Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 10 – Every Shot’s a Gamble

Eve attracts a lot of attention at her knew fifties diner-looking fancypants school, and on her first day, she doesn’t really like it. She dresses and acts like a yankee or delinquent, because she’s not here to make friends. She’s here to fulfill her promise to Aoi, whom she longs to “play with” all day long, only for Shinjou to put the kibosh on an after-school game.

Aoi giving Eve blue-bullet-balls only makes her more pent-up and frustrated, but Aoi tells her they can play all the time if she joins the school’s Golf Club, so with Ichina in tow, that’s what she tries to do. Unfortunately, the coach, Amuro Reiya (voiced by the same seiyu as Amuro Rey of Gundam fame) only pisses her off more. Of course, that’s intentional on his part. He’s testing her.

Unaware of how much money Eve made in the previous arc, Ichina assumes Eve has nowhere to go after school, but Eve proves her wrong by sidling up to the first pair of admiring classmates, captivating them with her ladykiller skillz, and proceeding to have a grand night out of shopping and games. Eve demonstrates she’s not just good at golf.

When her new friends (whose names she probably won’t remember) head home just before their curfews, Eve reveals she’s known Ichina has been stalking her all along. Ichina doesn’t consider it stalking; she’s observing one of the best golfers she’s encountered, and wants to be her caddy so they can win together. When one Iseshiba Kuyou appears and challenges Eve to a game of mini golf, Eve is ready to do battle.

While Kuyou demonstrates sublime precision in her putting, both she and Ichina are equal parts shocked, outraged, and entranced by the unique way Eve plays, which involves jumps, bounces, and lots of ricochets. Every shot feels like a gamble, like Eve is walking a tightrope…and yet the balls keep going in all the same.

After witnessing a few of Eve’s holes, even an elite golfer like Kuyou is well and truly shook. Fortunately for her, her senpai and teammate, Iijima Kaoruko, is nearby and tags herself in, sensing Kuyou is about to miss a shot. Keenly aware of the psychological aspect of golf, Kaoruko proceeds to use her In the Zone skill to shut off the outside world until there’s only her, the ball, the hole, and the route to get there.

After Kaoruko sinks her hole with a wedge, Ichina stops Eve from taking her shot. Eve remembers that Ichina said she could help her win the all-girls tournament, she stops and listens to what her caddy has to say. Kaoruko set a trap with her wedge shot, denting the green right in front of the hole. Ichina proposes not avoiding that dent but using it to get the ball in the hole. Eve is able to do so, and learns the value of Ichina as her caddy.

Kaoruko learns that both Eve and Ichina aren’t as dumb or inept as they look, and cuts the match short for the time being. That said, Kaoruko fully expects to see Eve at the All-Japan Girls High School Golf Doubles Championship. She’ll most likely be paired with Kuyou, and gives Coach Amuro a call telling him it was cruel to use her kohai to a player like Eve.

Turns out both Kuyou and Kaoruko comprised the test Amuro laid out for Eve, and she passed it with flying colors. With his ace Jinguuji Kinue out of commission, he needs someone to replace her by Aoi’s side at the championship, and it’s looking like that person is Eve. She’s already shown she can take and benefit from advice from a caddy; perhaps her crazy style of play can find a home at Raiou.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 09 – Drive Distance


This week we have a new setting in Raiou Girl’s Academy and a new protagonist in Saotome Ichina. We got a glimpse of both earlier in the series, but now they take center stage. Rather than a pro golfer, Ichina wants to be a pro caddy, as the best of the former make more money than the lower tier former.

Ichina takes pride in her knowledge of the sport and her ability to guide others, but she has her standards. First-year Misono Haruka may have potential, but Ichina refuses to be her caddy, because at the moment there’s no way she can beat Amawashi Aoi. Then these two fancy schoolgirls’ worlds are suddenly rocked by the Blue Bullet of one “Evengeline F. Kimishima”.

That Eve has to whip out her fake passport to recite that obviously fake name is only the tip of the comedy iceberg. There’s initially a language barrier as she speaks English to Ichina, but then switches to Japanese like it’s nothing, and wonders why she’s fluent (another hint about her past).

Eve is here for one reason: to see Aoi. She’s scolded by Golf Club President Jinguuji Kinue for trespassing, but Kinue’s arm is in a sling and Eve isn’t leaving until she sees Aoi, so the prez makes a compromise: Eve can see Aoi if she beats Haruka. Ichina will serve as Eve’s caddy, and if they lose, she has to be Haruka’s caddy.

