The Promised Neverland – 22 – Playtime Has Only Just Begun

First of all, Vincent is not a turncoat; I can’t see how someone otherwise proven as intelligent as him would think Ratri and the demons would honor any deal he made for them. Instead, Norman has Vincent leak one plan, knowing the farms will prepare for it, while executing an entirely different plan. And not a moment too soon, either, as that very day Phil and all the kids at Grace Field House are notified that they’re being shipped off.

Final preparations are made in Mujika and Sonju’s secret tunnels, and then everyone boards a fleet of hot air balloons—which presumably were part of Norman’s original “Kill All Demons” plan. When Ratri and the head demon spot the fleet proper approaching the farms and separating into small groups, the demon spearmen atop the walls shoot them down one by one.

Of course, the initial wave of balloons was only a feint; all of the ones that were shot down are armed with firebombs that soon set the forests within the farms alight. While the demons are busy putting those out, they’re suddenly ambused by the Lambda kids, while the other balloons land safely and the Farm’s administration facility is raided using Minerva’s blueprints. Soon Vincent has hacked into the system and shuts down all of Ratri’s surveillance and comms.

Meanwhile, and unbeknownst to the mothers escorting their kids to the shipping area, each of the farms has been infiltrated by little kids sent by Emma, who uses the hacked comms to give the signal to “play tag”. Phil and the others obey and run for it while the gates are closed on the mothers, keeping them from pursuing. Everyone meets at the massive central elevator. Everything’s going according to plan…until the elevator refuses to budge.

The kids below look up in horror at dozens of mothers armed with assault rifles, led by Grandmother Isabella and smirking Gatekeeper Peter Ratri. “Playtime is over,” he tells the “lost” children. That certainly seems to be the case. How are the kids going to get out of this one? They brought bows and arrows to a gunfight, and they don’t even have the benefit of the high ground!

But what saves everyone, as usual, is Emma, or more precisely, her words and her indomitable will. When Peter tells her to give up and accept they were all born to be eaten, Emma refuses to do so. She and her suddenly huge family have a future they want, and she’s going to keep fighting for it no matter how many times she fails, so Peter can take his destiny and shove it.

That’s when Isabella—and all the other mothers and sisters she leads—turn their guns on Ratri. She tells Emma not to misunderstand; she claims not to be doing this for them—though she is proud of how well she raised them. She’s simply grown tired of how Ratri and the others run the farms, and now has the power to do something about it. And with the system hacked, the chips Ratri once could have used to blow them up no longer work.

Ratri still has one card left to play: the demon reinforcements from outside of the farms. The lead demon warns all of the children to be obedient and yield, as once those forces arrive there will be no more hope of victory, even with Isabella and the mothers on their side. Unfortunately both the lead demon and Ratri, another, much larger force of lower-class demons overwhelm those reinforcements before they can even arrive.

That’s right: thanks to a coordinated effort between Mujika and Vylk, a huge number of demons have been cured of their need for human meat, and they’re ready and willing to help overthrow the farm system that has oppressed them all these years. Mujika and Vylk enter the elevator room, surprising both Isabella and Ratri with their presence. For them it must be unthinkable to see demons standing in solidarity with these kids.

But again, it’s all about aligned interests. Just as Isabella is sick of the system, so are the demon masses. Ratri’s final threat—that the human-demon conflict resolved 1,000 years ago by his ancestors will start back up—is nullified by the presence of Mujika and the Evil Blood.

Suddenly fresh out of haughty remarks, Ratri falls to his knees in defeat, while Emma approaches him and holds out her hand, not asking for his surrender or ordering his death, but asking him to join them; to join the future they’re well on their way to realizing.

While I had to suspend an air balloon fleet-load of disbelief for much of “Operation Playtime”, I can’t deny it was loads of fun watching it unfold, as long I didn’t think about anything too much! Looks like we’re in store for a slightly rushed but hopeful and happy ending.

Check out Irina and Crow’s thoughts on the episode here!

Yuru Camp△ 2 – 10 – Dispatches from the Geofront

The OP to Yuru Camp’s second season is a vast improvement over the first, but there was one thing that always bugged me: a Nissan MPV was featured instead of Toba-sensei’s adorable Suzuki Hustler. Turns out the car in the OP is Toba-sensei’s sister’s van, a first-gen Nissan Lafesta.

With that mystery solved, there’s immediately a new one when Toba-sensei picks up Nadeshiko in the morning: What’s with the bags under her eyes? This is solved before the OP: she was simply too excited for their trip and couldn’t sleep a wink. So she sleeps in the van. The Whole. Damn. Time.

Rin, who set off hours earlier, is already checking out Cape Ose, Izu’s “geospots”, unique geological features along the way, visits to all of which she and the others hope to collect like Pokémon. She encounters some very hungry fish, a giant shrimp, and a thrillingly windy mountain road.

