Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens – 01 (First Impressions)

Three percent of the population of Fukuoka’s Hakata district is hitmen. In the first Hakata Tonkotsu Ramens, we meet a number of them…and I don’t like any of them. They’re either dull, or assholes, or both.

One of the assholes is a cross-dressing dude who is trying to kill his way out of debt for his little sister’s sake. He’s hired to murder an employee at a club who was skimming profits to the tune of 10 million.

Many hours later, a shaggy detective is tasked with discovering the club employee’s murderer…only to be the cross-dressing hitman’s next target.

Another asshole is the son of the mayor, who has a habit of abducting women, taking them to hotels and beating them to death if they won’t let him have his way with them.

This horrific monster is the spawn of Hakata’s mayor, who suggests minimizing his own exposure by giving the brat women with no families who have recently been brought into the country via human trafficking.

Meanwhile, the brat’s friends lynched a foreigner who is now in a coma, and the foreigner’s foreigner friend wants revenge, so calls upon some hitmen, which includes a little blonde girl, because sure, why not.

They end up mistaking another hitman hired to kill the attacker, who is on his first job since being transferred to Hakata from Shinjuku by the professional killing company he works for, RED RUM (har har).

Mr. Shaggy Detective has some conversations and does some snooping around the club, which leads to the aforementioned cross-dressing hitman to come after him. However, the cross-dressing hitman isn’t very good at his job, and the detective is able to make the first move.

This is all very dreary and unappealing so far. An entire city of hitmen is obviously ridiculous, so this show scaled it back to “three percent”, which is probably an abnormally large proportion but it doesn’t sound like a lot, it just sounds kinda limp.  And it doesn’t really matter how many hitmen reside in Hakata if none of them could create a single positive impression on me. Pass.

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Noragami Aragoto – 12

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The drastic measure Ebisu ominously suggests turns out to be a variant of a soul call, which is basically ‘Yeah, just YELL HIS NAME REALLY LOUDLY down the vent’, and Yato will come back. I know, it’s a little more spiritually involved than that, but I was still amused by how simple the approach turned out to be…or rather would have been, had Hiyori actually known Yato’s real name.

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She summons back a confused Bishamon without any trouble, but Yato dosn’t come no matter how hard she calls it. That casts doubt on the fact Yato is his name at all, which hurts Yukine deeply if true. Nonetheless, as Bishamon and Ebisu fight off the Heavens’ Punishers who have come to take Ebisu away, and Kofuku keeps the vent open, Hiyori keeps calling.

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She keeps calling Yato not just because she desperately wants him back, but because she doesn’t want it to be true that he kept his name from her; not after she saw how happy and tearful he became when he saw it carved on the shrine she made for him. They’ve come too goddamn far for him to still be hiding basic stuff like his name…right?!

But then, Hiyori concentrates on the structure of Yato as she carved it, and focusing on two  crossed strokes forming a kind of offset plus, and calls out a different name: Yaboku, which does the trick. Yato apparates right on top of Hiyori, but she’s so happy he’s back she overlooks the closeness. Nay, in situations like this (and when Yukine underwent ablution), this is when the family comes in for a big warm hug.

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So hurrah!, Yato is back safe and sound. But notsofast; there’s still those Heavens’ Punishers to deal with, what with their biker gang name and Mortal Kombat-esque dragon regalia Kiun, which they summon when their arrows fail to pierce Ebisu and Bishamons defenses.

To deal with Kiun, Bishamon puts faith in her exemplar Kazuma to work his blessed vessel magic to power up her whip Kinuha, and he doesn’t disappoint in asserting his dominance, in a nice bit of visual trickery, Kazuma reaches out to the lightning dragon high in the sky, and suddenly grabs it as if it were tiny and within reach.

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Yukine isn’t quite ready to forgive Yato for hiding his name, going into the underworld, and getting beaten up without telling him or Hiyori anything. Still, the Heavens’ Punishers have a lot of tricks up their sleeve, and contingency plans for their contingency plans, so it has to wait. Or rather, the making-up has to happen immediately, as Yato requires Sekki at full power to repel the nuke-like projectile launched from the Punishers’ Purification Ring.

Sekki does just that, and with authority, and Ebisu, who after being reamed by Yato, actually wants to keep living, is appreciative. He’s appreciative of all his fellow gods’ efforts, as well as their regalia and human. But it may not be enough against the forces of the heavens. Another ring appears beneath his feet, and before the credits roll, Ebisu is swallowed up by white light.

