Fate / Zero – 16

It’s no rest for the weary or hungry in the immediate aftermath of the defeat of Caster and his monster. Sola-Ui is hoping her beloved Lancer’s contributions will net her a fresh command seal, but she ends up losing her two remaining seals when Maiya sneaks up and cuts her fucking arm off before calmly reporting to Kiritsugu.

Sola-Ui’s fiancee Kayneth seems to fare better, as he manages to convince Risei to bestow upon him a new seal as a reward, then shoots Risei before peaceing out of the church, though if I were him I’d have checked to see if the brakes weren’t stuck on; he seemed to have some trouble with the wheelchair.

When Lancer returns to report that Sola-Ui is alive but missing, a particularly revitalized Kayneth really lays into his Servant, even accusing him of seducing his fiancee, just like he seduced that of his commander of yore. Lancer has to break into the endless berating, because someone has arrived.

That someone is Saber, with Iri in tow. While everyone is exhausted from the battle, there is yet some time before the dawn, so she (probably wisely) suggests there will be no better time to get their chivalrous duel out of the way.

Lancer assents, and the two have at it with a kind of infectious glee, finally able to fight nobly one-on-one after such a distasteful monster battle. If ever there was a ‘heromance’ on Fate/Zero (not a one-sided one like Caster), it’s these two. Which is why it’s so heartbreaking to see their noble duel cruelly cut short by the implementation of Kiritsugu’s underhanded but ruinously effective gambit to take Lancer and Kayneth off the board for good.

The dueling Saber and Lancer are essentially distracting themselves from the fact their masters are in the shadows, “negotiating.” I use quotes because Kiritsugu has all the leverage and Kayneth has none. Kiritsugu has Sola-Ui, and makes Kay sign a contract of geis in which Kiritsugu will be unable to kill or even harm him or Sola-Ui. In exchange, Kay has to use his final command seal to force Lancer to run himself through with his own single remaining lance.

Kay takes the deal, and the impaled Lancer is disgusted and enraged, cursing everyone—including Saber, whom he assumes is in on it—as he slowly dies and evaporates into the either. Then Kiritsugu holds up his end of the bargain: he can’t kill Kayneth or Sola-Ui…so he has Maiya do it for him, and when Kayneth is begging for death, Kiritsugu must decline due to the contract. Ice. Cold.

It falls to Saber to put Kayneth out of his misery, but no one is more disgusted with Kiritsugu than she, as she openly questions his true motives for winning the HGW, considering the underhanded, dishonorable depths to which he is willing to stoop.

Even Iri, who Kiritsugu points out hadn’t seen “the way he kills” until now, is clearly angry at him and demands he speak to Saber directly and not through her. And Kiritsugu finally explains why he’s been so loath to interact with Saber and so unwilling to heed her council: because she is a knight, imbued with heroic honor and chivalry. And he doesn’t believe a knight can save the world.

Throughout history, knights and other heroes have inspired men to set out, fight, and die. It’s a deadly wheel that Kiritsugu intends to break. If he is victorious, he will see to it the blood shed in the HGW will be the “last blood shed by humanity,” and he doesn’t care what he has to do or how his actions make him look, as long as he gets the job done. It’s the ultimate ends-justify-the-means argument, and it’s hard to argue with it.

Saber’s reaction to Kiritsugu’s passionate rant is to deduce that for someone to speak the way he does, he must have at some point in he past fought nobly and justly, only for something to go horribly wrong to lead to his fall from chivalry. Saber is of the mind that his methods not only won’t break the wheel, but strengthen it by stoking resentment, hatred, and further conflict unbound by any decency.

I can appreciate both viewpoints (a testament to the quality writing and characterization) and while I can’t endorse Kiritsugu’s methods, I can’t argue with their utility and effectiveness thus far: only Rider, Berserker, and Archer remain in the war, and he has all of his command seals.

But I take the collapse of the downright exhausted Iri after Kiritsugu departs as a bad omen; things have been going too smoothly so far. I sense rougher seas ahead.

