Komi Can’t Communicate – 01 (First Impressions) – [……hic……]

Komi Can’t Communicate is a dazzlingly fresh and new high school comedy in the best tradition Kaguya-sama: Love is War. Instead of two hyperachievers, we have the Most Ordinary Kid Ever in Tadano Hitohito and the Class Princess Komi Shouko, who is so popular in her class that nobody realizes she never talks.

Nobody, that is, except for Tadano, who ends up sitting next to Komi in class, and is knocked out during what must be ordinary break time class horseplay. Komi ditches gym in order to stay beside him until he comes to, which occurs just as she meows to her black cat doll. In what is a pretty fun habit, Komi ends up dashing away at top speed.

But Tadano alone, ordinary kid that he is, comes out and asks Komi if she has trouble communicating. Komi, amazed with his insight despite how blatantly obvious it is, wants to respond verbally, but gets simply too nervous and self-conscious.

But give her some chalk, and she’ll fill a chalkboard with her thoughts. Tanado joins in, and a silent conversation ensues that’s thrilling in its presentation (and ASMR cred!) and ends with Tadano saying he’ll be her first friend and help her get 99 more.

I freakin’ loved this show, and if you have Netflix, you should check it out. It’s a thing of astonishing beauty and quirkiness. The episode drops a bombshell by indicating that making 99 friends is not going to be easy in a school that’s apparently full of unique weirdos, which I guess actually makes Tadano special, since he’s the only “normal” one.

But that’s the fallacy of his assumption of ordinariness: if it were so ordinary to empathize with and reach out to someone struggling to communicate, maybe she wouldn’t have this problem. But in a school of kids either gawking or being gawked at, Tadano actually observed his desk neighbor’s issue and offered to help. This looks to be something special.

TenSura – 42 – The Gods Stir

Rimuru starts to head to Walpurgis (though with his teleportation magic one would think there’d be no further need to “head out” anywhere; he can go wherever he wants instantly and can take whoever he wants with him. But this episode isn’t about Rimuru; it’s about Clayman, his plans, and the elite Demon Lords know and think about all these goings-on leading to the Walpurgis.

Clayman is being set up for an epic downfall. For one thing, he wrongly assumes it was Veldora and not Rimuru who destroyed Falmuth’s army. Second, he still believes his former tool Mjurran to be dead. Thirdly, he took the frankly suicidal step of turning Milim into his doll and puppet by having Sky Queen Frey place an enchanting pendant around her neck. Just to up his evil cred, he beats the everloving shit out of the defenseless Milim. There’s no way he doesn’t pay for all of this somewhere down the line!

Meanwhile, Demon Lords who consider the likes of Clayman naught but a whelp confer before the Walpurgis. Demon Lord Guy Crimson, one of the oldest and strongest lords along with Milim, summons the less powerful but still really really powerful Demon Lord Leon Cromwell to his ice palace to discuss things. While Guy seems content to lounge around his ice palace, a merchant spy (I think we all know who) has been steadily feeding Leon intelligence about Clayman, Rimuru, and Velora.

It isn’t long before Guy’s paramour, White Ice Dragon Velzard, who just happens to be Veldora’s big sister, joins the discussion. These three just emanate power, dignity, and above all shrewdness. They don’t come off as villains, either, but well-rounded people, albeit people who can rend the earth asunder with a snap. By comparison, Clayman and his pack of clowns seem like…well, a bunch of pathetic clowns.

While he could probably only defeat Guy one out of a million or so times, Leon may be the smartest demon lord of them all (most certainly brighter than our dumb blue protagonist), able to see through both Clayman’s lies and the cover story Rimuru put out there. He suspects that rather than being the recipient of tremendous luck, Rimuru could’ve been the one who broke Veldora’s seal, which would put him on their level.

Leon’s even learned that it was Rimuru who cured the summoned children before he could take them in. This makes Leon very excited for the upcoming Walpurgis, though Velzard pointedly declines to accompany him there. No doubt she’s going to go look up her brother in Tempest.

All this lends credence to the fact that Clayman isn’t really someone Rimuru needs to worry about. I mean for gosh sakes, Clayman isn’t even a real Demon Lord yet, while Rimuru is! ‘Nuff said! But it’s not, because as long as people like Guy and Leon are around, Rimuru can’t really take it easy. Aw, who am I kidding, he’s going to keep taking it easy!

TenSura – 41 – Walpurgis Bound

If you expected last week to be the fourth and blessedly final episode of mostly standing or sitting around talking…I’ve got bad news. There’s still a lot of that this week as well, especially in the first half.

Last week’s dilemma of how to get an army to Eurazania in time is immediately solved by Raphael: a low-magicule cost mass teleportation spell. Rimuru decides to attend the Walpurgis along with Shion, Ranga, Ramiris, and Treyni. Veldora will remain to protect the city with the option of being summoned by Rimuru in a pinch.

