Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 02 – Nothing is Eternal

One of Lord El-Melloi II’s basic lessons in his class is “nothing is eternal; everything changes,” and he should know, having once been the master of a heroic spirit of whose vast empire nearly nothing remains. And it is a former student, Mary Lil Fargo (subfamily of the Aminuspheres) who summons him to her mansion, which is the site of her father Ernest’s murder and dismemberment.

The seven parts of the body that were separated and arranged throughout the house indicate the same kind of planetary magic the Fargo family specializes in, but the arrangement is all wrong. Of the four people in the mansion when Ernest died, all have a motive to kill him, be it revenge for abuse (Claire the maid), jealousy over his research (Fernando Li), money to pay debts (his nephew Alec), and of course, his heir, Mary herself.

While this seems at first like a classic whodunit with El-Melloi picking the least likely suspect as the culprit, the murder mystery takes an entirely different and unexpected turn: no one murdered Ernest; he murdered and dismembered himself, all in the service of setting up an experimental spell that would grant him immortality.

El-Melloi confirms this when a hidden section of the rotunda’s floor reveals the part of a human associated with the planet Earth: the soul, not of the body. Once revealed, it contacts the other seven parts and reconstructs Ernest, but it is far from perfect, being his first and only attempt: he’s a grotesque monster, seeking Mary’s life force to complete his immortality.

El-Melloi doesn’t do anything to protect Mary, but he doesn’t have to: his apprentice Gray is on the job. After an incantation, her lantern-dwelling sidekick Add transforms into a mighty scythe, and its power blows her up to then ever-present hood off her head, revealing she bears an uncanny resemblance to Saber, AKA Artoria Pendragon.

While the reasons for this have yet to be revealed, knowing a little more about Gray certainly makes things more interesting. It also explains why she’s such a skilled fighter, such that El-Melloi only needs to step back with Mary and let her do her thing.

Once she dispatches the demented undead Ernest (creepily reciting words that rhyme with “Gray” in the process), she smiles in self-satisfaction before realizing her hood is down, and promptly pulls it back up. El-Melloi—Waver—apparently can’t look at a face that brings up such terrible memories of the Holy Grail War.

Before parting, El-Melloi deduces that Mary is a talented enough mage to know what her father was up to…and that it wouldn’t work and result in his death. El-Melloi won’t be able to prove it, but still wants to know why she did nothing to stop him.

Mary’s answer is rooted in the lessons she learned from El-Melloi himself: nothing is eternal. Letting her father go through with a doomed, incomplete immortality experiment was her way of relaying that lesson to him. Mages shouldn’t seek immortality, except in the indirect way they pass on their knowledge to the next generation.

If Ernest had succeeded, he’d have rendered that generation—made Mary, and her future and that of her children—redundant. Not only that, if I’m interpreting Mary holding hands with Claire at the end, letting Ernest essentially kill himself freed the maid from his abuse.

As first cases go (not counting episode 00) this wasn’t too bad at all; it introduced El-Melloi’s investigative process, showed off his knowledge of magecraft and deductive facilities, had an interesting twist, and of course, revealed Gray’s “Silver Saber” mode. A good week’s work. On to the next case!

Fate / Zero – 19

In Part 2 of How Kiritsugu Got So Messed Up, young Kiritsugu finds himself in a gender-swapped version of The Professional. Natalia is Leon, the ‘cleaner’ with a heart of gold who suddenly isn’t alone, and Kiritsugu is Matilda, the trauma-stricken, anger-filled youth searching for purpose.

After saving him, Natalia takes Kiri under her wing, gradually teaching him the basics. Before long he’s accompanying her on jobs, and if there’s one complaint I have with this episode (and it’s not a biggie), it’s that there’s really no transition between Kiri’s ‘kid’ and ‘adult’ voices.

What Nat continually drives into Kiri (whatever voice he has) is that her line of work, one’s own survival is the most important consideration. If you’re dead, it’s all for nothing. As a result of her training and care, Kiri becomes a highly capable and reliable apprentice. (She also eventually powders some of his ribs into 66 bullets).

The moment a Dead Apostle named Odd Vorzak appears in the tray of Natalia’s fax machine, I had the ominous feeling that it would be her last job, but while the destination was basically known, I still greatly enjoyed the journey. As a big job in which Kiritsugu plays a crucial role, flying to NYC ahead of Natalia and utilizing his bullets, there’s an auspicious tone to the proceedings.

