Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 09

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I had a feeling this “heist” episode was going to be a good one, but I wasn’t prepared for how much ass it kicked, much of it courtesy of our heroine Nanami. It’s quite simply one of her finest hours. It’s all because she has to be herself, which means tapping into her stores of morality, decency, and emptahy along with her increasingly potent divine powers.

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But first of all, I just want to reiterate that Tengu Nanami just made my year. He/She is so friggin’ cute she makes Botanmaru look like a pile of puke! The spiral glasses are a particularly nice touch. But along with that cuteness comes great strength.

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But anyway, the reason Nanami is able to steal the show is that the (somewhat) carefully orchestrated operation doesn’t go according to plan. Kurama had hoped to get Jiro drunk on mundane world medicinal alcohol, but the bull has formidable tolerance.

Tomoe, furious that Jiro hurt Nanami, tries to work his magic, posing as a slightly sultrier Nanami to throw Jiro off his game (helped at least a little by the booze). It works for a time; at least long enough for Nanami to find the Sojobo.

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Kurama and Tomoe are undone when Tomoe breaks character and brings up Nanami, the maiden Jiro met, and even threatens violence. Kurama stops his “familiar”, but Jiro imprisons them both in a strong, anti-yokai barrier prison. With these two out of commission, it’s Nanami’s game to lose.

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She doesn’t lose. The plan fails mostly because she and the others weren’t aware of the existence of a yokai under Jiro’s employ (Yatori), or the fact the Sojobo has been petrified as a result of his soul being extracted.

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Nanami, in top heroine goddess form, doesn’t cower in fear before the bombastic Jiro. In fact, when he smacks Botanmaru, she gives him a stern scolding, one he probably hasn’t heard in a long time, if ever, and sorely needed. He blames Botanmaru for being weak, but Nanami points out Jiro hasn’t been running this mountain himself, all alone. Even the strongest have people they rely on.

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Jiro doesn’t know how this litle whelp of a tengu knows about such stuff, because he doesn’t know he’s talking to a human land god. When Nanami brings up Sojobo’s soul extraction, Yatori butts in a shoos Jiro away. In case you were wondering, yes, this guy is up to no good, and is simply using Jiro to secure an army for Akura-oh.

But Yatori is just as clueless about this tengu lad as Jiro, and when he threatens to off him and Botanmaru, the wig and gloves come off and Nanami enters Full Bad-Ass Mode, a mode she remains in for the duration of the episode.

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With Mamoru by her side, she casts a barrier against evil that easily dispatches Yatori. One could say he’s dealt with too easily, but this has never been a show about long, drawn-out physical battles, but rather battles of wits, timing, and ideals. In any case, it’s awesome to see Nanami wield such power so comfortably and confidently, and we know why: the people she loves and cares are counting on her, and she won’t let them down.

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Even in disguise, her words prove just as powerful a weapon against the big dumb mean bear that is Jiro, within whom lies a precocious but insecure boy desperate to earn the Sojobo’s approval.

When he isn’t watching where he’s going he bumps into the three adorable little tengu we met last week, who all expect to be reprimanded severely for getting in his way. But Nanami’s words echo through his head, and suddenly picking on a bunch of little kids seems stupid. Good for him. Better for Nanami!

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Jiro’s sudden crisis of the heart also means his hold on his “encampment” is tawdry at best, and Nanami takes advantage. Ignoring Yatori’s pleas to keep him around since he’s the only one who knows where the Sojobo’s soul is stashed, she decides to simply cancel out all of the barriers in the compound with one big barrier against evil, and find the soul herself.

As she “tears” through the place, she scares the bejesus out of various tengu who’ve never laid eyes on a woman before, and even leaves a gleaming golden trail in her wake. Once her barrier is cast, the whole place starts to sparkle. When Tomoe and Kurama’s prison fades away in the golden light, Tomoe knows exactly what’s up: his Nanami is demonstrating precisely why she’s worth falling for.

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Yuri Kuma Arashi – 09

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The cutting-out of the dialogue (not to mention taking a week off!) was certainly irritating in a “Goddamn It I Wanna Know What Happens!” kind of way. But I was confident when Yurikuma  returned, much would be revealed, including the contents of the conversation that led to Kureha shooting Ginko off the roof, to the delight of Yuriika, who’d manipulated both Kureha and Lulu against Ginko.

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What is revealed is not entirely surprising, which is to say it makes sense based on everything that’s come before…which is good! Kureha shoots Ginko, but doesn’t kill her. Ginko ends up in “the center of the sky that divides the worlds of the moon and forest,” in other words, limbo.

Her wounds are tended to by someone that appears to be the late Yurizono Mitsuko, but is really(/also) the manifestation of Desire, the surrender to which has governed the actions of many a girl and bear alike on this show.

With Desire’s help, we explore the particulars of grave crime Ginko committed, which as suspected was not the direct killing or eating of Sumika, but the act of doing nothing to stop it despite having the power to do so.

