Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 12 (Fin)

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With all the emotional groundwork laid, all this episode has to do is flick the domino and watch them cascade, in a finale that levels up its core duo, gets them to overcome their respective “will-blocks”, and makes some interesting connections on the side while tying up loose ends.

Takeru has been stabbed by Haunted, but Ootori doesn’t hesitate to fight him, even deciding to form a contract with Vlad, something she swore she wouldn’t do until it came time to carry out her revenge. Ironically, had she done it for that reason, Vlad assures her he would have eaten her alive.

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Instead, she’s doing this for Takeru, her captain and her friend, and his beloved sister. It’s a nobler cause, and Vlad equips her accordingly. Like Takeru and Haunted, Ootori gets to don her badass relic eater armor, with which she’s able to push Haunted back and retrieve Takeru. The other three arrive in a van to pick them up.

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With Takeru healed but still out cold for some reason, all the girls can do is fight back Kisek’s overflowing demon mass. Takeru, meanwhile, is in his subconscious with Lapis, who wants him to give himself body and soul so that she can best achieve all his desires. With this, Lapis kisses Takeru, the first overtly romantic act undertaken by the relic eater—albeit only in his mind.

With that, Takeru is now in God Hunter Mode. He drains all of Ootori’s energy, then tells her he may not be able to walk beside her anymore, and asks the others to hang back too, as there’s no time to explain. Takeru is preparing for the worst case scenario in which he dies trying to fulfill his wishes regarding Kiseki. And no one will argue that no one else can stand up against the raging Kiseki.

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Turns out his wishes aren’t to kill Kiseki and die with her. For all these years he’s been conflicted between kill and protect, but now what he wants is the latter, no matter what it may cost. And because of his deepened contract with Lapis, he’s able to not only overpower Haunted and get him out of the picture, but convince his sister with his sheer resolve to start questioning herself whether she truly wants to die, and discovers that’s just one of the hundreds of demon voices speaking for her. Ideally, she wants to live too.

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The wavering weakens and eventually dissolves the overflow mass, and Takeru pulls her out of the mess, safe and sound. The road ahead will be tough, but the two have now decided together that they’ll walk it nonetheless instead of taking the “easy way out”, mutual destruction. And they won’t be alone on that road; turns out Takeru and Ootori will be able to walk it together, along with Suginami, Mari, and Usagi.

Speaking of names, Orochi’s last name is Kusanagi, suggesting a relation to Takeru, while the chairman of Valhalla is another, even quirkier Suginami. Finally, that little blue-haired elf girl Suginami saved back at Alchemist turns out to be Kanaria, another Valhalla member. All these connections hint that a sequel is feasible, even if none is promised. Honestly I’d tune in, if only to experience more of its awesome soundtrack.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 11

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Takeru is categorical with Kiseki: He’s not going to kill her. And if someday he’s forced to, it will be the day he dies too. One might think Kiseki would prefer if her brother lives on with the life she never got to live, but Takeru’s a stubborn mutha. He may also be a fool; but I also have a sister, and I don’t think I’d feel any differently than he does, so I’m a fool too.

His words are enough of a comfort that Kiseki promises she’ll try to hold out longer, but it isn’t long until the siblings are cornered by Kirigaya and Yoshimizu, who is now apparently his relic eater. Then their duel is interrupted by Kurogane and Director Ootori, who retain custody of Kiseki and put Takeru in solitary to cool his jets.

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While Takeru and Kiseki were enjoying normal life, some very big things were going down. The war between Inquisition and Valhalla goes into full swing, with the latter eager to capture Kiseki (whom they regard as one of their own—a “harbinger of chaos”—and they’re not entirely wrong), and the former setting up several decoys to misdirect them. In this whole big peripheral chess game, Takeru is but a pawn, but Kiseki is the King. But I will say, while there have been Preston and Zane episodes, this one is definitely up my alley: packed with action.

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Of course, all that action wouldn’t be worth much if it didn’t have something compelling to back it up, and when we see Takeru’s flashback, which he dreams while in solitary, we get that something. Not long after learning Kiseki was his sister and a powerful immortal demon, she killed the rest of their family and household. But his father didn’t order him to kill his sister. Instead he offered him the choice: kill her, or protect her. That’s what Takeru chose to do—in fact, it’s all he could do—and he’s stuck to his guns ever since.

When he wakes up, he hears Ootori in the adjacent cell, apologizing for getting him in this situation (even though he’s eager to thank her, not blame her). She wants to share his burden the way he pledged to bear have of hers. Why? Well, because he changed her life, and changed her. Without him, she wouldn’t have the “peaceful life” she has now; she’d still be consumed by revenge. It’s no confession of love, but one of intense admiration, gratitude, and hard-earned fondness. Ueda Reina knocks it out of the park here.

