"Episode 70" of Bleach opens with a quick recap. Thank goodness, really, there's been so much plot to bring everybody up to speed on. What with the previous threat ending up a thoroughly pointless training mission, and the apparent existence of soul vampires who look like rejects from Anne Rice anime, it's such a rich tapestry you can't help but return to it over and over again. And you wouldn't want any new viewers to make the mistake of having expectations.
But hey, the appearance of the Bount is at least moderately interesting; even better is Rukia's dramatic return at the end of "69." As a relative latecomer to the series, I don't know much about her beyond what I've read in the summaries, but my finely tuned Sense of Drama (or "Plotdar") recognizes when there's a change in the air. Having the show's other lead character re-enter the picture, especially considering her unresolved relationship with Ichigo, is a pretty big change.
Perhaps just as importantly is the revelation that there are actually three Bounts in town–Yoshino, the lady with the arrow-crotch pants, Udagawa, a suave dude with a thing for snakes, and Kariya, the white-haired guy whose apparently their clan-leader. (I'm assuming he's a Bount, although we don't actually see him sucking any souls.)There's some conflict between the three; while Rukia rejoins the group and starts back in at school, Kariaya has Yoshino locked away as an apparent punishment for going out on her own. Of course, she breaks out on her own–so something's definitely up there. Will Ichigo and his friends pause long enough in their various oogling and infighting to learn the truth before it's too late? And what the hell is the sudden obsession with describing the difference between Rukia's slim build and Orihime's improba-boobs?
Last night was the penultimate episode of Death Note, and I'm a little sad about that. It's my favorite Saturday night show, and "1.28" is a perfect example of why the series is such a thrill to watch; lots of John Woo-ish melodrama (no doves, but lots and lots of slow motion) and even some Sergio Leone style face-offs, with characters taking huge risks and lives at stake, and a really nasty cliffhanger.
The meeting Near set-up earlier at the Daikoku Wharf is all set to go ahead as planned. After Aizawa gets the group's captured death notebook out of their safe, and Misa is released from custody, Light's team goes to the meeting place, an empty warehouse called the "Yellow Box." There they find the SPK, with Near himself crouched on the floor as usual, playing with his dolls. Near's wearing a mask resembling the previous L, and informs Light's group that he will wait 30 minutes before removing the mask, to make sure no one is being controlled by the Note. When the half hour passes without incident, the mask comes off–and Mikami peaks through the door to see Near's real name (Nate River), along with the names of everyone around Light. He immediately sets to writing down all the names.
Near reveals this is all part of his plan; he knew Mikami was the second Kira, and had fake pages put into his notebook. No one is going to die, and whoever's name Mikami didn't write down is obviously Kira. But Light gloats in an internal monologue that he was ahead of Near all along, that the notebook Near's people thought Mikami was using was actually completely fake, and that Mikami had hidden the real notebook–which he just used out in the hall. In forty seconds, Near and everyone in the room should be very, very dead. The episode ends just before the time is up, with Light finally unable to control his glee over beating Near. I really love the "giddy with arrogance" Light; having him biting back laughter during the confrontation was a nice way to show just how effin' crazy the dude is. Also, the animation was kickin', especially watching Mikami go crazy with the names.
Things continue to improve for Zero and his Black Knights in "Guren Dances"; as a sign of support (and also a way of testing to see how serious they are) Kyoto has sent the group a bunch of shiny new robots. Zero gives control of the Guren Mk II to Kallen, before ordering the group the Narita Mountains to intercept Princess Cornelia's team as they make an attack on the headquarters of the Japanese Liberation Front. (Splitters!) The Black Knights freak out at being outnumbered by the Britannians, but Zero wins their trust by giving them no other options, before initiating a landslide the cuts down on the opposing side's edge considerably. Lord Jeremiah, desperate to prove himself after being humiliated by Zero's Geass abilities, fights with Kallen's Guren Mk II and gets his butt solidly kicked but the Guren's totally bad-ass gauntlet weapon.
Lots of action here, with a minimum of philosophy. The action seemed a bit too familiar in some ways, but Lelouch's strategy against Cornelia is a nice twist; when he cracks a joke to himself about how the landslide he initiated winds up being more powerful than expected, his complete lack of concern is more than a little reminiscent of Light's cockiness in Death Note. Innocent people could've been killed, and you get the feeling Lelouch would've just shrugged it off with the usual omelet/eggs argument. His confidence is still paying off, but he's going to stumble sooner or later; remembering how Suzaku dissed him earlier, I wonder if their disparate conceptions of justice are eventually going to come to a head.
And this must be that episode if Shin Chan where there's some kind of misunderstanding. "The Widow Breaker" revolves around a standard sitcom plot: Miss Katz has a friend pretend to be her husband to impress an old college pal who's coming to town to visit. Only, in the usual Shin twist, it's much worse than that–the college pal, Sam, has apparently just lost her husband in a train accident, and Katz thinks this is a perfect chance to rub in her own imaginary success. Shin and his friends stumble across the plot and ruin it, but it's okay; Sam was actually lying about her not-at-all dead husband, and the two get drugged up together like old times.
"Whitey's Man Burden" has Shin's suffering dog fantasizing about what a life on the street with his master would be like; not good at all, apparently (although they've got a dynamite Simon Smith and His Amazing Dancing Bear routine), so Whitey goes to great trouble to take care of Shin's chores while his mother is away. And in the last segment, "Look Who's Stalking!" Yonro makes his triumphant return and is immediately mistaken for a creepy, cheese-stinking stalker.
Shin Chan is never much for sentiment, but the three stories tonight all ended on a surprisingly sweet note, with a rapprochement between old friends (admittedly drug fueled), Shin sharing his snack with his hungry and surprisingly talented dog, and Yonro actually getting welcomed back by his old neighbors. Not a lot of gut laughs to be found, but some decent snickers at least, and it was nice to end the evening on not entirely misanthropic note.
Bleach, "Episode 70": B
Death Note, "1.28": A
Code Geass, "Guren Dances": B+
Shin Chan, "The Widow Breaker/Whitey's Man Burden/Look Who's Stalking!": B+
"Like Superman IV, I am on a Quest for Peace."
—I hope we see a bit more of Yonro in the future. He's a hoot.
—Where the hell are the Shinigami?