Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 11

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Well, Cranberry didn’t think Swim Swim would be able to kill her, and she was right…but she didn’t account for Tama and her hole-making ability at a crucial moment, leading to the unfortunate state of affairs above, one of the most surprising (not to mention awesomely gruesome) sudden deaths of the show. Cranberry was supposed to be above all this; she was the last girl standing once before, after all. But she wanted to fight strong enemies, and got her wish – and dug her grave in the process. R.I.P. Cranberry.

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For her, well, dog-like loyalty (and complete and utter lack of guile), Tama is swiftly dispatched by Swim Swim, ever looking out for Number One. Tama saw Swim Swim’s true form, after all, and one of the edicts the late Ruler instilled in Swim Swim — in real life a small, impressionable, dedicated young girl — was to never let anyone learn your true identity. Swim Swim decided that even meant her last and most loyal ally. R.I.P. Tama.

(Incidentally, we got Tama’s backstory as she bleeds out, confirming her guilelessness and indicating she, like Alice, simply wanted to be useful to people. Pretty rote stuff.)

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With the shocking exit of Cranberry (and the far less shocking exit of Tama), the last three magical girls remaining are Swimmy, Ripple, and Snow White. Ripple asks Snow to meet, but Ripple just wants any and all intel Snow might have on Swim Swim, nothing more. Snow argues killing Swimmy now will only make Ripple a murderer, but Ripple don’t care. If Snow won’t help her, she’ll go it alone.

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Ripple seems to live only to avenge her friend and mentor Top Speed, the aftermath of whose death has been hard on her. Snow lost a friend last week in Alice, but it was essentially a friend she didn’t know she had. Swim Swim, showing a tinge of the innocence of her real self, sheds a tear at the loss of Tama, but Tama wasn’t really her friend, either, more of a sidekick.

No, Ripple and Top Speed were the best-realized duo on the show — more even than Snow and Pucelle — and it was something Ripple didn’t know how badly she needed until it was gone. Top Speed could see a side to Ripple — to Sazanami Kano — no one else could, either because they were too busy looking her up and down, or because she wore her mask so well.

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Interestingly, Ripple gets a full-on Sailor Moon-style transformation sequence prior to heading to the dam to duel Swim Swim. The fact it’s a dam means there’ll be plenty of water there (good for Swimmy), but Ripple at least has the hint from Fav (who seems kinda miffed by Swimmy’s apathy with her new role as master) that light and sound are her weaknesses.

I don’t know who will prevail in that duel: judging from past battles, Swim Swim always seems to get the upper hand in the end, but she’s out of allies and now occupies the same seemingly invincible space Cranberry once stood. I can’t rule out a Ripple victory.

Heck, maybe they kill each other, leaving Snow White as the last girl standing by default. That’s the least satisfying outcome: Snow is still clinging to her ideals of what a Magical Girl should be. It stands to reason a show that loves taking things away would take that away from her before all’s said and done.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 10

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This week marks another single guy-centric episode, but like Shinomiya’s, instead of the same Mutsumi we’ve gotten week-to-week, we get an overdone charicature, only not quite as overdone as the klutzy Shi. Combined with a somewhat lame first half involving a cave adventure that turns out to be pointless and a disaster of a second half, this was Kiss Him Not Me’s worst outing.

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The adventure is stale, and while the idea of Mutsumi not knowing whether he romantically likes Kae (like the others) is interesting, Mutsumi has always been the kind but rather dull one, and having him carry an episode, even half of one, just doesn’t do it for me.

Nor does his sudden intense fear of darkness, which is not much more than an excuse for Kae to take his hand and lead him through the cave. This is a guy who stripped both himself and Kae down to warm up her underheated body. It makes zero sense for him to be so flustered about holding Kae’s hand now.

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Things only get worse when Mutsumi’s older, creepier brother shows up as a student teacher. Setting aside the fact that his bisexualism (if it’s really even genuine) is handled about as seriously as a show like this could be expected to handle it; this guy straight up tells underage kids he could totally sleep with any one of them. That’s a fireable offense at best.

