ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 12 (Fin)

Leave it to ACCA to save its best episode for last. And why not? Each of the eleven preceding episodes perfectly prepared us for this finale. Everything pointed towards a smooth, peaceful, and efficient coup, and that’s what we got—only it wasn’t a coup to unseat Schwan, but a coup to secure ACCA’s future and thwart the Liliums and Furawau’s plans to snatch hegemony from the Dowa Royal Family. That, my friends, is one surprising yet completely logical and satisfying twist.

At first, things seem to be going according to Lilium’s plan: Once it’s Schwan’s turn to take to the podium and speak, he and his outnumbered guards are surrounded by ACCA officers in riot gear, and Schwan’s plans to dissolve ACCA are exposed to the throng, which quickly sides with ACCA in the matter, as expected.

But then Schwan calls Jean out, knowing exactly why he’s on the dais with the Chief Officers. Just then, Lotta (and I for that matter) are relieved to find Niino by her side. This is the moment when Director-General Mauve completely flips the script and reveals that beneath ACCA’s plan was another plan that Lilium was not made aware of.

In this plan, Mauve, rather than Jean, steps forward. She explains the theatrics were only meant to demonstrate Schwan’s need for greater then very loudly and publicly proclaims Schwan as the one and only Crown Prince of Dowa, thanks Schwan for his continued support of ACCA once he ascends to the throne and into the future, then bends the knee. Knowing how unpopular dissolving ACCA would be (and would make him), Schwan can only affirm Mauve’s words and commit to preserving ACCA.

Mauve’s speech is one of, if not the most badass moments of the series, if not the Winter season as a whole, because of how much it changes, all of the careful preparation that gives it so much power, and the jazzy soundtrack that adds a cool gravitas.

Suddenly, Lilium finds himself on the wrong side of the river with a very weak hand. He was so focused on his own machinations he failed to realize there were counter-machinations going on behind his back. Jean had been strategizing with Mauve since he learned of his lineage, and informed Grossular of what would go down the night before.

Mauve and Jean arranged things so ACCA would win before Furawau would, making the continuation of “the game” pointless. Sure enough, Lilium folds, but he also takes his ball (being Furawau) and goes home (meaning secession). I will now cease the sports metaphors.

After all the drama subsides, Jean and Lotta encounter Prince Schwan and Magie, who reveals it was the prince himself who ordered him to warn her of the attack. Between agreeing not to kill ACCA and this, Schwan turned out to be not-such-a-bad-guy after all, which is more interesting than a petulant, one-dimensional villain. And since there’s no usurping going on, Jean and Lotta’s lineage can remain secret, even as they’re allowed to meet with Schwan and King Falke.

With Lilium and Furawau leaving the Dowa Kingdom to start their own, Grossular dissolves the remaining three of the anachronistic Five Chief officers, who then go home and become chiefs of their respective districts, and seem all the happier for it, while Grossular stays on in an advisory role for the new single leader of ACCA, Mauve. She certainly earned it.

In other good (if a bit convenient) news: Just as Furawau seceded, Pranetta finally hit paydirt, and a resource (presumably oil) rush leads to the district’s revitalization, Suitsu is finally allowed to develop to the level of the other districts and its people allowed to vote.

We even find out who Niino’s secret other contact was, and it’s who I expected: Abend, the ever-loyal servant of the Dowa Family, who had colored his hair and taken on the identity of Owl to watch Jean that much closer. With the family members reunited, Niino is formally relieved of his photographing duties. Mauve and Grossular seem to be spending a lot more time together, while Jean assumes the feelings he has for Mauve are unrequited.

But that doesn’t change the fact that he and Jean are best mates, something that hasn’t changed since they met in high school (the post credits flashback to their prom, which Niino won but gave Jean the crown, was a nice touch), and won’t change now. Jean takes comfort in knowing he’s not alone. And, no doubt, in being able to stay in his old job. For all that’s changed around them, Jean, Niino, and Lotta really haven’t, and that’s for the best, as they’re perfectly happy with the lives they have.

So ends one of the most thoughtful, detailed, and elegantly beautiful looking and sounding series in recent memory, which came completely out of nowhere. Those are my favorite kind of shows: ones about which neither I nor anyone else have any potentially corrupting preconceptions.

It’s also a show with eminent rewatch value; there’s enjoyment to be found in watching the story unfold again whilst knowing its resolution. It’s also a show for which I’d happily embrace a sequel. Until then, I say goodbye to ACCA, a well-crafted and engrossing anime if ever there was one.

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 11

ACCA: Jusan-ku Kansatsu-ka. I hadn’t really read the words until recently, but they roll right off the tongue in a very satisfying, elegant way, like ACCA the show itself.

I daresay ACCA is a sneaky show. It seems a bit slow and dull at first but the details keep you around. Then it becomes something you must watch at all costs. In this way, it’s like no other show airing this Winter, and its quality has been rewarded on MAL, rising from 6.97 on week one to 7.43 today, the biggest climb of any Winter ’17 show.

By the time Jean arrives in lavish, exotic Furawau for the thirteenth of thirteen district audits, nearly all pretense has fallen over his “job” as inspector, as Furawau is the district spearheading the coup.

Yet true to its name (“flower” in katakana), Furawau’s inhabitants are cheerful and elegant, and discreet in their welcoming of Jean for his true purpose.

But while it’s named for its flowers, the gleaming skyscrapers and lush palaces are paid for with oil. 90% of the entire nation of Dowa’s oil is supplied by Furawau. This makes them Arabia on steroids, which makes resource-poor Pranetta the comparatively oil-less Jordan.

When he leaves for his hotel, Jean does not give the Furawau chiefs a direct answer about whether he’ll rise up with them. But fortunately for Jean, Niino was listening in when the Princess’ assassins were loudly discussing their plan for slaying him.

