Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 12 (Fin)

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With all the emotional groundwork laid, all this episode has to do is flick the domino and watch them cascade, in a finale that levels up its core duo, gets them to overcome their respective “will-blocks”, and makes some interesting connections on the side while tying up loose ends.

Takeru has been stabbed by Haunted, but Ootori doesn’t hesitate to fight him, even deciding to form a contract with Vlad, something she swore she wouldn’t do until it came time to carry out her revenge. Ironically, had she done it for that reason, Vlad assures her he would have eaten her alive.

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Instead, she’s doing this for Takeru, her captain and her friend, and his beloved sister. It’s a nobler cause, and Vlad equips her accordingly. Like Takeru and Haunted, Ootori gets to don her badass relic eater armor, with which she’s able to push Haunted back and retrieve Takeru. The other three arrive in a van to pick them up.

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With Takeru healed but still out cold for some reason, all the girls can do is fight back Kisek’s overflowing demon mass. Takeru, meanwhile, is in his subconscious with Lapis, who wants him to give himself body and soul so that she can best achieve all his desires. With this, Lapis kisses Takeru, the first overtly romantic act undertaken by the relic eater—albeit only in his mind.

With that, Takeru is now in God Hunter Mode. He drains all of Ootori’s energy, then tells her he may not be able to walk beside her anymore, and asks the others to hang back too, as there’s no time to explain. Takeru is preparing for the worst case scenario in which he dies trying to fulfill his wishes regarding Kiseki. And no one will argue that no one else can stand up against the raging Kiseki.

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Turns out his wishes aren’t to kill Kiseki and die with her. For all these years he’s been conflicted between kill and protect, but now what he wants is the latter, no matter what it may cost. And because of his deepened contract with Lapis, he’s able to not only overpower Haunted and get him out of the picture, but convince his sister with his sheer resolve to start questioning herself whether she truly wants to die, and discovers that’s just one of the hundreds of demon voices speaking for her. Ideally, she wants to live too.

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The wavering weakens and eventually dissolves the overflow mass, and Takeru pulls her out of the mess, safe and sound. The road ahead will be tough, but the two have now decided together that they’ll walk it nonetheless instead of taking the “easy way out”, mutual destruction. And they won’t be alone on that road; turns out Takeru and Ootori will be able to walk it together, along with Suginami, Mari, and Usagi.

Speaking of names, Orochi’s last name is Kusanagi, suggesting a relation to Takeru, while the chairman of Valhalla is another, even quirkier Suginami. Finally, that little blue-haired elf girl Suginami saved back at Alchemist turns out to be Kanaria, another Valhalla member. All these connections hint that a sequel is feasible, even if none is promised. Honestly I’d tune in, if only to experience more of its awesome soundtrack.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 11

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Takeru is categorical with Kiseki: He’s not going to kill her. And if someday he’s forced to, it will be the day he dies too. One might think Kiseki would prefer if her brother lives on with the life she never got to live, but Takeru’s a stubborn mutha. He may also be a fool; but I also have a sister, and I don’t think I’d feel any differently than he does, so I’m a fool too.

His words are enough of a comfort that Kiseki promises she’ll try to hold out longer, but it isn’t long until the siblings are cornered by Kirigaya and Yoshimizu, who is now apparently his relic eater. Then their duel is interrupted by Kurogane and Director Ootori, who retain custody of Kiseki and put Takeru in solitary to cool his jets.

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While Takeru and Kiseki were enjoying normal life, some very big things were going down. The war between Inquisition and Valhalla goes into full swing, with the latter eager to capture Kiseki (whom they regard as one of their own—a “harbinger of chaos”—and they’re not entirely wrong), and the former setting up several decoys to misdirect them. In this whole big peripheral chess game, Takeru is but a pawn, but Kiseki is the King. But I will say, while there have been Preston and Zane episodes, this one is definitely up my alley: packed with action.

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Of course, all that action wouldn’t be worth much if it didn’t have something compelling to back it up, and when we see Takeru’s flashback, which he dreams while in solitary, we get that something. Not long after learning Kiseki was his sister and a powerful immortal demon, she killed the rest of their family and household. But his father didn’t order him to kill his sister. Instead he offered him the choice: kill her, or protect her. That’s what Takeru chose to do—in fact, it’s all he could do—and he’s stuck to his guns ever since.

When he wakes up, he hears Ootori in the adjacent cell, apologizing for getting him in this situation (even though he’s eager to thank her, not blame her). She wants to share his burden the way he pledged to bear have of hers. Why? Well, because he changed her life, and changed her. Without him, she wouldn’t have the “peaceful life” she has now; she’d still be consumed by revenge. It’s no confession of love, but one of intense admiration, gratitude, and hard-earned fondness. Ueda Reina knocks it out of the park here.

