Lycoris Recoil – 13 (Fin) – Deciding for Themselves

Chisato ends up alone with Majima at the top of the Enkuboku for a final round. Majima makes things even more interesting by activating a 60-minute timer on a bomb that will presumably bring the tower down. Why Chisato doesn’t just repeatedly shoot Majima right next to his ears is unclear, but the duel that ensues is pretty evenly matched.

Meanwhile, the power goes out on the whole tower to ensure no hackers, friend or foe, will be able to interfere with Majima and Chiato’s fight. The elevator still has aux power, so Fuki heads down with a seriously injured Sakura while Takina asks her to let her climb back up to help Chisato. Fuki decides that she and Takina should get to decide what they want to do for once.

After pulling off a particularly tricky acrobatic move on Majima, Chisato suddenly finds her artificial heart starting to give out. Majima, who may be a jerk, has no interest in fighting her in this state, so he shoots open a vending machine, offers her a juice and the two have a short break. Chisato want him to stop the clock, but he won’t.

Whither Mr. Yoshi? Helped along by Himegama, he continues his retreat, but is confronted by Mika, who actually doesn’t have a bum leg. Himagama charges him, but he wallops her with his cane, then riddles her with non-lethal bullets. Left unprotected, Mika has come for Yoshi’s briefcase, to tell him it’s time to let the kids make their own choices, then kills the man he clearly never really stopped loving.

After engaging it some philosophical sparring regarding who is the hero, who is the villain, and what constitutes a properly-lived life (Majima is resolved to restore “balance”, Chisato is fine with the status quo) their fight resumes. Chisato is feeling better but still far from 100%, and the clock is still ticking.

Eventually one of Majima’s many bullets grazes Chisato, and she goes down. Majima steps on her and prepares to shoot her, but just then Takina appears, and Chisato uses the moment of distraction to pull Majima head-over-heels.

The two hit the glass, which cracks and then shatters (in reality, glass in a tower like this would be several inches thick, like that in the CN Tower, but whatever); the two begin to fall. We don’t see what becomes of Majima, which means he’s clearly not dead, while Takina ensnares Chisato with her restraining wire.

The phone countdown hits zero, and the “punishment explosion” turns out to be a massive fireworks display, which was likely meant to cap off the Enkuboku opening anyway. Majima, while likely not dead, is at least out of their hair for the time being, and both Takina and Chisato are alive.

In the first of two epilogues, Sakura has made a full recovery and is back to her exuberant, poop parfait-lovin’ self, Fuki is still meekly deferent to Mika, and life at LycoReco has returned to normal,  except that Chisato has not been around, while Takina is out on a job.

That job turns out to be traveling to Miyako to find Chisato, but the mission is first portrayed as her tracking down and eliminating a target. The two end up trading gunfire in the forest and then shooting each other with restraining wire, and when they realize they’re…each other, they hop into each other with joy (while also scolding each other for coming at each other so hot).

Takina explains to Chisato how a regular café patron happened to capture Chisato in the background of a photo of her and her boyfriend, and so even with no internet or cameras, they were able to find her. Takina also notes that she’s glad Chisato is alive and well.

Chisato actually slipped out of the hospital and traveled to Miyako not sure about the nature of the operation she underwent. Turns out Mr. Yoshi was lying; the heart wasn’t in his chest, but in the briefcase. Now that it’s in Chisato’s chest, she’s going to live a long, healthy life.

The scenes at the seaside café and then on the beach are some of the most richly-colored and beautiful of the series, and really lend a lovely gravitas to what these two have been through…and what they mean to each other. When asked what she should do with the extra life she’s been given, Takina proposes she do something she’s always wanted to.

That brings us to the bonus epilogue: LycoReco Hawaii! No doubt thanks to Kurumi’s skills, the whole gang is able to travel to the states and set up a café truck by the ocean. Everyone seems to be doing their part and having fun, and we also learn their side hustle of helping people out is still going on as well, only now in adorable Hawaiian garb.

It’s a cute and satisfying all’s-well-that-ends-well ending. Sure, there are still a lot of guns still in Tokyo, and a heavily-bandaged Majima out there egging people. The moral quandary that is Lycoris and the DA is still hanging out there too.

But Chisato and Takina are where they want to be, doing what they want to do. They who were tools for the adults are now free to live their lives how they see fit. For that reason alone, I can walk away from this show with a smile.

Lycoris Recoil – 12 – Spider Lily Shuffle

Takina’s heroic arrival means Chisato’s finally able to maneuver herself into position to fire her gun near both of Majima’s ears, incapacitating him long enough for her to blast him with her concussive rounds and for Takina to shoot him with binding rounds.

He still gets in a couple of kicks, however, so as the girls recover by lying on the ground for a bit, Chisato asks why Takina there, Takina says she quit, and Chisato says she’s a big ol’ dummy. Takina won’t disagree, but between the DA and Chisato, there was no choice.

Chisato proceeds to find Mr. Yoshi, who expresses immediate disappointment when he learns she didn’t kill Majima. When Chisato tells him that she’s already plenty happy helping people, he says he “didn’t wind up the spring of a dying doll” for that. He can’t stress enough that Chisato can only fulfill her purpose by taking lives.

Takina, who is listening in the hall, has heard enough. If Chisato won’t shoot this guy, she will. Especially when they learn he’s had the advanced artificial heart put in his chest, making it so that he must die for Chisato to live. While that’s perfectly okay for Takina, it’s not at all okay for Chisato, who stops Takina from killing him.

