No Guns Life – 10 – Tomorrow Never Knows

From the moment he prepares to leave on his job, which turns out to be blowing up a train full of Berühren officials for Spitzbergen, Colt is prepared for this to be his final day. He’s not thinking about tomorrow for himself, only his bedridden mother and his two little sisters.

They’re slowly starving, looking as if they’ve come straight out of Grave of the Fireflies. The life in their eyes is fading, but Colt hopes to give them a future in the form of money, even if he won’t be around to enjoy it with them. It’s a simple yet powerful look into the marginalized lives Berühren grinds under its boots every day to further its own ambitions.

When Tetsuro comes to the arranged place and time, he and Mary soon learn what Colt is about to do. When Mary is almost arrested by a security bot, Tetsuro takes it over, and when they find Colt about to carry out his plan, he initially mistakes the bot as an enemy until realizing it’s Tetsuro.

Regardless, as much as Tetsuro (lawful good in this case) pleads with Colt (chaotic good) not to commit a crime that will hurt people (even lawful evil people), Colt sees this as the only option left to him that will secure a tomorrow for his family. He’s committed to being the means to and end—the end of their suffering—and nothing more.

Colt’s plan is turned on its head when a higher-level Berühren heavy shows up and tells him there are no targets on the train he means to bomb: only innocent protesters and children. Now not only will Colt not get paid, but Spitzbergen will be tagged as mindless terrorists who’ll just kill anyone.

Not about to let that happen, Colt leaps to the car where the bomb is and extracts it, but before he can toss it away, his meds give out and he can no longer move. That’s when Tetsuro ups his Harmony, giving his security bot a second wind, and tosses the bomb away, saving Colt and the innocents.

Colt took quite a bit of damage to both his cybernetic and organic parts, and all Tetsuro can do is use Harmony to help get him home. Alas, he dies of his injuries right outside that home, before he can say goodbye to his family. We also learn it’s doubtful he’ll even be paid, as the Spitzbergen contact is arrested by Juuzou and handed over to the Security Bureau’s Chief Rosso.

I worry for Colt’s mom and kids, especially as they’re only three in a city of thousands in such a hopeless situation. Will Mary, who never found out anything about Victor, bring them into Juuzou’s place? There’s only so much they can do, especially when a new danger in Pepper is waiting for Juuzou as soon as he returns to his office. It’s just one thing after another, and any one of those things could mean no more tomorrows.

Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 11 – Going Once, Going Twice…

With its insistence on crafting the most intricate Swiss watch of a final mystery for Lord El-Melloi II to step in and steadily unravel, Case Files fell victim to its own self-indulgence this week, delivering what another possible owner of Kairi’s big rig truck would call “all hat and no cattle”.

That is to say, this episode is nothing but setup for a final reveal that seems to implicate Caules after El-Melloi reveals both the elements of the case Adashino had omitted so her deduction would stand up; the beginning of the presentation of El-Melloi’s conclusions, without following through.

In a show that has featured no small amount of pleasing spectacles, the whole damn point of the train, the Mystic Eyes auction, carries with it all the urgency and excitement of a rapidly deflating balloon. The auction room is nothing but an ornate but stodgy courtroom, where the bidding is arbitrarily paused not once but twice: once so El-Melloi can secure funding from Melvin; another so El-Melloi can state his case.

The murders in the past, as well as that of Trisha, were committed so the mastermind could collect the Mystic Eyes of the victims and use them at will. El-Melloi states that only one person could do everything the mastermind did and possess the all-important motive.

The credits roll just as Adashino moves to restrain Caules and the eyes in Trisha’s severed head, but there’s simply no time to revel in that revelation. After all, aside from caring for the injured El-Melloi, Caules hasn’t had much to do, and has been rather innocuously hiding in plain sight.

I’m glad El-Melloi knows who the culprit is, but this episode just confirmed that it wasn’t Karabo; it didn’t explain why it is Caules (if that’s who it ends up being). Thus the episode ends in an unsatisfying ellipsis, as the full measure of Lord El-Melloi’s conclusions will have to wait until next week.

Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 10 – Deduction, Not Delusion

In a clever narrative device that could have probably sustained an entire episode within the unconscious El-Melloi II’s mind, past merges with present as Waver is back in Lord Kayneth’s class at the Clock Tower, only the Lord is asking him about things going on now, like his desire to participate in the next HGW, and Hephaestion’s rejection of him as a worthy subject.

Meanwhile, left behind by the Rail Zeppelin, Gray waits out the blizzard with Hephaestion, who warms to her a bit after she determines the two are alike; both “living incarnations of a distant ideal,” both “counterfeit”, yet still unique and autonomous due to their own personal ideals, without which Gray could not have fought Hephaestion.

