Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 02 – Breaking the Ice

It may be Summer IRL, but the days are getting colder in the world of Takagi-san, such that puddles made by rain a day ago are frozen solid the next morning. Takagi can tell Nishikata has an unbearable urge to pick that ice up, and so makes a contest out of it.

Naturally, despite Nishikata’s extensive activity in such training, she gets him to drop it by declaring whoever breaks their ice first loses, and has to warm the hands of the winner. He’s about to take her hand when she asks for the hand warmer he offered earlier. A reprieve!

Another morning, Nishikata believes he has a surefire way to get Takagi to lose, by telling her he changed something about his appearance and challenging her to correctly identify that change. This backfires spectacularly when Takagi gives him a thorough visual examination, even tickling his side and getting very close up to smell him.

In the end, Takagi correctly concludes he trimmed his hair, though whether she was going with the answer with the best odds is a mystery. Nishikata’s punishment is to try to guess how she’ll change her appearance tomorrow, knowing full well he’d never look her over as thoroughly as she just did.

After an in-between in which Mina laughs at Yukari’s bangs which she trimmed too far, Valentine’s Day arrives, and Nishikata, while telling himself he doesn’t expect any chocolate from Takagi or anyone else, is still expecting chocolate.

As Mina learns the hard way, Tanabe-sensei doesn’t tolerate the distribution of chocolate on his watch. Mano almost works up the courage to hand Nakai some non-obligatory chocolate, but his ever-present friends ruin her timing and she runs off.

Nakai may be dense but has the good sense to chase after Mano, who is able to successfully give him the chocolate (which he tells Tanabe-sensei is a book she borrowed). As for Nishikata, he goes the whole day without being given any chocolate, only to find a box in his shoe locker, obviously left there by Takagi, who tries to get him to identify her as the one who put it there.

Nishikata doesn’t give in, so Takagi keeps the mind games going by offering him a small piece of obligatory chocolate, while strongly implying that not all the chocolate she gave him is obligatory. Her status as giver of the shoe locker chocolate remains unsaid, but like many things between these two, it doesn’t really have to be said.

There’s no one else from which Nishikata would get non-obligatory chocolate, and there’s no one else to whom Takagi would give chocolate.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 21 – Love Isn’t Control, But Friendship Is Power

One would think a duel as significant and built-up as the one between Kirito and Eugeo would last an entire episode, but that assumption gives Administrator too much credit. Eugeo’s hasty synthesis was willing, not by force, and it happened in a profound moment of weakness for Eugeo.

He and Kirito cross swords and give each other matching cuts, but once Kirito asks Eugeo to recall who gave him his Baltio-style moves, not to mention all of the people waiting for them to return home with Alice, Eugeo’s piety module is quickly exposed.

But while Eugeo wakes up and even says Alice’s name, there’s still something off about him, and I dreaded Kirito dropping his guard, and with good reason: Eugeo uses Enhance Armament to bury both Kirito and Alice in ice before returning to the top level.

There, a skeptical Chudelkin asks if Eugeo eliminated the rebels, to which Eugeo responds the Pontifex only ordered him to stop them, and stop them he did. That’s not sufficient for the Prime Senator, who heads down below to finish them off, thereby playing right into Eugeo’s hands.

Without Chudelkin, Eugeo is all alone with Administrator, who assumes that while his piety module was compromised, he’s still loyal to her. But when she removes it outright in order to recalibrate it, she’s only freeing him to recall more memories, which motivate him to break free of her emotional and magical hold and attack her with the dagger provided by Cardinal.

Administrator is taken aback, but her shielding is close to perfect, and tells Eugeo that no blade, even one fashioned by Cardinal, can pierce her skin. As we know from the OP and flashbacks, Administrator prefers to hang around in the nude, and once her “loving partner” gig is up, she dispenses with the clothes and provokes Eugeo by mocking Alice’s ordeal (her synthesis was forced over many agonizing days).

That’s when Chudelkin returns all beat up to warn his Pontifex that the other two are free, and Kirito and Alice arrive on the top floor. Eugeo intended to make up for his initial betrayal by taking care of Administrator alone, but she’s too strong. In fact, it will be a miracle if the three of them working in perfect harmony can overcome her knowledge of nearly every cheat code in the world.

Still, Administrator isn’t interested in fighting the three directly; not while she has one last subordinate standing in Chudelkin. She fires him up by agreeing to let him have every inch of her body for one night if he can eliminate the rebels, and he uses his fingers, toes, and eyes to summon his trump card: a monstrous fire genie.

