HenSuki – 07 – Cupid Can Only Do So Much

HenSuki takes a break from Keiki’s Cinderella investigation to focus on his duties as Designated Cupid for Koharu and Shouma. After Keiki plays the third wheel, a double date is the next phase, with Keiki selecting Sayuki as the girl who’d least interfere with what they’re trying to do (Yuika might entice Shouma; Ayano might like his stink, and Mao won’t accept Shouma going out with a girl).

Everyone has a great time, except for Sayuki, who assumed Koharu would be bad a bowling (she isn’t). Koharu beats everyone, and gets to command Shouma to call her by her given name. Later, with Keiki, Koharu declares their contract complete (she deleted his photo long ago, knowing he’d keep his promise). What’s left to do, only she can do: tell Shouma the truth about her age, and confess her love.

Keiki cheers Koharu on, but as he knows Shouma so well, also has a pretty good idea how it will go. And so it goes: as soon as Koharu shows him that blue ribbon indicating she’s older, he dumps her on the spot, citing his lolicon as a disqualifying factor in dating her. Koharu runs off crying her eyes out, heartbroken.

Later, with Keiki, Shouma admits dumping Koharu broke his heart too, and was one of the hardest things he’d ever had to do. Keiki understands that Shouma can date whoever he likes for whatever reason, but still thinks it’s bullshit for him to give such a lame reason for utterly crushing Koharu’s dreams, after she spent a year mustering the courage to even speak to him.

As Koharu is about to start deleting her pics of her and Shouma, Keiki comes in to cheer her up, telling her only Shouma is at fault here for being such a rotten guy beneath his good looks. The Two Minutes Hate is interrupted by a contrite Shouma, who suggests a compromise: between getting over his lolicon and dating her, he needs a “rehab” period.

Koharu hits back at him by saying he’s essentially asking for his cake (not “Keiki”) and eating it too; he doesn’t want to be exclusive, but also isn’t willing to cut her loose for good. In other words, he’s the worst! Koharu dials it back, saying she’s just getting back at him for dumping her so harshly.

But then, Shouma wonders why it’s so dark in the club room and turns on the lights, revealing the hundreds of candid photos of him Koharu has collected since falling for him. With that, Shouma has a very good reason for not wanting to date her…such obsessive affection would quickly turn to hate if things ever went south.

Still, I wonder if, like Keiki with all his admirers, Shouma will make good on staying friends with her. She could help him get over his lolicon, and he could help her…stop so aggressively stalking him? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

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Cop Craft – 07 – Keep Your Friends Close

Tilarna and Kei suddenly find themselves deep in the world of vice and political intrigue, as Tilarna serves as bait for a john at a high-end brothel, and they end up arresting Cole Mozeleemay, a powerful Semanian politician running for mayor of San Teresa. While Cole didn’t get far at all with Tilarna before Kei and the cops take the hotel room, the fact he touched her hair is enough to make her upset Kei didn’t bust in sooner.

Mozeleemay very publicly asserts his innocence to the press (gaslighting them in the process), while his ambitious politician’s wife commits to helping him get through this (but that doesn’t mean he can touch her). Tilarna is as expected disgusted by Earth’s slow, plodding brand of justice, especially when even that kind tends to slow even more when a powerful person is involved.

All Kei tells her is that this is the way it is, and that she’s going to have to resign herself to that, as he has over the years. She needs a friend—someone other than Kei—and is comforted when she has a chance encounter with Zoey, the woman who was kind to her at the brothel, and who is also an amateur photographer.

Zoey actually needs help moving after the police raid, and Tilarna, being nice, helps out. Knights may be solitary by nature, but the more Tilarna hangs out with Kei, the more used to relationships she gets. Her need for female companionship must have been stronger than ever considering what she went through and how Zoey (unlike, say, Cecil) can relate to the life.

Tilarna and Zoey become fast friends over their brief time together, and Kei just happens to return to the spot where they split up to pick her up later that night. She’s also enchanted by Zoey’s photography. They continue to hang out despite Kei’s warnings not to get too involved with people they’re investigating (Zoey believes Tilarna is merely a rich runaway).

Meanwhile, the already-tenuous solicitation case against Mozeleemay takes another blow when a list of the club’s clients is leaked to the media. Some of the names are real and some are fake, creating more reasonable doubt for Mozeleemay’s lawyers to use in his defense.

We learn that Zoey is the one who provided Mozeleemay with the list, in exchange for enough cash to afford the gorgeous apartment with an ocean view. Mozeleemay shows his true colors once more when he offers extra pay for a quick trick, but Zoey spurns him. Mozeleemay’s wife, who is following him, spots Zoey exiting his car.

