Darling in the FranXX – 02

Last week was pretty much Hiro, his rough break-up with Naomi, meeting Zero Two, and taking care of the crisis. This week things slow down a bit as we’re introduced to the rest of the squad where Hiro once again has a home. That includes the squad leader Ichigo, very well-voiced by Ichinose Kana in her first role (and sounding a bit like another, more famous Kana).

Ichigo clearly harbors feelings for Hiro of which he’s clearly unaware, and so she sees Zero Two as an interloper. Setting aside the fact that she swooped in and snatched Hiro practically the moment Naomi peaced out, Ichigo doesn’t want to see him get hurt, and Zero Two seems like the type who will hurt. She barges into the squad’s chow and pours honey over everything like a weirdo.

Hiro is the eleventh of a squad of ten, but Zero Two isn’t the twelfth; her fate is unknown, leaving Hiro with no official partner or FranXX. Ichigo is the unquestioned elite squad leader, but one can tell the redhead Miku maintains a quiet envy for her stature (as demonstrated in the classic locker room scene with fanservice and plug-suit fitting).

Ichigo and Miku are “pistils”, and their “stamens” are the studious Gorou and wild Zorome. Gorou is very friendly with Hiro (and not threatened by Ichigo’s affection for him) and seems like a nice guy, but Zorome is your classic heel/rival character who will likely keep berating and running Hiro down until Hiro does something (not counting last week).

Rounding out the group are the pistil-stamen pairs of Kokoro/Futoshi (the lovey-doveyest) and Ikuno/Mitsuru. When the pairs enter their colorful, distinctive FranXXs, we see that the actual pistil-stamen interface is a little…suggestive, with the girl on all fours while the guy stands behind and “drives.”

Basically, the girl is an interface between the guy and the FranXX; without total synchonicity between partners, the FranXX won’t work properly. Adding to the suggestiveness is the fact that interfacing is very physically taxing and sometimes painful, so that while operating a FranXX, everyone’s breathing heavily and occasionally making weird noises.

After their first official sortie as parasites, the pairs stand down. Zero Two continues to loiter around, invoking the ire of Ichigo, who isn’t afraid to warn Zero to stay away from Hiro. Though Ichigo might wish she hadn’t, as Zero Two gives her a taste. Out in the yard, Zorome wallops Hiro with a football, and the two get into each others faces, forcing Ichigo and Gorou to be the adults in this messed-up family and restore peace.

The thing is, Hiro can understand why Zorome is so dubious of his ability: Hiro himself doesn’t actually remember what happened after entering that cockpit being kissed by Zero Two. He only remembers the feeling, and he wants to get back to it so he can prove to Zorome, Ichigo, the others, and most importantly himself that he can pilot a FranXX.

Well, Hiro promptly gets his Shot, though perhaps not quite under the circumstances he’d hoped for. The brass (led by the mysterious “Papa”) okays a FranXX mock battle to test Hiro, but Zero Two isn’t allowed to partner with him this time.

Even before that was made clear, Ichigo volunteers to partner with him, hoping she can bring out the pilot in Hiro as much as her pink-haired nemesis. Zorome volunteers to be the opponent, and eager for an opportunity to prove her worth against Ichigo, Miku agrees as well.

The second Ichigo got her wish, I knew things were not going to go well, but things start out just fine, with Hiro and Ichigo reaching 100% sync rate and activating her FranXX Delphinium, without any trouble. And then, not ten seconds into the battle, it shuts down again.

Inside the cockpit, Ichigo is on all fours, sweating and heavily breathing as she and Hiro unleash a flurry of double entendres that, taken out of context, sound like dialogue from Girls, a show renowned for its awkward sex scenes:

Ichigo: What’s wrong?
Hiro: I don’t know. It just stopped.
Ichigo: Was it my fault?
Hiro: I don’t think so.
Ichigo: What did she do differently?
Hiro: I don’t know. I don’t remember.
Ichigo: Calm down. No need to rush.

Whew. Suffice it to say, as much as she may like Hiro and want to stick it to Zero Two, Ichigo and Hiro simply aren’t a good match in a FranXX.

When Hiro remembers that Zero Two kissed him and everything went “BOOM”, and Ichigo climbs onto Hiro and kisses him as well, it felt as much like a last-ditch effort to get things moving again as Ichigo not wanting Zero Two to have something she doesn’t with Hiro, i.e. a kiss.

That her kiss does absolutely nothing for Hiro only makes things worse. I can’t help but sympathize with both of them; things are not going well at all.

When Zorome starts kicking Delphinium while its down (with Miki and their FranXX Argentea), Ichigo remembers they’re in a fight, and decides to bypass a defeated, powerless, inert Hiro and pilot the FranXX by herself, a very risky maneuver that takes a lot out of her.

The mock battle ends with Hiro having hit a new low, with all hope of ever piloting anything again in grave jeopardy, with Ichigo feeling embarrassed, ashamed, and very much taken down a notch, and Zorome emboldened. Last week was Hiro’s bad breakup and fleeting fling with Z2; this week Ichigo attempted to reassert her bond with Hiro and it went horribly, horribly wrong.

The failure she endured in front of her squad is the kind of thing that might have far-reaching impact on her confidence at precisely the wrong time in her development as one of the defenders of humanity.  Here’s hoping things start to look up for both of them, both personally and professionally.

