Gleipnir – 13 (Fin) – The Truth is Out There…Not Here

As Honoka/Aiko’s “Ghost” “erases” another classmate (perhaps involved in the bullying that caused Aiko’s suicide) in front of Elena, Shuuichi and Claire ask Sayaka’s gang to give them all the coins they collected so they can go back to living normal lives while the two of them “end the game” for good. It’s a neat strategy, but unfortunately we never get to see it realized in this frustratingly incomplete finale.

Claire finally gives Shuuichi an ultimatum: either they hang out at one of their houses or they’re through, having had only this one summer together before going their separate ways. It’s a bit out of left field, but the result is Shuuichi invites her to his house, which is filthy and no place for a makeout session. When Claire tries to get answers, a repressed memory of Elena in the same position surfaces, and in a panic, Shuuichi nearly assaults Claire before returning to his senses.

Ultimately, Sayaka’s gang decides they’ll give their coins to Elena and not Shuuichi. Chihiro makes the exchange, but is interrupted by the arrival of Shuuichi, whose memories continue to surface. He now knows that Elena used her ability to erase his memories so Honoka/Ghost Aiko wouldn’t go after him. In effect, she did the same thing to him that he and Claire want to do for Sayaka’s crew: shoulder all the burden.

Shuuichi wants more answers, but Elena is elusive, and a fight ensues, that while technically impressive and exciting, doesn’t really amount to much. With his memories returning Honoka/Ghost Aiko appears and prepares to erase Shuuichi altogether. While he’s busy with “ghost clones” Elena slips behind him and uses her ability, locking the memories of her back away and saving his and Claire’s lives.

And that’s pretty much where we leave things: a stalemate with no time left; an ellipsis. Kaito and Ghost Aiko guard the landing site that Shuuichi and Claire are still determined to reach, reuniting with Sanbe for that purpose (Hey Sanbe). Sayaka and the others go back to their lives.

Mifune, perhaps the most ineffectual character of the entire series, is resigned to moving on from Shuuichi, who was never aware of her feelings. But the power couple is still in the game, and still determined to end it. It’s just unsatisfying that we probably won’t see that end in anime form. Thirteen episodes should’ve been enough to tell this story.

Gleipnir – 12 – Cram School Curse

For those like myself who were eager for answers, the penultimate Gleipnir delivered in a big way, taking us back to the halcyon days of the Yamada Cram School gang, which consisted of Kaito (the lion haired lad), Naoto, Aiko, Honoka, Elena…and Shuuichi. Things would not go well at all for these five friends as the years progressed, and the Alien and his coins only made things worse.

Fast-forward to a few months before the present day, and the friends meet up for a reunion. Only Honoka isn’t there. Only Kaito doesn’t know why: Honoka’s dad murdered someone, she ended up living with relatives, they didn’t get along, and she just…disappeared. Aiko things they should just let things be, since Honoka didn’t tell any of them and so probably doesn’t want to be searched for. Pretty cold stuff.

The thing is, Naoto has noticed Aiko (who is his girlfriend) acting a bit off lately, and when Kaito sees her twirling her hair the way Honoka used to, he follows her and meets the alien. Then Kaito gathers everyone else to explain what happened: Honoka used a coin to transform into Aiko. Kaito believes Honoka did it out of a desire to have “everything” Aiko had…including Naoto, whom she loved.

To Kaito’s frustration, no one wants to do anything about this, and insists that things “stay the way they are.” But that doesn’t sit well with him. He confronts Honoka!Aiko at the cram school, sitting before of the real Aiko’s grave. Believing Honoka killed the real Aiko and took her place, he takes a rope and strangles her to death. It’s a shockingly rash action from someone who had to that point been a normal high school teen, and timing for such rash action couldn’t have been worse.

Shortly after killing her, Kaito learns from Naoto that Aiko’s will was found and addressed to Honoka. Aiko, who had a strong sense of justice and defended other kids being bullied at school, became the bully’s new target, and eventually she succumbed to the despair and hung herself.

