Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 03 – A Little Bit More Good than Evil

All of the various knots Boogiepop tied the first two eps are laid bare this week and then gradually unraveled, bringing the three-part arc to a satisfying conclusion. It starts with Tanaka Shirou searching for his girlfriend Kamikishiro, unaware she’s already dead. Class Rep Niitoki Kei joins him in the search, as does Saotome Masami.

Of course, we know Saotome is up to no good, and his true goal is to draw out both Echoes and Kirima Nagi. And his plan works…kinda: when they send a PA message summoning Nagi to the broadcast room, she shoes up, but not before cutting the lights, taking all three of them down, and tying them up before presenting them to Echoes to determine if any of them are Manticore.

When Nagi frees the three, Kei wants to know what’s going on, but Nagi doesn’t want to involve them, as they’re “too normal” for what they’re up against. This rankles Saotome, still sore over Nagi rejecting him for the same reason. He reveals his treachery by stabbing Echoes with a pen loaded with poison that will keep him from regenerating, just when Manticore arrives.

He also slits Nagi’s throat, an event that was a horrifying to behold in the moment, even if I knew there were supernatural means of bringing her back. Echoes escapes to the roof with Nagi, and Manticore follows, while Tanaka runs away screaming, leaving Kei alone with Saotome, who liked how it felt killing Nagi and wouldn’t mind doing it again.

Echoes and Manticore engage in a kind of aerial parkour duel, the animation for which is crude, but effective. Manticore eventually bests Echoes, slamming him to the ground where Saotome and Kei are. This is where Manticore explains all the horrible things she’s going to do, including taking Nagi’s form and turning Kei into a soulless slave.

But as Kei holds him upright, Echoes has other ideas. He transforms himself into data and shoots himself into space. Saotome pushes Manticore out of the way, but gets vaporized himself. Denied her prey Manticore starts to go a bit loopy, and prepares to kill Kei in her rage, but her hand is stayed—nay, her whole left arm cleaved off—by none other than Boogiepop, who has come to the rescue.

After suspending Manticore with magical threads, Tanaka makes a triumphant return, shooting an arrow through Manticore’s head, killing her and ending the threat. Turns out his act of cowardice was just that—an act; Boogiepop told him earlier that the opportunity to “shoot through the truth” would come if he wished to…and he decided to do so. In this case, to avenge his beloved and defeat the demon that claimed her.

Turns out in his brief time with the bloodied Nagi, Echoes gave her a little of his life force, allowing her to heal with no ill effects (which is why Manticore thought he was a bit too weak, even with the poison). Tanaka thanks Nagi and Kei for their help on Kamikishiro’s behalf. Boogiepop further explains that Echoes was sent to judge whether humanity was worth living; thanks to Kamikishiro, with assists by Tanaka, Nagi, and Kei, the verdict was favorable.

Kei also wants to thank Boogiepop, but with the threat lifted, Boogiepop is gone. Still, Nagi suggests she thank the next best thing: Miyashita Touka, despite Touka having no idea what happened. This brings us full circle to the end of the first episode, when Nagi and Kei encounter Touka and Kensuke walking home. All in all, I really enjoyed this intricate little mechanism, and I’m looking forward to the next crisis that will necessitate Boogiepop’s return.

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Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 02 – A Failed Creation

Well, so much for my hasty theory about Kirima Nagi being a murderer, and so much for the calm pace of the first episode; this thing’s a non-stop parade of new characters, motivations, and lashing waves of plot, presented to us out of order.

I won’t lie, it’s a bit of a mess, and definitely not an improvement on the more minimalist premiere. But at least we have some answers about the “man-eater” Boogiepop mentioned, as well as the other players in this tale.

But first, some names: Kinoshita, the girl who was worried about being killed, is walked home by the glasses-wearing Suema, who is into crime psychology books by the late Kirima Seiichi. Kinoshita is suddenly accosted by Kirima Nagi. But it’s a misunderstanding; Nagi thinks Kinoshita is someone called “Manticore”…but she isn’t.

A guy named Saotome happens upon the man-eater while in the middle of eating a second year girl named Yurihara. Saotome pleads that rather than kill him for seeing what he saw, the monster should take the form of Yurihara, and together they’ll take over the world. He names the monster-in-Yurihara’s-form “Manticore”, which…is apt.

Kinoshita tells Suema about Kusatsu Akiko, a girl who distributed a strange drug to four friends, including her. One by one, they started to disappear, including Akiko, which is why Kinoshita feels like she’s next. Suema takes this info to Nagi—her favorite author’s daughter—who only pretends to be a delinquent in order to have more time to investigate the strange goings-on at school, bad rep be damned.

We’re shown that Saotome and Manticore are behind Akiko, the drugs, and the disappearances. Saotome took Akiko out (she had a crush on him), then drugged her drink and gives her to Manticore “modify” her brain to secrete the blue drug.

Akiko is essentially in thrall to Manticore, putting the drug in pills and distributing them to her friends. This is how Saotome and Manticore, who have become something of an item, intend to take over the world.

That brings us to the white-haired guy Takeda saw Boogiepop talk to in the city: his name is Echoes and he’s an alien. Wait…what?! Oh, there’s more, he came here to gauge human kindness, but ended up captured by some shady company that cloned him. That clone? Manticore. Echoes befriends one Miyashita Touka, who stashes him at school and informs Nagi.

