RokuAka – 08

When the students finally get to the White Alchemy Research Lab, the resulting tour is somewhat interminable and clunky, full of characters explaining things (or interrupting others to explain things), then discuss how dangerous it is to resurrect the dead before saying such practices would never be carried out nowadays.

It all feels like foreshadowing for what Eleanor and the RDW have up their sleeves for their next attempt to nab Rumia. And with her supposed bodyguard Re=L in an extended snit borne from her jealousy over her and Sistine’s closeness to Glenn, Rumia is particularly vulnerable, especially when Glenn goes off to find Re=L, who stormed off in a huff.

The boring lab tour nonetheless succeeded in placing me in a false sense of security, just as RokuAka’s first episode so ably did, sacrificing a consistently dark tone, but resulting in a satisfying emotional roller-coaster as shit hits the fan.

Just as Re=L is approached on the beach by her apparent brother (who I immediately assumed was RDW), Eleanor faces off with Albert, Rumia’s actual bodyguard, albeit a long-distance one. It’s time and distance that screw him over, as the increasingly unhinged Eleanor is merely creating a diversion; keeping Al away from where he should be.

Glenn leaves Sistine and Rumia alone to go look for Re=L, obviously lulled into a false sense of security. He clearly isn’t aware of how easily Re=L can be turned to the dark side by her “brother”, who uses some kind of eye-contact hypnosis/brainwashing to turn her against Glenn, running him through with her massive sword.

Another who is caught completely off guard by what the RDW has in store for them is Sistine, who cheerfully gathers food for Glenn and Re=L’s return, certain Sensei will come back and everything will be fine…until she hears glass breaking, enters the room, and finds Re=L standing over a severely wounded Rumia with blood everywhere.

As we know, Sistine is not a professional soldier or warrior. She can be a badass, as we saw at the competition, but she’s still a kid, and this week we get another realistic reaction to the horrible fucked-up shit she has to deal with: When Re=L (who is a pro) basically dares her to use offensive magic, poor Sisti, scared shitless and worried about hitting Rumia, freezes, and Re=L escapes with her captive.

When Albert comes in with the half-dead Glenn, and Sisti sees how bad his wound is, she goes into a fit of despair…also quite appropriate for an ordinary, well-adjusted young civilian. Fujita Akane has done great work with the voice of Sistine all Spring. Of course, Sisti isn’t a complete wuss either, nor is she immune to the proverbial glass of cold water, which Albert provides by starting to leave if she doesn’t buck up and help him save Glenn. While he prepares the reviving magic, Sisti must administer CPR.

It’s the old ABC method (rather than the present, AHA-prescribed CAB method), which means locking lips with Glenn. But the show doesn’t treat it as a romantic moment or a joke, but as a life-and-death necessity, which I appreciated. Where RokuAka does joke around is after the credits roll, with another pleasant palate-cleansing preview, which is the proper time to do so.

RokuAka – 07

Remaining true to its pattern halfway in, RokuAka takes a step back from last week’s plot-and-action-packed drama and keeps things nice and breezy, starting with some tight shots and dialogue between Sisti and Glenn that’s open-to-lewd-interpretation, until it’s revealed they’re merely doing hand-to-hand combat training.

Sisti is a little impatient about it, but when Glenn tells her if she wants to truly protect her sister with magic, she’ll need to master some non-magical fundamentals, she’s on board. It’s good to still see the friendship of these two continuing to grow.

What would have been a return to routine at the academy is suddenly broken by the arrival of a “transfer student”, Re=L, whose transfer had been thoroughly telegraphed by the OP and ED. As befits her tendency to rush at everything head-on, even a greeting, Re=L comes at Glenn with her giant sword, confident he’ll block it.

She’s ostensibly here to protect Rumia, but she claims she’d rather protect Glenn, which I actually prefer to her being an early-Rumia-rehash, i.e. having a low opinion of him to start. These two go way back, after all.

Re=L comes on a bit strong with her eccentricities and lack of social skills. The class and Sisti in particular are a bit dubious of whether this is all okay. Re=L eventually settles in nicely, thanks in large part to the always kind and friendly Rumia, who it should be noted is always ready to die, hence her fearlessness in being in such close proximity to the blue-haired newbie!

Glenn, relieved Re=L is starting to fit in, hopes she’ll make more progress on a class field trip to a tropical island, where he eggs on the guys in the class to take stock of their uniquely fortunate situation, seeing as how tropical island = beach = girls in swimsuits. Meanwhile the girls on more than one occasion marvel at the idiocy of the boys.

After some beach leisure and sports, the next stage involves the lads devising a very nerdy plan to infiltrate the girls’ rooms (in order to make “lasting memories”), a plan stymied by Glenn. I was worried for a second he would join them, which would have definitely added more than a few Bastard Points to his record.

He learns from Albert-in-disguise that she’s just a decoy, and Albert’s warning about her being “dangerous” weighing on his mind. But while resting alone on the beach under a gorgeous starry sky, Glenn spots Sisti, Rumia and Re=L running into the ocean to affirm their friendship and splash around. Also surprisingly, Glenn’s not a lewd bastard about this either, but is simply glad Re=L continues to seem okay…

…Only Re=L is not okay. She puts on a good show, but something’s been weighing on her all the time since she transferred: Why Glenn left the Imperial Court Mages; why she left her. When she says Glenn is “her everything” and lives “only for Glenn”, Glenn may think she’s just messing around, but her confrontation with him later in the night makes it clear she’s not.

