Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 10

Ever wonder how Jeanne d’Arc went from Captain of the Orleans Knights to mother of El/Mugaro and prisoner in Charioce’s dungeon? This episode tells that tale, starting seven years back. Things start to go wrong when Jeanne fails to save a young girl from a demon, and she starts to lose respect among her men—not all, mind you, but some is all that’s needed for a kind of rot to set in.

Once he takes the throne (without the help of the Gods, a first for kings of Anatae) Chariorce gives Jeanne a choice: play ball and help him get the more god-loyal subjects in line, or face exile. Jeanne chooses the latter, and is eventually made to bear a child through the divine power of Michael—no hanky panky or months of pregnancy needed.

Jeanne lives a simple life off the land, and she raises her winged son El well and he proves to be helpful, but they can’t escape from the worsening conflict between men and gods for long, and soon Jeanne comes to harbor an injured Sofiel from the dastardly Ebony Knights.

When the knights come looking for Sofiel and attack Jeanne, El uses her powers for the first time to neutralize them. They report El to Charioce, who orders Jeanne and El caught dead or alive. Jeanne clips El’s wings and hides him amongst demon corpses, then runs off with one such corpse to lure the knights away from her son.

Jeanne gets captured and hasn’t seen El since, but Nina, who has heard her whole dreadfully horrible tale, is now convinced that Mugaro is El (despite her beliving Mugaro was a girl) and promises Jeanne they’ll be the first two to escape the imperial prison. Here’s hoping.

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 12 (Fin)

Leave it to ACCA to save its best episode for last. And why not? Each of the eleven preceding episodes perfectly prepared us for this finale. Everything pointed towards a smooth, peaceful, and efficient coup, and that’s what we got—only it wasn’t a coup to unseat Schwan, but a coup to secure ACCA’s future and thwart the Liliums and Furawau’s plans to snatch hegemony from the Dowa Royal Family. That, my friends, is one surprising yet completely logical and satisfying twist.

At first, things seem to be going according to Lilium’s plan: Once it’s Schwan’s turn to take to the podium and speak, he and his outnumbered guards are surrounded by ACCA officers in riot gear, and Schwan’s plans to dissolve ACCA are exposed to the throng, which quickly sides with ACCA in the matter, as expected.

But then Schwan calls Jean out, knowing exactly why he’s on the dais with the Chief Officers. Just then, Lotta (and I for that matter) are relieved to find Niino by her side. This is the moment when Director-General Mauve completely flips the script and reveals that beneath ACCA’s plan was another plan that Lilium was not made aware of.

In this plan, Mauve, rather than Jean, steps forward. She explains the theatrics were only meant to demonstrate Schwan’s need for greater then very loudly and publicly proclaims Schwan as the one and only Crown Prince of Dowa, thanks Schwan for his continued support of ACCA once he ascends to the throne and into the future, then bends the knee. Knowing how unpopular dissolving ACCA would be (and would make him), Schwan can only affirm Mauve’s words and commit to preserving ACCA.

Mauve’s speech is one of, if not the most badass moments of the series, if not the Winter season as a whole, because of how much it changes, all of the careful preparation that gives it so much power, and the jazzy soundtrack that adds a cool gravitas.

Suddenly, Lilium finds himself on the wrong side of the river with a very weak hand. He was so focused on his own machinations he failed to realize there were counter-machinations going on behind his back. Jean had been strategizing with Mauve since he learned of his lineage, and informed Grossular of what would go down the night before.

Mauve and Jean arranged things so ACCA would win before Furawau would, making the continuation of “the game” pointless. Sure enough, Lilium folds, but he also takes his ball (being Furawau) and goes home (meaning secession). I will now cease the sports metaphors.

After all the drama subsides, Jean and Lotta encounter Prince Schwan and Magie, who reveals it was the prince himself who ordered him to warn her of the attack. Between agreeing not to kill ACCA and this, Schwan turned out to be not-such-a-bad-guy after all, which is more interesting than a petulant, one-dimensional villain. And since there’s no usurping going on, Jean and Lotta’s lineage can remain secret, even as they’re allowed to meet with Schwan and King Falke.

With Lilium and Furawau leaving the Dowa Kingdom to start their own, Grossular dissolves the remaining three of the anachronistic Five Chief officers, who then go home and become chiefs of their respective districts, and seem all the happier for it, while Grossular stays on in an advisory role for the new single leader of ACCA, Mauve. She certainly earned it.