Yoshi’s sidekick drops in and kicks Takina out of the tower and almost to her death, creating yet anoher cruel game for Chisato: kill his sidekick before she kills Takina. When Takina is holding on to a beam for dear life and Yoshi starts shooting at her hands, Chisato begs him to stop. When he won’t she finally pulls the trigger and sends a real bullet into his chest.

Fortunately for her, it goes straight through him and misses his vitals. Takina survives her bout with Yoshi’s sidekick (albeit with a half-bloodied face to show for it), and unloads a clip at the two as they retreat. Chisato tells her to stop and holds her as she says even if they killed Yoshi to save her, she wouldn’t be Chisato anymore. The time comes for farewells for everyone, but she’s not gone yet.

As Mizuki and Kurumi arrive in a helicopter to pick them up, Chisato and Takina learn about the next crisis: now that they’ve been outed to the public, the director has decided to eliminate all of the Lycoris (with the male version, LilyBell). Mizuki flies them to Enkuboku, while Kurumi gives them a USB dongle to put in the Enkuboku servers. Fuki and Sakura go floor to floor gathering up the wounded Lycoris, with Erika having their six, filling in for Takina.

When the three bite off more than they can chew with two of Majima’s bigger thugs, Chisato and Takina come to their haughty colleagues’ rescue once more, and then they proceed to the server room, where Sakura points out how Fuki and Chisato’s arguing sounds a lot like flirting.

Once the USB is in the server, Kurumi, AKA Walnut, proves she was and is the world’s best hacker, creating a new cover-up for the Lycoris (announced to the city as an immersive crisis adventure simulation…though that doesn’t explain the guns dispersed among the public) and leading the cops straight to Robota’s hideout.

With the Lycoris given fresh cover and Chisato dodging LilyBell’s bullets, the director orders them to retreat. Lilybell’s 1st glares at Chisato on his way out, and Takina isn’t sure whether she should be unsurprised or jealous. Probably both. Takina and Erika get another nice little moment, as Takina shows how a little Chisato has rubbed off on her by ribbing Erika for being “awful” for taking her placed at the DA.

It looks like all’s well that ends well, until Kusunoki is informed that the cleaners responsible for retrieving Majima have gone silent. The elevator doors are about to close when Chisato spots her bookbag and runs out to get it. Majima then sprays a clip into the elevator (all bullets absorbed by an airbag thanks to quick thinking from Fuki). But the elevator doors close on the Takina, Fuki, and the others, leaving Chisato all alone with Majima for a final round.

Majima’s plan to turn the public against the government failed, and he’s lost Robota, the only means of attempting to do so again. So this is clearly just him wanting to either kill or be killed by his finest and most interesting opponent. As for Chisato, she seems resigned to her fate, and unless there’s a third fake heart out there somewhere, Takina may have to be too.

But when that elevator descends to the ground floor, dollars to donuts Takina’s going right back up to the top to be back beside Chisato, as long as she possibly can, until the farewell.

Lycoris Recoil – 11 – Dance in the Dark

Kusunoki is barely two minutes into breifing the Lycoris for the Enkuboku operation when Takina interrupts her after spotting Chisato’s name on one of the rosters. She realizes something’s up and leaves the bus to go find her. Chisato and Mika are being led by Robota exactly where Majima wants them to go.

Mizuki and Kurumi are at the airport lounge, and part ways “forever” without much fanfare, only for Kurumi to deplane from her luxurious first-class seat (Mizuki got stuck in economy) when her turbo-hacking reveals there’s a second artificial heart out there.

Takina arrives at LycoReco to find it abandoned and Chisato and Mika’s phones left behind. Then she gets a call from Kurumi about the second heart: it’s an improvement on the one Chisato has, which suggests she could live a full life with it.

The person in possession of this second heart? Yoshimatsu Shinji, naturally, who Kurumi shows Takina has been taken captive by Majima at the old tower where he and Chisato first crossed paths. Takina, who had been in the middle of the operation with Fuki & Co., excuses herself, even if it means she’s done with the DA. Fuki even lets her go, knowing that’s the best move. But before she leaves, Erika gets to have a nice moment, hugging Takina and thanking her for saving her.

Takina’s reason for abandoning her DA duty is simple: she can’t save Chisato from the Enkuboku. She’s in the wrong tower. So she runs with everything she’s got to the other one. Majima, meanwhile, is able to get back on the airwaves thanks to Robota, who uses Radiata’s heavy defenses against itself with thousands of simultaneous hacking attacks.

This enables Majima to officially expose the Lycoris by showing video footage of them walking around the tower with guns near pools of blood. When he tells those who found the guns he left for them to find to watch out for Lycrois, there’s a confrontation that results in both Lycoris and civilian getting shot. Kusunoki’s failure is quickly becoming a bloody fiasco.

Chisato arrives at the old tower, goes inside, rides the elevator up as high as it will go, then heads outside for a bit of acrobatics. She not only has to maintain her own balance to keep from falling to her death, she also has to make sure the thugs she shoots don’t fall to theirs.

Because Chisato doesn’t kill anyone she encounters, it makes sense that she’d act and talk so casually, even playfully while dispatching them non-lethally. She’s not just making her way to Mr. Yoshi, she’s having fun while doing it. Then the fun suddenly stops when Majima drops the shutters and leaves Chisato without her most powerful attribute: her sight.

The two empty multiple clips at each other, but Chisato’s dodging ability isn’t too hampered, while Majima’s supernatural hearing enables him to dodge her wild shots and sneak up on her from behind multiple times. As the two twist and tussle in the dark, it’s clear the fun is back: two realtively evenly-matched opponents are going at it.

