Cardcaptor Sakura – 46 – Love Not Lest Ye Be Loved

Yue is in no mood for delays; he’s going to judge Sakura right here and now: she’ll either subdue him with her mastery of the cards, or she’ll lose and catastrophe will be unleashed. There’s just one problem: Sakura has no intention of fighting someone who just a few minutes ago was Yukito, a boy she deeply cares for. We learn Yukito never had any knowledge that he was really Yue, which only adds to Sakura’s reluctance to fight.

The thing is, Yue doesn’t care if Sakura cared about Yukito. If she won’t fight, then he’ll mop the floor with her, just like he did Syaoran. And holy crap does Sakura ever receive by far the worst beating of the entire series, getting tossed around like a ragdoll before being ensnared in the vines of the Wood card she herself summoned. The fact she doesn’t even know that Wood is controlled by the Moon (i.e. Yue) irritates him even more as he passes his final judgment: Sakura loses.

The catastrophe that shall occur due to her failure? Everyone in the world will forget about the person they love or care about most. Kero-chan was right: it isn’t a “world-ending” kind of apocalypse. After she’s completely enveloped in vines, Sakura wakes up in bed, and there’s even the Cardcaptor Sakura doll on her headboard.

She has her normal morning routine, but Yukito vanishes when she spots him, while Tomoyo and Syaoran are no longer warm or friendly, but mere acquaintances. Same with Chiharu and Yamazaki…and Rika doesn’t even like that teacher she likes!

Having had adequate time to take in this horrifying bad future (or at least the equivalent of such from her perspective), Sakura runs to Yukito’s gran’s house, only to find it abandoned and in poor repair. She breaks down in tears in the bamboo forest, but then something happens: she starts hearing the voices of everyone she loves, first calling her name, then singing the song Tomoyo sang (and which Song copied).

Then she hears Mizuki’s bell clang, and she bursts out of the vine prison, waking from her helldream and returning to Tokyo Tower. Turns out the bell was also furnished by Clow Reed and used by Mizuki to give the Cardcaptor one—and only one—last chance against Yue.

This time, Sakura uses her own magical power to draw not from the Sun or the Moon, but her own personal stars, and a new wand is forged that allows her to summon Windy—the first Clow Card she ever captured—and restrain Yue without him being able to counter.

Sakura tells Yue what he never thought he’d hear, that she understands now how much Clow Reed meant to him, and why he never wanted another master after Reed died. However, Sakura isn’t offering to become Yue’s master or a replacement for Reed; she wants them to be friends, plain and simple, making the world better together.

Yue thus judges Sakura to be the winner of their little duel, and she has a brief stop up in the stars to meet with Clow Reed, who is grateful Sakura was able to locate and follow the path of “necessities disguised as coincidences” he had set out—her own way.

After that, Sakura returns to the shrine grounds and is reunited with Tomoyo and Syaoran, taking both of a surprised Syaoran’s hands and dancing with him in pure unadulterated joy.

Kero and Yue acknowledge that due to her youth, Sakura isn’t quite ready for their true forms full-time, so they agree to return to their disguises for the time being. That means Kero-chan is back to being a pint-sized plushie, while Yue returns to the form of Tsukishiro Yukito.

Sakura’s adorable dance with Syaoran, paired with her far more understated reaction to Yukito’s return seems to signal the start of a transition from her feelings for Yukito/Yue—whom she knows will always love Clow above all—to Syaoran, who is, well, an actual human being.

And that does it for the grand Clow Card arc and the second season of Cardcaptor Sakura! My stars, has this show been a balm in these times. While this finale wasn’t my absolute favorite of the series (that might be “Sakura’s Dizzy Fever Day”) it definitely makes the top five, merely by dint of its vital story, cinematic scope and utterly gorgeous animation. On to season three!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 45 – Here Comes the Judge

In a further departure from the usual formula, there’s no set up this week, we jump right back into the action. It figures that the last Clow Card to be captured is the most ornery: Earthy. Huge fissures and massive stone towers threaten to destroy the city, and it’s all Sakura can do to weave and dodge.