In other good (if a bit convenient) news: Just as Furawau seceded, Pranetta finally hit paydirt, and a resource (presumably oil) rush leads to the district’s revitalization, Suitsu is finally allowed to develop to the level of the other districts and its people allowed to vote.

We even find out who Niino’s secret other contact was, and it’s who I expected: Abend, the ever-loyal servant of the Dowa Family, who had colored his hair and taken on the identity of Owl to watch Jean that much closer. With the family members reunited, Niino is formally relieved of his photographing duties. Mauve and Grossular seem to be spending a lot more time together, while Jean assumes the feelings he has for Mauve are unrequited.

But that doesn’t change the fact that he and Jean are best mates, something that hasn’t changed since they met in high school (the post credits flashback to their prom, which Niino won but gave Jean the crown, was a nice touch), and won’t change now. Jean takes comfort in knowing he’s not alone. And, no doubt, in being able to stay in his old job. For all that’s changed around them, Jean, Niino, and Lotta really haven’t, and that’s for the best, as they’re perfectly happy with the lives they have.

So ends one of the most thoughtful, detailed, and elegantly beautiful looking and sounding series in recent memory, which came completely out of nowhere. Those are my favorite kind of shows: ones about which neither I nor anyone else have any potentially corrupting preconceptions.

It’s also a show with eminent rewatch value; there’s enjoyment to be found in watching the story unfold again whilst knowing its resolution. It’s also a show for which I’d happily embrace a sequel. Until then, I say goodbye to ACCA, a well-crafted and engrossing anime if ever there was one.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 11

ACCA: Jusan-ku Kansatsu-ka. I hadn’t really read the words until recently, but they roll right off the tongue in a very satisfying, elegant way, like ACCA the show itself.

I daresay ACCA is a sneaky show. It seems a bit slow and dull at first but the details keep you around. Then it becomes something you must watch at all costs. In this way, it’s like no other show airing this Winter, and its quality has been rewarded on MAL, rising from 6.97 on week one to 7.43 today, the biggest climb of any Winter ’17 show.

By the time Jean arrives in lavish, exotic Furawau for the thirteenth of thirteen district audits, nearly all pretense has fallen over his “job” as inspector, as Furawau is the district spearheading the coup.

Yet true to its name (“flower” in katakana), Furawau’s inhabitants are cheerful and elegant, and discreet in their welcoming of Jean for his true purpose.

But while it’s named for its flowers, the gleaming skyscrapers and lush palaces are paid for with oil. 90% of the entire nation of Dowa’s oil is supplied by Furawau. This makes them Arabia on steroids, which makes resource-poor Pranetta the comparatively oil-less Jordan.

When he leaves for his hotel, Jean does not give the Furawau chiefs a direct answer about whether he’ll rise up with them. But fortunately for Jean, Niino was listening in when the Princess’ assassins were loudly discussing their plan for slaying him.

When they draw their appropriately ornate golden revolver from the shadows, Niino is there not only to warn Jean, but take two bullets for him. He survives, but when he wakes up from surgery, he wonders out loud something I’ve wondered for many weeks now: whether Jean is merely being dragged into things by chance, or if he’s “prying into the whole mess” of his own accord.

Before leaving Furawau, Jean tells the chiefs he’s with them. Upon returning to Badon, he doesn’t stop by Mugimaki where Mauve continues to show up and wait. Instead, he visits Lilium as his brothers instructed, and shows him all thirteen cigarettes he’s collected.

I love how each one is  different in color and length, and how Pranetta’s is one of his own. Details that carry symbolism: Dowa is one big happy cigarette case. When Jean says anyone can ascend as long as it’s not him, Lilium counters that only he can protect both ACCA and the people.

What he isn’t telling Jean…could fill volumes. Like the fact he needs to present at least the air of proper succession, and probably needs the ACCA angle to strengthen their case. Lotta can’t fulfill either of those conditions…nor can Lilium himself.

When Rail first heard of him, he assumed Jean was an upper class snob who thought his own excrement did not emit odor. Turns out he was right about the “upper class” bit, but now that Rail knows who Jean is for sure, he thinks he’d probably be a better King than Schwan.

