Attack on Titan – 64 – Parting Ways with False Honor

Back when Reiner was with Bertholdt and Annie on Paradis, a man they met prefaced his eventual suicide-by-hanging by telling them a story. The three wondered if the man did so seeking forgiveness—which Annie felt they had no right to give after losing Marcel—or merely wanted to be judged.

Now in the present day, face-to-face with Eren Yeager for the first time in four years, it’s Reiner who wants to be judged, and as someone who witnessed his crimes firsthand in Paradis—not the propaganda Marley peddles—Eren is uniquely suited to do so.

Still, as he urges Reiner to sit down and listen to Tybur’s speech with him, he also insists Falco stay put and listen, both to the speech and to his and Reiner’s concurrent chat. Meanwhile, Porco and Pieck are told to accompany an escort for an undisclosed matter.

Tybur really went all out with the theatrical production, as his speech begins with the story the entirety of the assembled crowd already knows: how the Eldians conquered the world a hundred years ago and then turned on their own people, and how Helos and the Tyburs fought together to free the world of the Eldian hegemony.

Porco and Pieck’s escort is a non-Eldian and doesn’t wish to speak with them en route, but Pieck runs into other non-Eldians who are members of the Panzer division, i.e. soldiers whose lives depend on the Cart Titan over all other groups and thus have a soft spot in their heart for her, even though she’s an Eldian.

Pieck can’t help but think she’s seen the anti-Eldian escort before—perhaps on Paradis?—but she and Porco are led into a house and fall down a trap door into a narrow well in which they cannot transform. Clearly someone wanted them out of the way…but who?

Willy’s speech takes a sudden turn when he reveals that the story of Helps and Tybur saving Marley was nothing but a lie crafted by the Eldian King Fritz, whose plan was to flee to Paradis with as many Titans as possible and stay there, neither attacking nor being attacked by any force. We learn the tripartite walls themselves are composed of countless Colossal Titans and built with the power of the Founding Titan.

Fritz intended to fully enforce the renouncement of war with those walls and never emerge from them. We learned that he inspired the generations that came after to follow suit. But then Eren came into possession of the Founding Titan, and Fritz’s dynasty fell (when Historia rose to power). Thus even though the King had saved Marley by allowing himself to be their most hated enemy, that King’s legacy can no longer be relied on.

The Founding Titan has the ability to convert the walls back into an army of Colossal Titans who would then go on to literally trample the world. If Eren didn’t know this before, he knows it now. As his leg regenerates Falco realizes he was duped into delivering mail to Eren’s allies—who I’m guessing trapped Porco and Pieck in the well.

As they listen to Tybur, Eren asks Reiner why the walls were breached and why his mom was eaten, and Reiner, nearly mad by now with grief, replies that it was because he fucked up. The others were willing to abort the mission when Marcel died, but Reiner wanted them to press on. He doesn’t want to be forgiven for what ended up happening, he wants to be judged and executed by Eren, one of his first victims.

But Eren isn’t here to judge Reiner, any more than he’s here to judge Falco, or Porco and Pieck, or Colt, Gabi, Zofia, or Udo. They were all just kids, after all, told just like he and his friends were told that The Other Side were evil demons, when in reality both sides were mostly just regular people. Those responsible for the atrocities in Marley and elsewhere were long gone, though they were still ruled by their descendants.

So no, Eren won’t blame or judge brainwashed kids past or present for the state of his family, people, or homeland. What he will do is put the blame squarely where it belongs: on Willy Tybur, who seems to successfully unite his diverse audience into joining forces to defeat the demons across the sea once and for all. But his big shining moment is stolen by Eren, who transforms into a Titan and bursts out of the building nearest the stage.

A new war has been declared, and it seems that Tybur specifically chose the Internment Zone as its first battlefield, luring leaders from all over the world there in order to witness the ensuing carnage the Titans can cause, perhaps hoping they’ll return and sway their people into joining his cause. In seeking judgment of Tybur, Eren may have played right into his hands…

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 24 – Taking It Up a Notch

Once Doppelganger creates a giant concrete kaiju, my first question was “Why doesn’t Mikoto just do the same thing with metal?” She then smirks and proceeds to do just that, answering another question in the process: “What if Mikoto went pretty much ALL out?” Seeing the Railgun’s sheepish grin at the prospect of having to up her game a couple of notches, and then doing so, ranks right up there among her best and most badass moments.

