Vanitas no Carte – 12 (Fin) – The Beast Lives

Vanitas and Jeanne end their bloody makeout session, neaten their clothes, and return to the streets, and Vanitas asks why she was permitted to spend the day with him, it becomes immediately apparent that Jeanne was unknowingly serve to distract him while Ruthven helping himself to a Caffè Noé. Specifically, he keeps Noé alive so that one day, he can give him a command and he’ll obey it without question…even slaying Vanitas.

Roland may have lived his entire life beliving that vampires were an enemy to be eliminated, but his encounter with Noé has changed his mind about that, and we find him digging into books in a cozy little church library. His comrade Olivier warns him against digging too deep into forbidden topics, but then Roland warns Olivier that there isn’t really anyone to stop him from discovering the truth. He can’t believe in things he knows not to be true.

Speaking of which, upon returning to the hotel to fine Noé right where he left him, Vanitas and he are visited by Dante with news: The Beast Lives. Specifically, the Beast of Gévaudan, a wolf-like abomination that slaughtered women and children in the Gévaudan region in the 18th century. The belief is it’s a curse-bearing vampire, so Vanitas is just the man to hunt the beast down.

While Vanitas and Dante chat, Noé is distracted by Vanita’s ridiulously sweet-smelling blood. Combined with his fatigue and hunger, he begins to ask if he could have but a small taste. Vanitas responds deadly seriously by promising Noé that if he ever tries to drink his blood (and therefore see the memories from his past), he’ll kill him. Daaaaamn.

This creates a friction between the two that lasts through the night until the next day, when the two head out to board the train to Gévaudan. Noé apologizes, Vanitas half-jokingly offers to let him lap up any blood he spills (he can only read memories from blood straight out of the taps) and the two share an easy laugh and are thus made up, just in time for a train ride that Noé is super excited about the way a kid—or me—would be about such a train!

After the credits, we get a lovely but ominous birds-eye view of a snowy landscape not too dissimilar from the countless wintry vistas we were treated to in Golden Kamuy. Only here there aren’t bears or naked Russians: there’s Charlatan’s apparent Boss: an ethereally beautiful lass with silver hair and piercing azure eyes poetically delcaring how she’ll “make my song of vengeance echo across the land”. My guess? She’s the Beast!

While there were some nice tense scenes between Noé and Ruthven and Noé and Vanitas, and their little fight and make-up sequence was a subtle, quiet little marvel of character work, but I’m not gonna lie: not a lot actually happened this week. It was but table-setting for a feast that won’t take place until Winter 2022. But the dishes and silverware look great…just in time for a giant wolf to smash it all!

Sonny Boy – 10 – The Girl Who Knew Too Much

This week’s Sonny Boy experience comes from the POV of Tsubasa, AKA Sarah Plain and Tall With Broken Arm. We learn her power is “Monologue”—the ability to hear everyone’s inner voices. In order to not be ostracized, she’s kept the power a secret from everyone. She listens, but she doesn’t act in a way that would arouse suspicion.

Tsubasa likes Asakaze. She knows he’s kind of an ill-natured prick, but it doesn’t matter; she still likes him. But as she can read minds, she knows it’s unrequited; she also knows Asakaze likes Nozomi. He doesn’t like how close Nozomi is with Nagara. All the while, he’s unconsciously closer to Tsubasa than anyone; only she can hear his inner voice.

Tsubasa can’t help but like Asakaze, but while you’d think she’d try to use her power to try to make him feel the same way, all she does is quietly admire him from a distance. She hears all his thoughts about Nozomi, all the while dreaming of the day all his other romantic options will be exhausted and he’ll “land at her feet.” But between Nozomi (who doesn’t return his feelings) and Aki-sense (who is only wielding Asakaze like a tool), there’s too much competition.

Tsubasa and Nozomi end up accompanying Asakaze and Aki-sensei on the “grand task” he wishes to complete: defeating “War” before he can cause undue destruction. Tsubasa can’t fault Asakaze for liking Nozomi, because she knows that Inner Nozomi is just as wholesome and noble and honest as Outer Nozomi. Everyone practices some degree of deceit…except Nozomi. On the treacherous hike in “War’s” strange ceramic world, it’s Nozomi who comes to Tsubasa’s aid when she twists her ankle.

When they encounter “War” while falling down an endless gorge with a blood red bottom they never reach, he’s a student constantly falling and buffeted by the wind like the Maxell guy. Tsubasa can’t hear his thoughts; the guy is totally empty. Kinda like warD’YOU GET IT?!?!! Ahem…anyway, Aki-sensei (and apparently God AKA Dr. Strangelove) wants Asakaze to eliminate “War” from this world by creating “Death”, leading Nozomi to take him to task for trying to play God.

