Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 04

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What keeps every minute of Yamada 7 compelling is the cast’s ability to not simply explore and investigate Yamada’s strange power, but also use it to their advantage. Urara has been the most stealthy yet most prolific in that regard, especially this week, when she swaps bodies with Yamada just before going on a school onsen trip.

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In this case, swapping bodies isn’t about experimenting on the nature of the power. Urara is ostensibly using it so she can study as Yamada while Yamada mingles with the other girls. But because he’s doing it in Urara’s body, he’s able to effect a change in how they regard her; that is, as one of their own rather than an outsider.

Yamada storms into Urara’s room demanding his body back out of exhaustion from spending all day and potentially all night with the super-hyper girls, but it’s also an opportunity for Urara to admit she’s left too much to him, so it’s her turn to take over in her own body. Their perpendicular kiss, followed by a shot of Urara from Yamada’s POV, is pretty darned sexy, to boot.

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But Urara was reckless, and went through her own belongings—including admiring her own panties—while in Yamada’s body, and Vice President Odagiri Nene snaps incriminating pictures. Now, we know from the OP that Nene is most likely one of the seven witches (along with Urara herself), so we know she’s aware of what really happened in those photos. But she wants the presidency, and if Urara skips out on a mock exam, it will hurt Miyamura’s chances and help her own.

A flustered Yamada seeks counsel from Itou and Miyamura, who are more interested in playing cards; this is their first of several great exchanges for what’s turning out to be an awesome supporting duo. They’re not cool with him using Urara to explain away the photos, as it would hurt her reputation. As for switching bodies with Nene, they’re not sure he’s thought it all through.

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Still, he has little other options, so he calls Salia Nene out later that night in her jammies and kisses her—or rather, she kisses him…which is an important distinction, because not only do they fail to switch bodies, but when Miyamura and Itou kiss him, he fails to switch bodies with them as well, meaning his ability is gone.

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Everyone agrees the best thing to do is sleep on it—Yamada’s had a long, exhausting day—but the next day at the barbecue Urara makes him yakisoba in gratitude for helping her get along with the other girls, who all love her. She also wants to go on a trip over Summer break with the Supernatural Club. As Yamada is a member of said club, and he likes Urara, this is an enticing prospect.

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Which gives him a quandary: Urara joined the club so she could switch bodies with Yamada in a safe, private place. If he doesn’t have that ability anymore, will she leave the club, and abandon him? I doubt it, but Yamada has bigger problems upon returning to school: Itou and Miyamura are infatuated with him.

This is a bold move for Y7, having not even fully explored all the possibilities of his body-swapping abilities, to give him the power to make whoever he kisses fall in love with him. Not only that, when he kisses them again to take away the love, they still feel a sense of loss, and only want to get that feeling back.

Masuda Toshiki and Uchida Maaya put on a comic clinic portraying Miyamura and Itou as not only all hot and bothered and competitive with each other while under the spell, to their excitement and desire about being put back under the spell when they’re not on it.

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My theory for what’s going on? Urara and Nene are two of the Seven Witches. When Yamada kisses Urara, he gains the power to swap bodies. When he kisses Nene, he gains the power to charm others. Worried about what Urara would do if she found out he lost the former power, he tries to keep it a secret from her as he heads to Nenes’ to “resolve everything”…but Urara’s right outside the door.

Would kissing Nene or Urara get him his body-swapping power back? What powers do the other five witches have in store? And who’s aware that they’re a witch and who isn’t—I’d guess Urara’s the former and Nene’s the latter, but who knows? All I know is, this is some entertaining supernatural romantic comedy right here.

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Kekkai Sensen – 05

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Sometimes, when there’s a girl you like, you just need a kick in the pants to ask her out, or in Leo’s case, a gargantuan monster truck-slash-fortress operated by Aligura, the Queen of Monomania.

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Leo is out with Zapp, lamenting the fact he can’t tell what White is thinking, when that truck suddenly bears down on them, and Aligura snatches up Leo. Once aboard Aligura’s awesome, sumptuously-appointed vehicle-base, Leo gets a little crash course in the monomania Aligura is infamous for.

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Love could be described as a kind of monomania, and when Aligura loved two men: Dendro Brody for his personality and Dog Hummer for his looks, she combined them into one, similar to the way someone takes separate ingredients to make their ideal dish.  Throughout his ordeal with the highly unstable Aligura, who tries to press him for details about his own love life, Leo is mostly terrified and begging Klaus to save him.