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Darling in the FranXX – 01 (First Impressions)

Hiro and Zero Two first cross paths when her enormous transport arrives at Plantation 13. They each look in each others’ general direction, but they’re very far apart, and there’s a lot of loud noise and bright lights. Zero Two yearns for the ocean, but there is none on P13. So when she breaks free of her minders she finds the nearest thing to an ocean: a lake.

Hiro comes upon that lake, where Zero Two is already bathing naked. When she goes underwater too long for comfort, Hiro runs out to save her, but she’s not drowning, she’s fishing. She has no reaction to Hiro seeing her naked, and she notes that his taste makes her “heart race,” but says so very clinically.

Hiro is alone at the moment, and as FranXX needs two people—male and female—to pilot it, he is also powerless. But Zero Two, called the “partner killer”, is also alone, because so many partners can’t handle being paired with her, and because of her horns and her weird behavior.

It’s definitely a unique and “educational” encounter for Hiro, but before he knows it, Zero Two’s minders have showed up to collect her, and right after she offered to make him her next partner, her present partner is among the minders, burly but still in pretty tough shape.

Now Hiro and Zero Two have had two encounters: one from a afar and one much more intimate. After they part, life aboard Plantation 13 proceeds apace, with the welcoming ceremony for all of the “Parasites” (copilots) for FranXX being held in a great hall as adults watch (all Parasites are minors).

Hiro isn’t a part of the ceremony, because he, AKA 016, and his former partner Naomi, AKA 703, failed their FranXX tests. Now deprived of the only purpose they’ve ever known, the two share one last chat before Naomi departs for her new, apparently pointless life. It feels for all the world like a tough breakup, tinged with sci-fi trappings.

It’s likely at some point Hiro would have boarded one of those yellow spherical vehicles as well, but before he can, Plantation 13 is attacked by a “klaxosaur”, a ferocious biomechanical beasie that wrecks the entire elaborate platform Hiro is standing on.

Eventually a FranXX appears in the form of a four-legged beast, far outsized by the klaxosaur but every bit as vicious in its counterattack. This is where Trigger’s patented wreckage-strewn chaotic action scenes begins, which continues all the way to the episode’s end.

When the klaxosaur fires its main weapon, the FranXX crashes right beside where Hiro is watching. A bleeding Zero Two emerges, bleeding but still in the game, but her partner is out for the count. She’s fully ready to go out there and pilot the FranXX alone to fend off the ‘saur, unafraid of death, but Hiro won’t let her go alone, and he isn’t, like doing anything else, so he tearfully declares he’s coming with her.

Zero Two is pleased, and the tears and look in Hiro’s eyes again makes her heart race. She pulls Hiro into the cockpit and plants a big ol’ smooth on him, activating the FranXX (named Strelizia) and revealing its true humanoid form and Gurren Lagann-esque face. We see no more of the two parasites, but merely watch Strelizia make quick work of the wounded klaxosaur.

When the newly-minted parasites, those who passed all the tests, approach Strelizia after the battle, and Zero Two emerges carrying a passed-out but otherwise-okay Hiro, they’re shocked. Hiro, more than anything else, is revealed that someone came along to make his life meaningful again, while Zero Two seems happy to have found a true “Darling” for her FranXX.

This was a strong start to a show that may not have a whole lot of original big ideas, but excelled in design, details, execution, and that good old Trigger style. Hiro may be a generic guy, but Zero Two’s got a neat design and Tomatsu Haruka’s husky voice is well-paired. I like what I see so far.

Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 08 (32)

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While I acknowledge it contained some progress and a couple of Durarara!! firsts, this episode had a disappointingly incremental feel about it. Sure, virtually all Durarara!! episodes are incremental, but the better ones do a better job keeping me entertained and distracted enough to overlook the fact there is a dizzying number of players involved. It’s starting to get a little out of hand.

But let me get back to one of those firsts: Celty finally has her head back. In true Dullahan fashion, she doesn’t simply reattach it to her neck, but carry it in her arm. Her horse turns back into a horse, and she regains her original armor, but considering she has no idea who Izaya is when she sees him, it would seem her memories of Ikebukuro to date have been erased.

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If that’s true, that would be a real bummer, but in the meantime Izaya has a fight to the death with Shizuo to take care of, so Celty kinda just…slinks away from the episode. Back at Shinra’s, Kodata shows his face for the first time since the hit-and-run, and wants Erika and everyone else to stay indoors. Tom Tanaka, pissed that neither Shizuo or Varona showed up for their rounds, has some late night Russian sushi, unaware the streets outside are growing more dangerous for him by the minute.

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Nasujima, now some big-shot rogue Saika host, has turned dozens if not hundreds of citizens into Saika zombies, with which he intends to capture Tanaka and use him as a bargaining chip in his dealings with Shizuo. Shijima is with them to, though I’m not sure why.

Back at the construction site, Izaya briefly recalls what Shinra said to him about the benefits of getting along with Shizuo (he’s a tiger who will one day be an urban legend) rather than remaining adversaries (someone will get hurt or killed). Back in the present, Shizuo and Izaya are only circling each other. A big fight seems imminent, but it’s still just sputtering so far.

