Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 07

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Of the four people in this shot, I only trust the ones sitting down, which is troubling, because she’s the one with by far the least power aboard Sidonia, despite her formidable scientific prowess. Heck, I even have a problem with Yure, who seems to have cultivated a kind of scientific tunnel vision, realizing the wild dreams of her superiors without regard for the consequences.

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We watch in horror the fruits of this dream team’s labor this week: the Graviton Beam Emitter goes berserk when they try to shut it down, and it starts acting like a wounded Gauna, extending its tentacles out across Sidonia’s hull. The familiar blue and green computer displays turn a alarming red hue, and the Kubrickesque neatly-framed control tower contrasts nicely with the unhinged chaos taking place outside its windows.

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Worse still, the head, at least the substitute head in XO Yuhata, has no idea what the body is doing. When you stop and consider for all they know they’re all that’s left of humanity, Captain Kobayashi testing highly dangerous experimental weapons without informing the bridge crew is a bridge—or rather space elevator—too far. It’s a testament to Yuhata’s confidence, decisiveness, and calm under fire that things don’t spiral completely out of control.

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Watching the emitter continue to swell until collapsing on itself like a miniature supernova, leaving a huge gaping hole in the ship, made for a very disturbing, visceral sight, especially considering how many people either got gobbled up in the implosion or were left floating free in the vacuum of space.

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Goshdarnit, there are enough perils in space without the Hubristic Triumvirate of Kobayashi, Kunato, Ochiai serving up new ones from within! Yet in the aftermath of a very close call, Kobayashi is so seduced by the “weapon of wonder” that she orders Yure to keep trying until she gets it right, despite the fact Yure, a gifted scientist, just told her it was a failure.

I’m telling you, if Kobayashi retains power much longer, it’ll be a miracle if Sidonia doesn’t end up a fine cloud of dust in the inky black vastness. At least Yure has the common sense to talk with her old friend Sasaki about her predicament. “My boss is a megalomaniac who’s finally gone off the deep end. Any advice?”

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Meanwhile, down on the flight deck, the Gardes and their pilots continue to get upgrades, like an armor that links up four frames into one with an artificial kabi hull well-suited to ramming Gauna. The leftover kabi was used to make katana for the pilots, to serve as combination low-tech last-resort sidearms and good luck charms. But Samari doesn’t see good fortune in her new blade; she sees that things are only going to get hairier. She can feel the “Rumbling” that is the title of this episode.

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Speaking of rumblings, there are some about the prospect of a full-on Tanikaze Nagate harem, what with Ren convincing her sister En to stop by Nagate’s post to deliver some food, only to find Samari of all people has beaten her to the punch. I for one dig the Sidonia hoodies, not to mention En’s acrobatics.

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Turns out Samari wanted a drinking buddy to vent to, and it may as well be the person who, along with Tsugumi, seems to be leaving her in the dust with all the new weapons, and in the midst of all the recent bloodshed. Samari is doubting her abilities—never a good thing for a group leader—and not looking forward to sending more comrades to their deaths. It’s a welcome look into another underling struggling as a result of the callous actions of the powers that be.

When she apologizes for whining, Nagate cheers her up, saying he believes she’s saved more pilots than lost, and that she has his ear anytime. Her lips loosened by many cups of sake, she proposes “photosynthesis”, perhaps to see if she can claim more than his ear—but he takes one swig of the booze and passes out, ruining her tentative plans to conquer the young hotshot—and blow of steam in the process.

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For an episode with so much dark stuff going on, there was also a fair amount of comedy, most of which I can report actually laughing at, a rarity in a show where appeals for laughs can feel as mechanical as the vivid computer schematics. In fact, Sidonia’s comedy has never felt as well-timed and confident as this week.

The centerpiece, in which Izana’s suit rejects her because it has detected “modifications” that turn out to be her sudden development of female physical attributes (i.e. boobs), telegraphs its impending joke with the glitch she can’t clear, without spoiling the shock of the suit suddenly “ejecting” her, giving Nagate a show that shocks his head right into a bulkhead.

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Izana’s sudden but not unexpected transformation into a woman services both fan (at least in my case), plot, and character. Nagate had always been more comfortable around Izana in part because she wasn’t quite female or male. But she’s been emotionally female for a while now, and now her body’s caught up, it should change their dynamic drastically. That frontrunner status is confirmed by Yuhata, who already has boob envy.

