Shuumatsu no Izetta – 05

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Fine’s coronation is also the stage chosen to unveil Izetta to the world, and it’s fun to witness medieval ritual juxtaposed with flashing still and movie cameras of the modern era, just as it’s fun to watch Izetta take care of business, wiping out the modern might of the Germanians with magically enhanced medieval weapons.

The first stage in Eylstadt’s strategy to, well, survive, is to make the world know and believe who and what Izetta is. But neither the Germanian king nor Major Berkman doubt whether she’s real. The king wants her, badly, while Berkman wants to cut Eylstadt’s propaganda off at the knees by identifying and exploiting Izetta’s still-unknown-to-the-enemy weakness.

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While fun, the merging of eras is also jarring, just as it’s jarring to see Izetta unleash hell against the Germanian army in front of cameras, then return to the palace to be praised like a good girl who finished her chores. It’s a lot for Izetta to handle, but she has promised to serve ad protect Fine with her dying breath; she’s not the kind to back down just because things are tough…or weird.

More than anything, Izetta is a witch who has been used dwelling in the shadows and edges of the world. Now she’s the exact opposite: a global celebrity with a fairy tale story so compelling that the people want to believe. Not only does Eylstadt want them to believe, they need them to do so, in hopes of gaining powerful allies against Germania.

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If this is to be merely a 12-episode show, I’m pleased with the generous pacing so far. Not only is Izetta unveiled and placed into immediate use in order to quickly build up her public persona as a magical force of resistance against a no-longer invincible-looking enemy, but the enemy strikes back just as fast, advancing on the Veile Pass – a place with no Ley Lines for Izetta to draw from.

The Germanian King’s adviser Eliot is sure to remind his majesty that the reason they’re invading Eylstadt is to gain supply routes between them and Romulus (i.e. Italy), not merely to capture a witch. This pass is part of that route. As it happens, Private Jonas is assigned to its defense, which won’t include bombings due to a.) the thick fog and b.) the fact the pass is worthless without intact roads to use.

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Sieg Reich and Fine’s royal guards (who are all or mostly female special forces) draw up an intricate plan that serves to hide Izetta’s inability to use magic, by drawing upon stagecraft and showmanship in a battlefield setting.

A dummy Izetta is flown behind a plane, lands on a ridge, and is replace by the real Izetta (refusing to let them use a body double), who must talk a big talk before planted bombs are detonated, taking out the advancing enemy.

It works far better than it should have, thanks to an abundance of luck in both weather and geography. But conditions won’t be so favorable in every Ley Line-less area the Germanians target, so even though Berkman hasn’t found Izetta’s weakness yet, doesn’t mean he won’t eventually.

It may happen far sooner than Eylstadt thinks, thanks to some bad luck: Berkman has a spy posing as an Eylstadt officer who happens to be in the same outfit as Jonas. There’s every indication either he or Jonas overheard Schneider talking very loudly about Izetta’s weakness by a creek.

That’s the kind of carelessness that can lose a war, and I’m not optimistic Izetta won’t be re-captured by Berkman at some point.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 18

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In part thanks to the efforts of her Totsuki Elite Ten adviser, Nakamozu Kinu was able to occupy a stout castle in a prime location where she can vacuum up the cash of anyone coming on or off the trains, and Mozuya Karaage is a good product, so she’s doing just fine. But she’s also been operating in a vacuum; without legitimate competition. That changes this week, in what is billed as an epic samurai-era battle for dominion over the stomachs—and wallets—of the locals.

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Mozuya is a tough foe, but Souma, Nikumi, Mayumi, and Chairman Tomita work to lay out its strengths and weaknesses. Souma in particular makes the keen observation that Mozuya does not operate on the same turf as the Sumire Shopping District. Its greatest strength is also a weakness, because customers have nowhere to stop and eat. Souma susses out the customers Mozuya isn’t reaching due to their location and the way they serve their product.