Misaka Mikoto isn’t someone who isn’t sure about herself or her abilities; on the contrary, it’s almost scary how quickly she can power up to the point her colossal electro-iron-sand puppet is railgunning huge holes in Doppel’s rubble puppet (ruppet?). It’s just too bad the kaiju battle is a feint. Doppel’s true target is the stealth dataship, which she locates thanks in part to all the iron sand Mikoto sends into the atmosphere taking out all of the gas tanks Doppel tries to toss at the populated part of the city.

Things even get a bit Evangelion-esque when Doppel pulls out another party trick: the ability to spontaneously generate enormous masses of matter in a similar manner to slime molds and zombie ant parasites. She uses a gigantic clone of herself to grab hold of the airship and render it visible. At this point the real Kuriba Ryouko pleads with her mechanical double for just “two more months”, whereupon she’ll be able to eradicate her own soul and allow Doppel to take over her body fully.

The thing is, Doppel is no longer interested in Kuriba’s body, or in simply existing as an individual anymore. Kuriba falls off the airship, but the Scavengers chip in to locate and pluck her out of the air; Leader’s thank you to Mikoto for her earlier assistance. She uses her ability to serve as spotter for Mikoto as Doppel attacks her with more slime mold-esque clones.

Bottom line: Doppel wants revenge against humanity, beyond simply destroying her creator. By the way, she’s ready to do that and level the city thanks to rigging twenty huge fuel tanks in strategic locations. Having been taught emotions by the researchers, she can’t help but feel envy and hatred to humans.

Mikoto’s answer to this threat is to fire her Railgun directly at Doppel’s core body, but Leader ominously warns Mikoto—albeit too late—that there’s a problem with her line of fire. Doppel is consumed by the light from the railgun blast…but that’s as far as the episode takes us.

With a preview full of Railgun’s friends and frenemies, I imagine Doppel is either destroyed or otherwise neutralized—but we’ll see what cost is incurred as a result. Until then, this will go down in the annals of all-time best-looking duels, and as always it’s an absolute delight to watch Mikoto do her stuff.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 23 – Koncrete Kaiju

Leader is Leader of Scavenger for a reason: not only is she smart as a whip and good at thinking on her feet, she’s also pragmatic. When the Railgun arrives, she knows there’s no use fighting her or getting on her bad side. Leader has a mission that needs accomplishing, so she tells Mikoto she’s an  undercover member of Judgment tasked with retrieving the doppelganger.

It’s fun to watch Leader navigate a virtual minefield with her subterfuge, not knowing how the Railgun will respond to what she says. Luckily for her, she can relate to Seike as a fellow “civilian” aiding Judgment since she does that for Kuroko and Uiharu all the time. Leader also lucks out when she learns Mikoto is big Gekota fan…but is less enamored of Leader’s praise for fellow Level 5 Shokuhou Misaki.

Leader is ultimately successful in getting Mikoto to help her, and it’s a good thing she does, because the doppelganger is far, far beyond the talents of the members of Scavenger alone. She also gets to watch firsthand just how much of a badass the third-ranked Railgun is against such a foe. The doppel, for her part, wants to “level up” some more before properly fighting her.

Leader has Mikoto lure the doppel to a district of abandoned warehouses. It makes sense to Mikoto because that area will result in the fewest casualties, but she asks Leader to evacuate the district of all Skill Out members. Leader wants the doppel in that district because that’s where Scavenger’s contract says to make the exchange with the lab coats. Yakumaru performs a lovely bit of theater convincing a bunch of punks to be chivalrous for a change, helping her warn others to evacuate.

As Mikoto pokes, prods, and analyzes the doppel while air-boarding on a scrap of metal, Leader makes contact with the researchers, and when they quibble about the details, Leader loses her patience. She and her comrades have almost died five times over trying to capture this subject, and their client’s van isn’t going anywhere (thanks to Seike) until their Joan Hancock is on the bottom line of that contract.

But while Leader and crew escapes with the signed contract, their reputation on the mend, Mikoto’s left holding the doppel bag, her sparking hands having become decidedly fuller as the doppel grows to the size of a kaiju.  It’s also the case that Leader feels kinda bad about deceiving the kind and well-meaning Railgun, but she’s not loyal to Judgment; she’s loyal to the Dark Side, and to her organization.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 46 – Love Not Lest Ye Be Loved

Yue is in no mood for delays; he’s going to judge Sakura right here and now: she’ll either subdue him with her mastery of the cards, or she’ll lose and catastrophe will be unleashed. There’s just one problem: Sakura has no intention of fighting someone who just a few minutes ago was Yukito, a boy she deeply cares for. We learn Yukito never had any knowledge that he was really Yue, which only adds to Sakura’s reluctance to fight.

