Re: Zero – 45 – Weakness vs. Strength

This week stretched my patience for looking back by providing yet another flashback within a flashback, namely the time a suffering young Roswaal met Echida, who literally sucked his excess mana out of his mouth with a French kiss.

Roswaal, Beatrice, and Ryuzu Meyer all reside in what would become the Sanctuary. Their primary foe is yet another new character in Hector, the “Devil of Melancholy”, who shares the present-day Roswaal’s harlequin-like appearance and bizarre speech patterns.

As with Geuse and Fortuna in Emilia’s flashback, Roswaal and Echidna can only buy as much time as they can for Ryuzu to become the last-ditch catalyst for the core of the Sanctuary’s barrier.

Beatrice escorts her to the core without fully understanding that Ryuzu means to sacrifice her waking self, and suggests they use her ability to run away. But Ryuzu is done running, is happy with the life she’s lived with everyone, and is resolved to preserve the Sanctuary for everyone else.

This flashback amounts to more exposition, providing further context for the present confrontation between Subaru and Roswaal. It’s just regrettable to immediately follow up Emilia’s flashback-, tearful goodbye-, and exposition-heavy trial with an episode like this, which lacks any kind of forward momentum in favor of continuing to look back.

Roswaal is unwilling to surrender to buy into Subaru’s way of doing things, as he is still counting on Emilia to be overcome by her inherent weakness, while Subaru believes in her gradually-awakening strength. He tries to provoke Garfiel by questioning his love for his family, but Garf went through his own trial and is done with being weak.

Some yelling ensues, Roswaal and Subie admit they’re very much alike except in their beliefs and preferred methods, and essentially part ways all but saying “may the best man win.” Emilia, fresh off her completed first trial, emerges from the Graveyard where Ram is there to greet her. As its title “Beginning of the Sanctuary and Beginning of the End” indicates, this was very much a transitional episode, and it showed.

Talentless Nana – 03 – What’s This F-Boy’s Deal?!

With two enemies of humanity eliminated in short order, Nana knows she must be careful not to incite panic or draw suspicion upon herself. But that’s hard when Onodera Kyouya is snooping around, especially when he’s almost if not as good as her at deduction, as evidenced by how he knows the Ice Prince is dating.

She can’t have this guy breathing down her neck, so she makes him her next target, and begins the process of learning his talent and weakness. But following him leads her to discover he’s the kind of guy who goes out of his way to give warm milk to a stray cat.

As Nana tries to figure Kyouya out, he invites her into his dorm, which is a bit of a mess, but is also full of potentially useful clues. She seems to spot them, but she’s also consistently kept off balance by Kyouya, even going so far as to call him a “low-level f-boy”.

What’s fun about these two interacting when we only have access to Nana’s thoughts is that we’re not sure if Kyouya is putting on a big act for Nana, just as she’s putting on an act for him. This is only heightened when Kyouya produces an issue of the manga Humanity’s Girl, which is obviously Nana’s favorite, because she considers herself humanity’s savior.

Kyouya also pulls the power move where Nana thinks she’s about to leave scot-free, only for him to say “Oh, one last thing…” and then whipping out Nanao’s fancy Rolex. Nana can’t hide her true shock at seeing the Velben good in Kyouya’s hand, since it means Kyouya has been busy.

He also tells her about how it’s strange that the government set up a “training” facility where very little structured training goes on. Since agents like Nana are the Talentless’ last chance to get rid of the Talented, any Talented as curious and suspicious as Kyouya have to go.

Just to confirm her suspicions, we finally hear Kyouya’s inner voice. In a way, that’s a shame, since now we know for sure he’s not already 100% on to her. But he’s definitely getting there!

The next day, Nana sets a clever trap based on Kyouya’s weakness, gleaned by observing his dorm: he’s an anosmiac. That means the next time he heats up the milk in the abandoned janitor’s shed, he doesn’t detect the gas leak, or the closed window, until it’s too late. BOOM.

