Golden Kamuy – 01 – The Weak Get Eaten, But These Peeps Ain’t Weak (First Impressions)

It’s 1904: The Russo-Japanese War, three years before my older grandfather was even born. Sugimoto Saichi is in the trenches, and earns the nickname “The Immortal Sugimoto” for…well, refusing to die. Bullets always miss or glance off him. He’s never in the path of a cannon or mortar.

His vitals always manage to avoid enemy blades. Even when he rushes the Russians head-on yelling “JUST TRY AND KILL ME!”, they fail to kill him. One might say this particular quality of his is a blessing, but all it means is he gets to live on as everyone around him dies.

Among the dead who leave him behind is his old friend and war buddy, who is survived by a wife with failing vision and a child. Sugimoto nearly killed a superior, so he’s cashiered out of the service, and must try to scrape together a living in a place where the gold rush has long since run dry.

While panning in a river for the dregs of that rush, an old drunk keeps Sugimoto company, telling him what initially sounds like a tall tale about a man who stole a mass treasure of gold from the native Ainu and killed a bunch of them. He was imprisoned, but tattooed pieces of a map to the treasure on other prisoners who then escaped, promising them a half share.

When the drunk realizes he’s said too much and tries to kill Sugimoto, Sugimoto clobbers him and forces him to flee…but now Sugimoto is more certain the man wasn’t just telling tall tales. That’s confirmed when he later finds the man’s corpse. He was killed and buried by a bear, but his body bears the map tattoos.

Of course, it’s not that simple: a bear returns, apparently to reclaim its meal, and Sugimoto isn’t ready…but thankfully someone is. Up until now things like timing, physics, and coincidence had served The Immortal Sugimoto, but here and now he finds himself face-to-face with the personification of his luck and salvation: a petite Ainu woman who introduces herself as Asirpa.

Out there in the wilderness, I’d much rather have Asirpa by my side than Sugimoto, especially considering its him, not me, who’d more likely escape death once again. She not only determines that the bear they just killed wasn’t the one who killed the prisoner, but that the man who tattooed him never intended to share the treasure. That man also killed Asirpa’s father to get the gold in the first place.

Because this is just barely the 20th century, and Sugimoto isn’t wealthy enough to own a camera (and the cameraphone is a century away), the only way to preserve the parts of the map they now have is to skin the man. (I suppose he could make a drawing, but lacks the materials) But that will take time, and night waits for no one, not even the Immortal Sugimoto.

Instead, he and Asirpa keep a fire going and use the corspe to lure the megabear to them. He gets the jump on Sugimoto and extinguishes the flame, accelerating their plans somewhat. Then Asirpa’s guardian angel, a white wolf that may well contain the soul of her late father, joins the fray, protecting her and giving Sugimoto an opportunity to shoot the bear.

The bear doesn’t go down that easily, and requires a well-placed blade to its heart to kill, but Sugimoto survives, and impresses Asirpa with his warrior instincts. That being said, she can have no part of the bear she helped kill, as it ate human flesh and was sent to a special form of hell. She, by the way, doesn’t want to shed human blood either.

After Sugimoto skins the map from the map (gross), he vows to be the one to do the “dirty work” while she’ll continue to provide the wisdom and support she has so far, and without which he’d have already been killed by now. Together they’ll find the other pieces of the map (even the skin he has is a patchwork of disconnected map fragments), she can get revenge for her father, and he can get gold for his friends’ family.

Sounds like a good win-win deal, and a strong finish to a hell of a strong and intriguing story set deep in a place utterly inhospitable to humans who have lost touch with nature, and starring two people who are immensely badass in very different yet equally fascinating ways. Hat tip to tombeet for the recommendation!

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 20

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If it’s wrong to be immersed in this particular slice of formulaic shounen entertainment, I don’t want to be right. This episode put wasn’t perfect, but it got use through the epic battle between Yuto and the twins with a decent variety of twists, then capitalized on all of the good work it’s done with Roku and Benio to bring the arc to a close.

I’ve been clear about my dislike of the one-dimensional Yuto, but he’s made much more interesting by Benio’s assertion he’s hiding how much damage they actually did to him—without lessoning the threat he still poses as long as he remains on his two feet.

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I was hoping Benio could have ended things with Yuto with her new awesome Kegare legs, but she blasts through all her power too quickly, and Roku has to step in and save her. When Roku just can’t watch Yuto beat Benio anymore, the episode turns his power knob up to 11.

