Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 11

mgr112

Well, Cranberry didn’t think Swim Swim would be able to kill her, and she was right…but she didn’t account for Tama and her hole-making ability at a crucial moment, leading to the unfortunate state of affairs above, one of the most surprising (not to mention awesomely gruesome) sudden deaths of the show. Cranberry was supposed to be above all this; she was the last girl standing once before, after all. But she wanted to fight strong enemies, and got her wish – and dug her grave in the process. R.I.P. Cranberry.

mgr111a

For her, well, dog-like loyalty (and complete and utter lack of guile), Tama is swiftly dispatched by Swim Swim, ever looking out for Number One. Tama saw Swim Swim’s true form, after all, and one of the edicts the late Ruler instilled in Swim Swim — in real life a small, impressionable, dedicated young girl — was to never let anyone learn your true identity. Swim Swim decided that even meant her last and most loyal ally. R.I.P. Tama.

(Incidentally, we got Tama’s backstory as she bleeds out, confirming her guilelessness and indicating she, like Alice, simply wanted to be useful to people. Pretty rote stuff.)

mgr113

With the shocking exit of Cranberry (and the far less shocking exit of Tama), the last three magical girls remaining are Swimmy, Ripple, and Snow White. Ripple asks Snow to meet, but Ripple just wants any and all intel Snow might have on Swim Swim, nothing more. Snow argues killing Swimmy now will only make Ripple a murderer, but Ripple don’t care. If Snow won’t help her, she’ll go it alone.

mgr114

Ripple seems to live only to avenge her friend and mentor Top Speed, the aftermath of whose death has been hard on her. Snow lost a friend last week in Alice, but it was essentially a friend she didn’t know she had. Swim Swim, showing a tinge of the innocence of her real self, sheds a tear at the loss of Tama, but Tama wasn’t really her friend, either, more of a sidekick.

No, Ripple and Top Speed were the best-realized duo on the show — more even than Snow and Pucelle — and it was something Ripple didn’t know how badly she needed until it was gone. Top Speed could see a side to Ripple — to Sazanami Kano — no one else could, either because they were too busy looking her up and down, or because she wore her mask so well.

mgr115

Interestingly, Ripple gets a full-on Sailor Moon-style transformation sequence prior to heading to the dam to duel Swim Swim. The fact it’s a dam means there’ll be plenty of water there (good for Swimmy), but Ripple at least has the hint from Fav (who seems kinda miffed by Swimmy’s apathy with her new role as master) that light and sound are her weaknesses.

I don’t know who will prevail in that duel: judging from past battles, Swim Swim always seems to get the upper hand in the end, but she’s out of allies and now occupies the same seemingly invincible space Cranberry once stood. I can’t rule out a Ripple victory.

Heck, maybe they kill each other, leaving Snow White as the last girl standing by default. That’s the least satisfying outcome: Snow is still clinging to her ideals of what a Magical Girl should be. It stands to reason a show that loves taking things away would take that away from her before all’s said and done.

16rating_8

Advertisements

Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 10

mgr101

What do we have here? The first magical girl backstory that actually made me feel something, and elicit something other than an indifferent shrug. Like all the other backstories, it still comes too late to be as impactful as it could have been, but it still connected. And what do you know, it’s Hardgore Alice’s alter ego: Hatoda Ako.

One reason Alice looks so dark is because Ako comes from such a dark place. Her father murdered her mother, making her a pariah at school. While her auntie seems nice enough, Ako knows she’s not needed by anyone; she’s just a burden. Then she heard about Snow White, and thought they would make a pretty sweet black-and-white duo.

mgr102

Of course, this is MagiPro, so that turned to shit pretty fast. Mina disguised herself as Alice’s stuffed rabbit in order to learn Ako’s home address. Once Swim Swim knew that, all she had to do was ambush Ako when she wasn’t in her invincible form.

There’s a special twist of the knife in play here, what with Alice trying to reach out to Snow White as a friend, but simply being unable to say the right words at the right time.

That time is when Koyuki is simply freaking out about all the horrible things happening (which is justifiable), but that doesn’t make it any easier when Snow White is holding a bloody, dying Ako in her arms and learns it’s her would-be only friend in the world.

mgr103

That leaves Snow White, Ripple, Swim Swim, Mina, Tama…and Cranberry. And in case you haven’t been paying attention in the last few Cranberry scenes, Cranberry isn’t like the other magical girls. In fact, she seems to be some kind of facilitator from the magical world, overseeing what is in fact a super-bloody selection process that is nearing its end as the ranks dwindle.

For the record, Cranberry would have preferred to simply kill off all the weak ones right away, but has seemingly left the administration of the game to Fav (and whoever is controlling/speaking as Fav).

mgr104

Swim Swim has proven to be a one-girl wrecking crew, and when she comes to Cranberry’s forest to take her down, Cranberry uses is as an opportunity to get to know Swimmy a little better. She’s impressed by her, if not her sidekicks (she kills Mina with ease, in one of the show’s more unceremonious killings), but she still doesn’t think Swim Swim can beat her.

