Classroom of the Elite – S2 07 – Casanova

There’s a changing of the guard at the top of the school pyramid, as Manabu resigns to make way for Nagumo Miyabi of Class 2-A, who intends to turn the school into a true meritocracy.

Meanwhile, Kiyotaka is suddenly Mr. Popular, earning praise (and a warning about Ryuuen) from 1-A’s Katsuragi to being asked out by Satou Maya, who was smitten with his athletic performance. Kiyotaka agrees to an exchange of numbers and a platonic start.

Of course, hot on the heels of the sports fest is the next special test, which is called “Paper Shuffle” and involves everyone being paired off and taking tests with questions prepared from the other classes.

As is typical of CoE the rules are stubbornly labyrinthine, but the Kiyotaka and Suzune agree that the most important aspect of the test is how people will be paired off, which will be chosen by how everyone scores on a mini-test.

Suzune, Kiyotaka, Ken, Kei, and Yousuke meet to talk strategy, and are joined by Kikyou, whose presence Suzune doesn’t protest. Hanging back with Kiyotaka, Suzune tells him that she went to the same middle school as Kikyou, and there were rumors she was singlehandedly responsible for the utter destruction of an entire class.

While Kiyotaka suggests she try to get Kikyou expelled, Suzune still believes there’s a way to make Kikyou their ally. She also makes a point to earnestly thank Kiyotaka, since she knows he was the one who saved her from Ryuuen.

With true villains like Ryuuen stalking about, that’s not an unrealistic hope. He wastes no time outing the Class C traitor, who turns out to be Manabe, a nice connection to a previous special test and the person who more or less brought him and Kei together. Manabe tells Ryuuen that the Class D “mastermind” is either Kiyotaka or Yukimura, the only witnesses to her bullying Kei.

At the cafe, Suzune leads the group in the strategy meeting, proposing that their class be split into four groups based on their academic performance, and for the lower two quarters of the class intentionally get zeros and ones on their mini-tests, so that they’ll be paired with the strongest scores and thus result in a balanced group and minimizing the possibility of any expulsions.

It’s a nifty little plan, and not only does Kiyotaka not involve himself in the meeting, but leaves it all up to Suzune to convince the class, which she does admirably due to her growth in the sports festival softening her edges.

That night, Kei calls Kiyotaka, worried about how things went with him and Satou Maya. He posits that she’s worried he may shirk his responsibility to protect her if he gets close to Maya, but he tells her that they only agreed to exchange numbers for now, and even if it amounted to more, he promises he’ll have her back come what may.

Even though I feel bad for Kei being caught up in Kiyotaka’s web of awfulness, and like Maya I’d strongly suggests not harboring a crush on him, I’m also just glad that she feels happy and safe, and equally certain Kiyotaka is a man of his word when it comes to protecting her. He doesn’t even add “so long as you keep doing as I say”.

Unfortunately for Kei, Kiyotaka ends up being paired up with Maya for the Paper Shuffle, while Suzune ends up with Ken (no surprise there). Everything’s going according to plan so far, but the threat of Ryuuen looms, as does Kikyou’s assertion that expelling Suzune and Kiyotaka is a higher priority than rising to Class A. I certainly hope Suzune makes strides in her peace talks.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Classroom of the Elite – S2 06 – The Mask Drops

The title of this episode comes from Lord Byron, but one could quote Yoda too: failure is the greatest teacher. Suzune was too busy trying to be accomplished and exceptional enough for her brother to look her way to realize that sometimes failing is the point.

While at first I thought Kiyotaka was throwing out random rumors about Kikyou being the Class D traitor, when pressed, she happily owns up to it. Without dropping her outward syrupy demeanor, she admits her primary goal right now is to get Suzune expelled.

She also offers Kiyotaka a friendly reminder that she still has evidence of him groping her if he ever tried to expose her. Not only that, she’s decided on the spot that before she can think about helping Class A, she’ll want him expelled along with Suzune.

Sudou is still angry from how things went down thus far when Suzune first approaches him, but she remains standing near the elevator when he decides to return. Suzune realize the two are alike in their obsession with seeking acknowledgment, but now she knows that going it alone won’t be enough. She asks Sudou to help her, and when he agrees, she flashes an exceedingly rare Horikita smile.

Sudou returns to the class, bows, and apologizes for being a dick, showing growth, while Suzune bows out of the final relay, meaning Kikyou will run in her place. When another student bows out, Kiyotaka takes his place, and Suzune’s brother happens to be beside him in the relay.