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Not only that, he takes an interest in Kae, to the point he invites her to lunch after running into her in Shinjuku (despite her clearly being uncomfortable with the idea), then takes advantage when he has to catch Kae from falling to make a move on her. Mutsumi is able to stop him before anything happens, but the look on Kae’s face is all you need to know to determine that this guy’s a sketchy creep, and I’m not sure how else we’re supposed to see him.

That he intends to “bide his time” until he’s no longer teaching there to “pursue” Kae (without any input from her about what she’d think about such a pursuit) doesn’t make him any less detestable. Even if he’s only putting on an extra-skeevy act to try to motivate Mutsumi to ask Kae out, it doesn’t change the fact he’s being totally inappropriate with a student.

I can forgive this show’s dancing around the whole weight thing, but not this. The fact is, the show just isn’t that funny right now, and that’s a problem.

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Keijo!!!!!!!! – 10

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The Gist: the second race is underway and, surprise surprise, Team Pompous gets mauled by our clever underdogs. First, two girls get flung overboard when The Ass of Varja and Hillbilly-chan sync-bounce the seaplane wings. Then Heart-Eye-chan takes out another girl with mutual annihilation. Finally, Hillbilly-chan and Aoba use their roommate attacks to bring down the last opponent.

Unfortunately, everyone is eliminated at the same time and, in a twist, the last Pompous girl uses propeller breasts to stay in the air a split second longer than Aoba, thus winning the match narrowly upon video review.

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The Verdict: while more watchable than last week, Keijo’s second act remains fairly generic by sports anime conventions. Yes, the various attacks and super powers are silly and raunchy but there isn’t much warmth to the character interactions and, honestly, the novelty has worn off.

Structurally, I don’t know how Keijo un-jumps the shark here? Introducing new girls and new abilities with more epic effects is just an extension of what it was already doing. There’s nothing unusual about the underdog team winning (or doing well against) the expected power house in sports anime either. Making them mean girl jerks doesn’t make them compelling characters to boot.

:/

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 10

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It’s no coincidence Mamiko spends most of a scene scrubbing a pot she burned trying to make dinner. Mamiko wants to make up, not just with her parents, but with her sister as well. She’s scrubbing all the grease and grime that had amassed so that a new pot of soup can be made – a fresh start, without forgetting about what was said or what choices she made in the past.

As Kumiko volunteers to cook in her stead as she scrubs (she’s clearly the better cook of the two), Mamiko lays it all out candidly: how she thought going along with whatever her parents wanted was the adult thing to do, even though she wasn’t an adult at the time; how she resented Kumiko for being able to have fun with band; how she now regrets the choices she made, but is now ready to live her own life, hoping to avoid similar mistakes in the future.

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Kumiko always assumed her folks let her do as she pleased because they’d given up on her, because she had no promise. Mamiko doesn’t believe that; she just felt, as many older kids do, that her parents were taking a different approach with the younger kid; it’s what parents do. And before going to her room for a nap, Mamiko tells Kumiko to live her life too: be a kid when she’s a kid and an adult when she’s an adult; don’t be left with any regrets; learn from your suddenly awesome big sis.

While other friend-reconciling or concert-heavy episodes packed emotional and at times visceral punches, this may be my favorite episode of Euph2, because it’s the most personal one for Kumiko. She reacts to Mamiko’s news of leaving home with a stoic face, but on the train the next day, she suddenly bursts into tears. She is sad her sister is going, even if it’s what her sister wants…and probably needs.

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The episode brilliantly presents Mamiko as a parallel to Asuka, a connection I never really though about, but which makes perfect sense. I love how it’s Kumiko’s sister who provides a timely assist in terms of giving her a usable angle to go after an exceedingly stubborn Asuka.

Asuka is doing almost exactly what Mamiko did at her age, and while Kumiko didn’t do anything about that at the time – indeed, she didn’t even know what was going on, except that her sister was drifting away – she’ll be damned if she’s going to stand by and let Asuka go through with it unchallenged.

