Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 03

Episode 3 puts it all together in a rousing, magic- and action-packed jaunt, completing the “opening trilogy” that sets the stage for the rest of the series. In the beginning, Glenn may have been a useless shite and Sistine may have hated his guts, but at the end of this episode neither is the case.

While Glenn saved Sistine from the first baddie, they’re far from out of the woods: neither Celica nor anyone else can get to the Academy due to the teleportation circle being out of service. Baddie #2, Reik, sends a squad of bone golems, and when they kill Baddie #1, Sistine witnesses mortal bloodshed for the first time.

Glenn keeps “Shironeko” calm and focused, which is just as well, since he absolutely needs her vaunted magical ability to support him as he takes out the golems, then faces off against the mage who summoned them.

Glenn also makes it clear to Sistine, understandably frustrated she can’t save Rumia on her own, that magic isn’t useless, and tells her what Rumia told her about using it to help people. He’s not going to let either of them die. Not on his watch.

That seems to be the reason he shoves Sistine out of the destroyed hallway, but Sistine remembers his question about Dispel Force spell earlier, and takes it to mean he’ll try to pull the spell off to stop Reik, and she’s there in time to bolster his piddling mana reserves with her own.

It’s a surprisingly brutal battle with Reik, resulting in Glenn getting impaled by several swords, but in the end, he only needs one to kill Glenn. After that, he and Sistine pass out. He’s the first to awaken, and there’s no time to lose, for he’s realized that Baddie #3’s plan is not to destroy the teleportation circle, but to redirect it.

That Baddie #3 turns out to be the traitor, Huey-sensei, as well as the teacher he’s been subbing for. Because of the spell he’s activated, Huey…can’t actually move, nor is he all that mocking or mustache-twirling. He considers this all a big game, albeit with big stakes, and with Rumia as the prize.

As such, like Reik, Huey can’t help but be impressed when Glenn, even in his severely-injured and depleted state, deactivates four of the five barriers binding Rumia to her spot, before passing out again. She’s able to reach through the fifth, and because she’s one of those super-rare “amplifiers”, she can transfer stores of power and energy to him.

Glenn wakes up, deactivates the final barrier, the spell shuts down, and Huey concedes defeat before taking a good ol’ fashioned punch to the jaw. Crisis averted.

For a group of evil mages who have supposedly been planning this for years, was it silly for them not to have done their homework on Glenn, once a “skilled mage killer” in the Imperial Court Mages? Was it also stupid for the headmaster and Celica to leave Rumia in such a vulnerable state, knowing who and what she was? Sure.

But it’s just as likely Celica was confident enough in Glenn that whoever came after Rumia would regret it, and so it came to pass, with many a crucial assist from Sistine, as well as Rumia herself. The ordeal also leads to Glenn deciding to stay on as a full-fledged teacher, which no doubt pleases both Rumia and Sistine, despite the latter’s disapproving frowns.

With this impressive opening tirlogy completed, the new OP runs at the end, indicating a third main student will be introduced soon, this one blue-haired and a food fan. I eagerly await the classes, battles, and adventures to come, and at some point hope to learn what, exactly, the titular Akashic Records are.

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Rokudenashi Majutsu Koushi to Akashic Records – 02

Now that’s more bloody like it. Thanks, Akashic Records, for validating my optimism! After an episode that makes Mr. Radars look like a total loooser, this week starts much the same way, with Glenn picking a fight with Sisti over the value and utility of magic, then going so far he makes her cry and slap him before storming out of class.

At the end of the day, Glenn spots Rumia working on a magical circle, and decides to help her out. She (and by extension we) learn a little more about Glenn, and we learn a lot about Rumia. She’s super-gung-ho about becoming a mage because she’s both indebted to and inspired by a ‘mage of justice’ who once saved her life.

Chances of this dude being Glenn are around, oh…99.99%. Still, I like the dynamic between Sisti’s fire and Rumia’s water regarding Glenn. It’s as if she knows he’s a better man than he’s letting on.

