Zetsuen no Tempest – 21


Aika and Hakaze relocate to the riverside, where she warns Hakaze that the Tree of Genesis will reset civilization if not defeated. After some “sleuthing”, Aika concludes that she will use magic to kill herself, which ultimately led to Hakaze meeting Mahiro and Yoshino, which leads to the Tree of Genesis being defeated, which is her calling as Mage of Exodus. Hakaze, knowing how the boys took Aika’s death, tries to stop Aika with words and by force, but Aika’s magic is far more powerful, and knocks her out. When Hakaze comes to, she races to the Aika Manor, but she’s too late; Aika has killed herself again. A note she leaves instructs Hakaze to give the letter she wrote to Mahiro and Yoshino after their mission is complete.

Those of you who called Fuwa Aika being the murderer of Fuwa Aika, pat yourselves on the back. Us thicker-skulled ones, meanwhile, will simply step back and admire the awe of this latest twist in what has shaped up to be one of the best series we’ve watched since Penguindrum. Aika’s  suicide makes perfect “chicken-and-egg” temporal paradox sense. Her death led to the assembling of the people who will ultimately defeat Genesis and save civilization. Ergo, Aika must die no matter what. Hakaze puts the happiness of the lads ahead of civilization, but Aika points out that they’d probably die if Genesis isn’t iced. In any case, Aika is far more powerful (and a bit taller!) than Hakaze…by design.

Props to Aika’s epic downhill punch, and the girls’ subsequent mage duel, in which she dances through the air with her swords, cutting Hakaze’s attacks to ribbons.Props also to Aika’s assessment of the events as they will unfold once she dies. She defies Hakaze’s insistence she mustn’t die; it’s not Aika’s choice to make. As the human representatives of gods, she and Hakaze are slaves to them, just as Caliban is Prospero’s. Even if Hakaze sees it as a Hamlet-esque ending, she sees it as Tempest-esque. She’s just playing the role she must play: defeat Genesis, even at the cost of her own life. If she doesn’t, the whole stage (which all the world is) falls apart. Hell, props to everything about this episode. It just kicked ass.

Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 19


Hakaze meets with Yamamoto and Hayekawa and tells them Hanemura won’t reach his full strength unless the Tree of Exodus absorbs one final fruit that must be raised. Yamamoto shares with her the theory that the tree(s) are an extraterrestrial weapon designed to head off rival civilizations on other worlds. Yoshino and Mahiro wander around, finally meeting by chance at the graveyard. Yoshino admits that he is Aika’s boyfriend, but Mahiro is surprisingly calm about it. They return to the apartment together, and the next day Hakaze announces she’ll be returning to the past, to a time when Aika was still alive.

We actually really enjoyed how Mahiro took the truth about Aika’s boyfriend. It was certainly a big moment, and a possible turning point for the show, but it was handled with a surprisingly light touch. Yes, there’s the Hamlet-like meetup at the graveyard at dusk; the graveyard; the stare-down…but Mahiro had time to think about things, and once the most logical choice came to light (thanks to Hanemura earlier), when Yoshino finally told him, he’s not that upset about it. It could have been worse; she could have been with some random dick. Yoshino he knows to be a kind and decent guy. That said, having the truth revealed doesn’t release him of the pain of losing the woman it turned out he always loved and continues to love.

Mahiro can’t fault Yoshino for hiding the relationship – and his grief – even after Aika died, because he did the exact same thing: hold it all inside and let it stew. However, Yoshino wants a Tempest ending, a Hamlet ending will do for Mahiro. They may yet become enemies; just not over Yoshino dating Aika. We enjoyed how everyone around these two was prepared for Mahiro to lose it, and their shock when he doesn’t. We also like how neutral parties like Yamamoto and Hanemura talk about their nagging doubt. And since the mystery of who killed Aika remains, Hakaze is going to the past to find out firsthand, which could be interesting, as she’ll essentially be time-stalking Aika and Yoshino of that time…

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 12

Yoshino has successfully convinced Mahiro that the Tree of Exodus – and by extension Samon – could be responsible for Aika’s death, and Samon has no further leverage. Hakaze scours the island for the offering, but cannot find it, but a dud missile lands on the beach, and she uses it to break the prison of time and return to the present. Before anything more can be done, the Tree of Genesis goes berserk, spouting branches all over Japan and the rest of the world, breaking the barrier that controls Exodus. A battle between the trees commences, and in the melee, Yoshino and Mahiro are impaled by branches. Hakaze and Samon commence healing them, and must suppress Exodus to attempt to calm Genesis before all of civilization is destroyed.

