Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 02 – Nothing is Eternal

One of Lord El-Melloi II’s basic lessons in his class is “nothing is eternal; everything changes,” and he should know, having once been the master of a heroic spirit of whose vast empire nearly nothing remains. And it is a former student, Mary Lil Fargo (subfamily of the Aminuspheres) who summons him to her mansion, which is the site of her father Ernest’s murder and dismemberment.

The seven parts of the body that were separated and arranged throughout the house indicate the same kind of planetary magic the Fargo family specializes in, but the arrangement is all wrong. Of the four people in the mansion when Ernest died, all have a motive to kill him, be it revenge for abuse (Claire the maid), jealousy over his research (Fernando Li), money to pay debts (his nephew Alec), and of course, his heir, Mary herself.

While this seems at first like a classic whodunit with El-Melloi picking the least likely suspect as the culprit, the murder mystery takes an entirely different and unexpected turn: no one murdered Ernest; he murdered and dismembered himself, all in the service of setting up an experimental spell that would grant him immortality.

El-Melloi confirms this when a hidden section of the rotunda’s floor reveals the part of a human associated with the planet Earth: the soul, not of the body. Once revealed, it contacts the other seven parts and reconstructs Ernest, but it is far from perfect, being his first and only attempt: he’s a grotesque monster, seeking Mary’s life force to complete his immortality.

El-Melloi doesn’t do anything to protect Mary, but he doesn’t have to: his apprentice Gray is on the job. After an incantation, her lantern-dwelling sidekick Add transforms into a mighty scythe, and its power blows her up to then ever-present hood off her head, revealing she bears an uncanny resemblance to Saber, AKA Artoria Pendragon.

While the reasons for this have yet to be revealed, knowing a little more about Gray certainly makes things more interesting. It also explains why she’s such a skilled fighter, such that El-Melloi only needs to step back with Mary and let her do her thing.

Once she dispatches the demented undead Ernest (creepily reciting words that rhyme with “Gray” in the process), she smiles in self-satisfaction before realizing her hood is down, and promptly pulls it back up. El-Melloi—Waver—apparently can’t look at a face that brings up such terrible memories of the Holy Grail War.

Before parting, El-Melloi deduces that Mary is a talented enough mage to know what her father was up to…and that it wouldn’t work and result in his death. El-Melloi won’t be able to prove it, but still wants to know why she did nothing to stop him.

Mary’s answer is rooted in the lessons she learned from El-Melloi himself: nothing is eternal. Letting her father go through with a doomed, incomplete immortality experiment was her way of relaying that lesson to him. Mages shouldn’t seek immortality, except in the indirect way they pass on their knowledge to the next generation.

If Ernest had succeeded, he’d have rendered that generation—made Mary, and her future and that of her children—redundant. Not only that, if I’m interpreting Mary holding hands with Claire at the end, letting Ernest essentially kill himself freed the maid from his abuse.

As first cases go (not counting episode 00) this wasn’t too bad at all; it introduced El-Melloi’s investigative process, showed off his knowledge of magecraft and deductive facilities, had an interesting twist, and of course, revealed Gray’s “Silver Saber” mode. A good week’s work. On to the next case!

Holmes of Kyoto – 03 – Mystery at Mount Kurama

This week’s whodunit sends Holmes and Aoi to Mount Kurama, where they have a nice date-by-any-other name before visiting the villa of their client. While at a particularly cool restaurant, Holmes reveals that he lost his girlfriend in much the same way she lost her boyfriend. His ex has since married the “arrogant and overbearing Osakan”, but he took that as destiny telling him it was right for them to part.

The case involves three brothers who were instructed by their late author father’s will to be at the villa at a specific time to be given three scrolls that turned out to be worthless reproductions, suggesting they had some other meaning besides assets to distribute. However, the scrolls were burned in the incinerator on the villa grounds. Someone currently in the villa burned them…but who?

