Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 04

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Note: Preston and I have been watching both TG35 and Subete ga F, but we’ve decided to swap reviewing duties of those two shows. So going forward I’m your TG35 reviewer, while Preston will be handling the SgF.

As Preston observed last week, this show is proving very swift and decisive with its character orientation arcs. Ootori was essentially one of the gang last week after a tense gestation, and by this episode’s end, Mari has also become an official member of the 35th.

It’s great when Mari notes how famously Saionji and Suginami get along, Takeru reveals that the two used to be as much at each others throats as Mari and Ootori, and he looks forward to the two settling down, which he’s sure they’ll do in time. Takeru dismisses any notion of abandoning Mari should he, say, find out one day she’s an evil murderer. Instead, he promises to help her.

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Indeed, Ootori learns about Mari’s past and relays it to Takeru, but he goes into mock battle with her all the same, which is interrupted by the necromancer Haunted bursting out of one of their opposing players; a grim, demented entrance if ever there was one. He’s there for Mari, but Takeru won’t let him have her.

Takeru is surprised to find Haunted has an armored suit and legendary sword able to pierce Lapis, and ends up bloodied very early in the fight. But as he fights, Ootori is having words with her adoptive father the director about the circumstances of the crime scene where Mari was arrested. The magic used to kill people wasn’t hers.

This means, witch or not, the director had Mari arrested on false charges. In exchange for overlooking such a crime, Mari makes a certain demand of the director that proves crucial in the battle with Haunted.

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Now we know why Takeru had zero problem heading into battle with Mari, nor did he seem the slightest bit troubled by the news Ootori gave him: she’s innocent. When Haunted restores Mari’s memory, she remembers being surrounded by a lot of death—including that of her family at an orphanage—and blaming herself both for being such a valuable resource to Valhalla, and for not being able to save them.

With all her terrible memories back, Mari must feel like going with Haunted is what she deserves, and it’s what she’s prepared to do in order to stop others from dying because of her. But Takeru will have none of it. As he promised Ootori, if need be, he’ll carry half her burden, but he won’t leave her side or let Valhalla swallow her back up.

Haunted may be a swordsman, but he’s not a Kusaragi, and Takeru cycles through Lapis’ many weapon forms and effectively drives him back.

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Haunted is a tough customer, however, and it’s everything Takeru can do to stay alive in their duel. Mari decides to cast a spell to help Takeru out, even if it means the collar around her neck detonating. But it doesn’t, because Ootori had the director shut it off just in time. Ootori then tells Mari to prove to her that magic can be used for things other than death and suffering. Now’s the chance to change my mind about you.

Naturally, both Mari and Ootori insist they’re not doing this for the other, but in truth, they’ve already warmed to each other and are working as one. Ootori saved Mari so Mari can save Takeru. Ootori provides cover fire so Mari can cast her spell. Suginami wakes Saionji up by riddling her with insults from when they were frenemies, and then Saionji covers Ootori with her sniper rifle.

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Finally, rather than fire her magical attack at Haunted, she sends it to Takeru, and it’s absorbed by a grateful Lapis, whose pride has been impugned by Haunted’s “lost-type” Dainsleif’s trash talk. The attack is enough to push Haunted back and disperse his armor, and he retreats with a smile on his face, intrigued that he has a challenging new foe keeping him from Mari.

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The magical barrier falls, Takeru passes out, goes to hospital, and wakes up with Lapis by his side eating apples (her low-key presence continues to be a nice contrast to the powerful personalities of the other girls). There’s one more “uh-oh” moment this week when Ootori tells Takeru of bad news, but it’s just bad news for her—Mari has officially enrolled at AntiMagic Academy—but it isn’t really such bad news for Ootori either.

In fact, it was Ootori who used her leverage against the director to negotiate Mari’s present status as comrade. I can understand her doing this to stay in Takeru’s good graces, so to speak, but it’s just as much about Ootori being a champion of justice, as well as having her mind about witches changed, if only a little, by Mari, when it mattered most.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 05

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Bahamut delivers yet another exceedingly exciting, breathlessly swift-moving episode where no one is standing still long. Favaro teams up with Rita to infiltrate the enemy castle, then convinces Kaisar to put aside his vengence for the moment so they can rescue Amira. The plot is pretty straightforward, which works in its favor, because what makes the episode truly special (and immensely fun) is the execution and details of that plot, along with its ability to utilize — and reward us for — our emotional investment in the characters.

