Overlord II – 07

As “Momon” contends with mounting expenses for his various ventures, Gazef (who considers Ainz his savior) seeks out Climb, the princess’ bodyguard. He may have come from nothing and is young and inexperienced, and Gazef seems certain there’s a ceiling to his ability, but Climb is still someone who can hold his own against Gazef in battle, which is more than he can say for most other fighters.

Climb needs to be strong. His Princess, Renner (voiced by The Heroine herself), is called a “monster” by her own older brother, the second prince. There is all manner of wrangling and under-the-table deals between the royals and nobles and Eight Fingers in this kingdom. As such, despite noble warriors like Climb and Gazef, it’s a kingdom slowly rotting from the inside.

Princess Renner, one of the kingdom’s few principled, moral leaders, seeks to cut out that rot, but without any kind of military force of her own she needs willing swords and shields. She has them in the elite adventurer group Blue Rose, who we were introduced to last week burning Eight Fingers’ drug fields.

Renner welcomes Climb to a meeting she’s having with members of Blue Rose, who are preparing to hit other Eight Fingers targets. Renner doesn’t want Blue Rose’s Lakyus Aindra to sully her name and that of her families in such activities, but she has little choice, as she can’t very well send Climb out alone. Instead, Lakyus will “borrow” Climb.

Meanwhile, in the mansion seemingly occupied only by Sebas and Solution, the former has made Tuare a maid, much to the latter’s chagrin. Solution does not like humans and doesn’t see Tuare’s presence as anything other than a nuisance at best and a threat to Ainz at worst.

When unsavory parties arrive who wish to get Tuare back from Sebas, and they give him until the day after tomorrow to surrender either her or the “lady” of the house, Solution. These guys are obviously scum, but they and Solution are alike in one important way: neither of them give a shit about Tuare’s well-being.

Only Sebas does, and since only 41 or so people in the whole dang world are stronger than him, Sebas would normally get his way, and Tuare would remain safe. But even he can’t be everywhere at once, which is why when he goes for a stroll to think things over, Solution breaks protocol and contacts Lord Ainz to report the possibility that Sebas has turned on them.

That seems farfetched to me, in that so far all he’s done is demonstrated his empathy for humans and been a Good Samaritan for a woman who had nothing and no one else. If anything, if Ainz hears the whole story he’d find a way to applaud Sebas’ actions. Is Solution overreacting, or does she sense something Sebas a mere human such as myself cannot?

91 Days – 11

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Avilio’s time in Chicago was productive; he was able to strike a deal with the Galassias – just not the one Nero thought. Don Galassia takes a shine to Avilio, as the capable inside man who could help him get rid of the Vanettis.

But it’s also painfully evident that killing Corteo took a bigger chunk of Avilio’s soul than most of the killings. He’s barely keeping it together, catching glimpses of Corteo’s ghost off in the distance.

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The stage for the final act of Avilio’s revenge couldn’t be more appropriate: the grand opening of Vincent’s opera house in Lawless. One gets the feeling like Vincent is willing himself to stay alive just to get to this evening. Little does he know Avilio has been looking forward to the evening just as much, if not more.

Avilio, Ganzo, Don Galassia and his nephew Strega all know the game plan, but things don’t go according to that plan, as Del Toro takes longer to bring down and Barbero gets wise to Avilio’s treachery.

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It matters not, as Ganzo is able to free Avilio, killing Barbero in the process, and give Avilio a free path to Vincent and Don Galassia’s royal box, even as Nero is running off to stop a potential sniper all the way on the other side of the theater.

Avilio manages to do worse than simply kill Vincent: he kills Don Galassia, which is a death sentence to the entire Vanetti family. Strega takes out Ganzo, leaving Strega, Avilio, Nero…and not many others still alive.

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Avilio is pretty happy with how things worked out, as he sits in an alley as sirens blare. The Vanettis have lost everything, just as he did the night his family was taken. But the cost is high, and his decision to kill Don Galassia made him an enemy of Strega, who finds him in the alley. Is he there to thank Avilio for getting his uncle out of the way for him, or to kill him for it?

While the animation continues to be a serious liability, the overall experience this week was some thrilling and heart-wrenching mob drama. Avilio did most of what he set out to do, but he’s even more of a wreck than when he first got that letter. All of this, like Vincent’s murder of his family, might end up being for nothing.

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91 Days – 10

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Ever since his reunion with Avilio, Corteo has been marked for death, and this week that finally comes to pass. Such is the fate of someone who can’t help but feel a brotherly responsibility to someone who does not truly intend to survive his quest for vengeance.

