Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova – 11

blue111

I-401, newly transformed by the merge with Takao (who is still alive within the ship’s systems), easily dispatches a fleet of Nagara-class cruisers and sets course for Hawaii, with I-400 and I-402 in pursuit. With a confrontation inevitable, Iona tries to talk to them, but they limit their exposure to her and open fire. Hyuuga and Haruna/Kirishima create decoys of the I-401, and the sisters are kept off balance.

When I-400 is unable to dodge an incoming torpedo, I-402 sacrifices herself for her sister, not wanting her to get hurt. I-400 is trapped in a wire net and also sunk, causing Iona distress. The I-401 resumes course only to be intercepted by a huge fleet of American Fog ships on one side, and a rapidly-closing Kongou, who has escaped custody and merged with Maya, on the other.

blue112

Straying from the Code of Admiralty has its costs. In doing so by being sunk and siding with Gunzou, Hyuuga, Haruna, Kirishima, and now Takao have lost their ships; and now Takao’s even lost her physical model. While it’s somewhat disappointing the show didn’t have the stones give her a “complete” death, the fact that so many former ships are now limited to their mental models makes up for it. No matter how many chefs are in the kitchen, there’s still only one real kitchen: I-401. If she’s sunk, everyone sinks with her.

But the other cost in leaving the Fog is in the emotional toll, most pronounced this week for Iona, who has to kill her sister ships, whom she considers actual sisters, even if they don’t believe the same. They were the last of the Japanese fog ships that held true to the Code, but after their brief contact even I-402 can’t bear to see her sister destroyed. Iona pleaded for them not to fight her, and now she must live with the grief. Of course, with American battleships on one side and a seriously-pissed Kongou on the other, she may not have to live with it long.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • The New I-401 looks awesome.
  • Haruna and Kirishima messing with the now body-less Takao (“Step into the light!”) was a nice moment of levity.
  • Nice underwater tactics this week, what with the decoys and wire trap. Those by-the-book sisters didn’t know who they were messing with.
  • Introducing an entirely new faction of Fog with just one episode left gives us the feeling that this might go another season. Not sure how we feel about that; we were kinda hoping things would resolve in 13.
Advertisements

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 17

railgun17

Mikoto, Shirai, Saten, and Uiharu are all prepping for a study group. Shirai notes how peaceful Academy City is, Mikoto checks in on the sisters, who are on the mend but will require treatment to extend their lifespans. Shirai bumps into Kongo, and later she and Mikoto cross paths with Mugino and Frenda. Mikoto, Shirai and Uiharu arrive at Saten’s place with their diverse yet complimentary ingredients  and they have a hot pot feast, which Haruue eventually joins as well.

With the Sisters vs. Accelerator arc completed, Railgun S exhales with a transitional episode with lots of light, pleasant slice-of-life which takes stock of where everyone is and, more importantly, serves as a vehicle to reunite the four core girls with something non-life-threatening. Mikoto’s duty had definitely distanced her not only from Shirai, but Saten and Uiharu as well, and the “hot pot study group” was a nice way to shorten that distance, at least until the next crisis (which isn’t hinted at this week; something we’re actually thankful for).

This episode was also a means of having various supporting characters make an appearence, including the Frog-Faced Doctor (AKA Heaven Canceler), Kongou Mitsuko (as stuck-up as ever), Shirai’s clover kids, and, perhaps most surprisingly, members of ITEM. Mugino/Frenda jaw with Mikoto/Shirai (and Shirai’s ignorance of who they are help the comedy here), but things don’t get out of hand, underlining this episode’s commitment to being peril- and stress-free, which after so much of both in the last arc, was welcome.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

Editors Note: We apologize for being a bit behind on our weekend anime schedule, as we are currently engaged in various non-RABUJOI activities. Please excuse the lateness of the subsequent reviews. 

 

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 16

railguns16

The Sisters dissipate Accelerator’s storm, and Mikoto tells him she won’t let him kill any more sisters. When he’s about to attack her, a blood-soaked Touma stands up, walks to Accelerator, breaks his hand, and delivers a decisive blow to the face. Touma is hospitalized, and in the night, the MISAKA he saved visits him, saying the experiment has been cancelled. Mikoto visits him in the morning with cookies. Mikoto meets up with MISAKA, and learns that it may not be that hard for them to learn to be human beings and not just guinea pigs. Mikoto bakes homemade cookies for Touma, but misses her change to give them to him, but she does gets him to call her by her name.

