Fruits Basket – 11 – Giving Everything

For those who haven’t been paying attention, Tooru is a giver. She gives and gives and gives, sometimes without thinking; sometimes with quite a bit of thought behind it; and always, always without regard for any consequences that might crop up as a result of that boundless generosity. The only one she’s not generous to is herself. As has been said about her, she plays by a different set of rules.

Two of the unintended effects of this: it’s hard for her to accept anything in return, and it’s hard for anyone else to give to her without her wondering if that’s really okay. But after Valentine’s Day, you have White Day. It’s tradition. It’s the rules of society. So she’s expecting something in return for her chocolates. She just wasn’t expecting a hot spring trip, courtesy of Momiji.

As with most things offered to her, she feels unworthy, or at least feels she’d be an expensive burden. An onsen is costly, no matter how you look at it! And this, despite the fact she spent so much of her own money buying ingredients for the chocolates she gave everyone, she’s fallen behind on school trip payments. Kyou, just barely moderating his temper, asks Tooru to go have a bath, then turns to the issue at hand: just how stupid is Tooru to be so selfless with her money?

Momiji regails Kyou and Yuki with a “Funny Story” from a book he once read in school, about an “idiot” traveler who was constantly being swindled and duped out of possessions, until she wandered the forest naked. There, a bunch of demons duped her out of her body, all except a head with no eyes (shades of Hyakkimaru), leaving her only a piece of paper that read “idiot.”

First of all, this is not a funny story, WTF is wrong with Momiji’s classmates? But secondly, the fact the traveler never despaired, but only wept with joy that the things she gave up went on to help people (even if they lied about needing them). Like Tooru, her warped perspective is just something that works for her, and you can either accept it or consider not hanging out with her anymore, because she’s probably never going to change!

For all of this shows’s demonstrations that the Soumas can transform into animals, Tooru may be the most bizarre creature of them all, and especially out of place in modern Japanese capitalist society. Yet like Momiji, Kyou and Yuki, what initially, by my own less lofty set of standards and different perspective, might seem like idiocy could also be described as nobility; of representing the best of what a person could be; someone who, if everyone emulated them, would make the world a so much better place.

The proprietor of the onsen, a woman of frail health whose off-camera son is the Monkey of the Zodiac, was initially suspicious of Tooru, an outsider, of being a potentially disruptive or harmful force to her cursed child. But that was before she met her, or saw her soaking in the spring with her dead mother’s picture in a plastic bag to keep her dry. She can tell she had no reason to worry; Tooru is One Of The Good Ones.

It’s amazing Tooru agreed to go at all, considering how kingly a gift she considers a hot spring trip. By blowing everything nice other people do for her out of proportion…it can be challenging, at times perhaps even trying, to contend with that. But everyone has fun at the onsen trip.

Tooru plays the quickest and funniest round of ping pong, gets a lovely hair ribbon from Yuki, along with his full-on Prince Act, and Momiji gets to sleep beside Tooru, even though she’s just a year younger than Kyou or Yuki. But the night before she learns this, Tooru simply lies in bed thanking her mother for making all this happiness with the Soumas possible.

That may seem macabre—essentially thanking your mom for dying—but like I said, Tooru doesn’t play by those rules. Everything that happens to her, and everyone she meets, good or bad, is a miraculous gift, and she takes absolutely nothing for granted.

 

Fruits Basket – 10 – A Ripple on the Water

It’s the day before Valentine’s Day, when Yuki appears to only have one admirer’s chocolate in his locker, but only because every previous admirer (and there were many) tossed the chocolate that was in there into the trash. Kyou is also a lot more on edge, and Tooru wonders why…until Kagura shows up at the school gates and it suddenly makes perfect sense.