Nagi doesn’t go to visit Echoes until Touka has already disappeared; she’s killed when she barges in on Manticore and Saotome. However, the fact she was kind to Echoes is probably a good thing in the cosmic sense…not to mention by bringing Echoes and Nagi together, they must be the duo who defeat the monster before Boogiepop, making her services no longer required.

As I said, there was a lot going on here, and I’m not sure that shifting between times to really served a purpose other than to confuse me…and yet it all seems to be making a kind of crazy sense…at least enough sense for me to tune back in to see what comes next.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 01 (First Impressions) – Gather Ye Rosebuds While Ye May

The first Winter 2019 anime to pop onto my screen promptly impressed with its atmosphere, economy, and a nervy Ushio Kensuke synth score that quite simply OWNS. Those elements working in concert make even the most innocuous scenario—a guy in the city apparently being stood up—feel significant.

And oh yeah, the girl who stood him up? She shows up in a witch-like getup, helps a suffering homeless man, chides the bystanders for ignoring said man, and flipping a cop for good measure.

But while the witch-looking figure may have had Miyashita Touka’s body, it wasn’t Miyashita. As Takeda (the not-stood-up-after-all lad) learns when he encounters her atop a school roof, Miyashita’s body is being used as a vessel for an entity calling itself Boogiepop. If it helps Takeda, she likens it to split personalities, and Miyashita lacks any memories of when she’s “inhabited” by Boogiepop.

Both Miyashita and Boogiepop are voiced by the wonderful Yuuki Aoi, and she voices them very differently. Boogiepop speaks more slowly, at least an octave lower, and in a tone that’s an interesting combo of aloof, playful, menacing, and slightly bored. Miyashita sounds, well, more human.

Boogiepop explains to Takeda that she automatically appears whenever a threat to the school (or humanity) arises; in this case, a monster that may be inhabiting one of his classmates. Takeda reads up on split personalities and seems to enjoy his rooftop chats.

But one day Boogiepop appears before him dressed normally, as Miyashita, and tells him their time together is at an end: the monster has already been defeated by someone other than her. Takeda protests this sudden goodbye, but the next time he sees Miyashita, she’s back to being her usual herself, and Takeda almost seems…disappointed.

Peripheral to Takeda and Boogiepop’s interactions are swirling rumors about Boogiepop (some girls think she spirits them away at the peak of their beauty so they’ll die before becoming ugly) and a delinquent among them named Kirima Nagi whom some believe is murdering the girls officially reported as runaways.

So it’s a little unsettling when Kirima pops up out of nowhere to introduce herself to Miyashita and shake her hand. The timing seems too weird considering Boogiepop just “left”…not to mention one of the creepy quick cuts of carnage that dot the episode might just confirm Kirima is indeed what some of the girls suspect:

I guess we’ll find out. I’m certainly looking forward to watching how things unfurl, and to the inevitable return of Boogiepop once things inevitably go south for Takeda and Miyashita. Until then, this was a wonderfully calm, patient, moody start. Like gradually immersing your foot into the pool rather than raucously cannonballing in, I feel successfully acclimated.

Happy Sugar Life – 12 (Fin) – Nothing But Fun

That’s what Matsuzaka Satou sought for her and for Koube Shio: a world without bitterness or pain; i.e. a world quite the opposite of the one they’d inhabited to that point. Their love for, acceptance of and devotion to one another is the fuel that keeps them moving toward that goal—that, and Auntie’s trash bag full of cash.

All that’s left is to go to the airport, let Auntie do her work, be rid of the old sad bitter world forever, and when they step off the airplane they’ll be in a happy sugar world, where they’ll never have to suffer or despair again, and where they’ll have each other.

That was the plan, at least. Ironically, it’s Satou’s love that makes her take off her ring, so it won’t be sullied by the work of dressing Shouko’s corpse (if she is, in fact, 100% dead when we see her). Forgetting that ring, that symbol of their love, and going back for it at the worst possible time, proves to be Satou’s undoing.

Auntie ties Taiyou up in between “abusing” him—rape is heavily implied)—she didn’t gag him, perhaps because she liked hearing him squeal. That preference is also her undoing (if she cared about self-preservation, of course), as he’s able to get a call to Asahi telling him where he is.

Asahi arrives just as Taiyou escapes—and happens to bump into Satou and Shio in the lobby. They should never have come back for a stupid ring.

Satou and Shio head upstairs to find Taiyou, but they get away from him as well (he’s tied up) as Auntie, who assumes Satou is well on her way to freedom (and damn well should be) ignites the fire on the twelfth floor that will engulf Shouko and supposedly, any evidence tying her to Satou.

Asahi hurries to Room 1205 and finds Shouko there, dead and surrounded by flames, inflaming his rage even more. When he, Satou and Shio cross paths again, he lets her have it with his bat, injuring her leg, but Shio steps between them to prevent further violence.

Shio, exercising her own agency, tells her brother she’s done with her family, and all she wants or needs is Satou, and he’s just going to have to deal. Asahi tells her that their mother only abandoned her because she was in over her head and didn’t want to become their monster father (whom she poisoned to death).

