Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka – 01 (First Impressions) – Voice of Destiny

Three years ago the Disas invaded Earth, but thanks to a treaty with the Spirit Realm, nine select human girls were transformed into Magical Girls. Four were killed defeating the Disas, and five remained…and went their separate ways.

The ostensible leader of the Magical Girls, one Ootorii Asuka, lives her life as a normal high school student, though whenever she sees any kind of animal mascot, she thinks back to the bad old days. Magical trappings aside, Asuka is a traumatized combat veteran trying to move on from the horrors she experienced.

But at school, she’s the cool mysterious transfer student. She stands out by dint of her physique and apparent aloofness. And when her classmates are accosted in the street, she rushes to their aid…and has to remember not to kill the guy.

The beneficiaries of small act of heroism, Nozomi and Sayoko, thank Asuka and announce their intention to befriend her. Nozomi wants her to join track since she’s in great shape; Sayoko wants her to join the lit club because she sees her reading.

But while Sayoko reads because she loves it, Asuka does it to escape; to keep her mind busy so it doesn’t go back to those bad old times of blood, sweat, and tears. When her guardian Iizuka arrives to tell her about a new squad being assembled, she passes on his offer without hesitation.

Back when she was in middle school, she came home to find two Disas had already killed her parents and were prepared to “give them back” to her one piece at a time, which is why Iizuka ended up her guardian.

Her takeaway was that while she fought to save the world, those around her suffered and died. Now that she has two new adorable friends, she doesn’t want history to repeat itself. Of course, Asuka she puts it, despite all the effort she’s put in to escape her past, battles keep finding her, because “a Magical Girl’s battle never ends”.

Whether it was a minor incident like the asshole who shoved Nozomi (who dared to call him out on his assholery), or an escaped terrorist leader and his kill squad with Sayoko in the crossfire, when duty calls, she’ll always answer. Once a Magical Girl, always a Magical Girl.

While Magical Girl Spec-Ops Asuka is almost painfully straightforward in its premise, the Disas are super goofy-looking, and the show lacks anything resembling originality, I found Asuka’s emotionally-wounded vet profile resonant, and the show is crisply designed and animated and accompanied by a cool Square Enix JRPG-style soundtrack.

The idea of Magical Girls moving on to more conventional military operations after the Magical enemy has gone is also intriguing, as Asuka is not alone and we’ll soon see what became of the other four of the Magical Five. Both the bloody action and the lighter school life scenes are executed with aplomb. Definitely entertaining enough to stick with for now.

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Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger – 05 – The Train Job

Be it The Orient Express, Firefly, or FFVIII, you can rarely go wrong with train caper, and TSJ is no exception. The great mass and speed of the huge vehicle never fails to deliver not inconsiderable measure of energy, momentum, and gravity to whatever’s going on aboard it.

And there’s a lot going on aboard this train…and around it. First, Yuliy comes face-to-face with his long-thought-dead brother, whose current status as a vampire throws a big wrench into Yuliy’s life’s whole “Kill All Vampires” directive.

Then, the Hyakko Party decides to block the train’s path, forcing an emergency stop. They board the train and both the army and the Jaegers work separately towards the same goal: protecting the innocent passengers, among them Naoe Ryouko, whom Dorothea discovers and immediately diagnoses as having chased after her crush.

Ryouko denies having a crush; she’s just “interested” in Yuliy, the other Jaegers, and their very different way of life. The one place where they are similar is that they want to protect the weak…and have the means to do so. Only Ryouko only has “dojo” skills, and has yet to test them in a real-world situation.

Since this is a time when soldiers with rifles go up against revolutionaries with swords and arrows, martial arts are still a very useful skill to have.

The Hyakko Party raiders have some success against the soldiers and reach the car that contains the Frankenstein monster, whose operator lets their leader think it will do whatever he commands. The Hyakko leader is eventually relieved of his head after getting a little too close to the monster, and his cohorts scatter, making the train a runaway train.

Yuliy jumps off the train just long enough to rescue a little girl and reunite her with her parents, perhaps proving to Mikhail that he’s too “softhearted” to continue pursuing a quest for revenge (especially since he’s avenging his brother’s death…while his brother is still “alive”, albeit as a vamp).

