Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 03

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I’ll say this for TG35—it isn’t wasting any time developing its characters. While Ootori was the reluctant outsider last week, that roles passes to Nikaido Mari, AntiMagic Academy’s very first witch Inquisitor-in-Training. What the other 35s don’t know is that she was picked up last week on suspicion of murder, but had a powerful (but not ironclad) amnesia spell placed on her.

Apparently she’s dangerous enough to held naked chained by her ankle in solitary confinement, but is given back her regular clothes, which is odd, because the director wants her to blend into the school. The best way to do that would be to give her a green Taimadou uni, but alas.

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Like Ootori, Mari wants to be left alone, and Suginami and Saionji are fine with doing just that, but Ootori can’t help but get into verbal spats with her. Not only does Mari represent everything Ootori hates—witches and magic—but she’s also competition for Takeru’s attention. The two snipe at each other and square off both in the classroom and P.E., to essentially a stalemate, periodically swapping smug victory and angry defeats, all of it very petty.

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When Takeru tries to get between them, the two girls reflexively punch him, something Ootori regrets immediately and Mari regrets…a little later. In a very effective and efficient scene, Takeru ably disarms Mari: he doesn’t hate witches or magic, and he’s willing to give her a shot, just like he gave Ootori.

Takeru also shows genuine interest in her motivations for enrolling, and she eventually opens up: she’s enthusiastic about changing peoples’ hearts and minds about witches and magic. By the end of their exchange, they’re on first-name terms—if only because Mari thinks “Kusanagi” is lame and Takeru thinks “Nikaidou” is awkward to pronounce.

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The next day Mari is in the Platoon’s HQ, sparring with Ootori. Once she knows Ootori likes Takeru, she wastes no time using their first-name basis (and some close contact) to enrage her even further. To her credit, Ootori doesn’t let it come to blows; in fact she barely tries to conceal the fact Takeru’s promise to “share half her burden” is something she values very much.

At the same time, Mari looks a little nervous clinging to Takeru, like she’s getting swept up in the competition with Ootori in spite of herself. Not surprisingly, the other platoon members, including Lapis, fade into the background this whole episode, which I didn’t mind.

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A little more incredulous is the fact that Mari has nowhere else to stay but Takeru’s dingy, creepy apartment. Naturally, the protective Ootori won’t let the two spend time in Takeru’s place alone (she figures a “closet perv” like Takeru would be all too easily wooed even by Mari’s “meager charms”), so she tags along, despite Takeru’s building freaking her out.

That’s when we end up with the most ridiculous scene of the episode, in which Takeru walks in on a totally naked (and “insecure”) Mari drying her hair, just when Ootori runs out of the bathroom also totally naked, scared by some kind of ghost. The two naked girls end up on top of Takeru, who meekly protests none of this is his fault, leading to an off-camera double slap (though no synchronized scream).

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The next day the 35th begins their first round of a mock battle tournament, and things start to go pear-shaped pretty fast, until Mari decides she will assist them after all and serves as a decoy so Takeru, Ootori, and Saionji can clean up and advance (Suginami doesn’t participate).

It’s the episode’s one concession to action (unlike last week which was mostly action), and it’s pretty inconsequential. But the lesson to take away is that with Ootori, Mari, and Lapis, the 35th is climbing towards respectability…or at least less ridicule.

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When Ootori acknowledges Mari’s contribution in her roundabout double-negative-laced way, we see that despite, or even perhaps partially due to their intense co-antagonism, Mari and Ootori are on their way to gelling with the 35th. That’s of course, until Ootori delivers her report to the director, finds him absent, and picks up a document describing Mari as an ancient witch under suspicion of murder, thus confirming all of her earlier suspicions about the witch, without knowing the whole picture about her amnesia.

The thing is, even Mari isn’t sure who she is. She gets a flash of her true past after making nice with Takeru, and before going to sleep at his place, warns him she may not be someone he should be trusting in. I don’t know whether her amnesia spell is permanent, but even if it is, Ootori can’t unsee what she saw, Mari may not have the means to fully explain herself, and Takeru will continue to be in the middle, trying to keep the peace.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 02

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TG35 tables its fanservice and harem elements this week, instead focusing on the more serious matter of Kusanagi continuing his quest to make Ootori accept him as a captain and a comrade, a decision I felt made for a better episode than the first.

When Ootori affirms her unwillingness to allow being lumped in with the Small Fry Platoon, Suginami reveals her nickname of “calamity” in Inquisition, where she was a revenge-driven loose cannon – accusations she won’t deny.

Eager to make his unit better and not willing to sit back and let Ootori continue to fight alone, he keeps trying to convince her, but his efforts are interrupted by the summoning of a hero or “einhenjar” tasked with assaulting the academy. In confronting and battling that einhenjar, Kusanagi eventually backs into the very means to help shoulder Ootori’s burdens by contracting with a “relic eater”, Lapis Lazuli.

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But first, Ootori runs off and tries to take on the einhenjar (Arthur Pendragon, armed with a railgun Excalibur) all by herself, questioning what good she is if she can’t handle such a “puny threat” on her own.

When conventional attacks fail, she summons her own relic hunter, Vlad, in the form of two pistols, but she only has a provisional contract with him, and Vlad’s need to take her blood to function effectively weakens her more.

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Finally, the director de-summons Vlad, leaving Ootori defenseless against Pendragon. But that action reveals the director’s intention: to give Kusanagi the opportunity to contract with Lapis, a pairing he’s been looking forward to.