When Kyou rejects Kagura’s request for a date (mistaking it for a request), Kagura suggests they have a double date with Yuki and Tooru. Yuki is ready to veto the idea, but Tooru is so excited he can’t say no. Then Kagura and Shigure both make remarks about him and Yuki getting along a lot better and runs away, not wanting to hear that. When Tooru tracks him down, she tells him it’s okay for him to hate Yuki…but she plainly doesn’t get why, and still hopes she can wipe away both lads’ anxiety and pain the way they did for her.

Kyou, Kagura, Yuki and Tooru all go on the double date (to an anime film of all things!) and it all goes swimmingly, but more interesting is when Shigure visits the main house to deliver Tooru’s chocolate to the other Souma members she’s met, and ends up talking with Hatori. What about? It’s hard to say; as Yuki says, Shigure’s a particularly hard-to-pin-down kinda guy, especially where goals and motives are concerned.

One thing’s for sure: he’s in league with Akito, and while Hatori believes he and Akito using Tooru as a pawn for some self-serving purpose, he’ll neither help nor hinder his efforts, but simply remain neutral. Shigure, for his part, laments potentially having to hurt Tooru at some point in the future, but whatever “dream,” “affection,” or “fervor” he’s after, it’s apparently more important than not hurting her.

From episode start to finish, and even with some glimpses of flashbacks, Shigure remains a stubborn riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. His long-suffering young editor Mitsuru (who is about to take a box cutter to her wrist when Tooru first meets her) just wants the guy to meet his damn deadlines, but just as there’s no figuring out a guy like Shigure, there’s no rushing him either.

I’m definitely intrigued by this gradual increase in the rumblings that Shigure is Up To Something, which is effective because it doesn’t come out of left field. We always knew it wasn’t mere altruism that led Shigure into allowing an outsider in Tooru to live in his home, any more than he harbored two exiles from the main house in Yuki and Kyou simply because he’s a cool uncle. I also suspect things may not go exactly the way he plans.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 18 – The Sword That Cut Through Time

Bercouli Synthesis One isn’t like the other Integrity Knights have Eugeo and Kirito have faced to this point. He’s not in a rush to fight; he agrees not to kill since they didn’t kill his apprentice Fanatio; he calls Eugeo “shounen” rather than “boy-o”; he doesn’t look down on Eugeo or question his existence, or curse his sinfulness.

Yes, Bercouli is a “friendly opponent”, the guy who, inadvertently or not, seems to lull less focused opponents into a false sense of security with his casual, charming manner. But there’s no doubting the guy can bring it, thanks to his Time-Splitting Sword that was once the hand of an earlier Cathedral’s clock.

He’s also more than happy to explain how his move works…but not until he’s already used it and Eugeo has fallen victim to it. Eugeo sees that he can’t make this a close-range fight, but also knows Bercouli wants him to think long-range for his next attack.

Eugeo does indeed go long range—there’s no alternative—but when Bercouli stops and shatters his ice, Eugeo uses the shards to obscure the fact he’s tossed his sword away and made a false one, which also shatters. In Bercouli’s moment of wondering what’s going on, Eugeo releases his real sword from the ceiling, catches it, and stabs Bercouli with it in a smooth sequence of moves.

Kirito would be proud: it’s an Aincrad combo if ever there was one, not only making full use of the surroundings and anything else to gain an advantage, even if the opponent thinks it’s unfair or underhanded. For his part, Bercouli is amused and even impressed by the sheer audacity of someone throwing their sword away in the middle of a fight.

He’s in good spirits because the Eternal Ice didn’t finish him, and he starts to break out of his frigid binds, but Eugeo summons the second memory of his divine object: The Rose, which slowly drains both of their lives. The reason this isn’t suicide for Eugeo is that being a character near the peak of his maximum life, he’s confident that his life will outlast that of Bercouli, who was turned into an integrity knight much later in life.

Bercouli wonders what he’s talking about, miffed that Eugeo presumes to know anything about his past. That response in turn angers Eugeo, who hates how all of these Integrity Knights believe they’re divine beings summoned from the heavens by the Pontifex, when they’re really human beings; their mothers gave birth to them; they lived their own lives.

