Attack on Titan – 29

Titan, you can only zoom in on the pained-looking eyes at some one so many times before I start thinking to my self well, she’s definitely hiding something, and in this show, ‘hiding something’ usually means ‘they’re a Titan’.

And so it’s the case with Ymir, who laughs about Conny’s report on his village a bit too much; specifically the part where the fallen Titan on his house reminded him of his mom.

But before her Ymir’s big telegraphed reveal, she, Krista, and the other gear-less rookies play a tense waiting game once the Titans show up.

The elite scouts show off their stuff, but considering the Beast Titan is arranging this siege, watching them exert so much steel, gas, and energy to what will likely be the first of many waves was a bit disheartening.

Not that the scouts have any choice but to fight, mind you—A., it’s their duty; B., they’re totally surrounded.

Inevitably, the Titans get in the castle, and the few moments before Reiner opens a cellar door to reveal a particularly creepy one are absolutely dripping with tension and dread. It’s so quiet down there, but as most Titans don’t speak, silence doesn’t mean safety.

The rookies make use of what they have—a pitchfork, an old cannon, scrap wood—to kill this Titan, but a second one shows up, one that gives Reiner a vicious arm wound before he picks him up and places him in a window so Ymir can kick him out.

Krista rips up her skirt to make Reiner bandages and a sling, and he contradicts Ymir’s claim he’s not interested in girls when he thinks “gotta marry her” (Krista, not Ymir).

But more distressingly, they’re just about out of effective makeshift weapons, and the barricade for the door into the castle seems laughably flimsy against the onslaught of Titans outside.

Those Titans just keep coming, and when the Beast tosses some horses and rocks at the castle towers, two of the four scouts are killed instantly. It turns out they were the very, very lucky ones. Titan goes Full Sadist in depicting the visceral demise of the final two elite scouts, both of them, by the end, reduced to crying and screaming like young children before being disembowled and devoured.

All the one poor guy hopes for before the end is to have a drink from the bottle of booze he found, but to add insult to fatal injury, Krista used it all up disinfecting Reiner’s wound. Titan doesn’t just drive the knife in and twist it, it pulls the knife back out, then drives it back in, twists again, then drops an anvil on you for good measure. Brutal.

In the face of all that casual brutality, the arrival of dozens more Titans, and the fact the tower they’re standing on will certainly crumble and fall within minutes it’s kind of amazing that none of the rookies want to give up yet, although Krista specifically wants weapons so she can die in battle like the four scouts. Ymir doesn’t like that attitude, so she decides: she’ll be the weapon.

She takes Conny’s dagger and leaps off the tower, confusing everyone (except Reiner, who found it odd Ymir could read the language on the canned herring label), then transforming into a wild-looking Titan. The cavalry didn’t come from without for this group of rookies, but from within. But will she be enough?

It’s another strong outing from Attack on Titan to close out its first quarter, and it’s a close call between this and the Sasha episode for best episode so far. This week the claustrophobic pressure was kept up by remaining at the castle and only at the castle for the entire duration; no cuts to see what was going on elsewhere.

That extra focus, and the increased horror elements made this a must-watch, even if there were times when it was hard to watch.

Attack on Titan – 28

Conny’s village is full of questions. If the Titans attacked, why is there no blood? If the villagers evacuated, why did they leave all their horses? And what’s with the emaciated Titan on top of Conny’s house? Why did he hear it say “Welcome home?” There are all intriguing mysteries on top of the ones we already have, but the squad has to keep moving, and Conny has to forget about what may or may not have happened to his family and continue his duty.

Krista and Ymir, like Conny, must feel pretty vulnerable without their battle gear, but they’ll simply have to trust that the soldiers around them will keep them safe. Instead of fighting, Krista & Co. will be called upon to bear witness and send reports. Krista is fine with staying, and feels bad that she’s made Ymir join the scouts, but Ymir insists she’s here “for herself and nothing else.” Another Titan in hiding, perhaps?

This is often a creepy show, what with all the bizarre-looking naked humanoids running around eating people, but Titan manages to up that creep-factor not with Titans, but with a lack of them, or anything at all. Two units travel in the pitch black darkness, not knowing what could be just out of range of their light. Turns out, it’s another unit also looking for the gap in Wall Rose…but neither unit actually found one. What exactly is going on here?