Holmes all but dispenses with manners (particularly the second son, who reminds him of the Osakan who wooed away his girlfriend) and works quickly, and because of his near-encyclopedic knowledge of classic art, it doesn’t take him long to deduce what the three pieces were.

Both the first and second sons’ scrolls were works that carried symbolic messages; in both cases, an urging to seek greater heights in the things they’ve decided to do with their lives. But before Holmes can describe the third son’s scroll, the mother breaks down and confesses to burning them—which was fairly obvious in the opening moments of the episode.

She claims to have done it out of anger for not even being mentioned in the second will, and with the mystery solved, Holmes departs with Aoi. Before he does, the brothers insist he tell them about the third son’s scroll, and he acquiesces.

The message of the third scroll is that the third son’s true father was actually the author’s secretary, who was once in a bike gang(!) but saved their father’s life and apparently gave the mother support and comfort as her husband recovered.

It explains the timing of the distribution of the scrolls—just as the third son came of age—as well as the mother’s true motive for burning them—that they’d learn the truth. However, the fact her husband left her an aquamarine ring (symbolizing freedom) indicated he wanted her to be free to live her life, and also free of any guilt she might have felt over what happened.

And there you have it: another reasonably-well-off family with problems has their little personal mystery solved by Holmes, and he and Aoi are driven to the station by the second son (who is an awful driver) where they’ll return home to await the next case.

This episode dragged a bit in the middle as Holmes interrogated everyone, and the animation was pretty damn rough (how I wish these stories were in the hands of someone with some visual flair) but the case was clever enough, and despite his flaws Holmes remains a charming young scamp.

Attack on Titan – 15

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Eren’s first big mission as a newly-minted member of the Scout Regiment is…cleaning a dusty old castle that once served as the Regiment’s HQ. It’s not glamorous, but it is a good opportunity for him to meet his new comrades, among them Petra, Oulo, Eld, and other people with funny names.

But despite those funny names, they’re all elite soldiers with dozens of Titan kills and perhaps hundreds of assists between them. Whatever his status is here (and it’s not high), he intends to soak up as much as he can from these veterans of his calling.

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After dinner, those veterans clear out when Eren shows curiosity in Hange Zoe’s activities experimenting on Titans. Hange ends up talking to Eren the entire night before she’s to perform some tests on him to get a better idea of what the regiment has to work with. She also proves to be the most knowledgeable person on the Titans either he or we have yet encountered.

Not only that, Hange is a very odd duck in a regiment full of ’em, but there’s a method to her madness. As she tells Eren, she enlisted and was once driven solely by hatred for humanity’s “mortal enemy,” but the closer she got to the Titans, and the more she learned about them, the more the hate faded and the desire to learn still more grew. They may be a voracious plague on mankind, but that doesn’t change the fact that Titans are inscrutable, wondrous creatures.

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Part of that wonder is derived from the fact that Titans are so light for their size, which makes Hange consider the possibility that they way humans perceive Titans and the way Titans really are may be two completely different things. The show has been so extremely stingy with solid info on the Titans, so theories of this nature burnish their mystique.

Fear and rage haven’t gotten humans far, so she has always strove to study them from a different perspective, and with that has come an ungrudging admiration of and affection for her “subjects”. I never thought Titans could be portrayed with something like compassion, but Hange’s interaction with them does just that.

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So when, the morning after the whole night she talked Eren’s ear off, those subjects, named Sonny and Bean, are discovered having been murdered, she’s genuinely devastated and flips out. Meanwhile, Erwin seems to have a plan that diverges from the “company line”, which Mike has sniffed out. No doubt Eren is integral to that plan, whatever it consists of.

Eren has learned in no time at all that he’s in a strange place full of intrigue among strange people who want to use him for one reason or another. He’s passed the Don’t-Get-Eaten-By-A-Titan Test, but surviving in a swirling sea of eccentric, erratic, and ambitious personalities is a whole new ballgame.

