Kuromukuro – 09

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Not long after coming to in a cave filled with clocks and obsolete electronics, Yukina passes back out, as if hypnotized by the mysterious figure with the robotic voice and her dad’s watch and journal. She wakes up in a bus shelter, where Akagi and Kaya find her.

Just like that, all the potential answered questions about Yukina’s dad, and all the other mysteries in that cave, dissipate. That was a little disappointing, and the whole cave thing felt like a tease, but I came to forgive the episode when Yukina came around on piloting the artifact with Ken.

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What I like is that there wasn’t any one reason she didn’t want to and tried to run away: she’s scared; overwhelmed by the pressure; uncertain if this was the right path. But she also doesn’t like how she’s been ordered around like some automaton. Would it hurt for someone to ask her nicely?

Having dealt with her absence, Ken is resolved to let Yukina go, but Yukina isn’t ready for Ken to disappear from her life. She’s taken a shine to the guy, and vice versa, and when he realizes it’s as simple as asking nicely, he does so, and before lone Yukina is back in the cockpit with him.

I also appreciated that Hiromi’s decision not to let the military force her daughter into the artifact, even using her body as a shield. The protection is unneccesary, as Yukina was only “annoyed with herself” and needed some time and space, which she got, and is now willing to do her part.

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Once Yukina and Ken are in their tough new skin-tight nanofiber flight suits, Yukina puts on a brave front but Ken sees her hands shaking. She admits it: she’s scared shitless, but that command artifact out there isn’t going to defeat itself, and she doesn’t want Ken to use her absence as an excuse to get himself killed, nor does she like the idea of him sacrificing his life to save her. She’d prefer if they get through this together.

What “that” is could have been very intriguing indeed, had Efidolg succeeded in abducting Glongur and bringing Yukina and Ken up to the mothership. But that possibility is negated when the UN’s hunch about the tractor beam neutralizing the artifacts’ shields proves true.

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Another possibility not realized: Akagi and Kaya are once again very close to an errant missle explosion, but neither is even slightly injured. Not sure why they keep teasing the fact that these two could end up stains on the mountainside, adding to Yukina’s burden by association, but Akagi is determined to play a larger role in her protection, and not just because he teased her when they were little.

Sophie and the guy with the dirty mouth show up to take out the small fry, leaving Ken free to take on the boss artifact. He has trouble with his acrobatics, but Yukina again uses her unusually extensive knowledge of geology to lure the artifact onto a rock face she knows will crumble.

Rather than self-destruct, the Efidolg pilot surrenders. This was initially surprising, but I’m pretty sure when both Plan A (capturing Glongur) and Plan B (defeating Glongur in a duel) failed, he pivots to Plan C: letting yourself be captured by the enemy so you can learn more about them and possibly escape and cause more damage from within. We’ll see how he plays it.

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Kuromukuro – 08

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Like Ikari Shinji, who was overwhelmed by duties and expectations, Yukina seeks refuge away from the places that have oppressed her, but neither strays too far. Yukina hides out in Ogino’s room (decorated with posters of other P.A. Works), unsure of what she wants to do but very sure of what she doesn’t, namely fight and kill people in Glongur.

Ogino is a good friend in that she lets her crash there, lies to her mom for her, and gives her space to sulk. But she’s also a good friend because she provides her own perspective on Yukina’s plight—i.e. it’s a blessing, not a curse—and tells her the sulking and running has to end eventually, and she has to go home.

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Akagi and Kaya turn out to be fine, and were only gone as long as they were because Akagi’s bike ran out of gas. He gets a punch and a stern reaming from his father, warning his son not to “keep living for others’ approval,” but Akagi is mostly concerned with gaining Yukina’s approval, and he feels bad for ending up in a position where she might have been hurt.

Ken claims not to be worried about Yukina, and is only searching for the key to his artifact, but let’s be real here: of course he’s worried; after all, he’s still not certain Yukina isn’t the reincarnation of his princess. The princess is gone and his sense of purpose with it…except that Yukina has been filling the role of protectee he needs so dearly.

Talk about what Yukina wants comes up both in class and at UN control. Sophie suspects that if Yukina being in that artifact’s cockpit is the only thing keeping Earth safe, Yukina’s getting in that cockpit, whether she wants to or not. Unlike Shinji’s dad Gendo, Hitomi isn’t ready to commit to forcing Yukina; she’s more concerned with simply finding her.

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Yukina’s would-be protectors mount a search for her; Ken on the big horse he met earlier, Akagi on his refueled bike (with Kaya tagging alone, hungry for more viral streaming).

Rather than go to school (which would feel like a quick surrender), Yukina heads into the Kurowashi Valley, where the castle of Ken’s lord once stood but has since been reclaimed by nature.

Not having any satisfying answers about how to proceed, perhaps she thinks following her father’s journal and exploring the site where the demons once attacked might shed some light on her proper path. Or heck, maybe she’ll find her missing dad.

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Little does she know, the area is swarming with formerly dormant Efidolg Cactii, one of which zeros in on her location and attacks her. She’s saved neither by Ken (who gets close but never finds her by episode’s end) or Akagi (who took off later).

Instead, the magenta cactus is destroyed by a mysterious blue robot and a man with a very sharp sword and a watch Yukina instantly recognizes as—you guessed it—her father’s. The way this reunion has unfolded, it’s almost as if Yukina was always meant to ‘run away’ (even just a little bit) in search of either a reason for—or alternative to—pilot Glongur.

