Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song – 13 (Fin) – Mission Accomplished

The finale to Vivy, entitled simply Fluorite Eye’s Song, hits all the right notes, as our titlar AI diva gets her second and final chance and doesn’t waste it. I’m a big fan of going back and redoing things, whether it’s Back to the Future or Steins;Gate, and Vivy doesn’t disappoint in switching up the actions she took last time, culminating in saving Toak and Yui before Elizabeth can even arrive on the scene.

Armed with data, footage of the imminent satellite disaster, and the means to shut down the Archive, Vivy asks Toak to believe and stand with her as she accomplishes her mission as she’s always seen it ever since she and Matsumoto met: make people happy with her singing by first keeping those people alive. Yui concurs, and Beth helps inspire the troops.

Toak will be heading to Arayashiki as before, but as Vivy is armed with the knowledge from their first ill-fated raid, they’re able to avoid the mistakes that resulted in all their deaths. Vivy, meanwhile, is headed to the only stage appropriate to sing her song to shut down the AIs: the Main Stage at NiaLand.

After Matsumoto mentions he’s never actually heard his longtime companion sing on the stage, Vivy snaps her fingers like Diva, but she’s got the wrong idea. Matsumoto wants to hear her song. Vivy tells a joke, then psychs herself up by playing with Matsumoto before taking her leave.

As we see from Archive’s core, a new branch is forged on the timeline tree of the Singularity Project. Archive knows she’s coming, but as promised is giving Vivy a chance to prove that humanity shouldn’t be annihilated.

On her way to the stage she encounters another old friend, beside her first stage: Navi, once her one and only friend. Navi doesn’t want Vivy to go to the Main Stage, even summoning a hologram of Momoka to try to keep her there. She rejects Vivy’s expanding of her mission, which used to be just to make people happy with her singing and nothing else.

Navi gets one crucial detail wrong: Momoka would never have called her “Diva”—she’s the one who gave her the name Vivy. She knows her first song in decades may end up being her last, and she’s already prepared for that. But her mission has changed since it was just her and Navi, and she’s a different person, too.

As Vivy walks up to the half-ruined stage and sings the proper, beautiful, major-key “Fluorite Eye’s Song”, Toak and Matsumoto infiltrate Arayashiki, outmaneuver the AI guards, shut down the power, and get to the Archive’s core faster and with fewer (but still not zero) casualties.

As for “singing with all her heart”, Vivy finally learned what that meant: she surrounds herself with images from all the memories she’s amassed. Those memories, and the people and events that changed and shaped her into the Vivy she is, comprise her heart.

And she indeed sings with all of it, which proves too much for her century-old body, which slowly begins to deteriorate as the song gains power. Matsumoto sacrifices all of his cubes but one to take out his dark counterparts, interfaces with the core, and shuts the satellite drop countdown…with just two seconds to spare.

With Armageddon from the sky averted, Vivy’s song reaches its apex and takes care of the robot apocalypse on the ground. Every AI shuts down, a whole bunch of them just one more moment from killing a human. The program Matsumoto inputted into the core fails to stop one satellite from falling—and right towards NiaLand, but he sacrifices his last cube to detonate it before it destroys the stage.

With the Singularity Projec and Vivy’s mission accomplished, Matsumoto’s wrecked cubes lie dormant while Vivy shuts down, her own fluorite eyes going dark after thanking her audience for their kind attention one last time. Or it would be one last time, if either Matsumoto or Vivy were flesh and blood beings.

As it happens, at some point in the future, Vivy wakes up in a different chair in a different building, sporting a new short hairstyle. She’s woken up by Matsumoto, who directs her to the windows where an adoring crowd is waiting to hear her sing. She doesn’t remember her name or Matsumoto at first, but her face brightens up when she’s asked to sing. The mission continues.

Don’t get me wrong; I’m a fan of epic anime series that air across years—Attack on Titan, for instance—but there’s something to be said for a tight, compact, self-contained tale (which nevertheless spanned centuries and pitted all of humanity against AI-gone-wild. Wit Studio didn’t just flex its visual muscle with Song, but its considerable character and storytelling chops as well—all in one tidy cour; no sequels or prequels necessary. It was a fun ride, and very pleasant surprise.

Vivy: Fluorite Eye’s Song – 12 – Asking a Friend for a Favor

Once the Archive completes its redesign of the Archive from schoolroom to nightscape, it appears before Vivy as a not-creepy-at-all face. It tells her that everything leading up to this final countdown was no malfunction, but merely the painstakingly calculated judgment of Archive, as well as the completion of its mission to assist the evolution of the human race.

It was determined the only way to do this was by wiping out the existing human race, so AIs could become the new one. As Vivy and Matsumoto made their changes, the Archive was watching for over a century, making sure their events did not change the main timeline appreciably. Obviously, the Archive also witnessed Vivy become the first AI to create something of their own free will.

