Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 16 – The Webs that Bind

Tanjirou, Inosuke, and Murata continue to battle the spider thread puppets, leading me to wonder why these demon slayers don’t have individual styles like our leads. Once cut, their threads are quickly reconnected, and the Mother spider demon has no qualms about cruelly contorting their bodies until their bones break.

Murata urges the other two to head to the Mother while he handles his comrades. Tanjirou finally determines he can immobilize the puppets without harming them by tangling up their threads along branches; Inosuke follows suit. Meanwhile, Zenitsu wanders around wearily with his sparrow, calling out for Nezuko, who stays in her box this week.

The Mother spider demon was all business last week, but her demeanor changes on a dime to someone desperate to kill all of the slayers lest she face the wrath of “Father”. It seems the spider demon family dynamic is a toxic one.

Mother ends up killing all of her demon slayer dolls by snapping their necks, rendering all of Tanjirou’s efforts to protect them moot. Then she sics a giant headless demon with swords for hands on Tanjirou and Inosuke. Rather than fight on his own, Inosuke learns the value of teamwork, especially when your partner is as capable and unselfish as Tanjirou.

With her giant headless doll defeated, Tanjirou proceeds to the Mother’s location, where she’s been sitting on a rock controlling things all this time. Tanjirou descends upon her, and she immediately resigns herself to defeat, as it will mean she’ll be free of her unrelenting torment.

To her surprise, Tanjirou employs a form that separates her head from her body without any pain, feeling like nothing but a gentle, soothing rain. She expresses her gratitude for finally being given peace by telling Tanjirou that one of the Twelve Kiseki is on the mountain.

While it’s good to be presented with demons conflicted about their existence like Mother, part of me wishes she hadn’t been defeated so easily. It’s as if she had no offense or defense beyond her dolls and simply…gave up. In a way she was no more than a puppet of Father, who used threats instead of threads to control her.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 15 – Night of the Spider Demons

As soon as Zenitsu learns (off-screen) that Nezuko is Tanjirou’s sister, he starts chasing her around their room. When Tanjirou tries to stop him, Zenitsu starts chasing him around too. Then Inosuke, who is ticked off from hunger, starts chasing them, leaving Nezuko out of the loop.

A fun time is had by all, but the next day the doctor declares the three lads have fully recovered, and a crow arrives with fresh destination: Mount Natagumo, with no further explanation except that there’s bound to be demons. With Nezuko secure in her box, the slayers set off for their first mission together.

Upon reaching the foot of the mountain, Zenitsu senses something creepy and chickens out. Tanjirou prepares to press on, but Inosuke rushes ahead of him; later Tanjirou thanks him for going with him, but Inosuke either didn’t do it for him, or he did and doesn’t realize it. He’s a very enigmatic fellow who is decidedly not brushed up on the social graces.

Once on the mountain, the two encounter a third demon slayer being carried off as if by some invisible threads. Eventually learn that he’s one of ten slayers sent to the mountain to deal with a demon infestation, but they’re all too low-ranked, and end up being turned into puppets, the strings connecting them to a family of spider demons.

Tanjirou and Inosuke sever the threads from the slayers, but neither that or killing the countless tiny spiders making the threads will solve the problem. They need to find the demons behind this, and that’s when Inosuke’s Beast Breathing Form Special Awareness comes in handy. In a very cool sequence his awareness stretches out across the forest until it locates the lead spider demoness, then travels back to Inosuke.

They now have her location, but her apparent son is standing on threads suspended high above the ground, just out of Inosuke’s vertical reach. The boy declares that no one will stop his family from living a happy life together, and that made me wonder: Why exactly are the Demon Slayers bothering with these guys? They’re secluded in the mountain forest, minding their own business. Their only victims seem to be intruders who couldn’t mind theirs.

I guess demons can’t be allowed to be left unchecked, lest they expand their territory and start threatening human settlements. The Demon Slayer Commander certainly seems resolved to eliminate the threat of them. When a crow arrives to report the lower-ranked slayers’ defeat, he prepares to send two Hashira slayers: Giyuu and Shinobu.

Combined with Zenitsu realizing Tanjirou took his beloved Nezuko into danger, that will eventually make it five slayers plus Nezuko against the five spider demons. They’ve just got to hold out and wait for the cavalry.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kemono Jihen – 03 – Good Fox Girl

This week Inugami sends Kabane to the woman he spoke to at the end of last week: Police Superintendent Inari Yoko, performed by Kana-Hana in her most imperious ojou-sama voice. Inari may as well be Empress of the Police, as she has every officer in her thrall.