Since she deems them to be alike, Hephaestion understands Gray’s desire to stay by El-Melloi’s side to the bitter end, but warns her that loyalty and glory can be contradictory; if the time comes when Gray has to choose, and chooses glory, both she and the Lord could be destroyed.

Luvia and Kairi’s investigation continues with an interview with Mary Lil Fargo, though frankly they feel almost distractingly distant from the more pressing matters aboard Rail Zeppelin. Still, Mary was friends with Trisha, and last met with her a month ago.

Mary tells them that Trisha was trying to connect the serial murder case seven years ago, the investigation of that case by Lord Aminusphere and someone known as the “man with no heart,” and the Lord’s abandoning of Olga-Marie. Luvia knows of that heartless man, and that he has a younger sister-in-law aboard the train: Adashino.

Gray gets back to Rail Zeppelin in pretty much the most bodacious way possible, another reminder that however serious and stodgy this show can get, it doesn’t forget to include fun little moments of levity like Gray using Add as a snowboard, even pulling a couple tricks before landing into the caboose before Caules and a very amused Melvin.

Miss Adashino brings an end to the lighthearted fun by gathering everyone to the dining car to deliver her deductions, since Mr. Master Detective is still asleep. She reveals that Policies was looking into a serial beheading case seven years ago, but so was the Holy Church, and their investigator was…Karabo.

She also has Olga-Marie present Trisha’s head, which Trisha herself made sure would fall into the dimensional pocket she created after foreseeing her future murder with her Mystic Eyes. When Olga found the head, it had been frozen in time, and thus Trisha had one more breath with which to say one word: “Karabo.”

Adashino believes Karabo possesses eyes that can not only see the past, but make past visions the truth, and that his Mystic Eyes enabled him to bring a killing slash made through the air in the past into the present, just as Trisha’s head inhabited that space. While this is all conjecture, Adashino believes it’s enough to warrant certain measures be taken against Karabo.

Then an awake and recovered Lord El-Melloi II is wheeled in by Gray, and he immediately calls Adashino’s conclusions into question.

For one thing, Adashino never mentioned Karabo’s motive, and he’s of the mind that there can be no crime without motive. After all, what with Mages and their ability to manipulate individuals, motives aren’t always directly tied to the actual perpetrators of said crimes.

Just when El-Melloi voices his doubts about Adashino’s surety that Karabo’s Mystic Eyes can project elements of the recorded past into the present, Rail Zeppelin’s ethereal deputy manager comes, on schedule, to extract Karabo’s eyes. Karabo is restrained, but El-Melloi still isn’t convinced of his guilt.

Indeed, Karabo only just remembered he was even involved with the serial murder case seven years ago. His Mystic Eyes could see the past, but at the cost of his memories. But if he can get them back, he believes he can determine the truth of things. To get them back, he’ll need to win them in auction. Melvin offers to help them place a bid, but El-Melloi would rather not get involved with him.

Instead, he vows to solve the case on his own.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 10 – Maiden Abyss

God, where do I even start? I knew I’d be navigating an emotional minefield with a show like this, but in the spirit of one of this episode’s themes, the difference between thinking you know something and actually experiencing it in the moment is as vast as, well, the holes that threaten to swallow up every single character. Certainly far larger than the holes in the sexy underwear Kazusa is investigating on her phone.

Rika just happens to be hanging out with Amagi across the park where Hitoha gets picked up by Milo-sensei. Rika finds Hitoha’s underwear in the trash, freaks out for a minute, then calls a cab to follow them and hopefully save Hitoha and/or Milo from themselves/each other. She’s acting as a good friend would: as best she can with what little, highly concerning information she has.

Meanwhile, after all the hard work he did finding porn not set aboard trains, Niina has likely well and truly ruined them for him as anything pure and innocent, what with her placing his hand on her bum and keeping it there. Izumi pulls away and exits the train, but Niina follows him and demands to know why he’s going so far to refuse her.

Since he asked for advice, Niina offers to let him practice doing it on her. With all of her (not always consciously) honed powers of seduction in overdrive, she asks him straight up if he wants to do it with her, and he rejects her again, but not in the most convincing way.

Before leaving on the next train, Niina passes by and takes note of how hard he was—which is, of course, ludicrous: the hardness of one’s dick and one’s desire to sleep with someone are not the same thing at all. If Niina can’t ever get Izumi to love her like he loves Kazusa, she’ll do everything she can to make him desire her. She’s determined to kill that virginity of hers, and at the moment she has eyes only for him.

Momo plays Street Fighter alone in an empty arcade, and as she watches Chun Li get mercilessly wailed on by Ryu, she comes to a realization that had probably been gestating in her head and heart for some time. She texts Niina, asking to meet up and talk. Just then, Satoshi, a name I rather naively didn’t think I’d have to type again, texts her asking to meet up and talk.