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Space Patrol Luluco – 05

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Luluco’s Sexy Space Pirate Mom quickly gets up to no good and Space Patrol is unable to stop her. Justice guns have no effect and even the chief, who takes this opportunity to transform, is completely blown away.

Only Alpha Omega Nova shows limited ability to match her, and only then by stopping a vicious disciplinary punch aimed at Luluco’s head. As the entire town is dragged away by the Pirate Spaceship, Luluco holds a slice of her father’s frozen skull and laments that he was probably the only one who could stop this.

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This week was almost exclusively action sprinkled lightly with humor. As always, it’s over the top and full of nods to Trigger/Gainax legacy. (Luluco’s mom is clearly wearing a cape of Life Threads from Kill La Kill.) The action is stylish and the pacing all works well enough, though probably not without the greater string of episodes around it.

Midori’s reaction to the slice of Luluco’s dad’s brain is probably the humor highlight, although it’s pretty funny that the Pirates are trying to auction off the town online to make a quick buck.

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In short, its more of the same, and more of the same is good because it’s a rare breed of blinding action that’s so masterfully crafted you can still understand what’s going on.

And extra points must be awarded for making the most over-the-top sexy mom villain of the season! Hurray MILFs!

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Space Patrol Luluco – 04

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A massive meteor is heading for town and Luluco’s desire for Alpha Omega Nova’s undivided romantic attention must be put on hold. The chief has a plan to stop the meteor and it’s going to take all three Space Patrolers to pull it off…

because they will effectively be the booster rockets of their own spaceship and the weapon to destroy the meteor!

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Midori is in the first stage to be ejected, followed by AON, leaving Luluco alone to destroy the meteor and somehow get back from space. All does not go entirely to plan, if a plan actually exists.

However, Luluco is eventually successful… only to learn her Space Mom (and possibly a space ship) were inside.

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SPL is a rapid fire constant stream of madness kind of show. So the opening, which lingered on Luluco’s romantic longings for AON, had me nervous. Fortunately, the head-sirens come out and quickly thrust the cast into an FLCL style “have to read it twice to get it” storm of delicious nonsense.

Little details like the English speaking mission control guy saying “the current episodes storyboard is under production without a final script” before simply repeating the Japanese mission control guy’s lines in english are the cornerstone of this type of humor.

The chief mumbling do this because something something with a nonsensical explanation behind him on a white board, pixel art technical animations of the rocket stages, and the claw-game style controls Luluco must use to drop a bomb on the asteroid… this episode was densely packed with quirky details.

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I have no idea where SPL is going. I’m not sure what if it’s actively parodying other Gainax shows like DieBuster or if the style just makes it look that way. I don’t know if the teen romance with an impotent triangle is all that interesting.

But I do know to I love this show for its stylish art and sense for humor.

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Space Patrol Luluco – 03

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Alpha Omega Nova and Luluco head to her school, Space Middle School, to root out an organized crime ring involving a “quasi-legal” app called Blackhole being distributed by an individual named “Save-the-World,” who turns out to be Luluco’s blue/green-skinned classmate Midori. Absurdity ensues!

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The fact that Midori was giving Luluco the hard sell—and succeeding—kinda gave away the fact that she was the mastermind Space Patrol was after. But with a gang of roughs at her disposal, Midori won’t go down without a fight!

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Nova’s all too happy to shoot the shit out of Midori, but Luluco wants to resolve things without discharging weapons. Her olive branch is smacked out of her hand when Midori captures Nova and fires him at her. Luluco thus has no choice but to transform into a gun and shoot, capturing Midori, but also destroying part of the school.

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Luluco isn’t sure what to do in the future, but the freed Nova counsels her to “stay wonderful”…which probably means “keep transforming into a gun and shooting perps into submission.” After our lovely credits, Midori convinces the somewhat easily swayed Over Justice to forgive her crimes and recruit her into he Patrol.

