Chainsaw Man – 11 – Asking Nicely

“The Future Rules”, says the Future Devil, who resembles the Forest Spirit from Princess Mononoke, but is a lot more happy-go-lucky. The terms of his new contract with Aki are simple: he’ll reside in Aki’s right eye and lend him his power. In exchange, he’ll have a front row seat to Aki’s death, which he promises will also “rule.”

Kishibe’s tough love training of Denji and Power continues to a point where he’s satisfied they won’t embarrass themselves in the next battle, which will be against The snake woman (Sawatari) and the Katana Man (who is called “Samurai Sword” in the episode.

In his meeting with Makima, Kishibe posits that she knew the assault that claimed so many public safety officers (including his student Himeno) was coming and did nothing to stop it. He doesn’t really mind, as long as Makima shares his overarching directive to save as many people as possible in the long run.

I’m not entirely sure why Makima allowed such a devastating assault to take place, but intentionally allowed or not it led to her consolidating her power in Public Safety, amplifying the importance of her surviving underlings like Denji and Power, and revealing the identities of their enemies—among them Sawatari, who unfortunately has no character beyond “slightly bored baddie”. I kinda wish we knew more about her.

After contracting with the Future Devil, Aki gets a ride back to HQ from Kurose and Tendou. Kurose tries to press Aki’s buttons by telling him his shounen manga-style goal to take the Gun Devil down pisses him off, but Aki isn’t phased. If he can defeat the Gun Devil, he’ll be happy. If he dies, Kurose can laugh all he likes. But while Aki pisses him off, Kurose can’t help but root for the guy.

As for Makima, the less we know about her, the more mysterious and awesome she is. I could watch an entire episode of her politely chatting with a yakuza head. She isn’t the slightest bit intimidated by the soldiers surrounding her as she asks their leader to give up the names of the members of other yakuza families who contracted with the Gun Devil.

The yakuza head declines to snitch on his rival families as it would start a war that would destabilize the Japanese mob and invite foreign mobs to invade. That’s when Makima presents a little brown paper bag that she calmly describes contains the eyes of a loved one of everyone in that room. When one of them raises a hand to her, he’s stopped in his tracks, his nose bleeds, and he keels over dead.

After their brutal training, Denji and Power are excited to finally put what they’ve learned into action. Kobeni is not so enthused, but now that we can see what she’s capable of it’s a plain matter of motivation, not ability. Kishibe sends the three and Aki into the building where Sawatari and Katana Man are holed up.

As Kishibe explained to Denji and Power, this is an all-or-nothing, make-or-break operation. Either Division 4 will succeed in defeating Sawatari and Katana Man, or they’ll fail and be destroyed. They’re backed up by four new fiends: Shark, Violence, Spider, and Angel, all of whom feature cool designs and fighting (or in the case of Angel, non-fighting) styles.

While those four mop up the zombie army in the basement, Aki heads upstairs and meets non-zombie resistance in the form of yakuza soldiers. When he ends up in a four-on-one situation, his our opponents all get bloody noses and fall over dead. We cut to Makina striding confidently out of the yakuza head’s house, having gotten what she wanted. That gives Aki a clear path to Sawatari.

If Sawatari has any particular reason for siding with the Gun Devil and wanting to destroy Division 4, she doesn’t share them with Aki. She’s all business, summoning Himeno’s Ghost Devil to fight him, keeping her Snake Devil in reserve. It’s a pragmatic move that’s also definitely meant to rile Aki up, but he doesn’t take the bait.

Instead, he puts his new buddy the Future Devil to use by anticipating the movements of the Ghost’s arms so he can dodge and slice at will. Unfortunately, the Ghost’s arms regenerated and multiply, and Aki loses his time advantage when he starts to slow due to fatigue.

The Ghost eventually covers Aki in arms and grabs him, and Sawatari orders it to choke him to death. But something tells me this isn’t the awesome death the Future Devil foresaw. Will he find his second wind on his own, or will Denji, Power, and/or Kobeni bail him out?

Chainsaw Man – 10 – Toughening Up

In the aftermath of the attack on the 4th Division, Denji and Power are all healed up, and despite insisting otherwise, are by Aki’s side out of solidarity. They are, after all, three of the last surviving members. When the two leave shortly after Aki comes to, he asks the Curse Devil how long he has (two years), prepares to light a cigarette, and then can’t when he remembers Himeno.

Himeno gets her final wish: Aki lives to cry for her. As for Denji, he’s a little weirded out by how calm and cool he’s been about losing Himeno, the first person who wanted to be his friend. He wonders if he’d be just as indifferent if Power or Aki died. He even figures the loss of Miss Makima would only result in about three days of feeling bad, then he’d get back to living his life of meals and baths.

With Makima determined to strengthen what’s left of her now combined division, Denji and Power’s lives are about to get a lot less carefree. Deemed still too weak against the kind of devils they’ll have to hunt, Makima puts Himeno’s old sensei Kishibe (voiced by Tsuda Kenjirou) in charge of training them.

He immediately likes them, as neither are interested in revenge and will side with whoever will feed them (in Denji’s case) or whoever is winning (Power). They’re both the precise breed of fearless crazy needed to be effective devil hunters.

He pulls the two into a hug, and then casually breaks both their necks with his bare hands, leaving no doubt as to his toughness. After healing them with blood, he proceeds to kill or nearly kill the two again and again, deciding the best way to make them tougher is to hunt them until they’re capable of beating him.

While Denji and Power are enduring this, Kyoto’s Tendou and Kurose pay Aki a visit, and tell him it might be best if he quit while he’s still alive, like Madoka did. Unlike Denji and Power, Aki is still very much driven by the need for revenge against the devils that killed his family and Himeno. But to become strong enough to stay in the 4th Division, he’ll need to contract with stronger devils.

After Tendou and Kurose take their leave, a girl whose face we don’t see pays him a visit. While walking home from the graveyard, Denji and Power decide that the best way to defeat their new drunken teacher is to use their brains. Left unacknowledged is the fact that even if they put both their brains together they only end up with two balls of lint.