Re=L thinks she’s gotten a raw deal here, in losing Glenn and then having Sisti and Rumia swoop in and steal him from her. This may not be 100% fair to Glenn, who has in a way “given himself” to all of his students, not just Sisti and Rumia. But I also feel he owes Re=L an explanation for suddenly abandoning her, even though he probably didn’t think it meant as much to her as it clearly did.

With Eleanor Chalet planning something devious, this is not the time for anyone on Glenn’s side to be in emotional turmoil; especially with his talk about the “dark side” of military magic one can be swayed by if not used correctly or in the right state of mind.

Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid – 01 (First and Only Glance)

mermaid3

Valkyrie Drive: Mermaid is a story about a little girl whose name is often miss-read as Virgin and her exile to an island populated by yuri couples who must arouse each other to turn into weapons and fight for some reason.

It has striking similarities to Cross Ange: the abnormalities, the gross self-degeneration of the women, and the erotic exploitation. Virgin’s fighter—the woman who arrives on the island at the same time and erotically turns Virgin into a sword—even looks like Ange.

mermaid1

Unfortunately, VD:M doesn’t live up to Ange’s somewhat uneven standards. The first episode introduces so many characters, and focuses on the erotics and fighting, that very little story is told. There’s no sense of world here. Not beyond ‘there will be fighting and girl- on-girl action’ regularly in each episode.

In brief, if I’d known how close this was to straight hentai, I probably would not have watched it.

mermaid2

You may like it: if you enjoy full-spectrum yuri, sleazy and unashamed exploitation, and ‘shy girls first time’ turning them into swords. I watched the uncensored broadcast and… yep. Lots of boobs, jiggle, fondling, and blushing before each battle.

You can skip it: under pretty much any circumstance. Sure, it’s got some aggressive fondling but nothing else. The action is budget to boot.

5_ogk

Zetsuen no Tempest – 24 (Fin)

zet24

Yoshino is shot in the arm, but not seriously hurt. Hanemura attacks the Genesis pillar, but his blows aren’t strong enough, and the tree viciously retaliates. Samon, Natsumuura and Tetsuma use magic to protect the nearby ships to minimize casualties. Hanemura sinks into the water, but the Sword of Exodus teleports to his location, and he uses it to destroy Genesis once and for all. All the magic in the world goes with it, leaving the Kusaribe clan powerless. Crime, war, and strife returns to the world, but it was not reset. Yoshino and Mahiro watch the goodbye video Aika recorded for them. Mahiro vows to keep working to one day save the world. Hakaze leaves her village and travels to Yoshino.

Everything came together very nicely in the finale to what turned out to be one of the highest-rated we’ve ever watched. That means most of it was gripping, powerful drama tinged with a surprising amount of comedy; a story about grant plans for the world and rival gods that did not forget about little moments between two people, however oddly-matched. Enemies became friends and then family. The hero who saves the world this time (Hanemura) is merely creating the opportunity for it to be saved again (Mahiro). The grief of a lost love is mitigated by all the good that loss did, and by a new potential love.

The final battle with the pillar, Eva-inspired super-weapons and all, was great fun, but the emotional heart of this episode is in the aftermath, in a world with no more magic. It’s striking how cheerful Samon and his men are, for one, but then why wouldn’t they be, the world’s been saved! People get on with their lives, and Aika gives her brother and boyfriend a properly Aika goodbye, complete with one last tease. But Mahiro gets all philosophical, pointing out that while everything came to a very good end doesn’t mean he has to like her means. She lived her life by a script not of her own making (that he knew of) and played her destined role, but he’s going to write his own script and shape his own destiny.

We’ll close with a quote by the initially reluctant but ultimately successful hero:

[This is] a story about those who seemed to have lost something, but were able to gain something by coming together.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • The old crones strike again, laying down a stunning salvo of harsh burns upon the young Hakaze, no longer a mage, but still not an ordinary girl (since she can’t cook, for one!) We’d still marry her. Yoshino better.
  • Hanemura’s ex agreed to meet with him, but we like how his scene ends with her simply showing up (we don’t even see her face). It’s a scene that doesn’t give us any answers, but is replete of possibilities. 
  • Even Mahiro may have found love, in the form of a pen pal he made of a girl whose life he helped save. Good for him! Aika’s methods may have been too rigid, but she was right about one thing: the best way to remember her is to live full, happy lives.
  • We like the idea of the world with magic being akin to a dream world; and now that the trees and magic are gone, civilization has woken up. It’s not a perfect world, but it never is.

Sket Dance 24

In the first half, the Sket-dan get involved in a dispute between Shinzou and his delinquent little brother, Shinpei. They help Shinpei fight off thugs who stole his brother’s sword, then meet the conditions for him to make up with Shinzou. The second half is a flashback from when Switch was still an eighth-grader. The segment is narrated by his year-older brother Masofumi, who taught him how to program computers. Switch has surpassed him in everything, including that, but he’s proud of him. His friend and neighbor Sawa is being pursued by a stalker, who goes so far as to leave a death threat in her mail slot.