When they draw their appropriately ornate golden revolver from the shadows, Niino is there not only to warn Jean, but take two bullets for him. He survives, but when he wakes up from surgery, he wonders out loud something I’ve wondered for many weeks now: whether Jean is merely being dragged into things by chance, or if he’s “prying into the whole mess” of his own accord.

Before leaving Furawau, Jean tells the chiefs he’s with them. Upon returning to Badon, he doesn’t stop by Mugimaki where Mauve continues to show up and wait. Instead, he visits Lilium as his brothers instructed, and shows him all thirteen cigarettes he’s collected.

I love how each one is  different in color and length, and how Pranetta’s is one of his own. Details that carry symbolism: Dowa is one big happy cigarette case. When Jean says anyone can ascend as long as it’s not him, Lilium counters that only he can protect both ACCA and the people.

What he isn’t telling Jean…could fill volumes. Like the fact he needs to present at least the air of proper succession, and probably needs the ACCA angle to strengthen their case. Lotta can’t fulfill either of those conditions…nor can Lilium himself.

When Rail first heard of him, he assumed Jean was an upper class snob who thought his own excrement did not emit odor. Turns out he was right about the “upper class” bit, but now that Rail knows who Jean is for sure, he thinks he’d probably be a better King than Schwan.

Rail tells Jean this while they smoke in the city night, after Jean thanks him for watching Lotta while he was away. And Jean appears to take Rail’s subtle endorsement to heart…maybe he will be better.

The next day, people from all thirteen districts start pouring into Badon for the upcoming ACCA centennial ceremony. This means we get all the ACCA agents Jean met on his travels in the same room, and of course they all know each other.

It’s a nice “lower decks” scene, watching subordinates shoot the breeze. The girls badger Eidar about her feelings for Jean, only to learn she’s dating Grus. One agent brings up the coup, and silence fills the room.

Every one of them seems generally on board with the plan…except Warbler, who, being stationed in Suitsu, is naturally the last agent to be informed of the coup. And while it’s easy to get all swept up in the excitement of dumping a harmful king for a better one, Warbler provides a much-needed voice of concern and reason.

He makes very good points about the risk ACCA’s leadership is taking by arranging such a coup. He also questions if the young, inexperienced Schwan would actually follow through on his threat to dissolve ACCA. He believes the royal family is aware that tipping the scales of power too far in their favor could break the whole system, and trusts them to be more pragmatic once Schwan ascends.

But no one can be certain Schwan won’t dissolve ACCA, and in any case, the decision has already been made by the brass, so Warbler’s protests go acknowledged but not acted upon. After Jean leaves a brief, almost curt meeting with Mauve (which has the air of a breakup), Warbler tries to tell him that this coup idea is ludicrous.

Jean responds by saying he’d really like Warbler to take his job, after “one final push”, then calls the prince a “real headache.” Could Jean be starting to get the feel for the power he’s about to attain?

Cut to the prince being a huge headache, acting petulant aboard his ornate royal plane, dismissing Magie’s advice to meet with his cousin (Jean) or get to know the people more. He’s only going to Badon to attend the ACCA ceremony, then leave.

Warbler might think Schwan’s position on ACCA is open to interpretation or subject to review by the rest of the royal family or the privy council. But Schwan probably doesn’t think any of that. When he’s king—and he’s going to be king, he tells himself—he can do as he pleases.

Lilium continues to uncork bottle after bottle of champagne in celebration of a total victory that is still yet to come. In another private one-on-one with Grossular, he lays out the plan I expected him and his district to have: install someone he can control, Jean, in order to control the nation. He hopes to act quickly and elegantly enough that by the time people notice what’s up it will be too late to do anything about it.

Now that he knows Lilium’s true intent, will Grossular continue to stand impotently by and let it happen, or is he intentionally appearing weak to lull Lilium into a false sense of security? Does Grossular have his own plans? And as Mauve asked both him and Jean before him: is he all right?

He responds the same way as Jean: with a simple ‘Yes.’ Here’s hoping that’s true, because some big things are going down next week.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 10

If it wasn’t before, it’s become plain that Lilium’s intentions with ACCA’s coup aren’t simply for the unity and good of the nation of Dowa, but for his district, Furawau, in particular. Things might even turn out to be worse with him than if Prince Schwan ascended; who knows?

Lilium seems like the kind of guy who wants more power, and being one of five head officers isn’t nearly enough. He’s already used Grossular as a pawn in his grander scheme, and installing Jean on the throne seems like more piece-moving. All I know is, the show wants me to think he’s being nefarious.

Jean, for his part, continues his auditing work. After Yakkara throws their lot in with Jean, noting they’ve always been a district of…ahem…gambling. Jean’s next stop is one of the more striking ones: Pranetta district, which is a hot and unforgiving desert on the surface, but whose population lives underground, working in the mines and kept entertained by a vibrant television industry.

This district doesn’t have much, however. They’re mining doesn’t seem to be the most fruitful, but the people seem to be living for their as-yet-unrealized dreams rather than a present rich in material things. Jean definitely seems to like the place.

These aren’t mole people, after all, and when it finally is cool enough to emerge from the caverns, it makes the evening sky seem that much more impressive and awe-inspiring. And like Yakkara and Peshi, Pranetta wants a Dowa in which ACCA is still around, so they’re with him. The chief formalizes his support by bumming a cigarette off of Jean, then giving it right back to him, in a really neat little moment that says a lot about Pranetta.

When he returns home, Jean has a chat with Lotta about her crazy day with Rail and the fact their mother was a princess, but before they can head out to eat, a special report comes in on the news: King Falke has taken a turn for the worse.

