Sagrada Reset – 19

This week, in the “Boy, Girl and —” arc finale, Souma Sumire comes to Kei’s place, makes chicken curry, telling him about how Urachi grew up while she cooks. Urachi is basically Kei’s opposite: he wants all abilities to be wiped out, because he believes they’ll hurt, rather than help, the weak in the world (though we’re just talking about one small town here).

Then Souma takes a shower, because, as Kei presumes, she knows she’s going to cry. She tells Kei that Souma Sumire died so that when she was ultimately brought back by Kei’s efforts, she wouldn’t really be Souma Sumire anymore, which allowed her to pass Sakuin’s lie detection.

This “artifact”, as she calls herself, still intends to hinder Urachi, and so did everything possible to give Kei a chance to thwart his plans—except tell him everything before she set her plan into motion.

The fault for this lies in the Souma of two years ago who no longer exists, and though “Souma II” admits she and her are pretty much the same, it was that first Souma who acted “foolishly”, letting Kei get stolen away by Haruki, then forcing all of the “hard parts” onto her replacement. She can’t forgive her, but like her, Kei’s happiness comes first.

Kei expresses his gratitude to both Past Souma and Souma II, and as they eat the curry, he notes how the flavor is “oddly nostalgic.” Souma used her ability to draw from his mother’s know-how, but just as she’s not 100% the Souma Sumire she used to be, something made with “a mother’s love” cannot be 100% replicated.

Kei commits to beating Urachi, which he intends to do by claiming all of the abilities in Sakurada, as the MacGuffin promised to do. The miracles they’ll create will be happy, not a danger or nuisance as Urachi so strongly believes.

Kei made sure to warn Haruki that Oka Eri may pay her a visit, and to let him know if she takes her Reset ability (again). Sure enough, Urachi arrives with Oka, and instead of having Oka take her Reset right there, he uses his own ability on her, “rewinding” her to two-plus-years ago, before she met Asai Kei (and when she had really long hair.)

He leaves the sleeping Haruki with Oka, telling her to take her Reset once she wakes up in the hospital.

Oka Eri wants to beat Senpai, but a part of her still admires, looks up to, and loves Kei, and so when she heard his voice message in her head, telling her he’s been “backed into a corner”, and asks if when the time comes she won’t take Haruki’s reset…it puts Oka in a moral bind.

Just as Souma got around Urachi’s lie detector through rather desperate measures, I wouldn’t be surprised if Kei has to make similar sacrifices in order to succeed in his mission.

The stakes couldn’t be higher: his relationship to Haruki and the abilities of the town hang in the balance, and Urachi, preparing to wake up his “petrified” mother after 20 years, is playing for keeps.

Prison School – 03

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Three episodes, in, and I’ve been subjected to three sickeningly funny, pants-shittingly good outings by Prison School…and hope is still alive that Kiyoshi will have his date! But while there’s plenty of sex and toilet humor, and enormous boobs to be had, there’s also taut, witty dialogue, tremendous voice performances, and a solid narrative replete with “cause and effect” situations. And holes. Lots of holes.

Cause: the guys peep on the girls. Effect: they’re thrown in Prison School. Cause: Kiyoshi escapes the scorn of his sweetheart. Effect: the date is still on, he just needs to break out. Cause: Kirihara also has a secret he needs to conceal. Effect: Kiyoshi’s Plan A fails, and he’s forced to move to a more daring Plan B.

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But those are just the main plot points. There’s also the fact that Shingo, Andre, and Joe start getting suspicious when Kiyoshi and Gakuto start spending so much time together, while they start to suspect Shingo is on to their escape plan. Then Shingo catches them in the shower in a couple of very compromising (but ultimately innocent) positions, giving Shingo the idea that his two friends have begun a physical relationship. And while his initial reaction is shock and horror, he accepts Kiyoshi for who he is. What a nice friend!