The thing is, Yue doesn’t care if Sakura cared about Yukito. If she won’t fight, then he’ll mop the floor with her, just like he did Syaoran. And holy crap does Sakura ever receive by far the worst beating of the entire series, getting tossed around like a ragdoll before being ensnared in the vines of the Wood card she herself summoned. The fact she doesn’t even know that Wood is controlled by the Moon (i.e. Yue) irritates him even more as he passes his final judgment: Sakura loses.

The catastrophe that shall occur due to her failure? Everyone in the world will forget about the person they love or care about most. Kero-chan was right: it isn’t a “world-ending” kind of apocalypse. After she’s completely enveloped in vines, Sakura wakes up in bed, and there’s even the Cardcaptor Sakura doll on her headboard.

She has her normal morning routine, but Yukito vanishes when she spots him, while Tomoyo and Syaoran are no longer warm or friendly, but mere acquaintances. Same with Chiharu and Yamazaki…and Rika doesn’t even like that teacher she likes!

Having had adequate time to take in this horrifying bad future (or at least the equivalent of such from her perspective), Sakura runs to Yukito’s gran’s house, only to find it abandoned and in poor repair. She breaks down in tears in the bamboo forest, but then something happens: she starts hearing the voices of everyone she loves, first calling her name, then singing the song Tomoyo sang (and which Song copied).

Then she hears Mizuki’s bell clang, and she bursts out of the vine prison, waking from her helldream and returning to Tokyo Tower. Turns out the bell was also furnished by Clow Reed and used by Mizuki to give the Cardcaptor one—and only one—last chance against Yue.

This time, Sakura uses her own magical power to draw not from the Sun or the Moon, but her own personal stars, and a new wand is forged that allows her to summon Windy—the first Clow Card she ever captured—and restrain Yue without him being able to counter.

Sakura tells Yue what he never thought he’d hear, that she understands now how much Clow Reed meant to him, and why he never wanted another master after Reed died. However, Sakura isn’t offering to become Yue’s master or a replacement for Reed; she wants them to be friends, plain and simple, making the world better together.

Yue thus judges Sakura to be the winner of their little duel, and she has a brief stop up in the stars to meet with Clow Reed, who is grateful Sakura was able to locate and follow the path of “necessities disguised as coincidences” he had set out—her own way.

After that, Sakura returns to the shrine grounds and is reunited with Tomoyo and Syaoran, taking both of a surprised Syaoran’s hands and dancing with him in pure unadulterated joy.

Kero and Yue acknowledge that due to her youth, Sakura isn’t quite ready for their true forms full-time, so they agree to return to their disguises for the time being. That means Kero-chan is back to being a pint-sized plushie, while Yue returns to the form of Tsukishiro Yukito.

Sakura’s adorable dance with Syaoran, paired with her far more understated reaction to Yukito’s return seems to signal the start of a transition from her feelings for Yukito/Yue—whom she knows will always love Clow above all—to Syaoran, who is, well, an actual human being.

And that does it for the grand Clow Card arc and the second season of Cardcaptor Sakura! My stars, has this show been a balm in these times. While this finale wasn’t my absolute favorite of the series (that might be “Sakura’s Dizzy Fever Day”) it definitely makes the top five, merely by dint of its vital story, cinematic scope and utterly gorgeous animation. On to season three!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 45 – Here Comes the Judge

In a further departure from the usual formula, there’s no set up this week, we jump right back into the action. It figures that the last Clow Card to be captured is the most ornery: Earthy. Huge fissures and massive stone towers threaten to destroy the city, and it’s all Sakura can do to weave and dodge.

After an unsuccessful use of Watery, Kero gives her the hint that offensive magic won’t work. Then Sakura notices that while lots of roads and buildings are being ruined, the trees aren’t being touched. So she summons Wood to hold the Leviathan-like Earthy’s main body in place.

Sakura seals the card, and the biggest, most pulse-poundingly impressive battle yet comes to close. To Sakura’s shock, the receipt of the final card has another effect: it restores Kerberos’ true form. Sakura doesn’t recognize him at first until he responds with his trademark dialect, only in a lower register, and she can’t help but remark that he’s looking “rather cool.” He certainly is!