This causes Aki-sensei to retreat with Asakaze somewhere where she can bury him in her bust and keep him under her thumb. But as Tsubasa always knew since the drifting began, the only person who could truly change Asakaze was Nozomi. Nozomi won’t pretend to pander to him. Asakaze can probably sense that there’s never any deceit with her.

So when Nozomi says “Even if I’m dead, I can accept my own fate,” she means it. Maybe that’s why, after he turns “War” into a gun and the red into white, when the cliff crumbles and she falls, Asakaze doesn’t use his power to save her. Or maybe he can’t.

Meanwhile, Nagara picks up the mantle of island researcher from the long-departed Rajdhani, and continues to experiment with Mizuho’s powers. When he orders a chicken with Nyamazon and then kills it, it stays dead. When Mizuho orders one and he kills it…it comes back. Between having three wise talking cats protecting her and the potential power over life and death, I’m starting to wonder if Mizuho is the true God around these surreal parts.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The aquatope on white sand – 11 – The Storm

All the color and light of previous episodes is sapped from this one, both fitting Kukuru’s mood and due to a nasty typhoon rolling into Okinawa. It’s in this dim, gray, gloomy soup that we watch Kukuru go through the Five Stages of Grief. First up is Denial and Isolation. The handmade sign says it all—NO CLOSING!as Kukuru shuts herself in Gama Gama.

Ironically, this means closing the aquarium, but due to the typhoon there won’t be any visitors anyway. Gramps decides to let Kukuru be and give everyone the day off. Fuuka goes home with him, but during lunch, decides she’s not going to leave Kukuru to endure the coming storm alone—either the literal one or the emotional one. Just as she gets up to leave, Grams has bento ready for Fuuka to take to Kukuru.

From there, Kukuru goes into the Anger stage, though to her credit she puts the energy that comes with the anger to good use, going about the daily business of feeding, maintaining, and checklisting. She enters a kind of utilitarian trance, losing herself in the work, until suddenly snapped out of it by Fuuka rapping on the door.

Not long after Fuuka arrives at Gama Gama, the typhoon arrives in force, totally blocking out the sun, and bringing sheets of diagonal rain and vicious winds to the battened-down island. These establishing shots—and the white noise of the storm—really capture how dark and spooky a really bad storm gets. Day becomes night, and the outdoors themselves become a threat to life and limb.

Kukuru’s anger re-surfaces at the arrival of Fuuka, as she’d prefer to do all of this herself. But Fuuka is as obstinate as she is, and wants to stay by Kukuru’s side to help her with her dream like she promised. Her movie role doesn’t matter right now. Before they can get deeper into their discussion, the power goes out, leaving the aquarium with only seven hours of generator power before the more sensitive sea life starts to die en masse.

Just as Kukuru can’t turn Fuuka away when the storm is at its worst, she can’t turn down her help when there’s so much to do to save the fish and creatures they can. With two pairs of hands, they can do double the work. When the wind breaks a window, Kukuru’s Bargaining stage officially begins. If she can just bar the window, just Do What’s Right, everything will work out, as her daily prayer to Kijimunaa goes.

But it’s not enough. She can’t hold back the storm from causing the power to go out, the roof to leak, the windows and pipes to break, and the sea life to gradually die in the suddenly unfavorable water conditions. Her only memory of her mom and dad was here at Gama Gama, but now, just as they were taken from her, so too is the aquarium, in slow and deliberate fashion, piece by piece.

When Fuuka sees Kukuru giving up on bargaining and entering the Depression stage, she runs over and holds her tight, telling her that even if it’s the end of Gama Gama, and of her dream, it’s not the end of the future. And if they get back to work, there’s still a future for the marine life. Only they can protect them and save them from oblivion.

Kukuru snaps out of it just as Gramps, Kai, Kuuya, and Umi-yan arrive onces the winds die down. Gramps goes into Legendary Aquarium Keeper Mode (if only whatsername was here to see it!), as he knows exactly what to do in what is clearly not his first (or fiftieth!) typhoon. Now six strong, there’s enough manpower to do what needs to be done to buy time until the power comes back on. As far as we know, they don’t lose a single fish.

That said, Gama Gama took a beating, and really showed its age. Gramps promised the man who build the aquarium that he’d close it if it ever got too old, and that time has surely arrived. Having gone through the emotional and meteorological wringer, even Kukuru realizes that it’s probably beyond token repairs or improvements, and can’t keep the precious marine life safe anymore. It’s time has simply come, as it does for all things. Thus she arrives at the final stage: acceptance.

There are few skies more beautiful than those you see after a bad storm. For one thing, you’re relieved the sun is back, while the swirling remnants of clouds and other various optical effects  give the sky a more dramatic look. The color and light slowly returns by the end of the episode. In this light, Fuuka comes to realize she wasn’t just helping Kukuru achieve her dream. By letting Fuuka help her, Kukuru was giving Fuuka strength.