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The two lament more can’t be done, but then they’re broken out and given the opportunity to do just that, thanks to some help from their friends. While Takeru promised to share the future or ongoing burdens of Usagi, Mari, and Suginami, the fact of the matter is, thanks to his past deeds, they’re pretty set at the moment, and have no qualms about inverting the deal without delay.

One aspect I like about this team’s chemstry and how far they’ve come is that they know Takeru so well, they’re shocked when he doesn’t tell them he doesn’t want to involve them out of concern for their safety. Mari and Usagi immediately start suspecting something went on with him and Ootori in solitary to change his standard tune. Which is kinda true, but not in the way they’re imagining; the way that makes Ootori blush.

When Valhalla troops attack Kiseki’s transport, Kurogane and Kirigaya fight them off. Then a Valhalla leader, Orochi, shows up, and Kurogane orders Kirigaya to clear out. We don’t see their fight, but the buildup to it, whether we end up seeing it next week or not, was very well done. The music direction remains exemplary, as the scene practically hums with the potential power of the two fighters, expressed not with overly bombastic orchestra, but a relatively low-key electronic track that nonetheless emanates gravitas.

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Then Kirigaya’s face contorts, as he’s sick of transporting one of the “heretics” he hates so much and wants to exact revenge upon, and he opens up the back and prepares to kill Kiseki. Of course, Takeru arrives in the Nick of Time to stop him, but even with Ootori and Usagi backing him up, he and Kiseki aren’t out of the woods. Kiseki herself is starting to involuntarily overflow, and at the worst posssible time, the cavalier, flamboyant Haunted shows up (who is, at least, less boring than Kirigaya).

Announcing he’s here to bring Kiseki back to Valhalla with him, for her own good, impaling Takeru on multiple thorns only accelerates her overflow. If Takeru isn’t dead (and I doubt he is), he’s certainly out of commission for the time being, leaving the rest of the 35th to deal with Haunted (assuming Kurogane gets his money’s worth with Orochi and is delayed).

By being taken out here and now, Takeru has placed his burdens completely on the shoulders of his friends and comrades. But they won’t shrink from their duty. This should be quite a finale.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 10

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This week we finally meet Kusanagi’s little sister, and she’s Akira. with Chaika’s voice. Things start to look very wrong right from the get-go, as Takeru has to swear half his life away just to get to a fake glass partition to see her (it’s actually a large video screen).

Kiseki looks stunted, tired, and is wearing what looks like a straightjacket in the antiseptic but very dark facility. Indeed, what could have been a lame “little sister is in love with her brother” episode takes a dark turn indeed, making last week’s beach episode (which I did get around to watching) well-timed.

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It wouldn’t be an Akira tribute without a Kaneda Slide, which Ootori has the honor of doing during a nighttime motorcycle chase with some low-level artifact-smuggling baddies. It’s good to see the platoon, no longer beset by personal matters among its members, working at full strength again, and doing a more than competent job.

Still, the one guy who hasn’t faced major personal conflict yet is Takeru, and that changes this week with the intro of his Sis, who Ootori isn’t even aware he’s seen yet but suggest he does, as she notices he looks unrested and troubled.

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And anyone would be that if their cute little sister had as much mana as Kiseki, along with “Overflow Syndrome”, a condition that demands she be locked away and killed over and over so that her cells don’t envelop the entire world. I’m not sure I care for Sougetsu’s cavalier demeanor while describing the situation, but then again perhaps someone such as him charged with protecting the world needs to maintain a certain sense of humor to avoid being consumed, if not by Kiseki, than by despair.

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His methods don’t seem to be working particularly well, however, because the next time Kiseki resurrects, she goes berserk and breaks out of the supermax facility. Takeru encounters her in a dark alley, where she absoluely slaughtered (off-camera) another perp he was chasing while on another mission with the 35th.

Faced with his sister out in the open, and knowing the threat she presents, Takeru’s first reaction is to keep Ootori and the others back, even drawing his sword on them to make certain they come no closer. But Ootori assures him that while she knows he’s suffering, they’re not his enemy. They take Kiseki to a safe house together.

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There, Suginami tells the others what Kiseki is, and they decide what do do with her: give her back to the Inquisition. But not before she gets to go on a date with her brother. Now, this was just a shameless opportunity to exploit Kiseki’s adorable character design by having the girls dress her up in various outfits (thankfully the one they settle on is decent). But there’s also a profound sadness to it, especially what happens later, because this is the first and only time she’s gotten to interact with anyone other than Takeru in anything resembling a normal human way.

And while out with her brother, Kiseki repeats the request he didn’t hear the last time, because his time was up and he was ordered to leave her. “—- me,” she said, but I can’t read anime lips so good, so I didn’t know the rest, and even suspected the show would get cute again and be “kiss me.” But she asks him to kill her. To release her from her wretched cycle of dead, rebirth, and the appalling solitary confinement and restraint in between, and to release the world from the existential threat she presents.

