Hundred – 05

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What’s Kirishima Hayato’s secret for getting all these hot ladies falling at his feet? From what I can tell, it’s to be as nondescript and vapid a character as it is possible to be while still able to be called a “character.”

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They don’t just fall at his feet of their own accord, though: they forget they don’t have their bikini top tied on, or slip and fall on top of him. So it’s not just vapidity, but the fact that physics itself seem to favor the guy.

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Hundred does its darndest to not spend any more time than it needs to on silly matters like protecting civilization from a scourge of powerful monsters. Instead, it prefers having Hayato go on a date with Emilia after turning down Claire’s swimming challenge.

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Wait, but isn’t he supposed to be Sakura’s bodyguard, you ask? Apparently not full-time. Which is unfortunate, because Sakura disappears when he’s off the job. Thankfully, she used his GPD signal to track him down so she can take him somewhere special to her. Emilia gets ditched. Don’t hate the playa…

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I’m not sure Hayato signed up to have Sakura prattle on interminably about her increasingly dark and cruel past as they admire the islands’ version of the grand canyon (the geography of this place, and why its not overrun with savages, escapes me).

I think I fell asleep during some of the exposition, but from what I heard, Sakura had the same virus as Karen, was sold to a mad scientist and injected with Savage cells in an attempt to build a super-slayer. Not-fun times.

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Then Sakura proceeds to connect every significant part of her life to Hayato, from the one who set her on the path to idoldom, to the one who preserved the place where she apparently has good (rather than horrifying) memories, and the fact both of them are variants and thus “share the same fate.”

I imagine Sakura is going to be disappointed when she learns that Hayato does not and will not belong to just one woman. He belongs to them all. His blandness…it’s just so breathtaking.

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Oh HEY! It’s a savage! Those variant kids from last week, perhaps? They come pretty late in this episode. In fact, they come at the very end, before Hayato has any time to break out his Hundred and, you know, fight them.

Instead we spent what felt like an eternity watching Hayato jump from one girl to another, turning one Claire for Emilia, ditching Emilia for Sakura, and telling Sakura, who is pouring her heart out, to “calm down there.” Maybe the real monster in Hundred is Hayato.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 10

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Here we are at last: the long-awaited, extended reunion between Yuu and Mika, and I have to say…I was not disappointed. While other events took place on the margins, this is all about them, essentially a two-person play, with Yuu’s philosophy winning the day, at least for now.

Mika, absolutely feening for blood, takes the still-unconscious Yuu into a grocery store where little kids are hiding out. It’s all he can do to stop from popping one of their heads off and drinking the insides. But being called a “monster” by that kid is enough to stop him. He still has a measure of control, but it’s weakening.

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After a brief chat with Asuramaru, Yuu wakes up, and Mika pounces on him as well. The difference is, Yuu doesn’t react the way the kid did. In fact, when Yuu figures out his blood will save Mika, he offers it willingly. It’s the least he can do for his family. Mika is appalled; he’s spent all this time resisting drinking human blood to avoid becoming a full, immortal vampire, and now Yuu is essentially telling him to toss aside the rest of his humanity to essentially scratch an itch that will never go away afterwards.

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But you know what? Yuu doesn’t want to hear it. He’s not going to let Mika die, and even if Mika becomes a vampire, that won’t change the fact that he’s family and means everything to him. So Mika gives into Yuu’s kindness and practicality, and drinks deep. It’s an pointedly sensual scene. After drinking, Mika’s eyes turn red, but he remains essentially Mika. But he’s also still alive, which is all Yuu wanted. Mika thinks it’s not normal, but Yuu offers, who cares? What matters is they’re together again.

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After being separated and being cared for by Guren, Yuu forced himself to survive (as the kids hiding in the store continue to do). He was driven by revenge but also lived in hope someone who needed him would one day come around. That someone was Mika, who wanted to save Yuu today but ends up being the one saved. He realizes Yuu has become much stronger than he was, and it gladdens him.