To celebrate the capturing of all the Clow Cards, Tomoyo summons her costume van and dresses Sakura up, and even gets Syaoran into his ceremonial robes. Sakura’s costume is notably the one in her dreams. Then Sakura learns from Syaoran that Yue is one of the two guardians along with Kero who Clow Reed created to protect the cards. And just when it seemed Mizuki would transform into Yue…Yukito does instead!

While I knew Yukito was Yue’s vessel from the much later Clear Card, Mizuki had been so effective a red herring I came to wonder whether she’d be revealed as Yue’s vessel prior to Yukito. Instead she’s just a particularly powerful moon-oriented magic user, which combined with Yue concealing his magic within Yukito meant he was right under their noses the whole time.

While Kero serves as the selector of the one to command the cards, Yue is the final arbiter of the Cardcaptor’s worthiness. The trial is simple: use the Clow Cards to defeat him. Since Syaoran captured a handful of cards, he is the first to undergo “final judgment”—and Yue proceeds to mop the floor with him.

He’s sent back to the others dazed but more or less fine, and Sakura is transported to that now iconic spot of her dreams, with Tokyo Tower looming in the near distance and Yue standing on its red steel beams. Sakura realizes this is exactly like the dream, that it was a prophetic dream, and that THIS IS IT.

Either Sakura can defeat Yue with the Clow Cards she’s collected—Yue confiscated all of Syaoran’s—or the “Catastrophe” Kero warned about will occur. Even if I didn’t know everything would work out, all my money would be on Sakura. Poised on the biggest, highest-pressure stage in her eleven years life, she won’t shrink from the task before her.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 17 – Miyama-ty Report

This episode considerably scales back the complexity of last week’s outing and focuses on the precognitive abilities of Miyama Shaei, and their role in transforming Kuroko into even more capable and efficient Judgment Officer.

He starts by predicting a girl falling into the water—Chisa, whom I believe injected an ampule of fertilizer into a tree last week. Where before Kuroko would not have learned of her predicament until after it happened and it was reported, thanks to Miyama’s prediction she can rescue Chisa seconds after she falls in.

One after the other, Miyama predicts mishaps and Kuroko is able to teleport in the nick of time to save the would-be victims. Be it a girlfriend with a knife, a falling sign, or bullies, Kuroko is on the scene and Getting Shit Done.

Like the previous arc where she lost her memories, it’s never not great to see Kuroko operating in fully bad-ass non-comic relief mode. Mikoto and Saten don’t even appear this week, but I didn’t miss them because Kuroko can carry an episode any time she wants.

With the combined help of Miyama’s ability and Uiharu’s handy hacker skillz, a pattern of incidents are predicted in a public park, and the imagery points to a raging fire, so the girls recruit their superior Konori Mii and other members of Judgment to lock the park down and prepare for anything.

Since Kuroko has been at the center of so many incidents with happy endings, the other Judgment members don’t bristle at the odd request. However, Miyama eventually reaches his physical limit and has to be hospitalized with blood cell damage from ability overuse.

While there, he dreams of how he was ostracized at school by popular girls lke Okawachi Megumi for having such a “creepy” ability. She changes her tune when he predicts she’ll fall victim to a mishap, and promises her he’ll try to prevent it. Of course, since this was well before he met Kuroko—the only person who can change the fates he sees—Okawachi is badly injured and curses the day she met him.

When he predicts the first and earliest of the incidents to occur in the park, it involves a stray dog with whom he is close, and starts to wonder if Okawachi is right—if bad things happen to people who know him like her and Perro—as a result of his ability, a chicken-and-egg dilemma that would be stressful for an adult, let alone a grade-schooler.

Night comes, and with them predicted raging fires, an extremely clever and complex sequence of events involving both the park’s vending machine (which may have a frayed power cable due to Mikoto having always zapped it) throwing a short that ignites dry leaves and grass and eventually causes Chisa’s ampules to violently detonate.

Of course, Kuroko, Uiharu, and Judgment don’t panic; they planned for this, and Kuroko is outfitted with both a HUD monocle and breathing tube for a sequence of quick teleports into and out of the fire, rescuing imperiled parkgoers each time. Again, I cannot underscore how much enjoyment I get out of Kuroko simply hunkering down and doing her job extremely well.