He can fight on the same level as Yuto, and he’s healed when Yuto blasts a hole in him. Furthermore, since they’re in Magano, all of the spirits of Roku’s friends whom Yuto turned into Kegare literally have his back, and he gains the final boost he needs to blow Yuto away.

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Blow him away he does, with a big ‘ol authoritative energy beam…but Yuto isn’t dead. C’mon now, there are 30 episodes left! Also, he merely “fell into darkness.” He’ll be back, but he’s gone for now, and Roku and Benio really can go home and have that ohagi. So I’m happy.

Could I have been happier? Sure. Why didn’t Yuto ever think to break Roku’s legs, or broken his instead of Benio’s? If he had, Benio would have had to save Roku, not the other way around. But I’ll let it go; both of them saved each other; who got the last lick in is not of much consequence.

What mattered was that SnO get the aftermath right after the battle ended. And what had been a nominal 8 up to the end of the battle rose to a 9, thanks to doing just that.

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Roku wakes to a smiling Benio. They meet with Arima and the 12 Guardians, the latter of which threaten discipline. But Benio helps reinforce the facts: the guardians wouldn’t have gotten there in time, their friends and family were threatened, and Seigen failed. So no punishment.

However, Arima’s nice-guy mask cracks more than once in this meeting, as he reiterates Roku’s true mission, which isn’t to train or become stronger or even fight or exorcise anyone or anything; it’s to marry Benio and conceive the Miko.

Roku turns the issue around by first going up to Benio and proposing to her, but then asking what exactly a newborn baby is going to be able to do about calamities that will arrive before he’s a glimmer in Roku’s eye? He isn’t going to wait and put such a burden on an infant. He’s going to keep getting stronger and make sure the Miko has as little left to do in the world-saving department as possible.

Benio are of the same mind on this, so Arima indulges them: they have two years to become stronger than the 12 Guardians. The consequences if they can’t? Marriage and babymakin’.

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Make no mistake: neither Roku nor Benio are ready for those things yet. But right here and now, they are a couple, and both have gotten more and more comfortable with that after everything they’ve been through and how they’ve come through for one another.

After all of that, and then enjoying a festival together, and after Roku buys Benio a new pair of sakura-themed hairpins, Plan B looks less like something they’ve always want to avoid, and more like something they’ll want anyway, when they’re ready.

Oh, and Mayura is going to be an exorcist, so she can stand and fight beside her friends. Good to hear; someone with such inventive expressions shouldn’t be kept on the sidelines.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 19

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Uhh…that ohagi will have to wait.

Roku and Benio give it their all, but they haven’t seen the true breadth and depth of Yuto’s power until now. He gives Rokuro the choice to join him or die (typical villain offer) and when they don’t cower before him, he actually loses the goofy grin and gets angry.

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Don’t get me wrong, Yuto’s still a major drag, but at least he’s showing other emotions in the face of his foes’ defiance. But as I suspected, this isn’t a one episode-and-done battle (no way it could be), and as powerful and determined as the Twin Stars have become, they still only had one day to prepare. It just wasn’t enough. Not by a long shot.

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Yuto is somewhat surprised by what the duo’s resonance can do, but even their finishing move only causes him to momentarily shed his human skin, revealing his entire body is riddled with Kegare corruption, just like Rokuro’s arm. That’s gotta mess with a guy, which at least explains what a manic, sadistic creep he is.

Once his normal body is back, he separates his two opponents, making sure to get some good devastating putdowns of his sister in before destroying her legs and leaving her to wallow in her weakness and be devoured by some passing Kegare. Rokuro can do nothing, as Yuto puts him in a chokehold.

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Except Benio isn’t devoured. Instead, Kamui appears, having been drawn to a “cool battle” he’s sore he wasn’t invited to. He offers Benio one of his trademark 10-second decisions: he’ll give her new Kegare legs to replace her ruined human ones. But it will mean taking on a curse just like Rokuro and her brother, and she might get lost in the chaos.

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What breaks her out of becoming totally consumed by her new legs are the cries of her name from Rokuro. When he pulls her out of the darkness and into the light, she realizes why it is she feels so warm and at peace whenever she’s around him: she’s fallen in love with the guy.

That love forges Kegare legs that Kamui admits look the furthest thing from impure, as if the love took the raw Kegare material and made it something beautiful and good. Rokuro laments Benio’s decision right up until she darts around like a lightning bolt and shows everyone what those new legs can do.