It seems like an equatable arrangement for all, except for one problem: Kiseki is Takeru’s little sister. He loves her, and he’s never once considered killing her, no matter how dangerous or miserable she was.  I predict he’ll react to her request with disgust…even if part of him knows there may be no other way.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 09

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Wow, it’s like Hannah has some kind of sixth (or 35th!) sense, because she handed this episode off to me, predicting it would be more up my alley. Oh wait, the episode is called “Crazy Summer Time”…so that’s why…

Anyway, I’m glad to fill in for Han, who is still recovering from Titan overdose. And you know what? As “crazy summer time” episodes go, this wasn’t awful. Sure, boob sizes are compared and protagonists are licked by more than one girl, but the episode manages to keep things light, breezy, and humorous.

It also manages to differentiate between the characters, as Usagi and Mari are totally capable of posing as dates at a gentleman’s club, but Ootori…isn’t, and exhibits an itchy trigger finger when someone tries to scratch a nonexistent itch on her ass. Yes, it’s “specialty” jobs like this where Ootori doesn’t do so well.

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Despite her prematurely blowing everyone’s cover, they do retrieve the magic artifact they were looking for, and decide to investigate it for bonus points (and to mitigate Ootori’s penalty). When the ring accidentally falls right onto Takeru’s finger (like Frodo and the Ring!) he figures out pretty fast what the ring does: make all the girls around him drunk.

Besides being a pretty harsh endictment on the slimeball guy who wielded this ring before, it also gives us the unsolicited opportunity to observe what kind of drunks the girls are: Usagi is a giddy drunk; Mari is a sad drunk, Ootori is a wild drunk, and Suginami is a sick drunk (sick as in vomit). Even Lapis gets a little hiccup in.

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Let’s move on—because the episode sure does! This is really two half episodes, which is just as well…neither of these stories could occupy a full one. The second half involves an “endless Summer” possibly being perpetrated by a magic monster of some kind. While it’s a rather obvious excuse to get the girls in swimsuits, said swimsuits are actually quite reasonable in design. It is troubling that Lapis and her school number steals the show for Takeru. The clear winner of the “competition” is Ootori.

Yet even here, the personalities of the platoon shine through. Just as they handle being at a club or being drunk in different ways, they treat summer differently. Mari and Usagi are all about having the fun with the water and the splashing, but Suginami hates the Summer and the sun (makes sense given her clinical upbringing), while poor Ootori can’t swim (like Kirin in Asterisk).

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As for Takeru, he doesn’t act like a buffoon, but he does eat some off shaved ice, which I didn’t even know was a thing. As such, Usagi, Mari, and Lapis form a “Mini 35th” to take care of the pervy sea monster. Sure, Takeru comes in to help out, but in his heavy armor he’s pretty useless; it’s Lapis transforming into an industrial-grade fishing rod that allow them to hook the sucker and claim victory.

Ootori, knowing that both at the club and on the beach she wasn’t able to contribute that much, rewards the Mini 35th with the last three ice creams. Nothing death-defying or groundbreaking going on here; just good harmless platoon bonding and some ever-so-slightly above average comedy.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 08

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Despite how improbable it looked at the end of last week, Takeru (and Ikaruga’s) chastity survives this episode, as her sister is early to pick her up. Before she says “bye-bye” (never a good thing for her) once more, she injects him with a muscle relaxant, telling him not to follow her because she loves him.

She may claim to know nothing about love or romance, but the fact she’s making this deal to protect Takeru and the others is a clear sign she’s evolved beyond the limitations of the design Alchemist intended. She’s gone from making weapons to sacrificing herself to save her new family.

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Naturally, as soon as Takeru gets the use of his legs back, and the girls get their freedom (and clothes) back, he immediately sets about defying Suginami’s wishes not to follow her. The 35th aren’t going to heed her desire to handle things herself, not if there’s a possibility they could lose her.

There’s a lot of great stuff here: Ootori and Mari, usually at each other’s throats, are still able to fight together when push comes to shove. As for Usagi, she convinces Ootori that it doesn’t matter how dark or dastardly Suginami’s past was, or what she intends to do. All Usagi wants is to bring the Suginami the loves back. 

And while yes, Takeru finally makes Lapis blush by praising her, Lapis quickly changes the subject as the platoon heroically deploys to rescue Ikaruga, all to a thumping techno track that really got me fired up for the battle.

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At Alchemist, Ikaruga reveals to Isuka her true intentions: to ensure the Elves are never resurrected, and to do what she should have done four years ago: get her sister the hell out of there. Isuka says she doesn’t want to leave, but she’s had modifications made to her that causes pain whenever she expresses emotions, so she’s not in a condition to think clearly.

