Steins;Gate 0 – 19 – First Attempt

In response to the shock of the evening’s events that have led to the destruction of the time machine, the recriminations fly between Rintarou, Daru and Maho. All of a sudden, Rintarou demands that Daru and Maho finish the Time Leap Machine so he can go back and try to undo what’s been done.

This leads Maho to admit that, at present, she doesn’t have the know-how to discover the secrets of machine by herself in time (it will only go back about 48 hours). That means having to sacrifice her desired quest to attain the same answers as Kurisu, and instead just be given the answers by Rintarou.

Considering the stakes and the tiny window of time they have to work with, it’s the only choice she could have made, though it sets aside her scientific pursuits and just getting the thing built ASAP, it cements her role as an official Lab Member, working together as a team.

While Rintarou verifys that there were no remains of Mayuri and Suzuha— suggesting they may not be dead—the time leap machine construction proceeds anyway, seeing as how there’s far too much uncertainty about the fate of the two young women to simply sit back and do nothing. (We don’t learn anything more about the nature of Mayuri’s text, or whether it was a D-mail).

Feyris and Ruka do their part keeping the machine-building team fed and refreshed as they work tirelessly for the next 48-odd hours, successfully hacking into CERN and even getting Tennouji to switch on the 42″ CRT downstairs. Rintarou observes that the lab is suddenly a lot “livelier” and more fun than it had been in a long time. It’s just too bad Mayuri isn’t there to see it.

But enough “too bads”; it’s time for action. After waking up and mistaking Maho’s sun-bathed black hair for Kurisu’s red locks, Rintarou gathers the troops, an in a speech (that unfortunately doesn’t devolve into the chuunibyou intensity of Hououin Kyouma), thanks everyone for their hard work, including Amadeus, who blushes when he calls her Kurisu.

With that, the Phone Microwave (Temporary Name) Unit-02 is activated, and Rintarou leaps two about two days before the shit hit the fan (July 7). With so little time having passed since his origin, Rintarou has little trouble convincing Daru and Maho that he is indeed from the future, and they need to get to work deleting Leskinen’s data to preempt his move against them.

Rintarou also arrives at the rooftop of the Radio building a full hour earlier than “last time”, and rather than getting shot by Suzuha, Mayuri is successful in convincing him not to stop her from carrying out Operation Arclight – going back to August 21st and convincing him not to give up on searching for the Steins Gate.

Unfortunately, Judy Reyes, Kagari, and Leskinen interfere earlier than last time. Suzu and Rintarou are able to subdue Judy (who apparently represents DURPA), but Kagari and Leskinen appear shortly thereafter. Thankfully, this time we don’t have to sit and listen to him explain his plan and laugh like a Bond villain.

Suzu and Mayuri seal themselves in the Time Machine and it begins to activate…but Leskinen calls his air support to fire a missle at the machine, and Rintarou is right back where he started. His purpose for going back—saving Mayuri, Suzuha, and Kagari—has failed, and he fears that like saving Mayuri in the Alpha World Line, there may be no way to save the time machine in the Beta.

However, there’s no reason he can’t go back to the lab, have Daru and Maho finish the machine, and leap back again—and that’s exactly what he does. s he said in his speech before his first attempt, he’s prepared to fail dozens, hundreds, thousands, even a million times, but he won’t give up as long as he has the means to continue. Maho tells him to tell all her counterparts he meets that she promises to help for as long as it takes.

However, something strange happens after his second attempt: there seems to be a longer delay before he actually leaps, and the screen that displays the date and time for us suddenly stops a July 6 and cracks. That doesn’t bode well for having a third attempt, let alone thousands more…not to mention there are only four episodes remaining.

Banana Fish – 07 – Lee Lee Land

Ah, Los Angeles, home to…Roadside CGI Booty? All right then! Ya know, Shorter, women aren’t objects to be catcalled from the back of a truck! But in Max’s case, women are the people who take care of your adorable son while you’re in prison or on an unpaid cross-country investigative journalism gig. But at least Jessica “Lobo” is handy with a rifle.

Max paying a visit to his son on his birthday ends up being a bush-league move in addition to a dawdle, as it only serves to let whoever is following/watching them know that Max has something to lose. When they arrive at the address they got in Cape Cod, they find a kidnapping in progress. Ash breaks it up with his nighttime marksmanship, and they end up rescuing a very pretty young man: apparently the adopted son of Abe Dawson, who was apparently kidnapped six months ago.

Ash spends an inordinate time at a computer hacking into Abe’s files, which does not make for particularly thrilling action. After dicking around on Windows XP, Ash discovers that Banana Fish is not a “who”, but a “what”; an experimental psychotropic drug that may have been developed by the military.

