Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 05

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I had my doubts about what would happen to my lovely body-swapping comedy when more of the titular seven witches entered the fray: would the balance be upset? Would the extra characters just make things more muddled and unfocused, killing the crispness I’ve enjoyed so much? Well, if Odagiri Nene is any indicator, my reservations were unnecessary. Nene is far more than a school villain, Y7 is about far more than body-swapping, and it knows exactly what it’s doing.

It’s just Ryuu’s luck that Urara wants to kiss him just when he’s off to go see Nene to resolve his current “charming” problem. Urara is the last person he wants to fall in love with him through some kind of kissing spell because, well, he’s falling in love with her for real, and wants the real thing in return. So he tries to keep his problem a secret from Urara.

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That doesn’t last long, however, as he’s unable to find Nene and the time he agreed to kiss Yamada comes and goes. Where a lesser show wouldn’t have him telling Urara the truth until the very end of the episode, Y7 has a lot more ground to cover, and covers it deftly and efficiently.

And it’s actually good for Yamada to tell Urara wha’ts happened, because now they’ve determined that body-swapping isn’t Yamada’s power, but Urara’s; Yamada’s power is copying others’ powers, while making his host susceptible to their own. The body-swapping Urara swaps bodies…and Nene has fallen in love with Yamada.

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As it happens, as Yamada and Urara kiss and figure this out, Nene is watching from the bushes with her lieutenant, Igarashi Ushio (Ono Daisuke), who is upset that Nene has been overcome by unrequited love for Yamada, because, well, it’s pretty obvious that he likes Nene.

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At first, Ushio lashes out at Yamada with a vicious kick. We learn that the two were old friends and fellow n’er-do-wells who sought the same thing by transferring to Suzaku High: fresh starts. But neither of them were able to find any guys they could tolerate, let alone befriend. But an incident caused them to drift apart, leaving Yamada essentially alone until he met (or rather fell on) Urara.

Ushio calms himself and takes a more contrite attitude, getting on his knees, promising he’ll destroy the incriminating photos of Yamada and even make Nene drop out of the election, if only he’ll change Nene, the person most important to him, back to normal.

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Yamada refuses, but Urara agrees on his behalf. This angers him, but in a moment of emphatic (and admirable) assertiveness, Urara gives him a sharp, brutal SLAP and orders him to knock it off. Just as he did with his predicament and the start of this episode, he’s being stubborn and holding back information form her that could help her understand his situation better. They’ve switched bodies numerous times; this is not the time to be tight-lipped, especially when Urara assumed from his standoffishness that he’d gotten sick of her, which is so not the case.

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Grudgingly, Yamada agrees to kiss Nene, satisfying Ushio. When Yamada asks him if he kissed Nene, he says he did, but he likes the person he became because of it. We learn why when Yamada gives Urara the rest of their story. While in an alley they came upon some roughs picking on a girl from their school. Ushio instigates a brawl and the girl is able to run off, and Yamada backs him up, because he’s not about to watch his friend take on four guys by himself. It’s good to see Yamada in Full Delinquent Mode, even if it’s a flashback.

Back at school though, Ushio throws Yamada under the bus. Not only does he get suspended for a week, but the entire school becomes afraid of him, the very thing he hoped to avoid by transferring there in the first place. Ushio, meanwhile, washes his hands of Yamada and takes his place beside the classmate they rescued from the roughs: Nene.

Had Ushio met Nene before, kissed her, and become infatuated to the point of not only starting a fight for her, but framing Yamada so he took the heat? Or had Ushio and Nene never met, and it was Nene who kissed Ushio out of appreciation for saving her? The possibilities are intriguing.

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In any case, Ushio’s betrayal was the reason Yamada hesitated in turning Nene back to normal. But when he meets Nene in private at her hideout in the old school building, he gets fresh insight into her power, and why he can’t possibly allow Nene to stay in a state of unrequited love forever.

