Re-Kan! – 12

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Hibiki is lost and anxious without her sixth sense, and it puts her in the nurse’s office, and eventually she stops coming to school altogether. When her living friends pay her a visit, her dad says she’s still processing the shock, and doesn’t want to face those she worried so much.

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Narumi doesn’t give a hoot what Hibiki wants, as long as its so selfless it hurts her. When she hears Hibiki isn’t eating, she whips up the same tamagoyaki he and Hibiki made for lil’ Yuuki way back when (nice continuity!); a recipe she knows to be Hibiki’s mom’s. And then she jams it down Hibiki’s throat.

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Enough’s enough; Narumi’s not going to let Hibiki stop living just because she can’t see or hear the dead anymore. She drags Hibiki out of her gloomy house to show her that the good she’s done stretches far beyond the dearly departed. I for one love how the other friends sit back and let Narumi do her thing; she’s always had the closest bond to Hibiki, tsundereness aside, and it’s great to see her in action.

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Narumi and Hibiki cross paths with numerous such people Hibiki helped connect with their departed loved ones, and had a positive impact on their lives, from the teachers who married and are now expecting, to the Kogal’s mother and the crabby old man. But those were just coincidences, Narumi really wanted to show what making those eggs for Yuuki did; he’s now a tough, happy little brother to his baby sister Kyouka, whose name means “echoing song” and shares a character with Hibiki’s.

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Narumi’s well-made point is that with or without her sixth sense, Hibiki has formed countless bonds with people in her life, including Narumi herself, who sticks with her even though the sixth sense frightened her. Just because she may have lost that sense doesn’t mean she should give up or despair, because she remains connected to those people whose lives she touched, as well as those she can no longer see or hear.

About that…after joining hands with Narumi as she drilled this point home, the clouds broke and all of Hibiki’s ghostly friends return to her side, along with her living friends, who are glad Narumi manages to get the job done.

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While the explanation for this is a bit cloudy, it would seem Hibiki’s mom returned to that spiritual realm where she watches over her daughter, and managed to revive the plant that either represents Hibiki’s life, sixth sense, or both. Meanwhile, all the ghosts completed their transition back to the living world. The whole thing, it would seem, was temporary.

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But there’s nothing temporary about the effect Hibiki’s selfless, caring, kind-hearted acts has on her own life: she was never alone as she feared; her connections with the living and dead endure. It’s a triumphant scene to see such a huge ground assembled around her, and while it might have been interesting to see her accept a life without her sixth sense, I really don’t mind that she got it back, either.

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Yamada-kun to 7-nin no Majo – 11

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With each week comes fresh reveals of more secrets regarding the school witches, and as Yamada learns the Supernatural Club is slowly drifting apart without him, the latest revelation is most important of all: when all seven witches are assembled, a ceremony can be performed that will grant someone any wish they want.

I would imagine the wish Yamada would choose is for Urara to continue to be happy and surrounded by friends…and with him by her side, if it’s possible. But her happiness is paramount.

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I said Yamada was down last week, but not out, and now we see why: while many people have had their memories wiped, one of them, Nene, bursts in to protest him copying her own charm power onto her, causing her to love him.

In the act of kissing him, she cancels out the memory loss, and Yamada and Tamaki explain the situation. At the same time, the eyes of both Rika and Yamazaki are constantly on Yamada as he struggles to fix things.

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Their threats don’t faze Yamada, however, as he’s on a mission, and his new circle consisting of himself, Tamaki, and Nene makes for an interesting combo. The three agree to gather the seven witches, restore their memories, and convince them to perform the ceremony before their opponents Yamazaki, Rika, and Mikoto can get to them.

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In intricate game of chess ensues, full of moves and countermoves and looking several moves ahead, something that without Tamaki and Nene’s counsel, might put Yamada at a disadvantage.

But even though Mikoto keeps him from kissing Urara (who is now at a point where she wants him to kiss her), and Yamazaki proposes a plan that will grant Nene’s wish (to be with Yamada), Yamada’s love for Urara and determination to keep her happy and not alone, conquers all the strategy on display, or so it seems.

 

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Just take Tamaki, who saw Nene with Yamazaki and suspects she’s working for him now. But Nene is resigned to the fact no matter what she does, Yamada only has eyes for Urara, so she may as well support and smile with him.