Glenn also takes Rumia’s advice and properly apologizes to Sisti, which flabberghasts her, but also eases their conflict considerably. From there, Glenn, outraged by the “For Dummies” approach his class had taken towards magic thus far, decides to actually give a shit and teaches them what he knows.

Mind you, he still manages to tease “Shironeko” Sisti in the process, but turns out to be a really good magical instructor. The class starts filling with rapt students. Shit is getting done. Just as Rumia saw a good man somewhere in Glenn’s initial bastardry, his mentor Celica predicted he’d be a great teacher.

This episode has a very talky middle, but I didn’t mind because it’s all fascinating stuff that delves deep into the magical lore of the show’s world. I also liked how Glenn actually had the know-how to back up his constant posturing.

But when the other teachers peace out for some kind of magical conference, a group of magical terrorists take advantage. One confronts Glenn in the streets, while others invade the school, looking for Rumia, who they call “Princess Ermiana.”

Sisti stands up for her friend, but when it’s clear the terrorists ain’t messin’ around, she comes forward, with a distinctly defiant look about her. Her faith in Glenn hasn’t been extinguished; she believes he’ll come and rescue them.

Sistine’s attitude gets her in real trouble when one of the terrorists takes her into an isolated room with designs on raping her, calling her out for her facade of strength masking a scared and fragile girl, and stating her type is his favorite. Yikes…shit got dark in a hurry.

Fortunately, this asshole’s associate’s magic didn’t actually do squat against Glenn, who arrives just in time to put a stop to his assault. He uses his ‘original spell’ The Fool’s World to nullify all magic within a certain radius around him, then uses some fly physical martial arts to incapacitate the jerkwad.

As Rumia—or Her Royal Highness Princess Ermiana, if you’re not into that whole brevity thing—thought, this Bastard Magic Instructor isn’t going to stand by and let even bigger bastards hurt his dear students. The straightforward comedy of the first episode wasn’t bad, but I enjoyed that same cheeky comedy interspersed with danger even more. The fact the “Magical Punch” is a kick, for instance; call me easily amused if you must.

PSYCHO-PASS: The Movie

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I am a professed fan of PSYCHO-PASS, but was among those who thought the 2014 sequel couldn’t quite match the greatness of the 2012 original (You can read my reviews of PSYCHO-PASS and PSYCHO-PASS 2 by following the preceding links). I’ve also always had a soft spot for Tsunemori Akane, the ever-conflicted super badass detective and one of seiyu Hanazawa Kana’s most compelling roles.

This 2015 movie (which will have a limited theatrical release in the U.S. later this month) is Akane’s biggest stage to date. Rather than focus on another Japan-based mastermind, the franchise turns its gaze outward to the mainland: the Southeast Union or SEAUn, where the Sybil System has been transplanted on an island utopia called Shamballa Float.

Akane heads there because after armed terrorists from the union launch a failed assault on Tokyo (the film’s action-packed beginning), she learns that they may have been sent by none other than her former enforcer, friend, and romantic interest, Kogami Shinya. Their reunion in a foreign land forms the character crux of the film.

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When Akane arrives at SEAUn and gets a tour of the place outside Shamballa, it’s both her and our first look at the world outside Japan where Sybil doesn’t yet hold full sway. It’s seething with unrest and violence, much of it being meted out by a military police force that rules with an iron fist.

We are forced along with Akane to weigh the pros and cons of Japan and SEAUn as they relate to the implementation of Sybil technology, which is still in its harsh “teething stage” in the latter nation. There’s even more overt segregation, with latent criminals wearing neckbands that will sedate or poison them if their hues cloud too much.

The movie does a good job quickly rendering a very oppresive and unpleasant place where I definitely would never want to live.

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Fueled by her intention to find Kogami and get to the truth of matters ASAP, Akane rides along on a military operation led by Colonel Nicolas Wong, who is also her escort and the first official she met in SEAUn. While initially friendly and accommodating, he has a big problem with Akane running off on her own, to the point he suspects she’s joining the terrorists.

