Goblin Slayer – 12 (Fin) – Not Just Another Pawn

With all those adventurers fighting together and following the Slayer’s plan, the goblin army is dispatched all too easily. Just when a goblin thinks he has the upper hand with a surprise attack, he’s met by a mailed fist, arrow, or blade. Meanwhile, Goblin Slayer himself informs the Goblin “Lord” that the home he’s trying to flee to is already gone.

That being said, the Slayer is not used to one-on-one combat out in the open, and the Lord, while cowardly, is still huge, and proceeds to stomp all over the Slayer’s head. Fortunately, the Priestess arrives, casting dual protection spell planes that immobilize and crush the lord. Slayer finishes him off, and is then healed by the Priestess, who didn’t use all three of her spells for protection.

The Priestess is cross that he pushed himself too hard once more, as she learns he was only bait, and trusted her to bail him out once the lord thought he would be victorious. When the sun rises, the Slayer needs help getting back home, but the adventurers, his party members, and Cow Girl are all elated to see him in one piece.

At the guild celebration, Goblin Slayer buys everyone a drink, as he promised. The Priestess asks if she can get an extra reward: if he’ll remove his helmet for her. He does, and it causes a right commotion in the guild, many of the members of which had a placed bids on who or what would be underneath.

But more than fascinated with his face, the Priestess, the rest of his party, the other adventurers, all share one thing in common: they now consider Goblin Slayer a friend and ally, and coming to his aid isn’t a matter of luck, but obligation. They do it gladly, because if it weren’t for him they might not have a town.

Thus ends Goblin Slayer’s saga…but only for now. A post-credits announcement promises his return. He intends to start on the path of an adventurer, but I assume that doesn’t preclude him from slaying goblins; it just means he’ll be going to more far-flung places to do it. And he won’t be doing it alone.

Steins;Gate 0 – 14 – The Voice of God Can Be a Real Pain in the Ass Sometimes

Steins;Gate 0 comes out of its one-week break between Spring and Summer with authority, delivering a tantalizing blend of drama, tension, and purpose. Roughly half a year has passed since a brainwashed Kagari was taken by forces unknown, which means we’re already at a point where the likes of Rintarou and Mayuri have reached the “acceptance” phase of loss. There was a time when he’d search endlessly and fruitlessly, but absent clues or recourse…life goes on.

In Rintarou’s case, “life going on” means continuing not to pursue any kind of objectives relating to time travel, which means Suzuha and Daru are on their own. While Daru has made some progress, he’s still far from restoring the Phone Microwave, which prompts Suzu to reach out to Maho (back in America) for her assistance and scientific know-how.

The only problem is, a sleep-deprived Maho continues to suffer from her Salieri complex: even if she has the ability to repeat what “Mozart” accomplished in another world line, she lacks the confidence to implement it. She doesn’t agree to assist Suzu because she’s afraid she’ll fail; she’ll let everyone down where Kurisu wouldn’t.

Word comes that Fubuki is in the hospital again; Suzu makes her dad Daru use it as another opportunity to interact with her mother (worried she may never be born in the future). Thankfully, it’s a false alarm; the doctors simply wanted to run more tests on Fubuki…though I wonder whether this is some kind of foreshadowing for further ill effects of time travel.

While at the hospital, Rintarou meets Dr. Leskinen, who doesn’t hesitate to take several pictures of their encounter for the benefit of Maho. Daru learns for the first time that Rintarou may be bound for America to study and eventually join Leskinen’s research group, but Leskinen made sure not to set a concrete date for Rintarou to do so.

Suzuha finds Kagari’s metal opa in the hallway outside the lab, which is strange, because there’s no way she nor anyone else wouldn’t have noticed it for half a year; it must have been left there on purpose. Sure enough, Suzu pretends to be in the shower when an uninvited guest helps herself inside the lab.

Suzu, unquestionably the most militarily capable of Rintarou’s circle of friends (not counting Tennouji) gets the jump on the helmeted intruder in black, and when she forces her to take off her helmet, it’s revealed to be Kagari, or rather a fully-brainwashed Kagari in “Bureau Mode.” She’s come for her Opa, and when Suzu doesn’t produce it, Kagari goes mad and attacks.

