Looks like this is it, gang. Due to low numbers, low interest, and the upcoming influx of Fall TV, the Adult Swim Saturday coverage is closing down–most likely for good. I can't say I'm entirely unhappy about it, either. Your comments have been great, but I've never been all that satisfied with the work I've done here. Flat recaps really aren't what TV Club is about, but I'm not connected enough with what I'm watching to assess it particularly well. Maybe somebody with more experience could've done a better job; but I thank all of you for your patience, and for sticking it out this long.
"Episode 77" of Bleach has Rukia and the others finally rescue Uryu from Kariya's mansion, and it ends with the good guys finally reunited on the outer grounds while the mansion burns to the ground. The real highlight of the ep is Ichinose's flashbacks explaining how he left Soul Society and came to be working with the Bounts. We already know it had something to do with the duel Kenpachi fought (and won) against Ichinose's former commander; here we find that Ichinose lives like "an ivy vine," clinging to someone more powerful than himself for guidance and strength. He finds just such a person after wandering out of the Soul Realm and into the world of the living–during a confrontation with a Hollow that nearly kills him, Ichinose is saved by Kariya, a man with the ability to freeze a Hollow with one finger.
So Ichinose signs on because Kariya is a big deal, and because he believes that Kariya has the nobility and vision that his own life was lacking. Which makes Ichinose that most dangerous of foes: a good man fighting for what he believes to be a just cause. His confrontation with Ichigo ultimately ends unresolved, with Ichigo bruised and exhausted but undefeated. They'll have to fight again eventually, though, and Ichigo's gonna need some more firepower if he wants to live through the battle.
In "Knights" on Code Geass, Lelouch is making more plans. After his confrontation with Mao, he knows Suzaku has some–issues–but he also knows he can't keep up his normal school life and continue with his work as Zero, not without continuing to put his beloved sister at risk. He needs someone to protect her, someone they both trust, and Suzaku looks like the best bet. But before he can broach the question, Suzaku is called away on business, and Zero himself has to lead his Black Knights on a rescue mission to save Todou, leader of the Holy Swords, from execution.
Everything's going well until Suzaku's Lancelot shows up–and gets its top ripped off by Todou. Zero finally realizes who the Lancelot's pilot has been all along, which threw me for a loop; I'd assumed he'd known it ever since C2 saved his butt back at Narita, but thinking back now, I'm not sure why I assumed that. It's an intense moment; for all his determination, Lelouch hasn't completely managed to numb himself to his own humanity, and seeing the closest thing he has to a best friend armed against him in battle pushes him right up to the edge. He eventually calls for a retreat; fortunately, the call comes just as the main Brittanian forces arrive, making the move look more strategic than desperate. The whole attack is captured on film for an audience of the press and Princess Euphemia, and the press's response drives Euphemia to name Suzaku as her "knight." (I assume this means main bodyguard?) Back at home base, the Knights wonder why Zero hasn't come out of his robot; while inside the cockpit, Lelouch laughs and laughs, which can't be a good sign for anyone.
Of all the anime coverage I'll be leaving behind, I think I'll miss Shin Chan the least. It's not the worst show ever, but what the hell do you say about it at this point? "The Kiss of Debt" has the usual plot-altering dub; Hiro's strapped for cash because he dipped into Mitzi's boob job stash, and now she's cut off his allowance. There's this whole thing about an American VIP at Hiro's company coming to town that never actually goes anywhere, leading me to suspect it was simply added in by the English translation. "Shinja Gaiden" was pretty good–Ench teaches Shin and the gang how to be ninjas, and it's actually charming, even with Ench's constant asides about murder. Then there's "Grandfather Knows Best," which not even the dub can make very interesting; Shin's anal grandfather shows up, disapproves of everything, and, um, that's about it.
We did get one new show this week: Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit. "Balsa, the Female Bodyguard" isn't a bad start. We meet the title character as she visits town looking to get some spear work done. While crossing a bridge, she sees the transport of the Royal Prince upset by a mad ox, and the prince flung into the raging river below. Balsa saves him, but there's initially some doubt as to whether this was a good move; word is, no commoner can look a member of the Royal Family in the eye without going blind, and since Balsa definitely didn't go blind, they might have some issues with her. When a group of men track her down, there's a brief struggle with Balsa the victor; but this convinces the men that she really is the prince's savior, and they invite her to the palace at the Second Queen's request.
Balsa has a nice bath and an excellent dinner, but the important bit happens late that night when the Queen and the Prince, Chagum, visit the warrior in her bedchamber. The Queen has a request: ever since Chagum was accused of being "possessed," his father the Mikado has been trying to kill him. The Queen wants Balsa to take the boy away and protect him, and she's willing to pay for it. Balsa agrees for reasons of her own, and she and the boy make their escape, with the Prince's bedchambers burning behind them.
It's a decent set-up; the plot elements aren't strikingly original, but they're handled competently, and it gets the hook in right off the bat. I'm not sure how much I dug the pacing–it's a very mellow show, which occasionally makes it feel draggy, but there is something nice about Balsa's solidity that makes her an intriguing lead. The animation is gorgeous, not like anything else currently on the anime line-up. The little twists on the formula are also compelling; Balsa being a woman, which is noticed but never presented as restrictive, is cool, and her explanation to the Queen–that she chose to be a bodyguard because she once killed eight people very dear to her, and now has to save eight lives just as important as penance–has a lot of dramatic possibilities. There's the question of what's up with the Prince, exactly, and there's also a brief moment when the two of them are in the river, that was very odd. I'll be keeping an eye on this one, at least.
Bleach, "Episode 77": B+
Code Geass, "Knight": A-
Shin Chan, "The Kiss of Debt, etc": B-
Moribito: Guardian Of The Spirit, "Balsa, the Female Bodyguard": B+
—So, what did you think of Moribito?