We check in on Milim’s City of the Forgotten Dragon, where two priests are being treated like menial servants by Yamza, Magic Swordsman of Ice…who in addition to being a huge asshole has a terrible title to boot! Father Middray takes his shit, but his young acolyte Hermes voices his outrage that Yamza’s army is eating the city’s food and demanding free labor.

Hermes loses an arm for this outburst, and Middray smashes him against a stone pillar just to keep Yamza from killing him. After Yamza pisses off, Middray easily reattaches Hermes’ arm and urges patience. I hope these two and their peers get to take it to Yamza before this is all done.

Rimuru decides if thanks to his evolution and Raphael’s, he’s able to instantly transport large groups across hundreds of miles, he might as well evacuate Eurazania of all the refugees currently in harm’s way. He spends all night doing this with Phobio

The result of the evacuation is that when Clayman’s armies reach Eurazania, they’ll encounter no innocent people, only Rimuru’s formidable army of over 20,000, including units led by Benimaru, Gobta, Gabiru, Geld, and many others. Rimuru gives them a little motivational speech before activating the Itano- Circus-like mega-spell that zaps them all away at once.

Between Rimuru, Shion and Ranga headed to Walpurgis and almost everyone else about to engage Clayman’s forces in battle, it looks like sticking around these past five weeks is about to start paying off…assuming next week isn’t just Veldora lounging around back in the city!

TenSura – 40 – Here We Don’t Go Again

One third of TenSura’s second season’s second cour has now been one long glorified infodump, featuring nothing but people standing and sitting around discussing things. There’s even a brief recap of last week’s talking, before we go right back into the next stage of talking. Who in their right mind would think this is acceptable method of storytelling?

Ramiris, who showed up and fell asleep last week, finally wakes up and offers some details about the threat to Tempest that probably isn’t any threat at all. Considering what happened the last time an enemy tried a coordinated attack on Tempest, it went…poorly. That, along with this constant parade of drab meetings, saps any potential drama or peril regarding another attack.

If there’s one improvement to this episode over the previous three, it’s that at least Rimuru & Co. go somewhere other than the conference room or gazebo. They hang out in the hot springs, then have a meal in the spa’s dining room. And as annoying and grating as Ramiris is, it is exceedingly cute watching Treyni and her sister pamper her.

With the announcement that Clayman may be launching an attack on Eurazania and not Tempest, and that Rimuru & Co. are too far away to lend any timely aid to the refugees there, there finally seems to be some momentum towards actual things maybe possibly happening next week. But I’ll still expect more meetings and more talking until shown otherwise. I’ve already been fooled for the better part of a month. Enough’s enough!

TenSura – 39 – The Slime’s Gambit

Amen, Gobta. Gobta is me right now, after enduring another interminable episode packed with people standing or sitting around talking about everything they’re going to do instead of actually doing anything. A full quarter of Slime’s second season’s second cour has been nothing but exposition. When I think of how much To Your Eternity gets done every three episodes, it really puts TenSura’s leisurely start into relief.

I like to see Gobta dozing through the endless talking as a sign even the producers know this is a bit much…but that didn’t stop them from making these episodes! When I go through all of the information I received, I can’t help but think it could have been presented a different way. A cutaway or two to illustrate the scenarios brought up, perhaps? This ain’t rocket science, it’s anime production!

The best part of this episode is when it ended. Yes, it was nice to see Ramiris again, but despite the episode being called “Ramiris’s Warning” Rimuru doesn’t take her warning seriously, and she spends the remaining 90% of the episode lying unconscious on Veldora’s leg.

It’s also downright odd to hear Rimuru cheerfully planning on intentionally causing a civil war in Falmuth that will probably claim the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. That’s some villainous shit, discussed with upbeat music in an idyllic English-style garden. But I won’t mind Rimuru committing any number of further atrocities…if he and his pals would just leave that frikkin’ gazebo and do something!

TenSura – 38 – In Conference

Holey moley, I hope you like people sitting around either introducing themselves talking about stuff that’s already happened, or planning what’s going to happen next, you’re gonna love this episode. MAL clearly does! As for me, it left me fairly cold, in contrast to last week’s warmer, more familial atmosphere.

We start with the return of Kagurazaka Yuuki, still flipping through the manga Rimuru made for him, who is hanging with Kagali, formerly the Demon Lord Kazaream now in a new Elven body, and Laplace, member of the most annoying bunch in all TenSura, the Harlequins. I honestly forgot the guy, but he and his friends have plans for “the squishy one”.

Speaking of His Squishiness, Rimuru commences a great meeting under a big gazebo that resembles the meeting where the Fellowship was forged in Rivendell. As if admitting there are just too many damn people at the meeting, both Dwargo and Elalude have a private meeting with Rimuru in his office, after learning Veldora Tempest is now free and has human form.

