Summertime Render – 13 – The Rules Have Changed

When Ushio materializes beside Shinpei, she pounces on a confused Hizuru. Nezu prepares to aim his rifle at Ushio, but Shin asks him to stand down. Then Ushio takes Hizuru’s hand, sees everything she’s seen, and knows that even though she’s a Shadow, Ushio is their ally.

She’s always been their ally, ever since she printed the looping eye and brought Shin to the island. And since she’s a novelist, she’ll consider the incredible credible, and the unreal real. Shin believes their worst mistake last loop was splitting up, and having heard she died, Hizuru concurs.

They head to the Kobayakawa home just like before, only this time they have Ushio, and after Haine tried to corrupt her, she now believes she has the ability to erase a Shadow if she wants to. Since Shiori is Haine’s way of moving about outside the cave, she’s hoping erasing Shiori will eliminate that way at worst, and destroy Haine at best.

Hizuru cedes control to Ryuunosuke, who heads into the house…and gets their ass handed to them. The “four-armed one” smashes Hizuru’s head in with her own sledge, and Haine!Shiori reveals that thanks to the brand on Shinpei’s arm, whenever he shows up in a new loop, she can find him “lickety-split”.

With Hizuru already dead and Nezu following shortly thereafter, it looks very bad for our heroes. Then the four-armed one wraps those arms around Shinpei, and PreCure Ushio swoops in and beheads him with her hair. So ends the fifth loop; we hardly knew ye! In the timeless corridor between loops, Shinpei thanks Ushio (in wristwatch form) for her quick thinking.

He laments how he let his naivete get Hizuru and Nezu killed so quickly and let another loop go to waste…but there’s no time for sulking. Ushio reports that when she tried to scan four-arms she found no data, but he “smelled” like Haine. She also believes Haine is using the brand to pull her along with him through the loops.

Both agree that in the next loop they’ll have to be a lot smarter and more careful, since they no longer have much of the element of surprise. But to their surprise, they appear not on the 22nd as usual, but in front of their family restaurant, in the rain. Two students walk past—the twins Hizuru and Ryuunosuke.

Shinpei follows them inside with Watch!Ushio and learn that this is most definitely the past; back when the restaurant was celebrating ten years, and both of Shinpei’s marine archaeologist parents were still alive. Hizuru tells Asako and Ryuu that she’s met a friend…up at the clinic on the mountain.

Shinpei/Ushio follow the three (he’s not visible to anyone in this projection, which is one of Hizuru’s memories), and when Hizuru’s friend doesn’t appear, Ryuu and Asako split. Then the light in the window comes on as usual, and Haine (with two identical red eyes) greets Hizuru.

I thought we were going to spend some time in the fifth loop, but it’s smart for the second cour to subvert expectations and up the ante when it comes to the dangers Shinpei and his family and friends face as they continue to meddle. Even more ominous, Sou’s dick of a dad is aware of Shinpei and Hizuru snooping around where they shouldn’t, and also knows Ushio’s shadow is causing trouble.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S., The new OP is…fine, and I even find myself not skipping it for future episodes, but it’s no first cour OP, which really captured the heat and bittersweet longing of summer. This new theme (and the ED, for that matter) sound a lot more generic.

Summertime Render – 12 – The Kitchen’s Closed

Tokiko reveals Hiruko no Mikoti, Mother of Shadows and God of Hitogashima, also known as Haine, the form of the first human Hiruko copied. To the outrage and disgust of her friends and brother alike, Toki also reveals her family’s solemn duty to feed Haine the bodies of the dead to restore her power.

When Sou bristles, Toki hits back, saying she had no choice; with Sou “being the way he is” he could never be told about the fam’s secret, while feeding Haine is the only way to keep their mother, now a Shadow, alive. As for Ushio, Toki says she got herself killed sticking her nose where it didn’t belong out of her own sense of justice.

Among the two bodies presented for Haine tonight by Nurse Negoro is Ushio’s original corpse; a double was cremated and the bones printed. When Ushio frees herself and snatches up her original body, she’s able to repair her arm and fight at full strength, which is good because Haine transforms Nurse Negoro into a musclebound monster.

Shinpei tries to take advantage of the chaos to shoot Haine with his nailgun, newly printed from Ushio’s hair, but before he can shoot both the gun and his fingers are sliced off by Haine’s Shadow bodyguard, who is holding an unconscious Mio by her head and threatens to crush her skull if anyone moves.

The bodyguard shoots at Tokiko, who was unaware that Haine plans to kill and eat everyone on the island, but Sou takes a bullet for his sister. It doesn’t matter; the bodyguard simply shoots her dead too, now that she and the Hishigatas have fulfilled their duties to Haine.

As Tetsu finally encounters the wounded Hizuru and agrees to carry her deeper into the cave, Haine decides not to kill Ushio, but reprogram her brain and use her as another tool. She also snatches Shin’s time-looping eye—the one in which he “renders” different realities—but it soon disappears from her hand and returns to his socket; not even a god can take away his power.

But what Haine and her hulking bodyguard can do is restrain him and keep him alive until her plans come to full fruition. The bodyguard kills Mio, and Shin’s last chance to be killed and loop seems to rest with Tetsu and Hizuru, who arrive just in time. Tetsu distracts the bad guys with his boobery, giving Hizuru a clean shot at both the bodyguard’s head and Shinpei.

