GATE – 10

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Itami’s awkward situation is resolved when a “rude” cell phone interrupts Rory’s advances. Moments later, the three special forces teams converge, and Rory takes them all out as they take out one another. So in effect, Rory ends up getting off; only as a demigod, and not as a human.

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The group then goes back on the run, commandeering a van and booking it for Ginza, where the visitors are to pay a visit to the memorial honoring the victims of the special region’s initial invasion attempt. Kuribayashi way way way overreacts to her CO’s ignorance of the situation by pulling a goddamn gun on him (one would think such actions usually warrant court martial).

His ex-wife uses the web to make sure there will be a big enough crowd of fans waiting for them in Ginza to dissuade the bad guys from making any further attempts to kidnap the visitors. She also shows she knows Itami to a T when she accurately describes just how each of the three visitors appeals to him, whether it’s Tuka’s looks, Rory’s personality, or Lelei’s vulnerability.

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The less said about the U.S. president speaking directly to a covert field agent—without any organizational distance or attempt to achieve plausible deniability—the better. Sorry, but a sitting president is more likely to be jizzed on by a salmon than be this idiotically close to this sensitive and covert an operation.

“Agent Graham” is introduced as one of the only survivors of Rory’s massacre (why she spared anyone is also beyond me), and he still tries to salvage the situation by attempting to pluck one or more of the visitors from the streets of Ginza, where the throngs of fans have amassed and been parted like the waves of the Red Sea by Rory, resplendent in her gothic lolita garb.

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Itami, Kuribayashi, and Tomita escort the visitors to the memorial, with all eyes and cameras on them, foiling any designs Graham may have had. Kuribayashi also bumps into her sister, a rookie news reporter, and report everything they’ve been through and everyone who has been chasing them on live TV. Within minutes, all of the CIA agents in Japan are arrested—which almost makes up for her pointing a gun at Itami earlier.

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After praying at the memorial, the group goes back through the gate and returns to the Special Region base. Itami is exhausted, wishing he’d been able to go on an actual vacation, while the three girls all look back on their visit with fondness, whether due to the dazzling technology (Lelei), the shopping (Tuka), or the opportunity to kill lots of people (Rory).

Pina, on the other hand, took something else away from her visit to Japan: they are an enemy her empire will never be able to defeat, and if her empire fights a war, they will not only lose, but be utterly destroyed. She vows to head back to the capital to put an end to the war once and for all. Something tells me she’s going to run into some opposition…probably from some old men.

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GATE – 09

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GATE’s ninth episode starts out doing well by me, serving up more of what I want the show to focus on: Itami and his circle of comrades and friends in a slice-of-lifey manner. Sure, Pina’s constant mistaking the world for her own gets old pretty quick, but I chuckled at their sudden fascination with BL literature. It’s also fun watching Rory haughtily claiming not to need any other garb, then changing her mind as soon as she sees something she likes.

Then Itami is approached by none other than the Japanese Defense Minister in Akiba, who orders him to take the Special Regioners to the designated safe house: a hot spring inn. Thus begins one of the stranger and yet also somehow duller onsen episodes in recent memory.

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I say dull because there’s nothing that goes on that is particularly unique or interesting about their stay. They’re having a lot more fun than I am watching them, and other than learning a little more about Itami through his ex-wife (who apparently chose to marry him rather than starve) nothing much of consequence was revealed about anyone (save one person; more on that later). And fine, Drunk Kuribayashi was cool too.

I say strange because the whole time they’re relaxing and bathing and drinking, the inn is surrounded by Japanese special forces assigned to guard them, along with a bunch of American, (and Russian, and Chinese) agents, locked in a pretty uninspiring special forces forest battle.

International politics come to the fore when the U.S. President essentially blackmails the Japanese Prime Minister into taking the guards off of the Special Regioners, leaving them exposed to capture. The show also implies that had they not been ordered to stand down, the Japanese SFG would have eliminated all of the enemies easily. We get it, show; you reeeeally don’t like bureaucrats.

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But the whole idea of A.) those enemy forces getting so close to the inn in the first place and B.) everything about the president and prime minister mostly struck me as dumb. Dumb to the point of making me question continuing to watch this show, so tired am I of our diverging priorities. The high-level political stuff is already insufferable, and there’s every possibility there will only be more of it in the second cour.

There’s a little consolation in the fact Itami and Rory are the last two standing after a night of drinking (both of them would also be the two most aware of what’s going on outside), and Rory lamenting that once she rises to godhood she’ll lose both the pain and pleasures of the flesh, before coming onto Itami, who is, after all, unmarried, available, and conscious.

But the final scene isn’t fooling anyone. There will be no getting it on tonight for Itami and Rory, as their activities are sure to be rudely interrupted by an approaching group of American guerrillas. I hope they don’t get far with their kidnapping plans and/or Rory puts the righteous hurt on them for ruining one of the last moments in her semi-mortal life to get some.

