The Rising of the Shield Hero – 03 – The Grateful and the Ingrates

Only a week has passed after the fight in the mines, but Naofumi and Raphtalia have leveled up to a respectable degree. The armorer says as much, and all the extra discounts and freebies the demi-human gets confirms to Naofumi that this world is full of lolicons.

Still, he seems pleased that Raphtalia is less timid and is now able to stand and speak up for herself. She even negotiates to get new custom-made armor for Naofumi that he thinks makes him look like a bandit, but also doesn’t want it going to waste.

It’s a good thing they mentioned the Waves to the armorer, because he points them in the direction of the church where the Dragon Hourglass counts down the time until the next Wave, which will come in less than a day.

Unfortunately the other heroes are there, and the Spear even tries to steal Raphtalia away, but she rebuffs him. They can mock him all they want and even bring up the “rumors,” but Naofumi won’t say a single word of attack or defense. He’s long since done talking with these assholes.

Raphtalia wants to know what happened between her master and the other heroes, but Naofumi isn’t ready to tell her. Regardless, when dawn breaks and they prepare to be transported to the location of the Wave, Raphtalia formally reiterates her undying loyalty to Naofumi. She is only alive because of him, and so she’ll be his sword and never leave his side.

After transport, Naofumi gets a close look at a Wave of Catastrophe for the first time. The other heroes rush ahead, but he notices they’re leaving a nearby village unprotected from the hordes of undead soldiers and swarms of giant wasps.

So he and Raph head there, he orders Raph to evacuate the villagers while he tries to kill as many monsters as he can. It’s tough work, as there are hundreds of them and he can’t seem to get their numbers down. Luckily the bulk of them mill around beneath a watchtower that Naofumi sets ablaze and brings down on top of them.

When the royal knights arrive and firebomb the place to mop up, they don’t bother to warn Naofumi, who gets Naphtalia under his shield just in time. When she hears the knights talking shit about her master, she threatens to take their heads off, and Naofumi has to order her to stand down.

Still, despite the knights’ utter disgust of Naofumi, he protects them all the same, and in turn, some of them stay behind to help him and Naphtalia even after their commander orders them to meet up with the other heroes.

With the knights’ help, Naofumi and Naphtalia are able to fend off the remaining monsters, while the other three heroes defeat the “boss”—a chimaera, from the look of it—with their much flashier-looking attacks. All of a sudden, the skies clear and the threat has passed. And Naofumi has passed his first Wave test.

A massacre of innocents such as that which claimed Naphtalia’s parents thus averted, the raccoon girl is overwhelmed by the relief and starts to cry, but Naofumi’s heart isn’t made of stone, especially where she’s concerned, so he puts his hand on her head to comfort her.

Naphtalia may have been a slave purchased to be used a a tool, but even Naofumi has to admit she’s much more than that. By not treating her like a slave but like any other person, he’s helped bring about her transformation into a formidable warrior with the heart of a true knight.

Naofumi has also gained the gratitude of the entire village, none of whom still harbor any animosity towards their hero. There are still a lot more people to convince that he’s actually not a rapist swine, but it doesn’t really matter. He’s not here to make friends or clear his name. He’s here to save this world from the Waves, then go back home.

Advertisements

Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari – 02 – Surviving Together

Shunned by virtually every human in this new world, Naofumi turns to a demi-human slave in Raphtalia, sold to him by the slave merchant for 30 silvers; a bargain. The little raccoon girl is terrified with good reason: she’s been through a lot in her short life and she has no reason to believe Naofumi won’t be cruel and awful to her.

But despite his scary face and bad attitude, Naofumi isn’t awful to Raphtalia. I mean, he wouldn’t be much of a rootable MC if he did. Sure, she’s bound by her contract not to defy him and gets shocked if she does, but he makes sure she has proper clothes and a dagger. She’ll provide the offense he needs to become powerful enough for the next Wave of Catastrophe.

Raphtalia soon learns that she not only need fear Naofumi, but that it’s okay to have things she wants. He’ll take care of her, but she has to fight for him. Of nights Naofumi learns the “mental illness” her buyer warned him about: she has PTSD and nightmares from having witnessed her parents sacrifice themselves to a Cerberus so that she could live during the First Wave.

In a montage made all the more satisfying and significant (like the show itself) by the wonderful score by Kevin Pankin (Made in Abyss), Raphtalia learns to trust and even become fond of her master, who treats her more like a ward than a slave. The more monsters she defeats, the more the two of them level up, and the more money they make.

Raphtalia butts up against adversity when a rabbit attacks Naofumi and she has to draw blood, which she’s quite justifiably afraid of considering her traumatic past. But when Naofumi lays out the stakes vis-a-vis the impending Waves, Raphtalia’s resistance (which causes the shocks) fades away, and she resolves to fight and kill for Naofumi, for both their sakes.

Naofumi discovers he has a knack for medicine-making, and he and Naphtalia travel to a smaller town to sell their wares—popular due to the trying times. In a nice bit of good luck for a change, merchant he deals with apparently doesn’t know he’s the Shield Hero, and thus isn’t automatically against him like everyone in the city. He even points the pair to a mine where they’ll be able to make a lot of quick money harvesting ore.

The catch is that since the First Wave the mines are crawling with monsters, and a two-headed dog very similar to the one that killed Naphtalia’s parents attacks them, she freezes in terror. Naofumi grabs her and escape the beast, but they have to kill it if they’re going to have any chance against future foes. When things seem to be going south and he offers to buy time so she can escape, she recalls her folks doing the same thing and getting killed for it.