Challenge her Kumiko does, and Asuka, at least initially, is ready. She peppers Kumiko’s assertions with doubts like an expert debater. She keeps the focus on Kumiko’s argument rather than her problem, and even gets personal with Kumiko in a not-very-nice way, regarding her typical method of dealing with people.

She questions how someone like Kumiko, who herself tries to avoid hurting or getting hurt; who is “wishy washy” and keeps a safe distance; can expect people to tell her what they really feel, not just about Asuka coming back, but about anything.

 

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Kumiko is disheartened and temporarily stopped in her tracks, but the power of Mamiko’s words ring in her head and mix with Asuka’s euphonium, and Kumiko gets her second wind. Her voice rises in intensisty, tears stream from her cheeks as she confronts the heart of the matter.

She knows Asuka wants her father to hear her at the Nationals, and so does Kumiko herself. And she reminds Asuka that neither of them are adults yet, just high schoolers; and pretending to know everything and think “sucking it up and dealing” is the best course just isn’t right.

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Kumiko delivers an argument even Asuka didn’t quite expect, and moreso, delivers it with an honest passion Asuka can’t help but admire. Kumiko hurt her here, and let herself get hurt in return. The little blush on Asuka’s face is proof that that matters.

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Of course, Kumiko didn’t know if it would work when Asuka is suddenly called away. So when Asuka shows up the next day for band practice, Kumiko is gobsmacked. Many other band members tear up at her return.

And why? Well, Asuka proved she actually is special, at least when it comes to academics, scoring high enough in mock exams to have ammunition against her mom’s assertion she can’t succeed if she stays in band. Asuka takes her place beside Kumiko, and they prepare to practice.

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Asuka isn’t the only one Kumiko is surprised to see: Reina is also there. With everything that’s been going on with Mamiko and Asuka, Kumiko admits she’s kinda let Reina fall by the wayside.

By the look of Reina, I’d guess she’s either pissed off at the lack of Kumiko’s attention (doubtful) or has put the pieces together regarding Taki-sensei and his late wife, knows Kumiko knows, and is angry she didn’t tell her.

It’s almost as if the show intentionally made Reina and Kumiko such wonderful BFFs to this point so that when they hit a bump in the road, which seems to be the case here, it would have that much more impact. Of course, I’m just theorizing at some point. Gotta hear the next piece.

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Fune wo Amu – 08

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When newbie Kishibe arrives at the dictionary editorial department, she’s surprised to learn the only other full-time employee there is Majime. She comes from a fashion magazine, and like Nishioka, didn’t have much choice in transferring. This episode centers on her, and as a result, I felt a little bit of, as she herself puts it, “out of placeness” coming off of it.

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When Majime’s paper guy shows up with samples that have the right thickness and opacity but aren’t sticky enough for TGP, it’s clear said TGP is coming along, if slowly. We later learn thirteen years have passed since TGP was started. That’s a huge time leap, and I’m not sure how I feel about it yet. It’s shocking how much time has been skipped over, just to end up in another relatively sleepy workaday episode.

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Other changes include an ailing Matsumoto, a part-time Araki, a slightly older-looking Kaguya who is now both a restaurant owner and Majime’s supportive wife. There’s no shrine to her mother, but we don’t see her, so she may have passed in the interim. At her welcoming party, Kishibe has a little too much to drink and freaks out about not being able to cut it as a dictionary editor.

When Majime’s words of encouragement don’t work, Nishioka tracks her down and shows her how being good with words, as she is, is a very good thing. Her confidence thus buoyed, she asks Majime, and he agrees, to let her edit his own fashion definitions, which she finds “lacking.” Turns out her experience in another field will help enrich TGP.

I just wish so much damn time hadn’t passed so quickly. It’s disorienting! Ah well.

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Yuri!!! on Ice – 09

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The Gist: The Czech skater dances to techno with the theme of no longer being human, but he falters towards the end. The Italian skater dances a sad goodbye to his twin sister, also a skater, who wants them to move on with their lives as separate people, and his melancholy brings a masterful performance. The Korean skater falters under the pressure that built during the first section. But those were just the appetizers.

