Mahoutsukai no Yome – 22

Chise makes the only deal she believes she can make, not just to save Stella, but her own life as well. That deal puts her in the lion’s den, and Joseph, the lion, makes it clear he still hates her, even if he’ll honor the deal.

The process starts with the two swapping eyeballs—a particularly icky sequence—and when his body doesn’t reject it, he prepares to remove her cursed left arm.

While Chise was awake for the eye-swap, Joe locks her in her memories for the next phase—childhood memories she thought lost forever, in which she and her dad and brother were together and she was a normal, well-adjusted girl.

After painfully bittersweet images of their nearly perfect family life flash by—among them her dad fighting off some kind of demon or faerie—a form of Joseph appears that isn’t so much Joseph, but the piece of him that has now made itself at home in her body—his eye.

One night, the perfect family situation dies. Chise’s father gets out of bed with his infant son, walks out the front door, says goodbye to Chise, and never returns. One could explain his course of action as cutting his losses—perhaps having had enough of living with two Sleigh Beggys—and perhaps he simply did what he felt he had to in order to protect his non-Beggy son.

Whatever the reason, it’s a huge betrayal, and Chise’s mom cannot make up for her husband’s absence. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t try: she works any and all jobs she can to scrape by, but because so many monsters are attracted to her no one else can see, she cannot hold those jobs for long, and she slowly drowns in debt.

Like Chise, her mother had a frail body, and when keeping up with everything simply became too much for it, her mind snapped as well. In a moment of weakness, she listened to the voice that told her it would be easier if Chise weren’t around.

She chokes Chise awake, telling her the words Chise never forgot: “I shouldn’t have given birth to you,”, but in this context she isn’t talking of Chise’s inadequacy as a daughter, but the fact that she exists at all. Her mother knows that her curse is her daughter’s curse. It’s more an act of misguided mercy and desperation than malice.

That’s why her mother snaps out of it before she kills Chise, and overwhelmed by shame for what she tried to do, throws herself out the window. After that day, Chise forgot everything that came before, and it was the genesis of her belief she was worth so little even her mother regretted having her.

But that villainous mother, devoid of the context of her torment or the lengths she went to to keep their family of two together, was nothing but a creation in Chise’s mind. Her real mother didn’t really wish her dead; on the contrary, she decided she’d rather die than live on knowing she even made the attempt.

Chise breaks free of this vision of her mother as the real one, and says goodbye before letting her go entirely in a dreamy field of flowers. She even goes so far as to thank this false artiface of her mother, as she was the reason Chise ultimately ended up meeting so many wonderful people, among whom she still counts Elias, despite what he did to Stella.

With her “dark mother” gone, replaced by the whole picture of how things went so damn wrong with her family, Chise is left with the portion of Joseph’s curse of eternal life embedded in his left eye. That curse promises to be a blessing to Chise for as long as she wants to live—meaning that the moment she wishes to die, it will be a curse.

Joseph is not the first to have hosted this curse, and won’t be the last, but all of them have said the same thing to it throughout the centuries and millenia—”Help me.” Chise, waking up on the operating table, grabs Joseph by the throat and tells him she’s going to do things his way, diving into his past to find out how he became is the person he is—to make sense of his truth. Even if he hates her.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 21

In an episode that opens with Chise sharing a bed with Elias, these two splitting up would have been at the absolute bottom of things I expected to happen. But with her condition deteriorating and the meeting with the witches ending up almost completely fruitless, Elias decides to take Chise’s life out of her own hands, for what he believes to be her own sake…as well as his own happiness. Before they part ways, Mariel reminds Elias that only life can pay for life.

Elias has always been called “half-assed” or a “monster” but Chise was the first and only one who would “look at just me.” Well, thanks to his actions this week, she may never look at him that way, or any other way, ever again.

Just as she relays her suspicions Elias and Ruth are up to something behind her back and asks for Ariel to back her up, Elias knocks Chise out. She guides herself out of the dream with an image of Nevin, telling her that whatever others have planned for her, all she can do is be clear on what she needs to do.

With that, Chise breaks out of the dream by stabbing herself in the leg and does what must be done: stop Elias and/or Ruth from sacrificing anyone to save her. When she finds Elias has brought Stella into the house to be the sacrifice, Chise is, understandably, furious.

Even worse is when Elias tries to explain himself: not liking how Chise looked at Stella (i.e. their friendship), and not being able to stand it, and stating as long as Chise can continue to live he’ll be happy. After urging Stella to run away, she punches Elias in the face and storms out.