As for Ripple, who is out there on her own with only revenge on her mind, I’m not sure how she’s going to be able to actually exact any on Swim Swim. The first time they fought, Swim seemed to have her number, and that was with Top Speed’s help. And then there’s the possibility Cranberry will kill Swim Swim before Ripple can get to her. In any case, it’s never a dull moment in MagiPro Land.

16rating_8

Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 09

mgr91

Ripple has had it with Calamity Mary, and we finally get a good look at what Ripple can do when she’s seriously cheesed off. Unfortunately for her, like Mary with Alice, she underestimates just how formidable her opponent is. Mary is able to hold her own in close quarters, deflect Ripple’s can’t-miss shuriken, attack from range, and set traps.

mg92

Ripple can’t beat Mary on her own. It takes help from Top Speed, who saves Ripple from a land mine and grenade trap, but then turns around at Ripple’s insistence.

After some failed dive-bombings, Top Speed hovers high over Mary while Ripple rains down thousands of tiny shards of glass, which distract Mary enough for her not to dodge when a shuriken hits her in the forehead, killing her. A violent death for a violent (and not particularly compelling) bad gal.

mgr93

Ripple and Top Speed get to celebrate for all of five seconds when Swim Swim shows up, kills Top Speed, and hassles Ripple until turning to water and slinking away, having greatly weakened her enemy by killing her ally. Swim Swim may be dull and monotone, but she’s also proven to be an stone-cold killah, always thinking steps ahead and trying to be a better Ruler to Ruler.

R.I.P. Top Speed: I should have known the recent cut to your real life, and all the mentions of the six months you needed, meant you weren’t long for this world.

mgr94

This whole time, Snow White and Alice are helping care for the innocent people Mary attacked, and even in peaceful duty like this, Alice’s immense strength and durability comes in handy. She comes in even handier when Snow White is ambushed by a vengeful Minael, who turns into a throwing axe that Alice catches in the same spot Mary took Ripple’s shuriken.

Naturally, since her body regenerates, it’s no biggie for Alice, but the message has been sent: Minael is gunning (or axing) for Snow White, so she’d better watch her righteous back.

Oh and Fav announces (to the surprise of no one) since there’s now fewer than eight magical girls left (seven to be exact), they might as well keep going until there are only four. The gears immediately start turning for Swim Swim, who wants to attack Cranberry next using the magic energy potion. That should be some fight.

16rating_8

Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 08

mgr81

It’s sad to say, but Habutae Nana was definitively the worst thing to ever happen to Ashuu Shizuku. Sure, it’s not entirely Nana’s fault—how could she know the game she was getting her lover involved in would lead to that lover’s death?

But the bottom line is, Nana did get Shizuku involved…then kept helping her enemies by leading Winterprison into ambush after ambush. You’d think Nana would have gotten the memo by now: there will be no peace until there’s one magical girl remaining.

mgr82

Winterprison manages to slip away from Calamity Mary, but when Nana insists they meet with Swim Swim’s crew, the numbers and tactics prove too challenging to escape with her life. Swim Swim is cold, calculating, and obsessed with surpassing Ruler, whom she still admires despite having betrayed and killed her.

Winterprison does not go quietly, taking Yuna down before succumbing to Swim Swim’s blade. Forgive me for not shedding any tears for Yuna, but she and her twin sister Mina have been nothing but amoral, devious little pills for the entire run of the show, and we didn’t even get a glimpse of their human lives.

mgr84

We do get a little snippet of Top Speed AKA Murota Tsubame’s life as a pregnant housewife that makes her husband worry when she runs after him with his lunch. She’s trying to keep Ripple close to increase her chances of staying alive long enough to give birth to her kid, and Ripple seems totally okay with this for now.

mgr85

The episode ends with nine magical girls still alive: Snow White, Hardgore Alice, Calamity Mary, Cranberry, Swim Swim, Mina, Tama, Top Speed and Ripple. One more death and the group will be halved as Fav decreed…but next week’s episode title about a “rule change” probably portends another halving, then another, until there’s only one girl left.

With Hardgore Alice apparently by Snow White’s side, it’s looking more likely than ever that Koyuki will be the one to survive this ordeal. Whether her soul survives is another issue entirely.

Speaking of souls, we learn that in real life Calamity Mary’s husband left her because she’s a drunk who abused their daughter. So naturally Fav thought it would be a great idea to give her more power. But we saw how ineffective that power was against Alice, and Alice seems to be protecting Snow White. We’ll see where this goes.

16rating_8

Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 04

mgr41

In Magipro, Ruler is what Mokuou Sanae can’t be in the real world: in control. She always ranked at the top of her class, but speaking out of turn at the office where she worked got her reassigned by a boss who wanted her to learn her place. She always saw everybody in the world as idiots to be brought to heel. It’s how she ruled as Ruler, and it was her downfall.

mgr42

Getting Ruler’s backstory was a sure sign that she’d be the next victim, despite having come up with a devious scheme to steal Snow White’s Magical Candies. As it happens, her desire to keep distance from her subjects by insulting them at every opportunity became her fatal flaw when she relied on Swim Swim to transfer Snow White’s candies while she held her pose to keep Koyuki from moving (the flipside of her magical power to control).

mgr43

As such, Swim Swim took it upon herself to doublecross Ruler, only taking half of Snow White’s 50,000+ candies and distributing them evenly to all but Snow White herself, La Pucelle…and Ruler. That puts Ruler in last place at the time of the rankings, and it kills her.