She also shoots Ikaruga in the leg, which convinces her sister to use the nanomachines she’s implanted in herself to transform into some kind of Demon-Ikaruga who can wield antimatter. That’s a lot to swallow all at once, but then again Ikaruga is a pretty smart cookie, so fine.

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At any rate, she gradually wears Isuka down into admitting she feels something for her sister. Unfortunately, that’s just when Haunted decides to break up the sisterly chat and bury his arm into Isuka, a blow that turns out to be fatal. All along, Isuka had only been his pawn, and now that she’s of no further use to him, he wants to recruit Ikaruga. Her response is very appropriate: a hearty Go To Hell and a bullet to the head.

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Haunted exits stage right, but leaves a cyberdragon to deal with the platoon. He should have summoned a pair, because with Usagi at the controls of a railgun, Ootori watching Takeru’s back, and Mari replenishing Takeru’s mana when he runs out of his own, the gang is just able to take the dragon out and save Suginami.

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I say just, because Takeru risks everything on the hope one big final blow using all of the mana Mari gave him would be enough to defeat the one dragon. I like that despite the clear skills and teamwork the platoon possesses, they only win by the skin of their teeth. Of course, they were fighting one comrade short.

When the battle is over, the gang can relax, to the pont Mari gloats about saving everyone with her last minute mana infusion, to which Ootori calls her a “fuel tank”…which is a pretty creative insult. As usual, Suginami and Takeru stay above the fray, though she’s glad to be among them once more witnessing said fray.

And despite her earlier assertion she would not fall for Takeru’s smooth words, Sugi does succomb to a comforting head pat and a request that she talk to her friends in the future when she has a problem. She points out that not all girls like having their head patted, but tells him to keep doing it anyway. It’s not intercourse, but right then and there, it’s plenty.

As next week’s episode is titled “Crazy Summer Time”, I’ll be supremely shocked if the girls aren’t in swimsuits for at good part of it.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 07

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This week (and next) is dedicated to Suginami Ikaruga’s personal crisis. But she tells Kusanagi she won’t be “going gaga” over him like the other girls when he tries his noble “I’ll carry half your burden” line on her. He has no idea what she’s talking about, but he has noticed she’s acted different from usual lately, and he would know: the 35th Test Platoon started with just the two of them.

Back then, Kusanagi was beaten by her because he wouldn’t draw his sword on an unarmed opponent. That endeared him to Suginami, who above all seeks and love things that “stick out;” things that are unusual and beg for further study. And Suginami herself is very unusual compared to her fellow platoon-mates; this week we find out just how different.

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Director Ootori calls her a “designer child” created by the lab Alchemist with which Inquisition has always had tense relations. He also suspects Suginami knows of the whereabouts of something called a “Lost Matrix” which could theoretically be used to resurrect the elves, which is apparently a big deal in this world.

Her twin sister Isuka wants to do just that, so now is the time that Ikaruga finally seeks a deal : Isuka gets the matrix, but she gets to watch what becomes of it. Isuka, by the way, is no longer with Alchemist either, having thrown her lot in with Haunted and Valhalla.

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Takeru and the other girls end up following Suginami, but only he and Suginami get away from Isuka’s mercenaries; Ootori, Mari, and Usagi are taken into custody, stripped, poked and prodded by Isuka, who can find nothing exceptional about any of them. She wonders why her sister has become “friends” with such “normal” people (We know they’re not really normal, but Isuka is ignorant to their stories).

As for Ikaruga and Isuka’s story, the two were engineered to be the ultimate scientists; “weapons” with an uncontrollable “impulse for inquiry”. But it was clear in their younger years that Ikaruga got more and more curious about normal humans and their social structures, even “adopting” a wood elf she created (breaking the rules), which was later destroyed.

All this is to say that despite her antiseptic, inhuman upbringing and pre-programmed calling, Ikaruga does have human emotions, or at least more than her sister. She also has a grasp of right and wrong, as she shows despair at the horrors of the lab and, much later, showing affection for her friends by not involving them in her affairs, thus protecting them.

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Knowing her off-limits curiosity would eventually get her labeled as a “defective” Suginami, Young Ikaruga stole the Lost Matrix and broke out of Alchemist, leaving behind Isuka—who had no idea why she couldn’t just stay and keep doing research with her. But as we know from Ikaruga, she and her sister clearly define “things that stick out” in different ways.

She read about a bird who lost her mother, became a human, and had her own child, becoming a mother, and couldn’t help seeing herself in the fairy tale. She befriended Takeru, who thought and acted differently from almost everyone else. Even Usagi’s boobs “stick out”, so to speak, though they’re obviously not the only reason they became friends.

Now, holed up in her safe house with a bandaged Takeru, and little hope of living past the next day or so, Ikaruga wants to go out performing one more experiment of human behavior she wants to try before it’s all over: sex, specifically with Takeru; leading to one hell of a killer smash cut to credits.

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