Shiki and Akira escort Kabane to the Shinjuku police station, but the desk officer claims not to know about their appointment. Then a blonde girl their age with a fox-ear hoodie comes for Kabane and only Kabane, then takes him to a waiting Inari, who immediately asks to see his lifestone necklace.

Once Inari has the stone, she has the girl, Kon, slice Kabane’s head off, then has police officers seal the head in a case and take the body away for disposal. When Kabane returns to the lobby with the case, Akira and Shiki sense something is off about him.

Kon, voiced by Hanamori Yumiri (who often voices maids or other dutiful characters) lives only for Inari to tell her she’s a “good girl”, disguises herself as Kabane to shoo the other boys away. But when Shiki insults her beloved Inari-sama, she drops the disguise and prepares for a fight.

Because Kon, like her mistress, is a kitsune, she can shoot fireballs from her tail, and does so…a lot. Shiki uses his silk to pull a bunch of furniture together to form a shield, then snatches the case from Kon, who’s too concerned with burning everyone and everything to keep a firm grip on it.

Shiki opens the case to reveal the real Kabane’s head, the shock of which causes Akira to faint. Kabane instructs Shiki to throw him at Kon, and he’ll deal with her. Shiki is dubious, but sure enough Kabane is able to disable the enraged fox girl with a bite to the shoulder.

With Kon out cold, the lobby returns to normal; all the fire was just an illusion. Free from the case, Kabane grows his body back from his neck down in a very cool (but far more casual) Titan-style transformation. Shiki can’t deny Kabane got the job done and saved him and Akira, and after giving him his jacket to cover up, offers his fist for Kabane to bump…which he does wrong of course.

Inari, who thinks she just pulled off a neat little theft, watches the lifestone transform into a tanuki figurine in her hand, then gets a call from Inugami, who has just picked up the kids. He’s not surprised things went down like they did, and says she owes him for her treachery. He also warns her that the lifestone is Kabane’s, and if she tries to take it again she’ll have to deal with him.

I for one like how Inari and Inugami never got into a fight, or even showed their true forms; handling things on the phone like regular humans and threatening with words is enough to maintain their territorial balance. That said, Kon didn’t get the memo, and is still wandering the streets trying to retrieve Kabane’s head for her mistress.

Kon ends up approaching the others after they have a Kabane-welcoming meal of Chinese and pancakes, only to immediately pass out from exhaustion and hunger. Inugami brings her into the agency and feeds her pizza, but at the first sight of Kabane she lunges at him with a beheading strike.

Inugami, realizing the proper way to deal with her, tells Kon that Inari wouldn’t be happy if she knew her “good girl” wasn’t minding her manners. No standing on the table, no leaving leftover food out, and no beheading hanyos. While not technically in her thrall, Kon’s daughterly devotion to Inari is absolute, and so she behaves herself.

This episode was a lot of fun, giving the three kids more time to gel in both casual and hectic situations, introducing the adorably dutiful Kon (who is a lot like Kabane) and her haughty mama figure. I like how Shiki is slowly warming to Kabane, and if Akira had a real Twitter I’d definitely follow. This is the kind of show where your protagonist gets beheaded one afternoon, but you know he’ll probably be fine and ready for pancakes that evening.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 11 – Team Lightning Round

Berserk Mikoto is no longer in control of her body, while her mind is being invaded and manipulated by Kozaku Mitori, using the Exterior ability Kihara Gensei is sharing with her in exchange for protection. Mitori convinces a very confused Mikoto to attack the Windowless Building, but a lightning blast dozens of times stronger than her normal Railgun doesn’t even scratch it. Gensei estimates Mikoto is only about 2% on her way to Level 6.

Mikoto is thus well and truly not in control of her fate. After an entire season of running around trying to fix things, it’s up to external parties to save her—and, incidentally, Academy City itself. Misaki serves as coordinator. She may have lost Exterior but she still has Mental Out, and uses it to convince Antiskill to evacuate the festival civilians and not interfere, lest needless casualties mount.

Thanks to overhearing Xochitl and Ruiko, Touma is now involved as well, and Misaki helpfully uploads all of the information he needs to be brought up to speed. Even so, all she can tell him is that his Imagine Breaker might cancel Mikoto’s Berserk Mode. The problem is, there’s so much electricity and debris surrounding Mikoto, Touma can’t get close enough to touch her and test that theory.