Kogami is pretty surprised to see Akane, considering a war zone is no place for a metropolitan detective and they haven’t seen each other in years, but they don’t have time to reminisce and escape the combat area to Kogami’s base camp.

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Kogami, who calls Akane “Inspector” for old time’s sake, explains himself simply by saying he’s part of SEAUn’s democratization movement. SEAUn’s military dictator Chairman Han may have a bunch of Sybil toys, but he can’t believe the fight is hopeless.

Kogami brings Akane to his movement’s headquarters, where he’s revered almost like Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now, only without the insanity and disease (though the exotic Angkor Wat-esque buildings definitely look the part). Akane can respect what he’s trying to do, and certainly understands Kogami’s power to draw people into his orbit with his natural charisma (a part of her still likes the guy), she still asks him to turn himself in, a request he declines.

To Akane’s releif, Kogami didn’t send terrorists to Japan. Rather, they were extremist comrades of his who broke off from his movement to do their own thing. But the fact that group got to Japan and were able to get as far as they did in their assault tells both Akane and Kogami that they must’ve had official support on the downlow.

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In the meantime, Kogami impresses upon Akane the importance of getting back to Shamballa Float before she ends up tangled up in more unpleasantness. Her reluctance to leave is overridden when a band of ultra-elite mercenaries with cybernetic prostheses hired by Wong attacks the headquarters. It’s all Kogami can do to get Akane out of there safely, and while he puts up a rather implausible fight, he’s eventually taken prisoner, and later beaten for information.

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Akane is arrested upon her return to Shamballa, and Wong lobbies for her immediate, but Han steps in and allows her to stay, albeit under closer observation. That gives Akane a chance to use some pillbugs Shion gave her to infiltrate Shamballa’s Sybil System, gather data, and even release her attendant Yeo from her latent criminal collar.

However, by the time Shion discovers that military officers like Wong were illegally bypassing cymatic scans that would cloud their hues to a tremendous extent, Wong has Yeo drug Akane’s drink in exchange for the promise of having her little brother’s collar removed. Wong welshes on the deal and shoots Yeo in the head, proving beyond a shadow of a doubt he’s an evil opportunistic bastard.

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When the mercs deliver Kogami to Wong, he arranges for him and Akane to be shot and cover up their deaths in an abortive helicopter escape attempt. I must say, I really didn’t see how Akane and Kogami were going to get out of this one, even if I knew they were.

Ultimately, the choice of killing them out in the open on rooftop rather than a location Wong could fully control proved his undoing, as Akane and Kogami are saved by the cavalry in the form of the Bureau of Public Safety, who kill Wong and either lethally eliminate or take into custody his men.

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All of the mercs save their leader are killed in the attack, and Kogami goes after him, while after having metaphorical cold water splashed on her head by Mika, Akane confronts “Chairman Han”, who is really a cybernetic body double inhabited by the collective brains of Sybil System itself.

Akane has another one of her patented Big Picture Verbal Spars over law and the will of the people with Sybil, ultimately convincing it/them to make Han step down and open both leadership of SEAUn and the choice to implement Sybil up to the people, via democracy.

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Oh yeah, meanwhile, Kogami has an intense but ultimately pointless final battle with the merc leader, who is only still alive so Kogami has someone strong to fight and Gino has to rescue him. After taking care of the merc, Gino lets Kogami go, making him promise not to burden Akane anymore, and also gets a good punch in.

Akane’s mainland adventure thus wrapped up (shame she didn’t get to say a long and decent goodbye to Kogami), she and the other bureau members leave Shamballa and SEAUn in the hands of the new, more populist regime. And there you have it: Inspector Tsunemori Akane was singularly instrumental in changing the course of an entire nation, hopefully for the better.

I watched this because I’m not sure I’d be able to make the theatrical release, and feared it would be dubbed in English. Turns out, more than a quarter of the dialogue is in horrible English anyway (as attempted by the Japanese seiyus) which was extremely irritating. But aside from that, this was a sufficiently fun, exciting flick that moved briskly and gave us some welcome quality time with Akane-san.

