Fate / Zero – 13

Caster and Uryuu finally return to their lair (where did they go?) to find all their “artwork” has been burned by Rider, an proceed to have a long conversation about the ephemeral nature of their work and Uryuu’s belief in a god who is eagerly watching and cheering humans on as they find new depths of depravity in witch to toil.

Of all the dialogue between Servants and Masters, it should come as no surprise I find Caster and Uryuu’s the most tiresome and least compelling. I mean, both are sociopaths and homicidal maniacs with incredibly twisted views of the world, and have never once demonstrated any hope of redemption.

As far as I’m concerned, they can’t be knocked off soon enough, because they are guilty of the worst sin of all: boring me. Rider and Waver are far more interesting to watch, both because neither are crazy monsters and they’re not basically the same person.

But after his demonstration of power in the Reality Marble, Waver’s confidence has hit a new low. Waver doesn’t believe himself worthy of being Rider’s Master, and while it’s hard for Rider’s attempts to console him to not sound patronizing, he perseveres, telling Waver to have more faith in his ability. After all, stolen relic or not, he would not have been chosen by the grail if he wasn’t worthy.

As Caster, encouraged by Uryuu to do something big and flashy for God, strides out into the river to perform some big, flashy spell, Sola-Ui and Lancer, Iri and Saber, and Waver and Rider all sense it, and head to Caster’s location.

Sola-Ui wants to stand by the Servant she’s fallen for, but Lancer urges her to keep her distance in this case, while it remains to be seen if Iri recovered from her weakness sufficiently to participate in the imminent battle.

And what a battle it should turn out to be: Caster ends up summoning a colossal eldritch creature from the deep to ravage Fuyuki. It’s the kind of foe no single Servant will be able to handle, so Rider, Saber, and Lancer agree to a truce and temporary alliance to take out Caster once and for all.

The absence of Kariya/Berserker and Tokiomi/Kirei/Archer at the outset of this battle leads me to believed one or all of them will get involved or otherwise take advantage of the fact three of their opposing pairs are busy fighting Caster and his monster off. It will also be interesting to see if, when, and which Master Kirei will attempt to steal in order to fulfill the Grail’s desire to make him a Servant anew.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 07

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In the most bizarre and surreal episode of WagaMoDo, the newly-restored duo of Kae and Shina suddenly declare they have to go on a pilgrimage to the resting place of Hyakki Sametora, the feudal lord upon which the Lord in their anime is based. The only truly enthusiastic guy is the history buff Mu, but the other three tag along nonetheless. Reasonably priced-but-not flashy hot spring innage ensues.

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The night they stay at the inn, Iga accidentally falls on Kae during a pillow battle, and her reactions indicate to Iga that she didn’t dislike that accident. When they end up on the same swan boat (to the possibly cursed island where the lord’s head is believed to reside), he takes her hand and tells her if she’s not used to being so close to a guy, to get used to it…and she does not protest.

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Unfortunately for Iga (but fortunately for us), when a sudden storm maroons the group on the island, Kae ends up rescued by Mu (while Iga has to give Nana mouth-to-mouth; an event Shina captures from many angles with her waterproof phone). When Kae collapses from fever, Mu has no choice but to get her to shelter, disrobe her, and use his body heat to get hers up. He does so with the utmost gentlemanliness, while Kae is too out of it to be embarrased.

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After that…things kinda go off the rails, as the show suddenly picks up a lot of supernatural elements. The ghost of the lord makes the others walk around in circles, then attacks Kae and Mu, who use the charms they bought at the gift shop to neutralize him. Eventually Kae “exorcises” Sametora when he realizes his legend is not a negative one (thanks in part to the anime that pretties him up and makes him either a top or bottom).

All the supernatural elements are (mostly) explained at the very end once the group gets to shore by a very unexpected and hilarious twist: the restaurant where they ate lunch accidentally used hallucinogenic mushrooms, so they were tripping balls the whole time, likely including during the storm and “lake whirlpool”. Overall a pretty fun episode.

16rating_8

Macross Delta – 25

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The predictable patterns of Macross Delta continue into the penultimate episode, where the action and daring of last week transitions into a relatively quiet, exposition-filled outing (well, quiet until the ending).

Berger Stone shows up again and again launches into a wordy infodump that includes references to other Macross shows. The Windermereans (mostly blindly) rally around Lloyd, including King Heinz, who shows his knights how little time he has left.

