Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 23

War explodes in, over, and around Anatae, as Lucifer joins the battle in his flagship, and the Onyx Soldiers and Charioce loyalists battle the alliance of demons, gods, and men. While these zoom-outs to the wider fighting certainly make for nice eye candy, what truly interested me was when they zoomed back in on the smaller, more intimate moments between various pairs of characters, be it Jeanne and Azazel, or Dias finding Alessand.

Alessand cries, begs for his life, and then stabs Dias when his guard is down, betraying him again. At that point, Dias is done with Al, except to drive a sword into him, but a little demon boy, who can see through Al’s forced smile, doesn’t fall for it, and kills him with a dagger.

After making the wrong choice to murder El in sight of a grander station, Al ended up slain by a small, frail, hungry child and died bleeding out in a dark alley. No songs will be sung of Alessand. But hey, he did get Nina into the palace, right?

Nina doesn’t understand Charioce one bit…but she sure wants to, and that means going to him once more, even if previous instances of doing so didn’t really turn out so well for her or anyone near her. Charioce waits on the top deck of aboard his flagship, surrounded by the Onyx Soldiers…who aren’t doing too hot.

Their bodies reach their absolute limit at just the wrong time: when their king needs them the most to protect him. But the combined force of Jeanne and Azazel proves too much for them, although not by much…if the Commander had had just a few more moments of life, he might’ve managed to stab Jeanne in the throat with a hidden blade.

Lucifer’s flagship, Bacchus’ wagon, and yes, an elevating bridge made out of zombies amassed by Rita bearing her and Kaisar, all descend on the same spot, where Charioce is about to be charged by Jeanne and Azazel. It’s Kaisar who makes it just in time to protect his king, and gets stabbed and impaled by their snakes and spear. Rita is beside herself, while Jeanne and Azazel are sheepish.

Charioce is shocked, but he shouldn’t be: Kaisar Lidfort is, and always has been, a true knight. If the world survives this latest attack from Bahamut, it will need more Kaisars, not more Charioces. A few Favaros wouldn’t hurt though…

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Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 22

While Charioce is in Eibos, trying to widen a rift, Jeanne is bringing demon, god, and man together in a grand alliance based upon their mutual hate of the asshole king, and Alessand is now in charge of the Orleans Knights, but a few of his subordinates wonder if they’re on the right side, and when Al tells himself he did nothing wrong, he doesn’t sound very convincing.

Kaisar, hopeless idealist to the end, tries in vain to halt Jeanne’s march by trying to shoulder responsibility for El’s death by giving Al free roam of their hideout. But this simply isn’t about who killed El; it’s about everyone Charioce has killed, hurt, or caused to suffer or despair. Like most things with Jeanne, this has grown into something far bigger than herself and her own desire for revenge…though she does want that revenge.

When Nina and Favaro arrive at Eibos via Bacchus’ wagon, through the obscuring fog they learn what Charioce is up to: awakening Bahamut. Nina rushes into the stronghold and takes down everyone in her path with ease, and even outmaneuvers and overpowers Charioce. But even with his own sword in her hand and the opportunity to cut off his arm and the bracelet attached to it, she can’t close the deal, even when he goads her to “do it”,  and backs down. Which…is a bit disappointing.

Instead, Nina and Favaro listen to Charioce’s advisor explain how this day was always coming; when Bahamut had to be dealt with on a permanent basis to prevent him from awakening anew and destroying the world. Charioce was the king that had been groomed to deal with this mission, and it’s one he’s more than willing to sacrifice his life to achieve. The rift opens further, Nina and Favaro escape, and Charioce comes into possession of a fleet of huge, advanced airships.

This is all very cool, it is…but while it’s now been helpfully explained why Charioce did so many terrible things (to acquire the power to destroy Bahamut) it’s still a classic ends-justify-the-means scenario, and just because he’s puting his life on the line doesn’t automatically make him a martyr.

That applies especially if the ends don’t work out; Bahamut is awakened and blows up most of Charioce’s fleet. Was…that supposed to happen? After all this, is Charioce in over his head? Whatever the case, Jeanne is fighting the wrong war; Bahamut has instantly become the Most Important Thing to deal with at the moment. The rebellion will have to wait.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 21

Alessand goes through a lot of emotions as he stalks and kills Mugaro. There’s some excitement and satisfaction he’s proven his “worth” to the Onyx Soldiers, but also a crushing guilt and self-hatred. He is truly a fallen knight. He failed the test.