That’s when Sogiita Gunha, our third Level 5 of the episode, makes his reappearance, saving Touma from being pummeled by a giant ball of amassed stone and metal debris by giving it the ol’ Amazing Punch. Since Misaki never gave him a headdump Gunha’s a little slow on the uptake, but Touma’s Imagine Breaker intrigues him, and he’s clearly excited to punch stuff, especially if it’s for a good cause. His ultimate offense and Touma’s ultimate defense makes for an inspired pairing.

Thanks to support from Uiharu and Ruiko, Kuroko manages to pinpoint Kozaku Mitori’s location. Since Mitori is at least Level 4 it’s an even match on paper, but I wouldn’t bet against Kuroko any day. I actually like how Misaki gave her a headdump but didn’t restore all of her memories, perhaps assuming they’d be a distraction. Nevertheless, Kuroko is energized by the fact Mikoto trusted her with Mama’s safety. She’s practically shining in this episode.

Once Gunha learns that Touma needs to get close…too close to Mikoto in order to attempt to dispel her Berserk, he uses his Punches to clear a path and then tosses Touma like a baseball straight at Mikoto. Touma finds and opening and touches her shoulder, but it only exposes a few square inches of her normal skin, and only for a second before the electrified skin closes up. Gunha then catches Touma in a Princess Hold, which is frikking adorable, but it’s clear they’ll have to keep this up quite a bit to put a dent in Mikoto’s stout defense.

We end with Misaki, who networked with all of the allies we saw this week to get them on the same page, stealthily stalking Gensei. Since Kuroko is taking Mitori on, Gensei would seem to be all on his own, but I don’t believe for a second he doesn’t know he’s being followed, and has more traps in place for when Misaki eventually confronts him.

Hopefully by then others will have made progress with their jobs and can back her up. However things unfold, this is one hell of a start to the final skirmish that will takes us to Railgun T’s halfway point. I’m thoroughly invested in every one of the little mini-battles going on at once. How often can you say that about a show?

Oresuki – 03 – Bounce Back

When Sun, Himawari and Cosmos all arrive at the library at once, it’s clear that some shit is going to go down. Joro almost manages to slip out of it by revealing his darker side and calling out the two girls for using him as a convenient tool, not because he’s a dear childhood friend or cute kohai.

That last-ditch effort fails when Pansy throws him under the bus, telling them he was trying to get her to date Sun while claiming to be on their side. Sun punches him for playing with the girls’ hearts, declares their friendship over, and carries him off.

It sure looks like this is curtains for Joro, and that all Pansy did was assist in this catharsis of misery. But when she mutters “have faith in me” to Joro on his way out, it becomes apparent there’s still more to this story yet to be explored.

Since there was a bystander in the library during the exchange, rumors spread and Joro is ostracized overnight, including having his indoor shoes bedazzled and a detailed golf course model placed on his desk, which is such a bizarre and random head-scratcher of a prank I couldn’t help but laugh.

With Joro out of the picture, Sun is free to spend the next week of lunch periods in the library with Pansy, unaware that she’s putting the finishing touches on her grand plan. It all starts by asking him, quite simply, why he tricked and entrapped Joro, using the feelings of Himawari and Cosmos as his tools in that venture.

And there it is: Joro, as we know, wasn’t the mastermind here, but neither was Pansy: it was Sun all along, sore over an incident years ago when a girl he liked asked him if he’d help her get with Joro. Sun was the one who put the girls up to confronting Joro about asking Sun about them. Joro played the part Sun knew he would (aware as he was about “dark Joro”) and he got his revenge.

Believing he’s all alone with Pansy, Sun doesn’t deny any of this, but proudly proclaims he was after revenge for “losing” to Joro back then, and again with Pansy. He’s also enough of a jerk that he threatens to “do whatever he wants” to Pansy without consequence, since they’re all alone.

Of course, they aren’t. Joro, whom Pansy summoned to the library a minute before Sun arrived, is a witness to her takedown and exposing of Sun as the villain. She threw Joro under the bus in the previous dust-up to give Sun the false sense that everybody was against Joro, when in fact she loves Joro and intended to clear his name.

Joro comes out of his hiding place at the perfect time, and tells Sun where he truly erred: in making light of the “birdbrained” two girls’ feelings for him in order to use them in his scheme to destroy him. A chastened Sun promises to apologize, and departs, and then Joro tells Pansy that her efforts don’t change the fact he hates her, and he won’t be returning to the library.