Tilarna, increasingly distraught over the increasing possibility she went undercover and endured what she did for no good reason, brings up the possibility of an employee at the club being the leaker. Jamie shows them the video stills of everyone who accessed the list, and sure enough, Zoey’s photo sticks out.

She goes to Zoey’s place immediately to confront her. Zoey doesn’t answer the door and Tilarna prepares for the worse by drawing her sword, only for Zoey to ambush her…with her camera. She has a photo canvas for Tilarna as a gift for helping her move, but Tilarna is all business, and starts with the accusations. Zoey denies, then asks if Tilarna is a cop, and Tilarna can’t lie.

Then, as the two stand almost back-to-back in front of those huge ocean view windows, a bullet strikes Zoey in the chest, then a hail of bullets shatter the windows as the women hit the deck. Kei, providing backup for Tilarna, manages to shoot one of the two assassins, but he says nothing about who sent him before passing out.

That night, as he watches the news about himself, Mozeleemay gets word that Zoey was shot, and relays the message to his wife when she comes in the room, and noting how it could help him beat the charge. Then he realizes his wife was the one who arranged the hit. She denies it, of course, but taking his hand in hers, tells him he shouldn’t worry about such things—the implication being his job is to win the election; nothing more.

Zoey’s final words to Tilarna before passing out express her disappointment in having been betrayed by someone she thought was a friend. There’s not enough time for Tilarna to explain the complex circumstances, and how she considered Zoey a good friend too. Kei is by her side at the hospital when she learns Zoey has died, and upon returning to her apartment, unwraps the photo Zoey gave her as a gift: a behind-the-back of Tilarna beaming in the sunset. Tilarna takes Zoey’s camera as a memento.

It’s as heartbreaking and poignant as Cop Craft has dared to get so far, and really makes me feel for poor Tilarna. While she’s no fool, she is young, inexperienced, and naive. And Zoey was right when she said Tilarna can’t understand the difficulty of lowborn Semanians trying to go straight in San Teresa. Adding ironic insult to injury, the self-proclaimed advocate of Semanians like her is…Cole Mozeleemay.

Yet look at what he allowed to happen to someone like Zoey, just because he couldn’t keep it in his goddamn pants. I want Tilarna to get revenge, but I don’t want her to get in trouble. At the same time, I don’t want her to suffer the unique turmoil that comes from being perpetually unable to do what is right and just in a world where justice is whatever the most rich and powerful say it is.

As far as Tilarna and Kei’s partnership friendship may have come, Earth still feels like a place that will only continue to eat away at her pure and virtuous soul…as it has already done to him. How can a place like that—which gave her a new older sister then took her away just as fast—ever feel like a home?

Vinland Saga – 07 – Getting a Head in France

The Danish King Sweyn orders his armies’ English advances halted to give them time to rest for the winter. That means Askeladd’s crew’s contract work with the army ceases, which means they have to do as the birds do: migrate south in search of food.

It turns out there are already various factions within France fighting one another, including a siege on the Loire river in which a numerically superior Frankish force is unable to take a fort held by only a handful of their enemies. Askeladd sends in Thorfinn, older but still a kid, to make a deal with the besieging army.

Their general—who has a distorted cartoony design that resembles a fat toad, and with a weird voice to match—reluctantly agrees to ally with Askeladd’s men for the siege. The general’s out-of-place appearance is another sign that while Vinland Saga can be very realistic when it wants to be, it’s still depicting a highly stylized version of history and reality.

A more overt sign is when Askeladd’s men join the Frankish general’s armies in the siege the next morning, they come lugging their three boats on their shoulders and running at full speed; at least 25mph (the current record for human speed is Usain Bolt’s 27.8mph; he was not carrying a viking ship).

So yeah, even if the Vikings did carry their ships around on occasions when it was necessary to take land shortcuts, they certainly didn’t carry them that quickly, and I imagine when they were done carrying them they didn’t have enough energy remaining to not just fight a battle, but absolutely dominate in it.


Of course, challenging realism in this show is a slippery slope, so I’ll stop there, as it’s more plausible that after however many years Thorfinn has trained and killed for Askeladd, he’s become a finely-honed, ninja-like killing machine. There’s a long line of soldiers between him and their commander, but he cuts through them all like butter. Unfortunately, when he beheads the commander, the head falls into the lake, and the whole reason he went up there was to claim their leader’s head.

The Frankish general/prince was planning to betray Askeladd when it made the most sense to do so, but Askeladd betrays him first, pillaging the village of all treasure and leaving the worthless empty fort, and the victory, for the general.

Presenting the head of the commander, Thorfinn formally challenges Askeladd to the duel he’s owed once more, and Askeladd formally accepts…but only after they’ve escaped to safety. That means rowing their three big viking ships—likely overladen by treasure and other spoils—down a steep waterfall. Not only do the ships make it down without a scratch, but not a single gold coin spills out.