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Stone basically lays out that if Lloyd uses the Star Singer to create an interconnected humanoid network, it will be very bad, but we already knew that. When Freyja hides her bandaged hand, she hides it way too obviously to not be noticed by Mirage and Hayate. Walkure is wounded and scattered, but Kaname intends to step up to the plate, and if she has to go down, she’ll be going down swinging for the fences.

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Mirage once again gives way so that Hayate can hang out with Freyja. Though Freyja is literally marked for death, the events of the final episode will be instrumental in confirming whether her hand crystal will kill her, or if the limited age of Windermereans will continue to be a problem.

The show takes the effort to bring Hayate and Freyja closer together by revealing that his Dad once visited Windermere and gave lil’ Freyja the little device she still carries with her, and ends with the classic Macross theme “Do You Remember Love?”, once sung by Lyn Minmey and other singers.

But it’s telling that it’s Freyja’s laugh, not her song, that helps ease his heart. After all, Stone just told everyone songs are a weapon.

 

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Not just a weapon, but the weapon. After some peaceful space credits, the episode upshifts, raising the stakes for the endgame, as the giant NUNS fleet I initially thought Chaos would have to somehow stop, falls under the spell of Mikumo’s Song of the Stars (sung under duress/hypnosis).

Thus brainwashed, the captains and crew of the ships activate the dimensional weapons in their weapons bays, utterly destroying the fleet in a matter of moments. Thousands of souls cry out, and Lloyd looks on approvingly, apparently that much closer to his ultimate goal of galactic domination.

The remnants of Walkure, and Chaos’ handful of ships and fighters now seem hopelessly outmatched against the terrifying might of Lloyd’s newest and most powerful weapon: their friend and comrade.

We’ll see if and how they manage to defeat him, and who will join their cause, and who among those we’ve come to know will be sacrificed in the name of galactic peace.

16rating_7

Alderamin on the Sky – 11

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Jean Arquinex appears far more frequently this week, but the episode remains at heart The Ikta Show, as even Jean concedes, though he doesn’t know the “brilliant general” he’s up against is only a first lieutenant. Presented with a mind equal to his own and with far inferior numbers, Ikta himself begins to doubt if he’s really his generation’s greatest hero, or if the “bloom is about to come off the rose.”

His inner thoughts, and his own doubting voice whispering inside is his head, are the latest in this show’s consistently successful efforts to humanize and deepen Ikta’s character. When he unwittingly tells the voice to shut up out loud (in earshot of Suya), Ikta snaps back into serious Strategy Mode. That voice inside may wonder if his plans will succeed this time, but it’s not going to stop him from carrying it out.

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When the Aldera army sends units down a narrow path, Ikta & Co. are ready, but they’re only 600 Imperials and 120 Sinack against 10,000; even slowing down such a force is a tall order, and one not without costs. When the Aldera put up barricades, Yatori and Nana agree that they have to go out and take them down.

Ikta lets Yatori’s unit and Nana’s Sinack detachment across the wall, but they suffer numerous casualties when Jean’s air rifle units open fire. Instead of letting the units get mopped up, Ikta decides to go out himself with everything they’ve got in order to protect the wounded before retreating.

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It’s a bold move, with Ikta and Yatori fighting back to back and working as one unit, and in the end, the Sinack and Yatori’s wounded are evacuated successfully. Ikta has a huge fire hit behind their retreat to seal the path, buying a little more time.

Jean is impressed by the enemy commander desperately making shrewd, effective moves to forestall Aldera’s advance. Suya, who loses two valued comrades, isn’t as enamored. She doesn’t see why they had to give their lives so the Sinack they were killing just days ago could live.

What kicks this episode from an 8 to a 9 was the ensuing exchange, which played out like, well, a play, with the stage populated by Ikta, Nana, Suya, Haro, and eventually, Yatori, who claims it is she, not Ikta, who should bear responsibility for the casualties incurred.

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Yatori asserts that Ikta ordered the charge because he knew she’d charge anyway to save her allies (a term she doesn’t take lightly). She also points out that feelings cannot interfere with a soldier’s duty. When Suya asks if Yatori would kill Ikta, I already knew the answer was yes before she opened her mouth, but she still said it in a very cool way (“That question is 300 years too late.”)

That cold assertion hangs in the air after Suya runs off, leaving Ikta to ask what would have to happen for her to actually be able to kill him if ordered to do so (though the word Ikta uses, is when). Yatori replies that she’d have to utterly destroy…Yatori first; leaving only the Igsem steel behind. It would be Igsem, not Yatori, killing him.