Honoka, filled with regret for being unable to save her best friend and was the only one to get a note from her, went to the alien with a coin and asked to become Aiko, believing no one would care if she disappeared, but would be sad if they learned the truth about Aiko.

What’s so heartbreaking is she was pretty much right—everyone was willing to go along with the “new” Aiko despite eventually learning what Honoka did. Only Kaito didn’t want Honoka to disappear, and wasn’t okay with everything the way it was. From this point forward, Kaito disowns Naoto, Elena and Shuuichi, and vows to make them disappear to see how they like it.

He goes to the alien with a coin to make that happen, and in the present we learn he’s the one who has collected 100 coins, no doubt enlisting the aid of the “glowing lady” with Honoka’s form. Elena and Naoto are part of the team attempting to defeat him, but they’re clearly at a disadvantage.

That brings us back to the day Shuuichi encounters and murders the last survivor of Madoka’s gang in the junkyard. We knew Claire called him and he assured her everything was taken care of, but now we learn Claire had gone to the abandoned cram school to investigate Shuuichi’s past on her own.

There, she finds the little stuffed dog that was the inspiration for Shuuichi’s form. It’s concrete proof not only that he was there, but that his memories have been messed with. Months before, Shuuichi assured Elena and Naoto that if Kaito was plotting something, he’d use a coin to respond.

It’s starting to look like Elena didn’t force him into anything, but it will be up to the finale to present the actual moment he got transformed by the alien, and show why he broke from Elena and Naoto and lost his memories.

Gleipnir – 11 – Like Nothing Ever Happened

This episode is full of one-on-one visits to the alien, the first of which is Elena. It’s clear she’s tired of this nightmare, wants it to end, and when the alien gets a little too cute marveling at her sister’s group’s recent ingenuity, threatens to kill him. The alien tells her he’s as mortal as his human form suggests, but killing him won’t undo everything that’s already happened, nor everything she’s done.

Following the slaughter of Madoka’s crew by poison fire, Sayaka’s group decides to let things cool for the time being, and return home for now. Shit just got a bit too real. As Sayaka laments to Aihara (while also declining an offer to comfort her), her lofty ideals led to the same carnage and destruction she’d hoped to avoid all along. Isao remarks to Yota how frighteningly calm Claire and Shuuichi were; as if they were used to doing such things.

As Shuuichi walks home with Claire, he wonders if everyone in Madoka’s group was really dead. He’s come around to thinking if it means keeping her and the rest of the group safe, it’s better if they’re all dead, so no one will come for revenge.

Claire pulls Shuuichi into an apologetic hug, but Shuuichi doesn’t blame her for getting him into this. In fact, Shuuichi’s been feeling a stronger and stronger desire to use his power to fight, not just to get his memories back, but to truly become one with her.

Clair tries to lighten the mood by suggesting they go see a movie, or alternatively renting one, watching it at her place, and fooling around. Time was this would sound like Claire teasing him, but she genuinely loves and cares about him. If they’re going to hang on to their humanity together, well…one assumes they’d become one the conventional way at some point.

Shuuichi returns to school and his normal life, and the first day goes by without any threats upon his life or those of the group’s. He and Claire finally notice Chihiro attends their school, and Shuuichi warns Chihiro to pretend they don’t know each other in case any of Madoka’s guys are also classmates.

And then there’s his friend Abukawa, whom he saw hanging with unsavory looking sort a while back. He’s been absent since the fire, and Shuuichi’s classmate Izumi tells him she heard about his burned body being found by the river. Shuuichi grapples with the realization that in order to save Claire and the others, he may have inadvertently murdered his friend.

Shuuichi stops by the alien’s spot (a rare daytime visit) eager for answers he’s certain the alien has. Whether Sayaka’s desire to preserve their humanity or Madoka’s desire to create a tight-knit misfit family, he knows people have come to the alien seeking the power to make their lives and those of others a little bit better.

The alien admits that the current form of the “game” wasn’t what “they” imagined, but now it’s a force of nature that can’t be stopped, only observed until it reaches its conclusion on its own. Shuuichi is welcome to try to take back his lost memories and the normal lives he and Claire once had, but the alien can only provide the raw materials; it’s up to Shuuichi to determine precisely how to pull that off.

