Bad news, everyone: no Death Note rerun this week, and going by the schedule, it looks like the show may be off the regular roster for a long time. So I guess we'll just have to be happy with getting a taste of the beginning and the end; middles are overrated anyway.
On the plus side, there's a new show coming in a couple weeks called Moribito—looks like a fantasy medieval thing, which could be cool. (Anybody familiar with this one?) And hey, no anime next week, which means I get a Saturday night off for once.
"Episode 76" of Bleach has a couple of good action set-pieces, one apparent death, and a whole lot of talk. The show has a habit of breaking up fights with conversation, but I can't remember it being quite this egregious before; Ichigo's fight with Udagawa, while spectacular, would've been a lot more intense if they didn't keep pausing to explain just how they were planning on kicking each other's ass. (Not that Bleach is the first series to do this, of course; it's been a while, but didn't Dragonball Z spend months on just a single confrontation?) Still, there's cool stuff going on, between Friede's powerful Snake Net and Ichigo finally managing to bust out some real power in the final moments. It feels like it's been ages since Ichi had a chance to really go to town on someone who could withstand the force.
While he and Udagawa are playing Snakes and, um, Snakes, Rukia and the others try and track down Uryu. In the process, they run right into a former Soul Reaper named Ichinose; there's been some hinting around of Ichinose's back story in previous episodes, and here we finally have it confirmed that he left Soul Society because of the actions of the current Squad 11 commander. He wanted a new man to follow, and Kariya apparently fit the bill. Ichinose makes short work of the mod-souls and is on his way to beating Rukia when Ichigo throws his big power attack back on the main floor.
After Ichigo uses his Getsugatensho, there's another lull in the action and Udagawa decides to make a play on Kariya. He fails; not only is Kariya cleverer than he appears, but Ichinose arrives at the last moment and kills Udagawa on the spot. Kariya's hold on his followers is more potent than the dissenting Udagawa had realized, which is bad news for Ichigo–"76"'s final moments have him charging into battle with Ichinose, a former Soul Reaper with all his powers at their most adept, and even worse, a cause to give his life for.
With Death Note gone, it looks like I'll have to rely on Code Geass for my chess-metaphors and psycho manipulation. Fortunately, the series is well up to the task. In a twist I should've seen coming but totally didn't, Mao is still alive, and he is really not happy. His survival after getting gunned down last week seemed a stretch at first; the dude got shot a lot, and from what we can see in "Nunnally Held Hostage," apart from some bandages he doesn't appear any worse for wear. But his comment to Lelouch about not using the Geass properly was telling–Lelu told the police under his control to "shoot" Mao, but he didn't command them to kill him. It's the sort of oversight that has haunted Lelouch's scheming from the beginning. Despite his brilliance and gifts, he isn't perfect, and given the stakes he's playing at, and the sudden immergence of others who are just as powerful as he is, even the smallest mistake has deadly consequences.
In this case, it's having his beloved sister Nunnally taken hostage and at the whims of a twitching sociopath with a serious mad-on for her brother. Nunnally has always been Lelouch's most vulnerable point, and that vulnerability nearly unmans him here; he's distracted, his logic is nearly gone, and it's only with the involvement of Suzaku that he manages to focus long enough to get the necessary job done. Geass has never been particularly subtle about putting its two male leads on "best friends who must eventually fight each other!" track, but it's cool to see how well they work together, and more than a little sad. There's no question that their disparate philosophies will someday put them at odds, but the good they can accomplish as a team makes their friendship tragic as well as doomed.
By the end of "Hostage," Suzaku has once again paid the price for getting involved with Lelouch's machinations, when a confrontation with Mao brings to light the secret that's been driving the noble Kururugi from the start: in a failed attempt to end a war, he murdered his own father. The news shocks even Lelouch, whose brilliant plan to use his Geass powers on himself (wiping his mind clean so that Mao couldn't see what they were up to) is at least partially responsible for putting Suzaku in harm's way. Nunnally may be saved, but not all is well, and in a rage, Lelouch uses Geass on Mao: "Never speak again!" As Mao gasps and chokes his way out of the building, he runs into C2, but there's no escape here either–she tells him she's sending him back to "C's World" before drugging him. What the hell that is–and whether or not Lelouch will use his powers to "help" Suzaku bounce back–will have to wait.
For all its crudeness, Shin Chan does have some classical antecedents, and the first section of this week's episode shows those influences up front and center. In "A Penny For Your Thoughts And Suicidal Tendencies," the kids are forced to stay indoors during playtime, and as usual its up to control-freak Penny to devise a game; time for some unlicensed group therapy and play-acting. It's all a little bit more sexualized than Charles Schultz ever got, but this is straight up Lucy-at-the-Freudian-Lemonade-Stand business.
"It's Raining Shin" has the usual mix-up of childish innocence with unsettling undertones, when Shin gets stranded in a rainstorm between his house and Maso's. There's a lot of time spent on Shin's nudity, and Maso's issues, but the real joy of the segment comes from the games Shin plays in the rain. One game, really; the wind is so strong that if it catches his umbrella the right way, it sends him flying back through the air. It's one of the rare moments on the series when the title character acts like a little boy, instead of making jokes that play off his lack of innocence. Nothing revolutionary here, but it made me smile, and I wasn't expecting that.
Wasn't smiling a whole lot during "Dildor, Sword Receiveth," but the call back to a couple earlier storylines was cool. Oh, and I loved how the crazy Kendo man actually prepared a leaf to cut beforehand–and how thoroughly those preparations work on Shin. ("You can save mankind from genocide!" "I can cut a leaf!")
Bleach, "Episode 76": B
Code Geass, "Nunnally Held Hostage": A
Shin Chan, "A Penny For Your Thoughts And Suicidal Tendencies, etc.": B
—So, Viletta is jus hanging out with Ohgi now? It's like Overboard with fan service and bullet wounds.
—Man, seeing Lelouch lose it was great. I'm surprised he didn't have Mao eat his own face off.
—I just don't like Nunnally.