Chudelkin has always been a wild card since his first appearance (which is only fitting as he looks like a Joker), so I honestly don’t know how Eugeo’s ice, Kirito’s black sword, and Alice’s scattering blades will hold up against this boss, but the important thing is that the three are finally fighting on the same side.

P.S. We get new OP visuals (same theme) as we’ve completed Alicization “Rising” and begun Alicization “Uniting” – featuring Kirito trying to hold his own against a very capable (and very nude) Administrator.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 13

This week’s cold open drips with dread as an evil-sounding guy asks what the adorable Chise will find “at the end of her journey with the failure born in the shadows of the forest”, which doesn’t strike me as the nicest way to describe Elias Ainsworth. Maybe the guy has some kind of grudge? Or maybe he’s jealous that Elias found a Sleigh Beggy?

After that, things take a much lighter tone, as Chise, Ruth, Elias and Silky deal with a sudden infestation of “woolly bugs” in dire need of shearing. Just when Elias steps away for a moment, an icy bug steals Chise’s body heat, but she isn’t in any lasting danger. Elias merely needs to warm her back up.

As a result of that objective, Elias stays with Chise until she wakes up, and the opportunity arises for the two to finally talk a little more about how they feel about each other. Chise had been torturing herself about the “timing” of what she’d say, not the content, and that’s evident here as she’s quite eloquent once the obstacle of when to tell him is gone.

She’s able to clear up a couple of things with Elias—that she’s not afraid of him like most humans are, and that she wants to keep the memory of him going wild, even if it wasn’t pleasant, because it’s the memory of “someone important to her”, which is to say, someone she cares about.

Elias continues to emphasize that he can’t truly emphathize with Chise, or even honestly tell her what his feelings are, because the creature that he is just doesn’t allow for that, or at least hasn’t up to this point.

Elias can say that his home was dreadfully cold when Chise was gone, now it’s much warmer, and he prefer the latters. He also knows that while he may be Chise’s magic teacher, Chise is his human teacher. They have a lot to teach one another.

Chise, unfortunately, doesn’t know not to answer the door alone late at night if she’s not expecting someone, and Elia’s door sadly lacks a peephole, so when Chise opens the door to find the many millennia-old Ashen Eye on the other side, she’s wide open for whatever Ashy might want to do.

Ashen Eye is, of course, the creepy guy we heard talking at the beginning. He seems to be obsessed with Chise, but at least partially informed by a longstanding resentment of humanity he’s built up over the centuries.

He claims he has no intention of “harming” Chise at all, but apparently “transforming her into a red fox” doesn’t fall under the “harm” category of “harm.” So what’s Ahsen Eye’s game, and how will Elias (or Fox Chise, for that matter) deal with him?

I’ve learned not to immediately think everyone who does something weird like this to Chise is automatically a villain with ill intent. It’s possible he’s just teaching both of these youngins a lesson in not answering your door. But that creepy cold open weighs on me…it’s more likely he’s up to no good.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 03

Just after daydreaming about that horrible day Michella went blind, an out-of-it Leo bumps into a big bully who takes his wallet containing Michella’s allowance. Chain witnesses Leo in a bind, but apparently has other matters to attend to.

Steven and his maid Veded prepare a super-classy dinner soiree, while Zapp is recruited by Tracy to find her oriental shorthair cat Mizaria…or she’ll cut his dick off with magic.

So yeah…lot’s going on this week! But hey, it’s not Hellsalem’s Lot if every day that ends in “-day” if a lot’s not going on. Did I mention Count Gigagigafutmassif is on the move…and that he’s taller than any skyscraper in the city?

What has always enhanced the already lush texture of KS&B’s great variety of stories is how they intertwine in interesting ways, much like Durarara!!. The fortunes of the various Libra POV characters this week also vary wildly as the episode progresses.

Zapp immediately runs into problems trying to find Tracy’s cat, and while Leo arms himself with a stun baton to get his wallet back, the bully just slugs him and uses his own baton on him. Of course, Leo can defeat him at any time with his eyes, he just doesn’t feel right using them for self-serving purposes…even when failure means Michella going without.

As for Steve, his snobby dinner party goes positively swimmingly…until he goes into the kitchen alone, turns around, and every one of his guests is pointing a biological gun at him. Fortunately, Steve is not one to get so easily ambushed, and took steps to ensure he could use his ice magic to get the upper hand anytime he wanted.

