Vanitas no Carte – 24 (Fin) – Je l’ai choisi pour me tuer.

Last week’s cliffhanger is promptly resolved, as Vanitas ends up on top of Noé, but just can’t quite kill him. His blade remains an inch from Noé’s throat, which may as well be a mile, for it is a distance Vanitas simply cannot move, despite having just hypnotized himself to kill all vampires.

Because Noé won’t drink Vanitas’ blood and Vanitas won’t kill Noé, Misha decides to use his book to zombify more random Parisians, but things go pear-shaped when the book seemingly overloads and starts to devour Misha himself. He’s like the kid who stole his dad’s car, and ends up putting it in a ditch.

The clear unsung hero of this whole ordeal is Dominique, whose strongest side is able to overcome Misha’s control over her weakest side. The one thing she’d never do is hurt Noé, which means she can’t let herself die, since that would hurt him deeply. With color returned to her life, Domi flashes her gorgeous ice magic powers and neutralizes the zombified people and is even able to briefly restrain Misha.

Vanitas draws nearer when Misha calls for his big brother, but it’s just a trick to lower Vanitas’ guard. Fortunately, Noé is faster than Misha, blocking his killing strike, breaking his prosthetic blade and slashing his face, sending the boy into a tantrum. That’s when daddy comes…or rather granddaddy.

Of course, this gramps isn’t Misha or Vanitas’ gramps, but Domi and Louis’—the former Marquid de Sade, AKA The Shapeless One, AKA the Comte de Saint Germain (who is, of course, a real dude from history…and also, judging from the eyes, might be Murr?!). He’s the one who saved Misha’s life and gave him both a metal arm and the idea he could bring his father back. He’s apparently not done with him, as he takes Misha away through a tear in reality.

After that, the opening theme plays as an insert, and Noé awakens in bed to a cheerful Amelia informing him everybody’s safe and sound, and Vanitas is, of course, perched up on the roof. Noé goes up to meet him, and the two are soon joined by Misha and his metal dog. Vanitas says he, not Misha, was responsible for Luna’s death, and it was a mercy killing, for Luna was about to go completely out of control.

When Misha reaches a hand out to once again ask Vanitas to join him in trying to bring Luna back, Vanitas declines. He doesn’t care if using the books is slowly changing them into “something not human”; if he’s going to be killed, he chooses Noé to be the one to do it.

Misha makes sure to tell the two that Domi didn’t kill anyone—Domi is kind, and Misha likes kind people and thus doesn’t want her unjustly punished for her actions at the fair. Then he bounds off on his metal dog, leaving Vanitas, Noé, and the morning sun peaking through the Parisian clouds.

Vanitas is eager to investigate what Saint Germain is up to, but other than that it’s business as usual, with him continuing to serve as a doctor curing vampires of their curses. But while he’d performed these duties for years without anyone by his side (save those dhampirs from whom he’s kept a certain distance), now he has Noé, Jeanne, Domi, and others willing to help him help others…and keep him alive.

While it didn’t hit quite as hard for me as the conclusion of the previous Chloé d’Apchier arc, this was still a strong finale that helped Vanitas take a step out of his dark past and into a more hopeful future, while galvanizing his bonds with those who wish to share in that future. And there seems to be plenty of potential story material for a third season if Bones so desires.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Takt Op. Destiny – 12 (Coda) – Addio, Signor Disperazione

After one more look at the OP, beautifully animated but for the fact Anna and Cosette lack toes (that always bothered me), we go right into the final boss battle. Orpheus packs a punch and has a suitably calm yet menacing voice, but by making it a two-against-one fight, she allows herself to be distracted by a kick to the fact from Takt, allowing Destiny to blast the top half of her away.

She eventually regenerates, but it takes enough time that Takt is able to continue on to Sagan. It then becomes a duel between Destiny and Orpheus, and the lack of a frail human in their midst means they can really let their bedazzled hair down and have a proper brawl, captured with all the requisite concussive Mappa/Madhouse sakuga.

Turns out Orpheus really is the final true boss; Sagan can’t do anything but try to convince Takt that his cause is right and just. Oh, and the show finally lets us in on the secret of why exactly he’s doing all this: he wants to lure all of the D2s in the world to a sacrificial North America so he can take them all out at once, thereby saving the remaining six populated continents. Uh, my dude … Antarctica was right there!

Turns out both Heaven and Hell, and thus Orpheus, aren’t really trying to save the world so much as save their Conductor, whom they love despite his fatal flaw of choosing the wrong continent to sacrifice. Just as Takt isn’t hearing Sagan’s excuses, Destiny most emphatically Does Not Care what Orpheus says or thinks, and somehow powering up, manages to pummel the hell (and heaven!) out of her. Destiny just wanted it more, I guess!

