Princess Tutu and Metafiction in Anime

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One of the most widely fascinating but rarely explored themes of fiction is the idea of “Metafiction”, which is a form of fiction in which the text, through it’s narrative, visuals or characters, is “aware” that it is a form of fiction. It’s a pseudo-genre widely used in many mediums of entertainment, and certain projects along the years have become beacons of excellence in the exploration of this concept. Some examples are the subtly terrifying and bizarre House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, John Carpenter’s dizzying and world-ending film In The Mouth Of Madness, and Daniel Mullins’ underground mischievous masterpiece Pony Island, amongst others.

Specifically, though, I want to narrow down my net of reference and only focus on Japanese anime, seeing as there are a plethora of examples in other mediums while it remains relatively untouched, or at least, undiscovered, in the medium of animation. Also because this is an anime-centric blog. Deal with it.

What I mean by “Metafiction” in this case isn’t what some lowbrow, late night TV anime calls “meta”, taking place in the real world and featuring characters that watch anime (like OreImo, or Umaru-chan), or even shows that provide commentary on the medium of animation itself and it’s inner workings and dilemmas (like Shirobako or Girlish Number). Of this extremely specific section of the thematic spectrum, one show comes to mind, that utilizes the actual definition of metafiction as a concrete baseline for it’s theme and story: Princess Tutu.

*WARNING: SPOILERS BEYOND. WATCH THE SHOW BEFORE CONTINUING*

Let’s begin.

Princess Tutu is a story drenched in the nature of fairy tales and legends. Episodes begin with a short and ominous piece about a tragedy on some way or another, the major aesthetic of the show is ballet dancing and appropriate music, and the main villain of the story is the very writer of the show’s plot: A mysterious and blabbering madman/genius named Drosselmeyer, the most crucial piece in the puzzle.

Drosselmeyer impersonates the concept of a tragic ending. He is the metaphysical writer that has blanketed the town where the protagonists live inside of. It’s a hazy and foggy aura, as citizens are turned into anthropomorphized animals, select teenagers are hosts to powers beyond their control, and time itself has been tampered with in order to create the most beautiful tragedy ever conceived. This is Drosselmeyer’s masterpiece, The Prince and the Raven. And the character Princess Tutu herself is the catalyst for the tale that he wants to tell. (Here is Drosselmeyer’s complete fan-recreated story for reference. Read it before continuing.)

Tutu’s role in the story is one of brief but meaningful importance. She is meant to appear momentarily, cause en event, and subsequently die. She is by far the least present character in The Prince and the Raven. Despite this, her name is the title of the show itself. This subtle detail is to emphasize the idea that even the actions taken by the least prominent characters in a story can have unparalleled ramifications, and that they are characters in their own right, with their own story to go along with the one being told. Not to mention the final confrontation, as she and the then-useless knight Fakir (the two least narratively important characters in Drosselmeyer’s story, by the way) are the ones that persevere against fate itself to turn a tragedy into a happy ending. If that’s not subversive, I don’t know what is.

The story itself is about characters stuck in, and then breaking apart the realized ballet-inspired fantastical narrative of the antagonist, whom expresses curiosity about whether or not he himself is also part of a story at the end of the show. They are not only questioning their existence inside fiction, but the writer of that world is also questioning his fictional existence. It’s a double metafiction!

Princess Tutu also utilizes these ideas to weave together a greater theme of morality in fiction, debating whether or not the authors of such stories create tragedies out of morbid curiosity, a greater artistic purpose, or mere fetishistic obsession, much like Re:Creators (2017) lightly touches on in it’s more heartfelt conversations before turning back into a Fate knockoff.

I’m sorry, I just really have a problem with Re:Creators.

Anyway, all of this evidence is proof that Princess Tutu explores most, if not all of the avenues of metafiction, integrating them into the story through it’s characters, episodic scenarios and climaxes. It’s one of my favorite shows of all time for this reason. Oh, and also because it balances all of it’s contrasting tones (whimsical and melancholic) and atmospheres (bouncy and somber) perfectly, and because the episodic storylines all hold golden nuggets of romantic wisdom, are seamlessly integrated into the overarching narrative, and have an ending that is just the right combination of bitter and sweet.

Gosick – Quick Review

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Just finished Gosick, and I’m rather torn. For one, I loved the relationship between the two leads, even if it started slow and often times showed glimpses of returning to it’s annoying and repetitive master-servant state. It ended up evolving pretty subtly throughout the plot and was very engaging, mostly due to the genuine chemistry they had while tackling the different mysteries and especially when shit hit the fan, that’s when they really showed their best as people slowly falling in love with one another.

 

On the other hand, the “mystery” aspect of the show was hit-or-miss, and mostly on the miss side. Often times the arcs were incredibly obvious with their clues, leading to minutes (or sometimes even entire episodes) of waiting around for the plot to catch up with that I already had deciphered. Other times, the twists were properly shocking and well-timed, and on reflection were set up nicely and coherently. They clicked enough to where you could miss certain things if not paying attention. The most fascinating sections of the mysteries were the setups, as they began with explosive and properly magical displays that really piqued my interest, but as soon as the two leads began their investigations, interest quickly hit a wall. Those last 2 episodes were very frenetic and nerve-wracking, mostly because by that point their relationship was the most important aspect of the show for me, so I was hoping that they would actually get together. The ending was overall solid.

 

Overall, Gosick is fine. The mysteries are rather dull and easy to figure out, but nonetheless interesting to piece together casually. The romance begins rather banal and repetitive, but slowly inches its way towards genuine chemistry and satisfaction, and the whole tone of the show was dark enough to expect major twists and turns, but also peppy enough to where a chipper scene between the two leads was always a welcome addition. I’d give it a strong 6, maybe a light 7 if I’m feeling generous.

Casshern Sins, and how Humanity is Subconsciously Addicted to Conflict

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Casshern Sins is fascinating in a way that’s very different to most other shows, because it takes an episodic adventure genre and uses it to explore the depths of the human psyche, all coalescing into one central theme that I have never seen be explored in media at all: Humanity’s dependability and need for conflict.

When we think about peace on Earth, it’s almost universally agreed on that it’s the most desired outcome for the future of humanity. People want peace above all, and hate the ideas of war and conflict basically conceptually. What many people don’t realize though, is how important conflict is despite how it’s been perceived as an objectively negative thing.

