Sagrada Reset – 08

After this week’s first act, I’m convinced this show excels at getting us to underestimate Asai Kei, at least as much as his adversaries do. Last week Eri Oka seemed to be holding all the cards, but it turns out Asai isn’t trapped in the photo for more than a few minutes.

Even though that buys time for Eri to mess with Haruki, Asai has Murase in place to mount a rescue. A rescue that occurs after Eri tries to plant false memories in Haruki, which not only doesn’t work (thanks to a little device in Haruki’s ear with Asai’s voice) but restores Haruki’s Reset ability.

It’s a great little turnaround, flummoxing Eri, who retreats for the time being. And having Asai and Haruki back together underscored how much anxiety I felt when they were apart. Of course, I’ve seen all their interactions thus far, but it’s important to remember Haruki doesn’t remember a lot of them.

That’s why she’s not keen to immediately reset; she wants to remember what Asai did for her. So instead of resetting, she saves, and Asai returns to the Sasano case, apparently confident Eri won’t be bothering them for a while.

The next morning, Asai receives a message to “come see someone”, and three photos, one of a woman on the beach, another of a blossoming cherry tree, and the third, Souma Sumire at sunset. Asai assumes it’s the “Witch” who is summoning him, so he goes to the beach.

There, he takes what he learned from his encounter with Eri, enters the photo, and converses with the Witch in her younger form. Because her ability is knowledge of the future, she knows what she’s going to do, and when she’s going to die, and wants to escape the bureau to see Sasano before that happens.

To that end, she used both Asai and Eri, but presents Asai with a choice: he can stop Eri, possibly leaving the Witch to die in confinement, or save the Witch another way (a way she may already know he’ll implement, mind you).

Asai gathers Sasano, Haruki and Murase, and head to the Bureau, Scooby-gang-style, and wait for Eri to get them inside. Sasano, armed with a Polaroid, takes photos of the building’s interior, one of which proves useful in getting one of the Bureau guards “out of the picture.”

This infiltration of the Bureau is only preparation for the next infiltration, when the actual rescue of the Witch is to take place. Asai has Haruki reset, sending him back to when they saved on the beach. He then jumps into one of the photos they took of the Witch’s room and asks her to call him.

The photos are still around because Murase had them, and her power negates reset, while his communication with the Witch of the past reaches the Witch of the present because she knows the future. It’s a complicated metaphysical labyrinth, but it checks out.

Before pulling it all off, Asai meets with a surprisingly chipper Eri, who accepts her loss but isn’t ready to give up on beating him, thus proving he’s weaker. Asai, meanwhile, knows that she won’t hurt him as long as he’s “defenseless.” Considering this is a long show, Eri is sure to be back; we’ll see whether she poses a greater threat at that point.

As expected, Asai gets a call from the Bureau, who bring him to the Witch, who asks him the same questions about “loving a stone” she asked Haruki, to which Asai answers he’d still love the stone if it was the girl he liked. But is that girl Asai…or Souma?

Regardless, Asai gives the Witch the photos she needs to escape and knock on the window of her boyfriend, just like the story Sasano told her when they were far younger. All these years, the Bureau has kept her under lock and key, fearful of her power. But after a time, or maybe all along, it was a power she never seemed all that interested in having, let alone using.

That’s why she decides she’ll leave Sakurada, forget about her power altogether, and live out the rest of her days—all seven of them, by her reckoning. But before she does, she indulges Asai by telling him his future: he will be involved in “something big”, something involving her “successor”, whom Asai correctly identifies as Souma. The Witch tells him he’ll run into her again. I certainly hope so!

Whew, what a ride. This mini-arc contained the most complicated ability machinations yet, and it was downright exhilarating watching all the pieces be carefully maneuvered into place before being set into quick, decisive motion. On top of that, we got confirmation Souma isn’t totally dead (though whether she’ll merely exist in that photo or not, who can say).

By not forgetting what Asai did for her, Haruki’s affection for him continues to grow. Murase is proving to be useful as “muscle” (i.e. putting holes in things or neutralizing abilities) while Eri has vowed to come back at Asai, insisting he should “be afraid.” One thing I’m not afraid of: losing interest in this unapologetically bizarre, engrossing show.

Sagrada Reset – 07

“Things seem to be getting rather complicated, huh?”

I could not have said it better than Tsushima myself: Things are getting complicated, and for once, Asai has a worthy adversary who manages to stay a step ahead of him the entire time, leading to even higher stakes by episode’s end.

But let’s go back to the beginning, and the photo by Sasano that entices Asai so. It’s indeed a photo of Souma Sumire, on the same beach where they first met and promised to meet again. And I suppose he could, in a way, by entering the photo as Sasano does.