Alas, the bodyguard shields Shinpei and kills Hizuru, so Shinpei uses his last resort: drinking an entire bottle of mercuric chloride from the abandoned clinic, which will most definitely kill him, albeit slowly and painfully. He uses time it takes for the poison to do him in to promise Haine that he’ll defeat her and save everyone. At the same time, Ushio’s powers have advanced to the point she can not only resist Haine’s corrosion, but reverse it and free herself.

Ushio’s final effort is to lunge to where Ushio is dying and take his hand, and she goes through the time loop with him. As long as they’re together, Ushio promises to go anywhere with him, as many times as it takes. But lest we forget, every time he returns to a new loop—this newest being the fifth—he starts a little later. He and Ushio arrive hand-in-hand just as he’s telling Hizuru and Nezu that he’s a time traveler, her book in his hand.

Shinpei now has a lot more information about the bad guys and their plans, but less time to act. The good news is Shadow Ushio is with him, along with all of the amassed memories of the previous loop. Her powers may also already surpass those of the weakened Haine. This episode at the series’ halfway point delves into the bloody depths of despair but ends on a note of hope and optimism that Shinpei and Ushio can turn this train wreck around.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 05 – The Princess Is in THIS Castle

I dove into into PriConne’s second season expecting a feast for the eyes as well as for the heart with its lovely slice-of-life lighthearted comedy with a formidable budget. What I was not prepared for was the sheer scope and scale of this season. We’re only five episodes in, but this could have been a penultimate episode or even a season finale!

Peco has been teleported to Landosol by the big bad—whose name I don’t believe has crossed anyone’s lips thus far, but is known as Kaiser Insight—to be “assessed”. Peco is defiant and doesn’t show fear, but the bottom line is Kaiser took everything from her, and has been letting her soul “ripen” to maximum despair.

While that happens, the battle continues without Peco, and Kasumi and Yuuki discover that the Shadows and the golem are headed in Kiiri’s direction. After saving her, Kiiri is gung-ho about being Kasui’s assistant; one on the fast track to being a fellow great detective.

While the others stand by as the shadow army pivots, Karyl stands atop a bluff, knowing full well what just happened: Kaiser teleported Peco away. There’s so much emotion in this little scene, as Karyl struggles with worry over Peco and guilt over the means by which she’s been taken. It’s not like she could have crossed Kaiser, but she still feels awful about doing it.

Kasumi, Yuuki and Kokkoro quickly come up with a plan to use Kiiri as a lure so the golem and army will end up in a lake to be defeated. Kokkoro even has the leaf glider she can now conjure all gassed up, but they hit a sudden and heartbreaking snag: Kiiri, a copy of Kasumi without a soul of her own and thus an anomaly, is erased by the self-correcting systems of the world.

I have to hand it to PriConne, which is no stranger to quickly introducing characters, but it was able to wring a lot more pathos out of me than I’d have thought with the death scene of a character who had just been introduced last week. Now I know why they didn’t cast Minase Inori as Yuni the scholar; instead she does yoeman’s work as both Kasumi and Kiiri.

Kiiri’s erasure from the world leads to Yuuki remembering a previous life he lived with Peco, Karyl and Kokkoro, before being killed in battle protecting Peco. At that point he is sent…somewhere where Ames and Labyrista give him a choice: return to the hopeless battle from whence he came, or “cast his eyes downward and start anew”, re-building his bonds from scratch.

It’s at this point when I remind readers I’ve never played the source game and have no idea how much of this expansive story comes from that and how much is original, or even how deep it goes. Yet I don’t really mind that sometimes I’m lost, because it just means I have to use my brain to fill in the blanks. With a show that looks this good with characters this lovable, that’s not a chore at all.

You could say Yuuki and Peco have experienced similar fates: both lost everything, but are absolutely defiant and determined to get it all back. Kaiser thinks she’s won when she gets Peco to make a despairing face over the prospect of being forgotten again. But it will take a hell of a lot more hardship and despair for Peco to give up.

Obliterating the gaggle of Shadows Kaiser sicced on her, Peco invites Kaiser to share a meal so she can understand her better. Kaiser declines, but Peco reminds her she’s no longer just Princess Eustania of Landosol; she’s also Pecorine of the Gourmet Guild. Kaiser concludes that Peco still isn’t quite “ripe” enough and teleports her back to the battle…but not before vowing to take everything Peco has left.

Back on the scene and falling from the sky, everyone revels in Peco’s return, and Yuuki powers her up so she can deliver the mother of all Princess Strikes, defeating the golem and the army in one beautifully-animated explosion that really packs a punch. It’s Gurren Lagann-level coup-de-grace, and it reminds us just how determined and capable Peco is of following through on her promise to get everything that’s been taken from her back.

Once the dust clears, the search for Peco among the golem rubble and rent earth commences. It’s very fitting that the first one to spot her is Karyl, who cannot hide the fact that her worrying about Peco brought tears to her eyes. When Peco sees those tears, she gets emotional too, and simply says “I’m home” and “I’m starving.”