But it doesn’t really matter why she did it anymore; Shio has moved on and isn’t coming back. She’s going to live for herself now, as Asahi should learn to do, rather than defining his life as finding and protecting her. Just then, the flames cut their chat short, and Satou and Shio make a run for the roof…where they are trapped.

Shio tells Satou that it would be alright if they die together by jumping, because they’ll surely be reborn together in that new world they’ve been hoping to reach (but again, couldn’t thanks to one dumb ring).

That potential New Happy Sugar Life flashes before them as they fall, but Satou makes one small change to Shio’s plan: she doesn’t let Shio die, shielding her from the impact of the ground with her larger body.

Shio survives, but Satou does not. She and Shouko are mentioned in the same news report, but as casualties of the fire, not murderer and victim.

Rather, Auntie is suspected, and gladly surrenders herself, having done everything she could for the sake of her niece’s love. Satou’s teacher is arrested in front of his family, Taiyou continues to obsess over his angel in his room.

As for Shio, she’s in hospital, and Asahi comes to visit her, promising to fill the void left by their parents, by society, and finally, by the loss of Satou. But Shio smiles in a very Satou-esque way; there is no void, not from her perspective.

Shio believes Satou sacrificed herself and became a part of her—which is kind of true, in an emotional sense—and as such Shio feels she’ll never be alone again. She still doesn’t need Asahi. She gained more than she lost, and she’s resolved to live her best life for herself and Satou. How exactly she’ll be supporting herself, a minor with no money or job, is left unspecified.

HSL is the story of deeply damaged people and the different ways the consequences of that damage unfold in their lives. There’s a solid causality to everything that, while hardly absolving most anyone of their numerous crimes or obsessions, at least explains them satisfactorily, and makes them subjects of pity rather than simple loathing.

People can grow up to be decent people even if there’s abuse or trauma in their lives, and without traditional families, or no families at all. But that’s an ideal; it doesn’t always happen. It usually doesn’t happen. And when it does (see Taiyou) it doesn’t always mean someone will “turn out” “alright.”

But even in the darkest places, some small amount of light can emerge, some small amount of happiness can be found, and a sweet but twisted love can take root between kindred damaged souls, filling their jars and giving them reason to keep living.

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger – 05 – The Train Job

Be it The Orient Express, Firefly, or FFVIII, you can rarely go wrong with train caper, and TSJ is no exception. The great mass and speed of the huge vehicle never fails to deliver not inconsiderable measure of energy, momentum, and gravity to whatever’s going on aboard it.

And there’s a lot going on aboard this train…and around it. First, Yuliy comes face-to-face with his long-thought-dead brother, whose current status as a vampire throws a big wrench into Yuliy’s life’s whole “Kill All Vampires” directive.

Then, the Hyakko Party decides to block the train’s path, forcing an emergency stop. They board the train and both the army and the Jaegers work separately towards the same goal: protecting the innocent passengers, among them Naoe Ryouko, whom Dorothea discovers and immediately diagnoses as having chased after her crush.

Ryouko denies having a crush; she’s just “interested” in Yuliy, the other Jaegers, and their very different way of life. The one place where they are similar is that they want to protect the weak…and have the means to do so. Only Ryouko only has “dojo” skills, and has yet to test them in a real-world situation.

Since this is a time when soldiers with rifles go up against revolutionaries with swords and arrows, martial arts are still a very useful skill to have.

The Hyakko Party raiders have some success against the soldiers and reach the car that contains the Frankenstein monster, whose operator lets their leader think it will do whatever he commands. The Hyakko leader is eventually relieved of his head after getting a little too close to the monster, and his cohorts scatter, making the train a runaway train.

Yuliy jumps off the train just long enough to rescue a little girl and reunite her with her parents, perhaps proving to Mikhail that he’s too “softhearted” to continue pursuing a quest for revenge (especially since he’s avenging his brother’s death…while his brother is still “alive”, albeit as a vamp).

After Fallon and Phillip board the train and decouple the passenger car, Ryouko takes a running leap to remain with them, not wanting to miss out on the action as long as she can assist. Yuliy jumps over everyone to get to the front of the train to try to stop it, but he’s blocked by the monster, who proves a tough customer even against a Jaeger.

Major Iba’s troops and the other Jaegers eventually come together, with the latter saving the former from one last bad guy with a gun, proving to the former that they aren’t the bad guys…just good guys taking a different path.

Ryouko almost instinctively ends up on the Jaeger path when she spots a vampire that’s still alive when no one else does, and remembers her kendo training. In a split second, she’s borrowed a soldier’s sword and eliminated the threat.

I’ll now just state for the record that I LOVE Ryouko and think she’s the coolest character on the show. What’s strange is that in her time on the train up to that point, I’d forgotten her swordsmanship, which makes her sneaky cool, not like the “ostentatious” cool of the Jaegers.

When Yuliy can only fight the monster to a stalemate, Mikhail steps in and finishes the job. I was a little confused as to his motives considering the monster was built at the behest of his master Kershner, but the fact it had gone completely out of control rendered it expendable…and Mikhail wastes no time expending it with some slick moves and a couple of well-placed grenades.