With the stakes set, it’s all down to the golf, and well, none of these Raiou girls have seen Eve’s color bullet-themed golf before. Eve misses an Eagle by a couple of inches, while Haruka is totally thrown off her game by Eve’s aggressiveness, which Ichina has always maintained is the key to good golf.

Aoi demonstrates an excellent sense of timing by arriving just after Kinue told Eve she could see her. The resulting reunion is as adorable as you’d expect, with an elated, blushing Aoi literally throwing herself at Eve, who instinctively dodges. The other girls proceed to watch an entirely different side of Aoi…the side hopelessly in love with her one true rival and soul mate.

For her part, Eve plays all of this cool, even though it’s clear she’s just as happy to see Aoi as vice versa. Aoi insists that Eve stays in her dorm, which she leads her to hand-in-hand as a bus full of Raiou golfers watch stunned. In the locker room, Eve doesn’t have time to dress after a shower to challenge Aoi to another game right then and there. Aoi is scandalized, but is also clearly looking through her hands.

Before she knows it, Eve is completely swept up in Aoi’s world, as Aoi flexes the family muscles by having Eve enrolled at Raiou as a transfer student. She’s an immediate sensation with the class, who is so enamored by the tall, cool blonde they don’t flinch when she once again has to read her name off her passport.

All in all, Eve’s first episode in Japan is a wonderful clash of cultures and styles. Most importantly, she’s back with Aoi for what could well be the remainder of the cour. There’s nothing better out there than when these two light up the screen together. Haruka may have been an easy win for Eve, but I’m looking forward to the possibility of other Raiou girls posing more of a challenge.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

 

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 08 – Live Your Own Life, Then Die

Moments after Rose’s prosthetic hand and wrist shatters after one too many Crimson Rose Bullets, we learn how she ended up with it in the first place: she got in too deep with the underground, and one day (or probably more appropriately, night) she lost, and the price was her hand. Leo only visited her to tell her she was stupid and he was having nothing more to do with her. He found someone new.

Rose meets this someone new, watches her fire a Blue Bullet, then tries to get her to work for her, but Eve isn’t about that. In fact, she didn’t show up on Rose’s doorstep until she wanted to play against Aoi. Fast-forward to the present, and Rose is going to play golf with one arm. Yes, you heard me. And she does.

Not only that, she comes heart-crushingly close to sinking the ball on just her second shot, a perfect shot from 140 yards away. But close is no cigar, which opens the door for Eve to take the win. The episode then jumps forward, to when the construction vehicles are about to level Klein’s bar while she, Lily, and the kids watch.

That’s when Eve shows up in Vipére’s car (and Vipére does a J-turn waaaaay too close to the children) and tells them to hop in, even though the car in question is tiny. Their problems are solved. She opens her new briefcase full of cash (again, a questionable decision in an open convertible traveling at high speed). She won. Rose lost.

From there, things start flying high. Vipére, as a treat, gives Klein’s whole family new identities (a snake keeps her ear to the ground), which allows Klein to buy a new bar, Lily to help out there, and the three refugee kids (from Palestine, Syria, and Somalia, by the way) to go to school for the first time.

Vipére herself ends up on a yacht, seemingly retiring both from golf and from wearing fangs. But while her family’s future is secure, it’s not all gravy for Eve. She meets Rose’s underling Anri on a rooftop, where Anri tells her that as a result of her victory, Catherine has put hits out on both Rose and her. Anri can’t quite kill Eve herself, even though she wants to. Instead, she runs away in tears, telling her to live her life however she wants, then die…with emphasis on the “die”.

Certain for some reason that A., Catherine won’t go after her family and B., Catherine will never know to send hitmen to Japan, Eve gets on a train to the airport bound to Aoi’s homeland, to fulfill the promise she made to meet her on a legit golf course. It’s the promise that drove her stunning victory, bouncing her ball of Rose’s and landing in the cup.

Mind you, shit like that probably won’t fly in above ground golf. But knowing her best years were behind her, Rose always intended for Eve to surpass her, and is glad her ass was kicked so thoroughly. She sits by the water with a cig, having summoned Leo to ask why he gave up on Eve. He tells her because he didn’t believe he could awaken her full potential.

But that time is seemingly coming. As if to underscore the official changing of the guard, Leo’s departure is immediately followed by the arrival of Catherine’s hitman. Before he pulls the (real, not metaphorical) trigger and ends her life, Rose briefly glimpses an ideal possible life when she was on the pro tour, with Leo as her proud caddy. Maybe in another life. This tragic moment is followed up by Eve is on a plane bound for Japan and to her beloved Aoi, who just can’t believe the drinks are free.