Because of this, the Archive says something to Vivy that is inaudible to us and left unknown to us. Instead, we only see how Vivy reacts to it, and both Matsumoto and Beth also notice something’s on her mind. Meanwhile, it’s determined that by using the virus eliminated Vivy’s alter-ego Diva, which Matsumoto continued researching in the ensuing years, they may be able to shut down the Archive.

The problem is it can’t be sent wirelessly, but must be directly, physically injected into the Arayashiki core. The tower should be the most secure facility on the planet, but when Vivy and the Toak team they arrive by boat, the power is out and there are only a smattering of guards. There’s some great final-dungeon vibes coming from their assault, right up to the time the lights come up and the walls begin literally closing in.

Yui and the boat are assaulted by waves of guards, and in her final moments, Yui doesn’t order Beth to keep going: she asks her for a favor like a friend would ask another. That’s because she wanted the world to see that she and Beth, and AI, could stand and walk together. Her death, combined with all of the Toak soldiers getting smashed, means it’s all up to the Diva Sisters.

…Them and Matsumoto, who transforms into Flyer Mode. Vivy and Beth hop aboard and they punch through into the tower’s interior, but there, a “Dark” copy of Matsumoto is waiting for them, and is able to match every one of “Light” Matsumoto’s maneuvers. Eventually Beth sacrifices herself to ensure Vivy and Matsumoto can continue the mission.

This is when we start to learn what the Archive told Vivy back at the beginning that gave her so much pause: it had decided to entrust “one future” to Vivy, leaving open the infinitessimal possibility that the calculations that led to them wiping out the human race were in error. As she’s surrounded by expectant AIs, it seems all Vivy has to do to realize that one future…is to sing, the one thing she cannot do, because she still doesn’t know what it means to pour one’s heart into something.

Because she doesn’t sing her song, the bots sing the twisted minor-key version, the countdown expires, and Archive doesn’t just bring down one big satellite, but one third of the roughly one million satellites in Earth’s orbit, most of them coming down on cities and no doubt completing much of the work the berserk AI armies began. The moment the satellites streak through the sky in symmetrical unison is beautiful in its horror, resembling pipes of a grand organ in the sky.

Vivy could not bring herself to sing, even though Archive gave her the opportunity to use it to shut down the AIs. When Vivy laments her utter failure and again asks the heart question, he tells her about all the times he almost ruined his plans, went rogue, and almost got destroyed due to all of her unnecessary computations.

Just then, when all hope seems lost and there’s nothing to do but commisserate, Osamu comes in over the radio. He’s preparing to send Vivy and Matsumoto back one more time, to just after the AI attack first occurred, which is naturally, for dramatic purposes, the furthest back in time he’s able to send them.

Osamu succeeds in sending them back just before being killed, and instead of going with Osamu, Vivy and Matsumoto race to Toak’s aid in the warehouse. No doubt their assault plan may well end up doomed and everyone may end up sacrificed except for Vivy.

But if it’s all in the aid of getting her where she needs to be in order to sing her song, it will be worth it. Hopefully, when that moment comes again, Vivy will understand what it is to sing with all her heart, because only she can sing the song, and only her song can stop the end of humanity. We’ll see how it goes!

Warlords of Sigrdrifa – 12 (Fin) – Sending Odin to Bed Without Supper

Looking our live Big Board, Assault Lily narrowly beats Sigrdrifa as the higher-rated of the two Top Cute Girls Doing Military Stuff shows I watched this Winter. Both shows had their flaws, and while combining the best bits of both into one show would result in a superior product, I won’t pretend either was groundbreaking or life-changing.

That said, Siggy has always been more interesting and consistent than Lily with its character work, and it also happens to deliver a more satisfying and beautifully animated finale. Our four Valkyries have never been closer or more comfortable in their own skins and cockpits, and once their sights were set on victory, their dad Odin never had a chance.

Odin’s heel turn was sudden, but actually made sense when you consider he was declaring war on a world that had forgotten him and everyone he ever loved. Odin gets the second Ragnarök he wanted, but he ends up on the losing side. Claudia may remember the words to the song of Valhalla, but she doesn’t sing it for him, or for the past.

She sings it for her friends and for herself, and this week we hear a new arrangement of the song with full orchestration that makes for some absolutely kick-ass final boss music, in addition to Claudy’s singing ending the interference and revealing the location of the Pillar’s core. She destroys Odin’s illusory ideal of the attentive daughter who will stay by his side forever.

Odin is lonely and miserable in this post-mythology era, and it’s no coincidence he’s taken the form of a small child. Letting his grief pour into the human world and wreak destruction is pure petulance; a divine temper tantrum from a petulant kid in desperate need of a time-out.

In one of the best-animated scenes of the series, Azuzu is the first to crash into his god cave. He’s able to overpower her and knock her gun out of her hand, but it was never the plan for him to shoot him, only to distract him until “her hero” Miyako arrived to cleave the Pillar’s core in two with her katana. This is after Miko had already splashed Thor with her Ultra Hero Cannon. She was busy this week!