Nene seems eager to get this whole thing over with when everyone else is around, but when they leave the two alone, she asks him not to kiss her. You see, she never knew how happy her power could make people until she herself experienced it, something Yamada made possible. And whatever else being in love with Yamada is—unintended, artificial, futile—it isn’t BORING. As we saw with Ito and Miyamura last week after Yamada kissed them, being in love is awesome.

Yamada now understands why Ushio doesn’t mind being under Nene’s spell. But Ushio has a shot at Nene; Yamada makes it clear he’d never fall for Nene, either naturally (as Ushio might have with her) or due to her power (which is reflected by his copying power). Urara is right; Yamada can’t let Nene pine for him forever, and at the end of the day Nene isn’t of sound mind. So he kisses her.

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As if the resolution of this situation wasn’t enough, Ushio produces an incomplete journal from a past Supernatural Studies Club, documenting the Seven “Witches”, or girls with supernatural powers, who attend Sazaku High. Two have now been identified by the club: Urara and Nene, but the other five are a mystery, and the new club is going to find them, because Urara, being one herself, is confident that they want to be found.

Yamada is their Witch Detector, and so grudgingly goes along with this plan. And he can’t really complain, as both he and Ushio got what they wanted: new and exciting school lives that aren’t defined by their violent pasts, and interesting friends. I look forward to new witches being discovered and even more tantalizingly complex character dynamics to sprout up.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 05

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Last week’s violent, harrowing battle took place just a third of the way in the season, so a cooling-off episode was expected and not entirely unwelcome. Now that we know the lengths Tsumugi will go to protect her friends, it’s nice to spend time with them as the recover from their wounds and try to make it up to her.

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Since Izana was alive and in contact with Sidonia at the end of last week, I knew Nagate was alive, I just didn’t know how bad her injuries would be. So it’s with great joy and relief to see her recover from those injuries. She lost an arm and a leg, but in this sci-fi world limbs can grow back, she chose mechanical prostheses so she could recover faster and get back on the line.

While part of this choice is her not wanting to be left behind or to be useless for too long, I still respect her going with her non-mad scientist grandma’s suggestion, and I liked her positive attitude about the whole thing. Nagate and Yuhata’s reaction to her suddenly splitting the fingers on her new hand from five to ten is pretty priceless: by turns surprised, fearful, and impressed.

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Tsumugi was the big question mark last week. We learn after the battle she’s lost 90% of her body mass, and as we know, that kind of diet can kill a human. But she’s super tough, and all she needs is time and patience to grow her placenta back. Nagate, extremely concerned for her well-being, sits at her proverbial hospital bedside.

In what turns out to be a tease from last week’s preview for this episode, the nude Shizuka Nagate encounters is merely in his dream, albeit a dream he’s having while a recovering Tsugumi has her “arms” on his head.

Nagate calls the girl in his dream “Shizuka”, the name he first assigned to her face, but it might’ve been more accurate to address her as Tsumugi, as this could be her unconscious avatar, hinting that she can communicate this way, in addition to her half-cute, half-unsettling dolphin balloon puppet.

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When Nagate wakes up, he’s so elated Tsumugi is okay, he hugs that puppet, whose reaction to the sudden intimacy rivals Asahina Mikuru for pure adorableness. She moves to beautiful new digs with a view of the stars and a bookshelf to read from (her studious bookworm persona is super-endearing, BTW), but Nagate is troubled with how isolated she is, which is confirmed when Tsugumi, all alone in her tower of solitude, lets off a sigh.

Nagate and Izana ask Yuhata if she’ll let Tsumugi move to the residential area where she can be closer to everyone else, but she refuses them flatly. As much as I love Tsumugi, I knew their request would be a long shot, practically speaking. Tsumugi could cause a lot of damage in there if the ride gets bumpy.

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And it does get bumpy, as Sidonia is closing on the Lem solar system and must initiate another harrowing deceleration maneuvers. This is where Sidonia the character comes into play in the episode; simply slowing down in space is a momentous event fraught with peril. An air raid siren pierces the tranquil residential block, warning everyone to lock their harness into something sturdy.