Fuuka doesn’t hate working hard for someone else…especially Kukuru. So when Kukuru turns to Gama Gama’s façade, again admits it is closing, and then bursts into tears, Fuuka is all too happy to be her shoulder to cry on. What comes after acceptance? Catharsis, adaptation, struggle…and maybe—Kijimunaa willing—new dreams, and happiness.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 11 – Playtime’s Over

TRIGGER WARNING: This episode contains a sequence of graphic violence.

The last nine episodes and change of Moonlight Fantasy have largely consisted of Makoto, Tomoe, and Mio basically goofing off while demonstrating their immense powers in this world. Then, just when he’s gained a third companion in the newly-humanized Lich he names Shiki, Tomoe starts bleeding profusely and keels over.

Like most of Moonlight’s cliffhangers, I expected this one to be resolved in the first five minutes, possibly in a comedic way. It…didn’t. Shit suddenly got real at the end of last week’s episode, and it stays real and very dark for the vast majority of this week. It’s almost as if Moonlight wanted both Makoto and us to experience the sudden realization that we don’t really know the first thing about this new world.

The adventurer woman and her two associates raid the Illusory City, and the magical ring Drahpnir explodes in an ensuing fight, killing an orc who was just doing his job as well as Tomoe’s Fragment, hence her keeling over. In response, and after reading her deeply prejudiced memories, Makoto takes his revenge on the adventurer woman by stalking her, cutting off her forearms, and then stabbing her through the throat. Fuckin’ Yikes.

It is without doubt the most dark and disturbingly violent this series has ever gotten, and it doesn’t spare the blood. Like Tomoe’s collapse, it comes out of nowhere, but maybe that’s the point: this show is done taking it easy on Makoto, and is now treating him more like Re:Zero treats Subie: like the new world he’s in is always trying to kill him and those he holds most dear, and surviving is a constant struggle.

While it’s laudable for Moonlight to take a chance at going dark, it kind of undermines that a bit by throwing us back in its usual goofy comedic milieu before we’ve even had sufficient time to process the shocking gore we just witnessed. Makoto brutally murdered a woman, and is back to being the straight man in between Mio and a recovering Tomoe bickering. After a memorial service, it’s just tonal whiplash. It’s…odd.

But while things return to “normal”, the reset button is not hit on Makoto’s psyche. His experience that night changed him forever, and also told him that if he wants the Demiplane to be safe, he’s going to have to learn a lot more about this world. For him, that means leaving Tomoe and Mio and enrolling at a university in the neutral town Rembrandt told him about.

But in the first instance since the first episode of the Goddess interfering in his existence on this world, when he goes through a mist gate to the city with Shiki, he ends up materializing alone in the middle of another wasteland, and is immediately attacked by Sophia and Mitsurugi, who don’t just look like a couple of tough customers…the former is able to lop off a couple of Makoto’s fingers!

The shit truly hit the fan at the start of  this episode, and by the end Makoto finds himself just about neck-deep in it. I appreciate the show’s ambition in picking the path of grim drama, but I can’t deny my neck still aches from that sudden direction change. All that said, this episode, the second-to-last of this cour, makes the previous ten feel like an extended prologue to the real story.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. It remains bizarre that nearly all humans think Makoto without his mask is some kind of hideous monster, when his character design just doesn’t read that way. The show could at least show us how they see him through their eyes…

TenSura – 47 – Good Times Had By All (But One)

Veldora didn’t show up because he sensed Rimuru was in danger—he wasn’t—but because he wanted Rimuru to give him the next volume of a manga he was really getting into. That’s kind of the lazy otaku energy I’m here for.

While he’s there, he’s all too happy to spar with his older brother’s only child, Milim (while pulling off Street Fighter and Dragon Ball moves!). When Rimuru tells him not to hurt her as she’s being controlled by Clayman, Veldora tries to correct him, but Rimuru is in to much of a hurry to listen.

After dealing with the magical beasts by freeing Nine Tails (who was suffering under Clayman’s Demon Dominate, a spell removed with Raphael’s help) Rimuru checks in on how Beretta’s fight against Viola is doing, only to find Beretta happily humming as she neatly arranges Viola’s parts around her.

After shit got super-serious last week, it’s good to see that playful humor return, along with easy but still cool-looking wins. The pieces are meant as an offering to Rimuru in hopes he’ll find a place for her new master Ramiris and her to live in Tempest.

Speaking of cool, Shion may have the best moves of anyone this week, easily freeing herself of Clayman’s bonds and pummeling the shit out of him. When he transforms into his apparent final boss form, he’s just as easily dealt with, showing just how large the gap is between Rimuru’s most trusted lieutenants and everyone else who isn’t a Demon Lord.