Some rubble gives way, and Karyl slides right into Peco’s waiting embrace. She calls Peco a dummy like usual, but also says “welcome home.” She’s not talking about their cozy cottage, either: for Karyl, home is wherever the people you love happen to be. Kaiser may have sworn to destroy that home, but as long as the Gourmet Guild are together—and flanked by all manner of colorful allies—she’ll have a hard time fulfilling that pledge.

Re: Zero – 41 – The Purrfect Loser

Years ago, Garfiel attempted and failed the trial, and smashed his head against a column, causing the scar he wears to this day. He is the final obstacle to Emilia continuing her trial, and has come to the Graveyard to smash the entrance, isolating the Sanctuary forever.

Only Emilia and Subaru stand in Gar’s way, and it’s the former who makes a barrier of herself before him. She has lived in fear all her life until today, and knows the pain of being separated from a parent. All this time, Gar has maintained that he and his sister were obstacles to his mother’s happiness, which is why she abandoned them. But then the memory surfaces…of Gar finding his mother’s carriage, wrecked by a landslide.

She wasn’t even able to reach the outside world that lured her, that was to be the place where she’d find happiness, away from him. Gar has washed his hands of the outside, and will stand, as a wall in and of himself, to protect everyone else in the sanctuary who feel, like him, that things changing won’t make them happy. Nothing will ever get better, so you might as well stay frozen in place.

Having heard and been unmoved by either Emilia or Subaru, Gar transforms into Beast Mode and charges them. Subaru uses Shamac to halt time so he can stab Gar with the crystal Frederica gave him, which seems to be imbued with some of Puck’s spirit. This transforms him back into a man, but it hasn’t sapped Gar’s will to fight.

Subie stands firm and takes a vicious shot to the face, but he’s able to counterattack with a supernatural punch from the Sloth Witch Factor within his body, which he inherited from Betelgeuse and learned about from Echidna.

Gar is down, but not yet out. The knockout blow is delivered by someone who owed Gar such a blow: Subaru’s ever-dutiful earth dragon, Patrasche. Her charge finally gets the job done. Even if Gar hasn’t been proven wrong, he can no longer fight. Both he and Subie pass out in short order.

When Subie wakes up, it’s once again in Emilia’s lap. He thanks her, punches then shakes hands with Otto for his help and for being alright, and of course thanks Patrasche for her loyalty and love. Ram allows Gar to lay in her lap, but only until he wakes up and barely a second more.

Rem proceeds to give him the third degree, telling him to fight with an empty head next time and to stop yammering on in front of “the woman he loves” and accept his loss, and move forward. She then urges him to take the trial one more time, in order to confront and accept the past.

The Graveyard transports him back to that golden-lit day his mother left him and Fred in Ryuzu’s care. She kisses her infant son right on the place where he would create an ugly scar years later. Then his mother says something he didn’t remember: “I promise I’ll bring your father back.” That means not only did she not leave them to find her happiness, but she always intended to return, and with his dad.

The memory fades away until it’s just him and young Fred, who asks him straight up what he wants to do. He answers that he wants to do what he’s expected to do, by all of the people who need him. With his past confronted and resolved, he leaves the trial exchanging sharp toothy smiles with his little big sister.

Just as Emilia emerged from the graveyard a new and stronger person last week, the young man who would stop her and anyone from completing the trial emerges in much the same manner. He can’t claim he gained much that can be seen, but he did gain vital closure, and can even thank Subaru for being the one to give him the push he needed.

It’s then when Subie learns Gar is not only younger than him, but at fourteen is just an eighth grader…which actually explains a lot! With no further obstructions, Emilia can re-enter the graveyard and continue the trial with a full head of steam. Some of that steam is produced when she asks Subie if they can talk about the kiss they shared when all this is over.

Subie states that would be happy to, and is delighted by Emilia’s confidence, betting another date with her that she’ll prevail this time. When Emilia enters the inner chamber, she finds out what Subaru was doing when he abandoned her bedside that night: etching words of cheer and encouragement with Puck on the chamber walls.

Once Emilia is in the trial, she’s immediately met in the forest by Echidna, who unloads with a string of biting insults that would certainly cause distress to the Emilia of yore. But this Emilia is made of sterner stuff.

Taking a page out of Subie’s book on theatricality, she points dramatically up into the air, then directly at the Witch of Greed,  and introduces herself as Emilia, the Frozen Witch, born in Elinor Forest. She won’t give in to the “malice of a fellow witch”, and further warns that she too is “quite an insufferable woman, after all!”

Accompanied by a defiant orchestral score to match the occasion, this was a pitch-perfect way to end the episode and begin the trial of Emilia’s life. While I still can’t quite rule out things going badly for her and Subaru from this point on, I also never thought we’d see Emilia and Subaru kiss, or Garfield both thanking and apologizing to Subaru. But we’re in uncharted Re:Zero territory, and we have a brand-spankin’ new old president, so I’m in a hopeful mood!

Re: Zero – 40 – Her Most Precious Feeling

Otto tells Garfiel his mission: to buy time “so a certain boy and girl can be alone for a while.” But Otto isn’t all alone in this effort: he’s called upon the entire forest to fight beside him. That’s why when Gar is led outside and falls down a hole, he’s soon beset by a swarm of zodda bugs. How was Otto able to do this? Duh, he’s Re:Zero’s Dr. Doolittle!

