Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 14 – Forest of Illusion

CCS:CC is a show replete with beautiful pastels and idyllic scenes of Sakura’s lovely, happy life, but from its first moments this is an episode that throws a number of strange and even unsettling images into the mix, starting with Sakura waking up to find Meiling and Kero-chan right in her face, trying to compete to see who has the more intense face (it causes the first of ten Sakura “hoeees!” in the ep).

Sakura with her new ‘do and Meiling meet up with their friends at a shrine market, but Syaoran is running late because he’s doing some rather intense magical training, no doubt to be able to support Sakura when the going gets tough.

It’s a fun and pleasant day as usual, until Sakura and only Sakura starts seeing animal ears and tails on all of her friends. They even start “talking” like the animals they represent, until the very environment around them starts to blur and twist and Sakura finds herself in a great grassy valley with a planet in the purple sky.

This is one of the trippiest cards since the Escher-esque labyrinth, and Sakura doesn’t have a clue where she is and how to change her increasingly animal friends back. She can’t even catch up to them, as they scatter and run when she approaches, eventually settling down at the base of a massive baobab tree.

Sakura is scared, and things suddenly get scarier. A storm swoops in, and a lightning bolt splits the tree in pieces, causing it to burst into flames. As it begins to fall on her animalized friends, time suddenly stops, and Syaoran literally tears through the fabric of the environment to join Sakura.

The time magic he used has gassed him, and the magic won’t last long but he still manages to calm a panicking Sakura down with a big hug, urging her to control her breathing and think about the situation. Sakura realizes she wanted to go to the zoo, so the card turned her friends into animals. When she became scared, it made things scarier.

Once sufficiently calm, Sakura is able to break out of the illusion and secure the “Mirage” card that caused all of the trouble. Everyone ends up back at the shrine, none the worse for wear save Syaoran, who is still exhausted from his use of powerful magic.

Meiling acknowledges her cousin Syaoran doing his best for Sakura’s sake (and the fact he calls her “Sakura”), while expressing her aggravation that she has no magic with which to help out. Still, neither Meiling nor any of Sakura or Syaoran’s friends need magic to support them; their friendship is something worth becoming stronger to protect.

I imagine Sakura will have to grow stronger still in order to face whatever nefariousness Yuna D. Kaito is up to.

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Juuni Taisen – 12 (Fin)

 

In the finale, we spend virtually the entire time inside Nezumi’s head as he ponders which of the one hundred wishes he has will be the one he asks Duodecuple to grant as a reward for his winning the Juuni Taisen.

For all that inner monologue, we don’t learn anything about Nezumi’s past, only his very mundane present, in which he attends high school and stands out mostly due to how antisocial he is.

We see his ability in action on more than one occasion as he weighs his options, and early on these are mostly frivolous, such as wishing for everyone in his class to die, or for the skirt of only girl who talks to him to flip up in front of him.

But the more he wracks his brain trying to think of a proper wish, the more rationales he comes up with to render those wishes undesirable—living forever; remaining young forever; making everyone happy; gaining the ability to survey a thousand possibilities instead of a hundred—they all have their cons that leads to their dismissal.

He considers the wishes of the other, now-slain warriors, which is interesting because throughout his ninety-nine failed attempts to win, he manages to interact peacefully with each and every one of his eleven adversaries. In a way, that’s rather apropos, since at one point or another everyone has to deal with rats.

In one of those deleted possibilities, Tora tells him how her wish is to fight beside (or possibly against) Ushii; it’s a wish that’s actually granted in the timeline Nezumi ultimately goes with. Tora turned out to be my favorite of the twelve warriors, so it’s gratifying to hear that despite losing the competition, her wish was fulfilled and she died without regrets.

If there’s one thing this final episode makes clear, it’s that Nezumi’s ability is a curse, since he remembers everything that could have happened but didn’t. So the wish he ultimately comes up with—to be able to forget everything that’s happened, or might’ve happened—seems like the best way to go. After all, his memories of all those countless deleted possibilities hampered his ability to choose any other wish.