Then , just when it looks like Majima is about to get the upper hand, Takina literally smashes through the metal shutters and comes between him and Chisato, packing live ammo. Right now, the DA being exposed and the potential destruction of the new tower doesn’t matter. Takina’s there to save Chisato and Yoshimatsu make it out of there alive, which means Majima is simply in the way.

Lycoris Recoil – 10 – Beyond the Tower of Lies

When Chisato catches Mizuki and Kurumi researching some kind of solution for her artificial heart problem, she can tell they’re not looking forward to their own paths. She urges Mizuki to go to that ripped hunk she met online, and Kurumi to move to Germany, which she believes to have the strongest board game game.

Takina is back at DA as one of the worker bees, but is still Takina and still has only one goal in mind while she’s there: find Yoshimatsu and a means to repair Chisato’s heart. Of course, Yoshimatsu is now a captive of Majima, who feels bad for the raw deal Chisato got.

Majima may be focused on getting rid of the DA, but Alan is next. and while Yoshimatsu is fine with Majima raising hell since he’s living up to his full potential as Alan planned, he’s not about to reveal any information about the Institute, even if it helps Majima progress further into the perfect villain he was apparently always meant to be.

The last we see of Mizuki and Kurumi, they give Chisato an understated goodbye, then sit in their airport-bound taxi. I don’t believe for a second they’re going to hop on any planes, particularly if either of them catch wind of the news-making events that follow in the episode.

Takina uses both her rebellious streak nurtured by Chisato and her former firing “for killing too many people” to visit and question one of the captured arms dealers, who lets her know that “Alan” wanted the guns to begin with. Could this be a super-long game being played by Alan, with Majima as their ideal puppet, despite thinking he’s simply doing what he wants?

Kusunoki makes a rare appearance in the field with her Lycoris when they raid Majima’s hideout, but he’s already gone, and verbally and philosophically spars with Kusunoki about how true peace cannot be thrust upon a society by a Machiavellian leader, but earned by its citizens.

On the day of the Enkuboku Tower completion ceremony, we learn when Robota helps him hijack the tower’s first broadcast that he intends to prove that theory with a game of sorts. The thousand guns he acquired have been distributed throughout the city, and once they’re all found by those who have no idea what to do with them, blood will flow and force a pampered society into entering the crucible of chaos needed to achieve true peace, free of shadow organizations like the DA or Alan.

Throughout all this, Chisato and Mika have simply been hanging out at the closed café, where Mika presents her with her coming-of-age gift: a gorgeous yukata, as well as some coming-of-age truth: Yoshimatsu only agreeed to save her life if Mika promised to make her into the ultimate hitman. He never told her the truth because her love and idolization of her “Mr. Savior” was what helped fuel her rise into the finest Lycoris, as well as one of the finer people Mika’s ever known.

Chisato takes the news well, and assures Mika that no matter who Mr. Yoshi truly is or always has been, her love and respect and gratitude for her two dads will never fade, and nothing she learns will ever change that. But she does want to meet Yoshi one last time and hear the truth from his mouth. For this reason, just as Takina is back with the DA for Chisato’s sake, Chisato accepts Kusunoki’s call to deploy, puts on her red battle uniform, and heads out for perhaps her final mission as a Lycoris.

Kusunoki called Chisato under pressure from her boss that she was losing control of the situation and risking the exposure of the Lycoris to the public. Majima’s broadcast may have been cut off, but not before damage potentially fatal to the DA’s secrecy is done. Chisato is believed to be the only Lycoris who can stop Majima, but I suspect her strict orders to kill him will not be obeyed to the letter.

Going forward? After last week’s final date that felt like closure, it’s still very much uncertain if Chisato’s heart will be fixed (or if she’ll get a new one) and survive to the end of the show. It’s also uncertain that Mizuki and Kurumi are off the board for the remainder, while it’s a good bet Chisato and Takina will fight side-by-side on the battlefield before all’s said and done.

Hell, there may even be a reversal where Chisato survives and Takina is the one to lose her life in the ensuing final battle with Majima. Or maybe the DA and/or Alan will be exposed and stay exposed, which may be ultimately for the best for the long-term health of Japan’s society. With this tower showdown comes a tower packed with possibilities. While ever weary of who might be lost on the way, I look forward to watching how it all shakes out.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 10 – From Letdown to Taboo

Manon isn’t that surprised or intimidated by Akari Prime’s time magic, while it’s Akari who keeps getting surprised by this current iteration of the world. Manon was the child of a Lost One, a Japanese woman who was not intentionally summoned but simply appeared. Lord Libelle, Manon’s father, married the woman to bolster his power with her pure concept, but ended up never forcing her to use it, because he fell in love with her.


Manon is right that it’s a lovely story, but it has a cruel ending, as one day Flare executed Manon’s mom right in front of her, and didn’t even bother to kill her too. Manon grew up with everyone having great expectations for the child of a Lost One, only for her to have no magical power whatsoever. Branded a great letdown, Manon became mired in a life of uselessness an ennui…until she decided to embrace the dark side and become taboo.

This is why Manon doesn’t fear Akari in the least, nor Menou when she shows up to save Akari from certain death by Chaos magecraft. Not because she’s particularly powerful—Menou basically freezes her with her gaze then lops her arm off—but because, in short, Manon isn’t greedy. She’s had fun as a rebel and a taboo, but ultimately she’s just a vessel and sacrifice for something much, much worse…the little girl in the Iron Maiden who almost blew Momo up.