Eren & Co. finally reach Ehrmich District, and Levi makes sure Pastor Nick gets a good long look at the faces of the masses of people and families being displaced due to the wall falling. It seems to work, at least a little, as after being harangued again by Hange, he finally gives up one name: Krista Lenz—who he and his order were instructed to monitor, and who may “know the truths which even we cannot perceive.”

Hange believes that Eren may be able to repair the wall breaches…with hardened Titan skin, of the same type that didn’t evaporate after Annie returned to human form. Sasha also re-joins her comrades.

Krista, Ymir, & Co. end up spending the night in an abandoned castle none of them knew about until the moon came out. To their misfortune, a hoard of Titans besieges them, the first instance of Titan night-fighting. It may well have something to do with the fact this is the same group that hangs around the Beast Titan…maybe he trained them?

In any case, Ymir looks shiftier than ever, but she and Krista can only sit back with the other rookies and hope the pros get the job done. Meanwhile, Hange mentions an abandoned castle which I assume is the same one here, and heads there with Eren & Co.

Attack on Titan – 27

After a quick check in with Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and Zoe as they prepare to head to Ehrmich District—during which Zoe hopes her new buddy Pastor Nick will be more forthcoming regarding Wall Titans—the story jumps to Sasha Blouse, and it’s her story that dominates the episode.

A flashback shows she was always ravenous about sneaking food, and was at the time totally against abandoning her huntress lifestyle for the greater good, as her father was contemplating doing. He told her to suit herself, but to be forewarned: If you’re not there for people when they need you, they won’t be there for you.

Arriving at her home to find an unfamiliar new village, she finds only two people still alive: a paralyzed mother being slowly eaten by a small Titan, and the woman’s daughter, who can only sit by, watch, and become profoundly traumitized. Good lord do the kids witness some hellish things in this show.

Sasha is there for the girl and her mother, but the Titan’s nape is too tough for the axe she wields. Her only option is to leave the mother behind to buy time for her and the kid to get away. The girl later says the rest of the village left her and her mother behind (Not cool, villagers. Not cool). Things get even more tense when Sasha’s horse runs off, and you can hear her struggling to keep the panic in her voice, lest she scar this kid eve more (too late for that, I think).

In the flashback with her dad, Sasha spoke in her country bumpkin accent. While running from the Titan with the girl, she remembers a random little interaction with Ymir and Krista, who argued about whether Sasha is kind and polite because she’s scared of people and ashamed of her backwater upbringing, while Krista likes Sasha is just fine, however she wants to be.

Kobayashi Yuu has always been such a great choice for Sasha, because there’s both a gentle and an intense side (usually hangry, but in this case because of the situation) and she nails both perfectly. It’s time to be not-nice when she tells the kid to “Get Runnin’!” Then blinds the Titan to disorient it; ditching the bow to make sure the last arrow finds its mark, and slipping out of the Titan’s grasp thanks to the great deal of blood spilled by its wounds.

Meeting back up with the girl, they soon hear horse hooves: her father and others from her village. It’s the first time in three years she’s seen her dad. He knows what she did for the little girl, and when he tells her “Sasha…Yer all I hoped for,” its a lovely, warm moment of reconciliation.

Sasha didn’t quite get it before she left home, but she does now. Livin’ in the woods alone just ain’t gonna cut it no more; people gotta be non-awful-like if they’re to be survivin’.

Sasha may have found her dad and a little girl in her village, but when Connie arrives in his home village, it doesn’t look good at all…particularly the horrifying Titan with emaciated limbs lying face up on top of his family’s house.

Since we don’t see any bodies, there’s hope some or even all of Connie’s family got out, but more importantly, how did a Titan that can no longer move end up there? It looks like it could have been dropped down there like a giant sack of potatoes.

Keeping Eren and Mikasa on the sidelines hasn’t hurt the show two episodes in a row now thanks to a smidge more backstory on Sasha, whose gluttony shtick used to annoy me, but has become a much more sympathetic character…someone I definitely don’t want eaten.

Attack on Titan – 26 (Start of Season 2)

The Gist: A Titan is discovered inside Wall Sina. Pastor nick warns the scouts to cover it in sheets. Even when Zoe threatens to kill him, he won’t tell her anything he knows.

Wall Rose is breached and Titans are roaming. 12 hours earlier, the 104th Trainees are on standby in plainclothes when Mike mobilizes them to warn the villages of the attacking Titans while he buys time.

