Shuumatsu No Izetta

March 26, 2017

There have been countless reimagining of World War II stories, settings and outcomes. From alternate histories to those mixing with modern technological advances and even races from outer space, whatever ideas they had have all mostly been experimented on. Now let’s use witches and magic this time. Shuumatsu No Izetta is set in an alternate timeline during World War II where the names of countries are also closely resembling to the actual ones. When a powerful imperial nation sets forth in conquering all the countries of Europe and hence world domination, a small principality isn’t going to let those big guns roll over their beautiful picturesque country. But if they don’t have the number and strength of a decent military, how can they fight back? Can they even turn the tides in their favour? They can. Because they have a powerful witch by their side. Meh, you say? How about a witch riding a rifle instead of a broomstick!

Episode 1
On a train in a neutral country of Westria, Germanian soldiers are searching the passengers for a wanted person. Princess Ortfine “Fine” Fredericka Von Eylstadt and her men know she is the one they are looking for and flee. The soldiers give chase. The commotion causes Rickert and Arnold Berckmann of the special unit to take notice. Learning what is happening, Rickert wonders if the princess of Eylstadt is trying to seek refuge here. Berckmann informs that the royal family is stubborn and would rather fight to their last breath than seek asylum. So the only reason why she is here is to have political negotiations with the Allies, most probably Britannia. The chase takes place atop the train. Can they maintain their balance and shoot straight at that speed? When Fine and her men re-enter the back of the train, she sees a strange mechanical coffin. Berckmann stops them and will not divulge them anymore top secret information. After the train exits the tunnel, Fine and her men quickly jump off the bridge into the river. Although Fine is unhurt, it is sad that one of her men dies from a gunshot wound he got from Berckmann. A short narration tells us the dictatorship empire of Germania suddenly invaded its neighbouring country, Livonia. Britannia and Thermidor waged war against Germania but cannot best its might and Thermidor fell. With this, Germania now turns its attention to conquer a small Alps kingdom to the south, Eylstadt.

In a theatre, Fine sees Lord Redford of Britannia and starts negotiations. One of them being accepting her marriage to Prince Henry she once rejected. She is willing to give up her claim on the throne since her cousin Leonora is with a child and she will leave her kingdom’s future in their hands. Although Redford is touched by her sacrifice, he cannot help her. He just got message that Germania has invaded Eylstadt as they speak. Gorz and his men barges in to bring Fine back to Germania’s capital, Neue Berlin. Redford didn’t play her out. It is simply Germania’s superior intelligence. Gorz plans to use one of the many ways to get the stubborn people of Eylstadt to stop fighting: Using Fine as blackmail. Some sort of magical particles temporarily stall the plane’s engines. In zero gravity, Fine tries to fight back but is overpowered and shot in her arm. She dares them to kill her but Gorz mocks her if this is what a princess carrying the burdens of her people should do. Fine remains steadfast that she will fight with her people to the end. Upon reciting her full name, the coffin activates. Out comes a red haired witch, Izetta. It seems the ladies know each other with Fine calling Izetta her White Witch. Izetta sees Fine’s injured arm and her power bursts the plane into bits. As the plane dismantles into debris falling in mid-air, Izetta rides a rifle like a broom and swoops Fine to safety. Izetta is happy to see her princess again.

Episode 2
Germanian fighters receive a distress call of a plane crashing. As they fly to the site, they are surprised to see 2 ladies on a flying rifle. They start chasing them. Izetta has bad experience with the Germanian side too but following Fine’s orders not to recklessly use her power, she tries to flee them until they start firing. She uses her blood as magic source to bring down the planes. In the final dogfight with the captain, Fine wanted to use the rifle but I guess the girls are noobs in using such a gun. The captain escapes with his life and only has his engine stalled. Fine collapses from her gun wound. Eylstadt’s king must be having a rough time. Not only he is sick in bed but has to see his kingdom being invaded. He is worried about Fine as he has not received any word from her. A retreating and heavily injured Eylstadt troop led by Hans Obermayer stumble into Fine and Izetta in the bushes. They are taken to the nearby camp where a doctor removes a bullet from her arm. Fine’s life is in no danger but there is an old scar on her body that Izetta continues to blame herself as her fault. Something to do with Fine protecting her when the angry witch hunt mob wanted to kill Izetta and she got injured as a result for saving her. Flashback shows a young Fine caught Izetta red handed using her magic in the forest. Believing she is a good White Witch as per the legend, Weisse Hexe, they soon become friends and enjoy each other’s company. Izetta once travelled around with her grandma and never stayed in once place for very long. Grandma told her their kind has died off and she will probably be the last witch and never to use her powers recklessly. So when she met Fine who didn’t care about her status, Izetta was very happy. Fine wakes up much to everyone’s delight. Even with their side defeated, they have this little morale booster. After Fine discusses with Hans about the situation, she summons Izetta and wants her to escape. This is Eylstadt’s war and she will not get her involved anymore. She values her as the only friend who never cared about her rank. In that case, Izetta also has a request of her. She wants her to be her hope and will protect her country. Berckmann inspects the crash site. The princess and specimen are the only bodies not found. He believes she is a real witch and either way must go after her.

Episode 3
The Germaninan tanks steamroll into Coenenberg. If they take this town, they can strike deep into Eylstadt. With the air raid bombarding the front lines, it is all utter chaos. A young soldier, Jonas Gallea seems to be lucky enough to survive all that and continue fighting in this hell hole. Because no reinforcements will be coming, it saddens Fine that her men are dying to buy time for the people to escape. When some of the soldiers request Fine’s permission to head to Coenenberg to fight even if it means dying and at least kill a few enemies, she puts her foot down and orders a big no. She reminds them they are not here for revenge or a reckless challenge. It is to protect their families. She will call upon them to sacrifice their lives but now is not the time. She is sorry she can’t tell them where to die. Not tell them how to die but how to live. She hopes they can forgive her for not being strong enough. The Eylstadt forces at the front lines are really stubborn and tough to rout out. It is because of the forts at the top of the hill giving the exact location of the enemies. Extra Germanian air bombardments are requested but before the bombers could blow the hell out of the forts, suddenly they explode and crash down. Here comes Izetta riding and firing iron lances (old weaponry found in the old fort’s arsenal) and shooting them through the planes. What about tanks? Surely mere swords can pierce through their thick armour. Why, just flip them over with magic! With the tide turning so quickly both sides are in a state of confusion. When Fine realizes what is going on, she sends a Morse code to her fellow countrymen at the front lines that Izetta is her friend and the White Witch from the legend. She wants them to fight along with her for their country’s freedom. Unbelievably, Eylstadt is able to turn the tables and send Germania packing. Izetta returns to Fine knowing she went off and did this on her own. Fine is glad she is alright. The soldiers sing their national anthem in respect of this victory. News spread that a witch saved them. The king hears about Fine being with the White Witch before exhaling his last breath.

Episode 4
Fine breaks down once she sees her father’s motionless body. The lieutenant general in charge of taking Coenenberg is finding it hard to explain to Germania’s emperor, Otto about their platoon’s rout by a witch. But upon hearing that he feels excited and delighted because he believes in the existence of witches. Izetta doesn’t feel comfortable with the hospitality she is given in the palace. Because Fine has assigned her personal maid, Lotte and bodyguard, Bianca to be with her. With rumours swirling around about Izetta, Lotte says that she is now the hero of the kingdom. Discussing with Schneider and Warmer, as suggested by the late king’s aide, Sieghart Muller, Fine will only announce her father’s death only when she ascends the throne in 2 weeks’ time. They might have temporarily repel the enemy out of Coenenberg but there are other entry points in which the enemy can enter. The news will only confuse their own ranks and benefit the enemy. As for Izetta, Fine is hesitant to further use her to help protect their country. There is something about her powers she is wary of. Because Bianca is suspicious of Izetta as a witch, she wants her to prove it and inadvertently causes a small part of the statue to fall on her head, slightly injuring her. Fine is glad she is alright but soon summons her. She wants Izetta’s help but there is something she needs to confirm first. She is intrigued that she did not use her power to dodge the accident and she carried her by foot after the plane crash. Izetta reveals the biggest secret that witches have kept. The powers do not come from within. They are from outside. Powers that originate from what is called leylines. This capital has none unlike Coenenberg which is flowing with them and allowed her to use the powers freely. Witches who reveal this are killed but no worries, Izetta is the last witch left. While others are contemplating on how to use Izetta as a secret weapon and hide her existence, Sieghart suggests the opposite. The people are already talking about her and it would be even more suspicious to hide her. With the victory at Coenenberg still fresh in everyone’s minds, they should use it to their advantage and make up a myth about the legend. This will make the enemy cautious and Allies to reconsider their decision.

There is another person whom Sieghart wants Izetta to be introduced to. Meet Elvira Friedman. Currently Fine’s tutor as she has worked in various media in America. She is hired to advertise Izetta as the legendary witch. First order of business is to take her physical measurements by hand. Read: Groping and molesting! Do people influenced by America always act like this? Then it’s Fine’s turn. Witch or princess, you can’t hide those boobs from her! Since it will be a hassle to check every inch of the country to see where Izetta can or cannot use her powers, Izetta remembers her grandma telling her about the legendary castle of the White Witch. Currently it is an abandoned castle in the old capital. Bianca drives her there and as she inspects the walls, a secret room opens up. Bianca continues to remain suspicious that Izetta is close to Fine. She expands on the story of how Fine saved her life. Izetta was accused of starting a fire (her power was then going out of control). She tried to run but when a guy attacked, Fine blocked it with her body. At first the angry mob didn’t want to believe but after Fine swears on her royal blood, they relent. Izetta then saw her smile and at that point swore to do anything for her. Fine rendezvous with Izetta at the secret chamber that contains the world map of leylines. Fine warns Izetta that there is no turning back after this. She doesn’t mind despite remembering grandma telling her the White Witch was a traitor in the legend. They are highly motivated to end the war, bring peace to all countries and give everyone a bright future.

Episode 5
Fine’s coronation begins as she takes over the reign of Eylstadt. She also introduces Izetta who demonstrates her powers wowing the press and crowd. With the news now spread throughout the world, Otto is even more excited. He has Berckmann give his opinion and he believes Izetta is the real deal. Otto now wants Izetta captured no matter the cost. His aide, Elliot reminds him that the subjugation of Eylstadt is to secure a supply route to the Mediterranean and Africa with their allies in the Romulus Federation. Of course his plan is to kill 2 birds with a stone. Capture Eylstadt and the witch while they’re at it. News come in that Izetta now launches a surprise attack to take back one of Eylstadt’s conquered towns serving as Germania’s base point. This is a blatant advertising ploy to show the world about her powers. She easily overwhelms the entire battalion. With the world getting excited about this, Berckmann and his special unit are now given all the money and resources they want to claim this witch. He meets with Basler, the captain of the air force and only survivor who first fought with Izetta. He gives his statement on his first hand witness of Izetta’s terrifying powers. He is then drafted to help hunt her down. Berckmann also suspects Izetta has some sort of weakness because if she was invincible, she would have reached Eylstadt’s capital in a few minutes instead of a couple of days. Of course she would have easily flown to Germania and kill the emperor and end all wars. There must be a limit to her power. Otherwise witches would have ruled the world.

Now that Izetta’s existence is known, looks like she has ‘fans’ from other nations even requesting to come see her. They have a copy of the leylines in Eylstadt which covers most of the area. Then a call comes in regarding Germanian forces invading from Veile Pass. It is one of those small areas the leylines aren’t present. Sieghart has expected this and talked to Fine about it. This was the gamble they had to take when they advertised Izetta. It is time to see if the gamble pays off. The environment is also ideal for them. It is foggy and the Germanian side will not bomb the area but send infantry as they need to secure a smooth route. Fine introduces Izetta to Bianca and her entire secret group of royal guards who work in the shadow. Part of the plan is for one of them to dress up as Izetta. Once the Germanian forces advance, it is show time. They see Izetta flying behind the Eylstadt’s planes. In actual fact it is just a dummy tagging along the wire. The real Izetta pops up to demand the Germanian soldiers to retreat or else. They don’t believe in fairytales, eh? Izetta uses her ‘magic’ to smack away her weapons. Real credit goes to the royal guards’ sharp shooting away the guns from their hands. Still stubborn? Time to use ‘magic’ and blow up the rock and bury them under. Yeah, bombs were planted there already. News of Izetta’s victory spreads again. Berckmann isn’t panicking yet and has sent a spy into Eylstadt’s army. As Jonas is fetching water, he accidentally drops his family picture. As he tries to retrieve it, he hears a secret conversation between Sieghart and Schneider. The latter realizes this whole thing is a setup and royal guards were used. As for why the real Izetta was exposed, Izetta herself willed it. Originally one of them was going to be used as a decoy but she wanted to do this herself. Sieghart thought he heard something from the river. Nobody. Just a photo.

Episode 6
Jonas runs back to his camp and the first person he meet as he murmurs about Izetta’s secret (though short of saying what it is) is that spy, Laurence. Izetta still can’t get used to the compliments Fine showers her. They thought of putting Izetta in a dress but the corset was a torture. Then the top cannot be zipped up because her boobs are too big. Fine looks around and feels defeated because Bianca and Elvira are bigger than hers. Metaphorically she is even speaking can a small kingdom defeat huge ones! Izetta wears back her ordinary dress as Elvira teaches her how to do ballroom dancing. When Fine learns that her favourite bakery will be able to bake her favourite pie (sugar is rationed during the war and with Eylstadt’s recent victory, Fine distributed extra as celebration from the stores), she cannot hide her happiness to visit it. Jonas’ photo is in Sieghart’s hands. He sends Koontz to make contact with him and pretend to be a journalist. Rickert takes Basler to the design division to show him the state of the art high-tech plane. Berckmann also sees the division head and has an official letter from Otto to conduct his investigations. He wants to investigate the workshop for clues. Fine and co are disguised as commoners as they enjoy the delicious pie. But the owners can recognize her. When Bianca and Lotte reveal they know Fine often sneak out to visit her, Fine loses her balance. Her disguise and pie fall off. At least Izetta saved her pie. With everyone recognizing her majesty, time for Fine to give her reassuring speech. When they return, Sieghart requests Fine to send him to Britannia as they are holding a conference between governments in exile and allied countries against Germania. Oh, America will be there too. Fine knows what they want to know is Izetta’s powers and if this is the case, it is best she and Izetta go. While Bianca disagrees, the phone rings. Sieghart picks up to learn the Germanian spy has been located within the platoon. He allows Fine and Izetta to go. Yeah, they’re going to ride the entire way riding on a rifle? Won’t their butt hurt? Anyway Jonas is shocked when Laurence turns his gun at him and wants him to spill details about Izetta. Since he won’t, he gets shot in the leg as warning and even threatens his comrade is now with his siblings. You know what this means, right? Luckily Kloontz and Sieghart come chasing so he flees. Sieghart asks Jonas if he is willing to whatever it takes to protect his country. He nods yes. Sieghart then shoots him!

Episode 7
Off the Bergen Coast of the Scandinavian Peninsula lies Germania’s aircraft carrier, Drachenfels. Redford hosts the representatives of several nations as they discuss about Germania’s plan to use it to cross the Channel from Normandy and attack Britannia. They request America to send troops but with the constitution thingy, guess not. Then they discuss about the witch and many don’t believe such exists in this century. Redford ushers in Fine as she introduces Izetta with a bit of demonstrated magic. Seeing is believing. Of course they wonder if a single witch can still defeat Germania. That is why Fine is also requesting troop assistance and as a gift, she will have Izetta sink Drachenfels. The ladies are introduced to Wing Commander Groman who will be flying with Izetta as part of the bombing operations. The plan is for her to carry and drop 4 torpedoes in the centre of Drachenfels to have the maximum shockwave effect of breaking it into half. All goes as planned until Izetta realizes Drachenfels is not at the port. Thinking it has gone out to sea, she flies over there only to be ambushed by other carriers. It is obviously a trap and Germania knows about this plan. A couple of torpedoes have been destroyed by enemy fire. Basler rides in his new plane that can match and follow closely Izetta’s movements. Izetta has to drop the remaining torpedoes into sea just to dodge Basler and his air force trying to surround her. Luckily Groman’s side help keep the Germanian air fighters at bay. When Izetta sees the elevator opening on Drachenfels, she picks up the torpedoes and fires them into it. Drachenfels sinks as one of them directly hits the fuel tank. Mission accomplished. Basler wants to go after Izetta but Berckmann orders him to return. They have achieved what they want. Later Berckmann reveals to Rickert that Drachenfels was just a decoy to expose Izetta’s weakness. He is now sure after witnessing today’s battle. He can move on to the next phase of the plan but he needs to confirm the White Witch’s legend at Eylstadt’s old castle. He wants to send Laurence for the job but Rickert volunteers for it.

Episode 8
Rickert reads the White Witch’s legend. A prince went hunting and was saved by a woman with silver hair. At first he feared her as she is a witch but upon realizing she is kind, he opened up to her and they gradually fell in love. He wanted to marry her but she declined. Instead, she promised her that if he ever needs her power, she will offer it. Rickert parachutes down in Eylstadt at night. A bit of bad luck because the wind blows him off course and got a rough landing. He has to trek quite a distance and fall into a river. Luckily Bianca and Lotte were passing and picked him up. Rickert hides his identity by saying that he is from Tull but was away overseas studying. He returned home to fight the war but he has some illness so they refused him. Bianca is amazed at his bravery and there is no shame in his failure. This makes Rickert wonder if they are really the people he is fighting against. Rickert continues reading the legend. When the prince returned, a war broke out. He was injured and almost lost the war. The White Witch appeared and saved the day and drove the enemies away. However the prince shortly died from his injuries. In grievance, she vowed to protect his country until the end of her life. Rickert stays at the inn run by Lotte’s sister. As Bianca is a fan of the legend, Rickert mentions an alternate ending. This makes her blow her top. If you think that was an embarrassing head start, wait till he later accidentally enters her room after hearing her scream. She is being bathed by Lotte. Whoops. Rickert later meets Laurence whose proof of Jonas knowing something was how he was silenced. With the royal guards keeping constant watch on the old castle, it proves that there is something they want to hide.

Izetta and Fine attend Redford’s birthday. While it might look like that on the outside, it is also a meeting for the Allies to respond on Izetta’s effort. Also at this party is Berckmann. His date is strange. Already with dead zombie eyes, she goes up to Izetta to suddenly kiss her! Actually she bit her lips! After that she collapses. Berckmann apologizes over his fanatic Izetta fan but hints he knows who Izetta is before ‘disappearing’. Fine is delighted as America agrees to send troops to help. Rickert and Laurence sneak in the old castle by hiding underneath the cart of an old man delivering goods to the soldiers. Rickert relays to Laurence what Berckmann told him about the secret room in the old castle. The legend is much darker but more believable than the fairytale. It states that the prince was already married when he met the White Witch. When his wife found out he gave all his love to her, she was enraged. After the prince died, the wife found out about the White Witch’s secret, sealed her power and sold her to the enemy. After suffering inquisitions, she was burnt at the stake. After the wife died, the people who feared the White Witch sealed her secret within this room in her memory. True enough they stumble upon this room which has murals depicting the dark story. Rickert takes pictures of the leylines when the vial of blood in his pocket reacts. A short earthquake occurs before a mystic stone drops out from the wall. At this point, Bianca and her royal guards enter the room. Rickert and Bianca are shocked to realize each other’s position. The Germanians escape via underground. However Rickert was shot. He hands the evidence to Laurence so he could escape. Rickert will become the decoy. Bianca face off with Rickert who apologizes for shattering her fantasy. After all, it is a fairytale and it needs a happy ending. A reason why all fairytales have happy ending is so that tragedies in real life can be avoided. Rickert draws his gun but didn’t shoot. Bianca did. Bianca’s sniper takes out Laurence. However the evidence is taken by that old man of the cart, a Germanian spy. Stanley, the representative of America writes back to his higher ups about Izetta’s power that could be equal or higher threat. That is why he is suggesting to send troops to defeat both Germania and Eylstadt.

Episode 9
The resistance forces across Europe attack Germanian forces. They are further delighted when Izetta comes to their aid. She is now so famous worldwide she even stars in her own comics! Ever since Izetta’s return from Britannia 3 months ago, Germania has not invaded Eylstadt and they’re just ‘staring’ at each other across the borders. Bianca reports to Sieghart that because no evidences were found on the bodies on the spies, it is assumed they ventured into the castle not knowing what they are looking for. It is theorized that the enemy knew about that place when they captured Izetta and took her blood samples. It gave credence to whatever fairytales and must have led to them to discover such room was in existence. Hans shows Fine photos of strange enemy tanks. Based on their weapon manufacturer’s side deduction, it is believed Germania may have created a weapon to defeat Izetta. Fine is also surprised they might be trying to attack from the west again because it is as though they didn’t learn anything from Coenenberg. But if they want a fight, a fight they’ll give them. When Izetta is at the Coenenberg’s fort, a report comes in that the enemy has already begin their attacking. However it is not here but at the eastern border of Sellun Corridor. Looks like they feigned the attack from the west and came from the east instead. That elaborated weapon was just an elaborated hoax. Izetta makes her way there and everyone is confident it is Eylstadt’s victory because Sellun Corridor is a place containing lots of leylines. Before Izetta could bomb the enemy, her air torpedoes are stopped by another witch! Sophie once called herself the White Witch and pleads to Izetta to stop this.

Flashback 3 months ago, a hidden lab seems to have successfully cloned a witch. Years ago, one of their researchers found documents pertaining to the White Witch in an abandoned church in the Alps and it led to records about the location where she was buried as well as the truth about her legend. Using the records to buy her body, they were able to finally recreate her. That’s why Otto was so sure witches existed. However she is now in enemy hands and they have no choice but to make this one succeed. Unfortunately Sophie is like a doll and has no own free will. Then they realized she reacted to Izetta’s blood samples and Berckmann decided to test her out. So the night at Redford’s party, that crazy fan girl was Sophie biting Izetta’s lips to taste her blood and awakened her. With tears and emotional drama, Sophie tries to convince Izetta to stop using her powers because this is not what a witch’s power should be used for. However Izetta made a promise to Fine and will carry on fighting no matter the outcome. In that case, cue for Sophie to turn on her crazy mode. No more Ms Nice. Both witches engage in mortal combat but Izetta surprisingly loses power and crashes. After Sophie ties her up, word of Izetta’s loss spreads like wildfire. People who once relied and placed hope in her are now in utter shock. In no time, Germanian forces steamrolled into Eylstadt and the capital being bombed in a blitz. In 2 hours, it fell into enemy hands.

Episode 10
Fine and her entourage escape via secret underground passage as Sophie mercilessly uses her mystic stone powers to destroy Eylstadt. Izetta is tied up and filmed. Hans leads a small team to rescue her from the enemy. But the damage is done with the world now in fear of Sophie after propaganda photos of Izetta’s lost is being publicized worldwide. Otto promotes Berckmann to Lieutenant Colonel but his service ends there since Otto will personally take charge of any matters pertaining to the witch. Sophie is impatient but is told to wait as she wants to destroy Eylstadt, which is her ultimate goal. Izetta remembers grandma told her that the White Witch is a traitor because she used her powers to meddle with the human affairs. To win the battle, she stole a mystic stone which the first witch had. In turn of giving her powers, it devours her life. Izetta wakes up and Fine is glad she has regained consciousness. Fine tells her what happened and they are now remaining hidden in a secret base built by her ancestors in the Alps. Izetta blames herself for failing but Fine blames her own arrogance and complacency for letting this happen. Sieghart confirms Sophie is the name of the legendary White Witch. This means she will show less mercy to them as she was the one who was hated by the prince’s wife (Fine’s ancestor), betrayed by her men and sold to the inquisition to be executed. She’s really out for their blood and revenge. Sophie was able to use powers in areas without leylines because of the mystic stone. It stores powers it absorbs. Now Sophie is using it to materialize a huge Exenium (magic crystals) to be carried out for their next attack on Britannia. Sieghart further explains his family was involved in the reality that was the White Witch incident, the reason he knew a lot about this. It was passed down orally through its generations. He never thought it was real till Izetta showed up. When Izetta was away at Britannia, he searched his ancestors’ home and found a diary detailing the betrayal, regret and sin of the White Witch.

Meanwhile word has reached everyone that Londenion has fallen. That’s London, right? Oh look. London Bridge is burning down, burning down, burning down… The strain of that attack still puts a burden on Sophie’s body despite the mystic stone is only half. Thus the lab has cloned many artificial bodies just in case for standby. Basler reports the different ways the witches fight totally rewrites the rules of warfare. He is not amused that Berckmann who drafted him into his team now wants out. He explains that he was ‘kicked out’ and thus he is seeing him just to say goodbye. It is suggested that Fine seeks asylum in another country and try to establish a government to fight from there. Izetta insists she can still fight although she has taken a lot of damage. She can’t even walk. This makes Fine realize that she won’t stop fighting if she doesn’t give up. She remembers Izetta’s grandma telling her not to use her powers but she made Izetta fight the war. No amount of thank you or sorry could be enough. Otto is making extravagant conditions for the Allies to surrender. He knows they have no choice. After that, they attack the Volga Federation. Although Germania has signed a nonaggression pact with them, Otto never intended to honour it. Once the entire Europe is under Germania’s rule, they’ll attack America. Then the world will be theirs! Sieg Reich! Izetta is sad she made Fine cry and hasn’t repaid her yet. Sieghart comes up to her with some hope. He has half the mystic stone. If she still wants to change things no matter what…

Episode 11
Sieghart reads his ancestors’ diary as it details how they betrayed Sophie. The moment they took away her mystic stone, it broke into half as though it was signalling the country’s betrayal of their hero. They cannot forget the rage on Sophie’s face when she was handed over. Berckmann is at Rickert’s grave when he hears Lieutenant Colonel Hagar leading the assault as he has discovered Fine’s hideout. He wants to join in claiming he has met the princess twice. The Germanians ambush the hideout and slaughter most of the troops. To lure Fine out, Hagar kills the hostages one by one. Although she decides to surrender, Hagar is not happy because it ruins his fun if she isn’t resisting. At this point, Izetta returns and turns the tables on the Germanians with her power. Flashback reveals Sieghart warning her she is able to use her powers freely like Sophie but at the risk of shortening her life. Bianca was against this because she felt Izetta had fought enough and can’t bear to see her like this anymore. Izetta wants to fight till the end. As Izetta starts throwing bricks around, the Germanians scatter. Hagar hits a dead end and cannot believe his rotten luck. Berckmann corners him and confirms that Otto has ordered his execution. Berckmann shoots Hagar before surrendering himself.

He is blindfolded and taken to a storeroom where Sieghart interrogates him. Berckmann wants a trade. Letting Sieghart take hidden films in his back pocket, Berckmann explains Germania has successfully created a bomb using Exenium. They plan to load it on a missile and use Sophie to bomb Eylstadt. Let’s say a single bomb can destroy the entire place. Then they are going to hold a peace conference in Westria with all the major powers. This is just a ploy to unveil the new bomb and threaten all of them to submit or end up like Eylstadt. It is obvious that Berckmann has defected and is willing to share this information. He is vouching for Izetta to defeat Sophie and perhaps Germania itself. Sieghart is not amused he has no loyalty but Berckmann prefers to stay alive and what better way to do that is to strike first the person after his life even if it means he is the only person left. Sieghart punches him and is glad he was never like him. After Sieghart tells everything to Fine and co, Fine decides to surrender herself to Germania. She puts the blame on herself that she can’t make Izetta fight anymore. It was the temptation of using her witch powers that led to this. Izetta slaps her for trying to be a hero. Because since they started this together, they’ll end this together. All she wants is for Fine to be as she has always been. Fine changes her stance and will fight with Izetta. Berckmann further explains when and how the missile will be launched. Because Sophie is a clone, her powers are limited to 2 hours and this is depending what kind of magic she uses. Thus this is where Izetta comes in to stall and fight her for that duration. At the same time, Fine will attend the conference. Sieghart and Bianca will accompany her. That night, Izetta takes Fine flying around the forest as apology for slapping her. All the major powers arrive at Westria. At the guard check, when Fine’s side show their documents as proof, Basler suddenly comes in and rips Berckmann’s documents. He is disappointed that he is now a traitor. Izetta begins her face off with Sophie.

Episode 12
Fine gives Sieghart the signal as he rams the car through the post. After they alight, Berckmann parts from them. The conference begins as well as the witches’ messy aerial battle. They’re throwing planes and tanks too! Knowing that Sophie needs to power the missile, Izetta distracts her away. It works since Sophie is so crazily bent on killing her. Don’t worry. The Germanians have got another clone to wake up and do the remote control. Sieghart distracts the guards so Fine and Bianca can head into the conference. As he runs, a soldier stands before him. Because he looks so much like Jonas, he hesitates and enough time for the panicky green soldier to fire back and kill him. Karma? Berckmann is about to escape via boat but Basler again catches him and lectures him about loyalty. Because Berckmann mocks Rickert’s sacrifice, Basler shoots him. Fine has made it into the conference. Although she is not invited and the Germanians could have her arrested, the Allies want her to have a say in this because the bombing of Eylstadt is very much of her concern, right? However Stanley argues that even if Sophie and Germania are defeated, this means Eylstadt will be left as the only powerful nation possessing magic technology. Who will stand up to them if they ever have ambitions like Otto? Sophie reveals her hatred for Eylstadt not because it was the prince’s wife who betrayed him but the prince himself who sold her out. Although the prince’s last dying words worries about Sophie’s status as a witch reaching the Vatican and thus Eylstadt was in danger of becoming branded as a heretic country, Sophie still takes this as ultimate betrayal after all the sacrifice she had done and pain endured for him. Izetta may not know everything but she believes someone who has entrusted with everyone’s lives cannot focus on just 1 person.

Stanley continues that his nation is divided. At first they were thrilled by the witch’s power but now some are fearful and do not want to take action. That is why America’s forces are still in Britannia remain stationed. Fine promises that the battle of witches and magic will end today. Izetta will absorb all the powers from the leylines over the continent and thus no magic thereafter. This is at the cost of her life. Prior to this when Izetta told her about this, Fine was against it but Izetta despite knowing the risks still wants to do it. As long as she has this power, she will fight. I guess Fine makes it even more convincing with all those real tears that they should be happy after Izetta, magic, witches and all those destructive weapons will be gone after today. And yet will Germania still think itself as the ruler of the world? Izetta successfully absorbs all the Exenium and even faster because Sophie tries to match it. Ultimately Sophie runs out of power and Izetta is left happy able to fulfil her duty. A bright light is shot into the sky. Fine takes this that Izetta is gone and breaks down. Otto is mad but will continue his conquest via traditional iron and blood. By 1941, America kept its promise by bringing together the Allies to fight against Germania. The Volga Federation also started their own invasion and this pushes back Germania and liberating a few countries. Shortly, Otto takes his own life and the war ended. It is believed the war could have last longer had not the actions of Fine and Izetta. While Fine believes as long as humanity still exists, there will some war popping up in the future, she still won’t give up in making a world where everyone can choose their own future. Berckmann is seen making shady trades with shady people. He just lost an eye. Basler a bad shooter? Lastly, all is not lost as Fine pays a visit deep in the woods. A cabin where wheelchair-ridden Izetta still lives and is being taken care by Lotte.

Strike Witch: Operation Victory Eylstadt
This is amazing. I never knew that I would be enjoying this series so much. I mean, I had really high hopes of this after a couple of war themed animes like Senjou No Valkyria and Nejimaki Seirei Senki: Tenkyou No Alderamin made war genres pretty likeable in my books. Of course at first there was this scepticism that this will not be as good as the aforementioned series because despite it has fantasy elements, it is still closely based on some real life events like the name of the countries and the time period for World War II. I did not expect to be blown away by the amazing flow of the story. Well, maybe except the ending which I had mixed feelings about. I thought it was all too rushed because with the great big war averted, they make Otto kill himself like Hitler did but only years earlier and that to satiate crying fan boys of Izetta, they make her live instead of die (although not sure if she is a vegetable). I wonder if it’s because Sophie absorbed some of the magic so it didn’t actually affect Izetta greatly. But then again, thinking hard on what could have been the better ending would be futile because nothing would have been more fitting an ending like this. Fine and Izetta has played their vital part in securing Eylstadt’s freedom as well as ending the war. Therefore what comes after that doesn’t really matter. Remember, this is a series about Izetta and Fine.

I really got lost in the plot and when I say lost, I don’t mean getting confused. I was quite enthralled by the simple and yet fascinating flow of the story as we see both sides trying to up each other in times of war. It gets better with the power of the witch intervening. Although I have to admit that the revelations of the White Witch wasn’t that interesting because I somehow have guessed that she was betrayed by the ones she loved and trusted. I don’t think Sophie ever found any closure since this Sophie isn’t the real Sophie and this wasn’t about making right the dark history of Eylstadt. It’s to fight against the invading Germanians, remember?

The characters are absolutely perfect and each play their role perfectly no matter how small their role or appearance they have. Although that itself is a bit of a complaint on my side. More on that later. The main characters, Fine and Izetta have really great chemistry and they really have this bond that makes you feel that they’ve been with each other for ages instead of meeting each other again since the war began. I love Fine and her steadfast to fight for her people although her character might be very cliché in such stories. She isn’t just a royal princess who lives a spoilt life but is very down to earth and connected with her people. She takes action and kicks ass. She knows what needs to be done for the greater good even if it means losing Izetta (and lots of tears of course). Izetta of course compliments Fine and the duo are so fine as a combo that it is hard to imagine one without the other. They might be away sometimes for separate missions but you know that they are making things work at the same time. They have a very good friendship that touches all of our hearts because this is what we all love to have and look for in a friend. Despite a few very hinting scenes of Fine x Izetta lesbianism, thankfully it didn’t go that far or it might have left a bad aftertaste in the mouth.

Though I did say that many of the other characters are also great and play their role in the anime as they should, sometimes I can’t help that because of that they too are insignificant in an overall manner (like those heads of states such as Redford and the rest whom I couldn’t name). Just enough to play out their role. What I really meant is, take for instance Elvira. She is a great tutor to the girls and also helps in the advertising of Izetta as the great witch. However you don’t really see her play that role and because it is mostly behind the scenes, sometimes her character felt a bit redundant. What the heck happened to Hans? It’s like he is no longer relevant in the second half of the series. He is still alive in the infantry but it would be as good as dead if he had no more role to pay after that. Then there is Lotte who is just there being a maid and Bianca being a close royal guard for Fine. Basler just had a single proper episode (and that was just for a while) where he had his rematch with Izetta but other than that, he could have been just some nameless pilot as I don’t see him really fitting anywhere properly in the story.

There are many other small characters here and there that die but that don’t matter anyway. They come and go and are mostly forgettable whether or not they live or die. But some like that poor Jonas kid whom I thought would have some standout role (or at least of some importance) because it looked like he had some sort of potential story to tell (family of his photo tells you a lot) but looks like the poor chap existed just to get shot to cover up a big secret. Just sad. Because compared to Rickert who actually played a part and died for it seemed better from this point of view. And when Sieghart really died, it’s like we’ve forgotten all about him. It’s like as though he lives long enough to reveal his ancestor’s dirty work and do Fine one last service before biting the bullet.

Otto is supposedly the villain and the equivalent to our Hitler. However it is hard to see him as the bad guy because we hardly see him in some sort of vile action. Just sitting on his throne or hanging out somewhere in his palace while he makes his plans. Even if his plans to snatch away Berckmann’s hard work, orders for him to be killed and betray the Volga Federation are supposed to make him sound evil but you know what they say about actions speak louder than words. And when he died so ‘quickly’, the shock wasn’t as resonating as Izetta’s ‘death’. Just saying… So the main bulk of the action falls on Berckmann who is supposed to be the despicable villain but from the way I see it, he isn’t such a bad guy in the vilest sense after all. I mean, in times of war, all is fair and to spew nonsense about loyalty and your own life differs on the individual’s stance. Though, it was really odd for me to see someone who had been fighting against Eylstadt in the beginning only to easily defect to the other side and fighting his own homeland, that makes him a dangerous character. All the more so he didn’t die and close his case because he is still alive and might be the next perpetrator for the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the Gulf War, the Arab Spring, the Syrian War… Oh yeah. And Sophie? She’s just a mad bloodthirsty clone.

The battle scenes are also impressive and although you might say that Izetta’s magic might have exaggerated things because uplifting and throwing heavy tanks and lances feel more fantasy than reality, it is still kept to a believable level. In that sense you can’t help vouch, support and even cheer on Izetta when she charges into the battlefield to save the day. Yeah, she makes it all look so easy. It’s like Superman making his debut saving the world. Otherwise, without Izetta’s witchy intervention, it might looked like plain ol’ boring warzone to remind us the atrocities of war. Nobody really wins in a war, right?

Although art and drawing are rather okay, I won’t go so far to say they are spectacular but because the setting is in the 1940s, the lush greeneries and sceneries of Eylstadt do amaze me even if the quality is just pretty standard. The design of the European houses and structures in the 1940s as well as the tanks and planes are also beautiful and quite accurate. The animation is pretty fluid itself but I really didn’t take full notice of it since I was more focused and drawn into the plot and storyline. But I guess it is a good thing too because if the animation was that bad, I would have already complained about it. CG is also used by thankfully very sparingly because I thought the Exenium stones looked ugly (unless it was intentional to look like this). But the simple magic effects and the lighting are quite okay. This series is animated by Ajia-Do who seems to be making a comeback after a few years of hiatus. This is the first TV series they made this year and the last they did was DD Hokuto No Ken way back in 2013. Other works under them include Zettai Shonen, Kujibiki Unbalance, Emma: A Victorian Romance Second Act and the long running Nintama Rantarou series.

There are a handful popular seiyuus lending their voice to this series. Most notably for example Saori Hayami as Fine. Quite some time ago she played a red haired princess of a fictional fairytale kingdom of a fictional world. This time she plays a blonde princess of another fictional kingdom in an alternate parallel world. Other recognizable seiyuus include Juinichi Suwabe as Berckmann, Kana Hanazawa as Elvira, Nao Touyama as Lotte, Koji Yusa as Gorz and Takehito Koyasu as Hagar. The rest of the other casts are Himika Akaneya as Izetta (Honoka in ReLIFE), Sora Amamiya as Sophie (titular character in Akame Ga Kill), Hiroki Takahashi as Seighart (Japan in Hetalia series), Aya Uchida as Bianca (Kotori in Love Live!), Kouichi Yamadera as Otto (Spike in Cowboy Bebop), Kenn as Hans (Jinbei in Mushibugyou), Natsuki Hanae as Rickert (Inaho in Aldnoah.Zero), Yoshimasa Hosoya as Basler (Reiner in Shingeki No Kyojin), Mitsuaki Hoshino as Redford (Magellan in One Piece) and Hiroyuki Endou as Jonas (Rui in Sora Wo Miageru Shoujo No Hitomi Ni Utsuru Sekai).

The fast pace rock outfit of the opening theme, Cross The Line by Akino with Bless4 somehow I personally feel that the beat of this song doesn’t quite fit the setting of this series. It gives me a projection that this song would have been better suited for a mecha shonen genre. Seriously. It is a sudden u-turn for the ending theme because Hikari Aru Basho E by May’n is a very heavy and gloomy song. The slow pounding of the piano is enough to make you feel heavy and grounded. Luckily the string parts are better on the ears but despite being a sad sounding song, it is quite lovely and beautiful in its own right. There is also the Eylstadt Kokka (Eylstadt’s National Anthem) as a special ending theme. This one really sounds like a patriotic national anthem. Not sure if they really write it or they rip it off from some nation’s national anthem. I mean, it’s not like you’re going to recognize every darn anthem in the world, right? There are also a variety of background music from those dramatic pieces fit for a fantasy world to battle themes and the weird but lively a cappella sung by female choirs. In some ways, I do find it a little creepy depending on the scene they are played. For example, the scene is mellow and all of a sudden you hear this loud a cappella voices in the background.

Overall, I am very satisfied and very thrilled to have watched this series. It might not be perfect but it has a good story with many good characters. I’ll say this is really an interesting watch and would recommend that sometimes you don’t really need epic exaggerations and action like a certain Titan slaying anime or even crazy flashy over-the-top series like a certain clothes aliens trying to control the minds of humans, to make a good anime. I know it is just impossible and wishful thinking, but sometimes I wished that Izetta would really exist for real to stop all the stupid conflicts and clashes our world has had enough of. Because f*ck Superman and Batman who throughout the ages continue to fail to stop evil megalomaniac villains and aliens from constantly trying to take over or destroy Earth. Izetta literally ended a war prematurely than it should! And she rides a rifle for Heaven’s sake! Move aside. Witches are the new superheroes!

Show By Rock S2

March 25, 2017

I didn’t expect this series to actually have another season. I would have been in a lot more shock had not that short special a season before this premiered on the air. Uh huh. You could say it cushioned the ‘shock’. So when Show By Rock S2 came out, I wasn’t like going crazy of not anticipating it and then start to search in a frenzy all over Google if I was dreaming or there had been a mistake. Well, with or without that short preview season, I would still watch this because of my dumb policy to watch sequels if a series is not very bad in the first place. After all, we’ve seen these rocking band of furries save the music world with music. What else can they come up with? An intergalactic alien trying to destroy music and rule the cosmos? Oh wait…

Episode 1
A space villainess and her huge space army fire a hug plasma energy into Planet Sound and destroying Midi City in the process. The Ninjinriot heroes feel the only way to stop her is to go back in time. In present day, Maple tells Plasmagica (minus Cyan because she has gone home) about the upcoming commemorative concert. If you’re wondering why Criticrista is hanging out with them, it’s because Maple has taken the band under BRR’s wings. Yes, Rosia is still an annoying b*tch our Plasmagica girls hate. The guys of Shingan Crimsonz beat up Maple after they think he forgot all about them. He remembers there is a concert for them this weekend by BRR. Shingan Crimsonz does the opening gig before Plasmagica takes their turn. But before they could start, the entire area is being hijacked! Who are these mean chicks?! Oh wait. Isn’t that sperm blob on her shoulder… Dagger!!! What did I tell you last time if they don’t properly take care of him? Now he is back thanks to these girls reviving him (Rosia is going to have some serious trauma). To celebrate his return, he will take the Melodisian Stone from those who did this to him. Luckily he is interrupted when our future heroes arrive in time. Not wanting to waste time fighting, the baddies flee. Ninjinroit introduces themselves. They are Arashi, Rin and Oboro. From the future, they are here to stop the schemes of Planet Victorian’s leader, Queen of Darkness whom they suspect is that mean chicks’ vocalist. In the future, Midi City is destroyed as part of her plans to annihilate music by turning all Melodisian Stones dark and use that energy to take over Sound Galaxy. They will continue their investigations to expose the Queen of Darkness’ identity and hope these bands can help them fight against her and Dagger. Meanwhile Cyan has her own problems. She has not written a song for the school festival. Yeah, writing a new song is tough. As he gazes upon the stars and sing, not sure if her singing was so good (it wasn’t) that it attracted a comet as it smashes into her! Good thing she is alive but she freaks out seeing a giant robot in her room. Then she gets absorbed into it. Does this seem familiar? Yeah, we all know where she’ll be going.

Episode 2
The robot crashes into BRR’s building. Everyone is so glad Cyan is back. Miss you. Cyan has heard the gist of what is going on from the robot, Kamui who is also part of Ninjinriot. Kamui wants to take his leave but Maple wants him to bear the repair cost. Sorry, gotta go. While Plasmagica is back as a whole and planning on their next step, Moa suddenly gets an urgent call to come home. She has failed to submit her periodical reports and is summoned back. Oh no! Chuchu suggests everyone comes along, much to Moa’s delight. I guess this means Maple and Angelica are coming too. Moa explains her planet experienced economic boom but never thought about their energy source until it is running low. That is why they have sent investigators all over the galaxy to find energy. The gang meet Moa’s parents, the king and queen. So Moa is a royalty princess?! Never knew, eh? Oh, while mom is a hot mama, dad looks like an egg. What a weird combo… Like as though he is Maple’s long lost relative… Anyway they are thrown a nice banquet complete with delicious food (don’t judge the looks) and ‘unique’ traditional music (it sucks). Next day, Moa is summoned by the committee to explain herself. They are planning to strip her rank for not fulfilling her duties so she argues that this band thingy can solve their energy woes. This means Plasmagica is putting up a concert to demonstrate. At first nothing happens but a gentle reminder from Cyan that they need to enjoy themselves, it doesn’t take too long before energy comes bursting and lighting up everything. With that, Moa’s work is recognized and now allowed to continue her stay at Midi City. The king hopes they can broadcast some of the music to them. He heard they are building a music theme park, Puru Land and if so, they would like to help fund the construction costs in return. Angelica right away makes contact with the person in charge. Done deal. An emotional goodbye for Moa when she parts with her parents. But on the journey back, some bug monster mom gave her as present escaped its cage. Oh no. Looks like it wants egg for its next meal…

Episode 3
Sweet Sweets Girls Fes is a candy-cum-music festival for all girl bands to sell sweets and perform. If Plasmagica is in, I guess this mean Criticrista is going to be there too. The annoyance is still strong… Later Rosia talks to Cyan privately and thanks her for saving her. Since she is still prideful, she vows to be stronger next time to save her. Chuchu rallies her band mates to make sweets. Unfortunately none of them have baking experience so it is up to her to teach the basics. After bloopers and failures, they finally get it right. At the festival, Chuchu is overwhelmed with all the amazing sweets that the stalls are selling. However she starts to worry that everybody’s sweets are superior to theirs. Her worst fears come true when all the stalls have their sweets sold out. Even Marimari and Tsugihagi who aren’t part of a band and are just here to have fun, the free sweets they make for refreshments suddenly get mobbed by the crowd. Next thing you know, it’s all gone and they earn loads of cash! Chuchu goes into panic mode as she desperately tries to advertise her sweets. No takers. Cyan notices this and lets Chuchu take a bite to calm her down. You know what they say that desserts is the stressed spelled backwards. In no time, other people start to patron their stall and eventually their sweets are sold out too. Meanwhile, Shingan Crimsonz who thought they have been side-lined for too long is happy to get a gig. They didn’t realize they are to play villains at a children’s live sentai show. Sure, they’re mad but with Rom’s passionate persuasion, they get fired up to do their job. Oh no. Now they are rampaging the stage and scaring the children… Meanwhile a group of rich guys especially Orion are watching Shingan Crimsonz. They wonder why Orion is so infatuated with these poor guys with no money. Because it will be interesting to see what will happen when they get a taste of money. Oh yeah. Time to hatch their devilish plan…

Episode 4
Darudayu meets Grateful King relaxing on a sunny beach. She believes that according to a legend, peace will always be broken by someone who wants to ruin it. Therefore she is here to tell him TAM will be on a journey to find the legendary Melodisian Almaz, a high purity Melodisian Stone. Since they’ll be away, she wants him to take care of Midi City. He can’t say no despite already retired… There’s another event for all girl bands: The Sparkling Midicians Long Beach Water Sports Meet Full of Girls. What a long name to hide a swimsuit fanservice event… As the events is team based, the girls of the bands are randomly divided into teams. Retoree is not pleased she ended up in the same team as Rosia. The feeling is mutual, b*tch. Gracing the event is Trichronika broadcasting their performance in the middle of their Rainbow Galaxy Tour. As the games get on the way, Retoree feels she still isn’t good with crowds so she sits herself out in the storeroom. Rosia comes in looking for something and of course they get locked in. What to do but to sit around awkwardly till help arrives. If it ever arrives because nobody knows where they are. Inevitably they had to bring up the topic of Cyan. Rosia assures she isn’t interested in Cyan and will not steal her away as she is only interested in her talent. She is the only person she doesn’t want to lose to and whether she wins or lose, it helps her make her own music the best it can. When their band mates realize they are missing, they go in search of them before finding them trying to work together to get out. In the kibasen event, the duo work together perfectly to win the game and overall. Even enemies can be best friends. Like in shonen series, right? Meanwhile a group of Myumon students are trying hard to catch up on their tardiness to meet up with Ogasawara for a karaoke session?

Episode 5
Those rich guys are actually from a new band under the record label company, Judas. They are Arcareafact (comprising of Orion, Titan, Argon and Selen) and have usurped Trichronika for the top spot. So rich they are that they drop money on the streets and parachute down just to taunt Shingan Crimsonz in their face. Naturally, Maple relays the news there is going to be a battle of the bands between Shingan Crimsonz and Arcareafact. Meanwhile Dagger wants Ailane (alleged Queen of Darkness) to continue to dye all Melodisian Stones with darkness with the music of Bud Virgin Logic (BVL). His true resurrection will occur when Puru Land finishes and he will have his revenge on Plasmagica. Ailane’s subordinates, Peipain and Hundreko wonder if they can trust Dagger. Ailane doesn’t care about hope and dreams. She’ll send everyone to hell! At the battle of the bands, Shingan Crimsonz sings first followed by Arcareafact who in their usual fashion drop free money to the audiences! In the end they won by a huge margin! Crow and the rest are bitter in this defeat and believe they have bribed their way to victory. However Rom punches him and says a loss is a loss even it is dishonest. The only way is to start from scratch and perform in a way to reverse it. The Arcareafact guys are basking in their rich victory party. However Titan isn’t in the mood and leaves. He makes his way to a secret underground sewer to spend time with his little brothers, Balt and Nickel. It seems their family was rich too but their father’s business failed and everything was taken away. Plasmagica did some research and found Arcareafact had cheated. They want to relay this news but see Shingan Crimsonz eating their heart out and putting all that behind them. I guess there is no need to tell. Dagger then makes a personal broadcast to BRR and declare his war against Plasmagica.

Episode 6
Dagger will have Plasmagica in a battle of the bands against BVL. Rosia recognizes Ailane as she is the new transfer student in her school. She tries to peek into her clubroom but is caught red handed. Rosia tries to act tough but Ailane tells her it is her best interest not to say anything. Cyan is supposed to come up with a new song but she is in a slump and overslept. Meanwhile Yaiba calls Aion and Crow to meet. He shows them an old photo of a band named Amatelast. They don’t recognize this frontman but after taking a closer look, he is definitely Shuuzou. Guess who is the drummer? Rom. They realize the duo have been in the same band as everything about them fall into place. Then they hear their music. Nothing much. Just generic rock music. They want to go confront Rom to ask for more but turn into chickens after he lets out his usual loud voice, scolding them for being late for practice. Kai and Riku show Shuuzou the article of Arcareafact’s huge victory over Shingan Crimsonz. What bothers them are the rumours they used money to cheat. Shuuzou tells them not to believe gossip papers because for those who love music, money can never corrupt their heart. Can it? Cyan is still in a slump. Worse, her band mates come in to give her motivation as they are worried for her and she lies to them that she is okay. In the end, all that pressure and guilt builds up. What does she do? She runs away! But she isn’t directionless. She goes to see Grateful King.

Episode 7
Cyan hopes he could help her write a song. He can’t do that as writing songs are purely done by oneself. However he can help push her in that direction with some special training. Starting off with massaging his shoulders. Sure this is not a scam? Yeah, put some rhythm into that wrist. Rom is not pleased the guys are slacking in practice. So how? Time for a special training tramp! Unfortunately they got lost in the forest and stumble upon some lame guards trying to guard an entrance to some place. But Shingan Crimsonz are lamer since they got thrown away by the mountain guardian. They are saved by that old egg man and they spend their hardcore time together. The guys then work up the courage to give Rom the photo and the CD. Time to spill the beans. It was the last music he made with Amatelast. Back then, they weren’t afraid of anything and thought they could make it to the top. However as time passes, the band’s goal changed. Eventually they broke up and they went different ways. The guys pay back and alleviate Rom’s regrets by writing a new song. Meanwhile those guardians thought Shingan Crimsonz had come back but it is TAM. They won’t let them path but TAM shows their worth with some flashback of their journey? So touching that they just decide to let them in. WTF. Cyan’s training continues. She has to carry all the heavy luggage, clean the pool and carve 4 blocks of ice to fit into the fridge before the sun melts it. Why not just let the sun melt a little then? Not thinking. When Cyan thinks she can finally play an instrument, Grateful King wants her to play all the instruments simultaneously. She can’t so he tells her to stop complaining or else she can’t find the god of music. As she thinks, she sees visions of her band mates. Then it hit her. The god of music was always by her side. With tears, she calls Retoree to apologize for running away and comes clean about her slump. However they are all here. Didn’t she realize she was lugging their luggage? As true friends, they knew she would go find Grateful King whenever she is in trouble.

Episode 8
With Shingan Crimsonz back in the groove, Maple will organize another battle of the bands. Naturally Orion doesn’t see the point of this and wants to reject but their manager wants them to accept it so that they can crush their enemies so much till they will never challenge them again. It looks like the manager is brainwashing them or something. Titan just dropped in and feels like the guys are hiding something but they too Titan has been hiding something as he is always late and never gave reasons. With the revenge battle on, Retoree and Cyan take precaution knowing that some sort of cheating might happen again. Rosia’s band mates talk to Chuchu and Moa as they feel Rosia is acting suspiciously and not telling them things. Another one keeping secrets? So they invite Rosia out, some nostalgic flashback of how close they are and voila! Now Rosia is on talking terms. Wow. So easy. The revenge battle is here. As usual Arcareafact put up their snobbish confidence like as though the match is already decided beforehand. That’s when BRR shows them proof of how they cheated previously. A security guard was an eyewitness in seeing them bribe everyone in the concert. They also hacked the main server to manipulate votes. This doesn’t sit well with Titan as he genuinely doesn’t know about this. Orion continues to badmouth his rivals about being poor. Rom is about to punch him but Shuuzou stops him. He is protecting Arcareafact because they are his juniors. However Rom shouldn’t be fighting with his fists but music. Shuuzou also tells off Arcareafact that they can’t buy everything with money. He knows they’ll find out what’s important after this battle. Arcareafact goes first. Seeing how talented they are, they don’t understand why they had resorted to cheating. Shingan Crimsonz then sings their new song. The end results show Shingan Crimsonz won. But Arcareafact doesn’t feel bitter like as though their Melodisian Stones were purified. Orion apologizes to Titan for cheating and sullying his song writing. Titan also reveals his family tragedy. When they return to celebrate, it seems their manager has taken everything belonging to them and cleaned out their bank accounts and ran away. Good thing they’re not so materialistic anymore but what now? Titan’s little brothers suggest coming to their place. Can it fit?

Episode 9
Rosia reveals that she peeked at Ailane playing the piano in the clubroom, she was reeking with dark aura. Plus, she had this extreme hate for music which gave birth to that darkness. She wants Plasmagica to pull out of this battle but you know, trust in us, believe in us, that kind of crap that will make everything alright. Dagger and Ailane are discussing their revenge plans. Peipain and Hundreko talk that something is wrong with Ailane. They have always been with her and she never hated music. It’s like their words don’t reach her anymore. On the day of the concert, Criticrista find Peipain and Hundreko in a dilemma to do Ailane’s plans. Rosia gives her piece of mind as she doesn’t want Midi City destroyed. But the duo cannot disobey her. They feel she has been acting strange since associating with Dagger. Then here comes Ailane herself. Rosia asks her hate for music but Ailane doesn’t intend to tell her. Not like it matters. When her underlings speak up that this is wrong, she tells them to shut it and fulfil her desires tonight. If they really want to stop her, do it with their so called wholesome music. BVL goes first and their dark rock seems to revive Dagger. What a lame alien form? But suddenly he reverts back to his little blob form. While Plasmagica is performing, Ailane chastises her subordinates for not playing the music of darkness. They reply how much she has changed and hate music she once loved. So you see, the power of emotions and friendship could overcome and change Ailane back. They should have the balls guts to do this from the start if it was this easy… Before the winner could be announced, an angry Dagger absorbs those useless BVL and sucks Plasmagica into another but familiar dimension. Doesn’t this world look familiar? Déjà vu time. Yeah, Dagger is a roaring lion monster this time.

Episode 10
Arcareafact’s manager shows up in time. However she changes into her true form: The Queen of Darkness otherwise also known as Victorious! She easily defeats Dagger and returns him to his weakened state. So much about the déjà vu fight. She declares war on everyone and the day the music die will be the day Puru Land holds its opening concert. Till then, have fun. I guess we all have a common enemy now. Because the good guys are pitying the baddies. Cyan asks if Ailane is okay. Maple asks if Dagger is okay. He suggests calling a truce and Dagger reluctantly agrees but asserts he has no intention of becoming his friend. Shingan Crimsonz wonder why Aion is in shock. Because apparently he realizes Ailane is in BVR. So? Ailane is his sister. Oh… So where does Aion go to when he is depressed? Ailane knows he’ll hang out at the tallest building. She blames him that because he loves music so much, he pushed it all onto her. She has had it with him and runs away. Time for the guys to have a guy talk and the girls to have a girl talk. Ailane reveals they come from a wealthy noble family. Aion was supposed to succeed his father and naturally had to learn and do lots of things. With high expectations and hopes, pressure got to him and his only solace was music. Father did not like that and wanted to take that away too. Aion remained stubborn and was then kicked out of the house. Ailane asked if music was more important than family. He could only apologize and this made her mad. With Aion gone, naturally Ailane became the next successor and was put through the same torture. And yes, she too cracked under pressure and turned to the dark side. But she realized too late she was only being used by Dagger. Overall, she didn’t hate music. The guys are much shorter. They eat and tell Aion to go tell his true feelings to his sister. Simple. Before Ailane and her subordinates leave for home, they reconcile and Ailane in a long time declares she loves him. In a sisterly way, that is. Meanwhile TAM has found Melodisian Almaz. Maple relays the good news that Plasmagica, Shingan Crimsonz and Criticrista will all perform at Puru Land’s opening. But guess who is back to also help them? Grateful King!

Episode 11
But look who is also back? Trichronika! This is part of Grateful King’s plan so that they can all write a song to fight as one against Victorious. But first, a flashback from the villainess side to understand her background. On the Planet Ordinis where gifted children are given special education from young and those not special enough are left behind, a young Victorious and her friend Astreal are taking a positive note to pass tomorrow’s exam. Climbing an endless thorny vine? They’re singing and climbing their way to the top while encouraging each other. Till Victorious slips and pleads for help. Astreal ignores her and continues climbing. The shock of the betrayal has Victorious falling to the bottom. Her Melodisian Stone got corrupted and gave her power. Inches before Astreal reaches the top, Victorious flies up before her and scorns her for her betrayal. This causes fearful Astreal to fall back down. Oh, so close yet so far. This makes Victorious realize the true potential of the power of darkness. But it was still not enough for her to stand at the very top and needed more energy. That is why she targeted Sound Planet whose energy is harvested from music. She decided to toy around and become Arcareafact’s manager to take advantage of everything. Cyan with the help of everyone finally writes a song. On the day Puru Land opens, Moa’s mom and dad give their opening speech before Grateful King starts the first performance. But before that can even begin, Victorious has begun her schemes by trapping the audience in her thorny vines. She even traps our band heroes in another dimension because without their instruments, they cannot fight her. All is not lost because Maple summons his mecha that was created in secret with Moa’s dad.

Episode 12
Maple frees our heroes back to their normal dimension. Just when Maple is going to attack, the machine breaks apart. Too heavy. We saw this coming, right? Because he isn’t the one who will defeat the big bad boss. Before it is Victorious’ turn, TAM returns with Darudayu throwing Melodisian Almaz and having everyone play to power the stone up. This also helps power Maple’s mecha as he rides the stone to crash into Victorious! Apparently that crash has made her feel some sort of wonderful feeling. Flashback after Arcareafact lost to Shingan Crimsonz, she went on to target Plasmagica but is baffled their music could connect hearts of BVL. This is when she remembers she used to sing a lot with Astreal. Funny “Justice is power” song… This makes her realized she was so concerned about getting stronger, she locked those feelings and love for music in the depths of her heart. Obviously. She wants to sing again. While the girls are happy Victorious doesn’t hate music and that she has repented, they mourn the death of Maple. Thankfully comic relief characters can’t die. He just returns as an over-burnt egg. Yeah, everybody is now mocking him and Maple is snapping at everyone’s ungratefulness and didn’t get a hero’s welcome. See! We all love that comic relief character, right?! The concert restarts again as everyone plays their gig. Those Myumon students finally arrive and Ogasawara is shocked to see the return of Dagger. He is in his true form but his head is still a blob. Funny… At the end of the concert with Ninjinriot appearing (where the f*ck were you guys?!), it is time for Cyan to say goodbye and return. Some tears flow, some thank you, some goodbyes. Cyan returns and looks like she has finally found her groove in writing her song for her school’s festival.

Hard Rock Save The Space
Well, I almost saw it all coming. At least the general pattern of the story. Group of good guys band together to unfairly outnumber and gang up against the villainess who didn’t have time to flex her muscles or strut her stuffs. Thanks to the power of friendship and music, even the baddies will become soft and return to the light side. Cyan returns home. The end. So I’m not sure if this sequel is any better or not because I’m still not really impressed. I mean, it’s not really bad but I wasn’t really all that excited when I watched this second season. It only feels like it is made for those who love furries playing rock music. Lots of different furries, that is.

Character development doesn’t feel that all great this season too. With so many characters now into the mix, it is so hard to give those lesser band mates any screen time for instance like those from Criticrista. Nobody except Rosia stands out and even so, Rosia is just reduced to some annoying side character. Even the new characters feel like they were just shoehorned into the show for the plot despite looking as though they have some potential in them. It also feels like as though they serve to troll viewers to make us think that they might be the main antagonist but as soon as Victorious pops up in her true form, they die down and go back into the shadows. Sure, we see them in the final episode credits montage with BVL still doing their personal gig and Arcareafact enjoying living the dirty underground poor sewer life (because it hell beats all those shiny rich things, right?), but then it doesn’t really matter at this point. They don’t even join our last season’s bands in fighting Victorious. It just feels redundant.

Worst of the new characters are Ninjinriot. These people appear for just the first episode (and the most the beginning of the second episode) and then disappear for the rest of the episodes! It makes you wonder where the f*ck did those guys go and what were they doing when evil was lurking in Midi City and our heroes and heroines are the one who are doing the real work. It’s like tossing to them their responsibility, no? You just say a few words and tell what is happening or what will happen and then to be never heard off again. And then they appear in the final episode just to thank them for doing everything (yeah, they just help destroy the baddie and save the future which is supposed to be your job I believe) and are there just to take Cyan back. Some futuristic heroes they are. I want to argue that they should have just gone back further in time to prevent Victorious from turning to the dark side but then again, I’m thinking they don’t want to dirty their hands and let somebody do the dirty work. After all, the present isn’t their, uhm, future? Pretty forgettable, if I should say.

As for our recurring main and supporting characters, Trichronika and TAM are side-lined for most of the season by going on a tour and journey respectively only to show up in the final moments so that we don’t forget that they too are the heroes and deserve to be part of the winning team. That’s the thing when you have too many freaking characters. Even our main characters from Plasmagica also don’t feel like they have the spotlight well enough. Sure, Moa has her own episode, Chuchu making sweets and Retoree seemingly has one so she could reconcile with Rosia, because most of the stuffs like Chuchu being used by Dagger out of her own jealousy are mostly covered in the first season. Heck, even Dagger coming back felt like a troll because he didn’t really do anything. He would have had he not been usurped by the dark queen. And with him back in business with Ogasawara, not sure if he will be continuing his shady ways and ambitions (seeing those Myumon students are perhaps under his agency now – I don’t even know what this distraction is for this season). I think he is the only evil looking one still at the end. At least Victorious has gone back to being looking more like a great diva. Perhaps it’s because Victorious was never evil to begin with unlike Dagger (assuming) and that’s why she turned back. Maybe the bands should sing another song to cure Dagger and make him look all cutie and nice.

So this season seems to pay more attention to Shingan Crimsonz instead because they’ve got a new rival in the name of Arcareafact (now ex-rival) to deal with as well as the ‘shocking’ revelation of Ailane being Aion’s sister. You see, these newbies from BVL and Arcareafact looked like they have potential with their seemingly interesting back stories to tell but then when Victorious decides to play her card, all that is tossed aside. Well, at least Maple didn’t become a running joke this time because it is only shown once, Angelica beating the S&M crap out of him when he stepped out of line. Remember that? And so what they discovered Rom’s past with Shuuzou? A sign for them to band together stronger as brothers? I thought they’ve always been this idiotically close to begin with. There are many other smaller bands that debuted last season making their cameos here but I suppose they don’t even matter because I still don’t even remember their names. Oh yeah, lastly what can I say about Cyan as the main heroine? My thoughts is that if Midi City has a big crisis, just call her. Forcefully bring her to this world if you have to. Because there is nothing more that saves the universe than Cyan and her song writing. Yeah. Hard rock (and a certain other hard mineral rock too) save the space.

