Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 17

“Kill it on sight,” Charioce says to the Black Knight leader, referring to the red dragon…but is he saying that because that’s what he’s expecting to say, knowing Nina will doubtless put up a good fight? The two sides of Charioce come out again, bringing his roller-coaster romance with Nina to the fore.

Once the whole group is reunited, “gathering intel” is the order of the day. Those of you who were waiting for Rita and Nina to dress up as sexy demons, you got your wish this week. It’s not really that great a disguise, but Nina runs out alone anyway, eager to try it out.

It isn’t long before she runs into the other person in a bad disguise, Charioce, AKA “Chris.” Specifically, he’s visiting the grave of his dead mother (killed by Bahamut’s fire, like Nina’s father).

This, and playing football with the little demon children in the slums, is all meant for Christ to score brownie points with both Nina and us the audience. But for me, those points won’t be easily doled out, and even then are highly provisional.

The moment we all knew was coming: when Chris opens up enough that Nina wants to get closer and closer to him until they embrace and eventually kiss for the first time. It’s a very romantic scene (again, if you buy what’s happening, more on that later).

Things get even more Disney-esque when Nina realizes she can now transform into the red dragon at will, perhaps because of Chris’ kiss. She takes him on a moonlit ride over a calm, peaceful Anatae.

When they land (and Nina finds a robe), Chris gives her a token of his affection: a necklace with a red claw, before sending her on her way, promising the next time they meet he’ll explain more clearly what he’s after. I for one am waiting with baited breath for him to please, for the love of God, explain how all of the monstrous stuff he’s done will be worth it, and how having a dead mom justifies it?

For now, I’ll work with this theory: Charioce is literally two distinct personalities, and becomes the kind and gentle Chris when he is around Nina. We saw his change in expression after she left, so unless he continues to play her, that must be the case. To be redeemed, Chris would have to have no control over the horrific things King Charioce has done.

It’s thin, but another piece of evidence comes post-credits: The Black Knight leader, suspicious of Charioce’s “kill on sight” order, is convinced the king is “under the red dragon’s spell”—the spell that makes him Chris. Considering Nina is, in a way, under his “spell” as well, enabling her to transform at will, it would seem that spell is love, and the only thing holding Charioce back from attaining his goals.

Though even as Chris, it’s clear he still has every intention of carrying through with his plans. So is the Black Knight right, and his king is wavering due to Nina? Or is Charioce in full control after all, fully intending to use Nina, who has well and truly fell for him?

Is Chris real, and can he prevail over Charioce? That is apparently the question on which the fate of many people, demons, and gods now rests.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 16

Action is the name of the game on this week’s Baha Soul, with thrilling chases, an intense arena battle, daring escapes, and high-altitude rescues. It all starts when Bacchus, Hamsa, and Nina start talking about how and why Bacchus left Heaven, mentioning the hippogriff. El waits for his chance.

As Alessand continues to side with Charioce and Dias holds out hope for their old captain, Kaisar is stuffed in a cage and released in the middle of the arena, where he must fight Azazel to the death. Azzy may not be quite clear about why he’s still alive, but he’s not just going to lay down for the fallen knight, who manages to hold his own even though he’s missing a hand. Jaime Lannister, eat your heart out.

Once Bacchus, Hamsa and Nina realize El is missing (with Nina wearing El’s clothes, suggesting El went to the unusual trouble of dressing her after stealing her clothes) and formulate a plan to retrieve him, using lots of wordless hand (and wing) signals but getting the timing all wrong, causing a startled El to take wing and fly off.

Just when Azazel is about to put Kaisar down, Favaro, in the stands all along in a very puffy disguise (and clean-shaven), throws him Rocky, and Kaisar quickly gets the upper hand and “runs Azazel through” (though his precise strike doesn’t really touch Azzy).

As Favaro’s matador-like theme plays, he unleashes his crafty bounty hunter arsenal of crossbow bolts and smoke bombs, giving the three lads cover to escape, as Charioce reclines in his throne, seemingly unconcerned.

Nina catches up to El in a hovering platform in a very pretty chase through Heaven, but when she tries to pounce on him in mid-air she misses and starts to fall down and through the celestial barrier. Naturally, El descends at top speed to catch her, because he’s still, in her words “Mugaro”, despite having changed “a little bit.”

The two of them are then saved by Bacchus and Hamsa, who called Hippogriff and skedaddled just when Heavenly guards surrounded them. Back to Anatae they go, where El intends not to fight, but to bring peace.