Steve also doesn’t bother handing his guests over to Libra, instead relying on his own special squad to “take care” of them in ways of which Libra’s leader wouldn’t necessarily approve. Bottom line: You come at Starphase, you best come correct.

These amateurs did not. Steve also rethinks whether he’s been enjoying ordinary life too much, considering his duties and the nasty enemies those duties can sometimes create.

Chain clearly saw Leo getting tossed by the bully, but takes a backdoor approach to getting Leo’s wallet back: she turns on her charm (wonderful stuff from Kobayashi Yuu here), promises a good time if the brute can beat her in shots, then drinks him under the table with ease, grabbing not just Leo’s wallet, but the bully’s toady.

It was nice to see a baddie put in his place with something other than brute force, even though Chain could have obviously dropped the guy anytime she wanted. This way was more fun for her!

Alas, Chain did Leo’s work for him, which means he never managed to get one over on his bully. It’s just as well; considering the handicap he demands of himself (no use of the eyes), he’s just not a fighter, nor should he be.

Since his toady was robbed by Chain, the two have to pay their bar bills with…their bodies, leaving them as nothing but heads hopping about in glass bulbs, to be attacked by…Mizaria!…who is then picked up by…Veded!, who finds her way back to Steve just as a united Leo and Zapp pass by.

Speaking of fortunes, we never see Zapp actually retrieve the cat and return it to Tracy, leaving the status of his manhood in tongue-in-cheek doubt. The closing shot—of Chain paying for her big night with a long prayer to the porcelain god—was pitch perfect way to close this fun, diverse outing.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 15

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I honestly didn’t think a second cour episode of Re:Zero could match the cinematic majesty of episode 7, but, well…here we are, eight episodes later, and this show is still topping itself. My expectations for the finale have now risen to unreasonable highs. But never mind that; we’ve got a long, long way to go, as does Natsuki Subaru.

Subaru doesn’t choose to commit suicide. He does die and Return by Death; but not by his choosing. He is slain in the most nightmarish way imaginable, having his fingers and leg cleaved off before freezing solid and cracking. Jeez, this show is rough on ol’ Subaru.

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Surprisingly, he respawns not in a bed, but at the vender’s cart, where he was with Rem seemingly an eternity ago (but in reality, early in last week’s episode). It isn’t long before he’s in a bed, however, as he’s so traumatized by what he witnessed and experienced in his last life, he is still in shock and barely able to speak.

Felis can’t do anything about his mental condition, so Crusch lets Rem take him home to Roswaal’s manor, hopeful being with Emilia and Ram will help him recover. Crusch also asks why Rem is so devoted to Subaru, and she responds “because he’s special.”

Once again, they fail to reach manor without incident, even though it’s Rem and not Subie’s choice to head there.

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The hooded baddies—witch cultists—ambush the cart, bloody a furious Rem, and take Subie captive.

Subie wakes up in chains, still unable to speak, and comes face to face with the grotesque and thoroughly insane Betelgeuse, who would be a goofy character for Re:Zero if we didn’t already have his less evil counterpart, Roswaal.

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Oh, and if this guy wasn’t fucking threatening and terrifying as all Hell, and merely a subordinate to “The Gospel”, and presumably, The Witch. Betel is a high priest of “sloth”, and initially calls Subie “pride” (perhaps why the cultists bowed to him last week?), and while his plans for Subie aren’t precisely clear, he’s intent on finding and killing Rem as soon as possible.

Rem all but grants his wish by busting into their cavern hideout, hopelessly outnumbered and surrounded. For all her power and combat ability and heartfelt desire to save her beloved Subaru, she’s still quite messed up from the initial ambush, and when she gets too close, Betel strings her up in mid air and breaks all the bones in her body, then twists her extremities in the opposite direction just two twist the proverbial knife.

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Betel heads off to prepare for “The Ordeal”, but Rem is amazingly still alive enough to scoot towards Subaru and free him from his chains, and from what is certainly to be more horrible torment at the hands of that monster and his master.

She tells him to live, and that she loves him, then passes away in his arms. While Rem has died before, as has Subaru, I just wasn’t prepared for this. She was found dead suddenly last week, but here the death is drawn out, as is Subaru’s apparent helplessness.

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Not sure what else to do, and still clearly foggy from his multiple ordeals, Subie continues his trek to Roswaal’s manor with Rem’s body in his arms. Again, he finds signs of a massacre, dead villagers, children, and Ram.