With all of last season’s seiyuus retained, a few new ones join the cast. Most notably Miyuki Sawashiro as Victorious. She sounds like she is devilishly having fun with her antagonistic character. Personally, I still feel Sayaka Ohara still takes the cake as the best voice for badass villainess but Miyuki Sawashiro deserves a pat on the back here for truly making her character’s voice shine. The other new casts include Ruriko Noguchi as Ailane, Aimi Tanaka as Peipain (titular character in Himouto! Umaru-chan), Ibuki Kido as Hundreko (Claire in Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance),Yuusuke Kobayashi as Titan (Subaru in Re: Zero Kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu), Taku Yashiro as Orion (Hayato in Mayoiga), Chiharu Sawashiro as Argon (Natsuki Ise in All Out), Eishin Fudemura as Selen (debut) and Mai Goto as Astreal (Mika in Nogizaka Haruka No Himitsu).

Just like last season, Plasmagica dominates the opening and ending themes with their trademark rock music. Heart Wo Rock is a little catchy thought I find it weird that the girls (especially the guitarists) doing strange dances to the beat of the tune. For example, shaking their right hand and that very strange marching. I suppose you won’t be bothered by too much of it when you’re quite into the pace of the music. The main ending theme is My Song Is You while the special ending song for the final episode sung by Cyan is Close To You. The animation uses the same CG design as in the first season so I thought they were reusing the same recycled stuffs. Maybe for the animation but not for the song. There are also a few insert songs but those rock genre they didn’t really appeal to my taste. Except for that one whereby Shingan Crimsonz were introducing themselves and at the same time describing or somewhat paying tribute to the food they’re eating. That was hilarious.

Overall, this season feels like a waste of potential with some boring and predictable storylines, it would only appeal to hardcore fans of the series. Just because of a few cool looking male furries and lots of cute female furries doesn’t mean that all the music they sing are music to my ears. Maybe this fad has ended and it is time to bury the series instead of milking it dry with another season. I don’t know. Personally I think it should be that way to ‘end’ it here seeing this season had a ‘decent’ ending that ties up lots of strings and holes. Even in show business, you need to know how to quit to stay ahead.

Shokugeki No Souma S2

March 24, 2017

Thanks to the mouth-watering first season, it was only right to satiate the quench and hunger of fans and viewers who want more of Shokugeki No Souma. Hence, your wishes are heard and the second season is served to feed our need once more. We can’t wait to see what our main protagonists cook up delicious and godly dishes that we pitiful commoners can only salivate and imagine we’re those lucky people tasting them. So if you love food but have to go on a strict diet, at least the doctor didn’t prescribe that you stay away and shouldn’t watch any food themed series. Have you heard of anybody getting fat visually? Oh wait… Being a couch potato and not exercising contributes to obesity… Damn it… Too late, I’ve already started…

Episode 1
We jump right into the quarter-finals for the Autumn Elections. Because Souma is our main character, he goes up first in the first match. His opponent? Alice. The theme will be bento. Alice finishes first and presents to the judges her high quality seafood temari bento. You can tell how good it is when Senzaemon goes topless! Apparently Alice doesn’t know about the unwritten rules about why she will lose. One, because those who goes second will always win and two, Souma is main character so he must win. So Souma’s fish theme bento by taking advantage of the bento box to turn it into soup as well as salmon roe that literally explodes into your mouth (inspiration based on some snack of a similar nature) sealed the win for him. In short, Souma used the bento’s shape to fill it with entertainment and enhanced its flavour with warmth compared to Alice’s cold chilling flavour to just fill the box that made Souma the winner. Alice tries out his dish and gets a flashback of her cold past and being filled up by the warmth of this bento. Cue for naked delusion reaction please…

Episode 2
The second round pits Megumi against Ryo and the theme is ramen. To fill in the time for this episode, we get to see Ryo being an excellent and serious chef since young. This little kid is the one who took charge of the kitchen and putting the adults to shame. Ryo doesn’t think Megumi is serious in her cooking because of her sheltered life. Chefs are all about winning or being beaten. Cooking is about bringing your opponents down to your knees. Wow. I never knew cooking was hardcore battlefield. Ryo finishes first and lets the judges taste his rich shrimp seafood ramen. I’m not sure if Ryo has a good naming sense because he calls this dish, Soupe de Poisson. Sorry, my French not so good. But don’t look down on Megumi. She is equally serious and has put in the effort too. In short, she improvises the ingredients she has to create another rich seafood ramen but her main ingredient is scallops. Shrimps versus scallops. Who will win?

Episode 3
If you follow the unwritten rules, Megumi should win, right? Well, sometimes you have to break that rule. Because Ryo wins. Even if Senzaemon didn’t go topless for Megumi’s dish unlike Ryo’s, he realized later that his underwear had gone missing! Hidden gem? The third match resumes the next day and has Hisako against Hayama to make hamburger. Meanwhile Souma is running late to the hall when he bumps into a punk dude riding his bike, Subaru Mimasaka. This is the guy that surpassed Ibusaki and Marui in the final moments to make it to the next round. Mimasaka is a bit of a weirdo himself. Not the fact he heavily locks and chains his bike or showing off his great embroidery, but the fact he knows every trivial information his opponents! This guy is a walking database! This guy even knows the average hours they slept in the past month! SCARY! As the match has started, Souma and Megumi have to watch in the waiting room with Mimasaka and Takumi. Hisako shows her savagery as she beheads a live terrapin and drain its blood to make burger meat! To show how scary Mimasaka’s accurate prediction is, he predicts Hayama’s win because his kebab dish made out of lamb and beef has a very strong aroma. Something about using achaar too. There she goes into her naked defeat. There goes Hisako’s dreams in replacing Erina. So sad. As Takumi and Mimasaka are preparing for their match, Takumi catches him red handed in touching his tools. He also knows he has been spying on him on the last few days. Mimasaka badmouths the bad tools he is using. Worse, he talks trash about Isami who will always be a second rate chef. Before the match begins, an emergency announcement is broadcasted. It seems Takumi and Mimasaka’s match will be also a Shokugeki.

Episode 4
Apparently veterans won’t be surprised of this Shokugeki because Mimasaka has won 99 of them! He will take Takumi’s knife if he wins otherwise Mimasaka will apologize to his brother right in front of everyone. Records show Mimasaka makes the same dish as his opponents but improvises them to stay tops. Thus he makes the same semifreddo. Not only he stalks his opponents to know and trace their thoughts of what they’ll make, he even exposes and badmouths them. Yeah, like reading out a book of your life’s story, eh? So if Takumi is starting to panic, how can his ‘supporters’ not stay calm? Of course, always go back to your family roots… Mimasaka serves first and let’s say his semifreddo makes one of the judges feel like a young girl. Takumi bounces back with his improvisation using some English rooted lemon with Italian touch and adding his secret family made olive oil. However Mimasaka starts laughing. All going according to his plan. He was counting on him using his secret technique (that’s why he already warned he knows everything about him) and used preserved lemons as his secret ingredient. In the end, all the judges unanimously vote for Mimasaka. So you think his ‘supporters’ might feel the need to speak to him or cheer him up so why are they b*tching about Souma not giving a f*cks? Then back at the dorm, isn’t it no surprise that Mimasaka is waiting in Souma’s room? As you might have guessed, the next round pits them together. He is here to wager another Shokugeki for his knives. He knows Souma will stand up for the humiliated and tries to get him mad to accept it. But Souma is cool. He isn’t rattled and is confident Takumi isn’t depressed after this. Instead he feels pity for Mimasaka. He respects him for recreating Takumi’s dish. But that’s just about it. He took advantage of Takumi’s trial and error effort and as a chef he can’t respect him. He doesn’t know the true joy of cooking. Souma accepts his Shokugeki. But he doesn’t want Takumi’s knife back but all the other 99 tools he took. So what will Souma wager for that equivalent value? He will quit being a chef! Gasp!

Episode 5
Souma further tells him the beef stew that he will make in the match. That’s when his pals rush him to stop giving out more information. Mito is most upset about all this. Souma explains he wants to return all the tools Mimasaka robbed. He will stake his pride as his chef to defeat him. Next morning, Mitsuru Sotsuda is at his doorstep. He is from the journalism club and has covered about his upcoming Shokugeki with Mimasaka which has set the entire school abuzz. This guy wants to be the best journalist so what the heck is he doing in Totsuki for? He bugs Souma for an exclusive interview but he ignores him. He remains persistent till people have the wrong idea about their gay relationship and so he relents. Souma lets him try out the beef stew he is going to make. Of course to a normal guy like him it tastes great but it isn’t enough. Souma reveals he told Mimasaka what he will be doing as this is his best dish before coming to Totsuki. Now that they are at the same starting line, will he evolve this dish or Mimasaka’s profiling will surpass him. As Mitsuru is full (it is blasphemy to not finish Souma’s cooking!), Souma needs someone who can test taste. Meanwhile Erina is happily reading her love manga. She realizes she ran out of volumes and Hisako isn’t around to provide her. She has left for a journey after realizing she is too embarrassed to face her after her loss. Erina thinks she is back but it’s just Souma and Mitsuru. Disappointed? B*tch mode on. She rejects them to test taste but after Souma says one of his dorm mates has the full manga volume, she agrees. The verdict? It’s trash. She didn’t even hint what is wrong. Well, you can’t argue with her God tongue, right? After a while, Souma hits inspiration and kicks Mitsuru out of his kitchen. Exclusivity over. The first semi-final math is here and the judges are all graduates of Totsuki like Dojima, Inui, Fuyumi Mizuhara, Taki Tsunozaki and Sonoka Kikuchi. Everyone is surprised when they see Souma using oxtail as his base. They think he has overcome his problem. Till they see Mimasaka is also using oxtail and the same spices! He knows everything! But now this is where Mimasaka surpasses Souma as he proclaims.

Episode 6
In addition to oxtails, Mimasaka has got brown sugar and a whole lot of other secret ingredients for his beef stew. Enhancing his perfect profiling is his revelation of Mitsuru’s weak birthday password that allowed him to peek at his interview findings. This guy is really a stalker! Souma is not fazed and starts cooking. I mean, he starts his cooking only right now. Mimasaka knows this is one way to defeat his perfect profiling by not planning and improvising on the dot. However most will panic and end up blank. He has high hopes for Souma and knows he won’t panic but will still fall short. Mimasaka goes first and needless to say the judges are awed. Souma goes next and although the first bite doesn’t bring any excitement, suddenly they are falling like riding a roller coaster! Souma reveals he was also thinking about Mimasaka. He also predicted what he would make but that wouldn’t be his own cooking. So his improvised cooking wasn’t just on the fly but he has drawn from all his experience throughout his life in making this beef stew which is unlike the profiling that has only 1 necessary step taken. The judges are in fantasy land. Nothing wrong about it except Dojima is dressing and acting like a girl! Hideous! In short, Souma unanimously wins the Shokugeki. As expected.

Mimasaka can’t accept this loss so Souma lets him try his dish. So good that it brings back memories of his childhood when he first started cooking. He had talent but his father who is a top chef didn’t like him copying his dishes. One day his restaurant was showcasing new dishes and hosting VIPs, Mimasaka added a simple twist so he could earn dad’s respect. Although he ended up winning, it made dad madder. He was then exiled to Totsuki and that was where he began using his profiling ability and concocting his twisted personality. All the tools are returned to their respective owners and everyone is ever grateful to Souma. Mimasaka will stop being a chef forever but Souma stops him. Souma calls Takumi to get his knife. Takumi admits his loss to Mimasaka but will beat him the next time. A new person to be gay with? But Takumi gives his knife to Souma. It is his now. At least his safekeeping. He will get it back once he beats him in their next Shokugeki. Souma tells Mimasaka to take his opponent’s entire pride in a single match again. Even if he is heavily defeated and crushed, you still need to open shop tomorrow. That is what being a chef is all about. In short, continue cooking. And this is what Souma meant about quitting cooking. It is just to start all over again. So he wasn’t really going to stop, huh? Mimasaka tastes Souma’s dish again and this time feels like a little girl. More hideous than Dojima… Souma’s win must now be a thorn in Erina’s side now. Can’t wait to win this and face her.

Episode 7
Now for Hayama and Ryo to face off. Souma irks Erina as he sits with her together in her special VIP room to watch. As Hayama is the favourite to win, I suppose that is why we have Alice to tell us about his past hell training, blah, blah, blah. I wonder how this will sit with Mito when she sees Souma being flanked by 2 hot babes. Anyway with the western style dish as theme, Hayama uses duck while Ryo goes for eel. It gets odder when the visual metaphor becomes a card game with monsters. Yugioh x Pokemon?! So we’ve got Hayama’s fragrant dish grasping the judges with its ‘eagle claws’ and Ryo giving them electric shock and explosion! So who will win? For the first time, the judges are having a tough time to decide. When the score is at 2-2, it all boils down to Kikuchi. She cannot choose. Of course we can’t have that so Dojima proposes. Normally a draw would mean rescheduling and fight another date but with everyone’s tight schedule this isn’t possible. So how? Let them both advance to the finals! This never happened before. Oh, when Senzaemon gives his approval means it will happen. Yeah, I thought it would be time for Souma to seek revenge on both together. While Hayama gracefully accepts this fate, Ryo is bursting with anger and rage. Our 3 finalists lay down their challenge to each other. The theme will be saury fish and the finals will be in 10 days. 10 days?! OMG. Filler time?!

Episode 8
Souma and Megumi head to the fish market. They see Ryo and Alice. Ryo has this knack to choose the freshest saury as well as its taste at its peak. They both make sashimi and let Megumi judge. Ryo’s sashimi is better. Some explanation about Ryo’s ability to determine everything that he touches. Even from how the fish lives to how it is transported?! WTF?! In that case this guy makes a good crime solver. They also hear Hayama was earlier here and the sellers were talking how great he is choosing the best ingredients with his nose. Yeah, I guess Souma is at a disadvantage if he can’t choose the best ingredients. He is turned into an underdog or no hoper since the media interviewing his rivals are shown their great demonstration but Souma has nothing to show for. Souma realizes aging may be an important factor so he ropes in Ryouko, Ibusaki and Mito to help since they are experts in aging techniques. Even with all the testing and the best saury they can come up with, Megumi still believes it doesn’t taste near as Ryo’s. This has Souma cracking his head. He can’t give up on aging now. When he decides to go buy more saury, he sees Fumio in her usual drinking. He sees the simple snack that goes with her drinking and hits eureka. He must have really hit an idea because he hugs her. Hayama and Ryo notice Souma has not come to the fish market ever since but they know he has a plan as he is not the kind to give up. On the final match day, the judges will be Senzaemon, Dojima and Leonora Nakiri (Alice’s mom). She might look beautiful but her Japanese accent is horrible! Hayama and Ryo take out their firm and exquisite saury. Souma? What the f*ck is that brown sh*t?! Not kidding. Literally, it looks like one long hard constipated sh*t!!!!!!!

Episode 9
Underneath the moonlight night, our finalists begin their cooking. Because Ryo finishes first and serves, we have a little flashback of him and Alice’s battling it out. Alice always won and it took him 2 years to finally beat her. That is of course after he learnt her cooking style and knowledge. Ryo serves his saury in a pouch. You can tell how awesome it is when Senzaemon bares his chest and even grins. Leonora on the other hand turns into Buddha explaining word for word all the amazingness in fast forward fashion. Oh, she speaks fluent Japanese now! Sorry guys, she’s not going to bare her chest like you thought. When it is Hayama’s turn, Ryo thought he was joking because his dish seems lighter. But he hasn’t put the finishing touches. Once he sears his saury, an amazing aroma fills the hall. You can even tell how tasty it is by smelling without tasting. Of course when you taste, the better. The usual bare chest Senzaemon and Buddha Leonora. Of course don’t look down on Souma. His piece of sh*t is actually saury covered in salted rice bran. As usual, great reviews and all, blah, blah, blah. But then everybody notices something. Senzaemon didn’t strip his top. Leonora didn’t go into Buddha mode. Does this mean it Souma has lost? Why the f*cks everybody is so negative when it comes to the candidate they are supporting? Don’t jump your guns yet because the dish isn’t finished. You need to have seconds. So don’t say you’re full now.

Episode 10
Isshiki talks to Eizan and he knew it was all his plan to have Mimasaka target Souma for ultimate humiliation but his plan backfired. Souma presents his white soup which is soy milk to turn his saury dish into porridge. We’ve got Senzaemon clothes explode apart! So amidst their praise, Isshiki continues telling Eizan about the magazine focusing more on Hayama and putting down Souma (just like America’s 2016 elections?). Even when Souma defeated Alice and Mimasaka, the crowd doesn’t seem to acknowledge him. Isshiki once talked to Jouichirou about Souma. He views his son has no special cooking skill but lacks what a normal person would have which is the belief of losing to someone more talented. This is obvious when Souma never gave up after losing all the time to him. All Souma did was keep testing and retesting his recipes. Thus the reason why everyone is afraid to acknowledge him is because if they do so they are acknowledging their own lack of effort. So before the judges announce the winner, they give their evaluation on their dishes. Blah, blah, blah. But the one dish that sets the winner apart is the reflection of the chef as an individual. An own specialty dish. And the winner is… Flashback to Hayama’s past 8 years ago! F*CK!!!!! Do we need more tension???!!! Yeah, yeah. So we learn he was abandoned in the slums till Shiomi picked him up and taught him things. This gives Hayama a purpose in life and thus he is always grateful to her, the reason he must win this tournament. And if that story feels like a flag or something, it is because the winner is Hayama!!!!!!!!!! Shiomi is so happy rushing down to his side that he hugs her in front of everyone. I suppose Souma is in a dilemma now because dad told him not to lose to anyone before losing to him next time. So Souma and Ryo has Hayama make his saury dish for them to taste again. Part of their improvement plan, I guess. Later Souma gets a call from Jouichirou. He laughs at his son’s defeat. Souma is motivated to explore the kind of cooking he can only do to carry on his family’s business name. Isn’t that what he has been doing all the time? Souma and Ryo spend the rest of their time at Hayama’s place test tasting each other’s several dishes in a bid to improve. Even the Polar Star residents get the same idea. Shiomi warns them that they only have a short respite. After this they will be tossed out of the academy for a practical training programme called Stagiaire.

Episode 11
The first stage of Stagiaire will have students work at pairs. Guess who Souma gets paired with? Hisako. Not thrilled to see him, huh? They will be helping out Mamoru Mitamura’s western restaurant for a week. They notice customers leaving in a rush. Despite Hisako claiming she can cook and cut fast, but can she handle it when the stream is endless? When customers come in at one go, the staffs become chaotic trying to fulfil the orders. Because they cannot get it done in time, all the customers leave at the same time! But with Souma taking charge, things get a bit better. As much as Hisako hate taking orders from him, for the sake of this restaurant she has to swallow her pride and drop that b*tch attitude. It is learnt that the customers are rushing for the Bullet Train and that is why they are rushing for time. Meanwhile Erina is also having her Stagiaire. She is in confrontation with the restaurant owner who is trying to relegate her to washing dishes. Megumi better stay out of this… Eventually she takes over command of the place and customer satisfaction drastically increases. Yeah, it’s like she owns the place now. When Souma points out if Hisako is going to continue working in this restaurant, she realizes what he is implying and calls for an emergency meeting with the staffs. Although things are going smooth for now, once the Totsuki duo leave, things will go back to normal. Chaotic. The staffs feel changing too much would be meaningless so Souma has Mitamura think what kind of restaurant he wants it to be and based on the circumstances they are in, offers a solution. Nobody think that turning this restaurant into reservations only instead of walk-in would be successful. However in its own way it does because old customers who were too busy to come here can now make reservations to come enjoy their food. Things are less hectic this way too. Erina gives Megumi a ride home. She asks more about Megumi and of course she can’t thank her success without mentioning Souma. That name just infuriates her. But the mention of Hisako’s name has her suddenly become depressed. Speaking of her, Hisako is still reeling she doesn’t deserve to be with Erina, blah, blah, blah. Souma tells her she should walk by her side and not behind her and gives her the manga Erina wants as reason for her to see her again. After all, they both lost to Hayama and should find a way to beat him someday. For once Hisako returns a nice grateful smile.

Episode 12
Where does Souma get sent for the next Stagiaire? Oh. It’s a soon to be newly opened Tokyo flagship store of Shinomiya. Due to budget constraints, I guess Souma has to start helping out finishing the construction and fitting with Shinomiya himself and the minimal staffs that include Abel Blondin the head chef, Gao Wei and Lucie Hugo. After they’re done, Shinomiya cooks for them quiche. Despite tasting absolutely delicious, by Shinomiya’s standards it is not good. Shinomiya’s restaurant will have a few days of pre-open. This is like a test run where he invites customers he knows to taste the food and such. Of course Souma as his first time experiencing this falls behind and almost threatens to disrupt the work flow of everybody. He barely makes it by the end of the day. And you might have guessed, despite all the criticisms and scolding, he won’t get dejected so instead he learns to improve himself at night and more importantly ask questions. Thus you can see him improve day by day that he becomes faster than the rest on the last pre-open day. Since Shinomiya is holding a new menu competition among the staffs, Souma wants to join. Looks like he has found his specialty.

Episode 13
After the last pre-open day, the restaurant is closed for a private event that Shinomiya has invited certain people over. They are some of Totsuki’s alumni and Chapelle. Not forgetting Shinomiya’s mother. After the restaurant closes, they want to stay behind to watch the staffs in the new menu competition. We can tell this episode is all fully dedicated to Souma because we don’t even see what the other staffs cook. We see Souma drawing out his past experience to make his new menu. It must be awesome because he becomes Super Saiyan???!!! Even more so, we don’t see those ‘judge’s tasting the other staffs’ menu. It all boils down to Souma. He serves his best French dish, a whole quail which might look like a French version of substituted version of Japan’s oyakodon. Of course it tastes good as Souma explains all about it. Blah, blah, blah. But what is Shinomiya’s verdict? It is still low quality! It is good to be served at a small time restaurant but a flagship restaurant like his is a no. In fact, Shinomiya offers to teach how he could make the dish better. Souma couldn’t be happier. Better prepare yourself because it takes all night! Shinomiya’s final encouragement is for Souma to take the top seat of the Elite Ten. Montage shows other Totsuki students toughing it out in their own Stagiaire. Souma returns back his dorm only to find a box of Shokugeki challenge letters. In fact, one of them challenges him right now! Bring it on. There are more montages of the rest but the noteworthy ones are Isami back to his fatty form again and Hisako back by Erina’s side. Souma wins his Shokugeki and then throws down his challenge to everyone he can take on anyone anytime. Even right now.

Bomb Appetite!
OMG???!!! What happened???!!! Let me explain to you with this scenario. You once tried out a newly opened restaurant in your area. Everything was new, everything was fresh, everything was good. Absolutely the best. You know this is going to be your favourite place to eat for a long time to come. You recommend to your friends and family about this place. You decide to come and eat again but wait. It feels a little different. At first it wasn’t quite as good as the original but it was still bearable. But as you proceed with your meal, you find that it has lost the quality you thought it once had. It turned out totally different than the first experience. Very different. It’s like they changed the recipe or the chefs who did it. You decide that this place has become awful and just like how it betrayed your trust, you decide never to come back here ever again. Ever.

Sadly, this is my feelings for this season and I believe the same can be said for many of us who watched this (yeah, read those dreaded internet comments). Thanks to the first season, it has built a good base that makes us wanting more. Of course we were hyped and excited when we heard there was going to be a second season. And then it came. And went away quietly. Leaving us to question where it went wrong along the way. Although a direct continuation from the first season, the first half of the season was still enjoyable, it wasn’t as exciting that I had experienced in the first time. I shouldn’t be calling this ‘fatigue’ because this is only the second time. So for the magic to wear out this fast? Something must have gone wrong. By the time it reached halfway, the magic was close to zero. Almost completely gone. Instead of anticipating with glee for each episode, there was this dreaded feeling that I have to go through the same crap again. There was no more excitement. The excitement pretty much felt dead. And because this season had a few more episodes to spare after the Autumn Elections ended, the Stagiaire felt like filler episodes to close the season. Too late. Damage done. But if there is anything good about this final mini arc, at least it gives students a peak of what a real hell’s kitchen works in real life. Yes, real work life experience.

Perhaps it was the case of following the formula of if it is not broken, don’t fix it. Because this season offers nothing new and very much follows the pattern of the first season. Students fight it out in cooking battles but instead this season is pretty much concentrated on the Autumn Elections. That’s about it. The dishes they served up look pretty amazing and people like me will get lost in all the judges’ mumbo-jumbo as they try to explain and justify why that dish is so godly. Yeah, maybe that is why it has lost touch with us commoners. There might have been some sort of hidden frustration that we as casual viewers have come to terms that we will never get to taste it and thus no matter how much the wax lyrical about the food, we couldn’t care less anymore because it doesn’t reach us. I mean, why the heck should we get excited if we are not going to taste it anyhow? I mean, we can use our imagination to salivate but that only makes things worse. You know, dreaming of eating the best food but ultimate realizing you can’t afford it so you just keep on dreaming. Yeah. That kind of frustration.

The plot for the Autumn Elections was also very predictable. I actually predicted who was going to fight who and the winner of that match. All came out true except the second semi-final in which I was sure that Hayama would win (although it was a match in which I had the lowest confidence my prediction would be right) and they did the unthinkable of making both pass. Which is like a slap in the face for all of us expecting a winner. And this in which leads to the finals whereby of course made my prediction go off trajectory again because after watching so many series with a main protagonist like Souma (especially when you have your name in the title), I expected Souma to make a comeback and win so he could have his ‘defeat’ in the qualifying round avenged. And what do you know? Hayama won. Wow. That was unexpected. But I suppose it is a good thing because it shows Souma isn’t invincible. You win some, you lose some. Also, an excuse for Souma to improve himself because the chances of so after you lose an important fight is higher. Really. So put off that final boss fight with Erina and take a detour levelling up, getting stronger and fighting other sub-bosses along the way first. Guess we’ll have to wait another time.

There was little to no character development at all. Of course there is some development for Souma. He is the main character for God’s sake. But this guy is so good like the many other characters you see in this series, that when he improves, you don’t really see what he improves on. He looks the same awesome guy. Just like how Adobe Acrobat always want to update but you don’t see a freaking difference, right? Yeah… If this is already happening to Souma, what about the other characters? Sure, it is unfair to say that this season had only half the episodes compared to the first season. But the way some are shown makes them redundant. Like those Polar Star students and Mito are just reduced to cheering Souma. They didn’t even do anything significant. They’re forgettable. I could go on ranting about the other characters but that would be me repeating myself because they are more or less like this for this season. Pretty much everybody stays the same. Erina is still a big b*tch who hates Souma (albeit a little lesser but so miniscule that it won’t change anything), Hisako being a b*tch for Erina, Takumi still being gay for Souma and Megumi still that same panicky girl. At least she doesn’t have to rely too much on Souma this time. At least no running jokes like Souma’s bad squid tentacle rape combo for fanservice. Phew, right? But still have plenty of ladies stripping naked in their exaggerated delusion delight when they taste a fantastic dish. Yeah, those delusions and explanations are still the main trademark of the series. Truly, I really need to taste all of them.

Mimasaka if I should say is the only new character for this season and perhaps as the ‘antagonist’ he is pretty much by far the most interesting. He is intimidating and his unusual stalker method really gives me the creeps. He was one badass guy whom you’d want Souma to take down badly. However what makes me unable to like him further than that is the exaggerated effect of his database ability. I know this series has people with outrageous ability like Erina’s divine tongue but having Mimasaka like a walking computer it makes him so unrealistic. It’s like he has got everything covered. Everything. This guy if he didn’t end up being a chef, he could have been the human version of Wikipedia and WikiLeaks. Watch out because there is somebody who can remember your past just by observing every freaking thing you do and then do it better way than yourself. If this is a new way of stealing your identity, it is going to be a scary place to live in.

I have this conspiracy theory of mine. You know how everybody here makes super good food that they even though to ordinary people it will be so heavenly but among themselves are not good enough? Well, I thought that all those crazy reactions you see are the side effect of drugs! Yes people! This academy makes ecstasy drugs in the guise of food! Now, the only way for top people like those judges to get their fix all the time, is to get students to ‘improve’ on the ‘food’ and with the excuse of a tournament, they’ll get to taste and enjoy that ‘food’. I know this sounds like a stretch but let that sink in for a moment. This way, those cheapskate bastards will also get their fix for free because what better way than to get high frequently, right? So the one with the best drugs wins? Holy sh*t!!!!!!!!!!!

Also, if Stagiaire has the Totsuki students being sent to work temporarily at super high quality restaurants around the country, then considering that there are quite a number of first year students, does this mean that there are a hell lot of such super high quality restaurants around? This is not even counting the Totsuki alumni whom all of them have opened their successful restaurant. This means Japan (if not the world) is one big place of high quality gourmet? Where do commoners with no money go to eat then? Oh right. Maybe in this world everybody gets a decent quality meal no matter from what kind of poor background they come. Because such godly food will always save the day. The other thing that keeps bugging me is the number of first year students at Totsuki. My guess there is an extremely large number of them. Because after every major training camp or special event, you would hear the higher ups mention how so many are weeded out. Yet there are so many left (this is assuming from what I hear from the next event). Sure, we are only shown Souma and some of the major characters so we don’t really see all the other students who flop. Safe to say, all those whom we have seen so far and given at least some personality (like those eternal Polar Star bros, Yuki and Ryouko) all have potential to survive to become the next elite chefs.

Having said all that, the rock opening theme somehow doesn’t sit with me, Rough Diamonds by Screen Mode. Maybe the diamond needs more polishing? Then there is Snow Drop by Nano Ripe as the ending theme. No longer sounding bad when I first heard her a long time ago. This rock theme ending feels dramatic because it’s all on Souma. Yeah, it feels like the pressure is on him. A few more notable seiyuus lending their voice to this series this season. Those I recognized are Hiroki Yasumoto as Mimasaka, Sayaka Ohara as Leonora and Satomi Arai as Lucie.

Overall, this season may be disappointing but it still has hope. Note, this doesn’t mean this season is literally bad. I still enjoy this series but it didn’t reach the height of its first season. I know I have said that I may never want to step into a restaurant with such bad food again but in the future if I hear from others how it has returned to its original roots, nostalgia might play a decisive factor for me in giving this series another chance (yeah, read those hopeful internet comments too). A few bad things like the story and characters being underdeveloped and making the season lacklustre doesn’t mean that everything else is bad. That is the thing when you start off something great. The expectations are high and it is a hurdle that one must aim very high to replicate or else you fall hard. Maybe it is a good thing for me to continue eating cheap commoner food. Who knows if I get addicted to such high quality food, I won’t be able to turn back and ‘eat properly’ anymore. I’ll be starving to death because no ordinary food could satiate my palate anymore. Thank goodness for cheap economy mixed rice for being around…

Tales Of The Abyss

March 19, 2017

After the very awesome and satisfying Tales Of Zestiria The X, which was my first venture into the long running Tales series, it was the reason why I decided to check out one of the earlier adapted works, Tales Of The Abyss. Just like Final Fantasy, each series are a different set of stories and characters. So I’m hoping that with my preference for the fantasy genre, I hope it would lead me to explore other series under the Tales title or perhaps take some time off.

Episode 1
The opening narration tells us some heavy stuffs. The planet Auldrant that was created by 7 fonons is now divided into 2 countries: Kimlasca Kingdom and Malkuth Empire. Both have uneasy peace with each other. Yulia Jue as ‘the founder’ read from the Seventh Fonon, Lorelei that predicted the planet’s birth and its death. There is an order established to support and protect this Score. Part of the history include Kimlasca giving birth to one who will be called Light of the Sacred Flame inheriting this Lorelei power ad lead Kimlasca to prosperity. A couple of years later, somebody will destroy the land which he was born and this will lead to a full war cycle between Kimlasca and Malkuth. Phew. Don’t understand what’s going on there. Luke Fon Fabre sneaks out of his castle just when his maids are looking for him because Princess Natalia Luzu Kimlasca Lanvaldear is here to see him. Luckily his best friend, Guy Cecil knows where to find him. Luke is not fond of Natalia showing up here. Yeah, she is his fiancée and you know how sick you’ll be to see the face of the one you’re marrying many years from now. Haha! Luke is also unhappy is an arranged one and decided since birth. Making it even more painful is that Luke doesn’t remember the promise he supposedly made to her because apparently he was kidnapped by Malkuth since young but miraculously returned unharmed many years later although he lost his memories. Oh, there’s more. Luke is also suffering from some sort of pain in his head from time to time. Like as though a voice is trying to force him to listen to his will. No wonder that guy is so full of angst. Could this be Malkuth’s doing?

Luke is then called by his father the Duke. He learns his favourite teacher, Dorian General Van Grants will be heading back to Daath tomorrow. As he is the commander of Oracle Knights that is part of the Lorelei Order, his current mission has him to protect Fon Master Ion, leader of the Order. He is currently missing and Van’s mission is to look for him. But Luke is not happy because who is going to supervise his training? First world problems. He is also unhappy he is always locked up in the kingdom and can’t go anywhere. Though, mother assures he is free to do so when he comes of age. Van suggests training his heart out today to make up for his departure. While they’re swinging swords, a strange woman waltzes into the palace and starts singing, knocking them out with her song. Once Tear finds Van, she attacks him, calling him a traitor. Luke defends him and clashes swords with her. But their swords resonate since both are Seventh Fonon. Both are then blasted away to a faraway place. When Luke wakes up, he is on some flowerbed cliff near the sea. First time seeing the sea? Tear feels bad for getting him involved and will take responsibility of bringing him back. Why must he follow her? Because she does a better job in cutting down vicious monsters than your chicken sh*t ass. Luckily Luke’s lessons also pay off. Along the way, they meet a guy who is willing to give them a ride home. But he needs payment upfront. Tear gives her jewel. And Luke is happy he doesn’t have to dirty his shoes and can go home. Eh? I thought he wanted to leave the kingdom so badly and now he wants to go home? The ride home is smooth until the carriage is under attack.

Episode 2
The carriage gets out of the way. This giant military dreadnought, Tartarus is chasing a bandit believed to be from Dark Wings. Yeah, they just blow up the entire bridge along with the bandits. When Tear sees the military emblem, she realizes they are from Malkuth and they are heading into their empire. How could she even mess this up? After being dropped off at the small villager, we can tell Luke has been living a sheltered life as he takes what he wants to eat at the market without paying. This riles up the people as they capture him and bring him to Rose. They believe he is the food thief. Rose is currently entertaining Colonel Jade Cutiss of Malkuth’s 3rd Division Imperial Forces. If Luke is part of Dark Wings, it is his job to interrogate him. Luckily with Tear around, Luke isn’t able to give away his identity so easily. Remember, they are in enemy territory. Ion then pops up and claims Luke isn’t the food thief. He has done his research and shows proof that these creatures called cheagles are the ones stealing them. With everything settled, everyone lets Luke go. Luke is confused seeing Ion here. He heard he is missing but from the looks of it he is doing fine. Even his clumsy personal assistant, Fon Master Guardian Anise Tatlin is with him so this means his journey is officially recognized by the Order. While resting in the inn, Luke wonders if Tear has any paper so he can write his diary. A guy his age writing a diary? Well, since his kidnapping and lost memories, there is no telling if his amnesia will return so the doctor advised him to write one just in case. Luke asks about cheagles so he plans to head to the woods and catch one so he can show it to the villagers.

At the forest, they see Ion fighting off a few beasts. Although he won, it weakened him. When they introduce themselves, Luke is shock to learn Tear is Van’s sister and also from the Oracle Knights. He could have asked more if not for the cheagle popping up. Aww, how cute. Not to Luke. What’s wrong with this guy? Does he have some grudge over it? They follow it to the cheagle nesting where they meet the elder who can talk in their language thanks to the Sorcerer’s Ring that they made with Yulia forming a pact that became the symbol for the Order. The elder explains they started stealing food because one of them accidentally burnt down the forest in the north. It was the home to ligers. Now they have moved here to hunt for food so that is why they are stealing food. Luke doesn’t care about anything but Ion wants to negotiate with the ligers. As humans cannot speak their tongue, it is suggested a cheagle help play the translator role. The elder sends Mieu, the young one responsible for the accident to accompany them so as to take responsibility for his actions. Aww, isn’t Mieu cute? What’s your problem with cute things, Luke?! At the liger’s nest, Mieu tries to negotiate but the liger is very agitated as she is protecting her eggs. She will be even more so when they hatch and the village will be in danger as she will have to hunt for food. When negotiations break down, they attack. Luckily Jade is here to zap everything. With this problem solved, the cheagle elder banishes Mieu from their society as further punishment. Of course it is not forever as Mieu is tasked to serve Luke as his master for 1 full cycle. What a waste to give this cute thing serve this spoilt guy. As they leave the forest, Jade orders his men to surround Luke and Tear as he suspects them for emitting the Seventh Fonon.

Episode 3
On board Tartarus, Jade explains he detected Seventh Fonon coming from Kimlasca. This means the duo entered Malkuth illegally. He knows about Tear but wants to hear Luke’s full name. Luke obnoxiously tells him. Anise is happy because this means she has a chance to marry a rich person! Jade frees them and explains his mission is to head to Kimlasca not to start a war but to prevent one. Although it has been 15 years since the great war ended, there are skirmishes here and there. Malkuth’s emperor, Peony Upala Malkuth IX decided to send a letter to Kimlasca to conclude a peace treaty. Yeah, it must be getting tiring fighting forever. Ion is requested to tag along as a neutral ambassador. He is listed as missing because he escaped from Mohs’ custody with Malkuth’s military aid. So who is this Mohs guy? Current the Order is also divided into 2 factions. The reformist faction under Ion and the conservative faction under Mohs. It is believed Mohs wants to start a war. With Luke around, Jade believes it would be easier to use his status to pass the border. Jade hears about Luke’s kidnapping but is unsure about it because he never heard a thing regarding it. Tartarus is attacked by an army of griffons and ligers. Luke shows his chicken sh*t side trying to escape but gets owned by General Largo of the Oracle Knights whose mission is to retrieve Ion. Largo knows about Jade’s reputation as a necromancer as he scavenges corpses after the battle. Largo attacks Jade but Tear’s hymn paralyzes him and Jade is able to stab him. That easy? Ion is captured as he passes the letter to Anise and kicks her out of the dreadnought. Wow. Can she survive that fall?

When Oracle Knights attack, one came too close to Luke. In his reflex, he pulls his sword and stabs him. Now this guy is in trauma. First kill, I presume? Yeah, it’s affecting him badly. They are captured by Asch who wants to kill them all but Legretta reminds him of the orders he has. They are locked up in a cabin. Jade can tell with Tartarus being stationary, they must have brought Ion to somewhere to activate something. He plans to ambush them when they come back but Luke is being chicken sh*t with his trauma. This means more killing, right? It’s fine that he cares about human lives and shouldn’t just waste them so easily but in order to stop a war that will cost more lives, killing a few is necessary. Jade uses his voice activation to shut down Tartarus and confuse the enemy. They ambush Legretta and her guards outside as they are returning with Ion. Coming into this fight is Guy as well as the beast summoning loli Arietta. Jade takes Arietta hostage and Legretta is forced to obey his command to be locked up inside Tartarus. Luke and co escape by foot but they have to rest since Ion is out of breath and pushing him further would mean shortening his life. Guy introduces himself to everyone. But he gets scared of shaking hands with Tear since he has a fear of women. The break is cut short when Oracle Knights catch up and attack. Once again Luke’s chicken sh*t trauma starts up. He is about to get slashed but Tear takes the strike for him before Guy cuts him down. Now his trauma worsens. It’s your fault Luke!

Episode 4
Tear is recuperating and what do you know? She can heal herself! Thanks for putting all of us in suspense. Especially Luke. Time to apologize? They receive message that Anise has already reached the naval port at the border, Kaitzur. Everyone makes their way there since they can meet up with Van. Upon arrival, they see Anise having trouble getting through as she has no proper documentation to proof who she is. Thankfully here is Van to pick them up. While Luke is such a happy fan boy seeing his sensei, the first thing for Tear is that she wants to fight him! WTF?! As if there hasn’t been enough commotion already. Ion tells Van that Mohs wants war, thus the reason he had to suddenly disappear. Tear blames Van for sending the Oracle Knights to attack but Van believes they are under Mohs’ orders. She is a believer of Mohs and doesn’t think he is out for war. But why did he task her to research the Seventh Fonon then? Since Luke doesn’t know what the heck is Seventh Fonon, a cue to explain to us viewers that this is some Score that Yulia created and lots of parties are looking for it. The port is then under attack by Arietta. It looks like she doesn’t want to do this but is under orders by Asch to snatch an engineer to fix their ship. If they want him back, Luke and Ion must come to Choral Castle. Unfortunately Van has no intention to go and rescue him because Ion and Luke’s safety are his utmost priority. Well you know what? Screw all that because everyone else will be going there.

At the castle, Guy tells Luke why he is quite familiar of this place is because this was where Luke was found after his kidnapping. This place was his father’s villa but abandoned during the war. Inside, Anise thought she could hug Luke after seeing a rate. Unfortunately she hugs Guy by accident. This triggers some trauma as he violently shakes her off. Everyone can tell something is off. He explains he wasn’t like this when he was young but something happened. He can’t remember. Oh, another amnesiac character? Yeah, just that short moment when his parents died he can’t remember. Arietta swoops down to kidnap Luke. Then she faces all of them and blames them for being bad guys killing the liger queen who was just trying to provide for its siblings and offspring after you baddies burn their home down. Arietta lost her parents during the war and was brought up by those beasts, thus the very close attachment. She sends her beasts to attack them but she ultimately loses. Meanwhile Dist and Sync are trying to extract some Fonon data out of Luke. Dist escapes once he extracts his portion. However Sync is interrupted by Guy and he escapes empty handed. Jade is shocked to see the extracting machine although he can’t explain what it is. Guy gives him the disc to analyze further. Everyone returns to the port and although Van isn’t amused everyone was being reckless, he lets it go and Luke is one happy boy again.

Episode 5
Jade analyzes the disc and so we see the gang explaining to clueless Luke its contents about isofons, Lorelei, fomicry and manmade replication. I don’t get it either… The ship is then attacked by Dist. Seeing Jade was his best friend, Jade can’t help diss Dist (pun intended). This makes Dist mad as he snatches the disc from his hands. In fact, Jade wanted to give it to him since he already memorized its contents. Dist can’t stand this anymore and summons his mecha to fight. Luke has a hard time till Van easily zaps it to smithereens. Won’t an explosion cause the ship to sink? Well, Van is a master. That night, Luke again has the inner voice trying to control him. Before he knows it, he lets out a destructive energy. Thanks to Van, he is able to calm down and regain normalcy. Van then reveals the truth he has always been locked up. It is so that he as the only person in the world who can use this hyper resonance to be under Kimlasca’s control. Normally it takes 2 Seventh Fonons for this to react that way but he is special, right? Luke is not happy that he is just a tool to be kept for war. Van convinces him to believe in himself and make the people acknowledge his achievements and preventing the war as the hero of peace. Luke returns to his palace and the first thing he does is to interrupt Mohs’ audience with the king (who is his uncle) about Mohs’ plan for war and to stop this sh*t. With Jade handing over his treaty, the king will go over it. I guess their part is done and negotiations will start, right? Everybody is so free so what can they do? They go visit Luke’s ‘normal’ house. Freaking big mansion…

They meet Natalia who is glad Luke is back but b*tching at Guy for being left out of the ‘adventure’. Folks, meet Luke’s fiancée. Anise and Tear… You’ve got some serious competition… Can you defeat a princess? Anyway, Natalia tells Luke to quickly go see his mom since she fell ill after he was blown away. Mom is glad to see he is safe. Tear also takes this chance to apologize. Mom hopes Tear would stop her intentions of killing Van because seeing relatives fight is sad. Next morning, Luke is called by the king for a job. Before peace can be achieved for both kingdoms, there is a mining town in Malkuth, Akzeriuth that is facing toxic miasma threat. Luke’s job is to evacuate them. He doesn’t want to do it since it has nothing to do with him. There is a reason why the king believes he can only fulfil this role. Reading the lines from a Fonon stone, it tells part of the prophecy that only somehow Luke can do it. I guess that should do it. While Luke is happy he can finally be a hero, Van talks to him that the prophecy is incomplete and there is another part. That part states that hero will also bring calamity. This move is for the higher ups to make him bring a war. What Van wants is for him not to evacuate the people but to neutralize the miasma with his hyper resonance. After that, flee with him to Daath where he will make Luke part of the Oracle Knights. Luke is happy with this offer but wonders why he is being nice with him. Long ago, Luke was undergoing horrible experiments of his hyper resonance and was sick of it. Van helped him get away. Yup, Van was the one behind his kidnapping. This time he will not fail. He doesn’t want Luke to tell anyone else about this or else it will be harder for him to get to Daath. Luke is such a happy guy but unknown to them, Natalia has been eavesdropping…

Episode 6
As Oracle Knights are seen patrolling the sea, they think Mohs might setup some trap to ambush them. It is suggested the ship will be used as decoy and the real unit travel via land. They will meet up at Chesedonia which is under Malkuth control and then head to Kaitzur. Van will be on the decoy ship and Luke isn’t happy he will be separated from his master. Van says he has to since his name is officially listed and thus it would be more believable if they saw him embark. Anise then comes in with bad news. Ion is nowhere to be found and thinks he has been kidnapped. Indeed. Several clown pirates are under contract by Asch to kidnap him. They can’t go rescue him as it will cause a ruckus and thus their decoy plan will be useless. As the place is crawling with Oracle Knights, the only way out is to traverse via some underground abandoned weapons factory. This is where Natalia meets up with them and makes her stand to decide travelling with them. Of course everyone protests including Luke. Till she whispers what Luke talked with Van the other day. In that case, he welcomes her aboard! Call it goodwill? He is the leader of this unit and he can do anything he wants! Do we need another rival woman? Don’t worry. She won’t be a burden as she is a skilled archer and healer. See, she just killed a couple of sneaking bugs to prove it. Natalia promises Luke she will not rat on him. We get to see our first cat fight when Anise clings tightly to Luke and Natalia is not impressed, telling this little b*tch to get away. While they’re at it, Tear seems to be turning into a joker since she is obviously scared of the dark and ghosts and trying to act tough. With Luke abusing Mieu, Natalia remembers the time Luke returned with his amnesia and she vowed to get him back to his normal state. She is thinking too much about this and couldn’t fight the spider bug before her and had to have Tear save her before the rest take it down. When they arrive out, Luke sees Ion being led into a dreadnought. Also with Ion is Asch and instantly Luke goes to fight him. This wasn’t surprising although it is to everybody. Because Asch’s face looks exactly like Luke! Asch stops the fight since the mission is to retrieve Ion and returns to the dreadnought. With the enemy seeing them, the decoy plan has failed. What now Luke? He is b*tching why he has to decide? Because you’re the f*cking leader! He decides to follow Ion. While trekking through the desert, he has this inner voice attack again. However he could recognize this is Asch’s voice. He tells Luke to come to Zao Ruins.

Episode 7
At the runs, Asch makes Ion unseal some seal. The rest just arrives so Largo and Sync keep them busy. This time Luke isn’t chicken sh*t and fights in his cocky style. Luke is shocked that Asch is using a same move from Van. He would have revealed more but Sync stops him. They have achieved what they want and now it’s time to escape. Yeah, the entire ruins are collapsing. Ion is unneeded and is returned to them. While Luke blames Ion for this rescue (because it would mean meeting up with Van later), the rest discuss the seal that was put here by Lorelei to protect Sephiroth. However removing the seal has no effect whatsoever and Ion cannot divulge further information because it is classified. Oh really? Arriving at Chesedonia, those clown pirates spot Luke and mistake him for Asch before realizing they are wrong and escape. As they board the ship, Guy’s arm begins to glow in pain. He was struck by Sync during the fight. Ion examines it and confirms it to be a curse slot. It is some Daath fonic arts that use people’s hidden memories to control them. The closer the user, the more powerful it is. This means Sync must be nearby. After they depart, the pain eases. Ion notes only a Fon Master can do this and it is no deny that Sync is one. Luke continues to be an arrogant dick that it is so f*cking annoying. He won’t even let Ion rest thinking they would lose ground catching up to Van. They rest anyway and I’m sure I’m waiting to hear Luke b*tch about being attacked by Legretta. She wants Tear to come back to their side instead of following these people. Also, it seems they have activated some forbidden fomicry technology and this upsets Jade. What Legretta claims they are doing is to free people from the Score as they are so dependent on it. How dependent? Well, the extreme case has them deciding what’s for dinner! Holy sh*t! After Legretta leaves, they continue their journey. As usual, Luke blows his top for being kept in the dark and not knowing anything. He starts b*tching that only Van treats him nice and won’t make fun of him like this. Shut up! Shut up! SHUT UP! In that case Tear warns him he is only a puppet who can only move with her brother’s instructions. He better start thinking for himself or he’ll make an irrevocable mistake. Luke continues to b*tch… He even mistreats Mieu who is possibly the only loyal ally in this group and thinks Van is the only one who understands him. What a dick.

Episode 8
At Akzeriuth, the miasma is thick and many are infected. Luke continues to be a dick when he won’t help out. Not only he claims he might get infected, but as a hero he should be doing something more than this! WTF?! So he is just standing around while the others help the rest. Tear is taken away by the vanguard to examine some stone. She examines it to be fake but then they surround her. The guards are then slain by Asch. Luke and Ion trek deeper into the mine where the miasma source is believed to come from. Luke gets this headache again from Asch telling him to stop or he will regret it. He pays no heed. Because he must be so freaking happy to reunite with Van who wants Ion to unseal the seal on this door. Ion sees no point in this but with Luke begging him because sensei said so that he is the one to save Akzeriuth, he relents. More telepathic warnings from Asch but Luke brushes it off. In some room with ancient mechanisms, Van instructs Luke to focus and do the necessary. Jade meets Tear outside who informs him the vanguards have been exterminated by the Oracle Knights. It was a trap to lure her away so that she will not interfere with Van whose goal is to destroy Akzeriuth. Luke feels something wrong and indeed something wrong starts up. From his flashback, it seems Luke is just a replica. The place is caving in and Tear is angry Van has betrayed her about preserving the Outer Lands. Van lets her live so that she will understand the ugliness of this land. The entire Akzeriuth collapses and everyone dies. If not for Tear’s hymn protecting the group, they could have been dead too.

When Luke wakes up, he notices the gang travelling in Tartarus in an underground land. This land is called Qliphoth. Part of the land where we see everyone else lives on is the Outer Lands which is actually a floating land in the sky floated by the pillars named Sephiroth rising from Qliphoth and Akzeriuth is one of them. 2000 years ago when miasma threatened Qliphoth, Yulia read the Score to escape destruction and raised the land. The only ones who know this are the higher ranks of the Lorelei Order and those who live in Qliphoth. Tear is one of the denizens. Now, back to Luke b*tching it wasn’t his fault because he was trying to save Akzeriuth. Worse, he tries to blame it on Van. We know he has been betrayed but still. Everyone is so disappointed in him. Yeah, it’s like everyone is saying f*ck you and leaving him. Some goodwill leader. Uh huh. Mieu is trying to console him and he still mistreats him. WTF?! F*ck you! As they are heading to Yulia City, Luke is shocked to see Asch here. Since Luke is in such denial, Asch has to tell it to him that he is his replica. Asch is the true one who was kidnapped 7 years ago by Van. I guess this explains why they look the same, right? Luke cannot accept this truth and goes crazy trying to attack Asch. Yeah, his brain is all haywire that he can’t even attack straight, screaming like he is a virgin to such plot twist. Well Asch, are you going to kill this failed replica?

Episode 9
Instead of killing Luke, he is now ‘living’ inside of Asch’s body. His physical might be lifeless but hey, it’s better than Luke b*tching around, right? Thank goodness. There’s some explanation why this is possible because they are perfect isofons and the fon slots that he opened at Choral Castle and making them link. Asch hates to admit it but he still has to take care of his useless replica. Luke better be thankful because Mieu continues to be loyal to him and won’t let Asch do anything to his physical body. At Yulia City, they see Tear’s grandpa who is going to use some memory particles from Akzeriuth’s destruction to lift Tartarus back to the Outer Lands. Their next destination is Belkend as Asch believes Van often visited Fon Machine Lab One there. There, they meet this old guy, Spinoza who is surprised to see Asch. He is among the group involved in Luke’s kidnapping. His team also used the forbidden fomicry technique on living beings. Spinoza won’t be lectured by Jade because he is in fact the father of fomicry and should know better. Jade will not deny his wrongdoings but 2 wrongs don’t make a right. That is why he came up with a rule banning it. Asch is unaware of Van’s preservation project so Spinoza flees. But he left documents to Wyon Cavern that mines minerals needed to produce replicas. At this point, Guy decides to drop out from this expedition and return to Luke’s side (his body is back at Yulia City). Hey, somebody needs to be by his side. He might be an idiot but he is his idiot. Asch has nightmares of being kidnapped and experimented on. When he escaped and returned to his palace, he snuck in and to his dismay saw a replica in his place with his family. Any kid would be heartbroken seeing this.

At the cavern, they see lots of high tech equipment. There is also data on the effective scale of fomicry that covers 1/10 of Auldrant. This data was from the war and Malkuth should have already disposed of it. Jade fears that Dist might have been able to recover it. A short earthquake occurs. Cue for Asch to save Natalia but sorry, no romance blooming. He is not into love at this moment. Asch explains that earthquake was from southern Rugnica collapsing as one of the supporting Sephiroth trees has been destroyed. This will slowly have an effect on other areas. Remember how Ion was kidnapped and made to unseal seals at Sephiroth? Although there are further seals that would make anyone unable to do anything, it seems Van has done something about it and can control Sephiroth. It seems obvious that Van’s plan is to destroy the Outer Lands. If going according to plan, the next to fall will be St Binah. Asch has had enough of Luke following him around and blasts his soul back to his body. Luke instantly wakes up and he is a changed man. Now he treats Mieu kindly. He hears Tear singing and tries to warn her that St Binah is next. However what is the use if he does not have a plan to counter this. It would be the same like Akzeriuth again. Nothing he can do to bring the lost lives back. An absolutely changed person, Luke admits his own pathetic and selfishness. He would even kill himself if it meant bringing back all the lives of Akzeriuth. He knows it won’t work that way and it will be hard to earn back the trust of the rest. But as a start, he shows his determination to start anew by cutting his hair. Not much but what were you expecting? A limb?

Episode 10
Luke tries to apologize to Tear’s grandpa but he shocks them by saying Akzeriuth’s destruction was bound to happen as predicted in the Closed Score. So another part of the book not known to many? They need to follow the Score so that they can have great prosperity as predicted. That is why Mohs was trying to start a war. When Tear mentions about St Binah falling, he assures that will never happen since that will be where the battle takes place. Later Tear tells Luke about Hod, the land where the great war took place 16 years ago. It was Tear and Van’s home. Because it was abandoned by the Score, he never forgave the world. That is why when she overheard about his plan about destroying the Outer Lands and not telling Asch about it, the reason she wanted to stop him because killing innocents for revenge isn’t the right thing to do. She has failed and even as far as saving Akzeriuth. When they return to Outer Lands, Guy is waiting for them. Luke tries to apologize but Guy accepts it all. Till he is shocked when he hears Luke for the first time saying thank you. Never thought it would happen, eh? Jade is also here to relay the news that Ion and Natalia have been kidnapped by Mohs. He intend to start a war blaming Akzeriuth’s destruction on Malkuth. Kimlasca’s reason for joining the war is the disappearance of Ion and Natalia. They head to Daath, the HQ for the Lorelei Order and meet up with Anise who is still pretty disappointed in Luke. Work hard to earn her trust back. Tear uses her status to enter the cathedral. Since they need to look room by room, I guess Mieu serves as a distraction for the guards. Imagine knights chasing down a little cute critter… Luke has to sum up his courage and kill some of the guards. He is still shaking but at least he made some improvements. So once the kidnapped are rescued, Natalia and Luke have to put aside their awkwardness. War is going to start soon so it is suggested to seek Peony’s help. They can leave via Tartarus that Asch left at the bay.

Episode 11
Along the way, Tartarus hits an engine problem. Funny thing is how Mieu thought they were going to sink and he can’t swim. Funny, because I thought he was always flying… The nearest port is Keterburg and is Jade’s hometown. They are outside what they thought is Jade’s house but it seems this house belongs to Peony! The previous emperor had lots of enemies so naturally his son was in danger and thus he was hidden and spent his childhood days here. The governor, Nephry Osborne is his younger sister who recently got married. She is surprised Jade is still alive as everyone thought he perished at Akzeriuth. She arranges for them to stay at a hotel. The receptionist is happy to have one of the two fontech genius staying with them. His real name is Jade Balfour and just took on the Curtiss surname as it was his foster family. The other genius Saphir Wyon Neis whom we all know as Dist. They along with Peony attended the same private school under the tutelage of Professor Gelda Nebilim. Anise also once met Dist as she noticed he was a lonely man who only talked about Jade. He was the one who gave her the stuffed toy doll. Later Luke is summoned by Nephry to tell the truth about Jade’s fomicry. When her doll was ripped, he used fomicry to replicate a perfect replica instead of buying it. He was only 9 then. He might look kind but he is actually a demon, experimenting on harmless creatures. That is until Nebilim took him in and he changed his ways. However after her death, he started going back to his own ways and with Dist did something even more terrifying. Nephry believes Luke as a replica is his only chance of saving him. After that, Jade knows Luke has heard from Nephry and tells the rest of his story. He was the one who killed Nebilim. Jade could control any arts except Seventh Fonon. Against Nebilim’s advice, he tried to control it and an explosion occurred, taking Nebilim’s life. He tried to use fomicry to replicate her but it failed. By that time his exploits have been well known so he was taken in by the military Curtiss family. As for why he banned it himself, it was because he almost got himself killed. He realized replicas do not have past memories so even if Nebilim looked the same, it wasn’t the real her. He intended to seek forgiveness so he could feel better but realized he will live the rest of his life tormented by the sins of his past.

Episode 12
Arriving at Grand Chokmah, the capital of Malkuth, Jade goes into the palace alone to seek clearance for the rest as they wait outside. However they are ambushed by Largo. The curse slot on Guy also works as a tracker. Guy is fully mind controlled as he attacks Luke. Tear’s earthquake reveals Dist’s position. They have to retreat as Jade has returned with reinforcements. Ion will try to heal Guy and he is possibly the only one who can do so. Shouldn’t he done this long ago? However he tells Luke a dark secret. Because a curse slot cannot completely control its target. It stirs up past memories and paralyzes the target’s rational thoughts. Therefore Guy could not have attacked had he not have a desire to kill him. Luke thinks hard about this. Tear tries to cheer him up that there are times Guy might want to kill him (during his arrogance) but since he came back to get him, there is still hope. After Guy is healed, Luke apologizes but Guy doesn’t pin all the blame on him. He reveals he is from Malkuth on born on Hod. When the war broke out, the Duke had all his family, relative and servants killed. So he joined his service as the Gailardia Galan, the House of Count Gardios to seek revenge and make him experience the same thing. Guy might still resent Luke a bit but he still wants to follow him on his journey to ascertain something. Everyone has an audience with Peony. As he knows the area St Binah is sinking, however it seems the council is reluctant to send in the military to evacuate the people. Malkuth has received an official war declaration from Kimlasca to avenge the deaths of Luke and Natalia at Akzeriuth. All sanctions have also begun. Malkuth thinks Kimlasca is the one orchestrating Akzeriuth’s destruction and they think if they send in the military, they will disappear along with the people of St Binah. Also, as they are going to war with Kimlasca, they don’t want to expend more troops there. Luke voices out to send him as he wants to atone. Peony agrees but he has them come to his room first. I’m not sure if he wants to show off his rappig (rabbit x pigs) pets, but Peony can use his status to reinstate Guy’s title as a Count (money eyes ringing for Anise). But Guy refuses seeing he has something to do with Luke and co (Anise so disappointed). Peony will also send someone to help them out. As Luke and co evacuate the people at St Binah, part of the land starts to sink.

Episode 13
A strange craft flies in. They heard about flight experiments using some ancient hover drive technology combining with fon machines. Noelle the pilot is the special assistance Peony sent. She picks everyone up but as St Binah rapidly descends, they have to pick up all the citizens left behind. Thankfully they made it just in time before the land crumbles below. Luke becomes desperate trying to save everything (including interrogating Van for a way) so Jade has to scold him for panicking. Once back above the land, they see the war has started out. Tear realizes this must be part of Van’s plan to eliminate both sides because now that the Sephiroth tree isn’t supporting the land, it will soon crumble and take all the soldiers along. Natalia and Jade agree to seek ceasefire from their side. Natalia is at Kaitzur’s naval port as she commands Count Almandine to stop the war now. She apologizes for not returning to Baticul to clear up the mystery surrounding her fake death (does Luke have to spam Akzeriuth’s destruction is his fault every time now?). However Mohs orders their arrest and calls them imposters. He mentions about Natalia’s different hair and eye colour from the royalty and he has statement from an old royal maid as proof that Natalia was switched at birth. Meanwhile Jade and Ion fail to persuade Peony to stop his side. He claims it is hard for them at this point to pull back unless Kimlasca retreats.

Tear and Guy are thrown into prison but are shortly freed by Asch. A subject sees Natalia and Luke. He calls Natalia as Meryl and wants her to revoke her claim as heir to the throne. He has them drink poison wine to kill themselves but obviously they won’t. The guards will kill them but Tear’s singing knocks them out. Then they head to see the king to confirm if Natalia is not born of royalty. The old maid confirms it. The real Natalia died stillborn and since the late queen couldn’t take it, she switched her own daughter. There is further proof that her remains were buried. Luke argues even if Natalia isn’t his real daughter, he still raised her as one. Unfortunately the king decided to listen to Mohs. He will kill them and make the war with Malkuth official. Mohs orders Dist and Largo to kill them. Dist isn’t pleased that Jade isn’t here. Asch then comes in to buy them time to escape. Asch blames Dist for betraying Van and leaking information to Mohs. Dist has no qualms in doing that since fulfilling his goal takes priority over his loyalty to Van. As Luke and co try to escape the kingdom, guards surround them. However the ordinary people fight back to protect them. They heard she was about to be executed for a crime she didn’t commit (thanks to the clown pirates spreading the word). Even if Natalia admits she is not the real princess, they don’t care because she cared for them greatly. They stall the guards enough for them to flee.

Episode 14
Natalia is sad that she had to leave her people. Guy consoles her and she feels better. When everyone regroups, they head back to Belkend lab to search for clues on the fonic arts and fon machines. It is discovered that Qliphoth’s cause of liquefaction is in the core. It should be resting but is currently shaking violently by Planet Storm (an artificial planetary fuel distribution system). They need to build a fon machine to stop the liquefaction. But they need researchers for it. Don’t worry. Guy has enlisted Hencken and Cathy for the job. At first they refuse to do something this dangerous until Guy thinks of asking Iemon instead. Because they are bitter rivals at competition with everything, the old duo agree. But who is Iemon? Noelle’s grandpa. Oh… Luke sees Spinoza spying on them. He wants to chase him but Jade doesn’t want him to focus on such trivialities. The information shared wasn’t anything important. Guy gets a message to meet with Van. Van wants him to come back so they can revive Hod. But Guy doesn’t acknowledge his methods and even if Hod is revived, it will be a replica. Although Van considers Guy as his master but can’t obey his orders to stop this foolishness, they part ways. Anise is surprised her mom, Pamela sees her. Apparently Pamela loves donating to Lorelei because she believes in the Score that they don’t need money thereafter! No wonder Anise is always looking for a rich man to marry. They are attacked by Arietta’s beasts. Ion tries to protect a girl. Who protects Ion? Pamela. She gets struck. Why is everyone so shocked that an innocent person gets injured? With Ion seriously telling Arietta to stop, she gets scared and backs off.

Pamela is treated and in stable condition. During that commotion, Guy has regained his memories. He now remembers how his family was killed. His sister and maids tried to hide him from the invading soldiers. But they all were killed trying to protect him. The scene of dead women piling on him is somewhat the reason of his fear for women. It’s no laughing matter. After that, he met Van at Belkend who became his protector. They swore to take revenge together but now things have changed. Ion examines the Closed Score to find a Sephiroth’s location. He reads its premonition and everything that has gone according to it so far. But they find it a bit odd because Luke or rather Asch should have died at Akzeriuth. Then they realize maybe because of the existence of replicas like Luke, the Score was thrown off track. The next Sephiroth is located at Tataroo Valley. Anise sees a rare butterfly that would fetch her 4 million and tries to catch it! But a small earthquake rocks the place. She almost falls off but Guy saves her. Hey, he doesn’t have his gynophobia anymore. Inside the cave, the ancient mechanisms are exactly the same as at Akzeriuth. But they notice it is not working and believe Van has deactivated it to destroy the Sephiroth trees. But it starts activating and Tear starts to feel strange.