Even if most of the people in those lives don’t remember the knights, Bercouli is different because the heroic deeds of his life are immortalized in the oral tradition of Rulid Village. It’s as if, in his case, Administrator overlooked the potential means of her first knight recovering his lost memories and thus regaining his humanity.

This is all very good stuff, so it’s a little jarring for a new party to arrive on the scene quite suddenly, especially when that party is of the “goofy carnival clown/jester-class” disposition. Before The Rose fully takes Bercouli’s life, this asshole, one “Prime Senator Chudelkin”, rolls in like a ball, then scolds Bercouli for his “treasonous” act of not going all-out against Eugeo.

Bercouli bristles at this and asks Chudelkin to stay out of the affairs of swordsmen, to no avail. Chuddy puts Bercouli in a Deep Freeze—far deeper than even The Rose—after informing him that both he and Fanatio will be “reprocessed” by the Administrator in due time, and that they’ve found a new pawn to replace him…in Eugeo, calling for Kirito’s help before he freezes over.

That would have been a perfectly respectable, even boss way to end the episode, but SAO:A wasn’t done. We check in with Kirito and Alice resting on a ledge, waiting for more light to keep climbing. Kirito complains about being hungry, assuming Integrity Knights don’t, but he’s shown to be mistaken when Alice’s stomach grumbles.

At that point, he produces the buns Cardinal had given him, and prepares to toast them with a fire spell. Alice snatches them away, and uses a much more appropriate combination of water and air to properly steam the buns right there in her hand. She even jokes about eating them both before handing one to Kirito.

This may seem overly sweet and lightweight after such a comparatively heavy and serious end to Eugeo (which worked despite Chuddy’s horrid design) but I for one enjoyed it, since it’s likely next week won’t have any time for such moments. Kirito, impressed with Alice’s cooking skills, recalls that her little sister Selka is also so skilled, and Alice grabs him like he’d just delivered a grave insult.

She wants to know what he’s on about, and depending on how honest she judges his story, she might kill him on the spot. I had assumed they’d get right back to fighting as enemies once they reached the open floor, but with Eugeo now incapacitated and only Chuddy and Administrator herself left to face, that might not be the case.

It’s possible Alice believes Kirito’s story about her, the memory block is ejected from her head, and the two fight side by side to safe Eugeo and defeat Administrator. But hey, that’s just one possible route; I don’t possess a blade that cuts through time to the show’s future…AKA the LN.

Noragami Aragoto – 04

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Well, looks like Kugaha took Kurama too…Damn! That makes things trickier for Yato. Oh yeah, and Yato seems to believe, quite understandably so, that Hiyori was kidnapped under Bishamon’s orders, rather than Kugaha acting alone. Let’s just say Yato gets a little hot-blooded the moment he knows Hiyori is in enemy hands. He’s going to get her back; nothing else matters. When Yukine hears what’s happened, he’s quick to join.

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It’s a race against time, as Hiyori can only survive so long outside of her body. But she and Kurama are stuck, so it’s as good a time as any to explain the beef between Bishamon and Yato. Turns out, as we more or less knew, Bishamon’s entire cadre of regalias were wiped out by Yato, and Kurama was the only survivor. But Kurama also lets us know how a God can be resurrected after being destroyed, which is what Kugaha’s aim seems to be.

Kugaha wants Yato to kill Bishamon for him so a new Bishamon will be born: one he’ll be the exemplar for (rather than Kurama) and will likely be able to mold into more compliance than the current, “spoiled” Bishamon, whom Kugaha also believes is too “soft-hearted” to carry the mantle of God of War. And he may not even be wrong.

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Thanks to Tenjin, Yato and Yukine are able to travel to the realm of Bishamon’s mansion (in exchange for being kept out of it, plus one other thing Yato understands without him saying), and the fight begins. Because Kugaha is basically using Aiha’s corrupted body to weaken Bishamon, the lack of a steady exemplar like Kurama means her power flies out of control easier, which results in tougher attacks but at a risk to herself and her regalias.