Mike encounters a furry beast-like Titan who can speak. It asks Mike about his gear, but Mike is too frightened to respond, and the beast-Titan snatches up Mike’s gear and lets the other Titans eat him.

After four years of waiting—less for me because I retro reviewed it on a lark—and many delays, Attack on Titan is finally back, and the hype surrounding it is inevitable. Titan has a huge and passionate fanbase that has been very patient, and I would say that those who who wanted more of season one’s intense action-packed horror-drama got what they wanted.

I for one found Titan’s first season quite entertaining and addictive, so I count myself among that group. No boats were rocked here. Bringing down Annie may have been a small victory, but humans are still fighting for their lives, and not at all helped out by the bureaucracies that run things, who are intentionally (and very suspiciously) keeping the people who fight on the front lines in the dark.

My only main gripe with this abrupt return to the Titan storyline is that the main triad of Eren, Mikasa, and Armin were sidelined except for a small scene where Eren wakes up and talks with Mikasa about her scarf before Armin bursts in to tell them about the Titans in the wall.

That means the episode is largely about the secondary and tertiary casts, including Mike, who goes off on his own to serve as a decoy to enable Connie, Sasha, Reiner and Bertholt and other 104s to spread out and get word to the villages that the Titans Are Coming (not that there’s much to be done). And for Mike’s trouble, he has his own poor horse thrown at him by the apparent leader of a pack of roaming Titans.

This isn’t just any Titan, though: it’s an “abnormal”, Sasquatch-Like Titan with an intelligent glint in its eye and, most importantly, the ability to speak in the human tongue. When I first heard him, I wasn’t sure who was talking, and was taken just as aback as Mike and could totally understand why even someone second in skill only to Levi was absolutely paralyzed with fear by this Titan frikkin’ talking to him like it’s nothing.

Alas, as well-spoken as Beast Titan is, he shows no mercy once he has what he’s interested in—Mike’s gear—and sics the other Titans on Mike in a horrifying display that closes the episode, seemingly showing a lot more gore than it really is in typical Titan fashion. R.I.P. Sniffy.

Between Beast Titan, Wall Titan, and a tight-lipped clergy, there looks to be plenty of problems for Eren, Mikasa, and whoever else manages to stay alive, to deal with in this long-awaited 12-episode second season of Attack on Titan, a show that never ceases to demonstrate just how much better your life is than the poor bastards who live in its world.

Not being chased and eaten by goofy-yet-terrifying Titans = #Winning.

Kuzu no Honkai – 11

While on a train to a weekend hot springs getaway with Kanai (two adults! How often does that happen in anime?) Akane falls asleep (she later blames being with the younger Mugi last night). She dreams she’s in a gallery of all the men she’s had, and all the lines she supposedly crossed, while either not realizing it…or not caring.

The distinction is moot; what matters is the reason: she’s never felt truly connected with anyone. In the dream, Kanai asks her why she “keeps doing this” if, as she herself said, she’s not “suited for it.”

Like last week, there’s only one brief scene involving Hanabi, and it’s one in a situation we’ve barely seen her in: hanging out with high school peers she hasn’t laid with. They view her and Mugi as some kind of ideal couple, and we the audience, like Hanabi, can only roll our eyes and say If they only knew.

When Hanabi tells them how she thinks it’s best if she and Mugi don’t see each other, they call her “such a grownup”, and considering everything she’s been through in such a short time, and the satisfying end result of Kanai’s rejection and Mugi’s, er, “moving on,” I tend to agree.

Even the contrast between the girls’ food orders and her plain ol’ coffee seem to help her exude a wisdom beyond her years. She’s been through some stuff; they haven’t. If they actually have, this show didn’t have time to show it.

Last week Akane didn’t like her dynamic with Kanai, in which she he was occupying far too much of her thoughts for her comfort. Trying to move on by telling all, if anything only intensified Kanai’s feelings for her. She’s in a nonchalant “okay let’s see where this goes” mode when they start off on the hot springs trip, but by the end, she starts to notice her heart beating.

No one has been able to throw Akane off like Kanai throws her off here. He tells her he’s fine with her messing around because he thinks she does it because she likes it, as opposed to never having known anything else. The flaws she’s always thought kept her from connecting are of no concern to Kanai, and his love for her isn’t transactional; it’s unconditional, almost paternal.