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As for the holes I mentioned, a change in their duties the day of his date means Kiyoshi must find an alternate covert route to his hole in the wall, so he uses a drainage channel. While hiding there, he comes across an even smaller hole, through which he can watch Shiraki doing Hindu squats, as is her wont, from the most favorable possible angle.

But again cause and effect rear their ugly heads: due to his position, when Shiraki’s stiletto slips and falls through a hole, it goes right into Kiyoshi’s hole. The resulting blood makes his friends, who’ve been told about him and Gakuto by Shingo, think he pitches as well as catches. But Shingo makes the excuse to Shiraki that Kiyoshi has hemorrhoids.

That segues nicely into Gakuto’s revised plan for Kiyoshi to escape: using an audio recorder with sounds of flatulance to serve as a diversion for Kiyoshi while he’s away. Only their internet access is restricted, so he must record those sounds himself.

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The Three Kingdoms-obsessed Gakuto is always extremely formal and archaic in his speech patterns and vocabulary, so when he and Kiyoshi discuss the pros and cons of what he’s about to do, it’s given all the pomp and heft of a far nobler venture than intentionally shitting oneself in computer class. Yet Gakuto sells the ever-loving shit out of it, cutting loose and producing the necessary audio to aid Kiyoshi—who is, after all, getting him his ultra-rare 3K figures.

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Cause and Effect strike again, when a weak-willed Kurihara, having dug up the booty pics he buried, re-buries them in concrete, he also patches up Kiyoshi’s escape hole. But Kiyoshi doesn’t despair long; he decides he’ll break out by dressing as a girl (snatching a uniform from the laundry truck that will come Friday) and walking out the front gate with the other girls. This is a very old, very stupid bit, but I have full confidence in Prison School to put its unique mark on it when the time comes.

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That confidence is even further buoyed by the final dramatic set piece of the episode, a masterpiece of movement, timing, and ecchiness. Gakuto, who seems a little more weary of Kiyoshi’s chances of success, seemingly goes nuts when he’s supposed to lay low, getting up in Shiraki’s crotch, being smothered in her bust, and finally pulling down President Mari’s skirt. What is his deal…has he lost it? Or is this another plan? Is he creating a cause for some intended effect? We shall see, my friends.

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Steins Gate – 11

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Suzuha’s feeble attempt to distract Mr. Braun results in Okarin getting punched, but all is not lost: Okarin discovers the lifter the phone microwave is using: the 42″ CRT in the store. And while Kurisu is still against sending physical objects to the past (they’ll only turn into goo), she thinks she’s cracked a way to send people’s memories. 

It involves her showing the other lab members an issue of SCIENCY magazine (and boy how I wish a magazine with such an amazing name existed) with her damn picture on the cover, and explaining how a kind of “time leap” (not travel) could be accomplished by translating nerve pulse signals to electrical signals. Lest we forget, Kurisu is very, very smart.

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But I also appreciated how Mayushii doesn’t simply fail to immediately understand the concept because she’s dumb or slow. She’s more hung up on the why than the how. Sure, scientists will ‘climb mountains’ simply because the mountains are there; but Mayushii has a very different, very Mayushii take on it: that if she sent her memory of the conversation she’s having with Okarin back to herself, only she would remember that memory. And to her, that’s scary and sad; it speaks to her fear of Okarin ‘leaving’ her.

During their errands, Okarin and Mayushii run into Moeka again, but she too seems put off by the lab’s newest goal, and they part ways. They also encounter a still midriff-baring Suzuha, who has brought Mr. Braun’s adorable little daughter to apologize on her dad’s behalf. And then Suzuha mentions in passing that Kurisu is working for SERN. Whaaaaa?

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When he gets the jump on Kurisu lurking on @channel, he dismisses, or at least sets aside the accusation—how could such an open book be trusted with espionage?—but I’m not as quick to shrug Suzuha’s words off. Suzuha seems to know more than any other lab member what’s going on, or possibly what will go on. Maybe she meant to say Kurisu will work for SERN, or worked for them in a previous world line?