While having one last day of fun together outside Chicago, leaving Corteo behind represents a lasting shred of hope they’ll meet again when this is all over, but they meet much sooner than that, with fatal results.

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As Nero plans the future of the family with his Dad Vincent, whose debilitating illness seems to be hampering motor function. But as we know, it wouldn’t be enough for Avilio if nature killed Vincent for him; he has to do the deed, and once he’s finished, he can finally be with his family.

Maybe it’s that drive to be reunited with them that leads to him and Corteo being so extremely careless at the pier, not even trying to conceal the fact that they’re there from eyes that Barbaro later bribes. Barbaro thinks he finally has the evidence he needs to get rid of Avilio, but he underestimated Corteo’s loyalty not just to his brother, but to his quest for revenge as well. After all, he’s come this far.

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Nero will no longer suspect Avilio now that he’s shot Corteo (The ‘kill your friend and we’ll trust you’ is an old trope, but it works well enough in this case). But with Corteo gone, there is nothing left for Avilio but his revenge. His expression of barely-contained fire becomes that much more unhinged, as Avilio vows to join Corteo before long.

Just as Corteo has been marked for death all this time, so too has Avilio. But as he told Corteo, before he got the letter, he was an “empty shell”, merely surviving of picked pockets. The truth is, Angelo died when his family was killed. His body survived, but he’s nothing more than a ghost roaming the earth, seeking release to the hereafter. And that release is coming soon. I wonder, after all this, if he curses his younger self for running.

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Schwarzesmarken – 02

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Shortly after her first training sortie with the Black Marks, which goes quite well, and being introduced to the kindly, beautiful Lt. Pham, Katia quickly meets the darker side of her new country, the Stasi, who arrive in force to take her into custody for questioning.

Bernhard resists the handover of a soldier under her command, even a brand new one, and challenges both Lt. Col. Axmann and her academy rival Major Brehme to produce a reason for the arrest, and is actually backed up by her unit’s political commisar, Gretel Jeckeln.

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The Stasi leave empty-handed without a fight, but they promise they’ll be back when, not if, they get something on Katia. And between her big mouth (talking about things like wishing for both Germanys working together to fight the BETA) and asking Theodor to look through documents on a certain general who is actually her father, they might not have to wait long to have an excuse.

Theodor, who clicks his tongue enough to make a drinking game, certainly doesn’t like being in another situation where the Stasi spotlight is on him and his loyalties are questioned. There are no second chances, so feeling particularly selfish about his well-being, he considers doing…something on the battlefield to solve his “Katia Problem.”

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But he doesn’t. Instead, when she’s about to be pounced on by a BETA, he actually saves her. Perhaps, in the heat of battle, Theodor is compelled to do the right thing, not what’s best for his own skin. Their operation is crippled when the Stasi, who promised to send reinforcements, instead simply sit at HQ sipping tea, leaving the 666th out to dry.

They lose their CO, and both Katia and Pham are somewhat inexplicably called upon personally to help defend Fort Neuenhagen, where their TSFs are damaged and where they wake up, not knowing if they’re prisoners or not at a place whose soldiers call “Hell on Earth.”

“Fine” is the best way to describe this episode. It wasn’t bad, but nothing really stood out. Theodor remains a bland, tongue-clicking boob, Katia strikes me as way too idealistic for her own good, the visuals are nothing special.

As Oigakkosan mentioned last week, the show is also juggling too many premises. It seems far more interested in the shades-of-gray political conflict than the war with the BETA, who are, like the enemy in Kantai Collection, are just pure, bland, malice…but also extraneous. This show is eliciting too much meh in me to continue.

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Schwarzesmarken – 01 (First Impressions)

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A recent deciphering of ancient papyrus fragments indicates the number of the beast is 616 rather than 666, but never mind; 666 is still a pretty apropriate number for the East German “Black Marks” TSF squadron that stars in the new Muv-Luv Alternative spin-off, Schwarzmarken.

They go into the thickest BETA shit and kill everything they see, prioritizing that over answering distress calls. In fact, all of East German society seems to have a fundamental trust deficiency; never a good problem to have in a military unit utilizing cutting-edge mecha and fighting a merciless alien foe.

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In such a tenuous situation, something’s going to give now and again, and it ain’t gonna be the BETA. Rather, the nerve of a PTSD-suffering comrade complicates the operation. Another pilot has to stay behind and calm her, and then ends up getting thrashed.