It’s a testament to Shuuichi’s evolution that he so calmly allows himself to be watched and followed from the alien’s spot to a junkyard, his keen sense of smell making him aware of a potential enemy. It turns out to be the only surviving member of Madoka’s crew, who is eager to avenge his boss and brother.

This guy assumes that without the girl inside him, Shuuichi will be a pushover…but ever since the fire in the forest, he’s been a whole new Shuuichi, capable of handling himself even against a katana specialist. He tells Shuuichi he must not have known who Abukawa truly was; everyone has at least two faces; Shuuichi only ever saw the kind one.

Just as the last Team Madoka member urges Shuuichi to finish him off, Claire calls him on the phone, worried. Shuuichi assures her everything’s fine; he’s got this. And then he kills the guy.

The third alien visit of the week is from the past. A high schooler named Honoka is his very first visitor. Honoka proposes he ask other humans to help him find his companions, and set up a vending machine to grant their wishes as a reward.

Honoka is hesitant to provide a wish of her own for the alien to grant, but shows him a photo of her five friends, telling him they’re good people who would be willing to help him collect coins. Among those friends are Shuuichi and Elena, along with two other guys and a third girl.

It’s the clearest picture yet of Shuuichi’s social situation prior to gaining his powers and losing his memories. As the alien reflects back in the present on how kind and ruthless humans are, we cut to the lion-haired lad from the photo in the present, along with Honoka, who clearly gained powers at some point despite her initial hesitation. He uses her power to kill a group of gatherers, declaring this his story.

It’s a late introduction to two more of Shuuichi’s old circle of friends, but a fascinating one, especially considering Elena, like everyone else, was drawn into this mess by a well-meaning Honoka. The show is steadily gathering momentum and I’m looking forward to the final two episodes filling a few more gaps in Shuuichi’s memory, as well as further developing his bond with Claire.

Gleipnir – 10 – Partners in Grime

Special abilities and incredible strength aren’t what’s scary, says Clair. What’s truly scary is the people who use them. Madoka is one of those people, and after disarming Shuuihi and Clair with ease, he gives the Weak a simple ultimatum: either serve up one of their own for him to kill to make up for the man he lost, or he’ll kill every one of them.

As someone who, like Madoka, has the will to use the power she wields when within Shuuichi, Clair breaks it to the others that there may be no way out of this except by playing dirty to some degree, or otherwise choosing one of them to sacrifice. Clair is exempt from the choice, since Madoka recognized her as a kindred spirit.


It’s good to learn more about Madoka, and how he was a pitiable loner and self-professed “shithead” who couldn’t make anything work in his past life. Ironically, it was his tendency to always look down that led him to finding the coin that changed his life. All Madoka ever wanted was a group of friends, and now that he has that, he couldn’t be happier, and wants to keep it going. He says as much to the Weak, being far more reasonable than someone so powerful needs to be.

Clair hears those words and knows that if they’re going to survive the day without any of them dying, they’ll have to hit Madoka where it truly hurts: his friends. She has Isao grow huge bushes of poisonous oleander. Then Shuuichi shows up, and wants to help.

Clair tells him to stay out; it’s her job to get her hands dirty while he remains the “good boy”. But Shuuichi doesn’t agree. They’re one, which means she won’t have to bear her crimes and their consequences alone anymore. You can tell Clair really needed the hug he gives her, and to hear those words from him. This is a beautiful moment on a show full of ugly ones.

Once the oleander is set alight, the Weak escape upwind of the poisonous smoke, which envelops Madoka and his gang when they try to persue. Madoka can escape the fire on his own and kill the Weak, but to do so would mean abandoning all of the friends to die in a cloud of poisonous smoke and flame. So he remains to help them. Clair trusted her intuition that Madoka wouldn’t abandon his friends, and won.