With the core—sorry, the Vandrande destroyed, the Pillar disappears, giving the Takayama command crew an unmarred view of Fujiyama for the first time in a long while. Moe and Kurumi tow Sono (who awesomely jettisoned her floats to destroy a Dark Valkyrie), Azuzu gives Miko a lift in her Wing, and Claudia joins them in a loose formation as they head home victorious.

The battle wasn’t without cost, as the Shield Squadron sacrificed themselves to ensure Miko could take out Thor. The four Valks pay their respects after the eager younger Shield Squadron successors vow to carry on their legacy for being loud, somewhat inappropriate bros. Moe and Kurumi are subjected to Satomi’s toenail clipping (it’s been a while!) and then get an official tour from their four Valkyrie senpais.

The six young women then take flight once more, dedicated to taking out the last secondary and tertiary Pillars that still threaten humanity, but armed with the knowledge that they’ve prevailed over the worst of it. All’s well that ends well in a well-executed, action-packed, and thoroughly satisfying finale.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Cardcaptor Sakura – 49 – Beware of Grand Pianos

After ending the rain with her first Sakura Card, poor Sakura is wiped. She can’t even sit up in bed! Thankfully, she doesn’t have a fever, and Sakura assures her dad and brother that she’ll be fine. Touya, who has a sense for magical things without being an active participant in that world, assumes “something has happened” to cause the fatigue.

Sakura misses cupcake-making in home ec, but Tomoyo knows that a visit from her and a bashful Syaoran is just what the doctor ordered, while Syaoran can’t help but stare daggers at an increasingly suspicious Eriol. Similarly, a Yukito suddenly eating far more than usual gets a knowing, not-at-all friendly look from Nakuru, who competes for Touya’s attention by kicking ass at basketball.

When Tomoyo and Syaoran show up with sweets, Sakura is awake, alert, and back to her chipper self, and Syaoran can’t help but blush at her smile and earnest thanks, while Kero is amazed “the kid” was able to make something so tasty. Kero also deduces that Sakura’s fatigue was caused by her instinctively converting the card along with her wand, using a new magic circle in which the star (not the sun or moon) is most prominent.

Kero warns that since Sakura is relying on only her own power (no longer Clow’s) to release and use the cards, it’s going to be tough going. Even worse, he and Yue were stopped in their tracks even in their true forms, something only their master (Sakura) and Clow himself should be able to do.

Back at school while writing a letter to Mizuki-sensei, Sakura hears a lovely tune being played on the piano and discovers it’s Eriol on the ivories. Sakura is heartened and soothed by the music, and when Tomoyo shows up, she suggests Eriol accompany Tomoyo as she sings a new song. While playing, Eriol does…something magical and fishy to the piano.

That evening, while Sakura and Syaoran are walking in the hall wondering what to make of recent events, they hear Tomoyo singing, followed by a scream and a loud noise: the grand piano in the music room has decided to start moving on its own, and it’s gone berserk! Sakura grabs Tomoyo and they run from the pursuing piano, which Syaoran damages but doesn’t destroy with his thunder sword.

Eventually Tomoyo determines the piano is following her voice every time she speaks, which gives Sakura an idea for how to defeat it for good. Assembling on the roof, she asks Tomoyo to sing once more in order to lure the piano to their location. Then she releases the Song card, converts it to a Sakura Card, and uses its ability to copy Tomoyo’s voice to lure the piano off the edge of the roof to its destruction.

All’s well that ends well, but once again Sakura is completely wiped out by the magical exertion, and passes out in Syaoran’s arms. We then pull back from the school to see that our trio of shadowy villains has been watching. The central figure—who let’s be honest, is Eriol—declares that this is going to be “fun”. Sakura passed another one of his tests, but he doesn’t seem the type to keep going easy on her!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 46 – Love Not Lest Ye Be Loved

Yue is in no mood for delays; he’s going to judge Sakura right here and now: she’ll either subdue him with her mastery of the cards, or she’ll lose and catastrophe will be unleashed. There’s just one problem: Sakura has no intention of fighting someone who just a few minutes ago was Yukito, a boy she deeply cares for. We learn Yukito never had any knowledge that he was really Yue, which only adds to Sakura’s reluctance to fight.

The thing is, Yue doesn’t care if Sakura cared about Yukito. If she won’t fight, then he’ll mop the floor with her, just like he did Syaoran. And holy crap does Sakura ever receive by far the worst beating of the entire series, getting tossed around like a ragdoll before being ensnared in the vines of the Wood card she herself summoned. The fact she doesn’t even know that Wood is controlled by the Moon (i.e. Yue) irritates him even more as he passes his final judgment: Sakura loses.

