OverLord – 06

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OverLord continues to plod along at a leisurely, deliberate pace, but there’s something to be said for a show of this genre to not move at such a breakneck speed that nothing that happens matters as much as what happens next. Momon is playing the long game here, so it makes sense for the show to focus on his first job as an adventurer, protecting Nphirea alongside the Swords of Darkness.

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This episode was almost assured an 8 just for the scene of Demiurge walking in on Albedo in Ains’ bed with her recently-crafted Ains body pillow. Utterly ridiculous? Sure, but I won’t deny I laughed out loud at that ridiculousness. And Demiurge’s casual reactions completed the sale. Momonga’s changes to her character are locked in, he must reap what he’s sown. I wonder if Albedo’s obsession will only get worse to the point it becomes a crisis…but considering the comedy angle with the pillow, I also highly doubt it.

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Back in the field, Momon gets a chance to both see the DarkSwords do their thing, and to show them what he’s capable of, which is bringing down a giant ogre with one swipe. Nabe takes two out with one lightning bolt, not even having to unsheathe her sword. The Swords don’t embarrass themselves either, as Momon notes how good of a team they are because they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and work to close each others’ gaps. The ogre/goblin mob didn’t have a chance.

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That night, the team feasts, and Momon runs into a practical problem, as he can’t eat or drink without exposing the fact he’s just a skeleton beneath his armor. But he has a bigger issue in that spending all this time with a tight-knit team of adventurers is incredible nostalgic, to the point of wistfulness and melancholy. He remembers he used to be like this with his comrades, and is resigned to the fact they may all be dead now, and he alone ended up in this weird new world.

It’s also nice to see people acknowledge responsibility for what they carelessly say to each other, whether it’s the flirty guy asking if Nabe is Momon’s lover (causing her to carelessly blurt out Albedo’s name) or the boy mage carelessly telling Momon he’s sure he’ll see his friends again when he doesn’t know that.

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As for Clementine, she prowls the streets of E-Rantel, killing and torturing and un-killing for intel on Nphirea. But when she visits Khajit, the two don’t seem on the friendliest terms. Khaj wants to turn E-Rantel into a city full of undead, but doesn’t that mean Clementine won’t have anyone left to kill, torture, and turn undead?

How will she satisfy her “corrupt personality” in Khaj’s undead E-Rantel? The clash of Lawful (Khaj) and Chaotic (Clem) Evil makes for a good antagonistic duo, and Clem’s Yuuki Aoi really chews the scenery well with her up-and-down voice.  I just wish one of them would encounter and face off with Momon already.

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OverLord – 05

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Momonga’s starts to fulfill his desire for the name Ainz Ooal Gown to become known far and wide throughout the world starts out modestly, by entering E-Rantel posing as a young adventurer “Momon”, accompanied by one of his battle maid Narbarel AKA “Nabe”. He knows that he can’t conquer a world he knows next to nothing about, and a great way to learn more is to play things by the book and rise in the ranks of the adventurer guilds.

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Momonga is making a conscious effort to do things carefully and empirically, not making to much noise. Yet his potential to be a bull in the proverbial china shop is evident when he tosses a would-be bully across a tavern, knocking over another adventurer’s precious potion. He gives her one of his to make things right, but his potions are red, not the usual blue, so she takes it to the local pharmacist, Nphirea, who then learns about Momon and is intrigued.

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By then Momon, needing coin but unable to secure high-level jobs, agrees to join an adventuring party, Swords of Darkness. Nphirea seeks out Momon, and both he and the Swords agree to accompany him as his bodyguards on an herb-collecting excursion. Even after annihilating an entire Slane army, Momon remains cautious and is hesitant both to guard Nphirea alone at his present state of knowledge of the new world, and also just plain doesn’t want to go back on his word to join the Swords of Darkness, instead including them.

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Throughout all of this, Nabe remains dutifully by Momon’s side, voicing her displeasure with having to jump through hoops for human trash (though I understand why he didn’t bring Albedo along; she’s more powerful than the battle maid and hence hates being around humans even more than Nabe). There is something to both Momon and Nabe having to restrain themselves in order to fit in and get the knowledge and experience he wants out of this.

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Meanwhile, the next antagonist in Momon’s adventure reveals herself to the audience with lots of helpful expository dialogue with another baddie. They’re members of the secret society of Zuranon, and she, Clementine, has secured a magical item that consumes the one who uses it. She’s heard about Nphirea in E-Rantel, and wants to use it on him, gaining the help of Khaj.

