Vinland Saga – 10 – Dawn in the Age of Twilight

Vinland Saga has become an exercise in guarded patience, centered around the question of how long Thorfinn going to pursue revenge, and when he’s going to wake up and live his own damn life. Maybe that’s what he thinks he’s doing, and his father, both in life and in his dreams, is just wrong that there’s a better path than the one he’s on.

Maybe Thorfinn is simply caught in the inertia of the events surrounding him, and would simply rather put effort in what he sees as a sure thing—one day cutting Askeladd’s throat—than the uncertainty of returning to a life of peace with his mother and sister. After all, Thors tried to live that life, and failed when his past caught up to him.

Whether consciously or not, Thorfinn is drawing nearer to ending up just like his old man: strong and distinguished, but in too deep to ever get out. But he’s still young, and as many lives as he’s taken, it probably doesn’t come close to the number his father took. There is still plenty of time to turn his life around into something worthwhile.

His dreams start as an idyllic life that never was with his family in the endless, rolling, fertile hills that look a lot like England (or possibly Vinland). They end with the skies darkening, his village attacked, and his father run through with arrows. Will Thorfinn ever take that dream to mean stop wasting your life chasing revenge and return to his family?

Maybe, maybe not. As Vinland Saga reaches its midpoint, I’ve found Thorfinn’s quest for revenge misguided and increasingly not that interesting. I’d like to know whether it’s going to reach a point where he either finally manages to kill Askeladd and moves on to something else, or walks away from that quest entirely.

But the cloud of uncertainty persists without any regard for my wishes, and in the meantime, the Danish war with England seems to be winding down. Askeladd’s men have been mopping up lesser villages as the main army has headed north to rest. Canute has failed to do anything with his 4,000 men in London, preferring to pray to Jesus in his tent.

Askeladd’s men are so restless, the smallest insults between them become pointless fights to the death. Having awakened from his beautiful, terrible dream before dawn, Thorfinn stays above the encampment, among Roman ruins, where Askeladd finds him.


It’s there where Askeladd attempts small talk but is rebuked by Thorfinn, asserting “they’re not friends” and that he hasn’t given up his goal of slitting his throat. Askeladd likes Thorfinn’s look, but still isn’t scared. He knows time isn’t on his side, and that his would-be killer will continue to grow stronger as he grows older and weaker.

But by that same token, if the Christians are to be believed, Judgment Day and the end of everyone and everything on earth, could be upon them in as few as twenty years (an event Thorfinn likens to Ragnarok). Considering the Romans were a far more advanced society than the Saxons who defeated them (not to mention the Vikings on the cusp of defeating the Saxons), it certainly seems like humans have had their time in the sun, and now live in an age of twilight.

And yet, the sun still rises just as it always has, bathing the land in light and possibility. With the dawn comes a rider from London, who reports that Canutes forces were routed by the English led by Thorkell, who’d grown impatient waiting on the bridge and is marching his men north to meet the main Danish army.

The war is not over as long as Thorkell is with the English, while Askeladd sees the potential for great riches if he and his men rescue Prince Canute. Not wanting to share the glory or spoils of such a victory, he kills the messenger, and will make do with what he has. He fires his men up, and Thorfinn seems poised to continue following him.

If the end is coming for all, Askeladd will be satisfied with “going out with a bang.” But as we know, the world wouldn’t end in twenty years, meaning final blazes of glory are woefully premature, especially for someone like Thorfinn, who still has a mother and sister to protect, and a family and home of his own to build. With so many dawns he has yet to watch rise above the horizon, it would be a shame to descend into night now.

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Vinland Saga – 09 – London Bridge is NOT Falling Down

Turns out that huge warrior leading the defence of London from its famous bridge is not even an Englishman, but a Norse giant named Thorkell. King Sweyn’s armies will make little progress until he’s out of the picture, so Askeladd sends Thorfinn to work out some of his frustration. Thorfinn makes him promise for yet another duel in exchange for Thorkell’s head.

Floki and the Jomsvikings beseech Thorkell to abandon his contract with the English and re-join the Danish army, and he’ll be paid double. But like Askeladd’s right hand man Bjorn, it’s not about themoney. Unlike Bjorn, who likes easy wins, Thorkell doesn’t want to fight the English; they’re too weak. He’d much rather fight the tougher Vikings.

As the Vikings continue their siege of the Thames, Thorkell makes any ship or soldier who comes too close regret it, sending a hail of arrows from his archers, or just heaving a massive boulder or tree trunk into the Viking ships, sinking them. He’s a bit superhuman, but heck, so are a lot of Vikings, chief(tan) among them the late Thors and his giant oar.