By the time he’s counted up to 99, he’s an exhausted fellow seemingly on the verge of mental breakdown. Being allowed to forget it all is a tremendous relief even his classmates notice when he’s happily dozing at his desk.

With a RABUJOI Score well under 7.5 and a MAL Score of barely 7, Juuni Taisen was never in danger of winning any “Anime of the Year” awards. Of the shows we haven’t dropped this Fall, it’s the lowest-rated.

The reason I stuck with JT was its efficient and reliable structure: twelve episodes, twelve characters, eleven all-but guaranteed deaths, and one winner. Many of those characters and their backstories were serviceable, particularly those of Niwatori, Sharyu, and Tora. The CGI-assisted combat was also a strong suit (though IMO there wasn’t enough of it).

I wish Ushii and Usagi had gotten proper backstories. The wish-granting ability of Duodecuple was way too broad. Nothing really came of the silly oligarch gambling angle. But Juuni Taisen was still a fun, if flawed, ride.

 

Kino no Tabi – 09

This week we get five stories in one, as Kino jumps from country to country and character to character in a what ends up a bit of a “beautiful world grab bag.” The first story is told from the perspective of two bandits, a student and an elder. The student wrongly assumes both Shizu’s party and Kino are appropriate “prey”, but the elder knows better from a look.

Cute and alone Kino may be, but if she’s alone, it’s because she’s capable of traveling alone, which means she can handle herself. Ditto Ti, holding her hand grenade, and Shizu, who may only be a swordsman but isn’t the type to be defeated by bullets alone. The elder learned a lot after wrongly believing Kino’s master and her apprentice were prey, but turned out to be “devils”.

A neat little outside look at Kino and Shizu. Next up: a country where people accrue “virtue points” to determine status based on good deeds. Points are deducted for crimes, but it’s a system in which it’s possible to accure enough points over a lifetime to exceed those that would be deducted for killing someone.

That’s the dilemma an old man Kino meets is facing, and indeed, he originally approached her with the intent to kill, which is why Kino never took her hand off her gun. The man laments his inabilty to kill anyone as a failure in life, for he’ll die wasting all the accrued points.

That was a bit silly and weird, but at least had a nice Kino moment of a seemingly nice guy turning out to be much darker. The third segment involves Kino’s visit to a “country of cooking” where a council of chefs begs her to cook a dish for them.

Hermes worries for the country, because apparently Kino’s cooking sucks (har har). However, the country buys into her super-spicy chicken, though another traveler comes along and makes a milder version that’s equally popular.

The fourth segment is the shortest, as Shizu, Tifana and Riku arrive in a city with giant statues people attach wishes to so they’ll come true. Ti decides to wish for “everyone’s wishes to come true”, which earns her many thanks and approving words from the folks around her. Of course, Ti only made that wish because she believes it’s all bullshit anyway.

Finally, Kino enters a country her master once mentioned as a place of “beautiful memories”, moreso than any other country. And yet, Kino was never able to get any actual info about the country out of her master. When Kino enters and seemingly immediately exits through the other gate, she learns why.

Upon entering the country, visitors must agree to have all of their memories of their stay wiped if they wish to stay. Kino agreed, which is why she remembers nothing. Hermes, whose memories weren’t wiped, nevertheless won’t tell Kino because he promised the country he wouldn’t and isn’t one to go back on his word.

All he can say is that she enjoyed herself, perhaps more than any other country they’ve visited. The details of that enjoyment, however, remain classified, though she was allowed to leave with a crude drawing of her posing with people she must’ve met there.

The end credits came a message from Kino’s original creator, Sigsawa Keiichi; an “anime afterword” consisting of words of encouragement for anyone seeking to make their dreams come true, as they apparently did for him. Well…good for him, and thanks for writing Kino so we could have this anime! It just seemed strange to get such a message when there’s still a quarter of a season left to watch…

Juuni Taisen – 02

Poor Boar is now a puppet of Rabbit’s along with Snake; he’s in the lead. Turns out Monkey (Shuryuu) interrupted her own attempt to form a pacifist alliance by smashing the floor. In doing so, she thwarted a preemptive strike she sensed from one of the others, though apparently she doesn’t suspect the sleepy Rat (Nezumi).