After an unsuccessful use of Watery, Kero gives her the hint that offensive magic won’t work. Then Sakura notices that while lots of roads and buildings are being ruined, the trees aren’t being touched. So she summons Wood to hold the Leviathan-like Earthy’s main body in place.

Sakura seals the card, and the biggest, most pulse-poundingly impressive battle yet comes to close. To Sakura’s shock, the receipt of the final card has another effect: it restores Kerberos’ true form. Sakura doesn’t recognize him at first until he responds with his trademark dialect, only in a lower register, and she can’t help but remark that he’s looking “rather cool.” He certainly is!

To celebrate the capturing of all the Clow Cards, Tomoyo summons her costume van and dresses Sakura up, and even gets Syaoran into his ceremonial robes. Sakura’s costume is notably the one in her dreams. Then Sakura learns from Syaoran that Yue is one of the two guardians along with Kero who Clow Reed created to protect the cards. And just when it seemed Mizuki would transform into Yue…Yukito does instead!

While I knew Yukito was Yue’s vessel from the much later Clear Card, Mizuki had been so effective a red herring I came to wonder whether she’d be revealed as Yue’s vessel prior to Yukito. Instead she’s just a particularly powerful moon-oriented magic user, which combined with Yue concealing his magic within Yukito meant he was right under their noses the whole time.

While Kero serves as the selector of the one to command the cards, Yue is the final arbiter of the Cardcaptor’s worthiness. The trial is simple: use the Clow Cards to defeat him. Since Syaoran captured a handful of cards, he is the first to undergo “final judgment”—and Yue proceeds to mop the floor with him.

He’s sent back to the others dazed but more or less fine, and Sakura is transported to that now iconic spot of her dreams, with Tokyo Tower looming in the near distance and Yue standing on its red steel beams. Sakura realizes this is exactly like the dream, that it was a prophetic dream, and that THIS IS IT.

Either Sakura can defeat Yue with the Clow Cards she’s collected—Yue confiscated all of Syaoran’s—or the “Catastrophe” Kero warned about will occur. Even if I didn’t know everything would work out, all my money would be on Sakura. Poised on the biggest, highest-pressure stage in her eleven years life, she won’t shrink from the task before her.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 44 – Feeling the Moon

Something new has shown up in Sakura’s dream: someone with long, silvery hair and black wings. When Sakura wakes up, Kero-chan takes note of the Sakura doll by her bed. Tomoyo made it before she became a Cardcaptor, and yet the doll is wearing an outfit very similar to the one Sakura is wearing in her dream—which has already been established as foretelling. We’re getting into some trippy territory here, and I like it!

Sakura is up early on a weekend in order to travel to Tokyo, watch Yukito’s traditional archery competition, and provide him with three or four bento boxes for lunch. Tomoyo and Syaoran tag along, with the former always up for hanging with Sakura, while Syaoran says “being around her is useful for capturing Clow Cards”, to which she innocently replies “that’s true”.

Kero-chan tags along as well, not just for the chance to eat some of the lunches Sakura made, but because the description of her dream points to Yue being near, and Kero doesn’t want to be unnecessarily separated from the Cardcaptor. While on the train to the competition, the Tokyo Tower comes into view and Sakura spaces out…but both she and Syaoran space out upon seeing Yukito in traditional Japanese archer’s dress!

Everyone is also surprised to find Mizuki-sensei not only participating in the competition, but making it to the final round along with Yukito. The two exhibit grace, elegance, and strength as all their arrows impact on or near bullseye…that is until something distracts Mizuki and she misses her shot. Even so, she’s gracious in defeat and congratulates Yukito.

While he has lunch with Sakura, Syaoran and Tomoyo, Kero sneaks out of Sakura’s bag to meet and chat with Mizuki. Throughout the day he’d been “feeling the moon”, or rather the power of the moon, which Mizuki admits she draws upon for her magic. She also seems to know about Yue, who we learn is Kero’s guardian counterpart. Finally, Touya reveals himself as working as a balloon-peddling mascot at the shrine.