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Chikage decides the best way to get Masaomi and Mikado to meet is with the chat room and a little bit of theater. He interrupts Namie’s ranting to demand Mikado call Masaomi’s phone…or else. When Mikado calls, Chikage answers, and sets up a meeting to hand over his “hostage.” Mikado agrees, and sets a location very near and dear to him vis-a-vis the Dollars.

That other Durarara!! first? Mikado actually has a gun, given to him by Izumii when they met. I have no idea what he intends to do with it, but it’s clear he doesn’t have the slightest idea how to use it properly; though at the end of the day, point-and-shoot will suffice. Call it another step deeper down the dark inscrutable abyss for Mikado, albeit an incremental one.

Once guns start being shot, the results can quickly become something one can’t simply, as Tom puts it, “let slide.” When bullets fly, impasses and stalemates start to become irreversible conclusions. I’ll hope Mikado takes after the re-booted Celty, and keeps his head.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 07 (31)

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The item Mikado got from Aoba’s brother is not revealed; instead, Mikado is coy to Aoba about the content of their conversation, and then gets distracted by Namie’s meltdown in the Dollars chatroom, witnessed by the twins.

Namie isn’t about to forgive Mikado or let him have his perfect life without reminding him that he defeated her and messed up her life, but didn’t destroy her. Namie is just one of the “loose ends” Mikado will have to reckon with before he can reach his goals.

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As indicated by Anri’s eyes reddening, Kasane’s Saika slaves are out in force, blocking all the roads and alleys that lead to the area where she’s restraining Celty’s body. Shizuo, not one to break the law unless its necessary, dutifully rides past the barriers, but soon realizes that he has to break through to get to Celty. Meanwhile, Izaya has come out to observe Shizuo’s confrontation with Kasane from on high.

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I loved how calm and civil everything was. Sure, Shizuo crumbles a bit of wall and tosses it at Kasane’s associate, President Yagiri, but he and Kasane do not engage in any violence. Kasane merely restrains Shizuo, putting her hand on him. Whatever would have happened next is interrupted by the arrival of Varona with Celty’s head.

I also loved how Shizuo didn’t feel in the least betrayed by his junior, because, well, he wasn’t. He didn’t disallow her from taking other jobs on the side, but does recommend she chose more carefully in the future.

Shizuo appreciates that Kasane has business to conduct, but his friendship with Celty won’t allow them to treat her as a product or thing, even if that’s the best way to describe the state she’s in.

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Kasane also appreciates Shizuo’s personal investment in this situation, as well as Varona’s complicated relationship with Shizuo, and decides the best thing to do is retreat for now. Despite her best efforts, her plan ran into a hitch, and that hitch was Shizuo. Howver, Izaya isn’t content to leave things there, and drops “liquid on the litmus paper” in the form of a pile of steel beams on Shizuo. Varona pushes him out of harm’s way, but a beam falls on her leg

Now Shizuo wouldn’t have been hurt by those beams (he flicks the one off of Varona’s leg like a 2×4) but Varona acted to save him anyway, because until she’s able to destroy him under her very specific conditions (i.e. going all out), she doesn’t want him to die. Similarly, when Izaya drops an excavator on Shizuo, he catches it on his shoulder and flicks that away too, saving Varona for real.

Izaya has seen the human chemical reactions he wanted to see, and likely wants to see more tonight, but when he calls Shizuo to chat, all Shizuo says to him is “So long.” No listening to his drivel, no angry outburst, no tossing of the excavator back at him. Shizuo won’t let harming his junior pass. He’s coming for him.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 06 (30)

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This relatively spare (and almost entirely supernatural-free) episode focuses on the major players once more: Mikado, Masaomi, Anri, and Izaya, with Chikage narrating as he learns more about the state of things in Ikebukuro.

While much of that state can be attributed to Izaya, who has Chess, Shoji, Go, and Othello pieces scattered on his game board as he builds a house of tarot cards (a bit too much game imagery here, frankly) he’s correct in stating no one person is to blame, because everyone played little roles that added up.

At this point, he’s super-excited about Mikado’s state in particular, and interested in what he’ll do next, even if it means he himself becomes a pawn. He also wants this to be a humans-only game from here on out, which means taking Anri, Kasane, Celty and Shizuo out of this stage.

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Still, it’s Anri’s human side that shines in her first meeting with Mikajima Saki, which cam as a surprise to me, considering how long this show has gone on. Saki has come prepared for war if Anri was to express feelings for Masaomi. While she heard from her boyfriend that Mikado was crazy about Anri, she wanted to meet her one-on-one to get her own impression of her.

What she finds is a cute, charming, mild-mannered young lady who has convinced herself that she’s a parasite who neither knows how to love anyone nor believes she deserves to love or be loved. It’s a much more nuanced situation than Saki imagined. The reality is, she’s no more certain of what love is than Anri, but being a parasite (or a puppet, as she once was) doesn’t automatically disqualify them from love and happiness.

Mika decides to further explain her relationship with Masaomi by going into her past with him; to a time Anri wasn’t present for. Despite having made a promise to the guys that they’d reveal their respective secrets upon meeting again, Anri is intrigued and lets Mika proceed.

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Izaya’s efforts seem intended to pare down the players, especially limiting them to those who are only plain old flesh-and-blood humans. Mika’s efforts seem intended to enlighten her about the love triangle in which she’s been the fourth vertex for long enough.