Kagari isn’t too much of a challenge to Suzu, until Daru shows up and Kagari slashes Suzu across the abdomen. Kagari snatches up the Opa and flees, and Suzu isn’t able to catch up to her. But as she fled, Daru noticed Kagari was crying. Their Kagari is still in there, somewhere, and she needs their help. But if what Suzu suspects is true, they can’t help her without a time machine.

Suzu also notes that Kagari mentioned she “heard the voice of God” both in the present and twelve years ago when she held her up with a gun. She goes on to believe Kagari, like so many of her “Valkyrie comrades”, is the victim of the “Bureau’s Professor,” who thankfully doesn’t look much like Leskinen (from what little we see of him).

Suzu and Daru beseech Maho via “Skipe” one more time to assist them in building a time leap machine; Maho can tell they’re more desperate than before, yet still doubts herself. But after looking at Amakurisu, something clicks in her head, and she starts packing for Japan.

Rather than searching Kurisu’s work for all the answers, Maho intends to go down the same path and reach the answers herself. After all, no one acknowledged and valued Mozart’s talent more than Salieri. If anyone can do what Kurisu did when it comes to time travel technology, it’s Maho. I’m glad she finally realizes that.

Psycho-Pass – 16

Those don't work, remember?
Those don’t work, remember?

As they approach the Nona Tower and a gauntlet of untold helmeted baddies, Kogami asks Kagari if he’s scared. This question interrupts Kagari’s monologue about becoming an enforcer not to protect the people who took everything away from him when he was five, but simply because being a hunting dog out in the world is preferable to hell as a lab rat in a facility. That is all. Well, that, and he has friends in the CID who he’s loyal to.

Very Akira-esque machinery
Very Akira-esque machinery

That loyalty is tested when he descends alone below Nona’s four official basements and into a cathedral-like anechoic chamber where Choe Guseong is attempting to break into Sybil’s core. Makishima ascends to the tower’s top floor as a decoy for Kogami and Tsunemori. They go after Makishima despite knowing he’s a decoy, because their primary directive is to capture him alive. Well, that, and they both have a score to settle with the bastard.

The cityscapes on this show are so sweet
The city vistas on this show are so sweet

All three detectives are slowed down by helmet guys armed with dangerous tools, but Kagari and Kogami show they’re not afraid of a little hand-to-hand combat and manage to charge through; Akane gets hit in the leg by a nailgun and has to hang back, and we finally come to the scene that starts the very first episode, when I had no idea what was going on. Well, now I know: we were getting a tantalizing glimpse of Makishima’s cornering and ultimate capture.

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We had no idea what had led up to that showdown high atop the Nona Tower, or the costs exacted to allow it to happen. Nor did we know how things would go down after literary pleasantries were exchanged (apparently one parries (Blaise) Pascal with (Jose) Ortega (y Gasset). I tellya, sometimes Psycho-Pass is like a Holiday Inn: just staying there makes you feel smarter, or that you should have paid more attention in that Civilization and Its Discontents elective.

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Putting aside academic discussion on the fundamental tensions between civilization and the individual, Kogami and Makishima have one heck of a physical fight, and as the helmet-men had softened him up—maybe even if they hadn’t—Makishima seems to have the slight upper hand, but in his desire to punish Kogami for forcing him to end things less entertainingly than he hoped, he neglects the possibility Kogami isn’t alone, and gets stoved in the head, ironically, by one of those damnable helmets.

POW!
POW!

Kogami tells Akane to kill him. Personal vendettas aside, Akane probably should kill him. But she lowers the helmet and pulls out the cuffs; returns to being an inspector of the MWPSB, and arrests Makishima in the name of the law. It’s another great victory marred by great emotional and practical cost. Meanwhile, far below them, Kagari finally finds Choe, who is finally in. Both of them look at something bright we don’t get to see, like the contents of the suitcase in Pulp Fiction.

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Then both Choe and Kagari are swiftly eliminated by Chief Kasei, who AAAAUGH SHE’S A CYBORG! Honestly that’s not that surprising, as there was a noticable coldness to all previous scenes with her. And if he wasn’t already, let there be no doubt any longer that Makishima is hardly the greatest adversary in the show. Hell, he isn’t even the greatest adversary in the building! Kogami was ready and willing to kill him; he just wasn’t able.