Will it be blocked again? If so, by whom; Yato? Bishamon? A god who has yet to appear in this battle? If not, will it be the end of Ebisu? How will the gang deal with the loss of the one person they all worked together so hard to keep alive? Heck, I can answer that last one: They’ll feel like shit! So here’s hoping something—a miracle, perhaps—happens to prevent that. Because you know what? I like Ebisu.

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Noragami Aragoto – 11

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Of all the things to go down once Hiyori and Yukine arrived at the entrance to the underworld, I did not expect for Yato’s mercy to bite him in the ass, but that’s almost what happens, as Kugaha tries to capture Hiyori and kill Yukine. Kugaha tries to weaken Yato’s newly-minted exemplar by bringing up Hiiro and the fact he went to the underworld with her instead of him.

This works, but only briefly, as Hiyori grabs Yukine and counteracts Kugaha’s negative words by telling him how much Yato means to him, and to have faith in him. Yukine manages to fire off a borderline that shatters Kugaha’s and slams him against a tree, and well…that’s the last we see of him!

Then again, perhaps his being there wasn’t a mere coincidence: if he’s to be believed, Kugaha seems to have been keeping track of Yato’s movements and actions all along, and while Yukine is able to neutralize him here, I’m sure he’ll still want to confront Yato.

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Of course, after this week that may not be such a good idea, because his former master Bishamon ultimately decides to go all-in on rescuing Yato. Before that, we see Yato’s in a bad way, falling back into those damned caverns. As Hiiro tenderly treats his foot, Yato starts to lose hope, matching Hiiro’s sentiment that this being the end for them isn’t so bad if they’re together.

It’s clear Hiiro is far more than a temptress to the “dark side” for Yato. They were, and remain, family. But he shakes off thoughts of giving up; not while Yukine and Hiyori are still up there.

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Hiyori and Yukine bump into Bishamon and Kazuma (she’s also wearing Aiha as armor and another regalia as a whip; prepped for battle), Kofuku and Daikoku arrive, and options are weighed. Hiyori absolutely can’t go into the vent (which quickly closes anyway), while Yukine can’t go without disguising himself as someone else’s regalia, in effect becoming a Nora.

Bishamon makes the decision for him: she’s going to go down with Kazuma, Aiha, and the other girl, and save Yato herself. Kofuku opens a fresh vent and down they go.

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She’s not just doing it for Yukine and Hiyori’s sake, but because she owes Yato. She actually owes him twice over, first when her Ma clan of regalias almost killed her, and again when dealing with Kugaha. She admits she hated Yato in order to move forward, and you could even call that a third debt. Regardless, she intends to repay them, which means saving Yato from Izanami here.

Even Bishamon and some of her top regalia struggle against the mighty Izanami, but they’re not trying to defeat her, just grab Yato and escape, so they have a chance. Of course, they’ll also need a way out, but Kofuku’s vents keep closing too fast. Enter Ebisu, who comes to and says there’s a way to open a gate to the underworld, but it will require someone from the Near Shore…namely Hiyori.

That’s pretty foreboding, but you know what? In keeping with the theme of having faith, be it Yukine in Yato or Yato in Yukine and Hiyori, I’ll have faith she’ll be alright, and things will work out fine.

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Noragami Aragoto – 10

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Answers to our questions last week come quickly. Will that kiss really work? No, it didn’t; Hiyori doesn’t seem to have any interest in Fujisaki. Will Hiyori become even more troubled by her inability to remember? Yes, most definitely. She rubs at her lips until they’re red, and she walks around with a cloud over her head. Will someone be able to jog her memory before it’s too late? Thankfully, yes, albeit accidentally.

When Yukine first approaches her, she can’t see him, which is bad, but his voice and his smell bring all the memories of him and Yato rushing back. Simply beside herself with relief, Hiyori embraces Yukine tight enough and long enough to make his nose bleed. Who can blame her? She never wants to come close to losing him or Yato again.

She was in a kind of hell, one she’d experienced before, but was so sure—arrogantly so, she believes in hindsight—she’d never experience it again. Now she knows: she’s not immune to forgetting; she must be vigilant in remembering. But first thing’s first: Find Yato.

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Down in the underworld, Izanami has caught up with the fleeing Yato and Ebisu, and sends legions of naked blue beldams to drag the men back to her so she can play with them for all eternity. Hiiro acts independently by shoving one of Ebisu’s regalia into the beldams to distract them and save her master and Ebisu, who are all she cares about.

But when Yato learns Ebisu retrieved the ablution brush not for his own selfish reasons, but for the sake of protecting humanity by controlling phantoms, it changes Yato’s entire perspective of his charge—and mine as well.

