No Guns Life – 02 – Brand Loyalty

As promised, Juuzou finishes the job, derailing the train, disabling Karen by deactivating the sub-brain that governs her Extensions, and rescuing Tetsuro, after he gets the kid to act like a kid and have a temper tantrum, using Harmony to yell through one of Karen’s Extended goons.

Juuzou takes the still-unconscious Tetsuro to his friend/associate Mary, who is a whiz when it comes to installing/repairing Extended equipment. We also learn Tetsuro is the son of Berühren’s CEO.

We don’t learn how they met, but it certainly behooves Juuzou to know someone not Berühren-affiliated who can fix him, and he probably keeps the non-Extended Mary safe.

I liked Mary’s slightly ratty character design, and seiyu Numakura Manami finds the perfect voice for her: youthful, sarcastic, and confident. She agrees to let Juuzou know the second the kid’s awake so she can determine what’s keeping him in his coma-esque state.

Thus the rest of the episode features Juuzou basically playing the waiting game, which is doubly irritating to him due to his complete inability to track down his preferred brand of cigarettes.

Turns out there’s a reason for that: a very well-spoken Berühren stooge named Cunningham has acquired every pack of that brand in the city. He believes Juuzou needs the special “active ingredient” in the bran to move properly, and he’ll only part with them in exchange for Tetsuro.

Juuzou dismisses Cunningham’s presumption—he just likes the brand’s taste is all—and wastes all of the guy’s goons, forcing him to flee. And while a masked Mary tracked Juuzou down to tell him Tetsuro is awake, she also provides a key assist by removing the arms of Cunningham’s sniper.

No Guns Life remains a show I’d recommend now that the cast is expanding. Mary’s tinkerer type complements the  more world-weary Juuzou, while her prediction he’ll make the “freed” Tetsuro his partner in resolving doesn’t feel too off the mark.

Above all, both Juuzou and Mary seem like people doing what they want, not acting as tools for a corporation, and want to afford Tetsuro that same freedom to choose his path. Berühren won’t make it easy.

No Guns Life – 01 (First Impressions) – As the Cylinder Spins

No Guns Life is a somewhat awkwardly-titled cyberpunk noir series centered on Inui Juuzou, private detective-type guy called a resolver who also happens to have a gun for a head. That concept pays immediate comic dividends when we first see him lighting up a cigarette in his dingy office, or when we see a super-simplified version of his face when he expresses bashfulness over being kissed by a woman he helped out.

Juuzou may be an Extended with his gun head, indicating a past life as a tool of war, but seiyu Suwabe Junichi imparts a world-weary, warm and irreverent humanity to him—a heart of gold beneath all the gunmetal. The modifications made to his once fully-human form are the work of Berühren, a military megacorp whose monolithic headquarters called to mind Wallace Corp.’s in Blade Runner 2049.

Juuzou’s latest client is a seemingly “renegade” fellow Extended accused of kidnapping a boy named Tetsuro from an orphanage, but the scary-looking Extended’s meek disposition has Juuzou suspecting there’s more to it than that. Juuzou takes the job and custody of the unconscious Tetsuro while the Extended lures the Security Bureau away.

This scene hits all of the usual noir detective story points: a messed up office that wasn’t that nice to begin with, an immediate sense of peril, a new client who isn’t what they seem, and a job Juuzou can’t pass up if it pays, since he’s barely making rent. One key downside to the scene is that no one has any facial expressions, so the voices have to pull double duty.

We finally do see some facial expressions when Juuzou encounters Karen, a meek (but oddly not fearful) nun from the orphanage searching for Tetsuro. Juuzou doesn’t buy her cover, so she removes most of them to reveal she’s an evil badass Berühren operative tasked with retrieving a vital R&D asset, with a mean gun and an Extended eye that can see through his smoke bomb.

The Oni-faced Extended reappears to help Juuzou out, but Karen makes quick work of him, leaving Juuzou with no choice but to abandon Tetsuro as she shoots him, causing to fall down a very high ledge (also reminiscent of Blade Runner in its general dinginess and great height).

When he comes to, Oni-face has dressed his wounds, but is at the end of his rope. Then comes the twist: Oni-face was never an independent entity: it was being remote controlled all along by Tetsuro using something called Harmony. When Berühren, who rendered him incapable of escaping on his own legs, he manipulated the unoccupied Extended to aid his escape.