The van gang catches a glimpse of the fist-like mountain Jouyama, then stops at an ice cream spot—an established Outclub tradition—to sample Izu’s local specialty: raw wasabi ice cream. Then take a ride on the Kawazu Nanadaru Loop Bridge.

Rin’s wanderings take her to the Ryugukutsu Cave, which has a skylight due to erosion and for me called to mind the Hidden Beach in western Mexico. From there, she arrives in Shimoda, rests her road-weary dogs in a hot spring foot bath, and admires the torii by the water.

The van gang is delayed by choking traffic caused by the cherry blossom festival in Kawazu, home of some of the earliest-blooming sakura. Aoi’s sister Akari gets out to use the restroom but comes back with local treats. Eventually they meet up with Rin in a Shimoda parking lot, and a panicked Nadeshiko asks her where they are and what day it is, having been throughly messed with by Aoi and Akari, the “Lying Sisters.”

After a lunch of fried alfonsino burgers with Camembert cheese and sweet-and-spicy sauce (goddamn that sounds good), the van gang and Rin form a two-vehicle convoy to the grocery store where Nadeshiko stocks up on more alfonsino for the first night’s dinner.

It is here where we learn that Chiaki, Ena, and Rin are responsible for dinner on the second night. Not to be upstaged by Nadeshiko, Chiaki had convened with the other two back at school before the trip Gendo Ikari-style to organize Operation Shrimp.

The gist is, they’ll make Toba-sensei give up drinking and use her booze money to buy some of the spiny lobster Shimoda is known for. Ena dispenses with the subterfuge and simply requests Toba-sensei buy some spiny lobsters, and she does.

The convoy continues on to Cape Tsumeki, where Toba-sensei learns that despite the city saying they could camp along the coast in the winter, the landowner no longer allows it as of a few years ago. It’s a setback, but it doesn’t stop the gang from visiting a lighthouse and checking out the rad columnar jointing at Tawaraiso Beach.

Ena, proving to be the X-factor of the group, suggests they contact the Iidas, who saved them at Lake Yamanaka. Sure enough, they know someone who owns a campground and has arranged a place for them. It’s a 43km detour that throws some of the later parts of their itinerary out of whack, but Rin puts them back in whack with her Mad Map Skillz.

Their updated route sends them to explore the next geospot, Hosono Plateau, before continuing to the campground in Nishiizu. There’s a mini mountain peak to climb, and Akari challenges Nadeshiko to a race in which Chiaki unwisely decides to participate. Despite having built up strength in her legs from her liquor store job, Rin, Ena, and Aoi find her planking on the steps nowhere near the top.

This episode feels worlds away from where the previous one ended, with Rin and her grandfather on a magical early morning ride. But there’s a different kind of magic at work here, one of overflowing excitement and anticipation as we dart breathlessly from spot to spot with the seven travelers, who divide mingle in fascinating new ways. As always, the journey to the campsite, with all its sights, sounds, smells, and tastes, proves just as meaningful as the destination.

Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun – 10 – Not-So-Laid-Back Camp▽

After a very cute meet-up with Mimimi at the local train, Tomozaki finds suddenly himself on a perfectly conventional normie event, in which he, Mimimi, Hinami, and Mizusawa are scheming to bring Nakamura and Yuzu closer together, starting with the two sitting next to each other on the train to their camping spot. Also, Takei is there. Hinami sits with Tomozaki, and assigns his task for the trip: tease, make a suggestion, and/or disagree with Nakamura three times, with the aim of becoming his friend.

As I suspected, both she and Tomozaki learned the wrong lesson from Fuuka’s “hard to talk to” comment: It’s clear Fuuka preferred when he was just being himself and talking with her naturally rather than parroting normie lines when he fundamentally isn’t a normie. I understand Tomozaki’s obliviousness, but why Hinami doesn’t grasp this I cannot say. Maybe she’s just that far removed from non-normie life?

After arriving at Hanno Station the group heads to their campsite and goes full Yuru Camp, complete with barbecue (prepared by Yuzu and Nakamura) tarp and chairs (Mizusawa, Mimimi and Takei) and a fire, which is handled by Hinami and Tomozaki. Himami later explains why she chose the groups, and in grouped herself with him in part so she wouldn’t have to “put on an act” all the time, as she admits its tiring.

While Tomozaki reacts with relief to learn she gets tired about something, I still feel her comment flies under his radar. Not only does it confirm that she’s not a true normie (who wouldn’t have to “put on” an act or even recognize it as such), but also feels most at ease around him, with whom she can be herself. She’s a wonderful enigma: she’s both the normiest normie who ever normied, and yet to maintain that requires someone who is literally not a normie.

After a feast, some mild riverside swimsuit fanservice, and a nice accidental assist by Takei to get Yuzu literally in Nakamura’s arms, the boys and girls retire to their respective cabins for some down time. Talk of Shuuji’s ex Shimano comes up, and Tomozaki scores the first of three points by teasing that Shimano is stringing him along, engendering laughter from Nakamura and Takei.