Rail tells Jean this while they smoke in the city night, after Jean thanks him for watching Lotta while he was away. And Jean appears to take Rail’s subtle endorsement to heart…maybe he will be better.

The next day, people from all thirteen districts start pouring into Badon for the upcoming ACCA centennial ceremony. This means we get all the ACCA agents Jean met on his travels in the same room, and of course they all know each other.

It’s a nice “lower decks” scene, watching subordinates shoot the breeze. The girls badger Eidar about her feelings for Jean, only to learn she’s dating Grus. One agent brings up the coup, and silence fills the room.

Every one of them seems generally on board with the plan…except Warbler, who, being stationed in Suitsu, is naturally the last agent to be informed of the coup. And while it’s easy to get all swept up in the excitement of dumping a harmful king for a better one, Warbler provides a much-needed voice of concern and reason.

He makes very good points about the risk ACCA’s leadership is taking by arranging such a coup. He also questions if the young, inexperienced Schwan would actually follow through on his threat to dissolve ACCA. He believes the royal family is aware that tipping the scales of power too far in their favor could break the whole system, and trusts them to be more pragmatic once Schwan ascends.

But no one can be certain Schwan won’t dissolve ACCA, and in any case, the decision has already been made by the brass, so Warbler’s protests go acknowledged but not acted upon. After Jean leaves a brief, almost curt meeting with Mauve (which has the air of a breakup), Warbler tries to tell him that this coup idea is ludicrous.

Jean responds by saying he’d really like Warbler to take his job, after “one final push”, then calls the prince a “real headache.” Could Jean be starting to get the feel for the power he’s about to attain?

Cut to the prince being a huge headache, acting petulant aboard his ornate royal plane, dismissing Magie’s advice to meet with his cousin (Jean) or get to know the people more. He’s only going to Badon to attend the ACCA ceremony, then leave.

Warbler might think Schwan’s position on ACCA is open to interpretation or subject to review by the rest of the royal family or the privy council. But Schwan probably doesn’t think any of that. When he’s king—and he’s going to be king, he tells himself—he can do as he pleases.

Lilium continues to uncork bottle after bottle of champagne in celebration of a total victory that is still yet to come. In another private one-on-one with Grossular, he lays out the plan I expected him and his district to have: install someone he can control, Jean, in order to control the nation. He hopes to act quickly and elegantly enough that by the time people notice what’s up it will be too late to do anything about it.

Now that he knows Lilium’s true intent, will Grossular continue to stand impotently by and let it happen, or is he intentionally appearing weak to lull Lilium into a false sense of security? Does Grossular have his own plans? And as Mauve asked both him and Jean before him: is he all right?

He responds the same way as Jean: with a simple ‘Yes.’ Here’s hoping that’s true, because some big things are going down next week.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 10

If it wasn’t before, it’s become plain that Lilium’s intentions with ACCA’s coup aren’t simply for the unity and good of the nation of Dowa, but for his district, Furawau, in particular. Things might even turn out to be worse with him than if Prince Schwan ascended; who knows?

Lilium seems like the kind of guy who wants more power, and being one of five head officers isn’t nearly enough. He’s already used Grossular as a pawn in his grander scheme, and installing Jean on the throne seems like more piece-moving. All I know is, the show wants me to think he’s being nefarious.

Jean, for his part, continues his auditing work. After Yakkara throws their lot in with Jean, noting they’ve always been a district of…ahem…gambling. Jean’s next stop is one of the more striking ones: Pranetta district, which is a hot and unforgiving desert on the surface, but whose population lives underground, working in the mines and kept entertained by a vibrant television industry.

This district doesn’t have much, however. They’re mining doesn’t seem to be the most fruitful, but the people seem to be living for their as-yet-unrealized dreams rather than a present rich in material things. Jean definitely seems to like the place.

These aren’t mole people, after all, and when it finally is cool enough to emerge from the caverns, it makes the evening sky seem that much more impressive and awe-inspiring. And like Yakkara and Peshi, Pranetta wants a Dowa in which ACCA is still around, so they’re with him. The chief formalizes his support by bumming a cigarette off of Jean, then giving it right back to him, in a really neat little moment that says a lot about Pranetta.

When he returns home, Jean has a chat with Lotta about her crazy day with Rail and the fact their mother was a princess, but before they can head out to eat, a special report comes in on the news: King Falke has taken a turn for the worse.