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Turns out this is more than just a job for Klaus, or KK, Chain, Lucky, or Zapp; it’s also a job for the object of Aligura’s affection, as well as her creation: Hummer-Brody, who in his combined form is a massive red demon-like monster with incredible brute strength who is also intensely upbeat, friendly and personable.

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Aligura wants her man/men back, but as she herself says about love, you push and push and the one who pushes hardest wins, and that’s Hummer-Brody, fusing all of Dendro’s blood into a giant fist with which he launches Aligura’s truck into the sky, where it breaks up and spreads debris all over the city, injuring “hundreds if not thousands.” Chain plucks Leo out of the sky, and all he needs are five stitches. Just another day!

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Only it isn’t just another day, because even before Aligura kidnaps him, White is on Leo’s mind. When he mentions her, she sneezes where she is, and when she sees him at the hospital smiling and laughing with another guy, he’s jealous. So just when he’s about to drive off home after a long, tiring day, he marches into White’s room and asks her out to a movie.

After the giddy thrills of aiding her escape from the hospital and motorcycle ride, the comedy movie surprisingly makes her cry, but cheers her up with some good-old self-deprecation, calling himself “pathetic” compared to his more capable sister Michella, something White refutes by calling saying he’s a good guy before cuddling up to him.

Thanks in part to Aligura’s unique perspective on the matter, Leo was able to push himself a little closer to the girl he likes.

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Owari no Seraph – 05

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This week, on Owari no Seraph:

  • We get a verbatim repeat of the vampire war speech for some reason;
  • Mika wanders around and scares some children;
  • Guren clashes with the higher-ranked Hiiragi family members in an army;
  • Yuu, Shinoa, and Shihou are allowed to interrupt class with their endless bickering;
  • Guren nearly kills said class with his cursed gear, and lets everyone left standing join him in the weapons repository to choose their own gear.

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In other words, not a lot happens. I understand the desire to keep the mood light while at school, but Guren’s childish behavior at the army meeting, and the extended antics in the classroom this week, were both a bridge too far. I get it: Guren’s a “bad boy” like Yuu with a chip on his shoulder, and the bureaucracy is a super hassle and all, but what does acting like a petulant punk get you?

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This episode also underlines Yuu’s refusal to grow the hell up. Even after coming to a kind of understanding, if not forming an official friendship, with Kimizuki, and yet here they are, still resenting one anothers’ existance so much they feel the need to disrupt whatever is going on to engage in name-calling and brawling. It’s wearing thin, as is Shinoa’s constant high-and-mighty attitude and mocking/teasing of Yuu (even though he deserves it).

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Even if you forgive all this immaturity, bickering, and horseplay, all of which takes up much of the episode, it’s still retreading things I already thought were established, such as the fact Yuu, Kimizuki and Yoichi were all valid candidates for cursed gear.

Yuu’s “0” in Japanese spellcraft because he can barely read or write Japanese because he spend his childhood as livestock hardly seems fair, but then the test results end up completely meaningless when Guren busts in and simply unleashes the demon power on everyone.

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Not one other student in the class, besides the main characters we knew would move on, pass the test, rendering them just as pointless as the class itself. It would be nice if one or two new characters we hadn’t met yet would have passed; at least there would have been a reason for the test then.

Everyone also singles out Yoichi, whom they think is too soft to accept a demon. After Yoichi saved his life two episodes ago, Yuu tries to throw him under the bus. Dude, he already decided to come along, and it’s clear he’s tougher than he looks. Why all the discouragement?

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And just when something interesting is about to happen—Yuu draws a cursed blade and prepares to face the demon—the episode ends. Much of this episode felt like half-hearted filler, which aimed to add texture to relationships and politics, but piling on all this over-the-top dysfunction with no real meat only served to make everyone more irritating, not endearing. War is coming, and selfish personal quests for vengeance aren’t going to help humanity.

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Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 17

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The charming romantic comedy is wisely tabled this week as Rin, Shirou, and Lancer get right down to business facing off against Caster, Kuzuki, and Archer, respectively. And like the Clippers-Spurs first round finale, despite one side’s shortcomings it looks like anyone’s game.

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Of course, before the battle begins, Caster makes sure to get in plenty of trash talk directed at the “little girl” AKA Rin, while Archer makes a point to try to anger Lancer into slipping up by insulting his temporary ally.