Before his remote Extended shuts down, Tetsuro thanks Juuzou for trying to help him, but is resigned to end up back in Berühren’s pokey-proddy clutches. Juuzou is not so resigned. Resolved to “finish the job” even if it ends up being pro bono, he locates Tetsuro (with a tracking device in his ear) aboard a train, and puts his Extended body to use stopping it in its tracks.

Comparisons to Cop Craft are there, only instead of a human-alien odd couple undertaking fairly conventional police missions, we have a cyborg P.I., in a world where his breed of cyborg isn’t particularly celebrated, trying to protect the weak in a world that will otherwise chew them up more viciously than our own. It swaps Cop Craft’s slick Range Murata design with the grittier style of Shino Masanori (Black Lagoon) and Iwasaki Taku’s soundtrack with Kawai Kenji’s (Gundam 00).

It’s a very fun (if sometimes dark and depressing world), again thanks to Juuzou’s irreverent attitude, and the story seems headed in a finite direction with confidence, something that definitely didn’t end up happening in Cop Craft. One episode’s not enough to judge whether it will succeed where that show failed, but that curiosity is thankfully not the only reason to keep watching.

Made in Abyss – 03

I’ll just come out and say it: three episodes in, and of all the anime we’ve watched this Summer at RABUJOI, Made in Abyss is the best. It effortlessly grounds a fantastical world (primed to become more wondrous still) with deeply human characterization, in particular the bottomless (no pun intended) curiosity and stubbornness of kids.

Riko’s friend of many years Nat is against her going down the Abyss. He stays against it for the entire episode, right up to the moment she actually descends. He doesn’t change his mind. He’s worried she won’t come back. He’s angry she won’t listen to him when he’s trying to keep her safe. And he’s scared of being alone after she leaves.

Nat’s objections aside, Riko still plans to go first thing tomorrow. And after his very first cave-raiding, Reg decides he’ll accompany her, now that he knows the curse doesn’t affect him (at least not as bad as humans). Riko needs to find her mom. Reg wants to find out what he is and why he was made, and what he was meant for.

Against these lures, Nat doesn’t have a chance, even after Siggy unfurls a gorgeous map of the Abyss and describes all of the exotic hazards and trials that await Riko and Reg (while the Abyss’ equally gorgeous xylophone leitmotif plays). Even though Sigy is merely describing the levels while pointing to illustrations on the map, the limitless grandeur and wonder of the Abyss comes through crystal clear.

Nat finally goes to far trying to dissuade Riko by telling her the most likely possibility is that her mother died long ago, and there’s nothing for her down there. It’s a horribly mean thing to say, and Riko runs off, but Nat immediately regrets hurting his friend.

Sigy and Reg get it, and neither of them want Riko and Nat to part ways without making up. So when dawn breaks, Sigy enlists the help of none other than Nat to lead them to the rarely-used entrance to the netherworld in the slums where he grew up collecting rags before he was admitted to the orphanage. He says he’s sorry and Riko immediately forgives him.

The slums become denser, darker, and dingier, until they finally reach a rickety wooden platform extending over the Abyss. Below them is only inky blackness. It might as well be the end of the world. It is, quite simply, terrifying.

But it’s also tremendously exciting, with a momentous, THIS IS IT kind of vibe. After a thoroughly tearful farewell to Nat and Sigy, the 12-year-old Riko, possibly braver than I could ever be, grabs hold of Reg; he lowers them into the void, and they’re gone, just like that.

How long will that darker-than-darkness last? How accurate is that map? What wonders—or horrors—will await them down there? I won’t speculate—I’ll just keep watching.

Made in Abyss – 02

Wherever he came from—Riko believes he’s from the furthest depths of the Abyss…in a nice way!—she along with her friends Sigy and Nat, know that the arrival Reg is huge. Bigger than the discovery of any other relic in the Abyss to date. He’s like ten relics in one, and more importantly, he walks, talks, and even blushes when Riko gets too close.

Her hilariously embarrassing report on the results of her very thorough examination of Reg’s every nook and cranny notwithstanding, they determine the safest place for him to hide is in plain sight, so they give him a whole backstory and Leader accepts him to the Orphanage, and eventually a job cave-raiding.