So rather than let Naofumi repeat their sacrifice and leave her all alone once again, she draws her sword and plunges it into the beast. When it lunges at her in response Naofumi is ready with a shield to protect her, and she’s able to finish it off. When the fight is over they’ve gained a buttload of EXP, and she collapses crying into his arms, calling him “Naofumi-sama” for the first time.

I’m glad that after a double episode’s worth of Naofumi getting beaten down, he’s found something pure and good to protect, as well as the means of progressing in this game-like world while appreciating that it isn’t really a game, it’s a matter of life and death. It doesn’t hurt that Naphtalia is adorable as all get out, but also tough and capable when she needs to be. No doubt when and if he encounters the other heroes they’ll get the wrong idea, but this looks like the beginning of a lovely partnership.

Steins;Gate 0 – 13 – Dark is Dangerous

The near-miss with the car brought back Kagari’s memories, but only some of them. She’s still missing a 12-year gap between 10 and 22. As a result, Kagari acts a lot more like a child than she used to, and treats a somewhat bemused Mayuri (who is mostly going with the flow) like her beloved “mommy.”

Watching a 22-year-old woman act so spoiled around her parents irks Suzuha, to the point they have a yelling match in the TV repair shop. Both sides regret the fight and plan to apologize, but Suzu learns something crucial from it: her and Kagari’s memories of how they became separated are very different.

After conferring with Tennouji, Rintarou begins to suspect Kagari’s strange memory gap is the result of foul play: brainwashing and mind control, just as Kiryuu discovers…something less than 5km from where Kagari collapsed. It’s a clue, but it requires they take a long drive.

Mayuri decides to celebrate the restoration of at least some of Kagari’s memories by throwing one of her patented parties, which she tries to make a surprise, but with her early memories restored Kagari knows when her Mommy is trying to keep a surprise party secret.

All the while, this ominous van drives around Akiba playing seemingly innocuous Mozart, and it’s clear the van is Bad News, whether it’s a van for kidnapping or simply for triggering Shiina Kagari. That perilous van hangs there, like Damocles’ Sword, over the remainder of the episode, as Mayuri & Co. prepare the party.

If the argument got the ball rolling on a theory about mind control, Kagari’s desire to properly apologize to Suzuha is the unfortunate side-effect. Kagari’s trip to the sweet shop isolates her from everyone else, who in hindsight are wayyy to loosy-goosy with her security at this point.

Indeed, in his desire for more clear answers about what’s going on, Rintarou is far, far away; in no position to keep her safe.

She hears the Mozart from the van (which is either planted there by “Them” to play specifically for her, or sheer coincidence) and more memories flow into her head: memories of being left with “doctors” by Mayuri, ostensibly to cure her PTSD, but the visits really comprise a kind of human experiment called the “Amadeus System”, of which Kagari is Sample #K6205.

The shock of this influx of memory sends Kagari into a trancelike state, and she drops the cake for Suzuha and her cell phone and wanders off who-knows-where, believing she’s hearing “the voice of God.” More likely, it’s the voice of those who did this to her to begin with.

Combined with Rintarou and Kiryuu discovering the facility, where Kagari was held in a cell for who knows how long, scrawling “Mommy” on the walls, Kagari’s vanishing from everyone’s sight (again) forms one hell of a thrilling cliffhanger for the second half of Steins;Gate 0.

While we may now know mostly what’s been done to Kagari, it remains to be seen who did it, why, and most important, how Kagari is linked to Maho and Leskinen’s Amadeus System. Was Kagari even a war orphan from the future? Will there really be enough cups and plates? We shall see…

Steins;Gate 0 – 12 – Paradox Song

There’s this song. It’s a song Mayuri sang to a young Kagari in the future, just when she finally became her legal mother. When the Kagari of the present hears the Mayuri of the present singing it, she loses consciousness. It’s not that Mayuri’s singing is just that bad—it’s quite lovely—but rather that Kagari’s brain is suddenly getting hit by some pretty profound aural stimuli.

But when Kagari makes the connection between the song and her fainting spell, the question becomes where did Mayuri learn the song? That takes us on a rather wild ride: She heard it from Suzuha, who heard it from Yuki, who heard it from a woman in her baking class who turns out to be…Rintarou’s mother. Yet Rintarou himself, apparently the source, can’t remember singing it. To quote Alice, “curiouser and curiouser.”

Rintarou’s mom said he used to sing it to Mayuri to cheer her up when she was in her “reaching up at the sky at a cemetery” part of her life. They visit Mayuri’s grandma’s grave to try to spark Rintarou’s memory, but get caught in the rain.

While seeking shelter by a shop window, Kagari hears “The Magic Flute” (K620) playing on the radio and goes into a kind of trance, remembering when she once walked along that same street in her bare feet and pajamas. She’s almost hit by a truck (of course), but Rintarou makes a diving save.

While she’s out this time, something happens. Kagari runs to her mother’s arms; a blurry figure that she discovers is Shiina Mayuri. Waking up in a hospital room, she sees Mayuri by her bedside and immediately recognizes her as her one and only mommy.

Mayuri protests that she’s not a mommy, but, well, she just is. Or rather, she will be…just as Suzu is Daru’s daughter. Rintarou nods assent, and Mayuri goes with it, providing Kagari with the affection she needs. The plain credits roll as a very lovely rendition of the song is sung, at it seems things will end on a pleasant note.

