Finales, maybe: Aldnoah, Durararax2

Shirobako ended in triumph, Saekano ended with little fanfare.  Let’s see what Aldnoah Zero has in store for us.
aldnoah24-1Asseylum’s pronouncement doesn’t do much at all–everyone’s still out warring and having fun.  The only one who seemed to notice was Slaine, and his decision is to abandon the moonbase and blow up everything up, including himself.  I’m not sure why, especially after Lemrina said it was her home.  Also, it’s a boring way to end things, just stop the battle and everything.  There’s still two-thirds of the episode left!
aldnoah24-2Harklight decides that a suicide battle sounds like fun, and Slaine is reminded that Inaho’s still out there.  Of course!  Gotta have one last space duel with your arch-foe, right?  Harklight and the others can keep the Earth Forces side characters occupied!  Perfect!  Okay, the battles were a lot of fun, but often too fast to figure out what’s going on.  The worst of it is they’d switch from one to the other and our only clue was a flash of orange, or Harklight’s red.  As for Harklight, someone who had always admired Slaine’s moments of goodness and clarity, it’s a stupid way to go.  How’s Vers going to change if no one like him is around.  Oh, yeah, there’s the princess …
aldnoah24-3And a little more weirdness at the end.  Slaine is declared dead but isn’t (why?), Earth and Vers are at peace, with Assylum attending earth ceremonies with no one trying to kill her, meanwhile Inaho and Slaine play chess in some dungeon, and I think all the good guys lived.  Something of a miracle there.  But this was never the most realistic of shows and never pretended to be.  It wanted to be an epic war series with complex characters, and sometimes it succeeded.  Sometimes (most of the time) I would mutter “What the hell is Slaine thinking NOW?” but it made him fun to watch.  Inaho, when not saving the day all the time, was a crashing bore.  The other side characters on Earth just weren’t that interesting, and while the smirking villains of Vers were fun at times, they were mostly cannon fodder.  But what the hell, the battles were fun to watch, and the creators managed to keep the situation tense and unsettled until the end.  Fun.  Forgettable.
durararax212-1As for Durararax2, it sort of ends.  They decided to put season-long breaks between each story arc, it seems.  So this time there’s a lot of wrapping up and some setting up for next time.  Most surprising was Mikado’s stabbing of Aoba, not that he didn’t deserve it, and Mikado saying it was because Aoba got Anri involved is a good enough reason for the boy, but Mikado has never done anything as nasty and violent as this before.  And to slip suddenly back to his old “I have a bandaid!” self was even more disconcerting.  But since we haven’t seen this before, even after so many episodes, it feels as though the creators thought Mikado was too dull (they’re right) so gave him a psychotic side out of the blue to liven things up.
durararax212-2Yeah, this cours finale felt a little darker overall.  It’s still weird to see Simon participating in gang activity rather than as a general peacemaker and sushi prostelizer.  Izaya’s sudden stabbing at the end suggests that there are even more disruptive forces at work, and we’ll meet them next time, and Varona and her sidekick got taken out a little too easily, like everyone was just playing around with them until they got annoying.  The exception was Shizuo, who is obviously concentrating on his temper.  Trouble is, he feels a little tame now; it was a relief to have him get pissed off when Varona was stupid enough to attack him.  Well, most of the characters and relationships have changed since the season start, which is a good sign, and this series loves to keep us guessing, so this was a good way to end it for now.

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Aldnoah 23, Durararax2 and Maria 11

Yeah, that'll cheer her up.
Yeah, that’ll cheer her up.

I suppose with one episode left of Aldnoah Zero, it’s good that I don’t know what’s going to happen. Klancain manages to escape with Asseylum and Eddeltrittuo, and escorts them to Mazuurek’s castle, where she meets her grandfather, well, his avatar, and finds out he’s, er, unfit to lead. Personally, I would have given the emperor some completely nonsensical lines, like “Stop praying to the weasels,” but no one making this series has much of a sense of humor. Meanwhile, the earth forces launch an assault on the moonbase, and Slaine launches an all-out attack on the earth forces. Plenty of fireworks for next week, right?

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Maybe not.