With Bishamon and Kofuku also still away, Yukine joins forces with their exemplars Kazuma and Daikoku to seek out Yato. They ask Tsuyu—who isn’t a regalia but the spirit of a plum tree who serves Tenjin—to speak to the trees, and she finds one that saw two men matching the description of Yato and Ebisu entering the underworld. Hiyori hears this too; now she knows where to go.

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Meanwhile, in Takamagahara, the six other gods of fortune along with Bishamon are being held captive by High Sentinal Oshi, who tells them that by “interrogating” several of Ebisu’s regalia (many of whom turned out to be Noras), they’ve determined he’s the conjurer they’re looking for, and will seek to execute him for his crimes.

That doesn’t play so well for Okuninushi, who shows the adamant, haughty Oshi one of his more terrifying forms. But before any god or sentinal blood is shed, Kazuma arrives with Kuraha, restrains Oshi, and frees Bishamon, who make a beeline to the underworld to retrieve Yato and Ebisu.

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Even though Yato is still missing, Hiyori is clearly in far higher spirits now that she’s remembered him and Yukine. Yukine remains weary, mostly because he doesn’t want Hiyori to get involved in anything hazardous. Her scrape with the whole Bishamon business was a close enough shave for him. But Hiyori tells him she needs to find Yato and hear his story face-to-face, so Yukine agrees to let her accompany him.

It doesn’t really matter who shows up to the underworld first, as long as someone gets there fast; Izanami and her harem is proving too much for Yato and Ebisu, and all the exits are sealed with powerful-looking magic. Ebisu remembers his childhood—a childhood he’s had often because he dies and reincarnates so much. He’s a popular, well-known god with many shrines and books and oral histories about him. So if someone has to stay down there with Izanami and die, it should be him.

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Yato disputes that logic, much to the chagrin of Hiiro. Now that he can see Ebisu’s formidable will, which causes him to press forward in his purpose no matter how many times he dies, and he wants to be a god worthy of that kind of respect; worthy of Hiyori. This is how great and immortal gods are forged, he believes; not by simply going with the flow and doing whatever his father and Hiiro tell him to do.

This time he makes his stand, and convinces Ebisu to use the brush to punch a vent into the very fabric of the underworld with phantoms. Suddenly, something that was a big no-no in past episodes is crucial to their survival; the ramifications can be dealt with later.

Even though Yato gets snagged by Izanuma and pulled back down into the abyss, with a huge host of gods, regalia, and Hiyori about to descend on the underworld in quick succession, his number is far from up…especially if Ebisu, who escaped, tells the others of Yato’s selflessness.

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Noragami Aragoto – 09

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Because Yato is in a charitable mood and possibly harbors guilt for the things he did with her, he goes along with Hiiro’s idea to go into the underworld to rescue a conjurer, despite the fact he could very easily get trapped down there by it’s queen, Izanami. When that conjurer turns out to be Ebisu (who is absent for the latest colloquy, correctly suspected, and for whom an arrest warrant is issued), suddenly Yato’s personal dilemma is intertwined with the overarching threat of Ebisu.

For a supposed Big Bad, it’s surprising how casual Yato and Ebisu are when they meet. Perhaps it’s because Yato trusts a far more famous god, or because hasn’t always been the most scrupulous fellow himself (as his continued entanglement with Nora attests) but he doesn’t really protest Ebisu’s use of Masked Ones as “phantom regalias”. In fact, we get a lot of Ebisu’s silly, eccentric side, rather than any goofy evil face-twisting. It’s a nice change of pace; I like it.

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While Yato, Hiiro, and Ebisu tread deeper into the underworld, Hiyori is snagged by her high school friend into a triple date at Amagi Brilliant Park some Capybara-themed park. Notably, Tenjin stops Tomone (curious about where Yato went off to) from getting Hiyori’s attention in the street; it’s been established Tenjin wants Hiyori to stop hanging out with gods an regalias and live a normal living high school girl’s life.

Now it looks like that might be happening. We don’t know her friends that well, but their meeting up and pairing off at the park is very well done. It’s amusing to see the girl who arranged everything ended up pairing up with a different guy, leaving the handsome, well-spoken Fujisaki (who caught her from falling last week) to Hiyori, and the two have instant chemistry, courteously apologizing to each other for putting one another out.

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When Yato and Ebisu encounter Izanami, everything seems arranged to keep them by her side. She takes the form of people they care about—a very forward Hiyori, in Yato’s case—and she constantly offers food, drink, friendship; all of which will keep them stuck in the underworld as her “friend” forever. Hiiro actually does Yato a solid by protecting him from “Hiyori’s” kiss; let it be said that Yato and Hiiro really do make a good team; it’s just that being in that team puts serious strain on Yato’s newer relationships in the living world.