That doesn’t free Mika of his intense distrust and hatred of humans, but he can’t stop Yuu from returning to them, even at the edge of a sword. If Mika gets in the way of him and the rest of his family, he’ll push him aside. But he’ll also welcome assistance. Mika admits Shinoa and the others saved him, and agrees to help, but will only help save the four of them. That’s enough for Yuu; they can negotiate the details later.

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As Shinoa & Co. arrive at an ominously empty airport with no vehicles to assist their retreat, Mika and Yuu drive to their location, and Mika takes the drive as an opportunity to tell Yuu what he’s been meaning to tell him all along, which he hopes will finally sway him to his line of thinking: they, the Hyakuka kids, were subjects of human experimentation furthered by the vampires and Demon Army. The humans who started the experiments ended up screwing up and killing off the world’s adults. Yuu knew he was a subject, but didn’t know about the apocalypse it caused.

See, says Mika, this is why you can’t trust humans. Instead, he wants to pull a U-turn and run away with Yuu to someplace far away; another paradise where they can be happy and free together. But again, Yuu shows how much he’s grown; even moreso than Mika. There is no paradise awaiting them out there. There never was. The last time they tried, their family was killed, and all they had to show for it was the present situation.

There’s no place else to run. And while some humans, like Kureto, experimenting on Shiho’s sister Mirai to produce the Seraph of the End, aren’t to be trusted or relied upon to not end the world (or what’s left of it), Yuu is still a human himself, and there are other humans he does trust and love who need his help. They, along with Mika, are why he’s survived this long, against all odds. So he won’t run away; he’ll run to them.

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Owari no Seraph 2 – 03

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This week’s opening scene was wonderful, and perfectly demonstrates how much of a family Guren’s squad has become. Summoning the boys to a breakfast, Shinoa and Mitsu prove a bad combination in the kitchen, leaving Shiho to reveal his culinary talent. Everyone tucks into a warm, cozy meal before getting down to business: Shinoa briefing Yu on both the incident in which he went berserk and almost killed her, and whether the five of them continue to trust and follow Guren, even if the possibility exists he’s only using them to further his own goals.

I went to see The Martian last night, and part of what I liked about it so much (and also why it’s so critically lauded) was how it never took shortcuts, but let us in on the intimate and detailed process of solving all of the myriad problems that befell the stranded astronaut. Because the film “showed its work” to us, it made me us that much more invested in the eventual payoffs. These last three episodes, that’s exactly what Owari no Seraph has been doing, and it’s similarly effective.

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As the five kids ponder the paths they should take, their superiors are already traveling on theirs. Kureto meets with Guren under the guise of having him kill three vampires who failed to turn into demons. Guren refuses (Kureto has them sniped) and asks his boss to quit wasting his time. As tough a front as he presents, Guren is far more of a softy than Kureto, something Kureto uses as proof he can trust him.

He’ll keep Guren alive as long as he’s useful, and having three Black Demon users in his squad, however he came upon them, will be useful in his future plans. Those plans, which finally make mention of this season’s titular battle in Nagoya, are grand, involving a complete eradication of vampires in Japan before advancing abroad, wiping out any other human organizations, and ruling the world.

Guren will serve as Kureto’s tool and follow orders as long as it serves him, I imagine, exploiting Kureto’s confidence he’s incapable of betraying his comrades. But as we see, Guren’s sword, Shinoa’s demonized sister Mahiru, also wants a say in who Guren follows.

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While Yu is contemplating alone on the roof, Shinoa joins him, breaking the ice as usual by jokingly wondering what naked girl he’s checking out from his vantage point. Her wry levity continues, but Yu is more somber, particularly about whether he really tried to kill her, and whether it was Guren’s intent that he go berserk.

After offering his hand to Shinoa, which she gingerly takes, they join the other three back in the apartment where Yu announces his decision: Guren said they’re a family, and he’ll help him with Mika, so he’s going to trust him and stick with family for now, realizing he’s being selfish. Shiho is the first to go along, followed closely by everyone else. So mutiny averted…for now.

