Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 13 – The Bug

Both the wills of individuals and the collective will of humanity can usually be likened to a swarm of bugs around a light; moving chaotically without coordination. But a majority of the bugs that comprise Nagi’s will are aligned towards a a confrontation with the serial killer, for which she is diligently preparing but may still be woefully overmatched.

That certainly seems to be Sasaki’s opinion on the matter, as the bug within him can’t simply let her be, lest she end up hurt or killed simply for following her own will and sense of justice. If anyone is going to protect her, he figures it should be the one who deprived her of her father, the person who would otherwise be responsible.

Sasaki’s supicions are confirmed: Kisugi has set a trap for Nagi, whom she suspected would show up in superhero guise (Nagi’s jumpsuit is indeed totally badass): have her tranquilized via sniper rifle, then proceed to explore her delicious fear.

Sasaki delivers a killing blow before he notices it isn’t Kisugi, but Pigeon, who stabs him right back as revenge for killing Kuroda (her own bug she couldn’t ignore). But Pigeon distracts Sasaki from Kisugi, who puts her arm through his chest.

Just like that, the backup both Sasaski and I believed would be crucial to Nagi’s survival has been taken off the board in gruesome fashion, a sentiment reinforced when Sasaki tosses his corpse out the window, then leaps out herself and lands on her feet far too close to Nagi for comfort.

But true to her name, Nagi keeps calm and carries on. She starts to flee Kisugi, first on foot then on bike, but the Kisugi’s personal flirtation with evolution has made her as fast in heels as Nagi can pedal, and it isn’t long before she’s caught her up.

Yet still, there’s something about the deliberate manner in which Nagi flees—constantly looking back to make sure she’s being followed—that suggests the chase is unfolding precisely how Nagi planned. Even when Kisugi loses her temper and starts dunking Nagi’s head in a pond and kicking the shit out of her, there isn’t a trace of panic on Nagi’s face.

Kisugi finally visualizes Nagi’s weakness—someone she loves dying before her, like her father—while her actions confirm to Nagi that she’s someone who preys on those perceived to be fearless. Kisugi is right that no one is truly fearless, which means there’s no one she can’t feed off of.

But Nagi’s fear in that moment is less that she’s about to be killed or worse, but more worry that the intricate plan she’s set up might fail. That she will fail to become the superhero she thought she could be. But it doesn’t fail, because Kisugi is part of the circuit of the pond, while Nagi in her thick insulated suit isn’t…and has a weapon that shoots electrical arcs.

Thus Nagi does the equivalent of drop a giant plugged-in toaster into the bathtub, zapping Kisugi with thousands of volts and doing significant damage to a body already taxed to the brink by all of her DIY “evolution.” When Nagi puts her in an arm hold, the arm pops off, and Kisugi flees.

It’s then when an ally far more powerful than Sasaki appears, only to voice their surprise Nagi didn’t need them after all. The situation was always under control, though Nagi could rightly say she relied on some luck in everything going perfectly.

Now Kisugi is the hunted, and full of fear. Turns out she’s a fear ghoul, and definitely an enemy of humanity, which means Boogiepop has popped up to finish her off. But they give credit to Nagi for defeating Kisugi and making the kill so easy.

Nagi manages to be with Sasaki before he dies, and his last words are of relief that she’s still alive, and that “the bug” within him isn’t so bad. Boogiepop then determines it would be best if the blame for the serial murders were placed on Sasaki, due to the complications of the culprit being a doctor of Kisugi’s caliber.

More than that, the bug in Sasaki would be fine doing whatever Nagi wanted, including piling the blame on him. Nagi, meanwhile, still feels like she messed everything up in the case. But she learned a lot from it too, and that wisdom gained will serve her as she keeps fighting. Not to mention “Boogiepop”, as they introduce themselves to Nagi, will be there to help when needed.

Back on the ruined world, which we learn isn’t the Earth of Nagi or Touka but some kind of “distorted world”, Boogiepop wrap up their story to Echoes, as the two contemplate the causality starting with Kuroda saving Nagi, all the way to Echoes and Manticore showing up on Earth.

Echoes muses that Nagi continues to fight because she’s “carrying on the feelings of those she encounters.” That’s one way you could describe an investigator, or a superhero, or both, which is what Nagi is. As Echoes takes his leave, Boogiepop commits themselves to leaving the distorted world and returning to Earth.

Because even if Boogiepop doesn’t know precisely how or why they pop up, they understand intrinsically that it is right for them to do so; that it’s beneficial to humanity and thus necessary to continue. Even Boogiepop has a bug.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 12 – Those For Whom The World Is Not Ready

One day, Nagi’s father Seiichi is approached by a girl who can tell he’s going to die soon. He already knows this. He only set out to be an author whose works people would read, but for reasons he could never explain, his writing ended up doing much more.

It inspired and emboldened an entire underclass of those with “abilities” who were shunned by the rest of the world. But people were reading, so he kept writing, even when it might attract the wrong attention. Even if it put him in the crosshairs of those who wanted to keep those people down. And yes, even if it deprived Kirima Nagi of a father.

So, the girl says, if Seiichi dies, the movement dies with him, a failure. To this he rebuts: what is failure? Not to get all Star Warsy, but Yoda would say it’s the greatest teacher. Seiichi is comfortable dying because he did everything he could with the time he had, and trusts that those who come after him will learn from it, carry on, and improve bit by bit.

They could be his enemy or just a passerby, but they are still capable of adopting and surpassing what he began. No one should be so arrogant to think they are the beginning or ending of anything. And the girl Seiichi is speaking to? A young Minahoshi Suiko, the future Imaginator.

Shortly after their exchange, Seiichi is assassinated by the same Towa operative who killed Scarecrow: Sasaki. Seiichi begs him not to kill Nagi too, and he doesn’t…but Nagi still walks in on her father in a pool of blood, his last words to her asking what she thinks “normal” is.