Bye-bye  Kyouya, right? Wrong. He may have no sense of smell, but that’s not a weakness one can use to kill him, due to his Talent: he’s freakin’ invincible. The explosion covers his body in burns, but he quickly heals, and when Nana runs to the wreckage, she all but confirms to him that she was the one who caused the explosion. Who else knew he was here but Nana, who mentioned the cat earlier?

Even so, Kyouya isn’t totally convinced, and so doesn’t retaliate against Nana…yet. After all, he can’t discount the fact she knew he was in the fire because she read his mind. His parting words to her—“I’m so glad we’re friends.”—is a clear threat. It’s almost like he could out her now if he wanted, but would prefer to keep their cat-and-mouse game going.

Now we know for certain that Kyouya isn’t a fellow Talented hunter like Nana. And Nana definitely has no taste for games; she’s here to do a job as quickly and efficiently as possible. The question is, how is she going to find his real weakness and kill him now that his defenses are up?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vinland Saga – 19 – What Are You Looking At With Those Eyes?

Having entertained him so much thus far, Thorkell gives Thorfinn a few minutes to rest before continuing the fight. An intermission, if you will, during which he tells the boy about Thors. The two of them were fellow Jomsviking commanders, and Thorkell is Thorfinn’s great-uncle, since his brother, their leader, gave Thors his daughter’s hand in marriage.

In one battle, Thors was thrown from his boat, never surfaced, and presumed dead. But one night, Thors returned. Thorkell was delighted, until he realized Thors didn’t mean to stay. Thors wouldn’t explain to his satisfaction why, only that he learned the secret to being a true warrior, and had a look in his eye Thorkell had never seen.

Thorkell tried to kill Thors for deserting, but ended up with his axe smashed and knocked out cold by Thors…who didn’t even wield a sword. Fifteen years later, Thorkell learned Thors had died for real. Thorkell doesn’t see that same look in Thorfinn’s eyes, which means Thors never told him his secret.

Thorfinn listens to Askeladd one more time, warning him if he loses, the man he wishes to duel will be killed by another. Askeladd is the only one there who has ever seen Thorkell fall in battle, and the reason is almost comically simple: the man has a glass jaw.

Thorfinn jobs for a while, until Thorkell drops his guard to kill him. Askeladd blinds him with the reflection of the sun on his blade, and Thorfinn leaps up and kicks him straight in the jaw, knocking him flat on his back. When Finn tries to go for the kill, he’s surrounded by Thorkell’s men.

The first duty of those men is to keep their commander alive, but Thorkell is furious they disrupted his duel. That’s when Prince Canute arrives, the changed man he became last week, and orders all fighting to stop. When Thorkell bristles, Canute tells him the truth about his father not loving him, choosing Harald as his successor, and sending him to England to die in battle so he didn’t have to assassinate him.

What Canute seeks to do is head to the main camp at Gaineborough and fight his father the king, snatching the crown and the throne from the man who forsook him. Thorkell thinks this is just a tough-guy act, and Canute will crumble if he pretends to punch him, but Canute doesn’t flinch in the slightest. Furthermore, Thorkell sees the same look in Canute’s eyes that Thors had.

Thorkell tells his men his one greatest regret in life was not following Thors rather than trying to stop him. By getting knocked out, he missed his chance to learn what Thors had learned about being a warrior. In Canute, he’s been given a fresh chance to learn, so he agrees to become his follower and fight for him. No doubt Thorkell’s men will follow his lead.

Finally, the wounded but not-as-near-death as we thought Askeladd confesses to killing Ragnar, and offers his sword to Canute with which to kill him. He adds that if Canute spares his life, he will fight for him as well. Canute, loather of pointless deaths, declines to execute Askeladd, instead ordering him to honor Ragnar through leal service.

And with that, ladies and gents, everyone we’ve been following have joined forces behind Prince Canute in what is to be a glorious fight against King Sweyn. Since Thorfinn is Thorfinn, he’s going to follow the man who killed his father. Oh, and he shouldn’t look now, but Canute is now his legit co-protagonist, while Thorfinn remains a callow boy who needs to grow up.