Both Touya and Mizuki both forebodingly declare that there’s no such thing as “coincidence”, only “inevitability.” Sure enough, a Clow Card makes its appearance on the shrine grounds, and judging from the fissures and mountains it creates, it looks to be an earth-element card—and a tough one to boot! In a break from most CCS outings, the credits roll before the card is captured…lending it special significance.

Elfen Lied – 07 – Let’s Be Friends

It’s fitting that the seventh episode of Elfen Lied is all about #7, or Nana, back from the (near-)dead. Shichi is another way to say seven in Japanese, but because shi means “death”, nana is more commonly used. In western culture seven is considered lucky, yet Nana is unfortunate enough to immediately cross paths with Bando on the beach.

He has a few new anti-Diclonius tactics—social distancing(!) and harder bullets—but his new arm crumbles from his gun’s recoil, and their duel ends in a stalemate. When he learns they both consider Lucy an enemy, he tries to give her his number (the same one he wrote for Mayu) but she doesn’t know what a “number” is, so he gives up.

Mayu doesn’t know much of anything about the outside world, but she is hungry. She watches people exchange coins for crepes, but doesn’t realize the stacks of paper in her bag are hundreds of thousands of yen. It’s another scene that comments on the dearth of general kindness and empathy in this society, as the crepe guy tells her to buzz off and the other women comment on her clothes. No one asks if she’s okay.

Even if Dicloniï didn’t possess the potential for lethal mayhem, they’d be ostracized simply for looking different. Nana understands this is not her world and never will be, so she considers destroying it and making a new one where she does belong. But for the time being, that’s beyond her abilities, and she could settle for a meal.

Nana isn’t done with chance encounters, as #2 involves Wanta leading Mayu to the spot where Nana and Nyu fought, and finding Nana there, warming herself by a fire made from the money. Most people in this town might be assholes, but Mayu certainly isn’t, and has very recently been in Nana’s shoes: nowhere to go and unsure what to do.

Mayu notes that at least someone (Nana’s “dad”) cared enough about her. They agree to become friends, and Mayu notes how Nana and Nyu both have horns. That makes it the second episode in a row where Mayu has told someone something she couldn’t that puts Kouta, and Yuka in danger…not to mention herself.

Sure enough Mayu invites Nana to her house, where Nana has her third change encounter of the day: one with her self-appointed nemesis. Notably, she cannot sense Nyu’s presence the way she can sense Lucy’s; her personality shift to Nyu apparently has the effect of nullifying her Diclonius signature.

The second she spots Nyu, Nana goes into attack mode, shocking Kouta and Mayu. Will Mayu’s hastily forged friendship with Nana be enough to calm her? Will Lucy wake up and just make things worse? Whatever the case, it looks like it’s going to be another long night for everyone.

Elfen Lied – 06 – Debts Paid and Unpaid

Kouta and Kakuzawa’s assistant Arakawa find the professor’s body (and head) in the basement. Arakawa isn’t particularly devastated by the sight of her lover beheaded, but perhaps she’s in shock. Not to mention she has no idea why he has horns like a Diclonius. A shaken Kouta returns home, but in the middle of talking with Yuka a switch seemingly flips in his head. He suddenly can’t remember what he was saying, and goes to bed.

Out on the street and still lucid, Lucy reaches into the head of a passing girl, either wiping her memory of seeing her…or killing her. The next day, Yuka insists on accompanying Kouta as he continues his search. The two end up taking shelter at a shrine, revealing their feelings for each other, and kissing. In a show with so much violence and cruelty, a tender scene like this is welcome, and Noto Mamiko’s voice emanates kindness and gentleness.

While walking to school, Mayu spots Bando on the beach, and makes the terrible mistake of approaching him. Mayu can’t help it; she was worried about the guy and is glad to see he’s alright, because she’s a good girl. To repay his debt, Bando gives her his number for her to call if she needs help. Ironically, when he learns she knows about Lucy, Mayu has to use that call immediately…on him. His honor forces him to let her go, but his toxic masculinity put her in that situation in the first place.