Ikta then tells her until the moment he died he’d think of nothing but how he’d lost her, bringing a tear to Haro’s eye (and almost one to mine as well). So if Ikta was to die, she’d die too, and she’d die first. That’s some heavy shit right there, and yet another layer to the already wonderfully rich, dense relationship that has been carefully built between Ikta and Yatori.

Things are desperate right now; the victories available are small and costly. But I know who I want eventually coming out on top, and it ain’t Jean Arquinex. So I have to believe Ikta, with Yatori, Nana, and everyone else’s help, will find a way.

16rating_9

Macross Delta – 24

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Hayate, Mirage and Freyja are in custody for a good part of this episode, and what with the restraints and show trial and general passivity of Heinz (the only one who can pardon them), things certainly looked pretty bad for our triangle…in a vacuum.

But Arad, Kaname, Makina and Reina were still free, thanks in part to Mikumo and in part to their own competence. While pondering their next move, the still-free members of Chaos are approached by Berger (sporting a new voice actor, as the original is in poor health), who promptly leads them to Chekhov’s Still-working VF-22.

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Lloyd’s courtship of Mikumo continues, as he tells her she’s not only an artificial life form, but also the legendary Star Singer, descended from the Protoculture. Hard to argue with him considering what she’s managed to do.

Furthermore, he believes Walkure was created to provide cover for her. She was once Lady M’s, but now she’s Lloyd’s, and he intends to use her; her own desires are irrelevant to the equation.

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After the show trial (which is a bit dull), we get to the execution, which consists of the three condemned taking flying leaps off the edge of a huge sheer cliff. Hayate stalls as much as he can, assuring both himself and the girls that this isn’t the end.

Sure enough, the VF-22 streaks through the sky and causes a big ol’ ruckus, allowing Hayate and Mirage’s remote-controlled planes to catch them when they jump. It’s a neat stunt, though the whole exercise makes the Windermereans look a bit dumb.

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A huge aerial battle ensues between Delta and the Aerial Knights as Walkure attempts to destroy the protoculture system without Mikumo’s help. It doesn’t go well: Makina takes a sniper’s bullet for Freyja, and while they try to keep it together, Lloyd repeats a mantra enough times to awaken the Star Singer within Mikumo, and her song starts overpowering everyone.

So Walkure/Delta has no choice but to retreat, having left Windermere in much worse shape than when they arrived. Makina may heal, but now Lloyd has perhaps the Ultimate Trump Card in an awakened Star Singer, while an ice crystal appears on Freyja for the first time; it would seem her singing has shortened her already-short life.

16rating_8

Alderamin on the Sky – 10

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This tenth Alderamin begins with a flashback from nine years ago, and the show is hardly timely in revealing that the fiery Sinack chieftain Nanaku Daru was childhood friends with Ikta.

It’s also hardly subtle in juxtaposing her paying a visit to Ikta’s bedroom of her own free will—but too young to know the true reason woman would do such a thing—with the present, where she suddenly finds herself in a huge heap of trouble, surrounded by three enemy soldiers who plan to rape her.

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Who comes to her rescue in the nick of time but her old friend Ikta, whom she doesn’t yet recognize? Ikta is pissed, not being one to suffer “beasts.” Nanaku is taken into safe custody. It’s a sobering glimpse of what war often boils down to, and what depths the battle-weary and under-supervised can stoop to when their enemy is demonized and dehumanized by their superiors.

The war is over between the Empire and the Sinack, but before they can even catch their breath, a new, mutual, and well-rested enemy arrives at their doorstep in the form of “La Saia Alderamin”, a once-neutral, highly religious country Ikta suspects is being used as a Kioka pawn as part of the wider conflict.

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What made this episode so strong, and, for me, eliminated any concerns about plot convenience or retconning, was how Ikta handled things with “Nana,” knowing they’ll need her help to cover their retreat from Aldera, and he’s the only one who can negotiate with her.

He gets her attention and reveals who he is by carrying out the Sinack tradition of cutting digits off one’s hand; a legend she told him about nine years ago. He cuts his entire left pinky off in a visceral, powerful scene, and you can tell he’s not putting on a performance, but dead serious about his role as agent of apology and olive branch.

That last part is important, since Nana agrees to help because she knows the religious Alderamin will never tolerate their “heretical” religion, but the Empire will. Obviously it’s not what she wanted (to be rid of both), but she has to compromise, because Aldera won’t.