BokuBen 2 – 03 – Lifesaving Bangs

Rizu, feeling like her bangs are getting a bit long, aims to trim them…a bit, but thanks to her dad surprising her, she cuts off a bit more than a bit. Fumino and Uruka’s mixed reaction doesn’t help matters, but it’s around Nariyuki whom Rizu feels most self-conscious, and so takes great pains to hide her face so he won’t notice.

When Fumino sees that Nariyuki is taking Rizu’s face-hiding as a sign she hates him, she removes her ridiculous mask, only for Nariyuki not to notice any change whatsoever. Rizu hates the contradiction of being upset that he didn’t, but he’s determined to figure out what the change is, and eventually redeems himself.

In addition to keeping his promise to call her by her given name, he tells her how her facial expressions have changed since they first started studying together. While she once looked sullen and detached, now her face is more bright animated, even joyful. Not even caring about her bangs anymore, Rizu deems him correct…just not in the way she expected.

We stay with Rizu as the episode’s focus, but the POV shifts to her self-appointed rival (and not-so-secret admirer), Sekijo Sawako. Earlier, their soulmate status was confirmed when they changed hairstyles on the same day (even though Rizu’s was an accident), and when Sawako notices Rizu’s pen case getting a little tatty, she offers to take her shopping for a new one.

The next day, after obsessive minute-to-minute preparation and anticipation that kept her up all night, requiring at least nine cans of coffee, the two meet up for their long-awaited date. But after plying Rizu with at least 2,000 calories in snacks, Sawako spots Nariyuki, and determines she needs to put “Rizu’s happiness first” by cutting their date short and letting Rizu go with Nariyuki.

Both Rizu and Nariyuki are confused by this move, and Sawako ends up sulking at a claw machine, remembering her middle school days when her high test scores would annoy her less brainy classmates.

It wasn’t until she took an exam beside her that Sawako met Rizu and became absolutely enthralled and inspired by her “cool beauty” attitude, calmly calling out the dumb boys. From that point on Sawako gained more confidence in herself and started to care less and less about what they thought…all thanks to Rizu.

Sawako explains all this to Nariyuki when he comes looking for her, and that she believes Rizu “saved her life” with her inspirational attitude. Rizu, who was also looking for Sawako, hears the tail end of this, but rather than being insulted, she’s actually glad that something she considered a weakness—not being great at reading people’s feelings—was seen as a strength and inspiration by Sawako.

Sawako’s tsundere antics can be tiresome, and I’m not sure we needed her to fall on Rizu, grabbing her boob and exposing her own underwear in the process, but I was glad to get her backstory and motivations for why she treats Rizu as both a rival and kind of soul mate and lodestar. I also appreciate that like Fumino she’s aware of the potential of a Rizu x Nariyuki, even if those two remain as clueless as ever.

Boogiepop wa Warawanai – 11 – Be Very Afraid

Kishima Nagi is on the mend, and wonders if her psychiatrist, Dr. Kisugi Makiko, thought her fits of pain were only in her head. Nagi doesn’t know that Kisugi discovered the vial of the mysterious drug Scarecrow used to heal her. Kisugi experiments on lab rats, but soon it’s clear she’s graduated to unwilling human test subjects, who are turning up all over town as the victims of a serial killer with a very specific method of ripping open the jaw and sucking out the victims’ brains.

At night Kisugi roams the dark halls of the hospital, preying on patients by heightening their fear (she’s capable of seeing someone’s weakness the same way Jin could see their flowers) then sucking the fear-filled blood like a vampire. She revels in being able to rip out her own eye only for it to regenerate; clearly she’s her own test subject as well, and she’s downright drunk on the fear of others.

She determines that the best-tasting fear comes from those who’d normally have none, like bold young women, which is why so many of her victims are high school girls. But as a psychiatrist she is also considering using her talk patients as food/research fodder. One of those patients is a young Miyashita Touka, sporting long hair and flanked by her mother, who fears she has Dissociative Identity Disorder.

This confirms that while we enter the world of Boogiepop with Touka as a high schooler, Boogiepop has been showing up in her body since far earlier. Excusing Touka’s mother, Kisugi has Touka talk like a man, and before long, her other personality is out, and wastes no time describing who they are (neither man nor woman, for one thing) and what their mission is.