Suddenly everyone is scrambling to get their ducks in a row for what’s to come. Grossular manages to convince Mauve that the coup is what’s best for the nation and for ACCA, while the First Princess accelerates her plans to get rid of Jean and Lotta, who are nothing but usurpers in her eyes.

As for Jean, he sticks to his audit schedule, apparently unconcerned whether the king dies while he’s away. We only catch an establishing glimpse of Lilium’s home district of Furawau, but we can already discern many things from it. With gleaming skyscrapers among the sandy dunes, Furawau clearly has money, probably due to to fossil fuels. It looks like Dowa’s Dubai, so perhaps they’re also a big financial power.

In any case, Furawau is big and rich and impressive enough to be an alternate capital of the nation, should, say, the monarchy be done away with altogether or reduced in stature and importance. It also looks like a district that could take on any other district head-to-head and have the resources to come out on top (unlike poor Pranetta).

Will this be Jean’s ‘final audit’? Has he entered another friendly district, or a den of vipers? He may finally know who he truly is and what that means, but he still doesn’t know how he’ll be used…or how he’s already being used. We’re also not quite sure whether he’s actually going to claim the throne. The First Princess succeeding in offing him or Lotta, on the other hand, seems more solidly unlikely.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 09

So far ACCA has proven a success in the school of the classic slow-burn, in which those patient enough to stick around are lushly rewarded, like the high one gets when about to complete a huge, elaborate jigsaw puzzle (don’t judge).

Last week laid out the details of the show’s central mystery of what’s up with Jean and Lotta, and this week deals with the consequences for everyone once the truth is officially out there, and decide on a course of action. It also allows some previous bit players on the margins play significant roles.

Oh yeah, and a shared love of sandwich bread of all things proves absolutely vital in preventing Lotta’s assassination by the First Princess’ goons. The food isn’t just window-dressing.

As soon as Magie hears from the prince that the knives may be out for Lotta, he makes a call to his comrade-in-bread, Rail, who makes Lotta’s protection his top priority. Rail has his suspicions, but doesn’t know the whole picture, but that doesn’t matter, because he’s a decent dude, trusts his fellow bread-lover’s warning.

As for poor Lotta, no one’s told her anything, and with both Jean and Niino away, a part of her already feels vulnerable. So as out-of-the-blue (or blonde) as it seems, she seems happy to have Rail (a sworn ACCA officer) by her side.

Jean is away because he’s on a sprawling three-district trip starting in Peshi (the port district) and moving on to Yakkara (the casino district, and another instance of ACCA imitating Sonic The Hedgehog levels)And Jean is no longer oblivious like Lotta.

He knows what the score is, and even understands what all those cigarettes on his past inspection visits were about. It’s need to see the change in Jean’s overall demeanor. He seems more focused, alert, and suspicious…as he should. Peshi’s chiefs drop the pretense and pledge their support for Jean’s ascension, unaware that Jean himself has no such plans.

I like how ultimately, it’s only a matter of time before Rail, a good kid but not a professional bodyguard, and Lotta finally get surrounded by the ominous goons and shoved into a car. Unfortunately for the goons, the traffic in Badon flares up just when they need to make their getaway.

Also unfortunately for them, pure dumb luck is on Lotta’s side, as Chief Owl (whom Jean asked to keep an eye on her) happens to lean on the open window sill of the goons’ car, sees Lotta, and secures her and Rail’s release.

Like Rail, Owl doesn’t have the whole story, and unlike Rail, he isn’t a sandwich bread fanatic (though we’ve seen him indulge in the office treats du jour) but he does have Jean and Lotta’s bests interests at heart, and it’s gratifying to see how competently (yet without undue violence) Owlmanages to wrest the crazy kids from certain doom.

With Lotta and Rail nicely rescued, Owl suggests they—what else—go to grab a bite with his ACCA staff. Coups and assassination plots be damned—you gotta eat.

With Lotta out of immediate danger and surrounded by friends, we move on, somewhat relieved but still troubled, to the other major storyline of the episode: Grossular coming clean to the other chiefs, which takes such a crazy turn I’d have nearly fell out of my chair, had I not already been sitting on the carpeted floor.

