All posts by daramue

Senki Zesshō Symphogear GX – 6 – 8

Symphogear trudges ever on!

And it would seem we’re having our “Ocean palace” event – that is, the most climactic and often most tumultuous act in a series, save the final rising climax itself. Carol is up against Chris and Tsubasa, and it would seem that she’s going all out – she even possesses a form similar to those of the Neptune series; that is, the ability to draw out her latent power in an adult physique. Anime, everyone.

Hibiki of course joins up with Chris and Tsubasa and subdues Carol. But she gets away, right? This can’t possibly be her end, right? Well..it looks like it is in fact, her end. She suicides, but not before taunting Hibiki about her memories, the same memory flash that caused her mental anguish only a few episodes. The truth of the matter is that her father is the source of some tension within her family.

Oh, Galie and Micha are dead. Thank god, fuck both of them, they were the most irritating of the auto-scorers. At least the remaining members are sufficiently intimidating and it isn’t completely unfounded.

I’m really getting sick of seeing the symphogear users look like bumbling morons when we know they’re capable of more – Maria uses her berserk mode but even without it gets jobbed hard. Shirabe and Kirika look like idiots before finally getting their act together and realizing that they have to coordinate. Hibiki lets her father’s sudden appearance and willingness to “make amends” cause her to lose focus in the midst of battle. My god, do you guys see Chris or Tsubasa having these problems? Like, how much more often are you going to let yourself lose focus, lose horribly, and look like a complete dolt. Don’t you ever get sick of it? This is your third season guys, get your fucking act together!

I don’t know if the autoscorers are just this powerful or not but even two symphogear users (Shirabe and Kirika) taking advantage of the Ignite module have difficulty with even one of the autoscorers. Lord. Are they just that strong?

I must admit, the writers conveyed the idea well that Hibiki’s dad is a jackass – even I wanted to punch this bastard. What a douche. It’s difficult to tell if he really is trying his best to make amends and just comes off as a douche or is actually just a complete jackass who is superficially ‘trying to reconnect with his daughter’. Not enough information and I’m not interested in spitballing that one – if you want to reach your hand deep into the anime cliches bag, be my guest!

Senki Zesshō Symphogear GX – 2 – 5

I’m back from the dead, married, and have more shitty opinions on shitty anime than ever. Yes, that’s right, I’ve returned to do battle with the 2d plane once again. Let’s fucking do this.

Hibiki’s opponent is not even a pawn, but rather the ringleader of the new ring of antagonists dubbed the “Autoscorers.” Haha, I get it, because music, and they generate Noise, maximum kek. This is part of the thereby dubbed “Symphogear cycle”, however – cocky, highly arrogant group of bad guys appears (always with roughly the same number of bad guys as number of good guys) who attempt to keikkaku-doori their way through every obstacle and challenge, usually with positive results until the endgame where they get humbled. Ok, so that was generic enough that it could apply to most shonen anime, but whatever.

What is the autoscorer’s motive? The only clear goal at this juncture they’ve shown us is their willingness to destroy the artifacts that house the symphogear weapons. They meet Elfnein, who is on the run from the Autoscorers. From Elfnein, an artificial being, they learn the truth behind Carol’s motives. Hibiki also loses her motivation to fight the Autoscorers because of a familiar anime protagonist plague, i.e. “I can’t use my power to hurt anybody! Not even ‘da bad guys'”. This doubt in her soul requires Maria to step in and take action, even without a LINKER of her own.

We were also introduced to one of the autoscorers; a cocky, blue dressed doll girl named Galie, who I cannot wait to see die.

Oh, right, and everyone except Hibiki has lost their symphogear armor. Apparently the alca-noise have the ability to destroy them (in addition, the autoscorers have been wisely targeting their relics). Why in the seven hells has no previous villain ever attempted this? If it’s really as easy as taking a drill from home depot to destroy a symphogear relic then hell, I could even beat them.

