Steins;Gate 0 11, Comic Girls finale

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It looks like a final episode …

Steins;Gate 0 11 has one more confrontation with goons and then seems to turn into a finale, but, of course, there are too many loose ends to take care of. Important things get accomplished: Rintarou finally tells Maho most of the truth about the time machine, and then there’s her emotional decision about what to do with the computer, destroy the closes thing she has to Kurisu, or take Rintarou’s word for it and destroy the reason for the next world war. The fact that they’re tracked down by goons again almost has nothing to do with it. One set of goons goes after the computer, another set comes and shoots the first group, and destroys it. Essentially the same thing that Rintarou wanted, only he gets grazed by a bullet in the second case. A lot of time is spent with Maho getting over the loss of Kurisu’s data, but a calm, rational Rintarou talks sense to her–never thought I’d see that. Then it’s … goodbye. Everyone goes home and hopes it’s all over, except Yuki is still around, and so is Kagari. So I figure the next story arc is going to have a lot to do with her. In the meantime, it’s nice to get an episode which ends calmly, with no cliffhanger.

comicgirls12-1Comic Girls ends, and I expected a sad but sweet goodbye episode now that Kaos-chan had a manuscript approved, so I expected to be bored. But it turns out Kaos still has the crisis producing the two-parter. The first half had maybe too much help from the others, but now they’ve left the dorm, so she is faced with doing part 2 on her own. There are lots of “do your best!” lines, some from her mom who comes to visit, and temporary moments of inspiration, but in the end what keeps the scenes from being deadly were Kaos-chan’s near-constant anxiety attacks, made worse from her mom’s bringing baby pictures. Even then the episode got dull because we knew she would finish it and it would be accepted. And that’s just what happens. And because the everything is better than we think, it turns out they were just building a NEW dorm (rather fast, I think), and they move back in together, and everyone’s happy, except that Kaos is back to getting her manuscripts rejected.

comicgirls12-2There are good CGDCT shows but more bad ones. This one was good. It didn’t have the intangible qualities that Azumanga Daoih had, nor the inventive, silly, and playful art and animation of Hidamari Sketch, nor the sheer weirdness of Is the Order a Rabbit, three of the best shows of the genre I can think of. But it did have other strengths shared by them: fun characters and a genuinely funny script performed by excellent seiyuu. You could argue about whether the other girls were all THAT interesting, and I’ll nod my head, but it had Kaos-chan and her superbly executed and timed freakouts which punctuated almost every good scene. Basically the show, the direction at least, fell on her shoulders, and seiyuu Hikaru Akao did outstanding work. Everyone else involved just had to make sure they did their jobs. Next for Ms. Akao is something called Backstreet Girls, which looks weird, but not as cute.

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One more of Kaos-chan freaking out about something or other. Does it matter what?
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FranXX21, Hisone 10, Comic Girls 11

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Our heroes are, understandably, at a loss as to who they should fight.

Darling in the FranXX 21 is a big, grand, heroic episode where everyone makes dramatic decisions and sacrifices, sometimes more than once. Naturally, little of it makes any sense. We start with the ongoing fight, and the bad guys announcing again that they’re going to set off the Klaxosaur bomb thing and blow everything up, like, in an hour or so, enough time for several things to happen. 02 manages to crawl back where Franxx and that other guy is, while muttering about how little time they have, and she gets an IV or two. Then the gang, disobeying orders that no one should take seriously anyway, since they’re actually from the bad guys’, burst in, giving 02 and Franxx transportation and defense to get to where Strelizia is. Meanwhile, Hiro and the Princess are doing the contrasting “We’re doomed” “No, we’re not, I’ll fight for life until I’m dead!” routine. The rescuers do their heroic last actions and speeches, getting 02 and Franxx to the gate that won’t open until Franxx gives up his arm to open it, a klaxosaur appears and lets 02 ride it to where Strelizia stands immobilized by tentacles or something. Okay, in anime terms, this part is pretty normal. We may not know quite what’s going on, but we can follow the characters’ desires.

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I hope this isn’t the overriding theme of the series.

