Mahoutsukai no Yome – 21

In an episode that opens with Chise sharing a bed with Elias, these two splitting up would have been at the absolute bottom of things I expected to happen. But with her condition deteriorating and the meeting with the witches ending up almost completely fruitless, Elias decides to take Chise’s life out of her own hands, for what he believes to be her own sake…as well as his own happiness. Before they part ways, Mariel reminds Elias that only life can pay for life.

Elias has always been called “half-assed” or a “monster” but Chise was the first and only one who would “look at just me.” Well, thanks to his actions this week, she may never look at him that way, or any other way, ever again.

Just as she relays her suspicions Elias and Ruth are up to something behind her back and asks for Ariel to back her up, Elias knocks Chise out. She guides herself out of the dream with an image of Nevin, telling her that whatever others have planned for her, all she can do is be clear on what she needs to do.

With that, Chise breaks out of the dream by stabbing herself in the leg and does what must be done: stop Elias and/or Ruth from sacrificing anyone to save her. When she finds Elias has brought Stella into the house to be the sacrifice, Chise is, understandably, furious.

Even worse is when Elias tries to explain himself: not liking how Chise looked at Stella (i.e. their friendship), and not being able to stand it, and stating as long as Chise can continue to live he’ll be happy. After urging Stella to run away, she punches Elias in the face and storms out.

Of course, what Chise didn’t know is that Stella had already been possessed by Joseph, AKA Cartiphilus, who only pretended to be Stella in distress. But it doesn’t matter; Stella or Cartiphilus-possessing-Stella, Elias sought to transfer Chise’s curse to them. That makes Elias no different in Chise’s eyes anymore. He is a monster after all.

But here’s the thing: human beings are perfectly capable of becoming monsters, or doing monstrous things, if they feel there are no other options. If anything, Elias taking the steps he did were simultaneously appallingly naive and contemptuous of Chise’s wishes, and just plain wrong, but incredibly human nonetheless.

Chise isn’t the kind of human to put her life or welfare before anyone else’s. Cartiphilus knows this, and also knows how angry Chise is by Elia’s betrayal. So he offers her Stella’s life and a spell that will save her own, in exchange for her cooperation. And Chise accepts without hesitation, teleporting away with Carty and leaving her necklace behind.

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Mahoutsukai no Yome – 20

The no-longer-captive dragon escapes its binds and tears up the auction house, giving Chise and Elias a thrilling ride into the London night sky. Once again, Chise puts another life before her own—in this case the dragon’s—and ends up paying for it like never before.

The cost of her sacrifice this time is a dragon’s curse, which infects her left arm, now huge, gray, and scaly. Shannon is able to stabilize Chise, but the curse will quickly tear through that Sleigh Beggy body (already weakened by two additional curses that Chise can think of), killing her.

This time, there’s nothing that can be done. Chise can choose to live on the Fae Side where she won’t have to hide the curse, and she seriously ponders it. Back when she didn’t want to live, Elias saved her. Now that she wants to live, death has her in its grip.

Unable to help her himself, the mage Elias invites a witch, Mariel, to his home for “alternative treatment.” Mariel, who wants to get her hands on dragon blood, considers Chise the next best thing, and urges her to join her coven. If she does, the witches might be able to help her.

That’s a big might, but with Chise, among other things, not wanting to die by Spring and Stella wanting to throw a birthday party for her next year, even Elias agrees their only course is to join the witch’s gathering.

It would seem Cartiphilus orchestrated this whole thing, reasonably certain that Chise would try to help the dragon at the cost of her own health in the scenario that unfolded. He used her own good nature in order to slap her with a curse that has the opposite effect as his. To what end? Is he trying to die?

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 19

We jump from a cold open in which Cartiphilus’ smirks while one of the poached dragons is being dissected as they cry “please stop” and “I want to go home”, to a scene at the college where it’s revealed Renfred is a weepy drunk.

Methinks the composer is a bit too proud of his slide whistle “comedy” theme. The tonal shift is clunky to say the least. Things swing back from jocular to dark when Chise has a very disturbing dream involving an amnesiac Cartaphilus in London.