At a very picturesque meeting spot, Rita unites with Kaisar, Rocky, Favaro and Azazel. The latter tries to slink off, claiming “this is as far” as he goes; but Kaisar tells him if they all work together, they can save demons as well as humans and gods from Charioce’s havoc. I loved Rita’s smile when Azzy walks by her, Kaisar’s words having worked. And all it takes is a look to bring Favaro along for the ride.

Not long ago all of the main cast was imprisoned in some way. Now, suddenly, they’re all free (for now) and in strong groups (again, for now). Will the two groups stay apart, or combine to create a force even Charioce will have trouble with? Will Nina’s continued Charioce conflict jeopardize the whole enterprise? Can El succeed without using force (which we know is limited in its scope an duration before he collapses)? We shall see.

My Hero Academia – 03

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What is All Might’s quirk? It has been debated exhaustively on- and offline, and remains one of the world’s greatest mysteries. While the vast majority of those with quirks get them from birth, All Might’s is different: he inherited his powers of super speed and strength from his predecessor. And now that he knows the kind of heart and heroic drive Midoriya possesses, he’s ready to transfer his power to him. His quirk, then, is power transfer…One For All.

But it’s not that simple: Midoriya’s heartmay be ready to be a superhero, but his body is sorely lacking. All Might knows all about fitness regimes, and so sets up a comprehensive “American Dream Plan” to transform Midoriya’s body into something his to-be-inherited powers can work with. AM admits it’s a hard plan, but Midoriya does not waver in agreeing to it…then going above and beyond.

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His first mission as a hero is to clear a beach of washed-up and illegally-dumped trash—most of it quite heavy—as an act of selfless service, of the kind heroes used to do before so many villains showed up to keep them busy. So begins Midoriya’s ten months of hell, presented in Rocky-style montage form.

At first, Midoriya can’t do much of anything, but he keeps going…pushing more, pulling more, running more, eating more, and enduring the physical toll. At the same time, he has to keep his grades up to keep his hopes of enrolling at UA alive.

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Seven months in, All Might notices Midoriya has simply hit a wall, but not because the plan is too tough: Midoriya has been going far beyond the proscribed plan, and falling victim to overwork. AM adjusts the plan accordingly to allow for a little overachievement without burning out.

On the dawn of the day he’s to report to UA for his entrance exam, Midoriya stands on the tiny pile of wreckage that is all that’s left on an otherwise gorgeous, spotless, beach, and roars at the sunrise. Moved by this sight, AM suddenly transforms into this public visage to exclaim “Oh My Goodness!” (much like Franklin often does at the RABUJOI main office).

He also makes sure that on the eve of achieving hero-hood, Midoriya understands there’s a difference between being lucky to receive something (i.e. AM’s powers) and being given those powers as recognition of his hard work. And he has worked hard.

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Now all he has to do is eat one of AM’s hairs (gross) and the real hard part begins: getting into UA. While on his way in, he crosses paths with Kacchan, who he’s noticed has not bullyed him once since the incident with the sludge monster. He also encounters a cute retro girl who saves him from tripping on his feet with her anti-grav quirk.

After an uneventful orientation, the examinees are split up into groups and sent to various walled-off model urban battle centers, in which they will engage in a mock battle to see who can amass the most points from destroying simulated villains.

It’s pretty much a video game, only using their real abilities. And interacting with or harming fellow examinees is prohibited, though I’m reasonably sure there will be interactions in there. Midoriya has come a long way in a short ten months; I look forward to seeing how he fares—and what bonds he’ll forge—in that battle center.

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Kantai Collection: KanColle – 11

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I’ll preface this review by stating I knew the result of the real Battle of Midway, and which ships were lost in it. Suffice it to say, it was a devastating defeat for Japan, one from which they would never truly recover. So I entered this episode wondering: how would KanColle play this?

They’ve been more-or-less faithful to history thus far, a few details aside. The ships may have pretty faces and cute outfits, and the creators may have a game to sell, but I hoped that wouldn’t lead to any major revision of that battle. It made sense in the context of the story so far, after all, that things should go very badly for the Fleet Girls.

What’s interesting is that KanColle seemed well aware of my foreknowledge and anxiety, and seemed to play off of them in the tense build-up to the battle.

Take the super-dark cold open, in which the battle unfolds just as it did in real life: Akagi’s task force is decimated and she is so badly damanged she has to be scuttled. The show even takes the unprecedented step of portraying Akagi as an actual listing ship.

It’s only Akagi’s (recurring) dream, but the episode immediately grabs our attention, announcing it knows what we’re expecting. What it doesn’t answer yet at that point is, how close will it stick to history? Is Akagi’s dream only one possibility?