Takei unwittingly assists the others again by distracting Nakamura with arm wrestling while they all LINE about how the operation is going. The guys report that Shuuji mentioned a girl he could see himself going out with, but who is asking him for advice about a guy she likes. The girls confirm that it’s Yuzu telling Shuuji there’s a hypothetical guy she’s interested in.

During a game of tycoon in which Hinami and Tomozaki dominate, Tomozaki gets in his second tease by pointing out Nakamura never made it past Commoner in the game. Nakamura concedes the point, then moves on to Mizusawa, and how he’s been flirting with a girl from another school. This almost seems to irk Mizusawa, as he excuses himself to go to the bathroom.

Tomozaki follows him, and Mizusawa seems comfortable talking about it with him more. Tomozaki can’t imagine himself being bold enough to ask out a girl from another school, and when Mizusawa admits he might not like her, Tomozaki asks why he’d date someone he didn’t like. Mizusawa’s response under his breath, “You’re not just being polite, are you?” is cryptic.

Maybe the girl is just good in bed. Maybe he’s seeking to date someone outside of their circle, say, to give Tomozaki a chance at Hinami. In any case, when the boys are bathing, the other three learn that Tomozaki is hung, nicknaming him “Army Boy”, and he scores his first point by playfully calling Nakamura “tiny.” Hinami and Mimimi can apparently hear all of this.

While it was hinted that Hinami might’ve been lying when she denied she and Mizusawa were dating, but this episode seems to help make the case she was being honest. For while show is eminently comfortable executing its more nuanced version of the standard High School Camping Trip scenario, Tomozaki is anything but laid-back, especially when the Test of Courage comes around.

After Nakamura and Yuzu head off together as planned, rock-paper-scissors puts Hinami and Tomozaki together once more. This presumably means Hinami can relax and “drop the act” like when they were building the fire. Instead, she decides to make it walking-confidently-with-a-scared-girl practice for Tomozaki, suddenly acting timid and clinging to him.

Tomozaki is convinced Hinami is merely teasing her, deriving pleasure by getting him all flustered. But considering she’s never been this close and physical with him, you have to wonder if her motives go beyond mere teasing, and whether she’s using that as an excuse to be genuinely clingy with him. Otherwise, how far would this kind of “practice” go?

The episode seems on the cusp of answering that question when Tomozaki attempts to exact revenge by disturbing a live cicada. It works better than he expected, as she seems 100% genuine in being so horribly startled she ends up on her knees. She insists he help her up, and she wraps her arms around him, the two seem to realize in what a romantic position they’ve ended up. As his gaze settles on Hinami’s soft lips, both we and Tomozaki have to ponder: is simply practice taken to the HEXtreme, or is it something else … something real?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

The Promised Neverland – 20 – Emma

Instead of being slaughtered for meat, Norman was introduced to Peter Ratri, his “new father”, and asked to assist with his research. No matter how much they up the difficulty of the tests, Norman always scores perfectly.

Peter is trying to wrest control of the farms from James, presumably his brother or father. Norman also observes how gently he’s treated compared to the other children at the Lambda facility, who undergo all manner of horrific surgery and used as fodder for experiments.

Norman eventually meets Vincent, and together they clandestinely plan a prison break, which is initiated when Norman grasps the king while playing chess. He gives the surveillance camera a blank look, immediately followed by the blast of an improvised bomb.

Norman and Vincent rush through the facility, now in total chaos, and save what humans are still able to be saved, like Cislo and Barbara, the latter of whom asks Norman if he’s a “god” when he frees them. Standing over his great victory, Norman tells the captured demons he won’t stop until their kind has “died out from this world”.

I’m glad we were shown these events, as in this case where it’s important to see the horrors he saw, showing is better than telling. I only wish Norman and his comrades hadn’t spent so much of the last couple episodes spouting so much exposition, which in hindsight feels redundant.

Still, we get a very foreboding shot of a robed Norman at sunset, looking quite a bit like Anakin Skywalker after being seduced by the dark side. He doesn’t care if he has to be a god or a devil if it means Emma and the other children will be able to live in safety and peace.

This episode suffers from a considerably less interesting middle act involving the four days and change Emma, Ray, Gilda and Don are searching for Mujika and Sonju. They basically trudge from one point of the forest to the other in their demon disguises, coming up empty until they reach final search area.

Naturally, this area is crawling with those giant creepy wild demons, and naturally Emma almost gets her head bitten off not once, but twice. The first time, Ray shoots the demon in just the right eye to bring it down. The second time, Sonju and Mujika arrive In the Nick of Time.

But before Emma can even get out how they need the two demons’ help, there’s a blast from afar: Norman has started the operation a day early. Bombs detonate all over the town, releasing the degenerative drug in a sickly purple cloud. It spreads and affects the demons precisely as Norman calculated, turning them into wild vicious beasts that rip each other apart.

