Meikyuu Black Company – 02 – Workers of Another World, Unite!

Taking in a pet behemoth wasn’t all it was choked up to be, but now both Ninomiya and Wanibe are reassigned to Raiza’ha Mining Corp.’s Exploration Division, Group 8, performing menial support duties to the elite front-line groups like Group 3. No sooner does he discover that excellently marbled beef is dirt-cheap in this world than a hungry Rimu snatches it and gulps it down after stoving his head in the wall.

The job soon wears down Ninomiya’s spirit, to the point he’s sheepishly obedient. He doesn’t like it, but fate smiles upon him when he crosses paths with a member of that elite Group 3, separated from his companions. He’s being chased by a swarm of giant ants, but armed with various potions for stocking treasure chests (someone has to do it), he mixes some ant leg shavings one of those potions, turning himself, his elderly supervisor, and the Group 3 kid into ants.

For a large portion of this episode, it’s all ants, all the time, which is just so refreshingly weird to behold. Ant!Ninomiya has the same gestures as regular Ninomiya, and even a shock of blue hair. What’s even better is that he’s not a totally self-serving asshole this week! Now, I’m not going to say convincing the ants to join his cause doesn’t benefit him, but the entire enterprise was born out of empathy he felt for the endlessly toiling ant drones.

Of course, it isn’t long before the rabble-rousing Comr-ant Ninomiya (who has turned back into a human) encounters Management, AKA the Ant Queen. When Ninomiya accuses her of simply lounging around while her subjects work themselves to death, she responds by demonstrating her brute strength, molting to become thrice her original size. Even then, the timely arrival of Rimu spooks the queen into submission; she who knows exactly what Rimu is.

Ninomiya than earns the queen’s esteem by taming Rimu with what I’ll call “Chekhov’s Marbled Steak”. Once Wanibe, who had been laid up with a injury throughout the ant-venture, returns to work, the fire is fully back in Ninomiya’s belly, and he has a proposition for Wanibe: join his new organization for bringing down the corrupt oppression of Raiza’ha Mining Corporation: the titular Meikyuu Black Company. 

With both Rimu, the Ant Queen and her army as his allies, he’s very quickly become someone to be taken seriously; an Ant of the Peopl, if you will. And while I got a kick out of watching Ninomiya be an asshole and get punished for it, it’s even more rewarding to see him seemingly learn from the mistakes of the past and attempt to be a better man, lifting others up along with himself and reaping the rewards of loyalty and fellowship.

I must say really didn’t expect this isekai show about an arrogant NEET layabout to become so…socialist so fast, but now that it has, I find it delightful, and can’t wait to see what craziness is in store next week—or who of the five main characters in the OP and ED we’ll meet next.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Meikyuu Black Company – 01 (First Impressions) – Report, Remind, Review

What am I doing, reviewing a show better suited for either Preston (fantasy) or Zane (comedy)? Because I have the fewest shows so far. See, I’m not like Ninomiya Kinji, who cares nothing for the equal distribution of labor. If he can stand at the top of a mountain and profit off everyone toiling below, by golly he’s going to put all of his energy into that venture.

This is to say, Kinji is a jerk. A BIG jerk. Like, it would be tiresome being around him. He doesn’t care; in his world he’s an “Ultra-Pro NEET” who made all his money by age 26 and is now dedicating the rest of his life to kickin’ back. I can’t say I blame him, nor that I can’t relate…but it does not mean I like the guy.

Of course, we’re not supposed to like him; he’s the most transparent of antiheroes, always making the wrong choices out of his own self-interest, only to immediately pay the price. There’s definitely a Wile E. Coyote aura about him, only his Road Runner is to live in this new world like he lived in the old one.

About this new world: it’s a rare-ish modern (rather than medieval / renaissance) fantasy setting, where adventuring has been replaced by corporate culture. Kinji, who already put in all the work he ever wanted to building his Ultra-NEET lifestyle, quickly tires of the drudgery and searches for the nearest shortcut.

He finds two: a secret passage to a deeper level of the mines where the mineral Demonite is purer and thus more valuable; and meets the hulking Behemoth Rimu (Misaki Kuno), who transforms into a horned girl when Kinji makes a deal to keep her fed if she helps keep him and his grudging associate (but not friend) Wanibe safe as they mine the ore.

Part of me feels a grim respect in watching Kinji sweatily chase the dream of his old world down. If the means make his end easier, they’re always justified. That includes a magical staff once crapped up by the likes of Rimu which he uses to enslave all of his co-workers into working nonstop until they start to keel over.

Naturally, the staff eventually breaks, and Kinji receives his comeuppance in the form of a good old-fashioned beatdown by the people he mesmerized. He deserved the beating…and getting bitten in the ass by Rimu, who is always hungry. But darn it all if as loathsome as Kinji is, it was fun watching him do bad things…and then have bad things happen to him. It was like watching the universe self-correct in real time.

