No Guns Life – 03 – Pulling the Strings

Juuzou politely declines a job offer from the imposing Brother Huang of the Kyusei group to find and eliminate someone stealing extended limbs from kids, because he thinks people should “wipe their own asses.” But what if someone can’t, either because they don’t have arms, or can’t move the ones they have?

Juuzou trusts actions over words, even what he deems are sincere words from Tetsuro about saving the other children imprisoned and tortured by Berühren as they speak…only Tetsuro isn’t really speaking with his own voice; he’s using a spare Extended head’s voice.

Similarly, in order to actually carry out the saving of those kids, he’ll need to rely on bodies other than his own, which was made all but useless by the company. Juuzou tells him any attempt would be futile; the world is an unfair place, and Tetsuro needs to count what blessings he has and move forward thinking about himself.

Tetsuro can’t accept that, and won’t sit back and do nothing. Instead, he uses Harmony to hack into Juuzou’s body, which he uses to carry his own body (lest Mary try to disconnect the two) as he heads out in search of the people hurting kids. When he almost falls victim to parts scavengers, he covers Juuzou’s head with a sack.

Then he seemingly lucks out when he spots two distressed-looking girls in gray frocks running from a man with swords for arms—just the kind of people he wants to save. Only Ende and Anne are not really on the run; they’re the very people stealing parts from kids, on orders from Berühren. They were also ordered not to let any witnesses survive, making Tetsuro/Juuzou their next target.

Of the two, Ende is capable of transforming into a monstrous mecha-spider woman, but even with Anne by her side for emotional support, she easily goes berserk, and in any case is in constant pain. Anne just hopes they can return home to Berühren for maintenance, and believes that Ende’s body will be put “back to normal” as a reward if they complete their mission.

Berühren’s stooge, however, considers the two to have failed their mission when he meets up with them, and orders the two test subjects immediately “retired” (in another nice nod to Blade Runner). Both he and the company never saw Ende and Anne as human beings, but mere puppets; tools to be used and discarded when the desired results aren’t achieved.

And yet, even though Anne and Ende tried to kill Tetsuro/Juuzou, he still comes to their rescue here, since he already knows what they’ve only just figured out: Berühren can’t be trusted, and can only be opposed. The girls don’t trust adults, but hopefully someone who can transform into a mecha-spider woman can come to believe Tetsuro when he insists he’s one of them, and is merely controlling the big burly adult body they see. It’s a tough sell, I know.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – 23 – No Puppet, You’re The Puppet

This is a thrilling powerhouse of an episode, but it starts out a little slow, with over seven minutes of this:

Admin: [Describes in detail horrible things she’s done]
Cardinal: How dare you!
Admin: [Chortles]

Mind you, there are far worse things than listening to Sakamoto Maaya describe her evil plan and chortle. She gives Admin an extra dimension of imperious ethereal swagger.

Once the two pontifexes are done talking, Cardinal decides the only thing she can do is surrender: offer her life—and the guarantee she won’t resist and take potentially half of Admin’s life—in exchange for the three “youngsters.”

Admin agrees, though doesn’t exactly hide the fact that she still plans to sacrifice fully half of Underworld’s humans (40,000 of them) to complete the final version of her sword golem with which she’ll defeat the enemies of the Dark Territory, as well as the real world.

Then she has fun taking several hundred dark lightning potshots at Cardinal. She’s been waiting 200 years to get rid of her, and is clearly savoring the moment. Cardinal warns the others not to interfere—they’re not powerful enough to make a difference anyway—and instead puts all her hope in Admin’s assurances they won’t be harmed.

Something awakens in Eugeo, and suddenly he realizes what he was always meant to do, now that he’s in the time and place to do it. He asks Cardinal to use her remaining power to transform him into a sword, just as Admin turned hundreds of humans into parts of the golem.

The process isn’t exactly quick, and Admin attempts to disrupt it, but Alice is able to block her attacks just long enough for the transformation to complete, and Eugeo becomes a self-moving sword.