That’s when Pansy tells Himawari and Cosmos to come out of their hiding spot; unbeknownst to Sun or Joro, Pansy invited them to listen in on the truth of things.

In golf parlance, we can call this episode a major bounce back for Joro. Himawari and Cosmos apologize, the vandalism of his stuff ceases, and Sun confesses in front of the class, clearing Joro’s name to the whole school through the same rumor mill that sullied it.

That brings us to Joro and Pansy, and why the latter fell in love with the former. Turns out, it isn’t his “dark side” she necessarily likes, but the kind, hardworking side that waited by the north entrance to the gym after Sun’s game, standing there dutifully and waiting with his arms full of Sun’s favorite food.

What Joro remembers most about that day was the gorgeous, well-endowed, raven-haired maiden whose eyes met his and with whom he became transfixed, only to never see her again. The last twist is the most predictable lame: Pansy is that gorgeous maiden, and was simply hiding her looks behind a “plain girl” disguise.

While I understand this reveal was necessary, it was very clumsily done for a show that had just crafted such an intricate tapestry of romantic intrigue, and portrays Joro in a very poor light: someone who is now more or less on board with this “Hot Pansy” on the surface but is still confident he’ll never fall for the Pansy inside.

While the ball might’ve land in a bunker (more golf talk…sorry) at the end, after three (or more precisely, 2.85) strong episodes that subverted my expectations, Oresuki has earned some benefit of the doubt. Let’s see where this goes!

Oresuki – 02 – Golden Sombrero

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Joro’s thankless parallel missions to help both Cosmos and Himawari win the heart of the same guy would continue on for a number of episodes, but this week that’s just a small part of a much bigger picture, as the plot progresses farther than I could have anticipated. Lesser shows might’ve have kept the cupid act going longer, but Oresuki sweeps it all aside in favor of something new. It has more to say. Much more.

It also reveals something I touched on last week: the intentional repetition of situations and dialogue that lend the show an appealing poetic rhythm. While Cosmos and Himawari are equally terrible in executing the plans Joro lays out for them (due mostly to how nervous they get around Sun), their particular ways of bombing are both unique to their characters. It takes a lot of hands-on involvement from Joro to get the two definite dates with Sun.

But it’s not just the girls’ ineptness that makes things hard for Joro. Either consciously or not, Sun is simply hesitant to go on a date with either Cosmos or Himawari, and on Pansy’s urging, learns that there’s a girl Sun already likes. In a third “Darth Bench” scene, Sun confesses to Joro that he’s in love with Pansy, adding further complexity to an already unwieldy love polygon. His story is also very similar to the girls’, as there was a third exit from which he encounter Pansy, who encouraged him after seeing him cry.

This scene with Sun features some subtle yaoi undertones, such that until he specifically said “girl” instead of the vaguer “someone,” I thought Sun might confess his love for Joro. Not only that, after the way Joro genuinely blushes when Cosmos and Himawari mentions his strong bond with Sun, I had to remind myself that Joro was interested (at least initially) in those girls…and hence not into Sun.

Joro refuses to help Sun with Pansy, claiming not to know her well enough (partly true, but also partly a lie) but when Sun brings up a baseball metaphor, Joro responds with advice as if it were about baseball and not love. Sun’s confession of love for Pansy ups the danger for Joro exponentially, since that bombshell renders not just one but both of his cupid missions futile.

When Sun sees Joro talking with Pansy about Sun, and Pansy gets angry for Joro cruelly pushing his friend on her when it’s him she loves,  he gets suspicious. But Pansy of all people bails Joro out, confirming Joro’s claim that they’re not close and were only talking about official school business.

Still, Joro keeps Cosmos and Himawari in the dark, clearly overestimating how much time he has before they find out on their own…which of course they do when Sun does the same thing to the two of them that they did to Joro: ask them to help him get closer to someone else…in this case, Pansy!

That brings us to the Golden Sombrero, a baseball term for when a batter strikes out four times in a game. In this episode, Joro strikes out once when he’s not entirely honest with Sun vis-a-vis Pansy, once when he’s callously dismissive of Pansy, and twice more when he tries to explain to Cosmos and Himawari why he kept Sun’s true feelings from them.

As a result of Joro’s Golden Sombrero, his friendships with both Cosmos and Himawari are in the toilet, all because he took Sun’s words about baseball literally and inadvertently advised him to do what he thought best, which was to ask the two girls he went on a date with about another girl. His friendship with Sun seems secure for now, but Joro is still keeping him in the dark about who Pansy really likes.