Having holed up in an underground parking garage, Dog (Dotsuku) is our primary POV character this week, and we hear more of his inner thoughts than the words of anyone else. Upon meeting Chicken (Niwatori), he believes he’s better off agreeing to her request to team up, as she possesses a valuable skill by which she can see through the eyes of all of the birds in the city; pretty handy.

Unfortunately for Dog, he’s too confident he can control Niwatori, to the point he’s drugging her with a supersoldier “poison” that powers her up and leads to her crushing his face. Whether Chicken was putting on a meek innocent act all along until then or really couldn’t control the strength Dog gave her, it looks like Dog is now out of the game, marking the second straight POV character who fell by spending too much time in their head and not enough time being very careful.

I don’t know if the same pattern will be followed next week or the week after that, but I got an odd, satisfying feeling of finality from both Boar and Dog’s stories this week; they went as far as they could go, even if they didn’t know they were at the end of their respective roads until it was too late to turn back. There’s a super-abridged version near the end of Horse seeking out Ox as a fellow “moderate”, only to be charged at by Ox like the train behind him.

The only alliance that seems reliable is the one between Rabbit, Snake and Boar, and you can’t really call it that since Snake and Boar no longer have free will, heartbeats, or jewels in their chests. Nevertheless, I liked the parting shot that combined bloody horror of an undead Boar with a Hitchcockian mass of birds surrounding her.

Considering the ominous calculation of this parting scene, I’d wager SuperChicken is primed to peck somebody.

Juuni Taisen – 01 (First Impressions)

“My, such a new building, completely abandoned.” A curious opening line, as the entire city surrounding the building is similarly abandoned. The building, and the city, have been prepared for the Holy Grail Zodiac War, and this lady, “The Boar”, is one of its twelve participants, all with an animal aesthetic matching a certain sign of the Chinese Zodiac.

My immediate thought was this is a Fate-style Battle Royale, with anthropomorphized Zodiac signs instead of historical figures. There’s a (mostly) civil opening ceremony (only one person is dead before the official start) with an “Observer” named Duodecuple. Rather than command seals, each warrior gets a black jewel they must swallow. Whoever collects all eleven jewels (presumably by cutting them out of people) will get one wish of their choice.

We’re even introduced to The Boar as her backstory cuts in and out of the present-day festivities, explaining how she, and not the little sister her abusive asshole father chose, is the Ino Family representative in the Juuni Taisen. Basically, she ordered her sister to kill more and more people in more gruesome ways until she finally went mad and killed herself. So we know this Boar lady is someone who won’t even let blood get in the way of achieving her goals. She’s also, well, pretty goddamn evil.

We only get the slightest bits and pieces from the other eleven members, (whose character designs range from boring and obvious to outrageously wacky) through Boar’s lens, though she clearly has it in for Monkey, who has a Class Rep aura about her, and asks if anyone will help her win so she can wish to bring everyone back. Ultimately only the narcoleptic and the singularly crazed, half-naked Rabbit-Boy (who already killed someone) join her.

Then the ground literally opens up around the twelve, resulting in a bit of chaos Boar thinks she’s prepared for, what with her dual automatic rifles with unlimited ammo. However, she didn’t consider that Bunny killed the guy so he could turn him into a zombie thrall, which is what he does because he’s a necroman”tist” (not “cer”).

All of a sudden, the one character we’ve spent any meaningful time with, and the only one whose thoughts we’ve heard, is on the edge of death at the very beginning. She pegged herself as one of the top 3 challengers in this battle, but…here we are.

Juuni Taisen is, in a word, serviceable. It looks very nice, with imaginative and often just-plain-weird design by the creator of Arakawa Under the Bridge and some very smooth and competent combat animation.