We take a step back to Otto’s earliest days, when he could hear the voices of animals but couldn’t understand it. His ears were constantly assaulted by a a jumbled din so intense he couldn’t hear his family members. Then his older brother gave him a pen and paper, and he could finally communicate.

He marked the occasion by crying, something he only did once before: when he was born. When he turned ten, he began to understand the animals’ voices, but his brother warned him to keep his divine protection a secret lest others try to exploit them.

That protection creates the conditions for Otto being exiled from his hometown when, in an effort to clear his name in a love triangle, says the wrong thing about the wrong daughter. Nevertheless, Otto makes the most of his exile by becoming a successful traveling merchant.

One day on those travels, his carriage is stopped by Betelguise and the Witch’s Cult (Hi Betelguise!), and he is bound and held captive in the cult’s god-forsaken cave lair. But then, suddenly, he was freed by a beastman, who told him to make sure to thank the “boss kid”—Natsuki Subaru.

He cried then for the third time, to mark another “rebirth” in his life: when he finally understood his purpose and reason for living. Back in the present, here it is: continuing to buy time. But after a brief chase, a pissed Garfiel has him by the scruff, and Otto’s personal part of the plan would seem to be over. Thankfully, Ram is on the scene to pick up the baton!

That’s right: Ram has thought about it and must’ve decided that supporting a man with such “bizarrely good timing” (despite having virtually nothing else of value) to be worth her time. She won’t hear Gar impugn her loyalty to Roswaal either.

Gar has had enough of this shit and transforms into a giant cuddly tiger (right on the heels of TenSura’s cuddly tigers!), but Ram is ready, willing, and eager to go toe-to-toe with his Beast Mode, dodging his thrusts and landing blow after devastating blow with a superior smirk.

Otto stands back in awe of Ram’s power, but when Gar gets a lick in on her (who compliments him for having become stronger since their last scrap), he calls out to the forest to buy him and Ram another precious few moments of keeping Gar occupied.

It’s at this point Subaru looks back at the forest hoping Otto can hold out, and fifteen minutes into the episode, you’d be forgiven if you thought we were being deprived of the crucial Emilia-Subaru Talk last week previewed. But once he sits down beside her, it’s clear we’ll get that talk, and much more.

Emilia’s memories are returning; that much is certain. But she tries to keep them at bay with anger and despair over both puck and Subaru breaking their promises. I too was both perplexed and disappointed when Subaru left her bedside, and all he’ll say about why is that “he can’t tell her” just yet.

But besides that, she can’t fathom why Subaru wouldn’t be angry at her for being so “useless”, both with the trial and with everything else throughout their time together. His answer is as honest as it is simple: because he loves her. He loves her so much he can barely take it—the cute parts, the kind parts, the selfless parts—even the parts she’d call “ugly”. Moreover, he doesn’t love her because he believes in her, he believes in her because he loves her.

When she goes all [CITATION NEEDED], Subaru tells her why else he would willingly go through all this suffering and torment to help “a pain in the ass” like her? She then tells him how unfair it is for him to bring that up when she never asked for him to suffer for her, and how she’s always  worried about him getting hurt for her.

Their talk gets more and more heated, as Takanashi Rie voices Emilia in a faint whisper at the beginning but takes it all the way up to full-throated hysterical yelling, before the wave crests, and she quietly tells Subaru of the fear she’s experiencing now that her memories are resurfacing.

She doesn’t recognize what she’s remembering, can’t believe she even forgot her mother, and worries the memories will change her, that the Emilia he knows was never the real Emilia. Mention of her mother and the past causes Subie to remember what his mother said to him during his trial: “What matters isn’t how you start or what happens in the middle, but how it ends.”

If Emilia can’t believe Subaru loves her, than he has no choice but to put his hands on her shoulders, lean in, and prove it. He tells her “if you don’t want this, then dodge,” but Lia doesn’t dodge. She closes her eyes, expectantly, and they kiss. As they kiss, their surroundings suddenly glow with a warm, pinkish light.

When their lips separate once more, Emilia starts to cry, but Subie assures her it’s only natural to be anxious and scared about the rush of old, sealed memories. But it’s also okay to remember, because among those memories may be the one most precious feeling she can use to burst through the anxiety and fear and run forward toward the end—which matters most.

Subaru, for his part, hopes that feeling is for him, as his is for her. When they emerge from the graveyard interior, Garfiel is waiting for them, but says he wasn’t. But hopefully, he’s too late. Too late thanks to Otto and Rem and the animals of the forest, and too late because Subaru told Emilia he loves her no matter what, and everything is going to be fine.

Is it though? Does Gar simply concede defeat here and go off to eat some lasagna? Does he beat the shit out of Subie and take Lia hostage? Whenever someone in Re:Zero believes or states everything will be fine, I can’t help but be a little dubious. But I’ll put that doubt aside for now and simply celebrate the momentous events of this episode’s second half.