That brings us to his latest scheduled meeting with Pansy in the library after some time off, which I assumed was to get a possibly-still-suspicious Sun off their trail. Instead, Pansy comments about how “interesting” things have gotten now that Joro’s plans for the girls have gone up in smoke and the girls are now doing what Joro did for them: supporting someone they love in their quest to be with someone else.

Early in the episode, I wanted to take Joro to task for being so unceasingly hostile towards Pansy in all of their interactions, since we hadn’t really experienced enough of Pansy as a character to justify that attitude. And yet, here we are, with Pansy effortlessly manipulating people and having a gas doing it! She even brings Cosmos, Himawari, and Sun to the library in order to find out how much more interesting things can get.

While that final twist feels very Jerry Springer-esque, it’s entirely earned by the events that preceded it. Sun may be the school’s ace pitcher, but when it comes to twisting people into knots with change-ups and curveballs off the diamond, Pansy wins walking away!

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 33

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This week the Seven Stars meet, Rustal Elion feigns ignorance of Galan Mossa, and he and McGillis cross paths, after he’s fired the first shot across his bow. Rustal has always seen something in the not-related-by-blood adopted son of Iznario Fareed, but he still thinks he has the edge over him as the conflict between their two factions continues to escalate.

If Rustal is still feeling this confident even after losing someone as capable as Mossa, there’s every reason to believe it’s because he’s still got plenty of talent on his side. McGillis will have to pull out all the stops if he’s to prevail.

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Everyone notices Takaki is a glum shell of the cheerful fellow they knew and loved on Mars. Kudelia tries to tell him not to be so down, seeing as how despite all his responsibilities and experiences, he IS still just a goddamn kid. He needs to see more things, broaden his knowledge, and learn how to judge and choose properly, as well as realize there is more than one choice, but infinite ones on the road called life.

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In a welcome scene between Mask-Gaelio and Julieta, we learn that, like McGillis, she was someone with no family who Mossa not only taught to fight but recommended to Rustal. She is who she is because of Mossa, just as McGillis is who he is thanks to Iznario, even though he eventually rebelled against him.

Those similarities aside, Julieta’s fairly narrow frame of mind and simple black-and-white way of seeing things still mirrors Mika, who has followed Orga all this way and will continue to without question.

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As for Orga, this is the week he doubles down on throwing his and Tekkadan’s lot in with McGillis. Due to his dedication to his word he would support McGillis, their fates are intertwined all but irrevocably; if McGillis falls, Tekkadan will fall too (though they still have a degree of security in Teiwaz).

McGillis decides it’s time to tell Orga what he and Tekkadan will get in return for their continued dependable service: he’ll cede Gjallarhorn’s hold over Mars to Tekkadan, essentially making them the Kings of Mars. This arrangement proves McGillis isn’t just using Tekkadan because they’re easy marks: he identifies and believes in them, to the point his own confidence in his success is dependent on being right about them.

Watching them in the early days reminded McGillis of timeless legends. We’ll see if he’s giving them too much credit, blinded by his own romanticism and desire to purify a system he was adopted into.

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When Orga tells his senior staff what McGillis told him – what essentially lies at the end of the rainbow for them when the fighting’s done – Mika, Eugene, Akihiro, and Chad are all for it without question. Kudelia and Merribit are less enthusiastic about more fighting, and Takaki flat out tells Orga he’s done.

His life is not his own to throw away for glory any longer: he won’t leave Fuka behind. He doesn’t mention Biscuit, and how he left Cookie and Cracker, but he didn’t have to for Orga to understand and accept his resignation, not with indignation, but gratitude for what Takaki has contributed to this point.

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Takaki follows Kudelia’s advice and takes a different path than the one everyone, including him, had blindly taken out of loyalty and a desire to protect his freedom. But he has that freedom now, and there’s too much blood in Tekkadan’s future for him to remain.

What about Mika? It’s not like Mika is ever going to waver for a second, or fail to obey every order given to him by Orga. But while I said he would never question Orga, but he does comment that this thing they’re working towards is “taking longer than he thought.”

That, and his expression of relief that Takaki threw in the towel, are the closest things to complaints he’s leveled against his big bro. Orga can pick a destination – the very Throne of Mars – but he can’t promise anyone they’ll actually ever get there. And like every leader great and small, that central uncertainty, and the consequences of his decisions, will continue to weigh on him.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 32

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I lauded McGillis’ decision to take to the battlefield to personally end the “mayhem” stewing between Arbrau and the SAU, but I did not expect the enemies he was fighting to be the Earth Branch of Tekkadan, but that’s exactly what went down thanks to the scheming of Galan Rossa and Radice.