Her commanding officer, Irisdina Bernhard, has to finish what the BETA started. But she might not have had to if only Theodor Eberbach had done something other than suck his teeth and complain about having to deal with an “insane” pilot.

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In an op in which only Theodor and Irisdina sortie, they recover an injured but alive pilot who bears an uncanny resemblance to Theodor’s little sister Lise, from whom he got separated from during an apparent Stasi purge in which their parents were gunned down as they ran for their lives. As far as Theodor knows, he’s all that’s left of his family, and this kid pilot he’s found is a visceral reminder of how helpless he was.

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Rather than allow that feeling of helplessness consume him, Theodor clearly built a wall around himself, only looking out for number one from now on, and always feeling put out and annoyed if he has to deal with anyone. Regardless, or even on a lark, Irisdina assigns him to train the recovered West German pilot, Katia Waldheim, after she requests asylum and to join the 666th.

Katia has a big mouth, as befits someone from a freer country than the GDR, which is apparently fully stocked with people who’d stab you in the back as soon as look at you. Theodor almost calls out Irisdina as a Stasi informant, which isn’t to say she isn’t.

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He warns Katia to watch her back, because no one else will, including him…but I wonder about that. If anyone can thaw his frozen-solid heart, it’s the upbeat and optimistic Katia, who again, reminds him so much of the sister he couldn’t protect. Or perhaps he’ll have a freezing effect on her heart, to go along with the freezing temperatures. We’ll have to see.

After the credits, we look in on an even more unpleasant Stasi unit led by a somewhat sadistic male-female pair rounding up suspected Western collaborators and shooting them. Among the soldiers standing fast in the shadows is one whose silhouette indicates she’s Theodor’s sister Lise.

This show may look like it was made ten years ago, but its bleak scenario in which the BETA aren’t the only enemy—and may not even be most immediately worst one—is a darkly enticing one. The question is, when will the dreaded hot spring episode rear its head?

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Owarimonogatari – 03

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This week, in service of determining the true origin of Oikura Sodachi’s intense hatred of him, Araragi dutifully tells Ougi the story of summer break five years ago, when he was in the seventh grade and struggling at math. The envelopes in his shoe locker led him to the mansion where a mysterious girl would teach him not just math, but to like and even love math.

The girl eventually came up with three conditions Araragi had to agree with: the lessons would only take place in that specific room (where Araragi and Ougi presently stand); the lessons must be kept a secret between the two of them, and he must make no effort to find out more about her, or discuss anything not about mathmatics, or even ask her her name.

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Following her conditions, Araragi had a great time, and the girl seemed to as well. In fact, as Araragi states, he was “created” that summer; that is, the Araragi his is today is thanks in large part to that girl getting him back on the right track with math, allowing him to continue living the happy, righteous life he now lives rather than having to deal with the repercussions of increasingly dropping grades. In other words, whatever the reason she disappeared, Araragi owes her.

After his story, Ougi figures out quite quickly (she is a great sleuth) two things that never occured to Araragi, and blow this hatred investigation wide open. First: the mysterious “math fairy” that “created” him was most likely Oikura Sodachi, meaning Araragi met her, and she performed a life-changing service for him, years before he thought he first met her.

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The reason she never told Araragi this is Ougi’s second conclusion: Araragi wasn’t a guy she could count on. Young Araragi was so happy to be absorbing all of Sodachi’s mathematical knowledge, he neither thought much of her strange, specific conditions, nor the conditions of the home, which he wrongly remembers being in ruins. In reality, five years ago the mansion was Sodachi’s house, but it was a house falling apart, probably due to domestic abuse.

Sodachi invited Araragi to her house again and again in hopes he’d see the state of affairs there and relay the situation to his parents, police officers/champions of justice both. But he didn’t. And when Summer ended, Sodachi and her family disappeared, all Araragi found was an empty envelope, which he didn’t understand until now, when Ougi is drawing it all out for him: the envelope is him: “empty and disappointing.”

That’s why Sodachi despises Araragi. Becoming aware of the true nature of his past and what he did or rather didn’t do, Araragi also comes to depsise himself a little bit, for which Ougi has an intriguing response: that she’ll love him that exact same “little bit”…perhaps out of a desire to maintain balance?

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Yet despite Sodachi despising him and despising himself a little, he still loves mathematics. Even if he misinterpreted the purpose of his study sessions with Sodachi, they still imbued him with a formidable love of math, almost like a “curse.” And now that he knows what he most likely did to Sodachi, he’s more nervous about confronting her and a simple apology may not be sufficient.