Boogiepop tells Kisugi that she’s a predator for people so normal it’s easy for them to be “set off” like fuses into someone who could be a threat to the world. Boogiepop exists to eliminate threats to the world without mercy. Their discussion puts Kisugi on notice as someone who should probably stop what they’re doing lest they incur Boogiepop’s wrath, but it may be too late.

Kisugi doesn’t seem willing or able to control herself anymore; she’s in too deep. Though if there’s a bright side to all this, it’s that she won’t end up killing Touka as she considers here; we know Touka will be fine, and that her “disorder” won’t be “cured”, nor should it be. So the question is, how will Boogiepop, possessing Lil’ Touka, take Kisugi down? Or will Towa, whose serum she’s messing with, do it for them?

Classroom of the Elite – 02

I’m liking the uneasy rapport that has developed between Ayanokouji and Horitika; coincidence after coincidence brought them “together” in the opener, but they’ve consciously chosen to stay together, despite his surface apathy and her surface hostility—providing a nice contrast to Kushida’s saccharine affability.

Horitika isn’t interested in jumping up a level to Class C. She wants to be in Class A as soon as possible. If that means gathering a study group of the three most egregious misfits, so be it. She assigns Ayanokouji to the thankless task of gathering said misfits…and he immediately fails.

So he calls Kushida, who is all too happy to convince the three guys to attend the study group…if she can be in it as well. That caveat proves too repugnant to Horitika, who is awesomely resplendent in her text-and-voice-based petulance upon reacting to Ayanokouji’s method of completing the task she gave him.

Nevertheless, the group is assembled, with Kushida…and Horikita blows it up almost as quickly as Ayanokouji failed to assemble them in the first place. Unable to temper her aloof manner with people, and so focused on her goal of Class A, she doesn’t bother adapting to the various personalities she has to deal with, and so they all bail. She then accuses Kushida of “sabotage”, and Kushida runs off on the verge of tears.

And so, Ayanokouji finds himself with the contact info of not one but two comely lasses, and hasn’t the words, written or spoken, for either of them. So he goes out to the vending machines…and sees something he shouldn’t.

That something is the Student Council President verbally abusing his little sister…Horikita. Ayanokouji hears a tone of voice from his classmate he never had before, as she pleads for her brother to give her a chance…but all she is to the guy is a manifestation of shame; a black mark; a Class D sister.

Then he puts his hands on her and Ayanokouji has seen an heard enough, finally taking action by making use the strength Horikita noticed in his physique at poolside. He claims he acquired it and his fighting skills through “piano, calligraphy, tea ceremony”. It would be most impressive if that were true, but it’s clear he’s hiding something (We also learn he scored exactly 50 in all subjects on his entrance exam).

Like the first, this episode explored the theme announced in the episode title, a quote from some old dead guy, in this case, how “it takes a great talent and skill to conceal one’s talent and skill.” That certainly seems refer to our boy Ayanokouji as well as Kushida, who also comes off as someone holding their cards close.

As for Horikita, her natural tendency to keep people away, assuming they’ll hold her back, seems doomed to backfire on her every time. Just as the class had to come together to attain high enough scores to stave off expulsions for another week and possibly gain points back, Horikita will find more success on her path to Class A by learning to work with others, utilizing their hidden skills talents, and possibly discovering a few of her own in the process.

Classroom of the Elite – 01 (First Impressions)

As per a reader’s suggestion, I’ve decided to contribute to our Summer ’17 “reboot” by taking a look at a show I initially overlooked—Classroom of the Elite.

We follow Ayanokouji Kiyotaka, who has enrolled at the prestigious Tokyo Metropolitan Advanced Nurturing School, which sports a 100% college and employment placement rate. Aside from being built on reclaimed land in the bay, TMANS is a fully self-contained “high school city”, and its students given free reign and a generous monthly stipend of 100,000 yen-equivalent points ($903). It’s a neat and efficiently-explained system.

While cliques quickly form, Ayanokouji fails to make any friends, aside from the girl who insists on being friends with everyone (Kushida Kikyou) and the girl who is friends with no one by choice (Horikita Suzune). Thankfully there’s no onslaught of characters: these three are the focus, and rightly so.