Destiny joins Takt, cementing Sagan’s defeat, as Takt uses her sword to kill him, which shuts down all of the D2s running amok in the crippled Symphonica. Sayonara Sagan…you were never much of a character, and the little bit of pathos the episode tries to squeeze out of your situation in the eleventh hour didn’t really work. You were just another of the dime-a-dozen villains populating lesser anime. Takt Op. Destiny deserved a better baddie.

It’s main duo won me over, however. Destiny has been showing more and more emotion as she’s come into her own as an individual and not just an musical alien inhabiting Takt’s dead soul mate. She basically becomes another soul mate to Takt, staying beside him, holding his non-existent right hand as they lay on the beach, then giving him a farewell kiss before vanishing in a cloud of rose petals. It’s a beautiful scene filled with bittersweet love.

That brings us to the brief epilogue, which indicates Takt made it into suspended animation alive. Anna has joined the Symphonica, trading her belly-bearing tops for the organization’s marching band-y uniform. She also looks after a gold trinket with red trim, the only thing Destiny left behind, and which seems to allow Anna to transform into the next Destiny. As her out-of-left-field kiss hinted, she’s dedicated herself for being there for Takt when—not if—he wakes up. There’s still a lot of D2s out there.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Takt Op. Destiny – 11 – Con Molta Forza

Lotte tells Anna that the last best chance of saving both Takt and Destiny is to put them in cryogenic stasis in order to buy time to counteract the effects of their contract. It could be years or decades before a cure is found, but if they do nothing, Takt may not last the month.

With Takt in such a precarious state, the last thing you want to see is Sagan causing the Symphonica to be completely overrun with D2-spawning giant purple crystals. Why, do you ask? Because Sagan = Bad Guy. It looks like the crystals engulf and kill him, which I guess makes this his magnum opus…?

Whatever his motivations to destroy everything he’s built and off himself(?), Sagan’s actions are the perfect excuse for some serious Musicart ass-kicking. We get glimpses of various other heretofore unseen Musicarts, but the only three who can truly save the day are Takt and Destiny, backed up by the now Maestro-less Titan, who has more of a sharp edge to her now.

Anna and Lotte end up trapped deep in the Symphonica’s labs by the crystals, and here Anna shows how awesome she is by carrying her paralyzed big sister on her back in order to find a way out. It isn’t long until they encounter a D2, but they’re saved in the nick of time by Walküre.

Eventually Anna, Lotte, and Walküre end up in the same mezzanine as Takt, Destiny, and Titan. The Musicarts successfully defeat all of the D2s in the immediate vicinity, but at a seemingly heavy cost: Takt can barely stand, and the battle has surely shortened his life from a month to mere days, if not hours. Even so, he orders Titan to take Anna, Lotte, and Walküre to safety while he and Destiny press on to Sagan—whom they assume is still alive.

When Anna tells him it’s a suicide mission, he says he knows, but he’s got his mentor Lenny’s work to complete along with his own music, none of which can exist as long as Sagan and his machinations are still going on. Somewhat curiously, Anna gives Takt a big old smooch, then makes it clear she has no idea why. I can’t say I can either, aside from the fact that the big sister act was to hide her feelings for him? This development has come far too late in the game!

On their way deeper into the Symphonica, Destiny notes how quiet Takt has become post-kiss, and even seems to display a slight measure of jealousy about it. That’s the last bit of comedy in the episode, however, as they soon enter a huge area absolutely crawling with D2s. Hell is waiting for them there, holding Heaven in a princess carry, and Heaven then stabs both of them with her tuning fork.

They both turn into a puddle of black goo, which then turns into several floating machine gun emplacements that destroy all of the D2. Then the guns transform into a new Musicart boss Orpheus: an unholy merging combination of Heaven, Hell, and the crystals. Considering how strong she’s likely to be, I suppose we’ll have to suspend our disbelief Takt has enough left in the tank. The question is, win or lose, will the show really kill him and/or Destiny off?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Takt Op. Destiny – 10 – Keepers of the Light

This week’s Takt delves fully into Lenny’s past while throwing multiple death flags in the present, meaning this episode really only has one conclusion. That, and the lack of depth in Lenny’s development to this point —not to mention the relatively thin relationship he has with Takt and Destiny—kinda left me wanting on this one, and I don’t feel good saying that!

First Lenny, Titan, Takt, and Destiny meet in Central Park where Lenny will reveal the secret of the Symphonica and the Boston Tragedy, but before he can say anything Sagan shows up, says “Yes, I’m Evil too”, asks the others to join him, and has both Heaven and Hell attack them when they don’t. I usually don’t mind getting down to the exciting action, but for an episode full of exposition they could have gone into a little more detail about what Sagan is trying to accomplish.