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But it’s not enough to find those customers; they must be lured to the district with a sensational product that is “innovate, memorable, and portable” in addition to having an enhanced taste. Nikumi suggests the shift from lean breast meat to heartier, jucier thigh meat, and while Tomita’s karaage onigiri falls flat, the idea of rice going so well with the chicken sparks an idea in Souma’s head: one that’s kept secret from us, the audience, as well as Nakamozu.

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We don’t know exactly what’s going on, but we see a lot of wheels turning, from Tomita waking up the printer, to Nikumi throwing her Mito weight around to get on-the-dot early deliveries of meat, to Mayumi conscripting her little brother to help with package design. There is a great sense of shit going downpreparations for a surprise attack on Mozuya.

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Nakamozu, ensconced in her fortress of success, in her arrogance, never sees it coming. She sees some boys walking past her shop with karaage; then more and more people. By the third day, her sales are down 20%, an unthinkable course of events by her reckoning.

But the fact for those days she’s simply standing there beside her store, not innovating, resting on her laurels, speaks volumes. Souma never announced his siege on her castle, and she doesn’t realize there’s a siege at all until it’s too late.

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What amazes her—and me too, frankly—is how quickly and completely Souma is able to revitalize a shopping district that had been a “ghost town” three days prior. Then again, Souma and Nikumi are elite culinary masterminds supported by hard-working, dependable, passionate people, in an area where multiple disciplines are represented; disciplines that can be utilized to make a lot of progress in a pittance of time.

The genius of Souma’s delectable “Sumire Karaage Roll” is that it contains a little bit of every district business. Mozuya was all about purity, homogeneity, and authoritarianism; The Sumire Roll is culinary democracy in action.

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Once she inevitably tastes the roll, like her rivals tasted her karaage only a few days ago, Nakamozu has no choice but to concede defeat. After all, she tasted the innovation and resourcefulness of pure youth, as well as grossly underestimated the tactical skills of the kids she challenged.

Her downfall is a black mark on her Totsuki adviser’s record, so that advisor, one Eizan Etsuya, ninth seat of the Elite Ten, calls Souma in, not to “beat him up”, but to invite him to join his bullpen of chefs with which he creates empires of success all over Japan and beyond.

Souma, content with his smaller goal to keep his dad’s diner going, refuses the offer, so Eizan informs Souma that he’s been selected for the Autumn Elections, in which he’ll be working towards Souma’s defeat and the end of his meteoric rise. Somehow, I doubt Eizan will succeed.

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Kantai Collection: KanColle – 12 (Fin)

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Well, you have to hand it to KanColle, it wasted no time whatsoever declaring it was going to pour all of the compelling drama and peril and promise of the previous episode down the drain. Within the first thirty seconds, Fubuki arrives in the nick of time to save Akagi, as does the main battle force led by Yamato.

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As such, this entire episode is, at its heart, a complete re-writing of history, which makes you wonder (or possibly not wonder at all) why the heck they bothered to set up battles with real-world parallels when they were only going to turn the result of those battles upside down.

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But revisionism aside, this was never that exciting an ending at all because that early taking away of the stakes came with it the knowledge that this episode wouldn’t even be sorta adhering to reality. The show failed to rise above its somewhat unsightly core reason for being: to promote the video game it’s based upon, as well as its sundry characters.

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Thus, the result isn’t just a foregone conclusion (the Fleet Girls win it all without suffering any casualties), but the battle itself feels pointless and needlessly drawn out, infused with setbacks we know will be overcome by the time the credits roll. It’s an extended victory lap, as well as a showcase for every Fleet Girl character.

As for the Abyssals, they disappoint to the last, as one finally actually says something, but only simply phrases like “SINK!” Gee, I sure wish a show in which the good guys fight the bad guys had bothered to, you know, give us something, anything, with which to understand what the bad guys were about. But nope, they’re just evil.