This creates a horrifying situation in which demons watch their loved ones degenerate, but beg other demons of sound mind not to hurt or kill them, only to themselves be killed by those transformed loved ones. Soon the streets are full of the cries of terrified children, their mothers and fathers either dead or transformed and about to kill them. It is the scene of hell.

As his comrades stand atop brick columns watching their vengeance unfold with glee, Norman enters the town square and finds one of the young demon girls alone, scared, and crying. Norman, determined not to waver, prepares to kill her with a sword, but he’s stopped in his tracks when her grandfather—the same elderly demon who visited the kids’ hideout—calls out the girl’s name: Emma.

A fresh cloud of the drug falls over the square, infecting the little one but not the old man, who Norman suspects to have devil’s blood like Mujika, and is thus immune. He stabs the old man, but he has Emma drink his blood, reversing her degeneration, and begs her to run.

Before Norman can re-commit to killing the old man or the demon Emma, someone calls to himhis Emma, with Ray by her side. Thanks to Sonju’s horse they managed to make it back to town just in time. When Norman sees Emma he starts to tear up, and when Emma sees him she sees him as the little boy at Grace Field House, in whose hands a bloody sword just doesn’t look right.

While Norman has the intellect to know what exactly to do, and that it may be the only way to save Emma and the others, and he even possessed the will to do the horrible things that needed doing, he still doesn’t have the heart to follow through, at least not without the wavering we saw.

I’ve heard many rumblings about how dissimilar and inferior this second season is to the first due to the fact it’s passed over large swaths of the original manga’s story and basically doing its own thing. I’ve also learned that this was apparently the author’s choice to do this, so it isn’t as if his work was getting short shrift against his wishes.

Whatever the case may be, a second season that takes place after escaping the farm was always going to be a thoroughly different kind of show, despite the same title, and that’s certainly proven the case. But now that Norman, Emma, and Ray are reunited once more in the epicenter of his grand plan, I remain thoroughly engaged and excited to find out where in the world things go from here!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Read Irina and Crow’s discussion of episode 20 here. They know their stuff!

DanMachi III – 10 – The Western Door

Ever since Eina slapped Bell he’s kept his distance, which has put Eina more and more on edge. Her emotions are a jumble of regret and resentment, causing her to snap at Hermes, but he’s in a forgiving mood, so he tells her if she’s looking for Bell, he’s not at his Home.

Where Bell is is Daedalus Street with the rest of his fam. Hestia and Haruhime are coordinating the operation from a rooftop, using walkie-talkie gems from Fels. At the same time, Finn leads the Loki effort to track down the Xenos. Expecting Bell to be a diversion, he has Ais—and only Ais—follow him.

What follows is some pretty funny shit if you’ve been following DanMachi for the past two-plus seasons. From her rooftop perch Ais witnesses not one or two but four different women approach Bell in the streets, Since she can’t quite hear what they’re saying from her distance, she begins to suspect Bell is some kind of womanizing delinquent!

Those women are, in order of appearance, Raza from Miach Familia, Aisha and Ryuu from Hermes, and finally Aina, whose dialogue with him is the most misleading. Hermes had actually wanted her to give him a certain bracelet, but she misses her chance when Bell runs off.

Adding to the chaos on the streets is Lili, using her transmogrifying ability to imitate an al-miraj, which Loki children chase, breaking formation. Raza uses another of Fels’ magical items to create illusions of Bell and monsters for other children.

While Ais watches all this nonsense unfold, she ever so briefly takes her eyes off Bell, allowing him to give her the slip with his invisible cloak. Even so, she can still sense his presence—this is Ais we’re talking about—so to buy Bell a little more time, Ryuu challenges Ais to a sparring session, hoping the level boost Haruhime gave her will be enough to delay Ais sufficiently.

When it’s time for the Xenos to emerge from their hiding spot and go on the move, Lili imitates Finn to order Loki children to return to the operational base, freeing the way for the Xenos to head towards the West Gate.

Finn wasn’t aware of that gate’s existence, but judging from the Xenos’ movements, now he knows that must be what it is. After Lyd calls out to the other isolated Xenos groups, Makoto and Welf use his magical swords to create ice barriers between the Xenos and their attackers.

Everything is going swimmingly until Gareth smashes his way into the middle of things, scattering the Xenos. Makoto and Welf try to keep him on ice, but he’s a tough cookie and won’t be restrained long. Worse still, in the shockwave of Gareth’s axe strike, Wiene is separated from the others, and wanders off in the completely wrong direction.

Thankfully Hestia and Haruhime can see Wiene on the map, so Haruhime decides to go after the little vouivre, but Wiene is unfortunate enough to run afoul of one Tiona Hiryute first. Haruhime is on her way, but she has scant offensive abilities. Hestia could lead Bell to Wiene, leading to a clash between Argonaut-kun and Tiona. And then there’s Ais up on the rooftops, searching for her former dance partner…it’s one fine mess!

Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 17 – RGB

With Yuuna & Co. captured, the question this week was “who’s left?” to rescue them and stop PoH? That’s answered by Yui, who sends two characters from the Ordinal Scale movie…which I must sheepishly confess I’ve yet to watch. They are the idol Yuuna, whose singing buffs her partner Eiji’s stats. They dive in and fight PoH, and while they aren’t able to beat him, they do buy precious time for Higa to wake Kirito up.

As Eiji and PoH fight, we learn of PoH’s backstory and why he hates Japanese so much (he had a Japanese half-brother whom his dad valued more than him, and made him give up a kidney for him). When he learned of the SAO incident, he used a black market NervGear to dive in and commence killing players as part of Laughing Coffin, with the PoH handle standing for “Prince of Hell”.

Frankly I can’t quite care about a sadistic, unrepentant serial killer’s background; any injustices committed against him have long since been outweighed by the death and suffering he’s caused, and I truly hope he pays for it sooner rather than later.

On other fronts, Sinon loses her legs but manages to take one of Subtilizer’s arms (thanks to her Solus profile and Kirito’s pendant), while little sis Suguha gets impaled through the eye but keeps on ticking thanks to Terraria’s infinite regeneration.

Subtilizer ends up breaking off from Sinon, which seems odd considering he wanted to eat her soul and she’s pretty vulnerable. I guess he intends to group up with PoH? In any case, back on Ocean Turtle a well-thrown wrench from Rinko causes Yanai to lose his balance and fall off the platform, ending the standoff with Higa. I for one hope the dinner date they make doesn’t turn out to be a death flag.

No longer hampered by a mole, Higa proceeds with the operation, connecting Asuna, Suguha, and Shino’s STLs to Kirito’s. Their avatars glow red, green, and blue, respectively, combining into a golden light that surrounds Kirito…though he notably doesn’t quite open his eyes to reveal they’re no longer dead-looking. I’m hoping next week he finally does wake up for real and get to work—he can’t possibly ask any more from his girlfriend, sister, friends and comrades.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 04 – It’s Party Time

Oh man, I do love a good big Tokyo Ghoul raid. This week, we get the start of a doozy. Things start out quietly yet ominously, as the pageantry of the Eyes Wide Shut-style human auction commences with a washed up actor and then Tooru in disguise.

As a one-eyed Ghoul, Tooru induces a huge 200 million bid, much to the scantily-clad Nutcracker’s delight. That winning bid belongs to the Doves’ primary target tonight: Big Madam, just beating out Master Shuu’s servant.

One of the trio of Ghoul “Clown” MCs whispers to Tooru that no one is coming to save him, but that’s nonsense, as the very next lot is Juuzou, who’s already seen enough of the auction and decides to get the real party started, unleashing a fusillade of daggers at all the Ghouls around him.

Outside the venue (and shouldn’t the Ghouls have picked a less conspicuous place?) The CCG raiding parties are ready to commence the operation, including the Quinx Squad. Their primary goal: Eliminate All Ghouls—but Big Madam in particular—and rescue any human captives.

As Juuzou ditches the wig and attracts the attention of Rabbit (now Ayato, not Touka), Tooru sheds the Nutcracker and runs, but is pursued not just by Master Shuu’s servant, still sore over losing the bid, but by Torso, who splits off from Ayato (and Hinami, who’s with Aogiri Tree now) who simply wants Tooru’s torso all to himself.

What we don’t see much of at all is the Quinx Squad in action. What we do see is pretty much everyone else. We see how the new young blood among the Doves are the source of some resentment from the old “fogeys”, but when a young hotshot over-confidently rushes into the Clowns and gets himself killed, it’s up to the fogey to clean up the mess, even though he’s also killed by the sudden arrival of Owl.

There’s a lot of pieces being set up this week, as new and old faces prepare to go at it. The whole raid is crackling with electricity. And this is just the beginning, with no clear victor yet in sight. Should be a fun resolution.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 03

Urie lies and gets his enhancement, confident he can become stronger than Haise and remain in control. Something tells me his internal isolation from his Quinx-mates and massive chip on his shoulder suggest he’ll probably fall flat on his ass again and need bailing out from the people he’s constantly looking down upon in his thoughts.

But meanwhile, there’s an op, and Quinx Squad needs to be at full strength. That means Shirazu, Mutsuki and Urie must join forces to draw Saiko out of her physical isolation, both from them and the rest of the world. Urie ends up convincing Saiko that she’ll be fired and thrown out on the street if she doesn’t do her job.

This is another lie; even if she retired tomorrow the fact she agreed to be in the Quinx squad means the CCG will always look after her…she just doesn’t know that because she didn’t read the handbook!

Regardless, while Urie and his aloofness are kinda bumming me out, I kinda love Saiko. She’s got a great energy…or I should say lack of energy to her, and is utterly unapologetic in her desire to live the NEET’s life of leisure. Whether she’s still hiding heretofore unseen wondrous powers or talents as an investigator or is simply meant to be comic relief…we shall see.