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Our Knights all get promotions this week – Yatori and Ikta to First Lieutenant, the others to Second, and after Matthew and Haro protest, they agree to stick together in the force that will delay the Alderamin advance. That is achieved by creating a fire line at a crucial forest crossing.

But it would seem Ikta has finally met his match in the form of newly-introduced Kioka Army Major Jean Alkiniks, he of tirelessness to Ikta’s sloth; white hair to Ikta’s black. Both seem excited to have met strategists who will really challenge them for once.

One of the weaknesses of the show has been the appalling ineptitude of the brass, but Jean here is high-ranking enough to do what needs to be done at a larger scale. He’s come further than Ikta so far, but will no doubt be the catalyst by which Ikta continues to advance and progress to become the hero Princess Chamille believes him to be.

I also hope we get to see a little more Nana.

16rating_9

Macross Delta – 23

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Now that everyone is on Windermere, the this episode has a strong “this is it”, “last-level” feeling to it, where things are going to end one way or another, but hopefully in favor of Walkure and Delta. If they reach the capital and have a tactical show, they’ll win.

But there are serious obstacles, and they make that outcome still feel distant: everyone is scattered across the region, and everyone is constantly on the run from Winderemeran pursuers, including the Aerial Knights.

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There are still some welcome moments of peace, however, such as when Freyja leads Hayate and Mirage through caves she used to play in as a child (yikes), and the surroundings and proximity to her home village dredges up memories of singing Ranke Lee songs as a young child.

We also, somewhat amazingly, see Mikumo eat with others for the first time, with Maki and Reina teasing her and bringing out some more human reactions in her. They think she’ll only become a better singer once she actually starts having more human experiences.

Then we have Freyja and Mirage, envying one another for being able to go so far for Hayate’s sake, before their talk is broken up by Hayate.

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Mikumo unveils her criminally underused rocket petticoat and martial arts skills to allow Maki and Reina to flee, but Hayate, Freyja and Mirage are caught (and almost killed) by Bogue and the Knights, while Roid confronts Mikumo (in a kind of creepy stalker-y way) and says the trigger words that knock her unconscious. Looks like this mission isn’t going to be as easy as it looks on paper, which is as it should be.

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For all of Bogue’s bluster, King Heinz wants the prisoners alive to stand trial before execution, so Lord Lloyd indulges Hayate’s desire to see what they accuse his father Wright of doing with his own eyes. Upon seeing the still seething crater that was once the city of Karlisle (where Bogue’s sister served), Freyja starts to sing a song to soothe the souls lost there, but Bogue knocks her down.

Neither she nor Mirage can change the Windermerans’ long-standing belief in what went down here, and when more evidence is sought, they bring them to a chamber where Wrights’ VF-22 is on display, where his body was found and from which the dimensional bomb was deployed.

That just about seals the deal, right? Wright totally did this horrible thing? Perhaps, but like Mirage, I wouldn’t rule out a heretofore unrevealed motivation…was the same weapon being developed in Karlisle, for instance, and did Wright save the rest of the planet by destroying it?

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If there’s anything else there, there’s only a few episodes left to educate us and complete the picture that still seems to be missing some key strokes. As for Lloyd, it would seem his designs are to replace the ailing Heinz with Mikumo. Mikumo has said again and again that as long as she able to sing, that’s all that matters.

That philosophy will certainly be put to the test, as will her loyalties and human willpower, as Lloyd isn’t just going to let her sing, but make her sing to further his plans for galactic domination. Here’s hoping there’s enough humanity in her to resist. If not, she might soon be fighting against her former comrades in Walkure and Delta.

In any case…that’s way too many pairs of glasses.

16rating_8

Macross Delta – 21

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The HayMirFre triangle was set aside entirely this week; instead the episode focused on Kaname and the roots of Walkure, starting all the way at the beginning. It’s a long story, but the ladies are incarcerated until further notice, so there’s time to tell it. It’s a story that was only hinted at before, and digging deep into the group’s history mitigates the fizzling out of suspense from last week’s infiltration.

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The last couple of episodes have been full of uncertainty for all, but the flashbacks this week are instrumental in showing that this has almost always been the case. When Kaname was first hired by Chaos, nobody knew what they were doing. Once idols with fold receptors were collected, their first “shows” were utter failures. Even Makina and Reina don’t get along for a long time. Two other Walkure members quit due to stress.

