Zankyou no Terror – 07

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In preparation for more English dialogue from Five this week, I decided to come at it from another angle: if English is her character’s second language, then her thick accent is totally acceptable. But such realignments and caveats weren’t even necessary this week. There was so much going on I didn’t have time to give a shit how bad the English was or wasn’t.

Just about absolutely everything that went on this week was fantastic. Last week’s ending promised an intricate, precise game of Haneda Airport Bomb Chess between Five and Sphinx. It also hinted that Shibazaki and his colleagues were going to take action of some kind after sitting on their hands too long, and that Lisa would play some kind of role too. , The episode delivered everything we could have hoped for and then some.

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I remain confident in my assertion last week that Five is a cliched villain with a lame personal vendetta and all-but-unchecked autocratic power over the authorities. This week she’s taken down a peg just as Nine and the police were last week. The show sensed that we needed to see Nine land a blow, even a glancing one, on Five, and made it happen. But this episode was much, much more than just a duel between Five and Nine.

Shibazaki & Co. arrive at Haneda faced with the lofty challenge of finding a bomb in a massive, busy airport, but the more he wanders around, the more something smells rotten to the veteran detective. But even he couldn’t have predicted he’d end up helping the very terrorist he’s been chasing for six episodes stop the bombing, while unwittingly providing cover for their escape.

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That last bit is part the genius of this episode. When Shibazaki bursts into the control room and orders the bomb plane turned around, Five tells him he’s being Sphinx’s lap dog, and she’s not 100% wrong. But Shibazaki is also saving lives by picking the lesser of two evils. Five seems to be trying to appeal to his pride and ego, but after both have been trampled on so much throughout his career (most recently by Five herself), he’s not listening anymore. He’s the anti-Five, and thank God he’s here.

It’s a good thing he can, otherwise Nine, Twelve, and Lisa would’ve been SOL and lots of people would have died. Shibazaki is Nine’s trump card; he calls him to explain everything, and Shibazaki decides to believe him, because unlike the higher-ups and spooks, at least Nine is talking to him; letting him in on the loop. And once he’s in, he’s a potent ally. One great scene is how he even gets up the tower: by depending on his police colleagues to open a hole for him in their scrum with security.

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Also terrific was how Nine threw out Five’s book by placing an extra piece on the board, namely Lisa. Yes, Twelve pushed for her involvement, but she herself made the choice to participate. Both she and Nine and Twelve’s plan revolves around turning all of Five’s ample surveillance against her. Ironically, it’s not Lisa, but Nine who’s the decoy—playing chess with Five and keeping her eyes on him.

Meanwhile, Twelve makes use of every camera blind spot to sneak through the airport, while Lisa sets off a flare in the bathroom to set off the fire alarms, which create a blip in the video feed. During that blip—unbeknownst to Five until it’s too late—the real-time footage becomes footage recorded minutes earlier. It’s a full team effort by Sphinx, and as I said, a satisfying setback for the irritatingly haughty Five.

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But Five doesn’t stay down long, because, as she correctly remarks, Nine and Twelve’s new friend Lisa is a weakness, as illustrated when she’s picked up by Five’s henchman and tossed onto an otherwise empty plane with the bomb on board. I’ll admit, the moment Lisa is caught and when we realize how much trouble she’s in, I was crestfallen. But the show’s not going to kill Lisa today…so How Do They Get Out Of This One?

Very Carefully. The thrilling action set piece that concludes the episode brings everything together: Twelve’s fondness for Lisa; Nine’s sense of honor that has him helping Twelve save her; Lisa’s ability to follow directions and quickly make a cloth rope, and Nine’s ability to drive away from the plane before the explosion can engulf them. It’s some spellbinding, superbly directed stuff, and the Kanno soundtrack playing over everything really takes it to the next level, as her tunes tend to do.

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In return for his help, Shibazaki only gets a passing glance at the masked Sphinx No. 1 through a window before driving off into the night. And Five is Not Happy, and has Lisa’s student ID in hand. Which means even if Lisa remains safe and hidden with Sphinx (not a sure thing at all), her mother, wretch that she is, is now at risk.

Can Lisa throw her life away completely? Can Sphinx continue to stay a step ahead of Five? Can Shibazaki get back on the case and reign Five in? What about the plutonium? When’s the beach episode? If there’s no second cour, only four episodes remain to tackle these questions and more. We await them with bated breath.

10_bravRABUJOI World Heritage List

Zankyou no Terror – 06

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Let the great game begin…or at least the pretty good game. Just when Shibazaki was starting to sink his teeth into the case and gathering support from his colleagues, the FBI comes in with their Nuclear Emergency Support Team (NEST) researcher, Five, along with “orders from on top” essentially neutering his investigation.