While there are few things worse than getting the back of your seat kicked on a plane, what Natalia does to Vorzak is most definitely one of them. It’s a great scheme, transporting Kiri’s bullet into Vorzak’s back, and it’s executed perfectly. But it’s also all too easy, and I couldn’t help but think there would have been better, and more importantly safer ways to eliminate him.

Sure enough, while taking care of the bees in Vorzak’s luggage in the hold, all hell breaks loose in the cabin, as Vorzak was carrying more bees in his body. All 300 crew and passengers are quickly turned into vicious ghouls. By some miracle, Natalia is able to reach the cockpit, but it’s a long, tense trip to New York with those ghouls at the doo, and you can feel it.

Kiritsugu keeps Natalia company over the radio, in a beautiful scene that lessons the tension but still feels like it captures the specific emotions of the situation perfectly. As they talk, Natalia gets more an more sentimental, wondering if “playing at a family” is what caused her to screw up so badly, while Kiritsugu subtly talks of her in the past tense, sailing out into open water on one of the small, efficient little boats he loves to use.

There’s a wonderful ambiguity to what Natalia’s particular thoughts are about the conversation she’s having with Kiritsugu, and if and when she realizes that he’s preparing to destroy the plane before it lands. After all, she trained him, and always knew he had way too much potential in her line of work, not to mention her edict that her apprentice think of his survival first and foremost.

Whatever she feels or knows, the reveal of the missile launcher just as the dawn arrives, with a flock of seagulls circling Kiritsugu as if he were the center of a storm—it’s all wonderfully staged and directed. And before pulling the trigger Kiritsugu makes sure Natalia knows: he was glad to have her as a mother.

As is usually the case with Kiritsugu, I can totally understand why he does what he does, even if it’s absolutely horrible: that plane could not be allowed to land just because Natalia is dear to him. The other 300 people on the plane weren’t people anymore, and if they get out into the city, many many more people would’ve died. Kiritsugu couldn’t allow that, so he does what he couldn’t do when Shirley turned into a vampire: nothing more or less than What Has To Be Done.

There’s such a dark, bleak symmetry to Kiritsugu killing his real father and adoptive mother as bookends to his transformation into the Emiya Kiritsugu currently fighting the Holy Grail War. Natalia was such a great character who came out of nowhere, it was sad to see her go so soon, but we were dealing with flashbacks after all, and I had no reasonable expectation she would survive them.

The break in the present-day story was abrupt (especially since I haven’t watched episode 17 yet), but it was well worth the detour to learn more about the key protagonist of the story. It also demonstrated that whatever the timeline or setting, Fate/Zero knows how to tell a damned compelling story.

Fate / Zero – 18

Per a reader’s suggestion, I am watching the next three F/Z episodes in the order of 18-19-17. We’ll see how this goes. At the end of episode 16, Saber wondered what the hell happened to make Emiya Kiritsugu the kind of person he’s become. Episode 18 begins to answer that very question by taking a trip back to Kiritsugu’s childhood on picturesque Arimago Island.

Things couldn’t start out any more idyllic, with “Kerry” (what everyone calls Kiritsugu) cliff-diving with his friends on an absolutely perfect day before being picked up by Shirley, a very pretty young local who is serving as his father’s assistant. Kerry’s father is mage, developing flowers that never wilt in hopes of someday applying the same principles to humans.

Throughout the episode’s first acts, the gorgeous tropical setting could never quite hide the fact that there was something very fishy about Kerry’s father taking up residence in a secluded property on a remote island for mysterious magical experimentation related to immortality. That’s a lot of red flags.

One night Shirley shows Kerry that her flower has wilted, and that she will never be able to be anything other than a glorified lab assistant. She believes Kerry has a bright future following in his dad’s footsteps, and they both agree that his dad is doing something that will be able to help humanity immensely.

Kerry also recoils from Shirley when she gets too close to him, as he’s of the age where boys typically deny their attraction to the opposite sex despite biological evidence to the contrary.

However, it’s clear Kerry likes Shirley very much, which makes it that much more heartbreaking when I realized that beautiful night they talked would be the last. The next day, Kerry’s dad asks if he went into his lab, then warns him to stay in the house for the day.

When Shirley doesn’t arrive at the usual time, he sneaks out to look for her, and finds an empty medicine bottle on the floor of her house. Shirley herself has set to work sucking the blood of the chickens in her yard, as whatever medicine she took turned her into some kind of vampire.