Thanks to the wild card Kamui—and Benio coming to grips with her feelings—Rokuro and Benio are still in this thing. But Yuto seems pretty dang pissed his sister was “chosen,” and isn’t just going to lay down and be easily defeated.

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P.S. I’ve finally learned how long SnO will be: 50 episodes. That means barring any season-long hiatuses, the show will continue through Fall ’16 and Winter ’17. I’ll be sticking with it to the hopefully-not-bitter end. The extra length bodes well for Rokuro and Benio’s slowly-brewing romance, for which this episode was definitely a landmark.

Sousei no Onmyouji – 13

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Yes, this show is still around, and yes, I’m still watching! Who would have thought that Benio not only had an evil overpowered brother who needs to be defeated down the road sometime, but also both their parents were killed by an overpowered Kegare that’s the equivalent of an Arrancar in Bleach: a kegare with human (or humanoid) form. This girl just has the worst luck.

But hey, someone’s looking out for her, and that someone is Rokuro. After getting the lay of the land, he peaces out of Magano with Benio at his earliest convenience, since Benio is in no condition to fight.

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He uses a med-talisman on her, and she wants to head right back in there, but he tells her to eat first and cheer up, assuring her that her late parents would much rather she kept living than die trying to avenge them.

As he goes in to get a better idea of who they’re up against in Kamui, Benio actually listens to Roku and eats his stone-cold oyakodon, which actually isn’t that good at all, but Benio still scarfs it down. As she does, she really does cheer up, remembering all the positive reinforcement and support Rokuro has offered her over their time together.

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Back in Magano, Rokuro learns that Kamui is primarily concerned with being “entertained”, and with his demon gauntlet thingy, Rokuro seems able to provide the absolute minimum quantity of entertainment for Kamui to reconsider killing him quickly. Roku has potential, after all, and anyone or anything that can land a blow on Kamui is someone he isn’t in a hurry to kill. That would be boring!

Of course, it isn’t long before Kamui turns up the difficulty level a tick, and Rokuro is shot back and bloodied with ease. That’s when a reinvigorated Benio returns (albeit hopping on one leg) to relieve him.

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Benio certainly has a head full of steam, but it’s been abundantly clear for a while now that neither she nor Rokuro can accomplish much on their own; they have to combine their power in order to make progress.

And progress that make, as Rokuro catches Benio from out of the air, the two combine their spiritual energy (or whatever), her sword gets bigger and meaner, and they deliver an epically crushing blow to Kamui.

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Kamui survives, but a limb lighter, and decides he’ll withdraw for now and wait for these two to become stronger, or, if they produce a Miko, send him or her to face him. It doesn’t really matter, as long as he’s entertained.

I actually like the guy’s philosophy; it’s at least more interesting that just a mindless killing machine. Guy’s got a code, and he’s got priorities. He even remembered Benio’s ‘rents, and how they were one of his only victims who actually sacrificed themselves for someone else, namely their daughter.

Turns out the encounter between Rokruo+Benio and Kamui was all but set up by Arima, to further bring the two together, and you can hardly argue that it worked like a charm.

Benio wakes up in bed with Rokuro, in the lovenest Arima prepared for them, no more willing to follow through with the plans Arima made for them than before, but still no less grateful for Rokuro’s support. Her parents told her being scared is okay, because they’re not alone. And she’s not alone here.

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Sousei no Onmyouji – 12

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Rokuro and Benio’s relatively placid domestic life continues this week, with Rokuro working hard to control his gauntlet in the cellar while Benio prepares dinner.

Only “dinner” turns out to be your classic steaming purple witch’s brew, which all bad cooks throughout anime are able to replicate exactly. It would be one thing if that was the only point of the joke – but Rokuro goes too far in asking “what kind of family” Benio had that led to her thinking ohagi and curry, and Rokuro apologizes.

He’s also grateful Benio made him some goop, even if he can barely choke it down. He decides the only way they’re going to be able to live together is if they rotate cooking duties, and he believes he’s the better cook, and aims to prove it.

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Seems like a pretty tame episode, right? Well, I thought so too at first, but as soon as Benio went out running on her own, I almost immediately assumed a kegare would appear; one powerful enough that she couldn’t take it on alone, and requiring Rokuro to step out of the kitchen and let his culinary masterpiece go cold in order to rescue her, yet again proving that neither she nor he do well taking on foes by themselves, but fare far better when working as a single unit.