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Zankyou no Terror – 11 (Fin)

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The perpetrators of the failed Athena Project meant for its child subjects to be discarded and forgotten. Nine and Twelve’s plan wasn’t about revenge, but about making sure they and the others weren’t forgotten; that those still alive who were responsible were plucked from beneath the rocks they’d hidden under. With increasingly stunning yet nonlethal attacks, they gradually built up their stature, until no one would be able to forget what they did, and by extension, that they lived.

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The most stunning yet is the high-altitude detonation of the stolen atomic bomb, which ended up not harming anyone but disabled all electronics in Japan. While it was yet another means of gaining attention and exposure among the masses, it also served as a firm counter-riposte to the efforts of the members of the Athena project to use technology to artificially enhance mankind. For at least a time, the EMP emitted from the bomb reverted the country to a far simpler state.

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Shibazaki became the Oedipus to Nine and Twelve’s Sphinx, looking past easy answers to solve the riddles of where they came from, what they were doing, and why. They unwittingly helped him to solve the case that had ruined his career, and finally learn what those he suspected of wrongdoing were up to, and putting them away for it. Justice tastes a lot better when it is acknowledged not just by oneself or amongst a few individuals, but by the same system that once helped shelter the wrongdoers.

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I will say that even in a series of a mere eleven episodes, Five’s arc was ultimately a bit of a detour, though as the only other surviving Athena subject, her actions tore Nine and Twelve apart, threatening the whole enterprise, only to bring them back together as strong as ever following her demise. She represented an alternate effect of Athena: that of unchecked chaos and rage. It’s also worth noting that after the end of the facility, she was and remained alone right up until her final confrontation with the others, while at least Nine and Twelve had each other, which had a grounding effect.

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Even so, just before the bomb goes off, when Lisa isn’t sure whether the world is about to end, Twelve tells her he and Nine were never needed by anyone until they met her and everything changed. Neither were ever ones for true, honest human interaction, let alone feeling what it was like to care for someone so much that you’d do anything to save them, which Twelve got that with Lisa. Even if he and Nine didn’t (nor intended to) survive the gestation of the better world they sought to build, they didn’t take Lisa down with them.

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On the contrary, through her adventures and their many rescues of her and acts of kindness towards her, Twelve and Nine instilled a fresh appreciation for life, and while many will ask her what it was like to be “Sphinx’s hostage” for all that time, she could never tell them much, because they’d never fully understand: she wan’t their hostage. She was their friend; their little sister whom they kept safe without fail. And they gave her hope.

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Zankyou no Terror – 10

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Twelve deals with the guilt of betraying Nine, while trying to have fun with Lisa. Nine rolls the dice and surrenders to the police. Five makes one last desperate grasp at Nine, who “belongs to her.”

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Shibazaki comes face to face with Shunzo Mamiya, who orchestrated the Athena Project and the investigation of whom led to his demotion. An atomic bomb is released into the sky, to go off at 10pm. This episode isn’t messing around, expertly setting up the endgame.

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Interestingly, this episode is Five’s last. For those of you who tired of her relatively petty and nebulous vendetta and terrible English, rejoice, for she ends up doing herself in. Physically deteriorating, she senses the end is near, and after a harrowing chase and crossing the line with her American handlers, all that’s left to do on that highway is thank Nine for being the reason she stayed alive this long at all; to pursue him.

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She has him in her sight, but doesn’t pull the trigger, knowing she’s been beaten. Instead, she gives Nine a chaste parting kiss and ignites the pool of gasoline she’s standing in. This explosion was brought to you by the number Five.

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With Five now gone, all that’s left is for Nine to expose Athena to the world, if that was indeed his plan. The only problem is, the press conference he demanded the police allow him to hold is interrupted by Five’s meddling, and the atomic bomb is loosed, unable to be stopped by anyone.

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While meeting with Shunzo, who was convinced the spirit of Japan was “that of a loser, without a shred of dignity”, and thus pushed forward with Athena, Shibazaki can fathom the scale of the backlash, which looks tenuously close to being realized.

