Fate / Zero – 12

“Why do I always sit on my smokes?”

After the Rumble in the Marble, most Servants take a step back and assess the situation. Kiritsugu sits in a dark hotel room and pores over intel as he chats with Maiya on the phone…and that’s about it, really.

“I like the way your tent your fingers. Why don’t you work for me?”

Reports and conversation are the name of the game again, but instead of interacting with Saber and Rider, Archer is stuck with Kirei, trying to connect the dots as part of his larger plan to make him one of his men. Kirei delivers his report on the motivations of the other Masters to Archer, who points out that the one that seems to interest Kirei the most is Matou Kiriya, who also seems to be enduring the most pain and suffering.

“I mean, this isn’t how I would drive, but this is fine too, I guess…”

Pain doesn’t seem to be an issue for Iri, while Saber doesn’t seem to be feeling the lasting effects from her throughout putting-down she endured at the hands of Rider and Archer. But Saber does find it odd that Iri has her drive and perform every other task that requires the use of her hands. When she asks Iri about it, she reveals she’s become extremely physically weak as a result of shutting down her sense of touch (a homonculus ability, apparently).

While she believes she can recover a bit of strength by sitting in the right kind of magical circle, the bottom line is that she’ll be relying on Saber more and more as this War progresses. Saber, obviously, is up to it. I must say I underestimated her mental toughness. That circle is drawn in a storeroom on a Japanese mansion that looks very much like the place where Emiya and Saber live and practice in UBW.

“Feel that sting? That’s pride, fuckin’ with you!”

From there it’s back to Archer gradually wrapping Kirei around his finger, Emporer Palpatine-style. He gets Kirei to pretty much admit that he is actually capable of joy, and even if he’s previously considered such feelings to be a sin, Gilgamesh isn’t a fan of this newfangled puritanical philosophy that generated people like Kirei and Saber. Joy is joy, and leads to happiness.

So Archer gets Kirei to ‘find his bliss’, and Command Seals suddenly reappear on his hand. Archer believes it’s proof the Holy Grail isn’t done with him; indeed it’s almost as if the Holy Grail rejected his previous role as Toosaka’s ally and spy and reinstates him as a full Master. Archer also suggests Kirei go out and steal a new Servant, and not-so-subtly picks up the Archer piece from the chessboard to indicate who he should pick.

While there were some nice character beats, you can really only portray two people sitting around talking for so long from so many angles before it gets a bit tedious. In other words, another cool-down episode on the heels of a solid 10. That leaves one episode left in the first cour.

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Fate / Zero – 11

Iris detects the massive mana of Rider heading towards the castle, and Saber suits up for a battle…only for Rider to show up in his t-shirt and pants with a giant barrel of wine. He’s not there to fight, he’s there to drink and talk. A Holy Grail “dialogue”, as he puts it.

Saber has no objection, and drinks from the barrel with Rider. Soon, Archer also arrives, on Rider’s invitation, and after rejecting Rider’s “swill” opens a portal to his treasury to draw out…a golden jug and three golden cups.

This would be absurd if it wasn’t also frikking brilliant, for Iskandar and Gilgamesh share one thing in common: they are hedonistic tyrants of yore.

Gilgamesh is such a tyrant he considers all treasures in the world to be his, since they all sprang from his treasury—a treasury so vast he isn’t even aware of all it contained.

Iskandar wants to be reincarnated as a flesh-and-blood man to take up his world conquest anew. Saber…wants to save Britain, in part by erasing all of the perceived mistakes she made in life as king. She wants a redo.

Archer laughs in her face at the fact she harbors regret for the deeds in her life, and Rider can’t help but agree. As far as they’re concerned, it’s the duty of the nation and its people to serve and sacrifice for their ruler, not the other way ’round as Saber would have it.

By insisting upon being a “slave to what’s right”, Saber might be able to save Britain, but she can never lead it, and so Rider ceases to see Saber as a real king.

Kingship, to him, has always been a wondrous gift, and throughout his rule he lived and fought as grandly and greedily as possible, living life to the extremes of both good and bad, that he might inspire men to fight and die for him. When Assassins surround them (a test by Kirei and Tokiomi), Rider transports everyone into a Reality Marble.