Obviously any kind of suffering is something most people don’t want, but surviving suffering leads to adaptability and evolution. Humans have become what they’ve become due to the strain they’ve suffered, from being hunted by wild animals 10,000 years ago, all the way through written history and all of it’s atrocities, to the modern day, where pain and death happen every day. It’s a part of our life as human beings and it’s lead us to the level of technological and societal sophistication that we currently maintain. We are what we are because of the horrors that happened to our ancestors.

What Casshern Sins mananges to show in it’s titular character Casshern, is that he is very much a man (or in this case, robot) tied to war and conflict. He cause the end of the world, plunging the Earth into an era of desolate landscapes, rust, and despair. He wishes to stop fighting, to repent for his sins, but the world that he lives in doesn’t let him. The robots that are left have all grown insane, hungry for his body and desperate to consume him in order to achieve immortality. Casshern is faced with these robots day after day, having to face the results of his actions. Due to what he is, the world is filled with pain.

This is very much similar to how humanity has evolved. Humans have turned humanity into a greedy existence, and now have to cope with the way that they have shaped their very being. The prominence of conflict is due to human’s actions, but now that humanity has reached a level of sophistication that conflict ins’t necessary, it has to repent and reflect on it’s sins now that the idea of war has been so ingrained in our subconscious. It’s for a reason that humans are the only species on Earth that has ever systematically eliminated members of their own race.

Casshern Sins paints a somber picture of humanity and how it’s shaped itself to unconsciously cling to conflict, despite it’s lack of necessity in modern times.

Summer 2017 Surprise #1 – Princess Principal

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“Sometimes, a lie will become a truth in the telling.”

Studio 3Hz gained quite a name for itself as well as a loyal following after last years arthouse adventure Flip Flappers, and this year, it’s returning with a show that masters the style and smooth classiness of old-school steampunk and mixes it with an episodic spy-centric storyline. Welcome to Princess Principal.

The show centers around it’s titular spies, the stoic and compulsive liar Ange, the smug and rather gothic Chise, the always energetic yet inconspicuous Beatrice, the charismatic and verbally assertive Dorothy, and finally the enigmatic yet strangely mysterious Princess.

The characters all have distinct and fascinating personalities, especially Ange, who is cold, calculating yet never predictable and always surprising. Her stigma about lies and deceit lends well to the show’s narrative, as it plays with the audience’s expectations and always results in things never being as they seem. This makes for constantly twisting episodic narratives that feel complete and concrete.

The setting of the show is a strikingly detailed steampunk-ed London, which has all the workings of a functioning and believable world. It pulls no punches about it’s dirty and dusty rawness, from the actions performed by the main and supporting cast, as well as by the moving parts of the story itself, which all weave together solidly and have no moments of either narrative downtime or of inconsequential scenes.

The fact that it’s original also lends itself to the medium of animation rather well. Adaptations from manga or light novels have vastly different pacing, mostly revolving around the reader’s own speed while reading, but here, the story it feels properly condensed into the entire episode.

The fight sequences (aside from feeling frenetic yet always lighthearted, sort of like Lupin III) have interesting connotations to them, from regular gunfights in corridors, to car chases with gravitational components to them, to many more. They’re always different, always fun, and never feel interrupted by it’s dialogue and witty banter.

Another aspect that I’ve come across is the vast amount of fan theorizing that’s been going on even after just the first episode. The 1st episode’s story (while being rather uncomplicated in the grand scheme of things) is packed with little tidbits of potential secrets for the future, and knowing that the show is heavily steeped in lies, it’s not difficult to get carried away with predictions, and that also makes for fascinating conversation, especially in 4chan’s /a/ board, where watchers have already made character evolutions, revelations and more that all have solid backing and just increase the interest in the show ten-fold.

Researching the show’s staff, we get some very concrete ideas as to what this show might be about. Let’s take a look:

  • Director: Masaki Tachibana, most known as director of .hack//Quantom, Barakamon, and Tokyo Magnitude 8.0, as well as storyboard for Evangelion 2.0, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex (and 2nd GIG), and Noir.
  • Script and Series Composition: Ichiro Okouchi, known as as scriptwriter and series composer for Azumanga Daioh, Code Geass (and R2), Kakumeiki Valvrave (and Season 2), Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress, Planetes, and Turn A Gundam.
  • Art Director: Nobutaka Ike, most famous as art director for Paprika and Perfect Blue.
  • Music: Yuki Kajiura, who’s a legend in the medium and famous for the soundtracks and/or theme songs of the .hack franchise, Aldnoah.Zero, Arslan Senki, Baccano!, Boku dake ga Inai Machi, Chrno Crusade, Portrait le Petit Cossette, Fate/Zero (and 2nd Season), Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (and 2nd Season), the Kara no Kyoukai films, Kuroshitsuji (and II), Mahou Shoujo Madoka Magica, Mai-HiME, So Ra No Wo To, and Sword Art Online (and II).

From these staff members (except perhaps Yuki Kajiura, seeing as her music, while excellent, doesn’t affect the story at all), it’s easy to determine the nature of this show and what it will try to be, and from the first episode, the signs are all there.

It’s a half action, half spy story, with moments of violence being preceded with secret plans and political manipulation, with massive twists coming in at the show’s climax upending everything we know about the show. These are all traits found in shows like the extremely frenetic and insane Code Geass, as well as the complexity and nuanced narrative of GITS, mixed with the excellent action choreography and visual style and flair that Kabaneri has. The art direction and backgrounds are all impressively realistic and detailed, and the design of the steampunk world itself is very concrete, but the show still lends itself to moments of interspersed warping and vastly “out-there” scenes, like the opening of PriPri as well as in certain scenes in Paprika. The show might be told in a non-linear way, seeing as episode one was labeled “Case #13”, and might either skip cases entirely or regress back in time to the forming of the team of spies.

It’s all very viable as of right now and up for debate, but this show is definitely one to check out. It’s not difficult to understand if you’re paying attention, but it does require some more inquiry and attentiveness from the viewers in order to be fully grasped.

P.S.: Don’t believe her lies.

Analytical and Self-Indulgent Guide to the Summer 2017 Anime Season’s Top 11 Most Popular Shows

So, as an avid anime watcher, the constant, never-ending resurgence of new shows is something that elates my pleasures into astronomical levels. New anime every season? 40+ shows? Endless enjoyment, probably until the day I die. I could not be happier.

So, I’ve compiled a list of the Top 11 most popular shows of the season, and will analyze them accordingly. Why top 11? Because I like to take one step beyond.

If there’s a particular show that I feel has something deeper to explore in it’s themes or technicalities, I will post about that show. Remember that I’m doing a daily 750+ word long blog breakdown about one of the most dense and complex series ever made.

