DanMachi II – 10 – For Whom the Bell Tolls

I loved how many challenges and formidable warriors stood between Bell and freeing a single prostitute, because it just meant he’d have to beat every last one of them, on top of convincing Haruhime that yes, she actually is worth saving, stop saying you’re filthy and a burden! He’s there, and he’s going to finish what he started!

He may not be one of the heroes she loved growing up, who would never sully themselves with her ilk, but he was the hero she needed. Meanwhile, Freya’s forces have already set to work burning the pleasure district, while the goddess herself will seek out Ishtar for a goddess-to-goddess, woman-to-woman “chat”.

Bell’s next opponent is Phryne, who orders Haruhime to boost her level with Uchide no Kozuchi. Instead, Haruhime uses it on Bell, allowing him to fight on more-or-less equal footing with the giant Amazoness. After watching Phryne easily win every match she’s fought so far, it’s immensely satisfying to see Bell give her fits, until she falls through a hole in the floor her own substantial mass has created.

On a lower level, Phryne encounters Freya’s right-hand beastman Ottarl, who easily overpowers her. She pleads for mercy by offering her body, but ends up blaspheming his goddess’ name, so he pummels her. As awful a character as Phryne was, I kinda felt sorry for her in the end. After all, like Ishtar herself, she didn’t expect this battle to go so badly for their Familia, and so wasn’t sufficiently prepared to lose everything.

Aisha is Bell’s next opponent, and the fight is made fairer when Haruhime’s spell wears off. Still, Bell has a full head of steam and stays with Aisha, dodging her kicks and countering her Hippolyte spell with his own Firebolt, the bells tolling as he charges it up. It’s yet another glorious, fluid kinetic attack between two very different fighters who both know what they’re doing.

Unlike Phryne, I always liked Aisha, who after all had suffered a lot more than Bell, Phryne, or even Haruhime in Ishtar’s clutches. She also didn’t go mad with fury, but actually respected Bell’s transformation into a real man, someone who could impress and best her. I hope she lands on her feet somewhere after her Familia disperses.

That’s right: almost as soon as Isthar’s ridiculously rich, seemingly invincible empire showed up on the DanMachi scene, it crumbles to dust before Freya’s calm, elegant figure. She charms and strides right past Ishtar’s last lines of defense and delivers a divine bitch slap, sending her back to Heaven, never to return.

On the roof of the hanging gardens, Bell removes Haruhime’s collar and they bask in victory (and the morning sun) as Hestia and the others arrive. Turns out he didn’t need the cavalry at all. Just like that, Bell Cranel has played a pivotal role in toppling another great divine power. Now it’s time to head home and relax!

Domestic na Kanojo – 03 – The Scary Realm of Adults

Natsuo visits his best friend at the cafe where he works, and describes the incident with Hina and her boyfriend last night. His friend diagnoses Natsuo as jealous, and he can relate. He observes women stuck in non-ideal or flat-out bad relationships at the cafe all the time, and jokingly(?) wishes they’d just break up and date him. Like the young “office lady” who is in an affair with a married man. His friend later spots that woman outside, and to Natsuo’s shock, it’s Hina.

Not only is Hina doing something morally questionable by sleeping with someone else’s husband, but she’s doing something contrary to Natsuo’s perfect ideal of her up to that point. Like catching her crying on the rooftop and then watching her drink herself to sleep, it’s another crack in that facade.

When he confronts her at home, she kindly tells him to stay out of her business, as she dwells within the world of adults where kids like him shouldn’t set foot, and that’s basically that. Then Natsuo kisses her, she shoves him back, slaps him, then kisses him back.

Before Natsuo knows it, he’s being pushed onto the bed by Hina, but she stops when she sees his eyes, which she immediately detects as those of a child. He may have thought his stolen kiss was bold and cool, but she can sense his fear now that she’s responded to it.

With that, she gets off of him and shows him the door. It may have been harsh, but Hina is right that her business is her own, and she gave him fair warning not to stray into it. Also, Natsuo initiated with the kiss. That being said, she doesn’t feel good about having but Natsuo in his place. Indeed, she feels like shit/

The next day Natsuo’s father finds a note from him saying he’s gone to his friend’s house for a couple days. Pops and his wife quickly assume it’s a move protesting the marriage, but Rui knows better why Natsuo left, and Hina’s not great at hiding from Rui that she knows as well.

Natsuo moulders away in his friend’s room, not even moving for the entirety of a cafe shift. But as luck would have it, Natsuo is looking out the window when Rui walks past, clearly looking for someone. They meet eyes and he meets her downstairs, and his friend’s mom invites them in.