She awakens to find Alice, Renfred, the Selkie, as well as several members of the “College” she knows nothing about (nor do we) hanging out with Elias in the sitting rom. The College members range from tolerable (Adolf) to embarrassingly awful (Tory). They inform Chise that two dragons have been poached and they’ve come seeking help from her and Elias.

Elias refuses, properly citing Chise’s fragility, but Chise overrules him, and before you know it, we’re back at the underworld auction house where Chise gave herself up to be sold to the highest bidder; one of the dragons is on the block. The man who arranged for Chise’s sale, Seth, gives Chise a checkbook and card tied to a account containing half of the value of her sale, since she was technically her own seller.

It’s strange that she didn’t have access to this cash until now, when she may have to spend it all bidding on the dragon. At least Seth seems pleased that since last they met Chise has become someone who actually, you know, wants to live.

Buying the dragon’s freedom in the auction seems like the College and Chise’s play, and the two combined would seem to have enough to do so, but things (predictably) go pear-shaped when the dragon goes berserk, breaks free from its physical and magical binds, and starts breathing fire.

Chise can sense the dragon’s emotions—its scared and wants to go home—but it might be too late to reason with it. Who the woman is who whispered in Chise’s ear, and what Cartaphilus’ convoluted plan is this time (if he even has one) remain unclear. I just hope this doesn’t all end with Chise yet again coughing up a couple liters of blood…followed by more slide whistle.

 

Darling in the FranXX – 06

Dawn rises on the day of a battle that will decide whether everyone gets to see another sunrise. A massive horned cubic klaxosaur trundles over the horizon with a retinue of foot soldiers, throwing some serious Ramiel vibes—bizarre, mysterious, merciless. Ichigo tries to wash away her troubles with a refreshing bath; Gorou continues to worry about Hiro.

Gorou tries to get Ichigo to talk to Hiro, and Ichigo uses the opportunity to try to confess her feelings, but Zero Two appears, and says what she isn’t feeling instead—that she thinks of Hiro as a sibling—and is devastated when he says he feels the same. Ichinose Kana is killing it so far, even if it’s extremely hard to forget she’s not Hanazawa Kana.

With things needed to be said left unsaid, Zero Hour approaches, and the two Squads and Strelitzia take their positions. The effects of Ichigo’s unrequited love on her performance and Hiro’s ability to survive his third sortie with Two aren’t the only concerns: Squad 13 wants to prove to 26 they’re not just a bunch of in-the-way misfits.

The sheer scale of the boss before them, and the dramatic staging and lighting really lend this battle a sense of occasion and urgency; it’s all or nothing; either these ten comparatively tiny FranXX stop the enemy, or both Plantations will be destroyed.

The only mark against these stakes (which often applied to the populace in Eva as well) is that we never really see any of the people the parasites are protecting, aside from their two adult handlers and Dr. FranXX himself. That’s a small mark, and it’s easily forgiven in light of the pandemonium that ensues.

The contrast between the coordination and discipline of the five identical gray Squad 26 FranXX (also female in form) and those of Squad 13 (or lack thereof) is more stark than Arya, as Ichigo can barely keep her squad hanging in there when some lesser Klax get get through the front lines.

Zero Two observes this contrast, and the dire state of the 13th, and thinks she and Hiro should join the battle sooner rather than later before there isn’t a 13th left. Hiro asks Two why she fights the Klax; she opines it may be because “she’s a monster.”

Two asks him the same, and he says its because his only purpose in life is to protect Papa and the adults. They sortie, against orders, and mop up the Klax harassing the 13th with ease…but Hiro immediately starts to have trouble staying in sync, and the blue veins on his chest start to spread to his entire body and face.

Ichigo lays down the law, ordering Strelitzia to fall back, as she’ll be providing the coup-de-grace. That’s after the 26th, even with their perfectly coordinated tactics, utterly fail to destroy the giant “Gutenberg-class” Klaxosaur. Instead, it shapeshifts from a cube to a humanoid form.