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The two lament more can’t be done, but then they’re broken out and given the opportunity to do just that, thanks to some help from their friends. While Takeru promised to share the future or ongoing burdens of Usagi, Mari, and Suginami, the fact of the matter is, thanks to his past deeds, they’re pretty set at the moment, and have no qualms about inverting the deal without delay.

One aspect I like about this team’s chemstry and how far they’ve come is that they know Takeru so well, they’re shocked when he doesn’t tell them he doesn’t want to involve them out of concern for their safety. Mari and Usagi immediately start suspecting something went on with him and Ootori in solitary to change his standard tune. Which is kinda true, but not in the way they’re imagining; the way that makes Ootori blush.

When Valhalla troops attack Kiseki’s transport, Kurogane and Kirigaya fight them off. Then a Valhalla leader, Orochi, shows up, and Kurogane orders Kirigaya to clear out. We don’t see their fight, but the buildup to it, whether we end up seeing it next week or not, was very well done. The music direction remains exemplary, as the scene practically hums with the potential power of the two fighters, expressed not with overly bombastic orchestra, but a relatively low-key electronic track that nonetheless emanates gravitas.

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Then Kirigaya’s face contorts, as he’s sick of transporting one of the “heretics” he hates so much and wants to exact revenge upon, and he opens up the back and prepares to kill Kiseki. Of course, Takeru arrives in the Nick of Time to stop him, but even with Ootori and Usagi backing him up, he and Kiseki aren’t out of the woods. Kiseki herself is starting to involuntarily overflow, and at the worst posssible time, the cavalier, flamboyant Haunted shows up (who is, at least, less boring than Kirigaya).

Announcing he’s here to bring Kiseki back to Valhalla with him, for her own good, impaling Takeru on multiple thorns only accelerates her overflow. If Takeru isn’t dead (and I doubt he is), he’s certainly out of commission for the time being, leaving the rest of the 35th to deal with Haunted (assuming Kurogane gets his money’s worth with Orochi and is delayed).

By being taken out here and now, Takeru has placed his burdens completely on the shoulders of his friends and comrades. But they won’t shrink from their duty. This should be quite a finale.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 04

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Note: Preston and I have been watching both TG35 and Subete ga F, but we’ve decided to swap reviewing duties of those two shows. So going forward I’m your TG35 reviewer, while Preston will be handling the SgF.

As Preston observed last week, this show is proving very swift and decisive with its character orientation arcs. Ootori was essentially one of the gang last week after a tense gestation, and by this episode’s end, Mari has also become an official member of the 35th.

It’s great when Mari notes how famously Saionji and Suginami get along, Takeru reveals that the two used to be as much at each others throats as Mari and Ootori, and he looks forward to the two settling down, which he’s sure they’ll do in time. Takeru dismisses any notion of abandoning Mari should he, say, find out one day she’s an evil murderer. Instead, he promises to help her.

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Indeed, Ootori learns about Mari’s past and relays it to Takeru, but he goes into mock battle with her all the same, which is interrupted by the necromancer Haunted bursting out of one of their opposing players; a grim, demented entrance if ever there was one. He’s there for Mari, but Takeru won’t let him have her.

Takeru is surprised to find Haunted has an armored suit and legendary sword able to pierce Lapis, and ends up bloodied very early in the fight. But as he fights, Ootori is having words with her adoptive father the director about the circumstances of the crime scene where Mari was arrested. The magic used to kill people wasn’t hers.

This means, witch or not, the director had Mari arrested on false charges. In exchange for overlooking such a crime, Mari makes a certain demand of the director that proves crucial in the battle with Haunted.

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Now we know why Takeru had zero problem heading into battle with Mari, nor did he seem the slightest bit troubled by the news Ootori gave him: she’s innocent. When Haunted restores Mari’s memory, she remembers being surrounded by a lot of death—including that of her family at an orphanage—and blaming herself both for being such a valuable resource to Valhalla, and for not being able to save them.

With all her terrible memories back, Mari must feel like going with Haunted is what she deserves, and it’s what she’s prepared to do in order to stop others from dying because of her. But Takeru will have none of it. As he promised Ootori, if need be, he’ll carry half her burden, but he won’t leave her side or let Valhalla swallow her back up.

Haunted may be a swordsman, but he’s not a Kusaragi, and Takeru cycles through Lapis’ many weapon forms and effectively drives him back.