Suddenly everyone is scrambling to get their ducks in a row for what’s to come. Grossular manages to convince Mauve that the coup is what’s best for the nation and for ACCA, while the First Princess accelerates her plans to get rid of Jean and Lotta, who are nothing but usurpers in her eyes.

As for Jean, he sticks to his audit schedule, apparently unconcerned whether the king dies while he’s away. We only catch an establishing glimpse of Lilium’s home district of Furawau, but we can already discern many things from it. With gleaming skyscrapers among the sandy dunes, Furawau clearly has money, probably due to to fossil fuels. It looks like Dowa’s Dubai, so perhaps they’re also a big financial power.

In any case, Furawau is big and rich and impressive enough to be an alternate capital of the nation, should, say, the monarchy be done away with altogether or reduced in stature and importance. It also looks like a district that could take on any other district head-to-head and have the resources to come out on top (unlike poor Pranetta).

Will this be Jean’s ‘final audit’? Has he entered another friendly district, or a den of vipers? He may finally know who he truly is and what that means, but he still doesn’t know how he’ll be used…or how he’s already being used. We’re also not quite sure whether he’s actually going to claim the throne. The First Princess succeeding in offing him or Lotta, on the other hand, seems more solidly unlikely.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 09

So far ACCA has proven a success in the school of the classic slow-burn, in which those patient enough to stick around are lushly rewarded, like the high one gets when about to complete a huge, elaborate jigsaw puzzle (don’t judge).

Last week laid out the details of the show’s central mystery of what’s up with Jean and Lotta, and this week deals with the consequences for everyone once the truth is officially out there, and decide on a course of action. It also allows some previous bit players on the margins play significant roles.

Oh yeah, and a shared love of sandwich bread of all things proves absolutely vital in preventing Lotta’s assassination by the First Princess’ goons. The food isn’t just window-dressing.

As soon as Magie hears from the prince that the knives may be out for Lotta, he makes a call to his comrade-in-bread, Rail, who makes Lotta’s protection his top priority. Rail has his suspicions, but doesn’t know the whole picture, but that doesn’t matter, because he’s a decent dude, trusts his fellow bread-lover’s warning.

As for poor Lotta, no one’s told her anything, and with both Jean and Niino away, a part of her already feels vulnerable. So as out-of-the-blue (or blonde) as it seems, she seems happy to have Rail (a sworn ACCA officer) by her side.

Jean is away because he’s on a sprawling three-district trip starting in Peshi (the port district) and moving on to Yakkara (the casino district, and another instance of ACCA imitating Sonic The Hedgehog levels)And Jean is no longer oblivious like Lotta.

He knows what the score is, and even understands what all those cigarettes on his past inspection visits were about. It’s need to see the change in Jean’s overall demeanor. He seems more focused, alert, and suspicious…as he should. Peshi’s chiefs drop the pretense and pledge their support for Jean’s ascension, unaware that Jean himself has no such plans.

I like how ultimately, it’s only a matter of time before Rail, a good kid but not a professional bodyguard, and Lotta finally get surrounded by the ominous goons and shoved into a car. Unfortunately for the goons, the traffic in Badon flares up just when they need to make their getaway.

Also unfortunately for them, pure dumb luck is on Lotta’s side, as Chief Owl (whom Jean asked to keep an eye on her) happens to lean on the open window sill of the goons’ car, sees Lotta, and secures her and Rail’s release.

Like Rail, Owl doesn’t have the whole story, and unlike Rail, he isn’t a sandwich bread fanatic (though we’ve seen him indulge in the office treats du jour) but he does have Jean and Lotta’s bests interests at heart, and it’s gratifying to see how competently (yet without undue violence) Owlmanages to wrest the crazy kids from certain doom.

With Lotta and Rail nicely rescued, Owl suggests they—what else—go to grab a bite with his ACCA staff. Coups and assassination plots be damned—you gotta eat.

With Lotta out of immediate danger and surrounded by friends, we move on, somewhat relieved but still troubled, to the other major storyline of the episode: Grossular coming clean to the other chiefs, which takes such a crazy turn I’d have nearly fell out of my chair, had I not already been sitting on the carpeted floor.

Grossular lays out the plan that’s been in motion since the beginning, with the ultimate goal of instigating an ACCA-led coup d’etat to prevent Schwan from becoming King, thus preserving peace, democracy, an, well, ACCA itself.

Grossular has known about the danger of a King Schwan for some time, but gained a powerful barometer (whom he observed through Crow) for the attitudes (be they pro- or anti-coup) of the districts in Jean, which is why his inspection department was suddenly saved from oblivion.

Once it was clear a majority of districts were in favor of a coup, the time grows near for that coup to commence, but a coup led by ACCA, as an extreme expression of their ‘protect & serve’ credo. The coup will, Grossular promises, “pose no danger” to ordinary people. Allowing Schwan to dissolve ACCA and create an autocracy might.

Grossular asks his four colleagues whether they stand with him or not, and everyone to a man is with him, all thanks to Lilium, who speaks first in response.

Because Lilium and Grossular have never, to the others’ knowledge, ever agreed on anything before, it’s all the proof they need to know the right course (on top of their pride in their roles as leaders of ACCA, along with their existing awareness that, ya know, Schwan is bad news). This is to be an act of patriotism, not treason.

Later, we learn that Lilium and Grossular’s constant disagreements in front of the others masks the fact that Grossular is, in fact, Lilium’s servant. Always a fairly inscrutable guy, we finally see a hint of subservience when Lilium grabs him by the hair and promises him in a threatening tone that “he will manage” in his next objective: do something about Director-General Mauve.