No more standing around in deep thought and chatting and thrusting katanas into the ground and pointing chained machine guns at people – this week we get down to the climactic action, and there’s a lot of it. First, Hakaze finally returns to the present and sees the lads for the first time. It’s a sudden turn of events, but after all, the logic of the world is on her side, and it’s quite a triumphant moment. Unfortunately there’s no time for celebrations, as the same tree that helped get her back is now locked in a furious battle with Exodus, a battle that may well be the titular “civilization blaster”, turning men and their works to ash. Even Hakaze isn’t quite sure which tree to trust, but at the moment both are a threat to humanity, and must be dealt with.

Luckily for Yoshino, the shit hits the fan before Mahiro can tell him to reveal who Aika’s girlfriend was. Unluckily for both of them, the Genesis deems their service to Princess Hakaze complete, and seems to dispose of them by impalement by errant branch. It’s a frightening, visceral scene, enough to make us briefly forget the Kusaribes are wielders of healing magic that can mend them. But even if they do, there’s still a huge shitstorm left to deal with. All of civilization is at the mercy of two immensely powerful badass trees who do not like each other – vying for dominion over the earth.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 11

The back-and-forth between Yoshino, Samon, Mahiro and Hakaze continues. After determining the method by which Hakaze can be transported to the present without causing a paradox, Samon admits he left a suitible offering on the island to do just that in an emergency, but then proceeds to stall for time by trying to convince Mahiro that the Tree of Genesis is to blame for Aika’s death. Tetsuma reports to Samon that the killer was not of the Kusaribe clan after all. Hakaze surmises that just as she is the princess of the Tree of Genesis, a princess of the Tree of Exodus may have emerged; a mage of destruction.

With three characters standing in the same place for more than two episodes, we’re officially in Naruto Boss Battle territory now. Fortunately, the dialogue is a lot more engaging, and once we’d come to terms with the fact that very little would get done action-wise this week, again, we spent the episode listening carefully, rather than gnashing our teeth. And there were a fair share of revelations this week: most intriguing being that Hakaze can come back, but only if she uses magic that transports everything but her bones from the past to her present-day skeleton.

Samon also loses the only bargaining chip he had in his contract with Mahiro: Aika’s killer. His men can’t find him, and they’ve determined he’s not a Kusaribe. This happens late in the episode, after Samon had already stalled for time about as much as he could. The whole idea how how Aika’s death is related to the actions of the Tree of Genesis – which only acts in Hakaze’s best interests – is also fascinating. Did Aika in fact die so that Hakaze could live, through the intervention of the two guys who loved her? Should Hakaze really blame herself for things the tree did independently, for her sake?

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 10

Yoshino offers his theory: that Samon is trying to fool them by trying to make it seem impossible to save her, while keeping Hakaze in despair. This turns out to be true, which irks Samon. He rebuts Yoshino by pointing out that Hakaze is still just bones in the present, but Yoshino counters that the time prison is also an illusion, caused by the psychology of distance and by keeping Hakaze asleep for two years before sending her to the island  Samon disproves that theory by having Hakaze carved word Yoshino says to her on the barrel. Mahiro remains on the fence, but Yoshino’s efforts were successful in buoying Hakaze’s spirit and deeply troubling Samon, turning the tides in her favor.

We must confess that we were a little disappointed in the lack of progress in this episode. Almost the entire running time is nothing but three people standing around throwing out theories and counterarguments. Considering a huge battle is raging and the Tree of Exodus is about to be awakened, this is a bit of a momentum-killer and the constant diversions into Samon’s inner thoughts reminded us a bit too much of a dragged out shounen battle. But Samon’s thoughts are important, since it’s how we witness his change of mood. For all of Yoshino’s insistence he has Samon figured out, he’s only bluffing, stalling for time, and helping Hakaze get out of her funk – and if Mahiro believes him, so much the better.

Well, Mahiro can’t quite believe him, and Samon does prove that there is a time shift and it isn’t just an elaborate illusion. Hakaze’s in the past, and needs to find a way to cross time in order to deal with Samon. She’s finally in the right state of mind, and Samon is seriously flustered. But the fact remains, last week we ended with Yoshino, Mahiro and Samon in a clearing, wondering how to proceed. This week we ended with Yoshino, Mahiro and Samon in a clearing, wondering how to proceed. We enjoyed the verbal sparring and shifting of the winds, but this episode didn’t take us as far as we thought it would.

Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Zetsuen no Tempest – 09

Samon successfully convinces Mahiro that Hakaze is only bones now, and is speaking to him from the past through the magic doll. Mahiro doesn’t care though, and will use the talisman anyway unless Samon grants the wish Hakaze couldn’t – to find Aika’s killer and bring him to him. Samon considers it a reasonable requests, and orders Tetsuma to investigate. Yashiro tells Hakaze what has happened, and when she mentions not having a line from Hamlet to say, Yoshino remembers when Aika told him why she quotes Hamlet. He tells her it’s too tragic, so she tells him about The Tempest, which had a happy ending. Yoshino attacks Mahiro, and begs him to rejoin his side to try to bring Hakaze back. If he does, he’ll tell him who Aika’s boyfriend was. This sways Mahiro, who agrees to hear him out, but only until Samon can get him Aika’s killer.

We know a little more about The Tempest thanks to Wishbone (who might’ve done Hamlet too, we just didn’t catch that episode), but not much more than the fact it involves a mage on an island, and, well, a tempest. But darn it all if our preoccupation with Hamlet and its connection to this story totally distracted us from the obvious: this story isn’t one or the other: it could go either way. Yoshino doesn’t want to end up in a duel with Mahiro over Aika, and she doesn’t believe a second girl – Hakaze – should be so easily abandoned to fulfill Mahiro’s selfish, immediate thirst for revenge. Of course, Mahiro has the gun, so Yoshino uses those flash bombs he hoarded to shake things up.

With one word – “boyfriend”, Yoshino is able to turn the tables a second time in as many episodes. And with Samon cursing the Tree of Genesis for everything that doesn’t go his way, it really makes you wonder, is logic and nature really still on Hakaze’s side, even though she’s dry bones in the present? Why not? Sure, things are complicated, and it will take a lot to nullify those bones, but as long as there’s magic in the world, and someone willing to stand and put his own life on the line to save her, Hakaze, the mage on the island, has a chance to return home and exact revenge upon those who wronged her. And Mahiro can get his sister’s killer and the name of her boyfriend…though who knows how he’ll take the latter revelation.

This episode may just be three guys yelling at each other while holding weapons while a half-naked girl lies on a distant beach (and another guy fights tanks with a spear) but good God was it powerful. It not only sports a ton of mythic resonance, but elegantly, effortlessly transfers the power to choose the fate of the world from the hotheaded trigger-happy vengeance junkie into more calm, collected hands, precisely because said junkie is so hotheaded, his knowing who his sister dated carries the same weight as the opportunity to face her murderer. Here’s hoping for that happy ending where he learns both, Hakaze is saved, and the world isn’t destroyed. It even takes a hearty jab at its own characters‘ (over?)use of Shakespeare.

Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Zetsuen no Tempest – 08

The JSDF launches a major offensive against the Kusaribe clan, bombarding the barrier that protects them and the Tree of Exodus. Mahiro and Yoshino break through with a wad of talismans, and not soon thereafter encounter Samon. Mahiro aims the talisman rifle at him and demands he bring back Hakaze. Samon tries to convince them they’re on the wrong side; it is her Tree of Genesis that will reset civilization and destroy the world as they know it, and Exodus that will save the world. Mahiro doesn’t care, as he’s heard the story already. But then Samon presents them with Hakaze’s skeleton in the barrel beside him, and informs Mahiro, Yoshino and Hakaze that she’s communicating with them from two years in the past, and she has since died.

The fate of the world rests in the hands of Mahiro, who hates the world’s guts because it killed Aika. Hakaze is the one who has convinced him she can help him make things right. So whatever Samon says, or no matter how many times he smacks his scabbard against the rock (and he does that a lot) it won’t convince Mahiro to stray from the plan. So Samon’s cornered, right? Checkmate? Game Over? Notsofast…Samon has to whip out that damn skeleton again; the elephant in the room. We were willing to hear Samon out as much as Mahiro, but only as a courtesy. Now…we don’t know who or what to believe. His revelation even spooks Hakaze, who stands on the beach as a storm arrives, literally raining on her parade.

She’s carefully counted her days, adding up to four months, but the year she gives the others was two years ago. So all this time, Mahiro’s been talking to someone just as dead as Aika? If so, how can she help him? This all depends on how seriously Mahiro takes Samon’s insistence that she’s dead. She isn’t dead in the past; perhaps there’s a way to avoid her death and make that skeleton disappear, BTTF-style? So Mahiro may well press on. But Yoshino’s a different story. He had his doubts before he learned this – now he may not be able to let Mahiro wield the power destroy the world he knows – even if the world he wants is also one where Aika is still alive.

Rating: 9 (Superior)