And then Chikage, who is titularly “in for a penny, in for a pound”, breaks Masaomi’s dilemma down to brass tacks: He wants to see Mikado and save him (either by punching him or being punched, in the simplest possible terms). Blue Square is in the way, so Chikage will help Masaomi get close. If Mikado won’t answer a call from Masaomi’s phone, then Chikage will call him on his. Easy peasy, right?

…Perhaps not. Izumii Ran visits Mikado (much to Aoba’s consternation), they proceed to have a very civil conversation, Izumii gives Mikado some kind of “gift” hidden in his arm sling, and then leaves in the car of Awakusu’s Aozaki, activity that Aozaki’s rival Akabayashi learns about pretty quickly.

These are presumably the “grown-ups” Chikage is worried about getting tangled up with. His basic plan could work if he could just get two old estranged friends in the same room together to hash it out, but with an apparently important object now in Mikado’s possession that probably wasn’t given to him so he could pull out of his tailspin, it may already be too late for basics.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 24 (Fin)

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After his out-of-Shinichi’s-body experience within Gotou, Migi has decided to go to sleep and think about things more deeply, which he says might lead to him never waking up. It’s a strange and somewhat sudden goodbye that Shinichi isn’t okay with, but it’s clearly for the best. They had some fun times, but Shinichi can’t be talking to his right hand forever.

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As anyone who’s read my past reviews of this series knows, I’m a fan of Satomi, despite the fact she’s gotten so little to do, and a part of me is glad the show closes on a relatively pleasant note with the two continuing their relationship past high school. They’ve always had a nice chemsitry, when Shinichi isn’t acting like a weirdo.

What I can’t really forgive, however, is that they dusted off Uragami, a relic of my least favorite episode of the show, and brought him back to terrorize the happy couple one last time. As such, this felt more like an extra episode; a spin-off of the show we’ve seen to this point, and at no point did I think he’d succeed in killing Satomi.

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The show tries to create stakes and make some kind of a point that Uragami is the real parasite, feeding off human life while contributing nothing but fear and misery, but I just don’t care about this guy or his goofy sandals or his deluded ideas about humanity and honesty. He also blows Shinichi’s cover, but fortunately for Shinichi, Satomi couldn’t care less what Shinichi is or isn’t, beyond the guy she loves.

So even though she’s forced to witness two rooftop murders and has a knife to her throat for most of the episode, Satomi eventually comes to a point when she can’t listen to any more of Uragami’s drivel and starts laying into how pathetic he is. Go Satomi!

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Shinichi also realizes he’s probably quick enough to stop Uragami from killing him, but when he makes his move, Uragami an Satomi happen to be right near the ledge, so of course Satomi falls. But Migi wakes up long enough to stretch Shinichi’s arm out to catch her, remarking how humans “have the time” to think about and connect with others rather than just consume them, or something. I’m just glad Satomi’s okay.

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When people arrive on the roof to see what’s transpired, Shinichi and Satomi, sprawled out on the roof, can only laugh at the fact those people think they’re dead. But they’re also laughs of relief that no harm came to either of them, aside from Shinichi’s arm getting stabbed, which I assume is fine.

This episode tried to act as a kind of reflection on the show, but came off a little high-and mighty, and thought is was far weightier than it was. So, a bit underwhelming, like much of show ever since Kana died. But again, the nice character beats of the lovebirds made sure it wasn’t a total loss.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 23

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While it felt like momentum-killing padding at the time, in hindsight it was a good idea to expose Shinichi to Mitsuyo’s worldview and advice before seeking out Gotou for a rematch. She instilled in him the idea of not simply rushing to his death half-cocked, but rather constantly using the noggin in his skull to think of ways, no matter how unlikely or ridiculous, to keep living. In other words, to trust his instincts; the same instincts that drive all other living things on Earth to survive.

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It isn’t all that unfair a fight. Sure, Gotou is nigh invincible and far stronger and faster than Shinichi, (I even felt that mega-punch) but he can’t kill him if he can’t find him. This was one somewhat glaring flaw, however; it seems odd that Gotou has virtually no idea where Shinichi is. For one thing, he’s human, which is Gotou’s food…why wouldn’t he be able to smell out a meal? For another thing, there are still Migi cells in Shinichi’s body, which you’d think Gotou would be able to at least detect a little.

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Another glaring flaw is that Shinichi survives the fight early on mostly because Gotou takes his sweet old time killing him, because he doesn’t consider a human to be any threat. Shinichi could have possibly even talked him into letting him live, or at least run far enough away that Gotou wouldn’t bother fighting him. Of course, that means putting more innocent people at risk.

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And that’s primarily why Shinichi confronted Gotou; not out of anger, or for revenge, or because he wants to be the hero, but to prevent others from dying because of him. With poise that would make Mitsuyo proud, just moments before Gotou skewers him, Shinichi remembers Gotou bleeding in a specific location. Lying in a pile of garbage, he picks up a rusty pipe and stabs the lunging Gotou with it. It turns out to be a vulnerable area, and it pisses Gotou off even more.