Despite all the action in this episode, it still felt rather static, in that Thorfinn and Askeladd’s unresolved conflict hung over everything, and the fact it was once again delayed despite Finn meeting the requirements feels like another artifical delay, for which their French excursion felt like so much window dressing. The comic-relief buffonish toad man and questionable physics further undermined the outing.

Fire Force – 06 – Wherein Opposite Paths Converge

As shounen heroes tend to do, Shinra struts into Princess Hibana’s lair and prepares to go a second round, despite having learned nothing about how to defeat her ability that had him flat on the ground. He’s confident that between his talents and determination he’ll figure something out and rescue Iris. Hibana is ready for him, but because she’s a shounen villain, she explains what her ability does, which enables Shinra to resist it.

Of course, heating up her opponents so they become lightheaded ragdolls isn’t Hibana’s only trick. She conjures up scores of flowers to launch at Shinra, and finally releases her featured attack, which bears more than a passing similarity to Captain Kuchiki’s Senbonzakura.

Hibana is convinced that the world is made up of the burned and those who burn, and ever since all the sisters but her burned in the convent, she’s dedicated herself to…herself. Burning whoever and whatever she needs to to get ahead. It’s how she became a successful researcher, and it’s how she became Captain of the 5th.

But here’s the thing: Iris survived too, and Iris is still around and kicking despite not becoming “the devil” to the god Sol everyone prays to. Which means there were obviously more than just the single evil path Hibana took. Iris continued her sister training and became a good and caring person who helps comfort people both during and at the end of their lives.

As we see in the expanded flashback, Hibana was unique among the other sisters in her ability to manipulate flames into beautiful flowers, and change their colors with chemicals. Iris and the others loved her flowers, but the nuns in charge discouraged her, warning that she was, well, playing with fire.

But Iris never forgot their promise: that if she overcame her shyness, Hibana would show her her flame flowers once more. This time, defeated by the flames she believed only served her, and by someone she deemed just more “gravel” to be trod upon, the hard crust that those old flames created around her heart shattered, revealing her heart wasn’t hardened to the core.

Princess Hibana is redeemed, the 5th and 8th cease hostilities, and she even develops a little crush on Shinra, who after all managed to defeat her, making her reconsider whether his prattle about heroes and saving people without getting anything in return was just empty BS.

As for Captain Oubi, after the credits he calls Hinawa, announcing he’s finally ready to join the fray, only to be told that it’s already over, and the dramatic battle music stops abruptly.

Lord El-Melloi II Case Files – 07 – Murder on the Mystic Eyes Express

At what appears to be Kings Cross Station, Lord El-Melloi II awaits the arrival of that most infamous supernatural mystic eyes collection and auction train, Rail Zeppelin. He is accompanied by Gray (natch), and by one of his students, the berserker Caules Yggdmillenia. But that’s not all; not by a long shot. Rail Zeppelin passengers are a veritable cross section of the magical world.

There’s Olga-Marie Arsimilat Animusphere, daughter of the Lord of Astromancy, accompanied by her maid Trisha. There’s Adashino Hishiri of Policies, clearly there to observe and await what may befall Lord El-Melloi. There’s Karabo Frampton of the Holy Church, an intense rival of the Clock Tower. While not in El-Melloi’s party, his student and self-appointed “future mistress” Yvette Lehrman has her own invite.

Leandra introduces herself to the passengers as Rail Zeppelin’s auctioneer. Rodin is its conductor. And then there’s Rail Zeppelin itself: a spacious, sumptuously-appointed luxury train that seems far bigger on the inside than the outside, and travels on rails above leylines. I love trains and the whole idea of enjoying all the comforts of home while travelling somewhere far off. Rail Zeppelin itself is a character in this arc—and an immediately likable one at that.

It’s apparent there are a number of uneasy truces in operation between factions normally warring (either metaphorically or literally, or both). That lends the episode a tense and uneasy atmosphere. The train is stuck on a fixed rail, hurtling at high speed; a powder-keg that could explode at any moment for a whole host of reasons.

While Reines did not accompany Lord El-Melloi, she’s running her own investigation the theft of her brother’s catalyst for summoning a servant of the Holy Grail War: the Mantle of Iskandar. Such a task is frought with danger, so she hires Shishigou Kairi and pairs him up with Luviagelita Edelfelt (with whom she nicely bonded last week along with Gray)—an inspired duo if ever there was one.