Fast forward to middle school Nagi’s time. Pigeon gives Sasaki his next mission: find the person committing all the grisly murders and eliminate them if necessary. Pige thinks he’ll have an easy go of it, being a “murderer” himself.

Sasaki conducts his own investigation, only to find he’s being carefully observed by Kirima Nagi, daughter of the man he killed a few years ago. Mind you, Nagi doesn’t know he killed him, and can see how he would blend into the background with his salaryman appearance. But she can tell he has an knack for investigations, and suggests they join forces…all while Kisugi watches from a distance.

Nagi and Sasaki manage to snag a friend of one of the victims, who assures them the victim had no lingering grudges or enemies. But she also mentions that her friend was fearless, in particular compared to herself. Sasaki likens the description to Nagi, but she says even she’s sacred of some things; this victim apparently wasn’t.

Nagi recalls her talk with Kisugi, and asks “why does fear exist?”, the same thing someone told the victim’s friend before she met Nagi and Sasaki. Nagi connects the dots, and promptly drops Sasaki as both a partner and a suspect—he doesn’t kill of his own accord, only for his job. He’s not the dyed-in-the-wool killer Nagi is looking for.

Now, I imagine, she suspects Kisugi most of all, which is exactly what Kisugi wants, and why she left her that clue: so she’d to come to her. After all, Kisugi believes Nagi’s fear will be better than any she’s ever tasted.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 11 – Be Very Afraid

Kishima Nagi is on the mend, and wonders if her psychiatrist, Dr. Kisugi Makiko, thought her fits of pain were only in her head. Nagi doesn’t know that Kisugi discovered the vial of the mysterious drug Scarecrow used to heal her. Kisugi experiments on lab rats, but soon it’s clear she’s graduated to unwilling human test subjects, who are turning up all over town as the victims of a serial killer with a very specific method of ripping open the jaw and sucking out the victims’ brains.

At night Kisugi roams the dark halls of the hospital, preying on patients by heightening their fear (she’s capable of seeing someone’s weakness the same way Jin could see their flowers) then sucking the fear-filled blood like a vampire. She revels in being able to rip out her own eye only for it to regenerate; clearly she’s her own test subject as well, and she’s downright drunk on the fear of others.

She determines that the best-tasting fear comes from those who’d normally have none, like bold young women, which is why so many of her victims are high school girls. But as a psychiatrist she is also considering using her talk patients as food/research fodder. One of those patients is a young Miyashita Touka, sporting long hair and flanked by her mother, who fears she has Dissociative Identity Disorder.

This confirms that while we enter the world of Boogiepop with Touka as a high schooler, Boogiepop has been showing up in her body since far earlier. Excusing Touka’s mother, Kisugi has Touka talk like a man, and before long, her other personality is out, and wastes no time describing who they are (neither man nor woman, for one thing) and what their mission is.

Boogiepop tells Kisugi that she’s a predator for people so normal it’s easy for them to be “set off” like fuses into someone who could be a threat to the world. Boogiepop exists to eliminate threats to the world without mercy. Their discussion puts Kisugi on notice as someone who should probably stop what they’re doing lest they incur Boogiepop’s wrath, but it may be too late.

Kisugi doesn’t seem willing or able to control herself anymore; she’s in too deep. Though if there’s a bright side to all this, it’s that she won’t end up killing Touka as she considers here; we know Touka will be fine, and that her “disorder” won’t be “cured”, nor should it be. So the question is, how will Boogiepop, possessing Lil’ Touka, take Kisugi down? Or will Towa, whose serum she’s messing with, do it for them?

Inuyashiki – 03

As soon as Hiro realizes the old man he killed wasn’t effected by his “air gun”, he bolts, and by bolt I mean launch into the sky and scream off like a fighter jet. Thus, the big standoff between him and Ichirou is postponed. But as he wakes up from a nightmare of the death he witnessed, Ichirou knows he’ll have to find and confront him sometime.

This boy is like him, but whether his powers have twisted him into a monster, or he was always a sociopath and only now has the means to do as he pleases, Ichirou knows he’s the only one who can stop him. Essentially, some whippersnapper needs an ear-boxing.

Hiro isn’t the first evil, nor is he the only evil in the world, or even in the vicinity of Ichirou’s home and work; far from it. You don’t need to be killed and reconstructed by an advanced alien race to be a dickbag that doesn’t care about anyone or anything, as evidenced by the kids who attacked a homeless man, or a group of athletic young toughs who plan to kill a man for daring to tell them to wait in line.

Like any and every great hero, Ichirou doesn’t buy into a world where the strong unrelentingly prey on the weak. Why should he? He may be one of the two strongest beings on the planet. No, with strength comes not carte blanche, but noblesse oblige. Just as Hiro was a bad person before getting reconstructed, Ichirou was always a good and just man.

It’s only now, like Hiro, that he’s able to act on his kind and virtuous nature. When it looks bad for the poor man surrounded by much larger ones, Ichirou takes out the trash. But he doesn’t kill anyone, nor is there any malice in his actions; only a desire to stop a great wrong from being committed, and ensure the safety of those who cannot ensure it themselves.

Once his “Grampy-sense” detects a family struggling to escape a house fire, he wills the machinery within his back to come out and propel him to the danger in time to save them. He does so by singing the theme to Astro Boy.

At first, his built-in jetpack is a little too much to handle; he screams bloody murder as he’s flung every which way, a scene that’s as awesome as it is frikkin’ hilarious. In a show that gets as intense as this one, it’s nice to know we’ll always have some moments of levity.

He gets the hang of it pretty quickly, and manages to save not only the crying children’s father, but their grandmother as well. Instead of thanks and praise, he asks that they not mention him to the authorities, and having just been miraculously saved by him, one hopes they would respect his wishes.