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But stabbing him there also broke the link between the “head” and the “rest”, and as I had suspected after the uncertain fate of Migi last week, Migi himself became part of that “rest” and is freed when the rusty pipe introduces life-threatening toxins that make the other “rest” parasytes wake up and resist the “head’s” orders.

For the second time in just a couple of minutes, Shinichi is about to face his death, but this time all he can do is sit there and wait for the blow to come. That’s when the Migi in Gotou’s swinging killing arm meets with the Migi in Shinichi’s stump and BOOM, Migi transfers back to Shinichi right then and there, nullifying the attack. Shinichi’s so damn happy he’s back his eyes glint!

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From there, the duo of Shinichi and Migi is more than enough against the severely weakened and uncoordinated Gotou. It’s very satisfying when Migi goes through him like a wire through clay and he explodes, bringing about the dawn.

Upon inspecting the garbage pile, Migi deduces that the toxins on the pipe that proved fatal to Gotou were proof that “there’s no beating humans,” especially if you corner them atop a garbage pile they made that they can use the contents of to kill you!

It raises questions in Shinichi’s head about whether parasytes came to be to reduce the population of humans, who have spread across the earth and ravaged the environment. Those toxins are representative of human’s status as Earth’s wasting disease…and parasytes could be deemed the cure.

That’s one way to look at things, anyway. So when Migi declines to finish off a member of his kind (to do so would be murder in his eye/s) and leaves Shinichi to decide, Shinichi initially hesitates to finish killing the slowly reconstructing Gotou. When taking enough steps back, Gotou, or what’s left of him, has as much right to exist and survive as Shinichi does.

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Shinichi changes his mind again when he realizes that he can’t live his life all those steps back; not as long as there are people at risk, or people he wants to protect. If Gotounator re-coalesces, he’s not going to stop killing humans; it’s what he exists for. That makes him, in the arena of protecting one’s own small band of humans, not all of humanity, an enemy whose existence is intolerable.

Shinichi sheds a tear before finishin Gotou, and in the brief cuts to the writhing, reconstructing corpse, it does indeed engender a kind of primal human sympathy for the weak and struggling, even if we know full well the monster it will become if allowed to reconstruct.

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Shinichi goes home, having done what was necessary to protect Mitsuyo’s village, along with ensuring he himself will be safe for the time being, along with his father and his beloved Satomi. Gotou is by no means the last parasyte, but he was certainly the toughest. I doubt anything tougher will show up in the finale, which I hope will focus on where Shinichi and Migi go from here, and in particular whether he plans to finally inform Satomi about his deep, battle-tested friendship with the little monster in his right arm.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 22

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Shinichi’s blissful honeymoon with Satomi doesn’t last long; in fact, there’s absolutely no mention of it, or even Satomi’s name, this entire episode, lending it a somewhat disjointed episodic feel. Mind you, more big things go down this week, but once those things are over and done with, the episode kinda grinds to a halt.

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Migi alerts Shinichi that Gotou is on his way, and then Migi steals and drives a car, then ditches it off a cliff, hitting the one Gotou is driving. Naturally, this isn’t enough to kill him, so Migi decides to separate completely from Shinichi to act as a decoy, so the two can execute a pincer attack. However, in his weakened, separate state, Migi isn’t strong enough to fully behead Gotou, and begins to shrivel up.

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Migi decides to stand his ground and cover Shinichi’s escape, saying a quick goodbye. But what’s interesting is that it isn’t just Shinichi who feels bad about this. Migi is no longer the cold, logical bastard he once was. Shinichi has humanized him as much as he’s parasytized Shinichi. Migi even considers Shinichi a friend. What he doesn’t do is wilt away into nothing, at least on camera. We don’t witness his death, so there’s a chance he’s not dead.

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Shinichi runs, feeling like a coward for abandoning Migi, and when trying to steal a drink from an old woman’s backyard, that old woman takes pity on him and takes him into her house.

This woman, named Mitsuyo, used to work in retail, so she can read Shinichi to a degree: he’s not a burglar (he’s too polite), he hasn’t had his right arm for a while (since it’s been Migi), and his injury is the result of being bullied in an unfair fight. She gets the gist right, but never in a million years would she ever believe the details…perhaps even if they were staring right at her.

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Shinichi ends up staying for days, making me wonder whether Satomi or his Dad are worried about him, or if by now they’re used to him pissing off for days at a time. In any case, while under Mitsuyo’s roof, he has another creepy dream in which he communicates with what’s left of Migi within him.

When he awakes, it’s even able to form an eye on his stump…but no more. If anything, Shinichi feels worse than if there was nothing left; those cells being a constant reminder of the fact he’s still alive thanks to Migi’s sacrifice.

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Mitsuyo, ignorant as she is to his specific situation, nevertheless imparts some wise council wizened old ladies tend to impart in these situations. When Shinichi blathers on about “making use of his life” to stop the monster that’s terrorizing the town, Mitsuyo scolds him on his youthful recklessness.

Having lived life far longer than him, she knows full well how precious it is. She won’t stop him from doing what he thinks he has to do (face the monster), but she does insist he exercise caution and flexibility, and not squander his life so readily.

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Deep in the forest, we see Gotou lying as if in wait for a rematch with Shinichi. But the emphasis on his single gleaming eye makes me wonder if Migi didn’t get absorbed into the weakened Gotou, either by his own will or not. That will mean one of two things: Shinichi will have to finish off his friend, or Migi has taken control of the parasytes within Gotou.