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Back in Vampland, Mika, unwilling to drink form humans, is dependent on Krul’s blood, which is the way she likes it. But he wants answers to wash that blood down, answers he eventually gets out of her. Krul is sending her main force to Tokyo to wipe out the Demon Army once and for all, but she has a different mission for Mika: go to the side of Yu, the Seraph of the End, and protect him from both humans and vampires. At this point Mika doesn’t care if he or Yu or both of them are being used by others, as long as Yu is safe.

Shinoa pays a visit to Guren, reporting Yu and Shiho’s successful possession, and also opens up with regards to Yu: she’s not sure if what’s happened is that she’s fallen for him, but she knows he needs her and has asked her to stay with him, so she doesn’t intend to let him down. For now, Yu, Mika and Shinoa are putting the preservation of family above all other considerations, including being exposed to manipulation, betrayal, and destruction.

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Owari no Seraph – 12 (Fin)

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The final Seraph of the End episode until October was quiet, contemplative, and suffused with unease and a kind of restlessness that’s understandable considering what everyone just went through and how still things stand now.

The only battle being fought is Yu’s slow but apparently certain recovery. It’s a battle we don’t see, because most of the episode is from Shinoa’s point of view. She’s an uneasy, impatient, somewhat outraged Shinoa who wants to know what the hell was in the pills Guren gave her to give Yu.

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When she uses her family name to get into a top-secret installation where the army is experimenting on vampires and wants to have words with Guren on the matter of Yu’s little transformation, Guren has no words of comfort for her, except that if she thinks she’s fallen for Yu, all she can do is stay by his side and wait for him to wake up.

Since Yu’s well-being is more important to her than whatever devious mad-scientist shit Guren is up to, she does as Guren recommends, pleading with the comatose Yu to please wake up soon.

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Unfortunately for Shinoa, it’s Yoichi’s turn to sit by Yu’s bed when he finally does wake up, though Yoichi has the good sense to let Shinoa have some time to herself with him before calling the others in. The camera slowly pans from Yu, crying over having seen Mika alive and well, to Shinoa lurking in the doorway, snapping into smartass mode, hiding the worry she wore on her face while he was out and teasing him for crying, even though she’d do the same thing in his case.

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Being a Hiiragi whose sergeant rank is lower than it could be if she played the game, and the fact she got into Guren’s lab, we know Shinoa knows more than any of the others the dark directions their duty could take them, and in the brief flashback as Shiho carries Yu away, there’s a hint of guilt in her face, as if she’s facilitated Yu’s transition into something way bigger and nastier than he’s aware of.

Yet none of that matters when Yu places his hand on Shinoa’s shoulder, voicing concern for her bitten, bandaged neck. She doesn’t want to be in love with her underling, but as she learns more about the person Yu is, that’s increasingly the case, as her blushing betrays.

Even better, Yu makes himself to be someone worthy of being fallen for, as once everyone is assembled in his hospital room, he takes the time to earnestly thank everyone from the bottom of his heart, and express how blessed he feels to have such good friends. Mitsu and Shiho are taken aback by this change in him, but Yoichi and Shinoa less so, as they know him better and have seen hints of this side before.

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Yu isn’t just happy because he’s okay and his friends are okay; he’s also elated that Mika is alive, an attitude I’m frankly glad for. There’s no angst in the way things are. Friend or foe, Mika is alive, and that’s enough for him, for now. It’s the first time in a while that something has been enough for him, and while he yearns to see Mika again (and Mika him), his provisional inner peace is clear to see. He’s realized his live isn’t that bad, and is worth preserving, both for his friends’ sake and Mika’s.

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I was totally on board with the peaceful end to this first rousing cour of Owari, especially all the scenes of people on both sides just kicking back and enjoying their hard-earned break from death and destruction. But judging from the final scene, that peace will be short-lived. Lord Ferid is apparently exchanging research with, and I’m just guessing here, Guren, both motivated perhaps by their mutual disgruntlement with the higher-born higher-ups.

Just as it wasn’t 100% clear it was Guren on that rooftop (we never see him), I’m not sure if Ferid is working against the vamps, Guren is working against the humans, or both of them are just working towards their own goals. But whatever it is, Ferid believes it’s going almost too smoothly, and it definitely stirs up intrigue for the second cour this Fall, in which everyone continues to be sinners, doing sinner shit.