Cons include the Boar not being that likable a character and there being nothing about this premise that’s particularly original or exciting. But as it airs on Tuesday, which is, in my experience, usually a light day for anime, so…we’ll see.

Sousei no Onmyouji – 14

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After last week’s big battle and catharsis, we were due for a break at the show’s midpoint. SnO tries to make the recapping medicine go down easier by surrounding it with Tanabata festivities, but they only comprise about half of the episode, making this a half-recap requiring lots of fast-forwarding.

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The Tanabata content also rehashes Rokuro’s triangle with Benio and Mayura, but there just hasn’t been enough of Mayura for me to harbor any hope whatsoever that Mayura will have any success in that arena, despite the wish on the back of her tanzaku.

As for “Ohagi-Man”, the bit is funny at first (especially Rokuro’s running commentary), but grows repetitive fast. Checking in on the various adults guiding Rokuro and Benio doesn’t really result in any new insights; they’re just here to recap what’s happened.

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The episode ends on a nice note, with both Rokuro and Benio, having procrastinated what to wish for all night, gaze up at Altair and Vega, and both privately wish for the same thing: to become stronger with one another.

It seems they will certainly have to become stronger, with many foes and battles looming on the horizon. But whether they’ll ever become a true couple capable of producing a child—the Miko—is not addressed here.

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Big Order – 03

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Apologies to fans of this show and its source manga: this write-up is a bit harsh. -Ed.

Feelings—especially on anime—can be fickle, changing from week to week, and Big Order’s dominating spell wore off fast. It’s fitting that it shares its initials—B.O.—with body odor, because this show smells bad, in a way that makes me feel icky and want to keep my distance.

Perhaps foremost among its sundry problems is its ridiculous free-wheeling nature. Eiji wants to save his sister, and Rin wants to kill Eiji, but beyond that, the show is all over the place, with the attention span of a child and the petty sadism of a teenager burning bugs with a magnifying glass.

Rin is imprisoned, but in her panties, in a refrigerated padded room. Why? The Prime Minister opens negotiations by executing the family members of the Group of Ten, to “test” whether they’re actually under Eiji’s domain.

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The heads that are sliced off are real, but when Eiji shoots the Group of Ten, he stops the bullets from killing them while keeping up the fiction he’s someone to be feared. But to what end?

How in God’s name is Kyushu supposed to conquer the world, especially when the crack team of soldiers who accompany Eiji and Rin haven’t the slightest loyalty to him and turn tail at the slightest hint of danger? Why a giant CGI rock monster?

These are not good questions, and it is not a good show that raises them. I don’t care about the answers, because the show doesn’t seem to care either. It just seems to want to shock, only doesn’t have the firepower or gravitas to come close to doing so.

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The casual violence (often accompanied by goofy upbeat jazzy music) seems like an ill-conceived attempt to be “edgy”, but it just comes off as silly and idiotic, which can also be said for Iyo, a seemingly capable miko-type character who melts into a puddle and becomes freaking pregnant when Eiji touches her bunny-ear ribbon. Just…what? 

I don’t want to find out how Eiji deals with the huge-nippled Order controlling the rock monster. It will probably involve breaking out his lame-looking CGI mummy dude, yelling “ORDER!” and poof, putting yet another woman under his thrall.

If it’s all the same to you, I’m going to spare myself any more of BO’s dopey, trying-too-hard faux-edginess. Like I said – its spell wore off quickly.

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Big Order – 02

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Well, that was an…err…interesting sequence of events. If the plot of Big Order continues to be as erratic and silly as this week, watching a lot more of it is going to be a tall order. We start with Eiji successfully achieivng “domain” over Rin by making it impossible for her to kill him, which is the only damn thing she wanted to do by wishing to be immortal.

One could ask why she didn’t simply wish the person who destroyed the world would die, full stop—but I guess she wanted to do it personally, and now it’s backfired on her big-time. By the way, I’ve gotta wonder if the directors told Mikami Shiori to scream in such a way as it sounds like equal parts pain and pleasure…because that’s what came through.