Manabu is impressed with Class D’s sudden turnaround after they seemed to be circling the drain, and Kiyotaka tells him whatever happened to get them back on track, it was Suzune’s doing. Manabu acknowledges that, then accepts Kiyotaka’s offer to race him.

The other two runners in their row start off before them, but it doesn’t matter: Kiyotaka and Manabu are running their own race. Not only that, they’re both so freakishly fast it doesn’t matter how big a head start the other runners had.

In the end, Team Red won while Class 1-D ranked dead last in class points. That said the results of the sports festival don’t cause a dramatic shift in the status quo. But it wasn’t a wasted opportunity for Class D, because Suzune was able to learn from her failures and grow, just as Sudou was. Suzune also now has the “weapon” in Sudou that Kiyotaka insisted she procure.

That leaves the post-festival groveling, which an honorable person like Suzune would never back out of. When she arrives before Ryuen, Kikyou is also there. Suzune, who knows she’s the Class D traitor, asks her to drop the cutesy act…and what to you know, she does! Dark Kikyou is a lot of fun, and makes no bones about her only immediate goal being to eliminate anyone who knew the “old her”—even her current ally Ryuen, someday.

Suzune gets Ryuen to discuss how he and Kikyou manipulated the sports festival from the get-go and even got Saki to pretend her injury was worse than it was. Suzune reveals she’s recording all of this on her phone, but Ryuen points out that he prefaced his explanation as “indulging her fantasy”, meaning there’s reasonable doubt he was being serious. Also, he recorded everything too, in case Suzune tried to edit hers.

Just when Suzune is ready to eat crow and grovel as instructed, Ryuen gets a text message with a third audio file: one in which he’s heard instructing Saki to intentionally injure Suzune. He claims not to know who recorded or sent him this, but he can only tip his hat to that person, as it creates a stalemate from which he and Kikyou withdraw for the time being.

Why he wouldn’t suspect Kiyotaka of being behind this move, I do not know, but that’s who I assume did it, perhaps with Kei obtaining the actual recording for her new “handler”. In any case, the triple-twist, combined with an always welcome appearance of Dark Kikyou, made for a surprisingly entertaining finish to the outing.

Considering the modest gains Class C enjoyed from the festival, I’d say this is a net win for Team Kiyotaka/Suzune, due to the aforementioned emotional growth of the latter and the former at least knowing the score vis-a-vis Kikyou’s goals.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Classroom of the Elite – S2 05 – Losing Streak

Kiyotaka suggests that Kikyou may have sold out Class D for private points from another class, and if Suzune ever wants to lead the class, having a traitor among them is an intolerable threat. When Kikyou joins them to scout Team White, Suzune comes right out and asks if Kikyou betrayed the class, and of course Kikyou denies it, asking that they trust her.

The day of the sports festival, Sudou is full of vim, vinegar, and confidence that he’ll be able to lead Class D to victory, aiming for a clean sweep. Arisu quietly observes under a tent, paying particular attention to Kiyotaka, whom she no doubt understands is D’s true mastermind.

After getting out to a comfortable lead, things start going all Scuderia Ferrari on Class D. Sudou is beaten down by a cheating Ryuen outside of the watch of any teachers. Suzune collides with a Class-C girl and injures her ankle, suspecting it was intentional. The ace of the boys is increasingly pissed off, while the ace of the girls is hurt.

When the girls lose the Piggyback Joust, Sudou vows to Hiyotaka (on whom he has a crush) that he’ll win enough for the both of them, but he loses too. Hiyotaka rattles Suzune’s cage, telling her to “be useful” for once as she’s the only one who can bring back Sudou after he flips out and quits. Kei asks Kioyotaka if there’s any chance they can come back from their deficit; Kiyotaka says he never had any intention of winning.

No, his goal is to lose as much as possible. As for why their participation list was submitted when he knew there’d be a leak, he says it was Suzune’s idea. Finally, just as Kiyotaka is trying to track down Sudou, Kikyou tells her she’s wanted in the nurse’s office, where she not only finds a severely injured Class-C girl she collided with, but Ryuen as well.

The girl, no doubt manipulated by Ryuen (her injury might not even be real, but if it is, that makes him that much more of a jerk), accuses Suzune of intentionally injuring her. Not wanting to cause trouble for her StuCo president brother, Suzune asks what she can do for the complaint to be dropped. Ryuen says he needs a million private points…and to grovel before her after the festival.

So yeah, Class D and Suzune in particular are going through some shit. When she crosses paths with her brother, she’s happy he even bothered to stop to hear her say she realizes how incompetent she is, but she’s resolved not to cause trouble for him. And all of this shit she’s enduring is being either passively or actively endorsed and/or caused by Kiyotaka.