Having foregone sleep for much of the last two nights, El-Melloi spends the first night and much of the following day catching up on sleep. Before he awakes for breakfast, Gray meets with Yvette in the dining car, who comes from a family who craft mystic eyes from gems, like the one her eyepatch conceals. Either Yvette can’t quite get Gray to admit they’re rivals for the Lord’s heart, or Gray simply doesn’t consider Yvette a rival at all.

Lady Aminusphere and Trisha once again meet with El-Melloi, to discuss his cooperation in the coming auction. Specifically, Olga-Marie wants the biggest prize of the auction—the highest-ranked Rainbow Mystic Eyes—the “ultimate operation of celestial bodies within the human body.” If El-Melloi helps her win them through strategic bidding and folding, he will be rewarded.

More to the point, she knows they’ll win them, because Trisha has seen that outcome with her Mystic Eyes of Premonition; the effects of which only add to Gray’s discomfort when combined to her symptoms of motion sickness (poor kid lacks her train-legs, perhaps in part because King Artoria is from a time long before such tech).

While off on her own recovering, Gray gets some friendly advice from Karabo Frampton. When the two touch, Karabo’s Mystic Eyes that can see the past glimpse King Artoria Pendragon in a field (clearly enjoying not being on a speeding train). He had suspected she wasn’t a mage like most everyone there, which leads to her belittling herself and underplaying her value to Lord El-Melloi. Karabo assures her she’s already someone the Lord “finds necessary.”

Trisha joins El-Melloi at the bar, revealing that she and her lady have investigated the role of one third-gen mage of limited renown Waver Velvet in the Holy Grail War; seeing the younger Waver reflected in his glass is a nice stylistic touch. El-Melloi, like Gray, may consider that role to have been flawed and inadequate, but the mere fact he survived is a testament to the contrary.

Trisha, believing he seeks Mystic Eyes as a weapon for the next Grail War, warns him that having Eyes means accepting the destiny of being bound to them. Of course, El-Melloi is more than prepared for such a destiny, as he’s already bound himself with the title of Lord El-Melloi—albeit while trying to limit expectations with a tacked on “II”—and all the duties and responsibilities therein.

Not to mention he’s bound to meeting with Iskandar once again, even if the Heroic Spirit has no memories of the last war and their time together. Gray sympathizes; who wouldn’t want someone you were devoted to carry memories of you? But just as El-Melloi goes into a spiril of self-loathing and Gray is about to cheer him up with the gift she got at Luvia’s store, there’s a loud, distressed scream.

El-Melloi and Gray rush to its source, and they find a shocked Olga-Marie kneeling before the bloody, headless body of Trisha. That makes Rail Zeppelin a Magical Murder Mystery Train, packed with potential suspects in the best Christie tradition, with El-Melloi as its Poirot. And there’s still the matter of who gave him one of only twelve open invites to the auction.

All we know for sure is that neither he nor Gray committed the murder, and that when Trisha was warning El-Melloi about being at peace with whatever destiny Mystic Eyes might provide, she was speaking from imminent experience. Her eyes allowed her to foresee her own demise—one she either couldn’t or wouldn’t avoid. She may have been the first victim of whatever power is at work here, but she likely won’t be the last.

DanMachi II – 06 – Orario Vice

When Bell, Lili and Welf are concerned about Mikoto acting weird, they follow her one night, and to her surprise she ends up meeting with Chigusa and entering Orario’s famous pleasure district, which is run by the wealthy and powerful Ishtar Familia (Ishtar is the Akkadian, Assyrian and Babylonian goddess of love, war, and fertility).

Turns out Mikoto and Chigusa are searching for an old friend of theirs from their original home in the Far East, where she was a noble. Chigusa spotted her in the district and came to Mikoto, who saught confirmation before coming to the rest of Hestia Familia.

Lili, and certainly Hestia, would rather the adorable Bell be anywhere but the pleasure district, where he is  almost constantly approached, accosted, and embraced by dozens of beautiful, available women, including Aisha, one of Ishtar’s higher-ups. Separated from the others, Bell never had a chance to escape their clutches.

Right before he’s surrounded and picked up and taken to Ishtar’s palace to be passed between several eager Amazonesses, he spots an ethereal, yukata-wearing fox woman in a window, who judging from the glimpse of her last week, is the person Mikoto and Chigusa were looking for.

Ishtar herself has no time for a first-timer like Bell, but her underlings are all but willing to suck him dry, so to speak. The start of their fun is interrupted by the huge and grotesque Phryne, and Bell uses the distraction caused by the Amazons’ bickering (and his adventurer’s sneaking skills and speed) to slip away.

He ends up in the courtyard of one of the district’s fancier-looking brothels, and who does he encounter within one of the rooms but the straw-haired fox woman, named Haruhime, who assumes Bell is there to buy his first sexual experience.