Meanwhile, in L.A.’s Chinatown, Shorter is ambushed and forced to spy on Ash for the Lee clan, lest they kill his sister. Realizing how big this shit has gotten, Ash decides to play the bad guy and insist Eiji get the hell back to Japan.

Shorter voices his disillusionment with the Lee clan, who he once looked up to despite all the bad stuff he heard, which turned out to be true. The pretty raven-haired kid, who turns out to be the seventh son of the Lee clan, almost seems ashamed after Shorter’s rant.

Even so, some goons from either Golzine or Lee show up to Max’s ex-wife and son’s house, so they’re either dead or hostages. Whatever Ash intends to do—and I’m not sure exactly what that is, beyond “confront Dino again”—he’d better to it quick before his enemies are out of loved ones to kill!

Steins;Gate 0 – 17 – Fiasco

I could say “if only Suzu had left in more of a hurry”, but “if onlys” are at the very core of Steins;Gate. The future is the product of countless “if onlys” that were combined just so. Besides, there’s an element of inevitability, such that Suzu’s departure was meant to be delayed by Mayuri, and Mayuri was meant to know everything everyone else knows.

Suzu, Daru, and Maho tell her what they know, and it confirms what she suspected: Rintarou is in this state because he lost Kurisu, whom he loved. Mayuri exclaims that she loves Okarin every bit as much as Kurisu did if not more, but loved Hououin Kyouma even more than that, even though that persona has vanished, along with any joy in Rintarou’s life.

Because she loves him so much, Mayuri cannot stand by and allow him to remain so sad. So she decides not to stop Suzuha, but to join her on her trip back to August 21 of last year, in hopes they can both find the Steins Gate World Line. Rintarou races to the rooftop to plead with Mayuri not to go, but she’s determined to, as she poetically puts it, “clear away the clouds that loom over his sky”.

By having to deal with both Mayuri and Rintarou (the latter of whom she shoots, grazing his leg). Suzuha wastes a lot of time she should be using to get out of 2011 while she still can. She even leaves Mayuri alone on the rooftop as she takes Rintarou aside to patch him up.

The cell network blackout should have been a sign—a very ominous sign—that her window for escaping to the past was becoming smaller with every passing second. Earlier in the lab, Daru, Rintarou and Maho find messages from AmaKurisu on @channel, and Maho learns that the system was hacked and Kurisu’s memory data stolen.

All of the actions and inactions, observations and failures to observe, culminate in a D-Mail being sent to Suzuha from 2025; the first of this 0 arc. It’s from the future Daru, but from a slightly different world line than the one she left. The lines diverged when Suzuha and Mayuri decided to use the time machine. But they never get to actually use it.

Instead, Mayuri is taken hostage (making her announcement back in the lab heart-breakingly prescient) and the entire rooftop is swarming with soldiers; I’m guessing the Americans. They surround Suzuha and force her to surrender, but she has one more ace up her sleeve in the form of a knife hidden in the time machine.

Suzuha goes on a mini-rampage, but there are too many soldiers to take out, and in the mean time Mayuri is badly exposed. Just steps away from the safety of the stairs, she’s shot in the head and falls lifelessly to the ground. At first I thought it was just a stray bullet—there were so many—but the headshot is the work of Mayuri’s own future daughter Kagari, AKA K2605.

Never mind “if onlys”—I can’t see how this could have possibly gone worse.

Inuyashiki – 06

Hiro manages to escape the cops without killing anybody, but the damage is done: his mother has seen him treated the way a terrorist would be treated, and that’s going to be hard to explain, especially when his face and deeds are all over TV, the internet, and word-of-mouth.

Hiro lands nowhere in particular, but it isn’t long before he comes across Watanabe Shion, who is willing to harbor him in the cramped apartment where she and her grandmother live. Shion, the poor lass, doesn’t believe the news…except the part about his “complicated” family situation.

This served to endear him even more to her; she’s an orphan. Both her parents died of cancer, and she believes she won’t live long either. Her classmates may ultimately conclude Hiro was a bad egg despite being cute and nice, but Shion can’t do that. And you really feel for her and yes, worry about something on the TV or internet setting Hiro off on another rampage.

After a quiet, polite dinner, and in a scene reminiscent of Leon, Hiro gets up and points his finger at the heads of Shion and her grandmother…but in a genius bit of cutting that leaves you hanging for just a moment…we see he didn’t go through with it, as he’s having a nice breakfast with them the next morning.

This is an 80-90% Hiro episode, but the bit with Ichirou and Andou serves as a nice, lightweight intermission from the tense and emotional goings-on with Hiro. Very lightweight, as it happens. Andou, being very scientific in helping Ichirou maximize his powers, has Ichirou interface with is phone so that he can communicate hands-free at any time, like an iPhone in his brain.