And at long last, that squealing, tiresome little shit Accelerator is finally brought down to earth, just when he thought he was about to gain absolute power. And throughout the episode, we learn that people can move beyond what they were programmed to do. The Sisters were born and immediately ingrained with the idea that they only existed to be killed in service of elevating Accelerator to Level 6. It wasn’t that they didn’t want to live; it’s that it simply wasn’t an option they knew of. Now that Touma and Mikoto have treated them as humans and put their lives on the line for them, they can finally move beyond that laboratory programming and see themselves as human beings, and Mikoto’s sisters.

Similarly, Accelerator was brought up being told he was the most powerful, which meant he’d always run into conflicts with those who wanted to challlenge his power. So he was further instructed to achieve a level of power that no one would ever challenge; that’s how he’d validate his existence. The thing is, that was never going to be possible as long as Touma was around, and after Accelerator is soundly beaten by a Level 0, Touma’s prediction comes true and the whole program is scrapped. Unfortunately, after this ordeal Mikoto returns to being pretty much her usual tsundere self towards Touma – a little discouraging considering how productive their exchange was back on that bridge.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We get flashes of Accelerator’s childhood beford Touma does him in, but frankly we weren’t moved. Guy’s a dick.
  • Touma’s esper power isn’t just Imagine Breaker; it’s the ability to endure epic beatings and lose almost all his blood and still be able to stand and punch people. All in all not a bad ability to have!
  • We loved the little interlude in which Mikoto is worried about how her Sisters will adjust to suddenly having lives to live, only to have her thoughts interrupted by MISAKA swinging while standing and trying to brainwash an older sister to do whatever her younger sister says. They’ll do fine, with Mikoto’s help.
  • Mikoto buys expensive cookies, but Touma isn’t shy about his view that they should really be homemade. See, he’s kind of a dick, too!
  • We only catch the slightest glimpse of Index running down the hall, but she doesn’t get any lines. That’s fine with us…we really didn’t need to see a tiny nun biting a recuperating Touma’s head.

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 15

railguns15

Touma races to the site of the next experiment, but his phone has frozen, so he’s late, and Accelerator is already pummeling MISAKA 10032. He intervenes, catching MISAKA when Accelerator sends her flying, and proceeds to get beaten up dodging Accerlator’s attacks. Touma eventually gets close enough to use his Imagine Breaker, which he then uses to punch Accelerator repeatedly, until Accelerator sets off a dust explosion, disabling Touma. Accelerator then powers up, and is able to manipulate the wind and air, creating a ball of plasma over the city. Misaka uses 10032 to contact the Sisters network, who dissipate the plasma through the city’s wind turbines. Accelerator then turns on Misaka and MISAKA, and is about to kill them when Touma stirs once more…

We didn’t think this episode would be able to match the emotional powerhouse of last week, but it ended up doing just that with an unconventional but grand battle between Touma and Accelerator. Touma plans to prove the scientists wrong and make them give up the project that’s killing the Sisters, which is a laudable goal worth fighting towards, but he only seems to make Accelerator angrier, crazier, and more powerful, until he’s seconds away from burning all of Academy City away just to test his newly-awakened power to control…well space? You have to hand it to Railgun; they don’t mess around with their uber-villains.

Our only concern with last week was that a strapping young lad would save the damsel(s) in distress, but thankfully, that wasn’t what went down here. Sure, Touma is helping Misaka and her “sisters” because he likes them, and beause he has an ingrained duty to use whatever power he has to protect the weak. But when Accelerator explodes a mill’s worth of flour, and Touma seems out for the count, Misaka comes in at a crucial moment. If she doesn’t, he’s dead. We wouldn’t rule out Touma’s stunned state to be an opportunity for Misaka to sacrifice herself, but Accelerator’s little display should be ample proof that doing so would be utterly futile. Accelerator can’t simply be taken down a peg, he needs to be defeated, and not just for the Sisters, but for the sake of all of humanity.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • A lot of the epic, cinematic quality of this episode is due to the fantastic soundtrack, which doesn’t hold back when it needs to be big and bold.
  • That first punch in the face (complete with familiar “imagine breaker” sound) was so satisfying to watch.
  • Accelerator is very quickly turning into an unreasonably powerful esper. By the end of the episode we’re wondering how in the hell anybody or anything is going to stop (or at least calm) him now that he can make plasmanados. But that’s okay: show us, Railgun!
  • Touma made a very poignant point: the sisters aren’t suicidal at all: they in fact are, as he says, “doing everything they possibly can to live.” The problem is, Accelerator is way, way stronger, and what they can “possibly” do is limited by their programming.