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Owarimonogatari – 01 (First Impressions)

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Owari means “end”, so it looks like this latest story marks the beginning of the end of the Monogatari series, which is celebrated as an epic masterpiece by some (ahem) but derided as a tedious, talky, overwrought glorified harem piece by others (…jerks!), with any number of less extreme opinions in between.

The cold open and tremendous OP indicate the primary subject of this series will be the enigmatic, doll-like, too-long-sleeved niece of Oshino Meme, Oshino Ougi, with a theme of mathematics, or numbers. But in a change from other recent series, Ougi isn’t the one with the problem, i.e. the oddity/apparition.

Rather, the person with the problem is Araragi Koyomi himself. The setting of the episode is deceptively sparse—a locked classroom they can’t exit—but that classroom becomes the perfect stage for a dialogue that expands the setting across space and time, where Ougi establishes from Araragi’s testimony that the classroom itself is an apparition, likely one of Araragi’s own making.

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Combined with a less-rushed (for a weekly show) 48-minute runtime and a couple new takes sparkling visuals This latest narrative twist in the Monogatari formula keeps things fresh and exciting. The series has aired largely out of order, but there’s something both orderly and poetic about saving the end for last, only to go back two years to an experience that changed his outlook on life significantly and causing him to “put a lid on his heart”; at least until he meets Hanekawa Tsubasa.

There’s a new face in this past story, too: the silver-twin-tailed Oikura Sodachi (very appropriately voiced by Kitsu Chiri herself, Inoue Marina). Two years ago, when she and Araragi were first-years, she assembled the class to ascertain the culprit in wrongdoing that led to an unnatural deviation in the math test scores of the class.

Oikura can also be distinguished by her intense dislike, even hatred of Araragi Koyomi, because he always scored higher than her favorite subject, math. To add insult to injury, Araragi didn’t even participate in the suspect study group. But the assembly goes nowhere for two hours, with the students fiercely debating but not coming any closer to discovering the culprit.

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Oikura made Araragi preside over the assembly, but when he loses control, he goes back her her pleading for an end to this unfruitful madness. She relents, calling for a vote…and SHE is the one the class chooses as the culprit. Stunned, and essentially ruined as a student, she never returns to school after the incident, which makes sense as we’ve never seen her before in later series.

Araragi’s regret from the day of that accursed assembly was that he stood by and allowed the majority to make a determination in total absence of empirical evidence. Oikura was only chosen because most of the class chose her. It’s an artificial justice and righteousness that never sat well with justice-obsessed Araragi, who adpoted the motto “If I make friends, my strength as a human decreases,” which he obviously would later drop once started helping out various oddity-afflicted girls.

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Oikura wouldn’t let anyone leave the classroom until the culprit was found, and they “found” her. Likewise, Araragi can’t leave the phantom classroom his regret created until the true culprit is revealed. Ougi wastes no time deciding it was the math teacher, Komichi Tetsujo, who was responsible for the odd test scores, by changing the exam to match the questions the study group used.

In the end, Oikura organized the venue of her own demise, the assembly, as she was sacrificed by a teacher looking to improve her own stature, and the flawed justice of majority rule. And perhaps she miscalculated because she had so much emotional investment in the investigation, due to her resentment of fellow math whiz Araragi.

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Now that Araragi knows the culprit for sure, the classroom returns to normal coloring, and Ougi opens the door and lets him out. The next day, when he checks the part of the school where the classroom was, there was nothing there; the apparition dissipated. Then he stops by his current homeroom, but in a clever inversion of the episode thus far, rather than being unable to exit, he can’t enter.

That’s because Tsubasa is blocking the door, with news that someone has returned to school after two years: Oukura Sodachi, who arrives just as the teacher who destroyed her departs for maternity leave, as if the two were switching places. This should be interesting.

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Danganronpa: The Animation – 03

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The classroom trials begin with many suspecting Naegi as Maizono’s murderer. However, as the events of the evening are reconstructed  the students determine that Maizono acquired the knife that killed her from the kitchen, attempted to lure someone into her room (actually Naegi’s), but was overpowered and killed by her would-be victim. Kirigiri and Naegi determine this was Leon: Maizono wrote his name upside down on the wall, Leon used his toolkit to unscrew the door he thought was locked, and he used his pitching skills to throw evidence into the incinerator. The students vote and Leon is found guilty. Monokuma executes him with a million fungoes.