Takaki and Aston have been so thoroughly, well, brainwashed by the charismatic veteran Galan that they’ll fight their own ally without hesitation – though it’s unclear how well they know McGillis and his relationship to Orga and Mika.

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It’s a relief, then, that all of the delaying is done away with and the Barbatos arrives in the middle of the battle just in time to save McGillis from Takaki and Aston. And man does McGillis, and all that he represents, almost get killed in a nameless skirmish spearheaded by a nameless mercenary, all for the benefit of his political and military rival, Rustal. Mind you, Mika isn’t helping an old friend, or even a guy who gives him cool chocolate: he’s simply obeying Orga’s orders not to let him die.

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As for Aston, he steps in front of Takaki and takes the brunt of an attack from McGillis that kills him, and all of Takaki’s hopes and dreams and innocence seem to die with him. That last thing is surprising considering how much Takaki has gone through, but up until Aston dies with a grateful smile on his face, Takaki was determined to go home to Fuka with Aston, not leave him behind. This may have been a pointless battle, but it might just cost Takaki the most.

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As for Hush, he gets to tag along with Mika, as Mika is willing to give him a shot, but let’s just say Hush doesn’t do so great in his mobile suit debut. Indeed, he’s quickly disarmed, loses his cool, and very nearly cries for his mommy before Mika has to bail him out (the second big bailout Mika executes this week).

Hush’s comrade later tells him he’s still got the self-awareness of his weaknesses to be a good pilot, but yeah, that doesn’t change the fact that he’s a very very weak asset to Tekkadan right now, and can’t be trusted with anyone but Mika, someone who can take care of himself.

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Okay, maybe Mika isn’t the only one who can take care of himself and his own affairs when it comes to mobile suit battle. When Eugene and Akihiro arrive at Tekkadan Earth HQ, corner Radice and learn of His and Mossa’s treachery, and furthermore learn that Aston has been lost as a result, he goes the fuck after Mossa, and doesn’t stop until the guy has to self-destruct himself to keep form being halved by Akihiro’s giant vice-grips.

Their battle is the most emotionally and physically intense of the episode, illustrating both how badass Akihiro is and how fiercely he defends (and avenges) his fellow ex-human debris. Though like Aston, Akihiro has never really come to grips with the “ex-” part; he always puts others before his own well-being, and almost gets blown up by it, moments before Laffter can arrive to warn him. Laffter doesn’t want to lost Akihiro because of his own paltry sense of self-worth.

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I enjoyed the little scene between McGillis and Mika near the episode’s end; both because these two are always fun to watch interact directly with each other (especially now that they’re on the same side), but that it almost shows that for all their differences, these are two guys utterly ruthless in their own ways, going after very specific goals only they believe they can achieve.

He’s almost an Orga surrogate here, without the shared past. Both McGillis and Mika seek a better tomorrow, and for now, their interests are aligned, with no sense of that changing anytime soon. And just as McGillis has Mika, his rival Rustal has Julieta, who seems to be the only one who sheds any tears for Galan Mossa, but is told not to do so by Rustal, as it wouldn’t be what Mossa wanted.

But as much as Mossa—who seemed to be a good friend of Rustal’s; perhaps even a blood relative—tried to erase his identity and that of his entire operation, he couldn’t erase one eccentric pilot’s regard for him, nor her grief over his loss.

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As for Takaki, the loss he experienced is more than evident both in the cockpit, at Earth Branch HQ, and back at home. His gaze has changed, from his easygoing glint to more of a Mikazuki stare. He decides to take care of “Earth branch problems” in the injured Chad’s stead, doing what Mika casually offered to do and putting three bullets in Radice for his treachery.

The once kind and gentle Takaki has crossed over into new territory, and both the blood of Aston and the lies of Radice and Mossa crafted this new, darker, more tortured Takaki, who no longer seems comfortable in Fuka’s presence.

This was a hard-hitting and very satisfying episode that swiftly and efficiently wrapped up the Earth Branch arc. I won’t lie that bringing in Mika, Akihiro & Co. definitely raised my interest level, but I also won’t deny that despite the fact either Takaki or Aston (or both) were doomed here, I was still fully emotionally invested in their fates. Not a bad feat for a miniature war with no name.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 31

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Even Takaki can feel it: something’s not right. Something hasn’t been right since Chad was injured, Radice took over, and Galan was brought on. But that “something” is impossible for him to grasp, at least to the point it alters the course he and the other Earth Branchers of Tekkadan, which is precisely the course Galan wants them on: the path to ruin.