Their leader 090 is almost crushed, but is saved in the nick of time by Argentea, and Zorome and Miku instantly earn his respect. The 13th gets their shit together and Ichigo orders everyone to create an opening for Strelitzia. Hiro uses everything he has left to help Two deliver the killing blow, and with an Eva-esque cross flare, they cause an explosion within the boss.

…But everything Hiro had wasn’t enough. The Gutenberg shifts again into a massive battering ram, and in another nod to Shinji’s first mission in Eva 01, that ram begins repeatedly smashing into Strelitzia. Hiro loses consciousness and Strelitzia shuts down.

Things look bad from Delphinium’s POV; indeed, when Ichigo fears she’s lost Hiro (without telling him what she actually has to say, to boot), Delph shuts down too, and Gorou can’t console Ichigo.

Hiro enters a dream-state, where he assumes he’s dead. Naomi chastises him for giving up. He says he didn’t give up, he just gave all he had. Unlike with Naomi, he still thinks Zero Two can carry on fighting without him. He’s content to go out being as useful as he could be, without regrets.

But that’s not quite right; and he’s not quite being truthful. Zero Two gave him a place to belong and a purpose again; he can’t simply lie down and die while she’s still in the cockpit suffering, slowly reverting to her baser Klaxosaur side.

Zero Two is on the verge of completely Losing It when Hiro hugs her from behind and tells her she should never have to fight—or be—alone again. The blue growth disappears. What is that stuff? I’d like to think it represents the lingering fear and doubt he carried; the belief that he was expendable to Zero Two when the opposite was the case.

With that gone, he gets his second wind, and he and Zero Two finish off the Gutenberg in grand, madcap fashion, with a nice assist from his fellow parasites in the 13th. His doubts and fears are gone now, because he’s found another reason to pilot a FranXX: to be Two’s wings.

And it’s wings we see spreading over the airborne Gutenberg before crushing it and releasing a titanic cloud of blue blood. Mission Accomplished. Casualties: Surprisingly, Zero.

As we watch him and Zero emerge from the cockpit to come together and celebrate with the other parasites from both squads, Hiro recounts the tale of the “Jian”, a bird with one wing, necessitating a male and female pair to lean on one another to achieve flight. That’s the case with Hiro and Zero Two, so he resolves to keep leaning on her that they might fly as high and far as they want.

Halfway into its first half, FranXX delivers a rousing powerhouse resolution to the “Can Hiro Cut It” arc. Now that we know he can, and that he won’t be dying from creepy blue growths anytime soon, we can move on to other matters, like if or when Ichigo will ever tell Hiro how she feels (if she still feels that way after the battle; I’m guessing yeah) and the identity of those new parasites we got a glimpse of in the ep’s final moments.

Whatever comes next, a solid foundation has been laid.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 18

The day after Christmas, Stella shows up with sweet treats to hang out with Chise, as promised. Chise is so unaccustomed to friends as we know them that not only did she not expect Stella to come, she doesn’t quite know what to do.

Stella, who we learn is just ten but very mature for her age, tells her not to sweat it; being friends is nothing more complicated than being with someone, talking and listening to them. It shows how far Chise still has to go, and how little Elias can help her.

In fact, having Stella around is apparently too much for Elias, who isolates himself in his study then storms out of the house without any warning. Worried, Chise ditches Stella to go after him, transforming into a wolf to keep up. Elias traps her in the shadows and binds her with tentacles.

Elias doesn’t say much, but he does say that Stella’s presence made him want to leave the house,. He felt better when Chise chased him, but couldn’t stop running, and now he can’t seem to let her go.

Meanwhile, back in London, Stella and her family seem to be being watched/stalked by Cartiphilus and Ashen Eye. What the heck to they have planned?

Chise manages to fire off a flare with her wand, and Ruth manages to find her when a Fae daughter of Titania reveals the shadow where he’s holding her (she helps because they gave her a proper Yule offering).

Chise puts a knife to her throat, which causes Elias to immediately release her. He’s rightfully ashamed and contrite, but Chise forgives him and suggests they go home and get some sleep.

Elias, as we know, is even more emotionally stunted than Chise, lashing out when he doesn’t get his way like a small child. Here’s hoping Elias eventually learns how to control his wilder instincts whenever faced with a perceived slight.