When Thorfinn leaps onto the bridge to face Thorkell, it’s immediately apparent the latter has a huge advantage in size and strength, and isn’t that much slower. One wonders if it would have been better for Askeladd to send Bjorn instead—preferably on his berserker mushrooms. Then again, I’m sure Askeladd values Bjorn far more than Thorfinn.

Thorfinn hangs in there about as long as you’d expect, considering the moment Thorkell gets a grip on any one of his arms or legs, it’s basically game over. Thorkell blocks Thorfinn’s dagger with his hand, then slams him back and forth against the bridge like a ragdoll.

To Thorkell’s surprise and delight, Thorfinn hasn’t lost any of his will to fight, and when Kell’s guard is down Finn claims two of the fingers from his stabbed hand before plunging into the Thames. Thorkell lets him go, hoping for another fun fight in the future.

It is clear King Sweyn bit off more than he could chew, and isn’t going to get the quick victory he wanted, so he redirects the bulk of his armies to Wessex in the west, where they’ll hopefully have more luck. He leaves the continued siege of London, and just 4,000 men, to his son Prince Canute, despite protests from Ragnar, whom the king blames for making the lad “faint of heart.”

Whether Canute succeeds in London will probably determine whether he succeeds to the throne, but as we haven’t heard a word from him, who knows how that’ll go. Perhaps at some point he’ll get some lines and we can see what kind of person and warrior he is beyond what others say about him.

As for Thorfinn, he’s washed down the river westward and meets back up with Askeladd’s crew, now headed to Wessex. After popping his dislocated shoulder back in, he joins the march, remembering the words of the “madman” Thorkell talking about how fun fighting is. But it’s not fun for Thorfinn. It never was, and probably never will be.

Vinland Saga – 08 – Bound by Past and Pride

Thankfully there are no goofy-looking generals or ships overladen with treasure falling down waterfalls without damage this week, as Askeladd’s crew returns home to the Jutland peninsula and settle down for the winter. When they arrive, there are boys eager to join the crew to replace those who died in battle, and girls eager to give Askeladd a warm welcome—and get some pretty jewelry in return.

These lands are owned by the feudal Lord Gorm, who micromanages every quarter-piece of silver it will cost for Askeladd and his men to live, eat, and drink on those lands. Askeladd is rolling in dough, so that’s not a problem. He also meets Gorm’s slave Hordaland, named after her homeland in Norway. Gorm blames her noble upbringing for her ineptness as a servant, but Askeladd thinks he’s just not using her the right way.

Oh yeah, there’s also that tiny little matter of the duel between Askeladd and Thorfinn; the time has finally come. Now that he’s older and harder, a couple women actually take notice of Thorfinn’s mild cuteness, though he once again needs a good barber…and probably a bath too.

Like last time, Askeladd treats the start of the duel rather casually, but Thorfinn immediately demonstrates that if he lets his guard down too much. He’s killed many people and gotten a lot of training and battle experience since their last duel, and it’s on full display in his less erratic, more deliberate and thoughtful fighting style.

However, in those same years Finn has gotten older and better, Askeladd is still as good as he’s ever been at using not just whoever but whatever he has to win, and he also happens to know exactly how to push Thorfinn’s buttons.

He pretends not to remember Thors’ name or whether he actually killed him, with a condescending and disrespectful tone that causes Finn to quickly lose his temper and make an ill-advised charge that Askeladd is all too ready for.

Since no one said anything about a fight to the death, and surely Askeladd has no interest in taking the life of one of his best scouts, he simply knocks him out after neutralizing him with a stunning move. Thorfinn may have become a better warrior, but he’s still no match for his captain.

That night at a huge feast, one of those eager boys sidles up to Askeladd seeking a job, and asks his possibly future captain why he risks keeping someone like Thorfinn around when he could easily kill him in his sleep? Askeladd is categorical: Finn would never do that. He is a warrior, like his father, and would never accept victory devoid of honor.

Askeladd can sleep soundly because Finn is held back by the twin binds of past and pride. He also can’t help but laugh as he watches Lord Gorm, a slave to money, beating Hordaland, not just a literal slave but a slave to her past and pride, being a former noble who had no say in her present situation.

As Thorfinn sulks aboard his father’s ship, Thors comes to him in a vision, and upon placing his hand on his son’s head, Finn turns back into a boy and bursts into tears. Thors knows nothing he can say can stop his son from seeking revenge, but reminds him again that no one has any enemies, and the most honorable warrior has no need for a sword.