Hibiki soon loses her symphogear relic, Gungnir, to an autoscorer who is equally annoying to Galie named Micha. Project Ignite is launched by the united forces in order to combat the autoscorers, giving Chris and Tsubasa new symphogears in the process.

Hibiki seems to have flashes seemingly of her father before she passes out. I wonder if the anime will just toss this by the wayside or expound upon it? Who can say. Oh, Shirabe and Kirika’s relics were both destroyed as well, but it’s all good, they’ll get it back.

Just wanted to say that the episode title for the fifth episode might be one of the best I’ve ever seen. “Edge Works.”

Edge Works indeed.

Disgaea 5 – Initial Impressions

I don’t really know if this can still be considered “initial” impressions considering that I’ve sunk almost 20 hours into this game, but hell, we’re gonna call it that anyway.

Who on this planet who’s already familiar with strategy games doesn’t know of Disgaea? Probably no one. The fifth entry finally arrived the past few weeks (which is actually the sixth main console entry, believe it or not) and what do I think? I would say ask you why I would spend 20 hours on a game I didn’t like. This game is that much fun.

Let’s discuss the plot first. Disgaea is a series based largely on its fun characters and usually highly silly plot – the fifth game takes itself a little more seriously than past entries but still has a silly overtone. While our main character, Killia, isn’t the most dynamic character ever, I’m still quite attached to his personal story just enough to stay interested in his personal motivations. Also joining our main character is Seraphina, a succubus overlord who has poor manners and a “rich girl” attitude, Red Magnus, a beefy musclehead, Christo, an expert tactician, and Usalia, a forsaken bunny princess. There could be more, but these are the star good guys thus far.

The story has some classic shonen staples, including introducing a general early on who you cannot hope to even scratch, demonstrating a difference in power. While many scoff at the idea, I love it – it makes me want to get stronger so I can destroy her the next time we encounter this general. Killia’s motiviations prove to be, more or less, the driving mystery in the story’s plot – why does he want revenge on the big bad, Void Dark, so badly? What is it he had done to him?

How about the gameplay? Gameplay is turn based strategy RPG split into “missions”, with five missions composing a “chapter”. In between every mission you’re permitted to return to your hub world in true Disgaea style, where you can power up your units, buy items, push a new edict through to the counsel, make a new unit, interrogate prisoners….there is no shortage of tasks you will find yourself habitually doing in your downtime. The best thing is that it will never feel like “work” or “grinding” – you will feel amazing as you continually make your units even more powerful than they already were. Yes, that is what I am saying – Disgaea makes grinding fun. Before you know it, you’ll have 15 generic units that you lovingly trained to be killing machines, and you’ll love every second of it.

The strategy RPG aspect is great fun. Because of the way commands are executed, you can do team attacks and set up combinations that would otherwise be impossible in a game like Fire emblem. Leveling up your equipment in “item worlds” is a great way to get experience and money while simultaneously making your weapon even better than it already is, and you can do this nearly endlessly. It’s an addicting cycle and it certainly works.

One of the best changes to the series is that in this version your generic units will actually class up without the need for reincarnation – one of the most irritating aspects in previous disgaea games was that units would need to reincarnate back to level 1 every time they went up one class. You can also further drive class growth by putting sub classes on any of your units.

The music is great. “Moving on”, which is the hub world music, is probably my favorite hub world track I’ve heard in the series yet. It’s soothing melody will calm you every time you decide to leave the game menu on while you get a snack. I like the track so much I even listen to it while I work. Even if you never play this game, give it a listen – you will surely leave with a fond smile.

There is also the trademark goofiness, such as requesting more money from the council by getting the council members drunk or bribing them, fighting over curry, or dealing with incompetent overlords. You’ll be sure to have a blast with this lighthearted but deep strategy RPG. Just know what you’re signing up for.