The rain stops, and Yuka’s lovey-dovey-ness turns to embarrassment, and then jealousy when she and Kouta encounter Lucy. They’re shocked to hear her form complete sentences, but when Kouta insists they return to his house, she tells him she doesn’t deserve his charity. She mentions something from the past that triggers a memory in Kouta’s head. Lucy herself remembers her and Kouta playing in the ocean as youths, before reverting to Nyu and cuddling with him.

I wonder if Kouta will continue to remember those repressed memories involving Lucy, and how he’ll respond to them. He’s thrown caution to the wind regarding “Nyu” to this point because he thought they had no prior connection. What if she killed his sister Kaede?

In the meantime, Kurama couldn’t kill Nana. We learn he’d already killed his birth daughter in the past (presumably for having horns) and lost his wife to suicide shortly thereafter. But if he wanted Nana to survive, you’d think he wouldn’t have left her on that god-forsaken beach, where Bando (who apparently lives there) can immediately find her. I’d have shipped her to the other side of the country, if not continent…

Elfen Lied – 05 – Good People are Hard to Come By

Kurama looks out at the ocean, perhaps grieving the loss of Nana, while Kouta and Yuka wake up to find Mayu has run away. The episode delves into her past, and not surprisingly for this show, it’s horrific. Habitually sexually abused by her stepdad and shunned by her mother, one night she refuses to undress, and runs.

She doesn’t stop until she reaches the ocean, and seems poised to walk in and not come back. She’s stopped only by the dog Wanta, whom she assumes was discarded like her. Back in the present, Wanta (AKA James) is claimed by his owner, leaving Mayu alone again. She hides among crates in the cold, dark night, utterly miserable.

Some cops find her, but thankfully so do Yuka and Kouta, who remembered she hung around the beach a lot. They bring her back to the house, but she’s not sure why, because no one in her life has ever given a damn about her except to use her. It never occurred to her that good people existed.

While his penchant for “collecting girls” continues to irk Yuka, she doesn’t protest when he decides to let Mayu stay with them indefinitely. Mayu’s mother all too easily signs away guardianship to him. Wanta comes back to her (his old owner was not a good person, it seems) and she returns to school with a smile on her face, now in a much better place.

Kouta and Yuka return to college classes too, but inexplicably take Nyu with them. I understand how they might be worried about her wandering off again, but it just seems like a really, really bad idea considering how much they don’t know about her situation.

Sure enough, the professor of their new class is Dr. Kakuzawa, son of the head of the research facility where Lucy was being held. He takes Kouta and Yuka aside, warns them of the laws they’re breaking by having the girl in their custody, and makes Kouta agree to leave Nyu with with him.

Fearing the consequences and cowed by an authority figure, Kouta ignores Nyu crying out his name (she’s learning more words than just “nyu”), and later can’t help but shed tears over their separation. Yuka reproaches him for crying (“You’re a man!”) but then starts crying herself.

They get home and tell Mayu, who plants the seed in Kouta’s head that maybe the professor wasn’t telling the truth when he said Nyu’s family was worried and wanted her back. Gee, ya THINK?

Sure enough, Kakuzawa’s intentions with Nyu are anything but honorable. He strips her down, ties her up, and injects her with drugs. But while he’s still undressing in preparation to rape her, Nyu wakes up as Lucy, and plainly asks him who he is and what he wants.

Kakuzawa tries to give her his spiel about replacing the human race with superior Dicloniï, revealing his own sorry horns. Lucy plainly ain’t buyin’ it, and helpfully relieves him of his head, causing a fountain of blood and saying she doesn’t need someone like him.

Truer words have never been spoken. Like Mayu, she needs good people like Kouta and Yuka, particularly when she reverts to Nyu. It’s just a shame those good people aren’t the brightest…

OverLord – 02

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Without being too direct about it, this second outing confirms that OverLord means to ask the question, “If a game were about to end and you were the last one logged in, would the NPCs make you their god?” It also answers that question with a fairly unequivocal “yes”, although those two floor guardians not present and the army at the end of the episode may be cause for concern.