Yes, there was every indication that Sagan was evil too, but the fact that he’s evil…just cause kinda flattens the conflict. It would have been more interesting if he’d presented his side of what the world should be, or give a good reason why he’s riling up the D2s. But nothing. His Musicarts fight Lenny and Takt’s, Takt runs out of gas, Lenny takes three bullets and uses what’s left of his life to put Titan in Overdrive.

With a fusillade of bullets that would make Tomoe Mami proud, OverTitan manages to disable Heaven. Whether she didn’t feel conficdent taking Titan on herself or read the room that her laughing and mugging was growing stale, Hell withdraws with Sagan and Heaven, and the fights over just like that. The remainder of the episode is saying goodbye to Lenny, and…I don’t mean to be callous, but there’s an art to death scenes.

If the character is someone you care about and their death was set up, you’re on the right track. Lenny seems like a swell guy and all, and I liked him, but the show never made me get all that invested in until this week, when they rushed through it all. The inevitability of his demise from start to finish, and trying to land payoffs with inadequate setup made this turning point of an episode fell far more hollow than it should have.

SAKUGAN – 08 – EASIER TO RUN THAN REGRET

Rufus was going to be Gagumber’s last partner. When things went sour with Memenpu last week, Gagumber remembered why he didn’t want, didn’t need, and shouldn’t have a partner, even if it’s his daughter. While Memenpu wanders off to sulk in his old hometown, Gagumber drinks with a recovered Yuri and reconnects with the old man who ran the marker shop.

Zackletu, who had been by Yuri’s bedside, tracks down Memenpu and treats her to the local specialty of tea-in-a-plastic bag. She gets Memenpu to open up about what’s troubling her: about the dream that felt like more than a dream where Gagumber died, and how she can never really hate Gagumber. But once we get a good look at Rufus’ little “brother” Zack, I felt like things were going to take a turn.

And turn they do. Turns out the tea Zackletu gave Memenpu was drugged, and she kidnaps her and uses her as bait for Gagumber. Zack was actually Rufus’ kid sister, not brother, and when she became convinced Gagumber was responsible for Rufus’ death, she spent a huge sum of money for Yuri to track him down so she could get her revenge.

What finally pushed Zackletu into carrying out her plan was seeing how blithe and callous Gagumber was being to his new partner and daughter Memenpu, after what she saw as him abandoning her after Rufus’ death. It was definitely shitty for Gagumber not to follow up with Zack. Does he deserve to die over it? Even Zackletu isn’t sure, as she fires a lot of bullets and detonates a lot of bombs in his general direction, but never seems able to deliver the killing blow.

It’s this episode where I understand why Hanazawa Kana was cast as Zackletu: in addition to being able to credibly voice a young boy, who was actually a young girl hiding her true gender to protect herself from her rough environment, Hanazawa really brings out her pathos and rage. Through all the violence she’s exacting upon Gagumber as Memenpu is forced to watch, you never get the feeling Zackletu is enjoying this.

Rather, she just doesn’t know what else to do, so she’s lashing out. It’s only when all the explosions and Memenpu’s struggling causes her rope to break, and Gagumber overrides the stopper on his “Gale” device to save her and then apologize to her, that Zackletu stops her attack. She couldn’t easily kill Gagumber knowing his daughter still loved him in spite of all his flaws; once he admitted those flaws to Memenpu, she definitely couldn’t kill him.

Instead, Gagumber is admitted and then discharged from the hospital, while Zackletu prepares to depart…only Memenpu won’t let her. She forgives her for trying to kill Gagumber, and insists she stay with the group as they head to her dream place. Memenpu just warns Zackletu, in the same way Rufus did, that next time it happens, she’ll really let her have it.

Do I buy that someone as hell-bent on getting revenge as Zackletu would not only stand down, but remain with the man she believed killed her brother for years? I do, it all comes down to buying that she tried to be a heartless avenging baddie, but couldn’t go through with it because she still had a heart, and wasn’t all bad.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jouran: The Princess of Snow and Blood – 04 – Snakes and Sinners

When Sawa sees the note from Janome she rushes to his hideout, but Kuzuhara heads her off in his car. He won’t let her walk into a trap and ruin the path to revenge he laid out for her just to save a little girl who wants to kill her. It’s not part of his plan, so he knocks her out with the back of his blade.

Unfortunately for him, Sawa is a part of Janome’s plan, and Makoto is working for him now (I guess?) and she siccs a group of changeling bomb dogs(!) on his car. In the ensuing explosions, he and Sawa are separated, and Makoto scoops her up and skedaddles. I guess Janome and Makoto knew Sawa wouldn’t make it to his hideout on her own…???