Rui isn’t copying Natsuo, she’s simply “boycotting” Hina’s affair, much like Natsuo, if for different reasons. One reason they share is that they both had a higher idea of who Hina is, and she’s letting them down with her adultery, and if she wants her little sister and stepbrother in her life, she’ll have to make a difficult choice.

After a strategy session with Natsuo’s friend , he and Rui return to a dark house where their folks are considering signing divorce papers. Such is the result of Natsuo and Rui not telling their folks what’s actually troubling them; they make the most obvious assumption based on the little they’ve been given.

Natsuo and Rui reassure their folks they don’t oppose the marriage, but don’t tell them why they ran away from home. They’re back now, and willing to endure one more awkward day with Hina until they set their plan into motion. We’ll see if the show leans more toward their side, even as it’s offered little hints that explain, if not entirely justify, Hina’s behavior.

She likes this guy, wants to be with him, and wants to make it legit by having him divorce. She feels things neither Rui nor Natsuo have ever felt, and thus dismisses their concerns out of hand in addition to looking down on them as simple kids. I wonder if some compromise or middle ground can be found.

Musings:

  • Natsuo’s pal puts the pieces together pretty fast that Hina’s affair is what triggered Rui into sleeping with Natsuo. Rui doesn’t really mind Natsuo telling his friend, as he doesn’t attend their school.
  • I like how we get a little snapshot of Natsuo’s friend’s family life. Everyone wears glasses there, his mom is really nice, and his sister is eager to see him with a girlfriend.
  • That said, Natsuo’s friend’s boss at the cafe was…uh…something.
  • Speaking of parents, Natsuo’s pops and Rui’s mom really are kind and generous people who’d put their happiness aside for their kids’ sake.
  • Who else thought Hina was going to take it further after ripping Natsuo’s shirt open? Yikesy…

Steins;Gate 0 – 23 (Fin) – Fortune Favors the Foolish

With Amadeus deleted from history, Rintarou ends up in a slightly different present, in which Leskinen never succeeded in fully brainwashing Kagari. Moeka subdues Leskinen when he pulls a gun on Rintarou, and the two head up to the roof just as Mayuri is successfully stopping Kagari and Suzuha from killing each other, by badassedly positioning her head between their handguns. Mayuri and Suzu are able to board the time machine safely after receiving the blessing of a Rintarou who’d just arrived in that time.

All the times the time machine was wiped out by a missile from a helicopter gunship, it was only seconds away from disappearing into the spacetime either, so a few extra seconds is all Mayuri and Suzu needed to get away safely, and they do, in an extremely thrilling scene that pays off all of the failure and heartache of previous attempts.

Better still, Hououin Kyouma is able to lustily gloat to Leskinen, Stratfor, DURPA and the Russians for having foiled their plans to acquire the time machine. In the timeline where Mayuri and Daru await the return of Rintarou and Suzu, two time machines briefly appear on the rooftop at once, and Mayuri gets a call from…the other Mayuri, convincing her not to let Okarin give up when he returns in the depths of despair.

Mayuri and Suzu aren’t able to stay in that timeline long lest they cause a paradox, and with the time machine all but out of fuel, they soon lose the ability to choose their next destination. But both of them seem to take their descent into temporal oblivion quite well, all things considered.

Back on the rooftop, Suzu and a defeated, blood-stained Rintarou return, and he gives his little speech about everything being hopeless and deciding he’s going to give up. Then Mayuri remembers the words of the other Mayuri, recalls when Kyouma was “born” (when he hugged her to comfort her at the cemetery) slaps Rintarou, her Hikoboshi, and convinces him not to give up.

Soonafter Rintarou receives a video D-Mail from the Rintarou in the future, and we switch to his point of view, as we watch his grainy recording unfold where and when it occurred. After sending the message, Rintarou’s next operation, Operation Altair, consists of him “deceiving the world”, as well as himself, by travelling back to another point in spacetime in the first version of the time machine to be built by Daru & Co.

Deceiving himself and the world, it turns out, is the only way to reach the Stein’s Gate. He thanks his noble, trusty Lab Members, receives a hug from Maho, and sets off to locate and rescue Mayuri and Suzu, who were lost in time but can be found thanks to something called a “Kerr black hole tracer”, the nature and operation of which are not specified (which is probably for the best).

Suffice it to say, in his experimental but still brand-new and fully-gassed time machine, and with the Kerr thingy, Rintarou successfully locates Mayuri and Suzuha, who by their perspective had just arrived themselves in the year 18,000 B.C. in a dark and stormy wasteland.