Gainax/Trigger fans will probably recognize Midori’s distinctive seiyu as Shintani Mayumi, who also voiced Nonon in Kill la Kill and Haruko in FLCL. With the addition of Midori, Space Patrol Luluco continues to be a super-concentrated, zany, quick-firing, unpredictably delicious lark.

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 08

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru 08 finally spells out just how screwed the girls of Hero Club are going to be by introducing them to a bits-and-pieces mess of barely living parts that used-to-be-a-Hero Nogi Sonoko, who now resides in some sort of parallel dimension and is forced to watch the same vista for an unendable eternity.

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The tone is somber, it gives us the high stakes I’ve wanted for several episodes now and it lays out the “will they/won’t they escape fate” framework facing the girls from here on out.

And it definitely delivers real, raw, and powerful emotions from Togo and Yuna. It’s a tear jerker, and the relative quiet of their conversation with Nogi makes it all the more brutal.

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So why am I dropping YYwYdA? Simply put, this was the dullest, talkiest reveal you can imagine. Little mystery is left to our imagination and the whole ‘snagged on the way back from fighting’ context for Yuna and Togo’s conversation with the fallen hero felt arbitrary. Graceless.

Worse, while I’ve moderately enjoyed the show until now, I can’t help but feel YYwYdA‘s slow pace is a product of not having much to do with the series or having an interesting mystery to reveal, rather than a thoughtful process of lulling us into false security.

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I mean, the girls have had their injuries for several episodes now. We already knew those injuries weren’t going away and that they were the direct result of using Mankai.

Spelling that fact out to us, even with the added context that young girls are still being used like the virgin sacrifices of old, doesn’t make it any more compelling.

Sad panda. Sad panda indeed.

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 07

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru has established a weird pattern: it runs 2 calm, entirely pedestrian episodes before charging head long into each battle. This up/down relationship isn’t the weird part, exactly. More that the calm episodes are so calm.

I mean, this week was the happiest, most care free beech style episode I’ve ever seen shoved into a show. It was so playful and, since there are no male characters in this middle-school-girl-cast show, that playfulness came off as authentic.

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The girls play on the beech, have a delicious and classy meal, take a grande bath, and even have fun telling ghost stories to each other — all payed for by the organization that probably knows they’re all doomed already.

Fu is still blind, Itsuki is still mute, Yuna is still a tomboy, Karen is a robot and Togo still can’t walk, after all.

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My favorite moments were how Togo had to be shoved into the setting, every setting, even at the cost of physics sometimes. Take this scene where she’s in a normal wheel chair… being pushed through the water in a way I’m pretty sure would take a body builder’s worth of muscle to accomplish.

At least her floaty wheel chair was cute and made sense. Even nice of the secret organization to provide an unnamed adult supervisor to make sure nothing went wrong in the process.

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As you can probably tell, I don’t have too much to say about this week’s episode. It was very charming, (warm/fuzzy feeling) even by YYwYdA standards, and we learned little bits about the world too. Vertexes are based on the zodiac, which implies there may be more of them than the initial 12 the Heros were told about.

And It was the best looking, non-special effects episode so far too…

But am I excited by all this? Not really. Not, at least, until something more dire befalls our little pretties…

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 06

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru took an interesting direction this week. See, while the girls suffered no physical damage from their battles per sey, each hero who activated ManKai has lost much of a single human sense.

Fu is blind in her left eye, Itsuki is mute, Yuna cant taste, and Togo can’t walk.

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No! I’m kidding because I’m a terrible person. Togo is like normal but now is also def in her left ear.

Only Karen has avoided an unexplained health issue and only Karen was unable to activate her ManKai.

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It takes Yuna and Togo a little while to admit their problems. So, at first, I thought the injuries tied into their character weaknesses. Itsuki is timid, after all. So of course she can’t talk. Fu lacks vision (planning and projection) So of course she’d go blind too.