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As the episode settles into Naval District life as usual, but Akagi’s nightmare, along with the imminent battle, casts a pall on the bright and cheerful surroundings with girls drinking milk to prepare.

The episode is also punctuated by titles indicating how many hours remain until the battle, accompanied by percussive booms that reminded me of Akira’s iconic, chilling opening. This isn’t just Life As Usual…for many, it’s most likely the last of it.

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Not one to shrug off such disturbing dreams, Akagi considers them a warning and an omen of what is to come should things unfold as planned. She takes her intuitive concerns to Nagato and recommends slight alterations in the order of battle, which Nagato approves.

Both elite Fleet Girls get the strange feeling like they’re drifting down a river fate, perhaps one they’ve even been down before. Akagi has seen her doom in dream after dream, but she intends to break that destiny. She wants that more than ever after her escort Fubuki thanks her simply for being so awesome and inspiring her to achieve greatness.

But while Akagi’s mods to the battle plan are meant to change their course in that river of fate, the fact remains she was fated to make those mods, which will lead her exactly the fate she aimed to avoid.

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The battle begins, and things take a turn for the worse almost immediately as the main assault force led by Battleship Yamato fails to rendezvous with Akagi’s four-carrier task force, sitting in dreadful weather. Aware that they could be spotted by the Abyssals at any moment, Akagi decides to proceed to MI without the main force, leaving an initially protesting Fubuki and Kongou to stay behind and wait for them.

Akagi’s force detects an “airfield princess” on MI, and they launch sorties that do her considerable damage at the loss of only a few planes. Things are going okay, but the force fails to detect the other Abyssal forces who sneak up from behind and throw everything they’ve got at them. Just like that, the ambushers become the ambushed.

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Just like the real-life battle, carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Kiryu all take damage. Akagi’s bow breaks early on, so she can’t launch any planes to defend herself or her fellow ships. The girls’ eyes are full of bewilderment, fear, and panic as the explosions around them multiply.

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And for once, there’s no rescue in the nick of time by reinforcements. There’s no cavalry in sight, or even on the way, as far as we know. Last time we saw Fubuki and Kongou, they were still waiting to no avail.

Things look very very bad for Akagi in particular, who has a torpedo/bomb flying straight at her when the episode goes to black. Her nightmare, or rather vision, is coming true. She wasn’t able to escape the river of fate.

While this is awful on an emotional level, it’s also precisely the kind of episode I was hoping for: one that wouldn’t hold back on history just because it didn’t deliver a happy ending to the show’s good guys.

But the battle is only halfway through. The challenge that faces KanColle next week is: Will it maintain this faithfulness to its terrible but ultimately dramatically satisfying conclusion…or will it chicken out at the last second and let the Fleet Girls snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat?

I’m not saying I’ll automatically be put off by the latter possibility. But it will be a lot tougher to achieve, because the pull of that river is awfully strong, and this episode contributed mightily to that.

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Kantai Collection: KanColle – 10

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Now that Fubuki knows the reason she was recalled to the Naval District was to be remodeled, she starts training like Rocky, if Rocky was a female Japanese anthropomorphic WWII-era destroyer, hoping to start glowing so she can become taller and more powerful, like Yuudachi, whom she inspired.

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Mutsuki is worried that Fubuki is taking things too far, too fast. She doesn’t want Fubuki to end up in a position where she’s trying so hard she gets hurt, or even sunk. Not to mention I’m sure she harbors worry about being left behind as Fubuki and Yuudachi get remodeled, leaving her in the dust.

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When Nagato sends the reunited Torpedo Squad Three for a recon mission and they’re attacked by Abyssals, Fubuki, eager to prove herself, rushes ahead and very nearly gets herself sunk, which is exactly what Mutsuki feared. It’s one thing to come out of your shell and start believing in yourself; it’s quite another to break formation and rush at the enemy head-on without thinking.

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Fubuki is lucky, as the Abyssal’s kill shot barely misses her. But what’s telling is that Fubuki doesn’t realize how lucky she is. The incident really puts a scare into Mutsuki, who’s so happy Fubuki is okay she jumps into the bath to embrace her while still in her uniform. Even after such a close call, Fubuki isn’t throwing in the towel; but Mutsuki worries as we do that if she keeps going like this, she’s going to end up like Kisaragi. And Mutsuki doesn’t think she could bear to lose someone else.

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Fubuki tracks Mutsuki down on the moonlit cliff where heart-to-hearts were meant to take place, and explains how the Commander, whom we’ve never gotten a clear look at and whose voice we’ve never heard, told her he brought her to the Naval District to join the fleet because he saw her in a dream…

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…Here’s where things get a little weird, because that dream features Fubuki in a wedding gown, with a wedding ring, on a rooftop in modern Tokyo. She also starts to say she loves him, before saying she “trusts” him instead.