It seems despite being more experienced than Bell, the sight of his collarbone still overwhelms her, giving him the opportunity to tell her he’s not there for sex, just to hide from the Amazons. She can understand; it’s tough to be a first-timer in a district where it’s the occupation of so many women to kidnap and have their way with you.

As they spend the rest of the evening chatting, discovering that they share a love of stories about heroes that originally drew them to Orario, Ishtar has a meeting with Hermes, who has delivered something to her that is of importance in her ongoing rivalry with Freya. When Hermes is reluctant to tell her what other weaknesses Freya might have that she can exploit, she removes what little clothing she is wearing in order to force the issue.

Haruhime tells Bell that while she loved those heroic stories, she no longer sees herself as someone worthy of being saved or protected. Despite her noble appearance and cushy digs, she doesn’t seem to see any nobility in her profession, only filth. It really brings Bell down, who doesn’t agree that she should have to sacrifice her dreams simply because circumstances, many of them not of her making, landed her in a brothel.

Still, he runs off into the night none too soon, as Aisha shows up immediately after to escort Haruhime back to her chambers. As for Ishtar, she gets the information she wanted out of an overwhelmed Hermes in bed: Freya is obsessed with Cranel Bell, and she can hurt her by stealing him from her.

So now Bell finds himself in the sights of not one but two distinct and powerful goddesses of love, war, sex, and fertility, and almost certainly doesn’t want his first encounter with Haruhime to be his last. If he’s the hero he thinks he is, he’ll no doubt try to find a way to free her from servitude.

O Maidens in Your Savage Season – 07 – You Mustn’t Become Boring

At the inn where he was extorted by Hitoha to take the Lit Club, Yamagishi-sensei is perfectly content to spend the evening with his folks, until he’s confronted by Hitoha in a particularly frisky mood. Forget her literary ambitions, she just wants to get with Milo-sensei, period. But thank goodness, he says four words that start to restore my faith in him: “Will you please stop?”

Sure, he’s pretty mean when he laughs at her inability to handle an imminent (but ultimately aborted) kiss when she was talking big about letting him lift her up by her thong and toss her to the floor. And when he tells her not to “bite off more than you can chew.” Hitoha may consider herself “a wretched sight,” but the alternative—if Milo-sensei had given in—would have been far, far worse.

As Momo withdraws from the baths, she can’t get the image of a totally naked and uninhibited Niina out of her mind, eliminating any doubt that she has a crush on her. Not only that, when Sugimoto RINEs her with a number of in-your-face stamps enthusiastically inquiring about how she’s doing, Momo almost seems resentful—how dare you, vapid boy, try to occupy headspace I’d rather have occupied by the fair Miss Sugawara?

Just before Momo returns to the bedroom, Rika is also exchanging innocuous texts with a boy—Amagi—the difference being Rika is loving every moment of it. Still, not so much that she’d let Momo know, as she rushes back to the brainstorming table. Momo muses that the idea of guys being simple and shallow is “an urban legend in itself,” and wonders why girls are supposed to couple with them instead of what she deems to be simpler girls she finds cuter.

Rika initially believes the two of them are far apart when it comes to how they feel, but in reality, they both liken how they feel to the bittersweet taste of a dark chocolate Pocky. They’re both interrupted by a rejected and thoroughly pissed-off Hitoha, who barges in with an urban legend about sweethearts wearing matching thongs…not knowing that might actually work for someone like Momo!

While the nature of the distance may vary, the love interests of all five girls are far away. Niina and Kazusa are unique in that they likely share the same love interest. It’s Niina who is there when Kazusa comes out of her overheated state, which is really for the best, as Niina gets to instigate the fight they really need to have in order to move forward, either as friends or something else.

The other three interrupt the fight, in part deeming it unfair due to Kazusa’s heat-fatigued state, but the five come up with a solution that serves everyone: a lively, no-holds-barred pillow fight. It’s a wonderful, semi-cathartic release, and thankfully Yamagishi-sensei has precisely no part in it whatsoever, keeping a distance and letting these girls in their savage season have it out with one another in an aggressive (fight) yet gentle (pillows) way.

The night Kazusa returns, she has dinner with Izumi’s family, but Izumi himself isn’t present. In another beautiful sequence, the two end up encountering one another from the windows of their respective bedrooms—a cliche to be sure, but an effective one in this case, especially as both had just been thinking of one another; specifically the fact they like one another.

Having learned a lot from her trip and gained quite a bit of confidence and courage, Kazusa draws on what she and only she knows—that Izumi is particularly into retro trains—and tosses him one in the form of a keychain. Izumi first thought of Kazusa as a girl when he could throw a baseball further than her. But this time, both the keychain and her feelings make it to him. It’s a small step, but definitely one in the right direction.

