World, it gives you a Rajdhani, and while I missed Nozomi more than I thought I could miss a fictional character, it’s to Sonny Boys credit that it softens the blow by bringing back the smartest and one of the kindest and most empathetic characters in the show. He’s been on his own for over 2,000 years, but he’s still Rajdhani. You could say he’s mellowed out a bit.

Mizuho, Nagara, Rajdhani embark upon the most ambitious project to date: Project Robinson, an Apollo-like program with just the three of them, Yamabiko and Nyamazon as the people involved (meanwhile Apollo involved 400,000 people, or more than the population of Iceland). Robinson is Mizuho and Nagara’s ticket out of This World and back to their own, where they figure about two years have passed, but they’re ready to go home anyway…because it’s home.

As work progresses on the Vehicle Assembly Building (an exact copy of the one in Florida), Rajdhani regales both Mizuho and Nagara with some of his more memorable travels to far-flung worlds. In one, a guy refused to accept reality and became trapped in a world of his own embellishment, starting with the depiction of the one he loved.

In another, the entire population of students ate neither plants nor animals but simply fasted—something you can do when you can’t starve—until challenged by a meat-eating devil. And then there was an inventor who invented “death”—or at least as close to death in the world they came from as you can get in This World—which is pretty similar.

The inventor who invented “death” had become “Buddha-like” in Rajdhani’s words, a “well-adjusted person” who was content with what was in front of him. And yet, that was the literal end of his life, for even the most complacent or enlightened humans still age and die.

This World is inhumanly, inhumanely static, which means there comes a point when existence…well, isn’t necessarily a curse, but simply doesn’t matter. Rajdhani admits that he feels like he’s being drained away by time. He calls life “an endless exercise in vain effort”, yet it’s that very meaninglessness that makes every moment in life so precious and brilliant, because each one of those moments is the only one that was, is, or will ever be.

That brings us to a flashback on the beach with Nagara and Nozomi, before her ill-fated trip to War. He’s showing her an earlier version of Project Robinson, which he’d been working on in Rajdhani’s absence. Nozomi ponders the ramifications of suddenly returning home after two years, how they may be different people than who they were, and how she may even be dead.

But one thing Nozomi the Compass knows for sure: the first thing she’ll do when she’s back in their “original” world (that doesn’t involve eating something) will be to seek Nagara out and re-befriend him without delay. It’s after remembering this moment with Nozomi, who promised they’d be friends in any world, that Nagara finally breaks down. And even after over 2,000 years of absorbing knowledge and wisdom, Rajdhani still can’t do anything but sit next to him…and that’s okay.

The completed heart of Project Robinson is revealed as the Saturn V rocket that propelled human beings to the moon, something that remains such a staggeringly awesome achievement, especially considering how long ago it happened. The Saturn V is perhaps the most awesome thing humanity has ever built, and it worked…more than once, is something of a miracle.

And while there were certainly political considerations to be made—the Soviets beat the U.S. to space, so apparently the U.S. had to beat them to the moon—so much labor was put into a mission of pure peaceful exploration and discovery. That the fruit of all that labor brought science closer to the cusp of the unknowable and infinite that our simple carbon-based bi-pedal species had ever come before or since.

It was a simply glorious achievement that makes me misty eyed just thinking about it…so it’s especially fun to see three high schoolers pull if off with a dog and three cats. The Robinson rocket is a 363-foot-tall metaphor for spreading one’s tender, untested new wings and leaving the nest, which is what Mizuho does by leaving her three cats behind. They can’t come back with her to where she belongs, but that’s okay. They did their job. She’ll be okay on her own.

Well, not entirely on her own; she has Nagara. And for an episode in which he mourned the loss of his first friend Nozomi, he smiled and laughed more in this episode than any previous ones. He wouldn’t be the person he is without Nozomi, which is why on the spaceflight up into the infinite, near the boundary between This World and That, he still has a compass watch with arrows that never move, representing Nozomi’s inspiring, indomitable will.

We don’t know what awaits Nagara and Mizuho on the other side any more than they do, but that’s entirely okay. I haven’t had the slightest idea what Sonny Boy will throw our way from one week to the next; I highly doubt it will try for predictable, obvious, or boring in its (assumed) finale next week.

As Rajdhani said, Nothing matters in This World…but once in a while, cool things do happen. Sonny Boy shows us that experiencing those cool things alongside people you love can make what shouldn’t matter…matter.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Sonny Boy – 10 – The Girl Who Knew Too Much

This week’s Sonny Boy experience comes from the POV of Tsubasa, AKA Sarah Plain and Tall With Broken Arm. We learn her power is “Monologue”—the ability to hear everyone’s inner voices. In order to not be ostracized, she’s kept the power a secret from everyone. She listens, but she doesn’t act in a way that would arouse suspicion.

Tsubasa likes Asakaze. She knows he’s kind of an ill-natured prick, but it doesn’t matter; she still likes him. But as she can read minds, she knows it’s unrequited; she also knows Asakaze likes Nozomi. He doesn’t like how close Nozomi is with Nagara. All the while, he’s unconsciously closer to Tsubasa than anyone; only she can hear his inner voice.

Tsubasa can’t help but like Asakaze, but while you’d think she’d try to use her power to try to make him feel the same way, all she does is quietly admire him from a distance. She hears all his thoughts about Nozomi, all the while dreaming of the day all his other romantic options will be exhausted and he’ll “land at her feet.” But between Nozomi (who doesn’t return his feelings) and Aki-sense (who is only wielding Asakaze like a tool), there’s too much competition.

Tsubasa and Nozomi end up accompanying Asakaze and Aki-sensei on the “grand task” he wishes to complete: defeating “War” before he can cause undue destruction. Tsubasa can’t fault Asakaze for liking Nozomi, because she knows that Inner Nozomi is just as wholesome and noble and honest as Outer Nozomi. Everyone practices some degree of deceit…except Nozomi. On the treacherous hike in “War’s” strange ceramic world, it’s Nozomi who comes to Tsubasa’s aid when she twists her ankle.

When they encounter “War” while falling down an endless gorge with a blood red bottom they never reach, he’s a student constantly falling and buffeted by the wind like the Maxell guy. Tsubasa can’t hear his thoughts; the guy is totally empty. Kinda like warD’YOU GET IT?!?!! Ahem…anyway, Aki-sensei (and apparently God AKA Dr. Strangelove) wants Asakaze to eliminate “War” from this world by creating “Death”, leading Nozomi to take him to task for trying to play God.

This causes Aki-sensei to retreat with Asakaze somewhere where she can bury him in her bust and keep him under her thumb. But as Tsubasa always knew since the drifting began, the only person who could truly change Asakaze was Nozomi. Nozomi won’t pretend to pander to him. Asakaze can probably sense that there’s never any deceit with her.

So when Nozomi says “Even if I’m dead, I can accept my own fate,” she means it. Maybe that’s why, after he turns “War” into a gun and the red into white, when the cliff crumbles and she falls, Asakaze doesn’t use his power to save her. Or maybe he can’t.

