Re:Creators – 22 (Fin)

With Altair, well, not defeated per say, but ceasing to be a threat to the world last week, Re:Creators can relax and do a leisurely victory lap. The five creators remaining on the battlefield accept their supporting roles in a story that ended up being primarily about Altair and Setsuna. The other creators congratulate Souta for his achievement, even if, especially for Matsubara and Takarada, it hurts that their heroines had to die in order to win.

But Meteora steps in to assure Matsubara that only one possible Selesia’s story ended there; there are countless others that remain alive, and more still as long as he’s committed to keep adding to her world…coffee, for instance.

After a celebratory feast at a down-home restaurant, Meteora also points out to the other creations that they will all have to return to their respective worlds soon, as her magic will eventually cease to work as the world restores its proper order (an order in which her magic doesn’t exist).

After the creations and their creators spend one last day together, saying what they want to say and suggesting what they want to suggest, Meteora opens a return gate.

One by one, the Creations say their final goodbyes and walk through the gate, disappearing from the world in physical form but not in the hearts and minds of their creators and fans. I was kinda wondering where Magane was in all of this, and I really wish we’d been able to see more of her…did she de-coalesce off-camera after using her ability to help Souta?

In any case, Meteora has one more plot twist in store: she’s staying. I mean, even if she wanted to go back, she can’t go through a gate she is keeping open any more than she can pick up and throw herself. But she loves this world, and has always seemed quite comfortable here. So while she loses the rest of her magic as soon as the gate closes, I have no doubt someone as strong and brilliant and charming as she will land on her feet.

A bit of time passes, marked by the emergence of several new advertisements around the city promoting new seasons of the creators’ creations, each with new stories that reflect their experiences during the Chamber Festival: Shou and Yuuya fighting side by side, Blitz with his daughter by his; Hikayu’s new martial-arts master alter-ego; Magical Slayer Mamika meeting Aliceteria.

Everyone continues to create. Whatever problems people had with the story of the Chamber Festival (and it did kinda go all over the place, if we’re honest), creators can’t look up to a standard they worry they’ll never approach; they can only keep moving forward, and keep creating. That’s the surest way to achieving happiness not just for themselves and those who consume their work, but for their creations too.

I’m also heartened to see Souta and Meteora exchanging texts in much the same way Souta used to do with Setsuna, only now he’s a little older, a lot wiser, and more importantly, confident enough in his ability as a creator in his own right, to be anything but proud and supportive of his friend’s efforts.

Meteora has pivoted to creation herself, and has decided to name her first work Re:CREATORS—the very work we just spent 22-plus weeks watching.

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Sagrada Reset – 24 (Fin)

Haruki knows she faces a problem if she believes Asai Kei to be perfect and without flaw: it puts an untenable pressure on him to be flawless in order to continue being the Asai Kei she knows. But until she finds out what that flaw or mistake is within him, she won’t know him as well as she wants.

Fortunately for her, the power of abilities enables her to do just that in this, the final episode of Sagrada Reset. Kei has shifted his focus from Urachi (no longer a threat) to Souma Sumire (who has collapse). He wants to save her, and would like Haruki to put aside her differences with Souma and help him.

Haruki agrees – if Kei shares the memories he has of pre-Reset Harukis, through Sakagami’s ability. Kei agrees, and before you know it, Haruki remembers when she first said she liked Kei (having said it a second time just then), but also finds his mistake, which happened two years ago: when Kei kissed her, she was happy.

Kei apologizes for being an indirect and cowardly; Haruki admits she was the same. It’s a lovely and vital new step forward for this beautifully subtle yet increasingly warm couple.

The easy part thus completed, the hard part commences: Kei wants to “save” Souma, but what does that mean? Apparently, he aims to save her from the weight of her own longing over not being the girl who “won” him, and the intense feelings of perceived inadequacy and budding nihilism that realization cultivates.

He isn’t saving her because he’s a hero; he’s saving her because she’s his friend, and he wishes for her happiness to be “second-best” in the world (Kei makes no bones about who is Number One in his heart).

In Kei’s apartment in the dream world, Souma is sitting in the dark, hiding her face because she’s been crying. Kei takes her face in his hand and tells her however she’s feeling now, he can see a future, however far off, where she’s happy and smiling, despite him not being hers.

Souma is afraid of the prospect of being able to smile under such circumstances—where she essentially has lost to Haruki, and always will, every time. So she challenges Kei to one last game: correctly say her name, and she’ll go along with his plan for her.

But if he fails, she wins, and he’ll become hers, living in the dream world with him, like two stones, never being bothered by the world outside in the least. Cut to the end of the game, when Haruki appears to speak to Souma, and Souma holds out a stone she says is Kei, and tells her she’s won.