It’s this huge, sudden, surprising, yet still well-supported (by both plot and character) shift in character dynamics, as well as the timely utilization of Rail and Owl, that propelled this episode into the ’10th district.’ It’s also a interesting episode in that many cards have been played, but many choice ones remain in the show’s hand.

It’s that ‘floating potential’, as it were, that makes episode nine feel special. Hopefully it can be properly harnessed in the tenth, which I eagerly await.

Sakurako-san – 12 (Fin)

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Shoutarou is not satisfied with being separated from Sakurako, especially when it’s “for his own good,” but as of the start of the episode, he has yet to gather the courage to confront her about his displeasure. That is, until he reminisces about the time he first saw her (she put a spell on him with her ethereal beauty) first called the cops on her (when he saw her boiling bones), and accompanied her on their first case as a mystery-solving duo, during which Sakurako did all the heavy lifting.

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The case involved an elderly relation of his neighbors, who had the urge to visit a certain shrine. Sakurako canvases the shrines and determines the old lady murdered the man she finds buried beneath the tree, and does her Sakurako thing that transforms her into the young girl she was when she did it, in order to save her mother from her father’s beatings. It packs the usual emotional punch of such encounters throughout the show.

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The part of the flashbacks pertinent to Shou’s present predicament is Sakurako’s assertion that “time stopped” for Yachi-san when she killed her father. Her regret kept her standing still, no better than a still-living corpse, just waiting to die. But time never stops for anyone, and stopping in fear of the future gains nothing, according to Sakurako’s past self. Shou now has all the inspiration he needs to face the present Sakurako-san, and all the ammo he needs to get her back in his life, and him back in her’s.

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So Shoutarou storms back on to her property, declares he wants back in her life, and won’t take no for an answer. Like the first time they met and he followed her around, he’s come to “escape his everyday life”…only he wants his everyday life to be one with Sakurako in it. Saku warns him of the “abyss” Hanabusa, and by extension she, represents, and how she dreads seeing Shoutarou’s bones. But he rattles off all of the people she saved from Hanabusa’s machinations—Ii-chan, the baby, Fujioka-san—as well as two of the three girls who worshipped Hanabusa, along with Yuriko’s peace of mind.

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With that track record, Shou feels safer with Sakurako than without, and asks her to continue protecting him. Defeated, Sakurako agrees, and we know she’s a bit relieved herself that this boy shook her out of her attempt to carry on alone. So much so, she calls him by his name again, without reservation; a sign she herself may be willing to keep moving forward beyond whatever dark mysteries are in her past, or whatever skeletons are in her closet.

Shou is well aware their path won’t be an easy one; Hanabusa is definitely watching them and will try to tap into their grief and regrets and despair just as he has his many victims. But in a battle of wits between him and Sakurako, there is no choice for Shoutarou: Sakurako will win. Especially with an excellent assistant such as himself by her side.

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Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 11

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A night at Sakurako’s moves Minami to tell her Hitoe’s location, and when they find her covered in butterflies the worst is feared. Alas, “only” her dog is dead and attracting the insects; she merely took a non-lethal dose of sleeping pills and soon wakes up. Not shortly thereafter, Hector barks from outside, announcing he’s found what Sakurako was hoping to find: more bones. Specifically, the bones of a young woman; Minami and Hitoe’s friend Futaba. And that’s far from all that’s unearthed this week.

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Minami recounts the tale of how Futaba showed her and Hitoe this abandoned cabin in the woods, and they made it their home, their place where they belonged. All three of them had their problems, but Futaba was the worst, and soon wanted to enter a suicide pact with the other two. Hitoe agreed, but Minami didn’t want to die, so she ran. When she returned later, Futaba was dead, having hung herself, while Hitoe injured her hands trying to save her.

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Minami buried the body, and that was that. Only…Sakurako-san wasn’t born yesterday by any stretch, and Futaba’s bones tell her a far different story. Not a story of Futaba hanging herself as Hitoe struggled to stop her, but a story of being strangled to death, as indicated by bones that would not have been broken by hanging, and the dubiousness of dying while hanging so low her feet touched the ground.

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Hitoe can’t keep up the fiction any longer, though she kept it hidden within her memory for so long, it flows out like a river through breached dam, all anger and despair. Futaba gave her an ultimatum: she’d either help her kill herself, or she’d kill her, then commit suicide. It was an impossible situation for Hitoe, who comes out and blames Minami for running. Had she been there, maybe Futaba would have kept it together a little longer (though considering both she and Hitoe were already considering suicide when Minami fled, I doubt it).

Isozaki is able to calm Hitoe, and puts all the blame on himself, not for failing to see the pain his three students were in, but for seeing the pain, and turning away, not wanting to be hurt himself.

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After burying Futaba, Minami and Hitoe drifted apart, partly because Hitoe started seeing other friends, partly because Hitoe reminded Minami of what happened to Futaba. Then she met Hanabusa, who she waxes poetic about as if her mind had been programmed to say these things. But it wasn’t; she simply fell victim to the honeyed words of a criminal mastermind, just as Hitoe would, and just as many other victims have.

Sakurako knows Hanabusa never loved Minami—that he’s incapable of loving anyone unless they’re bleach bones—and that Minami was just another pawn in his game. The thing is, she doesn’t really need to be so blunt about all these things at this particular time. For someone so good at detecting, she fails to read the room, and turns her back on Minami, who can’t handle what she’s saying and tries to stab her with a palette knife.

But Sakurako doesn’t get stabbed, because Shoutarou comes between her and Minami, catching the knife in his side. Remembering her brother, who apparently drowned in a rainstorm, she shouts out Shoutarou’s name.