When Hordaland surprises Thorfinn with some dinner, we finally get to hear how she feels about her situation, rather than just assume from how she acts around Lord Gorm. She believes, rightly so, that she and Finn aren’t that different: both are where they are because they have nowhere else to be. In her case, she believes even if she ran away and kept running, she’d just end up someplace just like Gorm’s lands.

As the snow starts to pick up, Finn tells her about Vinland, and in doing so attempts to give her some hope that it does matter whether or not you run and/or fight (Horda would never kill, and probably doesn’t want to start, but she can still run if she chooses to). True to Thors’ words of wisdom, both Finn and Horda have no real enemies—only their own self-imposed binds.

In the August of the next year (1013), King Sweyn’s armies mount a huge invasion of England, burning, pillaging, and raping their way all the way to London…where their momentum is suddenly halted by a stout defense, including someone who looks like Askeladd’s wilder English brother. Sweyn also gives his son Prince Canute a chance at valor, who along with his other son Harald, are candidates for succeeding him.

While it’s exciting to see an early London come into the picture and other big-world developments, what made this episode was the duel (and how it was won) and its more intimate moments: those between Askeladd and Gorm, Askeladd and the wannabe fighter, and between Thorfinn and Hordaland. Vinland Saga has some shiny toys to toss around, but those smaller human interactions pack a far meatier emotional punch.

Goblin Slayer – 11 – A Home Under Siege…Again

Note: This was originally posted under the erroneous episode number 12; it is actually episode 11.

Goblin Slayer has never been one to use many words. As Cow Girl prepares breakfast, he has only one for her: “Run.” The goblins whose prints he discovdered at the boundary of the farm are too numerous in number for him to take on alone in an open field. He suspects they’re led by a shrewed Goblin Lord, and will likely have Hobs among its forces.

But Cow Girl isn’t running; not again. The farm is her home, and if it’s doomed to be destroyed, so is she. The Slayer can’t change her mind, so he tells her he’ll figure something out. That means going to the guild, helm-in-hand (figuratively), and asking for volunteers to help him slay goblins. At first, they don’t take it seriously. Then, the Lancer tells him they’re adventurers in a guild which means, post a quest and offer a reward.

The Slayer offers everything he has and everything he is, all but his life itself, which he promised Cow Girl’s father he wouldn’t give up lest his daughter cry again. Once the elite adventuers can tell how serious he is, they name the price of a drink or two down the road. The Guild Girl offers a gold piece for every goblin slain, and all of a sudden the rank-and-file adventurers are interested too.

Bit by bit, virtually the entire guild agrees to assist the Slayer, including the Priestess and his party who now all consider him a close friend. Those who either never interacted with him or found him annoying for his singlemindedness towards goblins, all agree the guild would be lonely without him.

The Goblin Lord’s army is no joke, but with so many skilled adventerers of various skill sets now committed to his side, Slayer can really open up the playbook and utilize a strategy that will exploit the strengths of his assets and the weaknesses of the enemy.

He knows, for instance, the goblin vanguard would arrive with “meat shields”—wooden boards with captured women tied to them—and leaves it to the Dwarf Shaman and Mage to stupor and put them to sleep so the hostages can be rescued and taken out of harm’s way.

From there, the close-range warriors storm the goblin small fry, aided by archers from long range and magical boundaries to repel enemy arrows. When the goblin riders advance, the adventurers are ready with sharpened stakes.

Once the first waves fail, the Lord takes the gloves off and sends in his heavy hitters, goblin champions. But while the Slayer’s party had a big problem with one, the most experienced and powerful of adventurers are actually glad slightly more worthy foes have arrived, having spent their most recent adventures fighting enemies of their skill or above.

That just leaves the increasingly panicky Goblin Lord himself, who apparently isn’t as big or tough as his Hob underlings. While everyone else fights off his army, Goblin Slayer stalks him alone, his right eye glowing red indicating Limit Break Mode. With the close quarters of the woods resembling his preferred battleground of a cave, he should do fine.

If it weren’t for everyone agreeing to fight with him, he wouldn’t have this opportunity. And so someone who had been a loner, curiosity, and eyesore to much of the rest of the guild has evolved into their general in a glorious battle against the evil cruelty of the goblins.

Makeruna!! Aku no Gundan! – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: A young alien has decided to do something with his life so why not invading worlds? After being sent off by his mom at the space train station, and practicing yelling as the manual tells him to, he starts with the easiest-to-invade planet: Earth. It goes well, with near immediate take over… but he has no idea what to do with the 7,000,000,000 people he’s rounded up in the process.