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Lancer is pissed off enough to launch his special attack, Gae Bolg, straight at Archer, who tries and fails to block it with the multilayer Rho Aias. The resulting explosion seems to do Archer in, though he actually survives, he mentions the ever-watching eye of Caster is no longer upon them. Lancer withdraws, leaving Archer alone do do what he will.

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Caster is busy with Rin, who puts up a surprisingly good fight with magic before having to pull out her trump card – hand-to-hand combat using her magically-fortified arms and legs. Along with Shirou getting tossed back again and again by Kuzuki, and Kuzuki quickly intervening when Rin starts beating the crap out of Caster, our lovebirds definitely seem to be in over their heads, especially when Caster still has Saber in the chamber.

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Then we hear “Trace on,” not from Shirou. but from Archer, and numerous summoned swords are driven into Caster’s chest, defeating her once and for all. Kuzuki embraces her at the end, whereupon she tells him her wish was being fulfilled all along, likely by having such a great and loyal Master. True to his word, he keeps fighting Archer even after his Servant has gone, but doesn’t last long.

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So yeah, Go Archer, saving the day at the last minute with his “Trojan Horse” act. But hold on; Archer still hates Shirou and wants to kill him, and Rin no longer has any control over him. No one has any control over him, making him essentially the New Caster. One wonders how he can operate this way without any Master, but the fact he said “trace on” is certainly a hint.

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Unlike Ilya and Berserker’s epic struggle and defeat, Caster and Kuzuki fall with comparatively little fuss, and their roles as impediments to Shirou and Rin are over, giving way to Rouge Archer. This was one of those two-part eps where I enjoyed the quieter “rest” episode more than the action-packed “release.”

Of course, Saber is now free of Caster, and from all appearances seems as devoted to Shirou’s protection as ever, so unless she has a debilitating weakness of some kind, Archer should have his work cut out for him.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 04

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Sidonia sticks to its strengths—intricate space battles, mayhem, and impending doom, not comedy and romance—with an episode-long epic battle of adernaline-pumping perfection. G550 is gunnin’ for Sidonia, literally. Its kill or be killed, and the episode never lets you forget how thin the line is between life and death.

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Tsumugi uses her man-made kabi claws to bust out of the trap the first wave of Gauna built around her, and in the process she seems to glean the Gauna’s intent for the humans, including her friends. Whether it was just another Gauna biological reflex in response to external stimuli, or a conscious, sentient effort to provoke Tsumugi, she reacts badly,  disobeying everyone’s orders and going on a destructive rampage of every Gauna in sight, despite being heavily damaged herself.

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The deus ex machina has a screw loose, and it informs the overarching peril of the situation rather nicely. What ultimately finally stops her attacks is when Izana tries to go after her and calm her down, and gets heavily damaged in the process. It’s been a little while since pilots I actually knew and cared about turned red on the CIC board, so when it’s Izana’s turn my heart sank into my stomach. Thankfully, Tsumugi gets to Izana and agrees to retreat for now, for her sake.

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The Guardes manage to take out the second wave of Gauna without Tsumugi’s help thanks to a shift to long-range tactics, and then enter ring formation to destroy G550’s core. But even this tactic backfires, as the equatorial trench they create is the perfect aperture for a massive Hyggs cannon the surviving Gauna fuse into.

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Sidonia is huge and slow, so I knew any beam launched at her would have to be somehow prevented outright, blocked, shifted, or absorbed by someone. In another case of the computer displays creating visceral reactions, the amount of red the damage analysis predicts makes it clear if none of those above things happen, it’s Game Over.

Tsumugi manages to deflect the beam enough so it misses Sidonia, but only by a few hundred meters to starboard. At this distance, the mere force emanating from the beam is enough to nearly shake Sidonia to pieces, and alarmingly, all the CIC displays go to static as the shock hits, and it was all I could do to pray those displays wouldn’t go dark, and that breaches wouldn’t occur.

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With G550 charging for another salvo, and both Tsumugi and Izana unaccounted for, Nagate decides to rush in headlong and uses his engine pack as a precision projectile, causing a Death Star-style chain reaction that brings that sweet, sweet sound of Bubble Desintegration. Once again, Nagate one-ups Kunato and emerges the hero.

It’s a costly victory: Nagate and Izana are both found, but Tsumugi is in tatters, and Izana fears she’s dead. They didn’t lose a lot of Guardes, and Sidonia wasn’t seriously damaged and didn’t need to carry out emergency maneuvers, but with Tsumugi’s fate unclear and the Gauna stronger than ever, it’s no longer simply “nice” to have Chimera on their side; it now appears absolutely essential for the battles to come.