The next morning, they set up an ambush for Kishibe, all the while displaying a wholly unearned sense of confidence you can’t help but admire—they even wear glasses to look smarter. Kishibe easily defeats their surprise attacks, once again leaving them both on the floor, down for the count.

That said, he admired their attempt, and says he’ll give them the rest of the day off. The moment Denji drops his guard, he gets a thrown dagger to the forehead. Kishibe warns him and Power never to trust the words of someone hunting them. And so, the bloody trials continue.

Aki is escorted to the bowels of Public Safety headquarters by Tendou and Kurose, which serves as a prison for all of the devils captured alive. When Kurose asks if the girl at the hospital was Aki’s girlfriend, he says no; it was Himeno’s little sister, who brought letters Himeno wrote to her for Aki to read. Among them, Himeno discusses her unsuccessful attempt to get out of Public Safety with Aki.

As he contemplates his past, Tendou and Kurose take him to the cell of the Future Devil, one who took the eyes and sense of taste and smell from one human it contracted with and half the lifespan of another. Considering Aki has only two years left anyway (due to the Curse Devil), and his determination to destroy the Gun Devil, I’m certain the Future Devil can ask for whatever it wants, and Aki will sacrifice it.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Chainsaw Man – 09 – Crunch Time

Whoever ordered the coordinated surprise attack on the Special Divisions, it seems to be going going off without a hitch. There’s no time to mourn any of the dead yet, and Himeno’s last order to the Ghost Devil before they both vanish is to pull Denji’s cord. The bad guys, as Denji calls them, may want his head (i.e. Pochita) but they’ll have to fight him for it.

Katana Man is wounded from his scrape with the Ghost and the Curse, and the reinforcements Sawatari (hoodie girl) calls are just ordinary humans. But Denji makes the mistake of thinking Katana Man cares about subordinates, and as a consequence both he and his hostage are halved.

He’s not the only one who makes a fatal error this week. The train crew thinks Makima is dead, and she certainly looks dead, but in an unsettling sequence of shots, suddenly she’s not dead, but standing in the aisle behind them with that serene Makima smile.

Hunters Tendou and Kurose are waiting for her on the platform in Kyoto when they hear that all four divisions have been massacred. When the train arrives and the doors open, all of the passengers run out screaming—all of them, except for Makima, covered in blood but cool as a cucumber.

She assures her subordinates that she wasn’t shot, then orders them to borrow a bunch of life-sentence convicts and reserve the nearest, highest-altitude temple. We witness the product of those requests first, as Sawatari and Katana Man’s underlings suddenly get a weird feeling, then pop like balloons one after another.

At the temple in Kyoto, Makima uses the convicts as sacrifices, asking them to say the names of those she wishes to kill. Once they do, she puts her hands together in various positions, and all the way in Kyoto the enemies die horribly in hideous, concussive bursts of blood and gore. One of the men flees in terror and tries to take a hostage, but he only ends up coating her in…in him.

When all the convicts are dead, Makima tells Tendou and Kurose they can remove their blindfolds, as she’s “done all she can” from there. The three then hop on the next train to Tokyo. But while her part in the counterattack is over, another unexpectedly alive member of the 4th Division shows up where Denji is.

It’s Kobeni, who was saved when Arai took the bullets meant for her. She then killed the shooter and came across Sawatari and Katana Man as they’re trying to get half a Denji in their getaway van.

She doesn’t let them, and even Sawatari’s massive summoned snake can’t stop her advance. She parkours across the snake, dodges bullets, slices off Katana Man’s hand and then shoots him several times with his own gun. With both of him and her in bad shape (losing fingernails like that can’t be fun) they beat a hasty retreat.

Kobeni then starts to cry-laugh with Denji in her arms, a sure sign that she’s losing it. Part of it is the absurdity of apologizing for trying to kill him, but it goes without saying that her actions today make up for it, as he’d 100% be in the enemy’s clutches were it not for her intervention.

I’m sure Makima will thank her when she sees her, which should be soon. Upon returning to Tokyo she’s met by Madoka, who announces that all four divisions will be absorbed into the 4th, that Makima is now in command of the new combined unit, and he is resigning. It’s probably the right move, as he’s lucky he survived this incident and unlikely to survive another.

Before parting ways, he asks Makima if she knew that all of this was going to happen, but as he’s no longer a devil hunter but a private citizen she cannot possibly comment. She heads back to HQ flanked by Tendou and Kurose, who make sure she understands they’re not joining her outfit, but are only in the city to help with training. Without looking back, she says that’s a shame, as the dining’s to kill for in Tokyo.

Chainsaw Man follows up last week’s nearly perfect episode with one that’s as righteous and unnerving as the last one was heartbreaking. Makima and Kobeni have been hiding in plain sight all this time, but now we know what they’re made of—and why Kobeni is probably in the right line of work, despite not being psychologically suited for it.

Himeno is gone, but thanks to her Aki’s not, and thanks to her and Kobeni neither is Denji. Through all of this loss and bloodshed, Makima never changed her composure for a moment. That cool head is what makes her a good leader in a tough job full of bad, bloody choices. The others will need that steadiness as they pick up the pieces and try to move forward.

Chainsaw Man – 08 – Cry For Me

Chainsaw Man seemed to be setting up something quite scandalous last week when a wasted Himeno seemed poised to bed an underage and disoriented Denji. We rewind a bit this week to when she first enters her apartment, and watch it from her POV as she plops Denji on the bed, takes a shower, then grabs a beer.

Denji is conscious and lucid enough to question whether he should lose his virginity to Himeno after she already puked in his first kiss. One look at Himeno’s face after she pulls his shirt off and he decides that yes he should. But when she pulls a Chupa Chuos out his pocket—the one Makima gave him when he was out getting air.

In addition to representing his still-intact virtue, it was also his first indirect kiss, since it had been in Makima’s mouth before his. Thus it reminds him of his vow for Makima to be his first, and passes on Himeno, who promptly passes out.

The next morning, the two have breakfast on her high-rise balcony, another new luxury for Denji. Himeno admits she was so blackout drunk last night she claims not to know if she took advantage of him, and is relieved to learn she didn’t since people can get locked up for that kinda thing.

