Not much new to report this week. Lots of explosions and combat between characters I barely know and don’t really care about, some curiously uninvolving emotional interplay among the ones I do, very little Shana or Yuji – although we did have much more Kazumi squealing this time. As usual, more named denizens die and no flame haze do. Really, I don’t have a lot else to say – I was fairly involved in the larger plot about a month ago, but the series has pretty much lost me. The one thing I will say is, Shana III has made me really hate most of the flame haze and their allies with a passion – about the strongest thing I’m feeling right now is a desire to see as many of them as possible die, preferably spectacularly.
Brave 10 – 10
Brave 10 continues its evolution into a solidly entertaining Sengoku fantasy, though I’m still as sure as ever that only a tiny portion of the manga’s story is going to be told here. The politics of the time are being woven into the story nicely, with with the Tokugawa vs. the Totoyomi Clan at the heart of it. Any student who knows Japanese history knows how this conflict is going to turn out of course, but that doesn’t stop Brave 10 from being an interesting story.
The focus of this episode is the return of Hanzo, this time accompanied by the rest of his gang of Ida Ninjas (of which Ana is a member), five strong and each with their own specialty (bugs, brute strength). As the Braves are dealing with the news of Isanami’s true nature each in their own way, the Ida Five arrive under orders to kill them all and take Isanami, Ishida and Kanetsugu arrive to try and pull Yukimura into their plan to defy Ieyasu (with the help of Uesugi Kenshin) but he seems more interesting in worrying over the still ailing Rokuro. This is obviously the “always darkest before the dawn” ep, where everything looks grim – and indeed, the heroes take a serious beating this week, with Isanami appearing ready to completely unleash her darkness as despair overwhelms her. I care about these characters enough for all that to matter to me by now, which I think makes the series a success by at least one standard.
Mobile Suit Gundam AGE – 22
The bottom line for me is, the show is getting better. The themes driving the plot are more interesting, the pacing is better, and there’s a little extra pop to everything that wasn’t there for most of the first arc. The conflict between the Vagan and Earthlings continues to evolve into a more clouded one, much the one between Zeaheart and Assume does, as we hear from Lord Ezelcant (Otomo Ryuzaburo) himself. He casts the war as a battle to reclaim Earth from those who’ve despoiled it with war and environmental destruction, and in flashback even takes young Zaeheart on a mental journey to Yosemite Valley to show him what Earth used to be like. Zaeheart is quite unlike anyone from the first arc – not only is he more idealistic and more committed than the hero of the story, but there’s no hard evidence that his aims aren’t correct.
The real red meat of the episode is the return of Flit to the AGE-I, and its return to the battlefield. With Vagan forces attacking Big Ring and their
Endless Magician’s Eight team of X-rounder suits – along with Zaeheart and Desil – wreaking havoc (I worry for any army that has Max fighting on their side), Flit himself takes to the battlefield to turn the tide. Not only is he a tactical genius, but he shows us how much more effective a Gundam is in the hands of an X-rounder than a muggle, and turns the tide of the battle, seriously wounding Desil and forcing the Vagans to retreat. The dynamic continues to be interesting here – Asemu seems unlikely to catch up to Flit as a warrior, but I’m not sure he should – where Flit is a genius of battle, bred by a conflict with a nameless and faceless enemy, perhaps Asesmu will prove a genius at diplomacy, a boy who does know what the enemy looks like and how he thinks.
Next week: the return of the one main character from the first arc who hasn’t been heard from, Grodek.