There, in the vast desert sands, Iskandar’s endless armies march, and when he mounts his trusty horse and orders them to advance, the Assassins are quickly routed. Saber, Iri and Waver can only sit and watch in stunned awe, while Archer does his best to look unimpressed. It’s the biggest spectacle since the port battle, and it is well and truly momentous.

When the battle is over and everyone’s back in the courtyard, Rider takes one more drink, then takes his leave, which is just as well, as I don’t think anyone’s ideals could have been shat on as thoroughly and mercilessly as Saber’s (If I didn’t know better, I’d say Rider was a cruel drunk). Archer remains to mock Saber, urging her to go ahead and continue believing in her ‘backwards’ philosophy so he can laugh at her some more.

Their words cut as deeply as any blade, as Saber remembers one of her Knights of the Round Table stepping down because he didn’t think Arthur understood his people…and Rider and Archer’s words only served to reinforce her growing crisis of confidence.

But while it doesn’t end well for Saber, like at all, it was fantastic to see three Servant Kings simply sitting in a courtyard, drinking wine, and shooting the breeze…and for Rider to show that he can back up all his big talk, and then some.

Classroom of the Elite – 06

Dayum, this show keeps finding new heights of awesomeness. Not only does it constantly zag when I expect it to zig, it manages to juggle a whole array of different plot lines of varying importance with staggering ease.

Did I think Sakura was going to end up being the target of a stalker? No, but the incident is instrumental in Ayanokouji continuing to gain her trust, especially after he says her good works at the trial gained his, Horitika’s Kushida’s, and probably Sudo’s and the rest of the class’s. The timing is perfect for Sakura; unfortunately, when she’s about to bring up her problem, Ayano is called away.

Did I think the latest Sudo situation would be resolved so cleverly, outside the walls of the courtroom? No, and neither did Horikita, until Ayano brings up security cameras. This gets the wheels turning, resulting in a gambit in which Kushida lures Sudo’s accusers to a certain spot where there are cameras, but instead of her meeting them, it’s Ayano and Horikita.

There, the two set to work stuffing the accusers into a smaller and smaller box. Horikita tells them they believe the school has acted the way it did because it is testing them to resolve it themselves, and will expel the accusers for lying because they already know everything…because there are cameras everywhere.

Driving that point home when one of the guy’s temper gets the best of him, the accusers surrender and agree to withdraw their complaint. It’s a masterfully-executed plan that came out of nowhere. No more trial!

It’s a stunning victory that gets Class D its meager but significant points back and clears Sudo of wrongdoing. As for the cameras, they were purchased and planted by Ayano, using funds he borrowed from Ichinose (who as we know is swimming in cash).

Just beneath the main Sudo storyline lurks Sakura’s plight, as she’s finally cornered in a dark alley by her creepy stalker, who is exactly who we thought would be her stalker: the camera store guy. Sakura is in a very bad way here, with the guy starting to force himself on her.

It looks for all the world that in order to save Sudo and the class, Ayano had to neglect someone, and that someone unfortunately would end up being Sakura. But that turns out not to be the case, as Sakua managed to call Ayano, and he uses that call to pinpoint her position and stop the assault, with Ichinose and two cops in tow.

Now that she’s in a safe position, Sakua finds the courage to give her stalker a piece of her mind (even though a part of me wondered if some of his rambling was actually true…and yes I feel dirty about that but this is a show that seems to keep all its options on the table). She then removes her glasses, a symbolic gesture of taking off her “mask.”

Chabashira-sensei has some questions for Horikita, but doesn’t press the issue when her student “leaves it to her imagination” how she managed to get the Class C accusers to withdraw. What sensei does do is ask Horikita why, rhetorically, someone as talented as Ayano is dabbling in obscurity in Class D, suggesting he is the most “defective” of the class by far. Sudo, meanwhile, seems genuinely grateful to Horikita, calling her “amazing” to Ayano.