Kerry, unable to grant Shirley’s wish to kill her, seeks refuge in the church, but before long the entire island turns into a battlefield. The vampirism spreads quickly from Shirley to the other townsfolk, and Church Executors have to work overtime to kill them, while the Mages Association sets everything ablaze in order to protect their secrets.

Kerry ends up running through the middle of this hellscape (and as he’ll say to Saber years later, all war is hell) and almost gets himself killed, but he’s saved by a mysterious woman who is very handy with firearms, using them in an efficient manner that reminds me of Kiritsugu’s own style in the present.

She tells him everyone has turned into “dead apostles”, and she’s there to eliminate Kerry’s father…but Kerry gets to him first. When he asks his dad about his work and what it did to Shirley and the town, his father is, shall we say, not particularly contrite. Indeed, he seems to consider all of the horrible things that have happened a minor inconvenience, and is eager to escape the island get back to work.

Unable to muster any words in response to his father’s despicable attitude, Kerry stabs him in the gut with the dagger Father Simon gave Shirley to protect her from the evils he believed Kerry’s father to be messing with. He then takes a pistol and kills him, before the lilac-haired woman shows up.

By doing so, he did what had to be done, something he wasn’t able to do with Shirley, a misstep that ended up costing the entire town. As he escapes from the island with the woman, I imagine Kiritsugu—no longer “Kerry”—won’t be hesitating that much more from here on out.

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 24 (Fin)

garo241

Well now, Anima certainly didn’t hang around long! But it was for the best, as Mendoza rips out his own ribcage and consumes the horror, gaining a shiny new body.

garo242

Leon can slice the body up all he wants (including, hilariously, slicing Mendoza’s face off to shut him up for at least a few moments), but he always comes back together, and always has a rejoinder such as “it is useless” at the ready.

Leon is missing something in this battle, because, in the beginning, he’s fighting alone. That ain’t gonna work against ol’ Mendoza; he of the giant light fists.

gar243

No; he’ll need to draw from the strength Mendoza denies himself, the true immortality humans are capable of achieving, even if it isn’t in the form of a literal everlasting corporeal form. Kinship, love, family, and cooperation will always prevail over Mendoza’s selfish designs. When he blithely discarded his only remaining family, Octavia, leaving himself alone in the world, he did himself no favors.

On the other hand, Leon is able to combine Garo and Zoro into a very cool hybrid suit of armor, imbued with the love and strength of his father, and placed in his hands by the teamwork of Alfie and Ema. Now Leon is no longer alone, so he won’t lose.

gar244

Mendoza also miscalculate’s Leon’s commitment to banishing him from the world, even he’ll be dragged down into Makai with him forever. Ema foils Leon’s suicidal plan by holding the portal open, and Mendoza tries to use this as proof that allies are worthless, since they’ll always have times when their opinions clash. Ema and Alfie would rather Leon not die.

garo245

Their desire for Leon to live on is shared by his own mother Anna, who is revealed as the source of the flames that have always burned within him. They were never a curse or a manifestation of his revenge, but a means of protecting him until he could stand on his own two feet as a knight and a good man. Now Anna’s flames will continually burn Mendoza for eternity, which is an apropos punishment for the man who would be immortal, and took so many lives and souls to achieve it.

Clearly, Mendoza didn’t consider all the angles of this immortality thing. His shiny new body was a dead end; flawed and unnatural. But the love, protection, and duty passed from generation to generation, from mother and father to son, between siblings, friends, or lovers, is both more righteous and more durable.

garo246

With that, mother and son part ways, and as Zoro’s horse bears Leon back home, a semi-spectral Herman rides alongside to tell him he’s a good son…aaand also to look out for that nice young lady Ximena. It’s a great cathartic moment when he emerges from the portal to the elation of Alfie and Ema.

garo247

As the re-reconstruction of Santa Bard commences, we see that Prince Alfie is gonna be just fine. When the rebuilding is complete and he’s further along on being groomed for the throne, he’ll one day take a wife, and his son or daughter will inherit Gaia from him, along with the duty to protect.

garo248

What about Leon and Ema, found and comforted and supported each other in the shadow of the loss of their past true loves? Well, it’s kind of a Princess Mononoke end, in which they say not “goodbye” but “see you around” as they return to their respective lives, which feels right.

garo249

As for Ximena, she’s going to have a baby—gender to be determined, but let’s call it a girl, shall we?—and Leon’s duty now is to protect her and his incoming new sibling, who will inherit Garo and Zoro. Thanks to everything the child’s forbears have done for her sake, she won’t be born while her mother burns at the stake!