It’s when Clayman is on his back and bloodied when he calls for Milim to get over there and bail him out that Milim reveals to all that still didn’t know it that she’s acting of her own free will. I complained last week that we were basically getting a Milim devoid of personality, and this episode gave me exactly what I wanted: the regular sweet, joyful, and completely chaotic Milim Nava. Plus, Hidaka Rina finally gets to say words!

We learn that Milim was pretending all along in order to get Clayman where she wanted him: in a place where he couldn’t win, and where he’d reveal the person hiding in the shadows: Yuuki (apparently).

This calls into question why she had to destroy Carrion’s kingdom in service of that lie, but since none of its denizens were harmed and Rimuru has ample treasure and labor to rebuild the kingdom, all’s good in the hood!

That is, until we get what is supposed to be Clayman’s sadsack story about being the weakest member of the Moderate Harlequin Alliance, calling out to the heavens to give him more power, and the heavens rather curiously answering his call.

As he converts his soul and the souls of all he’s had killed into energy and power, we learn this was Rimuru’s plan all along: awaken this next-level Clayman so that he can be defeated once and for all and free all those souls. And after getting his warmup in with Milim, Rimuru chooses himself for the task of taking out Clayman—to demonstrate that he has arrived as a genuine Demon Lord.

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 06 – Two Drunk Besties

After her harrowing encounter with the enormous Magical Girl, Jahy is spooked by the mere word “maho”, whether it’s a student’s name, or Mahogany wood, or some kind of mantra. This segment plays with depth of field to subtly show Jahy retreating headfirst into a garbage can.

She ends up losing her precious giant mana crystal, but Manager ends up finding it for her. It’s at this point Jahy determines she can’t move forward if she continues to rely on the kindness and generosity of others. The seriousness of her farewell is quickly undermined by the Manager urging her to take a bath immediately.

Jahy later encounters a young woman carrying a mana crystal just like hers, and assumes she’s just some weak human. Turns out it’s the Magical Girl in disguise. She wants Jahy’s mana crystal, and no matter how much misfortune befalls her as a result, she’s able to bear the punishment due to her Magical Girl super strength and toughness.

This results in the Magical Girl making off with Jahy’s giant mana crystal along with her own. It’s a huge loss for Jahy, basically putting her back at square one. Just imagine if the Magical Girl had an actual brain rattling around inside her skull…Jahy would be well and truly fucked!

Jahy proceeds to use her original mana crystal to transform into adult mode so she can wash away her sorrows, one liter of beer at a time. The Manager doesn’t necessarily approve, but she doesn’t stop pouring the beer, either. Then her sister Ryou arrives, and rather than continue their rivalry, drink Jahy tells her to park her keister next to her and start drinking.

Ryou proves every bit as rambunctious a drunk as Jahy, and the two complement each other perfectly, with Jahy lamenting all her flaws and Ryou countering them with heartfelt praise. She tells Jahy she’s proud of her for managing to get by in a foreign land. The two proceed to have a rager of a night, dancing, hugging, holding each other, and generally having a swell old time.

The next morning, Jahy wakes up naked next to a sleeping Ryou on the floor of the bar where Manager left them. That nefarious Manager also happened to snap a whole bunch of photographic and video evidence of Jahy and Ryou not just getting along, but getting along famously like absolute best buds. Jahy demands immediate erasure, but the Manager will surely save a couple of choice shots to remember that night.

Finally, in the disconnected omake following the credits, we get several mini-episodes of a cooking show starring Jahy, where the only recipe ever prepared is stir-fried bean sprouts with various seasonings. By the end of the segment Jahy’s bubbly enthusiasm has totally evaporated, and if she looks at another bean sprout in a hundred years it’ll be too soon. So naturally, Ryou arrives with a big bag of fresh sprouts.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 05 – Jahy’s Dizzy Fever Day

This show will certainly let Jahy have it at times, and when it comes to the atrocities she committed in the Dark Realm, well…ignorance is bliss. But I like how Jahy, despite once being someone for whom servants did everything, is actually really good at her job at Craft Pub Maou. If only she didn’t insist on leaving work dressed in the peak of Dark Realm fashion, which in a residential neighborhood apparently gets the cops on your back.

The flashbacks to Jahy’s previous AACAB (All Anime Cops Are Bastards) moments are wonderful, as is the twist that she wasn’t the suspicious character reported. There’s then another twist when Jahy is certain the other character is the Magical Girl who destroyed the Dark Realm, only for it to be some Math Teacher blowing off steam in Magical Girl cosplay. Also gratifying is seeing her boss and landlady picking her up from the station.

In the next segment, Jahy acts like a real pill, mocking the landlady for bundling up after she catches cold due to the sudden change in weather. But the landlady isn’t there to fight (or collect rent): she’s there to warn Jahy not to wear nothing but what she wears, whether it’s the belt top in big form or her breezy t-shirt in kid form. Jahy laughs at the landlady’s concerns…how could The Great Jahy catch cold?!