Extremely unsettling metaphysical ramifications aside, we also learn something simpler: the evolution of Oka Eri. She was once Fujikawa Eri, before the hair-dye and contacts and rad clothes; the “weak and worthless” daughter who took abuse from her father.

Two years ago, Asai saved Eri by telling her to change her name and use a piece of evidence to blackmail her father if she so chose. Oka Eri was born, and I believe part of her believes that she’s paying Asai back by confirming his weakness, in hopes he’ll return to his former strength; the hero to her villain in this story of life.

Asai has moved on from the person he was two years ago, but meanwhile, Sasano is able to travel to 28 years in the past where a much younger Oracle lives inside one of his photos. The two of them have a plan, and it’s a long-game kind of plan. When Sasano tells her the Bureau is going to try to shut him down, she tells him not to resist, but to give her a certain selection of photos before they come.

Asai all but confirms how soft he’s gotten since meeting Asai by being drawn away from her all too easily by a frantic phone call from Murase Youka. On her own, Haruki does her best to get away from a pursuing Oka, but around five seconds of eye contact are all the villain needs to steal her reset ability.

After confirming she can’t reset, Haruki begs Asai to help her get it back, and he agrees. He’ll accede to Eri’s demand for the MacGuffin in exchange for Haruki’s ability back, then learns more from Tsushima about Eri’s ability and its weaknesses, which will no doubt be pivotal in his counterattack.

However, he doesn’t get to make one this week. Standing his ground on having moved on from the “hero” Eri saw him as two years ago and worshipped, he offers the MacGuffin without any resistance; his only goal to restore Haruki’s ability.

But Eri has another trick up her sleeve, which digs an even deeper hole for Asai and Haruki: she traps him in a photo of the lighthouse balcony they’re on, taken during the day, underscoring how hopelessly cut off he is from the “non-photo” world. And poor Haruki, who trailed after Asai, hoping the plan would work out, is once again vulnerable to Eri’s whims.

All in all, quite a mess Asai and Haruki have found themselves in. A satisfying conclusion would obviously get them out of this mess, but also, as with Murase earlier, convince Eri not to be a villain anymore, not because she’s being forced to quit, but because she wants to. That’s going to take some doing…

…And that’s before we even get into whatever Sasano and Oracle are planning.

Sagrada Reset – 06

Sakurada Reset continues its penchant for whimsically jumping from timeline to timeline by starting four years in the past, with Kei on the train to Sakurada. He encounters a man in a suit who hands him a phone that immediately rings, and a nameless “witch” is on the other end, telling him the “place he belongs” is the town of Sakurada, but warns him he’ll never live a normal life, as the town will “grab on to [him] and never let go.”

Well, we know how he chose, and it leads to his latest assignment: meeting with Sasano, an elderly gentleman whose ability to enter photographs (and thus, relive moments from the past his photos capture) has been taken away. He wants the MacGuffin to get his ability back, but Kei believes there’s a more surefire way: use his and Haruki’s powers to stop whoever sealed his ability before they seal it.

When Sasano insists on repaying Kei once he restores his power, Kei asks if he’ll use his ability for him, after seeing a figure on the beach in a photo that could very well be Souma Sumire, the loss of whom no doubt weighs upon Asai every day. Perhaps seeing and hearing her one last time could assuage that regret. A chat with Hitsuchi-kun reveals that Sasano was one of the founders of the Bureau.

After not getting changed in front of Haruki (who’d have been totes okay with it) and enjoying a lunch she prepared for them, Kei tells Haruki the thought experiment of the “Swampman”, and it leads to Kei assuring Haruki he’d be sad if she died and was replaced by someone who looked exactly like her. Furthermore, he wouldn’t want to go on living without knowing the truth. Both assertions please Haruki.

The two are then summoned, as Tsushima assured them they would be, and they accompany the same suited man who approached Kei on the train years ago. They’re then separated, as only one of them at a time may meet with the person who wants to meet with them.

That person turns out to be another founding member of the Bureau, or at least a facilitator. She has no name, and refers to herself as a “witch” with partial jest and partial wistfulness. In reality, she is an oracle, able to see the future, both of Sakurada, the Bureau, and individuals like Kei and Haruki.

Naturally, she cannot tell them those futures, but only offer riddles, much like the Oracle of The Matrix. Aside from educating Kei on her purpose, and the fact she is near death, the “witch” does not dispense as much knowledge as she likely gains by seeing Kei’s future. She also “apologizes” to him but doesn’t say what for.

As for Haruki, the “witch” presses her on how she feels about Kei and why, talking about a stone with thoughts that can be turned into a human and whatnot. Ultimately, it’s a simple “chat with a girl about love”, and after reading her future, the “witch” has all she needs and bids her farewell.