Haruki isn’t buying it; there’s no way Souma Sumire would wish for such a thing, and accuses her of having a “tantrum” and waiting for her to come and hand Kei over. Haruki tells Souma that she used to be able to use her ability by herself…until a reset led to Souma’s death and hurt Kei.

It stands to reason then, that if Souma’s turning of Kei into a stone also hurts him, there’s no reason to hold back and reset by herself again. But before she gets the word out, she holds back, because she believes that despite the stone trick, Souma really does have Kei’s best interests in mind.

Since Haruki isn’t buying it, and sees the stone trick as a means to get her to use her Reset of her own will, Souma tells her why: If Kei is going to assume responsibility for all of Sakurada’s abilities, he’s going to need someone by his side to help him, and if necessary, provide a check against him hurting himself. Souma concedes that Haruki is the best candidate for that job.

With both Haruki and Souma affirming their roles regarding Kei, Souma wakes up first, and Kei is watching her because her bed is by the moon and she looks pretty. That’s…kinda weird, but Souma doesn’t mind (at least, in this one little instance, she “beat” Haruki for once), and pledges herself to providing a voice of council to Kei, who agrees to listen to that voice.

Souma then shuffles off, and Haruki emerges from behind the curtain around her bed. Souma thought it would be awkward to stick around, while Haruki was embarrassed of seeing her, and lets Kei know that even if he doesn’t (and may indeed never) understand, she and Souma being “moderately adversarial” is “good”, i.e. “natural.”

Finally, Haruki places her hands on the shoulders of her man and tells him she’s thinking of letting her hair grow out, now that she remembers him saying, long ago, how he liked it that way. Now that she has those memories back, Haruki can love Kei of both the past and present instead of merely the latter.

That deeper understanding and affection, as well as Urachi and Souma’s respective redemptions, were only made possible through the existence—and judicious use of—abilities. So even if Asai Kei isn’t righteous or just or a hero, he was right to work so diligently to preserve abilities in Sakurada. They were and are the key to his happiness. They are…sacred.

And thus concludes a sometimes slow, sometimes maddeningly opaque, yet also almost always strange, intriguing and wonderfully offbeat show. I appreciated that the finale not showing us the results of Kei accomplishing all he’s set out to do—that would have felt cheap to go down in just one ep.

Instead, all his relationships are now in good standing, putting him in the best position to succeed. I close the book on this series wishing him and his the best in their endeavors to Keep Sakurada Weird.

Re:Creators – 21

Thanks to Magane, Souta was able to create a miracle in bringing Shimazaki Setsuna back to reunite with her creation Altair. But early in the reunion, I was filled with a constant uneasiness—and was no doubt meant to be—would the all powerful Altair truly accept this?

If not, how long would it take before the spell was broken, she breaks the train station world, and returns to the real world. What the heck will Team Meteora do then? Everything is on the line here.

Well fortunately, there are no further twists or turns or defeats for Souta and the team; this really is it, and as soon as Setsuna speaks, Altair is well and truly neutralized as a mustache-twirling, world-ending villain. She becomes something far more complicated and interesting; something she only could have become by meeting her creator.

Setsuna doesn’t transparently beg Altair not to destroy the world. Instead, she starts by apologizing for making Altair carry the burden of “curses” she carried with her until death and transferred to Altair. Without judging her, Setsuna earnestly thanks Altair for her efforts, even if they were ultimately misguided.

Setsuna also impresses upon Altair the fact that she is no longer simply her creation; she’s become accepted and loved by everyone as a “king” or “knight of the weak” who took her weaknesses and made them strengths. Altair will always have power, and never be alone, as long as those others exist.

So, realizing her presence is a miracle, but a “twisted” one that shouldn’t be (at least in her world), when the train alarm sounds, she walks to the same spot where she walked before and leaps out over the tracks. Only this time, because she’s not alone, Altair rushes in front of the train and destroys it with her Holopiscon.

When she finds no matter how much she hacks at it, the train will still come in a fraction of a second, Altair redirects the infinite power Setsuna and the world has bestowed on her, into creating Setsuna’s story from now on.

That means creating a world where she and Setsuna can live—them, and no one else, it would seem. Altair is no longer interested in destroying worlds, only creating one world where she and Setsuna can be together, and where her story can continue. They’re basically gods now.

There, in the water, Altair finds a pair of glasses, but they’re not Setsuna’s—they’re Souta’s. Setsuna recognizes them as such, and without saying his name, tells Altair that she was drawn in the first place because of Souta, and others who liked her creations and wanted to see more.

Whether the Setsuna we saw was a combination of who she really was and Souta’s own interpretation of who she was, or one or the other, Souta poured his own heart and soul into creating her, which makes her basically the opposite of Sirius.