I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, and the inevitable showdown between Momon/Nabe/Swords of Darkness and these would-be spreaders of chaos and death. But the long and short of it is, we didn’t get to see any of that in this episode; it was largely setup, albeit with some decent world-building.

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OverLord – 04

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Everything about the mages the Slane Theocracy sends to Carne, led by Nigun Grid Lewin of the Sunlit Scripture, indicates they’re tough customers by any measure, and there’s no better way of demonstrating that than by methodically beating down Re-Estize’s head warrior Stronoff with wave after wave of summoned Escaflowne-style mecha-angels.

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Stronoff has offensive magic and is able to carve through a few dozen, but they just keep coming, and his soldiers aren’t strong enough to help him. On the edge of defeat and death, Lord Momonga—sorry, Ainz Ooal Gown—uses the item he gave Stronoff to switch places with him, with Stronoff ending up in the villager’s shelter and Ainz and Albedo facing off against a huge and confident Slane force.

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Lewin and his forces look strong and they feel strong, and they definitely did a number on Stronoff. But as great and famed a warrior as he is, Stronoff is still only a human, and so are they. And the strength and magic of humans turn out to be of no consequence to Ainz and Albedo. He entered the battle prepared for a tough fight, but he turned out to be overly cautious. But that’s okay, because expected them to put up a fight too.

Which is why it’s so strange that I don’t feel cheated in the slightest by the fact Luwin and the Slane mages are nothing but ants before the power of Ainz. After watching them have their way with Stronoff, watching Ainz utterly turn the tables by defeating every weapon at their disposal with comical ease was a lot of fun. I keep using that word because that’s what this show is: loads of badass, giddy, contagious fun.

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Even Albedo (who granted is infatuated with Ainz) can’t restrain her glee at the spectacle she witnessed, setting aside her objections about him even bothering to face such puny opponents and reveling in his awesomeness, along with the way he used Stronoff as a pawn to collect more information on the strength of the local powers, which he’s determined is pretty pathetic.

Back home at Nazarick, Ainz declares his new name and orders the assembled guardians to make sure it becomes an eternal legend that spreads across the world. That, Inner Ainz believes, is the best way (not to mention the most entertaining way) for him to attract the attention of other human players from Yggdrasil. If they made the trip with him to this new fantasy world, he intends to find them.

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Ghost in the Shell: ARISE – Alternative Architecture – 06

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This latest episode of ARISE further reinforces the quality that make it by turns engrossing an frustrating: its complexity. The show is to be commended for not compromising its narrative principles or pandering to a lower common denominator. But that rigidness makes it more practical as a binge than stepping in every week, especially when there are a lot of other shows, anime or otherwise, on one’s weekly watchlist. This makes sense, considering this show was originally a series of movies.

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I’d argue the “alternative architecture” was a blessing and a curse to ARISE: while I feel it might be more cohesive and easier to follow in its previous format, without airing as television broadcast, I would have never been exposed to it to begin with. That being said, its translated structure lends a certain uniqueness that can’t be ignored.

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I also have to commend ARISE for not holding back in the action department, though I do wish quieter scenes could have been animated with as great care as said action scenes were composed. The amazing stunts Kusanagi & Co. pull off as if it’s just another day at the office really pull me in and make me feel comfortable, despite the fact there’s a bit too much AI in the world being portrayed to be too comfortable.

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But yeah, this week things get very complex indeed, with the operation to retrieve colonel’s module being hamstrung by an illusory world before Kusanagi can break free, and is then saved by her new ally VV, whom I described as the CIA equivalent of Kusanagi. They work well together; as well as I imagine Kusanagi and Batou would work together if they weren’t on opposite sides for most of this episode.

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This complex scene of Kusanagi, Batou, Paz and VV all trying to get the upper hand on each other best illustrates the attention to detail and creativity of the direction. Not to mention, this is a show where many characters don’t have flesh-and-blood bodies, and thus can take quite a bit more punishment, not to mention lose a limb or two and keep on tickin’.

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The plot is even more complex than the action, but boils down the Colonel, Ishikawa, Batou, and everyone else in their unit being infected with fales memories of a humanitarian mission, when they were actually confronted with guerillas.

The Colonel takes his life so he can’t be used by whomever infected him to cause any more harm. Batou wouldn’t mind keeping memories that portrayed him as something other than a “dog trained to kill”, even if they’re fake. Kusanagi’s response is both cold and accurate: he’s a whiny bitch.