Kushida, desperate to make friends with the last holdout, conspires with Ayanokouji to meet with Horikita at the school’s Starbucks. Horikita immediately suspects she’s been set up and storms off, while Kushida sticks around with Ayanokouji, and seems to think that Horikita and Ayanokouji are “close”, even though neither of them would charactarize it that way (aside from their physical proximity in the classroom).

Ayanokouji and Horikita have a lot in common. They use few words (he has trouble getting them out, she prefers not to talk), and both are reasonably thrifty, spending very little of their points over the first month. Meanwhile, all of their Class D classmates spend wildly and talk, goof off, and sleep in class regularly, conduct their teacher Chabashira doesn’t call them out for.

But one of the great things about this first episode is that while laying out this school system, there’s tension that builds amongst all the “debauchery” and carefree-ness. Like the other shoe is about to drop, and it’s going to be a doozy.

That other shoe…turns out to be the fact that monthly stipend is not 100,000 points. It’s just a starting number; henceforth students are judged by merit, and the next stipend determined accordingly; in this case, ZERO. Despite having done pretty well for themselves, our protagonists receive the same valuation as their slacker classmates.

At least they instinctively understood that the money and many temptations around them were all a test that most of the class failed. If they keep failing, they’ll go nowhere, so some serious shaping up is in order. That’s a hell of a hook, ensuring I’ll be back for the next episode.

Shuumatsu no Izetta – 09

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This episode’s opening act painted a rosy picture: with Germania not attacking, Izetta continues to build her image across the world by assisting the resistance movements of territories Germania has conquered, and the narrating Lotte is hoping the good times keep coming. Fine even tells Izetta a ceasefire could be in the making.

I didn’t buy this rosiness for a second, since it’s already been established that Berkman has Izetta’s number and has merely been biding his time for an assault, both the map and the crystal are in enemy hands, and even Muller AKA Sieg Reich simply isn’t giving off very trustworthy vibes.

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A reckoning, then, was inevitable, and it comes later in the episode after Izetta ends up on the wrong battlefront and must be quickly transported to the right one. There, the one tactical advantage Eylstadt has over Germania—the White Witch—is taken away, by Germania’s own White Witch, a clone of Izetta’s descendant, Sophie.

The path that led to her creation is hastily told, as Berkman learns of Division 9’s research and cloning methods, and Izetta’s blood is gradually used to “awaken” Sophie from the doll-like clone. Eylstadt’s own recklessness with Izetta’s personal security indirectly led to Berkman’s success.

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At first, Sophie tries to appeal to Izetta’s pride and duty as a witch, telling her what her own family told her: using her magical powers to help affect the outcome of war between non-magical countries is wrong.

But when Izetta insists she must fight for her archduchess and refuses to stand down, Sophie ditches the nice guy act right quick, turning on a dime into Izetta’s enemy, and the two duel in the sky as Germania’s superior military runs the Eylstadt forces roughshod.

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Sophie ends up nullifying Izetta’s magic at a crucial moment, causing her to crash, then for good measure, employs magic chain bondage to crush Izetta’s insides. She’s taken prisoner, photographed and filmed for pro-Germanian propaganda, which is likely to kill morale in Eylstadt as well as anywhere where people oppose Germania.

Now that their “nuke” isn’t unique anymore, or even a threat to Germania, they’re free to attack Eylstadt’s capital, even bombing Fine’s palace. But the lack of chivalry in the assault mirror’s Eylstadt’s own desperate but ultimately foul play: when they couldn’t win with conventional warfare they turned to magic.

They put all their eggs in that basket, and now that basket’s been crushed and burned. It’s not looking good at all for Fine, Izetta, or Eylstadt.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 08

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Pretty much the entire time I was watching this episode of Izetta, much of which centers on Berkman’s adjutant, Ricelt, as he parachutes into Eylstadt to gain access to the castle where the ley lines map is located, I thought to myself, “why do I care about this guy?”