We don’t have the best deductive reasoning and probably wouldn’t make terrific detectives, so we found the gradual the process this episode and the students go through to find the culprit both fascinating and clever, in that it introduced several potential clues last week and then expounded on them here. For his part, until the evidence starts to build against him, Leon keeps his cool, and when he doesn’t, it’s great to watch him squirm as it becomes obvious to all that he did it. Leon really got the short end of the stick, as he wasn’t trying to kill anyone that night, but Maizono was, and he had no choice but to defend himself. Maizono had a plan Naegi didn’t see coming, but wouldn’t go so far as to say Maizono betrayed Naegi by trying to frame him, because, well, she failed.

Kirigiri says this was because she was hesitant, both to kill someone and to frame Naegi for it. The need to escape and save her friends meant she had at least some will to kill, but the situation she ended up in – trying to stab a baseball star who had a decorative sword to defend himself – her hesitation got her killed. Had she truly been willing to kill someone and throw Naegi under the bus, she’d have succeeded, and been present at the trial to do so. She didn’t, which means she’s worth avenging. Naegi also rejects the cool, pragmatic Kirigiri’s advice to overcome the deaths that have and will occur. The righteous Naegi vows to drag all the deaths with him all the way to the exit…whether that’s the front door or his grave.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • The trial featured some very diverse animation choices, going inked manga style for scenarios, using lots of game show like cheesy graphics, and finally a very bizarre and elaborate execution scene making heavy used of 3D CGI.
  • The trial also featured many characters simply chiming in with some stupid line like “it’s like, obviously Naegi, right?” When they blurt out who they think the culprit is without knowing the facts of the murder, it makes them look foolish, since all their lives are on the line.
  • Kirigiri really helps Naegi out this week, not only in steering the suspicion away from him, but helping to steer it towards Leon. She’s also seemed to have taken an extended interest in his well-being and potential, as her post-trail visit proves.
  • The upside-down square numbers 11037 spelling out LEON – didn’t see that coming. Go ahead, berate us (just kidding, please don’t!)

Hyouka – 10

Oreki details his dismissal of the amateur detectives’ theories with Irisu over tea, and she tells him she knew they’d fail, which is why she sought him – not the classics club – out. She coaxes him to stay on the case, and he comes in to school to do just that, shocking Fukube and Mayaka. Re-watching the video with Mayaka’s suggestions and Fukube’s notes at hand, he figures it out: the culprit is none of the six actors, but a seventh actor – the one behind the camera. With this in mind, the film is completed and shown to a satisfied audience at the festival. But there is one thing Oreki forgot about: the rope Hongou requested.

A student who is always ignored by his/her classmates follows them to a seedy theatre. They know he’s there, but aside from a momentary glance they pretend he isn’t. Suddenly, the kid pops, and when everyone else is out of sight, he kills one of them and makes it look like a locked room mystery. It’s a home run of conclusion that seems to fit all the facts, and even more impressive is how quickly Oreki comes up with it, drawing from everything he’s seen and everything he’s heard. The rope question is a hole, but as the original intent was to make a successful film, it didn’t matter. Or does it?

This episode was a turning point for Oreki. Chitanda wasn’t here this week to flash those majo shojo doe eyes at him (she was hungover). It’s Irisu who exhibits confidence in him he never had himself; who tells him to take pride in his talent; who calls him extraordinary numerous times for dramatic effect. Oreki’s never done anything he didn’t have to, but now he finds that solving mysteries is not only something he has to do, but something he wants to. He may have given the film a culprit, an ending, and even a title (Out of Sight, Out of Mind; heh heh), but the thing he wants and needs most of all is to find out the truth.


Rating: 9 (Superior)