He also fails to get out undetected; Favaro spots him fleeing the scene of the crime, but rather than give chase, he takes Mugaro to Rita, who tries despretely in vain to save his life as everyone around watches, including Nina, who had been previously so distracted by her own woes.

It wouldn’t be much of a drama if Rita could’ve so easily saved Mugaro, so he dies, and the group is scattered and lost as a result. After grieving, Jeanne returns to the Land of the Gods with Sofiel and purpose.

Azazel—at times a father, brother, and friend to Mugaro—also storms off, after his hunch about one of Kaisar’s subordinates being responsible is proven true by Favaro.

And naturally, Alessand doesn’t get what he bargained for. He has the blood of a holy child on his hands, but when the Onyx commander shows what being an Onyx soldier really means—becoming host to a life-sucking stone that leads to an agonizing half-life—he immediately balks. I must say, Alessand has gone from harmless buffoon to loathsome wretch in shockingly short order.

Up in the LotG, Gabriel rejoices at the return of Sofiel and Jeanne, but also pained by the news of the loss of El. Never mind; the time for mourning is over, as far as Jeanne is concerned. Sofiel transforms her into a holy warrior, and they prepare to return to the surface world in force to exact their revenge.

Azazel has less luck, at least initially, with his superior Lucifer, and Azzy has to take a book to the face, but he eventually convinces him that Jeanne is indeed moving against Charioce, and there will never be a better time to strike. Whether any kind of coordination is in the cards, we’ll have to see.

And then we have Nina. Ever since Mugaro’s death, her demeanor has been muted, and she admits to feeling numb; like Titus Andronicus, she hath not another tear to shed. She cleans and cleans until, while cleaning Bacchus’ wagon, she finds Mugaro’s dress, and the tears begin to pour, as she recalls raw anguish similar to when her dear father died.

After her good long cathartic cry, Favaro visits her in the wagon, but has no certain answers to her questions. When Nina gets up and shows her face, Favaro is surprised to see it’s no longer soaked with tears; instead, she wears a face of stern determination; of focus.

Like Azazel, like Jeanne, she’s done crying. And if Charioce will continue to hurt and kill her friends, she’ll take it upon herself to stop him, no matter what it takes. Not long thereafter, Jeanne speaks to the people from on high: rise up against the mad king who killed her only child and intends to kill many more.

Kakegurui – 06

Following her stunning victory, Mary is approached by her former entourage, who offer a half-hearted apology…that she accepts, and things are back to the way they were before she became a Miké.

She doesn’t seem to hold a grudge for how they treated her; written or unwritten, they abided by the rules and traditions of the school with regard to treatment of livestock.

But they also revealed something about the school’s enrollment: one need not be in debt to be livestock. These three girls aren’t technically Mikés, but they are another kind of livestock: they never lead; they only follow, even unto the slaughterhouse.

Momobami and the council seem interested only in those who break out of that mold; in someone like Yumeko, who has yet to pay her debts and be relieved of Livestock status even though she has the funds…and like Mary, the “girl who became a human.”

No one truly knows why Yumeko maintains her Miké status, but it’s assumed its so she can challenge the council to another offical match, and it’s assumed the one she wants to gamble with the most is the president, Momobami Kirari. But she doesn’t get Momobami; not this time.

Instead, she’s intercepted and arrested by the council member she’ll have to play with first in order to get to Momobami; Beautification Committee chairman (and noted gun nut and lunatic) Ikishima Midari.

Midari has her stylish gal-goons take Yumeko (and Ryouta) to a dank interrogation chamber in the bowels of the school, where they’ll play an “ESP card game” in which they guess which cards will be drawn in the adjacent room. Each correct guess means a point, and the person with the most points gets to fire one of two .357 Magnum revolvers loaded with anywhere from zero to six bullets.

Knowing what we know about Midari, it’s a very Midari game (what with the large amount of pure chance involved), and if Yumeko is worried, she doesn’t let on, keeping her calm, cool face throughout. However, Midari also sees in Yumeko a slightly more buttoned-up version of herself: a pervert who gets off on gambling to fulfill her appetites.

