Amaama to Inazuma – 09

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The Gist: Tsumugi and her class have a summer break sleepover, where they spend the night at school, make curry and play with fireworks. Tsumugi even gets to chop some vegetables — with a kid’s knife.

From the boys crying, to the girls using more proper language and talking about the different kinds of curry they know, it’s a lovely scene that expands on the various children’s personalities and relationships.

The scene where Kouhei is at home alone, which is almost completely without dialog, is also masterful. As often is the case, Amaama to Inazuma can express a broad emotional range without using spoken words.

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Later, Kouhei finds his wife’s cook book where they used to keep spices (a place he never thought to look) and he and Kotori plan to make dry curry. Tsumugi even gets to cut the vegetables herself… with supervision and Kotori about to pass out from anxiety!

While the meal-making includes a lovely Tsumugi dance, this time about bubbles boiling, the real emotional power emerges after the meal, when Father and Child come to terms with Mother/Wife never coming back. Kouhei makes the special food now and, even though it is wonderful, even though it is the way mother used to make it, her death is all the more permanent now.

I love that Tsumugi bashes his chin with her forehead repeatedly while crying about this point. It’s painfully accurate to how a child responds, in my experience.

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The Verdict: this was a masterful episode. It plays with scale of characters, silence, and emotional expectations. Joy as sadness. Sadness as joy. Being together but feeling alone and, of course, the bubble dance.

It also shook up AtI’s somewhat predictable visual range with the bright night pallet of the sparklers and seeing Yoki’s bar. I had not realized how in a rut AtI’s sticking with the Kindergarten, the High School, the Restaurant and the Apartment was getting until I saw these 2 new color arrangements –and now I hope we see more in the remaining episodes!

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Macross Delta – 22

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Well, with a big battle coming up and the show deciding to check in once more on Cassim, it was pretty clear from the cold open that this was going to be the swan song for, to date, the most three-dimensional Windermeran on the show.

But first, a note about the shot that establishes the Chaos fleet the last two episodes: could it have killed them to zoom in a little more and let us get a nice look at that fleet? It’s a nitpick that expresses my desire for a big space/aerial battle after a string of episodes that were more about developing characters. And we got one.

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After a quick chat between two of the simpler characters in Macross, Mikumo (who lives to sing) and Hayate (who lives to fly), everyone salutes Captain Johnson and the Elysion enters a fold gate. All of a sudden, we’re back in the shit, as Chaos teams up with the liberated Vordorian military to strike against Randall.

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But that turns out to be only a means of diverting and splitting Lloyd’s forces, as Delta and Walkure’s true desination is Windermere itself, by way of a fold gate opened on Alfheim. The only way to open that gate is for Walkure to give the protoculture structure everything they have.

At first, Freyja doesn’t do that, because she’s still scared Hayate and/or Mirage will go nuts. But after a quick slap by Mikumo, combined with the urgings of Hayate and Mirage, Freyja is back in the game.

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Turns out she was right to worry: the song does make Hayate go berserk, just when locked in a dogfight with Cassim (who is fighting like this is his last battle, because it is). Just as Hayate and Mirage helped snap Freyja out of her funk, Mirage and Freyja snap Hayate out of his Var before irreparable damage is done, and the battle resumes.

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By the time Hayate has his senses back, the platoon has bought Walkure adequate time, the gate opens, and they fly through, emerging in Windermere’s atmo. Two Aerial Knights: one of the twins and Cassim, follow, and take out Walkure’s shuttle.

Remembering vividly what happened to Flay in Gundam SEED I naturally worried about the idols’ transport getting hit, but they all survive the attack, with Arad and Mirage catching Kaname and Freyja out of the sky.

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All that’s left is for Hayate to stay alive long enough for Cassim to burn (or freeze) out, which is what happens. Interestingly, no other Windermerean defense is around, allowing Hayate and Mirage to land their planes so they, along with Freyja, can pay respect to their fallen adversary and acquaintance.