Anyway, on to the shows (sorted from highest to lowest number of members in MyAnimeList):

  • Hajimete no Gal: A series which overtook the #1 popular spot for Owarimonogatari S2, which is honestly baffling. The sequel to an entry in one of anime’s most popular series? Defeated by a 10 episode long, high school ecchi show by a studio (NAZ) whose most popular show is Hamatora The Animation? By a director whose most prominent show is the rather infamous Masou Gakuen HxH, from the Summer 2016 season? One thing’s for sure, this guy can give you fanservice. That’s either a pleasant surprise or a dark omen about the future of the industry. I can understand the need for it though, as a seriously simple, sexy show about promiscuous high school girls with big breasts fiddling and fondling around with a self-insert main character. I get it, I’m a guy too. When the title of a show literally translates to “First Time with a Gal Girl”, it’s not difficult to surmise that this romp is probably not going to contain some deeply nuanced themes about the nature of humanity or some frilly stuff like that. Straightforward, raunchy, and easy on the digestive track. Sounds like Summer fare.

 

  • Fate/Apocrypha: Yet another addition to the exponentially longer and difficult to understand Fate series, which has bounced from studio to studio so much that it seems more like a genre instead of a series of interconnected stories. This one, though, focuses on… uh… let me take a look at the synopsis.

    The setting is a parallel world to Fate/stay night where the Greater Grail mysteriously disappeared from Fuyuki after the Third Holy Grail War. After many years of silence, around the same time as the Fifth Holy Grail War would have happened, the Yggdmillennia, a family of magi, openly declares their secession from the Mage’s Association, and that they are in possession of the Grail. The Association dispatches fifty magi to retrieve it, and all but one are instantly slaughtered by a mysterious Servant. The one remaining manages to activate the reserve system of the Greater Grail, allowing for the summoning of fourteen Servants in total. In the city of Trifas, two factions will fight for the control of the sacred relic, each of them possessing their own team of seven Servants : the Black Faction whose members are part of Yggdmillennia, protecting the Grail, and the Red Faction whose members were sent by the Mage’s Association, trying to take the Grail back. For an event of this scale, the Grail itself summons its own Servant, the holy Ruler, to oversee the conflict. This marks the start of the Great Holy Grail War.

  • So yeah, the fact that this synopsis, which I imagine most of you read a little of, then subsequently skipped completely, is attracting so many people, that it’s a little strange. People who are seriously hyped for a new entry in the Fate franchise. This “snippet” of background lore made me confused and will probably mean this show is going to be too distant from me to ever make a mark. Why am I watching it then, if I haven’t seen a single instance of Fate except for 6 episodes of Prisma Illiya and it’s second OVA? Because it’s being marketed as a fully standalone edition. It’s a parallel world to Fate/stay night, but one that, according to some people online, doesn’t affect the story of Apocrypha. Not to mention that it’s done by a completely different studio, A-1, which means that it’s probably involving enough different people that it’s probably going to be different conceptually. A-1, though, has had a pretty bad history with me personally, The Asterisk War and Eromanga-sensei both garnering a 1/10 score from me, and their titular show Sword Art Online being a laughable meme instead of a creditable anime series. All in all, I hope this is at least entertaining to watch.

 

  • Owarimonogatari 2nd Season: This one came out of left field and seems strangely genius for the alleged “final” installment of the Monogatari series. It’s a 2-day long special, starting on August 12th and ending the next day. The sheer discrepancies between the main Monogatary season’s lenghts are something to dig into though,  because the fact that they are so different fits perfectly into the subversive and unnatural aura that the show emanates. Bake was 15, Nise was 11, SS was 26, Tsuki was 4, Owari was 12, Owari S2 is probably between 2-6, and finally Hana was 5. Outside of this, expect the usual colorful and layered shot composition, the delicious dialogue, gorgeous characters and trippy story arcs. It’s Monogatari, what else are you anticipating?

 

  • Kakegurui: Studio MAPPA is one that has released some gems of animation in recent years (Hajime no Ippo: RisingTeekyuu, Yuri!!! on ICE, Sakamichi no Apollon), but also some confusing and poorly executed mediocrities (Zankyuo no Terror, Punch Line, the latter half of Shingeki no Bahamut). Kakegurui, though feels drenched in a jazzy, classy vibe, apparent from it’s key visuals and it’s PVs, the only colors that stand out being deep crimson, shiny black, weak yellow, or pure white. The music feels Vegas-y, the cast of characters a deeply wacked-out and insane bunch. The theme in this one is gambling, and as a hardcore fan of the excellent Kaiji: Ultimate Survivor, the idea of high school focused entirely on gambling makes my pants evaporate. Not to mention the more adult-looking character designs, fancy attire, and terrifying personalities, make this look like a contender for a massively exciting adventure. My expectations, though, remain at the appropriate level: Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.

 

  • New Game!!: This one needs no introduction. New Game! was one of 2016’s highlights of the Slice of Life genre, and it’s perfect combination of cute and sexy character designs alongside it’s dramatic workplace setting instantly separated it from the moe-blobey standards of the genre that it’s sadly garnered. Poppy, polished color composition, moments of laugh-out-loud hilarity, and a sense of nonchalant positivity are things that are guaranteed in the second coming of the show, even though personally I’m hoping for a new spin on the formula. Studio Doga Kobo is a master at this style of show, with such well-regarded examples such as Yuru Yuri, Engaged to the Unidentified, Gabriel Dropout, and the super-popular Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun. This is the safe bet of the season, and if you enjoyed the original, the sequel will most likely be more of the girls you love.

 

  • Katsugeki/Touken Ranbu: Studio ufotable is famous for their highly regarded adaptations of Fate/Zero and Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works, but this time, they’re taking a previously untouched card game instead. The story revolves around time travelers going to the Edo period, to the year 1863. Their goal is to rewrite history, but their quest is halted when 2 spirits brought to life as warriors are sent by a sage are sent to fight the incoming invaders. Honestly, this one looks and sounds pretty run-of-the-mill action fantasy, and if you enjoy the Edo period and the fight sequences in Fate, then this show might be more than just regular Seinen action for you. This is Toshiyuki Shirai’s first role as director, having previously worked as Key Animator, Animation Director and Episode Director on random sections of Code Geass R2, Fate/Zero (+S2), Fate/stay night: Unlimited Blade Works (+S2), Soul Eater, God Eater, and Tales of Zestiria the X. At least you can expect some intense violence.