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It’s also instructive to see just how ragtag Chaos was long before Hayate and Freyja joined it. Kaname was simply a survivor on a war-torn planet; Makina from a family of skilled mechanics and engineers; Reina is a genius hacker. None were born idols; they grew into it, as did the symbiotic relationship between Walkure and the Delta Platoon, leading to the rescue of a young pilot named Messer from a battle on Alfheim.

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Of course, one member of Walkure was born an idol, with no other dream but to sing. That, of course, is Mikumo, who was introduced to the others quite suddenly after Claire quit, and has a powerful and immediate impact on them all.

Even Reina and Makina bond over her transformative power of song, which she uses to introduce her self rather than, you know, speaking to them. When Mikumo is suddenly singing in the brig where the others are being held, it’s a neat (if somewhat jarring) segue out of the flashback and back to the present.

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Back on Windermere, Lloyd has Heinz use his newly amplified song to put thousands on Al Shahal in a coma to do research, but Heinz’s frail body can’t take the strain. When Keith discovers the Heinz is riddled with the same frozen malady that claimed his father, only far earlier in life, he is furious, and confronts Lloyd, who pretty much confesses to murdering King Gramia (to east his suffering), and that he and Keith cannot “fly in the same skies”.

Lloyd goals are about far more than preserving the fatherland and expanding the empire. As Berger finds out, he may be after the ability to join the minds of all mankind into a network; unlocking perhaps the most powerful ability of the protoculture. If Gramia, Heinz, and even Mikumo or Freyja are the eggs he has to break, so be it; he must have his omelette.

But he’s running out of time. Mikuno’s “issues” were fixed aboard the medical frigate, and while she now knows she has no childhood memories because she’s a genetically engineered clone, she’s no less committed to singing for the cause she was created to serve.

Delta and Walkure are headed to Windermere. Whatever anyone’s personal issues or doubts, there’s a galaxy out there that needs saving. Time to get to work.

16rating_7

Macross Delta – 20

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I was wondering how Delta would follow up an episode that was 9/10ths an advertisement for other Macross series (some worse but most better than Delta), and 1/10th nice character work between Mirage and Hayate, which for me saved it from a 6 (not recommended).

Turns out this episode was a lot more like the last 1/10th of last week, only with a lot more action, which pleased me. For once, though, the action doesn’t predominantly serve the plot; the status of the war remains unchanged.

Instead, all the action is character-driven, not a bad way to go for a show whose characters have too often felt like little more than props (or shadows of aforementioned better shows). Forget the war, we’ve got more basic problems: Freyja can’t sing, Hayate can’t fly, and Mikumo is God-knows-where.

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Everyone is full of doubt and uncertainty, even in Windermere, where Heinz is definitely spooked by the fact his song was overpowered by Mikumo’s. His brother Keith (who has had very little to do since losing an eye) seems to want to know more about Heinz’s specific medical problems, all while wondering what the heck is going on with Lloyd, who he thought he used to know well.

Lloyds reassurances to Heinz that his voice is peerless, and to Keith that all will be well, aren’t received with enthusiasm by either Windermere. Cassim is also still walking around looking lost; the only ones who aren’t are content to blindly follow the most powerful authority.

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Things can’t stay this way for the main players on both sides of the war, so it falls to the second tier of the cast to bring about some kind of change. Makino and Reina start prodding the medical frigate’s security for weaknesses, and when Kaname catches them, they convince her to join their cause, even if it’s against the rules, because they love Mikumo.

Hayate and Freyja actually manage to sit at a table together, but only to exchange unilateral life-altering/ruining decisions. Hayate wants to quit flying so Freyja can keep singing; Freyja wants to quit singing so Hayate can keep flying. Their affection for one another precludes doing anything that might hurt one another.

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Enter Mirage, who does a far better job than Lloyd to, well, not so much reassure them as knock some sense into them with harsh words. She considers both their offers unacceptable; Hayate has to fly and Freyja has to sing; that’s what they were frikkin’ born to do.

And she’s not even going to give them the choice to give up on their dreams, because she loves them too much. There; she finally said it, only two both of them and not simply Hayate. Better than nothing, I guess. Mirage (and Seto Asami) do great work here.

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While Mirage puts her heart on her sleeve to help the comrades—the friends—she loves, Kaname, Makino and Reina potentially put their careers, freedom, and lives on the line for their comrade Mikumo. Reina’s hacking isn’t pefect, but Kaname doesn’t give up when the other two are arrested, running through corridors and belting out song until she reaches Mikumo, who despite being in a stasis tank, sings along.

