Baby, Please Kill Me! – 05

In which Yasuna tries to get Sonya to help her catch bugs…and gets smacked by Sonya; Yasuna and Sonya enjoy various festival activities…and Yasuna gets smacked by Sonya; and Yasuna makes puppet counterparts of her and Sonya…and gets smacked by Sonya. There’s also a cool beetle that  says “‘Sup.”

We have to hand it to Yasuna Oribe; the girl can take a punch. But all that physical punishment can’t be helping her IQ. Perhaps there’s a little masochist in her, and she longs for the back of Sonya’s hand across her face or her foot in her ribs. Or perhaps there’s something darker to it: Yasuna has started to expect abuse because she recieves it so often.

Bottom line: this isn’t a friendship. Sonya is a horrid bully who beats Yasuna every chance she gets. She is a brutal menace who must be stopped. Maybe with a ninja technique…like calling the police and filing assault charges. Ah, who are we kidding. Yasuna would be lost without Sonya. Without someone to annoy and bounce themes off of, she would surely turn to a life of delinquency and n’er-do-wellness…

Rating: 3

Chihayafuru – 18

In her first Class A match Chihaya faces Sakura, a mother of two and 35-year veteran of karuta. Chihaya wants to win, but not with her speed, but lacking a plan or strategy, she gets flummoxed, and notices that Sakura is watching her play, analyzing and strategizing on the fly. Though she loses by six cards, she learns a lot. She then witnesses her four teammates face off against one another in the class B and D finals. Watching their intense play, she realizes she’s there not to cheer anyone on, but to learn from them.

Baseball is replete with failure. A .300 average – Failing to get a hit 70% of the time – is deemed tip-top. There isn’t a lot of room for failure in karuta. If you whiff too much, you’re going to get beaten. You have to be fast and right, not one or the other. And most importantly, you have to know who you’re playing, learn how they play, and devise a way to win. Don’t just play against the cards, play against the opponent. It’s a lot to take in. Rather than surging to queenhood, Chihaya is back in Karuta 101, a victim of her own phenomenal reflexes and hearing.

Suddenly losing those crutches and having to slow down and play a different kind of karuta is about as difficult for Chihaya as unscrewing a jar of pickles her mouth, predictably, but she can’t hope to beat Shinobu if she isn’t a complete, balanced player. That point is driven home by watching all her teammates advance to the finals to face one another – and it’s great to see Kana and Desktomu go at each other, no longer novices, but really finding their own respective niches.

Rating: 3.5

Black Rock Shooter – 02

Mato goes to a festival hoping to meet up with Yomi, but she’s stood up, with only an “I’m sorry” text in reply. Mato is crushed, and Black Rock Shooter is brutally punished in the dream world. Kagari wouldn’t let Yomi leave, and when Mato shows up at her door, Kagari throws herself down the steps in protest. Mato meets Yomi’s mother, who tells her Kagari’s paralyzation is all in her head, but Yomi has to take care of her. Mato won’t accept that, and confronts Yomi and Kagari in the hospital room. After much heated discussion paralleled by equally heated combat in the dream world, Yomi finally calms Kagari and persuades her to give up the act and go outside. In the dream world, Yomi is freed from Kagari’s chains.

Well now, we’ve got ourselves quite the dual headcases in Yomi and Kagari. For years Kagari has been pretending she can’t move her legs so she can be isolated at home with no one but Yomi. Perhaps more disturbing, Yomi has gone alone with it, enabling her the whole time. In refusing to give up friendship with Yomi, we can credit Mato with freeing not one but two troubled souls who had become far too entangled with one another. Now Yomi will surely get reacquainted with an old friend called free will while Kagari will re-learn how to walk, go to school, and function in society again. Hint: It’s not all about you, kiddo.

The animation stepped up its game – in both worlds. The regular world features some intense close-ups and demented expressions – particularly from the Kagari during her vicious, ultimately cathartic tantrum. The dream world meanwhile was a feast (and not just of macaroons): we were worried that the spare, washed-out palette may grow stale with too much exposure, so what does this episode do? Administer a big dose of Color with a Capital C. Black Rock Shooter has some really sweet-ass weapons, and there’s nary a still frame in sight, as everything – the people, the scenery, and the cameras – are all in constant motion. We could watch this stuff all day.

Rating: 4

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