Aoharu x Kikanjuu – 02

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After a clever and fun first outing, things get a little more tedious as Matsuoka whisks Hotaru off to an airsoft field, where she proceeds to have a lot more fun fighting and gradually making a new friend than I had watching her. We’re introduced to Matsuoka’s antisocial friend Yukimura, who calls Hotaru “prevert-san” and bristles at Matsuoka’s bringing in of a third person. He doesn’t want anymore friends, because he was betrayed by so many of them before.

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And there’s the issue: we see his friends tearing up a notebook of what is presumably his drawings, but the exact nature of the betrayal escapes us, and Yukimura just isn’t that interesting a character anyway, even though we see several sides of him. There’s also the fact that Hotaru continued to hide her true gender from both of them, and while I thought for a sec Yuki figured it out, that was also ultimately unclear (did he give her the S&M manga because he assumed it would freak her, a girl, out?)

At any rate, it doesn’t really matter. The airsoft combat was brief and uninspiring due to their opponents being generic assholes (though they do eventually end up prostrating before their favorite mangaka Yuki), Yuki’s turnaround felt to rushed and forced, and it’s likely this show is going to keep going with Hotaru pretending to be a guy for the time being, even though the most interesting thing they could to is get the truth out there. My impatience with that major gripe will likely continue to sap my enthusiasm for this show, so it’s better if I exit early.

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Aoharu x Kikanjuu – 01 (First Impressions)

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What is it: Tachibana Hotaru, a girl who many mistake for a guy, is StuCo president at her school and obsessed with defeating evil as a hero of justice. Her first day living on her own, she meets Matsuoka Masamune, a handsome but brash man she pegs as an evildoer. When her friend Kaoru reports she was hustled out of her money by a host, Hotaru races to the club to confront him, and it turns out to be Masamune who Kaoru met with.

Masamune, who has a huge following at the club, accepts Hotaru’s challenge to a duel, but only if its with airsoft pistols, with him having a handicap of only one pellet. Hotaru ends up losing when she uses all her ammo, and she now “belongs” to Masamune, i.e. must join his airsoft team. All the while, Masamune didn’t hustle Kaoru after all (she merely spent all her money gorging herself after she was thrown out of the club for being underage). Also, Masamune is unaware Hotaru is a girl.

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Why you should watch:  Well, first of all, because Hotaru is awesome. The way she dealt with those “toughs” at school was a real eye-opener (I was worried she was all bark/no bite) and she can handle herself in a variety of combat situations; it’s only her inexperience with airsoft that let her down here, and she’s sure to overcome that before long.

Komatsu Mikako (a RABUJOI fave) nicely bridges the vocal gap between male and female, and I’m glad Hotaru isn’t overly hiding her gender, but is the regular victim of external misunderstandings and “classic” Japanese gender archetypes.

You shouldn’t just watch because of Hotaru, though; Masamune is a pretty interesting guy, too. While I don’t doubt he’s a playboy, he’s not the evil scoundrel Hotaru believed he is. I even liked Hotaru’s friend Kotaru, whose omission of certain facts actually got Hotaru in this whole mess. That being said, Hotaru’s many punches, leaps and kicks this week prove she’s do fine in the world of airsoft.

There’s also the whole romantic angle of Hotaru suddenly being in the cross-hairs of her beautiful neighbor…if only he’d shut up long enough for her to tell him she’s a girl.

Finally, it’s hard to beat the scene of a whole swanky host club full of elegantly-dressed patrons suddenly donning airsoft goggles, like this happens there all the time.

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Why you shouldn’t watch:  If you’re familiar with survival games and airsoft, either in anime or real life, you might find the ample explanatory dialogue a bit tedious (“Pull the trigger to fire the gun.” …ORLY?). It could grow more tedious still as Hotaru leans the ropes.

Hotaru seems like a pretty direct person who’s not trying to harbor a secret, so if her real gender remains a secret too long, those who mistake her for a guy will seem increasingly dumb.

Finally, there’s the whole matter of these toy guns looking exactly like real ones. Something tells me just walking around in public with one wouldn’t end well…

The Verdict: A surprisingly clever and fun first outing for a show with a tough, but naive young lady just starting to strike out into adulthood, who has essentially been tricked into starting a hobby she had no interest in before, but may help further her overarching desire to become a better hero of justice, both in terms of combat skills and people skills. I’ll keep watching for now.

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Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 25 (Fin)

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UBW’s epilogue drops us in London two years after the end of the Holy Grail War, with Shirou tagging alongside Rin as her pupil at a Hogwarts-like magical college. It would also seem they’re living together, and are quite happy about it.