The fact that it’s not certain at all whether Migi is really dead and gone, and probably isn’t, detracts from the drama, and makes Shinichi’s crisis of confidence and extended stay with Mitsuyo feel like leisurely padding for a show with just two episodes left. Still, with Shinichi only armed with a rusty old gardening ax thingy, it should be an interesting fight. Here’s hoping this was the final “rest” in the narrative.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 21

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Parasyte has been listing badly for the better part of a month, starting with a overly tidy, unsatisfying end to Tamiya Ryouko’s arc, followed by a tiresome, by-the-numbers numbers SWAT battle in the dark that seemed like it would never end. Even the majority of this episode’s A-part is devoted to wrapping up that story.

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Hirokawa turning out to be an ordinary human who just happens to espouse the parasyte philosophy is an interesting little twist, but as he’s killed in the process, it feels a bit like a dead end, especially when his faceless audience all ends up dead by Gotou’s hands (or rather claws). Even Yamagichi’s last stand on the building’s roof ends in his beheading, in a decidedly shrug-worthy end to a long slog of a battle.

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The episode only starts to show signs of righting the Parasyte ship when Shinichi is again involved. Then Gotou (whose muscle mass seems to vary greatly in every shot), has plans on killing him for “closure”, but there are a few more cops still alive, so he retreats, and…Wait….what? Why doesn’t he simply waste those cops like he wasted all the others and Shinichi with them? “Too much interference,” he says. Seems like a thin reason, after how powerful and efficient a killing machine the show just made him up to be.

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However, both the battle and Gotou’s promise of another meeting in the near future have a profound effect on Shinichi that we really weren’t able to see until now, when the cameras finally turn on him in the aftermath. He’s scared shitless, and very aware that all of the dozens of men who fell that day did so because they were between him and Gotou.

They all died tiring Gotou out just enough that he decided not to kill him today. As inept as they might have been tactically, they saved Shinichi’s life. And now that Shinichi realizes the life they died to protect, Gotou’s face appears everywhere he looks, poised to pluck that life away.

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Faced with this crippling fear of being watched and hunted, Shinichi goes to the only place where he feels he can be comforted; Satomi’s. She allows him to embrace her and feels him trembling, but when he squeezes too hard it frightens her, and her reaction causes him to run away again. But Satomi knows what she felt, and she’s not willing to leave things there.

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That night, in a park, Shinichi contemplates running away from it all, hoping Gotou won’t bother chasing him across Japan. Satomi finds him, knowing he likes parks as she does, and seeing that he’s calmed down, invites him to come to her house so they can “talk”. This leads to their having sex for the first time, in another significant milestone in a relationship that hasn’t gotten a lot of screen time, but in hindsight explains a lot about the trouble Shinichi’s been having.

Whatever horrors Shinichi has gone through, or subjected Satomi to (possibly including his foreplay…but I digress), she’s going to stay by his side, because she loves him. She wants to know everything, so he doesn’t have to suffer alone anymore…even if it means she’ll suffer too, at least they’ll suffer together.

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She may still not have a very good idea and the full scope of the shit Shinichi’s in, but scale and scope don’t matter: this is a matter of absolutes for her. The shit they’ve pulled through thus far, and the fact the Shinichi she loves is still in that mangled body Migi repaired and souped up, are all the proof she needs to have faith they’ll pull through whatever’s to come.

Getting Shinichi and Satomi back together and having them take the next step was a vast improvement over the tedium of the last few episodes, but also makes clear how lost and rudderless Shinichi was without Satomi by his side. She instills, comfort, confidence, hope, and above all, a desire to live. And whether living is running or fighting, he’d be wise to keep Satomi close from here on out. She knows what she’s doing.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 20

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Disappointingly, Parasyte takes a turn for the worse this week, completely sidelining Shinichi and Migi and instead focusing the entirety of its running time to a dull, repetitive, interminable, and at many points downright moronic SWAT operation.

Random humans I don’t particularly care about, ineptly battling a cadre of random parasytes I barely know and also don’t care about, is not a formula for an episode of television I’m going to, well, care about. It is, in fact, a recipe for a pedestrian slog; one I couldn’t wait to be over.

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Yamagishi, leader of the Parasyte Extermination Squad, seems to have a shrewd head on his shoulders, but quickly lets us down by employing scorched-earth tactics in hunting down the parasytes infesting the city hall, with absolutely no regard for either his troops or the scores of civilian bystanders, which he ends up treating like hostages. The scar on his scalp should have been a hint that this guy has a screw loose.

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It’s a plan that mostly succeeds because the parasytes assumed their enemy would be hampered by the presence of those bystanders. In other words, they assumed the humans would act like humans, instead of acting just like them: cold and efficient. In concept this is an apt commentary on the lengths humanity will go to in order to survive, including abandoning the precepts and conducts of civilization they typically abide by. But the execution is clunky, and as I said, I’m invested in neither party.

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The only member of the extermination squad I give a rat’s ass about is the psychic killer Urugami, and if I’m honest, that’s only because he’s voiced by Yoshino Hiroyuki. But Urugami is missing the exuberance of Yoshino’s other comedic and semi-comedic roles, and his too-on-the-nose snide comments about who’s calling whom a killer quickly grow tiresome.