Things get out-and-out weird when 02 gets to Strelizia’s cockpit and finds Hiro apparently dead. She kisses him and then they’re both in an enchanted garden and have the grateful reunification that, I suppose, the show needs them to have. This inspires the nearly-dead princess to give her very last effort. Before, she had been talking about how the klaxosaurs had, out of a necessity not explained to us, they evolved alone and unable to procreate. Now she sees 02, her despised clone, kissing the random variable boy, and decides maybe solitude isn’t the way for everyone. Time’s up, but 02 grows a new set of horns, Strelizia bursts out of the Crevasse in its new Strelizia-Apata form. The bad guys, pissed that the bomb didn’t go off, grab some super-lance and run off, shouting that they would return. So I guess the good guys won, but what was with that garden? Is 02 now dead? (nah!) And what are they going to do in the remain episodes? I think there are three more … Okay, I’m going to stop here. It was confusing as hell, but fun to watch in that “everyone does the heroic thing, even the morally ambiguous guys” way.

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… and coming to a stupid solution

Hisone to Masotan 10 is no weirder than any of the other episodes. It’s very simple, everyone tries to help get Ei and Hisone straightened out. Ei’s problem was handled easily, though at the cost of some heartbreak for her and for Zaito. All he needed to do was act like a sexist jerk around her, which he reluctantly does, for the good of the mission! Poor guy, for once I feel sorry for him. On the other hand, it means we’re treated to Ei in full fury mode, which is her best. Unfortunately, Hisone’s problems aren’t so easy to fix, partly because she’s the main character and so we want her to have her cake and eat it, too. Quitting the air force won’t help at all, of course. What was Ikushima thinking, getting Nao to pilot Masotan and letting Hisone see it? The last thing she needs to think is that she can be replaced.

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Kaos receives some good news for a change.

Comic Girls 11 is predictable from start to finish. Not that that’s a problem if it’s executed well, and it mostly is. The dorm closing did not come as a surprise, in fact, when the episode starts they are already preparing to leave. The main issue is whether Kaos-chan will manage to get a manuscript accepted before the dorm, and the show, closes. Of course she will–the world isn’t THAT cruel to Kaos. So we have a first half of the girls going through old files and manuscripts left behind by previous tenants, with Kaos discovering a Gannbate! message on a wall. This fires her up, and she winds up submitting four manuscripts. We all know that it will be the fourth (her worst) one that will interest Mayu; the only question is what will the manga be about. I should have expected it–it seems to be more or less about four girls doing comics. But it does bring up an important lesson for creative types: sometimes you do your best work when you’re tired, so that stuff gets past your inner defenses. Again, most of this is predictable, but it’s made effective mostly by Kaos-chans frequent anxiety attacks. In fact, that carries the episode, which was quieter and more introspective than usual.

Hisone 9, Steins;Gate and Comic Girls 10

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Hisone has just figured out that she’s in love …

I think Hisone to Masotan topped itself with episode 9. A big crisis ensues that threatens the entire mission, and it’s done within the show’s witty style; a script that sneaks humor into places you don’t expect, and the usual deceptively simple artwork. It also doesn’t quite work the way I expected. I thought the episode would set up a conflict between Hisone and Natsume the miko, and it did, but I expected Natsume to lose out (which she will, but later). I did not expect that the episode was really about Hisone realizing she’s in love with Okonogi and that Natsume was more of a guide toward that realization. It leads to one of Hisone’s best scenes, where after a delay as the camera closes in on her face, her head nearly explodes and she starts running around the base screaming.

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… and Masotan can’t handle it.

Now Masotan has gone a bit nuts and wants to actually eat Hisone. How will they get on with the mission? Not to mention that the same thing happens to Eri and her dragon, the funny bit here being she didn’t know she’s in love. Now, this being a happy show, I know that Hisone WILL do the mission with Masotan, and she’ll also get the boy, but they’ve set the premise that she can’t have both. You’d think the dragons would be more understanding about this. Also, if Okonogi is such a big-shot priest, why is he spending all his time in the hanger and not working with the shrine maidens?

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Nothing much happens in this episode, well, until the end.