 

Now that Asseylum has taken power ordered everyone fighting for Vers to stop, a lot of things could happen. They could ignore her, they could split into pro and anti factions and fight each other, they could attack Slaine. None of these seem completely right, and none of them take earth’s forces into account. I still have some hope that the good guys have some influence in all this, though I can’t see what that might be at the moment. Well, apparently Inaho’s orange craft is packing some serious firepower this time, but otherwise it looks like there will be war if Vers wants it, peace if it doesn’t. And there’s little the heroes can do about it. Not sure I like that ending. Well, let’s see what Inaho has up his sleeve …

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Durarara!! x2 11 is as crazy as ever. We got Mikado trying to interfere with that girl’s kidnapping and getting beaten up for it by people who don’t know he’s the Dollars founder, and probably wouldn’t care if they did, until Anri shows up and beats on them instead. Kyohei and that other guy beat each other to a pulp behind the school, then they bond a little. Akane gets kidnapped again, Varona goes after Anri, other gangs show up, you know, the usual. As a plus, this seems to be old thugs week. There are losers from first season’s episode 3 and 6, and probably more if I looked closer, and that guy in the bunny suit shows up again, holding another girl this time. Apart from the rabbit suit guy, none of them fare any better in their second television appearance.

Not the finale.
Not the finale.

With that confession, the soaring music and triumphant return of her powers, and her big “I love you all!” speech, I briefly thought Maria the Virgin Witch 11 was the finale. But no, they have some loose ends to clear up, like Michel taking away her powers, meaning goodbyes for her familiars. I’m hoping for Maria to toss some good verbal abuse at that asshole angel before he does. The episode had a nice ending, but it took forever to get there. Galfa beat up on Joseph for too long; we were just waiting for the rescue. And waiting. The other witches showed up to help us kill the time. But the argument after Galfa is beaten was good fun, Maria basically proposing without even thinking about what she was saying, which prompted Joseph to make the next move.

22s: Shirobako, Aldnoah

This isn't the crisis.
This isn’t the crisis.

Of course you knew there had to be a crisis-bomb dropped at the end of Shirobako 22. Everything that came earlier was smooth and serene. Aoi gets Segawa back in the fold, Ema gets a sort-of promotion (more work and risk), and even Tarou seems to be getting his work done these days. That leaves plenty of time for dialogues on every subject, from key frames with CGI animations (interesting) to Nick Cage, involving just about everyone.

Tarou's actually being useful here.
Tarou’s actually being useful here.

As a new, uncertain assistant supervising animator, Ema gets a few pep talks, one from Aoi, one from Yumi, and one from Shigeru, mostly about how she can do it, she should seize the opportunity, and things work a little different from her new perspective. Meanwhile, other staff are chatting while eating, or, in Tarou and Hiraoka’s case, drinking. I’m not displeased that Tarou might eventually pull Hiraoka out of his bitter mood; it’s a good thing for both of them. If Tarou can feed him some of his own enthusiasm, all the better. Yes, lots of nice little talks this week, setting up the busy final arc, which you knew was coming.

Meanwhile, in Aldnoah Zero 22, things take a turn for the bizarre.

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At first I thought that Inaho’s malfunction was a bit of program snuck in there to override whatever actions he might choose when he met Asseylum. Afraid that he might spare her life, I fully expected his arm to rise involuntarily and shoot her, but instead we get computerese talk about her being part of him, i.e., the program was confessing his love for her. I suppose this was supposed to be a sweet, romantic scene, but I was still getting over the software speaking for him at all, not to mention all the people going around shooting each other, to get into a romantic mood.

He doesn't care who knows now.
He doesn’t care who knows now.

It’s difficult to read the battle right now, but I think Vers is winning. They’ve got Barouhcruz slicing up good guys in space, Slaine is also in his big machine, etc. But there are too many cards to be played yet. Klancain is loyal to Asseylum and if she says “I want to communicate with the other side via this airlock,” he will probably bow and then help her out. Inaho is still lying there, at the mercy of whichever side finds him first, unless the software lets go and he gets his consciousness back. He’d better. He’s probably got another showdown with Slaine to get to. As for their first one, I’m a little surprised that Slaine told him flat-out what his intentions are toward Asseylum, though it made for a good conversation between the bullets. But it kind of shot the love triangle all to hell. Well, I guess the show had done that already. A pity. Slaine and Asseylum’s conflicting loyalties had given the show some depth.

Durararax2 9, Aldnoah 21

A great episode of Durarara!!, or Baccano! for that matter, leaves me feeling drunk and giddy. Durarara!! x2 9 left me a little tipsy. Good enough.