GARO was a very fun and entertaining show. A bit inconsistent at times, but it marched to the beat of its own drummer, took bold risks, and wasn’t afraid to fail. I can forgive when it did because it made such powerful impacts when it struck true. Its finale was one of those times. It looks like there will be a second season of GARO. I’ll definitely be tuning in.

9_mag

Psycho-Pass – 10

pp101

Makishima is one magnificently manipulative bastard. Initially, his newest mark Senguji Toyohisa believes Makishima merely procured fresh, intelligent prey for him to hunt the old-fashioned way with a twist: a big shotgun and robo-foxhounds. But Senguji is only a formidable but ultimately expendable means to test Kogami, and while he’s not quite out of the frying pan by episode’s end, he’s passed that test so far.

pp102

Makishima’s scheme seems ridiculously convoluted at first: kidnapping Akane’s friend Funahara Yuki, using her phone to text Akane about something, assuming Kogami would accompany her to the obvious trap where he’d go in and enter Senguji’s hunt. But as Kogami puts it all together, it’s all very elegant an ingenious. Senguji typically hunts for his own amusement, but this time someone’s “watching from the bleachers,” and not actually rooting for him, but Kogami.

pp103

As I said, Kogami doesn’t disappoint, treading carefully, noticing when things aren’t right and knowing when to run and hide. Poor Yuki doesn’t know what the hell is going on, and would’ve gotten killed a dozen times over, but she’s not a cop. When Kogami realizes he’s the target, he also realizes Yuki’s presence there has a purpose he hadn’t considered.

pp103a

That’s when instead of leaving her behind, he tells her to strip, and ends up finding the transponder antenna hidden in her bra which she didn’t even know was there. This was ultimately a very weird but clever extended application of fanservice, as there turned out to be a logical reason for Yuki to be running around in her nightie, but required significant intelligence—and grace under pressure—to divine.

pp104

When Kogami treads too far into the abandoned complex, Akane loses all contact with him, and when Gino arrives with backup, he’s quick to suggest Kogami may have set this whole thing up to run away, and Akane was naive enough to trust him. When he decides they’re going in with Dominators, essentially leaving it up to Cybil whether he should live or die, then telling Akane she only has herself to blame for it, Gino’s far enough across the line to piss of Masaoka, who grabs him and throws him against a crate.

pp105

Before things get right out of hand, the question of whether Kogami ran away is settled when he makes contact with the transponder. He and Yuki aren’t out of there yet, but Makishima has intentionally given him a fighting chance, however small, and he’s going to take it. And while I sorely hope Yuki gets out of this okay, if she doesn’t, that can’t possibly bode well for Akane’s Psycho-Pass.

9_brav

Psycho-Pass – 09

pp91

What sets Psycho-Pass apart from just about everything else I’m watching at the moment is the uncanny deftness and elegance with which it expresses its ideas and themes. It also helps that while the bad guys are, by most conventional appraisals, evil sadistic bastards, and yet they’re anything but boring. This is a show that possesses the very charisma the show defines: It has the nature of a hero or prophet; an ability to make you feel good when you’re watching it, and the intelligence to talk about all sorts of things.

pp92

That three-part definition is offered by Ex-Professor Saiga, who once lectured both Kogami and Gino, and whose lectures were shut down when the hues of many of his students—all inspectors-in-training—started to get cloudy, turning them into latent criminals by Cybil’s standards. Kogami brings Akane (or rather, Akane allows Kogami to take her) to Saiga to meet him and learn from him, if only a little bit in a short time. After all, Kogami is the detective he is because he learned a lot from Saiga, so if you want to be a good detective, any exposure to him is a good thing.

pp93

That seems to be what Akane wants. Her household AI jests that she’s preparing as if she were going on a date, and it is a date, in a police-nerdy kinda way. At the same time, Saiga is someone she would never have known about were it not for Kogami. But the main point is, she is steadfast in her commitment to treating Kogami as an equal, despite his lower official status in society. So much so, that she has to suspend her senpai-kohai relationship to Gino when he goes to far in admonishing her for seeing Saiga.