And that’s exactly what happens. But you know what? I’ve never had a problem with this show’s derivative-ness or predictability, because as I’ve stated in previous reviews, I like the slow but steady growth of Rokuro and Benio as twin protagonists of equal stature that I’ve come to be emotionally invested in. That, and the aesthetic, and the awesome soundtrack.

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Before Benio runs into the Kegare-of-the-Week, while on her run the talk of proper dinner and family sticks in her head, and she recalls the day six years ago when she watched her parents fighting and purifying Kegare, a duo like her and Rokuro, only with the same masks and twin swords. We also learn where she gets her love of ohagi from (her Dad).

Unfortunately, that’s also the day her parents were killed, by a Kegare that could talk, and offered her the grim choice of which parent he’d spare from death. Obviously, she couldn’t choose in the ten seconds he gave her, and he crushed them both.

And whaddaya know, that smart Kegare, known as Kamui, just happens to be the Kegare who crosses Benio’s path here. Not only that, he’s specifically searching for the Twin Star Exorcists. That’s a lot of coincidences!

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But whatever, Rokuro and Benio were only brought together because of a prophecy, and because the head honcho believes they’re fated to be together and conceive the Miko. By fighting Kamui alone to get revenge for her parents, Benio is going against that prophecy, as well as getting into the very same situation as six years ago: with Kamui giving her ten seconds to choose—only this time, it’s how he’ll kill her.

Naturally Benio isn’t going anywhere, but she can’t do anything here, so it’s up to Rokuro, who delivers a furious punch that blasts Kamui away long enough for him to cheer Benio up and tell her everything will be okay. They’re going home; she’s getting patched up; and then he’ll wow her with his gastronomic excellence.

But, of course, that one punch doesn’t keep Kamui down long. If anything, he’s only lightly annoyed a human was able to do such a thing to him. The fight isn’t over, but with Benio in such bad shape, how on earth is Rokuro going to be able to deal with him alone? More importantly, that oyakodon has to be stone-cold by now, right?

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 02

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Last season, Makishima wanted Kogami to come out and play, sensing he was a kindred intellect. Now Makishima is dead and Kogami is who-knows-where, and Akane has fully taken on the mantle of brilliant yet tortured ace detective who could one day end up a latent criminal. And what do you know, she has an admirer of her own, who not only leaves a message at the site where he used a paralyzed inspector to kill an enforcer, but scratched into the wall of her apartment.

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“WC?” “Water Closet” was my first guess too. It only takes this episode for Akane to figure it out, but this time she can’t keep Kitazawa from meeting the business end of a Lethal Eliminator. Before that, Mr. WC? is able to somehow reduce Kitazawa’s crime coeficient to below criminal levels, resulting in his transfer to a medical facility. During the transfer, Kitazawa escapes, attacks Inspector Aoyanagi and sets up more bombs, but Akane is right there to cut off his escape route.

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It would seem that Mr. WC?, whom we learn is named Kamui, set up this whole situation, perhaps to see how Akane would manage to save Kitazawa. That’s an inspector’s life: people are constantly putting peoples lives in your hands. It’s no wonder most of them smoke; even Akane lights them to see if the smell on her lingers (for some reason, for moment there I was shocked and scandalized at the prospect of Akane smoking!)

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Because Akane is not the only inspector on the scene (Aoyanagi is there too, and she has a settle to score) and there are more lives on the line if Kitazawa detonates another bomb, Kitazawa gets popped. But before he does, he asks her “What Color” he is, thus solving the puzzle. Despite his use of messages, pawns, and general mayhem, Kamui doesn’t seem to be cut from the same cloth as Makishima. He’s not trying to watch the world burn; but maybe wants to save it.

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Only his methods threaten to expose the holes in the Sybil System, something Akane can’t allow to fall quite yet. In the meantime, I’m loving how she’s taken to her new role as Division 1 boss, perpetually pissing the by-the-book Mika off with her unconventional methods and empathy for enforcers. Speaking of which, holo-engineer Hinakawa and ex-therapist Togane look like solid additions to the unit so far.

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Kill la Kill – 18

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Mother of God, what the heck is going on here? Kill la Kill is looking down on our Plebeian rating system! We’ve watched and written a lot of anime in the last few years, but it’s been a long while since we’ve seen a show string together so many awesome episodes in a row, including the two best episodes of the Winter (so far at least), back-to-back. Last week it threw a hundred balls up in the air; this week we learn all those balls were actually bombs, and they all get blown the fuck up.