However, Chise accidentally puts Elias into a deep sleep when she sings him a lullaby, and she heads to London to seek the aid of Angelica, meeting her non-magical husband David in the process.

David lends Chise some perspective as someone who knows he doesn’t have all the time on Earth with his wife and daughter he might like, but that he intends to make the most of that time, and so should Chise.

Chise returns home with a recipe for a potion that will wake up Elias, and it works like a charm…but she’s so exhausted from her ordeal that she immediately passes out beside him, leaving Ruth to explain.

Meanwhile in Dragonland, some poachers apparently hired by Cartiphilus(?) try to capture two of the young dragons, but they’re thwarted by a pissed Lindel. Is there a connection to what Carty was doing with Stella in London and the attempted dragon theft here? To be continued.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 17

In a diverting case-of-the-week that involves non-magical clients, Chise meets Stella, a girl just a bit younger than her, who can’t find her little brother Ethan after he ran off after they had an argument. What makes this most likely a magical case is that Stella’s parents have no memory of their son.

Obviously, Stella’s a wreck, but she’s not so much of a wreck she isn’t totally freaked out by a huge skull-faced dude coming out of Chise (or speaking through her body, turning her eyes silver). I also snickered when she reacted to the dog talking.

Turns out the big teddy Elias gave Chise also turns her excess magic into crystal flowers, like a kind of release valve to preserve her body. She puts those flowers, which are like candy to fae, to good use asking the various beings in the forest where the kid went.

In fact, Chise, wanting desperately to do something for someone after so much has been done for her (though if we’re honest, she’s done plenty), goes so far as to let what looks like a more feral Elias suck her blood in exchange for info on Ethan’s whereabouts. This troubles Stella greatly, but as Elias tells her, mages aren’t omnipotent, and in exchange for something, they must be willing to give something in return.

When they finally locate Ethan, he’s in the clutches of the ancient trickster Ashen Eye, who has claimed the boy as his own after Stella’s harsh words to him (“I don’t need you!”) broke their familial bond and made the kid fair game.

Knowing what happened when Ashen Eye was involved before, I figured no one was actually in any real danger, even when both Ethan and Elias are sucked into a dark void (Ash isn’t omnipotent either, but he’s been around the block, and  a lot more powerful than the younger Elias).

The loss of Elias causes Chise to wig out momentarily, but Ruth consoles her. Ash simply wants them to jump through a few hoops; he’ll only keep Ethan if they can’t find him, and if he and Stella can’t reconcile. As they search, Elias must deal with Ethan, who immediately takes a liking to his bony head.

This causes Elias to transform into a kind of Winter Ops version of Chise, and with his uniquely non-human perspective on humanity, gets Ethan to define what he thinks family is. It’s more than just blood; it’s people you want to be with more than anyone else, even if you don’t always get along and say things you don’t mean.

Chise uses the pelt that Ashen Eye gave her to transform into a were-bear, and uses her heightened sense of smell to locate Elias and Ethan. As I suspected, Ash is satisfied the siblings have learned their lesson and warns them to choose their words carefully, because they aren’t sure who might be listening who will take those words seriously.

When initially speaking through Chise, Elias got Stella to agree to pay them in “sweets” for their services locating her brother (who the parents now remember, reuniting the family as it was). But Chise gets something a lot better for her kindness: she gains a friend in Stella.

And hey, even after all that exertion, Chise doesn’t pass out, cough up any blood, or go into any kind of trance or coma, so everything comes up Team Ainsworth this week. I just hope Chise doesn’t immediately revert to her “ZOMG I’m so useless” attitude next week; she’s without doubt earning her keep.

Houseki no Kuni – 12 (Fin)

Padparadscha isn’t around long (she falls asleep mere hours after waking up for the first time in over two centuries), but makes the most of their time, and thanks in no small part to androgynous voice expert Romi Park, “Paddy” (my nickname, not the show’s) makes an impact both on me and Phos.