When Denji insists that he only has eyes for Makima, Himeno proposes that they form an alliance. She’ll help him get with Makima, if he helps her get with Aki. Denji agrees, and just like that, he and Himeno are no longer merely co-workers, but friends.

At this point I’d simply been enjoying the lush camerawork, the gorgeous night and morning lighting, and the overall nice post-drinks vibes. Little did I know this was the final calm before a storm that would turn Chainsaw Man on its head.

From Himeno’s apartment we’re on a train, and the claustrophobic camerawork creates a sense of paranoia. Makima, for her part, isn’t looking forward to meeting with her superiors in Kyoto, but admits she had fun at drinks the previous night.

Then the two passengers in the rows in front of and behind her and her assistant suddenly drop out of view, produce guns, point them at Makima and her assistant, and shoot them both in the head and chest. You can imagine this non-manga reader was quite shocked by this development.

But aside from the near-impossibility a main character like Makima would end up dead in the eighth episode, the fact that her eyes look far from dead when the camera pulled in close on her bloodied face. Rather than fade the way most anime characters’ eyes do upon dying, they seem to smolder. So maybe she’s not really dead?

Arai and Kobeni are also assassinated, seemingly by ordinary people who suddenly have guns and are being controlled by devils—or aren’t, and are simply working together to take out the 4th Division. When the shots that take out the rookies ring out, Denji, Power, Aki, and Himeno are at a ramen joint having lunch, still firmly in calm mode.

Even the vigilant Aki wonders if it was fireworks from a celebration. Then a man starts talking across the restaurant from them, produces a photo of his uncle, the yakuza who Denji worked for, then pulls out a gun and shoots Denji and Himeno. Aki dodges and Power gives the guy an uppercut.

Aki then summons Kon, who sardonically declares that he just made her swallow up something neither human nor devil—in other words, like Denji. But instead of a Chainsaw Man, he’s more like a Katana Man, with wide, razor-sharp blades protruding from the same places as Denji’s.

When Kon is wounded and checks out, Aki turns to Curse, a devil he summons by piercing Katana Man three times. When it comes out, it certainly looks like Game Over for the baddie, as it looks like an instant-kill kinda situation.

And Curse does seem to do the trick, as Katana Man ends up on the ground, motionless and defeated. Then an unassuming young woman with short dirty-blond hair appears, revives him, and asks him why he lost. He says he grossly underestimated Aki. Then the woman tells him to kill him next time.

Katana Man’s next attack is so quick, no one, even Power, sees it. One moment he’s on one side of Aki, the next he’s on the other, and a massive blood flower blooms from Aki’s chest. Himeno, who is gravely injured but still conscious, summons Ghost, who is hesitant to enter the fray as the dirty blond woman is nasty AF.

But Himeno is not about to watch yet another partner (particularly one she loves) die, so she offers everything she’s got so Ghost can give her everything she’s got.

As Himeno’s arms and legs vanish one by one like glitches in a video game, Ghost grows larger, more powerful, and more monstrous. Katana Man seems to be on the back foot once again, but the cost of such a victory was always going to be too high.

In her few episodes, I’d become quite fond of Himeno, and Ise Mariya’s voice work throughout has been outstanding as expected. I’d have never guessed that morning she and Denji had breakfast on her balcony would be her last morning ever, but here we are.

Himeno’s final words are an extension of her previous refrain: “Don’t die on me, Aki”. Among the partners she’d worked with Aki was one who cried for each and every one of the rookies under him who were killed. In her last moments, all she wants is for Aki not to die, so if she dies, he’ll cry for her.

To add insult to grievous injury, Himeno’s sacrifice doesn’t defeat the enemy. Kitana Man may be in trouble, but one word from the blond woman summons a mammoth snake that lops Ghost’s head clean off. When Aki looks over at where Himeno had been, only her suit and trademark eyepatch remain.

I cannot overstate what a gut punch this entire sequence is, or how masterful sunlight, darkness, and silence are employed to create a sense of hopelessness and despair. If it sticks, the butcher bill of this episode, and how it came out of absolutely nowhere, puts it right up there with the Red Wedding for pure horrific shock and distress.

And yet, this didn’t come out of nowhere. Throughout the drinks the previous night there was talk of some hunters who didn’t make it there because they’d been killed. Himeno had already lost numerous partners. We already knew that each day in a hunter’s life could be their last. I knew all that going in. I just didn’t know the end would come for these hunters. All that foreshadowing didn’t lessen the hurt.

Now you’ll excuse me while I go have a cry.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Chainsaw Man – 07 – Loosening the Screws

When Kobeni accidentally stabbed Aki, Himeno started to lose it, because she felt like she was going to lose the latest in a long line of unfortunate partners. But while she despaired, Denji scoffed. He didn’t ask Aki to save him, and is done owing anybody anything, so he happily dives into the fell eldritch mass that is the Eternity Devil and pulls his ripcord.

It doesn’t take long for Denji to start losing some serious blood, but once he starts drinking the devil’s blood, he basically becomes a self-healing “perpetual motion machine”, boasting that he, not Power, will be the one to win that Nobel Prize.

In a flashback, Himeno visits her parents’ graves with her master; like Aki, she lost them to the Gun Devil, which is why she joined the force. But her master warns that a devil hunter cannot be too earnest straight-laced—devils know exactly how to fuck with and kill those kinds of people. All of Himeno’s previous partners died because they were too sane, and feared the devils, and devils love fear.

Her master “loosened the screws” by drinking heavily on occasion. Knowing that Aki is another upstanding lad, she tried to get him to quit the force and follow her into the safer private sector, but he refused. But as she watches Denji, Himeno sees what the ideal devil hunter is like: window-lickingly insane, unpredictable, and immune to the devil’s mind games.

When Denji’s motor cuts out, Himeno uses her ghost arm to pull his cord, and for three days he tears at the Eternity Devil until he finally reaches its core. By then, it is pleading for its life, but Denji slices it in two. Just like that, the hunters are off the eighth floor and out of the hotel.

No sooner do they leave the hotel than Denji passes out, but Himeno is there to carry him on her back to the hospital. Later, during a mission with Aki, Himeno proposes the whole squad go out for drinks to break the ice … to loosen the screws. Also, bury the hatchet vis-a-vis everyone trying to kill Denji.

