Blood Lad – 07

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Braz and Liz meet Fuyumi and Staz’s crew. Staz drinks Fuyumi’s last bottle of magical essence, so she has to drink his blood, which overwhelms her. After Staz takes a magical sample from her, he returns to the Acropolis to work his lab, but Liz stays behind. Staz learns she stayed to keep an eye on him, but after sampling Staz’s earth collection and hanging out with Fuyumi, Liz starts to warm to the place. The next morning Fuyumi has disappeared. Staz orders a search, suspecting she was abducted.

Liz is an emotionally damaged little girl. With both parents out of the picture and Staz quick to leave home, she ended up stuck with her big brother, who never paid any attention to her, but is constantly trying to attract it by being a good girl, which means serving as his henchman. She never experienced a normal childhood or love, for that matter. Fuyumi steps in to act as a big sis, feeding, bathing and generally doting upon her like the cute little kid she actually is (she also enjoys watching Castle in the Sky. Who doesn’t? Nobody, that’s who.)

Meanwhile, Staz oozes “up to something” from every pore in his body, stripping Fuyumi to take her magic sample, planting Liz as his spy, and planning to extract Staz’s magic from Fuyumi’s for lord-knows-what experiment, but it can’t be good. On top of that, some random blonde guy (who looks a little like Bell) abducts Fuyumi, which is bad because she needs Staz’s blood a regular intervals to stop from fading away. Perhaps in future Staz will consider implementing security measures, like, say, something…anything.


Rating: 6 (Good)

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Kabukimonogatari – 01

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At school, Araragi Koyomi‘s classmate Oshino Ougi waxes whimsical about the contradiction between red signs warning of danger being safer than green signs indicating safety; it makes him think of how Hachikuji Mayoi was killed by a truck ten years ago. Koyomi then runs into Ononoki Yotsugi, who has been dispatched to the town for unknown reasons. Back home, Oshino Shinobu points out that Koyomi hasn’t done any of his summer homework. With just two hours until class starts, he asks her to build him a time machine. Instead, she takes them to a shrine where she opens a portal to an alternate dimension. They jump in, and rather than emerging the previous day as planned, they end up eleven years, three months and seven days in the past, with no reliable way back.

Kabuki is typically used as the term for classical Japanese theater (or improperly used to describe intricate political maneuvering) but is also derived from the verb kabuku meaning “to lean”, or “to be out of the ordinary”,”avant-garde”, or “bizarre”. while kabukimono is a term for “someone bizarrely dressed and swaggering on the street”. Furthermore, kabuki’s individual kanji mean “sing”, “dance”, and “skill”. True to its highly versatile (and open to interpretation) title, this episode caters to all the possible definitions. Like every Monogatari episode, the style is very avant-garde and bizarre, with intricate, often poetic or singsong dialogue and characters striking poses in an vaguely kabuki-esque manner. Oshino Ougi has a white, stylized face reminiscent of a kabuki mask.

Officially, Kabukimonogatari means “Slope Story”, continuing the theme of being off-kilter or less-than-straight, and also calls to mind the proverbial “slippery slope.” Case in point: Koyomi wants to go back one day so he has time to do his homework, and puts his trust in Shinobu, who doesn’t reveal it was her first attempt until after the fact, and Koyomi gets a lot more time than he needed. If his present is 2013, they’ve gone all the way back to 2002. Ougi tells Koyomi “If you don’t want to face danger, don’t cross any crosswalks”. But he’s never been one to avoid danger. Now he finds himself in the past, with the chance to stop Mayoi from losing her life while crossing one. It’s a solid start to an intriguing new adventure.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Oreimo 2 – 16 (Fin)

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After Kyousuke and Kirino graduate from their respective schools, they are confronted by Manami, who has come to fight Kirino for Kyousuke. She comes right out and calls their romance disgusting and threatens to tell their parents,. After several blows are exchanged between her and Kirino, Manami confesses to Kyousuke, who turns her down, saying Kirino will always come first. She slaps him and leaves. Kyousuke and Kirino get married in a chapel and exchange a kiss, and then go back to being normal siblings, as they decided on Christmas Eve.