Well, quite easily, as it turns out, especially since Jahy makes no effort to adjust her wardrobe for the seasons. She spends one miserable, half-delirious night lamenting her plight, but also lamenting how alone she feels. The next morning she finds not only that the boss has come over to make her rice porridge, but the landlady went out to buy her medicine. These two women really do care for Jahy, and can tell she’s been through a lot.

No sooner do they leave, however, than the notorious Magical Girl shows up at her door. Jahy is struck by how daggum huge the girl is, but luckily the Magical girl doesn’t see her as Jahy, but just a little girl. When the girl asks Jahy to cough up the mana crystal, it dawns on Jahy how overmatched she is.

Not only is she in tiny mode; she’s running a fever. If the Magical Girl wanted to take her crystal, she could have….were it not for the Landlady to the rescue, calling the cops on the very tall, very suspicious young woman in maho shoujo cosplay

Not only does the Landlady save Jahy’s skin, she even sits guard beside her bed so Jahy can rest easy. And it works; while Jahy is nigh inconsolable with tears over how scared and helpless she felt, those tears soon subside and she’s able to get the rest she needs to get better. The Landlady really showed me something this week, as she and Jahy are now less enemies than sisters.

Just to push that point home, the omake segment involves Jahy and Landlady as gaudy pro wrestlers. And here’s the key part: even if two wrestlers look like they hate each others’ guts and want to tear each other limb from limb, rarely is that beef genuine. Rather, both wrestlers are playing roles in an elaborate choreographed performance.

Due to the physical punishment involved, it requires not only talent but mutual trust and respect to pull off an exciting, and more importantly safe match…even if it ends in a tie, as it always does for these two.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 04 – Living A Day In Her Shoes

This week marks the introduction of The Magnificent Salwa (also spelled Saurva), Jahy’s self-professed rival for the Number Two spot in the Dark Realm pre-ruin. Now that Salwa has found Jahy and spent three months working on a potion that will increase her power thirtyfold, she’s determined to bring Jahy down, steal her mana crystal, restore the Dark Realm and rule it as its new leader. Things don’t go as planned, as she runs into Jahy way too easily, drops her potion, and then a puppy laps it up and grows thirty feet tall.

After Salwa is rescued by regular folk from that giant puppy’s jaws, she changes up her tactics, Wile E. Coyote-style. She downs a pill that lets her transform into Jahy, so she can ruin Jahy’s reputation with her “associates.” Unfortunately for Salwa, the landlady already holds Jahy in particularly low esteem, and is so intimidating that Jahy!Salwa cowers and pays up.

Jahy!Salwa also predictably ends up slinging drinks at the izakaya (while the real Jahy in child form oversleeps back home). In Jahy’s stead Salwa gets really into the work and goes above and beyond, impressing the manager. Salwa is so proud she can’t help but fall into the manager’s bosom and weep tears of joy over a job well done. In this display and the one with the landlady, Salwa seems totally ill-equipped to supplant Jahy.

…That is, until the next segment, when Jahy, in child form, has only 306 yen to her name. She confidently strikes out for the nearest shopping district to make more money…somehow. Instead, she ends up spending 300 of the 306 yen on tasty street food; the vendors happily taking her for literally all she’s got.

Jahy goes to work as usual, but the manager can tell she’s off. For one thing, she’s serving empty glasses of beer to customers who didn’t order beer; for another, her face is gaunt, indicating malnutrition. Back in the break room Jahy confesses to having less yen to her name than fingers on her hands, and the manager offers to give her an advance on her pay just this once.

Jahy knows she didn’t save every yen she had, but thanks to the manager, she won’t starve, and has hopefully learned a lesson not to splurge too much. She also ends up sobbing into manager’s bosom just one segment after Jahy!Salwa did the same. We should all be so lucky to have such a kind and caring boss.

Magia Record – 20 – Giving Their Best

In what are not their first rumblings of disagreement by any stretch, considering their very different personalities, Nemu voices her concern that she and Touka are hurting Magical Girls when they were supposed to be saving them. Touka, who has clearly drunk on power for a while now, says the only way they can do that is by becoming “gods.” If Nemu is going to stop her friend, the window is closing as that storm nears.

The bulk of those Magical Girls Touka is fine sacrificing are locked in battle with their respective friends-turned-opponents: Madoka’s crew dodging Mami’s impossible number of old-timey rifles while Yachiyo’s crew going toe-to-toe with the evil Tsuruno Aqua, who combines devastating attacks with creepy amusement park P.A. announcements.

Thanks to Sana and Felicia providing some cover, the two crews are able to withdraw for a spell, as it’s clear talking with Mami and Tsuruno is useless. When they’re in a safe place to regroup, Mifuyu contacts them via charmed origami, giving them a map of Chelation Land and the location of Touka and Nemu as well as Embryo Eye.