Prison School Manga – General Impressions

This has no doubt been the longest post hiatus yet – for that I apologize. Preparing for marriage does that to you.

On the flipside however, I’m proud to introduce a new section I’ll be talking about – manga. While this is a ‘general impressions’ post, expect to see me post reviews of entire chapters as well. Now, enough pleasantries – onto the review.

Let me start with a little history to frame your expectations of my impressions: I’ve actually been reading Prison school since February of this year and didn’t get into it until several threads describing it’s exploits in detail became popular on /a/ around the beginning of the year. With so much discussion (and unquestionably exceptional art), I had no choice but to investigate for myself. There will be light spoilers in this review (This is but a brief taste).

So what is there to expect from this manga? Well, to put it bluntly, it’s pretty vulgar. Please do not let children read this holy shit. But with amazing, sharp character designs, interesting progressions, and totally absurd situations, you will be consistently entertained from start to finish. It’s worth noting that Prison school is a weekly publication that, unlike most weekly publications, doesn’t lose steam or become plodding. It has been consistently interesting from the day I began reading it to current day.

But what can you expect from a series that follows the exploits of 5 boys in a previously all-girls school? Well, the situations write themselves, you’d think. But to be honest, their initial vulgarity is only a premise for the first act of the manga, where the boys are put into a prison inside the school where they must serve a mandatory amount of time, enforced by the underground student council. If they have three strikes, they are expelled from the school, which is Mari, the head of the USC’s ultimate goal. Things do eventually go their way and the second act of the manga has the story take quite a turn and, somehow, even manages to make me feel sorry for their former captors as old enemies become friends.

While this may send your cliche sensors ringing, the truth of the matter is that these twists and turns are handled with figurative grace – foreshadowing provides the needed groundwork for revelations and “keikkaku doori” situations unfold in a satisfying manner. Well, I suppose your mileage may vary.

The art is sharp, striking, and easy on the eyes. Characters like Kiyoshi, Hana, or Gakuto are striking and unique in both looks and personality. Backgrounds are detailed and very little is left to the imagination. Yes, I mean that the way you think I do.

How about the characters? Lets take our main character Kiyoshi, who at first glance may seem like our typical beta protagonist, but developments show that while he is superficially that beta protag, underneath he’s just as much of a guy as any of his friends -admittedly, a normally guy with some unshakeable resolve in times of crisis. Gakuto, who is easily the most developed of Kiyoshi’s friends, also plays a pivotal role in the first act of the manga and will likely have you rooting for him at every turn. Without any spoilers, he has “been a bro” on several occasions. I’m quite fond of him myself.

The characters grow together – gone are the stagnant shonen relationships of the yesteryear. Without going into too much detail, I doubt you will be failed to be captivated by every seemingly insurmountable obstacle presented before our heroes.

Of course, this is just a brief “general impressions” post. Expect to see my thoughts on chapters in the future!

God Eater – 1

Hope you like twitch, because God Eater has more twitch than a Russian AMV editor using mindless self indulgence.

God Eater is an anime made by Ufotable based on a game of the same name (Although in north america, only the “burst” edition was localized). While having received a recent entry to the Vita two years ago, we are only now seeing an anime adaptation to the widely popular franchise. If you don’t think you know what this series is, I’m sure if I were to show you a picture of Alisa you’d say “oh, I have seen this after all.”

The show introduces Lenka Utsugi, our protag, who is quiet but seems to possess a fair deal of drive and a particular distaste for the amagami (the ‘monsters’ of this universe). Nobody can blame him really – they destroy and kill with reckless abandon. Lenka has shown to us that he values and protects human life more than he seeks to destroy the amagami. Despite being respectful, he ends up doing something rash when Fenrir is attacked by disregarding orders and dispatching. Thankfully, he is saved by Lindow, Sakuya, and my personal favorite for some time now, Soma. Man, Soma is so cool. I almost cosplayed this guy a few years ago.