Last week the window (or rather “hole”) seemed to be closing fast for Yamagishi-sensei to put a stop to a situation that, while not strictly illegal in Japan, is still a very bad idea for both parties involved. While yes, he picked up Hitoha, there’s still a possibility he’s just trying to scare her straight by only taking things so far.

Little does he know as he’s driving Hitoha is planning exactly what she’s going to do when they hit a red light: grab Milo’s hand and put it in her. It’s a bold plan to be sure, one I’m not sure she would have actually done, but we’ll never know, because they don’t hit another red light. Instead, Milo pulls in to a love hotel…the cheapest, seediest, least sexy love hotel he could find.

Rika arrives at the love hotel district, but there Hitoha’s trail goes cold, and Amagi really doesn’t want to hang around such a place, as it’s making him think and feel weird things when he’s committed to treating Rika right, a sentiment that makes her swoon when he expresses it.

To our unending relief, we finally learn definitively through his inner monologue that Milo has no intention whatsoever of going through with anything in that dingy lovenest, but makes the mistake of letting Hitoha go off to the bathroom (even more awful than the bedroom! They nailed the details on this shithole) to steel herself up, desperately swiping webpages on what to do in this situation.

She bursts out of the bathroom pounces on Milo, positions herself over his crotch, and starts unbuckling his belt and unzipping. Suddenly, a very stunned Milo has lost control of the situation. Hitoha is just as stunned, but feels if she’s gone this far there’s nowhere to go but forward.

But, once the zipper is down, and there’s no erection, Hitoha gives up and starts to cry, assuming it’s because she’s so “disgusting” to him. Always so condescending and rude in so many of their interactions, Milo drops that act, gently places his hand atop her head and tells her she’s wrong; this isn’t happening not because she’s ugly, but because he’s a coward.

As she cries in his arms, I breathe another sigh of relief. In the end, Yamagishi was the adult here, recognizing he had to to preserve her pride, and the best way to do that was to abandon his own for her sake. That may not satisfy or comfort her in the long run, but it stopped something very bad from happening for the wrong reasons.

Then comes an exchange I wish we didn’t have to witness, because it’s just so hard to watch and so gosh-darn realistic. Satoshi, “The Nice Guy,” didn’t take too kindly to being embarrassed in front of his friends at the cultural festival. He accuses Momo of leading him on, calls her a slut, and demands an apology lest he make it impossible for her to come back to cram school.

Momo isn’t apologizing, and she’s not going back to cram school either, and that’s that. But as she walks away, Satoshi grabs her arm, because he’s not done with her yet. She’s not showing him proper respect, you see? For that, Momo cries out so all the passersby can hear, and naturally Satoshi calls her weird and crazy and scurries off. What an apocalyptic boob. Maybe don’t grab girls who couldn’t be less interested in you and are trying to walk away, brah!

As Niina walks around the same district where we’ve already seen Rika, Amagi, Hitoha and Milo, she thinks about how she always, always gets comments and cat calls whenever she walks down this street…until now. It’s as if Izumi’s rejection of her has marked her as some kind of hideous creature from which all ment will keep their distance.

After years being looked at the wrong way, suddenly she no longer feels the attention…and she’s not feeling so great…like withdrawal from a drug you were forced to take. Then Momo calls her, again asking to meet up. After being touched by a guy, Momo wants Niina to touch her, to “purify” her, because she’s in love with her.

No longer feeling waves of desire from men in her radius, suddenly Niina is confronted by a woman, stating in no uncertain terms she wants to be touched by her. Niina isn’t sure how to respond, so she apologizes and ends the call.

And that, inexorably, brings is to Miss Smartphone Sexy Underwear Shopper. Kazusa is in a wonderful little bubble of bliss, as she has been ever since she and Izumi became a couple. That bubble only grows larger when Izumi gives her a quick “just calling to say I love you” call from the station where he’s still processing what happened with Niina.

It’s clear with this call Izumi is trying both to assuage the measure of guilt he feels and ease the swirling of confusing thoughts in his head by reiterating his feelings to Kazusa, clearly, out loud. He’s a mess, and the call does little to fix that.

After the call, Kazusa beams like we’ve never seen her before, then continues her underwear shopping. In voice-over, she states that at that time she had no idea what vast and widening holes her friends were staring down, nor that she’d soon be staring down her own once her blissful bubble inevitably bursts.

The next morning, Izumi can’t even hold hands on their walk to school for some vague fear of “the neighbors.” That last exchange with Niina really did a number on him, huh? Sure looks like it could be the beginning of the end for these two…before so much as a peck on the cheek.