Meanwhile, Nagara picks up the mantle of island researcher from the long-departed Rajdhani, and continues to experiment with Mizuho’s powers. When he orders a chicken with Nyamazon and then kills it, it stays dead. When Mizuho orders one and he kills it…it comes back. Between having three wise talking cats protecting her and the potential power over life and death, I’m starting to wonder if Mizuho is the true God around these surreal parts.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sonny Boy – 09 – 3 Cats and a Kotatsu

I’m still thinking about Episode 8, so I knew it would be hard to top it…for anything to top it anytime soon. Episode 9 doesn’t come close…but it does begin with the three Nyamazon cats shooting the shit like three wise old farts under a kotatsu. It’s just the latest reminder that predicting what Sonny Boy will throw at you from one week to the next is like trying to predict every move in a chess game when you’re not in the same room.

The cats, famous lovers of warmth, are under the kotatsu because outside the kotatsu is a frozen, snowy world. Nozomi, Nagara, Yamabiko, and their human Mizuho have traveled there to try to settle a thousands-of-years-old battle between two twins over who has the most hairs on their head (one claims to have one more). But it’s also a look back at Mizuho, and how the white cat Sakura believes she can’t survive without the three of them.

Honestly, the twin story is a bit dull, but it at least ties into the concept of duplication, which we learn is to be Mizuho’s true power. Everything the cats deliver to Mizuho and the others is a copy of products from the original world they came from. While Mizuho’s inner circle certainly wouldn’t hold it against her, the cats, who have been with Mizuho since she was a kid and still believe her to be one, are determined to keep it under wraps.

It’s Yamabiko who approaches Sakura with his suspicion that everything the cats deliver is copies. Sakura then admits that Rajdhani had previously figured out that Mizuho had copied everyone from the world, and now they’re drifting as copies of the people they once were, both the same and different, like the twins. Mind you, this dawned on Rajdhani when two copies of a tick dating Game Boy game(!) arrived, even though he knows there was only ever one in existence.

Yet Rajdhani didn’t tell a soul, proving to the cats he had “a fine character, for being so hairless”. Two copies were made of Sou Seiji, like someone accidentally ordering two of something on Amazon by clicking twice.

Sakura is caught in a bear trap to be a sacrifice of one of the twins, but Mizuho and Yamabiko save her. When armed with a gold ray gun by the shit-stirrer Aki-sensei, the other twin ends up with another ray gun, resulting in a duel that ends with only one twin standing, only for that surviving twin to take his own life.

Mixed in with this is how Asakaze seems to be making a habit of lashing out at Nozomi for not liking him romantically, leading to her spending the night outside sulking. One of the cats keeps her company all night, and in the blood red morning Nagara joins them, thanking her for “showing him the light”, leading him to change.

In a world full of copies and sheep, Nozomi, Nagara, Mizuho and Yamabiko (not to mention Rajdhani) stand out as one-of-a-kind souls who all thank the likes of Aki-sensei or Asakaze to let them pick their own places.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sonny Boy – 08 – Canis Dei

What if you befriended God? Yamabiko pretty much did, as he tells the tale of how he became a dog to Nagara and Mizuho as they sit beside campfires in wastelands and traverse various gorgeous landscapes. Kodama was special. She could “direct” all things, and so quickly became worshipped by all her classmates. She became their “whole world.”

Then, out of nowhere, their world became something else: a pandemic struck the class. Horrible red tumors grew on their bodies, including Kodama’s. But Yamabiko, ever her loyal subject, refused to say she was ugly. In fact, he felt very much the opposite: she was hard to look at because she had become too brilliant. When one of her tumors burst and her blood flowed, he lapped it up, and transformed into a dog.

Yamabiko never thought he did much with his human form, an ill-natured youth wandering the worlds alone and bitter. But one night he was pulled out of the literal muck by Kodama. He found himself in a “peaceful, easy world” where she and the others lived contentedly. But she admits it’s dull, as living their cut them off from new information.

Yamabiko couldn’t understand why anyone, much less someone akin to a god as Kodama, would be kind to him. It disturbed him, so he attempted to flee. Remind you of anyone Yamabiko is currently traveling with? Naga-er, Yamabiko tried to sail a raft across the sea, only for Kodama to catch up to him with a hot meal. When he tosses it over the side, she dives in and makes a giant goddamn soup fountain that Yamabiko couldn’t help but lap up.

The more time he spent with Kodama, the more he thought he had come to the end of his once endless wandering, to his destination. But then the pandemic struck, and a man appeared who seemed to fare worse than any of them. This man was the first and only person to call Kodama “ugly”. It both shocked and pleased her, that someone would tell her the truth. That was the whole point.

This mysterious man, named “War” (which…okay) indicated he was not the sole cause of the pandemic, but a side effect of the otherworld in which everyone dwelled. In this world, mental wounds became physical tumors. As for who made this world, well…when Yamabiko was pulled out of that muck, he was being pulled into a world of his own making, which is why Kodama’s godlike powers could not stop the pandemic.

Yamabiko learns to late that had he “changed” himself and flown voluntarily out of the shell he had created around himself, he could have saved Kodama and everyone else; even met them on the other side, in another world where the pandemic didn’t exist. But he couldn’t. Even when Kodama was the last one alive and all but consumed by the red crystal-like tumors, he stayed by her side like the dog he was…loyal to a fault.

Then Kodama died, and Yamabiko finally fulfilled his promise to Kodama by flying out. He’d stayed there till the end because he feared losing the light that she represented. As for actually flying out, it took him five thousand years to do so.

As Yamabiko completes his tale, he, Nagara, and Mizuho reunite with Nozomi, and learn that while they believe they arrived precisely on the day agreed upon, time moves two weeks faster for her. No matter; Nagara takes her phone and re-syncs their times.

That night, beside another fire, Nozomi catches up on what Yamabiko has told the others. He also tells them that this “War” fellow was trying to kill God. Nagara wonders whether it would make a difference even if such a thing could be done while roasting a marshmallow.

So yeah…Yamabiko’s been through some shit. Kodama immediatley asserted herself as one of the most impactful characters of the series in just one episode, and much of that is due to Taketatsu Ayana’s virtuoso performance.

Combined with Tsuda Kenjirou’s dulcet tones, a lush, moody futuristic soundtrack, all those gorgeous, painterly vistas, and some truly gut-wrenching moments, this Sonny Boy stands as the most raw, unrelenting, and personal outing yet. I’ll be watching this many more times in the future, no doubt gleaning new insights or noticing new details each time.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

Sonny Boy – 07 – Nagara Inverted

Sonny Boy loves starting episodes in media res, and this week is no different, as we sit in on the 601,344th meeting of the Drift Victims Society. If it’s a weekly meeting, that means it’s been going on for 11,564 years, give or take a decade. Needless to say, the majority of those assembled are looking for someone to blame for this predicament.

Now they know it’s Nagara, and they condemn him and promise justice, whipping the enraged mob into a bitter froth.

Meanwhile on the island, the Mizuho, Pony, and Yamada watch Hoshi’s faction loads up the Ark with supplies in preparation for a journey from which they won’t be returning. Yamada, who’s been around as long at least half of those meetings, describes the thousands of other castaways, and how it’s taken thousands of years for them to figure out how to travel between worlds.

That this newest class was able to do it in a matter of weeks or months means whatever this “culling” is that God is doing, it’s breeding more capable students with each generation.

