Banana Fish – 04 – Thoroughly Punished

Arthur gives Eiji a choice—tell him what he knows or watch one of the white coats die—but even when Eiji relents, he still orders the woman’s death, only cementing the axiom that a traitor like Arthur can never be trusted. Shorter manages to rescue Eiji and the two white coats, but at great cost: Griffin is shot when he bursts into the middle of the standoff, and eventually dies from his wounds.

It seemed like a great deal of what Ash was doing was for the sake of his brother, but he doesn’t learn until after he defeats his new bunkmate Bull. Ibe feels responsible for Eiji and wants him to return to Japan now that his life is in danger, but Eiji wants to stay put; he can’t leave Ash now. Ash is also attacked by convicts loyal to Golzine but he manages to handle them thanks to a fork he hid. After that, Max lets him know about Griff’s death, and the two have it out, each giving in to the grief.

As Ash and Max reach a kind of detente, bunkmates once more, the wheels of justice may be slowly turning in Ash’s favor. I certainly hope he’s out of prison soon; the fights and threats of rape have grown stale, especially since it’s clear Ash can handle himself. Even with Griffin dead, Ash probably won’t stop scratching at this itch of a mystery once he gets out, and Eiji will no doubt be by his side in the search for the truth, no matter how many dangers accompany their path.

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Inuyashiki – 08

Hiro never bothered to cover his tracks that well, and so it was only a matter of time before a SWAT team showed up. In their attempt to capture him, Shion and her grandmother are killed, and the ostensible sociopath, who has chosen them as tethers to his humanity, is clearly very upset and guilty about that.

The police empty clip after clip into him but of course cannot penetrate Hiro’s skin, and he’s able to escape with Shion and her grandma and, I assume, heal them. Still, he leaves them behind, with words of apology, and will likely never let them get in harm’s way again—which means never coming near them again.

It’s a busy episode of Inuyashiki that checks in on just about everyone, even a random cop duo who hope to catch Hiro soon. But its focus is on Ichirou’s daughter Mari, who gets some welcome development beyond the thin outline we’d gleaned thus far of a girl ashamed to have such a poor, pathetic old-looking man for a father.

Turns out that was not nearly the whole picture. Mari’s grades aren’t great, and isn’t that interested in going to college. Instead, she wants to strike out as a mangaka, utilizing a craft she’s honed in secret since elementary school. She’s motivated by her neighbor and classmate, the rich and entitled son of the famous mangaka Oda, and she resents that he’s trying to follow in his footsteps simply because it seems like the natural thing to do.

Meanwhile, Ichirou continues to explore and refine his abilities with the help of Andou, another classmate of Mari’s, and it isn’t long before she spots the two walking and talking together. She stalks them, and dismisses the wild (and hilarious) theories that initially enter her mind (Andou is asking for permission to pursue Andou; her dad is into younger boys; Andou is his bastard son).

She keeps following them, watches them go into hospital rooms, then Googles the “miracle worker” who has saved over 120 lives. Then she sees her father launch himself into the sky like a rocket, and nothing will ever be the same.

By that, I mean Mari immediately starts to think of her father in a different way. Not much time is spent on her processing what she’s seen—it would understandably take some time—but when her mother confronts her on her low grades and insist she abandon the manga hobby and go to college, expense be damned—Ichirou walks in and immediately takes her side. 

Granted, Ichirou probably has no idea Mari knows anything about his abilities, so there’s no leverage at play here. Indeed, a pre-transformation Ichirou may have taken his wife’s side instead, because he struck me as a bit of a pushover. But not now. Now he’s willing to let his daughter embrace her dream, because he wants her to be happy.

As for Shion and her Grandma? They’re alive and well, in a new apartment, receiving payments from “him.” He healed them, but apparently could not wipe their memories. My money is on Shion trying to reach out to Hiro again, perhaps to her peril…again.

But being apart from Shion, her grandmother, and their quiet, simple life, not to mention the reason he had to leave it, has an immediate and strong negative impact on Hiro, who slips back into his old homicidal ways. The ones he cares about may still be alive, but it doesn’t change the fact that the police killed them, obviously lacking the knowledge he could repair them.