It’s clear beyond doubt now that Nene is in love with Yamada, which is why she suspected she was under her own charm spell despite having no memories of him. The love, unrelated to the witch power, remained, just as Ushio’s love and devotion to her remained even after she lifted her spell from him.

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Yamada & Co make progress, restoring Maria, Meiko, and Noa with kisses and explaining to them what’s going on, but Rika remains elusive due to her memory-wiping abilities, which leave no trace of her existence in school records or in the minds of anyone at school. Despite how sad that sounds, Rika has no intention of helping Yamada & Co.

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When Mikoto somehow switches bodies with Urara before Yamada can kiss her, Yamada’s at an impasse with the remaining two witches. With little time left, he storms into Yamazaki’s office, grabs him by the scruff (not sure why Mikoto didn’t follow Yamada there to protect her president) warning he’s not going to give up, no matter how much he screws with him. He vows to go to Mikoto’s house, where Urara is in her body, and kiss her—a task characterized by the prez as easier said than done.

Is Nene actually working for Yamazaki after all? What exactly is Rika’s deal? Can only one wish be fulfilled by the ceremony? What other twists and reveals await us in the final episode? I don’t know, but I look forward to finding out. It’s been a great ride: complex and funny and touching in equal measure.

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 11

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Sidonia 2’s second-to-last episode is another brutal, no-holds-barred battle for survival between human and Gauna (and Chimera). Whether it’s in the duel between Tsumugi and Benisuzume or Nagate and seemingly all the other Gauna on the planet, it’s all about staying one step ahead, and constantly worried about looking over your shoulder at the next damn thing that could kill you in the blink on an eye.

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Izana’s battle is more of a race, as she and the lollygagging bearded redshirt pilot run for their lives from an absolutely terrifying Gauna Giant who seems intent on sampling a couple of hors d’oeuvres to go. The show actually subverts the predictable by  keeping the bearded guy alive throughout, but by the end of the episode, who knows who’ll survive this thing.

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They’re driven to the precipice of a cliff, and just when the Gauna’s tentacles are about to grab them, Nagate saves the day with his particle beam. But rescuing the two pilots is only a small and temporary victory; now he has to rendezvous with Tsumugi (who it’s assumed will make quick work of Benisuzume) past a humongous gauntlet of Gauna.

Nagate digs into one of the floating islands and lets loose with his cannon until he’s out of ammo, then takes care of the last three Gauna with his new sword, laughed off earlier as something one would use on themselves, but proving crucial to survival here. And once he defeats every last Gauna that surrounds him, he still has to meet up with Tsumugi.

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As Benisuzume giggles and grunts and gasps while locked in battle with Tsumugi, Mozuku is convinced it’s only a matter of time before the under-matched Beni slips up and gets her core penetrated. She, not Beni, is the “Ultimate Being,” or so it’s been drilled into her psyche. But that superiority affords a certain arrogance that proves decisive. After Tsumugi has blown most of her placenta away, Beni plays possum, and a seemingly human Shizuka crawls out of the placenta.

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In that moment of confusion and possibly fellow feeling, at the sight someone the same size and makeup as her friends, Tsumugi lets her guard down, and Beni jams a stake through her neck and starts sucking out all of her Hyggs particles (i.e. go juice). Now Benisuzume has the upper hand, presumably since she’s not bothered by sentiment, and proceeds to literally nail the poor outsmarted Tsumugi to the wall, almost as bait.

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Nagate saves Tsugumi in the nick of time, but again, only temporarily, as Beni has summoned thousands of her friends to their location, and she herself gloms onto Tsugumori. Nagate blasts her with the beam in his head, but she fires back, blinding him. She then sneaks up from behind and sticks all of her tentacles into his frame’s hull, and all of a sudden it looks like game over…but only if Benisuzume’s only goal was to kill him, which it clearly isn’t, because she forms another human Hoshijiro Shizuka inside his cockpit.

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When “Shizuka” opens her eyes to reveal they’re both human, it resparks debate on what elements of Nagate’s old flame are still extant, and the nature of what it means to be someone, especially someone you love. Is Benisuzume merely taking her time for creulty’s sake, or does she intend to mate with Nagate.

Nagate, for his part, is literally cornered, strapped into his cockpit with absolutely nowhere to go. But Izana and Beardy are still in there somewhere, so it’s not ridiculous to think they might have a role to play in the immediate future in freeing Nagate somehow.