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Yukine, for his part, has very little to do this week, but he continues to train and become stronger in body and mind under Kazuma’s wing. Kazuma notes that Yukine is also trying to remain strong for Yato’s sake, even though he’s worried about him.

He should be, it would seem: when Izanami says she’ll only give them the brush if one of them stays behind, Ebisu picks Yato to stay with the logic that he’s the more famous god with a lot more at stake. Obviously, Yato takes exception to this—he has as much a right to exist as Ebisu, regardless of his past—so they fight.

But it all turns out to be an elaborate distraction. When Ebisu “beats” Yato by snatching Hiiro from him (she once served him as well, taking the form of a pistol), Izanami celebrates the fact Yato will be her friend. But then Ebisu uses his little masked phantom bat to snatch the brush, and he and Yato high-tail it together as Izanami fumes.

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As they flee, Yato thinks only of getting back to the near shore and to Yukine and Hiyori, whom he cares for so much. Surely this is the end of his dealings with Hiiro, right? He’ll pop back at an awkward time during the date and Hiyori will be embarassed but relieved and happy at the same time, right? Right?

Well…no. As the date progresses, Hiyori continually remembers someone who’s name and face she can’t place, and it starts to eat at her, until it’s clear to her date Fujisaki that something is very wrong. But Fujisaki reads her demeanor as something that can be remedied by taking her hand and kissing her in front of the hugely-romantic fireworks parade.

His instinct isn’t wrong, nor could he possibly be aware that by being kind and charming and comforting to Hiyori all but snaps the thread connecting her to Yato. Who was the one she wanted to take to the park so badly? Wait…she’s at the park with someone now. Does it matter? 

This is what Tenjin – and Hiiro – wanted. Will that kiss really work, or will Hiyori become even more troubled by her inability to remember? Will someone be able to jog her memory before it’s too late?

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Noragami Aragoto – 08

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As a fully committed Ebisu creates more masked ones, Yato continues to bask in the elation of finally having a real shrine to call his own, along with all the honors and privileges that come with it, from official registration to a plot of land and admittance to Takamagahara. He also wastes no time lavishing an excessive amount of attention on Hiyori, who probably didn’t realize when she made it how big a deal a little shrine could be for a god who had never had one.

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That importance is driven home when Hiyori encounters Manabu at school (the bullied kid who appeared in last season’s episode 8), but he only thanks her, he doesn’t remember anyone named Yato. Gods are created from the wishes of humans. No wishes, no gods. Meanwhile, Yukine takes advantage of his new resident status to look up Kazuma and beg him to help him become a better exemplar to Yato.

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Because as annoying as Yato has been, Yukine and Hiyori both are glad to see him so happy. He’s so happy, he doesn’t even know what to do, because as he says while drunk in a rare glimpse into his deep past, his “father” told him he’d never need a shrine. This is because Yato is a god of calamity. His clients would never be long-lasting, but due to human nature, there would always be clients for his kind of services.

With his blessed vessel and shrine and Hiyori, Yato wants to leave that past behind and hold tight to these new gifts, and even arranges to release Nora AKA Hiiro, believing he no longer needs her, and since she has many other masters, she doesn’t need him either. But Hiiro reminds Yato that he made her a Nora, then sics her phantom dogs on him to demonstrate how much he needs her to continue existing.

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From there, Nora pulls him off the wagon altogether and back into the life they used to lead, with her as the sharp sword of not-always-righteous retribution. Yato sinks back into the rut all too easily, like a drug he thought he kicked. Because as long as he’s fulfilling the dark assignments of the damned, he continues to exist. It was instilled in him long ago that he needed Nora for that.

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In this way, a full month passes during which neither Yukine nor Hiyori see or hear from Yato. Hiyori goes to Tenjin asking if he’s seen him, and Tenjin reiterates his concern that she’s gotten caught up in too much god stuff and needs to spend more time enjoying her adolescence. Almost on cue, as she’s worrying about whether Yato’s continued absense will cause her to eventually forget him, she trips on a flight of stairs and a strapping young lad catches her.

And as Ebisu recovers from a bad reaction to his latest masked creation and Bishamon and Okuninushi are apparently ambushed in a parking garage, Yato is off in some house with Nora, playing out the same old destructive patterns. Only thoughts of Hiyori bring him out of his complacent trance and he demands he be allowed to leave. The door opens, Nora appeals to their “father”, who gives them one more job before letting him go: rescuing a conjurer from the underworld.

Something tells me neither Nora nor this father figure are anyone Yato can trust, but at the same time, they were and continue to be a part of him, and his perceived obligation to them isn’t something easily cast aside, no matter how much progress he’s made reforming himself. Even for a god, old habits die hard.

