Owari no Seraph – 08

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Ahh, good ol’ Omotesando Station… I remember it well, travelling on the Ginza Metro line between Shibuya and Shimbashi. It was in a far better state of repair when I was there. On Owari, after the fall, it’s been re-purposed as a creepy lair for the team’s next targets: seven vampires. Shinoa says they’d probably do okay fighting individually, but better to work together and defeat them without a scratch. For once, Yuu agrees.

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They enter not to find fello Metro users like myself, but the vampires’ thralls, who give their blood in exchange for protection from the monsters above ground. They glare at the soldiers as they press on to their primary targets; saving them is secondary, and for once, Yuu doesn’t protest. They glare because they wish they had the power to choose a different fate for themselves besides this or death.

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When Mitsuba gives the order to prepare their weapons, Yuu takes it upon himself to cut down an unarmed vamp, their first catch of the day, following the letter but not necessarily the spirit of his orders. This irks Mitsuba, but he catches her hand before she can slap him again, then maneuvers her out of the way of a second vamp’s strike, whom he takes care of without any trouble. Two down, five to go, and Yuu’s first rescue of Mitsuba.

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When they confront the final five, three more pop out from behind Mitsuba, and one of them grabs her by the throat. But in one of the vamps’ sillier choices, he decides not to kill her immediately, but wait until Yuu and the others have engaged his comrades to do it, by which time it’s too late, and Yuu slices him in half.

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With Mitsuba rescued by Yuu once more (who regards her as his family), the team closes ranks and mops up the remaining vamps, armed with second-rate weapons no match for their cursed gear. In all, it’s a good first subterranean fight, packed with peril but ultimately not too difficult to pull off with the lessons they’ve learned.

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The girl who told them about the vamps in the station lowballed the figure to save her own friends/family, something Yuu doesn’t hold against her when they return to base camp, where other former thralls are being tended to by the army. When Mitsuba learns from Shinoa about Yuu’s past, and how it so closely resembles her own, but his denseness annoys her and she storms off without telling him anything. There’s pretty textbook romantic bonding exercise in practice here, but not unearned due to solid fundamentals and decent voicework by Iguchi Yuka.

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The second half opens with Shiho getting a derelict Hummer H2T running again to shorten their trip to Shinjuku. While Yuu grows up a lot in this episode, the comedic scene the show allows as a breath between life-and-death ordeals successfully reminds us he still is a kid, judging from how stoked he is about driving a car for the first time. This is Yuu as a charming, wide-eyed kid, not an annoying angsty or arrogant; and it’s nice.

The shot of Shiho gathering the others, as Yuu drives into the frame and crashes into a lamppost, demonstrates decent comedic timing (plus it looks like Yuu is having a ton of fun, which I can speak to having driven one of those brutes). Shinoa sitting in the drivers seat is a nice sight gag, as is her off-camera revenge over the lads for laughing at her.

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Once everyone’s aboard and they near the Shinjuku barrier wall, they spot a Vampire Noble, the first we’ve seen in action since Yuu ran from Ferid. Everyone bails as they set the Hummer on a collision course with the vamp, but he stops the three-ton SUT with one hand and flings it back at them like a toy. *GULP*. They had a relatively easy time with vamps up till now, but it’s clear this will be a little different.

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The noble is so fast he’s upon Shinoa before she can raise her weapon. Yuu is able to block his blow and disarm him, showing her yet again why he and Shiho are Guren’s favorites. The noble is a little impressed as two more noble vamps descend from the sky, flanking him.

Yuu asks if they should retreat from this. Let me repeat that: Yuu mentions retreat. But it’s too late; Shiona believes they’ll still have a chance if the five of them work as one unit at the very limit of their demon power, but she doesn’t pretend there won’t probably be a casualty or two.

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The lady vamps have come to bring their comrade to the front lines, and he grudgingly goes along with them, sparing Yuu & Co. from a fight but promising he’ll drink their blood when they meet again, casually tapping him on the shoulder before flying off. That easy arrogance really ticks Yuu off, but Shinoa is still visibly terrified from the bullet they just dodged.

Even if Yuu had what it took today to take that noble on one-on-one, his friends would get killed as he fought without teamwork. Shinoa also does what Mitsuba couldn’t: thank him promptly for saving her life, noting that as Guren said, he really does care about his friends. Her gratitude brings the bashful boy out in Yuu.

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Those nobles were pretty damn scary, but they’re gone for the moment, and while the episode ends with the team staring down a Shinjuku under assault, about to enter that inferno themselves, it ends with an upward pan right into the smoke, as upbeat music plays. It will be tough going from here on, but they’re going in together, and whatever they face in there, they’ll get through it with teamwork.

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Mawaru Penguindrum 2

“Which holes do her legs go through?”
“Fool, those holes lead to the Cosmos.”