Episode 15
Noelle brings the gang back to her base and introduce them to her brother, Ginji. Also helping out is Tamara and Iemon’s assistant, Aston. It is already embarrassing to see old farts fighting each other over different opinions… The measurements they took from the Sephiroth is analysed and at this rate the trees are weakening and if nothing is done, the Outer Lands will collapse. Jade has a suggestion and that is to lower the Outer Lands. He needs a device that would stop the liquefying. They can load it onto Tartarus since it can withstand the fall. So as it lowers, the liquefaction will stop and this in turn takes care of the miasma. Luke wants to do his part to try and convince his uncle to sign a peace treaty. Nobody couldn’t believe it at first. Is he sick or something? But Natalia too has her own fears of returning to Baticul. She fears of being rejected again. I guess they can only move when she is ready. Natalia meets Asch and talks about her fear. He reminds her they once made a promise together they will change this country so that it has no wars. He advises her to do what she wants and not restrict herself to her birth status. Luke feels bad that had he not exist, Natalia and Asch could have been happily together. Another timely reminder from Tear that Luke is Luke. If not for him, Asch would have died at Akzeriuth. His life is only his to live. With Natalia ready to move forward, everyone returns to Baticul to see the king. First, Luke passionately tries to convince the king that Natalia has been his daughter all this time. Even if she isn’t his real daughter, all those memories were real. He is still concerned about following the Score. Luke argues how it deviated since he was born. It is proof that they do not need to rely on the Score to achieve prosperity anymore. He shuts up his subordinates and won’t allow them to talk bad about Natalia. I guess it finally sunk in which is more important. Do we have time for an emotional father-daughter hug? The king agrees to meet for a peace treaty and lower the Outer Lands.

But where will the place be held for the treaty? It can’t be at Daath since Mohs holds great influence. Luke suggests at Yulia City and it would be a great time for the rulers to see Qliphoth. After the treaty is signed, Guy interrupts and wants to know if the same agreement was made after the war at Hod. When the king says it is for Kimlasca’s prosperity, Guy draws his sword. He is mad that Hod was destroyed for that. He reminds him about his mother, the woman whom he married into the House of Gardios of Hod as a sign of peace. The Duke stands up and says if he is looking for revenge, kill him because he was the one who killed her. Oh, now Peony says it is him he should be killed. He explains fomicry was conducted as an experiment there and was covered up in secrecy by his father to pass it off as an act from Kimlasca to quash anti-war sentiments back home. The one who was behind it all is no other than Van. Luke, you mean to look so shock now? Ion explains Van’s name in the ancient language means one who would seize glory, exactly in line with the Score. Thus it makes sense how he knows fomicry even though it was sealed from the records. Guy is told to stop seeking revenge or else everyone in this room will have to be killed. Of course Guy isn’t looking for revenge in the first place. He just wanted to find out the truth of why his hometown and family were destroyed.

Episode 16
The device is completed and the old farts are fighting for credit. However the place is besieged by Legretta and her Oracle Knights. Tipped off from Spinoza, they can’t let them destroy the core. Iemon and Tamara sacrificed themselves so the kids could get away. Van now stands in their way. He is bent on destroying the world to create a new one. This means killing everyone because what good is a new world if the old lives remain. Uhm, does this mean he will have to kill himself too? So he is going to create a replica world but the rest argue how it is not possible theoretically. However Van plans to destroy Lorelei at the core. Although its existence is not even confirmed, if you take it into account, it is possible. When the Seventh Fonon disappears, the world and people will be unable to read the Score. Instead of fighting Van, the rest escape to Tartarus. The remaining old farts sacrifice themselves so they could escape. But Van didn’t pursue them since he was just the decoy. Everyone is taking some time to grief the deaths of the old people as they descend into Qliphoth.

But waiting for them at the core is Sync. As they fight, Luke cuts off his mask. He has the same face as Ion. He is also a replica like Ion. Yes, this Ion is also a replica of the original one. He is the seventh and final replica and was made as the Fon Master because his abilities were the closest. It was 2 years ago when Ion was born. The original Ion was dying and had no successor in sight so Mohs and Van did fomicry to clone Ion. Sync considers the other Ion replicas as failures. He is only alive to be used by Van. Believing his task has ended, Sync jumps off to kill himself. Everyone gets out from the core but Luke is paralyzed by the voice in his head. Doesn’t sound like Asch. When Tear tries to heal him, she gets possess. Through her the voice speaks and calls herself as Lorelei. She claims Luke’s fonon frequency is the same as the Seventh Fonon. This makes them perfect isofons. Something big is absorbing her power and wants him to stop it. Thanks to his actions, the core is calmed and Sephiroth stabilized. However it won’t last as long as she is trapped. Tear is free from the possession so they take her to seek treatment at a hospital at Belkend. She is fine for now but the doctor detected contaminated Seventh Fonons fused with miasma trapped inside her body. Jade deduces it must be during the time they took measurements from the Sephiroth. In short, if they continue their plan to lower the Outer Lands, Tear will absorb more miasma and her survival is not guaranteed.

Episode 17
It seems Tear is needed to come along with them as she has to activate the Passage Rings if they are to lower the Outer Lands safely. Spinoza has repented on siding with Van as he thought he would be given the freedom to research all he wants. Anise is not pleased that everyone is so trusting to allow this traitor back. Jade needs his ability to verify if it is possible to lower the Outer Lands and seal the miasma. Tear activates the Passage Rings in the Sephiroth trees and each attempt is clearly weakening her. Then they discuss about Van knowing about Lorelei’s existence. Guy thinks there was this ruin Van showed him back on Hod that could have been the Seventh Fonstone. Tear could be a descendent of Yulia and if Van could read it means he knows the future written on the Score. Tear tries to go off herself that night but encounters Van. He tells her to stop this foolishness as it is affecting her health. Van’s health is also affected from his doing but he doesn’t care as long as it is to free this world from the Score. He gives her another chance to join him. This time Asch attacks and the commotion wakes up the rest. Asch agrees that he is also disappointed in the world like him but there are others he wants to protect. Tear dares Van to kill her and just make a replica. Not so eager now, huh? Van retreats and tells Asch he will be waiting at the Absorption Gate. Time for Luke to feel disappointed that his sensei needed the real deal and not the replica. Still hung over about him? Tear regrets hesitating not fighting her brother seriously. But now she is resolved to fight him till the very end. The final Passage Ring is at Mt Roneal but they have to go through Keterburg. They see Dist throwing a tantrum because he has been left behind. Time for Jade to make this guy talk. It seems the God Generals are already at Mt Roneal. So naturally when they trek up the snowy mountain, they get ambushed. With the endless waves of soldiers, Jade causes an avalanche while the rest hide under Tear’s barrier. Once done, they head inside the ruin but once Tear activates the Passage Ring, she weakens. Well, looks like nobody saw this trap coming because Van has set the memory particles to flow backwards. Didn’t they find it too easy? Oh well. Anyway at this rate the Outer Lands will start collapsing again.

Episode 18
Since the Outer Lands won’t be collapsing immediately and the weather is bad, everyone rests back at the inn. Luke talks to Natalia and cheers her up by repeating Asch’s words of changing the country. Then he talks to Guy who is thinking back how different it would have been had he followed Van because he might end up being his God General but thankfully he didn’t. It must be a busy day for Luke because now he talks to Asch who is still injured from Van’s attack. There’s a lot of anger inside him and he wants Luke to kill, not just stop, but kill Van. Otherwise he’ll do it himself. When the weather is clear the next day, they head to the Absorption Gate. The floor gives way. Luke and Tear fall through, separated from the others. I guess it is Tear’s turn to have some quality time with Luke as she talks about her homeland she never knew. She was in her mother’s womb when Hod was destroyed. Van looked after her and taught her about its history as well as Fonic hymns. He might look kind but underneath that lurks hatred and vengeance, blaming those who rely on the Score and knew this would happen. That is why she has decided to stop him as his methods are wrong. They stumble into Van. He is an organist now? He is disappointed to see Luke as he was expecting Asch. Van doesn’t have any need for Luke anymore as he was just a substitute to overturn the Score. Although there are slight deviations from the Score, the main core is still intact and is still moving inevitably towards a certain future.

Luke and Tear team up to fight Van. Before the replica gets his ass handed to him, Jade and Guy arrive in time to assist. Van can’t believe he lost and jumps off the ledge. It’s time for Luke to show all that training because now he uses his hyper resonance to stabilize everything. But soon after he hears a voice in his head (also communicating with Asch) that he will send them a key to set him free as there is somebody is trying to capture him. Suddenly in the aftermath we see Luke lazing around in his room. Looks like everything has returned back to normal. The Outer Lands have landed safely, the miasma is gone and both countries are at peace. With everyone parted ways, Luke’s mom gives him permission to go see his friends before he turns into a hikikomori. Noelle is his pilot and when Luke learns Asch was recently seen in Yulia City like as though he is investigate something, Luke heads there as well. He sees Tear praying at Van’s grave. Asch has just left after talking to Tear’s grandpa. Remembering that voice, Tear also mentions a strange report that Van’s sword that was left behind at the Absorption Gate is missing. They think a surviving God General might have taken it. They immediately head to Daath to ask if Ion knows anything.

Episode 19
Also seeing Ion are Jade and Guy. It seems strange things have been happening since. Jade reports that Dist has escaped from his prison. He attacked a transport ship carrying Mohs to his trial. However Mohs’ body was not found and it is assumed Dist freed him. There are also reports of a mysterious unit attacking the Malkuth forces while training. A witness said they were wearing Kimlasca’s outfit but he noticed their eyes are like dead and lifeless. Subsequently Natalia comes to complain to Jade about Malkuth attacking Kimlasca. After comparing notes, they realize that somebody is trying to continue Van and Mohs plan of inciting war between both countries again. All in good timing, Tear collapses. She regains consciousness as they discuss about the puzzling state she is in. If the miasma is gone, her condition should have improved. Even if Planet Storm kicks up again, everyone should have been affected. Anise comes in to take Ion away for an urgent matter. She claims there is a huge miasma outside. When the rest try to follow, Arietta comes rushing in to tell them Anise actually took Ion to the Sephiroth at the cathedral to make him read the Score on the Seventh Fonstone. Aside from what will happen to the world, Ion is already at a weakened state and he will die this time. When they try to chase them down, they are besieged by, uhm, dead people they know? From the old farts and Guy’s sister. Jade can tell they are replicas. Tear sings a hymn to put them down although it weakens her. Although they realize Anise has been a spy under Mohs, she left a note telling them their location. They believe her parents were taken hostage and she had no choice but to do his bidding. The gang arrives but Ion is already in a trance reading the Score. Luke snaps him out. Mohs escapes after seeing this has failed. More importantly, Ion has used up all his energy and is about to die. Luke is getting very emotional. Ion’s final gesture is absorbing Tear’s condition to heal her. It was the only way. Then he vanishes into thin air. Anise falls into depression. Time to talk it out with Luke. She admits she has been Mohs spy all along and the reason why the ambush on them was always pinpoint. Because her parents have been scammed into a debt when she was young, they were bailed out by Mohs and hence she cannot go against his words. Too late blaming yourself for causing Ion’s death. What else could she do but cry her heart out.

Episode 20
The gang plans to head to Mt Roneal as they heard Asch is heading there. If it is not bad enough for Anise still reeling from Ion’s death, here comes Arietta blaming her for it. She challenges her to a duel. Time and place to be confirmed later. Just great. At this point, what is more exciting than watching lolis fight? At Mt Roneal, Luke finds a locket addressing to Meryl buried in the snow. They see Asch frantically trying to activate or undo something. He blames Luke that everything should have been alright had he received the Jewel of Lorelei (the key). Right now Van has already absorbed Lorelei and thus the number of Seventh Fonons are decreasing and as a result the miasma is seeping out. Asch received this sword as his key but without the Jewel, it is worthless. Asch will contact them if he finds anything. Time for Luke to feel guilty again. Jade receives word that a large consumption of Seventh Fonons is detected on Isle of Feres. It is the island destroyed by tidal waves after Hod’s destruction. Apparently this is a place rumoured to be where Arietta was born. She was picked and brought up by ligers before Van and the original Ion rescued and assimilated her back into society. It is a reason why she is fond of Ion. They see an operating fomicry machine inside a building. After Jade destroys it, Mohs I suppose can’t contain his anger and makes his presence known. He has been making replicas here and blames them for wanting to interfere with the raising of Eldrant. He summons Dist to give him to power of the Fon Master. Dist warns him he should be doing it on Eldrant but since Mohs wants to show these guys a lesson, as you wish. Mohs turns into a hideous monstrous blob. Make that a powerful monstrous blob. He raises Hod from the sea although it is just a replica.

Mohs makes his worldwide announcement blaming Kimlasca and Malkuth for abandoning the Score. That is why he has built this glorious land, Eldrant to ensure the world will once more follow the Score. Since Mohs is losing his neural abilities and turning into a retard, Hod now forms an impregnable barrier. At this time Anise receives message from Arietta about their duel. At first Anise wants to do this alone since this is her problem but with the rest claiming she is her friend, Ion is her friend, is there a reason to say no? Oh well. Since they can’t do anything about Eldrant because the military can’t even penetrate it, might as well watch a couple of lolis duke it out. At the forest, Largo is also present although he is just here as witness. The battle begins. While Anise directly fights Arietta, her friends take on Arietta’s forest friends. Lots of flashbacks of old times till eventually Arietta lost. In her dying breath, she regrets her failures to avenge everyone. All she can see is Ion. Ironically Anise feels bad about defeating her so Largo tells her it is insulting if she shows pity on her enemy. Arietta knew the risks and staked her life on it. The next time they meet, it will be their last for Largo will take revenge for Arietta.

Episode 21
Dist badmouths Arietta’s death so Largo almost slices off his head. Guess what? Sync is still alive! Luke and co report back to Kimlasca’s king. There is nothing more they can do so he has them rest while he thinks up of something with Malkuth to counter this. Luke seems to be pretty considerate as he wants the girls to talk to Anise to cheer her up. This is so he and the guys could talk to the king to confirm the locket which indeed is Natalia/Meryl. From deduction they believe her real father is Largo. The king never tried learning more than this as he would fear the truth would make her distance herself from him. But now is the time for her to know the truth. Luke gets a message from Asch to meet but for the first time Luke puts his foot down to see him at Baticul instead of somewhere else. Asch relents and this is a setup so Asch could be reunited with his real parents. Yeah, it’s a little awkward. So Luke is the one feeling lonely now? After that Asch warns him not to meddle in his affairs again and he is never coming back here again. He is here to find out if there is any plans put forth between Kimlasca and Malkuth but apparently from what he can see, nothing has been done yet. When Jade asks about his condition, he doesn’t answer. From the way it looks, Asch doesn’t have much time left. Luke and co see Spinoza who reports his findings on the miasma. It is appearing worldwide and at this rate everything will die. The only way is to use Luke’s hyper resonance but at his level it won’t be enough to cover worldwide and he will die. Same goes for Asch. They need some sort of amplifier to reduce the stress on the body. Another way is to use a large number of Seventh Fonons. This involves sacrificing 10,000 Seventh Fonists and the one activating this will die. Where to find that much Seventh Fonists? Remember those replicas Mohs made? They are detected heading towards Rem Tower. I’m sure everyone is thinking Luke wants to sacrifice himself for this but do they have time to find another way. Too late because Luke notices Asch has eavesdropped on them and Luke can tell he is going to do it. They fly there as fast as they could. They know Asch is already here since Ginji brought him. He tells them Asch is already inside and looks kinda troubled. Those clown pirates aren’t his allies but wanted criminals though hired by him. They hope they can save Asch.

Episode 22
While the pilots and clown pirates hold off the other replicas from entering the tower, the rest reach the top to see Asch trying to convince these replicas to leave this place? They are attacked by Dist who also crushes the hopes of the replicas that they will be picked up by Mohs. Sorry, not happening. Dist knows he is in deep sh*t when Jade gets serious. Jade doesn’t share the same goal of resurrecting Nebilim and return to those old times. Using his powerful magic, he blasts Dist away. My guts tell me he’s dead for good. I think. So what now for the remaining replicas? Asch has a deal. Using those in the tower as sacrifice, he will find a place for other replicas outside the tower. Obviously our goody two shoes heroes won’t allow this because you know, replicas are still living things. So Natalia has to go complain to her father about it. Yeah, they want to save everything. There must be another way. Nobody has any solution and the miasma is spreading. Jade has a crueller way and Luke knows it involves sacrificing him. So lots of thinking, lots of feelings. Sure, Luke might save the world from miasma but those who know him will suffer. Wait a minute. A few people are more important than the world? How many people know Luke by the way? Anyway Luke is determined to use his life. Respect his wishes. Ironically all this is playing out like the Score says. When he initiates the ritual, Asch comes running to stop him. So they’re fighting to be the ones to sacrifice themselves? Weird people. Luke argues Asch as the original should have a better chance to free Lorelei. Asch realizes Luke had the Jewel inside him all along but just never realized it. As the ritual isn’t working, Asch lends some of his power to stabilize the hyper resonance. Success. Even more so Luke is still alive. There’s some explanation about it but I’m already so lost. Now that they’ve found the key, Asch should come with them, right? Nope. He thinks the God Generals will target them and is better to act separately to locate Van’s whereabouts. Like, there’s a difference whom the God Generals will attack? Jade has Luke undergo medical examination since he almost died. Although Luke relays the good news he is okay, Jade knows he is lying. True enough, his cells are starting to disintegrate and will die. Jade’s only advice is to not exert himself to speed up the disintegration.

Episode 23
Largo comes to see Kimlasca’s king for his answer on reparations as punishment for neglecting the Score. Kimlasca has decided to ditch the Score and not wanting another war. But if Mohs insists on threatening his people, they will fight back. Largo will relay this message to Mohs. Luke throws him the locket and asks if he wishes for this. His answer is that he only serves Van. The king then calls Natalia and Luke to his room to explain to his daughter the truth. Her real father is a mercenary named Badaq. Of course he is now known as Largo. Natalia falls into shock but despite being told she doesn’t have to fight in the front lines anymore, she figures it is best to settle family matters. Spinoza analyses the Jewel and it is the key to stop Planet Storm because of its fonic art carved into it. They have to fill Seventh Fonons at the Radiation Gate but also take simultaneous action at the Absorption Gate. This will be done via fonic hymns in which Tear has. They split into 2 teams with Jade, Tear and Anise heading for the Absorption Gate and Luke’s side to Radiation Gate. Jade’s side is shocked to see Ion with Mohs although he is just a fresh replica. He then materializes Van to give him the Seventh Fonstone so he can learn the Score. Van explains when he was absorbed into Planet Storm, he saw Sync too. But before they disintegrated, they sung Yulia’s hymn. Lorelei somewhat reacted and prevented them from decomposing. Of course its price was that it was hard to control. Since Van is weakened, he will fight them another time.

Jade’s team goes to fight Mohs and with Tear’s hymn, Mohs disintegrates. Anise takes in Ion. Time to start anew? Meanwhile on Luke’s side, they face off with Largo. With Natalia knowing the truth, Largo tells her what happened. One day he came back from his job but his wife Sylvia and newborn baby were missing. He searched all town and only found Sylvia. Her body. She had gone crazy and killed herself after her baby was abducted. Depressed, he left town and wandered. He met Van who told him about the Score. This means Sylvia’s death was predetermined from the beginning. It’s the reason he wants to destroy the Score. However despite different future possibilities, if the end is always the same, free will means nothing. That is why he wants to destroy, Lorelei, the planet’s memories. Without that, the planet will not be able to follow the Score and thus the need to kill off all originals. Talk time is over. Fight, fight, fight. Largo could have killed Luke had not Natalia shoot a perfect shot in his back. Even in his dying breath he warns Luke to show no mercy or else has no chance to defeat a certain person. He even notes how Natalia has grown up to look a lot like Sylvia. Why must they soften your heart before dying? Tear and Luke synchronize to stop Planet Storm. It disables the barrier around Eldrant, which is their next destination.

Episode 24
Eldrant still has its own defence so the plan is for Kimlasca and Malkuth to combine their powers to path a way for Luke to get inside. In order to not be confused with the previous Ion, the current replica is named Florian by Anise and is sent to live with her parents. I hope they don’t rack up more debts. The gang meets up with Asch and Luke wants him to take the Jewel to go stop Van. But guess what? Asch blows his top at Luke for thinking he still can stop Van. Stop. So he has to kill Van? My, why all the anger? Plus, Asch clearly states he is him. True but wait, what? Huh? So you want to chicken out and let your replica do the job? So much about being the hero who always wants to do things your way. Tear and Mieu admit to Luke they overheard his condition. He doesn’t want them to tell the rest because it won’t change the outcome. He just wants to live the rest of his days in peace. So the night before the attack, we have our characters talking things out. Like Guy and Natalia making peace with their past to move ahead. What’s this about Anise giving up her dream of finding a rich husband to try and become the first female Fon Master?! Am I dreaming? And yeah, more Luke and Tear scenes about friendship and the future. Noelle pilots our heroes close to Eldrant. However the floating behemoth has its own plan because it is trying to ram into them! Eventually it crashes on the beach and Van is expecting them.

Episode 25
When Luke and co enter Eldrant, they see Ginji injured. It seems his craft carrying Asch crashed here too and as usual, Asch ran off to settle his own problem. Thanks for the ride. Luke heads in first and sees Asch fighting the Oracle Knights. A trap has them teleport to somewhere. Even in this place Asch still hates Luke and guess what? He wants to fight him to see who is the real Luke and the one worthy of being Van’s student. Wait a minute. First you admire him, next you hate him, then you admire him again? Make up your mind! So for the rest, first they argue about their different opinions on the Score. Of course they’re not going to accept. Cut the chatter and start fighting. Jade teams up with Tear to fight Legretta while Guy helps Anise take on Sync who is trying to make Anise feel guilty for killing Ion and at the same time ‘badmouthing’ him with the ‘truth’. When Tear sings her hymn, it affects the God Generals. Sync disappears (because he is empty) and Legretta just collapses. Funny, I thought Tear hated her when they fought and now she is showing pity and so sad that she is dead. Luke wins over Asch just by stunning him with this one sentence: “I am not your substitute!”. Yeah. That was it for Asch to lose focus. Because of that, Luke gets the ‘right’ to take the sword and Jewel to go stop Van while Asch stops the Oracle Knights. Luke meets up with the rest and make their way. We know Asch’s days are numbered when he has this flashback about what Spinoza said about his body. I don’t understand all that mumbo-jumbo but it seems Asch will disappear and what that happens, his essence will transfer to Luke. After getting stabbed here and there, Asch dies. Luke can tell because he feels his essence transferring into him. Everyone is sad especially Natalia. But you can’t sit there and cry and watch the world get destroyed. Stop Van, save the world and then you can cry as much as you want.

Episode 26
As expected, Van is waiting. But he didn’t expect Luke as he was anticipating Asch. Van wants Luke to come with him to destroy the planet’s memories but as expected, Luke rejects. So we start off with some talking first, Luke finally understood what he wanted. He wanted to be acknowledged by Van not as a replica but as a human. Then there’s more about the future and choosing one’s path but we know talking never works out. So as expected, they fight. Despite they outnumber Van, he can fight them all off because he has Lorelei’s power within. Then Tear should have done this from the start because her hymn weakens Van. This allows Luke to use his sword (absorbed with the Jewel) to stab Van. It might seem Luke still pities Van but that is just his respect out of him as his master. That’s all to it. So the main baddie is dead, why is everybody so gloomy? Nothing like the place going to collapse for them to get moving. Luke has one final task and he wants everyone to escape while he releases Lorelei. Trying to be a hero in the end, I guess. Because of that, the place holds still enough to give everyone time to say their last words to Luke. Mostly it’s about him to come back alive. Like he is God and can guarantee that. And finally it is confirmed that Tear loves Luke. Unfortunately she couldn’t say it in front of his face. She just whispered enough for us viewers to catch what she says. Really? You want to let him go just like that without your feelings known? Oh shucks. Here he goes. Stabbing the sword into the ground, Luke disappears with Eldrant. It has been 2 years since. The world is living a freer life. A grand ceremony is held to honour the anniversary of Luke’s heroics. Tear is singing at the flower field and guess who comes back? Oh Luke, what took you so long? At least he kept his promised, right?

Tales Of The Abysmal
Ugh… I hate to say this but to put it in a nutshell of my experience watching this Tales series… I didn’t quite enjoy it. Sure, blame myself for setting high expectations only to come crashing down. But even if I do not compare this with Tales Of Zestiria The X, on its own this series still isn’t as good that I hoped it would be despite being aired almost over a decade ago back in 2008. Which means this effectively kills off my hopes and motivations to watch other Tales series. Yeah, what a way to generalize the rest of the series based on this, huh?

Firstly, the plot and the flow of the story itself are already confusing. Since I didn’t play the game itself, I cannot say how accurate it is but if you’re a newcomer like me watching the series for the first time with no prior knowledge about the game and its world, everything is going to get confusing. I would want to summarize this series as a big adventure to save the world but that wouldn’t be really accurate either. As we know JRPGs are filled with rich stories and convoluted plots (at least people other than Japanese would find it hard to understand) but this one itself already feels confusing with all the terminologies. If that wasn’t bad enough, as you progress through the story, they add more plots which add to the plot holes and it gets even more confusing. You know, they finished something only to discover that something else has been activated and now they must go there to deactivate/undo whatever there is that needs to be done. It is like running around the world on a wild goose chase (the Jewel was inside Luke all along???!!! Didn’t they look harder???!!!). Is the world really a small place? Just for the sake to prolong the scenes, they throw in a few fights along the way. Uh huh. It feels like they’re always there waiting to show up when they arrive. I suppose the game has some fighting elements but as far as the anime is concerned, once you see this pattern too often and getting predictable, it gets a little annoying.

And then that ‘gloomy’ ending, it was kinda anti-climatic. I mean, come on. Luke wasn’t even happy when he returned. Where’s the hype and fanfare from others?! It’s been 2 years for God’s sakes. Then he comes back and nobody is screaming like hysterical girls at Justin Bieber’s concert? Yeah. That really killed it. Two years is a long time to wait for somebody to return. By that time, feelings might have changed. With all the supposed bad guys dead and the world starting to live by its own will, there is nothing else to show and thus the quick ending. But how the f*ck will they know about that because could this be just another bigger plot they are being controlled and dictated by another hidden Score, right? Oh, it’s all just in the mind maybe.

Don’t get me started on some of the terminologies that they used. As confusing as some of them are to me (some I still don’t even understand and remember till this day), some of the names for certain terminologies just feel strange. For example, Planet Storm. Although it is supposed to be the flow of the planet’s memories, doesn’t the name for this feel strange? I mean, they could have put some tongue twisting or Latin name to make it sound helluva grand but Planet Storm for this definition doesn’t feel like it quite cut it. Maybe those memory particles look like a storm or something but really, I would imagine something would be named Planet Storm as that eternal big red spot on Jupiter. And with the ubiquitous use of the term fon, from fonons to Fonstone to Fon Master, fon this and fon that, I was just wondering when will the chocolate fondue be due. Mmmm… Pun intended…

Then there are the characters. Many of them are just plain annoying. There’s the thing about having too many main, supporting and minor characters. On one hand it doesn’t try to make the character look shallow because at least it makes him/her look like he/she has his/her own past and back story. Do this right and you’ll have a decent memorable character. Unfortunately this isn’t the case in this series because somehow it feels forced and pointless. Like in the case of Anise and Arietta. The only reason why they have a past connected to each other is so that they could provide a little detour and face each other off in the end. It gives a reason/excuse for them to fight instead of making us scratch our heads why do a pair of lolis hate and need to kill each other. It wouldn’t make a difference if we don’t know about Arietta’s past or she is some mindless general in the Oracle Knights but knowing her past makes it easier on our conscience and understanding why they had to lock horns. It’s the same for the relationship between Jade and Dist, Natalia and Largo, Ion with Sync as well as Guy’s past. Yeah, everybody is related to everything, right? Ooooohhhh. Big revelation. Didn’t see that coming.

It is hard to pinpoint which is the most annoying character but let me start off with Luke first since he is the main character. This guy starts off as a whiny and spoilt brat. Because of his sheltered life you feel like you can’t blame him for all that has happened. But then again, it is hard not to. He might not be a real human and just a replica but I am guessing that if he acts a lot like human and to a point he has feelings and independent thinking, I am more inclined to think he is a real human. What I meant is that with him being part of the royalty feels like it gives him a free pass to be superior to others. At least in the beginning where we can see how he is quickly raking it up as the most hateful character by blaming others but himself and bossing everyone around. It was fun watching how everything collapsed around him but I realized that I shouldn’t be another Luke. By the time he repented and changed anew, it felt a bit too late. Because by this time, his annoyance continues to increase with him trying so hard to prove that he has mended his ways by being considerate to others and at times trying to sacrifice himself for the better good. Yeah, it looks forced. You see the forlorn look on his face like as though an invisible gloom cloud is hanging over head forever. Even they tried to kill him off in the final episode to give some sort of honour to him but the way they brought him back to compromise, that makes him so cheap.

Next annoying guy is Asch. This guy to describe him in a word: Moody. Oh wait. Is angst a better way to describe him? I understand as the real Luke he got kidnapped and lost 7 years of his childhood for his master’s silly goal. But does he really have to be this mad blaming his replica for everything each time he sees him? Do you not notice that each time they meet, Asch would be like so worked up for just about anything? Come on, cut your replica some slack. Making him as bad as Luke is the fact he feels and thinks he can do everything better by himself. That is why he doesn’t join Luke’s group and do things to save the world together but goes off on his own in the background. A lone wolf. I believe he must be feeling odd to be working alongside his own clone and perhaps viewers would just get confused that this series has 2 main heroes of the same origins. So Asch, lots of pent up anger and not a team player, no wonder he had to die in the end because lack of screen time doesn’t make you a good main character anyway. What’s that about living inside Luke? Come on, don’t make me laugh.

The rest of the other members in Luke’s team are just as pretty annoying as well. Like Mieu apart from being useless and doing nothing, feels like he is just there to be the cute animal mascot. I mean seriously, what else does this little blob do except flying around and giving his master moral support? It’s like he and all of us have forgotten that he has a place to return to or maybe Mieu just love being by Luke’s side and wants to continue staying with him instead of going back to his forest home. After all, he can’t. Not until the world is safe. Then there are the ladies, Natalia and Tear. Sometimes I feel that they are there to up the drama for whatever reasons. Like you see Natalia getting really concerned when it involves Luke and Asch. It’s an either or situation but she wants them both. And cue to ramp up the emotional drama once the revelation of her true father is known. Not sure if she even loves Luke in the end because technically she isn’t the heir to the throne either. Doesn’t really matter, right? As for Tear, why do I get the feeling that there is supposed to be some sort of romance with her and Luke? You see a few scenes of them together and sometimes you start to think if it will go that way. Finally when it is confirmed, they deny Luke x Tear fans the one thing they all wanted to hear. Well, she did say it but what’s the point if he doesn’t know. Probably she believed this whole mess started by her brother in some ways was her responsibility so when something unfavourable happens to Luke, oh she gets emotional. Looks so exaggerated. Speaking of that, don’t you feel sometimes the actions and emotions she put in are a bit exaggerated? Yeah, like what I said, drama effect.

Anise is pretty funny but annoying as well when it started out her running joke was about to marry a rich guy. It’s like she has no shame in displaying that true personality of hers but who in the world wouldn’t want to marry a rich person? She might toss away that personality in the end but not money because if she is over marrying a rich guy, at least she wants to find a sponsor for her new goal. Yeah, someone give her money. Looking at you Luke! If it’s not a rich guy or money, it would be Ion-sama. That’s why they brought him back or at least another replica that looks like him so that she won’t stay depressed forever. So they tossed away her rich husband chasing ways to make her less annoying like how they did the same to Guy’s phobia of women. Who’d knew such a simple effect would have a long lasting trauma. This guy would’ve been a better supporting character and less annoying one as he is mature, helpful and intelligent had his role in the party not felt side-lined. You know, he is helming the kind of role of coming to Luke’s side whenever he is in a pinch or something.

Jade is the best character in the party, if not the best character in the entire series. For I truly believe he is the only useful one around. He is calm and collected whenever he speaks and makes his decision. Coupled in with his extensive knowledge on the fomicry techniques and arts, this guy should have been the leader not only in the Malkuth army but the team that saved the world too. Too bad the Score said the hero would be someone with fiery red hair and nothing about the personality. Jade would’ve fit it perfectly had it not for this dumb prediction that the world blindly follows.

The villains are also freaking one dimensional. We see right through them. At the start, my guts were already telling me that there was something suspicious with Van. And true enough despite his earnest wish for the world to have its own free will but his twisted method of doing so was enough to label him as the antagonist of the series. With Luke lapping up to him every time at the start, it only serves to enhance Luke’s annoying idiocy and Van’s villainy. Like the true final hard boss, he is hard to die because again my guts tell me there was something wrong when he was ‘killed off’ too early. True enough he came back to haunt everybody again. Until they ran out of episodes so they have to give a proper good ending for everything and everybody. Mohs fail as a villain because you can see through this chubby guy’s intention like a transparent paper. I know, he already has got the looks that tagged him as a baddie and it’s like they hate his character and turned him into a retard monster before killing him off for good.

The God Generals feel like the worst group of characters solely existing for the convenience of the plot. Some of them were killed a few times but didn’t really die though. Because instead of having 100 of them, better to have half a dozen with half-baked storylines that don’t really matter eventually. Like I remember Largo he ‘died’ a few times but was actually still alive so we can connect his past to Natalia and then being properly killed off by her. Say what? Some are an utter disappointment like Legretta whom I thought would play a larger role but she was noticeably missing in many parts of the story and relegated to making cameos. And when it was her turn to appear and stay longer, it was her last. Like, what the heck did you make her character for? Might as well be a highly ranked unnamed general in the first place. And this gay guy Dist feels like he has a past with Jade waiting to explode but after being revealed, this guy falls into irrelevancy and easily gets killed off by Jade. I already mentioned Arietta. When they have to kill off a loli and the first one to go, it was only time that everybody else went along. So that’s why Asch who was an ex-member also failed to escape this fate. Yeah, they should just kill off everybody instead of the God Generals only. Make the entire world filled with replicas living only, it doesn’t make a difference.

I think I should just stop with the characters right here because if I go on, it will take a few more pages for other minor characters that don’t really matter like Noelle and Ginji whose sole purpose is to fly our protagonists here and there and breaking speeds. Because it seems to be a lot better and make sense to travel in that huge bulky Tartarus. Peony seems to be an interesting and eccentric character compared to those old farts in Kimlasca as who else names their pets after your human friends? Too bad we don’t see too much about him because it certainly would have been interestingly disturbing to see Peony, Jade and Dist in a threesome instead of Luke whining and trying to get things right and fail. Oh sh*t! What the heck am I saying???!!!

The actions parts are just pathetic and feel forced. Like I’ve said, they feel like they are needed to be there because how can you have an adventure game without heroes and villains clashing? After all, some of the fonon spells used, I am already unfamiliar with the terms so I don’t really see any difference if they spout a different version of it. All look the same to me. Besides, everybody uses the same move in a skirmish fight that doesn’t last long. Like Luke and Guy would be using their sword, Jade spamming his magic arts, Anise summoning her doll and Natalia firing a couple of arrows. Oddly, I don’t see her carrying lots of arrows so she must really make her few shots count. I wonder how much damage it will do… Yeah well, enough to keep her alive. And I thought she was a healer or something and I rarely see her doing this healing stuff. Oh right. Tear does most of it and Ion too. Another odd thing I noticed is that most of the fights can be ended with Tear’s hymn. So why not just sing it and get over with it? Yeah, they need to prolong the battle scenes to give the heroes some action worth. Probably if Tear wasn’t too preoccupied thinking about Van, about Luke about whatever emotional thing, she could have saved the party lot of fighting had she sang from the start. Not sure if she needs some warming up or powering up but I don’t see her doing any ritual for that.

Art and drawing of course this series cannot match up and is nowhere close to Tales Of Zestiria The X. I can forgive this department since this one wasn’t done by Ufotable and that it was released back in late 2008. But the overall animation is pretty decent for that time. CGI was also used but very minimal and most noticeably on Tartarus. Lots of special magic effects too especially the use of fonons but nothing too fancy. Animated by Sunrise who did lots of your favourite and popular animes like Gintama, Code Geass, Cowboy Bebop, Inu Yasha, Accel World, Love Live and the Gundam series. So yeah, 2000’s kind of anime style in which you can’t complain because it is from that era and an excuse at this point in time it is almost considered as retro so I’m willing to let that slide.

Making the series bearable are its opening and ending theme. The rock opening theme is Karma by Bump Of Chicken. Oh, the names bands have to come up then and these days… There’s this drowsy feel to the singer’s voice like as though he didn’t have enough sleep when he recorded the song. Well, apparently it must be its trademark because they also sang for the opening theme for Kekkai Sensen and that sounded awfully similar. On a trivial note, I noticed that the opening song lasts longer than the average ones which are usually 1.5 minutes long. This one lasts about 2 minutes. No wonder it felt a little longer when watching the opening credits animation. I thought they were going to play the entire full song. The ending theme, Bouken Suisei by Kurumi Enomoto is my favourite one and somehow this rock outfit suits my taste. Maybe it is because I have to watch it every episode as the next episode preview is shown inside here. Because normally I would skip the themes and credits if the song doesn’t match my preference. So after hearing it all of the time, it resonated within me that it isn’t so bad after all.

Overall, this anime had a lot of potential at the start but with too many annoying characters, confusing plot and terminologies, it leaves a lot to be desired and perhaps make you wonder if this series itself should be best left played as a game instead of being adapted into a TV series. If you can tolerate all that, this isn’t such a bad anime after all. I’ve seen much worse than this. Who’d knew that the simple plot of trying to break the fate humanity from following the predictable future and outcome would lead to such disaster. They thought they were trying to break from all the familiarity but unknowingly are following in the same footsteps according to the script all along. Somehow I get a feeling that this anime might be doing the same in real life. They thought they could make a better adaptation but it fell back to being mediocre just like we’ve guessed it halfway. Maybe sometimes it is better to conform and just follow the script because we all won’t get so disappointed since we already expect to be disappointed from the start. That wouldn’t be so bad, right?

Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor

March 18, 2017

You know what they say about gamblers being creature of habit. I’m sure there are lots more sayings about gamblers, their addiction, their greed and their baseless confidence they can win big each time but I don’t want to bore you with all those stuffs. This isn’t what this blog is about. Not so long ago, I did mention that I was hit by the survival genre bug after my stint with Mirai Nikki and Umineko No Naku Koro Ni. Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor is one of those suggested titles on my waiting list and now the time has come to own up and pay its dues. What makes this a bit different is that this series involves gambling and not so much of fantasy elements. I know that I dislike gambling (and it is a good thing since I know I never have much luck to begin with) but I was curious to see how a gambler survives from one hell to another with his so called luck. Hey, maybe I can learn a few tips from here and test my luck at the casino… NO WAY!!! STAY OUT OF GAMBLING, ME ESPECIALLY!

Limited Rock-Scissors-Paper
Kaiji Itou is a bum with no job. He drinks and gambles away. One day this creepy guy, Yuuji Endou comes into his place after he suspects him of vandalizing his luxury car. Kaiji panics and of course this led him to be taken away for a more serious discussion. It seems his friend, Takeshi Furuhata has gone missing and left behind a debt he has not even paid a single yen. As Kaiji is the guarantor, he must pay up and with compounding interests, it blows up to millions. However Endou gives him hope because there is a ship, Espoir that will give him a chance to free his entire debt and even walk away as a millionaire. Of course the game of high stakes will be gambling and he will be facing off with other debtors. Endou paints a picture of hope for him to pay off his debt all in one night instead of slogging for 20 years. Kaiji is hesitant at first but Endou receives a call that there are only a couple of places left. Kaiji then decides to take the plunge. Of course all this was just a ploy to get him to participate. Now he is on board along with the rest with similar fate. Hosted by Yukio Tonegawa, they are given their ‘war funds’ in which a million yen is the minimum. There is a catch that the interest is compounded 40% every 10 minutes. Of course everyone protests at this craziness but what choice do they have? What right do they have? While many opt for the minimum, there are some brave enough to take the maximum of 10 million. Kaiji also can’t be considerate about others and takes the maximum. They are explained the first game. Inside their envelopes contain cards of rock, scissors and paper. They have a limit of placing their hand depending on their cards’ availability. They are also given 3 stars each. Every hand they win, they take a star. At the end of the 4 hour time limit, they win if they can maintain 3 stars. But even if they have more stars but have not finished their cards, they are still considered as lost.

Kaiji meets this guy Jouji Funai who proposes to team up since they are the only ones who took the maximum funds. At first Kaiji is hesitant but Funai mentions he has been on board this ship several times and that you can buy stars with money. After Kaiji agrees to team up, they play each other and draw their hand 9 times. But on the 10th hand, Funai betrays him and wins his hand. He also wins the 11th hand. He leaves Kaiji with only a star left. Kaiji feels betrayed but it is useless to cry betrayal since he let his fate being decided by others. Besides, it’s not like Funai broke any rules. Kaiji then sees his friend Furuhata who is also shock to see him. He proposes to team up. Although they have money and cards, they lack stars and go to find someone who has stars and no cards. Mamoru Andou is their perfect guy as the trio pool their resources to get the necessary stars.

However Andou almost betrays them when he steals a card and plays it. And lost. Saying sorry won’t cut it but Kaiji won’t kick him out of the group even if he knows well Andou was going to betray them anyway because it won’t do them any good. So with only 4 cards left and all of them scissors, Kaiji deduces a dangerous strategy. He has them find a man with more than half cards left and many stars while Kaiji himself goes to buy more stars. However nobody is going to sell to him at this point. When his buddies find the match, Kaiji knows exactly how this man plays. Kaiji pretends to be desperate to get him to play since this guy likes to kill off those with only 1 star left. Kaiji is hinging dangerously on this balance theory. Normally you would discard your cards so you would have a balanced set at all times. Kaiji wins the first round knowing this guy would use paper (since he has more of it). In the second round, Kaiji loses. But this is all part of his plan to make him get confident and blinded by his own balance theory. In the third round, Kaiji wins and in the final round Kaiji also beats him since this guy cannot believe he has 4 scissors in a row.

Thinking of their next strategy, Kaiji realizes something about the balance of the remaining cards. He gets this idea to buy up the rock cards. When time runs out, it will give them a winning chance against the scissors cards. Using their funds to buy rock cards from gamblers with 3 stars, they wait and take turns to check to balance of cards left. However they realize that scissors cards are dropping at a faster rate. Kaiji then realizes somebody else is also buying up the paper cards and thus scissors cards are declining because they have been drawing. With panic setting in, Furuhata and Andou rush to play their hand to avoid their rock cards being useless. They lost. Back to square one. That is when they are approached by Kitami and his group. They are the ones who bought out the paper cards. He praises Kaiji for coming up with this strategy and sees them as worthy opponents. That’s why they have decided to play them as their last opponents. He offers to sell his stars but Kaiji refuses and instead wants to play him in a death match. They will play until one loses all his stars.

However Kitami refuses so Kaiji will settle for just one game. But Kaiji throws down all his money as his wager and bet 3 stars on this single game. Since Kitami has enough stars even if he loses, Kaiji will convince his pals to lend theirs. Kitami will not wait so Kaiji offers all his money if he cannot convince them in 5 minutes. With his friends being selfish, negative and pessimistic, Kaiji hits hard on the need to move forward. There is not much time left. Eventually they manage to agree but Kitami wants to chicken out. This is when Kaiji shoots back about him being a coward. After it has come to this, he wants to back out? So the match begins. Kitami has a bad feeling about this but at this point as per the rules, he cannot change his card or pull out. Kaiji explains from all his actions and words that he exactly knows what extra odd card he has and put out. I don’t really understand the technical aspects but whatever. It seems Kaiji still has a scissors card and wins against Kitami’s paper card. Luckily Kaiji bought this earlier on as insurance. The 30 rock cards were just for them to draw out later on.

Kitami’s group is now arguing among themselves. Kaiji proposes they buy 30 paper cards. His friends manage to get 20 paper cards. Kaiji now talks to Kitami and wants to be his saviour. He tells him his buddies have sold him out and sold their paper cards to them. But for Kitami’s case, he needs to give his money if he wants Kaiji to take his paper cards. Kitami does so and now Kaiji’s group has obtained the necessary cards. They have now 30 rocks, 5 scissors and 34 papers. Kaiji is then approached by Funai who wants to buy some cards. This guy has already more than enough stars and he wants to win more? He is willing to pay upfront his star for cards but Kaiji refuses when Funai tells him to betray his friends. When it’s time to move in, nobody wants to play with them. This is because of all the distrust and the scamming everyone at this point has seen. Their only choice is to wait till more cards are whittled. Then Funai voices out. At this rate everyone will lose because of the suspicions of knowing what card they have. He suggests to start anew and shuffle their cards among each other. This of course puts a damper in Kaiji’s buyout strategy. With more and more people joining Funai’s group, Kaiji’s group also has no choice but to join in.

Counting the cards and types, it seems it doesn’t tally. Somebody out there is holding 3 scissors cards. Anyway Funai reshuffles them and redistributes them. To buy time, he throws and scatters Kaiji’s 69 cards. After picking them up, Kaiji realizes he has all the paper cards. He sees Funai trying to make someone play with him. That guy is hesitating so when Kaiji offers to play, Funai reveals the buyout trick. Now everybody doesn’t want to play with Kaiji. Kaiji feels betrayed and wants to get physical. But when he realizes Funai was going to call his opponent his victim, he realizes that everything was a scam setup by Funai. He recalls the suspicious moves Funai made during the reshuffling. He counted the types of cards remaining instead of the whole is so he could mark them. Victims he targeted, he marked the card by marking a scar. Since he was the one who finally distributed the cards, the shuffling by everyone was a false sense of security. Even more so Funai distributed them randomly instead of in a pre-ordered manner. With that, nobody wants to play with Funai but this doesn’t make Kaiji and co’s situation better. Kaiji realizes a loophole and can win but it is dangerous. He goes to talk to the remaining guys to play him. Although Kaiji knows their cards, he will forfeit his choice in choosing which cards to play. This means he will lie face down 3 cards in which the opponent will pick for him to play. Kaiji wins against the first opponent but loses to the second and third one. However this didn’t matter because it is to lure Funai as the last person to play with him. They will settle everything and he will pay him back for all the betrayal.

However Funai will not play him and calls out to the guy who has the remaining 3 scissors cards. He will even give him enough stars to survive. However nobody responds. Kaiji then reminds him about an earlier incident when a guy was thrown out for trying to flush down his cards. Therefore there is no other players left on the field with cards except them. Funai tries to set the deal to play him but Kaiji will not accept less than 5 stars. Either way it will be the same for him. How? Because now they have 66 cards. Playing 1 with Funai means they have 65. If they draw, one will still be holding a card left and will go down. Kaiji will take the fall. So it is either Funai plays him or sinks with him. No choice, Funai plays and loses but this saves him. Kaiji’s group has a total of 10 stars now and even though they draw the remaining cards, Kaiji takes the fall with the single card left and is sent to the other room. Furuhata and Andou thank him and vow to save him. In the other room, he is stripped naked and put into a room with other losers behind a one-way mirror. He meets Okabayashi and Kouji Ishida who have been waiting for this moment. They have been sending out signals to their teammates for them to win. Because in the aftermath, those with 1 or 2 stars still have an option to buy stars. However they have 10 minutes to do so. Ishida realizes he has been betrayed because the person he teamed up with is now in the winner’s room. Kaiji is relieved that Furuhata and Andou get permission to save him. But when the bidding starts, all the desperate losers hound them to buy stars. Furuhata manages to sell and give one but are they going to do the same to the rest? They need the remaining 3 to save Kaiji. However after seeing the money, Andou decides not to sell the stars and doesn’t care about him.

Andou explains about the debt they’ll rake up if they save Kaiji. If they cut him off, they stand to pocket 10 million each if they leave this ship. While Kaiji is furious, there is nothing he can do as Furuhata even agrees to go with Andou. They start bidding to others to sell their excess stars. Okabayashi mocks Kaiji about friendship and money and everything about it. Because he has some money in hand, Okabayashi’s friends save him. As he is about to leave, Kaiji beats him up till the guards restrain him. Ishida wonders why he did that futile attempt but Kaiji has a plan. He notices Okabayashi does not have enough cash to pay for his freedom. This means he must have hid extra cash somewhere else. Only he knows the location or else his friends would have betrayed him. Because carrying so much cash will be dangerous at this point, he must have converted into some precious metal. Noticed the bandage on his back? It is where he hid his jewels! Once Okabayashi realizes it is missing, it is Kaiji’s turn to have the last laugh. He forces Okabayashi’s friends to save him if they want the jewels. They beat up Okabayashi and are forced to rescue Kaiji. Ishida can only lament by himself since he had already given up from the start. Once Kaiji is out, Andou and Furuhata are in shock. Save your explanation. He beats up Andou and slaps Furuhata. He takes back his stars and cash. He is sick of it all as he uses all his cash to buy the stars to free Ishida. Of course he is as poor as f*ck like them. Kaiji explains he is disgusted with everything that has happened on Espoir. The more they talk about money and fortune, the more they are being played into the hands of those who love watching them wallow in despair. He kicks a counter till it topples over? Well, it was a harrowing life and death experience he was hanging by a thread indeed.

Of the 103 participants, only 67 barely escaped. But only 29 managed to clear all debts. Although Kaiji has cleared his external debts of 3 million, he has new debts totalling to over 6 million from the ship. Kaiji is now working part time in a convenience store with an hourly pay of 900 Yen and his boss hates him. He finds it hard working in an environment with everyone being fake. One night before he leaves, the boss couldn’t find his envelope containing money. Of course he wants to search Kaiji’s bag but he wouldn’t. Calling him suspicious, Kaiji decides to gamble with him. If he checks and finds his money, Kaiji will pay a million. Otherwise Kaiji will get 100,000 Yen from him. The boss things he has hid the money somewhere that’s why he is confident of this gamble. This makes Kaiji mad and wants to kick his ass but his colleague, Makoto Sahara stops him. Later Sahara catches up with Kaiji to tell him that he too was suspected and searched. He quit on the spot. Kaiji knew he was the culprit. Because he must have stolen it and hid it somewhere and when the boss searched him and gave him the green light, quitting means he got a clean escape. Sahara admits to it and decides to treat Kaiji. After all, he hid the envelope in his bag! Kaiji is not impressed but Sahara is also observant. He can tell Kaiji is always suspicious when someone enters a door. Like as though somebody is after him. Sahara even plays a prank on him by leaving him a number supposedly from a man in black. So when Kaiji calls, it turns out to be Sahara’s handphone.

Human Derby
Kaiji is not impressed but on his way back, he sees Endou before him. Kaiji ignores him but Endou offers him another chance to clear off his debt in a single night. He is gathering participants for another party this weekend at a hotel. Kaiji will not accept but Sahara wants to participate. Kaiji tries to persuade Sahara this is a trap but Sahara thinks this is the only way a useless person like him can break out. Kaiji thinks he can repay back the debt with honest hard work but Endou calls him foolish and to open his eyes. With interests, his debts are already increased. At this rate he will only finish paying his debt in over 16 years. By that time he is already 40 years old. Can he wait around so long? Endou shows him 20 million and with more sweet talk for him to grab this chance. After some hard thinking, Kaiji takes up the offer. I mean, what has he got to lose, right? Right?!

Arriving at the basement of the hotel, he is not impressed to see Ishida here too. He suggests teaming up but Kaiji reminds him they are all enemies. Also here is Sahara. Kaiji sees some familiar faces from Espoir and those are the people he must be wary of. When the game begins, the 60 participants are told will be sent in groups of 12. They need volunteers for the first group. No other questions may be asked. At first everyone hesitates but after some volunteer and Kaiji realizes none are from Espoir, he too volunteers. Sahara and Ishida also volunteer to make up the first group. They are then put in a vertical coffin in which they can feel they are being carried and elevated. Once they reach the destination, they see the game. They are on a high elevation and must cross the steel beam. The first one wins it. There’s prize for second place too. However below are gamblers betting and cheering for them to run across. Everyone is shock in the first place but when the first one walks over and falls off, breaking all his bones, the betters laugh. Kaiji decides to take this opportunity to go but somebody in his lane jumps on him. With everyone finally moving, Kaiji realizes the beam is thinning. How can he overtake the guy in front? He has to push him off! That is what the crowd is cheering on. He better be fast because the guy behind him is catching up. Kaiji hesitates to push since he is feeling guilt. But soon after many others on other beams starts pushing.

Kaiji psychos himself about the dog eat dog world. Kill or be killed. So is he going to push after all that? Nah. He won’t push. But the guy behind him will. They struggle and although all 3 fall off, they manage to grab onto the beam. As per rules, touching it with your hands means disqualification. In the end, Sahara wins first place and Ishida takes second place. In the room where they wait, they can hear the next group participating. Even without watching, they can tell what happened. The later the groups, the lesser the survivors and the final group has only 1 man left standing. The winners are then given an envelope. However Sahara is mad that it isn’t cash but a ticket worth 20 million. Everyone is then ushered to the next stage. They are reminded that the ticket has an expiry date to cash in. That’s 2 hours from now.

Electric Current Steel Frame Crossing
They have to walk across another steel beam to reach a room opposite where they can cash it. Only catch is that this is 22 storeys high. Falling off means death. Since there is one spot for the second place open, the other survivors are welcome to join in. Although Sahara scorns at this sh*t, he is told off how normal people will slog their entire work life just to save this amount. You useless people participated in a game that didn’t even last 20 minutes and expect something great? If you want big money, you must risk your life for it. They are assured this one is real. If they reach it, they’ll get the cash. No strings attached. Kaiji accepts this challenge since this is not a competition and doesn’t have to push anyone off. He can take his time to cross. However there is just one slight change to the rule. The beam is also electrified. So if they touch it with their hands, their disqualification will also send them plunging to their deaths. With a few participants deciding to go for this death match, Sahara hesitates at first but decides to join in.

With 10 participants, those who do not participate are ushered away. Now all that is left is for them is to choose the order they are going. Kaiji motivates everyone up that they can do but Tonegawa knows it better. This false motivation is just hiding their fear. All will change when they cross halfway. Unknown to the participants, they are being filmed and watched by a group of powerful and wealthy people who control the world of money. These people have gotten over betting and gambling and are simply enjoying the despair of others. In other words, ultimate sadists. With 2 beams to cross, the participants get a move on. Halfway through, Kaiji suddenly starts hesitating. Fear catches up to him. It made him realize he wants to live. He doesn’t want to money and doesn’t care if he has debts up till 40. Things start to take a turn for the worse when a cold wind blows. Although it is for a short while, the first guy up ahead, Ota continues to feel the chills. Kaiji desperately tries to tell him it is all in his mind but Ota is already at his limits. He touches the beam, gets electrocuted and falls to his death. This leads to another guy can’t take this anymore. He tries to turn back but slips and falls. At this point with the others realizing they don’t want the damn prize and just wants to live, Kaiji tells Tonegawa to shut off the power because they don’t want to win anymore. However they’re not going to. They’ve been told the risks and dangers of the game and yet they want to back out when confronted with the situation. It shows they have never taken life seriously and never will. And then the inevitable happens.

One by one a chain reaction has the rest falling off. Only Kaiji, Sahara and Ishida are left. While Sahara screws it all and continues walking ahead, Ishida is too scared to move. It might seem over for him when he starts losing his balance but surprisingly he recovers. However he knows he cannot hold on much longer. He passes his ticket to Kaiji and hopes he can win it for him and pass it to his wife who is in debt because of him. Kaiji doesn’t care about all that and wants Ishida to do it himself. However Ishida realizes himself as a useless loser who baulks at the end. Kaiji is different. He is the kind who rises up to the occasion and can win. Kaiji tells Ishida he is the greatest human because in his last moment he could still think of somebody else other than himself. The next time Kaiji looks back, Ishida is already gone. Kaiji is distraught to realize Ishida fell silently so as not to agitate him. Kaiji and Sahara trudge on but the wind is starting to keep up. Their voices assure each other and keep the other ‘warm’. It might seem Sahara has lost it but he makes a mad dash and jumps. He manages to cling on to the ledge of the finish point. However Kaiji could see smiling people behind the window. He feels something amiss and warns Sahara not to open. Unfortunately when he opens the window, the difference in pressure causes a gust of wind and blows Sahara off!

Kaiji sees people standing behind the window on the floor above. Then he could see… Magical stairs? He is not seeing things. There seems to be a hidden flight of glass stairs. Could this be a secret path? He is suspicious at first it might be a trap but decides to take the plunge. Once his feet lands on the solid glass, he screams victory. Once he enters the building, the organizers congratulate him but Kaiji is not impressed and wants his money now. Unfortunately Tonegawa tells him he forfeited that right during the crossing. Remember he told him to cut the power and doesn’t want the money? Well, they did cut the power but there were some delays in doing so. So it was at that point Kaiji and co forfeited their right. Kaiji is mad and wants to kill him. However the big boss, Kazutaka Hyoudou wants to give Kaiji another chance seeing it was their fault they delayed the power cut. He views Kaiji as different and rare that the other trash. He wants to test his ability and agility of his soul via this game, E Card. Of course the risk is high and he stands to get back 100 million. He won’t be forced to participate but if he chooses not to, they can’t pay his compensation for crossing the bridge. Kaiji reluctantly agrees so as not to make the other deaths in vain.

He is shocked when he stumbles into the room filled with participants who broke their bones falling off the first bridge. Hyoudou seems to be enjoying hurting them. He explains he never helped anyone even when he is loaded with money. He trusts the truth of this principle that no matter how much he hurts them, he doesn’t feel their pain. It all boils down to his own happiness. He believes all these losers want him to torture them. For money. So for every pain they feel, he throws them money. He adds about kings and the poor in his explanation. The poor can overthrow the king if they don’t desire money. However kings will always rule over the poor as long as the poor keeps thinking about money. Money that they need just to become kings. A fruitless paradox they cannot escape. As long as the king provides sufficient comfort, uprisings will not happen no matter how hard kings drive them.

E Card
Tonegawa explains E Card. Each player will have 10 cards of 3 variants: 1 Emperor, 8 Citizens and 1 Slave. Emperor > Citizen > Slave > Emperor. You either take the Emperor or Citizen’s side. As Kaiji has wagered his life and there is no money to bet, Kaiji will now have to wager losing his sight or hearing. They will bet in millimetres and Kaiji as 30mm safety. The minimum bet is 1mm. If Kaiji wins, he gets 100,000 Yen but this is amplified if he bets more millimetres. That is only on the Emperor side. If he is on the Slave side, the reward is 5 times more. Since there is a maximum of 12 rounds, this is a relatively safe game for Kaiji since he can make the minimum bet and not lose his wager at all. But if he wants to clear his 20 million debt, he has to take the big risk. Kaiji scorns this benevolence of theirs since they showed no mercy when they let the other participants fall to their death. But still, Kaiji is going to win as he has already come this far. Kaiji choses the Emperor’s side first and wagers his hearing. He bets 10mm. Might as well go all the way. As the first round begins, the first card has them tie with Citizens. Kaiji puts up Emperor which beats Tonegawa’s Citizen. His first win earns him a million bucks. The second round, Kaiji follows the same pattern and also wins another million. Kaiji is getting pretty confident but Tonegawa’s wary smile throws caution to the wind. In the third round, Kaiji decides to change his pattern and put his Emperor on the third card. But it seems Tonegawa can read his mind and puts out his Slave. Kaiji loses and the drill inches 10mm closer. It’s deafening. Kaiji thinks Tonegawa’s mind reading is a bluff. Tonegawa claims he is only 50% right in his deduction. He has gambled so much that he can read people’s minds through experience. During the break, Kaiji checked the cards for any markings but none. Even Tonegawa knows about this and assures him they will not do such petty things. In fact they should be wary if Kaiji does any marking.

With the fourth round, Kaiji and Tonegawa switches card sides. Kaiji bets 2mm. First card has them both put Citizens. The second card Kaiji puts Slave but Tonegawa’s card is Citizen. For the fifth round, Kaiji thinks Tonegawa might put out his Emperor first but after all that thinking, thinks he won’t and true enough both put out Citizen. Kaiji is starting to feel the pressure of trying to guess what kind of card Tonegawa is going to put out and all his theories might not be relevant at this point. He thought of using fear as his trump card thinking that Tonegawa has more to fear if he loses to him. Although Kaiji cannot sense Tonegawa’s fear, he wants to try create it. He chooses Slave as his second card but Tonegawa puts Citizen. Kaiji is inching closer to breaking down so on the sixth round, Kaiji bets 10mm. He also uses his same tactic but surprisingly Tonegawa plays Emperor on his second card. Switching sides now, Kaiji is now starting to fear that he bets 1mm (seeing there are only 6 games left and 6 mm to his eardrum). Tonegawa explains why he knows what card Kaiji is putting. Kaiji might think this is a psychological game but it involves emotions too. Tonegawa has observed very well Kaiji’s habits, the character he puts forth when he puts out certain cards. It’s like reading him like a book. Fearful Kaiji puts out Emperor on his first card in the seventh round but Tonegawa has Slave! For the eighth round, Kaiji puts up his first 4 Citizen cards and Tonegawa matches them. This means knowing their last cards in hand, Tonegawa automatically wins. Kaiji is close to losing it. His hearing and his sanity.

For the ninth round on the second card, Kaiji wants to put out Emperor. But he hesitates greatly and ends up putting forth Citizen. He is regretting his decision when surprisingly Tonegawa’s card is Slave! This unexpected win for Kaiji makes Hyoudou mad as he beats up Tonegawa for losing a match he is supposed to win. On the tenth round, Kaiji loses again. Then he starts to think deeply certain words Tonegawa said as hints that would have put him at disadvantage. Factoring in Hyoudou’s actions, he thinks they are cheating. But how are they seeing his cards? There are no other cheats. The only ones who can see his cards is himself. He notices Tonegawa isn’t really looking at his cards but his own watch. It must have some sort of transmitter that sends Kaiji’s heartbeat to him. The ear device must be transmitting the data. Making Kaiji choose the device was just eliminating his suspicions and giving him a fake sense of security. Kaiji thinks he has a way to win. Learning that the device can drill up to 45mm and he is already at 27mm, Kaiji beats the remaining 18mm. Tonegawa is surprised and reminds him doing so might get killed but Hyoudou is more than happy to accept it since coincidentally if Kaiji wins the remaining 2 matches, he can clear all his debts. Kaiji needs time to think and washes himself in the toilet. A spectator talks to him and like the rest wants him to survive and they don’t want him to be reckless. Kaiji gets an idea and has this guy help him out. First he punches the mirror. Then he bangs his head like as though he wants to destroy the device. Tonegawa knows what he is doing as he can still read his body readings. Kaiji then takes a glass and cuts!

Kaiji returns for the 11th game and Tonegawa can still read Kaiji’s readings although he thinks some of them are off. Maybe it is the loss of blood. First card as usual, both Citizens. For the second card, Tonegawa tests him by showing a Citizen. Kaiji’s shock reaction but his readings don’t reflect it means he is bluffing. So Tonegawa puts out his Emperor, causing Kaiji to go into tears. The baddies are relishing to see his death when Kaiji opens his Slave card! That is when Tonegawa realizes too late. Kaiji cut his ear and the device is in the hands of one of the participants, that is why the readings were off. Hyoudou is so disappointed in Tonegawa and berates him as a man who can only take instructions but fail to rise up in emergencies. He is going to get demoted, blah, blah, blah. At this point, Kaiji thinks of taking advantage of Tonegawa letting his guard down but it is a risky trap. If he doesn’t take it now, when will he? Kaiji gives Tonegawa a chance to redeem his honour for the final game.

Hyoudou praises Kaiji for taking risks unlike others who want to stay in their comfort zone. Therefore if Kaiji wins, he will give him his money and make Tonegawa grovel in apology and more as per his request. Otherwise he dies. Another device is placed on his ear. For the first time Tonegawa is panicking because he has no instruments to read. So he is taking an awful long time to decide that Kaiji chides him for it. This riles up Tonegawa but he thinks this might be Kaiji’s tactic to catch him off guard. Tonegawa puts Citizen on the first card. Kaiji expects it. A draw. For the second card, Tonegawa notices blood stains on it. He remembers they are the cards played on the previous round so it could either be Citizen or Slave. Both put out Citizen. Tonegawa is confident his other stained card is Slave but then he has qualms if this is a trap. Maybe he wiped it clean. He opts of Citizen and Kaiji does the same. The final battle in the fourth card. Tonegawa sees Kaiji putting forth a blood stained card and is sure it is Slave. But then he hesitates. What if this is an elaborate trap? Kaiji may have purposely stained the cards and then switched them in a bid to make him think so. Therefore both stained cards are Citizens. He may look like he is in pain but he is a sneaky backstabbing snake underneath all that. That’s why he is a warrior. After all that contemplation, Tonegawa puts forth is Emperor. Kaiji then thanks him for being the snake. Tonegawa thought of reading other person’s thoughts but end up asking himself what to do in that situation. That makes him the snake. Kaiji unveils his card: Slave! Kaiji wins the impossible!