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While Rin can’t kill Eiji, she still wants to, desperately, and so after they’re both taken prisoner by one of her comrades who can stop time (which, like Eiji and Rin’s powers, seems way too powerful a power), and she busts him out, they take the most dangerous route out of the bowels of the government office, so that she can try several different methods of killing him indirectly.

Her numerous failed attempts to cheat are one of the highlights of the episode, as it’s servicable black comedy to see Rin try and try again to get Eiji killed, only to get killed herself in almost every way imaginable, then restore herself. I gotta hand it to the creator: having an immortal sidekick who wants to kill the MC but can’t is a pretty delicious premise.

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Unfortunately, the episode quickly gets glommed up with all kinds of other shit, and the Eiji & Rin show I was enjoying is pushed to the sides in favor of a larger scheme by Rin’s superiors, the Group of Ten.

Under their orders, time-stopping guy Fran has Sena in stasis, holding back her six-month shelf life. In exchange, they’re prepared to finish what Eiji started, naming him their puppet king, declaring their jurisdiction (Kyushu) an independent nation, and declaring war on the rest of the world.

After introducing all ten people with graphics and their plan with lots of explanations and maps, my head was spinning a bit, wanting it all to just stahp for a second and let me regroup.

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But like Eiji, the Group of Ten’s plan would not wait, and he sees no other option but to put the Ten under his domain, sticking them with his tendrils (including in a naughty place for one of the female members) and officially making them his.

Their fates would now seem to be tied together, though considering how Rin acted after he domain’d her, and the knowing smirk from his new chief of staff Hiiragi, I’m inclinded to doubt Eiji’s reign will be a long and smooth one.

‘Smooth’ is not a word I’d use to describe this episode. More like crude, rude, and chaotic. The snowballing plot is mildly goofy, there were too many character intros packed in, Eiji’s not particularly likable, his interactions with women leave a bad aftertaste, and the CGI monster-packed action is often too abstract. We’ll see if any of this improves next week when Eiji’s rule begins in earnest.

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Big Order – 01 (First Impressions)

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From the artist behind Mirai Nikki comes a story about people called Orders who can turn their wishes into powers thanks to the mysterious, annoying Daisy. Ten years ago, Hoshimiya Eiji believes she made his wish to become a TV antihero come true, leading to the near-destruction of the world, the death of his parents, and the hospitalization of his brocon sister.

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One day a ridiculously out-of-the-entire-school’s-league cutie transfers to his class and follows him home, claiming she lives above him and broke her key. When he opens his door, she shocks him, then reveals her true face: she’s an assassin sent to get rid of him. Or wait, she’s there for revenge for her dead parents.

In any case, the initially pure and innocent cutie who turns out to be sadistic and homicidal is nothing new, and I’m not sure at this point what if anything Rin adds to the conversation. I will say that I did not expect Eiji to inadvertently kill her with her own blade via the more focused use of his power, visualized by a glowing medallion on his hand.

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Rin steps out of Yuno’s shadow a bit by later revealing she can’t be killed; she’s an Order to, who gained the ability to instantly regenerate from even serious wounds. She shows more cold cruelty by stabbing Eiji’s sister Sena in the back, using her as bait to draw Eiji to her and her assembled army dudes.

(Rin is part of some military/paramilitary cadre of Orders, who all look like a bunch of weirdos. She’s a second lieutenant, so pretty low on the food chain).

After Eiji’s initial rage at seeing Sena maimed subsides, Daisy visits him and makes a slight mod to his powers, reducing their range considerably so he won’t lose control like ten years ago (why ten years had to pass for any of this to come down on him isn’t clear).

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Eiji is done being Mr. Nice Guy. His wish, which had remained a secret the whole episode, is revealed as “world domination.” As such, his powers give him dominion over anywhere he goes, and over anyone or anything in that vicinity. Unfortunately for Rin and her troops, that includes physics, which means bullets fired at Eiji do not reach him.