He redeems himself, somewhat, by purporting to be bored and tired of this whole enterprise, telling the dudes with the guns to just shoot whoever, because it’s too much of a hassle determining who’s a parasyte and who isn’t.

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Whoa, dude, watch where you’re pointing that thing!

Yamagishi adopts a similar attitude when the parasytes scatter and we find ourselves in a seemingly never-ending sequence of him deploying, splitting, merging, and re-directing the various units under his command. “Screw it, just shoot anything that moves” becomes the standing order.

This isn’t particularly reassuring considering they seem to have recruited all these riot cops from high school. That there are all a bunch of unskilled, undisciplined, idiotic teenagers behind those masks is the only explanation for their gross incompetence.

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Aww, look how neatly they laid their clothes on the chair before gettin’ it on

They have endless opportunities to demonstrate that incompetence since this is The Raid That Never Ends. They do, however, bust in on a couple of stragglers in flagrante delicto, which is pretty funny. Nothing like gunfire and the persistent fear of death to excite the libido, eh?

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I’m sad because I’m not in this episode and I have nothing to do…

Meanwhile, the one character whose fate we still care about literally sits on the sidelines, doing nothing and saying almost nothing. He remarks about how there’s surely something he can do…but the writers don’t accomodate him. I think all Migi says is “No,” either unwilling to participate in the utter extermination of his own kind, or worried the threat of so many parasytes in one place is too great to involve themselves.

It’s Migi’s usual prudent pragmatism, but it just doesn’t make for good TV.

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But here’s the worst part: while this episode ends, the raid doesn’t, as there’s still a boss and overboss-level parasytes still standing, along with a handful of riot police. My last straw for the idiot police is when they listen to Gotou and willingly follow him into a larger room so he can more impressively kill them all.

It’s a blatantly staged action set piece with no purpose other than to demonstrate what has already been well-established at this point—that Gotou is a tough cookie—and it elicits little more than a shrug and a sigh. Franklin has abandoned ship, but I must admit after this plodding dawdle, even my patience is starting to fray.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 19

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Because Franklin had the call last week, I actually never even got around to watching Kiseijuu 18 (or reading his review of it) until tonight, just before episode 19. Watching the two back-to-back revealed something to me: we’re in full serialization mode here.  18 kind of just ended, as does 19. In both cases, I was eager to watch more. But this also makes it harder to review the show on an episode-by-episode basis, since we’re dealing with pieces of a puzzle slowly coming together.

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What also struck me by watching these two episodes back-to-back, without regard to their running time, was how little seemed to have happened in roughly 44 minutes’ time. Don’t get me wrong; Ryouko dying last week and the cops finally cornering the parasite mayor this week are all big events, but I still got a “where did the time go?” vibe to both episodes, as if it was holding back, which it is, of course, because there are still five episodes to go.

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I’ll be blunt: I don’t much care about the serial killer convict, besides the fact that he developed the Kana-like ability to detect non-humans out of his own predatory nature. He’s a sociopath; wolf in a world of sheep, so it stands to reason he’d be able to detect other wolves.

But his little monologue feels like little more than padding, and it can’t distract me from the oddness of the Ryouko standoff, or the fact that in the situation where Satomi should have figured out a lot about Shinichi, she didn’t, but rather decided quite arbitrarily that he was “back” because she saw him crying while holding a baby. Tears and babies? Those are politicians’ tricks.

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Even if it’s only the latest piece of the puzzle lined with unnecessary padding and dare I say stalling; the fact of the matter is, the remaining organized parasites are starting to feel the walls closing in. They surmise that their associates tried to off Ryouko of their own accord and failed, and then Ryouko herself was killed by police.

We haven’t seen much police action until these last two episodes, but it’s clear they’ve been working diligently behind the scenes to develop not only a defense against the parasites, but a plan of attack, or rather extermination. The death of Ryouko was a blow to them, because it meant the death of someone who could be a conduit between the two peoples.

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And then there’s Satomi. Despite her not finding out about Migi or most of the other horrors Shinichi’s been through, she is content with the knowledge Shinichi is in the midst of a struggle not entirely of his own making, which is actually the truth: he didn’t ask to be infiltrated by Migi. The details don’t matter to her; all she cares about is remaining close to and supporting her man, because she knows he’s doing everything he can to protect her.

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Still, Satomi is brimming with denial. It’s one thing to be blissfully unaware of the details, but to try to keep Shinichi out of something he’s already waist-deep in is a fool’s errand. At this point it will be a miracle if she doesn’t end up another collateral victim. But standing with Shinichi, even in harm’s way, is her choice, and I appreciated and respected the loyalty and resolve she exhibited this week, despite her ignorance.

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Despite Satomi’s protestations, the police convince Shinichi to assist them (along with the convict) to help them identify parasites in an office building they storm with SWAT forces and then evacuate seven people at a time, all of whom pass through special sensors that can detect “non-human material.” Among the occupants of the building are the mayor and his aides, all parasites, whom Migi can generally sense but not yet pinpoint.

