Classroom of the Elite – S2 04 – Three-Willed Race

With the class back on school grounds, Suzune reveals the method by which Ryuuen was able to win: the planet names of the teams were a major hint. When placing the members in alphabetical order, whoever is the number of the planet’s order in the system was the VIP: Kei fourth in Mars, Kushida third in Earth, etc cetera. That said, as long as Ryuuen tries to rule like a dictator, Class C won’t be fully united.

The class’s seats aren’t even warm when Chabashira-sensei announces the next test will be the Sports Festival, where Class D will be paired with Class A and C with B. As you’d expect, there’s a whole big list of rrrrrrrules, and Kiyotaka believes that using orthodox rather than underhanded tactics will win the day.

The class itself has full control over who participates in what events, and Suzune wants to pair the most athletically skilled with the least so that they can spread their talent the most widely to the benefit of the classs. Kei stands up to disagree, saying Suzune’s way is cynical and even cruel. She also asks Kushida’s opinion, who says they should try a hybrid approach.

The class puts it to a vote, and Suzune’s way narrowly wins even with Kiyotaka abstaining. After class Kei meets with Kiyotaka on the stairs, asking him why he emailed her to oppose Suzune. He’s not interested in explaining himself to her, only in her carrying out her orders, and he admits she did well.

I bet it was also an opportunity for him to test out the “newest tool in his box,” so to speak, as Kei proves capable of bringing others to her cause simply by the power of her personality, which at least outwardly is a lot more pleasant than sourpuss Suzune. In short, Kiyotaka’s hand is stronger with Kei working for him, even if he and Suzune are still ostensibly allies.

At the strength and aptitude tests that precede event practice, Kiyotaka is oddly ignorant of what constitutes an “average” grip strength, and makes the mistake of listening to the burliest classmate who says it’s 60 kg, when it’s really more 45-50. It’s clear Kiyotaka could probably grip harder than anyone, but intentionally stops at 60.

As for Suzune, she’s faster than most, but in the three-legged race refuses to match the pace of her slower partner, instead insisting she try harder to match hers. Kiyotaka shows Suzune the error of her inflexibility by putting her in the other girl’s shoes and running faster than Suzune when their legs are tied together.

An aside: it cannot be understated just how utterly miserable these two are as anything resembling a couple. Just completely hopeless. And yet they persist in cooperating most of the time because they want the same thing: Class A. To that end, Kiyotaka wants Suzune to join both him and Kushida in performing recon on the White Team, also mentioning he thinks Kushida was a traitor in the cruise test.

There’s an underlying atmosphere of unpleasantness to this impending sports festival that not even the most chipper of students can cut through. Any educator will tell you that the point of such festivals isn’t just to showcase athletic talent and foster teamwork, but for the participants to have, ya know…fun. Suzune and Kiyotaka aren’t just disinterested in that aspect, but are likely incapable of it.

The Genius Prince’s Guide – 06 – Little Fish in a Big Pond

Prince Wein heads to the western kingdom of Cavarin, whose king has invited him to the Festival of the Spirit. Naturally Ninym is by his side, but has dyed her hair black, as there’s little tolerance for Flahms in the west. She uses their journey to flirt with and tease Wein over which hair color he prefers.

Between the news that one of Natra’s greatest generals has retired and Wein and Ninym crossing lands where remnants of Marden’s armies still lurk, the time is ripe for some kind of unpleasantness. Sure enough, soldiers disguised as brigands (an important distinction) wreck Wein’s coach. The “brigands” are chased off by members of the Free Mardenian Forces.

Wein wishes to speak to their Prince Helmut, but he’s met by Zeno, Helmut’s Ninym. When Wein tells her he’s headed to Cavarin for the festival, she takes the very words as a provocative act and threatens to cut him down. But the silver-tongued Wein manages to forge a temporary alliance with Zeno and her scant but disciplined forces.

A central pillar of the Levetian faith that holds sway in Cavarin consists of the Holy Elites, and Wein convinces Zeno to accompany him to the gorgeous of Tristoria for the chance to meet with them, and perhaps sway one or two them to her cause (or kill them). In any case, it feels like Wein and Ninym are about to enter a very pretty hornet’s nest.

While Wein meets with Cavarin’s boisterous King Ordalasse, Ninym and Zeno go scouting, and when the latter encounters former Mardenian advisor and possible traitor Holonyeh (the Wormtongue-looking guy), Ninym has to pull a knife on Zeno to stop her from assassinating him and blowing what’s meant to be as low-profile a visit as possible.

Unfortunately for Wein, King Ordalasse has much bigger plans for him. Specifically, he takes him to a meeting area where the Holy Elites are already assembled, and declares his intention to recommend he become their newest member. The Arbalasts of Natra carry the blood of Levetia, but he’d be the easternmost of the elites if his nomination succeeded.