The train ends up jumping the end of the line and derailing, but all parties involved are okay. Yuliy has one last moment with Mikhail, who decides to give his little brother more time to consider what he should do next. Heck, he even charges his little brother with killing him should he become something like the monster he just destroyed. They can’t be both brothers and enemies, according to Mikhail; it has to be one or the other.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 17 – Cake Roll Rampage

Another night, another dream about clocks, the cloaked figure, and a giant dragon. Sakura knows that she knows the cloaked figure, but can’t quite put a name to it. She wakes from her unsettling dream just before her alarm goes off, momentarily scaring Kero-chan by being so out of it.

That early alarm is so she can meet her elementary school friend Rika at the park so Rika can give her some books to read to children at the hospital, because of course Sakura does nice shit that!

It’s a big day in home ec class, because they get to make cake rolls. Akiho doesn’t have Momo on her bag because Kaito is at home mending her scarf, and we finally see Momo move and speak…and eat chocolates while lounging on an adorably tiny chaise lounge.

Whatever Kaito is up to, Momo is also in on it, and rather eager to get on with things. “The collection of cards” is part of their plan, and as it’s proceeding steadily, The Time To Do…Something will soon arrive.

That collection of cards continues when everyone’s cake rolls suddenly come to life and eventually combine into a giant monster. Tomoyo shields Sakura while she releases her staff and puts everyone else to sleep before getting chased out of the school by the MegaRoll. Sakura takes to the sky, only for the roll to take flight itself.

Sakura manages to restrain the MegaRoll with her “Spiral” Card, and secures the new “Appear” Card. Syaoran shows up to help her back down, but their lovely reunion is marred by Tomoyo and Kero’s cameras.

Akiho manages to salvage her decorated cake rolls to give to Kaito, and is very happy when he says they’re both adorable and delicious. But things take a darker turn when Kaito puts Akiho to sleep once more and whips out that damned pocket watch of his ominously going tick-tick-tick-tick. 

I’m fine with Akiho having a little thing for Kaito, but definitely not okay with keeping her in the dark about both the cards and the cloaked figure shared dreams.

It’s clear Akiho isn’t hiding anything from Sakura, but is a tool of Kaito and Momo. Hopefully at some point she can regain her agency and put the meddlers in their place; perhaps with help from Sakura & Co.

Darling in the FranXX – 12 – Time is Running Out and Zero Two Drops the Pretense

Squad 13 returns to Garden, to the place where they were made, even if it isn’t where they came from—a question Kokoro ponders while doubting the adults’ answers. In narration, Hiro says it doesn’t matter where, as long as he can live life to the fullest. But his increasingly distant (and feral) partner Zero Two feels the opposite: where she came from—what she is—means everything.

Hiro the rest of the squad are only tagalongs. The reason they’re at Garden is for Zero Two, or “Iota”, as the leader of the elite “Nines” calls her. He’s surprised she’s been able to integrate so well into a squad of humans, and is rudely explicit about how inhuman she is, gaining the ire of Ichigo. Ultimately the adults’ patience with Zero Two’s sullen bit runs out and they have to tranq her.

The rest of the squad tours the Garden, even though they were forbidden from doing so, and the memories come flowing in. Hiro, for one, vageuly remembers a red girl with white hair and horns. They see children getting parasite injections far earlier than they did.

With the increase in klaxosaur activity, it would seem humanity no longer has time for experiments in disobedience or individuality; they’re basically growing bodies to put into cockpits as fast as they can. Squad 13 is a relic; an indulgence they can no longer afford…even though it could be argued they bear elements of humanity crucial for its long-term survival.

As humanity hopes continuing to refine their children into increasingly efficient parasites will help extend the time they’re on the planet, Zero Two insists her time is quickly running out. Every time she sorties with Hiro she tries to kill as many Klaxosaurs as possible, as viciously as possible, hoping it will help her become human.

Because Hiro believes everything in this show is about him, he assumes Zero Two feels like she can’t truly belong in the squad, or in his heart, unless she becomes completely human, shedding everything that made her part klaxosaur. Since Gorou and Futoshi’s feelings helped him understand his own, he thinks confessing his love for Two will both appease and please her.

Imagine my combination of delight and despair upon witnessing Hiro completely strike out after confessing to the person who always insisted on calling him her “Darling”, not to mention kissing him and staying by his side. Hiro drops the Darling and calls Hiro “fodder.” She only cares about him if she can use him to kill klaxosaurs.

Since partnering with Hiro, we learn Two’s level of “saurification” has been steadily rising, which explains why she’s been acting so feral lately. (Ichigo hears this, because the adults apparently have an open-door policy.)

When she learns what is becoming of Zero Two, which she adds to the knowledge given to her by the leader of the Nines, Ichigo moves to have another conversation with her squadmate, only to find her smashing mirrors to bits for daring to reflect her face. Ichigo freezes in terror and closes her eyes, ready for the worst, but Two just walks past her.

Despite her clear and worsening imbalance, the adults continue to let Zero Two sortie with Hiro, and Two continues to believe she can become human if she kills enough klaxosaurs. Whether someone told her such a theory was true, or she simply decided for herself it was true, the evidence just doesn’t bear out that outcome.

If anything, killing klaxosaurs only seems to increase her bloodlust for combat. When Hiro tries to hold her back, she eventually overloads and starts to choke Hiro, while more and more images of the red girl with horns flash through his head. This totally berserk Two wants to meet her darling from “back then.” I imagine we’re in for some crucial flashbacks at the start of the second half.