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As for the final twist: VV, who had helped Kusanagi up until now, was in actuality an AI infected with false memories that allowed her to masquerade as a human, who won’t rest until she’s found out why; ironically one of the more human compulsions for self-discovery and validation for one’s existence.

Unfortunately, achieving her goal would mean throwing the world into more political turmoil than it’s already in, so she’s gunned down. It’s certainly an unexpected twist—almost too unexpected—but I appreciated the guts of the show to take things one step deeper.

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Even if the mastermind behind the insidious false memory-producing virus remains at large, thanks to Kusanagi and her variably loyal (looking at you, Saito) fledgling unit, Pandora wasn’t fully unleashed to the world and Japan is safe for another week.

In a common problem in anime, Kusanagi needs to recruit more members for her club or its registration will be revoked, so she reaches out to another one of the bes tin the business, Batou, with an enticing offer: to let him feel like more than a trained killing dog…without the aid of false memories.

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Ghost in the Shell: ARISE – Alternative Architecture – 05

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In our next arc, Kusanagi has yet to form her “best defense is a good offense” unit, but has to react to a new threat in which another disgraced colonel is using city-wide Domination to control nearly all of the city’s 20 million vehicles, thus holding their occupants hostage, while he works to air all of the Japanese military’s dirty laundry to the world. Clearly, the public story of what happened in Qhardistan differes from what really happened.

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It’s an episode in which a lot of the mundance automation technology both the people of Japan and Kusanagi herself take for granted is suddenly all messed up. Luckily for Motoko, an older-model motorcycle passes her by when he late model slows down and refuses to respond to her inputs, and one of her many badass moments of this week, she manages to maneuver the bike into and through a delivery van trying to take out Logicoma (whose memory apparently contains incriminating data). Oh, and Batou’s driving the van. I guess these two still aren’t quite friends yet, huh?

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It’s on to the next badass moment, as Motoko and her comparatively pint-sized Logicoma have to take on not one but two heavy-duty military mechas that would like nothing else than to take her out. She seems to be in a bad way when all of a sudden an ally leaps out of the shadows and disables the enemy mechs.

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This ally, code named “VV”, looks like the American equivalent of Kusanagi, and wants to assist her in locating and deactivating or destroying Colonel Soga’s means of hacking the city’s systems and prevent Pandora from being opened, as such an action would likely cause problems for America’s government as well. VV’s arrival inspires Kusanagi to finally assemble her team; one member by gunpoint (Saito), another who volunteers (Pazu).

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But in the middle of their op, once they successfully infiltrate the suspected enemy base, Kusanagi herself is trapped in a mental construct of Soga’s making. He knows she’s after him, and warns her she won’t succeed in stopping him from carrying out his mission. Soga is certainly a tech whiz, and may even have a good reason for doing what he’s doing; a reason Kusanagi can relate to. But her first loyalty is to the state, and despite this initial setback I expect her to give Soga a run for his money.

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Owari no Seraph – 04

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Mika screwed up, in part because he put everything on his shoulders. His plan to free his family, which was more than fine going along with it, ended up killing them all except for Yuu. Mika himself would have bled out, were it not for the intervention of Krul Tepes, Loli Vampire Queen, offering him, nay, forcing upon him, her blood.

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Now he’s a vampire, and the pain and guilt could stay with him for centuries, potentially twisting him into a wretch. Yet he still carries out his duties alone, eliciting resentment form his vamp peers but gratitude from a single girl he saved from a monster, who gladly offers her blood to him as thanks. Once his escape plan failed he had no choice in becoming a vampire (Tepes wouldn’t let him die), but he can choose what kind of vampire to be. It’s a choice that’s perhaps lost on someone so racked with guilt.

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From checking in on Vampire Mikaela the episode segues to Yuu and Yoichi transferring to the Moon Demon class, where he makes the most ridiculous overbaked shonen speech possible about not being there to make friends and declaring he’ll get the best gear. His seat happens to be positioned right in front of that of Kimizuki Shiho, the dude who picked a fight with him earlier to test his ability.

And so we have our two arrogant, hotheaded rivals who both have something to learn from one another and will become tentative pals by the end of the episode through greater understanding of where they’re coming from. If this sounds somewhat rote, it’s because it is; nothing out of the blue here.

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Like Yuu, Shiho lusts for power…all of the power, though not for revenge, but to save his sister, who is dying from the Apocalypse virus. But Guren warns him, with demonic visual aids, no less, that Shiho can’t go anywhere near cursed gear as long as that lust for power drives him. Like Yuu, Guren needs him to make friends and learn to rely on the strength of others. Going it alone won’t end well for anyone.

