To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 09 – Saint v Saint

Kaori crosses swords with Acqua, whose birth name we learn to be William Orville, a former mercenary for the Anglicans but moved to the Roman Orthodox church. We also learn that Kaori, on her own, is absolutely no match for him.

His attacks have her flat on her back and spread eagle across vasts fields of rubble and debris, though to her credit she never stops getting up and dusting herself off, a resoluteness he admires even if he’s quite certain there’s nothing she or anyone else can do to keep him away from Touma.

As for Touma, he’s limping towards the battle when Misaka encounters him, and insists that he allow her to help. That might well have made the fight an easy one for him, but he declines the offer, and while she’s not happy about not being able to fight, she can understand there’s significance in him going it alone.

That’s ironic, since Kaori, who left the Amakusa church in part to protect her comrades, categorically can not stand alone and survive against Acqua; he’s just too goddamn talented and powerful, and the more beat-up she gets, the more his confidence in victory soars.

But he didn’t count on Kaori calling to Amakusa to jump down to the level of the battle and combine their powers to help her. Itsuwa was just getting done talking about how she and her group’s fighting was child’s play compared to the scale of a saint-on-saint battle (and it was), but Kaori doesn’t need them to defeat Acqua, she just needs a little help.

She gets it, and Acqua is sufficiently distracted in trying to bring the hammer down on all of them that he completely misses Touma slipping him below him, in the direct path of the attack, which Imagine Breaker nullifies in a very satisfying moment.

In Acqua’s moment of vulnerability, Itsuwa comes back at him with Saint Breakout and this time it works. The multi-pronged attack on him actually reminded me of the Avengers in one of their attempts to use teamwork and elaborate tactics to bring Thanos down on Titan. They failed, but Touma, Itsuwa, Kanzaki and Amakusa succeed: Acqua is defeated.

After a brief flashback to when William Orville left England, Touma wakes up back in the hospital, under the gentle ministrations of Itsuwa. The two get a little too close for Index’s comfort, especially considering she was by his bid longer.

Kanzaki wants to thanks Touma for his help, but is a bit squirrelly about it until Tsuchimikado breaks out a “fallen angel maid” outfit for her to wear. Unfortunately we never get to see it in all its glory, but it certainly makes an impression on Index, Itsuwa, and Touma! Glad to see the lighter side of Index closely follow the stern and serious climactic battle.

From there we’re shown the next threats to Academy City in Fiamma of the Right, apparently the leader of the Right Hand of God. While Acqua took out a pillar in the Vatican, the damage Fiamma causes attacking the Roman Pope cracks the dome like an egg. That is not going to buff out!

After Fiamma takes off with Index as his target, the Pope orders the fourth member of RHoG, the pierced-up Vento of the Front, to go after Fiamma. Of course, Vento doesn’t take orders from the Pope, but she’s going anyway.

Finally, we also get a glimpse of Mr. Academy City himself, Al Crowley, upside down in his office-cocoon thingy telling his computers to do various things relating to Imagine Breaker. Looks like we’ll have plenty of material to work through to fill the remaining sixteen weeks.

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ReLIFE – 15

In this outing the Aoba Fest, with its maid/butler cafe and stalls and bonfire, comes and goes fairly briskly. Kaizaki and Hishiro alike try to make the most of their second chance at a pivotal time in high school life, but it’s a decidedly bittersweet experience.

It’s obvious why it’s sweet: the festival looks like a lot of fun, especially when much of it has Kaizaki, Hishiro, and their friends dressed to the nines. After Hishiro tried to get Yoake to slip up and tell her Kaizaki is also a subject, she tries to find out for herself by grabbing Kaizaki’s arm and drawing close to him, as if they were dating…with inconclusive results.

She could interpret him as being uncomfortable because he’s really an adult, or he could just be flustered because she’s acting out of the ordinary, which she kinda is. The bitter part comes when the festival ends, when Kaizaki laments that he’ll “vanish” when his ReLife ends.

Yoake corrects him by saying he has to take solace in knowing he left his “mark” with these high schoolers; things happened in their lives that wouldn’t have happened without Kaizaki.