Lenka and his fellow comrades are all known as “God Eaters”, dedicated to exterminating the force of amagami in the world. Lenka is frequently referred to as a “new type” in the episode – the brief amount of the game I’ve played tells me that they are referring to his weapon’s ability to switch between blade and gun form. This would also explain Skauya’s surprise that he shot the shit out the amagami near the end of the episode – the rest of the first squadron is using old types that lack such an ability.

As expected of Ufotable, the animation is beautiful. I feel as though they are right at home animating scenes that take place in dark, decrepit city settings for some reason – must be all that color correction. While the twitch is annoying sometimes, people that are complaining about it are probably not familiar with the series’ origin – that aethetic was everywhere in God Eater Burst’s game opening.

Interested in seeing what I’m talking about? Take a look here and make note of the visual cues/similarities to the aethetic presented in the anime.

Hyperdimension Neptunia Mk2

More focus, budget, bigger scale, and more involved than before – all of these words and phrases describe the transition between the original Hyperdimension Neptunia and Mk2 quite well. It’s been more than a year since I imparted my thoughts on the widely panned original – but how does the highly awaited, jointly developed by Comcept sequel play out?

Quite well. For those of you who were turned off by the original game’s rougher around the edges areas (Tedious battle system, poor graphic, performance issues, etc.), I can safely assure you that about 75% of those issues have been dealt with. Let’s get into the nitty gritty, shall we?

The story begins with Neptune, Noire, Blanc, and Vert having been captured by a syndicate dedicated to reviving the evil goddess Arfoire. Because their shares have grown so low, they’ve become unable to fight back as the syndicate keeps them captive in the CPU graveyard. In the limelight this time around is Neptune’s sister Nepgear (Who’s birth into existence is actually detailed in the first game’s remake, rebirth!) I.F. and Compa, unable to defeat the powerful CFW Magic and release Neptune and the other goddesses, retreat and work with Nepgear on turning the world against the CFW in order to save their friends.

ss-001For those of you that recall the first game’s true ending, you may be wondering “How could a sequel to this game ever be made?” Good question – with the goddesses having renounced their “godship”, what else is there to do? That’s easy – a retcon. While technically Mk2 takes place in a different universe than the first game, the game’s narrative and prologue lead me to believe it’s more “Pretend we retconned these things from the first game” than “This game has no relation to the first game at all!” What leads me to believe this? A few items.

  1. The Console War and the battle with Arfoire is laid out as the ground work for the game’s current conflict – The battles of the previously bickering and not-quite-so-friendly CPU’s is recounted, including how they put their differences aside and worked together in the true ending to defeat a greater evil.
  2. Character development and growth that occurred in the previous game seems to still be present – Characters that nurtured a relationship or feelings for one another retain those feelings in this game, most noticeably between I.F., Compa, and Neptune.
  3. Despite some aesthetic changes, the world is identical – Yes, we still have Planeptune, Lastation, Lowee, and Leanbox. They keep their aesthetics (although they’re no longer floating islands).

So what changed that technically makes this take place in a different universe/a retcon? Compa and Iffy are “Childhood friends”, the goddesses never renounced their powers (Retained godship at the end of the previous game), and that’s about it. Otherwise, this is a sequel, don’t listen to Idea Factory.

How about the gameplay? As is standard for the series, story events are divided up by small scenes, voiced or unvoiced, except that the interface and general feel of the game has been so starkly improved you may not even recognize it anymore. All the menu’s are crisp and easy to navigate, including the main menu. Good thing because you’ll be seeing it a lot as the game progresses onward! “Story flags” or rather, those events you need to see in order to progress the story onward, are clearly marked and easily denoted by event icons. So far, so good.