Fate/Extra Last Encore – 07

The fourth level’s part two starts with a flashback—I think—to an Alice wondering where Hakuno went, and in the process of absorbing various objects around her to replenish resources, transforms into a grotesque monster that forces the Masters to flee to lower floors, and killing and eating those that don’t. None of this seems to be anything Alice the Master intended.

Back in the “present”—whatever that even is—Hakuno, Saber, and Rin make their way back to the castle. The phenomenon that sent them back was only a “respawn”, not a time loop; and all parties involved retain their memories of the first attempt.

Rin (flashing an epic Shaft head-tilt) continues to drop hints to Hakuno about Dead Face without coming right out and saying that’s what he is, DFs being humans “rebooted by their grudges”, and Hakuno not knowing what beyond hatred propels him upward.

When Hakuno starts daydreaming of hanging out with Alice, reading to her and playing tag, Amari is also there in some form. When he comes back to reality, he, Saber and Rin face the monster they’re assuming is the Floor Master’s Servant.

Rin puts up a barrier, but the monster sends a hail of scissors at it, shattering it and her. Hakuno manages to spend another command seal, but before the monster is destroyed and the “game” reset, he ends up back in the dream.

There, Hakuno meets Alice in her true form, covered in bandages, lying in a bed, hooked up to all manner of IVs…and dead. The living, walking, talking Alice Hakuno has been interacting with is no more than a dream that dead Alice is watching, and is herself dreaming in Alice’s place, even able to take Amari’s form.

Back at the starting point, after Hakuno washes up and Rin apparently had a bath, they set out once more with Saber, for what Rin hopes will be the third and final time. As they walk through the forest, Hakuno ponders what and where he is: a man with no past and a place where the past has piled up to the point of near-madness.

Hakuno feels of a piece with the place because the hatred that drives him is essentially an obsession with the past; an inability to let something go. Saber tells Hakuno a story of a Master she once had “much like him”, with neither memories nor a wish, aiming to ascend only out of a desire to live on. At Angelica Cage, the highest level, the Master was defeated by “Twice Pieceman.”

Saber’s point, I believe, is that there are no guarantees. If you get to Angelica Cage, you have to beat Twice. If you beat Twice, Moon Cell has to decide to grant your wish. She wants to know if Hakuno will still ascend despite all that uncertainty.

In the dream (and a repeat of last week’s cold open), Hakuno has already won the third round, as Alice conceded the fight by not showing up. He leaves her with the promise he’ll be back once he’s won the Grail. And it certainly seems to be the case that he did return even after failing to win it.

Once back with Saber and Rin, Hakuno acknowledges that he’s no one special; just a fake who made it this far in someone else’s place. But even as a fake, he wants his feelings to be true. His time with Alice in his dreams have spurred him to want to ascend not just with hatred, but with hope.

In the present, however, the Servant still needs to be dealt with, and between Rin seemingly unleashing her trump card—transforming into Lancer, complete with Gae Bolg—and Saber’s coup-de-grace, it feels as much like putting a wretched creature (or ghost, as it were) out of its misery as defeating the floor boss.

It also carries on the Monogatari tradition of lots of discussion punctuated by short, intense bursts of decisive action. On to the fifth level.

Darling in the FranXX – 04

Mitsuru is alive, but he’ll never go near a cockpit with Zero Two again; it’s as if he knows he’d never survive. Despite this, and to Ichigo’s frustration, Hiro remains resolved to pilot with Two again if it means he’ll be able to be useful. Meanwhile, Two gets a scolding but ends up coldly writing off the other FranXX as weaklings who will die soon anyway.

Ichigo decides not to fight Hiro on the issue, and rather steels herself for that eventuality. As Hiro trains alone, she manages to get the rest of the team behind her, asserting her leadership role by reminding them of the stakes and how every day could be their last until they all get it together. She also encourages Ikuno to help Mitsuru, who like the rest of them surely doesn’t want to fail again.

Paying him back from the first episode, Zero Two walks in on Hiro bathing and makes another offer for them to run away together, just them and Strelizia against the world. When she senses his hesitation and fear, her mood darkens, and she asks him whether he thinks she’s just a pilot-killing monster like everyone else.

When a Klaxosaur worm appears during a docking procedure, Ichigo’s team sorties, and quickly brings the worm down, but wthout knowing where the core is, it comes back to life and is joined by a second enemy. Just like last week Ichigo’s team seems in over their head; but Nana refuses to allow Zero Two and Hiro to sortie; “Papa’s” orders.

Eventually, Zero Two and Strelizia’s transport lands at the Plantation, and she’s ordered to go with her “escort team” back to the front lines, without Hiro. When she bristles, they train their guns on her, and she says a sad “would’ve been nice” bye-bye to Hiro, filling him with regret and shame for his inaction.

He tries to right this by chasing after Zero Two and yelling through a security barrier, acknowledging his fear then and now, telling her he doesn’t think she’s a monster, and that what he wants most isn’t to pilot a FranXX, but to ride with her again.

With those words from Hiro, Zero Two shakes off her guards, rushes to Hiro’s side, and takes him through the barriers and all the way into Strelizia. Once there, Hiro wonders if he’ll really be able to pilot her again, and Two promises him that he—that they—absolutely can, and will.

