Steins;Gate 0 – 11 – WWIII Averted…For Now

The shadowy guy whom Maho hired to analyze Makise’s laptop turns out to be…Daru, working out of the back room of a cosplay store. He still needs three days to complete his work, but after telling her the whole story about the time machine and the horrors the secrets within the computer may unleash, Rintarou manages to convince Maho to destroy it.

Before they can, the “wrong hands” in which it would be so dangerous arrive in force. Daru has an escape route worked out, but they’re still cornered in a dark alley and Maho is nabbed and has a knife placed against her throat. That they were able to find Daru’s hideout so soon, or were watching listening for just the right time to move in, is disconcerting, to say the least.

However, they must not have been listening in, because after some negotiations they’re willing to let Maho, and Daru walk away unharmed in exchange for the laptop. Rintarou briefly switches places with Maho as their hostage, but then another masked group arrives and opens fire, making sure the laptop is destroyed.

It’s doubtless a harrowing ordeal for Maho; she may have been held up along with the others at the lab, but no shots were fired. Here, had Rintarou not pushed her flat to the ground, she might’ve died. Back at the lab, she’s so out of it she doesn’t notice she’s clutching one remaining shard from the laptop in her hand so tightly it’s drawing blood.

Rintarou takes Maho to Feyris’ to clean up, but the trauma from the shootout has a more pronounced effect than she thought, and after all that tension, every muscle in her body goes limp, making her practically a helpless doll. And just as Rintarou once walked in on Kurisu, he ends up facing Maho just as her towel falls off. The universe is keen to make him suffer, but also to make him accidentally see his love interests in the nude.

That night, Maho asks Rintarou to stay by her bedside a little longer, and he happily obliges. Returning to her Mozart-Salieri narrative, after hearing from Rintarou about the possibility she might “disgrace the dead” by unlocking Kurisu’s laptop’s secrets, Maho admits to herself that it wasn’t just a matter of honoring her friend’s legacy, but trying to subconsciously exorcise the frustration she felt.

Not just frustration over not being able to achieve the things Kurisu did, mind you, but frustration over the mere fact she’s so concerned about her as a rival; Mozart, she says, never wasted a moment concerned with Salieri; he only made great music (and drank and gambled…it’s all in the movie).

Rintarou disputes the similarities between the two pairs of gifted people from vastly different times. He’s convinced that Maho loved Kurisu and would never disgrace her. It’s why she agreed to break the laptop, it’s why she shed tears and apologized, and it’s why she clutched the fragment so tightly.

It’s such a quiet, tender scene filled with mutual respect and affection, with Mamoru Miyano wonderfully modulating Rintarou’s voice to a caring hush, matching the vulnerability of Yahagi Sayuri’s Maho. Very nice work here.

After Rintarou and Maho’s lovely night together, she and Leskinen head back to America, but not before inviting him to Viktor Chrondria University whenever he can make it. So it’s not goodbye, merely see ya later for the couple. That probably makes both Leskinen and Amakurisu happy; Ama also fully intends to see and hear from Rintarou again, expressing Kurisu’s tsundere mode.

Rintarou is also able to convince Suzuha that they’ve avoided a potentially WWIII-starting clash between America and Russia (the two powers he suspected he and Maho were caught between), though Suzu remains skeptical that they’ve eliminated the only cause of the war, only one of them. And she’s most likely right.

One of the last scenes is of Maho’s colleague Judy Reyes aboard a flight, hiding…something in her lap. Was she one of the masked people in black? Could it be salvageable remnants of the laptop? Whatever it is, it’s clear Rintarou’s work is far from done. Meanwhile Mayushii seems to harbor some conflicting feelings about Okarin leaving for America to join Leskinen, Maho, and the digital Kurisu.

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Steins;Gate 0 – 10 – Kurisu’s Salieri

Amadeus is a fantastic movie with a good old-fashioned fatal flaw in its co-protagonist: caring too much. Salieri could hear God through Mozart’s music but not in his own, and it drove the guy mad, especially since he worked and prayed so hard, while everything seemed to come all to easily and naturally to Mozart (or at least it seemed that way to him).

I like how Steins;Gate 0 references that film, and the historical figures behind it, as a kind of loose parallel for Kurisu and Hiyajou Maho. Maho doesn’t claim to have anywhere near the obsession Salieri had, but can’t deny she’s always measured her life and accomplishments against her departed kohai.