In a touching flashback to a happier past we’re reminded how cute and kind and human-behaving Sawa once was, as her brother assured her a bird would choose her someday. She wakes up to an array of disco lights and ominous organ music being played by our big bad, Janome with his back turned to her. It’s all a bit…Saturday morning cartoon villain, to be honest!

What was supposed to be dark and menacing comes off as goofy and cheesy, especially with his host of snakes that honestly might’ve have been slightly scarier if they were CG. Janome has a special restraining chair and birdcage all set up for Sawa, and forces her to submit to him fully, lest his badly-drawn snakes kill little Asahi.

He draws some of her blue blood while describing his evil plan, promising to free her and Asahi when that plan is complete, at which point she can kill him if she likes. Oh, and he’s got her brother Takeru strung up on the organ. He’s been keeping him barely alive while using his blood for his experiments, and Sawa is next. Pretty fucked up for a guy who claims to “worship” her clan!

This is when things go a bit off the rails. Makoto, who revealed she was working with Janome, switches sides again by killing the snakes holding Asahi. Another snake takes her arm in return. I guess I was right about her being a triple agent, but we know so little about Makoto that neither apparent turncoat move really did anything for me?

She feels more like a plot device than a character with discernable motivations, and it was time for her to side with Sawa here, so she did. Then Janome eats one of the crystals made out of Sawa’s blood, briefly becomes Mr. Freeze, and then turns into a frankly laughable snake-man monster. At this point, Matoko—who you’ll remember is missing an arm and bleeding profusely—still has the strength to ascend out of the hideout with a cable gun. Uh, bye, I guess??

Sawa enters her much cooler-looking changeling mode, but even that’s undermined by a transformation sequence that is frame-for-frame the same every time. Even this mode apparently isn’t enough, but with his last ounce of strength Takeru tosses some vials full of orange…stuff? at both Janome and Sawa.

The stuff seems to have opposite effects on the two, subduing Janome and powering up Sawa, who slices Janome clean in half. Her revenge thus complete, Sawa goes to her brother, who says it’s too late for him. Then she says in that case she’ll die with him, but then Asahi makes a noise and Sawa remembers why she came here in the first place! Roll Credits.

Sorry for the snarky tone, but Jouran kinda fell apart in this fourth episode, with thing upon thing simply happening and character upon character doing things that either didn’t make a lot of sense or were extremely heavy-handed (i.e. the organ schtick). With Sawa’s nemesis Janome turning out to be a relative pushover, I don’t know what’s next for her and the rest of Nue, but I don’t much care either.

DanMachi III – 11 – Don’t Speak

Welf and Mikoto manage to successfully stall Gareth with a last-minute assist from Tsubaki, ordered by Hephaistos to assist Hestia Familia. Wiene manages to give Tiona the slip, but the chase continues. In the process, the Amazoness witnesses Wiene save a demi child from a crumbling bridge.

When she corners her again, Tiona can’t go through with killing her, and lets her go, now sensing what it is Argonaut-kun saw in her, and acknowledging she’s more than just another monster.

Wiene reunites with Bell and Haruhime, but it’s not long before they’re confronted by Bete. Again asserting her newfound confidence and strength, Haruhime stalls Bete to allow the others to flee, then uses Uchide no Kozuchi to summon a leveled-up Aisha.

Haruhime may not be that good in an offensive battle, but those who love her like Aisha consider her battles to be their battles, and gladly fight in her place. Even though Aisha loses and doesn’t feel particularly cool about it, the fact is, she is extremely cool, while Bete’s just a hotheaded dork.

That brings us to the titular Decisive Battle, in which Bell and Ais dance once more, only this time with blades instead of eveningwear. As Finn expected, Ais isn’t prepared to make any distinction between Wiene and Monsters Who Make People Cry based on what she’s seen. Wiene went berserk before, she could do so again, and she can’t allow it.

That said, she is surprised that Bell is able to hold his own in their initial scuffle, such that she dispenses with holding back for the sake of their unique bond, and takes things up a notch. Bell can’t keep up, so he spams Firebolt at the stone arch above them and uses the debris cloud as cover to escape.

Finding the barred gate to a secret passage where he once stood up for Hestia, Bell has Wiene go through to meet up with the other Xenos, promising he’ll be right behind her. Round 2 with Ais commences, and Ais is not playing around. Her only accomodation to Bell is to warn him that she is going to cut him and it will hurt, a lot.