That just leaves us with Rika and Amagi, the one couple that seems to actually, ya know, be okay! Just as Rika is starting to contemplate getting a little closer to him, the teacher (who is, let it be said, shitty for doing this) announces that her friend Sonoe got pregnant and is dropping out of school. As if the previous twenty minutes of carnage weren’t enough, one last savage dagger before the curtain.

I need a drink!

(Of Misery)

Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 09 – Straighten Yourself Out

Gray and Caules are consulting with Olga-Marie about Hephaestion when the path of Rail Zeppelin is suddenly altered, turning into the infamous “Child of Einnashe,” or Forest of Dead Apostles, and stopping dead in the middle of a horrendous blizzard.

Some enterprising mages are quickly stabbed by the predatory trees. With El-Melloi still unconscious and most of the passengers locking themselves in their rooms, it falls on Gray and her allies to figure out how to get the train back on track.

In a rather abrupt transition, Luvia and Kairi visit the “Zombie Cooking” studio of Jean-Mario Supinerra. They ask him about the crimes involving beheadings, and he assumed from his Scotland Yard contact that such a case had been resolved. Trisha also contacted him about it just before she died in the same manner, suggesting she had some pecognition about her fate.

Melvin Weins, who had been following Rail Zeppelin by helicopter ever since meeting with Reines, joins Gray, scaring the crap out of her with his unorthodox, bloody entrance. Soon Karabo and Yvette arrive with the conductor, who asks them to assist in getting the train moving again, lest they be forced to cancel the auction.

Caules agrees to stay with El-Melloi, and Melvin plays his violin to tune the magical circuits of everyone, buffing them for the upcoming mission; judging by Yvette’s reaction, the tuning also happens to feel really, really good.

The eclectic, hastily-built party (a really cool combo, by the way) sets out into the bitter cold. Yvette locates the main Leylines and Karabo marks them for activation. Add warns Gray of trouble approaching, and hangs back, once again encountering Hephaestion, a Servant whose true name she knows but whose role—and Master—she doesn’t.

As Yvette, Karabo, and Melvin battle the forest’s defenses and finish activating the leylines, Gray and Heph spar, with the latter not at all interested in dialogue and the former hesitant, but not altogether unwilling to use force.

When the train starts back up, Olga-Marie happens to land on a dimensional pocket with an imaginary attribute; a signature spell of the Fellows family to which the late Trisha belonged. When Olga unlocks the pocket, Trisha’s head falls out, to Olga’s shock and dismay. Adashino enters the room, pleased the head of the victim has been found.

Even when the train released from the forests and ready to continue on its proper course, Gray isn’t about to let Heph get away, so she rescinds her first restraint, transforming her scythe into a giant hammer. Will they get left behind, or will the battle again be interrupted, whether by an awakened El-Melloi or someone else? Even standing still, with its titular character out cold, Rail Zeppelin continues to crackle with intrigue.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 09 – What Now?

At least, for a little while, we get to experience the pure initial jubilation of Kazusa and Izumi being a couple, meeting outside their adjoining houses, and walking to and from school together. Everything looks brighter and shinier, food smells and tastes better, and Izumi looks cuter to Kazusa’s eyes. They’re very much on cloud nine, but throughout it all there’s the underlying knowledge that it just can’t last.

Rika, too, admits she has changed, as a “victim of love”, but has also learned that boys are far more sensitive and nuanced than she thought, and tells the rest of the club to value them as humans—something only she didn’t do before.

While all five girls were in one way or another “losers,” now suddenly Kazusa and Rika are “winners,” having broken the plane of boy-girl romance, and their subsequent floating on clouds does not go unnoticed by those left behind. As a self-proclaimed “loser” himself, it’s Milo-sensei’s experience that winning stifles the imagination, which suits Hitoha just fine.

You could also say that winners are so busy winning their guards are down. Kazusa buys Niina’s half-hearted congratulations, but what Niina doesn’t tell her is that she’s still considering whether to steal Izumi from her, and if so, how. Momo isn’t okay with that, and promises Niina that losing two friends (her and Kazusa) for one boy isn’t worth it.

Niina begs to differ: after all, saying she can’t have sex with mere friends—something Momo doesn’t seem that sure about.

So as their destruction is plotted, Kazusa and Izumi go about their wonderful glittery romance…only the glitter gives way to awkwardness when they find themselves alone in Izumi’s house together. What’s the next step for them? They have no idea, not just what they want to do, but what the other person wants to do.

They aren’t communicating properly yet, nor have they set boundaries or lack thereof, so they make assumptions, some of which are right, like Izumi sitting beside her. They hold hands together, but they both get hung up on how sweaty their hands are, and then Izumi’s mom comes in and suddenly they’re six feet apart.