The catastrophe that shall occur due to her failure? Everyone in the world will forget about the person they love or care about most. Kero-chan was right: it isn’t a “world-ending” kind of apocalypse. After she’s completely enveloped in vines, Sakura wakes up in bed, and there’s even the Cardcaptor Sakura doll on her headboard.

She has her normal morning routine, but Yukito vanishes when she spots him, while Tomoyo and Syaoran are no longer warm or friendly, but mere acquaintances. Same with Chiharu and Yamazaki…and Rika doesn’t even like that teacher she likes!

Having had adequate time to take in this horrifying bad future (or at least the equivalent of such from her perspective), Sakura runs to Yukito’s gran’s house, only to find it abandoned and in poor repair. She breaks down in tears in the bamboo forest, but then something happens: she starts hearing the voices of everyone she loves, first calling her name, then singing the song Tomoyo sang (and which Song copied).

Then she hears Mizuki’s bell clang, and she bursts out of the vine prison, waking from her helldream and returning to Tokyo Tower. Turns out the bell was also furnished by Clow Reed and used by Mizuki to give the Cardcaptor one—and only one—last chance against Yue.

This time, Sakura uses her own magical power to draw not from the Sun or the Moon, but her own personal stars, and a new wand is forged that allows her to summon Windy—the first Clow Card she ever captured—and restrain Yue without him being able to counter.

Sakura tells Yue what he never thought he’d hear, that she understands now how much Clow Reed meant to him, and why he never wanted another master after Reed died. However, Sakura isn’t offering to become Yue’s master or a replacement for Reed; she wants them to be friends, plain and simple, making the world better together.

Yue thus judges Sakura to be the winner of their little duel, and she has a brief stop up in the stars to meet with Clow Reed, who is grateful Sakura was able to locate and follow the path of “necessities disguised as coincidences” he had set out—her own way.

After that, Sakura returns to the shrine grounds and is reunited with Tomoyo and Syaoran, taking both of a surprised Syaoran’s hands and dancing with him in pure unadulterated joy.

Kero and Yue acknowledge that due to her youth, Sakura isn’t quite ready for their true forms full-time, so they agree to return to their disguises for the time being. That means Kero-chan is back to being a pint-sized plushie, while Yue returns to the form of Tsukishiro Yukito.

Sakura’s adorable dance with Syaoran, paired with her far more understated reaction to Yukito’s return seems to signal the start of a transition from her feelings for Yukito/Yue—whom she knows will always love Clow above all—to Syaoran, who is, well, an actual human being.

And that does it for the grand Clow Card arc and the second season of Cardcaptor Sakura! My stars, has this show been a balm in these times. While this finale wasn’t my absolute favorite of the series (that might be “Sakura’s Dizzy Fever Day”) it definitely makes the top five, merely by dint of its vital story, cinematic scope and utterly gorgeous animation. On to season three!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 37 – The Voice

We begin this episode with the demonstration of a new Daidouji Brand prototype portable karaoke mic, perfect for picnics like the one Sakura and her friends are having. While ostensibly there to view the cherry blossoms, Syaoran is viewing Sakura the human girl, and when she looks back he can’t help but blush and turn away. Every episode it seems there’s a little reminder that his feelings for her are slowly but surely growing.

The star of the karaoke demonstration is the daughter of the woman whose company made the mic, but when Tomoyo is practicing for a chorus recital, a Clow Card overhears her and steals her voice! Suddenly the school’s best singer can’t even talk, and Sakura blames herself for not finding and sealing the card before it could cause trouble.

Tomoyo goes home and ends up taking a sick day, and her mom Sonomi also takes the next day off to spend time with her daughter. Tomoyo puts a brave face on this incident but she’s no doubt frightened of never being able to speak or sing again, and her mom knows the power of simply being there for a hug. Back at school, Sakura is down in the dumps and wondering what to do, and Syaoran is worried about her, and volunteers to help her search for the Voice card.

They go to Tomoyo’s house, but his compass doesn’t turn anything up; once Voice has a voice it likes, it goes into hiding. Hours pass without progress, and Sakura voices her frustration and guilt, seeing as how this is the second time Tomoyo has fallen victim to a Clow Card; the first being when Song copied her voice.

That gives Syaoran an idea: lure Voice out with Song, who still has that copy. Sure enough, Voice can’t resist Song’s Tomoyo-like singing. Syaoran traps it inside with magical talismans, and Sakura returns it into its rightful guise.

Tomoyo’s voice is restored, and Sakura embraces her, tearful with relief. All that’s left is to sit back and listen to Tomoyo’s delicately gorgeous voice at the recital as she knocks her performance out of the park.

While there are many friends in Sakura’s orbit she holds dear, there’s no one more important to her than Tomoyo, who in turn loves Sakua so much even without a voice she was urging her to cheer up. When Sakura is happy, Tomoyo is happy, and vice versa.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 23 – Songs After Dark

Sakura is in a very good mood one morning, which can almost always be attributed to Yukito (all other instances are likely food-related). Sure enough, he’ll be spending the night at her house as he and Touya plan for the athletic festival (sure…why not?).