Wein ultimately decides the pros of such a position outweigh the cons, so he decides to meet with the Elites one by one with Zeno by his side. The first of them is the femme fatale Lady Caldmellia, a ruthless operator who, despite her priestly garb, makes no qualms about proposing Wein prove himself by wiping out the Mardenian forces and displaying their corpses to sent a message.

While Wein is away, a rebellion of sinister cloaked nobles, led in part by Lady Ibis, begins to make their move in Natra. In Cavarin, Ninym learns that Holonyeh is conspiring with Levert, a distinguished general, to get rid of Wein.

There are a lot of faces to remember and a lot of turning cogs to consider, but my main takeaway this week is a sense of gathering dread, for even Wein admits he has very little control over anything in this scenario, and while he has few but quality allies, he seems beset by a vast quantity of foes from all sides.

The World’s Finest Assassin – 12 (Fin) – Gungnir Big or Gae Bolg Home

We know it’s going to be a different kind of episode when we begin with the Robo-Goddess in her realm, which has taken on the stark monochromatic aesthetic of the OP (which remains my favorite of the Fall). It seems the World’s Finest Assassin is her latest and possibly last best hope against the Hero ending the world.

Back on that world, her champion Lugh is ready to burn Dia’s house down and whisk her away with the story that she committed suicide so that none of the sides in the war could have her. There’s just one problem: Setanta MacNess has arrived with Gae Bolg, and partially demolishes the castle before Lugh can implement his plan.

Lugh deflects Gae Bolg’s attack with one of his “grenades”, then launches the biggest cannon attack he has. Setanta survives the blast with some superficial wounds that soon heal, but the knight is amazed at having finally seen and tasted his own blood, goes into Berserk mode while maintaining his sense, and challenges Lugh to a duel.

Suspecting Setanta is indeed the Hero as Maha’s intelligence suggested, Lugh makes it clear to Dia that he can’t run from Setanta’s challenge, nor can he have a hope of winning a duel against him. That said, Lugh also reminds Dia he’s neither knight nor hero, but an assassin. Assassinating’s all he can do, and it’s all he will do against Setanta.

After a little trash talking and negotiating of the terms of the duel, Lugh gets Setanta to agree that the duel will begin when a coin he flips into the air hits the ground. This essentially locks Setanta’s gaze on the coin, so he doesn’t look up when a solid tungsten missile comes crashing down on top of him, causing an enormous explosion and shock wave.

That solid tungsten missle was initially casually launched into orbit while Lugh was still in Dia’s castle, but is the culmination of months of careful preparation and collaboration. He and Dia designed the spells to launch it, and he and Tarte scouted the island Maha found to test it. It even employes the same shielding Tarte used to help Lugh conserve his energy on the way to Dia. The name of the spell is Gungnir, which is fitting as Odin’s spear is believed to be the prototype of Cúchulainn’s Gae Bolg.

Lugh’s extremely aerospace-y and not necessarily assassin-y or knightly gambit pays off. He takes a considerable lick himself, but soon awakens to a concerned Dia, whom he’s so relieved is okay he kisses her just as the sun rises over the mountains. When Dia asks why he agreed to take on a non-Tuatha Dé matter, Lugh tells her he never forgot his promise to always come running.

As he promised Tarte, Lugh arrives home having failed his first assassination job ever yet still triumphant, because he brought Dia with him. Cian decides its best for now for Dia’s identity to be concealed; she’s to live with them in Tuatha Dé as Lugh’s younger sister, with her shared bloodlines with Esri making it a believable lie.

With that settled, Cian brings up another order of business: the Hero has apparently arrived in the Alvan Kingdom. Lugh’s confused by that, since he assumed Setanta was the Hero. Alas, he apparently wasn’t; the actual Hero, whose presence closely precedes the certain arrival of the Demon Lord, is one Lord Epona Rhiannon, and the close-up on his alternate-Lugh like visage is the last image we see in The World’s Finest Assassin.

Despite the fact there’s no immediate news of a second season, I can’t believe we won’t be getting one sometime down the road. There’s a lot of story left to tell and a lot of cute moments between Lugh/Dia, Lugh/Tarte, Lugh/Maha, or any other combinations therein. Not to mention…what if this Epona lad is just like Lugh: originally from another world?

That’s one of dozens of questions I’m hoping a sequel would explore. Until then, this was a bold ending to a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing isekai series.

The World’s Finest Assassin – 11 – The Ultimate Tool

I’ll start with the only flaw of this episode, which is that it takes a while to get out of that drab brown room where Lugh’s dad explains…a lot. Turns out thee client for killing Dia is Dia’s father, but he only wants everyone else, including the enemy forces besieging Viekone Castle, to believe she’s been assassinated.