That unconditional love, and his desire for her to live a happy life, wipes clean those portraits in her dream gallery, replacing them with the image of her and Kanai. She finally feels connected. It’s something entirely new to her, but she doesn’t dislike it, and the next morning when Kanai goes for it and asks if she’ll marry him, she decides to give it a try.

Now that she’s ready to take that step, her first date with Mugi is more about closure than anything else; even Mugi realizes this. For so long he tried to find out how he could change her, but in reality, the Akane he loved was the one who existed; not the ideal he hoped to help create.

It’s clearly shitty for Mugi to see the change in her once she announces her marriage, knowing he had nothing to do with that change. But like Kanai’s rejection of Hanabi, it’s also freeing. Mugi loved the way Akane was before she changed. But she has, and so I imagine he’ll move on. But he won’t forget her.

It will hurt for a while, but Mugi will be okay, just like Hanabi and Moca and Ecchan will be alright. With Akane and Kanai getting hitched, it will be interesting to see if Hanabi and Mugi attempt a relationship, only not as it was: rather than an pragmatic alliance of “replacements”, a genuine romantic pairing of two people who no longer consider themselves scum.

Kuzu no Honkai – 10

Mugi may have been able to sleep with Akane while Hanabi was rejected, but Mugi isn’t under any illusions the reason is anything other than Akane “just felt like it today”; that she’s role-playing, student-and-teacher; because it seemed like a lark. His connection with her matches the episode’s title: “Fragile and Empty.”

The thing is, Mugi does know Akane better than most, if far from as well as she knows herself. He knows from watching her all these years how she jumps from man to man. In her inner thoughts, she tells us how it was always like that since her first: taking all of a man’s love and giving nothing back; taking all the jealousy of the other women and wrapping herself in it. This is the process by which she assigns worth to herself, and it’s the only process she’s ever known.

She executes the same process with Mugi, “shattering his world” so that she can keep standing. But unlike other men, Mugi knows her game, and wants to change the rules. But he also knows changing her is no mean feat, as she isn’t someone who’s ever fallen for anyone, only had others fall for her.

After scores of random, inconsequential men who simply played the game her way, Akane now finds herself afoul of not one but two very different men. Even though Mugi knows what kind of person Akane is, and even when another man tells Kanai, neither of them flinch in their devotion to her. The difference is, Kanai doesn’t care, and wants her to be herself. Mugi, on the other hand, still wants to change her.

During their aquarium date, Akane racked her brain about what exactly Kanai’s deal was. She felt like she was the one pursuing him by committing so much of her thoughts to him, and didn’t like how it felt, so tried to make the date their last. She thought if she told him enough about who she is (or at least the perception of that person that had been crafted both within and without), but Kanai still stopped her from leaving.

Akane has been unique in Kuzu no Honkai as the only character not “in love” with another. Indeed, Akane may not even know what it is to love someone. She’s been loved by men many times before, and every time she shattered their worlds and danced on the ashes. Now things are different.

Neither Kanai nor Mugi will back down. Both know who and what she is, yet still yearn for something she’s never experienced: a relationship that endures, a prospect that doubtless terrifies all parties involved. But Mugi knows the only way he can change someone else is by starting with himself. That’s advice he got from his pact-mate, Hanabi.

Can Mugi actually succeed, and if he does, where does that leave Kanai? Hanabi, Ecchan, and Moca are in pretty good places emotionally right now, but it feels like Mugi’s still operating deep in that murky soup they once inhabited. Who, if not himself or Akane, will be able to help him out?

Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 10

It seems like the tide is about to turn with the arrival of Juzo & Co., but because Todo has a stronger fire-element demon, all their attacks are absorbed. Bummer! Yukio (whose guys stop glowing blue before anyone sees them) has a plan: let Todo absorb their fire…all of it.

In a well-planned gambit, the youngsters take Todo on as a distraction while the others chant, and Juzo drops a huge fireball down upon Todo. The Phoenix absorbs so much that Todo can’t handle it, and his body turns to ash, which is then soaked by the rain, slowing down his regeneration considerably.

That being said, it’s not the end of Todo, which was a bit disappointing, as he goes all muddy T-1000 on Yukio, Juzo, and the others, who dilly-dally in storing and separating his pieces to keep them from joining. I tellya, what’s it going to take to get this guy and make it stick?