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GATE – 08

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GATE benefits from a major change of scenery, as suddenly its the Special Regioners who are the fish out of water, emerging from the gate into a wondorous, perplexing, and at times frightening world of skyscrapers, subways, and ramen.

Pina and her blonde comrade are whisked off to negotiates with envoys of the prime minister, while Itami, Kuribayashi, Rory, Lelei and Tuka prepare to present their testimony before the Diet. They’re escorted by a shifty-looking guy who looks like he might be trouble, but turns out to be not that bad a guy after all.

He’s done his homework on Itami, and it’s not altogether surprising to hear he’s always been a bit of a lazy fellow. But not only did his laid back attitude get him into Ranger training—which he passed, to Kuribayashi’s shock—he’s also  a member of the “S” special forces, outraging her even more.

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The continued inflation of Itami’s badassdom aside, the Diet session, broadcasted live to the whole country, starts off with a very clearly anti-JSDF Diet member hoping to use the session to further her agenda and mar the SDF’s reputation. She’s actually the worst part of the episode, because the show is so transparently contemptuous of her and her political positions.

As one of the show’s first depictions of an anti-military Japanese politician, she comes off as shrill, ignorant, and unreasonable.  That being said, it’s still fun to watch the three Special Regioners deal with her, particularly Rory. And the response of the public through social media and the like also added to the spectacle. And she’s certainly not wrong in saying while a fourth of the refugees were killed by the Fire Dragon, the SDF saved the other three fourths.

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The grilling doesn’t last that long—curiously, only the female Diet member asked the Special Regioners any questions—and Pina’s conference with the Japanese envoys also goes well. From there, the group leaves on a bus, only the bus is a decoy, as they end up taking the subway, and when the subway closes down, someone tries to steal Rory’s scythe only to be crushed by it, being utterly unable to lift it.

The complex journey is a means of throwing off those elements who received leaked information about the Regioners’ movements, and while the gang never seems to be in that much trouble, the fact all these modern modes of transportation almost send Rory into a panic attack makes it clear the ordeal isn’t a mere cakewalk.

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When Itami’s grizzled escort throws out his back trying to pick up Rory’s scythe (watching her twirling it with ease as he’s carted off is, I’ll admit, pretty funny), Itami leads everyone to the home of his ex-wife, who is living in an apartment with dwindling utilities, and rejoices at the arrival of hot food. Lazy, Otaku, Ranger, S, ex-husband: we just keep learning new things about Itami.

And to be honest, I’d much rather the story stick to him, his various relations and his Special Region friends, then dive to far into the larger world affairs. Mercifully, we only see glimpses of the world leaders as they watched the Diet session. But the quasi chase the gang underwent is a reminder they’ve got to watch their backs, perhaps more so in Japan than in the other world.

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Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 11

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With Roboko in pieces, Natasha strung up like a chicken behind force-fields, and Goro in some kind of stasis, Zvezda continues to reel this week on the edge of total defeat. Hope still lives while Kate is free, protected by Itsuka, but her treasured doll Galatika is in Governor Jimon, who is annexing West Udogawa once and for all.

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Asuta and Renge are on the run, constantly moving from one place to another as the special forces hunt them. It’s fun to see the two working together to survive after being on different sides for so long without knowing it. But along with the doll-less Kate, they’re unable to go on the offensive.

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That changes when West Udogawa’s leader, who is harboring Kate, manages to get her one last canister that allow her and Itsuka to transform and make their stand at the very public annexation ceremony that Jimon always meant to be an execution as well, if Venera showed up. She does, and Jimon stirs the pot by destroying Galatika with the acrid black smoke from his cigars. So yeah, like the Prime Minister in Samurai Flamenco, Governor Jimon is some kind of superhuman.

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We flashback to ancient days when Kate first stopped growing in order to gain the power to conquer; we also see Jimon’s wife leave him and the family fall apart because his job is all that matters to him. We’re a little fuzzy on why Asuta “rejects” Renge and the two part ways, but his ambition to live in a world where people can make their own decisions is admirable. He need only brush Evil SuperDad aside and he’ll be golden!

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 10

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We’re only hearing about this now, but apparently all of Japan is locked in a brutal civil war between Tokyo and the rest of the country, and Tokyo is winning. Only the district of West Udogawa has remained neutral, but the threat of Zvezda is used as an excuse to invade. This week Zvezda’s HQ is destroyed and its members apprehended one by one.

The show attempts to preserve its laid-back, tongue-in-cheek, optimistic tone throughout, but there’s still a pall of despair and desperation over everything. Without their lair or transforming powers, Zvezda is just a bunch of wide-eyed dreamers in ridiculous garb hiding in a playground, but Governor Asuta (on his own conquest kick) has decided now is the time to snuff them out once and for all.

