Aho Girl – 08

Yoshiko continues to methodically tear down the Gals’ rep by digging into their love lives…or lack thereof. Turns out the only one with a “boyfriend” has neither kissed, held hands, or even told him she likes him. Yoshiko is ruthless in her mockery of the surprisingly pure gal, but does get her to express her feelings to the guy.

Yoshiko then inserts herself in the middle of the little kids’ field trip snack-shopping mission, where she dissuades them from buying chips or chocolate lest they get crushed or melt. She also points out the high-priced deluxe Pocky that must not be purchased no matter what…only for Nozomi to not only buy it (with all her money) but is nice enough to share with everyone.

Fuuki Iinchou has to be taken to the roof by Sayaka to try to get her to stop acting so crazy around A-kun, but Fuuki, blinded by love, has no idea how erratically or insanely she’s behaving. When Sayaka tells her the truth, Fuuki is so devastated Sayaka has to take it all back as joking around. This is beyond Sayaka’s ability to deal with alone, if at all.

Lastly, Yoshiko and Dog meet Sayaka’s dog, Pomi the Pomeranian. At first Yoshiko thinks she’s ludicrously tiny and weak, until it’s Dog cowering in fear behind her skirt. Yoshiko misreads their romantic interactions for aggression, but Dog is ultimately too embarrassed and runs off, with Yoshiko riding him, of course.

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Aho Girl – 07

Yoshiko’s idiocy envelops her 28-year-old love-starved sensei, her huge white dog, and the class gal and her two vice-gals. First up, sensei, who Yoshiko cheers up by disguising herself as a dude named “Yoshio” and throwing out all the cliched lines in the book at her. “Yoshio” is rather scarily good at seducing a woman (at least one as desperate as sensei), but for obvious reasons their “romance” can only go so far.

Next up, Dog…and A-kun’s continued frustration he doesn’t have a proper name. Yoshiko is clearly fine with “Dog”, but A-kun thinks it should be “George”, so they both try—far too hard—to gain the dog’s favor, and he runs off in exasperation. Once both of them decide to put the naming conflict aside for the good of the dog, Yoshiko pushes a bit too far…and receives a devastating uppercut for her trouble.

Finally, the class Gals. They tried to avoid Yoshiko, but when they said they were going to “play around” she thought in the playground sense, first with tag and then hide-and-seek. The Gals trick her by making her hide and then ditching her, but she stays hidden for three days and nights without food, or water. They finally go looking for her out of guilt, and find her in a drainage channel, filthy and hungry but immediately up for another game. This girl is otherworldly.

I liked the three longer segments followed by a super-short fourth (in which A-kun insults his sister again by giving her a book on how to survive without a degree and saying “it’s okay to give up,” convinced she’s let too much of Yoshiko rub off on her. This arrangement allowed the Yoshio and Gal segments to run a little longer, to their benefit.

Sousei no Onmyouji – 12

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Rokuro and Benio’s relatively placid domestic life continues this week, with Rokuro working hard to control his gauntlet in the cellar while Benio prepares dinner.

Only “dinner” turns out to be your classic steaming purple witch’s brew, which all bad cooks throughout anime are able to replicate exactly. It would be one thing if that was the only point of the joke – but Rokuro goes too far in asking “what kind of family” Benio had that led to her thinking ohagi and curry, and Rokuro apologizes.

He’s also grateful Benio made him some goop, even if he can barely choke it down. He decides the only way they’re going to be able to live together is if they rotate cooking duties, and he believes he’s the better cook, and aims to prove it.

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Seems like a pretty tame episode, right? Well, I thought so too at first, but as soon as Benio went out running on her own, I almost immediately assumed a kegare would appear; one powerful enough that she couldn’t take it on alone, and requiring Rokuro to step out of the kitchen and let his culinary masterpiece go cold in order to rescue her, yet again proving that neither she nor he do well taking on foes by themselves, but fare far better when working as a single unit.

And that’s exactly what happens. But you know what? I’ve never had a problem with this show’s derivative-ness or predictability, because as I’ve stated in previous reviews, I like the slow but steady growth of Rokuro and Benio as twin protagonists of equal stature that I’ve come to be emotionally invested in. That, and the aesthetic, and the awesome soundtrack.