The last time Paddy was awake, Phos was just a cute “little pebble” hiding behind Master’s robes. Now Paddy seems impressed with the person Phos has become. While walking and talking—Paddy’s open shirt, tattoo-like chest spots, uneven socks and method of sword-holding all call to mind a wise old samurai—Phos trusts Paddy enough to mention wanting to talk with the Lunarians.

Paddy gives Phos some sage advice: pure truth can leave wounds as bad as lies; Phos must keep her composure and be mindful of her actions. Later, Phos—motionless and covered in butterflies—ponders the next move.

Like Paddy, Zircon showed up late in the story, but as a foreground character, Z’S little self-contained story works well enough. Around the same age as Phos, Z has a crisis of confidence when partnering with Bort, who doesn’t say a word the whole time. Z doesn’t think she can compete with Phos after being “surpassed”, but Phos, not only more capable but also more confident than Zircon, assures Z Bort’s silence is a good thing.

Meanwhile, Yellow Diamond, having lost Z as a partner, seeks Paddy’s company as fellow old farts, only to find Paddy is asleep again. While these little stories of Paddy, Rutile, Zircon and Yellow are interesting, they also come in very quick succession, suggesting the kind of grab-bag final episode trying to offer as many different tastes as it can in the event a second season never comes…which would be a huge shame, IMO.

Back to Phos, who is trying to remember Kongou’s training, but considering how much of Phos body has been lost, memory gaps hardly come as a surprise. Phos does remember a nice little memory of being taught by Kongou as the older Gems watched, in awe of lil’ Phos’ cuteness. Like Sengaku Nadeko, Phos was once quite spoiled, indolent, and reliant on cuteness. Now, where the memory can’t serve Phos, Phos goes to those who can, like Alex and the large archive of Lunarian lore.

Alex also clears up a misunderstanding Phos and others may have cultivated: it isn’t love or admiration that drives Alex to study and pore over the details of Lunarians; rather, it’s Alex’s enduring hatred of them, especially after they stole Chrysoberyl away.

Adequately brought up to speed on Lunarians, the next time Phos encounters them, Phos immediately makes an attempt to isolate one of them within the alloy membrane in order to attempt communication.

All Phos gets out of the Lunarian is the appearance of eyeballs in its eyes, and “F–” which could’ve been a gasp, or the beginning of a word. It is interrupted when Cinnabar swoops in to destroy the Lunarians, obviously unaware of Phos’ intentions and simply assuming Phos was in danger. However, just watching Cinnabar work gets Phos thinking about the promise to find “new work.”

That line of thinking leads Phos back to Cinnabar (much to Cinnabar’s shock) where Phos finally announces she’s found something other than night watch for Cinnabar. A blushing Cinnabar, ever vigilant about the details of such an important promise, reminds Phos that the promise was for a “better” job, not just a different one.

Phos can’t promise the job being offered will be better, and even predicts it could be much, much worse (truths opening new wounds an all that). In a powerfully-acted dramatic, even romantic scene I would have never have expected of early Phos (except in jest of course), Phos explains the need to have someone by Pho’s side to offer an opinion, even and especially if it differs from what Phos sees.

Cinnabar counters that no partnership can be accepted unless Phos has a plan for the hard part, after their investigations, if Master Kongou turns out to be the bad guy. Phos accepts this, then departs after deeming Cinnabar “extraordinarily prudent and clever.” But Cinnabar, trying to fight back the seething distrust of all others, catches up to Phos, and could be open to simply teaming up after all.

After that, another day in the life in the Land of the Lustrous starts, and Phos is suddenly summoned by Kongou. The little pebble who hid behind him is no more; Phos is on a mission to find the truth, but doesn’t necessarily want to destroy the harmony of the land because of that truth. All Phos can do is report to Kongou, maintain her composure, and be mindful of her actions.

Does Kongou know of Phos’ plans and suspicions? In that case, would he be open to hearing Phos out, as Phos is eager to hear him out? Or would he be eager to silence or neutralize her as an imminent threat to the harmony? There are so many possibilities: Gems taking sides for and against Kongou if the truth spread; an en masse loss of innocence to match those of Phos and Cinnabar.