Mifuyu even does them one better and has the origami stream her meeting with Mitama, in which she attempts to get her to break her neutrality. Thanks to Momoko, the two learn that Mitama has been neutral all this time because she’s too weak to fight on her own; too full of shadows and despair. Were she ever dropped into a battle she’d become a witch immediately, but Momoko gives her a hug and assures her that she’ll help her carry those burdens.

Thankfully we check in on poor Kuroe, who is still being chased by Magius girls and is all alone except for her needy Doppel, who wants very dearly to help her out…no doubt at the cost of sanity and control. With only one episode left, it remains to be seen if Kuroe will reunite with Iroha and Connect with her and Yachiyo, as they do in the OP…or meet her ultimate fate in this cour.

Once Mitama tells them the best way to save their friends is to attempt to Connect with them (and Iroha & Co. tell Madoka and CO. what “Connecting” even is) The two groups head back out into the chaotic battlefield to attempt to do just that to Mami and Tsuruno. We’ve got big bold boss music as the projectiles and bodies fly.

But once the dust settles, Tsuruno falls from a great height, her human body is mangled, and the Uwasa she fused with seemingly takes over full control. If the Tsuruno Iroha and Yachiyo love is dead, her body is still being made to move like a marionnette by the Uwasa within.

Combined with the fact Madoka & Co. make little progress with Mami, and the eighth and final installment of Magia Record’s second cour will be a very busy and impactful affair. As penultimate episodes go, this was solid, but not groundbreaking. Hopefully the best Magia madness will be saved for last.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kageki Shoujo!! – 11 – Twas Your Face the Light Endow’d

Kouka goes straight from sports festival to cultural festival, and this year the Centennial first-years are once again getting special treatment, as they’ll be taking fifteen minutes of the second-years’ time for the performance of a scene from Romeo & Juliet—the same one Sarasa famously bombed. Andou-sensei says there will be auditions, so the girls will be rivaling one another as they vote for each other.

It’s another one of the unique ways Kouka instructs its young performers-to-be in the theory of their craft as well as encouraging a degree of the toughening needed to survive on the Kouka stage. Everyone up there has to believe they’re the very best. But even though everyone wants to see Sarasa’s Romeo, and Ai points out why she’s perfect for it (while implying she’s “simple”)…Sarasa wants to give Tybalt another try.

Hijiri insists that Ai play the role of Juliet. Even if she rightfully says it’s not a spotlight she’s earned, Hijiri insists that as someone “born pretty” and thus closer to the finish line than others, Ai cannot slack off; she must run as fast as possible to that line, no matter how close it may seem. Her mother also imparted her the wisdom of figuring out how to lose yourself in the role.

One way is by applying some part of your life experience that connects with the role in some way. But Tybalt, whose role comes down to unrequited love of Juliet and jealousy and hatred of Romeo, is proving difficult for Sarasa, who claims (credibly!) to have never hated or held a grudge on anyone, ever. Even so, she starts with the basics of how Tybalt must go through his daily life, and how that life led to his obsession with anger and hatred.

It isn’t working, until that very connection to Sarasa’s life comes into focus and clicks as crisply as a camera shutter. In the common room she and Ai happen to catch a TV interview with Akiya talking about his kabuki and how he was thrust into it by dint of his blood. Seeing Akiya takes Sarasa back to when she was a little kid, and for a moment, she was as jealous of Akiya as Tybalt was jealous of Romeo.

Akiya basically achieved without effort or even passion something she’d always dreamed of achieving. But while Sarasa finally discovers a part of herself she can use to lose herself in the role of Tybalt, it’s Ai’s performance that anchors the final act of the episode.

Everyone thinks she’s being her usual calm, collected, unflappable self when called to be the first Juliet in the auditions (presided upon by the rest of the faculty, not just Andou—a cruel surprise for the girls!) Sarasa, her best friend, knows better, and that Ai’s calm exterior conceals an ever churning storm.

The key is focusing that storm. Fortunately, the Romeo in Ai’s group flubs her lines and has to start from the top, so Ai gets a little extra time in her Space Mind Palace. She’s convinced she’s never known what love is, any more than Sarasa has ever known hatred or jealousy. But we all know one very important exception for Ai, and that’ Sarasa herself.

Romeo was “love at first sight” for Juliet, just as Ai was “friends at first sight” for Sarasa. It took a little longer for AI, but when Sarasa told her about overwriting bad old memories with good new ones, she too knew she had to be friends with this tall girl. Once the joy of becoming friends with her swell up, Ai embodies Juliet herself in the “wherefore” speech, giving her peers, teachers, and me some serious goosebumps.

