Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 11 (35)

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Her fate on hold for now, Celty is literally above the fray this week, as Erika gets in touch with Kasane, informing her of what Nasujima is up to, Shizuo and Izaya continue their fight in the streets, biker gangs from all over the region who have joined the Dollars amass, and Akabayashi considers Awakusu’s role in all this, if any.

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Now that Masaomi is on that roof, there’s no more reason for Mikado to hold any secrets, and he points his handgun at his best friend, while revealing his ultimate plan: to turn the Dollars into such a nasty group with so many enemies, it will end up collapsed, with nothing left but another urban legend.

The reason? The Dollars, which he founded to escape his ordinary life, have become, well ordinary again. At the end of the day, Mikado shares the same “creative destruction” philosophy as many other villains in anime: he’ll destroy the world as it is, and him with it, hoping it will give way to a better one.

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He’s well on the way to doing just that if someone doesn’t stop him, but here’s the thing: he doesn’t want to be stopped; not by Masaomi, or Anri, or anyone else. Mikado has backed himself into a corner, but it’s exactly where he wants to be when all the pieces he’s set up start lashing out.

Meanwhile, the story of Kasane falling for (!) Shinra seems like something that belongs in a much quieter episode. I appreciate that Kasane realizes Shinra’s feelings for Celty are real, and that she figures if she won’t be loved by anyone, she’ll love him, but as far as Shinra’s concerned Kasane is just a glorified obstacle on his journey to find and reunite with his one true love. The connection with Mikado’s situation is that Celty may have the power to stop him. The problem is, it may be too late.

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Masaomi, knowing how Mikado would be holding his gun by the book, slaps it away and starts trying despertely to beat some sense into him, but Mikado has gone well and truly cuckoo (he’s even aware Izaya is using him, but doesn’t mind).

When he shoots Masaomi in the thigh with a hand-mounted micro-gun, he retreats even further back into that corner, now believing if he could shoot Masaomi, he could shoot Anri. Rather than end up in that scenario, he turns the little gun on himself. He doesn’t see any other way to stop himself from doing worse things and causing more trouble for more people.

And considering he shot at both the police and Awakusu, he may not be wrong. I just wish he was, and that Masaomi and Anri and whoever else could tell him there’s still a way out of that corner; he can come back from the precipice; that no amount of trouble he causes will hurt his friends as much as killing himself will.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 10 (34)

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Like water towards a drain, Dx2’s many  characters are accelerating faster and faster towards the epicenter created by Nasujima, and Anri lists all the people who have a reason to go and fight, including herself. First things first: she wants to help Dotachin’s group rescue Erika from the Saikas.

She also feels it’s time to finally reveal her secret to them: that she has Saika within her; that she’s not quite human. Unsurprisingly, no one in the van recoils or condemns Anri; quite the opposite. These are Celty’s friends, after all (not counting Namie, though she’s with Seiji).

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As Shizuo and Izaya’s battle continues, with Shizuo stalking a slow, wounded Izaya, their friend Shinra reminisces on a talk he had with Celty back before she got her head back and lost her memories. He draws contrast between their group of friends at school and the triangle of Anri, Mikado and Masaomi.

In particular, how the their friendships have been defined as much about the secrets they kept from one another than anything else. Izaya and Shizuo never had any secrets about who they were to the rest of the world, while Celty, like Anri now, wanted to be the peacekeeper. Shinra isn’t ready to give up on her yet, as the dark night sky reminds him of her embrace.

Anri, meanwhile, is overcome by gratitude that Dotachin and his crew are so kind and understanding, but Dota makes it clear: even though Celty’s far less human than Anri, they know her, and know her well, and care for her, so they’d never fear either her or Anri.

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As for Erika, she digs into her purse and finds the one thing that will serve her best in the middle of a pack of Saika zombies: red contacts lenses. Able to move more freely by looking and acting the part, Erika’s wandering segues nicely into Niekawa, who Anri calls on her cell.

Nasujima answers for her, telling her how Niekawa now calls him mother, that Mikado and Masaomi have been invited to his “party”, and she should attend as well. This only further steels Anri’s resolve to do what she can both for Erika and for her two best friends.

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Masaomi and Chikage, it turns out, are tricked by Blue Square, by having Chikage lured into a baseball bat ambush while Mikado sneaks up on Masaomi on the rooftop to finally reveal his secret: he’s the founder of the Dollars. It’s a confession so long in the running I could have sworn Masaomi already knew long ago.