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Owari no Seraph – 11

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Mika has finally reunited with the one surviving member of his family, Yuu, who he’d shoved and insisted he run away while he was bleeding on the floor many years ago. The conditions of their reunion aren’t ideal, what with Yuu’s sword being in Mika’s chest, but once Yuu sees Mika’s face, he’s unable to close the deal and kill him, even though Guren is yelling at him to do so. Yuu may be getting used to his new family, but faced with his original family, he can’t do anything, even if Mika is in a white coat.

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Mika’s plan is as half-baked as the original plan that got the two of them in their predicament to begin with: he wants to run off with Yuu. But where? How? What will they do? How will they live? For all the years he’s had to think about it, it just doesn’t seem like he’s thought about it that much. All Mika knows is Yuu is being used (Yuused?) by the other filthy humans, and he wants to run away with him. Yuu…isn’t so sure. Those filthy humans are his friends and comrades now.

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Mika literally whisks Yuu away in his arms, but Yuu resists, looking back at a troubling sight: all of those friends being restrained by powerful vampires, some of whom proceed to feed off of them. The Extermination Squad has never been in a worse way, and thoughout these intense cuts I was screaming at Yuu to do something, anything to save them. At the same time, I knew in his current state there was no way Yuu would be able to save everyone at once.

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Finally, as if a switch were flipped as a result of his predicament, one of Yuu’s eyes fills with blood, and he recedes into his subconscious, where Ashuramaru tells him even she fears the monster stirring within him and advises him to run off with Mika. But that’s something he simply can’t do; his loyalties between his friends and Mika are split down the middle.

The monster awakens and erupts from him, and he proceeds to go absolutely berserk on vampires and humans alike, something Guren apparently had been expecting, calling Yuu his trump card. Yet Yuu is about to slice Shinoa in two when Mika of all people comes between them, urging him not to kill humans, lest Yuu become like him. Then Shinoa manages to grab hold of Yuu and calm him down, but she’s obviously quite freaked out by the whole situation. No casual banter this week, no siree!

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Then Shinoa’s relative—maybe brother?—shows up with the cavalry, praising Guren’s “low-level” outfit for holding out as long as they did before ordering the live capture of the nobles. And just from the badass look of the guy, that order doesn’t sound all that far-fetched.

While it looks like the humans may be on the verge of winning the day, Yuu has clearly been changed forever, both in now knowing Mika is still (sorta) alive, and having awakened the indiscriminately ferocious beast within him. Looking forward to the aftermath in Owari’s first cour’s final week.

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Steins Gate – 06

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At this point, Suzu is about as close as you can get to being an FGL member without being one, which might be tricky what with her apparent incompatibility with Kurisu. But as she overhears from the lab’s open window, much of the “round table” is spent figuring out what to name the time-travelling email.

References to other time travel-related media fly, from Back to the Future to The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, before Kurisu settles the matter with the short but memorable “D-Mail.”

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With the phenomenon thus named, they proceed experimentation, operating under Okarin’s prediction that if the microwave is opened at a specific window of time the D-mails point to, the text and banana will be sent back. And sure enough, it works, depositing the d-mail in pieces to five days ago, and depositing a gel-bana back on the bunch.

It’s the latest among increasingly common examples of one of the simplest answers being the correct one. That it was wrought by Okarin, who prefers to “feel” science rather than show his work, adds credence to his indispensability as the one lab member with the faith—or will—to come to such conclusions.

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But as he and Daru hit the store to resupply their food stores, Okarin notices cups of green gelatin, shaking him from his high of victory ordinary life he’s always embellished with the baroque trappings of chuunibyou suddenly isn’t ordinary anymore. Shit is real, and it’s dangerous.

I for one appreciate S;G for maintaining that while Okarin has gotten by through various means outside of his control, he still doesn’t have any control. He may well be in over his head, and he knows it.