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Before Benio runs into the Kegare-of-the-Week, while on her run the talk of proper dinner and family sticks in her head, and she recalls the day six years ago when she watched her parents fighting and purifying Kegare, a duo like her and Rokuro, only with the same masks and twin swords. We also learn where she gets her love of ohagi from (her Dad).

Unfortunately, that’s also the day her parents were killed, by a Kegare that could talk, and offered her the grim choice of which parent he’d spare from death. Obviously, she couldn’t choose in the ten seconds he gave her, and he crushed them both.

And whaddaya know, that smart Kegare, known as Kamui, just happens to be the Kegare who crosses Benio’s path here. Not only that, he’s specifically searching for the Twin Star Exorcists. That’s a lot of coincidences!

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But whatever, Rokuro and Benio were only brought together because of a prophecy, and because the head honcho believes they’re fated to be together and conceive the Miko. By fighting Kamui alone to get revenge for her parents, Benio is going against that prophecy, as well as getting into the very same situation as six years ago: with Kamui giving her ten seconds to choose—only this time, it’s how he’ll kill her.

Naturally Benio isn’t going anywhere, but she can’t do anything here, so it’s up to Rokuro, who delivers a furious punch that blasts Kamui away long enough for him to cheer Benio up and tell her everything will be okay. They’re going home; she’s getting patched up; and then he’ll wow her with his gastronomic excellence.

But, of course, that one punch doesn’t keep Kamui down long. If anything, he’s only lightly annoyed a human was able to do such a thing to him. The fight isn’t over, but with Benio in such bad shape, how on earth is Rokuro going to be able to deal with him alone? More importantly, that oyakodon has to be stone-cold by now, right?

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 11

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I’m enjoying the bold, colorful aethetic of this show. I’m enjoying the galaxy of crazy expressions being doled out by both Rokruo and Benio on a regular basis. And I’m definitely enjoying ridiculously scenarios in which Benio causes a self-upskirt by sucking at embroidery as much as Rokuro and sewing her hoop into her dress. That’s some creative flashing right there!

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Sure, this wasn’t the most serious episode, but it still had serious undertones, and the notion that Subaru isn’t going to train them the way they expected, and that inability to expect what she’ll say or do next is actually part of their training.

Most of the episode is a game of hide-and-seek, with Subaru using magic, but it isn’t an unwinnable challenge: Roku and Beni simply need to hunker down, focus, and discover the clues that will lead them to Subaru.

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Granted, Benio isn’t very practical about looking for Subaru at first, and ends up looking everywhere, including the fridge and Rokuro’s porn stash, but what’s so great about these two is that there’s a good give-and-take; push-and-pull dynamic. Benio isn’t always on Rokuro’s case or vice versa; that would be boring. Instead, both are sometimes on each others’ cases.

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The rest of the time, they’re downright normal and decent with each other, which is typically when they’re not overthinking their interactions. Rokuro praises Benio’s good guess about Subaru’s dieting, and Benio likes it. But When Rokuro goes further in trying to read her mind by guessing she wants to eat ohagi (which is probably correct, by the way), she gets cross and tries to step on his foot.

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They’re right back on the same side when they end up in Magano, and in a boss fight with a giant octopus Kegare that’s obviously been set up by Subaru. Their initial separate attacks have no effect, and when it’s Octy’s turn he unleashes a giant cloud of miasma that amounts to a “darkness” spell.

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No matter; Rokuro and Benio realize the only way they’re getting out of this is by intuiting what each other will do and when. Benio guesses that Roku will move first (not a stretch there), while Roku knows Benio will back him up.

They lay some serious slashes on the octopus, and to their and MY surprise, its dispersal isn’t prefaced by a giant pentagram. Instead, it explodes in a cloud of tiny fans, indicating it was not a Kegare at all, but a familiar cooked up by Subaru. That was a neat little “switching-up” moment that capitalized on the patterns we’d come to expect from Magano battles.

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Subaru congratulates the couple for thinking outside the box and trusting in one another. Even though her training was unorthodox to say the least, when she departs, neither Rokuro nor Benio can deny that they learned a lot. Unfortunately for Rokuro, one of the things Benio learns is the location of the rest of his girly mags!

The episode ends with a reveal of anothe rpotential antagonist, but I was far more bowled over by Tatara’s navigation face, making up for the fact that Subaru’s Talbot-Lago has no SatNav. That’s just a really neat little detail in a brisk, boisterous, cheeky, and very entertaining episode.