Rimuru explains everything that happened since he was reincarnated as a slime and met Veldora, and both leader decide they’ll back Rimuru’s play. After all, he’s essentially a Demon Lord and BFF to the Evil Dragon; if it were my kingdom, I’d probably hitch my wagon to Tempest too!

With that settled, the meeting moves back outside, but switching the setting back and forth doesn’t change the fact that this is an interminable episode. There are some interesting notions brought up here and there, but at the end of the day it’s all talk. The only action is recycled from previous episodes, like Rimuru’s battle with Hinata, which only serves to remind us what TenSura is capable of when its not dragging its feet.

This method of slowly, deliberately building up the stakes and having long meetings to discuss What Must Be Done is absolutely nothing new to the series. It’s always a little sluggish out of the gate. I was almost ready for a little nap when Ramiris splatted on the glass gazebo roof, then approaches Rimuru to warn him that his capital is “doomed to fall”.

I’m not under any illusions this will suddenly lead to an action-packed third episode—it will probably start with Ramiris elaborating while everyone stands around and listens—but it is at least something.

Ikebukuro West Gate Park – 02 – New Kids on the ‘Bukuro

It was just the G-Boys in Ikebukuro, until one night at the Global Ring a young lad with fiery red hair and angel wing tattoos captivated a crowd with his flawless, shirtless ballet. That lad is Ozaki Kyouichi, and his upstart Red Angels are positioned to be the most serious rival to the G-Boys yet.

The question isn’t whether the G-Boys’ hegemony will be challenged, but when and how. But like last week’s IWGP, things don’t develop quite as predictably as I initially expected, once again demonstrating a preference for nuance and realism over black-and-white conflict.

But first, it’s lunchtime, and Makoto joins G-Boy King Takashi for a meal at OK Curry, a suddenly popular restaurant in the ‘Buro that also treats its mostly young, impressionable employees like shit. That, combined to the okay-but-not-great grub, suggests a company only concerned with maximizing its profits, not helping their community.

There’s an interesting choice to juxtapose the almost too-enthusiastic smiling employees in the front of the shop with one being mercilessly berated in an alley by OK’s suspiciously burly “management”. Since many of OK’s employees are G-Boys, Takashi suspects this is the Red Angels’ doing, and wants Makoto to investigate.

He starts with G-Boy Masaru, who knows Mitsuki, the blonde kid who was being abused by OK’s suspiciously burly “management”. Masaru doesn’t like how he and others are being treated, but he used to be a useless delinquent and his job at OK Curry put him back on the right track and made his parents happy, so he’s loath to mess that up.

Makoto also tries to meet the Red Angels’ ballet virtuoso leader, Ozaki Kyouichi, but is blocked by a bunch of thugs in red. Fortunately there’s someone among them with a level head—not too dissimilar to Makoto—who politely tells him Kyouichi isn’t currently around. Makoto says he’ll try again later.

That night, Mitsuki climbs to the top of the OK Curry building and prepares to jump to his death, believing he simply isn’t cut out for life. Masaru tries to talk him down with a police megaphone, but Mitsuki doesn’t want to trouble his friend, and jumps. Uh, killing yourself when he tried to stop it will definitely trouble him, my guy!

Fortunately, he only falls a few stories and the fire brigade catches him on a trampoline; his injuries aren’t life-threatening. But the two OK thugs were present for the incident, and before long Makoto gets a call from Takashi: Masaru was jumped, and ends up in the hospital beside his friend.

Makoto and Takashi visit Masaru, and then Kyouichi soon joins them, flanked by two toughs and a bouquet in hand. For a moment it seems like Masaru was attacked just to get Takashi’s attention, but as the two sides draw closer, Makoto wisely talks first, addressing Kyouichi’s friendly lieutenant to de-escalate.

Turns out Mitsuki is a new member of the Red Angels, and Kyouichi was just there to visit a member, just as Takashi came for Masaru. They also learn that OK Holdings are pitting the G-Boys and Angels against each other with rumors that each are moving against the other, thus keeping the two gangs off-balance enough to be ineffective at curtailing OK’s appalling labor practices.

But while there are a lot of ragged toughs on both sides, the two gangs are led by cooler heads; even Kyouichi comes off as far more reasonable and less aggressive than his hair portended. Makoto comes up with a plan whereby he uses his press credentials to enter an OK Holdings shareholder meeting and confronts the president with their former employee Masaru.

Mitsuki’s near-miss convinced Masaru to do everything he can legally to put a stop to OK Holdings’ crap before anyone else gets hurt, and the G-Boys find him a lawyer to give his threat teeth. He’s then immediately surrounded by the black-clad toughs, who are themselves surrounded by an alliance of G-Boys and Red Angels—Masaru was acting as bait to draw out OK-hired mercenary goons, who are too violent and unscrupulous for either gang.