President Horikita is similarly impressed with Ayanokouji, who mananged to somehow bypass the trial altogether and resolve the conflict between the classes without breaking a sweat or even leaving any fingerprints.

We also get a glimpse at the power struggle between Ryuuen, who suffered a defeat when the accusers recanted, and Sakayanaki, his Class A rival for kingship of the school. Looks like the show is going to keep expanding beyond the core triad of Ayano, Horikita, and Kushida—and I have every confidence it will be able to pull it off.

That being said, the episode ends right back with Ayano and Horikita, with the latter calling the former out for planting the seed of security cameras in her head, leading her to forge false evidence to win the day. Horikita is eager to know what Ayano is thinking and who exactly he is.

All Ayano does is reiterate his promise to help Horikita get to Class A. Other than that, he asks her not to “pry into his life.” From the glimpse of his past as a child in a line of others undergoing some kind of conditioning, it’s clear the character with the darkest secrets of all in  Classroom of the Elite seems to be its protagonist, one Ayanokouji Kiyotaka.

Macross Delta – 10

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Walkure/Delta earned themselves a little respite, and so their mission pivots this week to cultural interaction on Ragna in the form of participating in the Jellyfish Festival, which is a big draw for lovers, which of course makes the likes of Mirage very nervous, but also brings to the forefront a potential Kaname/Messer pairing.

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Maki and Reina aren’t trying to be matchmakers per se; they just want Messer to have at least one more happy memory with Kaname, since who knows what tomorrow will bring. Well, we can kinda guess it will bring hard times and tragedy, since Messer is surrounded by death flags before his sendoff, after being reassigned from Delta following his escapades last week.

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Perhaps to the disappointment of the colleagues who brought them together, Messer only manages a heartfelt thank you to Kaname—no confessions and no kiss, just gratitude—and the next morning, he’s off to his new assignment. While he’ll probably never be allowed to fly combat missions, he’s being allowed to keep his plane. Hmmmmm.

Meanwhile in Windermere, Roid tries to stop Keith from using his little brother’s song when he needs rest. An ally of Keith’s has come up with a way to amplify the power of the song, at the cost of more strain on the little prince. But after Keith beats Roid in a duel (for the first time), Heinz insists both but their swords down: he’s made his decision: he’ll sing, and die, for his people.

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The song that follows resonates in the ruins across several planets, including one where it wasn’t known there were ruins. Walkure and Delta quickly scramble, and Mikumo sings like a songstress possessed in order to counter Heinz. What results is an unprecedented “clashing of winds”, which puts both Mikumo and Freyja out of commission at a crucial time.

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The Aerial Knights also harass Delta, who immediately miss Messer…only for Messer to show up in the nick of time to protect Kaname from a direct attack from the Knights. He’s Var-ing again, and begs Kaname to sing. With two of her girls down and seeing the protruding veins on Messer’s face, Kaname does the only thing she can do: belt out “Axia.”

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With Kaname’s song, Messer is able to not only stay in control, but ride the wind, garnering impressed comments from both Keith and the older Windermereans. But then all those foreboding lines about living the life you have to the fullest (since you never know how long that life will be) come home to roost, Keith looses a single shot that goes straight through Messer’s canopy, filling the cockpit with blood.

In short: shit’s in a bad way for Walkure and Delta. Offing Messer was all but inevitable, but the death still stings, as this episode let him be less hardass training officer and more nice guy with bad luck and a special place in his heart for a certain someone. Kaname’s crestfallen look to close the episode had real impact. She sang as hard as she could; he fought as hard as he could; yet it just wasn’t enough.

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Macross Delta – 09

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This week Hayate officially learns (in a noxious cloud of technobabble) that he possesses fold receptors just like Freyja and the other members of Walkure. Specifically, he “resonates” with Freyja; something that causes Freyja to blush when she hears about it. Poor girl doesn’t realize she’s in a love triangle the show probably isn’t that concerned with resolving, like the one in Frontier.

Also this week, Messer puts his own pride and personal desire to “repay” his savior Kaname (the one who first saved him from the Var) above his safety and the safety of Delta Platoon and Walkure.