Tonegawa wants an explanation as he thought Kaiji switched his card. This strategy worked because Tonegawa suspected him. Kaiji did switch cards but not as he thought. He just switched them closer. Despite Hyoudou complained about him, Kaiji knew and respected Tonegawa as first rate. A guy like him would notice the blood stains and come up with all that analysis. Because Tonegawa views himself superior than all the other scums and trash of society as he has always won, setting him apart from the rest and cultivating his arrogance. With Kaiji winning, now he wants Tonegawa to kneel and apologize. However Hyoudou doesn’t think it is that simple. Tonegawa might kneel as much as he wants but the question is the sincerity of the heart. Hyoudou knows what it means because he was betrayed before. Borrowers apologized to borrow money but when it is time to repay, they disappear and the sincerity gone. Therefore to truly test one’s sincerity, Tonegawa will kneel on this burning iron platform! He will do so for at least 10 seconds. Failure to do so, he will repeat it as much as it takes. If he doesn’t want to do it, there is a contraption that will make him do it. Of course Tonegawa will do it himself. He begins the kneeling and it seems like eternity. It is just painful watching him get burnt and Kaiji even cries for him! Eventually Tonegawa lasted 12 seconds and passed out. Later in the toilet, Kaiji realizes he was mistaken. Tonegawa isn’t the real enemy. He was just a puppet like all of them. The real enemy is Hyoudou as he revelled in watching others in pain. He wants to fight him and avenge his fallen friends for real but the others persuade him he already has won the impossible, the money enough to clear his debts to start anew. He relents since he has no plan on how to take Hyoudou down. They help him do first aid and even bring back his cut ear, giving hope the hospital might reattach it. They thank Kaiji for fighting and winning for them too. But when Kaiji leaves with them, he gets inspiration on how to defeat the final boss.

Tissue Box Lottery
So this tissue box gives him inspiration? He notices that instead from the top, the side can be opened too. Based on the box’s design, he notices a small slip of paper can be inserted from the side and won’t fall out. It is well hidden and can be pulled out from the inside. Taking paper towels and a pen, he has set up the perfect final gamble: Lottery. It will be a game to see how can be the first to draw the winning paper. Of course he will hide that paper inside this secret side. He will hide this in all the boxes so that when a subordinate brings in any one of the boxes, Kaiji’s victory can be assured. But isn’t this cheating? Kaiji points out everyone has been cheating from the start. If he is going to it, he will be going all out to win. The rest argue about the shortfalls which include the chance of Hyoudou picking up the winning paper on his first try. I guess there is that small risk. What if after Kaiji picks the winning paper and they check the box only to find another winning card? So he’ll lie his way? What if they check the other tissue boxes? One will stay behind and after the subordinate picks it, he’ll flush the evidence down the toilet. There are other tissue boxes from other manufacturers which means not the same design. Hide that. Kaiji is ready and now talks to Hyoudou to convince him to gamble. However Hyoudou argues Kaiji must be feeling lucky now and must know when to stop. When Kaiji thinks he is chickening out and will be embarrassed by his defeat, Hyoudou doesn’t think so. Why should he feel embarrassed? He knows he cannot win all the time like how pros cannot always win against every amateur. Kaiji knows he is trying to give forced excuses. He is relentless on mistakes and losses of others but on himself he quickly worms his way out. It makes Tonegawa and his fallen comrades better people than him.

After all that bugging, Hyoudou agrees. But Kaiji won’t play E Card or any other game he suggests in fear there will be cheating. So as not to make it look suspicious, Kaiji acts and pretends to think of a game. Then he ‘gets an idea’ and starts ‘creating’ it. At first he draws many uneven circles to throw on the floor. This is to avoid suspicions when they check the box after the game, there will be many circles to hide it. When a subordinate brings in the tissue box, Kaiji checks it and then lets Hyoudou check it. Nothing. Pass. After emptying it, Hyoudou sounds like he doesn’t want to go through with it because for such a simple game he took a long time to prepare. But he’ll play along at Kaiji’s request although he has a few conditions. First, the winning paper cannot be crumpled or else he might be hiding a pre-prepared one and just take it out. Secondly, before reaching one’s hand in the box, they have to roll up their sleeves and show they’re not hiding anything. Hyoudou will also like to go first. Because if by chance Kaiji picks the winning paper on the first go, it’ll be a shame Hyoudou won’t even have a chance to play. Last, the wager. Hyoudou suggests betting 100 million each. Kaiji certainly doesn’t have that much money. That’s why he will wage his fingers! 20 million each! So he’ll lose 4 in total. Kaiji reconsiders if the risk is worth it. Losing outweighs than what he has now but since he has come this far, he can’t back down. He’ll bet his fingers. Hyoudou is revved up. To make it look like fair, they both insert the winning paper inside together. Hyoudou draws first. And then he trolls Kaiji like as though he pulled the winning paper! A blank. Gotcha! Yeah, Kaiji is scared the sh*t out of his pants. Now it is Kaiji’s turn. He inserts his hand and tries to grab it at the secret location. It’s not there. Try again. Not there. Really. Oh sh*t. OH SH*T!!!! Panic sets in as he wonders if it got loose and dropped somewhere. He prays to God harder than ever to win on his first try by chance. Did God listen to his prayer? No. Blank. This only gives fuel to Hyoudou to taunt him more because it’s like giving him a second chance, no?

Could Hyoudou be trolling again because he is saying crap like he is going to use his luck to win this time. He could have used it the first time but wanted to give Kaiji a chance. So as Kaiji is hoping is call is a bluff and praying a miracle would happen, he unthinkable happen. Hyoudou pulls out the winning paper! It’s true! Kaiji is in despair but instead of begging for his life, he accepts his loss and to lose with pride. Hyoudou respects him and gives him this winning paper as luck for next time. Kaiji loses his money and his fingers. In the aftermath when they check the box, they don’t see the winning paper they planted. But Kaiji noticed a paper crumpled up in the corner. It turns out to be their planted winning paper. Then Kaiji realizes how Hyoudou pulled off this miracle. This paper had a crease. It was folded. When they both put in the paper together, Hyoudou folded it to mark it. When he went first, he must have took the planted paper and crumpled it. But how did Hyoudou know of this plan? Because after witnessing Kaiji’s match with Tonegawa, he knows Kaiji is the kind of guy who would think instead of relying on luck in a game of high stakes. This means the moment he accepted the 100 million pay-out, Hyoudou knew Kaiji had setup something. But Kaiji knows he has himself to blame. He realizes he could have won because Hyoudou gave him 1 chance. But instead Kaiji did what he should not: Prayed to God. He should know better than to rely on something else other than himself. No use thinking in retrospect, right? Well, let’s hope he could get his revenge on Hyoudou the next time. If that ever happens.

Season 2

Hell
Kaiji is back to his old sloth ways and because he has raked up almost 10 million in debt, he is on the run from MIBs. His debt includes reattachment of his ear and fingers from underground clinics. He thought he found salvation when he meets Endou. Actually that guy has been demoted to collect debts. He is not pleased Kaiji is begging to him for another gamble and is sure to win. But Endou knocks him out and brings him to a place where he will be working for 15 years to clear his debts. It is an underground hard labour where the disappeared go. They even have their own currency, perica. It is the same routine every day so Kaiji plans to escape. He knows the tight security and taking hostage is futile. So he is going to work and save hard so he could buy a single day off in which he will go gamble and win big. Payday comes and Kaiji starts saving his money. However the foreman, Ootsuki tempts him with beer on the house. Kaiji drinks it and feels good. He couldn’t resist the temptation as he buys more beer and snacks to spoil himself as Ootsuki tells it to him. He thought he could resist the next time but succumbs to temptation again. Before he knows it, Kaiji has blown more money than he can save. Can he last till the end of the month? That is when Ootsuki moves in and can advance him some money. Of course there must be something in it for him too. So if Kaiji has no money, how can he earn more? Ootsuki suggests going back to his old ways of gambling. Kaiji agrees to participate after being convinced he can get double the amount and pay off his debts to Ootsuki tonight.

Underground Chinchiro
Ootsuki gets special permission to hold a gambling session. Since we have Kaiji and a young newbie, Tomohiro Miyoshi first time playing this triple dice game called chinchiro, we are explained some of the rules. It’s a bit confusing so I’m going to skip a little. What I understand is that you have 3 tries to roll the 3 dice. The goal is to get a pair and the odd one out is your number. The one with the highest number among the players wins. So if you don’t get any pairs and all are different numbers, you go bust. Of course there are special rules like those with double, triple or big pay outs like getting triplets or 4-5-6 roll. Then there are underground rules special only applied to this place like the dealer cannot win automatically on the first go and the dealer can pass. As the game begins, Kaiji makes small bets just to feel the flow. But as the game goes on, he cannot get the flow and despite his winnings, the amount is so small that it frustrates him. Then he decides to take a gamble with a big bet of 3,000. It is Miyoshi’s turn as dealer and he rolls the weakest play. The bowl is now at Kaiji’s hands as he begins his roll. For the first time he has bad luck. He rolls again and by the third roll, he hits the ultimate worst combination of 1-2-3. This means his loss is doubled. The angry gambler inside him hates losing and instead of backing down, he pushes his luck again in the next round betting again another 3,000. When he increases his bet to 5,000, lady luck shines on him and he wins big with 4-5-6.

So when it is his turn as dealer now, everyone else is scared and only places small amounts. This frustrates Kaiji but Ootsuki and his lackey, Isawa decide to ‘celebrate’ his big bet by placing the maximum 20,000. This means if Kaiji loses, he cannot afford to pay them back and will have to take another advance. This leads Kaiji to berate him as a worst human being. He lashes out that Ootsuki leeches off on the hard work and pay of others by offering the same food and drinks. He also knows everyone here has ganged up against him to break him. Kaiji rolls and he rolls a strong number. Everyone takes their turn to roll and fails to get any better. Kaiji wins big. He has enough to pay off his advances and still has some for himself. Kaiji is revelling in his victory but as dealer he must go another round. Kaiji rolls another strong number and becomes very confident (bordering arrogant) that he can win this. So when Ootsuki reminds him that everyone still has a chance to win no matter how small it is and the reliance of willpower, Kaiji laughs it off. When Isawa rolls, he gets 4-5-6. And when Ootsuki rolls, he gets triplets. Luck has abandoned Kaiji as he has to pay double and triple respectively. This means the money he has now cannot cover the pay out and he is back in debt hell of 20,000.

Kaiji along with Miyoshi received only half pay as the rest are taken by Ootsuki. These men are called 45s. Kaiji has given up to get his day off seeing it is impossible to save up that much and that vacation still depends on management’s approval. So he enjoys himself with whatever pay he has. But when a colleague gets sick and is thrown into the medic room where many others also face the same predicament, he becomes scared in learning men whose bodies have broken down will never return because you need money to cover medical expenses. Debt for life. This convinces Kaiji to save up but his weak resolve means he is tempted to blow it again. This is when Miyoshi stops him and thinks they can save for their day off. Kaiji thinks he is only positive because of his small win. Miyoshi shows the data record of the chinchiro. Kaiji notices Ootsuki seems to be winning on certain games. He spots a pattern. He knows he is cheating and is mad. He realizes there is a way to beat him but he needs numbers. So he talks to the 45s while Ootsuki holds another gambling session with others. He tells them about this and accurately predicts Ootsuki’s outcome on one turn. The rest are convinced that he is cheating and even more so when Kaiji explains how Ootsuki is keeping a stack of money for selling snacks and drinks to them. Kaiji suggests forming an alliance to take down Ootsuki and his subordinates in one big fell swoop. They have only one chance and nobody else must know about this. Kaiji has everyone pool their money and need to build up their funds more. They are going to win big enough for all of them to win a day off.

While Kaiji is on nursing duty, a guy named Hiromitsu Ishida recognizes him. He is the son of Ishida. Like father, like son? This guy seems to be blaming his father for failing to clear his debts. Kaiji cannot stand his trash talk and slaps him! He tells him off Ishida is clearly a different man from him and definitely better than this trash who depends on others. Ootsuki and his men notice the 45s trying to save up and clear their debt. So they trick them to go shower and when they come back, their food is gone (because it is meal time is over). This has Ootsuki tempting to share their food with him with no charge. However Kaiji splashes beer on his face. Ootsuki doesn’t lose his cool and instead ‘forgives’ him. Because the cameras are watching. Over the next many days, Kaiji and his group face daily harassment from doing dangerous work and almost getting killed. This is of course part of Kaiji’s plan. The more Ootsuki harasses him, the more the noose around his neck tightens. Hiromitsu only observes and cannot understand why Kaiji is enduring all this. During payday, Kaiji shows his distrust by counting his pay in front of Ootsuki. All this is being watched by Yoshihiro Kurosaki, the second in command after Hyoudou. He is here to check out Kaiji and notes he still hasn’t lose his fangs.

Gambling night is here. Ootsuki is on a winning streak and Kaiji notes the difficult timing. He needs to have Ootsuki invite him so that they could finish their business and true enough he does. Kaiji then warns he will add a rule that there will be no maximum bet. Ootsuki agrees. Kaiji notices Numakawa, Ootsuki’s other henchman won’t deal so this proves that this tactic only works on Ootsuki and Isawa in their current formation. Kaiji bets 20,000 and some are disappointed thinking he would have bet more. Isawa is the dealer and rolls 4-5-6. Kaiji losses big. In the next round, Kaiji only bets 1,000. He wins but only a small one. With everyone disappointed, this is actually part of Kaiji’s plan as he predicted of this big loss and small win whereby he will be marked as a loser. When Ootsuki tells him to get out, that is when Kaiji places all his money. That’s 52,000. He also signals to the 45s to come in. All of them bet their maximum and their total bet amounts to 507,000! Ootsuki is now sweating as he realizes too late they planned it all out. Could it be they want to become legends because win or lose big, the crowd is now cheering his name.

Ootsuki thinks Kaiji knows his magic dice trick. A year ago he got this special dice which only has 4, 5 and 6 numbers. This means they cannot throw a low hand. He conspires with Isawa and Numakawa on how to cheat the other players by changing some new rules. That is why Isawa and Ootsuki can roll big winners because they have the special dice. Once it comes to Numakawa’s turn, he switches them back to normal dice. Ootsuki is now forced to use ordinary dice. A close 4-5-6 but still a bust. He notices Kaiji and others not reacting. Do they not know this trick? Could he just be overthinking? Ootsuki throws a second time. Another near one but still a bust. Still no reaction from Kaiji and co. This makes Ootsuki thinks they don’t really know and the reason they put up a large bet is because to make him cautious and not cheat and just acting tough. This is when Ootsuki decides to use his magic dice on his final throw. Even if Kaiji is going to inspect the dice after it, he cannot snatch it fast enough as Numakawa will be faster. So how? Before the dice stops rolling, Kaiji snatches them! Ootsuki and his henchmen wrestle and try to get the dice from him as Kaiji reveals to everyone they were cheating. The former foreman, Odagiri will handle this and takes the dice from Kaiji’s hands. It is then revealed the magic dice that Ootsuki have been using.

Ootsuki is now interrogated as the crowd is mad for his cheating. Kaiji reveals his observations from Miyoshi’s notes that he always rolls a good hand on all his first moves. That’s when he planned a showdown. When Kaiji and 45s placed a huge bet, this is to make Ootsuki suspicious that they are on to him. Kaiji knows when he used the magic dice because normally when the dice is thrown, everyone will be focused on the bowl. But he noticed Ootsuki was looking at Kaiji to see if there is any reaction. Had he not looked at him like that, he would have grabbed the dice. Because Kaiji never told everyone about his trick, the reason their reaction was genuine. So when Ootsuki decided to use his magic dice, his focus was all on the bowl. With the crowd getting angrier, Ootsuki realizes his mistake and greed of walking right into Kaiji’s trap and agitation. He thinks he can turn this around by saying that he wasn’t cheating because that roll wasn’t finished and thus doesn’t count. But the crowd is not convinced. Surprisingly Kaiji agrees. He suggests continuing the game but they will use their own special dice. Ootsuki thinks Kaiji is a fool to give him a chance to redeem. The most he might lose is a million or two so it’s nothing. Ootsuki rolls the weakest hand of his magic dice. When it is Kaiji’s turn, he thinks they need to make Ootsuki pay more. So he takes out his special dice that only contain all 1! Snake eyes! Remember, Ootsuki agreed to everyone using their own special dice. So when Kaiji and co roll snake eyes in which the pay-out is 5 times more, they win over 2 million! Ootsuki is heart breaking having to pay this out from his special stash of almost 20 million. However Kaiji says it is not over yet. Ootsuki is the dealer and he has to roll again. The rules haven’t changed. All’s fair, right? Yeah, he’s f*cked. With Kaiji and 45s betting all their winnings amounting to 3 million, they set to win over 15 million!

With Kurosaki coming in and agreeing with Kaiji’s logic, he tells Ootsuki that he might be able to draw and save himself using normal dice and getting snake eyes. Though, the odds are 1/216. Pray real hard. Of course he failed and the total pay-out is 18 million. Kaiji decides to split evenly among the 45s. Although they argue Kaiji should get more because he did most of the work, he credits everyone for their trust. They believed in him and not question him despite Kaiji never explained how he was going to win. This trust is the reason why they won against Ootsuki. Kaiji then makes a deal with Kurosaki that there will be no other conditions for the day off. Kurosaki agrees believing it will encourage others to work harder for this.

Bog Pachinko
Kaiji is out and freedom has never tasted so good. But there is a timer on his wrist to indicate how much time he has left outside. It seems the other 45s decide to pool their resources and give Kaiji extra money and day offs. They figure it is better for him to bet and win big than each of them to bet and win the same amount. Yeah, make him do all the work again. But he’s got all the luck, right? They believe he is a nice guy and can be trusted because he trusted in them. So Kaiji has now 20 days and turn 800,000 Yen into 60 million to buy freedom for all. He knows normal casinos cannot make big killings and he needs to go underground. When a group of people is trying to rob Kaiji, he acts tough and shows his reattached fingers and scares the hell out of them. This impresses Koutarou Sakazaki who has been watching him and notes he is different. He has been trying to find guys like him for gambling and takes him to an unassuming building where there is a hidden casino with bets of high stakes. But the main draw is the pachinko because each ball costs 10 or 100 times more than the average. Then there is the mother of all pachnikos called Bog in which each ball is 1,000 times the normal bet. But if you succeed in getting a ball through 3 correct holes, you stand to win all the balls that other losers lost while playing this. This means a huge amount of 500 to 600 million Yen! Has anybody ever won it? Only 2 in history. Guess who? Hyoudou and Tonegawa! They won billions. This makes it even more suspicious because it could be an inside job. I mean, the house would lose big if somebody genuine had actually won it, right?

Kaiji crashes at Sakazaki’s place. He is shown a mini pachinko. Sakazaki knows somebody who works inside the place and paid millions for this and to keep quiet. With this, they can figure out how Bog works. However Sakazaki won’t tell Kaiji how to operate until the day they take action. Call it insurance. At first Sakazaki will give him only 5% of the cut and although enough to clear Kaiji’s debts, not enough to free 45s. Kaiji negotiates for 10% or else. Sakazaki agrees. Since they are going to do it 6 days from now. He shows Kaiji a maintenance schedule in which he also paid a lot to get. On that day, this is when the Bog has its monthly pin maintenance. This means the pins are looser compared to other days. A paper slips out from the schedule. Sakazaki panics and snatches it back. On the night before the attempt, Sakazaki is acting crazy like as though God has not abandoned him. Next day, he shows Kaiji their war funds of 50 million Yen. He is supposed to only have 20 so did he get this from the loan shark? On the contrary. Sakazaki works as a security in some firm. The paper is a safe combination from his boss. He took some of the money out. Because his boss is having his own issues, he won’t notice. They’ll win big and put it back. Of course this is illegal but they can’t be concerned of what is illegal or not. Win first! Kaiji is then told the plan and he can’t believe it is this simple.

After Sakazaki is body searched, he is allowed to play at the Bog. He takes the maximum bet of 10 million and begins his attempt. He has everyone cheer for him and assures everyone will get a share. Kaiji narrates the odds of winning is 1/5,400! Also, this is the trick they’re going to use to win. Sakazaki showed him that using a magnet can attract the balls. Because Sakazaki will be heavily searched, he needs an accomplice outside. They will hide it in a beer can and switch it with Kaiji during the tense moments. After all, the staffs do not check the onlookers. When Sakazaki wins, during the commotion, Kaiji will swap back the can and leave the building while Sakazaki is being checked again, removing all evidence of cheating. Everything goes as planned but when Sakazaki tries to use the magnet, it doesn’t seem to work. Kaiji then overhears the staff talking about using the block or something. He realizes they have been setup and tries to signal Sakazaki to stop and the need to strategize but he continues to be too focused on the Bog. In the end, he has already blown 20 million. In the toilet as Kaiji reveals they are on to them, he wants Sakazaki to give up now. But Sakazaki thinks they’ll still be alright because they don’t know about their magnet trick. Kaiji tells him to give up now because from this point on he will be gambling somebody else’s money. Leave now and he can stay a free man. But Sakazaki is furious. He has gambled everything and the only way out is to win back his losses. It will be fine as long as they don’t activate the block. Unheeding Kaiji’s advice, Sakazaki continues his gamble.

The staff sees the casino’s boss, Seiya Ichijou. He tells to just activate the block. He also knows about Kaiji. The block is activated and Kaiji knows it because the balls are now bouncing off. Sakazaki might have a little luck left since some that bounced off bounced back in from the side. However all is for naught one none really entered the hole he wanted. Sakazaki feels defeated and this is where Ichijou comes down. They think their trick has been exposed when Ichijou takes the can. He gives it back to Sakazaki and tells him to continue. Oh, he explains that today’s balls are made of brass to stem that magnetic trick. In the end, Sakazaki ends the game and has only 6 million left. Sakazaki back home thinks of gambling the ponies to make back their money and take another chance. Kaiji advises to take the remaining money and run away to another country but this only makes him crazier. When a pachinko ball accidentally drops out from his pocket, Kaiji gets an idea and returns to the casino to observe the Bog. He spends the entire day watching it till Ichijou and his men come down to do a little maintenance. Then Kaiji barges into the staff room to tell them to pay up for this single pachinko ball. Ichijou pays him but Kaiji hangs around in the room and observes certain spots. Ichijou remains cool and gives him his card that allows him to eat and drink free in this casino. Kaiji rips it apart. Ichijou continues to remain cool as he mocks Kaiji he will soon go back to the underground life. After Kaiji leaves, he goes in search of an empty room without electricity. He knows a way to defeat Bog.

When Kaiji returns to tell Sakazaki about it, his place is trashed and a letter from him saying he has gone to test his luck at the horse race. Kaiji continues observing the Bog and while resting at an ice cream shop, he hears rumours about a building under construction for a year. He confirms something and gets another idea. Then he goes to find Sakazaki at the horse race and stops him in time before he makes all his bet. Sakazaki is crazy believing his horse would win because of some bad pun. Well, what do you know? It ends up in last place. Kaiji then tells him his plan but they need more money and manpower. Kaiji has this person whom he can get involve. That guy is Endou and it seems he is being hit with hard times. Getting harassed by loan sharks? A taste of his own medicine? Kaiji talks to him about defeating Bog and he needs cash upfront as well as manpower, guys who are willing to dirty their hands. He agrees after hearing him out as he has got a bone to pick with his employer. Endou does his calculation on the interest of the money and manpower he will loan. Wow. It sure really adds up. Kaiji is upset despite the debt coming up to 130 million, he still wants a 50% cut on the Bog’s winnings. Endou claims he is sticking his neck out for him and if Kaiji fails, he will also fail. That is when Sakazaki pops up and can’t go through with this. Kaiji calms him down and then renegotiate with this deal. After signing the contract for their cut, Endou gives Kaiji 5 million upfront.

Sakazaki enters the illegal casino again but this time wearing a monk’s attire. For luck? While playing, Ichijou cannot sense his gambling lust. Like as though he is acting it all out. Sakazaki loses his entire 6 million. After that he goes crazy and tries to destroy the machine while claiming it cheats. While the staffs restrain him, Ichijou again feels strain. It’s like as though he is acting to distract them. Then it hit him. This is just a distraction. Ichijou and the staffs run back to the control room to catch Kaiji red handed snooping around. Ichijou then shows Kaiji the wall off money behind security laden features. He knows Kaiji barged into the staff room to look for a safe as an illegal casino must stack up on large amount of cash. If it is not there it must be in the control room. He thinks he hopes to find the safe and crack it another day. While Sakazaki is beaten up, they can’t ‘damage’ Kaiji too much because if he is unable to work after being sent back underground, they will replace him. Instead, Ichijou uses a device to tear out Kaiji’s fingernails! OH SH*T! All 10 fingers! A few days later, a new Bog is replaced and nobody played it. On the last day of Kaiji’s freedom, he is back to challenge the Bog again. He has the money. 50 million. This makes Ichijou sceptical. Did he not learn his lesson? They wonder if the Bog is rigged but with close guarding and maintenance it isn’t possible. With Kaiji mocking the unbeatable Bog, Ichijou accepts his challenge.

Ichijou gets a call from Kurosaki. He scolds him for letting Kaiji play because this means he has a plan. Ichijou is confident he will win. Kurosaki hopes so because if he loses, it is the end of him and will be made an example out of. Kaiji starts playing. It seems there are more balls entering the tray than usual. Ichijou then stops Kaiji from continuing and believes he has cheated. He claims Kaiji switched the balls with smaller ones and that is why more are coming through. He uses a tray for standard balls to prove it. But it matches. Kaiji is using valid balls. What if the tray is fake? Nope. It’s valid. Then he realizes it. Because nobody has been playing the Bog and they were the only ones maintaining it, they might have loosen the pins and make the path wider. Rushing back to the room, they realize their maintenance tools have been switched. Noticing concrete dust in it, they head up to the empty room above. They see a big hole on the floor. For the past few days, Kaiji must have used this vent to switch the tools. Ichijou panics and has his men activate the block. Everyone realizes something is wrong when the balls do not go in anymore. Even the balls that bounced off from the side don’t work anymore.

Kaiji finishes his million and shocks everyone by having another 10 million go. Ichijou gets a call from HQ to broadcast footage from the security cameras. Hyoudou will of course be watching this and he also has it broadcast to the underground labour camp. He wants to see how powerless they are as they are rooting for Kaiji to win. Because if Kaiji loses, the amount of debts he has racked will be cleared in over a century! Forever trapped in this hell hole! So he better win this. At this point he has already used up all his balls and puts in another 10 million. The crowd wonders why he is keeping up with this fruitless endeavour. Suddenly the flippers cannot close properly and letting the balls in! After all that hitting it seems the handles have crooked! Flashback has Kaiji explaining to Endou that in order to make this happen, the Bog needs to be destroyed so when the maintenance crew comes to fix it, they’ll swap the flippers with this one fitted with some sort of candy. The chemical reaction inside the flippers will cause the metal to bend but this will come into effect after an hour. Because Ichijou will be suspicious, they will use his cleverness against him to remove it all. Like Sakazaki smashing the Bog and Kaiji sneaking into the control room.

Ichijou stops the game when Kaiji wants to put in another 10 million to continue. He believes Kaiji is cheating and swapped the flippers during the maintenance. However Kaiji tells him back when he was cheating activating the block, he didn’t say anything. Because he had no proof. And now you want to accuse him of rigging the Bog? The crowd rallies behind Kaiji and they know the casino has been cheating and wants Ichijou to continue Kaiji playing. Ichijou then gets a call from Hyoudou himself. Oh sh*t. He berates Ichijou for his poor showing. He wants Ichijou to accept Kaiji’s game. Although Ichijou can stop the game if Kaiji is cheating, however that is if the casino didn’t cheat in the first place. As he has shamelessly activate the block, not only the casino but the company’s reputation will go down. He doesn’t want that to happen. They don’t have to play fair but they must look fair. It’s all about face and reputation. All he has to do is win and let Kaiji destroy himself. Easy, right? Otherwise, fail and he dies. Ichijou knows the trays are impregnable. Just to make sure, he ascertains with his staff that it was untouched during the replacement and they tested it out themselves to be 100% in working condition. He ups the difficulty level too just in case.

Flashback reveals Kaiji explaining to Sakazaki why the ball can never enter the third tray. Because the winning hole is located at the back, it is very hard for the naked eye to see. There is a slight bump which pushes it off the trajectory. Then why not enter from the other side? It is also not possible because the trays and the Bog are tilted! Kaiji noticed this when Ichijou picked up balls that rolled to his feet and not the stationary ones elsewhere around it. The balls will lose momentum by then. Ichijou starts panicking when no balls has gone into the third tray. Isn’t that good? When one does, he starts to freak out. His fears are confirmed when he notices a customer dropping his pachinko balls on the floor. He notices the balls rolling in the opposite direction! Did Kaiji sneak into the office and changed the remote for the tilting? He doesn’t know how but he knows Kaiji didn’t do anything to the remote but the building! How the f*ck did he tilt the building?! Back to that flashback of Kaiji explaining it all. When he learns about the construction building near the casino to re-tilt back, this means the earth around the area is soft. But if they are going to tilt the building with 20 tonnes of sandbags, wouldn’t they get caught? They’re going to use water. Pretending to be delivery guys, they deliver plastic containers to the empty rooms above. Then they fill it up enough in 8 hours to avoid being discovered (something about the daily level check on the roulette wheel).

Ichijou tilts maximum the trays the other way. Although this would prevent Kaiji from passing the first and second tray, it will be very dangerous if the balls ever make it to the third one. Thus he orders to find his staff to find that device they used years ago. That device activated something very obvious and because so, they put it away never to use it again. But desperate times calls for desperate measures. Ichijou can’t lose now. Flashback reveals he started working in this company 7 years ago and put up with all the crap that Hyoudou made him do. He did so because he knows that old guy is going to die and Kurosaki will take over. Ichijou is favoured under him. Once that happens, he will take over all his money. Ichijou also wants to get back at his old high school friends who mocked his loser casino job. Hyoudou once asks what defines being rich. It wasn’t money. Because if the politicians drop a nuclear bomb over his head, money is worthless. It must be something he can continue to live in luxuriously and be protected. That would be a shelter. That is why he is currently building an underground shelter filled with first class facilities and only those loyal to the company and handpicked by him will get to stay. Ichijou is also aiming for this to prove his old friends wrong.

It is a roller coaster ride for Ichijou and Kaiji. Will the balls go in or not? Kaiji has finished his 10 million and now is on to his last 10 million. The crowd notices something is wrong when the balls can’t even enter the third tray. The balls whittle down quickly. Ichijou is smiling luck is on his side while Kaiji is also praying he doesn’t need luck or miracle. He just need that one thing to go his way. Isn’t that luck or miracle? By the time Kaiji discovers a sure way win, he is out of balls. No money left. Ichijou relishes but Kaiji says he isn’t done yet. Taking a toilet break, he talks to Endou in the toilet and knows he has extra 10 million left. He knows the way he thinks because this money is to bail himself out if he fails. Endou will not trust Kaiji anymore seeing he has wasted his money. But after Kaiji tells him about the sh*t life he will live if he runs away now, Endou starts thinking (and crying). At least if they sink together, Kaiji will buy him 3 beers every month till he dies. After signing a new contract and with the extra funds, Kaiji returns to play, much to Ichijou’s dismay. Ichijou tries to stall his time, counting the money to see if it is valid. When one of his staffs noticed something, Ichijou is confident he can survive this and doesn’t need to resort to the device. He lets Kaiji play.

At first it might seem that nothing has changed. Ichijou believes the double tilting is now working in his favour. He is going to tell Kaiji why he is failing but Kaiji will show him a magic trick. He uses his money to cover the view of the trays. Nobody can see anything. After Ichijou rips it off, everyone is shocked to see multiple balls in both first and second trays! They are also moving in unusual motion. Everyone sees the loser holes clogged up! Ichijou realizes the fault of the double tilt. Because of the tilt, the discharge tube is now facing upwards and thus clogging the pipes. This means that multiple balls are now making way to the third tray. Ichijou desperately tries to tilt back but this will take a few minutes. But when all the balls keep missing the final winning hole, Kaiji realizes he has made a fatal mistake in his calculation. He thought tilting it back will roll the balls straight in but he realizes too late this machine is twisted.

Remember when Kaiji tilted the building with those water containers? Well, he realizes he didn’t put it evenly. Because the empty room with water is only at a certain corner of the building, the building didn’t tilt entirely in one direction but towards a corner. This is why the balls keep missing as the pathway is now bended. At this point the clogged balls are already starting to be unclogged. Although Kaiji has around 400 balls left, this final ball in the final tray is the final game. Then it misses. Game over. Endou already jumps the gun blaming Kaiji when another miracle happens. It seems the trays are still clogged! The balls inside the tube must still be stuck despite a few have already come out. Ichijou cannot take this anymore and is about to hit the machine but Endou tackles him and tells him to stay put. But it still won’t mean a thing if the ball doesn’t enter the correct final hole. Then another miracle happens. All the loser holes in the third tray also clog up. When the trays were clogged up, the third tray must have also built up in the clogging before the tilt back. With all the loser holes closed off, the only way is to wait for the ball(s) to fall into the winning hole. Just when it seems that 2 balls are heading straight for the winner, God (or the devil) f*cked over Kaiji again and repels them against each other!

Remember that device Ichijou was looking for? His staff has found and activated it. It seems around the winning hole there are small holes that shoots out air. Thus an invisible air barrier! No balls can go in now! Kaiji takes a closer look and realizes this cheat. There is nothing he can do. He gets his fighting spirit back with the crowd cheering his name and this little sign of hope happened. When a new ball entering the third tray clashes with another ball, it ‘jumps’. But it wasn’t high enough and got repelled by the air barrier. But that was the only time it jumped. It never happened again. When the crowd goes silent, Kaiji looks back and realizes the MIBs are already here, ready to take him back underground. Kaiji is in a pinch. He pleads to Ichijou to make a deal. Let’s call this a draw and he wants to cash out his approximately remaining 30 balls. This will be about 120 million enough to bail himself out and cover Endou’s debt. Ichijou won’t allow it and slaps it. Play and finish your balls! Then you’re going back to hell forever. Wow. I’ve never seen Kaiji so pathetic and desperate. And then he runs out of balls. And figuratively he also got no more balls left at the end.

Kaiji thought his few hundred yen could let him play some more but Ichijou won’t allow such small change. Kaiji is dragged away while pleading for someone to invest in him. Someone please give him money! Ichijou beats him up when Sakazaki returns throwing him 10 million! He returned to his workplace to steal his boss’ money since he is out of town. Sakazaki tells Kaiji to continue to fight and win. This is not just for themselves but all the players who were ‘killed’ by the Bog. Kaiji resumes play and this time Ichijou is the one begging to accept his draw. Too late mister. With the balls now jam packed in the third tray, it won’t be long before it will push through the air barrier. Ironically everyone hears the Bog’s ‘scream of death’. Then it happened. A few balls enter the final hole. Jackpot. The Bog lights up and overflows with balls. Everybody cries. For better or worse reasons. Of course the one most upset is Hyoudou. He can’t believe this happened and will send Ichijou to the underground. At the rate he lost, he’ll be there for over 1,000 years!

Ichijou is taken away and he knows his fate is sealed. Even at this point Kaiji is pitying him. He wants Ichijou to come back next time to challenge him again. Well, if he is still around in a thousand years. With almost 730 million, Kaiji gives some to the spectators who supported him and most important of all cleared his own debts. The remaining is split based on the agreement between Kaiji, Endou and Sakazaki. Endou treats them to a private party. Everything is okay when you have the money. Sakazaki claims he has the smallest share but Kaiji reveals his is. He has to pay off debts to rescue his friends underground. The remaining profit will be split evenly among them. Sakazaki is impressed with his principles and wants to give him his daughter! Say no quick!!! Although Endou praises Kaiji for being a rare man with principals, he is still naïve and this will eat him one day. Soon, Kaiji and Sakazaki pass out. Endou drugged their drink. When they wake up hours later, he is gone. Fearing he might have taken their money and run, it seems Sakazaki’s share is still intact. Only Kaiji’s share has been significantly reduced. A note from Endou claims that the contract for the extra 10 million he signed in the toilet has a 30% compound interest per 10 minutes! So by taking his right of the share, Kaiji with around 190 million is now reduced to 60 million. Kaiji is screwed in the end. Sakazaki fears he might beg for some money and quickly leaves, claiming he needs to put back his boss’ money.

All Kaiji can do is cry till he sleeps. He wakes up when the agents knock on his door. They are here to take off his timer. Kaiji is adamant he wants to save his underground friends because of the promise. Although he can easily renege on the promise and keep the remaining money to himself, he won’t. This means he will be left with only 600,000 Yen for himself. The next day, Kaiji hides as he sees his 45s friends get released. However he is waiting for one more person: Hiromitsu. Although unrelated, he promised his father to help him. However his release will be using the share of profit of them all so Kaiji doesn’t have a say in this. If one of them opposes, this deal is dropped. So when Kaiji sees Hiromitsu coming out too, he is very grateful to his friends. The agents wonder why Kaiji didn’t go out to meet them. He has no money. Wait. What? Why? He should have some left. He claims he lost it all in a pachinko! Since he will be meeting them up and go out for drinks, he can’t possible ask them to spend. So he thought of earning a little. Too bad luck wasn’t on his side. The agent got so mad at his twisted thinking that he gives him his own 30,000 for him. Free of charge. No interest. Just go meet up. I guess there are still kind people around. Kaiji meets up with his friends and they all cry manly tears. Time to party for their freedom.

Life’s A Gamble
At least for now it is a happy ending for Kaiji and his fellow friends. But of course as gamblers, we ordinary people would wonder how long that would last till the next temptation brings them down again. The ending may seemed a bit rushed but I suppose after that long exhausting drama, I think it is best that we don’t drag out an additional episode just to close and tie up things. After all, Kaiji has got his long outstanding debts cleared and kept his promise of saving his friends. What else could he asked for? Sure, he is left with no money but seeing the hell that he has gone through, it is better than to lose scraps of paper than compromising his principles.

I have to admit that despite the long drawn out drama of each of the gambling art, overall they feel interesting despite I still have mixed feelings at the end. As a person who does not know the finer rules of such gambling games, it is all an eye opener. That’s why I noticed I can’t help myself after watching each episode, I crave for more. It was really interesting and curious to see what kind of tricks Kaiji will pull out from his sleeve. On the other hand, like I have said, the very long drawn out drama especially the pachinko game really made it feel the whole arc was a tiring one. It just feels like One Piece or the Dragonball series whereby they can actually drag out a single subject for the entire episode. Let’s face it, the pachinko arc was more of a psychological game of high stakes that goes back and forth between Kaiji and Ichijou’s favour. Therefore while it is interesting to see how the tide of events can quickly turn from one’s favour to another, it is because they draw it out so long and thus why this arc eats up a big chunk of the second season. If they cut out all that drama, they could have ended it in half those episodes and perhaps feature more gambling games that Kaiji would participate in. Maybe it is another psychological drama for us viewers. After being tired out with all that psychological drama, once the end came, it was a big relief for us. The end of a long tiring journey. Hey, we can’t complain by that time, right?

It would be interesting to see Kaiji take on more types of gambling games like horse racing, roulette, slot machines and even poker. But since there has been no word of another season, I guess his game ends here. At least for where the anime is concerned. Because it would be a shame for Kaiji not to get his rematch with Hyoudou and bring down that old fart before fate naturally takes him away. Yeah well, he is like the last boss whom Kaiji should face in the end anyway.

This series is all about Kaiji so it is no doubt when you have a series named after him, a big chunk of the character focus will be on him. Although Kaiji is like your typical gambler, what makes him stand out from the rest in terms of his gambling fighting spirit is his keen observation. This guy has a knack of observing the smallest and oddest details that would allow him to sometimes form a quick strategy to overcome the wall. This is the same instincts that has kept him alive till this day. He would have been dead meat a long time ago if not for this quick thinking of his. It is a survival instinct that has greatly helped Kaiji get out of sticky and deadly situations. Albeit not always perfect but it has helped Kaiji defy death. And yes, because he is the main character. Because of Kaiji’s perseverance, you can’t help feel like rooting for him all the way like how many of the characters pin their only hopes for him. Yes, you don’t pray to God but to Kaiji!

But like any other fragile human, Kaiji also has his weaknesses. The obvious one is being a gambler that led him into this mess. It is hard for me to say if he will get out of his gambling addict because that is what all gamblers say. Before you know it, they’ll be back at square one. I know Kaiji is different because he has grown stronger in both seasons but remember, deep down he is still a gambler. Because at times you noticed that Kaiji also shows his weakness especially during the Bog where he begs for mercy from Ichijou when he has exhausted all his avenues and his naivety to save his friends and put his full trust in a shady person like Endou only to get the short end of the stick. In the end, he only has got himself to blame. But hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. After all, he survived getting his ear and fingers cut from Hyoudou’s game, right?! His naivety to save others is also a double edged sword that has him screwed over many times. But I suppose it is better for him this way than to lose his humanity.

The other characters aren’t as prominent as Kaiji and most of them just play a certain role for a certain arc. For example for those guys on Espoir like Furuhata, Andou, Kitami, Okabayashi and Funai, I thought they would come back later in future arcs but as far as the anime is concerned, I guess they didn’t. Once it’s over for them, it’s over. They don’t usually ‘cross over’ to another arc. Well, maybe Ishida was the exception but otherwise like those 45s who were more prominent in the chinchiro arc, they were reduced to just mere praying spectators for the pachinko game. If they didn’t appear, the arc would still carry on smoothly but they have to remind us from time to time why Kaiji is fighting so hard and to add to the nail biting drama. Everybody’s favourite and most used line is calling out Kaiji’s name. Yeah, this guy is definitely God to them.

Hyoudou might look like a senile old man but he is very influential and wields very great power. All because he has money. See the power of money? Nobody can go up against him. It looks like it will take some time before Kaiji ‘powers up’ before taking on him again. After all when you have so much many and so influential, you become twisted and warped in your own ways. Absolute power gives him absolute control of how he wants things done and by merely opening his mouth, he dictates whether you live or die. So don’t you dare upset him in the slightest way. I believe if there Kaiji is to bring down Hyoudou and his corporation, he has also got to take down some of his executives like Kurosaki whose appearance feels wasted here. It’s like an introduction that there are other subordinates rank and file beneath Hyoudou. But I’m not sure if Kaiji would want to take on them all too as he would rather aim to bring down the big fish himself. Why go through all that convoluted mini boss level when you can just take everything down by defeating the big boss. This isn’t some RPG game, you know.

I want to mention something about Endou. Something that bothered me during the tense Bog arc. Like any other typical person, he blames Kaiji if things don’t go his way but becomes happy and elated when it does. This is the thing that bugged me. Because I tend to notice how whenever he is happy, he keeps hugging Kaiji! Man, if that doesn’t look like happy gay, I don’t know what is. He does this hugging so frequently it made me wonder if this guy has got this habit of hugging others when it greatly goes his way. Certainly it feels odd from a shady man like him. And based on this, everybody else I can safely sum up that when it comes to someone winning, they cheer and support for you like as though they placed their future on you. But when the going is downhill, all that support suddenly gets deserted like as though they have nothing to do with you in the first place. Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone. Sure, we see the spectators cheering for Kaiji is because they already lost something. Thus they see him as their saviour and put their avenging fate on him. And for those spectators at the Bog, they’re cheering for him because he will pay them if he wins! No wonder they’re sticking around until the game ends. Otherwise, where is the motivation for them when the going gets tough? You think they are here to watch a good game?

Last but not least I also want to mention about the narrator who over the course of the series has somewhat become a little annoying. At first it was unique to hear some guy narrating what has happened and explaining the rules, terms, etc. But as the drama drags out, it becomes obvious that he starts narrating and telling us the obvious like as though he is a TV commentator of some sport because of his passionate speech delivery. Yeah, yeah. We get it that Kaiji is in a pinch and you don’t have to tell us that or what will become of him. Of course this is to enhance the dramatic effect of the episode and everything but it gets irritating after a while. He should just stick to explaining the rules, that’s all.

Another trademark of this series is the “Zawa, zawa” sound effect that you will hear throughout in every episode whenever Kaiji’s guts tell him that something bad is about to happen. Call it his guts instinct. Look at it as the Kaiji’s version of Spiderman’s tingling spider sense. In the first season, this didn’t sound very clear as I thought it was the leaves rustling but eventually they are actually a group of men whispering this line. Sometimes it feels creepy. Then in the second season, they put in a variety with female voices and this one sounds less creepy.

In the second season at the end of each episode, there is a segment called Kaiji Proverbs Returns. I suppose they are supposed to be inspiring lines said by Kaiji and other characters for the episode. True, they sound inspiring but I don’t think I will be applying them in my life. Because I don’t gamble. Sure, you can use them to as a battle cry for other stuffs but by the time I watched the next episode, I have already forgotten about it. Furthermore, to distract us and make us stay to listen to the proverbs, they have this pretty lady narrating it all. Each episode has her wearing different dress and at different scenes. I can’t help keep my hopes up that she would give us some sort of fanservice… Why do I keep thinking she is some kind of porn star… Oh sh*t. I just revealed one of my weakness for the flesh! Hey, at least it isn’t gambling :-/. Sometimes this segment is also used as a blatant advertisement to advertise the Kaiji movie or DVD releases. Why waste your money on gambling when you can have the full set of Kaiji DVDs!

One thing that obviously stands out is the design of the characters. Well, not its entirety. It is their nose that somewhat makes this series looks weird at first. If you think Kaiji’s pointed nose looks freaking odd, wait till you see the nose of some other characters. For instance, when I first saw Hyoudou, I was thinking what the f*ck does this guy have a peanut for a nose?! I KID YOU NOT! Really!!! I thought this guy really had a peanut for a nose! Then for Miyoshi, I thought he had a dick for a nose! OMG! Or at least a cartoonish hand as one. Closer to home, I thought his nose resembles closely to a local cartoonist, Lat’s nose trademark. Ootsuki? I thought he had a clown nose! And all those other characters who have broad flat nose like Furuhata, Andou, Ishida, Tonegawa, Sakazaki and Kurosaki, I thought they had noses like elephant seals. I’m not kidding. Therefore One Piece’s Usopp should really feel at home in this anime. Just saying…

This is such a manly show that it is really hard to find any females here. There are no female leads or even supporting characters. Mostly they are background characters and even that is mostly in the city. Because men are the ones taking part in dangerous gambling games. Men are the ones who are only working underground. Don’t see any women working to their bones there, do you? Although I remember one (Sahara’s female colleague at the convenience store) that looks decently pretty enough, with all the men around and lack of female characters, you would start to think that even the women might look this manly. This is somewhat reinforced after you see Sakazaki’s daughter! OMFG! So f*cking hideous!!! It makes the ugliest guy, say Hyoudou to look even better! I mean, really. This girl looks so ugly. Sorry if I offended you pussies but really, it’s like trying to tell us to go back to gambling instead of thinking of perverted thoughts. Sometimes it feels like a troll that for the sponsor credits scene, they show her nice body in a bikini and then they zoom up to her face… Damn… Yeah… That kind of face… Zawa, zawa… Masturbation challenge level… Extreme!!! Well, at least the live action movies had good looking characters. Don’t want to go scaring away your audiences, do you? It’s a good thing too that the Kaiji proverbs girl is such a cutie. All hail 3D women? Yeah, it’s ironic for me to say that this is one of the few instances where the 3D female is better than the 2D one. Thanks Mikako for ruining it. The only other hideous thing are Kaiji’s damaged fingernails. Yikes! I’ll have nightmares remembering this. This is worse than Kaiji having his ear cut off!

Other than that, the cell shaded drawing gives the series a little unique edge but otherwise, I thought some of the characters look pretty similar because at first I was confused if Sahara and Furuhata were the same person and just dyed his hair blond. This means some of the unimportant background characters look almost alike but you won’t pretty much notice this if you’re focusing on the game. I thought Kitami looked a lot like Kaiji and once thought he was his long lost brother or something. Not forgetting the exaggerated effects when the character is freaking out with their gaping mouths and manly tears. Man, there are going to be lots of those tears flowing. It proves even men do cry. This series is produced by a veteran studio, Madhouse that made lots of good anime series with varying art styles like Death Note, One Punch Man, No Game No Life, High School Of The Dead, Ore Monogatari, Black Lagoon, Monster, Paprika, Tenjou Tenge, Paradise Kiss, Sakura Wars and the Galaxy Angel series.

Many of the themes are rock based. It is only right and suitable for the kind of hellish games that Kaiji will play. If you think the first season’s opening theme, Mirai Wa Bokura No Te No Naka by Kaiji with Redbourn Cherries isn’t hard core enough, you should hear the second season’s opening theme, Chase The Light by Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Because its opener is already a wild mad scream!!! If you’re into this really punk rock style, I’m sure you can stomach some of the lyrics that has the singer literally screaming his lines! If you think the second season’s ending theme, C Kara Hajimaru ABC by Wasureranneyo sounds funny despite its rock theme, that isn’t the bad part. It is the ending credits animation that will freak you out. Because we see reluctant Kaiji on a date with Sakazaki’s ugly daughter! OMFG!!! No wonder Kaiji runs away in the end!!! This is definitely a gamble he cannot win!!! Run Kaiji, RUN!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Better to work underground for a million years than date 10 minutes of this piece of ugly crap. The only song that is not rock based but a slow grim country western-like is the first season’s ending theme, Makeinutachi No Requiem by Hakuryuu. A sad and befitting fate for all gamblers if I should say.

Overall, despite the over-dramatizing and the dragging out of the games, this series is overall and interesting watch as it lets you peek into the mind of a gambler and the strategies that one can come up with if you are desperate enough and your back against the wall. As long as there is money involved, you can bet that humans will try all sorts of ways to beat the system or make it unbeatable. The basic human greed has not changed since. You live by the dice, you die by the dice. It is a good thing this anime didn’t make me curious to go gamble. Then I would only have myself to blame for being weak minded. But I’m not making any bets that this series might get a third season any time soon even though I really hope there should be another. My guts are telling me that. Zawa, zawa…

Momokuri

March 17, 2017

This is another series that has all its episodes released simultaneously on the Japanese website, Comico. But unlike ReLIFE, Momokuri despite starting out as an ONA, later is shown as a weekly TV series. Because its duration is half the normal episodes, the TV series combines 2 episodes as a single one. Well, not that it matters to me the viewing style. So if you want to know what it is like to stalk someone whom you obsessively love, this is a series you should take a look at. Whether you want to follow in its footsteps or take prevention.

Episode 1
Shinya “Momo” Momotsuki receives a love letter in his shoebox. It isn’t a dream when Yuki Kurihara confesses her feelings to him and wants to go out with him. Without thinking much, he agrees. He wonders if it was the right thing to do since Kurihara is a year older than him. But for Kurihara, she couldn’t be happier. She’s got lots of information on his habits that would made you think she is some sort of stalker. Oh wait. She is. She remembers the first time she saw him play football with his friends. They teased him and he reacted in a very cute cat-like way. That was love at first sight for her. Then she goes to spy on him, secretly take pictures of him and even compares his height on the tree he was leaning against! She is even thinking of picking up his trash… We know Kurihara’s mind is going crazy about him. But she just can’t find a single topic to talk to him as he walks with her to the bus stop. She then snaps a side profile of him and he caught her in the act. She thought she is done for but he snaps a picture back in retaliation. Kurihara can’t stop staring into her handphone filled with pictures of Momo. Even her head is filled with his face. Can’t get you out of my head, literally… Needing to move forward from this and talk normally with him, she decides to practise having a conversation with her best friend, Norika Mizuyama. She doesn’t mind supporting her but can’t help worry for Momo’s sake too. Kurihara sets another target to take 100 photos of Momo as a charm.

Episode 2
Guess what? Kurihara took possession of a straw that Momo was drinking from! When Momo finished drinking, she offered to throw it away from him. But that didn’t happen… Norika swipes it away before she could have unholy thoughts with it. Momo’s friends tease him for having a girlfriend but think she is more like a loyal dog than human being. Momo seems to be stumbling into Kurihara more often. Like during PE, it’s like she took a longer route to the girls’ changing room just to say hi to him. Unexpectedly when Kurihara catches Momo looking at her, she ekes out a funny sound before running away. Kurihara thought she could share her umbrella with him during a rainy day but it seems he also brought his own umbrella. Summer school uniform means Kurihara gets to show more skin to him but instead she fawns over his. One day Kurihara purposely forget to bring her umbrella so she could share. Unfortunately with some turn of events, she is made to help out after school after those on duty couldn’t make it. School is way past over and she has no umbrella to go home with. She dashes through the rain and takes shelter halfway. Luckily for her, Momo is there. He thought it was unusual for Kurihara not to be waiting at the gates at the usual time. He saw her dashed out and managed to catch up to her. She is in delight of his consideration. The day wasn’t so bad after all. However her clothes are wet enough that her bra is visible. Momo gives her his jersey to wear and she misinterprets this as his kindness to keep her warm.

Episode 3
Momo accepts an invitation from Kurihara to go watch a movie. He is nervous waiting for her since he arrived early. Kurihara could have been here earlier since she is spying and fawning over his waiting and plain clothes. After the movie, they go eat at a café. He thought he could show his adult side by drinking black coffee but it is too much for him to handle. Kurihara is of course impressed with him since he knows he doesn’t like bitter and spicy things. She relishes seeing a new side of him. Norika catches Kurihara spying outside Momo’s class. His friends are giving him their birthday presents. Some feel like a tease because, a hair ribbon? Kurihara isn’t jealous Momo is popular among his friends but is super impressed at his cuteness. So if you’re wondering why Kurihara isn’t doing anything for his birthday, well, she did bought a cheesecake for him but accidentally bumped into a pole and ruined it. That’s what you get for daydreaming. She doesn’t have the heart to give it to him. She also knows his family doesn’t really celebrate birthdays so giving him a cake was what she thought the least she could do. Norika believes even if she gives the cake to him, he would accept it. The next time Kurihara meets Momo, she just wishes him happy birthday and comes clean she has nothing to give him. In return he gives her a handshake. Though, it embarrasses him very much but that is already a treat for Kurihara. She vowed not to wash her hands but then she forgot…

Episode 4
Norika, Rihito Sawaguchi and Shouta Shizuka are going to have a study session with Momo and Kurihara. Apparently Shouta told Kurihara that Momo isn’t doing well in his exams and if he fails, he has to take remedial classes during summer break. You don’t want their summer holidays of making memories to be ruined, do you? And thus this study session is suggested and at Momo’s place because his home is closest to school. I know it is great but why invite her friends? Shouldn’t she want to be alone with him? Well, she doesn’t want any shameless thing to happen. After all that we have seen you think this would even be her normal standard? Kurihara being honest with her feelings accidentally blurts it out. It gives another reason for the friends to tease Momo, sending him into further embarrassment. In his home, Kurihara helps Momo prepare the drinks. Their friends couldn’t help adlib some romantic dialogue. I wonder if they’re ever going to get the study session started at this rate. It gets on but Momo can’t help feel a little jealous because Kurihara is interacting well with his friends. So he goes to cool his head with a cold bottle. Yes, literally. Kurihara went to check on him but instead sees this literally cool scene that she’ll add to her memory collection. Kurihara and Norika leave early. They decide to go buy food to cook for Momo. Norika thinks she is trying to get into Momo’s good books by doing lots of good favours. Not that it is a bad thing anyway.

Episode 5
Kurihara has a hard time choosing which ingredients so Rio Sakaki points out to her like a pro. Norika is suspicious that she has seen her somewhere before. Kurihara returns to Momo’s home on pretence she forgot her bag so that she could snoop around his room and smell it. Creepy. She went overboard when she sleeps in his bed and Momo came in and caught her in the act! Oh no. But thankfully Momo misinterpreted she is not well and this saved her. In class, Kurihara goes through her collection of Momo’s pictures. One more for the 200th… Norika notices Rio in the background in one of them. Rio’s flashback shows us she is in the same tennis club as Momo. In short, he is different than other guys and his kindness made her fell in love with him. However Momo quit the club shortly and Rio was forced to stay on since the girls’ tennis club sucked and she is an athletic person. Before she knew it, Momo is already going out with Kurihara. Rio would also love to fawn over Momo’s cuteness but she has more control over herself than a certain stalker. Momo is grateful when Rio comes to his rescue when he is having a hard time trying to study history. Rio notes she may not be as feminine as other girls as some even mistake her to be a boy and confessed. But a girl who only looks cute and doesn’t even know the basics of cooking, Rio can’t leave that girl in Momo’s care. For Momo is her angel.

Episode 6
Momo is glad the tests are over so he hangs out with his classmates including Rio. His female classmates learn he has a girlfriend and can’t stop bugging him to show a picture of her. Kurihara on the other hand is sad after finishing her tests since she can’t be with Momo right away. But maybe his straw he used this morning will cheer her up… During lunch time, Kurihara tries to take a selfie with Momo. I think she is purposely prolonging her settings so she can stick close to him as long as possible. Momo at the spur of the moment thought he should be more romantic and puts his hand on her shoulder. She is so shocked that she dropped her handphone. An excuse to take another selfie. While Kurihara is in ecstasy over that shoulder move, Momo on the other hand is embarrassed of what came over him. Rio catches Kurihara in the act when she is hiding in a room waiting for the perfect moment to bump into Momo. Kurihara explains she is just trying to get to know her boyfriend better since there is a side he shows his friends that he won’t show her. Rio got lost in her thinking and accidentally agrees with her. This has Kurihara think they are the same and considers Rio her friend. Even worse, Kurihara now thinks it is normal for her to do all those stalker stuffs. Every day. Rio realizes she is worse than a stalker. She’s a damn pervert! Because of that Rio is in a dilemma but chose not to tell Momo fearing he would be traumatized. It is her way of protecting him.

Episode 7
Rio hangs out with her friends, Ikue Usami and Yuzuki Shimada. Her grace has them falling for her. If she wasn’t only a girl. Oh heck, even as a girl will do. Rio is a little conscious about her height and thinks she is the tallest among the girls in school. Momo on the other hand hopes he could grow taller than her once he graduates but being short seems to run in the genes of his family. When Momo walks home alone, he always notices Kurihara hiding behind an electric pole. As though she is waiting for a good timing to meet up. But she always bangs into it. The more he walks on, the more he remembers doing stuffs together with her. He realizes he has been thinking about her too much lately. Then he spots Kurihara and Rio together. Apparently Kurihara needs a favour from Rio to become her accomplice. Doesn’t sound good. Something about hiding in the changing room at the pool (the only place where one can stay hidden) to take photos of Momo. Yup. Not a good crazy idea. If that is not possible, how about the movement from the changing room to the pool? Kurihara would have done it herself if not for her class which takes a long time to get over and Momo changes quickly. Thankfully Rio won’t go through with it and managed to convince Kurihara to drop the idea. She realizes how dangerous she is but all because Momo is too cute. Is she trying to hint she could be a potential villain too? Meanwhile Momo couldn’t get the scene of Kurihara and Rio together out of his head. He feels jealous thinking that he is not the top of her priority list.

Episode 8
Norika chides Kurihara for trying to get Rio involved in her perverted scheme of taking photos of Momo in his swimsuit. She suggests asking Momo out to the pool or beach since they are already dating. What? Hate to be seen in public as scandalous?! WTF?! What kind of logic does she have?! But peeking is okay?! At this Kurihara is only dating him on a school level and nothing more. When Kurihara walks home with Momo, he tries to ask about her meeting with Rio. Since he is being sheepish, Kurihara can tell he is jealous. But his cute looks makes her nose bleed! He helps pinch her nose with a tissue paper to stop the bleeding but she can’t breathe… Any more of this kind of things and Kurihara’s blood will explode. Later Momo calls Kurihara to invite her to a BBQ with his friends. Of course. She gets really excited and very happy learning that the BBQ will take place near a river. Oh no. Swimsuit potential. So when Rio hears of this, she can guess how wrong this is going to turn out.

Episode 9
It’s fine if Kurihara wants to go shop for a swimsuit. But should she drag Norika along and spend 5 hours still looking for swimsuits?! Rio happen to be there too as she is buying ingredients to cook at home. They chat for a while before she leaves. Norika notes Rio is quite popular in school especially among the girls but had she not hear her voice, she would have assumed she is a guy. At the BBQ, Rihito’s elder brother, Ema also joins in. He sponsors the meat. Apparently his girlfriend just dumped him so where else to put the meat to good use? I suppose Momo feels a bit shy and awkward to be with his girlfriend in front of everyone else so they head somewhere else alone. Jealous Ema hopes their relationship will fail! But it looks like there is another couple blooming between Shouta and Yuzuki. When she trips on a stone, he helps her up and takes her elsewhere for first aid. Curious Norika asks Rihito about their relationship. He says they have always been like that from the start.

Episode 10
As Shouta puts band aids on Yuzuki, it is revealed that they are cousins, the reason why they are so close. Also, when they were young, they made a promise to each other to compensate for each other’s weakness. Momo blows bubbles and offers Kurihara to do the same. Of course by now you should have guessed that she is going to fluster by overthinking about the indirect kiss. In fact, she wants to take the blower back and do unholy stuffs with it. As the day goes by, it seems the temperature isn’t getting any warmer so Kurihara is getting disappointed she can’t show off her swimsuit. I’m sure she wants to scream out how much she would like to print out a large poster of Momo in his swimsuit and stick it on her wall. Accidentally she lifts up her skirt. Momo flusters but of course underneath is her swimsuit. He praises her for it but it gets awkward and they fluster even more.

Episode 11
Momo meets up with Kurihara for the fireworks festival. They have fun together but soon Momo realizes he is being led on by her. He fears at this rate she will not think of him as her boyfriend but her little brother! Before he can fix this, they get separated by the crowd. What a worse time to have your handphone battery completely run out. Always charge full before big events! As he wanders about, he bumps into 3 college girls who think he is kinda cute! Despite he tells them he is trying to find his girlfriend, they suggest to hang out with them till then. Luckily Rio is here. But it took Momo a while to recognize her since she is tanned. The college girls are confused. Is this girl his girlfriend? Or is this a boy? Anyway, they want Rio to join them too! Before this gets deeply complicated, the duo make a run for it. Sorry girls. We don’t like older women ;p.

Episode 12
Kurihara also realizes she is lost and thinks Momo is kidnapped! Rio explains she was working with various clubs and before she knows it, she got tanned. As for her male clothes, it seems Usami’s brother, Seiichirou was against the girls going out to the festival, fearing some shady guys would hit on them. Siscon. He can’t come along since he has cram school exams. Nerd. Because Rio knows how much Usami wanted to go, she suggests dressing like a man and acting like their bodyguard. Big brother approves. Rio blushes when Momo comments he would have liked to see her in a yukata. The girls don’t have Kurihara’s contact except Rio. However instead of contacting her directly, she suggests splitting up and finding her. And when she finds Kurihara, she doesn’t immediately contact the rest. They stay and talk about love, Rio hinting there is somebody she is interested in and Kurihara being amazed with Rio being earnest. Rio feels embarrassed and has never talked about this with anyone and hopes she can keep a secret. When Momo has found them, he trips on a loose tile. The girls catch him. Wow. They look so much cooler. They might laugh it off but Momo certainly feels embarrassed of how uncool he looks. And he looks at the duo who seem like very close friends now.

Episode 13
Momo falls ill. Not too sure if it is because of over-studying or his friends keep teasing how Kurihara is so in love with him or Momo is just too embarrassed thinking how cute she is. Maybe it is all of the above. I’m sure the guys want to help him out but they can’t think of nobody else to help him right now except contacting Kurihara. Problem is how they worded their help. It goes something like Momo wanting to see her and his body is hot! And before you know it, stalker girl is at his place. Though, quite nervous. Rio would love to come too but damn this tennis practice. Kurihara lends her thermometer and you know her reaction when she sees his naked skin. Kurihara thinks Momo is in a bad mood because he is jealous (maybe it is because he is sick?). But in his eyes, Kurihara seems to be getting cuter. The heat must have gone to his head when he believes by kissing her she would acknowledge him as a man. They seem like they’re going to do it but I guess the heat got too intense that Momo collapses. Actually that is on purpose because he is still a chicken.

Episode 14
Momo is sleeping and is Kurihara going to snap a picture of his face? Thankfully she still has her humanity and stops herself. Don’t profit off the pain of others. But when she touches his forehead and he notes how cool it is, she has a hard time trying to keep her sensibility from blasting off. This makes her think she wants to get to know more about him aside from being just a starring stalker. She sleeps by his side. When they wake up by morning, Momo is embarrassed seeing her so. She is embarrassed realizing she drooled during her sleep. After she leaves, Momo can’t help feel her warmth on his bed. He is ashamed for thinking like a pervert. When Momo is back in class, his friends tease him that the lovebirds still don’t call each other by their first names. Though Momo notes he has never called a girl by her first name, it might have slipped his mind because he did so for Yuzuki. When Momo suggests to Kurihara to call each other via first names, they try it out and find it very embarrassing. They might feel happy but the embarrassing factor is too great so they just scrap it and return to their usual way.