While Takashi and Kyouichi were able to talk things through and discover they had no real beef, talking won’t work against these goons, which means both gangs need to back up their words with action. It’s not a long fight, as the free-agent goons are no match against Takashi’s boxing prowess or Kyouichi’s balletic kicks.

The G-Boy/Red Angel team-up may have been a one-time thing, but as long as both sides put the well-being of Ikebukuro and their respective guys above pointless turf squabbles, coexistence is possible. That’s underscored when Makoto and Tomomi Isogai, the Red Angels’ friendly lieutenant, watch another one of  Kyouichi’s performances together in a mixed crowd of red and blue.

IWGP is as unflashy as Akudama Drive is flashy, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it boring. It’s confidently presenting very down-to-earth scenarios that you’d see in any big city district anywhere, where open dialogue and compromise can and should always come before violence and destruction. Makoto keeping all possible channels of communication open in his town isn’t always thrilling, but it is admirable. So far that’s enough to keep be invested.

BokuBen 2 – 10 – Naming A New Star

Nariyuki wakes to find he and Fumino have the house all to themselves. Fumino is by the sink preparing breakfast like an idyllic wive. It turns out she’s terrible at cooking (and cleaning), but Nariyuki doesn’t care, and neither would I. As with her studies, Fumino is working hard at something she’s not great at, and her energy and enthusiasm are contagious.

But while Nariyuki appreciates Fumino’s heartfelt efforts to be a good guest (and quasi-housewife), he’s still worried about the rift between her and her dad. She’s working so hard to pay back his family’s kindness, she comes into the bathroom to wash Nariyuki’s back—and falls asleep on it! When she wakes up, and won’t go back to sleep, Nariyuki suggests they go on a date.

He takes her to a spot with a great view of the stars, and reminds her how inspired he was when he heard her talk profusely about them when they spent that night in the hotel. She may think all hope of reconciling with her father is lost, but he suggests that if she conveys her passion for the stars to her dad the way she did with him, she might reach him.

He also takes her hand (after she almost slips and falls) and, in a kind of quasi-confession, assures her that he’ll always support her with everything he has. It’s definitely one of the more beautiful and touching moments between these two…I just wished it was more explicitly romantic. I mean it looks and sounds romantic, I just don’t know if Nariyuki’s is thinking that way in the moment—that this is the woman for him. That’s a shame, because she so is.

Fumino confronts her father, who opens their conversation with another harsh barb about her lack of resolve, but Nariyuki’s pledge of support keeps Fumino strong and on point. After telling him why she loves astronomy so much and wants to keep at it, he still won’t budge…so she suggests they ask mom.

She produces the laptop, the password to which turned out to be her father’s name, “Reiji.”  There’s no golden thesis on its hard drive, just a single video file of their wife and mother. On it, she apologizes to Reiji for the lack of a thesis, but as it turns out, she was as bad at math when she was young as Fumino is. Her love for Reiji that helped drive her to work hard enough to succeed.

Furthermore, she makes it clear that she wants Fumino to do what she loves, not what she might be naturally good at. Reiji learns the password is his name because Fumino wanted to discover a new star with her mother and name it after someone they both loved more than anyone else: “Reiji.”

Fumino’s mom’s third apology is to her daughter, since she knows due to her ill health she may one day make her very lonely. But the urges Fumino not to despair, for one day someone wonderful will come around who will support and inspire and drive her to excel at her passions, just like she did with Reiji.

For Fumino, we know that person is Nariyuki…obviously. Sure enough, he’s loitering outside her house, too eager to see how things went to wait for her to return to his place. They sit on a bench together, and she tells him everything that went down, and she simply lets herself have a few moments gently leaning against him. He thinks she’s nodded off again, until she says, perfectly, “I’m awake.”

Reiji ends up attending the parent-teacher conference with Fumino, and agrees to her future plan to become an astronomer. We also learn from Nariyuki that Reiji was in contact with Nariyuki’s mom, both to apologize for letting his family business spill out into her home and to ask earnestly how Fumino is doing. He brings up the one and only time he struck her, and felt ashamed and perplexed ever since.

Nariyuki’s mom, a widow herself, basically gives Reiji advice similar to what her son gave Fumino: confront her, and convey to her the truth: that he’s terribly worried about her, and that his objections come from a place of love. Only by knowing each others intentions and emotions behind their words and actions can the two come to a mutual understanding.

Speaking of which, Nariyuki and Fumino sadly remain in denial about the state of their relationship, at least when Reiji directly confronts Nariyuki about it. It’s still the case that Fumino doesn’t want to rock the boat for Rizu or Urara, but she’s proven she not them, could be the best match for Nariyuki. She’s more than earned a little selfishness.