When Nagara liberates Rajdhani’s ant farm before he lets the ants start eating each other, he comes upon an exercise bar, and when he decides to flip himself on it. That’s when the episode goes full Patema Inverted, as his world is flipped upside down. A strange student who is completely covered by a giant folded umbrella greets him before he starts falling…up.

Nagara wakes up in the middle of a shift, with helmeted students working tirelessly like worker ants building an endlessly tall tower (but oddly enough, carrying the building blocks downward). Nagara being Nagara, he tries to keep his head down and roll with the punches. He’s bailed out and befriended by the kindhearted Futatsubushi…who’s been at this for over two centuries.

Futatsubushi is charmed by Nagara’s “new guy” aura. Everyone in this world were students of the same school, but now all they’re doing is building the tower…and eating gross invertebrates and insects during their breaks. Hakuna Matata, I guess. Futatsubushi makes it feel like a simple, honest life, even if its seemingly dead-end one.

That night, Nagara is ready to return home, only to find he can’t use his powers. That’s because the “Host” or boss of this world—a guy with glasses who wears a tall sock on his head and is umbrella guy’s associate in an elite group of castaways called Beatnik—is able to nullify those powers. The two hang out atop Babel, basically waiting to see if and when Nagara can figure his way out of this place.

While striking out with Futatsubushi to discover the urban legend of shooting stars, Nagara instead discovers a macro version of the predatory luminescent bugs Rajdhani once showed him. We don’t watch his gruesome “end”—only his screams—but before that he has a very bittersweet monologue about how it’s important to believe in nonsense or continuing to go after a hope, even if it’s false…because otherwise, what is there?

The question of “if not this, than what?” seems foremost in the mind of Nozomi as she watches the cubic Ark carrying Nozomi and most of the rest of the class off to parts unknown grow smaller and smaller in the sky before disappearing altogether. It’s such a simple image as presented, but so haunting and lonely. Meanwhile, the prickly but loyal Mizuho searches diligently for her friend Nagara.

Futatsubushi probably inspired our guy to keep going forward and putting in an effort, even if Hoshi has said many times before that getting home is not in the cards. After remembering when he’d try to flip on the exercise bar as a child while another kid nicknamed “Koumori” (“Bat”) flipped with ease.

Once he’s up at the top of Babel, he walks straight out the railing-less balcony…and re-inverts to his original orientation. Since he figured things out, both Sockhead and Koumori (the same kid he saw that day in his youth) let him go.

No sooner does Nagara return, having been found by Mizuho and Yamada, is it revealed that Rajdhani is also off on his own personal voyage of discover and wonder. Nozomi, a tearful Mizuho, and Nagara all give him big hugs, and I have to admit this completely unexpected goodbye scene really made the air in my room dusty.

With Rajdhani gone, apparently the only ones still on the island are Nagara, Nozomi, Mizuho, Yamada, Asakaze, and possibly the members of Aki-sensei’s faction that didn’t leave on the Ark (Aki-sensei, it’s revealed, is just another student). I almost wish it’s just the five of them left. While the ideas and allegories are growing bigger and more complex, I’m excited at the prospect of the cast getting drastically stripped down to the basics.

SSSS.Dynazenon – 12 (Fin) – E Pluribus Gundum

Gauma is in a bad way and Second can only ease his pain, but with Gridknight and Goldburn losing ground to Shizumu, Yume and Yomogi know what to do. Juuga, Mujina and Onija notice the new Shizumu Kaiju, realize they can’t control it, and instead allow him to swallow them up. This makes things even more difficult for Knight-kun.

Koyomi’s Dyna-car just happens to land near enough to him that he can simply hop in and join the battle; ditto Yomogi, who gets to make a dramatic leap over a cliff of debris into his Soldier. Yume trips and falls, but Yomogi soon tracks her down and offers to take her to her Wing. Gauma even manages to pilot his Dyna-thingy with Second, so all six pieces of the puzzle are there to fight the Eugenicists.

It’s here where we get a lot of those trademark super-intense Trigger Faces, as Juuga curses (and confesses?) to Gauma (who tells him to “shaddap!”), Mujina curses Koyomi (who loudly apologizes), and Yume and Yomogi get the silent treatment from their former classmate Shizumu. But once Yomogi realizes he can Instance Dominate the enemy with his Kaiju user power, the battle is pretty much over.

There’s a number of different Dyna-combinations, all of which are great fun to watch as the pilots shout in unison. The coup-de-grace comes from the old standby Super Dragon Dyna Rex (carrying a combo of Gridknight and Goldburn on its back) firing off the most verbose attack yet: Blazing Hot Inferno Burning Grid Rex Roar.

The Eugenicists glimpse their impending deaths and accept their fate (again), but so does Gauma, who passes away shortly after claiming victory. None of them are particularly upset about this; Mujina even thinks it might be “better this way”, while Juuga is certain the time of Kaiju will still come someday. As for Gauma, he finally understands why the Princess didn’t revive with him: because she entrusted Dynazenon to him. And he did good.

Three months later, as the silent credits roll (no OP or ED in this finale, but the opening theme did make an appearance during the battle, as is its wont), we get a very wide shot of Yume and Yomogi walking slowly across a bridge, Yume stopping Yomogi going back for her, and the two continuing on. I don’t know about you, but to me this feels like Yume wordlessly giving Yomogi her answer.

The two join Chise and Koyomi to take one last look at Gauma’s home under the bridge and bid farewell to Knight and Second, who are taking the now-inert Dynazenon and Gridknight with them. It must be tough, but Chise accepts that the best and coolest friend she ever had doesn’t belong in the world of logic and reason.

Speaking of which, Chise is back in her slick street clothes, since her school was one of the casualties of the climactic battle. That’s a pretty cool touch. As for Koyomi, he looks so different three months later with his haircut and well-fitting suit, I assumed at first he was a last-minute cameo from the Gridmanverse. Chise has also ditched her sleeve, revealing a Goldburn tattoo that was there all along. Looks like her friend will always be with her after all.

That leaves the inevitable cultural festival scene. Yomogi and Yume’s class is doing a horror café, and their shift is about to start but Yume is trying to shirk her duty. After pointing his mom and new stepdad—whom he seems to have accepted and even get along with— to the tickets, he is selected by his friends to track Yume down.

After seeing Mai’s photo exhibition (she decided to use photos of Yume after all which…why would you not), Yume finds the highest place in the school and sings a song in tribute to Kano. Then, as she was probably expecting, Yomogi finds her. She reaches out her hand and, after he recalls a final convo with Shizumu about how he was rejecting a future as a fellow kaiju user, but he was okay with that, he takes her hand and helps her onto her feet.

You can really feel the weight of he characters and the touch of their hands thanks to the animation and sound. She then scolds Yomogi for using her last name Minami, Yomogi relents and calls her Yume while blushing all the way, and Yume lets out a cheekily mirthful laugh.

Once they’re done their shift (as a bloody corpse and mummy, respectively), Yume and Yomogi pose for a photo with the others, and notice they still have their scars. Yume hopes they’ll never lose them, since they’re precious reminders of how they found themselves, found other, and learned to find happiness in their lives. These crazy kids are going to be alright.