The police get their first catch of the day, and the episode ends there, just as abruptly as last week. We must be content with what we got and await the events that follow. Since some of the larger parasite personalities are in play here, it should be good. And therein lies the problem: these past three weeks this show has been merely good, despite having proven in the past it can be so much more than that.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 18

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So Tamiya Ryouko bid her farewell this week and, for all Kiseijuu Sei no Kakuritsu’s efforts to make her passing meaningful, all I could muster in response was a long, defeated sigh.

Then the plot lurched forward to introduce a psychic serial killer in police custody who, probably, has identified Shinichi as not entirely human.

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Why didn’t Ryouko’s death work? For starters, she’s been on the Police / Parasytes / Shinichi’s to-kill-list for several episodes — so we knew this was coming.

But what really bled the drama out of her death was how long it took to get there, how little has happened in the show leading up to it, and how little her legitimately interesting character actually accomplished during that time.

Simply, Ryouko’s story was dead and lifeless long before she was needlessly gunned down by the police.

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Sure, I get that having a child became her reason to be, and that reason no longer was now that she could sway Shinichi to believe her and care for her child in her stead… or convince child protective services and/or government scientists to chop it into little pieces.

Yeah that’s where her logic makes no sense at all. Shinichi has no agency nor influence over what happens to the child and she’s left him holding the baby, surrounded by armed government people. Brilliant.

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So Shinichi learns to cry again and Murano, who happens to be in the park still even after hearing endless gunshots and witnessing a woman being shot to death brutally, accepts him for ‘coming back.’ Also because Kana’s ghost told her. Probably.

Then, later, Shinichi goes to a hospital but is unknowingly part of a screening the police are doing with the help of serial killer who is either psychic or just kana-tuned to parasytes.

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What worked: Sarcasm aside, if I wasn’t completely drained of empathy for Ryouko and shruggy about her suicide, her monologue to Shinichi about Parasytes being the children of humans and feeling bullied by humans could have been interesting.

Similarly, if it had a little more build up and/or he wasn’t so gross, I could see chuckling about the serial killer. I mean, masturbating in front of a fake psychic could be a funny thing. Right?

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 17

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Parasyte continues its liesurely Winter stroll, in an episode that even to me, Princess Patience, felt sluggish and uneventful. Sure, there’s an interesting multi-vector battle between parasytes in the beginning, but it takes its time. And then the storyline shifts to the detective and things slow down even more.

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Nothing more unnerving than having a woman with half a face and a mouth that’s way too big for your body to ruin a lovely night out! But Tamiya Ryouko doesn’t have much of a choice; her former allies have turned on her, something she could probably have predicted based on her kind’s unswerving logic.

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But Ryouko is different. Not only does she have the kid, but a lot more knowledge of the parasyte body, which she uses to her advantage against her foes, making pretty quick work of them…but not until she thoroughly explains how she beat them. Franklin mentioned how while battling the parasytes are very static, and that was more evident to me here, especially when compounded with their emotionless-by-nature dialogue.

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Also, as macabre as it may sound, the fact no humans were harmed in this battle, even collaterally, lowered the stakes somewhat. Ryouko hasn’t quite earned the right to be someone I’d route for. I’d sooner they all destroyed each other and leave Shinichi with a couple fewer problems to worry about.

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Ryouko returns home to find her baby gone; kidnapped by Kuranomi, so she breaks into Shinichi’s house, goes through his baby pictures, and asks him to meet her at the same park where Kuranomi told her to meet him.

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Ryouko then exits Shinichi’s house just when Satomi happens to be outside, hoping for him to be home. It’s very understandable for Satomi to get the wrong idea here (especially when Ryouko says she’s not his mother), but Ryouko also screams “answers.”

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Then just as Satomi is wishing and hoping for Shinichi to come back soon, he passes right by her in a bus, and she just happens to see him, and then chases after the bus. Satomi’s luck continues when she arrives at the bus station to find Ryouko and then chases her down. Uhh, what? That’s a lot of timely coincidences to get Satomi involved in one day!

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Kuranomi and Ryouko meet at the park, though I’m not sure what Kuranomi wants, but he seems to think no matter what he does, Ryouko will simply shrug it off, because she’s an unfeeling monster. Despite this, he feels the need to have her experience an iota of the grief he has, so he prepares to toss the kid over a balcony, when Ryouko’s maternal instinct kicks in, kills him, and snatches the babe up, surprising not only him, but herself as well.

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So yeah, at this point Satomi is simply sitting around in the park. Unaware how much of the episode had progressed, I assumed one of two things would happen: she’d finally witness Shinichi in action (shocking truth!), or she’d get herself killed (far less likely). Surprise: Neither happens. Nothing happens, which was kind of deflating.

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Kuranomi is killed, but our time with him was so brief, and his choices often so idiotic (do not kidnap crazy monster’s infant or face he alone, ever), I can’t say I’ll miss him. Truth be told, we only saw his family for one brief scene. In terms of emotional impact, Kana he is not (Kana’s death still gets to me).

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Well, here we are: Shinichi and Ryouko facing off once again. Will this be another calm chat that turns more heated when Ryouko pushes Shinichi’s buttons? Will Ryouko tell him her buddies tried to kill her and now she’s alone with her baby and her philosophy? Will the blades come out and they’ll just start hacking at each other, when all of a sudden Satomi strays into their attack radius? I wasn’t able to say this before, but at this point, I’ll take anything, as long as it’s…something.

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