While I’m cognizant of the fact that war usually isn’t as simple as black-and-white, or good-vs.-evil, I still couldn’t muster any sympathy for Ricelt and the fate he succumbs to. And that made it hard to get emotionally invested in this episode at all.

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Forgetting the fact that he just happens to fall in a river just as Fine’s maid Lotte and Bianca are driving past…you know what, I can’t forget (or forgive) a coincidence of that magnitude, and I won’t.

Even in tiny Eylstadt, it’s ridiculous and extremely incredible that Ricelt would end up so close to these two, let alone that they’d so easily buy his half-assed cover story. Ricelt is only able to get as far as he does thanks (in part) to Bianca’s stupidity. This is war; any and all strangers who suddenly show up must be suspected, not flirted with.

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Speaking of flirting, the show’s fascination with Fine and Izetta as some kind of quasi-yuri couple continues, with Fine dressing up as a dashing prince and Izetta serving as her girly date at Lord Redford’s lavish birthday party.

There, Berkman manages to not only meet up close with Fine and Izetta, but his “date”, who looks drugged and/or genetically manipulated in some way, even manages to draw near enough to Izetta to kiss her, drawing blood in the process (blood Berkman will surely use for research on how to neutralize Izetta).

That intel and security is so inadequate and lax that one of the German empire’s most dangerous men can get so close to Izetta, and vanish just as quickly, doesn’t bode well for the future of Eylstadt.

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As for Ricelt, he and an inside man manage to make it to the basement of Eylstadt castle, snap pictures of the ley line map, and retrieve some kind of magical stone…but Bianca finally gets wise and Ricelt is caught red-handed. He stalls for time to let his colleague get away; Bianca shoots him, and another royal guard shoots the colleague.

And so, like Jonas, another young character I thought would have a greater role to play ends up dead, though the trouble he whipped up remains. Bianca, for her part, seems shaken up about the betrayal, but it’s not like they were lovers or anything; she’ll surely get over it.

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As for that trouble, it would seem some random old man ends up with the camera containing photos of the ley line map, as well as the purple-pink stone. Yet again, someone is in just the right position at the right time to propel the plot forward…and I care even less about this old guy than I cared about Ricelt.

Keeping the pressure high is the fact the Atlantan (i.e. American) ambassador promises Fine and Izetta that he’ll recommend his government send troops, but doesn’t tell them that he considers Izetta to be nearly as great a threat to Atlanta as the Germanians, if not a greater threat. As such, those troops will be sent to take down both Germania and Eylstadt; not exactly what Fine wanted.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 07

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After a dull and appallingly animated opening scene where a bunch of old white guys from all over Europe (plus “Atlanta” AKA alternate-America) contemplate what to do about a new German aircraft carrier, their host Lord Redford introduces them to Fine and Izetta, with all the requisite magical theatricality.

The two don’t just come hat-in-hand, asking for troops, but with something they can do for them: Izetta will destroy the carrier, giving them one less thing to worry about (and commit precious resources to).

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In what can probably be better described than as a “quasi-yuri” scene, after Fine teases and tickles Izetta they lie in bed together in their matching lilac negligees, gazing into each other’s eyes.

Fine repeats her guilt about asking so much about Izetta, but reiterates the importance of being useful to their allies; Izetta repeats her total commitment to Fine in all things. We get it, show: they’re very close. The two girls were, at least, far better drawn than all the stodgy men at the beginning.

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Also well-animated (and staged): Izetta’s operation. With two Lancaster bombers as her escort, she takes command of four 760-kg torpedoes and heads to the fjord base where the carrier lies. We get some simply stunning views of her streaking through the air with her four ballistic buddies.

Alas, to her horror, the carrier isn’t there when she arrives: it’s started out to sea, and an ambush awaits her, led by the grizzled ace Basler in a shiny new inverse gullwing plane. Between him, the other fighters, and a cloud of flak from other surface assets, Izetta’s complement of four torps quickly dwindles to two.

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Though Groman assured her she’d need all four to sink the carrier, she uses the last two in a clever way – sending one straight down, missle-style into the weak elevator area, and the other into the fuel supply. It’s mission accomplished for Izetta, but little does she know both Berkman and Ricelt accomplished their mission too.