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In his final broadcast, transmitted automatically when Nine doesn’t get to the Hyatt at 8:00 PM, Sphinx One warns that nothing can stop the bomb. If he’s right, then we’re in for a catastrophe in the finale. But I’m not entirely convinced he’s not bluffing at this point.

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I’m not even sure his entire plan from the start was to draw out Five so that she could, well, finish herself off. Also, Twelve even ends up redeeming himself somewhat by interfering in Five’s pursuit of Nine, and I like how he does so on Lisa’s urging, telling him how happy she was when he saved her, and how Nine will probably feel the same way. Five may be gone, but there’s a lot left to sort out.

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Zankyou no Terror – 09

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Betray your brother, run away, or die with the girl he’s come to care for. The day Twelve had been dreading, when things go bad and he has to make an impossible choice, arrives much earlier than he probably hoped. With a ton of bombs strapped to her and not enough time to defuse them, Twelve ultimately makes a choice based on where he is there and then. Giving up the location doesn’t mean Nine’s certain death, just the destruction of their alliance (in all likelihood) and the jeopardizing of their grand scheme.

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But with Lisa sitting there—covered with bombs, initially trembling with fear; but after comforting words, becomes calm and accepting of her impending death—there’s no choice. Twelve can’t let her die. If he could give his life to save hers, he probably would have, but that wasn’t one of the options Five gave him. I must say, Five really did make good use of Lisa, and I’m alternating between the great risk she took and the reality that Twelve had already demonstrated to her that he would do anything to protect her, even sell out Nine.

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But despite being fairly certain, as Five was, that Twelve and Lisa weren’t going to blow up, did nothing to deflate the raw, horrifying, virtuoso tension of that Ferris Wheel scene. Yes, Ferris Wheels are a goofily poetic place to stage such a scene—as they’re supposed to be a place where joy is experienced, rather than despair (Deadman Wonderland FTW)—but the music sells the shit out of it, as does the animation of the characters’ faces. Not to mention, with two episodes left, it’s not impossible for them to die now—just highly unlikely. I’m glad they didn’t.

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This episode’s awesome continues as Shibazaki and Hamura pay a visit to Aoki, one of the researchers who participated in Project Athena, in which human pharmacological experimentation was performed on 26 numbered orphan test subjects, with the goal of synthesizing an artificial “savant syndrome”; an exercise in eugenics that went far beyond the pale of any acceptable human conduct. Aoki gives a weak “Befehl ist Befehl” defense, but he knows he’s a monster; in fact, he’s glad someone came so he could make his confession before he died.

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What brings everything together isn’t just that Shibazaki is now aware of Twelve and Nine’s past, and that they have a very good reason to be pissed off; nor is it merely the fact that Twelve and Nine didn’t steal plutonium, but an experimental and probably highly destructive nuclear weapon. No, it’s that the one who gave Aoki his marching orders to poke and prod helpless kids to death, was none other than the politician who Shibazaki came so very close to bagging before he was demoted for peering to deeply into the abyss.

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Shibazaki can add thus add this to his heavy satchel of regrets: all those years ago, he might’ve had an opportunity, however small, to expose and put an end to Athena, had he rejected his demotion, gone rogue, and continued his investigation outside the law, as he is doing now. How far will he go this time? How far will the powers that be let him? It’s also implied from talk of “being out of time” and Five collapsing, that the remaining three subjects wont live much longer, even if they put aside their troubles. Now I’m thinking maybe Lisa outlives everyone else.

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Zankyou no Terror – 08

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Following the Battle of Haneda, Five proves not particularly gracious in defeat, but she’s intent on winning the war, no matter how many rules she has to break or how much blood is spilt. To that end, she targets Sphinx’s weak link—Lisa—just as a lion goes for the weakest prey.

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Her attack isn’t exactly subtle: delivering a timed bomb to Sphinx’s apartment that Lisa barely evades, but it gets the job done: without their hideout, Nine and Twelve feel more vulnerable than ever. More importantly, Five makes that situation all Lisa’s fault, so rather than stick around and cause them more trouble, Lisa decides to run off…right into Five’s clutches.