Onoya has a similar chat with Hishiro, telling her to take pride in the fact she’s taken a “lovely step forward” by taking an interest in someone like Kaizaki. Whether it’s true love or not, that’s something the pre-ReLife Hishiro couldn’t do.

Yoake’s attempt to cheer Kaizaki doesn’t last when his class undergoes college counseling. Both he and Hishiro choose to go to Aoba U like Kariu and Oga, even though they know it’s “pointless” since in reality their ReLifes will end and they won’t be joining their friends, nor will their friends remember them.

Any way you look at it, that stings. That stings hard enough to wonder if it was a bad idea to do a ReLife in the first place, even when one considers how socially and emotionally improved it made them.

It stings enough for Kaizaki to ask Yoake if he really has to go back to his old life, and has to let all the friends he’s made forget about them. Yoake reminds him that Kaizaki didn’t become someone new in his ReLife, he regained the friendly straightforward person he was.

But that restoration couldn’t have happened if Kaizaki hadn’t lived his life as he had before ReLife, which he’s now asking to discard. Yoake tells him not to give up on “Original” Kaizaki; “High School” Kaizaki is, after all, only an illusion.

Onoya, having only just started becoming Hishiro’s support, has nevertheless been engaged with the whole crew for some time now, and unlike Yoake, hasn’t quite accepted what they’re doing and sees the end result as cruel, sad, and scary.

Continuing his role as comforter-in-chief, Yoake tells her ReLife isn’t about enjoying every moment to the fullest in a life that is fleeting by design, and all they can do in their capacity as ReLife staff is support them with everything they’ve got, without regrets.

That night, Hishiro resigns herself to the fact there’s really no way to find out for sure whether Kaizaki is a fellow test subject, and there’s no point in thinking about it…yet she can’t stop thinking about it. Could that mean it’s not so pointless after all?

The next day is class photo day, and Kaizaki and Hishiro both know that it’s a photo in which no one else in the shot, not even the good friends they’ve made, will remember them.

They’ll be like “ghosts” in such a photo. And yet, just as the shot is taken, they look in each others‘ directions, holding out hope that a fragment of a memory will still remain in someone’s mind when they look at this photo.

Must all of the dream-crushing things the vile Yoake says really come to pass according to plan? Must these two people really forget one another? I, like them, certainly hope not!

Shounen Maid – 02

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Wherein Chihiro takes on an eager student and resolves to make better eggs

Like Tanaka-kunShounen Maid introduces a new female addition to the cast in the person of Ootori Miyako, who is arranged by her father to marry Madoka when she turns sixteen. The arrives at Madoka’s home having reached another impasse with her father, and we quickly learn she actually prefers Keiichirou.

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Miyako wants to prove to Keiichirou that she can be a dependable woman and future wife, and after learning Chihiro’s story, decides he’s the best person suited to teach her, being pretty hard-working, dependable, and independent himself.

Predictably, things don’t go so well on the housework front, and though she has fine cooking skills, she makes a mess in the process. Her depression washes away at first sight of Keiichirou, but soon returns, only for her to be cheered up again when Chihiro tells her what his mom told him: compromise is fine, but don’t betray yourself by doing anything against your heart.

It’s not about being selfish; it’s about making your own choices in life, something everyone should be able to do in this day and age.

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When Miyako’s father shows up to find his daughter and Chihiro a bit too close to Madoka for comfort, he drags her back home, but she returns again soon to continute her training with Chihiro. Overall Miyako is a pleasant addition to the cast, as someone both inspired and encouraged by Chihiro’s unique life story so far.

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While generally feel-good in nature, this show is tinged with the grief of the premature loss of his mother, who was by all accounts a strong-willed but kindhearted woman who never looked down at her son or sugar-coated things. Sure, she put too much sugar in her tamagoyaki back when she made them for her brother Madoka back in the day, but by the time Chihiro came around, Chiyo was an omelette expert.