Had the police left him alone (whether that was the right thing to do or not), he may have continued on his peaceful course. But now he wants revenge, and to lash out at those who dared hurt Shion and her grandma. So he heads to the station and starts systematically slaughtering every policeman he sees—including the two cops we saw earlier.

When he’s done inside the headquarters, he goes outside to find a huge force waiting for him. A sniper knocks him down, and SWAT teams riddle him with bullets anew, but they can only slow him down; they can’t stop him, or really even hurt him. Even when “unconscious”, his defensive systems deploy and eliminate all threats with grim efficiency.

All of this unfolds before the video cameras of the media, which it seems Hiro doesn’t kill. Indeed, he leaves one defiant policeman alive so he can witness him killing all the other police around him, to prove to him he will always win in the end.

But because those cameras are capturing him, Ichirou and Mari are watching on the news, and Ichirou doesn’t see the boy who fought to protect Shion and her grandmother, or saved as many lives as he killed (though he’s now clearly “in the red” again). Ichirou just sees a butcher only he can stop.

KonoSuba 2 – 06

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KonoSuba 2 is again in top-form this week, starting with a wonderful domestic scene of Darkness and Megumin trying to force Aqua to go outside with them, but she doesn’t wanna. She tries to deflect by calling them kids (even though she’s acting more like one herself) then wonders why they won’t ask Kazuma instead. Kazuma is relaxing under his kotatsu…wait, kotatsu? In this wonderful, alternate world? What gives?

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Vanir, as it happens, isn’t dead. He merely lost an extra life, and now he’s Vanir II. I got a big laugh out of that, and Vanir’s constant posing and amusingly over-the-top monologues. It wouldn’t be the first or the last of this episode, though the fact he and Kazuma are in business making items from his “homeland” (like said kotatsu) is an interesting angle, it’s not lingered on long.

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Once he finally deigns to emerge from his cave, Kazuma heads to the weaponsmith to collect the weapon he comissioned: a katana. He also tries on some impressive full plate armor, but can’t move in it, and any attempts to look cool result in knocking other swords down, or whacking the side of the door.

He then has to give his sword a name, and of course all the usual famous sword names enter Kazuma’s head – Masamune, Muramasa, Kotetsu, etc. He lets his guard down, and Megumin unilateraly brands the sword Chunchunmaru, in keeping with her usual moe naming style.

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His sword thus named, the quartet strikes out on a quest—I believe the first non-dungeon quest they’ve undertaken at full strength. There’s a certain triumphant quality to seeing the four out their, under the big blue sky, running their checklists and making sure they’re prepared to take on the vast group of Lizard Runners they’re tasked with taking out.

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Naturally, any enemy in KonoSuba that is described as being “trampling” in nature will, ultimately, end up trampling upon one or more of Kazuma’s party, or indeed himself. I got a kick out of Aqua’s too-late advice and too-soon rash magic that brings the herd straight to their location. The lizards themselves were also hilariously twitchy and neat.

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Kazuma manages to snipe the “Princess Runner” all the others follow, but when she lands she knocks him off the tree and he hits the ground hard. The injury is bad enough to land him in the hereafter with Eris, who he confirms is the true heroine of his story, if only he could spend more time with her.

He tries to do just that, but before long the voice of Aqua permeates the realm, getting increasingly worried and upset Kazuma won’t wake up. Darkness and Megumin also chime in, with the latter doing something to his body that leaves him no choice but to return to them. Maybe he’ll see Eris when she “sneaks out” one day? Probably not.

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Everyone is clearly very glad Kazuma is back, underscoring the familial bond the four share, despite (or because of) all their bickering and sniping.

And that ‘something’ turns out to be labelling his dick “The Holy Sword Excalibur”, which he doesn’t realize until he takes a bath back home. In his shock he runs out to find Megumin, and loses his towel, leading to the priceless reaction shot of Aqua you see above.