Until then, we’re left with one strange, sexy, frightening scenario: Nagate either about to be killed, fucked, and/or eaten (in no particular order) by a monster with the face and body of his believed-dead first love. Yikes.

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Kekkai Sensen – 11

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In my experience, Kekkai Sensen is at it’s best when it’s balancing the chaos of its setting and characters, with focused, clever, bombastic action setpieces that propel an episode forward. A drawback of the show is its insistence on explaining every last little thing in asides, voiceovers, crawling CRT text and heads-up graphics.

As a result, episodes can end up showing a lot, but still telling too much, or at least more than I really need to know. After a recap last week, I really wanted things to get moving, and they do, but not until some way into the episode. And the forward motion is preceded by flashbacks to White’s life.

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It’s not that I disliked White story of her life, it just felt a little momentum-killing when combined with the recap. There’s too much narrative process and procedure on display; and I had the uncomfortable feeling that all of this was one very large advertisment for further explaining/justifying White’s motivations for betraying Leo for her brother: “She is doing this because of this.”

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And that’s the thing: the family and sibling moments were sweet, and Kugimiya Rie’s dual performance was lovely, but they didn’t feel necessary. I didn’t really need any further explanation for her actions, I already got the gist why she was doing it and felt she had no other choice. The show had already given us subtle, relatively unobtrusive bits and pieces of that past. I didn’t really need all the blanks filled in, especially not now.

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All that being said, once White has finished telling her story and turning on Leo, things do indeed take a satisfyingly dark and dire turn. I’m not sure why White thought to trust the word of the King of Despair, but she believes she’ll get Will back if she helps him get the eyes, probably because, just as she told Will, if he was gone, she wouldn’t know what to do. They are twins, after all, closer than mere siblings.

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Once “Black” starts implementing his plan, which is apparently to cause a Second Collapse, one that Libra will certainly be hard-pressed to stop with people like The MacBeths no longer casting, the show stops explaining things and just shows us a whole bunch of crazy shit going down, all of it set to a soaring classical score that recalled Klaus’ great Prosfair match.

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As Despair grabs Leos eyes and causes city-wide explosions in the midst of a massive Halloween parade, a dejected White pores over Leo’s photos, and remembers why she first started taking photos: to prove she existed when she’s gone.

Looking at Leo’s photos through this lens makes her despair even more, and she asks a suddenly present Sonic to find Leo. As for White herself, she suffers a kind of heart attack, which as Black explains, is part of the spell his parents used to keep her alive through “persistent affection”, and she appears to be at the end of its tether.

In a move I wasn’t expecting, Black takes a gun and shoots her…or does he? With all the camera flashes and the fact there was no audio during the “shot”, part of me wonders if he really shot her. Whatever the case, she, Leo, and all of Hellsalem’s Lot are in big trouble.

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Fate / stay night: Unlimited Blade Works – 24

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UBW really kicked into high gear as expected, delivering a powerhouse finale to the battle to save the world from Gilgamesh. From the moment Shirou got back to his feet, to Rin’s beautifully dorky victorious thumbs-up, it was an intense ride, with some of the best action sequences yet delivered on a show that specializes in such things.

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As Gilgamesh and Shirou continue to bandy words, the latter begins to understand what his magic is all about, and why he’ll be able to defeat Gil without Saber’s help, a laughable proposition to the king. But it’s because he’s a king that Shirou, a warrior who’s very body is made of infinite swords, will always be able to stay one step ahead of GIlgamesh one-on-one in the reality marble of his making.

 

Gilgamesh owns swords, i.e. Noble Phantasms, and stores them in his treasury. But it’s still a finite number, and he’s mastered none of them, just like Shirou. If any other servant was the last one standing, he or she would easily defeat Shirou with their mastered Noble Phantasm.

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That…actually makes a lot of sense, at least relative to the show’s mythology. Speaking of warriors, Saber comes to Rin’s aid, but is a bit too late and Rin and Shinji are consumed by the Holy Grail goop. Rin’s about to give up and Saber is about to obey her command seals and blow the whole thing up, but a brace of arrows from the sky cut Rin free. Turns out Archer, our Archer, is still around, which makes sense, since he made it clear he remains irrevocably trapped between life and death.