To what end? The title of the episode is the clue: Every failure is a step to success. Kiyotaka isn’t interested in fun or easy victories. They won’t become Class A that way. No, they have to fail and suffer again and again and again, harden themselves, and use what they’ve learned from those failures to succeed when it matters most.

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.

Classroom of the Elite – S2 01 – Strife on Mars

Do you like enormous casts of people mostly acting standoffish and suspicious of one another as they navigate school tests with rules that read like stereo instructions? Well, your five year wait is over: the kids are off the damn island and back on the boat, but a new Special Test that threatens all the strides Class D made is waiting for them.

After an uneasy interaction between Ayanokouji Kiyotaka and Karuizawa Kei involving Hirata (who wants Ayano to join them, but Kei objects), Ayano and Kei end up at the same table anyway, as two of the four Class D reps in Mars, one of eight groups named after planets.

There are a lot of rules, and it’s almost impossible to summarize easily, but I’ll try: there are four outcomes, each of which has specific pros and cons to either the individual, their group, or their class. Four possible outcomes involves who guesses who the VIP is, when, and whether they’re correct. A lot of private and class points are on the table.

Of course, a lot of personalities and loyalties are on the table too. Having each group made up of three students each from Classes A and B and four students each of C and D creates an enticing imbalance; Ayano’s Mars Group’s Class A decides right from the get go that they’re abstaining from all discussions in order to avoid the worst case scenario.

Class B’s idol Ichinose Honami insists that the best way forward is together (even if she ultimately intends to stab some folks in the back). Ayano can’t be 100% neutral, as even saying he’d “like to cooperate” is taking a stand against Class A and its leader Machida Kouji.

After Mars Group’s first unproductive meeting, the three Class C girls gang up on Karuizawa, accusing her of bullying their classmate. She says she has no idea what or who they’re talking about, but when they try to snap her picture she quickly becomes upset. Machida helps Karuizawa and tells the C-girls to buzz off, earning Karuizawa’s cutest smile.

Mars’ second meeting of Day 1 is just as unproductive as the first, with Class A gumming up the works with their refusal to discuss…anything. Even when she says they should just relax and shoot the breeze, it seems like Ichinose is carrying out some kind of strategy. As for Karuizawa, she seems normal enough at the meeting, but that night breaks down into a sobbing mess in the shower.

Continuing as if five years were merely a week, CoE returns to its distinctive blend of clashing personalities and motivations, split loyalties, and absurdly complicated rules (Karuizawa even gets the line of the episode: “I’m not sure I followed all that.” With the necessary setup of this new test out of the way, perhaps next week will be a little more exciting.

NIGHT HEAD 2041 – 06 – A Model of Peace

While an armed guard keeps Naoya hostage, Kazama’s sketchy-ass Free Speech Alliance takes over the main news government propaganda TV station. After a brief and frankly hackneyed speech about corruption, oppression, etc., Kazama intends to put Naoto and his power on display for the entire viewing public to behold.

Needless to say, with so much of the population brainwashed hook, line, and sinker, it’s patently silly for this guy to believe seeing someone demonstrate “powers” on a TV program will win hearts and minds. Just as Naoya warned several times, the operation fails when the super-skeptic guy—whose treachery, in hindsight, was telegraphed within an inch of its life—reveals he’s an undercover SWE agent, and kills Kazama.

Despite being surrounded by the newly-awakened SWE oficers, Naoto still manages to slip away, until he’s cornered in the parking garage by Takuya. The Kuroki brother has a lot of questions for Naoto, but Naoto is in no mood to answer them, and at least at the start of the battle he’s a better psychokinesis user; or at least a more controlled one.

Ultimately, Naoto, along with Naoya, Emily, and Masayuki’s mom (Shouko’s old friend) end up vanishing in a big ‘ol flash of light. While I shouldn’t assume anything with the limited information we’re given, I’ll go out on a limb and theorize that it was Masayuki’s mom’s connection to Shouko that led to everyone being sent…somewhere in a similar manner to Shouko herself in previous encounters.

Jouran: The Princess of Snow and Blood – 04 – Snakes and Sinners

When Sawa sees the note from Janome she rushes to his hideout, but Kuzuhara heads her off in his car. He won’t let her walk into a trap and ruin the path to revenge he laid out for her just to save a little girl who wants to kill her. It’s not part of his plan, so he knocks her out with the back of his blade.