Ultimately, they won’t know what they want to do until they try something, and they won’t know what to try with each other until they discuss it. Right now, their deep, ten-year familiarity is clashing with the newness of their boyfriend-girlfriend status, and resulting in a bit of a short-circuit.

Meanwhile, the fact Kasuza is with Izumi and Rika is with Amagi means the lit club is suddenly taking a break, giving the recent festival as an excuse, but let’s not fool ourselves: Momo and Hitoha and especially Niina are only going to sit and listen to Rika and Kazusa talk about how great it is to be dating boys for so long.

So Momo goes home alone, not knowing quite what to do about the rift between Niina and Kazusa. Niina invites Izumi to “ride the train” with him assuming she’s willing to offer advice as a friend. Hitoha ambushes Milo-sensei in the clubroom with an “expose,” and give him an ultimatum: sleep with her, just once, or everyone, including his beloved Tomita-sensei, will find out about all the things he’s said to a high school girl.

While I doubt Hitoha was simply bluffing here, the fact remains, she wasn’t 100% prepared for him to not only say “okay” to an offer of sex, but set a time and place for him to pick her up. Milo is quickly approaching the point of no return, but his feelings for Tomita, and the threat of her knowing how deviant he’s been, are clearly clouding his judgment.

Later, Hitoha waits at the agreed-upon time and place, and gets in when Milo-sensei stops and tells her to, tossing her underwear into a nearby garbage can. No good can come of this!

In a nice bit of synergy, the same book that Rika and her new gal friend Sonoe (with whom she now interacts far more comfortably) bond over in the library is the book Niina presents to Izumi on the train, describing his relationship with Kazusa to the The Little Prince and the one rose on his planet. When he went to earth, he found that roses were commonplace, but a fox told him that the sum of his time and experiences with that first rose make it unique.

Saegusa tells Niina that she’s the fox, saying the words that will lead to the Prince living the rest of his days with that one special rose, while the fox itself is never mentioned again once they part ways. To not be forgotten like the fox in the story, Niina has to make a bold move.

Whether someone was actually touching her bottom on the train once it gets crowded is immaterial; the point is, Niina wanted a situation in which she could tell Izumi to place his hand on her bottom. Not only that, there’s now a record of their exchange on their phones she could potentially use against Kazusa.

So one of Izumi’s hands is sweatily, awkwardly clutching Kazusa’s as the ticking of the clock grows louder and louder, and the other hand is resting on Niina’s bottom, with Niina’s hand guiding and keeping it there. So, as is asked many times in the heads of the characters this week, What Now?

Trouble…that’s what!

Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 08 – Invisible to Time

In her shock and rage, Olga-Marie lashes out at the one she deems the most likely culprit in Trisha’s murder: Karabo, of the mage-detesting Holy Church. Karabo blocks her attack and renders her unconscious, then volunteers to perform an autopsy on the body, putting aside the differences between their factions.

Contrary to my theory about Trisha possibly knowing her fate and meeting it without complaint, the investigators determine that neither the mystic eyes of premonition or past vision could see the perpetrator; that they were essentially invisible to time. Furthermore, the loss of Trisha’s head strongly suggests the perp was after her eyes—such murders are apparently not uncommon on the Rail Zeppelin.

El-Melloi meets with Olga-Marie once she wakes up, telling her he’s not helping her so Aminusphere will owe him, but because of a creed he adopted after his adventures with Iskander. “Glory lies beyond the horizon,” his servant used to say, assuring him that while what he seeks is beyond his grasp, he’ll find his own path one day, something he’s now trying to do.

With that in mind, El-Melloi will do everything in his power to keep similarly out-of-their-depth young ones (like Olga) from losing their lives needlessly. Olga is taken aback by his confessing to being influenced by a mere “minion” and “means to an end,” but she doesn’t understand that El-Melloi’s Servant was his mentor in every sense of the word. She simply  considers El-Melloi “weird”, and Gray weird for being his apprentice.

While passing in the corridor, Adashino tells El-Melloi that both Codrington and Davenant had the same sponsor, but won’t say anything more, leaving “Mr. Detective” to deduce whether that sponsor is involved with Rail Zeppelin.

As Luviagelita and Kairi determine the theft of the Holy Relic was an inside job, committed by someone who possessed a spare key to the bounded field, El-Melloi and Gray wait on the caboose of the train to await the thief, who arrives in a flash of red lightning on the train’s roof, wearing Iskandar’s mantle.

She introduces herself as Hephaestion—one of Iskandar’s generals—and is unwilling to recognize El-Melloi as a true subject. Disgusted with his face, she moves to kill him, and when Gray intervenes, she uses Mystic Eyes to turn Gray’s body against him. El-Melloi neutralizes that spell, but Hep then summons Iskandar’s Noble Phantasm, Gordius Wheel.