Unfortunately, Five is ruining more than Shibazaki’s momentum and the terrorists’ plans. She’s kinda hurting the show, too. The main reason being she’s a big, bland “Insane Genius Villain” (IGV) cliche plopped down in the middle of a story that was going just fine without her. Also, let it be known for now and all time, that Han Megumi is very, very ungood at English.

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Han did a fine job as Hanano Sumire in Chihayafuru 2, but then, she wasn’t the primary antagonist who is called upon to deliver a good chunk of her dialogue in English; she’s just not up to it. That’s not Han-san’s fault; frankly, Watanabe had no business making her speak English. Far from adding “international texture”, it blows all the tension out of a scene like air from a balloon.

The color her English makes would surely give Twelve nightmares. With all the intricate preparation involved in the production, you’d think they’d have at least hired someone fluent in English to do the lines for someone who’s supposed to be fluent in English. Someday, anime studios and/or directors will figure this out, but not today. /End rant.

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This week we have the rather unusual scenario of the terrorists who planted a bomb at an airport having to return to the scene to disarm it, since Five has the power and the will to detonate it, even at the potential cost of many lives, because she can just blame it on Sphinx. She’s also able to craft myth-riddles like them, which most the cops believe to be the real thing.

Most, but not all. Shibazaki, right on cue, smells something rotten in Denmark. The texts aren’t his guys. He’s technically under orders to do nothing, but he isn’t going to accept that. Hamura and three colleagues join him “for a meal.” As I said, his teeth are in this case, and he’s not letting go so easily. Please, show, let him expose Cupcake Five before she exposes Twelve and Nine!

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But I’m getting ahead of myself. This episode is also notable for being the first in which Lisa is actually used in an op, albeit in a roughly improvised op in which Nine needs an unfamiliar face for Five’s cameras. She’s unfazed by images of carnage Nine tries to scare her with (as Twelve says, they didn’t intend for the bomb to go off), and declares she “wants to be one of them.”

Part of that is because there’s nothing else she thinks she can be. Another is that despite all the crap she’s gotten, she still wants to connect with people, and to experience the close bond she sees between Nine and Twelve. With this airport job, which looks like a doozy with its chessboard layout, she’s becoming a part of that family. (Thirteen? Zero?)

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Shibazaki’s little rebellion, Nine’s feverish scurrying, Lisa’s participation and Twelve’s support of her all make this a very good episode, but we can’t call it great. Not in an episode with so much Five in it. It’s good to take your antiheroes down a peg or two, but you need the right kind of nemesis to do it, and so far, Five ain’t that. It feels like she’s in the wrong show.

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Zankyou no Terror – 05

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Despite the seemingly random (to the public at large) destruction and disorder they’ve caused, Nine and Twelve’s activities as Sphinx have been highly controlled at every level. They’re not launching their attacks to kill or even hurt people. They’re sending messages Nine hopes Shibazaki will pick up on.

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He does, but it leads him back to “old mistakes” and introduces the opportunity to make them all over again. But what neither Nine nor Shibazaki learn soon enough is that they’re no longer the only players on this board. The cat and mouse have been joined by another mouse, intent on stirring up shit and introducing chaos into what had thus far been a very orderly “courtship dance.”

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That new mouse is Five, a distinctive-looking woman whom Nine remembers from his flashbacks to the facility. Nine never sees Five’s face or hears her voice in the present, but he knows it’s her, because of what goes down this week. Namely, she Ruins Everything: his latest terror plot ends up an even bigger, smokier mess than the one Lisa made in their kitchen.

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Lisa was trying to make an honest effort to get Nine to no longer see her as useless, so she could stick around, as she has nowhere else to go. Nine is not happy to say the least that Twelve brought her home (I’m delighted, personally), but she’s too sick to be thrown out; even he’s not that heartless. But he does predict her getting tangled up with them can and will end badly.

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It can’t be understated how disruptive a force Five truly was this week; not bad, considering we mostly see her painting her nails. She negates Sphinx’s use of cell carriers by causing a wholesale cell blackout. She baits Nine with a fake backdoor then hacks into his computer. After the bomb is allowed to go off, she sends a mass text saying “I found you.” It really shakes up the status quo nicely.

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Meanwhile, Shibazaki has made the connection Nine wanted him to: the bombing targets were all big shots involved with the “Rising Peace Academy.” But targeting these people means he’ll have to investigate them, and they’re not the kind of people who want to be investigated, especially as some are cops themselves.

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So Shibazaki is again in a situation where he can’t help digging too deep until he angers the wrong people. Both he and Sphinx have been outmaneuvered and their agency curtailed. And Five, the one responsible, is right there in the office with him, smiling away. Does Five want to catch and/or hurt Nine and Twelve, or “help” them? I’m just hoping she doesn’t turn out to be one-note chaotic evil.

