Natsuyuki Rendezvous – 09

Atsushi and Rokka and up hiking to the highest place he ever went, a forest where he intends to plant his snow-in-the-summer plant containing some of his bones. Rokka encounters him and realizes it’s Atsushi, who tries to flee, but fails. Rokka collapses in tears at the realization. Meanwhile, Hazuki ends up in a Snow White-style scenario with Rokka in a glass casket. She breaks out to talk with him, and the moment she refers to him as “the prince”, he looks in a reflection and sees Atsushi’s face.

At long last, Rokka finally sees Atsushi through Hazuki. Atsushi made it extremely easy for her, saying and doing things only Atsushi could do. We’re glad this finally happened, because now it’s less of a torture for Rokka trying to parse what the hell has been going on with Hazuki, because he’s been acting awfully strange. Now she understands. After witnessing her overflowing of emotion, even Atsushi admits that he maybe went too far. But what’s done is done.

Is their rendezvous in the same spot of the same forest at the same time awfully tidy coincidence? Perhaps, but it also makes sense in that there weren’t many parts of nature Atsushi ever ventured out to in his life. He was a sickly city boy, after all. This was the one place he got to before the end. Going over their last hiking trip in her head – a painful, beautiful memory –  it made sense that Rokka ended up finding him. But with that final scene, could it be Atsushi got what he needed and has switched places with Hazuki? Maybe??

That aside, this is a phenomenal and moving payoff to everything that had been built up since Atsushi jumped into Hazuki’s body, and even before when he repeatedly pleaded for permission to do so. This is the episode where we’re finally totally okay with that fact that right here and now, Hazuki is just a vessel, and it’s all about Atsushi. He may have pulled some unethical stunt or two to get here, but he had to get here. He needed Rokka to acknowledge him, if only for this one brief time.

Rating: 9 (Superior)

Binbougami ga! – 09

In the first half, Ichiko and Momiji have a duel in doubles tennis. Their respective male partners – the prince-like Adenokouji Shion and the gorilla-like Gorihara, are quickly taken out of the game of increasing magic and firepower wielded by the girls. The match ends in a tie and a destroyed tennis court. In the second half, Ichiko tries her hand at cooking, but fails miserably each time. Her experimentation is interrupted when Momiji appears with her rival and colleague Kuroyuri, a fellow god of misfortune. Their pincer attack fails, and when they hold a cooking duel with Kuroyuri as the judge, Ichiko’s attempt meat and potato stew sends her into a vomiting fit and she books it back to base, defeated.

We must warn you: if you can’t stand episodes in which almost everyone is yelling at or near the top of their lungs pretty much constantly, you probably won’t enjoy this episode. Having watched 71+ episodes of Sket Dance, we consider ourselves inoculated against high-decibel hijinx. This is an episode of fierce competition between Ichiko and Momiji, in which mundane activities like tennis and cooking are ratcheted up to absurd levels of aggression.

A lesser series would have spend the whole 20 minutes and change on one challenge, but this one made the correct choice of presenting at least two, while introducing new characters in each segment who will likely show up in the final episodes…though we hope those episodes don’t feature a lot of them because they’re not very interesting. Adenokouji Shion is your standard big-haired bishie, while Kuroyuri is a yuri cliche…though her monocle is kind of cool, she poses no threat to Ichiko. Other notable guests included Ichiko’s exploding cake and wailing stew. Of course she sucks at cooking.

Rating: 5 (Average)

Mawaru Penguindrum – 05 (Retro Review)

Originally posted 8 Aug 2011 – Well, with Ringo visiting the Takakuras so often, it was only a matter of time until she was exposed to the survival strategy. The ball starts rolling when, desperate for answers, Shoma asks Ringo point-blank to study her “fate diary.” He lets on that he knows more than he should about it, triggering a faceoff with Ringo that is interrupted by Himari, under the control of the penguin headdress.

We love how Ringo essentially fills in for Kanba here, shaking up what had become rather repetitive sequence by painting outside the lines and going after Himari. But she isn’t aware the hat is keeping her alive – not until she tears it off and throws it out into the street. There, it gets caught on the tailgate of a frieght truck, and boom: you have your Splendidly Over-The-Top Pursuit that proves this series can be every bit as adept at quick action as it is with slower stuff.

There’s a lot more going on though. Kanba isn’t around for the survival strategy because he’s off making sure he and his siblings can keep living in their house. He receives a bundle of cash from an unseen stranger – perhaps the same guy who threw his ex-girlfriend down the steps. Meanwhile, the anti-Kanba plotting proceeds apace, coming to a head with Asami Kuho about to get a face-full of red nerf ball.

Both the cash envelope and strange balls bear that omnipresent penguin insignia, seen in so many places, it’s hard to know what is or isn’t related more directly to the survival strategy than previously believed. Also, are the siblings’ parents dead, or just missing? We’re enjoying all the mysteries that are cropping up, and with 24 episodes, this series has plenty of time to build up a rich web of them.

Rating: 9 (Superior)