Cassim’s time may be up, but Hayate, Freyja, and Mirage’s Windermerean adventure has just begun. Freyja is finally home. There’s still quite a bit left to do, and Lloyd probably isn’t going to roll over and let them destroy his life’s work. We’ll see whose wind prevails.

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Dropped: Mob Psycho 100 + Handa-Kun

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As we enter the first week of September, I’m going to officially drop both Handa-kun and Mob Psycho 100. We’re more than half way through the season and both shows have hit their stride… but that stride has rarely earned more than a watchable 7.

On the surface, Handa-kun is a less fundamentally flawed show. Sure, it is generic and shares no meaningful connection with the series it prequels, but Handa’s brand of safe silly high school humor is relatively harmless. However, Handa himself lacks what the protagonists of similar shows have: likable traits and/or narrative stakes. In short, since we know what Handa will become, there is no drama to be had with his classmates… none of them will be in his life later so nothing they do will matter.

Mob is a similarly challenged protagonist. He is likable, but his objective (a love interest) isn’t what the show is about. Rather, he’s pulled randomly into other characters’ worlds and, rarely, has an emotional freakout about it that results in crudely drawn over-the-top explosions. In this, he shares too much spotlight with other, often unlikable characters — too many characters overall for any of their stories to feel fleshed out.

If you’re still following either of these shows, what’s kept you hooked? Let me know in the comments below.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 22

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With the White Whale(s) defeated, Subaru redirects his allied force towards the Witch’s Cult, which no one will be taking lightly despite the huge advantage they seem to have. This requires Subie more-or-less make up with Julius, who has arrived to help.

Subie still maintains he hates “Juli’s” guts, but the two still exchange apologies and words of gratitude. While Puck assures an exhausted Lia that she and the manor will be safe, Subie uses his stench to lure the cult members, who appear right on cue.

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It’s the return of Smug Subie, as he’s holding all the right cards this time, and it’s the cult and Betelgeuse who don’t have a clue what’s coming. Mimi and Hetaro swoop in and demolish Betel’s base with their shouts, then Old Man Wil bisects Betelguese from behind.

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It’s almost too easy, leading me to wonder when the other shoe will drop. Sure enough, in the midst of celebration and preparation to go after the ex-sin archbishop’s “Fingers”, Unseen Hands quite suddenly appear out of the woods and quickly kill five anonymous members of Subie’s allied force, then an arm drags Subie into the trees.

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There, he meets someone of indeterminate gender but the same exact manic way of speaking and biting their nails raw as Betelgeuse. Their only problem is they dawdle far too long before killing Subie, and Mimi, Hetaro, and Wil are able to arrive in time to kill them and save Subie.

Now that they know the remaining 99 or so cult members could all be Sin Archbishops, Subie laments putting everyone in such grave danger. Wilheim won’t hear of it: he asks Subie to keep fighting as long as he’s still standing. Not to become stronger, but simply to be strong. This guy speaks from experience, so Subie takes the simple but powerful words to heart.

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With that, the hunt for the remaining fingers, and the evacuation of the village and manor in Margrave Mathers’ lands continues. Just as Subie is heeding Felix’s suggestion that he should finish making up with Julis, he sees a blue petal float past his eye, and everything freezes.

He and his ground dragon are left alone in the blue, icy stillness, with a blue flower-clutching Ram before him. What fresh hell is this?

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Orange – 09

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Now that it’s confirmed everyone in Naho’s circle has letters from their future selves guiding them support Naho and Kakeru, we see the first instance of someone other than Naho and Suwa reading their letter and acting on it. In this case, it’s Azusa, whose letters are a lot more fancy and flowery than Naho’s austere correspondence.

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The letter instructs her, during her birthday, to make sure everyone refuses to let Kakeru borrow their umbrella, so that he and Naho can share one and walk home together. It works like a charm, and just like that, Orange has arrived in episode 9 where Momokuri got in it’s second half-episode.