I’ll close by presenting two little snippets from the episode of both Ken and Yukina talking to themselves:

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I just wanted to point these moments out because I laughed heartily at both, for different reasons. Ken’s surprise at the horse’s size is another unique product of a samurai from four centuries ago suddenly finding himself in the present, where horses (and Japanese people) are simply larger due to better food, medicine, and breeding. His delivery is great too.

Yukina’s observation, on the other hand, is one of the most sophisticated collections of words she’s spoken. It seems meant to show us there’s more to this unmotivated airhead than meets the eye. She’s either a secret geology buff or maybe she was just paying special attention to one particular part of class.

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Kuromukuro – 07

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Ken and Yukina achieved a great victory; they are the only ones in the world who were able to defeat a geoframe of Efidolg, even if Hedo took his own life rather than allow himself to be captured. But it’s far worse than that: Yukina is simply done.

She’s gone along up to this point, but she never truly signed up for this, and she just can’t get into the headspace required to take more life, especially when the so-called “demons” have human form. She retreats into her room; into her dreams; into her past, when she was berated by peers for being the daughter of a presumed madman.

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His “lies” made her a liar. She’s always resented this, and her mother was never present enough, either emotionally or physically, to do much about it. So it’s stewed. That Dad turned out to be right doesn’t change the fact she carries scars, even if they’re not the kind that show, like Ken’s (whose bashfulness with “virtually naked” girls during a free swim was another nice touch. Dude is simply not used to women.)

It’s not that she takes a particular moral stance against fighting the enemy; she simply feels deeply in her bones that she’s not the girl for the job. Tom doesn’t help matters by calling her worthless. At school, Yukina feels lost, and she can’t accept the adoration and gratitude of most of her classmates, because some believe she did nothing to save Akagi and Kaya from being killed (their fates remain a mystery).

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Sophie, for her part, tries to make an appeal to Yukina’s inner bushido, but to no avail. Yukina doesn’t want to be the person with the fate of the world on her shoulders. It’s just too BIG. Why can’t she just go to the supermarket after work and buy ingredients for dinner?

When Ken finally tries to assure her he doesn’t think she’s just a tool, and then plots out his post-revenge course as leading to his eventual reunion with the princess (i.e. death or suicide), Yukina’s refusal to ride with him intensifies. She doesn’t want any blood on her hands.

She also believes the demons aren’t demons, after meeting one and seeing an ordinary human. We’re finally allowed inside the orbiting Efidolg mothership, where a small council of pilots like Hedo reach the consensus that their plans cannot continue as long as Glongur walks the Earth; it and its pilot must be destroyed.

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These spacefaring warriors seem so very far away from Yukina’s simple life, but at this point I just don’t see her staying out of the fighting. Even if her mother won’t force her, something will surely come up to convince Yukina, like her male Eva counterpart Ikari Shinji, to jump into that cockpit once more.

Despite Yukina’s multiple (and reasonable, considering the life she’s led thus far) reservations, and the fact this week ends with her running away from home after her mother slapped her for being presumptuous about her late father, this only seems like delaying the inevitable: Yukina and Ken will keep fighting Efidolg, because no one else can, and because those Yukina loves and cares about will be in danger if she doesn’t.

There’s also, like, a million episodes left. Way too early for our heroine to throw in the towel…but probably not the last time she’ll waver, either.

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Kuromukuro – 06

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The time for messing around at home or school is over, as the Yellow Crab and two red Headless (which Yukina calls Dullahans) land near the airport, which, if you’ve watched Captain America: Civil War, you know is a great open place to stage a big fight while minimizing civilian casualties.

Ken and Yukina arrive to find themselves outnumbered 3:1, and the conventional military backup is completely toothless against their foes. That’s made plain when the Yellow Crab plucks an attacking gunship out of the sky as if it were a buzzing fly.

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The mission for our main couple is to stay alive and hang in there until help can arrive in the form of the two GAUS units, which are launched from a railgun-like catapult thingy that emerges from an innocent-looking telescope dome. This sequence comes with all the requisite technobabble checklists and “all clears” one would expect of a sci-fi mecha show.

The show takes its time with this sequence, making it feel like the big deal that it is that they’re launching these things. Heft is also added to the proceedings by the foreboding rust-colored sky, and the hasty evacuation of the city.

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The cockpit of Ken’s and Yukina’s artifact is pierced, but Ken only gets a glancing wound to the head and is okay. Things are kept relatively light with Yukina’s comment about there being a “bunch of things” (meaning HUD warnings), and her elation at the cavalry arriving being shot down when Sophie tells her not to chat during combat.

Once the two GAUS’s arrive, the playing field is evened a bit, as at least the two Headless are too busy fighting off Sophie and Tom to gang up on Ken and Yukina.

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With some slick moves and samurai training, Ken manages to strike a blow to the Crab’s vital area that brings it down, turning black in the process. Then, to everyone’s surprise (including Kaya and Akagi, who are filming the action from not too far away and streaming it to the world), a pilot emerges and removes his helmet.

He’s…human. Or some kind of space-faring human, or an alien who looks just like a human. He calls himself Hedo, “Frontier Reform Officer” for “Efidolg.” He also calls Ken’s artifact “Glongur” and asks why he betrayed his people. Neither Ken nor Yukina nor anyone else know what the heck this guy is talking about, but they don’t get any time to ask questions.

Rather than be killed like a dog or taken captive, Hedo activates the Crab’s self-destruct. The blast that ensues is pretty intense—intense enough to roast Akagi and Kaya, if the show had chosen to go that dark here—but not town-encompassing. All that remains of Hedo and the Crab is a crater and a heap of questions, chief among them, in the words of Tom, exactly are those asshole fucks up in orbit, and why are they attacking?

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