A panicked Miyama races to the park to try to rescue Perro on his own, but in his childishness (he is still just a kid after all) he wrongly assumed Judgment wouldn’t bother saving a random stray dog. Kuroko heads back into the inferno with Konori and her X-ray vision and eventually find the dog, a bit limpy but none the worse for wear. Miyama can’t help but blush and tear up, and Kuroko tells him its okay.

Later, we learn that Miyama has arranged for Okawachi to adopt Perro, and that she’s ready to apologize for how she treated him. In a chat with Kuroko, he worries his predictions will only involve those close to him, but she doubts that will be the case, since he’s like her: devoted to peace and justice for all.

She also believes that in time his power will grow to the point he can use it more often without risking his health. And when he does, she’ll be ready and willing to receive more intel so she can do some more rescuing. I love how Kuroko faces away from him to hide her blushing, no doubt a bit embarrassed she shares the same values as a little kid, while also casually mentioning a certain “champion of justice” she looks up to.

The big question last week was if and how the shared dream fad and Miyama’s mishap prediction plot would connect, and the answer comes in a very small detail at the very end: those ridiculously hazardous nutrient ampules that Chisa used? They were meant to allow the cherry blossoms to bloom year-round.

Chisa and her friends got idea to use the ampules…in a shared dream. With the additional brief mention of a “mass unconsciousness outbreak” this week, is it possible Chisa was unknowingly directed to plant explosives, or was it an innocent accident? Considering the potential for abuse of the shared dream system and the large number of troublemakers populating Academy City, I’m not ruling anything out.

Hamefura – 10 – Judgment Day

When Catarina is confronted with a litany of her horrible crimes by a bunch of random resentful NPCs, both she and I knew something was very wrong. This “Judgment Event” she had been dreading was originally led by the conquerable characters circling their wagons ’round Maria.

Of course, the way things have turned out, Maria and everyone else are not only on Catarina’s side, but love her. Like Maple in BOFURI, Catarina’s moves in this “game” have essentially broken its mechanics, meaning that while the judgment event finally arrives, it completely lacks any teeth.

While this is good news for Catarina, one can’t help but wonder what other “glitches” exist in this strange new route she’s created where the lead villainness is now the lead heroine. I just didn’t realize how quickly that “something else” would occur.

There’s no time for tea and sweets when Maria seemingly harmlessly breaks off from the group to investigate some ominous dark shadows…only to never be seen again! In lieu of Catarina receiving judgment, it would seem Maria, the original heroine, paid the price for changing the games fundamental mechanics.

Catarina & Co. conduct a thorough search, but there is no sign of Maria whatsoever. Late in the night Gerald visits her to report his suspicions that dark magic is at play, since it can be used to make both people and their memories disappear.

Needless to say, if someone like that is out there, she and her friends will have to exercise utmost caution and vigilance. When Gerald takes his leave, Catarina proceeds to have a nightmare in which everyone is dead except her, which is an ending so horrible she’d prefer if she had encountered doom flags for herself after all!

Exhausted and anxious, Catarina faints in the hall and must rest in the nurse’s office, but returns to the spot where she and Maria became friends, hoping to glean something. She then encounters StuCo president Sirius Dieke…who is obviously the dark magic wielder and the one who captured Maria.

Catarina learns this by dispensing with any nuance and simply asking him if he’s the culprit, and after a brief denial, he admits that yes, he hates Catarina’s guts and considers her a hypocrite. Then and only then does she remember Acchan telling her about a secret conquerable character with red hair who uses dark magic.

Now Catarina finds herself on the route to the Super-Bad Ending in which all of her friends end up dead just like her nightmare. He grabs her arm and she sinks into the shadows of his dark magic…and no one arrives to rescue her, at least not by the time the credits roll.

Having eliminated all potential routes to her own death or exile, it seemed only a matter of time before something she overlooked came to bear on her idyllic existence; I just didn’t know things would get so dark so fast. Then again, there’s only two episodes left.

If saving everyone means somehow conquering Sirius, it’s going to be an uphill battle. After all, she didn’t mean to make everyone fall in love with her, it just happened as a result of her kindness, which Sirius seems to detest. This will require a different tack.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 04 – Starry Eyes

Saten’s quest to find Shadow Metal hits a dead end with a dull thud when she’s caught snooping by ominous men in isolation suits. Misaka and Kuroko teleport to her and zap the men, but it’s all a misunderstanding: they’re a deep-cleaning crew responsible for preventing the illegal acquisition of esper DNA. The girls were the ones who were somewhere they shouldn’t have been.