Unfortunately for him, Sawa is a part of Janome’s plan, and Makoto is working for him now (I guess?) and she siccs a group of changeling bomb dogs(!) on his car. In the ensuing explosions, he and Sawa are separated, and Makoto scoops her up and skedaddles. I guess Janome and Makoto knew Sawa wouldn’t make it to his hideout on her own…???

In a touching flashback to a happier past we’re reminded how cute and kind and human-behaving Sawa once was, as her brother assured her a bird would choose her someday. She wakes up to an array of disco lights and ominous organ music being played by our big bad, Janome with his back turned to her. It’s all a bit…Saturday morning cartoon villain, to be honest!

What was supposed to be dark and menacing comes off as goofy and cheesy, especially with his host of snakes that honestly might’ve have been slightly scarier if they were CG. Janome has a special restraining chair and birdcage all set up for Sawa, and forces her to submit to him fully, lest his badly-drawn snakes kill little Asahi.

He draws some of her blue blood while describing his evil plan, promising to free her and Asahi when that plan is complete, at which point she can kill him if she likes. Oh, and he’s got her brother Takeru strung up on the organ. He’s been keeping him barely alive while using his blood for his experiments, and Sawa is next. Pretty fucked up for a guy who claims to “worship” her clan!

This is when things go a bit off the rails. Makoto, who revealed she was working with Janome, switches sides again by killing the snakes holding Asahi. Another snake takes her arm in return. I guess I was right about her being a triple agent, but we know so little about Makoto that neither apparent turncoat move really did anything for me?

She feels more like a plot device than a character with discernable motivations, and it was time for her to side with Sawa here, so she did. Then Janome eats one of the crystals made out of Sawa’s blood, briefly becomes Mr. Freeze, and then turns into a frankly laughable snake-man monster. At this point, Matoko—who you’ll remember is missing an arm and bleeding profusely—still has the strength to ascend out of the hideout with a cable gun. Uh, bye, I guess??

Sawa enters her much cooler-looking changeling mode, but even that’s undermined by a transformation sequence that is frame-for-frame the same every time. Even this mode apparently isn’t enough, but with his last ounce of strength Takeru tosses some vials full of orange…stuff? at both Janome and Sawa.

The stuff seems to have opposite effects on the two, subduing Janome and powering up Sawa, who slices Janome clean in half. Her revenge thus complete, Sawa goes to her brother, who says it’s too late for him. Then she says in that case she’ll die with him, but then Asahi makes a noise and Sawa remembers why she came here in the first place! Roll Credits.

Sorry for the snarky tone, but Jouran kinda fell apart in this fourth episode, with thing upon thing simply happening and character upon character doing things that either didn’t make a lot of sense or were extremely heavy-handed (i.e. the organ schtick). With Sawa’s nemesis Janome turning out to be a relative pushover, I don’t know what’s next for her and the rest of Nue, but I don’t much care either.

SSSS.Dynazenon – 03 – Helping People In Need

Onija, the fiery member of the Eugenicists, gets into a yelling match with Gauma, calling him a traitor and ready to kill him. The only problem, as the level-headed Juuga (a calm Kamiya Hiroshi) points out, is they have no kaiju with which to fight Dynazenon, so they’d better just split for now. But it’s clear there’s bad blood between them, and Gauma’s human co-pilots want to know what led to the rift.

In the meantime, Yomogi attempts to practice in his Dyna Soldier, and then he and Yume actually hang out during school. Specifically, they go to the chorus club advisor asking about her sister Kano, who she tells Yomogi died five years ago, just before the first recital she ever invited her to.

Yume and her sister didn’t speak much. Koyomi then runs into a classmate from middle school he once watched breaking school windows; now she’s married…and Yomogi’s boss, who gives him her contact info. Little by little, we’re being presented with bits and pieces of the Dyna-pilots’ pasts. Do their connections to each other predate their current collab?

Perhaps most mysterious is what is up with Gauma and the Eugenicists. Juuga takes the step of meeting with Yomogi after school—not to threaten, like his hotheaded comrade, but to answer what questions he can. Yomogi learns that Gauma was someone Juuga and the others looked up to 5,000 years ago, but at some point Gauma betrayed them and they all died.

Now they’ve revived…for some reason. As for how and why Gauma betrayed his kohais, he’s tight-lipped as the co-pilots visit him under the bridge, eating tiny river crabs. The next day, a new kaiju appears, and Onija uses the Vulcan Salute to activate it.

When the Dyna-pilots learn of the new kaiju sighting, they all answer the call, but remain frustrated with Gauma’s silence. When it’s clear they won’t be able to defeat Onija’s explosive-lobbing kaiju without combining, they insist he give them something so they can trust him enough to combine.