Leave it to Chainsaw Man to make the izakaya where the 4th division meets up look like just the place I want to be on a Friday night. The beers are tall, cold, and frosty, and the snacks look delectable (so much so that Power systematically hoards them).

We meet a couple other division members, one of whom recently lost his rookie subordinate, just like that. A haunted look washes over Kobeni as she reckons with the fact that people in their line of work live short lives.

Denji brings up the kiss Himeno promised, but she tells him she needs to drink more first. Things get complicated for Denji when Makima arrives fashionably late wondering what all this talk of kissing is about.

When Aki asks Makima straight-up why she’s so interested in Denji, she says she’ll answer, but only if he can outdrink her. As expected, he can’t, as both he and Himeno fall to her indomitable tolerance. At this point, Himeno’s screws have been sufficiently loosened that she decides to bestow her promised kiss upon Denji’s lips.

It’s his first kiss, with tongue … and also with Himeno’s vomit. Turns out she loosened the screws a bit too much. Denji swallows some of it and gets ruinously drunk (it shocks everyone to learn he’s only 16). He and Arai have a bonding moment when he helps Denji boot—Arai having experience helping his alcoholic mom.

With the hour growing late and everyone sufficiently lubricated, the 4th division departs from the izakaya. Himeno manages to sneak of with Denji, and when he comes to, it’s on her bed, underneath her. She gives him another kiss—this time of beer, not barf—and proposes that they bone. Denji is growing up fast in the 4th Division.

The soft bluish-purple light, Himeno’s fluid movements, and her seiyu Ise Mariya’s gently seductive voice lend an almost sacred beauty to an otherwise profane scene. But it’s also a sad one, because Himeno is clearly compensating for her crippling grief and loneliness, not to mention her part-familial, part-romantic feelings for an Aki who only has eyes for Miss Makima.

Then again, maybe Himeno just figures she could die tomorrow—or later that night—such is the fate of all devil hunters. That being the case, one must take their fun when and where they can get it.

P.S. Every episode of Chainsaw Man has a unique ED and theme, and this one might’ve been my favorite, as it’s a 4:3 standard-def retro-gasm. Reminded me of one of the best OPs of all time, the retro Koimonogatari OP “Kogarashi Sentiment”.

RWBY: Ice Queendom – 01-03 (First Impressions) – Uncut Gems

01 – Dust to Dust

Based on a popular web comic I haven’t had the pleasure of ever seeing (probably true of a lot of viewers), the charmingly vowel-less RWBY blast out of the gate with not one or two but three episodes, giving us over an hour for the titular quartet to be introduced separately, meet, clash, and learn to get along. It’s not groundbreaking stuff but it’s well-executed and excels at details.

Our cheerful, bright silver-eyed co-protagonist is Ruby Rose, who is both proud and jealous of her big sister Yang getting into the illustrious Beacon Academy, where talented youngsters who have mastered Aura and awakened their Semblances are trained into Hunters and Huntresses to fight their worlds great scourge, the Grimm. (Hope you like proper nouns because there’s lots.)

While Ruby and Yang live modestly with their pops, aristocrat and heiress Weiss Schnee longs for the same thing they do: to become a Huntress. The only problem is she has to prove to her father she can do it by defeating a Grimm in her ultra-rich family’s great hall.

This is our first taste of RWBY’s battle action, and…it’s great. No notes. Creative, lyrical, fluid, bombastic, badass, awesome…it’s all of those things, and without too much reliance on CGI. While her first round with the Grimm gives her an eye wound that leads to a scar, Weiss gets her second wind and shows her father once and for all she’s Beacon material.

Our fourth co-protagonist is a Faunus (demihuman) and part of White Fang, a group she leaves when it becomes to radicalized and bent towards exacting revenge against full humans rather than building bridges. Her One Last Job with White Fang is another excellent demonstration of RWBY’s awesome production values and ability to stir up excitement for a fight.

Perhaps the most fun sequence is when some thieves try to steal aura in a store that happens to be open late (note to store owner: have a security guy on duty). Ruby almost misses the robbery due to her blasting metal on her headphones, but when she becomes aware of their presence, she wastes no time showing off her powers, not to mention her penchant for cool poses and beautiful rose petal-filled physical fluorishes.

The thing is, while Ruby has talent, she’s not trained and lacks authority and experience. She’s able to keep up with the thieves right up until they escape in their airship, which is when Professor Glynda Goodwitch from Beacon Academy, a full-fledged Huntress, steps in.

The baddies get away, but Glynda wasn’t there for them, she was there to bring Ruby before Beacon’s headmaster, Ozpin. The good cop to Glynda’s bad, he offers Ruby tea and cookies and, oh yeah, the offer for her to skip two grades and enroll at Beacon beside her sister with immediate effect. I guess Ozpin needs Huntresses and feels Ruby, while rough, is ready to be polished.

That night, having run from White Fang, Blake gets an acceptance letter from Beacon on her tablet, setting her on her own path rather than following the one she was born into. That’s how Ruby, Yang, Blake and Weiss all end up on the same airship bound for their Beacon Academy initiation ceremony.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

02 – A Union of Colors

The first episode ably introduced our four main heroines, and the second expands the cast with four of their classmates and puts all eight into their first battle together. But first, Yang tries to heed their dad’s advice and wean Ruby off her a bit by encouraging her to make friends. Ruby and Yang first introduce themselves to Blake, who would rather read her book, and then Weiss and Blake clash over Schnee’s alleged corruption and the evilness of Faunus.

We also meet the unconfident Jaune Arc, who makes fast friends with the statuesque, famous Pyrrha Nikos, while Lie Ren and Nora Valkyrie seem to have been close friends all along. It’s trial by fire as Beacon literally puts the new students on catapults and launches them into the sky. The first person they meet is their partner, and two pairs will make a team of four for their entire four-year stay at Beacon.

The mission is simple: make their way through the forest to a temple where they’ll retrieve a chess piece. Naturally, the forest is full of Grimm. Also naturally, Ruby and Weiss end up encountering each other first, while Yang first runs into Blake.