She’s also a grinder, which explains how terrible a mess she makes at Feyris’ place (though she has a bodyguard in Kiryu contributing to the mess). When Mayushii is invited over, she brings “Sergeant Clean” Nae with her along with Daru to whip the place into shape.

Maho is asked to leave the apartment so they can clean more efficiency, and that’s when she’s able to present the newly-rebooted Amakurisu to Rintarou, who for his part is ready to “move forward” and regard her as a distinct AI and not Kurisu Reborn.

After that, Feyris hosts a sleepover with Maho and Kiryuu, and Maho learns Kiryuu is writing a novel, and also believes she’s “not special in any way” and imminently replaceable. Maho tells her none of that is true; that she shouldn’t belittle herself so easily; or compare herself to others and go through life feeling inferior and…oops, that’s exactly what she’s done with Kurisu. She backs off.

That night, Maho seems to resolve herself to moving forward, just as Rintarou said he wanted to do. They go on a date by any other name to Akiba, where she geeks out both on obscure computer parts (the district’s original function) and racing games (part of its newer identity). Rintarou even wins her an @channel plushie.

The fun day takes a turn for the solemn when Maho says it’s her intention to visit the Radio Building where Kurisu died, perhaps to find some kind of closure. Rintarou accompanies her, and when Maho laments that humans can move around the axes of space, they’re prisoners of time. If only we could move through time’s axes as well, she wonders, but Rintarou, speaking from experience, tells her they still wouldn’t be able to change anything.

Maho is no dummy, and can tell there are a lot of things about Rintarou and his relationship with Kurisu he’s not telling her. Even so, she can sense he’s somehow working to protect her (and Mayushii) and seeing him struggling alone makes her want to support him in some way. To that end, she informs him she has “Kurisu’s legacy”—her notebook, likely containing all of her time machine research. She doesn’t know the login password, so she hasn’t been able to access it yet, but has reached out to a “trusted” party to analyze it.

This news makes Rintarou turn white as a sheet and adopt his “extremely freaked out” face. He calls that notebook a Pandora’s Box that should never be opened, and could well lead to World War III. Considering her lab was ransacked and she was present for an attack by people they still haven’t identified, Rintarou’s words don’t seem to sound like the ravings of a madman to Maho. They shouldn’t—he knows what he’s talking about.

My Hero Academia – 07

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We get it: Deku isn’t trying to “trick” or “underestimate” Kacchan. He simply has to believe he can surpass someone as amazing as Kacchan if he’s ever going to develop into reliable hero. So while the trial is supposed to be about heroes and villains, Kacchan makes it into a duel of nemeses, and Deku has to choice but to play along, while trusting Ochako to handle the bomb retrieval.

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Deku’s notebook knowledge serves him well against an unfocused and increasingly angry Kacchan, but as he gets worn down from all the dodging, and Kacchan gets angrier stalking through the halls, remembering all the times Deku proved himself useless when they were little kids, Kacchan devises more and more subtle yet devastating attacks.

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Mind you, that’s after he blasts a hole in his own “villain stronghold”, leading All Might to warn him if he causes that much destruction again, he’ll forfeit the match.

But he and Deku both know Kacchan doesn’t give a shit about the outcome of the match. He wants Deku to know his place. And All Might knows Deku won’t make any progress getting through to Kacchan if he suspends the match.

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The duel culminates in the two driving their fists at each other, Kacchan with his explosive power and Deku with All For One—but Deku isn’t going for Kacchan, he’s going for the ceiling.

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By blasting numerous holes in the building, he creates a diversion, as well as ammo, for Ochako to wield her antigrav powers and make contact with the bomb, flummoxing Iida, who had tried so hard to play the role of mustache-twirling villain.

As time runs out and the Hero team wins, Kacchan is still playing the same refrain: “Don’t underestimate me. I’m better than you.” 

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Well, talent and strength, especially in the quantities he possesses, certainly are great to have. But that alone doesn’t make a hero. Kacchan seemed constantly driven by hatred for that which he always thought was weaker than him, but day by day is being proven wrong, making him question his own worth deep inside.