This week delivered laughs both clever and dumb from start to finish. I daresay KonoSuba has fully re-attained my interest, and I’m looking forward to what’s to come next week.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 24

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So, the first attempt to save the village and take out the Witch’s Cult was met by some mishaps, such as the time-consuming misunderstanding that led to a confrontation with Ram, the killing of villagers before evacuation was complete, Emilia taking the field of battle, putting herself at risk, and oh yeah, Subie getting possessed by Betelgeuse.

But when Julius and Felis killed him, he died and came back just like he always did, without any twists due to his possession. And fortune not only smiles, but beams on him, as he wakes up right in the middle of the planning phase, allowing him to casually introduce the new information he gleaned about body-snatching, the traitor in their midst, and Ram.

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His new plan revolves around convincing Emilia to go along with “Crusch’s plan” to evacuate the mansion and village, including Emi-tan herself. She agrees, because she believes the plan put before her, while not entirely or even partially of her own making, is the best plan as far as she can tell.

So she’s put on a wagon with some enthusiastic village kids, and sent off to safety, while Subie and the knights capture the traitor and take the metia he was using to pass information to the cult. It’s important to note Subaru himself wore the recognition-blocking robe Emilia threw at him, so she had no idea he planned all this.

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Suffice it to say, thanks to learning the lessons of last week’s ‘dry run’, everything goes off without a hitch, as Subaru once again confronts a Betelgeuse now weakened by a lack of fingers nearby. Subie also allows Juli to uses a spell, Nect, that lets him see with his eyes, alowing him to see the unseen hands and cut through them.

This achieved one of Subie’s secondary objectives: to properly make up with Julius. He is, after all, a crucial part of the plan and why, when the episode ends, it looks like the end is near for the Sin Archbishop, and very good for Subaru, who has once more learned from his past mistakes, put pride aside, planned carefully, and relied on and trusted in others.

This is how he has truly become Emilia’s knight.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 23

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False Alarm: No Fresh Hell, just not completely dealt-with Old Hell on this week’s menu. Hell leftovers, if you will. Ram puts the convoy under an illusion spell because she fears Subaru switched sides and the convoy is his invading force. This is due to a misunderstanding: the letter sent to the mansion was blank, usually a declaration of war.

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No harm, no foul, then, right? Ram accepts Subaru’s explanations, and while she’s not in love with him like her sister, he and she still have quite a bit of history which lets her withdraw her aggressive stance with confidence.

It’s also confidence Subaru needs in order to tell the people of the village they need to evacuate. At first a couple of malcontents curst the “half-elf” who brought this upon them, but with Ram’s help, Subie successfully persuades the villagers, even the racists, to cooperate.

Just when Subie is about to head for the mansion with Juli and Felis, the latter discovers one of the merchants has been possessed by a member of the witch’s cult. The man self-destructs, nearly killing Felis and Subie, and the remnants of Betelgueses fingers attack the village.

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Smoke (and Unseen Hands) fills the sky, blood stains the ground, adn the scene starts to resemble one of Subie’s past nightmare scenarios. But this time, he isn’t singularly responsible for failing to detect the cult’s, inside men; he’s just one part of an alliance made up of far more capable people than he who also missed this one.

That being said, and in spite of her earlier warnings to the villagers falling on deaf, non-pointed ears, Emilia arrives to help deal with the threat and protect the villagers who still live.

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She and Pick manage to take out all of the fingers…that they know of, all of whom talk and move and act like Betelguese. But even Emi’s last defeated opponent isn’t the end. When one of Juli’s lesser spirits, deployed to protect Subie, leaves Subie’s body, Betelgeuse possesses him.

Since we’ve never seen Betelgeuse leave a body that went on to survive, it sadly looks like the end for this version of Subaru, as he compels a reluctant, emotional Felis and Juli to kill him before Betelgeuse completes his hold. When the curtain falls on the episode, it would seem they obeyed him.