pp94

Going back to Adam and Eve, knowledge is power, but comes at the cost of paradise. Cybil is mankind’s attempt to rebuild a Garden of Eden, which has its own cost; a life without stress is a life pointless and short, perhaps shorter than a Hobbesian world. To maintain Eden, those deemed unworthy are constantly cast out to live below the rest. “Unworthy”, in this case, are those who ask too many questions; amass too much knowledge; seek too much individuality.

pp95

The exquisite analogy Kogami presents to Akane on their autonomous car ride home: knowledge is a swamp you can’t see the bottom of, but cannot check unless you dive in. Even Kogami wasn’t allowed out of the swamp once he dove too deep. Worse, one person’s descent means their entire family is marked for death, as the powers that be are just waiting for science to prove criminality is hereditary. Gino, who lost a father and colleague, doesn’t want to lose Akane too, which is why he’s so harsh on her.

pp96

While events may ultimately determine Gino was being overprotective—Akane is constantly being described as having an uncommonly clear and resilient psyche—there’s also a very real possibility that she could end up going down the very same path as Kogami. What’s so awesome about Akane is that she may already be okay with that. Between protecting one’s own hue or solving crimes/protecting the people, she considers the latter far more important. But as she says, she is new, and has no idea what lurks in that swamp.

pp97

Take Senguji Toyohisa, a cyborg who is, aside from his brain and nervous system, entirely machine in composition. He’s a particularly arrogant cyborg as well, pitying all of humanity that are content living out their lives in their sacks of meat. Running parallel to the discussions Saiga, Akane and Kogami are Senguji’s own ideas. Where he isn’t wrong is that science is about bettering mankind, which is done through the development of technology. Once we learned how to live long lives, we set about ways to make those lives more efficient and pleasant.

pp98

He believes his “transition” to a timeless artificial body is just the next natural step in the human struggle to become immortal; to become the very god who expelled us from paradise. Like Akane’s decision to continue diving into the swamp, his choice had a cost—that of his body—but he subscribed to Plato’s thinking that the body was but a prison. With his new mechanical body he’s free to pursue his mind’s full potential, which seems to consist of hunting people down with a rifle. To each their own, huh?

pp99

Makishima is right there beside him, all charisma and validation; literally playing with the edge of a razor; composing his latest symphony; providing Senguji with his next prey: Kogami. For the first time, the good guys are the direct target of the bad guy, though I’m confident this is nothing but a test by Makishima. If Kogami can’t pass it, he wasn’t worth fussing over. As for how Akane fits into all this when Makishima becomes aware of her, well…We’ll see just how tough and resilient her psyche really is!

9_brav

Sidonia no Kishi – 08

sido81

The Gauna may be frightening and powerful and immensely creepy, but they’re still life forms, which has us wondering what their beef with humanity is. Do they act out of pure instinct, or reason? When they make a placenta clone of Shizuka who giggles and reports each time she takes out a Gardes frame, are they fucking with them, or is the perceived sadism mere coincidence?

sido82

I could fill a review with what I don’t know about the Gauna, and another with questions, but you know what? I kinda like not knowing. The Cylons in the re-booted Battlestar Galactica were a classic example of the age-old problem with learning way too much about the “Bad Guys”: they get less scary. Right now, the Gauna still frighten me, and that’s the way it should be in a show where two of them are enough to cripple Sidonia if they find their way inside.

sido83

On the other hand, the more I learn about the “Good Guys”, the more I can connect and care about them surviving. We learn a great deal more about Sidonia’s history through flashbacks. The first half of the episode reinforces why we should fear the Gauna; the second half shows us the people who shaped the present Nagate and Izana inhabit.

sido84

Some of those shapers are still around, like Kobayashi, Lala, and Izana’s “grandmother” Yure; others, like Nagate’s “grandfather”, Saitou Hiroki, aren’t. The four were among less than 450 colonists to survive the Gauna slaughter a century ago. They all danced on the razor’s edge of oblivion that day; to avoid falling off, they had to turn to creative genetics.

sido85

Immortals were forbidden from procreating, but when an aged Hiroki, who had been Sidonia’s ace, returned after being lost for eighty years, Kobayashi broke the rules, collaborating with Yure to clone him. After a kick-ass sword fight with bows and arrows (!), Saitou fled to the bowels of Sidonia, where he raised and trained Nagate—immortal from birth—all by himself.

sido86

And that’s pretty much where we stand today: Nagate is a threat to the old guard, tolerated only because of Kobayashi’s influence and because she repeatedly sends him out on ridiculously dangerous sorties. But he’s also the hope of humanity, someone you imagine will blow by Kunato (who didn’t look so good this week) to become Sidonia’s new ace.

sido87

He didn’t get to face off against “Hawk Moth” (what they’re calling the Gauna-Shizuka), this week, and he doesn’t seem quite ready to do so, but I feel like that battle is coming sooner or later. In the meantime, Sidonia’s eggheads have a creepy placenta clone of his would-be girlfriend. Is she a Gauna instrument of communication? An insidious weapon? A biological by-product? As I said: I hope we don’t learn too much.