We don’t learn that, though Koneko and Renzo manage to inform Shura that Rin and Bon are within the barrier, with Bon just barely keeping the barrier up to prevent widespread disaster.

When the super-ugly “pizza roll”-like Impure King advances, Bon has to cast a second spell to force him back, considerably weakening him in the process. Shura can’t come soon enough. Even Kuro’s in trouble.

When Shura finally does get there, Bon had dropped one of his two spells and let the miasma cover him, confident that Rin—his friend—will find a way to unsheathe his sword and save him. And what do you know, he does! And not a moment too soon.

In doing so, Rin seems to be doing exactly what Mephisto—his “older brother”—had hoped he would do: unleash the power of the blue flames for good, and show the Vatican that the son of the devil, once under control, is a vital asset in their struggle. But first thing’s first: Rin’s gotta pierce the king’s heart.

Kuzu no Honkai – 09

When this week’s Scum’s Wish starts, Hanabi is alone, and wants to die. When it ends, she still feels alone, but realizes she isn’t, and doesn’t want to die. But first thing’s first: Both Narumi and Mugi reject her on the same day (poor girl!) a trip to a forest getaway with Ecchan is a welcome distraction. Any time her mind is busy is better than not.

Ecchan is looking forward to having Hanabi all to herself, but they find her cousin Atsuya is at the cabin. Atsuya feels like an interloper the whole time, but he’s not just there to mark his territory. In his opinion, Hanabi is a dead end for Ecchan: she’ll never get her to feel how she feels about her. And he doesn’t want Hanabi continuing to string her along.

But this trip was never about “making Hanabi hers”, but about saying goodbye for good. Atsuya in the next room or no, Ecchan still gets one last night of bliss with Hanabi. But after that, she vows to be alone. Hanabi wakes up early, and on a walk with Atsuya he tells her Ecchan can’t be used as a replacement.

After they spend one last day out on the town, as the couple Ecchan had at some point hoped they could be, Ecchan expresses her pride in Hanabi for “going for it” with Kanai-sensei, even though she knew how much the rejection would hurt. She did, in effect, what Ecchan had already done, only Hanabi has been “too nice” to reject her, so she has to break it off herself.

With a heartfelt, genuine display of affection and an intense desire to keep knowing Ecchan and learning more about her, Hanabi manages to secure consideration that Ecchan may come back to her, but it may take a long time. Forgetting how to love someone after loving them for so long, takes time, if it happens at all.

Now down Narumi, Mugi, and Ecchan, Hanabi returns to school in a haze of loneliness and despair. She wouldn’t be out of place in Zetsubou-sensei‘s class. Neko spots her looking forlorn and at first appears eager to gloat about how now, finally, Hanabi is getting her comeuppance; a taste of the bitter medicine Neko’s been tasting for years.

But doesn’t gloat; not really. She also has an earnest nugget of recently-earned wisdom to deliver: being rejected is a kind of liberation. Once one starts doing things for themselves—even something as small as buying and wolfing down a danish—you can start to feel better. And having heard these words from Neko, Hanabi realizes she isn’t alone. Her pain isn’t unique, and it’s not implacable.

The episode closes with Akane at Mugi’s for a “teacher home meeting”, only with the parents not home, it’s actually a booty call. And despite Mugi’s clear discomfort with the premise, she is very insistent that he acknowledge that it is an official teacher meeting, and that he call her “teacher.” Yikes.

On the one hand, Mugi is getting something he’s wanted for years. But there’s no indication he’s succeeding in “changing” her as he vowed to do last week. Instead, he seems to be falling deeper under her control, with no discernible way out as of yet. Hanabi thinks Mugi’s being “tricked.” Akane (at least the one in her head) agrees, but adds that he wants to be tricked; that all men do.

Maybe Mugi will go on like this, content with what he has. Or maybe, in time, he’ll come to see the real Akane as nothing but a replacement for the Akane of his dreams…and that he can’t go on like this.

Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 09

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Todou’s “join me” schtick doesn’t work, as Yukio tells him he loves Rin as much as he hates him, but hates the old Yukio who was a sniveling little punk always in need of Rin’s help.

Yukio summons a coven of naiads and puts Todou in a water prison. I’m glad Exorcist isn’t playing the “Yukio switches sides” angle here, and that Yukio actually gets one over on Todou in what had been a laughably one-sided match.