Ichirou’s bewilderment and panicky reactions are always a great source of laughs, and this is no exception, as Andou recommends Ichirou test the range of their comms, which he does by launching himself into orbit. An spacewalking astronaut spots him; whether this will be trouble later depends on whether there was any kind of video feed.

Back to Hiro, who doesn’t have much to do besides “watch” TV and surf the internet, specifically chat rooms like “2chan”. He gets sucked in and is unable to “turn off”. The online dialogue is naturally quite vicious, and in his absence, it turns against his mother, who is so upset and ashamed she commits suicide.

Hiro learns this on a breaking news graphic during a comedy show he was actually managing to laugh at. Turns out there’s no escape from his torment, even when he launches himself high into the sky to scream. As I said last week, losing his mother would mean losing the one thing keeping him tethered to a degree of humanity—though we’ll see if Shion steps in to fill that role.

My only nit to pick this week: Why didn’t Hiro locate and rush to his mother the moment the news dropped she’d committed suicide? You’d think he would have at least tried to resurrect her. Then again, if she was totally dead at that point, perhaps even Ichirou and Hiro’s healing powers can only go so far.

Hiro intends to take revenge on those who caused and celebrated the death of his mother. He slaughters a media circus outside his father’s house, sparing his father, despite his role in abandoning his mother for another woman. I guess he still has some boundaries.

However, there are certainly some boundaries that he can easily break through—like the boundary between the legion of trolls and real-life, real-time consequences for their words and attitudes.

Targeting a particularly nasty chatroom, a member of which gave the media his address and name, he first hacks in and tells them that he’ll kill them all. Then he kills the one who ratted him out (even though he insists he was only trolling), then systematically kills each and every member of the room.

The nature of their real-life isolation from each other made it impossible for anyone to credibly warn anyone else, and the speed with which Hiro works makes it impossible for anyone to even process what the hell is happening, let alone defend themselves.

While these trolls were undeniably assholes, they didn’t really deserve to be executed, and Hiro certainly wasn’t the one to pass judgment on them, considering the extent of his own crimes. The grand irony of it all is that if only he hadn’t been caught, Hiro might’ve actually stopped killing; and redirected his life to protecting and providing for the mother who bore him.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 06

After sustaining a head injury when Zapp punts him into a bad guy, Leo has the same dream he always has: Michella sacrificing her sight and legs for his sake while he stands around doing nothing. We’re reminded of the prime reason Leo is in Hellsalem’s Lot: to cure her.

He shows Dr. Estevez his eyes, but neither she nor Director Grana have ever heard of a case of them being removed. It’s not a medical procedure; more a termination of a contract, which won’t come without considerable cost. Leo laments that he feels as powerless to save Michella as he was the day he arrived. Klaus told him there’s always light, but he can’t see it.

Then the magic, intensity, and downright insanity of simply living in the HSL, not to mention being affiliated with Libra, eventually restokes his hope of saving his sister, thus becoming the “turtle knight” who protects the princess in Michella’s drawings.

How specifically does he get inspired? A lockout!

While Steven is hacking computer systems to stop criminals from bringing down earthshaking beings who rain destruction upon the city, an old foe believed to have been incarcerated surfaces, and all of Libra goes out to deal with it, when only Steven was needed.

Only Anila remains at Libra HQ, and a single crane fly who had infiltrated the interior soon turns into a massive swarm, and one of them evolves into a humanoid of increasing intelligence and power. He sets Defcon 2, turning Libra into an impregnable fortress, with the bulk of Libra’s members trapped outside.

Klaus calls Yurian, a Ghostbuster-looking “locksmith” to override the lockout, but it will be slow going. Meanwhile, the team can’t prevent Chain, entering HQ in her usual way, from getting blasted by the building’s defense systems.

She’s fine, and even caught a glance at the bugs, whose leader becomes more and more sophisticated in speech as he talks to Klaus over the phone, basically saying he’s borrowing HQ until he becomes a god.

The delay of Bugman’s evolution could spell the end of the city, as a particularly large Earthshaker begins to descend, adding far greater stakes to the emergency than simply being locked out of a house when the oven was left on.

However, Klaus doesn’t panic; he turns to his training and his ability, has Yurian open the tiniest of holes in the defense system, and climbs the tower with blood pitons, using Leo’s eyes to discern when to avoid the security grid. Demonstrating he’s not quite ready for godhood, the Bugman idiotically goes outside to see what’s up and gets blood-lanced.

Steve tracks down the hackers controlling the Earthshaker and take them out before it touches the ground, saving tens of thousands. And thus, having watched Klaus not giving up while riding on his back, Leo resolves not to despair or give up on saving Michella. After all, you never know what this city will throw at you.