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That’s not even the whole joke of the bath scene, though. When Izana retreats from the an uncomfortable situation, Tsugumi and Yuhata continue talking and playing in the bath as Izana joins Nagate on the floor below…and learns that he could hear everything they were talking about.

Watching this realization gradually wash over Izana’s always expressive face is delightful to behold, matched only by Nagate’s innocent look and meek “What’s up?” before she drives her bionic arm into the table, splattering his scalding-hot ramen broth all over him in a nice moment of Physics.

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The cold close focuses on a team of astronauts surveying Planet 7 in the Lem System (likely named for Stanislaw Lem, author of Solaris), about to have a Very Bad Day, as their comrades suddenly start screaming until drowned out by alien sounds and static. This, just after they mocked Sidonia’s obsession with weapons.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 05

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Last week’s violent, harrowing battle took place just a third of the way in the season, so a cooling-off episode was expected and not entirely unwelcome. Now that we know the lengths Tsumugi will go to protect her friends, it’s nice to spend time with them as the recover from their wounds and try to make it up to her.

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Since Izana was alive and in contact with Sidonia at the end of last week, I knew Nagate was alive, I just didn’t know how bad her injuries would be. So it’s with great joy and relief to see her recover from those injuries. She lost an arm and a leg, but in this sci-fi world limbs can grow back, she chose mechanical prostheses so she could recover faster and get back on the line.

While part of this choice is her not wanting to be left behind or to be useless for too long, I still respect her going with her non-mad scientist grandma’s suggestion, and I liked her positive attitude about the whole thing. Nagate and Yuhata’s reaction to her suddenly splitting the fingers on her new hand from five to ten is pretty priceless: by turns surprised, fearful, and impressed.

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Tsumugi was the big question mark last week. We learn after the battle she’s lost 90% of her body mass, and as we know, that kind of diet can kill a human. But she’s super tough, and all she needs is time and patience to grow her placenta back. Nagate, extremely concerned for her well-being, sits at her proverbial hospital bedside.

In what turns out to be a tease from last week’s preview for this episode, the nude Shizuka Nagate encounters is merely in his dream, albeit a dream he’s having while a recovering Tsugumi has her “arms” on his head.

Nagate calls the girl in his dream “Shizuka”, the name he first assigned to her face, but it might’ve been more accurate to address her as Tsumugi, as this could be her unconscious avatar, hinting that she can communicate this way, in addition to her half-cute, half-unsettling dolphin balloon puppet.

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When Nagate wakes up, he’s so elated Tsumugi is okay, he hugs that puppet, whose reaction to the sudden intimacy rivals Asahina Mikuru for pure adorableness. She moves to beautiful new digs with a view of the stars and a bookshelf to read from (her studious bookworm persona is super-endearing, BTW), but Nagate is troubled with how isolated she is, which is confirmed when Tsugumi, all alone in her tower of solitude, lets off a sigh.

Nagate and Izana ask Yuhata if she’ll let Tsumugi move to the residential area where she can be closer to everyone else, but she refuses them flatly. As much as I love Tsumugi, I knew their request would be a long shot, practically speaking. Tsumugi could cause a lot of damage in there if the ride gets bumpy.

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And it does get bumpy, as Sidonia is closing on the Lem solar system and must initiate another harrowing deceleration maneuvers. This is where Sidonia the character comes into play in the episode; simply slowing down in space is a momentous event fraught with peril. An air raid siren pierces the tranquil residential block, warning everyone to lock their harness into something sturdy.

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Unfortunately, Nagate and Izana don’t hear the sirens or the warnings, because they’re spending their downtime deep in the guts of the ship, finding themselves in a ladder shaft when the bumpy ride begins. Thankfully, due to Nagate’s incredible luck and physical toughness with an assist from Izana’s bionic limbs, they survive the maneuver with bumps and bruises.

Those are a small price to pay for achieving their goal: locating a hatch in a pipe that leads to Tsumugi’s room. She can now stick her balloon avatar out and gaze upon the gorgeous residential block.