Unfortunately, I have no idea when or even if we’ll be able to witness Land of the Lustrous explore these possibilities further in anime form. A overlooked Fall underdog that surged from under 7 to over 8 over its 12-episode run, Hoseki no Kuni turned out to be a revelation, and Phos’ transformation from clumsy layabout to possible hero to all gem-kind is one of the season’s best arcs.

I’ll miss Phos, the rest of the Gems, their gorgeous world, ethereal foes, and elegant combat, and sincerely hope there’ll be more to watch down the road.

Houseki no Kuni – 11

One of the many enduring charms of HnK is how every character’s traits are derived from their namesake gem in creative ways. Take Alexandrite, AKA Alex, AKA Lexi. The two nicknames are apropos, as Alex/Lexi has a split personality; extremely timid when green-haired; but going berserk when looking upon a Lunarian.

Real-life alexandrite changes color depending on the light; green in daylight, red in artificial light. While moonlight is reflected sunlight, there’s no doubt that the moon’s reflection adds another dimension to it; if we consider the Lunarian to represent moonlight as opposed to daylight, Alex/Lexi’s color change (and personality change to boot) makes sense.

Lexi proves handy with a sword, but only manages what Dia and Bort managed: to cleave the Lunarian into smaller and smaller clones of itself, albeit less and less threatening ones, kind of like a Matryoshka doll with its nested duplicates of reducing scale.

Before long the hulking beast is reduced to dozens of fluffy half-sheep, half-puppies, but when the gems round them all up, they merge back into that single hulking beast. Phos is ready to lure it away with another new alloy membrane trick: making an all-alloy decoy of a gem.

Phos’ vigilance proves unnecessary once Master Kongou appears. Despite its size the Lunarian is as docile as its one hundred-plus mini-clones; and even does a series of tricks at Kongou’s command. Phos finds it odd that Kongou calls the beast “Shiro” and acts very familiar towards it. It leads Phos to suspect there may be some kind of connection between the master and the enemy that he hasn’t revealed.

Phos goes out to ponder this and comes afoul of Cinnabar once more. Cinnabar bears two “gifts”: Bort’s loafers, and the last piece of the fluffy Lunarian. Cinna also has news for Phos: most of the Gems already knew about Kongou in relation to the Lunarians, but as he seems so committed to their care and safety, they’ve decided to trust him. Cinna is on the fence, and actually seems to take interest in what Pho plans to do…only to turn around before Phos can answer.

Phos has a little alloy malfunction while calculating the amount of courage needed to confront the master…but Phos wants to know the truth. When Phos returns to HQ, Kongou is asleep beside the beast (with many gems curled up asleep in its fluffy tail).

Before Phos can open her mouth, she has a vision of Antarc, who shushes Phos. The last “puppy” merges with the larger beast, which disperses in a cloud of light, having become whole and, in Kongou’s words, “found peace.”

After that, Phos gives her report on her partnering with Bort, stating that all Gems should have the opportunity to work with Bort. Phos, however, wishes to pursue another matter on their own: regarding Lunarians. Believing the only way to get answers is to ask them directly, Phos stands on guard awaiting their return.

From there, the episode shifts to something completely different, hastily introducing the new character of Padparadscha, an incomplete gem Rutile has been painstakingly reconstructing in the lab. While the prospects for this character are intriguing, especially when they open their eyes to end the episode, it feels like another episode altogether.

The awkward, arbitrary nature of the transition was almost enough for me to bump this down to a 7. However, this episode managed to earn my recommendation anyway, thanks to the interesting development of the “Shiro” incident, both with its ingrained comedy and its role in giving Phos a new goal to pursue.

Houseki no Kuni – 10

Old Phos used to cause trouble and get in the way. New Phos holds court—with Alex (AKA Lexi) over detailed descriptions of Lunarians; agreeing to take on Jade’s patrols while Kongou sleeps; and even with Bort, who wants to team up with Phos.

But always not far from Phos’ thoughts is the ghost of Antarc. While Phos might initially hesitate over teaming up with Bort (a little of the Old “what a pain” Phos seeping out), it’s a step Phos has to take in order to get stronger and learn more about how to fight properly.