Weiss doesn’t take Ruby seriously at first because she both seems and is younger and seems like a show-off. That said, when they start to encounter more dangerous Grimm, they have no choice but to work together. Yang and Blake don’t clash quite as much, but the former is more chipper and gung-ho while the latter more stoic and serious.

Ruby, Weiss, Blake and Yang end up working together to bring the aerial Grimm boss down—and with quite a bit of style, I might add. Jaune, Nora, Pyrrha and Ren also distinguish themselves while forming their team. Back at Beacon, the two quartets officially become RWBY, both pronounced and led by Ruby, and JNPR, pronounced “juniper” and led by Jaune.

03 – Bridges and Nightmares

With the two groups formed and enrolled, the third and final introductory episode starts throwing conflicts both internal and external at the groups. While the quartet has fun redecorating their dorm, when it comes time to class all of Ruby’s energy washes away.

Weiss is the first to volunteer to defeat a Grimm in class, and it rubs her the wrong way when Ruby, her “leader”, is cheering her on. When she skulks away and Ruby chases after her, both are found by teachers, who give both of them a pep talk. Ozpin assures Ruby that her being chosen as the leader was no accident, and that she’ll learn to grow into the role and inspire her teammates.

Even if we know Weiss doesn’t get everything she wants like the other professor presumed (she’s a middle child after all), she should worry less about who is leader and more about being the best teammate she can be, as it could make the difference between victory and defeat; life and death.

Starting with the welcoming ceremony and touched on here and there are the presence of two creepy things: weird branch-like marks on the backs of both Weiss and Jaune, and shadow-like doppelgangers of the two sneaking around, who only they can see.

Shortly after losing a battle with another dude and being shown his Aura by Pyrrha, Jaune’s condition gets worse, while after making an effort to be a good teammate to Ruby, Weiss’ marks also spread.

Jaune is the first to succumb, as one morning his teammates are unable to wake him. Shion Zaiden is brought in, since she specializes in hunting Nightmares—Grimm that take over the mind of their hosts and trap them in their dreams. She sets up an elaborate system to send the other members of JNPR into his mind to rescue him and draw the Nightmare out.

It works like a jiffy—indeed, he’s saved and the Grimm captured almost too quickly and easily. It was nice to see how well JNPR has gelled compared to the more dysfunctional RWBY. That said, I’m glad the focus wasn’t taken off of the main group of RWBY, as focus returns to them in the second half of the episode.

Jaune’s infection-by-Nightmare is foreshadowing for Weiss’, as like Jaune she’s going through some emotional conflict. While RWBY goes into town for an annual festival, it’s interrupted by news of a Faunus castaway on the run. Weiss and Blake get into it over human-Faunus relations and the nature of White Fang.

While trying to chase the castaway, Weiss bumps into Penny, a very robotic-seeming girl who is the cast’s newest member. But when Blake can’t handle Weiss’ prejudice anymore she runs off, and eventually the castaway finds her without the black bow that covers her cat ears and knows he’s with his brethren.

The thing is, Weiss isn’t a 100% racist monster, she’s just never contemplated the possibility someone like Blake could have once been in White Fang. Yang is there to see Weiss finally break down and cry over her frustration with how things have been going, but it’s a cathartic cry, not one of hopelessness.

When the same criminals who robbed the aura store in the first episode try to pull off a heist at the docks, it ends up being Penny who shuts it all down all by her lonesome, once again indicating she’s not human either. But when RWBY reunites, Weiss tells Blake she’s ready to look past her prejudices and see Blake for who she is, a classmate, a teammate, and hopefully one day soon, a friend.

But as had been heavily telegraphed, Weiss was eventually going to fall into the same briar patch as Jaune did, the product of being infected by a Nightmare. This leads to some creepy but also eerily beautiful final moments of the episode as she’s trapped in those brambles.

The big question for the fourth episode is, will Weiss allow Ruby, Blake and Yang into her mind as easily as Jaune let his teammates in, and will she prove harder to rescue from her dreams?

There’s an adage that three episodes are enough to know whether you want to continue with an anime. Honestly, it’s takes me everywhere between one and twelve, but one thing I can say for sure is that I’ll be sticking with RWBY. 

More often than not it looks and sounds fantastic, the character dynamics and conflicts sufficiently compelling, its world is elaborate and whimsical, and the Grimm are a multifaceted, credible threat. Finally, with a cliffhanger like this I await the fourth episode with great anticipation.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 11 – Defense Over Insulation

We know shit is about to hit the fan. So it’s somehow even crueler that after
showing us Aunt Rosa’s true colors last week, the episode keeps things light and pleasant. Rosa tells Golem about a shortcut to “avoid” trouble, Somali and Golem exchange bracelets, and the two have a snowball fight with the oni. Even the score is oblivious to the impending unpleasantness.

Then, later that night after Somali has gone to bed, Golem detects five human hunters. Yabashira is quickly told Somali is indeed a human (he’s fine with it, like any decent person), and acts as a decoy, allowing Golem, Somali and Shizuno to flee into the nearby subterranean tunnels. However, Golem and Shizuno were both fooled by the kindly Aunt Rosa, who meets them right before the supposed exit and leads them straight into a holding cell.

She tells them a personal story about how her village once coexisted with a human village, but the humans’ prejudice led to needless killing, and eventually all non-humans agreed it would be safer for everyone if the humans were persecuted and killed. She also sings the same song Kikila sang for Somali, revealing the lyrics are about cooking humans.

At this point, Golem’s body is nearing its end, as he had to exert considerable energy to evade the second set of hunters in the tunnels. He can’t risk destroying the cell gate, but when it’s opened and Somali is snatched away by the hunters, he has no choice. Only when he prepares to attack the hunters his whole left arm shatters (and his new bracelet snaps), while the rest of his body shuts down.

Shizuno’s pleas for understanding fall on deaf ears, and Somali is tied to a table as the hunters prepare to cut her into pieces—one wants the brain, while Rosa wants the liver. Still, Golem is down but not yet out: his eye turns read, he gets back to his feet, and he transforms into something wild and brutal we haven’t seen before as his core churns and smolders.