Giving her her first look at the civilization she’s protecting, and feeling the community of the res area, is Nagate and Izana’s way of thanking her for saving them, and doing their best to quell her loneliness. It’s a great feel-good, non-battle victory.

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The feel-goodness continues when Nagate heads home to find he’s been evicted an his dorm is now the home of a new recruit. But that’s okay, because all he has to do is call a friend and crash with them until he can find a place of his own! Who does he call: Kunato? He probably labels his food. The Honoka sisters? He’ll walk in on them naked and get thrashed again. Yuhata? “Fraternizing with a superior officer” issues.

No, he calls Izana, who is relaxing and soaking in her very cozy-looking bath, talking with her grandma on the videophone. Izana has been trying to get closer to Nagate since before Shizuka died. Now, thanks to fate, Nagate has come to her. Will she capitalize on this latest chance? Her initial reaction suggests she’ll have to overcome some nervousness.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 04

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Sidonia sticks to its strengths—intricate space battles, mayhem, and impending doom, not comedy and romance—with an episode-long epic battle of adernaline-pumping perfection. G550 is gunnin’ for Sidonia, literally. Its kill or be killed, and the episode never lets you forget how thin the line is between life and death.

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Tsumugi uses her man-made kabi claws to bust out of the trap the first wave of Gauna built around her, and in the process she seems to glean the Gauna’s intent for the humans, including her friends. Whether it was just another Gauna biological reflex in response to external stimuli, or a conscious, sentient effort to provoke Tsumugi, she reacts badly,  disobeying everyone’s orders and going on a destructive rampage of every Gauna in sight, despite being heavily damaged herself.

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The deus ex machina has a screw loose, and it informs the overarching peril of the situation rather nicely. What ultimately finally stops her attacks is when Izana tries to go after her and calm her down, and gets heavily damaged in the process. It’s been a little while since pilots I actually knew and cared about turned red on the CIC board, so when it’s Izana’s turn my heart sank into my stomach. Thankfully, Tsumugi gets to Izana and agrees to retreat for now, for her sake.

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The Guardes manage to take out the second wave of Gauna without Tsumugi’s help thanks to a shift to long-range tactics, and then enter ring formation to destroy G550’s core. But even this tactic backfires, as the equatorial trench they create is the perfect aperture for a massive Hyggs cannon the surviving Gauna fuse into.

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Sidonia is huge and slow, so I knew any beam launched at her would have to be somehow prevented outright, blocked, shifted, or absorbed by someone. In another case of the computer displays creating visceral reactions, the amount of red the damage analysis predicts makes it clear if none of those above things happen, it’s Game Over.

Tsumugi manages to deflect the beam enough so it misses Sidonia, but only by a few hundred meters to starboard. At this distance, the mere force emanating from the beam is enough to nearly shake Sidonia to pieces, and alarmingly, all the CIC displays go to static as the shock hits, and it was all I could do to pray those displays wouldn’t go dark, and that breaches wouldn’t occur.

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With G550 charging for another salvo, and both Tsumugi and Izana unaccounted for, Nagate decides to rush in headlong and uses his engine pack as a precision projectile, causing a Death Star-style chain reaction that brings that sweet, sweet sound of Bubble Desintegration. Once again, Nagate one-ups Kunato and emerges the hero.

It’s a costly victory: Nagate and Izana are both found, but Tsumugi is in tatters, and Izana fears she’s dead. They didn’t lose a lot of Guardes, and Sidonia wasn’t seriously damaged and didn’t need to carry out emergency maneuvers, but with Tsumugi’s fate unclear and the Gauna stronger than ever, it’s no longer simply “nice” to have Chimera on their side; it now appears absolutely essential for the battles to come.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 03

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Kobayashi’s coup went off without a hitch, and she immediately changes Sidonia’s course, both literally and figuratively, in a chilling scene that makes it obvious there was no love lost between her and the not-so-Immortals. And yet this doesn’t mark any kind of sea change in the day-to-day operations of the ship, nor do higher-ranking officers like Yutaha have any problem with the new change of leadership. After all, Kobayashi’s bosses never were in the spotlight; it’s hard to mourn their loss. Or maybe Yutaha is simply being pragmatic.