8_brav

Akuma no Riddle – 07

akuma71

What is it you can never catch up to? Again, “death” seems an appropriate answer, since to catch up with something means outrunning it, and there’s no outrunning death…unless you have Highlander Syndrome, which is like Dorian Gray’s condition without the picture.

akuma72

This week’s assassin, Shutou Suzu, has it, so she’s always ahead of death. But immortality has a cost: she’s “stuck” at such a young age, the man she loved grew old and left her behind, and died. At this point, his grandchildren may have died of old age too. She’s forgotten exactly how old she is.

akuma73

This gives Suzu the most fascinating background so far. Her reward if she kills Haru is also unique: to be allowed to age normally and die. Mind you, she’s not suicidal; she merely wants the ability to grow old at the same speed as everyone else, which means she still has her whole life ahead of her.

akuma74

Her manner of “assassinating” Haru is also novel: rather than slug it out with Tokaku (and, if we’re honest, Haru herself, who’s no slouch) in a physical fight, she challenges them to a battle of wits instead. The bomb collar on a timer is very apropos; when the clock runs out on Haru, it will finally start back up again for Suzu.

akuma75

This being Akuma no Riddle, riddles provide clues as to the whereabouts of the four playing cards containing the numbers of the code that will disarm the bomb. The cards are scattered about the school’s…er…water park, making this ostensibly a pool episode, but it doesn’t make a big deal of it.

akuma76

Strangely enough, Haru’s life is really saved thanks to Mizorogi-sensei, who crashes the party to wish Suzu a happy birthday (having read her DOB on her dossier). That, combined with Suzu mentioning her true love was only a day younger than her originally, gives Tokaku the fourth an final number. That’s after the card was lost when Haru used it to save Tokaku from a watery grave, during which they share their first kiss.

8_brav

Pupa – 05

pupa5

If the standard 20-odd-minute anime episode is akin to a pint of beer, that makes Pupa a shot of hard liquor: short, potent, and unforgiving. This one stung more than others because it told the tale of Yume’s birth from her mother Sachiko (Noto Mamiko), who inherently knew she was a monster while she was still in the womb, and tried and failed to abort her.

We’re pretty sure this is the first time we’ve heard abortion mentioned so openly in an episode of anime, but Pupa was far from finished. Baby Yume was born with a full set of teeth and a knowing stare that scared the shit out of her mother, who tried desperately to keep her son Utsutsu away from her; obviously, we know that she failed. Another first? infanticide by utility knife, albeit a failed one owing to Yume’s immortality.

Finally, we see baby Yume scarfing down a bird. So wrong. Faced with this unkillable devil child that now has Utsutsu’s sympathy and trust, Sachiko has a psychotic break, and in the hospital, insists her husband beat her more so she can “feel reality.” Jesus. After this latest stinging, burning, traumatic shot, Pupa’s brevity is starting to make sense: any longer than it is would likely be too much to bear.


Rating: 6 (Good)

 

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 03

sunday31

Stars above, that was one hell of an opening arc. We sorely regret not picking up this series last Summer, as we ended up watching several inferior shows. An inferior show, by the way, might’ve had the entire twelve episodes be about Ai solving the mystery of the village. Sunday Without God gets the job done in just over an hour’s worth of episodes, but what a just over an hour!

In this third episode, we learn what drives Hampnie (the search for his lover Hana), that he’s a little ridiculous in his fighting style (using grenades in suicide attacks), has “fans” among the more colorful half-dead underbelly (all of whom wouldn’t look out of place in Alice in Wonderland). We also learn he wants to die, but later find out not just to die, but to die happy, with many mourners and few regrets. When the whimsical baddies kidnap and torture him, Ai receives the aid of Yuri and Scar, who seem to have been helpfully shadowing her and Hampnie all along.