Of course, what Chise didn’t know is that Stella had already been possessed by Joseph, AKA Cartiphilus, who only pretended to be Stella in distress. But it doesn’t matter; Stella or Cartiphilus-possessing-Stella, Elias sought to transfer Chise’s curse to them. That makes Elias no different in Chise’s eyes anymore. He is a monster after all.

But here’s the thing: human beings are perfectly capable of becoming monsters, or doing monstrous things, if they feel there are no other options. If anything, Elias taking the steps he did were simultaneously appallingly naive and contemptuous of Chise’s wishes, and just plain wrong, but incredibly human nonetheless.

Chise isn’t the kind of human to put her life or welfare before anyone else’s. Cartiphilus knows this, and also knows how angry Chise is by Elia’s betrayal. So he offers her Stella’s life and a spell that will save her own, in exchange for her cooperation. And Chise accepts without hesitation, teleporting away with Carty and leaving her necklace behind.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 17

“Kill it on sight,” Charioce says to the Black Knight leader, referring to the red dragon…but is he saying that because that’s what he’s expecting to say, knowing Nina will doubtless put up a good fight? The two sides of Charioce come out again, bringing his roller-coaster romance with Nina to the fore.

Once the whole group is reunited, “gathering intel” is the order of the day. Those of you who were waiting for Rita and Nina to dress up as sexy demons, you got your wish this week. It’s not really that great a disguise, but Nina runs out alone anyway, eager to try it out.

It isn’t long before she runs into the other person in a bad disguise, Charioce, AKA “Chris.” Specifically, he’s visiting the grave of his dead mother (killed by Bahamut’s fire, like Nina’s father).

This, and playing football with the little demon children in the slums, is all meant for Christ to score brownie points with both Nina and us the audience. But for me, those points won’t be easily doled out, and even then are highly provisional.

The moment we all knew was coming: when Chris opens up enough that Nina wants to get closer and closer to him until they embrace and eventually kiss for the first time. It’s a very romantic scene (again, if you buy what’s happening, more on that later).

Things get even more Disney-esque when Nina realizes she can now transform into the red dragon at will, perhaps because of Chris’ kiss. She takes him on a moonlit ride over a calm, peaceful Anatae.

When they land (and Nina finds a robe), Chris gives her a token of his affection: a necklace with a red claw, before sending her on her way, promising the next time they meet he’ll explain more clearly what he’s after. I for one am waiting with baited breath for him to please, for the love of God, explain how all of the monstrous stuff he’s done will be worth it, and how having a dead mom justifies it?

For now, I’ll work with this theory: Charioce is literally two distinct personalities, and becomes the kind and gentle Chris when he is around Nina. We saw his change in expression after she left, so unless he continues to play her, that must be the case. To be redeemed, Chris would have to have no control over the horrific things King Charioce has done.

It’s thin, but another piece of evidence comes post-credits: The Black Knight leader, suspicious of Charioce’s “kill on sight” order, is convinced the king is “under the red dragon’s spell”—the spell that makes him Chris. Considering Nina is, in a way, under his “spell” as well, enabling her to transform at will, it would seem that spell is love, and the only thing holding Charioce back from attaining his goals.

Though even as Chris, it’s clear he still has every intention of carrying through with his plans. So is the Black Knight right, and his king is wavering due to Nina? Or is Charioce in full control after all, fully intending to use Nina, who has well and truly fell for him?

Is Chris real, and can he prevail over Charioce? That is apparently the question on which the fate of many people, demons, and gods now rests.

Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 06

With its sixth episode, Akashic Records has unfolded in a steady pattern: a first episode of setup (in this case the magical competition) a second episode that raises the stakes (the attempted plot to kill Rumia) and a satisfying third episode that brings everything together with style and panache.

Last week ended with Re=L trying to kill Glenn, but that’s just her nature: rush in headfirst without thinking. Fortunately for Glenn and Rumia, Albert is there to hold Re=L back, and the two court mages decide to help their old buddy out with protecting Rumia and foiling the Imperial Guard’s plot.

Many times, we cut away from the end of the competition to Glenn simply running from the Guard with Rumia in his arms. Albert and Re=L take over for Glenn, with Albert saying everything Glenn would say if he was there, keeping Class 2’s heads in the game. Everyone performs like he hoped when he selected them, including Sisti, who makes use of his altered spell advice to defeat her opponent in a duel and grasp victory.

From there, a nifty little twist takes place: the representatives of the winning class get to be presented their award by Queen Alicia herself. In this case, that’s Albert and Re=L…only it ISN’T. Albert and Re=L switched places with Glenn and Rumia back when they met, using self-illusion magic to assume each other’s forms.