Hayate and Mirage follow the chain of command and honor their colleagues wishes, but insofar as their overarching duty, it seems like a very bad idea to put a ticking time bomb like Messer in a Valkyrie and hope for the best.

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For their part, Hayate and Mirage are conflicted over how to do with what they know about Messer, and try to put their heads together to come up with a solution throughout the episode.

Of course, because they’re largely doing this alone, in front of a romantic sunset, everyone, including Freyja, thinks these two are going out now, or something. Freyja is overcome by a combination of jealousy and FOMO, but is too timid to interfere, so she doesn’t, and thus never finds out the truth until the end of the episode, after much emotional stress.

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She didn’t happen to stalk Mirage while she was talking with Kaname, for instance, about how Kaname used to be the lead vocalist of Walkure before Mikumo joined, and before that, she was a solo idol.

Kaname is very harsh and frank in her assessment of herself, and flat out believes she doesn’t have the talent to be lead vocalist, and has to be content with leading them in every other way. But as far as Messer is concerned, hers is the only voice that can save him.

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That’s pretty strongly demonstrated when the Aerial Knights arrive to do some scans on Ragna’s Protoculture ruins. The camera focuses on Kaname both singing and talking Messer through his Var flare-up as he duels with the White Knight, Keith. Meanwhile, Hayate and Mirage protect Walkure from Bogue’s bold but ultimately fruitless attack.

The Knights retreat almost as soon as they arrive, but not before learning they can use Ragna’s ruins, and Keith is impressed enough with Messer to want another rematch in the near future.

But let’s be honest here: Delta Platoon dodged a bullet here. Had their ace Messer gone fully berserk, he would have fallen under enemy control, and as we saw in training, it wouldn’t take long for him to waste the rest of the platoon.

That being said, Freyja’s misunderstanding is cleared up, though she’s already shown her hand, Hayate-wise, and has to bug out to scream at the night to relieve the embarrassment, in the same place where Messer is alone, thanking his own personal god things didn’t get too out of hand due to his own selfishness.

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Prison School – 06

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You wouldn’t think a day in which Kiyoshi was shanked in the ass by a tree branch and almost peed on by Hana would end up being a good day for him, but that’s the kind of crazy world Prison School is. There’s no situation too inappropriate or absurd that won’t befall its protagonist, and yet he remains resolutely human and moral.

Knowing a rift has formed between Kiyoshi and Shingo, Mari aims to drive a large, voluptuous wedge right through that rift, widening it. That wedge is Meiko, who begins giving Shingo special attention treatment, plying him with sweet treats and panoramic views in order to make him a snitch. Shingo, still pissed about his extended sentence, obliges all too easily.

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What’s weird and kind of endearing about Meiko is that while she’s built like a brick shithouse, the show makes sure to keep ambiguous whether she’s aware of how seductive she is. Her inner thoughts are more interested in making sure she doesn’t say something to upset Mari, who will then sic her crows on her. Regardless of her self-awareness, the sound effects employed whenever she’s doing something are pretty amazing.

With an inmate who will do whatever they want, Mari decides to implement a plan to stir up trouble, after intentionally applying more stress and punishment to the other inmates (or, to Andre’s detriment, less punishment). Her target is Joe, the least stable of the quintet, who loses it when it appears a crow is killing his beloved ants.

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He’s just waking up when he notices Meiko and Shingo talking in the shadows, but Kiyoshi still finds it odd that the entire council is out in force in the schoolyard. Then Joe produces a branch-as-shank and lunges at Mari, and something happens the president did not expect: a man protected her from harm. And in front of half the school watching from the windows. Unfortunately, his good deed is overshadowed by the fact the branch went up his ass, creating a great deal of blood. …And the fact Mari still despises men.

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Joe is thrown in solitary (after being told the crow was only “bathing” in ants as a grooming exercise, not killing them; a neat bit of ornithology mixed into our ecchi comedy!), and Kiyoshi is escorted to the nurse’s office…by Hana. Last week Hana promised she’d pay Kiyoshi back, and after being unable to force him to pee into a jug, she decides to accelerate her plan and pee on him herself. Things get pretty far, with her shedding her leggings and panties, but Chiyo inadvertently, temporarily saves Kiyoshi when she pays a visit to the nurse’s office.