Macross Delta – 21

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The HayMirFre triangle was set aside entirely this week; instead the episode focused on Kaname and the roots of Walkure, starting all the way at the beginning. It’s a long story, but the ladies are incarcerated until further notice, so there’s time to tell it. It’s a story that was only hinted at before, and digging deep into the group’s history mitigates the fizzling out of suspense from last week’s infiltration.

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The last couple of episodes have been full of uncertainty for all, but the flashbacks this week are instrumental in showing that this has almost always been the case. When Kaname was first hired by Chaos, nobody knew what they were doing. Once idols with fold receptors were collected, their first “shows” were utter failures. Even Makina and Reina don’t get along for a long time. Two other Walkure members quit due to stress.

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It’s also instructive to see just how ragtag Chaos was long before Hayate and Freyja joined it. Kaname was simply a survivor on a war-torn planet; Makina from a family of skilled mechanics and engineers; Reina is a genius hacker. None were born idols; they grew into it, as did the symbiotic relationship between Walkure and the Delta Platoon, leading to the rescue of a young pilot named Messer from a battle on Alfheim.

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Of course, one member of Walkure was born an idol, with no other dream but to sing. That, of course, is Mikumo, who was introduced to the others quite suddenly after Claire quit, and has a powerful and immediate impact on them all.

Even Reina and Makina bond over her transformative power of song, which she uses to introduce her self rather than, you know, speaking to them. When Mikumo is suddenly singing in the brig where the others are being held, it’s a neat (if somewhat jarring) segue out of the flashback and back to the present.

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Back on Windermere, Lloyd has Heinz use his newly amplified song to put thousands on Al Shahal in a coma to do research, but Heinz’s frail body can’t take the strain. When Keith discovers the Heinz is riddled with the same frozen malady that claimed his father, only far earlier in life, he is furious, and confronts Lloyd, who pretty much confesses to murdering King Gramia (to east his suffering), and that he and Keith cannot “fly in the same skies”.

Lloyd goals are about far more than preserving the fatherland and expanding the empire. As Berger finds out, he may be after the ability to join the minds of all mankind into a network; unlocking perhaps the most powerful ability of the protoculture. If Gramia, Heinz, and even Mikumo or Freyja are the eggs he has to break, so be it; he must have his omelette.

But he’s running out of time. Mikuno’s “issues” were fixed aboard the medical frigate, and while she now knows she has no childhood memories because she’s a genetically engineered clone, she’s no less committed to singing for the cause she was created to serve.

Delta and Walkure are headed to Windermere. Whatever anyone’s personal issues or doubts, there’s a galaxy out there that needs saving. Time to get to work.

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Macross Delta – 20

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I was wondering how Delta would follow up an episode that was 9/10ths an advertisement for other Macross series (some worse but most better than Delta), and 1/10th nice character work between Mirage and Hayate, which for me saved it from a 6 (not recommended).

Turns out this episode was a lot more like the last 1/10th of last week, only with a lot more action, which pleased me. For once, though, the action doesn’t predominantly serve the plot; the status of the war remains unchanged.

Instead, all the action is character-driven, not a bad way to go for a show whose characters have too often felt like little more than props (or shadows of aforementioned better shows). Forget the war, we’ve got more basic problems: Freyja can’t sing, Hayate can’t fly, and Mikumo is God-knows-where.

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Everyone is full of doubt and uncertainty, even in Windermere, where Heinz is definitely spooked by the fact his song was overpowered by Mikumo’s. His brother Keith (who has had very little to do since losing an eye) seems to want to know more about Heinz’s specific medical problems, all while wondering what the heck is going on with Lloyd, who he thought he used to know well.

Lloyds reassurances to Heinz that his voice is peerless, and to Keith that all will be well, aren’t received with enthusiasm by either Windermere. Cassim is also still walking around looking lost; the only ones who aren’t are content to blindly follow the most powerful authority.

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Things can’t stay this way for the main players on both sides of the war, so it falls to the second tier of the cast to bring about some kind of change. Makino and Reina start prodding the medical frigate’s security for weaknesses, and when Kaname catches them, they convince her to join their cause, even if it’s against the rules, because they love Mikumo.

Hayate and Freyja actually manage to sit at a table together, but only to exchange unilateral life-altering/ruining decisions. Hayate wants to quit flying so Freyja can keep singing; Freyja wants to quit singing so Hayate can keep flying. Their affection for one another precludes doing anything that might hurt one another.

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Enter Mirage, who does a far better job than Lloyd to, well, not so much reassure them as knock some sense into them with harsh words. She considers both their offers unacceptable; Hayate has to fly and Freyja has to sing; that’s what they were frikkin’ born to do.

And she’s not even going to give them the choice to give up on their dreams, because she loves them too much. There; she finally said it, only two both of them and not simply Hayate. Better than nothing, I guess. Mirage (and Seto Asami) do great work here.