He doesn’t get anywhere near the front door before a colossal dark beast with glowing yellow eyes orders him to “sleep now, like my daughter.” Subaru’s head pops of with a splash of blood…and the blood-red credits start to roll as he’s buried by the snow. There’s no merciful fade to black. The camera doesn’t budge. The stirring, soaring, relentlessly tragic score blares.

By God…that was one of the darkest, cruelest, most hopeless endings I’ve ever seen. But this is Re:Zero, where endings usually lead to new beginnings. Still, it still felt like everything was over and there would be no victory, ever. 

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Sure enough, Subie respawns with Rem at the vendor’s. He’s not catatonic this time. He embraces Rem; alive again; in love with him. The vendor tells them to take a hike and stop scaring customers with their PDA.

Subaru takes Rem’s hand like he never intends to let go of it again, and she’s all to happy to hold his as they walk peacefully, quietly down the street.

But Subaru’s smile slowly vanishes as the camera pans up to his face. It’s a beautiful day, but there’s a storm brewing in his eyes. They’re not the dead eyes of defeat. They’re the fanatical eyes of a demon, and Betelgeuse is his prey.

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Akame ga Kill! – 24 (Fin)

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As the big let down that was Hitsugi no Chaika: Avenging Battle demonstrated, it’s rare for a long-running series to field a finale that delivers on virtually all of its promises and potential. But Akame ga Kill! succeeded everywhere Chaika failed miserably,  pulling out all the stops for an ending worthy of the excellence that preceded it.

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Akame v. Esdeath was being billed as one for the ages, and in this it did not disappoint, from the moment a surrounded Esdeath seals scores of Revolutionary troops in a jagged ice wall, forming an arena in which to tangle with the raven-haired wielder of Murasame.

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The show could really take its time and do things right with this battle because it so painstakingly took care of everything else on its sizable plate, along with killing off most of the cast. Everything we’ve seen of Akame and Esdeath in combat is brought to the table here, along with a lot of new moves and counter-moves, and it’s just fantastic to see these two go at it like no one on the show has quite gone at it before. There’s the feeling that everything has naturally escalated up to this level.

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When she realizes she won’t be able to defeat Esdeath without her trump card, Akame uses it, merging further with Masamune to increase her speed and power to even more ridiculous levels; a testament to just how tough a customer Esdeath is. Esdeath has basically merged with the soul of a terrifying danger beast and the two share unending bloodlust out of a desire to destroy the weak – all the week.

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The deaths of ‘livestock’ mean nothing to Esdeath, but they mean everything to Akane. Masamune has remembered every life she’s taken, and while the weight of those deaths on her shoulders is considerable, it also gives her the strength she needs to fight not just on Esdeath’s level, but above it.

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Esdeath will always be weaker, because she doesn’t understand and thus can’t properly utilize the weight of the death and destruction she causes. Akame works for the good guys, but she’s not necessarily a good guy herself, just a necessary evil in a world where foes like Esdeath threaten peace and won’t stop killing unless they’re killed.

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A lot of Esdeath’s early confidence in the fight is knowing she can lean on her Makahadoma to freeze Akame if things get that serious. She even says it’s the second time she’s had to use it; the first being to defeat Susanoo. But she’s so confident it will work just as well against Akame, she doesn’t consider the possibility that Makahadoma is exactly what Akame wants her to do.

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Esdeath doesn’t realize this until it’s too late, the Akame before her is merely an afterimage, and the real one is coming down upon her with the full force of her blade. The certainty that Esdeath would use Makahadoma proves to be her downfall.

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After that, Esdeath is not only an arm short, but also mortally wounded from throat to hip, and she concedes defeat. She is not upset; by her own lifelong code, she deserves to die for being the weaker one. If anything, she’s glad it’s something else she can share with Tatsumi, whose body has been lying nearby all along. Before Akame can stop her, Esdeath embraces him and surrounds herself with ice and shatters, in just the latest in a series of gorgeous deaths.

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In their last talk, Akame tells Esdeath about how she draws strength from taking responsibility for the lives she’s taken, but she just can’t understand. And yet, Esdeath loved Tatsumi, something else she couldn’t understand, but still accepted.

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With Esdeath now diamond dust, the Empire really is done. Wave and Run aren’t going to fight for it anymore, and Minister Onest is scurrying through the palace like a rat until cornered by Leone. When he uses his Imperial Arms to destroy hers, I thought “Uh-oh…now he’s going to inject himself with something and become a ferocious beast-man.” Fortunately, I was wrong! He takes out a gun a gun! — and simply shoots her with what looks like small-caliber shot.