Kusanagi comes to Ootori’s aid, backed up by Saionji and Suginami, but his attacks also fail. At the same time, Ootori realizes it was Kusanagi she beat back in the past; they didn’t meet for the first time last week. I wonder if there’s anything else to that past connection.

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Pendragon then does to Kusanagi what he did to Ootori, and he ends up bleeding out on the ground—until Lapis suddenly appears through the dust cloud (a nice visual), transports him to a different dimension, and takes him through the contracting ceremony, consisting of questions such as “would you abandon what is precious to you” (hell no) and “would you abandon your humanity” (sure) to achieve his goals.

I liked the prompt, no-nonsense introduction of Lapis, as well as her occasional moments of playfulness (bum-ba-da-bum!) amidst her usual ethereal stoicism. She also reminded me of Knight Rider a bit; a sentient piece of technology-as-companion. Also notable: no boob-grabbing or nudity silliness with Lapis, and her outfit, while cool-looking, is also pretty modest. Refreshing!

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There’s the sense Kusanagi isn’t quite sure what’s going on, but Lapis helpfully informs him the contract is complete and she is now his. And what she is is an unbreakable sword and suit of armor which are just the two things someone with his sword skills needs to not only fight witches effectively, but also in order to convince Ootori he can be relied upon, despite his normally unreliable aura.

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With Pendragon easily dispatched,  Kusanagi joins Ootori against a tree trunk, saying he won’t presume to lecture her about revenge, but earnestly asks her to at least let him share half of her burden, as her comrade and her friend.

Ootori, having been saved from certain death, is hardly in a position to protest further, and in any event, once Kusanagi passes out on her lap, she privately confesses to not really minding the feeling of having someone wanting to, and being allowed, to share her burden. If her fight with Pendragon taught her anything, it’s that she won’t get far alone.

As for the sixth main character, the witch Nikaidou Mari, she seems to be in reluctant cahoots with the murderous necromancer who summoned Pendragon, but passes out before Inquisition arrests her. I imagine she’s on a course that’ll eventually lead her to Kusanagi and the 35th.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 01 (First Impressions)

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This is now the third “magic academy” anime we’ve come across this Fall. But unlike Zane’s two shows Rakudai and Asterisk, TG35 focuses less on school and more on the occupation they’re all training for: which amounts to witch-hunting and preventing the smuggling of magical items. It’s the most regimental, but also the most like a typical school anime in that the titular platoon is like a club, complete with a clubroom HQ where they hang out.

Naturally, this is a club of misfits, mocked as the “Small Fry Platoon” at their academy for racking up zero points in a half a year of ops. Their captain is the katana-wielding Kusanagi Takeru, Saionji Usagi is the girly sniper, and Suginami Ikaruga is the tech whiz. The trio becomes a quartet when they are joined by Ootori Ouka, a prodigy who’d already advanced to the rank of inquisitor, but has been recently knocked back to the bottom for killing prisoners.

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Under orders from the academy director (and her guardian), Ootori makes nice as best she can, and Kusanagi plugs her into an ambitious (for the 35th) interdiction operation, which is played straight and seems to be going quite well right up until Kusanagi gives Saionji the order to start sniping…

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…Which she does…into the wrong window. Instantly, we see why this platoon has zero points. Kusanagi ends up on the wrong end of several mafia handguns, but is able to halve their bullets with his sword. Halving bullets is a great skill, but halving bullets alone can’t get you points; for that, the whole platoon needs to hum like a well-oiled machine. No slip-ups, no emotional outbursts.

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There’s plenty of both on the op, as Saionji crumbles under pressure and Kusanagi almost lets the gangsters’ barbs get the best of him, while Suginami, back at HQ, is a non-factor. They only manage to salvage the op when Ootori puts it on her shoulders, taking out all the gangsters and even quickly, efficiently disabling the culprit’s stolen Inquisition mecha. The show then manages to get Kusanagi to grab Ootori’s boob when he trips on a shell casing (groan).

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The next day, Ootori dresses down the rest of the platoon (verbally, not literally), putting particular emphasis on Kusanagi being a disgrace of a leader. When they try to win her over with a welcoming party, she scolds them for goofing off. Kusanagi catches sight of her bleeding arm wound and flags her down, making it clear that however she feels, he is her comrade, and her captain, and they’re going to make this work, somehow.

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She brushes him off, but lets him accompany her to an op she was going to take on herself. It’s a good thing she doesn’t. Sure, she has to save Kusanagi from a booby trap, but his bullet-slicing comes in handy against the henchmen. Moreover, when Ootori discovers the appalling handiwork of their targets—buckets of children’s body parts, perhaps for necromancy—she loses her cool and is about to kill everyone in sight.

Only Kusanagi, her CO and comrade in spite of her protests, restrains her. He posits that if she exacts revenge in this way, she’ll never be an Inquisitor again, and there will be more victims. Then she reveals the reason for wanting revenge: witches killed her family.

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Kusanagi doesn’t pretend to know what she’s feeling—he’s only trying to become an Inquisitor because the pay is good and his family needs money, not revenge—but he won’t stop trying to understand, nor will he stop trying to be her comrade and captain no matter what, because that’s what they are. The words move her as outside, a witch-looking girl with glowing purple eyes looks on, apparently observing all.

So yeah, definitely the darkest (out of the gate) and most serious of the three magical academy shows RABUJOI is reviewing, and the second with a more-than-decent opening episode. Despite the familiar character types and unimaginative fanservice, there’s a degree of promise here, as long as you enjoy misfit-rising stories, which I myself happen to. It executes capably on action, character design (no one’s boobs are too big), and music (the ED theme in particular is pretty sweet). We’ll see!

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