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Shinoa fixes it so at their first major evaluation, Yuu and Shiho are paired up. Predictably, they try rushing in opposite directions despite the fact they’re handcuffed to each other. Seriously is their mutual lust for ultimate power so strong, it affects their basic understanding of the physical limitations of handcuffs?

Apparently, but they don’t get to demonstrate just how badly they fight together, because word comes Shiho’s sister has taken a turn for the worse. Suddenly understanding why Shiho is so gung ho about beating him, Yuu insists, with prejudice, that they go to the hospital. Being with his family is more important than the evaluation.

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Shiho relents and goes, and doesn’t regret it. His sister pulls through, but the doctors warn regular medical equipment will only keep her alive so long. The military has tech that might be able to cure her, but the military, like society, is transactional: if Shiho wants that tech, he’ll have to distinguish himself in the Moon Demon Squad.

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Yuu, jerk that he is, still won’t back down on claiming the best demon gear the army has to offer, but he won’t stop Shiho from taking the second-best, now that he understands what Shiho is fighting for. Both guys failed the evaluaiton, but while Shiho feels defeated, Yuu tells him it’s no time to give up. He’s going to do everything he can to avenge his family, regardless of evaluation scores or moon squads. He expects Shiho to do no less to save his sister.

Mind you, I’m not sure the lesson about teamwork has quite stuck, since both seem dug into their own separate aspirational trenches, but the seeds of a alliance or possible friendship were certainly sown.

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That’s good, because Yuu and Shiho can ill afford to stay ineligible for handling cursed gear. They need to get into good fighting shape soon, because Tepes has formally declared war on the humans who would organize into armies to oppose them. A rancher wouldn’t let thier cows join a union barring slaughter, now would they?

As for Mika, he’s determined to “rescue” Yuu, and while I’m not sure what that entails, if he’s planning on loading everything back on his shoulders once again, he hasn’t learned much. As repugnant as Ferid is, he could be a valuable ally against Tepes, the mutual thorn in their side.

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Owari no Seraph – 03

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Episode three opens with Yui receiving a love letter from a cute girl. Falling for a not unattractive young lad who saved you from being drained by an escaped vampire prisoner is not an unreasonable thing for this girl to do, but as strong and brave as he is, she still doesn’t know him, and he’s too busy with his quest for vengeance to notice or deal with romance.

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While this girl sees him as a hero, Shinoa continues to look down at him as a novice, as well as a frustrated virgin. She points out the Demon Army isn’t just about killing vamps, but also creating an environment suitable for human procreation. The virus killed 9/10ths of them, after all, so the remaining tenth “needs to make babies”, to quote Commander Adama.

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Shinoa doesn’t doubt Yui’s physical strength or his courage, but warns him he shouldn’t move to fast with his training. Only those with cursed gear can fight vampires, and the demons within them will consume, rather than contract with, those with “weak hearts.” Shinoa believes Yui’s unyielding thirst for vengeance makes his heart weak. Not a bad conclusion, but incomplete, as we see.

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When one of their classmates wanders into a forbidden dungeon below the school, where demons roam ready to take the souls of the weak, Yui, Shinoa and Yoichi head down there. Shiona reveals it’s really a training ground for the VEU, and the whole school is a human experiment for recruiting VEU members, who are naturally drawn to said dungeon.

So while there are bullies and love letters and cut euniforms, the school isn’t just a regular school after all. Shinoa even mocks Yui for potentially thinking “such a peaceful place” as the school appears on the surfact could ever exist in such a messed up world.

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If Shinoa was hoping to intimidate Yui with all this show-and-tell, she failed, and if she didn’t want him to do anything rash, she shouldn’t have let him in the dungeon at all. Then again, when Yui goes through the forbidden door, she doesn’t stop him, suggesting she’s letting him make his own choices. Once there she insists he not touch he demon gear his classmate is holding, lest he become consumed by a demon. Again, Yui ignores her warnings and grabs the ax with a nifty little move.

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Then all of a sudden he’s gone back in time with Mika and his family. Shinoa didn’t say how the demon would consume him, but creating a very real illusion of his past is a good way to start. But where both Shinoa and the demon underestimate Yui is in not in their calculation of his desire for revenge—which is high—but the fact such a desire is a weakness.