We knew Manami was going to be upset when she learned about her betrothed going out with his little sister, but we had no idea she was going to be such a badass in this final episode. She beats Kirino up and pours a big ‘ol glass of cold water all over the pair, telling them all the stuff no one else had up to that point. Her scolding falls on deaf ears, not just because Kyousuke had chosen Kirino, but because unbeknownst to Manami, their romance was always going to be a temporary one, and just wasn’t quite over yet. What Kirino whispered to Kyousuke was that once they graduated, they’d put their romance to an end and continue on as proper siblings.

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This begs the question: if that romance was temporary, what purpose was served by having Kyousuke burn his last bridge with another girl? Why break so many hearts to confirm to  Kirino that her brother would destroy his entire love live six times over if it meant just a few fleeting months as her “lover?” Was it really worth ruining so many of his friendships to have a pretend wedding and a chaste kiss, only to drop it all right afterward? The extensive fallout really doesn’t seem worth it, even if the conclusion (they didn’t actually become  lovers) was a foregone conclusion (this isn’t siscon eroge).

So the series ends on a logical, if somewhat awkward note, having backed Kyousuke and Kirino into a corner and callously discarded legitimate love interests for a fling that didn’t and wasn’t even supposed to last. But while Kyousuke’s unwavering devotion to fulfilling his little sister’s selfish whims often frustrated and even maddened us, we won’t deny we were also greatly entertained and at times downright moved by his many exploits over the last two seasons.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Uchouten Kazoku – 07

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Yaichirou, Yasaburou, and Yashirou drag Akadama to the bathhouse to clean himself up. The Ebisugawa Elite Guard barges in and Yaichirou is confronted by Kinkaku and Ginkaku, who want him to drop out of the race for Nise-emon. If he doesn’t, they’ll use their ace-in-the-hole to seal Ebisugawa’s victory: information that Soichirou got extremely drunk with Yajirou the night before he was boiled in a hot pot. Yaichiruo disperses the twins and rushes to confront Yajirou in his well, who admits that he got wasted with dad and left him behind, and ultimately to his doom.

All the strife and uncertainty swirling around the wounded Shimogamo family can all be traced back to the sudden boiling of their patriarch in a hot pot, and the mystery of how such a great tanuki ended up meeting such an ignoble fate. This week that mystery is revealed to Yaichirou and Yasaburou, and the truth they get stings all the more because it comes first from their feuding relatives, not Yajirou. Instead of ever telling them what happened after he stumbled home and passed out, Yajirou became a frog and never changed back, shedding his tanuki existence and all the baggage that comes with it.

Last week Yasaburou learned more about how his father faced his demise from the guy who ate him, but his father would have never even ended up in that cage had he not gotten drunk with Yajirou. It could be argued Soichirou died before Yaichirou was fully prepared to succeed him. Now Yaichirou’s election as Nise-emon on his own merits is threatened by the scandal the Ebisugawas will use as ammunition. Knowing how dearly his mistake cost him and his family, no one can blame Yajirou for preferring to live in the bottom of a well. Not for his sake – even as a frog he can’t escape his guilt – but for everyone else’s, taking himself out of the game lest he make another costly mistake.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Oreimo 2 – 15

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After Kirino accepts Kyousuke’s proposal, they return to their hotel room to discuss what it means and finish the eroge they started. A couple days later they have coffee with Saori and Ruri, announcing they’ve started dating. Kyousuke leaves to attend Kanako’s Meruru concert, which she invited him to and where she confesses to him from the stage; he refuses and moves on. Later, Kyousuke wakes up with Kirino sleeping next to him, testing for his reaction. While exchanging things to put in each others’ rooms, Kirino lets Kyousuke look at a previously forbidden box containing photo albums of the two of them, along with voice recordings of her past self asking her future self for advice.