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Oregairu 2 – 05

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This week, Hikky has a lot of work to do, much of it damage control he knows he’s been holding off too long. Last week’s bleak scene of two siblings in the dark turned out to be the perfect opportunity for Hikky to get the easy stuff out of the way: reconnecting with his little sister.

Komachi forgives him far more readily than anyone else will, because of her fifteen years of living with him, she’s learned, unlike Yukino, that there are things about people you can’t change, and in time they grow endearing. Love is acceptance of those things. Far more than wanting him to change his ways, Komachi just wants Hikky to talk to her about what’s troubling him.

The cold open thaws the atmosphere, and the scene with the siblings that follows is a masterclass in familial dialogue. It also serves to throw us, the audience yearning for something positive, a much appreciated bone.

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Hikky may not be able to put into words why he wants the Service Club preserved, but he doesn’t need to: Komachi wants it preserved too, which means he has a new mission, one that’s more important than Iroha’s, because it’s from his sister. Fulfilling it means preventing Yukino or Yui from winning.

His need for counsel coincides with the alignment of all his allies not involved in the current unpleasantness, starting with Zaimozuka, whose even greater isolation from normal school society is expressed by the fact he spends his lunch breaks in the library.

Komachi, appreciative of Hikky working hard, ends up assembling Kawasaki and Saika, and when the former is asked to come up with a list of good candidates for president, she makes sure to include him seriously, even though he has zero chance.

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The counsel helps Hikky decide what to do, which is to double down on his interpretation of Iroha’s true desire: to preserve her “brand image” by avoiding a “high-risk, low-return” commitment like StuCo president, along with her desire to get closer to Hayato.

With some Facebook-hacking help from Zaimozuka, he’s able to assure her the backers she needs to win the election, while assuring her she’ll not only be protected from the sting of failure because she’s only a first-year, but will also be able to avoid failure altogether by reaching out to Hayato for support, giving her the in she needs.

I’ll note that he doesn’t include Hayato or Miura Yumiko in on his plan, but they’re not his clients on this: Komachi and Iroha are. And Iroha agrees with the plan, after all but proving Hikky right about her persona by delivering a super-quick boilerplate rejection the moment she suspects he’s flirting with her (which he isn’t trying to do).

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While Iroha is convinced of his plan, the truth is even with the extra backers he’s not sure she can win. Getting her to go along with it was only the first step in his primary mission given to him by Komachi; a mission that means more to him as well: keeping the club together. Hikky uses the satisfaction of Iroha’s contract as a bluff to get Yukino and Yui to drop out of the race, assuring Iroha’s victory and the preservation of the club.

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It’s a gamble, but it works. Yui is elated Hikky worked so hard for her sake to protect the place she treasures the most, and because he worked in silence and secrecy, without exposing himself, she has cover to forgive him for his methods.

It’s not so much “I don’t want to know” or “out of sight out of mind” (though it’s partly both); it’s more that like Komachi, Yui is accepting of the way Hikky is and always will be. Or as Hikky puts it: “So long as a problem doesn’t cause problems, it can’t be called a problem.”

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The fruits of his hard work are seen almost immediately once Yui expresses her approval and accepts his apology. She affectionately fixes his scruffy hair against his protests, and moves her chair right next to him. I don’t want to pick sides, and all three friends are partly to blame for their predicament, but I’d wager Yui was suffering the most with the prospect of losing the club, and even she admits it would indeed be lost even if she won.

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So Iroha wins, and is already using the very willing Tabe as her personal assistant in setting up the office when Hikky congratulates her and asks her to make it a good school, what with Komachi attending next year. Iroha takes this as another attempt at hitting on her, which creeps her out.

I must say Iroha wasn’t what I expected this season: she’s better. I thought she’d be a new love interest and wedge between Hikky and the other two, but thanks to her cooperation he was able to save the club and make up with Yui without the kind of undue damage to himself the girls hate.

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So what about Yukino, the hardest nut to crack? Well, that remains to be seen. This wasn’t a total victory (it couldn’t be one, not even halfway in): the club is saved for now, but the smell of tea no the room. What worked for Komachi and Yui doesn’t quite work for Yukino. Her line as she agrees to bow out of the race and then leaves the clubroom is “You thought you understood, didn’t you?” I take this to mean Hikky thought she was running to fulfill the client’s request.