 

  • Koi to Uso: Japanese for “Love and Lies”, this is this season’s first delve into the often insulted and berated, yet also deeply desired realm of netorare. Couples cheating on each other is a source of pleasure for many lovers of romance stories, it’s taboo-esque nature adding an extra layer of intensity and “wrongness”. Studio LIDENFILMS is returning once again, right after putting out the most popular non-sequel show of last season Akashic Records. This time, though, the relatively generic looking designs of Records is gone, in favor of a pastel, low-key and sleek style that screams modern Shoujo. In Winter we had Scum’s Wish, which looked very similar and explored parallel themes,  and whether you personally like it or now, it’s was one of that season’s top 5 most popular shows. There is an audience for these shows, and seeing as this is the same director of Yamada-kun and the 7 Witches, some level of talent is definitely being poured into this show.

 

  • Gamers!: Underground studio Pine Jam was formed in late 2015 and has yet to released a project that has broken new grounds. I’ve met some hardcore fans of Mahou Shoujo Nante Mou li Desukara, and it’s most popular product, the ONA Getsuyoubi no Tawawa, has garnered some level of community acknowledgement. This season though, they’re seeking a simple concept in the way of a high school gaming club, with a strong sense of romance to break up the comedic consistency and provide, as the show’s description boldly states, “misunderstandings”. At face value, it seems like a run-of-the-mill high school romcom, and learning that this is Manabu Okamoto’s first directorial debut, the future is not looking too bright for this one.

 

  • Isekai wa Smartphone to Tomo ni: With this new harem show come the first of the droves of isekai series that are plaguing this season like maggots, and this one starts and proceeds in the same way that countless others of it’s ilk are doing. Just like last year’s Re:Zero, our titular hero Touya has died and reborn into a fantasy land with his smartphone, and, as the show’s description proclaims, “travels around nonchalantly”, which immediately tells me that this show is going to contain no sense of drama or story at all. That’s perfectly fine, though, there are plenty of excellent shows that utilize this plot-less formula, some of them being the peacefully pleasant Non Non Biyori and the always funny and memorable Lucky Star. Production Reed has been rather unapparent in it’s history, it’s most famous show being Winter 2016’s lowkey Shoujo romcom Nijiiro Days, and Smartphone‘s director’s past experiences being 2014’s adaptation of 4-koma manga Himegoto, aside from the odd hentai. The formula isn’t difficult to pull off, though, so this show is probably going to deliver the simple harem isekai adventure romp that it wants to portray.

 

  • Netsuzou TRap: After reading the manga, I can say that I am slightly more excited for this show than previously perceived. The manga itself is nothing special, just your typical secret yuri story between childhood friends, but one thing that it does do rather differently is the sheer amount of hot-n-steamy scenes between our two main girls. It seems that every chapter there is a groping, or a passionate kiss, or a lust-filled moment. This is why I believe that this show is as short as it is, with episodes only lasting 10 minutes. This will probably be so these frequent scenes in the manga can be spaced out accordingly along the duration of the show, and I believe that that’s a smart decision in order to tighten the pacing and evade the often misused concept of anime original scenes or episodes. The studio behind the show, Creators in Pack, is another unknown studio whose largest show has been the panned Bloodivores, while it’s director has worked on the studio’s second largest hit, the slice of life Danchigai, but little else.

 

  • Ballroom e Youkoso: Industry legend Production I.G came out with a surprise, after adapting this sports manga about ballroom dancing. From the PVs, the show looks to have a choreographically astounding quality, with detailed and realistic designs and a wonderfully layered and complex attention to detail in the clothing. It’s characters looks like a hyper-stylized melting pot of Kuroko no Basket‘s tall, slender and mature anatomy, Haikyuu!‘s cartoonish and outlandish roundness and flow, and a bad case of giraffe neck. It’s director, Yoshimi Itazu, has only been director in the Fall 2015 movie Mitsuami no Kamisama, but he’s worked as key animator for Eyeshield 21, Fullmetal Alchemist (2003), The Wind Rises, Paranoia Agent, Paprika, Usagi Drop, and Wolf’s Rain, many of these which are deemed classics of modern animation. The guy has his animation chops, at least, so we can expect some Yuri!!! On Ice level of dancing.

 

So, those are the Top 11 most popular coming shows of the Summer 2017 season. Hopefully we get something truly meaty and awesome. I’m betting on Classroom of the Elite.

See ya around.

Cardcaptor Sakura, and Exemplary Episodic Narrative

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Cardcaptor Sakura is one of the undoubted classics of late 90s to early 2000s anime, and one of, if not the most recognizable property in the widely loved subgenre of “Mahou Shoujo”, or Magical Girl. The poppy, colorful, and very pleasant aesthetic, the supremely adorable character designs and costumes, the level of detail on the backgrounds and settings, and it’s consistently solid and whimsical animation quality is to be expected of legends of the industry Studio Madhouse and female mangaka quartet CLAMP.

For those unfamiliar to the show’s plot, it stars the titular Sakura Kinomoto and her group of friends Tomoyo, Shaoran Li, Mei Ling, and Sakura’s own magical critter, Kero-chan. She’s exceptionally energetic, bad at math and a stunning athlete, who one day uncovers a mysterious book in her house’s basement. This book, upon being opened, releases dozens and dozens of magical cards (called Clow Cards) into the surrounding areas, turning them into monsters and apparitions. By doing this, the guardian of the cards, Kerberos (now the adorable Kero-chan) vows to help Sakura in retrieving the lost cards, and grants her magical powers in order to turn the beasts back into cards. It’s a pretty straightforward beginning, and it serves to establish the simple goals of the characters and the challenges that they will have to face in the course of the show.

What I want to focus on, though, is how the show manages to deliver on the “Monster of the Week” formula with such expertise, that it blows most other shows of it’s ilk out of the water.

In episode 6, titled “Sakura and Memories of her Mother”, Sakura hears rumors from her friends and classmates about sightings of mysterious apparitions in the nearby forest. She decides to investigate, seeing as this “ghost” that so many of her classmates are speaking about may be in fact a Clow Card causing havoc (as they tend to do a lot in this show).

Two things to note about Sakura’s character and the nature of the cards in this particular episode before we continue.

  • These cards take the form of the action, object, or concept by which they are called by. These can be solid things like “The Fire” or “The Water”, but can also be actions like “The Jump” and concepts like “The Dark” or “The Glow”. These then take the form of nymph-like creatures with the attributes appropriate for it’s name.
  • Sakura’s mother, Nadeshiko, passed away when she was very young, and while she’s never really been stricken with this fact, Sakura has always wished to be able to meet her. For the first 5 episodes, constant attention is given to Nadeshiko’s photographs and history, and she is always being mentioned.