Ichirou is an unconditional hero to all, not because he can, with his wondrous new powers, but because he feel he must. He wouldn’t be able to live with himself if he stood by and did nothing when his actions can make a positive difference in the world. Compare this to his pre-transformation, when he was just trying to maintain, and was diagnosed with terminal cancer for his trouble. A man of inaction, no longer is he.

Hiro, while a monster, seems to remain tied to his humanity through his best friend Andou, whom he finally convinces to come to school, promising to protect him. He is, or at least is trying to be, a hero of one…unfortunately for the rest of the world, not to mention Andou.

When the bullies return to Andou’s desk and threaten him, Hiro wastes no time taking the wrist of their strongest and squeezing it hard enough to make him cry, apologize, and insult himself and his friends.

I can’t tell whether Hiro is using laser-sharp precision to apply just enough pressure to the guy’s wrist, or struggling as hard as he can not to squeeze to hard, snap his arm off and expose himself at school. I like how there’s uncertainty in something like that.

Hiro takes Andou to the roof where the bullies initially told them to meet, but they already left with some girls. Hiro gives Andou some binoculars and starts pointing out into the distance and saying “BANG.” Eventually, Andou pans to where Hiro was “shooting”, and finds the four bullies dead, all shot in the head with invisible bullets that leave no trace; the scared-shitless girls having no idea what just happened.

It’s too far. Andou is a gentle soul; he can’t take this shit, and wastes no time rejecting Hiro and warning him to stay away when Hiro refuses to turn himself into the police. All of the things Hiro did to that point to impress Andou—humiliate then kill bullies, boast of his ability to nuke China with US missile, steal thousands of dollars from the ATM—only serve to disgust Andou and push him further away.

Their friendship is over, but Hiro reacts the same way he does to everything, save his brief encounter with Ichirou: calmly. Too, calmly, if you ask me. Without Andou to provide even a semblance of a tether, Hiro’s monstrous acts may only increase in scale and scope.

Inuyashiki likes to punch below the belt, as when an adorable mama cat and her kitten walk past a charmed Ichirou, only for the mom to get hit by a car right in front of him. Exhibiting uncommon goodness that makes one’s eyes well up, he takes the cat into his arms, even though he can’t do anything for her…then learns that he actually can.

Ichirou scans that dead cat and fixes her right up, and she and her kitten stride off like nothing ever happened, giving Ichirou the one thank-you he wished he always got: no thank-you at all. Ichirou is overcome with joy and gratitude for the gift he has been given, and immediately stops by a hospital to heal as many people as he can.

And yet, as he’s been going around left and right saving lives, his opposite Hiro is out there taking them, as if the universe itself were maintaining the balance from suddenly having two such immensely powerful beings in such close proximity. If both were evil killers, humanity would be toast, but Ichirou is as good as Hiro is bad.

Witness the ending, in which the camera mercifully doesn’t follow Hiro inside another house for another routine family-killing. It just stays there, frozen, and we realize just how goddamn quickly Hiro purges the house of all life before walking out, spotting two passing boys—clearly friends—running past, and thinks long and hard about killing them too.

By holding his fire, was he trying to prove to himself that he can control himself when he needs to even without Andou? Perhaps he still has a degree of restraint, owing to the same sense of self-preservation that induced him to escape from Ichirou. But that restraint can’t last.

The first two episodes introduced our characters: the third explored their powers further and illustrated how far they can take those powers—in both moral directions. Hiro seems to be on the path to ruin; Ichirou, on the path to sainthood. But in a universe of balance, perhaps neither will ever reach their destination.

Fate / Zero – 06

“I may be an ancient king…but I don’t think you should be driving like this!”

And now I’ve come to it: the Fate/Zero equivalent of a meh episode. It had to happen sometime, so better early on than not; also, after last week’s multivector face-off and just-as-rapid standdown, it’s hard for the immediate aftermath episode to not feel a bit…anticlimactic.

And while I’ve enjoyed the moments of levity Zero has managed to weave into the action and drama, Iri’s crazy drive along a twisty mountain road kinda fell flat for me. I totally get the joy she feels from being ‘let out of the birdcage’, so to speak, and perhaps it was the animation, but the drive felt way too reckless for no reason.

“We can’t exchange insurance info if you’re all the way over there!”

It’s a good thing Caster seems to be standing in the middle of a straight and not on the other side of a blind turn; otherwise Iri would have hit him (and what a shame that would have been); instead, they get out and have a deeply unpleasant exchange with him.

Since taking out that kid after letting him think he was home free with his dark tentacles, Caster has not endeared himself to me, and his ranting about Saber being Jeanne d’Arc reincarnate does him no favors. I’m totally with Saber that I dislike opponents who you can’t reason with because they lack reason.

Thats…not…good…

In addition to being illogical and maddening to deal with, Caster is also a despicable monster, like his Master Uryuu, crucifying kids while still alive. They’ve abducted fifteen from a couple of towns, which just seems like a lot, though to be honest I’m not sure how much time they’ve had to do it.

In any case, Caster insists they must sacrifice all the children they have as soon as possible, then go out and get more, which, sure, fantastic. Even Uryuu is like, ‘I guess we’re just different kinds of serial killers.’

“Why do I have two Masters…and why are they so lame?”

Archie sits in his hotel room, scolding a brooding Lancer, until his companion Sola-Ui, who despite Archie’s Command Seals, is the Mana behind the Master. She’s not afraid to speak her mind to Archie about his hiding in the shadows, but Lancer then scolds her for badmouthing his Master. Even though technically, the two of them are more like Co-Masters.

In any case, Archie belives (rightly) that Saber will try to attempt a rematch with Lancer before fighting anyone else, to undo her cursed wound. So he’s laid a trap, filling an entire floor of the hotel with magical booby traps, and is very excited to see how everything works out.

“Look, that building had all kinds of code violations anyway.”