But not that much concern, as the people he does have on his side pledge to gladly “perish as his shield” if need be. Their skills are apparent and their loyalty appears unswerving. Momonga is someone different to each of them—beautiful, strong, kind, merciful—the recurring theme is that of ebullient praise in every possible aspect of ol’ Skullface, which seems to trigger his insecurities: what did he do to deserve all this?

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Well, it would seem he deserves it because he was the last human player left. If you’re an NPC of the game, the human players are supreme beings, and without them, you don’t exist. So it’s a big deal that he stayed, even if he didn’t even mean to be the last one there.

It would seem that in his careless state near the time he believed the Yggdrasil servers would shut down, Momonga’s seemingly innocuous decision to make Albedo fall in love with him caused an unintended imbalance in the dynamic of his “court” of guardians. To whit: a character he didn’t modify already has romantic feelings for him, making Albedo a threat.

The two smitten ladies bicker at length until deciding Momonga should have at least two wives—the two of them—making it just a matter of who’s the first wife. The other guardians seem to rally around Demiurge’s idea of Momonga producing an heir, so that the NPCs would have someone to follow should he leave or die.

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Meanwhile, after issuing general orders to conceal the suddenly exposed Tomb of Nazarick, Momonga continues to test the limits (or lack thereof) of his powers and survey what has apparently become his kingdom by default. Looking at the bright starry sky and glowing full moon, he is filled with a desire to possess everything his beady red eyes see, a goal his guardians can certainly set their watches to.

Keeping this ridiculous-looking character grounded is the fact that beneath his scary and imposing facade, there’s a guy inside with no friends or family in the real world, and his frequent little jumps of fear and surprise really humanize him. Hino Satoshi’s multifaceted performance really makes up for the lack of facial expressions. Plus Momonga tends to slump, decreasing his sinister aura somewhat.

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To that end, Momonga starts to make it easier for his guardians to move around, issuing Ainz Ooal Gown teleportation rings like the one he wears. He may have made a slight slip-up in awarding the first one to Mare (who is a boy btw), because for a moment Albedo seems slighted; but she seems appeased when she gets hers.

Meanwhile, as the work to hide Nazarick continues, a stern-looking general orders the destruction of another village. Are these more NPCs given sentience like Momonga’s guardians, only not loyal to him? It looks like the honeymoon may be over, but the true threat level of these guys, if any, remains to be seen. Maybe they’ll be pushovers, or swear fealty in the fact of Ainz Ooal Gown’s awesome power.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 04

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Sidonia sticks to its strengths—intricate space battles, mayhem, and impending doom, not comedy and romance—with an episode-long epic battle of adernaline-pumping perfection. G550 is gunnin’ for Sidonia, literally. Its kill or be killed, and the episode never lets you forget how thin the line is between life and death.

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Tsumugi uses her man-made kabi claws to bust out of the trap the first wave of Gauna built around her, and in the process she seems to glean the Gauna’s intent for the humans, including her friends. Whether it was just another Gauna biological reflex in response to external stimuli, or a conscious, sentient effort to provoke Tsumugi, she reacts badly,  disobeying everyone’s orders and going on a destructive rampage of every Gauna in sight, despite being heavily damaged herself.

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The deus ex machina has a screw loose, and it informs the overarching peril of the situation rather nicely. What ultimately finally stops her attacks is when Izana tries to go after her and calm her down, and gets heavily damaged in the process. It’s been a little while since pilots I actually knew and cared about turned red on the CIC board, so when it’s Izana’s turn my heart sank into my stomach. Thankfully, Tsumugi gets to Izana and agrees to retreat for now, for her sake.

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The Guardes manage to take out the second wave of Gauna without Tsumugi’s help thanks to a shift to long-range tactics, and then enter ring formation to destroy G550’s core. But even this tactic backfires, as the equatorial trench they create is the perfect aperture for a massive Hyggs cannon the surviving Gauna fuse into.