Enter Tsubasa, who throws another wrinkle into Araragi and Ougi’s supposedly solved proof: Araragi kept the occupation of his parents a closely-guarded secret. So how did Sodachi find out? The answer to that question, and how Araragi’s next encounter with Sodachi will go (assuming he has one), comprises ample material for next week’s outing.

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Owarimonogatari – 02

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As Ougi pointedly remarks toward the end of this normal-length episode, This Is Different. Not only the fact that Owarimonogatari shifts the focus from her in the first episode (essentially an hour-long prologue) to Oikura Sodachi, who is suddenly back at school and asking Tsubasa all kinds of questions. Araragi is confident he can clear the air with Sodachi before Tsubasa gets back from the teacher’s lounge, but that doesn’t happen, because Sodachi, like Ougi before her, is different from every other woman he’s dealt with.

Different, because Sodachi hates Araragi. She despises him, and people like him with the heat of a thousand suns, as if he’d killed her parents (assuming she loved them, of course). So the smooth, easy reunion Araragi expected crashes and burns with equal force, as he can feel the hate suffusing every surface of the classroom, pushing all the desks and chairs back. No water under the bridge here. More like Sodachi wants to throw Araragi off a bridge, into that water, then burn his wretched corpse to ashes.

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So why does she despise Araragi so much? We can hazard a guess from last week, but according to her, it’s because he’s ungrateful for the life of smooth sailing he’s enjoyed, because he’s happy without knowing why he’s happy; because he “doesn’t know what he’s made up of” in ranting that evokes chemistry more than mathematics, though the former requires quite a bit of the latter (which is why I got a “D-” in chemistry :P):

“I despise water that thinks it boiled itself on its own.”

Araragi’s usual charms and ability to take control of an encounter are utterly overthrown in Sodachi’s seething atmosphere of hate. When he tries to calm her by putting his hands on her shoulders, she quickly reaches for a mechanical pencil and stabs him in the hand. She won’t be calm. Within her is a storm that has been brewing for years. But how many, exactly—two, five, or more—is one of the mysteries this episode posits.

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Sodachi’s stabbing of Araragi brings a new element to the equation: a highly displeased Senjougahara, comically dragging a diplomatic Tsubasa behind her, who arrives with a line that’s both eloquent, hilarious, and wink-ily meta-referential:

“I’ll kill you. I’m the only one who can stab Araragi with stationery. Even though I’ve gotten rid of that character trait, I can’t stand having it reused.”

Sodachi greets Senjougahara by lamenting “how far she’s fallen” since the time she was a sickly girl she often took care of, since she’s now dating Araragi, a man who will never credit anyone other than himself for his happiness. But both of Sodachi’s barbs imply a desire in Senjougahara for some kind of repayment for her affections or efforts, where no such desire exists.

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Senjougahara concedes that Sodachi may be right about Araragi’s ungratefulness, but she doesn’t care. She likes Araragi and wants to go to college with him. She’s not looking for anything in return, nor is she keeping score; two more traits on which she and Sodachi differ. Sodachi applies math to all, and in the equations that express Araragi’s wonderful life, sees herself and others as crucial variables. For that, she demands recognition and renumeration, yet Araragi, she believes, pretends those variables don’t exist; that only the sum—his happiness—matters.

Sodachi’s comeback to Senjougahara’s admittedly condescending response to her protests is to slap her in the face (doing a scant 15 Damage), which only incurs a brutal counter-punch from Senjougahara (1479 Damage + KO). Proving she is The Best, Senjougahara then passes out herself and tells Araragi to handle the rest. If this cameo is her only appearance in Owari, she sure made the most of it!

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From there, Ougi’s role returns to the foreground, as she accompanies Araragi to his middle school and finds three envelopes marked “A”, “B”, and “C” in his shoe locker (why they end up in that particular place is explained by the Loki-like Ougi using gorgeous Escher-style imagery with SD versions of her and Araragi).

Araragi recognizes these envelopes as a “Monty Hall problem“-type quiz: Three doors, behind one of which is a car; you choose Door 1; you’re shown what’s behind Door 3 (a goat), and you’re asked if you want to switch your choice to Door 2. Switching to Door 2 gives you a 2/3 chance of getting the car, compared to 1/3 sticking with Door 1.

I liken Ougi to Loki because she’s very much a trickster, neither good nor evil, who has revealed next to nothing about herself while having an intense power to draw out quite a bit from Araragi. She’s also a lot like Monty Hall, a game show host (note the flashing checkered lockers), not only nudging Araragi to choose which way to go next, but also hosting a kind of This Is Your Life for him.