After Kei was dismissed, he is confronted by Eri Oka, the girl who took Sasano’s ability; someone he knows and who knows him, calls him “senpai”, and a “hypocrite” and thinks he used to be “more badass”. She’s there for one thing: to be the villain, causing trouble for people.

Her specific threats: to take the MacGuffin from Kei, then take away Haruki’s Reset ability. She claims to hate Kei, and wants to see him hit rock bottom…and taking Haruki’s power would certainly do that! So when Haruki emerges from the building, he immediately requests she reset, and she does.

Oka Eri likely assumed Kei would get a reset or two in in an attempt to thwart her plans, but the threats have been dispensed. Now Kei and Haruki have to figure out a way to defeat her.

She’s a bit stiff and obvious as a villain, so I’m wondering if she’s truly what she says she is, or merely using her villain persona as a means to test the service club’s dynamic duo like they’ve never been tested before. Either way, it should be an interesting confrontation.

Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 13 (Fin)

WE’RE SO SCREWED

As expected, the final Hibike! Euphonium 2 of the season is an epilogue; it even has ‘epilogue’ in the episode title. The third years are given a proper sendoff with lovely musical performances accompanied by montages of both this season and the last.

Yoko and Natsuki take up the mantle of new president and vice president, and the former can hear the loss of the third years.

Really nice lighting effects in this scene
Really nice lighting effects in this scene

So can Taki-sensei, who acknowledges that every year school bands essentially take a big step back due to the outgoing talent. That experience must be replaced with the remaining members plus the rawer talent of incoming first years.

The same band that made it to the Nationals no longer exists. The one that intends to make it back will be an entirely new one: new leadership, new composition, new style.

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Since Kumiko and Reina are first-years, they have not one but two more years to achieve their goal of National Gold. And they seem as optimistic and determined as ever to get there, despite their bronze finish this year and the loss of so much talent.

Their problems going forward are the same problems all school bands face, and secondary problems — such as Yoko and Natsuki clashing — are sure to crop up.

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The key (no pun intended), I suppose, is to avoid really big dustups such as the ones that took place before Kumiko and Reina arrived at Kitauji; the kind of conflicts that actually hindered the band’s performance, and the wounds of which have now all but faded.

And so we get a nice, long, heartfelt goodbye as all the seniors play for their juniors, then vice versa. There’s a commencement ceremony, where the goodbye hugs and wishes continue. And throughout this epilogue, Kumiko is sad and upset, all because Asuka is leaving.

Ah, so THAT'S where the show's title comes from. HUH!
Ah, so THAT’S where the show’s title comes from. HUH!

She runs all over the school grounds, increasingly desperate to find her. As usual, Asuka is trying to avoid “these kind of things”, but Kumiko won’t let her escape her, or her true feelings. Kumiko thinks she might have hated Asuka at first – but now all she feels is love. Romantic love? Perhaps it hews close to that, just as you could read her feelings towards Reina on top of that mountain last season.

But whatever specific kind of love it is, she’s got it, when she didn’t have it before. Asuka is someone she let into her life and personality, while continuing to hold back from Shuu (poor Shuu). Asuka is someone leaving, whom she doesn’t want to go. She has eyes for no third-year but Asuka.

And now she’s the chief euph, and her bandmates even remark how she sounds like Asuka. Like Mamiko, Asuka has helped shape and progress Kumiko’s musical development and identity. I’m unsure if there will be a Euph 3, but there’s plenty of great material to continue with.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 11

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We’re halfway through 3GL, and I’ve been remiss in mentioning Hashimoto Yukari. Who is Hashimoto Yukari? She does the music for 3GL, and it’s been fantastic throughout, but never more so than during Rei’s post-shogi season descent into bedridden delirium. The watercolor aesthetic has always given the show a dreamlike aura; Rei’s fever dreams are that much more dreamlike.

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I’m willing to entertain the fact that Rei’s mention last week of a “beast within him” that feeds on victory in shogi hasn’t been exaggerated. Here we see the beast being starved from lack of competition (since the shogi matches for the year are over), and what such a deficit does to Rei’s body. It stands to reason that someone for whom “shogi is everything” would cease to have anything when the shogi stopped.

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But Rei does have more than shogi going in his life. There’s a lovely Ghibli-esque quality to the manner in which the Kawamoto sisters spirit Rei away to the doctor, then to their home for proper convalescence. In his state when they found him, it was clear Rei was incapable of taking care of himself or lifting his fever in a timely fashion. The sisters basically save him.

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But when he thanks the Kawamotos profusely for saving him and apologizes for interfering with their end-of-year festivities, Akari demurs. After all, she wanted Rei to come and be part of their family; otherwise she says she’d be “cleaning alone and crying”, the hole her lost family members left still raw and festering.

