Fate / Zero – 20

This week is 95% talk and 5% action, resulting in an episode that’s 75% “8” and 25% “9.” Kiritsugu’s backstory duology was fantastic, as well as instrumental in helping us understand him more. One could also argue that positioning it after the Mion River Battle made sense, as all the Servants and Masters who survived the battle would require resting-up.

But the fact the two episodes are wholly self-contained, with no ‘bookends’ to tether the story to the present-day rest period, is a double-edged sword. The bad edge being that we simply time-traveled to Kiritsugu’s past; no one in the present was reminiscing. That meant a hard stop to the present-day story, which is a little jarring from a momentum and pacing standpoint.

It also means we barely skipped through the rest-and-recovery period for the Servants and Masters post-battle, so we’re presented with them now. Of course, Tokiomi getting killed and replaced as Archer’s Master was huge, but much of the episode that preceded that event felt like time-marking.

Fate/Zero’s long talks in dark rooms are always tolerable at worst and momentous masterpieces of the spoken word at best, but setting aside Kiritsugu’s past episodes, the proportion of present, legitimate Holy Grail War action set pieces and those of static dialogue has felt imbalanced.

That imbalance is amplified by the similar orientations of so many of the participants in those talking scenes, which are so simple in their execution one wonders if the studio was being more conservative with its budget post-Mion, post-Arimago, and post-Natalia. But they weren’t all bad. There were just a lot of them.

Iri is on her back, her body continuing to weaken as the War’s end draws closer, giving Kiritsugu Avalon since he’ll be needing it from now on. Their exchange is sad but also comforting; a kind of love has indeed taken shape in their nine years together, and there are no regrets, only the hope that Ilya will be able to avoid fighting in the next War, because there will be no next War. (Never mind that we know ful well there will be, of course…only adding to the tragedy).

Waver is on his back, in a full-length sleeping bag in the woods, trying to do all he can to restore Rider’s physical form and mana after having to use Ionian Hetairoi a second time (and saying there won’t be a fourth). They may have started out as comic relief, but they can pull off their share of dramatic scenes too; they’ve come a long way.

In the weakest scene, Kariya, while not supine, is strung up crucifixion-style, back under the tender care of Zouken, Evil Dad, who implants in him a crest worm that “first tasted Sakura’s purity”, and thus contains a lot of her life force, which Zouken then blames him for stealing, which is kind of like a bully using his victim’s own hand to hit him in the fact while saying “stop hitting yourself.” Such a creepy dick.

We don’t see Tokiomi, but we can assume he’s supine in death (unless Kiritsugu chose a more creative way to dispose of his body). And then we’re back to Iri, being watched by Maiya. As Kiritsugu infiltrates the Toosaka mansion and discovers Tokiomi is dead, Maiya answers Iri’s question about why she’s stood  beside Kiritsugu all this time.

We learn that as Natalia did with him,  Kiritsugu delivered Maiya from child soldier hell and, by taking her under his wing, inserted her into a different kind of hell that was better simply because neither of them were alone anymore. Despite Maiya’s believe that should she survive the war she won’t have a purpose any longer, Iri implores her to live life perhaps to find out what her name was and if any of her family still live.

A non-main character being told she has her whole life ahead of her is usually a sign that character’s hours are numbered, and so it comes to pass when Rider suddenly busts in their hideout, kidnaps Iri, and mortally wounds Maiya when she tried to stop him. The suddenness of Rider’s vicious attack really awoke me to the fact that the time for parlays, truces, and mercy is quickly waning, if it isn’t already gone.

That brings us to the final—and best—scene of a character lying on her back, the dying Maiya. Saber arrived almost immediately when Kiritsugu blew a Command Seal, but Iri had already been taken, and there was no time to heal Maiya and go after Rider.

By the time Kiritsugu reaches Maiya, she’s too far gone, which means Kiritsugu has to endure watching yet another person he loves die before his eyes. But the world without fighting he wants to build isn’t meant for him or Iri or Maiya; they’re all merely tools. That world is for his daughter, for all the world’s sons and daughters. So he will press on.

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Fate / Zero – 17

For Risei and Tokiomi, the greatest blunder they committed in the Holy Grail War was believing they knew and understood who Kirei was, when he seemingly didn’t even know until recently, after a few key conversations with Lady MacGilgabeth.