After Fallon and Phillip board the train and decouple the passenger car, Ryouko takes a running leap to remain with them, not wanting to miss out on the action as long as she can assist. Yuliy jumps over everyone to get to the front of the train to try to stop it, but he’s blocked by the monster, who proves a tough customer even against a Jaeger.

Major Iba’s troops and the other Jaegers eventually come together, with the latter saving the former from one last bad guy with a gun, proving to the former that they aren’t the bad guys…just good guys taking a different path.

Ryouko almost instinctively ends up on the Jaeger path when she spots a vampire that’s still alive when no one else does, and remembers her kendo training. In a split second, she’s borrowed a soldier’s sword and eliminated the threat.

I’ll now just state for the record that I LOVE Ryouko and think she’s the coolest character on the show. What’s strange is that in her time on the train up to that point, I’d forgotten her swordsmanship, which makes her sneaky cool, not like the “ostentatious” cool of the Jaegers.

When Yuliy can only fight the monster to a stalemate, Mikhail steps in and finishes the job. I was a little confused as to his motives considering the monster was built at the behest of his master Kershner, but the fact it had gone completely out of control rendered it expendable…and Mikhail wastes no time expending it with some slick moves and a couple of well-placed grenades.

The train ends up jumping the end of the line and derailing, but all parties involved are okay. Yuliy has one last moment with Mikhail, who decides to give his little brother more time to consider what he should do next. Heck, he even charges his little brother with killing him should he become something like the monster he just destroyed. They can’t be both brothers and enemies, according to Mikhail; it has to be one or the other.

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger – 04 – Brains, Trains, and Automobiles

Kershner sends an envoy to cut the Hyakko Party off from Alma Company’s funding, but Hyakko’s leader doesn’t like that, and kills the messenger. Williard takes the measure of the Alma company, a front that looks on the surface like any respectable downtown business office. While on the lift he’s gently prodded for info by Major Iba, but doesn’t give away much.

Iba is spotted by his old academy mentor and new chief of weapons development, Maj. Gen. Kakizaki, who is glad he got Iba into intelligence, considering how much his student already knows. Willard convenes with his subordinates in V Shipping and determines that the vampires and Hyakko had a falling out, but the vamps must’ve managed to collect all the “parts” they needed.

Both Major Iba and Willard know where to go next: Shizuoka, where a weapons “exercise” will be taking place. A restless Yuliy volunteers to take the trip, but Dorothea accompanies him to keep him in check and on mission. After having a formal Japanese meal with Minister Naoe and Ryouko, she learns of their trip and decides to tail Yuliy, too intrigued to heed his warning for her to keep her distance.

Meanwhile in Shizuoka, Gen. Kakizaki witnesses in horror as the Frankenstein-type monster the Alma Company commissioned eliminates an entire battalion of soldiers with grim efficiency. As Yuliy, Dorothea, and Ryouko board the Shizuoka-bound train, the Hyakko Party raids Alma Co.’s headquarters and slaughters everyone in the office, believing them to be vampires even though they’re only humans.

Yuliy suddenly smells blood, and when the train stops, he switches to the one going in the opposite direction, as Dorothea—and a Ryouko determined to have lunch with them—both follow him. Major Iba also transfers from one train to the other, believing Kakizaki to be aboard. Kershner and his Dr. Frankenstein-y mad scientist subordinate are also aboard, along with the monster.

Finally, when Dorothea goes off to count passengers, Yuliy ends up encountering his brother Mikhail once more. Practically everybody is on this damn train! That means there’s sure to be some fireworks in short order; woe betide Ryouko or any other civilian caught in the fray.

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger – 03 – Just Live

As Ryouko’s classmates mistake her frustrated sigh for a lovesick one (though her blushing suggests they’re on to something), Yuliy’s unexpected encounter with his now-vampirized brother Mikhail brings all of his memories of him roaring back, starting with the good times when the two would hunt in the wintry forests of their home—which I imagine to be somewhere in eastern Russia; possibly Sakhalin.