Kinji also happens to be the most hard-working lazy do-nothing you can imagine. Despite the beating (and ass-biting) he received, I have no doubt he’ll dust himself off and look for the next get-rich-quick scheme, only to pour all of those riches into his ravenous behemoth girl, all while Wanibe face-palms in the corner. It feels like a dynamic with potential.

Kanojo mo Kanojo – 01 (First Impressions) – Good Faith Violation

Saki and Nagisa seem like nice people and are very cute, coming straight form the Quintessential Quintuplets school character design—not surprising as Tezuka Productions and director Kuwahara Satoshi helmed QQ’s first season. There’s another QQ connecting thread in a lad trying to juggle multiple relationships with very different personalities while also trying to figure out who he is.

The main problem is that our protagonist Naoya is a loud, unpleasant, incurable boob whose hollow-headedness and aw-shucks feigned righteousness aren’t nearly enough to excuse his conduct throughout this episode. Saki is clearly NOT into him dating someone else—Period! End of Story!—but he blows past her boundaries like a rom-com Tazmanian Devil, while also using the improbably keen and willing Nagisa as a cute prop.

In a just world, Saki and Nagisa would go off and be good friends together, leaving Naoya in punitive solitude to reflect on his many, many missteps. Instead the show seems primed to reward him again and again for his despicable behavior. We know from the jump that he mercilessly hassled Saki into agreeing to date him, as if the idea of “good old fashioned persistence” or “not taking no for an answer” were noble qualities in a young man.

To then present to Saki an almost comically ideal second girl he just met and corner her with the cruel ultimatum of “I’m either dating both of you or just her” just screams bad faith. Naoya can go on about being “upfront” and “honest” all he wants; bottom line is he’s a selfish jerk for putting Saki through everything he has. I just plain don’t like the guy, there’s no indication he’s going to become any more palatable. Even if he did, I’d resent the responsibility of nurturing his redemption foisted upon his girlfriends.

A anime that earnestly explores how three young people come to terms with their polyamory and navigate the difficult waters of that practice is an interesting, worthwhile concept. It doesn’t even have to take it super seriously! All I ask is that it approach that concept from a remotely informed angle, and not just freaking wing it. Or heck, at least be fair: have Nagisa or Saki present Naoya with a second boyfriend!

Instead, Girlfriend, Girlfriend, like its pushy MC, noisily demands we accept its non-negotiable, unreasonable, unbalanced, and above all disrespectful terms, for the sake of some kooky fun. I just don’t think I have the patience for it.

 

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 16 – A Pretty Fun Hell

While Fuutarou, Itsuki and Ichika try to bail Yotsuba out of her track training camp, Miku stops by Nino’s for tea. She saw Nino stomp out of her previous hotel, and wonders what went on with Fuutarou. Nino is still fuming about Kintarou always being Fuu in disguise, but that’s tabled for now in favor of discussing Nino’s return home.

For all Nino thinks all of her sisters have changed, she’s changed too. They remain five sisters in completely different directions, but that just means they continue to complement each other by exposing them to things they normally wouldn’t…even something as mundane as the different teas they drink, which they learn come from the same leaf!

Operation Spring Yotsuba doesn’t get off to a great start, owing to how well the track captain knows Yotsuba, Itsuki’s less-than-stellar impression, and the simple fact her hair is too damn long! The real Yotsuba returns after having tackled the “groper” (a Fuutarou invention), but then it soon becomes obvious she isn’t Yotsuba either…she’s Nino!

That’s right, the scissors Nino produces at the end of her scene with Miku were meant for her own hair. Whether in order to confront the track people for Yotsuba’s sake, or because her heart was broken by a boy who never existed, or a little of both, Nino now sports the same cropped locks as Yotsuba, though she retains her signature butterfly ribbons and flat bangs.

With Yotsuba agreeing to help with the most recent meet and then quit the team—which is what she wants, but simply needed a nudge to do—Nino and Itsuki adorably make up, each apologizing for their role. Itsuki, the youngest of the quints, tears up despite having played the role of mom when she slapped Nino way too hard, and the fact they both buy tickets to the movie the other sister liked completes the reconciliation.

With the quints reunited, they soon complete their problem sets, and Fuutarou has them go over them again as they enter the home stretch till the exams. He shows deference to Nino by asking her if it’s okay to proceed in this manner…she can’t help but blush and fight back a smile at his polite attentiveness. The day of the exams arrives, and the quints stride confidently into the schook. Fuutarou hangs back, borrowing Itsuki’s phone to call his sister…but we see he was actually on the phone with the quints’ dad.

The exam scores come in, and out of 500 possible points from the five subjects tested, none of them scored higher than 206. While discouraged by these underwhelming results considering how hard they worked, the sisters actually seem to be looking forward to Fuutarou scolding them and pushing them to do better…which is why they’re shocked to learn from their father’s butler Ebata that Fuutarou has resigned as their tutor.

The sisters can’t even go to Fuutarou immediately, as Ebata has been ordered to tutor them on an interim basis. The problem sets Ebata gives them seem so easy, which they attribute to Fuutarou’s diligent tutoring. Then they break out the rolled crib notes he gave them in case of emergency and discover they don’t contain notes at all, but a message meant for all five sisters to read off in order.