But Leone, born and raised in/by the slums, is a tough cookie, Imperial Arms or not, and gives Onest the death that, if I’m honest, I always wanted for him: getting his face smashed in by her bare hands. It’s gruesome, undignified, and downright icky, and underlines the fact that Night Raid are vicious killers too, but the difference being they kill for something other than themselves.

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As Leone later says her goodbyes to Akame (Onest shot her ten times in the abdomen), we also see that the ‘something’ Night Raid has fought for — a peaceful land free of the corruption and bloodshed of Onest and Esdeath — isn’t something they’ll be able to partake in. Leone ignores the calls from the townsfolk asking her to join them for a drink. Instead, she finds a dark alley to lie down in and die with a smile on her face, knowing she’ll be with the others soon. Night Raid gets a different kind of peace.

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With Esdeath and Onest gone, all that’s left is for the Rebellion to take one last life: that of the young, naive Emperor. It’s fitting and very nice of the show to give the lad as clean and dignified and honorable death by guilloutene as Onest’s was dirty and pathetic. The Emperor holds his head high until it’s lowered into the stock as the entire capital watches, while Onest died in the dark bowels of the castle, his killer the only witness to his end.

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Najenda, along with Wave and Run, take up new posts in the New Kingdom (who is actually ruling isn’t made clear yet). After all, those who remember the horrors of the war that brought them this Kingdom are well-equipped to stand and protect it from those who would threaten it again. But Akame leaves the capital, keeping the lives she’s taken on her shoulders. Her work isn’t done, and it will never be done as long as she’s alive, and there is no other course for her.

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The episode also ends with one last stirring hurrah with a booming narrator talking about everything Night Raid did…and how history will not remember any of it. They were assassins, killers, working in the shadows, doing dirty work for a clean world. They’ll have no honors or monuments or even songs or stories sung or written about them, ever…but what they did have was each other, and that was enough.

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In the post-credits epilogue, Akame continues her duty, facing those who would destroy the progress made, both burdened and fueled by the ones she killed before. She’s not with Leone, Mine, Sheele, Bulat, Chelsea, Lubbock, Kurome, and Tatsumi…yet, but one day she will be. Until then, she has work to do.

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Kami-sama no Memo-cho 1, Parts A & B – First Impressions

Forgive the pun, but “Memo Pad of the Gods” makes a very good case for itself. It some ways, it picks up in Sibuya where Durarara left off in Ikebukuro by instantly painting a picture of a well-lived in world full of oddballs and secret lives. Narumi Fujishima is our avatar in this rich painting, and for once in his life he feels like a part of something bigger, rather than simply the kid who floats around pretending he belongs.

The new life he fell into fits him like a glove. This first, hourlong episode chronicles his addition to a team of “NEET Detectives” led by the enigmatic Alice, a 12-or-so year-old who possesses detective skills and wisdom far beyond her years, but also gets all weepy. if one of her many teddy bear’s ears gets torn. I also like her calm, logical, curt demeanor. She isn’t a squeaky menace.

But she’s just one of many interesting and promising characters. This agency has a crack team of specialists in diverse fields: Hiro is a suave ‘gigalo’, brother of a yakuza boss, and expert in women. ‘Major’ is a military spy freak who likes to stick rifles in people’s faces. Tetsu is the polic snoop. Min runs and Ayaka works at the ramen/ice cream shop above which Alice resides, in her Lain-like cocoon.

The core cast is plenty interesting, but this series doesn’t fall into the same traps of the latest J.C. Staff series like Yumekui Merry, Ookami-san, and Index II, all of which kinda fizzled. This series feels more honest, and its characters and themes are suitably adult and mature. High school girls losing it and entering the world of vice is not the kind of thing those series would touch upon, but such things can and do happen in the real world, which is what this series feels like.

The first case we’re presented with is nicely opened, investigated, solved, and shut within the hourlong period. Whether future episodes are two-parters like this remains to be seen, but it’s definitely not a bad thing if they are; the story never felt dragged out here, and on half-hour simply wouldn’t be enough to tell it properly.

The people involved in the specific case – Miku, Teraoka, and Shoko, served their roles well, and didn’t feel like throwaway characters. The case itself even had a macabre twist, in which Shoko “froze time” like she had wanted to, by committing suicide in a tub of ice. Yikes, you may say, but horrible things can happen, and it’s Alice and her agency’s jobs as detectives to either ‘tarnish the living to maintain the honor of the dead’, or ‘tarnish the dead to comfort the living.’ I look forward to their next case. Rating: 4