Back at school, Kazusa makes sure to apologize to Niina for being presumptuous about her stealing Izumi, but does so under the impression Niina has no interest in Izumi, which is actually just another presumption on her part! Ironically, Kazusa takes another confident step in volunteering to be the role of the girl to Niina’s boy in the lit club’s cultural festival performance.

As Momo adjusts Niina’s costume and blushes at the sight of her nape, and Rika continues to flush her relationship with Amagi down the toilet, Kazusa continues to reiterate in her head how she loves Izumi, and has always loved and treasured him back when she was his big-sister figure. But while Kazusa has probably never been more at peace, that peace is built on shaky ground.

As Kazusa confides to Niina that she’s just about ready to confess her feelings to Izumi, Niina is not quite ready to concede Izumi to her so easily, though she might ultimately do so out of respect for their friendship. Where she goes wrong is seeking advice from her middle-aged pedophile former acting coach Saegusa, whom she visits just as he’s calling his latest prized talent “boring”…apparently for being so obedient.

Saegusa doesn’t want to witness obedience, on the stage or off it; he wants to see rapture; the explosive moment when a girl spreads her wings and takes off, transforming into a woman, even if that woman holds no interest for him beyond the “final moment” of transition.

With that in mind, and considering his loyalties lie nowhere else, he urges Niina not to be boring like his young student, but rather to damn the torpedoes. It’s a heartbreaking scene, not least because it’s quite likely Niina will do whatever her old mentor says, no matter how much it might hurt her and/or Kazusa.

But like Momo’s near-total disinterest in boys, Rika’s near-total inability to be the girlfriend Amagi wants, Hitoha’s near-total commitment to pursuing a forbidden affair, and Kazusa’s near-total confidence in her love for Izumi, Sugawara Niina is beholden to the road paved by the sum total of her life experiences thus far.

As much as she might want to, she has yet to escape Saegusa’s influence, and can no more turn off that road than Momo can start liking boys. And so, it seems a war with Izumi is inevitable—and no longer the kind with mere pillows.

Fruits Basket – 20 – Sickeningly Immature

Yes, it was wonderful that Tooru was able to become good friends with Kisa, and through that friendship, encourage her to talk and go back to school. And yes, it’s also nice that Tooru gets to meet the Sheep (Goat) of the Zodiac and assure him that with his smarts and courage to admit to his own failings and weaknesses, he will one day be a splendid “prince” to Kisa’s princess.

BUT. But but but but but. But. God DAMN is Souma Hiro an immensely annoying brat! One who comes into Tooru’s life out of nowhere and immediately starts treating her like dirt. And he never, ever, ever shuts the fuck up. While I realize his importance to the story, his presence almost always detracted from my enjoyment of the episode.

In this regard, I identified with Kyou, in that I really wanted to slug the little punk at times (though I would have probably not made that known to Hiro as Kyou did, as owning up to the deside to knock Hiro’s teeth out doesn’t make things any more pleasant for Kyou).

Yes, there’s a reason Hiro is such a little shit: he’s just in sixth grade, and while he’s an otherwise sharp kid, the fact of the matter is he’s intensely jealous of Tooru spending so much time with Kisa, even as he spend much of recent weeks ignoring Kisa and pretending he doesn’t want to hang out or watch anime with her.

We eventually learn the reason for that, as well, and suddenly Hiro’s frustration and lousy attitude come more into focus. Hiro blames himself for what happened to Kisa, because before she was bullied at school, she was badly beaten by Akito, all because Hiro told Akito he loved Kisa.

Once more Akito emerges as the bogeyman, the uber-villain of Fruits Basket: vicious, cruel, wildly unpredictable, and utterly determined going to make sure every Souma is as miserable as he is, if not moreso. As Shigure and Hatori discuss Hiro’s case and the toll of Akito’s wrath, Shigure not-so-subtly declares that one day Akito will be sorry for doing as he pleases all this time.

So yeah, it makes sense for a kid like Hiro to act out as a result of hating how helpless he was to spare Kisa, as well as how easily Tooru managed to comfort and heal her when she’s such a damn space cadet. At times, I was almost glad someone was finally calling Tooru out on her constant apologies and modesty, but at the same time, Tooru’s apologies are always genuine, as is her modesty.

She’ll never admit she’s good at sorting out Soumas. She helps them simply by existing as herself, even if that self is deeply flawed and troubled. This episode did as good a job as it could rehabilitating Hiro into someone sympathetic and understandable, but likable? He’ll never be that for me. Not until he grows up a bit more, and stops kicking Tooru! Damnit!

UchiMusume – 07 – Looking at Things

Latina looks at stuff!
Some stuff people.
Some stuff food.
Some stuff even animated
but some stuff static…
like a stone.