I will savor and treasure this episode for a long time, and you should too: it’s about as good as anime can get. Engaging, deadly serious, and absolutely window-lickingly bonkers in the same breath. And with only 4-5 episodes left, I desperately hope we get a second season, as it seems Eve’s golf story is only beginning now that she has emerged from the shadows and leapt into the light. The world would be a better place with more Birdie Wing in it.

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 07 – Around the Bend

When you consider that Nicholas and Catherine are using Eve and Rose to settle a score that might’ve taken a lot more time, cost a lot more money and spilled a lot more blood on the streets, you can’t help but think that her $100 million underground golf course is worth every penny of her money—both dirty and legitimate.

Of course, Eve and Rose don’t particularly care about their bosses; they’re doing this for pride. Rose even told her underling to leave Eve alone a year ago, when she was only six months into her betting golf career. Only now that “the fruit is ripe” does Rose want to pluck it from the branch and sink her teeth into it.

Make no mistake: Rose is good. Like Eve, she was trained by Leo (who makes a rather baffling appearance at the bar while Klein is packing up) and also calls her shots “bullets” (though in her case she has only one color: crimson rose). The two play hole after hole to draw after draw. Since the stakes are their lives, this is a double-edged sword.

There is certainly a level of suspense, especially the way the balls just miss the holes. But that’s tempered by the inescapable knowledge that Eve is most certainly not going to die as a result of this match, and I’m not even convinced Rose will either.

This episode is also let down a bit by two factors: the ridiculousness of the underground configurable golf course was already established for the duel with Vipére, so its novelty and shine wear off a bit (especially as they use all the same shots as the first time we saw it, only in a different order).

When Catherine cheats and has a hole made that requires a slice, she does so believing, Wile E. Coyote-style, that the Road Runner isn’t capable of learning. Turns out Aoi taught Eve a new “Purple Bullet” that does indeed slice. Worse for Cathy still, there’s a very concerning crack when Rose hits her shot.

When Rose tries to match Eve’s 287-yard Blue Bullet bomb, she manages to do so, but there’s that cracking sound again, and it’s followed by Rose clutching her right arm and screaming in pain. Then, and mind you this is after the credits, something happened that made me cackle like Catherine after something goes her way.

Turns out Rose’s freaking arm is a bionic arm, and it shatters. I’d say that’s the end of the game…but this is Birdie Wing. It’s possible she has a spare, or just plays with one arm. Either way I can’t see her outright dying … but by golly that arm was one hell of a surprise.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 06 – Deep in the Sand Trap

In a rather nasty twist of fate, the land for a new casino that Eve was golfing for on behalf of Catherine is the very land on which her found family presently squats. I had assumed Klein owned the bar they live in, but nope. We also learn that the three little ones are immigrant orphans who will be deported. Eve can’t help but think she’s responsible for potentially destroying her family.

She visits Rose to voice her outrage, as Rose most certainly knew full well that Eve’s fam lived on the future site of the casino. But Rose has no sympathy for Eve; she did her a favor by letting her play against Aoi, while Eve repaid it by beating Vipére. Eve goes over everything that’s happened in the episode so far, and decides that the solution to this crisis is, of course, hitting a ball with a stick…in a way only she can.

As luck would have it, Vipére just happens to stop at the very spot Eve is doing her reflecting. Eve asks for golf betting gigs, but if Snake Woman had any, she’d take them. After she lost to Eve, Nicholas took everything she had (except, oddly, her Morgan roadster…). I must say, the speed with which Vipére became a comic book villain to a charming and likeable (temporary?) ally to Eve is truly impressive.

Aoi’s sole scene in this episode is a brief one, as we follow her on her extended press junket. The scene makes clear two things: 1.) No matter how cutthroat the Japanese high school golf circuit is, Eve has a lot more shit to deal with than Aoi, and 2.)  Eve is still foremost on her mind, so much so that she confuses journalists by insinuating she lost to someone in a tournament she won by 12 strokes.

Much to Catherine’s consternation, Nicholas does not honor their proxy golf deal and assassinates her politician so that the council votes for him to maintain control of the Casino. When Cathy won’t accept a 70-30 split in Nick’s favor, it comes down to another game of golf (though why either party would believe the other again escapes me). One of his underlings is, ahem, good friends with Vipére, who gets the lowdown on the impending game.