It may be the beginning of the end for Golem, but his attempts to insulate her from the cold truth of the world were not only futile, but are no longer possible. Now all that matters is defending her from harm with everything he has left—as any father of any species would do for their child.

Hundred – 12 (Fin)

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That’s all, folks; Hundred is over! At least its first season; there’s no mention of a second but certainly talk of “more things happening in the future” which could be just that; talk. And we never learn why hundreds are called hundreds…I guess they just thought “hundred” sounded cool? It kinda does!

Anyway, if this is the last episode, it goes out with a bang; several bangs, in fact, from Vitaly’s hand cannon. She only uses one of the three hunter “tools”, Nakri, to get through an electrical security barrier. After that, a revived Mai-Mai trades gunfire and forces her to flee. So yeah, about all those possibilities with the three conditioned Hunters on her side…that didn’t pan out.

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In fact, Vitaly’s grand master revenge plan comes to a screeching halt just as quickly as it totally overwhelmed the rest of Little Garden’s defenses and Slayers…all thanks to Judar. Seems like she has some kind of romantic past with him (gross!) and the reason she’s here is because she’s A Woman Scorned.

Ultimately, she just wants to kill Liza by shooting her. You’d think such a science and technology whiz would have a backup plan if Liza’s shielding was bulletproof. Not only that, Liza takes semi-corporeal form to shield her brother so he can shoot Vitaly, killing her and ending what had been a pretty built up threat with all the finesse of air coming out of a balloon.

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Speaking of unappealing noises, Vitaly’s last gasp tactic is have all her replicants emit a loud screeching sound, but Liza kisses Karen, giving her use of her legs (hey! why not?) and Karen and Sakura neutralize the noise with their non-animated singing.

Ethereal Liza also kisses a KO’d Hayato in order to give him the strength to take down not only Vitaly’s flagship replicant, but a Nesat who’s gone absolutely berserk due to her siblings getting hurt.

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Nesat threatens to explode after a predetermined period of time, taking the ship with her, but Hayato is able to reach into her subconscious and calm her down by telling her they’re friends now, and the final threat is dealt with without much fuss. Glad the Hunters didn’t end up getting hurt or worse, and now that they’re free, they can be useful members of garden society.

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That just leaves the resumption of the festival, culminating in, what else, a fireworks show, under which Emilia and Hayato dedicate themselves to being with one another. Unfortunately, while they’re kissing, the entire rest of the cast comes topside, and their myriad reactions are priceless.

Suffice it to say, Emilia’s secret is out: she’s a girl, and a princess, and loves Hayato. Of course, Claire isn’t okay with that, and unleashes her Hundred cannon at the lovebirds to close the episode, and possibly the series. The goofy slapsticky mood of the scene indicates she’s not really going to murder Emilia and Hayato, just scare them. Still, she’s not exactly setting a good example as captain of Little Garden, is she?

Sooo…Hundred: Definitely a show. With stuff that happened in it. Totally inconsequential and derivative stuff that hardly ever went anywhere interesting, but mostly fun stuff nonetheless. Will I be tuning into any possible second season? Maybe…if nothing else is on.

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Hundred – 11

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Though shit was going to hit the fan immediately after Vitaly activated her  army of Evil Roombas? Nope! That doesn’t happen until five minutes into the episode.

Instead, we get more of Karen and Sakura’s concert, which consists of several slow pans over still images set to music that seems to be coming out of a handheld Dictaphone speaker. Needless to say, the shit can’t hit the fan soon enough.

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Claire is actually made aware of Wendy’s unconsciousness, short-term amnesia, and talk of coreless savages, and for a second there, one hoped that she’d lock down the entire Garden before Vitaly could accomplish too much, but…NAH.

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Yeah, time to go up a shirt size, AMIRITE? One thing’s for sure: VItaly knows a good villain tailor.

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Anywho, when the Roombas start turning into giant robotic bees, they’re treated as a nuisance…until they turn out to be much more than that, and the Garden is literally brought to its knees.

One assumes Vitaly has been planning this multi-pronged attack since she left the Garden…which begs the question: why the heck was she allowed to roam free and buy up so many warplanes? Where’d she get the money and raw materials in a world supposedly beset by the scourge of the Savage?

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I loved this: Karen and Sakura informing their crowd of 100,000 that they’re going to evacuate, but everyone else should stay right where you are! Never mind if a giant plane crashes into the stadium – The Slayers Will Protect You!

Somehow, if I were in that crowd, Sakura’s assurances wouldn’t be very comforting. I mean, she doesn’t even bother to lip-sync; she just stands or flies around smiling while the music plays?

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I do love Claudia’s attitude: she doesn’t care what’s happening, because she wasn’t able to share a chocolate banana with Emilia. Sure, she springs into action when Vitaly’s robots storm the flight deck, but it’s clear that she’s only attacking them because she’s less likely to hang with Emilia if Emilia’s city-ship sinks.

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Claire orders Hayato and Emile—who are on the sidelines this entire episodefor some reason—to protect the three captive Hunters, but with the Garden’s shields failing, Hayato decides to go topside instead, and Claire lets them go, hoping Mai-Mai will suffice as prisoner guard.

She doesn’t; Vitaly takes her out without much difficulty, then activates some kind of sonic torture device that bends the three initially reluctant kids to her will. I tellya; this Vitaly is one omnipotent villain, and this episode doesn’t reveal any obvious flaws in either her plan or her many powers.

She basically made Charlotte, Claire, Judar, and Little Garden look pretty damned weak and foolish all by herself. Now that she has three obedient (for now) Hunters flanking her, stopping her is going to be a bitch. But if anyone can do it, it’s Hayato…with some help from his friends, of course.

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Hundred – 10

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It’s a festival episode, which means lots of inconsequential milling around soaking in the sights and sounds. But before that we meet Wendy, a slayer we later learn is friends with Reitia and Fritz, who is overpowered by Vitaly Tynyanov (who has an interesting fashion sense). Vitaly brainwashes Wendy into getting her into Little Garden undetected. It’s pretty telegraphed.