Grossular lays out the plan that’s been in motion since the beginning, with the ultimate goal of instigating an ACCA-led coup d’etat to prevent Schwan from becoming King, thus preserving peace, democracy, an, well, ACCA itself.

Grossular has known about the danger of a King Schwan for some time, but gained a powerful barometer (whom he observed through Crow) for the attitudes (be they pro- or anti-coup) of the districts in Jean, which is why his inspection department was suddenly saved from oblivion.

Once it was clear a majority of districts were in favor of a coup, the time grows near for that coup to commence, but a coup led by ACCA, as an extreme expression of their ‘protect & serve’ credo. The coup will, Grossular promises, “pose no danger” to ordinary people. Allowing Schwan to dissolve ACCA and create an autocracy might.

Grossular asks his four colleagues whether they stand with him or not, and everyone to a man is with him, all thanks to Lilium, who speaks first in response.

Because Lilium and Grossular have never, to the others’ knowledge, ever agreed on anything before, it’s all the proof they need to know the right course (on top of their pride in their roles as leaders of ACCA, along with their existing awareness that, ya know, Schwan is bad news). This is to be an act of patriotism, not treason.

Later, we learn that Lilium and Grossular’s constant disagreements in front of the others masks the fact that Grossular is, in fact, Lilium’s servant. Always a fairly inscrutable guy, we finally see a hint of subservience when Lilium grabs him by the hair and promises him in a threatening tone that “he will manage” in his next objective: do something about Director-General Mauve.

It’s this huge, sudden, surprising, yet still well-supported (by both plot and character) shift in character dynamics, as well as the timely utilization of Rail and Owl, that propelled this episode into the ’10th district.’ It’s also a interesting episode in that many cards have been played, but many choice ones remain in the show’s hand.

It’s that ‘floating potential’, as it were, that makes episode nine feel special. Hopefully it can be properly harnessed in the tenth, which I eagerly await.

GOD EATER – 06

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Hey, remember that show GOD EATER? Which airs sometimes, when it feels like it, but not necessarily every week? Well, it’s still around, and you know what? Those who have been patient with it, like myself, have been rewarded: the last two episodes have been excellent. Episode five tore away the invincibility of the titular God Eaters, and Episode six stripped them of their weapons, making these supposed hunters the hunted, at the mercy of the elements and their own fear.

Fighting the Aragami, saving the world; these are meaningless this week. The mission, the only mission, for Lenka and Alisa, is to stay alive. And the harsh, rain-soaked, Aragami-infested world doesn’t make it easy. But we’re drawn into this basic, visceral, at times pathetic struggle for survival.

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Lenka saves Alisa’s life by giving her CPR, and they then hole up in a hotel room. His God Eater is broken, her’s is missing, and he’s at the end of his tether, bleeding out in the corner. Alisa first considers leaving him behind to go look for her God Eater, but instead gets him on the bed and patches him up. It may be an uncharacteristic act of kindness, or a pragmatic move, seeing as how she only had one pill left when she woke up, and she took it. After that, she’ll need Lenka.

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The crux of the episode is that without her drugs, Alisa falls into a state of intense anxiety and helplessness, almost reverting to when she was a small child happily playing hide-and-seek with her parents when an Aragami killed them before her eyes. I didn’t see this as neutering or weakening Alisa as a character. On the contrary, I saw this as finally revealing who Alisa really is beneath the tough-as-nails exterior. The drugs don’t just repress her fear, they repress everything else that makes her a person, making her nothing but a tool for killing Aragami.

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It’s gratifying to see the curtain pulled back and to see some actual emotion in Alisa’s eyes, voice, and body language. In a way, both God Eaters are rendered inert: Lenka because his Arc is dead; Alisa because she’s lost what the Cowardly Lion called “Da Noive”, which had been drug-induced up to this point. Now, she’s back to playing hide-and-seek, against Aragami she could pummel in her sleep under ideal circumstances.

What I appreciate most about GOD EATER’s recent foray into hopelessness is that it’s so utterly and mercilessly stripped away all those ideal circumstances. Now the Aragami have all the advantage, just as they do over all the other helpless humans scattered around the rainy wasteland. Seeing the disheartened look on Alisa’s face, and the look of fear whenever the Aragami find them, really draws us into their plight, where even a simple gesture like Lenka offering his cape thingy is given extra significance.