When Strelizia enters the battlefield, Ichigo keeps her cool and continues to give the orders, telling Hiro and Two to go after one worm while she and the others tackle the second. It eventually becomes clear the two are really seperate ends of the same single worm, and when Ichigo & Co. end up in trouble again, Strelizia hurries to their rescue, slashing the worm in half and shattering it’s core—but not before showing Ichigo (whose face is repeated in Delphinium) a very smug face.

I was hoping, for once, that instead of moping about not being useful for yet another episode, Hiro would finally be allowed to show he could be useful again. And I got that, so I’m satisfied, even if it happened rather easily, and with likely consequences on the way.

At the same time, the pair has kinda backed their superiors into a corner: Zero Two needs a stamen who won’t die after three sorties, and Hiro is mostly fine after two and may well do fine in a third. They can’t very well put the welfare of civilization above nailing him to the wall for his disobedience.

Fate / Zero – 15

I hope you’ll forgive me if this review doesn’t hold up to my usual vigorous editorial standards, as I must admit I am rather stunned—gobsmacked, you might say—by what I just witnessed, and whenever that happens, I tend to get a bit too florid in my language. Consider yourself warned.

That happens, at this magnitude, very rarely indeed. Of the episodes I consider almost perfect, I must count this among them. At this point in my viewing of Fate/Zero, if there was one and only one episode I had to show someone, it would be this one.

It’s a perfect encapsulation; an epic full-length motion picture, compressed into a scant third of an hour; the crystallization of the ultimate potential embedded in its run thus far. I shudder to think it could ever get better than this, but having seen this, I shouldn’t underestimate this show’s capacity for ever-expanding spectacle. And I won’t.

In case you forgot the events of this episode: Rider decides to trap Caster and his monster in his Reality Marble to buy the rest of the team time to figure out a way to defeat it. Righteousness ensues.

As Berserker and Archer continue dogfighting in their respective badass aircraft, Kariya’s swarm of bugs are harmlessly absorbed by Tokiomi’s magical barrier. As Kariya’s body breaks down, Tokiomi delivers “mercy” by setting him ablaze. The animation used to portray the burning Kariya looked like nothing else in the show so far and was hauntingly novel and chilling in its style and execution.

Once Rider transports the monster to his Reality Marble, Iri gets a call from Kiritsugu, but has Waver answer the phone. Kiritsugu tells Waver to tell Rider to drop the monster at a specific point of his choosing once the Marble prison fails. He also tells Lancer that Saber has the only weapon that can defeat the monster, but can’t use it due the wound made by Gáe Buidhe.

Possessed of that new information, Lancer’s next move is pure Chivalry: That monster cannot be allowed to terrorize innocent people. His spear is preventing the only weapon that can defeat it from being used. Ergo, Gáe Buidhe must be destroyed.

Saber’s claim that she bears the wound as a mark of pride, not as a burden, but Lancer knows she’s being way too nice, and does what a true Knight such as himself would do: snap the spear in half. Once he does, Saber immediately prepares her Noble Phantasm.

As Berserker destroys Archer’s aircraft, Kotomine Kirei approaches the barely-alive Kariya…and starts to heal him, cracking a smile as he does. It would seem the Kirei Rebellion against his father and Tokiomi has officially begun in earnest.

Berserker turns his attention (such as it is) to Saber and her newly-released weapon. It then falls to Lancer to transport onto Berserker’s jet and disable it, and even with just one spear, he gets the job done.

That leaves the area secure for Kiritsugu to launch a flare at the spot where Rider is to release the monster. After the sheer awesome lunacy of Rider’s chariot and Berserker and Archer’s aircraft, it is quite amusing indeed to see Kiritsugu in his unassuming little raft, likely fitted with the most efficient and durable engine that provides sufficient and not excessive power to get him into position.

Once Rider has the signal, the monster is released, and the other end of the grand stage given over to the King of Knights so she can shine.

Saber’s attack is singularly gorgeous in an episode of visually arresting imagery, but its beauty is only enhanced by the reactions of those watching it unfold, and the poetic words of Iri describing what the weapon is, and in doing so, describing who Arturia Pendragon truly is:

That sword is the embodiment of the sad, yet noble, dream of all soldiers, past, present, and future, who lie dying on the field of battle, clutched to their hearts with their last breath. She carries their will as her pride, bidding them to remain steadfast in their loyalty. Now, the undefeated king sings aloud, the name of the miracle she holds in her hand. It’s name is…Excalibur.

This is the unique, nigh divine power bestowed upon Saber in exchange for the tremendous burden she bears. And while Archer laughed at her devotion and Rider doubted her kingship, for all their power amassed across space and time, neither of them could do anything like what Saber does to this monster. This isn’t just Saber saving the city and the day; this is Saber dunking on her doubters. Suddenly they are the ones who look small, puny, and cowed.

As for poor crazy Caster, I daresay I almost feel sorry for the evil son of a bitch when he meets his all-too-beautiful end, which includes a vision of his beloved Jeanne (who does look a lot like Saber). Almost.

While Uryuu went out experiencing something he was looking for all his life and finally found, Caster too experiences a kind of quasi-redemptive epiphany at the very end. Both men end up essentially forsaking everything they had ever done in their miserable lives, condemning it as wasted time and effort in the face of the truths they face at the end.