Will we shift to the focus of everyone but Subaru now that he’s left this world, or will we continue to following him as he respawns…wherever it is he respawns? Whatever the case, I doubt this turn of events will be resolved as quickly as Ram’s misunderstanding…

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Qualidea Code – 07

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Hotaru lives only to serve Hime, so she’s going to do whatever it takes to fulfill her promise to return to her side when needed. This week we learn more about why, as Airi attempts the close the gaping hole in the sky and Hime desperately holds off wave after wave of humanoid Unknown.

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Hime didn’t like the idea of being put into cold sleep in separate shelters, but Hotaru promised it would be okay. It wasn’t; when Hotaru awakened, she had “lost herself.” For ten years, she served as an elite assassin, until her last target was her old friend, who never stopped believing she’d come back. She did, and they’ve remained the closest of friends ever since.

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When it looks like Airi isn’t going to be done closing the hole, and Hotaru isn’t going to be able to get to Hime before she runs out of gas, Hotaru enlists the help of Kasumi, Aoi, and Asuha to fashion a sky bridge out of frozen Unknown carcasses. As Hotaru mentions, it’s a great bit of inventiveness from Kasumi, who feelings aside knows full well how boned they are if they lose the Kanegawa head.

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The lonely battle Hime fights as everyone while to help her grows increasingly tense and frought, as one small slip-up could mean her sudden heartbreaking demise. Indeed, she seems only a split-second away from having her head crushed when Hotaru finally arrives, keeping her promise by rescuing her.

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Not long thereafter, Airi successfully re-activates the barrier, the hole starts to close, and the Unknown retreat. If things had ended with a couple of tender lines between Hotaru and Hime on their way home, this would have been a great wrap-up to a solidly 8 episode.

But that’s no what happened. The end of the battle marks only the beginning of…something else. Airi notices Hime’s vitals throwing errors, and Hime tells Hotaru “something’s not right”, stopping her from defeating the last Unknown charging them.

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Hime asks Hotaru to trust her before shattering the Code on her neck, the way her’s was shattered moments before. And just like that, the door to a huge new Pandora’s Box creaks open, as we see from Hotaru’s POV that something is, indeed, not right at all. 

It’s made clearer than ever that these kids are not living in the real world, but an artificial one, governed/regulated by their (admittedly vulnerable) Code chips. By episode’s end, Hime, Hotaru, and Kasumi have been released from those chips, and see the world for what it really is.

The former two also allowed themselves to get swallowed up in the big Unknown, and now they’re “gone” from the world they knew. Perhaps they’ll end up where Canaria and the other “dead” kids went.

This is a huge development; the show is confidently headed exactly where I hoped it would ever since it showed that seagull disappearing, and I’ll be watching with great interest to see what comes next.

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Qualidea Code – 06

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Qualidea Code reaches its halfway point on a nice streak. Despite being the worst-looking show I’m watching, I find myself more and more invested in this weird world full of mysteries being kept secret from the children protecting what’s left of it…even if those mysteries seem deeper and darker than they’ll eventually turn out to be.

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This week Hime leads the charge against a huge Unknown aerial force in Tokyo. A new type of Unknown, which I’ll call Cudgel-class, fall from the sky in swarms, smashing students like ants. As the losses mount, Hime tries to keep everyone together, and gets a nice little vote of confidence from her “mom”, Officer Yunami.

But Yunami is worthless on a battlefield, so Hime puts her on one of the non-combat evacuation trains to safety, having her look after her pocket watch. Both that gesture, Hime’s lines, and the flashback to when Yumemi first woke up in the present world, all feel like death flags being flown.

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Yumemi lets Hime visit her old, ruined family mansion, where she finds her heroic grandfather’s jacket, which goes on to be her trademark oversized cloak. We also learn the “worlds” or special skills of kids are determined by the worlds they saw before they went into cold sleep, as well as the dreams they had while in it.

Hime’s dreams were all about her and Hotori living happily in a peaceful world, and so she developed a “world” strong enough to make that happen. She orders a retreat and dismisses her devoted underlings, certain Hotori will show up like she promised.