 

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 11

railgun11

Mikoto crosses paths with Kamijou Touma while he’s wrestling with a money-stealing vending machine. Kuroko rushes to the two of them in horror, but leaves when she realizes they’re not a couple and Mikoto is happy. A MISAKA clone then shows up, ruining Mikoto’s mood when she tells her the Level 6 Shift project is proceeding on schedule. She does some digging and learns 183 facilities have been contracted for the project, and realizes all of Academy City may be in on it, so she decides to take the whole city on, even if she has to oppose Kuroko and Judgment.

No rest for the weary…well, hardly any, as Mikoto doesn’t have much time with Kamijou Touma putting her at ease. This episode started with an ordinary guy (who can negate any esper power) and an ordinary girl (who can summon lightning on a whim) having a few precious normal moments. But by the end, Mikoto is almost certain she’ll have to shed any hope of living a normal life if she wants to deliver justice to those who wronged her and her clones, the dead of which now number 10,021.

But while Mikoto is going to take on this massive burden, she can’t abide the clones getting all up in her face; that just makes things worse. Sure enough, by episode’s end Accelerator is chewing on the ear (we think) of the clone who meets with Mikoto. We learn how he became involved with the Level 6 Project, and well, it doesn’t really do much to humanize him; he basically joined up because he liked how fucked up the human experiments were. So yeah, still a heel. And while Mikoto is determined to keep Kuroko out of the impending action, she’s also conscious of the fact they may not be on the same side when the shit hits the fan.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

 

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 07

railguns7

Mikoto starts her secret night attacks on all of the Sisters labs in the city, causing significant damage to the experiment. Unable to oppose who he suspects is the culprit, the lab administrator considers a third-party “remedy.” With Onee-sama always out and not telling her what she’s up to, Kuroko grows concerned with the distance between them, and her inability to help her.

Kuroko helps out a young girl, Minori, who is moving away and wants to find a parting gift for her friends. Because Judgment can’t allow her to keep a lost cash card, they help her search for four-leaf clovers instead. When Mikoto is on her way out again, Kuroko tells her to take care; Mikoto thanks her. By the end of the night, only two labs remain operational.

railguns72

We’re always a little tentative whenever Shirai Kuroko is the focus of a Railgun episode, because she’s usually used more for comic relief in the form of expressing sexual desire for her “Onee-sama” Mikoto never has any interest in reciprocating. It can get tedious. Kuroko is best when her character is being treated seriously, as it is this week. She’s dealing not only with increased distance from her best friend, but also concern about what she may be up to. Not knowing for sure makes her feel that much more useless; how can she help Onee-sama if she’s kept in the dark?

If we have a complaint with this episode, then, it’s not in Kuroko’s portrayal of an concerned, antsy, loving friend. We weren’t even that miffed that Kuroko didn’t take it upon herself to insert herself into Mikoto’s business (not yet, anyway). She was distracted by Minori, the girl who stands in the middle of a busy street knowing full well that kids in anime who do that always get run over (fortunately for her, this anime has teleportation). Minori, longing to show her love for her fiends, becomes a parallel for Kuroko. For Mikoto, it’s enough that Kuroko is covering for her with the dorm supervisor. For now, at least.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Those clear jelly buns look weird (and “novel”) but we’d still try them. We bet they’re tasty…
  • Don’t stare too long at Uiharu’s flower crown. It doesn’t make sense.
  • We can only imagine Kuroko’s reaction if she ever saw her Onee-sama in her delivery girl disguise, complete with ponytail. Some drool would likely flow.
  • The lab guy, not afraid to let somebody else do his dirty work, will likely recruit another Level 5 to deal with Mikoto. This is why we think Kuroko won’t stay on the sidelines for long.
  • We don’t think he’ll sic Accelerator on her, since that would taint the experiment.
  • That driver needs to have his license taken away. He seemed to have the reaction time of a ninety-year old in a coma.
  • FWIW, we personally believe a four-leaf clover plucked from a verdant riverbank is a more tasteful gift for your friends than a cash card you found in a dirty street. Safer, too!

Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru – 07

Yukinoshita Yukino, Hikigaya Hachiman, Tsurumi Rumi

Hiratsuka tricks Hikigaya in accompanying the rest of the Service Club plus Komachi, Totsuka and the “it-crowd” to serve as summer camp advisors for elementary schoolers. Hikigaya and Yukino notice one of the youngsters, Tsurumi Rumi, is being shunned by the others, and Yukino decides to expand the club’s mission to helping her out.