Phos’ only concern is how Diamond will feel; Bort is basically dumping Dia sight unseen; Dia hears it from Phos first. But Phos has Dia’s blessing; after all, it was Dia who told Pho she needed to change back when Dia was Phos’ only advocate.

That being said, Dia still seems awfully dejected, quietly picking flowers for a lonely-looking bouquet as Bort departs with Phos. Unfortunately for the pair, their first mission as partners is not an easy one, as an entirely new and powerful Lunarian emerges from a “double sunspot.”

Bort plays right into the Lunarian’s trap. Bort’s first strike only multiplies the apertures, through which more than four limbs emerge and grab Bort. Phos delivers a gold-plated assist, but the fuzzy white many-armed beast isn’t going to go down easily.

As “recklessness is for the inept”, Bort grabs Phos and falls back to HQ, then tosses Phos at the bell to strike it six times (an order for all other Gems to hold position). Bort’s plan involves luring the Lunarian to Kongou, who will hopefully awaken in time to destroy it.

But the Lunarian doesn’t follow Bort and Phos…it goes its own way, which turns out to be where Diamond is sulking. From here until the time Dia takes the upper hand, the episode takes on the flavor of a creepy horror movie where the protagonist must quietly hide from the monster hunting them.

Dia watching the flower vase jostle from the monster’s booming steps is a neat Jurassic Park reference, and some niftily subtle animation to boot (the way Dia gently arranged the flowers earlier was also an elegant moment).

Diamond eventually gets sick of hiding and decides to do what Bort always yells at Dia for: get reckless. This is Dia in full-on Badass Mode, without a care for how much bigger or stronger their opponent is.

Dia’s first strikes don’t do much (even a diamond limb-as-a-weapon doesn’t make a major mark), but Dia only needs one leg to rush the Lunarian, dodge its swipes, and deliver a killing blow before collapsing into a half-shattered pile—just as Bort is watching from outside the window.

But even that isn’t the end of things, as Dia’s strike only managed to cut the one big enemy into two smaller ones. With Dia out of commission, it falls to Bort to face the pair, which Bort does without fear, as usual.

But as tough as Bort is (tougher than nails, literally), I’d feel a lot better if Phos, other Gems, and hell, why not, Master Kongou arrived in time to assist Bort. I tell you, these Lunarians get nastier and more devious with each passing week.

Houseki no Kuni – 09

In the winter days and weeks since the loss of Antarcticite, Phosphophyllite has been busy. As the snow and ice starts to melt, heralding the start of spring, we get a very cool slow-build reveal of the individual Phos has become: serious, dutiful, efficient; calm, cool, and deadly. Sounds kinda like Antarc, doesn’t it?

The time jump to Spring wasn’t a surprise, so much as the intense change in Phos, and I have to say, I like it. Even Kurosawa Tomoyo’s lower, sterner voice emulates Mariya Ise’s Antarc’s tone and cadence. There remains a measure of the old Phos’ spunk and rawness (Kongou catches Phos at the end of a successful Lunarian battle) but overall, Phos has become a polished and capable member of the group—and the only one with a alloy membrane that can take any form.

Phos kind of had to, after Antarc was lost; but more than necessity, it is how Phos honors Antarc’s memory; no more slacking off or complaining. Phos also keeps a small shard of Antarc’s remains, and has vivid hallucinations of Antarc resurrecting from the wooden bowl, only to shatter and force Phos to relive Antarc’s final moments. It’s a full-blown case of Gem-PTSD, and Phos can’t forgive herself…or sleep. She also cries gold tears, which is both sad and very cool.

When the other Gems wake up (and are issued Summer uniforms), they’re initially shocked at the change in Phos, then scared of Phos’ alloy membrane, then fascinated to the point of surrounding and demanding that Phos perform a variety of tricks, or be poked and prodded every which way. Phos creates a nifty galloy decoy to thrown them off, but they’re pretty relentless.

Before all of the events that made Phos the way they are took place, Phos was often derided as being dead weight and a source of stress and extra work for everyone. Now Phos has never been more popular (in a good way rather than bad). The thing is, it’s the old Phos who would have loved such adulation; New Phos doesn’t quite know how to deal.