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On the other end of things, Shibazaki’s colleagues are thrown off the case entirely and get suspended for three months, while he’s all but fired, having to turn in his badge. I like how the show doesn’t let them off the hook for their blatant insubordination last week, but I also like how his lack of a badge doesn’t stop Shibazaki from pursuing the case anyway, even going to his semi-estranged daughter for insight into nuclear weapons.

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Between the public record, police archives, an interview with a politician tied to the organization that instigated the “Athena Project”, and orphanage visits, Shibazaki starts to piece together who Sphinx (and likely Five) are orphans the government spirited away and basically fucked with. The more he learns, the more he starts to feel for Sphinx; while they’re called “terrorists” in this day an age, there was a time when they’d be, as he says, “something else.”

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Nine and Twelve are doing what they’re doing because they’re evil and hate civilization, but because they were wronged, and the government that wronged them must reap what it has sown. Twelve entertains the possibility of backing out, forgetting that they’re in far too deep to back out. But when Lisa runs off, his mission with Nine becomes secondary. At the end of the day, asking someone to join them or die wasn’t much of a choice, as Lisa fiercely wants to stay alive no matter what.

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As such, Twelve is guilty for involving her and won’t allow her to be a casualty in their feud with Five and the government. It’s not exactly love, but it’s concern; a degree of genuine humanity that all of the horrors of Athena Project couldn’t tear away in the end. If Twelve is going to die, he’ll die protecting Lisa. I gotta say, things aren’t looking good for them, but Shibazaki is close to blowing the whole thing open; it’s a matter of how far he can (and will) go to pursue the justice the higher-ups won’t.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 08

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*Note: I realize the couple on the left is Gilgamesh and Saber from Fate, but if you squint, they kinda look like anime Jaime (Janime?) and Cersei…no? Well, Google Image Search seemed to think so…

“There are no men like me. Only me.” Sorry to open with a Jaime Lannister quote of all things, but there are often times when the very close Shiba siblings remind me of Jaime and Cersei in better times, only without the overt incest. Not only that, Jaime’s quote could also be used to describe Tatsuya: in his present world, there are no men like him…only him.

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First he became the first Weed in the disciplinary committee, and made an instant and substantial impact, foiling a terrorist plot. In this heavily process-oriented episode, the Magic High equivalent of an interscholastic sports festival approaches, and he becomes the first weed and first first year voted onto First High’s technical staff. His process in coding Kirihara’s CAD irks his skeptics, but they can’t deny he did some extremely advanced work.

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Tatsuya’s unique indispensability extends beyond school, to his duties as a “special officer” in some secret military unit in which he operates, as well as a contributor to the family business (FLT). In short, there may be no men like him, but he himself is many men to many people, and very few others aside from his sister, know about these other Tatsuyas.

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So badass is Tatsuya, he spends the waning hours of the night not watching anime (or HBO), but working in the clinical basement of the mansion he and Miyuki share on a flying magic problem that stumped teams of scientists elsewhere in the world. When Miyuki pops in to show off an adorable outfit she’ll be wearing for the games, the show casually reveals he’s floating, having made a breakthrough. Even his leisure is work.

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The Nine Schools Competition will expand the world we know about further, threatening his sui generis nature. One thing about Jaime’s “no men like me” quote is the fact it’s not quite correct: plenty of other men have risen fast, fight well, slain their kings and loved their sisters a bit too much. And as the end of last week’s episode gave us a glimpse of the lad who appears as Tatsuya’s mirror image in the OP (above), it would appear there are men like Tatsuya too!

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P.S.: I fully support Erika’s staunch decision to wear bloomers for athletics.

 

Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 07

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The seven-episode “Enrollment” arc comes to an end on a high note, providing another nice balance of high-level action and character work that felt earned approached genuine poignancy a couple of times. The episode bursts out of the gate by having the Humvee carrying the assault team barrel straight through the front gate of Blanche’s Japan HQ.