The ruse goes swimmingly, with Reg fitting in nicely at the orphanage, and growing close to Riko, who sees him not as some relic, but a friend and member of their big family. Then news comes that some elite cave raiders—among them Black Whistles—have completed their descent from the place where Lyza the Annihilator fell.

Who is Lyza, you ask? Only one of the most famous and distinguished explorers of her age…and yeah, Riko’s MOM. Leader was old enough to remember what a drunken, short-tempered mess Lyza was…but also reveals to Riko that she was born on that expedition, deep in the Abyss, protected by a relic that minimized the effects of the Abyss’ “Curse.”

Lyza also abandoned the expedition to recover a prime relic—The Unheard Bell—to ensure baby Riko got back to the surface and survived. So she has, albeit with an eye condition that requires crystal lenses to avoid headaches. Oh, and some rather large shoes to fill!

Riko being presented with Lyza’s ornate White Whistle caused all the reminiscing, and gaining new insight into her mom (and her own beginnings) from Leader only increased her desire to become a White Whistle of her own. It feels like destiny.

That feeling likely isn’t diminished when Riko is brought before unsealed documents that were with Lyza’s White Whistle. Among them is a sketch of a robot boy just like Reg, as well as a note saying “At the netherworld’s bottom, I’ll be waiting.” That there’s no mention of Lyza’s body ever being recovered only increases the likelihood she may still be alive somewhere down there.

Maybe Lyza sent Reg up to the surface to protect Riko and help her reach the depths of the Abyss where she was, in a way, made (i.e. born). Is she ready to descend that deep? The grown-ups think not. We’ll see.

Made in Abyss – 01 (First Impressions)

Just a minute or two into Made in Abyss and I was already thinking What have I been doing these last five weeks, not watching this? I don’t know how it goes from here, but you can scarcely do a first episode better than this right here. Grandeur. Wonder. And sure, a little cutesiness. Abyss offers it all in spades, plus one of the most surprising, badass anime soundtracks I’ve heard in a long time.

Abyss goes into Tell Mode, but not until the very end, once it’s showed a whole lot. Seriously, it gets the showing down pat in no time, as the ethereal soundtrack plays over an otherwise soundless montage during which the fantastical yet cozy world is unveiled, bit by tantalizing bit. This is after the heroine saved her friend by drawing a monster to her, only to herself need prompt rescuing from a mysterious “robot boy” she takes home.

Home is the Belchero Orphanage—Riko and Nat are orphans—a grand place that has vertical classrooms with desks nailed to the wall accessable by ladder. That right there is some good fantasy, along with the familiar and yet otherworldly scenery, architecture, and clothing.

But just as gorgeous as the scenery, vistas, and lived-in interiors is what’s going on between the characters. As I said, they’re little kids—and I’m most certainly not—and yet they are never for a second annoying. They remind me more of the Goonies or the kids in Stranger Things, because they’re so easy to watch and imagine ourselves at that age having adventures, getting one over on the stodgy adults (and older kids)…and stubbing our toes while running. And the android Regu is just the kind of friend you’d want if you were a little kid: one who shoots powerful beams and has extendable arms.

Having successfully escaped responsibility and punishment for causing a blackout in the orphanage, Riko takes Regu to the best spot to watch the sun rise over her magnificent city of Orth, which surrounds the kilometer-wide-diameter aperture of the titular Abyss, the true depth of which no one knows, and the depth of previously unknown relics and treasures seems to similarly know no bounds.

Riko wants to follow in her late mother’s footsteps by going as deep as a human has ever gone in that Abyss, and bring back something new and amazing. But she may have already stumbled upon that discovery in Regu, without even descending more than 100 meters. It’s a great start for her, and for Made in Abyss. I’m fully onboard.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 28

gibo281

This week is a case of strange bedfellows and an unexpectedly huge and complex space battle. Orga can only move Tekkadan forward, but Merribit is there to remind him not to push too far too fast, and there’s a constant feeling Fareed’s Gjallarhorn allies could turn on them at any minute. So it’s interesting when they don’t, though they only brought one ship out of five promised, for “reasons.”

gibo282

The Gjallarhorn no-nonsense Captain Isurugi (perhaps the most level-headed and least scenery-chewing GJ commander to date) wanted to get a head start on the battle because the victor will get the fame of having taken down Dawn Horizon.