As the monster Excalibur effortlessly cleaved clean in half dissipates into the night, Archer asks Rider if he’s still not convinced of Saber’s kingship. Rider acknowledges the power, but still feels its too much for one young woman; not so much a legend as a great tragedy. Rider and Archer also agree to duel one another soon…but not quite yet, as they want to recover from this battle and fight at full strength.

Finally, while Saber lost an unwanted admirer in Caster, she gained a new one tonight through her actions: Archer. Where Rider sees tragedy, Archer sees vivid beauty; something to which nothing in his vast treasury can compare. I’ll tell you what’s damn near beyond compare: this episode.

The last episode, in its efficient, businesslike way, laid out all of the various facets of the battle and set the conditions for victory, while also keeping expectations…reasonable. This episode took those facets and resolved them into a gorgeous jewel that shined with golden radiance, blasting through all expectations like Excalibur through a fortress-sized demon. The remaining ten episodes have their work cut out for them.

Fate / Zero – 14

The Alliance to Destroy Caster’s Monster (ADCM) doesn’t net great results: Neither Saber, Rider or Lancer can cause any damage to Caster’s monster, as it possesses extraordinary regenerative abilities, like a flan that can reassemble itself faster than you can cut it up.

Archer watches the battle imperiously from above in his extremely cool aircraft, and expresses his disgust at the “mongrels” futile flailing below. Tokiomi uses all the fancy submissive language he knows to try to get Archer to intervene and bring the monster down, but after four of his swords do no more than the other attacks (and are contaminated in the process), Archer declines to sacrifice any more.

As the monster nears the shore, more and more innocent bystanders bear witness, making this an unmitigated disaster for the Holy Grail War and its backers. A pair of JASDF F-15s join the battle, but have no idea what they’re in for.

One gets plucked out of the air by the monster’s tentacles, then eaten; the second is “commandeered” by the newly-arrived Berserker, who engages in a fantastically wild yet balletic dogfight with Archer—as if possessing a fighter jet wasn’t cool enough.

Berserker’s movements are extremely chaotic and unpredictable (as are his missiles), but Archer is able to counter every attack and stay a little bit ahead, glad that someone is entertaining him.

With their Servants fighting each other instead of the monster, Tokiomi and Kariya decide to have a duel of their own, which had to happen some time.

Kariya asks how Tokiomi can call himself a father for giving Sakura away to the Matous, but Tokiomi not only carries a clear conscience, he’s delighted, for the sake of his illustrious noble family, that both of his daughters have the opportunity to become great mages who find “The Root”; never mind that only one of them can. 

Kariya is sick and tired of future generations suffering due to the cruelty and brutality of mages, so he’ll kill them all. It’s Toosaka magic vs. Matou…bugs.

Finally we have Uryuu Ryuunosuke. Good-looking, cheerful kid; would make a fine protagonist if he wasn’t also a child serial killer. As he laughs and celebrates what her Servant is serving up for God, he leaves himself wide open for Kiritsugu’s sniper round.

But wouldn’t you know it, he’s not upset about being shot in the stomach, he’s delighted as well, lamenting that “what he was always looking for” was right under his nose this whole time, in his own guts. Alas, he had to die to find “it”, and only got to enjoy the realization for a few moments before Kiritsugu takes the headshot.

For all of the flash and impressiveness of the Servants’ and their Masters’ abilities, all it took to grab control of the situation was some stealth, a rifle, and a couple bullets…if only it were that easy. Caster and the monster don’t vanish immediately following Uryuu’s death; and as they’ll reach shore long before they do, there’s a real possibility they’ll be able to “feed” on the gathering crowds, sustaining physical form from the absorbed mana.

Uryuu may be gone, but to get rid of Caster’s monster, Kiritsugu knows they’ll need something only Saber has—an Anti-Fortress Noble Phantasm. The only problem is, she can’t use it with the wound Lancer gave her. In order to defeat the monster, it would seem she and Lancer must duel, and Lancer has to lose.

Sagrada Reset – 12

Last week was seemingly an indication that Sagrada Reset was content with a quiet end to its first cour, as it has an entire second cour with which to work. It slowed things way down to allow us to spend some more quality, non-perilous time with Haruki—as well as inside her head.

There was no indication in the episode that “Something Big” was looming in the shadows or lurking around the corner…that was just Mirai stalking Haruki. The question is, would the twelfth and final Spring episode of Reset maintain that casual tone, or would that Something Big turn up after all?

Ah…well…Something Big it is! Let’s get right to it, shall we?

The episode sure does, having more of a connection to the tenth than the eleventh with its Souma-heavy opening. Now that Kei has brought Souma back, he wants her to live a normal life as a normal girl…in the normal world. That is, he means to send her away from Sakurada. Only then, he believes, will her death disappear, both from the world and from her memories.

It is then Souma, not Haruki, who primarily drives Kei’s latest mission. That mission is a little nebulous at first, as we start off with that mission in progress. Sakuin has instructed Kei to investigate Katagiri Honoka, a girl who has been asleep for nine years, but whose ability has created a dream world in which she now resides.

Because it’s a dream world, and thus not “real”, Kei believes it’s the perfect “test facility” to experiment with his theory about sending Souma away. After all, there are no do-overs in the real world; in Katagiri’s world, he can simply wake up, Reset, and try something else the next time. And it just so happens Kei goes on a long date with Haruki on the day they reset.

