Little Witch Academia – 20

Despite Akko’s protesting (with backup from Andrew) Diana insists she has no choice but to perform the ritual before the transit of Venus behind the moon is complete. She goes into the ritual chambers alone, but is immediately impeded in her mission by Aunt Daryl, who wraps her in one of her many giant magic snake familiars.

No matter how much logic he tosses at Akko, she knows it’s not right for Diana to be dropping out; she’s clearly putting her own dreams aside for the good of her family. When they eavesdrop on Daryl and her twin daughters talking about how she had no problem stopping Diana, Akko has all the moral capital she needs to break with sacred Cavendish custom and enter the sanctum to rescue her.

Andrew helps, convinced that Akko is right. He remembers how passionate Diana became years ago when talk flew around she wouldn’t be able to perform magic. We know the spark of inspiration was the twin pillars of her mother and Shiny Chariot. But to her credit, Akko keeps Andrew out of the sanctum: she’ll bring back Diana on her own…all the way back the academy.

Akko proves she can mostly take care of herself, using her patented partial-transformation magic in rapid-fire mode to lure the snakes away from Diana and stay one step ahead until she regains consciousness and saves her.

With Akko bitten and poisoned, Diana sacrifices her chance to complete the ritual by healing and staying with Akko, who wakes up, then scolds Diana for staying there with her instead of continuing on with the ritual. But this is just Diana being Diana: kind, caring, and healing, just like her mother and the centuries of Cavandishes who came before her.

It’s no coincidence their conversation is held in a facility borne of that family “affection”, a secret hospital where Diana’s ancestors used their considerable magical knowledge to heal the wounded from conflicts that plagued history, without regard to whose side they were on.

Diana’s confession of her lifelong dream (to protect and preserve her family’s and mother’s names and the home they left behind) moves Akko to assure her she can still achieve that dream, restoring her family and complete her education at Luna Nova, as long as she…you guessed it, believes in her heart.

In this manner, two Chariot superfans—one current, one lapsed—come together to realize her credo that a believing heart can make anything possible. To that end, traditional and modern powers mingle, and Diana realizes the fifth word is Akko’s for the taking.

Reciting it summons Chariot’s broom, which they ride together to reach the site where the ritual is to be completed…only to find Aunt Beryl and her daughters waiting to disrupt Diana once more.

For this latest act of treachery, Diana’s relations are punished not by her or Akko, but by the system itself, and are quickly encased in trees. As she did with Akko, Diana stays true to her family’s legacy again by putting judgement aside and helping others before herself.

By the time she’s saved Daryl and the twins, the Venusian eclipse is over, but Diana still gets a momentary nod of approval, so to speak, from her family’s founder, Lady Beatrix. She may not have quite completed the ritual, but it’s clear to all who will lead the Cavendish family’s future.

Until that time, Diana is free to return to Luna Nova, much to Akko’s delight. She also gives Akko a ride home on her broom, which is the perfect time for her to express her gratitude for what Akko did…softly, and only once. Still, Akko heard her, and after their shared experiences this week their bond has never been tighter.

After charming and fun but inconsequential episodes involving the B-characters, this Diana-focused two-parter was a welcome and worthwhile outing that brought two rivals closer together and brought Akko one word closer to potentially changing the world.

I also appreciated the bonhomie that’s gradually developed between Akko and Andrew (who will be back, at least to give Akko her hat back). While I would have preferred if Diana’s full fleshing-out arc had come sooner, it’s better late than never, and well worth the wait.

Akatsuki no Yona – 03

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This week’s episode of “I don’t know why half of you love this show so much” Akatsuki no Yona consists of two flashbacks that establish Huk’s earlier interactions with Yona and Soo-Won, and one current event scene where a broken Huk repeatedly saves Yona from attacking wildlife.

Until proven otherwise, I’m just going to keep noting that Yona is pretty much terrible. Well, not terrible, per se. It’s just remarkably average and this episode’s constant clash of silly kiddy moments was totally dissonant.

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I get it! The happy childhood these characters shared was so happy and carefree that Soo-won’s mega betrayal’s destruction of Yona’s will to live is understandable. But maybe that would have been more compelling if the flashbacks were shot from Yona’s perspective?

Because Huk’s memories of Yona still paint her as a spoiled, weak willed brat, even though he loves her!

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However, it’s more interesting to look at this episode as a dedication to each of these three children’s fathers, and less about them. In this case, Huk’s perspective is probably necessary, because Yona is too much of a dull-whit to notice all but the most obvious contexts for each man.