But Dawn’s leader Reuters seemed to be counting on his opponent to attack quickly when his forces were scattered…which is why he tricked them by towing seven of his fleet’s ships behind the only three Tekkadan detected. The Orphans used to pull off tricks like this all the time, now they’re falling for them. The times they are a-changin’…

gibo283

Even though they have the numbers, Dawn doesn’t have Mikazuki Augus, who goes about his business in his usual casually brutal way. We also meet Akihito’s huge Gusion “Rebake”, and the Tekkadan pilots experience the very strange sensation of being covered, not attacked, by Gjallarhorn Grazes. The goal isn’t total victory over a larger opponent, but simply buying time for the rest of Gjallarhorn’s fleet to show up. And it’s a tremendout battle – one of IBO’s finest.

gibo283a

Even that task requires all mobile suits to be brought back in for pit stops, and launches are staggered so there’s always someone out there. When Mika comes in, Hush, assigned to flight deck duty, curses under his breath how efficient Mika was with his propellant, despite moving around the most.

Mika, meanwhile, is personally refueled with pita sandwiches by Atra, making sure the pilot who makes Barbatos go doesn’t go hungry in the midst of a battle. Even in an intense battle like this, it’s warmer lighter moments like these that give life and realism to proceedings that would otherwise be stodgy.

gibo284

We perhaps learn the reason Fareed’s Gjallarhorn ship arrived so quickly: when the others show up, they have no intention of fighting with Tekkadan. Iok, Julieta, and the bitter Masked Man (Gaelio?) all pilot mobile suits and add even more complexity to the battle. Reuters also covers Dawn’s withdrawal by taking his Hugo out.

But when Mika engages, he’s blocked by Julieta, who so far is not acting as crazy as her butterfly-eating debut. Perhaps, like Mika, she’s All Business when she’s in the cockpit? In any case, these two will either start going at it next week, or one or both of their COs will tell them to stand down. One would hope the pirate leader doesn’t get to slip away in all the confusion over dibs and jurisdiction.

16rating_9

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 27

gibo271

This striking image encapsulates the episode pretty nicely: Hash (or Hush) wants to be able to do what Mika can do, and what what his “older brother” couldn’t do back in the slums. He is at the head of the new recruits who have heard tales of Tekkadan and seek greatness—and purpose—in this new Mars, but haven’t escaped their past.

gibo272

We also check in on Tekkadan’s Earth Branch in Edmonton, where Takaki lives with his sister Fuka and takes her to school. Things are still a little delicate, but Takaki will take all the stability, normalcy, and domesticity he can get. He’s an iron-blooded orphan success story; in a way, he achieved what Biscuit tried to but could not. Now that he has it, he has no qualms about paying it forward.

gibo273

We jump from a meal on earth to one on Mars, where Hash makes his pitch to Yukinojo: he wants the A-V surgery. “Too old” is the cold reply, along with warmer words from Atra that Hash simply doesn’t want to hear. He’s poised to shove Atra aside, but Mika grabs his arm. And here Hash is: faced with the person he wishes to be more than anything, even at the cost of his life.

gibo274

Hash seems an over-eager brat in a hurry to die—until we hear his story, and it’s a sad one. His “big bro” Builth went off to CGS looking for glory, but his A-V surgery failed, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down.

Hoping to make the lives of the younger kids like Hash easier, Builth’s actions had the opposite effect, and he took his own life before he could over-burden them too much. But doing so bestowed Hash with a new and potentially deadlier burden: to follow in his footsteps, but succeed where he failed.

gibo275

Meanwhile, Tekkadan is going to subjugate the Dawn Horizon Corps pirates, Todo reappears (as a Very Irritating Person), and Fareed has sent the Arianrhod Fleet to Mars to join the pirate fight. Aboard is Iok (who seems put out), Julieta (who seems less crazy but no less devoted to Rustal), and…a new Masked Man.

Who the heck is this? Will he ever speak, or does he rely on the pulsing lights on his face to communicate? I’m not quite sure, but Julieta doesn’t trust him. Nor does Orga trust Fareed, but that doesn’t mean they can’t work together, at least for a time, towards a shared goal.

