"Episode 74" of Bleach is light on action, and apart from a couple of brief scenes, it's light on its main hero. During the confrontation with Han and Bo, Uryu, ashamed at his weakness and determined not to put his friends at risk, snuck off on his own. Still weak from fever and his injuries, he collapses in the street, and that's where he meets Yoshino again. She brings him back to her apartment, and the two have another conversation about Yoshino's motives, and just what she wants from the powerless Quincy; meanwhile, Ichigo and the others search fruitlessly for their missing friend, and Master Kariya issues orders to a group of Bounts, explaining that the time has come for them to step out of the shadows and rule.
The heart of "74" is Yoshino and Uryu's talk. She reveals to him a small sliver of her past: the loneliness of immortality, the alienation she felt even from those closest to her, and the way Kariya initially saved her from despair with a promise of eternal love–and how that promise eventually soured, and now drives her to revenge. None of the information we get in her flashback is exactly a shock. The "no one knows what's it's like to be the bad man" theme has been popular in genre fiction since Mary Shelley first put pen to page, but despite the somewhat cliché nature of Yoshino's past (which even includes a pitchfork-and-torch bearing mob), there's a melancholy to her story that's still effective. One moment in particular, with the ever young Yoshino standing on a street as her friends approach her, aging with each footstep, was a lovely way of visualizing her struggles. We learn that Kariya is focused on obtaining something called a "Power Hold," and that he has to go to Hueco Mundo to get it, but the real interest lies in Uryu's decision to help Yoshino in any way he can. He tells her its something he sees in her eyes that makes him trust her, but it could just as well be the connection between two souls who know what it's like to be alone.
In "Dealings," this week's Death Note, L continues to close in on the identity of the real Kira; a study of the timing of Kira's kills, and the knowledge that would be required to commit them, leads L to suspect a student with connections to the Japanese police. The deduction goes beyond the schedule into an understanding of Kira's motives–L points out that the killer must have a "childish concept of right and wrong," which would point to a certain kind of youth and callow enthusiasm. Light isn't worried, though. His father is chief of police, which gives Light all kinds of access to whatever the task force is planning. Once he realizes L's suspicions, Light makes a point of exploiting the Death Note's ability to control the manner in which people die by controlling the exact time of death, killing criminals every hour on the hour over a period of two days. This doesn't dissuade L, but as Light explains to Ryuk, that's sort of the point; he needs L to suspect the police connection because he needs paranoia to grow between the task force and L, ultimately revealing L's identity and allowing Light to eliminate his greatest foe.
The end of the episode reveals a new level of Shinigami ability. Ryuk notices someone following Light around, and when Light tries to determine how to proceed, Ryuk explains that Shinigami can see the true names and dates of death of every human they come across. He will never tell Light what he sees, since he's a neutral party in all that happens, but Light can get the power of the Shinigami eyes for himself— for the steep cost of half his life span.
It's a clever conceit, and one that we'll see pay-off in unexpected ways down the road. But for right now, I'm more interested in a brief line of dialogue delivered during the Task Force meeting at the episode's start. The violent crime rate has dropped significantly in Japan–which would seem to prove Light's point and forward his cause for a new world. The series never gets particularly invested in the moral debate of what Kira accomplishes, being more focused on the mental gymnastics between hunter and prey, but you never feel inclined to root for Light, even if you do like watching him win. During a discussion last week with Ryuk, Light talked about how everyone secretly wishes to be doing what Kira's doing, even if society forbids them from coming out and saying it; what he seems to be missing is that this is what makes society a necessary construct. No one human being can truly see the end result of all choices, but Light believes he can, and the discovery of the Death Note put him in a position above the normal course of things to act on his presumption.
The opening of "Geass vs. Geass" is initially disconcerting; "Shirley At Gunpoint" ended with Shirley aiming a gun at an unconscious Zero, but "Geass" begins after the scene has played out, with Lelouch babbling to C2 about a mystery–blood and a gun–that he doesn't completely understand. The two try and determine who was shot, and what happened to the gun (Lelouch's own), and eventually hone in on Shirley's involvement. Searching her room, they find photos of her and Lelouch stashed away. C2 makes catty comments, but Lelouch grows increasingly frustrated; he has feelings for his classmate, but he doesn't completely understand them, nor is he yet willing to admit their depth.