It concludes, “I’m glad I finally done with this hell job…but it was a pretty fun hell. Later.” But the sisters are in agreement: they want Fuutarou to continue tutoring them. So they devise a plan. On Christmas Eve, while Fuu is acting as a crier for a cake shop, the five sisters approach him and ask if he’ll deliver a cake to their place. His clearly awesome boss lets him off work early, urging him to have a Merry Christmas.

When they ask him back, he says he already blew his second chance, and now believes it was only his “selfish ends” that held them back, to which he can no longer in good conscience subject them. The newly short-haired Nino gets in Fuu’s face, telling him they’ve only made it this far because of that selfishness, and he can’t stop being selfish now.

When he reminds them that their father has forbidden him from entering their house again, they direct his gaze to the building behind them: with Ichika’s new acting salary, they’ve rented a new place where he’ll always be welcome. Yotsuba inexplicably tosses the five keycards into the air, and in trying to catch them, Fuu slips and falls into the water. To his shock, all five quints jump in after him. All for one and one for all, to be sure!

After surfacing, he spots the rolled fortune Rena gave him, to open once he “learned to accept himself”. But at the same time, Nino cramps up and can’t swim, and Fuutarou abandons the fortune to rescue her, obviously. But maybe he never needed to read the fortune, because when everyone is out of the river, he rips up the résumé of his replacement and decides he’ll stay on as their tutor after all. As for Nino, her heart is beating like a jackrabbit and it may well have less to do with almost drowning and more to do with who saved her.

QQ started out totally scattering the quints, but it’s clear that besides the fact they complement each other and make up for their shortcomings, the one thing that brings them back together this week is the desire to keep Fuutarou in their life, as the one who will help them realize their best selves.

While him calling their dad was an obvious clue, his sudden resignation still felt abrupt, and hit me as hard as the sisters, so I tip my cap to the show for keeping me off balance. It was also a wonderfully brisk affair, with resolutions to this arc coming fast and furious without feeling rushed or inorganic (though part of me was hoping they’d address the whole “jumping into freezing water” thing). I’m looking forward to their next tutoring session in their new, less snazzy digs!

Episode Four Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: Between her lovely sisterly tea time with Miku, to her portrayal of “Cranky Yotsuba”; from making up with Itsuki to her efforts to get Fuu back; from being the only quint who Fuu needed to rescue to her cute new ‘do, it’s another easy win for Best Girl Nino.  Total Points: 19 (1st)
  2. Itsuki: No Itsuki-at-the-Uesugis this week, but she was as wonderful in her making-up scene with Nino as she was wonderfully terrible at impersonating Yotsuba. She also had a moment where she channeled Fuutarou. She and Nino are pulling away from the pack. Total Points: 16 (2nd)
  3. Miku: Came close to tying Itsuki this week. She was so damn cool in that tea scene, describing to Nino why they belong together. She also had the highest test scores of all the quints! Total Points: 9 (3rd)
  4. Yotsuba: Glad her track crisis didn’t drag on any longer, as it felt like a rehash of something not that engaging to begin with. Nice tackle of that creepy groper, but otherwise didn’t distinguish herself. Total Points: 8 (Tied for 4th)
  5. Ichika: I hate to rank her last when she’s footing the bulk of the rent for the quints’ new place, but yeah…she didn’t do much this week! Total Points: 8 (5rd)

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 03 – Okay to Be Selfish

Kaguya and Miyuki are both dedicated combatants in their ongoing War of Love, except for certain special occasions. This week is one of those occasions: there’s a bright harvest moon and a clear sky, and Miyuki wants to gaze at it from the roof of the school.

Kaguya tries to find a way to embarrass him by getting him to lend her his jacket or share the same teacup, but Miyuki is so “moony from the moon” all pride and shame fall by the wayside. When Kaguya brings up her legendary royal namesake as the reason she hates the moon, Miyuki presents his interpretation of the tale.

To him, Princess Kaguya didn’t offer her lover on earth an immortality potion so he could find another love, but as a message that she’d one day return to him, long after a human’s normal lifespan…and he’d wait as long as it took for Kaguya to return.

He continues to wax poetic until an overheated Kaguya can’t endure anymore and flees. However, Miyuki still loses when he comes off his “moon high” the next day and realizes all the embarrassing things he said.

One reason everyone went along with Miyuki’s moongazing session was that the StuCo will be disbanding soon, so opportunities will grow less frequent and carry more weight. In the second and final segment the council members go through the accumulated items from their various adventures together—some of which Yuu is sore about not being present for.

Once everything is packed up, the lights are out, and the doors to the 67th Student Council close for the last time, Chika can’t help but start to tear up, and Kaguya can’t help but cry in response.

During a celebratory dinner at a family restaurant, Kaguya realizes that since Miyuki isn’t President anymore she has to call him something else…but just can’t because it’s too embarrassing and scandalous.