Dungeons are a huge improvement. Random encounters are gone and the battle system has been completely revamped. While I miss the cool, stylish perspective of the first game’s battle system I cannot deny that this is an almost objective improvement. Rather than each character having several actions and movements per battle (With ‘link’ operations performed after each full combo), characters move on a three dimensional battle space with turn based combat. Basically – you move, use an item, attack, defend, transform, or use a skill. Often times you will find that you can strike several enemies at once, which is quite nice. I particularly spend a lot of time finagling until I hit more enemies than I probably should be able to. Don’t worry – just because the battle system has changed doesn’t meant that the highly stylish, over the top skills are gone. They’re here in full force (Say hello to Cave!)

Also notable is that with the addition of the new battle system (Which is further tweaked and standardized in the sequel to this game), characters gain their staple trademark attacks and moves that stay with them for the series duration at this point. For example, Noire’s Lace Ribbon, Drop Crush, Tricolor order. Neptune’s Dual edge, Variable edge, cross combination. IF’s Demon Flames, LeDelphinus, etc. You get the idea. The point to take away here is that the Neptunia series is establishing itself as a franchise with some staying power.

The story is the darkest in the series to date and, in my opinion, the best. ASIC has essentially taken over Gamindustri and you must see a fledgling, scared, but resolute Nepgear to the finish. Just like you might expect, she’s not all buddy-buddy with the other candidates at first, either. Oh, what a “CPU Candidate”, you ask? That is the term used to describe the “Sisters” to the CPU’s, based on the handhelds of their country of origin. Obviously, Vert does not have one, and Blanc has two!

17-noscaleNisa and Gust are finally worked officially into the story. Their appearances will make you smile. ASIC feels truly intimidating and it feels as though your task is insurmountable. While Nepgear is really the main character, if it wasn’t for IF I doubt anything would get done – she’s the true leader, driven and focused. There are several new characters, including Linda (frequently called underling by the heroes), who is my favorite. Will she return to the series? I hope so.

Also included are the oracles of every landmass – think of them like a ‘head secretary’. Histoire, now no longer trapped and residing in Planeptune, is obviously a shoe-in for Planeptune’s oracle, with Kei, Mina, and Chika taking up the other lands. As was the case for the first game, the story is segregated into several “Complete thoughts”, which is great for the story’s digestion. Early on we are introduced to Linda, dubbed as “underling” by IF, who is essentially ASIC’s main helper-hand. IF recognizes her for the cannon fodder she is meant to be and thereby dubs her so. The thing is that early game, Linda is quite powerful – she almost destroys us. Thankfully, Nepgear learns to transform and forces her to retreat. As time goes on, Underling grows less and less imposing to the point that they mention to they do need to even go into “A boss scene” with her, and instead defeat her in the cutscene. Pretty humurous, all things considered. Neptune usually handles power creeps with grace.

Underling isn’t the only one they need to worry about – there are four judges that precide over ASIC, including Justice, Brave, Trick, and Magic. Brave goes down pretty easily, but Justice and Trick hang around for quite some time. Justice and Uni even have an interesting spat concerning pirating, and while it’s nothing new the commentary on the flashcart industry is interesting to note and personally one of my favorite moments in the entire game.

Slightly unrelated – beware of the battle with Nepgear and Uni vs Justice – it is easily the most difficult battle in the game.

The perspective is interesting – without Neptune as a protagonist, things progress very differently. What does gameindustri look like without Neptune? Hell, what does it look like without the goddesses? The result is a more intimidating, unknown world than previously presented, with IF and to a lesser extent Compa taking a mentor role to the fledgling Nepgear. Nepgear is forced to come to terms with her inexperience, along the way meeting the oracles and candidates of other nations with whom she doesn’t necessarily get along with initially.

I think that we can agree that in a heavily character driven RPG, your protagonist frames the narrative and your perception of the game’s world and story. Nepgear isn’t like Neptune at all – she’s responsible, thoughtful, careful, and resolute. Some claim that because of these ordinary qualities she makes a boring protagonist, but I disagree; by association of those around her, she shines quite brightly. Think of it this way – perhaps in a vacuum those qualities would fail to be interesting to most, but when contrasted with her allies, it makes things quite different.