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Sidonia is huge and slow, so I knew any beam launched at her would have to be somehow prevented outright, blocked, shifted, or absorbed by someone. In another case of the computer displays creating visceral reactions, the amount of red the damage analysis predicts makes it clear if none of those above things happen, it’s Game Over.

Tsumugi manages to deflect the beam enough so it misses Sidonia, but only by a few hundred meters to starboard. At this distance, the mere force emanating from the beam is enough to nearly shake Sidonia to pieces, and alarmingly, all the CIC displays go to static as the shock hits, and it was all I could do to pray those displays wouldn’t go dark, and that breaches wouldn’t occur.

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With G550 charging for another salvo, and both Tsumugi and Izana unaccounted for, Nagate decides to rush in headlong and uses his engine pack as a precision projectile, causing a Death Star-style chain reaction that brings that sweet, sweet sound of Bubble Desintegration. Once again, Nagate one-ups Kunato and emerges the hero.

It’s a costly victory: Nagate and Izana are both found, but Tsumugi is in tatters, and Izana fears she’s dead. They didn’t lose a lot of Guardes, and Sidonia wasn’t seriously damaged and didn’t need to carry out emergency maneuvers, but with Tsumugi’s fate unclear and the Gauna stronger than ever, it’s no longer simply “nice” to have Chimera on their side; it now appears absolutely essential for the battles to come.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 03

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Kobayashi’s coup went off without a hitch, and she immediately changes Sidonia’s course, both literally and figuratively, in a chilling scene that makes it obvious there was no love lost between her and the not-so-Immortals. And yet this doesn’t mark any kind of sea change in the day-to-day operations of the ship, nor do higher-ranking officers like Yutaha have any problem with the new change of leadership. After all, Kobayashi’s bosses never were in the spotlight; it’s hard to mourn their loss. Or maybe Yutaha is simply being pragmatic.

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Either way, big changes in how Sidonia wages war are being implemented, from upgrading the armor of the Type-18 frames, to impregnating Placental Hoshijiro with a human seed, making her Tsugumi’s mommy. I really like the creep-factor this kind of sci-fi body mod/body horror stuff lends to Sidonia’s “world,” one already full of oddities.

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At the same time, this episode doesn’t forget about the sheer majesty of simply floating outside Sidonia. The careful camera placement and motion really sell the idea of how vast space is, and how the terror of that vastness can cause people like Kobayashi to take extreme steps to preserve their tiny civilization.  

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Where Sidonia continues to flail and fail is at comedy, particularly anything involving Nagate seeing naked ladies. All of the careful physics go out the window as they resort to cartoon violence, smashing a heavy metal door into Nagate, who hits the wall hard, and then has the door smash down on him, a sequence that would surely have put him in the hospital.

Like a previous instance in the first season where his face swelled up after getting beaten for a similar transgression, seeing his CG face get bent up here breaks the uncanny valley in a bad way. But most of all, this attempt at lightweight comedy comes off as ham-fisted and obvious, nothing like the expert precision of other areas of the show.

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This is more like it: giving us a glimpse into Yutaha’s spartan quarters gives us a glimpse into her character off-bridge: she dresses down, builds scale models, and tries to keep up with the news. Sure, emergency maneuvers would send most of the contents of her room flying along with her, but those are rare enough.

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While checking the logs of who’s gone to see Tsumugi, Yuhata discovers Nagate and Izana have been occasional visitors. I was expecting some kind of confrontation, but instead Yuhata is merely curious, and the others even invite her to lock hands with them, as they had come to do with Tsugumi (or rather Tsugumi’s balloon “sock puppet” avatar). Tsugumi continues to nicely toe the line between cute and creepy.

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When her sharp eyes spot a 500-core Gauna force heading their way, Kunato requests to intercept it with Tsugumi. Yuhata wants to see how she works in a formation, and so denies the request, but she’s overruled by Kobayashi, who is eager to see the full extent of the chimera’s powers. Perhaps because Kunato wasn’t among those who locked hands (a pilot superstition I’d expect him to shun), things go very wrong when he flies Tsugumi into a Gauna placenta trap. This, after Kunato guaranteed defeating the force would be a cakewalk.