The final scene is of Knight and Second arriving back in what I’ll call Akane’s illusory world. I’ll go ahead and assume Yomogi & Co.’s world was pretty much our world. While this is pretty cool to see, it’s not as huge or goosebump-inducing as Gridman’s live action mic drop. IN fact, you could probably make a case that Yomogi’s world is also a fake, simply because everyone looks like they’re in an anime.

That’s further food for thought, but in the end, my cerebral stomach is feeling pretty satisfied already. SSSS Dynazenon was one hell of an eclectic, sumptuous meal, a brilliant and epic melding of the absurd and mundane, both impossibly fantastical and piercingly real. I’m really going to miss this gang of misfits, but assuming Trigger isn’t done with robots, kaiju, and alienated, flawed, and immensely charming characters, I look forward to the next entry in the Gridman Universe.

SSSS.Dynazenon – 11 – Neon Genesis Ordinarion

The Eugenicists wake up lying in a parking lot, and immediately realize they’ve lost once again to Gauma and his human comrades. Only this time, their loss apparently means something: there will be no more kaiju in this world, which means they’ve lost to him for good. Mujina, Juuga and Onija all go off in separate directions to sulk, but only Shizumu stays put, looking the least defeated and very much like someone who knows something the other three don’t.

Meanwhile, with the final battle against the Eugenicists won, Koyomi starts to draw upon the change he gained since becoming a Dyna-Pilot, by crafting his resume and dusting off his old suit. Chise can only stand there with potato chip crumbs on her face in quiet recognition that Koyomi was going to abandon his NEEThood eventually. And in the most telling sign that we’re entering a new normal, Gauma seems to be suffering from a chronic wasting disease, complete with purple marks on his skin.

Free of much of her grief and uncertainty, Yume apologizes to Kano’s ex, surprising Mei, while also playfully refusing to let Mei submit a photo of her for a competition. Chise follows Koyomi’s lead and dons her sailor fuku, hoping to return to school with Goldburn flying overhead watching her. Only Gridknight and Second show depart with Goldburn, as kaiju like them don’t belong in the normal world.

Chise knew this would happen, but still doesn’t get why, and she and Goldburn flee. Juuga seeks out Gauma, apparently to intentionally receive a beating, commenting on how little Gauma’s blows hurt. Yume and Yomogi learn that Gauma’s “Princess” took her life after he died, Romeo & Juliet style, but only he was revived. Then Gauma collects their Dynazenon toys.

Koyomi already gave him his and went straight to a photo booth for some somewhat professional-looking headshots. Mujina stops by to tell him she despises him…but does she really mean it?

While looking at an article about 5,000-year-old mirror that “went missing”, Yume leans close enough to Yomogi’s phone to make him blush, then asks him if he’ll come with her “somewhere” tomorrow. That somewhere ends up being Kano’s grave, which she’s never visited before but feels it’s time to visit now. Like Koyomi, she’s taking steps forward.

In a way, Yomogi does the same when he doesn’t budge on blowing off dinner with his mom and her fiance—with an assist from his gran. Mom can be as cross as she likes with him, but she should be happy he has a genuine connection with someone that’s become far more meaningful than his other school friends considering all they’ve been through together and done for each other.

What ensues is a grave visit that feels like a date. It’s jubilant rather than morose in the way a lively wake can often be. She’s there to visit, tidy up, and pray to her family and sister’s grave, but she’s also there to bury the Yume she became after Kano’s death. Part of that is embracing Yomogi as a friend and kindred spirit, as she learns he has it as “tough” as she in the parental department—maybe worse.

That night, while walking home, Yume mentions how no more kaiju and no more Dynazenon or uniting goal means everyone might drift apart into their own stuff. As she so eloquently puts it, “We fought kaiju and stuff, but it was the closest to normal my life’s ever been.” Of course, she’s not talking about the kaiju-robot battles, but all of the things that happened in between that brought everyone closer together and changed them all for the better.

Yomogi stops, looks slightly downward then directly at Yume, and firmly assures Yomogi that kaiju or no, Dynazenon or no, he still wants to see her. Then he says he likes her and asks her to go out with him, which is, I believe, a reasonable request. Yume seems poised to answer him immediately, and while I was bracing for a “no”, instead the moment is interrupted by Shizumu.

Predictably with two episodes left, the fight isn’t over, and Shizumu hasn’t lost for good either. The thanks both Yume and Yomogi for all of the emotions they gave off in the times they were together, particularly now. He’s thanking them for this because, as we see, there’s a kaiju inside him, which he’s been saving as a last resort in case Gauma and Dynazenon got the better of him and the others.

He has no qualms about rushing Yomogi with the intent to harm and even kill him, but Gauma rushes in at the last second to take the blow for Yomogi. It’s likely the only blow he’ll be able to take against Shizumu, considering his rapidly regrading condition, but thankfully Gridknight, Second, and even Goldburn come to their aid.

Shizumu uses Instance Domination on himself, summoning a big beautiful chortling mega-dinosaur robot of a kaiju, and immediately starts wrecking up the place with abandon.

Even though Gauma says a hospital can’t do anything about the “decay” quickly consuming him, Yomogi still won’t allow him to just lie there and die, and Second helps carry him. Gridknight combines with Goldburn to form Super Dragon King Kaiser Gridknight, but Shizumu proceeds to mop the floor with him, leveling many a multi-use block in the process.

As he strolls through flames like one of the God Warriors of the Seven Days of Fire that destroyed the world of yore in Nausicaa, our ordinary heroes are once again tasked with uniting to achieve extraordinary feats. I’m as glad Yomogi finally told Yume he liked her as I’m bummed Shizumu kept us from hearing her answer (whatever it was).

Those offsetting emotions, along with the fact this was merely the setup for the final showdown, kept this week’s score out of the exosphere, but it was still full of great, mundane, everyday scenes and sounds, and while I’m looking forward to the animators outdoing themselves in the decisive battle, I hope the finale doesn’t abandon that vital “normalness” that’s made both Dynazenon and Gridman before it so rich and absorbing.

Yes, despite its often absurd and fantastical situations, Dynazenon still manages to feel like home—a home I know I’ll miss when it departs.

SSSS.Dynazenon – 10 – Moblie Suit Yourself

After the group ended last week in the very highest of spirits, enjoying their own little summer fireworks festival, this week everyone seems a bit board. When it’s mentioned there haven’t been any kaiju in a while, that’s basically the…ahem…Trigger for one to appear. And this kaiju is unlike any that have come before.

Not content to fight a battle with mere, matter or energy this handsome, hulking mecha-beast’s unique ability is to blip people and objects out of time and space. Shizumu celebrates its arrival by saying he’s been waiting for this particular kind of kaiju; one that will “free them all”.

First Mujina vanishes in the blink of an eye, leaving only a motionless shadow. Then it’s Yume, who was right beside Yomogi. She ends up in the back seat of her car, younger and smaller, and her sister Kano alive and well. As Yume focuses on her sister, a tiny Dyna Wing flies behind her and eventually comes apart.

The kaiju trudges through the city, blipping out entire buildings, and its here where Dynazenon, already a proven virtuoso in the field of sound design, really takes it up a level. There’s just something so terrifying and yet also oddly calming about how it goes about its business in dead silence. Like the characters, it feels like dread is lurking just around the corner, and you wont hear it when it’s finally upon you.