Uh, guys, stop it ...
Uh, guys, stop it …

We get, basically, a continuation of the stories from last time. Mikado is still being confronted by Aoba about leading the Blue Squares, Celty, monitoring the situation, is being observed by Varona and that guy, Shizuo is being looked for by Awakusu gang, who thinks he offed those people, and everyone’s looking for Akane, the little girl, who’s still innocently waiting with Anri. Personalities help a lot. Shinra gets a visit from Awakasu folk and has no idea he’s saying too much, bless his heart. Celty, while being helpful and heroic as usual, can become a goofball when her cell phone goes off at the wrong time. The gangsters act like gangsters do, though the smarter ones (as Izaya puts it) have begun to figure out that Shizuo’s not to blame.

Like nothing's going on ... Hey, Zvzeda gets a cameo!
Like nothing’s going on … Hey, Zvzeda gets a cameo!

Nothing’s resolved, of course, but things get entangled. Toramaru’s gang, looking for Mikado, encounter Awakasu members, misinformation is delivered, and there’s a fight. Toramaru’s gang is looking for the leader of the Dollars and learns that it’s Mikado, though he might argue with that. But there’s plenty he doesn’t seem to recognize. Actually, the episode’s weak point is when he does, and we get the voice-over talking about staring into the abyss and things like that, but I can’t connect to that because, mostly, I don’t care. Since the famous phone episode in season one Mikado hasn’t done much but stand on the sideline and gape. The show’s best characters are the other ones. Other than that, it’s another episode of strange encounters between strange and wilful people, and you can’t predict what will happen next, or who will show up, including grannies who clean up murder scenes.

Aldnoah Zero 21 brings up my favorite question again: What the hell is Slaine thinking?

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Okay, he’s made his intentions clear to Harklight more than once: he wants to create a new kingdom on Earth, with Vers technology, but before I thought his main motivation was to get Asseylum back. Now that she is, he finds her in his way and has her (and Lemrina) locked up, adding that he really doesn’t care what they think. And even uses the “If I didn’t do it, someone else would have” line. You could say power has corrupted his heart, which is what Asseylum believes after her clever switching of identities with Lemrina (I find the two princesses working together surprising, but completely logical, and it made me snicker), but it might be a stupid move. He can’t depend on either of them to talk to the Empire and placate the knights.

Run for it!
Run for it!

And he might have to do so. The battle on the ground, where three more Kataphract go down, might cause some grumbling among the counts and countesses. The Earth forces story hasn’t changed much at all. They go into a battle, briefly get their asses kicked, until Inaho gets the data he needs, and the tables are turned. The only real change on Earth’s side is the captain’s grumbling that they’re being used as pawns in the battle (yeah, well, this is war), and Inaho’s increasingly painful eye problems. I don’t see anything happening with the former; she’s loyal, after all, and the time hasn’t come for Inaho’s condition to become critical. Give it a couple episodes.

Aldnoah 20, Durararax2 and Maria 8

Aldnoah Zero 20, thick with plot movements on both sides, doesn’t lend itself well to any sort of analysis. Not that that’s stopped me before …

Pretty much a suicide mission ...
Pretty much a suicide mission …

On the Earth’s side, we got the big ship rescuing what was left of the fighters on the ground, including Inaho and Marika just when they were about to get destroyed, in one of those grand moments that would normally make me cheer except this is a Dunkirk situation. And later they’re ordered to do a big attack and retake the land they lost. And Inaho’s SmartEye is beginning to pain him … How many episodes is this season? Assuming just one, we’ve got maybe four left, so this will be the big story arc to polish everything off, unless there’s a season three. I suppose they could do another season, but I’m not sure the current characters and situations can sustain it.

aldnoah20-2

On the Vers side, Slaine rather surprised me by confessing all of his thoughts about Asseylum to little Eddelrittuo, proving that he isn’t simply a conniving bastard, or he is, but he’s a lonely and confused one who doesn’t want to hurt Asseylum OR Lemrina. Eddelrittuo is busy this week; she also gets some mind games from Mazuurek, who’s showing more guile than I thought him capable of. So Eddel brings a certain pendant for Asseylum, and, we assume, the important memories it tirggered. The question is, what will Asseylum do about it? And what will Lemrina do now that she’s discovered that Asseylum is no longer in her tank? And will it interfere with the invasion?