After a good meal with the villagers, the elder laments that the Sirius Arc is no more, but a confident young Yuliy vows to protect it, only for his big speech, like his first kill, to be foiled by a sneeze (he’s sensitive to cold). That’s where the good times end; Yuliy wakes up in the night to find vampires raiding the village. Their mother is killed, but not before making both her sons promise to run away and live. Only one brother can obey; Mikhail sacrifices himself to Yuliy can slip away.

In the present, while reminiscing on all this, Yuliy’s fellow Jaegers try in vain to cheer him up, but the fact is, now that he knows his brother is alive, he can feel his resolve to kill all vampires wavering, as he still loves Mikhail and doesn’t want to kill him, even if he’s a vampire now. His frustration bubbles over when he remembers summoning the power of Sirius to save himself from a pursuing vampire, just when a determined Ryouko tries to confront him.

She isn’t scared of him—or at least talks a good game; we see her trembling slightly—but Yuliy doesn’t want any new friends, because it will mean more people he can lose or who might suffer because of their association with him or their proximity to his powers (Ryouko likely is willing to befriending him, and in any case it’s her choice to make).

Dr. Willard was the one who found him half-dead in the cold, and offered water so he won’t die, Yuliy says if it means he can see his mother and brother again, he wants to die. Willard’s words that follow—fine, die, if that’s what you think your loved ones want—have guided Yuliy ever since.

He may still not know how he should keep living; only that he knows it’s what his family would want, so he can’t give up. But with Kershner, Mikhail by his side, preparing to field some kind of Frankenstein’s Monster, just living—and keeping those around him alive—is only going to get tougher.

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger – 02 – Above the Skies

After two days of healing, Yuliy wakes up in the home of Dr. Harada, and makes fast friends with his daughter Saki. However, the nature of the doctor’s work doesn’t just keep him away from Saki, it also makes him a target for the elitist-killing Hyakko Gang…as well as the vampires. Both Willard of the Jaegers and Major Iba with the military separately attempt to connect the dots.

As Phillip keeps an eye on Yuliy as he finished healing up, Ryouko insists on paying Yuliy a visit. Clearly she was more intrigued than insulted by Yuliy’s aloofness and remark about rotting roots. Yuliy seems to be a bit of a green thumb, as he helps Saki set up some tomato plants—once believed to be poisonous due to their color.

As the doctor has worked day and night on his project—an artificial heart for Saki, who must have the same condition that claimed her mother’s life—his assistant sells out to the vamps, specifically a “re-built” Agatha who know has a sword for a leg.

That night Agatha puts that new leg sword to work attacking Dr. Harada’s home, and neither Yuliy and Phillip can protect him and Saki in the ensuing fray. The doc is bitten and becomes Agatha’s thrall, and Phillip stuggles to keep Saki safe while Yuliy and Agatha take their fight outside.

While not as action-packed as the opening episode, I appreciated how more time was used fleshing out characters, and the action we do get is of high enough quality to make up for its late appearance in this ep, whether its the close-quarters of the inside fight or the more free-flowing combat outside—not far from where Ryouko has just arrived at the house.

Agatha doesn’t quit deriding Yuliy’s very existence as a filthy “Sirius”, suggesting like in much of the rest of vampire-themed media, vamps consider werewolves a lower rung of creature…at best. 

Filth or not, Yuliy is able to turn the tables of Aggy, shattering her leg blad and running her through with his segmented staff, the blade of which also goes straight through Dr. Harada’s throat just as he’s about to kill Saki, who instead is simply horribly traumatized as both her dad and Agatha crumble to dust.

As if that wasn’t enough, there’s an explosion on the other side of the house—probably the Hyakko Gang—and one more challenger who faces off against Yuliy on the rooftop. Yuliy calls this fellow brother, so he’s another Sirius (this is backed up in the new ED); but it’s clear they’re no longer on the same side.

As with other genres in which the eclectic P.A. Works has dabbled, the studio has delivered another solid and competently-produced entry that may not deliver much in the way of originality, but does check a lot of boxes I appreciate, from the vampire milieu to noir, mystery, history, and steampunk, with multiple factions, all with their own agendas.

That said, I’m still not finding Yuliy himself particularly compelling as a lead; the arrival of his brother could either raise or lower that opinion.

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.

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.