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Aside from a couple of quiet moments where Tatsuya counts the soldiers in the next room, the action doesn’t let up, and when the episode ticks past the ten minute mark, Blance’s hapless leader’s arm is lopped off by Kirihara, avenging Mibu. Erika and Leo don’t even have to do anything in the raid; it goes off without a hitch.

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This was never about whether they’d defeat Tsukasa Hajime and his team of disposable soldiers; we knew going in from the composition of the party that they were going to make it look easy. What was in doubt was whether they’d still make it entertaining, and they succeeded. Tatsuya and Miyuki let no opportunity for a devastatingly bad-ass remark pass them by. For a moment I almost felt bad for Blanche, as the Shibas sounded far more dangerous and diabolical.

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Another reason to make this such an easy fight was to demonstrate that Tatsuya isn’t just Miyuki’s brother, he’s her physical and emotional protector. All the arrogance and aloofness he’s displayed is explained by the simple fact there’s no reason for him to even be in high school if he doesn’t want to be; he’s already learned everything the school can teach him, and far more. But he does want to be there, by Miyuki’s side.

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While it was a little neat and tidy for Sayaka and Tsukasa’s bro to be let off the hook due to hypnosis, we’re glad the arc stuck with Sayaka through her physical and more importantly, her emotional recuperation. She gets kudos from me for being so open and earnest about her feelings for Tatsuya and Kirihara, and how she came to see the latter as the better fit, as she fears she’d never catch up to the former.

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Miyuki, meanwhile, is committed to staying right beside her brother, as long as he will allow her to—matching her steps to his is a cute way of showing this—even if he blasts into the heavens at light speed. But Tatsuya tells her he’s not here just to fulfill his duty, but because school could be his last opportunity to live a normal life with her, before his responsibilities preclude any pretense of normalcy.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 06

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Now this is more like it! If last week was slow and talky, even by Mahouka standards, the payoff it set the stage for here made it mostly worth it. Yes, this show still veers more towards “tell” than “show”, but the we got a lot more “show” this week that made the “tell” more palatable, as Tatsuya, Miyuki, Erika, and Leo work as a team to fight off the terrorists, infiltrate the library, and utterly foil their plot.

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About that plot: Mibu joined the cause and agreed to assist in it because she thought they were making a stand against magic discrimination. But in the end, she was merely being used by Blanche, which only wanted the magical secrets the library contained. Even her personal sense of long-suffering oppression was a delusion based on a misunderstanding: she believed Watanabe had snubbed her, but refusing to spar with her was meant as a compliment to her sword skills.

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This episode gave everyone in the core group something to do (except Mizuki), showing off their unique skills while they’re at it, and proving that Tatsuya isn’t the only one by far getting a short shrift because of their Course 2 status. Miyuki uses her magic for something other than punishing her brother for once, and Erika has a nice heated swordfight with Mibu. Mibu’s good—good enough to make Erika “play for keeps”—but she’s not good enough for that form of Erika, a “daughter of Shiba”.

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With Mibu on the mend in the infirmary and the misunderstanding with Watanabe cleared up, there’s nothing left but for Mibu to have a good cry in Tatsuya’s arms. She knows she was wrong, owns up to it, and is encouraged to move forward, knowing know she was always her own worst enemy. But that’s not all we get: Tatsuya proposes a counterattack against Blanche. Miyuki, Erika, and Leo are going with, along with Juumonji and Kirihara. It’s a strong-looking group, and I look forward to watching them in action once again.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 05

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I may be a bit buzzed from a rehearsal dinner earlier this evening, but damn, that was one talky episode! I know this series runs 26 episodes, but I feel like episodes like this aren’t the best way of going about setting up conflicts.

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Mibu’s anti-discrimination faction finally makes their move, and Tatsuya’s relationship with Mibu pays dividends, as negotiations supersede violence, but the forum itself is a snooze-fest, with President Saegusa doing the lion’s share of the debating. There’s a lot of talking about stuff and not much of anything else.