Trapped in a dungeon and unable to intervene even if “Veena” heard him, Kurama laments the fact that it was he who got his fellow regalias wiped out by Yato. That’s right: Yato wasn’t only a rabid monster killing indiscriminately (though he was certainly in Nora’s thrall at the time): he was a rabid monster killing indiscriminately because he was asked to, by a young Kurama who didn’t know what else to do.

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When Bishamon’s body became riddled with corruption, and the regalia culprit wouldn’t come forward, discord was sown among them all, and all it took was one spark from someone who’s lost their temper to start fighting amongst themselves. Kurama couldn’t bear to watch Bishamon be destroyed in the chaos, so he exercised the nuclear option: hire a calamity god, Yato, to cut out the rot, to save Bishamon.

In the present, Yato seems to sense Bishamon is corrupted again, but Bishamon insists none of her regalias are betraying her this time—words that make Aiha tear up, because she and Kugaha are betraying her. In the past, Kurama’s quick, decisive action saved Bishamon, but I don’t think Bishamon wanted to be saved that way, even though things had gone to far to save her regalias.

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The collective pain of their fighting and deaths would have probably destroyed her, but better she die than watch them die. It’s the reason she takes on every lost soul she can, even if they’re not useful. She blames Yato, but she blames herself just as much for what happened.

Now, things are on the verge of going past the point of no return, and everything is going according to Kugaha’s plans, with Yato and Bishamon fixed on one another and their colorful pasts, unable to see the forest for the trees. Vastly outnumbered, Yato gets separated from Yukine, is encased in a tripartite barrier, and Bishamon’s killing blow for him is caught by Yukine, shattering him into pieces.

This was a brutally intense episode culminating in an equally intense cliffhanger. I can’t quite believe Yukine is dead, since that would surely be curtains for the unarmed Yato, but who knows? It’s a very unfortunate situation. Kugaha has truly made a mess of things, and it’s going to be interesting to see if and how it’s cleaned up.

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Noragami Aragoto – 03

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Aragoto essentially means “rough style” (of kabuki), and rough is exactly how things go for Bishamon’s chief regalia Kazuma in this fast-moving episode. He feels responsible for allowing Suzuha to die, and exposing his master to the agonizing pain of losing a regalia, even a minor one whose name she hadn’t spoken in decades. Dr. Kuga makes sure he feels bad, too. That leads Kazuma to inspect the site of Suzuha’s death, placing flowers at the cherry tree just as Yukine shows up for another playdate.

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When Yukine sees those flowers,  Yato can feel the resulting pain, which is when Nora appears beside him to say if Yukine’s “holding him back” he can always “cut her down;” she’ll help. Very helpful, as always, Nora. As for Yukine, he grabs hold of Kazuma and gets transported to Bishamon’s celestial manor.

In other words, the heart of his master’s mortal enemy. In another piece of convenient timing, Bishamon catches Kazuma with Yato’s regalia, assumes the worst—that she’s been betrayed—and considers stripping him of his name, but only ends up exiling him.

What’s so upsetting about this whole confrontation is that once again Bishamon is acting on pure emotion without getting the whole story, compounded by the pain she’s feeling both from the loss of Suzuha and all of her other grieving, uneasy regalia.

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As Bishamon’s other head regalia ponder what to do next, they let themselves be comforted and counseled by the wise and trustworthy Kugaha, who suggests they forget about Kazuma and concentrate on supporting their master. With nowhere else to go, Kazuma ends up at Kofuku’s where he learns the reason Yato hangs around there so much: Hiyori.

I like how Kofuku’s has become a kind of god-and-regalia orphanage. I also like the fact that Kazuma is now on the outside of the Bishamon citadel, looking in, having essentially switched teams not due to any conscious choice, but simple circumstances.