Being able to gamble when the stakes are so high is also what makes Clair and people like her “scary” in her eyes. But after hearing Madoka’s thoughts on the matter, as well as Shuuichi’s words of support, Clair realizes that even the purest of heart can become utterly ruthless when taking action for the sake of another, as Shuuichi vowed to do for her.

In fact, it explains why someone like Elena, whom neither she nor Sayaka could ever imagine becoming an evil monster, became one anyway. Not only someone with terrifying powers, but the will to use them…but like Clair, she couldn’t hope to bear the weight of her crimes alone.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica – 01 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 6 Jul 2011 – Like Bakemonogatari, Puella Magi Madoka Magica immediately establishes itself as a very stylish enterprise. Very architectural, too. Ordinary settings like a house and a school are grand, impressive postmodern cathedrals. The polarizing Akiyuki Shinbo reminds me somewhat of Wes Anderson; with the tendency for his ‘camera’ to hang back and dwell on things and the careful attention to minute visual details. We like it.

We’ve never watched a pure “Maho Shojo” anime before, and it seems with Puella Magi, we still won’t; it’s obvious Shinbo wants to put a spin on the genre to shake it up a bit, while adding his signature (and very noticeable) style(s). The character design is simple, but clean. As discussed, the architecture is awesome and the entire world is bright and hopeful…until a witch shows up and starts bending everyone’s perception of it. The animation used there reminded me of the frenetic, freewheeling opening of (Goku) Sayonara Zetsubo Sensei.

Our protagonist Madoka (Aoi Yūki) and her friend Sayaka (Eri Kitamura) are faced with a choice right off the bat: continue their regular high school lives, or step into the world of magic. It isn’t for the faint-hearted: Homura Akemi (Chiwa Saito), who shows up both in Madoka’s dream and at her real-life school, warns her not to partake it if she loves her family and friends. But of course, she will enter the magical world. That’s what this is all about. We’ll see where this goes.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Rinne no Lagrange – 08

While flying training maneuvers, Madoka, Lan, and Muginami are recalled back to base, as word has come down that the Chairmon of Novumundus is paying a visit to Pharos. Todoroko is surprised when the chairman’s great-grandaughter comes in his place, a curt young lady named Asteria. Novumundus’ goal is to prevent Rin-ne from re-blossoming, causing a similar calamity to one 20,000 years ago, for which there are no archaelogical records, but was the time of an advanced civilization. To that end, she grounds Aura and Madoka. Lan and Muginami lock themselves in the Vox hangar in protest, but a very appreciative Madoka convinces them to stand down.

Okay, so now all three sci-fi series we’re watching this Winter can each claim their own Lolita in a Position of Power, which we shall call LoPos, or lopes. The latest lope is perhaps the most dynamic thus far: Moretsu Pirates’ princess is fairly inoucuous, and we haven’t seen enough of Aquarion Evol’s chairman to form an opinion. But despite her awful aristocratic name (Asteria Lizamarie de Roschefall), we didn’t dislike her introduction. Despite her darling looks, she weilds her authority firmly without being an ankle-biting baby about it.

She’s mature beyond her years, and while she’s on Pharos, her word is law. Sure, she’ll cop the odd feel or pinch the odd bottom, but we can forgive such abuses of power as a glimmer of levity in her otherwise very businesslike M.O. There’s a certain comfort we get in knowing she’s taking this very seriously. After all, the whole reason she and her kind are out in space is because this Vox Aura went berzerk. That’s a very interesting development; these are no aliens, but humans long estranged from Earth. And Nuvomundus is all about keeping Earth neutral, relatively uncorrupted, and…intact (Asteria is to Earth as Madoka is to Kamogawa). Villagiulio? Well, he’s got other plans!


Rating: 4

Rinne no Lagrange – 05

Called out by Lan, Muginami admits that the two of them are enemies who will inevitably go to war, but she wanted to enjoy student life with her and Madoka as long as she could. Madoka finally entertains Lan’s suspicions when someone Muginami claims to be her brother shows up, having befriended Uncle Hiroshi earlier. He is actually Lord Villagiulio of the organization known as Kiss, and he’s angry that Muginami took Vox for herself, and doesn’t consider her one of them. He tells Lan to have the Voxes destroyed, or he’ll come and do it for them.