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What he doesn’t quite know is who Kiryuu Moeka is and why she insists on texting him so persistently. I love how she even tries to communicate with him in person through texts, and is crestfallen to learn his cell phone isn’t on him (but of course it isn’t enough for him to say, ‘it’s not on me’, he has to mention ‘it’s being used for a history-making experiment’. I also like how Moeka pretends Daru isn’t there, which is the proper response to someone looking you up and down.

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While Daru was leering at Moeka and Okarin was wigging out over green jello, prodigal perverted genius girl Kurisu was continuing the experiments, which leads Tennouji to complain about the intense vibrations. Okarin appeases him for the time being, but Kurisu already has the jist of the D-mail process, including the fact that one second on the microwave timer equals one hour back in time. Her work here makes me glad someone in the lab has the diligence and the attention span to…do the work.

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Okarin celebrates the occasion with another grand declaration that is in no way shape for form accurate (they weren’t the first to develop time machine, and they didn’t ‘develop’ it so much as ‘stumble upon it’). But it seems again like the general putting on a brave face in order to maintain morale.

The fear and doubt he’s hiding manifests in a bizarre dream that is equal parts disturbing and cryptically informative. A voice from the event horizon of a black hole urges him to look forward, not back, and ‘reach the end.’

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He awakes to a one-sided text conversation by Moeka on his phone that is still in progress, right up to the point he’s able to open his door after she sends a text saying she’s about to knock, but before she actually knocks, requesting to see the 5100.

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Her explanation that texting is easier for her than talking seems to hold water, as her texts are a lot more expressive. This idea of such an expressive personality hiding behind a stoic, taciturn mask, yet asserting itself digitally, is highly intriguing. Moeka is the type who believes the proper combo of emoji will be enough to convince Okarin to lend her the 5100.

It’s also a lot of fun to watch Daru, Mayushii and Kurisu arrive at the lab one by one and immediately start talking about their top-secret time machine. It’s not particularly irresponsible behavior on the part of the three, just an overabundance of casualness that comes from a group gelling (no pun intended) nicely in a short time.

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But that also means Okarin has to bring Moeka into the fold as Member #005. I like the choice, sudden that it is, but one of these days, someone is going to hear too much who isn’t so harmless. And that’s assuming Moeka is harmless.

Kurisu has brought scientific discipline to the operation which is key, but someone will eventually have to be thinking about security, beyond recruiting anyone within earshot. I just hope they don’t think about it too late.

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Steins Gate – 05

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So…what’s that little thing in your hand, Suzuha? As if she’d just sit there and tell us. This isn’t Recon in G, no siree. S;G isn’t just a show with a clever, intricate strategy for presenting its story. It’s also keen to influence our own strategy for watching it, keeping things light and breezy for the most part but ensuring the occasional “Suzuha Battle Stance” pops up, to get the gears in our head turning; to keep us on our toes.

S;G wants us entertained, but it also wants us alert and thinking. And for a tense few seconds, as the camera closes in on what sure looks like Suzuha’s killing intent, I thought the show was about to blow everything up.

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Hey, get that off the floor…it was just washed!

 

What if Tennouji hadn’t snapped the part-timer out of it? Maybe nothing; maybe something I shudder to think about. But anything seems possible now, so I am now on my guard: assigning increased worry about anyone venturing beyond the walls of the lab henceforth.

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When Okarin and Kurisu return with the PC, Daru speaks of an Okarin as if it was some kind of mythological creature that can do things “only an Okarin can do”, which is why they love him. Kurisu can’t help but blurt out “I don’t admire him, though.”

Not only is Daru aptly describing Okarin’s significant but not immediately apparent value, but Kurisu is unable to stop herself from answering a question no one asked, thus betraying her growing affection for the guy.

Daru also helpfully points out the yuri possibilities now that there are two female lab members, while Mayushii’s claim of being a ‘hostage’ almost leads Kurisu to call the cops. It’s not just that Okarin’s value isn’t immediately apparent: it takes a lot of digging and enduring to find it. It takes time.

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Suzuha has far less trouble peacefully conversing with Okarin; not surprising considering it sure seems like she’s there to be his friend and confidant. Her dead friend who knew about the 5100; the fact that she instinctively reacted to Kurisu as if she were an imminent threat (and reacts to a helicopter the same way); her hint that Kurisu doesn’t know anything…yet; her warning Okarin to be wary of her; they’re all more tiny gears and sprockets being set into place, within some elaborate timepiece.