Knowing that Eve will give her a better chance of crawling out of the abyss, Vipére basically takes her in (to what I assume is a safe house) and puts her on a grueling training regimen. Or at least the thought it would be grueling; instead, she’s astounded by Eve’s stamina. Turns out Eve already underwent even more grueling training under Leo, the man who taught her how to golf with a lot of tough love.

The name Eve, AKA Evangeline, is the only thing Eve remembers when she suddenly woke up with bandages on her head. She was saved by Klein and Lily, who were then living and working at a brothel at the tender age of 14 and 10, respectively. Eve accepted Leo’s tutelage so she could golf her new sisters out of that brothel and into a life of safety and comfort. But now that life is back on the line.

Back down in her high-tech underground course, Madame Catherine learns that Nicholas, through Vipére, has hired Eve to be his golf proxy this time around, with Vipére serving as her caddy. Catherine, in turn, has picked Rose to be her proxy, and clearly this is something Rose has set up from the beginning…and something tells me she’s immune to Vipére’s stinky charms.

The stage is thus set for the most over-the-top, high-stakes golf game yet: one that may decide whether Eve’s friends have to return to prostitution to survive while the little ones get shipped back to their home countries. As halfway points of cours go, it’s not a bad place to be. I can’t wait to watch Eve potentially struggle but ultimately prevail over a too-arrogant-by-half Rose…and wish nothing but the best for dear, déar Vipére.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 05 – Golf Eve Online: Aoization

After that doomed mad dash to the golf course in a poorly chosen classic car driven by Tinarina from Raw Time, Aoi feels betrayed…until she sees Eve’s ball soaring through the sky as the plane takes off. Once back in Japan Aoi tries to get back on the first flight to Nafrece, and she’s only stopped by Shinjou.

Aoi is feenin’ for Eve so hard, she barely manages a shrug at the appearance of her top amateur rival Himekwa Mizuho, and even lets slip to her mom/sponsor Seira that she met someone amazing at the tournament. Seira immediately launches an investigation into this “Eve Aleon”.

Meanwhile, Eve can think of nothing more than getting back on the course with Aoi. She’s listless, and needs to get the doe eyes from her three kid siblings to get off her ass and hustle Mr. Kevin a sixth or seventh time. She ultimately wins, since Lily buys pizza to celebrate, but it’s touch and go at the beginning of the three-hole game.

Eve just isn’t feeling the “heat” she felt at the tournament playing Eve, and worse still, thinks she may never feel that heat playing golf again. I mean, if you can’t play with your soul mate, what’s the point of anything? I be she wishes she’d gotten Aoi’s contact info, huh?

While Aoi and Eve struggle with being apart, Rose stops by Cathy’s HQ to collect the not inconsiderable payout she got when Eve beat Dollar Tree Morticia. Cathy wants to hire Eve to work exclusively, envisioning she can “service” fans even if she loses. Rose says that sounds like a great idea but probably wouldn’t fly.

Mind you, Rose most assuredly doesn’t discourage Cathy for Eve’s sake; Eve is a tool she wants to use to make money. Cathy knows this too, and so her pursuit of Eve has probably only just begun. As for Seira’s investigation, when she learns Eve is an “illegal golfer with mafia ties” she stops worrying about Aoi having a genuine rival.

To Seira, Eve is just a “pebble” on Aoi’s otherwise smooth road to success (and succession), but to Aoi, Eve is everything. When Clara introduces Eve to the concept of VR golf and how it’s particularly popular in Japan, Eve decides to try it out, presumably in the astronomically small chance she’ll run into Aoi virtually.

I love the whole VR setup, which is the kind of advanced SAO-style full-dive tech our world has a long way to go to achieving. The details are great, from how she’s so focused on golfing she lets the attendant dress her up as a techno cat maid, to the way the course uncannily moves so she doesn’t have to.

Rose’s manipulation of Eve’s motivation is so unyielding, she not only sends a message to Aoi in the middle of the night masked as a message from Eve, and shows Eve rankings that indicate there’s one player in all of VR-dom better than her…she listens in on the two when they inevitably reunite on the course, albeit a fake one.

And what a reunion it is, what with how wildly the two are dressed and how much they missed each other after such a short time. It’s clear even seeing virtual versions of each other (which aren’t that different from their real selves) really puts a spark back into both of them after how down they felt in each other’s absences.

Still, Eve is frustrated that she can’t play Aoi on a real golf course, so Aoi gets her to promise to meet her one one someday soon. That means getting on the youth golf tour for real—without “special invitations”, but if it’s to play golf with Aoi, Eve is ready to pinky swear. She would have, too, if she wasn’t suddenly logged off.