Rei takes her mind off that, and for that, Rei has her thanks. Rei was, as he says, too preoccupied with his own loneliness to recognize the loneliness of another, but that failure to recognize it is now over.

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So despite starting out the episode feeling absolutely miserable in his dim, sparse apartment, Rei ends up not only warmly, cozily ensconced in the Kawamoto residence, feeling much better, but also is perfectly comfortable and at peace in the house—weird bathroom addition and all.

The stickers on the chest of drawers remind him of his life with his mother and sister. That family may no longer be with him, but he has a new family that helps him a lot, and lets him sleep more soundly.

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Qualidea Code – 12 (Fin)

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Qualidea Code wasn’t always (or really ever) the prettiest, but it was the best-sounding (musically at least), and also never seemed to stand still. It improved right up until the end, at least as far as resolving a major issue early on: a mysterious, faceless, malevolent enemy.

By this final episode, the enemy is no longer faceless, or malevolent (though some mysteries about what they are or where they come from remains unknown to the end, thankfully). In fact, it seems strange to call Airi and Asanagi enemies at all; merely a party with a different agenda.

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Placing them in a grayer area, and resolving their story in a more nuanced way than “kill bad guys” went a long way towards helping me mostly overlook the fact that the show seemed to have run out of budget this week, as huge swaths of animation are simply missing.

I didn’t even mind Aoi’s sudden but inevitable (and heavily telegraphed) “betrayal.” But just like Asanagi, who turns out to be her father, her decision to side with him and Airi is borne out of love, not hate, so it’s hard to condemn what she does.

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That doesn’t mean I don’t want Ichiya and the others to succeeding in ridding the world of the Unknown, and watching them fight desperately, initially without their worlds, made for a thrilling final battle, despite the animation shortcomings. Asuha headbutting Aoi, and Hotaru holding her sword in her mouth were among the highlights.

In the end, everyone gets a boost in power thanks to the return of Canaria’s song, which gets a slightly different (but still very danceable) arrangement for the finale, in which Airi is killed by Hime, who remembers learning which conditions would allow Airi to die contented.

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In the end, Airi does not mind leaving her mortal coil, for she achieved what she wanted: she and Asanagi were able to make another, entirely new life: Aoi. Asanagi does not die, but stays with his daughter.

The Kasumis visit their injured mom, who is ecstatic they’re safe and sound. The dimensional tear is sealed, the skies return to blue, and the heads and subheads of Kanto all vow, in their own way, to rebuild what was toppled.

While we don’t get to hear Ichiya’s answer to Canaria’s question “how do I look to you now?”, we didn’t need any words from him to know how he feels: She’s all he needs.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 25 (Fin)

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This was an episode full of tying up loose ends, the most important of which being Subaru presenting himself before Emilia a better and more useful man than the last time he saw her. He even gets to be a badass action hero! But as a loose-ends episode, it works very nicely, even if it’s not perfect, and leaves a lot hanging in the air (likely for another season, but not anytime soon).

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The first loose end is Betelgeuse, who very annoyingly won’t go down much of the first act. I was pleased Subaru used the Witche’s curse to expel Betelgeuse from his head so Julius could finish him, especially since we got a good look at the Satella herself. She does look a lot like Emilia…if Emilia were all black with a purple outline and glowing eyes!

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I rolled my eyes a little when moments after defeating Betelgeuse, Juli and Subie get a call from Felis another problem fresh out of the blue: an unaccounted-for sack full of fire stones.

There wasn’t any doubt that sack would be stashed in the wagon Emilia and the village children just happen to be riding in, nor was there the slightest chance, even in an often sadistic show like this, that this latest particular bomb would go off.

When Subie and Otto are acting like a comedy duo in a wagon Otto has nitrous’d with his magic in the last episode, it’s reasonable to assume things will work out.

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The whole rescue attempt felt like an excuse for Subaru to confront Emilia as the one who led the army, something she only just learned about from some snot-nosed kids who don’t know how to keep their damn mouths shut. Betelgeuse’s extended demise further delayed the inevitable reunion, and by the time Betel had become a Ghibli Goop Monster with his head on fire, I had long since had my fill of the manic bastard.

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But the how of how Subaru came to triumphantly reunite with Emilia didn’t mar the fact that this episode took great strides to repair what had been an estranged relationship not just between these two, but between myself, representing the non-manga-reading audience, and Emilia. Takahashi Rie does a great job reintroducing Emilia-tan to us, as she gets to express a good number of powerful emotions during the final ordeal.

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Subaru basically gets to make the perfect series of gestures to reunite with Emilia, swooping in, grabbing the bomb, and running off to get it away, but not before telling Emilia he loves her. After smashing the whales, the giant fallen tree is the gift that keeps giving, as its trunk largely shields Subaru from the blast he’s still pretty close to when the stones detonate.