This girl is creepy and frightening as fuck, successfully toeing the line between twee and terrifying. Menou slits her throat, and she simply sheds her old skin and pops out of her dead body good as new. Then she twists her own head around dozens of times and stretches it vertically until it pops off to create a fountain of blood.

Out of that blood, multiple eldritch beasts emerge, and feast upon her corpse. Then she pops out of one of the monster’s mouths, once again whole. It’s an atmosphere-upsetting enough incident for Ashuna, still getting over Momo standing her up (though to be fair, Momo is bedridden), to sense from the mainland.

Yes, the girl herself is the Human Error Pandemonium, having escaped her prison of fog and is now ready to finish off the world she almost destroyed once before. Like Menou’s conundrum with Akari, how can you kill someone that won’t die when you kill them? We’ll surely find out in what’s looking like a season-capping final battle that’s sure to include more than just Menou as it progresses.

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 09 – Too Much Is Different

Despite her priestess garb, Akari sticks out like a sore thumb among the aristocrats at the ball. Menou warns her not to eat or drink anything, then scouts around the castle grounds and ends up crossing paths with Princess Ashuna. Meanwhile, Momo again demonstrates her impeccable competence by knocking out the guard and gaining access to the Monstrine operation without breaking a sweat. Ashuna doesn’t know who Menou is (she hides her face with magecraft), but she can tell Menou is a strong fighter.

Unfortunately for Menou (but fortunately for us), that means Ashuna wants to fight her. A lusty battle ensues, with Ashuna hitting nothing but air and Menou showing her just how much more mastery over ether she has. Ashuna merely gets toyed with, but still has a blast…even when she’s almost literally blasted. Does Ashuna feels somewhat shoehorned in here just so she can spar with Menou? Maybe…but I don’t mind because even when she’s getting her ass kicked, Ashuna is awesome as hell.

Akari is lamenting how the ball is no fun alone when the big boom and column of flame occur. Then Lady Manon sidles up to her, wanting to know more about where Akari comes from. Akari tells the truth: there’s very little she remembers of Japan, but there’s something about the way Manon likens Akari’s hair her mom’s that suggests some kind of connection. After Manon leaves her, Akari Prime awakens, and is concerned: way to much is happening in Libelle that has not happened in previous loops.

Akari really wants Menou to kill her in this loop, but not having the advantage of knowing how the future will unfold will make that tougher than she’d like. Speaking of tough, Momo soon finds the Iron Maiden and lets her guard down when she frees the young bloodied girl inside.

Helping the girl—not opening the Maiden—springs an explosion trap, and Momo gets a poison spike to the side. Manon is alerted to the trap being set off, and revels in the possibility this could be the day she finally gets her revenge.

The next morning Momo wakes up in rough shape, but with a proud senpai standing over her and patting her head in gratitude. Either the spike or the poison would have surely killed weaker folk, but thanks to her massive stores of ether, Sicilia believes she’ll pull through. Menou, meanwhile, is fed up with half-measures. She wants the Fourth rounded up and their drug ring shut down.

Sicilia, noting how Flarette, unlike Flare, isn’t afraid to rely on others, grants an operation and goes to negotiate with the knights. The Fourth nobles are holed up in Manon’s castle, but suddenly they’re all frozen in time. Akari Prime emerges from behind a cabinet, intent on talking in private with the Lady of Libelle.

Is Akari trying to mitigate the fact she’s no longer sure what the future holds by securing an alliance with someone who can mess up her plans? We may not know what exactly Akari wants with Menou, but we do know her goal, and that she’ll stop at nothing to achieve it.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 08 – Better the Watermelon You Know

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Giving up on killing Akari in Libelle for now, Menou instead takes her target to the bustling marketplace, which is not only a festival of new sights, smells, and tastes for Akari, but establishes both ancient etheric tools as vessels for ether and the penchant of this new arc’s villain for using food as a means of control.

That villain, Lady Manon, is standing not ten feet from Menou when some members of Fourth attack and take Akari hostage, but Menou can only sense their boorish intent on attacking her. She dispatches them easily, but they soon transform into vicious monsters the knights have to then put down.

Libelle’s chief Faust Pastor Sicilia isn’t happy with Menou’s expense reports talking of delivering the still un-executed Lost One to the “Sanctuary”, and isn’t willing to spend further church funds on such vague and dubious promises. Instead, she’ll fund Menou’s pilgramage if she investigates a new drug called “Monstrine”, which the Fourth members took and turned them into monsters.

After delegating part of this investigation to Momo (who is all too happy to make life easier for her beloved Menou) and Menou defensively leaping out of bed when Akari tries to curl up with her, Lady Manon tightens her grip on the city’s elite by informing them she laced their food with Monstrine, then has one of them transform and strangle heself to death. The child she put in the iron maiden provides the Sin Magecraft source of the drug.

I’ll admit I was disappointed by the dearth of Princess Ashuna last week, but while her scenes with Momo are very choppily edited and suggest possible animation issues or shortfalls, it’s still great to see our swole queen, who can’t help but compete with Momo (whom she clearly likes) on the Monstrine investigation. Just seeing them having drinks at the bar…they just look right together, even if Momo’s heart belongs to another.

Speaking of, when Ashuna brings up an evening ball Lady Manon is holding tomorrow night, Momo learns in her next meeting with Menou that her mistress also got a ticket. Momo won’t let her pose as a simple priestess, but instead uses the opportunity to dress Menou up to the nines. To Momo’s later envy, Akari also tags along in an elegant priestess clothes.

As soon as Menou spots the hostess Lady Manon, I would hope she’d be extra-careful about what she eats or drinks. That said, Menou has no idea the lengths and depths to which Manon has gone specifically to take her revenge against Flare for killing her mother.