Risei, who Kirei was probably planning to kill, was murdered by Kayneth, but by the end of this episode, Tokiomi is dead too, by Kirei’s own hand, petty much forced by accelerating events.

Fate/Zero isn’t subtle about death flags, and it sure looked like even Tokiomi himself sensed his end was near when he visited Rin and Aoi one last time. The only thing that escaped him was the means of that end; surely he must’ve thought if he died, it would be fighting against his enemies, not his own student.

But back to forcing Kirei’s hand: with Risei dead, Tokiomi proposes a temporary alliance with Irisviel, who is flanked by Saber and Maiya in the church where they meet (odd choice of venue if you ask me, considering it couldn’t even protect the observer.)

Iri agrees with Tokiomi that they should save the battle between themselves for the end, once Rider and Berserker are dealt with … but only if he expels Kirei from Japan immediately.

It’s not an unreasonable demand, considering Kirei and the Einzberns have “bad blood” Tokiomi didn’t know about, but Kirei is also not a Master anymore, and thus should step away from the war altogether. Upon leaving the meeting, Iri collapses onto Maiya’s shoulder, confiding in her that she’s not just any homonculus, but the Holy Grail itself given human form.

When this Holy Grail War is over, she will die and the grail will take whatever new form the winner desires; only Avalon is keeping her going. Maiya promises she’ll stay by Iri’s side until the end.

With one more one-on-one chat between Tokiomi and Archer, Tokiomi has decided what he’s going to do, and has Archer’s support. Kirei will get to explore his “dark desires”, and Gilgamesh will gain a more entertaining Master.

Kirei helps Gil finalize his choice by saying the Holy Grail can only be activating by sacrificing all seven Servants, meaning Tokiomi was eventually going to use a command seal to force Gil to commit suicide.

So after thanking Kirei for being his loyal student and comrade, Tokiomi presents him with a will leaving his wealth to Rin and appointing Kirei as her guardian. Kirei then takes that newly-gifted dagger and kills Tokiomi with it.

The literal backstabbing, while extensively telegraphed, is still a powerful, disturbing moment. With this betrayal, Kirei becomes Archer’s new Master, and the dynamic of the War is irreparably changed. And I must say, I fear Kirei a hell of a lot more than Tokiomi as an adversary to Kiritsugu and Iri, because, well, Kirei himself fears the guy.

Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 22

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This week somewhat inauspiciously begins with Salia being spanked like an insolent child by Embryo, for letting Ange get away. But as painful and humiliating as this experience is, there’s still a glint of defiance in Salia’s face and words. Chasing after Ange the Chosen One like an obedient errand girl is not what she signed up for; in fact, it’s one of the very reasons she defected from Arzenal in the first place.

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Aboard the Aurora, Embryo finally manipulates Emma Bronson to antagonize what looks like the beginning of a Norma/Dragon alliance, in the midst of Riza’s report that Embryo is trying to merge both their worlds to form a new one, destroying them in the process. Even if Salako & Co. are Dragons, Hilda can relate Salako’s friendship to Ange. Roselie, meanwhile, isn’t looking forward to killing Chris, but it’s her or them; something she laments with great sadness.

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Embryo expounds on his grand plans for the world by stating it will be ruled by “strong, intelligent women.” He leaves out “pliable women who will acknowledge his unlimited power and know their place below him.” At the same time, he takes no pleasure in watching Ersha grovel and beg him to restore the lives of her children. He really never intended those children to survive the merging at all. Rather, he intends Ersha to become the mother of the new world’s children, which has some pretty messed-up ramifications if you think too long about it, which, judging from Ersha’s expression, she does.

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Like Salia, Embryo essentially warns Ersha that she’s not acting like the “intelligent women” he needs for that world. Unlike Salia, he basically casts her aside and tells her to stay out of sight, whereas he at least gives Salia one more chance to prove her loyalty. Salia won’t be doing that, though.

It looks like her spanking was the straw that broke the camel’s back; she won’t prove her value to Embryo by finding Ange; she’ll prove she’s stronger by besting and killing her, going against Embryo’s wishes in a desperate bid to win his approval.