Of course, this is the twist-loving White Fox we’re talking about, so after the credits we find ourselves on a train platform where that same barefoot pajama’d Kagari is singing the song, and a teenaged boy overhears it—a teenaged boy with the same color hair and eyes as Rintarou.

I’ll admit, I was a little confused by this scene, but maybe that was the point. Here is Kagari, who will presumably be adopted by Mayuri in the future, in Rintarou’s past, singing the song he’ll sing to Mayuri to cheer her up. Seems an awful lot like a causal loop to me.

That would be fine, except there’s a creepy white van parked near the platform, confirming that “Runaway K-6205” has been found. Are we watching past events here, or is Kagari in danger no matter where or when she is? Will the next episode continue in this world line, with “Macho Psychologist” Rintarou helping Kagari out? I honestly have no idea, but I can’t wait to find out.

Steins;Gate 0 – 11 – WWIII Averted…For Now

The shadowy guy whom Maho hired to analyze Makise’s laptop turns out to be…Daru, working out of the back room of a cosplay store. He still needs three days to complete his work, but after telling her the whole story about the time machine and the horrors the secrets within the computer may unleash, Rintarou manages to convince Maho to destroy it.

Before they can, the “wrong hands” in which it would be so dangerous arrive in force. Daru has an escape route worked out, but they’re still cornered in a dark alley and Maho is nabbed and has a knife placed against her throat. That they were able to find Daru’s hideout so soon, or were watching listening for just the right time to move in, is disconcerting, to say the least.

However, they must not have been listening in, because after some negotiations they’re willing to let Maho, and Daru walk away unharmed in exchange for the laptop. Rintarou briefly switches places with Maho as their hostage, but then another masked group arrives and opens fire, making sure the laptop is destroyed.

It’s doubtless a harrowing ordeal for Maho; she may have been held up along with the others at the lab, but no shots were fired. Here, had Rintarou not pushed her flat to the ground, she might’ve died. Back at the lab, she’s so out of it she doesn’t notice she’s clutching one remaining shard from the laptop in her hand so tightly it’s drawing blood.

Rintarou takes Maho to Feyris’ to clean up, but the trauma from the shootout has a more pronounced effect than she thought, and after all that tension, every muscle in her body goes limp, making her practically a helpless doll. And just as Rintarou once walked in on Kurisu, he ends up facing Maho just as her towel falls off. The universe is keen to make him suffer, but also to make him accidentally see his love interests in the nude.

That night, Maho asks Rintarou to stay by her bedside a little longer, and he happily obliges. Returning to her Mozart-Salieri narrative, after hearing from Rintarou about the possibility she might “disgrace the dead” by unlocking Kurisu’s laptop’s secrets, Maho admits to herself that it wasn’t just a matter of honoring her friend’s legacy, but trying to subconsciously exorcise the frustration she felt.

Not just frustration over not being able to achieve the things Kurisu did, mind you, but frustration over the mere fact she’s so concerned about her as a rival; Mozart, she says, never wasted a moment concerned with Salieri; he only made great music (and drank and gambled…it’s all in the movie).

Rintarou disputes the similarities between the two pairs of gifted people from vastly different times. He’s convinced that Maho loved Kurisu and would never disgrace her. It’s why she agreed to break the laptop, it’s why she shed tears and apologized, and it’s why she clutched the fragment so tightly.

It’s such a quiet, tender scene filled with mutual respect and affection, with Mamoru Miyano wonderfully modulating Rintarou’s voice to a caring hush, matching the vulnerability of Yahagi Sayuri’s Maho. Very nice work here.

After Rintarou and Maho’s lovely night together, she and Leskinen head back to America, but not before inviting him to Viktor Chrondria University whenever he can make it. So it’s not goodbye, merely see ya later for the couple. That probably makes both Leskinen and Amakurisu happy; Ama also fully intends to see and hear from Rintarou again, expressing Kurisu’s tsundere mode.

Rintarou is also able to convince Suzuha that they’ve avoided a potentially WWIII-starting clash between America and Russia (the two powers he suspected he and Maho were caught between), though Suzu remains skeptical that they’ve eliminated the only cause of the war, only one of them. And she’s most likely right.

One of the last scenes is of Maho’s colleague Judy Reyes aboard a flight, hiding…something in her lap. Was she one of the masked people in black? Could it be salvageable remnants of the laptop? Whatever it is, it’s clear Rintarou’s work is far from done. Meanwhile Mayushii seems to harbor some conflicting feelings about Okarin leaving for America to join Leskinen, Maho, and the digital Kurisu.

Hinamatsuri – 06 – All She Remembers is the Chili Shrimp

The moment his mother calls and Hina answers, Nitta has to figure out a way to explain why a 13-year-old girl is living with him, so he crafts an intricate story, the gist of which is that Hina is the orphan of a couple who were killed in a feud.

Hina’s robotic delivery may be unconvincing, but Nitta explains it away by noting that the girl was traumatized by the experience, and all she remembers of it is “the chili shrimp” (though he should have said ikura, since Hina knows what that is).

Nitta eventually comes clean to his mother and his alcoholic kid sister, though he replaces one lie with another: Hina is his daughter. But is it a lie? I mean, obviously not biologically, but in practically every other way, that’s what he is. His fam doesn’t object, and welcome her with enthusiastic open arms.

Watching Nitta knit his web of lies had lots of comedic value, as did Hina’s inept attempts to stick to their story. But the second half of this episode barely makes any effort to be funny. Instead, it goes for straight drama, as new municipal statues mean the homeless people Anzu lives with are going to be kicked out of the park where they live.