It is here when Emilia, still processing everything Subaru has done for her these last few days/weeks, completely unbidden, springs into action, rushing into the danger, desperate to find Subaru alive and alright. And perhaps because the show is finally done torturing us, he is!

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From there, there’s no long, sprawling epilogue, showing what becomes of who. Just a simple scene of Subaru lying on Emilia’s lap, the two of them overjoyed to be together again.

The way Subaru describes it, Emilia is made happy for the first time by the prospect of “special treatment.” This can’t quite match the Rem Confession episode in emotional power, but it comes darned close with much less time to work with.

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I also appreciated that Emilia doesn’t have an instant reply to Subaru’s confession. It’s all well and good to say “I love you too”, but loving and being loved are so new to her it’s going to take time. Time Subaru assures her she has.

Subaru doesn’t wake up back in front of that convenience store, but merely admires Emilia’s tearful, radiant smile, as the episode fades to white and we’re treated to an extended mix of the original ED.

All in all, an imperfect but still solid and satisfying, and entertaining finale. If a second season comes along one day, I’ll surely be tuning in. If not, it was a fun ride. Often stressful, enraging, and heartbreaking…but also fun.

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Qualidea Code – 11

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Kasumi and Asuha’s mom isn’t shy about her goal: to wipe out each and every Unknown she can. In addition to being angry they kept her children captive and used them as tools for so long, she also believes there’s no reasoning with a creature so alien.

And yet, as we learn later this week as the Unknown wind down their operations on Earth, Johannes isn’t quite right about the second thing. Not only is an Unknown able to feel how a human feels, she’s also able to love, in her way. And she in turn is loved back by a human.

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Aoi, who continues to be a tense wild card just waiting to go off and undermine the plans to eradicate the Unknown, seems to understand this. It’s not just that she lacks perspective due to an emotional attachment to Yunami and Asanagi…it’s that they’re worth being worried about. She can sense that the two are different from Johannes’ black-and-white, no-quarter viewpoint.

Unfortunately, a great deal of the Unknown still seem committed to attacking humans, and Johannes isn’t in the mood to carefully pick her targets. She launches a huge attack with her big cannon, but when it proves insufficient and she’s taken out of action with an injury, it provides an opportunity for the kids to keep doing what they do best: fight for themselves.

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Of course, for our six peeps, fighting for themselves means fighting for those they love: Rindo and Hime, Asuha and Kasumi…and Canaria and Ichiya. Whatever other issues are at hand, they don’t want to lose each other, so they have to fight and they have to win. That means infiltrating enemy HQ and closing the dimensional gate that allowed the Unknown in to begin with.

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Aoi remains the third, or rather seventh wheel, following everyone but constantly looking conflicted, and with, as I mentioned, good reason. The ones she wants to protect are the adults who cared for them so kindly all those years, making them more parents than her actual parents (which are probably gone).

As Rindo and Hime encounter what seems to be Yunami’s true form, and the others meet Asanagi, who was human all along, it will be interesting to see how the final showdown will turn out. Will there be a need for fighting? Will the Unknown, led by Yunami, peacefully return to where they came from? Are there more twists in store that will test everyone’s priorities? The endgame approaches.

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Qualidea Code – 10

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The truths of the real world our heads and subheads are now awakened to roll in like relentless waves this week, and it’s a lot for them to take in.

All this time, they’ve been captives of the Unknown, who altered their perception of the world so they would see adult humans as Unknown, and thus fight them. In a way, it’s worse than The Matrix, because they’re not just batteries, they’re weapons the Unknown are using to wipe out whats left of their families.

Suddenly having your world upside down is both frightening and un-mooring, and can mess with one’s sense of identity. The kids hold close to what they know to be true beyond any doubt, and reinforced through the years they were cared for by the Unknown: the bonds of friendship and love they all share.

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Kasumi and Asuha’s ambitious (and morally flexible) mother Johannes is in charge of the humans, having climbed a ladder constructed off those who once opposed her, be they dead or now under her heel.

She’s a handful, and while parts of Kasumi and Asuha are glad to reunite with their mother, this has all happened very fast, and an adjustment period will be necessary to process it all, especially the fact that they no longer need to fight, which is what defined them to this point.

Ichiya is also particularly un-moored, because his idea of who he was – a hero who was “all we need(ed)” and the only one who could protect Canaria – has blown up in his face with the knowledge that it was all an illusion. He was nothing but a clown; a puppet being manipulated along with all the other kids.

It’s really good to see Canaria back in the show. Her cheerful demeanor are welcome in such a harsh new world, but Ichiya just can’t function without her. We saw that, and we see just how much these two mean to each other in a lovely scene that nearly turns into a kiss before Ichiya panics and sends Cana flying in the opposite end of the room.