And then Kiritsugu just burns the whole mother down. I’ll admit, it’s a fine fake-out, and yet another stealthily bad-ass move from Kiritsugu, who approaches his work in a very deliberate, disciplined, military fashion.

I also appreciated that he’s aware that he has disrupted and possibly ruined more than a few lives by blowing up the building, but he’s going to defeat the other mages by any means necessary—but not by killing innocent people.

Kirei manages to briefly corner Maiya in an adjacent structure, but Kiritsugu bails her out with a well-timed smoke bomb. As for Archie, Sola-Ui and Lancer…I’m sure they’re just fine.

“Hey God Boy—run out and get me some more libations!”

Later, Kirei’s Assassins inform him, Risei and Tokiomi of Caster and his Master’s horrific crimes, which threaten the secrecy of the War. As observer, Risei stands ready to exercise his power to make minor rule changes; in this case, ordering all Masters to take out Caster ASAP. He’s a rogue element, and clearly Saber and Iri (and I) aren’t the only ones who’d rather he went away as soon as possible.

After a long day of morally ambiguous activity, Kirei encounters Archer getting drunk (or attempting/failing to do so) on a couch, who not only voices his disappointment in his Master, but also tries to pry out of Kirei what he’s getting out of this; what he desires. If Kirei doesn’t know, Gil figures he should use his Assassins to determine what motivates the others, so he might gain insight into his own motives.

So while Kiritsugu and Maiya’s special ops exploits were pretty cool and I dug the potential realignment of the War to focus on taking out the most irredeemably loathsome Master-Servant pair, I wasn’t as enamored with Lancer’s Co-Masters (indeed, I kinda just feel sorry for him), Saber and Iri only showed up for two minutes, and Waiver, Rider, Kariya and Berserker took the week off—and at least two of them were missed. So yeah, a 7 seems about right.

Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 09

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This episode was very good, as is to be expected of a show where even its off days are very good, but it couldn’t avoid the feeling of a bridge episode. Much of the very goodest-ness comes in the first half, which resolves the standoff with Kayo’s mom, Akemi.

An enraged Akemi takes a snow shovel to Sachiko, but the wound is thankfully superficial, and Satoru’s mom stands her ground. The trap has already worked; social services are right there, and Akemi’s inability to do anything about her missing 11-year-old daughter for three days is sufficient evidence to take Kayo away.

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Akemi tries to paint herself as the victim, grabbing Kayo and shuffling off to the police, but her estranged mother (whom I imagine Yashiro managed to contact) stops her in her tracks. It only takes a few moments for our abject hatred of Akemi to soften–just a little–when we learn that she too was a victim of abuse by her now-ex-husband after all.

Neither Kayo nor Satoru are as forgiving; after all, two wrongs don’t make a right. But Akemi’s breakdown and glimmer of the life she’s led at least makes her actions understandable. She’s not the sociopath I though she was; but took her frustration out on Kayo because it was easy,unlike so much else in her life.

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Akemi also accepts her mother taking Kayo away to live with her; it’s clearly better for both of them. Sachiko wants to believe even Akemi feels, at times, love for her daughter, and one could either call her acceptance of the handover proof of that love, though no doubt part of it is relieving her of a burden she clearly couldn’t bear on her own.

With that, Satoru and Kayo quietly part ways (with Kayo being borne away in Yashiro’s 4WD Toyota Sprinter Carib, AKA Tercel Wagon), with Satoru confident Kayo now has a future where she can make her mark. He saved her from her mom and from the killer.

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At this point, I thought he’d be sent back to the non-letterboxed present, where perhaps he could track down a lovely 29-year-old Kayo! But hold on now, there’s still two more victims to save: Hiromi and Aya. Satoru wastes no time starting his investigations on the other two, taking careful notes of their daily patterns.

The switch to “new cases” is a little jarring in its abruptness, but then again I guess there’s no rest for the weary (whose come from nearly three decades into the future to save three of his peers from a serial child-killer).

I also appreciated that the somewhat shut-in Satoru, even 29 years old, isn’t any better at knowing how to properly approach a girl than his 11-year-old version would be. Perhaps the older Satoru is even worse, considering he has a lot more on his mind than a kid would.

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One night, his Aya-following is cut short when he bumps into his mom, over-laden with discount groceries. By a second coincidence, Yashiro’s in the vicinity and offers the two a ride. Satoru rides shotgun, and notices Yashiro’s nervous steering wheel tapping.

When Satoru pulls at something sticking out of the glovebox and it bursts open to reveal a treasure trove of candies, for a second it felt like the show was selling–and I was buying–that something was very, FREE CANDYly wrong in Denmark Yashiroland.

Rather amazingly (and hilariously), the excess candy is excused away by Yashiro’s confession that ever since he quit smoking he’s satisfied his oral fixation with candy. And yet, I wonder what the show intended by giving me such a momentary fright!

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As for Kenya, who notices Satoru is at it again (it being super-heroics for another kid’s sake) and wants in, I’m 99.9% convinced he’s not a bad guy or a fellow time traveler, just a very bright and perceptive kid who will continue to be a valuable ally in Satoru’s efforts.

When Satoru tells him his suspicions about a serial child-killer, Kenya is 99% sure it’s all in his friend’s head, but he doesn’t discount the 1% possibility Satoru is telling the absolute truth (which he is) and is committed to believing his friend, just as Airi was in the present. Even Hiromi wants to believe him, though he doesn’t see the need to such excess caution where his personal safety is concerned.

When Satoru asks Kenya and Hiromi to accompany him “somewhere” after school, I’m guessing it has something to do with Aya. I imagine Satoru is eager to kill two birds with one stone, but knows that if he takes his eye of one would-be victim too long he risks losing the other.

But the lingering shot of Misato (the girl who accused Kayo of stealing in the previous timeline) also suggested that maybe Hiromi and Aya aren’t the only ones Satoru needs to watch and protect. By saving Kayo, did he inadvertently condemn Misato?