They seem ready to accept their fate with grace, but the bright light of Mayuri’s Hikoboshi appears, and from that light, Okabe Rintarou—AKA Okarin, AKA Hououin Kyouma—emerges triumphant; perhaps his most badass moment yet.

And that, folks, is where Steins;Gate 0 ends things. We don’t get to see Steins Gate, or learn whether Rintarou is right that it does exist. All we know is that they’re in a good position to reach a world line in which both Mayuri and Kurisu can live.

It took a lot of gumption, guile, teamwork, sacrifice, trauma, math…and downright foolishness, but the gang is headed in the right direction. It’s a positive, hopeful ending; an ending full of promise and excitement for what may come next for all of these kind, brave fools—even if we may not get to see it.

Macross Delta – 22

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Well, with a big battle coming up and the show deciding to check in once more on Cassim, it was pretty clear from the cold open that this was going to be the swan song for, to date, the most three-dimensional Windermeran on the show.

But first, a note about the shot that establishes the Chaos fleet the last two episodes: could it have killed them to zoom in a little more and let us get a nice look at that fleet? It’s a nitpick that expresses my desire for a big space/aerial battle after a string of episodes that were more about developing characters. And we got one.

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After a quick chat between two of the simpler characters in Macross, Mikumo (who lives to sing) and Hayate (who lives to fly), everyone salutes Captain Johnson and the Elysion enters a fold gate. All of a sudden, we’re back in the shit, as Chaos teams up with the liberated Vordorian military to strike against Randall.

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But that turns out to be only a means of diverting and splitting Lloyd’s forces, as Delta and Walkure’s true desination is Windermere itself, by way of a fold gate opened on Alfheim. The only way to open that gate is for Walkure to give the protoculture structure everything they have.

At first, Freyja doesn’t do that, because she’s still scared Hayate and/or Mirage will go nuts. But after a quick slap by Mikumo, combined with the urgings of Hayate and Mirage, Freyja is back in the game.

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Turns out she was right to worry: the song does make Hayate go berserk, just when locked in a dogfight with Cassim (who is fighting like this is his last battle, because it is). Just as Hayate and Mirage helped snap Freyja out of her funk, Mirage and Freyja snap Hayate out of his Var before irreparable damage is done, and the battle resumes.

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By the time Hayate has his senses back, the platoon has bought Walkure adequate time, the gate opens, and they fly through, emerging in Windermere’s atmo. Two Aerial Knights: one of the twins and Cassim, follow, and take out Walkure’s shuttle.

Remembering vividly what happened to Flay in Gundam SEED I naturally worried about the idols’ transport getting hit, but they all survive the attack, with Arad and Mirage catching Kaname and Freyja out of the sky.

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All that’s left is for Hayate to stay alive long enough for Cassim to burn (or freeze) out, which is what happens. Interestingly, no other Windermerean defense is around, allowing Hayate and Mirage to land their planes so they, along with Freyja, can pay respect to their fallen adversary and acquaintance.

Cassim’s time may be up, but Hayate, Freyja, and Mirage’s Windermerean adventure has just begun. Freyja is finally home. There’s still quite a bit left to do, and Lloyd probably isn’t going to roll over and let them destroy his life’s work. We’ll see whose wind prevails.

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Steins Gate – 23

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Just moments, by Okabe’s reckoning, removed from consigning the love of his life to temporal oblivion for the sake of Mayushii, he gets a call from Suzuha, who has arrived in the undamaged time machine Future Daru and Okabe built, in cool resistance soldier get-up and her braids pinned up behind her ears, urging him to come with her on a mission to save the world from World War III. Okabe is extremely disinterested in any more time-meddling, nor does he give a hoot about the 5.7 billion people Suzuha says will die in the war.

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But two things get him to hop into that dicey space-capsule looking contraption with Suzu: the possibility that Kurisu can still be saved, and Mayushii, after showing a moment’s reluctance in her face, urging him to help this Kurisu friend of his, whoever she is.

And as I had always suspected, saving Kurisu means plucking an arrow all self-respecting time travel stories have in their quivers, and traveling back to the beginning of it all, in this case, Professor Nakabachi’s talk at the Radio Kaikan Building back on July 28, and stopping her from being stabbed.