BokuBen “Best Girl” Power Rankings
As of Episode 10

  1. Fumino
  2. Uruka
  3. Rizu
  4. Kirisu
  5. Asumi
  6. Sawako
  7. Mizuki

To Aru Majutsu no Index III – 03 – Precedence: Show Higher; Tell Lower

I realize Index is shounen, and a lot of chatter and explanation of tactics is par for the course, but by God there seemed to be a lot of it this week! Much is made about Terra of the Left’s “Precedence” ability, but as a member of the Right Hand of God, neither his presence or his abilities evoke terror. One big problem is it just takes so goddamn long for him to spit out the various incantations that give one thing (like flour) precedence over another (stone, metal, flesh, etc.).

Terra’s seiyu is the venerable Ootsuka Houchuu, but saddling the old man with explaining his attacks and making him say “Precedence: X higher, Y lower” every time he attacks just slows the battle way down to the point where when he gives Touma and Itsuwa “ten seconds” to attack or run, I had to laugh out loud; Dude, you’ve given them over half an hour!

Touma and Itsuwa eventually end up with Tsuchimikado, but only for a hot minute, as they split up again so he can face down some of the invading Academy City Powered Suits. Again, much of the battle is spent with him talking, explaining how he’s going to bring the suits down.

Two other weird little details: when Touma calls Misaka to ask if Avignon’s in the news (which it most definitely is), they didn’t bother to add a “phone filter” to Misaka’s voice, making it sound like she’s there in the Papal Palace with him. Not only that, for a kid who can’t always afford food, he’s racking up quite an international call charge leaving his phone on the hook!

If it sounds like I’m nitpicking, well, I am, but only because the show is so consumed with explaining every, attack, effect, and motive, it all kinda ends up muddling together into a gray mass that makes it easy to be distracted to the little things like the sound Misaka’s voice or Touma’s phone bill.

And at the end of the day, Terra and his attack just aren’t that impressive; certainly not as much as Imagine Breaker (even though Touma either forgot its true power or wants confirmation from Terra). Touma punches Terra a couple times, and then destroys the Document of C when he touches it with his right hand.

Back in the Tower of London, Lidvia continues explaining how the Right Hand of God wants to not only gain the power of angels, but gain equivalency with God himself and even surpass him. Such a lofty yet abstract goal is akin to Jafar’s final wish to the Genie in Aladdin: becoming an all-powerful genie. Sure, you can juggle planets in your hands, but to what end? At what point do you have enough power?

I’m not sure, and neither is the show. The Right Hand of God are simply Bad Guys, and Touma, Misaka, Itsuwa, etc. are the Good Guys. Spending the better part of two episodes on Terra feels even more pointless when we learn the RHG isn’t even really a united force; after having a chat with Terra, Acqua rips a column of the vatican off its mounts and crushes him with it.

Besides being a needlessly destructive way to kill someone, it was also a “twist” that had absolutely no effect on me. Acqua is an even more boring dude then Terra, who at least had a certain joie de vivre about him. Meanwhile, the second straight episode ends with Misaka just hanging out in her dorm, doing nothing. Not a rousing start!

Darling in the FranXX – 15 – Two Jian Become One, and a Much Bigger World Reveals Itself

When the Battle of Gran Crevasse begins, Hiro has no pistil, partner, or FranXX…a bird with one wing and one eye, unable to fight without his one and only partner. A Jian.

While his friends head out into by far the biggest and most dangerous battle they’ve ever fought, one that will surely determine the future of mankind—a battle from which they may not return—Hiro is merely a spectator in Plantation 13’s CIC, with Hachi, Nana, and Dr. FranXX.

Thankfully, he won’t remain one.

Oh, look: the Nines swap the “gender roles” in the cockpit. It figures that they do things quite a bit differently. Zero Two is of their ilk, but also pretty much her own animal; when we check in on her she’s already devoured all of her disposable Stamens, and is operating Strelizia alone in Beast Mode.

While she and the Nines aren’t having any trouble destroying scores of Klaxosaurs, their foe’s numbers are being replenished as quickly as they can dispatch them, meaning no progress is being made, even when Squad 13 joins the fray with their own unique brand of combat.

Plantation 26 is obliterated, and when a mountain-sized “Super Lehmann-class” Klaxosaur emerges from beneath the ground, Plantation 13 is also pierced and thousands of smaller Klaxosaurs infiltrate the city within.

Hachi and Nana’s foreboding was more than justified: this episode of DFX raises the scale of the threat and stakes to dizzyingly huge, TTGL-esque levels. In doing so, the show reaches a high watermark; everything has been building up to this, and the execution is equal parts breathless and flawless.

At one point, Hiro has seen enough. He’s tired of standing by, and curses himself for having suddenly stopped asking questions and challenging the limited world he’s been spoon-fed his entire life.

Thanks to Zero Two, he managed to find the memories the adults tried to steal from him, and now that he remembers the inquisitive brat he once was, he intends to get back to discovering the true boundaries of the world with immediate effect.