All Souta wanted was to “see the same world” as Setsuna. And he did, thanks not just to his own efforts, but to those of the other Creators, their Creations, and the people whose acceptance made them endure.

With one more strum of her Holopiscon, Altair and Setsuna are transported away to their own little infinite world, leaving the normal world safe and bringing a happy (if somewhat bittersweet) ending to Chamber Festival. The hosts sign off, the stadium roars with approval, and the creators and Meteora stand in the control room, basking in the knowledge they saved their world.

While Altair’s transformation was quite sudden, and doesn’t fully absolve the fact that she was fairly one-dimensional up to this point, the means by which she transformed were credible and even, at times, genuinely affecting, for which a lot of the credit goes to seiyus Toyosaki Aki and Ohashi Ayaka.

I also appreciate that the main conflict of the story came to a climax and was resolved with one episode to go, which means there’s time for a closure-giving epilogue.

Fate / Zero – 25 (Fin)

Did the Holy Grail know Kiritsugu would reject it? Who can say? But even if it initially chose him to be its bearer, his order to Saber to destroy it flipped the script. It also flipped the cup, as the Grail’s destruction means the black ooze it contained falls upon Fuyuki, destroying everything in sight, to Kiritsugu’s great despair. Even trying to do the right thing at the right time would seem to have backfired on this exceedingly unlucky and tortured soul.

Speaking of tortured souls, Kariya is still barely alive when he returns to the Matou basement, but while his senses tell him he is reuniting Sakura with Rin and Aoi, in reality Sakura is abandoning him to the Crest Worms and accepting the fate he tried in vain to keep her from.

Perhaps it was the contents of the Grail, not the Grail itself, that mattered most, as those contents fell on Archer, but rather than destroy him along with everything else, it gave him physical form (though not clothes). And because Gilgamesh still had a pact with Kirei, it resurrected him, albeit with no heartbeat.

That literal lack of a beating heart is indicative of his departure from humanity, as is his apparently Grail-fulfilled wish for death and destruction around him, and a hunger to “learn more” and explore the depths of his inhumanity. But as I said, the Grail will never fully satiate; at best it can only lock people—Servants and Masters alike—in a perpetual state of searching.

As for Kiritsugu, he’s done searching. Indeed, he seems to be just about done with everything, owing to the curse bestowed on him by a scorned Grail and his entire life’s work burning before him. The last thing he searches for—a single survivor among the scorched rubble—is something he ironically finds immediately.

By saving that single life—a young Shirou—Kiritsugu himself is saved. It’s a concept a sneering Kirei can’t possibly comprehend enough even to envy.

With that, the clock on the Fourth Holy Grail War reaches…Zero and comes to an end, with the official winner in doubt, though more-or-less claimed by Kirei, since the Grail seemingly brought him back.

Back at his “grandparents”, Waver announces he’s going to set aside his magical studies for a bit, get a part-time job, live with them, and save up enough to travel the world his king once conquered a good chunk of.

Kirei has upheld his promise to his master to look after Rin after he’s gone, likely so that he can observe and absorb all of the grief, pain and suffering Rin is likely to experience on the long, hard road all heads of great families must walk.

Rin maintains a stoicsm beyond her years at her father’s futural, even as she wheels her brain-damaged, delusional mom around. What gets her to crack and shed tears is the Azoth dagger; Kiritsugu twisting the blade like the piece of work he is.

And Saber, poor Saber, is back in Britain, on a battlefield strewn with corpses, having led everyone nowhere but to their own deaths. She remembers Lancelot’s last words to her, about how he only ever sought her righteous judgment for betraying her and falling in love win Guinevere.

Arturia considers herself a failed king who never understood anyone, and considering her surroundings it’s hard to argue with that assessment.

As for Saber’s former Master, he is banned from Einzbern Castle forever, having failed to secure the Grail for them, and never sees his daughter Ilya again. So he adopts Shirou, fixes up the old safe house, and spends the next five years raising his adoptive son and living a quiet but happy life.

One night he tells Shirou how he once wanted and tried to be a hero, but ultimately failed. Shirou confidently promises his dad he’ll become a hero in his place. A heavenly light suddenly shines above Saber; a ray of hope.

Clearly contented by his son’s words, Kiritsugu starts to peacefully pass away, with an answer for his friend Shirley’s question about what he wanted to be when he grew up: he wanted, and still wants, to be a hero.

* * * * *

And that’s it for Fate/Zero! Boy, what a ride it’s been these past five weeks. That was a far better show than I could have imagined…which is why it took so long after UBW to watch it. Burned by previous prequels to beloved works, I was worried knowing pretty much how everything would end would make it difficult for the stakes to matter.