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Unfortunately, that also means Hana and Kiyoshi have to hide from her, under the bed, occupying as little space as possible to avoid detection. As neither Kiyoshi or Hana are wearing underwear, Hana is a girl, and Kiyoshi is a guy, things outside his control start to happen. He’s bailed out again when Hana passes out, either due to the heat or from overexcitement.

In any case, Kiyoshi and Hana continue their very bizarre kinky physical relationship rooted in dominance and tit-for-tat; the precise opposite of the wholesome romance he desires with Chiyo (or, in his own words, “coming on to her just enough that she doesnt’ think he’s a creep”). While that’s going on, Mari’s dad the Chairman has his own close call when Mari visits him in his office…just as he’s opening a latin ass jerk-off device he ordered from Amazon(ess). That latest blunder from her dad kills any goodwill Kiyoshi might have created by saving Mari from Joe.

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But his heroism wasn’t all for naught: he didn’t just save Mari from a shanking; he saved Joe from possible arrest and internment at a real prison, something Joe thanks Kiyoshi for, being the first inmate to break the “shunning line” set by Shingo. At this point, even a weirdo like Joe can tell something not quite kosher is up with Shingo, and Kiyoshi lets him know that whole lunch break situation was similarly odd.

This is good, because it means Kiyoshi’s instincts aren’t entirely blind to the council’s DTO machinations. But he still doesn’t know what’s going on, only that things are off. With Meiko offering Shingo a uniform and two hours of freedom off-campus, Shingo remains in the council’s pocket. Whether he knows it or not, he is the weapon Mari intends to use to get all the guys kicked out—something, by the way, Hana seemed reluctant to agree with at first; I must look out for that, as she has her own agenda.

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Prison School – 05

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Rarely has an anime made me feel so goddamn down as when Kiyoshi’s house of cards crumbled. So very much was riding on him performing the mission perfectly, and more to the point, the first nine tenths of the episode, with its sense of optimism, occasion, and essentially adolescent paradise, perfectly set us up to be as devastated as possible when the curtain fell.

But the show was cleverer than simply having Shiraki kicking in the door to find an empty stall. Instead, it played us once more, juxtaposing two scenes without indicating their exact timing with regard to one another. By the time the jig is up and Shiraki kicks in that door, Kiyoshi not only got back, but got back with Gakuto’s prized figurines.

Then Kiyoshi walks outside, and Mari is waiting for him, and she knows everything. Not because she realized he was the girl she stopped at the gate, but because her sister Chiyo texted her and their dad a picture of her with him. Pretty damning evidence, right there! But crucially, Chiyo didn’t send it in scorn or spite; she sent it before she found her uni in Kiyoshi’s bag, back when she was so overjoyed by the experience she was having she couldn’t resist sharing it. She also assumed Kiyoshi got permission from her sister and father.

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Chiyo’s intent, however, doesn’t change the fact that Kiyoshi is in deep shit, and not just with Mari and Chiyo, but with his comrades in stripes. Shingo in particular is extremely hurt and upset Kiyoshi didn’t trust them enough to tell them of his plans; had he done so, they wouldn’t necessarily have stopped him, but things might’ve gone smoother. He’s also extended everyone’s sentence another month, so they have every right to feel mad and betrayed.

As for Kiyoshi, Mari informs him he’ll be expelled, but we later learn behind closed doors she technically lacks the authority to do so and would prefer not to involve other parties. Whatever Kiyoshi’s intentions (and she of course assumes the worst, in part because of how her dad has shaped her opinion of men in general), his predicament is just what Mari needs to further her agenda of making her school all-girls once more.

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Mari can probably tell Kiyoshi feels terrible about what he did (which would indicate he’s not the degenerate she’s make him out to be—of course, that doesn’t serve her needs), and what lies in store for him in the next three years now that rumors of his misdeeds are already being spread. She intends to use that fear and despair to induce him to sign a withdrawal form, giving her the legal cover she needs to dispose of him. He’s ready to sign it, too; but he’d regret one thing from doing so: never having the opportunity to clear up the misunderstanding with Chiyo over her uni.