But the confession itself is of little consequence compared to whatever Mikado plans to do next. Is that gun for Masaomi? Are they truly beyond the point of no return? Can Anri get to them in time, and when she does, slap some sense into them? Will Shinra be able to reunite with Celty, and will she ever remember him again? Will somebody put Nasujima in his place? This is all going to be answered very soon.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 09 (33)

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Another week closer to the end, another incremental episode that can’t help but feel over-contemplative, repetitive, and dilatory. The suspense is building…I guess…but only in fits and starts, not a surging stream. Last week everyone moved a little closer to a final showdown in front of Russia Sushi; this week everyone moved a little closer to a final showdown in front of Russia Sushi.

Anri and Saki have been milling around, and Nasujima has been standing around smirking for ages. Akabayashi serves as occasional narrator this week, weighing whether he should get involved somehow, for Anri’s sake.

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At the construction site, Mikage fights to a draw with Varona and Kasane; because none of the three actually wish to fight. Mikage even agrees with Varona that Izaya’s chances against Shizuo are slight, but she wants to see Izaya go all out for the first time. The results are…disappointing.

Back in the beginning of Durarara!! fights between Shizuo and Izaya were almost played for comedic effect: these were just two diametrically opposed dogs who no one could convince to ever like. It’s almost as if a kind of twisted relationship deeper than friendship evolved from their intense conflicts. But I fear that conflict’s grown a bit stale, like the Neo-vs.-Smith by the end of the Matrix trilogy.

Izaya decides the best way to kill Shizuo is by carbon dioxide asphyxiation, so he leads him into an area where a pocket of the stuff slowly chokes him. Then Izaya tosses a match, apparently abandoning that method and settling for blowing Shizuo. (Also, CO2 isn’t flammable, so I guess there was something else being pumped in there).

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There’s a big bang, but it’s quickly swallowed up by Celty. Like Izaya, we’re not sure what Celty’s game is; as far as we know her memories are gone, and yet here she is, showing allegience to the explodee rather than the exploder. Is it the basic morality and kindness that made Shinra fall for her in the first place, shining through even in her rebooted state? The episode doesn’t say; we don’t get to see or hear from Celty other than when she consumes the boom.

As for Shizuo, he naturally survives the blast, and pulls down the entire steel structure upon which Izaya stands, sending him plummeting. Before he can hit the ground, Shizuo belts him with a girder like a bat hitting a ball, sending Izaya flying through the starless urban night he loves so much. Much has been made of Shizuo’s monstrous strength and durability, but Izaya is clearly not just a regular human either, as he’s always surviving or dodging Shizuo’s attacks.

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The Kodata gang is reassembled (sans Erika, but plus Saki, Anri, Namie, Mika and Seiji), and Kodata warns Anri to get out of town, but she won’t. Her eyes flashing red (like Shinra’s), she tells him there’s “something she has to do,” which is see this thing, whatever the heck it is, all the way through.

Chitoge and Masaomi get a birds-eye view of the situation on the ground, with swirling masses of ordinary people moving around in strange mechanical patterns, around the Russia Sushi epicenter. They spot un-Saika-fied but masked Blue Square members down below, and Chitoge goes to see if one of them is Mikado; we later see it isn’t, and Mikado is on his own with his gun in his jacket.

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Finally, in one of the more unexpected pairings, Manami ends up helping a wounded Shinra enter a taxi so he too can get to where everyone else seems to be going. While en route, she tries to avail herself of Izaya’s one and only true friend’s insights about the best way to get him to despair as much as possible.

Shinra’s answer probably isn’t satisfying: Izaya, whom Shinra believes may be the most human of all of them, is a bottomless receptacle for all the worst impulses and actions of humans. He’ll accept it all and love humans unconditionally; not because his soul is strong, but because it’s fragile. As for Shinra, as the unnecessary flashbacks repeated, he is willing to lose his humanity and become a demon for the woman he loves.

Another few inches forward we lurch.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 08 (32)

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While I acknowledge it contained some progress and a couple of Durarara!! firsts, this episode had a disappointingly incremental feel about it. Sure, virtually all Durarara!! episodes are incremental, but the better ones do a better job keeping me entertained and distracted enough to overlook the fact there is a dizzying number of players involved. It’s starting to get a little out of hand.

But let me get back to one of those firsts: Celty finally has her head back. In true Dullahan fashion, she doesn’t simply reattach it to her neck, but carry it in her arm. Her horse turns back into a horse, and she regains her original armor, but considering she has no idea who Izaya is when she sees him, it would seem her memories of Ikebukuro to date have been erased.

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If that’s true, that would be a real bummer, but in the meantime Izaya has a fight to the death with Shizuo to take care of, so Celty kinda just…slinks away from the episode. Back at Shinra’s, Kodata shows his face for the first time since the hit-and-run, and wants Erika and everyone else to stay indoors. Tom Tanaka, pissed that neither Shizuo or Varona showed up for their rounds, has some late night Russian sushi, unaware the streets outside are growing more dangerous for him by the minute.