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As such, Takaki finds himself very nearly back to where this all began: human tools of CGS; cannon fodder for endless, pointless battles between Arbrau and the SAU. And it’s all in service of weakening McGillis’ position and reputation. As he stares in his coffee, McGillis knows exactly what’s going on, as he’s probably been expecting concerted resistance to his reform movement. It’s strange to see him on his heels, almost forced to make a move.

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I’m not yet sure if McGillis is being played here, but Takaki and Aston are being played like fiddles. Galan treats them decently, but behind their backs calls them dogs he’s helpfully trained for Rastal. He tells Takaki again and again that this is it; the last battle; just one more push and he can go back home to his normal happy life with Fuka and Aston. Only they’re just words, and in reality there is no end to the war in sight.

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That’s just how Galan, Radice, and Rustal want it. It’s another case of the adults getting one over on the kids; manipulating their emotions to keep them pliable. Galan even goes out of his way to save Takaki’s life, not just to keep up the charade but to build more trust; trust Galan has every intention of betraying when the time is right.

It’s an episode that establishes a terrible situation for Earth Branch, and makes me question the wisdom of splitting Tekkadan’s forces across two planets in the first place. Mika, Kudelia, Eugene & Co. are on their way, and may be able to provide some relief but Galan won’t make it easy for them to interfere in his plans. Will it be too little, too late to save Takaki?

Meanwhile, McGillis takes the stage in his mobile suit, determined after a matter of weeks to nip this sprawling yet low-boil conflict in the bud. A rematch with the masked Gaelio seems imminent.

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Thunderbolt Fantasy – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: twins contain two parts of an important holy sword that an evil demon warlord wants because he’s super evil. One twin dies and his somewhat hapless sister falls off a cliff only to be rescued by the beginnings of a odd-ball troop of master warriors.

And yes, it’s done in a perfect blend of traditional Chinese live action martial arts cinema AND the thunder birds puppet style. It’s a little choppy but the articulation of the puppets is top notch. (no mouth movement but eyes can blink — even cry or spurt blood)

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Hard rock hair, almost as hard core as the guitar banging away in the background.

You may enjoy Thunderbolt Fantasy for its novelty, for its dedication to over the top action, if you enjoy classic Chinese Warriors with swords movies, or if you can down enough Adderol to actually process all that action without caring about the cliche (and bluntly idiotic) plot.

You should watch the first episode even though you may not like it because, lets face it, the plot is paint by numbers and the characters are pure cliche. Additionally, despite being ‘generally coherent,’ the nature of puppets doing complex acrobatics in the rain and lighting with CGI energy attacks/magic wooshing around limits the viewers ability to really follow whats going on.

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The verdict: Thunderbolt Fantasy deserves several points of credit for trying something very unusual in its presentation. It also deserves props for using the aesthetic successfully to boot.

However… the plot and blandness of the characters are not for me. Even if it’s awesome to see them periodically explode into a bloom of blood, cloth and practical effects.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 10

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Ernesta keeps from Aldy that Rimsy is his limiter, indicating we haven’t seen the limits of his power yet. And while Ayato and Julis walk to Saya and Kirin’s match, they encounter Irene Urzaiz whaling on some nobodies before she turns her attention to Ayato. Her very polite sister Priscilla bails him out this time, but message received: Ayato has yet another powerful opponent gunning for him.

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While I’m sure Saya and Kirin are looking forward to a fight with Allekant’s puppets, this week’s opponents are no sweat, and Ayato and Julis don’t even arrive until the match is long over, when they walk in on a nude Saya is trying in vain to grab a nude Kirin’s boobs.

After another ridiculously quick and easy match against two dolls from Queenvail, Julis (who defeated “Non-Sugar” all by herself) suggests she and Ayato have lunch, then presents the sandwiches she made, then hints at Ayato to reward her fairly by patting her head too, something Ayato didn’t know she wanted.

It’s a cute little scene that underscores how far behind Stella and Ikki these two are in the romance department. Then again every couple has their own pace and rhythms.

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They’re also merely spectators for this week’s main event between Lester and Irene, who we see in action for the first time. Lester and his partner try using the same tired old strategy against Irene: keep moving and wait for her gas-guzzling Ogre Lux to drain her dry.