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 01 (First Impressions)

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Yikes, Hannah did not like Active Raid one bit; no she did not! I, on the other hand, seem to have stumbled on what could be one of the season’s top shows. It’s certainly the best so far after one episode. And it did it with a highly realistic and immersive setting; a gloomy atmosphere full of regret over things not done or unsaid; and a young man unable to progress in life, still haunted by hazy memories and mysteries of the past. Moreover, it didn’t pull its punches.

Oh yeah, and said young man, 29-year-old struggling mangaka/pizza delivery boy Fujinuma Satoru, has a power. No, he can’t defeat villains with one punch, but he does periodically, involuntarily go back a couple of minutes in time when something bad happens around him, enabling him to take action to prevent disaster.

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The reveal of that ability is the first of many jolts this episode gave me, and it’s an ability expertly demonstrated when he stops a truck from hitting a little boy in the crosswalk. Saving the boy gets him injured, and while he’s out, he remembers one of those hazy memories: a haunting image of a little girl in a red coat standing alone in the snowy night. This realm – near the “heart of his mind”, is a place he has always feared, and both his creative calling and social life are suffering as a result.

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That doesn’t mean good things don’t happen to Satoru. His selfless, heroic actions were witnessed by a cute high school girl (and his pizza joint co-worker) Katagiri Airi, who stays by his bedside, now seeing him in a new light. But Satoru doesn’t see anything more coming of such an auspicious encounter; after all, they’re not the same generation, and a lot of her “Gen-Y” sayings and doings are strange and frightening to him.

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Speaking of generations, his mother Sachiko, 52 but looking 32 (he calls her an ageless “yokai” more than once) crashes at his house for a while when he’s discharged from the hospital. This puts Satoru in yet another light, not as the intriguing senpai with the secret heroic life, but the darling son whose mother is worried about him.

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Both his mom’s presence and news of abductions on the television bring more memories to the surface, to when Satoru was a little kid and used to play with a local guy he nicknamed “Yuuki.” Something seems a little off about how Yuuki looks and talks, and sure enough, after two kids from Satoru’s class are abducted, Yuuki is arrested as the culprit and sent to prison for kidnapping and murder.

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When Sachiko and Airi cross paths, the former invites the latter to Satoru’s for dinner, and Satoru starts to suspect his mom is looking for a wife for him, taking Airi’s words about him being “a friend she respects” as a mere polite formality, and that she has no further interest in him. But I imagined, like Sachiko did, that Airi was more interested in Satoru than he thought, considering she bothered to spend so much time with him as late.

Later, as Satoru looks further into the crimes Yuuki was accused of, Sachiko gets suspicious of a person she sees out in the city, knowing the serial abduction and murder case isn’t actually closed yet. She’s always regretted withholding info from Satoru, and making him forget as much as he could about the dark events that transpired in the fifth grade.

Because Satoru knows Yuuki didn’t abduct or kill anyone. It was someone else. Further, that scene of the girl in red – Hinazuki Kayo – was the last time Satoru saw her before she disappeared. He’s blamed himself for not asking her if he could walk her home ever since.

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In any case, Sachiko never gets the chance to come clean with her son, as a mysterious assailant in a black suit enters the apartment and suddenly stabs her in the back, killing her. Now this was a huge jolt. Holy shit. Here, I had settled into this nice, warm, pleasant atmosphere with Satoru and his lovely mother and Airi and it’s all taken away with one plunge of a knife. Damn…

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The killer passes Satoru in the hall as he returns home from the bookstore, and only moments after discovering his mother inside his apartment, the neighbor sees him with blood on his hands and calls the cops. Things threaten to spiral out of control fast as Satoru—like Yuuki, AKA Shiratori Jun—looks poised to be framed. And my heart is pumping.

Just then, another blue butterfly appears – a sign another “revival” or time jump is about to occur, and all of a sudden Satoru isn’t dealing with cops in the city anymore. He’s back in Hokkaido, in the snow, and he’s gone back a little more than a couple minutes, because it’s 1988.

No doubt, Kayo is still alive, and he has a chance to do things differently. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is one hell of an enticing way to end your first episode!

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 20

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Disappointingly, Parasyte takes a turn for the worse this week, completely sidelining Shinichi and Migi and instead focusing the entirety of its running time to a dull, repetitive, interminable, and at many points downright moronic SWAT operation.

Random humans I don’t particularly care about, ineptly battling a cadre of random parasytes I barely know and also don’t care about, is not a formula for an episode of television I’m going to, well, care about. It is, in fact, a recipe for a pedestrian slog; one I couldn’t wait to be over.

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Yamagishi, leader of the Parasyte Extermination Squad, seems to have a shrewd head on his shoulders, but quickly lets us down by employing scorched-earth tactics in hunting down the parasytes infesting the city hall, with absolutely no regard for either his troops or the scores of civilian bystanders, which he ends up treating like hostages. The scar on his scalp should have been a hint that this guy has a screw loose.

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It’s a plan that mostly succeeds because the parasytes assumed their enemy would be hampered by the presence of those bystanders. In other words, they assumed the humans would act like humans, instead of acting just like them: cold and efficient. In concept this is an apt commentary on the lengths humanity will go to in order to survive, including abandoning the precepts and conducts of civilization they typically abide by. But the execution is clunky, and as I said, I’m invested in neither party.

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The only member of the extermination squad I give a rat’s ass about is the psychic killer Urugami, and if I’m honest, that’s only because he’s voiced by Yoshino Hiroyuki. But Urugami is missing the exuberance of Yoshino’s other comedic and semi-comedic roles, and his too-on-the-nose snide comments about who’s calling whom a killer quickly grow tiresome.

He redeems himself, somewhat, by purporting to be bored and tired of this whole enterprise, telling the dudes with the guns to just shoot whoever, because it’s too much of a hassle determining who’s a parasyte and who isn’t.