Yeah…I was dead wrong about that. Not only was I far more emotionally invested in Zero, it was a lot more approachable, had a lot more heart, and took a lot more risks than the smoother, shinier UBW. It’s not that UBW is bad, it’s simply a matter of Zero kicking ass in virtually every aspect of the game. It wasn’t just a great anime, it was great television; great storytelling, full stop. So thanks to everyone out there who recommended it to me. It was well worth a look back.

Re:Creators – 20

One by one, Team Meteora’s bag of tricks are neutralized or absorbed by Altair, who unlike other creations, never had a backstory or any distinct story at all that she is tied to. Instead, she’s an open source character whose abilities and power are as infinite as the internet.

She is, as she says, a product of emotion, not logic, both in her sole motivation (to avenge her creator by destroying the world that rejected her), and the way the vast and ever-expanding network of creators who fuel her existence and acceptance has reached a near-relativistic scale.

This is why she can take away Hikayu’s new martial arts abilities with one strum of her rifle and even turn the tables on Sirius, her essential copy and the last remnants of Shimazaki Setsuna’s original creations, turning their secret weapon into one of her own to restore herself, complete with new outfit.

Throughout their struggles, Meteora and the Creators and Creations on their side have had to abide by certain rules, which means they were never going to be able to defeat an entity that surpasses those rules and can change them or make new ones on the fly.

Enter Chikujouin Magane and Mizushino Souta, with the last weapon against Altair, one that, if it’s ineffective like the previous ones, will result in them resigning themselves to the fact the world really will end.

A lie about a lie (in this case, the impossibility of beating Altair) turns inside out, transporting Altair and the others to the day Setsuna took her life, just as she is approaching the train platform from which she intends to jump.

This development, prepared mostly in the background by Magane and Souta, totally flips the script, as it messes with cause, effect, and reality in ways nothing else in their arsenal had been able to touch.

Will Altair find a way around this as well, her rage further fueled by her foes’ readiness to drag her dead creator ‘out of her grave’? Are hours numbered? Or will she stand down on her own, without having to be destroyed?

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Never count Altair out, even when she’s imprisoned in a glowing yellow cube, she still has Charon on her side to protect her. This creates all sorts of problems for Team Meteora, as throughout much of the episode Selesia has no idea what she should do, and only ends up mucking things up, including continually getting in Kanoya’s way.

Down on the ground, Yuuya manages to get Shou to fight on their side, and Shou notes how the Yuuya in this world is different from the villain in their world. Aliceteria gets her chance against the now-freed Altair, but mistakes Altair’s despair for contempt. Altair is barely a character; she’s merely a force of nature. Destroying the world that destroyed her Creator is less will and more instinct.

While this episode gets its usual top marks for style as everyone battles Altair and Charon in their various unique ways, there’s one major problem hanging over it all: I simply do not care about Charon. He’s been introduced to the conflict so late, he’s little more than a plot device. That Altair was able to so easily and completely convince him that her cause was just; that he’s so stubbornly non-receptive to the protests of Selesia—purportedly one of his closest friends; it just doesn’t jibe for me.

But as this is the fourth-to-last episode, it’s time for some Creations’ stories to end, and with that in mind Aliceteria’s exit doesn’t come as much of a surprise. Her arc was basically complete; she went over to the right side after overcoming Altair’s manipulations, only for her forthright chivalry to be pissed on by Altair’s glorified parlor tricks, turning the damage of her coups-de-grace on Alice and erasing her from the world. RIP Aliceteria February. Your raw brawn and bluster simply weren’t suitable for this kind of battle.

Yuuya, Shou, Tokar, and Hikayu gang up on Altair, but she’s able to counter each and every one of their simultaneous attacks, as her nearly-limitless power is just as accepted by the crowds watching than everyone else. It looks very much like another stalemate, but if they can bring Charon down they can at least take away her final ally and shield, allowing all the remaining Creations to go after Altair at once.

Sadly, the remaining Creations are reduced by one more in order to get rid of Charon, and that Creation is Selesia Yupitilia. Finally deciding to fight Charon rather than join him, she lets him stab her Vogelchevalier, she locks him in a bear hug and holds him there for Kanoya to blow them both away, after Selesia has delivered her goodbyes to everyone, including her good friend Meteora, who looks suitably devastated as the Vogelchevaliers explode. R.I.P. Selesia. Good riddance, Charon.

With three episodes left, Altair is finally on her own…unless you count the countless fans in the world unknowingly helping her accelerate the destruction of their own world. Will the remaining Creations on Team Meteora be able to overcome their grief and summon enough power to defeat her? If anyone can counter her cause-and-effect abilities, it’s Magane…and Magane is rooting for Souta.