As part of a bento, tamagoyaki becomes a dish Chihiro decides he’ll practice and perfect, after trying to determine what, Madoka’s favorite food is. Even when he screws up the omelette on his first try, Madoka is reminded of his sister doing the same thing.

IMO there’s few foods better than nostalgia-evoking foods, for even if they remind us of someone who has passed, that’s simply proof a part of that someone is still alive in us. So having lost the one in charge of folded omelettes, he’ll strive to become a worthy substitute.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 14

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I saved this episode for last today because (a.) I wanted to check out the Spring shows premiering today and (b.) with a big battle last week I had a feeling this was going to be a rest episode, and so it was. But it’s because AW has thirteen episodes behind its belt that it can do quieter second episodes like this that focus not so much on the upcoming battle with the Li twins, but on characters and longer-term plotlines.

But man, they really give Flora the floor early on this week, and her sqeaky voice is, to be frank, really frikking annoying. Seriously, if an anime needs a kid voice, they should really just hire Kuno Misaki, who sounds much more like a genuine kid; Flora’s seiyu is just doing a baby voice, and it’s baaad.

That being said, I liked the running idea of Julis’ mischievous brother using Flora as his instrument to indirectly embarrass the princess. As for Flora’s photo of Julis washing her hair, that’s just her own treasured memory…just not one suitable for Ayato to see! All the girls’ knowing looks toward Ayato when Flora brought up “Julis’ rivals” was also funny.

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Just a couple episodes ago, Ayato and Julis were locked in near-mortal combat with the Urzaiz sisters, but they came away from the battle as friends, which is why I so enjoyed Ayato’s nighttime Skype session with Priscilla and Irene. Irene in particular is one very adorable tomboy when she thanks Ayato for saving her life.

Naturally, Ayato says it’s no biggie…but it is, which is why not only is Priscilla want to cook dinner for him again, but Irene is willing to give Ayato all the intelligence he wants regarding her school’s president, Dirk “The Tyrant” Eberwein, including his control over Le Wolfe’s intel org Grimalkin.

In the morning, Ayato’s roommate returns after a long absence (seriously, I barely remember the guy), gives Ayato some advice on the Taoist Li Twins, and even suggests an out-of-the-way cafe for Ayato and Julis to go on their date, though Julis is emphatic that it’s Flora, not her, who requested the get-together.

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Flora presumably has something important she has to ask Ayato, but first Julis spoils her with a big meal and an even bigger parfait, showing her softer, kid-loving side (she’d make a great mom!).

Of course, not only does Flora inadvertently organize an indirect kiss between Ayato and Julis (which only Julis blushes about) but her ‘important questions’ were provided by Julis’ brother, and start with how far she’s gone with Ayato so far.

The fun is broken up by Korona, yet another new doll-like character with a high voice (though less annoying than Flora’s).

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Korona is Dirk’s secretary, and she leads Ayato and Julis (who won’t let Ayato go alone…probably a good call) to a custom Rolls-Royce Phantom limo where Dirk is waiting for them. It comes a slight surprise that Ayato and Dirk have never met, even though the latter has been plotting against the former and his school for some time.

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Too many times an anime cheaps out on car models, but in this case, AW got themselves a bitchin’ CGI Roller, and they aren’t shy about showing it off from several angles both in the sunset and in a tunnel. During the mobile meeting, Dirk takes the measure of Ayato and Julis and agrees to answer a question Ayato has if he’ll return the favor.

With a deal in place, Ayato asks what Dirk knows about his sister Haruka. Dirk knows precious little, but far more than Ayato: the last time he saw Haruka, she was an entrant in a seedy underground fight club for super-rich patrons called the Eclipse Festa, organized by those disillusioned with the ‘kid-glove’ nature of the official festas, but shut down years ago.

Dirk watched Haruka lose her match, but believes she survived (matches ending in a death or two weren’t uncommon). This gives Ayato simultaneous relief and pause. His sister may still be alive, but what state is she in? Dirk has no more answers; only his question, which relates to Madiath Mesa, who Ayato knows as Chairman of the Festa Steering Committee.