Gauma gives in, telling them he wants to meet someone, and believes he was given the power to operate Dynazenon so that he could find that person in this era. When he affirms that this “someone” is a woman, everyone understands, and are sufficiently satisfied that the combination can proceed.

The combined Dynazenon grabs the kaiju and launches it into space, where its explosion attacks won’t work in a vacuum (while proving that this world has significant differences from Akane’s “world” in Gridman). Dynazenon launches all its weapons, which apparently work just fine in space. The kaiju is blasted to pieces, one of which gets through the atmosphere and knocks Onija off his electrical pylon. But while it sure looked like he was killed, he’s actually fine.

“Kaiju defy common sense,” says Gauma. They make the impossible possible. All the pilots need to confirm this is the fact they’re floating in space. But to Yume, it means something more. If the person Gauma wants to meet revived, maybe her sister can be revived too?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jouran: The Princess of Snow and Blood – 03 – A Blue Coffin

After Sawa learns that Yoshinobu himself ordered Kuzuhara to have the Treasurer killed, Makoto suggests that Sawa drop the “sister act” and cut little Asahi loose. All of them in Nue have assigned roles to play, and none of them can afford to let sentiment dull their wits.

After recalling when Kuzuhara first showed her a slideshow of her family and village’s destruction and the person responsible, ordering her not to cry, Sawa puts up the hard front Kuzuhara aimed to teach her in dealing with Asahi. Sawa refuses to let Asahi kill her until she’s killed Janome, and tells her to be gone by the time she returns that night.

Sawa, Elena, and Makoto all confront Nue’s cleaner, whom they suspect is a traitor passing secrets to Kuchinawa, finding money in the coffin he’s pushing. He pleads his innocence, then sets off a bomb with a detonator in his hat. Sawa follows him down a secret tunnel hidden in a tomb, while Elena intends to head him off on the surface. Meanwhile, a dejected Asahi seeks comfort in her grandmotherly neighbor Yamazaki.

But the cleaner never went in the tunnel; he hid in the coffin. When Makoto, who lied to Elena about a twisted ankle, opens it and the cleaner pulls a gun. A shot rings out, and Makoto later reports that the cleaner killed himself. But at this point Makoto was already acting super suspicious.

While burying the cleaner themselves, Elena asks Sawa what coffin she’d want to be buried in, her preference being red. Sawa doesn’t answer at first, then says blue, like her blood and that of her clan. That said, she won’t be put into a coffin until Janome is in his.

Makoto meets with Kuzuhara, who reveals he is a woman by tearing his clothes to reveal her chest binding, warning her to never forget where she stands. But Kuzuharais seemingly in the dark about where Makoto actually stands. Before the Treasurer died, she gave Makoto a karuta card that serves as a treasure map. Makoto follows it and discovers a small book that the Treasurer said could bring down “Tokugawa, Nue…all of it.”

Sawa comes home to find Asahi gone, but on her desk is the piece of paper with “Yuki” written on it Asahi had reconstructed with paste. Sawa then sees that Asahi left the satchel she gave her containing cash and a boat ticket to her new home, and blood on the walls.

Her white crow comes to help her search for Asahi, but we find out where she is first: in the clutches of Janome, who had disguised himself as Yamazaki with an elaborate prosthetic suit. We also learn that Makoto is indeed in cahoots with Janome, serving as a double agent. Or maybe triple, if Kuzuhara knows she’s infiltrated Kuchinawa.

In any case, for Sawa, who’d prefer clarity and simplicity, nothing is simple or clear, and never really was. To whit: she aims to save her would-be murderer from the man who murdered her family, and with whom her fellow Nue agent is working. Not ideal!

Jouran: The Princess of Snow and Blood – 02 – Nothing Else Is of Any Concern

Makoto meets with Jin on two matters: one is to be briefed on a mission to find the one within Nue who is feeding Kuchinawa assassination targets. The other is to ask about Sawa. Makoto responds to the latter by saying “it saddens me to report that she survived”.

Last week, Asahi prepared to stab Sawa in her sleep. When we see both next, the only thing Asahi is slicing is a daikon radish, and Sawa is very much un-stabbed. This week we learn more about Sawa and Asahi’s pasts, and … Spoilers: those pasts are dark and bloody. First up is Sawa, and if Black Widow has “red in her ledger”, Sawa’s got “blue in her diary.” Well, her mom’s diary.