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Nasujima, now some big-shot rogue Saika host, has turned dozens if not hundreds of citizens into Saika zombies, with which he intends to capture Tanaka and use him as a bargaining chip in his dealings with Shizuo. Shijima is with them to, though I’m not sure why.

Back at the construction site, Izaya briefly recalls what Shinra said to him about the benefits of getting along with Shizuo (he’s a tiger who will one day be an urban legend) rather than remaining adversaries (someone will get hurt or killed). Back in the present, Shizuo and Izaya are only circling each other. A big fight seems imminent, but it’s still just sputtering so far.

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Chikage decides the best way to get Masaomi and Mikado to meet is with the chat room and a little bit of theater. He interrupts Namie’s ranting to demand Mikado call Masaomi’s phone…or else. When Mikado calls, Chikage answers, and sets up a meeting to hand over his “hostage.” Mikado agrees, and sets a location very near and dear to him vis-a-vis the Dollars.

That other Durarara!! first? Mikado actually has a gun, given to him by Izumii when they met. I have no idea what he intends to do with it, but it’s clear he doesn’t have the slightest idea how to use it properly; though at the end of the day, point-and-shoot will suffice. Call it another step deeper down the dark inscrutable abyss for Mikado, albeit an incremental one.

Once guns start being shot, the results can quickly become something one can’t simply, as Tom puts it, “let slide.” When bullets fly, impasses and stalemates start to become irreversible conclusions. I’ll hope Mikado takes after the re-booted Celty, and keeps his head.

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Hanasaku Iroha 16

It’s lonely at the top…or at least one step below the top. Like Yosuke last week, the manager’s son Enishi is a boss – not the boss – at the moment, but one day Kissuiso – or whatever’s left of it – will be his. Not just his inn but the entire town of Yunosagi is struggling to survive in the cutthroat Japanese hospitality industry.

He hired Takako as a consultant to help come up with crazy ideas to create revenue and/or buzz. And to her credit, Takako hasn’t torn the traditions of the inn to shreds. And now it seems she’s helped reel in a director interested in making a film on the premises, and even letting the staff audition for roles. Nothing like a film to create buzz for a location.

This plan is not without risk, and there’s no sure guarantee it will help the inn. Enishi even shoos away other innkeepers wanting a piece of the action, firmly stating it will be a Kissuiso film alone. To some, this means putting the PR fate of the entire town on his inn’s – and his – shoulders. But in doing so, assuming success, Enishi may finally step out of his sister Satsuke’s (Ohana’s mom’s) vast shadow.

His mother seems to be giving him his chance. If he screws up, it will only justify his lack of faith in himself, and (what he perceives as) her lack of faith in him. Looking at her with typical younger sibling’s eyes, Satsuke seemed to him like a more advanced form of human (note how dolphin-like she seems in his daydreams) – which is particularly amusing considering we (and Ohana) know all too well how flawed she truly is. But whether he’s chasing reality or merely an ideal, Enishi has never seemed more assertive.

Oh yeah, the girls just play with the hose in the drained pool this week…so they’re suddenly twelve now…I guess. Rating: 3.5

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With this episode, the first half of the 26-episode run of Hanasaku Iroha comes to a strong close. And even though [C] ranked slightly higher this season, I consider this my second-favorite of the season, after runaway best, AnoHana. What’s more, I’m actually looking forward to the second half. This series has staying power.

Unlike those two 11-episode series, Hanasaku Iroha really is one of those series that benefits from being stretched out. It’s chock full of great characters, great atmosphere, and great slice-of-life…and has looked consistently awesome. I haven’t seen True Tears, and Canaan was underwhelming, but going forward this definitely could give my standing favorite P.A. Works piece, Angel Beats!, a run for its money.

This week was a family reunion of sorts, as the prodigal daughter Satsuki returns as per Ohana’s request. The horror stories of her little brother Enishi, who stayed by his mom’s side in the business, are really nicely depicted. Satsuki, for her part, has the typical gripes about the place and her mother not having changed a bit. But she isn’t just there to criticize; in fact, she invites her daughter and mother to her room and the three generations of Shijimas have a nice heart-to-heart-to-heart.

During this, a tossed(?) Ohana spills the beans about Ko; her mom and granny both think she’s giving up too easily; but this isn’t the only family reunion that took place. The other was Ohana returning to her family at Kissuiso; her friends Nako and Minko are like sisters to her, and she’s come to love the inn and everyone she works with. This is her life now; a life in Tokyo with Ko just wasn’t in the cards. Of course, this is her mom’s fault for shipping her here in the first place, but what happened happened, something good came out of it, and Ohana is staying put. She misses Ko, but she’s where she wants to be. Rating: 4