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GANGSTA. – 12 (Fin)

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“It’s no use. Any of it.”

It’s a dark, nihilistic and very open-ended finale for GANGSTA., and although I wasn’t expecting many happy endings, then endings we did get were ambiguous, and I felt that too much was left on the table. Maybe that was the intention.

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One ending left open perhaps by design, was the Marco/Connie crisis. Connie’s grief-stricken grandmother whacks Marco with her cane, cursing him for taking yet more of her family. Nic stops her, at later drapes a coat over her in the rain, and all she wants at this point is to seem some thing, any sign of what happened to Connie, even if it’s just a head or an eye. But all we get a heartbreaking flash from Marco’s POV of her smiling in bed, a perfect moment that may never come again.

Marco, once a member of the Destroyers who are wreaking havoc on Ergastulum, laments he no longer has the strength to protect what’s important to him, or even save his girl. So what does Loretta do? Strips down, puts on her work clothes and shoulder holster, and steps up to the plate. Marco has given a lot to the Christiano family, and she’s going to see that he’s repaid for that leal service. Marco sees the ghost of her father behind her as she speaks with his voice.

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As Nic backs up Christiano at Bastard, leaving Ally behind at the office, Worick prepares for a last stand with Miles to buy time for Daniel Monroe. When the Destroyer Striker arrives, no normal or Twilight or steel door can stand against him.

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Worick and Miles set up an elaborate trap, but both are seriously wounded, and though Worick manages to get a sedative into Striker, Striker tosses him out the window. It’s an exciting fight, but there’s never the feeling Worick or anyone else has the slightest chance. Hauntingly, Nina suddenly wakes up as soon as Worick’s bloodied body hits the ground, sensing he’s done for.

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Delico continues to trudge through the rainy streets with Heather searching for his sister Erica, and he finally looks up helplessly at her flying over the rooftops with Mikhail. Worick lies bleeding out, remembering being told he can try as hard as he wants to keep up with Twilights, but they’ll always be different from him, and out of his reach. Nic flies through the rainy sky and delivers the nihilistic line up top.

Is he right? Are Loretta, Marco, Connie, along with Nic and Worick, all simply doomed? Is all we got, and all we’ll ever get as viewers, is a brief, twleve-episode look-in to this accursed world populated with wounded souls, beasts, and lost causes? Or is Nic wrong, and the fact none of the above characters end up dead for sure offer hope that things can turn around in a future GANGSTA. sequel?  This episode gave no indication of a continuation, so we’ll just have to wait and see. But in the meantime, our look-in has concluded.

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GANGSTA. – 11

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As Corsica’s hunters (AKA the “Destroyers”) begin bombing the Paulklee district to dull Twilight senses, Delico leaves Monroe’s mansion to find his sister Erica and deal with her, with his colleague Yang tagging along. Doug tries to get back to base, but gets an X-slash across the chest. And the axe girl with the everlasting lollipop and funky manicure is unimpressed with the quality of opponents, calling them “a pile of crap.”

Notable in their total (rather than partial) absence from the episode? Nic and Worick. And yet the episode does just fine without the Handymen, giving the supporting cast room to breathe and be fleshed out a tad more (though without any lengthy flashbacks).

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Central to the episode is the semi-secret romance between Marco and Connie, the latter of whom says goodbye with sign language in a way that suggests she’s going to end up in danger before the day is done. Yet between this, Ally taking care of the kid at the Handymen’s, and Delico’s Erica-Hunt, the Destroyer’s chaos isn’t as far reaching as last week suggested…at least not yet.

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It doesn’t take long for Sig to carve her way to Gina Paulklee’s bedroom window, where she’s just waking up (with Ginger, who we now know is also her lover). But Gina ends up agreeing with Sig that the place is a cesspool. Her point is, so what? Now that Sig has come to this point, neither she nor her Destroyer partner are authorized to act, and even when her partner does go after Gina, Ginger snaps his knife with her bare hand. Sig’s axed her way through soft wood, but now she’s up against tougher stuff, and it’s good to see the doubt in her eyes for the first time.

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That particular standoff ends in a Destroyer retreat, but the rest of them continue to move, and the damage is done. Delico and Yang run into Heather, the sister of a six-year-old killed by Erica, hoping she’ll lead them to her, and Doug bleeds out in Gal’s arms rather than accept a downer Celebrer. It would seem Doug has had enough of the Gangsta life, and is content to take his chances in the afterlife.