Steins;Gate 10 is one of those episodes where everyone is in sort of a holding pattern, having little fun times with each other, so you basically knew something huge was going to happen in the second half. While it was not on the level of gunmen breaking in, or surprise entrances from dead characters, I guess it was a strong ending. It was marred a little by the fact that I had no idea Kurisu’s old data actually existed. I believed Maho when she said it was gone last week. I also did not realize its full import until Rintarou, panicked, orders her not to retrieve the data because of WWIII and all that. I guess the big event isn’t that the data still exists but that Rintarou blurts out the truth about it. … While we waited for whatever big event it was to happen, we saw n entertaining, low-key episode of Nae becoming “Sergeant Clean,” and a pajama party where Moeka gets felt up. The business of Kurisu being Amadeus and Maho being Salieri doesn’t quite work for me, since Maho clearly loved Kurisu, but it’s probably a character point that will be referenced later, when she maybe shows her own inner Wolfgang.

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Tsubasa is losing her battle with gentility.

I’m trying to figure out what part of Comic Girls 10 I liked more. The part where Ruki gets depressed because she’s not getting the love her shoujo characters are wasn’t bad, and it kind of set the tone for the episode–that Kaos isn’t the only one who has issues distracting them from their work. But in terms of laughs we have to look later, like when Kaos spends the New Year holidays at Tsubasa’s huge castle (every time they show its front they play a “O Fortuna!” style lick, then cut it off and get to the action, which in this case has Tsubasa reverting to her refined mindset and forgetting about her manga. In a nice turnaround it’s Kaos who saves the day, well, and Ruki.

comicgirls10-2But if you’re in it for Kaos-chan freakouts, check out her misadventures at the shrine (worst possible luck, etc). That and the subsequent, ceremonial burning of old manuscripts to make a fire to roast sweet potatoes worked the best–in other words, everyone burns their bad work and moves on. As usual, the jokes and sight gags pop in and out constantly. Getting near the end of the series and the show is getting funnier. Next week the dorm’s destruction becomes an official storyline, so I don’t expect to laugh as much.

Steins;Gate 0 9, FranXX 20

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Oh, great, more weirdness to unravel …

Steins;Gate 0 9 has the show dropping in more clues, and like the first season, I’m starting to be overwhelmed. No surprise that Rintarou finds himself back in the “real” world, in the hospital after having collapsed. I’m trying to remember if he’d ever collapsed after any of his other timeline jumps. No matter … He spends a lot of time talking to people about what the hell’s going on, until an educated guess by Tennouji leads Rintarou on a speculative scramble that would be nuts in our world, but is probably spot-on in the fictional one, that’s the way this show works sometimes. And it’s … DURPA! Now, if DURPA is anything like our DARPA, I don’t think Rintarou, Maho, or anyone would do their research on the Internet, DARPA having invented it and all.

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Suzuha’s getting a tad desperate.

Meanwhile, to stir the wondrous weirdness further, Fubuki collapsed at the same time Rintarou did and had a dream about the Alpha Line. And Suzuha, after trying to get Rintarou to go back in time to prevent the impending WWIII at gunpoint, talks with her loving and perverted dad about how Rintarou will eventually come around and do what needs to be done. But then they say there’s only enough fuel for the time machine to travel back six months, not nearly enough. Not that it matters. Rintarou is dead-set against using the time machine again, intending to save the world without it instead. This seems to me to be impossible–both the American and the Russian forces are too big and too distant. Kurisu’s research might give a clue, but there isn’t any unless it’s in Amadeus’s head. Daru’s optimism aside, I can’t see how any more research is going to save the world. Sooner or later, Rintarou’s going to get in that time machine again.

franxx20-1Speaking of overwhelming, Darling in the FranXX 20 decided to go batshit insane on us. Our gang and the jerks who pull their strings are sent to fight off to defend the base while Strelizia is sent to go down and reactivate the klaxosaur’s big weapon, the Star Entity. Naturally things go a bit wrong. The Princess bursts in, we learn from Franxx that she’s called 001, she catches up to Strelizia, yanks 02 from the cockpit, and forces Hiro to drive with her to somewhere so she can set up the ultimate defense against the alien invaders, two of whom, by the way, turn out to be on that asshole committee who runs everything. But they set up a self-defense mechanism so now that the Princess is neutralized, the world is going to blow up, and all the energy will be sucked into the invaders, called WIRM by the way. Oh, and 02 is still alive, though bloodied, and pissed as hell. But what can she do about it?

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She might actually be kind of a good guy.