Yomogi and Koyomi are on an elevator to a rooftop, but only Yomogi makes it to the top, as Koyomi is absorbed into his memory of finding the cash with Inamoto-san. Yomogi, discouraged, leaps into the kaiju’s mouth before the building beneath him vanishes. Anti is transported back to when he was in Akane’s world, and Akane even makes a cameo at the restaurant where Anti pigs out.

Even Gauma isn’t immune to the Kaiju’s insidious attack, being transported back over five thousand years to the time he wore the same uniform as the Eugenicists, and they were all buds, and he met the Princess, his affection for whom led to him betraying his comrades.

Yomogi ends up in the memory when his mother first brought up her new boyfriend/husband-to-be, but unlike the others Yomogi isn’t that interested in this illusion. He regrets not telling his mom he didn’t want to meet the guy, but he doesn’t try to re-live anything, because he’s primarily concerned with saving Yume and the others.

It’s foremost in his brain that it’s All Up To Him. And as his Dyna Soldier isn’t broken, he grasps it and manages to shatter the memory, ending up in a void somewhere within the kaiju’s body. There, he can see through the various mirrors, windows, and displays in the memories of the others, including Yume, but is unable to attract her attention.

Meanwhile, the buildings and people still existing in the city are dwindling fast as the kaiju continues its relentless march, but both Chise and Second are protected from being blipped by—you guessed it—the trusty Goldburn. But they’re unable to do anything in that shield; only hope someone can undo the kaiju’s undoing.

Despite being in their respective past younger selves, Yume, Koyomi, and Gauma are still aware on some level that their situations are chances to right wrongs they’ll later regret. Koyomi doesn’t run from Inamoto, and takes her on a joyride to the beach with the cash. Yume tries to stop Kano from leaving for the flood gate, but isn’t able to follow through.

As Chise starts to seriously worry, Second assures her whether the others can return is “entirely up to them.” That may be true, but it’s mostly up to Yomogi, who after literally throwing himself at a solid wall again and again says he simply Will Not Stand for Yume feeling bad—is finally able to shatter the boundary between them.

Yume instantly transforms back to her present-day age, and holds the beaten-up Yomogi when he collapses. Once again, Yomogi puts others first, exclaiming for them to stop her sister. Kano is indeed atop the flood gate, singing a lovely but also sad and lonely song. But to Yume’s relief, she’s not trying to kill herself. She has no intention of dying, and she genuinely wants Yume to come to her recital.

Yomogi leaves Yume with her sister so they can talk for a little while, confident that unlike last time Yume will come back. He then proceeds to free Koyomi, Gauma, and Anti. Koyomi learns that even back then Inamoto wasn’t serious about them running away together, and suspected the cash was fake.

Gauma faces his former friends and says he didn’t betray the others for the country that betrayed them, but for the Princess alone. Anti…well, Anti seemingly knew what was going on all along and was planning to leave of his own accord.

Getting back to Yume, she has what so many people who have lost someone under mysterious circumstances would dream of having: not a chance to bring that person back, but to learn what actually happened so she can have closure. When Kano realizes this is an older version of Yume from after her death, she regrets distancing herself from Yume due to her superior “agreeability”.

It soothes Yume’s heart to no end to know Kano didn’t take her life or invite her to her recital as some kind of cruel goodbye crystallizing their rift for all time. Instead, the reason for her being on the flood gate was all too practical and mundane: she wanted somewhere solitary to practice singing.

Before they part, Kano urges Yume to “make sure you rely on people”—something Yume mentions she’s already gotten the hang of. When Yume asks if she should stay in this world with her, Kano tells her the same thing she used to say to her all the time—”suit yourself”—but this time its  meant out of love and confidence in Yume, not apathy or resentment.

With all four Dyna Pilots plus Anti freed from their pasts, it’s time for a kaiju battle, which is quick and clean. With a full head of steam and maximum motivation and synchonization, the group blasts out of the kaiju and combine with Goldburn to become Super Dragon King Kaiser Gridknight.

When their opponent proves quick and elusive, they power up Dyna Saber and unleash a Kaiser Knight Circular, and ever-expanding purple ring that eventually catches up to the furiously darting kaiju’s teal trail, slicing it clean in two. Interestingly enough, the minimalist abstract shape seen from high above calls to mind both the neon signs of the eighties and the graphics once common on Solo cups and pickup trucks alike.

With the highest-difficulty kaiju defeated, every character comes away a changed person, no more than Yume, who celebrates having made up with Kano and learned the truth by singing on the top of the flood gate as her sister once did.

Koyomi learns he was chasing something unattainable all along, and choosing to go with Inamoto didn’t magically make them be together. Yomogi doesn’t really deal with his problems, but to be fair, he was singularly responsible for saving the others. Even if Anti freed himself, he’s not a Dyna pilot, and didn’t harbor anywhere near the intensity of emotions Yomogi harbored for Yume. That may have kept him from helping the others.

The episode ends cryptically, when after Gauma collapses due to apparent hunger, we cut back to him lying on the ground in the past after betraying the Eugenicists. I’m notot sure what to make of this, but I’m certainly intrigued. Despite this ellipsis, this episode still represents another high watermark for Dynazenon excellence.

SSSS.Dynazenon – 09 – Teamwork Makes the BEAM Work

This week’s Dynazenon has a little bit of everything, which is only fitting because it’s about the merits of simply jumbling everything together. It begins with a much-anticipated laser focus on Chise, who has a surreal dream that perfectly visualized how she felt when she attended school—she was off, lost in her gorgeous, intricate doodles.

She wakes up in her cavernous, modern bedroom as an Alice stand-in, finding all of her possessions are either far bigger or far smaller than they should be. Turns out that’s the handiwork of a little golden kaiju born from the growth she found and carried with her all this time. Because the kaiju has imprinted upon her and has come to know her heart, it obeys her wishes. She names it Goldburn, after a band.

There’s a fireworks festival soon, and while neither Yomogi or any of his friends are that interested, Yume wants to give it a go, so Yomogi is in too. Chise is trying to tell Koyomi about the “hypothetical” good kaiju in her suitcase, but he’s distracted by Yomogi’s call inviting them to join them. When Chise then tries Gauma, he’s firm in his belief all kaiju must be defeated.

As she wavers over what to do, her friend suddenly grows in size, scooping her up and taking her on a ride through the skies over the city. It’s fun until it suddenly isn’t—when Chise spots her school. Goldburn almost obeys the momentary emotions in her heart wishing the school wouldn’t exist, but she’s able to steer Goldburn out of a potentially destructive dive.

Yume is walking home with her friend, who is curious whether she and Yomogi are dating, when Yomogi calls her back to school, reporting that Kano’s ex-boyfriend Futaba has arrived to talk to them. If Yume was hoping for some kind of groundbreaking revelation from him, then she’s bitterly disappointed by the resulting talk.

Futaba claims that while he heard about Kano being bullied in the chorus club, he never witnessed it first hand. When Yume asks then why Kano committed suicide, Futaba repeats the official line that it was merely an accident, and that “Kano wasn’t like that”, offering no further explanation. His answers not only don’t impress Yume, they downright upset her.