Bokutachi no Remake – 10 – No Stopping the Train

As I mentioned last week, it’s a bit incredulous to say Kyouya hit “rock bottom”. He has a beautiful wife and daughter, a comfortable home, and a good job where he’s relied upon. At some point he’ll need to stop thinking about the past, and alternate future in which people important to him were more important in the world, and start thinking about the people important to him here and now; his family.

Thankfully, this episode addresses that disconnect between how bad things Kyouya perceives things have gone for the others and how good things actually are if he takes a step back. His old life of failure and loneliness is no match for this life; it’s just a matter of what had to happen to the others to make this world. For instance, Aki no longer draws, but now she’s good at cooking, and she takes pride in this.

Meanwhile, his steady hand at the helm has earned his Team B the reputation as a team that can get things done, though they are still dealing with a dearth of illustration work from Minori. When he and Morishita pay her a visit, she’s not expecting them, as she’s changed into black maid cosplay as  “change of pace” only for it not to work.

Minori isn’t slacking, she’s blocked, which is a harder thing to tackle. Kyouya’s suggestion for her to look at more of Shinoaki’s art doesn’t look like it will work, either. Worse, that’s the least of the problems for what is looking like a make-or-break game for Attraction Point, a social media game that is to be released in synch with the company going public.

As a result of the delays piling up due to unreasonable but unmovable deadlines, Team A is working on fumes without sleep; never a good formula for work devoid of errors. An uncharacteristically flailing Eiko is just barely keeping things together, but in a rare lunch with Kyouya admits both her team and the company is “making every possible mistake”.

When Kyouya says she isn’t the Eiko he remembers back at school, and that there’s always a way to figure things out, she tells him he’s the only one who thinks like that anymore. She seems resigned to some kind of failure on some front that will have huge fallout.

Attraction Point has talented teams working on games, but those in charge never gave those teams a fighter’s chance of succeeding, and are only compounding their original mistakes with new bad decisions. Eiko and Kyouya’s boss is constantly yelling at Eiko in front of the overworked and under-rested staff, creating a toxic environment.

Kyouya tries to suggest that the only option is to delay the game, as the consequences of launching a lemon could be catastrophic for the company’s reputation. But the boss digs in: timing is everything, and the release date is set in stone. He believes it will be more harmful to miss that date than release a buggy mess.

And maybe that boss might’ve been right if a freak occurrence of a famous voice actor got a favorable “SSR”. I won’t pretend to fully grasp the technical intricacies of social media games, as I don’t play them, but suffice it to say people started to think the company was playing favorites, and the company bungled their response by blaming bad-faith users, making the PR situation worse.

Bad PR is one thing, but the game is bad too, thanks to the untested internal engine Eiko’s team was forced to use. Delays, apologies abound, while revenue and corporate reputation sinks. The boss and Eiko go at it in front of the teams desperately going at 110%, but the problems and errors keep outpacing them. Kyouya is about to step in and help Eiko, but then remembers what happened when he meddled with Tsurayuki, and stops himself from meddling again.

He got it in his head that “nothing can be done” about any of this, and if he tried, he’d only make things worse. But as fortune would have it, he just so happens to open up a brand-new video clip in which Kogure Nanako, AKA N@NA, announces that she’s not giving up on singing after all. She tells her online audience about someone at school who told her to sing, and credits him with setting her on this path to begin with.

She also faults him for being so supportive and involved that when it came time for her to stand alone, she slacked off, and her art suffered. Even so, she declares that she doesn’t want to be the one who “invalidates” everything he did for her, so she’s going to keep singing. Her memory of what Kyouya did for her was the trigger that puled her out of her creative rut.

Watching this “small salvation” in his “world of failures”, Kyouya too decides to rise up from his desk, slamming it hard for everyone’s attention and stopping the boss’s incessant chewing-out of Eiko, and decides that there actually is something to be done about this horrible broken game situation, and they’re going to figure it out together, damn it!

Again I must take slight issue with Kyouya’s so-called “world of failures” as, being husband to Aki and father to Maki are quite the opposite of failures! But I will grant that this world was seemingly grinding Kyouya’s natural tendency to Do What’s Right and Help His Friends Out When They Need it until his refrain became There’s Nothing that Can Be Done.

I’m glad he managed to pull himself out of that tailspin of apathy, but there’s still no guarantee his meddling will help Eiko; she and the company could be doomed either way. But for Kyouya, not trying to fix the mess they’re in would be even worse. Until all possible avenues have been exhausted, he’s going to keep searching for something to be done.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Vanitas no Carte – 11 – Jean d’Ate

Armed with the notion that Vanitas will despise someone who professes their love for him, our favorite easily-flustered vampire knight decides to ask her blood buddy out on a date, hoping he’ll end up in the palm of her hand. Predictably, this doesn’t go remotely how Jeanne hoped.