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Not only that, Erica just as clearly points out the means of Vitaly’s future mischief: an increased number of Roombas Vitaly is inevitably going to turn into killing machines, all as her Hunters…well, not rot, but shall we say lounge comfortably in the bowels of the Garden. I came to like that trio of near-as-makes-no-difference siblings, and hope they play a bigger role next week.

Hayato also shows off a new talent: ruining surprises, when he tails Sakura to a room where she, Karen, and Char are preparing said surprise. When Judar visits later, it had me wondering whether the blonde bishonen bastard had some kind of scheme in mind for Hayato’s sister, seeing as his own sister is presently powering the Garden. A backup generator, mayhaps?

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Emile is spared Claudia sticking to her like glue for the duration of the Festa due to the latter’s security detail, which means Hayato has Emile’s undivided attention. Her enthusiasm—and her photo of Erica in a maid outfit—gets her in trouble, however, when Erica turns the tables, dressing “him” up as a girl, then getting Hayato to grab her real boobs.

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As for the Strongest Frail Imouto in the Universe, she takes the stage with Sakura donning a Hundred that will enable her to stand and walk and even fly. Of course, like the last time there was an idol concert, Hundred can’t be bothered with animating any part of it, meaning the show has all the excitement and dynamism of a Tuesday morning PowerPoint. I guess the episode blew its budget on all those maid extras, huh?

Anyway, as predicted the moment a Roomba and a Wendy showed up, Vitaly infiltrates Little Garden during the concert, and activates the Killer Roombas by making one vacuum up her cigarette butt, which is a pretty bizarre but cool way of startin’ some shit. Unfortunately, all of that shit will have to wait until next week; this episode was all setup and fluff. BRING ON THE EVIL ROOMBAS.

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Hundred – 09

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Don’t look now, but Hundred has been steadily improving in the last three weeks, and this is its best all-round episode yet, leaving me so entertained, charmed, and even a little impressed, that I had no choice but to award it an implausible 8 rating and my genuine recommendation.

Now, does that suddenly mean this is a good show? Totally depends on your definition and mood. I’m not going to get into that, and focus on this one good episode, which may not have necessarily surprised or shocked me at any particular point, but it did execute, without getting too cute.

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The opening battle between Harvey and the Hunters gets things off to a fast, exciting start, with the leader Krovanh taking advantage of the sudden rain to put the disadvantaged Queen on the ground quickly.

Their advantage in tactics and numbers doesn’t last, as the cavalry arrives in the form of Erica, Hayato, Emile and Claudia. It’s nice in particular to see Claudia not goofing off and seriously fighting with the others.

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Even with four-on-one, the Hunters are no slouches, as Krovanh crosses both swords and ideals with Hayato. But we know how badass Emile can be when s/he’s serious, and it’s very satisfying watching her pick apart Nakri’s game and “finish” her with a blast-punch rather than a spearing, then turn on to the other girl, Nesat.

These are the first instances of actually feeling a bit of sympathy for these core-hunting machines, but it’s not the last. Nesat’s “You’re going to destroy my eye?” line got me right here (pointing at my chest).

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We learn that the three hunters were once child slaves working in a mine until they escape, trudged through the desert, and were “adopted” by Vitaly Tynyanov, who turned them into Variants and put them to work hunting for cores.

It’s clear Krovanh and the other two aren’t doing this because it’s what they always dreamed of, or even because they want to, but because no other options for survival have ever presented themselves…until now, of course!

Hayato understands Krovanh’s intensity and rage, but he’s not going to let him stand in the way of his own quest to put smiles on everyone’s faces without hurting anyone, which he attempts to do by putting on his Judge Dredd armor and proceeding to try to beat the shit out of Krovanh!

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This could go on all night—and I thought it would—and probably been able to sustain an episode with Hayato eventually getting the better of the hot-headed kid because, well, he’s Hayato (note that I won’t use his whole name every damn time like most of the other characters anoyingly do).

But, and here’s where a bit of a surprise comes in, a one-on-one duel isn’t all that’s in store for us. That duel is suddenly brought to a halt by the arrival of the biggest, baddest, most legitimately intimidating Savage yet to grace the screen of Hundred: a dragon-type. I’ll call him Drogon-dred, or Drode for short, because why not?!

Drode’s Savage version of dragonfire is a gigantic beam that can wipe out an entire regiment if left unchecked, but his Savage version of dragon scales is a wide-area barrier that no single sword strike or cannon blast can penetrate.

That only means one thing: these two fighting groups have to stop fighting each other and align their powers against this thing; that’s the only way it’s going down. Krovanh, who still needs this thing’s core (to avoid the wrath of his master), offers a bag of the hundreds he’d taken from Harvey’s Slayers so far, and takes Drode on in hopes he can snag that juicy core.

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But even when he almost loses himself to the Variant virus, he can’t put a dent in Drode. Claire and Emile put their cannon together, but Erica suspect they’ll need more. Nesat destroys the hunters’ jamming device so all Slayers can be contacted and their attacks coordinated. It’s a nifty bit of teamwork with previously bad guys you’re temporarily in a truce with, along with some more interesting tactics than “just keep hitting the damn thing).

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Drode’s no fool, however, and he launches an attack just before the slayers can get their off, disabling some of them and forcing some to misfire. Claire needs MORE POWAH, which Professor Char concludes she’ll only be able to get in the needed amounts…by trading tongues with Hayato.

Emile is against this (because she loves Hayato), as is Erica (because she loves Claire), but Claudia, in one of her few lines this week, doesn’t see what the big deal is (because she loves Emile). I’ve liked Claudia, but the episode saw that she could wear thin if over-used, and effectively reduced her role this week to that of a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.

After a perhaps unnecessarily-passionate kiss between Claire and Hayato atop a moonlit bluff, Claire charges, up, crosses the streams with Emile, and combined with all the other slayers’ beams, finally brings Drode’s shield down.

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After that, Judge HunDredd Hayato does what he does, taking care not to lose himself too much in his decisive (and cool-looking) finishing blow. Drode’s head and neck are cleved and his core is shattered, and he falls helplessly into the water like a sack of potatoes. Very satisfying.