The carrier was nothing more than bait, set to lure Izetta into an area with highly variable ley lines. Berkman observed sudden losses in Izetta’s magic as she flew through the invisible variations (she’s apparently unable to sense them).

Now the enemy knows (or is pretty darn sure) of her weakness. With that in mind, it looks like Germania came out on top on this one, since the carrier was essentially doomed anyway.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 06

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While most of Izetta and Fine’s scenes this week are kept pretty lightweight, the episode also demonstrates how precarious Eylstadt’s situation remains despite the early success of the White Witch’s unveiling. It also shows the lengths to which the enemy will go to learn of Izetta’s weakness, and the lengths to which Sieg will will go to stop them.

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As Berkman gains access to the Empire’s ultra-top-secret “Division 9” research “workshop”, Elvira attempts to stuff Izetta in a tight corset, then makes her practice dancing with Bianca. Finally, Fine and Izetta “disguise” themselves as townfolk in order to sample some desserts from a cafe Fine used to sneak off to before she was Archduchess.

Suffice it to say, this is extremely reckless behavior during a time of war, even if their disguises were any good (they were not). The episode tries to have Fine pass off their exposure as a good thing, furthering her popular tomboy image and such, but I wasn’t buying it; this whole detour to the bakery was nothing but problematic.

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It’s Sieg who serves as audience surrogate when he says gently but firmly, “no more” to Fine regarding sneaking off into town. She’s not a precocious tomboy anymore, but the leader of a country that still hangs by a thread. One of the frays in that thread is swiftly dealt with thanks to Sieg and his crack counter-espionage team.

That means the death of Jonas and an uncertain fate for the Germanian spy who didn’t gain any information. I enjoyed Jonas as an everyman on the front lines to this point, but unless Sieg was as ineffective at protecting Fine’s interests as Bianca was this week, Jonas’ death warrent was signed the moment the spy knew he knew something.

With one problem taken care of relatively easily, Sieg leaves it to Fine and Izetta, travelling by flying gun on a circuitous route, to persuade the powers meeting in Britannia to do something about the Germanians, preferably before they unveil a secret weapon of their own from Division 9.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 05

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Fine’s coronation is also the stage chosen to unveil Izetta to the world, and it’s fun to witness medieval ritual juxtaposed with flashing still and movie cameras of the modern era, just as it’s fun to watch Izetta take care of business, wiping out the modern might of the Germanians with magically enhanced medieval weapons.

The first stage in Eylstadt’s strategy to, well, survive, is to make the world know and believe who and what Izetta is. But neither the Germanian king nor Major Berkman doubt whether she’s real. The king wants her, badly, while Berkman wants to cut Eylstadt’s propaganda off at the knees by identifying and exploiting Izetta’s still-unknown-to-the-enemy weakness.

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While fun, the merging of eras is also jarring, just as it’s jarring to see Izetta unleash hell against the Germanian army in front of cameras, then return to the palace to be praised like a good girl who finished her chores. It’s a lot for Izetta to handle, but she has promised to serve ad protect Fine with her dying breath; she’s not the kind to back down just because things are tough…or weird.

More than anything, Izetta is a witch who has been used dwelling in the shadows and edges of the world. Now she’s the exact opposite: a global celebrity with a fairy tale story so compelling that the people want to believe. Not only does Eylstadt want them to believe, they need them to do so, in hopes of gaining powerful allies against Germania.

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If this is to be merely a 12-episode show, I’m pleased with the generous pacing so far. Not only is Izetta unveiled and placed into immediate use in order to quickly build up her public persona as a magical force of resistance against a no-longer invincible-looking enemy, but the enemy strikes back just as fast, advancing on the Veile Pass – a place with no Ley Lines for Izetta to draw from.

The Germanian King’s adviser Eliot is sure to remind his majesty that the reason they’re invading Eylstadt is to gain supply routes between them and Romulus (i.e. Italy), not merely to capture a witch. This pass is part of that route. As it happens, Private Jonas is assigned to its defense, which won’t include bombings due to a.) the thick fog and b.) the fact the pass is worthless without intact roads to use.