Considering Mutsuki seems to want a romantic friendship with Fubuki, like many other sister ships seem to have with one another, this sudden inclusion of a nebulous male-female romantic dream-story is a little confusing.

Anyway, Fubuki promises she’ll never leave Mutsuki, but for some reason it sounds like a death flag, if not for Fubuki, than for Mutsuki.

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After watching Fubuki train so hard, Akagi decides to ask her be her escort, but Kaga challenges her to a test of her AA skills first. Fubuki agrees, and takes a serious beating from both fleet carriers, but keeps getting back up until all the practice planes are shot down.

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After all this, Mutsuki peels her off the dock, and she starts glowing the same way Yuudachi did, and it’s off to the factory. Rather amusingly, while her armaments and outfit are slightly different, her body is exactly the same, much to her disappointment, and Mutsuki’s relief. And Akagi officially appoints Fubuki as her escort for the coming battle.

That battle will take place at “MI”, which I have to suspect stands for “Midway Island.” If the battle there goes anything like it did in real life (and considering it’s implied the Abyssals have broken the Fleet Girls’ codes), Fubuki and the rest of the fleet are in for a rough time.

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Kantai Collection: KanColle – 03

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In her first mission briefing, Fubaki and her fellow ships learn that after their recent and successful attack on the Abyssals’ base, a massive enemy counterattack is expected. Before that happens, the Admiral is sending Torpedo Squadrons Three and Four to capture “W” Island in a surprise attack.

On a personal level, Fubaki is very uneasy and worried she’ll slow everyone down, and feels undeserving of her senpais’ tokens and words of support.

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One night before the battle, it is Mutsuki who puts Fubuki at ease, saying she believes in her, just as Mutsuki’s sister ship Kisaragi believed in her. In a touching flashback, we see Mutsuki take damage in a battle, but Kisaragi stays with her until help arrives and throughout her repairs, forming a bond that goes beyond respect and appreciation and into love.

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At dawn, Fubuki goes out to train a little more before the big night battle. She runs into Akagi in the harbor, who hits a bull’s-eye with her eyes closed and imparts the words “Shoot true, never miss.” It turns out Mutsuki was the one who brought Akagi to Fubuki.

Both Mutsuki and Fubuki express frustration and being unable to ever repay their friends and senpais who have helped them. Akagi assures them no one expects nor needs to be repaid; a simple “thank you” will suffice, and for the recipients of their goodwill to “shoot true” and “never miss.”

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Akagi’s words weren’t just meant to guide Fubuki’s conduct in battle, but in life as well.

“Don’t hesitate to tell the people you care about the feelings you have for them. Because they may not be there tomorrow.”

They’re simple words, but easily overlooked, and beautifully stated. Akagi says this as the morning sun rises out of the horizon, just as the power of her words dawn on Fubuki and Mutsuki, who promptly thank and express their love to one another on the spot. Fubuki also voices her respect for Akagi and her hope they’ll fight in the same fleet one day.

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As for Mutsuki, well, the death flags fly free for the majority of this episode, especially when she tells her sister ship Kisaragi “she needs to tell her something” when they get back from the battle. The bittersweet tone of the music, the words by Akagi, Mutsuki’s flags: they all point to something sinister; the coming battle won’t be a cakewalk.

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Once at the island, the Sendai-class light cruisers launch their Type-0 recon seaplanes, but the element of surprise is almost immediately lost, and Squad Three retreats from an enemy torpedo squad right into the jaws of two enemy carriers launching swarms of fighters.

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Well and truly in the shit, Squad Three takes a defensive formation and fights for survival as they attempt to meet up with squad four. For a hot second, it looked like Mutsuki’s death flags were going to strike true, when Fubuki swoops in at the last second, aims true, and doesn’t miss.

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Everyone stays alive long enough for the the big guns of the Second Fleet (including the fast battleships Kongou and Hiei) to shoo the enemy squadrons away. “W” Island wasn’t taken, but the Fleet Girls suffered no major losses…

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…Until a solitary, straggling Abyssal fighter catches a relieved Kisaragi unawares, firing a bomb right into her stern before blowing up himself. Kisaragi explodes and sinks into the deep dark sea.

KanColle got me for two reasons: One, I was distracted by all of Mutsuki’s death flags to notice it was really Kisaragi in the crosshairs.