(I’ll also note, Ougi takes a good long look at Nadeko’s shoe locker, both a callback to Nadeko’s arc, and another reason why Ougi is so hard to figure out).

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I say Ougi nudges him, but really, she’s pretty actively leading him deeper into his past, opening rusty gates and kicking in doors. That past is somewhere they both agree is the only place they have a chance of learning for sure why exactly Sodachi despises him so deeply. Ougi rules out the class assembly, as the exact timing of Sodachi’s return to school suggests she knew Komichi-sensei was the true culprit, not Araragi.

Ougi surmises it may be more the fact that Araragi has “forgotten his roots”, though she admits a lot of people do that and aren’t automatically despised for it. Her comments about who she was in grade school and middle school being “far beyond the boundaries of oblivion” and the feeling she was “born very recently”, which Araragi likens to the five-minute hypothesis, are both enticing nuggets about her, but don’t come close to painting a full picture.

But it is the further exploration of that cloudy past, when Araragi’s childhood thought process and actions were strange, mysterious, suspicious, and scary all at once, where he and Ougi hope to excavate some answers and avoid future stabbings.

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Owarimonogatari – 01 (First Impressions)

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Owari means “end”, so it looks like this latest story marks the beginning of the end of the Monogatari series, which is celebrated as an epic masterpiece by some (ahem) but derided as a tedious, talky, overwrought glorified harem piece by others (…jerks!), with any number of less extreme opinions in between.

The cold open and tremendous OP indicate the primary subject of this series will be the enigmatic, doll-like, too-long-sleeved niece of Oshino Meme, Oshino Ougi, with a theme of mathematics, or numbers. But in a change from other recent series, Ougi isn’t the one with the problem, i.e. the oddity/apparition.

Rather, the person with the problem is Araragi Koyomi himself. The setting of the episode is deceptively sparse—a locked classroom they can’t exit—but that classroom becomes the perfect stage for a dialogue that expands the setting across space and time, where Ougi establishes from Araragi’s testimony that the classroom itself is an apparition, likely one of Araragi’s own making.

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Combined with a less-rushed (for a weekly show) 48-minute runtime and a couple new takes sparkling visuals This latest narrative twist in the Monogatari formula keeps things fresh and exciting. The series has aired largely out of order, but there’s something both orderly and poetic about saving the end for last, only to go back two years to an experience that changed his outlook on life significantly and causing him to “put a lid on his heart”; at least until he meets Hanekawa Tsubasa.

There’s a new face in this past story, too: the silver-twin-tailed Oikura Sodachi (very appropriately voiced by Kitsu Chiri herself, Inoue Marina). Two years ago, when she and Araragi were first-years, she assembled the class to ascertain the culprit in wrongdoing that led to an unnatural deviation in the math test scores of the class.

Oikura can also be distinguished by her intense dislike, even hatred of Araragi Koyomi, because he always scored higher than her favorite subject, math. To add insult to injury, Araragi didn’t even participate in the suspect study group. But the assembly goes nowhere for two hours, with the students fiercely debating but not coming any closer to discovering the culprit.

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Oikura made Araragi preside over the assembly, but when he loses control, he goes back her her pleading for an end to this unfruitful madness. She relents, calling for a vote…and SHE is the one the class chooses as the culprit. Stunned, and essentially ruined as a student, she never returns to school after the incident, which makes sense as we’ve never seen her before in later series.

Araragi’s regret from the day of that accursed assembly was that he stood by and allowed the majority to make a determination in total absence of empirical evidence. Oikura was only chosen because most of the class chose her. It’s an artificial justice and righteousness that never sat well with justice-obsessed Araragi, who adpoted the motto “If I make friends, my strength as a human decreases,” which he obviously would later drop once started helping out various oddity-afflicted girls.

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Oikura wouldn’t let anyone leave the classroom until the culprit was found, and they “found” her. Likewise, Araragi can’t leave the phantom classroom his regret created until the true culprit is revealed. Ougi wastes no time deciding it was the math teacher, Komichi Tetsujo, who was responsible for the odd test scores, by changing the exam to match the questions the study group used.

In the end, Oikura organized the venue of her own demise, the assembly, as she was sacrificed by a teacher looking to improve her own stature, and the flawed justice of majority rule. And perhaps she miscalculated because she had so much emotional investment in the investigation, due to her resentment of fellow math whiz Araragi.