Yurio’s performance is grueling, fluid, and full of internal insight before and on the ice. He pushes 6 of his jumps to the second half of his performance to up the technical difficulty and point potential and he nails it, earning a personal high score and landing in the 2nd place slot of the competition.

Yuri’s performance is not as strong, though it is fluid and respectable, his mind isn’t as clear nor focused on the actual technique as much as the what ifs and long term motivations to keep Victor by his side. In the end, he places 3rd, just enough to qualify for the Grand Prix.

The episode comes to an end, arm in arm with Victor, a safe and healthy Vic-chan by their side, and a promise to win a gold, Yuri’s first gold, next time.

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The Verdict: Calling Yuri on Ice beautiful to watch is repetitive but this week’s 3 major animated performances were just that. But the beauty goes beyond that, and beyond the interior of of character and the depth that even quick check-ins among the many skaters gives us. This is a living community, with family, relationships, aspirations and realities. It’s a rich world and, were this not a middle arc episode, it could have won a 10.

I loved the continued expansion of the Coaches this season, with Yukov giving a little insight into what is going on, and about to go wrong, and what could be better. It grounds the whole spectacle in reality that the animation alone, and my limited familiarity with skating would not capture.

But the true stolen scene was at the end. Victor’s glow that Yuri’s declaration is like a marriage proposal hits the dancing nail of Boy x Boy or not Boy x Boy on the head. Male romance or not, on the surface or deep down, all that matters is the good company and growth as people.

Go on, this remains the season’s top must watch!

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Keijo!!!!!!!! – 09

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The Gist: Judo-chan and Bi-chan survive a cringe worthy battle between a generic body-builder type, twins, and a sneering redhead who apparently knows Judo and uses synesthesia to understand body heat, movement and strength. And Yes, Judo-chan wins by giving herself a hard nipple to launch a Keijo-legal shoulder throw.

Evil-chan and team evil seem completely dumbfounded as they lose, despite obvious strengths and advantages shown early on by team good guys. Their mean-lady coach seems surprised too, again bizarre because everyone knows Judo-chan was a world-class judoka ahead of time, and that Bi-chan is the best of the best.

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The Verdict: Oh how the mighty have fallen… There’s no better description than generic for this one and, were it not for the production quality, this week’s pandering would have kicked it down to a 5 or 4.

As is, the episode felt gross to watch, contained no real humor, and was a predictable good guys beat the pompous bad guys first match.

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3-gatsu no Lion – 08

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3GL doesn’t conform to the usual one-twentyish-minute-episode per week, usually splitting into two or more parts. Never has the transition between two segments been as dramatic as this week, but it works in the show’s favor: Nikaidou’s teaching sessions and all the cat stuff was cute, but was also getting kinda old. I will say that it was nice of Nikaidou to buy Rei a sofa bed. That apartment needs more stuff in it!

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The hook for the much darker and emotionally dense second segment is beautifully illustrated when Rei recalls seeing a bolt of lightning in a clear blue sky: the harbinger of a storm. It’s one of his most powerful memories, and it appears – in a sense – at his doorstep when he comes home one night in the form of his estranged (I guess?) adoptive sister, Kouda Kyouko.

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From the moment we see this present-day, all-grown-up Kyouko, it’s clear the camera is a stand-in for Rei’s gaze. The camera loves Kyouko. Her piercing eyes, her golden locks, her painted toes – it’s all lovingly, enthusiastically captured, and evokes quite a bit of thought about what’s going on beneath the surface of this human bolt of lightning.

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What’s certain is that for all her talk of not knowing Rei very well, she does know one thing perhaps no one else does: she knows he doesn’t love shogi, or at least his relationship to shogi isn’t a simple as love or hate. I loved the ambiguity of Kyouko’s visit – at times she seems almost half-nice – before saying something she knows full well will upset her adoptive little brother.

Some scenes, out of context, make it appear like Rei and Kyouko might be involved in that way; which wouldn’t be a first, considering one of Rei’s darker memories has her on top of him. But the segment unfolds like a fantastic, seductive two-person play, brimming with atmosphere, tension, and malice, it wrapped around me like that overly-fluffy futon. The soundtrack that accompanied it was fantastic.