Of course, Chika inadvertently rubs Kaguya’s inability in her face by calling the former president by his first name like it’s nothing. Yuu even gives him a cute nickname “Myu.”

Once Chika and Yuu have gone home and Miyuki has walked Kaguya to her front gate, she considers how few opportunities they’ll have to see each other without the StuCo or any classes to connect them. It makes her feel lonely, but even if she became the new president and Miyuki was her veep, she knows he’d work too hard, when he already has the letter of recommendation from the Board of Trustees.

To want more would be selfish, and she tells herself she shouldn’t be selfish…but when push comes to shove she can’t give up Miyuki that easily. She grabs his arm and asks him if she can be selfish, by asking him to serve as president one more year. Turns out he’d already secretly filled out the candidate application, hoping she’d be the one to bring it up.

So, as is usually the case, Romantic Kaguya wins when Combatant Kaguya loses, as she does here. That is, if Miyuki ends up winning the election; there seems to be a new contender interested in the job!

Fire Force – 06 – Wherein Opposite Paths Converge

As shounen heroes tend to do, Shinra struts into Princess Hibana’s lair and prepares to go a second round, despite having learned nothing about how to defeat her ability that had him flat on the ground. He’s confident that between his talents and determination he’ll figure something out and rescue Iris. Hibana is ready for him, but because she’s a shounen villain, she explains what her ability does, which enables Shinra to resist it.

Of course, heating up her opponents so they become lightheaded ragdolls isn’t Hibana’s only trick. She conjures up scores of flowers to launch at Shinra, and finally releases her featured attack, which bears more than a passing similarity to Captain Kuchiki’s Senbonzakura.

Hibana is convinced that the world is made up of the burned and those who burn, and ever since all the sisters but her burned in the convent, she’s dedicated herself to…herself. Burning whoever and whatever she needs to to get ahead. It’s how she became a successful researcher, and it’s how she became Captain of the 5th.

But here’s the thing: Iris survived too, and Iris is still around and kicking despite not becoming “the devil” to the god Sol everyone prays to. Which means there were obviously more than just the single evil path Hibana took. Iris continued her sister training and became a good and caring person who helps comfort people both during and at the end of their lives.

As we see in the expanded flashback, Hibana was unique among the other sisters in her ability to manipulate flames into beautiful flowers, and change their colors with chemicals. Iris and the others loved her flowers, but the nuns in charge discouraged her, warning that she was, well, playing with fire.

But Iris never forgot their promise: that if she overcame her shyness, Hibana would show her her flame flowers once more. This time, defeated by the flames she believed only served her, and by someone she deemed just more “gravel” to be trod upon, the hard crust that those old flames created around her heart shattered, revealing her heart wasn’t hardened to the core.

Princess Hibana is redeemed, the 5th and 8th cease hostilities, and she even develops a little crush on Shinra, who after all managed to defeat her, making her reconsider whether his prattle about heroes and saving people without getting anything in return was just empty BS.

As for Captain Oubi, after the credits he calls Hinawa, announcing he’s finally ready to join the fray, only to be told that it’s already over, and the dramatic battle music stops abruptly.

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 20 – Shattering and Clashing to Victory

When Gin and Jouichirou start bebopping and scatting all over the train kitchen, Takumi, Megumi, Souma and Erina have to find a way to contribute to the “music” the master chefs are playing, or fail the challenge. For Takumi and Erina in particular, it means leaving their comfort zones—the cooking philosophies they’ve always lived by—and going for gusto.

If they completely shatter or abandon everything they’ve known thus far, they risk losing their vital identities as chefs, but that’s not truly what’s going on here: they contribute in ways only they, with their uniquely amassed knowledge and experience, can contribute.

They’re not so much changing who they are, but changing how they use that, and in doing so unlocking another level in their growth.

The resulting hachis Parmentier from both teams scarcely resemble that classic French dish, yet both embody the spirit of the dish while elevating it into more rarefied culinary air. Senzaemon makes a last minute addendum to the rules of this mock battle: the four young participants, not he, will judge who deserves to win.

Everyone loses their clothes in foodgasms, and when the moment of truth arrives, the kids all point…at each other. Erina likens Team Doujima’s dish as a perfectly in-sync jazz band, while Takumi likens Team Saiba to an avant-garde group art project. In both cases, chaos is used to create things harmony couldn’t, resulting in dishes that are both cohesive in concept and strongly individualized in execution.

The point of Senzaemon’s mock battle wasn’t to decide who’d be the captain of the team that will face Azami’s Elite Ten. It was to get the youngins to experience their abilities firsthand in order to know what to expect of one another when the battle and the stakes are real.

And brother, is there anything realer, or more appallingly hilarious, than watching the ghost-white, skunk-haired Nakiri Azami skiing down a slope in his black suit? Talk about pumping him up as a Bond villain!

His collection of Central stooges also looks the part; they’re as diverse in personality and appearance as our rebels—and in the case of Eishi and Rindou, we’ve seen they have good sides—and yet because they’re determined to defeat the rebels at the behest of Azami, here and now they’re nothing but The Enemy.