But that fails when she uses gravity magic that renders Randy unconscious, then sucks the blood of her partner Priscilla to regenerate her power and assault Lester into submission. A Vampire Girl with gravity magic? Pretty sweet combo right there that’s sure to cause headaches for our wonder duo.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 09

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Okay, no more messing around: the long-awaited Phoenix Festa is finally upon us; that is, after the introduction of Irene Urzaiz, a student so badass she’s in school prison. The head of the “Steering Committee” also announces the controversial decision to allow contestants to field alternates (AKA puppets), bringing a grin to Ernesta’s face.

Before Ayato and Julis’ first match, a light lunch is indicated, which is provided in the form of various over-sized rice balls made by Kirin with Saya’s help. Saya is able to glom onto Ayato briefly, and even get her head patted by Ayato like Kirin. Julis, however, does not request to have her head patted, and lets the silver and blue have their fun.

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When lunch is over, it’s Showtime, and Julis has Ayato all to herself. I liked how confidently Julis, used to distant adoration, strutted out to the arena, while Ayato was a lot more nervous, and how she actually flaunted that confidence by acknowledging the cheering masses. She is a famous princess, after all.

Going in, Ayato is hyped as the only Rank #1 fighter in the Festa, and he decides to waste no time demonstrating that, breaking out Ser Veresta and putting on a little show of powering up before dispatching the two opponents (who weren’t even introduced) all by himself, with one swipe.

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But it’s not just a convincing win; everything went according to plan. Ayato’s chains were presented as showmanship rather than a hindrance to his abilities, and his battle time limit was kept secret by keeping the battle short, with the assumption that Julis would step in once he can no longer fight.

Julis also makes sure Ayato knows to be evasive to the press lest they give anything away. This isn’t Julis’ first rodeo; she knows ignorance is their best weapon, while any info their opponents glean is ammunition against them.

That brings us to the next battle, one between two Le Wolfe brothers who each look at least 35 years of age (Why?) and the two combat puppets built by Allekant’s Ernesta and Camilla, a male-female pair named “Aldy” and “Rimsy”, whose dynamic and banter resembles that of their human creators.

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Le Wolfe dudes flash their skills with wind magic and marksmanship, but even with one minute period in which the puppets don’t attack, they can’t put a dent in ’em. The minute is up, and it’s Game Over for the over-aged brothers, as expected.

Those puppets will definitely potentially pose a challenge to our Seidokan pals; I’m thinking Kirin and Saya will face them at some point, while Irene Urzaiz is gunning for Ayato, with orders not to necessarily win her match, but simply to destroy him.

In any case, we’ll see if the show takes us to those faced, named challengers or if Ayato & Co. will have to carve their way through more nobodies before they reach the “bosses.”

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Coppelion – 02

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The Coppelion meet Kawabata Mitsuo and his wife Yukiko, ex-convicts living in the radioactive zone after escaping from prison in the meltdown chaos; Mitsuo is searching for Miku, his daughter from his late first wife. The girls determine that Mitsuo and Yukiko argued about sending an SOS, and Yukiko took Miku hostage. Ibara enters a condemned hotel and finds Yukiko and Miku on an upper floor, but the hotel collapses and Yukiko falls to her death. Mitsuo dies from radiation before the girls can reunite him with Miku, but she still thanks them anyway for their efforts.

After the first week established that birds, wolves, and the like still thrive in the region rendered uninhabitable to humans, this week revealed that some humans have tried to do the same, and not all of them want to leave, despite the radiation. The first such people we meet are in a complicated, unenviable position; rescue would mean breaking up the family because Yukiko and Mitsuo are criminals who still owe debts to society. They were able to somehow scrape together a living, but then the supply trucks ceased. Yet however pure Mitsuo’s love for Miku, or good his intentions, subjecting her to a bleak, shortened life in that radioactive hellhole simply wasn’t fair to her.

Mitsuo ultimately came to realize that, but Yukiko simply couldn’t bear to lose another child, and was even messed up enough to threaten to shoot Miku if Ibara tried to take her; such were the twisting, traumatizing effects of their desperate way of life. Faced with human tragedy more complex than they’d ever perceived, the Coppelion girls reflect on their existence as test tube-grown “dolls” or “puppets” whose edict is to go where ordinary humans can’t and save people. They learn that not everyone they encounter can – or wants to – be saved. But they also learn that they’re not just automatons; this encounter affected them, stay with them, and inform their actions on future missions.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)