Now that the beast has been awakened, he gets his ‘tentacles of domination’ into Rin (in a fairly suggestive cut to black), I suspect he’ll have dominion over her as well.

I mean, this show is awfully on-the-nose and trying too hard to be edgy at times, but is better-looking and has more interesting (and far fewer!) characters than Mayoiga, plus I enjoyed Mirai Nikki well enough…so I believe I’ll give this late starter a try. At the very least I’m interested to see if Eiji joins Rin’s little org…or simply turns them into his peons.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 19

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Due to the Dort excursion, it’s been a while since the last big space battle. I was hungry for a new one, and this show delivered a feast with its usual excelent timing. Before the battle commences, however, Kudelia gets her long overdue handshake with Mika.

In her first such attempt (in the very first episode), Mika demurred because his hand was dirty, but she never cared about dirt, and now her hands are dirty too, and whatever their personal inadequacies tell them, they’re on more equal terms than ever, with a united cause.

Kudelia also warmly thanks Orga and Tekkadan for getting her this far (and she’s sure they’ll take her further still), promising to make them all happy. As she glances at Fumitan’s empty chair, it’s also clear she doesn’t want her maid’s sacrifice be in vain, any more than all the other people whose blood is on – and dreams are in – her hands.

We also get a nice symmetry between Commander Carta Issue, who choreographs her men as part of their preparations for battle, and Eugene getting all fired up on Isaribi. Both strive to meet their personal ideal of cool to all around them. Eugene wants to be like Orga. Carta, as it happens, wants to show how far she’s come to McGillis and Gaelio.

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I always knew McGillis and Gaelio went way back, but now we see there was a third member of their childhood clique, the lovely (but also tomboyish in the day) Carta, who is spellbound the moment she first lays eyes on the newly adopted/arrived McGillis.

In the present, she’s pissed McGillis chose Gaelio’s little sister instead of her, and in order to further his career, no less. But Carta herself was only given Ariadne fleet command because of her silver (as opposed to iron) blood. Gaelio sees her as a figurehead, but she takes her role seriously.

As he watches the confrontation unfold between Tekkadan and Carta, McGillis (AKA “Montag”) monologues the importance of “unveiling the past” of those one wishes to predict and control. At the same time, living in the murky past “wastes” the bright future. He’s hoping Tekkadan is taking steps forward, and wants to see that he’s right.

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Speaking of a waste, just imagine if Tekkadan had the manpower and firepower at Carta’s disposal. Carta is rusty, if her blade was ever sharp to begin with. Earth’s orbit may be “her sky” to her and her loyal men, but that title had probably never been challenged in any way until now.

Some may decry how poorly she performs here as making it too easy for Tekkadan to succeed, but I take a different tack: there are good and bad, experienced and inexperienced commanders in Gjallarhorn. Her ability simply doesn’t match (or frankly justify) her arrogance or theatricality.

Faced with an unpredictable and fully committed opponent, Carta is outmaneuvered by “old school” tactics such as the Isaribi using the Brewers’ ship as a physical shield from long-range bombardment, which when destroyed releases a huge cloud of nano-mirror chaff that blinds the fleet, giving Tekkadan time to get the landing party into position.

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To pull off these tactics, Eugene had to control both ships with his A-V system, which takes him to the extent he looks like he’s just seen up someone’s skirt by the time he’s finished. Hopefully, he’ll be okay. The landing party, guarded by Shino, Akihiro, and Mika, is then ambushed by Gaelio and Ein, who in hindsight doesn’t seem so much obsessed with revenge here and now as he is eager to prove to Gaelio that he’s worthy of the trust and opportunities bestowed on him.

In the cold open Eugene and Shiro threw what you might call death flags, but since this is IBO not all death flags are genuine. Nevertheless, with so many people in play, I figured someone else we care about was going to die in this battle, especially when the transport carrying Orga, Kudelia, Atra, Biscuit, and Merribit is targeted. Enter the cavalry: Laffter and Azee, piloting suits modified so as not to tip off Teiwaz involvement.