In any event, the whole Quinx Squad is mustered for the briefing about the Nutcracker. Specifically, Haise’s Squad will join two others and Division II in raiding an underground auction for young women the Nutcracker collects at clubs. While Urie goes off for some “tests”, Haise, Mutsuki, Shirazu and Saiko hit up the club, the former three posing as women.

It’s ultimately Mutsuki who manages to make contact and get on the auction list (after a little—or a lot—of liquid courage), so they have their in. Our old weird friend Suzuya Juuzou is also involved in the operation, and will pose as a woman for sale at the auction beside Mutsuki—no doubt to back up the far less-experienced investigator if things go pear-shaped.

After about a week of training (which Urie mostly stays out of), Haise’s squad and the others are all ready to execute the plan, and move in. Meanwhile, Ayato is tasked with bodyguard duty for the Class AA Ghoul “Big Mama”, who will also attend the auction, and has a very Mutsuki-obsessed Torso tag along.

Did I mention our other old friend Tsukiyama Shuu is gravely ill and no longer seems to have any “gourmet” sense, much to his servant’s distress? Well, he doesn’t, so I guess he won’t be at the auction. But with all the parties who are involved, plus a few who may not have shown their faces, it’s shaping up to be quite an op.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 10

Just as getting shaken down in an alley one more time can lead to a city wide crisis involving a giant rage monster, Hellsalem’s Lot is the place where there’s never a shortage of work for cleaners like K.K. She’s so good at her job, in fact, that there’s no one to replace her in most operations. As such, her work-family life suffers.

This week we get a welcome, overdue look into that balance (or lack thereof), starting with how she managed not to break her promise to come to her younger son Kane’s school’s Parents Day the fourth or fifth time in a row.

I enjoyed how quickly we were caught up to speed on her lovely family: Kane, who still takes everything at face value (and assumes she doesn’t love him if she goes back  on her word), an older son who is jaded by it, kind husband who knows how to smooth things over on both sides.

Seeing the other side of K.K. really brought a background character to life, and gave all her momentary appearances in previous episodes this season more context: there’s always been somewhere she’d rather be, and that’s by her sons’ sides.

One advantage to all the work she’s been doing is that she can afford a remedy that will allow her to be with Kane: she has Patrick prepare a number of remote drones that she can control either from her shades in class or a laptop and controller in the restroom.

There are several interruptions in her presence (which a prickly Kane naturally notices), but hey, at least she’s there without having to worry about Steve and his men dying because of it.

As soon as she returns to the class and finds only one man in a green suit having a grave phone conversation, I had some suspicions about him. But K.K. is trying to be present, and when she sees a pretty girl talking enthusiastically with her son, she can’t help but get a bit distracted.

That’s when the crime boss of the organization Steve is trying to take out shows off his backup: a remote-launched missile-catching Blood Breed who cannot be picked up on any of K.K.’s remote scopes. She held out as long as she could, but she has to go—and endure Kane’s hate—one more time.

Of course, I’d already realized the man in the green suit was the real blood breed, remote-controlling the automaton facing off against Steve. It’s the reason he has to step out for a “smoke break.” K.K. senses it too, and confronts him on the school roof.

But here’s the thing: he wasn’t lying about anything: his daughter (Kane’s pretty  “girlfriend” Caroline) really does attend the school, he’s also up to his neck in work, and like K.K., has a hard time striking the right balance.

Knowing K.K. wouldn’t let him go he’s working as a bodyguard for some bad dudes, after all) he proposes the two of them go at it one-on-one right there. But anything that would have happened is thankfully interrupted by Caroline and Kane. Back at the operation, the father’s automaton stopped moving, allowing Steven to destroy it. The mission is a success, and K.K. can go back to being with her son.

Unfortunately, his failure means the father has to disappear lest he and his daughter incur the wrath of his defeated client for his failure. Just as K.K. has to disappoint her kids and let them hate her again and a gain, it’s more important for the dad to keep Caroline safe, so he had to pull her out of Kane’s school. K.K. feels partially responsible for that, so gives Kane a commiseratory hug.

In any case, it’s not like Kane and Caroline will never see each other again; they’ll surely do so once they get a little older (and maybe even follow in their parents’ footsteps). Until then, there’s always the almighty social media to keep them connected!

Masamune-kun no Revenge – 09

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Whether due to her suspicions about him going to Neko’s place, or the fact that Neko being missing takes precedence, Aki completely ignores the fact Masamune said he “chose” her and rejected Neko. The girls (and Kojuurou) pile into the car to go look for Neko, and there isn’t room for him.

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And yet, after nothing comes of searching the immediate vicinity of Neko’s apartment, Masamune and Aki both end up at school. There, Aki tells Masamune she doesn’t want Neko wallowing in despair. She feels bad that he rejected her…which is pretty rich, considering she did the same thing to Masamune years back, which leads him to bring up “pig’s foot” to her.