After all, it’s hard to pretend to have affection for someone when you are truly drawn to them, no matter how much you don’t want to be. Such is Jeanne’s plight: whether due to the lure of his delicious blood or the fact she simply adores a bad boy, she’s genuinely excited about the date, especially as it allows her to tour human Paris.

Meanwhile, Lord Ruthven, whom we know is up to no good, gets Noé out of bed so they can have a nice friendly chat at the Lord’s favorite human café, the entirety of which he rents out for such a purpose. While initially apprehensive, Noé soon settles into an easy rapport with Ruthven, to the point he reminds him of his teacher, the Shapeless One.

Throughout Vanitas and Jeanne’s date, Domi is diligently following and observing with opera glasses. She originally committed to doing this because she thought she’d derive some entertainment from it, only to find it looks like an ordinary date. It’s also funny that Dante tags along, and the more bored he gets, the more he resembles Cartman.

It’s atop Paris’ highest hill—from one gets a good look at the Sun Tower that takes the place of the Eiffel Tower in this alternate steampunk world—where things turn from a fun dawdle to Serious Business.

When a boy scrapes his knee and Jeanne gets one look at the blood, she’s ready to pounce on the lad, but Vanitas stops her, having her bite his arm instead. Dante tosses a smoke bomb so they can get away safely, but it’s close call—and a revealing one too, when it comes to Jeanne.

The pleasant, cordial café date also takes a turn when Ruthven asks Noé straight-up whose side he’s on: humans or vampires. At this point Noé is only on the side of those he cares about, which includes members of both groups. This is the wrong answer, and he fails Ruthven’s “test”.

The Lord grabs him and sucks his blood ravenously. Could this be how Noé ends up killing Vanitas, as he said he would back in the first episode: while under the thrall of Lord Ruthven?

Vanitas takes Jeanne somewhere safe, where she proceeds to seductively suck on his blood in another one of their hot-and-heavy scenes. Vanitas takes the opportunity to ask once again whether Jeanne is a curse-bearer, which Jeanne doesn’t confirm or deny.

Even so, when she stops drinking his blood and starts to shed tears that fall on his face, Vanitas promises her that whatever she is, he promises to kill her if she ever becomes a threat to her beloved charge, Luca. Of course, if he can find a way to release her of whatever is slowly sapping her sanity, I imagine try that method first!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sonny Boy – 09 – 3 Cats and a Kotatsu

I’m still thinking about Episode 8, so I knew it would be hard to top it…for anything to top it anytime soon. Episode 9 doesn’t come close…but it does begin with the three Nyamazon cats shooting the shit like three wise old farts under a kotatsu. It’s just the latest reminder that predicting what Sonny Boy will throw at you from one week to the next is like trying to predict every move in a chess game when you’re not in the same room.

The cats, famous lovers of warmth, are under the kotatsu because outside the kotatsu is a frozen, snowy world. Nozomi, Nagara, Yamabiko, and their human Mizuho have traveled there to try to settle a thousands-of-years-old battle between two twins over who has the most hairs on their head (one claims to have one more). But it’s also a look back at Mizuho, and how the white cat Sakura believes she can’t survive without the three of them.

Honestly, the twin story is a bit dull, but it at least ties into the concept of duplication, which we learn is to be Mizuho’s true power. Everything the cats deliver to Mizuho and the others is a copy of products from the original world they came from. While Mizuho’s inner circle certainly wouldn’t hold it against her, the cats, who have been with Mizuho since she was a kid and still believe her to be one, are determined to keep it under wraps.

It’s Yamabiko who approaches Sakura with his suspicion that everything the cats deliver is copies. Sakura then admits that Rajdhani had previously figured out that Mizuho had copied everyone from the world, and now they’re drifting as copies of the people they once were, both the same and different, like the twins. Mind you, this dawned on Rajdhani when two copies of a tick dating Game Boy game(!) arrived, even though he knows there was only ever one in existence.

Yet Rajdhani didn’t tell a soul, proving to the cats he had “a fine character, for being so hairless”. Two copies were made of Sou Seiji, like someone accidentally ordering two of something on Amazon by clicking twice.

Sakura is caught in a bear trap to be a sacrifice of one of the twins, but Mizuho and Yamabiko save her. When armed with a gold ray gun by the shit-stirrer Aki-sensei, the other twin ends up with another ray gun, resulting in a duel that ends with only one twin standing, only for that surviving twin to take his own life.

Mixed in with this is how Asakaze seems to be making a habit of lashing out at Nozomi for not liking him romantically, leading to her spending the night outside sulking. One of the cats keeps her company all night, and in the blood red morning Nagara joins them, thanking her for “showing him the light”, leading him to change.

In a world full of copies and sheep, Nozomi, Nagara, Mizuho and Yamabiko (not to mention Rajdhani) stand out as one-of-a-kind souls who all thank the likes of Aki-sensei or Asakaze to let them pick their own places.

Rating: 4/5 Stars