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It actually feels like a pretty momentous occasion when Kurisu dons a spare lab coat. For one thing, she herself can’t help but comment how wearing such coats ‘always calms her down’. It’s an opening for Okarin to espouse his own affinity for them, even going so far as to call Kurisu “perfect”, which is, context aside, one of the nicest things he’s ever said to her.

But the coat is also a symbol that she’s being drawn closer and closer into the Future Gadget Lab. I wouldn’t be surprised if whatever Kurisu did in one world line or another that Suzuha is aware of, it all started with Okarin encouraging Kurisu to join their crusade.

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That’s ultimately Okarin’s not-so-secret ability thus far: his ‘gravity’, as in his ‘gravitational pull’: Mayushii; Daru; Feyris; Suzuha; Moeka…they’ve all been drawn into the orbit of Planet Kyouma. He may suck at debating physics, or playing Rai-Net Battler; he may even be just a man-child playing at science; confident the lab coat and some BS are all the qualifications necessary.

But he and only he has made all of these people join him willingly, and together they can accomplish great, or terrible, or terribly great things. He…just…really has to watch it with the yelling at women for calling him by the wrong name. There’s no need for that.

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Most of all, I just like how clear the show makes its characters’ roles. Okarin and Kurisu brought the 5100, and now it’s up to Daru to make it sing; all the others can do is wait and kill time in the interim, playing games and confessing their mutual love for the bold flavor of Dr. Pepper.

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When Daru is done, SERN’s dark secrets are revealed. Kurisu is shocked enough that they achieved a degree of time travel, setting aside the fact that all fourteen human test subjects ended up in another time, turned into the same green jelly as the microwave bananas.

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As for why they’re green jelly, she explains in concise layman’s terms what’s going on: the subjects are being send through a very tight hole. Like trying to fit a large sponge through a small hole in one’s hands, the contents gush out.

It’s an explanation Daru finds really erotic (which…it kind of is, dirty mind or not), but it’s also an apt way to describe how I see Steins;Gate story so far: something dense and saturated being eased through the television screen, gradually so far, but with no indication of when the flow will increase; only suspicions.

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Faced with the chilling discovery of not one but fourteen terrible, covered-up deaths as the result of a top-secret time travel experiment, Kurisu can understand Okarin leaving the lab to get some air. She joins him to ask what their next move should be, but I definitely detected genuine concern for him in the visit.

So it’s a shock to both her and me when we hear that trademark demented laugh of his rise up from the solemn silence, along with the pronouncement that they, the Future Gadget Club, will beat SERN to viable time travel and ‘change the world’s ruling structure.’ It’s the same Okarin Mad Scientist bluster we know and love…but this time, it feels more than anything else like he’s putting up a brave front.

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Zankyou no Terror – 11 (Fin)

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The perpetrators of the failed Athena Project meant for its child subjects to be discarded and forgotten. Nine and Twelve’s plan wasn’t about revenge, but about making sure they and the others weren’t forgotten; that those still alive who were responsible were plucked from beneath the rocks they’d hidden under. With increasingly stunning yet nonlethal attacks, they gradually built up their stature, until no one would be able to forget what they did, and by extension, that they lived.

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The most stunning yet is the high-altitude detonation of the stolen atomic bomb, which ended up not harming anyone but disabled all electronics in Japan. While it was yet another means of gaining attention and exposure among the masses, it also served as a firm counter-riposte to the efforts of the members of the Athena project to use technology to artificially enhance mankind. For at least a time, the EMP emitted from the bomb reverted the country to a far simpler state.

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Shibazaki became the Oedipus to Nine and Twelve’s Sphinx, looking past easy answers to solve the riddles of where they came from, what they were doing, and why. They unwittingly helped him to solve the case that had ruined his career, and finally learn what those he suspected of wrongdoing were up to, and putting them away for it. Justice tastes a lot better when it is acknowledged not just by oneself or amongst a few individuals, but by the same system that once helped shelter the wrongdoers.