If she were to spill Bell’s blood, I doubt things would ever be the same between them—maybe they won’t be anyway—but thankfully Wiene sensed Bell was only lying to protect her (again) and comes back to put herself between Ais and Bell. Ais is shocked to hear her speak and express emotion—specifically concern for Bell.

It’s an inconvenient truth she’d rather not deal with. Things were easier when she thought Wiene was just a monster; now it will hurt her to kill her, but she’ll still kill her, because she has “deadly claws” and a “terrifying wing”. Wiene responds to that by literally tearing off the monstrous parts of her (not her jewel, that would kill her).

Wiene tearfully assures Ais that she ever loses herself again she’ll disappear “like she’s supposed to”, but she doesn’t want to go back to being in the “pitch black”. Bell saved her, and she wants to stay with him. Having witnessed Wiene act not like a monster at all, Ais concludes she can no longer kill her. She tosses Bell a potion and lets them go.

Bell and a healed Wiene meet up with Haruhime, Lili, and some Xenos who got separated from the main group, and Bell and Wiene say goodbye one more time. This time Wiene tells him she won’t cry while they’re apart because she doesn’t want him or the Familia to worry about her. Haruhime suggests Wiene and Bell pinky swear that they’ll meet again.

Unfortunately, that might not happen, as throughout this whole operation, the trickster Hermes was playing the good guys like a fiddle. The main Xenos group encounter a dead end that wasn’t on Daedalus’ map, and Hermes arrives with Asfi to confess he faked the map to corner them. He condemns the Xenos as “heretical” and politely asks them to die. As expected, he has his own personal agenda, and he’s making his move.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 69 – Tsukimine Showdown

This is it: with just one episode left in reserve (presumably for an epilogue), the big clash between Team Eriol and Team Sakura has finally come. After revealing himself, Eriol releases the true forms of Spinel and Ruby, and the trio really play up the Big Bad Villain act.

Eriol shrouds the entire city in darkness, which puts everyone to sleep except for Sakura and Syaoran (though even he’s woozy). If Sakura can’t lift the darkness spell by daybreak, everyone will remain asleep…forever.

The show makes a point to underline the stakes by showing almost every secondary character out cold, including Touya, who has no more magical power, after all. Sakura asks Eriol why he’s doing all this, but Eriol will only tell her if she breaks his spell.

Spinny and Ruby aren’t just arrogant, but also exceedingly powerful, and even when Yue arrives to shield Sakura, both he and Kero have a tough time keeping pace with Eriol’s guardians. The aerial battle between Yue and Ruby in particular is a beautiful action set piece.

Once it’s clear Sakura will have to stop playing defense and do something about the darkness spell, she takes out her cards, notes that eight Clow Cards remain to be converted, and then proceeds to convert six at once. Two “refuse” to change, however: Light and Dark.

Since those cards are most closely tied to her guardians, Kero and Yue tell Sakura to absorb the two of them into her staff. She does so, and her staff becomes longer and grander; Syaoran helps her hold it steady, and relies on his Clow Reed blood help convince the cards to change.

Once both Light and Dark are Sakura Cards, Sakura invokes Light, which proceeds to shatter the darkness and restore the regular sky. Everyone wakes up, safe and sound, and Eriol and his guardians stand down, his mission to help Sakura convert all of his cards now complete. Call it tough love on his part: in order for Sakura to summon the power, he had to create a crisis only she could fix.

When Kero and Yue go chasing after Eriol, Spinny and Ruby, Sakura prepares to follow, but Syaoran holds her up so he can tell her something he’s been wanting to tell her practically all season: he likes her. That’s right; the kid finally got the words out!

Alas, all he gets in response before the credits roll is Sakura’s shocked expression. But as she puts it in the preview for the finale, she once had no idea how she felt about Syaoran…but now she does know.

No Guns Life – 23 – Pulling Your Own Trigger

Deep within Juuzou’s sub-brain and in contact with his subconscious, Tetsuro assures his friend that he’s not there to pull his trigger (a somewhat dirty-sounding string of words, but that’s an observation I’ll table for this review), but to get Juuzou to realize and accept that it’s his trigger to pull: his will, his choice, his wish. By hanging in there against Seven, Kronen buys the kid the time he needs, even though from the outside it looks like his sub-brain is toast.

With Seven/Pepper and Juuzou’s battle attracting the media and crowds of gawkers, Cunningham decides it’s time to sweep their operatives under the rug, and sends an elimination squad after Seven and Peppeer. I expected the pair to be betrayed by Berühren, just as I expected Seven to easily repel their would-be killers. However, Pepper’s hand is blown off and she starts to bleed out.