Lugh has the choice to turn down this job, as it involves getting mixed up in the affairs of kingdoms other than the Alvan royal family. But of course Lugh takes the job, because he owes Dia for teaching him magic, loves Dia, and promised he’d run to her if she ever asked for help, which he believes she did…just without words.

Lugh’s dad, who similarly only broke his oath of loyalty to Alvan for the sake of his wife Esri (also a daughter of House Viekone, by the way) is both proud and amused his son turned out to choose his love from the same family.

Lugh’s dad also chose him because he’s probably the only one who can pull this off; his pops knows that with the mana it will take to reach the castle in time, he’ll be too depleted to be effective. Tarte also knows she can’t go with him because she won’t be able to keep up with him, but she does offer to “carry him” at least partway there.

Tarte does so by creating a wind cowl and running just ahead of Lugh. These things in concert greatly reduce the physical and magical strain on Lugh, allowing him to conserve his strength for the trials that await at his destination. I frankly love how Tarte has scienced the shit out of this; it’s a brilliant, elegant, and very cool-looking solution.

As the pair pick up speed and scream across huge vistas that give the episode a Lord of the Rings-like epic, sprawling vibe, Tarte’s inner monologue reiterates that she knew all along Lugh didn’t save her life for her sake, but so he could make her into a tool. She hastens to add that while many might be saddened by that, it made her happy.

She’d been discarded by her family as a useless extra mouth, but he gave her a use, a purpose, a reason to keep breathing. And if Lugh so thoroughly rejects the idea of becoming a tool, Tarte is resolved to become the ultmate tool for him, doing whatever needs to be done, whenever it needs to be done for him.

When Tarte tuns out of mana, her wind cowl shatters, and she’s sent flying by the sudden burst of unshielded wind, Lugh catches her in his arms and keeps her from injuring herself. Lugh thanks her for helping him conserve, and marvels at how far he’s come in so little time.

Tarte asks Lugh if he really loves Dia like he says; Lugh answers in the affirmative. So Dia asks Lugh to promise he’ll return with Dia. He does, then dashes off, leaving Tarte alone in a vast field of grass, bathed in the gorgeous sunset, with a majestic mountain backdrop, and Tarte begins to weep…because Lugh, whom she loves so much, didn’t choose her.

We still get our goddess moment-of-the-week, but like previous ones it’s more of a brief and well-timed interstitial that doesn’t break the episode’s momentum. It is odd how all of a sudden the Goddess is talking like a robot, but one thing is clear: as of 14 years ago, she found a soul suitable for stopping the Hero’s rampage, and awaits his death.

Lugh arrives to find 1,500 enemy troops besieging a Viekone Castle with less than 200, but they seem to be holding the enemy off, thanks in large part to the “metal pellets” of Dia’s magic rifle. Lugh’s first task is to ensure the Castle isn’t sacked before he can fake Dia’s assassination, and he does so by wrecking the enemy forces’ shit.

Identifying all of the high-ranking magic users with his eyes of appraisal, he takes them out first. When the troops start huddling together for defense, he uses a Fahr stone to replicate the power of a grenade launcher, taking out large groups of the enemy at once. With the enemy in disarray, the Viekone forces use the opportunity to exit the castle to mop up.

After having used wind magic to listen in on the besieging army’s communications, he uses that same magic to detect a path devoid of sound, where he knows he won’t run into anyone. That path leads him all the way to Dia, who almost seems to sense he’s watching when she says “It’s all right. I trust you.”

Lugh reaches her and her father Count Viekone without being detected, and Dia rushes to hug him, absolutely overjoyed to see he actually came. But there’s still hard work ahead, including “killing” Dia and getting both her vassals and the army to believe she’s really dead, all without killing her. I hope he can keep his promise to return to Tuatha Dé together with Dia.

Fruits Basket – 28 (S2 03) – The Desolation of Indifference

One of Fruits Basket’s biggest personalities in Souma Ayame pays a visit to Shigure’s house. He comes with fresh peaches and invites Yuki and Tooru to visit his clothing boutique. Despite how annoying he finds his big brother, Yuki wants to try to understand him better, so to Ayame’s surprise he takes him up on the offer.

Despite a nondescript front and somewhat suspicious sign, the shop itself is pretty straightforward. They sell sewing and handicraft supplies, but Ayame also provides a discrete “custom” tailoring service to satisfy any taste (i.e. cross-dressers/drag/fetish/etc). Ayame is in the back when Yuki and Tooru arrive, but they’re received by Ayame’s charming partner Kuramae Mine—voiced by Index herself, Iguchi Yuka!

While I’m sure Yuki was glad Tooru accompanied him, the bottom line is he’ll get nowhere in his efforts to learn more about Ayame unless the two sit down together alone and have a proper conversation. That means Mine tastefully takes Tooru to the back and subjects treats her to their ample stock of elegant dresses.