Naho even holds out her hand for him to take, insisting once isn’t enough. But the two still maintain they’re fine with things they way they are, rather than officially going out.

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That’s a not entirely honest position that is put to the test during the sports festival, when the group of friends are to participate in a relay. There are a number of events preceding that race, during which we get a look at everyone’s parents.

Suwa makes sure Kakeru’s grandma comes so he’s not too lonely…but he still feels lonely, because he’s not sure how long it will be before he has to move, before he “disappears.”

Suwa elects to rattle his cage, asking him if it’s really okay to not be going out with Naho, and if it’s really okay with him if he went out with Naho. Kakeru, gloomy and dejected, says that would be fine; not even a bad idea. He’s still speaking from a place of self-hatred and resignation to an uncertain, lonely life in the wake of his mother’s suicide.

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Things take a turn for the worse between Naho and Kakeru when the former dresses Suwa’s wound with the same care she bandaged Kakeru a ways back. The timing sucks, and when Naho offers to dress his wounds too, Kakeru recoils, even slapping her hand away. Immediately ashamed, he scurries off, and Naho wonders what she did wrong (nothing, really).

But Suwa is still optimistic that he’s put Kakeru on the right track to more forcefully and confidently stake a claim and pursue that which he wants – Naho. I’m…less optimistic. Even with the whole circle of friends working toward a single goal, it isn’t going to be easy to bring Kakeru and Naho closer together.

Not when they’re so cripplingly inept at courtship, and possess so little self-worth, thinking the other person too good for them. I don’t envy their friends: this isn’t going to be a smooth ride, and a future where Kakeru is with them is far from assured when he’s still speaking with dark permenance about the certainty of ‘disappearing’.

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 08

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As Sorey explores the Galahad Ruins for the means to fight beside Sorey, Sorey and Lailah encounter another seraphim, the Earth-aligned Edna, battling a large hellion among Rayfalke’s malevolent fog-covered crags. Edna’s almost bored manner of speaking is in sharp contrast to the expressive Sorey and the rest of his “party members.”

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Sorey tries to lend a hand, but the hellion is finished off—indeed, killed—by another Seraphim, the wind-aligned, pistol-toting, boisterous Zaveid, whose personality is more similar to the characters we saw in Berseria than “teacher’s pets” like Sorey, Mikleo and Alisha.

Zavied is trying to kill a dragon, who shows up shortly thereafter. Turns out the dragon is Edna’s big brother Eizen. Sorey wants to purify him and bring her brother back, but everyone insists once you’ve turned into a dragon there’s no turning you back.

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Sorey brings up a good point: there’s a lot of legends in this world they sitll don’t know about, and indeed many legends that have yet to be written; it’s only reasonable that one such legend in either column would be the first time someone was brought back from being a dragon.

Eizen is a huge and terrifying dragon, moving about and attacking at will with force and fire, while effortlessly dodging Zaveid’s bullets. The conversion effort is going nowhere, so Sorey fuses with Lailah to try to force the issue.

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Eventually, Edna, only prone to emotional outbursts where her brother is concerned, puts herself in the line of fire to plead with him to stop, if a part of him is even still in there. Turns out, it is; Eizen sees his sister and swallows the fireball he was going to launch.

Sorey plucks her out of the air, saving her, and Eizen flies off, the battle ended in stalemate. Frankly, it would have been to quick and easy to both encounter and free Eizen in a single episode. Instead, the battle to save him continues.

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Zaveid goes his separate way in this regard (Eizen was his friend, after all), but Edna forms a sub-contract with Sorey and Lailah, thus joining his party, both to thank and to help him pursue and one day purify Eizen.

They’ll be one Seraphim stronger when Mikleo joins back up with them, as he successfully secures a sacred bow from the ruins (in a pretty but rote scene). We also see that Alisha is running into issues geting to her destination, as a river swell has knocked out the bridge to Marlind.