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Last week Azazel snatched up Amira and Kaisar with the tentacles from his boss flying bio-castle, Gregor, and is enjoying a fine repast as Amira is tortured by Pazuzu. I loved the almost office-like atmosphere of the villans’ lair. Kaisar also has to watch, and when he brings up Favaro as the demon who tricked Amira into stealing the God Key, they all heartily guffaw. It’s great how as clearly evil as these guys are, Favaro is even worse than all of them in Kaisar’s mind.

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But, of course, that’s far too harsh, and being far too narrow-minded about who is responsible for who’s downfall and death. But harsh and quick-to-judgment is Kaisar’s M.O. in dealings with Favaro. Meanwhile, Favaro is able to convince Bacchus to lend him his flying carriage, but only if he pays the “fare”, which Bacchus leaves up to him. Favaro chooses to sacrifice his bounty hunter armband — practically his livelihood, up to this point — making him just another outlaw. That’s dedication, especially for a demon-girl who gave you a tail and your childhood friend who wants to kill you.

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Rita and Favaro prove just as irresistable a duo as Kaisar…moreso, even. Unlike the upstanding-to-the-point-of-back-spasms Kaisar, Favaro and Rita remain stubbornly morally ambiguous (although one could argue that Kaisar’s vendetta and bloodlust are hardly morally pure virtues, even if he thinks he’s righteous). For half a ‘mo, Favaro considered the advantages of having Amira and Kaisar out of his hair, but sees that Rita is willing to spring into action, so he follows her lead.

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On more than one occasion, Rita wonders out loud why Favaro is going so far, as if to validate the fact she’s doing the same thing for Kaisar. And so they egg each other on to be the brave, and valiant heroes. And they proceed to kick some Gregor dungeon grunt ass on their way to where Amira is being held.

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Kaisar, who is also there, was told all about what Amira is and what she did, but he ends up being used as a pawn by his captors, who egg him on into taking care of their intruder problem for them. And after all that traveling, Favaro is a half-step behind the rested and super-pissed Kaisar, who’s still convinced Favaro is guilty of putting Amira in danger too. Again, this is a perfectly reasonable position for someone with his level of loathing towards Favaro.

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Rita ends up breaking up the fight by launching her separated arm at his face and calling him a “brat”; which is a pretty awesome way to break up a fight!

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Having had some sense knocked into him, Kaisar agrees to table his quarrel with Favaro until Amira is safe and they’re all off Gregor — but only after Favaro makes a gesture that limits his options in a future he’s classically never planned for: he tells Kaisar when the time comes to face him, he won’t run.

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As all that’s going on aboard Gregor, we get a little surprise: Jeanne d’Arc! Here I thought we had been watching flashbacks of yore, but she’s actually been in the same present as Favaro & Co. all along. In a gloriously staged deus ex machina, she arrives just when the Gregor is about to pass through the gate to the Demon capital of Cochytus. In a particularly bad-ass tactic, her Orleans Knights close the gate while Gregor is only partially in, thus slicing that portion off and crippling it.

We get a good helping of how Orleans fight: with arrows and catapults and spears, all thrown and launched through magic circles that intensify their offensive effect. This time, the battle was in broad daylight, and thus easier to see!

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Favaro and Kaisar work together to take out Pazuzu and use the handy chains and pulleys to lift themselves to safety. Azazel attempts to re-take Amira into custody, but is slapped back and forced to retreat when some form of demon guardian shields her.

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All’s well that ends well, with Favaro, Kaisar, Amira, and Rita flying off into the sunset aboard a zombified dragon, presumably to continue their odyssey to Helheim. But a lot of uncertainty lies on that horizon. Azazel & Co. will be back on their tail before long, as will the Orleans Knights. Favaro has cast aside his career and agreed to face of with Kaisar, and still has a tail. Rita could zombify or eat the others at any time! (though that’s unlikely). And the angels are having a heckuva time keeping an awakening Bahamut at bay, which is an existential threat to the entire world.