When Tooru laments hearing the brothers fighting, Mine assures her that fighting, in their case, is good—it means they acknowledge one another’s existence. Having witnessed a lot of this with Yuki and Kyou, Tooru understands how any communication is good no matter how aggressive initially is, because that’s the rough first step to understanding one another.

Yuki is in a bad mood to start since that very morning he woke up from a dream in which his mother is asking him why it matters if he’s a tool. The tension between him and Ayame dissipates when Ayame turns down his Noble Charisma Levels a couple of notches and lets a more sensitive and thoughtful side come through.

Ayame regrets how he treated Yuki in the past, most of all because it was an absence of feeling—an existence of nil, neither loving nor hating him. Yuki was part of the background of his life, and the one and only time Yuki reached out to him for help, he slapped his hand away like one would slap a gnat.

Ayame didn’t realize how much he contributed to Yuki’s misery until later in life, when it was far too late to undo it. He became overtaken by fear that Yuki would exact upon him the same total indifference he’d exacted on Yuki. Dressmaking became his way to show that he was more than a tool, but someone capable of creating something that wouldn’t have otherwise existed.

It’s clear Mine played a huge role in helping to guide Ayame to this calling, which has in turn led to his happiness and desire to mend the frayed bond with his brother, and to forgive himself. When Yuki hears Ayame talk, he can’t help but see a parallel to the garden he tends: making his mark on the earth; showing he exists and can create.

But it’s not just dresses or plants that can’t exist without Yuki and Ayame, respectively. It’s the people they have by their side who allow them to be the best version of each other. Mine is the Mine she is in part thanks to Ayame, and vice versa.

The same goes with Yuki and Tooru—who emerges from the back with Mine glowed up into a pure-and-lovely masterpiece! As long as they have those people—and each other—in their lives, they’ll never be just tools, wandering the desert of indifference alone.

There are always going to be times when Yuki and Ayame don’t agree, see eye to eye, or even understand why they’re doing or saying something. But like two brothers arguing, the fact that they can identify differences means, by definition, that they’re not indifferent towards each other. And like mountains of laundry, reaching understanding means taking things one small step at a time.

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger – 07 – Time to Know Everything

The big showdown to determine if Yuliy can beat both Kershner and Mikhail and protect Phillip is suddenly cut short when tank shells explode outside. Major Iba has arrived, and he’s brought a sizable contingent of infantry and armor. It’s a great and triumphant realization of Iba’s decision to temporarily trust V Shipping and assist however he can.

Kershner’s ranks are routed, so he retreats, leaving Mikhail to finish Yuliy off, but Mikhail won’t kill him, any more than Yuliy will kill Mikhail. After all, before they parted, it was Mikhail who told him to “live”, and that directive supersedes Mikhail’s loyalty to Kershner. Maybe (brotherly) love can conquer all!

Kershner reaches the roof of the mansion to find Willard there waiting for him. Willard tries valiantly but he’s ultimately no match for the high-ranked vamp, and ends up at swordpoint when Yuliy arrives. Little does he know Kershner and Willard have a history.

Indeed, it was Willard, so obsessed with the Ark of Sirius, who helped “lift the veil” on its location, Yuliy’s hometown of Dogville. After Willard witnessed Yuliy use the power of the Sirius in the snowy forest, he saved him and set him on a life driven solely by revenge.

Willard fully expects Yuliy to want to kill him shortly after he kills Kershner (in a pretty awesome badass way, if you ask me), since he’s partly responsible for a lot of the terrible stuff that happened in his life.

But Yuliy doesn’t kill Willard. The ten years weren’t just about revenge for him. Willard may have been a cause of his despair, but he’s also the only reason he’s still alive, and lived as long as he has.

In the aftermath, V Company will reimburse the Naoes for the damage to the estate, while Willard tells Yuliy more about the Ark of Sirius: it’s a kind of font of extremely valuable information and technology; no wonder the vampires are after it.

It’s hinted when we check in on Kershner’s boss Yevgraf (who flies around in his sick airship, as you do) that while the vamps are certainly not happy about having to rely on the Ark, some kind of illness is killing them, and the Ark is their onl hope.

As for Iba, he gets a chewing out and his unit is disbanded, but he’s given a new and even more crucial task: find and retrieve the Ark of Sirius for Japan. Later, Iba pays a visit to Willard at the bar, and Willard tells him where to start looking for said Ark: Sakhalin.

Willard and the Jaegers of V Shipping, their Japanese mission complete, are ordered back to London on the double, for debriefing and to await their next mission. They all seem eager to return to HQ, particularly Phillip, who calls London home.

But Yuliy won’t be joining them. His mission to find and protect the Ark is no longer V Shipping’s, so they must part ways. He books passage on the next ship bound for Sakhalin alone, and sets off to do what only he can do.