I imagine Akari’s presence at the ball may portend the use of time magic should Manon succeed in killing Menou. In any case, these two episodes did an adequate job setting the table. Knowing this series’ ability to ramp up at the drop of a hat, the resulting meal should be a good one.

P.S. Manon is voiced by Iwami Manaka, whom I will always remember as the voice of Honda Tooru, one of the kindest, gentlest characters in all of anime-dom. Lending her voice to an evil villainess must have been fun.

Takt Op. Destiny – 08 – Call Her By Her Name

Despite being worn down by a combination of sleep deprivation and Destiny, Takt makes the first move against Felix, and would have socked him in the face with a speed and force Felix didn’t expect, were it not for his trusty sadistic bodyguard, Hell, who breaks his ribs with a kick. Destiny retreats with Takt in her arms, and Hell lets them go, because killing them now won’t be as fun as waiting until they’ve recovered.

When Takt comes to (after she administers water to him with a kiss), Destiny has returned to Normal Girl Mode and made a fire, but her bandage wrapping leaves much to be desired. She acknowledges this, and her shortcomings outside of battle in general. When Takt asks why she didn’t continue fighting without him, she says when she saw him crumpled on the ground, her body moved on its own: to him, and away from the fighting.

Takt tells Destiny more about Cosette, and how now that she’s gone, there’s no one left around to hear his music he might compose. Of course, he’s wrong; not only are Anna and Destiny there, but a whole lot of people who want and need to hear his music so it can warm their hearts like the fire in the cave.

The next morning, Destiny meets Felix and Hell back in the woods with two axes and tries her best to fight. Alas, without her Musicart Mode she’s no match for Hell, who merely toys with her. Just when she’s about to be choked out, Takt arrives, and the two get into a lover’s quarrel, completely ignoring Felix. Lenny and Titan arrive to keep Felix and Hell busy while the two talk things out.

Takt asks Destiny—by name, for the first time—if she also needs to hear his song like all those other people out there. Destiny says she doesn’t simply need to; she wants to hear it. With Felix and Hell standing in the way of that, Takt tells Desinty to use as much of his life as she needs to dispatch them. And what do you know, Destiny actually takes it to Hell, overpowering her giant attack with one of her own and  burning her arm.

Hell is ready to go another round, but the fight is stopped by the ethereally calm and gentle voice of Heaven, Grand Maestro Sagan’s Musicart. Speaking for Sagan, Heaven relieves Felix of his position and fires him from the Symphonia with immediate effect.

Just like that, Hell turns her back on her former Maestro and snaps his baton, and departs with Heaven. There’s an ominous to Heaven’s presence (aided by the music that plays when she arrives) and to the fact that Felix was officially relieved for disobeying orders…not for trying to kill Takt and Destiny.

Still, it’s probably not the last we’ll see of him, and I was a little miffed Takt wasn’t able to land a punch to his smug, villainous face. But in the end I was just glad Takt and Destiny made it out of the predicament alive, and doubly glad to see them reunite with a ridiculously relieved Anna. Like Takt, she calls Destiny by her name for the first time. She lost a little sister, but now realized she gained another.

Watching Destiny evolve before our eyes with an essentially full suite of emotions, and watching Takt and Anna shed their denial and accept Destiny for Destiny, was as fun as watching Destiny, Takt, and Titan kick ass. After all this excitement, could another comparatively relaxing road trip episode be in the offing?

86 – 09 – No Signal

“If you find yourself alone, riding in green fields with the sun on your face, do not be troubled…for you are in Elysium, and you are already dead!”—Maximus

This week, Spearhead, whose living members now consist only of Kurena, Raiden, Theo, Anju, and Shin, ride out into a vast, dark, and bleak battlefield, where the five of them must face hundreds if not thousands of Legion, because they were never even meant to make it thisfar in their military “careers”.

Of course, Shin has something else in mind: he’s singularly invested in finding his brother and putting him out of his misery. He orders Raiden to take over the unit and find cover in the nearby forest, but his four comrades aren’t about to leave him. Instead, they do what they can to give Shin a clear shot at Shourei.

As it turns out, Lena has a surprise in store for all of them: she managed to get access to the republic mortars, while also being able to swap vision in one of her eyes with Raiden so she can target more precisely. In that split second, Raiden—and only Raiden—catches a glimpse of their “pig princess” Handler.

When Lena prepares to launch a massive mortar attack on Shourei Legion’s position—which is also where Shin is, dodging and grappling—the others are apprehensive: doe she mean to kill Shin too? Far from it; instead, she’s giving Shin the opening he needs.

The impacting mortars are represented in Shourei’s mind by the young Lena slapping him into something resembling coherence, and acceptance that Shin no longer needs his brother to look after him. Instead, his brother needs to know that he’ll be at rest.

The opening is created, and Shin takes his shot, saying goodbye to his brother and then sobbing his eyes out both in grief over his brother’s loss and relief that he’s no longer a technological abomination who wasn’t allowed to die naturally.

From here we shift to Lena’s little control room, and she heeds Raiden’s call to shut off the link for now, as Shin wouldn’t want anyone hearing him cry. She then turns to a sullen-looking Annette sitting in the corner with laptops. We go back a bit to before the battle, when Lena visits Annette despite Annette saying she didn’t want to see her again.

Lena tells Annette that her old neighbor Shin is none other than Undertaker of the Spearhead unit, that she speaks to him every day, and that this is now Annette’s third chance to save him, the first two times having run away. While at first apathetic, knowing it’s Shin forces Annette’s hand. She calls Lena “the devil” for pulling such a stunt, but Lena simply says “that’s right; I am…and so are you.” Better to be devils who care.