But just when she is overcome by emotion, they get a call from Gauma about a new kaiju, and she clams up for a moment to assure Yomogi that she’s fine, they should go, and she’ll be right behind him. Meanwhile, Chise is considering what to do with her enormous friend when Goldburn suddenly flies off on his own.

Yomogi arrives to find Gauma, Koyomi, and Gridknight in dire need of someone with wings to lift them off the suddenly soft and undulating ground (due to Juuga’s kaiju’s power) Yomogi ain’t that. When he tells Gauma what went down with Yume, the captain orders him to go back and get Yume, you jackass, because you’re the only one who can bring her back.

With Goldburn off on his own, a lonely, left-out looking Chise locates Yume perched atop the tower where her sister died. When Chise asks what’s wrong, Yume tosses out her boilerplate “it has nothing to do with you”, adding that “nothing good” comes of it whenever she fights. But Chise has tried to fight hard alongside everyone all this time, so she does not want to hear that it’s nothing to do with her.

Right on cue, Goldburn arrives, but of course both Yume and a quickly approaching Yomogi assume its foe, not friend, and Chise doesn’t have time to properly explain, because Yomogi is coming in hot to save Yume. Chise asks Yume who else would fly in to save her like this, and tells her she “doesn’t know what she’s got.”

But the wind from Dyna Soldier blows Yume’s ankh puzzle out of her hand and over the edge, and she dives off the tower after it with no regard for her safety. Yomogi lunges toward her to catch her in midair, but just misses. Fortunately, Goldburn is listening to Chise’s heart in this moment, and pluck Yume up by her cardigan mere feet from the water.

Chise, Yume, and Yomogi arrive at the scene of the battle where Gauma, Koyomi, and Gridknight are getting their asses beat by Juuga’s kaiju. Fortunately, with the aid of flight, a lot of the enemy’s advantage is lost.

More to the point, the minute Gauma, Yomogi, Yume, Koyomi, Chise, and Gridknight decide to all join forces into one big, beautiful kaiju-mecha melange, it spelled the beginning of the end for the Eugenicists’ chances of victory.

In an absolutely bonkers, virtuoso combination sequence paired with the most lavishly bombastic orchestral accompanied yet, Dynazenon merges with both Gridknight and Goldburn to create a big, brash, bulky and beautiful Super Dragon King Kaiser Gridknight, which is a mouthful of name for a framefull of robot. He’s even got a sheer purple cape, the better to dazzle the stage.

There’s nothing Juuga can do once all of his adversaries got “all lumped up”, which makes them stronger and faster and able to counter any attack thrown its way with tenfold force. After doing a little parkour off flying skyscrapers, Yomogi’s Dynamic Cannon delivers the beam-de-grace, and the team victory is immediately celebrated by the fireworks display amazingly not cancelled by the kaiju attack.

The ending scene is the perfect cool-down sequence after all that high-octane mecha madness. Much to Chise’s delight, Gauma accepts Goldburn as an ally despite being a kaiju, and while the whole team—including Gridknight and Second—make a run for it, they still miss the entirety of the festival. No matter; they all buy fireworks and have their own festival on the waterfront.

Yume takes her leave, promising she’ll be back, but I already knew exactly what she was up to, so there was no need to be wary. Sure enough, she returns resplendent in her gorgeous yukata, which understandably took a while to put on, but was worth it. While she plumbed the depths of despair after interviewing Futaba, here Yume rises to new heights of joy as she and Yomogi and everyone else enjoy each other’s company, all lumped together, and all the better for it.

SSSS.Dynazenon – 08 – Anywhere Is Fine

Shizumu immediately identifies this week’s Kaiju as “failed” and leaves it be while kids poke at it. Then Gauma wakes up from a nap and he’s the kaiju equivalent of “slimed”.

He calls an emergency meeting just as Yume is contemplating whether to answer Yomogi, who had just asked if she wanted to go somewhere—anywhere is fine—to hang out together.

Yomogi and Yume go into work mode, as they and the others search for the kaiju that’s…painting things in bright cheerful colors. Then they find it, and when they give chase it just…falls over. 

This, small, weird, harmless kaiju is their weakest “adversary” yet, so much so that even Gauma, who got painted, stays his makeshift weapon when the others say they shouldn’t kill a kaiju that’s not going berserk due to the Eugenicists’ Instance Domination.

Gauma, technically being a kaiju user himself, tries to control it by flashing the Vulcan salute, to no avail. Then Chise gives it a try, followed by Koyomi. Yomogi doesn’t want to do it, but then Yume does it, so of course he does it…and it works. Sort of? Maybe it was just lucky timing that the kaiju reacted to him?

But no, it wasn’t just a coincidence. Something happened. Yomogi caught a glimpse of…something for an instant—a weird network of colorful lines and a white, fibrous growth. Knight (AKA Anti) and Second stop by to impress upon the Dynas the importance of keeping a close eye on it, but when Gauma falls asleep at his post, it escapes its cage.

Interestingly, the Eugenicists don’t really do anything other than something the Dyna-pilots have yet to do—hang out and have fun just for the f**k of it, not because they work together. Bowling, tennis, hoverboards, and pool…they’re just living life.

The Dynas, meanwhile are all business on a Sunday trying to find the kaiju Gauma lost track of. Yomogi pairs up with Anti, who has absolutely no gray area about his role should a kaiju pose a threat to others: kill without hesitation. This, despite the fact that Kaiju are born of human emotions, so its not 100% clear they don’t have human emotions as well.

When the kaiju surfaces, it has grown to a far more kaiju-esque size, and indeed begins to threaten the city, specifically the mall where Yume and Chise were searching. Koyomi stops Gauma from launching a reckless missile attack, and proposes instead that they lure it to a safer place to do battle.

It seems to be working until the kaiju seemingly gets upset with the beckoning Koyomi and tosses him like a ragdoll. The kaiju then gloms onto the glass facade at the mall, causing a panic and stampede; Chise and Yume are separated, and Yume drops her Dyna Wing off a high ledge.

When Chise reports Yume’s predicament to the others, Yomogi panics; he doesn’t want to kill the kaiju, but he doesn’t want Yume hurt or worse. So he tries Instance Domination once more, and once more it has the same momentary effect, only this time the kaiju sprouts an eye and seems to stare directly at Yomogi.

When it becomes clear he has to choose between killing the kaiju and saving Yume, Yomogi pulls the trigger. But he doesn’t feel good about it; not when he does it, and not afterward during the team debrief. Chise also notices that the weird white growth she picked up a few weeks ago is becoming larger and more complex…and we see that it looks just like the white thing Yomogi saw in his flash of Instance Domination. That also isn’t a coincidence.

Yet as these weird, potentially show-shattering revelations are quietly revealed, the ending is perhaps the most heartwarming part of the episode. It’s a repeat of Yomogi and Yumes ride in the back of the bus, but the lighting is a lot warmer and more cheerful, and this time it’s Yume who gives Yomogi a playful little chop to the ribs, asks if he’s hungry, and whether he wants to go somewhere…anywhere will do. That may be true, but I’m glad their friendship is going where it is.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Darling in the FranXX – 06

Dawn rises on the day of a battle that will decide whether everyone gets to see another sunrise. A massive horned cubic klaxosaur trundles over the horizon with a retinue of foot soldiers, throwing some serious Ramiel vibes—bizarre, mysterious, merciless. Ichigo tries to wash away her troubles with a refreshing bath; Gorou continues to worry about Hiro.