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That conversation is curtailed by the re-enactment of a scene in the manga Masamune owns which Neko also started reading, in which a girl turns her unrequited love letters into paper airplanes. Only when they finds her on the roof, it isn’t long before she collapses from exhaustion. Clearly Neko is frailer than Masamune ever imagined.

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While recovering in hospital, Neko asks to speak to Aki alone. After that, she has Masamune brought in to talk to him alone, and reveals her plan to him to fall in love before undergoing a risky operation that could improve her condition (or not).

She says he was chosen at random to be her suitor, but a later flashback indicates the two did meet little kids, and were thought by his family to be a good match. Alas, Masamune only ever had feelings for Aki. She thanks him for giving her “lovely memories,” then excuses him.

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Neko’s talk with Masamune about not walking the “same path” as her through an uncertain fog, and he redoubles his efforts to block out “unnecessary thoughts” and recommit himself to his goal: to make Aki fall for him and then “throw her away in the best way possible.” He’s not thinking about what happens after.

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We thankfully also get Neko’s frank talk with Aki. Neko was soundly rejected, so now she sees no good reason why Aki should keep acting tough and denying the love Masamune has for her.

Neko is conceding defeat, and Aki can’t dance around the fact that she feels something…but interestingly, she thinks back to the fat Masamune of her childhood as her ideal of love. After all, Masamune has only showed us his version of their relationship. It’s not a great leap to assume she teased him because she liked him…he was just to thick to realize that.

As for what happens in the end, with a fat little guy who looks like Masamune showing up in Aki’s garden…I don’t know what to think. Did she fall asleep beside the fountain and is simply dreaming? Or is she mistaking this random kid for the real Masamune?

It was a very bizarre and confusing—if mildly intriguing—way to end another solid, earnest, emotional episode.

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Big Order – 03

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Apologies to fans of this show and its source manga: this write-up is a bit harsh. -Ed.

Feelings—especially on anime—can be fickle, changing from week to week, and Big Order’s dominating spell wore off fast. It’s fitting that it shares its initials—B.O.—with body odor, because this show smells bad, in a way that makes me feel icky and want to keep my distance.

Perhaps foremost among its sundry problems is its ridiculous free-wheeling nature. Eiji wants to save his sister, and Rin wants to kill Eiji, but beyond that, the show is all over the place, with the attention span of a child and the petty sadism of a teenager burning bugs with a magnifying glass.

Rin is imprisoned, but in her panties, in a refrigerated padded room. Why? The Prime Minister opens negotiations by executing the family members of the Group of Ten, to “test” whether they’re actually under Eiji’s domain.

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The heads that are sliced off are real, but when Eiji shoots the Group of Ten, he stops the bullets from killing them while keeping up the fiction he’s someone to be feared. But to what end?

How in God’s name is Kyushu supposed to conquer the world, especially when the crack team of soldiers who accompany Eiji and Rin haven’t the slightest loyalty to him and turn tail at the slightest hint of danger? Why a giant CGI rock monster?

These are not good questions, and it is not a good show that raises them. I don’t care about the answers, because the show doesn’t seem to care either. It just seems to want to shock, only doesn’t have the firepower or gravitas to come close to doing so.

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The casual violence (often accompanied by goofy upbeat jazzy music) seems like an ill-conceived attempt to be “edgy”, but it just comes off as silly and idiotic, which can also be said for Iyo, a seemingly capable miko-type character who melts into a puddle and becomes freaking pregnant when Eiji touches her bunny-ear ribbon. Just…what? 

I don’t want to find out how Eiji deals with the huge-nippled Order controlling the rock monster. It will probably involve breaking out his lame-looking CGI mummy dude, yelling “ORDER!” and poof, putting yet another woman under his thrall.

If it’s all the same to you, I’m going to spare myself any more of BO’s dopey, trying-too-hard faux-edginess. Like I said – its spell wore off quickly.

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Kiznaiver – 01 (First Impressions)

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Hmmm…now this is more like it: a bold, brash, imaginative, absorbing counterstrike to the comparatively staid, restrained Kuromukuro. Space Patrol Luluco isn’t all Trigger is up to this Spring; in fact, that’s just an appetizer for this, the main course…KIZNAIVER.

Rather than beating around the bush, Kiz gets right down to brass tacks: this is a story about youth, pain, and the ability or inability to fell and share in it, as part of a larger plan to eliminate interpersonal conflict in the world, which has been around since we were in caves.

Rather than a literal cave, Agata Katsuhira inhabits an figurative one that protects him from physical pain at the cost of not feeling any emotional pain either, to the consternation of his friend and classmate Takashiro Chidori.

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His insulation from the work and from true bonds with other humans makes him a ripe target for bullies, since he offers no resistance to their blows or demands for money.