This is not the best plan, considering Embryo can bring people back from the dead at will, but even if her judgement-quashing inferiority complex is still as strong as ever, at least she now realizes how much of a sack of shit Embryo is. Ripping up her Pretty Salian cosplay is as strong a symbol as any that she’s done playing the heroine.

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Ersha, meanwhile, realizes how appallingly naive she’s been, and how easily she allowed Embryo to win her obedience by manipulating her powerful maternal instincts. In both her and Salia’s case, they were girls with ambitions (albeit very different ones) that got their way, and now that they’ve seen how thin the veneer of Embryo’s goodness extends, They’re both well and truly disillusioned, and will no longer follow him.

Chris is different, in that nothing happened to her this week that suggests she’ll be going against Embryo. Embryo is her best bud, after all; the one person who would simply be her friend the way no one else ever did. Her ambitions are far smaller by comparison, and so easier to both fulfill and maintain. Are Chris, Roselie, and Hilda doomed to try and kill one another without ever reconciling the often twisted shit they’ve all been through? Or will something Embryo does cause CHris to revolt as well? I hope it’s the latter.

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Meanwhile, Tusk’s chopper-thingy deposits Ange on his island and releases her, and it doesn’t take long for the same crushing loneliness Tusk must have felt in the years he was here to sink in for her, combined with her grief over losing both Tusk and Momoka. Ange can’t see the purpose of trying to save a world she can’t share with those two very important people.

She even considers taking her life, before remembering Tusk’s final words to her about her having to live. But reading Tusk’s diary, including the entry when she arrived (not Ange’s best outing), at which point he’d already chosen to be her knight, only makes Ange more upset. She may have spared her own life for now, but she still can’t see the point of sparing it indefinitely.

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And then, all of a sudden, as she remarks on how she’d have gone all the way with Tusk if she’d known he’d sacrifice himself, Tusk pops up behind her, alive and well! She thinks it’s another of Embryo’s illusions at first, but I had a pretty good idea it was Tusk. Am I going to defend this ridiculous plot twist? No, but I can understand it: You don’t know what you have until you’ve lost it; we never saw Tusk actually die in the explosion.

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Having tasted the bitterness of losing Tusk, Ange isn’t going to side-step the issue of the furtherance of their relationship any longer. On the contrary, she has sex with Tusk right then and there, under the stars, to prove it’s really him. Afterwards, it’s as if all of that sexual tension had simply melted away, leaving two far calmer, less distracted people.

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Momoka’s back too, because Hell, why not? She had a frying pan in her clothes that stopped a bullet. I’m more on the side of happy than angry they’re back, even if it’s very sudden. The why isn’t really important, only the that. And that Tusk and Momoka are alive means Ange has far stronger motivations to stop Embryo.

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I just don’t see how she’s going to do it considering how easily he dispatched them last time. Maybe these two finally getting laid was the key?

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 21

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Hilda leads a team composed of herself, Roselie, Vivi, Tusk, and the three new pilots to invade Misurugi and rescue Ange, in an action-packed episode that satisfactorily juggles all the involved parties and all their individual stakes and relationships, both forged and shattered. Ange is ultimately freed from Embryos clutches, but it’s only another temporary victory, and it comes at the greatest cost yet.

To think Hilda, Roselie, and Chris started out as an annoying “popular girl clique” that shunned Ange. They’ve come a long way. Hilda is fighting for Ange, Roselie is fighting for Hilda and her novice riders, and Chris is fighting for her new, true friend, Embryo-sama. She looks back in retrospect and concludes that even before Hilda and Roselie “left her for dead”, they were never really her friends. Despite Hilda’s harsh words earlier in the show, I don’t think that’s true, but tempers are too high for any hope of reconciliations.

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Chris knocks out Villkiss’ power, and it ditches in the river. Momoka rescues Ange and tries to get her away by car before Embryo unveils another one of his little tricks: the ability to turn any mana-user into a homonculus. Ane manages to snap Momoka out of it, but throngs of zombie Misurugi citizens converge. Embryo proves as tenacious as ever in cornering Ange and bending her to his will.

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While Hilda and Chris value Embryo as a lover and best mate, respectively, Ersha is doing everything for the kids, not him. So when, in the crossfire of the battle, all those kids get slaughtered, Ersha too loses all possible compunction to ever side with Ange and her cohorts again. Now, I imagine, whatever is left of her life will be dedicated to making sure those kids are avenged.