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Looking back, Mitsuki’s loss of Kisaragi was the only remotely significant casualty the Fleet Girls suffered, other than the fancypants Admiral we neither saw nor heard for the extent of the show, and therefore wasn’t any more a character than the Abyssals. I kept watching this show because it had the guts to take Kisaragi out. Unfortunately, that’s all it had guts for.

Still, this episode is saved from total inanity by some nice moments between characters who actually were characterized in the past eleven episodes. Bonds like Nagato and Mutsu, Akagi and Kaga, Kaga and Zuikaku, and the core trio of Fubuki, Mitsuki, and Yuudachi, while nothing particularly special, got some pleasant closing beats.

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As for this admiral dude, I’m just not sure why I should care about him, considering we never see or hear him. I guess the Admiral is really you and me, huh? Well, excuse me if I’m not going to get all that excited about myself, nor a great host of Fleet Girls getting all hot and bothered about me. Simply put, I’m not that special.

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Kantai Collection: KanColle – 11

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I’ll preface this review by stating I knew the result of the real Battle of Midway, and which ships were lost in it. Suffice it to say, it was a devastating defeat for Japan, one from which they would never truly recover. So I entered this episode wondering: how would KanColle play this?

They’ve been more-or-less faithful to history thus far, a few details aside. The ships may have pretty faces and cute outfits, and the creators may have a game to sell, but I hoped that wouldn’t lead to any major revision of that battle. It made sense in the context of the story so far, after all, that things should go very badly for the Fleet Girls.

What’s interesting is that KanColle seemed well aware of my foreknowledge and anxiety, and seemed to play off of them in the tense build-up to the battle.

Take the super-dark cold open, in which the battle unfolds just as it did in real life: Akagi’s task force is decimated and she is so badly damanged she has to be scuttled. The show even takes the unprecedented step of portraying Akagi as an actual listing ship.

It’s only Akagi’s (recurring) dream, but the episode immediately grabs our attention, announcing it knows what we’re expecting. What it doesn’t answer yet at that point is, how close will it stick to history? Is Akagi’s dream only one possibility?

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As the episode settles into Naval District life as usual, but Akagi’s nightmare, along with the imminent battle, casts a pall on the bright and cheerful surroundings with girls drinking milk to prepare.

The episode is also punctuated by titles indicating how many hours remain until the battle, accompanied by percussive booms that reminded me of Akira’s iconic, chilling opening. This isn’t just Life As Usual…for many, it’s most likely the last of it.

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Not one to shrug off such disturbing dreams, Akagi considers them a warning and an omen of what is to come should things unfold as planned. She takes her intuitive concerns to Nagato and recommends slight alterations in the order of battle, which Nagato approves.

Both elite Fleet Girls get the strange feeling like they’re drifting down a river fate, perhaps one they’ve even been down before. Akagi has seen her doom in dream after dream, but she intends to break that destiny. She wants that more than ever after her escort Fubuki thanks her simply for being so awesome and inspiring her to achieve greatness.

But while Akagi’s mods to the battle plan are meant to change their course in that river of fate, the fact remains she was fated to make those mods, which will lead her exactly the fate she aimed to avoid.

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The battle begins, and things take a turn for the worse almost immediately as the main assault force led by Battleship Yamato fails to rendezvous with Akagi’s four-carrier task force, sitting in dreadful weather. Aware that they could be spotted by the Abyssals at any moment, Akagi decides to proceed to MI without the main force, leaving an initially protesting Fubuki and Kongou to stay behind and wait for them.

Akagi’s force detects an “airfield princess” on MI, and they launch sorties that do her considerable damage at the loss of only a few planes. Things are going okay, but the force fails to detect the other Abyssal forces who sneak up from behind and throw everything they’ve got at them. Just like that, the ambushers become the ambushed.

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Just like the real-life battle, carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Kiryu all take damage. Akagi’s bow breaks early on, so she can’t launch any planes to defend herself or her fellow ships. The girls’ eyes are full of bewilderment, fear, and panic as the explosions around them multiply.