Wow, talk about a lot of development in a short time…some light has finally shone on the somewhat annoying mystery of Muginami, and she shows her true colors, which aren’t that far removed from her manner with Madoka and Lan thus far. It’s very insidious how she talks the same way, only about much sterner things like war and enemies. She not only betrays her underlying arrogance towards her new (and she believes temporary) friends, but also a certain naivete when she acts as though her people’s conflict with Lan’s wouldn’t concern Madoka. This episode left us liking Muginami a lot more, despite her treachery. Also: Madoka is not always right!

Madoka is hurt, but that anger turns to pity when Villagiulio grabs her and dresses her down. Muginami acted of her own accord in binding herself to her orange Vox, which displeases him. That Lan knows him from her past (and even dreams about it the morning he arrives) shows us that Madoka has just stepped into some very complex and dangerous new worlds…and at this point it’s up to her and her Vox to protect Kamogawa. Being shunned and all but discarded by Villagiulio means Muginami has nowhere to turn but the comrades she’d silently looked down upon. This was an episode of bad blood, past wrongs, deceptive personalities, and hurt feelings. The honeymoon would seem to be over for the jersey club.


Rating: 4

Rinne no Lagrange – 03

Madoka is locked in battle with Kirius, and makes great pains not to cause excessive damage to Kamogawa, eventually moving the action to a vacant lot. Lan gathers up the courage to go out in Vox Lympha, but Izo’s ovid leaps out of the sea to stop her from interfering with Kirius’ fight. Madoka keeps her spirits up by singing her Jersey club fight song, and by her words helps Lan overcome her fear and unleash Lympha’s warrior mode for the first time. Faced with two Voxes, Kirius orders a retreat. Victorious, Madoka and Lan meet up and name their Voxes Midori and Orca, respectively. In his cell, Array recites the legend Lan fears, in which the three Voxes are harbingers of destruction.

Ignorance is bliss, at least in Madoka’s case. Forced to improvise against Kirius, Madoka resorts to stopping his non-lethal sword strikes with Vox’s hands, and even tries to choke his ovid with an electrical cable. Such tactics throw Kirius off, unaware of just how inexperienced his opponent really is. But that same ignorance helps Madoka press on with Vox, something Lan can’t initially do, because she knows about the legend. Will Madoka lose her edge when she learns of the foretold destruction her green Vox might cause? Who knows; for now, she’s two-for-two, thanks to her obligation to “finish what she starts”, a tenet of the Jersey club to which she belongs (translated as “Sweats club” last week).

Also, she’s helped Lan achieve what she couldn’t before, which is a big boost to her confidence. Making the princess Lan more initially flawed than the tomboy Madoka makes her more interesting, and we like how she has the same seiyu as Chihaya. We were also impressed not only with the gorgeous battle animation, but both the producers’ and Madoka’s committment not to forget where it is she’s fighting: in the middle of a densely-populated town she loves very much. Not only is she holding her own with Kirius, but she makes every effort to minimize collateral damage, and even smashes away a flying vending machine with a baseball swing to save two schoolgirls, punctuated by her trademark “Maru!” (“circle”). We like this kid!


Rating: 4

Ao no Exorcist 20

The attacker of Rin and Yukio’s monastery is a masked stranger who writes in Polish and uses a nasty spider-web like silk to envelop his victims. When Rin gives chase he immediately has his ass handed to him, and has to be saved by Yukio, who continues the chase and runs into Professor Neuhaus, originally believed to have retired.

After a “rest” episode, it was good to get back to the main story, but I feel like most of this episode was simply rehashing what’s already been said, done, and/or established. Rin should know by now he can’t just rush headlong into threats he doesn’t understand. He almost gets killed in the first five minutes thanks to his impatience and hardheadedness. He should know by now he can’t just do what he pleases – the Vatican has him on a tight rope as it is. All this just…seemed to have slipped his mind this week. At least later in the episode he finally gets the candle training right, and uses his flames like a scalpel, not a sledgehammer, to remove the webbing from his allies.