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Now that Araragi knows the culprit for sure, the classroom returns to normal coloring, and Ougi opens the door and lets him out. The next day, when he checks the part of the school where the classroom was, there was nothing there; the apparition dissipated. Then he stops by his current homeroom, but in a clever inversion of the episode thus far, rather than being unable to exit, he can’t enter.

That’s because Tsubasa is blocking the door, with news that someone has returned to school after two years: Oukura Sodachi, who arrives just as the teacher who destroyed her departs for maternity leave, as if the two were switching places. This should be interesting.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 12 (Fin)

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For me, Rokka no Yuusha’s ending was never going to be satisfying. Even if the identity of the seventh is revealed—and it is; it’s Nashetania, whom we’d suspected the most all along—one episode isn’t enough to get to the Demon God, let alone defeat him. It just wasn’t going to happen. With that in mind, I managed my expectations accordingly.

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While it made logical sense based on a lot of her actions throughout the show that Tania was the seventh, it still left me a bit cold. A lot of why I enjoyed the show was the fact that most of the time, especially before that barrier went up, there was no reason to believe Tania was a villain. From the night she visited Adlet in his cell, she seemed like, well, a nice person. The story may have always intended for her to be the villain, but I’m not sure what to do with that.

I’m mostly just disappointed she turned into a sneering baddie who thinks 500,000 human casualties is a small price to pay for peace with the fiends. Despite the evidence against her, it still felt out of left field, and the big revelation didn’t have an impact that justified throwing her character into the dumpster. It doesn’t help that she turns into muddy goo and vanishes into the wind, meaning she’s still very much a threat to the other braves.

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But hey, at least Maura is apologetic and ready to work with Adlet, right? And Fremy isn’t going to go off on her own, and after she has some time to think, may eventually figure out how to interact with Adlet, whom she has feelings for? And we’re down to the correct number of six braves, right? Well, on that last point, wrong. 

Once the barrier falls, another seventh brave shows up. This brave, Rolonia seems specifically meant to vaguely resemble a cheap Nashetania knock-off, albeit with cow-themed rather than rabbit-themed armor. Worse, her sudden appearance, as well as the newly reignited suspicion and discord amongst the other braves…is played for comedy.

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Sorry, but this development is unforgivable. We were DONE with the seventh brave mystery. It took up the whole damn show, and if we’re being honest, wasn’t enough on its own to sustain most of the show. Combined with Nashetania being wasted, and not dying, ending up as a fresh threat, as well as the sudden arrival of a king who says 2,000 fiends are descending on their position…it’s all too much for a show that gives no indication of if and when it will return.

Part of it is me; I came in expecting the world-saving story to progress a lot further, rather than the show to get bogged down in a mystery. But for the show to solve that mystery, only to immediately start a new one in the last episode, was frankly the last straw for me. I’ve run out of goodwill and patience for this show. I wish I’d run out much earlier, so I wouldn’t have had to watch this botched finale. But I can tell you one thing: if there is a second season, I’ll be passing on it.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 11

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To be honest, while RnY got off to a stirring start, it’s been a bit of a disappointment, failing to score a 9 all Summer. It’s gotten to the point that if I could go back to week one, I’d probably choose to skip it. But since watching week one, and then week two, and beyond, I’ve been unable to turn away, because of the weekly reminder that the next revelation or new truth or uncovered mystery is always around the corner. And the central mystery—Who is the Seventh—will keep me around until the end.

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Much of this week’s first half is devoted to Nashetania’s attempts to kill Adlet, flanked by Maura and Goldov. Fremy, now firmly on Adlet’s side, backs him up; he saves her from Tania’s blades, then she comes right back and saves him from Tania’s blades. And while Tania seems to play up the insanity a bit too much, the show at least attempts to explain her behavior as that of an inexperienced princess out in the world for the first time, who believes she’s had the wool pulled from her eyes. After all, why would Maura be lying to her about Adlet injuring Hans?

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In the process we see exactly how tough and relentless the Blade Saint can be when she’s trying to make up for her ignorance and naivete, even though its those very qualities she’s succombing to by blindly belieiving Maura. But neither she nor Maura nor Goldov are able to kill Adlet before he’s able to get to the very spot where he can clear everything up and prove once and for all he’s not the seventh by exposing their plan.

In other words, part of being the World’s Strongest Man means having an extraordinary amount of luck, and being able to rely on luck and only luck when backed into a corner. Because he’s so lucky, not only do the six other braves converge at right place, but the injuries he suffered made him lose enough blood that he finally realized why it’s been so cold.