Making Ryouta deal the cards that he believes will determine the fate of two women is a great exercise to toughen him up (or just make him a nervous wreck), while Midari agrees that if she loses, she’ll pay Yumeko a cool billion yen ($9 million).

Following a fairly routine pattern in this show, Yumeko loses the first of three rounds by one point, giving Midari the first shot. Since she fully loaded her pistol, Midari has at least a 50-50 chance of shooting her. If Yumeko loaded any bullets into hers, the odds are better. Of course, either of the guns could backfire, which could be why Yumeko warns Midari not to fire when the time comes.

Yumeko always seems to gamble like her life (and certainly her enjoyment) is on the line, so as theatrical and wild as Midari is, this is simply a more raw and concentrated version of the feeling Yumeko craves. I forsee both parties coming away from this not only alive, but…satisfied.

As for Mary, she’s the one intercepted by President Momobami, who doesn’t mince words over tea: she wants Mary to join the council. Clearly, she sees potential in her. Mary may not be as nuts as Yumeko, but she’s definitely going places.

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I may have bristled at least week’s structure (spend the entire first half introducing Ikishima, someone not involved in the second half’s gambling) but it was a blessing in disguise, putting a welcome kink in the gamble-a-week rhythm of the show to this point. Also, a poker game this layered with lies, deceit, and glorious twists needed more than two halves of an episode; it needed three.

Liberated from the need for setup (ably achieved in the first half) the crazy-faces showed up early and often here, as did the twists, the most important one being that the moves of the seemingly superfluous fourth player, Tsubomi, are being controlled by Kiwatari, the only non-livestock in the game.

Tsubomi and Mary are aware of this (Tsubomi isn’t so great at hiding the cheating), but in the tenth and final game, when Kiwatari tells Tsubomi she’s not allowed to beat him, Tsubomi does her stuff: painstakingly picking and peeling back the emotionless facade Tsubomi had built to repress the trauma of losing her beautiful locks of hair, roughly hacked off by Kiwatari himself once she became livestock.

Tsubomi tells her that losing intentionally here, when she has a perfect opportunity to prove she’s not “lifelong livestock”, would be like a “motionless pig in an open cage.” Unable to accept that, Tsubomi’s facade cracks, beats Kiwatari in the round, and becomes a human again.

The game would have ended with Tsubomi in first place, if the chip count, which we’d been getting from Kiwatari, was accurate. Turns out that is the last and final twist in the game: Mary and Yumeko falsified their debt reports (just like Kiwatari did), then swapped them, so the boards in front of them at the card table gave Kiwatari the wrong figures to do his math throughout the game.

It’s a total defeat brought on by Kiwatari’s confidence in his control over Tsubomi, as well as his hard-headed belief he can judge everyone as if they were cut from the same cloth. Meanwhile, Tsubomi may still technically be livestock, but regained her will to live and fight for solvency.

The council secretary Igarashi worries about what Pandora’s Box President Momobari (whom she seems to love) has opened by allowing someone as inscrutable as Jabami Yumeko to roam free. However, when Igarashi says “the usual things” that one can use to control a person don’t work on her; she’s not entirely right.

I have no doubt if Yumeko’s friends were threatened, she wouldn’t stand by and do nothing. And now Yumeko has two friends—Ryouta and Mary—who may be leveraged against her in the future. We’ll see how she deals with that as she faces off against more and stronger opponents.

Drifters – 05

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This was a particularly shitty episode of Drifters – and I say that not due to a lack of quality (it remains consistently average most of the time), but due to the sheer amount of excrement used as a weapon against the Orte soldiers in the Elven Rebellion. The three samurai help the Elves train for the battle, then Toyohisa leads the fight, which is waged with arrows and blades covered in crap, and a well full of crap so wounds can’t be washed.

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In this regard, Nobunaga shows just how ruthless he can be, employing the very natural processes of life and death to his advantage, and rightfully expecting the Orte troops to crumble once they see the tactics being used against them.

However, Nobunaga also knows that Yoichi isn’t the biggest fan of such “dirty tricks”, nor that Toyohisa knows how to do anything other than compel others to fight and then fight himself. He proposes the storming of the lord’s castle, but it’s up to Nobunaga to formulate a plan to do so.