Gorou tries to get Ichigo to talk to Hiro, and Ichigo uses the opportunity to try to confess her feelings, but Zero Two appears, and says what she isn’t feeling instead—that she thinks of Hiro as a sibling—and is devastated when he says he feels the same. Ichinose Kana is killing it so far, even if it’s extremely hard to forget she’s not Hanazawa Kana.

With things needed to be said left unsaid, Zero Hour approaches, and the two Squads and Strelitzia take their positions. The effects of Ichigo’s unrequited love on her performance and Hiro’s ability to survive his third sortie with Two aren’t the only concerns: Squad 13 wants to prove to 26 they’re not just a bunch of in-the-way misfits.

The sheer scale of the boss before them, and the dramatic staging and lighting really lend this battle a sense of occasion and urgency; it’s all or nothing; either these ten comparatively tiny FranXX stop the enemy, or both Plantations will be destroyed.

The only mark against these stakes (which often applied to the populace in Eva as well) is that we never really see any of the people the parasites are protecting, aside from their two adult handlers and Dr. FranXX himself. That’s a small mark, and it’s easily forgiven in light of the pandemonium that ensues.

The contrast between the coordination and discipline of the five identical gray Squad 26 FranXX (also female in form) and those of Squad 13 (or lack thereof) is more stark than Arya, as Ichigo can barely keep her squad hanging in there when some lesser Klax get get through the front lines.

Zero Two observes this contrast, and the dire state of the 13th, and thinks she and Hiro should join the battle sooner rather than later before there isn’t a 13th left. Hiro asks Two why she fights the Klax; she opines it may be because “she’s a monster.”

Two asks him the same, and he says its because his only purpose in life is to protect Papa and the adults. They sortie, against orders, and mop up the Klax harassing the 13th with ease…but Hiro immediately starts to have trouble staying in sync, and the blue veins on his chest start to spread to his entire body and face.

Ichigo lays down the law, ordering Strelitzia to fall back, as she’ll be providing the coup-de-grace. That’s after the 26th, even with their perfectly coordinated tactics, utterly fail to destroy the giant “Gutenberg-class” Klaxosaur. Instead, it shapeshifts from a cube to a humanoid form.

Their leader 090 is almost crushed, but is saved in the nick of time by Argentea, and Zorome and Miku instantly earn his respect. The 13th gets their shit together and Ichigo orders everyone to create an opening for Strelitzia. Hiro uses everything he has left to help Two deliver the killing blow, and with an Eva-esque cross flare, they cause an explosion within the boss.

…But everything Hiro had wasn’t enough. The Gutenberg shifts again into a massive battering ram, and in another nod to Shinji’s first mission in Eva 01, that ram begins repeatedly smashing into Strelitzia. Hiro loses consciousness and Strelitzia shuts down.

Things look bad from Delphinium’s POV; indeed, when Ichigo fears she’s lost Hiro (without telling him what she actually has to say, to boot), Delph shuts down too, and Gorou can’t console Ichigo.

Hiro enters a dream-state, where he assumes he’s dead. Naomi chastises him for giving up. He says he didn’t give up, he just gave all he had. Unlike with Naomi, he still thinks Zero Two can carry on fighting without him. He’s content to go out being as useful as he could be, without regrets.

But that’s not quite right; and he’s not quite being truthful. Zero Two gave him a place to belong and a purpose again; he can’t simply lie down and die while she’s still in the cockpit suffering, slowly reverting to her baser Klaxosaur side.

Zero Two is on the verge of completely Losing It when Hiro hugs her from behind and tells her she should never have to fight—or be—alone again. The blue growth disappears. What is that stuff? I’d like to think it represents the lingering fear and doubt he carried; the belief that he was expendable to Zero Two when the opposite was the case.

With that gone, he gets his second wind, and he and Zero Two finish off the Gutenberg in grand, madcap fashion, with a nice assist from his fellow parasites in the 13th. His doubts and fears are gone now, because he’s found another reason to pilot a FranXX: to be Two’s wings.

And it’s wings we see spreading over the airborne Gutenberg before crushing it and releasing a titanic cloud of blue blood. Mission Accomplished. Casualties: Surprisingly, Zero.

As we watch him and Zero emerge from the cockpit to come together and celebrate with the other parasites from both squads, Hiro recounts the tale of the “Jian”, a bird with one wing, necessitating a male and female pair to lean on one another to achieve flight. That’s the case with Hiro and Zero Two, so he resolves to keep leaning on her that they might fly as high and far as they want.

Halfway into its first half, FranXX delivers a rousing powerhouse resolution to the “Can Hiro Cut It” arc. Now that we know he can, and that he won’t be dying from creepy blue growths anytime soon, we can move on to other matters, like if or when Ichigo will ever tell Hiro how she feels (if she still feels that way after the battle; I’m guessing yeah) and the identity of those new parasites we got a glimpse of in the ep’s final moments.

Whatever comes next, a solid foundation has been laid.

Darling in the FranXX – 05

Now that Hiro has shown he and Zero Two can make a difference in Strelizia, everything is just peachy on the Plantation, right? They can relax, celebrate their victory as Plantation 26 hooks up with theirs, and look forward to Hiro leading the way in the next Klaxosaur battle. Hiro and Zorome even bury the hatchet.

Well, not so fast. Hiro’s body is boiling. Gorou is concerned, but Hiro says he’s never felt better. On one level that might be true—he made a difference and has a chance to keep contributing—but on the basic physical level, he has to be suffering. And this is after two times in the cockpit with Two. “The next time is the third”, Nana ominously says. No stamen has ever made it to a fourth.

FranXX proves it can deliver an engaging episode without any flashy battles between the enemy and its titular sexy mecha. That’s because both the main players and the supporting roles are all very well-executed, if archetypal.

Ichigo in particular turns in a wonderfully-layered performance, due in no small part to the talents of newcomer seiyu and Hana-Kana sound-alike Ichinose Kana, as the squad leader watches her beloved Hiro snatched away from her by the haughty Zero Two.

Ichigo takes this in stride—she isn’t even the person she was a few episodes back, but just because she’s better able to prioritize her personal feelings with her duties (and asking that Gorou do the same) doesn’t mean those feelings aren’t there, seething beneath her cool surface.

Ichigo makes it plain to Zero Two that she won’t tolerate rule-breaking or offer special treatment, and takes Two’s “bossy” comment as a compliment. Meanwhile, Hiro continues to writhe in a pain he is hiding from everyone, and spots a spider on the bathroom light about to kill a moth; a not-so-subtle symbol of his current situation.

When Squad 13 meets Squad 26, we learn just how different and unusual our squad is, with its unique FranXX and nicknames for their parasites. 26 is All Business, but aren’t so cold they’ll crush Zorome’s dreams by telling him no children ever become adults in this business.

Parasites purpose is to fight until they die or can’t fight anymore; growing up and procreating, it would seem, is for other people. They’re not fighting for their future, but for a future for mankind they’ll never see. Hiro seems to understand this more than anyone, as he’s willing to keep partnering with Two even as a bizarre and intensely painful blue growth spreads across his chest.