But so soon after surviving the day by the skin of their teeth, I’m sure the crew isn’t particularly concerned about what may come tomorrow. Instead, they’re probably content to enjoy that sunset and that smooth ride of that Zombie Dragon, which I’m sure is the name of a band.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 04

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I will never tire of Amira’s many expressions

Put simply, Shingeki no Bahamut simply kicks ass at telling rousing, impeccably-orchestrated stories of adventure. Last week featured a town of illusion and undead ruled by a powerful, devious, but ultimately bored necromancer. Rita ended up following Kaisar looking for a change of pace and a little excitement…and her decision paid almost immediate dividends.

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“D’you even know how to USE that?”

Entitled “Reunion at Ysmenport”, we’re immediately treated to a beautifully-rendered, well-worn and lived-in city; I could almost smell the fish…and other things such cities have. As street swindler ends up giving both Favaro and Kaisar information how where to get where they want to go. Favaro needs to get to Helheim (and can only keep up the lie about knowing how to get there for so long. Kaisar simply wants to get to Favaro.

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Mmmm…you gotta love crab.

What ensues is perhaps the most complete and exciting episode of the series so far, a journey on the high seas with giant sea monsters of varying tastiness, demon sailors, zombie sailors, demon sailors fighting zombie sailors, demon girls fighting sea monsters, et cetera, et cetera. There’s a lot going on!

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Taking an undead necromancer hostage: Not a good idea

But it’s not just action: after three episodes of Kaisar chasing Favaro across the ends of the earth, we finally learn why: Favaro’s dad was the one who attacked the convoy carrying the king’s tribute, which was overseen by Kaisar’s father. Kaisar and Favaro were childhood friends despite being from different classes, but Kaisar saw what happened as a betrayal, and his desire for revenge has driven him on a continuing quest to nail Favaro to the wall.

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Ruff! Ruff!

Oh, and also…the demons in demonworld finally stop commenting on what’s transpiring in the regular world and spring into action! I’m not the biggest fan of the dog-demon-girl with her puppets Cerberus (!), but at least these guys are consistent. Every time Amira transforms, they’re able to locate her.

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All that work, and it tastes like crap.

Amira does so when that giant crab emerges from the deep and threatens the ship…and Favaro. While there was probably no way Favaro could have dealt with the beast himself, it was still a risky move that ends up giving Favaro’s dad’s old friend and fellow “honorable thief”, Captain Amon, an opportunity to reveal himself as having “gone into business for himself”, just like Favaro. The jewels he and Favaro’s dad stole were filled with magic that brought forth killer demons, and only Amon survived, but he did so by becoming a demon himself…a bounty-hunter demon! And right now, Amira’s price is so high, Amon is fine simply killing Favaro rather than turn him in.

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So boss.

Meanwhile, Kaisar and Rita have not been standing still. They secured passage on another ship, which turns out to be pirates who aim to rob Kaisar and sell the girl. What’s so great is that so many people would find this a relatively alarming situation, but Kaisar knows what he’s doing and easily dispatches several pirates with his superior swordsmanship.

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Also, Rita isn’t really a “girl” anymore; not entirely. What she is is someone who you most definitely want on your side. The pirates numbers are meaningless; she kills them all then reanimates them as a freaking Zombie Pirate Crew under her command. It just keeps getting better!

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She rams her newly-acquired (and much larger) ship into Amon’s and that’s when the previously-mentioned battle between amphibious demon sailors and zombie pirate sailors commences, with Favaro, Amira, Amon, and eventually Kaisar literally above the fray in the rigging. Up here we get some Pirates of the Caribbean-style tightrope combat for good measure.

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Frankly, I really liked Amon as a friend of Favaro’s and as a link to his past, but not all baddies can become allies like Rita. Speaking of baddies, after Amon is vanquished, the head demon dude Azazel sends a giant tentacle to pluck up Amira, inadvertently bringing Kaisar along for the ride, too. He stops Cerberus from killing him instantly, but whatever he has in store for the bonus human can’t be good.