With that, Dirk drops Ayato and Julis off, after which Korona mentions Flora to Dirk, who is intrigued, likely because she can be exploited as a liability to Julis if and when the need arises to have leverage over her. Always churning, the Tyrant’s mind.

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Shounen Maid – 01 (First Impressions)

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Shounen Maid seems like a high-concept excuse to, well, put a boy in a maid costume…for some reason, and so I wasn’t optimistic about this show from the start.

But when the titular future boy maid Komiya Chihiro attempts to burn the letter his recently deceased mother wrote him because it’s too vague, I knew we were dealing with something with a lot more wit and nuance than I initially suspected.

There’s also something great about introducing his uncle and new ward Takatori Madoka by showing him cowering in fear from a little puppy who got away from its owner.

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Chihiro may be in elementary school, but he’s had to grow up much faster than most of his peers, both with a busy mother who was always away, leaving him to do the housework, and then dying, leaving him alone in the world…or so he thought.

In reality, Chihiro’s mother Chiyo chose exile from her very wealthy family in order to have and raise Chihiro—to live the life she wanted, not one chosen for her. Learning this makes Chi feel partially responsible for his mom’s death, which is ridiculous, but he is just a little kid, and this is a lot to take in.

I also liked how big and grand and imposing Madoka’s mansion is portrayed when Chihiro first arrives. His exposure to this kind of gaudy lifestyle is completely alien to him, but imbued in his personality is a desire not to accrue debts from anyone, even his uncle.

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But more than big and imposing, Madoka’s manor is a pigsty of the highest order, something Chihiro learns by accident when hiding in the kitchen, then noticing the appalling mess. Detail-oriented, fastidious youth with a solid work ethic that he is, Chihiro pulls up his sleeves and cleans like there’s no tomorrow.

All the while, it’s clear he’s not just cleaning because he can’t tolerate messes (though that’s part of it); he’s also staying busy in order to not be a burden to anyone, as well as to take his mind off the fact he’s homesick for a home that no longer exists.

Inspired by his hard work, his Uncle Madoka makes him a frilly uniform, of a design informed by Madoka’s work as a costume designer. There’s clear contrast between Madoka’s carefree attitude and Chihiro’s serious-beyond-his-years, “Those who don’t work don’t eat” philosophy; both guys are products of their upbringing.

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But when Chihiro is too exhausted to clean anymore, Madoka and his assistant Shinozaki Keiichirou take over, cleaning a room meant to be his. He makes them clean it over again when it’s not done to his satisfaction, but he appreciates the gesture and is glad, if a little overwhelmed by suddenly having a room and a (HUGE) bed all his own. This big, unfamiliar house is gradually becoming his home.

He also sees Madoka working hard on his costumes; often so hard he neglects food and sleep, so Chihiro fixes him a snack in the night. Sure, sometimes Madoka’s “hard work” is composed of indulgent little side projects like a cat mascot suit for Chihiro, but the arrangement that has been struck is beneficial to both parties. Madoka gets a maid (and occasional model), and Chihiro gets a home and a job to avoid feeling indebted.

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Golden Time – 12

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Banri and Linda get into the spirit of the party and they’re posing for a photo in a compromising position just as Koko has tracked him down. She throws a drink at him and slaps him. Back at his place he explains the situation and apologizes profusely. When Koko presents him with the photo of him with Linda, he tells her the full truth about his past with Linda. Koko begs him not to remember any more. To that end, the next day, Banri meets with Linda, confirms that she didn’t like him romantically in the past, and asks her to pretend they don’t know each other from now on. He gives her the photo, which she tears up.

This episode goes from being brutal for Koko—63 unanswered texts, roaming the streets in the middle of the night worried sick, finally finding her lying boyfriend in drag tangled up with Linda—to brutal for Linda: having someone she’s always loved literally in her arms, having him snatched away by the interloper, and the next day losing him as a friend altogether. Having just finished Kyoukai no Kanata, Mirai’s refrain of “it would have been better had I never met you” would seem to apply to poor Linda—the opposite of the adage “better to have loved and lost.” It sucks to see them split like this, but as we’re only halfway through the series, something tells us she’s still not out of the running. That’s not to discount Banri’s relationship with Koko, which almost bursts into flames before his eyes.