Hiratsuka Shizuka is, on the surface, your typical “pathetic young bachelorette teacher”, a common sight in school-based anime. She chain-smokes, dreams of being back at college, and the amount of texts she leaves Hikigaya in quick succession may indicate her luck with relationships. But she’s not one note. She’s brought Yukino, Hikigaya, and Yui together in order to try to improve their personalities. In a way, she’s trying to make sure they don’t repeat whatever mistakes she may have made in her youth.

Hikigaya Hachiman, Yukinoshita Yukino

That’s the job of any “elder”, and as this episode makes clear, “elder” is a relative term, and not one that describes an all-knowing entity. No matter how old you get, there is always going to be something you haven’t learned; something you don’t know. This episode was full of people trying to help those younger, while not themselves knowing quite what the answers are. As their teacher tries to get them to get along with the it-crowd, they aim to help Rumi get along with her peers.

This episode was full of a lot of subtle social interactions that really rang true across all levels of life. Rumi doesn’t know quite what happened or why, and is afraid to ask for help because she was once on the other side of the shunning, and feels she doesn’t deserve pity. Whether it’s grade school, high school, or adulthood, “humans are humans.” They can get along and all be happy, but it takes work…work that is never done.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

To Aru Kagaku no Railgun S – 05

MISAKA 9982, Misaka Mikoto

Misaka meets her clone MISAKA 9982 and helps her rescue a cat from a tree. MISAKA won’t tell her classified info, so Misaka decides to tail her. On the way they have ice cream and fight over the frog badge. MISAKA then tells her she’s “going to the experiment” and bids farewell. Misaka hacks the net and finds out that 20,000 of her clones are being sacrificed in hopes of causing a Level 6 Shift. The Level 5 boy chosen for the shift meets MISAKA in an alley and they fight, ending up in a train yard where he thwarts her trap, rips off her leg, and drops a rail car on her. Misaka arrives too late to save MISAKA, and attacks the boy.

MISAKA 9982’s good deed (saving a baby in a car from heat stroke) has an unintended consequence – a kitten stuck in a tree. Like that kitten, MISAKA’s in new territory and in need of a helping hand, and this incident shows her that her “onee-sama” is a decent, compassionate sort who helps the weak. It’s also a great introduction to MISAKA, who has a totally different personality from the original, but then few sisters are alike, and sometimes they resent each other for it. MISAKA is a lost puppy, not a terminator. She throws Misaka off her rhythm, but also forms a strong bond.

But it turns out Misaka has bumped into her clone on the eve of her mission, the 9,982nd of 20,000 intended to turn one very sadistic kid into the first Level 6. After all the lighthearted comedy and sisterly exploits, Misaka is crushed upon learning these new facts, and takes it upon herself to save the kitten in the tree. Only she’s too late. The episode twists the knife here. Just when we thought MISAKA got the upper hand (when her bomb went off we pumped our fists) she’s viciously maimed and then killed; disposed of like nothing. That vibrant, clever, perceptive girl is gone in one crunch of a rail car. It spurs the original Railgun to rush headlong into danger once more, to avenge her sister.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • We forgot how much we love how MISAKAs talk. So eccentric, yet so precise and easy to understand.
  • The whole ice cream interlude was kinda random, but still sweet.
  • Even Misaka’s clone questions her tastes. Ha!
  • We know the kid as Accelerator, of course. In this series, he doesn’t seem to need a crutch, though even if he did, he’s hardly a sympathetic character thus far. So far he’s just a snake, doing what comes naturally when a live mouse is dropped in his tank. (Argh, that’s another animal metaphor…sorry about that!)
  • After a second viewing, we’ve upped the rating to a 9.

Yahari Ore no Seishun Love Come wa Machigatteiru – 06

Hikigaya Hachiman, Yukinoshita Yukino

Things between Hikgaya and Yui get awkward, and she stops coming to club. To bring her back into the fold and express gratitude for her help, Yukino suggest they celebrate Yui’s birthday. Hikigaya and Komachi go shopping with Yukino, but Komachi ditches them and Yukino’s sister gets the wrong idea. Yui is also at the mall and her dog comes off his leash. The dog goes to Hikigaya, and Yui sees him with Yukino and also gets the wrong idea. When she comes to club as requested, Yui finds out the real reason they were at the mall, and Yukino helps mend the friendship between Yui and Hikigaya.

