There's water, water everywhere in "Episode 73" of Bleach. Ichigo and Renji meet Uryu and the others outside the hospital after seemingly losing the Bount twins Ho and Ban, but the situation keeps getting worse because the city is in the middle of a rainstorm–and Ho and Ban can do some very nasty things with the puddles covering the parking lot. Ichigo tells Chad and Orihime to get Uryu clear, and he, Renji, and Rukia try and fight back the water dolls; it doesn't go well. The only reason the three aren't drowned is that the twins decide to persue Uryu instead, and seeing as how Uryu's powerless, and neither Chad nor Orihime are as strong as Ichigo or the rest, things aren't looking particularly promising for the feverish Quincy.
It's tricky following up a strong cliffhanger, because you've got to resolve a problem that had to appear as insoluble as possible without leaving the viewer feeling cheated. (Cue Annie Wilkes' "dirty bird" rant here.) "73" does a solid job here. There's the clear sense that Ho and Ban's water dolls are even stronger outdoors than they were inside, and each of the attacks that Ichigo, Renji, and Rukia had tried earlier are no longer even good enough to buy the heroes time to escape. Even better, there's more exploitation of the aqua-danger, as the twins have an attack that actually injects contaminated liquid into their victims, making use of the fact that the human body is largely made up of water.
Ho and Ban's defeat is a logical one. Chad figures out that the two can't maintain their attacks if they're separated–attacking the water dolls themselves is futile, since there's always more water for them to rebuild with, but their controllers aren't nearly as well-designed. There's a great sequence when Noba, one of the mod souls Udahara created to help trained Ichigo, starts transporting the twins short distances apart; close enough they can still see each other, but not close enough for them to maintain concentration. Still, it isn't until Ganju and Hanataro, two Soul Reapers who've been spending time working at a local convenience store, show up with enough fire power to defeat the final doll that the day is saved. The twins turn to dust, so that's one threat resoundingly defeated. And a good thing, too, since the end of the episode introduces a whole new group of Bounts preparing for the attack.
A couple weeks ago, during Light's break down at the end of Death Note, one commenter complained that his freak-out was over the top. Given how tightly wound the character has always been–the sheer level of control he has to maintain to keep his schemes in the air and never let on a moment's weakness–it's not surprising that he'd get twitchy when his systems start breaking down, and in "Confrontation," episode 2 of the series, we see the seeds of madness in him from the very start. Light is taking his new duties as self-appointed God of Justice very seriously; when he outlines his day to Ryuk (get up, go to school, come back home, murder thirty people, brush teeth, get good night's sleep), there's a clear sense of someone who's not only used to planning his life down to the minute for maximum efficiency, but also of a guy who couldn't exist without that schedule to adhere to. He's the ideal student, someone who can and will achieve every goal laid before him. The problem is, because of his excellence, he lacks any sense of his own limitations. He decides he can fix everything because it never occurs to him that he couldn't.
But while everything looks to be going to plan–Light's "god" even has a new name, Kira, on websites across the world that call out for His justice–there's an x-factor that not even Light could've prepared for in L, the greatest detective in the world, a man so brilliant that he can command the police forces of the entire world without ever revealing his true identity. During a televised police conference, L calls on Kira by pretending to show his face as one Lind L. Tailor. Lind promises to catch the one responsible for the murders, and Light gets upset and takes the bait, killing Lind; but it turns out Lind wasn't the real L, just a decoy L had used to assess Kira's powers and figure out his geographic location.
You get the sense that Light isn't used to having people balk his will, even before he had the power to kill anyone with a pen–he rants and raves about L's arrogance, before finally declaiming that he will defeat the detective because he, Light, is justice; L makes a similar claim from across the city. Both men (fairly young men) are absolutely convinced in their own righteousness and their abilities to see that righteousness to its conclusion. Definite irresistible force meets unmovable object time.