-Shouma/Kanba @ a lingerie store

Good lord, that was…brilliant. Awesome in every way. If anything, better than the first episode, since some things were already established. This just added more. More places, more people, more layers of story, more comedy, more mysteries; more lingerie and more stalking!

It’s all in the details: For instance, there’s a little animated PSA on the Sky Metro in which warns against groping in no uncertain terms…then Shouma is accused of just that, groping a girl on the train because his preguin friends (whom no one else can see) did so. The girl just happens to be friends with the person Shouma and Kanba are tailing – Ringo Oginome – the proverbial apple in the opening and ending sequences – which one really looks forward to, like the cherry atop the proverbial sundae. Ringo loves fate.

Hardly anything we’d seen from Ringo seemed all that suspicious, but it turns out she’s far from normal, compulsively stalking a teacher she’s fallen for (lying on a blanket under his house listening to him) as the brothers stalk her (with their penguins acting as their eyes and ears). While Himari is wearing her penguin hat, she has another “Incoming Message From The Big Giant Head” moment, ordering the bros to fetch the Penguindrum from Ringo. Problem is, she doesn’t tell them what it is.

So now, having followed Ringo, and learned the stalked is also a stalker, they have to gain possession of something they know not what from someone who is clearly unstable. Hell, she herself could be the drum thing. Who knows? All I know is, this episode was fantastic, and I can’t wait for the next one. Rating: 4

Tokyo Trip Journal 4

7 June, Heisei 22 (Mon)

Here’s when I thought things would get a bit…tricky.

I was a bit anxious about using public transportation, not knowing what all the flashing characters were trying to tell me, but after using it all day I have no idea why I was at all; it was easy as pie. There’s a slight learning curve to the iconography, but with a combination of bilingual signage and distinct colors for lines and numbers for stations, I had no problem navigating my way around Tokyo.

First, I followed the enormous mass of suited salarymen (and women) clutching phones and coffee to Shinjuku station, the busiest train station in the world by daily passengers (more than 3 million) A typicall trip on the Toei or Tokyo Metro subways costs 160-170 yen. I took the Toei Shinjuku line (leaf green) to Kudanshita, a station near the Imperial Palace complex. The imperial gardens and nearby museums were closed, it being Monday, so I hopped back on the subway on the Metro’s Tozai line (blue) at Takebashi bound for Nihombashi. The whole business district area east of the palace is called Marunouchi. The red line is named after it.

Nihombashi had a 19th century stone bridge with intricate bronzework, but was concealed by a highway overpass. In Tokyo, hardly anything save the palace is sacred, and they will build over/around/on top of whatever they don’t feel like tearing down. I also saw the Tokyo Stock Exchange, but couldn’t go inside. After mailing a couple postcards with the help of a very nice postwoman, I got on at Ometachi station and took the Tozai line to Iidabashi (missing Kudanshita from brain fart). That was okay, because Iidabashi was a junction for the yellow Yurakucho line, which I’d take to my next destination, Ikebukuro.

One of Ikebukuro station many exits led up into a Gallery-like mall, where I was surprised to find a Krispy Kreme – they’re all but extinct in Philly. I was fascinated by suddenly being in the same city where the anime Durarara!! takes place, and from what I saw the show portrays the look of the city expertly. In Shangri-la, which takes place in the future, Ikebukuro is a thick and poisonous forest. Here and now though, the place is surging with people and activity. I float around in no particular hurry until lunchtime draws near.

Rather than eat here, I hop on the brown Fukushotin line to Shinjuku-Sanchome, then back on the Shinjuku line to…Shinjuku. After a brief stop at the hoel for a shower, then searched Shinjuku by my hotel for sushi. I espied several businessmen entering a promising place and followed them, and was not disappointed. Utilizing once again the big pictures on the menu, indicated my choice and received large amounts of delicious, dead raw fish and sea creatures, all for under 1000 yen.

As miles of walking in my Nikes had virtually ruined my ankles/knees, I decided to bite the bullet and purchase decent walking shoes with arch support. I went to Keio, one of the massive department stores positioned around Shinjuku Station along with Odakyu and Mylord. Each has at least eight floors, the bottom of which are massive gourmet food markets selling every kind of food imaginable. I wasn’t hungry, unfortunately, but I did need shoes, so I took the elevator up to the fifth floor. The elevators were attended by extremely well dressed and groomed, polite and soft-spoken ladies with white gloves. I found some comfy Gore-Tex Brooks for 15,700 yen, for which I was able to use a credit card.

Thus equipped, and having purchased Buffrin (the only pain medicine with western letters I could decipher; don’t want to be wrong about labels where drugs are concerned) I hoped to lessen the fatigue on my walking bits as the week continued.