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And for once, there’s no rescue in the nick of time by reinforcements. There’s no cavalry in sight, or even on the way, as far as we know. Last time we saw Fubuki and Kongou, they were still waiting to no avail.

Things look very very bad for Akagi in particular, who has a torpedo/bomb flying straight at her when the episode goes to black. Her nightmare, or rather vision, is coming true. She wasn’t able to escape the river of fate.

While this is awful on an emotional level, it’s also precisely the kind of episode I was hoping for: one that wouldn’t hold back on history just because it didn’t deliver a happy ending to the show’s good guys.

But the battle is only halfway through. The challenge that faces KanColle next week is: Will it maintain this faithfulness to its terrible but ultimately dramatically satisfying conclusion…or will it chicken out at the last second and let the Fleet Girls snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat?

I’m not saying I’ll automatically be put off by the latter possibility. But it will be a lot tougher to achieve, because the pull of that river is awfully strong, and this episode contributed mightily to that.

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Kantai Collection: KanColle – 03

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In her first mission briefing, Fubaki and her fellow ships learn that after their recent and successful attack on the Abyssals’ base, a massive enemy counterattack is expected. Before that happens, the Admiral is sending Torpedo Squadrons Three and Four to capture “W” Island in a surprise attack.

On a personal level, Fubaki is very uneasy and worried she’ll slow everyone down, and feels undeserving of her senpais’ tokens and words of support.

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One night before the battle, it is Mutsuki who puts Fubuki at ease, saying she believes in her, just as Mutsuki’s sister ship Kisaragi believed in her. In a touching flashback, we see Mutsuki take damage in a battle, but Kisaragi stays with her until help arrives and throughout her repairs, forming a bond that goes beyond respect and appreciation and into love.

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At dawn, Fubuki goes out to train a little more before the big night battle. She runs into Akagi in the harbor, who hits a bull’s-eye with her eyes closed and imparts the words “Shoot true, never miss.” It turns out Mutsuki was the one who brought Akagi to Fubuki.

Both Mutsuki and Fubuki express frustration and being unable to ever repay their friends and senpais who have helped them. Akagi assures them no one expects nor needs to be repaid; a simple “thank you” will suffice, and for the recipients of their goodwill to “shoot true” and “never miss.”

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Akagi’s words weren’t just meant to guide Fubuki’s conduct in battle, but in life as well.

“Don’t hesitate to tell the people you care about the feelings you have for them. Because they may not be there tomorrow.”

They’re simple words, but easily overlooked, and beautifully stated. Akagi says this as the morning sun rises out of the horizon, just as the power of her words dawn on Fubuki and Mutsuki, who promptly thank and express their love to one another on the spot. Fubuki also voices her respect for Akagi and her hope they’ll fight in the same fleet one day.

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As for Mutsuki, well, the death flags fly free for the majority of this episode, especially when she tells her sister ship Kisaragi “she needs to tell her something” when they get back from the battle. The bittersweet tone of the music, the words by Akagi, Mutsuki’s flags: they all point to something sinister; the coming battle won’t be a cakewalk.

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Once at the island, the Sendai-class light cruisers launch their Type-0 recon seaplanes, but the element of surprise is almost immediately lost, and Squad Three retreats from an enemy torpedo squad right into the jaws of two enemy carriers launching swarms of fighters.

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Well and truly in the shit, Squad Three takes a defensive formation and fights for survival as they attempt to meet up with squad four. For a hot second, it looked like Mutsuki’s death flags were going to strike true, when Fubuki swoops in at the last second, aims true, and doesn’t miss.

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Everyone stays alive long enough for the the big guns of the Second Fleet (including the fast battleships Kongou and Hiei) to shoo the enemy squadrons away. “W” Island wasn’t taken, but the Fleet Girls suffered no major losses…

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…Until a solitary, straggling Abyssal fighter catches a relieved Kisaragi unawares, firing a bomb right into her stern before blowing up himself. Kisaragi explodes and sinks into the deep dark sea.