For the very first time in this whole run, Subaru and Emilia shared a kiss, and Emilia seems to finally get that while Subie did leave her bedside, he never left her side in spirit, and his love will keep him firmly entrenched there throughout all the trials to come.

Appare-Ranman! – 08 – Cutting Through the Past

Appare, Xialian and Al leave Eli, Nevada at dawn in pursuit of the lead pack, only to find them massacred on the road. Only Rich Riesman survives, and describes the bandits as having snake tattoos. Hototo, still seeking revenge for his father’s death after the other Gil turned out to be an impostor, tracks the bandits’ horses to a post town.

At the poor, dusty, remote town, no one is in the mood to talk except those folk who bear snake tattoos—including the sheriff. A standoff ensues, but when the time comes to fight, Kosame freezes up—again—unable to unsheathe his katana. The others are taken away to be hung at sundown, while Kosame is allowed to go free; marked as a coward not worth killing.

The initially surly bartender invites Kosame back into her tavern for a whiskey, sensing there’s more to him than plain cowardice. He tells her the story of a cold winter’s night when he was a child powerless to protect his mother from a bandit’s blade. The chill from that night has kept his blade stuck in its sheath ever since, but the bartender tells him he shouldn’t regret his inaction back then—he was just a kid—and in any case no one can change the past

Bouyed by the bartender’s words, Kosame spends the rest of the day training aggressively for the moment his sword must not fail to come out of the sheath: when he approaches the gallows where his friends are about to be hanged. It’s a beautifully-lit and colored scene with all the requisite western panache as he emerges from the rolling dust, one man with two swords against many men with guns.

For the first time, Appare, Hototo, Xialian and Al witness Kosame’s true swordsmanship as he first slices the apparition of the bandit who killed his mother, then proceeds to dodge bullets and cut the ones he can’t in half until the enemy has been defeated and his friends are safe. Hototo’s opinion of Kosame immediately shifts, while Kosame insists kids like him simply be kids and let adults protect him.

As the five stroll into the sunset to rejoin the race, Richard Riesman, who presumably went ahead to Denver to seek help, is instead revealed as the true Gil T. Cigar, meaning that a Appare’s completed hybrid system and driving skills won’t be enough to survive this race. They may need to call upon Kosame’s steel again, but now that he’s shaken off the winter frost, they’ll be able to rely on that steel.

Appare-Ranman! – 07 – People Aren’t Machines

From what I gather, Gil’s car catches up to the others, mows through the debris, and detonates rocks in the valley, forcing everyone else to take a detour. But thanks to some highly questionable editing we’re shown events out of order, and in some cases more than once, adding needless confusion to the sequence.

Appare’s car manages to make it through the explosion only to break down; eventually Xialian and Al either catch up to them or backtrack and offer to take turns towing him. Neither want an easy win, which leaving Appare behind would cause.

They end up camping for the night, with Appare proving useless at hunting, fishing, and cooking. Kosame dreams of his mother being murdered protecting him and wakes up screaming. Appare is starting to act more human as he realizes people aren’t engines driven merely by logic and science.

By the time the three drivers make it to Eli, Nevada, Gil has already been their eight hours and is ready to go, but they block him. Hototo wants answers about what happened to his father.

When the crowd starts to stone him, Appare, Xialian, Al, and even Sophia shield him with their bodies. Finally, Gil removes his mask and speaks, revealing he and his big brother were merely impersonating Gil, which means they had nothing to do with Hototo’s dad.

 

 

The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED – 03 – Shinkansen Standoff

I’m a week behind, but I finally got around to watching the continuation of one of the most promising, quality anime of the Covid-shortened Spring season, Balance: UNLIMITED. And I’m happy to report it’s just as solid, though this episode wasn’t quite as flashy as the first two. That said, I’m glad we get to meet Daisuke’s gran, one of the few people who can put him in his place.

When she tells him to accept his senpai Haru’s coaching, Daisuke has no choice but to comply. On the way back to Tokyo via Shinkansen, Haru finds himself sitting next to an unassuming-looking hungry college dropout, and gives him his onigiri.

Haru figures he has this guy pegged, but upon reaching Tokyo the platform is suddenly evacuated due to a standoff: that same mild-mannered seeming kid has a woman at gunpoint and is streaming the standoff live on “ChainTube”. We learn from bystanders that whoever scores ten million views in one day will earn 100 million “coins”, which is presumably a lot.

While Haru is first on the scene to to being a passenger, the First Division unceremoniously shoos him off. We flash back to a bank robbery in which he shot and killed a civilian who had pulled a gun on him after he shot the robber. While the First Division and his former partner don’t trust him anymore, Daisuke has no such compunctions, and in fact is obligated to follow Haru’s lead, having promised his grandmother.

Haru’s objective is to resolve the standoff without anyone dying, and Daisuke has the resources to put them in the best possible position to achieve it. That includes smoke rockets fired from the boot of his Bentley, a laser capable of cutting through the train’s windshield, the perp’s email records…and a gun, which the police Chief says he must use to shoot the perp if he gets a clear shot.

Once again Daisuke’s resources enable another way: having earlier asked his AI to provide info on the hostages in the car, he learns they’re a fan club for a male vocal quartet. Seeing their farewell concert is a matter for which they’re willing to risk their lives, something the young perp didn’t count on.