Azami tries once more to bring Erina back into the fold simply by stating the duty of all Elite Ten members to obey his orders. He wants Erina on his team, and like almost everybody, expects Erina to be cowed by the certitude and force of his words and sheepishly defer to her father. Even Souma calls her a “doormat” when it comes to her dad—out loud!

But Erina stands her ground. If being the Tenth Seat means having to join Central in the Team Shokugeki, then she will simply relinquish said seat, and join the rebels as simply Nakiri Erina.

While impressed by her continued insolence, Azami comes back at her with one last stipulation in the Team Shokugeki: If the rebels are defeated, she will have to return to his side, commit herself to central, and never disobey him again.

Since losing means all her friends’ expulsions will stick, all the rebels still standing will be expelled, and her beloved Saiba-senpai will have to become Azami’s ally, Erina figures “what the heck, might as well add to the already epic stakes.”

She’s so pumped up by successfully standing up to her father that she starts acting like the Queen of the Rebels, vowing to take the First Seat once they are victorious. Takumi and Megumi like this new rebellious-yet-regal “Queen Erina.” Souma, while initially irked (since he wants to stand at the top of the Elite Ten), nonetheless pledges his life to her, along with the others, in the decisive battle to come.

Kakegurui – 07

When I first saw Midari with her eyepatch, I assumed combined with the piercings and arm bandages that she was simply fusing Chuunibyou and delinquent aesthetics into her personal style. But the eyepatch is functional, covering up the fact she has no left eye.

In the past, Midari was a gifted gambler, but never found any happiness from her victories or the doors it opened. So when she ran herself into nearly $3 million in debt, President Tsubomi offered to buy her eye for just the amount she owed.

Before a surgery can be arranged, Midari gouged out her own eye right there, intriguing Tsubomi enough to call them square and offer a place on the council, which Midari eventually took.

From that self-eye-gouging moment, Midari learned what it was could fill the hole in her heart: the pain and fear of dying she gets from her particular brand of gambling. In her three-round cards-and-pistols game with Yumeko, she wins the first round, but loses the second when Ryouta realizes he should arrange the cards exactly the way Yumeko did, because that’s what he believes she’d want him to do.

When it’s Yumeko’s turn to fire, she doesn’t have the slightest amount of fear of either dying or kiling Midari. For one thing, she can tell from the slight difference in weight that she’s holding her own gun, which has no bullets. That leaves them tied, one game each.

In the final round, Ryouta notices that the image of the two players is reversed on his monitor, and accuses Midari of cheating, but Yumeko saw through it all along, as Ryouta’s image was also reversed, and she played accordingly. Furthermore, Yumeko is not amused by this dull trickery, which seems intended to assure that Midari loses the game.

Midari is trying to get that feeling of gouging her own eye out, spurred on by the President who will never have her. In Yumeko she sought a “schemer” like Tsubomi who she could count on to “dominate” evry part of her her in every way.

She ultimately wants Yumeko to kill her, unsatisfied with Tsubomi’s promise to eventually do so. Suffice it to say, Yumeko won’t play this game, not because it’s morally repugnant, but because Midari is being selfish by trying to hoard all of the pain for herself.

In Yumeko’s ideal, both sides feel death’s cruel skeletal fingers scratching at their door. In this rather rote S&M scenario, it isn’t even that Midari expects Yumeko to get off on dominating her…she simply doesn’t care if or how Yumeko at all; only whether she, Midari, gets her pain, release, and death. Yumeko gets nothing, and that pisses her off, flashing her scariest face yet.

With the third round complete, ending in a draw (Yumeko chose all her cards wrong to thwart any chance of winning), she gets up and walks out, their business completed. And while Midari got off one more time from Yumeko’s utter rejection, it looks like that will be the last time ever, if Yumeko has anything to say about it.

We’ve never seen Yumeko as angry about something as she is at Midari, and it speaks to her fundamental humanity in spite of her seeming super-human senses and gambling skill. People like Midari piss her off most because they’re only in it for themselves, while Yumeko’s happiest moments occur in which someone else gets something out of it, whether it’s a stern lesson in not underestimating her, a shot at redemption, or simply a shared joy over a gamble well-played.

This is why despite getting all worked up in Midari’s dungeon, Yumeko is back to her pleasant self, and I don’t even think she’s putting on a mask. Instead, she seems to take solace in the fact that Ryouta was there with her, and the two were in sync enough to foil Midari’s underhanded, self-destructive plans. I don’t think Yumeko is stringing Ryouta along. I think she values his friendship, and treats him how he treats her: with kindness and respect.

Oh yeah, also, Mary utterly refuses to join the student council, and Tsubomi can believe whatever she wants is the reason, Mary won’t tell her. Of course, we know why: while one could argue that having an “inside man” on the council could be useful in an inside-out rebellion, it’s just as likely the council would change her than vice-versa.