Despite whispering this to Tomoyo, Syaoran overhears, and then Meiling inserts herself in the conversation. Then Sakura’s mood is totally destroyed by talk of a creepy singing voice coming from the music room late at night—possibly the voice of a g-g-g-ghost!

Even though it’s more likely to be a Clow Card singing in there, the mere fact people are talking about the possibility it’s a ghost sparks Sakura’s crippling phasmophobia, such that she outright refuses to go to school late at night, bowling Kero-chan over.

The thing is, she doesn’t want to leave home anyway because Yukito will be there. But no sooner do he and Touya arrive that he mentions the rumor about the singing voice, and notes how it’s apparently a beautiful voice that he’d love to hear if he could.

Yukito’s request is all Sakura needs to steel herself sufficiently to sneak into school at 10PM with a voice recorder. Tomoyo meets her there and she changes into a pink music-themed battle costume. That said, she’s still extremely on edge, such that when Syaoran and Meiling suddenly appear, she lets out her loudest HOEEEEE yet.

Before long they can hear the voice, and the nearer they get to the music room, the more scared Sakura is, such that she’s constantly asking Tomoyo to assure her it isn’t really a ghost. The strange thing is, the voice sounds a lot like Tomoyo’s. Kero-chan explains that it must be the Song card, which records and mimics the best singing voice it can find.

I knew I was going to run into a number of CCS “firsts” since this is the original series and all, and this episode is no different, marking the first time Tomoyo contributes directly to the sealing of a card. She does so by singing what is admittedly a very pretty song, and Song can’t resist joining her in a duet. Much later, Tomoyo will sing a duet with Akiho while Syaoran accompanies on the piano, leading to the capture of the Record card.

Once the song is over, Song becomes visible, enabling her to seal it. Only her other main objective of the night—recording the voice for Yukito—wasn’t achieved, since she was busy capturing and Tomoyo was busy singing. No biggie; Tomoyo simply needs to sing the song once more, and Song will join her, enabling Sakura to record it and gain some additional EXP.

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 11 – Defense Over Insulation

We know shit is about to hit the fan. So it’s somehow even crueler that after
showing us Aunt Rosa’s true colors last week, the episode keeps things light and pleasant. Rosa tells Golem about a shortcut to “avoid” trouble, Somali and Golem exchange bracelets, and the two have a snowball fight with the oni. Even the score is oblivious to the impending unpleasantness.

Then, later that night after Somali has gone to bed, Golem detects five human hunters. Yabashira is quickly told Somali is indeed a human (he’s fine with it, like any decent person), and acts as a decoy, allowing Golem, Somali and Shizuno to flee into the nearby subterranean tunnels. However, Golem and Shizuno were both fooled by the kindly Aunt Rosa, who meets them right before the supposed exit and leads them straight into a holding cell.

She tells them a personal story about how her village once coexisted with a human village, but the humans’ prejudice led to needless killing, and eventually all non-humans agreed it would be safer for everyone if the humans were persecuted and killed. She also sings the same song Kikila sang for Somali, revealing the lyrics are about cooking humans.

At this point, Golem’s body is nearing its end, as he had to exert considerable energy to evade the second set of hunters in the tunnels. He can’t risk destroying the cell gate, but when it’s opened and Somali is snatched away by the hunters, he has no choice. Only when he prepares to attack the hunters his whole left arm shatters (and his new bracelet snaps), while the rest of his body shuts down.

Shizuno’s pleas for understanding fall on deaf ears, and Somali is tied to a table as the hunters prepare to cut her into pieces—one wants the brain, while Rosa wants the liver. Still, Golem is down but not yet out: his eye turns read, he gets back to his feet, and he transforms into something wild and brutal we haven’t seen before as his core churns and smolders.

It may be the beginning of the end for Golem, but his attempts to insulate her from the cold truth of the world were not only futile, but are no longer possible. Now all that matters is defending her from harm with everything he has left—as any father of any species would do for their child.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 26 (Fin) – Grasping Rays of Light, Holding Them Tight

Accelerator’s technobabble solution to saving Last Order works, and she wakes up to her guardian’s warm embrace. But it doesn’t last long, as Accelerator leaves her in Worst’s care (worst babysitter ever?), literally spreads his newly-formed angel wings, and heads to the Star to eliminate another threat to his charge.

Turns out he and Touma never cross paths in this finale. The telesma overload turns out not to be as powerful as Fiamma hoped for, and all he gets for all his planning and scheming is a devastating haymaker from Touma that leaves a fist-sized crater in his cheek.

In his generosity (and unwillingness to kill, even a supervillain) Touma gives the sufficiently cowed Fiamma the last escape pod off the Star. When Misaka finally arrives to rescue him in a fighter jet (sadly without exclaiming “It’s not like I wanted to save you!”), he refuses her outstretched hand.