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Meanwhile, in Durarara!! x2 8, the more public members of the Dollars seem to have someone confronting them and other people waiting to get them from behind. The good news is that they’re not working together. We have Mikado, who just comes along with Aoba and a bunch of young punks to an abandoned warehouse (the same as in that big fight at the end of last season?) without arguing or fighting. Aoba reveals that he’s behind the attacks on that other gang, and now he want Mikado to lead his other gang, or first gang, the Blue Squares. Meanwhile, Celty is watching from a window, having trailed the bike, and Varona and that guy are watching HER, but they’re not connected to Aoba. And so the show goes on twisting our minds.

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Elsewhere, Kyouhei is followed and confronted by that gang leader (after they followed Walker for a while, while various attacks on the dollars (both in RL and online) go down. Shizuo encounters a murder scene and will certainly get blamed for it, and Celty still hasn’t seen Akane, though she will next week. And Izaya seems to be the one behind this, but I wonder if he’s responsible for the murders, or does he consider it collatoral entertainment? It hasn’t all come together yet, and probably not next week, but Durarara likes to take a few episodes to set things up and then throw us a doozy episode, and I think one’s coming soon.

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Maria the Virgin Witch 8, like most of the other shows around this point in the season, is concentrating on setting up the last big story arc, and that means the bad guys are making their move. This time, Bernard provides some medicine for Anne’s grandma. It works, and so Bernard “proves” to these fictional idiots that Maria’s been poisoning her the whole time. This show has been pretty good at showing individual minor characters thinking for themselves, but they make a misstep here, I think. Meanwhile, Galfa has been put in charge of raping Maria for the good of the church, while the angels above, as usual, don’t show up. Though I do think it means they won’t show up for Bernard when he needs them, either, not that Bernard truly believes in them. Maria herself is getting less fun to watch, reeled in from acting out by both friends and enemies. Oh, and that weird god Cernunnos shows up, but he made even less sense than usual.

Durararax2 7, Aldnoah 19

Mikado, you should know better than listen to Izaya.
Mikado, you should know better than listen to Izaya.

In Durarara x2 7 we get … more setting up. There seems to be two different stories going on now. One has to do with Mikado and the threat to the dollars. Izaya has conned him into doing something about whatever it is, suggesting that that Dollars would evolve into something beyond Mikado if he doesn’t get it in line. And that would apparently be bad. I’ve never figured out the Dollars’ identity myself. Mikado had created sort of an invisible group that was autonomous and acted out of good intentions, and that’s partly why most of the show’s good guys, some of them former gang members, have joined. But there are thugs acting under the Dollars name, now. But that was the case before. Does Mikado even have the power to fix it? Anyway, Izaya has him conned into doing something, which won’t be good for the lad.

Varona, meet Anri.
Varona, meet Anri.

Much more interesting right now is the other story. We get the background on Varona, the nutty, murderous blonde. She’s the daughter of a Russian gangster, and trained with Simon (the first real background we’ve gotten for him in two seasons) in her younger days. Not that it matters. In this part of Tokyo she’s just another nut, and not a nice one. So it was fun to first watch Anri turn the tables on her, and then Celty. I’d been looking forward to the latter for two episodes now. Next week it looks like Mikado get in trouble, or get conned some more, but I’d much rather watch Celty’s reaction when she goes home with Anri and sees that kid.

You know it's not looking good when there's an atomic blast in the background.
You know it’s not looking good when there’s an atomic blast in the background.

Aldnoah Zero 19 at least finds a release for one of its stories; the Vers ramp up their assault of Earth by, gasp, working together rather than going off half-cocked on their own. This changes everything. The biggest weakness Vers had was that they were idiots in battle. They had everything else going for them. You can thank/blame Slaine for this, as, in the other story, he has more or less taken control of Vers and is actually interested in running this war effectively. The reason for his autonomy is the announcement that Asseylum will marry him, an announcement that has the opposite reaction to what I thought would happen. I thought we’d be in for lots of infighting and treachery from rogue counts, but instead they’ve mostly gone “Yay!” and the few that haven’t aren’t worth mentioning.

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That is, until someone besides Slaine and that little maid learn that the real Asseylum has woken up. Apparently she’s lost a lot of her memories (though, apparently not about Inaho) and is safe to manipulate for now, but Slaine knows the dilemma he’s in. This might be the reason he’s escalating the war now; he hopes to get it done with so he can then turn to his upcoming troubles in Vers. Or perhaps he’s REALLY pissed off that Asseylum remembers Inaho. Probably a little of both. So next week I expect we’ll see the Earth forces retreating a lot and more of Asseylum remembering things or wondering what the hell’s going on outside her pleasure dome.