Then I thought back to the beginning of this episode, with Hikky and Komachi making up so easily because of their unique status as siblings, and I thought of Haruna rattling Yukino’s cage. I wouldn’t be surprised if part of Yukino’s continued dissatisfaction is that even though Hikky got the job done without resorting tot he most distasteful tactics imaginable, he also kept her from meeting the challenge set by her big sister.

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That challenge was to leave the service club and take her rightful spot atop the school, where she can be of the most help to everyone in accordance with her noblesse oblige. A future with Yukino as president, Yui as Veep, and Hikky in some unspecified utility role without an official title, is also a possible future Hikky imagines while walking with the outgoing president, who would have liked to see such a future.

Rhetorically speaking, “strictly rhetorically,” Hikky wonders if life would have changed had he taken a different route with the election. Same people, same dynamics, only a different room, a different organization, and a Yukino who is more fulfilled as President, and who has answered Haruna’s challenge. But Hikky took a different route, which had its benefits and its consequences. We’ll see what the latter consist of.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 05

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Last week was a compelling turning point in the show, when the streak of everything going Nagato Yuki’s way ends with a bang, with that bang being her homemade chocolates hitting the ground. This week, Nagato Yuki disappears, and it’s up to Ryouko to pick up the pieces.

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To her surprise, Haruhi joins the search. Haruhi claims it was just a misunderstanding; that she was giving Kyon courtesy chocolate just like she gave to Koizumi. It isn’t her fault Yuki overreacted, or takes the ritual so seriously.

Ryouko is angry, first at Haruhi, then at herself for blaming others for what she deems her own failure. This is the angriest and most emotional we’ve seen Ryouko yet, and it’s the culmination of putting “Miss Nagato’s” hopes and dreams on her shoulders, while also possibly forcing ideals on the lilac-haired waif.

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When the two finally locate that waif, sulking on a stair, they learn they misunderstood her running away, as did we. Yuki wasn’t devastated by the sight of Haruhi and Kyon, nor is she giving up; she merely felt like she shouldn’t be there while someone else is giving chocolate to someone, because she wouldn’t want anyone watching while she was doing it. Yuki puts herself in the shoes of others, and treats them the way she’d want to be treated. She really is a good girl.

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But will she have the fortitude to hang in a fight with Haruhi for Kyon’s heart? Haruhi makes it clear she “doesn’t dislike” Kyon (i.e. she likes him) when Yuki asks her point blank (and good for her for doing so!) so it’s no longer a one-horse race. But Yuki is game for now, and Haruhi wishes her rival luck.

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Yuki finally, finally delivers the chocolates to Kyon, with trembling hands and a face so red he really should know how much this means to her. He opens them eats them, praises their taste and Yuki and thanks her. He does everything he should do considering what he was presented with, but it isn’t enough. Someone like Kyon needs a clear-as-crystal confession or it’s going to sail over him.

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With nothing else to do but watch from a secluded spot, Ryouko decries the fact it doesn’t seem to be going so smoothly, while Haruhi, nervously playing with her shoe thinks she understands at least part of how Yuki feels, and how giving something to someone, as a courtesy or not, is still an achievement to be proud of.

Haruhi looks particularly weary when Yuki seems to be going in for the confession, but a terribly-timed tackle by Tsuruya causes Yuki to fall to the ground and Kyon to land on her chest, ruining her chance once more. Haruhi seems more than a little relieved by the Tsuruya ex machina.

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While this week did resort to some standard rom-com stall tactics, I appreciated how it kept things tough for Yuki, and more importantly, brought Ryouko’s formerly flawless facilitating powers down to earth. In one of her better lines, told in her temporary rage, Ryouko tells Haruhi “you’re the kind of person who can act to make what you want happen”—referencing Haruhi’s supernatural powers in the original series—compared to Yuki, who has trouble making anything at all happen.

But after this week, Ryouko and Haruhi seem like something resembling friends, their bond forged in large part because of Yuki: Ryouko’s devotion to her, and Haruhi’s competition with her. And I think Haruhi understands Yuki all too well in one notable regard: for both of them, getting Kyon to properly notice their feelings looks to be a Herculean challenge.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 05

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Isshiki Satoshi is as mercurial and competitive as he is friendly and welcome, so even though it’s the middle of the night and the rest of Polar Star is out cold, he’s too restless to go to bed. He heard Souma at the opening ceremony go on about how he wants the top spot. Time to put up or shut up.

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Naturally, Souma’s just fine with that, and appreciates the chance to show off his mad cooking skillz to Satoshi and the others. His basted mackerel rice ball in kelp tea tears the proverbial clothes off everyone who tastes it.