Isekai Shokudou – 04

The first of this week’s two new visitors to Nekoya is a strange one: Gaganpo, a Lizardman and Hero of the Blue Tail Tribe. His visit to the restaurant is preceded by an almost David Attenboroughesque nature documentary, in which a soft-spoken woman narrates everything he does, carefully bathing and suiting up for what is, in his tribe, a great honor.

Upon entering the restaurant, Gaganpo says the “magic words” that get him what he wants: omelette rice, and lots of it. Omelette rice is one of those ultimate comfort foods, and it’s like nothing the marsh-dwelling Lizardmen have ever tasted before and is beyond their ability to replicate.

The fact neither Aletta nor the Chef bat an eye at the presence of the blue behemoth show you that Nekoya is a super-diverse and accepting place. Gaganpo returning home, with three “party-size” omelettes of three distinct varieties for his fellow villagefolk to enjoy, is certainly a sight to see.

The next customer is a little more conventional: Fardania, a wood elf from a village carved into massive trees. But because she’s an elf, she’s also a vegan, so when she enters Nekoya and sees everyone eating animals, she’s a little turned off and very dubious of the human chef’s ability to cook her something she can actually digest, let alone fine tasty.

Of course, this is the nearly omnipotent chef of Nekoya we’re talking about, and it’s not like there are no vegans in human society, so he whips up a delectable tofu steak with veggies and rice at which even a carnivore wouldn’t necessarily turn their nose. Of course, Fardania takes this delicious meal as a challenge to make even better food for her widowed father.

This was an episode that, at times, looked like it was animated by a grade-schooler, as Gaganpo and his cohorts were particularly inconsistent in their design and proportions. Fardania faired better, especially in close-ups. But I was able to mostly overlook the uneven production values thanks to the mouth-watering depiction and description of the food….which is, at the end of the day, what this show is all about.

ReLIFE – 11

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Well, I guess even ReLIFE can have an off-day.

Perhaps it’s unfair to watch this episode on the heels of a terrific episode of Orange—or indeed, the momentous previous episode of ReLIFE—but I just wasn’t feeling this one. Which is a shame, because for all its momentum-killing flashbacks, it marked a significant leap forward for Kaizaki by the end.

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This week Kaizaki asks Yoake for another pill to make him 28 again, so he can properly visit his senpai Saiki Michiru’s grave. She committed suicide after continued harassment from her peers, which only intensified when Kaizaki ignored her wish for him to “grow up” and not to involve himself.

I guess my main problem with this storyline—important as it is for how Kaizaki ended up with ReLIFE to begin with—is that I don’t buy that an office would be that awful. I’m not saying office jobs can’t be that awful, just that I didn’t feel that scenario was portrayed carefully, convincingly, or realistically enough here.

This show’s always better when working with shades of gray—everyone has selfish desires; that sort of thing—but Kaizaki’s former job seems like a ridiculously cartoonish hell; a “black company” not just full of sexist pricks, but borderline sociopaths.

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Then there’s the two kohais from his company, who Yoake and An arrange to bump into Kaizaki. It’s good there are people who feel as he does, even if they didn’t have the courage to quit as soon as he did, and their admiration of what he did certainly lessens his regret somewhat and convinces him quitting was the right thing to do.

That’s all fine and dandy, but I’m still not sure why Yoake chose the anniversary of Saiki’s death to do this. It means for four months he kept information from Kaizaki that could have helped him deal with his trauma. But why so long? Was he simply waiting until a time when he knew Kaizaki would ask for a re-aging pill?

Finally, Kaizaki says he wants the pill so he won’t run into trouble if someone he knows shows up at Saiki’s grave. But that begs the question: how has he been able to avoid being spotted people he knows for four months? It’s a can of worms the episode presents that’s best left closed for the purposes of suspension of belief.

At any rate I’m glad Kaizaki is feeling better about the choices he made that led to his joining ReLIFE. Now I’d like to see him get back to that ReLIFE.

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SERVAMP – 01 (First Impressions)

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Shirota Mahiru, 15, likes simple things, hates troublesome things, after being orphaned his uncle becomes the “someone” to raise him, and leads him to take in a stray black cat he names Kuro that turns out to be a vampire, whom he forms a Servant-Vampire (“Servamp”) contract with to save his friends.

First of all, Shirota Mahiru is a liar. If he really hated troublesome things, he wouldn’t have saved the cat, and not regretted not taking it in. Instead, he did the one thing that would make the most trouble for him, having to take care of a pet where before he didn’t have one.

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That aside, Shirota Mahiru is also a composite of several dozen shounen heroes I’ve already seen before, which is problematic. Of course his mom got wasted in a car accident and of course he’s great at housework and would make a great wife and of course he gets saddled with an odd-couple partner.