I don’t think that idea holds weight though. At least, I don’t know what it would have to do with the sense of taste and Togo is all about listening to others…

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Fortunately, the girls all get nice new iPhone 6s for their troubles. Sure, they aren’t heros anymore and can’t download the hero app and, for a while, no one really knows what to do with themselves, but you gotta see the silver lining!

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Not for Karen-chan though. While I thought it was a nice touch that she, the one who came to fight, was the most useless during the fight AND could not use Mankai, the gravity of that, and the weight of being the only uninjured hero hangs heavy on her shoulders.

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I enjoyed the episode, frankly. As with all of YYwYdA‘s pacing, we got a full 20 minutes dedicated to the girls calmly easing into post-hero status. That time to breath and figure out what was going on, and what they wanted to do now, mixed with the dread that their health issues aren’t so temporary, was a good choice.

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 05

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru episode 5 gave us all its got: brightly colored characters, vibrant effects, bizarrely abstract looking enemies, and a battle that lasted almost 20 minutes.

So? Was it good?

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That depends on what you want from this show?

For me, last week’s signs of on-coming dread and loss didn’t really pay out. Yes, the girls are all beaten up by the end of this lengthy battle, but no one is lost. More over, four of the girls unlock their Bleach-style ‘Mankai’ level up ability exactly at the moment any fear of loss crept into the battle.

The results felt predictable by genre standards and cheap “friendship power saves the day.” None of their abilities felt earned.

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The Man-kai’s themselves, which transformed the girl’s skimpy sailor-style uniforms into more priestess like robes, looked cool enough. Each costume looks like an upgrade and sports a flowery “Old School Tenchi Muyo” aesthetic.

My only criticism is that each girl’s abilities are all over the map in usefulness and power. Togo gets a flying spider-like weapons platform that can breach the planet’s atmosphere and Itsuki gets… more finger strings.

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In some ways the aesthetic has an odd Persona vibe going on too. While many of the Vertex are just random 3D rendered shapes, many have that game’s gothic icons plus ‘stuff in a blender’ style going on.

The above character shows this pretty well: it’s a book with hands wearing thigh-highs and a gothic lolita dress and chains. It is also a robot, sorta maybe.

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There’s nothing wrong with aping Persona’s style, nor Bleach’s I’m shouting Man-kai to level up style, nor Old School Tenchi’s Jurai costumes… but it starts to make YYwYdA feel like a sum of parts and less a show of its own.

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The loveliest moment came at the end with Togo and Yuna falling back to earth. Both are drained of energy and unsure if they will survive the fall. Togo wraps them in a flower-remains of her robes/weapon platform with the last of her energy and they say good bye and fall asleep.

It’s a beautiful scene and, for an instant, gave me hope that one of the girls wouldn’t make it out of this fight in a touching and lovely way.

Sadly, that’s not the direction YYwYdA has taken.

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So I’m disappointed no one died. YYwYdA toyed with that idea on several occasions but it was pretty obvious the show was never going to go through with it.

The only reason I will tune in next week is the obvious set up for a twist. We are only five episodes in and all the enemies have been defeated. SOMETHING has to happen for the next 7 episodes.

The question is: what?

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If that something is just a second wave of more powerful Vertex… I’m dropping the show from my review list. If that something twists our expectations for the protecting god or what the Hero Club believes to be truth, then I’ll keep up with it.

Okay YYwYdA, next week is your judgement hours!

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 04

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YYwYdA takes a second week off from the Vertex to focus on the girls, their relationships, and surprisingly very little on how they are coping with their do-or-die status as heroes. This week it’s Itsuki’s turn to stand under the spot light and man is she worried…about singing in front of her fellow music classmates!

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You two! You will not have much to do this episode!

Playing the episode so low stakes actually works really well. We learn some important details (Fu and Itsuki’s parents were killed by the Vertex some how and the world has been cleansed by a plague some time earlier) but the girls are given tons of breathing room and it sells their relationships. It sells them as people.

Alternatively, while I may find those stakes low, Itsuki obviously doesn’t. She’s lived in her sister’s shadow — willingly — since her parents were killed (somehow?) and is desperate to carve out an identity. A reason to carry on.