I doubt that’s the end of Saten’s search for the semi-mythical metal. But it may be a while before it’s mentioned again, at least not until after a brutal cascade of events that end up all but burying Misaka are dealt with. Before that, however, the quartet finds a prime viewing spot for the nightly Daihesai fireworks display. I didn’t know it would be the last time for a while that the four are together as friends!

The next day, Wannai meekly asks Misaka for her gym clothes back, and Misaka realizes MISAKA never gave them back. With no events on her schedule, she uses her free time to fly around the city checking cameras for signs of MISAKA’s whereabouts. That leads her to two ambulance drivers she eventually suspects to be under Shokuhou’s influence.

Frustrated over her lack of progress in finding MISAKA and unwilling to reveal the secret of the Sisters, Misaka loses her temper and nearly assaults one of the drivers, leading to a confrontation with Antiskill and a punitive ride back to school and lecture about comporting herself properly from Headmistress Watanabe. Meanwhile, Kuroko, Uiharu and Saten are all “paused” by Shokuhou’s remote when her accomplice distracts them.

Due in part to Misaka’s own actions and loss of her cool, Watanabe assigns members of Shokuhou’s clique to “keep an eye on her” henchforth. One of the members is a telepath who can track Misaka wherever she goes. She may be a more powerful esper than any one of them, but all of them will be tougher, especially when she has to try to undertake a coherent investigation.

The last straw is when she encounters her three best friends…and they have no idea who she is. You do NOT mess with Misaka’s friends. Now no matter what Shokuhou says or does from here on out, we can be assured she’ll be on the end of some shocking retribution. Misaka also still has a few allies not yet under Shokuhou’s web of control. Fun-and-games time is officially over.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 03 – In Borrowed Clothes

Railgun T has done a great job so far putting a fun esper-y twist on the classic sports festival formula. Like the three-legged race last week, the balloon hunt is made more creative and exciting with the use of abilities. Adding MISAKA 10032 while Misaka Prime takes a rest takes things up a notch.

MISAKA is never not fun to watch as she calmly assesses her environment dodges attackers and adds notches to her belt. Unfortunately the rest of the Tokiawadai team is so confident of victory they don’t bother with any real teamwork and are undone by the scrappy underdogs’ simple tactics.

That said, Kongo’s melodramatic “death scene” was so worth it, and I liked the idea of Tokiwadai’s adult leaders being glad their pompous rich girl students are having their asses handed to them. They intend punish them with extra dorm chores, and hopefully the sting of the loss will make them rethink their strategy next time they face a seemingly easy opponent.

Speaking of stings, MISAKA probably only loses because Baba-kun (the other team’s leader who had intel on all the Tokiwadai students) uses the balloon hunting fracas as a distraction so he could sting her with a tiny robotic bug. When MISAKA meets with Misaka later, the real deal tells her there’s no reason to hang her head as long as she had fun.

This week marks the first Kamijou Touma cameo, as he runs into Misaka quite by chance as she’s in line for drinks. Misaka is uncharacteristically civil with him as he offers to grab drinks for her, but things take a turn when Misaki spots her with him, is momentarily embarrassed, and takes Misaka’s arm like they’re BFFs.

The last straw is when Misaki, seeking to insert herself into their relationship, gloms onto an unwitting Touma, and her much larger breasts press against him, leading Biribiri to shock him—and for him to cancel said shock with his Imagine Breaker, which sports yet another new sound effect.

As packed as this episode was with Misaka, MISAKA, Touma, and the Balloon Hunt, the show doesn’t forget to check in on the rest of the central quartet. Whether it’s Shirai not losing a step with her Judgment duties (thanks to her teleportation) or Uiharu agreeing to help Ruiko locate “Shadow Metal” for the thrill of it, it’s just great to see these characters back in action and in the spotlight.

If all the preceding events make it sound like a lightweight episode, the episode’s conclusion certainly changed that perception, as the effects of the robo-bug hit MISAKA when she’s alone and isolated (aside from her cat) while Misaki and a suited fellow move in to apprehend her.

Earlier, Misaki was watching a big screen and I could have sworn she could tell the real Misaka wasn’t participating in the balloon hunt. She also mentions how her Mental Out ability is another tool she can use to prove someone’s identity.