The story progresses in a satisfying manner – the moment where you rescue the CPU’s in the CPU graveyard near the end of the game feels like the game’s “Ocean palace” event. After temporarily defeating those who stand in your way and freeing the CPU’s, it feels as though the story has really opened up – your party is huge and you have everyone at your disposal and on your side. You feel powerful, but the game still manages to loom an even greater darkness upon you.

Let’s put aside the story for a moment. The music has definitely improved. While I love the tunes of the first game, they no doubt suffered from a minimal budget. For whatever reason Idea Factory discards the first game’s OST for the remainder of the series and pretends it doesn’t exist ever again. Get used to mk2’s tunes, as you will hear them aplenty in Victory and all rebirth games. Is that a band thing? Certainly not, as there are several great themes – Solid Park (Normal battle theme), ASIC battle, World map theme, etc. Dynamic and more cheerful than the original, these themes also are consistent with establishing the series as a respected franchise.

hyperdimension-neptunia-mk2-nepgearI doubt you’ve read a single thing about this game that hasn’t mentioned the infamous conquest ending – while obviously not canon it is easily the darkest element in the series history to date. I won’t spoil it, but be prepared for some emotional twists and turns as well as some betrayals.

There are some problems, of course. The framerate still suffers massively in certain locations (Although performance is better overall). Despite the games better looks over the first game, frame rate issues have plagued the series, even to date. I think it could benefit greatly from running in 720p rather than a full 1080p. Could also use some anti-aliasing, but at that point I’m nitpicking a bit.

I wish the dungeons were more interesting – often times you’ll just be wandering around a plain field or factory with little of note. While the prospect of getting to the next story event is enticing, it would be far better if the dungeons had some puzzles or variety to them. More egregious is that dungeons are sometimes copy-pasted in the series – to be fair, they are the same locations between games so it makes sense, but I’d still love to see some real dungeons from the series.

No idea why they decided to go with 3d models in the cutscenes rather than the beautiful 2d portraits used in the first game. Thankfully, this is a decision that is never revisited in the series as in Victory they go right back to where they were. Trust me, for this we are grateful.

Also a nitpick, but goddess forms have received a serious nerf. To maintain your CPU form takes some serious SP, as it drains it every turn. You need to dedicate certain characters to just stuffing your CPU characters with SP chargers, which can get annoying. Again though, thankfully this is fixed in future installments like Victory or the rebirth trilogy.

Overall, what do I give HDN Mk2? It might surprise you, but I’d give it a solid 9 if I had to score out of 10. It has faults, it’s not perfect – but it has improved so exponentially on all aspects present in the first game and written with such dark twists and turns. Worth a play, and even though many may disagree, I’d still recommend you play the first outing before beginning this one. While this series isn’t for everyone, I think you owe the greatest Neptune game a cursory glance.

Senki Zesshō Symphogear GX – 1

Symphogear season 3 is here, and Chris is still the best girl.

The event involving Maria, Shirabe, Kirika, their mother, and the crazy doctor seemed to be dubbed the “Frontier Incident”, and was quickly hushed up to the public. It would seem that Maria and the others were indeed punished for their involvement but have been given an opportunity to rehabilitate themselves – Maria serves the public in a similar fashion to Tsubasa. More importantly the world seems to revere the symphogear users as those that saved the earth – which they’d better damn well do, considering they did! After the Fine incident in season 1, I would say that the world at large wasn’t aware of the existence of the symphogear unit at all.

The new season hits us with some other hard facts right out of the gate – it would seem as though the symphogear users are deemed as goddamn japanese military weapons. Not a ridiculous statement considering what they are capable of, but it’s pretty hilarious that this is largely being applied to japanese high school girls. Oh well. This is anime after all.