About all I can give a thumbs-up to here was each father’s visit to their sickened child. Huk’s adopted father (and general of the clan) is brash but ultimately there for chuckles and clearly loves his grandson; Soo-Won’s father is clearly an unstable psychopath, and he treats Soo-won more like a valued possession than a person, and the King doesn’t visit Yona until later that night — but he loves her so much he makes her a soup! (and he does a terrible job at it.)

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Ignoring all this happy context, which in many ways would have made a more interesting show than the one we are watching, Yona snaps back into the present. There the princess takes a bath but gets covered in leeches, and is saved by Huk. Then she wanders off into the woods looking for her hair pin and is…uh…ambushed by a pack of snakes…then she’s saved by Huk again, and I’m just confused…
…Why is NATURE attacking Yona now? Whatevs…
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Mekakucity Actors – 12 (Fin)

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While I recognize the wide appeal of the music of this show, I found the meandering, anecdotal lyrics to be tiresome and less deep and clever than they thought they were. That, along with a stubborn reluctance to ever let its audience in on its secrets, contributed to the less-than-glamorous scores I’ve been giving the episodes, and why Mekakucity Actors closes with an uneven finale that had me wishing for more.

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I found myself far more engaged with various character portraits than with the over-arching plot centered around Marry, the granddaughter of the “Monster” whose exploits were narrated in the show’s omake sections. That plot is resolved this week, as we learn Marry is the one who, wishing to be with her friends, basically created the world where everyone’s living.

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I will say, I enjoyed how the Mekakushi-dan was finally whole this week and operated as a team, but I still felt a bit short-changed. Considering the time spent thus far on their individual stories, their collaboration is all too brief, and there’s no more time to explore the new dynamics, aside from a couple incidental quips.

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This could be a factor of my watching too much varied anime at once, but I must admit I was a bit confused why not only Ene was in a human body again (I recalled last seeing that body in a liquid-filled tube, but what happened in between?), but also Shintaro just showing up with Ayano. And what exactly happened with Hiyori? I’m not trying to blame the show for my lack of comprehension regarding certain matters, but it really felt like certain things were omitted simply due to lack of time.

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Granted, the animation it pretty good as the snake takes oveer Konoha’s body and becomes “dark Konoha”, and Marry’s transformation and the big moment when she decides not to reset everything back to happier days like the snake wanted, but cancelling her wish, which causes the snake’s existence to cease. But in this case, pretty good animation wasn’t enough to carry it.

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I only ever saw disjointed flashes of excellence in this show, and it doesn’t help that there already has been a Shinbou-directed Shaft series where a cute red-eyed half-medusa girl voiced by Hanazawa Kana is the key to everything. The show did technically wrap up the main plot, but it felt quite rushed and I found much of the shows’ potential to have been kept bottled up. As such, Actors goes into the “Just Okay” pile of Shaft/Shinbou efforts.

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Final Cumulative Score: 7.33
MAL Score: 7.75

Mekakucity Actors – 11

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Mekakucity continued its freewheeling M.O. of jumping from flashbacks to the present and from one group of characters to another, shedding more light on how they got to where they are, where they’re headed, and how they’ll get there—in a word, as a single united group.

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The snake possessing Kenjirou’s original plan was foiled by Ayano’s suicide, but he’s still at it, and wants to use the group to fulfill his host’s wish. It wants to do this not because it’s necessarily evil (though it doesn’t think much of humans) but because doing so allows it to exist in the first place.

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Still, the snake is a prety wishy-washy and somewhat creul entity, so he doesn’t have my sympathy. If the choice is between letting it continuing existing or letting the Mekukashi-dan, I’m going with the latter. But it’s clear that neither side really had a choice in the matter. When the snake encounters wishes, it’s in its nature to fulfill them, no matter how much chaos it costs.

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As he lingers at his sister’s gravestone, Kano finally lowers his armor and has a good cry in the arms of Seto, who arrived wondering what was up. Kano has a right to be upset; he watched his sister fall into another dimension, never to be seen again, but both his pain of those events and the responsibility to right things isn’t his alone.

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Similarly, when they finally chase him down, Kido and Momo explain to Hibiya that he’s more likely to save Hiyori if working together with them. When they’re captured and imprisoned in a futuristic jail by mysterious enemy in white suits, Momo ups her idol powers to call for help and cheer Hibiya up, all while being concealed by Kido’s powers.