Kyouko saves her sharpest dagger for the morning, as walks out the door, warning Rei that the match he probably has to win will be against an elderly player who will be demoted and retire if he loses. Kyouko is the bolt that brings pounding rain to Rei’s life. Rei’s better at shogi, but she’s better at mind games. And yet…I don’t loathe, or even dislike her.

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Mahou Shoujo Ikusei Keikaku – 10

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What do we have here? The first magical girl backstory that actually made me feel something, and elicit something other than an indifferent shrug. Like all the other backstories, it still comes too late to be as impactful as it could have been, but it still connected. And what do you know, it’s Hardgore Alice’s alter ego: Hatoda Ako.

One reason Alice looks so dark is because Ako comes from such a dark place. Her father murdered her mother, making her a pariah at school. While her auntie seems nice enough, Ako knows she’s not needed by anyone; she’s just a burden. Then she heard about Snow White, and thought they would make a pretty sweet black-and-white duo.

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Of course, this is MagiPro, so that turned to shit pretty fast. Mina disguised herself as Alice’s stuffed rabbit in order to learn Ako’s home address. Once Swim Swim knew that, all she had to do was ambush Ako when she wasn’t in her invincible form.

There’s a special twist of the knife in play here, what with Alice trying to reach out to Snow White as a friend, but simply being unable to say the right words at the right time.

That time is when Koyuki is simply freaking out about all the horrible things happening (which is justifiable), but that doesn’t make it any easier when Snow White is holding a bloody, dying Ako in her arms and learns it’s her would-be only friend in the world.

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That leaves Snow White, Ripple, Swim Swim, Mina, Tama…and Cranberry. And in case you haven’t been paying attention in the last few Cranberry scenes, Cranberry isn’t like the other magical girls. In fact, she seems to be some kind of facilitator from the magical world, overseeing what is in fact a super-bloody selection process that is nearing its end as the ranks dwindle.

For the record, Cranberry would have preferred to simply kill off all the weak ones right away, but has seemingly left the administration of the game to Fav (and whoever is controlling/speaking as Fav).

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Swim Swim has proven to be a one-girl wrecking crew, and when she comes to Cranberry’s forest to take her down, Cranberry uses is as an opportunity to get to know Swimmy a little better. She’s impressed by her, if not her sidekicks (she kills Mina with ease, in one of the show’s more unceremonious killings), but she still doesn’t think Swim Swim can beat her.

As for Ripple, who is out there on her own with only revenge on her mind, I’m not sure how she’s going to be able to actually exact any on Swim Swim. The first time they fought, Swim seemed to have her number, and that was with Top Speed’s help. And then there’s the possibility Cranberry will kill Swim Swim before Ripple can get to her. In any case, it’s never a dull moment in MagiPro Land.

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Watashi ga Motete Dousunda – 09

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It’s a beach episode, folks, with a lot of familiar elements from that subgenre, including vertical pan up to unveil the ladies’ swimsuits. Shiny! It’s also a rare Shinomiya-centered episode, in which most of the inner dialogue comes from him as he struggles to impress Kae, and makes mess after mess of trying.

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From accidentally launching himself into her boobs on the beach to having to hide behind his bigger friends as they scare off some creeps, Shino’s feeling particularly inadequate this week. When he knocks her down trying to save her from a snake, causing her to drop all her kebabs on the ground, it’s the last straw, and he runs off in tears.

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Concerned for Shinomiya’s well-being, the gang chases after him, but he manages to get way far ahead of them for some reason, while Shina seems oddly un-knowledgeable about the environs of her family’s beach manse. The gag with the bridge that breaks but the gang (sans Kae) only “plummets” a little is funny enough, until you wonder how that fall (which is at least ten feet) didn’t hurt anyone. They can’t blame mushrooms this week!

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Some odd choices about the journey to save Shino aside, I did enjoy how the two fujoshis embrace him for his “klutz appeal”, which ties into the themes of the show thus far. But it felt like someone jacked up Shino’s Klutziness and Anxiety Quotients to 11 for this and only this episode.