This color-by-numbers slog continues with the expected personality-clashing slapstick, right up until things get serious when one of Mahiru’s friends seemingly loses all of his blood at once when attacked by the vampires a friend told them might be lurking around. As for why vampires exist in this world, well…they just do, ’cause.

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Speaking of “of course”, of course the bad guy is a loopy flamboyant dude in a white suit and top hat who slurs his words as he raves and swears because oooh, he’s such a Craaayzee Vampire Villain Dude! And what do you know, when Kuro (most inventive name for a character EVER) sees Mahiru put his life on the line to save his friends, he springs into action and kills (well, wounds) the crazy vamp, completing their contract and ensuring similar battles in the future.

Count me out of this yawn (and, I might mention, sausage) factory. I’m rating this niche appeal…you know, for the kind of viewer who just isn’t interested in watching something they’ve never seen a hundred times before. Because that would be too troublesome.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 04

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“I get it, okay?” says Rokuro, after running off in a snit after the guy who is basically his older brother annoys him: “I know I can’t run away forever.” He’s implying he needs more time to put the past behind him and move on. But…we’re a quarter into the show now, and he’s still angsty and hesitant while we haven’t heard the full story about why, so…hurry it up, willya? Thankfully, Rokuro takes a couple of steps forward.

It starts with the old woman who runs a candy store he used to frequent as a youngin’ with Ryougo. In a five-minute exchange, she’s able to cheer him up and make him feel silly for being so harsh to his big bro when all he’s doing is looking out for him. By running off, he was also refusing to tag along on an exorcism mission with Ryougo and two others.

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When those two others show up at home without Ryougo, Rokuro doesn’t hesitate to do what he needs to do in order to spring into action, which at this point is to bow his head and beg Benio to accompany him to Magano. He’s afraid to go himself, plain and simple. And that’s perfectly okay. Benio, for her part, insists he rise his head – no one should have to beg an exorcist to fight for or with him.

Ryougo is up against a huge, two-headed, constantly-chortling Kegare with no way out and no talismans—except the one Rokuro made for him, appointing him his servant when he’s the baddest exorcisin’ mofo in the world. He’s kept it ever since as a charm, and it comes in handy as Ryougo shows up just in time to save him from going out in a blaze of glory.

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Benio is there to assist, and while Rokuro later scoffs that he could have handled the peripheral Kegare she takes out during the fight, the fact of the matter is, he wouldn’t have even been able to go there without Benio by his side, and he freely admits this when he waits outside for her to finish purifying the house, to thank her from the bottom of his heart.

Rokuro’s earnestness and heart-sleeving catches Benio off guard, insisting he doesn’t have to thank her any more than he had to beg her. So here, both in moments of emotional vulnerability, the two exorcists begin to see something besides contempt in one another. Rokuro sees her nice side, while Benio sees the greatness in him, when he fights in spite of his trauma.

Sure they start slinging insults in an attempt to backpedal, but they’re not fooling anyone: they’ve made real progress this week, and they’re sure to make more, which is very encouraging.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 03

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Despite the fact Arima has made a match of Rokuro and Benio and the two have moved into the same space, they’re no closer to becoming, well, closer, at least the way Arima would like.

Indeed, aside from crossing paths a couple of times at home and school (naturally, Benio must transfer to Rokuro’s school and class…because.) the two spend the majority of the episode apart, doing their own thing.

As Benio senses kegare and joins Rokuro’s exorcist pals in Magano to battle a boss-type they can’t quite handle, Rokuro stays behind, and is snatched up by Otomi Mayura, his childhood friend.

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We can tell who Mayura is going to be from miles away: she’s the tragic childhhod friend character who would make a great match for the MC except for the fact he simply doesn’t see her that way (he makes it clear to his buds that he sees her more as a cousin or sister, and thus out of bounds).

His position on Mayura is not unreasonable, but it doesn’t make Mayura’s feelings any less valid. Proximity and time are just as capable of making the heart grow fonder as absence, and Mayura has known Rokuro long enough to know when he’s bothered by something.

In this case, it’s his predicament with Benio, and his old reflex to charge forward towards danger fighting with his desire not to repeat his past sins and live as peaceful a life as he can.

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Whatever those sins are, they seem to involve a traumatic ordeal in which several of his friends are lost and he ends up prostrate and in tears…but Mayura is right there, also crying, but trying to comfort him. And so here, in the present, she decides it’s her job to cheer him up.

To that end, she takes him to an amusement park they haven’t been to in years, and have what looks like a great ol’ time. I liked how when it comes to carnival rides, Mayura is a lot more brave than Rokuro. I also liked how there were moments Rokuro sees Mayura as more than just a platonic relative, but a kind and beautiful young woman.