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But it’s all okay; the stabbing wasn’t precise, nor was it lethal. Shou will be fine. But Sakurako isn’t. It was too close a call for her. As she hits the home stretch on tracking down the “abyss” that is Hanabusa, Sakurako has unilaterally decided she and Shou must part ways. It almost feels like a breakup…because it is, and Shou is heartbroken. But the bottom line is, Hanabusa is a dangerous, brilliant son of a bitch, and while Sakurako loves bones, she never wants to see Shoutarou’s.

Will Shoutarou really accept this? He’s too shocked and overwhelmed to protest here, but once he’s discharged, I wonder how Sakurako will keep him away, and whether he’ll honor her selfish desire to go it alone with Hanabusa. I’m hoping he won’t, because as the tear Sakurako sheds indicates, these two people belong together. Call them soul mates, if you will.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 06

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Kamui is committed to discovering and exploiting every weakness in the Sybil System, and he continues to prove he’s exceedingly good at it, luring a large force of MWPSBers into an elaborate trap, perverting the same holo software used to “sanitize” military drone footage so operators’ Psycho-passes don’t get clouded.

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The facility is also a chance to test out his new convert, Former Inspector Shisui. One major weakness of Sybil is obviously the use of eyes. Granted, few people are able to perform successful eye transplant, if one does, one can control any Dominator as if he was an inspector. And while we saw what torturous ordeals Shisui went through in Kamui’s custody, here she’s actually grateful he took her eye. Among this guy’s many gifts and disciplines, add in psychological manipulation and infectious charisma.

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It’s a another particularly shitty day for MWPSB, who are, after all, nothing but complacent, obedient pawns to Sybil. Even if the drones weren’t hacked and trying to kill them all, MWPSB doesn’t even have enough ammo to destroy them all. Rushing in there was a costly mistake; Division 3 is eviscerated. And we hardly knew thee…

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Back at HQ, the gang isn’t sitting still. Well, they are, but they’re tapping away at computers. Well, Saiga isn’t, but…hey, he’s the over-brains of the counter-hacking operation, planting the idea in Shion’s head that the key to stopping the drones is their own MPS operational servers. Saiga basically helps prevent a crisis from turning into an calamity, and if it wasn’t for Akane, he wouldn’t even be in that building.

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Naturally, Mika is utterly dismayed and appalled by Akane’s actions, most of all putting the safety of lowly enforcers before her own and going after Kamui herself; ushing to the forefront instead of staying back and delegating. It doesn’t help that recent events have had a somewhat clouding effect on Mika’s soul, to the point she mutters that she hopes Akane gets clouded.

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That’s after coming back from Togane’s quarters, where she found that he was taking constant measurements of Akane’s color. Togane can’t help himself when Akane has her back turned to him in the field. He’s astonished by how clear she is, even there, which, as he thinks to himself, makes him want to turn her black that much more. Clearly, Akane needs to watch this guy, but she’s given no indication of being anything other than totally in the dark regarding him. Mika knows something now, but I expect her to keep that knowledge to herself. Why help Akane out, and reward her for breaking the rules constantly?

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Oh, and if you like turn-off-your-brain action, you liked this episode. The running and jumping and shooting and exploding is virtually non-stop, with Akane right in the thick of it; she’s everywhere, kicking ass and taking names. The clever tactics used to bunch the drones together so their guns lock (a measure to avoid hitting one another) is a particularly neat little setpiece, though how Akane and the others survive an ammunition warehouse explosion is uncertain! Really, how are they not dead?

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As it turns out, Mika missed out on all the action, which was probably for the best, as she’d probably only issue orders that would have made the situation worse and cause the deaths of more enforcers and civilians. It’s also nice that Shion, Yayoi, Hinakawa and Saiga pay her no mind while switching off the holo overlays. Yes, it clouds a great many minds, but it also saves their lives. The righteous Mika has the usual arguments about how This Is Not How Things Are Done (clearly unfazed by the Chief’s shutdown last week), and Saiga tells her what we all want tell her: “Quit yer damn whining!” Some problems, he says, simply can’t be solved (or even understood, I’ll add) by doing things by the book.

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Kamui is one of those things. He’s a ghost to Sybil’s technology, and he’s also a cunning creature who’s been able to turn it around on itself almost every time. Now he has at least five Dominators, and the ability to use them all at any time. For her confrontation, Akane brings a real gun, but suddenly remembering Kogami, she can’t fire it, nor does she allow Togane to. Kamui gets away very slowly on his boat (named What Color, LOL), but the standoff ends with Akane still a Dominator in the clear, which she needs to continue to be if she’s going to stop Kamui.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 05

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Man oh man, when Psycho-Pass is on, it is frikkin’ ON. This was one of those times. It had it all: turned inspectors, sketchy enforcers, brain-picking, inspector head-patting, attempted inter-office political wrangling, failed freaking tattling, and one more big MWPSB operation…which is exactly what Kamui wanted bearing down on his ostensible location on an isolated island used for military drone development and training. What could possibly go wrong?

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We start off where we left it last week: the site of a major MWPSB fuck-up and defeat. The gory scene — not to mention the way it went down, by MWPSB hands — is understandably a bit much for Mika, who retches and vomits into a sink, clearly scarred by the experience. Even so, her location near the bathroom turns out to be fortuitous, as she spots Togane pointing his Dominator at Akane. The reading? A puny, blindingly-clear 26. As Professor Saiga remarks quite hilariously while Akane is visiting to convince him to interrogate Masuda, Is Akane really human? I hope she turns out to be, because that’s what makes her so damn awesome.

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Okay, I feel a little bad for Mika, and the scene where Kunizuka tenderly pats her head (and said patting is covered by Multiple Camera Angles!) is pretty damned cutebut Mika is still The Worst until she inevitably proves herself otherwise at a later date.