We know how Sawa hid while her mother, father, and brother were slaughtered. But how did Sawa end up an assassin with Yue? Jin arrived at the ruins of her village as she was trying to bury the charred remains of her family. His mere presence there the morning after their deaths might’ve normally raised a red flag for Sawa, but the very light had gone out of her eyes.

It didn’t matter at the time if there was a chance Jin had something to do with the death of her family. He was offering her a chance at revenge, and that chance brought the light back to her eyes. Under his tutelage she became a graceful and efficient killing machine. Jin made a deal: he’d use her to make Nue stronger, and she’d use him to get her revenge.

Sawa puts the blank diary of dark memories away and joins Elena for their next mission: make contact with a Nue agent named “the Treasurer” and get her to safety. They identify her waiting tables at a restaurant by the fact she can memorize everyone’s orders and whisk her away, crossbowing and beheading the Kuchinawa gunmen along the way.

While Sawa escorts her through the tunnels, the Treasurer mentions how the shogunate is content to ignore the mounting opposition to their regime outside of Tokyo. She also knows a lot about Sawa, because she’s a memorization savant. Meanwhile, Makoto pays Asahi a visit at the bookstore, offering her a bottle of black pills that “kill in ten seconds.” , to use on the person who killed her parents.

That’s right: in the recent past while on a mission, Sawa murdered Sawa’s parents while she was in the next room under burning wreckage of the house they were in. Granted, Asahi’s mother was apparently dolling her up in order to serve her up to a pervert before Sawa arrived, but facts are facts.

When Asahi tried to stab Sawa in her sleep, Sawa woke up instantly (if she was even asleep) and stopped the knife, telling Asahi she needs to strike where she’ll do the most damage, and wait until she’s more vulnerable. When Asahi bursts into tears, Sawa is there to hug her. It’s a strange situation, but it’s true to Sawa’s code: she’s not about to be a hypocrite. If Asahi should exact her revenge by killing her before she can exact hers, so be it.

Sawa, now knowing of the Treasurer’s ability, decides threaten her into telling her everything she knows about the Karasumori village massacre. The Treasurer says how those responsible wanted to keep the Karasumori clan’s blue blood a secret, while Janome stole an imperfect variant of that blood’s power. But the Treasurer stops there, saying Yoshinobu doesn’t tolerate treason.

Her five-year old son is being held hostage; should she betray Yoshinobu, he will die. So Sawa offers to protect her and her son in exchange for the information she wants. When the Treasurer asks why Sawa would go so far for revenge, Sawa answers simply that her entire life is for revenge—just a stretch of borrowed time, in which she’ll either get the job done or die trying.

Sawa and the Treasurer exit the tunnel near a quiet dock where she can be smuggled to safety, but they are intercepted by Kuchinawa agents, along with a Changeling. Elena shows up, and she handles the agents while Sawa enters her blue blood trance and defeats the Changeling.

But when it’s time to put the Treasurer on the boat, Elena stabs her instead and lets her fall into the river, after telling her her son has already died. I’m a little fuzzy on the details, but either the Treasurer fed intel to Kuchinawa, or she and her intel-packed brain were simply too dangerous to be kept alive.

In any case, Sawa loses her best chance yet at learning about what happened at her village and who was responsible. I don’t think she’ll kill Elena or quit Nue, but she can’t be happy that her road to revenge just hit a detour. In any case, this was another dark, bloody, brooding episode of Jouran, packed with bursts of cool action and bookended by an OP and ED by RAISE A SUILEN that both absolutely slap.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Promised Neverland – 23 (Fin) – Easy Win

“It’s an ending, that’s enough!”—Marge Simpson

I thought of those sage words—spoken to end a discussion of whether another ending was happy or sad—after the end of The Promised Neverland. This finale was, without a doubt, a series of scenes where dialogue is exchanged and things happen.

Like the previous episode, in which every single thing that needed to go Emma’s way did go Emma’s way, not a lot of it holds up to even cursory scrutiny. Unlike the previous episode, it wasn’t packed with enough stuff to keep my mind from dwelling on just how goshdarn fast things are moving.

And yet, it’s also an episode that tends to drag and sag during lengthy dialogue scenes. Starting the episode with Peter’s backstory, such as it is, was an…interesting choice? It really did nothing to make me care about him one way or another; I’m not surprised in the least he had his own brother Minerva killed, or that he rejected Emma’s call to join her in building a new world.

Ratri would rather slit his own throat (which he does) then even try to live in such a theoretical world; going out as a “Ratri”, descended from those who originally negotiated the great pact that split the human and demon worlds in two. Isabella and the mothers, who all seem to speak with one united voice, are also initially reluctant to go with Emma, who manages to convince her to change her mind. All is forgiven!