Either she’s still fooled into thinking MISAKA is Misaka despite all that, or she’s going to use MISAKA as bait to nab the genuine article. Either way, Misaka’s troubles are about to outstrip Misaki glomming on her guy…

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 02 – The Esperlympics Commence

A Steering Committee member had a bad feeling about the Level 5s they chose to deliver the Athlete’s Pledge, and with good reason: Gunha Sogiita is a classic loose cannon, not only forgetting have the pledge and replacing it with various platitudes about GUTS, but upstages Misaki Shokuhou (who hilariously customizes her gym uniform with gloves and stockings) by unleashing an unplanned multicolored smoke explosion.

It’s probably for the best that Misaka wasn’t the one to stand with Sogiita, especially as she’s entered into one of the first events of the Daihesai: a three-legged race where her primary electrical powers are prohibited. Depsite the handicap, she and the always wonderfully haughty Kongo Mitsuko manage to counter all of the rival schools’ espers’ tricks and win.

Misaka’s friends watch it all on one of the city’s many large public TV screens; Kuroko in particular is very proud of her Sissy. Afterwards she heads off for Judgment patrol, and Ruiko comes across a woman in a tracksuit fumbling with her smartphone. This turns out to be the Aztecan Xochitl, member of MEMBER, one of the groups we saw in Index III who is clearly up to no good.

After winning her first race and encountering her Mama (whom her friends insist is only 20 years old), Misaka heads home to change out of her dirty uniform, but in the process both Awatsuki and Wannai mistake MISAKA 10032 for the real deal, and prep her for the next competition.

MISAKA had been milling around talking to her cat and lamenting her inability to participate, but fate has smiled on her today, because the real Misaka keeps out of sight. This also means MEMBER will be attacking the wrong Misaka when they inevitably make their move. This festival is off to an interesting start!

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 01 (First Impressions) – Back in the Game

Ever since erroneously watching the first season of Railgun before Index, I’ve always preferred Railgun and its focus on the quartet of Misaka Mikoto, Shirai Kuroko, Saten Ruiko, and Uiharu Kazari. After seven years, it finally gets a third season, and its first episode eases us back into the semi-Utopian Academy City, which is presently preparing for the Daihesai inter-school sports festival.

We check in with all seven Level 5 Espers dwelling in Academy City as the Daihesai steering committee seeks at least two of them to take the “Athlete’s Pledge.” The Top Four we know: Accelerator, Kakine Teitoku, Biribiri, and Mugino Shizuri. Newly brought to the foreground is fifth-ranked Misaki Shokuhou, a preening socialite who appropriately uses a remote to control others.

Sixth-ranked Etsu Aihana goes unseen, but seventh-ranked Gunha Sogiita goes very much seen. The fiery, shounen protagonist-type loves people with “Guts” like Uiharu, who uses her authority as Judgment member to try to break up two arguing cheer squads. Gunha dispenses with talking and simply punches the squads into submission.

That’s a lot of names, but Misaka still thankfully has the most screen time. She loosely bookends the episode with demonstrations of her power, first by helping three little kids get their robo-bear working to cutting away steel supports that were coming down on Ruiko and Uiharu after Gunha’s hijinx.

Gunha and Shokuhou are chosen from the Level 5s as the pledge-takers. We learn Misaka’s self-appointed rival Shokuhou is clandestinely looking into the Sisters, so there’s sure to be some of that trademark Raildex intrigue adding depth to what looks to be a sports festival-style arc. I stand (well, sit) ready to watch every minute.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 19 – United Front

The Pope packs a whallop with his attacks, but turns out the first couple were just “trial runs”, to unleash the full power of the weapon he transforms it into a spear and draws upon the mana his holy army of followers, who number in the thousands despite not having any kind of supply train. Did these people just walk out here from wherever they came from without provisions of any kind? Seems like a logistical nightmare.

That weapon turns out to be a replica of the Cardinal Heroes’ own weapons, able to transform as needed. Melty is shocked to learn it still exists, believing it had been lost long ago, while Motoyasu condemns its use as “cheating.” As for Naofumi, he asks why, if they could make such powerful weapons, did they bother summoning heroes at all?

However, Motoyasu’s weapons, nor combo attacks by him and his party, have any effect thanks to Popey’s magical barrier, which enables said Pope to laugh and bray on about delivering judgment and such.  What he didn’t count on, however, were the Sword and Bow Heroes not being dead after all.

Turns out Itsuki and Ren never trusted the Three Heroes Church, and were investigating it when they learned that the church had possession of the weapon. They were led to a false shrine where the church tried to assassinate them, but failed. Now, with all the four Cardinal Heroes, assembled, it’s time to turn the tables as one unit…right?