Gray prepares to recind her seals and unleash her own Phantasm, but again El-Melloi stays her hand, then uses the magical energy in his hair of all things to redirect Hep’s lightning to the ground. It doesn’t entirely work—he suffers severe burns to his back—but in any case Hep was clearly toying with them; if she wanted them dead, she could have done it. Instead she withdraws.

Olga-Marie offers a panacea to heal El-Melloi in exchange for calling them even, which Caules combines with a Primeval Battery, so El-Melloi is poised to recover, but he doesn’t regain consciousness for the rest of the episode. But before he passed out, he wondered how he’d never even heard of Hephaestion. No doubt it made him wonder what else he might not know, and whether he still nothing more than the helpless, hopeless boy who bit off far more than he could chew.

Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 07 – Murder on the Mystic Eyes Express

At what appears to be Kings Cross Station, Lord El-Melloi II awaits the arrival of that most infamous supernatural mystic eyes collection and auction train, Rail Zeppelin. He is accompanied by Gray (natch), and by one of his students, the berserker Caules Yggdmillenia. But that’s not all; not by a long shot. Rail Zeppelin passengers are a veritable cross section of the magical world.

There’s Olga-Marie Arsimilat Animusphere, daughter of the Lord of Astromancy, accompanied by her maid Trisha. There’s Adashino Hishiri of Policies, clearly there to observe and await what may befall Lord El-Melloi. There’s Karabo Frampton of the Holy Church, an intense rival of the Clock Tower. While not in El-Melloi’s party, his student and self-appointed “future mistress” Yvette Lehrman has her own invite.

Leandra introduces herself to the passengers as Rail Zeppelin’s auctioneer. Rodin is its conductor. And then there’s Rail Zeppelin itself: a spacious, sumptuously-appointed luxury train that seems far bigger on the inside than the outside, and travels on rails above leylines. I love trains and the whole idea of enjoying all the comforts of home while travelling somewhere far off. Rail Zeppelin itself is a character in this arc—and an immediately likable one at that.

It’s apparent there are a number of uneasy truces in operation between factions normally warring (either metaphorically or literally, or both). That lends the episode a tense and uneasy atmosphere. The train is stuck on a fixed rail, hurtling at high speed; a powder-keg that could explode at any moment for a whole host of reasons.

While Reines did not accompany Lord El-Melloi, she’s running her own investigation the theft of her brother’s catalyst for summoning a servant of the Holy Grail War: the Mantle of Iskandar. Such a task is frought with danger, so she hires Shishigou Kairi and pairs him up with Luviagelita Edelfelt (with whom she nicely bonded last week along with Gray)—an inspired duo if ever there was one.

Having foregone sleep for much of the last two nights, El-Melloi spends the first night and much of the following day catching up on sleep. Before he awakes for breakfast, Gray meets with Yvette in the dining car, who comes from a family who craft mystic eyes from gems, like the one her eyepatch conceals. Either Yvette can’t quite get Gray to admit they’re rivals for the Lord’s heart, or Gray simply doesn’t consider Yvette a rival at all.

Lady Aminusphere and Trisha once again meet with El-Melloi, to discuss his cooperation in the coming auction. Specifically, Olga-Marie wants the biggest prize of the auction—the highest-ranked Rainbow Mystic Eyes—the “ultimate operation of celestial bodies within the human body.” If El-Melloi helps her win them through strategic bidding and folding, he will be rewarded.

More to the point, she knows they’ll win them, because Trisha has seen that outcome with her Mystic Eyes of Premonition; the effects of which only add to Gray’s discomfort when combined to her symptoms of motion sickness (poor kid lacks her train-legs, perhaps in part because King Artoria is from a time long before such tech).

While off on her own recovering, Gray gets some friendly advice from Karabo Frampton. When the two touch, Karabo’s Mystic Eyes that can see the past glimpse King Artoria Pendragon in a field (clearly enjoying not being on a speeding train). He had suspected she wasn’t a mage like most everyone there, which leads to her belittling herself and underplaying her value to Lord El-Melloi. Karabo assures her she’s already someone the Lord “finds necessary.”

Trisha joins El-Melloi at the bar, revealing that she and her lady have investigated the role of one third-gen mage of limited renown Waver Velvet in the Holy Grail War; seeing the younger Waver reflected in his glass is a nice stylistic touch. El-Melloi, like Gray, may consider that role to have been flawed and inadequate, but the mere fact he survived is a testament to the contrary.