Now for the journey to the gate to the human world. Wait, the elevator takes them right there? And the pen, already literal deus ex machina, also happens to unlock the completely unguarded gate? Oh, and Emma, along with Norman, Ray, and the Lambdas, decide not to go through that gate? I commend the composer for accompanying the gate scene with suitably epic music, but other than that it’s just a lot; all at once, and all too easily.

The decision to remain while Don, Hilda, the mothers and the kids all go ahead to the human world is simple: Emma’s job won’t be done until all the farms are shut down. With Mujika’s help, she intends to create a new pact that won’t allow demons to raise children for meat anymore. So I guess Sonju was just joking when he was hoping to eat some free-range kids in the near future?

I was also a little worried when Emma and the others not going through the gate simply left them without checking out if it’s even safe on the other side. Those worries were short-lived, as beyond the white void is…modern-day New York City, immediately followed by an unanimated slideshow of the kids gradually assimilating to life in such a world. Judging from the stills, they don’t have much difficulty at all!

We then switch to a slideshow of Emma & Co. on their crusade that for all I thought would take the rest of their lives. I mean, you’re talking about rescuing each and every child currently imprisoned in the demon world. It’s a herculean effort many times larger than the already ridiculous operation that liberated Grace Field House in a single night with zero casualties.

But nope, it only takes a couple years or so. Emma, Norman, and Ray just suddenly appear by Hudson Bay one day, their mission apparently accomplished. Phil’s happy about it, because he doesn’t have to make good on his promise to go back after her. It’s all a little sudden, and random, and rushed, and weird. All my goodwill was spent mindlessly enjoying last week’s all-too-easy victories.

So it’s a totally, completely, 100% happy ending for Emma and the kids, who’d basically ceased enduring serious hardship or encountering setbacks of any kind after being forced out of their bunker hideout. But for me, it just feels like an ending, and a blessed one, as my enthusiasm for the direction of the story was waning by the day. An ending is enough.


Read Crow and Irina’s discussion on the final episode of The Promised Neverland right here!

The Promised Neverland – 22 – Playtime Has Only Just Begun

First of all, Vincent is not a turncoat; I can’t see how someone otherwise proven as intelligent as him would think Ratri and the demons would honor any deal he made for them. Instead, Norman has Vincent leak one plan, knowing the farms will prepare for it, while executing an entirely different plan. And not a moment too soon, either, as that very day Phil and all the kids at Grace Field House are notified that they’re being shipped off.

Final preparations are made in Mujika and Sonju’s secret tunnels, and then everyone boards a fleet of hot air balloons—which presumably were part of Norman’s original “Kill All Demons” plan. When Ratri and the head demon spot the fleet proper approaching the farms and separating into small groups, the demon spearmen atop the walls shoot them down one by one.

Of course, the initial wave of balloons was only a feint; all of the ones that were shot down are armed with firebombs that soon set the forests within the farms alight. While the demons are busy putting those out, they’re suddenly ambused by the Lambda kids, while the other balloons land safely and the Farm’s administration facility is raided using Minerva’s blueprints. Soon Vincent has hacked into the system and shuts down all of Ratri’s surveillance and comms.

Meanwhile, and unbeknownst to the mothers escorting their kids to the shipping area, each of the farms has been infiltrated by little kids sent by Emma, who uses the hacked comms to give the signal to “play tag”. Phil and the others obey and run for it while the gates are closed on the mothers, keeping them from pursuing. Everyone meets at the massive central elevator. Everything’s going according to plan…until the elevator refuses to budge.

The kids below look up in horror at dozens of mothers armed with assault rifles, led by Grandmother Isabella and smirking Gatekeeper Peter Ratri. “Playtime is over,” he tells the “lost” children. That certainly seems to be the case. How are the kids going to get out of this one? They brought bows and arrows to a gunfight, and they don’t even have the benefit of the high ground!

But what saves everyone, as usual, is Emma, or more precisely, her words and her indomitable will. When Peter tells her to give up and accept they were all born to be eaten, Emma refuses to do so. She and her suddenly huge family have a future they want, and she’s going to keep fighting for it no matter how many times she fails, so Peter can take his destiny and shove it.

That’s when Isabella—and all the other mothers and sisters she leads—turn their guns on Ratri. She tells Emma not to misunderstand; she claims not to be doing this for them—though she is proud of how well she raised them. She’s simply grown tired of how Ratri and the others run the farms, and now has the power to do something about it. And with the system hacked, the chips Ratri once could have used to blow them up no longer work.