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His explanations, while long-winded and somewhat momentum-killing, are still welcome, because they make so many references to past events in the show, tying previously mundane details together to built his argument. The seventh and their allies kidnapped the Sun Saint Riuna to heat up the area around the temple, then killed her so the temperature would drop, causing the fog the braves thought was a result of the barrier. Then when no one was noticing, the real barrier was activated.

Hans finds the body of Riuna in a nearby dead fiend, proving Adlet right, and after Tania and Goldov stayed their hands, even Maura must concede she was mistaken about Adlet being the seventh. Which begs the question: than who is? Everyone has acted in some way that seemed suspicious, only to turn out not to be the seventh, so it truly could be anyone.

Unfortunately, the episode couldn’t resist cutting to the credits before Adlet can spit it out, but you can be certain I’ll be back next week, eagerly awaiting that name.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 10

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What’s this? Why, it’s a frantic Adlet pleading his case to a skeptical Fremy as she points her gun at him and barks in absolutes! What is this, the eighth time we’ve seen this scenario? Still, the words exchanged between these two is the overture for an episode in which almost every character takes a slight to major detour from their established character paths. In Adlet’s case, when warned he’ll be shot if he lies, he decides to confess his love to an utterly bemused Fremy. You can’t say the lad lacks guts!

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Then it’s Mora’s character’s turn to take a kooky turn, when she uses her mountain echo ability to spread a blatant, vicious lie to Tania, Goldof, and Fremy: that Hans is in critical condition after being attacked by the Seventh. I’m not sure what to think about her decision to condemn Adlet, because after ten episodes we still don’t really know who Mora is or what she believes in. Her character is much like the barrier: an amorphous cloud of fog that does whatever the plot needs it to do to up the drama. She lies to make things harder on Adlet, but why is she so convinced he’s the seventh?

Beyond Adlet, Hans is the only voice of reason—a welcome departure from his own blind suspicion earlier in the show, resolved because he knows Adlet is innocent. Mora orders Chamo to guard him, and when Chamo tries to kill him, Mora stays her hand with mere words and the threat of more than a spanking. As I thought, the only person Chamo fears is Mora, even though she’s technically weaker.

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That’s not even as ridiculous as the change that occurs in Nashetania once she hears Mora’s broadcast. She starts to laugh and smirk like a common villain—teasing the possibility she’s the seventh after all—before telling Goldof she’s looking forward to her latest new experience: killing the man who betrayed her: Adlet. After all the accusations thrown Adlet’s way, she chooses now to react so dramatically? Sorry, it doesn’t add up.

Negotiations once again go south and Adlet must flee a pursuing Fremy, but when Mora joins in and tries to kill an surrendering Adlet, Fremy fires a shot between the two, defending Adlet and pissing off the increasingly violent, unreasonable Mora.

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While Chamo, Mora, and apparently Tania and Goldof can’t listen to is reason, but not Fremy. And in the face of all the reason Adlet is throwing at her—even proving her innocence with his master’s fiend-detecting spray, like he promised—she’s not fighting reason like the other so much as fighting back her own heart. After her mother betrayed her, she vowed never to believe, and therefore love, anyone ever again. Adlet has all but forced her to change that policy, as she becomes the second person after Hans to essentially side with him against hotter heads.

As for Nashetania, who closes out the episode with a demonic stare and cloud of blades, she seems more brainwashed by Mora’s lies than particularly hot-headed. But her rapid change in personality also happens to reduce my suspicion in her being the seventh. If anything, Mora is looking more and more like the enemy of the six, what with her reckless manipulation of the others.

And now, as things currently stand, Adlet, Hans, and Fremy—the three scrappers of the group—are now in a loose alliance. I won’t count him or them out, even if I doubt he and Fremy will get the storybook ending.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 09

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Adlet and Hans end up defeating Chamot, though not killing her (it looks like Hans simply hits her with his blades in a way that knocks her out). But getting to her person was something Hans would never be able to pull off on his own; he relies on Adlet to throw enough distractions and misdirections as Chamot’s fiend shield to give Hans an opening, while Adlet needed Hans to buy time so he could think of the best tactics.

Chamot laughed off the possibility of people working together to beat her, but Adlet’s resourcefulness (and bag of tricks) prove to be the deciding factor.

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While I like how Chamot was ultimately brought down, I don’t like how it doesn’t really change anything. Chamot has already made clear she doesn’t really care who is or isn’t the seventh, so she’s a liability to the Braves no matter what, having vowed to kill everyone but Maura. If Maura is the seventh, that plays right into her hands.