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Zankyou no Terror – 03

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Twelve isn’t content to wow a bunch of dummies; he wants a counterpart: someone at least clever enough to decipher Sphinx’s riddles; someone to make a game of this, because when you’re raised in a government facility where love doesn’t exist, what is life but and elaborate games? And in any game, Twelve wants a worthy opponent.

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Well, Mouse…Meet Cat: Shibasaki is officially on the case. Every bit the Japanese Lester Freamon, “natural police” who dug a little too deep a politically sensitive case years ago. Doing so exiled him to the archives and presumably cost him his family. We also learn he’s the son of Hibakusha, which combined with his wan complexion and haggard appearance make him an object of compassion.

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Shibasaki and Twelve/Nine are a lot alike in that both had things taken from them, but they still survived and have been living on, in an almost dormant state. Now the Sphinx has awakened and is bearing its claws all over Tokyo. Shibasaki, once the force’s ace detective, nicknamed “Razor”, has been taken out of its sheath, and the rust is shaking off fast.

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Just as a great comic can make a joke out of anything around him, on the spot, a great detective can find inspiration for the case anywhere around him, as long as he keeps his eyes and ears open. The spark that leads to solving the riddle comes from Mukasa, who defeats the “green dragon” on his online phone game. In the process, he won over a skeptic in the young hotshot Hamura, who would do well to watch and learn.

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Shibasaki also muses that just as Mukasa is playing a cooperative multiplayer game, connecting with random people rather than playing alone, the young duo of Sphinx are similarly reaching out for a human connection, one sophisticated enough to solve their riddles and hang with them in a protracted chase that will sharpen both Sphinx’s claws and the Razor’s edge.

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But no matter how wounded or lonely these kids may be, Shibasaki won’t forgive them if they use the plutonium trump card they stole, and retrieving it is paramount. Twelve and Nine seem amused by the old man’s righteous indignation, but they also seem happy to have a legit playmate.

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As for Lisa, well, she’s mostly on the margins of this episode, deciding to run away from home. It seems unlikely she’ll be able to find her one-time saviors, but maybe Nine will find her. He seems more interested in her than Twelve, who seems more interested in an albino kid from the facility who haunts his daydreams.

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Samurai Flamenco – 22 (Fin)

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First of all, we liked the choice of expanding on Goto’s grief and showing us how he came to message himself. Goto’s “long distance relationship” started out as something of a comedic element, but the more we’ve learned about the truth, the more tragic and compelling it became, especially when Sawada used it against him in what has to be the most emotionally charged deletion of a text message we can recall.

As Sawada predicted, erasing the last message Goto’s real girlfriend ever sent is like flipping a crazy switch. By the time Masayoshi arrives, all Goto wants to do is be free so he can kill Sawada. It’s all part of Sawada’s plan to sacrifice himself so Samurai Flamenco will have a traumatic past that will never leave him, turning him into a “dark hero” (a la Batman).

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Running in with nothing resembling a plan for victory, Masayoshi decides to fight crazy with crazy: refusing to put on the costume and stripping all his clothes off. This bizarre throws Sawada for such a loop he ends up dropping both the cuffs key and gun in Goto’s vicinity. With Sawada disarmed and thoroughly freaked out, now the still-naked Masayoshi has to convince Goto not to kill Sawada.

His method isn’t what we’d call elegant—he whips himself into a tantrum screaming “BAKA” over and over and oddly proposes to Goto—but the sheer ludicrousness of the situation snaps Goto out of his murderous rage. The idea that Masayoshi is so ignorant to the concept of love is a little silly, but in the end, his desperate improvisation wins the day. We’re glad no one was killed, but we still enjoyed Flamenco Diamond showing up to give Sawada a well-deserved beatdown for poisoning her friends.

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With Kaname recovered from his injuries, he opens up a new superhero museum which everyone attends, and we get some nice farewell moments with the Flamengers, Kanno and Ishihara (who have an awesome final exchange), and lastly, Goto and Masayoshi, who’s late for the opening. Goto receives a fresh text from his girlfriend (maybe she IS out there somewhere!), and Masayoshi runs after a litterbug.

7_very_goodRating: 7 (Very Good)
Average Rating: 8 (episodes 1-13), 7.111 (episodes 14-22), 7.636 (total)
MyAnimeList Score: 6.97

Samurai Flamenco – 21

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As it turns out, Sawada Haiji is indeed a real person, but Masayoshi is no closer to finding him or predicting his next move, let alone defeating him. His first targets this week are Moe and Mizuki, who collapse on stage after drinking drugged coffee before their LIVE PEACE concert begins. In Mari’s defense, there wasn’t much she could do with Masayoshi’s warning. But the point is as clear as it was last week: none of his friends are safe.