High school is one of those crucibles where lifelong friendships and even marriages are formed. It’s where children start to become adults and form more complex relationships. That’s not to say the relationships are simply formed and remain static throughout; they go through phases. Hikigaya and Yui experience just such a phase change this week, as both of them entered their relationship with very different ideas about what it was. Yui can’t put it into words exactly what went wrong, but that’s what Yukino’s for: mutual misunderstanding led to the awkwardness, so she suggests a fresh start. In this new phase, Hikigaya is aware that Yui’s not just being nice out of guilt or pity, and Yui is aware that Hikigaya wasn’t trying to help her.

Thus the beginning of their friendship has ended and a new phase begins. Just as so many people mistook Hikigaya and Yukino for a couple (and we’re sure deep down they actually wouldn’t mind that), Hikigaya and Yui mistook the nature of their relationship. Yui genuinely wants to be Hikigaya’s friend regardless of debts or pretense, which should satisfy Hikigaya’s refusal to be pitied or patronized. And now, in spite of his antisocial ideals, Hikigaya now has two friends who want to be his friends, even if one didn’t make it immediately clear and the other outright refuses to.

7_very_good
Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Yukino has a big sister that everyone believes to be perfect and amazing, and she doesn’t even deny it. Still, Hikigaya thinks it’s all just an act. Just because he was wrong about Yui doesn’t mean he’s wrong about this. He prefers the tactless Yukino.
  • We’ve never seen two people strain so hard to give the impression they aren’t enjoying their date, even if its a “fake” one.
  • We welcome Yukino’s twin tails.
  • Yui needs to control that damn dog.

Nekomonogatari (Black) – 01

It’s Golden Week, and Koyomi (Kamiya Hiroshi) seeks advice from Tsukihi (Iguchi Yuka) about whether he’s in love. After much discussion, they conclude he’s sexually frustrated and should buy porn. On his way out the door he encounters Karen (Kitamura Eri), back from a marathon-length run, who gives him a much more direct definition of love. While out shopping Koyomi spots Hanekawa Tsubasa (Horie Yui), and after flipping her skirt, they go for a walk. She tells him how she has no family and how her non-biological parents couldn’t care less about her. He heals the bruise on her face where her stepdad slapped her and goes home, more depressed than ever.

Here is part one in a four-part series that will focus on Hanekawa Tsubasa and her family, which takes place after Koyomi is turned into a vampire, but before he meets his eventual first girlfriend, Senjougahara. The story is pretty simple: Koyomi believes he may have fallen for Hanekawa, seeks his sisters’ advice, and ends up pitying Hanekawa’s sad living situation. Like the other Monogatari series, it is heavy on style, Nisio Isin’s long conversations thick with wordplay and metahumor, gorgeously-designed settings, buildings, and rooms, color cards, intense closeups and facial expression, and weird fanservice.

Shinbo Akiyuki‘s unique, playful style is not for everyone, but we for one enjoy the offbeat, avant-garde presentation. The most mundance actions (like Karen drinking water or Koyomi flipping Hanekawa’s skirt) are given almost comically epic visual prominence. I liken Shinbo to Wes Anderson or even Kubrick, as a director with a very consistent aesthetic who is obsessively detail-oriented. What little action ever occurs in the talky episodes is made more engaging due to its rarity. So much anime – even very good anime – is by-the-numbers, visually. Shinbo always seeks to not only to ignore the numbers, but replace them with other symbols.


Rating: 8 (Great)

 

Blood-C 6

Saya is good at killing elder bairns, and by extension protecting her friends and her town...from a distance. But as it’s been demonstrated, once an elder bairn has a victim in sight, Saya can’t do much to save them. She can’t fight and protect Nene at the same time. And so Nene becomes the first of Saya’s classmates to die. The scene is portrayed with all the necessary horror. We knew it was pretty much inevitable, but it still hurts to watch (though less bloody thanks to network censors).

Just when you thought, well, she has an identical twin, they wouldn’t kill off both in the same episode…well, they do. Nono doesn’t just die, she’s possessed by her own shadow while pleading for Saya to tell her where her sister is. The shadow consumes her and Saya, and when Saya defeats it, Nono is torn to pieces in a rain of blood. I cannot overstate the gruesomeness – especially when neither Nene nor Nono had anything to do with this elder bairn business until that cliffhanger. The contrast from the lighter moments of the series couldn’t be more stark. Hell, they couldn’t be more lannister.

Fumito is as creepily supportive as ever, Tokizane wants Saya to spill the beans about what’s troubling her, and that little doglike animal that’s been showing up so often finally talks to her, telling her to “wake up”. Saya is coming to grips with the fact she’s little more than a deadly weapon with no free will of her own, not a shield that can protect her friends. And I don’t think it’s helping her sanity. One thing’s certain: the lighthearted school moments are over with.


Rating: 4