To that end, he pilots a wimpy training mech into the warzone—and nearly gets himself killed. Ichigo, who has tried at all costs to keep him and Zero Two apart, both for his safety and due to her wanting him to come love him as he loves her…but that’s simply not going to happen.

So Ichigo concedes defeat. Goro gives up his spot so Hiro can pilot Delphinium to Strelizia’s location. You can’t help but feel for Ichigo: she can finally pilot a FranXX with the one she loves, only so he can get to the one he loves. But even Ichigo has to admit they can’t save the day without Strelizia at full chat. For that, it needs two pilots working as one.

Ichigo delivers Hiro to Zero Two, but not before she gives Strelizia a couple of frustration slaps to help dull the sting a small bit. Once inside, Hiro finds Zero Two unresponsive, but grabs hold of her over-sized horns and enters her thoughts.

There, he finds the little red girl and comforts her. There, Hiro learns how long Zero Two fought to keep her memories; how she fought the world without him. We learn she got the term “darling” from him, referring to the picture book she ate in order to never forget.

Her horns shatter, and the human Zero Two returns. She tells Hiro to stay away, but he won’t. She may have called him fodder, and he may have called her a monster, but it doesn’t matter anymore, because there’s a world out there to explore, far beyond what the adults might like or allow…and he’s ready to fight by her side for that world once again.

Hiro kisses Zero Two, Strelizia returns to its humanoid form, only red and souped-up, and the two confess to each other emphatically over open comms for all of Squad 13 to hear. Ichigo is “happy” for them.

Oh, and the New Strelizia borne from their mutual confessed love not only tears through the Super Lehmann, but opens a hole to the blue sky, literally piercing the old boundaries of the world that simply aren’t adequate anymore.

But just when the immediate threat is eliminated, a newer, stranger, and most importantly even bigger threat emerges in the form of a gargantuan Klaxosaur(?) arm and hand that rise up and smashes the majority of Plantation 13 to dust.

The two Jian have finally joined to become one, and their world has never looked bigger…but now the question arises: how much longer do they have to explore it?

P.S. Miku and Zorome discover a Klaxosaur core containing a golden mass with a vaguely human form that might be a pilot, covered in some kind of protective coating. Something to keep an eye on…

Darling in the FranXX – 14 – Ichigo Wins the Latest Round but It’s a Pyrrhic Victory

It seemed like they had all the time in the world to talk in the cockpit after waking up from their mutual, past-recalling, truth-revealing dream. But they don’t, because Hiro passes out from his exertion, and Ichigo storms in and separates the two immediately. After all, she knows nothing of the extent of their past together.

From Ichigo’s perspective, Zero Two is a monster who was willing to either turn Hiro into one or kill him trying and move on to the next stamen. From circumstantial evidence alone, it certainly doesn’t look good for Zero Two. Add in Ichigo’s competition with her for Hiro’s love—on which she clearly hasn’t given up—and it’s a perfect storm of bad luck for the formerly red girl.

We know who Hiro wants to see the moment he comes to, but he doesn’t get to see that person. She’s kept away, while everyone else is there, relieved and supportive of his recovery (the adults paint a bleaker picture of his health, but not near open doors this time).

In the midst of this love triangle drama, I’m glad Hiro still had time to speak with Mitsuru alone, and start to offer apology for breaking his promise before Mitsuru tells him it’s “no big deal” and “in the past”, even if we know full well how much the perceived betrayal affected him.

At the briefing for what will be the largest and more dangerous sortie ever attempted, involving not just Squad 13 and the Nines but a host of other FranXX squads, Ichigo formally requests Zero Two be ejected from the Squad. Nana tells Ichigo Zero Two was scheduled to sortie with the Nines for the mission anyway.

And so it’s all happening how Zero Two feared: no matter how many klaxosaurs she killed, even now, when she knows Hiro was her darling all along, she can’t talk to him or even see him. Everyone is blocking her way, having already formed their conclusions about who and what she is.

It’s patently unfair, in my view, and despite how much I personally like Ichigo as a character, I take no pleasure in watching her and the other squad members work together to block Zero Two and guard Hiro from any contact, because none of them have the whole picture. Heck, Hiro doesn’t even have the whole picture, which is why he wants to talk with Zero Two so badly. He wants to know if she knew he and only he could pilot FranXX with her…perhaps due to the fact he drank some of her blood.

Still, it’s a credit to Hiro’s genuine “goodness” that he doesn’t rage and fume when he’s unable to get his way. And when Ichigo cuts herself with a knife, he’s just as caring and nurturing as he’s always been. But Ichigo’s luck is almost as bad as Zero Two’s, as even her attempt at an apple bunny recalls the image of Zero Two’s red horns for Hiro, and he’s right back to thinking about how much he wants to see her.

Zero Two is done holding back. If the squad won’t let her see her Darling, she’ll use force to see him. At the same time she starts to fight them, Hiro asks Ichigo to leave the knife behind before she leaves, a dead giveaway he intended to use it to “escape” his friends’ supervision by climbing out the hospital window.