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When her parents were killed, she was left all alone before she was old enough. Now, at least, Lenka is by her side, and while he’s probably scared too, he’s not as profoundly scarred by his past. He’s for lack of a better term, simply better-adjusted to this world, and doesn’t need drugs to stare down Aragami. And that’s exactly what he ends up having to do, since even when Alisa finds her God Arc, it doesn’t magically make her better in the head. She’s still paralyzed by fear when the Aragami surround her.

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Lenka is bandaged up, but his Arc isn’t long enough to reach the foes, and when it is, he’s only able to deliver a tap to them. You can see the Aragami figuring out these guys are no threat; only food. Lenka knows when it’s pretty much Game Over too, so he drops his useless weapon, puts himself between the Aragami and Alisa, and either makes peace with his end or prays for a miracle. He gets the latter when Lindow comes out of nowhere and easily defeats the low-level baddies.

After making a slightly sexist remark about protecting people being “a man’s job”, he admonishes Lenka for almost giving up and putting his life in someone else’s hands. Lenka, not wrongly, protests that there really wasn’t shit he could do, unless his God Arc magically came back to life, which would be no less a miracle. He and Alisa are safe now, and Alisa is sure to get back on the meds as soon as they get back to Fenrir. But now Lenka, and we, know and understand her a little better, and the rough hand she’s been dealt.

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Back in Flashback Land, Aisha discovers Johannes has been falsifying reports, blah blah blah, then comes to his house, ostensibly to comfort him. Their relationship will eventually produce the dour Souma, and their work will be insufficient against the approaching Aragami explosion and apocalypse.

Alisa’s flashback made perfect sense this week, and added to the power of her arc, but we didn’t even see Johannes or Souma, so I continue to be perplexed by the show’s need to end episodes this way, aside from reminding us that they’re starting to figure out how doomed they are. At least it didn’t interrupt anything important in the present.

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 04

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Nanami is given a warm welcome in the Netherworld (and a tray of food she can’t eat if she wants to leave), but her host Lady Izunami makes it clear as crystal that she’s not taking the human back with her; he’s already dead. Nanami’s response: thems may be the rules, but she won’t accept them. She’s going to do everything she can to get out of here with Kirihito. To that end, she eats the food, making her an official resident with free roam.

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It’s yet another selfless act by the benevolent Nanami, but the fact remains she knows not who (or what) it is she’s sticking her neck out to save. That’s what makes Nanami such a promising god: she doesn’t care who or what he is; she’s going to save him, and that’s that.

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As she searches for him, Kirihito finds himself back in a darkness similar to the kind he found himself in for centuries after the gods cast him into it, after he had probably made such a nuisance of himself that he gave them no choice (what with all the murdering). We learn how he got his human body: the real Kirihito offered it to him in exchange for delivering a message to his mother.

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In spite of himself (he only agrees on a whim), Akura-oh is so floored by being back in the living world of light and warmth, he holds up his end of the bargain, apologizing on Kirihito’s behalf. Not surprisingly, Kirihito’s mom, who has no reason to suspect the boy in the hospital bed is anything other than her son, doesn’t give it a second thought. All that matters to her is that he’s okay.

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Unfortunately, Kirihito’s ‘goodness’ doesn’t end up rubbing off on Akura-oh, who spends his time working tirelessly at the very limits of what a human is capable of doing to get his old form back, including gaining shikigami. But now he’s back in the darkness, right on the edge of panic…when Nanami suddenly opens the door to the cell where he’s being held.

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Turns out Nanami is on a confidence streak, and her talismans are proving useful not only in finding Kirihito, but the Netherworld’s exit as well, which is good, because Izunami sends her cat familiar after them. Unfortunately, the War God has sealed that exit. Fortunately, Tomoe has learned that Nanami is lost in the netherworld, and has come to rescue her.

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And rescue her he does, but not before Kotetsu hits him with the shrine’s lucky mallet, turning him back into a yokai so he can overpower the war god (which he’d have never been able to do had he remained a familiar). On the one side, I’m a little bummed, Nanami couldn’t save herself here, but on the other, she did put her life on the line to save Kirihito—more than once. She did good. Along with Kirihito waking up in the hospital (a recurring scene this Winter), Nanami and Tomoe’s reunion is a heart-lifting moment.