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GOD EATER – 07

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In a welcome surprise, Lindow doesn’t simply lead Lenka and Alisa back to Fenrir; they take a detour into a forest—the sight of which amazes the two new-types—within which lies something even more unthinkable: a civilian settlement for those who Fenrir turned away…including the little girl in pink Lenka saved. The show packed a punch when it sent her off, but I’m glad the show didn’t carelessly discard the character for good. She is, among other things, the embodiment of the future Fenrir is fighting for.

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The reason the village is able to survive and even thrive is that the trees of the forest are really Aragami the people have raised as a protective barrier. Even so, large Aragami like Vajra can still force their way through. When a Vajra does just that, Alisa is soaking in a bathtub to try to clam her nerves and steady her hands, and failing at both. She knocks over the tub and crawls into a closet to hide. I like that the show has the guts to keep one of its strongest characters out of commission for the entirety of the crisis, upping the difficulty level for those able to fight.

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Lindow also peaces out for what reason we don’t know (though testing Lenka by risking all the people he worked so hard to protect doesn’t sound like a logical one). He sends Lenka to deal with the Vajra and protect the people by himself. Lenka is not to let anyone die, especially himself, and Lindow urges him to trust in his God Arc, even though we saw how ineffective it was last time Lenka tried to use it.

During this crisis, GOD EATER once again exposes its difficulty with pacing in such situations. As soon as Lenka returns to the village, the Vajra has already done a ton of damage, and you’d think he’d already killed a good number of settlers, but time seems to grind to a very noticeable crawl to halt as Lenka slowly figures out who and what he has to work with and what the plan should be. Honestly, it’s like the show presses “pause” on the Vajra attack.

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Fortunately, despite of Alisa’s emotional incapacitation, the episode is not bereft of proper Girl Power, as the unlikeliest (or most predictable, depending on how you look at it) person volunteers to help grab some ampules from the warehouse for Lenka to draw the Vajra away: the little girl in pink. She puts the lion in civilion (if civilan were spelled that way, of course), acting with uncommon courage and determination, and not only comes through for Lenka, but saves his life in the process.

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Also fortunately, the screeching halt of the action picks up nicely during the entirety of Lenka’s final gambit, squaring off with the Vajra David & Goliath style with his crossbow of ampules. When the Vajra halts its retreat and prepares to skewer him, Lenka finally figures out what Lindow meant by trusting in his God Arc by pumping an ampule into it, brining it back to life so he can use it to push the Vajra into the river. The other civvies finish the job by opening the damn, and good ol’ mass and gravity finish the job.

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It’s a great moral-boosting side-victory for Lenka; a performance that inspires the girl in pink, impressed Lindow, who knew he had it in  him, and worries Alisa, who is not happy that she’s been so useless of late, but has no idea how to fix it. Sure, she could get drugged back up in Fenrir, but the drugs can’t fix her underlying crippling fear of the Aragami, and she can’t be sure the drugs will always be around.

Alisa’s continued struggles continue to make her the one of the more interesting characters, and while I realize that’s not saying much on this show, her retreat from heroism absent courage-endowing drugs nicely mirrors the girl in pink’s progress absent exceptional strength or ability. It’s a dynamic that keeps me emotionally invested, though I’m also hoping Alisa doesn’t remain a defenseless damsel for too long.

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GOD EATER – 06

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Hey, remember that show GOD EATER? Which airs sometimes, when it feels like it, but not necessarily every week? Well, it’s still around, and you know what? Those who have been patient with it, like myself, have been rewarded: the last two episodes have been excellent. Episode five tore away the invincibility of the titular God Eaters, and Episode six stripped them of their weapons, making these supposed hunters the hunted, at the mercy of the elements and their own fear.

Fighting the Aragami, saving the world; these are meaningless this week. The mission, the only mission, for Lenka and Alisa, is to stay alive. And the harsh, rain-soaked, Aragami-infested world doesn’t make it easy. But we’re drawn into this basic, visceral, at times pathetic struggle for survival.