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That Akane was able to hold back murderous rage at her friend’s murderer just may have given both her and Kogami a fighting chance against the true enemy, if they ever find themselves on its bad side…if they aren’t already. Until then, this episode was a thrilling tour-de-force from start to brilliant finish, one of the best of the show yet. Still kicking myself for not watching this much sooner.

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Psycho-Pass – 15

…What Ron said.

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Once the mass-produced helmets are distributed to larger numbers of would-be criminals, they begin roving the city in bands, brutalizing the rest of the populace, who are believed as vulnerable and ineffectual to resist as those who were born in a totally sterile environment are more susceptible to pathogens. Once area stress levels rise to a sufficient point, something happens: the people start fighting back. The violence spreads mercilessly like a virus.

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Professional and social media explodes with news, rumors, and increasing panic, as the first half of the episode simply lays it all out for us, with no particular narrator or emcee. The MWSPB is caught completely off-guard, and because it was thought the Sybil system would eliminate the possibility of mass riots, they have no resourcs to deal with the chaos tearing the city apart. It’s a pitiable scene in the briefing room, with a grand total of 17 CID inspectors and enforcers mustered and tasked with taking on the riots by themselves with what few effective weapons they have.

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I can’t recall a police department being in such dire straits, and it’s frankly exhilarating. Their response to the vast unrest in the city seems almost comically inadequate, but this is what happens to a society that puts all its eggs in one flawed basket. Makishima appears to have found the man who will give him the best show, a master hacker who determines the Ministry’s Nona Tower is the probable location of the Sybil system. What’s so diabolical is that the riots were only meant as a decoy to draw all human MWSPB assets away from HQ, leaving it ripe for attack by some particularly tough-looking helmet guys.

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When…heck, if this enormous mess gets resolved, the Ministry, the city, and possiblythe country will owe a great debt to Kogami Shinya and Tsunemori Akane. Among the paltry ranks of the CID, they were the only ones to identify the riots for what they were and had the initiative to race back to the Nona Tower. Even then, as I said, the team raiding Nona look like tough customers, so simply identifying the enemy’s true intent isn’t enough. They have to stop them somehow.

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Psycho-Pass – 14

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It’s probably no coincidence that the episode after the chief confirms that Makishima is rare but not unique in his ability to confound Sybil, brutal crimes start cropping up that are committed by those with similarly clear Psycho-Passes. Unlike Makishima, they’re wearing helmets, so it much be a question of technology and not genetics.

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It’s later determined that the helmets run scans of everyone and copies the lowest Crime Coefficient among them, so as far as any technology with AI is concerned, the one wearing the helmet is a good law-abiding citizen above suspicion, even as he’s shoving scissors or pens into pharmacists or stripping and beating a woman to death with a hammer. The system is being well and truly gamed.

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It’s not surprising there’s extant tech that can, if not flummox Sybil, at least deceive her by copying a clear Psycho-Pass. What is truly chilling is how all of the witnesses to these horrible crimes stand there and do nothing, as the helmet-wearer’s associates film it all. Chilling because years of depending on Sybil to maintain peace has rendered the average person incapable of even fathoming what a murder is, let alone do anything to stop it.

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While the helmets are yet another tool Makishima uses to enable would-be murderers and thugs, the effect of the crimes being committed on the city are far more than the sum of their parts. In addition to raising the area stress levels, which could render entire neighborhoods latent criminals if kept up, it is a means of planting public doubt in the system; a crack in the dam that could lead to a deluge.

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Of course, that’s precisely what Makishima wants: not just to expose Sybil as a sham, but to demonstrate that humanity has been torn from its natural state into a withering limbo of boredom; boredom he’ll cure. And if anyone manages to catch on and try to stop him, so much the better. The status quo is his bane.

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Kogami pulls off some nifty detective work here, studying the recorded scans of the crime to determine the Psycho-Pass was coming from someone other than the culprit, and narrowing their search by identifying someone with the motive to harm the victim. Akane’s role here is small, but amusingly consists of literally staying away from the action, lest the perp copy her Psycho-Pass and render the Dominators inert. In this case, having Enforcers who could successfully target and administer justice to “themselves” proved essential.

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