One such instance of this happens immediately after Chidori storms off (disgusted by Kocchan’s passivity) but another classmate, the Kamina-esque Tenga Hajime, steps in to rescue him unsolicited with the kind of stylish action Trigger is known for.

It’s here where Tenga learns Agata literally can’t feel pain, and starts having fun successfully testing that claim…when a striking, silver-haired class prez type appears.

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Agata comes to on a roof with the girl, one Sonozaki Noriko, who asks him if he’s heard of the Seven Deadly Sins. He has, of course, but she believes those sins have evolved along with humanity since their inception in biblical times.

Rather than pride, greed, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust, and sloth, she names new-style sins such as “The Cunning Normal”, “High-and-Mighty”, “Goody-Two-Shoes”, “Eccentric Headcase”, “Musclehead Thug”, and “The Imbecile (g/udon)”.

These aren’t just “sins”, they’re the actual personalities of five other classmates: Yuta Tsughuhito, Maki Honoka, Chidori, Niiyama Niko, Tenga, and Agata himself. The show does not shy away from specific, elemental personality types because it is the uniting of those disparate types that is to be Kiznaiver’s core dynamic.

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“Everyone wants to carve their scares into someone else…connect with someone else,” says Sonozaki. Agata’s inability to do so to this is the reason he’s…the way he is, but that’s about to come to an end.

In Agata, Sonozaki has found the missing piece in her plan to make the union of personalities official. She does so by shoving Agata down a flight of steps, an act of violence he’ll likely feel, even with his formidable pain threshold.

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After the town mascot “Gomorins” wheel an injured Agata through a disco ball-festooned hospital, he awakes to find Sonozaki, along with all of the five “sinners” she “quickly and precisely secured” (i.e. kidnapped) and performed identical operations on, installing something called the “Kizuna System” into their bodies.

She goes on to inform the other six that Sugomori City has always been an experimental testbed for the system, but she is implimenting it for the first time here and now. Kizuna System allows separate people to share one another’s pain. She says Agata only survived his fall because the pain of the trauma was spread among the other five.

She hopes that if pain and wounds were divided evenly and everyone could feel the pain of others, it could lead to peace in a battle-ridden world. The six she’s assembled are the first step. Notably, it doesn’t seem like she’s a part of this union.

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The other five subjects take off, unwilling or unable to comprehend what Sonozaki has told them. But when Niko suggests she’s just having a weird dream, and Tenga threatens to grope her, she smacks him with all her might, and all six subjects feel the sting of her strike, including Niko herself. After a couple more tests, it’s clear: they are now sharing their pain. This is no dream. “All for one and one for all” is their new motto.

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Not only that, but Agata is feeling pain now, something a girl in the very red cold open told him would come to pass one day. That day has arrived, now that he and the other five have the Kizuna System within them, making them…KIZNAIVERS.

The combo of Trigger and Okada Mari is an auspicious one, it’s fun to hear Boom Boom Satellites score an OP again (their OP in Xam’d is still one of my favorites), and the cast is stacked with talent.

Brisk, funky,stylish, and full of beautiful lighting, settings, and animations, Kiznaiver is a top Spring pick out of the gate, and may well bump a couple shows off my list going forward.

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Black Bullet – 04

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Rentarou reveals his Vanadium arm, leg, and eye, uses them to defeat Kagetane and Kohina once and for all, then obliterates the legendary, Sin-like Stage Five Gastrea that suddenly emerges near Tokyo with a railgun capable of firing projectiles at near-light speed—the projectile in question being his own Vanadium arm, since there’s nothing else.

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As flashy and intense as all that action sounds (and looked), none of it would have been of any consequence had I not been emotionally invested. Because Black Bullet did the necessary legwork in the previous three episodes, I cared about all the stuff that went down, the people it involved, and the life-defining challenge that faces Rentarou in the aftermath.

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In previous reviews I spoke about how Rentarou and Enju are the people they are today because of each other, and neither can function without the other. That was demonstrated when the remote firing protocols for the railgun failed, putting Rentarou in the hot seat, charged with shooting a ridiculously powerful gun at a target fifty kilometers away. He wouldn’t have been able to do it had Enju not been there to calm him down and offer him her support and optimism. Without their bond, Tokyo would have been toast.

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The sudden loss of Senju Kayo really got to me, especially with the manner in which it happened, with Rentarou being forced to kill her before she turned into a Gastrea. Her story was hastily told last week, but it was enough to make an impact. All cursed children are just a few percentage points away from becoming the demons Kisara’s dad believes them to be, and she was an example of someone who had just crossed the 50% threshold.

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Turns out Kisara’s dad may have been the one to summon the Stage Five, so he could blame Kagetane and his cursed child daughter (who’s still alive but distraught), and continue and intensify anti-cursed sentiment. But Rentarou is now on dual crusades: to rise to the ranks of civil officers so he can gain the proper clearance to learn about what’s going on and what he really is, but also to save the cursed children, Enju in particular, who is far closer to turning than he lets on to her.

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