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Getting Kazuma out of the way was clearly Kugaha’s plan, and while he didn’t expect it to happen so easily due to Yukine’s appearance, he rolls with it and proceeds with his dastardly plans.

Those include siccing Aiha, his fellow regalia and clearly another victim of his manipulation, on Yato to separate him from Hiyori. Hiyori, for her part, leaves her body and tries to fight Aiha, but Yato tells her to stay back, and it isn’t long before Aiha and a mess of phantoms draw him further away from his friend.

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That’s when Kugaha swoops in and nabs Hiyori’s spirit, leaving Yato with only her unconscious living body. We’ve been here before, haven’t we? Only now Yato is as cognizant as ever that Hiyori is not only a dear friend and ally, but one of the only humans he knows who knows him, and whom he’s counting on not forgetting him.

She promised not to, and vowed to spend more time with him and Yukine, but now Kugaha has hit him where he lives, and with Hiyori as leverage, he has Yato right where he wants him, and Yato doesn’t have a whole lot of wiggle room. Still, with Yukine and Kazuma (assuming Kugaha doesn’t take him too) by his side, along with his own godly powers, Yato isn’t powerless, either.

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OverLord – 07

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This new world Momonga finds himself seems a little smaller this week, as the girl Nphirea likes (and is sadly unable to propose to) turns out to be Enri, the girl Momonga saved. She summoned helpful goblins who help keep the village safe and are even training the villagers to defend themselves. I for one am glad not all goblins are bad. Of course, Nphirea former knows him as Mr. Momon, while Enri knows him as Lord Gown.

Thus Momonga ends up getting caught in his own web of lies. Fortunately, Nphirea doesn’t have a malevolent bone in his body; he just wanted to follow and learn from Momon, and promises to keep the fact he has multiple identities a secret. Nabe offers to kill herself for blabbing about Albedo, but Momonga considers the incident closed and all is forgiven.

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Nphirea asks Momon not to kill the Wise King of the Forest if he encounters it, lest the power vacuum of the forest lead to an uptick in monster activity (the King is the lesser of two evils). His domain is a lovely, lush, dense forest primeval that reminds me of Mononoke-hime, and Aura’s giant talking beast friends continue that theme…

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…As does the unveil of the Wise King himself: a giant talking hamster. I…was not expecting that, though when I first saw the squirrel-like eyes in the dark I suspected something rodent-y. This is absurd and a little trippy, and Momonga, knowing an ally of his had a similar pet, doesn’t really want to deal with this guy, so I really like how everyone else is so in awe of this Wise King, despite being a giant hamster. Even Nabe sees power in its gaze (I didn’t catch a gender).

He also achieves what he wanted originally: to gain prestige and create buzz back in the city by capturing and registering the legendary beast, while inspiring Nphirea to ask if he can join his team. Momonga gently refuses, but promises he’ll help protect Carne, and in the meantime Nphirea is welcome to keep observing and learning from him.

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Back in town there’s the sense that everyone had just undertaken a great adventure and are now back home sweet home. Nphirea himself is ready to settle in for the night when he notices his grandma isn’t around, and that’s when he finds Clementine lying in wait for him, offering her chilling sing-song “Hiiii.” This is not good news for our long-banged pharmacist, but it is good news for the show. Things are moving along, slowly but surely.

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OverLord – 06

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OverLord continues to plod along at a leisurely, deliberate pace, but there’s something to be said for a show of this genre to not move at such a breakneck speed that nothing that happens matters as much as what happens next. Momon is playing the long game here, so it makes sense for the show to focus on his first job as an adventurer, protecting Nphirea alongside the Swords of Darkness.

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This episode was almost assured an 8 just for the scene of Demiurge walking in on Albedo in Ains’ bed with her recently-crafted Ains body pillow. Utterly ridiculous? Sure, but I won’t deny I laughed out loud at that ridiculousness. And Demiurge’s casual reactions completed the sale. Momonga’s changes to her character are locked in, he must reap what he’s sown. I wonder if Albedo’s obsession will only get worse to the point it becomes a crisis…but considering the comedy angle with the pillow, I also highly doubt it.