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After we’re shown some glimpses of their new life—home-cooked breakfast for Rin (still not a fan of the morning), an English love rival who spars with Rin in a kind of magical MMA bout; Shirou nursing Rin’s wounds after her defeat.

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The couple takes a day trip to Glastonbury to visit King Arthur’s tomb, a trip Rin plans so Shirou can properly say goodbye to Saber. It’s a nice touch, and the English countryside and ruins are lushly rendered.

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While on the bus ride home, with Rin asleep on his shoulder, Shirou reflects on the events that got him here to this point, by her side. A month after the war, Rin tells him of her plans to move to London and attend the mage’s university, inviting him to come along; an invitation he gladly accepts. Rin’s primary postwar goal is to make the man she loves happy, which means keeping him by her side.

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Back in the present, in an encounter I’m sure had more resonance for those more familiar with the franchise, a tall, stern man questions why Shirou is there, and remarks that it’s a “small world” when he hears of Shirou’s desire to be a HoJ. My guess is this guy knew Kiritsugu.

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Shirou has been invited to join the Mages Association and eventually Clock Tower, but he declines. Rin isn’t particularly surprised, but is more than willing to follow him as they see the world they saved. Lots of great loving smiles from Rin in this epilogue.

Shirou and Rin’s indications, along with the post-credits sequence, suggest Shirou will never be able to escape the same path as Archer, but until then, he and Rin are going to have as many good times as they can. When the time comes, she hopes her positive influence in his life will enable him to move a little further forward and get “the right ending.”

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Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 24

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UBW really kicked into high gear as expected, delivering a powerhouse finale to the battle to save the world from Gilgamesh. From the moment Shirou got back to his feet, to Rin’s beautifully dorky victorious thumbs-up, it was an intense ride, with some of the best action sequences yet delivered on a show that specializes in such things.

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As Gilgamesh and Shirou continue to bandy words, the latter begins to understand what his magic is all about, and why he’ll be able to defeat Gil without Saber’s help, a laughable proposition to the king. But it’s because he’s a king that Shirou, a warrior who’s very body is made of infinite swords, will always be able to stay one step ahead of GIlgamesh one-on-one in the reality marble of his making.

 

Gilgamesh owns swords, i.e. Noble Phantasms, and stores them in his treasury. But it’s still a finite number, and he’s mastered none of them, just like Shirou. If any other servant was the last one standing, he or she would easily defeat Shirou with their mastered Noble Phantasm.

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That…actually makes a lot of sense, at least relative to the show’s mythology. Speaking of warriors, Saber comes to Rin’s aid, but is a bit too late and Rin and Shinji are consumed by the Holy Grail goop. Rin’s about to give up and Saber is about to obey her command seals and blow the whole thing up, but a brace of arrows from the sky cut Rin free. Turns out Archer, our Archer, is still around, which makes sense, since he made it clear he remains irrevocably trapped between life and death.

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With Rin out of harm’s way, Saber gives in to her command seal and unleashes Excalibur on the Grail/Servant Monster, blowing it to bits in an awesome display of light and power. But using the Holy Sword means the end of Saber, who wishes she could stick around, but is content in knowing Rin is around to take care of Shirou. (She also probably realizes that if she stayed, the love triangle that would persist would be a pain in the ass ;)

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Saber’s exit is quick, but not unexpected, because the show had foreshadowed quite a bit up to now that she’d be the sacrifice necessary to save Shirou and Rin and end the war. With the grail destroyed, it’s left to Shirou to continue hacking away at Gilgamesh, who is forced to “go all out.” Even so, Shirou slashes his arm off before Ea can touch him.

The reality marble vanishes as Shirou runs out of mana, but Gil can’t kill him because a remnant of the grail attempts to make him its new vessel. Gil, not wanting to die, tries to tether himself to Shirou with a chain, but Archer helps Shirou out one last time by delivering an arrow to Gil’s head. He’s sucked into oblivion. And just like that, it’s over. Cue victory fanfare and calculation of loot and EXP.

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Archer visits Rin one last time to say goodbye and laugh at the “state” both of them are in. His usual scowl and tough-guy talk gone, he looks and sounds more like the Shirou. He urges her, as Saber did, to take care of Shirou so he won’t end up like him, before vanishing before a gorgeous sunrise.

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With Saber and Archer gone, we’re left with two humans (three, if you count Shinji, which I don’t). There’s a big exhale and feeling of heady relief as Shirou suggest to Rin they go home, clean up, get some food in them, and get some rest. Having wrapped up all the big stuff here, UBW can give the entire last episode over to epilogue, an arrangement I can get behind. Let’s see what all this fighting and sacrifice wrought.

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