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Unfortunately, Nagate and Izana don’t hear the sirens or the warnings, because they’re spending their downtime deep in the guts of the ship, finding themselves in a ladder shaft when the bumpy ride begins. Thankfully, due to Nagate’s incredible luck and physical toughness with an assist from Izana’s bionic limbs, they survive the maneuver with bumps and bruises.

Those are a small price to pay for achieving their goal: locating a hatch in a pipe that leads to Tsumugi’s room. She can now stick her balloon avatar out and gaze upon the gorgeous residential block.

Giving her her first look at the civilization she’s protecting, and feeling the community of the res area, is Nagate and Izana’s way of thanking her for saving them, and doing their best to quell her loneliness. It’s a great feel-good, non-battle victory.

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The feel-goodness continues when Nagate heads home to find he’s been evicted an his dorm is now the home of a new recruit. But that’s okay, because all he has to do is call a friend and crash with them until he can find a place of his own! Who does he call: Kunato? He probably labels his food. The Honoka sisters? He’ll walk in on them naked and get thrashed again. Yuhata? “Fraternizing with a superior officer” issues.

No, he calls Izana, who is relaxing and soaking in her very cozy-looking bath, talking with her grandma on the videophone. Izana has been trying to get closer to Nagate since before Shizuka died. Now, thanks to fate, Nagate has come to her. Will she capitalize on this latest chance? Her initial reaction suggests she’ll have to overcome some nervousness.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 06

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This week’s Yuki-chan was a bit of a “sampler” with a lot of different loosely-connected stories taking place within the episode. Because Yuki is trying to be bolder, so she speaks up when the opportunity arises to hear the story of Kyon and Mikuru’s “horrendous encounter” from Tsuruya—after Tsuruya launches Mikuru at Kyon, causing a boob-face collision.

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In a classic example of the listener being at the mercy of the narrator’s own biases and motives, Tsuruya recounts a story of Kyon shamelessly setting up a situation in which he bumps into Mikuru and takes her by the hand. In reality, both events were pure accidents, which, is actually why Kyon and Mikuru are able to converse normally: what happened wasn’t that horrendous to them at all.

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The theme of misunderstanding and withheld facts continues in the second segment, in which Kyon, who won’t admit he’s not doing so great with his studies, asks Asakura if she’ll help tutor him. She gives him a high-and-mighty lecture, whereupon he decides to ask someone else, like Nagato.

At the mention of Yuki, Asakura grabs his hand and the two exchange what I’ll call “smiles of understanding.” But because of those smiles and the fact they’re holding hands, Yuki’s skewed, hyperrealistic manga/video game vision presents a much more intimate scene unfolding before her.

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This misunderstanding is cleared up, but when Asakura and Kyon hit the books, Haruhi and Koizumi burst in, with their prep school education that’s a full year ahead of the two. I love the shot of Kyon’s POV when Haruhi sticks her head into the frame. Kyon and Asakura mistake Haruhi’s factual statements as an attempt to mock their “lesser” school and by extension themselves, so Asakura challenges a “math-off”, only to get in over her head and start crying.

Asakura had warned Kyon not to involve Yuki in anything related to schoolwork, but has little choice, and wins the challenge with Yuki’s superior academic prowess. Hey, she lacks confidence…no one said she was a dummy! In another nice nod to the show in which she’s an alien, Yuki is so bad at explaining how she arrives at answers so quickly it sounds like she’s speaking an indecipherable alien language at seemingly superhuman speed.

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The last segment involves both misunderstandings and Yuki being bold. Kyon decides to eat lunch in the clubroom and finds Yuki there tapping away at her video game (which looks like a dating sim). He decides to tease her by snatching the game and making her jump up high to grab it, resulting in the two accidentally embracing. Asakura enters just in time to witness this embrace, and quickly withdraws with her apologies.