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With Rin out of harm’s way, Saber gives in to her command seal and unleashes Excalibur on the Grail/Servant Monster, blowing it to bits in an awesome display of light and power. But using the Holy Sword means the end of Saber, who wishes she could stick around, but is content in knowing Rin is around to take care of Shirou. (She also probably realizes that if she stayed, the love triangle that would persist would be a pain in the ass ;)

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Saber’s exit is quick, but not unexpected, because the show had foreshadowed quite a bit up to now that she’d be the sacrifice necessary to save Shirou and Rin and end the war. With the grail destroyed, it’s left to Shirou to continue hacking away at Gilgamesh, who is forced to “go all out.” Even so, Shirou slashes his arm off before Ea can touch him.

The reality marble vanishes as Shirou runs out of mana, but Gil can’t kill him because a remnant of the grail attempts to make him its new vessel. Gil, not wanting to die, tries to tether himself to Shirou with a chain, but Archer helps Shirou out one last time by delivering an arrow to Gil’s head. He’s sucked into oblivion. And just like that, it’s over. Cue victory fanfare and calculation of loot and EXP.

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Archer visits Rin one last time to say goodbye and laugh at the “state” both of them are in. His usual scowl and tough-guy talk gone, he looks and sounds more like the Shirou. He urges her, as Saber did, to take care of Shirou so he won’t end up like him, before vanishing before a gorgeous sunrise.

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With Saber and Archer gone, we’re left with two humans (three, if you count Shinji, which I don’t). There’s a big exhale and feeling of heady relief as Shirou suggest to Rin they go home, clean up, get some food in them, and get some rest. Having wrapped up all the big stuff here, UBW can give the entire last episode over to epilogue, an arrangement I can get behind. Let’s see what all this fighting and sacrifice wrought.

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Owari no Seraph – 12 (Fin)

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The final Seraph of the End episode until October was quiet, contemplative, and suffused with unease and a kind of restlessness that’s understandable considering what everyone just went through and how still things stand now.

The only battle being fought is Yu’s slow but apparently certain recovery. It’s a battle we don’t see, because most of the episode is from Shinoa’s point of view. She’s an uneasy, impatient, somewhat outraged Shinoa who wants to know what the hell was in the pills Guren gave her to give Yu.

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When she uses her family name to get into a top-secret installation where the army is experimenting on vampires and wants to have words with Guren on the matter of Yu’s little transformation, Guren has no words of comfort for her, except that if she thinks she’s fallen for Yu, all she can do is stay by his side and wait for him to wake up.

Since Yu’s well-being is more important to her than whatever devious mad-scientist shit Guren is up to, she does as Guren recommends, pleading with the comatose Yu to please wake up soon.

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Unfortunately for Shinoa, it’s Yoichi’s turn to sit by Yu’s bed when he finally does wake up, though Yoichi has the good sense to let Shinoa have some time to herself with him before calling the others in. The camera slowly pans from Yu, crying over having seen Mika alive and well, to Shinoa lurking in the doorway, snapping into smartass mode, hiding the worry she wore on her face while he was out and teasing him for crying, even though she’d do the same thing in his case.

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Being a Hiiragi whose sergeant rank is lower than it could be if she played the game, and the fact she got into Guren’s lab, we know Shinoa knows more than any of the others the dark directions their duty could take them, and in the brief flashback as Shiho carries Yu away, there’s a hint of guilt in her face, as if she’s facilitated Yu’s transition into something way bigger and nastier than he’s aware of.

Yet none of that matters when Yu places his hand on Shinoa’s shoulder, voicing concern for her bitten, bandaged neck. She doesn’t want to be in love with her underling, but as she learns more about the person Yu is, that’s increasingly the case, as her blushing betrays.

Even better, Yu makes himself to be someone worthy of being fallen for, as once everyone is assembled in his hospital room, he takes the time to earnestly thank everyone from the bottom of his heart, and express how blessed he feels to have such good friends. Mitsu and Shiho are taken aback by this change in him, but Yoichi and Shinoa less so, as they know him better and have seen hints of this side before.

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Yu isn’t just happy because he’s okay and his friends are okay; he’s also elated that Mika is alive, an attitude I’m frankly glad for. There’s no angst in the way things are. Friend or foe, Mika is alive, and that’s enough for him, for now. It’s the first time in a while that something has been enough for him, and while he yearns to see Mika again (and Mika him), his provisional inner peace is clear to see. He’s realized his live isn’t that bad, and is worth preserving, both for his friends’ sake and Mika’s.