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Lenka saves Alisa’s life by giving her CPR, and they then hole up in a hotel room. His God Eater is broken, her’s is missing, and he’s at the end of his tether, bleeding out in the corner. Alisa first considers leaving him behind to go look for her God Eater, but instead gets him on the bed and patches him up. It may be an uncharacteristic act of kindness, or a pragmatic move, seeing as how she only had one pill left when she woke up, and she took it. After that, she’ll need Lenka.

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The crux of the episode is that without her drugs, Alisa falls into a state of intense anxiety and helplessness, almost reverting to when she was a small child happily playing hide-and-seek with her parents when an Aragami killed them before her eyes. I didn’t see this as neutering or weakening Alisa as a character. On the contrary, I saw this as finally revealing who Alisa really is beneath the tough-as-nails exterior. The drugs don’t just repress her fear, they repress everything else that makes her a person, making her nothing but a tool for killing Aragami.

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It’s gratifying to see the curtain pulled back and to see some actual emotion in Alisa’s eyes, voice, and body language. In a way, both God Eaters are rendered inert: Lenka because his Arc is dead; Alisa because she’s lost what the Cowardly Lion called “Da Noive”, which had been drug-induced up to this point. Now, she’s back to playing hide-and-seek, against Aragami she could pummel in her sleep under ideal circumstances.

What I appreciate most about GOD EATER’s recent foray into hopelessness is that it’s so utterly and mercilessly stripped away all those ideal circumstances. Now the Aragami have all the advantage, just as they do over all the other helpless humans scattered around the rainy wasteland. Seeing the disheartened look on Alisa’s face, and the look of fear whenever the Aragami find them, really draws us into their plight, where even a simple gesture like Lenka offering his cape thingy is given extra significance.

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When her parents were killed, she was left all alone before she was old enough. Now, at least, Lenka is by her side, and while he’s probably scared too, he’s not as profoundly scarred by his past. He’s for lack of a better term, simply better-adjusted to this world, and doesn’t need drugs to stare down Aragami. And that’s exactly what he ends up having to do, since even when Alisa finds her God Arc, it doesn’t magically make her better in the head. She’s still paralyzed by fear when the Aragami surround her.

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Lenka is bandaged up, but his Arc isn’t long enough to reach the foes, and when it is, he’s only able to deliver a tap to them. You can see the Aragami figuring out these guys are no threat; only food. Lenka knows when it’s pretty much Game Over too, so he drops his useless weapon, puts himself between the Aragami and Alisa, and either makes peace with his end or prays for a miracle. He gets the latter when Lindow comes out of nowhere and easily defeats the low-level baddies.

After making a slightly sexist remark about protecting people being “a man’s job”, he admonishes Lenka for almost giving up and putting his life in someone else’s hands. Lenka, not wrongly, protests that there really wasn’t shit he could do, unless his God Arc magically came back to life, which would be no less a miracle. He and Alisa are safe now, and Alisa is sure to get back on the meds as soon as they get back to Fenrir. But now Lenka, and we, know and understand her a little better, and the rough hand she’s been dealt.

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Back in Flashback Land, Aisha discovers Johannes has been falsifying reports, blah blah blah, then comes to his house, ostensibly to comfort him. Their relationship will eventually produce the dour Souma, and their work will be insufficient against the approaching Aragami explosion and apocalypse.

Alisa’s flashback made perfect sense this week, and added to the power of her arc, but we didn’t even see Johannes or Souma, so I continue to be perplexed by the show’s need to end episodes this way, aside from reminding us that they’re starting to figure out how doomed they are. At least it didn’t interrupt anything important in the present.

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Zankyou no Terror – 07

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In preparation for more English dialogue from Five this week, I decided to come at it from another angle: if English is her character’s second language, then her thick accent is totally acceptable. But such realignments and caveats weren’t even necessary this week. There was so much going on I didn’t have time to give a shit how bad the English was or wasn’t.

Just about absolutely everything that went on this week was fantastic. Last week’s ending promised an intricate, precise game of Haneda Airport Bomb Chess between Five and Sphinx. It also hinted that Shibazaki and his colleagues were going to take action of some kind after sitting on their hands too long, and that Lisa would play some kind of role too. , The episode delivered everything we could have hoped for and then some.

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I remain confident in my assertion last week that Five is a cliched villain with a lame personal vendetta and all-but-unchecked autocratic power over the authorities. This week she’s taken down a peg just as Nine and the police were last week. The show sensed that we needed to see Nine land a blow, even a glancing one, on Five, and made it happen. But this episode was much, much more than just a duel between Five and Nine.