While all the old men go their separate ways, Utako (their friend and vocal advocate) has found a husband and wife willing to take Anzu in. Anzu doesn’t want to stop fighting, but this is a battle she can’t win, and the old men are not only resigned to their fate and fully prepared to move on, but are likely relieved this young kid won’t have to live on the streets collecting cans anymore.

Anzu is anything but celebratory. Upon suddenly finding herself in the relative lap of luxury, with delicious food, clean clothes, and a warm bed—none of it costing her anything—all Anzu can do is worry about how she doesn’t deserve any of it, as well as worry about her friends like Yassan who are still out there on the streets.

Anzu thinks this way because she has an enormous heart and a strong moral compass. But she’s being far too hard on herself; no one of her age (or at least the age she appears to be in the form she’s taken in this world) should have to worry about working for food; she should have adults who care for her, as Nitta cares for Hina.

Sure, Hina helps him out occasionally (though certainly not lately), and when Anzu learns he new guardians run a Chinese restaurant, she is eager to help out in any way she can (again, because she’s a super-good person). But one thing she’ll hopefully learn is that her work isn’t an requisite of food, shelter, and care.

Her new guardians just want her to be happy and safe. Still, they tell her the people she’s worried about will always be a part of her, and her a part of them, so she needn’t ever feel alone.

I tellsya, it was a goddamn tearjerker; Anzu’s tears of joy wouldn’t be out of place in 3-gatsu no Lion, while seiyu Murakawa Rie does a marvelous job voicing Anzu. I’m mostly just glad she’s no longer homeless!

Attack on Titan – 27

After a quick check in with Eren, Mikasa, Armin, and Zoe as they prepare to head to Ehrmich District—during which Zoe hopes her new buddy Pastor Nick will be more forthcoming regarding Wall Titans—the story jumps to Sasha Blouse, and it’s her story that dominates the episode.

A flashback shows she was always ravenous about sneaking food, and was at the time totally against abandoning her huntress lifestyle for the greater good, as her father was contemplating doing. He told her to suit herself, but to be forewarned: If you’re not there for people when they need you, they won’t be there for you.

Arriving at her home to find an unfamiliar new village, she finds only two people still alive: a paralyzed mother being slowly eaten by a small Titan, and the woman’s daughter, who can only sit by, watch, and become profoundly traumitized. Good lord do the kids witness some hellish things in this show.

Sasha is there for the girl and her mother, but the Titan’s nape is too tough for the axe she wields. Her only option is to leave the mother behind to buy time for her and the kid to get away. The girl later says the rest of the village left her and her mother behind (Not cool, villagers. Not cool). Things get even more tense when Sasha’s horse runs off, and you can hear her struggling to keep the panic in her voice, lest she scar this kid eve more (too late for that, I think).

In the flashback with her dad, Sasha spoke in her country bumpkin accent. While running from the Titan with the girl, she remembers a random little interaction with Ymir and Krista, who argued about whether Sasha is kind and polite because she’s scared of people and ashamed of her backwater upbringing, while Krista likes Sasha is just fine, however she wants to be.

Kobayashi Yuu has always been such a great choice for Sasha, because there’s both a gentle and an intense side (usually hangry, but in this case because of the situation) and she nails both perfectly. It’s time to be not-nice when she tells the kid to “Get Runnin’!” Then blinds the Titan to disorient it; ditching the bow to make sure the last arrow finds its mark, and slipping out of the Titan’s grasp thanks to the great deal of blood spilled by its wounds.

Meeting back up with the girl, they soon hear horse hooves: her father and others from her village. It’s the first time in three years she’s seen her dad. He knows what she did for the little girl, and when he tells her “Sasha…Yer all I hoped for,” its a lovely, warm moment of reconciliation.

Sasha didn’t quite get it before she left home, but she does now. Livin’ in the woods alone just ain’t gonna cut it no more; people gotta be non-awful-like if they’re to be survivin’.

Sasha may have found her dad and a little girl in her village, but when Connie arrives in his home village, it doesn’t look good at all…particularly the horrifying Titan with emaciated limbs lying face up on top of his family’s house.

Since we don’t see any bodies, there’s hope some or even all of Connie’s family got out, but more importantly, how did a Titan that can no longer move end up there? It looks like it could have been dropped down there like a giant sack of potatoes.

Keeping Eren and Mikasa on the sidelines hasn’t hurt the show two episodes in a row now thanks to a smidge more backstory on Sasha, whose gluttony shtick used to annoy me, but has become a much more sympathetic character…someone I definitely don’t want eaten.

Hai to Gensou no Grimgar – 02

hai21

HGG makes another strong case for continued viewing, in an episode that chronicles the trainees’ first kill, what they went through to get it, and what it does to them. Yet we’re not thrown into the heat of an ultimately futile battle like last week. Instead, we get an wonderful scene of Haruhiro and Manato having some tea in the middle of the night, just shooting the breeze.

In the morning, their task would seem easy: for the six of them to take out a single, isolated goblin unaware of their presence. They got the tip about the location thanks to Manato frequenting a tavern (and drinking to make friends and gather intel). What we quickly learn, however, is that even with superior numbers, it isn’t easy to kill the goblin…because as much as they all look the part, nobody has ever killed anything before.

hai22

The goblin isn’t some gamehen or rat, it’s a humanoid biped with clothes, weapons, and formidable combat and survival skills. The long range girls miss their marks while the short-range guys don’t cut deep enough when they get the chance. They only do real damage to the goblin when he stabs Haru in the shoulder and pins him down.