Where to begin? Satsuki’s wholly terrifying upbringing, in which Ragyo used her as a life fiber test subject, tossing her baby sister away when she didn’t fit the genetic bill? Might as well, because that was the last straw for Satsuki’s dad Souichirou, who started Satsuki’s lifelong vendetta against her mom. It did look like her dad kinda stood by and let this crap happen to his children, but ultimately Ragyo killed him for opposing her. Junketsu was her inheritance: the garment with which she’d exact her revenge.

And so there you have it: Satsuki isn’t just after power, or the salvation of mankind; all that’s just a means of getting back at moms. The whole time she was looking down on Ryuuko, she was harboring the exact same base thirst for revenge. We’d always seen Satsuki and Ryuuko as two sides of the same coin, and we’d entertained the possibility they were really related, but the nature of the reveal knocked us back in our seats: Ryuuko was that discarded baby sister who ended up surviving. Her body is imbued with life fibers, just like Ragyo’s.

The tables in this episode must be sturdy, because they’re turned more times than an Ikea furniture testing facility. It’s a whiplash-inducing back and forth between Satsuki vs. Ragyo; the Elite Four vs. Nui; Satsuki’s Army vs. Satsuki, Ryuuko, and Nudist Beach; Nui vs. Ryuuko; Zombie Ryuuko vs. Satsuki; Satsuki’s katana vs. Ragyo’s neck. Everyone experiences victory and defeat, but nothing is permanent and there’s always another twist lurking. We’re left with both co-heroines out of commission, Ragyo in Junketsu, a sky full of angry COVERS, and the entire supporting cast left to pick up the pieces. This is finale-caliber shit going down, with nearly a quarter of the show left to go. Hold on; we’ve got a live one!


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Stray Observations:

  • Yup, all of Satsuki’s conflicts against Ryuuko were a means of testing whether she’d be a worthy ally. Everything she does seems to condescend to Ryuuko…but as she’s the elder sister, it makes perfect sense!
  • Mako reunites with her family, who weren’t bothered enough by being imprisoned by their clothes to even pause their gorging on free food. We love that family.
  • Good to see the Elite Four back in action. They do seem stronger.
  • Gamagoori orders Mako to help evacuate the crowds. We like their relationship.
  • We liked how Satsuki and Ragyo got into a bit of a light shine-off.
  • This episode and/or the last didn’t deserve 10s? Leave it out. We couldn’t rank ’em lower if we tried. We’re merely puppets of the producers at this point.

Kill la Kill – 17

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We’ll say this much: Kill la Kill does a “sports festival episode” like none other. We’ve spoken before about how sometimes a primarily building-up episode can surpass the payoff that follows, for the simple reason that the buildup episode is suffused with boundless promise even a great payoff would be hard-pressed to fulfill.

What we’re saying is, whatever the quality of the payoff that awaits us down the road, it won’t not diminish the excellence of the buildup that took place this week. Despite hardly solving anything, this just might be our favorite episode of Kill la Kill yet. We’re tempted to watch it again immediately, and again after that. Sometimes, buildup can be its own payoff.

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So what was this buildup we’re on about? Satsuki returns to Honnouji and announces a sports festival in her mother Ragyo’s honor. Ragyo oversees the global distribution of life fibers and prepares to head to Honnouji. All citizens of Honnou Town are invited to and issued dress uniforms for the catered affair, including Mako’s fam.

Meanwhile, Mikisugi and Kinagase observe the academy from hidden cameras and complete Ryuuko’s education, telling her the academy and surrounding town are one big laboratory for testing human resistance to life fibers. The student body and townsfolk are the white rats, and the dress uniforms provided by Ragyo are snakes that, when she presses a red button, start to feed on the people.

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The good guys swoop in to the stadium to save the day, stare down the bad guys and “To Be Continued” flashes on the screen in those big chunky red letters…Right? Well, not so fast: as Ragyo is talking (down) to Ryuuko, Satsuki plunges her katana into her own mother’s back, announcing she’s rebelling against the life fibers. Ohoho, now we’re talking.

Especially last week, the show’s been going out of its way to humanize Satsuki and facilitate empathy for her; she was, like Ryuuko, dropped into her current role by her parent, after all. By contrast, Ragyo and Nui, for that matter, only vaguely resemble humans both physically and emotionally.