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The castle-storming (involving the elves disguised as troops returning…the Orte don’t seem that bright) leads us to a discovery that makes the enemy even more baldly despicable: not only did Orte abduct all of the female elves, but soldiers have been free to have their way with them in a filthy, hellish nightmare setting that make Toyohisa change his mind about accepting anyone’s surrender. If they’re going to act like beasts, he’s going to slaughter them like beasts.

The three amigos made some progress, but we may be starting to see cracks appearing between them even as their quest to conquer everything in sight is just beginning. And while this episode wasn’t marred by any other Drifters or Ends, showing us the dirty, smelly side of war was ultimately more gross than engrossing.

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Drifters – 04

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Drifters has its intense, ostensibly serious moments, but very often they are upturned by a sudden bout of comedy, such as when Easy, who is in the Dorridor to tease Murasaki, finds that he’s currently away from his desk.

Basically, Drifters is in on the joke, and it’s out to show you can have a story about famous historical figures going at each other for the sake of a world not their own without being as rigid as bamboo or dry as Fall leaves. You can have a little fun.

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I like how Oda Nobunaga, the ostensible leader of the Three Surly Samurai, decides to step aside and let Toyohisa be the commander who leads the Elves in their rebellion.

First, he respects Toyohisa’s ability and relative youth. Second, at his age he prefers to be the one who pulls the strings on the side. Third, and perhaps most silly, is that Toyohisa went and sat in the middle, between Nobunaga and Yoichi. And that’s where the leader sits.

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The narrative of a village of (surprisingly old) Elves who have never known freedom or war taking a stand against their masters isn’t all that interesting, but making the Three Samurai their “coaches” in this enterprise, and all their inherent bickering and bawdiness, is pretty entertaining, and helps the medicine go down, so to speak.

These are three guys who can back up their arrogance (and other typically undesirable personality traits); indeed, it makes sense they act and talk the way they do: They’re used to getting their way, and when they don’t, blood that isn’t their own usually spills.

Magician Olmine isn’t yet sure how these Drifters fit into the Octobrists’ larger struggle to save the world, but she knows they’re too human, and too quick to help the weak and downtrodden, to be Easy’s Ends.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 15

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“You cannot truly become an adult.”—our Masked Man McGillis’s words in the cold open. Those words didn’t stick with me throughout this phenomenal episode, but gradually gained significance as things progressed. Masky is surprised by how excited he is. Disguising himself so he can visit Dort, the front lines of the upcoming rebellion, has brought out the little kid in him. The Mask protects his identity, but he’s still exposed and untethered, and we can only guess what he’s up to.

When Mika tells Fumitan he knows something is on her mind (he just doesn’t know what), she talks about things adults are supposed to have, like responsibility. Only hers are dual: both to protect Kudelia and watch her. But hanging out with all these kids, and Kudelia in particular, has brought out the kid in her too, and before she knew it she’d disobeyed orders, irking Noblesse.

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Meanwhile, someone who believes he’s one of the most responsible, pragmatic adults around, Savarin, wears the suit of a salaryman, occupies a cubicle, and informs on his little brother the minute he sees Atra with him. We’ll later learn Savarin has replaced the family of his childhood with the responsibility of adulthood: working to keep the working class society of Dort from exploding into chaos and blood, but also working to preserve his own skin.

The workers are lead by union boss Navona Mingo, who gets Orga’s team out of the line of fire and hides them in the slums, where he casually asks them to join his fight. He seems to shrug off Orga’s declining, but I somehow doubt that’s the end of it. Meanwhile, Gaelio and Ein are ready to go, but the captain of their ship is able to delay him by spewing a lot of bureaucrat-babble that impresses a junior officer. What’s this captain’s angle?

Betrayal is bad no matter who does it, so when Savarin betrays Biscuit, who idolized him and lived his very life by his example, has got to be devastated when Gjallarhorn arrest him and Atra. But the reason they’re doing so is because they believe Atra is Kudelia Aina Bernstein, Goddess of the rebellion. This is a misunderstanding Atra quickly picks up and runs with, to protect Kudelia, her family, from harm.

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This gets her beaten by the Gjallarhorn soldiers trying to get rebellion intel out of her, and the sight of Atra being roughed up, her legs, one missing a boot, dangling from the interrogation chair, is almost too terrible to behold; she is only a child, for crying out loud.