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Yui knows his desire is wrong, so it can’t hurt him as badly. He also knows it’s something Mika wouldn’t want, so as soon as Mika and the other kids are acting totally out of character, Yui knows he’s in an illusion and breaks free.Doing so impresses Shinoa once again, who again seems put out that he proved her wrong yet again.

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Yui’s heart isn’t as weak as she thought, but will see what happens if and when he learns Mikaela not only wasn’t killed, but became the very thing Yui wants to wipe off the face of the earth. We finally get a good look at Vampire Mika, who doesn’t seem particularly friendly with Ferid. More likely, he’s done what he’s done all this time to survive. He always put others before himself, so I’d like to think a few years of being a vampire hasn’t bleached out that inherent goodness.

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Owari no Seraph – 02

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As the credits rolled and SawanoHiroyuki[nZk]:Yosh’s excellent ending theme “scaPEGoat” played (the OP was also dope), four words blazed through my mind: “Are You Not Entertained?!” I certainly was.

This ambitious, thrilling episode had a complete and compelling arc and aced all the fundamentals, giving it the feeling of a rich, self-contained short film when combined with the premiere.That premiere was key in setting the brutal tone of the human/vampire conflict while creating solid kinship and sympathy with young Yuu and buying into his motivations for wanting to live a life of revenge. This episode would not have been nearly as emotionally resonant without it.

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Owari also surprised me quite a bit with its deftness with bait-and-switches. Last week’s cold close created an It’s On Like Donkey Kong vibe, but Private Hyakuya Yuuichirou proves to be a rough fit in the demon army, where soldiers are expected to put their personal feelings or vendettas aside and obey orders. Yuu breaks the rules, and so he’s punished…by being sent to school.

This sudden addition of the school drama allows the show to let its hair down a little after a stodgy start and finds a pretty strong comic voice in the process. Yuu isn’t just banished to school, but there’s a soldier posing as a classmate whose tasked with supervising his progress in making a friend. If he keeps breaking rules, his suspension from the army will only be extended.

That soldier/classmate is Hiiragi Shinoa, deftly voiced by Hayami Saori, whose standout performance blends military formality and authority with feminine grace and sly humor. Her character design and eyes in particular somewhat remind me of Steins;Gate‘s: clean, attractive, and stylish.

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Yuu’s punishment makes sense. Yes, he’s scarred by past traumas, but if he wants a future fighting vampires, he needs to learn how to engage people and work in a team, which means forming bonds. That’s not going to be easy for someone who lost his whole damn family, and you could say the show’s being tough on him, but I think Yuu has just the right amount of arrogant, rebellious dickishness to allay that concern for me.

And just because humanity’s population has literally been decimated (not entirely wiped out as Yuu thought; but then he grew up absorbing vamp-prop), high school is still high school, so there are bullies and weenies and he decides he won’t let the former have their way with the latter…which is when Shinoa helpfully warns him his suspension will be extended if he harms a civilian. This guy can’t win!

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The exploded soda as a lingering presence of Yuu’s defiance is a really nice touch.

But in another glorious case of the good kind of bait-and-switch, the would-be victim of bullying, Saotome Yoichi, turned out not to be a weenie after all, nor was he being bullied: he wanted the non-bully to put in a good word for him with the demon army. Yoichi tried to enlist and failed the exam, but he wants to keep trying so he can avenge his sister, who died to protect him, as we witness in a grim micro-flashback that made my heart sink.

This externalizes Yuu’s own desire for revenge, but in this case, he justifies his own desire as backed up by his strength and ability. On the other hand, he still thinks Yoichi is a whiny little weakling who’d only get killed, and in any case, his sister probably wouldn’t want him avenging her. The discussion is put on hold when a bomb goes off and the city P.A. alerts everyone of an escaped vampire test subject.

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Seeing this as a perfect opportunity to prove he belongs in the extermination unit, Yuu runs to school to seek out the vampire, stopping her from feeding on a student. The non-bully is there too, but in this moment of crisis, he’s paralyzed, and admits he lied about wanting to enlist.

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Here, the show shows off its readily apparent action combat chops, as well as the inherent trickiness of fighting a vamp with a regular katana when her wounds and severed limbs quickly grow back, and any bystanders are like phoenix down for her. Yuu needs help, and he gets it when Yoichi tackles the vamp minx. When Yuu asks why, Yoichi calls him a friend. Yuu then holds the vamp back and they go out the window, Spring Break-style.