Instead, Mary won’t legitimize a council that treats “livestock” like an inferior race and uses life plans to practice eugenics. She’ll seek a way to destroy it from the outside.

Attack on Titan – 36

This week is a non-stop, bloody, gory, slimy, and above all mobile episode. With only the occasional momentary flashback rather than an episode dominated by one, we stay in the present, where there is quite a bit going on. Sure, the background sounds are reduced and time seems suspended at times, but everyone’s minds are still racing, wondering what the heck to do and who the hell to trust.

When Krista pops out of Ymir’s mouth, Ymir emerges from her Titan’s neck to tell her she’s using her as a chip with which to bargain for her life, putting Ymir #1 as always (only now with no more self-lying). Krista, er, Historia, wants Ymir to come back with her, but when it’s clear she won’t, she doesn’t give up her friendship, saying Ymir will always have her as an ally, no matter what.

As their lover’s quarrel goes on, Erwin and the scouts catch up, heading Reiner off with a huge horde of Titans right on their tail, and the commander launches a crazy charge that immediately claims his right arm. But rather than scream and ask for mommy as some scouts have done in their final moments, Erwin surprises by continuing to order the charge, and, indeed, charge himself, arm or no arm. We’ve got ourselves a badass here.

When Reiner finally has to move his arms to defend against the Titan scrum, Mikasa makes her first attempt to snatch Eren, but misses Bertholdt by a hair and gets nabbed by another Titan she didn’t see, who crushes her midsection. Jean saves her, but Eren remains in Bertholdt and Reiner’s clutches…

…That is until everyone’s favorite dramatic preview narrator Armin shows up next to Bert and Eren, and after thinking about what he can give up, what he can sacrifice to assure a future, he decides to give up any semblance of diplomacy with the traitors, and brings up their comrade Annie, taking care to go into great detail about the constant agony she’s in as a result of torture.

That gets Bertholdt to lose it and draw his swords to answer Armin’s insults, but Erwin leaps into the frame and relieves Reiner of a digit, sending Eren falling into a waiting Mikasa’s arms. After scoring her first Titan kill protecting Ymir, Historia is snatched up by Connie and Sasha, but demands they let her go lest Ymir be killed. They think Ymir’s just lying again.

In an effort to wrest himself free, Reiner decides to perform the shot put on numerous Titans, launching them into the sky. One such ground-to-ground missiles knocks Mikasa and Eren of their horse, who runs off, leaving them alone, on foot, on the ground with not just any Titan approaching their location, but the Titan that ate Eren’s Mom back in the first attack.

Is Eren healed enough to transform and get some payback? Will Mikasa’s internal injuries keep her from fighting 100%? Can help arrive in time? Will anybody get back to the wall? What will become of Ymir and Historia? So much to be resolved with just one episode remaining…

Attack on Titan – 35

Episode 35 starts by checking in on the mystery in Connie’s village, which was devastated but where there are no human remains, and where every horse is still in the stables. So what the hell happened? We don’t learn the answer to that, only that the sole Titan in the village—the one that looks like it’s fallen and can’t get up—is indeed Connie’s mother.

Moving on, we return to Reiner, Bertholdt. With scouts approaching, they have no choice but to get moving before nightfall. Eren pretends to cooperate—for all of five seconds—only to struggle in vain; he’s still too messed up to transform.

Reiner takes Eren and Bertholdt takes Ymir, who is still not sure who to trust. Reiner likes Christa too, and she factors into their “plans” (whatever they are), so Ymir goes along, until she senses Christa is among the pursuing scouts, and decides she’s going to do things her way.

That decision comes after a lifetime far longer than the age Ymir appears, in which lies she told herself and others temporarily placed her in places of comfort and purpose, only for everything to turn to shit.

In the earliest instance, cultists pick her up off the street and make her their icon, claiming she has the blood of the king. When troops raid the cult, she lies about deceiving them to save lives, only for all of them to share the same fate.

That fate involves some kind of sentencing that involves turning the condemned into a Titan and shoving them off the wall. On the other side, Titan Ymir wandered, suffered, and ultimately fell dormant and became buried by the earth.

When she finally wakes up, instinct leads her to eat Reiner and Bertholdt’s comrade Marcel…but doesn’t remember doing so. When she returns to human form, she’s greeted by a gorgeous starry sky, and makes it her new purpose in life to stop dealing in lies and live the way she wants, leading her to Christa, whom she considers a kindred spirit.

It’s a bold, engrossing tale that further fleshes out Ymir the person, made more intriguing by all the questions and lines of thinking that it raises during the flashback—questions a non-source-reader like me has no knowledge of—questions about the nature of humans and Titans; whether everyone has a Titan within them; even whether the state of human civilization within the walls is the true aberration in this strange world.

Back in the present, rather than simply going along with whatever plan (or lack thereof) Reiner and Bert have, Ymir flips the script. She wrenches herself loose from Bertholdt  and demands they let her bring Christa with them, or else she’ll take Eren and escape on her own using her superior speed and agility.