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This week, in what came as a pleasant surprise, Rokuro and Benio’s stories stay separate. Benio doesn’t run into trouble and need bailing out again; she handles the boss with relative ease (in another great battle sequence).

The only “crossover” between their days is when during the battle the kegare rams into the roller coaster in Magano, which causes a small rift between Magano and the normal world. When two kids are trapped on the coaster as it dangles precariously, Rokruo does not hesitate to scramble up there and save the kids before they fall to their deaths.

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True to the title, both heroes proved their worth this week: Rokuro with ordinary heroics in the normal world; Benio with her exorcist enhancements in the otherworld. Mayura succeeds in cheering Rokuro up, and inadvertently gets him to prove to himself that the heroic drive is still within him.

When Rokuro and Benio reunite in the evening, they don’t detail their days, but Benio can tell from Rokuro’s dirty uniform that he was up to something, and Rokuro asks how things went with Benio out of earnest curiosity, almost as if he cares. 

Sure, they still turn away from each other and harrumph at the same time, but both really do respect each other on some level; they just need to master dealing with one another, a skill that will come to them in time and proximity.

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Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress – 02

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Let me just first say I thought it was awesome that the show gave Ikoma a moment of nerdy victory with his friend Takumi, who helped him research both the gun and the method of stopping Kabane transformation in its tracks. That victory high lasts all of two minutes, before the next crisis is upon them: the train they need to get on is being blocks by legions of Kabane.

Ayame and Kurusu try talking sense to the masses, but panic is upon them and they’re about to lose their grip on the situation…until Mumei shows up in her battle guard, ready to do her part. When a much, much larger guy tells her not to talk out of turn and puts his hands on her, well, the guy isn’t in a vertical, painless position for long, and we learn again exactly how formidable a warrior Mumei is.

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Not 30 seconds later, she arms her dual steam-guns and goes on a one-woman Kagane-wasting spree. While she exceeds her self-imposed time limit of 100 seconds (by ten), it’s still an impressive feat that definitely rose my heart rate. This “kid” can flat-out fight, and this show can flat-out animate that fighting.

Ikoma is about to expose his Kabane parts to guards running a routine security sweep when he’s bailed out by Mumei, back from her spree…and she senses instantly that something is different with the guy. His aura feels different to her, and her’s to him. They can feel the power—and the connection—within them.

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Ikoma manages to get on the train with Mumei and Takumi, but he goes to the back with the latter while the former curls up and…takes a nap. A well-earned nap, to be sure, after all the ass-kicking she did. But beneath her cloak, we see why she fights so fiercely…she’s got a secret.

As Ayame enters her key we get to see the procedure of starting up the great rail fortress Koutetsujou, and all it’s steam trian-like details like an inability to start up too fast and a dependence on lots of water to operate.

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The regrouped Kabane storm the train as it lurches out of the station, and make no mistake; these are fast, parkour zombies; the worst kind IMO. The slow ones you can escape most times; these guys are just a headache. The show does a very good job making us not want to be anywhere near these monsters.

Naturally, it isn’t long before Ikoma is exposed as possibly one of those Kabane, and even after saving a family from a burst steam pipe and killing a Kabane with his new gun, when he sees his chest glowing, even HE starts to doubt whether or not the virus is continuing to spread, contrary to Takumi’s theories.

Kurusu is in no position to take that chance, and shoots Ikoma straight off the train. There’s just no time for the kind of nuanced, evidence-based explanations Ikoma wants to provide.

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After Ayame sees her former father turned into a Kabane, Kurusu orders the hatch shut and the train run all the Kabane (including his former lord) over. But once they reach the bridge, the switch to lower it won’t work; it’s jammed.

Kurusu prepares to go out and pull the manual lever, quite possibly giving his life for Ayame and the rest of the train’s occupants—but Ikoma, who wasn’t killed by Kurusu’s bullet, beats him to it, killing all the Kabane around him and lowering the bridge himself.

All the while he’s doing this, he’s cursing every soul on that train who doubted him, and hope they all live long, tortured lives knowing they owe them to the actions of someone they tossed away. He’s being a little melodramatic, but he’s also not wrong: humanity isn’t going to survive if they toss out their heroes and generally act like self-destructive, paranoid dicks.

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Still, Takumi, who hesitated and recoiled form his friend earlier, is the one to toss him a line to grab before the train is out of his reach. He gets on the train, but after a nudge from—yup—Mumei, who woke up from her nap in time to save him and help Takumi get him aboard. Thank goodness. There’s something about this train slowly leaving the station that made me thinking ‘he has to get on that thing before it leaves, or he’s going to die.’