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She bursts in again to find Kyon feeding Yuki, and again apologizes and withdraws. Kyon worries she misunderstood everything…but did she? The hug may have been accidental, but both of them held that hug an awful long time…almost as if they enjoyed it. Also, it makes no sense why splitting Kyon’s lunch would be easier if he fed her. That’s just Yuki seeing if Kyon would actually feed her…and he does! Nice moments for this couple; I just wish they wouldn’t always dismiss them as misunderstandings.

The final scene has Haruhi, Koizumi, Tsuruya and Mikuru at the club’s door in preparation for Haruhi’s “Training Camp”, which she’s sure she told Yuki about, just as she told Yuki she got a faculty pass to come to their school for club. In both cases, Yuki forgot being told these things because she was so engrossed in her video games. But approving Haruhi’s requests has increased Kyon’s exposure to Haruhi, making Yuki’s job to woo him that much harder. So Yuki: When Haruhi’s around, put the game down and concentrate!

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Kekkai Sensen – 06

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Hellsalem’s Lot (or HLC) seemed like a topsy-turvy melting pot up until this week, when we learn there is a fully-enclosed “Humans Only” district along 42nd Street called “Ghetto Heights.” I guess it’s to be expected; after all, most humans wouldn’t venture to deep into the Alterworld.

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Still, the fact there’s a pocket of segregation where ignorance of and prejudice towards the alterworld “monsters” who inhabit the rest of the city can take root and fester gives this episode a distinct political bent, and paints Leonardo Watch as someone who’s not 100% okay with the idea of such a district…even if its where you can get the best burgers in the city.

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When stripped of its Blood Blockade Battlefront trappings, this week’s story is simplicity itself: Leo comes across a mushroom-type Alterworldian named Nej who also loves those famous burgers; so much so that it’s the first thing he asks for when hit by a tanker truck. But because he isn’t allowed in Ghetto Heights, it isn’t easy to acquire them.

When the truckers start screwing Nej on the price of the burgers, Leo decides to buy them for him without any upcharge, and they become fast friends, sharing the food that united them all over the city.

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One night, those same two up-to-no-good truckers hit Nej again, and one of them starts to beat him with a bat in the street; about as awful and dark moment in race relations as we’ve seen in Kekkai, which is saying something in a show with vampires!

Beating Nej turns him red, until he finally releases a cloud of spores that knock everyone out and wipe their memories of the past 13 hours, including his own. Everyone, except the one trucker who was wearing a gas mask because his partner peed his pants in the truck. I’m not going to asks who these guys owe money, but they’re certainly not the sharpest tacks.

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When Libra gets word of the amnesia cloud, Leo gets it in his head Nej may have had darker motives, but we know, of course, it was all a misunderstanding; the cloud his body simply reacted naturally to stress. In any case, Nej doesn’t remember anything.

The truckers then kidnap Leo and Nej, hoping to use the latter to help them commit crimes and amnesize their victims. Except that they underestimate the depth of Leo and Nej’s friendship. Leo hits the truckers with his trippy nausea-vision, and gets slugged in the head for his trouble, causing Nej to get so angry he blows his top again.

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Leo wakes up in a familiar place—the hospital—with White by his bedside. He goes out for another burger from 42nd Street, and scenes of all the places where he had burgers with Nej flash through his mind’s eye, only with no one in them. He tears up, but knows not why, until Nej is once again hit by a vehicle in the street and asks Leo for a burger.

Whether because the friendship he forged or his eyes transcended the effect of the spores, Leo kinda sorta remembers the affable mushroom man, and gladly hands a burger over. He unwittingly ordered enough for two, after all.

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I like how the Leo & Nej story comes full circle like this, and that even people who supposedly “never met” (but really did) still find each other in HLC and still manage to hit it off, despite their profound biological differences.

The episode closes on a not-so-related but still interesting note, with Leo entering the hospital ward to find White sitting on a bed smiling and laughing with another guy. Leo switches from panic to nervous relief when he learns the guy is White’s big bro, Black.

But to both Leo and us, it’s the kid on the subway, whom we’ve also seen with Femt, opening a whole can of worms about whether Black always intended for Leo to get close to White so he could meet him this night. He’s got the All-Seeing Eyes, after all.

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