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Back in the field, Momon gets a chance to both see the DarkSwords do their thing, and to show them what he’s capable of, which is bringing down a giant ogre with one swipe. Nabe takes two out with one lightning bolt, not even having to unsheathe her sword. The Swords don’t embarrass themselves either, as Momon notes how good of a team they are because they know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and work to close each others’ gaps. The ogre/goblin mob didn’t have a chance.

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That night, the team feasts, and Momon runs into a practical problem, as he can’t eat or drink without exposing the fact he’s just a skeleton beneath his armor. But he has a bigger issue in that spending all this time with a tight-knit team of adventurers is incredible nostalgic, to the point of wistfulness and melancholy. He remembers he used to be like this with his comrades, and is resigned to the fact they may all be dead now, and he alone ended up in this weird new world.

It’s also nice to see people acknowledge responsibility for what they carelessly say to each other, whether it’s the flirty guy asking if Nabe is Momon’s lover (causing her to carelessly blurt out Albedo’s name) or the boy mage carelessly telling Momon he’s sure he’ll see his friends again when he doesn’t know that.

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As for Clementine, she prowls the streets of E-Rantel, killing and torturing and un-killing for intel on Nphirea. But when she visits Khajit, the two don’t seem on the friendliest terms. Khaj wants to turn E-Rantel into a city full of undead, but doesn’t that mean Clementine won’t have anyone left to kill, torture, and turn undead?

How will she satisfy her “corrupt personality” in Khaj’s undead E-Rantel? The clash of Lawful (Khaj) and Chaotic (Clem) Evil makes for a good antagonistic duo, and Clem’s Yuuki Aoi really chews the scenery well with her up-and-down voice.  I just wish one of them would encounter and face off with Momon already.

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OverLord – 05

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Momonga’s starts to fulfill his desire for the name Ainz Ooal Gown to become known far and wide throughout the world starts out modestly, by entering E-Rantel posing as a young adventurer “Momon”, accompanied by one of his battle maid Narbarel AKA “Nabe”. He knows that he can’t conquer a world he knows next to nothing about, and a great way to learn more is to play things by the book and rise in the ranks of the adventurer guilds.

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Momonga is making a conscious effort to do things carefully and empirically, not making to much noise. Yet his potential to be a bull in the proverbial china shop is evident when he tosses a would-be bully across a tavern, knocking over another adventurer’s precious potion. He gives her one of his to make things right, but his potions are red, not the usual blue, so she takes it to the local pharmacist, Nphirea, who then learns about Momon and is intrigued.

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By then Momon, needing coin but unable to secure high-level jobs, agrees to join an adventuring party, Swords of Darkness. Nphirea seeks out Momon, and both he and the Swords agree to accompany him as his bodyguards on an herb-collecting excursion. Even after annihilating an entire Slane army, Momon remains cautious and is hesitant both to guard Nphirea alone at his present state of knowledge of the new world, and also just plain doesn’t want to go back on his word to join the Swords of Darkness, instead including them.

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Throughout all of this, Nabe remains dutifully by Momon’s side, voicing her displeasure with having to jump through hoops for human trash (though I understand why he didn’t bring Albedo along; she’s more powerful than the battle maid and hence hates being around humans even more than Nabe). There is something to both Momon and Nabe having to restrain themselves in order to fit in and get the knowledge and experience he wants out of this.

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Meanwhile, the next antagonist in Momon’s adventure reveals herself to the audience with lots of helpful expository dialogue with another baddie. They’re members of the secret society of Zuranon, and she, Clementine, has secured a magical item that consumes the one who uses it. She’s heard about Nphirea in E-Rantel, and wants to use it on him, gaining the help of Khaj.