Our first thought at the end of the last extra episode was ‘Wow, they finally went there’, but our second thought was a question: ‘Wait, how in the hell are they going to do that?’ The answer is, very, very carefully. Kirino is no longer moving abroad after graduation, which definitely affects the course of her life, if track is what she loves and abroad is the place to train. But she also shows she loves Kyousuke more than track, but in accepting his proposal, and by having plans to confess to him if he didn’t. And as those recordings of her past self indicate, she’d been harboring love for him for a long time, and those feelings survived their “cold war” once she grew up and drifted from him. But they’re still unsure of their next steps; what’s commonplace in eroge is uncharted territory in reality.

Now that they find each other in each anothers’ orbits, however, things are very…complicated. Almost ridiculously notable in their absence are their parents. Kyousuke and Kirino may be able to have a lover’s quarrel and proposal in the middle of the busy Akiba streets, and later announce that they’re dating to their closest friends, there’s no good way to break the news to mom and dad – especially the kind of dad they have. How long can they keep so big a secret from them, and is it even right to do so? Kyousuke paid a price for his actions, but scorning Ayase and Ruri (and Kanako!) is child’s play compared to being the one who essentially stole his own father’s daughter. But frankly, we don’t think the last episode will delve into that pandora’s box. Things are weird enough as it is, right?

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Oreimo 2 – 14

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Some time after rejecting Ayase, Kyousuke hangs out with Ruri more. But with Christmas approaching, he decides its time to tell her he can’t go out with her either, as he loves someone else. Ruri tears up the Destiny Record, lifts her curse on him, and transforms into the angel of revenge, “Yamineko,” cursing him, all those who love, and the whole world. Kyousuke asks Kirino to go on a Christmas Eve date in Akiba, and she grudingly agrees. Later in the evening, after a failed attempt and a chase (aided by Saori in Kaori’s car), Kyousuke confesses his undying love for Kirino and wants her to stay in Japan and marry him.

Christmas came early this morning, in the form of the extra Oreimo episodes. The last season’s extra eps told an alternate story and changed the ending, but this episode progresses the story past the pleasant status quo by having Kyousuke go against all common sense and decency and destroy all his potential relationships with girls not related to him by blood so he can tell his own little sister he’s in love with her. He knows it’s ridiculous and creepy, but he can’t help it. At the end of the day those are his feelings, and he’d never be able to live lives with the other girls having never acted on those feelings.

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Breaking up with Ruri takes just five minutes, but they’re a damned rough five minutes. Hana-Kana knocks it out of the park as usual with her powerful, multi-faceted, scorched-earth response. Though Kyousuke’s rejection didn’t take her by surprise, when the reality of what was happening started to sink in, she got more and more worked up, abandoning all propriety, and screaming and cursing everything and everyone. In the past we’d be booing at the television (we were always rooting for Ruri), we understood that this was the way the plot was progressing, and Kyousuke’s motives made sense, so we went with the flow here.

Which brings us to Kyousuke’s potentially self-destructive decision to finally confess to Kirino. She tries to run from the truth (and she’s a good runner) but Kyousuke’s pals (including the scorned Yamineko) support him in his enterprise by giving him a lift (in an Itasha Nissan Cube) and broadcasting a recording of his rejection speech to Ruri. He puts it all out there, and while Kirino’s initial response is of revulsion and hatred, he presses the issue, proposes, and her armor finally cracks. But there’s just one slight problem: you can’t legally marry your little sister in Japan…or anywhere else, for that matter. Don’t go Yosuga no Sora on us now, Oreimo!

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • This episode was well-prepared to stick the knife in and twist it during the Kuroneko break-up. Not only was it preceded by some of the most adorable scenes between the two (him teaching her how to swim, her feeding him in full cosplay regalia), but also showed flashes of their entire relationship as she brutally tore her Destiny Record to shreds.
  • Hell, they even cut to her little sisters wondering if/when Kyousuke would come back to visit…poor kids! T_T
  • Kirino wears the same outfit to her Akiba date with Kyousuke as she did last year, including pink Uggs, which not just anyone can pull off.
  • Kyousuke and Kirinos were no doubt both encouraged and a little scared when they saw Akagi in line with his little sister Sena pretending to be a couple to get deals on BL eroge.
  • We have no idea where that tiny little “Yes” by Kirino is going to lead them…which is why we’ll have to watch the next episode immediately.