86 – 12 (S2 E01) – New Home, New Hope

86 is back…and there are some changes. San Magnolia’s awful system hasn’t changed, and Lena is still stuck in it (for now), but she’s adjusted the way she operates within it. Demoted to captain, she wears a streak of blood red in her hair and wears a black uniform to set herself apart from her drunken peers. She has a new squadron of Eighty-Six led by Iida Shiden, AKA Cyclops.

She handles them as she handled Shin’s squad; with as much compassion and care as she can. She learned their names from the start and has built a good rapport with Cyclops, who calls her “My Queen”. Most importantly, Lena is doing what she promised Shin and the others she would do: live on; survive. For her, that means preparing for the massive Legion offensive she senses is coming, even if her superiors are doing nothing.

Lena is maintaining and biding her time. As for her old friends Shin, Raiden, Anju, Kurena, and Theo? Amazingly, they’re all still alive, which is tremendous news. 86 really ripped my heart out, but it went a long way towards repairing that emotional damage by bringing them back without it feeling contrived or out of left field. Shin and the others are now honored guests of Giad, which is no longer the empire that created the Legion, but a diverse inclusive federacy.

That said, they should consider themselves lucky Giad’s President Ernst Zimmerman is, at least on the surface, a man of conscience and compassion, who wants only to give these found children, cast out of their homeland after fighting so long and hard, a measure of peace. Of course, Zimmerman is also a politician, and while I don’t know what his ultimate plan for the five is, I’m certain there is a plan, and his smiles and politeness are probably hiding darker intentions.

That said, it’s hard to argue that Giad is far better adjusted nation than San Magnolia, what with there not being apartheid and battlefield slavery of non-Alba citizens. Alba and non-Alba share the same streets and have families together. Zimmerman also wants his five new guests to be as comfortable as possible, and so arranges for them to live in his presidential mansion. That mansion also happens to be occupied by a haughty little spitfire of a girl named Frederica Rosenfort (Kuno Misaki).

Her hair and eye color suggest some kind of connection to Shin, while it’s clear Zimmerman is hiding the fact she is the last surviving Giadian Empress from the general public; officially, she’s his adopted daughter, as are Shin and the others. You can tell after their ordeal the five are simply tired, but they also look uncomfortable and awkward in such plush surroundings.

Between their new situation and Lena’s maintaining, there’s going to be a lot of adjusting and adapting in store for them. The new OP also indicates it’s only a matter of time before the five are back in the cockpits of war machines, but the president is right about one thing: that’s probably where they want to be because it’s all they know.

Giad is battling the Legion the same as San Magnolia. It’s obvious that if the two nations worked together, and San Magnolia, say, was run by Lena and not opportunists and drunks, that nation would be far better off. Shin & Co. certainly seem better off, while Lena has at developed a thicker armor.  We’ll see if it all pays off.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 20

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In an initially cryptic prologue, a young man who looks like a more well put-together Subaru approaches a fair lass who looks like a redheaded Emilia. It’s actually a very young Wilheim van Astrea meeting his future love, Theresia, but I’m sure the resemblances aren’t an accident.

Theresia may be gone and isn’t coming back, but this entire grand battle is Subaru’s attempt to prevent history from repeating itself, by protecting Emilia from her demise (and himself from Puck’s primal wrath). He couldn’t do it alone, so he called upon those with whome he shares common purpose, and the result unfolds this week.

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Watching him dust himself off and craft the plan and set up the pieces made for a World Heritage List-worthy outing; and while it wasn’t really in doubt that the payoff would, er, pay off, there was also a lingering feeling that Subaru was due for another setback. This is Re:Zero, after all. Not victory comes easily, nor on the first try.

That being said, the joint Karsten/Hoshin army packs a wollop, unleashing all their best attacks and dealing serious damage to the whale, who is none to happy that the ambush tables were turned. One weapon even turns night into day, which makes the battle a lot easier to see. This isn’t ufotable-level combat, mind you, but it doesn’t need to be, and gets the job done.

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After Wilhem cuts out one of the whale’s eyes (GROSS!), it unleashes a cloud of fog, and its counterattack begins. We see concern in Crusch’s expression as the sky dims, and Wil remembers telling the lovely redhead in the ruins how his sword is the only way to protect someone as a knight.

He failed in that task, but not for want of trying, and is resolute in his desire to make up for the failure by vanquishing the whale once and for all.

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But the whale has more tricks up its sleeve: its fog cleaves the earth and utterly destroys a good chunk of the force. Many of the survivors succumb to the whale’s devastating, mind-piercing song, which makes them hurt themselves. Fortunately Felix is there to neutralize the effects with his healing magic.

Subaru sees that someone needs to step up and change the tune of this battle, and decides it should be him. He openly mentions Return by Death, which has the desired effect of infusing him with a fresh batch of the Witch’s stench, drawing the whale to him like a fish to a lure.

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This gives Wilheim a fresh chance to do more damage to the whale, but he ends up in the wrong position at the wrong time: right in front of the whale’s mouth as it scoops the earth around him up like a cloud of shrimp.