Rather than getting Pepper some medical help, Seven decides to obey the last order his Hands gave him: destroy everything. That includes the EMS officers and crowds gathered around the plaza. Kronen can’t stop him, but Juuzou does. Having successfully “pulled his own trigger” as Tetsuro suggested, Juuzou can draw on powers previously only available when he had a Hands, but without a Hands.

As a Gun Slave Unit in the military, Juuzou put all the decision-making on his Hands. As a resolver in the city, Juuzou worked to fulfill the wishes of his clients so he wouldn’t have to think about his own. But thanks to Tetsuro, he now knows he’s not beholden to anyone, even his past self. He can choose to move forward and fight for what he wants. So can Seven, but Seven won’t hear him out, and their destructive duel continues.

At Berühren HQ the board makes preparations to bring Tetsuro in, having been impressed with his recent progress and not wanting the only successful instance of Harmony on the loose. However, one board member, the woman, vetoes the decision. She wants to watch Tetsuro a little longer without interfering, so see what else he might show them. Berühren still considers Tetsuro a tool and their property. Hopefully he’ll prove otherwise in the next and final episode.

No Guns Life – 22 – The Shackled Man

Kronen and Kunugi would have probably fought for some time to an eventual draw. As it stands, Kunugi is almost out of ammo, so he takes the opportunity to flee when the fight betwen Juuzou and Seven distracts Kronen.

That’s just as well; I’m here for the Gunhead Fight. Unfortunately for Juuzou, Seven and Pepper are rather effectively demonstrating the advantage of a gun having a shooter, as Juuzou is soon beaten down into a corner.

Juuzou recalls that his own Hands once gave him the choice of whether to carry out the mission to eliminate the other GSUs. Like Pepper, he chose to do his duty, in the absence of anything worth fighting or dying to protect.

In what may be the first evidence of nuance in Pepper’s character, she actually seems to lament the fact Juuzou won’t join her. She considers not wanting to die to be what makes people human, and can’t fathom why he insists on dying rather than joining her and living, even if it’s shameful.

Pepper decides to give Juuzou what he wants, but Seven is stopped in his tracks by Kronen, allowing Tetsuro to use Harmony on Juuzou. Tetsuro remembers Juuzou telling him never to use Harmony on him again, but he also told him later that his choices and his worth are his own to determine.

Tetsuro choses to save Juuzou, and the only way to do that is to become his Hands, at least for the time being. When he hacks into Juuzou’s sub-brain, he finds a pedestal containing Juuzou’s trigger, and Juuzou’s voice begins to guide him through his formative memories.

I say formative because even here Juuzou doesn’t remember anything about his past prior to becoming a soldier and GSU. He does, however remember the mission to destroy the other rogue GSUs. We get to meet Twelve, who has a big pot belly and drinks sake from a dainty bottle rather than smoking cigarettes (back then Juuzou simply administered the drugs with an inhaler).

Twelve tells Juuzou that he and his fellow gunheads are tired of war and simply want to live their remaining days in peace, and to have a bit of fun after so much toil. He seemingly convinces Juuzou, who gives Twelve an escape route. But Juuzou simply led them to a spot where he could take them all out from a clock tower—an appropriately noir-y venue for betrayal.

It was there, after he had blasted to smithereens the people who considered him a brother, and heard the mocking comments of his fully human handlers who call him a “lunatic extended” that a switch flips in Juuzou. All this time he’d been insulating himself from blame and regret because it wasn’t his hand on the trigger.

But Juuzou wasn’t—and isn’t—an inanimate gun. He’s a gun with a human soul and personality, capable of making his own choices then and now. He chose to let his Hands use him to eliminate his brothers rather than letting them go. When he realizes that no matter who pulled the trigger, the decision was his, he snaps.

This is the first step on the road to the remorseful Juuzou we know, a Resolver living every day trying to atone for the red in his ledger. He’s always felt both he, the people in his life, and the world are better off if he never had a Hands again. But it’s not just his choice anymore, it’s Tetsuro’s too.

No Guns Life – 21 – Babes and Bullets

Tetsuro uses Harmony to remove his own extension limits, enabling him to punch the shit out of Wachowski’s face. The old man then draws from the “every action has a reaction” speech from the Merovingian in The Matrix Reloaded, but Tetsuro is done listening to someone who has thought nothing of the pain and suffering caused to achieve his ends.

He also declines to finish Wachowski off, feeding him back his line about the ideals of men tending to change with time. Despite his scary extended form, Tetsuro neither fears nor hates Wachowski—in fact, he almost pities him. So he’s won on every front.

Well…not every front. Kunugi decides to inject drugs into his own fellow Spitzbergen member Shimazu in order to augment her—that’s right, HER—organic body in order to better fight the Gun Slave Unit. When those huge bazongas popped out of Shimazu’s armor, I knew we were going to have a Bashful Cartoon Juuzou reaction. It’s a silly but welcome bit of levity, though I wish so much NGL’s comedy didn’t rely so much on boobs.