The Verdict: MAnG is silly good fun at 4 minutes long. I would not describe it as good, or especially funny, but it has a charming sense of almost humor and nothing stood out as annoying.

Shuumatsu no Izetta – 09

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This episode’s opening act painted a rosy picture: with Germania not attacking, Izetta continues to build her image across the world by assisting the resistance movements of territories Germania has conquered, and the narrating Lotte is hoping the good times keep coming. Fine even tells Izetta a ceasefire could be in the making.

I didn’t buy this rosiness for a second, since it’s already been established that Berkman has Izetta’s number and has merely been biding his time for an assault, both the map and the crystal are in enemy hands, and even Muller AKA Sieg Reich simply isn’t giving off very trustworthy vibes.

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A reckoning, then, was inevitable, and it comes later in the episode after Izetta ends up on the wrong battlefront and must be quickly transported to the right one. There, the one tactical advantage Eylstadt has over Germania—the White Witch—is taken away, by Germania’s own White Witch, a clone of Izetta’s descendant, Sophie.

The path that led to her creation is hastily told, as Berkman learns of Division 9’s research and cloning methods, and Izetta’s blood is gradually used to “awaken” Sophie from the doll-like clone. Eylstadt’s own recklessness with Izetta’s personal security indirectly led to Berkman’s success.

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At first, Sophie tries to appeal to Izetta’s pride and duty as a witch, telling her what her own family told her: using her magical powers to help affect the outcome of war between non-magical countries is wrong.

But when Izetta insists she must fight for her archduchess and refuses to stand down, Sophie ditches the nice guy act right quick, turning on a dime into Izetta’s enemy, and the two duel in the sky as Germania’s superior military runs the Eylstadt forces roughshod.

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Sophie ends up nullifying Izetta’s magic at a crucial moment, causing her to crash, then for good measure, employs magic chain bondage to crush Izetta’s insides. She’s taken prisoner, photographed and filmed for pro-Germanian propaganda, which is likely to kill morale in Eylstadt as well as anywhere where people oppose Germania.

Now that their “nuke” isn’t unique anymore, or even a threat to Germania, they’re free to attack Eylstadt’s capital, even bombing Fine’s palace. But the lack of chivalry in the assault mirror’s Eylstadt’s own desperate but ultimately foul play: when they couldn’t win with conventional warfare they turned to magic.

They put all their eggs in that basket, and now that basket’s been crushed and burned. It’s not looking good at all for Fine, Izetta, or Eylstadt.

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Kuromukuro – 22

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With Kurobe Lab captured, its remaining staff brainwashed, and the Pivot Stone in Efidolg hands, the enemy halts its advance, allowing the good guys a measure of uneasy peace this week. Zell pays a visit to the Shirahane household to tell the story of how he met and befriended their husband and father Takehito.

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From the moment Zell jumps out of the shadows when Takehito tries to cut himself (to lure the “ogre” to his trap after many other baits failed), their entire interaction is pure gold. I love how unafraid Takehito is of Zell, and how Zell, while a little weirded out by this guy just runs with it, inviting him to his cave for some tasty boil-in-a-bag, showing him where he came from, and warning him of the Efidolg threat.

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Yukina’s father parted ways with Zell but got caught in a sudden snowstorm that claimed his life. Koharu would’ve just been a baby when this happened, but Yukina regrets calling her dad a liar, when he was right about everything. The “ogres” (or “oni”) that are a part of Japanese legend were actually ancient aliens.

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That night, as Yukishi says a prayer for Takehito, Muetta…wanders off, but not back to the Efidolg. She actually has no idea where she belongs anymore, only that it isn’t here. She can’t get the childhood memory of her homeworld out of her head, and the fact that memory may be fake doesn’t make it feel any less real or powerful.

Ken and Yukina go out to look for her, but the activated Pivot Stone lowers the temperature of the vicinity significantly, causing premature snow. Yukina trips and falls into a snowdrift, but Koharu’s ferret finds her, runs back to Muetta, then leads her Lassie-style to Yukina.

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Once again proving she’s not evil, Muetta strips down and warms the freezing Yukina up with her own body heat, causing Yukina to wake up very confused, but then very grateful for saving her life (and I’ll just say Ken really dropped the ball leaving Yukina behind without making sure she got back home safely.) When Muetta breaks down into tears at her frustration of not knowing where to go or what to do, Yukina gives her the only thing she can: a comforting hug and her belief that everything will be fine.