The sword wastes no time destroying the sword golem by hitting its weak spot, blowing it to pieces in a tremendous explosion. But Admin is #NotImpressed, and relishes the opportunity to put this “brat” in his place with her superior weapon authority.

Ultimately, Eugeo simply doesn’t have enough to take a suddenly very serious Admin down, and while he does relieve her of her left arm, it comes at the cost of being split in two. The split sword revert back into human form, and Eugeo lies lifeless in a pool of blood.

Admin then describes Eugeo’s mistakes that led to his defeat, then turns to Kirito, expressing her hope they’ll meet again in the real world after she kills him here (she’s apparently unaware he’s only alive here; he’s still in a coma out there).

Having lost Cardinal and Eugeo in quick succession, Kirito is feeling defeated and unable to do anything, but like Yuuki and others in Kirito’s past, Alice steps between him and his death, willing to sacrifice herself so he can live on and complete the mission.

This time, Kirito steps back in front of his protector, parries Admin’s strike, and pushes her back. Alice, totally out of gas, passes out, leaving it a duel between the one-armed Admin and Kirito, for the very soul of the Underworld.

Admin would say he and Eugeo were only puppets for Cardinal, and Kirito continues to serve as a puppet for the good of the masses she sees only as resources, in reality Admin has herself long been a puppet of her own greed and lust for power.

Those traits define her and drive her totally, and they will destroy her, once they butt up against the amassed love and resolve of her foes. The hours of her reign appear to be numbered, but she’s not going down without (another) hell of a fight.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 11

Jeanne and Nina wait for the right moment to make the slip and start the long climb to the elevator that leads to the surface, and freedom. Jeanne quickly learns how useful Nina can be as an ally.

She’s able to run and jump better than any Olympian even with a ball and chain, as well as bend metal bars. These two have great chemistry and their repartee during their escape attempt is great stuff.

Meanwhile, in the realm of the gods, Gabriel lifts whatever seals had been cast on Mugaro, AKA El, and he transforms into someone who, well, looks like they belong among the gods.

El also gains a voice; the voice of Kugimiya Rie, to be exact. He uses that voice to essentially parrot Gabriel’s words: he’ll “correct” humanity and save his mother. He’s like putty in Gabe’s hands so far.

Back at the prison, Rita arrives and quickly works her way down to the lift that will take her to the subterranean network where everyone else is imprisoned, showing what a force she can be on her own when motivated.

It’s also a ton of fun to see Rita clearly take so much joy in her work; she’s having a hell of a time barreling through dozens of guards with ease…until they shoot her out of the air. Even then, she has her umbrella to slow her descent.

In the capital, one of the mob-appeasing demon-on-demon gladitorial matches Charioce is holding in the colosseum becomes the dramatic stage upon which Gabriel gives him one last chance to heed her demands he return the godly property he stole, along with St. Jeanne.

Charioce remains unbowed, despite knowing the gods now have Jeanne’s powerful son. Apparently he believes El isn’t enough for the gods to defeat humanity…but he may well be mistaken. Nevertheless, Gabriel gives him what he seemingly wants: a declaration of war.

Once Nina and Jeanne approach the lift (after a harrowing ordeal with a spider), Jeanne is discouraged by the legion of guards awating them…but Nina assures her she’s got this—she’s “strong”, after all, and demonstrates that strength by acting as a one-woman wrecking crew, creatively using her ball and chain as a leg-mounted mace.

But it’s all for naught, for when the elevator doors open, it isn’t Rita awaiting them, but King Charioce XVII himself, who quickly points his sword at Jeanne’s throat and demands that she join his side against the gods, so that neither the gods nor her son will suffer or die.

Jeanne says “thanks but no thanks”, and Charioce orders her thrown back in her cell, where she’ll stay, powerless to stop those she cares about from “marching to slaughter” (though I still think he’s being overconfident). Say what you will of Charioce the villain, he did give Jeanne a kind of chance to prevent a war; it’s just that Jeanne would never betray her gods, even to save her son…not to mention Charioce simply can’t be trusted.

