Kino no Tabi – 10

Kino is the kind of person who wants to go to the country where everyone else who’s been there says the locals were very rude and treated them like crap. So imagine her disappointment when the country turns out not to be full of assholes, but full of the kindest, most hospitable townsfolk you could ask for, including the sickeningly twee innkeeper trainee and tour guide, Sakura.

Kino takes in an outdoor play chronicling the people’s proud history of having found a haven after escaping oppression. She dons an apron during a barbecue (with Hermes ensuring she only grills; no seasoning). She even gets her persuader serviced by the local, er, persuadersmith, who performs the task for free.

The smith knows the gun as the kind one of Master’s students would use (even if Kino denies knowing her), and decides to gift her another gun, “The Woodsman”, a gun he once carried for protection while traveling, but has no more use of now that he’s too old and frail to travel. He’d rather it be put to good use.

By the time Sakura shows Kino the most beautiful spot in the city during a gorgeous sunset, Kino is completely charmed and no longer disappointed the people of the country aren’t rude jerks. Unfortunately, the three days she promised she’d stay are up, and the soldiers insist she leave immediately.

The town seemed so cloyingly nice I was almost constantly keeping my eyes peeled for little clues that might indicate what the “catch” with the place was, and I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Turns out the answer was staring me right in the face in the opening moments of the episode as Kino and Hermes neared the country: it is positioned at the foot not of a mountain, but a volcano.

The night Kino leaves, the volcano unleashes a pyroclastic flow that wipes out the country, killing everyone in it instantly. Even the normally stoic Kino is upset by this sudden, shocking development, especially when Hermes calmly explains there’s absolutely nothing she can do.

But Sakura and her mother did give Kino two packages, and in them are some mementos, along with a letter explaining that the country knew of their impending doom, had the choice to abandon their lands or stay and die, and chose the latter.

The reason they were so kind to Kino is that they knew she’d be their last guest, and wanted to try to repair the reputation as rude jerks they’d built up over the years. Turns out they weren’t rude or kind country so much as a Country of Self-Destructive Stubbornness.

Another note written by Sakura accompanies the seed she caught at a wedding (the last wedding in the country, and the couple was younger than usual because, well, they were out of time), stating that she wouldn’t need it. Sakura must’ve known of her fate after all, but like her parents and the rest of the adults, decided to stay and face her fate. Pretty heartbreaking stuff.

Valvrave the Liberator – 17

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Haruto learns that anyone who pilots Valvrave will eventually end up an empty shell like Marie. The Dorssian Royalists ask New JIOR to destroy a covert Dorssian submarine, the Phantom, in exchange for supplies. Yamada and Akira are sent to search for Rukino, while L-elf and Haruto infiltrate the sub as the others stand by in the stolen transport hidden underwater. Meanwhile X-eins is summoned by Colonel Cain to the “Castle of No Return” in Grunau.

A concerned H-neun beats X there, and Cain hunts him down. In the bowels of the Phantom, L-elf and Haruto find a hundreds of unconscious people having Runes extracted. When L-elf threatens to make Satomi pilot Unit 1, Haruto pilots it instead, sets off a volcanic eruption, and mops up the Dorssian forces attacking the transport. X-eins arrives at the castle, where Cain laments he has to start “the ceremony” over again.

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While they started out as monolithic, brutal Space Nazis—an opaque villain to root against, the Dorssians have become a lot more textured and nuanced, starting obviously with L-elf’s decision to revolt against his own people, but carried through with all of the military-political intrigue involving Cain, and the fact that he’s not really human, but some kind of godlike being who’s up to no good. And obviously conscious that it has a whole season to fill, the series is delving even deeper into the everyday lives, pasts, and motivations of L-elf’s former comrades, namely H-neun and X-eins.

Meanwhile Haruto and L-elf get some quality time together, and Haruto, with his post-Marie nightmares and the knowledge he’s being slowly killed by his mecha, appears to waver, and L-elf decides that maybe it would be best if more JIORans resign their humanity so the burden can be shared. This has the semi-intentional effect of rattling Haruto’s cage to the point where he jumps back into the cockpit and raises hell, vowing never to share his unit – or his curse – with anyone else. Which leads to him setting off a friggin’ volcano, which is such Valvrave-y thing to do.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • R.I.P. Marie…though she’s not so much dead as…decompiled into oblivion, which sucks.
  • Considering how cruelly logical L-Elf is, we’re surprised he sent a search party after Rukino, but we know she’ll be back, as we’ve already seen her in the distant future last season.
  • The whole sequence at the castle…yeah. That was awkward and kind of silly, an we’re not just talking about big jars of green glitter. There was just something absurd about Cain chasing one of his former subordinates through the house taking potshots at him. It had an air of horseplay to it, as the culty guys sat around their table doin’ culty-ass shit.
  • In rattling Haruto’s cage, L-elf also impresses upon him how personally frustrated he is to not be able to pilot a Valvrave, which in his mind makes him “powerless,” relegated to commanding troops, but lacking the strength to fight on the front lines, something Haruto not only takes for granted, but despises
  • Grunau Castle reminded us a little of Muska’s huge fortress from Castle in the Sky.