As Professor Saiga remarks quite hilariously while Akane is visiting to convince him to interrogate Masuda, Is Akane really human? I hope she turns out to be, because that’s what makes her so damn awesome.

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Speaking of non-humans, Mika runs to mommy to tattle on Akane being so darned unorthodox. Standing at attention, Mika lays out a carefully-considered, comprehensive argument for why she believes Akane may require “treatment” or at least closer observation and a tighter leash…only to be totally shot down by Chief Kasei, who is very unimpressed and all like “Uh…And?”

What I hoped she’d say was, “Girl, you best GTFO and stop wasting my time before I throw a shoe at your scrawny ass.” Mika scurries away, and Kasei determines she’ll get “eaten alive.” It was just a flawless shutdown, in every way. I’m so glad Kasei is still around, and simultaneously on and most definitely not on Akane’s side.

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While poring over Masuda’s speeches with Shion, it doesn’t take a genius (not being sarcastic) like Saiga long to realize Masuda ain’t Masuda no more. He knows because the latest speeches don’t match the accomplished politician’s earlier balance and finesse with words, volume, and modulation. It’s as if he’s been replaced by a very good but still clear impostor.

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This Impostor gave the MWPSB the location of Kamui without anyone, even Akane, realizing he was a messenger to get them to come to the very place and time Kamui wanted them to be: the experimental drone testing facility. Here, Kamui unleashes his most brutally insidious weapon yet: hooking the deathbots up to everyone’s favorite new cell phone game. They play the crude 3D game with 8-bit sound effects with relish and glee, totally unaware they’re murdering real people.

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In last month’s Rundown I said Kamui may not be as brilliant as Makishima, but I think I need to revise that statement right now: Makishima’s crimes (or rather, his criminal facilitating) had a fairly linear structure, but Kamui’s got his tentacles in so many things at once, MWPSB doesn’t just look stupid or ineffectual, they look extremely vulnerable. Kasei is keeping Akane on the job and giving her a long leash because she and her brilliant, bizarre mind may be the MWPSB’s only hope of surviving. Sybil isn’t quite that vulnerable yet…but Kamui is just warming up.

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We close with certified non-genius Mika, who has, by way of rejecting her by-the-book upright citizen and intruding of Enforcer Togane’s private quarters, actually stumbled on something quite disturbing: Togane seems to be interested in Akane…very interested. While Saiga joked about her not being human, Togane my suspect she isn’t. Heck, he could think any number of things. He could even be…a Kamui mole. All I know is, the wall are closing in on Akane, Mika, everyone who wants to be on the right side of morality, as Kamui aims to bring the system they’re protecting to justice by the most deliciously dastardly means possible!

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 04

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“Look, we can do this the east way, or the adorable way.”

This episode didn’t just disrobe a mental health facility’s patrons of their clothes. It laid bare just how appalingly ill-informed, ill-equipped and ill-prepared the MWPSB is to do battle with this season’s Big Bad, Kamui.

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“Empirical data suggests the accuracy of my earlier contention that your weapons against me are without merit!”

Makishima Shougo facilitated latent criminals with the materials they needed to “thrive” so they could show him something; treating it almost like art. Kamui, on the other hand, is all cold, calculating science. He’s not necessarily interested in making a big loud fuss; rather, he’s content to stay on the sidelines as he uses citizens, enforcers, and inspectors as guinea pigs, with a particular focus on the possibilities of Dominators.

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Most. Worthless. Inspector. EVER.

“Ghost” is such a fitting term for him, because that’s what he remains in the minds of most MWPSB personnel, even after this week’s shocking events. He’s still treated like an apparition cooked up by a bunch of crazy people. Mika is so sure Kamui is just nonsense, and Eustress Deficiency is just an urban legend, that she simply stands outside the site of a hostage situation that escalates in horrific massacre. She literally does absolutely nothing in this episode, except jaw at Akane, stand around looking stupid, and worry about getting in trouble.

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Wonderful stuff, Metamucil!

Of course, that’s the way Kamui wants it. It’s as if he’s observing a group of rare animals that don’t fear man or even acknowledge his presence or existence. Their actions and protocols are utterly predictable, and he can work within and around them as conditions warrent with little or no fear of detection or reprisal.

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DIV 3 in the hizzouse

Just to underline just how bad things are, of the only two “good guys” (we use that term in a relative sense) who entertain the fact that Kamui even exists, one is a latent criminal locked in an isolation facility no one will talk to for fear of hue contamination. The other is the only person who will talk to him. And even Akane neatly fits into a part of Kamui’s plan, in that her sprawling investigation of his actitivies takes up most of her time this week, sidelining her from the central crisis.

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And then there’s Inspector Aoyanagi. I was pretty sure her nice chat with Ginoza was either a sign she’d soon turn into a latent criminal like him, or simple a death flag. Turns out it was both. It’s a shame we had so little time with her before she went, but she at least tries to go upholding her duty to protect the innocent. The only problem is, she fails to protect anyone, as they’re all ruled as targets for lethal elimination as soon as they’re released from captivity.

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That crazy old man went and made a latent criminality bomb out of people who were “fine” earlier that day, then manipulated the MWPSB into executing their own inspector as well as all of the hostages. And he did it all gladly, grateful as he was for Kamui “saving him” from a catatonic existence caused by eustress deficiency.

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It’s just a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day for the MWPSB. What’s worse, just as Mika excuses her criminal inaction with “I wasn’t given instructions”, Division 3 are “just obeying orders.” They’re just cogs in the machine. But so were those random people buying drugs to regulate their mental state. Oh, but the MWPSB now has an “Assault Dominator” that can kill through walls! That just screams “bad idea.”

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Who knows, Akane…who knows?