Two, I’m not well-versed in naval history enough to know that in real life, the Mutsuki-class Kisaragi was the second warship sunk during the war, in the Battle of Wake Island (hence the “W”. The island on Nagato’s map even resembles the Pacific atoll). FYI, Kisaragi was sunk by USMC aviator Capt. Henry T. Elrod on Dec. 11, 1941, by detonating the depth charge stores in her stern with small-caliber bombs.

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Also, even though Mutsuki (“January”) was the first ship of her class, Kisaragi (“February”) was actually launched and commissioned before her, making her Mutsuki’s “big-sis”. I had no idea the story would hew this close to history. It’s strange, but so far, it’s pretty historically accurate in terms of what went down during the first attempt to take Wake.

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Having nothing to do with history is the fact that, in KanColle, Mutsuki is not just a ship, but a girl who just lost someone more dear to her than anyone else, whom she was planning to confess her love to. But while we’re aware of the tragedy that has befallen them, Mutuski and Fubuki remain unaware of the sinking through the end of the episode. They race out to the cape at sunset, waiting for Torpedo Squadron Four, and Mutsuki’s love, to return. Excuse me…but…sniff…does anyone have a goddamn tissue?

This episode basically fixed all of the drawbacks of the first two episodes: the reliance on fancy visuals, cute character designs, and novelty of the fleet girls (though all were still present), and the lack of a tough enemy or heavy stakes. The affection and camaraderie of the girls was stronger than ever here, and while she was only a minor character and it was a bit telegraphed, Kisaragi’s loss was still palpable and her demise shocking in its practical portrayal. KanColle has my full attention.

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Stray Observations:

  • It’s hard to tell without checking MAL, but a mere handful of seiyus are voicing several characters each. For example, all three Sendai-class cruisers and Nagato are voiced by Sakura Ayane, while Suzuki Aya voices all three Akatsuki-class destroyers. That’s some nice range right there!
  • While Mutsuki, Kisaragi, and other ships with fleet girl characters were involved in the Battle of Wake Island, Fubuki was not (it was in Hainan then French Indochina), which suggests events will not unfold precisely as they did in the real-life Pacific War.

Kantai Collection: KanColle – 02

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Character names link out to wiki pages for their real-world historic counterparts.

This was a pleasant fall-down/get-up training episode that explored more of how the strange world of pretty anthropomorphic ships works, and inched Fubuki a little further towards respectability.  No battles with Abyssals this week, but Secretary Ship Nagato has plans for one soon, of which Fubuki will be an important part. The only problem is, while she impresses her peers in classroom theory, she’s an absolute disaster in the water.

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After witnessing a bit of Fubuki’s flailing, Nagato warns Fubuki’s light cruiser senpais Sendai, Jintsuu and Naka that if the lil’ destroyer can’t cut it, she’ll recommend the admiral strike her from the fleet. It may sound harsh, but there’s no point in sending a destroyer out there that’s just going to get herself destroyed, is there?

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Fubuki tracks down Fleet Carrier Akagi, who is having a 15-hour repair bath when the admiral sends along an “instant repair wash”. Afterwards they have lunch, and Akagi repairs Fubuki’s confidence just by being awesome, but when Fubuki settles in for the night, she becomes the recipient of some more direct assistance, courtesy of her cruiser senpais.

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Sendai gives her balance training, Jintsuu target practice, and Naka…er…idol practice? Charisma? The thing is, the three sister ships train her in consecutive sessions, and end up exhausting her. Fubuki’s friend Mutsuki suspects bullying or hazing is afoot and steps up to defend her (worried they’ll “sink” her if they continue. Turns out the sister ships failed to coordinate their individual plans to help Fubuki improve; no sinister senpais here.

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Yet even as Mutsuki stands up for Fubuki, Fubuki herself is back out of bed and outside, training hard; a gesture that convinces the cruisers that Fubuki has “the soul of a torpedo girl”; she just needs their help to blossom as a warship. An exhaustive and exhausting training regimen ensues, documented via montage.

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It’s often the case that such montages start with failure and end with the protagonist suddenly great at everything she trained for. Refreshingly, that’s not the case here. When she must perform in a training exercise, Fubuki is certainly better than she was, but she’s still far form full combat readiness, which is what the cruisers report to Nagato.

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However, they also report that Fubuki isn’t going to give up, and if she falls, she gets back up and tries again. She’s got “the right stuff” as it were. It’s probably the reason the still-unseen admiral invited her into the fleet to begin with.

He knew she’d charm and inspire the other fleet girls into take her under their wing and show her the ropes. Satisfied with her progress, Nagato assigns the three cruisers, plus Fubuki, Mutsuki and Yuudachi, to an upcoming battle that will be theirs to win or lose.

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