But for all of the smarts Adlet needed to summon to beat Chamot with Hans, he took two steps back after taking one step forward, by splitting off from Hans and Chamot. At least when those three were together he posed a less tempting target and more convincing innocent party to Maura and Fremy. Going out alone when those two still think he’s the enemy is, frankly, idiotic.

And I say that even though Adlet is convinced he’s figured out the Seventh’s plan and convince Fremy to side with him. Fremy has tried to make it clear she trusts and believes in nothing and nobody, but even after she decisively debunks Adlet’s elaborate theory, the fact he’s still smiling and laughing and not giving up intrigues her too much to simply kill him. In effect, she’s starting to believe in something: him.

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Meanwhile, Maura, who split from Fremy (also probably not the best idea) ends up in the temple. She frees Chamot, and refuses to believe Hans when he says Adlet isn’t the enemy. In fact, Maura seems to change Hans’ mind back to suspecting Adlet by saying Adlet is “attacking their hearts”, which is frankly pretty vague accusation, just as Maura is a vague character.

I’d suspect Maura most at this point if it weren’t for the couple of odd and, on the surface, innocuous cuts to Tania and Goldof, the only two braves who didn’t encounter anyone else this week. First, Tania remarks how Hans seemed to know she was a princess when they first met, but then pretended to forget, calling her “bunny girl” instead, angering Goldof.

Then, after musing about how there’s “something different” about Adlet, she asks Goldof to look at her crest, confirming all six braves are still alive. If we’re splitting hairs, there aren’t seven petals on the crest, so if the seventh dies, the crest won’t change. But Tania takes it to mean Adlet and the others are still alive, that Adlet is working hard, and that she must work hard too.

The way she says all this, it’s unclear whether she’s looking ad Adlet as a comrade…or a worthy adversary. If Tania is indeed the seventh, she seems to be enjoying herself.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 08

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Fight! Fight! Fight! Fight! Hans is done talking with Adlet, who manages to escape using a smoke bomb, but Hans doesn’t let up in his pursuit, and they end up crossing swords once more. This means Adlet, who only proves Hans right if he kills a fellow brave, cannot achieve victory by defeating him or outsmarting him.

No, he has to convince Hans without a shadow of a doubt that he’s not the seventh brave. He does so by launching his sword blade at him, a move Hans did not predict, but Adlet intentionally misses, something the seventh would not have cause to do.

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Hans seems to accept that Adlet isn’t a fake, while Adlet bets that Hans isn’t the seventh, or he’s set himself up for slaughter. Indeed, Hans tells him he’s the real seventh, and slits his throat—but it’s only a hallucination induced by the poison on the blade he cut Adlet with.

In that state, Adlet is incapable of lying, and looks like his time is up, convincing Hans once and for all that Adlet is a comrade, not an enemy. WHEW! And what do you know, now that Hans has proven he’s reasonable (and not the seventh), I instantly like the guy a lot more.

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If only the others were around to witness their exchange. Instead, Mora and Fremy are off on their own, still convinced Adlet is the seventh and ready to kill him on sight, heightening the tension of the situation. Though at least Nashetania manages to convince Goldof that his prejudiced view of Adlet is a result of jealousy, since he believes Tania is driven by feelings for him.

Finally, after Adlet and Hans inspect the temple further, Adlet decides he needs to ask Chamot, who along with Hans are the only two people who weren’t briefed on how the barrier is activated.

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Adlet doesn’t suspect Chamot, mind you, but Chamot is simply bored and does not care who is a real brave and who is fake. Just as the 16-year-old Goldof’s judgment was susceptible to his hormones, the even younger Chamot is driven by a desire to wrap things up quickly and neatly. If the seventh isn’t Adlet, it’s Fremy, or Kitty-san, or the Princess and her aide. Chamot is confident she can destroy the Demon God on her own, so she’ll kill everyone else to ensure they won’t get in her way (everyone but Mora, that is).

And I have to hand it to her, she makes a good case for why she’s good enough to take on the Demon God alone, as well as why Fremy ran the hell away from her rather than fight. Chamot eats her cattail and rather disturbingly vomits out a swamp, from which numerous squishy fiends emerge and attack Adlet and Hans. When they try to cut them down, they instantly regenerate and keep coming.

It’s a frightening, relentless attack, but Chamot’s comment about not killing Mora leaves open the possibility Mora could put a stop to her foolishness. She and Fremy just have to get there before Adlet and Hans buy it!

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