With what was supposed to be the battle that should have wiped out Spearhead once and for all ending in unlikely victory thanks in large part to Annette’s hacking, Shin and the others give their heartfelt thanks to Lena, as well as tease her for having turned into a “bad girl” by breaking the rules to save them.

But after that, the group continues their advance without further input from Lena. In fact, all she can say as they head closer and closer to a foreboding “UNKNOWN” area is “please don’t leave me!” It occurs to her that while she made little drawings of them, her only connection to them is the Para-RAID, and soon the distance between them will grow too great to maintain that connection.

Lena bolts out of her control room and runs out of the headquarters, out into the streets, and just keeps running, all while Kurena, Raiden, Anju, Theo, and Shin describe their surroundings, mentioning a “cathedral” the same time we see the one in Lena’s capital, and describing flowers that fall when you touch them carpeting the ground.

As they approach at the barrier of District 86 and the limits of the Republic’s control area, Lena’s desperate dash to maintain reception ends with her losing a heel and ending up collapsed on a lonely cobblestone bridge, suddenly, heartbreakingly alone. Her Para-RAID blinks out, and back at HQ the signals of the five remaining members of Spearhead are lost.

Losing  Spearhead is just one of many burdens Lena will have to bear if she’s truly serious about helping all Eighty Six—not just the ones with which she cultivated a quasi-friendship. Her resolute insistence on Doing What’s Right despite being a devil demands she keep doing what she can—as long as she is able—to end the unjust suffering of the oppressed.

86 – 08 – We Weren’t Ready

A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.—Kay, Men In Black

The Alba are right: the Eighty Six aren’t human. They’re better than that. The humans who populate the serene Republic of San Magnolia blindly accept the government’s policy of ethnic cleansing as the cost of peace, order, and harmony. Lena, like the Eighty Six, knows there’s a wrong, but isn’t prepared to do more wrong to right it.

It’s why when Lena discovers the orders basically sentencing what’s left of Spearhead to their almost certain deaths, she wants to rescind them. Annette pulls her out of the records room for some tea and biscuits, but when Lena once again says it’s wrong not to try to do anything, all of the simmering resentment within Annette finally comes to a caustic boil.

Annette isn’t merely “pretending” to be a bad person; she’s fully embraced the role, heart and soul. She doesn’t need an excuse to do nothing; her inaction has already caused the death of her former neighbor and friend (who it’s pretty clear from the suspenders was none other than Nouzen Shinei) while her research is built upon the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of Eighty Six.

Like the vast majority of people would in such a situation, Annette chose not to fight a force that could not be beaten, but to join them. Even though her father committed suicide after the suffering he caused developing the Para-Raid, Annette carried on his work. She might’ve scared herself when she first called her friend a “filthy colored” like her classmates did, but that fear soon dissipated into acceptance.

After everything she’s been through and done in the name of not being able to do anything else, Annette doesn’t want to hear one more idealistic word out of Lena’s mouth. After all, the Para-Raid that enables Lena to speak to Shin and the other members of Spearhead was the product of involuntary human experimentation and state-sanctioned suffering. So is her comfy bed, her crisp uniform, her tasty coffee and sweets. It’s all tainted by evil.

Annette tells Lena she hates her and never wants to see her again. I mean, we already new full well Annette wouldn’t join any potential crusade against injustice Lena might concoct, but this really twists the knife, as Lena doesn’t even have a pretend friend in the capital in which to confide.

When she confronts her uncle before the statue of San Magnolia, he tells her the orders sending Spearhead to their deaths cant be recinded because it is the will of the republic that evry Eighty Six not only die, but be forgotten and erased from having ever existed. The only way San Magnolia will avoid becoming a pariah state after the war is if the atrocities they committed against the Eighty Six never come to light.

When Lena begs her uncle to remember the spirit of Saint Magnolia, he tells her their republic was never anything other than a country full of fools and villains who executed Magnolia for their wealth and greed. She says that’s just his despair talking, but he doesn’t consider his despair any different from her hope.

If Lena werent already having one of the worst days of her life, Shin also bids her farewell, fully accepting his suicide mission. Lena deduces he’s going after his brother, but Shin doens’t want her to hear his last words. Instead, he warns her that once the Shepherd is destroyed, the Legion is temporarily thrown into chaos, .

He urges her to head for the Eastern border, where she won’t hear the Legion’s voices and go mad. He and the others will buy her some time. With that, he signs off, for what seems like the last time. Now all Lena has is her tears.

With Lena left very much at rock bottom, we return to Spearhead, now only five strong: Kurena, Anju, Theo, Raiden, and Shin. They clean up their barracks, polish up their Juggernauts, have a final meal, and then set off on their deep recon mission with their heads held high.

As we’ve learned, they’re not just doing this because the alternative is summary execution. They’re doing it for their fallen comrades, and because just because they were always called pigs doesn’t mean they’ll become them. There’s a biting sense of inescapable dread and crushing unfairness to their scenes. More than anything, they feel like five kids who shouldn’t have to be anywhere near a battlefield.

Post-credits, we get one more taste of despair in the absence of anything else, in the form of the complete flashback of Shourei choking Shinei. He had been barely keeping it together before that point, crushed by his powerlessness to do anything about the loss of his parents. In a moment of weakness, he let himself blame Shinei for everything, and nearly killing him until someone pulls them apart.