But Hotori is late, busy with her own Unknown swarn after crossing the no-entry zone. Hime gets injured while damaging the Unknown lead ship, but still refuses to board the train A legion of more humanoid-looking Unknown troops advance on her, and Hotori is still not there.

Can Hotori, or the Suguha siblings get to her in time? Or will she be the second main character loss in just seven episodes?

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Qualidea Code – 05

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QC stuck to its guns b confirming Canaria is dead, as were all the other students who went through the no-entry zone. Ichiya is off in a cloud of grief, leaving Tokyo rudderless. Hime leads the way in stepping in to pick up the slack, initially putting forth policies intolerable enough that she hopes Ichiya’s own people convince him to come back.

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Hime shows a lot more depth this week, as more than simply the hyper overpowered princess we’ve seen her as so far. We see the true reason Hotaru cares for her so much. Ever since Hotaru saw Hime’s hands trembling as she told adults she was fine after her parent’s death, she knows when Hime is hiding her true emotions, which she must to in order to try to restore some semblage of morale in Tokyo.

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Unfortunately, neither the friendly nor the more hard-line tack do much good against the nearly catatonic Ichiya. She misjudges just how much Canaria meant to him by scolding him for “freezing every time one person dies.” Canaria wasn’t “one person”, she was the person to Ichiya. We also learn that one person managed to survive the post-no-entry purge: Aoi, but only because the adults took out her old Code and installed a new one, with very little explanation other than “you’ll be fine now.”

We know that going into the zone marked Canaria and the others for death by surprise Unknown attack. But we don’t know why, and the adults don’t want anyone else to know, either. That being said, Hotaru still wants answers, and if she can’t get them from the adults, she tries to lead Aoi back to the no-entry zone for clues, all but forcing her to explain why they simply cannot go back there.

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As expected, it’s Kasumi who manages to get Ichiya back out into the sunlight, but he’s still a zombie who doesn’t do anything other than grieve and lament his plight this week. This had the effect of giving the other heads and subheads more screen time, and while the Chigusa siblings were their usual half-bored selves, Hime and Hotaru shined.

QC is doing the right thing by keeping its cards close vis-a-vis the Unknown. Typically, the more details one learns about an initially mysterious/inscrutable villain or evil force, the less frightening they become, since there’s nothing scarier than the unknown.

The fact we still know very little about what the Unknown are and what motivates them adds to their creepy mystique, leads us to flex our imaginations searching for theories, and mitigates their uninspired designs.

But it’s inevitable we’re going to learn more about them, especially when the very sky turns red as the largest Unknown force yet amassed seems poised to wipe out the three cities once and for all (a great Oh Shit moment). I just hope we don’t learn more than we need, thus the threat become devalued.

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Hai to Gensou no Grimgar – 04

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This week’s HGG starts out gently and quietly, with Manato and Shihoru returning from a dawn errand. Shihoru stops to feed the birds, and invites Shihoru to help. She’s startled by the birds, slips, and falls, but Manato catches her, protecting her from harm.

When she thanks him, he admits how glad he is to be talking with her again. Their interactions speak volumes. Manato is someone Shihoru can relie on to protect her; to catch her if she falls. Little did I know that this would be the last time they’d be alone together.

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Back in the ruined city, Haruhiro reports how each one of the party has gained a new skill, which when combined with their improving teamwork that covers one anothers’ weaknesses, results in a goblin-slaying bonanza; they can now take on three at a time, and are no longer squeamish about finishing off their quarry.

There’s a triumphant tone to this sequence, with our party kicking ass, taking names, and looking good doing it, all to some very upbeat, energetic battle music. The gang is finally getting the hang of it.

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When they settle in for lunch and some rest and relaxation, Yume goes off on a very long tangent about the deity she prays to and offers part of her food in order to keep her safe. The rambling irks Ranta, who wanted her story to have a point, but this is another example of simply passing the time, shooting the breeze, and gradually learning a little more about each other – and themselves; they are still amnesiacs – every day.