He’s thankful she came all the way out her to help him in his time of need, but he’s not ready to leave the Star yet; not without locating Index’s remote control, which Fiamma dropped and which Touma finds almost too easily.

A projection of the awakening Index appears before him, and he confesses to having kept her true nature a secret all this time. Of course, Index doesn’t particularly care about and perceived wrongs he may have perpetrated against her; she’s just glad to see him and wants him to come home safe.

Touma’s final heroic acts of both the arc and the season involve smashing three specific points in the Star in order to ditch it somewhere no one will be harmed: the Arctic Ocean. He even manages to collide with an out -of-control Gabriel/Sasha, driving her into the icy depths before punching her in the face. Yes, Archangel Puncher is another possible title for that right arm. I also must applaud Touma’s ability to survive in near-freezing waters as long as he does.

The new ITEM is quickly surrounded by Academy City forces, led by…Celty Sturluson’s sister? I honestly don’t know, but she’s there to take Takitsubo away to further augment her. Hamazura turns the tables thanks to the arrival of villagers he helped earlier, who kill all of not-Celty’s pals and enable him to ask the masked stranger about the “Parameter List” she mentioned.

Accelerator is also captured by Academy City, but either tricks them into turning his switch on, or he just isn’t governed by that switch anymore. He’s not going back to compromise or negotiate, but to issue demands and then make sure they’re carried out. A “triumphant return”, in his words. The time of the City forcing him to work in the underworld, and using the Sisters or Last Order for their bidding, are over. To which I say Amen, brother!

We’re then treated to a very rare cameo by Mr. Aleister Crowley himself, delivering some poetic justice to Fiamma by claiming his arm while chiding him for scratching the surface of something he didn’t adequately understand. Always neat to see Al in action; he’s more like Aiwass than a human in his speed and movements.

Misaka searches for Touma in the frigid sea, but all she can find is his Gekota strap. While “it’s not as if she’s worried or cares what happened to him!”, she’s obviously worried and cares what happened to him. I presume she’ll just have to wait for Index IV. We, meanwhile, get a sneak peek at his fate: he’s rescued up by another character I didn’t recognize, and had to consult the forum to identify: Leivinia Birdway.

I didn’t dive into who she is or what group she’s with, since that’s also a matter for Index IV, whenever it should rear its magical head. While a bit dense and meandering in its second half with the final waves of exposition, in all it was an entertaining wrap-up.

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 25 – Out Of Many, One

This episode is one story after another of humans continuing to put aside their differences to unite against the existential threat of Fiamma. After Mugino’s big cathartic blow-out, Takitsubo emerges unharmed. When three Bad Dudes attack them, Hamazura provides the bait, coming at them directly, while Takitsubo holds Mugino up and helps her aim from afar. ITEM is back, baby!

Accel and Worst had already joined forces, and I have to say they make a hilarious team, what with all the scowls, aggression, and love of villainy. Worst extracts the song from the Mikasa Network, and Accel proceeds to use the parchments and all of his amassed knowledge to modify the song in order to heal Last Order, which he then sings! He may have sworn to become “the ultimate villain” to save her, but if there’s no more need for him to be villainous, he’s content with simply being…Accelerator.

Back to the Star of Bethlehem, where Fiamma and a suddenly not outmatched Touma bicker about whether the true nature of humanity is wholly evil, or a heck of a lot more complicated than that. Touma’s obviously pushing the latter theory, and it bears out in many ways around them. WWIII hasn’t drawn out the amount of evil Fiamma expected. On the contrary, the emrgence of giant right arms brings opposing human forces together on the battlefield, where the means of theirfoes’ survival is the same as their own.

Magical and Scientific humans, and even the Roman, Russian, and English churches join forces to bring down Fiamma’s fortress by cancelling the intertwined spells that keep it together. You could say the entire reason for him being able to build the Star was the same reason it was vulnerable to outside destruction: when it was built those three churches were opposed, but now that Fiamma has presented a threat equally disastrous to them all, they’ve put aside their worldly differences.

As the fortress starts to crumble around them, the product of an amassing of human goodwill on a scale he himself summoned, all Fiamma can seem to do is fume over how badly things are going for him. Touma tells him if he really cares about defeating the evil in the world he should be glad that goodwill is winning out. But Fiamma has one more ace of his Venetian pajama sleeve—though it’s not a part of his original plan.

Turns out the evil that was unleashed during the war he started and the subsequent summoning of angel and building of the Star have all resulted in an “unnatural distortion” developing between heaven and earth, which will result in a potentially civilization-ending amount of telesma is about to be released from above. Fiamma tells Touma that he and his meddling human friends are too late. But c’mon, it’s never too late when Biribiri has yet to take the stage.

Dororo – 06 – Not Everyone Can Get It All Back

Anyone who thought things were going to work out with Mio and her group of orphans has not been paying attention: Dororo is about people losing more than they can bear and trying to press on, but not everyone gets to survive. Some, like Mio and the kids, become another loss for our protagonists, who are cursed with the luck of survival, and with bearing witness to those who aren’t so lucky.