It would seem fortune wasn’t done smiling on Kiyoshi, and his inherent kindness and goodness thus far comes in to play as much a role in his fate as his badness. Chiyo, you see, is mostly upset that she stormed off without hearing an explanation, delivering a verdict with the barests of cases. Sure, her uniform in his bag looks bad, but she feels he deserves the chance to explain himself nonetheless.

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That fierce sense of decency and empathy leads her to storm into the office where Mari has Kiyoshi in her clutches, having heard rumors of him being expelled for what he did. She won’t stand for that, as she played a considerable role in getting him in the mess he’s in. Mari wants this situation to be seen as her looking out for her poor, naive, victimized sister, but Chiyo is a lot less messed up than Mari. She has a clear head and knows exactly what she’s saying and doing.

When Kiyoshi is about to fall for Mari’s bluff, Chiyo descends like an angel from on high, to call that bluff: if she makes Kiyoshi leave, she’s leaving too. Kiyoshi tells her—honestly—that he just grabbed her uniform from among hundreds by chance, and she believes him. And she doesn’t seem naive in doing so. Instead, she only ends up putting Mari in a tighter and tighter corner (even bringing up Kiyoshi’s affinity for Mari’s beloved crows), until she has to basically concede this battle.

But the reason I’ve come to love Chiyo so much—and why Kiyoshi probably only loves her more after all this—is not because she pressed his head to her chest, but because she showed us what she was made of. She’s not just some shallow pristine angel to be placed on a pedestal; she’s a fully fleshed-out individual with all manner of motivations and desires, ideals, and an iron will. She is Kiyoshi’s rock and his salvation. Now he must strive to be worthy of her.

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Mari may have lost this round, but she intends to wage a full-scale war on Kiyoshi and the other four boys, officially forming the “DTO”, or Boy’s Expulsion Operation. Shiraki, so strong and dominant towards the boys, cowers and sweats profusely in her president’s presence, and will do whatever she commands in service of this operation. I wouldn’t be surprised if they bend or break all the rules that are necessary; the ends will justify the means.

As for Kiyoshi, he managed to remain enrolled at school thanks almost entirely to Chiyo, but he immediately starts to see the effects of the means he employed to reach the ends (his sumo date). They seemed so innocent and logical and perfect at the time, but failure wouldn’t just mean more jail time or possible estrangement from Chiyo.

It also fundamentally damaged his relationship with Shingo, Joe, and Andre—but mostly Shingo, who forces the others to ostracize Kiyoshi. These wounds won’t be easily healed, if ever, but regardless Kiyoshi intends to bear the consequences of what he did.

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And that brings us, impeccably logically, to the Return of Hana. I said when they last parted that she wouldn’t be above pissing on him as payment for him pissing on her, and here we see her present that very idea to Kiyoshi in the bathroom, where she all but orders him to prove he doesn’t find her “dirty” by allowing her to do this at some point in the near future.

This could mean several things, or a combination of them, and more: Her sense of justice and equatability may be so rigid and literal, that this is the only way to settle the score. She could be a Mari plant, working towards inducing him to slip up again, in a way that will get him yet another month in jail and only one more infraction away from official expulsion.

Or perhaps Hana simply liked how things went down and wants to reciprocate, furthering her dominance of Kiyoshi (similar to Nakamura’s relationship with Kasuga in Aku no Hana). Last week everything seemed to be over for Kiyoshi. But everything—from his struggles in prison to his enduring relationship with Chiyo to Mari’s war agains the boys—is only just beginning.

With every episode of Prison School I watch, I feel dumber for not giving it a look when it was airing. The title scared me away, of all things! But it’s far more than its title, and it’s far more than silly ecchi comedy (though there is plenty of that); it’s a rich and dynamic exploration of the complexities of morality and adolescence. The two most compelling, relatable characters in Kiyoshi and Chiyo are also the most balanced on both fronts.