In trying to deepen the character, the show turned him into a outlandish caricature of himself. Of the episodes thus far that have centered on a single guy, Shino’s has been the worst. It wasn’t a bad episode, but I know Kiss Him Not Me can do better.

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 35

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After a very obvious but enjoyable calm before the storm, the clouds roll in fast here, as tensions mount over the “mobile worker-like” discovery dug up in the mine. One look at it and you know it’s not something you necessarily want to switch on without taking certain precautions—if at all. But those handling it have no idea what it really is or what it was designed for – it’s just another potential asset to help Tekkadan become stronger.

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Not this time. This isn’t Barbatos. When McGillis hears (pretty damn late, if you ask me) about the relic Tekkadan dug up, along with the much larger machine still in the ground, he personally warns Orga to cease excavation immediately and not to activate what they already dug up. He also arranges for a secret in-person meeting with Orga on Mars.

McGillis has seen the old way of doing things – from afar, through delegation, etc. – and he wants to be a different kind of Gjallarhorn leader: one who looks his allies in the face, shakes their hands, and speaks with his own voice, out in the open.

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I never for a second thought Teiwaz’s #2 Jasley wouldn’t become another thorn in the side of Tekkadan. I just didn’t know he’d be such a big wrench in the works so quickly. Keeping a close eye on McGillis, he soon learns of the secret meeting, and leaks the intel to Rustal’s people. Why? Well, he doesn’t like the Tekkadan “punks”, and doing this disrupts their plans and throws Gjallarhorn into even more pitched infighting. It’s win-win, basically.

We don’t know Jasley well, and he’s a pretty broad character, but his motivations check out. He’s another one of the group of “cranky adults” in IBO who don’t like how these upstart kids are rising so fast. Even if Tekkadan wins the throne of Mars, Jasley is still Teiwaz’s #2, and Orga is still a punk in his eyes. He even thinks McMurdo, an “old man” a generation ahead of him, has gone soft for Tekkadan, and he doesn’t like it.

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Even with all the rising tensions, secret meetings and betrayals, there’s plenty of snapshots of ordinary life at Tekkadan, whether its at the maintenance bays, or mess hall, or in Kudelia’s office as she meets with Mika and Atra, with Hush tagging along so he can learn more about his new idol/master.

In this little scene, we see Mika’s reading has continued to improve, but he, Atra, and many other orphans still have no idea how to handle the money they earn, and have Kudelia manage it for them. Kudelia is an imminently trustworthy person with only their best interests at heart, but they’re still quite vulnerable to those who are less so. The key, Kudelia stresses, is education.

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I found myself a bit taken aback by the openness of McGillis’ meeting with Orga on Mars. It’s admirable for him to be mask-free and out in the open with Tekkadan, but considering Rustal is coming for him, perhaps a bit too careless. McGillis assumes no one knows he’s coming, unaware Jasley informed Rustal. But why not be more careful anyway?

Not only that, Orga’s best men accompany him and McGillis to the excavation site, but with no mobile suits backing them up. Now, we know the Mobile Armor that lies in the earth may be activated by mobile suits, but you’d think McGillis wouldn’t make himself a sitting duck for Iok so easily.

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When Iok and a brace of mobile suits land near the site, it’s because they believe McGillis is plotting to destroy what’s left of the mobile armor so he can receive the “Order of the Seven Stars” and rise to the first rank currently occupied by the headless Issue family. McGillis seems to scoff that off; but he can’t just be there as a sign of trust, solidarity, and transparency to Tekkadan, can he?

As such, Iok, like Jasley, has his information, and makes the conclusions he believes best fits: McGillis is starting a Gjallarhorn rebellion, and must be stopped. With mobile suits at his command and communication with Tekkadan HQ down, Iok is totally in charge…until his suits activate the mobile armor, which immediately shoots a giant energy beam into the sky – one of (if not the) first instance of such a beam in IBO.