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Ironically, Ginko had the perfect opportunity to stop Sumika’s demise when she found her hairpin on the ground. The last time Sumika lost that pin, it was Kureha who found it, which led to their friendship and eventually far more. For Ginko to have come so far to reunite with Kureha, only to find she had given her love to another while she was away, created a crack in Ginko’s heart, more than large enough for Desire to slip in. Her desire for Kureha at any cost kept her from warning Sumika, and led to her murder.

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Getting shot was punishment not just for letting Sumika get eaten, but abandoning Lulu, whom Ginko knew loved her but abandoned her anyway, at a crucial moment. That allowed Yuriika to create a wedge between them. Lulu’s revelation that Ginko was an accomplice in Sumika’s death, along with a very guilty Ginko’s admission that she killed Sumika, period, caused Kureha to fire.

As Ginko heals, Desire isn’t quite done with her, nor she with Desire, who disrobes and “becomes one” with her. The red spark in Ginko’s eye suggests Kureha’s bullet (whether it’s a love bullet or not more on that later), has only heightened Ginko’s desire for her. Being deprived of that which one desires can twist a person, as we clearly see with “Bride-in-a-Box” Yuriika.

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As Kureha’s class, now led by Chouko Oki, prepares to vote on whom they believe to be the bear residing among them, flouting social cues and eating them, we find that Kureha’s exclusion seems to have been commuted for the time being.

As Life Sexy creepily spies on two girls going at it in the nurse’s office, he states that the girls’ exclusion of what they deem to be “evils”—be they bears or girls—is a ritual that bands them together and gives them a sense of connection. Desire is not merely an individual vice, nor a collective vice; but also a potentially destructive yet effective means of forming communities and societies.

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Recognized as a victim of the bears they believe she’s already been too friendly with, Kureha’s peers offer Kureha a chance to re-enter the fold, by voting Ginko the bear among them, which will undoubtedly lead to a concerted hunt. But now that she’s had time to cool off, Kureha isn’t so sure Ginko deserves to be “ruined.”

Despite Yuriika’s warning about the wearer of the pendant and Lulu’s snitching, Kureha knows it was Yurizono, not Ginko, who killed Sumika. Far from being ready to deliver a guilty verdict, she’s desperate to learn the whole truth. Up on that roof, flanked by Yuriika and Lulu, there was neither physical nor emotional room for elucidation. Heck, even Ginko didn’t give Kureha the chance to forgive her, preferring to take the bullet as punishment for her sins.

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But Desire isn’t wrong when she says everyone in the world sins at some point in their life to achieve or gain something they desire. Everything is up for grabs; it takes desire to identify what you want and take it, which means others will go without. It’s what Reia did when she gave her love to Kureha instead of Yuriika. It’s what Kureha did when she gave her love to Sumika instead of Ginko. And it’s what Ginko did when she gave her love to Kureha instead of Lulu, and let Yurizono eat Sumika. (Whew…Still with us?)

Interestingly, the Judgemens, perched dramatically upon girders overlooking the city, observe everyone below them with a distinct neutrality and their own desire to see how things shake out. They approved Ginko and Lulu’s plans of action, but before them they also approved Yuriika’s. All, as they say, shall be as Kumaria wills it.

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When Kureha rushes to the lily bed, lured by a call from Yuriika posing as Life Sexy (a nice inclusion of specific modern technology in an otherwise very elemental story), she can’t find Ginko, I got the distinct feeling that anything could happen, not knowing Kumaria’s particular will any more than the Judgemens.

Yuriika comes so very close to putting Kureha “in the box that is her,” but it would seem her own Desire betrayed her. Eating Reia didn’t fill the emptiness inside her, because at that point Reia had already given her love to Kureha.

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So for years, Yuriika kept her true nature secret from everyone and waited as Kureha, the box that contained Reia’s love grew up. But in her hour of victory, Yuriika suddenly becomes incredibly reckess, and falls victim to her own food source: Kureha’s classmates, on Full Bear Alert ever since Kureha shot Ginko.

I have to say, to have so much go right for Yuriika by the end of previous episode, only to snatch it all away due to what amounts to overzealousness, actually ends up making Yuriika a tragic figure; as much an unfortunate victim of Desire as Ginko risks becoming.

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That tragedy is driven home in Yuriika’s final moments, as she apologizes to her beloved Reia, and confesses that she stole and locked away the ending to her book, which contains the rightful future for Kureha and Ginko. As Yuriika passes away, Reia assures her they’ll be friends forever…even if that friendship only goes so far.

Interestingly, while Reia is portrayed as an almost angelic if not Virgin Mary-esque figure throughout Yuriika’s end; the very Kumaria who determines the future of others, one could also interpret Reia as a mere hallucination, as it’s actually Kureha she’s talking to. Thus, Kureha is able to find the rest of her mother’s story, but like last week, Yurikuma only reveals so much in one episode.

The “impossible future” Kureha has uncovered, and the consequences of Ginko absorbing Desire, will have to wait until at least next week.