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Haunted is a tough customer, however, and it’s everything Takeru can do to stay alive in their duel. Mari decides to cast a spell to help Takeru out, even if it means the collar around her neck detonating. But it doesn’t, because Ootori had the director shut it off just in time. Ootori then tells Mari to prove to her that magic can be used for things other than death and suffering. Now’s the chance to change my mind about you.

Naturally, both Mari and Ootori insist they’re not doing this for the other, but in truth, they’ve already warmed to each other and are working as one. Ootori saved Mari so Mari can save Takeru. Ootori provides cover fire so Mari can cast her spell. Suginami wakes Saionji up by riddling her with insults from when they were frenemies, and then Saionji covers Ootori with her sniper rifle.

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Finally, rather than fire her magical attack at Haunted, she sends it to Takeru, and it’s absorbed by a grateful Lapis, whose pride has been impugned by Haunted’s “lost-type” Dainsleif’s trash talk. The attack is enough to push Haunted back and disperse his armor, and he retreats with a smile on his face, intrigued that he has a challenging new foe keeping him from Mari.

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The magical barrier falls, Takeru passes out, goes to hospital, and wakes up with Lapis by his side eating apples (her low-key presence continues to be a nice contrast to the powerful personalities of the other girls). There’s one more “uh-oh” moment this week when Ootori tells Takeru of bad news, but it’s just bad news for her—Mari has officially enrolled at AntiMagic Academy—but it isn’t really such bad news for Ootori either.

In fact, it was Ootori who used her leverage against the director to negotiate Mari’s present status as comrade. I can understand her doing this to stay in Takeru’s good graces, so to speak, but it’s just as much about Ootori being a champion of justice, as well as having her mind about witches changed, if only a little, by Mari, when it mattered most.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 03

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I’ll say this for TG35—it isn’t wasting any time developing its characters. While Ootori was the reluctant outsider last week, that roles passes to Nikaido Mari, AntiMagic Academy’s very first witch Inquisitor-in-Training. What the other 35s don’t know is that she was picked up last week on suspicion of murder, but had a powerful (but not ironclad) amnesia spell placed on her.

Apparently she’s dangerous enough to held naked chained by her ankle in solitary confinement, but is given back her regular clothes, which is odd, because the director wants her to blend into the school. The best way to do that would be to give her a green Taimadou uni, but alas.

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Like Ootori, Mari wants to be left alone, and Suginami and Saionji are fine with doing just that, but Ootori can’t help but get into verbal spats with her. Not only does Mari represent everything Ootori hates—witches and magic—but she’s also competition for Takeru’s attention. The two snipe at each other and square off both in the classroom and P.E., to essentially a stalemate, periodically swapping smug victory and angry defeats, all of it very petty.

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When Takeru tries to get between them, the two girls reflexively punch him, something Ootori regrets immediately and Mari regrets…a little later. In a very effective and efficient scene, Takeru ably disarms Mari: he doesn’t hate witches or magic, and he’s willing to give her a shot, just like he gave Ootori.

Takeru also shows genuine interest in her motivations for enrolling, and she eventually opens up: she’s enthusiastic about changing peoples’ hearts and minds about witches and magic. By the end of their exchange, they’re on first-name terms—if only because Mari thinks “Kusanagi” is lame and Takeru thinks “Nikaidou” is awkward to pronounce.

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The next day Mari is in the Platoon’s HQ, sparring with Ootori. Once she knows Ootori likes Takeru, she wastes no time using their first-name basis (and some close contact) to enrage her even further. To her credit, Ootori doesn’t let it come to blows; in fact she barely tries to conceal the fact Takeru’s promise to “share half her burden” is something she values very much.

At the same time, Mari looks a little nervous clinging to Takeru, like she’s getting swept up in the competition with Ootori in spite of herself. Not surprisingly, the other platoon members, including Lapis, fade into the background this whole episode, which I didn’t mind.

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A little more incredulous is the fact that Mari has nowhere else to stay but Takeru’s dingy, creepy apartment. Naturally, the protective Ootori won’t let the two spend time in Takeru’s place alone (she figures a “closet perv” like Takeru would be all too easily wooed even by Mari’s “meager charms”), so she tags along, despite Takeru’s building freaking her out.

That’s when we end up with the most ridiculous scene of the episode, in which Takeru walks in on a totally naked (and “insecure”) Mari drying her hair, just when Ootori runs out of the bathroom also totally naked, scared by some kind of ghost. The two naked girls end up on top of Takeru, who meekly protests none of this is his fault, leading to an off-camera double slap (though no synchronized scream).