Souma isn’t afraid to punctuate the deliciousness of its dishes with ample, unisex nudity. It’s also a surefire way of knowing when Souma’s hit the mark.

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Then you have Megumi, who totally missed the cook-off and wakes up to a baffling scene that freaks her out. The humor on this show isn’t subtle, but it is effective.

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The next morning (I also like how differently everyone wakes up), Souma is eager to hit Satoshi with a challenge of his own, gunning to take over Satoshi’s seventh seat on the Elite Ten. But obviously it’s not as simple as that. That being said, I like how everyone except Souma and Megumi were totally apathetic about Souma’s Big Bold Challenge because they knew it wouldn’t be happening then and there.

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There’s procedures to be followed, and people to assemble: a adjudicator to certify the challenge, an odd number of judges, and an agreement between contestants about the conditions. Souma also needs to stake something of equal value to Satoshi’s seventh seat, and even staking expulsion if he lost wouldn’t be enough, not to mention Satoshi doesn’t want Souma expelled.

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Still, despite the fact Souma isn’t ready to take on Satoshi, he’s still eager to take on somebody, and once he starts racking up wins, he can start going after bigger fish like Satoshi…or Erina. While Satoshi and the others are explaining the particulars of the formal challenges, called Shokugeki. They go down a lot like Iron Chef, but with more dire consequences for the loser, in this case the hot pot society’s entire clubhouse is demolished so Erina can build another kitchen for her personal use. Dayum, dis bitch is COLD!

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But the hot pot guy wasn’t anything resembling a challenge to her, only “trash.” Not only that, a dark-skinned girl with an American flag bra is itching to face the other challengers not worth Erina’s time. She apparently specializes in meat, and Souma will surely have to get through her before he can challenge Erina.

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DanMachi – 05

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Another DanMachi, another sweet domestic scene between our quasi-husband-and-wife duo of Bell and Hestia, with the goddess being out too late getting her drank on and the adventurer providing not only a moist washcloth, but the offer of a fancy dinner sometime, due to all the cash he’s raking in. Since the whole reason Hestia had a little too much was because she saw Bell “cheating” with Lili, she decides she doesn’t have a hangover anymore, and that “sometime” will be “today.”

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Alas, while cleaning up at the divine bathhouse (boob comparo alert) Hestia attracts the attention of a bevy of curious deities, and she and Bell end up spending their entire date running and hiding from them. They end up in a romantic starlit spot, and Bell promises dinner another time. Hestia tries to say something, but doesn’t, choosing instead to lean her head on him. So…no real progress in the romance arena.

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That same night Lili is busy paying off her fellow Soma familia members with the generous cuts she’s getting from working for Bell. She seems to think she’ll be close to completing her debt soon, but c’mon, how naive can you get? I don’t see those guys calling it square anytime soon.

To protect Bell, Lili reflexively uses a magic weapon she’d been concealing from him. He, in turn, continues to surprise her with his kindness, letting her have all the days off she wants, and even sharing the lunch Syr made with him. She still doesn’t fully trust him. To be fair, he does seem ridiculously nice, to the point of “weirdness”…at least among the sorta people she’s been around most of her life; i.e. scum.

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In a rather clunkily-deployed plot development, on his day off Bell asks Syr what she does on her days off, and she says “reading,” and the one book in the tavern she just happens to lend him is a magic grimoire. His reading of the magic tome is a half-trippy, half-goofy sequence in which he’s talking to different colored copies of himself, before being shaken awake by Hestia, as if he’d just gone on a Salvia trip.

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Hestia discovers he now possesses a magical fire ability; one he can cast without an incantation. She urges him to try it out in the dungeon tomorrow, so of course he runs off on his own that night after she falls asleep and gets so drunk with his new power he overextends himself and “minds out,” leaving him deep in the dungeon and at the mercy of any number of beasts and bosses.

I understand his excitement with his new power, but honestly, this was a clown move on Bell’s part. Had Ais and Riviera not just happened to be in the same part of the dungeon and found his unconscious idiot self, he’d have been killed and Hestia would have been alone. All because he couldn’t hold his horses. Then again, maybe at this point Bell expects to be bailed out by his increasing phalanx of friends, admirers, and supporters.

Among them is Ais, who blames herself for Bell’s minotaur mishap in episode one, and whose battle damage conveniently created underboob she proceeded to put right in Bells face. Subtle!