When Sakura arrives at the forest, chills running up her spine (as she is terrified of ghosts), she encounters none other than her mother, a floating spectre, holding out a hand and inviting her into her embrace. Awestricken, Sakura follows through, walking blindly towards this etherial and beautiful vision of her lost mother. Sadly, though, as many of these Clow Cards tend to do, they can deceive and trick people, and Sakura is led off a cliff, her fatal fall stopped by Yukino, her crush and brother’s friend. Realizing that her mother would never bring her harm, she realizes that what she fell for was actually a Clow Card called “The Illusion” (which takes the form of what the beholder wants to see the most). Sakura then confronts her subconscious desire to see her mother, returns to the forest once more, and manages to capture the card.

What this little story arc does, in one episode, is establish a section of Sakura’s past that has been lightly touched upon in the past, use an in-world, relevant-to-the-plot way of weaving it into the Monster of the Week formula, and finally culminating with the capture of the monster, as well as the development for the character of Sakura. After this point, her reminiscence and longing for her mother will be much different, as she has accepted her mother’s death completely. She has finally moved on, her hidden wishes and emptiness now exposed and effectively gotten over. She’s a stronger person because of it.

While a lot of these special moments occur often within the show, it’s not only restricted to Sakura herself. Some of these are tied to many of the side characters and one-off encounters, painting a picture of the world around Sakura as a vivid one, constantly brimming with friendly faces and fully-realized people, with goals, regrets, and hangups. Almost every episode does this in some form or another.

What really sets Sakura apart is the ability to seamlessly congregate a simple card collection premise into a series of progressive character arcs that all function to set up the beginning of it’s second half, where all of the previous experiences, lessons, and emotions that have been building up all congregate into a greater dramatic storyline.

Most other “Monster of the Week” shows fall into the trappings of simplistic and non-creative storytelling, downgrading themselves by lowering the standards of the capability of episodic narrative. They thing that because they’re a “MotW” show that they don’t have to try as hard, because it’s mostly utilized as a formula for children’s television, almost underestimating the ability of kids to engage with a story for more than 24 minutes apiece.

Sakura knows that children are clever, capable people, in their own right. That they need to be fed solid, challenging lessons that make them think from a young age. Many children’s shows resort to the easy but detrimental mindless entertainment, something to pump out quickly to make some cash and leave it at that. This show respects it’s viewers, and hell, it surprised me more often than not with it’s solutions to it’s episodic problems. Want to take a load off and watch some kids solve some magical problems? Want to show your kids a show that might teach them something about themselves and the world around them?

Show them Cardcaptor Sakura. It’s a classic for a reason.

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Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 19

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Today marks the start of another conflict, but this time in the Alliance instead of in the Empire. Now both sides are consumed not by each other, but from within, in what can be called the most hilariously ridiculous thing that has happened in this whole show. One civil war and one coup d’tat? You have to realize how funny that is that they both happened at the same time, as if a higher power decided that they both need a little break from fighting each other and instead deal with some of their own problems for a change.

Personally, I believe the Earth Cult has a hand in this convenient timing, but who knows? They seem to be supremely well hidden and have only really shown their face twice to us, and once in public as a tiny march in the Alliance. But that’s it, they haven’t been shown discussing their plans, their links to either forces, nothing at all. This leads me to believe that there is something not being shown to us viewers, something ready to spring up and surprise us when we least expect it. If this really is the case, I told you first.

First things first, regarding Fork and the attempted assassination of HQ Chief Kubersly. Fork has already been proven to have a pretty high Crime Coefficient (probably around the 600 mark, and pardon the joke), as he previously broke down and had a literal hysterical attack after his plan to invade the Empire got summarily plastered, and we haven’t seen him since, until today. He arrives at HQ, asks for a repositioning in the council, gets rejected and, in another fit of anger, shoots Kubersly. This whole series of events seems… pointless. He clearly is delusional, not only having a sickening obsession with war and his own victory, but also with the illusion of how that system works and a rejection of the idea that he’s been booted off the program for his incompetence. Hell, this paragraph doesn’t make any sense because in my attempt to understand Fork, my brain has short circuited and broke the whole structure of what I was discussing. (Fork was at the conspirator’s meeting in episode 17, and actually committed the attempted assassination to instigate the riots.)

Anyway, as the episode continues, we get a small glimpse of Reinhard, Kircheis and their men going their separate ways. Rein charges towards the Geiesburg Fortress, and Sieg will move back to Odin and the Imperial Capital in order to provide protection while Rein is away dealing with the rebel scum. Nothing much to touch upon here, it’s an easy segue into the evens of future episodes, and shows us the development of last week’s plot.

After this we jump straight into the ball-busting maelstrom of insanity that transpired within the Alliance, and there’s a lot to discuss here.

Suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, a coup d’tat springs forth and captures Heinessen and multiple areas within the Alliance’s control. And who leads this revolution? None other than Admiral Greenhill, father to our resident cinnamon roll, Federica. They establish the “National Salvation Military Council”, which sound as pandering and manipulative as something straight out of 1984. They abolish the previous democratic structure and effectively begin an outright authoritarian dictatorship, with curfews, Martial Law, political extermination, and negation of free speech. This changes everything, spanning all the planets in this massive, solar system giant of a nation, and has quite possible destroyed it’s economic and political links. This breaks all the normalcy of the situation, where before, the Alliance had a safe place, one where there was security and relative peace, but now which has devolved into a chaotic frenzy of violence and fear, Iserlohn being the only reasonably peaceful location to those wanting to fight back against the now overpowering rebellion. It’s quite ironic that the most destructive weapon in the galaxy is now used as the haven of safety.

In regards to Greenhill, many might see him like a straight up villain, but, again, as this show likes to do often, he’s simply a desperate man looking to make peace with his past, and to pave the way for a future which he believes to be the correct one. I can’t help but sympathize with anyone actually showing emotion and passion towards their goal, even if that goal is twisted and over-imposing. His ideals are actually ones that I would align with, the destruction of political corruption and the quickest eradication of the people’s enemy, but the method of approach seems way too aggressive and seemingly “evil” to those not accustomed to the ideas he presents.