Ratri still has one card left to play: the demon reinforcements from outside of the farms. The lead demon warns all of the children to be obedient and yield, as once those forces arrive there will be no more hope of victory, even with Isabella and the mothers on their side. Unfortunately both the lead demon and Ratri, another, much larger force of lower-class demons overwhelm those reinforcements before they can even arrive.

That’s right: thanks to a coordinated effort between Mujika and Vylk, a huge number of demons have been cured of their need for human meat, and they’re ready and willing to help overthrow the farm system that has oppressed them all these years. Mujika and Vylk enter the elevator room, surprising both Isabella and Ratri with their presence. For them it must be unthinkable to see demons standing in solidarity with these kids.

But again, it’s all about aligned interests. Just as Isabella is sick of the system, so are the demon masses. Ratri’s final threat—that the human-demon conflict resolved 1,000 years ago by his ancestors will start back up—is nullified by the presence of Mujika and the Evil Blood.

Suddenly fresh out of haughty remarks, Ratri falls to his knees in defeat, while Emma approaches him and holds out her hand, not asking for his surrender or ordering his death, but asking him to join them; to join the future they’re well on their way to realizing.

While I had to suspend an air balloon fleet-load of disbelief for much of “Operation Playtime”, I can’t deny it was loads of fun watching it unfold, as long I didn’t think about anything too much! Looks like we’re in store for a slightly rushed but hopeful and happy ending.

Check out Irina and Crow’s thoughts on the episode here!

The Promised Neverland – 21 – More Important than Revenge

By arriving just in time with Mujika and Sonju, Emma is able to talk Norman down and get him to drop his knife. Despite all the time they’ve been apart and the things Norman has done and planned to do, Emma still feels absolutely certain that he doesn’t really want to do those things he planned, even going so far as calling him an “arrogant coward”.

The show deems that she is correct in her assessment, and that, when offered, Norman is willing to share the suffering, pain and fear with Emma, Ray, and the others instead of shouldering it all himself. Mujika then goes around the town administering her blood to those who have degenerated, not only curing them but ensuring they’ll never degenerate again.

As Norman’s plan to annihilate the demons of the village is reversed, Barbara prepares to kill a demon girl and her infant sibling, but when she sees herself in the cowering girl, she finds herself unable to do it. We’re to understand this is the first time she’s been presented with the opportunity to kill a demon child, and was all talk before.

Norman and Emma emerge from the burning town, and Norman tells his comrades the truth: he didn’t want to get revenge on demons, but to save his family. He used the ticking clock on his life to justify taking a path he wouldn’t have otherwise chosen. And he lied about not having succombed to the same Lambda drugs as all of them because he wanted to project reliability.

Barbara, who just stopped herself of her own accord from murdering a child, can’t very well argue, and says Norman is more important than revenge. Cislo and Zazie are also extremely understanding of Norman’s coming clean. Vincent isn’t, but the others tell him to stand down.

Upon returning to the hideout, the kids there tell them they just got word from the Grace Field radio: Phil and everyone else are being shipped. We cut to a scene with Petri and Isabella, who have sent the message as a trap, knowing the kids who escaped will come to the rescue.

What’s odd is that Petri is talking with the demons like Norman and the others just escaped from Lambda; presumably that happened weeks if not months ago. And don’t get me started on Isabella, who we were led to believe was on a short leash, and yet has been allowed to fail for quite some time now.

Of greater import in this scene is Petri’s announcement that the Lambda materials weren’t lost in the bombing, and the entire high-class farming system is poised to be replaced by Lambda-style farming through drug-induced brain enhancements.

Ray rightly suspects the message about the premature shippings is a trap to lure them there, but it doesn’t matter, because they still need to return to Grace Field if they want to save Phil and the others. The fact we haven’t seen one second of Phil or the others at the farm somewhat dulls those particular stakes…as do the developments at the hideout.

Vylk, the grandpa who’d regularly visit the hideout—and who Norman almost killed—and his granddaughter Emma visit so he can tell a story about a small piece of a pen a dying human was grasping, and the remorse he feels for not using his blood to save others besides his own family. When screwed into Emma’s pen, it not only provides blueprints for farming HQ and the gate to the human world, but a cure for the side-effects of the Lambda drugs!

That’s an inordinate amount of coincidence and suspension of disbelief in one little flash drive! But even with all this new information, and with almost everyone on board with returning to Grace Field, the one holdout—Vincent—ends up betraying everyone by using the radio to exchange intel for a deal. I guess he wasn’t moved by the embrace of the Emmas…

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