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Whoa, dude, watch where you’re pointing that thing!

Yamagishi adopts a similar attitude when the parasytes scatter and we find ourselves in a seemingly never-ending sequence of him deploying, splitting, merging, and re-directing the various units under his command. “Screw it, just shoot anything that moves” becomes the standing order.

This isn’t particularly reassuring considering they seem to have recruited all these riot cops from high school. That there are all a bunch of unskilled, undisciplined, idiotic teenagers behind those masks is the only explanation for their gross incompetence.

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Aww, look how neatly they laid their clothes on the chair before gettin’ it on

They have endless opportunities to demonstrate that incompetence since this is The Raid That Never Ends. They do, however, bust in on a couple of stragglers in flagrante delicto, which is pretty funny. Nothing like gunfire and the persistent fear of death to excite the libido, eh?

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I’m sad because I’m not in this episode and I have nothing to do…

Meanwhile, the one character whose fate we still care about literally sits on the sidelines, doing nothing and saying almost nothing. He remarks about how there’s surely something he can do…but the writers don’t accomodate him. I think all Migi says is “No,” either unwilling to participate in the utter extermination of his own kind, or worried the threat of so many parasytes in one place is too great to involve themselves.

It’s Migi’s usual prudent pragmatism, but it just doesn’t make for good TV.

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But here’s the worst part: while this episode ends, the raid doesn’t, as there’s still a boss and overboss-level parasytes still standing, along with a handful of riot police. My last straw for the idiot police is when they listen to Gotou and willingly follow him into a larger room so he can more impressively kill them all.

It’s a blatantly staged action set piece with no purpose other than to demonstrate what has already been well-established at this point—that Gotou is a tough cookie—and it elicits little more than a shrug and a sigh. Franklin has abandoned ship, but I must admit after this plodding dawdle, even my patience is starting to fray.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 19

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Because Franklin had the call last week, I actually never even got around to watching Kiseijuu 18 (or reading his review of it) until tonight, just before episode 19. Watching the two back-to-back revealed something to me: we’re in full serialization mode here.  18 kind of just ended, as does 19. In both cases, I was eager to watch more. But this also makes it harder to review the show on an episode-by-episode basis, since we’re dealing with pieces of a puzzle slowly coming together.

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What also struck me by watching these two episodes back-to-back, without regard to their running time, was how little seemed to have happened in roughly 44 minutes’ time. Don’t get me wrong; Ryouko dying last week and the cops finally cornering the parasite mayor this week are all big events, but I still got a “where did the time go?” vibe to both episodes, as if it was holding back, which it is, of course, because there are still five episodes to go.

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I’ll be blunt: I don’t much care about the serial killer convict, besides the fact that he developed the Kana-like ability to detect non-humans out of his own predatory nature. He’s a sociopath; wolf in a world of sheep, so it stands to reason he’d be able to detect other wolves.

But his little monologue feels like little more than padding, and it can’t distract me from the oddness of the Ryouko standoff, or the fact that in the situation where Satomi should have figured out a lot about Shinichi, she didn’t, but rather decided quite arbitrarily that he was “back” because she saw him crying while holding a baby. Tears and babies? Those are politicians’ tricks.

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Even if it’s only the latest piece of the puzzle lined with unnecessary padding and dare I say stalling; the fact of the matter is, the remaining organized parasites are starting to feel the walls closing in. They surmise that their associates tried to off Ryouko of their own accord and failed, and then Ryouko herself was killed by police.

We haven’t seen much police action until these last two episodes, but it’s clear they’ve been working diligently behind the scenes to develop not only a defense against the parasites, but a plan of attack, or rather extermination. The death of Ryouko was a blow to them, because it meant the death of someone who could be a conduit between the two peoples.

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And then there’s Satomi. Despite her not finding out about Migi or most of the other horrors Shinichi’s been through, she is content with the knowledge Shinichi is in the midst of a struggle not entirely of his own making, which is actually the truth: he didn’t ask to be infiltrated by Migi. The details don’t matter to her; all she cares about is remaining close to and supporting her man, because she knows he’s doing everything he can to protect her.

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Still, Satomi is brimming with denial. It’s one thing to be blissfully unaware of the details, but to try to keep Shinichi out of something he’s already waist-deep in is a fool’s errand. At this point it will be a miracle if she doesn’t end up another collateral victim. But standing with Shinichi, even in harm’s way, is her choice, and I appreciated and respected the loyalty and resolve she exhibited this week, despite her ignorance.

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Despite Satomi’s protestations, the police convince Shinichi to assist them (along with the convict) to help them identify parasites in an office building they storm with SWAT forces and then evacuate seven people at a time, all of whom pass through special sensors that can detect “non-human material.” Among the occupants of the building are the mayor and his aides, all parasites, whom Migi can generally sense but not yet pinpoint.

The police get their first catch of the day, and the episode ends there, just as abruptly as last week. We must be content with what we got and await the events that follow. Since some of the larger parasite personalities are in play here, it should be good. And therein lies the problem: these past three weeks this show has been merely good, despite having proven in the past it can be so much more than that.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 04

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You Do NOT Pick on Mikado…and you do NOT take a Kodata punch.

For three weeks, we’ve watched intently and patiently as Durarara!! built another painstakingly insane Rube Goldberg machine with a combination of familiar and new faces. This week, the machine is complete, and all that’s left is to switch it on and hope it works. Well, it not only held together, but blew me away. Even more amazing? For our friends, this was a day off.

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Let’s merge these chases!

Rather than a changing of the guard, this culmination was an initiation for the communities newbies.  The existing team isn’t going anywhere, necessarily, so the new guys will be augmenting and adding complexity…which is in ample supply this week.

The van quartet, fresh from rescuing the twins, also show up in time to rescue Mikado, Anri, and Aoba, and all of a sudden the van’s at capacity with the zebras on their back. In a brilliant piece of synergy, their chase merges with Celty’s, and the only way to get the kids safe is to hold the stampede off.