Just when the gang thinks they’ve got the goblin beat, he gets back up and doesn’t stop fighting, despite his injuries. Finally Ranta has to go a little nuts and continually stab the shit out of the goblin until it stopped moving. It’s a gorey, nasty business that has everyone shaking, crying, even fainting, in Shihoru’s case.

This is the gritty realism HGG brings that sets it apart from similar recent fantasy rpg-style anime. There are no gimmies, no lightweight foes, and no victory fanfare. There’s only physical and emotional trauma, along with a wolf fang and a silver coin, enough to keep everyone fed a little while longer.

hai23

Not only that, HGG deals fully with the consequences of the ordeal the trainees had to endure, along with the weight of the knowledge that while it may get easier, this is how it’s always going to be, and it will change them.

After the battle everyone breaks off and simply relaxes in town. There’s no dialogue for the better part of five minutes, only a soothingly bittersweet insert serenade about how it’s going to be alright. As Haru walks about on his own, he sees both joy and despair, and it makes him go check on a brooding Ranta.

Yume has fun shopping with Shihoru, but later she catches Shihoru and Manato looking like the perfect couple, and her face is a mixture of sadness and acceptance. Finally, once Moguzo finishes repairing and cleaning his gear, he whittles an airplane—something from his past life that doesn’t exist in this world—out of wood. That gave me goosebumps.

hai24

The gorgeous, painterly fantasy setting and the bustling town are beautiful and engrossing because they’re basically the same kind of things we can see everyday in our own world, which makes them resonate more. And the day of wandering around, observing others, and pretty much doing and thinking about anything other than slaughtering other living things, has a healing effect on the group.

We return to the straw beds of the guys in the last scene, as it turns out no one is really sleeping. Haruhiro has so many questions for Manato, but nothing comes out, and once Ranta announces he’s going to crash the girl’s bath session (an action that gets him tossed and yelled at by a furious Yume) Haru realizes he doesn’t really need answers from Manato just now, even if he actually had any.

He doesn’t know what will happen tomorrow—it could be better or worse than today—but he and his five companions will learn and draw strength from one another, and face it together. That’s sufficient comfort for him to look forward to tomorrow.

8_mag

Prison School – 12 (Fin)

ps121

I am sad that there is no more Prison School to watch, but it couldn’t have delivered a better finale, one that many an anime should look to for reference when it comes to delivering the goods, with interest in the ninth hour and satisfying on virtually every level, but not giving its wronged but not entirely innocent lads too easy a final result. No one is innocent by the end of Prison School. But that’s okay!

We begin the end with the “enhanced interrogation tactics” Meiko employs on Anzu (i.e., sitting on her face), just as Shingo and the guys figure out that it’s Anzu helping them by helping Chiyo. It’s good to know they know Kiyoshi isn’t the only one sticking his neck out for them (though that’s not to say he isn’t).

ps122

Kiyoshi would be having the time of his life kissing a cute, well-bred girl after-hours in the corrections office…if Hana was a girl he liked, and if Hana liked him. That’s obviously not the case. Instead, as he realizes, Hana’s kiss is a very rigid and uncertain one; as if she’s as out of her element as he is.

They are both of them complacent in appropriating sexual behavior for reasons other than mutual stimulation (though that’s a side effect): Hana wants to exact perfect justice; while Kiyoshi, knowing Hana’s weakness whenever things have gotten too far, performs a “Flight of Shimazu” in Hana’s mouth, breaking through her dental defenses with his tongue, meeting hers, and engaging in furious combat until she’s defeated.

Thanks to her height and the design of the office window, Chiyo is thankfully spared the sight of this spectacle, and only sees the top of Kiyoshi hunched over (this is, to the end, a show where every inch and second matters). She’s also kept from walking in on them when Kiyoshi cries out “Not yet!” but that also wakes Hana up, who sends Kiyoshi back to his cell for lights out, despite still being very out of it.

ps123

Mari and Meiko are satisfied the boys are indeed locked away in bed, and no longer up to anything, apparently resigned to their fate. But that’s exactly what Kiyoshi and Gakuto want them to think, and the next morning, the tables turn: they discover Joe is posing as Gakuto, while Chiyo is poising as Joe.

The real Gakuto makes quite the entrance, donning only his underwear (not wishing to sully the lovely Chiyo’s gym clothes), just in time for him and Kiyoshi to explain how they made a three-way switch when Hana let them use the bathroom.

ps124

While Gakuto was free, he made full use of the time to restore and extract the DTO files, which he produces in the form of a thumb drive he was keeping hidden up his ass for safekeeping. I knew when he came in in his underwear this would be the case, but I wasn’t prepared for the super-serious yet also super-hilarious manly exchange between him and the chairman, and how the latter has no qualms about touching the drive. After looking over the files, he’s satisfied the Underground StuCo indeed set traps to get them expelled.

ps125

When Hana realizes she’s the one who allowed Kiyoshi to unlock the door, she rushes at him with murderous intent. I must say, it has been an absolute joy listening to Hanazawa Kana play all the myriad sides of Midorikawa Hana, alongside Ohara Sayaka and Itou Shizuka as Mari and Meiko, respectively.

And it’s Mari who shields Kiyoshi from Hana’s punch taking responsibility for everything she put both her subordinates and the boys through. This final gesture suggests even she knows the gig is well and truly up. Though she believed it was for a good reason, she broke the rules, and lost.

But most importantly, Mari failed to see the boys as anything but scum. That unyielding prejudice was her undoing. Yes, the boys were guilty of peeping (God, that seems like eons ago), but they more than paid their debt to the school for that crime. Mari tried to ride her exclusionary agenda too far, and got burned.