However, that attack took a lot out of an already sleep-deprived Hayato who’d just had a little French with Claire, so when he goes into the drink, he has to be rescues. No problem for Emile, an excellent swimmer and transfer-er of air from her mouth to Hayato’s, which just happens to be, for all intents and purposes, a kind of kiss. It also brings him back from Variant Berserk Mode.

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With Drode defeated with authority, Judar has his sister Claire bring the Hunters back with her to Little Garden. She and Erica are suspicious about his motives, and judging from the look of him smirking at the moon with his sake, we’re supposed to be to.

But at the same time, I’m glad these three kids are coming back to the boat, which will almost certainly be better than going back to Vitaly empty-handed. That is, of course, assuming Judar won’t strip them down, put them in tubes, and experiment on them…which is far from a sure thing!

If he doesn’t and the Hunters can interact with the LG’s general population (or at least Hayato & Co.), that will help build out their characters. Meanwhile, Hayato is good as new, to the relief of his little fan club of Emile, Karen, and Sakure, and Vitaly doesn’t seem to mind her hunters won’t be returning, because she’s got a lot more where that came from; likely improved versions.

This was a fine episode because it never let off the action gas until Drode was dead, underplayed the haremness, expanded the central conflict to one between Judar and Vitaly, with our younger heroes as their chess pieces, and made Vitaly’s pieces more human. Next week will be hard-pressed to top this, but that doesn’t mean Hundred can’t give it a try.

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Hundred – 08

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The bad news: this wasn’t a particularly mockable episode of Hundred. Why? That’s the good news: it wasn’t really that bad, as far as episodes of Hundred go. The ‘fight monsters, then fight over Hayate’ formula has been spiced up nicely by Claudia, voiced by the talented Akasaki Chinatsu, who exhibits her usual tremendous range and energy.

I’ve loved Akasaki’s work ever since Kill Me Baby! and seeing her give Emile a taste of her own medicine is never not fun. Claudia’s also a pretty capable Slayer, so it’s not like it doesn’t make sense to have her around.

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Naturally, Claudia works to separate Hayato and Emile at every turn, an urge she shares with Claire, not least because both know she’s really a girl. Claudia wants Emilia and Claire wants Hayato, but there’s no real alliance between them, which is why Claire puts both Hayato and Claudia on her team while her veep Erica is paired with Emile.

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Even though the Hunters are lurking around hoping to poach savage and slayer alike, Claudia kinda drops the ball by leaving Claire and Hayato alone so she can run back to Emile. Not only is her lie about the two “going on date” inaccurate, it’s also unsuccessful, as Emile isn’t one to simply tuck tail and return to her homeland just because Claire won Round One. By that same token, Claudia isn’t about to give up on Emilia.

As for Claire and Hayato, the former slipping on some mud is enough of a reason to go skinny dipping in a hot spring. She slips again while getting out, landing naked on Hayato, but in between the moments of silliness they have a fine little chat about how both of them are fighting primarily for family, not just out of duty and honor—and how there’s nothing wrong with that.

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Speaking of honor, it doesn’t seem like the Hunters have much, as they start ambushing and scavenging the various slayer teams dispersed throughout the area. Claire mobilizes in her full armor to put a stop to it, but an earlier mention of heavy rain affecting beam weaponry gains significance when the heavens open up just when she’s about to dole out some beamy justice. Looks like a job for Hayato.

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Hundred – 07

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The Quest to Kill Karen continues: she survived a rowdy idol concert, so lets put her out in the blazing sun! Seriously, if she can endure this many trips outside her hospital room, why is she confined to that hospital room?

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For THAT. She’s got them hanging out for that. Gotta cushion Hayato’s clumsy falls, right?

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Oh, great, here we go: Bishounen Bad Guy #4,678,594. Claire’s older brother Judar. I’m sure he’s not up to no good, no sir!

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“Mmmm…but not you, Karen. Sorry.”

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Boobs? It’s boobs, right? Gotta be boobs.

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WHOA…Judar went and splurged on the most expensive lamp at IKEA Little Garden! Wait a minute…there’s a girl in there! Judging from all the white mist around her body, she’s nude, too! She’s your and Claire’s sister Liza, you say? Why’s your sister nude in there?

Never mind; Judar wants to see if Hayato’s Super-Awesome Energy can wake her up, even though she powers the entire city-ship? Uh, buddy, you got backup generators, or am I missing something?

Claire pulls a gun on her brother when she finds him down there with Hayato. How’d she catch up to them so fast, when it took the two of them so long to descend and get through all those security doors? Is Judar just messing with Hayato, and there’s a screen door that leads straight to the top deck?

Never mind again; I’d probably pull a gun on him too. Dude’s totally evil.

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Some people immediately took a hatred to Emilia’s highly-caffinated childhood friend Claudia Loetty and wanted to lower her into a volcano mere seconds after meeting her. Wouldn’t you know it, I was not one of those people!

I dunno…I kinda love her. Her voice actor (I wanna say Akasaki Chinatsu, but not sure) has stellar range and timing, and Claudia is pretty much the manifestation of all the built-up misfortune Hayato has been collecting while taking all of those lucky ass-backward trips into lady’s hearts, crotches, boobs, and mouths.

Sure, at some point Claudia may also come to fall for Hayato, but that seems a pretty long way off. And any cute girl who doesn’t love Hayato and is actively trying to make his life harder is alright with me. Hayato needs more people like this in his life, lest he take what he has (everything) for granted.

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You see? There is nothing inaccurate about this statement. This girl speaks the truth. She is after my heart. Take it to him, sister!

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Yes, because she’s desperately in love with Emilia (who turns out to be a princess back home in Gudenburg, dontchaknow!), Claudia has zero patience for those who’d seduce her  (hence her hissing and spitting upon meeting Hayato). She also challenges Hayato to a duel in a dojo, her with her flail/mace thingy, and he with his shinai.

It doesn’t seem like a fair fight, until Hayato easily defeats her in the most hilarious way possible. She then tries to bargain for a rematch, but is refused and runs off crying. Yes, Claudia is very very annoying, but I’m very glad she’s around. She made this normally bland, stolid love-fest genuinely interesting and funny for once!

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