I imagine the narrative will shift to her story next week, whether or not Sorey & Co. meet back up with her or continue their own quest. But this was another solid and very attractive episode with gorgeous environments, sleek combat, and a score that evokes awe and adventure.

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Qualidea Code – 08

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This week QC demonstrated its adeptness at extinguishing its own peril and momentum. After blowing open a huge door last week, building upon all my suspicions about the world the kids inhabit, it allowed that door to partially close, albeit leaving it open just a crack.

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The apparent “deaths” of Hime and Hotaru created a desperate situation, and yet Kasumi and Aoi are able to goof off on an extended inspection “date.” That desperation is more or less quandered so we can witness events that do little but reiterate the deep bond we always knew existed between Kasumi and Asuha. While we haven’t seen Asuha following her brother on a fake date, I’m not sure we needed to, especially now.

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Suffice it to say, the two are good siblings to one another when it counts, so when the evil adult superior Ookuni tries to convince them to transfer further inland, and both outright refuse, and Ookuni tries to corner Kasumi and kill him in the clumsiest way possible, Asuha is right there to bail him out.

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What Asuha doesn’t know yet is that her brother has already peeked through the door opened last week. He can see bits and pieces of the “real world” the codes on their necks seem to be suppressing. In her generic villain speech before trying and failing to kill Kasumi, Ookuni provides a little more insight: that she considers the kids “livestock” who need to be kept asleep to serve her needs.

Well, Kasumi isn’t fully asleep anymore, and Ookuni is dead (and there’s nothing left of her, thanks to some overkill by Asuha). Asuha is still “pure” in that her code is intact, but if there’s anyone she’d believe if they told her the secret they’ve discovered, it’s Kasumi.

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Shokugeki no Souma 2 – 09

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The hall is rented, the orchestra engaged. Now it’s time to see who can DANCE.

There’s an extra drama to that ‘hall’, thanks to the retractable roof opening to reveal the autumn moon, the transit of which across the opening marks the match’s two-hour time limit. It also lends the festivities an extra air of drama.

Off the bat, Dojima is impressed that Ryo doesn’t exhibit the slightest bit of nerves, but Alice tells him that’s no surprise at all, after years of cooking against her. Ryo lost a lot, but that motivated him to become good enough to beat her…on occasion. That, in turn, angered Alice, who upped her game even more.

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The result is that Ryo creates explosively successful dishes that have elevated him to the finals. His herb butter-enhanced saury cartoccio is an “aroma bomb” that produces heretofore unseen reactions in the judges.

We get the rare “Grin” from the chairman, while Alice’s mom unexpectedly “bares” a much better command of Japanese, explaining the dish in great detail with perfect grammar.

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The rare reactions do not cause Hayama to waver, as he presents his saury carpaccio immediately after they finish Ryo’s dish. It seems pretty pedestrian until he takes a blowtorch to the fish, searing it and the kaeshi sauce glaze, while highlighting the since spice he used, allspice.

This stunt makes the entire arena feel like they’ve already tasted the dish before it even leaves the plate. The judges remark how the two competitors evolved in different ways after their tie in the semis, with Ryo doubling down on explosive force and Hayama refining his scimitar into a precise rapier or arrow.

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That leaves Souma with not one but two tough acts to follow up, especially since the judges are probably more used to eating two dishes before deciding a winner. For them, the match might already feel over, especially since what they tasted was so amazing.

Souma doesn’t flinch any more than Hayama did summoning the advice and know-how from his friends and rivals to help craft the proper blade to battle those of his opponents. It didn’t look like much at first, but he succeeds in exceeding the judges’ expectations and keeping pace with the others.

…Or does he? There’s much enthusiasm and praise, but once the initial glow of his dish wears off, Dojima and Leonora have set down their chopsticks, and the chairman’s robe remains on. Everyone assumes the match is over and that the winner will come down to Hayama or Ryo.