At this point, Nina, on the bridge, holding off the guards literally singlehandedly, has had enough of Charioce picking on Jeanne, and gives him a peace of her mind once more. Charioce approaches her and gets in her face, causing her not just to blush, but realize he is the man she arm wrestled with; with whom she shared that magical night; with whom she danced.

Learning that man and the evil king are one and the same is definitely gutting for Nina, who offers no resistance as she and Jeanne are re-imprisoned (though I wonder if they’d be placed right back in the same block together again).

Nina’s spirits immediately lift when Rita and Rocky appear, having taken advantage of all the ruckus Nina and Jeanne’s escape attempt caused to sneak in under the radar. Here’s hoping Attempt #2 is more fruitful.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 11

ACCA: Jusan-ku Kansatsu-ka. I hadn’t really read the words until recently, but they roll right off the tongue in a very satisfying, elegant way, like ACCA the show itself.

I daresay ACCA is a sneaky show. It seems a bit slow and dull at first but the details keep you around. Then it becomes something you must watch at all costs. In this way, it’s like no other show airing this Winter, and its quality has been rewarded on MAL, rising from 6.97 on week one to 7.43 today, the biggest climb of any Winter ’17 show.

By the time Jean arrives in lavish, exotic Furawau for the thirteenth of thirteen district audits, nearly all pretense has fallen over his “job” as inspector, as Furawau is the district spearheading the coup.

Yet true to its name (“flower” in katakana), Furawau’s inhabitants are cheerful and elegant, and discreet in their welcoming of Jean for his true purpose.

But while it’s named for its flowers, the gleaming skyscrapers and lush palaces are paid for with oil. 90% of the entire nation of Dowa’s oil is supplied by Furawau. This makes them Arabia on steroids, which makes resource-poor Pranetta the comparatively oil-less Jordan.

When he leaves for his hotel, Jean does not give the Furawau chiefs a direct answer about whether he’ll rise up with them. But fortunately for Jean, Niino was listening in when the Princess’ assassins were loudly discussing their plan for slaying him.

When they draw their appropriately ornate golden revolver from the shadows, Niino is there not only to warn Jean, but take two bullets for him. He survives, but when he wakes up from surgery, he wonders out loud something I’ve wondered for many weeks now: whether Jean is merely being dragged into things by chance, or if he’s “prying into the whole mess” of his own accord.

Before leaving Furawau, Jean tells the chiefs he’s with them. Upon returning to Badon, he doesn’t stop by Mugimaki where Mauve continues to show up and wait. Instead, he visits Lilium as his brothers instructed, and shows him all thirteen cigarettes he’s collected.

I love how each one is  different in color and length, and how Pranetta’s is one of his own. Details that carry symbolism: Dowa is one big happy cigarette case. When Jean says anyone can ascend as long as it’s not him, Lilium counters that only he can protect both ACCA and the people.

What he isn’t telling Jean…could fill volumes. Like the fact he needs to present at least the air of proper succession, and probably needs the ACCA angle to strengthen their case. Lotta can’t fulfill either of those conditions…nor can Lilium himself.

When Rail first heard of him, he assumed Jean was an upper class snob who thought his own excrement did not emit odor. Turns out he was right about the “upper class” bit, but now that Rail knows who Jean is for sure, he thinks he’d probably be a better King than Schwan.

Rail tells Jean this while they smoke in the city night, after Jean thanks him for watching Lotta while he was away. And Jean appears to take Rail’s subtle endorsement to heart…maybe he will be better.

The next day, people from all thirteen districts start pouring into Badon for the upcoming ACCA centennial ceremony. This means we get all the ACCA agents Jean met on his travels in the same room, and of course they all know each other.

It’s a nice “lower decks” scene, watching subordinates shoot the breeze. The girls badger Eidar about her feelings for Jean, only to learn she’s dating Grus. One agent brings up the coup, and silence fills the room.