There’s also the fact that she kept digital records of DTO rather than deal exclusively in burnable paper documents. She would have probably been victorious had Gakuto had no evidence to stick up his ass. But it wouldn’t have been a moral victory, no matter what Mari told herself later, and her relationship with Chiyo would have taken an even stronger hit.

ps126

But she didn’t win; the boys did; the Chairman declares their time served and grants them their freedom. The sight of them in regular high school uniforms is a glorious sight for sore eyes, as is the extremely happy ending all the guys get, from Kiyoshi being fed by Chiyo, to Andre finding a group of girls who love his size, ears, and punchability; to Shingo and Anzu picking their courtship up where they left off; to Joe playing with his ants. Heck, even Gakuto reaches for the same 3K book as a very comely young lady who wears her hair in Chinese buns.

More importantly, rather than peep on the girls form afar, the lads (other than Joe) are engaging the girls; treating them not as objects to be admired and leered over from afar, but as fellow human beings to interact with on equal terms. It could be argued their incarceration actually improved them as men; they certainly appreciate their freedom.

ps127

But not everything is peaches and sunshine at Hachimitsu. This is a show about reversals, and the most devastating one is saved for last, when a particularly wrathful redhead whom I assume is the regular StuCo president (as opposed to underground) comes to the Chairman (with her own agenda) and demands justice be doled out for Mari, Meiko and Hana. Wanting to avoid the specter of nepotism, the Chairman acquiesces.

That means throwing them in the very jail they once ran. And you know what? It doesn’t feel right. I don’t need the girls to get their “just desserts” in this manner. A direct turnabout like this wasn’t necessary, and it only feels bitter in my mouth—as I’m sure it does to Kiyoshi and the others—and as I’m sure it was meant to. After all, they know exactly what it’s like in there, and wouldn’t wish it on anyone…even those who originally put them there.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t mind a second season that explores further the relationships of Anzu+Shingo, or Gakuto+3K girl, or the Chiyo-Kiyoshi-Hana triangle (if that’s indeed a thing), or the possibility of Mari changing her mind about men, or Meiko growing a spine in the aftermath of her leader’s fall.

I’d also love to watch Kiyoshi, the other guys, and the girls who’ve befriended them (3K girl is one of the redhead’s lieutenants) work together to try to free their three former antagonists. Because no student should serve time in a prison in school. Normal detention and suspension should suffice!

10_sesRABUJOI World Heritage List

Prison School – 11

ps111

It’s cruch time for the inmates, and Gakuto quickly devises a fresh challenge for the Vice President—butt-wrestling—only to find Mari has replaced her, not due to doubt over Meiko’s loyalty or competence, but simply because she suspects the boys have caught on to her pattern of behavior and are planning to exploit her once more…which is exactly what is going on.

Their latest greatest plan thus foiled before it could get off the ground, it falls to Kiyoshi to use Meiko’s replacement Hana to regain access to the office. When he mentions the grudge Hana holds against him (without going into the tawdry details), they protest what could end up a very painful, bloody path, but he sees it as an opportunity to do right by the lads he wronged. They forgave him, but he hasn’t forgiven himself.

ps112

As I suspected, Kiyoshi makes use of Chiyo’s message exchange to gain outside help, and while Chiyo is caught, it’s by Anzu, who shares her desire to get the boys un-expelled. The girls of the Underground StuCo may be the source of all their suffering, but girls also happen to be instrumental to their salvation.

When Gakuto’s quick thinking gets him and Kiyoshi in the office, then ends up alone with Hana, he’s expects the worst for his “eryngii” when she pulls out a pair of shears. Alas, Hana is no butcher, nor is she criminally insane; she merely uses the shears to cut the top off a bottle for him to pee in. Her plan for revenge remains the same; it has not escalated.

ps113

But once Kiyoshi quickly removes his pants, then boxers, he realizes Hana is no less embarrassed by the intimacy of the situation than he is, so he steels himself and tries to win the emotional battle. When Hana realizes what’s happening, she too steels herself, removing her leggings and shimapan and turning the tables. Considering all the messed-up stuff these two have been through—largely through no fault of their own—this is par for the course.

ps114

Kiyoshi doesn’t give up, however, and manages to unlock the door that must be unlocked for the larger plan to succeed. Then she kicks him for being too close, and he catches a glimpse of her “precious area”, which he calls her “medusa”, and then “turns to stone.” Yikes, that’s a lot of double entendres!

Just when Hana is about to pee on him, they’re startled by the commotion when Meiko captures a girl outside the prison. Everyone is dejected that Chiyo has been caught until Shingo recongizes the voice of Anzu, selflessly serving as Chiyo’s decoy and getting captured for the good of the mission.

Kiyoshi gets another accidental peek, and when he explains himself with those entendres, including the use of the term “medusa”, he causes Hana to start bawling. Why did he give it a name? Why does the first person to see her have to be him? Why did it have to turn out this way?

Kiyoshi offers his apologies, and offers to let her hit him as much as she wants…and she does. But hitting him won’t make them even. Instead, in keeping with her eye-for-an-eye sense of justice, she takes from him something he’ll never get back: his first kiss with a girl.

ps115

Almost delirious with the justice she’s doled out, Hana gets Kiyoshi to admit he likes Mari’s little sister, and for that reason, Hana is resolved to do everything to him he doesn’t want her to do, no matter how embarrassing it might be. So as Chiyo sneaks around outside, fighting for Kiyoshi’s sake, Hana continues to purposefully make out with him.