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As for Rin, he’s trying to stay positive and cheerful while riding Kuro to the sproangium, but Bon can tell from his shaking hands that Rin’s just trying to keep it together, like he is. Kuro gets them into position, and Bon is able to put up a giant fire barrier to contain the sporangium (during which a phoenix screams like a red-tailed hawk for some reason).

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As all his family and friends fight what looks like a hopeless battle, Shino is consumed by fear and self-preservation, even going so far as to abandon Koneko when he refuses to run away. Shino only gets a few paces away before Koneko is about to be killed and he swoops in with his staff. As much as he wants to run from this situation—and his blood—he just can’t. He’s a part of this.

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Meanwhile, Izumo lets her guard down while admonishing Shiemi for not letting herself be protected by someone stronger, and gets covered in spores. Using the “if not now, when” argument, a desperate Shiemi finally manages to summon Nee-chan, and prepares to free Izumo, who takes time to ponder why she agreed to all this in the first place.

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Despite everyone’s efforts, the sporangium still bursts, and it feels like a huge setback when it happens. Fortunately the barrier holds, but that Bon can’t move if he wants to keep it up is a huge challenge for Rin and Kuro.

Rin almost felt like he could unsheathe his sword when Kuro was in trouble (Kuro gets out of it on his own); I imagine the time is quickly approaching when, like Shiemi with Nee-chan, Rin can’t go without its blade any longer.

As for Yukio, his water prison crumbles and he’s about to get burnt alive by Todou, but his eyes suddenly glimmer with blue flame—like Rin—which causes Todou to instinctively jump back.

Before Todou can get back to killing Yukio—or Yukio can determine what the hell’s up with his eyes—Juzu & Co. arrive to fight Todou. But yeah, those blue eyes are definitely an interesting development.

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Kuzu no Honkai – 08

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Nice hat!

This episode was so strong throughout, and its ending had so much impact, I nearly forgot that it started with Ecchan and her cousin Atsuya, automatically the weakest of all the pairings simply because we’ve never met Atsuya before.

Aside from being tall, long-haired, and a bit shy, we don’t learn much, except that he’s certain he still has a chance with Ecchan (despite most evidence to the contrary). Ecchan, interestingly, doesn’t seem so certain he doesn’t either.

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Now, on to the Big Event(s): the Dual Confession of Hanabi and Mugi to their respective crushes. I like how they make sure they do all their Summer homework first. Not only are they being proactive, responsible honor students, but they’re operating under the assumption that they’ll be in no state to study later.

Naturally, they don’t study the whole time, but fool around a bit, and that’s when Mugi tells her he’s had trouble imagining her as Akane. Which is interesting because she hasn’t been thinking of him as Narumi either.

From what I gather from their pre-confession interactions is that Hanabi and Mugi are gradually falling for one another, and starting to become aware of it.

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Of course, they still believe (and are probably correct) that their lingering hope of being with their crushes is an impediment that must be extinguished. Whether they move on as a couple together, to them, moving forward means confronting those crushes and getting rejected.

They’re both scared, but in another sign of how her feelings for Mugi have evolved, when he hugs her, his intent doesn’t matter: the hug calms her and stops her hands from shaking. No one but Narumi ever excited Hanabi, and yet here’s Mugi, doing just that.

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Hanabi and Mugi agree to meet back up at 10pm the evening of the Sunday they’ll confess, but I didn’t believe for a second that they would actually meet up at 10pm. Mugi meets with Akane during the day, and she immediately takes command.

When Mugi manages to quickly get out an “I love you”, Akane doesn’t react, because she knew. Mugi, we know, knew she knew. But she didn’t know that he knew she knew, so the knowing stopped at two levels.

And if Akane ever had anything resembling a match, it would be the person who has watched her and knows the person behind the mask. Mugi only liked her because he couldn’t have her.

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Just as Hanabi is meeting up with Narumi, Mugi finds himself in a hotel room, in bed with Akane, removing her clothes. As the RPG shot above shows, he knows he’s outmatched against such a tough boss, but doesn’t care. Akane may be a “horrible, promiscuous, broken narcissist”, but he wants to believe she can change, and that he can be the one to change her.

Can Mugi be her “first”, as in the first person she actually cared about? Mugi assumes she’s incapable of caring about him, but we don’t get in Akane’s head, so he may be wrong about that. We certainly see expressions from Akane we never have before, and they appear genuine, as if the sheer audacity of Mugi’s gambit threw her off balance.