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I will say that even in a series of a mere eleven episodes, Five’s arc was ultimately a bit of a detour, though as the only other surviving Athena subject, her actions tore Nine and Twelve apart, threatening the whole enterprise, only to bring them back together as strong as ever following her demise. She represented an alternate effect of Athena: that of unchecked chaos and rage. It’s also worth noting that after the end of the facility, she was and remained alone right up until her final confrontation with the others, while at least Nine and Twelve had each other, which had a grounding effect.

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Even so, just before the bomb goes off, when Lisa isn’t sure whether the world is about to end, Twelve tells her he and Nine were never needed by anyone until they met her and everything changed. Neither were ever ones for true, honest human interaction, let alone feeling what it was like to care for someone so much that you’d do anything to save them, which Twelve got that with Lisa. Even if he and Nine didn’t (nor intended to) survive the gestation of the better world they sought to build, they didn’t take Lisa down with them.

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On the contrary, through her adventures and their many rescues of her and acts of kindness towards her, Twelve and Nine instilled a fresh appreciation for life, and while many will ask her what it was like to be “Sphinx’s hostage” for all that time, she could never tell them much, because they’d never fully understand: she wan’t their hostage. She was their friend; their little sister whom they kept safe without fail. And they gave her hope.

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Zankyou no Terror – 10

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Twelve deals with the guilt of betraying Nine, while trying to have fun with Lisa. Nine rolls the dice and surrenders to the police. Five makes one last desperate grasp at Nine, who “belongs to her.”

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Shibazaki comes face to face with Shunzo Mamiya, who orchestrated the Athena Project and the investigation of whom led to his demotion. An atomic bomb is released into the sky, to go off at 10pm. This episode isn’t messing around, expertly setting up the endgame.

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Interestingly, this episode is Five’s last. For those of you who tired of her relatively petty and nebulous vendetta and terrible English, rejoice, for she ends up doing herself in. Physically deteriorating, she senses the end is near, and after a harrowing chase and crossing the line with her American handlers, all that’s left to do on that highway is thank Nine for being the reason she stayed alive this long at all; to pursue him.

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She has him in her sight, but doesn’t pull the trigger, knowing she’s been beaten. Instead, she gives Nine a chaste parting kiss and ignites the pool of gasoline she’s standing in. This explosion was brought to you by the number Five.

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With Five now gone, all that’s left is for Nine to expose Athena to the world, if that was indeed his plan. The only problem is, the press conference he demanded the police allow him to hold is interrupted by Five’s meddling, and the atomic bomb is loosed, unable to be stopped by anyone.

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While meeting with Shunzo, who was convinced the spirit of Japan was “that of a loser, without a shred of dignity”, and thus pushed forward with Athena, Shibazaki can fathom the scale of the backlash, which looks tenuously close to being realized.

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In his final broadcast, transmitted automatically when Nine doesn’t get to the Hyatt at 8:00 PM, Sphinx One warns that nothing can stop the bomb. If he’s right, then we’re in for a catastrophe in the finale. But I’m not entirely convinced he’s not bluffing at this point.

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I’m not even sure his entire plan from the start was to draw out Five so that she could, well, finish herself off. Also, Twelve even ends up redeeming himself somewhat by interfering in Five’s pursuit of Nine, and I like how he does so on Lisa’s urging, telling him how happy she was when he saved her, and how Nine will probably feel the same way. Five may be gone, but there’s a lot left to sort out.

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Zankyou no Terror – 09

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Betray your brother, run away, or die with the girl he’s come to care for. The day Twelve had been dreading, when things go bad and he has to make an impossible choice, arrives much earlier than he probably hoped. With a ton of bombs strapped to her and not enough time to defuse them, Twelve ultimately makes a choice based on where he is there and then. Giving up the location doesn’t mean Nine’s certain death, just the destruction of their alliance (in all likelihood) and the jeopardizing of their grand scheme.