Like everyone else in this episode (who hasn’t been brainwashed), all Muetta and Yukina can really do is keep on surviving. Muetta notes that the premature Winter is the effect of the Pivot Stone, which will soon open a “star path” for the main Efidolg invasion force—if it isn’t open already. I simply don’t see how anyone survives if that force reaches Earth, so if anyone has an idea how to stop it and send the Efidolgs packing, now’s the time.

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Kuromukuro – 21

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Kuromukuro continues to blast through barriers it once held back from, building the diligent, detailed preparation of its first half. The care it took building its world, its technology, its characters and their roles relationships is all paying off.

There’s something irresistibly striking and engrossing about having witnessed the building of such a beautiful, intricate work, and then, in its 21st episode, it pins its ears back and smashes it all to bits without mercy.

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Ken saved Yukina, sure, but he was only able to thanks to Muetta. But that doesn’t change the fact that she’s The Enemy, and when they land, she’s treated as such despite Ken’s protestations. Then the “Ogre” Zell shows up, and Ken rushes at him reflexively, just as a fiery samurai who’s come face to face with his nemesis would be expected to.

But Zell does something wonderfully subversive: he presupposes that Ken is simply mistaken about him being the enemy, dismissing over four centuries of hatred and mistrust in a matter of words. In reality, Zell is also the reason Ken was able to save Yukina…not to mention the primary reason all his organs are still internal.

Zell isn’t done dispensing wisdom. He finally presents himself to the UN forces, and also solves the mystery of Muetta: she isn’t the original Yukihime, but a clone based on her genetic code, implanted with false memories a different personality…and the voice of Toyosaki Aki. This revelation seems to do a number of Muetta, and Yukina can’t help but feel for the “poor woman.”

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Unfortunately, these truths are the least of everyone’s problems. The most would be floating high above them, descending fast. The Lab and the surrounding town do their best to prepare and make a stand, but there can be no preparation, or victory, for what is coming, and arrives earlier than expected.

Efidolg mechas rain down from the heavens while the mothership looms menacingly. The three GAUS piloted by Tom, Shenmei, and Sebastian take a few foes out, but once the elite pilots show up in their fancier suits, the window on how long they can hold out significantly narrows.

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Ken, Yukina, Zell, and the Kuromukuro are occupied with Yorba, and Muetta is in custody, so her glongur stands by uselessly until knocked into the ocean by a raging Mirasa.

Then the mothership lands, dwarfing, then destroying the massive yet elegant arched bridge across the river, then literally driving stakes taller than mountains into the earth to form a perimeter shield that traps most if not all the evacuees in.

In every way, all hell is breaking loose, and it’s all the earthlings can do to keep from getting killed by the rubble of their own destroyed structures, to say nothing of surviving wave after wave of enemy mechas. The chaos and mounting hopelessness is palpable, and pulls you in.

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When Shenmei’s GAUS-3’s arm is ripped off, it lands on the Humvee that was transporting Muetta, flipping it upside down and trapping her in. Sophie, who witnessed the collision, rushes to free Muetta, and the gang composed of Yukina’s uncle, sister, and classmates stops to assist her.

Hopefully the altruism of these earthlings is not lost on her, for if there’s going to be any kind of counterattack or rather resistance to what’s shaping up to be a very successful Efidolg invasion, they’re going to need Muetta.

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That’s doubly true considering once the cactus-like personnel-sized mechas are sent in, firing tiny implants that go in the ears of earthlings and causes instant brainwashing and submission to the Efidolg. They are literally poaching all the talent.

Poor Rita saves her console-mate Beth from getting nabbed by a mecha, but she falls under their spell, as do countless other UN staff, soldiers, and townsfolk. Talk about complete and total domination.

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Shenmei’s GAUS is destroyed, forcing her to bail out with a super-cool inflatable escape pod, but such a feature doesn’t seem to be equipped on Sebastian’s GAUS. Either that, or he simply didn’t have time to eject when tackling Mirasa to the ground and blowing the two of them up when she tried to go after the bus carrying Muetta, Sophie and the other civvies.

Seb dies an Apparent Honorable Heroic Death, sacrificing himself to save them, but Sophie is crushed (emotionally, not literally). Ken, Yukina, and Zell grab Tom and retreat, completing an utter defeat I knew was coming but simply wasn’t prepared for how far it would go, so fast. So many of Kuromukuro’s safety nets are gone now.

The lab is toast, most of its staff dead or “turned”, the remaining heroes scattered with little more than their wits, and the Efidolg are now in possession of the final pivot stones. Assuming this is fairly close to Rock Bottom for our heroes’ fortunes, I simply thank goodness there’s five episodes left; this is a hole out of which it’s going to take some time to dig. And I can’t wait to see if, when, and how they pull it off.