A tearful Lily is the one who logged her off, and she has terrible news…they’re about to lose their home. Is this more Rose fuckery, as in they can buy the place from whoever is taking it if Eve wins another match for her? I wouldn’t put it past her. Either way, if there’s a way out of this crisis, I’m sure it will be golf-related. Hell, it had better be…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Birdie Wing: Golf Girls’ Story – 04 – Snakebit

When Aoi missed her putt, Eve confronts her angrily, thinking she let her win. But Aoi admits the miss was “her mistake”—apparently no one noticed Anri flashing a laser into Aoi’s eye before she putted, including Aoi herself. But she wants to have another go at a real game with Eve, so they agree to meet back at the course at 5 AM so they can play until her flight back to Japan.

Normally Eve would be able to keep such an appointment, but Catherine cashes in on Rose’s favor to her for letting Eve into the tournament that very night, and Rose and Anri deliver her to a massive configurable underground golf course. This is just the window-lickin’ craziest shit.

Eve is Catherine’s golfer, while her opponent in a real estate deal, fellow mobster Mr. Nicolas, has hired the thoroughly corny Vipère, a vampy minx in a leather catsuit. In addition to their employers’ bet, Vipère makes it interesting for her and Eve by saying whoever loses becomes the personal property of the other for a day.

Eve is neither amused nor impressed by all this nouveau riche and faux-vampiric posturing, and simply wants to get on with the game. But every other shot she makes is totally off, and she has no idea why…until she notices the same thing most of the audience probably noticed immediately: Vipère stinks. Not at golf, but literally.

Every time Vipère unzipped the front of her catsuit near Eve, she messed up. Turns out her perfume is a sublt poisons that threw her game off just enough to almost lose. Not about to lose to a cheater with fangs and a way too active tongue, Eve uses her Yellow Bullet to drive her ball out of a bunker and straight into the hole, beating Vipère and fulfilling her favor to Rose and Catherine.

What follows is a lot of plot malarkey, unfortunately. First, Eve has Vipère drive her to the course to meet with Aoi…in Vipère’s slow antique car. Aside from it not being Vipère’s style at all (why is it yellow?) Anri was right there in the parking lot with a Jaguar XJS, which if I know Rose had a V12. Combined with the fact the distance from the underground course to the above-ground one wasn’t revealed until it became a problem, and my eyes were rolling like a Titleist on the green.

Just as Anri manufactured Aoi’s loss and Vipère almost manufactured Eve’s, the the plot tomfoolery ends up manufacturing the first major interpersonal conflict between Aoi and Eve, as Aoi waits as long as she can but has to board her flight before Eve gets there. She leaves her Pac-Man ball on the tee, but drew a tear in its eye and “Liar” on the other side.

As her plane takes off, Aoi spots Eve and her Blue Bullet taking flight. So, I guess the airport is right next to the golf course? What with that crazy golf bunker, I half-expected Eve’s golf ball to go into the jet engine, forcing it to land and giving the two a chance to play.

Of course, there’s a good chance that would have ended in fiery tragedy, so maybe it’s best Eve didn’t hit the plane….I just hope their budding friendship hasn’t been shattered irrevocably. After all, Aoi began the episode with a mistake caused by others; now that Eve was late, the two are even par, as they should be.

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 04 – The Only Bad Guy

You need people like me so you can point your fuckin’ fingers and say, ‘That’s the bad guy’.—Tony Montana

As Akari naps on her shoulder, Menou reflects on how she got to this point, on a train to the execution of what seems like a perfectly ordinary and nice young woman but for her potential to end the world with her unchecked powers of time manipulation.

We’ve seen where Menou’s old life ended and where Flare found her; a haunting blanched world of pure white destruction. The first half of this episode expounds upon that scene, and how the landscape was very much reflecting Menou’s own state at that time: a blanched, blank slate.

Like Fushi in To Your Eternitythis Menou didn’t feel anything; she was simply there…until Orwell assigned Flare to look after her. Her first words to Flare were “who are you?” which might as well been a question to herself. Flare’s response, that she’s a “pure, just and strong” priestess, is delivered with a villainously twisted face and dripping with sarcasm Menou takes at face value.

Menou came to learn that Flare was an executioner of otherworlders and other enemies of the Faust, and is eventually taken to an entire continent of nothing but salt slowly dissolving into the sea, the result of one of the Four Human Errors. Upon learning the solemn duty of people like Flare, Menou decided on the spot that she wanted to be one of those people.

