Arakawa Under the Bridge x 2 6

This week, all segments of the episode were devoted to one story: Nino is apparently going to return to Venus. It begins with the most dark and serious prologue of the series: someone who sounds suspiciously like Mayor Kappa approaches Kou’s secretary from behind and threatens to kill her if she bothers Nino (the secretary is digging to find out who Nino is). This wasn’t a fantasy or a dream; it happened. I guess Mayor (if it was indeed him) means business when it comes to protecting his citizens.

Kou is the one Nino first informs of this move. She’s distraught because she doesn’t want to leave him. But before Kou can man up and offer to come with her, she asks him first. Kou starts to think about marriage, but again, before he can say anything, Star, who was eavesdropping, slips a ring on her finger, as if reading his mind. Not only Star, but Whitey, P-ko, the Iron brothers also agree to come with her, totally ruining both the intimacy and seriousness of this prospect.

That’s alright though; Arakawa is good when it’s not being serious, and even better when it’s pretending to be serious, leading you on as long as possible before dropping the punchline. After all of the dubious things Nino has said to him, Kou isn’t sure whether she really means Venus, or even if she really means to move, and I have no idea if this story will be picked up next week, but if it is, that would be a first. Also: the new second-half ending sequence retains the song but has new animation. I like it, though the way Nino’s eyes are drawn is a little creepy. Rating: 3.5

Katanagatari 11

It’s always hard to put into words episodes of such caliber as the eleven of Katanagatari. Penultimate episodes often outdo the ultimate ones, because they build up so many possibilities that are still beyond our sight. It’s always best when a finale is the quintessential embodiment of all the episodes that preceded it, but with so much amazing action, music, atmosphere, dialogue, ideas, and revelations, I can say with certainty it will have to be unbelievably good to surpass this. Major spoilers ahead.

All of Shikikazi Kiki’s Perfected Deviant Blades have now been accounted for. The twin pistols are one of them; they were always in possession of Princess Hitei, who is a descendant of Kiki. Another was the blade that Houou took; it allegedly contains Kiki’s soul, which possesses Houou’s body. This happens when Pengin innocently tosses the sword to Houou, fearful that Emonzaemon is about to defeat him. Houou goes crazy and escapes, injuring Emonzaemon in the process.

Pengin Maniwa is definitely one of the more interesting Maniwa heads; and there’s a good reason an otherwise weak, shy little kid is the second-most feared of all ninja, after Houou: his ninpou is either exceptional luck or the manipulation of fate, such that even bullets will dodge him. Emonzaemon finds a contradiction in the ninpou and defeats him. This, after Togame and Shichika spared Pengin out of sympathy (and as a bargaining chip).

The final blade is Shichika, the last student of the school of Kyoutouryuu, crafted over centuries and lifetimes of accumulated knowledge. Kiki trained the founder of Kyoutouryuu. Kiki turns out to be more intriguing than I could have predicted. He came not from a family of swordsmiths, but of soothsayers. Able to see deep into the future, he was able to take master sword-making techniques from that future to create his Deviant Blades. The reason his physics- and psychology-exploiting blades are so peerless is because they never should have existed in this timeline. (An aside; a spin-off to this series in which Kiki literally visits those futures could potentially be cool.)

Even so, in a battle between Kiki and all his accumulated knowledge, within the body of the ultimate Maniwa ninja, his final sword Shichika, is able to quickly dispatch him. We’re left wondering if Kiki was really within Houou, or if Houou simply went insane, believing he was Kiki. The distinction is broad, but we don’t find out the answer. I’m glad we don’t…I don’t want all the answers yet.

Throughout this episode, Togame and Shichika reflect on the last ten eleven months: how many places they’ve visited; how many people they’ve meet; how much both of them have grown and evolved. Indeed, Togame started out as a noisy tsundere and Shichika a ignorant chunkhead. There’s some great moments where the two confirm their affection for one another, and their intention to stay together after the sword-collecting is over. After all, she has ‘her own battle’ to fight when it is.

Which brings us to the heartbreaking closing scene. Togame correctly predicted that the princess would be in possession of the final blade (the twin pistols), in order to be able to negotiate with Togame, who has the other eleven. So she and Shichika return to Iga to begin the “political war”. Emonzaemon is waiting for them with the pistols. He reveals Togame’s true name –  Daughter of the former Lord of Oushuu, Hida Takahito, Princess Yousha. She’s also a princess. Then, before Shichika can react, Emonzaemon yells “Forgive Me!”, and puts two bullets right into Togame’s chest.

And in three seconds, the young woman we’ve been watching for nearly a whole year, falls to the ground and doesn’t come back up. The narrator then announces that Shichika, the Deviant Blade, has, of this moment, become Perfected. The entire sword-collecting journey, it would seem, was a means of perfecting him..for Hitei. The moment she knew all the swords were secure, she made her move, and it would also seem that Togame miscalculated. Or did she? We’ll have to wait a month…which sucks. Rating: 4

Bakuman 7

Moritaka makes significant progress in his relationship with Miho – by his standards, at least. Now that they’re sitting side by side, he can communicate with her through notes and drawings. But they still haven’t uttered anything to each other since the promise they made. Moritaka gets a little impatient, one badly-phrased question puts Miho in tears. However, she gives him his e-mail (without him needing to ask) – testing him, in a way – and he appears to pass. If they get too serious now, before they achieve their goals, her voicework and his art will both suffer for it. So for now, they must maintain a degree of separation.

That’s got to be tough, as if sitting next to your true love for a trimester isn’t tough enough. Back at Shounen Jack, Hattori wavers over whether he’ll submit “Two Worlds” for the monthly prize; he only does so when his superior insists. When it doesn’t even make the finalists, he too tests Akito and Moritaka, and thanks to some quick thinking, Akito passes this test by saying all the right things to assure their future editor. They aren’t about to be discouraged by one small defeat; the war has only just begun. The episode ends with Shounen Jack’s Editor-in-Chief visiting Eiji Nizuma, who is a bit eccentric and lives a sheltered life, but makes an odd request that could one day affect  Akito and Moritaka – in exchange for moving to Tokyo, he wants authority to remove a manga he doesn’t like from Jack.

This is another good incremental episode that opens up the complexities of juggling a love that must wait with the need to keep moving forward. They have no choice but to quickly write another manga and submit it for another award. Last time Moritaka was able to maintain his grades, but drawing 2-6 pages every day is sure to take its toll. Rating: 3.5