Fate / Zero – 10

Fate/Zero takes a slight detour from the various machinations of all the Masters of the Holy Grail War to focus on one of their children, specifically (one of) Tokiomi’s (two) daughter(s), Rin. I know Rin from UBW as a kind, brave, talented and headstrong young mage, and her seven-or-eight-year-old Zero self seems to possess all those same qualities.

Following her father’s every word of guidance, young Rin seeks to develop a “reserved and elegant” magic befitting the Toosaka name; of course, she’s just a little kid, and as such has far more potential than proficiency, but Tokiomi is a patient teacher and clearly has big plans for his progeny. However, it’s not safe in Fuyuki City, so he sends her and Aoi out of town for their protection, giving Rin a mana compass as an early birthday gift/bribe.

Rin is well-liked at school, happily spreading her considerable book smarts to her classmates and defending the weaker ones from bullies, who show no interest in going up against her. But one day classmates start to disappear from her school, one ends up dead, rumors fly, and finally her good friend Kotone vanishes.

Rin being Rin, she doesn’t leave the solution to this problem up to the adults, and hops on the night train to Fuyuki to sleuth around…rather randomly actually, but hey, this show is called Fate, so it must be fate that Rin happens to find the perpetrator of the kidnappings in the space of a few hours of wandering the night streets (which the episode makes clear are no place for young kids).

Rin follows the strange man with two kids in tow and a glowing purple bracelet. She doesn’t follow him particularly quietly—causing a racket when she accidentally knocks over some garbage—but she eventually comes upon an abandoned bar where she finds Kotone and many other kids in some kind of trance that renders them unable to defend themselves.

While trying to rouse Kotone, Uryuu appears, and is happy to find another “guest” has arrived of her own accord. Considering Uryuu is the “kid murderer” among the Masters in the Grail War, it seems only fitting to show him from the perspective of a kid, particularly the kid of another Master.

Unfortunately for Uryuu, Rin isn’t your typical grade-schooler, and she summons all her spunk in maneuvering herself into a position to grab Uryuu’s bracelet and destroy it with her mana.

At first, the bracelet seems to affect her like the other kids, but she fights it back, and the bracelet eventually shatters, staggering Uryuu and awakening all the kids, who Rin leads out of the bar. Uryuu is less concerned with them escaping than the condition of the bracelet and the mood of the “big guy” (Caster) when he hears of this incident.

The police are called and all the kids are reunited with their parents, but Rin stays in the shadows, not wanting to take any credit for her heroics lest she be scolded and sent back not homebut away from it. All of a sudden, some of Caster’s tentacle demons take an interest in her, but they are eradicated by Matou Kariya, who either happened to be passing by, or had been monitoring Rin the whole time, concerned for his old friend’s daughter’s safety.

Aoi arrives in the park to find Rin sleeping peacefully, being guarded by Kariya, whom Aoi hadn’t seen since his grotesque transition into Berserker’s Master. He promises Aoi that he’ll win the war and free Sakura from the torture of being a Matou Mage. Aoi worries Kariya will kill himself after killing Tokiomi.

As for Rin, her big adventure taught her that she still has a long way to go before becoming a reserved, elegant mage. But with hard work, perseverance, and obedience to her folks, well…we know how she turns out. It is a bit sad to think that the course of her life, as well as those of Ilya and Sakura, are already all but mapped out, due to their obligation to their families. But that’s just Mage Life, I guess.

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Haikyuu!! Second Season – 02

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Haikyuu!! introduced two new characters this week: the grouchy but driven college girl Saeko and timid but smart first year Yatchi Hidoka. While Saeko barely made an appearance, Yatchi adds a few hooks for the show to tell its story, and even retell the viewer some details about volleyball and school life.

Over all, it was a successful second episode for a second season and fleshed out the non-sports side arc that the first episode’s “same old same old” was lacking.

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As an unwitting applicant to replace Team Raven’s soon to be graduating manager, Yatchi feels like a plot convenience, but she fits well enough. Her over the top panic about people wanting to kill her matches the rest of the cast’s hyper activeness to be sure and, as a academically competent student, she immediately has something to do in the story: make sure Hinata and Kageyama don’t flunk their exams.

Silly, quick, but effective at adding some high school slice of life to a show that spends the majority of time in the gym.

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Saeko adds a sense of space and context too, albeit only briefly and barely more than Hint’s baby sister and off-screen mother telling him to stop shouting. That context is that: yes, these are hyper teenaged boys, who go to school like everyone else and live with normal families. (by anime standards)

Both girls also give us a chance to see normal people respond to the cast when they are not on the court, slamming volleys. As you would imagine, they find them as over the top as we do as viewers.

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So my verdict ticks up from last week. Because Yatchi doesn’t know about volleyball, you’re probably going to get a refresh on how the game is played, which means you won’t be as lost without the first season.

Similarly, we got a scene where Hinata texts back and forth with one of the opponents from last season, which gives you more context for the relationships and challenges the team will face.

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It’s enough to make it coherent for a first-time viewer I think and, if it continues on this track, you should be fine without going back. As long as you want a hyper, Naruto-like show about volleyball, that is?

My schedule is probably not reliably open enough to review the show for you but you can bet I’ll be watching.

6_ogk

Haikyuu!! Second Season – 01 (Quick Glance)

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Haikyuu!! has always reminded me of Bleach…albeit drawn with a quarter the budget and doing away with all the plot to focus exclusively on its orange-haired hero’s tactical growth. Maybe it’s unfair to call Haikyuu out on this, given that many sports anime feature underdog teams (and players) with potential and the drive for fame and Naruto-like-enthusiasm.

If anything set the original season apart, it was that the team loses their big game anyway, not even making it to the final show down of the regionals, let alone to their goal: the nationals. That, and I swear the characters’ chins and overall head design is the ugliest in all of animedom.

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You’ll like it if: you enjoy stories about the little guy struggling to be the best, about teams coming together, and enjoyed the first season, without which you won’t have enough context for the characters’ motivations to grip you.

You may not like it if: you didn’t watch the first season and get to know the dozens of characters, rivalries and relationship growth. Season 2’s opening is also a little disappointing is how quickly the characters ‘rebound’ from their crushing defeat. Everyone is driven, without reserve, for heroic ‘revenge’ and absolute victory in the Volleyball world. And guess what? A new tourney is already just around the corner for our heroes to grow, surprise more opponents with their speed and tactics, and probably win the day.

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This is the deep-fried candy coat of fun that I watched Haikyuu for and my criticisms are a little unfair. Watching characters wallow in self pity or be broken by defeat would have been a bold move for a show that sets the stakes at: win volleyball or not.

But goodness! Season 2’s first episode already feels like more of the same. Watching is a guilty pleasure show, to be sure.

6_ogk