Before starting off on this journey to the dream world, Kei receives an unexpected visitor, Nonoo, who was sent by Souma to make contact with…someone who may well be…another Souma. But before that, she, Kei and Haruki go to the hospital and fall asleep in a room adjacent to Katagiri’s. It’s notable that we never see her in the real world.

There’s a Wizard of Oz-like quality to the trio nodding off then awakening in another world…a world where left and right, east and west are reversed. Kei is actually the last to arrive, while Nonoo doesn’t appear to have come along for the ride. Along with Haruki, there’s a new person in the room: a girl who goes by Michiru, with a bluebird on her shoulder.

 

Ebulliently voiced by Uchida Maaya (this show has great casting), Michiru insists she’s Michiru and not Katagiri Honoka, and asks Kei and Haruki if there’s anything they wish they could have. She’ll contact “Chiruchiru” who will then grant that wish. It’s a case of Katagiri, a god of her own world, abdicated her power to a surrogate, so that she could feel the joy of having her dreams granted by a god.

The bureau doesn’t approve of the “fake” happiness such a “closed eden” provides, perhaps fearing its grip would cause people to lose their grip on reality. That certainly seems to be the case with Katagiri. After Kei and Haruki leave the hospital to explore this mirror image of the real world, they discover a wall of fog that surrounds this version of Sakurada, ostensibly preventing Kei from performing his experiment.

As for Souma, she shows up in the hospital to read Chiruchiru’s future, which looks the same as always. “Michiru” never changes (this is an Eden, after all). Chiruchiru voices his frustration with the apparent pointlessness of his efforts, but Souma tells him they’ll be rewarded—but it’s up to Kei, not her.

Kei and Haruki encounter Ukawa, sent by the bureau for an initial report, who states ominously that, depending on the circumstances, she’s supposed to “crush” the dream world. While having dinner with Haruki in a restaurant the reverse of the one in the real world (like everything else), Kei gets a call from Chiruchiru, warning them not to go out at night.

Since they’re already out, Chiruchiru teleports them to Kei’s bedroom. Kei manages to get him to answer two questions: the white wall is an “isolated birdcage” for the “blue bird”, and Michiru is definitely Katagiri Honoka, only she’s forgotten that fact.

With that, Kei and Haruki start yawning and rubbing their eyes, meaning it’s getting to be time to wake up in the real world. After Kei frets a bit over the proper sleeping arrangements (he offers Haruki the bed and takes the floor, but Haruki wants to be on the floor too), Haruki dozes off before him, just as she did in the real world.

But she’s not asleep long, as a tremendous racket emanates from outside. Kei watches with quiet awe as a colossal, grotesque, slimy monster emerges from the white wall and starts wreaking havoc in the town. A suddenly awake Haruki calls the monster a monster, which appears at night to “destroy the world”.

Reset’s second cour starts off an episode early, with style…and in Top Bizarro form. With an ability user apparently trapped in such a world, does it fall to Kei to free her and restore the memory of who she was, even if it means destroying the Eden she created? Is Chiruchiru the monster? How will this mission further his desire to “finish saving” Souma?

It seems we’ve got three more episodes of this arc to sort through it all. I don’t doubt things will get stranger before they get…less strange.

Alice to Zouroku – 05

(In an attempt to balance our workloads, I’ve taken over Alice to Zouroku reviewing duties from Preston.)

In this episode apparently brought to you by SNICKERS® (You’re not you when you’re hungry. Eat a SNICKERS®.) Minnie C doesn’t easily give up her captives, so she and Ichijou Shizuku enter a long, sustained battle full of CGI effects that holds together reasonably well, considering the show itself has never striven for ufotable-level precision.

Minnie C puts on a good fight, but Shizuku eventually wears her down due to her superior power: the ability to summon any number of 666 weapons and 13 grimoires from a magical storeroom derived from an anime she used to watch.

That’s not as satisfying a powers-origin story as, say, Minnie C, but the major difference is that Shizuku is fighting for others, while Minnie is only fighting for herself, angry at the world for taking away her darling. When she runs out of energy and Shizuku stands triumphantly over her, I really feel for Minnie C when she apologizes to her husband for continuing to be alive, because she’s completely wrong: her husband wants her to live. That means finding another reason for living beyond being with him.

Meanwhile, the now-freed (and largely static during the battle) Alice celebrates and underscores her and Zouroku’s new freedom by floating with him high up into the sky, something he’s fine with after being cooped up on that container ship so long. He’s also fine that Alice is accepting of his and Sanae’s love and invitation to join their family, no matter what kind of being she truly is.

Minnie C is shipped back to the states, and the organization that employed her and the other ability-users and pursued is dismantled by the police. Alice takes to the granddaughter role with gusto, further charming her new big sister Sanae, who has no end of plans to use Alice’s newly-restored energy to have “fun”, a concept once foreign to Alice.

Shizuku and Ryuu rest easy, knowing all’s well that ends well. Ryuu almost seems to want to will the next crisis into being by wishing another “incident” would come along, but until then, it’s nice to see Alice, Zouroku, and Sanae simply having a normal dinner on a normal night, in the normal lives they hope to maintain even after all that’s come to light.

In fact, this could be the finale to a five-part miniseries, as it leaves me wondering what the show has lined up next.