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Ein has always been an intriguing if one-note character, but he faces another serious setback here as his suit and his body are pierced by Mika when he jumps in front of Gaelio to protect him. Like Carta, Ein simply can’t back up his rage and enthusiasm with actual ability. I doubt he’s dead dead, but he’s in bad shape, and now Gaelio has a another reason to want Tekkadan blood.

When Carta sends out her mobile suit forces, elite though they may be (or believe themselves to be) they can’t hang with Mika, especially when Montag joins the fray (in what I’m guessing is a suit that disguises his identity from Gaelio and Carta, whose reactions to his involvement aren’t seen). One of Carta’s pilots actually does give Mika a pretty hard time, making him miss his opportunity to use the transport ship as a atmospheric entry shield (Barbatos won’t make it on its own).

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Things look bleak for Mika (whose handshake with Kudelia could also be considered a death flag), especially when he thinks back to the convo he had with Orga back when the were kids, which set them on this course. But Mika’s not ready to say goodbye to the world yet; not when he hasn’t yet seen with his own eyes the place they belong Orga talked about.

So as the transport occupants worry and fear the worst during the long, violent atmospheric entry, Mika hitches himself to the mobile suit of the guy he defeated and uses it as an ablative heat shield, safely emerging not long after the transport. Kudelia, Atra, Orga…they’re all elated. Another close call, that’s all. Now, after that exciting space battle, our people are finally on Earth, where several new battles will commence.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 14

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Nagato Yuki-chan’s last episode was so awesome, it would have made a fine end to the series, and part of me kinda wished it was, as I’ve got a full Summer plate. This week didn’t reach the dizzying dramatic highs of last week, it did make me glad after all we got three more episodes.

It was worth it just to see Ryoko welcome Yuki home, with a blend of joy and sadness in her eyes even a dope like Yuki can pick up on. Indeed, she doesn’t remember anything about the time her other self took over, or even the dream in which her other self explains things to her.

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But Kyon remembers, and he hasn’t been able to help but act differently around Yuki ever since. He also stares at the call log entry, as if it’s the entry of someone deceased. In a way, it is; Kyon wants to be able to believe New and Old Yuki were separate people with separate sets of feelings, but he can’t. Like Ryouko, he’s found he likes both equally, and the more they think about it, the more confused they get.

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New Yuki’s words let something in Kyon out that he can’t put back in or compartmentalize behind his stoic surface. It’s plain to see, especially from the newly-returned Haruhi, whose return I thought would be a pain but turned into a wonderful change of perspective, a marvelous use of Haruhi’s character beyond mere comic relief, and a resumption of the love triangle. Haruhi, like Kyon, is dealing with feelings she has for someone who doesn’t remember the same things about him that she does.

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The day they hold Tanabata celebrations is the fourth anniversary of Haruhi meeting Kyon, helping her paint messages to aliens in the schoolyard, and telling he he has no reason not to believe aliens are out there somewhere. He came into her life at a time when she was starting to feel the “senselessness” of her earlier youth give way to more and more common sense, leading to despair.

And he saved her from that despair. She hasn’t forgotten, but he has. People don’t need random car accidents to forget moments that are important to the ones they love. All it takes is time. It’s kind of heartbreaking: even if Haruhi brought up that day to Kyon and he remembered, it wouldn’t change the fact that he forgot in the first place.

But here’s the thing: that past Kyon wasn’t in love with Haruhi. Both Yukis love/d Kyon, and Kyon loves/d both Yukis. They’ve got two episodes to figure out what to /do about it!

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Re-Kan! – 12

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Hibiki is lost and anxious without her sixth sense, and it puts her in the nurse’s office, and eventually she stops coming to school altogether. When her living friends pay her a visit, her dad says she’s still processing the shock, and doesn’t want to face those she worried so much.

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Narumi doesn’t give a hoot what Hibiki wants, as long as its so selfless it hurts her. When she hears Hibiki isn’t eating, she whips up the same tamagoyaki he and Hibiki made for lil’ Yuuki way back when (nice continuity!); a recipe she knows to be Hibiki’s mom’s. And then she jams it down Hibiki’s throat.