The thing is, calmer heads prevail when Goro and Kokoro insist Ichigo stand down lest things get out of control. Goro doesn’t think Zero Two would be so desperate if she didn’t have something very important to discuss with Hiro.

Ichigo isn’t convinced that won’t just be more manipulative lies, but she relents, and the whole squad escorts Zero Two to Hiro’s room…but he’s already gone, discovering how feral Zero Two has become from the state of her dorm room.

Zero Two, already on her last nerve, thinks Ichigo and the squad tricked her, and proceeds to beat them all up. Such is her horrible luck and timing that Hiro walks back in just as she’s choking Ichigo nearly to death with one hand, and Hiro condemns her for being, in that moment, a real monster.

But it goes further than that. Zero Two knows what she did, and knew, one day, she’d be punished for it. By setting Hiro up as her one and only Darling, she put him on the path to becoming a monster like her (Nana and Hachi even discuss his imminent “saurification”).

So she accepts her punishment and is sent away, just as the Beast was separated from her human Prince. Such a simple thing as existing in a room and talking things out was never allowed to happen; other people and her own actions kept conspiring to get in the way.

So Zero Two leaves the Squad 13 dorm without speaking a word, her horns longer than ever, wearing an imperious white coat, and flanked by minders. She meets up with the other Nines, who present her with a procession of disposable stamens ready to give their lives so that she can pilot Strelizia and keep killing klaxosaurs.

Only now her original reason for wanting to fight, along with her sole reason for wanting to be human, are gone. Now, she seems poised to embrace the Beast within, seemingly convinced she was never meant to have a Darling in the first place.

Hiro can’t fight back tears as Zero Two departs, and when he tries to run after her, Ichigo grabs him and won’t let go. She’s decided she’s not going to let Zero Two influence or change him any more than she has. She thinks there’s still time to get back her Hiro. She takes hold of his face, gets on her tiptoes, kisses him, and confesses her love for him.

But once again, bad luck strikes: Zero Two’s transport soars overhead immediately after she says the words, and it looks for all the world like Hiro was a lot more focused on that than her confession.

Ichigo may have Hiro in her arms, and he may have just been told how much she loves and cherishes him, but she won’t escape punishment either: Punishment for the ruthlessness with which she sent her rival away; for refusing to give her a chance; for not allowing two people who loved each other to talk things through.

Fate / Zero – 22

For an episode preceded by such disturbing spectacle as a broken man murdering his best friend and making Rin an orphan, and followed by the casual malice of a born-again nihilist discarding his hostage before setting a foreboding trap, this episode has the most charming, heartwarming opening: an exhausted Waver finally arrives back home just before daybreak.

We know it’s not really his home, and he hypnotized its occupants into thinking he’s their grandson. But when his “grandpa” beckons for him to join him on the roof for a truly spectacular sunrise, something else dawned on me: Waver is Me. He’s the most normal, decent, well-adjusted participant in a war stocked with utter weirdos on all sides.

He seeks only simple glory and acknowledgement; the underdog raised high; his doubters and haters silenced. Sure, hypnotizing the couple was wrong, but how can I judge when even after the hypnosis wears off, the grandpa is not only forgiving, but wants Waver to stay. He’s a better grandson than they ever had.

On to the weirdos. While I more easily related to him early as a young kid having fun before all hell broke loose, and continue to recognize the emotions in his heart, support his goals (as laid out by Iri) and feel for his many losses, I simply haven’t lived a life as intense as Kiritsugu, so while I’m rooting for him, I’m on the outside looking in with Kiritsugu.

And Kiritsugu is alone again. It’s not ideal, but he’s not going to slow down or stop, even though he’s gone forty hours without sleep. He says “alone again” because, like Natalia, Maiya has left him. He doesn’t seem to count Saber as a person he can work with or trust, let alone a person at all; instead, she’s a tool to win the war, and he treats her as coldly as ever as she makes her report.

Kiritsugu probably also feels alone because Iri has been taken by the enemy, and he no doubt fears he won’t see her alive again. But a defiant Iri makes use of her captivity by Kirei to get in a number of barbs that cut the priest to the quick. Notably, that Kiritsugu isn’t an “empty man” like him; he seeks nothing less than the salvation of the world through the elimination of all violence and conflict.

Unsurprisingly, Kirei hears nothing but the naive utterings of a child in these words, but Iri does manage to give him something he didn’t have before he kidnapped her: Kiritsugu’s dream, which he will now proceed to destroy, along with the Holy Grail itself, which he can think of no use for. And since he gets all he needs out of Iri, he snaps her neck, seemingly killing her.