Never mind all that, though…it’s time for another Intimate Okarin+Kurisu Talk in the Dark®; in which Kurisu lays bare her the reason for her hesitation in building the time leap machine. That heated phone call was with her estranged father, a fellow scientist, who has come to hate her, not just because she surpassed him before puberty, but because he’s certain she pities him for it.

She fears the time leap technology will only drive him further insane, even though her scientist instincts will probably press on anyway. She’s looking for validation and support, and Okarin eventually provides it, agreeing to accompany her in an attempt to reconcile with her dad.

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It can’t be said enough: these two are the best part of this show, and considering all the other excellent stuff going on around them, that’s saying something. But theirs is a topsy-turvy romance, so as soon as they’re out of the moonlight and under the fluorescent lights of the lab, they’re once again bickering like an old married couple. And hey, I sympathized with Okarin: it sure looked like “Makise” was the brand name of the pudding, rather than a hand-written label.

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Perhaps eager to stay close to Okarin, Mayushii arrives fully-loaded for a cosplay-making sleepover, and I’m sure she’s disheartened by the fact Okarin and Kurisu are so invested in their lover’s quarrel she has to say “maybe I should go” before they realize they’re being rude—cruel, even—and stop.

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Speaking of cruel, this show can certainly be that, and fucking sneaky to boot, as Kurisu allows Okarin to stick around that night if he goes shopping for them. While he’s gone they exchange a couple of sweet texts, but the next one is from that anonymous foe, saying “he knows too much” and attaching a picture of bloody doll’s head (or what dearly hope is just a doll).

In any case, Okarin suddenly gets the devastating feeling that something terrible is afoot in the lab, drops his groceries and runs there, in a thrilling sequence employing a different art style that all but certainly portends the very doom he fears…if we hadn’t already seen Kurisu and Mayushii safe and sound, preparing for a bath.

Don’t get be wrong; the sequence still works, in that at one moment while he’s in the dark and silent lab, it feels almost 50/50 something bad has happened. The show is simply too good at exploiting conventions and painting a picture of dread, even if it’s all in Okarin’s head.

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Except…it isn’t. This was a false alarm, but the text wasn’t. Real alarm is indicated, a fact driven home when Daru shows up unexpectedly to find that while he’s hacked into SERN’s severs, it could be a two-way street, and SERN could be looking at them. Kurisu can’t even stay mad about Okarin barging in on her and Mayushii naked, because Okarin is still so damned freaked out. It would do him good to let his friends know about these ominous messages; their ignorance of them doesn’t make them any safer.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 10

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This week’s episode of A/Z was spectacularly efficient and moving right from the get-go, as Inaho figures out that the Deucalion is down because Seylum is. Does he panic or scream? Who do you think we’re talking about, fool? (You’re not a fool. I apologize.) He enters Inaho Lifesaver Mode, using the CPR he learned (and took seriously) in high school, not hesitating for a moment to do what needs to be done to bring the princess back.

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Lesser shows would have played up the embarrasment a teenage boy would have at having to suddenly be so intimate with the girl he likes, but A/Z is not a lesser show. The scene is immensely tense and thrilling, and as the sweat gathered on Inaho’s brow and Seylum isn’t waking up, I’ll admit to getting a little leaky-eyed. And while in real life only 7% of people undergoing CPR are successfully revived, this is thankfully part of that 7%. Her first gasp for air is a viscerally satisfying moment.

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Then Seylum fingers her attacker, Rayet grabs an automatic, and it’s Standoff Time. Rayet confesses, she’s a Martian too. All this time she’s been calling them the enemy and scum unworthy of trust, she’s also been talking about herself, or at least what she once was, as shes been trying to become a Terran since her father’s death. Seylum counters Rayet’s bile with contriteness and kindness, admitting her rash actions have only made Earth-Vers relations worse.