This is no longer about avenging his family, his home, and his brother. It’s about fulfilling the duty that is his birthright, as well as his responsibility as last living Sirius…unless, of course his Dad’s still hanging in there somewhere…

Violet Evergarden – 04

Violet Evergarden delivers yet another bravura character study, this time with a focus on Iris, the young, feisty, but not-yet-distinguished Memoir Doll. She’s so excited to get her first personal request—from her hometown of Kazaly, no less—she overdoes it, and ends up spraining her arm falling down some stairs.

That means the ghostwriter will need someone to ghostwrite for her—a ghostghostwriter, if you will—and newly-certified doll Violet accompanies her for that task. During a conversation on the train, Iris is miffed by Violet’s assessment of her hometown as lacking in valuable resources.

But what she doesn’t get about Violet in that moment is that she doesn’t have a mean or even passive-aggressive bone in her body. Violet actually considers Kazaly’s resource dearth a good thing, because it meant warring factions didn’t destroy it fighting over resources.

When Iris agrees that it’s good no one in her town was hurt, she then apologizes to Violet, who was hurt. Violet doesn’t see the distinction between Iris apologizing for what happened to her, and apologizing for being insensitive with her words.

Upon arriving in Kazaly, Iris is approached not by her client, but by her loving parents; her mother sent the request under a false name in order to lure Iris home. Her parents’ true intention to throw a birthday party, with many single young men invited, in hopes she’ll return home, get married, and settle down. Thus, Violet, on behalf of Iris, will type up invitations.

Among the invitees is Emmon Snow, whom Iris asks Violet not to invite. But the day of the party, Emmon shows up and offers his salutations, which throws Iris into a rage. She runs into the house and away from the party.

Violet is confused by Iris’ “change of condition”, so Iris spells it out: Emmon rejected her already. When Violet immediately relays this information to Iris’ parents, and Iris’ mother tells her they’ll find another, better match for her, Iris is furious at Violet for being completely incapable of understanding peoples’ feelings.

Then Violet issues an apology that’s as thorough and revealing as it is heartbreaking:

I’m sorry. I thought I’d come to understand them a little, but people’s emotions are extremely complicated and delicate. Not everyone puts all of their feelings into words. People can be contrary, or at times, untruthful. I can’t decipher them accurately. It’s proving all too difficult for me. I’m truly sorry.

Iris’ attitude towards Violet softens considerably, once she realizes the difficulties Violet faces and battles without complaint.

And despite Violet having parroted almost everything Iris has said to her, Iris opens up even more, giving her the details of her confession to Emmon and his subsequent, devastating FriendZone-ing. The words that “activate” Violet are “I love you.”

The way Iris used them, she deduces that it must take a great deal of courage to say them to someone, and she wonders if the Major felt the same way. Iris, in turn, learns that the Major Violet speaks of was the first person in her life to show her love. Then Violet suggests she help Iris write a letter to her parents, to tell them how she truly feels.

While last week’s letter from a sister to her troubled brother was so short and sweet it could have been a fluke, this week’s letter is no fluke. Violet strikes a balance of cold, straightforward facts and warm, resonant sentiments.

In the letter, Iris properly expresses her desire to return to the city and continue on the path she set out for herself. She is grateful to her parents for their love, and sorry for causing them to worry, but hopes they’ll give her more time and watch over her.

Iris narrates the letter, which is to say Tomatsu Haruka does, and she absolutely knocks it out of the park. By the time her parents finish reading it, they’re near tears; as am I. On the train ride home, Iris assures Violet it was a fine letter, and that her feelings reached those she loves.

Iris is given a bouquet before leaving: one of irises, which were in full bloom when she was born and which are in full bloom when they depart back to Leiden. When Iris tells Violet how her parents named her, she remembers the Major doing the same thing with her.

Gilbert spotted a solitary yet stalwart violet off in the distance, lit up by the sun, and decides that’s what his new charge will be called. It’s his hope she “won’t be a tool, but a person worthy of that name,” yet another episode-ending title drop that gave me all the feels.

P.S. On a lighter note: with the number of close-ups of feet, particularly Iris’, one could be forgiven for thinking this episode was guest-directed by Quentin Tarantino, well-known as one of Hollywood’s foremost foot enthusiasts.

Violet Evergarden – 03

Violet attends Auto Memoir Doll Class, sternly instructed by Mrs. Rhodanthe. Violet treats it like military training, and without trying impresses the whole class with her two hundred words-per-minute typing speed, earns top marks for grammar and vocabulary. So far, so good.