To this request, Flare warns Menou that executioners like her are little more than villains to be loathed and discarded when at the end of their usefulness, someone willing to do anything to anyone, good or bad, man or woman, in order to keep the world safe. Someone strong, but bereft of purity or justice. A tool.

When Menou says she wants to be one anyway, Flare takes her to a monastery to train with other young girls. They learn how to fight and kill, and also learn about the otherworlders and how they influenced this world and threatened its very existence at least four times in history. The iconography on display in the classroom is wonderfully dark and medieval.

It’s here where Menou learns that she must “speak of friendship, whisper words of love, be dirty and underhanded” in order to kill one’s targets. She also meets the younger Momo, who like some other girls is not taking the indoctrination into merciless killing machines smoothly. Menou comes to Flare, who seems to be sleeping uneasily in her dark and musty chambers.

There, Menou asks her to make her “the only bad person” so the girls who don’t want to don’t have to be. It’s clear their hesitance is a result of past experiences Menou no longer has due to the calamity she survived. Flare proceeds to evaulated Menou’s strengths and weaknesses, adding up to a “slightly below average” candidate for such a role.

Then Menou surprises Flare (something I’m sure doens’t happen often) by  taking her face in her little hands and asking her not to make her like her, but to make her her. A little Flare. A Flarette.

Flare, long ago resigned to her fate as a loathsome villain who will never find vindication or peace, is half-lamenting and half-admiring in stating that a “twisted personality” has emerged from Menou’s “blanched out soul”, and that one day she’ll surpass her when all of it is destroyed by happiness and she still survives.

That segues nicely into the present, with Akari waking up from her nap to see Garm growing larger through the window. She’s too distracted by the big shiny capital city to noticed Menou’s pained expressions, the result of having time to herself to reflect on her past and present. Flare knew Menou would come to this point, when happiness threatened to destroy the villain she’d become.

Menou promises to go on a sightseeing date with Akari, but they first pay a visit to the Faust cathedral (which is right next to the Noblesse’s fortress…keep your enemies close). The ceremonial hall that will “take Akari home” is there, and Akari meets Archbishop Orwell, who says the hall will be ready in two days.

Akari is apologetic and appreciative, the only person not in on what is really going on. Orwell plays the role of kindly grandmother figure to a T, while Menou does not flinch in the presence of this deeply upsetting charade. She also agres to take on a side job for Orwell investigating missing women in the city in exchange for funds for taking the pilgrimage route once her business in Garm is finished.

The fact that this job conflicts with the promise Menou made to Akari to go sightseeing together, and also looks ahead to the time when Akari is back “home”, irks Akari to no end, and she makes her anger plain once the two are set up in a fancy hotel room. She storms back inside to take a bath, slamming the door behind her.

Menou is seemingly taken aback by Akari’s anger, forgetting that while she’s always kept a professional remove due to her ultimate mission to eliminate her, Akari considers Menou a friend, and for Menou to treat her like a “stranger who will be gone soon” truly hurts, even if Akari is being a little immature about it.

While Akari bathes, she has a chance to reflect on how she reacted, and concludes she was indeed too harsh on Menou, who has many responsibilities to juggle. To whit, while she’s in the bath Menou meets with Momo on the balcony, and basically delegates the investigation job to her.

As she was on the train, Momo is obedient to the big sister she loves more than anything, but also very weary of Menou’s continued interactions with someone she deems an extremely dangerous otherworlder. Menou laments forcing “the messy stuff” on Momo’s plate, but still does it, because she needs and wants to keep Akari happy.

Upon going back into the room, Akari meets her there, having emerged from the bath in a towel, and apologizes for how she acted, saying she’ll sightsee on her own while Menou takes care of her duties. Menou in turn says their sightseeing date is back on, and Akari embraces her, loing her towel in the process.

As much as Akari may like Menou, the fact of the matter is she’s being lied to, and proverbial knives are being sharpened for her demise, not her return to Japan. Menou is using their nascent friendship to keep Akari docile and content until the knife can be slipped in. It’s heartbreaking, compelling character drama.

Next week’s episode is titled “Goodbye”. Will it mark the departure of Akari, or Menou’s departure from villainy? Judging from her past, the latter seems more likely. But then again, she’s never met an otherworlder quite like Akari.

Magia Record – 23 – Sticking to the Plan

Outside, Yachiyo, Mifuyu, and the other girls are confronted by the Amane twins and Magius acolytes, and it looks like a magical girl-on-magical girl battle is about to take place. But to the twins’ credit, they seem to stand down at least to hear Mifuyu out; such is their respect and love for her. Mifuyu tells them the time has come to stop hurting each other and others, because the Wings of Magius’ plan failed.