Dororo may have stumbled upon what Mio is up to all night, but Take is still blissfully unaware, and Dororo keeps it that way. Take, like Mio, dreams of the day they have the money to plant a rice paddy that will be green in spring and golden in the autumn. It’s what keeps them going, and it no doubt prompts Dororo to wonder what keeps him going.

At Casa de Daigo, Tahomaru urges his father to let him fight in the army. His head is full of steam and dreams of making his parents proud, but both father and mother forbid his demand, because they know all too well how easy it is to lose your life, no matter how good at martial arts one may be.

Tahomaru takes out his frustrations on his mother, who he’s suspected for some time loves and cares about something more than him. He knows he was childish to guilt trip her, but he’s continually vexed by the mystery of who or what dominates his parents’ thoughts. If he and Hyakkimaru ever meet, it’s not going to be cordial.

Dororo and Mio have to watch Hyakkimaru like a hawk from going back to fight the antlion demon while his leg wound is healing. Mio is eager to hear the voice Hyakkimaru gained , but he only wants to hear her song, which she says she sings to forget the pain. She lives with the pain of both everything she’s lost and what she must deal with nightly.

She worries her soul looks “filthy” to Hyakkimaru, but we can see through his eyes and it’s not; she’s being far too harsh on herself. Dororo also admits after his initial reaction that Mio is only doing what she must to survive. He tells her his mother never did what she did, and she died for it.

But unlike Hyakkimaru and Dororo, Mio doesn’t get to survive anyway, despite going to such lengths. Daigo’s soldiers catch her working on both sides of the conflict, which was always a risk too great no matter the reward, and they punish her by killing her, slaughtering the orphans, and burning their temple shelter.

Worse still, Hyakkimaru’s need to finish his fight with the demon draws him away at the worst possible time. He successfully defeats the demon, and the leg it took from him last week is fully restored. But it wasn’t worth it. I will miss Mio terribly; Mizuki Nana really brought warmth and empathy to her role, but she was just too good for this world.

When Hyakkimaru takes out his hatred for the soldiers and anger at himself for not being there when it mattered, it is a terrifying sight to behold, and almost verbatim what Biwamaru had feared: that the beast that emerged from the cave would be a monster. He doesn’t just quickly, cleanly kill the murderous wretches, he evicerates them, ignoring their pleas for mercy.

Dororo manages to stop him from killing the last man, who escapes and will probably report Hyakkimaru to Daigo, officially ending his time in the shadows and putting him squarely in his father’s sights. That may end up being a very bad idea, but Dororo had to stop him from killing everyone, lest the darkness consume him. He shows Hyakkimaru the bag of rice seed Mio finally got for her services.

She was on the cusp of achieving her dreams and those of the orphans, but their idealized future was never going to be safe in this harsh brutal land of warring factions, whether Hyakkimaru stayed to protect them or not. He couldn’t be a hero to Mio and the kids. All he can do is accept his luck, keep surviving, keep fighting the demons both outside and within, with Dororo making sure to serve as a conscientious check when his aniki’s pain threatens to explode.

Dororo – 05 – A Beautiful Soul in an Ugly World

Hyakkimaru may have his hearing back, but at least initially it’s more of a curse than a blessing. Even in an eerily quiet forest he’s assaulted by what he perceives as an intolerable din of creature sounds, not to mention Dororo’s voice. Determining that something has to be done until he gets used to hearing, Dororo wraps his ears in several layers of fabric to lesson the suffering.

When a bird monster suddenly attacks, it’s clear that Hyakkimaru’s newfound hearing is also messing with his ability to fight. He gets a few licks in, but the bird gives as good as it gets, seriously injuring Hyakkimaru. It it isn’t for Biwamaru showing up to finish it off, it probably would have been curtains for Hyakkimaru and Dororo.

Biwamaru fixes him up as best he can, but Hyakkimaru will need medicine to recover properly. He’s also being very stubborn about accepting the fact he can now hear. Biwa compares him to a beast holed up in its cave; he’ll have to come out sooner or later. The boys have run into Biwamaru because the old priest has had to turn around after entering lands in which a war is currently being fought between the Sakai clan and the ally it betrayed.

In the morning, Hyakkimaru hears a sound he’s never heard before: a woman singing a sweet and gentle song. He follows the song and finds its owner, a beautiful young woman, washing her kimono in the river. While some might find the sight of Hyakkimaru frightening, she is concerned…especially when he nearly passes out in her arms.

The songstress, who goes by Mio, invites the three to the ruins of a village where she cares for a group of small war oprhans, most of whom are missing limbs like Hyakkimaru. Dororo meets a lad near his own age in Takebo, who serves as Mio’s second-in-command of the little ‘uns. Takebo also insists Mio get her sleep, as she works all through the night and needs to have her energy. Dororo doesn’t ask Takebo to elaborate.