Her desk neighbor Luculia (whose seiyu I can’t quite place…Yuuki Aoi, perhaps?) takes an interest in the “doll-like girl with a soldier’s demeanor.” When the time comes to ghostwrite letters to one another, Violet’s letter to Claudia sounds like a dry report, while Violet utterly fails to parse out the feelings Luculia expresses, resulting in another tactless letter full of potential misunderstandings, which the instructor soundly rejects. Technical proficiency will only get you so far in this class.

Still, Luculia, while walking partway home with Violet, decides to show her her favorite view of the city, from the clock tower. This induces a vivid flashback for Violet, remembering Major Gilbert telling her how he wished for her to see that very view.

This reinforces the notion that the only way Violet will make any progress—either as a Memoir Doll in touch with her clients’ feelings or a woman in touch with her own—is through external interactions with her fellow townfolk, like Luculia, which bring out her internal emotions. Seeing the view the Major wanted her to see is a step in the right direction.

At first, Luculia chose her brother as the recipient of her letter, but switched to her parents, and we get a glimpse of why: her brother is a raucous drunk and a layabout, and not really available to hear what Luculia might want to say, even if she found the words to say. Watching her eat dinner alone in the dark as he snored beside her was sad beyond words.

When the Doll class concludes, Violet is not among the nine who graduated, though Luculia does pass. Violet reports her failure to Claudia, who tells her not to feel so bad, since graduation isn’t a requisite of being a Doll. But Violet isn’t satisfied. She doesn’t see how she serve any purpose as a doll if she can’t do what the instructor said: draw out the true feelings the client wishes to express.

Violet returns to the school, perhaps for further guidance, but to her surprise is met by Luculia, who offers to ghostwrite her a letter about the person she kept mentioning at the end of her previous ones: the Major. This leads to Violet telling Luculia why she wanted to be a Doll in the first place (to understand what “I love you” meant).

Whether Luculia took “the Major’s last words to me” to mean the Major is dead or not, she proceeds to pour her heart out about her own situation. Her parents, whom she had Violet ghostwrite letters to, were killed in the war, and her brother, who was in the army but never saw battle, blames himself for not being able to defend the city where their parents died.

Here I thought he was tortured by the things he had to do in the heat of battle—this world’s equivalent of PTSD. But it’s the regret over not being able to do anything that took root in his heart that has been eating away at him ever since.

Watching him get into a pointless fight and getting badly beaten as Luculia expressed her feelings made for some singularly powerful drama, aided in no small part by Evan Call’s sumptuous score, which never strays into melodrama.

Violet hears Luculia’s words, and after Luculia leaves, takes up the typewriter once more. The next time we see her, she’s blocking a drunken, supine brother’s crutch with one arm, and delivering him a ghostwritten letter with the other. He had been lying there remembering better times, when he and Luculia would climb to the top of the clock tower to enjoy the view. It’s clear even here, at rock bottom, that he loves his sister very much.

The letter is oh-so-brief: I’m glad you’re here for me. Thank you for everything. They’re the words Luculia wanted to say but couldn’t, and they’re the words her brother needed to hear but weren’t being said. Words of forgiveness, gratitude, and love.

The next day, Luculia takes Violet back to the school once more. Luculia and her brother are on the road to rebuilding a relationship, thanks to the letter. Rhodanthe presents Violet with a brooch signifying her status as a graduate of the class, in hopes she’ll become an exemplary Memoir Doll.

This time Violet listened and understood the words being spoken, and took from them the feelings that needed to be expressed, without the need for paragraphs of flowery language. All she needed was a strong inspiration—almost a muse—and found one in Luculia.

We’ll see how this breakthrough translates to being able to successfully convey the feelings of people other than her new friend. But for now, Violet has achieved a hard-earned and well-deserved victory.

Violet Evergarden – 02

The second episode of Violet Evergarden begins with a flashback to four years ago, when Gilbert first “met” Violet. I use quotes, because his brother suddenly presents him with Violet like she’s a new weapon for him to try out, rather than a human being to meet.

As we know, Gilbert would come to think a lot more of Violet than merely as a trusty tool, be it a comrade in arms, a sister, or even a lover. But witnessing the simple moment they met serves to underscore what was lost when they were suddenly separated at the end of the war.

I imagine Violet and Gilbert were quite inseparable for all of the four years that followed, but now they’re apart, and Violet is trying to make the best of it. More importantly, she wants to learn what the last three words he said to her meant.

For her, that means learning the secrets of the women who write letters that properly express the feelings and intentions of their clients. But there’s a problem: Violet may be able to express love—for Gilbert, mostly—but since she doesn’t understand love, she doesn’t know she’s doing it.

As such, despite her speed and precision at the typewriter, she has a rough go of perceiving or transcribing the clients’ wishes. She’s always lived by cold hard facts and logic. The nuances of words and the concept of tact are as foreign to her as her metal arms are to her new co-workers Cattleya, Erica, and Iris.