So Daisuke has the group choppered in to perform a quick impromptu show the group of fans can watch from within the train. The fans bum rush the perp, who loses the gun, only for the fan everyone thought he shot (but was just playing possum) knocks another gun into his hands.

Daisuke calmly approaches the perp and gets him to stand down with a promise to pay for his sister’s surgery—the money for which he was live-streaming the standoff. When Haru asks him how he knew the kid wouldn’t shoot, I was ready for Daisuke to say “My suit is bulletproof.” It probably is, but the real reason is that Haru told him it wasn’t in the kid to kill, and following his gran’s directive, trusted in his senpai.

Vinland Saga – 13 – The Prince is Beautiful, But Cautious

After what looked like a no-win scenario had unfolded for Askeladd, Thorfinn, and Prince Canute, the standoff actually de-escalates when Askeladd starts speaking Welsh, to the surprise of even Bjorn.

It’s his assessment that their “hosts” from Brycheiniog won’t do them any harm, but they cannot let a horde of Danes cross their lands unchallenged, hence their intimidating posture. Askeladd tries to get Canute to intimidate them back, but the prince hides behind Ragnar.

Askeladd and Gratianus have a private meeting with the Brycheiniog commander, Asser, in which Askeladd reveals that he is half Dane and half Welsh, and a living descendant of the legendary King Artorius of Brittania, who inspired the legend of King Arthur.

The episode’s cryptic cold open depicts him in his youth bringing his dying mother back to Wales, and Gratianus greeting him. It should be noted young Askeladd looks a lot like Thorfinn. No wonder he’s taken such a shine to him; he’s the son he never had.

Anyway, Askeladd agrees to hand over the weapons of all his men and allow themselves to be escorted across Brycheiniog so Asser and his king can save face and look good to the common subjects. In exchange, Askeladd will see to it Canute is the one who succeeds the Danish throne, which means he’ll have a powerful seat at the table with which to ensure a treaty of non-aggression with Wales is arranged.

The fact of the matter is, Askeladd hates the Danes, likely in part (if not mostly) because of what they did to his mother. He seems as intent of keeping Wales unspoiled for her sake as anything else. But between some concerned looks from Bjorn and some groaning of his men, he will be testing their loyalty—and the secrets he’s kept from them—to their furthest limits by changing their route to Gainsborough.

In the meantime, Prince Canute finally hits his limit for enduring verbal abuse and mockery from Thorfinn, and calmly explains that as a prince he must be more cautious with his words…before abandoning that cautiousness to give Thorfinn a piece of his mind. Ragnar is shocked, but in a good way; he knows more than most how he might be hurting the fledgling by not insisting he leave the nest.

Still, Ragnar’s desire to protect a child who has already endured so much (Canute’s childhood was not a happy or peaceful one) seems to override that logic. It’s probably heartening to no end to hear Canute speaking to someone other than him; it means Canute and Thorfinn are, against all odds, developing a rapport. That can only be good for the both of them.

Golden Kamuy – 17 – No Persimmon Trees in Hokkaido

One thing that brings Preston and I back to Golden Kamuy again and again is that it never fails to surprise. If you’d told me the much-ballyhooed master of disguise/forger would only last an episode before he got a bullet in the head (unless he’s playing possum, of course), I wouldn’t have believed you.

But a show that’s introduced so many characters can afford to kill them off now and again to keep one guessing, now can’t it? His and Sugimoto’s subterfuge is broken by Tsurumi’s trusty second lieutenant Koito, another new face who the skilled fake warden can only keep off balance for so long until he slips up (not with his Satsuma dialect, but in saying the warden drinks).

Fortunately Koito’s bullet to Sugimoto doesn’t kill him, because Sugimoto is immortal, and after crashing out the window, he, Shiraishi, and Ogata manage to commandeer a crude military airship. Thanks to the soldiers forming a pyramid and some athleticism from the resourceful Koito, there’s a duel on the ship, but Shiraishi uses the precursor to a bungee cord to dive off with Koito and then drop him.

Shiraishi crashes into the trees, but comes back up with Asirpa, who’d been following on horseback. How she climbed the tree to grab ahold of Shiraishi so fast…is better left unsaid. Thus the moment Shiraishi has been dreading comes: Sugimoto tells him he knows about Hijikata. However, due to the skin Hijikata had being fake (at least according to Sugimoto), he doesn’t believe Shiraishi really betrayed him…for now.

But the airborne group isn’t out of the proverbial woods yet. On the contrary; when the airship runs out of gas they have to ditch and end up in a whole other woods. Asirpa patches up Sugimoto’s bullet wound as best she can, but with the airship being such a large target to follow, the 7th is pursuing them; they cannot waste their head start.

The chase drives Sugimoto, Asirpa, Shiraishi and Ogata into the Daisetsuzan mountains, home of “sex demons” Ainu call the Pawci-Kamuy. Those demons take hold of Shiraishi once the weather takes a turn, and he strips down and runs off. Asirpa follows while Sugimoto and Ogata skin some freshly killed deer to take shelter in, taun-taun style, but Shiraishi magically reappears in one of the carcasses.