I imagine part of that is Phos long-term isolation, which aligns Phos more closely with someone like Cinnabar. Phos briefly forgets who Cinnabar is, but when the two meet during a patrol, Cinnabar is as cold and aloof as ever, clearly trying not to dignify the changes Phos has gone through with a reaction.

While Phos can now perform all manner of dazzling parlour tricks (but no longer has any intention of performing them for amusement) Phos doesn’t seem to mind demonstrating to Amethyst twins how much has been learned during the solo training and learning from Antarc and Kongou.

Phos is truly a force to be reckoned with, and has absolutely no trouble throttling another Lunarian attack, to the twins’ amazement and elation. But not every Gem is impressed. Bort cannot believe this is the same Phos who used to cause so much trouble and contribute so little, to the point of suspicion. I imagine a test of Pho’s combat abilities is in the offing.

Houseki no Kuni – 08

I raise my hands in defeat! I mean my hands are probably rising up right now out of the sea in defeat.

Antarcticite isn’t willing to immediately accept that Phos’ arms are lost, but instead braves the frozen depths (and the colliding ice boulders therein) in search of them, to no avail. Upon reporting to Kongou, Antarcticite takes full responsibility, citing inexperience in working in a pair, but Kongou blames his own lack of caution.

He has Antarc and Phos travel to the Chord Shore, where all Gems are “born”, to find material for new arms. There, they witness something akin to such a birth, albeit far less advanced and complete. The reddish crystals simply fall into the snow, lifeless and inert.

The beach is littered with gold and platinum deposits—deemed worthless by Antarc for their high weight and malleability. Still, there’s nothing else around, so Phos is fitted with temporary gold arms in the absence of more suitable material. The results are initially…not promising:

Um… I’m kind of getting engulfed. Wouldn’t you say I’m being engulfed?

Worse still, the clouds part and Lunarians appear both over the Chord Shore and surround headquarters, keeping Kongou from racing to the Gems’ aid.

In an all-but-no-win scenario, Antarcticite shows true grit and valor, using the saw as a snowboard and taking out as many Lunarians as possible before they unveil yet another new tactic: fishing tackle and hooks that entangle Antarc. Only a burst of nearly self-shattering strength severs the connection, but the Lunarians still don’t disperse.

Antarc manages to yank their stolen hand free and cause the Lunarians to disperse, but not without nearly shattering as well. Though extremely fragile, Antarc attempts to break Phos out of the gold prison, but another Lunarian arrow reduces Antarc to a cloud of crystal shards. Before being carried off, Antarc orders Phos to remain silent, buying Phos time.

Phos…doesn’t remain silent, instead managing to find a way to control the new gold “arms”—a term that doesn’t really do the new shapeshifting appendage(s) justice—and attempt a desperate counterattack to retrieve Antarc’s fragments.

Phos pushes the absolute limit the gold’s ability, acting both as a means of propelling their body into the sky, absorbing or blocking projectiles, and grabbing and throwing Antarc’s sword. Also pushed to new dizzying highs – the increasingly intricate CGI, put to good use. The shimmering, “gooey” liquid gold presents a stunning contrast to the brittle frozen backdrop.

It’s a valiant effort, but ultimately futile, as the Lunarians retreat too quickly for Phos’ attacks to reach them. Phos ends up badly cracked and plummeting to the ground, but is caught by Kongou, who arrived too late to save Antarc. Still, were it not for Antarc, Phos would be gone too.

Phos acknowledges that sacrifice while lamenting Antarc’s loss, and is likely now possessed of a new iron determination to master their new golden “inclusions”, to prevent (or at least make it more difficult) for the Lunarians to capture another beloved comrade and friend.

As the end credits roll over a somber view of Antarcticite’s now-abandoned quarters (with a lovely new song sung by Phos’ seiyu), I’m devastated by Antarc’s sudden loss, despite not knowing they existed just two episodes ago. Antarc made a huge impact on the world of Houseki no Kuni, performed momentous deeds and fought for Phos till the bitter end, and in this writer’s opinion, left us far too soon.