But Atra’s blood is iron; forged and stiffened on Mars from an even younger age than she is now. She knows how to take a beating; she used to endure them every day. Now that she actually has someone to take it for (rather than punishment for some petty slight), she’s all the more resolved. Her toughness in this situation brought a tear to my eye.

Speaking of eyes, when Orga learns through Navona that Biscuit and Atra have been kidnapped, he relays the info to Mika, who tells Fumitan to keep Kudelia safe while he rescues them. The “foolish, innocent child” Kudelia tries to sneak out anyway, but Fumitan stops her, and can’t help but remark how her “clear, honest eyes” haven’t changed since she was a young girl, and how much she’s always hated those eyes and wished they’d cloud up from reality; from adulthood.

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Hope and idealism, like the giddy excitement McGillis is feeling, is for kids. Reality and stern responsibility is for adults. And speak of the masked devil, MaskGillis shows up right there and then, revealing to Kudelia not only how Nobliss Gordon has been using her, but how he’s had one of his own by her side all this time.

Sensing this moment of betrayal could be a chance to finally cloud those eyes, Fumitan does not deny the masked man’s claims, and Kudelia is devastated. Fumitan then leaves Kudelia’s side, but Kudelia can’t help but go after her, even when Masky tries to hold her back and remind her of her responsibility. But is this all a game? Was Mask’s intention to use the truth to put Kudelia in a more vulnerable position?

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It’s a shame Mika wasn’t around to mediate things, but he’s occupied with being a one-man rescue team, finding Atra’s boot in the streets, seemingly following her scent to where she’s being held, crashing a truck into the building, and taking out all the guards off-camera before bursting in.

When he sees the state of Atra, he’s ready to go a little bit further, but there’s no time. Orga arrives in a truck just as Savarin is fingering them for Gjallarhorn once more. Savarin appeals to his brother to see reason and do as his big brother says. Biscuit is appreciative of everything Savarin did for him and his sisters, but he has a new family now, so he goes with Tekkadan, and the brothers are separated, perhaps forever.

Meanwhile, Kudelia is out in the open, searching desperately for Fumitan, while a full-blown armed uprising of Dort’s working class is about to explode on the same streets where she calmly shopped just hours before. She’s too concerned with Fumitan to realize the danger she’s in, or the merit of staying put so Mika and the others could meet up with her.

She’s acting like a child would, only considering one thing at a time and rushing at it with reckless abandon; unknowingly squandering the sacrifice Atra made to keep her safe. But it’s not all her fault—because you cannot truly become an adult.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 14

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GIBO picks up where it left off, with surplus mobile suits the likes of Shino wants to learn to fly, and Kudelia unsure of what to do about Mika’s kiss. Oh, and in case you missed all those suspicious sidelong glances last cour, this episode makes it clear as crystal: Fumitan has orders to lure Kudelia into a trap where she’ll be assassinated as the leader of a rebellion.

But while Fumitan may always appear stoic, she’s still conflicted about this plan. Kudelia doesn’t aid Fumi’s resolve to betray her when she comes in for advice about love.

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The intricate plan Fumitan is a merely one gear in casts an ominous shadow on Tekkadan’s arrival at the Dort Colonies to deliver some Teiwaz cargo before continuing on to Earth, which is in spitting distance. The ominousness only rises when we see Gaelio planning a “drill” with his family flagship, assuring Ein he’ll have his shot at revenge.

Kudelia unknowingly thwarts Fumitan’s plan when she requests to visit the commercial colony Dort-3 rather than the cargo colony Dort-2, for “shopping.” Atra asks to tag along, Orga assigns Mika as their protection, and he notices Fumitan’s sudden frustration, even if he may not be sure what it’s about. Finally, Biscuit asks to come along as well. So if this is a three-way shopping date, there will be two chaperones of both genders.

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I’m not sure why I assumed Kudelia just needed to get her luxury goods fix, but she instead heads to the nearest Space Costco to snatch up clothes, soaps, and other hygenic products for the Tekkadan crew. In explaining the highly practical purchases, Kudelia brings up the fact that the crew doesnt’ bathe enough, and the Isaribi, frankly, stinks to high heaven. I’d never thought about that either, but now I am; Tekkadan is not the sterile, antiseptic environment that, say, Gjallarhorn ships seem to be.