The lads seem to agree, because when Mikasa, Armin & Co. arrive at Ymir’s position, she’s become a Titan, and when Christa arrives, she swallows her whole (for ease of transport, not to eat her) and rejoins Reiner (in Armored Titan form), Bert and Eren, running off into the sunset, having thoroughly outwitted the scouts.

Of course, the scouts aren’t done chasing them. Erwin, as well as Mikasa and Armin, have come this far; they’re not returning home without Eren or Christa. And so the pursuit continues.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 14

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It stood to reason Subaru wouldn’t quickly or easily fix things with Emilia, or even determine how. As disheartening proof, Emilia doesn’t so much as appear this week. Her absence creates a yawning void considering where she and Subaru left things. Still, I had no idea things would get so much worse so quickly. And yet they do: Re:Zero lets the shit fly free into a very big fan, and nobody comes out clean.

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What’s devastating about what transpires centers on some intentionally harsh words from Felix that sort of echo what Julius had to say (and what he risked his career and chivalry to try to teach Subie, to no avail): Even if Subaru had a plan, even if he involved himself, even if he risked everything to try to do something to protect Emilia, it wouldn’t matter.

That’s how out of his element he is: those who would be his enemies (or at least the political rivals of Emilia) are doing their utmost to simply keep Subaru out of it, not because they’re worried he’d make things worse, but because he’d only end up dead, accomplishing nothing.

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Subie being Subie, he respectfully dismisses stern warnings from both Crusch (who if nothing else was a decent host) and Felix (who had been healing his gate) and heads back home to Roswaal Mathers’ domain as soon as he hears of reports of suspicious movement near the mansion.

The one bright light in the yawning abyss this week was Rem, staying by Subaru’s side no matter how pathetic he gets (indeed, largely because he’s pathetic), not due to any contracts or obligations or honor, but simply because she wants to.

We know what that means even if Subaru isn’t particularly receptive to it: Rem cares about him, at least as much as he cares about Emilia, and Rem won’t leave his side. Her “save a tiny bit of that for me”, talking about his feelings for Emilia, might be the saddest line of the show so far. She deserves so much more than a tiny bit.

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But as far as she takes him, even Rem can’t find it in her to take Subaru to whatever is going in the Mathers lands. Instead, she leaves for the mansion in the night, leaving a note pleading Subaru to heed her words: Stay behind; wait for her return; trust in her.

He can’t. He uses every means at his disposal to get closer and closer to the place no one wants him anywhere near for his own good. He takes Rem’s note as another endorsement of the “Subaru can’t do anything” narrative.

When he’s running in the dark and becomes suddenly surrounded by a circle of sinister-looking mages who don’t even bother to kill him before racing off, it’s clear that Yup, he can’t do anything…not about this.

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In case he didn’t get the message there, he finally arrives at the village near the mansion, and it’s the site of a massacre of men, women, and children. Was this the result of the intense public prejudice against Emilia’s half-elf lineage, which she barely ever mentioned to Subaru? Was it the work of those mages? I don’t know, but I’ll admit the sight shocked me.

But the village was nothing compared to Subaru entering the Mathers estate, seeing a bloody flail, and then coming upon the lifeless, bloodied body of Rem, as she recites her letter to him. I can’t believe Rem is dead any more than Subaru wants to, and though I wouldn’t put it past Re:Zero to make these myriad tragedies stick, one can’t discount the fact Subaru can do something no one around him knows he can do: Die, and by doing so, blow up everything that’s transpired to this point.

Will he do that? If he does Return by Death, where and when does he wake up, and what the hell can he do to prevent this? As for if he doesn’t RbD, well…I don’t particularly want to think about that.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 13

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The royal selection process becomes a lot more interesting when Reinhard officially endorses Felt, but you can’t take the slums out of the girl, and Felt turns the court off with her poor breeding and independent, tell-it-like-it-is nature. I’m still firmly on Team Emilia, but I do enjoy Felt rubbing her utter contempt for the whole process in everyone’s faces.

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Rancor builds around the court that just as a sewer rat shouldn’t be allowed to participate, neither should Emilia, a “filthy half-devil” with The Witch’s features. That sets off Subaru, who shouldn’t even be there to begin with, but he won’t stop barking, until Anastasia’s knight Julius confronts him, questioning his claim of being Emilia-tan’s “best knight.”

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Not to side against the protagonist, but Subaru is way out of line here, and I’m not sure I’m supposed to believe otherwise. Emilia really doesn’t want to grab him by the arm and lead him out like a mother taking control of her unruly child, but that’s exactly what happens, and it’s pretty ugly.

Far more surprising, and not altogether plausible, is Old Man Rom’s entry into the throne room to rescue Felt. He’s arrested immediately, and only spared summary execution when Felt changes her mind and agrees to participate in the selection.

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Mind you, Felt’s going to do things her way, which means rule with a healthy hatred of the country she struggled to mightily to survive in, and those who rule it. She makes an intense pledge to destroy the country all these rich bastards hold so dear and build a new one in its place. It sounds, on the surface at least, a lot like Emilia’s “everyone is equal” platform, only the 1% atop the old system won’t be equal to the 99% under Felt’s rule.