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At first, this seems all too easy, at least practically speaking: as Suzu prepares the machine to jump back to the future, all Okabe has to do is keep an eye on the Kurisu of that time, while avoiding the July 28 Okabe, lest he create the kind of unsolvable paradox that rends the universe asunder. Frankly, Okabe’s main difficulty is bumping into Kurisu herself on a staircase, and being so relieved and in awe to see her breathing, the fact she has no idea who she is doesn’t even bother him that much.

Of course, things always end up more complicated and fucked up than initially indicated, as we learn along with Okabe that Nakabachi is Kurisu’s father. When she presents him with her latest theoretical paper on time machines, seeking his approval, he flat-out snatches it from her, intending to publish it under his own name. When she objects, a scuffle every bit as nasty as Okabe and Moeka’s ensues.

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I’m not entirely sure why the father-daughter meeting takes place in such a dark and isolated room (besides the fact that that’s where Okabe found her in the first episode); but Kurisu’s unconditional love for her father blinds her from his current state of weakness and volatility. “No daughter should be smarter than her father,” he says, trying to choke her to death.

Things take a turn for the tragically ironic when Okabe springs out of hiding to save Kurisu. Physically he’s a match for Nakabachi, but Kurisu isn’t able to get away, and in the confusion and darkness, Okabe ends up accidentally stabbing Kurisu in the gut with Nakabachi’s pocket knife, just as she wrenches free.

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Forget gut punches, this was a gut-stab to me as well, even though I knew something like this was coming, there was never going to be a way to emotionally steel myself for it, any more than I could for Kurisu’s sacrifice last week. “This is the perfect end for you,” says Nakabachi as he flees with Kurisu’s paper.

Well, it is an ending, as Kurisu dies in Okabe’s arms, sorry she got him involved.  But since this show is based on a visual novel and involves time travel, we also know it’s not the only ending, and it’s certainly not a perfect one. For that, Okabe has to save Mayushii without losing Kurisu.

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But as Okabe and Suzu return to August 21, the experience of watching Kurisu die has left him defeated; her blood is still all over his lab coat, still fresh despite traveling forward three-plus weeks. This small detail injects a measure of hope in me: unlike the pink thread, Kurisu’s previous way of “marking” him, the blood didn’t vanish. Sure enough, Suzu confesses to Okabe that in order to save Kurisu, he had to fail once.

The present is already changed by his actions: Nakabachi appears on one of AKiba’s many public TVs, announcing his defection to Russia with his Kurisu’s paper on time machines (and Mayushii’s metal upa that has her name on it…so that’s what happened to it!). The paper is the key that leads to WWIII, fought with devastating temporal weapons.

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But as I said, Okabe is physically and emotionally spent, and having failed once more, is ready to throw in the towel. That’s when he receives a ringing SLAP from Mayushii. He didn’t give up when he visited her grandmother’s grave with her, and helped her get better, and she won’t let him give up here.

Here, as in the beginning when she gave Okabe’s blessing to go with Suzu to the past, Mayushii proves her worth. Saving her meant sacrificing Kurisu, but saving Kurisu depends on Mayushii convincing Okabe to keep moving forward, which only she can do. And she does. Suzu directs them to Okabe’s phone, which he left in the present, which has a new video message.

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That grainy message is from the Okabe Rintarou of the Future, who helpfully lays all  the cards on the table. The two objectives remain: destroying the paper and saving Kurisu. But simply trying to save Kurisu and change the past will always end in failure (as it did with Mayushii before) due to “attractor field convergence.” More to the point, changing the past changes the three crucial weeks Okabe and Kurisu had together, which must not be lost.

A different approach is called for, one in which he deceives his past self into believing Kurisu is dead when she’s really alive, which will take him to a third world line that he’s called “Steins Gate”, which he and the present Okabe agree is a name chosen despite “no really meaning anything.”

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Future Okabe breaks down the parameters of “Operation Skuld”, named for one of the three norns in Norse mythology (whose name can also mean “debt” or “future” that decide the fates of people. The fact there are three ties in to the existence of three main world lines Okabe has had to weather in order to secure the fates of those he loves. As long as his past self sees Kurisu in that pool of blood, the past won’t change and Kurisu can live in the present that results.

The video ends with a Good Luck and an El Psy Congroo. The fact that his older self, in spite of all he’s been through is still able to channel Hououin Kyouma shakes our present Okabe out of his funk, finishing what Mayushii started. Thanks to her and his future self, he is able to take up the mantle of Kyouma once again, and even let out the first evil laugh we’ve heard from him in a good long while.

I never thought how good it would feel to hear it again. Optimism is back in the air, he’s a mad scientist again, and he’s feeling good about deceiving his past self and the world in order to save Kurisu.

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