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Two more of Sidonia’s strengths are its thrilling launch sequences and visceral pilot POV shots, both of which contribute to an adrenaline-laced sci-fi spectacle to end the ep. With Tsugumi neutralized, it’s up to the conventional Guardes to avert disaster on the very first leg of Kobayashi’s very possibly ill-conceived new course.

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To that end, all the Guardians that launch—96 in all—lock hands into a ring formation and blast away with authority, which is another Sidonia strength: immensely enticing cliffhangers. The strengths definitely outweighed the weaknesses this week, as they usually do with Sidonia, while building great anticipation for next week’s big battle.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 02

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There’s been some super sketchy stuff going down behind that big KUNATO logo, especially now that Ochiai is in the mix. We see the fruit of his labor in full display this week in the Human-Gauna hybrid “Chimera”, Tsugumi Shiraui.

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The newest enemy Gauna with its “Onion Placenta” is proof the Gauna are not standing still when it comes to developing new weapons with which to attack Sidonia, so it makes sense that the humans should innovate or die. Competing factions among the humans clash over the best way to do this.

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At least here, the ends justify the means, as Tsugumi is able to destroy the enemy Gauna, finishing it off by blasting straight through it. Yuhata and the Guardians are more confused than anything, but it’s Nagate who decides Tsugumi isn’t their enemy, allowing her to do her work unfettered.

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There was probably a better way to sell Tsugumi to the crew than a King Kong-style unveiling, but Kunato has never struck me as being very good at P.R., and the fact he’s now a host for Ochiai made him even worse. Tsugumi is uncommonly courteous and friendly, but when she gets excited upon spotting Nagate in the crowd, her sheer mass shakes the entire assembly hall, scaring the masses and turning them against her.

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Tsugumi is huge and extremely creepy-looking. But in good sci-fi, one can never judge a book by its cover when it comes to aliens who look or act differently from us. Nagate, being the decent sort of chap he is, is willing to keep an open mind, and even visits her at the Kunato lab, convinced she could use some human company, as she is half-human.

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She greets them with a more human-sized but still very alien appendage, and Tsugumi is overcome by glee when Nagate allows her to “touch” him, which she takes as carte blanche to lift both him and Izana up with numerous tentacles and grope them both thoroughly.

But again, it’s not scary, despite the awesome destructive power she’s capable of, because she’s so gosh-darned earnest and adorable. Not sure about the goofy music that announces this is a comedic scene, but whatever.

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As for those factions I mentioned earlier, Kobayashi makes a decisive move against the ruling Immortal Ship Assembly, sending Ochiai’s clone to murder them all, including her would-be replacement, after they vote to impeach her from the captaincy.

While the good old-fashioned acquisition of power is probably a motivating factor, Kobayashi was also diametrically opposed to their defensive posture and refusal to entertain innovations such as Tsugumi. With her and other Chimeras, she’ll be able to take the fight to the Gauna, and presumably start winning the hearts and minds.

Even if she doesn’t manage to achieve the latter (Nagate, for instance doesn’t like how Tsugumi is being forced to fight and kill right out of the proverbial womb) it’s Kobayashi’s ship now, and those who oppose her will do so at their peril.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 01 (First Impressions)

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I was pretty dejected when Sidonia’s second season didn’t air in October as I initially believed, but I’ve been waiting patiently like a good anime blogger for six more months and two seasons. Now the wait is over…and boy, was it worth it.

Sidonia no Kishi: Daikyuu Wakusei Seneki (Battle for Planet Nine) the best premiere of the spring – a rich, soaring, booming, squirming sci-fi masterpiece that lays out a fresh batch of challenges and conflicts for the spacefaring remainder of mankind, already hanging on a string last season.