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That leaves Kirihito, whom Nanami hadn’t really thought much of beyond being a human in need of her help, but whom Tomoe immediately knows is not a human, but something else in a dead human’s body. Kirihito realizes pretty early his old fox friend Tomoe is Nanami’s familiar, and even gets to lay eyes on him before passing out. I wonder how long he’ll keep his true identity from Tomoe, who is now a yokai again.

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Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 04

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Brynhildr continues to suffer from a highly erratic tone that shifts jarringly from one scene to the next, to the point where it even seems to be confusing the characters. To whit: Ryouta stabs Saori in the heart like it’s the most natural thing in the world for an ordinary high school student to do. After Saori hangs up and is ejected, turning into a mass of organic goop, revealing a horrifying-looking parasite, only then does Ryouta react viscerally, stomping it out like a bug.

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Ryouta has gotten mixed up in some extremely awful, bloody, amoral, supernatural shit…but aside from that one little yelp, he doesn’t seem the least bit traumatized by what he’s seen and done. The episode’s attempts to lighten the mood with some fanservice-laced mixed onsen nonsense and domestic issues fail, because the gap between the two moods is too wide. The show yanked me from unspeakable horrors to oppai-grabs with whiplash-inducing speed.

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Mix two tones on the exact opposite moods too carelessly, and they’ll compromise each other, resulting in an impotent neutral mood, or just outright confusion. As it stands, it feels like two different shows in one, both of which would be better if the opposing tone was removed. I’m more interested in Ryouta’s resolute leap into the dark, messed-up world of the lab girls, not a half-assed high school harem. Here’s hoping new addition Takatori, an AA+ witch sent to eliminate the others, steers things more towards the former.

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Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 03

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One thing you have to hand with Brynhildr: it’s not laying the peril on thin. The present situation of Neko and Hana on the run escalates into a crisis when Ryouta learns they need to take a “death suppressant” pill every day or they’ll die horrible deaths, and they only have five days of pills left. Then the crisis escalates into disaster when Neko leaves a pot of boiling water unattended for ten seconds and burns up their supply.

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Just like that the five days are pared down to one, and then even less than that when Hana starts to bleed, having gone almost a full day since her last pill. The overarching mission, then, which provides this episode with thrust, is clear: find more pills, or the girls die. Ryouta, having already forfeited his life by getting involved, decides to take it upon himself to find a way to make it happen. Our main gripe with the plan is that the pills the girls need are commercially produced, rather than a top-secret proprietary drug formulated by the lab.

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Then again, the evil guys in white coats at the lab may be morally bankrupt butchers, but they’re butchers with scientific backgrounds, so it’s not totally ridiculous the drug would have a code Ryouta could memorize. That tiny code is the single clue that gives them any chance at all, and also reveals that Ryouta is the opposite of Neko in that he’s able to remember everything, even the things he’d rather forget.

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Neko, meanwhile, loses memories when she uses magic, even those she wants to remember. This proves important when a conveniently-placed slash by Saori (another, far higher-level witch sent by the lab to kill her) reveals that Neko has the same moles as Kuroneko after all, they’d just shifted to her boobs once she grew some. It isn’t as if I thought they weren’t the same person all along—why beat around the bush?—but this seems to confirm it for certain.

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Seeing those moles fills Ryouta with joy that his friend is still alive, but now he knows why she doesn’t remember him. If only he could give her some of his ability to remember, he could help her, but I’m not sure the rules of this show work this way. Then there’s the fact that his joy is immediately stomped out when Saori slices Neko into several pieces. Again, the show doesn’t hold back in tormenting its characters and kicking them while they’re down.

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I assume all this torture is meant to toughen them; if they can survive this, then they stand a chance against the lab. All the girls sport “hahnests” (…harnesses?) on their necks with three switches: one prevents them from using magic for a day, one terminates them (last week’s WTF moment), and the third does…something else; something “worse than death”. Ryouta’s hoping that something else is the key to saving Neko

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Gokukoku no Brynhildr – 02

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Brynhildr alternates between silly and dark, intriguing and repetitive this week, and a familiar pattern emerged: Vexed by her resemblance to Kuroneko, Ryouta tries to make nice with Neko; Neko rejects him and tells him to stay away; Ryouta persists and learns more about her; rinse, repeat. I was annoyed with Ryouta because he was being nosy, but I was also annoyed by Neko’s feeble attempts to keep him away, since at the end of the day she’s probably glad to have an ally.