The reason for Biscuit accompanying the group is also a surprise: turns out he and his sisters are originally from Dort (albeit the slums), and his older brother Savarin is still living and working there. Atra convinces him to give Sav a call and arrange a meeting. The thing is, the cubicle-occupying Savarin has a news bulletin in front of him warning them to be on high alert for Tekkadan, believed to be a rebellious element up to no good in this law-and-order sphere.

Meanwhile, at Dort-2, Orga, Eugene, Shino and Yamagi get an unusually warm welcome from the cargo depot employees, who call them “knights” of their savior, Kudelia. Their lives are almost as menial and disposable as Orga’s crew back when they were CGS, while the richies on Earth sit around soaking up profits. They’ve been told Tekkadan is there to help them start a rebellion, and to Orga & Co.’s surprise, the Teiwaz cargo turns out to be arms for just that purpose.

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The workers, mere cogs in the schemers’ design, were also told Kudelia would be among them, so this is the trap that was meant to close around her. Gjallarhorn conveniently shows up, but the workers take up their arms and force them to retreat (so much for the Gjallarhorn troops being better trained and motivated here, huh?).

Not knowing what the hell is going on or who put them up to this, all Orga & Co. can do is try to get the hell out of this mess, ordering Merribit to launch the Isaribi. But it looks like the ink is already dry on the fiction about them being a “ship of hope” for the rebelling workers of Dort. At least Naze doesn’t seem to be a part of it, but rather only thinks Tekkadan screwed up somehow.

As all that excitement going down, Kudelia is having far greater difficulties: she can’t summon the words to ask Mika about his feelings, even when she gets some time alone with him. It’s looking like the kiss was just a kiss, so far. As for Fumitan, she’s still conflicted about disobeying orders (could they be from Orcus, if that’s an “O” in the signature of the orders?) and not making sure Kudelia was on Dort-2.

Like the workers, she’s taken the first step to a new life; in their case one where they’re fighting rather than working for The Man; and in Fumi’s case, protecting Kudelia rather than working for those who want her out of the picture. In both cases, there may be no going back.

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P.S. On first glance I’d call the new OP at least the equal of the first, while the new ED, while solid, isn’t quite as strong as its predecessor. Also, in the preview, we’re teased with images of McGillis wearing a mask, and talking about gaining the life of a new man. But he may only be joking.

Akame ga Kill! – 16

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As Night Raid and the Jaegers clash in various new combinations, AGK returns to what it does best, big, bold, bombastic yet stylish battles. There is a ton going on this week, with only Lubbock and Wave sitting out the action, and sides made even more complex by Kurome’s “collection” of corpse puppets, all formidable warriors she’d assassinated in the past, including her own childhood friend Natala.

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Thus sub-group of one-shot baddies, both humanoid and bestial, is as diverse and colorful in both appearance and skills as Night Raid and Jaegers themselves, and are the initial barrier keeping Night Raid from taking on Kurome directly. Some get more backstory and screentime than others, but the bottom line is, most of them are tough enough to hang around for most of the episode.

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Frankly, there are so many different combinations of face-offs in the simultaneous battles that it would be a major pain to list them all out, but suffice it to say the episode stays fresh because of the sheer variety of combat going on, and the numerous times a Night Raid member will shift from one target to another one that’s a better fit. They all strive to match their unique Imperial Arm power to the weakness of the opponent in a particular time and place.

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The urgency and seriousness of these battles is helped by the fact we’ve lost Night Raiders in the past, and everything from limbs to garment integrity is lost at various points in the action. But everyone gets to shine, striking and dodging, landing what they intend to be coups-de-grace, only to find their opponent slipped away for found another edge…or if one of their allies interrupts.

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One of the funnier battle “cross-overs” coming when Najenda, disgusted her former trainer and general is still moving around despite the fact she beheaded him, goes in to Overdrive and launches him into the air. The body hits the beam of the Destoghoul just as it’s blasting Susanoo’s arm off (though unlike Leones, it reappears instantly, since he’s, well, an Arm.) It’s a small but funny gesture that conveys the sense that All Of This Is Going On At Once.

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Another instance of clever use of character ability, personality and timeliness under certain conditions, Chelsea, who is hidden most of the time, uses her makeup kit to take the form of a tribal elder one of the puppets won’t attack, opening him up for a fatal needle to the brain. She took the risk to protect Tatsumi, whom she’s developed feelings for.