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Johannes seems singularly obsessed with three things (in no particular order): grabbing and holding power, protecting her kids, and utterly eliminating the Unknown down to the last one, with extreme prejudice.

Kasumi and Asuha have grown up to the point they don’t really need their mother, or anyone other than each other and their comrades to protect them and give them purpose. The Unknown may have stolen them from their human parents, but the crucial years of development they were separated aren’t coming back.

Not only that, but the Unknown, represented by Asanagi and Yunami, aren’t portrayed as evil this week, but rather as two people stuck in a system who only wants what’s best for the children they’ve come to love. Were they misguided in their actions? Surely.

But they’re not the monsters Johannes makes them out to be, and the kids’ opinions of them are at best conflicted, and in the case of Aoi, totally sympathetic.

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Surely the kids can figure out a way to come between their warring parents and the Unknown and come to some kind of negotiated peace or coexistence. That would seem to be the point here. The Adults, led by Johannes, are bent on revenge, and won’t stop attacking. It’s up to their offspring to create a world that moves past this conflict.

When the Unknowns attack Johannes’ fleet, its an indication Asanagi and Yunami didn’t get the final say—perhaps their are other Unknowns in higher positions that think about the humans how Johannes thinks about them.

Another point I want to make: we’ve learned just enough about the Unknown to make them far more interesting and nuanced. They have a face and emotions and dreams and desires just like humans. If they think and feel and act so alike, appearances aside, perhaps they’re not so “unknown” after all.

For the time being, Ichiya and Canara, Kasumi and Asuha, and Hime and Hotaru all decide to keep fighting beside one another, the ones they know for sure they can count on, whatever issues they may have with one another. Keeping things simple by fighting the enemy, staying alive, and having each others backs is the best way to stay centered in increasingly uncertain times.

Which is why Aoi’s isolation and anxiety worries me.

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P.S. I somehow forgot to publish the draft of last week’s episode review, so this week you get two. You’re welcome. :*

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 21

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Even getting as far as Subaru did in forming an alliance to fight the White Whale felt like a victory to me, but the fact remained, the actual battle was far from over after some hard fighting last week. Subaru hadn’t gotten an arc victory since saving Rem eons ago. The victory we got this week was a little safe, but it was what I wanted, when I wanted it, so it’s all good.

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I enjoyed Krusch going all in on another Subaru Crazy Plan, then using him, the “weakest among them”, to rally her depleted troops. Subie’s plan is indeed quite crazy, as it involves Rem firing him up to the “lead” whale that’s controlling the other two, and using the Witch’s curse to lure it where he wanted it – underneath the colossal tree Krusch agrees to fell.

The timing worked out extraordinarily, almost lazily well, and it seems like an unspeakable crime to bring down a tree that must be millenia old, but their options were limited.

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From there, Wilhelm, who is not dead and escapes from the whale that swallowed him, delivers the coups-de-grace to the whale. In the process, we see that Wil challenged Theresia to a duel shortly after she was named Master, and he won the duel, making him demonstrably the better sword.

I still maintain that Theresia would have prefered the man she love live a long life not dedicated to facing and fighting the whale that killed her (and very likely getting himself killed in the process). But Wil needed this for closure, and to make up for failing to protect her.

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Both Wil and Krusch express their deep gratitude and desire to continue working together. Subie even half-jokingly suggests Krusch as his #3 Girl, though Krusch only admits to the occasional tug of the heartstrings. She also vows to always be friendly and show favor to him, no matter what happens in the selection fight to come. Krusch is great.

Speaking of great, Rem is too injured to move and immediately join Subie on his next mission to destroy the cult, but he reiterates all the ways she’s already saved him, and how she can let herself rely on him now and again. He also promises she can remain by his side when they return to one another, and share a farewell Eskimo kiss.

I like how this episode contained the climax and end of the battle as well as all the celebration and rest needed. Next week, one of only four episodes left (that I know of) will thus be able to focus on Subie’s goal to eliminate the cult and its threat to Emilia…who I also hope we’ll see at some point.

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Macross Delta – 20

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I was wondering how Delta would follow up an episode that was 9/10ths an advertisement for other Macross series (some worse but most better than Delta), and 1/10th nice character work between Mirage and Hayate, which for me saved it from a 6 (not recommended).

Turns out this episode was a lot more like the last 1/10th of last week, only with a lot more action, which pleased me. For once, though, the action doesn’t predominantly serve the plot; the status of the war remains unchanged.

Instead, all the action is character-driven, not a bad way to go for a show whose characters have too often felt like little more than props (or shadows of aforementioned better shows). Forget the war, we’ve got more basic problems: Freyja can’t sing, Hayate can’t fly, and Mikumo is God-knows-where.