When a customer is so angry he prepares to walk out without paying, Violet restrains him with ease, showing she can be an asset to the business (in addition to accurately typing addresses and records). But she’s not going to learn about love by simply doing the grunt-work.

Unfortunate circumstances lead her to writing a “love letter” from an interested woman who doesn’t want to come off as too easy to her admirer, and it goes about as well as you suspect. I actually really felt for the poor customer who had the bad luck to entrust Violet with such a coorespondence.

But I also felt bad for Violet, who has no idea (not yet at least) why her letter was so horrible. We can only hope she’ll apply that military discipline and sticktoitness to learning the finer points of interpersonal communication…and tact. I felt worse still when she thought she saw the back of Major Gilbert’s head, and her crestfallen face when it turned out to be a stranger.

The fellow Auto Memoir Doll who gets the most exposure this week is Erica, who was struggling to write letters that satisfied her customers before Violet showed up. In Violet’s blunders she sees her own shortcomings in this very tricky business, albeit different shortcomings.

She later learns from Violet (in a gorgeous end-of-the-rain scene where the sun starts to pour on their faces) why Violet is so adamant on persisting with the job even though she’s not well-suited for it: to learn what “I love you” meant.

Erica often walks past a store window with an early typewriter, whose inventor built for his blind wife so she could keep writing novels. It was a tool build out of love. The wife’s novels inspired Erica to try her hand at writing, and she intends to stick it out just as Violet does.

Erica (and Iris for that matter) are well aware not everyone can be Cattleya, who is the company’s popular (and money-making) celebrity. She likes Claudia Hodgins (so named because his parents wanted a daughter), but he can’t treat her to dinner because he spent his month’s pay to retrieve the brooch Gilbert gave to Violet, which was later stolen and placed on the black market.

Once Cattleya dolls Violet up a little to give her a look better befitting her regimental aura, Hodgins presents the brooch to Violet as a surprise, and her reaction shows every one present there’s a lot more to Violet than she’s revealed to them thus far.

When Cattleya asks Hodgins about the “Gilbert” Violet mentioned, he tells her, gravely swirling his drink (creating patterns of undulating light on the bar) and as Violet, in her quarters holds her brooch up to the light: Gilbert is from the rich and famous Bougainvillea family.

But still unbeknownst to Violet, he’s Never Coming Back, in one of the more effective episode title drops I’ve ever had the privilege to see. Violet bites the brooch, no doubt believing she’s now a little closer to meeting Gilbert again. In reality, that brooch is all that’s left of him.

It’s a truth Hodgins is in no apparent hurry to reveal to her, and who can blame him? The way she is now, Violet would either not believe him, and possibly undertake a desperate, futile quest to find him, or believe him, and lose all will to live one moment longer without her Major.

Violet Evergarden – 01 (First Impressions)

Violet’s life was once simple to the point of elemental. Rather than earth, fire, water, and air, she had the Battlefield, the Mission, the Orders, and, most importantly, the one who provided the last two on the first, the Commanding Officer; Major Gilbert.

When she comes to in a hospital, her face and arms bandaged, unable to hold a pen, Major Gilbert is the first person she calls for. She believes she’s in sufficiently good working order to begin the next Mission. She wants Orders as soon as possible. She wants to return to the Battlefield. She wants Gilbert.

She doesn’t get any of that. Instead, there’s this guy Colonel Hoggins. Violet’s new orders are simply to come with him. He takes her to a mansion, and there lives the Evergarden family to whom Gilbert has entrusted her until she comes of age.

In this civilized civilian capital untouched by war, Violet must feel utterly out of place. You don’t go stashing a military asset in a civilian setting, now do you? That would be improper. And Violet has always seen herself as such an asset. It’s why she stands at attention and salutes Mrs. Evergarden.

When Violet cannot grasp a lovely-looking cup of tea, it’s a highly symbolic gesture that becomes far more explicit when she reveals her adamantine hand. The metal on that hand is unlike anything else in that mansion, and so it doesn’t look like it belongs. Violet senses this.

When Hoggins starts to go, she protests. She must have orders at once. She must contact Gilbert. She must restore those elements that made up her world as long as she could remember. But again, Hoggins is unaccommodating. The war is over, he tells her, and to her that means she no longer has a purpose, and should be disposed of.

Colonel Hoggins, realizing Violet won’t adjust to life in peacetime so easily, decides to take her with him to the new postwar business he started: a civilian post office that also ghostwrites letters for the many members of the populace that can’t write (presumably due to the ravages of the war).

Because Hoggins, once the a leader of a force dedicated to destroying the enemy and nothing else, found a new niche in the war their blood and toil created, so can Violet. It’s just a matter of re-configuring the nature of those elements which she requires to live.

The “Battlefield” is now the port city of Leiden. In Gilbert’s stead, Hoggins is now her Commanding Officer (he prefers “Boss”). He’ll issue her Missions and Orders.