Division 3, whom I don’t believe we hadn’t seen before, were sent to take over the case on Chief Kasei’s strict orders. When Akane arrives at the scene, it’s far too late to help anyone, and she’s just as sickened as I am by the spectacle before her. Worse still, she of all people knows this was another sweeping-under-the-rug job by Kasei. When faced with such situations, Sybil breaks its own rules with impunity, but the cache it’s amassed from perceived infallibility means nobody takes notice.

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Something like a dozen people died this week as a result of Kamui’s experiments, but this is far from over. Akane needs to find this creep soon, or a lot more are going to die in what he probably deems to be “the service of the greater good”, freeing humanity from the shackles of Sybil and its MWPSB minions. I’d also like to think this was a wake-up call for someone like Mika…but I’m not going to hold my breath!

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 03

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Not your ideal Friday.

I got into Psycho-Pass so recently, I ended up waiting negative-one week for the sequel a good chunk of its audience had been waiting over two years for. As a result, I didn’t have the same yearning or withdrawal, and so wasn’t as easy on the first two episodes, which while heady and intriguing, didn’t seem to quite match the power of the first season. If I’d had a longer break from the franchise, I can say with certainty those would have probably gotten 9s. That’s how arbitrary our rating system is!

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Well, I can say with great pleasure that Psycho-Pass is officially back, baby…as if it had ever left (it hadn’t).  It gives someone like me who just got done watching the first season a couple weeks ago the impression that it’s back by leaning on all the knowledge I’ve amassed thus far. Frankly, I feel that someone watching this show without having that knowledge is still watching a pretty damn good show, but only a fraction as good if you knew what’s come before.

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Shashiing.

Those first two shots above are from a cold open that quickly and efficiently sketches out a little more about what kind of feller this Kamui is. For one thing, like previous Psycho-Pass baddies, he’s possessed of a very specific and detailed depravity, which is indeed depraved, even by the standards of our “unSybilized” world. Removing Inspector Shiui’s eye, then using it to aim her own Dominator at herself…that’s some twisted shit right there. And yet…somehow, he manages to clear her hue just by talking to her (and letting her bite his finger really hard…yuck!).

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OMG, academics, like, totally REEK, ‘n stuff! Ew. Ew.

The body horror isn’t the only thing that this episode brought back from the good ol’ days…this week Akane pays a visit to Professor Saiga Motherfucking Jouji, one of the coolest SOBs of the previous season. Having turned himself in for helping Kogami, he’s traded the verdant tranquility of his Fallingwater knockoff for a comparatively stark isolation cell. Shimotsuki Mika, who comes along because she’s curious what Akane’s up to now, perfectly sums up her character by covering her mouth and scurrying off at the first sight of the professor. It’s as if she’s allergic to the knowledge and wisdom of yore!

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Akane is not. I believe Mika’s scan of her in her messy flat read something like “38”, a ridiculously low Psychopass for someone who’s been through as much as Akane. She’s stuck between the possibility she’s gone insane and wrote “WC?” on her own wall (possibly while high on second-hand smoke) or the possibility a “ghost” invisible to technology did it without leaving a trace. Saiga can assure her of one thing: regardless of whether Kamui exists, the means to clear hues and write messages on walls without detection most certainly do, which means the answers are out there.

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Like Father…well, you know the rest of that.

Psycho-Pass Classic™ Move #3? Quality time Enforcer Ginoza, whom has fantastic chemistry with Div 2’s Inspector Aoyanagi. Just like his old man, now he has a bionic arm and drinks really old brown liquor in his U-neck and just generally seems to be in a better place. He was always so on-edge and anxious; covering his face like Mika did, too scared of clouding his hue to really live. Could it be he changed for the better? There’s certainly much less of a weight on his shoulders, that much is clear. Aoyanagi almost looks envious of his plight.

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The hits keep coming: Akane visits Chief Kasei to ask permission to investigate the Kamui Case. Now, you and I both know (or you better damn well i if you’re reading this) that Kasei is a freaking full-body cyborg and a direct liason to Sybil. Mika doesn’t have a fucking clue what’s going on between Kasei and Akane in this scene, but we do. That feeling of being in the know is quite…invigorating. While Ginoza was always cowed by Kasei (because like Mika, he just didn’t know the truth), Akane is almost not asking, but telling “her” that she’s taking this case. Kasei has no reason to stop her, because Kamui could be a grave threat to Sybil.

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Togame: Highest coefficient EVER. Gonna keep an eye on that (Sorry, Shisui!).

Mika dismisses the wide berth as favoritism. Mika is…kinda dumb so far. But she’s a perfect product of the system, as Akane once was. Also, we have the luxury of knowing Akane’s absolutely fuckin-A-right about Kamui really existing, even if he’s spoken of by Norma latent criminals as if he were some kind of prophet or savior. That Kamui managed to kill an enforcer, kidnap an Inspector, keep her Dominator active, and steal the impact absorber from a bomb-defusing drone…to what end God only knows.

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Meanwhile, Aoyanagi get’s a call from Shisui and agrees to meet her at some kind of combination pharmacy and internet cafe, where an old man is being crotchety and starts assaulting an employee. Yet the geezer’s clear Psychopass locks her Dominator, and starts to whale on her. Like Kamui, he wants to “save” everyone from Sybil, presumably starting with those who most directly carry out her will: the MWPSB.

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Danganronpa: The Animation – 13 (Fin)

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Enoshima Junko exposits at length before the remaining students, revealing that they’ve been at Hope’s Peak Academy for more than two years. A year after they enrolled, a calamity befell the world, which fell into despair. The principal turned the school into a shelter for its students, most of whom died, leaving only the sixteen surviving students, including Junko and her sister, whom she killed out of contempt. Junko announces it’s time to vote: either for her despair or their hope, sweetening the deal by saying they’ll all live if they sacrifice Naegi.