The second division that we know and love that has been dedicated to protecting Japan from various threats of the Noise has been reorganized into S.O.N.G. (kek), who is focused on disaster relief around the world. That’s right, we’re going global this time.

So, enough with the synposis (I said I wouldn’t do those!) – what was up with the creepy “doll” like creature that attacked Maria? It seems that we’re sticking with the power of three villains again in this season (Sultry roof lady, little red riding hood girl, and creepy doll lady) – and as long as these adversaries remain powerful I’m totally ok with that. I’m just along for the ride.

Goddamn Tsubasa can NEVER finish a concert without something horrible happening. Why do people keep going to her concerts when shit usually attacks her or the audience all the time? She’s like villain catnip.

I’m most excited to see all 6 symphogear users in battle at the same time, a prospect I have been excited for since the beginning of the second season two years ago. How will Hibike, Tsubasa, and Chris work with Maria, Shirabe, and Kirika? Here’s hoping we find out soon. They need a LINKER or they won’t be able to use symphogear at all, after all!

Hibike! Euphonium – 11 – 13 (END)

Reina is still the soloist, as Kaori meekly (but wisely) concedes that Reina is more suited to the part. This shows incredible character – I was proud of her.

The final two episodes have our heroine Kumiko sorting through some difficult feelings of inadequacy – including kyoani tears and breaking into a sprint in the city while crying. Bad combination. Quite often in anime like this we see our heroines tasked with a seemingly insurmountable task only to prevail – but I must admit that the world of Euphonium has created a suitable atmosphere for the tension of competition. Indeed, it feels as though anyone, skilled as they might be, can try and still fail – there are no guarantees and no “plot cues” for deus-ex machinas. Given this, I greet every chance for Kumiko to prove herself with hesitation as nothing is guaranteed. The writers are merciless and they will waste no time to remind you.

Natsuki, Hazuki, and the others all presented Kumiko and the band members with good luck charms. The gesture was small and cute, but I found it genuinely touching – these girls must have so much else going on in their lives, but they still wanted to support their bandmates who even technically ‘defeated’ them. Such innocent and genuine gestures are rare in the real world. Thankfully in the world of fiction, we have access to unmitigated acts of touching love and companionship such as this, unfettered by selfish desires. It’s small, but it makes me smile.

So, how does our school stack up? Competition is fierce, and every tension cutting second of the performance had me sweating and on the edge of my seat. Of course, our band prevailed. Kumiko realized that she never thought of going to nationals as a serious goal prior to this moment – but with it directly in front of her, suddenly she has something to shoot for. I can relate. Often we give ourselves goals but we never actually “think” about attaining them. In this moment, Kumiko reconciled that dream with reality.

I’d personally like to thank this show for reminding me of the rigors, discipline, and companionship that I had with my fellow chorus members back in high school.

The show ended in an elegant way that many anime fail to take notice of (and, as a result, end up being over-indulgent). The competition is won, and nothing needs to be wrapped up – bravo, Hibike! Euphonium. I hope you return for another season so we can see these students take it to Nationals!

Hibike! Euphonium – 9 & 10

The appointed time is upon our fellow classmates – the dreaded audition. Who will prevail, and who will bitterly fall by the wayside?

Not Kumiko. It would appear as though she’s got what it takes as she (Along with a few other expected, like Midori and Asuka) makes the cut. Hazuki, on the other hand, is a bit out of luck. As a beginner though, I don’t think she should take it too personally. On that point, it would seem she hasn’t! It’s rough being in her position surrounded by capable players – that is a sure sign of emotional strength.

Midori is also feeling guilt over pushing Hazuki to confess to Shuichi, but everyone knows she was just being a good friend. Hazuki comforts her and changes her focus to Kumiko – namely, doesn’t she have feelings for Shuichi? It’s clear he does for her. Kumiko gives the first “confirmation” in my opinion that she, in fact, does have feelings for him, which I found to be quite surprising! She didn’t give any blusterings that would have given away her position prior to this – if she did, then I’m sorry for being dense.