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Yuu is able to get the vamp to land on his sword, but it’s still just a sword. Enter the anti-vampire spell-dosed sword of Lt. Col. Ichinose Guren, commander of the Vampire Extermination Unit, Shinoa’s superior, and the man who rescued Yuu four years ago. When he pulls out that sword, the vamp dissolves into a cloud of gore and ash.

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Ichinose thinks Yuu looks every bit the helpless little kid he saved back then, but he can’t deny the fact he held his own with that vamp pretty well, and also minimized causalties. He also can’t go back on his promise to lift Yuu’s suspension if he makes a friend, both because Shinoa won’t let him, and because Yoichi is so happy his friend Yuu is okay he pounces on him like a cat, knocking his head on the pavement.

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In the episode’s beginnings, Yuu remarks how every time he closes his eyes he sees the faces of his family before they’re murdered by vampires. So while he’s out cold after a life-changing day, there they are. Only this time, they express their relief Yuu was able to live and fight for something other than revenge. Just as Mikaela put his life on the line for Yuu, and Yoichi’s sister for him, Yoichi and Yuu protected each other.

From now on, he won’t be living just to avenge his family, but to protect the two friends he’s made today, all the other friends he’s sure to make in the Vampire Extermination Squad (which he and Yoichi are assigned to, joining Shinoa), and to protect a humanity in resurrection. This looks like the start of something great…especially if we take the hints that Mikaela didn’t die, and is now a vampire.

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Owari no Seraph – 01 (First Impressions)

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Owari no Seraph’s opening episode was a swift, merciless Saturday afternoon gut punch. It was all about getting things done. I mean, the entire population of earth over thirteen years old simply keels over in the first minute. No messing around!

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As for the little ones who are left, well…my heart’s not made of stone; it’s hard not to sympathize with their plight as they cower in their home and are taken captive by scary red-eyed vampires in robes. The power differential is simply staggering.

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The episode jumps forward four years to when Yuuichirou and his “family” of fellow orphans, including Mikaela and Akane who are his age, live a dreadful underground existence as living blood bags to be periodically squeezed for the vamps’ use. But everyone adapted and made the best of a shitty situation. Yuuichirou is always talking of fighting back one day, and while it’s all talk, the smaller kids believe him, and that hope sustains them.

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It turns out to be Mikaela who actually does something, acquiring a pistol and a map from a vampire noble and suggesting they book it out of there. Nobody here on RABUJOI cared enough for Rolling Girls to watch it all the way through, but that certainly wasn’t because of Wit Studio’s animation, which was very crisp and zany and pretty.

Wit shows RG was no fluke with another gorgeous presentation, only this time the big backgrounds are filled out with lush detail of the subterranean city. Sawano Hiroyuki (Kill la Kill, Aldnoah.Zero, etc.) contributes another soaring score that lends gravitas to the proceedings.

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Unsurprisingly, the kids end up caught by the very noble who liked the taste of Mikaela’s blood so much he kept him around. So far at least, this is not one of those shows with grey areas in the affiliations, as Ferid is pretty much pure evil and likes the look of despair and hopelessness in the kids’ eyes. As they try to run for it, he kills them one by one with lightning speed.

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All of them except Yuuichirou. Mikaela is able to distract Ferid long enough for his brother to get a clean headshot off, but as Ferid had just put his hand through Mikaela, all Yuuichirou can do now is RUN, alone, out into the unknown world. Ideally, twelve-year-olds shouldn’t have to deal with this kind of trauma, but kids are all that’s left of humanity, and those kids have been dealt a tough hand.

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Upon emerging from the caverns, Yuuichirou finds three adult humans in uniform who have been waiting for him, following some kind of “prophesy.” How long have they been out their waiting? Did they take shifts? No matter, they were here when they were supposed to be, and the kid emerged on schedule.

Now they intend to use him to defeat vampires, something Yuuichirou, who may be in shock but is still lucid enough to express his interest in helping them. After all, he pretty much has every reason in the world to want to dedicate the rest of his life to exacting revenge.

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We jump forward another four years, and we see Yuuichirou more grown up and in a very slick-looking suit, patrolling what looks like the ruins of Tokyo. It’s a wordless, music-less scene made all the more powerful by its use of silence and the white noise of the wind, a silence that continues into the credits.