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Death Parade – 09

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Verdict: despite Death Parade’s pretty looks, this week’s conclusion to the “Killers” two-parter was so melodramatically over the top that it lost all emotional resonance. What’s more, the binary nature of judgement continues to make the show feel predictable, even when it legitimately throws in a surprise.

To summarize: Shimada and Detective Tatsumi are both wrathful people and both successfully avenge their loved ones — through murder — before dying and they remain twisted after the fact. Shimada maybe less so but they are both doomed to the void.

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Because it’s presented slightly out of chronological order, their sequence of events are actually somewhat complicated to follow. Tatsumi kills his target first and becomes a vigilante killer for some period of time before Shimada hunts down and kill’s his sisters attacker. As I suspected last week, Shimada then kills Tatsumi, who he believes to be working with the original victim.

The twist is, Tatsumi is somewhat responsible for Shimada’s sister’s attack. Rather, he witnessed it and did nothing to help her because a vigilante can’t kill if there are no victims. So, in a way, Shimada gets the true karmic revenge, even though he doesn’t realize it while he’s living.

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Speaking of Shimada, his death completely missed me on my first viewing. I do bare some blame for this, but it isn’t very clear that his victim has landed a mortal wound. Shimada does go to the bathroom and cry/choke a bit that just read as emotional murder-guilt to me and, unlike Tatsumi, he doesn’t get a twitch-twtich moment of framing.

Combined with the knife in his duffle bag, which remains unexplained and unique to this episode (no other guest has brought a possession with them and we know guests aren’t even in their physical bodies) I was initially very irritated with the show for breaking its world rules. I’m still irritated but, to be fair, I can live with the unexplained knife more than I could with Shimada’s unexplained death.

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Air Hockey aside, there was a lot of emotional yelling, cool dude turing his back on a weak bro, and the dread ‘I’m emotionally unstable smile face.’ Throw in Shadow’s emotional freak-out over Shimada probably cursing himself to the void and it all felt too over the top.

What’s my criticism exactly? Death Parade is a gothy show but, when it works well, it goes beyond that particular cliche to bring us real people with real, nuanced emotions who just happen to be in a gothy setting. This week was just gothy characters in a gothy setting. No juxtaposition and maximum adolescent melodrama.

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If I had to speculate on the episode’s true intent, I would assume that it sets Shadow up for judgement next week. It’s obvious that Decim can’t keep her around (not if she’s going to get physically entangled over his methods) and it’s obvious that her rant about humans being simpler than he thinks connected to him.

His eyelid crinkled at least.

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The trouble is, I’m not sure I care? Shadow is equal parts mystery and bland ‘nice girl.’ When you strip away her hot-gothy-looks, and the mood of the show, she isn’t anything more than that.

Maybe, as a 34 year old who was a goth 16 years ago, I look back at this genre as silly and juvenile? Maybe I want this episode to be more than it is, more like the last 5 episodes that I thought were quality story telling regardless of mood or genre?

Death Parade – 08

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After 3 weeks, Death Parade finally returns to its “Decim & Shadow judge people via death game mini-mystery” formula. This week’s twist is that ‘someone’ is a killer, and that Shadow is also allowed to see the memory-stream that helps Arbiters make a judgement.

It was also a two parter… (warning: Spoilers ahead)

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This week’s judgement duo are: Detective Tatsumi and Shimada. Tatsumi is the obvious killer red herring, as he’s a grizzled cop and poor Shimada is such an empathetic looking guy.

And Death Parade honestly scores points by playing off our expectations of a red herring, because Shimada immediately shows us that he has a bloody knife in his duffle bag but it turns out they are both killers. It doesn’t score many points because we learn this via shadow seeing them as killers in the memory stream at the cliff hanger point, but it scores points all the same.

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So they play air hockey and it is very good looking setting, as usual. However, despite having organs drawn on each puck, Decim doesn’t force them to feel pain and anguish until late in the episode. Actually, despite the speed of air hocky, it’s a very slow episode in general.

Torture aside, we learn that Tatsumi’s wife was murdered, possibly by a con he put away, and that he dedicated the rest of his sad life to revenge. Similarly, Shimada, an orphan and hard working brother, has a sister who was brutalized by a stalker that the police didn’t stop and swore revenge against who ever that was.

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So, if I had to guess, they actually killed each other but that may not be the case. At least, it doesn’t entirely look that way in Shadow’s flash of the memory feed. I kinda don’t care though, since I know they are both dead and the only consequence is void or reincarnation, which has never really mattered much to me.

Which leaves Shadow’s growth from the experience, and the continued unraveling of her personal mystery.

dp806Now… why and how does Shimada have a knife in a bag if he isn’t even physically real? We know the souls are injected into dummies and dressed in the elevator…

Verdict: if not for it’s looks, I would probably give this episode a 7. The slow pace, intentional or not, didn’t feel earned by the late-episode reveals and is straight up eye rolling as a two parter. Yes, I get it. Shimada v Tatsms judgement isn’t really the story here. But if Shadow’s response to killers, and her first dive into death memory exposure, is the point, there were better, more active ways to go about it.

Death Parade, you are damn lucky you were born pretty!

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