The casual joy of the scene is not lost on Manato, who proceeds to praise every other member of the party for their contributions, and how he’s happy they’re become a respectable party due to filling in each other’s gaps. He doesn’t get to talk about Haruhiro, as the party has to move on, but Haruhiro is sure he’ll have any number of chances to ask Manato what he thinks of him. Only, as it happens, he won’t.

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Haru sees a glint from the top of a building, and manages to save Manato from a sniper, taking the arrow in his shoulder. Soon, he gets another in his leg, and all hell breaks loose. Goblins of various sizes and skill sets come out of the stonework and ambush the party, who have to beat a speedy retreat to the forest.

As he runs, Manato, the party’s healer, vanguard, and glue, gets an arrow to the back, which pierces his vitals. He attempts to heal himself, but has lost too much blood, and passes out. Neither stopping the blood nor giving him mouth-to-mouth has any effect.

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His stunned, desperate party members take him to the priests to see what they can do, but there’s nothing they can do. No phoenix down; no Life spells; no respawning. In Grimgar, dead is dead, and that’s what Manato is. Worse, if his remains aren’t properly cared for within three to five days, he may rise as a zombie. Utterly dejected, you can taste the venom in Haru’s mouth as he asks whether the cremation costs money, then categorically rejects the priest’s charity.

What follows is an excruciatingly long and hard few scenes where Haru, Yume, Shihoru, Moguzo and Ranta simply sit or stand around, defeated, filled with grief, as they say goodbye to their friend and the one who bound them all together and never doubted them. In addition to huge holes in their hearts, they now have a gaping hole in their party with no more healer, a stinging irony.

Their first goblin kill was one of the first times we felt along with the party the full weight and stakes and cruel unyielding harshness of the world they now found themselves in without explanation. But Manato’s death was another first, and one that will be far tougher to recover from. There is no rage or talk about revenge in the end; only heartache and anguish.

In the first three weeks of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, we had no shortage of fantasy wrapped in a unique and refreshing realism, with all the horrors and joys of real life. Now, we’ve seen the ash, how far the realism goes, and a major death getting the weight and solemnity it deserves. Now all we can do is wait with nervous apprehension to learn how the party will carry on.

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Sket Dance 25

Switch’s flashback continues. Having recieved a death threat, Sawa enlists the aid of the Usui brothers. But when he’s shot down by Switch for the umpteenth time, Kazuyoshi tells them to go off without him, believing Sawa’s best off with Switch. They head out, and a girl named Yukino arrives at Sawa’s door. She describes a creepy stalker who pulled a knife on someone in middle school, who Kazuyoshi spots behind a pole and pursues. When he catches him, he learns that Yukino is the knife-wielding stalker. She finds Switch and Sawa and pulls a knife on them. Switch protects Sawa, takes the blade in the chest, and dies. Kazuyoshi is devastated, and blames himself for his brother’s death. Sawa moves away, and the three are down to one. To honor his brother’s memory, Kazuyoshi takes on the title and appearance of “Switch”, and studies hard to amass the great amount of information he possesses. Bossun reaches out to him and he joins a new trio in the Sket-dan.

I’m not sure why what was a consistently zany, over-the-top comedy would want to try straight-up serious drama, but Sket Dance really hit it out of the park with this Switch arc, totally changing gears from its usual fare. We’re thrown into a very tragic story, where a brother has a bad day and says some stupid things he shouldn’t, and it gets his little brother killed. When you add it all up: Kazuyoshi not accompaning Switch and Sawa; his curt last words to Switch; and finally egging on the psychopathic Yukino then letting her loose, it’s hard to argue with him. Gone half-mad with guilt and grief, Kazuyoshi makes an incredible decision: to stop being Kazuyoshi.

He hasn’t spoken since the day of that decision, except with the software than combines his voice with Masafumi’s. And the young Switch we saw this week and last was actually someone we never knew; it was the big bro who turned out to be our Switch. Very strange, but it definitely works. This wasn’t a perfect episode – Sawa was kind of a bland airhead most of the time, and the story relies a little too often on convenient coincidence, but as this was one of the best episodes of a series that has been anything but serious to this point, I’m giving it top marks.


Rating: 4