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In any case, those two are clearly not on the side of humanity—which isn’t to say Satsuki’s suddenly turned into a “good guy”, but she’s certainly become an even more compelling and likable co-protagonist alongside Ryuuko. Frankly, there’s a lot we still don’t know: Ragyo’s fate; Nui’s response; the fate of all those people (save Mataro) being eaten by their clothes; how Satsuki will deal with Ryuuko & Co.; what she’ll actually do with the throne she seeks to take; what the life fibers have to say about all this.

In any case, Satsuki has obviously worked diligently to maintain the illusion of a dutiful daughter while plotting her mother’s downfall behind her back. In reality, for a while now Satsuki hasn’t seen Ragyo as her mother at all, but as a rival to be defeated; and Ragyo has been too blinded by her own splendor and hubris to notice.  Everything that built up to this fresh batch of questions was impeccably engineered for maximum entertainment value. It was at times serious, introspective, fascist, funny, and florid, and took us (like Ryuuko) completely by surprise. We couldn’t have asked for much more.


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Kill la Kill – 16

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Leave it to Kill la Kill to earnestly, regretfully inform us from the start that this is the recap episode we’ve been dreading, only to blaze through said recap in less than two minutes, occupying only the cold open before a brand new (and quite spiffy) OP. It’s a great little psychout, and one more reminder Kill la Kill isn’t just kicking ass telling its own story, but also an ongoing commentary of anime in general.

To whit: this week we learn the deep dark secrets of life fibers and kamui, and Ryuuko is revealed as the “Chosen One” who will curtail the Kiryuuins’ seemingly infinite ambitions. But Ryuuko isn’t the only chosen one here; so is Satsuki, who surprisingly undergoes an education parallel to Ryuuko’s: here we were thinking she was in the know about everything (she certainly didn’t hesitate to make Ryuuko think that was the case), but she wasn’t.

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It’s fitting then, that it’s confirmed to both her and Ryuuko at the same time what they had already suspected: each girl is the savior and hope of their respective faction, which makes them diametrically opposed enemies.That deep dark truth? In short, Life Fibers are aliens. They helped humanity evolve to its present level of physical and mental sophistication, and then, like creator gods, they simply sat back and admired what they had wrought. Like farmers, they awaited the fattening of their herds, for Life Fibers use humans as food.

As such, humans didn’t choose clothing, clothing chose them – a concept as absurd as it is awesome. Kiryuuin Ragyo re-initiated contact and has been essentially doing their bidding, distributing dormant fibers to the population on a global scale. Now possessed of this knowledge and their expected roles in the great battle to come, Ryuuko and Satsuki react in appropriately opposite ways.

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When the hatch to the helicopter closed, Satsuki collapsed from exhaustion and her kamui had to be sedated. Her activities have taken a far greater toll than Ryuuko or anyone beneath her know, but she refuses to give in to fatigue or pain. And yet even after her mother essentially fondles her in the bath (what is it with rich people?), and even though there are times when Satsuki seems taken aback by the things she’s learning, she doesn’t (outwardly) hesitate in answering her call to duty.

Meanwhlie, Ryuuko says “fuck that.” Because she doesn’t want to fight? Because she can’t handle that level of responsibility? No: because she doesn’t want her friend Senketsu to be forced into fighting his own kind just because Matoi Isshin made him good at it. At the end of the day, the only one who chose her to be the “Chosen One” was her dad, just as the only one who chose Satsuki was her mom. But we’re certain Senketsu will choose to fight with Ryuuko.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Ryuuko’s dad used to work for Ragyo. This is just speculation, but were they once lovers too, making Ryuuko and Satsuki sisters? It would certainly be fitting.
  • Ryuuko’s dad also founded Nudist Beach, which has an actual nudist beach underground. Neat!
  • Mako isn’t going to stay behind while Ryuuko fights…though she’s not quite resolved to go nude.
  • The new ED is very Mako-centric (not a bad thing), and is what we imagine is what the inside of her head looks like. Kinda like how Kenneth in 30 Rock sees everyone as Muppets.

Kill la Kill – 15

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When Kill la Kill goes all out, it’s truly something to behold. Osaka’s forces continue to put up a fight thanks to Takarada Kaneo’s deep pockets, but then Satsuki arrives and teaches him that it’s fear, not money, that rules the hearts of mankind, scaring all his forces away. Cornered and alone, Kaneo counters with a giant crab mecha, but the new 3-Star Goku uniforms arrive just in time, and Uzu defeats him easily, sticking his katana where the sun don’t shine.