Those orders will consist not only of work—sorting and delivering mail—but also to learn that she needn’t work all day and night; that she must take breaks, eat, sleep, and all the other things civilians take for granted every goddamn day.

She seems to gradually get the hang of things, but there’s still a “fire” within her Hoggins hopes she’ll one day recognize. Not a literal fire, of course, but the fire of the trauma she suffered. She may regard herself as a weapon and tool and much of the rest of the army might’ve thought the same, but there’s also a human girl in there, and it’s time for her to live and be free.

Live and be free were Gilbert’s last orders, so Violet has no qualms about carrying them out. One day, she listens to one of the “Auto Memoir Dolls” writing a letter for a man who wants to urge his childhood friend not to marry another man.

As the words flow out of the “Doll” (really a beautiful, perceptive woman), memories of Violet’s former Battlefield surface. They’re brutal, and cruel, and dark. She’s every bit as brutal, taking out every enemy soldier that comes near her with grim efficiency and with no regard for her personal safety. We also see Gilbert, who seems to silently curse having to send her out to fight and kill.

The Doll’s closing words in the man’s letter are “I love you”, which are the last words Violet heard from Gilbert, who most likely died in that alley.

Violet didn’t understand those words, any more than a rifle would, but after witnessing the Doll use those words with such surety and conviction, she wants to learn what they mean. As such, she asks Gilbert if she can join the Auto Memoir Dolls in order to learn more about love and other emotions. Gilbert agrees, and Violet’s new Mission begins.

My first impressions of Violet Evergarden are…Wow. Dayum. This is how shit is done. KyoAni really balled out, delivering a wonderfully structured, quietly thrilling portrait of this broken vet. The war between nations may be over, now a new, more difficult war begins: to survive and find purpose in peacetime; to learn what an individual is and to learn what love is.

Ishikawa Yui (AKA Mikasa Ackerman) also delivers a compelling perfomance as, well, someone very similar to Mikasa in terms of loyalty to the person she loves most (though Vi doesn’t know what love is yet) to her general badassery.

Animation is, in a word, majestic. There’s a very vivid sense of the ugly pall of war being lifted over this alternate world, and yet the episode never banged us over the head with exposition. The flashbacks to the battle are effective in their brevity and intensity.

And the score, composed by American Evan Call, was the perfect aural accompaniment to Violet’s story. I don’t award 10s to first episodes lightly, but in the case of this episode, there is no other choice. Bravo.

C³ – Cube×Cursed×Curious – 01

High school lad Yachi recieves an unusual metal cube in the mail that laters turns out to contain a small girl named Fear, who was sent by his father to take advantage of the positive, “orderly” energy of his house. She is a “tool” that has been given human form by a curse. The curseproof Yachi leaves her alone when he goes to school with his friend, and she wreaks havoc on his house. He forgives her and assures her they’ll be able to break her curse.

We can’t say why we had high hopes for this series – after all, we knew next to nothing about it, but man, that was hard to sit through. Let us get the good out of the way first; it won’t take long: the series has very nicely-textured background, bright, vivid colors, and liberal use of light. That’s about all. The rest is just terrible.

Where do we start? The horrible character design? The 15 millionth petite, blue-haired, bratty girl? The goofy fanservice? The bafflingly bland lead and his blander childhood friend? The fact that Fear is a useless idiot, whose antics are played for gags that aren’t funny? The mustache-twirling femme fatale at the end? A first impression is an important one when it comes to anime. This first episode was nothing but dull cliches. It just wasn’t our cup of roasted tea.


Rating: 1.5

Blood-C 4

This is such a schizophrenic show, but that’s why I love it. The light high school scenes remain as bubbly as ever, though Saya’s classmates are aware of the missing (now dead) baker. But the night battle with the elder bairn(s) this week are more intense than ever, with MBS seeing the need to censor some of the more disagreeable gore. Saya was constantly on her toes, and it truly looked like she could lose this time around.

The last bairn she killed told her to “honor the covenant.” She dutifully tells her father this, and he basically tells her not to listen to their lies; it’s part of their tactics. But this new one – an evil Big Bird flanked by two acid-spewing sidekicks, has a lot more to say. The covenant apparently amounts to letting his kind get away with eating a few people here and there (which he does), in exchange for not bothering Saya’s kind. He dismisses Saya as nothing but her daddy’s tool.

Saya goes all red-eyed and manages to take out the bird-headed menace, but not before he takes three victims – villagers she wasn’t able to save. Not only was this the toughest and most taxing battle to date; she wasn’t able to fulfill her promise to protect everyone. And now her head is full of all this “covenant” talk, despite her father wanting her to fight, not think. As for Fumito…her just kinda creeped me out this episode. What is he hiding?


Rating: 4

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