Every one of them seems generally on board with the plan…except Warbler, who, being stationed in Suitsu, is naturally the last agent to be informed of the coup. And while it’s easy to get all swept up in the excitement of dumping a harmful king for a better one, Warbler provides a much-needed voice of concern and reason.

He makes very good points about the risk ACCA’s leadership is taking by arranging such a coup. He also questions if the young, inexperienced Schwan would actually follow through on his threat to dissolve ACCA. He believes the royal family is aware that tipping the scales of power too far in their favor could break the whole system, and trusts them to be more pragmatic once Schwan ascends.

But no one can be certain Schwan won’t dissolve ACCA, and in any case, the decision has already been made by the brass, so Warbler’s protests go acknowledged but not acted upon. After Jean leaves a brief, almost curt meeting with Mauve (which has the air of a breakup), Warbler tries to tell him that this coup idea is ludicrous.

Jean responds by saying he’d really like Warbler to take his job, after “one final push”, then calls the prince a “real headache.” Could Jean be starting to get the feel for the power he’s about to attain?

Cut to the prince being a huge headache, acting petulant aboard his ornate royal plane, dismissing Magie’s advice to meet with his cousin (Jean) or get to know the people more. He’s only going to Badon to attend the ACCA ceremony, then leave.

Warbler might think Schwan’s position on ACCA is open to interpretation or subject to review by the rest of the royal family or the privy council. But Schwan probably doesn’t think any of that. When he’s king—and he’s going to be king, he tells himself—he can do as he pleases.

Lilium continues to uncork bottle after bottle of champagne in celebration of a total victory that is still yet to come. In another private one-on-one with Grossular, he lays out the plan I expected him and his district to have: install someone he can control, Jean, in order to control the nation. He hopes to act quickly and elegantly enough that by the time people notice what’s up it will be too late to do anything about it.

Now that he knows Lilium’s true intent, will Grossular continue to stand impotently by and let it happen, or is he intentionally appearing weak to lull Lilium into a false sense of security? Does Grossular have his own plans? And as Mauve asked both him and Jean before him: is he all right?

He responds the same way as Jean: with a simple ‘Yes.’ Here’s hoping that’s true, because some big things are going down next week.

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress – 11

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Both Kuromukuro and Kabaneri managed to reignite my passion for watching them in their eleventh episodes. I didn’t really know what to expect after last week cliffhanger would have had us believe Ikoma had been stabbed through the heart and tossed into the sea for dead by a Mumei now lost to him. This week quickly debunks the first assumption and paves the way to debunk the second, even though shit is still hitting the fan, as it were.

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First, Kongokaku: it’s a grand, peaceful, and impressive place when the Kotetsujou arrives at its gate, but we see from the shogun eliminating a messenger with knowledge hat could sow public panic, theirs is clearly an uneasy peace, especially with Kabane lurking right outside those “impregnable” walls.

Biba doesn’t need to besiege his father’s seat, however; he comes in through the front door; a “captive” of Ayame; a role she’s forced to play because he’s holding her people hostage. Of course, going by his script only proves to Biba that’s he’s weak, and it’s become painfully apparent that the weak don’t live long once they meet him.

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To his credit, the shogun immediately knows Biba is up to something; he just doesn’t know what until it’s too late. Biba uses the same fear his father used as an excuse for stabbing him in the dark as a child to destroy his father. The dagger he gave him contains a hidden needle that infects the shogun with the virus, and his own men gun him down in a panic.

Biba need only deal the killing blow with his sword, and just like that Kongokaku is his. The Kabane in his hold are released onto the city to stoke up fear, paranoia, and people killing people, but he simply sits on the throne, not smirking an evil smirk, but remembering a day when he rode a horse with his father. Do I detect a hint of…weakness, AKA love? No matter; there’s no one around to punish Biba for it.

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While all that excitement is going on, Ikoma, having washed up on a shore not in the greatest shape but very much alive, is temporarily incapacitated by the immense weight of the guilt and regret over what went down, including Takumi’s death. He didn’t run, he was tossed out, and he’s right that at the time there was nothing he could do.