Sugimoto goes after Asirpa, but when they finally reunite they’re both lost, with the weather only getting worse. Luckily, another deer is nearby, and Sugimoto shoots it, Asirpa skins it, and they basically spoon inside the carcass until morning. As strange a sequence of events it was that led to this outcome, I’m glad it happened.

With the running over for the night and nothing but time, Sugimoto and Asirpa get to talk a little more. For once, Sugimoto explains something to Asirpa: how to dry bitter persimmons so they’re sweet. He notes they don’t grow in Hokkaido (hence Asirpa isn’t aware of them), but also that he hasn’t had one since before the war that took his friend and changed him.

Asirpa holds out hope that like a blood-clotting plant or warm deer carcass, if Sugimoto gets to eat another persimmon, he may get back some of what he gave up to survive in the war and everything since. And she wants to be there, in his homeland, with him, when he does that, so she can try one too.

Steins;Gate 0 – 09 – Peaceful for All Eternity?

After the powerhouse of Steins;Gate 0’s episode 8, episode 9 had some big shoes to fill. Would Okabe find himself back in the Beta world line where he had been, in which Kurisu was dead but Mayuri was alive? If so, what if anything would have changed as a result of his visit? What fresh emotional torment would be in store for our most Promethean Mad Scientist?

When Okabe wakes up in the hospital, the show milks the suspense, as there’s no one in his room or in the hallway at first. Just hearing Mayuri’s voice and seeing her there with Daru and Maho warmed my weary heart. He asks them if they know the name Makise Kurisu; Mayuri says she does; she’s the girl in Amadeus.

So he’s back in Beta. Strangely, in this world line both he and Mayuri’s cosplay friend Nakase lost consciousness at the exact same time. Nakase had a dream where Mayuri was gone and she was working with Feyris in the cafe. I guess she traveled to the Alpha along with Okabe…either that, or they’re soulmates (as Kurushima muses).

Amadeus is safe from “takeover” for the time being, but that could change without warning. Okabe still needs to find out what happened, and vows to protect this Beta line that has and alive-and-well Mayuri in it alive and well.

That means putting the apparently non-evil Moeka busy with sleuthing (her nearly wordless visit to the lab and text convo with Okabe was vintage Moeka), as well as leaving Maho in the safety of Feyris’ well-protected home.

Okabe is about to get to work trying to discover who raided the lab and what they wanted (besides Kagari) when he gets a text from Suzuha saying she needs to talk. I somehow knew it wasn’t going to be a friendly chat, and when Suzuha pulls a gun on Okabe, I’m proven right.

Suzu is in a desperate state, especially when Okabe confirms that there was a world line change, even if brief and temporary. The earthquakes (and possibly the fevers and collapses that have been going around) are most likely the result of Russia and America’s “time machine race”, which will lead to WWIII.

Suzuha can’t allow that to happen, and is ready to force Okabe to get in the time machine with her so they can travel back to July 28th, when he first learned he could send D-mail.

Okabe tells her the torment and the nightmare that awaited him once he started trying to toy with the past to affect the future, and warns her that forcing him to do it all over again does not guarantee anything; if anything, it could result in a future somehow worse than the one she knows and is so afraid of repeating.

Ultimately, Daru comes in to talk Suzuha down. I can’t blame her for acting as she did, as she considers herself one of the last people standing in the path of WWII occurring. But perhaps she’s over-inflating her role: as Okabe says, there’s only so much they as humans can do to influence things. The universe is most likely going to have its way, no matter what they do.

After the rooftop standoff, Okabe goes back to Tennouji for more clues and insight on who was behind the lab raid. “DURPA” and “Stratfor” are names he researches, and a Makise Kurisu in his head helps him out. For instance, no group could steal future time machine tech to build their own time machine without causing a massive paradox.

Meanwhile, Suzuha and Daru settle in for a night guarding the Time Machine, with Daru assuring his daughter that one day Okabe will be reborn as the delusional chuuni Hououin Kyouma, take command, and lead them all to the ideal future. It exhibits great deal of confidence in his friend.

Having calmed down some, Suzu brings up their critical fuel situation, which will only allow them one or two jumps of half a year. It could even result in them getting caught between world lines for all eternity, though she wonders if that would really be the worst thing if it means things could be as (relatively) peaceful as they presently are; an eternal calm, and never any storm.

Okabe checks in on Maho at Feyris’ and discovers how messy Maho can be when she’s hard at work researching. Okabe posits that the groups trying to acquire time travel are after Kurisu’s theory, which may well be contained in the memories used by Amadeus.

Maho refutes that, but also stares at a login screen with Kurisu’s name. What secrets lie beyond that security wall…and is that wall any match for the powers that desire her secrets?

Steins;Gate 0 – 07 – Mr. Braun (and Wikipedia) to the Rescue

The standoff with what is apparently the “Rounders” of SERN mercifully ends without any tragic deaths, thanks to the sudden arrival of Tennouji, who makes quick work of the masked bandits, while Suzu frees their quarry Kagari from their clutches.

Their leader in black has a female figure, but Okabe almost immediately doubts it was Kiryuu Moeka again because the Akiba boss from the other world line was Braun; it would  make no sense for him to hinder the Rounders here. Something else is clearly up.