Inside, Nemu stops the time suspension, the hourglass shatters, and suddenly Touka remembers everything: life with Nemu, Ui, and Iroha in the hospital, and all of the things she’s done since then to end up where she is. It’s a tearful reunion, but Touka also finds herself crushed by guilt. Kugimiya Rie does some excellent work here.

After hugging Iroha, Touka wants to know why Nemu didn’t tell her the truth when she knew it all along, and the answer is simple: Nemu didn’t want Touka to abandon the plan. The collective fear and misery of countless magical girls who came to Kamihama City drove Touka mad, but Nemu’s knowledge of not only losing Ui but knowing no one knew but her must’ve have driven her mad, too.

That’s because even with the benefit of hindsight, and the fact their efforts thus far almost killed their big sis Iroha, Touka and Nemu decide to press on. They don’t believe the Doppel System to have failed, but simply isn’t finished yet. They decide to keep the promise they made to Ui, even if she wouldn’t want them to, and “get back to making their mistake.”

As they ride off aboard the awakened Embryo Eye bound for Mitakihara, which they plan to fuse with Embryo, I had to hand it to these two for doubling down on their bad bet. It’s not surprising at all that two girls with the hubris to believe they could take on Kyuubey’s powers and control them would believe that they alone can save everyone.

But the immediate effect of Embryo Eye’s awakening is that nearly every magical girl in Kamihara City is overwhelmed by their Doppels. I suppose they’re all simply necessary sacrifices for the greater god to Nemu and Touka. But Mifuyu is determined to protect every last one of them with what power she has. She tells Yachiyo to leave everyone in her care while she heads off to try to stop Embryo and get Iroha back.

Mifuyu puts up barriers around all of the Doppel-ified girls to pr otect them from themselves and each other, but when they all start banging against those barriers, it takes a toll on Mifuyu. Enter Momoko, who offers physical, emotional, and magical support. Their mission is nothing less than reaching out and touching the soul of every affected girl and ripping away the darkness causing the Doppels to form.

To do this, Mifuyu and Momoko enter some kind of “soul realm” where the overwhelmed girls are represented as being confined to their own individual four-poster beds. Sana, Felicia, and Tusurno are all freed, but every time Mifuyu and Momoko free someone, their soul avatars crack and threaten to shatter.

Mitama, ashamed by how she’s played both sides for so long, is eager to help, but Mifuyu warns her not to. She and Momoko have made their choice, and there’s no going back. But the girls who remain when they’re gone will still need a Coordinator, so Mitama must live on.

The last magical girl Momoko helps save is Kaede, who finally reunites with Sena. But once all of the magical girls who had been Doppel-ified by Embryo Eye awaken back in the normal earthly realm, they find Momoko and Mifuyu lying beside each other, hand in hand, their soul gems shattered.

Thanks to Nemu, Iroha is trapped in some kind of protective dimension, while Yachiyo is headed off on her own to face overwhelming odds as Embryo Eye and Walpurgisnacht will soon clash and cause unfathomable destruction.

Two girls driven mad by their master plan, another who may be the only one strong enough to stand against them. And then there’s the wild car, Kuroe, slinking along with quite a lot of black goop in tow, followed by a translucent Kyuubey. On to round three.

The World’s Finest Assassin – 03 – Wonderful First Time

Lugh’s very first magic lesson with his new mentor Dia goes awry when Dia, unaware of just how much goddamn mana her student possesses, tells him to put as much as he can in one of her family’s Materia-like Fahr Stones. He does so, and it quickly turns into a magical bomb that shatters every window in the Tuatha De mansion. Even so, his parents aren’t angry, they’re proud and excited.

If this were the soul of Rudeus Greyrat, not an old grizzled assassin in Lugh’s body, there might be ample potential for pervy unpleasantness (especially considering Lugh is seven and Dia ten). Fortunately, there’s none of that; even when Dia decides to sleep with Lugh, it’s no big deal. When she teaches him mana conversion for his “first time”, it’s oddly intimate, but ultimately pure.

Another common pitfall for a dynamic like this is to assume that in addition to the young callow student being attracted to his pretty older teacher, the two always have to be bickering or competing. Instead, Lugh and Dia collaborate equally, with Dia bringing her knowledge of the spells of this world to the table and Lugh applying his ability to synthesize his own spells. Together, the two literally make gold out of thin air.