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I was totally on board with the peaceful end to this first rousing cour of Owari, especially all the scenes of people on both sides just kicking back and enjoying their hard-earned break from death and destruction. But judging from the final scene, that peace will be short-lived. Lord Ferid is apparently exchanging research with, and I’m just guessing here, Guren, both motivated perhaps by their mutual disgruntlement with the higher-born higher-ups.

Just as it wasn’t 100% clear it was Guren on that rooftop (we never see him), I’m not sure if Ferid is working against the vamps, Guren is working against the humans, or both of them are just working towards their own goals. But whatever it is, Ferid believes it’s going almost too smoothly, and it definitely stirs up intrigue for the second cour this Fall, in which everyone continues to be sinners, doing sinner shit.

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Nisekoi 2 – 11

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I’ve been a little disappointed with the seeming lack of progress on any of Raku’s romantic paths, along with the general scattered format of Nisekoi in the midst of so many more serialized romances. But it’s episodes like this, particularly its B-part, that make me forget about the “Utopian” (perfect, but impossible) Nisekoi in my head and simply enjoy the Nisekoi being delivered to the screen.  

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The first half of his All Kosaki, All The Time episode is comedic, and pegs her as almost too trusting of notoriously inaccurate bathroom scales. (It’s also an opportunity for Hana-Kana to stretch her vocal muscles, as Kosaki does a lot of yelling). Despite being valued by her family for having the best taste buds, buds she trusts when tasting the new fall sweet lineup, she doesn’t trust her eyes when she sees a slim Kosaki in the mirror, and doesn’t trust her fingers when they pinch so very little fat from her belly.

Instead, she trusts a number (or rather, the silhouette of the farm animal closest to her alleged weight) and begins down a spiraling path of self-destructive behavior to lower it. It doesn’t take long for Raku to notice something’s wrong, but Kosaki refuses to let him in on what it is. But he still wants to help, so makes her favorite food, only exacerbating the situation.

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Now Kosaki feels bad for “weighing too much” and for making him feel bad for making her food. She’s at a loss of what to do, but Raku persists in trying to help her, this time with tea. He’s been worrying about her all this time, and when he remarks that she’s thin and has to eat, the spell the scale put on her is instantly broken, and everything’s fine, because Raku’s kind words are more powerful than any (busted!) scale.

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That unconditional concern and gentle kindness is the segue to the far more serious and affecting second half, in which we get the full story of when Kosaki fell for Raku in middle school. Just as they’re both kind, gentle people, so to was their romance, as both were content with saying “Good Morning!” in the morning and “See You!” at the end of the day.

Those words had power for Kosaki, so when she overhears where Raku is moving on to high school, she decides to make her first real goal in adolescent life to  get into that same school as him. The love is a fuel that drives her to work hard, so she can still exchange those salutations with the object of that love.

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It’s a bold plan for Kosaki, considering both she and Raku are too gentle and shy to just come out and confess to one another. But when Raku spots Kosaki at the exams, he’s filled with elation and tells her they should try their best to both get in. At this confirmation that she may well be as important to him as he is to her, Kosaki swells with confidence.

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Then she FAILS! But, because this is a flashback, we know two things: Kosaki will be getting in the same school as Raku, and neither will be confessing to the other, even in a gorgeous, romantic winter scene perfect for such a gesture…

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…Kinda like this! Well, actually, exactly like this. A romance is certainly dependent on the decisions of its participants, but it also relies on a degree of luck, such as Raku happening to encounter a distraught Kosaki in that wintry park. When she repeatedly declines to take his scarf for fear he’ll catch cold, he proposes they share it, which gets both of them wonderfully flustered.

And just as the gears in Kosaki’s head are spinning like mad wondering if this is the ideal time and place to confess like she should have long ago (it is), Raku pipes up first, only he can’t get it out because luck intervenes in the negative, with Kosaki’s phone ringing. It’s an important call, though: turns out she’s been admitted into the same high school as Raku after all.

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Kosaki is happy. Raku is really happy, and Kosaki is happy that Raku is happy that she’s happy. Get the trend? And the rest is history: a history of kind, gentle gestures and exchanges, of “Good Mornings” and “See Yous”, but also much more substantial conversations and activities and embarrassments and close calls.

But through it all, despite periodic frustrations, both Kosaki and Raku have been happy, even without confessions or official dates or kissing. And in the midst of such happiness, if not full and unequivocal contentment, a mutual hesitation to rock the boat is understandable.