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It works, as it draws not only Kano, Seto, Marry and Haruka to their location, but Takane as well, back in a physical body. The only Actor missing is Shintaro, who spends the episode in his house talking to Shion, then entering the dreamworld where he meets with Ayano and repeats the refrain of the episode: the time for fighting alone is over.

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Otorimonogatari – 02

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After letting herself be possessed by Kuchinawa, Nadeko lies to Koyomi on the phone about nothing being the matter. Taking the form of a white scrunchie on her wrist, Kuchinawa badgers her during the day, until she reminds him that her days were hers to do what she pleased without interference, and in exchange she’ll use the nights to search for his corpse. That night she goes out, but her parents call Tsukihi wondering where she is and Koyomi finds her and brings her to his room. Koyomi suggests she sleep in his bed, but Shinobu knocks him out and takes issue with her passivity, but admits she’s “enchanting.”

Last week showed us what probably awaits us at the climax of this arc: Koyomi and Shinobu fighting Nadeko, who had at some point become twisted by Kuchinawa to the extent that they had to try to take her out – and fail. But this week Kuchinawa and Nadeko are still on their “honeymoon”, with Nadeko striking a deal that she do his bidding in a way that won’t draw undue attention to her. Even so, sneaking out late at night is not normal behavior for Nadeko the quiet “good girl”, and she’s soon scooped up by Koyomi, who may well have some not-so-wholesome ideas for her. Enter Shinobu, who implies she’s saving Nadeko from “early motherhood.”

Once a totally silent, morose-looking little vamp who sat in the darkness, these days ‘Bu speaks her mind, and minces no words in sizing-up Nadeko. She calls her privileged, and when Nadeko protests, she fires off all of the ways she is indeed privileged. Her silence has netted her many boons, among them freedom from suspicion, the consensus that she’s smart and a good girl. Her genuine air-headedness and cuteness “enchants” other humans, to the point Shinobu compares her to an oddity. There’s a good chance while she’s saying all this she’s well aware Nadeko is possessed; she had dealings with Kuchinawa in the past, after all. So her sarcastic call for Nadeko to keep letting Koyomi worry about her is as much a warning as a barb.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • This series has always been known for intimate close-ups of its characters, but camera made particularly sweet love to Nadeko this whole episode, fixating on her from every possible angle as she spoke to her wrist, or later with Koyomi and Shinobu. 
  • We enjoyed the architecture of Nadeko’s school and apartment, as well as Tsukihi’s rarely-seen, ridiculous bedroom. 
  • Nadeko’s nighttime adventure starts with a montage of gorgeous still shots that wouldn’t look half bad framed on our walls.

Otorimonogatari – 01

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Koyomi and Shinobu fight Sengoku Nadeko at the shrine, but her hair of snakes destroys Koyomi’s heart, causing a rain of blood. Flashing back to October 31st, Nadeko first meets Oshino Ougi, who delivers a warning about hiding behind victimhood. While at school, Nadeko starts to have hallucinations of white snakes. After a call to Koyomi asking for help, she starts to hear the voice of a snake named Kuchinawa, who insists she visit the shrine. There, she finds a dozen dead snakes, and a giant Kuchinawa asks her to “atone for her sins” by doing him “favors.” She tentatively agrees, and he possesses her.

We’ve now arrived at the third arc in Monogatari Series’ second season, one that involves the snake girl, Nadeko. We’ve always liked Nadeko because we really liked her seiyuu, Hanazawa Kana, but that turns out not to be the only reason to watch this arc. We’re treated to an enticing cold open in which we catch a glimpse of the dark future Nadeko is inching towards: one in which she and her snake apparition become one and she kills Koyomi, the one she loves. Starting at the end only to rewind to the beginning is a common storytelling device, but employed well here, as we see just how far Nadeko will fall.

Once we’re back at the beginning, the ominous Ougi makes an appearance, saying things that affect Nadeko’s thought process at a crucial juncture later on. We’re introduced to Nadeko’s “depressing” school life, and her sudden snake hallucinations are particularly unsettling. Her awkward call to Koyomi ensures he’ll eventually be on the case, but once the snake starts talking to her, Nadeko is in big trouble. He corners her and shames her into a contract, one that sets her on the track to that dark, bloody future. In doing so, she tacitally subscribes to Kuchinawa’s claim that the entire world is nothing but wrongdoers, making victims of one another but never being only victims.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • This is the twelfth episode in the series; the eleventh was a recap of Bakemonogatari, and therefore wasn’t rated.
  • With a new arc comes several new ambient musical tracks, all of which we really liked.
  • We also enjoyed the new Nadeko-centric OP, which may be our favorite of the three arcs this season.