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The next day the 35th begins their first round of a mock battle tournament, and things start to go pear-shaped pretty fast, until Mari decides she will assist them after all and serves as a decoy so Takeru, Ootori, and Saionji can clean up and advance (Suginami doesn’t participate).

It’s the episode’s one concession to action (unlike last week which was mostly action), and it’s pretty inconsequential. But the lesson to take away is that with Ootori, Mari, and Lapis, the 35th is climbing towards respectability…or at least less ridicule.

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When Ootori acknowledges Mari’s contribution in her roundabout double-negative-laced way, we see that despite, or even perhaps partially due to their intense co-antagonism, Mari and Ootori are on their way to gelling with the 35th. That’s of course, until Ootori delivers her report to the director, finds him absent, and picks up a document describing Mari as an ancient witch under suspicion of murder, thus confirming all of her earlier suspicions about the witch, without knowing the whole picture about her amnesia.

The thing is, even Mari isn’t sure who she is. She gets a flash of her true past after making nice with Takeru, and before going to sleep at his place, warns him she may not be someone he should be trusting in. I don’t know whether her amnesia spell is permanent, but even if it is, Ootori can’t unsee what she saw, Mari may not have the means to fully explain herself, and Takeru will continue to be in the middle, trying to keep the peace.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 02

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TG35 tables its fanservice and harem elements this week, instead focusing on the more serious matter of Kusanagi continuing his quest to make Ootori accept him as a captain and a comrade, a decision I felt made for a better episode than the first.

When Ootori affirms her unwillingness to allow being lumped in with the Small Fry Platoon, Suginami reveals her nickname of “calamity” in Inquisition, where she was a revenge-driven loose cannon – accusations she won’t deny.

Eager to make his unit better and not willing to sit back and let Ootori continue to fight alone, he keeps trying to convince her, but his efforts are interrupted by the summoning of a hero or “einhenjar” tasked with assaulting the academy. In confronting and battling that einhenjar, Kusanagi eventually backs into the very means to help shoulder Ootori’s burdens by contracting with a “relic eater”, Lapis Lazuli.

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But first, Ootori runs off and tries to take on the einhenjar (Arthur Pendragon, armed with a railgun Excalibur) all by herself, questioning what good she is if she can’t handle such a “puny threat” on her own.

When conventional attacks fail, she summons her own relic hunter, Vlad, in the form of two pistols, but she only has a provisional contract with him, and Vlad’s need to take her blood to function effectively weakens her more.

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Finally, the director de-summons Vlad, leaving Ootori defenseless against Pendragon. But that action reveals the director’s intention: to give Kusanagi the opportunity to contract with Lapis, a pairing he’s been looking forward to.

Kusanagi comes to Ootori’s aid, backed up by Saionji and Suginami, but his attacks also fail. At the same time, Ootori realizes it was Kusanagi she beat back in the past; they didn’t meet for the first time last week. I wonder if there’s anything else to that past connection.

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Pendragon then does to Kusanagi what he did to Ootori, and he ends up bleeding out on the ground—until Lapis suddenly appears through the dust cloud (a nice visual), transports him to a different dimension, and takes him through the contracting ceremony, consisting of questions such as “would you abandon what is precious to you” (hell no) and “would you abandon your humanity” (sure) to achieve his goals.

I liked the prompt, no-nonsense introduction of Lapis, as well as her occasional moments of playfulness (bum-ba-da-bum!) amidst her usual ethereal stoicism. She also reminded me of Knight Rider a bit; a sentient piece of technology-as-companion. Also notable: no boob-grabbing or nudity silliness with Lapis, and her outfit, while cool-looking, is also pretty modest. Refreshing!

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There’s the sense Kusanagi isn’t quite sure what’s going on, but Lapis helpfully informs him the contract is complete and she is now his. And what she is is an unbreakable sword and suit of armor which are just the two things someone with his sword skills needs to not only fight witches effectively, but also in order to convince Ootori he can be relied upon, despite his normally unreliable aura.

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With Pendragon easily dispatched,  Kusanagi joins Ootori against a tree trunk, saying he won’t presume to lecture her about revenge, but earnestly asks her to at least let him share half of her burden, as her comrade and her friend.

Ootori, having been saved from certain death, is hardly in a position to protest further, and in any event, once Kusanagi passes out on her lap, she privately confesses to not really minding the feeling of having someone wanting to, and being allowed, to share her burden. If her fight with Pendragon taught her anything, it’s that she won’t get far alone.

As for the sixth main character, the witch Nikaidou Mari, she seems to be in reluctant cahoots with the murderous necromancer who summoned Pendragon, but passes out before Inquisition arrests her. I imagine she’s on a course that’ll eventually lead her to Kusanagi and the 35th.

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