But if we really think about it, could Greenhill really get away with the elimination of political corruption in a way that wasn’t how he took over today? He even says that there was no other way at the end of the episode. After some thought, it appears to me that a coup was simply the most effective method of doing so right now, a quick, brutal attack directly at the roots of the rotten tree, showing no mercy or hesitation. Greenhill’s purpose is one of political freedom and a reset point for corruption, killing all those responsible for the unjust nature of the government and it’s officials. It’s a righteous cause, one wielding a weapon of furious fire and ardent brimstone. One that I personally agree with (except for the whole dictatorial part, of course).

Yang is at a crossroads, though, since he actually agrees with the fact that the Alliance’s government is filled with corruption, but does want to seek the possibility of a safer, more controlled way of approaching to situation. Schenkopp is right to some degree as well, since taking direct control of the now broken government will give the Alliance that extra push they need to truly win against the Empire. Yang though, being the warrior for peace that he is, might not even consider this idea, which really would be detrimental for the state of the war. He could quite possibly arrange with the Empire a state of peaceful coexistence, since each faction is self-sufficient and the war is doing nothing but destroying everything everyone holds dear in the first place. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Yang, yet he is adamant to go through with it, even if, for a slight second there, it seemed as though he doesn’t want the idea to spread out because he needs time to think it through and come up with a concrete plan to actually accomplish the goal presented to him by Schenkopp. Yang is smart enough to realize this though, and he might actually go through with it in the end. We’ll have to wait and see.

While pondering this during the meeting prior, he mentions the noticed similarity of the NSMC’s new anti-constitutional policies with those of Rudolf’s 500 years ago with the formation of the Empire.

This sparked an idea in my head, of quite possibly another theme of this show that we might’ve overlooked, but actually is rather obvious when we think about it: The cyclical nature of humanity.

If the stance of the NSMC is similar to that which began this whole useless war to begin with, aren’t they simply starting the whole game from the beginning again? This seems to be the course they might want, to return to a state of political transparency that was more apparent back when the wills of the people were put into human progression instead of ideological battles.

Actually, now that I think about it, what’s the point of this war anymore? Why are they fighting in the first place?

This one tiny phrase uttered by Yang seriously blew my mind because it speaks of the purpose of this war for the past 150 years, and how nowadays, people don’t even know what they’re fighting for anymore. The world has been filled with such a greedy nature in it’s governments that they fight now simply to pass the time it seems, with not real foreseeable future for the war at all. Who will lose, if anyone? Will it last forever? Will it end with the destruction of the entire human race?

Screw this fantastic episode, seriously.

Moving past this, Yang proves once again that he is a genius regarding battle tactics, which is followed by a small scene regarding a group of his fans, and this really flashed an alarm right at my face, and has been for some time now, but after this, it really became apparent.

Yang is known for his miracles in the battlefield, and has been constantly praised by almost everyone for his abilities. But this just concerns me. Yang is, obviously, just a human, and as much as he is a prodigy regarding these things, he’s bound to eventually make a mistake. Even Julian is counting on him wholeheartedly, completely unafraid of the risks of battle, simply because Yang is there with him. This scene with the fans cheering his name, talking about a guaranteed victory, really scared me for the future of Yang.

Not regarding his death, since Yang is a titular character and I doubt that if he dies at all, it will be this soon, but still, the fear of failure for Yang is now much greater within me than ever before. Now that we’re approaching the end of the first season, Yang might be down for a major defeat, which will tarnish his image and probably his self-esteem, potentially plunging him deeper into a spiral of self-hatred and depression.

Finally, during this whole mess, the one in charge of the entire Alliance, Job Trunicht, has entirely gone into hiding and is nowhere to be seen. Nothing new there.

Today was an insanely packed episode, as I think this is my longest post yet. This show has seriously smacked every neuron in my brain, and it’s been a tough ride already.

And I still have 91 episodes left? Christ on a cracker, I’m doomed.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 18

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Today, Brauschweig and Littenheim have finally stepped forward and declared war with Reinhard, with backstabs, counters, and surprises galore. Let’s see what went down.

Firstly, we get a small, but deeply important scene with a new character who will most likely be a big player later on when the pieces to this puzzle finally click. Her name is Hildegard Mariendorf, and she has proven to be substantially keen, perceptive, and cunning, able to formulate a likely theory for the eventual rupture of the not-yet-created Lipptsadt League. Not only has she been able to look further than her father and most of the other nobles, but she’s been able to persuade a lot of them to abandon the formation of the Lipp League in favor of siding with the more obviously intelligent piece on the chess board. She’s not only these things, but also a fantastic speaker, as she convinces Rein of her point of view about the inevitable incoming civil war. She knows that it will be Brauschweig who triggers it, and that it will be as soon as the following day. These predictions all turn out to be true. She also manages to square off a deal benefitting her and her family’s livelihood, and reveals her insight on Reinhard’s hidden goal, and this honestly impresses him. I don’t think we’ve seen Rein laugh this hard in a while, if at all. Even Oberstein is wary of her, it seems.

Hildegard has quickly added another fascinating player in this game, and Reinhard knows that she’ll be a little more than just useful in the coming civil war, and possibly even further. Will she be as sharp as Kircheis? As smart as Yang? It’s difficult to say, but Hilde is definitely one to keep an eye out for. She’s going to change things.

Following this we jump straight into the main brunt of today’s plot: The coalition of almost 4,000 nobles under the Lippstadt League, and the kickstart of the civil war.

From day one of this plan going down, Brauschweig already is losing control of his men, as he deals with a couple of instances of doubt, deceit, and outright betrayal.

Both Captain Anton Ferner and Commodore Arthur von Streit disapprove openly to Brauschweig, displaying a level of knowledge about the situation even exceeding Brauschweig himself. And they’re correct, their duty as soldiers is to maintain a unified, unbroken nation, yet they’ve been hassled and wrangled into following a man who has no respect for honor or safety, bred as a noble and probably containing a superiority complex of some sort.

Later in the episode we get Ferner already ignoring orders in order to attempt a laughable assault on Reinhard’s home, completely ignorant of anything, it seems. Did they really think they could even so much as step near the one and only Lohengramm household without completely exposing themselves? Hilarious.

These little exchanges show the rapidly degrading plan that Brauschweig and Littenheim have concocted, and how completely out of touch with politics they truly are as nobles. It makes sense, really, since their only power lies within their family names, their manipulation of those with less power, and their overpowering greed and ego. They (especially and mainly Brauschweig) really have no tactical vision whatsoever, easily getting flustered when things don’t go their way, fast to anger when their intellect is challenged, and always ready to run away and hide like cowards when danger is even remotely near them. This will most likely spell doom for them, and cause significant and unnecessary damage to all lives around them, all due to their brash decisions and complete lack of restraint or critical thinking. What a mess.