There are other surprises, too, like the franxx being basically klaxosaurs themselves, meaning they’re using klaxosaurs to fight klaxosaurs. No wonder the princess is so pissed off. She’s being attacked by basically debased clones of her own kind. The battles are fun to watch, but confusing since everything is on a much bigger scale now, and the people we’ve been following are basically afterthoughts now. I hope the world doesn’t get blow’d up, but really the thing that is most interesting to me is 02 and her identity. That punk alpha kid insults her genetics again, and the princess considers her one of those debased clones I mentioned before. She’s neither human nor klaxosaur, finding no support except through her now-accepting teammates, and of course, Hiro, mostly Hiro. Before the battle they make a vow that if they are separated, one of them will find their way to the other. This is also the last line of the episode, spoken by 02, as she wipes blood from her mouth. And while it looks like she is powerless now, her determination to save the one person who loves her makes her declaration powerful.

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Comic Girls 8-9, Steins;Gate 0 8, Hisone 7-8

comicgirls8-1The first half of Comic Girls 8 was the usual stuff, Kaos agonizing over another rejection, the girls comforting her, and then a study session since exams are coming up. At least Kaos didn’t fail those. Things improve in the second half when the attention turns to Ririka, Mayu, and Miharu having a post-exam drinking binge, interrupted by the girls from time to time, who happily do not recognize Miharu without her makeup. Part of it, especially the ED they put in, reminded me of that K-ON!! episode where we see the teacher as a schoolgirl hanging out with her friends and behaving exactly like the kids do now, only in Comic Girls’ case three of the girls are already published artists and the adults are not. And again we have to wonder why Mayu keeps trying to encourage Kaos when it’s becoming clear that she hasn’t got much talent. Oh, and the dorm is going to shut down in a few months. No one’s bothered to tell the girls.

comicgirls9-1Episode 9 feels like the best of the series so far. Everyone involved has found a groove; the direction is fast, the timing is spot-on and the voice actresses are outdoing themselves. Also, while I love Kaos-chan’s freakouts, I get tired of her constant failures. This episode has a good share of the former and very little of the latter. The first half seems like it’ll be another “Kaos overthinks everything” segment but it shifts to a role-reversal for Koyume and Tsubasa, who go shopping for cute things. The other girls work humorous commentary-in fact, the asides everyone rattles off might be the episode’s great strength. The second part involves Koyumi trying to lose weight, and it seems one of the series’ key themes is “don’t worry so much and the problem will go away,” something Kaos needs to learn. The third part, where Tsubasa loses her manuscript at school, isn’t as effective since we know she’ll find it, and I was rather hoping it would be Miharu who does, but it works well enough.

steinsgate08-1Turns out the return of a real, live Kurisu in Steins;Gate 0 was just a temporary thing. Kurisu watches Rintarou freak out for a bit and then figures out, with Daru’s help, that this Rintarou is from an alternate timeline. The trouble is, in THIS one it’s Mayuri who’s dead–for the thousandth time. Kurisu puts together the phone-microphone device, and then it’s just a question of which timeline Rintarou wants or needs, in other words, who dies? Kurisu is fine with dying, or rather, not existing, because she knows how important Mayuri is to Rintarou, while I wonder what happens to the people in timelines that Rintarou’s abandoned … Anyway, it leads to a grey, melancholy episode with poor Rintarou not wanting either of them to die, of course. The horrible future of the other word doesn’t enter into it … I also wonder if there’s a possible way to find a timeline where BOTH women live. The reason for it all only struck me later: this all happens in order to give Rintarou some closure over Kurisu, a chance to finally say goodbye, so that he can move on with the main story.

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She’s obviously very excited about this cunning plan.

Also firing on all cylinders is Hisone to Masotan. Catching up, I find episode 7 to be one of the best. The show has established the setup and the characters, got them to bond, and now it’s free to do what it wants, and that means an utterly ridiculous plan involving the upcoming ritual (still unexplained), described in the screenshot above. And so the plan, from an officer and expert in love, is to get Hisone to get closer to Okonogi, which both would secretly like but are too shy and inexperienced to go for it. … and then crush it, I suppose. Okonogi is in on part of this plan, but is too duty bound to refuse. Also, we have Ririko going around, bribed by comics, getting info on the girls’ likes and dislikes on Iiboshi’s behalf, the one thing in the episode that doesn’t really work, though it’s fun to see the girls answering her odd questions without thinking. Also, as I figured, Eru is beginning to get a thing for Zaitou, in terms of how these stories go, not surprising, and Mayumi is also interested in a guy, neither possible relationship known to the higher-ups, which means, I guess, that the ritual is in danger, and Japan will be in danger. Meanwhile at home we don’t care but just happily watch each character bounce off the others.