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Aquarion Logos – 03

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Blergh…when you’ve checked out of a show only three episodes in, it’s time to say Sayonara. And between the almost painfully-goofy word-of-the-day crises, Akira’s “I’m the Savior” schtick, and the introduction of a snot-nosed little kid as the newest pilot, I find myself suddenly but categorically checked out of Aquarion Logos.

I’m not alone in this; as of writing fewer than 650 people have bothered to rate the show on MAL (compared to over 11,000 for GANGSTA.), and its rating sits at a paltry 6.20, more than a full point below the older, better Aquarion Evol.

I’m no stranger to going against the whims of MAL (especially when small sample sizes are involved), but in this case our opinions align. Dropped.

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Aquarion Logos – 02

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This week follows much the same pattern as last: Sougon weaponizes another “Word of the Week” (it’s “illness”), Kaibuki Akira commandeers a Vector, goes into the Logos World, and forms an Aquarion with Maia to defeat it.

But in between the problem and the crisis was a part I found much more interesting: when the captured Maia breaks free, she’s kept from flying off in her Vector by a team of tough-as-iron cleaning ladies whose practiced, precises motions, synchronization, strength, and ability to read minds has the sheltered Maia assuming they’re DEAVA’s elite guardian force.

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They assume she’s the new girl, so they set her to work, and Maia learns about the “sacrifices” her master Sougan said were “inevitable” in order to bring about his “Utopia Without Words” (whatever that is). It struck me as a Spirited Away-style situation in which an ignorant, arrogant girl gets a lesson in humility and humanity by putting on another skin for a spell.

Still, if the ladies knew Maia was an escaped prisoner, they’d have probably called security. Why is there no security in the hangar containing the Vectors? Ya know what….never mind.

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Once Akira arrives at the hangar deck and spots Maia, he tells her he’ll “do as he ought, by his own will”, reinforcing the dissonance between her beloved Sougon’s ideal and the price people like the nice ladies she befriended pay for it. She comes to her own opinion on the matter: that any word that starts hurting people is a mistake (even though we know it isn’t a mistake, but exactly what Sougon intended it to be).

Her faith in Sougon’s ideal doesn’t match who Sougon really is: a social networking tycoon trying to make a new world without regard to the casualties that result from the destruction of the old one. As such, her will doesn’t run parallel to her master’s, so perhaps it’s good that he doesn’t let Maia come back to him, but orders her to continue observing Akira.

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Aquarion Logos – 01 (Part II)

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Okay…so I was right: THIS half of the hour-long special I watched was the actual first episode of Logos, representing a clean slate, with no cameos from past shows, just a recycling of terminology (e.g. sousei, vectors, gattai, Aquarion, etc.)  Logos’ new angle is that kanji are possessed with great power that, when unleashed, can be extremely destructive to the fabric of the world.

The “Word of the Day”, if you will, is “Maki”, the kanji for which also means “twist.” Every instance of the kanji in written or digital form comes to life and starts wreaking havoc on modern-day Japan, leaving it up to a special few young people to fight back with the Aquarion hardware we’re familiar with. I must say, this is a pretty clever idea, if a bit Sesame Street.

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That organization is called DEAVA (Division of EArth Verbalism Ability), fronted by a cosplay cafe. When one of those members, Kikogami Kokone, calls out for help when an old lady’s purse is stolen, a dude named Kaibuki Akira answers the call and retrieves the purse. Akira is a bit of a cipher so far, who is fond of calling himself a savior, but also probably happens to be correct about that assertion, as crazy as it sounds to everyone else.

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So sure is Akira that he’s meant for greater things, he follows Kokone into DEAVA and steals her vector to deal with the beastial manifestation of maki in some kind of undefined dimension where one normally does battle with words. In that space, we also have a pair of individuals, one of whom is sure to become one of Akira’s love interests, Tsukigane Maia, who seems to be on the side of the guy who released the word and considers this an important mission.

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Somehow, Akira manages to disconnect Maia’s vector from her partner and dock it to his own, resulting in their transformation into an Aquarion mecha. Maia isn’t sure what’s going on, only that it “feels wonderful”, and she and Akira pair up to blast the maki back into submission with the patented Infinity Punch.