All of this is further proving the same point that has become a major overarching theme in this show: Those with power will do anything and everything in order to keep it. They may run away when they’re directly confronted, or they may use others’ lives and supplies to save themselves, or they may simply plead for their safety under the barrel of a gun, but ultimately, they’re just as fragile and weak as everyone else, no better at all.

Finally, with adamant help from Admiral von Merkatz, Brauschweig and his followers leave the planet, and begin an embarrassing display of attempted strategy against the already hot-on-their-tails Empire forces, only to be countered immediately and forced to retreat into Geiesburg Fortress.

We saw several ships blow up already, so it’s safe to say that completely pointless slaughter has already been achieved thanks to these buffoons. I apologize for my biased approach to this episode, but the sheer idiocy visible from these nobles is palpable. In this situation, it isn’t due to outright malice or wanton destruction, but a lack of vision and a tendency of Brauschweig and Littenheim to have tunnel vision in regards to these things.

I would say let’s hope they’re dealt with quickly, but I have a feeling that the bloodshed will proceed, and result in a catastrophic way. I feel I can’t be an optimist in regards to this show, and I wouldn’t be surprised if most of those watching feel the same.

Certainly their branding of “Rebel Fleet” made me laugh as evilly and loudly as Reinhard.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 17

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Before the brunt of the episode begins, Yang let’s us in on some strangely assertive and seemingly out of place comments about morality to Julian. Let’s see what he says:

  • “Just think about winning, and the human race’s unlimited capacity for depravity. Soldiers kill their enemies and fail to protect their allies. Cheating and outwitting strangers, day in and day out. It’s a worthless business. […] The fleet is no more than a tool. It’s a tool that shouldn’t exist. Remember that, and try to be as harmless a tool as possible.”

Yang, as previously explained, has fallen in a proverbial hole of despair about the state of the war, almost mindlessly providing ethical insight into those around him, his only outlet for this frustrations, loss of hope and total disagreement with the nature of the modern soldier. He tries to weave his political views into his everyday conversations and answers, trying desperately to convince and teach others about the true horrors of the human animal, knowing full well that they simply are too busy to ponder such things. I wonder if Yang envies the ignorance of those unaware of the history of the war, unbroken by it’s disgusting lows and nihilistic realization of all the lives that have ever been lost in this pointless, ridiculous conflict.

He must have such a hard time sleeping.

Anyway, we begin today’s episode with a brief recounting of the events surrounding the Battle of El Facil and the Hero of El Facil. This little glimpse of the history will be undoubtedly important for the occurrences of this episode and for the coming conflicts.

In the Battle of El Facil, the military fled the planet of El Facil as a means to escape an incoming Imperial fleet coming to capture the planet. They left the civilian population to fend for themselves in a chaotic maelstrom of people, which all had to be calmed down and evacuated by the one lowly officer they left in charge: Yang Wen-li.

Yang, being the miracle worker that he is, managed to secure ships for the successful evacuation of the people on the planet, rescuing around 3 million and leaving the planet to a safe destination.

Meanwhile, Arthur Lynch, who was in charge of the military ships that left El Facil in a hurry, got captured by the Empire and became prisoners of war.

Why am I telling you this? Because Yang’s actions, while lifesaving for some, became certain other’s biggest source of despair, and might be the catalyst for horrific acts of violence in the future.

Now back to the present, Arthur Lynch remains a POW of the Empire, but Reinhard’s got different plans for him.

Backed into a corner, forced to either die in the hands of the Empire, or die in the hands of his past comrades and family members. Not to mention that Lynch pretty much despises Yang, not only for being able to pull a victory under overwhelming odds, but in turn, to inactively mocking Lynch’s own failure and eventual imprisonment. For years Lynch thought back to that day, when Yang succeeded him, polishing his jealousy, rage, regret, and anger. A frustration that ultimately conflicts with his beliefs, but that he now is forced to use for the benefit of the enemy. We see later when he’s drinking in the secret meeting as he smirks evilly, fully prepared to go on with his plan, any regard for past patriotism now utterly crushed and replaced by his desire for self-preservation and lust for vengeance over the man he sent to his doom, yet came back stronger than even Lynch himself.

Reinhard’s plan revolves around Lynch’s pent up aggression towards Yang, as he infiltrates him into the millions of supposedly friendly faces coming home from years in a foreign prison. It’s a brilliant plan on paper, much like the tactics used in modern time by terrorist groups like ISIS, as they hide their people within the tides of immigrants, sporting smiles, yet packing bombs.

In this case, the bomb is a very figurative one, as it would make the public explode in an uprising that, if staged correctly, could upend the government and cause the civil war in the Alliance that the Empire so desperately desires.

Yang though, flat out predicts the actions of the Empire to a tee, and manages to alert those under him that something is not as it seems. Will Yang be able to stop the coup that seems inevitable?

This is the beauty of this show. A man like Lynch, thrown on the ground, disgraced and captured, used against his will and sent to fight his own people. In any other story, Lynch would be our protagonist, as we rooted for him to resist the pull of the evil Empire, to sacrifice his life to save his homeland.

But here, his actions and those of our main “hero” Yang, are at ends with each other. Both men are fighting for something they truly believe in, something they both see as the right answer to the problems of the world. Who do we root for this time?

And what about Reinhard? His quest for revenge against the hierarchy of the Empire might be perceived by us as a good thing, but how much damage has that quest actually caused to other regular, good-natured people? As the show advances, the lines between the rightful quest of the protagonist and the evil schemes of the villain are blurrier than ever, as the portrayal of the show’s heroes might actually not be of the heroes at all.

They’re all human, after all. And we all know what humans are capable of when pushed to their absolute limit.

Continuing with the less obvious aspects of the episode, let’s talk a bit about Yang and Rein’s desire to meet each other. What are quite possibly the greatest tactical minds of this century, can you imagine actually witnessing a full on conversation between these two? It would be a legendary event, where the fabric of reality might be broken by mere words, where the exploration of the human mind might finally be completed, and where, if a cooperation were to occur, it might singlehandedly solve the entire galaxies problems immediately.

I kid, of course, but their curiosity really speaks about the way they feel about each other as people. In the previous episode, Rein seemed to hate Yang, but here, he seems to consider Sieg’s words of wisdom, and comes to realize that Yang might be the answer that this conflict needs after all.

Finally, the Earth Cult. They seem to be well underway with their keikaku, as their spies and slippery sneaks slither silently through the streets. They’re becoming more and more of a dangerous threat as time does by, and eventually might attack, but still cloaked and unseen.