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The girls learn about their mission.

Episode 8 dumps that hare-brained idea of breaking the girls’ hearts and brings us the true identity of the yogurt lady, actually named Sada, one of the OTF fliers from 74 years ago, the last time the giant dragon Mitatsu-sama woke up and moved to another throne. That island they did survival training on was actually part of Mitatsu himself. Yes, it’s weird, but so is a show where military pilots fly dragons disguised as planes. The OTF pilots’ true job is to escort Mitatsu to the new place, requiring three days of flight, and the dilemma is getting the girls to trust their dragons to fly without guidance so they can get some shut-eye. Turns out to be quite easy, since after two days the girls need little more than Sada’s harsh lecture in order to doze off, and you remember that shared dream on the island ..? This is kind of a letdown, too easy, like they had to invent some little crisis in order to introduce more story material. Things will get more interesting next week now that the shrine maidens have shown up, one of them having strong interest in Okonogi, who’s not who he seems, either.

Steins 0 7, FranXX 19

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Nakase, Maho, and Nae showing the same faces I did while watching this episode.

With episode 7, Steins;Gate 0 decides to stop pussyfooting around and instead drop a few plot bombs on us. I expected Braun to interfere with Kagari’s abduction and, with Suzuha, drive off the attackers, though not demanding an explanation right away doesn’t seem like him, especially since he daughter was in danger, but I figure they wanted to have that more intimate scene where he agrees to help–fewer people. What I did NOT expect was that Daru’s future wife, maybe, was in charge of the abduction, something they don’t play up yet, though at the time I wondered why the show spent so much time with the helmet woman blocking Suzuha’s kick.

steinsgate07-2We get a lot of scenes of people just wondering what the hell is going on, especially Yuka, who’s not in the loop and frustrated about it. Chances are the show is setting him up for some future events. As for this episode, near the end, the surprises and clues begin to snowball. The gang all speculate about what the “K-6205,” and while coming up with Kochel numbers seems a bit farfetched, it gave me (and Rintarou) a few delicious moments of realization. Kochel … Mozart … Amadeus! Aha! Amadeus-Kurisu phoning with a “save me!” message right after that knocked me sideways, and then of course the whammy at the end, with a time-shift and the real, living Kurisu coming out from behind the curtain. Actually, I’m a little disappointed by that. I was getting into the story in the timeline they were already in. Now it’s almost as if they’re starting over with a new one.

franxx19-1Darling in the FranXX 19 has a couple of big plot points, but on the whole it gave us a lot of information we pretty much could have guessed. It’s mostly a flashback episode, interspersed with the present-day kids deciding what to do next. In the flashbacks we see Werner as a young, brilliant, hot-headed genius who’s suddenly employed by APE, supposedly unpolitical scientists, who proceed to revolutionize “magma energy” and brings in immortality (for the rich) with it. Due to their wise and benign guidance, much of earth becomes a desert wasteland, mankind is sterile, immortal, and passionless, and then the klaxosaurs show up. I appreciate, in the context of the show, how they depict the scientists as inhumane monsters who don’t give a shit about humanity, but concern themselves only with SCIENCE!

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SHE is actually terrifying, but much cuter.

For me, the most interesting thing of all is Werner’s desire, after his wife dies testing an early FranXX, of creating a higher form of human, which somehow leads him to the first meeting with the Klaxosaur princess. Depicted throughout the episode as a moody scientist guy, looking at this princess he puts on the face of a man who’s been locked up for twenty years and is suddenly confronted by a beautiful woman, in other words, and the creators probably didn’t mean it like this, but it looks like insane lust. The look stays on his face even while the princess rips his arm off, and then we learn that he saved some of her hair, and this is certainly what they used to make 02. Now, I will point out that using the princess’s DNA was Papa’s idea, not his, he certainly didn’t seem to mind, and considering what he thinks of the princess, it makes his attitudes about 02 to be … creepy. Then again, the elders’ views towards the “children” have been creepy from the start … In actual plot news, Papa has agreed to “release” the children after their mission is over, whatever that means. Anyway, it looks like the last story arc is about to start.