Trisha, believing he seeks Mystic Eyes as a weapon for the next Grail War, warns him that having Eyes means accepting the destiny of being bound to them. Of course, El-Melloi is more than prepared for such a destiny, as he’s already bound himself with the title of Lord El-Melloi—albeit while trying to limit expectations with a tacked on “II”—and all the duties and responsibilities therein.

Not to mention he’s bound to meeting with Iskandar once again, even if the Heroic Spirit has no memories of the last war and their time together. Gray sympathizes; who wouldn’t want someone you were devoted to carry memories of you? But just as El-Melloi goes into a spiril of self-loathing and Gray is about to cheer him up with the gift she got at Luvia’s store, there’s a loud, distressed scream.

El-Melloi and Gray rush to its source, and they find a shocked Olga-Marie kneeling before the bloody, headless body of Trisha. That makes Rail Zeppelin a Magical Murder Mystery Train, packed with potential suspects in the best Christie tradition, with El-Melloi as its Poirot. And there’s still the matter of who gave him one of only twelve open invites to the auction.

All we know for sure is that neither he nor Gray committed the murder, and that when Trisha was warning El-Melloi about being at peace with whatever destiny Mystic Eyes might provide, she was speaking from imminent experience. Her eyes allowed her to foresee her own demise—one she either couldn’t or wouldn’t avoid. She may have been the first victim of whatever power is at work here, but she likely won’t be the last.

Tenrou: Sirius the Jaeger – 08 – Aligned Interests, Allowed Journeys

It’s official: the vamps have total air superiority in this show. I guess it can pay to be immortal! Mikhail is whisked to Sakhalin by Klarwein (the mad scientist) in a floatplane that wouldn’t be out of place in Porco Rosso. Yevgraf’s splendid airship has already docked atop a mountain. Where are the Jaegers’ toys?

Mikhail learns this was the birthplace of the Ark of Sirius, and an ancient sanctuary built by the Sirius sanctuary is where his father brought the Ark to be safe. Yevgraf believes because Mikhail has noble Sirius blood, he’ll be able to break through the barrier his father created at the cost of his life.

However, it’s not that simple. Mikhail also has a blood pact with Yev (formed when he turned him when Dogville fell) that not only prevents him from fully penetrating the barrier, but also prevents him from attacking his master. And now we know for sure: Mikhail wants the Ark so he can kill Yev. Instead, Yev decides he’ll try to use Yuliy.

Despite being about as gracious and simpering a thrall as a master could want, Klarwein is utterly ignored by Yev in every instance where he’s in his presence. While I don’t see the mad scientist’s loyalty wavering, it’s worth keeping an eye on what other “research” he’ll cook up in isolation.

Willard informs his team of Yuliy’s solo departure, and Fallon, Dorothea and Phillip all want to help him if they can, even if he left without them specifically to keep them out of something that could get them killed. But these are Jaegers; they’ll decide how they’ll be killed, so Willard announces they’ll make “a stop” before heading to London.

And in case you were wondering, the show isn’t done with Ryouko just because the Jaegers are no longer staying at Baron Naoe’s. She books passage to London, leaving a loving note to her pops about her duty as next head of the family to further investigate the attack on their manor. The Baron is content to allow his daughter her journey, but he’s coming too.

Finally, as soon as Yuliy arrives in Sakhalin, he picks up a tail, but it fortunately turns out to be a fellow Jaeger in Bishop, who I’m guessing is American from his attire. Yuliy and Bishop both want Yevgraf dead and the Ark out of the hands of the vamps, so they decide to work together. The first step is meeting with a recluse in the mountains who has info on the Ark.

Bishop is a bit of a walking cautionary tale for Yuliy; his entire team of Jaegers, which was more like a family to him than his own blood, was wiped out, leaving only him. Yuliy can smell the blood on him, almost as if he were a vamp himself, something Bishop explains is something that simply happens if you hunt them long enough and enough of the people you care about are lost.

By the time they arrive at the codger’s, he’s already being ambushed by vamps led by the twin sisters Larissa and Tamara, who have a flair for the theatric what with their sentence finishing and echoing laughter. But they can also handle themselves in combat. Once again Yuliy has to fight high-level vamps while keeping them from killing someone. Hopefully Bishop finds parking and lends him a hand fast!

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.

Holmes of Kyoto – 01 (First Impressions) – The Game’s Afoot

After Mashiro Aoi broke up with her boyfriend in Saitama, he immediately started dating someone I presume to be her best friend. Betrayed, angry, and generally very down in the dumps, Aoi wants to book a train there to give them a piece of her mind. In other words, while she may be justified in seeking vengeance, there are better ways she could be directing her energy.

Aoi also doesn’t have the money for the train, so she snatches some valuable drawings from her late grandfather’s house and visits an antique shop in Kyoto’s Teramachi Sanjou district to have them appraised. There, she meets the young Yagashira Kiyotaka, AKA Holmes, who is as exceedingly apt at appraising people and intent as he is appraising antiquities.