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Everyone is full of doubt and uncertainty, even in Windermere, where Heinz is definitely spooked by the fact his song was overpowered by Mikumo’s. His brother Keith (who has had very little to do since losing an eye) seems to want to know more about Heinz’s specific medical problems, all while wondering what the heck is going on with Lloyd, who he thought he used to know well.

Lloyds reassurances to Heinz that his voice is peerless, and to Keith that all will be well, aren’t received with enthusiasm by either Windermere. Cassim is also still walking around looking lost; the only ones who aren’t are content to blindly follow the most powerful authority.

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Things can’t stay this way for the main players on both sides of the war, so it falls to the second tier of the cast to bring about some kind of change. Makino and Reina start prodding the medical frigate’s security for weaknesses, and when Kaname catches them, they convince her to join their cause, even if it’s against the rules, because they love Mikumo.

Hayate and Freyja actually manage to sit at a table together, but only to exchange unilateral life-altering/ruining decisions. Hayate wants to quit flying so Freyja can keep singing; Freyja wants to quit singing so Hayate can keep flying. Their affection for one another precludes doing anything that might hurt one another.

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Enter Mirage, who does a far better job than Lloyd to, well, not so much reassure them as knock some sense into them with harsh words. She considers both their offers unacceptable; Hayate has to fly and Freyja has to sing; that’s what they were frikkin’ born to do.

And she’s not even going to give them the choice to give up on their dreams, because she loves them too much. There; she finally said it, only two both of them and not simply Hayate. Better than nothing, I guess. Mirage (and Seto Asami) do great work here.

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While Mirage puts her heart on her sleeve to help the comrades—the friends—she loves, Kaname, Makino and Reina potentially put their careers, freedom, and lives on the line for their comrade Mikumo. Reina’s hacking isn’t pefect, but Kaname doesn’t give up when the other two are arrested, running through corridors and belting out song until she reaches Mikumo, who despite being in a stasis tank, sings along.

And that’s it for episode 20. With six episodes left, the sing-and-fly formula of earlier episodes has been immensely disrupted, and we’re left wondering what will become of the singers of Walkure, the pilots of Delta, and the overdressed tools of Windermere.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 20

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In an initially cryptic prologue, a young man who looks like a more well put-together Subaru approaches a fair lass who looks like a redheaded Emilia. It’s actually a very young Wilheim van Astrea meeting his future love, Theresia, but I’m sure the resemblances aren’t an accident.

Theresia may be gone and isn’t coming back, but this entire grand battle is Subaru’s attempt to protect Emilia from a demise (and, in turn, himself from Puck’s primal wrath). He couldn’t do it alone, so he called upon those with common purpose, and the result unfolds this week.

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Watching him dust himself off and craft the plan and set up the pieces made for a World Heritage List-worthy outing; and while it wasn’t really in doubt that the payoff would, er, pay off, there was also a lingering feeling that Subaru was due for another setback. This is Re:Zero, after all. Not victory comes easily, nor on the first try.

That being said, the joint Karsten/Hoshin army packs a whollop, unleashing all their best attacks and dealing seroius damage to the whale, who is none to happy that the ambush tables were turned. One weapon even turns night into day, which makes the battle a lot easier to see. This isn’t ufotable-level combat, mind you, but it doesn’t need to be, and gets the job done.

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After Wilhem cuts out one of the whale’s eyes (GROSS!), it unleashes a cloud of fog, and its counterattack begins. We see concern in Crusch’s expression as the sky dims, and Wil remembers telling the lovely redhead in the ruins how his sword is the only way to protect someone as a knight.

He failed in that task, but not for want of trying, and is resolute in his desire to make up for the failure by vanquishing the whale once and for all.

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But the whale has more tricks up its sleeve: its fog cleaves the earth and utterly destroys a good chunk of the force. Many of the survivors succomb to the whale’s devastating, mind-piercing song, which makes them hurt themselves. Fortunately Felis is there to neutralize the effects with his healing magic.

Subaru sees that someone needs to step up and change the tune of this battle, and decides it should be him. He openly mentions Return by Death, which has the desired effect of infusing him with a fresh batch of the Witch’s stench, drawing the whale to him like a fish to a lure.

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This gives Wil a fresh chance to do more damage to the whale, but he ends up in the wrong position at the wrong time: right in front of the whale’s mouth as it scoops the earth around him up like a cloud of shrimp.

Wil stops and recalls one last time, the night he was saved by the Master Swordsman, who turned out to be Theresia. The fact is, he was never strong enough to protect her; instead, the reverse was the case. Even when he lashed out in frustration, Theresia proved she was the better swordsman, even if she didn’t understand why.

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But Wil never got over the face he could not protect the woman he loved, nor stop her from protecting him. He saw himself as the expendable one, and would have died happily if it meant she could live on, or even better, especially if she could then step down as Master Swordsman.