What began as a soft touch culture-crossing adoption story, with safe romps into medieval’ish fantasy life has become uneventful beyond the point of watchability. The sum total of this week’s non-looking at stuff content was a chat with a demon musician lady, who explained that Latina’s bracelet had her the full length version of her father’s name. This is common practice amongst demons living in the first demon lord’s domain.

Also, apparently, there are a lot of demon lords out there, with political and social ramifications to their deeds. I doubt UchiMusume will ever get to them though and I don’t care if it does. I’m dropping this show like a stone!

Maou-sama, Retry! – 07 – All or Nothing

In what amounts to a rolling, episode long battle sequence, we are introduced to:

    1. A Murder Clown, who is torn apart by Yu.
    2. Two zombie girls, who immediately get killed by Queen.
    3. The old knight “Marshal Arts,” who disappears without explanation.
    4. A sad demon girl, who dies and comes back after a flash back.
    5. The Prince of Darkness, who is killed by Dragonkin-Maou.

While there were many puns sprinkled among the character names, and it was funny that the number of Satanists in the battle would imply 1/3 of the total city population was Satanists, this was not at all a good episode. Constant move-names and pointless character introductions get dull fast and Maou isn’t even in the first half of the episode.

I’m not sure what the writers were trying to accomplish this week but the result was barely watchable. Ouch!

Granbelm – 06 – Okayish

Nene isn’t dead. Anna Fugo’s rage is finally explained and resolved. Dark Blue goes off on her own. Kuon has a cold. Mangetsu makes lots of soup.

Granbelm did a lot right this week but, like a super model striding down the catwalk in a pretty dress and gigantic clown shoes, it contradicts itself and cannot help trip over its feet in the process.

Anna’s confidence stems from mastering a fire-to-ice combo spell her mother and grandmother couldn’t master… except Anna didn’t actually master it. Ernesta did. This is a nice twist and shutting Anna down by replicating Anna’s inability, backed by Anna’s own mother’s words, and showing this like came from a place of love in Ernesta, tied a nice little bow around the conflict.

…but… this returns us to the clown shows problem. If Anna has never had meaningful power, showing her casting powerful magic during the tourney for 3/6 of the episodes doesn’t make any sense. Honestly, none of the relative magic power levels make a lick of sense but Anna’s all-is-nothing story hinges on something we have seen constantly contradicted in battle.

I’m happy Nene isn’t dead and it’s charming to see her invested in Mangetsu and/or Ernesta becoming the witch. I’m not sure I buy that her life long ambition can turn on an emotional dime like that but it’s pleasant and it moves the narrative onward.

Onward to what? Anna seems to be out, which means Dark Blue Is the only villain left. This week was a decent episode and there’s obviously more going on in the world than we know… but how that’s going to fill 7 more episodes? I’m not sure I’m looking forward to.

Astra Lost in Space – 07 – Accepting Hopelessness

When the unsubtle episode title “PAST” appeared in the corner of the screen, and Charce was forced to bring up his own dark (and monochromatic) past, it felt like here we go, another episode that sticks to the formula of revealing a character’s backstory in order to eventually strengthen their bond with the rest of the crew.

Now, that did happen, but it didn’t take the whole episode; just five minutes. That wasn’t a lot, but Charce didn’t mince words: he’s from the only part of Mars where a (technologically stunted) kingdom was allowed to exist, he was part of a noble family, and befriended a commoner girl, who was accidentally shoved off a high wall when police caught her in restricted territory.

She didn’t die, but one day her family up and left, and Charce wasn’t far behind, leaving the noble Luddite life behind. But he never found her again. It’s for this reason, and the fact he’d just transferred into the class before space camp, that he gave off a suspicious aura. But when they learn how tragic his past was, the crew surrounds him with empathy and affection.

Strangely, the girl, Seira, sure sounded like she was voiced by Minase Inori, who also voices Aries, whom Charce remarks is “just like” Seira. Cold Aries be Seira, her lost memories of Vixia and Charce a result of her fall? Just something to chew on.

But as I said, the repeating structure of the last few episodes was completed in the first five minutes. From there, we move on to the arrival at the newest planet, Icriss, which despite the singing of the school choir members does not spin, or rather has a rotation that’s precisely in line with its orbit. One side is perpetually baked in the sun, the other frozen in the darkness.

The only safe zone where there’s water, life, and food is the narrow belt between the zones. They descend through the atmosphere and encounter a bizarre jungle of immense plants and menagerie of equally gigantic animals, with some plants preying on the animals through use of electrical charges. One of those plants reaches out and grabs the Astra. That’s when things start to get bad.