That puts Glenn, The Fool, right where he needs to be to (quietly) unleash his Fool’s World spell, nullifying the conditional cursed necklace around Alicia’s neck. Before that, Alicia has to say some very harsh lies about ordering Rumia’s execution and that she never loved her.

That really puts poor Rumia through the emotional ringer, but Rumia’s a tough gal, and once it’s no longer deadly to do so, Queen Alicia lets her true feelings be known, and that in turn leads Rumia to accept and return her mother’s love in a tearful, cathartic embrace.

As for the ringleader in the Guard’s treachery, Eleanor Chalet, a heretic mage of the Researchers of Divine Wisdom, is surrounded by the real Albert and Re=L in a dark alley, but uses a spell to escape before they can place her in custody, offering only one vague, if titular clue, about why she was so keen on killing Rumia AKA Ermiana: “Akashic Records.”

If a RDW traitor could pose as queen’s chief handmaiden, it means the good guys will have to exercise constant vigilance. Albert and Re=L bid goodbye to Glenn, though considering she’s featured heavily in the OP and ED in an academy uniform, I wouldn’t be surprised if Re=L returns, posing as a student in Glenn’s class to assist him in keeping Rumia safe.

After thanking Glenn for helping to save her, along with her mom, and for keeping his three-year-old promise to have her back, Rumia and Glenn head to the tavern where the rest of Class 2 has already gotten the victory celebration started. In fact, I was totally caught off guard yet delighted by the fact Sisti managed to get wasted (on brandy cake of all things!) and is in full-on Lovey-Dovey Shironeko Glom mode with Glenn.

That would be enough discomfort on his plate, but as a final insult, the class ended up spending his entire reward, as well as the three-month salary he won in the bet with his fellow teacher, on the night’s food and drink bill. Not to worry, however: he’s sure to get more homemade meals from Sisti.

Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 12 (Fin)

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Our final episode has our wolf girl going toe-to-toe with Kyoya’s Mom—no, not the giant tanned lady, that’s Big Mama, who runs a nearby bar. The mom turns out to be basically as Kyoya described: your typical normal middle-aged lady. But as nice and cute as she is, there’s a tinge of sadness to her, which has nothing to do with the fact she gets drunk and passes out on the first night Erika is there.

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No, Erika’s mom is not a drunk; but she does blame herself for Kyoya’s cold behavior and suspicion towards romance, a product of his parents separating due to various and ultimately mundane circumstances (bad luck, bad timing, what have you). Kyoya’s sis was old enough to accept it, but Kyoya dealt with the shock by closing his heart, which Erika was able to re-open, which led to his string of empty flings with women.

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Even Erika remembers the Kyoya who was more like Nozomi…but even Nozomi is reformed at this point, thanks to Erika (she’s just been all over the place maturing men, hasn’t she?) Case in point: an exceedingly cute exchange between Nozomi and Ayumi, who is so inoculated against his charms that when he asks her out to the fireworks she assumes he’s up to his old tricks and ignores him. Still, I think they’d make an intriguing couple.

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Back in Kobe, understanding a little more about the situation, Erika wants to help her treasured Kyoya make up with her mother. She devises a plan in which Kyoya ‘upsets’ her into wandering off that even had us going…

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…Until we see her smirk and the wolf ears pop out. I like how she’s no afraid to use her ‘wolf girl abilites’; they may have been used for nefarious purposes in the past (like pretending Kyoya was her boyfriend to impress Marin and Aki in a desperate attempt to make friends with someone, anyone), but now she’s learned how useful they are for other purposes. Of course, when she’s on the phone using lies to get Kyoya’s mom to come to the festival, she pays a price for her ‘treachery’ when her necklace breaks.

Kyoya, who came to ‘protect’ Erika in the first place (knowing full well how cute she was and the fact that guys would hit on her if she was alone), is predictably worried when Erika doesn’t return from the bathroom, and he searches the fairgrounds with increasing worry with Reika until their mom arrives and does something that, while embarrassing, is the most effective way to find their lost girl: yelling really loud.

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Kyoya finally overhears some put-off bystanders watching a filthy girl rustling through the garbage and discovers Erika. Reika tries to tell her it’s just an object; its the memories and emotions she still has that matter; Kyoya gets down on the ground and helps her search.

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Not only that, while mom is watching her not-emotionally-wounded-after-all son help his cute girlfriend, the fireworks start and light up the space between the dumpsters…where she spots the pendant. All’s well that ends well. Kyoya thanks his mom and promises he’ll come to visit more; Reika apologizes to Erika for badmouthing Kyoya, and Erika gets some cute pictures of a young Kyoya having his snowman kicked over by Reika.