16rating_8

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 26

gibo213
Donna Draper, Creative Director

Tekkadan is finally legit, Kudelia is getting shit done from her Mad Men office, and Gjallarhorn has fallen out of favor. Perfect opportunities to introduce new players on all fronts. Tekkadan’s standing is more solid, but there are still tectonic rumblings throughout this episode, which starts out peaceful, even mundane, but becomes progrssively more Gundam-y as the unintended consequences of everyone’s success mount.

gibo214
Looks like a family

Kudelia’s underestimating of a sniveling economic rival mirrors how seemingly innocuous threats could end up a pain in our heroes’ collective rears. Cookie and Cracker are getting a decent education, but they cling to Mika when he even thinks about going back out into danger, something he obviously has to do and will continue to do.

gibo215
Julieta here (voiced by MAO) is sure be in a cockpit soon, facing off against Mika

Kudelia and Tekkadan alike gained feisty rivals by showing the world that not all underdog causes are hopeless. Now that McGillis has a seat at the Seven Stars Big Boy Table, he, like Orga in Tekkadan, isn’t going to stop moving forward; it’s the only way for either figure to survive. Only Orga just wants to settle down make an honest living some day. McGillis has big ambitions, which attract both ire and push-back from the families whose toes he’s stepping on.

gibo217
Mika makes another grand entrance in the nick of time

The world(s) is familiar, as are most of the faces, but it was exciting to see many in new or refined roles. It was also good to see new recruits positioned below, experiencing at the end a measure of the hell of war the main cast went through in their first episode (though these newbies have much nicer bosses.

All of Kudelia’s, Tekkadan’s, and McGillis’ plans to “let it ride” on the gutsy gambles they’ve made are being challenged at every turn by those who want to keep them down in the muck. We’ll see how the new role of the challenged, rather than challenger, fits our scrappy team.

16rating_8

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 24 (Fin de 2nd Season)

gak241

Asterisk War’s 24th episode wraps up the Liseltania/Assassin mini-arc, then sets up all of the new storylines and characters who will populate a likely third season. In that regard, it’s a combination of a wrap-up and stringing-along episode.

I decided to stick with AW for 24 episodes mostly because I dug the Rasmus Faber soundtrack, and I’ll admit that most of the less squeaky characters have grown on me.

Ayato remains as stubbornly dull as wallpaper paste, but he’s got a decent harem that’s gelled nicely, and there’s clearly more story to tell that will likely be of the same quality as the two cours that preceeded it, so continuing this series will ultimately come down to my schedule and what better shows, if any, air on the same day.

gak242

But I’m getting ahead of myself! There wasn’t even a preview or announcement for a third cour at the end of this episode, so let’s focus on the second season finale. The wrap-up part turned out about as expected: Ayato wakes up, and the group works together to defeat Gustave and his imposing but ultimately not too challenging Hydra.

The battle scenes are appropriately over-the-top, if a bit too stylized for my taste, and call to mind an older, similar show that was usually a lot more balls-out with the combat, Chrome Shelled Regios. (I honestly couldn’t name many major non-cosmetic differences between Leyfon Alseif and Amagiri Ayato, by the way. ;)

gak243

Suffice it to say, Leyf–I-I mean, Ayato does his thing with Ser=Veresta, Saya does her big gun thing, Julis does her Strega flower thing, Kirin does her slick samurai thing, and Claudia does her background political thing, as her Dad was the one who hired Gustave, something he did to protect his daughter but which she never the less is pretty disappointed about.

gak244

Papa Enfield wanted to keep Claudia out of the Gryps Festa, but that ain’t gonna happen, which means instead of fighting in separate two-by-two battles, our core quintet will all be on the same side against teams from the other schools.

Ayato agrees to join them after finally learning what’s become of his sister (though why she has to be nude is never explained) and he’s approached by the latest kooky mad scientist, Hilda Jane Rowlands, who is introduced far too hastily.

Combined with Julis’ continued struggle in getting her best friend Ophelia back, whatever Dirk has planned with Ernesta on his side, all of Claudia’s stuff, and that idol lady who is sure to return, there’s no shortage of material for another cour; possibly two.

While I’m weary of committing to a third season of a show that never knocked by socks off in its second, I will at least give it a look when it airs, if for no other reason, than to hear what ol’ Rasmus cooks up for the OP/ED…

16rating_7

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 23

gak231

In the alleged second-to-last episode of Asterisk War (at least of its second season), Julis storms out of a lot of rooms. She feels overprotected and unconcerned with threats like Gustave Marlowe, confident she and her friends can take care of themselves.