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Rayet’s frustration is rooted far less in politics, or even the fact her father died, than her jealousy over Seylum’s “transition” in the midst of all these intense events, and that the Terrans so readily accepted her. To Rayet’s eyes, she’s gotten everything so easily, and it has eaten her up inside. She’s so taken aback by Seylum’s response, she loses her cool altogether and turns the pistol on herself. That’s when BAM, INAHO ACTION MODE disarms and restrains her, quick as a flash. This kid is cool as shit.

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As awesome and powerful as this “shower standoff” was, it only took up the episode’s A-part, which also managed to squeeze Yagarai giving Magbaredge a DVD containing his interview with Lt. Morito, in which he lays out the tragic but also very understandable circumstances of her brother’s death during Heaven’s Fall, maybe paving the path for Magbaredge to forgive him. That’s quite a frikkin’ first half.

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That’s a nice segue into the second half, since the day of Heaven’s Fall also carries great weight with Count Saazbaum. He and his betrothed Viscountess Orlane were sent on an advance mission to Earth’s surface, and her kataphrakt’s flight systems failed after the moon shattered. He was forced to escape, leaving her behind to die just as Morito left Humeray.

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But he and Orlane wouldn’t have even been there if it weren’t for the Vers Royal Family, turning the peoples’ discontent over degrading conditions on Mars onto Earth by making Terrans the scapegoat. And while revenge is extremely important to Saazbaum, his motivation goes beyond that. He’s tired of pretending Vers is any kind of place to have a civilization, especially since that civilization has only survived thanks to Aldnoah, which is controlled by the royals.

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This is interesting, because Saazbaum isn’t your Vers true believer, and yet he isn’t simply in this for himself: he has no regard to the empire he hails from. He built up his lands and his wealth all by himself, as did other counts, but always he had to live in the same shadow of Aldnoah as everyone else. Inhabiting Mars is a “fool’s errand” to him; only Earth can properly accommodate them.

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That Earth is already inhabited is of no consequence to him…and in any case, there simply don’t seem to be a whole lot of Terrans left on Earth anyway. When the Deucalion finally arrives at United Earth HQ they find the undergound shelters under-inhabited and over-supplied. Still, it’s all they’ve got, and Saazbaum is headed there to put the Terrans out of their misery.

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Can Inaho and the others wriggle their way out of it? Is Rayet destined to sit out the remainder of the show in the brig? Will Darzana forgive Morito, and will Morito be able to move forward? Heck, Asseylum even made Inaho flinch by calling him a kind person, no matter what practical excuses he gives for all that he’s done for her. Will these two go anywhere? What side will Slaine pick? There’s an awful lot of questions to answer. I sure hope two episodes is enough to do it.

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Aldnoah.Zero – 09

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With the human crew out of constant immediate danger for two episodes now, A/Z has had more chances to demonstrate its sense of humor. For all the horrors it’s presented, the show can be pretty funy, and its outlook has remained optimistic. One look no further than all the little side moments that have peppered more tense situations.

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Now those moments have more room to breathe, whether it’s Yuki’s alleged ability to interpret Inaho’s mood from his stonelike face, to her teasing of Inko and Rayet, to Nina managing to snatch up Asseylum’s princess gown for reasons both practical and selfish. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the continuation of the wry banter between Magbaredge and Mizusaki; a nice blend of bitchy and chummy.

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All this joking around early in definitely lightens the mood, but also softens us up for the blows that come later, as the episode suddenly descends into darkness. The seeds are planted when Rayet is in the simulator, and Yuki dials up the purple kataphrakt that killed Rayet’s dad right in front of her. The experience shakes poor Rayet to the core, and continues to be baffled by Asseylum’s calm, collected outer facade.

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What Yuki did was an accident, but Yagarai gets the idea to use the simulator to recreate Marito’s own ordeal. Again, the comedy peeks through when Marito initially dismisses the simulation as “blocky” crap. His mood changes on a dime when he sees a blocky version of the kataphrakt he and Humeray encountered fifteen years ago, and we dive along with him right into that memory in its entirety.