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Either way, big changes in how Sidonia wages war are being implemented, from upgrading the armor of the Type-18 frames, to impregnating Placental Hoshijiro with a human seed, making her Tsugumi’s mommy. I really like the creep-factor this kind of sci-fi body mod/body horror stuff lends to Sidonia’s “world,” one already full of oddities.

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At the same time, this episode doesn’t forget about the sheer majesty of simply floating outside Sidonia. The careful camera placement and motion really sell the idea of how vast space is, and how the terror of that vastness can cause people like Kobayashi to take extreme steps to preserve their tiny civilization.  

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Where Sidonia continues to flail and fail is at comedy, particularly anything involving Nagate seeing naked ladies. All of the careful physics go out the window as they resort to cartoon violence, smashing a heavy metal door into Nagate, who hits the wall hard, and then has the door smash down on him, a sequence that would surely have put him in the hospital.

Like a previous instance in the first season where his face swelled up after getting beaten for a similar transgression, seeing his CG face get bent up here breaks the uncanny valley in a bad way. But most of all, this attempt at lightweight comedy comes off as ham-fisted and obvious, nothing like the expert precision of other areas of the show.

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This is more like it: giving us a glimpse into Yutaha’s spartan quarters gives us a glimpse into her character off-bridge: she dresses down, builds scale models, and tries to keep up with the news. Sure, emergency maneuvers would send most of the contents of her room flying along with her, but those are rare enough.

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While checking the logs of who’s gone to see Tsumugi, Yuhata discovers Nagate and Izana have been occasional visitors. I was expecting some kind of confrontation, but instead Yuhata is merely curious, and the others even invite her to lock hands with them, as they had come to do with Tsugumi (or rather Tsugumi’s balloon “sock puppet” avatar). Tsugumi continues to nicely toe the line between cute and creepy.

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When her sharp eyes spot a 500-core Gauna force heading their way, Kunato requests to intercept it with Tsugumi. Yuhata wants to see how she works in a formation, and so denies the request, but she’s overruled by Kobayashi, who is eager to see the full extent of the chimera’s powers. Perhaps because Kunato wasn’t among those who locked hands (a pilot superstition I’d expect him to shun), things go very wrong when he flies Tsugumi into a Gauna placenta trap. This, after Kunato guaranteed defeating the force would be a cakewalk.

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Two more of Sidonia’s strengths are its thrilling launch sequences and visceral pilot POV shots, both of which contribute to an adrenaline-laced sci-fi spectacle to end the ep. With Tsugumi neutralized, it’s up to the conventional Guardes to avert disaster on the very first leg of Kobayashi’s very possibly ill-conceived new course.

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To that end, all the Guardians that launch—96 in all—lock hands into a ring formation and blast away with authority, which is another Sidonia strength: immensely enticing cliffhangers. The strengths definitely outweighed the weaknesses this week, as they usually do with Sidonia, while building great anticipation for next week’s big battle.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 07

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I had a feeling Hoshijiro Shizuka (whose kanji I’ve learned also mean “silent star”) would fall at some point, and stay fallen (note that I didn’t say “dead”, more on that later), based on the simple fact she’s only listed as a supporting character, as opposed to Izana’s main billing. But last week, that fact was dropped in my—and Nagate’s—lap like a dead cat, so it didn’t quite feel real…yet.

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This week, we get to see the doomed mission that claims Shizuka, and learn that it was Kunato—using the private channel, the sniveling punk—who caused Nagate’s screw-up, which led to a momentary lapse in concentration. And all space needs is a moment to kill you or someone you love. Despite knowing how badly this would all turn out, it was still thrilling every step of the way, right up to the point the knife was twisted.

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What’s even darker about Kunato’s vendetta is that he’s seen enough of Nagate and Shizuka to know that if one of them got into trouble, the other would go after, against orders or reason. Heck, his little scheme could have ended up destroying his precious Tsugumori, too. In both cases, getting back at Nagate takes precedence over all other considerations, including defeating the Gauna.

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Kunato is just one of many enemies and critics of Nagate to come out of the woodwork, not counting Nagate’s harshest critic: himself. Fortunately, he has allies as well; powerful ones like Kobayashi, who willfully ignores all calls to “do something” about him, almost as if she’s aware someone could be trying to sabotage him. Or maybe she just doesn’t want to admit to being wrong about him, or anything else.