But as averse as he is to hitting women, he doesn’t have much of a choice, so he swallows a bunch of cigarettes to counteract Kunugi’s drugs and brings Shimazu down. It’s here when Kunugi notes that Spitzbergen’s continued terrorism actually increased Berühren’s profits, since public support for self-defense by extension increases with each attack.

Kunugi reveals he was hired by Cunningham to keep that sick cycle of violence going, working against both Wachowski’s attempts at moderation and true believers like Shimazu who aren’t in it for the money. When Shimazu tries to attack him, her arm is sliced off at the wrist by Pepper…who thank goodness doesn’t proceed to compare their boobs.

Kunugi, Pepper, and Seven are all there to bring Juuzou down, but Pepper (with her seiyu Minase Inori really savoring a rare villainness role) admits that protecting a “weak asshole” like Cunningham and killing a “sad old man” like Wachowski isn’t her idea of a good time, just her nine-to-five.

Pepper also tells Juuzou that she knows the whereabouts of the Hands who abandoned him in the midst of bringing down the other Gun Slave Units. But she won’t tell him unless he beats Seven, something she doubts he can do without a Hands.

She also offers more than once, to become his Hands, a matter on which she and Seven vehemently disagree. The perpetually insecure Seven is so threatened by the competition he violently comes between the two, coming awfully close to hurting Pepper, who shrugs it off. I for one wouldn’t mind if at some point Pepper casts aside her loyalty to a corporation that doesn’t give a shit about her.

Juuzou doesn’t believe Pepper, but is so outraged that she’d even bring his Hands up, goes into no-holds-barred full combat mode. Pepper does the same with Seven, but then has to simply step back and watch as the two units go at each other in earnest with blinding speed and ferocity—kinda like the ED, but less informal street-brawly, more epic final-bossy.

Finally, Kunugi comes upon the injured, bleeding Tetsuro where Seven left him, but is confronted by Kronen in his first S2 appearance. The Corvette-loving cop isn’t there to bandy words with Kunugi; he’s there to “take responsibility for an embarrassing fellow pupil.” Of course, by his ultra-rigid code Tetsuro is also a criminal to be dealt with, but at the moment it can’t hurt Tetsuro to have an enemy of his enemy around.

Oregairu 3 – 05 – Making It Work

After enduring a heartbreaking ending last week, Yui doesn’t appear in this episode, which is just as well as Hiki, Shizuka, Iroha and Yukino are more than sufficient. As Shizuka lays out the situation to Hikki, he laments that the prom already in danger of being checkmated.

The “anti-prom faction” most likely led by Yukino’s mom has already sown the seeds of negativity regarding the event. “The prom might be cancelled” can become “The prom should be cancelled” much easier than overcoming the naysaying. In effect, the detractors are using the original “social media”—word of mouth and inertia—to undermine the prom.

Hikki wants to help. He also knows Yukino considers making the prom a reality to be the ultimate personal trial, and will surely reject any offer of help, lest it descend into undue dependence as before. While she chain smokes Shizuka helps Hikki determine the proper language with which to approach this complex problem.

Having shot the breeze with a sensei, Hikki moves on to his kohai in Iroha, who stops him from entering the StuCo room without her knowing how he’s going to deal with Yukino. He ends up surprising her (which he does a lot anyway since her surface opinion of him is so low) by making this about taking responsibility for the complication of both the prom situation and his relationship with Yukino.

Like Shizuka, Iroha gives Hikki her blessing in his imminent confrontation with Yukino. But while Shizuka was mostly joking about having to marry him if she ends up fired over her role in the prom scenario, Iroha is still harboring some pretty strong feelings for this guy, with which she’s not sure quite what to do, resulting in frustration and her refrain he and his friends are a “pain”…which they most certainly are!

When Hikki and Yukino finally meet in the StuCo room (with Iroha watching), he comes right out and asks to help, using a lot of qualifying language to underscore how it won’t be like other times when she’d come to depend on him; he’d be moving as instructed and not interfering. He gives this argument everything he’s got, because in the moment he thinks it’s best.

Yukito appreciates the offer, but is resolute in making the prom happen without Hikki; as Shizuka said, it’s a matter of personal pride as much as wanting to grow beyond her dependency. When he mentions how he wants to “save” her, it’s a word that catches Iroha totally off-guard, while Yukino understands immediately, and is happy just to hear it, even if her position remains unchanged.