Oh, before I forget, I really love the way Light booby traps his desk to protect the Death Note once he realizes that anyone who touches it can see Ryuk. The trap, which involves a false bottom in his desk drawer as well as wiring and a bag of gasoline that will set the notebook on fire if the wrong person tries to grab it, is ingenious and speaks well to Light's talent for seeing every possible outcome of a situation. It's a talent that would eventually fail him, but for now at least, his hunters have their work cut out for them.
If "Confrontation" revolves around confidence, than "Shirley At Gunpoint," this week's Code Geass, is all about the other side of the coin. After attending Shirley's father's funeral, Lelouch finds himself faced with an unfamiliar emotion: doubt. Up until now, his every choice has been driven by a lust for revenge and the logic of warfare, but having to actually confront the results of his actions seems to push him to a place he's not comfortable with. When the Black Knights learn Cornelia is planning another move on the Japanese Liberation Front, Zero plots his next move with the same cold cunning he's always shown, but could he be losing his commitment to the cause?
Er, no. Not really at all. Apparently, a moral and spiritual crisis for Lelouch means not just re-committing to your values, but damning yourself to them. In a ruse that fools nearly everyone, he destroys the JLF ship that Cornelia's team is attacking, thus egging on his own troops and catching the Princess off guard. The plan nearly succeeds, but once again Suzaku and his Lancelot step in before Zero can finally defeat Cornelia. The Lancelot makes quick work of Zero's robot, forcing Zero to crash; and while he struggles to regain consciousness, someone holds a gun on his head.
Lelouch isn't the only one with doubts. Valetta, one of Lord Jeremiah's friends and an earlier victim of Lelouch's Geass abilities, confronted Shirley after her father's funeral with the news that Lelouch might be involved in the Black Knights. A conflicted Shirley follows Lelouch to the docks, where she witnesses most of the attack from afar–it's only when Zero crashes right in front of her that she has an opportunity to pick up the gun at her feet and find vengeance for her father's death. But before she can pull the trigger, Zero's mask slips…
Not bad, eh? Zero's choice to essentially kill the very people he's supposed to be working with–a choice that, if it's every revealed to his team, will ruin him–puts him beyond the pale morally, but raises the stakes for his quest. It was nice to see Kallen struggling with her own doubts as well, before responding to them in the time-honored tradition of giving herself so completely to the cause that she no longer has to think. And I'm liking Shirley's involvement. Zero may be "chaos incarnate," but Lelouch is still flesh and blood, no matter how much he may wish otherwise.
Hey, a bit more Action Bastard on Shin Chan! In "Action Bastard Says, 'I've Got You, Crabs,'" Bastard is laid low by the Crab (and if you were thinking there would be a lot of VD puns at this point, you would be right), but Lollipop saves the day by turning into her super-hero form, Sailor Moon knock-off Jailbait Poon. The change inspires Penny enough to try and play Action Bastard with the boys the next day, but no matter what, everything goes wrong, mostly because of Shin. When Penny's official Jailbait Poon scarf gets tossed in the mud, the kids leave her to mourn her misfired attempt at breaking into the boy's world of super-hero adventuring.
Then it's some time with Shin's dog Whitey, in "Whitey Flight." Mrs. Nahara has a coupon for a free shot, so it's off to the vet's for Whitey, Dad, and Shin. Only Whitey's not having any of it; he runs off at the soonest opportunity, only to get suckered back in by the charms of his one true love. And then it's fun at the park in "Fragile Rock," where Maso and Boo have a falling out during what starts as a friendly game of Show & Tell. Georgie and Penny try to run damage control, but they keep involving Shin, which just seems like a bad idea.
Nothing particularly thrilling here; apart from the usual throwaway inappropriateness, all three segments could've come off an episode of Rugrats. But it's nice to have some more Action Bastard, and watching Penny's hopes and dreams deflate is always swell.
Bleach, "Episode 73": A-
Death Note, "Confrontation": A
Code Geass, "Shirley At Gunpoint": A
Shin Chan, "Action Bastard Says, 'I've Got You, Crabs'/Whitey Flight/Fragile Rock": B