Erika wants to make snowmen with Kyoya when it gets cold, and he considers if he should be the one doing the destroying this time. Erika is fine with that, but she’ll just build more snowmen, bigger and stronger!

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Erika tries to distribute those pictures to her friends, but is stopped and taken aside by Kyoya, who leads her to the roof deletes her pictures, and leans in for a kiss, telling her in his suavest voice that why worry about pics when the real things right in front of her?

As Ayumi remarks to Nozomi, Erika and Kyoya sometimes have a funny way of communicating and expressing their love for each other outwardly, but it works for them. Just like this show worked for me!

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Kimi no Iru Machi – 11

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With Takashi, Rin, and the others not expected back from the sea until late at night, Yuzuki and Haruto attend the Summer Festival together, just the two of them. They have fun, but while watching the fireworks from the pond, Yuzuki confesses that she still loves him, but tosses her necklace away, promising she’ll never “hinder his happiness” again. He jumps into the water and retrieves it, telling her not to go anywhere. Just then, Asuka calls, asking where Haruto is. He lies, saying he’s home, and ends the conversation, saying he’s busy. He tells Yuzuki to give him some more time to form a proper answer for her. When he and Yuzuki return to his place, Asuka is there, waiting for him, and calls him a liar.

More than once this week while he’s with Yuzuki, Haruto asks himself: “What am I doing?” He has a perfectly good girlfriend who loves him, after all; he really shouldn’t be on dates with his ex, but it’s as if he can’t help himself. It’s as if his bond with Yuzuki is simply winning out over his loyalty to Asuka, the girl who fell in love with him even as he was fetting over the girl he could no longer have because of Kazama. That the series wants us to believe that Asuka is simply an unfortunate but inevitable victim of the winds of fate. Haruto counts four major points in his life when he’s encountered Yuzuki, starting with when they were tots, then when she moved in with him, and then when she insisted he give up on her.

In this fourth and latest encounter, she tells him she loves him, but not about to let that ruin what he has with Asuka. But Asuka and Haruto are apart at this crucial time, and the distance doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. Haruto has an abrupt and heartbreaking conversation with Asuka, essentially brushing her off with yet another callous lie; a lie he’s thankfully caught in. Was Asuka always doomed to be a placeholder to be discarded once those winds of fate blew Yuzuki and Haruto back together? Or will Haruto atone and stay by Asuka’s side (if she’ll have him)? Haruto’s in a most unenviable position mostly of his own making, but judging from his conduct thus far, things don’t bode well for poor Asuka.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

 

Kimi no Iru Machi – 10

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Haruto sees off Asuka, then decides to give Yuzuki the necklace he bought her two years ago, as a birthday present from a ‘friend’. Haruto takes the bus to his hometown. Kaga, Takashi, and Nanami are wating at the stop, and they go to a hot spring. The next day while biking around, he runs into Yuzuki. They go to their old high school where Rin is visiting. That night everyone gathers for a dinner party, with Yuzuki helping Haruto in the kitchen, and then biking to the market to buy snacks. When they return from fireworks, Yuzuki pulls Haruto aside, telling him there’s something she needs to say.

Haruto and Asuka are at a crucial point in their relationship, and they both seem ready to take it to the next level; Asuka dispenses any doubt of this when she coyly promises they’ll “pick up where they left off” when she returns from taking care of her mom. And Haruto wants to move past Yuzuki as an object of romance and start thinking of her as a good – but platonic – friend. He does this in a funny way: by giving Yuzuki a very expensive necklace he was going to give her when they were still dating. While giving it to Asuka instead would have been worse, we still don’t think this was a good idea. Another bad idea? Spending the time you’d planned to spend with your girlfriend with your ex and her flirty devil-spawn sister.

We know, we know, it was just a coincidence. But smaller coincidences have ended up torpedoing stronger relationships. In the OVA we were firmly rooting for Haruto and Yuzuki, but here we find ourselves hoping against hope that Haruto and Asuka can make it. Yuzuki is the past; Asuka is the future. Yet this week Haruto returns to the past in the form of the town where he and Yuzuki lived some of the happier – and definitely simpler – days of their lifetimes. If Yuzuki is pulling Haruto aside to say she still loves him, we wouldn’t be surprised, and at this point, we wouldn’t be surprised if Haruto does something stupid and/or unfaithful.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Haruto gets picked up in a badass van by his high school mates, and all he does is complain? Jackass.
  • This felt like an even more lush and beautifully-drawn episode than usual, likely owing to the change of scenery from urban to rural.
  • Our advice for Takashi vis-a-vis Rin: STAY AWAY, MAN. That girl likes head games.