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But with Lisa sitting there—covered with bombs, initially trembling with fear; but after comforting words, becomes calm and accepting of her impending death—there’s no choice. Twelve can’t let her die. If he could give his life to save hers, he probably would have, but that wasn’t one of the options Five gave him. I must say, Five really did make good use of Lisa, and I’m alternating between the great risk she took and the reality that Twelve had already demonstrated to her that he would do anything to protect her, even sell out Nine.

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But despite being fairly certain, as Five was, that Twelve and Lisa weren’t going to blow up, did nothing to deflate the raw, horrifying, virtuoso tension of that Ferris Wheel scene. Yes, Ferris Wheels are a goofily poetic place to stage such a scene—as they’re supposed to be a place where joy is experienced, rather than despair (Deadman Wonderland FTW)—but the music sells the shit out of it, as does the animation of the characters’ faces. Not to mention, with two episodes left, it’s not impossible for them to die now—just highly unlikely. I’m glad they didn’t.

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This episode’s awesome continues as Shibazaki and Hamura pay a visit to Aoki, one of the researchers who participated in Project Athena, in which human pharmacological experimentation was performed on 26 numbered orphan test subjects, with the goal of synthesizing an artificial “savant syndrome”; an exercise in eugenics that went far beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. Aoki gives a weak “Befehl ist Befehl” defense, but he knows he’s a monster; in fact, he’s glad someone came so he could make his confession before he died.

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What brings everything together isn’t just that Shibazaki is now aware of Twelve and Nine’s past, and that they have a very good reason to be pissed off; nor is it merely the fact that Twelve and Nine didn’t steal plutonium, but an experimental and probably highly destructive nuclear weapon. No, it’s that the one who gave Aoki his marching orders to poke and prod helpless kids to death, was none other than the politician who Shibazaki came so very close to bagging before he was demoted for peering to deeply into the abyss.

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Shibazaki can add thus add this to his heavy satchel of regrets: all those years ago, he might’ve had an opportunity, however small, to expose and put an end to Athena, had he rejected his demotion, gone rogue, and continued his investigation outside the law, as he is doing now. How far will he go this time? How far will the powers that be let him? It’s also implied from talk of “being out of time” and Five collapsing, that the remaining three subjects wont live much longer, even if they put aside their troubles. Now I’m thinking maybe Lisa outlives everyone else.

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Sword Art Online – 21

Kirito and Leafa reach ALfeim’s capital, Arun, and log out at an inn. In the real world, Sugu comes with Kazuto to visit Asuna in the hospital, and she gets conflicted feelings from meeting her. Meanwhile, in the game, Asuna snoops around the World Tree complex, finding huge labs where human cerebral experimentation is going on. She finds a console and is about to log out when she’s apprehended by scientists with slug-like avatars, who put her back in her birdcage and change the passcode. When Kirito and Leafa reach the base of the World Tree’s trunk, Yui suddenly senses “Momma” above them, and Kirito shoots up into the sky.

First of all, kudos must again go to the background and establishing shot artists; we know the word “awesome” is overused in modern society, but it’s the most fitting word to describe it. It’s like Minas Tirith on steroids…and shrooms. Despite all it’s flaws, SAO has always exceled at creating a really cool-looking world you’re really envious of not being able to visit. We especially liked how creepy and Mod the laboratory facilities Asuna gingerly explores. We’re not so enamored with the way in which she was ultimately captured and re-deposited back where she started.

First of all – Tentacle Grape Monsters Casually Threatenin’ Grape + Scantily-Clad, Defenseless Asuna = Obvious Fanservice. This isn’t shokushu goukan, so entangling Asuna in tentacles is both capricious and arbitrary. Also, while we get that they gave these guys inhuman form to add to the general creepiness and wrong-ness of this whole experimentation venture, their words and actions are enough to dehumanize them; they could have just been guys in lab coats. And while we knew Sugou’s evil plans would inevitably attract other unsavory people who worked for him, both his and their evil – the sheer horrifying scale of it – remains a little hard to swallow. Those seeking more ambiguous, “grayer” antagonists will have to look elsewhere.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. Oh yeah, Suguha continues to stuggle with her feelings for her brother, and decides she must bury them deep within her so she may someday forget them. So no change there. As you were.