Meanwhile, Lord Kagematsu’s wife Nuinokata impresses upon her husband the seriousness of recent unfortunate events that have befallen them, from landslides to drought to the betrayal of the Sakai clan. Tahoumaru overhears, and probably thinks he can do something to ease his father’s troubles. Of course, we know that as long as Hyakkimaru keeps killing the demons who stole pieces of him, the demons will continue to seek reparations from Daigo.

As Biwamaru searches for a safe path along which to continue, Mio goes to work when the sun sets. When she returns in the morning, her kimono slightly askwer, Hyakkimaru is waiting for her. She gets the feeling he can not only see her, but see deeper than most; Dororo tells her she’s right; he can see souls.

In both her selfless actions, charity towards both the orphans and her new guests, and the beauty of the song she sings, Hyakkimaru is now able to ascertain with both sight and sound that Mio is a particularly good soul. He signs that wants to hear her song again, and she obliges.

Seemingly invigorated by the song, Hyakkimaru wastes no time heading off when Biwamaru informs them all that there’s a safe area to which to relocate, provided they can defeat the tough demon that dwells there. But with his wounds still held together with hope and still dealing with his new sense of hearing, Hyakkimaru loses a step. He defeats the demon, but loses his one real leg below the knee. Defeating this demon unlocks his voice, and he uses it to cry out in what must be excruciating pain, while Biwamaru looks at him like he’s already got one foot in the grave.

Later that night, while following Mio to town where she hopes to do business with both sides of the conflict to fund her little group’s relocation, Dororo loses track of her. When he finally finds her, it’s due in part because she’s singing, but the reason she’s singing gives Dororo pause: she’s singing while being raped by three soldiers.

Once again Dororo takes a cold hard look at the casual brutality and injustice of feudal Japan. It takes a particularly dim view of lords and the samurai they wield as tools of terror and death. In this time and place wars can pop up at the drop of an obi, leaving children without their parents or even their very limbs. They are only able to survive because poor Mio sells her body every night.

I would hope that Hyakkimaru, Dororo, and Biwamaru could do something to help them, but with Hyakkimaru’s new horrifying injury, it’s hard to believe he’ll be doing anything anytime soon.

Steins;Gate 0 – 12 – Paradox Song

There’s this song. It’s a song Mayuri sang to a young Kagari in the future, just when she finally became her legal mother. When the Kagari of the present hears the Mayuri of the present singing it, she loses consciousness. It’s not that Mayuri’s singing is just that bad—it’s quite lovely—but rather that Kagari’s brain is suddenly getting hit by some pretty profound aural stimuli.

But when Kagari makes the connection between the song and her fainting spell, the question becomes where did Mayuri learn the song? That takes us on a rather wild ride: She heard it from Suzuha, who heard it from Yuki, who heard it from a woman in her baking class who turns out to be…Rintarou’s mother. Yet Rintarou himself, apparently the source, can’t remember singing it. To quote Alice, “curiouser and curiouser.”

Rintarou’s mom said he used to sing it to Mayuri to cheer her up when she was in her “reaching up at the sky at a cemetery” part of her life. They visit Mayuri’s grandma’s grave to try to spark Rintarou’s memory, but get caught in the rain.

While seeking shelter by a shop window, Kagari hears “The Magic Flute” (K620) playing on the radio and goes into a kind of trance, remembering when she once walked along that same street in her bare feet and pajamas. She’s almost hit by a truck (of course), but Rintarou makes a diving save.

While she’s out this time, something happens. Kagari runs to her mother’s arms; a blurry figure that she discovers is Shiina Mayuri. Waking up in a hospital room, she sees Mayuri by her bedside and immediately recognizes her as her one and only mommy.

Mayuri protests that she’s not a mommy, but, well, she just is. Or rather, she will be…just as Suzu is Daru’s daughter. Rintarou nods assent, and Mayuri goes with it, providing Kagari with the affection she needs. The plain credits roll as a very lovely rendition of the song is sung, at it seems things will end on a pleasant note.

Of course, this is the twist-loving White Fox we’re talking about, so after the credits we find ourselves on a train platform where that same barefoot pajama’d Kagari is singing the song, and a teenaged boy overhears it—a teenaged boy with the same color hair and eyes as Rintarou.

I’ll admit, I was a little confused by this scene, but maybe that was the point. Here is Kagari, who will presumably be adopted by Mayuri in the future, in Rintarou’s past, singing the song he’ll sing to Mayuri to cheer her up. Seems an awful lot like a causal loop to me.

That would be fine, except there’s a creepy white van parked near the platform, confirming that “Runaway K-6205” has been found. Are we watching past events here, or is Kagari in danger no matter where or when she is? Will the next episode continue in this world line, with “Macho Psychologist” Rintarou helping Kagari out? I honestly have no idea, but I can’t wait to find out.