It’s around now when all of the pieces fall into place for Ai: both that the “heaven” her mother created was a peaceful haven of walking dead who stayed alive for her sake, and that Hampnie really is her real father, and someone she must save, not only from the baddies, but from his own self-loathing caricature of himself as an “immortal monster.”

sunday32

She just happens to resolve to do this whilst clutching her wet-from-the-river underwear, another unexpected but wry infusion of comedy to cut through the drama without lessening it, something this show has a penchant for.

Hampnie’s rescue is fantastic, with Ai, Yuri and Scar crashing the baddies’ party, unironically filling the dark barn with a wash of pure light. Now that Ai’s seen the light and knows the truth, she tells it to Hampnie, who can’t help but believe her after dismissing her as an airheaded goof earlier. We get some nifty visual poetry as the rescuers battle the baddies, and then something happens: just when he learns he has a daughter and doesn’t want to die anymore…he does.

Ai Astin then has one bittersweet, love-filled day—just one—with her postmortem father (whose real name is Kizuna Astin), before reluctantly letting him go via burial. Man, this kid grows up fast. Her parents and the villagers may be gone, but she’s far from alone: she has whole world to save, and new friends to help her save it, from foes we presume will be tougher than this week’s pushover gang.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 02

sunday21

Pardon our use of such a tired term, but there was so much win in this episode. It put poor Ai through more hell as we learn along with her the harsh truths of the world from the immortal but not infallible Hampnie. Hampnie is initially so cold and cruel to her not because he bears her personal malice (as the hunter Yuri bears him), but because he doesn’t think she can cut it in the real world, which is always malicious and preys on the ignorance.

We could do with less of Hampnie slugging Ai in the face, but we can’t deny he knows more about what’s out there than Ai, and he may well be right in a lot of what he says to dissuade Ai from pursuing a life of gravedigging, even if he was wrong about her not being one; that was a great moment when Scar tells him Ai did a bang-up job. And for all of the dark philosophizing, there’s still a lighter element of comedy weaved into the pair’s interactions.

sunday22

There’s a great chemistry between the two “messed-up” beings: the gravedigger with emotions born three years after it supposedly wasn’t possible, naive but learning fast; and an immortal albino who has been hardened by his life. Ai wants to help the living wherever they may be; Hampnie tells her it won’t be that simple. People like Yuri cling to their dead loved ones, who eventually become twisted into zombies. Not everything is black and white, but some black does exist.

That brings us to the 47 villagers. He said what was going on there is a mystery Ai herself must solve, but it seems logical to us that the village was already dead when he got there. He destroyed their bodies to prevent them from becoming zombies. Ai didn’t know they were dead, but clung to them all the same; had Hampnie not showed up they might’ve eventually turned on her. In any case, past gun-pointing aside, we’re excited by the prospects for Ai leaving the cocoon and finding her place in the world. She has a lot to learn from Hampnie and others, but we reckon they have a lot to learn from her too.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kyoukai no Kanata – 10

kyou101

Akihito wakes up in bed to find Mirai has been nursing him back to health. However, as the sun sets, Mirai tells him he’s only dreaming, and that the real Mirai vanished when she drew Beyond the Boundary out of Akihito, its host. When he wakes up, only Mirai’s glasses remain. A series of flashbacks show how Mirai originally came to town at the behest of Nase Izumi to defeat Beyond the Boundary, and charts her progress across six months. When the Calm comes, Izumi tells her she can defeat Beyond the Boundary without killing Akihito, but it will probably cost her own life. Mirai remains trapped within Beyond the Boundary, heading towards its core.

First of all, WHOA. What a topsy-turvy, twisting, undulating, pulsing, moving ride this episode was. Secondly, we’ll be upfront: nothing we cyber-scrawl across these digi-pages will do what we just watched full justice, we can only try our humble best. Thirdly, we thought this was Kyoukai no Kanata’s most powerful episode, thus necessitating the 10 rating to the point we initially considered it worthy of a 10 rating. One contributing factor to our ebullient praise is the episode’s vast scope, traversing the past, present and future. It took us back to things we weren’t privy too, changing our preconceptions about a great many things, most importantly, the fact that the youmu half of Kanbara Akihito is Beyond the Boundary (BtB) itself.

kyouk102

Izumi is still using Mirai, but she has little choice: believing BtB to be a threat to the entire world. As we watch these flashbacks with Mirai, her behavior in the earlier episodes all makes sense now: she was brought in to eliminate a threat that just happened to come in a nice-guy package, and warned repeatedly to keep her distance. Her early skirmishes with him aren’t just practice; she was honestly trying to dispatch him from the start. But events transpired, she came to know Akihito’s human side, and eventually fell in love, to the point she would sacrifice herself without hesitation—literally giving every last drop of her blood—to save him. Of course, Akihito is all too willing to do the same for Mirai.