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Nagate also has his landladybear Hiyama and his not-presumptuously self-appointed best friend Izana to drag him out of his dusty room and his funk. A food vender mistakes Izana for a girl, probably because that’s what she’s slowly becoming because of Nagate. But most significant of his allies is his late gramps, who he remembers talking about a pilot having to show Resolve with a capital R—not coincidentally this episode’s title.

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“The Gauna won’t wait for you to dry your tears,” Nagate recalls him saying. But whether it’s fear of (or grief from) loved ones dying, or one-sided rivals fucking with him, a pilot must shut it all out in order to perform. The Elite Four couldn’t do that, and got slaughtered. Kunato clearly can, but one day his recklessness could blow up in his face. Even Yuhata, promoted to Kobayashi’s XO (Damn, she rose faster than Amane!) exhibits an ability to Keep Calm and Carry On.

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Shizuka let personal feelings affect her judgement out there, and as we see, the Gauna have little mercy for those who do so. The detailed-yet-split-second destruction of her frame was as heart-wrenching to watch as it was inevitable. The sight of her Gauna-corrupted frame emerging from the gas giant debris (an explosion we only saw in 8-bit, sadly) sent chills up my spine.

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That’s because the “702” raggedly scrawled on its flesh-like coating (a stark contrast to the tidy fonts the humans use) suggests the Gauna aren’t as mindless as I first thought, inadvertently lending credence to the growing portion of the populace that believes the Gauna will cease their aggression if they cease theirs. But that won’t happen as long as Kobayashi’s in charge. She’s like an anime Adama.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 06

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Hero. Idol. Tug-of-war Rope. Pawn. Fuck-up. Scapegoat. Nagate’s a little of everything this week, like the episode itself. We start off with the jubilation of him and Shizuka being rescued by all the other Gardes (a goosebump-inducing scene we’re glad was repeated), and he gains instant celebrity status upon his return.

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Before the celebrations, Nagate and Shizuka undergo extensive medical tests. A little yellow light on Shizuka’s readout appears to be nothing serious, but it sets a foreboding, optimism-eroding precedent. Nagate, Shizuka, Kunato and En are promoted to full Gardes pilots; a mere formality considering they did what the Elite Four couldn’t: defeat the Gauna and return alive.

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Nagate makes a point to visit the huge memorial to the Fallen Four, which only ingratiates him further with Yuhata, who enters Full Pursuit Mode at the post-promotion party. Izana remains thoroughly annoyed she has to share Nagate with anyone, but Shizuka takes a more pragmatic approach.

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In the ensuing bathysphere excursion, we get the closest thing Sidonia’s had to a harem quarrel, as the girls are literally jammed in the door, with Shizuka ending up alone with Nagate by sheer dumb luck (and physics). The mere fact they’re in their own bathysphere blushing at one another is more foreshadowing, lest we forget what became of the last couple we saw in one of these.

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As his peers revel in Nagate’s heroics and much of the greater public slurps up the feel-good narrative, Kobayashi consults with the elder council (whatever they’re called; I forget), who see Nagate as a valuable pawn in the never-ending quest to extend their own lives preserve Sidonia. And if he proves less pliable or competent than they envisioned, Kobayashi is to dispose of him.

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That leads to Nagate’s final roles this week: fuck-up and scapegoat. He and Shizuka can’t even complete their love cruise when they’re ordered to sortie against a very nasty and tough-looking “hive-type” Gauna. But we don’t see the battle; that’s likely to come. Instead, we go straight from Shizuka giving Nagate a parting salute the camera dwells on (the episode’s title) to him waking up in hospital.

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Like him, we have to piece together what happened, but unlike him I know immediately it’s nothing good. When the Honoka sisters give him eye-daggers and Izana says nothing, he has to get it from the TV, which slowly, cruelly reveals by steady text crawl what has happened: much of the Gauna was defeated, but Shizuka was lost. Another devastating gut punch, driven home by locking the camera on his stunned face.

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Throughout this episode we saw an adjustment in Norio: while watching Nagate receive All The Laurels, he resigns himself to absorbing rather than outwardly projecting his contempt for it all. He extends an olive branch, bides his time, and in the end, it looks like he comes out on top. Because to the masses, the only hero that matters is the one that just saved you.

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