Kurusu, who has one of Biba’s scientists captive, finds Ikoma, and is actually patient with him as he goes through various stages of grief. In the end, Kurusu makes Ikoma set aside all the reasons he should simply die, and asks him why he’s still alive in the first place: his chest wound is so precise, Mumei must have intended to miss his heart, meaning she is not totally lost.

Granted, as we cut back to the capital, we see that Mumei is considerably more lost than the time she spared Ikoma. And she’s just as helpless here as Ayame, or as Ikoma was back on the train. Biba controls every aspect of her life, and despite all he’s done she still harbors loyalty to him, because she’d have died long ago (and been “beckoned by the butterflies”) were it not for him.

That combination of coercion-by-obligation, as well as the reality that Biba has kept Mumei weak and unable to oppose him even if she wanted to (and she did try), have led to her simply giving up. She will let the butterflies come, with the small consolation that at least she was able to free Ikoma a similar fate.

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Only thing is, Ikoma hasn’t given up, thanks largely to Kurusu and the captive he has for some reason (I forgot why; sue me). That scientist just happens to have on hand two serums: one is white, and could save Mumei; but to get to her Ikoma knows he needs to be stronger (and apparently, less scruffy) than he is.

So he injects the black serum, an accelerant that indeed causes him to undergo yet another transformation. When we leave him, he seems that much less human, and particularly stable, but fueled by his resolve to stop Biba and save Mumei, odds are he’ll be able to endure. I certainly hope so, because Mumei deserves better than the same fate as Horobi—who also didn’t deserve it.

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(Almost a 9 based solely on the new Aimer ED, “Through My Blood”, which brought it)

Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 06 (30)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Kyoukai no Kanata – 11

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Akihito wakes up after three months in a coma. Hiromi and Mitsuki tell him he’s no longer immortal, while Mirai has vanished and is likely dead. Izumi further explains why she had to recruit Mirai, and that she saved Akihito and the world of her own free will. Dejected, Akihito wanders around town, recalling his dream, and runs into a distraught Sakura. He returns home to find Mirai sent him a farewell text message.

Meanwhile, the weakened Kyoukai no Kanata fused with Mirai’s blood and created an isolated dimension above the town. Fujima amplifies its powers with his car, and it starts pulling youmu up toward it. Akihito’s mother Yayoi arrives to tell him Mirai is alive within the dimension, fighting to protect a puppet version of Akihito. Akihito uses his extracted youmu stone to rise up into the dimension, destroys the puppet, and finds Mirai.

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Our theory of a complex, multi-layered Kyoukai no Kanata is debunked, but who cares: this tour-de-force delved into the depths of despair while keeping kernal of hope dangling overhead. It proved that Akihito’s will to protect and save Mirai is just as strong as hers. She’s alive and close by; Akihito just has to break through all the fog and gain the means to rescue her. Fujima’s ridiculous “experiment” was the spark that led to Akihito gaining those means, so we can forgive him for his helpful but long-winded exposition.

Akihito has always complained about the apparent ineptness of his mother, but she comes through for him when it matters (and her reveal in the club room is one of the ages). Once he has what he needs the episode wastes no time flying him up to that dimension, breaking through, and plucking Mirai from the sky. In their constant back-and-forth struggle to prove how far they’d go for each other, Akihito gets a solid point in his favor this week. But they’re not out of the woods yet.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • Akihito wisely addresses the fact he hasn’t eaten in three months. You can’t rescue a bespectacled beauty on an empty stomach!
  • Nice running jump kick by Sakura. “Sad Back” indeed!
  • Mirai’s text message was a tearjerker through and through, really showing how far she’s come; no longer seeing her ability as a curse, because she can use it to save people she loves. “Not unpleasant.”
  • Seriously, WTF did Fujima amplify Kyoukai no Kanata with his car? What is he, MacGyver?