Gorou eventually discovers Hiro’s secret, but Hiro makes him keep it a secret, out of deference to their friendship and because Gorou doesn’t want to be the one to deliver the news that will ground Hiro and rob him of his chance to make a difference.

There’s also the fact that Strelizia is a big part of Hachi and Nana’s battle plan for the impending surge of Klaxosaurs descending upon the kissing Plantations, and they cannot guarantee the success of the mission (i.e., their survival) if Hiro and Zero don’t sortie.

When Squad 26’s leader hears that Strelizia will join the battle, he shows the most emotion he has up to that point, condemning Two for not caring about her allies and blaming her for the death of his former partner.

Two isn’t apologetic; she doesn’t even recall the battle that changed this guy’s life, and says “weaklings die”. But when he draws closer in anger Hiro blocks him, assuring him he’ll keep Two under control.

That night, Ichigo goes off with Two to warn her not to push Hiro too far. This is beyond jealousy; Ichigo doesn’t want to lose Hiro, no matter what, but Two cannot guarantee anything. Things turn nasty when Ichigo accuses her of wanting to “suck Hiro dry” and discard him.

Two states that if he dies its because he didn’t have anything going for him, she slaps her and calls her inhuman. Two, with her headband knocked off her horns, glares at Ichigo with glowing red eyes and asks what Ichigo and the others even think “human” is.

Gorou, who couldn’t sleep (Hiro groaning in pain in the opposite bunk), observed Ichigo and Two’s exchange, and Ichigo bursts into tears, lamenting how much of a mess her mind is, and not wanting to feel the way she does. Faced with his partner getting so upset about another guy, Gorou seems to feel something similarly undesirable.

Ichigo and Gorou would seem to be in the worst possible emotional state prior to the biggest and most hazardous battle of their lives (it might claim a parasite or two from Squad 13 before it’s over), but Hiro and Zero Two are an island of tranquility, standing by the pond where they met.

Two knows about the growth and the pain Hiro is enduring, and gives him one last chance to back out from darlinghood. Hiro immediately and firmly declines. He said he’d fly with her. It’s what he wants. And he’ll do it as long as he’s able and allowed (or even if he’s disallowed, as he was last week). He knows the wings he’s been given may snap any day, but his place is in the sky.

Houseki no Kuni – 12 (Fin)

Padparadscha isn’t around long (she falls asleep mere hours after waking up for the first time in over two centuries), but makes the most of their time, and thanks in no small part to androgynous voice expert Romi Park, “Paddy” (my nickname, not the show’s) makes an impact both on me and Phos.

The last time Paddy was awake, Phos was just a cute “little pebble” hiding behind Master’s robes. Now Paddy seems impressed with the person Phos has become. While walking and talking—Paddy’s open shirt, tattoo-like chest spots, uneven socks and method of sword-holding all call to mind a wise old samurai—Phos trusts Paddy enough to mention wanting to talk with the Lunarians.

Paddy gives Phos some sage advice: pure truth can leave wounds as bad as lies; Phos must keep her composure and be mindful of her actions. Later, Phos—motionless and covered in butterflies—ponders the next move.

Like Paddy, Zircon showed up late in the story, but as a foreground character, Z’S little self-contained story works well enough. Around the same age as Phos, Z has a crisis of confidence when partnering with Bort, who doesn’t say a word the whole time. Z doesn’t think she can compete with Phos after being “surpassed”, but Phos, not only more capable but also more confident than Zircon, assures Z Bort’s silence is a good thing.

Meanwhile, Yellow Diamond, having lost Z as a partner, seeks Paddy’s company as fellow old farts, only to find Paddy is asleep again. While these little stories of Paddy, Rutile, Zircon and Yellow are interesting, they also come in very quick succession, suggesting the kind of grab-bag final episode trying to offer as many different tastes as it can in the event a second season never comes…which would be a huge shame, IMO.

Back to Phos, who is trying to remember Kongou’s training, but considering how much of Phos body has been lost, memory gaps hardly come as a surprise. Phos does remember a nice little memory of being taught by Kongou as the older Gems watched, in awe of lil’ Phos’ cuteness. Like Sengaku Nadeko, Phos was once quite spoiled, indolent, and reliant on cuteness. Now, where the memory can’t serve Phos, Phos goes to those who can, like Alex and the large archive of Lunarian lore.

Alex also clears up a misunderstanding Phos and others may have cultivated: it isn’t love or admiration that drives Alex to study and pore over the details of Lunarians; rather, it’s Alex’s enduring hatred of them, especially after they stole Chrysoberyl away.

Adequately brought up to speed on Lunarians, the next time Phos encounters them, Phos immediately makes an attempt to isolate one of them within the alloy membrane in order to attempt communication.

All Phos gets out of the Lunarian is the appearance of eyeballs in its eyes, and “F–” which could’ve been a gasp, or the beginning of a word. It is interrupted when Cinnabar swoops in to destroy the Lunarians, obviously unaware of Phos’ intentions and simply assuming Phos was in danger. However, just watching Cinnabar work gets Phos thinking about the promise to find “new work.”

That line of thinking leads Phos back to Cinnabar (much to Cinnabar’s shock) where Phos finally announces she’s found something other than night watch for Cinnabar. A blushing Cinnabar, ever vigilant about the details of such an important promise, reminds Phos that the promise was for a “better” job, not just a different one.

Phos can’t promise the job being offered will be better, and even predicts it could be much, much worse (truths opening new wounds an all that). In a powerfully-acted dramatic, even romantic scene I would have never have expected of early Phos (except in jest of course), Phos explains the need to have someone by Pho’s side to offer an opinion, even and especially if it differs from what Phos sees.

Cinnabar counters that no partnership can be accepted unless Phos has a plan for the hard part, after their investigations, if Master Kongou turns out to be the bad guy. Phos accepts this, then departs after deeming Cinnabar “extraordinarily prudent and clever.” But Cinnabar, trying to fight back the seething distrust of all others, catches up to Phos, and could be open to simply teaming up after all.

After that, another day in the life in the Land of the Lustrous starts, and Phos is suddenly summoned by Kongou. The little pebble who hid behind him is no more; Phos is on a mission to find the truth, but doesn’t necessarily want to destroy the harmony of the land because of that truth. All Phos can do is report to Kongou, maintain her composure, and be mindful of her actions.

Does Kongou know of Phos’ plans and suspicions? In that case, would he be open to hearing Phos out, as Phos is eager to hear him out? Or would he be eager to silence or neutralize her as an imminent threat to the harmony? There are so many possibilities: Gems taking sides for and against Kongou if the truth spread; an en masse loss of innocence to match those of Phos and Cinnabar.

Unfortunately, I have no idea when or even if we’ll be able to witness Land of the Lustrous explore these possibilities further in anime form. A overlooked Fall underdog that surged from under 7 to over 8 over its 12-episode run, Hoseki no Kuni turned out to be a revelation, and Phos’ transformation from clumsy layabout to possible hero to all gem-kind is one of the season’s best arcs.

I’ll miss Phos, the rest of the Gems, their gorgeous world, ethereal foes, and elegant combat, and sincerely hope there’ll be more to watch down the road.