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“Time to do my thing.”

Celty finds an underpass and does just that, using her Dullahan skills to form a barrier. But even if the force against her is mostly numbskulls, there are hundreds of them, and she’s not about to kill anyone today.

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“Your assistance is appreciated.”

When her web starts getting holes, the man in her package pops out to help, looking a lot like a lanky Freddy Krueger. They’re also assisted by a headless suit of armor, which we see at the beginning is in Ruri’s workshop. This episode is called “Do as the Romans Do”, and Ruri and “Freddy” are in Rome, so they dive right in to help Celty.

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You tore my shirt and dropped by 500-yen coffee. Prepare to DIE.

The Zebra gang is soundly beaten, but because they know their boss won’t tolerate them crawling home with their tails between their legs, they try to find a tough rival gang to dice with. Bad move. Those unwelcome in Rome who pick fights meet a sticky end…and I’m not just talking about Shizuo’s spilled Starbucks.

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“Why don’t you smile?” “I AM smiling.”

Meanwhile, Kasuka makes what is the beginning of a beautiful personal relationship with Ruri a professional one as well, getting her signed to his agency after the CEO of hers has turned up missing. Ruri remarks how there’s so much she hasn’t told Kasuka about her, like what the missing CEO did to her, how she became Hollywood, and plenty else besides.

Kasuka doesn’t want to hear it; but not because he’s being insensitive. He’s afraid if she’s allowed to say everything she wants, she’ll think she’s free to die, and he doesn’t want her to die. Not only that, when she threatened to kill him, he got flustered and excited; he felt emotion. He’s not going to let someone who can affect him in that way go easily. But Ruri has found kinship in Celty and Egor and tasted life in Rome, so perhaps Kasuka is worrying too much.

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“I love it when a plan comes together!”

Speaking of Doing as the Romans Do, the Izaya twins decide to craft a scheme that would make their big brother Orihara proud…if they happened to care about his opinion, that is. That scheme starts with finding Celty’s ¥1 million, and ends with Celty getting all ¥1 million back…though in a way that the twins get a first-hand look not only at Celty, but all the other crazy shit going down in this town. In other words, an adventure far more exciting and fun than a boring sightseeing tour.

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The million comes back to Celty two ways: paying Shinra ¥200K for patching up Egor, then via the Sushi Head Chef (repaying the twins for fronting the Shinra cash) by hiring Celty to transport Egor in a bag for ¥800K. It gets Celty out in the open, and the twins a front-row seat. It also caused a lot of collateral damage, but most of that affected the biker gangs and bounty hunters, who were asking for it making such a stink in Ikebukuro anyway.

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While that busy day may have initiated, the twins and Egor to the Way Things Work in Rome, while adding their own mayhem to the formula, they still retire to their own apartment for a quiet celebratory meal. They’re not Dollars, after all; not yet, anyway.

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Back in possesion of her ¥1 million, Celty decides to learn how to cook, in order to be a better girlfriend to Shinra. In her choice of women, she demonstrates how your first (Anri) or second (Erika) contact may not have what you’re looking for (and let’s face it, those two just aren’t cooks, through and through) one or both of them are sur eto know someone who does, i.e. Mika, who is a top-notch cook.

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And in the process of searching for one, Celty turned the one-on-one lesson into a cooking class, which results in Shinra’s suggestion for a big Dollars hot pot party. While voicing her worry that continuing dangerous jobs will put Shinra and her other friends in danger, Shinra’s response is perfect:

“We’re family, so a little trouble doesn’t faze me…And if I can scale that wall with you, no predicament on earth can ever feel like trouble to me…See, I was able to overcome the greatest wall of all, getting you to love me, right?”

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We’ll see if that testimony holds up, because as Izaya remarks to Namie as the two observe the post-party-they-weren’t-invited-to chatter online, this was everyone’s day off. Soon, vacation will be over. Not only that, there’s another newcomer to Rome—Aoba—firing up a new gang to rival the Dollars and stir up his own trouble, but first aiming to get rid of Orihara.

Be it Aoba, Egor, Ruri and Kusaka, or the Izaya twins, haven’t quite experienced this place when the sparks are really firing. This episode’s dark closing ellipsis may foretell a time in the near future when the twins’ scheme, as fantastic and entertaining a machine as it was, will be seen as a harmless toy by comparison.

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Durarara!! x2 Shou – 03

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Drrr!!x2 continues its free-wheeling pulp-fiction-style non-linear storytelling. This week we get more pieces of the puzzle started in the first two, and the image we start to see is that while Ikebukuro is full of misfits of one sort or another, there is a class of misfit above the rest with supernatural powers that finds it particularly hard to exist in the normal world. But while that world isn’t easy, it isn’t unforgiving.

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The “Zombie” Shizuo duels (and defeats) is Hollywood, the serial killer who has been tearing people apart. Shizuo’s brother Kasuka learns that Hollywood is really idol, actress, and master makeup artist Hijiribe Ruri. He takes her to his place and has Shinra come by to patch her up, and they learn she has healing powers on par with Shizuo and Celty. In other words, another ‘S-class misfit’.

Kasuka may not have super-strength, but he’s on their same level; he wields a tremendous amount of power, but through his charisma, not his muscles. Ruri wields through both, but at different ends of her personality. He can relate to Ruri’s feeling like she’s on the wrong planet. And as much as growing up with Mitsuo stunted Kasuka’s ability to express his emotions, he still has them, and gathers insight from his acting roles to make sense of them.

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In this regard, he saved Ruri despite knowing what she is, because she was a damsel in distress, and anyone who’d ignore or forsake her isn’t a man. This is obviously quite hubristic, as Ruri could have easily killed him at any time, but Kasuka put her life before his own. Her alias may be Hollywood, but he’s the one following the classic script of the dashing knight in shining armor, albeit an expressionless one.