The future looks both bleaker, and more hopeful, than ever before.

Legend of the Galactic Heroes – Episode 16

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Alright, a lot happened today, so let’s get divide the events that occurred and we’ll go through them step by step:

  • Yang uses Bittenfeld’s arrogance and desire for honor in his favor, and narrowly escapes almost certain doom while his troops retreat back to Iserlohn.
  • Yang engages in further alcoholic behavior while going full philosophy on us.
  • Reinhard and Siegfried exchange comments about their thoughts on Yang and his continued miracles.
  • Out of the 30 million troops mobilized for the invasion, 20 million of them were killed or are MIA, resulting in a catastrophic loss of lives.
  • The Kaiser dies suddenly, leaving his 5 year old son as the ultimate ruler of the Empire.
  • Sitolet quits the force, leaving Yang as the Chief of Staff in Iserlohn, with competent subordinates.
  • The motherfucking Grand Bishop.

Yang, as if it we’re a daily occurrence, shows us another wondrous display of tactical prowess, as he continues to risk it all and somehow keeps getting away with it with the skin of his teeth. Let’s just say his “Magician” title is not letting us down. It’s interesting to note that the Alliance is now in the same exact position as the Empire was before they captured Iserlohn, where the fortress is the uncrossable midpoint between both factions that can serve as a safepoint for our democratic friends. It has turned into somewhat of a war of attrition, where neither side can push much at all when attempting to attack or invade, and where both have a place to fall back to if things go awry.

We also see Yang consuming more and more alcohol per episode, and I have a feeling this isn’t the worst we’ll see of him in the future. Although worrisome, it’s also frighteningly relatable, as many people sucked into the spiral of war tend to want to escape the feeling of wrongness that burrows within them, and one of those ways is through alcohol. The biggest fear of mine, personally, is that Yang might become dependent on the drug, and that it might possibly hinder his performance on the battlefield when it most counts. Greenhill doesn’t seem to mind much as she keeps bringing that brandy to him.

During this scene, we also get a pretty fascinating little tidbit about human behavior, and I’d like to quote it here, since it’s said rather quickly in the episode:

  • “I’ve learned that there are two currents of thought in human society. The opinion that there are things worth more than human life and the opinion that there is nothing preferable to life. When people begin to fight, it’s on the pretext of the former type of people, and they justify the latter when they stop. For how many hundreds, how many thousands of years has that been continuing? […] Generally speaking, can I do something just to be worth the quantity of spilled blood?”

– Yang Wen-li

This little spiel from Yang basically describes all of the deeper ideas behind the war he’s fighting. We’ve discussed such topics before, and this quote is pretty blatant with it’s morals and it’s critiques, but the fact that Yang says it truly speaks of the level of impact it’s had on him, personally. He might not display it often (in fact, his attitude and demeanor in and outside of battle has always been supremely laid back, playful, and rarely intense or aggressive), but the extent of the cracks in his soul are evident. He hates everything that he’s a part of, possibly pondering for hours about the nature of his own existence, the lack of importance of a mere human life, and how no matter how hard he tries to fight against those seeking to sacrifice everyone for an ideology, he will inevitably come short most of the time. Yang seems to be in a state of tired and monotone progression, simply walking from point A to point B without much motivation anymore. Sure, he still commands fleets and does his job, but I frankly believe that he’s gotten to the point of realizing ego death. His alcoholism might enhance this theory, since a great and powerful state of depression might follow, and what better way to help take your mind away from that pain, than to be as far away from that sickly sobriety as possible. Yang is a fantastic, realistic, and deeply flawed person, a character that I have never seen any other character be as deep and truly complex as him.

Speaking of Yang and his influence, Reinhard seems to have developed an utter hatred for him, as he consistently defies defeat, almost mockingly. We also get to see a more unhinged side to Rein during and preceding this scene, as he explodes in anger towards his subordinates and actively shows defiance against Sieg (before realizing his mistake and backing down). Reinhard must be careful, since his pride has been a source of problems before this, and might become self-destructive if he isn’t open-minded and listens to Sieg’s advice. Later this episode we still get proof that Rein is despised amongst those of his own rank, and you can bet they will try to bring him down because of his youth and bravado.

We finally get a death count for the Battle of Amlitzer, where 20 MILLION PEOPLE DIED. That’s more people than in 70% of all countries on earth. How can anyone get away with this? How has war become this gargantuan monster that swallows entire civilizations worth of people? Will this be the future of mankind? It’s a possible one, and one that is infinitely more terrifying than any horror story I can possibly imagine. How big are the memorials and cemeteries? Are there entire planets dedicated to corpseless tombs, filled with countless names that will never be remembered? That’s a level of destruction that makes me shiver to my very spine, and will continue to do so until the day I die.

Returning to the episode, as soon as a 5 year old sat on the throne, I got painful flashbacks to King Tommen from ASOIAF. All this means is that the power of the Empire is now up to those hidden in the shadows, pulling the strings while the cute, little boy shows face and appeases the crowd. And you bet Phezzan is happy they did their homework and changed their plans, now able to control this kid and move him around as much as possible, for their every needs.

On the other side of the galaxy, admiral Sitolet has retired, the only figurehead that actually has proven to be more clever and smarter than most others of his rank, and instead, has left Iserlohn under Yang’s command. This key weapon under Yang’s hands might be the extra push that guarantees the Alliance an upper hand, but knowing this show, that will be difficult to predict, and will most likely result in the opposite of the intended action. All we can do is hope.

And finally, the big moment of the show, the reveal of the mysterious, Palpatine-esque “Grand Bishop”. Earlier in the episode we heard rumors of an “Earth Cult”, but when I heard that, I imagined a group of disorganized, tribal, and mindless people trying to protect earth and it’s nature, but after this man’s appearance, I fear for the worst.

Firstly the fact that Phezzan’s highest authority seems to be subservient to the Grand Bishop, is already demonstrating the level of power he has, and the extent of his possible influence amongst the inner circles of both the Alliance and the Empire.

Secondly, he utters the phrase “…soon the earth will be restored to her rightful place”, which has all the cryptic weight to it to scare even myself. How will he “punish those who abandoned earth”? He appears to already know of both faction’s positions and strategies for the future, so will His Holiness and his secret group of cultish zealots win the day in the end? Nothing is certain anymore.

With this, the show has thrust deeper into it’s own themes farther than ever before, and it has truly turned the dial up to 11. I am anticipating the future with excitement, terror, and a degree of sadism, as the war has now changed, and for the worst.