Also, Reina is selected as the soloist over crowd favorite Kaori. Can you say “Shitstorm”? What, you can’t? Finish chewing your food first, please.

Poor Natsuki also did not make the cut, something that cut her pretty deep, although she won’t admit it. Looking sad and wistful, she is cheered up by Kumiko who exclaimed at the same time as me “You really are a nice person.” It’s the truth.

Did I mention how much I like their summer uniforms? They’re cute and, uh, “Spring”-y.

Kumiko again tried to figure Asuka out and the only thing that can be deduced is that she doesn’t personally give a shit about anyone, instead focused soley on what they contribute to the band and the performance of the school as a whole. I don’t think anything can be ascertained of her motives just yet – my guess would be some personal experience where human drama caused her or her fellow classmates to lose a competition.

As according to keikkaku, it would seem as though Taki sensei DID in fact know Reina before attending this school. Her father and Taki himself are good friends. This causes unrest within the band as rumors begin to spread that Reina was only picked as the soloist because of her “connection” to Taki and not because of the merit of her playing abilities.

Furthermore, in a bit of a twist I wasn’t expecting, Reina actually loves Taki. Like, love loves. Oooh boy. Sounds illegal, Reina.

In a bold move, Taki pronounces that there will be a second round of auditions – definitely not something I was expecting to happen. In some circumstances, it is a wise move to make – they can’t possibly complain if all the band members are judging it this time. If Reina is the better player and she wins, then nobody will be able to object. The band’s morale is important and Taki isn’t stupid – he knows this.

What happens now? Kaori has a second chance. Who do I want to win? I like them both, personally, so may the best girl win.

Fate/Stay Night – Unlimited Blade Works – 23 & 24

“Know this..In this moment, you are powerful.”

That particular moment where Gilgamesh acknowledged Shirou’s power gave me the chills – for someone as confident as Gilgamesh to acknowledge the strength of someone as humble as Shirou speaks magnitudes as to how much more powerful he truly got.

At first, I was feeling as though the narrative post Archer’s defeat was disconnected with the overarching theme and central conflict with the show. To that point, I could not be more wrong (And I feel stupid now that I figured it out) – Archer was only a part of the whole puzzle in Unlimited Blade Works. The true focus of the narrative has always been and continues to be one person: Shirou Emiya. Throughout the run of the show, Shirou’s ideal of how he should live his life has been brought into question several times: You cannot save everyone – is it truly right to sacrifice one to save others? Is humanity even worth it? Shirou has even been called a hypocrite several times as this ideal is not even his own – it was born of his admiration of Kiritsugu Emiya and his hope to not only emulate his late father but carry on his wish.

Shirou’s answer to those questions seem to be as follows: So what if these ideas are not my own? I will make them my own. So what if humanity is selfish? I will save as many people as I can.

In many ways, Shirou has constantly, unflinchingly rejected any and all ideologies that have dared to stand in his way, and for that he deserves respect. Even a heroic spirit like Saber has bared witness to all that Shirou has stood for and fought for the right to protect. And protect he did.

Gilgamesh, while he may possess several thousand noble phantasms, has never mastered even one of them, which ultimately gives Shirou the upper hand. They are opposites in more ways than simply “One is the weakness of the other” – they are opposites in their view of humanity’s worth, purpose, and desires. While nothing in the Type Moon universe saves Tsukihime or Kara no Kyoukai has ever had anything extremely profound to say in regards to humanity, it is powerful nonetheless.

Thus, the grail was destroyed by Saber, who’s contract was complete and disappears. Somehow Rin managed to save Shinji as well. Also, Archer was alive? Uh – I’m not really sure how that can be possible – for him to be manifested in this world again, someone would have had to make a contract.

His reminder of his humanity before he disappeared did make me smile. Shirou’s existence has come full circle.