And that’s it for episode 20. With six episodes left, the sing-and-fly formula of earlier episodes has been immensely disrupted, and we’re left wondering what will become of the singers of Walkure, the pilots of Delta, and the overdressed tools of Windermere.

16rating_8

Macross Delta – 19

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After making me care about the “bad guys” a bit last week, Delta continued to impress by suddenly having Freyja and Mikumo kinda go off the rails, resulting in the destruction of the Protoculture ruins—and thus a pillar of the Starwind Sector—on a large scale, and sending Hayate into superhuman berserk mode, from which he still hasn’t recovered when we check in this week. Mikumo has been secured aboard a medical frigate.

While both waiting outside the door to Hayate’s hospital room, Freyja and Mirage encounter the dude in the keffiyeh who was so dispassionately reporting on the status of the ruins and Protoculture structures back in Windermere. In a time of great doubt and apprehension, he’s arrived to complete an undisclosed business transaction with Chaos.

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But…he goes into an incredibly long-winded and detailed bout of exposition that not only serves as a shout-out to all previous Macross series (of which I’ve only watched Frontier, back when it aired), but connects the events of all of those Macrosses to explain what’s happening with the Wind Singer, Walkure, Freyja, and Mikumo.

Long story short: the Var is a product of fold bacteria left behind by the Vajra, and there are people with immunity to the Var and fold receptors who generate powerful bio-fold waves when they sing while their lives are on the line.

Berger Stone surmises that the Protoculture inserted some code related to music in the he DNA of all humanoids, and that music is more than just culture shock, but a mind-controlling weapon.

He also brings up rumors of the mysterious “Lady M” who finances Chaos to be developing an “ultimate weapon” utilizing music, which sounds a hell of a lot like Mikumo, considering the flashes of her past we’ve seen.

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I’m glad to be caught up on exactly what’s going on, but I can’t help but wonder if there could have been a more organic way to convey all this information. When you think about it, why is Berger Stone telling them all this to begin with? Frankly, the only reason I can think of is that the plot requires that he do so.

Sure, it’s a vehicle for a bunch of lovely nostalgia, but this is where my limited exposure to the Macross universe is exposed, since most of the shout outs failed to resonate simply because I haven’t watched everything. Thus, much of Berger’s story feels more like a quick cram session of everything that led up to the current situation.

It’s more than a little awkward and rushed, not to mention static. With a few excellently-executed exceptions, there’s usually something unsatisfying about watching people stand around and listen to a guy talk while watching what amounts to a fancy PowerPoint presentation behind him…for almost an entire episode.

And while Berger is talking to Walkure and Delta, Lloyd is telling Keith basically the same story. So everyone on the show is simply standing around chilling. That lack of immediacy after so much action and upheaval was a bit deflating. It felt retconny. felt…recappy.

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What earns this episode a 7 as opposed to a 6, then, is the very end, when it’s Mirage, not Freyja, who musters up the courage to go see Hayate. Since there’s every indication he’s out cold, Mirage is able to be honest with herself, if only briefly.

Admitting you don’t understand anything is the first step to rectifying that, and Mirage does so, while also admitting she likes having Hayate around and wants him to wake up and be with her again. Seto Asami does good work in Mirage’s small but significant scene. Naturally, it’s left up to interpretation how long Hayate was conscious and listening to her, but it’s not as if she confessed her love or anything.

That being said, it’s important that Mirage visited him and was there when he woke up, not Freyja, as Freyja’s fear her music is a weapon that can change and potentially hurt Hayate leads her to keep her distance. Mirage is just Hayate’s flying buddy; she has no such misplaced guilt to contend with.

16rating_7

GATE – 20

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I often groan at GATE episodes that mostly or wholly omit the core gang of Itami & Co., but that’s a bit unfair, knowing that GATE is about more than just one man or one group’s adventures, but about an entire sprawling world of multiple races, political affiliations, and ideologies.

This week may have felt more like a Sherry & Casel spin-off than the GATE I typically like, but it was nonetheless a strong and surprisingly moving episode that gave the current political troubles and Japan’s involvement (or lack of same) a smaller, human scale.

Under Tyuule’s manipulation, Prince Zolzal has passed extraordinary laws and raised a paramilitary force called “Oprichnina” to oppress all pro-peace actors in the Empire. Among those is Senator Casel, who hoped to find safety with Sherry’s family, but are soon set upon by Orpichnina “Cleaners” led by the sniveling Gimlet.