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When he gets on, there’s an immense feeling of relief—but his troubles aren’t quite over. Kurusu greets him with a suicide kit, acknowledging that he saved them, but urging him to “do what needs to be done.” Of course, he believes Ikoma is a Kabane, and about to transform into a ferocious, unthinking monster.

He’s mistaken. Mumei stands up for Ikoma by removing her jacket to reveal that she too has a glowing Kabane-esque heart. But she insists she and Ikoma are no Kabane, nor are they entirely human. They are Kabaneri: in between. Kurusu doesn’t have to like it, but he does have to accept that they are the closest thing to humanity’s salvation.

I like it just fine. I love it. Ikoma and Mumei make a compelling lead duo. I hope to see them kicking ass side-by-side soon—if they can manage to quell the naysayers.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 12 (Fin)

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Well, have egg on my face. Just when I thought the show had already reached its main resolution, just when I wasn’t in love with the direction I thought it was taking with Satoru’s new future, and just when I was a little impatient that last week seemingly ended in the same place as the week before, ERASED didn’t just ignore and then subvert my expectations; it pushed them off a school roof with gusto.

It all starts with a little necessary backtracking. Satoru isn’t calm and cool up on that roof alone with Yashiro because he’s content with the life he’s lived and the good he’s done for those around him. It’s because he has a plan. It’s a plan that we can only speculate about until it happens, but it was made with the help of Kenta and Hiromi, who are committed to helping Satoru again, if that’s what he wants.

They feel that way because when he, the superhero, needed help, he believed in them, and so they believed right back. Without that mutual belief in one another, the amazing things he achieved wouldn’t have happened…and Satoru would have likely been murdered up on the roof.

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Call it “One Last Job” for Satoru & Friends: the job that even their nemesis doesn’t see coming, because he’s so consumed with putting Satoru in a box with either jail or death as the escape routes, like a rat in a maze. He uses a fatal muscle relaxant IV on Kumi (with Satoru’s fingerprints on the bag) to create that awful choice, and keeps grinning with glee about finally besting the one who ruined all his plans.

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This is as superhero-y as you can get: the Villain thinking he has the Hero, his Nemesis, in his clutches and at his mercy, and just when victory as he sees it is in sight, the hero wiggles out. The hero wins, with a move way out of left field and yet deliciously awesome in its precision and timing.

Satoru says Yashiro the one who has lost, not only because he was able to save all those victims from him (including his mother in the future) and thwart all his attempts to frame him (including this one), but because for fifteen years—only an instant for him, but an agonizing crawl for Yashiro—while he slept, Yashiro didn’t kill him.

He couldn’t, because Satoru was the only one who knew who he was; that something that fills the void everyone has and needs to have filled. He can’t kill him because of that.

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And Satoru means that quite literally. Sure, Yashiro could let go, which he does, but if Satoru dies then, so does the one thing in his life that’s made him feel anything. The void returns. But Yashiro doesn’t die even when Yashiro decides to let go, because his friends arranged a cushion for him to land safely on, and they also serve as witnesses for Yashiro’s attempted murder.

Yashiro lost because he was alone; because the only person that could fill his void was someone he was committed to ruining; tormenting; erasing. And yet, Yashiro, who truly took fifteen years of Satoru’s life away from him, may have actually been doing him a favor, for the life Satoru lived when we met him was one of dark repressed memories, dead classmates and friends, and most importantly, a life where he had ceased “taking the bull by the horns”.

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It took more struggle to get there, but Satoru was, with his mom and his buddies, finally able to bring Yashiro to true justice. He was able to live on once his deep sleep had ended, and both his memories of heroic deeds, and the dramatic one he performed on the roof to put Yashiro away, filled a void in him that was present in the original timeline, before any Revivals.

This older Satoru keeps taking the bull by the horns. After being a real hero, he became able to write about heroes, compellingly enough to have anime made about them. He’s by all rights a great success, but when he returns back to the city after visiting all his old friends in Hokkaido (and I liked how they teased Misato as a possible love interest), a void still remains in him: one shaped like Kitagiri Airi, the wonderful soul who got lost in all the time-shifting…

…Or so we and Satoru thought. Or maybe he didn’t think that. Why else would he return to the bridge where he and Airi parted, with him in handcuffs and she in tears? Kayo was never meant to be the girl Satoru ended up with after all. When Airi appears, asking brightly if she could share some shelter from the snow with him, everything comes full circle.

It’s a bit cliche, but it’s true: believing in people leads them to believe in you; that’s how you gain allies and friends. It’s one big loop of believing and void-filling. And there you have it: a very nifty and moving ending to my favorite anime of the Winter! I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.

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