Presumably we’ll watch Yuuichiro’s life as a budding professional punisher of vampires in the episodes to come, but it was a good idea to begin with a prologue that shows us just how much torment he, and probably everyone else who managed to escape the vamps, went through. After all that darkness, I won’t begrudge them their righteous vengeance. Even so, less one-dimensional vamps would make for more compelling foes.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 13

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Cross Ange wastes no time getting back into the swing of things, picking up where we left off: an obviously phony ‘rescue flotilla’ commanded by Julio. He’s only after Angelise, Villkiss, and other Mail Riders, and he gives orders to exterminate the rest.

Everyone has to decide what to do quickly. Jill proclaims the official start of the rebellion and orders all of Arzenal’s defenses turned against Julio’s fleet. She also orders Salia to retrieve Ange at all costs. Yes, retrieving the real savior is now pretty much the most important thing poor Salia can do.

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Ange isn’t interested in going along with Salia or Jill. At the moment, she’s only thinking short-term: Get Julio. Momoka helps spring her (with pepper, of all things), and after assessing the slaughter (and taking out child-killing soldiers whose defense is ‘just following orders’, which is never a good defense) she races to Villkiss.

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Even though she’s totally outmatched, Salia still tries to stop Ange, who is having none of it, trashing Salia’s mail and ditching her in the sea. Salia must watch helplessly as the woman who has all the power and privilege and importance she doesn’t have utterly reject it for her own reasons.

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Back in Arzenal’s wreck of a landing bay, Hilda displays bravery and selflessness despite the odds, even literally taking a bullet for Chris, whom she scorned so bitterly not too long ago. As the three reunited girls take off, an errant human solider gets a headshot on Chris. Damn.

However, the cutting back to Chris, followed by Embryo eventually healing her, makes this nothing more than a close call, though at this point both Hilda and Rose still think she’s dead.

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Free of Salia, Ange paints the sea red by sinking every ship in Julio’s fleet before slicing off the front of the bridge where he cowers and bargains for his life. Before Ange can finish him, Embryo blocks her blow with his own paramail, not wanting her ‘divine flame’ to be tarnished ‘burning useless things.’ He kills Julio himself, likely pissed off the emperor launched the Arzenal attack without his leave.

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While Julio is eaten up by the white light of destruction, and Good Riddance, Riza takes wing and escapes—topless, no less—suddenly down a royal puppet. I’m sure we haven’t seen the last of her, boring a character as she is. Meanwhile, with no one left alive on Arzenal, Jill sets off with the survivors aboard the submarine Aurora (which we’re just now hearing about) to start her rebellion in earnest.

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“Own-Agenda Ange”, meanwhile, does something else new with her Villkiss when Embryo targets an approaching Tusk (with Vivian), who says Embryo is a very dangerous dude (and is probably right). Villkiss turns blue, sidles up to Tusk’s ride, and they teleport away before Embryo can destroy him.

Good:

  • A great overarching sense of all hell breaking loose, because it does
  • Nice character beats with Ange/Salia hitting a new low and Hilda/Chris/Roselie reconciling
  • Tusk was used sparingly but well this week, kicking ass and saving Vivian.
  • Julio’s dead. Who’s in charge of the empire now?
  • The new opening theme is fantastic.

Not so good:

  • Julio’s fleet and assault force was awfully easy to defeat.
  • lot of people died, and died horribly, but they were all nameless extras.
  • Where the heck did that awesome sub come from?
  • Another “Tusk and Ange on an island’ episode next week. Oh dear…

Verdict: Lots of huge and exciting developments this week, delivered with confidence, if not finesse. We’ll see where they lead. The Norma are now far less numerous and more vulnerable without a base, but the empire took its licks, too. Not a bad start at all for Cross Ange’s second half.

P.S. I just discovered Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Gakuen, which is a comedy 4koma that puts the same cast in a high school setting. Take that for what you will.

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Franklin’s Take:

This week got all the explodey-killy terror we’ve come to expect from Ange and… just sort of flailed around incoherently and undid the most meaningful emotional moments. Dead Chris and children revive, Vivian is rescued, and Ange still gets to win the day no matter how much she runs off on her own.

If i still thought as highly of this show as I once did, I’d wonder if the entire structure was making fun of red herrings. For example, the episode opens by introducing FIVE new mail pilots who, presumably, immediately die off camera.

But thirteen episodes in and I wonder how well thought out or intentionally critical Ange really is? Sure, it can be over the top and ruthless. But is it all just for shock value or is there a point to this?

For now, I’m not really sure…

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No. 6 9

Those who run No.6 show just how evil they can be as they plow through the western district, indiscriminately killing and destroying. Nezumi begins enacting the plan to save Safu / bring No. 6 down, including luring a No. 6 official with Dogkeeper for info, then getting captured and sent to the correctional facility where Safu is. They and the others who survived and surrendered may soon wish they’d been killed back in town, from the looks of it.