I’m looking forward to seeing where this goes, and the inevitable showdown between Momon/Nabe/Swords of Darkness and these would-be spreaders of chaos and death. But the long and short of it is, we didn’t get to see any of that in this episode; it was largely setup, albeit with some decent world-building.

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OverLord – 04

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Everything about the mages the Slane Theocracy sends to Carne, led by Nigun Grid Lewin of the Sunlit Scripture, indicates they’re tough customers by any measure, and there’s no better way of demonstrating that than by methodically beating down Re-Estize’s head warrior Stronoff with wave after wave of summoned Escaflowne-style mecha-angels.

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Stronoff has offensive magic and is able to carve through a few dozen, but they just keep coming, and his soldiers aren’t strong enough to help him. On the edge of defeat and death, Lord Momonga—sorry, Ainz Ooal Gown—uses the item he gave Stronoff to switch places with him, with Stronoff ending up in the villager’s shelter and Ainz and Albedo facing off against a huge and confident Slane force.

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Lewin and his forces look strong and they feel strong, and they definitely did a number on Stronoff. But as great and famed a warrior as he is, Stronoff is still only a human, and so are they. And the strength and magic of humans turn out to be of no consequence to Ainz and Albedo. He entered the battle prepared for a tough fight, but he turned out to be overly cautious. But that’s okay, because expected them to put up a fight too.

Which is why it’s so strange that I don’t feel cheated in the slightest by the fact Luwin and the Slane mages are nothing but ants before the power of Ainz. After watching them have their way with Stronoff, watching Ainz utterly turn the tables by defeating every weapon at their disposal with comical ease was a lot of fun. I keep using that word because that’s what this show is: loads of badass, giddy, contagious fun.

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Even Albedo (who granted is infatuated with Ainz) can’t restrain her glee at the spectacle she witnessed, setting aside her objections about him even bothering to face such puny opponents and reveling in his awesomeness, along with the way he used Stronoff as a pawn to collect more information on the strength of the local powers, which he’s determined is pretty pathetic.

Back home at Nazarick, Ainz declares his new name and orders the assembled guardians to make sure it becomes an eternal legend that spreads across the world. That, Inner Ainz believes, is the best way (not to mention the most entertaining way) for him to attract the attention of other human players from Yggdrasil. If they made the trip with him to this new fantasy world, he intends to find them.

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Psycho-Pass – 22 (Fin)

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Akane doesn’t believe the law protects the people so much as the people protect the law. The law in the culmination of mankind’s amassed hopes and dreams for a better world to live in; without that collective input, the law—and society—cannot exist. When the will of the people is usurped by a system like Sybil, the momentum of human progress towards that ideal goal is arrested.

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I said all Akane cared about was saving Kogami’s soul, but once it became clear after a heartbreaking sequence of events that she wasn’t going to be successful, I realized I was wrong about her becoming lost if she did fail, or that her desire to save Kogami was selfish. To her, no matter how vicious Makishima’s crimes were, on-the-spot execution is a crime, and she does everything in her power to prevent that crime. She just came up a bit short.

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She wasn’t being selfish; she was being patient. She doesn’t like Sybil anymore than Kogami or Makishima, but she knows society as it is can’t live without it; not yet. So she’ll continue being one of their ideal poster girls. She does exactly what she’s done every time something horrible has happened in her life, whether it was her first traumatic experience as an inspector, losing Yuki, or losing Kogami, twice: she moves forward.

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Sybil is disappointed that Akane couldn’t deliver Makishima to them, but that doesn’t mean they cut her loose. They “lower her ratings” a bit, but they’re sitll all outstandingly high. They want to someday reveal themselves to the world as they did to Akane, and when that happens, they want the people to accept them and be happy about it, and they think Akane and people like her will help pave the way to that. Faced with that grotesque hubris, sucking up her pride is actually quite selfless on Akane’s part.