Two weeks pass, and Dia is feeling sad about having to leave, as there’s nothing more she can teach him. So in addition to gifting her with an impossibly sharp beta titanium knife, Lugh earnestly promises her that if she even needs him, he’ll go to where she is without fail. Two weeks may not seem like a long time, but lest we forget, they’re probably share a father, and kids always bond faster than adults.

With the pure, charming innocence of Dia departed for her home, Lugh’s dad admits that despite only being seven, Lugh is ready to learn more about the family business. To whit: Lugh takes him to a prison full of death row inmates from around the kingdom who are there for the purposes of experimentation in the service of further honing their assassination skills.

When Lugh asks why his parents didn’t simply raise him to be an unfeeling killing machine, Cian’s answer is both profound and obvious: because while they are assassins (and damned good ones), they’re people, not tools. In contrast to his previous life, Lugh must use his own humanity in addition to knives and guns to optimize his assassination skills.

The final three minutes turn the chipper magical training nature of the epiode to that point on its head, as Cian orders Lugh to make his first kill. The convict is seemingly scared out of her mind and tearfully begs Lugh not to kill her, but Lugh doesn’t shrink from his duty, lopping off a hand with his own titanium blade and telling her she’ll die a relatively peaceful death.

This draws out the true criminal, who is not scared of dying and curses Lugh to be sent to a hell full of demons. To this, Lugh responds that that might be a nice change of pace next time he dies. This is dark, good stuff. Its consistent, sincere, and serious tone (matching our protagonist’s demeanor without his adult voice intruding upon his new world) more than makes up for its merely adequate visuals.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Magia Record – 18 – The Future They Chose

Not content to sleep beside Kaede’s isolation bubble, Iroha sneaks out to meet with Nemu, not wanting to further burden the others with her problems. Once more, it’s great to see Iroha really driving the narrative. Kuroe, poor thing, thinks she and Iroha were only friends in Iroha’s dream, but that’s not the case, and when she follows Iroha and wishes to help her in any way she can, Iroha is grateful for the help.

As Iroha and Kuroe take charge like the blossoming Magical Bosses they are, Tsuruno Rui is slowly losing it, and we also check in on Felicia and Sana, who are naught but grunts performing menial labor for Magius at Hotel Faint Hope. They, in turn, meet Sakura Kyouko from the original series, who’d saved Felicia once before.

While Kyouko is ostensibly there to steal grief seeds/soul gems (one or the other), she along with the other two stumble upon the witch factory none of them knew anything about, especially the scale of it, while Touka announces to all of Magius that “Operation Embryo Eye” is about to commence.

It’s named after their prized “Artificial Witch” Embryo Eye, who ravenously feasts on the farm-fresh witches—the trains going straight into it’s creepy live-action human mouth. Felicia and Sana are not okay with any of this. Yachiyo, having forced the Amane sisters to withdraw, also overhears of Touka’s plan.

So do Iroha and Kuroe, and it doesn’t sound liek the Touka or Nemu she knew. They’re no longer not just bent on liberating magical girls everywhere, but on executing their grudge against the rest of humanity who aren’t magical girls. They will suffer as all of them have suffered, and Touka won’t forgive anyone.

But despite how dastardly this plan is—and how far gone her former friends must be to be going forward with it—Iroha still wants to try to talk with them. And who knows, maybe she can make a difference! Before that, however, she and Kuroe have to get past hordes of Magius security on high alert.

At first Iroha leads the fight, deflecting the feathers’ weapons with her crossbow without flinching. But Kuroe doesn’t want to sit back and let Iroha do all the work, so after her very cool and elegant transformation sequence, she builds a huge wall between them and their opponents, then blasts a hole through the wall for Iroha to escape.

Iroha only leaves because Kuroe promises she’ll catch up to her. When Kuroe says this, she’s not just talking about this present situation; she wants catch up to Iroha in general. If you ask me, she’s already well on her way; she was a rock star this week, right up to when she unleashes her very distinctive Doppel.

Touka and Nemu move Hotel Faint Hope to Daito Ward, then implement the operation. All of the witches in Kamihama City and within a 200-kilometer radius are gathered up to be fed to Embryo Eye, which I’m assuming they’ll use against the “Big One” they end up reeling in, which arrives like a giant typhoon: Walpurgisnacht.

Is this what happens when two of the most powerful and intelligent magical girls ever created develop a vendetta against the world and systems that made them? Was Iroha naïve to think that her visits to them and Ui would be enough to preserve their humanity and morality? It certainly looks that way…but you never know. A lot can happen in the remaining three episodes, plus the third and final season still waiting in the wings.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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