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Sherry leads Casel out of the house, and her parents proceed to burn it down, presumably dying in the process but covering the escape of both their family’s and country’s futures. Of course, Tyuule is on the scene and aware of Sherry and Casel’s movements, and uses her porcine assistant to get the two to “dance for her.” Not sure why Tyuule is micromanaging things to this extent, but I do know her evil smirking is getting old.

Sherry, despite being only twelve years old, doesn’t show her fear as she finds herself out in the world with people after her and an adult senator to protect. She haggles with a villager for food and secures a room at the inn, but the only way they’ll both be safe is if they can reach and gain asylum at the Jade Palace, a territory that is technically Japanese soil by treaty.

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They get to the boundary of the de facto embassy easily enough, but are met by Princess Pina’s knights, who relay the Japanese diplomats are unwilling to harbor political dissidents at this time, thanks to a hard line from the ministry back home that doesn’t want to look weak or further embolden Zolzal by harboring doves. Even Sugawara, whom Sherry is in love with and truly believes she’ll marry someday, won’t let his personal feelings interfere with his diplomatic duties.

The Japanese refusal to accept Casel means as soon as Gimlet arrives with his Cleaners, they arrest the senator and prepare to take Sherry into custody too. It’s hard to watch her come so far, with so much childish faith in her shining Japanese hero, only to be turned away right before the finish line, and into the jaws of those who have already destroyed her family and likely have nothing good planned for her.

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At the same time, while I despised Sugawara as much as he probably despised himself when he refused to act, I also appreciated his duty to his country. People can’t just disobey orders all the time. I thought this would all come to a heartbreaking end, with Gimlet’s grubby mitts all over an increasingly pathetic Sherry screaming for Sugawara’s help.

Turns out, Sugawara couldn’t abandon Sherry to a horrible fate. He orders her brought over to the Japanese side. This obviously led to the desirable outcome of Sherry being safe (in exchange for Sugawara promising to marry her after all when she comes of age), but GATE doesn’t pretend such an action wouldn’t have messy consequences.

There are knots and kinks in this particular fairy tale: Just as Sherry’s parents gave up their lives to get her out, Sugawara may have sacrificed his career and complicated Japan’s position to a potentially disastrous extent to save her. He did something he didn’t have the authority to do. Zolzal and Tyuule wanted nothing more than to stir the shit with Japan, and Sugawara’s heroism did just that.

The Vice Minister, who previously respected his decision as a diplomat while loathing him as a man, is forced to reverse both positions: condemn his actions as a diplomat, but laud him for being a decent man who couldn’t let the screams of a child go unheard.

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GATE – 19

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With Mort out of the picture (he doesn’t seem to be dead, but he’s in no condition to rule), Zolzal takes over and wastes no time stoking anti-peace sentiment among both the armies and masses. Tyuule, who has had proper clothes for a while now (compared to a burlap shift anyway) is overjoyed by this development, because she’s certain Zolzal’s warmongering will lead to his downfall.

Using Zolzal as her pawn, Tyuule has bascially stolen a march on both Pina’s peace negotiations will now only serve as stalling as Zolzal approves unethical tactics in order to weaken the JSDF and its position in the special region. He and his advisors may be fools, but they at least realize a head-on fight won’t work.

Pina wants to try to slow Zolzal’s march to war, but her other brother Diabo flees the capital to round up a force of foreign countries to deal with Zolzal the only way he thinks they can: with the sword. And while I like Pina and appreciate her position as the only sensible member of the royal family, that doesn’t mean I find her character all that compelling.

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That’s why I was glad for the cut back to Rondel, where characters I frankly am far more invested in about are engaged in activities very much unrelated to the interminable palace intrigue of the capital: Lelei’s preparations to become a master. Her big sister Arpeggio comes more into focus as someone who’s always been in her genius little sister’s shadow.

There’s also an unexpected reunion between Rory and Mimoza, the two of whom last met 50 years ago. Rory’s advanced age and natural gregariousness owing to her demigod status, you never know who she’ll bump into next, and I like how Mimoza took her “homework” seriously, devoting years to studying the history and pre-history of the world to determine why there are so many races.