The first priority is ensuring Kagari’s safety going forward now that they know she’s particularly susceptible to capture. She continues to stay at Ruka’s place, which Daru fortifies with motion sensors while Suzuha keeps a sleepless watch.

Ruka can tell something’s up, and wants Suzuha to explain why she uses the family-based honorifics she uses…but Suzuha isn’t talking. She (rightly) believes Okabe wants to keep Ruka from learning anything about other worlds, so that he can stay in the one he’s in.

The next day Okabe visits Tennouji at the shop to explain the disturbance he had to break up (not the kind of landlord duties he likes undertaking, even if he’s more than capable). Okabe first confirms that Tennouji is indeed Ferdinand Braun, affiliated with the Rounders.

Braun concedes that Okabe is disturbingly accurate about things he has no business knowing, and in the absence of more credible explanations is willing to at least hear him out about time travel and world lines. He agrees to keep Kagari under his protection, hiring her and Suzuha as part-timers, but insists Okabe get to work discovering the identity and goals of Kagari’s would-be captors.

One clue is the alphanumeric code uttered by two of the Rounders: K6205, whom Mayushii’s friend Kaede is able to identify as possibly a Köchel number; those used to catalog the works of Mozart. Specifically, K. 620, his opera The Magic Flute, which is packed with Masonic elements.

Scene 5 of Act 2 involves a man being ordered to marry an elderly woman or he’ll be imprisoned forever. When he does, she’s transformed into a young and beautiful young woman, only for priests to hold him back, warning that he’s not yet worthy of her.

I learned all of this on Wikipedia, as Daru and the others’ primary source of research (always a good place to start, anyways). But one can’t think of the Mozart connection without also thinking about his middle name: Amadeus; ‘loved by God’.

Amadeus is still offline and when Okabe calls Hiyajou, she expresses her fear the server has been taken over. But moments after Hiyajou hangs up Okabe gets a call from Amadeus. It’s highly distorted and garbled, but Amakurisu pleads for help clearly enough.

That’s when Okabe enters Reading Steiner, the Divergence Meter’s Nixie Tube numbers flutter furiously. He ends up alone in the lab, the TV no longer shot through, and the Amadeus app gone from his phone’s home screen. It’s a World Line Change, people, and what do you know, Kurisu is alive in this one.

Just like the first Steins;Gate series, S;G 0 started off slow, but there was always the possibility, even probability that one big event after another was bound to go down soon. Now we’re there, with Okabe, in a totally different world than the one in which started, with no knowledge of how he got there, whether he’s been there before, or if he’ll ever get back.

Not to mention the fact that without even trying he’s been reunited with the only woman he’s ever loved. Depending on how things go, he may not even want to leave…but where Steins;Gate is concerned, getting something you want almost always means losing something you need.

Overlord II – 13 (Fin) – Nazarick Cleans Up, but Many Stories Left to Tell

When Jaldabaoth unleashes a hail of demons at the force of adventurers, Momon swoops in with Nabe and Evileye to plow the road. Brain ends up encountering Shalltear on a rooftop, and manages to chip one of her nails, which he considers a great leap forward, weirding everyone out while boasting about it.

When Gazef arrives with the king himself he and a healed Gagarin and Tia join Lakyus and Tina in the rearward fight. Up front, Momon takes on “Jaldabaoth” (almost slipping up and calling him Demiurge again) while Nabe and Evileye split up the five other battle maids. It’s a vicious fight, as Alpha breaks Evileye’s magical shield and even chips her mask, revealing a small but still tantalizing portion of her face.

When Evileye is occupied with Alpha and Delta, Momon meets Demiurge in a secret meaning, where Demiurge explains the full scope of his plan, in which Nazarick claims a goodly amount of materials and hostages, while “Momon” gets to pump up his stature among the humans by defeating the evil Jaldabaoth.

Demi is basically taking a fall for his lord, while also gaining the opportunity to show that same lord how far he’s come power-wise. Manwhile, Nabe shoots the breeze with Beta, Epsilon and Zeta, a pleaqsantly casual, candid scene among the maids.

The gears of the plan creak and groan near the end, when Demi and Momon duel for a bit but Demi rather suddenly gives up, takes his maids and goes home. But hey, the humans, Evileye included, buy it hook, line, and sinker.

So it’s a big win for Nazarick, as the Eight Fingers are eliminated without Nazarick’s fingers being anywhere near their demise, Renner gets her Climb back safe and sound (and must find sombe other way to incapacitate him so she can take care of him), Sebas brings Tuare into the staff fold…and an old mage-like wizard fellow and a gold-plated warrior-prince-looking dude both ponder a meeting with one Ainz Ooal Gown in the near future.

And so OverLord II ends as it began: seemingly right in the middle of things. While its tendency to bounce around from one scenario to the next and often under-emphasize the ostensible main cast, that unpredictability kept things fresh, and the delayed explanation of scenarios led to some very satisfying payoffs, whether it was the Lizardmen battle, Sebas’ badassery, or some very cool battles between fellow Nazarickians, with some surprisingly strong human adventurers mixed in. I wouldn’t mind jumping back into these stories sometime down the road.

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