The story of her fateful first day at the shop is framed as a reminiscence between Aoi and Holmes two weeks after he hires her as a part-time assistant, in order to pay for her ticket—if she still feels the need to go to Saitama once she’s made enough.

Holmes can’t buy antiques from those under 20, but even if she was old enough, he uses the particular pieces she chose to try to sell to basically teach her a lesson about turning the other cheek. Even the famous artist Hakuin couldn’t escape scandal, even if he was the victim of a false accusation.

At the end of the day the infant he was left with made a strong impression on the artist, and the love he had for said infant is captured in the drawing. Because Aoi has a good head on her shoulders, she realizes the error of her ways and is ashamed—unlike one of the counterfeit sellers who visits the shop.

Aoi doesn’t turn down his offer of a part-time job, especially if it means working with such a bright, charming, attractive fellow. She may have entered the shop with her head hanging low, but she leaves feeling lighter than air, twirling past the same riverbank of couples she cursed earlier.

Holmes of Kyoto, as Aoi’s voiceover puts it, is a “quiet and beautiful story of the cases we solved in Kyoto,” which is an apt description. I’m liking the simplicity and focus of just two people in the small, simple yet potential-filled setting of a shop, and Aoi’s seiyu Tomita Miyu (Riko from Abyss) is always a welcome inclusion to any cast. In all, a strong start. I want to see more cases!

Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 20 – Shattering and Clashing to Victory

When Gin and Jouichirou start bebopping and scatting all over the train kitchen, Takumi, Megumi, Souma and Erina have to find a way to contribute to the “music” the master chefs are playing, or fail the challenge. For Takumi and Erina in particular, it means leaving their comfort zones—the cooking philosophies they’ve always lived by—and going for gusto.

If they completely shatter or abandon everything they’ve known thus far, they risk losing their vital identities as chefs, but that’s not truly what’s going on here: they contribute in ways only they, with their uniquely amassed knowledge and experience, can contribute.

They’re not so much changing who they are, but changing how they use that, and in doing so unlocking another level in their growth.

The resulting hachis Parmentier from both teams scarcely resemble that classic French dish, yet both embody the spirit of the dish while elevating it into more rarefied culinary air. Senzaemon makes a last minute addendum to the rules of this mock battle: the four young participants, not he, will judge who deserves to win.

Everyone loses their clothes in foodgasms, and when the moment of truth arrives, the kids all point…at each other. Erina likens Team Doujima’s dish as a perfectly in-sync jazz band, while Takumi likens Team Saiba to an avant-garde group art project. In both cases, chaos is used to create things harmony couldn’t, resulting in dishes that are both cohesive in concept and strongly individualized in execution.

The point of Senzaemon’s mock battle wasn’t to decide who’d be the captain of the team that will face Azami’s Elite Ten. It was to get the youngins to experience their abilities firsthand in order to know what to expect of one another when the battle and the stakes are real.

And brother, is there anything realer, or more appallingly hilarious, than watching the ghost-white, skunk-haired Nakiri Azami skiing down a slope in his black suit? Talk about pumping him up as a Bond villain!

His collection of Central stooges also looks the part; they’re as diverse in personality and appearance as our rebels—and in the case of Eishi and Rindou, we’ve seen they have good sides—and yet because they’re determined to defeat the rebels at the behest of Azami, here and now they’re nothing but The Enemy.

Azami tries once more to bring Erina back into the fold simply by stating the duty of all Elite Ten members to obey his orders. He wants Erina on his team, and like almost everybody, expects Erina to be cowed by the certitude and force of his words and sheepishly defer to her father. Even Souma calls her a “doormat” when it comes to her dad—out loud!

But Erina stands her ground. If being the Tenth Seat means having to join Central in the Team Shokugeki, then she will simply relinquish said seat, and join the rebels as simply Nakiri Erina.

While impressed by her continued insolence, Azami comes back at her with one last stipulation in the Team Shokugeki: If the rebels are defeated, she will have to return to his side, commit herself to central, and never disobey him again.

Since losing means all her friends’ expulsions will stick, all the rebels still standing will be expelled, and her beloved Saiba-senpai will have to become Azami’s ally, Erina figures “what the heck, might as well add to the already epic stakes.”

She’s so pumped up by successfully standing up to her father that she starts acting like the Queen of the Rebels, vowing to take the First Seat once they are victorious. Takumi and Megumi like this new rebellious-yet-regal “Queen Erina.” Souma, while initially irked (since he wants to stand at the top of the Elite Ten), nonetheless pledges his life to her, along with the others, in the decisive battle to come.