Her conclusions are fascinating: the Gate isn’t just something that connects to the Ginza; it’s a cyclical portal that has dormant periods like a volcano, and each time throughout the centuries, it has opened to a different realm. Beings from those realms would come through, fight, breed, and become a part of society in the world. Even more intriguing? Humans were almost certainly the newest race to come through.

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Other revelations include Arpeggio’s side-job copying books (underlining her pathos relative to her wondersis) and Lelei’s sneaky little pronouncement that Itami is not, in fact, single, since she and he spent three nights in the same room together. She also firmly contends Tuka’s nights didnt’ count because she was insane at the time and thought Itami was her dad. I’m inclined to agree.

But Arpeggio’s inability to snag Itami as a husband because Lelei got to him first is the last straw, and she’s forced to challenge her sister to a magic duel by way of inverted soup bowl (thankfully, not scalding). While Itami is appropriately lost and of the belief the sisters are taking things too far, everyone else carries on as if this was a regular occurrence … because his is the thirteenth such battle between them.

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Arpeggio was a whiny sad-sack for so much of the episode prior to the duel, it was good to see her in action, holding her own against an aggressive Lelei who unveils heretofore unseen abilities like witch-like flight. I also appreciated that the sisters’ distinctive styles match their personalities: Arpeggio grounded and practical, Lelei with her head in the clouds, dreaming big.

Despite its non-lethal nature, the duel is fast and loud and exciting. The girls eventually essentially tie when both their magical defenses are broken (though Arpy’s broke fist), but that’ when things almost do turn lethal – when a cloaked assassin very nearly puts a crossbow bolt between a defenseless Lelei’s eyes.

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His attempt is thwarted by Grey, who has just arrived with Hamilton to protect Lelei and escort her back to the capital, where she’s become an Imperial hero due to her actions in the fire dragon battle. I say her and only her because she’s the only human; as for being an Imperial citizen, Lelei takes exception to that classification, as she still considers herself a member of the Rurudo clan first and foremost.

Regardless, Zolzal no doubt wants to make her another tool in his upcoming war with the Greens. Tyuule is now trusted to meet with senators on his behalf to present them with new laws that will allow him to arrest and convict whomever he chooses – no doubt laws he deems necessary in times of war. As for Itami, he probably has the right idea: simply run for now, while staying appraised of the increasingly volatile political situation.

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Ushio to Tora – 19

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Big change of gears this week, as the focus shifts from the women in Ushio’s life back to Ushio and Tora, who waste no time exploring the suspicious-looking cave with a temple and a really nasty demonic aura all about it. As the very creepy youkai Tokisaka informs them, this is where a piece of Hakumen no Mono landed when he retreated many centuries ago when humans and youkai joined forces to fight it. But it’s not dead, only dormant.

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U and T have a lot more questions, but rather then tell them the whole story, Tokisaka decides to send them back in time 2,200 years to the village where it all began. There, outside the castle walls, they meet a young Jiemei, who bares more than a slight resemblance to Mayuko (likely with good reason).

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They save her from youkai, but because she can’t see Tora, she thanks only Ushio, and invites him to her house. It’s a nice house, warm and loving and happy…but there’s also a fair amount of sadness to it, both the fact Jeimei’s clothes are rather tatty, and the house is outside the walls.

Turns out Jeimei’s father was once the court priest and swordsmith, but he and the family were cast out when a distant relative tried to assassinate the king. Her father and brother Giryou (whom Ushio also met while within the Beast Spear) are eager to forge a divine sword that will grant them access back into the castle.

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When elbow grease doesn’t do the trick, Giryou suggests they use dark arts in the forging process, and hey presto, they churn out one fine-looking sword. Turns out Hakumen no Mono has been in the castle all this time, disguised as nine concubines. His transformation is, shall we say, extremely disturbing and creepy? Because it was, as is his voice.

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Hakumen lays utter waste to the court and all who charge him with their divine weapons, including Jeimei and Giryou’s father. Then their mother gets the top half of her body blown off by Hakky’s ice breath. In a rage, Ushio rushes him with a spear, but not the spear we’re used to seeing him wield. That’s because the Beast Spear hasn’t been forged yet. Also, he seems paralyzed by the evil eye of the great messed-up looking beast.

While it’s a bit odd for Ushio to suddenly end up going back in time to relive history, it’s certainly better than a straight narration. It’s also interesting to see Jeimei and Giryou at this early stage, and a glimpse of the happy, simple lives they led before dark arts, fate, or both, thrust them onto far different paths, not to mention see Hakumen no Mono in all his terrifying glory.

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