One Destroyer is a raven-haired beauty who wants smokes, and the town tobacconist just happens to be Connie’s grandmother, who is out. Connie gets her the smokes, but the woman can’t help but smell Marco on her. Marco, sensing Connie is in danger arrives only to find her hat. If the Destroyers are going to start taking normal hostages, the Twilights care about, that’s only going to make things more difficult in the finale next week, where I’m guessing Nic and Worick will pop back out of the shadows.

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GANGSTA. – 10

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No Summer show is better at setting a specific mood and atmosphere and flow to its episodes than the sometimes painfully hip GANGSTA., and a lot of the credit has to go to the super-smooth hip-hop stylings of Tsutchie, also known for his work on Samurai Champloo.

And while there’s certainly dread in the air in the aftermath of the first of many battles in Ergastulum, the mood the score evokes tends more to the tentative, and to a status quo everyone is struggling against fate to maintain. Many Twilights died, but many more remain alive, many of them children, who need to be protected here, in the only place there is for them.

That’s definitely going to be more difficult with a fresh squad of serious-looking Twilight Hunters entering the town, ready to continue what Erica and Mikhail started at Bastard.

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Rather than a calm before a storm, we’re in the relatively calm eye for much of this week. Connie reveals she’s Marco’s lover as the two embrace in Dr. Theo’s clinic, while Connie also embraces Ally as thanks for protecting Miss Christiano. Ally takes care of the orphaned baby of a Twilight killed in the fray as Loretta rests. Nina makes sure Nicolas rests up and heals. Everyone is waiting for the other shoe to drop.

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That shoe starts to drop, as the eye of this storm begins to drift away from Ergastulum and the clouds and rains of violence proceed. Worick accidentally bumps into one of the new Hunters in town, whose look and smirk he doesn’t like one bit, while a scantily-clad, crazy-eyed blonde with an ax in her hands and a lollipop in her mouth, begins a one-woman assault.

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As Loretta assures Ally in the Handymens’ office that Bastard will open for business tomorrow, without delay, because it has to—as Al says, the people who rely on Loretta have nowhere else to go—Doug is sent out to meet the ax girl, and the guys who go with him are quickly taken out. While I’ve seen my fair share of cute homicidal girls, I can’t remember a time when a guy was viciously hacked in half to the tune of such chill music.

Once again, the bad guys have fired the first shots. At this point, I’d advise putting Ginger on the front line and letting her have at it. But I know no one Twilight will be able to stop this brash new posse of overpowered super-hunters, of whom Ally’s bro is a member. It’s going to take more teamwork, and a lot of luck.

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GANGSTA. – 09

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Alex’s gorgeous song, and the momentary tranquility it brought, is over less than a minute before the Corsicas attack Bastard, first with a token B-rank twilight whose daughter is being held hostage, then with the two twilight hunters, Mikhail and Erica, who prove more than a match even for Loretta’s best men, Galahad and Marco.

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Mind you, there was almost enough time after Alex’s song for Loretta to finish inviting her to stay at a room at Bastard if she needs a place, but then the club proceeds to be torn apart as Loretta’s men battle the hunters. Gal and Marco are able to restrain Mikhail, but when Erica is ordered in by Ivan Glaziev, the tables turn quickly, and are then turned into kindling.

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The Handymen get word of the chaos unfolding at Bastard, and Worick sends Nic in to buy him five minutes while he fires a flare that the Paulklee Guild, Dr. Theo, and the police all see. I liked how the flare was reflected in so many different windows, connecting all the people in various parts of Ergastulum’s labyrinth and drawing them to the action.

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When Erica is about to kill Marco, the honorable Loretta can’t help but defend her man, but both she and Alex empty their clips at Erica, she deflects them all and they end up on the wrong side of her sword. That’s when Nic arrives to save Alex and Loretta and buy Worick five minutes to assemble backup, during which Galahad tells Ally that Nic is only an A/0 when he overdoses on Celebrer Uppers; otherwise he’s a B/5 at best. In other words, a “faker.” Nic also pegs Erica as Delico’s estranged sister.

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A/0 or no, Nic gets Worick his five minutes, but no more, as Erica’s about to kill him too when Ginger blasts in and shuts Erica and Mikhail down, with Doug in tow. There’s every indication Ginger is one of if not the strongest twilight in Ergastulum, and her presence forces the hunters to retreat as the police also arrive.

We then see Uranos Corsica talking with Ivan, who has Erica licking her wounds in his lap, when the newest member of their little team, эсминец (“Destroyers”), arrives, and it’s yet another sibling: Alex’s brother. Emilio. Now one of her primary rationales for leaving Ergastulum has followed her there, and he’s with the bad guys.