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Long story short, they were outmatched, tanks are cramped and suck, and there was nothing he could have done for Humeray other than what he did, which is shoot him so he doesn’t have to endure being burnt alive. It was an impossible situation, and he shouldn’t blame or torture himself for what happened. We’ll see how many more times he lets Yaganai make him relive it.

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But hold on, that flashback isn’t even the darkest, most fucked up thing to go down in this episode. Asseylum doesn’t mean it, but her very presence is driving Rayet crazy. While she and Eddelrittuo come in the shower prattling about how awesome she is, it’s the last straw. While Eddy is away for a moment, Rayet, seemingly in some kind of trance, slowly walks into Asseylum’s stall and strangles her with her necklace.

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Then the Deucalion shuts down and crashes, since Asseylum was its source of power…a fact we had forgotten right up until that point! I’m not yet buying that she’s dead—just unconscious—but it’s still serious business that Rayet’s passive disdain has turned active and unhinged. It’s also ironic that after all the Vers traitors’ attempts to off Asseylum in the most public and flashy way possible, it’s a human that ends up “getting to her” in the shower of a floating battleship.

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Finally, Slaine is now the guest of Count Saazbaum after the latter killed Cruhteo. Saaz comes right out and admits he is the traitor who plotted Asseylum’s assassination, but it’s not what we initially thought: Saazbaum isn’t just a selfish rich asshole, he’s a selfish rich asshole who felt used by the royalty fifteen years ago, whipping up wars to distract the masses back home, which led to the death of his beloved betrothed. He’s committed to taking out the royal family—Asseylum included—and no amount of surprisingly sharp butter knives will stop him.

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Nekomonogatari: Shiro – 02

Hanekawa Tsubasa, Senjougahara Hitagi

Hanekawa showers with Senjougahara, who shares her futon with her for the night. In the middle of the night she transforms into the sawari neko “Black Hanekawa”, the incarnation of her mistress’s stress and fatigue. She warns the tiger not to harm her mistress, but as Hanekawa has already seen him, he’s already “started to act.” When Black Hanekawa sneaks home, Senjougahara is awake and they formally meet. The next morning the normal Hanekawa is back and prepares a breakfast that is very telling of her personality. Senjougahara asks her if she truly still loves Araragi.

Recent woes like the burning down of her house and the arrival of the tiger oddity have triggered the reawakening of Black Hanekawa, an oddity that is not so much a possession as an alter-ego. When others, including Senjougahara and Araragi, endure hardship, they maintain their fundamental selves. Hanekawa utterly changes hers, and yet her Black side is no less “her” than the side we normally see (as the first Nekomonogatari showed). Theirs would be a symbiotic relationship, if they were actually separate beings, but there’s technically just one: Hanekawa. Confused? C’mon, it’s not that complicated!

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Critiquing the breakfast Hanekawa makes for her, Senjougahara remarks that Hanekawa is the “polar opposite of a picky eater”, whose preferences can’t be called “tastes” because taste is irrelevant as long as the food is edible and nutritious. Going into therapist mode, she uses the breakfast as an example of Hanekawa’s tendency to accept anything and everything that comes her way, loving everything and detesting nothing with her massive heart. But Senjougahara is far pickier in all things, loving some and detesting others, generating a complex and distinct archive of tastes.

She feels those specific tastes drew her to Araragi, but she harbors doubt about Hanekawa feeling the same way. After all, how can Hanekawa still love or have ever loved Araragi, when she loves anything and everything? For all of her hospitality, fooling around in the shower (what was that all about?) and sharing her bed and being cool with her catty alter-ego, Senjougahara remains threatened by Hanekawa’s inscrutable form of love, and bringing her in was an opportunity to size her up fully, both to try to better understand her and, in so many words, dissuade her from the notion of loving Araragi.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)