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“Don’t worry. You got four of a kind. So that’s a good thing… right?”

Tarot reading plays a role in this episode too, and it was a great framing device for what is no doubt going to be a massacre next week.

Like everything else, the Tarot is played for smiles and laughs. Itsuki keeps flipping death and she’s worried that it means she’ll totally bomb her music singing test.

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So everyone comes together and the core of this week’s mission is established: help Itsuki pass her test. Obviously, the best place to do that is a karaoke bar!

Even with a bathroom confrontation scene between Karin and Fu, the bar scene is totally understated, cheerful, and sells Hero Clubs internal friendships. (Everyone jumping to military attention when Togo sang a military marching song was my favorite highlight.)

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With their help and repeated support, Itsuki finally gets over her fears, wins the admiration of her class (she’s a year younger than the other heroes) and finds what she wants to do: sing.

Then she flops another Death Tarot from her bag while recording a song on her laptop.

…and the Vertex arrives.

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Giving us such a long break from monster fighting, with no expositional dumps in the process is a fantastically brave move on YYwYdA. It not only lulls us into a super comfort zone but it actually gives us enough time and sense of place to care about the girls that I hope get butchered horribly next week.

If YYwYdA does that, then no matter what it does later — no matter how much it wavers — I will be satisfied.

have I just typed that?

Hero Club! 

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 03

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…And, out of nowhere, a new girl shows up during Hero Club’s fight with the 5th Vertex. She wears a red costume and she’s a badass, easily capable of destroying a single Vertex on her own.

Note: she does not appear to have a ‘charged up tattoo/icon’ like the other girls. However, since we have no idea what the tattoo/icon actually does yet, this may or may not mean anything.

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As you would expect, the new girl becomes a transfer student at Hero Club’s school the following day. Miyoshi Karin is her name and she is a true hero! According to her anyway. (She claims to be chosen from a pool of heroes who’ve trained for years, and that she was specifically chosen because she fits the data the ‘advanced party’ (the hero club) has gathered in their initial confrontations)

Karin-chan is a typical pride-heavy hardhead. Generic, really. She thinks she’s professional, without real combat experience and social skills are minuscule. in fact, her arrogance presumes that she take command of the hero club without a moment to spare.

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Personally, I love the idea that whoever is in charge of the Heroes hasn’t bothered to keep the advanced team informed of their reinforcements, let alone their official command structure. So much so that I wonder if an organization actually exists. I mean, if Karin wore a black uniform, I’d have to wonder if she was actually a villain in disguise!

For now, we’ll have to chalk it up to terrible judgement and logistics. The kind we may expect from an organization that leaves the world in the hands (and emotional judgement) of middle schoolers!

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I’m thankful YYwYdA kept this ‘outsider’ schtick to a minimum. Presuming it was resolved as much as it needs to be here, we can move on and deal with more interesting mysteries.

Otherwise, dragging out Karin’s entry wont be interesting. In fact, she isn’t interesting at all, outside her wonderful costume and surprisingly well drawn practice fighting on the beech!

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Oddly, there were no battles this week. I suppose that would be too cliche, to have the group come together over fighting or to see the value of the other girls in it. That would be too much on Karin’s terms. Lets hope the show sticks to regular battles, though. This slice of life girl social interaction bit was fine… but too much of it risks being dull, unimaginative, and been there done that.

I suppose, too little of that and it’s just a magic girl team fights monsters genre bit? I’m undecided now! The balance is going to be tricky!

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 02

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Inutozaki, Itsuki, Yuna, and Togo wrap up their first missing and are returned to the roof top of the school. Of course, since time froze during the battle with the monster, they are missing class…

However, logistical problems aren’t the real big deal here. The big deal is that Togo is not only angry that she had no warning before being nominated for hero’ship (and thrust into a do or die battle to save the world), she’s angry at herself for deserting her friends and feeling helpless.