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While Mirage puts her heart on her sleeve to help the comrades—the friends—she loves, Kaname, Makino and Reina potentially put their careers, freedom, and lives on the line for their comrade Mikumo. Reina’s hacking isn’t pefect, but Kaname doesn’t give up when the other two are arrested, running through corridors and belting out song until she reaches Mikumo, who despite being in a stasis tank, sings along.

And that’s it for episode 20. With six episodes left, the sing-and-fly formula of earlier episodes has been immensely disrupted, and we’re left wondering what will become of the singers of Walkure, the pilots of Delta, and the overdressed tools of Windermere.

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Macross Delta – 18

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I never thought it would happen, but Macross Delta actually made me care a little bit about one of the bad guys. A big part of why is because he’s unsure the direction his people are headed it. Cassim is on the wrong side of 25, and knows full well the king is now Lloyd’s puppet. Like Hayate and Freyja, whom he invites into a storehouse where he’s thinking things over, he’s not exactly sure what is the right thing to do.

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I especially liked when Freyja showed up first and they just shot the Windermerean breeze, so to speak. When Hayate shows up, he’s not hostile, but sees that these two like each other and worries for them, as he worries for the future in general, which for him, is far shorter than he’d like. He also worries for his son back home. Lloyd may be hell-bent on galactic domination, but Cassim just wants to die happy, assured his family will be safe and prosperous when he’s gone.

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It’s good to see Hayate and Freyja trying and largely succeeding in moving past the awkwardness of his father’s past, at least for now, and dedicating themselves to working to support one another, along with their respective teams, Delta and Walkure.

Freyja is back to her ebullient self when she joins her groupmates by the Protoculture structure for a tactical show kicked off by Mikumo, and the structure starts to react immediately. Interestingly, Lloyd lets them sing, which suggests…maybe they shouldn’t be doing something he’s okay with?

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Freyja’s fold waves mesh with Hayate and make him a better wind-rider, able to keep up with Keith in the skies. But the song and aerial battle get progressively more intense and chaotic, with both Freyja and Hayate seemingly going out of control—perhaps the very reason Lloyd let them play on.

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Even more troubling is that after Heinz sings his Song of the Wind, nearly causing Hayate to succumb to the Var, Freyja essentially shorts out after going into a trance. Then Mikumo goes into a trance of her own, recalling old, buried memories of being some kind of test subject (of course) before restarting a song so strong and assertive it even knocks out Heinz’s song—as well as his clothes— before she passes out.

The episode kinda leaves us hanging with her collapse, following it up with an ending sequence that looks for all the world like a Mikumo tribute. Is this it for Mikumo? What exactly did she and Walkure do that seemed to play right into Lloyd’s hands? Will Freyja, Hayate, and Cassim ever figure out what exactly is the right thing to do?

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Macross Delta – 17

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As the oldest Windermerean soldier smirks at the fact only Lord Lloyd heard Gramia’s last wish—to press their fight until all the galaxy is theirs—Lloyd becomes more interested in Freyja and Mikumo. Targets to take out, or backup weapons in case Heinz falls prematurely?

Whatever his plans, it’s back to work for Delta/Walkure, as Arad and Kaname announce a new plan to infiltrate Vordor (where Var-immune rebel forces are still holding out) and try to find a way to use the ruins to their advantage. Freyja, meanwhile, has totally fallen for Hayate, who sadly seems only a quarter-aware.

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Work Comes First this week, however, and it comes in the form of an elaborate Walkure network and media saturation campaign spearheaded by Reina as a huge, dazzling cover for hacking the galactic network in order to facilitate their infiltration of Vordor.

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It’s Walkure’s most aggressive “tour” yet, able to appear seemingly in every planet in the cluster, and they turn up the heat by, for one, exploiting their sexuality, Makina’s in particular.

While discussion of objectification may crop up in some circles, the fact is Walkure chose to go in this direction; the military didn’t make them. This was all Reina and Makina’s scheme, and it works,

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While watching Freyja sing and glance at him with a bright rune, Hayate starts to maybe-kinda-sorta pick up on all the lovey-dovey vibes emanating from Freyja. He gives her an, ahem, glowing review of her singing, and Freyja is this close to confessing her feelings.

What stops them? An elderly couple waving to her, before walking off, hand-in-hand. At that crucial moment, Freyja saw a future she’d never enjoy with Hayate. It’s the opposite of the Arwen-Aragorn tragedy, with Freyja leaving Hayate by death before he even reaches the middle of his life.

Things get more awkward when Hayate brings up how he hasn’t seen his Mom in a while, but it’s “no big deal” because it’s “just a couple of years.” That stings Freyja to the core, and her rune goes out like a candle.

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Still, her work continues, and with even Windermeran pilots (and Bogue) falling for their spell, Reina’s hidden virus reaches 100% saturation, clearing the way for the Vordor operation.