Felt may be just as contemptuous of the process as Subaru was, but she has a right to be, considering the life she’s lived and the fact she’s a legitimate participant. Subaru is nothing but an interloper, good intentions be damned. When Julius challenges him to a duel to show him what the knights he mocked are made of, Subie continues to learn, quite painfully, just how out of his element he is in this arc.

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It’s brutal to see him so out of sorts and so powerless to do anything about it. And this time, he doesn’t even have Emilia backing him up, because he’s going against his promise to stay put, which was a really bad decision.

Also bad? Thinking his Shamac spell would be of any use against a knight of Julius’ stature. Subie cannot lay a finger on him, and gets beaten within an inch of his life for refusing to yield. He also ignores a frantic Emilia’s cries to stop this madness, but he ignores them.

This is about more than just preserving Emilia’s pride, something he’s all too ill-equipped to do anyway. It’s about his pride as well. The only problem is, he’s all alone on this one.

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What’s shocking is just how little Subaru realizes how much harm he’s done in these last two episodes. That makes it all the more torturous when Emilia finally lets him have it after he wakes up from his unnecessary beating. Her anger and disappointment cast a gloomy pall on what would otherwise be another gorgeously-lit bedside scene.

To be fair, Subaru physically can’t tell Emilia about any of the previous timelines, but even if he could, how can she trust anything he says when he so brazenly breaks promises he made to her and causes so much chaos in the midst of a delicate succession process?

The time for second chances and slaps on the wrist are over for Subaru, who has never seemed more out of place in this fantasy world. Bottom line: the Emilia before him and the “vision” of Emilia in his mind, are two different people, and he has to come to terms with that.

What does Subie do to counter Emilia’s litany of harsh truths? He digs himself an even deeper hole, selfishly rattling off all of the ways Emilia is indebted to him. That goes about as well as expected: Emilia agrees to repay all of those debts quickly, so they can then part ways, then walks out of the room, stating how she had—past tense—hopes for him. Ouch.

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So far, in this arc, the bad guy is Subaru, but I hope it doesn’t stay that way. The hole he started digging last week became a virtual mine shaft into the bowels of the Earth, and he has no one to blame but himself. Climbing out won’t be easy, even if he dies and wakes up back before all this awful business at the palace.

At the moment, I can’t see any way to earn back the trust and respect he lost today, other than by not losing it to begin with. But what would impress me even more is if Re:Zero and Subie didn’t rely on the Reset button, but found another way to redeem himself.

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Charlotte – 02

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Yuu’s first day at Hoshinoumi Academy is fairly eventful, as Joujirou demonstrates the incredibly destructive and unnecessary way he buys lunch. But while his demonstration and its resulting wounds is played for laughs (and it is pretty funny on its face), the show delves into darker territory with regard to the effects special abilities have on the people who possess them.

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But first, Nao and Joujirou show Yuu how they operate, using the location pinpointing and power identification skills of a “comrade” to locate ability users who, like Yuu, are up to no good. In this case, it’s the archery captain, who uses his “thoughtography” ability to produce images of girls in their underwear which he then sells…to help support his struggling family.

Nao and Joujirou put Yuu to work immediately, using his body-swapping ability to get the name of the culprit and foil his attempt to blackmail Nao (who is nonetheless flattered that the culprit thinks she’s attractive). It’s clear Yuu is a good fit, and that he’s now on the straight and narrow stopping people from going too far with their powers or using them for nefarious purposes.

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The StuCo he’s now in less about punishing the ability users and more about protecting them from themselves. Those who get discovered are often taken away by the powers that be to have their brains poked and prodded. Nao knows this because her own brother, the first youth who had a power awaken in them, underwent just that kind of intrusive experimentation, leaving him a husk of the person he once was.

The importance, and indeed nobility of The StuCo’s cause is underlined greatly when Nao brings Yuu to see her brother. At this point, Nao is used to him not reacting to anything, despite his hospital being in the most gorgeous, P.A.Works-y environment possible. She even buys lunch and eats it on the train like they’re on some workaday errand, not visiting her profoundly wounded brother.

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Her casual attitude may be Nao attempting to live as normal and happy a life as she can in her brother’s stead, because she managed to escape the same fate. But however you interpret it, it’s a brother-sister dynamic Yuu doesn’t repeated with him and his beloved Ayumi. While initially resistant to all the crazy crap going on at Hoshinoumi with Nao and Joujirou, perhaps Yuu will continue to be more smart with his powers and get with the program.

After all, as Nao says, any of them could be captured tomorrow and their lives and the lives of those they love irreparably ruined. For all its goofy or laughable moments, Charlotte doesn’t fail to bring the gravity either. That combo makes sense: for those with lives almost always on the brink and an ongoing mission that may not end until they lose their powers at adolescence, one must have fun, goof off, buy beef tongue and destroy a cafeteria now and then to maintain their sanity.

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