However, whether she likes it or not, her Festa victory has skyrocketed her “value” to the IEF. When Jolbert asks if she’ll at least consent to becoming engaged to Ayato (so the IEF won’t marry her off to someone worse), and asks her not to participate in Gryps Festa (lest IEF put her on the throne, where she’ll suffer in frustration and futility).

gak232

Meanwhile, Claudia continues her trend of talking in dark rooms, this time to Yabuki, who’s involved in a lot more than we ever get to see. While it sometimes results in things getting fairly jumbled up, I do appreciate that Ayato and Julis aren’t in the center of everything, and like us, aren’t aware of everything going on just beyond their periphery.

gak233

Julis goes to her orphanage to cool down, and Sister Therese and the nuns seem like warm and pleasant folk. But when Julis’ long-lost friend comes up, she has to storm off again, only to find that friend—or whatever it is she’s become—driving past in a limo.

First of all, coincidence much? Secondly, shouldn’t a fancy limo like that have tinting that would keep people from seeing who’s inside? Telephones project little “Sound Only” holograms in the air; you’d think this world would have window tinting down.

gak234

With that somewhat sudden and clunky coincidence, Julis runs after the limo, ending up in the snowy mountains, and Ayato follows her because, well, what else is he going to do? She manages to find her quarry: a bored-yet-imperious white-haired girl named Ophelia, who quickly demonstrates that neither Julis or Ayato are any match for her.

Then Gustave, the assassin from last week, shows up, asks Ophelia if he can kill the two, Dirk calls and summons her home, and she splits, leaving a winded Ayato to juggle protecting an out-cold Julis and fighting not just a two-headed dog, but a three-headed dog as well! Talk about a weird, random predicament.

Claudia ends up rescuing Ayato and Julis and forcing Gustave to withdraw, but the battle lines have been drawn. Gustave will be back, and no doubt Julis will keep going after her former friend…if that’s indeed who she is. It’s looking more and more like we’re getting a third set of twelve eps (at least): there are simply too many balls in the air to catch them all next week.

16rating_7

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 14

aw141

I saved this episode for last today because (a.) I wanted to check out the Spring shows premiering today and (b.) with a big battle last week I had a feeling this was going to be a rest episode, and so it was. But it’s because AW has thirteen episodes behind its belt that it can do quieter second episodes like this that focus not so much on the upcoming battle with the Li twins, but on characters and longer-term plotlines.

But man, they really give Flora the floor early on this week, and her sqeaky voice is, to be frank, really frikking annoying. Seriously, if an anime needs a kid voice, they should really just hire Kuno Misaki, who sounds much more like a genuine kid; Flora’s seiyu is just doing a baby voice, and it’s baaad.

That being said, I liked the running idea of Julis’ mischievous brother using Flora as his instrument to indirectly embarrass the princess. As for Flora’s photo of Julis washing her hair, that’s just her own treasured memory…just not one suitable for Ayato to see! All the girls’ knowing looks toward Ayato when Flora brought up “Julis’ rivals” was also funny.

aw142

Just a couple episodes ago, Ayato and Julis were locked in near-mortal combat with the Urzaiz sisters, but they came away from the battle as friends, which is why I so enjoyed Ayato’s nighttime Skype session with Priscilla and Irene. Irene in particular is one very adorable tomboy when she thanks Ayato for saving her life.

Naturally, Ayato says it’s no biggie…but it is, which is why not only is Priscilla want to cook dinner for him again, but Irene is willing to give Ayato all the intelligence he wants regarding her school’s president, Dirk “The Tyrant” Eberwein, including his control over Le Wolfe’s intel org Grimalkin.

In the morning, Ayato’s roommate returns after a long absence (seriously, I barely remember the guy), gives Ayato some advice on the Taoist Li Twins, and even suggests an out-of-the-way cafe for Ayato and Julis to go on their date, though Julis is emphatic that it’s Flora, not her, who requested the get-together.

aw143

Flora presumably has something important she has to ask Ayato, but first Julis spoils her with a big meal and an even bigger parfait, showing her softer, kid-loving side (she’d make a great mom!).

Of course, not only does Flora inadvertently organize an indirect kiss between Ayato and Julis (which only Julis blushes about) but her ‘important questions’ were provided by Julis’ brother, and start with how far she’s gone with Ayato so far.