Episode 15
The gang are at the pool. Norika considers becoming ‘friends’ with Yuzuki because Kurihara’s swimsuit is making certain parts stick out. But Kurihara is worried if she overate during the break. Don’t see a bit fat anywhere. But all that concern is blown away since she gets to see Momo in his swimming trunks. Momo blows up a beach ball with his mouth. You know what Kurihara is thinking, right? When they are playing with the ball, it got punctured and deflates. Although Kurihara is sad, she gets permission to take it home as memento. I can imagine what she is going to do with it. On the way back, Momo’s friends tease him to hold hands. Their chance increase since they are the only ones taking the bus home (the rest live in walking distance). Momo takes the lead in holding her hand since he doesn’t want to look uncool. He also thanks her for taking care of him the other day. She knows Momo well enough that he is embarrassed when saying that since he has a habit of hiding his face. When she thanks him for accompanying her, Momo is awe struck by her mature gaze. It makes him feel staying uncool like this won’t do. He grabs her hand and doesn’t want their date to end yet.

Episode 16
They hang out on a swing at a playground. For some reason, Kurihara examines Momo’s hand and finds it manly. Then this surprising thing happened. Momo pulls her closely to him and tells her that his hand isn’t just the manly thing. All of him is. Woah. Is that cool or cheesy?! It throws her off balance (literally) and was it too much to handle that she collapsed and fall into his arms? This wasn’t planned, right? One day as Norika studies at Kurihara’s place, she notices a snack she wants to eat. But Kurihara won’t let her since it was given by Momo. So she’s going to love it instead of eating it? Expiry date is soon… Speaking of that, Norika remembers the cupcakes that Momo baked for her. What happened to that? She vacuum packed it… Then there is this suspicious cabinet in her room. Instantly Kurihara protects it but curious Norika fends her off to look inside. Let’s say it is not even safe for us viewing. Norika leaves before returning with garbage bags! Time to rid the rubbish! Learn what trash is separable! Spring cleaning! Kurihara so sad… Norika points out the more important issue: Has she seen Momo since the pool? Well, not after that cool (or cheesy) thingy. She couldn’t bring herself to see him as she doesn’t know what kind of expression he would put. That’s the problem? I thought she loves anything about him. Kurihara realizes she has become weird for loving Momo too much. Well, glad you realized it. And no, it wasn’t just recently you turned into a weirdo.

Episode 17
When school resumes, Momo spots Kurihara hiding behind the wall. He has to go get her that he could see her. This causes his friends to tease them for playing lovebirds so early in the morning. Back home, Kurihara is still trying to calm herself down that she couldn’t get a good look at Momo’s face today. She gets a call from him and since she sounds nervous, he laughs. Hearing his voice calms her down. In class, Rio catches Kurihara trying to swap Momo’s eraser! She has tried ‘cloning’ it to make a replica so he won’t notice the switch! It’s so perfect! Momo sees them and although he is glad they are friends, there is something that makes him uneasy seeing them together. Rihito talks to Norika as he notices Kurihara’s sneaky ways of taking secret photos. Well, at least he only noticed about the photos. Rihito is also curious about Rio and Norika asking about her. Is she a secret fan of Rio? Kurihara shows Momo a photo album of the pool. Wow so many photos. He didn’t know Kurihara likes taking photos. Did you not realize them all of them had you as a subject? Momo thinks they didn’t spend enough time during the holidays and should make up for it.

Episode 18
Momo and Kurihara are hanging out at the amusement park. Time for some clichés that happen to lovebirds. Like in the haunted house she clings to him tightly. Nothing wrong except that her boobs are touching his arm. When the power completely goes out, the pitch black darkness makes Kurihara very scared. It’s real. She is paralyzed in fear and she ended up clinging too close to him that her hair got stuck in his button. Too dark to see anything but I’m sure Kurihara loves every moment of it despite feeling anxious. Hear his heartbeat beating faster… In the end they got out and hold hands the normal way till they part. This is better? Also, his button is taken out and he lets her keep it. Shortly, Momo stumbles into Rio who just finish her club activities. She can easily read his face that he is just off from his date. She also notices his missing button and offers to sew it. As they talk, Rio is trying to hint something about them as she has been watching them. Rio flusters when she thinks he meant about them but realizes Momo meant her and Kurihara. Rio is left puzzled wondering who Momo meant that he was envious of.

Episode 19
Momo narrates his parents often prioritize work first. Because they are in photography, they have this family rule of not taking pictures at home or even on vacation or else it will trigger their work habit. That is why when someone like Kurihara paid attention to him, he felt happy. For the school’s choral festival, as Momo is the class representative for the costume contest, Usami and Yuzuki are hell bent in designing a winning costume for him so they can land the 20% discount prize for the canteen for a year. They have Rio in charge of the cool part and Momo the cute part. Later Momo and Rio talk about the costumes. Momo will be okay with anything as long as he is not cross-dressing. Rio quips she would really want to see that so Momo quips back that Rio would also look cute in it. At this time, Kurihara just heard that. Rio fears this would give rise to misinterpretation but fortunately (or unfortunately) the duo are dense. Especially Kurihara who believes nobody can beat Momo in terms of cuteness. So that’s his worth? Later Momo realizes what that conversation could have meant and thinks Momo was just pretending since Rio was around. He also thinks she might be jealous of Rio in a way.

Episode 20
The costume contest begins. Kurihara whips out her camera to incessantly take a certain someone. Be sure to snap photos of their other participating classmates too. No wonder she was so enthusiastic when the teacher asked who should take this camera job. Rio and Momo are so cute that they instantly won. Heck, all the judges gave them perfect 10! With girls talking how cool Rio is and the possibility of how cute Momo is too, Kurihara is unfazed. She thinks Momo is getting more popular and is cool with it. She is more concerned that she can’t get a clear shot of him. But when he waves at her, she got too hooked on it and forgot to snap a shot. The duo are being interviewed and the interviewer who is Rio’s friend is getting too excited wanting them to pose like this and that. Some quite risqué. Momo feels embarrassed and wonders what Kurihara would think. When he looks her way, she gives the thumbs up. WTF is that? He is less than thrilled. Quickly he takes her out to talk. He asks if she truly loves him and looks his way. All a big yes. Then why don’t you feel jealous? It then turns awkward for them. So awkward that Momo accidentally confesses he loves her. It’s her turn to get embarrassed as she tries to cover his eyes with her hands. So she can look at his embarrassed face but he can’t? Adding to the tension is their faces’ close proximity. Kurihara then feels the need to confess to him now. She did that but a little more. She also confesses that she loves him so much that she secretly collects the things he touches and uses. Oops…

Episode 21
Momo and Kurihara are out on another date. Kurihara still feels embarrassed. More of Momo’s kindness has her think he isn’t human. He is an angel! Taking her to a video arcade, Momo wins a crane game and gets a teddy bear. She never knew he was great at this game? Some stalker specialist… While she is happy with it, Momo kisses the teddy bear as a form of indirect kiss. Both sides are embarrassed but after he explains that nothing has changed between them, Kurihara calms down and notes she really loves him. Next day in class, Rihito starts teasing embarrassed Momo when he reveals he successfully called Kurihara by her first name. The rest find out and they ‘congratulate’ him by patting his head. Sure they’re not making fun of him? Norika can tell Kurihara she is very happy. Aside from her silly grin, she is reading the wrong book for today’s class. When Seiichirou calls Kurihara, Norika is surprised that she made other friends without her noticing. I didn’t know Norika was a ‘stalker’. Sometimes there are things you don’t even know about your best friends.

Episode 22
Momo tastes Kurihara’s homemade omelette rice. He can tell she put in the effort since her fingers have band aids. Needless to say she is quite happy. Momo finds it weird the rice has his favourite tartar sauce since he has no recollection he ever told her about it. Later Momo sees Kurihara talking to Seiichirou. He doesn’t know him so when his friends tease she might be cheating on him, Momo obviously can’t hide his bothered face. We take a detour focusing on Shouta and Yuzuki. First she bangs his forehead just to test his temperature. So what is bugging him? He claims he went online and read some movie spoiler. But Yuzuki knows he is lying since he has a habit of touching his right ear whenever he does. Kurihara gives Seiichirou a photo of Yuzuki in that costume cosplay as thanks for his help. It is role reversed when Momo is now seen hiding and spying on his girlfriend. When Seiichirou wants to remove a spider web stuck on her hair, suddenly Momo rushes out so fast and slaps away his hand! Did you see him coming?! He warns him not to touch other people’s girlfriend and takes Kurihara home. Later Kurihara explains everything. As for the patting, Kurihara says that his friends pat him all the time so she doesn’t see the problem. She pats him back to make it even.

Episode 23
It is almost Christmas and the gang has to help teach Momo his weak subjects. He isn’t making any good progress. He looks cute quivering that it makes Kurihara go into her usual fawning. She goes to make lunch but then trips and falls on top of him. How long can she last till she ‘blows up’? Then she realizes she knee kicked him in his gut. Oops. Later Kurihara invites Rio to her home. They do some sewing as present for Momo but because Kurihara hates poking herself with needles, she wonders if she should try knitting. Rio continues to analyse Kurihara on her behaviour. She might look like the perfect girl but she is still a pervert when it comes to Momo. Don’t we all know this already? Kurihara wonders if a reindeer costume would be the right present for Momo. Rio advises her to take it easy because for the past few days she has been looking after Momo in addition to studying herself. Kurihara doesn’t mind as long as she can make the person she loves happy. Meanwhile at Momo… He isn’t doing so good… Here’s another bad news. On Christmas day, Kurihara falls sick. Norika then contacts Momo to come to Kurihara’s house after his class is over.

Episode 24
Norika asks why Kurihara organized a Christmas party for everyone. No matter how noble she sounds, eventually it will all come back to being with Momo. And something about not being able to see him much on Christmas. When Norika notices Momo has arrived, she packs up and leaves. Kurihara gives her a present she sew and learnt from Rio. I think she better try again next time because the glove has only 4 fingers! Kurihara is surprised to see Momo here but lets him come in. She hides underneath her sheets, embarrassed that she is still in her pyjamas. However she doesn’t want him to go home yet. He gives her a present. A cute stole that she wants to wear now. But then she descends into gloominess because she feels bad she couldn’t finish his present in time for the party. She doesn’t have anything for him now but will do anything to make up for it. Is she purposely prostrating herself and exposing half her butt to hint something? He lets her hold his hand. Don’t mind if she do. All that excitement has tire her out. Like any normal guy, he is attracted in seeing her cute sleeping face and even has thoughts to kiss her lips. Funnily she sneezes in his face and that returned him to reality. Yeah, it was quite embarrassing too.

Episode 25
Kurihara meets up with Momo on another outing. He invites her to the hotspring inn as he has already asked his other friends to come along. Kurihara has completed his present and gives it to him. It is a shoehorn she carefully carved from wood as she noticed he likes to collect sneakers. He is quite happy with it and will use it every day. At the hotspring inn, if you’re wondering why Kurihara dashes into the toilet and comes back out disappointing, it’s because she couldn’t find any peeping holes. And she’s not worried about others peeping at her… Kurihara explains to Momo about the meaning behind her name. Her parents met at a ski resort but people often mistake her name to be because she was born at the end of the year. So as not to make her sound weird, Momo says he also loves snow, which of course is her name. Yeah, it gets weirder now with all the blushing. While Kurihara and Norika are soaking at the hotspring, the other girls conspire to surround Momo to tease him. So when the duo return and see this ambiguous position, Kurihara’s initial reaction is to think how cute Momo is with them. Then she wants to take a group photo. However at this point Momo is clearly not in the mood and leaves. Kurihara starts to panic that he is mad. Norika calms her down and has her go after him.

Episode 26
Momo starts thinking maybe Kurihara’s definition of love is different. She catches up to apologize. Although he doesn’t blame her, he still feels something isn’t right. The best way is to talk it out. Momo goes first, telling her how happy he was to be with her. He asks what part she likes about him. Uhm, every part? To intensify the love drama, Kurihara slips and falls into his arms. Now they’re like hugging. It is her turn to talk. She explains all the stalking she did at first till she wanted to be by his side. She wanted to see more of his embarrassing and sulking side. After she confesses she likes him, he hugs her closer. I’m not sure where he is trying to kiss but he says he missed. Looks like her cheek. Anyhow, Kurihara flusters greatly even claiming she won’t bath forever! More hugging… And Kurihara admitting she is a pervert… Wait. What?! Oh right. True lovers accept for who you are, right? Next day, the duo continue to hang out together and chat. Of course only to be broken when their curious friends arrive. Time to tease the hell out of them. Kurihara shamelessly admits she is head over heels for him in front of everyone. Well, it’s nothing new, right?

It’s Not Stalking. Just Observing You Closely. Always!
Well, uh, erm, yeah. I suppose they are still going out together and strong? Not too sure if I can say their relationship made any significant progress because their whole romance was one big weird relationship. We know they like each other but because of Kurihara, we can’t really say their relationship is the normal and healthy type. Kurihara is more like a maniacal stalker who loves everything about Momo while he on the other hand is one of the shyest guys in the world that it makes you wonder if he has got any balls to go further than this unless he gets ‘cornered’ and thus making his unconscious mind do the more ‘advanced’ stuffs like kissing. Those and a few confessions sparingly scattered throughout the series doesn’t make the entire romance drama any better. In short, I find this boring. Gasp! You mean stalker girl wasn’t funny and amusing enough for me to like this series? Well…

At first the idea of a girl stalking her crush seems to be fun. However this gets old and stale. Very fast. When the novelty wears off, it suddenly becomes as annoying as hell because Kurihara can’t just stop doing disgusting stalking stuffs. Unless you love stalking but for a casual guy like me who will forever be alone, I’m not really into this stalking style. Even when Momo and Kurihara finally get together, you can still see that she continues to stalk him. The entire series generally follows this sort of pattern and because of this reason it is why it gets boring very fast even though it is meant to be the funny and charming part of the series. Yeah, the drama between them in a bid to develop their characters and the plot didn’t really help either.

The series focuses a lot of screen time on Momo and Kurihara. While it is normal for Momo to fluster and be awkward because since Kurihara is his first girlfriend, there are lots of mixed feelings for me about Kurihara. First, I wonder if she is really in love with Momo in the first place. Because I am thinking that maybe she is just in love with the idea of being in love with Momo. There are a handful of instances that shows Kurihara might not be really in love with Momo because she wants to continually stalk him. It is as though he is some sort of living object and she gets her thrills by hiding from a distance and watching him. Oh, don’t forget about keeping all the things he discarded. Well, don’t you know if you’re a real couple, everything between them can be shared? Or does she not want him to know how awful a stalker she is? Yeah, he’ll probably hate her but knowing Momo, I’m sure he wouldn’t. Anyway, another point is that Kurihara flusters or panics at some of the idea of what couples do like kissing. My theory is that maybe if they get too close, the excitement of getting too comfortable might be gone. It’s not like Kurihara doesn’t know anything about him at this point. Sure, there are stuffs she doesn’t know about him but if the gap between them is closed and they are acting more like a real couple, the excitement to be near him would disappear. That is why I think she is trying to continue her stalker ways instead of progressing their relationship to the next level. I mean, don’t you realize it remained stagnant after they officially became a couple? Since she likes collecting stuffs he discards, it makes me wonder when she’ll take it to the next level. You know, collect his poop! No way! That will be crossing the insanity line and she should be locked up in a mental facility with the key thrown away forever!

As for Momo, he is quite a decent and normal guy but he is a bit different because he is dating a girl who is a year older than him. It might be the norm now but the old societal norm of a younger man dating an older woman could be a bit embarrassing. But that is too deep of a topic here. Because of Momo’s tendency to fluster and his shy nature, this is why his friends always love teasing him. Yeah, it is like he is their best live entertainment even better than the internet. Seriously. Momo could be many times better than Kurihara. Despite his shy nature, we see him get jealous when he sees her speaking to other guys like that misunderstood situation of her talking to Seiichirou. This proves that he cares about her and although you might argue this might lead him to be over protective of her, since they are at the start of their relationship, I think it is more reasonable of him to feel so. Unlike Kurihara who doesn’t even feel any sort of jealousy and is just squealing in delight on seeing Momo’s cuteness. So who do you think is the normal one here? Momo has trouble sometimes getting his message to Kurihara as he is shy. That’s pretty normal itself. You don’t want to screw up badly before your girl, right? Unlike Kurihara who flustering is mainly because as a result of her stalker ways but thankfully Momo is dense and unaware of this. At least Momo has a sense of shame that Kurihara doesn’t. So who do you think is the better person? After all, it is not stalking as long as you don’t find out about it, right? In the end, true love will prevail because it is about accepting what that person is about instead of forcing that person to conform to what is normal, right?

As for the rest of the other characters, I feel they really fail to bring in some sort of dynamism or variety to this series. They are another reason why this series feels boring. A great series not only relies on the main characters but its supporting characters as well. But they fail to make an impact and are hardly memorable. Take for instance Rio. I thought with her as the other person who has a crush on Momo, there would be some sort of rivalry and things might get heated up. But nope. Rio doesn’t do anything and I mean anything. Oddly she becomes friends with Kurihara and the best she could do is compare their methods of love for Momo. But in the end because she never takes action (not sure if she really feels worthy to be Momo’s girlfriend), she hardly matters. I mean, if she really likes Momo, she would have tried to make a move herself. Not doing so shows that she just wants to be stuck in the friend zone and remain his admirer. After all, knowing Kurihara’s personality that she doesn’t even get her alarm bells ringing if Momo is seen with another girl, I’m sure Rio has a better chance to snatch Momo away from her. Of course eventually it would be Momo x Kurihara but if Rio puts up a fight, it might get Kurihara to change her thinking and take action. Sadly, this wasn’t the case. She was quickly forgotten and her relevance faded as fast as she came in.

As for Norika, I feel that sometimes she is to balance up Kurihara’s character as she is her best friend. You know, with Kurihara being a scatterbrain weirdo, we need to have Norika who is the emotionless and the mature type. Otherwise she is pretty forgettable. I mean, what else would she be here for? To show weird stalker girls have normal friends too? Okay, Norika herself isn’t normal but at least better than stalker Kurihara. Shouta and Yuzuki feel like a distraction. It might seem that the odd cousin relationship between the duo might go somewhere but sadly it didn’t. There are a few small scenes that focus on them and it makes you think that hey, maybe there is more than meets the eye to them and something interesting would pop up. Nada. What a disappointment. Might as well have them as irrelevant as Rihito and Usami who are there just to make up the numbers.

Art and drawing feel cute. Yes, all your characters are looking as cute and kawaii as ever. So even if you find Kurihara’s stalker character to be annoying, but you see how cute she is in whatever mode she gets into and you’ll go “Aww… She’s so cute”. Really. Even Momo’s blushing makes it all look so cute that you’ll go “Aww… He’s so cute”. And when that happens too often, you’ll forgive at all the unholy, illegal and unwarranted stalking that she has done. This series is animated by Satelight who did Kamichama Kaarin and Shugo Chara, shows filled with cute looking characters. Yeah, not to mention AKB0048 is another one although not as cute as this but still cute nonetheless.

Voice acting is pretty normal but I got to hand it to Ai Kakuma (Hanabi in 12-sai series) playing the part of Kurihara. She really makes her character sound creepy and cute at the same time. Momo sounded familiar at first but I couldn’t place my finger on it. Eventually I found out it is Nobuhiko Okamoto, that one who played To Aru Majutsu No Index’s Accelerator. The other casts are Rena Maeda as Rio (Hanabi in Keijo), Naomi Oozora as Norika (Inari in Inari Kon Kon), Yoshitaka Yamaya as Rihito (Sugino in Ansatsu Kyoshitsu), Takuma Nagatsuka as Shouta (Lacus Welt in Owari No Seraph), Sayaka Nakaya as Yuzuki (Orine in AKB0048), Reina Takeshita as Usami (Ootani in Komori-san Wa Kotowarenai), Kensho Ono as Seiichirou (Slaine in Aldnoah.Zero) and Yasuaki Takumi as Ema (Tsukasa in Plastic Memories). The ending theme is Yawarakakutte Yasashii Jikan by Ai Kakuma. It is a cute piece at least the way she sung it. I later learned that this is the theme for the ONA version. When the series was released on the TV version, it had a different set of opening and ending theme. I didn’t hear it so I can’t really say.

Overall, this anime feels boring although the cuteness of everything might be the reason to distract you and keep you watching. Although this anime is not that all bad, I just feel that it didn’t had that oomph to appeal to me. Some of the stalker antics were funny at first but that gets old. I mean if you want a different kind of romance comedy because seeing too much normal boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, this one can prove to be a refreshing take. But it makes you wonder if the genders were swapped on this stalking issue. That would be downright creepy, doesn’t it? Very distasteful to see a guy stalking a girl and it would ring a whole lot of alert. I can take heart that despite being a loner otaku, I can feel safe sleeping at night that I don’t have a single female admirer stalking me. Or do I…?

Outlaw Star

March 12, 2017

What happens when you mix in Cowboy Bebop with Trigun? You get Outlaw Star! Heh. That was what I think after a few episodes into it. Yes, it’s that time for my retro anime pick and the thing that got me interested to watch this series was the synopsis which states about our main protagonists who are just run of the mill small entrepreneurs on a backwater planet. Then they get involved in something big in one of the jobs they take on. Before they know it, they have got lots of parties hot on their trail. From the authorities to pirates to aliens and even an assassin! And they don’t even fully understand what they did to land in such hot water in the first place. At times like these all you have to do is run and go with the flow, right? But to balance all that, it seems they have the most advanced ship ever known in the universe on their side. Yeah, this is going to look like a fun ride.

Episode 1
Hilda is being targeted by a Tao pirate organization, Kei Pirates. Luckily she manages to escape. Gene Starwind and Jim Hawking are at a bar when Rob Cain comes in looking for revenge against Gene for killing his brother. Gene shoots him but seeing Rob is a cyborg, Jim traces his weakness and allows Gene to take him down for good. The Kei Pirates have traced Hilda to land on this planet Sentinel and sends out henchmen to look for her. Next morning, Jim gets a call from Rachell Sweet who is requesting for special parts (they run a shop fixing everything from spaceships to relationships) and bodyguard services. Jim feels suspicious since she has already deposited money to buy very rare parts. Gene goes to meet Rachell to confirm if she is the real deal. She claims there is some farm machine in the middle of nowhere that she needs to fix. As they wait for Jim to pick them up, several Slenderman-like robots warn Gene to go away or die. Not one to like be threatened, he attacks and finishes them off. On their way, those Kei Pirates show up and they call out to Hilda. Rachell throws a smoke bomb and tells Gene to floor it. The guys want some answers so she reveals herself as Hilda. Those Kei Pirates are the enemies as they are after the same treasure. Some give chase but Gene is able to shoot back and kill them. At the farm, Hilda shoots Gene. She forces Jim to load a suitcase but Gene points his gun back at her. Why is he alive? So sorry for Jim’s PDA. Gene wants the suitcase to be opened but it is locked by a password. Against Hilda’s better advice they shouldn’t know what inside it, they insist and once it is open, they are shocked to see a woman sleeping inside.

Episode 2
Hilda tells them to fix her cybernetic arm if they want to hear more. This woman is Melfina. She isn’t sure why the Kei Pirates want her. Because Hilda has a bad relationship with them, she decided to swipe them for this treasure. Melfina isn’t the source of why they are targeting her. It’s because she killed one of their heads. The Kei Pirates have surrounded the place. Because Melfina has undergone automatic resuscitation, she cannot be disturbed. If Gene can hold out for a few minutes, Hilda can bring her drop ship and pick them up to her main ship, Horus waiting in orbit. Once Melfina is awakened, she starts crying, lamenting to be born! They manage to hold the pirates off and blast off. Since Gene has never gone into space before, he is scared but Melfina holds his hand. It seems Gene has been into space before. When he was young, he was riding his father’s ship but it was attacked. Father had no choice but to send Gene away in a pod before succumbing to fate. Gene is still reeling from this nightmare. They arrive in an Outlaw free town, Blue Heaven. Hilda meets up with some of her crew to repair Horus. Gene learns in this town you can’t use a gun and how the power factions of space is divided into Space Forces, pirates and Outlaws. While Jim takes Melfina to shop for proper clothes, Gene hears Hilda’s next job to retrieve a powerful grappler ship, thus she is looking for some manpower. A bunch of Outlaws want in on this but she knows they are not up to par. When they get violent, she swiftly deals with them. That night as they rent a room to sleep, those Outlaws come back for revenge. They anticipated this and fight back. The boss is using a mecha and Gene still can’t use his gun? Well, the mecha isn’t using a gun.

Episode 3
Gene uses his paint gun to blind his vision and Hilda easily takes him out. Interrogation reveals MacDougall paid them to capture or keep them here. Hilda and co make a move to leave Blue Heaven. Of course those Outlaws won’t let them go so easily as they chase and fight amidst the asteroids. However a mothership from Ctarl-Ctarl Empire is coming to dock and wants everyone to get out of the way believing they have the right of way. Hilda plays chicken and thus the ship’s officer, Aisha Clanclan is forced to dodge. They barely miss each other. After that, she has had it with everyone making a fool out of her and has her men fire at Hilda. All missed. Hilda escapes the asteroid field. Aisha wants to give chase but the crew has orders to dock their ship. Gene learns a bit about the Galactic Leylines, something the Kei Pirates are desperate to get their hands on because of some treasure as well as the MacDougall Brothers whose stance as Outlaws are pretty shady. They give their services to whoever pays the highest. Like a mercenary? When they arrive at the designated spot, Hilda is supposed to meet up with her allies but there are no response. They see remnants of their ship floating. The work of this stems from the Kei Pirates working with Ron MacDougall. They launch an attack. Gene is still having space sickness and giving excuse he can’t shoot straight. But Hilda lectures him about running away so he mans up and takes the guns. Don’t blame him if the controls are covered in puke. Although it looked like the Kei Pirates let them escape, actually they have tagged them so they can trace Horus wherever they go. Meanwhile Aisha’s superior heard about this humiliation. She is demoted and forced to stay on Blue Heaven to research more on Galactic Leylines. Her crew got off scot free and will continue to pursue Horus. This sucks… Horus arrives at a desert planet where the grappler ship is docked on an orbiting asteroid.

Episode 4
After Hilda starts up the ship, XGP 15A-II, its AI and navigator, Gilliam II introduces himself and registers the crew. He can do anything except piloting matters so Hilda assigns Melfina to navigational duties. Before she could give XGP a new name, the Kei Pirates are here. Hilda wants them to start XGP and get a move on while she holds them off back on Horus. Jim has to go check and fix the engines since this ship is like a newly wrapped present that is just opened. Some have boarded XGP so Gene has Gilliam to open the hatch to suck them out. Suddenly both parties are being attacked by the MacDougall Brothers. It is not like they are betraying the Kei Pirates. Their contract ended and they have a new contract to eliminate XGP. They don’t need that ship seeing they believe their own is the fastest. They fire all they’ve got so that their ships will be pulled in by the planet’s gravitational force and be destroyed. A typical trait of bad guys is never to confirm their job is really done before leaving. They assume it’s already over. Gene sees MacDougall’s ship and remembers it played a part in his dad’s death. Gene accelerates and breaks XGP through the asteroid. He is supposed to grab Horus but the Kei Pirates knock her out of the path and hook themselves to XGP to escape the pull. Gilliam advises Gene they cannot turn back to save Horus or decelerate or they’ll fall back into the gravitational pull. Hilda then abandons Horus and hooks on to the wire. Since the Kei Pirates’ ship is too heavy, the wire snaps. The pirates still won’t go down with a fight and try to conjure some harmful magic. Hilda won’t allow it and takes them out with her by blowing herself up. XGP has escaped the gravitational pull. Gene is saddened with the loss of Hilda. As first order as captain, he renames XGP to Outlaw Star.

Episode 5
Gene and co return to Blue Heaven. Hilda’s mechanic crew, Swanzo and Mikey are shocked to hear Hilda is dead. Gene wants their help to fix up Outlaw Star with accessories and register the ship. He doesn’t have any money to pay but will do so when he hits it big. Swanzo agrees to it since he owes Hilda. For the day, they hang out in town. That is when they stumble into Aisha who is looking for them. She bugs them about Hilda. At first shocked about her death, then she pesters them about Galactic Leylines thinking they should know as they work under Hilda. However they don’t know anything. Aisha thinks they are making a fool out of her and starts attacking them in her tantrum. They run for it but she is fast and furious. She is going to use her ultimate metamorphosis attack but unfortunately that won’t do since there is no moon now. Is there even a moon orbiting this area? So the chase continues… They lose her for a while and Gene notices Melfina a little depressed since she has no memories prior to Hilda rescuing her. Gene assures he will help find her identity and take responsibility over her in addition to Hilda’s goals. Aisha has found them and once more attacks. When Gene slices her body, nothing happens. Her skin is so tough that it makes her immortal. When she is about to power up, she goes flat. She ran out of energy because she is hungry. Ironically she joins them eating and my, she always eat in large portions. Once full, she gets her strength back and won’t thank them. Before she could attack, Jim passes a modified shell for Gene’s gun he just got. He shoots and stuns her. That should do the trick. He then leaves the restaurant’s tab on her. They return and see Outlaw Star complete. Their plan now is to head back to Sentinel to fit it with weapons. Jim fears the dreaded Fred Luo and true enough Gene is going to try his luck with him. Aisha is forced to wash the plates and vows revenge for embarrassing her pride. Or is it her ego?

Episode 6
This is first time Gene is landing a ship. Can he do it? Almost killed everybody. Now we know why Jim is so ‘afraid’ of Fred. He is gay for guys! Gene negotiates for weapons for Outlaw Star. It is going to cost him and once again Gene plays the IOU card. Business is business but since Fred loves Gene, he might consider. After they leave, Fred is being attacked by a beautiful swordswoman assassin, Suzuka. She is under contract to kill him. She gives him 5 minutes to live before she cuts him down. That is when Gene returns. Gene and Suzuka fight each other. However dealing with him too long means Suzuka has surpassed her time limit to take out Fred. See you again tomorrow. Fred is grateful for Gene saving him especially when nobody has ever survived Suzuka’s assassination. Hearing that the costs will be waived, Gene decides to add more weapons… Give an inch, want a mile. After Gene leaves, Suzuka attacks him. Before she kills Fred by next sunset, she has to eliminate him first. Gene runs away from her to a deserted place. As they fight and he tries to snatch away her wooden sword, he unrobes her too. She is ‘paralyzed’ and he makes a deal to stop targeting Fred if she wants these stuffs back. She won’t because of the contract but no matter how stubborn she is, Gene has the upper hand in negotiations. Because of her pride she is adhering to, Gene ‘shoots’ and ‘kills’ her. Now Suzuka the assassin is ‘dead’. If she still won’t give up and since Gene was the one who killed her pride, if she is going to kill Fred, she must kill him first. End of ‘negotiations’. Jim wonders if this is a good thing. Gene believes it is easier to protect himself than Fred. After Gene finalizes his deal with Fred, he is surprised to hear he owes Fred instead! This is what is due after subtracting the items he ordered from how much it would cost to hire Suzuka. Yeah, Fred just gave him 30% discount. And you thought he loved him always, eh? Business is still business… No money, no love.

Episode 7
It is narrated that the Kei Pirates are under the Chinese space pirate guild called 108 Stars. Under its many independent groups, the leader of the group that is after Gene is Hazanko and he is very influential in the guild. Gene and Jim try to figure out how to earn some money but there are no easy jobs with big money. Melfina would love to help so Gene has her cook eggs for them. As Melfina is an android, she can’t sleep. Gene’s curiosity to know how human she is has him trying to look up under her skirt. Jim beats him up. That kid looks up to Melfina more like a mom. While Gene is fixing Outlaw Star and attending to some admin issues, the pirates move in. Gene fights off with this Nosferatu dude who keeps asking where Hilda as well as his other comrades is. Like he will answer. Gene is somewhat defeated but Nosferatu escapes when the authorities are heard coming. He vows to get back XGP. At the same time, Melfina is being attacked by a giant dude from Kei Pirates. Luckily Suzuka was on her way visiting Gene’s place. She decides to help out to make Gene owe her and defeats him. When Jim returns, he is shocked to see Suzuka with Melfina. Despite Melfina vouching Suzuka saved her, Jim won’t tell where Gene is. Suzuka warns it is in their best interest to do so. Jim takes them to Outlaw Star. Because Suzuka is not a crew, she cannot enter. Jim is forced to register her as one. Inside, they see Gene working hard to fix the ship because with parties targeting them, his plan is to pack up their things and leave Sentinel as soon as possible. Suzuka mentions she doesn’t mind helping him out since the Kei Pirates are after him. However Gene collapses due to his injuries from the fight.

Episode 8
Gene is reeling from the poison needles. Nosferatu contacts them and will give the antidote in exchange for their ship. They cannot trust him so they cut him off. Melfina thinks she can help and takes Gene into her navigation chamber to heal. Nosferatu and his goons return to attack in their mecha. At the same time, Fred contacts them to warn that Kei Pirates are targeting them and will be arriving soon. Thing is, this part of space isn’t their area. That’s why they used Fred as intermediary and he can’t turn them down due to business. And because his love for Gene, he is warning them. Sorry? At this point, Gene has healed enough and returns to take control of Outlaw Star as he destroys the mecha goons. Suzuka finishes off Nosferatu who is attacking her in his cowardly ways. Gene orders to launch immediately despite not having clearance. Who gives a f*cks about authority since he is not coming back to this planet again, right? After launching into space, they are attacked by 3 Kei Pirates ships. Time to put those missiles, guns and sword to good use in this epic mini space dog fight. Outlaw Star is obviously faster and more versatile and wins the day. But mostly it is thanks to Gene’s skills too. Gene now sets the course to Heiphon, an area under the Ban Pirates in which Kei Pirates will not carelessly go. There, they can also find jobs that will help replenish and maintain Outlaw Star.

Episode 9
Jim talks to Gene about their chances of finding a big job at Heiphon. Even if Kei Pirates won’t be on their tail, they have never been on Heiphon before and have no connections. That means landing a big one won’t be easy and at this rate they won’t be able to honour their promises. Because Gene is taking this easy, Suzuka calls him immature and even Melfina voices out he is acting funny. Even when Jim warns him Suzuka might take his head and Gene brushes it off, confident she won’t do anything funny, this strains their relationship. Funnily, Gene tries to hang his underwear (he has lots of them!) on Gilliam’s operating wires. He can’t hang them in the cargo since Jim is hogging the place and doesn’t want it in his own quarters either because he doesn’t want to wake up with underwear in his face! For a change in pace, Gene suggests stopping by a station. First up is to fill up their stomachs. Do they have enough money? Next, Gene suggests taking down this legendary dude named Zomba as he has a bounty of 10 grand. When they enter a bar looking for him, everyone gets scared and runs away! They confront Zomba in his room but since he doesn’t want it dirty, they fight at an abandoned chapel. The fight easily ends with Gene destroying this android. Their reward is only 2 grand since this is an android and not the real one. They vow to get this man next but it seems Suzuka already beat them to it! Better luck next time. On the way back, Gene sees on the news the announcement of Heiphon Space Race that will be starting in 5 days. He spots MacDougall’s ship and is now motivated to get to Heiphon.

Episode 10
At Heiphon, Gene and Jim register for the race. All seems okay till they realize they have to pay upfront $150,000 as registration fee. Oh, they cannot peer into the data of other racers too. I guess Gene has no choice so he goes to Fred’s branch on Heiphon for sponsorship. Oh God. That guy is here too. Is this fate? He is willing to sponsor Gene but only if he finishes in the top 3 spots. Finish outside and his debts will increase. They are required to wear a weird outfit too. Will Melfina wear it too? Fred warns not to parade her around because she is mostly wanted by Kei Pirates. Gene and Jim attend the pre-party race in hopes of finding MacDougall. Gene sees a hot waitress and thinks of hitting on her. Wait a minute. Isn’t that Aisha. Oh no! She is hell bent on getting her revenge as she reveals how she got her via hitchhiking and took up many jobs as a waitress. Thankfully her boss stops her and threatens to cut her pay before she could do anything. Be a good girl. As the participants take their place at the starting line, one of them is from Ctarl-Ctarl and goes by the name of Nubata Kunono. Unknown to everyone it seems Aisha is on board it and participating in the race. When Gene thinks he sees MacDougall’s ship, to his disappointment El Dorado is piloted by Harry Williams. Who the f*ck is this guy? He tries to hail the ship but they ignore him. As the race begins, it seems the fastest route to the next checkpoint is in between 2 binary planets. Despite the warnings from Gilliam about getting caught in its gravitational pull, Gene is adamant to go through it. And now an intergalactic tidal wave is going to swallow them up along with the checkpoint.

Episode 11
There are no other escape routes so Gene accelerates through, trusting Outlaw Star is the fastest ship in the universe. They barely pass through the checkpoint before the wave engulfs it. At the pit stop, Gene confronts Harry and believes he is playing dumb not knowing anything. Gene gets rough with him but has to put off his threats since the race marshals are coming to see what is going on. It seems Harry might know a thing in relation to MacDougall. To the next checkpoint, they traverse through an asteroid field. Aisha plans to have a sneak attack on Outlaw Star but her crew tells her this ship is not equipped with any weapons. It is just a trading ship. Time for Plan B. Outlaw Star is going through the asteroid field when they receive an SOS from a crew from Nubata Kunono who has shipwrecked there. Although court marshals can come and pick it up, why is Gene so nice to come help? He knows what it feels like to drift lonely in space. He overcomes his phobia to pick up the stranded crew. Once inside, this crew is revealed to be Aisha! Gotcha this time! Aisha is bugging Gene about the Galactic Leylines. If he knows anything, he would be there by now. But Aisha can’t go back to Ctarl-Ctarl because they’ll treat a failure like her badly. So she’s going to stick around them and get something to prove her worth? This is going to be problematic… Suddenly Outlaw Star is being targeted by missiles courtesy of El Dorado. In order to escape it, the only choice is to go into some ether warp. During this moment, their systems are at risk of malfunctioning and Gilliam might not know where they’ll end up. Gene drastically cuts the engines. When he restarts again, they realize they are just slightly out of Heiphon’s orbit. Everything else is normal except for a few busted engines. Practically, they are fine. This gives Gene an idea. Because no ordinary ship can withstand an ether stream and since Outlaw Star is not an ordinary ship, they are going to ride the ether stream to make up for lost time. This reckless move works as they end up crossing the finish line in third place. However this race is also time based. Because the fourth placed team is began 2 minutes earlier, this relegates Outlaw Star to fourth. Even so, Outlaw Star is first place in the privateer category. With Jim and Aisha parading in Fred’s outfit, I suppose Fred can share half the sponsorship fee with them. But Gene is not pleased to hear that El Dorado dropped out from the race.

Episode 12
Harry left a message that he is tired of Gene’s luck and wants to settle this one on one and meet at a certain location. Aisha continues to tag along and claims Gene is responsible for all this. He asks about the Galactic Leylines and she mentions it is rumoured to contain lots of treasures enough to buy the entire Solar System! If MacDougall really knows something about this, Aisha is definitely coming along. When they leave, this creepy old professor, Gwen Kahn asks them a lot about Outlaw Star and is interested about it. But they aren’t staying to answer his questions. At the asteroid field, Outlaw Star begins mortal combat with El Dorado. The asteroids can be a curse and blessing since they can hide and block missiles but also run the risk of running into them if they are not quick to evade. But El Dorado is always cornering them so Aisha is b*tching about everything. Gene threatens to throw her out and this gives him an idea. He did throw her out but it is to locate El Dorado as he can manoeuvre easily. Then they engage in grappler arm combat but Outlaw Star is obviously superior. Gene then boards El Dorado and finds Harry who admits he is part of MacDougall Brothers. Gene spams lots of questions but Harry doesn’t know much except that XGP originally belonged to Kei Pirates. At the same time, Kei is trying to hack into Outlaw Star. He sees Melfina and has a devilish thought. Can you get raped in cyberspace because Melfina is like feeling so violated. Luckily Gene spots the hacking device and shoots it off. Harry is reduced to a coward as he escapes. Another El Dorado is detected and piloted by Ron. I guess this is the trick why El Dorado is always cornering them. Ron picks up Harry as they blast away. Outlaw Star is hindered by asteroid pieces and loses them. Harry reels his humiliating and painful defeat so Ron vows they’ll get their revenge and do much worse. Gene must be having second thoughts about picking up Aisha. But the thought of having her coming back to haunt and b*tch him harder, he’d rather not take that risk.

Episode 13
Our heroes aren’t getting any jobs since Gene is picky for a big one. They throw out Aisha when she even suggests a low paying pet searching job. So when Fred contacts them for a job (so they can pay off their debt) and it is a decent one about a business associate of his having his cargo gone missing after docking, Jim immediately takes up the offer and takes Melfina along to help. He goes to talk to the client and learns a rare insect and plant have gone missing. He didn’t go to the police because he didn’t apply for permits. You know all those red tapes, right? So this is technically smuggling. Meanwhile Gene doesn’t even want to solve some ice cream vendor’s rivalry and goes out on a date with the race receptionist, Claire instead. She wants to get ice cream even though the queue is long. Gene notices the guy from the next stall with nobody. Isn’t this the one who called him earlier? They taste the ice cream to be normal. Nothing special. But why are people queueing up still? Something looks suspicious about that cactus… Gene is getting good with Claire when he is interrupted by Jim’s call. He doesn’t understand something about Aisha being caught by a bug and a cactus is missing. But upon remembering seeing that cactus, the cactus lets out a high frequency wave. The bug breaks out from its cocoon and into the area with Aisha riding it. The high frequency causes Gene to lose his edge in sharp shooting. Jim doesn’t want to kill the back as it is worth 2,000 reward. But Aisha wants to kill it even if it only rewards her 700! Ego problem… Suddenly the cactus takes control of Jim. He claims he is an almighty supreme being bent on taking over the universe. He was making everyone buy ice cream to test his hypnotic skills. However his hypnotic skills aren’t working on Melfina. She slaps the cactus? Her hands okay? Well, she’s an android. When Jim is freed, Gene tells it to step and crush it! The supreme being is being stomped to death… In the aftermath, they just got the minimal reward. They learn the plant controlled the bug and made its escape. Gene curses that had this not get in his way, he could have scored. I don’t think he meant a big job. Suzuka returns and thinks she has the right job for them. Some place needs participants for Wild West quick draws. They kick her out and just settle for the smaller job of providing a tugboat.

Episode 14
Gene is not too happy with this tugboat job and just when Outlaw Star attaches itself to pull this advertising ship, it gets hacked by a virus and all systems immediately shutdown. They are contacted by someone known as Crackerjack who warns them the ad ship is filled with high explosives. Unless their demands are met in 5 hours, everything goes boom. A video showing the People’s Liberation Front (PLF) demanding for the viceroy of Heiphon to be removed and demand independence for Heiphon. But the viceroy refuses to negotiate with terrorists and is willing to sacrifice people! On the news, it is reported that Outlaw Star is the terrorist and Gene is holding the others hostage. The people on Heiphon panic as they think the ship is going to crash into Heiphon and mass evacuate. The viceroy thinks of blowing it up before crashing onto the planet but he can’t after learning there are radioactive materials. Jim might have purged the virus but all systems are still down and they can only use their grappler arms. Gene decides to try his luck in defusing the bomb. Can an amateur do it? You won’t know if you don’t try. But Crackerjack anticipates this and the bomb sets off. Luckily this is only a warning bomb and Outlaw Star only lost a grappler arm. Crackerjack contacts him and gives another warning but Gene is adamant he is going to diffuse his bomb. Gene knocks around to locate the bomb. There it is. But it has 2 wires. I suppose Gene is going to use his knowledge of movies to diffuse the fake wire, huh? Then he gets contacted from Aisha and Suzuka. They have been doing their own tracking. When they couldn’t find the registration of the ad ship, they threatened Fred for more information. PLF isn’t a terrorist organization and just robbers. It is then Gene realizes what is going on. It is exactly PLF’s plan to clear out Heiphon so they can rob jewels on it. Knowing how this guy thinks, he knows this bomb is also a fake and the real one is at the first fake because nobody would normally go back to check there. Suzuka and Aisha beat up Crackerjack’s goons before they could leave. And then Outlaw Star crashes into the station (bomb diffused a while ago) and Gene gets his payback by beating up the mastermind.

Episode 15
As narrated, Hazanko also controls directly a group of deadly assassins known as Anten Seven. He has ordered them to kill Gene. He might not be as powerful as them but he senses his chi will bring them down if not taken care of. Shimi is the first to go as he calls out Gene for a challenge at a certain place and to bring any weapons. Gene didn’t like him demanding things like that and wants to fight now. However Shimi is quicker to draw than him. Shimi will tell everything if he lives. Hey wait. Isn’t this a fight to a death? Because of that, Gene is drinking out his problems at a bar. He meets a man, Leilong who advises him about living based on his own personal duel battles. This frustrates Gene even more and when he returns home, Melfina tries to be nice to him but he snaps thinking she was programmed to do that. When she starts crying in confusion, he backs down but is still wondering the reason he is living for. So having nightmares he lost as a premonition? The next day he meets Shimi. The draw ends quickly with both going down but Gene wins. Though, he busts a rib. Shimi doesn’t want his corpse to be pathetic and blows himself up. Gene knows this is not the real Shimi. The real one is no other than Leilong. Shimi is his trading name and that fake Shimi was his pupil. Leilong attacks him and is faster and better in all ways. Gene is injured in the process and when he is down but before Leilong can kill him, Gene’s crew pop up and won’t easily let their captain die. Yeah, Gene’s life is owed to so many people. They take on Leilong but he easily takes them out except for Melfina since he has orders to leave her in one piece. However he easily takes out the rest. If Suzuka is defeated, man, we’re really done for. Leilong could have ended this now but feeling this is too boring, he gives Gene a chance for a one shot quick draw. You’d think in Gene’s injured state he wouldn’t be able to shoot straight. However Leilong lost! Seems his gun was a dud and he notes Gene’s luck. He warns them about the remaining Anten Seven before passing on. Hazanko is furious over Shimi’s lost and so the other Anten Seven (should be 6) are going to finish the job. After Gene and co bury Leilong, shortly Leilong burst out from his burial. Seems the bullet is also a dud. Leilong’s fake death means he is freed from his assassin shackles and becomes a wandering Outlaw.

Episode 16
It must be an insult for Aisha. The restaurant she works part time in, she has to serve Gene and co who ordered a sumptuous lobster meal because they’ll be meeting a client for a job and he is treating them to it. And no, Aisha cannot lay a single tooth on it. This old man, Jiji wants Gene to use his grappler ship to salvage some treasure dropped on a planet. Because he is unwilling to shed more details, Gene and Jim contemplate the risk. If the treasure is worth 5 million, well why not? It seems with that kind of value, there are many people trying to kill Jiji. So this bunch of ruffians want to shoot the hell out of him? They don’t know better not to mess with Gene. But Aisha is the one beating them to a pulp since they wasted the food. Oh, she destroyed the entire place too. No pay for her. Only debts. Outlaw Star heads into a water planet in Heiphon. They encounter a sea ‘demons’. Jiji explains he was here before 30 years ago when the treasure crashed here. Many sides tried to get it but the native sea monsters guarding the place destroyed anyone who invaded their territory. Soon everyone feared this place and abandoned trying to get the treasure. Of course Jiji never gave up and has sacrificed a lot for this day to come. He will continue his code as an Outlaw to hunt treasures and monsters. Jiji has them setup decoys for the monsters to buy them time to retrieve the treasure. 15 tons of Dragonite. That’s worth a lot. At least this is where Aisha gets useful using her immense strength to carry out crates of them. However the monsters return to attack. Everyone is back on board but the giant mother of all monsters is gripping Outlaw Star tightly. At this rate the ship will break. Jiji uses a mini submarine to settle once and for all this mother monster, the one he fought with 30 years ago. Gene is not too happy with his sacrifice but Jiji thanks them that he is able to accomplish his dream. All that is left to kill the monster. Once he enters the monster’s mouth, he blows himself up. Outlaw Star is safely back and undergoing repairs. Aisha can’t wait for her cut but Jim tells the bad news that this is low quality Dragonite and doesn’t cost much. After deducting all expenses, they are left with nothing. Sorry Aisha, back to washing dishes. And where’s Gene? Making a makeshift grave for Jiji. This guy has got all the time in the world.

Episode 17
There is an opening narration about the differences between humans and robots. Relatively easy. Also, cyborgs are easy since they are humans fitted with machine parts. But the controversy and grey area are bio-androids like Melfina. They are robots fitted with human parts and supposedly have no soul. While God created men, men are the ones who created bio-androids. Melfina is feeling down because she feels Gene might be forgetting his promise to find the reason why she was born. Gene gets a call from Ron (remember, they don’t know how he looks like yet) for a dangerous job. He wants to meet in person and arranges a place at a restaurant. Gene is suspicious this is a trap but can’t let this go since Ron says it involves Galactic Leylines. When Gene is there, Ron gets down to business and wants to buy Outlaw Star along with Melfina. They’re not for sale. When Ron says he knows about Melfina from his little brother, Gene instantly knows he is the older MacDougall brother. Ron says Outlaw Star and Melfina are needed to find the location of Galactic Leylines and that is why Kei Pirates are after them. However Hilda stole it from them. Ron was under contract by the pirates to locate Hilda but the Space Forces subsequently contracted them to destroy XGP because that ship was built by both pirates and Space Forces’ technology and the latter wants all records of dealing with pirates erased. That was before Ron realized the true potential of the ship. Gene also asks about him destroying a certain ship many years ago but he can’t remember. With all the talk done, time to overturn tables and fight. Gene can tell Ron is using superior technology and won’t last. Then it hit him that Ron is just stalling him because Outlaw Star and Melfina are targeted. He rushes back but Ron is confident he won’t make it in time. Meanwhile Melfina is surprised Henry visits her. Immediately she shuts him out. Using his cyborg arm, he breaks in. He gets mad when she rejects him. He tries to convince her they are the same as he too is born in a lab and has no parents. Well, Melfina can’t remember. He gets madder when she remains stubborn and tries to kidnap her. She runs and hides herself in the cockpit as Gilliam tries to shut Harry out. Harry then tries to hack into the system and Gilliam suggests Melfina help him. So it might look like another cyberspace rape but Melfina is able to shut him out and destroy his cyborg arm. Harry is forced to retreat. Gene and Jim return and they are glad Melfina is okay. They see a message from Gwen as he wonders they haven’t left for the Galactic Leylines despite having XGP. Could it be they don’t have enough info? He will help out to find more clues and will keep in touch with them. Melfina continues to be confuse about herself and Harry.

Episode 18
Gene is begging to Fred for more money?! Well, Fred can give it to him but with a condition he does a job for him. There is this fighting tournament he wants Gene to enter. But it is the women’s division. Reiko Andou has been the women’s champ for 4 consecutive years. He wants Gene to stop her from getting her fifth. Why? Reiko is destined to be Fred’s wife! It is his family tradition to marry the strongest woman. Fred made this silly bet to her 5 years ago to win it 5 times in a row thinking she cannot do it. And now the moment of reckoning is here. Naturally Gene sends Aisha to fight but it seems the organizers have banned the Ctarl-Ctarl race from entering since they went on a rampage and destroyed everything! Can Suzuka do it? Like hell she will. Everybody then has an idea. They turn Gene into a woman! Folks, meet Jenny. But it seems Aisha is also participating. How? She stole one of the fighter’s identity and snuck in! In the first round, Gene faces off with Reiko. He fools and flirts around to purposely make her mad. Unfortunately he lost. Don’t worry, Aisha is still in, right? She makes it to the final but shockingly Reiko lost in the semi-finals! Fred is so happy and Gene won’t get paid since he didn’t do anything. Karma hits Fred when Reiko hugs him (crushing his bones) promising she’ll do better next time. So keep waiting? Aisha’s final opponent is Iraga who is part of Anten Seven. Both are evenly match but Iraga seems to be distracted that Gene is here since she is under orders from Hazanko to kill him but defied them temporarily to enter this tournament. It is then revealed that Iraga is also a Ctarl-Ctarl. This makes everyone run for their lives. Aisha won’t lose out as they both transform into their beast form to fight. With Gene and co taking care of other pirates, the arena is then engulf in fire. Everyone escapes. Gene is worried about Aisha not making it out but it goes to show Ctarl-Ctarl are tough people. Aisha is out and defeated Iraga. Although this fiasco means Gene won’t get paid too, Fred calls him to offer a lifeline as he promised to pay if he took up the job. Gene and co now blast off for the Galactic Leylines.

Episode 19
After defeating a pirate ship, Outlaw Star is taken in by the Space Forces. More accurately, a private security force. While being frisked, Melfina notices something strange with the data of another pirate group that is also being frisked next to them. Gene and Jim are then interrogated by this lizard guy, Duuz and this hot babe, Valeria. They are suspicious of his Outlaw Star because it is a grappler ship and it serves more than just treasure hunting. Gene warns them the other suspicious pirate group because it is like as though they came here to attack. Prideful Duuz goes to interrogate them again. Valeria then tells the rest of Outlaw Star crew about a civilian ship, Midsummer Night’s Queen that will be docking here soon. It was attacked by pirates and only 10% of the passengers survived. This riles Gene up since it reminds him closely to his father’s death. After the ship docks, the survivors rush out in panic. The ship then starts attacking and the civilians are pirates in disguise as they attack the station by surprise. Furthermore, pirate reinforcements are seen coming. During the chaos, Gene and co flee back to their ship. They see Duuz trap and Gene frees him. Why? Because it is his pride. Back on Outlaw Star, Gene helps destroy Midsummer Night’s Queen and take on the other pirates. He is of course willing to help out this security force for a fee. After Valeria hands them the pirate’s data, Outlaw Star whips their ass. Of course to show that the security force are no sitting ducks, Duuz and Valeria show their military might and arsenal by blasting away the remaining pirate ships. In the aftermath, Valeria pays Gene his dues. Duuz decides to let Outlaw Star go because they are duly registered and it was the pirate’s data that scrambled their data and confusing it all that they were pirates. They let Gene continue to live out his treasure hunting dream but Duuz warns he will take him down hard if he ever catches him committing a crime.

Episode 20
After another hard fought victory over another pirate ship, Outlaw Star docks at another station for repairs. While Gene goes drinking (Melfina tasked to accompany him), Jim works hard on his computer. Taking a break, he goes out for fresh air and sees a girl, Hanmyo and her cats. In short: Love at first sight. He talks to her and she can tell he is trying to hit on her. They agree to meet up again later. Jim should know better than to ask Gene for advice on what to give a girl. Especially the morning after his hangover. Jim sees Hanmyo again and surprises her with lovely flowers. They agree to always meet at this time and point. Of course we see that Hanmyo is part of Anten Seven and her pet cats are her accomplices. Her job is to disable Outlaw Star and kill Gene. She is unaware that Jim is part of Outlaw Star. When Outlaw Star leaves the station, Hanmyo follows it and a dogfight begins. Jim and Hanmyo are unaware they are fighting each other. After another intense battle, Hanmyo and her cats ultimately lost. Outlaw Star took on some damage and has to return to the station for repairs. Jim couldn’t be happier. When he waits for Hanmyo, she never turned up. He feels heartbroken but all that is swept away with some brotherly talk from Gene. I guess there is no use trying to think too much over this short-lived romance so Jim and the rest prepare for their next journey to the Galactic Leylines.

Episode 21
Jim leads the gang to a planet called Dragon. Although it isn’t the Galactic Leylines, it is supposedly to have some ancient ruins that will give clues on it. Unknown to them, close on their tail is the MacDougall Brothers and they’re going to settle this once and for all. After landing on the uninhabitable rocky planet and traversing the rocky terrain, they find the ruins and inside is a dragon sphinx. Jim’s database cannot find anything useful from past expeditions. Melfina touches a wall and a dragon symbol glows before disappearing. Melfina cannot feel it again. She decides to be alone for a while and the rest chastise Gene for ignoring her and being colder to her more than usual. He also knows about the promise to find out her origins and isn’t making any progress. Ron told him she is part of a navigational system to the Galactic Leylines. He is sure she doesn’t want to hear that answer. Also, he is not sure if she will be the same if they get there or if it will have the answers for what she is looking for. As of now, they can’t go there. While Melfina is singing, I guess this catches Harry’s attention. He wants her to come with him and promises she will never be alone again. She rejects him again and thinks he is the lonely one. Before Harry can get more aggressive, here comes Gene to the rescue. Harry returns with his mecha and fight. At the same time Ron and his machines are fighting the rest. An earthquake suddenly occurs and everyone has to put off their fight. Gene and co retreat back to Outlaw Star. He gives Melfina a choice to not come with them if she doesn’t want to but she wants him to take her along. After Outlaw Star leaves, the entire ruins collapse. There goes all the historical proof and leads. Ron is shocked to find Harry among the rubbles. When Outlaw Star docks at the next station, they are shocked that Gwen is here. Did he plant some sort of tracking device? Yes. During XGP’s planning stages, he did plant one and is the only one who knows it. Gwen has found a person who knows the coordinates of the Galactic Leylines but he is currently in prison and no visitors are allowed. Gene doesn’t want to do that. But other people who know the coordinates are from Kei Pirates and Gwen doesn’t want to get involved with them. In that case, Gene will just barge into their territory and demand answers. Gwen will not allow him to do that and says a command line that shuts down Melfina. He is also the one who designed her system. Of course she will go back online once Gene gets the coordinates from that prisoner.

Episode 22
Gene becomes a prisoner on this prison planet. Due to its odd shape and high rotation, the gravitational pull is higher and has a powerful magnetic field. Oh, did I mention nobody has ever escaped from here before? There’s always a first time… Before Gene is incarcerated, Gwen gave him some very precious compass in which he wants back after everything is over. As expected, the robot wardens are bullies so when Gene tries to stop a fight, he is put into a correctional facility as punishment along with Saiyo Wong. This is the guy who knows about the Galactic Leylines but he isn’t saying anything since nobody gets out of here. But you know, Gene is going to do some prison break and offers Saiyo to come along. The warden shows everybody that somebody made an escape. Nobody is excited or panicking because how far could an escapee go on this barren planet? That dude’s dead. If he thinks he can scare Gene that nobody ever gets out of here alive because with the gravitational pull, everyone dies of heart failure before reaching their execution date, he’s wrong. Gene continues to hang out with Saiyo, much to his dismay. Even after giving him trouble, Gene continues to be persistent. Since Saiyo doesn’t want to die in this sh*t hole, he agrees to follow Gene’s fool proof escape plan. First they initiate a fight and wreck a few stuffs (and get back some items of theirs). The robots then arrest them and send them to the correctional facility. As they are taken by train, Saiyo uses some device to make the train go out of control. It cannot be stopped unless all power is shut down, something the warden is not willing to do. The train goes off track and into the desert. The robots are sent after them but they’re ‘too slow’. Inside the compass is a monopole. Because this planet has only one magnetic pole. A magnet becomes stuck in the ground while the other is in Gene’s belt. The opposing force has Gene pushed up into the air like as though he is flying. Time for Outlaw Star to pick them up. After Gwen activates Melfina back, Suzuka knocks him out since he is annoying in wanting to know the coordinates. Gene allows Saiyo to use Gwen’s ship to escape wherever he wants. Oh, take this nutcase too. In return, Saiyo gives Gene his locket that contains the coordinates to the Galactic Leylines.

Episode 23
In search of some wise men that can make some rare Caster shells, they are on this hotspring tourist planet. Uh huh. Fanservice time. Apparently everyone on this planet dresses up in their swimsuit. Ironically it is Jim being hit on by hot babes while Gene seriously hike up to the temple to find the wise man. Turns out this priest, Ark Manaf is persistent in wanting to sell him souvenirs. A short history about Caster shells being actually magic spells but it ran out of mana or something and thus it was stored in shells. There are 20 types but 3 of them are very rare. Only each of the 3 wise men can make it. The one Gene wants can only be made by Urt who lives on Mt Nyodai. But Ark warns Gene she has cordoned off her area and made it only for women. Looks like Ark isn’t pleased of being ignored. So if Gene wants his Caster shells at a bargain, he needs to go film some dirty pictures of her. Oh yeah… Unfortunately there are traps laced along the way and he has to ‘restart’ each time he falls into them. Why does he have to do all the work while his comrades just enjoy the hotspring? Hey, it’s his Caster shells so he has to work for it, right? At the top, there seems to be nothing but Gene hears women singing below. He sees busty babes working in an underground structure. I guess he got desperate in wanting to come in so he shoots the glass! WTF?! Avalanche! When he wakes up, he is in Urt’s custody. But seeing he is a man with red hair wielding a Caster gun, she has him follow him. So they’re playing ping pong? He wins and as agreed, she gives him a couple of rare shells. He also wants another match so if he wins he could take dirty pictures of her. No need for that. She’ll do it herself! Wait. What?! Oh yeah! So when Gene gives the perverted guys the dirty pictures, they keep their end of the bargain by giving him only a rare shell each. They warn about using it because it uses up its user’s life force when fired. Now they watch Urt’s sexy time. Oh yeah! Can’t wait! She is strip teasing them in the video. So much so they didn’t notice the countdown timer on the video. When it reaches zero, it explodes! I suppose it was worth watching… Gene and co now leave for the Galactic Leylines. I also want to note there is a stupid assassin (Vega? Mask and claw?) trying to secretly kill Gene all the while but bad luck always gets in the way and Gene was never in danger in the first place. Not that he even knows about it. And this assassin, Tobigera is supposed to be part of Anten Seven. What a joke.

Episode 24
Gwen is riding with the MacDougall Brothers. Of course he is on their side now since Gene dumped him. He has also made some nice cybernetic enhancements to Harry that could rival Melfina. They are following Outlaw Start towards the Galactic Leylines. Meanwhile Hazanko is close in succeeding in using some unholy method to get those coordinates. But he isn’t going to tell his higher ups because it is his evil plan to usurp them and become the supreme ruler of all. When Outlaw Star arrives, Hazanko doesn’t hesitate to order his pirates to attack them and retrieve XGP and Melfina. During the battle, the cruiser from Ctarl-Ctarl jumps in and tries to enter the Galactic Leylines (Aisha tipped them off and is proud of it). The reason Hazanko is allowing them to do so easily is because he knows if it was, they wouldn’t be going through so much trouble. Ctarl-Ctarl becomes guinea pig as they enter but shortly they come back out all crazy (Aisha must be so sad). During this chaos, Outlaw Star takes the opportunity to dash in. Then, MacDougall Brothers pop up and hail with Hazanko before dashing into the Galactic Leylines. The Kei Pirates also do the same after ‘drilling a hole’ into it. Gene and co start experiencing pain all over except for Melfina. She is able to stabilize their condition and guide Outlaw Star through the spiralling clouds when all other instruments don’t work. In the centre of the whirlpool, all 3 parties meet and start fighting each other before Outlaw Star escapes back into the spiral. They arrive at this huge cylindrical thingy (a bolster?) which is supposed to be the Galactic Leylines. They are pulled into it and once they reach an artificial structure, they traverse by foot. The other parties also reach and meet again. Before anything could start, a voice asks about Melfina’s return. She is then whisked away as the voice tells the rest to find their desires here.

Episode 25
Everyone is separated and told to follow a single path that will eventually merge. Suzuka faces off with Anten Seven’s Hitoriga. She has a score to settle with him and thus the reason why she tagged along with Gene. He killed her family. Furthermore, this guy is so in love with Suzuka that he makes his pretty face look like her. In the end, she kills him with a never seen before move that she created especially for him. Gene fights with Hamushi. He fires a Caster shell that shoots out a mini black hole. It swallows her whole and drains some of his life force. Aisha lets Jim run along while she takes on Jukai. I don’t know what happened but it looks like it is heading for Jukai’s win but Aisha’s effect was slow and killed him eventually and Aisha collapses from exhaustion. Harry reaches Melfina first. He confesses he loves her and all he needs is her by his side. Hazanko arrives next and an epic battle ensues but Harry is no match for him and got all his bones broken. Hazanko wants Melfina to remember because she is the key to open the Galactic Leylines. He admits it was his fault that they lost XGP and that’s why he dropped everything to come here. Melfina feels sad when he tells her she is just a puppet. A few chanting words, Melfina falls into a trance and opens the gate. When Gwen arrives, he sees Ron lamenting his brother’s death. He is mad and wants to kill Hazanko. Then here comes Gene. Ron doesn’t hesitate to fire but Gene fires a Caster shell that blows him off the platform. This drains his life force. In his unconscious state, he sees his younger days. He wakes up when Jim administers a cure. Gene wants Jim to return to find the rest and return Outlaw Star. He has 2 Caster shells left and if he runs out, Outlaw Star is his only hope. He knows their teamwork always have them come out tops in such pinch situations. Gene enters the gate but Gwen is waiting. He is stuck here because the door before them is locked from within. Then here comes Harry. He is already dead but his auxiliary system is barely keeping him alive. A convenient plot to make him use his cyber connections to open the door. He sees Melfina in cyberspace one more time and says his goodbye. He can’t even finish it with a kiss… He tells Gene to move forward and request Melfina sing that song to him.