But that’s not exactly fair to Theresia, and I’m glad the show brings up the fact Wilheim’s desire for revenge, and putting himself in the literal jaws of the whale, may not have been the right thing to do, or indeed what Theresia wanted. She died to save him so he could live on. But he spent the last fourteen years living only for this day.

Whether he survived this battle or died fighting, he was going to end things. And I’m not sure Theresia would approve. Especially since we learn there isn’t just one white whale, but several. Talk about a Re:Zero knife twist!

What if now, Subaru has to die, plan all this out again, and the next time, include Priscilla and possibly others? I’m also weary that the Witch’s Cult will take advantage of the Karsten’s scattered, weakened army to launch their own strike.

The plan was sound, it just wasn’t quite enough to end things. Will Subie be able to accomplish what Wilheim couldn’t—save the one he loves—without sacrificing himself?

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 19

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MAN, I LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER.

It’s a tired phrase, but I can’t think of a more apt use for it than the latest Re:Zero, where Subaru gets to start over from Zero and doesn’t squander the chance. Rather than begging like a babbling loon for an obscure, partially-formed goal, he comes to Crusch Karsten—and Anastasia Hoshin, and the Merchant’s Guild—with a sensible, viable arrangement, with the White Whale at the core.

In this manner, Subaru unwittingly becomes the catalyst for a grand battle that was in the making long before he arrived in this world. EVERYONE detests the White Whale. Thanks to his past lives, he not only knows how to properly approach and negotiate with these people—from a position of strength and common cause, and pride—he knows where the White Whale will show up next, and most importantly, when, thanks to his “metia.”

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When Subaru is speaking to Crusch, and Felis, and Wilheim in a manner that makes them receptive, he seems to find the unlikely hero within himself, a hero who has united groups with various opposing interests in less important areas but a shared loathing of the White Whale.

And because of the way he composes himself and presents his plan, everyone is not only willing, but eager to hear him out. Crusch is suspicious at first, but she can see the wind of dishonesty when someone lies, and Subaru, though clearly still intimidated, is making an honest, courageous effort that she doesn’t overlook.

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Part of me hated Crusch for so cruelly refusing Subie’s assistance the first time around, but I couldn’t blame her, as he was giving her no reason to help or believe him. Here he did his homework, recalling all the various goings-on in his past lives (combined with Hoshin’s major burn) to uncover the battle Crusch was preparing for anyway, and offer something that could give them all a decisive advantage over their foe.

Everyone works through the night to get ready, and Subie meets Hoshin’s mercenary captain Ricardo, numerous veterans who came out of retirement to, like Wilheim, avenge their lost loved ones upon the Whale. Subaru sees this is bigger than him, but none of this would be possible without him. He’s making it, damnit…he’s making it!

And God, it’s so good just to see everyone smiling and laughing again, even if it is, in part, to hide how goshdarn scared they all are of the task before them.

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This week, Subaru succeeded in all the ways he failed in previous attempts to save Emilia all by himself, or with last-minute help from others. Even though Priscilla isn’t a part of the alliance (and is totally absent this week), her reaction to Subie trying to kiss her feet was a powerful lesson Subie keeps with him, and is brought up again when he chooses his ground dragon, a breed known for its intense pride. He can’t accomplish anything alone, and he can’t inspire or convince others without that pride.

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Last week was ALL Rem and Subie, elevating Rem to “best girl of the year” status for many. I don’t have many strong arguments against that, so I’ll let it stand, especially when she doubles down this week on her absolute faith in Subaru, keeping his spirits up even when he starts to doubt if his cell phone will actually help them (considering how cruel this show can be, I too was worried this to all be for nothing).

But now Rem isn’t the only one trusting of or grateful to Subaru. He’s convinced two candidates battling for the throne to join forces, for crying out loud. And the merchants! As for stern-faced Wilheim, he gets a lot more fine strokes this week as one of those older men in this world who lost something to the WW, and is grateful for the opportunity to avenge his wife (who was once Master Swordsman, underscoring how dangerous the WW is).

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Perhaps one of the best moments of a highly satisfying and morale-boosting episode, another gem in a show full of them, is the moments of silence as the hour of the Whale’s arrival approaches. There’s so much built-up tension, combined with the possibility that it might not show up, or that the Witch Cultists would ambush the army.

Then the silence is broken by a strange electronic musical noise that took be totally off-guard (even though he said he’d set it earlier): Subaru’s cell phone alarm.

The cheerful chime feels like a terribly foreboding harbinger to some foul occurrence, but then the whale makes its appearance, and Subaru charges in first with Rem loosing her magic with prejudice. That changes Crusch’s face from terror and worry to a defiant smirk, and the battle begins.

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