Before they set out, Hayate runs into the guy who knew his dad, and after getting nowhere answers-wise, Hayate storms the bridge and confronts Arad: He wants the truth, now.

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He gets it, or at least more of it than he’s ever gotten, and it’s nothing good: Wright Immelmann stole a dimensional weapon and dropped it on the NUNs garrison in Windermere, killing all the forces, a good number of civilians, and leaving that scar on the landscape.

Now he knows: his father was, at least according to the facts at hand, a mass murderer and war criminal, a realization that makes Freyja’s rune go darker than ever. It’s not a great place for either of them to end up after she’d gotten so close to telling him how she felt; now the love window has closed for the time being.

Freyja has her job, and so does Hayate. As Mikumo’s voice seems to be changing (and possibly weakening, suggesting she may be a secret Windermerean, nearing 30), Walkure will support Freyja while Mirage and Chuck will support Hayate. Because as long as King Heinz can sing, Lloyd’s not going to stop his galactic conquest.

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Macross Delta – 08

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Like Kabaneri last week overcoming the Fused Colony boss, this week’s Macross Delta seems to let its heroes off a little bit easy, considering the hole they dug themselves in. I’d also question why so many high-ranking Windermereans not only end up on Vordor, but end up cornering Hayate, Mirage and Freyja…only to bascially quarrel with each other about what to do with them (kill or capture to interrogate).

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Let’s be honest here: Hayate and Mirage are no match for these guys in hand-to-hand combat. Bogue alone mopped the floor with them in the blink of an eye. And yet despite having our heroes right where they want them, the Windermereans muck it up, giving Walkure time to launch a counterattack, aided at least in part by the ruins.

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As a result, our triangle is freed, Hayate, Mirage and Messer hop aboard their Seigfrieds, and the battle moves to the air, as Walkure counters the sad wind song of Prince Heinz. That song actually infects Messer, who’s already sustained a bullet wound, and Hayate comes very close to having to kill the father of those kids he and Freyja saw (another odd coindence), but Freyja steps up to the plate and gives a solo performance that cures the pilot.

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Hayate’s flying actually resonates with Freyja’s song, and he’s able to shoot Bogue out of the sky without killing him, but keeping a guy that dangerous alive is probably going to come back to bite him. Meanwhile, Lord Roid is fascinated by Freyja’s song, and will surely try to capture her again, Mikumo is both proud and impressed by Freyja’s newfound voice and reason for singing (to end wars), and Messer, poor dude, still has the Var. All in all, another serviceable but not particularly exceptional outing.

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Macross Delta – 07

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It’s Hacking Time on Macross Delta, with Mechanical Makina and CyberReina combining their talents to break through Windermerean orbital security, using a little bit of song to help things along. The good guys get an undercover team down to the surface, composed of Walkure, Hayate, Mirage and Messer. They have to disguise themselves as cat-people, which I guess is cute?

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On Vordor, they learn a great deal: the minds of everyone in the military and police are being controlled by the Var. Even an elite pilot is in the thrall of the Var, unable to hear the cries of his own children. Freyja wants to help in addition to being useful, but Mikumo pulls her back; they’ll only be able to fix this planet if they find out what’s going on. Vordor would seem to be a stategically middling world, but it does have one thing: ruins from the Protoculture.

Walkure surmises that the Windermereans are interested in the secrets the ruins may provide, including on dimensional weapons, a form of WMD that caused the “wound” on Windermere, but which Mirage insists was detonated by the Windermerans themselves, then passed off as an attack from offworlders in propaganda (which Freyja consumed).

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Even Prince Heinz would seem to be under the impression the wound he saw wasn’t self-inflicted, but an act that must be avenged using the Song of the Wind as his weapon, even if it kills him. As the show darts from one exotic locale to another, we’re treated to awfully gorgeous establishing shots that would look great framed and hung on my walls. Also Freyja continues to be not-that-useful on this trip.

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The rest of Walkure, on the other hand, prove they’re far more than just var-nullifying songstresses. Mikumo does her surveillance with robotic cicadas, Kaname leads the operation, and Reina and Makina, who were once so repelled by one another early shows with them had to be cancelled, are in perfect sync now, in addition to being something between BFFs and sisters.

They get the rest of the team down to the bowels of the ruins, where they find…bottle water and apples.

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Mikumo goes off on her own—as is her wont—drawn by a song that seems to be calling her; perhaps the Protoculture? As for the others, Hayate makes the connection between the apples and water, which when ingested together create the conditions for var infection.

Now they know how Windermere is infecting and conquering worlds, now they have to find a way to stop them. But first, they have to book it out of there, and once alerts are raised, that becomes more difficult.