He works feverishly to repair the mess he’s made by telling Koko the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, even the things that may shock and hurt Koko, and he’s to be commended for doing so. His feelings for Linda may come to the surface now and again, but with no memories to accompany them, and the knowledge that he never dated Linda, he’s decided to ignore and bury them as much as he can, committing himself fully to Koko. After falling down last week, the truth sets Banri free. One day, the past Banri may still resurface, eliminating the Banri who loves Koko. But he won’t let the threat of that theoretical day ruin what he has with Koko. Of course, he may think slightly differently if he knew Linda loved him, and loves him still. If he’s a storm as Koko says, he wants to be like the Great Red Spot: the kind of storm that won’t be dissipating anytime soon.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Yowzah, Banri and Linda went from eye-screwing to steamy full contact in no time at all, thanks to their bacchanalian surroundings; a realistic portrayal of the power of great parties.
  • We’re not saying he’s that shallow, but Mitsuo seemed awfully smitten with Linda’s assets. Forget 2D-kun; there’s a better chance of Linda ending up with Banri’s best mate. Uh-oh!
  • We’re willing to forgive the coincidence of Koko ending up at the club. She was doing a very thorough sweep of the town, and a late night party kinda stands out.
  • That being said, the woman who took the picture of Banri and Linda with the glowstick looked an awful lot like Koko. Was that intentional?
  • They’ve been dating for six episodes and Banri and Koko have no pictures of themselves as a couple? WTF? There are cameras on their frikkin’ phones. It may seem like a trifling detail, but as we see when Koko expresses her unease, a photo can make a big difference.
  • We’ve noticed that a lot of important discussions between characters have happened in the dark; the notable exception being the meeting where Banri cuts Linda lose.

Golden Time – 11

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After being subjected to a torrent of advice from his seniors, Banri decides he wants to get a part-time job so he can pay for his beach trip with Kouko, but she’s against it, as it would mean spending less time with him. While thanking Nana for her help, she tells him a party waiter’s job is his if he wants it, and tells him to have Mitsuo come too. At the masquerade party, Banri dresses up as a maid and Mitsuo wears a speedo. While serving drinks, they come across two devil twins: Nana and Linda. Kouko, who has the photo of Banri and Linda, calls Banri, but it goes to voicemail.

Wethinks young Tada Banri may be getting a little too accustomed to lies and secrets. While on the train to his all-night job, having lied to Kouko about writing a paper, he tells Mitsuo he can put up with Kouko’s quirks because “he loves her”, but inside, he’s decided to endure whatever she can dish out because he’s guilty about being in love with Linda. He’s as awful as he thinks he is if that’s actually the case, but he’s awful anyway for the lies. At the cafe (the first one) Kouko laid out very clearly the consequences of being away from him too long. She’s not a girl you want to lie to.

While Banri couldn’t have predicted bumping into Linda at a swanky party, it would look far less compromising later on if he had simply told Kouko the truth about wanting a job. Instead he avoided a fight and decided to shield her from the truth (which never works) and now Mitsuo, Nana, and Linda all know he was working at that party while Kouko’s in the dark. We’ll take our Banri-scolding hats off long enough to say we enjoyed the party milieu, in which Nana yet again brings Banri and Linda together. It makes one wonder if she’s doing it on purpose!

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • There was something used car salesman-like about the Tea Club girls this week. Don’t sign anything!
  • We love the sinister way Nana says “party waiter.” We actually just love Nana, period.
  • he running gag of Banri being unable to recognize Nana in her various get-ups is coming along nicely.
  • Already armed with Chekhov’s photo, if Kouko ever finds out he was with her at that party when he was supposed to be writing a paper…well, “Hell hath no” and all that.
  • That being said, it would be even more brutal if she doesn’t react violently at all, but merely collapses in despair.
  • We wonder: how long would Banri and Linda have stared longingly at each other had the host not told them to get back to work? Probably forever!