The fun is broken up by Korona, yet another new doll-like character with a high voice (though less annoying than Flora’s).

aw144

Korona is Dirk’s secretary, and she leads Ayato and Julis (who won’t let Ayato go alone…probably a good call) to a custom Rolls-Royce Phantom limo where Dirk is waiting for them. It comes a slight surprise that Ayato and Dirk have never met, even though the latter has been plotting against the former and his school for some time.

aw145

Too many times an anime cheaps out on car models, but in this case, AW got themselves a bitchin’ CGI Roller, and they aren’t shy about showing it off from several angles both in the sunset and in a tunnel. During the mobile meeting, Dirk takes the measure of Ayato and Julis and agrees to answer a question Ayato has if he’ll return the favor.

With a deal in place, Ayato asks what Dirk knows about his sister Haruka. Dirk knows precious little, but far more than Ayato: the last time he saw Haruka, she was an entrant in a seedy underground fight club for super-rich patrons called the Eclipse Festa, organized by those disillusioned with the ‘kid-glove’ nature of the official festas, but shut down years ago.

Dirk watched Haruka lose her match, but believes she survived (matches ending in a death or two weren’t uncommon). This gives Ayato simultaneous relief and pause. His sister may still be alive, but what state is she in? Dirk has no more answers; only his question, which relates to Madiath Mesa, who Ayato knows as Chairman of the Festa Steering Committee.

With that, Dirk drops Ayato and Julis off, after which Korona mentions Flora to Dirk, who is intrigued, likely because she can be exploited as a liability to Julis if and when the need arises to have leverage over her. Always churning, the Tyrant’s mind.

16rating_7

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 03

aw31

Don’t look now, but despite the lack of asterisks or wars, The Asterisk War is not only eminently watchable, but getting better with each passing episode. We pick up at Ayato’s evening rendezvous with Claudia in her sumptuous Page One chambers. But it’s nothing so course as a liason, nor has Claudia tricked Ayato; she has a job for him. There’s someone out there injuring Festa participants, and Julis is their next target. Because he’s developed such a good rapport with her, Claudia is depending on him to keep an eye on her, should she come under ambush.

Speaking of ambushes, Claudia offers a sexy reward for his service, but which also serves her own desire to see the look on Ayato’s face when she offers it. Claudia was probably expecting Ayato to flee from her advanced advances, as the young lad probably doesn’t know the first thing to do with such a beauty as herself. Yet in her comments about him not paying attention to her (or at least the attention she wants) there’s a tinge of jealousy. She wishes she had a guy who cares about her the way Ayato seems to care about Julis.

aw32

The next morning, Ayato does know what to do when he sees Julis’ out-on-the-town clothes, which she claims she just “threw together”: compliment them. Good Ayato! They proceed to have a lovely date that gives the two a chance to bond more, and for Ayato to prove he’s as tough as Julis thought (staring down the still-ridiculous Lester at “WCDONAID”) but also labeling him “unfathomable.” Um, I think that’s Ayato’s line for you, highness!

What the date mercifully lacks is unfortunate trip-and-fall accidental groping silliness, or overt tsunderity on Julis’ part (no running away in tears or embarrassment, either). Instead, there’s a lot of smiles shared between the two, suggesting Julis isn’t so quick to deny actually she’s enjoying herself on this mission to repay her debt, and Ayato is obviously not going to complain about hanging out with a beautiful princess. She even wipes ketchup off his face without blushing.

aw33

The highlight of the date has to be at the end, when they witness a rival school brawl that the sharp Julis quickly sees is actually another ambush. Her line about going to “grilling them for answers” and Ayato’s game reply, “keep it to medium rare or so” is a wonderfully dorky buddy action movie exchange, but it shows how far the two have come in just a few days of interaction.

Julis deals with the thugs without any trouble, but spots cloaked figures in the woods and goes after them, alone. Ayato, naturally, follows her, becomes another one of their targets, but eventually forces their retreat without a head-on confrontation, with the parties obviously loath to reveal who they are. Ayato is fine except for a ripped shirt, but Julis thought his participation in the chase was “a bit careless.” Again, that’s Ayato’s line!

aw34

That night, it’s Julis’ turn to invite Ayato to sneak into her chambers from the window, and when she tells him they’re going to “get it over with” and orders him to “remove his clothes”, well, Ayato’s mind understandably races. No worries, Julis simply wants to mend his shirt with her sewing skills. Get your head out of the gutter, Ayato!