Durararax2 6, Aldnoah 18, Yuri Kuma 7, Koufuku 6

 

Well, she just arrived.
Well, she just arrived.

Durarara!! x2 6 has its usual lot of scenes, as usual, but very few plot points get covered, and nothing has reached a head yet. The episode mainly sets up the fact that everyone’s looking for that little girl, Akane, for various reasons. But we don’t know the important thing–why she got attached to Shizuo in the first place. We also learn that the blonde who attacked Celty is a hitgirl, part of a duo looking for Akane. Now, I can enjoy the irony of Celty hunting for a girl who’s actually at her place, but I really want to see the confrontation between her and the blonde, who has idea what Celty is, so I hope she doesn’t change her mind and go home quite yet. Meanwhile, that other gang has not yet acted on the Dollars, and all we know is that some people claiming to be Dollars have been messing with that other gang in Saitama. But that’s all last episode’s news. Meanwhile, One other thing I want to see if what’s going to happen between Anri and whoever’s just busted into her place. But again, nothing really happens. The whole episode is like this. And too many chatroom scenes.

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Meanwhile, in Aldnoah Zero 18, a couple of things do happen, and it’s not just another meaningless battle between the Earth Forces and another smug Vers Count, a scene that’s meaningless except to show Marito performing well in battle. We also get the duel between Slaine and Marylcian. No surprise that Slaine wins, but he had to use some guile to do it, and I’m happy not least because Marylcian’s idea of dueling is to fire off a bunch of little robots to do the fighting for him, but because now Slaine continues his rise by getting all of deceased Marylcian’s property. But after that the fake Asseylum announces she’s going to marry Slaine, so his slow rise to the top is now a quick one.

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The biggest thing, however, happens after that. It’s an excellent little scene. At first I thought for sure Lemrina was going to kill Asseylum and was trying to figure out what that would mean to the plot and after all the new episodes do we REALLY need her anymore but wait wouldn’t that throw most of the first season’s work on her character out into space like where Marylcian wound up oboy this is intense is she really going to push that button ..? And then she doesn’t. … And then … Once again Aldnoah Zero shows us how to keep a plot churning.

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Yuri Kuma Arashi is taking its sweet time moving the story forward, but maybe we’ve taken an important step in episode 7 in getting Kureha ro realize that Ginko was that childhood friend. Made especially hard because Kureha had forgotten she even had one. So it takes a series of clues, like her mother’s well-tempered love song, the book, the ginger honey milk Lulu prepares to signal one thought and then the next. I’m more curious about why she forgot in the first place. And there’s still the unanswered question about her mother’s death. One of these days Kureha will look at what Ginko sometimes wears around her neck and make a connection. But Kureha isn’t the quickest of humans, we’re learning.

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Elsewhere, Kaoru has rather a shock awaiting her in her lover’s bed (shock–get it?). There’s still apparently a bear on the loose that we haven’t accounted for. I suspect it’s the one who actually killed Kureha’s mother, because I can’t imagine Ginko doing it. Also, there’s that threatening note to Ginko, saying they know what she did. But Ginko is a criminal bear, remember, so there are a lot of things she probably has to account for. But maybe she DID kill Kureha’s mother. Finally, there are the flashbacks, the most memorable being the church that the young unloved ginko is dragged to, where they are told to defend the borders from those evil humans in the name of lady Kumalia, who, er, is human. And Kureha is the human form that Ginko … worships, which could be considered another type of love. So are Kureha and Ginko’s loves different? Elsewhere in the flashback we learn that bears can exclude, too, and we get a trippy battle scene.

When it comes to food, the girls don't mind breaking the fourth wall.
When it comes to food, the girls don’t mind breaking the fourth wall.

Koufuku Graffiti 5 gave us the traditional pleasures of summer, and episode 6 brings us the other side–the oppressive heat. And Ryou’s AC is broken. It’s a lot of scenes showing us the girls deal with the heat in various ways, mainly food of course. So we get eel over rice, ice cream, and azuki soup, since Ryou and Kirin are kind of perverse. It all works its usual happy magic, save for a bit with Ryou and the freezer which went on too long.