Chris, meanwhile, takes a sadistic amount of relish in killing off Marika, one of Roselie’s novice riders who came to cover her teacher’s escape. Her end is neither as surprising or as gory as Coco and Miranda’s, but it again escalates the conflict between these former comrades-in-arms, and even proves Embryo’s point that with or without the light of mana, it doesn’t take much to turn once somewhat reasonable humans into monsters.

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Embryo’s intention to punish Ange are thwarted by her trusty, horny knight, who stalls Embryo so Ange and Momoka can escape. After getting in a dig about how Tusk, the final member of “ancient people”, is nothing but a monkey, Embryo ends the stalling by shooting himself in the head.

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Just when we think Ange is home free, with the ocean and skies sprawling out before her, Momoka is taken over by Embryo once again, as he sips tea down on a balcony below them. You have to credit Embryo with being so damn hard to foil, though that’s a given when you have the powers of a god. Frankly, anyone who attempts to oppose such a powerful being has never seemed to have a very good approach for actually doing so, and the fact he’s immortal makes that unpreparedness understandable.

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Ange is then forced to watch as Momoka, whom Embryo has powered up to the very limits of her body, slashes at Tusk with a sword. Ange is able to break Embryo’s hold on her once more, saving Tusk, but then Momoka goes after Embryo while using her mana to make a huge truck hit them and push them off a cliff. It’s one final act of valor and love from Momoka, but I wonder if she didn’t squander her life trying to take out someone who couldn’t be taken out. Ange did tell her and Tusk that Embryo can’t be killed, right?

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No matter. Even if she did know she couldn’t kill him, she could slow him down, and prevent herself from being used as a homonculus again. Tusk does the same thing, sacrificing himself with a suicide bomb in order to buy time for Ange’s escape, which isn’t her choice, as he sets auto-cruise and cuffs her to his ship.

And just like that, Momoka and Tusk, two of the people Ange cared about most, are gone. Seeing the stunned pain in Ange’s face and voice at this realization, one almost can’t fault those who surrendered and sided with Embryo, because this is the price of opposing him, with the final cost yet unknown.

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Stray Observations:

  • I know it’s indicative of far more insidious elements of their dynamic in the past, but Chris is kinda overreacting over the other two making her lose one of her braids when they only gave her a clip for one. She could have, you know, spoke up for herself regarding her hairstyle preference.
  • The fact Embryo can make any one, or any number, of mana-users into his own zombie army seems like a wildly underused power up to this point.
  • Continuing with its utterly irreverent theme of the previews, Ange considers simply replacing the fallen Tusk and Momoka with Hilda and Roselie…but ironically that’s essentially what I see happening!
  • Tusk may have died a virgin, but no one can say he didn’t have his share of interesting experiences with women.
  • I assume Salia was knocked out this entire episode.

Strike the Blood – 03

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Eustach and Astarte retreat and Kojou recovers, but the lightning explosion he created costs billions of yen in damage to the city. Yukina helps him build a case for self-defense, which means finding Eustach, a powerful international criminal. With help from Kojou’s classmate Aiba Asagi, they locate Eustach in an abandoned laboratory. He once again sics Astarte – a homonculus containing an unhatched familiar – on them. She easily tosses Kojou and Yukina aside. Just when Eustach is delivering a killing stroke to Yukina, Kojou steps in front of the axe, which takes his head off.

If the Lion King Organization intended for the fourth primogenitor to be dealt with quickly and decisively, then they may have made a blunder when they chose a teenage girl to observe him. Then again, it’s made clear that, like Eustach with his homonculus girl, Yukina and other girls like her are naught but tools of the organization they serve, and expected to act accordingly. But Yukina isn’t dispassionate. She’s not just her target’s observer and potential executioner anymore. He’s become her savior, her friend…and her crush. Even when Kojou tells her how unstable he is and that he’d totally understand if she decided to eliminate him, she can’t to it.