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Togo’s conflict boils up during their first post-kill briefing in the club room. It doesn’t matter how forward Inutozaki is now, it doesn’t matter how reasonable her secrecy was, and it doesn’t matter how much Yuna and Itsuki are down with how things played out: Togo is pissed, gets snappy, and exits the room.

Yuna follows to fix things and we get a funny familiar-as-boobs joke to break the foul mood.

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As you would imagine from this kind of show, the next big-bads come sooner than later and this time there are 3 all at once! On the plus side, there will only be 12 total, which means we have plenty of episodes left over for a swimsuit/hot springs episode, a school festival, and a 2-part finale!

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So the battle unfolds the way a second battle should. The new enemies are stronger, more interesting, and provide a variety of individual challenges. Most significantly, the attack as a team.

The second battle also brings Togo into the fold as a full suited-up hero. I have to say, her costume design is awesome! I mean, I was curious how YYwYdA would handle her legs and the design choice does not disappoint!

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Basically, Togo’s legs are still useless. However, these scarf-like arms hold her upright and let her move around. It’s downright creepy by cool looking and, since Togo is the teams sniper, we get an interesting nod to SAO2. If that’s a thing we should be wanting.

Enemies defeated, friendships mended, and purpose set — everything is in place now for… well… for whatever the next major plot twist turns out to be!

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Yuuki Yuuna wa Yuusha de Aru – 01

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Sanshu Middle School Hero Club flew so low under my radar for the past two weeks that I almost didn’t watch it. Then, as it looked to be a low steaks civic-minded girl power middle school slice-of-life club genre piece, I almost didn’t finish it. However, one detail caught my attention:

Togo-san, one of the four central club members, is handicapped and must ride out her life in a wheelchair.

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In fact, I almost dismissed YYwYdA as wheelchair-awareness-porn. Not that making people more aware of the disabled, and showcasing their challenges passively through a slice of life drama is a bad Idea. I imagine their population is as glossed over in Japan as gnomes, psychics and the transgendered are here.

Still, this season is packed tight with good shows and a middle-of-the-road slice-of-life with blushing girls trying to do good in middle school didn’t seemed like a hard sell to me. Ethically righteous or not.

Then, plot twist.

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Half way through the episode, club president Inutozaki Fu let on to her sister Itsuki that she had a bit of a secret. Since they’d been talking about the school’s cultural festival and what the club was planning to do for it, I just assumed all her barely hidden shame was, well, kid stuff.

Like she had another responsibility and, despite being the anchor of the club, was going to dump it on Itsuki-chan and didn’t know how to get out of it.

I did not, however, expect that she had scouted the club to be volunteered to defend Shinju-sama (God?) from the Vertex, world destroying monsters!

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One class-interrupting cell call later and Inutozaki, Itsuki, Yuna, and Togo (aka Wheelchair-sama) find themselves transported to a colorful world with a large, abstract monster bearing down on them.

Togo completely loses her shit. She’s been in a wheelchair a long time and the idea that she has to suddenly fight — physically fight — a giant monstrosity or die is understandably hard for her to accept. And this week, we don’t even see what that will ultimately look like.

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It’s a cute touch that their cell phone’s all have an app that ties them together, and ties into their powers. Like everything else, I’d written it off as a funky looking chat-app that was either aping something in Japan that I’m not aware of or was slightly sci-fi for funsies.

While it’s a little silly watching the girls talk to each other over their phones during battle, it works. It certainly points out how difficult communication and coordination would be for untrained fighters who don’t have access to magic brain-to-brain com lines or military style headsets.

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So, is this worth following?

Short answer: Yes! (At least for now.)

Long answer: I can’t exactly call using a handicapped character bold, but it is unusual and I didn’t expect the show’s twist at all. The magic uniforms are pretty nice too, and the world is generally beautiful, even if it has a bit of Trinity Seven’s muddy gray/black color pallet splopping on the school uniforms. At the very least, I don’t know what to expect and will give it another episode!

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