Hayate, Mirage, and Freyja fall behind and are caught in a trap set by Bogue, who is looking forward to dealing with two “NUG dogs” and a “Windermerean traitor”. Our main triangle finds themselves in quite a bit of hot bottled water…

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Ghost in the Shell: ARISE – Alternative Architecture – 10 (Fin)

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ARISE – Alternative Architecture last episode wasn’t just a glorified prologue to the upcoming film that continues the re-imagining of Ghost in the Shell, but a petty satisfying conclusion to the ten-episode television adaptation of the four ARISE movies. It’s an ellipsis, to be sure, but I didn’t feel cheated. It’s a good place to pause, and created anticipation for what’s to come.

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Pyrophoric Cult’s second part succeeded as both end and prologue to ARISE because it captured and distilled the cyberpunk fun of Ghost in the Shell. Things are pretty simple this week: transport Hozuki’s head to the Americans, where her secrets will be extracted and she’ll be sent into exile.

The show’s dry and somewhat dark (in this case) sense of humor comes out in the way Kusanagi says goodbye to the Hozuki head before closing her in a convenient carrying case, then tells her men that as Hozuki is still technically alive, they need to treat her as such, right before unceremoniously heaving the case into the back of a van like a sack of rice, making a satisfying clank in the process.

It’s a great expression of Kusanagi’s frustration with the piddling transport job, as well as a nice F-U to Hozuki for all the trouble she’s caused.

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Not long after the job starts, though, Pyromaniac escapes from custody with the help of Kurtz who just waltzes into the facility where he’s being held, a rare case of hands-on action on her part that would incriminate her if her quarry weren’t someone capable of wiping all security records of said facility.

Before he escapes, he hacks into the cyberbrains of all the scientists analyzing him, some of whom are American. Among those codes is the capability of launching a nasty-looking American drone helicopter to harass Kusanagi’s convoy.

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The drone doesn’t destroy them, but leads them to an American base, where a platoon of Fire-Starter-hacked special forces wearing optical camouflage are waiting. The purpose of the multi-pronged attack on Kusanagi is ostensibly to take out any possible agents who are a legitimate threat to the existence of Fire-Starter virus, which include her and Hozuki.

But Kusanagi won’t go out without a fight, and indeed never seems to panic, even though she and her whole team have been lured right where the enemy wants them. Ever the level-headed military woman, she splits her men up and delegates tasks to them, each according to their skills, while she dives into her personal net, wrangles up an impromptu strike force of mercenary hackers to disable the hacked special forces.

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Once that’s done, she manages to find Pyromaniac himself and enters his “world”, which resembles the Kuzan battlefield that presumably embittered him to his present crusade. Yet she’s almost disappointed to learn he’s not even a “true” ghost, only an amalgam of false memories created by Fire-Starter; a glorified A.I. Even the banter he delivers turns out to be wooden because it was simply uploaded to give him a little more personality.

Most impressively, while Kusanagi may appear to be on the ropes, in reality she’s in complete control of the situation, creating a decoy of herself to fool Pyro and then surrounding him with delete protocols. All that was missing from her coup-de-grace was shouting “BANG!” as she formed a gun with her hand, though that would admittedly been a bit cliche.

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Thus Kusanagi gets a victory in this final week, one that’s both convincing and satisfying, and the product of relatively easy-to-follow teamwork, both from her unit guys and Aramaki pulling the political strings. Sure, her direct interfacing with and deleting Pyro may have been Kurtz’s plan all along, as Kurtz’s parting shot is one of confidence and anticipation rather than anger at being foiled. But the next confrontation between Kusanagi and her former CO will be one of many matters for the film.

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For now, I’ll enjoy Kusanagi’s provisional win, and the somewhat cheeky ending of Kusanagi appearing in a military uniform to receive formal thanks from the Prime Minister. Even Aramaki doesn’t want to hear about some of the things Kusanagi learned while in her dive with Pyro; proportionally speaking, the Prime Minister is completely in the dark about what the good Major and her team did and how they did it.

All the Prime Minister needs or cares to see is the smiling, uniformed Shell standing at attention, telling him it’s all in a day’s work, while it’s the jumpsuit-wearing Ghost and her cohorts working in the deep cyber-shadows to keep his government—and his brain—in one piece.

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Oregairu 2 – 05

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This week, Hikky has a lot of work to do, much of it damage control he knows he’s been holding off too long. Last week’s bleak scene of two siblings in the dark turned out to be the perfect opportunity for Hikky to get the easy stuff out of the way: reconnecting with his little sister.

Komachi forgives him far more readily than anyone else will, because of her fifteen years of living with him, she’s learned, unlike Yukino, that there are things about people you can’t change, and in time they grow endearing. Love is acceptance of those things. Far more than wanting him to change his ways, Komachi just wants Hikky to talk to her about what’s troubling him.