The Flamengers aren’t that worse for wear (Sakura’s new hairstyle is excellent, as is the sniping between her and Joji’s wife) and Joji is conscious and on the mend, telling Masayoshi he saw the boy described and hear him mention Samumenco. Joji is not the most reliable witness, but later it’s confirmed when Haiji kidnaps Goto. Joji also tells him the ultimate weapon they have against evil is love. Only problem is, Masayoshi doesn’t know what that is.

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While the fact that Haiji is a real person coordinating all these attacks without leaving any witnesses or evidence strains credulity, but compared with some of the other outrageous things that have happened in previous arcs, it’s plausible enough, especially when we learn more about his story and realize just how hard he’s been working to become the ultimate villain.

Back to love, and what we thought was the best part of an episode full of meaty character moments: while he thinks about Joji’s words in the cab with Sumi, he remembers turning down a girl in school who liked him. When Sumi asks him what’s up, he does the exact same thing, totally oblivious to the fact Sumi could help him. Fortunately, Sumi takes him by the scruff and spells it out for him, as she must…in the nick of time, too, as Masayoshi had been considering taking his own life to end Haiji’s rampage.

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The show’s been very subtly ratcheting up the chemistry and romantic tension between Sumi and Masayoshi, and we love how she is the one to explain love in all its forms to him, as a very likable character who has been somewhat underutilized due to the show’s deep bench. We also like how she knew about him being Samumenco all along, but let it continue. But most of all, we like how she casually confesses her “technical” love for him. We still hold out hope this will go somewhere.

Really, the show has been about different kinds of love all along, starting with the love a hero must have for the people and ideals he protects, the brotherly love between Masayoshi and Goto, the unrequited love Mari has for Goto (or Moe for Mari), Sumi’s love for Masayoshi, the love that drives Goto to text his dead girlfriend, the love between a married mentor and his protege, and lots more. Then there’s the love that shook Haiji out of his apathetic existence, but twisted him into the final boss in the Samurai Flamenco saga.

9_superiorRating: 9 (Superior)

Samurai Flamenco – 20

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A lot of weird stuff has been happening to Masayoshi of late, particularly in the mental/metaphysical departments. So while his latest enemy appears to be a real flesh-and-blood guy, and someone he briefly met once before and has a whole story, that doesn’t mean he’s…real. Nothing this week suggests he really is, which is why no one really believes him.

“Real” or not, Sawada Haiji is a refreshing change of pace from the usual loud, boisterous, theatrical foes Flamenco has fought and defeated in the past. He’s incredibly stealthy and precise; impossibly so, as there are never any witnesses or evidence of his involvement in anything that happens to Masayoshi or his friends. And we say “that happens” instead of “Sawada does”, because the truth is, it could all be a coincidental sequence of simultaneous mishaps.

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Only Masayoshi is connecting the dots, egged on by the first in-person appearance and subsequent phone calls. Sawada is more than just an obsessed stalker or enemy, he’s the enemy; a classic nemesis, with the exact opposite goals of Masayoshi, and will hit him anywhere and everywhere where it hurts, even playing around with the idea of killing Goto. It’s telling then that when Masayoshi visits Goto, both to ensure he’s alright and to seek advice, this time bad things happen it has nothing to do with Sawada.

When Goto doesn’t believe him, Masayoshi throws Goto’s dead girlfriend in his face…which is a bad move, and Goto throws him out of his house. Masayoshi ends up by a riverbank to try to make sense of what’s going on, but ends up swimming wildly after a mirage of Sawada, a pretty creepy experience that awakens him to the possibility that no one else can see this newest evil because it resides within him, and only he can defeat it.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Koimonogatari – 01

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With 74 days until Graduation Day, when Sengoku will kill her and Koyomi, Senjougahara Hitagi meets with the swindler Kaiki Deishu in Okinawa Airport to request that he make amends for the trouble he’s caused them by convincing Sengoku not to kill them, something within his abilities. Kaiki struggles to find the proper motivation to carry out the request, eventually settling on Kanbaru Suruga, the niece of his former senpai, Gaen Izuko.

Watching the Monogatari Series in the order in which it has aired requires a certain degree of patience. Gratitude is seldom instant or even timely, as resolutions to conflicts may occur in a different arc. This week is the final arc in the second season, in which the story of Otorimonogatari continues. Senjougahara, once deceived by Kaiki, now seeks out his help in deceiving Sengoku, whose curse he also caused. Her only other option is to beg, which probably won’t work. Physical attacks didn’t work either.

This introductory episode unfolds from Kaiki’s perspective, and he reiterates to the audience that we shouldn’t take anything said or done as the truth. As we learned from Nisemonogatari, this is a man who values the fake over the real, and uses his words as weapons. But the snake god is no slouch in the deception and persuasion department. If anyone can talk Sengoku out of killing everyone and everything, it’s Kaiki, but it would be nice to see him struggle a bit in his initial efforts. In any case, we always dig former enemies teaming up to fight a bigger enemy.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)