With a series of evasive maneuvers, Zack is able to wrest free from the sinewy grip of the plant…thing…but the Astra takes damage. Zack loses attitude and decel control, and the ship will no longer yaw to port. He tries to ease the ship down but a gust of wind shoves it into some canyon rock, and the ship crashes and shuts down. That’s when things get worse.

Zack’s damage report is pretty dire. The Astra can move a bit, and is still capable of supporting life, but with a key reactor destroyed and no dock or parts or skilled engineers to repair it, they will never be able to return to space, much less attain FTL speed. He thus declares their voyage over. Their only course now is to find a way to live out their lives on Icriss.

As Kanata mentions while they’re still airborne, there were simply “too many things” that went wrong to end their journey, and they were unbelievably lucky to survive as long and travel as far as they did. But being commended for their achievements thus far is of no solace whatsoever. Quitterie, true to her character, has the most trouble accepting that where they are is where they’ll stay, barring extremely unlikely possibilities.

Zack is the opposite, calming down even more in the face of Quitterie’s panic, and it takes him time to drop the Vulcan stoicism and simply comfort someone who needs more time to process everything. Kanata, noted tough son-of-a-bitch, doesn’t claim not to be ready, but as the captain he recognizes he needs to give the appearance of being ready to move forward without hesitation. For her part, Aries is fine with waiting things out there, as long as Kanata he’s around.

Then, the game changes again, when Funi finds a second wreck, of a ship nearly identical to the Astra. Kanata, Zack, and Ulgar board her, and learn that she’s not spaceworthy anymore—though she could still have viable parts the Astra needs. While there’s no sign of any crew, there’s a message reading “Help me” on the monitor, and Zack realizes there’s probably someone in the ship’s single hibernation chamber.

Just before, he was suggesting to Quitterie if she really can’t accept living on Icriss, she could enter the Astra’s chamber and wait there in deep freeze for however many years, decades, or centuries it would take for someone to find and rescue her. Quitterie refused, but here it is, that very scenario playing out on the other ship, only it “only” took twelve years for someone to find them. The chamber’s occupant is awakened and revealed to be a beautiful blonde woman with pale blue eyes. And that is unfortunately when the credits roll.

Suffice it to say, this is exactly what Astra needed: something to shatter the status quo in a big way. Real peril and the toughest problem yet. While before there always seemed to be a way to science a solution and continue the journey, now in every instance it seems to be closing the door. Despite their smarts, talent, and moxie, the inexperience of the crew, even Zack, was exposed in a big way.

Still, I seriously doubt they’ll spend the rest of the show on Icriss, so between the second ship and its no-longer-sleeping beauty, there’s still plenty of hope to go around.

Given – 04 and 05 – Roaring to a Stand Still

In a delicious twist, Sato rejects Uecchi’s offer to join the band. Uecchi is utterly befuddled, agitated, and his google-fueled antics put Harkuki and Kaji in hysterics. Perhaps oblivious to the meltdown he has caused, Sato does exactly what he was asked to do and gets a part time job at the live music venue.

When Uecchi finally goes to confront Sato, old friends interrupt and STRONG IMPLY Sato’s guitar belongs to some one very special and very tragically dead…

Thankfully, Uecchi shakes him out of it and demands to hear Sato sing. The following episode is largely dedicated to Uecchi creating a song for Sato to sing and the lead up to their first public gig.

…Also, the episode reveals revealing that Harkuki loves Kaji, that Kaji has a boy friend no one knows about, that Sato is pretty damn good at basket ball, and Uecchi learning that Sato was dating a boy in middle school but that boy may have suddenly killed himself in an extremely tragic way! Appropriate, this last bit of news comes amidst a deafening roar of white noise punctuated by a hard cut to black.

Given remains beautifully rendered, even when it’s being ‘lazy.’ Seriously! The backgrounds and colors and level of unnecessary detail are insane. Episode 5 did take a noticeable dip, but that is to be expected mid season and it didn’t hurt the narrative’s more introspective focus.

I’m really enjoying the idea that Uecchi is the only semi-straight member of the band, yet imperfect knowledge may prevent each member from realizing that. I’m finding it even more interesting to watch Sato, who seems like he’s characterized as having a spectrum disorder in addition to being gay. It makes for some curious takes on his scenes with Uecchi.

Sato strikes me as a sincere representation of a gay male who’s not romantically into the straight male who is pursuing him. He seems aware of that Ueechi may not realize he is even pursuing him, which seems ironically likely since Uecchi resorted to dating advice to get Sato into the band. Now that the sexuality angle is out in the open, we’ll see if Uecchi reconciles with his own obsessive feelings, or if his obsession is purely based in the art of music the way he previously seemed to think it was.