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GANGSTA. – 08

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GANGSTA.’s finest episode yet gets off to a wonderful start, as the Handymen are…actually doing handyman work, fixing up Constance’s shot-up gun shop. They’re even wearing matching overalls. It shows us that their service to their community isn’t just “dirty work” involving intimidation, violence and/or bloodshed.

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This show sometimes runs the risk of getting too serious, stodgy, or sappy, but avoids all of them by getting a little cheeky this week, from Constance grabbing what she thought was Ally’s fake boob (it isn’t), to her Granny sticking her cane into Worick’s buttcrack for loafing. These little moments of incidental comedy keep the darker stuff going on from taking over completely.

When Constance starts asking Ally innocuous questions about her family, Ally remembers she has a little brother at East Gate, but her memories of him are blurred and transition into more hallucinations of bloody Barry, indicating she needs to take her stabilizer. When her hands are shaking too much, Nic is there to calm her.

As you can see, the screencap can be very misleading; a big burly guy suddenly coming from behind would usually spell trouble, but here it’s Nic saving Ally from descending in a more serious episode. He brings her back.

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Worick apologizes for letting Ally out of her sight, but it’s telling that Nic has his back even in this instance. He also tells Ally that her memories will return as the drugs leave her system. Ally really is in a kind of purgatory right now, without sufficient information to go one way or another. What Worick suggest, however, is that whatever her memories are, when she gets them back would be a good time to leave Ergastulum.

He can’t promise her she won’t end up back under the control of drugs or the heel of another pimp if she stays, because he’s not sure if he’s going to still be alive tomorrow. It’s a volatile place that just happens to be calm…now.

Also for now, Ally is for all intents and purposes, one of the Handymen, so Worick brings her along to a Christiano soiree at their nightclub, Bastard; a fitting name for a club where Twilights—essentially the bastards of science and humanity’s hubris—are welcome.

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Once at the club, Ally curls up in a balcony window and loses track of Worick and Nic, who are busy rescuing Twilights from Anti-Twilight hunters. But on this otherwise clear, serene night, with her gorgeous evening dress and glass of wine, Ally feels perfectly at ease for the first time in a long, long time.

When she starts to hum the song being played downstairs, Loretta’s right-hand Twilight Galahad lets her in on Christiano’s under-the-table protection of Twilights, using the club as a front of sorts, just as the soiree is a front of sorts for the Handymen’s activities. Then he insists she take the stage and sing, which is why Worick brought her, having heard her humming before.

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I don’t know if this is what Worick planned for all along (he’s a pretty sharp, chess-playing kinda guy after all), but when Ally is literally put on the spot, she doesn’t disappoint, giving a gorgeous, soulful rendition of a song that almost plays like a lullaby, a song about putting your fears aside because everything’s going to be okay, and a new day will come. The show expertly cuts from her singing to Worick and Nic brawling, and I drew a parallel between the soundless fighting and how it’s a lot like how Nic lives in the world.

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The song takes up a lot of time, but rather than feel like too long, I almost didn’t want it to end. I love GANGSTA.’s penchant for giving parts of its episodes room to breathe, drawing us deeper into its world. And Ally’s song turns out to be a form of therapy when the blurry images of her little brother come into focus and she remembers singing it to comfort him when he was sad.

So her memories did come back just as Worick said they would, and faster than I expected. She’s also found out quite by accident that she’s not a bad nightclub songstress, further excising her of the persistent self-hatred and perceived worthlessness the drugs induced. So, will she stay or go…or go, find her bro, and come back?

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Worick isn’t wrong when he says Ergastulum isn’t the best place for souls such as Ally’s, because the guys he and Nic were fighting were merely ineffectual foot soldiers. The elites have yet to strike, and when they do, they will surely destroy all of the peace and serenity Ally got a well-needed taste of that night.

Ally isn’t a Twilight, nor is she a soldier, but before she knows it, her present residence will become a battlefield, and Worick and Nic may not have an eye to spare for her in the impending chaos.

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GANGSTA. – 07

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Another night, another nightmare Worick has about the day his life changed and became inextricably tied with Nicolas’. Only this time, Ally is there to give him a comforting hug to calm him down. This week fills in most of the remaining blanks of that fateful day, giving us a full picture of that early scene of a blood-soaked Nic standing over Worick, missing an eye. In short: it isn’t quite what I thought went down, but that’s a good thing.

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But first, both thanks to Theo and Nina, Nic and Doug are all fixed up, and Nic thanks Nina by taking her on a ride as he does his flying-between-buildings thing, which looks terrifying and hella fun at the same time. It’s a great little scene, because it shows how close Nina and Nic are, and how much Nina trusts him, but also that neither Doug nor Nic hold any grudges against each other. If anything, Doug is embarrassed most of what he said during the fight went unheard by his one-time opponent. Doug also learns that Nic is a rogue, like him, and from the West Gate, which is a big deal.