These two halves were both about brothers, but that’s where the similarities end. While I’m always up for a Shinzou episode just to hear his archaic way of speaking, if I had to choose a half, I’d pick the latter. Bossun and Himeko have both been shrunken down into kids, but Switch is the guy we know next to nothing about. And he finally talks here! Though it’s when he’s 14. At this point he hasn’t met Bossun or Himeko, but he knows of the latter.

I also like it when normally silly shows like Sket Dance get serious from time to time, and that certainly happens here, albeit with a fairly cliche’d stalker premise. This looks to be a parody, but rather than use slapstick, it’s played pretty straight. Most interesting is that Masofumi’s is the voice Switch uses when he types-to-speech in the present. I’m not sure this story will get that dark, but it’s possible Switch speaks with his brother’s voice is that perhaps it’s in honor of his memory. Interestingly, this half-segment won’t be resoleved until next week.


Rating: 3.5

Blood-C 6

Saya is good at killing elder bairns, and by extension protecting her friends and her town...from a distance. But as it’s been demonstrated, once an elder bairn has a victim in sight, Saya can’t do much to save them. She can’t fight and protect Nene at the same time. And so Nene becomes the first of Saya’s classmates to die. The scene is portrayed with all the necessary horror. We knew it was pretty much inevitable, but it still hurts to watch (though less bloody thanks to network censors).

Just when you thought, well, she has an identical twin, they wouldn’t kill off both in the same episode…well, they do. Nono doesn’t just die, she’s possessed by her own shadow while pleading for Saya to tell her where her sister is. The shadow consumes her and Saya, and when Saya defeats it, Nono is torn to pieces in a rain of blood. I cannot overstate the gruesomeness – especially when neither Nene nor Nono had anything to do with this elder bairn business until that cliffhanger. The contrast from the lighter moments of the series couldn’t be more stark. Hell, they couldn’t be more lannister.

Fumito is as creepily supportive as ever, Tokizane wants Saya to spill the beans about what’s troubling her, and that little doglike animal that’s been showing up so often finally talks to her, telling her to “wake up”. Saya is coming to grips with the fact she’s little more than a deadly weapon with no free will of her own, not a shield that can protect her friends. And I don’t think it’s helping her sanity. One thing’s certain: the lighthearted school moments are over with.


Rating: 4

Ao no Exorcist 16

The last fifteen weeks have basically been building up to this: Rin’s friends now know the truth: Rin is the son of satan. I honestly didn’t know how all the various characters would react to this news, but fortunately for him, most of them sided with Yukio and Shiemi, who want to save him. The new Paladin, Arthur August Angel, shows up to take Rin into custody and put Pheles on trial with the Grigori court for treason.

This episode keeps two distinct story points – Rin’s trial and his friends’ efforts to repair the sword that seals his blue flames – and it keeps them both interesting. During the trial, Mephisto Pheles goes to bat in Rin’s defense, and though we still aren’t sure we can trust him, it’s clear he’s the only one who can save Rin. He and his angry brother Amaimon, who shows up just in time for Pheles to suggest they sic Rin on him to prove he will be useful fighting against Satan & Co.

Yukio also does Rin a solid by telling everyone the whole story, and how Rin himself has only known about his lineage for a few months. Shiemi in particular is, predictably all for saving him no matter who is dad is, but it was good to see at least one dissenting voice…but to my surprise it was neither Izumo or Bon! In fact, Bon recognizes the sword as once belonging to his temple, and suggests a trip to Kyoto to get it fixed by the 11th Yoshikuni, a girl with purple hair and a really weird accent.

The mission to retrieve jewel steel for the repairs is interrupted by a battle with Mara demons who try to lead Yukio and Bon astray, but Renzo and Izumo are right there to snap them out of it. In all, this was one of the best Ao no Exorcists to date. It was action-packed, well-paced, never boring, and was a very good payoff to all the building up to date. But it isn’t over: Rin still has to wake up and defeat Amaimon, and his sword still needs to be fixed. But so far so good.


Rating: 4

Ao no Exorcist 15

Rin is released from the grip of the giant moth demon that grabbed him last week, thanks to some quick thinking from Bon. Bon is getting increasingly frustrated with Rin’s puzzling behavior: how can such a loser keep saving the day?

As we know, he misunderstands Rin’s desire to fight alone. Rin doesn’t want him to see what he is: a son of satan. But this week, it becomes impossible for Rin to keep it secret. Amaimon crashes their training party, sticks a bug in Shiemi that puts her in a docile trance, and threatens to have his way with her. Rin ain’t gon’ stand for that.

So Mephisto Pheles finally gets what it seems he wanted: Rin draws his sword and goes all out against Amaimon, proving to be more than a match for him. He also does this in full view of his friends (though some are conveniently un- or semi-conscious). Still, it looks like the cat sith is out of the bag…and even worse, Rin seems to have lost all control.


Rating: 3.5