Even if Chiyo doesn’t catch them in the act (something Kiyoshi could probably explain anyway), Kiyoshi won’t forget this evening in the prison office. The thing is, neither will Hana. I can’t believe this encounter won’t stay with her, and that she feels absolutely nothing genuine from it.

Amidst all the totally weird and wrong interactions they’ve had, there’s also been a sliver of chemistry and mutual attraction…it’s just a matter of neither knowing what the heck to do with such things.

9_ses

Prison School – 10

ps101

What is that I see in Vice President Shiraki’s eyes, as she files Mari’s nails and then half-heartedly agrees that the school will be better off without the boys? Could it be a tinge of fondness for the five lads; a reverse-Stockholm syndrome, if you will? I don’t know, but I suspect her feelings are conflicted, at the very least. After all, if the boys are gone, who will be left to punish? Girls?

The council would certainly have some punitive measures in place for the likes of Chiyo, if they knew she was sneaking messages to Kiyoshi in his meals. By the way, why haven’t the two of them been doing this all along?

ps102

In any case, the message she gets back is not from someone with any hope left, but someone saying goodbye and take care. The boys’ spirits are all but broken, and Gakuto is downright nuts, even faking out his buds with an absurd idea of sneaking themselves out with the meals like Chiyo’s note, and ordering fried grasshoppers for his “last meal” (a last meal that, by the way, seems to me like Meiko’s idea).

Meanwhile, Mari makes sure her father understands how things are going to go down, and to be ready to affix his seal on the necessary paperwork when the time comes. While it can be easy to deride Mari for exerting so much power while, at the end of the day, being beholden to daddy, it’s also a thankless position considering her dad’s abject inability to avoid exposing her to his latin butt fetish. He even kept the “mousepad” (a tremendous prop) while forgetting that glass is reflective.

ps103

I don’t know if it was the taste of the grasshoppers or what, but Gakuto suddenly comes out of his psychosis, to the point he doesn’t remember ordering grasshoppers and rejects the dish outright. And yet, Meiko not only took that ridiculous order without batting an eye, she personally caught and fried the grasshoppers especially for Gakuto. This just isn’t someone in a big hurry to get rid of the guys. She’s someone who takes great pride in taking care of them, even so close to the end.

ps104

And then there’s Prison School’s wild card, Hana, haunted by the feeling she’s forgotten something very important and impactful; something “that can’t be undone.” It’s only when the conditions of her last encounter with Kiyoshi are replicated that a switch flips in her head, and like Meiko, she doesn’t want the guys gone, but for a very different reason (so she can kill Kiyoshi, then herself).

But not so fast—just as a backlit Mari is smugly looking down on the boys as Meiko marches them up to the chairman’s office, the chairman is on his way down those same steps. Kiyoshi gave Meiko an appeal to give to him, but she tore it up. So what then, happened?

ps105

Simple: the “appeal” was planted knowing Meiko would probably trash it. And that very obvious appeal would distract her from the fact Kiyoshi wrote the real appeal on his withdrawal form. And not just any appeal: a personal message to the chairman than he knows about his “buried treasure” out beyond the school walls. Once the chairman is in the prison, Kiyoshi quickly dismisses the notion that he intends to blackmail him; it was only to get him in the room.

Before he can consider postponing their expulsion to give them time to collect evidence of council malfeasance, the chairman has a very frank question: whether they prefer boobs or butts. Kiyoshi remembers the material he saw him with, and quickly states butts. But that’s not enough: the chairman wants to know why Butts.

ps106

He makes a small origami sphinx out of Kiyoshi’s appeal just as Gakuto likens his riddle to that of the sphinx, about what has varying numbers of legs at different times (and the answer to which is “man”). As Meiko is eavesdropping, Hana tries to attack, but realizing the threat to the council a stabbed inmate would represent, she quickly neutralizes the Hana threat.

When Kiyoshi spots two round shapes from the window, he thinks it’s a butt at first, but it’s actually Meiko’s bust, the sight of which provides the spark to a response that will satisfy the chairman (who won’t hear any patronizing George Mallory-esque “because it’s there” BS). Boobs, Kiyoshi muses, only came about when mankind started standing upright, and no longer had the butts of those in front of them in their faces. Boobs are only a “pale imitation” of butts; butts are the original, accept no subsitutes.

ps107

The discussion transcends its inherent dumbness with the pure seriousness and gravitas of its presentation, like so many other situations in Prison School (never before has shitting oneself in a computer lab seemed so goddamn noble before). As Kiyoshi get more and more worked up; as his idea takes a life of its own; he almost seems to become an “ass man” before our eyes in spite of his previous preference for the top bits. Performance or no, it’s more than enough to convince the chairman to give them one more day.

This outrages Mari, but the chairman, perhaps empowered by what he just witnessed, kindly points out to his daughter that he’s the boss, and he’s decided to postpone the expulsion one more day, and if she has a problem, tough. Like Chiyo, Anzu, and Meiko, he’d rather the male students not go, and wants to believe they can find a way out of their predicament.

Hana, meanwhile, is now a loose cannon consumed with a desire for revenge, even at (or perhaps especially) at the cost of her own life. She could represent Mari’s nuclear option, or contrarily, Kiyoshi and the others’ salvation. But like the lads, I’ll take that tiny strand of light as a sign things could still work out.

But guys, seriously: there’s no wet t-shirt contest. Meiko was just teasing!