Hikki is of the mind that they’ll need more than just a Plan A to get the prom out of check, and so he didn’t come into that room without a Plan B for how he’d end up helping Yukino. He proposes something that came up last time they had a “difference of opinion” when it came to how to accomplish a job: a good old-fashioned showdown.

Rather than helping Yukino directly, he’ll go his own way and use his own methods to bring the prom to fruition, foiling those who want it to fail but don’t want to be the ones actively stamping it out. This appeals to Yukino’s desire for independence as well as her competitive spirit and love of winning. They even set up stakes: whoever loses the showdown will have to do whatever the winner says.

What had been palpable tension suddenly lifts from the room and the two launch into good-hearted trash talking, the parameters for their interaction having been established. Iroha, who is privy to all of this, feels like a voyeur listening to either a confession, a lovers quarrel, a breakup, or any combination of the above. Watching the two affectionately bicker is a glimpse into another world where Iroha is baffled by the dialect and local customs.

Yet her impressively eloquent thought: “Seriously, I never imagined their talk would get this complicated while being so clear and precise”, could just as well be describing Oregairu’s dialogue, in general, which is always about more than the sum of its words. Finally, she’s frustrated that while Hikki is so determined to “take responsibility” for things with Yukino and Yui, he has yet to take responsibility for how he’s come to make her feel…and how uphill her battle truly is.

Steins;Gate 0 – 18 – What is this New Devilry

What happens this week? God, what doesn’t happen this week?! (Oh wait; sorry, “there is no God…”) But first, a couple of misconceptions I’d gathered at the end of the last outing. Mayuri is not dead; a bullet only grazed her head.

Also, Kagari/K2605 didn’t shoot her; it really was a stray from the soldiers. Far from being her attempted murderer, Kagari completely loses it on the troops in her mother’s name, lopping off their heads and shooting them with their own rifles.

When Mayuri gets a (pained) look at her future adoptive daughter, K2605 snaps out of it and becomes regular Kagari again. But nobody’s out of danger yet. Maho and Daru are still being held captive by soldiers, and the mastermind finally reveals himself, first to Rintarou, then to everyone else on that rooftop.

It’s Professor Leskinen. He, or rather numerous “hes” throughout history, are behind everything: the “voice of God” in Kagari’s head to manipulating events so Kurisu would die but her memories of the time machine would be preserved through Amadeus.

Leskinen/s have been preparing for this very day, the perfect time when competing global powers (Stratfor and DURPA) converge on the Time Machine, allowing him to swoop in and snatch it for himself.

I’m pretty sure I never suspected Leskinen was the Big Bad; only when they showed part of the face of the guy who brainwashed Kagari did I comment that he didn’t look like Leskinen. Now Judy Reyes I suspected (who drinks red wine on a plane? A little turbulence and you’re wearing it), but not the mostly harmless-seeming bad Japanese-speaking professor.

Of course, Lesky relied on the “soft-heartedness” of everyone from Maho to Rintarou to facilitate his plan, and was all too willing to appear harmless until it was too late to stop him. His reveal is a double-edged sword: there’s more clarity now to who Rintarou & Co. are up against, but “villain spends inordinate amount of time explaining his evil scheme” cliche really has been done to death.

It’s a bit disappointing to see Lesky reduced to a chortling mad scientist, but at least there’s a kind of dark symmetry with Rintarou’s long-dormant Hououin Kyouma. Oh, and thanks to wasting so much time explaining his plan, he ends up never getting to even implement it. Instead, Kagari uses her remaining strength to grab him.

He puts a couple more bullets into her but she doesn’t let go, giving Suzu time to take care of the rest. Only her dad can stop her from beating Leskinen to death. Then things get really crazy when a Black Hawk helicopter opens fire on the roof before another team of soldiers drops in.

Then an Apache helicopter shoots the Black Hawk, causing enough chaos for Mayuri to grab Suzuha and do what they originally set out to do: use the time machine. After bidding Rintarou farewell, the machine is activated and begins to glow green, but one of the helicopters fires a missile at it. There’s an explosion, and the among the resulting debris is a part of the machine.

Did Mayuri and Suzuha fail to get out in time? We don’t know for sure (just like I wasn’t sure Mayuri was killed or Kagari didn’t kill her last week). If they made it, perhaps we’ll pick up on their experience, and Mayuri will be able to undertake her first big mission as Lab Member #002.

Furthering the confusion is a lengthy text Rintarou gets from Mayuri. Is it just a text she sent in the present that simply took a while to get to him, or is it a D-mail? The timing suggests the latter.

If they didn’t make it, there’s still the Phone Microwave and Daru and Maho’s know-how (not to mention a captive Leskinen), and they’ll be making more green bananas. In either case, Rintarou & Co. are down, but far from out.

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