Episode 26
Once Melfina is confirmed to be the true maiden, the Leyline is going to grant Hazanko his wish. Of course it is absolute power that will make everything bow before him. But not so fast because here comes Gene as he fires his Caster shell to absorb him. That easy?! But firing the shell takes a toll on his life force as he collapses. Gwen now arrives and is glad he doesn’t need to kill the rest to get his wish. But hold your horses too, Gwen. Gene wakes up and won’t let him do what he wants. Gwen tries to convince him they can get all that they desire here. Hazanko breaks free from the shell. He explains how Melfina was created and is a tool for this purpose. This confuses and scares Melfina as she thinks Gene also knew about this and brought her here. Of course he denies. Gene and Hazanko face off with the former firing his final Caster shell against the latter’s Tao magic. It causes some sort of reaction that kills them all? Meanwhile Jim and co are anxiously waiting for Gene but no word has been received since. Ron is back on his ship after Harry carried him back. Harry has copied part of his personality into it as backup. They decide to pull out from this fight. Gene is in an alternate dimension as he speaks to Melfina who is now connected directly to the Leyline. She explains Galactic Leylines is some sort of high-tech library of information and knowledge left behind by an extinct superior race. In human language, it is what you will call a machine God. In this dimension, everyone here is like dead but not quite. While their bodies are healing, Melfina claims she can grant Gene’s wish. As proof, Gwen who seeks knowledge and information has got his wish by becoming part of the data. So what is Gene’s wish? His only wish is for her to come back to them. What is her wish? To stay as she is and by Gene’s side. I guess this is settled. Even sealed with a kiss. Do cyberspace kiss count? Melfina senses Hazanko trying to leave after getting his power. They need to stop him before he gets out.

Hazanko returns to his ship, killing Tobigera who was staying watch on board. Their ship now turns into a giant monster. Gene and Melfina also return to Outlaw Star where the giant ship battle begins. Then it descends into a cyberspace hand to hand combat between Gene and Hazanko. Hazanko wants to absorb Gene and would have gotten his way had not Gene’s pals give him the strength to break out. Simply because he is not alone. The monster ship battle continues till the decisive blow is dealt on Hazanko. Everything explodes as Outlaw Star escapes in time. Melfina is greeted by her other half who is supposed to be the Leyline. She tells her the Galactic Leylines has moved to another location and they part ways. To repair Outlaw Star, for some reason Gene heads back to Sentinel. His past crimes haven’t been forgotten and he is thrown into the slammer. Jim comes to bail him and of course using Fred’s money. They’re lucky they got slapped with a fine considering the laws they broke back then. Fred doesn’t have to worry about Suzuka targeting his life since her employer cannot afford to pay her. Aisha will be making ends meet here as she waits for her empire to pick her home. Melfina pays her respect at the grave to everyone who has died for the Leyline. So Hilda not forgotten? Gene reminds her that she is who she is. Then they blast off to the next solar system. Outlaw Star breaks down halfway since they skimp on maintenance. Once repairs are done, Gene is shocked to see Suzuka and Aisha tagging along. Suzuka claims to see more interesting places with him while Aisha claims they owe her so basically Outlaw Star is hers. Whatever.

Space Jammin’
Well, I guess that is about wraps it up. Despite the slightly rushed ending and they did try to tie up things, but I thought it could have been a little better. After all, what is next on their adventure agenda, right? They have gone on a journey to obtain the most valuable ‘treasure’ ever only to toss all that away in the end because they’re trying to subtly tell us here that the company of your comrades throughout the journey is the better and if not the best treasure ever. So I’m not sure if going on another treasure hunt will beat the thrill or reap better rewards than the Galactic Leylines. Well, the universe is a huge place. You think it is the best of the best till something better than the best pops up in one corner of an unknown galaxy. Oh right. Gene and co have got to go find something that will make them big in no time considering all the IOUs they’ve racked up. No wonder the end narration about Outlaws will eventually carve their own nickname and since Gene has yet to get his, depending on his luck he’ll either be a great legendary hero or a scam/con artist who is always on the run. Better start finding jobs that pay a lot or else he might have to sell his body. No amount of times getting f*cked in the ass by Fred will ever do! Holy sh*t! How on earth did I think up something like that???!!!

It is fun to see such classic retro anime and personally it could be better than Cowboy Bebop because it has a story and plot unlike Cowboy Bebop which was just episodic, the reason why I complained it lacked being epic. Although I have to admit that at first it started out interesting because of the many parties chasing after Gene’s ass, somehow in the middle parts it started to get a little bit boring because some episodes feel a bit like filler although they are small plots that will be pieced together in the bigger picture. For example, the Heiphon race, the bounty hunting job, that cactus supreme being (WTF) and robbery heist felt like episodic fillers at a glance. With the end approaching soon and a mad dash for the Galactic Leylines beginning, that is where it becomes interesting again. Though I feel that there are many other potentials and developments like the other pirate groups (108 Stars comes to mind) that aren’t covered in this season and it sometimes feel the series left out a great chunk of other aspects that would have made this universe an even more interesting setting for Gene and his crew to seek adventure.

Gene is your typical main character hero. He isn’t perfect, has his own dark traumatic past that continues to haunt him in his dreams and a womanizer. He still is in the end, still groping the butt of that waitress at the bar he frequents back at Sentinel. His past though makes his character, it isn’t affecting him too much in later episodes. Like that phobia of going into space, Gene becomes a naturally after a few space trips. Jim as the mechanic and brains sees Melfina as a mother figure. A reason to ‘protect’ her from Gene’s flirting? But I don’t really feel the connection much between the trio in many of the episodes. Except when it came to the end where certain revelations needed to be told and importance needed to be re-evaluated, that’s why the sudden relationship between Gene and Melfina felt a little too rushed at the end. Sure, it’s like an excuse they’re going on an adventure here and there with Gene seemingly forgetting his original promise to Melfina and at times you see her putting up a sad face and thinking too much. But remember, always have faith in each other. Because apparently that is the key in defeating big bad guys too :-). In today’s world, I can’t help but think that Melfina who was in a dilemma if she was a tool or human is equivalent to today’s mentality of gender assuming. Just saying… But I can at least say she is more human than some of the despicable humans here.

I believe Aisha is like the joker and furry mascot of the team. Firstly, she has this ego problem and this makes her a very bad loser. That is why it is fun to see her getting mad and trying to get back at all those who crossed her just so that she can match her ego. Eventually hanging around too long in Outlaw Star makes her bond with everyone else even though she claims she is just riding them to get her goal. Suzuka sometimes feel like a freeloader. She is an independent and free will woman. Sometimes it is hard to feel that she is part of the team initially because when Gene and co do something, she will usually be away doing her own thing. She is like oil and water with Gene because sometimes she has sarcastic comments for him. But just like Aisha, staying too long on Outlaw Star has her bonded with the rest too although her assassin pride won’t make her say the obvious. Not sure if Fred will still pursue his gay love for Gene now that Suzuka won’t be killing him but he still has Reiko to shrug off.

At first, Ron looks like the badass big brother while Harry looks like an effeminate psychopath who is crazily madly in love with Melfina. But towards the end, it feels like their relevance are reversed because Ron was easily defeated (it goes to show that angst never get you anywhere) and Harry was ironically the one that gave Gene a new lifeline. It was mind boggling that they are kept alive at the end and backed out of it all like dogs running away with tails between their legs. It would have been better that they stay dead but for some reason, maybe the producers wanted to tell us that they are not that all bad and good looking guys like them still deserve to live at the end. Though, they just got up and leave and never heard of again is the reason why I thought it would have been better their characters were killed off. Gwen I feel is the most annoying because despite his eccentric behaviour, this mad professor has this annoying tendency to nod or say something in agreement in a very irritating way. Because he never gets mad, the most you’ll hear him is his surprise and this makes him sound a bit like an idiot. Well, if this is what mad scientists are portrayed then. Thank goodness they ‘kill him off’ by making him live as data forever. Yeah, knowledge is power.

The most disappointing characters ever to make their appearance in this series is the Anten Seven assassins. They are a bunch of jokers, I tell you. At first when they are introduced, I thought that have this very terrifying outlook the way they are ‘mysteriously’ narrated upon. I thought they will cause Gene and co a lot of trouble. However with their late introduction, it made me wonder if they have enough time to flesh them all out. If I had to pick which of the Anten Seven is the best of all, it would be Shimi/Leilong. This guy was actually the closest in coming to killing Gene. And he is the first assassin to make his move and the only one who survived. The rest that came after was a joke. WTF is that wrestling match with wolf girl Iraga and that dating scene with little girl Hanmyo (so as just to give Jim his own episode?). And if you think they went out without much of the fight, they are at least better than the rest of the remaining Anten Seven. Because surely they look like a bunch of Halloween horror rejects. Tobigera was already like a joker for that hotspring episode. Worse, he got killed without a fight! By his own master! The rest have their fights so f*cking short that it is as though they were there to make up the numbers and give us a run for our money for some individual fights. It was hardly worth it. They could have been nameless generic minions under Hazanko for all we care. Some assassins they are. No wonder Hazanko couldn’t win it in the end. If there was anything that is the most disappointing of this series, Anten Seven tops the list. Hazanko couldn’t be much more than your typical cliché baddie who wants everything for himself and ultimately gets what’s coming from the hero. I wonder how the Kei Pirates and 108 Stars will be since the most influential figure is gone. Oh who cares? Some new baddie will just replace him.

The fights and space battles are enough to satisfy your retro nostalgia. Because they come from the late 90’s era, many of us old nostalgia otakus watching this now would forgive them for being, well, so 90’s. Not counting the disappointing final fights with some of the remaining Anten Seven assassins, the other individual fights are flashy and fast paced in its own right. Even the space battles with Outlaw Star is good enough. Because also the fact that they are the heroes so no matter what kind of pinch they are in, they’ll always win in the end. After all, when you have the best ship in the universe and with grappler arms that stick out like a sore thumb, it is hard to lose at least for Gene’s calibre. You have to be pretty talented and useless not to win piloting Outlaw Star.

Art and drawing are also pretty decent as it is produced by a very veteran anime studio, Sunrise. They also did Cowboy Bebop by the way. They did lots of retro animes from the old days as well as new ones in recent years like Gintama, Code Geass, Inu Yasha, Mobile Suit Gundam, Mai-HiME, Escaflowne, Keroro Gunsou, City Hunter and Dirty Pair. It’s not a comprehensive list but trying to name all their works could take a few pages. Although the animation quality is pretty standard for its time, there are some scenes which I noticed that has a drop in quality. Especially some of the fight scenes or those that has fast paced action. Not sure if this is enhanced in the DVD version (too bad I saw the normal TV version of course) but it is a bit obvious this poor quality. Of course I let it slide simply because I tagged it as retro anime. All is (almost) forgiven, right?

Design of the characters aren’t too shabby but nothing that is too extravagant as well. It is a melting pot and mixture of everything western (Gene and Jim) to eastern, namely Japanese (Suzuka). One thing I noticed is that although we don’t see our characters go planet hopping and they are mostly on Sentinel and then on Heiphon later, how come those cities on these planets are so Chinese-like? No, not Japanese but Chinese. See all those sigh boards and some of the building structures. Yeah, it feels like I’m in Hong Kong or something! I am thinking maybe these planets are under Kei Pirates so they are Hazanko’s influence and hence the very Chinese or Tao influence. Oh, one last thing. Personally I didn’t like Gene’s new short haircut in the end. I know I’m so used to his long hair and understand anybody who is thrown into the slammer gets a free haircut service but this short haircut makes him look like his younger self. Only bigger size. Not really used to it.

The opening theme is the right tonic that sets the pace and mood for this anime. Through The Night by Masahiko Arimachi. This catchy rock piece makes you feel like want to do a little jammin’ from time to time. However the awesomeness of the opening is all ‘destroyed’ by the ending themes. Hearing Hiru No Tsuki by Arai Akino as the first opening theme feels creepy. It is supposed to be a slow song but it also has this sad feel that you know, after watching an awesome episode and then you hear this piece, it’s like just creepy. Making it even creepier are the surreal but creepy drawings of females in the ending credits animation. At least Melfina’s solo singing as a short insert song within the series without any musical instruments sound slightly better. The second ending theme, Tsuki No Ie also by Arai Akino doesn’t sound as creepy but still slightly creepy nevertheless. Especially that echo-y space-like background voice. At least to a slightly faster beat this slow pop song. But still, those surreal creepy images still apply… I hope these ladies aren’t some sort of incarnation of Gene or Jim’s mom! Yikes!

Although for old retro animes I wouldn’t be doing any seiyuu listing because since it is an old anime and there are many seiyuus that I won’t be recognizing. The only one I recognized here is Ayako Kawasumi as Melfina. But what makes it interesting is that I found out later that this is actually her debut series. As in, the first anime she helmed playing as a main character (the second overall as she had a cameo role in You Are Under Arrest earlier on as her debut). Wow. Thinking about it now, she has really come a long way although these days I get a feeling I am hearing lesser of her. Maybe it’s the wrong animes I picked to watch? So I’m now obliged to do a list of other seiyuus for the sake of this. Well, I’m going through it fast since many voiced lots of old series that I didn’t watch. They are Shigeru Shibuya as Gene, Rika Matsumoto as Jim (Futaba in You’re Under Arrest), Sayuri as Suzuka, Yuko Miyamura as Aisha (Alyssa in Mai-HiME, Asuka in Neon Genesis Evangelion), Takaya Hashi as Gilliam (Duke Inuarashi in One Piece), Kazuhiro Nakata as Ron, Tsutomu Kashiwakura as Harry, Seizo Katou as Hazanko, Takeshi Aono as Gwen (Gengai in Gintama), Toshihiko Seki as Fred (Iruka in Naruto) and Toshiko Fujita as Hilda (Big Mom in One Piece). Yeah, no offence but all very old but talented people here.

Overall, being a retro series already earned some points for old time otakus like me. Likeable main characters, nice space action and a decent and simple plot makes it a golden oldie. Thanks to the many disappointing animes that I have seen in recent years, the only reason why it enhances the reputation of old animes like this one. Well, at least it is good to know that this anime was popular enough to spawn its own spin-off series, Angel Links. Thus the reason why you see that lizard dude and spikey hair woman making their debut cameo here. If One Piece is the greatest treasure that all pirates can obtain, then Galactic Leylines is that space version of it. I guess it was an adventure worth taking on after all.

Gakusen Toshi Asterisk

March 11, 2017

It’s time for another tournament style anime series. A team tournament. One that has a guy and the rest of his teammates are females. I know the story and setting sound pretty generic as you have high school kids picking up some sort of hi-tech weapons and then taking on each other in a sanctioned tournament. Add some romance and harem factor into it and you have gullible guys like me wanting to watch Gakusen Toshi Asterisk. Why else would I be watching this show if not for that? Every season almost same thing. Heck, even the first episode looks familiar. A guy with good intentions ending up irking a female lead and she challenges him to a duel and ultimately loses. Or couldn’t best him to say the least. Sound familiar? Yeah, Rakudai Kishi No Cavalry sounds like it came out ages ago…

Episode 1
Ayato Amagiri as the new transfer student at Seidoukan Academy tries to be a gentleman as he leaps into the room of Julis-Alexia von Riessfeld to return her dropped handkerchief. If you think what follows next is cliché, then it is. Because he sees her while she is changing. To show her gratitude, she blasts him with her Strega power. Yes, her thanks is for him to die! Apparently there is an unwritten rule where peeping on her means paying with your life. Following the cliché pattern, she challenges him to a duel. If he wins, she’ll accept his excuse. Oh, he has no say whether to participate or not. Attracting a crowd of onlookers, Ayato doesn’t have a sword to fight her so some kind soul from the crowd lends him. Julis didn’t hesitate to use her best move. She is surprised he isn’t defeated. It looked like Ayato might be doing something sneaky when he pushes her down. Actually he was trying to save her from a stray attack. But all that don’t matter since he has her hand on her breast! Thankfully Ayato’s chance to die again is tossed away when student council president, Claudia Enfield uses her authority to stop the duel. She takes him along with her and explains the ground rules of the worldwide Asterisk tournament called Festas that the academy was built to nurture for including the other powerhouse opponents. The reward of winning this tournament will be the ability to grant anything as long it can be realized. Ayato wants to confirm one thing from her. Did his sister, Haruka attend this school? From the corrupted data, there is a girl who enrolled here 5 years ago but suddenly dropped out 6 months later. Ayato has no doubt she is Haruka. However other data aren’t so clear as there are no other records of her competing in Festas. An Ogre Lux sword, Ser Versta, the most powerful and legendary sword in Seidoukan had some suspicious combat data logged in 5 years ago. It could be her. Ayato assures he didn’t enrol in this school to look for her but to find his own destiny. Before Ayato leaves, Claudia hugs him.

The cliché pattern continues as Ayato ends up in the same class with Julis and sits next to her. Yes, she is not too thrilled. Ayato also makes friends with the other guy, Eishiro Yabuki who will also be his roommate. He lets Ayato know a bit more about Julis who is the first princess to some small fictional European country, Lieseltania and her cold demeanour means she keeps everyone at arm’s length. She is also one of the top few Strega among Genestella (humans with improved physical abilities). On their way out, they see Julis being harassed by Lester MacPhail and his subordinates as he keeps bugging her to fight him. Apparently Julis has duelled him many times and the outcome has always been the same. She always wins. So she isn’t really interested in accepting his challenge. Lester just like Julis is on the Named Charts (the rankings) and in the top 12 known as Page One. Lester threatens Julis in all sorts of ways and she still won’t budge. Till he mocks her for doing this for fun (and made her accidentally drop her handkerchief) so in her fiery rage she tells him off that she needs to accomplish something and to do that she needs to win Festas and thus can’t be fooling around in this place.

Episode 2
Lester backed down when Ayato interrupts. Maybe some other time? Ayato talks to her about things. Like how she needs money despite being a princess and she hasn’t found a partner for the tag team Phoenix Festa. Because she has no friends? Oh, so you haven’t found anyone who would meet your absurdly high standards. Well, that knight in shining armour may never come. Julis laughs when Ayato says he is lost on his way to his dorm. She is embarrassed when he notes she could laugh like that. She accepts his suggestion to give him a tour of the academy to repay her debt. Ayato is surprised this sleepy girl next to him in class is Saya Sasamiya, his childhood friend. First smell of cat fight is coming up because Saya claims Julis is reluctant to show Ayato around the grounds so she might as well give that job to her. But you know how stubborn Julis is and won’t back down, right? It might be a 3 way tussle since Claudia thinks of joining in. But she is here to remind him of his Lux compatibility test tomorrow. The best way to solve this school tour? Ayato has both Julis and Saya show him around. Did he just do a big mistake? While Ayato goes to get drunks and leaves the ladies alone, it could have been a showdown had not somebody trying to attack them. Saya’s super extreme grenade launcher blows the perpetrators away (as well as damaging the surrounding). Investigation is being carried out to find the culprit behind this although there are no leads. Claudia tells Ayato that Julis doesn’t want to seek help from others most probably she is trying to protect something she has and doesn’t want to lose it. Ayato prepares for his Lux test and the other participant is Lester. Cocky dude thinks the game is set but the moment he touches Ser Vesta, he didn’t last long and his compatibility rate is only 28%. You’re rejected. Lester is so mad that he keeps trying and trying and each time the rate decreases till it is negative and counting! WTF?! Ser Vesta probably is mad since it has a mind of its own and starts attacking Ayato. After all the dodging, he finally reins it in like a cowboy over a bull. 97% compatibility. Because main character status. Claudia has a favour to ask him. It includes coming into her room as she just got out of the bath and in her bath robe.

Episode 3
Ayato, you’re gay if you don’t take the slightest interest in Claudia giving you hints that she is seducing you!!! Anyway, on to serious business. She explains there have been several students being mysteriously attacked and injured. They all had one thing in common: They are to participate in Phoenix Festa but have to pull out due to injuries. The suspects fall on Lester and his subordinate Randy Hooke as they have no alibi. It is safe to say Julis is the next target as Claudia hints she might not be able to save herself this time. Get the hint, Ayato? Claudia would love to pay for this favour with fanservice (putting his hand on her breast make you feel anything?) but apparently Ayato decides to go with the gay route and escapes this free fanservice. Ayato hangs out with Julis in town. Here comes Lester and his pals to bug her again. He gets mad thinking Ayato is provoking him for being a coward but his pals tell him to back down for now. Ayato and Julis make their way out when they see a gang fight. They realize it is a setup when the gang is trying to indirectly implicate them during the confusion by hurting them as though they get caught in the middle of a gang fight. Of course none are a match for Julis as she makes one of them spill the beans. It seems somebody is paying them to hurt them. Conveniently, the hooded employer is spotted as Julis goes after him. In the forest, there are several accomplices setting traps but she is fast enough and Ayato coming to her aid that prevented any untoward incident. Though, baddie got away.

Like déjà vu, Julis calls him to her room. Tells him to strip! Could she have worded it better that she wants to sew his torn clothes from that fight? Ayato sees a group photo of Julis when she was young. She explains she used to sneak out of the palace and one day got lost in the slums. Cornered by punks, children from the orphanage saved her. She became good friends with them. Because money is needed to run the orphanage and funds are drying out, the reason she needs them. Although she is a princess, the royal welfare is nothing but a puppet as she will never secure approval for projects with no hope of any revenue. That is why all she can do is raise funds by herself and what better way to do it than this tournament that the world is crazy about. The handkerchief is a gift from the orphanage for her birthday, the reason she cherishes it a lot. You’d think that Julis would have been better after opening up. But the next morning after reading a letter, she returns to her cold self. It is believed to be from the perpetrator. Why didn’t she tell Ayato? Does she still not trust him? On the contrary, he might be one of her treasures she wants to protect. Time for Ayato to run like the wind to make it there in time to back her up.

Episode 4
At an abandoned building, Julis faces off with the perpetrator and knows who he is: Silas Norman, one of Lester’s subordinates. From the words he said yesterday after Ayato provoked Lester, she knew there were discrepancies since nobody else would have known about it unless he was there watching it himself. He gives her a chance to withdraw from Phoenix Festa. Of course she won’t. He explains everyone in Asterisk are mutual enemies. Everyone fighting for their own desires so wouldn’t it be wiser to take advantage of that and make money from it? Lester is also here and has heard his true intention. When Lester attacks, Silas’ accomplices jump in to protect him. They are not humans but mechanical dolls. He sends all 128 puppets to defeat them. Lester got owned first. Julis could be next if not for Ayato the hero arriving in typical fashion to free and save her. They even have time for chitchat especially about Ayato wanting to protect her. Just to show how cool Ayato is, he powers up his Ser Vesta and fending off the dolls’ attacks while holding Julis in his arms! At this time he could tell the dolls’ patterns and movements which resembles something like chess. Silas is scared and sends his big mother doll to finish the job. Nope. Cut down in an instant. Funnily, Silas tries to escape on one of his slowpoke doll. Ayato combines with Julis’ power and flies way faster than Silas to send him falling. And the duo have time to even watch the beautiful sunset! Time to end the cheesiness when some painful chain projection binds Ayato. Flashback reveals Haruka put this seal on him to imprison his savage force before she said goodbye. Lucky Ayato wakes up on Julis’ lap pillow. She lets him stay as he is. Now this is the real thanks. She asks about that imprisonment spell so he lets her know his sister had this power to forcibly bind all things. To cut things short on Julis deciding her partner for Phoenix Festa, it would be him. I mean, who else, right? Meanwhile Silas is desperately running away from Claudia. She shows her dark side by slaying him down. She is in cohorts with Yabuki, who is also a member of Kageboshi (Seidoukan’s intelligence division) who will extract information out of him.

Episode 5
Claudia meets the rest of the student council presidents of other schools. Ernest Fairclough (Garrardworth Academy), Dirk Eberweine (Le Wolfe Black Academy), Fan Xinglou (Jie Long) and Shuma Sakon (Allekant Academy). They discuss about Seidoukan’s sneaky move to co-develop a new type of Lux with Allekant. Claudia explains this is an official collaboration since the facilities used will be from Allekant and Seidoukan will be sponsoring 70% of R&D fees. Before Ayato goes to train with Julis, he bumps into petite Kirin Todou. Nothing wrong except he accidentally saw her panties. Saya and Lester join them. The latter is here to apologize to Ayato for what happened. Claudia brings Allekant’s Camilla Pareto and Ernesta Kuhne to them. Cheeky Ernesta can tell Julis and Saya like Ayato so she gives Ayato a kiss on his cheek. You can see what happens next. With them drawing their weapons, Camilla notices Saya’s unique grenade launcher since this is the weapons she specializes in. However she calls it primitive and has flaws. Saya wants her to retract that insult since her father designed this weapon. As she is the daughter of that great professor, the more reason Camilla can’t do so. He views her father as a traitor. They hint they’ll be taking part in Phoenix Festa. Saya wants to partner with Ayato. Julis won’t let. She was here first. The tussle begins. Later Ayato stops Kirin from being slapped again from her uncle, Kouichiro. After checking up on his details, he agrees to not get violent on Kirin provided if Ayato wins a duel with her. Kirin has no say and follows her uncle’s orders. But she isn’t going to throw away her match too. The match begins as both of them are on par with each other. However Ayato knows his time limit and is starting to panic. This allows Kirin to strike and win the duel. Julis quickly takes Ayato away knowing he doesn’t have much time before his limiter sets in. She will hear his explanation later why the hell he was duelling with Seidoukan’s #1 student. Holy cow! That’s their best student?!

Episode 6
Apparently Kouichiro is still not happy with Kirin’s win. Too slow?! WTF?! He reminds her to do his bidding if she wants her wish come true. Suspicious… Meanwhile Julis is scolding Ayato. Just because she can. So she is mad he couldn’t beat Kirin? Since when she is his coach? Anyway she explains that Ayato, Kirin and Claudia are the only people in Seidoukan she cannot defeat. Claudia is Seidoukan’s number 2 and her Pan Dora allows her to see 10 years into the future. But what sets Kirin apart is that her sword is just a traditional Japanese sword. And she is just 13 years old. With that kind of boob?! Oh sh*t! Later Ayato sees Claudia to learn more about Kouichiro. An employee of Seidoukan’s parent company, Integrated Enterprise Foundation (IEF). His job is to scout such talents and his goal is to land on a spot on the executive board, thus the reason he is using Kirin. But that itself is not enough as one must go through some intensive programmes which eventually eliminates one’s personality. Claudia knows about it because her mom was part of it. Later Ayato bumps into Kirin who wants to thank and talk to him. She reveals her only worth is her swordsmanship and is doing this to save her father. As her uncle has shown her the quickest way to achieve her goal, she calls it a fair trade. Noticing Ayato’s fighting stance, she asks how he trains. Ayato is a step ahead because he offers her to train with him. Shortly after Kirin leaves, Saya drops down to almost strangle him! Who is that woman! Anyway she is here to bug him to partner her for Phoenix Festa but he asserts Julis is already his partner. In that case, she continues to bug him about Kirin… That completes Ayato’s meeting with all his potential harem. Oh wait. There is still another meeting with Julis next day. I’m sure they’re talking stuffs I don’t find important and the only thing I remember is their curry exchange since Julis wrongfully ordered the hottest one and the exchange is like well, uhm, deepening their partnership? One early morning when Ayato and Kirin are out jogging, they are attacked by… Mini dragons? Cutting them won’t do since they regenerate. Kirin senses something odd with their Prana flow and cuts one up to bits until its core is revealed. Cutting it stops the regeneration. The other dragons blast a hole in the ground as the duo fall under.

Episode 7
Taking refuge in the sewer, not only Ayato dispels some of Kirin’s low self esteem but fights off a sewer alligator. Since it has the same Prana flow as the dragons, he finds its core and cuts it up. However he is over his limit and gets that chain punishment. While they wait for rescue, Kirin tries to find out if he is dating Julis. No. Thankfully this still means she has a chance, right? She explains her reasons fighting for her father. He is imprisoned as a criminal. When she was young, she was taken as hostage by a ruffian. Dad killed him in the name of self defence but because he is a Genestella, the charges were graver. Kirin could have took on the ruffian herself but she was a coward and froze. So to free him, her only way is to obey her uncle. After the rescue, Kirin talks to Kouichiro if he was worried for her as a person or tool. She refuses to obey him anymore. Despite slapping her, she won’t give in and holds him off when he is about to punch her. She is going to walk her own path and that first order is to request a duel with Ayato. While Kirin is fast and sharp with her numerous sword skills, it is Ayato’s decoy and close quarters that bring her down. So while the friends congratulate each other in the backstage, Kouichiro comes banging on the door. Not too happy about the lost, eh? He is still trying to assert his authority and that is when Ayato butts in to tell him off not to interfere with her business anymore. If Ayato doesn’t change his mind, Claudia might. He reminds him Kirin belongs to Seidoukan and IEF. If he insists on corrupting her with his selfish goals, there is a risk waiting and she is sure her mom will also make the same decision. At this moment you can see Kouichiro defeated. He just simply gave up. Kirin tearfully thanks him for everything but I don’t think he is listening. He just left so dejected. So does this mean Kirin is now free to pursue Ayato?! Later Saya talks to Kirin. Since she finds they are both fighting for their fathers, she proposes they team up.

Episode 8
Ayato must be real famous now that a fan girl is asking him for his autograph. You can bet his harem isn’t pleased but they have a point. That girl put his autograph up for auction! Be careful… Saya-Kirin lost to Ayato-Julis in a practice match. Although they were perfect, Ayato mentions they lack that sync. Thus Saya thinks to deepen their bond they should hang out with each other. However their tastes are different as night and day. Saya then brings Kirin to an underground Lux store to buy some weapons. Kirin then asks Saya a favour: To teach her to swim. While Kirin is practising on her own, she can’t control her speed and collides into Violet Weinberg. This irritated blonde becomes a b*tch as she won’t accept her apology and wants to duel. She backs down upon realizing Kirin is Seidoukan’s number one. But Violet still remains cocky and that is when Saya throws something at her. I guess this is a perfect setup for them to have an unofficial duel. Violet is arrogant as usual but Saya pulls out her cannon and blasts her to the far end of the pool! It ended right even before it began. Saya and Kirin have a heart to heart talk. I guess that bonded them because in the next practice, they do superbly well and it is like their coordination is natural. They beat Ayato-Julis’ record. Meanwhile Claudia and Yabuki discuss the draws for Phoenix Festa. It is going to be a crowded affair with 256 teams. Luckily Ayato-Julis and Saya-Kirin team are kept apart and they won’t meet until the finals. However they are wary of Le Wolfe’s Irene Urzaiz who could mean serious trouble and hope to completely avoid her.

Episode 9
Dirk sees Irene in prison. Upon agreeing to participate in Phoenix Festa, he releases her. He tells her job to eliminate Ayato because of his Ogre Lux. It doesn’t matter if she wins the tournament or not because Ogre Lux is going to be a problem sooner or later. The Phoenix Festa opens with an opening speech by Madiath Mesa, the chairman of this Festa’s committee. His speech contains allowing autonomous weapons to participate because preventing so would only have an effect on the tournament. Since our heroes still have time before their match. It’s time for a harem lunch break. My bad. Nothing much happens. We have a brief narration on how the tournament works. It includes destroying both your opponent’s badge to win. With the massive number of participants, the winners of each group in the preliminaries (a knockout tournament) will progress to the next round and the 32 finalists will be drawn in another knockout tournament but this time they can earn points for their school. We have Ayato-Julis pair up now and we can tell their opponents are there just to make the numbers because Julis leaves it to Ayato to handle them himself and before the match could start, he already ends it! It’s over! Too fast to see! I know it is their tactic to keep their secret techniques for higher opponents but are the audiences getting their money’s worth? The next highlight match pits Le Wolfe’s guys against Allekant’s autonomous weapons AKA robots, AR-D and RM-C. How can a human beat them? Oh, they’re controlled by Camilla and Ernesta. The robots start out as comedians arguing with each other first. Then they give their opponents to do everything they want without fighting back. You know you’re in sh*t when all the super strong moves you pull do not have any effect thanks to their barrier. When time is up, they’re owned big time. Another one-sided match.

Episode 10
Saya gets a call from her dad, Souichi that her new gun has just arrived. It is at customs so she won’t be able to use it for her first match. Meanwhile Julis and Ayato spot Irene beating up punks out for vengeance over her in the crowd. Irene spots Ayato and confronts him. She is about to start trouble but her little sister, Priscilla comes in to stop everything and make her apologize. Apparently she is the only one she is obedient with. Saya and Kirin’s match begins against the Chinese pair. Of course they’ll win, right? At least their match lasts longer than Ayato-Julis. We skip the after-match fanservice whereby Saya is trying to grope Kirin’s boobs, time for Ayato and Julis for their next match. Of course they’ll win, right? It is Julis’ turn to strut her stuff against this cheery idol-like pair. At least this one lasts longer than their first match. After the match, Julis is vexed as she hints she wants a pat on the head from Ayato since he did it to Saya and Kirin. This is nothing but trivial, right? If you’re wondering why we need to watch Lester and Randy’s match, it’s because they are up against Irene and Priscilla. While fat boy is taken out easily, Lester can still hold his ground thanks to his toughness. So if you’re wondering why timid Priscilla has just been standing watching, it’s time to unleash their secret weapon. To replenish ‘fuel’ for Irene’s Ogre Lux, she drinks the blood from Priscilla’s neck! Is she a vampire? And since Priscilla wounds heal quickly, it makes her a very valuable source. Lester might have lost but he was smart enough to give up to avoid further unwanted damage. Only damaged is his ego… I’m sure Ayato is going to need learning something from watching this.

Episode 11
Time for Claudia to hog some time alone with Ayato. Then Kirin called. Saya is missing. Help. Okay. There goes her long awaited quality time. However Ayato saves Priscilla from a bunch of chasing thugs along the way. Irene gets the wrong idea he assaulted her and is going to beat him up. Thankfully she still listens to her sister to stop. Or else. Phew. Another good news: Kirin has found Saya. The problem solved itself. Irene feels awkward now since he owes Ayato for saving her sister and he is her next round’s opponent. Irene goes back to threaten Dirk that her sister was in danger. Where are those supposed bodyguards? That wasn’t part of the deal. He tells her back that some people don’t listen to his orders and since Ayato interfered, those bodyguards can’t act because they can’t be seen. After she leaves, Dirk has his assistant, Korona Kashimaru to do fortune telling. She sees the sisters winning. Julis is not happy after learning Ayato accepted a dinner invitation from Irene. This means she has to come along too, right? Note, she wasn’t invited. Luckily Priscilla is around to prevent any bloody showdown. Irene reveals about Dirk’s plan that he wants her to take out Ayato. She isn’t sure of his intentions, thought. Most probably she saw someone once wielding Ser Vesta and thought it would be a pain in the ass. In a way this confirms about Haruka. Irene is doing this for money. Many years ago she borrowed lots of money from him. Although she can earn money from participating in tournaments. Dirk only allows her to participate in Festas. Oh, she can’t use the prize money to pay him back. Yeah…

When they leave, Ayato calls Claudia as he wants to talk something with her. When he enters her room, she is like in some trance state and is trying to kill her. She returns to normal state when he touches her. Before she explains what happened, she asks him a favour to join her team for next year’s Gryps Festa. Of course. If Julis joins too. But of course. Now she explains about her ‘trance’. She has died more than 1,200 times. She actually counted? Her Ogre Lux wants its users to experience death in exchange for being used. That death is experienced via dreams and she has never experienced the same one twice. So Claudia has got to be a strong girl since nobody can even last 3 days, right? Asking her opinion on Gravisheath (Irene’s Ogre Lux), Claudia explains how each Ogre Lux has their own personalities. Some good, some bad. Ser Vesta is one of the better ones and Pan Dora is one of the worst. Gravisheath? Dangerous enough to change its user’s personality and preference, even going as far as to change the physical appearance to suit its preference. Ayato calls it a night since tomorrow he has a match. Too bad he doesn’t want to sleep with her here. Meanwhile Irene just destroyed those bunch of thugs.

Episode 12
Irene dreams of her past. She came from a war torn country and naturally she believed having power was the only way to go forward. Priscilla was in some testing facility but when their parents try to sell them out for more money, Irene took Priscilla and ran away. That was when they came into Dirk. He gave her Gravisheath and she was compatible the moment she touches it. And now the epic match is about to begin. Of course it is going to last way longer than what we’ve seen so far. All the epic flashy moves are equally countered by epic flashy techniques so there is no short of explosions and booms. Things get even heated up when Irene drinks more blood from Priscilla to the point she passes out. More high level epic battle. Ayato and Julis unleash a powerful blast on her that destroyed part of the arena but Gravisheath protected Irene. This causes her to go even more berserk as she is going to target Priscilla for more power. Ayato’s Ser Vesta at the same time powers up (visions of Haruka?) to give him more power and slam all that energy onto Gravisheath, destroying it and knocking her out. Ayato-Julis pair wins. However as he has gone past his limit, the chain binding thingy activates. Now that the entire world has seen this, those other sneaky schools think they now know Ayato’s weakness and limit. Priscilla wakes up in the hospital bed since she lost too much Prana but is okay now. Irene tells her they have lost and even though Gravisheath was destroyed, she didn’t get a bit scolding from Dirk. He somewhat expected this to happen. The sisters make up as Priscilla mentions her intend to become stronger so she can stand as her equal. Julis is really concerned for Ayato although he is okay. She’s trying to deal with this together with him. Could have kissed if not for the other worried girls coming in to assure his safety. Then they all argue to take care of him. But smothering his face in their boobs? Don’t you dare complain! Just accept it!

Season 2

Episode 13
Even among the students of Jie Long, there are factions. So it is no surprise that the Li twins, Shenyun and Shenhua are asking ‘permission’ to go all out against their fellow Jie Long guys, Song Ran and Luo Kunzhan if they ever get pass their opponents, Ayato and Julis. Fan doesn’t care since her job is to provide them with power and have a good time. Ayato and Julis face off with Song and Luo in their fifth round match. The Chinese duo heard about rumours on Ayato but despite so, they are still going all out on him. So this means teaming up to take him down? Luckily Julis sets a giant fire wall so they can focus on one on one fights. It might seem that they are just holding out but with great timing and trust, Julis opens a small gap in the wall so that both could switch sides and opponents and easily take them out. Because the opponents have been getting accustomed with their fighting styles, the only way to throw them off balance is if they switch quickly. Later, Song and Luo congratulate them for a fine match. However they are here to also warn them about the Li twins. They might go to the same school but it doesn’t mean they get along. They hate each other. Although they won’t tell their weaknesses, they caution them that they are unlike them who view their opponents as equals. The Li twins look down on theirs. Speaking of them, here comes the duo giving their nasty mockery to the losers. They even show off their Seisenjutsu technique. While Ayato and Julis are resting in their room, Julis gets an unexpected visitor: Flora Klemm.

Episode 14
Flora is a trainee maid from the palace and sent by the king who is also Julis’ older brother. She sings a lot of praises for Julis but I think there are some embarrassing ones Julis wouldn’t want Ayato to hear. Back in his room, Ayato contacts Priscilla and Irene. They know he wants to talk to Dirk and that guy also knows Ayato will somehow try to contact him. Irene will try to arrange a meeting with him and warns about Ereshkigal and Grimalkin under Dirk. Later Yabuki explains to Amato about Seisenjutsu which is based on Taoism so it lacks any vulnerabilities. Julis then invites Ayato out for lunch as per Flora’s request since she has something to ask him. We have a little distraction from Flora. She feeds the parfait to Julis, Julis gets embarrassed. She feeds the parfait to Ayato, Julis gets jealousy and mad. WTF. So the big question she wants to ask him is how far Ayato’s relationship has progressed with Julis. Apparently Julis’ big brother is interested seeing Ayato could be his potential brother-in-law! Before Julis can go full blown embarrassment, Korona is here to pick up Ayato to meet with Dirk. If Ayato is going, so is Julis. Inside his limo, Dirk maintains his hostile façade and is not obligated to answer any of their questions although he isn’t closed to Ayato offering something in exchange for information. Ayato asks about Haruka. Dirk saw her once at Eclipse. It is an illegal underground version of Festa. So if you hate all those tight regulations and want more blood and no rules whereby participants could even lose their lives, Eclipse is for you. Dirk remembers seeing Haruka because of Ser Vesta she was wielding. She lost the match but heard she didn’t die. That was the last and only time he saw her. Dirk asks Ayato’s opinion on Mesa. With Ayato’s blank look, Dirk knows he isn’t playing dumb. He drops them off and Ayato continues to be in shock learning his sister’s fate. Korona then tells Dirk about the pretty maid looking like a doll that was with them. She wasn’t in any of the information she had. Dirk seems interested and wants to know more about her.

Episode 15
Ayato is spacing out thinking too much about Haruka. This causes Julis to worry because it affects their teamwork. She knows he has been going out to look for her. He thinks everything will become clear when he reunites with her but he might be scared that she has abandoned him. Later Saya talks to Ayato about this. Saya tells him not to worry because she knows Haruka will never abandon him. They remember they once teamed up to take on Haruka. But she used some secret technique that resembled like a variation of bullet time to take them out. They lost and have never beaten her once. That’s why they have to find her and get the better of her. Ayato and Julis’ quarterfinal match against the twins begin. The twins put up lots of tricks like a giant smoke cloud, Shenhua turning invisible and Shenyun cloning himself. To show how powerful the tricky twins are, our duo take a beating. It might be the twins’ plan to delay since Ayato got sealed when he reaches his time limit. However Ayato feints it and strikes Shenyun. The comeback is futile because that was just a clone. He was invisible all along (the smoke cloud tricked them). Before he could get owned by his talisman bombs, Julis rescues him and nags him about his habit to always do things by himself. She throws back to him his words who is going to protect him then. Her words wake him up and also see some strange vision. He thanks her and this makes her blush. Do we have time for this in the middle of a battle? Ayato has a favour to ask of her.

Episode 16
He wants her to buy him some time as he goes into deep meditation to grab some ball of light which brings him back to the past to refresh some lesson Haruka gave him. Better hurry up because the twins are beating up and mocking Julis. Then it’s like Ayato found what he is looking for: A key to unlock his chains and power up a little! So easy? But that sounds like an understatement. Now that Julis is leaving the rest to him, Ayato can see all hidden traps and even take out Shenhua in stealth mode. Desperate Shenyun uses al his talisman to form a giant flaming explosion ball. And clones it. Literally, great balls of fire! Then he targets Julis. Wrong move. Because it only serves to show how cool Ayato has become. He protects Julis, extends his sword to cut the fireballs, cut the explosions and give a good knockout punch into Shenyun’s face! Game over. They win. Claudia is happy over their victory and wants to reward Ayato by personally inviting him to his room to heal for tomorrow’s match. Well, she should have taken Julis along if she really cared too right but I guess that’s not the point. Ayato becomes their tug of war. We should have more of such scenes. Now we shift focus to Saya and Kirin. The former talks about her father who lost his entire body at work but since his brain is still intact, his mind is hooked up to the mainframe where he continues to do research all he wants. And since all his research involves making guns for Saya and thus this power is created solely for her and not others, she won’t forgive those who rejects that idea. The duo bump into Ernesta and Camilla. The latter still believe Saya’s weapons aren’t suited for combat so the only way to get the other to take back what they said is to win the semi-final match. Saya and Kirin face AR-D and RM-C. Kirin tests her sword on AR-D first and although it seems it doesn’t have any effect, she eventually cuts through his barrier. Because he is machine, he has data on her skills which means he only reads and reacts to her movements unlike swordsmen facing off in the battlefield they get split seconds to read each other. In short, he lacks battle experience. Saya gets ready to shoot down RM-C. Oh, she already fired the first shot.

Episode 17
During this fight, Flora gets kidnapped. Kirin’s sword skills manage to make a little dent on AR-D but it is enough to do any hard damage. Saya and RM-C enter a firing might battle. Saya’s blast is eventually more powerful and deals some damage. RM-C agrees to do AR-D’s suggestion as they combine into a single robot. Needless to say, they power up in speed and power. Kirin takes a direct blow but she is still hanging there. Saya believes AR-D must have some kind of defect since RM-C is channelling part of her power to him. If AR-D was okay, they wouldn’t have combined. Unfortunately they have insufficient data to conclude anything. The duo go all out in their next move. Too bad they lost. Don’t worry. Ayato and Julis will avenge you in the finals. Meanwhile Dirk contacts Ernesta and Camilla. He wants them to team up with him and he will reward them with profits. Julis is waiting for Flora and when she gets a call from her, it turns out to be her kidnapper. To guarantee her safety, he wants Ser Vesta to be cast an emergency seal and they are not to withdraw from the Festa or go to the police. Julis is in a pinch but Claudia has a plan. Knowing the kidnapper is targeting Ayato and Ser Vesta, putting an emergency seal means Ayato will forever can never use it again because it is like he abandoned it. Part of her plan includes hiding Ser Vesta and let Ayato use a different Ogre Lux. In the meantime Kirin and Saya will search and rescue Flora. Claudia believes Dirk is behind this and thus his intelligence organization, Grimalkin will be doing his dirty work. This makes it easier to narrow down their whereabouts and Kirin and Saya must rescue Flora in that time before the closing ceremony tomorrow.

Episode 18
Ayato and Julis will face off with Garrardworth’s duo of Elliott Forster and Doroteo Lemus. Ayato takes on pretty boy and easily defeats him with his countermove?! So fast?! And he did it without Ser Vesta. Meanwhile Julis faces off with Festa veteran who clad himself with armour and even riding an armoured horse. Is this even legal?! Anyway her fire might not burn him but it builds up enough heat to flush him out and win. Yeah, the quick victory is brought to you because they can now focus on saving Flora since Kirin and Saya still have no leads. Yabuki hears from them and will help out as much as he can. Though, don’t count on him too much. Ayato goes off to do his own research as he secretly meets up with Irene in person for information. Unfortunately she has none not because of any gag order. She believes Dirk knows he will contact her and thus did not relay any information. But she can still theorize. She thinks they are looking in the wrong area. Because the redevelopment area is filled with criminals, police often patrol there so it would be hard to move about or stay hidden. It might be a place where Ayato will face lots of trouble, Rotlicht. A place where legal and illegal shops are clustered together and he can’t freely go anywhere like the redevelopment zone. Camilla talks to Ernesta and remembers the time they first met. Camilla’s family was attacked and killed by terrorists. She could have been bombed and blown to bits but was saved when Ernesta constructed half her body as a robot. Although Camilla owes half her life to her, it seems there is a dispute about their engineering goals. Ernesta simply wants to do all it takes to win so her robots will become accepted in schools and people will understand them better. AR-D and RM-C request minor changes as they have ‘learnt’ from their battle with the lolis. Ayato is being chased around by MIBs for snooping around too much. He stumbles into a girl who claims she can help him out.

Episode 19
Ayato wonders if she is a Strega as she takes him to a safe place. When she knows his name, Ayato goes on the defensive. Who is she? She assures him Ayato has become famous after yesterday’s match. Oh, he should work on his bad disguise. When a zombie dude comes looking for Ayato, but upon seeing this girl, he turns his attention to fight her. She knows this guy is formerly from Jie Long before joining the mafia. Easily her ‘soft’ kick sends him flying and crashing into the building! She decides to further help Ayato in looking for kidnapped Flora. Her abilities can somewhat locate a person. After describing Flora, she then turns into her true form and starts singing. It is then Ayato instantly recognizes her as Sylvia Lyyneheym. Who is she? She is the top student of Queenvail Girls’ Academy. She pinpoints the area where Flora is located and could have been more specific if she had more time but her manager is hounding her. Before she parts ways, Ayato asks for her number! OMG! Planning to add more to your harem?! I know his true intentions but that’s my first impression when he asked her that. After Ayato tells the rest, Kirin and Saya do not want them to tag along too. Even if the finals start at noon, they should be resting and shouldn’t go into the tournament in this state. With Yabuki seconding them and that believe-in-me crap, our heroic duo relent. At an old casino, Yabuki hacks his way in. The way he easily does it makes the girls be suspicious and ‘scared’. They are faced with multiple shadow clones. No matter how much you cut them, they regenerate. How do you cut shadow anyway? Since they can’t waste any time, luckily Yabuki has called Lester to come help. More like he blackmailed him to get his ass here. They leave this dude for this menial task while they head on to get done the more important ones. It’s a good thin Ayato and Julis heed their words because the finals is just starting and they’ve heard no news from them. They could have missed it and give the robot duo a free walkover.

Episode 20
Ayato and Julis attack AR-D together instead of also focusing on fighting RM-C. Ayato uses some technique of his to avoid RM-C’s attacks when she does. When the robots fuse, it takes some time so Ayato is able to cut off RM-C’s badge. Although she is out, she manages to fully equip RM-D. We take a detour to Flora’s rescue. You’d think that it would be an obvious trap for Flora to be tied up in the open. It is. Kirin is able to intercept the shadow attack from this ninja dude and with some help from Saya’s sniping, they manage to get Flora to safety. Now Kirin will be able to concentrate on fighting him. However she is injured and her vital spot. You know how final big bosses become stronger the more damage it takes? Well, something of this sort happened to Kirin. In the final decisive sword drawing move, Kirin somehow makes ninja boy see a virtual image of swords, allowing Kirin to cut and disable the use of his arms. Kirin is down but Saya finishes the job by blasting him away. Back to the overpowered match, AR-D is overpowered like a final boss. The kind that you want to use a cheat code to win this damn match. The duo are reduced to just dodging and are even cornered. What tricks do you think they will have to come up to overcome this? Well, something of this sort. Claudia waltzes into the commentators’ room and hijacks the microphone to send a message to her pals. You’d think it is some magic spell, right? Well, she tells them Flora is safe. So go all out. I guess this means technically they have to win, right? With the weight off their shoulders, Ayato is now free to use Ser Vesta and powers it up enough to slice through AR-D’s hammer like a hot knife through butter. Here’s their cheat code.

Episode 21
Apparently with all the hard hitting power, it still isn’t enough to bring down AR-D although he takes some damage. It might look AR-D is going out of control with all the overflowing power but he manages to control it. With both sides taking damage, Julis knows Ayato is their only chance for victory. So she has him channel his Prana into his Ser Vesta while she does something. Ser Vesta turns into an ideal form. To cut short the remainder of the fight, Ayato defeats AR-D and wins the Festa. So while Ayato takes his trophy at the award ceremony, Yabuki confronts ninja boy escaping in the sewers and teaches him a lesson. Later, RM-C and Camilla talks to Saya and wants to fight her again. Although they won, they view her weapon much superior than theirs because it uses a different technology and thus incompatible. They do not consider their win over her in the Festa as proper victory. Ernesta is contacted by Dirk about the offer to team up. She rejects him. She is surprised Dirk knows that she is secretly constructing a third robot. Not even Camilla knows about this. With all the congratulating and thanking, it’s time for Flora to apologize and cry her heart out. Ayato and Julis then see Mesa. Julis is not pleased that despite she reported Dirk behind the kidnapping, Mesa said there were not enough evidence to link him. Thus the police caught the wrong people, some mafias operating in that area. Mesa learns about Ayato’s reason for participating in this Festa to find Haruka. He can only pray for her safe return. Later we see the snake head Mesa is because he is in cohorts with Dirk and warns him to tone down his methods. He had to go out of his way to get him out of this mess. Dirk wonders if Mesa will tell about his relationship with that woman. He has no intention to do so. And here’s the biggest revelation: Haruka is in a comatose state in some test tube chamber.

Episode 22
Before anybody can scream winter vacation, Julis whisks everyone away to her kingdom, Lieseltania. Wow. Everyone is giving them a hero’s welcome. They go to see Jolbert, Julis’ brother and king and Julis is not amused of the forced victory parade. Then there is a short history lesson about the formation of Lieseltania. Basically some meteor crash and a bunch of corporation guys wanting to make a profit from this ‘playground’. Thus Lieseltania is more like a puppet state. Time for Saya to get a bit of the spotlight since she is a bit depressed. She apologizes to Ayato for not being there when he needed the most after Haruka went missing. She hopes he can rely on her from now on. Claudia talks to them about Gryps Festa and hopes they could join her team. Well, Ayato’s answer depends on Julis’ participation. She asks why she is so focused on this Festa when she could have won other Festas easily. On the contrary, her weapon has a very grave weakness and needs the competency of her comrades to pull through. Long story short, everyone agrees to be her teammate. I guess those other big names from other schools don’t really matter, huh? Time for the banquet and everyone to look smart and the ladies to look lovely in their evening dress. Ayato thought Julis is broke. Well, the corporation has money to spend on her but she has no money for herself. There’s a difference. Seeing Jolbert mixing around, Julis explains to Ayato that he is just a puppet. He doesn’t talk politics and isn’t serious about his job. That’s why corporate guys like him. Oh, he also has many lovers by his side that the corporations ‘sent’ him. All airheads too? Time for Kirin to get her screen time too when she gets too as strangers are talking to her. Time for Ayato to whisk her away. Because Kirin clings on to his arm, Saya doesn’t want to lose out and also clings on to his other arm. This is interrupted when an old guy talks to them. He wants them not to join Claudia’s team for Gryps Festa. If they refuse? Well, they’ll have to deal with this monstrous chimera he summons to kill them. Even without a weapon, Ayato can still kick the monster’s ass before Julis-Saya blast combo finishes it. Hey, these are Phoenix Festa winners and not pushovers. You gotta send something more terrifying than this.

Episode 23
That guy is Gustave Malraux, an internationally wanted criminal. He used to be in some international terrorist group but now he takes on jobs for money. So you can bet there is some large conspiracy behind this. Jolbert talks to Ayato and Julis privately. He wants them to get engaged. So that’s what the parade is for? To casually introduce Ayato? Julis protests this joke but Jolbert is serious. Because she has won the Phoenix Festa, her popularity has increased and IEF now views her valuable. But that isn’t the biggest problem yet. Jolbert wants Julis to stop participating in Gryps Festa. If she wins it, she can become more popular thus making Jolbert irrelevant. There’s a reason to this selfish thinking. If that happens, IEF may replace Jolbert with Julis on the throne. You know how Julis is serious in changing the state of her country, right? But when she is there, she will be totally under their control. He doesn’t want her to suffer. He hopes Ayato can convince her but of course he can’t. Ayato finds Julis at the orphanage and meets with Sister Theresa who runs the church. Julis gets uncomfortable and leaves when she talks about her once best friend at the orphanage. Ayato goes after her. He learns she already achieved her goal of saving the orphanage by winning the Phoenix Festa. Her intention is to change her nation by winning the Gryps Festa and free this country on a broken system it was based on. Speaking of her friend, Julis spots her, Orphelia Landlufen. She is Ereshkigal and studying at Le Wolfe. She confronts her at a barren wasteland. Orphelia warns her to drop her goal in changing her because she has accepted her fate. I guess a guy has to stay out when girls fight, right? Julis is no match for Orphelia whose miasmic powers are just reeking. Time for Ayato to jump in. Yeah, he shows us as a hero he can fight with a sword in one hand and hold an unconscious girl in another. He did this before so it’s no sweat. He too can’t best her but they are interrupted by Gustave who hopes Orphelia won’t steal his prey. Plus, Dirk calls Orphelia to get back to the lab as he didn’t give her permission to leave. Gustave summons his beasts to kill them. Ayato might have defeated one but is going to get eaten by the other. Time for Claudia to remind us she kicks ass. Gustave is smart enough not to take on her and escapes. Claudia gets a heart attack when Ayato collapses.

Episode 24
Ayato wakes up after 3 days. Yeah, any longer and I’m not sure if anyone can wait that long. After Julis thanks him, she explains about Orphelia. Remember that handkerchief? It was made by her. That wasteland is actually the remnants of a lab of IEF. A student from Allekant known as Magnum Opus used to do research there to mass produce Genestella. Orphelia was one of the subjects as the orphanage’s debt collateral. Although it is ‘successful’, it is not without a price. Everything she touches around her dies. Julis once tried to challenge her to make her change but lost. Orphelia looks like she has given up on everything. As they are about to focus and discuss about Gustave, the city is under attacked by dragons. Julis knows this is a ploy from Gustave as all the security forces are drawn in fighting them, the orphanage is left unprotected. A bait to draw them out. They take the challenge to fight off the Hydra he summoned. While they wait for Julis to power up, Ayato and Saya combo take down the heads quickly before it has time to regenerate. Of course, the final blow from Julis to destroy it once and for all. Wow. Such a big explosion I hope she didn’t destroy the kingdom. Kirin finds Gustave and easily knocks him out. Old man can’t best a young girl, right? Elsewhere Claudia sees her father whom she has not seen for a while. It seems he is behind this orchestration. He says Ginga isn’t behind this and he did it on his own. He then starts showing his desperation for her not to enter Gryps Festa. Too bad. She doesn’t reciprocate her father’s love.

Next day when Ayato and co leave, Julis tells Jolbert that she will win Gryps Festa to give more power to the royal family. After what happened, she needs to start at something more basic. That is why she needs his help. Seeing she has changed, he agrees to help her and stop playing the fool. Ayato then gets a call from Mesa. He claims he has found Haruka. It seems somebody brought her to this central hospital 5 years ago and has been lying in this state ever since. Ayato believes it is her ability that binds everything and she might have used it on herself. If nothing changes, she might outlive everyone. Well, if you can call that living. Outside, Ayato is met by a crazy woman who claims she can cure Haruka. She is Hilda Jane Rowlands. Or better known as Magnum Opus. Claudia apologizes to her teammates about her father’s doing. She explains he did this to settle things before Ginga makes any serious move. So now you know the risks, will they still join her in Gryps Festa? Because that will mean making enemies out of Ginga too. Hell yeah. Too late to back down, right? Was there any hesitation in the first place? Well, Ayato a bit at first. Because he was in a dilemma if he should really seek Magnum Opus for help. But since he really doesn’t want to, might as well stick with these beautiful babes instead. There’s your answer.

Ass Tricks * Raw!
Hey, wait a minute. Don’t tell me that montage at the end of the final episode is some sort of a fast forward of the events and certain matches that take place during the Gryps Festa?! Don’t tell me they aren’t going to make another season and if they are, they will not be making the Gryps Festa?! I hope not. Assuming if there should be a sequel, I hope they continue from where it left off because it was starting to get interesting. Why do they always have to leave it to the end to make things interesting? So I personally hope that montage was just some sort of a trailer or a sneak peek. Because with so much potential and development, it would be a shame the next part in succession would be skipped. But that would be a blog for another time if they ever make another season.

Seriously, both the entire seasons can be summed up to be focused on the Phoenix Festa. There might be some shady plot moving behind it but they aren’t so obvious and thus personally I find the story boring and hard to maintain my attention even if there are a few (but short) funny moments. Even the international corporation and political conspiracies sound like better stories but it is just sad that they come into light towards the series’ end. It definitely looks like it is setting up itself in case of the need of another sequel but I fear they might focus the entire series on the Gryps Festa and make it uninteresting like they did for Phoenix Festa. I might be jumping the gun but after my experience watching this, I can’t help feel sceptical. I know I did say in my last paragraph to not skip this important team tournament but my point is not to make it draggy like the Phoenix Festa. After all, fighting with more team members could change the tempo of everything. After all, isn’t this series is about the Festa tournaments? And the other shady conspiracy plots beneath it are just to add spice to it all. Lots of other plot potentials like the mysteries behind Ogre Lux and the dark underground Eclipse that can be explored but just only touched upon here.

In view of saying all that, it made me enter into a dilemma whether if I should have wished for more cheesy fanservice and harem cat fight elements. You know, when such genres get uninteresting, I start to wish it should spam more of such factors no matter how cheap it is and no matter how much I will definitely complain about it. Damn if they do, damn if they don’t. The so called harem factor that I was hoping to see is very minimal and only serves as distraction and sometimes a reminder that Ayato still has those girls by his side. Now, if they start spamming the cringe worthy cat fights, it would have diluted the worth of this show even if I should be ‘highly entertained’. I mean, if you watched Masou Gakuen HxH, that entire series is about groping boobs and pleasuring girls, right? Imagine if this series follows that kind of route, not necessarily boobs fondling but girls shamelessly fighting over Ayato instead of focusing on the tournament, I think we would all lose a greater respect and consider this series to be even trashier and crap. Because it didn’t, this series is still respectable in that sense but at a price of me calling it boring and uninteresting. Hey, it is just one otaku’s impression and it won’t change a damn thing, right?

So here am I thinking I could make cheeky and naught puns out of it was to spam and take the fanservice routes. You know how Asterisk War can become… Well, you read my header, right? And of all terms why did they have to pick Genestella because I first misheard it as genitalia! Serious! Maybe it has something to do with the genes but my mind was already in the gutter… And Strega? Uhm… Straight guy? Oh heck, I thought it was some sort of relative for Stegosaurus. I’ve been fooled to think that there was going to be some serious fanservice elements. It’s like they teased us with the first episode of seeing Julis in her undies. Because I can’t remember anything else worthy after that… Except maybe Claudia’s sexy seduction attempts. Anyway, there are quite a number of terms in the series but I didn’t really bother to remember them since the sci-fi sounding-like terms already turned me off.

Sadly, the tournaments fights as the focus of the series didn’t sit with me well. Sorry I have to spam this boring word again because this is ultimately what I feel while watching the matches. Somehow they aren’t interesting enough to make me go “Woah!” even with all the super exaggerated effects (though I can’t help notice that they are mostly hexagon cyber polygons). Plus, they are predictable. Yes, I have 100% predicted the outcome of all the matches that Ayato-Julis and Kirin-Saya participated even before they entered the ring and fight. Including Kirin-Saya’s lost to the robot pair. After all, you can’t have teammates fighting each other in the finals and it would be better to have an opponent that you can go all out. Because we’re going to root for Ayato-Julis pair, right? Having Kirin-Saya in the final would mean splitting fan votes. Yeah… Thank goodness some matches don’t last for episodes unless you’re talking about our main heroes fighting worthy ones. I’m just glad when the matches are over.

There are lots of interesting characters here but at the end of the day, I think I can say that I don’t really understand and know them well enough. Because like for Ayato, we know nothing much about him except that he is looking for his missing sister. It felt kinda rushed that at the end of it, Haruka is suddenly found. At least we don’t have to b*tch about on the plot of finding his sister anymore and can move on to the next step to wake her up. Julis has got the most focus on perhaps the most we know about seeing she is fighting for change for her country. Plus, with her bringing everyone back to her kingdom in the final few episodes, it is only in recent memory that we feel that she has more of her past and circumstances explained. Because there is certainly more than meets the eye to Claudia’s ever smiling face. Same case for Yabuki. He might play an insignificant best friend and idiot in Ayato’s eyes but behind the shadows it is like he takes out antagonist henchmen. When they see Yabuki, it means they’re screwed and it will be the last time we will ever see about them.

Kirin and Saya too have their back story but it looks like they’re side-lined ever since the Phoenix Festa began. If I had to pick my favourite one, it had to be Saya because despite her sleepy look, she has a sharp wit and never give up attitude. Such a waste for these babes in Ayato’s potential harem that I was hoping to see. Everybody likes Ayato, right? From the bold flirty blond to the shy girl and the ‘sleepy’ childhood friend, he’s got almost all the harem tropes covered. But my guts and experience tells me he’ll end up with Julis the tsundere. You know how fiery girls are always the front runners, right? Oh yeah, she’s a princess too. I wanted to add Flora but she’s just f*cking useless and just a ploy to turn her into a damsel in distress so that we can have some sort of variation in the story. Even being a maid can’t save her…

Outside the main characters, the rest of the other characters also feel underdeveloped. Like Ernesta and Camilla feel like they only had their moments just because they are facing with Ayato and Julis. Not that I really understand about what their circumstances have to do with everything and if I have to, I’ll just simply put some sort of government conspiracy behind it all. Irene has become somewhat redundant after her loss to Ayato so to keep her relevant it is like they make her into some sort of information ‘broker’ if Ayato ever needs some sort of warning whatsoever. Then there is Sylvia and Fan and other schools whose presence are just in the waiting. And why do the schools have to be some sort of stereotypical theme. There’s the Chinese school, the all-girls school, the high technology school, the seemingly dark delinquent school Dirk and the supposedly knightly order school. And our Seidoukan is like the melting pot for all types of people including heroes, right? Mesa might look like typical villains with their own ulterior motives but the true bad guys could be from the corporation and all the bureaucrats behind the scenes stringing everyone along like puppets. Like that Ginga group mentioned in the final episode. Suddenly this name pops up. Don’t think I ever heard it. Mustn’t be paying attention…

I don’t really understand and can never remember some of the special moves they make. Therefore I am not sure if they spam the same few ones or if they are all the same moves. I am sure that our main characters have a variety of moves in their arsenal but I wasn’t paying any attention so when the time comes for them to unleash it and get them out of the pinch or turn the tables, I just expect some sort of flashy move. Sometimes I feel that all the participants in the tournament unleash their moves like as though they pull it out from the air. You know, they just made it up. I know, I wasn’t paying attention or rather it is hard to already maintain my focus on the match. So please forgive me in the end that I don’t find the fights interesting on an overall basis since I also predicted who would win and this already reduced the fun greatly. To be fair, at least the final fight of the series with the Hydra looks interesting. Not sure if the restricted tournament arena toned down the excitement or the flashy effects with the snake heads that turned it up.