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The next day Bell learns that the grimoire is now blank now that he read it, meaning he has to go back to Syr and the landlady with hat in hand. While it struck me as odd Hestia doesn’t give Bell any significant dressing down for his blunder last night, I did enjoy Syr’s cute attempt to distance herself from Bell’s “spot of trouble”—something he calls her out on.

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From there, it’s back to the dungeons with Lili…only when he arrives at the meeting place Lili is being accosted by brutes, while a slimy-seeming guy sidles up to Bell and asks him if he wants to get in on their racket working Lili to the bone and taking her earnings.

Frankly, Bell lets both these thugs and Lili off too easily. The thugs should have gotten a beating, and Lili should have been made to explain what the heck is going on. Instead, Lili seems to think because Bell was talking to one of the thugs, he may be in cahoots with them, acting as the “nice guy”…or maybe Lili just doesn’t want Bell involved in her problems.

Whatever the case, we know Bell isn’t putting on an act, and won’t hesitate to help Lili if he senses she’s in trouble, even if she doesn’t want his help.

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Nisekoi 2 – 04

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I suppose it was predictable that Hana-san would turn out to be a better person than last week made her out to be, so I’m glad I was on the right track in hoping there was love behind her tough, intimidation, uncaring exterior.

A great symbol that Raku and Chitoge were both wrong about her is the cut to her breaking off a piece of her cigarette and eating it. It’s candy she uses for her oral fixation; she quit cold turkey when she got pregnant with Chitoge.

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Even so, Hana is not the world’s best mother, though she provides for her daughter. She said all those harsh things out of the mistaken impression Chitoge hated her, for raising her strictly, as she was raised.

She has a drawer full of personally-chosen Christmas presents for her dating back ten years, but has never found the right opportunity to give them to her, and always asks her age because she’s nervous and isn’t sure how to treat her. There’s no bitterness or apathy here; only a lack of communication.

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Enter Raku, with his most selfless and awesome heroics yet. It’s up to him to get these two very similar women in his lives who love each other deeply to overcome their misunderstandings about each other, while getting Hana to stop hiding behind her job and face her daughter properly.

It’s unfortunate Raku and Chitoge’s entire class, including the rest of his harem, is present when Raku whisks her off to a five-star hotel room, but there’s simply no time to explain. :3

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Not knowing initially what his gesture’s all about, Chitoge is also flustered and overwhelmed, but when Raku explains on the way and asks her to simply “trust in him”, she does so without a fuss, nestling her head into Raku’s back as he pedals with all his might for her and Hana’s sakes.

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Hana almost gets away on her private jet, but Raku manages to catch her on the phone, and puts Chitoge on the line to basically beg Hana to come back. Like any momma, the distressed cries of her young create a powerful urge for her to return to her offsprings’ side.

The resulting reunion on the runway goes from hilarious (Raku and Chitoge have to avoid being run down by the landing jet) to so heartwarming one forgets it’s Christmas and snowing out. Nice work, Raku!

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Raku gives the hotel room to Hana to spend some quality time with her daughter after they go out to eat, and Chitoge finally learns why she treasures her red ribbon so much: it was the same as a character in a book she loved as a child, and ten years ago during the summer they spent together, Raku told her she’d look good in it.

All this time she’s treasured it because it was a connection to her distant mom, but it also connects her to Raku, which combined with her current feelings for him, lends Chitoge an extra layer of destiny to their reunion ten years later.

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With that, Hana tells Chitoge to be a good girlfriend and go to the one who made their wonderful evening of reconciliation possible. Raku really worked his ass of this week like none other, so Chitoge doesn’t wake him up, but puts his head in her lap and enjoys the warmed of the guy she loves.

As for Raku himself, Hana doesn’t offer any revelations about his locket, but does figure out they’re pretend-dating, and wonders out loud if his feelings are really a sham. We know they’re not, and Chitoge’s certainly aren’t, but it’s more complicated than just that, especially in a post-credits scene with Kosaki expressing her relief to Ruri that Raku and Chitoge didn’t really spend the night in a hotel. Kosaki isn’t the best girl right now, but Raku likes her a lot too, so the battle is far from over.

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Re-Kan! – 04

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Predictably, Re-kan! breathes new life into the beach episode formula by infusing it with its charming brand of supernatural embellishment. They have the beach to themselves because it’s haunted.

The ghosts are so thick around Amami, Kana can’t get a photo that doesn’t feature them streaking across the frame in such a way that makes Amami look like she’s being censored even though she’s wearing a perfectly normal swimsuit.