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Sieg Reich and Fine’s royal guards (who are all or mostly female special forces) draw up an intricate plan that serves to hide Izetta’s inability to use magic, by drawing upon stagecraft and showmanship in a battlefield setting.

A dummy Izetta is flown behind a plane, lands on a ridge, and is replace by the real Izetta (refusing to let them use a body double), who must talk a big talk before planted bombs are detonated, taking out the advancing enemy.

It works far better than it should have, thanks to an abundance of luck in both weather and geography. But conditions won’t be so favorable in every Ley Line-less area the Germanians target, so even though Berkman hasn’t found Izetta’s weakness yet, doesn’t mean he won’t eventually.

It may happen far sooner than Eylstadt thinks, thanks to some bad luck: Berkman has a spy posing as an Eylstadt officer who happens to be in the same outfit as Jonas. There’s every indication either he or Jonas overheard Schneider talking very loudly about Izetta’s weakness by a creek.

That’s the kind of carelessness that can lose a war, and I’m not optimistic Izetta won’t be re-captured by Berkman at some point.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 16

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While the last couple weeks were a bit of a rest going into the Li Twins battle, this is definitely all battles—the end of one and the beginning of another—with the slightest of breaks in between.

While that makes it a bit disjointed (I prefer episodes that start and end with one battle), the action, taunting, and over-the-top explosive tactics were all there, and the fact I knew the Li Twins battle would end this week (this show doesn’t spend long chains of episodes on single battles after all) I felt I could kick back and enjoy the carnage.

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Until the climax of the Li Twins battle, Ayato is simply meditating in the corner whil Julis acts as his shield, enduring attacks from both twins, who seem more interested in torturing her than snapping her badge and ending things quickly. One look at Shenyun’s increasingly twisted face and you know the guy’s a sadist dick. Shenhua, less so, since she’s not shown piling on the way her brother is.

But all of Julis’ suffering isn’t for naught: Ayato finds the key to unlocking the next level of his sister’s seal, enabling him to store far greater amounts of prana and go longer in battles. He says it doesn’t result in any significant powering up, but I’ve gotta wonder, after the destruction he unleashes with ease on the twin’s carefully constructed web of traps, talisman bombs, and invisible strikes.

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Ayato basically takes a bi ol’ Ser Veresta to all that, blasting Shenhua then delivering a well-deserved bone-crushing fist to the face of Shenyun, ending the fight. Julis gives the thumbs-up (the fanservice on her torn uni is kept to a minimum), while the Twins’ tiny prez looks approvingly at Ayato’s performance, and looks forward to meeting him (i.e. fighting him, probably) someday.

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With that, Ayato and Julis are in for some well-deserved rest before heading to the semifinals. Claudia, making a rare appearance this season, wants to not only offer her thanks to the partners on their great win for the school, but also thank Ayato personally, in her room, at night. Hmm…could she be talking about sex???

Julis doesn’t stand by and let Ayato be dragged off; insisting he stay with her to “go over strategy.” C’mon Julis. You don’t want the kid sleeping with Claudia. Simple as that.

That leads to the week’s second match: Saya and Kirin versus the Allekant robots. Aldy and Rimsy give another one-minute grace period, but both girls are tired of being mocked and looked down on for being weak and organic.

Kirin uses a bit of old-fashioned samurai sword skills to show Aldy he’s wrong about his defense being perfect, because he cannot hope to reach the sensitivity necessary to fight Kirin. For that, you have to be human.

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Her attacks make Aldy pull out his weapon before the grace period is over, which combined with scoring several strikes on him, are all first in the Festa. Meanwhile, Saya stands by during the minute, choosing not to attack Rimsy until she’s coming at her with everything she’s got.

When she does, Saya breaks out some badass-looking flying battle armor that suddenly makes her a good match for Rimsy. And like Kirin, she scores the first hits of the Festa on Rimsy. Things are looking good, but while watching the match in the stands, Flora gets kidnapped…probably by someone working for Dirk at Le Wolfe.

I guess the Festa fights aren’t the only thing our guy and gals will have to contend with…not that I doubted that would be the case!

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