Tama seems torn up by the coup, but the twin “angels” are fine with it, and acknowledge Swim Swim as their new leader. In a nice twist, Swim Swim was the young girl who Nemurin said could be a princess if she tried hard enough. But Swim Swim couldn’t be the true Ruler until the old one was eliminated. And so it comes to be.

mgr44

The entire situation disgusts Koyuki, who was ready to die rather than let anyone else die in her place before she learned Swim Swim only took half of her candies. But Souta isn’t so dedicated to Koyuki’s ideals, especially if it means Koyuki’s death. So La Pucelle re-vows to be Snow White’s knight, doing whatever is necessary to keep her alive and safe – whether Snow White wants such treatment or not.

With the sixteenth magical girl entering the field, Koyuki will no doubt continue to need protection, not just from those who would eliminate her, but from her own stubborn refusal to defend herself at the cost of others.

16rating_8

Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 03

mgr31

Once Sister Nana and Winterprison find a recording of Fav telling Cranberry retired Magical Girls die in real life as well, it isn’t long before they make the connection to the sudden real-world death of Sanjou Nemu, and start to worry about their own lives. It’s no longer a fun game. The lives they have as magical girls are the only lives they’ve got..and they’ll have to fight for them.

mgr32

We spend a fair amount of time with Ruler’s gang: twins Yuna and Mina, the doglike Tama, and the quiet but equally loyal Swim Swim. Ruler keeps emotional distance from her “subjects” by calling them idiots and useless, but she clearly cares about them and has taken it upon herself to make sure no one drops out.

Yuna and Mina initially try to depose Snow White with a PV, and get close, finishing second in popularity polls. But once the truth of their plight is out, that petty jealousy is twisted into a competition for their very lives.

mgr33

Koyuki reacts to the news exactly how you’d expect someone with as much purity and empathy as she has: lamenting her situation and even feeling guilty about always taking the top spot.

Souta tells her it’s good and right to feel that way, but for now all they can do is keep surviving for the day they can perhaps find a hole in Fav’s oppressive “that’s the way it is” system. I doubt that will actually happen before most of the girls die, but still! Until then, Souta vows to be Koyuki’s sword.

mgr34

She’ll need it. Ruler wastes no time plotting to exploit the “update” to the game that allows girls to exchange candies. She believes it’s a move by the game’s admins to egg the girls on into taking candies from one another, now that they’re exchangeable. And there’s no more tempting target than Snow White, sitting on hundreds if not thousands of candies, and with no personal desire to hurt her fellow magical girls.

Ruler doesn’t plan to eventually take all of Snow White’s candy. As far as she’s concerned, it’s written in stone that Snow White will die, tonight. She is not messing around, and while her subjects aren’t the most reliable, they are still magical girls with unique powers.

Whether Koyuki survives depends on how capable Souta is of protecting her, as well as how far she’s willing to forsake her cherished ideals of purity, righteousness, and beauty. Because shit’s about to get ugly fast.

16rating_7

Kamisama no Inai Nichiyoubi – 01

sunday11

This past summer was one of our busiest seasons, with fourteen shows to keep track of. We decided not to watch a few series that we probably would have enjoyed, including Sunday Without God. A friend suggested we take a look, so we’re taking advantage of the gap between Fall and Winter to do so. After just the first episode, we’re not sorry we did. Sunday Without God has a lot going for it.

Ai (Toyosaki Aki…Hi Uiharu/Fam!) is a 12-year-old serving as the village “gravekeeper” in a world where no one can die or reproduce due to God forsaking the world on Sunday. Like Yuna in FFX, she “sends” the dead to a peaceful rest, something she’s been doing since she was seven, when her mother died. While she’s not alone (a couple adopted her and the town heaps affection and sweets upon her), we know immediately that she carries a tremendous burden for someone so young. She’s tough; moreover, she’s highly confident and proud of the work she does.

sunday12

Madhouse is an aptly-named studio simply because, a lot of the series they’ve put out are…a bit mad. Here, it’s an Alice in Wonderland mad: whimsically disorienting with an ever-present tinge of malice. “Hampnie Hambart” drops by Ai’s idyllic village and slaughters everyone there save Ai. He then shatters her facade of certainty and efficacy, causing her to question everything she’s ever known or been told by the village, like whether she’s a gravekeeper at all, and whether the villagers were ever alive to begin with.

The episode deftly juggled the harsh imagery of village massacre and an undead townsperson missing part of his head (then having it blown the rest of the way off before Ai’s eyes) with lighter moments like Hampnie and Ai’s first meeting, where she contends he’s her father. Whether he is or isn’t, whether Ai’s true gravekeeper, and exactly what the heck’s going on in general; these are some of the many mysteries we look forward to exploring moving forward.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)