Shibazaki & Co. arrive at Haneda faced with the lofty challenge of finding a bomb in a massive, busy airport, but the more he wanders around, the more something smells rotten to the veteran detective. But even he couldn’t have predicted he’d end up helping the very terrorist he’s been chasing for six episodes stop the bombing, while unwittingly providing cover for their escape.

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That last bit is part the genius of this episode. When Shibazaki bursts into the control room and orders the bomb plane turned around, Five tells him he’s being Sphinx’s lap dog, and she’s not 100% wrong. But Shibazaki is also saving lives by picking the lesser of two evils. Five seems to be trying to appeal to his pride and ego, but after both have been trampled on so much throughout his career (most recently by Five herself), he’s not listening anymore. He’s the anti-Five, and thank God he’s here.

It’s a good thing he can, otherwise Nine, Twelve, and Lisa would’ve been SOL and lots of people would have died. Shibazaki is Nine’s trump card; he calls him to explain everything, and Shibazaki decides to believe him, because unlike the higher-ups and spooks, at least Nine is talking to him; letting him in on the loop. And once he’s in, he’s a potent ally. One great scene is how he even gets up the tower: by depending on his police colleagues to open a hole for him in their scrum with security.

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Also terrific was how Nine threw out Five’s book by placing an extra piece on the board, namely Lisa. Yes, Twelve pushed for her involvement, but she herself made the choice to participate. Both she and Nine and Twelve’s plan revolves around turning all of Five’s ample surveillance against her. Ironically, it’s not Lisa, but Nine who’s the decoy—playing chess with Five and keeping her eyes on him.

Meanwhile, Twelve makes use of every camera blind spot to sneak through the airport, while Lisa sets off a flare in the bathroom to set off the fire alarms, which create a blip in the video feed. During that blip—unbeknownst to Five until it’s too late—the real-time footage becomes footage recorded minutes earlier. It’s a full team effort by Sphinx, and as I said, a satisfying setback for the irritatingly haughty Five.

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But Five doesn’t stay down long, because, as she correctly remarks, Nine and Twelve’s new friend Lisa is a weakness, as illustrated when she’s picked up by Five’s henchman and tossed onto an otherwise empty plane with the bomb on board. I’ll admit, the moment Lisa is caught and when we realize how much trouble she’s in, I was crestfallen. But the show’s not going to kill Lisa today…so How Do They Get Out Of This One?

Very Carefully. The thrilling action set piece that concludes the episode brings everything together: Twelve’s fondness for Lisa; Nine’s sense of honor that has him helping Twelve save her; Lisa’s ability to follow directions and quickly make a cloth rope, and Nine’s ability to drive away from the plane before the explosion can engulf them. It’s some spellbinding, superbly directed stuff, and the Kanno soundtrack playing over everything really takes it to the next level, as her tunes tend to do.

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In return for his help, Shibazaki only gets a passing glance at the masked Sphinx No. 1 through a window before driving off into the night. And Five is Not Happy, and has Lisa’s student ID in hand. Which means even if Lisa remains safe and hidden with Sphinx (not a sure thing at all), her mother, wretch that she is, is now at risk.

Can Lisa throw her life away completely? Can Sphinx continue to stay a step ahead of Five? Can Shibazaki get back on the case and reign Five in? What about the plutonium? When’s the beach episode? If there’s no second cour, only four episodes remain to tackle these questions and more. We await them with bated breath.

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Zankyou no Terror – 06

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Let the great game begin…or at least the pretty good game. Just when Shibazaki was starting to sink his teeth into the case and gathering support from his colleagues, the FBI comes in with their Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) researcher, Five, along with “orders from on top” essentially neutering his investigation.

Unfortunately, Five is ruining more than Shibazaki’s momentum and the terrorists’ plans. She’s kinda hurting the show, too. The main reason being she’s a big, bland “Insane Genius Villain” (IGV) cliche plopped down in the middle of a story that was going just fine without her. Also, let it be known for now and all time, that Han Megumi is very, very ungood at English.