Wrong. Naofumi isn’t fighting with other three. Not after the shit they gave him and the trouble they caused which he and his party had to clean up. And who can blame him? They’ve demonstrated they’re no better than the Pope, taking and doing whatever they want without regard to the lives they affect.

This results in roughly six minutes of the heroes bickering among themselves and pointing fingers before Naofumi finally gives in and joins the others, but only until they deal with the Pope and the Queen’s Shadow Punitive Force arrives (which, by the way, where the hell have they BEEN?), and because he promised Fitoria he’d at least try to make up with the other heroes.

However, by the time they’re ready to fight as one, The Pope has already prepared “Cathedral”, a high-level spell that encases the entire crater in a magical barrier that he maniacally declares will be their “final destination.” Somehow I doubt that. I have to say, I’ve had quite enough of our ambitious pontiff and his seemingly infinite supply of mana.

But at least his actions led to the other three heroes finally learning not only how wrong they’ve been about Naofumi, but how harmful their own actions have been. Here’s hoping the lessons stick, even if the alliance is only temporary.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 18 – Some Messed-Up Logic

I’ve probably said it before, but since it happens this week I’ll say it again: nothing is less entertaining than watching someone berate or attack Naofumi for actions we know for a fact he didn’t commit. The entire premise of the discussion or fight is faulty, so it just feels like we’re wasting time. I’m long since out of patience waiting for Motoyasu to realize he’s being manipulated by Malty.

Malty uses the made-up term “Brainwashing Shield” as her own version of “Fake News”—two words to dismiss whatever defense Naofumi may field. Her story is that Naofumi is responsible for the death of Rin and Itsuki. Motoyasu won’t listen to Naofumi, or Melty, or anyone else but Malty, so the reconciliation Naofumi promised Fitalia he’d attempt is just as impossible as he thought. Instead, Malty creates a Lightning prison around Motoyasu and Naofumi so her puppet can fight the “Devil of the Shield.”

This entire fight, which takes up a lot of time, is utterly pointless. These two have already fought before, and Malty should know from the last Wave that Naofumi & Co. are more powerful. Simply attacking him again and again under false pretenses when you know Motoyasu will lose is folly. And yet we, the audience, still have to watch them go through the motions.

Not even Penkin’s score could make either this fight, or the lead-up to it, interesting. We get some participation from Motoyasu’s other party members, but even 19 episodes in they’ve been given precisely ZERO personality, so I could care less about them.

Once Motoyasu and Malty are defeated, once again, as expected, they continue twirling their mustaches right up until Filo kicks them all into a pile and demands Naofumi conjure as much mass above them as he possibly can, because something’s coming. That something is very similar to the phenomenon that fell on Ren and Itsuki, and we learn it was produced by the Pope, who calls it “God’s Judgment.”

Popey McGee has bad news Naofumi and Motoyasu: using the receipts collected from their actual deeds, as well as those of Ren and Itsuki, they’re being eliminated as “false heroes.” He has bad news for Melty and Malty too: the church is staging a coup, tossing the Melromarc monarchy into the bin and presumably replacing it with a theocracy.

No doubt his forces are already in the process of capturing their mother Queen Mirelia, whose utter absence in, well, all of this remains almost show-breakingly baffling.

While we at RABUJOI are all card-carrying non-fans of the Lame One-Dimensionally Evil Religious Organization (LODERO) trope common to fantasy anime, the Pope crashing another lame fight with Motoyasu and Malty actually saved this episode for me. His evil is there for everyone in that pit to see, and directly contradicts the lies Malty was telling Motoyasu, who listened because she’s hot and he has a hero complex.

But the Pope’s plans also provide the first real opportunity for Naofumi to make some headway with Motoyasu, who as terrible as he is, is still necessary to defeat the Waves. I can’t really say much about the Pope’s coup—one would think the next move would be Mirelia’s—but it’s encouraging that circumstances have finally put Naofumi and Motoyasu in the same boat. If they want to live, they’ll have to row together. So…Thanks, Pope, I guess?

As for whether Ren and Itsuki are really dead…like Naofumi, I’ll need more concrete confirmation than the word of a power-hungry, coup-starting pontiff. One thing I know for certainty: If and when they all get out of this mess, Malty will still treat Naofumi like utter shit. Take it to the bank.