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Kasuka arranges to have Celty deliver Ruri back to her place safe and sound. I wouldn’t be surprised if he chose Celty specifically so Ruri can see how another S-Class misfit survives and thrives in the modern, mundane world where absolutes aren’t allowed and nothing is sacred. Celty’s kindness inspires Ruri to rethink her plight in life. Yes, she’s a monster, but that’s nothing to apologize for, as it’s nothing she can change, and monsters can enjoy life too.

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That’s just Kasuka and Ruri’s part in this episode. We get a better idea of the timeline of events because Shinra is involved in many of them (he had a long and busy night!). He’s ripped away from Ruri to fix up the guy the twins found and brought to Russia Sushi, chats about Ruri with his dad, who wanted her as a test subject, and is swarmed on the way home by tabloid reporters who saw him exit Kasuka’s house.

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The next morning, Saburou and Mairu are beside themselves at the news their respective true loves ended up with each other instead of them. There’s no solace for Saburou save Kyouhei’s insistence he’s more wholesome than the bickering, twisted Erika and Walker, but Kururi calms Mairu down with a long kiss.

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Their PDA gets the attention of a particularly ridiculous-looking gang of thugs who surround them menacingly, but Kyouhei & Co. pass by just in time to shoo them off, and the twins show they can handle themselves against small fry if they have to. Ikebukuro may be crawling with potential trouble, but there’s also a potential ally around every corner. Forget six degrees of separation; most of the cast are only one or two away.

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While not quite on the same existential level as our S-Classes, Mairu and Kururi are still misfits in this city, with ideas and attitudes that may clash with the conventions of the world they live in. But like Celty staying one step ahead of the bounty hunters, Mitsuo punishing petty thieves, or Kasuka and Ruri staying one step ahead of the tabloids, if the world doesn’t have a place for you, you make one.

I wonder what kind of misfit Aoba is. Another student and manipulator of humanity, and Izaya’s successor? Or something else? Let the tour of Ikebukuro begin.

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Akuma no Riddle – 03

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What’s red but not read, and dead but not dead? The Red Sea and the Dead Sea. Azuma’s role as Haru’s protector is accepted by the gamemakers and the mission begins in earnest, with the first advance warning being given by Takechi Otoya. Needless to say, her assassination attempt fails, so she drops out of Class Black by the end of the episode. That leaves ten assassins and ten episodes remaining.

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Takechi starts her morning smashing her roommate’s glasses, and it’s gradually revealed she only gets sexual release from murder and is thus a serial killer. If she succeeds in offing Haru, she’s asked for bulletproof insurance that she’ll be able to murder as much as she likes in the future without consequence. She kills her prey slowly, taking after spiders but substituting scissors for fangs. Her buddy-buddy routine with Haru before striking is pleasantly unsettling, but she isn’t convincing anyone.

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What’s really interesting about this first attempt isn’t that Takechi failed to kill Haru, but that Azuma failed to protect Haru. Receiving her first warning unsettles Haru, but it also steels her resolve to protect herself, which is what she does, with a little luck: when Takechi lowers her guard, Haru kicks the hell out of her, sending her signature scissors flying right into Haru’s binds, cutting them. Azuma has her chance to take Takechi out, but her gun’s knocked out of her hands and she ends up on her back with a saw blade mere millimeters from her eye when Haru rescues her with a nifty sleeper hold.

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In this regard, Takechi gets a pretty raw deal, as she’s expelled for failing, but Azuma isn’t. One thing’s for sure, both of them agreatly underestimated Haru’s propensity for survival. I imagine we’ll learn a little more about that propensity with each successive assassin. It may well be that Azuma is the one who’ll continue to need protecting from increasingly sinister adversaries. Bring on Number Two.

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Wizard Barristers: Benmashi Cecil – 08

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Well, it isn’t as if the show’s been coy about this, but damn, Cecil really is beset on all sides by foes! Thanks to the progress made between them in these last couple episodes, Natsuna isn’t one of them. She even offers to help out with research on Cecil’s mom’s case, albeit in a tsundere kind of way. And Cecil’s wise-seeming father looks past the surface tension to perceive Natsuna as a valuable friend and ally. And it looks like Cecil is going to need as many of those as she can get.

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What looked ostensibly like a “girl’s road trip”-turned-“coming home” story turned out to be much more, as the other members of the Butterfly delegation are led into a trap by their Boston counterpart, Diana who turns out to be very evil. At the same time, Cecil and Natsuna’s lovely little log cabin/maple/syrup/boat retreat is crashed by the hitchhiker Kaede, whom Cecil’s familiar Nanajiinyi felt a faint murderous intent from earlier. In addition to the correct tarot readings by both Sasori and Cecil’s dad, it’s clear that on this show, you take people’s intuitions seriously!

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Kaede challenges Cecil to a metamoloid duel, and when Cecil’s childhood home is destroyed in an instant, it’s enough to force her to summon metal from distant cities to build her own, overpowering and defeating Kaede in the process. But both Kaede and Diana’s Sudden But Inevitable Betrayals are soon cut short by a combination of Cecil and the other Barristers fighting back (respectively) and by their sudden and quite horrific deaths by unknown magical powers. Back in Tokyo, Shizumu reports to his dad that they bowed out of their “missions.” Things are definitely afoot.

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Even more intriguing is the fact that a couple weeks after saving Cecil’s life, Tento appears in Canada—and not by plane—apparently annoyed that Diana and Kaese “jumped the gun.” Obviously Tento is more than just a flirty, ketchup and whipped cream-loving paralegal, and she’s far more powerful than anyone around her is aware. We’re not even sure she’s actually on Cecil’s (or anyone’s) side. All we know is, we fully agree with Cecil that it’s time to get back to researching the incident with her mom…and this time she’s got Natsuna to help out!

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