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Frankly, if I was saved from dying by someone using magic who resembled an old friend whose dead body I never saw, a few “Go Aways” wouldn’t be enough to discourage me from trying to get some answers. That might be a selfish position to take—don’t worry about how you were saved, just be grateful and move on—but it’s a human one. Sometimes it isn’t enough to know something, we have to know why, even if knowing that isn’t in our best interests.

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And if there’s one thing the episode makes nice and sparkling clear, it’s that Ryouta would be better off turning around and forgetting about everything he’s seen these first two episodes. Neko, her paralyzed companion Kana, are military experiments on the run from their tormentors. One of their friends was captured (or two, as we get a look inside the transport) , and when she doesn’t talk, they eject her neck plug and she liquifies in a cloud smoke, which…eww.

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In one of the stranger juxtapositions of tones I’ve encountered in a while, the episode shifts from horrifying flesh-melting to Neko and Kana oging pastries Ryouta has brought them, which Neko proceeds to whiz in a blender so Kana can swallow it. This is more than a little jarring, but also shows that Neko’s determination to keep Ryouta out of her business was weak enough to be forgotten with sweets.

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That should be a little worrying for Ryouta. It’s nice that he’s helping out these girls and all, but I’m not sure he’s aware of just what a nasty business he’s stuck his nose into, and from which there’s probably no going back at this point. I did like how he experienced firsthand the satisfaction of having saved someone, and came to understand how Neko would feel responsible for deaths she knew would happen but was too late to stop.

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Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 11

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With Roboko in pieces, Natasha strung up like a chicken behind force-fields, and Goro in some kind of stasis, Zvezda continues to reel this week on the edge of total defeat. Hope still lives while Kate is free, protected by Itsuka, but her treasured doll Galatika is in Governor Jimon, who is annexing West Udogawa once and for all.

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Asuta and Renge are on the run, constantly moving from one place to another as the special forces hunt them. It’s fun to see the two working together to survive after being on different sides for so long without knowing it. But along with the doll-less Kate, they’re unable to go on the offensive.

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That changes when West Udogawa’s leader, who is harboring Kate, manages to get her one last canister that allow her and Itsuka to transform and make their stand at the very public annexation ceremony that Jimon always meant to be an execution as well, if Venera showed up. She does, and Jimon stirs the pot by destroying Galatika with the acrid black smoke from his cigars. So yeah, like the Prime Minister in Samurai Flamenco, Governor Jimon is some kind of superhuman.

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We flashback to ancient days when Kate first stopped growing in order to gain the power to conquer; we also see Jimon’s wife leave him and the family fall apart because his job is all that matters to him. We’re a little fuzzy on why Asuta “rejects” Renge and the two part ways, but his ambition to live in a world where people can make their own decisions is admirable. He need only brush Evil SuperDad aside and he’ll be golden!

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 10

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We’re only hearing about this now, but apparently all of Japan is locked in a brutal civil war between Tokyo and the rest of the country, and Tokyo is winning. Only the district of West Udogawa has remained neutral, but the threat of Zvezda is used as an excuse to invade. This week Zvezda’s HQ is destroyed and its members apprehended one by one.

The show attempts to preserve its laid-back, tongue-in-cheek, optimistic tone throughout, but there’s still a pall of despair and desperation over everything. Without their lair or transforming powers, Zvezda is just a bunch of wide-eyed dreamers in ridiculous garb hiding in a playground, but Governor Asuta (on his own conquest kick) has decided now is the time to snuff them out once and for all.

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To that end, White Light is absorbed by the Tokyo Special Forces, with Falcon becoming a city hall stooge, Egret installed as new commander of the puppet force, and Robin given the task of helping round up what’s left of Zvezda, knowing Asuta’s among them. It’s here where her fierce personal justice—for which she was originally recruited by Falcon—tells her she’s on the wrong side.

As if to clear her vision of the artificial justice the powers that be purport to uphold, Renge sheds her mask, stands between Zvezda and the guns. Asuta decides to surrender to his father, but as far as his father’s concerned, he’s a casualty of conflict. Renge whisks him away just in time, but as the curtain falls on the episode, they, like Zvezda, are still on the run with very little in the way of power. We’ll be watching with great interest to see if and how their justice serves them in the closing acts.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)