The cold open mirrors the first season’s, in which a space battle turns out to be a simulation run by Nagate, only this time he’s a decorated veteran putting up a high score for the fresh crop of Guardian recruits to aspire to, even if he doesn’t have any inspiring words to say to them.

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We then cut back to whatever it was Kunato was up to with that big door in the first season finale. Even if it means the end of his family, he opens it and steps inside, and his loyal sister Mozoku follows him. This secret forbidden nook of Sidonia turns out to be Ochiai’s lab, and they’re not alone in there. In quick succession, Mozoku loses a digit, then her head, and Norio’s body is taken over by parasites as a strange, not-quite-human figure looks on. Talk about setting the tone!

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Not too much later, a girl who looks like a white-haired Shizuka in Mozoku’s clothes fumbles with her dinner, apparently still getting used to her body (if they switched heads, her high collar hides the signs). She calls Norio “Ochiai”, and “Norio”, really Ochiai, corrects her. A tentacle slithers in “Mozoku”‘s eye. Just like that, it’s the end of the Kunato siblings as we knew them.

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The transformed pair then visit the lab to inspect Placental Shizuka as representatives of Kunato Corp. As he puts Numi under full-body paralysis with one prick to her cheek, “Norio” also hits her with a dose of anti-human vitriol (calling them naught nothing but filthy insects, far inferior to Gauna, etc.) before giving her a parasite. Things are moving very quickly.

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Meanwhile, we see why Nagate was so distracted at the simulator, and why he isn’t eating much or acknowledging Izana much: he’s having semi-sexy, semi-horrifying dreams about Placental Shizuka, whom he hasn’t seen in some time. When he crosses paths with Norio on an escalator, Norio insists he forget about Shizuka, who is dead, and stop worrying about the placenta that shares her appearance.

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Yuhata steals Nagate from Izana on a day they’re to go on a trip to the shrine, but only to tell him what Norio did: to give up on Placental Shizuka. Possibly out of pity for having to order her friend to do this, she lends him a rocket pack so he can meet up with Izana at the top of the stairs, surprising and delighting her in the process. It’s a great little glimmer of light and hope in an episode steeped in darkness and dread.

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That glimmer doesn’t last long, as the Gauna alert sounds and Battle Stations are ordered. The third-person shot of XO Yuhata entering the CIC as it comes to life with Gauna threat information, is audiovisual perfection.

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So is the battle that commences, though that’s nothing new where Sidonia is concerned. Using a combination of wide, slightly shaky shots and in-cockpit POV shots, all supplemented with maps, schematics, and other digital information, all of which reveals that this latest Gauna is unlike any they’ve fought before.

In addition to being heavily armed, it has dozens of layers of placenta, like an onion, and it looks like the Guardians are simply going to run out of ammo and/or fuel long before they reach the true body. This force Nagate to move dangerously closer in with his all-new, powerful but untested frame to try to take the Gauna out. Ren, who’s been through some stuff with Izana, stays by his side.

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Sidonia also excels at stepping ever so close to the brink of total disaster and destruction, before being pulled back by some last-minute miracle. Usually it’s Nagate who pulls these off, making him the shining new hero, but this time, he can’t do a thing. In fact, when another Gauna appears on radar (or whatever they use) and heads toward Nagate and Ren at 10x the speed of their guardians, it appeared like the Gauna had Sidonia, and humanity, in check.

But then the second Gauna blows the Onion Gauna to kingdom come with one shot. Everyone gawks at this strange Guardian-sized Gauna, which is being piloted by Norio. Look out, Nagate: the guy who always considered you his nemesis is now faster and stronger than you…and he’s not even really Norio anymore.

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As for the reveal that the “Gauna Guardian” he’s piloting has Shizuka’s voice and talks to him like a beloved master, well, this fake Norio also went and stole Nagate’s fake woman, who introduces herself as Shiraui Tsumugi. The shot of the delicate yet frightening-looking Tsumugi floating in space even bears a striking resemblance to the bone/satellite match cut of 2001, lending it a powerful, mythic aura. Move over…everything else: Sidonia is back, and I couldn’t be more thrilled.

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