Add to that nitroglycerin palm sweat (how the hell did he not accidentally burn his house down nine thousand times as a kid?), and you have a volatile combination. But when Deku tells Kacchan can’t use his quirk lest it destroy his body, and  Kacchan sees the damage to prove it, his scowl of contempt softens into something resembling pity, maybe even understanding and regret for what he’s put Deku through.

Because I feel like a lot of his anger has to do with the fact that Deku never once deserved the shitty treatment Kacchan dumped on him. Quite the opposite, whenever Kacchan even looked like he was in trouble, Deku and only Deku rushed out to help him. Just as Deku needs to strengthen his body and master his quirk to have a future as a hero, Kacchan will have to resolve his various emotional issues.

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My Hero Academia – 06

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Plus Ultra to you on this fine Mother’s Day (USA)! I shall be covering Hero this week in Hannah’s place. Yoroshiku onegaishimasu! After Midoriya successfully gets a hero-like number on the ball throw, a furious Kacchan rushes him before being stopped by Aizawa-sensei.

Kacchan of all people simply can’t understand how his childhood friend could have a quirk all of a sudden, and the ‘my own effort’ explanation he gets from Iida second-hand isn’t satisfactory. Deku is pissing all over his moment, and he doesn’t like it! Boo-hoo.

Despite placing last in total test points, Midoriya moves on, because as Aizawa says to All Might, his potential is “not zero”. Midoriya settles into a cozy group of budding friends in the earnest-to-a-fault Iida and the adorable, friendly Ochako, who re-purposes the insulting nickname “Deku-kun” to something cool, because it reminds her of “Ganbatte”.

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Once the class starts hero training with their new teacher All Might (whom almost everyone is in awe of), he unveils that the superhero costumes they requested are ready. Due to various clerical hiccups, Midoriya gets his by another channel – his adorable mom saw the design in his notebook and had it made in secret, as an apology for giving up on him when he never did.

The new costumes really give a sense of pomp and occasion to this upcoming test that the PE uniforms lacked. It also makes everyone far more distinctive and reveals some things about their tastes and personalities. Class ace Yaoyorozu, for instance, isn’t afraid to show a little sideboob, while Ochako didn’t put in any preference and ended up in a tasteful skintight jumpsuit that, if anything, only amplifies her cuteness.

(Speaking of big groups of superheroes taking the stage: I’d just caught Captain America: Civil War Friday night, one of the climactic scenes of which was also bursting with cool costumes.)

As for “Deku’s” suit, it borrows a few details from All Might but has a totally different vibe to it; more Sonic the Hedgehog than Superman; I like it. I’m not as big a fan as Iida’s rather boring suit of armor or Kacchan’s tacky suit that makes him look like a fireworks point-of-purchase. Still, it’s clear from many outfits that they started out as crude pencil sketches.

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The next exercise involves two pairs of students facing off as heroes and villains, with the former having to either capture the latter or the latter keeping their nuke out of the former’s hands. Deku and Ochako are paired up again, to Ochako’s delight.

In the dark, close confines of the test building, Kacchan again breaks the rules to take it to Deku by staging a surprise attack…only to find Deku a far more challenging opponent than he expected, and not because of Deku’s strength, either.

The hero notebook Deku meticulously prepared included notes on his childhood friend, so Deku knows how he fights and how to fight back. This fight should be interesting, assuming Deku doesn’t slip up and get char-broiled before Ochako can step in with her zero-grav assistance.

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Nisekoi – 03

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When a young Raku met that little girl crying about the sad ending to the book she otherwised liked, he didn’t laugh or call her a crybaby. He changed the ending to a happy one. Back in the present, as Onodera lists all the reasons Chitoge (and she, secretly) would fall for him: he’s always helping others when he can. Contrary to the stereotype of the yakuza scion being an entitled prick, Raku is a kind and decent person.

Similarly, Chitoge comes off as a haughty, popular girl who would be the queen of the school, but is actually shy and insecure, unsure of how to make friends. However, since Raku and Chitoge are wound up so tightly by their new forced relationship and all the surveillance that comes with it, neither of them have been able to see who the other person really is. Then Raku, to his surprise, finds Chitoge writing profiles of classmates in a notebook, and to Chitoge’s surprise, tells her he did the same thing, having amassed a wealth of information, and offering to share it.