8_ses

Aldnoah.Zero – 09

az91

With the human crew out of constant immediate danger for two episodes now, A/Z has had more chances to demonstrate its sense of humor. For all the horrors it’s presented, the show can be pretty funy, and its outlook has remained optimistic. One look no further than all the little side moments that have peppered more tense situations.

az93

Now those moments have more room to breathe, whether it’s Yuki’s alleged ability to interpret Inaho’s mood from his stonelike face, to her teasing of Inko and Rayet, to Nina managing to snatch up Asseylum’s princess gown for reasons both practical and selfish. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the continuation of the wry banter between Magbaredge and Mizusaki; a nice blend of bitchy and chummy.

a92

All this joking around early in definitely lightens the mood, but also softens us up for the blows that come later, as the episode suddenly descends into darkness. The seeds are planted when Rayet is in the simulator, and Yuki dials up the purple kataphrakt that killed Rayet’s dad right in front of her. The experience shakes poor Rayet to the core, and continues to be baffled by Asseylum’s calm, collected outer facade.

az94

What Yuki did was an accident, but Yagarai gets the idea to use the simulator to recreate Marito’s own ordeal. Again, the comedy peeks through when Marito initially dismisses the simulation as “blocky” crap. His mood changes on a dime when he sees a blocky version of the kataphrakt he and Humeray encountered fifteen years ago, and we dive along with him right into that memory in its entirety.

az95

Long story short, they were outmatched, tanks are cramped and suck, and there was nothing he could have done for Humeray other than what he did, which is shoot him so he doesn’t have to endure being burnt alive. It was an impossible situation, and he shouldn’t blame or torture himself for what happened. We’ll see how many more times he lets Yaganai make him relive it.

az96a

But hold on, that flashback isn’t even the darkest, most fucked up thing to go down in this episode. Asseylum doesn’t mean it, but her very presence is driving Rayet crazy. While she and Eddelrittuo come in the shower prattling about how awesome she is, it’s the last straw. While Eddy is away for a moment, Rayet, seemingly in some kind of trance, slowly walks into Asseylum’s stall and strangles her with her necklace.

az98

Then the Deucalion shuts down and crashes, since Asseylum was its source of power…a fact we had forgotten right up until that point! I’m not yet buying that she’s dead—just unconscious—but it’s still serious business that Rayet’s passive disdain has turned active and unhinged. It’s also ironic that after all the Vers traitors’ attempts to off Asseylum in the most public and flashy way possible, it’s a human that ends up “getting to her” in the shower of a floating battleship.

az97

Finally, Slaine is now the guest of Count Saazbaum after the latter killed Cruhteo. Saaz comes right out and admits he is the traitor who plotted Asseylum’s assassination, but it’s not what we initially thought: Saazbaum isn’t just a selfish rich asshole, he’s a selfish rich asshole who felt used by the royalty fifteen years ago, whipping up wars to distract the masses back home, which led to the death of his beloved betrothed. He’s committed to taking out the royal family—Asseylum included—and no amount of surprisingly sharp butter knives will stop him.

8_brav

Akuma no Riddle – 08

akuma81

Speaking from experience, it’s a very bizarre feeling to be in class trying to pay attention to the lecture when the skies outside grow darker and darker from a brewing storm. I wouldn’t call it fear, just unease, since I’m so used to darkness signifying night. When the skies are black in the morning or afternoon, it like nature’s trying to mess with my circadian rhythm.

akuma82

It’s under these circumstances that we hear Mizorogi-sensei lecturing about sweetfish, specifically, how they’ll so fiercely defend their territory, they open themselves up to a decoy attack. That sweetfish is Akuma, and us too, to a degree. Previously, episodes were fairly direct about who’d try to assassinate Haru next; this one decided to toy with us a little bit: would it be Bamba…or Inukai?

It’s another example of how this show always does or says something for a reason that will come into play later, rarely wasting its time. Many of the things it does in the first half play with our expectations, which we’ve built up after watching the previous episodes. We even catch a glimpse of the person in charge of the killing game, someone who one a past game herself in just six days.

akuma84

With the assassins down to four and victory in sight, Haru asks Azuma what she’ll be up to when it’s over, and Azuma has no answer whatsoever. All this time, she’s been using her time at the school to try to forget or avoid everything outside. Protecting Haru is all that matters: that’s the purpose of her existence. Thinking about the future doesn’t serve that directive.

akuma85

But it’s her absolute devotion that opens her up to the same decoy approach used on sweetfish. She goes after Isuke thinking it better to fight her away from Haru, but she never suspected that Isuke was the decoy—despite forging Bamba name—and that Isuke and Bamba would work together to separate the two. Also’s Bamba’s alter-ego’s name, Shin’ya, means “full night.” This is her time.

akuma86

Isuke has also figured out Azuma’s Big Secret, that she’s never actually killed and doesn’t seem able to, giving her a huge advantage in their fight. Isuke had a wretchedly traumatic childhood but was saved by her neighbors, one of whom is an assassin. She wants to win so her parents can retire, paying them back for their kindness. It’s a surprisingly sweet and selfless wish, and she’s damned close to getting it, assuming she and Bamba are allowed to share the win.

8_brav

Stray Observations:

  • Mahiru/Shinya Bamba is/are a character I wish got screen time. Here we see how her two opposite selves communicate with one another.
  • Despite having not ended in six days like hers, the lady in charge has been impressed with this Class Black.
  • It is pretty impressive that Azuma hasn’t actually had to kill anyone to get as far as she has. Hell, even Haru’s killed!