Art and drawing look pretty decent. The city and the weapons have this sci-fi hi-tech design to them but seeing high school students wielding them feels a bit out of place. I thought they would be wearing some sort of sci-fi gear when they enter the arena but apparently they head in wearing their own school uniform. Not afraid it would get damaged? Don’t worry. No raunchy fanservice elements so no worries about clothes getting ripped to reveal some gorgeous skin. CGI is also employed but minimally used. This is mostly used at the next episode preview where it is hosted by a very stiff CGI Claudia. I don’t know, she just feels lame but because they design her to be pretty, I guess it distracts us from thinking how lame her movements are. Even the CGI animation here is paltry because it’s like a joke when Saya tries to usurp this section by bumping her away but the animation is so bad that it is just comical. On purpose?

Of all the seiyuus, I only recognized Tomokazu Sugita as Dirk and Mai Nakahara as Haruka. The rest of the casts are Atsushi Tamaru as Ayato (Mochizou in Tamako Market), Ai Kakuma as Julis (Kurihara in Momokuri), Nao Touyama as Claudia (Chitoge in Nisekoi), Shiori Izawa as Saya (Tanpopo in Witch Craft Works), Ari Ozawa as Kirin (Usami in Kono Bijutsu-bu Ni Wa Mondai Ga Aru), Yuuma Uchida as Yabuki (Kasumi in Qualidea Code), Yumi Uchiyama as Irene (Momiji in Binbougami Ga), Juri Nagatsuma as Priscilla (Satone in Chuunibyou Demo Koi Ga Shitai), Chinatsu Akasaki as Ernesta (Yasuna in Kill Me Baby), Mutsumi Tamura as Camilla (Sonya in Kill Me Baby)[Hey, am I seeing a pattern in this Kill Me Baby pair?], Wataru Hatano as AR-D (Gajeel in Fairy Tail), Haruka Yoshimura as RM-C (Koharu in Sora No Method), Omi Minami as Fan (Hyatt in Excell Saga), Haruka Chisuga as Sylvia (Tsugumi in Soul Eater NOT!), Kenichi Suzumura as Jolbert (Sougou in Gintama), Hikaru Midorikawa as Mesa (Lancer in Fate series), Maaya Sakamoto as Orphelia (Ciel in Kuroshitsuji) and Takanori Hoshino as Lester (Kugaha in Noragami Aragoto). I also want to note that Flora has the most annoying voice ever. She is so squeaky and high pitch that it gets on your nerves. It’s like somebody trying hard to be cute but ends up annoying instead. Flora is voiced by Chitose Morinaga who did Timothy in Anne Happy. Now I can see why…

Of all the opening and ending themes, the one I liked most is the first ending theme, Waiting For The Rain by Maaya Sakamoto. It is quite a slow and calming song to my liking. The second ending theme is also not bad but it isn’t anything unique but just generic, Ai No Uta –Words Of Love- by Haruka Chisuga. The opening themes are rock based, supposedly to get you into the action tournament grove. The first one is Brand New World by Shiena Nishizawa and the second one is The Asterisk War also sung by the same person.

Overall, too much focus on the tournament and not enough on the other conspiracy plots and characters have bogged down my enjoyment of the series. Not to mention the harem factor I expected are minimal. But I’m still giving its (minimal) due as it is still not a bad anime per se. Just that it could have been better. But how different can it be when the clichés of generic main characters and plots are already everywhere. Then again, if they rushed it instead of developing at this pace, I would have again complained about it. Damn if they do, damn if they don’t. So more seasons are needed to properly flesh out everything and justify my sentiments for this series? All I know is that if I ever wanted to get my own harem, I wouldn’t want to form a fighting team to enter competitions. Those girls would get my ass kicked somehow…

Love Live! Sunshine!!

March 10, 2017

Eh? Do we need another Love Live series? I thought it was all over. Apparently this isn’t exactly a continuation or a reboot. More like a spinoff. Yes, another new group in focus. At first I thought Love Live! Sunshine!! would be about the younger sisters of the original Muse forming their own group and living up to their predecessor’s legacy. This is not the case. A bunch of new faces and a new school in a different prefecture means everything would be new although we all know the concept and setting would follow a familiar pattern. The forming of a new school idol unit, their trials and tribulations as they try to achieve the ultimate Holy Grail of the idol industry. What else can you expect from this genre? Oh, right. No space ass kicking idols to save the universe here for sure.

Episode 1
Chika Takami is a second year at Uranohoshi Girls’ High School. Along with her friend, You Watanabe they are trying to recruit members for their idol club. No takers. Oddly, Chika has never been interested in clubs and stuffs before but she’s getting into it thinking that school idols are all the rage now. They continue giving out fillers and stumble upon several ‘potentials’. Hanamaru Kunikida and Ruby Kurosawa seem suspicious first. Then there is Yoshiko Tsushima dropping down from a tree and acting all chuunibyou. Ruby seems to know her but Yoshiko seems to be pretending that she doesn’t. And the trio start chasing each other, forgetting all about the idol club. Chika is picked up by the student council president, Dia Kurosawa. She is chastising her for not even applying to create the club. Yup, the club officially doesn’t exist. Besides, there is a minimum of 5 members needed to form a club and Chika is the only one on it. To pour more salt on injury, Dia is adamant she will not have any idol clubs in her school! You thinks Dia is from a traditional fishing family so anything that seems silly will not get her approval. While Chika is trying to figure out ways to get new members, she sees a girl at the pier and thinks she is trying to commit suicide. She tries to stop Riko Sakurauchi from diving in but they both fall into the sea. Later as revealed, she was only diving. The reason being, she is trying to compose a song for a piano and needs to hear the sound of the sea to get inspiration. Despite she is from Tokyo, she doesn’t know what a school idol is. Too dedicated to piano to know anything else. Chika explains about them but doesn’t consider herself as part of them and just your average Jane. Then when she saw Muse performing, she became inspired. That dazzling brightness became her dream. Riko feels Chika’s words cheered her up. As they officially introduce themselves, Riko says she is from Otonokizaka Academy, the school were Muse is from. Chika gets more motivation when You decides to join her club. However Chika and Dia are still head butting each other. Dia tries to discourage them about an original song they need to write for entering Love Live. Because this school has no one gifted in music let alone someone who can compose a song. Then it is like a miracle dropping before Chika because Riko becomes a new transfer student in her class. The first thing she asks is to join her as a school idol. Sorry, she can’t. Dream dashed so quickly…

Episode 2
Chika continuously bugs Riko to join because she is the only one who can write songs. Still no. You on the other hand has designed some drafts for costumes. I think she needs to come up with something cuter than military and police outfits. Again when Chika bugs Dia and tries to give inspiration about Muse, the president snaps for her mispronouncing their name! She then quizzes Chika about Muse’s trivia but she doesn’t know a thing. Well, Dia seems to know awfully a lot. Is she a Muse fan? Unknown to Dia, her trivia interrogation was accidentally broadcasted throughout the entire school. Later Chika tries to lure Ruby with candy. They talk about Dia who is Ruby’s elder sister who is quite against any school idols so they aren’t confident if Chika’s club will get the green light at all. Also Yoshiko has been absent since the first day of school. Chika then sees Riko by the shore again. Still trying to find inspiration for her composition but no luck. Although Chika gives her motivation, Riko still declines thinking this is part of her ruse to get her to join her idol club. Chika accepts her rejection for now. Then she goes diving with her just to try out. As you know, miracles happen when this kind of scene pops up so Riko is able to hear what she wants for her composition. Although Riko agrees to write songs for them, this doesn’t mean she has joined their club. But to start writing one, she needs lyrics. What are lyrics? You mean Chika doesn’t even know what lyrics are? Chika invites Riko to her home-cum-inn to help think up of lyrics. Meet the weird sisters, Shima and Mito and their pet dog that Riko seems to fear? Brainstorming on what to write, since Chika loves school idols, she can write tons of lines on that. Back home, Riko tries to compose her song on her piano but it seems she has some trauma. Eventually when she gets going, Chika is impressed with her composition. Guess what? They live next to each other! Didn’t Riko realize this when she comes home? Anyway Riko still has some fears so Chika allays them by reaching out. I guess it means everything is okay when their hands touch.

Episode 3
The trio are practising their dance moves. Still need more practising. They are interrupted when a helicopter flies low. Riding it is Mari Ohara and Uranohoshi’s new chairwoman aside from being a third year student too. Well, her family is a major patron of the school. Dia is not happy because she vanished a few years ago without saying anything and now she is suddenly back. Mari gives hope to Chika’s idol group. If they can fill in the gym for their first performance, she’ll approve the club and get school funding. Otherwise, they’ll just have to disband. However when they calculate, the entire school isn’t enough to fill the hall. This means they have to get audiences from outside. So Chika begs to Mito for her company of 200 employees to come but looks like it didn’t fly. They go to town to distribute flyers. While You is a natural, Chika sounds threatening. Is that a way to ask people to come to your concert? Shy Riko? What good is talking to a poster will do? Ruby and Hanamaru are there too. But they ask a more pressing issue: What is their group name? And so our trio have to think about a group name quick. Let’s say each come up with their own lame names. They can write all over the beach the potential ones but eventually they stumble upon Aqours. Feels good. Something related to water. Okay, so Aqours it will be. They don’t even know who wrote this. After that it is more flyer distribution. On the night of their performance, the trio are nervous. When the curtains rise, well, only a handful of them. You can count them all who attended. They carry on their performance but halfway the electricity is cut off due to the bad storm. They try to carry on without the music but it is so heart-breaking that Chika is close to tears. And then suddenly here comes Mito bringing her entire colleagues! Wow. Suddenly the hall is filled. Traffic jam all over the place? Well what do you know? Mito scolds Chika for putting the wrong date on the flyer. More miracles because Dia turns on the generators for backup power. The trio continue their performance to a standing ovation. Oh wait. Everybody is standing in the first place. At the end, Dia confronts them that their success is only due to past efforts of other school idols and the kindness of these people. Chika agrees but had they not done anything, nothing would have happened.

Episode 4
Mari gives the green light for the idol club to be approved. This means they have their own clubroom. Uhm, very messy. Clean up time. However they’re still short of members. Ruby reports to Hanamaru that the idol club is approved and is very happy about it. This has Ruby remember she used to act out performances of Muse with Dia. They love idols so much but one day after Dia entered high school, she started hating them and doesn’t want anything to do with it. So if big sister doesn’t like it, Ruby is not allowed to like them too. WTF?! Mari sees her friend, Kanan Matsuura and wants her to join the idol club once she returns to school. It is the reason she came back. However Kanan is not pleased. Hanamaru suggests to Ruby they try out the idol club. Of course Chika is happy but she must remember that if they don’t like it, they won’t join. They hope they can keep this a secret from Dia too. The first order is to train. But there is no decent place for them so it is suggested the rooftop. Like how Muse did it. For stamina training, they run up the mountain. Hanamaru lacks stamina and although considerate Ruby wants to wait for her, she tells her to forge ahead and not be someone she doesn’t want. Otherwise she’ll suffer. After Ruby goes ahead, it seems this is part of Hanamaru’s plan as she is scheduled to meet Dia nearby. She tells her to listen to Ruby. That’s it? Oh, here Ruby and co comes. Dia wants an explanation so Ruby explains the truth. Ruby officially joins Aqours. But what about Hanamaru? She thinks her role is over and returns to the library where she belongs. She loves books. Of course Ruby can’t have her ending like that so she is going to force her to join. Forgive me, I reworded it harshly. Ruby has been observing Hanamaru too and knows she was pushing herself for her sake. She noticed she was happy while practising too and that she loves them as much as her. Let’s be idols together. Hanamaru doesn’t think she doesn’t have what it takes to be an idol. But Chika tells her it is not the question of can or cannot. It is whether you want or not. And so there were five. When they key in their group name to check out rankings on Love Live, they rank 4999. Not bad, right?

Episode 5
Yoshiko believes she is a fallen angel and even records a video of herself doing all those chuunibyou stuffs. But it’s like her other rational personality told her to stop it since she’ll be a high school girl and it will be embarrassing. Unfortunately bad habits are hard to die out so when she first introduced herself in class the first day like that, it’s the reason she never showed up anymore. Aqours move up in their ranking by a few hundred ranks. Not bad. Hanamaru has never seen a computer before since her family runs an old temple. You bet she is a noob when it comes to all technologies. So when she accidentally shuts down the computer… Hope they saved their work. Hanamaru spots Yoshiko spying on them and calls them out. She is afraid her classmates think she is weird but after being assured they won’t remember a thing, she is confident to start anew. Yoshiko portrays herself as the graceful cool beauty. She becomes popular as her classmates would love to know her better. That’s when it goes downhill because Yoshiko starts doing her chuunibyou when they wanted her to do her fortune telling. Oops… She feels disgraced but Chika finds it cute. Thinking this is what they need to improve their rankings further, she asks her to join their school idol club. Everyone tries out the gothic outfit at Chika’s place. But her dog keeps harassing Riko so she literally jumps back home!!! She can become a long jumper if this falls through. A video of a cheesy fallen angel of them is filmed. Embarrassing, right? But it increased their rank just below the thousand mark!!! OMG! Amazing???!!! However when Dia sees this, she blows her top at this utmost embarrassment. She warns them the popularity is only temporary because right now they have dropped back down to behind 1500 as other groups also do their best to stand out. Yoshiko thinks it is the end of her fallen angel days and can live a normal high school life. After she leaves the group, the rest discuss why she was so obsessed being a fallen angel. She was just normal like them and never stood out. Then they realize they want her and chase her all across town just to ask her to join Aqours. She can continue being a fallen angel. It is who she is. It is what she loves. They accept her for all the nonsense. Chika realizes being a school idol isn’t about what people thought or how to get popular. It is doing what you love most that makes you shine the most. And with that, Yoshiko’s in.

Episode 6
Dia learns from Mari that Uranohoshi will close down and merge with Numazu. Of course Mari is trying to delay that from happening, thus her return as chairwoman. But if next year’s enrolment numbers go down, the inevitable will happen. An excuse to use idols to revive the school? Well, Dia is not going to fall for this. So Aqours also learn about this but Chika is ecstatic because they are going to follow the same route as Muse and Otonokizaka. Does she really think this path will also lead Aqours to glory? Well, no harm dreaming. Thus she comes up with an idea of doing a PV. Unfortunately they are all over the place and have no idea on what to report on what is good in their town. Mari also tells Kanan about Uranohoshi’s fate. She can keep it alive but needs her help to come back to school. Kanan is not amused she ‘broke’ into her house just to tell this but Mari reminds her she is her stalker. When Aqours show their PV, if Mari thinks it is trash, I guess it says everything. They might have put in a lot of effort but the result is still crap doesn’t make it any better. Later Chika sees Dia performing alone in the hall. She is amazed at her skills and wants her to join Aqours to help keep it open. But Dia refuses and will fight this her own way. Mari is here to harass remind her about nothing will change if she keeps running away. Dia responds she never ran away. Not now. Not then. When the school is doing community service picking up litter on the each, Chika gets an idea for their PV. They do a music video and mix it in with this communal work.

Episode 7
Aqours now ranks 99th! Not bad! The top 100 qualify for Love Live. Phew, right? Then they get mail for them to attend the Tokyo School Idol World Committee. They’re going to Tokyo! Ruby seeks ‘permission’ from Dia but is told she has already decided on what to do so what others say don’t matter. Then Dia confronts Mari about the idols going to Tokyo. Mari tells her Dia could have stopped them if she wanted although Dia is more concerned if they should fail. If the worse may come to worst, then there’s no avoiding it. So here Aqours is at Tokyo. A bunch of country bumpkin at awe with the tall buildings, the city life, getting lost, getting lost in shopping, etc. Then they run up the legendary stairs that Muse used to run up. Legendary like Rocky Steps? At the shrine on top, they hear the beautiful voice of 2 girls singing. The duo know all about Aqours and seen their videos. They know why they are here and are looking forward to it. From the way they sound, they’re like their rivals, right? And why do they have to look ‘evil’? To show Aqours what kind of bar is raised, one of them does an acrobatic somersault! Later Chika wants to visit Otonokizaka but Riko seems against it. Riko explains she doesn’t hate her ex-school. It’s just that each time she thinks of it, it’s like there are expectations to be met and all she did there was practice and in the end she failed. Chika on the other hand wonders what it’s like to have expectations. When people came to see them off, she felt happy and scared. It’s like she had to meet their expectations and cannot fail. Aqours are at the Dome where they will perform and the audience will vote to rank them. It seems Aqours will be one of teams to start first. Second, in fact. At the backstage, Ruby is still nervous and Yoshiko is still spouting her chuunibyou crap. Then they encounter those girls at the shrine again. You didn’t think they were idol rivals? They are Saint Snow.

Episode 8
Saint Snow goes first and we see their outstanding dance to the rock and hip hop mix. After that it’s Aqours. Well, we didn’t get to see their performance (to say that this isn’t their best?) but we see the girls a bit down and Chika forcing herself to stay cheerful and positive. When they are handed the results, they look for their name of course. Saint Snow ranks 9th. Hmm… Aqours not on the first page. Maybe the second page… Aha! Number 30th. Not bad, right? Well, there are only 30 teams participant. Damn. So how many people voted for them? Zero!!! OMFG! Ironically Saint Snow praises them for their performance. And then a reality check. Because they warn to give up trying to become like Muse. Love Live is not some game. You can’t brush that off easily when they say that with tears in their eyes. On the way home, Chika continues to remain positive and thinks they have done their best. Back home, their fans greet them. But when Dia comes to get them, Ruby lets loose her tears. Time for a little advice. Dia sees nothing wrong in their performance and they have certainly done their best. However there are 7,236 teams participating in this year’s Love Live. More than 10 times last year. The level of competition has risen sharply. Dia also reveals why her side cannot sing. Back then, she and Kanan pestered Mari into joining their idol unit in hopes of saving the school from consolidation. Mari was against it but eventually gave in. But after witnessing how awesome other groups are, it was their turn on stage and they froze. They cannot sing a note. That’s why Dia was against them forming an idol group fearing this might happen. And it did. Mari once more tries to convince Kanan but she continues to give the cold shoulder. Mari now breaks down in tears, wishing to take back those days of them together. Crocodile or not, Kanan is not moved. That night, Chika has a lot to think. Especially when You asked if they should disband. Next morning, Riko is shocked thinking Chika tried to drown herself! She was just thinking with the help of the sound of the sea. She has decided to continue being a school idol. Then she breaks down thinking how frustrating everything was despite trying so hard. Riko hugs her and is glad she is now honest with her feelings. Chika didn’t want to cry so as not to affect their morale. Riko assures they didn’t become school idols for her sake. They did it for themselves. Aqours renew their motivation and set their sights to improve.

Episode 9
Mari turned down studying abroad so she could continue being a school idol. However Kanan for the umpteenth time told her she is quitting. Even Dia agreed with her. Majority won. Aqours try to find out more about their seniors since they heard rumours from Dia that Kanan couldn’t sing that led to this mess. So in order to know more about what Dia said, everyone targets Ruby! The pressure! Too bad she didn’t hear much. They decide to tail Kanan. Hope they saved up their stamina because that girl can run without breaks! Then at the shrine, they see Mari stalking her again to come back and stop running away. Kanan is still stubborn and this time she gets serious. She doesn’t want to see her face again. Next day, Kanan surprises the school when she returns. Mari continues her harassment by giving her the idol uniform. She throws it away. If that is not enough, the drama grows with Mari clinging onto her like a leech. She’s never letting go! Dia can’t do anything as everybody is watching. Ironically it is Chika who tells them to stop this crap and come to the room to explain everything. Wow. Chika is so commanding! Even so, Kanan’s lips are sealed. She remains stubborn saying she couldn’t sing. That’s it. After she leaves, the rest are even more curious to know more. Now they turn to Dia. Get her! The big revelation as she reveals it wasn’t Kanan couldn’t sing. She chose not to sing. On that day, Mari injured herself. Despite Mari insists she could continue, could you imagine had they go on? It would have ended with something worse than an injury. Mari is not pleased her feelings were never sought. She turned down offers from other schools and had even everything all setup for their next idol stint. Dia adds that Kanan was always looking out and worried for her. She was worried they would rob her future and chance to achieve her full potential. Time for Mari to find that girl and slap her. Some past flashbacks as kids how they met and become friends. So time for them to settle it once and for all. Mari starts off that she too was thinking about her. Then the inevitable slap to release her frustrations. Because it was her own fault too for not being honest then, she allows Kanan to slap her. But Kanan signals a hug. Something they did as friends. Time to let out a big emotional hug. And now it is official. The trio join and complete Aqours. At the end of the practice, Kanan reveals their group was also named Aqours. Coincidence? Guess who gave this idea to the juniors? That writing on the beach. Dia has taken them for a ride too. You cheeky devil…

Episode 10
Summer vacation is here but Dia becomes the self-appointed manager to come up with training schedules for Aqours. She’s really into this. But with the neighbourhood association tasking them to work at the seaside café, there is no time for training. It is suggested that they work all day, using morning and evenings for training. Who says being an idol is easy? Chika suggests staying at her place and treat this like a training camp since they will save time on travelling. So after a little fun in the sea, it’s time to work on the seaside café. Dia again appoints herself as the manager as she delegates jobs to make their café more popular than their neighbour’s (which is raking in lots of customers). I guess they were decent but not popular enough to sell out their food and thus they have to finish them for dinner. Yeah, they have Mari’s expensive high quality seafood mix or Yoshiko’s whatever black balls… Tears of the fallen? Yeah, you’ll cry after eating that because it is spicy! The real drama begins when Chika overheard Riko’s family talking about Riko’s upcoming piano competition invitation. They are unsure because Riko has not replied. Chika discovers that the competition is on the same day as Love Live preliminaries. When Chika talks to her, Riko has already set her mind on Love Live. School idols have become a big part of her life now and is more important to her. Why do I have a feeling Chika is going to have the same déjà vu dilemma like Mari did? More Aqours training, working and improvising their cooking. Dia wants to give a history lesson on A-Rise but with Mito giving that stare, Chika quickly calls it a night because she doesn’t want the unthinkable to happen. This is what she actually said, “If we don’t cut the noise right now, the god of this inn is gonna pull my soul right out of my butt!”. Oh sh*t! Back to Chika-Riko drama. Chika has Riko play a piano piece of her least likable song. Chika likes that song. Read: She wants Riko to take part in the piano competition. It’s not like she is asking her to quite Aqours. She thought it would be great if she could go back and play piano again. Remember, playing the piano was important to her. Go on, Chika and the rest aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be waiting for her right here. The green light for permission to pursue her dream and an emotional hug. See? You can have best of both worlds.

Episode 11
Everyone sees off Riko at the train station. After that it is back to more idol training. They are impressed with Saint Snow doing well in their preliminaries but they have to worry about their own. So for idol training they have to clean the pool? I guess it builds up stamina and patience. When it’s time to practice, they realize they can’t start because Riko is missing for the opening gig. Suggesting someone takes her place, somehow everybody is looking at You. Unfortunately You continues to make mistakes all the time. This has You worrying. A much needed call from Riko to Chika as she passes on to everyone to speak to her. When it is You’s turn, her handphone battery is going to go kaput. Why does this always happen? With You obviously looking down, Mari talks to her and after a few cheeky face pinches, she advises her to just say her feelings and thoughts and not make the same mistake like she did. You had a chance to talk to Chika but didn’t have the guts. At home she is thinking of the various scenarios she can tell Chika but they are all dramatically lame. Then the much needed call from Riko to assure her that Chika is really happy to be with her and do her best for her sake. Scenes like these always make the character want to tear up, right? Get ready for more as You is already at tipping point when here comes Chika requesting to practice again with her. This time she thinks You should be dancing in her own way. You breaking down in 3, 2, 1… Let it flow, those tears. Then there is a narration why Chika wanted to become a school idol and nothing else. She didn’t want to shine all by herself and wants others to shine with her so as to spread the light that bring everyone listening to their music together. That way, everything will shine even brighter. Technically speaking. So we get to see Aqours performing as well as Riko in her piano recital at the same time. You can tell they pull off an amazing feat with the crowd applauding. Hey. Is Aqours doing the sign of Black Power? Fist in the air?!

Episode 12
Are you ready to find out if Aqours will advance to the next round? Let’s see… Who the f*ck is Izu Express?! Then they realize the list is by entry number. Oh look, Aqours is on the list! Hooray! They pass! Yes, oh my god indeed, Mari. Even better news is that their PV online is getting more views. But here is the thing that will bring them back to earth: Applicants for Uranohoshi this year is still zero! Oh God. It’s that dreaded number. So with lots of soul searching and thinking, Chika suggests they go back to Tokyo again to see what Muse has that they don’t. Back at the shrine top again, guess who is there again? Saint Snow. They talk and learn Saint Snow is following the footsteps of A-Rise. History repeating itself in a way? I guess Chika asked a stupid question so they have to tell her what else everybody enters Love Live for? To win, of course silly! Aqours then visit Otonokizaka and be awed by its magnificence. When a student of Otonokizaka (Hanayo?) learns they are trying to learn more about Muse, she tells them there is nothing left about them here. They didn’t want to leave anything behind and don’t need those things because their hearts will always be connected. Aqours pay their respect to the school. When they return, Chika has realized why Muse are so amazing. She believes Aqours shouldn’t be like them or chase after them. The amazing about Muse was how they went with nothing and make everyone’s dreams come true. Aqours should be doing things they want their own way. You suggests a hand signal for their group. It looks like an ‘L’ but from another point of view, I thought they look like a gun… Aqours jump with joy with that hand signal and their moto is from zero to one.

Episode 13
We see Aqours training in the summer as well as some of their usual antics. Oh, the number for their school’s open house is still zero. A few of their friends have noticed them practising hard so they talk about their love for their school. At first they thought that there was nothing they can do but after seeing Aqours trying their best, they too want to help out in any way they can. This has Chika thinking that despite hearing everybody saying they love this school and town, why does the number still stand at zero? No, it’s not that everyone is lying. It’s just that the message isn’t getting across. She believes Love Live is not an afterthought. Chika’s mom even returns to lend her support. Oh God. She is a typical anime mom because she looks smaller and younger than Chika! Enough to be her little sister! Aqours is motivated when the entire school wants in to help them out. Wait a minute. Do they not seriously think they can all just go up and perform on stage?! Riko had to break it to them about the rules that only registered members can go up there. Yeah, imagine if they bring the entire country… So we see Aqours having their backstage motivation before heading out to the stage for their regional competition. They start off differently because they are narrating their school’s dire straits and the formation of Aqours. Basically a dramatic summary of what has happened so far. Audiences must be confused if they are watching a play or a concert. Yeah, it lasted over 5 minutes before they get to the real singing and dancing.

Living On Love And Sunshine
Well folks, it looks like if there is a need for it, there is a chance that another sequel for Aqours would be possible. After all, they are going to become better than Muse, right? So what better way to follow in their footsteps and have another, if not more sequels. Because Aqours need to advance and win for our sakes, right? But that is for another time. As far as this spin-off sequel is concerned, personally I am not an idol fan so overall it looks and sounds the same to me. Just repackaging it in a slightly different way and mostly visually. Because it feels like an excuse to distract us that Aqours wants to follow in Muse’s footsteps and thus hiding the fact that we are watching the same plot and journey again but with a different name. Uh huh. Notice how their idol unit is set up just to save the school? How about recruiting members for the group? What about failing and falling back up? A rival to rival them and most important of all, doing their best to win the coveted Love Live title. So similar, right? Might as well rewatch the first 2 seasons of Love Live then.

As I would have guessed and told them from the start when Chika really wanted to become and follow in the footsteps of Muse, Aqours shouldn’t be striving to become like the best school idol group in history ever (for now) because Muse and Aqours are both very different to the core although on the surface they might look the same. Even if this entire storyline feels like going through déjà vu but in a different visual presentation, they are still very much different. Muse is Muse. Aqours is Aqours. They can use Muse as motivation but all Aqours needs to do is to become the best in their own way and pace. Because in that way if they ever become popular, people won’t compare them and say that they are only so because of Muse. That is like they’ve been riding Muse’s wave and will forever be in their shadows.

Well, I certainly have this weird feeling of seeing it all before but yet this season feels different. I mean, if it was completely the same, might as well take out my DVDs of the previous 2 seasons of Love Live and start rewatching them. You can tell the familiar pattern of how the girls are trying to form a new idol group and being the underdog themselves, it isn’t a bed of roses as they will face some sort of obstacle in their bid to win the coveted title. Which of course they’re still a long way to go the way this season plays everything out. Even the ‘completion’ of all the members joining and making Aqours as a whole feels like history repeating itself like Muse since Aqours got all its 9 members after 3/4 of the series. It is around that time that Muse too got completed like that albeit slightly earlier. So do you not think that Aqours is just Muse reborn in a different town?

Making this rebirth of Muse seeing more obvious are the characters themselves. Not only the fact that they have the same number of members, but somehow you could just feel that they are mostly the same characters. Just that they swap hairstyle, hair colour and personalities. And voila! You get a new set of characters for a new group. For example in the looks department, do you not think that Kanan looks suspiciously close to Nozomi? Just take away the boobs. Heh… Then there is the blonde halfie who wields a powerful position in school. Mari is half Italian and the chairwoman while Eri is half Russian and is the student council president. Then there is the joker type who was Niko and her Niko-niko smile, now we have Yoshiko and her fallen angel and chuunibyou crap. Shy girls are still around. If Muse had Hanayo, Aqours has Ruby. Next one is somewhat a bit different but I can think it is to fill in the ‘less feminine’ personality since Rin is a tomboy and they replaced that with Hanamaru the country bumpkin. In terms of roles, it is obvious that Chika is this season’s Honoka as the group’s leader and Riko is the Maki for Aqours since she is the one who only writes songs and plays the piano. Not forgetting the group’s outfit designer are Kotori and You. So do you see how they just swapped everything around and make it sound as though everything is fresh and new?

In view of this, there is not much for me to comment on the girls of Aqours since like I have said, they feel familiar but yet different. But if I want to point out my ‘favourite’ one, it would be Yoshiko because she is a funny girl. Yes, she has a screw loose in her head but she’s funny shamelessly doing her chuunibyou in the middle of public. That’s Yoshiko being Yoshiko (or is it Yohane?). Just like my ‘favourite’ one for Muse was Niko. Because she’s funny. What? You don’t think liking a person because she is funny is not a valid reason? But it seems ever since Aqours became a whole, Yoshiko as the funniest character seems to be taken over by Dia. Uh huh. I believe she is the one that had undergone the most ‘drastic’ change in character among the Aqours members. At first she was very prideful to the point that you’ll be convinced she is just a strict b*tch. But after the issue with her friends are resolved, her funny side shows up and it’s like she can usurp Yoshiko as the comic relief character. Seriously. Then there is Mari too who acts like some sort of stalker to Kanan before and after. Do best friends stalk each other like that? I’m not sure if this is a running joke because Riko is shown to be afraid of Chika’s dog. This phobia seems to be more comical than the phobia of some of Muse’s members. Because Eri was afraid of the dark and Umi was afraid of public performances. So each time she is at her house, it’s like there is this ‘showdown’ between them if it is going to happen or not. When it does, all hell breaks loose as Riko will be running for her life from this canine demon.

Saint Snow is looking to be the destined rival for Aqours although their appearance is just very minimal. It is easy to fall for the trap of trying to compare Saint Snow to their A-Rise counterpart but I believe that on the outside their roles may look like they are similar, we do not have enough information to conclude much about them. Yet. Unless you’re an ardent fan and know everything there is to know about this series. I’m not. Sorry. Is it me or do idol units need to have so many members or just minimal? I thought there would be more members in Saint Snow but it seems there are only 2 of them. Heck, even A-Rise had 3. Yeah, I know. It’s not about the numbers but the quality of their performance. Well, this dismisses my hope to see any one on one showdowns between the rival groups. What the heck am I hoping for?!

Seeing that this is an idol theme series, music plays an important ingredient. Unfortunately I’m not really into this genre so I’m just watching for the sake of ‘nostalgia’ since I have watched the previous Love Live seasons. There are lots of insert songs but none of them really makes my heart jump like the one Muse did, Start:Dash! In fact, that is the only song that I like a lot in the entire Love Live series. Nothing after that comes close to this. So the ending theme, Yume Kataru Yori Yume Utaou sounds decent and lively. It is perhaps the better song for this season if I am forced to pick which is the best song I like. Of course this song has many versions as they are sung by the different mini units of Aqours in addition to the one that is sung as an entire group. The opening theme is Aozora Jumping Heart. Typical idol song but not anything to my liking.

The casts behind Aqours are also a relatively bunch of new seiyuus making their debut or only have minor cameo appearances as background characters in other animes. So we have Anju Inami as Chika, Shuka Saitou as You, Rikako Aida as Riko, Aika Kobayashi as Yoshiko, Kanako Takatsuki as Hanamaru, Ai Furihata as Ruby, Arisa Komiya as Dia and Nanaka Suwa as Kanan. Only Aina Suzuki as Mari has ‘more’ roles than the rest like Shiori in Joukamachi No Dandelion, Kondo in Sansha Sanyou and Tokiko in Bishoujo Yuugi Unit Crane Girls. It is rare to here Kana Asumi these days so it was quite surprising to hear her here as Shima. Kanae Itou also plays a part here as Mito but I didn’t recognize her. Apparently I found out much later that Nana Mizuki and Rie Kugimiya also made their cameos as Riko’s mom and Chika’s mom respectively. Their dialogues are so minimal that I didn’t really get to hear them properly at all. Or maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention…

The art and drawing remain bright and colourful, consistent with the previous seasons of Love Live. After all, they were produced by the veteran studio, Sunrise. So don’t expect to see any big changes in the artwork department because you’ll still have your happy-happy idol girls smiling all the way. Also, they use CGI when the girls are dancing on stage. Although not perfect and you can easily tell this is more 3D animation instead of 2D, at least the difference is not so obvious that it makes watching them perform unbearable. Yeah, at least not robotic. After all, you have to put in some effort if you want people to believe in and be attracted by idols in the thing they do best. You don’t want to fail in this all important visual area, right?

Overall, if you are still into the idol genre, this one should appeal to you. Even more so if you are a fan of the original Love Live and you’re still not over their ‘breaking up’ or ‘end’ and need something new to revitalize your love for the group and brand. Okay, I made that up but if you really enjoying cute and kawaii girls jumping up and down with perfect choreography and synchronicity donning cute and kawaii idol outfits, this series is just like any other idol genre you would expect. Well, I’m not really sure if all-girl group idols are on the decline because recently I noticed there are more reverse harem music genre series coming out recently. From B-Project to Tsukiuta to Magic-Kyun! Renaissance to Dream Festival and don’t forget the Uta No Prince-sama that already has 4 seasons. I don’t want to start a gender idol war or which side does it better but as long as their music can captivate the heart, I’m all for it. Let’s hope Aqours will make their dreams come true before the popularity of idols dies out. You know how fast the rise and fall of idols, right? Out you go if you can’t keep up with the pace. At this rate there will be as much idols there is in Japan as there are stars in the sky. I know there’s a pun somewhere I can make and connect with this… And the chances aren’t zero…

ReLIFE

March 5, 2017

It is pretty normal that all of us as adults would feel that mid-life crisis of having to achieve whatever we aimed for when we were younger. We always dream of going back to our younger days in hopes of redoing things and changing for the better. We all love looking at things retrospectively, huh? Well, don’t worry. According to ReLIFE, you can go back to at least your high school years and redo everything again. Of course, this is just an experimental project but if everything goes right, you might find yourself having a better job. And you can do all this without even having to go back in time via time travelling or to a parallel universe and deal with that time paradox sci-fi crap. All you need to do is take a pill that will turn you looking like in your teens and then pretend to be a student for an entire year. Are you sure they aren’t promoting some sort of age reversing beauty product?

Episode 1
Arata Kaizaki is 27 years old and is still unemployed. After yet another failed interview, he gets this wakeup call from his mom that she is no longer going to support him and send him monthly allowance. Better think fast. Before he can fall into the pits of despair, his ‘saviour’ comes in the form of Ryou Yoake from ReLIFE Lab. He offers him a ‘job’. An experiment actually. It will last for a year and depending on how he performs he might get a real job after that. So do you want the red pill or the blue pill? Next morning when Kaizaki wakes up, he realizes he now looks 10 years younger! Just like in his high school days! He remembers Yoake’s explanation about the experiment that he is going to relive his life as a high school student for a year at Aoba High School. Making the deal sweeter is that all his expenses will be paid but he must keep this a secret or else he will be kicked out of the experiment and his memories of it erased. I mean, what does Kaizaki have to lose, right? He’s on for the ride. If starting (or in his case restarting) his high school life in his third year is already weird, it gets weirder as Yoake is also his classmate! To observe him?! Kaizaki strikes off as weird to the rest because he uses very formal speech. The other main characters that will intertwine with Kaizaki’s life are Kazuomi Oga (smart showy guy), Rena Kariu (bad loser), An Onoya (another transfer student) and Chizuru Hishiro (seemingly unsociable girl but honour student). Their homeroom teacher, Kokoro Amatsu has everyone clear their desks because she is going to give them a quiz. To Kaizaki’s horror, he didn’t bring his stationery. Even worse, when the teacher empties his bag, there is a box of cigarettes! This carelessness could cost him his normal high school life. Please see her after class. But he still has no stationery to do his test. Thank Kariu for lending hers. Kaizaki gets lectured by Amatsu about the dangers of getting hooked on smoking, blah, blah, blah. If she’d only know… Surprisingly he asks her age! The reason being he is envious that she is younger than his actual age and already has a steady job. Later Kaizaki and Yoake talk. The latter confirms his job is to observe and report Kaizaki as a test subject. When Kaizaki complains of how tough it is, Yoake sternly reminds him he told him about this programme to rehabilitate NEETs. So why wouldn’t it not be tough? Later Yoake writes his report on Kaizaki’s complete unpreparedness on his first day. But he is better off than the first sample last year who completely failed.

Episode 2
Well what do you know? Kaizaki failed all his tests! Never thought going back to school was this hard, huh? The test is also to choose the class reps. Oga and Hishiro being the top students got the honours. That’s not the end of it yet. Those who failed will have to retake them. Looking at you Kaizaki. Thankfully he has a ‘comrade’ who did as bad if not worse: Onoya. Oga takes Kaizaki and Onoya to the canteen for lunch. The transfer students cheekily ask if Oga and Kariu are dating because they are quite close. Sorry to disappoint, they’re not. Kaizaki sees Hishiro arguing with the canteen lady. Thinking she forgot her wallet and couldn’t buy lunch, he lends her a thousand yen. She is suspicious of his big money because most things at school do not cost above 300 yen. It’s like as if he is like an adult… Oga explains to him about Hishiro’s predicament. Apparently if you are a top student, you get this silver pin (like him) in which you get to eat for free, tuition fee exempted and all sorts of other perks. Hishiro doesn’t have hers yet. Later in the evening as she goes to pick it up, she stumbles into Kaizaki and they chat. Hishiro has another issue is that she is not the sociable type and doesn’t have many friends. She would like to change so Kaizaki suggests her to smile. Wow. Looks scary! Maybe that’s why she doesn’t smile. It took some time before Kaizaki understood her hint that she wants to be friends with him. They then exchange phone numbers. Back home, Kaizaki is having it tough doing his homework. After a decade, he’s given it back all to the teacher, eh? Also, he almost got tempted to smoke but remembers Amatsu’s words. He gets a call from Yoake who observed he made friends with Hishiro. Yoake knows a bit on her because he was in the same class with her last year. She was alone the whole time. He reminds him once this experiment is over, everyone in his school will get their memories erased on him. Of course Kaizaki will retain his as it would pointless doing so. Unless he breaks the rules. Kaizaki gets a mail from Hishiro thanking him for covering her during lunch and adding her as his friend. It made his day.

Episode 3
Kaizaki receives a thank you letter from Hishiro in his shoebox. The funniest thing is how she folded the money to repay him. Bad news: Kaizaki and Onoya fail their retake tests! And they did much worse! What the f*ck happened?! Hishiro tries to make friends with others but she had to put up that creepy smile and this sends wrong signals to Kariu thinking this is some sort of challenge and making fun of her. The class take a fitness test. The first task is to see how far they can throw a ball. Kaizaki sniggers at Oga when he can only manage 2 metres. He’s got the brains but not so athletic? Snigger, snigger. When it is Kaizaki’s turn, he is going to give his best shot but his shoulder gives way! Only manages a metre. Oga gets the last laugh. I guess despite Kaizaki’s young looks, his body is still old on the inside. When Kaizaki is ogling at Kariu with her friend, Honoka Tamarai, Akira Inukai is about the beat him up for leering at them but luckily Nobunaga Asaji takes him away. Kariu misunderstands Hishiro further when the latter asks her to take over her duty of timekeeping (since she was the closest to her) and putting up that creepy smile. When it is the guys’ turn to run, Kaizaki makes a mad dash. He feels good for taking the lead when suddenly his feet give way and tumbles badly. Oh man, his knee is really busted and bleeding like mad. But that’s not the most embarrassing thing. Asaji carries him like a princess and rushes over to the infirmary. Thankfully it is nothing serious as he can still walk normally the next day. Kariu is shocked when he sees Kaizaki and Hishiro together. It is the fact that Hishiro can naturally smile while she is with him. But when they contact, Hishiro puts up that creepy smile. She thinks Hishiro pretends to be serious and acts nice around boys. Yoake compiles a very detailed report on his observations on Kaizaki about how he is fitting in well and already forming his own circle of friends. Compared to Kaizaki’s ‘lazy’ report of ‘nothing out of the ordinary happens’ in each entry. Yoake notes Kaizaki’s life is improving and smiling more than he was as a NEET.

Episode 4
Kariu narrates that she couldn’t care less about the perks of having the silver pin. It was the status of being number one. Making it even worse is that Hishiro is always putting up that creepy smile and she thinks this is some sort of harassment. Although her friend Tamarai has a better smile, Kariu still sees her as a rival in another sort of way since Tamarai is better than her in other stuffs like athletics. Making Kariu’s blood boil is seeing Hishiro eating alone at the canteen and she thinks she is trying to make her situation more sympathetic. Oga is not pleased that Kaizaki and Onoya continue to fail their makeup tests! It’s giving him a bad name at this rate. So when Oga suggests to get Hishiro to teach them since they are both silver pins, Kaizaki is reluctant. Oga thinks he is jealous of other guys talking to her. Back home, Kaizaki talks to Hishiro about her being unsociable especially he noticed Kariu had that aura that was ready to kill her. But from her answer, it’s as though Hishiro is like emotionally unstable. Kaizaki then calls another loner: Yoake. However he prefers to stick to his observation job instead of making friends. Next day, before Hishiro could say anything to Kariu, the latter gets up and leaves. Hishiro goes for a committee meeting with Oga and this makes Kariu wonder if she puts up the same smile to Oga as she does for Kaizaki. Too much thinking on this has caused her to lose concentration. When she was in her first year, she got the silver pin for the first term but failed to maintain it for the next few terms. Next year, she made sure she got it for the entire year. Now, the silver pin isn’t just about status. It’s about the right to be by Oga’s side. When she goes to return the gym key after school hours, she sees Hishiro talking to a teacher in the staff room. She gets jealous thinking Hishiro is tops without putting in any effort so she decides to steal her bag and drop it somewhere. Unfortunately she bumps into Kaizaki. He notices she has 2 bags and recognizes one of them belonging to Hishiro. Kariu runs away but he catches her. During the struggle, she falls off the stairs. Kaizaki grabs her but cannot maintain his balance and also falls down. Once Hishiro is done, she finds her bag missing and sees the duo unconscious at the bottom of the stairs.

Episode 5
Kaizaki wakes up in the infirmary. No serious injuries. As he tries to think why Kariu did this, he remembers bullies in his workplace sabotaging his senior out of jealousy. Although she knew it wasn’t her fault, she still apologized to the boss. She told Kariu that those bullies have lost their way and resorted to this to win. Seeing this doesn’t make her mad but sad. So when Kariu wakes up, he asks her a lot and tells her straight up not to run away. She tells the truth so he advises her based on his experience not to give up because she has been working hard on her own accord. Kariu is still annoyed because despite doing her best, she is not good enough and even more so she is not even acknowledged as a rival. He tells her not to compare herself to others. She breaks down for a while but gets back on her feet. When Kaizaki leaves, he sees Hishiro waiting at the gates. She was curious about something and needed to ask him and so she waited. Kaizaki tells the truth on what Kariu did. Since she is a little dense, she decides to wait and ask Kariu directly. After all, the other question she wanted to ask was why Kaizaki was hugging Kariu when they fell. Better to ask this question later. One question at a time. Kaizaki can’t leave this suspense alone and hides nearby to eavesdrop. Kariu is now at the gates with Hishiro. She thinks she is screwed but Hishiro straight up asks if she would be her friend if she gives her silver pin. And also everything that Kaizaki said. Kariu accuses her for mocking her each time their eyes met. But Kariu thinks back for a while on what Kaizaki said and has her smile. See that creepy smile? Yup, she sucks at smiling! So this smile was what Hishiro was hoping for them to be friends? No wonder the misunderstanding. Hishiro although admits is a smart person, is not good in interacting with others and wants to change. They reconcile and shake hands to become friends. Kariu vows to get the silver pin from her but not the easy way. So don’t you dare lose on purpose. Later Kariu texts Kaizaki about ratting her out but thanks him for this. Kaizaki wonders if he did the right thing because he knows all too better that reality is crueller. Yoake says whenever she is in a tough situation in the future, she’ll probably remember what he said to her because it stood out. Then Yoake teases him for being a kettle calling a pot black.

Episode 6
Kaizaki is shocked that Oga and Onoya are already outside his doorstep to do group study. Hold on. Need to clean up the beer cans, cigarette butts and past high school certificates. While studying, Kaizaki and Onoya tease Oga to get a girlfriend and they could use this as motivation to pass their test. Kaizaki almost gets into trouble when Onoya picks up his calendar and sees his ReLIFE schedule. He quickly takes it from her hand and throws it at the wall like as though it was to kill some bug. After Oga has to leave for a part time job, Kaizaki dreads being with Onoya alone. She asks about the calendar and all. Kaizaki manages to bluff that it was for a part time job. It makes her start thinking he might be the one working at the convenience store at the train station. She takes off her glasses and undoes her hair. Look familiar? Nope. Well of course. She thinks he looked more mature then. Kaizaki is shocked when Onoya claims she fell in love with him at first sight. She starts flirting with him and wants to be his girlfriend. Fortunately his resistance is strong and rejects her. She needs to take better care of herself. Yoake who has been eavesdropping makes a mad dash to Kaizaki’s place. He has a key to his place so don’t worry about breaking down his door. Onoya gets the wrong idea the guys are in a gay relationship! But Yoake is serious. He reminds Onoya about getting too close with the subject matter all the time. Now forcing her way into his room is too much. Yup, Onoya is from ReLIFE Lab with Yoake. So that love at first sight was a lie, eh? Just a test? At least he is prepared if he is in a similar situation. Kaizaki further learns that both of them are actually the same age as him. Onoya mentions not all she said was a lie. She did ‘fall in love at first sight’ and did meet at that store. In fact, she was the one who picked Kaizaki as the subject when she saw his data. She was supposed to be Kaizaki’s support but since she didn’t complete her training, Yoake took over. They apologize and hope they can work together. It’s a good thing Kaizaki isn’t mad, right? A can of beer is enough a solution to calm things down.

Episode 7
A flashback on Yoake’s term. He was warned by the executives for getting too close and involved with the first test subject termed as 001. So when 001 asked for advice and Yoake reminded him he is only a support. At the same time Yoake got a request to check out Kaizaki who is potential as test subject 002. He visits him working part time at the convenience store and plants his lost wallet. Surprisingly it took Kaizaki fast enough to return to him honestly. When the experiment on 001 failed, Yoake is again reprimanded for not giving enough support. So what do you think he should do then? Onoya thought she could cheer him up by telling him that Kaizaki has been approved to be selected as a test subject. Yoake knew Onoya would be mad at him since she wanted to handle Kaizaki but he jumped on her and met up with Kaizaki to offer him this experiment. Later Yoake and Onoya discuss about Kaizaki as a good potential for ReLIFE since he has lost his confidence for his social skills, which makes him perfect for this experiment. That night Yoake gets a surprise call from Kaizaki that he needs a medicine to turn back to his actual age for a while. Because he is going to quit his job and tell everyone he’d be away for another year, at least he wants the courtesy to tell them face to face. Yoake processes his request in time for him to do the necessary. Kaizaki is grateful for helping him out. Then he takes the pill again and knows he can’t turn back. Now Yoake happily types his report that Kaizaki attempts to improve each time he demonstrates remorse. His forward thinking nature is infectious and starting to change things around him. Yoake can’t wait to see what kind of effect this will have on him and those around him.

Episode 8
Guess what Kaizaki fails his tests again! Fortunately Onoya passed. Bye. You’re on your own. Kaizaki is forced to see Amatsu but it seems there is another student who failed: Tamarai. Amatsu warns her she is already in her third year and if she keeps this up, she can’t play in the volleyball tournament. Later Kaizaki and Tamarai talk. She attributes Kariu for helping make volleyball fun for her. Tamarai then asks if Oga and Onoya are dating. Definitely not. When Kaizaki returns to class, Hishiro also poses the same question to him. He couldn’t stop laughing. Tamarai then tells Kariu that Oga isn’t seeing anyone. Kariu is shocked because she didn’t ask for this. When Tamarai is to go change to practice, she overheard girls badmouthing about her talent that probably gives her a free pass to a lot of things and they think it will upset Kariu. Tamarai hides when she learns Kariu is coming. Kariu also hears this trash talk and will not take any of it. She chides them how Tamarai works harder when everyone else has gone home. The girls cannot reply and run away. Tamarai feels very grateful she has a friend like that. Tamarai crashes at Inukai’s place to study. It pays off as she passes her tests. Kaizaki? HE STILL FAILS???!!! WTF???!!! Tamarai thought she could return to practice peacefully but all that studying has made her weak. She partially collapses on the court. Because she also accidentally spilled the box with volleyballs, it caused Kariu to trip and sprain her ankle. She’ll be out of action for a while. And the tournament is in a few more weeks. Both girls try to blame themselves. Tamarai thought of cheering her up that she could heal fast but Kariu snaps back that even if she heals, she cannot play because she needs to practice. She is not like her who has talent. Therefore by being on the team or not it does not matter or affect anything. As long as Tamarai is around, they’ll win. This hurts Tamarai a great deal. Only place of solace is in Inukai’s arms.

Episode 9
Tamarai is getting very friendly with Hishiro. But the mere sight of Kariu, Tamarai runs away. This leads Hishiro to think something is very wrong. When Oga tries to help, Kariu becomes agitated and short tempered. Although he still helps her, Kariu reflects how wrong she was and feeling guilty of taking out her frustrations on him. Of course Kaizaki also notices something strange going on because Hishiro, Kariu and Tamarai are close friends now and yet they’re eating separately. Kariu has also stopped going to volleyball practice. He gets a message from Hishiro wanting to talk to him for advice. She is outside his doorstep now. Couldn’t she just called? Didn’t think of that… She tells about the awkwardness between Kariu and Tamarai before expanding a bullying story in her class last year. She wanted to stop it but the bullying got worse but kept thinking maybe if she just put up with it, everything will go away. It didn’t and she regretted it since she didn’t do anything eventually and the victim transferred to another school. This has Kaizaki tell of his own experience of bullying in his workplace although he explains it in a high school way. Merely remembering his senior getting bullied and putting up with it traumatizes him. It got bad enough that he hugs Hishiro and apologizes before realizing too late what happened. Hishiro forgives him and suggests they team up and get their ‘revenge’. She wants to forget her failure of running away and maybe there are things one can learn through failing. The duo go to talk to Tamarai after her practice. She tells the truth. Inukai happen to heard this and he forcefully brings Kariu to come and listen quietly. Kariu hears Tamarai revealing she wasn’t going to play volleyball in high school.

Episode 10
Tamarai adds she is good in other sports too that other people resent her. Especially volleyball. So when she came to high school, she was just checking out in hope against hope since she was sick of the game. That’s where she met Kariu. She thought nobody would know her in this high school since it doesn’t place emphasis on sports. But Kariu called her out and tested her. She recognized her talents and became her friend-cum-rival. Thanks to her, Tamarai had wonderful memories. Now she is afraid they won’t be friends at this rate. Hishiro relates her own experience. It’s like saying if she continued her anti-social ways like her, she’ll end up like Hishiro. In a way the bond between them makes Hishiro jealous. When they leave, they see the busybodies eavesdropping. Too late to hide. Tamarai tries to talk to Kariu to come back but she has already made up her mind. She has resigned from the club and is done with this. Everyone hopes Kariu would show up at the volleyball game. They believed in her. Too bad she didn’t believe in them. Hishiro is going to drag her here but nobody knows where she lives. Yoake sticking his nose in by giving Kaizaki the address. Let’s just say he got it from sensei. They fake delivery so Kariu would open the door. Although Kariu claims she doesn’t want to go, it looks like she is dressed for the part. After all that stubbornness and Hishiro telling her to finally knock it off and not waste everything they have worked for, cue for Kariu to break down and give even more excuse why she just can’t come back in like that. Need a reason? Here’s an update on their volleyball team: They lost a set. And so Kariu changes her mind and comes back to play with Tamarai. It looks like they lost the set again. Kariu and Tamarai talk and reconcile while crying (partly due to the loss). Why is Hishiro sitting in between them? To cut a long story short, they can still continue playing volleyball in college and it’s enough for them to reconcile. Oh, a big girl hug for Hishiro as thanks too. Not that creepy smile again.

Episode 11
Kaizaki requests Yoake for the pill to temporary turn him back to an adult again because it is the death anniversary of his senior, Michiru Saiki. Yoake agrees to do it but on condition that he comes along with him to the graves. As Kaizaki prays, he remembers his past and regrets. The black company he works in has no redeeming factor. It was all worth it because of Saiki. She was a good mentor. Of course we all know about the bullying case. Against her advice to ‘grow up’, Kaizaki went to voice his displeasure against those bullies. The harassment only worsened. Shortly after, Saiki hung herself. After the police ruled this as suicide, what irked Kaizaki the most was that everyone in the company acted as though her death never happened. He lashed out at them once more and this time he has had it. He tenders his resignation. His boss reminds him to rethink since it will look suspicious on his resume he quit a job after only 3 months. Better than spending another second in this rotten company, right? That’s when his boss changed his attitude. Reminding him only executives can resign, trash like him will be given notice and then forgotten. So get the hell out now! You’re fired! This traumatized him for a while as he ponders had he took up Saiki’s advice, would he still remain as a productive member of society? On the way out, he bumps into a couple of people who recognize him. They claim they are newbies from the company he worked in and joined after he left. They know him from the photo album and the boss always talked trash about that guy who left after 3 months and kept praising Saiki as the company’s hero (so that everyone should follow her example and work themselves to death for the company?). They too are unhappy with this black company and want to quit but afraid of the repercussions. They admire Kaizaki for what he did because nobody could have done so. Kaizaki never knew his rebellion had this effect and looking at them just reminded him of himself. He advises them about the harsh reality after quitting. The failure to secure another full time job. He hates that company and not giving his life to it. But had he not joined, he wouldn’t have met certain people. He is glad to have quit. Later Kaizaki has a hunch that Yoake set this up. True enough he did. He thought it might help him to start looking forward if he learns what he did gave hope to those that came after him. Kaizaki might not have erased the guilt of not saving Saiki but he feels a bit better and knows his voice has reached someone.

Episode 12
Kaizaki is happy summer holidays are around the corner but Oga reminds him that he has remedial classes during that. Sorry pal. But isn’t that what he has been doing the entire semester? Yeah, he failed yet another makeup test. Because Kaizaki remembers Yoake mentioning about Oga’s feelings for Kariu, Kaizaki asks if there is anyone he likes. Shocked at first, Oga tries to give funny answers like he loves everybody. But for each question Kaizaki poses he would like to do with a girl, Oga can only think of Kariu. Oga then questions back if Oga has kissed a girl before. He has. The shocking answer has Oga in shock and now Kaizaki acts like a big boss. On the way home, they see Kariu talking to a guy. Isn’t that guy the junior from Kaizaki’s ex-company? It seems like she is rejecting something and when she loses her balance, he catches her. Oga immediately comes out of hiding while Kaizaki continues to cower in hopes his name will be called. Don’t ask me for help! When Kariu is reluctant to say, that guy is glad Oga is her friend. Seems Kariu has heat stroke. He was just passing by and wanted to help her by calling an ambulance but she refused. With this drama over, Oga and Kariu chat. Kariu didn’t like how he calls her weird because of her sincerity today. He is laughing despite she hit him. That night, Kaizaki gets a message from Oga that he has fallen in love with Kariu. He is glad this has finally happened. It’s like waited for this moment to happen in his boring high school life. So the next day, Oga is going to ask the master how to get the girl. Hishiro, Yoake and Onoya have heard this and also pitch in their ideas. Unfortunately they have no experience whatsoever so we can just ignore them. Hishiro seems to hint jealousy that Kaizaki has got ‘experience with women’ before. So Oga screws whatever they’re thinking because he has decided. He is going to ask Kariu out to the festivals and confess. Kariu is shocked when she receives his invitation. Did he send to the wrong person? She realizes her worries were for nothing since Oga also invited the rest.

Episode 13
Kariu texts back to the girls that she is worried because Oga might go to a different college and so as not to regret this might be their last chance together, she hopes they can make them alone together. So the plan works out well. If they didn’t do it in such an obvious way. On the busy bridge, Oga suddenly confesses he loves her. Is her heart ready to hear that? Not quite. After all that flustering and regaining her composure. It’s her turn to confess she has liked him since the first year and wants to go out with him. Is he ready to hear that? Didn’t think so. So after all the awkwardness, blushing and delayed reactions, looks like they’re going to be a couple. We take a detour to Kaizaki being left alone with Hishiro watching the fireworks. He is thinking Yoake’s irritating comment that he didn’t like seeing him with Hishiro (Yoake was with Hishiro at the start) although Kaizaki justifies that ‘jealousy’ to be the rare sight of him being with Hishiro. When Hishiro mentions she is glad to have met him, Kaizaki starts evaluating if this ReLIFE is worth living. Because it makes him sad that once this ends, she’ll forget about him. And he can kiss goodbye to this life. Yeah, school days are the best, right? Then this is the biggest shocking revelation ever. Maybe. Hishiro is test subject 001. Not too sure if she remembers her past (in which she shouldn’t) because she notes how the more fun she has, the more hurtful it will be when they part. She might be saying this unconsciously since well, the body might remember. When everyone reunites, they cheer at Oga and Kariu holding hands. Mission accomplished. After the friends part ways, Kaizaki walks Hishiro home. He ponders more about being forgotten. But you know what? Screw all that. The moment is now and he is going to live it. It feels like they’re trying to force some sort of final romantic liaisons between them but Kaizaki always stops himself with the dilemma when Hishiro won’t remember him in the end. There’s a moment he thought of kissing her and a moment she accidentally fall onto him and he catches her. Tempting, right? But no. Kaizaki remains his calmness. Can’t risk it. At least she holds his hands for balance to walk on her geta. Onoya and Yoake are eavesdropping this and although the outcome they hoped for didn’t materialize (you suck, Kaizaki), at least Yoake has a good report to write.

Second (High School) Childhood
Well, well, well. What do you know? I suppose that with the drama heading down towards boringness and that the end isn’t going to give us much closure, they decide to drop the revelation bomb that Hishiro is that mysterious test subject that we have all been wondering. If we cared anyway. Although I didn’t really guess it was her, when it was revealed she was 001, it didn’t come to me as a shocking surprise. Because my guts were telling that 001 had to be someone we all know. Well, it would have been better had 001 remained a mysterious because now my head is flooded with sudden unanswerable questions that I will forever be too lazy to find myself or even Google the answer. For instance, if Hishiro failed her ReLIFE (and it was a quick one too), what the f*ck is she still doing here in school? Isn’t she supposed to be dumped somewhere with no memories of her failed high school experiment life and going back to her useless life? Unless Yoake broke protocol and let her continue. Because it is also questionable how she remembers Yoake from last year if that is the case. If so, do you think the higher ups will allow this? This also means she is about the same age as Kaizaki, right? Another failure of society, right? Thus I can conclude my biggest assumption of why she failed the experiment miserably is because of her creepy smile. Yeah, that might be it.

Oddly, the broadcast of this series wasn’t your usual an episode per week. There are very few anime series that don’t follow this pattern like Katanagatari which aired an episode per month for an entire year. But for ReLIFE, when it was first aired, all of its episodes were released simultaneously on the Japanese streaming website, Comico. So instead of waiting for your weekly anime, you get to watch the entire 24 minute episode anime in one setting. Though, other traditional broadcasting stations did air it on a weekly basis but for those who cannot wait, the web is always you greatest source of instant gratifications. Sort of.

The story and pacing is moderate and for those who aren’t used to such romance drama, may feel it is a bit slow. The name of this anime and even the setting you read in the synopsis may give you a projection that this is some sort of sci-fi genre. There is literally none of it here. Just pure romance drama genre. That’s all. After all, what else can a 27 year old do back in high school? You make friends, you help out your friends, you study together, you eat together and you have fun together. Sounds kinda boring, right? But as you watch Kaizaki make his friends and continue his daily high school life, you will start to forget he is taking up this job as an experiment despite reminders from time to time. It certainly feels more like a high school drama.

The characters are a mixed bag. You thought Kaizaki would be the main protagonist in focus since he is the subject of the experiment and has taken the pill. This is only true for the first few episodes before it starts slowly shifting towards Kariu. So for the middle parts of the show, it feels like this show belongs to Kariu! Of course that flashback episode of Kaizaki and his employment just to remind us that he is what this show is supposed to be about but then we’re back on track of being distracted to other characters and now on Oga’s confession. Well, I suppose Kaizaki did get his wish of not wanting to stand out so often. A few supporting characters feel like a miss and disappointment too especially Inukai and Asaji. I thought these guys would play some sort of important role but they’re just forgettable. Inukai is like some guy with anger management issues if not grumpy outlook that makes you think he is some sort of unofficial ‘protector’ to some of the girls while Asaji is like his total opposite to cool things down with a smile and ‘neutralize’ the heated situation.

Personally, I feel Kaizaki seems to be doing better redoing his high school compared to still be on the streets finding a secure job. At least we see him being sociable and you might say his greatest achievement in his life is making a sociably inept girl more sociable and patching up a friendship between the volleyball friends. I want to point out about his running joke that he keeps failing his tests every time and seems to be on a 100% record streak. And this is just the first semester. But then again when I put myself in his shoes, I think I will not do any better! I mean, do I really have to go resit and study again all those topics that I have given back to my teacher? No way! I can’t do it! I just can’t! That’s why when I snigger each time this running joke comes into play, this instantly gets brought up in my mind. At this rate, can Kaizaki even graduate? Maybe he could take on this high school student as his permanent job… Kaizaki might not have gone back in time to fix things, but in this case he can improve on what he is now and move forward for a better future. See, it works too and you don’t need sci-fi to fix all that. Even if his ReLIFE will not work out in the future but at least he made positive changes to those around him.

Coming back to Hishiro again, she might be smart in books but dense in everything else. I’m sure we have this kind of character in our school days. With this fact that Hishiro is a smart student, it makes you think again how the heck in the first place did she get selected by ReLIFE? Isn’t that an experiment to test NEETs? Don’t tell me she improved like hell over the year. Oh, here’s another theory. Because they emptied her mind by erasing those unnecessary memories, her brain is now freer and clearer to absorb more materials. Yes! That must be it! Or it could be that schools don’t teach and prepare you about the working life… Great grades but zero in job getting requirements. She can thank Kaizaki for allowing herself to open up more and mix around with others. Though, she might want to work on her facial expression. And try harder not to smile like a serial killer, okay? Then we’ve got Kariu who takes up a bulk of the drama of this series with her insecurities. She tries to compare herself to others and when she doesn’t get the desired outcome, she tries to act tough. She needs to be more of herself. It is good to know that she has good friends like Tamarai around because bad ones will forever traumatize her but instead recovers.

Too bad if you were hoping for some sort of Kaizaki x Hishiro romance. Some subtle hints and seemingly forced ones at the end but that could be just our minds thinking too much. Instead, we get Oga x Kariu romance drama instead. Yeah, even smart guys like him need to have some romance. He is such a patient guy and doesn’t give up on Kaizaki who keeps failing every damn test. Last but not least, Yoake and Onoya. They’re trying to do their job and blending in without raising suspicions. Yoake isn’t as sporting as Onoya but they do try support Kaizaki in every possible way they can. After all, if Kaizaki fails, they will also fail. In the end, everybody too has their problems. Nobody is free of them whether you are young or old. That’s life.