A roboticized, Legionized Shourei narrates this final scene, lamenting that he couldn’t protect Shinei before. But this time, as Shin and his four companions approach him and his Legion unit, Shourei says he’ll protect his brother forever. All he has to do is come to him…which is what he’s doing.

All I can say to any of this is damn…this is some good shit, but it is also incredibly heavy and upsetting. I can only hope that we’ll get some glimmer of light at some point before the end…but that’s hardly a sure thing.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kemono Jihen – 08 – A Sister Richer

Right in the middle of Shiki considering killing his Uncle Akio with neither Inugami nor Nobimaru not standing in his way, a filthy Akira emerges from the woods having pissed himself with fear. Then a whole mess of Akio’s kemono creations arrive, surrounding the area. Akio informs Shiki that while none of them can produce the golden webbing, they’re still smart and can even speak—in Kumi’s voice.

When the monsters start to rush everyone, Inugami steps in, but his arm is poisoned, keeping him from producing a gun. Hearing his mother’s voice tell him she loves him through all the monsters paralyzes Shiki. Kabane’s lights up as he draws close to Shiki and asks once more “How can I help?” Inugami has Akira freeze his arm, but they’re saved from the charging kemono by the little girl Aya, whom they listen to.

When we cut back to Kabane, he’s already demolished all of the dozens of kemono protecting Akio, leaving Shiki free to kill him, or otherwise ask Kabane to kill him. Kabane is simply “happy to help”, as there’s apparently zero psychological cost to the carnage he causes.

The thing is, Shiki no longer wants his uncle to die. He wants him to live with the torment of all the things he meant to leave behind erased, and dying many years from now a forgotten man with no legacy. Aya doesn’t want Akio killed either, and not for sentimental reasons: he knows the location of a certain cocoon.

A bitter Akio refuses to tell her, but fortunately for her Inugami & Co. are detectives. Aya has no leads, but with one call to Mihai, they get a location: the same secluded spring in a patch of skunk cabbage where Aya had Inugami heal his arm. Aya prepares to plunge in, but Shiki goes in her place; she’s just a little girl after all.

At the bottom of the spring, Shiki finds something he’d never expected: his mother, still alive, encased in the cocoon. A bodyguard kemono attacks him but he defeats it and surfaces with his mom. Aya reveals that she herself is the golden webbing, and created the cocoon to keep their mother alive.

When Akio tries to rant more about “nearing mass production”, Shiki knocks him out with a slug to the face. Aya and the still-unconscious Kumi pile in the car with Shiki, Inugami, Kabane and Akira and they head back to Tokyo. Kabane noticed Nobimaru slipped away at some point, but Nobi doubles back give Akio at taste of his kitsune flames.

With his mom alive and suddenly possessed of a little sister in Aya, Shiki’s had a considerable turnaround in his fortunes. But Kumi still won’t wake up, so Inugami takes her to a clinic in Tokyo run by a diminutive ohana-basan—who doesn’t seem to mind the after-hours visit when she learns it’s Inugami.

If Kumi woke up fully restored, she could presumably pick up where she left off before falling into Akio’s foul enterprising web. That could mean Shiki and Aya would go live with her, either in their hometown or Tokyo. If the latter, Shiki could still work at the agency and hang out with Kabane and Akira. But this is all academic. First Kumi must be revived.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kemono Jihen – 07 – The Spider with the Golden Silk

At Shiki’s request, the agency gang is off to his home village of Kinshigo, now that he’s ready to learn the fate of his parents. It’s bound not to be a pleasant stroy, but Inugami thinks it’s only right for Shiki to know if he wants to, and he does, for closure and to be able to move on.

After a little girl with pink hair gives Shiki a hard look (my first instinct, these two share mom), Inugami runs into his Uncle Akio, who tells Shiki that his parents are both dead. His father died before he was born, and his mother died when he was five. The reason he’s traumatized is that he walked in on her body at such a young age.

Having heard the news, Shiki returns to his friends to join them for ice cream, but even Kabane can tell he’s putting on a brave face, Akira tells him not to point that out so tactlessly, but Shiki can’t deny something is still troubling him. Enter Nobimaru, joining them at the bath, suggesting they go see the fireflies.

While Nobimaru is clearly still trying to trick Kabane out of his lifestone for Inari, that he takes Shiki into the woods helps trigger a memory involving a peculiar tree. This sets Shiki on a path of landmarks leading to a Creepy Shack, the very sight of his real trauma. It wasn’t seeing his mother’s dead body, but something far worse: her mother being forced to breed with a monster.

As Shiki recovers from the shock, Nobimaru inspects the now-empty shack, where there is still evidence of medical equipment and claw scratches. He recalls a report a year ago involving Shiki’s uncle, who was trying to make the local folktale about “golden silk” come true, which would expose kemono to the world, something both Inari and Inugami must prevent.

Still, Inugami kept Inari from “disposing” of Shiki’s uncle, knowing Shiki himself deserved to face him for what he did. When Inugami meets with Uncle Akio at his house (formerly Shiki’s parents’ house), he’s pleased to find Inugami is willing to spill the beans about his plan, because he doesn’t think what he’s done was wrong.

Shortly after he was born, Shiki came down with a nasty case of the Flu, and Akio coerced Kumi into horrific cross-breeding experiments with various kemono in the forest, hoping to find the pairing that would give them the legendary Healing Silk that’ll make them rich and make Akio famous. And while Kumi died in the process, Akio can report that he was successful in finding that pairing—no doubt the little girl is the result of that success.

Inugami happened to be recording Inugami’s confession/rant on his phone for Shiki to listen, and basically gives Shiki leave to do what he wants. Shiki grabs and suspends Akio from the neck with his silk, and out of deference for the years he took care of him, Shiki is willing to give his uncle a quick death.