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Two months pass, and we’ve got some changes, all of which do a decent job of setting up the second season that arrived a couple days ago. That’s right, because of the timing of my watching of Psycho-Pass, I will not have to endure a two-plus year wait, but will jump right back into it. Ginoza is now an enforcer, Shion and Yayoi still seem to be having pretty okay sex, and Akane is now in charge of the division.

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Perhaps most awesomely, the show ends on a note that may not bode well for Akane’s chances of exacting the change she wants, rather than the “evolution” Sybil seeks. That’s because the show ends just like it began: with a young and eager rookie inspector arriving on a tense crime scene, and the more seasoned inspector telling her they afford to go easy on them. Only this time Akane is the seasoned one and Shimotsuki Mika is the even younger rookie in question. That’s some fantastic symmetry there.

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It may intrest you to know that even though we only saw her for a brief moment, I found myself identifying more with Mika, as I did with Akane when she was new. Considering how long this show has been around, I kind of feel like the second line that Mika represents, who can only repeat the deeds or mistakes of her forbears. Similarly, most of what I’ve prattled on about in these twenty-odd reviews may have already been said before in different forms, but better to have stumbled on this great piece of quasi-Utopian fiction late than never. Thanks for bearing with me. On to Psycho-Pass 2.

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Sidonia no Kishi – 06

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Hero. Idol. Tug-of-war Rope. Pawn. Fuck-up. Scapegoat. Nagate’s a little of everything this week, like the episode itself. We start off with the jubilation of him and Shizuka being rescued by all the other Gardes (a goosebump-inducing scene we’re glad was repeated), and he gains instant celebrity status upon his return.

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Before the celebrations, Nagate and Shizuka undergo extensive medical tests. A little yellow light on Shizuka’s readout appears to be nothing serious, but it sets a foreboding, optimism-eroding precedent. Nagate, Shizuka, Kunato and En are promoted to full Gardes pilots; a mere formality considering they did what the Elite Four couldn’t: defeat the Gauna and return alive.

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Nagate makes a point to visit the huge memorial to the Fallen Four, which only ingratiates him further with Yuhata, who enters Full Pursuit Mode at the post-promotion party. Izana remains thoroughly annoyed she has to share Nagate with anyone, but Shizuka takes a more pragmatic approach.

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In the ensuing bathysphere excursion, we get the closest thing Sidonia’s had to a harem quarrel, as the girls are literally jammed in the door, with Shizuka ending up alone with Nagate by sheer dumb luck (and physics). The mere fact they’re in their own bathysphere blushing at one another is more foreshadowing, lest we forget what became of the last couple we saw in one of these.

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As his peers revel in Nagate’s heroics and much of the greater public slurps up the feel-good narrative, Kobayashi consults with the elder council (whatever they’re called; I forget), who see Nagate as a valuable pawn in the never-ending quest to extend their own lives preserve Sidonia. And if he proves less pliable or competent than they envisioned, Kobayashi is to dispose of him.

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That leads to Nagate’s final roles this week: fuck-up and scapegoat. He and Shizuka can’t even complete their love cruise when they’re ordered to sortie against a very nasty and tough-looking “hive-type” Gauna. But we don’t see the battle; that’s likely to come. Instead, we go straight from Shizuka giving Nagate a parting salute the camera dwells on (the episode’s title) to him waking up in hospital.

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Like him, we have to piece together what happened, but unlike him I know immediately it’s nothing good. When the Honoka sisters give him eye-daggers and Izana says nothing, he has to get it from the TV, which slowly, cruelly reveals by steady text crawl what has happened: much of the Gauna was defeated, but Shizuka was lost. Another devastating gut punch, driven home by locking the camera on his stunned face.

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Throughout this episode we saw an adjustment in Norio: while watching Nagate receive All The Laurels, he resigns himself to absorbing rather than outwardly projecting his contempt for it all. He extends an olive branch, bides his time, and in the end, it looks like he comes out on top. Because to the masses, the only hero that matters is the one that just saved you.

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