Satsuki & Co. are acting so cool, and Takarada is so loathsome, that up to this point they look like the protagonists. But at the end of the day Kaneo is the wronged party, defending his territory from aggressors, and he’s the one (momentarily) saved by the timely arrival of a very reinvigorated Matoi Ryuuko. Satsuki knows  Ryuuko can’t transform without the glove in her possession, and wastes no time wiping her face in it. That proved to be a miscalculation, as it only convinces Ryuuko to take the next step in her symbiotic relationship with her kamui and allow Senketsu to use her skin to synchronize.

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Satsuki had been treating Ryuuko like a pesky housefly, but underestimated the lengths Ryuuko would go to, and also failed to divine Ryuuko’s new motivation, which is no longer wholly revenge. The more grand plans for conquest and subjugation Satsuki carries out, the more forcefully Ryuuko will butt in; no longer a housefly but a formidable, unpredictable hornet. Ryuuko’s not afraid to gamble with her own life to attain victory, but unlike Satsuki she’s unwilling to let others sacrifice their lives in the service of her selfish goals. Now Ryuuko’s goals align with those of Nudist Beach, much of which seemed to have been wiped out by Jakuzure while Ryuuko fought Satsuki.

And theirs is a hell of a fight, winding through (and ultimately obliterating) a souped-up Osaka tower in some of the best and most manically-animated combat of the series. It’s also an immensely satisfying battle, as Ryuuko is able to fight toe-to-toe and even deliver a crippling punch to Satsuki, albeit by playing “dirty” (the ol’ sword-blood in the face trick). More than anything, Ryuuko and Satsuki displayed quite a bit of mutual respect; Ryuuko’s no longer after Satsuki’s head, but wants to convince her to stop her villainy; while Satsuki gets a refresher in Ryuuko’s staying power and seemingly bottomless font of spirit. One could totally see the two as friends, were circumstances different.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • We really dug the “Ryuuko Entrance Fanfare” of these last two eps, which always started with her motorbike’s engine revving.
  • We reiterate: Takarada never looked anything other than lame and slimy, but the Elite Four in their new threads look simultaneously mighty and correct.
  • Ira doesn’t want to hurt Mako…another cool quasi-friendship in the making.
  • We like how Ryuuko tells Mako to go somewhere safe, which Mako determines is by Ryuuko’s side.
  • We finally see Nudist Beach forces, who were Satsuki’s ultimate target (of course). They don’t wear any more than they need to, so they’re certainly the polar opposite of uniform-obsessed Honnouji.
  • The more encounters Satsuki has with Ryuuko, the more emotion she seems to express.

Kill la Kill – 13

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In the previous episode, things went too far for Ryuko. She allowed her rage consume her, and were it not for Mako, she’d probably be dead. So for much of this episode, she’s out of commission; skulking in the dark, refusing to put Senketsu back on not because she fears him, but because she fears herself while wearing him.

Satsuki is not so idle this week: she’s mobilized Honnouji for war against the Kansai academies, moving at breakneck speed with a laser-focus on her goals while Ryuko stands still, defeated and paralyzed. When a free-speech-loving former school newspaper editor gets beaten badly enough in front of her to stir her to action protecting the weak from the forces of oppression, it looks for a moment like she’s got her groove back. But even that proves to be a deception.

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The show’s trend of having Ryuko falling victim to the machinations of others continues, with devastating results. Even with Satsuki paying a personal visit to her rainbow-haired mom Ragyo asking about Nui, we didn’t expect the newspaper guy to be Nui, and we certainly didn’t expect Ryuko’s rehab to be so quickly “cut” short by the destruction of Senketsu. By the time Satsuki collects the scraps for R&D and Mako is conscripted into Raid Trip service, Ryuko has hit rock bottom…which just means she has to stage an even more stunning comeback!