And it’s not just about thinking he’s dreamy or being grateful for him saving her life. Getting to know him has shown her that he is a good person, worthy of mercy. Kojou causes quite a bit of damage in his self-defense, but it’s a human – Eustach – who is the greater threat, planning to destroy the entire island to get at the gooey “treasure” within. That threat is driven home when Kojou and Yukina barely last ten seconds against Astarte, ending with Kojou’s severed head in the arms of a blood-drenched, stunned Yukina. In classic arrogant villain form, Eustach doesn’t use this opportunity to kill Yukina too, ending any possibility of them coming after him again, but peaces out, sparing her life. You know he’ll regret that later.


Rating: 6 (Good)

RDG: Red Data Girl – 11

Sagara Miyukia, Souda Mayura

As the Sengoku battles begin, Izumiko and Miyuki stay on the periphery; Miyuki gives her her cell phone, warns her to stay out of the fighting between Souda and Takayanagi, and to call him if she needs anything. Takayanagi bumps into her and strikes up a conversation; she gradually lets her guard down and goes with Takayanagi and Angelica, forgetting about Sagara. When she hears his name, she remembers again. Her braids come undone and she scolds Takayanagi, destroying his homonculi, but then wavers when she realizes they’re about to find out what she is…

No matter how hard they try, Izumiko and Miyuki can’t stay out of the fued between Mayura and Takayanagi. This week they’re both “spirited away” (after a fashion). Takayanagi targets Izumiko and tries to win her over, while Mayura, having spotted a suitor, asks Miyuki to pretend to be her fiancee. She proposes this under the assumption that, like her and Manatsu, Miyuki and Izumiko can never be a couple, even though both of them care for the other more than anything else. Her proposal is meant as an act of pragmatism, to buy her time. Every day she’s not engaged to be married is a day she can celebrate.

Through their actions, both Mayura and Takayanagi also accomplish something interesting with Miyuki and Izumiko, respectively: they bring something out into the open that both of them had always believed to be just between them. Miyuki seems surprised Mayura knows of the feelings he has for her (even if he shouldn’t be, losing his poker face so often these days!), while Takayanagi puts Izumiko in a position to summon the formidable spiritual power within her in order to right supposed wrongs. He makes her do a lot of things she wasn’t aware she was doing, and she ends up making a big scene when Miyuki pleaded with her to remain invisible. She’s not that anymore.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • The “war games” turn out to be Capture the Flag, Backgammon, and Balloon Popping. We were hoping for swords, spears, and homonculi but what’re you gonna do?
  • Izumiko really doesn’t like it when Miyuki talks about Himegami.
  • Wamiya was of no help to Miyuki this week, but Masumi won a game of backgammon for Mayura.
  • Mayura gets so close to Miyuki under that platform thing, it looks for a moment like she’s leaning in to kiss him. We like Mayura, but Miyuki isn’t hers, and he needs to be on his guard!
  • Takayanagi seems to like hanging with foreigners – which matches his global ambition – and they with him, as they’re all captivated by his Japanese-ness. Angelica in particular seems like a true believer. 
  • Izumiko is pretty badass there at the end, until she starts to lose her composure, and then…something happens; we’re not sure what, but it probably isn’t good.

RDG: Red Data Girl – 05

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With his late brother Masumi’s help, Souda Manatsu is able to cow Takayanagi and his homonculi to avenge Mayura’s injury. Takayanagi takes down the website and withdraws from the council president eleciton, which is won by Kisaragi Jean Honoka. When Yukimasa joins the school’s faculty to protect Izumiko, Miyuki is angered and separates himself from her. But when Izumiko falls in with the “shadow student council” led by former president Murakami Hodaka, Miyuki comes for her right before she performs a dance for them. The Himegami speaks through her, imploring Miyuki not to let her come to life, or it may spell humanity’s extinction.

Thanks to Yukimasa, Izumiko learns the truth about where she is and why: she, like the other students at Houjou Academy, are members of an “endangered species” of humans who can communicate with the gods. If such humans were to become extinct, some say the human race would die out with them. We kind of like this concept: it certainly amplifies the importance of both Izumiko and her classmates. All are one of, and the last of, their kind. They must never forget who they are or what they’re capable of. Unfortunately, Yukimasa’s mere presence threatens Miyuki and Izumiko’s bond, at least until Izumiko is in potential danger and Yukimasa isn’t there to save her.