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But after one foe is downed, it isn’t long before another has to be dealt with. Susanoo brought the PAIN thanks to Najenda unlocking his secret “Madman” power, a life-threatening option, but the only way to quickly dispatch the Destoghoul.

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After she defeats her gun-toting opponent, Mine is ambused by a giant toad and swallowed, to burn up in its stomach acid, but as Kurome gloats, Mine blows enough holes in the thing to escape before the acid does too much. Mine then makes the very unreasonable, but very Mine demand for Tatsumi to somehow help her without looking at her.

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Yes, I liked that even in these tough battles, there’s still the occasional exchange of wry banter or joking around that we’ve come to expect of AGK, though there’s less of it than usual, and even in this it throws a curveball, as in the moments Leone lets her guard down watching Najenda fight, she loses her frikkin’ left arm to an opportunistic, ruthless Kurome. Keep your eyes on a swivel, guys!

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I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how long Bols manages to stick with Akame and later Akame and Leone. He even calmly asks Akame why she became a rebel, and doesn’t argue with her right to feel the way she does…it just doesn’t change the fact his job is to incinerate her. But when his corpse puppet guard goes down, it’s two-on-one, and his Imperial Arm is severely damaged by Leone biting it, he tosses up his turbine backpack and Detonates The Entire Episode. Talk about ending things with a boom! Keep it up with this AGK. You’re in your wheelhouse.

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Akame ga Kill! – 15

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Akame ga Kill! really wants you to understand that the Ultimate Battle between Night Raid and the Jaegars and between the Rebellion and the Empire, is about to begin. Both characters and the narrator mention it at least half a dozen times. They should have also said something along the lines of “these battles are definitely on the way, but bear with us a little while we lay out all the details and get people into their proper positions for said battles.” Or something.

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So yeah, this episode is yet more setup. By the end of it, Najenda, Akame, Tatsumi and Leone are engaged with Kurome and Bols, with Susanoo having smacked Wave off the battlefield entirely. It doesn’t seem like either party is going to back down or retreat; this is it. We just don’t get to see any actual fighting quite yet.

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“Wait…WHY are we in bikinis, again?”

We do get a somewhat meandering Rube Goldberg-like plan for overthrowing the Capital and Empire; one that depends on a lot of moving parts which could spell disaster if any of them failed. It starts with a popular religious group starting an insurrection within the empires borders, followed by invasions from without by the Revolutionary Army and its allied tribes.

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“Are the crepes good, people? Good!”

They’re depending on the zealots being enough of a threat to warrant a sizable movement of Imperial forces in the direction the Revolutionary wants, as well as the cooperation of disillusioned castellans on the route to the Capital to honor their word to yield their castles to the rebels. If everything goes according to plan, the capital will be theirs, its corrupt leaders dispatched, and all with a minimum of bloodshed.

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But c’mon now, not everything is going to go according to plan. Neither the rebel army nor Night Raid can do anything without dealing with Esdeath and the Jaegers first (Najenda also name-drops Commander-in-Chief Budou). The episode serves as a means to take stock in each Night Raid member or Jaeger’s specific reasons and motivations for fighting, with Seryu’s probably being the most morally upside-down (though that’s not surprising considering the mentors she’s had).

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On the other end of the spectrum is Wave, who isn’t even listed as a target, but he has his own reasons for fighting on the side he’s on. Regardless of whether you’re an otherwise nice guy like him or Bols, or a complete evil psycho like Kurome, they must all be defeated by Night Raid if the rebellion is to have a chance.

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Psycho-Pass – 12

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Complete change of gears this week, as we enter Backstory Mode, starting with how Kunizuka Yayoi joined the MWPSB as an Enforcer. A passionate guitarist, listening to “Non-Sybil-authorized” bands clouded her hue to the extent she ended up in a chilling rehabilitation facility.

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When reports of “antisocial organizations” spring up in her neighborhood, she’s visited by Ginoza and Kogami, who is still an Inspector. Brass tacks: Sybil says Yayoi has the aptitude to be an enforcer, they’re willing to give her a chance, and there aren’t a lot of other options for leaving rehab.