The cold open thaws the atmosphere, and the scene with the siblings that follows is a masterclass in familial dialogue. It also serves to throw us, the audience yearning for something positive, a much appreciated bone.

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Hikky may not be able to put into words why he wants the Service Club preserved, but he doesn’t need to: Komachi wants it preserved too, which means he has a new mission, one that’s more important than Iroha’s, because it’s from his sister. Fulfilling it means preventing Yukino or Yui from winning.

His need for counsel coincides with the alignment of all his allies not involved in the current unpleasantness, starting with Zaimozuka, whose even greater isolation from normal school society is expressed by the fact he spends his lunch breaks in the library.

Komachi, appreciative of Hikky working hard, ends up assembling Kawasaki and Saika, and when the former is asked to come up with a list of good candidates for president, she makes sure to include him seriously, even though he has zero chance.

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The counsel helps Hikky decide what to do, which is to double down on his interpretation of Iroha’s true desire: to preserve her “brand image” by avoiding a “high-risk, low-return” commitment like StuCo president, along with her desire to get closer to Hayato.

With some Facebook-hacking help from Zaimozuka, he’s able to assure her the backers she needs to win the election, while assuring her she’ll not only be protected from the sting of failure because she’s only a first-year, but will also be able to avoid failure altogether by reaching out to Hayato for support, giving her the in she needs.

I’ll note that he doesn’t include Hayato or Miura Yumiko in on his plan, but they’re not his clients on this: Komachi and Iroha are. And Iroha agrees with the plan, after all but proving Hikky right about her persona by delivering a super-quick boilerplate rejection the moment she suspects he’s flirting with her (which he isn’t trying to do).

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While Iroha is convinced of his plan, the truth is even with the extra backers he’s not sure she can win. Getting her to go along with it was only the first step in his primary mission given to him by Komachi; a mission that means more to him as well: keeping the club together. Hikky uses the satisfaction of Iroha’s contract as a bluff to get Yukino and Yui to drop out of the race, assuring Iroha’s victory and the preservation of the club.

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It’s a gamble, but it works. Yui is elated Hikky worked so hard for her sake to protect the place she treasures the most, and because he worked in silence and secrecy, without exposing himself, she has cover to forgive him for his methods.

It’s not so much “I don’t want to know” or “out of sight out of mind” (though it’s partly both); it’s more that like Komachi, Yui is accepting of the way Hikky is and always will be. Or as Hikky puts it: “So long as a problem doesn’t cause problems, it can’t be called a problem.”

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The fruits of his hard work are seen almost immediately once Yui expresses her approval and accepts his apology. She affectionately fixes his scruffy hair against his protests, and moves her chair right next to him. I don’t want to pick sides, and all three friends are partly to blame for their predicament, but I’d wager Yui was suffering the most with the prospect of losing the club, and even she admits it would indeed be lost even if she won.

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So Iroha wins, and is already using the very willing Tabe as her personal assistant in setting up the office when Hikky congratulates her and asks her to make it a good school, what with Komachi attending next year. Iroha takes this as another attempt at hitting on her, which creeps her out.

I must say Iroha wasn’t what I expected this season: she’s better. I thought she’d be a new love interest and wedge between Hikky and the other two, but thanks to her cooperation he was able to save the club and make up with Yui without the kind of undue damage to himself the girls hate.

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So what about Yukino, the hardest nut to crack? Well, that remains to be seen. This wasn’t a total victory (it couldn’t be one, not even halfway in): the club is saved for now, but the smell of tea no the room. What worked for Komachi and Yui doesn’t quite work for Yukino. Her line as she agrees to bow out of the race and then leaves the clubroom is “You thought you understood, didn’t you?” I take this to mean Hikky thought she was running to fulfill the client’s request.

Then I thought back to the beginning of this episode, with Hikky and Komachi making up so easily because of their unique status as siblings, and I thought of Haruna rattling Yukino’s cage. I wouldn’t be surprised if part of Yukino’s continued dissatisfaction is that even though Hikky got the job done without resorting tot he most distasteful tactics imaginable, he also kept her from meeting the challenge set by her big sister.

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That challenge was to leave the service club and take her rightful spot atop the school, where she can be of the most help to everyone in accordance with her noblesse oblige. A future with Yukino as president, Yui as Veep, and Hikky in some unspecified utility role without an official title, is also a possible future Hikky imagines while walking with the outgoing president, who would have liked to see such a future.

Rhetorically speaking, “strictly rhetorically,” Hikky wonders if life would have changed had he taken a different route with the election. Same people, same dynamics, only a different room, a different organization, and a Yukino who is more fulfilled as President, and who has answered Haruna’s challenge. But Hikky took a different route, which had its benefits and its consequences. We’ll see what the latter consist of.

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