Just in case you didn’t know: No. 6 is a bad, bad place run by bad, bad people. They massacre people outside the walls, scoop up whoever survived, then dump them into a big black void like garbagemen dumping trash into a landfill. It’s bleak, and it’s a scale of evil we haven’t yet seen, but here it is, with Nezumi and Shion right in the middle of it. I’d ask how they’re going to survive what seemed like a fall of, conservatively, several hundred feet, but oh well.

Between Rikiga’s side job as a pimp, dogkeeper’s ambiguous gender, Shion’s “serious” dreams for the perfect happy ending we know we’re not going to get, Safu waking up and attacking the lab techs, and the aforementioned dumping into a big cubist prison, it would seem like the buildup is just about complete. Which is good, because there are only two episodes left to wrap up all this loveliness. Oh yeah, Nezumi also sings, but I felt like it would have been more impactful without the reverb and accompaniment.


Rating: 3

No. 6 8

The hall is rented. The orchestra engaged. It’s now time to see if Sion and Nezumi can dance. This week is an overture to the big prison infiltration and Safu rescuing – if Safu is still alive by the time they get there. Men in medical masks keep talking about how excellent her “synch rate” is and how many elites died to get this result. She needs to get out of that tube, pronto.

Nezumi apparently thinks Safu can wait a bit longer…at least with their current level of information and preparedness. He leads Sion down a canyon and into a massive cathedralic cavern full of blue water like the kind Safu’s suspended in. It’s a colony for No. 6 exiles, led by a scientist who, along with Karan, helped build No. 6 (I didn’t catch his name). Like Sion, he survived being host to a parasite bee, and was rewarded with the same white hair and pink scars.

He proves to be a font of information, telling him the song Nezumi, Sion and Safu can hear is in fact the voice of Elyurias, a god-like being who watches over the world and only talks to those who listen. The song turns blue water amber (we don’t know why yet). He also reveal’s Nezumi’s past: he’s the last survivor of a tribe of “forest people” slaughtered by No. 6 with fire. His scars are from burns. He hands a Computer Chip Full ‘O’ Answers to Sion for later perusal and sends them on their way. Rikiga and Dogkeeper are waiting for them when they return home, ready to lay out a plan to save Safu.


Rating: 3

Kamisama Dolls 7

Gosh darn,that was a beautiful, tragic, moving episode. Easily the best of this series so far. All the more astonishing considering it’s all a flashback primarily about Aki, with a cold open and only a brief punctuation mark at the end bringing us back to the present, with Kyohei telling the story to Hibino. By the end, the rain stops, but the tears start for Hibino. I can’t really blame her.

We go back to the time when Kyohei was still a seki, and before Aki lost it. Prior to this week I hadn’t had much reason to root for Aki’s character beyond a general sympathy for his alleged rough life. Well, damn it all if I don’t feel for the guy infinitely more now. A bastard child, he was adopted by the Kuga clan, and chosen to be Kuramitsuha’s seki. However, his penchant for killing animals let the kakashi to pass to the one it was originally promised to, Aki’s stepbrother Asushi.

Asushi is, as Aki succinctly describes him, scum. He’s a shaky seki at best, and his antisocial tendencies probably surpassed Aki’s at the time. When a beautiful young substitute teacher, Senou Chihaya, arrives in the village, Asushi grabs her by the arm and demands she become his girl. She refuses, and he proceeds to ruin her reputation, making her a pariah in the town…like Aki.

Senou falls for Aki, who saves her from being molested by Asushi, and they end up sleeping together. But photos are taken of them, and she’s fired from her job. As if that wasn’t bad enough, Asushi kidnaps her, kill’s Aki’s dog (his best friend), and calls him out. After raping Senou, he then tries to kill Aki with Kuramitsuha, but Senou leaps out to protect him, killing her. And that’s the last straw for our friend Aki. Regaining control of Kuramitsuha, he massacres Asushi and anyone else around.

When Kyohei finds him, the scene makes it look like Aki killed Senou too, although he later learns that wasn’t the case. Aki may have gone too far in his vengeance, but there’s a possibility he couldn’t control his actions. He was ready to die to protect Senou. Losing her crushed him, and perhaps his humanity along with it. But Kyohei was also in love with her, and her death and Aki’s revenge led him to give up being a Seki.


Rating: 4