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Macross Delta – 14

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When Walkure, Delta, and Chaos retreated from Ragna, they did so with a ragtag fleet led by the reliable Macross Elysion, but lagging behind it is the Island Ship, a 30-year-old relic that didn’t get to properly warmed up and is now experiencing cascade power failure.

On top of air, food, and weapon shortages there are thousands of refugees who want to get back home ASAP, several of which wonder why they left in the first place.

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Makina and Reina formulate a plan to shore up the Island Ship’s systems, but they have to accelerate their plans when an energy blow-out causes a hull breach right near where Hayate, Mirage and Freyja are hanging out.

For a second, I thought things would go from bad to worse, but Freyja has always been pretty lucky, and so is not sucked out into space when she’s separated from the other two by an emergency bulkhead.

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While the plan to restore the ship unfolds, Walkure takes an impromptu stage to keep the refugees calm, hopeful, and entertained. Things get a little silly when Hayate and Mirage inexplicably strip down to their skivvies, ostensibly to get a better grip on a crucial power conduit.

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Things get a little sillier (and worrying for Freyja, who can kinda hear what’s going on in fits and spurts but comes to the wrong conclusion) when Mirage has to embrace Hayate tightly like a lover in order to turn the dang valve over, and when the power, gravity, and lights come back on, they’re literally left hanging from that valve, looking to everyone watching like they’d just been up to something untoward.

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With Elysion successfully docked and the Island Ship working more or less normally again, our heroes’ have cleared their first post-defeat hurdle: stay alive. Chaos also gains new sponsors (the old ones being occupied) in mining corporations who hire them to take the Globular Cluster back.

They’re still way outgunned, but at least they don’t have to worry about going broke, and they’ve staved off a more serious crisis with the refugees. Meanwhile, a power struggles seems to be afoot, with Keith in an apparent coma, Heinz poised to succeed his dead father, and Roid believing he possesses Gramia’s “will.”

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Macross Delta – 13

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In case we forgot, Macross Delta reminded us it can present an epic climactic air-and-space battle, augmented with the dualling, increasingly powerful songs from Prince Heinz and Walkure. But before the aerial battle down on Ragna, both Johnson and Gramia play a little game of chess with their respective armadas, and the Sigur Valens’ stereo system gets knocked out. Alpha, Beta, and Gamma Squadrons engage the Valens, but Hayate, Mirage and Delta go after the Aerial Knights led by Keith.

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Delta also has to contend with NUNS, which considers their gambit a failure and detonates a nuke-type reaction bomb in the Protoculture Ruins, causing a massive explosion that threatens to consume Delta Squadron. Hayate manages to escape the blast radius, but his plane is wrecked and he has to eject. Freyja steps down from the stage to check on Hayate’s status, but it’s Mirage who rescues him, and gets a warm, unexpected hug in return.

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Not long after that, the ruins reappear in a different form, and connect with the Windermeran flagship, enabling Heinz to pipe his song out to the masses of Ragna, resulting in instant Var contamination. Johnson orders all units to pick up as many civilians as they can and retreat from Ragna, meaning for all intents and purposes the Windermerans have won.

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Walkure fights to counter Heinz’s song, but Heinz risks his life to boost his output, and the Windermerans take a shot that shatters Walkure’s stage shield, injuring Mikumo (who shilds Freyja from harm, showing she’s not all about herself). The Valens fires a huge cannon to finish the Island ship, but Johnson swoops in just in time to absorb the hit before plunging into the sea in one of the many fist-pumping moments in the episode. With that, Freyja realizes her song simply must reach Hayate at all costs, so she jumps off the ship and starts flying, using her rune and her voice to ride the wind.

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Hayate gets his groove back, is able to read Keith’s moves, and actually seems to best him, While Mirage rescues Freyja from a watery grave. Both Freyja and Mirage then risked their lives to keep Hayate—and their longstanding flames—alive for Part Two. Walkure joins Freyja’s extended arrangement of the OP, the Elysion emerges from the waves and takes a shot at the Valens, and Keith takes a nosedive towards the ruins (it’s unlikely he’s dead though). Walkure, Delta, and the Ragnan evacuees escape Ragna, now a Windermere-held world like the others, and Gramia dies shortly thereafter.

Lord Roid is put in charge and announces the completion of the Starwind Sector. But they’ve surely only won this latest battle. As long as Walkure have a voice and the Deltas have their planes, the war isn’t over yet. Until next season.