This is, in effect, a game changer. We knew Tekkadan and McGillis had resentful adversaries to overcome. But this pteradactyl-like menace is a relic of the Calamity War that claimed hundreds of millions of lives, and it operates autonomously, a la the machines in The Matrix. Even the normally serene face of McGillis twists in oh-shittitude at its awakening. The storm is here. 

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Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 09

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Kumiko isn’t able to wallow in helplessness over solving her family’s problems for long: her band-mates have a new project for her! Why are Natsuki, Nozomi, Mizore and Kaori all going to her? Why else: Kumiko has proven to have a knack for stealthily helping people with their issues. She can act as coy as she likes: the results of her work are clear for all to see, and this week she’s celebrated for it whether she likes it or not.

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“You’ve always done well.” “There’s something about you.” “You see through people.” “You act like you don’t notice things, but you do…and when it matters most, you always have the right words.” All meant as praise, all of it well-earned. There’s no pretending she isn’t something she is. Kumiko facilitates. She connects. She breaks through to the heart of matters, often forcefully if need be. And she inspires the likes of Reina to want to just as forcefully “peel off” her mask.

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Reina has a lot of choice moments this week, not only when she’s so lovingly and earnestly describing Kumiko, to getting adorably flustered when Taki-sensei rises and shines before her eyes. But she also sees the photo on Taki’s desk, of him with another woman. As talkative as Reina was with Kumiko before seeing that photo, the silence on the train ride home afterwards is deafening.

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Kumiko can’t help Reina on this right now, she’s faced with her toughest challenge yet: Tanaka Asuka. Fortunately for her, Asuka wants to talk, perhaps because she too has witnessed what Kumiko can do. The close-ups of Asuka when Kaori ties her shoe then walks off are downright scary, while the tension in the early parts of Kumiko’s visit to her home is palpable.

But when it comes down to it, Kumiko isn’t there to be tutored, and Asuka isn’t there to tutor her. Instead, Asuka finally opens up to Kumiko, telling her how Masakazu Shindo “was” her father before he and her mom divorced when she was two. She tells her how her determination to make the nationals was borne out of a “selfish” desire to get her father to hear her play. How she hates her mother, but can’t do anything about it.

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It’s here where we see Kumiko, who had entered this mission utterly lacking any semblance of confidence or certainty, goes into, well, shall we say “Euphonium Mode”? She sees through Asuka’s misdirection. She notices her feints and her subtle leadings. And she even has the right words to say at the right time…not because she knows what to say in this situation, but because it’s what she truly believes.

We know from her inner monologue, she wants to hear Asuka play. And so Asuka plays us out, during the end credits. And Kumiko demonstrates another ability we know she’s getting pretty good at: bringing out genuine smiles. The fight to get Asuka back is far from over, but it’s off to a promising start.

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To Be Hero – 09

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Trying to commit suicide with a fish earns best scene this week. Maybe the only humor in the whole episode…

The Gist: Lots of poop jokes knit Old Man and the Space Princes’ various antics at the dinner table together. Or not, depending on your tolerance for poop jokes.

However, the ultimate result is everyone accidentally drinks to water of despair and wants to commit suicide. Meanwhile, Min-chan, the only person not to drink the water, discovers an old notebook in her box of treasures and it contains childish drawings of each weirdo currently making her life crazy — including her father, who is a super hero in the drawing.

Then Space Emperor arrives through the roof. Roll credits

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Verdict: The needle of quality swings wildly again for To Be Hero and, even though the reveal of Min’s book adds some interesting mystery to the show, I can’t even be charitable. Way way wayyyyyy too much of the episode was dedicated to poop and characters acting stupidly. The older of the Space Princes even drinks his own trap while talking about it because… Plot I guess?

Watching To Be Hero is maddening. Some episodes are tightly scripted laugh factories. Some episodes have heart amidst crude and inept characters. Yet some episodes are just gross, pointless wastes of time. In it’s own way, this means there’s something for everyone, but also something to annoy anyone trying to watch the whole thing. At this point, my rating is shifting down to a 5 from the average 7 just because I do not actually enjoy (or even want) to watch a significant portion of TBH’s run time.

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