But while Satsuki sits high and mighty in her double-rotor helicopter, it’s clear she’s being played too. Her mother is obsessed with Kaizen and the notion 99% market share is a defeat; only 100% is victory. Satsuki is tool in Ragyo’s quest for world domination, and by letting Nui harass her, she’s hoping to witness the extent of a kamui’s power, so that they can harness and control it. Whether Satsuki is being the dutiful daughter or secretly vying for her mom’s throne top the World of Adults, it’s clear she won’t have to worry about Ryuko anytime soon.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Kill la Kill – 12

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Nui Harime and Ryuko fight, and Nui’s flippant attitude enrages her more and more until Senketsu explodes out of control, merging with Ryuko into a grotesque monster. Mikisugi and Kinagase’s efforts to neutralize her fail. Satsuki dons Junketsu and steps in to put Ryuko out of her misery, but before she kills her Mako races to Ryuko’s side and slaps her back into coherence. Satsuki bans Nui from Honnouji. Days later Satsuki tells Ryuko thanks to her battles, she’s helped her perfect her Goku uniforms, which she’ll deploy immediately to conquer the western academy administrators.

Amidst all the outrageous, expressionistic, sometimes psychedelic as-all-get-out Trigger action, this episode was a ripe opportunity to explore the relationships the arch-rivals Ryuko and Satsuki possess. First of all, Nui Harime is basically a thoroughly irritating thorn in everyone’s side, but to Satsuki, she’s also something of an employee. If Nui were to blatantly disobey an order or otherwise oppose Satsuki, there’d be hell to pay, hell Nui isn’t immediately interested in seeing.

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Jakuzure, meanwhile, is one of Satsuki’s officers, unqeustionably obedient and at the mercy of her whims. Like the other Elite Three and the rest of the student body, Satsuki is essentially their goddess. Then you have Mako: Ryuko owes her very life to the very nearly suicidal intervention of her best friend Mako, who didn’t merely save her out of the kindness or love, but also to repay a debt: when Mako was drunk on power and lost, Ryuko brought her back.

What that means is that Mako is no underling, servant, or acolyte of Ryuko’s—they are equals. Amigas. Buds. They keep each other honest…and alive. Even Satsuki sees this, and acknowledges Mako by name as Ryuko’s savior. There’s a glint of appreciation in her face, as we kinda doubt Satsuki wanted victory the way it was going. And though it’s highly unlikely she’s wired this way, given her affluent upbringing, it’s possible that for a nanosecond Satsuki was jealous that Ryuko had a real, true friend: something she didn’t.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kill la Kill – 11

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After Ryuuko seemingly defeats Jakuzure in an aerial clash, she bounces back with an encore in her “Da Capo” Symphony Regalia, paralyzing Senketsu with Beethoven’s Fifth. Ryuuko negates the attack with the sound of her own heart, and turns the sound on Jakuzure, who falls in defeat. Uzu faces her next, but their battle is interrupted by Nui Harime, Grand Couturier of Revoc, an organization led by Satsuki’s mother Kiryuin Ragyo. Nui brandishes the other half of Ryuuko’s scissors and tells her she was the one who killed her father.

“Things are getting more complicated by the minute,” Mikisugi laments when Harime Nui (voiced by the lovely Tamura Yukari) makes her appearance. We personally couldn’t be happier with the significant raising of stakes. Satsuki is fresh out of three-stars, and the self-amplifying dynamic of the show demanded that eventually Ryuuko’s conflict was going to soar far beyond the walls of Honnouji Academy. Here we were thinking Satsuki was unquestionably Ryuuko’s dad’s murderer, but in comes Nui, turning our (and Ryuuko’s) assumption on its head.

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Not only is Satsuki not the culprit, but she’s not even Ryuuko’s greatest threat anymore. The show really underlines Ragyo’s magnificence by making her literally shine with a blinding light. As pumped as we are for the ramifications of all these new introductions, which will reverberate across the second half of the series, we commend the episode for resisting the urge to dispatch Jakuzure too quickly. Satsuki’s right-hand woman deserved a longer, more intense fight against Ryuuko than those who preceded her, and got it. (Also cool: the theme to Ryuuko’s heart sounds like Aoi Eir!)

We also appreciated the running gags of the losers sitting with Mako, Gamagoori gradually warming up to her, and her family’s struggles to catch all the action. Let’s not forget that by summoning Fukuroda and commissioning a bullet made of life fibers, Mikisugi sure looked like he was fixing to “subdue” Ryuuko lest she get out of control, perhaps. But both his plans and Ryuuko’s battle with Uzu were cut short (quite hilariously in the latter case) by this whimsically-attired young lady who can dispatch a three-star with one finger, and cheerfully admit to killing Ryuuko’s dad with a smirk on her face. The Anti-Ryuuko.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)