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I…I didn’t see that coming! Who am I kidding, I hardly saw anything coming this week, and that’s why it was so fantastic. I was almost always on the edge of my seat. Now we have quite a predicament on our hands: both Favaro and Rita’s traveling companions have been taken prisoner by powerful but unknown foes. Will these two team up to get their respective partners back? I’m guessing Favaro still wants to get rid of his tail, and Rita wants to turn more things undead, sooo…yeah.

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Genesis – 03

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That’s the look of a person you can TRUST.

The town of Nebelville is cloaked in foreboding fog, which causes Kaisar to pass out while searching for Favaro, who now has a bounty out on him. But when Kaisar went into that fog, he already had a fog around him: a fog of singlemindedness bordering on obsession, that occludes his ability to see he’s stumbling into a very carefully-laid TRAP.

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The funny thing is, he’s so successful in tracking Favaro down, he arrives at Favaro’s next destination before he even gets there. Lucky for him Favaro’s mind isn’t as fogged up with vendetta and loathing for his nemesis. Favaro wants to get rid of his damn tail. That means escorting Amira to Helheim (which is still way way way far away, Missy), which means he needs coin, which means he has to do what he does best: bounty-hunt.

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After climbing a cliff to snatch up herbs to make an antidote before facing his quarry, he realizes he could have used Amira to simply fly up to them. Amira corrects, him, saying she cannot fly (though she can clearly jump really high) after losing a wing in “The Incident.”

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That “incident” she speaks of is the time she, as a demon, broke into the realm of the gods — where demons aren’t supposed to be able to tread” — and stole the God Key, which is to say, absorbed it into her soul. So yeah, she’s down a wing, but she’s also totally the God Key, which explains why we’re taken to the realm of both angels and demons as they discuss how to neutralize/exploit this development. Bahamut is waking up, after all. That’s not good…right? It’s probably not good for a simple bounty hunter like Favaro.

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Meanwhile, both Kaisar and I are totally taken in by the Fog of Nebelville, seeing it how he sees it when he wakes up: a quaint but cozy town whose doctor’s daughter Rita rescued him, set his broken arm, and fed him, before her father asks him to help them out with a troll-like demon problem. Kaisar, the valiant knight, would be happy to assist in any way he can. All of this seems to piss Rita off.

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Look at that place. This show has some sweet-ass settings, I’ll give it that.

Kaisar sees a bit of himself in Rita’s disdain for her family, inspiring him to regale her with pretty much his life story: family of knights; hard upbringing; resented folks and rebelled against them. But then, when a King’s Tribute was stolen under his father’s watch, his dad was hanged and the entire House of Lidfort ruined and torn asunder. It’s a sad tale well-told with energy and drama by Kaisar, but Rita is unmoved, sick of “playing house.”

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The next morning (if you can call it that; so damn foggy!), the first of a multitude of dominoes the episode had artfully set up is nudged over, and everything comes together. As soon as the one of the trolls Kaisar faces starts talking with a somewhat Favaro-y speech pattern, I knew the fog was having some kind of hallucinatory effect on Kaisar. In reality, everyone in Nebelville is dead and rotting.

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And who’s behind it…Rita! Rita, who also happens to be the target Favaro was preparing for all along. He and Amira come in with handkerchiefs soaked in the herb potion he made, protecting them from the fog’s effects. Whether she aimed to use Kaisar as a pawn to defend her, or was just bored with two hundred years of necromancing, the jig is suddenly up for Little Miss Rita.

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She sics her town’s worth of zombies, but again, as they’re both highly capable fighters, Favaro and Amira have no trouble shaking them off. I love how while hunting a bounty, Favaro ends up saving the life of the bounty hunter hunting for him. When Rita’s own father bites her, and she collapses to the ground, I’ll admit, I felt bad. That’s right when I learn Favaro isn’t even after her, just her book, a “black bible.” In another example of how Favaro, like the Honey Badger, don’t give a shit, he leaves Kaisar bent over Rita’s bloody, soon to be zombified corpse, with the decision of having to finish her off before she rises.

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She does rise…but later Kaisar walks across the same landscape as Favaro and Amira had earlier, with Rita following behind, seemingly alive and well, but probably…something else as well. And now, just like Favaro, Kaisar has a lovely and powerful traveling companion all his own! You gotta love the dichotomy of these two.

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