She also says the air in the outside world is contaminated, and if she’s killed, the school’s air purifier will shut down, killing them all. However, armed with “bullets of hope”, Naegi gives uplifting speeches to everyone, and they all end up voting for Junko. She willingly accepts her punishment: a combo of all the previous executions. Naegi uses her controller to open the front door to the school, and everyone steps out into the world. Monokuma reappears in the trial room, still talking and moving despite Junko dying…

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Call it hokey if you must, but it turns out this wasn’t a battle between hope and despair, but rather trying to reach a place where both coexist. The high school life of mutual killings was an exercise in despair and despair alone, but Naegi was accepted to the school as almost a fail-safe, in case despair went too far. His hope spread just as readily to his peers (who, as it turns out, were all his friends prior to losing their memories), and the world represents that place where they’ll likely run into both, but that’s life. Unfortunately we don’t see one bit of what becomes of them after stepping outside.

Prior to their escape Junko adopts multiple personas during her long-winded speechifying, but she doesn’t end up saying all much. She paints in very broad strokes that are somewhat dull and unsatisfying, a contrast from the intricate detail the murder trials brought to the table. Maybe she’s being intentionally mysterious…or more likely the series is withholding all the answers for a sequel down the road. But as with Blood Lad, we’re content with just this one season. It was fun, but the lack of a single 8 rating or higher is a sure sign of a series that  never really wowed us.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Danganronpa: The Animation – 12

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Monobear unlocks all the doors in the school, and Naegi and Kirigiri enter the principal’s office. Naegi uses her name as the password on his computer, revealing a secret passage where Naegi finds his bones, his electronic handbook, and a memory card containing a video of the students agreeing to spend the rest of their live sin the school. Naegi also finds Hagakure’s and Kirigiri’s lockers, the latter containing a notebook where she writes of “two despairs.”

Monobear distributes photos to everyone in which the recipient is the only one not present. The classroom trial begins, and after Ikusaba and Kirigiri are ruled out, it’s determined that everyone has amnesia. After analyzing Monobear’s behavior, Naegi concludes that Enoshima Junko is the mastermind, who faked her death by killing Ikusaba. Monobear transforms into Junko, who admits she and Ikusaba were twins – the “two despairs” Kirigiri wrote about.

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We say this a lot about Danganronpa, but we should have seen this coming. Maizono Sayaka was discovered as the first murder victim, but Junko was the only student who was neither a murder victim or an executed culprit; and while many have challenged Monobear, she was the only one to pay the price with his “Spear of Gungnir.” We also remember her admitting all of her modelling work was photoshopped, but in every class photo everyone accepts as genuine, her face is hidden.

It also makes sense now why we never saw nor heard from Ikusaba Mukuro, as Junko had long ago killed her off posing as her, then proceded with the mutual school killing arc with Monobear as her avatar. Finally, as revealed photos show, she and Mukuro both resemble one another, albeit with different hair and clothes. This show proves it’s full of devious surprises in bringing back a character we thought was an afterthought who quickly met her end by breaking the rules. All the students thought that too, which is why they’re equally shocked that Junko is the mastermind. But that’s the truth.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Danganronpa: The Animation – 11

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Before the students can confirm the identity of the body they presume to be Ikusaba, the classroom trial abruptly begins. Narrowing the timeline, Togami accuses the long-absent Kirigiri as the culprit, but Kirigiri turns suspicion upon Naegi. Monokuma calls for a vote, and Naegi protests. He’s voted guilty and sent to be execution, but Alter Ego hacks the system and saves him. He still falls into the garbage-filled basement, where Kirigiri saves him. After climbing to the top, they confront Monobear, who introduces a new challenge: the remaining students will win if they can discover all of the school’s mysteries.

The mastermind is all about despair. The whole intent “high school life of mutual killing” project is to put the students in a state of abject despair from which there is no escape, before killing them off. But as of recently, the project has stalled. The last student to die wasn’t a murder, but a suicide, and of Monobear’s agent, no less. The remaining six students aren’t in any hurry to kill each other, another student’s digital alter ego continues to cause trouble, the super-duper detective is regaining her memories, and perhaps most damaging to his plans, Naegi absolutely won’t give up hope, and his optimism is proving contagious.

Apparently the mastermind thought to eliminate Naegi by having Ikusaba murder him, then frame it on Kirigiri. But Ikusaba ends up dead (by Kirigiri’s hand? Who knows…), and even when Naegi is convicted and sentenced, he manages to escape death, and with Kirigiri’s help, emerges more hopeful and fired up than ever. Unable to bend more rules to get his way for fear of angering the reality TV audiences, and fairly convinced more mutual student killings aren’t on the horizon, Monobear/the mastermind decides to put everything on the line hoping his myriad secrets are safe from the students. That’s right, it’s come to this: the despair junkie himself, relying on hope.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Nice use of the Droste Effect at the beginning of the episode. We love us som Droste.
  • Naegi survives quite a fall! His execution scene is quite creepy (well, they all are).
  • Kirigiri Kyouko: even with a noodle cup and naruto in her hair, she still looks dignified as hell.
  • As Naegi says, it’s really no surprise Kirigiri’s title is detective, considering her actions throughout the ordeal.
  • We still don’t know who killed Ikusaba, or even if that was Ikusaba. If she’s still alive, will we ever see her face?
  • It’s interesting to note that of the remaining students, none seem likely to commit a murder, and thus haven’t: Fukuwa is too scared; Syo is too obvious; Togami is too pragmatic; Aoi is too nice; Hagakure is too dumb; Kirigiri is too righteous, and Naegi is too…Naegi.