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Macross Delta – 12

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To quote Ron Burgundy, of all people: “Boy, that escalated quickly.” I thought we were being set up for a huge battle in Al Shahal, but Heinz’s song is so powerful, Al Shahal falls in fifteen minutes, putting a very large target on Ragna, the last world they haven’t annexed.

I like how off-guard Walkure and Delta Platoon are by this news; it matched my own surprise quite nicely. I knew our heroes would be heading into battle very soon; I just assumed Al Shahal would last longer than fifteen minutes—shorter even than the running time of this episode.

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But you know what? I’m glad the stakes have so rapidly escalated. I like the mild sense of dread and disquiet everyone wears on their faces, and the desperation in all of the remaining forces amassing at Ragna for what could be their only shot at a serious counterattack. The only reason they have any time to prepare at all is because King Gramia won’t allow Heinz to sing again so soon; though Heinz says he’s ready to sing again at once.

While Heinz rests, Arad promotes Mirage to 1st Lieutenant and puts her in charge of Delta Platoon, while Keith continues to question Roid’s dedication while Roid worries that Heinz, Keith, and Gramia are all intent on burning out in a blaze of righteous glory…without any plans for the future of Windermere. As Roid puts it, a new wind must come to take the place of the old, just as Mirage must step into Messer’s place.

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Ernest Johnson is prominent this week, and not just because he’s the commander of the counterattack; he actually trained King Gramia when he was a lad (the king is 35, old for a Windermeran, but no one else). He knows how proud he is and how far he’ll go to preserve his people’s honor. Then a liason from NUNS arrives to inform Johnson that his forces are to destroy the Protoculture ruins on Ragna to prevent the Windies from taking control of the planet and the cluster.

This plan seems akin to releasing all the ghosts from their custom-built storage facility in the basement of a run-down firehouse in Ghostbusters (the original, not the upcoming film): a bad idea that could have unpredictable, possibly cataclysmic consequences. Put simply, the ruins are dug in too deep in Ragna, who knows what destroying them would do to the planet? Probably nothing good.

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When Lady M gets NUNs to agree not to destroy the ruins until after Johnson’s forces counterattack, I felt very relieved for the people of Ragna. Meanwhile, Walkure and Delta mentally prepare for the imminent battle of their lives. Hayate, Freyja, and Mirage all independently end up on the same flight deck, though Mirage hides while the other two talk, though I like how she doesn’t know why she’s hiding.

She catches a couple of tender nuggets between the couple about things like how far they’ve come together, the mutual respect they’ve developed, and their commitment to keep fighting for each other, their friends, and their freedom, but it’s not like they snog or anything. Even better, Mirage’s comms blow up, giving away her position, and rather than run off in a tizzy, Hayate has her stand her ground and encourages her as he and Freyja encouraged one another. All three intend to get through this, together.

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When the previously stationary Macross Elysion finally burbles to life and lifts off into orbit and fold space, it’s a pretty impressive and awe-inspiring moment: very much the ‘good-guy’ equivalent of the Windermeran flagship launch last week.

Then the Windermere fleet intercepts them, and we see how comparitively puny the Elysion is, and I got a lump in my throat. Okay, maybe this isn’t going to be as easy as giving the aggressive schoolyard bully a bloody nose…

In terms of raising stakes, building tension, putting us in the heads of its characters, and sheer adrenaline extraction, this episode of Delta put all the pieces of the previous eleven together and delivered a must-watch experience, even absent the actual battle. I hope the payoff matches the excitement of the setup.

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Macross Delta – 11

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Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance: the Five Stages of Grief. Macross Delta wsn’t going to cheapen Messer’s apparent death by bringing him back, so no one is really in denial.

Hayate, Freyja and Mirage are angry that they didn’t do everything they thought they could to prevent his death. Others still have more or less moved to acceptance, or at least the veneer of it, in the case of Kaname and Arad; keeping busy so the veneer doesn’t crack.

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Heck, even Lord Keith is angry about to loss of his wind-dancing rival, putting a blade to Bogue’s throat when he mocks the dead. It’s an interesting moment for Keith, who shares a moment on the balcony with Roid, reminding him of their promise to make their world strong again.

Clearly Keith is pretty miffed Messer had to die for that end, but will get over it, while Roid worries for Heinz because no one else (including Heinz) will. Hayate has to storm off when Arad brings up the necessary matter of re-filling Messer’s cockpit, while Freyja keeps getting up and running no matter how many times she faceplants in the mud.

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As everyone processes, the tech boffins sort out why Windermere is annexing planets with ruins: annexing them all (and they only have two to go) will allow them to exert mind control on all 8 billion inhabitants of the Globular Cluster (AKA Starwind Sector), bending everyone to their will.