RDG is putting forth some of the trappings of an unlikely romance between Miyuki and Izumiko. It certainly hasn’t progressed very far, but it has progressed, and in a very organic and elegant way. One reason Miyuki likely hates Yukimasa is that he reminds him how weak and inexperienced and full of doubt he himself is. He hates himself because he doesn’t know what he should do or if he can do it, and Yukimasa showing up is almost a confirmation that he can’t be trusted with Izumiko’s safety. Yet his fondness and personal duty to Izumiko proves stronger than both hate for Yukimasa and doubt in himself. Regardless of any other considerations, he’ll stand with Izumiko. And she wants him by her side. Sounds like the makings of love to us.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Souda Masumi threw us for a loop: he’s a he who was just happening to assume the form of a girl.
  • When she sees Miyuki speaking to Mayura, and Mayura’s hand on his shoulder, Izumiko seems to experience jealousy for the first time.
  • Himegami’s warning to Miyuki sounds like a call for him to possibly go against Yukimasa’s plan, if Yukimasa plans to revive Himegami, that is. We don’t know yet.
  • Her lips were really red.

RDG: Red Data Girl – 04

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Prior to her first day of high school at Houjou Izumiko meets her roommate Mayura’s triplet brother Manatsu, as well as the first year class’s top student, Takayanagi Ichijou, who takes note of her long hair. On the first day. Izumiko decids to forgo her glasses, and as a result sees dark inhuman shadows among her classmates. One such shadow asks her tomeet him in the A/V clubroom after school.

When she goes there, Takayanagi ambushes her, believing she’s a demon. Sagara intervenes, destroying Takayanagi’s homonculus. Izumiko, Sagara and Mayura check out a support website classmates recommended to her; one made by Yakayanagi. Logging in causes the computer to explode, injuring Mayura. Later that night Manatsu and Sagara agree to go get back at Takayanagi. Manatsu and Mayura summon Masumi, their deceased triplet sister, to aid them.

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Izumiko is no longer in a small town isolated in the mountains, but attending a school populated in part (if not in full) by ‘people like her’ and Sagara; that is to say, humans who have supernatural talents. Her roommate decribes herself as a kind of monk like Sagara, and the class valedictorian is a potentially malevolent sorcerer who uses homonculi and takes an immediate interest in Izumiko. Sasami and Kamiomi would fit right in here, and the Kagami sisters could probably hold their own quite well.

Just as trimming her hair had a significant effect on her supernatural abilities, so to does not wearing glasses on her first day; her glasses are a charm that keep her from seeing “too much”. Because of this slight change, she’s able to find out about the nature of her new environment far sooner, and quickly learns that it’s essential to have friends around to protect her, and the more powerful the better.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • To be honest, Takayanagi is a bit of a boring dick so far, but we liked the understated roll-out of the Souda triplets. We would ask why they’re being so nice to Izumiko. Perhaps they realize who and what she is and simply want to help.
  • This series has so far proven adept at nicely building up supernatural events. Sagara’s spirit bow and the exploding computer, for example.
  • After Wamiya turned out to be a real threat, Sagara is now far more willing to hear Izumiko out, and no longer dismisses her concerns out of hand. When Mayura suggests they’re “a pair” though, Izumiko demurs.
  • Izumiko’s a bit of a damsel in need of constant rescue at the moment, but we’re sure she’ll kick some ass once she gets settled.

Dantalian no Shoka 5

Yet another solid outing for Dantalian no Shoka. What the famous courtesan Viola lacks in memories and answers, she makes up for in charm and beauty, such that no less than five wealthy suitors propose to marry her, promising to retrieve five phantom books for some unspecified use.

Turns out this Viola lady is too good to be true, as in she’s a homonculus, created by a true magician of a level that surprises even Dalian. Count Megar is his name, and he has a mustache to twirl and everything. He wants her back so he can dissect her, so he unleashes magical attacks her hapless suitors cannot hope to defend. This makes for some excellent action sequences.

Enter Dalian, who lets Huey unlock the biblioteca and grab the real books. The magician’s illusory magic is neutralized, and the battle ends with a stalemate, though everyone is saved. We also see the lilac-haried Inner Dalian, who interacts with young Huey, and tells him she’d forgotten about lonliness until he arrived. She may give him a hard time, but there’s definitely affection there, and Huey knows it.


Rating: 3.5