But Souma isn’t done yet. He insists the judges have seconds, and that they pour something over the rice and dig back in. I have no idea what that something is, but it’s sure to put him back in the running. I just hope that rally doesn’t result in a three-way tie. I feel there has to be a winner and two losers here.

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Momokuri – 17 + 18

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The rest of Summer Break breezes by without any contact between Momo and Yuki after accidentally ending up so close together. It wasn’t a matter of Yuki not liking it, but liking it too much and not being able to withstand any more. As a result, Momo is a little confused by their distance when the new semester arrives, but a nervous Yuki is later comforted by the fact that Momo not only worries about her, but is willing to call her to make sure everything’s okay.

Norika and Sawaguchi have a nice sidebar wherein the latter notices Yuki’s stalking, but comes to Yuki’s friend instead of Yuki directly, showing a degree of tact and delicacy. Norika is impressed by this, but as easily as Sawaguchi was able to detect Yuki’s bizarre behavior, he has a much tougher time reading Norika, who I feel genuinely believes he is a nice guy, even if her vitriol-spewing gives him cause to doubt it.

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Momo invites Yuki to a date at an amusement park, and the two have a grand old time, eventually ending up at the haunted house (where Yuki wants to hang off of Momo’s arm). A fortuitous power outage gives them both far more than they bargained for when Yuki trips on Momo, falls on him, and her hair gets tangled on his sweater button.

The house had legitimately made Yuki tremble in fear, so Momo’s correct and natural instinct is to hold and comfort her, which is what he does. Momo is surprised she’s more receptive to being held after running off and not being heard from the rest of the Summer, but due to the button entanglement they’re both in a situation of forced intimacy, and neither really has a problem with it.

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After they get entangled and Momo sees Yuki home, he crosses paths with Rio, who we know full well is jealous of Yuki, something she may only just be starting to realize when she gets to sit down, mend Momo’s sweater, and simply comes out and says things one could construe as critical of Momo and Yuki’s relationship.

Specifically, Rio sees Momo keeping a distance from Yuki, putting more value in his absence (and the trinkets he discards, like his button) than his presence, since his presence is often so overwhelming. At the same time, she sees Rio looking at Momo but not really looking.

What she really sees, jealous googles or not, is that Momo and Yuki are still fumbling through the basics of romance. Like Rio herself, neither of them have the slightest clue what they’re doing, and continue to put up walls when things get too intense. But there’s every indication, especially taking into account the progress they’ve made thus far, that they’ll figure it out eventualy.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 08

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A splendid victory, brought about by his command, and a bitter conclusion brought about by his choice.

The show, courtesy of narrator Princess Chamille, provides a concise but accurate synopsis of this episode. It’s an episode loaded with the consequences of the stupid decisions of Ikta’s superiors, all in the name of a show of force.

The General has completely bungled this “punitive” campaign against the Sinack, and due to the chain of command Ikta & Co. can only do too much to mitigate the damage that has been done. But Ikta & Co. still doe what they can, which does make a difference.

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Ikta’s splendid victory to come is prefaced by a splendid defense of their camp in which the attacking force is totally annihilated without a single casualty on his side. But things would have gone far differently—and badly—had Ikta not been there to put orders in the commander’s words.

While he’s on a resupply mission to a position that’s been taken by the Sinack, Kanna Temari, in a different unit led by an even dumber commander, learns just how tough she is. In a scene riddled with death flags, she waxes nostalgic about the liberating, expanding power of books, and the fact Ikta is like a book, and someone she’s looking forward to seeing again.

But as sad as it made me, the fact that her unit made camp in a fortress deliberately abandoned by the Sinack, and the commander fell for an obvious trap, made me doubt Kanna and Ikta would ever meet again. The events of the episode all but eliminated that possibility, and it followed through with the threat it presented.

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Even Ikta can only do so much about the incompetence of the military leadership. But he engages his CO in such a way that he gets what he wants: a chance to score a victory. He gets it thanks to the prototype rifles designed by his mentor; in other words, thanks to science.