Then there’s this very nice scene with Ayato patiently waiting as Julis sews away, and he notices a photo of her with her friends from her home country. Julis then gives away more of her backstory then she probably thought she would that night, explaining to Ayato how she was once a palace-escaping tomboy who ended up in trouble in a dark alley. She was saved by a group of other young girls (girl power) who lived at a nun-run orphanage (more girl power). She became fast friends with the girls, without telling them who she really was (though not ruling out that the nuns knew).

The orphanage has since fallen on hard times, and since she’s unable to secure funds for a “money-losing welfare program” with her name (her royal family is only a puppet regime of the Integrated Empire), she’ll make the necessary money with her own power, in this “vulgar, insignificant city” that also happens to be the one place anyone can get what they desire.

aw35

Claudia is here to restore the academy to greatness. Julis is here to save her friends’ orphanage. So…what’s Ayato here to do? He hasn’t been quite sure of that…until the end of the episode, when he says “good morning” to Julis, but she’s distracted by a suspicious letter and soon runs off on her own again. With her debt to him officially repaid, has she reverted to treating him aloofly like everyone else, not wanting a friend?

Claudia doesn’t think so; on the contrary. Julis is leaving Ayato out of whatever she’s running to not because she doesn’t trust him, but because she’s trying to “protect what’s in her hands.” Ayato can now count himself as one of those things. But he gets a say too, and it finally occurs to him why he’s here: to protect her right back.

Claudia tosses him Ser Veresta and he rushes out after Julis. She’ll probably protest his presence, but she can’t simply lock up otherwise capable people she cares about for their protection, when they can be of much more help by her side. Like post-credits CGI Claudia, I’m looking forward to seeing how far Ayato and the Ser Veresta go.

8_ses

Owari no Seraph – 05

owa51

This week, on Owari no Seraph:

  • We get a verbatim repeat of the vampire war speech for some reason;
  • Mika wanders around and scares some children;
  • Guren clashes with the higher-ranked Hiiragi family members in an army;
  • Yuu, Shinoa, and Shihou are allowed to interrupt class with their endless bickering;
  • Guren nearly kills said class with his cursed gear, and lets everyone left standing join him in the weapons repository to choose their own gear.

owa52

In other words, not a lot happens. I understand the desire to keep the mood light while at school, but Guren’s childish behavior at the army meeting, and the extended antics in the classroom this week, were both a bridge too far. I get it: Guren’s a “bad boy” like Yuu with a chip on his shoulder, and the bureaucracy is a super hassle and all, but what does acting like a petulant punk get you?

owa53

This episode also underlines Yuu’s refusal to grow the hell up. Even after coming to a kind of understanding, if not forming an official friendship, with Kimizuki, and yet here they are, still resenting one anothers’ existance so much they feel the need to disrupt whatever is going on to engage in name-calling and brawling. It’s wearing thin, as is Shinoa’s constant high-and-mighty attitude and mocking/teasing of Yuu (even though he deserves it).

owa54

Even if you forgive all this immaturity, bickering, and horseplay, all of which takes up much of the episode, it’s still retreading things I already thought were established, such as the fact Yuu, Kimizuki and Yoichi were all valid candidates for cursed gear.

Yuu’s “0” in Japanese spellcraft because he can barely read or write Japanese because he spend his childhood as livestock hardly seems fair, but then the test results end up completely meaningless when Guren busts in and simply unleashes the demon power on everyone.

owa55

Not one other student in the class, besides the main characters we knew would move on, pass the test, rendering them just as pointless as the class itself. It would be nice if one or two new characters we hadn’t met yet would have passed; at least there would have been a reason for the test then.

Everyone also singles out Yoichi, whom they think is too soft to accept a demon. After Yoichi saved his life two episodes ago, Yuu tries to throw him under the bus. Dude, he already decided to come along, and it’s clear he’s tougher than he looks. Why all the discouragement?

owa56

And just when something interesting is about to happen—Yuu draws a cursed blade and prepares to face the demon—the episode ends. Much of this episode felt like half-hearted filler, which aimed to add texture to relationships and politics, but piling on all this over-the-top dysfunction with no real meat only served to make everyone more irritating, not endearing. War is coming, and selfish personal quests for vengeance aren’t going to help humanity.

6_mag