Which leads to a whole lot of sadness. Shirley winds up at the Narita shrine, where she meets a new player on the field: Mao, a pale guy with sunglasses and headphones and the uncanny ability to say just what's on the tip of your tongue before you even taste the words. Mao has a disturbing amount of information on recent events, and he forces Shirley to confront what happened earlier. Turns out Shirley was preparing to shoot Zero back on the docks but Valetta showed up, crowing over the capture of Brittania's greatest foe. Even knowing he was responsible for her father's death doesn't cancel out Shirley's feelings for her classmate, because she shoots Valetta to stop her from turning Lelouch in.
Lelouch and C2 track Shirley down to Narita, but Lelouch finds Mao first. He realizes that Mao has a Geass power of his own–the ability to read minds–and he's already used this ability to muck up Shirley's head. The three have a confrontation in which Shirley nearly kills Lelouch before turning the gun on Mao. He runs off, and C2 arrives just in time to make sure Mao can't cheat–the two clearly have a past together, which raises some serious questions. But there's no time for that now, as Shirley is breaking down in Lelouch's arms. He's realized how much he cares about her, but it's too late; and just as Shirley realizes what's about to happen and cries out against it, Lelouch wipes her memory clean.
Not sure how clean, exactly. But that moment was a rough one, in its way just as vicious as Zero's cold-blooded destruction of the JLF ship and crew last week. That there would be consequences for his choices was a given from the beginning, but it's nice to see those consequences finally hitting home. Others are still suffering from Lelouch's great plan more than him, but that final conversation between him and Shirley outside the shrine at least shows a young man coming to understand that he can't hope to keep the people he cares about free from harm, and that any emotional connection he makes will most likely run him a heavy cost.
On Shin Chan, it's another flashback episode to the Nohara's previous apartment and their uber-geek failure of a neighbor, Yonro. In "Admission: Impossible," Yonro is still struggling to get accepted into college, and the Nohara's are eager to encourage his dreams, operating under the assumption that "He's a nerd. And all nerds eventually get rich." Sort of hard to believe that happening here; not only is the poor guy terrified of the failures that await him each and everyday, he's such a buffoon that he reverses his test number and mistakenly believes he's finally gotten into school simply because he didn't remember to turn the paper right side up.
The Walk of Shame continues in "Yu Like Me, Yu Really Like Me… Right?" when the Nohara's other neighbor, Yu, gets a chance to audition for a prominent talent agency but can't seem to overcome her crippling lack of self-confidence. Of all people, she decides to get advice from Shin, who agrees to take her on as a pupil if she'll let him touch her boob. She refuses, so the deal turns to food instead, and the duo take a trip into town where Shin convinces Yu that the way to get over embarrassment is by doing a silly dance in public. It goes over well, enough so that at next day's audition, when super-important agent Saul Weitzmanoko demands she improve something from Ghost 2, Yu succeeds brilliantly.
The Yonro geekery wasn't quite as strong as usual, despite a Short Circuit reference; I did like Hiro's fantasy Yonro's wealth, where a fat-cat billionaire Yonro explains, "I've invented something too nerdy for you to imagine in a dream sequence." The best dubbing jokes were saved for the last half, though, with Yu's two planned monologues–the first from Glengarry Glen Ross, the second Rambo's psychotic break moment in First Blood—being pretty great. Still, these segments felt a bit too sitcom-esque; Shin Chan is funnier when it's at is most insane.
Bleach, "Episode 74": B+
Death Note, "Dealings": A-
Code Geass, "Geass vs. Geass": A
Shin Chan, "Admission: Impossible, etc.": B-
—I love the conversations between Light and Ryuk; it's basically just exposition in a bedroom, but the animation is very creepy.
—What the hell was up with C2's outfit when they went to Narita? She looked like a waitress from the Germany section of Epcot.
—Hmm. Valetta might still be alive. Way to go, Shirl.