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Enough’s enough; Narumi’s not going to let Hibiki stop living just because she can’t see or hear the dead anymore. She drags Hibiki out of her gloomy house to show her that the good she’s done stretches far beyond the dearly departed. I for one love how the other friends sit back and let Narumi do her thing; she’s always had the closest bond to Hibiki, tsundereness aside, and it’s great to see her in action.

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Narumi and Hibiki cross paths with numerous such people Hibiki helped connect with their departed loved ones, and had a positive impact on their lives, from the teachers who married and are now expecting, to the Kogal’s mother and the crabby old man. But those were just coincidences, Narumi really wanted to show what making those eggs for Yuuki did; he’s now a tough, happy little brother to his baby sister Kyouka, whose name means “echoing song” and shares a character with Hibiki’s.

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Narumi’s well-made point is that with or without her sixth sense, Hibiki has formed countless bonds with people in her life, including Narumi herself, who sticks with her even though the sixth sense frightened her. Just because she may have lost that sense doesn’t mean she should give up or despair, because she remains connected to those people whose lives she touched, as well as those she can no longer see or hear.

About that…after joining hands with Narumi as she drilled this point home, the clouds broke and all of Hibiki’s ghostly friends return to her side, along with her living friends, who are glad Narumi manages to get the job done.

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While the explanation for this is a bit cloudy, it would seem Hibiki’s mom returned to that spiritual realm where she watches over her daughter, and managed to revive the plant that either represents Hibiki’s life, sixth sense, or both. Meanwhile, all the ghosts completed their transition back to the living world. The whole thing, it would seem, was temporary.

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But there’s nothing temporary about the effect Hibiki’s selfless, caring, kind-hearted acts has on her own life: she was never alone as she feared; her connections with the living and dead endure. It’s a triumphant scene to see such a huge ground assembled around her, and while it might have been interesting to see her accept a life without her sixth sense, I really don’t mind that she got it back, either.

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Re-Kan! – 11

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The Moon Festival has come, and Hibiki is excited because her dad finally found her mother’s handmade decorations. She invites her friends to her home to decorate the tree, eat her special tamagoyaki, and write down their wishes, which she says have traditionally always come true in her family.

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That’s made clear when her wish to have friends is pretty much redundant. Her other wish, written on a very old piece of paper, because it’s an old wish, is one her living friends can’t help her with…but her ghost friends believe they can: meeting her mother. It’s a perfectly normal wish for any girl who has never met her mother, yet Hibiki thinks it’s selfish. Nevertheless, RCS and Kogal travel into the spiritual plane of her mind as she sleeps to try to make it happen.

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There, they find a spiritual Yuuhi, who has been watching over Hibiki her entire life through a mirror in a washitsu, and tending to a morning glory plant that is connected to Hibiki. The plant withers if Yuuhi leaves this room, which is why she’s never been able to fulfill her own wish to hold her daughter.

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RCS and Kogal, along with Ero-Neko and all of Hibiki’s other ghost friends, arrive at Yuuhi’s room to take over for her temporarily so that she can see Hibiki. The scene where the mother and daughter finally meet and embrace is the most moving and powerful yet in a show that’s been full of them. Such a simple wish, fulfilled at last. As Hibiki falls asleep in her mom’s lap, her dad peeks in too, happy the two women in his life were finally able to connect.

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But when Hibiki wakes up the next morning, not only is Yuuhi gone, but all the other ghosts in her life as well. It would seem that the morning glory plant represented her sixth sense, which Yuuhi had been tending all her life, and even the combined spiritual power of her friends wasn’t enough to make up for Yuuhi’s temporary absence, and the plant died.

While Hibiki has lost her sixth sense and thus all her ghostly friends, the fact remains she has a solid group of living friends. The preview for the penultimate episode hints that it will be their turn to help her get that sense back, if they can.

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