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Of the two confessions, I always assumed Mugi’s would get messier, because of the object of his desire would make it messy with her masks and manipulations. What I didn’t expect is that Mugi was well aware of what he was getting into, but that he still had hope Akane could be redeemed in some way (and if the one who knows her and how she’s lived her life the most believes that, there could well be hope).

Because Narumi is so guileless and kind—basically the opposite of the Akane—it was a good bet that, pending a sudden unrealistic shift in his character, he’d make his rejection of Hanabi as clean and gentle as possible.

That doesn’t make it any easier or less painful for Hanabi, but once it’s all over—and it’s over pretty fast—she feels like a weight has been lifted, because this impediment to her future happiness had been extinguished. Call it a ripping off of a band-aid.

But part of why she’s relatively fine with how things go down with Narumi is because of how she’s started to feel towards Mugi. She believes she’s not alone because both he and she have unrequited loves, but Akane’s love didn’t out-and-out reject him.

Instead, he rejected the awful person she is and vowed to make her a better one. And now he’s in bed with her, and Hanabi is alone.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 08

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It was great to watch Shiemi finally kick some ass after sitting on the sidelines for so long, and for the gang to get back together and head out as a team. The question was, could this episode keep the momentum going as we draw nearer to the final battle with Todo and the Impure King? The answer, unfortunately, is not really.

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Sure, lots of things happen: the exorcists summon a fire vajra to give them more strength against the rot, the kids find Bon’s dad, who Kurara is keeping alive, Kurara is transferred to Bon, which is a pretty big deal, and Bon and Rin ride MegaKuro closer to the place where they’ll have to destroy the Impure King’s heart.

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But none of it feels that significant; it’s as if the show is intentionally holding back and content to show us more preparation for the fight. We’re told many tens of thousands of innocent people are at risk, and the billowing rot of the Impure King is a nearly constant and menacing presence, but the fact remains: the episode felt slow, almost plodding, and I didn’t like Rin’s group splitting up so soon after getting back together, even if it makes sense to the plot.

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Yukio has never been my favorite Exorcist character, what with his occasional temptations to cast away the burdens of his family and cross over to the dark side. Todo spends a lot of time toying with him in an interminable one-sided duel, with the apparent intent of bringing Yukio over to his side. I mean, if that wasn’t the case, he could have killed him many times over.

Chances are Rin will be able to unsheathe the Koma Sword, but only in the moment he needs to the most. That means the Impure King’s heart is probably not long for this world. The true wild card is Todo, especially if he manages to turn Yukio. But it wouldn’t be particularly satisfying if he could be turned so easily by a brief monologue.

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Kuzu no Honkai – 07

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Moca startin’ the day of ACCA-style!

The morning of her date with Mugi, Moca is on cloud nine, but she doesn’t have any illusions about suddenly winning his heart. Having an elegant breakfast and getting all dolled up is as much or more for her than for Mugi’s sake. Still, she has to try today, for she, a student of fairy tales, doesn’t think people should settle for replacements.

This week Moca accomplishes something neither Hanabi nor Mugi have been unable to in seven: confront her unrequited love head-on, face the object of that love, and, through a clean-ish rejection, be able to move forward. By doing so, she becomes, by default, the bravest of those three people.

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While Mugi is off on a date with Moca (unbeknownst to her, obv) Hanabi continues her half-cocked mission to seduce Takeya, but soon learns it isn’t so easy to elicit love in someone. All Takeya wants from her is sex right now, Hanabi doesn’t give it to him, so he leaves her to go bang some other chick.

That’s where Takeya is at at this point. It looks pretty hopeless for Hanabi, and I must have mistaken all the confidence she seemed to exude at the end of last week when getting her “project” off the ground.

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Moca, meanwhile, is always on the verge of tears, she’s both so happy about the dream-like date with Mugi, and devastated that the happiness is tempered and sullied by the fact Mugi feels obligated to take his childhood friend on a date.

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Since we’re in Moca’s head most of this week, we learn a lot, like how she’s always loved Mugi, since they were little kids, and how with waterworks, she knew precisely how to get him to do her bidding and acknowledge their special bond.

Mugi and Moca got used to this cycle of behavior for years, and the nature of their past is ultimately what stops things from going too far in the present.