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So Raku learns Chitoge’s attitude is just as much frustration over the fact her desire to live a normal life as a normal student isn’t working out; while Chitoge learns that Raku can be a kind and generous guy when he’s not putting up a defensive front. Both are under a lot of stress, making it hard to look past themselves and see the other struggling beside them. There’s also Raku’s issue of still being in love with Onodera and Onodera actually being his Happy Ending Dream Locket Girl, but neither being able to say anything on that topic to one another, in large part due to the new situation with Chitoge.

We were hoping there’d be some movement here this week, but even when Raku see’s Onodera’s strange key, he doesn’t connect the dots. So far this is a drama of omission, with both characters being held back by their own hesitation. Doubtless Onodera’s window on Raku will close the longer she hesitates, but as long as she thinks Raku and Chitoge are in love, she won’t budge, as she’s the kind of person to put others before herself. So we’d say the ball is in Raku’s court. If he really loves her, he won’t wait and risk falling for Chitoge. He should take a page from his past self: if you don’t like the ending, change it.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Aku no Hana – 13 (Fin)

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While snooping around Nakamura’s otherwise normal room Kasuga finds a notebook in which she has recorded all of her encounters with Kasuga, up until after they vandilized the classroom. The rest is blank until the last page, where she laments not being able to go over the hill. Nakamura barges in, tells Kasuga to get out, then runs again. Kasuga chases her and they both trip and fall onto each other. Kasuga’s life flashes before his eyes in reverse, followed by all his interactions with Nakamura. He then starts to see flashes of a possible future with him, Nakamura, and Saeki in which his deviancy expands. He tells her to make a new contract with him, and “leave the den of shit.”

As Nakamura said to Kasuga before they trashed the classroom (loosely translated), “Life isn’t a bowl of cherries.” Remembering that, we were confident that Aku no Hana was not going to end on a happy note. This is a series that loves to torture its male lead and make him squirm, to the point where whenever he feels joy or bliss, or things start to look up, a big alarm goes off: “BOWL OF CHERRIES.” As in life isn’t; not for him. He’s a miserable angsty teen grasping wildly at some kind of justification for his pathetic existence. Just because he thinks he was put on this earth to make sure Nakamura wouldn’t be alone, doesn’t make it so. But still, his obsession with staying by her side is a kind of love, a itch he must scratch.

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How to end a highly controversial anime, not just for its dark source material, but for the way it was translated to animation? With a highly controversial ending, of course! After the initial reveal of Nakamura’s room (we should have known the door wrote checks the room couldn’t clear!) and the following chase that ends with them on the ground, time starts gettin’ all whimsical and shit, full of callbacks to previous episodes, but then goes beyond the first episode and to flashes of his childhood, and then…the classroom arrangement returns and things start to get really weird. The episode ended abruptly with the message “END OF PART ONE.” So were those flash-forwards a montage previewing Part Two?

We hope so, because it looks like things get a lot bleaker. Just because you’re devoted to fulfilling the role your admirer laid out for you, doesn’t mean things are going to get any easier for anyone. While we would have liked to see more of what happened after Kasuga asks Nakamura to form a new contract, we can hopefully look forward to all that being addressed in detail in the second season. Until then, it was a very weird, very powerful, very dark ride. Aku no Hana reminded us why we love anime: you can watch months and months of the same old stuff, and then boom, something totally different comes along, fiercely marching to the beat of its own drummer, never apologizing for anything.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Another possibility: rather than a teaser, everything that happened in that future montage happened, and won’t happen again. What we saw was a highly condensed result of Nakamura entering that contract with Kasuga.
  • Among the disturbing images we see in this montage: burning books; hanging panties around the walls; Saeki cutting her hair Nakamura-short and continuing to obsess over Kasuga; Kasuga holding her down; someone bleeding down their legs; Nakamura passed out; a policeman flashing his badge; Nakamura scratching the shit out of Kasuga’s chest, and other assorted mayhem.
  • Was the present Nakamura embarassed that Kasuga was in his room, learning of her secret notebook? She seemed pretty damn mad he was in there, so we don’t think she ever intended anyone to see it. That being said, she didn’t exactly take great pains to hide it.
  • In her notebook we see pretty much the same cheerfully deviant Nakamura that we saw when she was doing the things she wrote about. There’s a naked earnestness to her; what seemed like a mocking or patronizing manner with Kasuga was actually genuine excitement, concern, and anticipation.