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Even Hana-Kana can’t do much with the material she’s given, and all of the characters fall victim to the plot—a Course 2 uprising aided by Blanche and its associated groups. The school erupts into chaos quite suddenly, but we’re too bored by all the discussion to be that affected by it.

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I’m frankly rearing for some action after all this blabbing, something this episode frankly didn’t provide. I’m not saying every episode has to be a full-scale magic battle, but throw me a bone here. With the Shiba siblings headed towards the action, it looks like the next episode might wet my whistle.

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Mahouka Koukou no Rettousei – 04

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Tatsuya’s actions in the Kendo Club fracas have already earned him a reputation within the school, and when he meets with Mibu Sayaka, rumors swirl about the two. But Tatsuya is far more interested in other rumors, such as those surrounding an element at Magic High being influenced by Blanche, an anti-magic terrorist organization.

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When Mibu clarifies that she wants him to join the coalition of anti-magic clubs being organized, it’s as if he’s being courted by the other side. While Tatsuya himself is a victim of the systemic discrimination that led to the the Blooms and Weeds (which not doubt mirrors a similar rift in society outside school), he remains noncommittal, but will be watching Mibu’s actions closely…as others seem to be observing him (that doctor’s visit was pretty foreboding).

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Tatsuya’s immersal into all this thick political soup started with his breaking up of the Kendo club brawl without the use of magic, or at least a type of magic generally used. This has been a pretty talky show from the start, but aside from one brief scene of a failed accosting, Tatsuya essentially walks from room to room having discussions the whole episode.

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As a result, the episode on the whole, while attempting to build up intrigue, comes off as a bit of a chore: divulging all this info is necessary for later payoffs, but nothing particularly interesting happened here. During some of these scenes Miyuki demonstrates her fierce loyalty to and affection for her brother, as well as her intense jealousy at the mere mention of him getting friendly with another female, which sets off her “Ice Mode.”

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Mekakucity Actors – 01

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Kisaragi Shintaro is a hikikomori haunted by two girls. One is a mysterious dark-haired girl in a sailor fuku who talks to him in strange, melancholy dreamscapes. The other is the puckish Ene, a boisterous computer program he downloaded out of curiosity, but has since become a constant (and often quite irritating) presence in his life. When Ene causes him to spill Coke all over his keyboard, he must brave the outside world and a crowded department store to procure a new one.

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That store is taken over by terrorists who hacked the computer-controlled security, and he suddenly finds himself a hostage the first time he’s left his apartment in a year, which seems to confirm many hikikomoris’ worst fears. Despite their apparent proficiency with technology, the crims don’t bother taking away Shintaro’s smartphone, which also contains Ene. When two game fellow hostages arrange a diversion, Shintaro springs into action, hooking Ene into the store’s computers and canceling the lockdown.

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Leaving aside the fact those looked like display units in an electronic store (and hence normally wouldn’t be connected in any way to the store’s security system), this was a low-key yet engrossing introduction to this world, which looks like a city just a few towns over from Naoetsu, the setting for most of the Monogatari Series. Like that and other SHAFT shows, we’re shown a plethora of bumper cards, wide shots, detailed expressive close-ups. I’m a fan of this precise, schematic aesthetic.

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Unlike other first episodes this season that lay out fairly clearly what they’re about through various kinds of exposition, Mekakucity prefers to present most of its first episode without excessive comment or explanation. I know how Shintaro and Ene “met”, that there’s something to that girl in Shintaro’s mind, and that he’ll surely cross paths with the hooded people he meets in the store; but why he’s a hikikomori, who he was before, and where all of this is going are things the show decided not to reveal from the get-go.

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As if to underline its deliberateness, we get what will likely be the show’s OP presented as the ED (a fairly common first episode thing to do), and a rainbow cornucopia of cool-looking characters flash across the screen, most of whom only appeared in this episode for a moment, if that. It’s a little overwhelming, but also enticing and invigorating, like getting used to the interface of a new video game you just cracked open. My questions are many, but answers are sure to come…along with more questions.

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