Steins;Gate and Hisone 6, Franxx 18, Comic Girls 7

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At least they had a nice New Year party before the goons burst in.

Steins;Gate 0  7 has bad guys busting into the lab while everyone’s there, but they haven’t killed anyone yet. It would be interesting if they killed Mayuri again, well, maybe not, as it would make Rintaro such a basket case that the story couldn’t move forward. Also, they burst in but don’t do anything except point guns and a taser at everyone. If there is going to be a shocking (not from the taser) moment it would have happened before the episode finished, to make the cliffhanger more exciting. My guess is that Yuugo the landlord is going to interfere somehow, since he spotted a guy staking out the place, and his daughter is up there. Well, we’ll find out. More interesting to me was everyone meeting the Amadeus Kurisu, and Rintaro’s comment that she is not Kurisu, and while Kagari might be the spitting image, she’s not Kurisu either. Maybe if they can get a third non-Kurisu, they can triangulate one. Meanwhile, I hope it isn’t long before those profs out themselves as SERN stooges. The show has made it too obvious for the viewer what they are. Besides, the blond guy gets on my nerves.

comicgirls7-1One of the best features of Comic Girls is Kaos freaking out about something or other. On the other hand, the things that freak her out don’t often feel real. In the second half she goes into the city alone, and after a lovely time in Akihabara, she’s stopped by a friendly policewoman who thought she was a lost little girl. This spirals downward until she’s hiding in a box in an alley, while I was tapping my toes waiting for her to snap out of it. It also bewilders me why she acts that way while at the same time working as a new manga artist who has to deal with constant rejection by her editor. Well, I don’t think about it too much and just enjoy the freakouts. This week the scary but kind Suzu has some more fun with her, but Kaos is getting used to it, besides, Suzu is a good teacher. Then there’s the whole issue of glasses. The show makes it clear that she needs them, but she doesn’t feel worthy of looking so mature. This fits right into the believability range for me, but they stretch that crisis out a bit too long.

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omedetou!

Darling in the FranXX 18 decides not to follow up on the klaxosaur princess business but instead decides to make the squad’s lives even more miserable. Oh, there’s a bit near the end where the encased elders talk about how everything is mostly going to plan, but most of the episode is spent with Kokoro and Mitsuru’s wedding preparations, which we watch knowing full well that some shit was going to go down and ruin it. Everyone was too happy. So the Nines show up, not sure why, unless they’re Papa’s personal henchmen, though I suspect the show just wanted Alpha to be there to say smug lines so we can hate him more. Meanwhile, the pilots’ role in this society is becoming clearer and more depressing. I wonder when it’s going to backfire on the elders. As suggested by the brainwashed Kokoro’s interest in the Sakura at the end, and the fact that Hiro and 02’s altered memories didn’t stay altered, someone, somewhere is going to recall something. And, as the Ikuno/Ichigo scene points out, these kids have experienced a hell of a lot more and have more complex, adult emotions than any of the other Not sure what the kids will do with the memories when they return, though. They are, as they always have been, powerless.

hisone6-1I think we all figured out that the way for the Hisone to Masotan pilots to get off the island was for the dragons to be happy, and that mostly meant getting F2, I mean Ken-San, er, Norma happy too, which wasn’t going to happen while Eri was so grumpy and stubborn. How she loosens up at the end didn’t really work. She tells the others why she is so angry–she wanted to be a real F2 pilot and not a dragon pilot, she turns around when Norma is overheating and talks to her. Okay, I like the way her change of heart is not overt and melodramatic, but it doesn’t give us a chance to see the change-of-heart moment for ourselvs; she’s come around without us noticing. Oh, well, it was another good episode anyway. I like how the other three characters play off each other now. We can hopefully depend on the four characters to provide a backbone for the future weirdness, i.e., what the hell is up with that island, that weird dream all the girls had, and finally why was that one guy talking about a “ritual?”