So we have a technicolor cast of characters, an elaborate, often hard-to-follow action that sometimes makes you feel like you’re on some kind of animated Gravitron, yet everything is pretty neatly summed up as “words are power”, and can be used to create as well as destroy.

I wouldn’t exactly call Logos greatit’s awfully helter-skelter and demanding to the senses—but I’ll go with “good” for this first outing. It’s certainly like nothing else this Summer. I’ll just have to see if I have enough time to keep up with it.

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Mobile Suit Gundam AGE – 03

As the clock ticks down on Nora, Grodek has the core tethered to the Diva for extraction. A UE enters Nora and destroys the base where Bruzar was standing by to separate the core. He’s seriously injured, but is able to make it to an older section of the base where the separation can take place. Meanwhile, Flit buys Bruzar and Grodek time by keeping the UEs busy. With Yurin’s help, he’s able to learn the patterns of their movements and keep up with them. The last UE makes for the core as the Diva pulls it from Nora, but Flit blocks it, and it withdraws. Bruzar sacrifices himself by ramming a pylon that was blocking the core. The Diva and core escape, and Nora blows up.

If we were Flit, we imagine our laps would be a bit numb after having Yurin sitting on it for an extended period. But it was certainly a good job he rescued her, yeah? I mean, he’s just firing wildly into space and barely moving as the UEs toy with him, but she settles him down. What’s her deal? Is she somehow affiliated with the UE? We don’t learn anything today. And once the operation is over and everybody’s safe and sound, Flit and Yurin part ways just as quick as they met, though not before she give him her ribbon and a very loving look indeed. The character design may be simple, but there are nice subtleties in expressions when it matters.

As for Nora, well…so long, we hardly knew ye.  We shudder to think how much time and money went into it, only to be destroyed by a mere handful of UEs. If Flit’s is the only mobile suit that’s a match for them, what’s stopping them from attacking other bases, in larger numbers? More importantly, why did that UE just…um, leave when Flit ran out of ammo? Enemies retreating to fight another day is a core Gundamism, and in this case, it showed these UE are more than just mindless killers. There’s a plan in place, and killing Flit and letting the core go is part of that plan.


Rating: 3

No. 6 7

Ah, now this is more like it! Instead of characters, relationships and motivations all essentially milling around in a holding pattern as they seem to have done the past couple episodes, Shion finally has a reason to do something, Nezumi finally takes up a position, and, with four episodes left, we may be starting to see sunshine at the end of the pseudo-utopian corridor.

As I’ve said, I really like Safu. She’s pretty, she’s very bright, and she’s very forward and to-the-point where sex is concerned. Unfortunately, last week she was captured by DHS right when she was about to go after Shion. While bright, she underestimated the level of surveillance in No.6, as Shion’s mom’s house was bugged. Safu only has one brief scene this week, but that’s all we need to see that she’s in peril and in dire need of rescue. Whenever you wake up naked and suspended in liquid-filled glass tube in a lab, things are not going well (Just ask Bill Clinton).

Nezumi keeps the knowledge that Safu is imprisoned from Shion, at least initially. But despite his outward mocking and loathing of the white-haired mother hen, he starts scheming behind his back to save Safu himself, using the dogkeeper’s prison connections. I love his interaction with the dogkeeper here: we’ve never known why the two hate each other so much they’d wish each other dead, but they seem to have reached a truce here. Meanwhile, Shion finds out anyway, when he find’s Safu’s coat in a thrift store of all places. So he’s off to save her…alone.

After exchanging a “goodnight kiss” (on the lips?) that’s really a goodbye kiss, Shion is off. But Nezumi follows, and the two exchange punches, thankfully no more kisses, and Nezumi finally voices exactly what Shion means to him, going all the way back to when he saw him screaming from his balcony in a rainstorm. Shion is his savior, the reason he draws breath today. These two clearly have feelings for each other, and they have for a long time. But Safu still needs saving. They’ll save her together.


Rating: 3.5