Wil stops and recalls one last tim, the night he was saved by the Master Swordsman, who turned out to be Theresia. The fact is, he was never strong enough to protect her; instead, the reverse was the case. Even when he lashed out in frustration, Theresia proved she was the better swordsman, even if she didn’t understand why.

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But Wil never got over the fact he could not protect the woman he loved, nor stop her from protecting him. He saw himself as the expendable one, and would have died happily if it meant she could live on, or even better, especially if she could then step down as Master Swordsman.

But that’s not exactly fair to Theresia, and I’m glad the show brings up the fact Wilheim’s desire for revenge, and putting himself in the literal jaws of the whale, may not have been the right thing to do, or indeed what Theresia wanted. She died to save him so he could live on. But he spent the last fourteen years living only for this day. Whether he survived this battle or died fighting, he was going to end things. And I’m not sure Theresia would approve, especially since we learn there isn’t just one white whale, but several. Talk about a Re:Zero knife twist!

What if now, Subaru has to die, plan all this out again, and the next time, include Priscilla and possibly others? I’m also weary that the Witch’s Cult will take advantage of the Karsten’s scattered, weakened army to launch their own strike. The plan was sound, it just wasn’t quite enough to end things. Will Subie be able to accomplish what Wilheim couldn’t—save the one he loves—without sacrificing himself?

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 19

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I LOVE IT WHEN A PLAN COMES TOGETHER.

It’s a tired phrase, but I can’t think of a more apt use for it than the latest Re:Zero, where Subaru gets to start over from Zero and doesn’t squander the chance. Rather than begging like a babbling loon for an obscure, partially-formed goal, he comes to Crusch Karsten—and Anastasia Hoshin, and the Merchant’s Guild—with a sensible, viable arrangement, with the White Whale Problem at the core.

In this manner, Subaru unwittingly becomes the catalyst for a grand battle that was in the making long before he arrived in this world. EVERYONE detests the White Whale. Thanks to his past lives, he not only knows how to properly approach and negotiate with these people—from a position of strength and common cause, and pride—he knows where the White Whale will show up next, and most importantly, when, thanks to his “metia.”

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When Subaru is speaking to Crusch, and Felix, and Wilheim in a manner that makes them receptive, he seems to find the unlikely hero within himself, a hero who has united groups with various opposing interests in less important areas but a shared loathing of the White Whale.

And because of the way he composes himself and presents his plan, everyone is not only willing, but eager to hear him out. Crusch is suspicious at first, but she can see the wind of dishonesty when someone lies, and Subaru, though clearly still intimidated, is making an honest, courageous effort that she doesn’t overlook.

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Part of me hated Crusch for so cruelly refusing Subie’s assistance the first time around, but I couldn’t blame her, as he was giving her no reason to help or believe him. Here he did his homework, recalling all the various goings-on in his past loops (combined with Hoshin’s major burn) to uncover the battle Crusch was preparing for anyway, and offer something that could give them all a decisive advantage over their foe.

Everyone works through the night to get ready, and Subie meets Hoshin’s mercenary captain Ricardo, and numerous veterans who came out of retirement to, like Wilheim, avenge their lost loved ones upon the Whale. Subaru sees this is bigger than him, but none of this would be possible without him. He’s making it, dammit…he’s making it!

It’s so good just to see everyone smiling and laughing again, even if it is, in part, to hide how goshdarn scared they all are of the task before them.

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This week, Subaru succeeded in all the ways he failed in previous attempts to save Emilia all by himself, or with last-minute help from others. Even though Priscilla isn’t a part of the alliance (and is totally absent this week), her reaction to Subie trying to kiss her feet was a powerful lesson Subie keeps with him, and is brought up again when he chooses his ground dragon, a breed known for its intense pride. He can’t accomplish anything alone, and he can’t inspire or convince others without that pride.

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Last week was ALL Rem and Subie, elevating Rem to “Best Girl of the Year” status for many. I don’t have many strong arguments against that, so I’ll let it stand, especially when she doubles down this week on her absolute faith in Subaru, keeping his spirits up even when he starts to doubt if his cell phone will actually help them (considering how cruel this show can be, I too was worried this to all be for nothing).

But now Rem isn’t the only one trusting of or grateful to Subaru. He’s convinced two candidates battling for the throne to join forces, for crying out loud. And the merchants! As for stern-faced Wilheim, he gets a lot more fine strokes this week as one of those older men in this world who lost something to the WW, and is grateful for the opportunity to avenge his wife (who was once Master Swordsman, underscoring how dangerous the WW is).

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Perhaps one of the best moments of a highly satisfying and morale-boosting episode, another gem in a show full of them, is the moments of silence as the hour of the Whale’s arrival approaches. There’s so much built-up tension, combined with the possibility that it might not show up, or that the Witch Cultists would ambush the army.

Then the silence is broken by a strange electronic musical noise that took be totally off-guard (even though he said he’d set it earlier): Subaru’s cell phone alarm.

The cheerful chime feels like a terribly foreboding harbinger to some foul occurrence, but then the whale makes its appearance, and Subaru charges in first with Rem loosing her magic with extreme prejudice. That changes Crusch’s face from terror and worry to a defiant smirk, and the battle begins.

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