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Han did a fine job as Hanano Sumire in Chihayafuru 2, but then, she wasn’t the primary antagonist who is called upon to deliver a good chunk of her dialogue in English; she’s just not up to it. That’s not Han-san’s fault; frankly, Watanabe had no business making her speak English. Far from adding “international texture”, it blows all the tension out of a scene like air from a balloon.

The color her English makes would surely give Twelve nightmares. With all the intricate preparation involved in the production, you’d think they’d have at least hired someone fluent in English to do the lines for someone who’s supposed to be fluent in English. Someday, anime studios and/or directors will figure this out, but not today. /End rant.

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This week we have the rather unusual scenario of the terrorists who planted a bomb at an airport having to return to the scene to disarm it, since Five has the power and the will to detonate it, even at the potential cost of many lives, because she can just blame it on Sphinx. She’s also able to craft myth-riddles like them, which most the cops believe to be the real thing.

Most, but not all. Shibazaki, right on cue, smells something rotten in Denmark. The texts aren’t his guys. He’s technically under orders to do nothing, but he isn’t going to accept that. Hamura and three colleagues join him “for a meal.” As I said, his teeth are in this case, and he’s not letting go so easily. Please, show, let him expose Cupcake Five before she exposes Twelve and Nine!

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. This episode is also notable for being the first in which Lisa is actually used in an op, albeit in a roughly improvised op in which Nine needs an unfamiliar face for Five’s cameras. She’s unfazed by images of carnage Nine tries to scare her with (as Twelve says, they didn’t intend for the bomb to go off), and declares she “wants to be one of them.”

Part of that is because there’s nothing else she thinks she can be. Another is that despite all the crap she’s gotten, she still wants to connect with people, and to experience the close bond she sees between Nine and Twelve. With this airport job, which looks like a doozy with its chessboard layout, she’s becoming a part of that family. (Thirteen? Zero?)

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Shibazaki’s little rebellion, Nine’s feverish scurrying, Lisa’s participation and Twelve’s support of her all make this a very good episode, but we can’t call it great. Not in an episode with so much Five in it. It’s good to take your antiheroes down a peg or two, but you need the right kind of nemesis to do it, and so far, Five ain’t that. It feels like she’s in the wrong show.

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Zankyou no Terror – 05

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Despite the seemingly random (to the public at large) destruction and disorder they’ve caused, Nine and Twelve’s activities as Sphinx have been highly controlled at every level. They’re not launching their attacks to kill or even hurt people. They’re sending messages Nine hopes Shibazaki will pick up on.

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He does, but it leads him back to “old mistakes” and introduces the opportunity to make them all over again. But what neither Nine nor Shibazaki learn soon enough is that they’re no longer the only players on this board. The cat and mouse have been joined by another mouse, intent on stirring up shit and introducing chaos into what had thus far been a very orderly “courtship dance.”

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That new mouse is Five, a distinctive-looking woman whom Nine remembers from his flashbacks to the facility. Nine never sees Five’s face or hears her voice in the present, but he knows it’s her, because of what goes down this week. Namely, she Ruins Everything: his latest terror plot ends up an even bigger, smokier mess than the one Lisa made in their kitchen.

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Lisa was trying to make an honest effort to get Nine to no longer see her as useless, so she could stick around, as she has nowhere else to go. Nine is not happy to say the least that Twelve brought her home (I’m delighted, personally), but she’s too sick to be thrown out; even he’s not that heartless. But he does predict her getting tangled up with them can and will end badly.

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It can’t be understated how disruptive a force Five truly was this week; not bad, considering we mostly see her painting her nails. She negates Sphinx’s use of cell carriers by causing a wholesale cell blackout. She baits Nine with a fake backdoor then hacks into his computer. After the bomb is allowed to go off, she sends a mass text saying “I found you.” It really shakes up the status quo nicely.

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Meanwhile, Shibazaki has made the connection Nine wanted him to: the bombing targets were all big shots involved with the “Rising Peace Academy.” But targeting these people means he’ll have to investigate them, and they’re not the kind of people who want to be investigated, especially as some are cops themselves.

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So Shibazaki is again in a situation where he can’t help digging too deep until he angers the wrong people. Both he and Sphinx have been outmaneuvered and their agency curtailed. And Five, the one responsible, is right there in the office with him, smiling away. Does Five want to catch and/or hurt Nine and Twelve, or “help” them? I’m just hoping she doesn’t turn out to be one-note chaotic evil.

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