The ghosts also thwart Ero-Neko’s numerous attempts to harass the girls by land and sea; again, the cat’s hilarous voice sells what is otherwise a filler role. The Roll Call Samurai dutifully splitting the watermelon for the hapless Amami was also a nice touch.

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The episode downplays fanservice for practicality: the students needed a chaperone for their beach trip, and Yamada provided his big bro, who happens to be a cop, which makes Esumi, a former delinquent, uneasy. Elder Yamada joined the force because he wanted to be a hero, and views Amami’s sixth sense as akin to a superpower to be treasured.

While Amami could certainly have a future in criminal investigations (and I would watch the hell out of that!), for now she’s content to use that power to make the people around her, living or dead, happy. To whit: she uses messages in the sand and the breakers to get the scoop on the local fireworks display, best seen from the train (along with a somewhat unnerving famous ghost cliff-jumper).

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After a great bit about Kana having to deal with Amami’s ghost answering service, the balance of the episode is focused on stories of peoples’ pasts. Amami recalls being scared of sleeping alone, until friendly ghosts comforted and stayed with her until she went to sleep. That segues to the story of the “Fire-Haired Messiah” the unwanted nickname of Esumi Kyouko back when she was a yankee; a time Kana can’t help but mention.

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What I liked about the tale of Esumi’s past was that she was a righteous ne’r-do-well, protecting the weak and taking any hand that reached out to her in need of help, even if the arm turned out not to be attached to anything! That ghost led her to her first encounter with the elder Yamada, who is just as impressed with Esumi’s good deeds as he is with Amami’s sixth sense. To him, Esumi is a heroine, living the dream and righting rights; the kind of person who inspired him to become a cop so he could help people too.

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Esumi grudgingly accepts his praise, but admits she’s more scared of people than ghosts (or specifically, disembodied arms). But like Amami, she can’t help but help; it’s just who she is. Despite her past use of violence to solve problems and her semi-earned rep as a brawler, her heart’s in the right place.

If only she and Kana could do something about their eyes-through the hair…their hair design in the flashback was far less distracting!

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Punchline – 04

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P[anty]line continued its trend of creating more questions than it answers. It tosses a lot of plot and character elements out, hoping some of them stick to the wall, and some of them do. But its small successes are undermined by a stubborn lack of focus, and its underlying. There’s a lot of juicy intrigue lurking beneath the surface, but PL doesn’t seem that interested in letting us in. It’s un-ironic propensity for showing panties for panties’ sake doesn’t inspire confidence it ever will.

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Part of our frustration stems from Yuuta’s molasses-slow progress. Sure, he’s now able to manipulate objects and even briefly possesses and talks through Rabura, but this progress is meaningless if he doesn’t capitalize on it. All he manages to do in his seven minutes as Rabura is thoroughly confuse the girls.

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For the rest of the episode, Yuuta is back to being an inert observer. Instead we’re treated to a weird date Rabura set up with a gentleman caller she claims is from Gliese 832c, who turns out to be an NSA agent who was only using Rabura to try to initiate contact with Daihatsu Meika, whom the U.S. believes is the best person to try to eliminate the virus enabling the Qmay Group to prevent the launch of orbital nukes at an approaching asteroid. If the agent is to be believes, Qmay is actively trying to eliminate the human race. So I guess they’re nihilists?

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Rabura isn’t happy about being used, but still protects “Gliese-sama” when he’s attacked by “Miya-ken”, which brings me to my next grievance with this show, along with its scattered nature: I really don’t like Miya-ken. After Samurai Flamenco, I’m all hapless Super Sentai’d out. He helped out last week, but his presence here is baffling, and not in the way that makes me want to find out.

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I liked how the NSA agent created a rift between Rabura and Meika, with the former taking out her frustrations on the latter. There’s a familial vibe to their drying-off around the kontatsu scene, but then Rabura’s frustration leads her to lash out at Ito, who then turns on Mikatan, mocking her efforts to be the “good girl” and “hero.”

All this fresh clashing of obviously very different personalities is welcome, but it all feels a but rushed and inorganic, especially considering what we’ve learned from these characters thus far via flashbacks. Speaking of those, in the one in the cold open, we see a young Mikatan as one of many captive child test subjects. But it left on the back burner the rest of the episode, like Yuuta’s half-assed possession attempt.

This show is full of enticing tastes of things, but at the end of the day it’s just a bit too all over the place.

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