That I’m a bit fuzzy on how this whole Einzbern homonculus system works—and thus unclear whether Iri is dead dead or even ever alive—is irrelevant; it’s still absolutely gutting to see such a gentle, loving person treated with such contempt. Kirei is one hell of a villain, and his frustration and resentment for lacking something fundamental Kiritsugu seems to possess is palpable; he’s an almost pitiable wretch.

After that unpleasantness, what sure feels like the final day of the War transitions into the final night, and Waver awakes to find Rider in no particular hurry. Mage signals in the sky indicate that someone wishes to challenge them—Kirei arrranges for Archer to fight Rider while Berserker will keep Saber company—and Rider summons a horse, the backup to his chariot.

Waver has no intention of going along. As Rider said, only the strong remain, and Waver doesn’t consider himself strong. He’s Just A Guy, after all, the Everyman of Fate/Zero, with no business in the final battles. He even expends all of his Command Seals at once so he can say with certitude he is no longer Rider’s Master.

And yet Rider still picks him up by the scruff and dumps him in front of him on his horse. He wants Waver to accompany him as he has on all of their great battles thus far, not because he’s his Master, but because they’re friends and equals.

Having gone from gut-punch to heartwarm, the episode closes with a bit of a mindblower, as Iri, apparently not quite dead (or…whatever) after all, goes Beyond the Infinite.

In a surreal, bizarre and thoroughly unsettling sequence that calls to mind Akira, Evangelion, and Dalí, Iri sees hundreds of naked doll bodies piled up before her, one of which cracks a way-too-wide evil grin; then she has a touching scene with her daughter Ilya before an oozing black darkness encroaches upon them, and dozens of tiny arms grab at her and pull her down into the goo.

When she emerges, she realizes what’s happening: she’s in the Holy Grail. What exactly that means, and whether and how she can aid her beloved from there, remains to be seen. But I have to say I’m digging the extra metaphysical layer the show has revealed.

Fate / Zero – 21

I can only admire Fate/Zero for its willingness to include a little bit of everything for everyone in its Holy Grail War, and as it had already featured a dogfight between Archer and Berserker, it was only a matter of time before Saber got into a chase with Rider, she on her motorcycle and he and Waver on his giant chariot.

The resulting chase does not disappoint, as Saber squids fearlessly through traffic, pushing her steed to its mechanical limits before deciding Screw it, I’m bosozokuing this motherfucker. While I prefer the more classic look of her bike, it’s still hella cool she can soup it up the same was she can soup up her armor.

With only five episodes left (my how time flies) I wasn’t ruling out the possibility this would be it for Rider, but Saber is content to withdraw after destroying his chariot with Excalibur, after which Waver and Rider lament that they have to walk home; a not inconsiderable distance considering the speed and length of the chase.

And that’s pretty much the last of the levity in this episode, as things go visually and thematically super-dark from there. Turns out Rider didn’t kidnap Iri (didn’t seem very in-character); it was Kariya’s doing, using two command seals to A.) control Berserker and B.) disguise him as Rider. Kiritsugu tortures Kariya’s brother Byakuya but doesn’t get much out of him.

Kirei has been busy since killing Tokiomi; further exploring his capacity for “entertainment” by manipulating Kariya, using new Command Seals and his bloodlust for Tokiomi as bait. While this all makes sense, I wish we’d have been able to witness Kirei initially approach Kariya after healing him and his stint with Zouken. Instead, the plan came together entirely in the background and has to be swiftly explained after the fact.

Once Kariya is off to the church to duel with Tokiomi (by now very dead), Zouken reveals himself to Kirei. If there is one remaining bit of levity in this episode, it’s here, as Zouken, truly a top-class Master of Evil, seems to take a shine to Kirei. Kirei is understandably disgusted by the mere suggestion of being compared to scum like him.

But for once, Zouken is right: I have no doubt that after a few more decades of this kind of stuff, Kirei will be standing in the exact same place as Zouken, King of Shitbags – so shitty, he’s not sure what he wants more: to win the Grail War, or watch his son continue to suffer.

And does Kariya ever suffer. After entering the church and yelling at a corpse, he discovers Tokiomi is already dead, just when the deceased’s widow Aoi arrives, no doubt summoned by Kirei. It’s not what it looks like (that Kariya just killed Tokiomi) but it sure looks bad, and Aoi doesn’t go easy on Kariya, rejecting his excuses and condeming him for never having loved anyone, despite the fact he always secretly loved her.

Kariya is clearly not in a stable place mentally here, and that instability and the resulting breakdown is chillingly depicted with a series of blackout shots, tinged with flashes of him attacking Aoi (the dark church appearing bright beside the blackness), before returning to full vision of him slowly strangling her to death.

After that all Kariya can do is get up and stumble out, screaming and wailing incoherently; becoming more like his unhinged Servant all the time. And who enjoyed a prime vantage point for this macabre entire “play” up in the church balcony? Kirei, who along with Archer were watching and sipping wine the whole time. Kirei notes the wine tastes different; better. He wants to sample more.