The enemy-of-the-week is also pretty boring at first. I mean, spiders crawling across his face? Seriously? Rin has already fought the Paladin and the Earth King…after those bosses this guy never seems like much of a threat. Things do get a little more interesting when a hostage standoff ends with the Paladin arresting Pheles for suspected illegal research, while Neuhaus shows up again, claiming the then un-masked woman is his wife. Yukio, getting more angsty for not being able to protect Rin, is suddenly summoned by…his grandfather, of all people. One we didn’t know he had…


Rating: 3

Puella Magi Madoka Magica 12

And so, the best series of the Winter 2011 season ends – in late April – not with a whimper, but with – what else – the re-making of the entire universe. Madoka can make any wish, so she decides to wish for there never being any witches. This pisses off Incubator, but it happens. Of course, there’s a price to be paid. That price is, no more Madoka. Aside from episode 10, this is the only time the heroine is a maho shojo, and she’s nothing like any other; as her newly-gained godlike powers allow her to free the souls of maho shojo from soul gems all over the world, so they’ll never become witches. No maho shojo, no witches.

Of course, even though Madoka makes sure to be as explicit and detailed with her wish as possible, the universe proves just as devious as Incubator. The new universe she creates still has Maho Shojo, but they fight “magical beasts” rather than witches. Ah well, close enough! Kyubey is still around, but it seems he’s more of a friend than a trickster. Also, in the realm/void between the end of the old universe and the birth of the new one, Madoka and Homura say their goodbyes, and Madoka gives her her hair ribbon. The result of this is, Homura is the only person who remembers Madoka. Even for her brother, Madoka is just an imaginary friend. While Madoka is now free of her fate, Homura can’t be all that happy her best friend had to sacrifice her entire existence in order to eliminate witches.

While this series has never been shy about highly abstract settings, especially when dealing with witches, the whole end-of-the-universe transition was a little sudden and overwrought, with whispers of End of Evangelion. The naked space Madoka and Homura bordered on silly-looking, and their tearful goodbye, while earned, bordered on sappy at times. Despite these issues, the series ended strong, and now complete, I can count it among my favorite anime series due to its highly original and entertaining twist on the maho shojo genre. It’s also perhaps Akiyuki Shinbo’s finest non-comedy series. Don’t be put off by the girly opening and frilly costumes; this series has true grit. Rating: 3.5

Series Mean Ranking: 3.750

Puella Magi Madoka Magica 11

I feared the month-long hiatus would have killed most of the momentum gained after the milestone tenth episode that chronicles Akemi Homura’s odyssey through time and space to protect Madoka. Those fears were mostly allayed by yet another episode that may not have been as action pack as last month’s, but was certainly full of crucial information and more startling revelations. Kyubey figures out Homura’s power, but is never worried about it, and in fact is congratulatory towards Homura. This is because he believes by pressing the reset button so many times, Homura has allowed Madoka to become a more and more powerful magical girl, and thus her karmic burden grows more and more immense.

This is one last ef-u for Homura, who has apparently been working so hard to avoid exactly what her actions have caused: a ridiculously-powerful Madoka. Worse still, even in this timeline, there is no way Homura can prevent Madoka from contracting. Everyone else is dead; Madoka is responsible, and even though she knows Kyubey is up to no good, she is compelled to lend Homura a helping hand, even if it means abandoning her family. Madoka’s mind is made up once Homura finally opens up to her about what’s going on and why.

Homura initially tries to fight Walpurgisnacht herself, but not surprisingly fails, despite some impressive pyrotechnics (which seemingly destroy a fair amount of the city). Bloodied and beaten, Homura lies amongst debris, and for once, hesitates to turn back time; doing so would only hurt Madoka more, in her mind. With Homura down and out and no more magical girls extant, Madoka has to step in, stand tall, and make a bad deal with a cold, logical alien; taking her mother’s advice to stop being so good and do something bad for once. Rating: 4

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