But the science that won him such an easy, splendid victory, also ended up dooming Kanna. For Ikta makes his unit rest for two days in order to avoid suffering altitude sickness, which is what Kanna and her comrades are going through thanks to their dimwitted superiors.

For the record, Ikta makes the right choice. Even if he knew Kanna, a girl he liked (and whom he suspected liked him back) was in danger, he wouldn’t endanger his entire unit to rescue her, especially after seeing what the altitude has done to the health of the army.

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Of course, making the right choice doesn’t make it any easier to choke down the bitter result of following science to the letter. The fortress wasn’t able to hold out long enough for his platoons to relieve them, and all they find is a fortress full of corpses, including Kanna’s.

It’s a gut punch, both for me, and for Ikta, who is often so laid back and casual and jokey that when he finally gets serious, it’s that much more powerful. This wasn’t just some girl he had fun teasing or flirting with; this was a kindred spirit; someone for whom science resonated; someone he could both teach and learn from.

She was looking forward to seeing him a third time, and so was he. Instead, she joined her late husband in the afterlife, leaving Ikta in a recklessly ignorant world. To be fair, it wasn’t just his choice that doomed her—the brunt of the blame falls on the superiors—but that’s woefully inadequate consolation for a character who left us far too soon.

It will be interesting to see how Ikta deals with this loss. Will he shrug it off in a few days, or resolve himself to pushing ever harder against the morons who caused it?

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Amaama to Inazuma – 08

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The Gist: It’s parent visit day at Tsmugi’s kindergarten and that means we get a healthy does of cast development and relationship refinement! If it wasn’t already obvious, Mikio has a total crush on Tsmugi, who pleasantly wants nothing to do with his affections.

What was less obvious was how central Tsmugi is to the class’ social construct: when Mikio has to poop, her reassurance that she will wait for him maneuvers the entire class into happily supporting him and in his time of need.

Later, Tsmugi Kohei and Kotori cook squid. Tsmugi gets another dance session in and it is adorable.

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The Verdict: AtI is at its strongest when it treats its child stars most specifically and this week, where a lot of time is spent in their class room, captured many gems. Other details, like how Kohei holds Tsmugi up on his knees while talking about recipes, and the social interactions of the parents all feel believable.

But what really elevates this week above others is how much of Kohei’s observation and thought process is expressed to us as viewers without words. He doesn’t know how to balance putting himself in Tsmugi’s life without replacing the little treasures she has kept from her dead mother and watching him think, fail, and try again is fascinating. Top notch!

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Mob Psycho 100 – 07

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The Gist: Ritsu unlocks his psychic powers and can use them with the assistance of Dimple, who has managed to crawl back from nothingness. As you can imagine, with powers drawn from delusion and betrayal, Ritsu’s mental health takes a sharp dive, culminating in the destruction of the student council president and a pile of thugs who now assume he is ‘White T Poison’ (the street name Mob was given for his previous fight)

Hanazawa makes a cameo (in a wig) and shows Ritsu he isn’t as powerful as he thinks. Meanwhile, a shadowy guy in a hoodie has his eyes on Ritsu but, before that plot can unfold, Mob encounters his brother using powers, cliffhangering into next week’s conflict.

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The Verdict: all the parts are moving now — the major character conflicts are in place and the side gags are kept to a minimum. Even Reigen, who I was never a fan of, serves as a good mentor and support for Mob. So why am I still totally meh about this show?

Unfortunately, Mob Psycho 100 doesn’t have much going for it. It’s visually unappealing, much of the cast is depressed or deranged in an unsavory way, and a sense of overall purpose to it all has never materialized. For goodness sakes, Mob’s only personal objective — his only narrative stake — is a love interest we’ve barely seen in 7 episodes.

Without motivations and character driven plot goals, the show must rely on the ‘stuff is just happening’ of its plot driven narrative… and that has felt random so far. I’m dangerously close to dropping this show.

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