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As Monroe, Paulklee, Corsica and Christiano (whose boss is a schoolgirl) meet in a dark smoky room trying to maintain balance in Ergastulum, Ally is with Dr. Theo trying to do the same thing with her head. He has her on mild tranq to keep her calm and is optimistic she’ll eventually recover now that she’s not seeing her dead pimp anymore.

Ally also gets to break out her newly-learned sign language to thank Nic and ask if she can hang around for the time being. Does Nic really not understand her “weird” signs, or was her message fully received, with Nic essentially replying that of course she can stay; that she didn’t even have to ask. Thus Ally really connected with both of her handymen roommates this week.

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That brings us to that day, or rather that night the show has given us glimpses of for many weeks now. Turns out Nicolas didn’t randomly kill Wallace’s family in some kind of contract job. In reality, Wallace saved Nic’s life by buying a supply of Celebrer to keep him alive. The mercenaries fired him, leaving him with Wallace.

When Wallace’s abusive father found out Wallace was smoking, he puts the cigarette out in Wallace’s eye, a scar he still carries on his face. Nic made the sign for “kill”, and saw Wallace’s lips word something, which he took as an order to kill…everyone, including himself, when he was done with everyone else. Wallace stops him, telling him he can’t die until he’s suffered more; much more.

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So there you have it: Wallace sic’ed  Nic on his father and family, not knowing the full extent Nic would go, and unable to undo what he did, took it upon himself to stay with Nic to ensure he’d endure the punishment of a long, tortured life. But has the life Nic has lived really been worse than a quick death? In reality, it hasn’t been all bad, what with he and Worick developing a friendship and symbiotic business relationship…not to mention getting to hang out with Good People like Nina and Ally.

These years have proven Nic hasn’t just been pretending to act like a human. He is one, albeit a deeply damaged one. Still, every time his bad eye hurts, Worick remembers that night, and remembers the hatred he had for Nic and all Twilights, while simultaneously pitying him/them. And there’s a nasty, efficient-looking pair out there hunting down and mutilating great numbers of Twilights. Nic is almost certainly one of their targets. And it’s clear there’s a part of Worick—perhaps residing in that festering eye socket—that doesn’t care if this is where Nic finally exits.

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GANGSTA. – 06

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Nic spends the episode recovering from his injuries (Paulklee shot him with drugs, not bullets) under Nina’s admirable ministrations as the clouds continue to dump rain on Ergastulum, as if to wash away the blood of the last battle. But the duel with Doug and the shootouts that accompanied it may only be a taste of what’s to come, as the Corsicans are about to throw off the delicate balance that has been sustained by going after the Christianos, a family beholden to Monroe.

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It’s fitting in an episode called “THORN” that everyone deals with various literal and emotional thorns in their sides or minds. Both Nic and Worick carry a lot of baggage from their highly traumatic pasts. Nic was the son of a prostitute shanghaied into mercenary service; Wallace is the unwanted and unloved son of a drunk, violent crime boss whose light we know is destined to go out.

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Wallace got over his prejudice for his perceived low-rent bodyguard and befriends Nic and even teaches him to read and write, most likely out of a desire to have one friend in his life; someone who doesn’t curse his existence. While we’re still missing a couple of bits and pieces in the middle, the genesis of their friendship, which would persist for decades to the present, is making more and more sense.

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Ally has her own thorn in the form of  withdrawal due to an appalling drug her pimp plied her with regularly in order to keep her submissive and in line. The horror movie scene that ended last week’s episode turned out to be hallucinations from that withdrawal, and Dr. Theo informs Worick that Ally has yet to fully recover, though it will happen with time. Some thorns can’t be removed too quickly.

When a shoeless, rain-soaked Ally kisses Worick on the street, it’s filmed as if it were a climactic, passionate romantic scene, right up until she tries to undo Worick’s pants and we realize she’s still hallucinating Barry, and is ready to do anything to him if only he doesn’t hurt her. Ironically, Worick does technically hurt her—by head-butting—in order to snap her out of it (not sure how that works medically, but whatever), but since her head’s harder than his he ends up hurting himself more.

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At any rate, it’s one of the show’s best scenes, and combined with Nic’s recovery, the Handymen and their administrative assistant are back in business…just in time for another war. Even in his hospital bed, Nic looks as ready as ever to take on whole battalions on his own, but a part of me thinks Worick would really rather just kick back in his apartment and talk about his crappy day with Ally-chan.

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