KanColle got me for two reasons: One, I was distracted by all of Mutsuki’s death flags to notice it was really Kisaragi in the crosshairs.

Two, I’m not well-versed in naval history enough to know that in real life, the Mutsuki-class Kisaragi was the second warship sunk during the war, in the Battle of Wake Island (hence the “W”. The island on Nagato’s map even resembles the Pacific atoll). FYI, Kisaragi was sunk by USMC aviator Capt. Henry T. Elrod on Dec. 11, 1941, by detonating the depth charge stores in her stern with small-caliber bombs.

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Also, even though Mutsuki (“January”) was the first ship of her class, Kisaragi (“February”) was actually launched and commissioned before her, making her Mutsuki’s “big-sis”. I had no idea the story would hew this close to history. It’s strange, but so far, it’s pretty historically accurate in terms of what went down during the first attempt to take Wake.

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Having nothing to do with history is the fact that, in KanColle, Mutsuki is not just a ship, but a girl who just lost someone more dear to her than anyone else, whom she was planning to confess her love to. But while we’re aware of the tragedy that has befallen them, Mutuski and Fubuki remain unaware of the sinking through the end of the episode. They race out to the cape at sunset, waiting for Torpedo Squadron Four, and Mutsuki’s love, to return. Excuse me…but…sniff…does anyone have a goddamn tissue?

This episode basically fixed all of the drawbacks of the first two episodes: the reliance on fancy visuals, cute character designs, and novelty of the fleet girls (though all were still present), and the lack of a tough enemy or heavy stakes. The affection and camaraderie of the girls was stronger than ever here, and while she was only a minor character and it was a bit telegraphed, Kisaragi’s loss was still palpable and her demise shocking in its practical portrayal. KanColle has my full attention.

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Stray Observations:

  • It’s hard to tell without checking MAL, but a mere handful of seiyus are voicing several characters each. For example, all three Sendai-class cruisers and Nagato are voiced by Sakura Ayane, while Suzuki Aya voices all three Akatsuki-class destroyers. That’s some nice range right there!
  • While Mutsuki, Kisaragi, and other ships with fleet girl characters were involved in the Battle of Wake Island, Fubuki was not (it was in Hainan then French Indochina), which suggests events will not unfold precisely as they did in the real-life Pacific War.

Ginga Kikoutai Majestic Prince – 03

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After thorough examinations, Team Rabbits is assigned a new mission, but first they have 36 hours of down time at a luxury space resort. After they all try to relax in their own ways, they’re placed under the command of GDF’s Vice Chief of Staff, Captain Komine, who orders them to launch a surprise attack on a Wulgaru supply fleet. That fleet turns out to be an advanced and heavily-armed recon squad, but Komine orders the Princes to charge ahead anyway. In the process, Tamaki loses her shields and takes damage…

“Majestic Princes”, as it turns out, is a pretty fitting name, as it describes Team Rabbits even better than “The Fail Five.” They’re majestic because, well, just look at how beautifully they dance through space in their suits. Even when they’re overwhelmed, they still look great in action, and their first mission provided a hint of what they’re capable of when firing on all cylinders. But like princes, they didn’t choose the paths they’re on. Their memories were wiped at a young age, and they’ve been engineered to work in concert with each other and the JURIA System of their suits.

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Also like a Prince, they inherited great wealth (their suits and the budget to use them) and great responsibility to put those resources to good use, and there’s a war on so their hands aren’t going to be held along the way. Only they can decide if they are going to be good and successful princes or keep thinking they’ll always be screw-ups. It’s a lot for a quintet of kids to carry on their shoulders, and the series thus far has done a good job putting them through the professional ringer, but at the same time not skimping on their personal interactions.