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Kogami breaks the ice by giving her some long sought-after guitar strings, and Yayoi agrees to assist in the investigation, eventually finding herself in the very club she used to frequent when she was free, listening to the band that clouded her hue to begin with, fronted by the lovely Rina.

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Yayoi admired and maybe was also a little into Rina, for she represented a rebellious nature she’d never been able to fully replicate, even if she eventually became a latent criminal. But when she learns Rina is an actual rebel, fighting against Sybil with Molotovs along with music, she seems to turn off her heart and turn on her head.

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Believing what Rina is doing is wrong, she pulls the Dominator Kogami gave her and tries to shoot her. The trigger is locked (even Kogami wouldn’t give a non-enforcer latent a live Dominator), but Yayoi passes the test: when the chips were down, she chose the side of law and order, horribly flawed (and unforgiving to her as it is).

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Yayoi’s story is pretty simple, but it doesn’t need to be that complicated: even among those wronged or harmed by Cybil’s tyranny may prefer it to violence and chaos. In this regard, Yayoi is an obedient student of her time. She’ll carve out the place she can in this messed-up world, just as Kogami and Sasayama seem to have done (Sasayama is, indeed, kind of a dick, BTW).

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They may not be true believers, but they’re willing to stand behind the safety and comfort Sybil provides, because it gives them power. In a world where things are constantly being taken away from you, the opportunity to be on the side of the takers is hard to pass up. Still, it’s encouraging to see there are people out there fighting against Sybil.

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Kill la Kill – 18

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Mother of God, what the heck is going on here? Kill la Kill is looking down on our Plebeian rating system! We’ve watched and written a lot of anime in the last few years, but it’s been a long while since we’ve seen a show string together so many awesome episodes in a row, including the two best episodes of the Winter (so far at least), back-to-back. Last week it threw a hundred balls up in the air; this week we learn all those balls were actually bombs, and they all get blown the fuck up.

Where to begin? Satsuki’s wholly terrifying upbringing, in which Ragyo used her as a life fiber test subject, tossing her baby sister away when she didn’t fit the genetic bill? Might as well, because that was the last straw for Satsuki’s dad Souichirou, who started Satsuki’s lifelong vendetta against her mom. It did look like her dad kinda stood by and let this crap happen to his children, but ultimately Ragyo killed him for opposing her. Junketsu was her inheritance: the garment with which she’d exact her revenge.

And so there you have it: Satsuki isn’t just after power, or the salvation of mankind; all that’s just a means of getting back at moms. The whole time she was looking down on Ryuuko, she was harboring the exact same base thirst for revenge. We’d always seen Satsuki and Ryuuko as two sides of the same coin, and we’d entertained the possibility they were really related, but the nature of the reveal knocked us back in our seats: Ryuuko was that discarded baby sister who ended up surviving. Her body is imbued with life fibers, just like Ragyo’s.

The tables in this episode must be sturdy, because they’re turned more times than an Ikea furniture testing facility. It’s a whiplash-inducing back and forth between Satsuki vs. Ragyo; the Elite Four vs. Nui; Satsuki’s Army vs. Satsuki, Ryuuko, and Nudist Beach; Nui vs. Ryuuko; Zombie Ryuuko vs. Satsuki; Satsuki’s katana vs. Ragyo’s neck. Everyone experiences victory and defeat, but nothing is permanent and there’s always another twist lurking. We’re left with both co-heroines out of commission, Ragyo in Junketsu, a sky full of angry COVERS, and the entire supporting cast left to pick up the pieces. This is finale-caliber shit going down, with nearly a quarter of the show left to go. Hold on; we’ve got a live one!


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Stray Observations:

  • Yup, all of Satsuki’s conflicts against Ryuuko were a means of testing whether she’d be a worthy ally. Everything she does seems to condescend to Ryuuko…but as she’s the elder sister, it makes perfect sense!
  • Mako reunites with her family, who weren’t bothered enough by being imprisoned by their clothes to even pause their gorging on free food. We love that family.
  • Good to see the Elite Four back in action. They do seem stronger.
  • Gamagoori orders Mako to help evacuate the crowds. We like their relationship.
  • We liked how Satsuki and Ragyo got into a bit of a light shine-off.
  • This episode and/or the last didn’t deserve 10s? Leave it out. We couldn’t rank ’em lower if we tried. We’re merely puppets of the producers at this point.