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To that end, White Light is absorbed by the Tokyo Special Forces, with Falcon becoming a city hall stooge, Egret installed as new commander of the puppet force, and Robin given the task of helping round up what’s left of Zvezda, knowing Asuta’s among them. It’s here where her fierce personal justice—for which she was originally recruited by Falcon—tells her she’s on the wrong side.

As if to clear her vision of the artificial justice the powers that be purport to uphold, Renge sheds her mask, stands between Zvezda and the guns. Asuta decides to surrender to his father, but as far as his father’s concerned, he’s a casualty of conflict. Renge whisks him away just in time, but as the curtain falls on the episode, they, like Zvezda, are still on the run with very little in the way of power. We’ll be watching with great interest to see if and how their justice serves them in the closing acts.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Sekai Seifuku: Bouryaku no Zvezda – 07

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Going into the treasure hunt, we predicted Renge would be forced to choose a side, as her new friends Kate and Roboko were being targeted by her superior White Egret, disguised as Madame M. The hunt is just a means to and end: exposing and capturing Zvezda members, but Kate and Natasha take over and make it a real thing. This could mean that part of Kate’s power is making her own whims, wishes, and beliefs come true through manipulation of time and space, a talent akin to Suzumiya Haruhi’s.

While Renge is a member of White Light to better herself and fight evil, Mikisugi seems to take pleasure in looking down on people; she teases Kate and arrogantly tries to shoo off Renge by phone, only to be talked down to herself by her superiors. A box of men is released on the school when Kate activates a trans-dimensional portal in the pool, and White Light’s operation is cancelled. And even though Asuta often questions the validity of his fellow Zvezdans’ wild theories about history and mythology (the voice of reason keeping the show honest), even he can’t deny the fantastic stuff that goes on this week.

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Kate drags him into that dimension, then wanders off, and next time he sees her, she’s a towering shadow monster demanding he let her conquer him. He chases her back into the regular world, where he happens to have his Dva mask on when he bumps into Renge. Kate unleashes a massive attack that appears to disperse all parties involved, but the flurry of dark seals stops before it reaches Asuta and Renge. Everything returns to normal abnormalcy, and the item conquered this week by Zvezda could be Asuta’s skepticism.

It could also mark the conquest of the last remnants uneasiness with his new life with Zvezda. The school, his last sanctuary of normalcy, was invaded by Zvezda, White Light, and the Tokyo Special Forces, but he’s not that upset about it. What makes him upset is the final twist we never saw coming: those Special Forces are under the direct command of Tokyo’s governor, who just happens to be Asuta’s estranged father. That means he knows about UDO and Zvezda; it could also mean he knows where his son is and what his son is up to. That is, if people in this show weren’t so easily fooled by masks.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Gorou can do Morse Code by foot…but not well.
  • Asuta really doesn’t want to do the “Treasure Dance”, but Renge, Natasha and Roboko goad him into it with incessant chanting. Renge smiling when she knew she’d won was a nice little detail.
  • Kate doesn’t remember anything about the evening after she and Asuta jumped into the pool, which means Asuta was the only person who remembers that bizarre stone version of the school sitting in the desert.

Jormungand – 14

This episode, like the last, was a lot of table-setting, but we got more specifics about the relationships between Chief Black, Renato, and Hex. Those specifics give us a better understanding of what drives them. All of this is leading up to Hex going after Jonah, the one life she believes will matter to Koko above all others. Koko isn’t just hanging off of Jonah to tease him, or as some kind of act. He’s her restoration project, her bodyguard, and her little brother.

Is Hex hunting him just because she’s evil? Well, no. She’s a bitter former elite special forces officer who was cast aside by the military and joined up with the CIA. She also lost her fiance in the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers. That attack was orchestrated by terrorists who got weapons from arms dealers like Koko. In Hex’s eyes that makes Koko every bit a terrorist as Bin Laden, and she’s going to make her pay nice and slowly.

Black won’t allow her to kill Koko, but he’ll allow her a “sacrifice” if it makes her feel better; after all, she’s his left hand while R is his right; and he needs both to fulfill Operation Undershaft. Yet Hex and R have totally different mindsets; Black’s two hands don’t know what the other is doing, nor do they understand. R owes Black a debt and wants to be loyal, but he’s none too pleased about Jonah’s life being dangled in front of Hex like a mouse for a cat. He’s safe right now, with the trust of both of his bosses, but inevitably he’ll have to make a choice he won’t like that will betray one of them.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

P.S. In one  of the many flashbacks, Koko is totally freaking out; fearing for her life. You know, like any normal person would. R tells her he’ll protect her…but she has to keep smiling no matter what.