We like how Hitachi is dedicating himself to being the leader and hero, and even more enthralled that the others aren’t fully behind him yet. It’s not just the Princes either: everyone seems to give someone a disapproving or dubious look, and everyone’s little quirks bounce off the others’ in interesting ways. It also helps that things move along at quite brisk pace, although there’s not enough time to show their latest mission in full – in which, naturally, the odds are stacked against them and they’ll have to perform miraculously to not only prevail, but survive. And survive they shall.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • The series has been painting very detailed pictures of the five princes’ personalities through their idle chatter, but goes a step further this week by showing how each of them spend their free time, with great success.
  • Kei’s baking marathon was pretty darn cute. Did she put that icing on her cheek to see if Hitachi would notice it?
  • Hitachi doesn’t so much meet the white-haired chick so much as he meets the fist of her bodyguard-handler-whatever. Zero-G pools FTMFW.
  • Tamaki wants pickled fish guts, Tamaki gets pickled fish guts.
  • Lt. Amane makes damn sure Komine introduces her. Lady’s got ambition.
  • Suzukaze is apparently allowed to suck on all the lolipops she likes while on duty.
  • Apologies for the late review; we were out watching baseball.

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 19

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Saki and Satoru join a group of three others and patrol for queerat stragglers. When they arrive at the hospial, everything is dark and there’s a gaping hole in the building. One of the group heads in, Satoru realizes there are queerats around. He and the other three set the fields ablaze, killing a queerat force. They slowly investigate the hospital, and find three survivors who are paralyzed with fear. Their initial attacker returns, and kills two of the group. Saki and Satoru split off from the rest and escape in the boat, but they’re being followed…

The darker horror elements of this series return with a vengeance, and though they were never entirely absent from any episode thus far, things are definitely kicked up a couple of notches. What was once an omnipresent but subtle feeling of tension and dread has now completely inundated the picture. This shit is dark. As in, better watched at night so you can see what’s going on. The episode itself is called “Darkness”. Rather than comfort us by letting a few days pass after that harrowing surprise attack, we’re still with Saki and Satoru on a night from hell that just won’t end.

No good can come from investigating spooky hospitals with holes in them in the middle of the night. Duh. But Satoru is tired of being in the dark; he wants to know what’s happened in there. Be careful what you wish for: the culprit and nemesis of the episode is either a fiend or karma demon, and it’s not friendly. Even more chilling is the prospect it was the one that annihilated the Giant Hornets. Could this thing be on Yakomaru’s side? If it is, that’s very bad news. It means the defeat of the humans is no longer outside the realm of possibility. As if it ever was…


Rating: 8 (Great)

From the New World (Shin Sekai yori) – 18

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Satoru reports to the joint committee heads that the Giant Hornets were completely annihilated by the Robber Flys. In light of very strange evidence, Shisei forms the theory that a human with a cantus destroyed the army. Tomiko refutes it’s either Akizuki Maria or Itou Mamoru, as she confirmed they were dead. At the summer festival, the Robber Flys, condemned to destruction, launch a surprise attack on the village, but Shisei eliminates them, removing his mask in the process. Tomiko vows to give Yakomaru a slow death.

The point when they queerats turn on their own gods came much more rapidly than we expected, and Yakomaru is almost certainly behind it all. There was always something about that rat’s eyes and in his weaselly words that we found unsettling. While he most certainly knows the surprise attack will fail, it is nevertheless a complex multi-layered assault full of feints and gambits designed to create maximum anxiety in the people, who had been previously enjoying their summer festival. Queerat infiltrators even disguised themselves as “monsters” (part of the festival) and handed out samples of poisoned sake.

Their assault may have been thwarted – and then some – by the awesome destructive power of the four-irised(!) Shisei, but the villagers are afraid, and that’s just what Yakomaru wants. Two committee heads are also dead: the most bombastic and overconfident head (who was playing a drum with his cantus when he was taken out by a queerat sniper) and the one head who called for the postponement of the festival until the Robber Flys were dealt with. Turns out that was a good call. Meanwhile, on this night when the dead return from the underworld, Saki has visions of her friends, whom Tomiko is positive they’re dead. But are they really?


Rating: 8 (Great)