To show he means business, the ailing king gets out of bed (possibly inspired by Hundred’s Karen) and leads the attack himself, overseeing the launch of the positively gargantuan, Final Fantasy-esque baroque flagship called the Sigur Valens, which was being hidden under a retractable mountain range.

It seems to me, if you have this much power, you’re probably set. But this is also about revenge. Revenge for that mysterious scar in Windermere; and perhaps also due to a powerful collective envy at the other races of the sector for their longevity. Windermere is committed to burning brightest, even if briefly.

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A fire burns on the beach, with the whole gang assembled, when Hayate arrives. They have a kind of wake for Messer there, during which they eat, drink, sing, and be merry. A model plane is constructed as a symbol of Messer, which in a Ragnian ceremony will be committed to the sea to become one of the endless jellyfish beneath the waves.

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The music during this scene is top notch – soulful, moving; especially when Mikumo finally shows up and starts singing, and the rest of Walkure joins in. They also read from Messer’s log, which is full of detailed critiques of his kohais.

Even though we didn’t see all that much of Messer, the outpouring of emotion here makes it clear that he was loved and appreciated, and will be hard to replace. That being said, I’m not sure Hayate is being very sensible when he assures Arad no replacement pilot is necessary.

The beach wake also kinda contradicts Arad’s comment about their being no time to mourn, as they had an entire evening to do so. However, that’s all they get, because not long after the sun rises on Ragna, the huge Windermere fleet arrives at Al Shahal—and they’re not their for R&R.

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Macross Delta – 04

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First some quick observations on our Windermeran boy prince songster: he’s the key to his people’s plans for galactic domination, he’s a pawn of his big brother Keith, he likely has misgivings about hurting people with his song, and the song hurts him; indeed, he may be running out of time, necessatating an acceleration of those plans.

On the other side of the galaxy, fellow Windermeran Freyja Wion and her friend Hayate are at a party welcoming them to Walkure and Delta Platoon, respectively, but neither are (yet) carrying the weight of his little highness, they’re kicking back and relaxing with their new family. Mikumo solitary, solemn audience with the stars is a stark contrast to the frivolity of the party; and in lighting and mood, a lot more like the prince’s milieu.

But the lighthearted fun, for both for our star idol and pilot and the show, has to hit a snag at some point: we need to start seeing some stakes and some danger if I’m going to become dramatically invested and take the show seriously (that is, as seriously as one can take a show in which a berserker syndrome is cured with song). This week provides that necessary snag.

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Mind you, there’s still a Nostalgia Corner, for those watching Delta because of all the Macross that came before. Not only does Freyja name-drop several musical personalities and groups from previous shows, they’re on her playlist and formed her inspiration.

Mind you, this mirrors the real life cyclical inspiration of the idols who got their start with Macross: no doubt Freyja’s Suzuki Minori was inspired by Ranka’s Nakajima Megumi, and so on.

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But however inspired Freyja is by her forebears, Mikumo informs her in no uncertain terms that if she can’t deliver the goods in her debut, she’s fired.

This time it’s not a highly controlled simulation: Planet Randor has requested a “Waccine” to preemptively inoculate its population from the Var. Freyja inadvertently plays up her clumsy nervousness as a virtue in her debut, and the adoring crowds eat it up.

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Freyja also gets better as the show goes on, able to mostly keep pace with Mikumo, even if her fold receptors don’t activate at first, which was the whole point of recruiting her.

Things then take a turn for the perilous when a formation of Var-infected Spacy planes arrives and attacks Walkure/Delta. I was a little confused whether the Var was being caused by the Windy Prince’s song, but it sure looked like a connection between the two was implied.

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When shit hits the fan, the Walkure members scatter for safety, and the adrenaline of the first episode returns as they feel terribly exposed to the firepower and brawn of bogeys.

Of course, that’s where Delta comes in, and Hayate has Freyja’s back, keeping her alive until Mikumo regroups with a Var-eradicating solo Freyja turns into a duet, finally activating her fold receptors and avoiding summary termination.

Turns out harrying Walkure/Delta was only an elaborate diversion by the Aerial Knights of Windermere, as Chancellor Brehm announces a formal declaration of war against the New Unifed Government, while Delta confirms that Planet Vordor has been invaded.

First the Var, now a war with Windermere, a people who are short-lived (~30 years max) but powerful. The fact the newest member of Walkure is from the same planet should make things interesting. A quarter-cour in, things are finally starting to spice up.

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