Shakugan no Shana III – 19
That was certainly an eventful episode – a bit too heavy in all the mind-numbing avalanche of “Shana” side characters and terminology, but action-packed nonetheless. I rather liked the fact that the trick to the Giralda wasn’t that it would consume the user’s power of existence, but that it was the act of using it – in the full belief that it would be self-sacrifice – that allows a mere human like Kazumi to use the unrestricted spell. Rather poetic, that, and it’s nice that Kazumi isn’t dead because unlike 95% of the fanbase I don’t hate her. We also got to see the truly hilarious spectacle of Shan reverting to full KugiRie tsundere mode with the fate of the universe on the line, giving even Sydonay cause to marvel at Yuji’s poor ways with women.
The headline for most, of course, is going to be the long-awaited return of Pheles – and with her, her eternal lover, Johann. I don’t have quite the biblical attachment to these characters that the novel readers do as their role in the anime has been rather limited, but I pretty much get the attraction. Of course in this context they represent a sort of cosmic wild card, a way to scramble the deck and offer a third choice that isn’t either Yuji/Snake’s or Shana’s rigid options – which is exactly what Kazumi wants. The implications of Johann’s intervention – apart from instantly turning Pheles into a giggling schoolgirl – aren’t fully clear, but Yuji seems a changed man after their confrontation (presumably because Johann is no longer inside the Reiji Maigo). In any case, it was nice to get a break from the endless political debate between the tomogara and the flame haze and get a different perspective on things for an episode. In the end we’re left with Pheles and Johann escaping with Kazumi and Khamsin in a VW Microbus driven by the Hyakki Yakou, those three crimson denizens we met earlier in human disguise.
Brave 10 – 06-07
I haven’t forgotten about Brave 10, which has gotten rather good again in the last couple of weeks. We’ve had the introduction of a couple of interesting new characters, the first of them Miyoshi Sedai Nyuudou (Tanaka Kazunari), a warrior monk who was a fellow orphan of Isanami and considers her his little sister (though he’s gotten so buff that she doesn’t recognize him). His over-the-top, overprotective antics are a nice diversion, and his brute strength and directness make a nice contrast to all the suave metrosexual ninja antics from the rest of the Braves. Then we have Mochizuku Rokuro (Kitta Izumi), renamed Benmaru by Sanada so as not to confuse with his
lover vassal Rokuro. He’s a young orphan with a serious talent for explosives who’s been looking for a Lord worthy of pledging his service to, which he deems Sanada to be after his party survives the complex of traps he’s set for them in the forest.
In addition to the appeal of the new characters, the show has benefited from an increased focus on Sanada and, by extension, less on Saizou and Isanami. Saizou is pretty much a false main character, IMHO – he’s a classic by-the-books dark hero, sullen and tsuntsun towards Isanami but ultimately noble and protective. Ultimately, he’s mostly a likable bore and she’s pretty much eye candy, but Sanada is the actual hero of the piece – a smart and deceptively cold and cunning man who never reveals exactly what he’s thinking (or what he’s capable of). With the political side of things heating up and Saizou and Isanami cast more as part of the now rather rambunctious and entertaining (almost) 10 Braves rather than leads, Brave 10 is a much more interesting show.
Mobile Suit Gundam AGE – 19
Pretty much all the old gang in back this time, including the Diva itself, now under the command of Millais and playing host to Flit and his fellow cadets. Romary has joined up too, to follow her man, but I guess we have our requisite challenger in Arisa Gunhale (Kishimizu Ami). She’s the tomboyish daughter if old Flit-pal Dique (now played by Oohata Shintarou), who’s now the chief mechanic on the Diva and responsible for the outfitting of the Gundam AGE-2, successor to Flit’s old antique. Woolf is there too, now with sideburns and in charge of the mobile suit squad but basically the ssame guy he was before. Meanwhile Zeheart has been put in charge of the Vagan invasion force, and he knows the Gundam is on board the Diva. It’s quite convenient how Gundam manages to tie everything together – everyone seems to be related to someone we already know, and the heroes of the first arc have all landed somewhere in the second. But why, I wonder, is Vargas wearing sporran?
A quick note on Last Exile: Fam – no post this week. I tried to watch the episode but could barely make it to the end. Gonzo can recall the ghosts of glories past – and indeed it looks as if they’re going to shamelessly milk the “mystery” of Claus and Lavie for a while before finally bringing them into the story – but bad writing is still bad writing. I did find it sort of interesting that Vasant was basically using Sara as a human shield, which I thought was of questionable moral judgment to say the least, but she was never really called out on it.