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Moca is cute. She knows she’s cute, and while in Mugi’s bed, she thinks it might be enough to hear it from Mugi to allow her to keep on living (just as his not recoiling when she held his hand did). Mugi curses himself as a pathetic coward who is going straight to hell, because there’s something deep within him that is screaming this is Moca; this is wrong, and things go no further than the removal of clothes.

For too long she was, as she says, a sacred ornament to be admired, and he can’t sully her, even though he tries his darnedest. At the same time, now that things have gotten so real with Mugi, the “dream” of the two living happily ever seems to shatter for Moca. This is the way she and Mugi are; she’s “important” and “special” to him, but that only goes so far. They can’t be a man and a woman.

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Moca really put herself out there, and by the end, there’s a kind of release of pressure. And she also becomes a kind of catalyst, as Mugi’s night with her has the same general effect as Hanabi’s lonely, aimless night, and one fine day on a hill overlooking the town, the two agree that they’ll tell Akane and Onii-san how they truly feel, before the end of Summer vacation.

They are cowards, they admit that. But Moca showed them they don’t have to stay cowards. And if they’re both rejected, Hanabi wonders what will happen next; whether she and Mugi will start to date for real; whether they’ll both be able to say goodbye to their respective loves forever and accept what life has given them…or another path is needed.

Playing the Moca Card this late in the game turned out to be another good move. She’d been the weakest, least developed character in the love polygon to this point, but this week really fleshed her out nicely. More to the point, both by staying on Mugi and keeping him from Hanabi, she inadvertently showed them the only way forward.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 07

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Once Yukio has finished reading Tatsumi’s letter, Shura puts her trust in the master, removing the sword from safekeeping (within her body) and handing it to Rin, who wants to help defeat the Impure King, and heck, may be the only one who can.

There are only two problems: in Rin’s current state of fear and lack of confidence, he can’t physically draw the sword, and Mephisto Pheles pops in and throws Rin in an even more impenetrable prison, as the Vatican has sensed his tail seal from when he flared up, and have sentenced him to death.

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Let’s get one thing out of the way: Rin is not going to be executed. Shura and Yukio don’t want that, but they can only do so much in their positions. So Shura appeals to Rin’s friends, gives Bon his father’s letter and the sword, and tells them to go bust Rin out. If he’s their only hope, they’re his.

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Shiemi is the first to grab a camo poncho, and does so without hesitation. One by one the others agree with various levels of grudging. But once they reach the prison, the sentient door freezes everyone in their tracks, except the one person neither armed nor bearing hostile intent.

That’s right: Shiemi’s purported weakness is a strength here, as she can casually open the door to the prison and stroll in. Her gentle nature and loyalty and affection for Rin are the X-factor that enables everything that follows to occur.

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Once in Mephisto’s prison, there’s supposedly no way out, but Shiemi takes things one step at a time. First, she finds Rin, who starts wondering if maybe he should die before hurting more people; maybe that’s the best way for him to be useful.

Bollocks to that, says Shiemi. Just as she told all the others they’d all regret not trying to save Rin, she knows Rin will regret dying here and now. She also, for the first time, truly sees the weight of his flames, and when he lashes out to try to make her leave, rather than run from the blue flames, she leans into them, and they’re not hot…they’re warm.

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She believes Rin is keeping the flames controlled so as not to harm her, without even thinking about it. Sometimes, you gotta stop thinking and just be, and that seems to be the case here.

Rin’s flames won’t hurt people he cares about, so there’s nothing to fear. To drive the point home, Shiemi draws Rin into a big hug, showing him he has nothing to fear; she’s just fine.

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With that, Rin blasts them out of the “impenetrable” prison with ease Methinks Mephisto knew the conditions under which Rin could escape, and possibly even counted on it. For to get Rin out, his friends would have to band together, set aside their fears (either about him or repercussions from the Vat), and, as Shiemi did, get him to realize he can control his power.

Hell, even Ryuuji is ready to fight with Rin, and the two apologize for their earlier fight. Ryuuji reveals that he’s only mad at Rin because he bore his burdens alone for so long without telling his friends. No more of that. If they’re going to take out that Impure King on the mountain, they have to do it as one.

The second straight great episode from Ao, bringing us back into the present and getting Rin and friends to finally make up as a great battle looms. But Shiemi was the star, doing things no one else could or would do. Honorable mentions go to a gravely injured Mamushi racked by guilt, and a forgiving Juzo who’s not going to let her die.

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