This series subtly tries to highlight the shady sides of certain discriminating company policies and the grown up life. I believe not only in Japan but in all other parts of the world too there are unscrupulous companies like this. It feels like they are trying to paint society and the working life as bad while high school life is so much fun and free. Well, when you are a kid, what kind of responsibilities do you shoulder? That’s why it is such a pain when you grow up and suddenly all the responsibilities to be part of society fall right into your hands. That’s why typical salarymen everywhere always get drunk in bars after work, ruing the better days they had and wishing the what-ifs and opportunities had they taken. It’s like wishing to do it all again, right? There are certainly the good, the bad and the ugly in the working life. It all depends on your mind set and the culture you come from. Basically that is what a big majority of the modern life is. Unless you’re super special, it’s either you’re in and stuck with the flow or you’re out and a failure. Something must be very wrong with our modern society to have this kind of system, huh?

Art and drawing are also nothing to complain about. Everything looks pretty normal and bright, meeting today’s standards of Japanese anime. Furthermore, this is more of romance and drama so you don’t need intricate details in every artwork to make people go wow. Heck, will people even praise or comment the visuals? It’s not bad but it’s not something that you would notice right away and comment on it. This series is animated by the veteran studio, TMS Entertainment who also did Amaama To Inazuma, Orange, Kamisama Hajimemashita, Jitsu Wa Watashi Wa, Gugure! Kokkuri-san, Itazura Na Kiss. Yeah, don’t count the countless Detective Conan and Lupin III animations they did over the years.

Voice acting is pretty okay, nothing to shout about. I only recognized Haruka Tomatsu as Kariu and Miyuki Sawashiro as Amatsu. The rest of the casts are Kensho Ono as Kaizaki (Slaine in Aldnoah.Zero), Ai Kayano as Hishiro (Inori in Guilty Crown), Yuuma Uchida as Oga (Kasumi in Qualidea Code), Ryohei Kimura as Yoake (Kodaka in Boku Wa Tomodachi Ga Sukunai), Reina Ueda as Onoya (Mira in Dimension W), Himika Akaneya as Tamarai (Lala Manaka in Pretty Rhythm All Star Selection), Noriaki Sugiyama as Inukai (Shirou in Fate/Stay Night), Daisuke Namikawa as Asaji (Rock in Black Lagoon) and Shizuka Itou as Saiki (Haruka in Amagami SS).

The opening theme sounds like generic pop rock, Button by Penguin Research. But for an anime that has only 1 season worth of episodes, every ending theme is different. This isn’t the first anime to do it since very few and rare animes before it have done this before, namely Sora No Otoshimono and Seraphim Call. Lucky Star is another one but this anime mainly sings karaoke parodies of other anime themes. Yeah, they even beat the Monogatari series that has a habit of having a few different opening and ending themes but they repeat for a few episodes. This one is different for EVERY episode. Unfortunately, none that really attracts me but I’ll note a few noteworthy ones like Iijuu Rider by Tamio Okuda (first ending theme), the disco rock of Hot Limit by T.M. Revolution (second), the 70’s-like feel of Timing by Black Biscuits (third), the old rock-n-roll school-like Kore Wa Watashi No Ikiru Michi by Puffy (fifth), the lovely slow ballad of Yuki No Hana by Mika Nakashima (eight) and the calming Asu E No Tobira by I Wish (tenth). Later as I learnt that these songs are not new songs but old songs from the 90’s to 2000’s when they were popular in mainstream music. This choice of music selection is to somewhat parody the song preferences Kaizaki hear because we all know he is an adult in his late twenties. As I read too, each song also reflects an aspect in Kaizaki’s life. Not that I am interested to know more about this trivia anyway.

I also want to point out that many of the BGMs I hear are piano based. While some are like lounge music, there are a few that are oddly strange. Especially those frenzy ones. Uh huh. There is one piece in which there is this very chaotic finger drilling frenzy played in short bursts, then it completely stops and a short silence follows then back to that chaotic play again. Repeat style. It’s like they take a five year old and tell him to mash the piano keys and you get this ‘cacophony’. It’s so bad that it’s good kinda feeling. It is really weird hearing this song especially they played in one strange during one of the dramatic episodes. It feels funny and odd that they are trying to match the pace of the song with the drama of the conversation. Well, they certainly timed it well but I just can’t seem to get that song out of might head each time I think about that scene.

Overall, this is not a bad anime but there is nothing that makes it interesting after you read the plot of undergoing an experiment to redo your high school life again. There is no sort of twist whatsoever (turns out Kaizaki could be sleeping in a pod like in The Matrix! Surprise, mother f*ckers!) and is just purely your high school romance drama. To some (like yours truly) it might bring back not so fond memories of your high school years. Yeah, those weren’t nostalgic times for me. And then when you put yourself in Kaizaki’s shoes of redoing school life again, it gives you the chills. Don’t want to study and fail my tests! Ever! The pill might make you look younger but your inside isn’t so you aren’t technically an immortal. Given a choice, I would not take the pill and go back to sleep, continuing my dream. I’d rather continue moving ahead with my boring uneventful otaku life than pick this. It’s the life that I’ve gotten used to. Sometimes changing for the sake of changing isn’t necessarily a good thing even if it is for better or worse.

N/B: If Yoake gets his seventh test subject, he should get James Bond… Test subject number 007… :-)

Gintama S4

March 4, 2017

More Gintama?! Oh yeah! Bring it on! What is there more to say? Let it get rolling, season 4! As usual, my blog will be just listing down some of the episodes I enjoyed and the important arcs.

Episode 266-267: What a way to start the season with Gintama holding a press conference to apologize about the misuse of funds. Not that we care! Anyway the story proper has everyone except Gintoki, Kagura and Shinpachi frozen in time. As expected, it was Gintoki’s fault in destroying some intergalactic clock and not giving a hoot about it since he was recovering from a hangover. So they try to leave it to Gengai to fix it and no matter how they adjust whatever variables, Gengai and/or Hasegawa gets killed! How the f*ck did this even end up in some Dragonball showdown?! Then they realize it is just out of batteries and go through a whole lot of crap just to get the batteries. Yeah, there seems to be some sort of conspiracy in preventing them in getting the batteries and making it more complicated. So complicated that we don’t know how the timeline changed to Otae marrying an anthromorphic sound effect guy. And when everything goes from bad to worse, even Gintoki and co are now frozen in time (because it is the wrong battery type), that guy just inserts the right batteries to reset everything. Like it all never happened. Hey, this is Gintama for you. What do you expect?

Episode 268: Yamazaki must be bored and sick of eating anpan while he stakes out Yorozuya. With Tama to the rescue (misinterpreting her words), he starts stalking her instead. Of course Sougou finds out about it and you know how he is going to screw everything up. So he sets up a marriage meeting between the Shinsengumi and Yorozuya. You know how both sides hate each other, right? So it is like they are sabotaging the entire event and it is just pitiful for Yamazaki trying to salvage everything but was for naught. A little chat with Tama in the end restores his confidence and normalcy till he had to vomit on her. Oops…

Episode 269: Gintoki and Tsukuyo are forced to teach Seita some history lessons. You know how boring it is, right? So the only way to make him interest is to add lots of exaggerated crap in it. Yeah, changing history? More like fantasy! Till Hinowa ends with an even absurd tale, which is a big warning for the adults to restart a proper history lesson for Seita. Shinpachi is holding some porn for his friend. Of all people, why did he get Gintoki’s advice to hide porn in his room from Otae? People, do not take their advices here. This is how NOT to hide porn. In the end, they find this naughty manga fits nicely with the other normal manga. Like hiding a leaf in the forest. They head out and realize they forgot to clean up the S&M equipment that was used during all the silly examples.

Episode 270: Ayame makes a secret chamber behind the mirror of Yorozuya’s toilet just to spy on Gintoki. But she gets more than she bargained for when she sees Shinpachi’s chest hair and Kagura’s cat tail. The last straw came when Gintoki reveals his baldness and uses the chest hair and cat tail as something naughty so Ayame breaks out and kicks his crotch before running away. They knew Ayame was behind it all along and just to teach her a lesson. But she soon comes back and this time without a mirror but imitating them like one. Yamazaki hears his colleagues badmouthing him despite getting special distinction from a mission. So he thought of applying for something cool like having a ninja licence along with Zenzou. So why does every training must have them abuse the old ninja lady? So by the time they take the last test that involves killing her, old ninja lady kills off her old ninja husband. The reward is a ninja licence or chikuwa. Yamazaki made the right choice for opting the latter.

Episode 271-272: Gintoki, Katsura and Sakamoto join a reunion for the Joi members. Other than Takasugi who didn’t even want to attend, they suddenly have vague memories that there must have been a 5th member supporting them from behind but cannot remember. So who the f*ck is this Tasuke Kurokono? They definitely cannot remember him but try as hard as they might to avoid any awkwardness when he arrives. But remembering the memories feels like a farce since we have them reminiscing about their high school basketball tournament and everything always leads back to that damn Pokari can drink. Or Yakulk? And what is this about Gintoki scamming every one of their money to buy Yakulk? Then the memories come back… They remember during a war when both sides have taken heavy casualties and are resting on their respective sides. Gintoki and Takasugi got into an argument about whores so it is suggested to calm their tension down by playing kick the can. Kurokono was counting in the temple when the enemies launch a surprise attack. But Gintoki and co anticipated this ambush and fought back, including blowing up the temple. So okay… They killed Kurokono?! So could this be his ghost has come back to organize this reunion and drag them to hell? Oh sh*t… Gintoki seems to be sweating in his pants (I don’t think singing Doraemon’s theme song would calm any nerves) and the other 2 were nonchalant about it that they got ‘abducted’ by the ‘ghost’. Turns out to be Henpeita Takechi and Matako Kijima of Kiheita setting up this to get rid of them as they believe they will become a hindrance in the future to Takasugi’s ambitions. So when they begin their final ghostly assault, Gintoki remembers what happened. While the troops were sleeping, Kurokono said his goodbye and left the force because he felt he couldn’t contribute any better. He hopes to be forgotten. But Gintoki told him it wouldn’t be a problem if just one guy remembered him and if they are in trouble, come back and help them again. Gintoki fights back and even Kurokono makes his mysterious appearance to put a stop to this farce. Next morning when Katsura and Sakamoto wake up not remembering anything last night, did Gintoki remember a thing? Nope. He forgot everything.

Episode 273: Hijikata is forced to hold onto a lost lottery ticket. Imagine his great dilemma when he discovers it as the winning ticket of 300 million! Even worse, Gintoki is the holder of this lost ticket! Tempting not to give it back, right? And so with money comes corruption because not only Hijikata sees evil Mohawk gang illusions trying to take money, they get involved with a real Mohawk gang robbing a bank! Attempts to break free only make it worse for them because they end up aiding in robbing more banks and dispatching police officers! In the end, they realize that their life is not worth being controlled by scraps of paper and tear the ticket up. But what about the real 300 million that was burnt during the final getaway? How are they going to repay that? Well, they’re going to buy more lottery tickets…

Episode 274: Yorozuya trying to advertise?! After all those parodies, ripping off and silly selfish desires, I guess they end up fighting and the best picture for it all is that big fight on a paper smeared by Sadaharu’s paw. After the aftermath in the Kabukichou Four Devas Arc, we see new ones taking over their respective group. But who is the one that rule them all? Not tranny Ago or gangster Katsuo or even Gintoki. But Otae! She holds a meeting to come up with a mascot to improve Kabukichou’s image. As usual, lots of silly rip offs and random weirdness. Since Katsuo was against it all and tells what he believes should represent the district better, he ends up paying the price and facing copyrights infringement over this newly created mascot. Turns Otae has been the bid devil behind his troubles.

Episode 283-284: Seeing how Tama’s confession is with men, Gintoki decides to take advantage of it and use her to scam for money. So it turns out to be his disgruntled employees taking out their anger on him. Then slowly it becomes a complicated murder plot when the shogun gets involved. I mean, with all the silly confessions, the shogun somehow is believed to be killed amidst the confusion and Gintoki becomes desperate to cover up this crime but it only gets from bad to worse. When the final person who comes in to confess is no other than the shogun himself, Gintoki breaks into his confession mode and repents his sins, vowing to turn over a new leaf. Amen! Then it turns out the shogun lost his memories and is now best friends and Joi member with Katsura. And Gintoki gets arrested. Katsura wants to teach the shogun about leadership while the Joi members can only look on in disbelief that their dumb leader still hasn’t figure out who this dude is. But the lessons end up being games and Katsura always loses. The game and his cool. In the end, everybody abandons Katsura to follow the shogun. Nobody cares about you anymore. So Katsura goes to rescue Gintoki alone but why is he whining about losing his leadership? Oddly, the shogun leads the Joi guys to raid his own castle?! Gintoki gets involved further in the sh*t as it becomes a stupid race between Katsura and the shogun to see who can kill the princess first! In the end, both sides actually realize their true identities a long time ago and were just testing out each other. There were numerous chances they could kill each other but where would the fun be as they want to know what the enemy commander is really like. But in the end, after all this leader crap, the true leader is Kagura because they all disturb her beautiful sleep with Soyo and they got owned.

Episode 285: Kondou got rejected by Otae to visit the festivals together so he is annoying couples there as a masked cockroach! Since Otae is there too and she doesn’t realize it is him under the mask, he tries to flirt with her. But Gintoki and co hatch up a scheme to rip him off his money like shooting gallery (shooting at somebody’s funeral?), katanuki (how can he carve out a realistic dragon from the candy?) and goldfish scooping (bungee jumping?! Tied to the neck?!). Eventually it was just an elaborate prank to teach him a lesson but they’ve all learnt a bigger one that the festival is much better when you have fun with everyone. As long that someone is paying. Yeah…

Episode 290-291: A back story of how Sakamoto and Mutsu came to be. Mutsu was the daughter of a pirate group that does human trafficking. And she works part time as captain?! Sakamoto was accidentally picked up as he tries to con his way to trade and buy this ship but was eventually thrown into prison (for vomiting on the commander’s face many times). Mutsu would soon learn a valuable lesson of Sakamoto as a trader always seems to make others happy with his trade. It makes his profits more meaningful. So when there is a mutiny from the commander after her father falls ill and he plans to take over and kill everyone, it’s time for Mutsu to rethink and make her move. The night before the rebellion, she sets Sakamoto and the slaves free. Then she gets captured and to walk to plank. Apparently Sakamoto and the slaves didn’t abandon her. They return to turn the tables on the commander and his team and took off into the skies as traders. Now, history seems to be repeating itself as the commander is back to get his revenge by kidnapping Sakamoto and Mutsu. But you know how funny sometimes some things never changed. Because history repeats itself again. The entire Kaientai fleet is made out of those slaves as they bust them out. Mutsu’s fighting style resembles a lot like a Yato and this means she is one powerful kickass mother f*cker. The day is saved. Back to trading again. It’s another usual day in business.

Episode 292: Fancy our Yorozuya characters in a new fashion? Well, with all the silly alterations and adjustments, they just don’t look like the characters we know anymore. And so it is decided the way they originally look is the best. But Shinpachi might want to look a little cool in his suits for a while. Also, Shinpachi finds a lost scroll believed to be left behind by his late dad supposedly to inherit some super finishing move. Despite its long ass name and weird instructions (is that a video game input?), not everybody else easily learns it but the kick in the nuts turn out to be all that hard work in practising the move is to collect cacao and macadamia to create the perfect delicious chocolate nut bait for your enemy.

Episode 293: Ape Boy, some sort of Robin Hood who steals from the corrupted and gives bananas to the poor. He mistakes Kondou’s stalking on Otae to be prodigal material and before you know it, Kondou is under his wing to succeed him whether he likes it or not! Each time they escape from Shinsengumi, Kondou’s accidentally tactics only serves to enhance his reputation as a successor. Poor Hijikata… Eventually Ape Boy’s age is catching up so it seems Kondou is forced to succeed his last wishes. He does some deed on his behalf at a shrine. Hijikata is also there and knows Kondou was the one sabotaging him. Well, let’s call it undercover job. To deceive your enemy, you have to deceive your friends… This shrine proves familiar for Kondou. There was once a troubled kid here and it wasn’t Ape Boy but Kondou. Ape Boy was his sensei. His kindness was his downfall as loan sharks took advantage of it by kidnapping the other orphans. Kondou went alone to get them back but the loan sharks retaliated by burning down the shrine. Kondou was sent away on grounds he brought trouble and that was the last time he saw his sensei. It is believed he became Ape Boy to protect him from turning into a thief and atone his sins. Ape Boy is captured by punks preying on the weak. Kondou singlehandedly beats the crap out of all of them. He makes his final tearful reunion with sensei.

Episode 294-295: Shinsengumi has got a new skilled swordsman? It’s Katsura in an afro?! However he is owned by the third squad captain, Shimaru Saito. So Katsura takes his complaints to Yorozuya. He joined Saito’s silent squad but he never talks. Never. The only words coming out of his mouth is “Zed” and when he is sleeping. Apparently before Katsura joined, he was the only member of the squad and it is believed he purged his entire squad member. Then they realize Katsura is in danger because Saito might now his identity and is waiting for a chance to kill him. Saito even comes to Yorozuya and the rest thinks he is looking for Katsura but just to take a dump? But he leaves with a letter addressing his problem of being unable to talk naturally to others. It makes him nervous that he wants to take a dump. I guess Gintoki has to play advisor since he got paid. He writes back a letter to smile. So creepy that Katsura gets scared of him! How about bringing along your partner for work and some conversation might string along? So Saito captured Elizabeth and is about to torture her?! Turns out he tamed her to be his pet. Now Elizabeth won’t look at Katsura! Poor guy. He is having lots of problems. So is friendship between Shinsengumi and Joi rebel impossible? But soon Katsura has become a famous in Shinsengumi and everybody spots an afro! It seems he has used Saito’s silence to his advantage by framing him in his bid to take him down. During his trial, Saito shockingly speaks! Actually it is Yorozuya speaking via communicator on his behalf. I mean, nobody heard his voice before, right? So in this silly trial to prove his innocence, silly rants and inconsistent talking, it all boils down to a sword fight between Katsura and Saito. More silly incomprehension that leads to napping? This is where Katsura fails since he took off his afro to sleep and the Shinsengumi is now hot on his ass. However during this commotion he has Elizabeth planted bombs everywhere. Not needing any meddling from Yorozuya anymore, Saito hunts down Katsura while the rest defuse the bombs. Their fight ends in a draw with Saito cutting his detonator and Katsura wounding his leg. But a big bomb is set to go off. All Saito needs to say is cut all alphabet wires except Z (as revealed by Katsura). But since he can’t speak and has accepted his silence, he thought his Shinsengumi guys would get the hint when he catches some Zs. Boom! Everyone is afro again.

Episode 296-297: I bet we have forgotten that Kagura as a Yato cannot be exposed to the sunlight, right? Thanks to the hot summer and with Gintoki and Shinpachi wrestling to get under her shade, she is inadvertently pushed out and… OMG… Something is wrong… Somebody call the ambulance! Kagura is hospitalized and her condition turns for the worse. Our Yorozuya boys feel guilty as not even the doctor can do anything about it. Human medical technology not good enough for Yato. Of course everything is just an act by Kagura for payback and do errands for her. However her plan starts to backfire when she plays her prank too far and now she has to act like she is in a coma! Worse, with more people gathering, they already start talking about her funeral! And before she knows it, she is already in a funeral! A state wide funeral! Then she realizes Sougou might have known she is alive because he purposely installed sunbathing device inside her coffin to roast her. Due to some drugs, she cannot move or speak for a few more hours. And so we see the wacky send off as everyone tries to pay their last respects while her coffin is on a conveyor belt to the crematorium! Are they really trying to kill her with their absolutely silly last rites?! When Kagura realizes she was wrong and taking advantage of everyone’s kindness (they shed real tears after all), that is when she ekes out an apology. Everyone heard it. Gintoki and Shinpachi try to hasten her death because they realize they can’t go back after ‘cheating’ everyone out of their funeral funds. But eventually the truth is revealed so everyone gives a ‘grand send-off’ to Yorozuya for their terminal disease. Still blaming each other till the end, eh? Well, you only live once. Or do they?

Genderbend Arc
Kyuubei as a man?! Apparently her dilemma to be a yuri or tomboy character has a suspicious fortune teller not only converting her into a man but the entire Kabukichou swapping their genders! Fancy seeing Gintoki as a cutie? Kagura as a manly Three Kingdoms general?! But Sadaharu completely turned into a fine white steed?! Not all are changed as Shinpachi only had his glasses turned feminine and Otae is pretty normal too. It is revealed the wanted intergalactic cult leader, Dekobokko is fed up with everyone being untrue to their gender so he swaps everyone to make them live a new life. So if they can exhibit being faithful to their genders, he will turn them back or else he will destroy the world. Even with Kabukichou being quarantined off and the cult watching their every move, our usual characters can still talk nonsense especially the case of taking a pee and Otae becoming a jealous monster since well, many of the guys in Shinsengumi have turned into hot gorgeous babes with big boobs!!! Except Hijikata who looks like a fat ugly woman… Apparently the Shinsengumi have been on Dekobokko’s tail ever since they’ve got word they are coming into contact with Earth but didn’t expect them to move this quick by settling into this town as their base. The real ‘God’ himself is up there in space in a satellite. The cult was trying to make a drug that manipulates hormone balance, making men more manly and women more feminine. But the drug had an opposite effect. It swapped their genders. Therefore it is not the work of God but a virus. Thankfully it doesn’t stay long in the air and is not contagious.

The plan now is to cover up all the surveillance cameras set up throughout town. But with their moronic egos and getting distracted by it, you think they can do the job? While they’re at it, Ayame and Tsukuyo singlehandedly destroy all the cameras and rounded up most of the cult members! Are you manly enough to do your job? It leads them to their sewer base. They round up all the cult members and even discuss about returning to their original genders. Because heck, the ladies (men now) were much more useful than those men (ladies now) all the way. But the archbishop has observed Kyuubei and believes she has been the chosen one and has upheld both male and female qualities. As promised, a beam is fired back on Earth, turning everyone back to their original genders. Unfortunately for our heroes who were underground, they were the only ones left unchanged. Life goes on like normal but a lot smoother for many of our characters like Kyuubei now stronger and attracting females’ attention, the Shinsengumi become some sort of police cabaret and Shinpachi trains in another dojo to become stronger. Life is indeed smooth sailing than before but Kyuubei can’t help feel some sort of gloominess. She realizes she is neither man nor woman but a coward. Luck would have all that changed since Yorozuya manages to get tickets to outer space as they have found the next planet the cult is targeting. They manage to change back to their original genders and kick their asses once again. Kyuubei acknowledges she isn’t a man or woman but just Kyuubei.

Reaper Arc
Gintoki heard there are serial murders of people’s neck being severed but enough flesh left behind to keep the head and body intact. He doesn’t believe it until he comes across a reaper trying to kill herself and she wants him to assist her! Lots of bloopers till it looked like he did it. Why did he have to bring her back to Yorozuya? However Asaemon Ikeda is not dead yet and laments she cannot even take her own life before leaving. Meanwhile Shinsengumi is investigating the murders and Hijikata has sought the assistance of Yaemon Ikeda, the royal swordskeeper. Apparently they have been the royalty’s executioners for generations who assisted people who are supposed to commit seppuku by cutting off their heads. It is an act of soul cleansing so it is believed that such cuts can only be performed by such skilled swordsmen. Currently Yaemon is the head after taking over their previous master. There is another one who has this skill but is on the run. The royal guards are looking for Asaemon in hiding but Gintoki finds her and brings her back to Yaemon. Gintoki is told why he took her back when such acts of treason would usually mean her head. They were both like siblings and rivals who raised the bar for each other. When it is discovered their late master was responsible for helping criminals escape, the entire Ikeda could have perished if the courts find out. Thus the siblings punished him in secrecy and Asaemon assisted in his suicide. It won’t be long before the courts find out and thus Asaemon wanted to take this secret to her grave. After all, she loved her master more than anybody else. But Gintoki knows something is amiss. In addition to this, they are also the ones who commit those murders. They were all escaped criminals set free by their previous master. So why is Yaemon telling Gintoki all this despite the risk of all this coming to light? Yaemon takes out the list of escaped criminals. Gintoki’s name is on that list. He must cooperate or become a victim too.

Officially it is announced that the serial killer is caught and executed. Hijikata and Sougou don’t buy this crap and board the ship supposedly carrying corpses of executed people. True enough, Asaemon is still alive as she talks to Gintoki about her master and the many things he taught her. She is confused by his deeds that needed to take his life. Gintoki knows by heart that he was a good man. Especially how humanely he was treated despite being a prisoner. Once Hijikata and Sougou find them, they tell the other part of the true story that all the murder victims were related to the rebels of the Joi war. They were all involved in the battle at Anekohara where they inflicted the greatest defeat to a great general, Narifuyu Hitotsubashi. He became a politician and spent years on the side-lines till he is enough to take over the cabinet. He ordered the purged of these people but a certain man couldn’t bear the sight of people being mercilessly slaughtered and set them free. Therefore Gintoki and Asaemon have been sold out by Yaemon to gain favour with Nobunobu Hitotsubashi who is rumoured to be the next shogun. While Gintoki and co fight off the guards, Asaemon is greatly confused what she has been protecting all the while. Leave it to Gintoki to clear her mind and conscious about it as she gets back into the groove to face off with Yaemon himself.

Gintoki gets shot but not a fatal one. It becomes a draw to see if Yaemon can cut Gintoki’s head first or Asaemon taking Yaemon’s head. Yaemon reveals the truth that her biological father wasn’t killed in the Joi war but by her master. He adopted her out of guilt. Gintoki remembers talking to young Asaemon when he was on death row. She was confused about his imprisonment and didn’t think he was a bad guy. She decided to grow up and become an executioner and take his head. So don’t die until then. Yaemon thought he cut both Gintoki and Yaemon’s neck. Actually Gintoki attacked from his blind spot by unsheathing Asaemon’s sword accidentally grazing his own neck. Gintoki was fast enough to break Yaemon’s sword. Yaemon realizes his dream and sword were long broken. He helps everyone escape as his final deed before he got beheaded by his partner, Hitotsubashi. And this guy too seems to be in an unofficial cohort with Takasugi. Sougou takes Gintoki, Shinpachi and Kagura to be executed. As Yaemon has gone missing, the link to the serial murders have disappeared and to cover their own asses to prevent Hitotsubashi from bringing down the hammer on them, the trio are being made a scapegoat. Gintoki gets mad when he learns Asaemon committed suicide to take responsibility for this entire uproar. Sougou reminds him that he already assisted in her suicide when they first met. To their surprise, Asaemon is going to be their executioner. She has discarded her past and took on the name of the next Yaemon. The Shinsengumi turn a blind eye over their execution. Any criminals seen with a sever around their neck, they’re going to just assume they are corpses. Asaemon cuts her mask and their cuffs. There are no more criminals here.

Ego Switch Arc
Shinpachi and Kagura are chasing Gintoki for their overdue pay. Hijikata is chasing Yamazaki for slacking. Gintoki and Hijikata got into each other’s way, started arguing and a truck hits then. Before they know it, they swap bodies! Since getting back isn’t easy, they are forced to live as each other’s life. After all, they can’t be safe either way. Those kids still kill Gintoki for their pay and Sougou loves to bazooka Hijikata. So imagine the culture shock when the swapped duo bring to their organizations. Gintoki does away with all the code crap and instils slacking for Shinsengumi while Hijikata instils punctuality and discipline for Yorozuya. In the end, Shinsengumi turns into some wild bandits and Yorozuya a justice squad! Messed up! The duo continue to fight till Kagura and Sougou fight and blew up each other. Bodies still not swapped, though. It is then Tama brings them to see Gengai who reveals that they were swapped thanks to the truck carrying an experimental swapping device that instead of swapping eggs and soy sauce over rice, swapped their souls. WTF?! Do you need such complicated device for egg on rice meal?

Of course trying to swap them back via machine swapped everything but their souls. Since they realize something is lacking that rendered the machine unable to work properly, they think back and remember half of Gintoki’s soul entered the ass of a dead cat during the swap! Now they have to find that cat who might be resurrected as a zombie all over town. So both meet the least person they want to meet. Katsura is now part of Yorozuya as wells as Hasegawa and Ayame! There is going to be a big brawl showdown between the free spirited Shinsengumi and disciplined Yorozuya. Sh*t is going to happen. They cooperate when they finally spot the cat. An amnesiac alien?! So this cat is taking after Gintoki’s negative habits? Nobody can touch this strong feline. Gintoki and Hijikata blame their own inaptness that got their team owned so they will go take the cat back on their own. They follow it back to Otae’s place. She is keeping it as her pet! Dozaemon?! There are lots of chivalry talk going on from how she found him and nurse him back to health. She won’t leave him till he gets his memories back and doesn’t mind the rumours about them. When he eats her food, he passes out and loses his memories! So was this how he got it in the first place? Hijikata is forced to talk to her since he is in Gintoki’s body and has got to act like him.

Otae can tell something is strange since both of them are trying to flirt with her with the tactic of making her break up with Dozaemon?! It gets complicated when Shinpachi and Kondou enter the fray. Shinpachi takes Otae and run while Kondou wheels Dozaemon away. It soon hit Gintoki and Hijikata that Shinpachi is Kondou and Kondou is Ayame! And get this. Shinpachi is glasses while Yamazaki is Hasegawa’s shades! So who is in Yamazaki’s body? Sadaharu? And that dog? Hasegawa! If that is not confusing enough. Sougou swapped with Katsura and Kagura swapped with Elizabeth. Yeah, this madness happened when Gengai rammed all of them with his truck earlier on. Dozaemon wakes up when he hears Otae’s scream (apparently Shinpachi (Kondou) is trying to rape her). So once everybody faces off, Otae tells everyone to stop bullying Dozaemon. The rest argue they need to return him to his proper place. Otae would have believed them at other times but tonight their weird acting just makes it suspicious. Especially this gay moment between Kondou (Ayame) and Hijikata (Gintoki). Hilarious! Dozaemon goes into overdrive to fight everyone to protect Otae. They can’t stand up to his brute. So here comes a giant poop! Yamazaki and Hasegawa combined? Eventually it ends with Gintoki’s half soul coming out from Dozaemon the way it came in. Yup, through the butthole. Man, there’s a lot of sh*t going around. And vomit too. In the aftermath, Gintoki and Hijikata return to normal. But everyone else is some sort of human poop! They hound their respective bosses for a way to return back to normal.

Shogun Assassination Arc
The shogun was nearly assassinated via poison in his tea had not Ayame acted in time. Later she talks to Zenzou about the political chaos ever since Sadasada was ousted. Everyone is trying to eye for the throne. Ayame and Zenzou were once in the Oniwaban that was dissolved under Sadasada but Matsudaira took them in. Matsudaira talks to Kondou and Hijikata about the need to escort the shogun out from Edo to Kyo secretly. Of course they are going to place doubles in the palace not to raise suspicions but how can you not have any when the doubles come in all shapes and sizes! Even Yorozuya dudes are doing a sick impression of it. Nobunobu is seen as the main antagonist trying to oust the shogun. He has Takasugi and Kamui on his side but was accidentally taken out by Kamui who mistook him for the shogun. Of course they are using him as a pawn for their own gains but with Nobunobu out for the time being, no one will suspect them as he will also be seen a victim of somebody who wants the shogun dead. Matsudaira’s fool proof plan not only has doubles in the palace but several diversions on air and ground as decoys while transporting the shogun. So our usual group has got the ground troop and the Shinsengumi duo don’t quite like it that Gintoki is acting as the fake shogun. But they better treat him nice despite his sh*tty attitude because the Oniwaban and samurai guards will not hesitate to take anyone out even if it’s a joke. The real shogun has the company of Zenzou. He reminds the shogun that the Oniwaban’s duty isn’t to protect the shogun but his duty, which is to protect the country and people at the cost of his life. Zenzou then decapitates him. He plans to bear the cross and become the nation’s traitor.

When Ayame’s group learns of the shogun’s demise and that there may be traitors among them, she and the rest quickly take out the supposed traitors since it’s easy to detect their killing intent. To her horror, the Iga ninjas in which the Oniwaban originates are siding with the enemy. With such a large force mobilized, she believes only one of the 3 head clans who rule over Iga can do so. Either Gaimon Fujibayashi, Rappa Momochi or Zenzou. Meanwhile with Soyo being targeted, thankfully there is Sougou to protect her. He then faces off in an epic battle with Kamui. It was a race between Kamui and Takasugi to see who can take the shogun’s head but the latter lost out. Although Takasugi’s plan is no to take the shogun’s head but the shogun’s limbs. Zenzou stops Sougou and Kamui’s fight by showing them he has the shogun’s head. They have no more reason to fight. Ayame and co are unfortunate enough to stumble into Fujibayashi and Momochi. They tell him the state of their Iga homeland. 6 months ago, strange men in umbrella attacked and threatened them to help assassinate the shogun and in turn they will be hired as the new Oniwaban for the reformed government. But once news of the shogun’s death reach them, Fujibayashi wants everyone here killed. However Momochi won’t mobilize her side citing she doesn’t take orders from traitor. Seems the real shogun is still alive and is right here disguised as an Iga ninja. He orders the rebels to be taken out.

Apparently after the poisoning attempt, the shogun was kidnapped and brought to Iga where he stayed safe. The shoguns everyone met so far were doubles. Fujibayashi still won’t admit his defeat. He tries to kill Momochi but this wheelchair lady is just a puppet. Her real body is the maid pushing the wheelchair. He gets taken out by a super bazooka. Back at Iga, Momochi further explains that Zenzou who was keeping tabs on the situation, knew the enemy has grown into a massive force that they won’t stop attacking as long as the shogun stayed as the shogun. The only way to prevent further warfare was to kill the shogun and merely return him to just being Shigeshige. So what Zenzou lopped off was the position and by taking him out of the political picture, he was trying to protect him as a man. To that end he decided to go down history as a traitor. But now it won’t end just here because Takasugi and the rest of Harusame (minus Kamui) are already here at Iga. Also with them is Zenzou who realizes Takasugi’s intention of killing the shogun is to become one himself. Takasugi has his men kill Zenzou but he sets off bombs planted on all their ships. Gintoki and co are tasked to keep the shogun safe while the Iga ninjas ward off the bloodthirsty Yato killers. Thanks to Sougou, Soyo and Maizou still live although Sougou is now in comatose. Maizou believes the decapitated shogun isn’t the real one because he checked the body and lacked the scar. He narrates Shigeshige’s young life already associated with the Iga and Oniwaban. It all started when he realized kids his age were laying their lives to protect him and even became his doubles. He wanted to save his double from some rebellion, he and the Oniwaban youngsters barged into the base to rescue. It ended with Shigeshige having a deep scar on his scar. If the incident of the shogun saved the double got out, his entire clan will be beheaded. So to cover up this incident, the double took his place a little longer on the throne while Shigeshige hid and took refuge at Iga where he learnt some ninja skills.

Zenzou takes a lot of beating but there is a limit to how much a man can take and stand his ground. Fear not. Ayame and his other Oniwaban ninjas are here to save his ass. No pun intended. Gintoki and co have a lot on their plate while defending and escaping with the shogun. Because the Yato lot are numerous and tough as hell. It’s amazing they’re still having the stamina after that pounding onslaught. With a little help from Momochi, they reach the secret exit to escape Iga. Likewise, Ayame is taking Zenzou to another exit but Takasugi stabs her and Kamui just arrived for the party in time. An epic showdown is on the cards because Gintoki and Kagura have a score to settle with their long time foes. So amidst the ground shattering punches and bloody sword clashes, we see flashbacks of their pasts. From family troubles to little lost weaklings trying to become stronger and finding a place to belong.

Well, at least it’s like another whole flashback arc by itself watching young Gintoki, Takasugi and Katsura under Shouyou’s guidance. As Takasugi slowly prefers to learn from Shouyou’s free-spirited samurai ways, his father learns of this and is not too thrilled. Word gets out that Shouyou might be a school gathering kids teaching seditious propaganda and being anti-bakufu. Despite all the threats, Shouyou treasured his students and kept them safe. Until that war which many of his students died. To Takasugi’s dismay, Shouyou was executed and decapitated by Gintoki in a bid for the remaining students to survive. This became Takasugi’s hatred for revenge. Although Gintoki last saw Shouyou’s smiling face and his thanks, Takasugi last saw Gintoki’s crying yet smiling face before his left eye was blinded by Oboro. That vision was burnt into his left eye. It would have been so much easier had it been the bakufu. But the sworn enemies are themselves. Even though they fought to save him, they were so weak to use him as a stepping stone to survive. Takasugi never understood why Gintoki never avenge Shouyou’s death and that he chose them instead over sensei. All Gintoki can say is that he knows Takasugi isn’t cutting himself but his alter ego. That’s why he sought a revenge that hurt himself far more than cutting himself. Gintoki is his alter ego and will stop him and stand up no matter how many times it takes. He knows what Shouyou holds dear and if he has to walk over his corpse, he will protect the soul of his student and fellow friend as his disciple. Just when you think Takasugi has come to terms and has some closure, he is stabbed by Oboro.

Apparently the Tendoshu has arrived in what it seems like a fell swoop to take out all their enemies once they wear each other out. As they point out, Shigeshige is no longer the shogun because he handed his resignation to Sadasada at the end of the Courtesan of a Nation arc. At that point because there was nobody suitable, it was put on hold. But now there is one: Nobunobu. He is now the shogun. This guy is bandaged up like a mummy and fuelled by rage and revenge. He wants everybody killed! But so as not to rush things yet, they want Shigeshige to be handed over first, which doesn’t make any difference or change the fact he would still be standing in Nobunobu’s way. However Shigeshige asserts that he is still the shogun and will not take orders for everyone. He will not run away and protect his country and those who gave their lives in protecting it. Shigeshige believes in his friends and that they are not easily broken. Here comes Matsudaira and the entire Shinsengumi backup. This means that sadist Sougou is back too. Takasugi revives to help Gintama wound Oboro. It’s payback because Takasugi blinded Oboro’s left eye. Kagura and Kamui put aside their differences for now to help Gintoki and Takasugi face off the rest of Tendoshu.

Oboro lets them go thinking they are struggling a futile struggle as students of Shouyou. Shigeshige hints he wants to abolish the position of the shogun and will be the last one if it is hindering the lives of this country. After 2 weeks, Takasugi is still in coma. Kiheitai have taken a bad beating and it will take them some time to recover. Harusame is now no longer pirates and targeted by Tendoshu but Kamui isn’t worrying since if he is going to be the best in the world, he needs to turn everyone against him and beat them up altogether. Nobunobu announces Shigeshige is dead and proclaims himself as the new shogun. Shigeshige has left for Kyo where the emperor resides so he’ll be safe. He plans to gather his allies and make a comeback but cannot take the rest of them since he doesn’t want them to be Tendoshu’s enemies. Although Soyo wrote a sunshiny letter that everything is okay and hope is still within reach, it seems there is an assassination attempt on Shigeshige as he got poisoned by a needle while meeting up with his old friends.

Farewell Shinsengumi Arc
The entire nation is in mourning over their assassinated shogun! Nobunobu ascends the throne and eliminates everyone who gets in his way. He doesn’t care if Matsudaira who is supposed to serve him shows him great disrespect because he doesn’t need him or Shinsengumi. He has Sasaki and Mimawarigumi behind him. He makes Matsudaira take responsibility for failure to protect the shogun and will be beheaded alongside Kondou. This means the Shinsengumi is disbanded. Everyone is scared and confused. Hijikata is transferred under the department of that hardboiled detective, Heiji Kozenigata. The rest of the Shinsengumi want to save Kondou because sooner or later they will be crushed. But Hijikata holds no authority over them and has them do what they want. Whatever they believe in, just do it. Believe in that and fight. They are still all Shinsengumi deep down inside.

Visiting the cabaret certainly won’t help drown your sorrows. It gets worse when Nobunobu and Mimawarigumi also pay a visit with the excuse of wanting to mix with commoners like Shigeshige. Things started getting heating up not when Nobunobu suggests Hijikata to execute his former boss and comrades but when he cuts down innocent cabaret girls thinking they were treating him as the same level as Shigeshige. He thinks he is superior to all that in this new age. So when Otae protests, she is also in risk of getting hurt. Hijikata wanted to punch him but Gintoki took it in the face. Save that punch for his dumb boss. Gintoki punches Nobunobu instead. Sasaki understands fools never change so instead of letting the new government’s reputation get worse, he arrests Gintoki so that a single fool can take the entire blame. But then Katsura throws his smoke bomb to let everyone else escape. In turn he gets thrown into prison and ironically with his eternal enemy Kondou in the next cell, he suggests forming an unusual alliance to protect this country. He gives him a pill that would put his body in temporary suspension (playing dead, that is) so that the guards will open their cell doors when they see ‘corpses’.

Hijikata is still torn on what to do. Still wallowing in depression he cannot protect anything. But when Kagura relays a message from Sougou, how that sadist is still following the Shinsengumi code and waiting for the vice captain to give orders, Hijikata makes his move back to Shinsengumi HQ. He finds everyone waiting in line awaiting his orders. They go meet up with the Joi rebels. They still hate each other but agree to work with each other in this last joint operation to save their bosses. When Katsura is about to throw the same pill to Matsudaira, he flops as it ricochets back into his own mouth! Now he is dead. Then the guards come by as Kondou and Matsudaira also play dead. But these guards enter the cell not to check on the corpses but to kill them! Luckily Kondou acts fast enough. Katsura pretended to only eat the pill and is able to fight back. They realize these aren’t ordinary prison guards. The mark on their arms indicate they are Naraku, the assassination syndicate under Tendoshu. They too have killed other prison guards. The trio take advantage of the situation by dressing up as prison guards and sound the alert that the prisoners have made a prison break. However Katsura knows this place well and even though it is easy to slip and escape their situation, they cannot go further beyond the gates because they are on the prison island, Kokujo.

But Katsura knows his allies will be coming to save them. That’s right. Shinsengumi and the Joi rebels are on their way here. Their plan is to infiltrate by disguising as prisoners but Naraku intercepts them and it becomes a bloody boat battle. They get the most unlikely of help from Yorozuya joining in the fray. Wow. It’s like they’ve powered up and become more badass. I didn’t know Shinpachi was this badass. Sasaki orders his Mimawarigumi to move and hunt down for escaped inmates. However Nobume feels there is more to this. She thinks he purposely let Nobunobu into public to show his tyrannical ways and plant Katsura in the same prison with Kondou. All to incite a rebellion and gain an excuse to purge them. On the contrary, if he wanted to do so, he could have just executed them. He claims he is cleaning up something far bigger in scale they happen to be part of. Mimawarigumi intercept the ships coming from the front but they are nothing but decoys. Because everyone is climbing the steep cliffs at the back. However the enemy already anticipated this and sends arrows raining down on them. If not for Elizabeth’s drilling up from behind, who knows what might have happened. But at the top, now they have to face off with stronger opponents. Gintoki will give his pay back to Oboro and Sougou deals with Nobume. Katsura now has an extra navel after being shot by Sasaki. He wants Kondou to leave him since his mission is to rescue him. But Kondou won’t leave him after realizing he thought at first it was okay to die to protect his friends. But now he wants them to return and see their comrades again.

Sasaki notes Kondou has never changed. Time for another flashback when the newly formed Roshigumi were taking in new recruits. It was a weird and shady organization recruiting Joi rebels, giving them the freedom to hold a sword and protect the land. In actual fact it is a perverted idea of eventually making Joi rebels and wipe each other out. Kondou and his other comrades joined it after they reached Edo. There is this punk kid, Mountain Zaki who keeps challenging and showing off his strength. He challenged Kondou but he will not fight him, believing the power is not needed to subdue a subordinate but to protect one. Then he realizes their swings can actually kill, he pissed in his pants and become a docile guy whom we all know as Yamazaki today. Under Kondou’s guidance, Roshigumi flourished. But top brass wanted to give them a ‘special’ escort mission of the shogun and his son. Assassins will attack and they will allow the assassination to succeed. Then they will take responsibility and disembowel themselves. In this chaotic era, Sasaki is also an expecting father. Even with Kondou’s answer that there is no one answer to be a samurai, Sasaki might not want to be a fine samurai or a fine father but a fine name for his child.

So while the Shinsengumi and Joi rebels now enter a chaotic battle with Mimawarigumi, a shocking truth is revealed about Sasaki. He met a few kids trained by Naraku to become cold hearted killers. One of them is Nobume. Sasaki was too late in saving his pregnant wife as she was killed by Nobume. But since he is her target and she didn’t kill him, Sasaki didn’t kill her. Nobume once met Shouyou and learnt everyone is born weak and have the freedom to change. They were all struggling and straying down the wrong path, the reason Nobume couldn’t kill her, though she believes she deserves to be killed by him. Sasaki might not hesitate to cut her down but what he wants to cut down is this era where the country commits acts of brutality. He wants her to swing her sword for his sake since he cannot protect anything. And when the time comes, use it to kill him. It is his vengeance. It is her duty. But despite Nobume taking everything from him, she still cannot bring herself to cut him down. All along Sasaki has been playing the villain as he is trying to end the samurai era along with himself by making everyone start a revolt. He is just a rebel like them. Each time Sasaki tries to start that burning rebellion, Naraku always tries to extinguish that spark. That is why Sasaki planned on using those flames on this island.

It’s getting messier because the entire Naraku fleet has dropped in to join the party. Mimawarigumi fleets are fighting off the Naraku counterparts. Kagura stops Sougou and Nobume’s fight. When Nobume gets stabbed, she gives the orders to her men to flee. Because the big bad boss of Tendoshu is here, Utsuro. He views Nobume betraying him twice because she failed to kill Sasaki. Nobume will not follow anyone’s orders except her own will. Utsuro is like the final big boss of video games everyone loves to hate because he is so overpowered that he is like having the cheat codes on for eternity. We see how he beats up the trio with ease and no matter how much they struggle, they cannot just get the better of him. Hijikata has also ordered his men to retreat because he realizes the longer this battle goes on, the harder it will be for them to get off the island. However Oboro and his men will not let one escape. He kills the small fries and wounds our main characters. Utsuro also joins in on this purge. Finally we get to see Gintoki fight on par with him. What is worse than unable to defeat him? When Gintoki cuts off his mask, he sees Shouyou! Or is this an imposter?! Best still, all wounds Utsuro sustained are healed! What did I tell you he is on cheat code mode!!! When a distraction occurs, everyone takes this chance to run. Gintoki wonders who the hell that imposter is. Nobume’s answer is baffling. He is both Shouyou and not at the same time. But she is certain Gintoki wasn’t the one who killed Shouyou.

Already worn out, injured and tired, more Naraku henchmen drop in to fight them. Thus more flashback from Sasaki giving Nobume her name that was supposed to be his daughter’s if she was alive. He also made her his vice captain. When everyone else arrives, they see Kondou killed. This didn’t drain their fighting spirit. They get even madder and fight harder. Of course Kondou is still alive and took Katsura’s pill to be in temporary suspended animation. He did so because Sasaki suggested it to make it look like he slew him. To Oboro’s dismay, Sasaki has also called for more Shinsengumi and Mimawarigumi reinforcements. Kondou and Hijikata cut down Oboro. It was never Sasaki’s intention to protect or save Kondou. Ever since back then he never wanted to lose out to him but never knew how. He had an idea despite it only lasted for a while. He couldn’t be happier to be the man who defeated Shinsengumi’s chief. Nobume won’t let Sasaki die. He reveals another twist. He knew she wasn’t the one who killed his wife and daughter. She protected them from other assassins. In spite knowing this, he still used her as part of his revenge. He doesn’t feel his life is worth saving. Nobume doesn’t care about all that. Couldn’t they just stay the same like always so she could just stay by his side? More flashback this time about Sasaki racking his brains to come up with a name for his unborn daughter. Despite his wife’s suggestions, he doesn’t find them all great. Even his room is filled with crumpled paper of unsuccessful suggestions. Is it that hard? Then it is like screw it all. He didn’t care what kind of name she had so long she lives strong. He decides on Nobume which means girl of faith. Sasaki saves Nobume one last time when all our heroes are evacuating into a ship. He pushes her in before falling to his death. Sasaki… NOOO!!!!

Everyone pays their final respects and salute to Sasaki. Nobume is glad Sasaki gave her a fine name. In the aftermath, when Nobunobu learns of this, he became furious crushed and disbanded all police force under Sasaki and decided to reform the system from the ground up. Those he dismissed join the underground faction led by Matsudaira as they plan to revolt and overthrow the bakufu. As Nobunobu is unpopular, even the sentiments on ground are slowly building up their distrust and the people growing in favour of a revolt. As suggested by Katsura, because Nobunobu won’t let the Shinsengumi who embarrassed him off the hook, he tells them to leave Edo. So we have one of the most awkward goodbyes. Like Kondou now spotting a hideous scar across his face stalking Otae but ironically didn’t get scolded or beaten up, Kagura and Sougou fighting and beating the hell out of each other, Gintoki and Hijikata trading and eating the other’s favourite food. It must suck… In the end, Kondou leads his Shinsengumi out of Edo, promising to return here and become true samurais.

Love Potion Arc (OVA)
A mysterious heart shaped pill named Aizen Kou is making its rounds in Yoshiwara. Rumours have it that smelling its incense would lead you to falling head over heels with the closest person you see. Too bad Tsukuyo inhaled it and has to control her lust over Gintoki (because he was taking a piss nearby). You know how hard it is trying to concoct a plan to snuff out the mastermind next to the person you’re in love, right? So when they finally round up all of it and going to dispose it, Tsukuyo’s mischievous love causes her to wreak havoc. Yeah, the entire bunch got accidentally burnt and all of Yoshiwara is turned into a den of sex maniacs!!! Oh… Shinpachi x Kagura romance?! Did we even expect this in Gintama?! Worse than that is Gintoki turning into a sleazy lady killer because young or old, beautiful or ugly, all women are his honeys! Even those porn stars you see on the internet are his! So we see him take down other guys to protect his honeys. A little ‘romance’ spat between Gintoki and Tsukuyo before the complication is up a notch because now we have Kyuubei and Otae in the fray despite giving lame excuses they are not. Before you know it, all males in Yoshiwara has got chastity belts attached to heavy round iron balls! And then everyone turns into a love slave for the mastermind, Hotaru who is one of the courtesans in Yoshiwara. Love her and she will love you for eternity!

So we’ve got chaos in our hands. Otae turning into an abusive stalker on Kondou, the gorilla suddenly having an affinity for butts and turning gay while Kyuubei obsessed with hunting down dicks. Gintoki and Tsukuyo might have returned to normal but not fully. From time to time there’ll be a few idiotic lover spats to make us laugh. Eventually we learn of Hotaru’s past that led her to this doing. There was this carpenter she used to accompany when he visited Yoshiwara. Despite drinking a lot, he never laid a finger on her. One day he decided to become a great carpenter and promises to come back for her. But after Yoshiwara was liberated, she caught him going out with the daughter of the head carpenter. Her heart broke into many pieces but until this day she still can’t forget about him. She tries to kill herself but Tsukuyo saves her and also dispenses some great love advice that even though flowers wilt, they will bloom again. It might seem the entire bunch of Aizen Kou is burnt down and another round of sex maniac chaos. But Hotaru these are actually the opposite, Aidan Kou and will make you hate the ones you love. So naturally, it neutralizes everyone back to normal. In the aftermath, it is believed Hotaru planned this all along including turning everyone back to normal before committing suicide. She wanted to end everything while still being loved. Or maybe she just wanted somebody to stop her. We take a short idiotic detour with Gintoki turning into a moral police officer who ends up running away together with Kondou. And they slept with each other?! WTF???!!! Hotaru’s punishment is to be exiled from Yoshiwara. She is told that the carpenter had a promising future to become a leader but turned down when his boss offered him to marry his daughter because of a promise to a courtesan. However he worked too hard and injured his body. He felt ashamed to come see her like this and is always just staring outside Yoshiwara’s gates. Hotaru comes to terms with what is happening. This time she won’t run away anymore.

Heavenly Soul
You know when I said that all good things will come to an end? I never have to worry about this because I knew Gintama will always come back again in the future and troll us. But now it seems that I have to keep my reality in check because it might end! Oh God, no! Gasp! Is it true that Gintama will finally come to end for real?! Because it seems the manga has already reached what is seemingly its final arc. Oh no. I thought the author might be trolling us as he has always been since this is Gintama but from what I read, this could be really it. Oh dear. The end of Gintama for real? This can’t be happening? But that is the manga version. What about the anime? Will they animate the final couple of arcs? That is still up in the air.

Back to this season, I am not saying that this season is the least exciting since I myself am pretty confused with my own feelings at this point after watching the last episode for this season. Because you see, for the longest time ever, this series has covered 2 of the most important arcs back to back. Although there are some spontaneous laughs in between, the general and overall mood of the arcs is quite a sombre and gloomy affair. Things get real. Things get serious. It wasn’t the usual Gintama format whereby after even like 5 or 6 episodes of a heavy arc, we’ll be back to the nonsensical and insane jokes to blow away to gloom. Therefore with 2 ‘depressing’ arcs back to back that lasts almost 2 cours and ending the fourth season, it is with mixed feelings that I felt with this series. Heck, they killed off 2 ‘important’ characters for both arcs, the shogun and Sasaki. It was really heavy, solemn and serious that it didn’t make me feel that usual Gintama goodness at the end of it all. Don’t get me wrong. This season and these arcs are still great but I can’t still shake that sad feeling at the end of it all. When you talk about Gintama, it’s all those nonsense and parodies. From this point on, remembering Gintama is like remembering this serious sh*t hitting the fan. Furthermore, it isn’t Yorozuya taking the spotlight in the final arc this season so it somewhat feels a bit side-lined, Gintoki and co.

So I suppose this might be the trend if they make the next season of Gintama. Because they have already made big revelations here and therefore it is only natural to join all the pieces of the puzzle together as well as tie everything up since there are quite a number of other mainstay characters who didn’t get to appear or play a part in these final 2 arcs. Erm, so is Hasegawa considered an important character? So it will be one big bang where all the characters ever in the series will finally reach some sort of conclusion. No more jokes, no more antics, no more fillers. Just plain seriousness from now on. Happy hours are over. Gintama time is over. It’s now Gintama time. Get it? Ah, sometimes I wish they keep continue showing mindless hilarious fillers.

If I want to point out the main characters, that would be repeating myself and I have to write a book that is as thick as my college thesis report. So to just sum everything up, everyone has changed but yet remained the same. They are friends and enemies at the same time. They might fight each other frequently but they also eat and drink together. They keep each other company and sharp because if one fails, you bet the other will be there to remind and bring back to their senses. That is always how it works here. And just when you thought the biggest antagonist would be the final boss, turns out there is another bigger badder antagonist. Yeah, and the ex-enemies now become friends to fight the stronger and ever powerful last boss. Looking at you, Gintoki and Takasugi.

So I believe Utsuro will be the final of the most final boss in the series. Nothing is particularly known about him except from this point he looks more badass and powerful that it would take all the characters to just bring him down using cheat codes. It even brings up the confusion of Gintoki and Shouyou but I’ll leave that for another time. Then there is Nobunobu whom I thought would be the main antagonist but for both arcs, he has been unceremoniously put out of the picture. Maybe his role is just to be some sort of shadow puppet? Maybe he’ll play a more serious antagonist role in the next arc.

With numerous opening and ending themes, they are all mostly rock based like Day x Day by Blue Encount (first opening theme), Pride Kakumei by Chico with Honeyworks (second opening theme), Saigo Made II by Aqua Timez (second ending theme), Beautiful Days by Okamoto’s (third opening theme), Glorious Days by Three Lights Down Kings (third ending theme), Know Know Know by Does (fourth opening theme), and Acchi Muite by Swimy (fourth ending theme). Destiny by Negoto is the first ending theme and feels a bit disco-like.

Overall, I did laugh hard enough this season like in the previous before the long final arc took most of it away albeit looking back now it is still one hell of a fun ride. It is still a good season and Gintama fans should continue watching this. Even those who aren’t into this series should stay and watch for the awesome (random) comedy, awesome fights and awesome story. Hey, Gintama is already awesome, right? I know it is bad to always cling onto something forever and there will be a time when something needs to bow out gracefully and not overstay its welcome. They have already become the silver, golden and platinum souls in our hearts. Gintama becoming unpopular? No way, man! Even a series that breaks the fourth wall regularly must come to terms with reality that it has to end someday. We have to get over ourselves and accept it. Oh well… I hope they’re just trolling us… GINTAMA WILL NEVER END, RIGHT???!!!

From the same producers that made one of the most epic and greatest animes of all time, Shingeki No Kyojin (SnK) as well as another equally proportionately epic ‘clone’, Koutetsujou No Kabaneri (KnK) (okay you haters, this one might be debatable but I still think it is a pretty impressive anime series in its own right), comes the inevitable showdown of my versus blog in comparing both series. The hits and misses, the similarities and the differences. Are we ready to uncover it all before we become Titan/zombie bait? And also because I haven’t been doing one in such a long time so it gives me an excuse to come up with this entry. Sorry ;p.

Official English Title
Because weeabos still can’t understand Japanese.
SnK: Attack On Titan.
KnK: Iron Fortress Of Kabaneri.

The main character
Every show always needs a hero.
SnK: Eren Jaeger.
KnK: Ikoma.

The main heroine sidekick
Every show always needs a female lead too. Because feminism.
SnK: Mikasa Ackerman.
KnK: Mumei. Real name Hozumi.

The sidekick
You always need a friend and the third person for the third wheel.
SnK: Armin Arlert.
KnK: Takumi.

The group
Well… The rest of the pack.
SnK: Reiner Braun, Bertolt Hoover, Jean Kirschtein, Annie Leonhart, Sasha Blouse, Connie Springer, Krista Lenz, Marco Bott and Ymir.
KnK: Takumi, Ayame Yomogawa, Kurusu, Kibito, Yukina, Sukari, Kajika and Suzuki.

The monster antagonists
If natural disaster catastrophes can’t do the job to wipe out humans, these will.
SnK: Titans. Giant size.
KnK: Corpses. Adult human size. Either way, you’re both pretty much f*cked up when they start chomping down on you. Because there is no way you can run away from these fast mother*ckers.

What happens when you become their ‘victim’
SnK: You become something they can chew on, swallowed and then stay in their stomach for some time before being spit out because they have no digestive system.
KnK: You become infected and become one of them.

How to kill them
The only way to bring down these mother*ckers.
SnK: Cut a piece of slab behind their neck. Cutting anywhere else will have the Titan regenerating.
KnK: Pierce through their iron caged heart which is as hard as f*ck. Or you could just decapitate them. If you’re lucky to get that close.

Variant types
Different than the ordinary.
SnK: There is this Colossal Titan that is the biggest Titan ever. There are also Abnormal Titans that display higher intelligence and unpredictable actions.
KnK: Learners retain their fighting skills and are vastly dangerous. There is also Smog made out of many Corpses acting as a single giant organism.

Variant types (ally)
SnK: Titan Shifters are humans who can transform into Titans.
KnK: Demi-corpse AKA Kabaneri are Corpses who still retain their humanity.

Main human antagonist
Traitor of the same kind.
SnK: Annie. She crystallized herself in the end.
KnK: Biba Amatori. He was killed in the end.

Gated community
The place where humans cower and live inside under the fake pretence of security.
SnK: Thick walls that could reach as high as 50 metres. Human territory is divided into 3 main walls: Wall Maria, Wall Rose and Wall Sina.
KnK: Train stations acting as forts scattered throughout Japan and trains known as Iron Fortresses are the only means of transportation to commune from one station to another.

Strongest bastion
SnK: Districts behind Wall Sina are the safest such as Stohess district.
KnK: Kongoukaku is where the shogun lives.

Main character’s dead family
Seen them die right before their eyes.
SnK: Eren’s mother was devoured by a Titan.
KnK: Ikoma’s little sister was bitten by a Corpse.
Because of this, death to all Titans/Corpses!!!

Main heroine’s dead family
Apparently our main heroines too have this tragedy of having their parents dead before their eyes. Is feminism trying to match this sh*t?!
SnK: Mikasa’s parents were brutally murdered when kidnappers barged in to kidnap her.
KnK: Mumei’s mother died while trying to protect her from a crazy dude.

Main character’s physique
Apparently he is the only one among the crowd who can do this.
SnK: Eren can turn into a Titan by suffering some blood inflicted injury. He has no recollection of his memories in this form.
KnK: Well, Ikoma is pretty much a Kabaneri for almost the entire series. From time to time he will crave for blood to maintain his sanity. Also notice how at one point they lose an arm?

The other person who also has this feature
Because it is no fun when you are the only one in this state.
SnK: Annie.
KnK: Mumei.

Main character’s humiliating training
SnK: Eren joins the Training Corps and was on the verge of being expelled simply because he cannot handle the Three-dimensional Manoeuvre Device (3DMD). Luckily for him (and all of us) the equipment was faulty in the first place.
KnK: Ikoma lacks basic fighting skills so he got owned when Mumei offers to train him as he got his ass handed to him. Ironically with such little time and practice for ‘training’, Ikoma eventually turned into a decently skilled fighter.

Main character’s resurrection
They supposedly died and do a Jesus Christ and spring back to life. Somehow.
SnK: Eren was devoured by a Titan while trying to save Armin from being the Titan’s lunch. Apparently floating inside a Titan’s tummy evoked some sense of trauma because this guy then busted out angrier and went on a rampage in his new form.
KnK: He was already bitten by a Corpse and should have followed the protocol of dying and becoming a Corpse like anyone else. But nooooo. Apparently he tried choking himself to prevent the virus from reaching his brain and coupled with his iron will, that’s how he cheated death and was ‘reborn’.

Main character’s incarceration
SnK: Eren is imprisoned and being put on trial after everyone discovers he can turn into a Titan.
KnK: Ikoma is put in a cage to prevent further rebellion once Biba and his Hunters begin their final phase of their plan to bring ultimate freedom.

Main character and heroine’s relationship
SnK: Mikasa is just an overprotective b*tch over Eren.
KnK: Ikoma just wants to protect her and turn her back into a happy girl filling her stomach with rice. Ugh. Doesn’t that sound perverted?

Dead supporting character
Somebody has to die to stir up some emotional drama.
SnK: Marco.
KnK: Takumi.

First named character to die
SnK: Thomas Wagner.
KnK: Shimon.

Cocky dude
We also need to have an arrogant guy.
SnK: Jean.
KnK: Kurusu.

Muscle lady
Look at those muscles and abs!
SnK: Mikasa.
KnK: Yukina.

Stout guy
SnK: Reiner.
KnK: Kibito.

Joker character
SnK: Sasha, Connie, Oluo Bossard.
KnK: Takumi. Well, close enough.

Caring lady
SnK: Krista.
KnK: Kajika.

Weakest character
Almost. So much potential but yet…
SnK: Armin.
KnK: Ayame.

Research
To defeat the enemy, one must know the enemy.
SnK: Hange Zoe keeps a couple of Titans in her lab and isn’t afraid to get near them.
KnK: Souei is part of Biba’s team keeping a horde of Corpses in their cage for experimentation.

Injection
SnK: Grisha injected some sort of drug that alters Eren’s memories and a power that would allow him to transform into a Titan later.
KnK: Biba injects serum into Horobi and then later Mumei to turn them into Smog.

Steam equipment
SnK: Each fighter is equipped with a 3DMD that allows them to ‘fly’ and have better mobility to fight Titans more effectively.
KnK: Mumei has this equipment behind her back when she goes to kick Corpses’ butt. I’m not sure about this equipment but does it have some sort of limiter that she has to finish kicking ass in a certain time limit? Ikoma also have something similar for his Piercing Cannon.

Elite squad
SnK: The Survey Corps. Some might argue the Military Police are better because they are the cream of the crop from the training. But personally Survey Corps are better because they kick ass and live on the edge of danger compared to those complacent bullies. Notable personalities under Survey Corps are Erwin Smith and Levi Rivaille.
KnK: The Hunters. An independent force under Biba that exterminates all Corpses. Notable personalities are Horobi, Sahari and Uryuu.

Mike Zacharias vs Sahari
Don’t they look the same?

The Yuuki Kaji factor
He voiced a character from both series.
SnK: Eren.
KnK: Takumi.

Number of episodes
SnK: In addition to the 25 episodes for the TV series, they also have 3 OVAs to complement that as well as the OVA spin-off No Regrets. Furthermore they have a chibi comical spin-off take, Chuugakkou. If that isn’t enough Titans for you, there is a second season coming.
KnK: Just 12 episodes for the TV series.

Movie retelling
Suspiciously, both also have movies which is a summary of what happened over the TV series. And they split it into 2 movies just to make it look longer.
SnK: Part 1 is Guren No Yumiya and part 2 is Jiyuu No Tsubasa.
KnK: Part 1 is Soushuuhen 1 and part 2 is Soushuuhen 2.

Conclusion
SnK clearly wins this one hands down although by no means that KnK is pretty much very bad. It is still great but when you start comparing to one of the greatest animes of all time, everything seems to fall short. That is one of the disadvantages when you size up the underdog against the favourites. Overwhelming odds stacked against you. Titans squashed Corpses? Well… It is no doubt that SnK fares pretty much better than KnK because it has more episodes to flesh out the characters and plot properly. I mean, there is only so much a dozen of television episodes can do justice to a series, right? Either way, both series would probably be the hardest “Would you rather” choice to make if you have to pick which world you would rather live in. Great steampunk fantasy world to watch but not to live in.