From the start of the episode, we were a bit bemused by how “back-to-normal” things looked, and yet we went along with it right up to the moment Mirai said he was still unconscious. The real Mirai, meanwhile, is within BtB, and a part of us thinks maybe he’s still in there too, waking from one dream into another. What if the two of them are in BtB, on different levels (indicated by the different seasons)? Perhaps not, but it’s clear that Mirai simply letting BtB consume her body did not defeat it; and the hard work of defeating it has jst begun. And wherever Akihito is, he’s not going to let Mirai sacrifice herself for his sake. How do they save each other…without either of them dying?

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Obsevations:

  • Mirai’s avant-garde interpretation of omelette rice looked pretty good to us.
  • Early evidence Akihito is dreaming: Mitsuki in a bikini and sunglasses.
  • Mirai takes the initiative in her and Akihito’s first kiss, but alas, she’s merely and echo and they’re in a dream. These two, we’re tellin’ ya…
  • The glasses Mirai took off before stabbing him are sitting on the chair beside his bed. One could interpret this as a sign he’s back in the real world.
  • Izumi’s true true intentions remain murky. Did she think Mirai could really defeat BtB without killing Akihito, or was there some reason she wanted Mirai and BtB to merge?

Very Stray Observation:

This may be a stretch, but we heard Purity Ring’s “Fineshrine” on Pandora earlier today (for the first time) and also watched the music video. We were amused (and a little freaked out) by all the visual/thematic similarities to this episode:

  • Heavily-bandaged guy in bed being tended to by girl? Check.
  • Faucet drip? Check.
  • Girl going ‘beyond a boundary” to another reality? Check.
  • Magic blood imagery? Check.
  • Guy waking from a dream to find girl gone? Check.
  • Reversal of fates at the end (guy safe, girl now in peril)? Check.

Kyousougiga – 05

kyou5

In the past, a young Myoue watches his house burning, lamenting his parents, and commits seppuku, but Myoue Shounin find him and brings him home as his son, later passing the care of the temple to him. In the present, Myoue waits by the station for his parents to arrive; Kurama compares him to Hachiko. A frustrated Myoue lashes out at Koto, but after spending a night alone, finds her at the station. They take a scooter trip to the fields outside the city, where Myoue tells Koto the rabbit she’s looking for is probably his (adoptive) mom, and asks Koto to kill him when they find her.

The Kyousougiga OVAs that ran last year were only brief tastes of what was to come, but they were enticing ones. Even a year and several dozen series since we last watched the fourth, the gorgeous environs at the end of Myoue and Koto’s scooter ride remain clear in our minds. This week represents the last of the material the OVAs previewed, in which we delve into Myoue’s story, which proves more complex than either of his non-human siblings. In fact, after keeping him on the margins for the previous four episodes, this episode establishes him as the unequivocal heart of the entire show. Everything revolves around him, and he’s the product of his father saving him from that fire. It’s not crystal clear whether Myoue Shounin saved ‘Lil Myoue’s life back then, or if he somehow resurrected him (that was a lot of blood), but we know Myoue would surely have died without Shounin, hence no show.

Myoue got a new life, new parents, a new family, and a new home; the parents left, and he’s lived in Mirror Kyoto for a very very long time ever since, waiting for them to return. We see Myoue’s increasing fatigue with his unending life, and when Koto arrives with the “beginning and end” his father promised before leaving, he apparently believe’s Koto’s presence to be the beginning of his end. They’ll find the rabbit – his mother – and then he’ll be released of his immortal burden, having lived a full and wonderful life—unlike that suicidal boy surrounded by flame. Up to this point the world was so wondrous and fun and peaceful that it never occurred to us Myoue would be ready to move on to…whatever’s next, but there it is. The episode closes before we can see Koto’s reaction to his asking her to kill him, but we wouldn’t be surprised if she wasn’t okay with it.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Next Week: A live-action tour of the temple that inspired the series. So lifelike!