While he has every right to make him suffer, there’s no escaping the fact that killing Akio will make Shiki a killer, and likely deprive that girl of her only guardian. Will Shiki follow through on his threat, or further weigh the enormity of his uncle’s crimes with the consequences of taking a life? We shall see.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Talentless Nana – 02 – A Matter of Time

Talentless Nana let the cat out of the bag in its first episode, and while that was an excellent twist, it also made it much harder for subsequent episodes to deliver the same impact. We’re told about the history of the Talented in an infodump, and it’s not pretty: after a five year war that the Non-Talented won, remaining Talented were basically isolated on islands. Missing from this story is exactly HOW they won against an army of superheroes. Sheer numbers? Kryptonite?

Hiiragi Nana stood before a dark and foreboding Talentless government entity, and given the directive to eliminate the Talented on the island, and threatened with serious consequences if she failed. Not explained: That said, she chose to take the mission and is determined to carry it out. What we don’t quite know yet is why her and only her. Did Supes Talented kill her family?

I mention “Supes” because Nana is giving me some Hughie vibes from Amazon’s The Boys: an unpowered individual seeking to bring down the superpowered despite being at a overwhelming disadvantage. The difference is the Supes in The Boys are almost all horrible people; the kids at the school are arrogant but are ultimately innocent.

They could go bad when they grow up, like their forbears back during the war, but preemptively eliminating them before they’ve done anything wrong is ethnic cleansing, at best! That creates a conflict when it comes to routing for Nana, especially since we don’t know of any motivation she has besides a sense of loyalty duty to the Non-Talented race.

At any rate, the moment Nana pushed Nanao off a cliff, the show transformed completely. Right now, it’s about Nana identifying the most powerful Talented and rubbing them out one by one (though she’d probably take a twofer if conditions were right!) At first her next target would seem to be the Ice Prince, but Shibusawa Youhei is even more dangerous, since he can manipulate time.

Nana does the same thing she did to Nanao and gets friendly and bubbly with Shibusawa. The difference is, this week we get her full internal monologue. While I’m not opposed to this shift in the way the story is told, she withdraws into her thoughts a lot, and often what she has to say is obvious or redundant, like Icy Prince’s tell, or the threat Shubusawa represents.

Still, Nana is good at her job or she wouldn’t be alive, and manages to not only wrest the true nature of Shibusawa’s ability: he can only go back in time. But she soon attracts the attention of the ever aloof and suspicious Onodera Kyouya. He knows Nanao has disappeared because their dorms are adjacent and he never returned home, and he believes Nana was the last person who saw him.

Nana would seem to be in a bind when Kyouya asks Shibusawa if he could investigate Nanao’s disappearance by going back in time. But even as Kyouya caresses her pigtails, she manages to regain control of the narrative by delicately turning suspicions onto Kyouya. He even seems to realize what she’s done and makes a tactical withdrawal, but his business with her isn’t over.

For now, Nana has two objectives: prevent Shibusawa from discovering she killed Nanao, and eliminating him. Pretending to cooperate with his investigation, she learns more about his abilities. He becomes fatigued and short of breath whenever he jumps, and the further back in time he goes, the more pronounced the side effects. More than twelve hours makes him vomit.

Ultimately, Nana can’t stop Shibusawa from going back to the time when she and Nanao were on the cliff. Indeed, last week someone was hiding behind a tree nearby; now we know it was him. But there’s one other key limitation to his time traveling: if anyone from that time spots him, he’s automatically sent back to the present.

Nana can’t warn her past self, she can only trust that she’ll be diligent and observant regardless of the situation. Nanao may have been an easy win for her, but she still followed the best practices of all assassins, namely to make sure you’re not being watched when you do the deed. Sure enough, Shibusawa returns automatically; Nana noticed him after she held hands with Nanao, but before she let go and shoved him to his death.

Still, considering how Shibusawa initially harbored suspicions of Nana since she was the last one with Nanao, it’s odd how he all but drops those suspicions simply because he saw them lovey-dovey together. His abrupt exit from that scene before he saw it play out would seem to be a gaping hole Nana’s testimony—and that’s before considering questions like why he can’t go back again and again, in the off-chance past Nana doesn’t spot him.

Instead, Shibusawa’s satisfied she had nothing to do with Nanao’s disappearance and they call it a night, making it certain too much time will pass by morning for him to go back again. But of course, that’s only one of Nana’s two objectives is complete. To kill him, she devises a dastardly plot that utilizes everything she’s learned about him.

Later that night, Nana goes to Shibusawa’s dorm to tell him the full story: after visiting the cliffs, she and Nanao were ambushed by an Enemy of Humanity, and it ate him. She rushes out to show him where it happened so he can jump back in time to save Nanao, and Shibusawa, with his strong sense of justice, follows her…to the precise spot she prepared.

When he time jumps at that spot, too much time passes and he doesn’t come back, indicating he won’t be coming back. That’s because the spot is really a section of the lake Kori Seiya had frozen Nana covered with earth earlier in the night. She recalled that Shibusawa couldn’t swim, which combined with his shortness of breath after jumping, resulted in him drowning in the past, unfrozen lake, and his body was then entombed within the ice.

It’s an clever, elegant, poetic, and utterly diabolical assassination—and Nana’s superiors estimate she saved 800,000 lives by getting rid of Mr. Time Travel. I still have reservations about whether either Nana or TA can keep this up before things get truly ridiculous, but if they keep delivering fun yarns like this, I’ll keep coming back for more!

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