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Oregairu 2 – 12

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Haruno gets the ball rolling from the get-go this week, calling into question Hikki’s efforts so far to find that mythical “real thing” he spoke of tearfully to reconcile with Yukino and Yui after his fake confession to Hina.

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Things seem back to normal for the three, but a tension remains, one that’s probably intensified by the presence of, say, Iroha, who is now all but an unofficial member of the club, while the balance between Hikki, Yukino, and Yui, was delicate before she showed up.

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The normalcy with a film of tension continues when the club gets Yumiko and Saki as clients, both wishing to make chocolate for the impending Valentine’s Day, a day when people typically give chocolate either out of obligation or affection to the recipient.

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Iroha uses her resources and the other school they worked with before to share resources and organize a big chocolate-making workshop. The girls cook with varying degrees of success while the guys taste.

Here, after a previous incident in the episode where Iroha seemed flattered Hikki didn’t consider her younger than him, Iroha seems similarly flattered when he praises her cooking skills, but hides it with another rapid-fire rejection before shoving a spoon in his mouth. Their push-pull, along with Kaori’s promise to make Hikki chocolate this year (likely out of obligation), paint the picture of a Hikki who’s more popular than ever.

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Then there’s Yukino, who seems increasingly nervous and flustered around Hikki, and both panic when they both touch the same bowl. Their behavior is plain to see, especially to Yui, who can’t mask her discomfort with the moment of closeness between the other two.

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Things get increasingly awkward throughout the workshop, especially when Haruno further stirs the shit, Orihara Izaya-style. The elder Yukinoshita bemoans the fact the three youngins before her are “boring”, and questions both the existence of the “real thing”, and calling into question Hikki’s resolve to achieve it.

As he eloquently puts it, Haruno is always there to remind him of things he’d rather not think of, just as another older mentor in Shizuka is less aggressive and cynical in her meddling. The olds are sitting around watching the youngs, and they want something to happen. I can relate!

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The cake is taken when Yukino’s snooty mom shows up in her Toyota Century in traditional clothing to scold Yukino for being out so late doing who-knows-what and expressing her fear her daughter’s on the “wrong path” to the future.

She claims to want Yukino to live her life, but maybe that’s something she told herself before Yukino got to the point where she actually would, a time that’s is already here. She can’t help but want to set her straight, no matter how intrusive it looks.

That puts Yukino on edge, and also increases the awkwardness between the trio, all three of whom, we must remember, are still, with just one episode left, trying to figure out who they’re supposed to be, and what happiness is supposed to be…and still struggling mightily.

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Nagato Yuki-chan no Shoushitsu – 12

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This week is another quiet, pensive exploration of “New Nagato Yuki”, as time passes and more aspects of “Old Nagato Yuki”‘s personality gradually begin to surface. With four more episodes left after this one, the show may as well take its time.

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As a result, we’re treated to a rare instance of observing a character more or less observe themselves, along with Kyon, constantly on edge about the possibility of fading into oblivion once Old Yuki fully returns.

It’s a slow, slow burn, and very…neostalgicNew Yuki is seemingly experiencing this library for the first time, but it is in fact the same library where Old Yuki met, and possibly fell for, Kyon.

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I continue to be fascinated with the two different sets of glasses Nagato Yuki owns. The New Yuki wears one set; the Old Yuki wore the other. And as if she were getting superstitious, or even validly worried about further stimuli progressing her disappearance, New Yuki chooses not to put the old glasses on.

When Kyon tries on a pair of sunglasses, Yuki is almost taken aback by how easily he can do so without having to worry about his personality drastically changing.

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But even though she eschews the old specs, there are other stimuli New Yuki cannot avoid, because she doesn’t know about them until it’s too late, such as when Kyon gets her a book she’s too short to reach. She’s blushing, getting nervous for “no reason”, and her heart is beating faster.

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Hell, she’s even smiling. New Yuki wants to think she’s in control; wants to think she has a decent chance at surviving, that this “change” is permanent…but there’s too much evidence to the contrary, and it’s all because of her continued proximity to Kyon.

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New Yuki is remembering Old Yuki through dreams that are really memories, but they feel like someone else’s, an interloper’s, if you will. I find it fascinating that the show isn’t automatically taking Old Yuki’s side here; New Yuki has every right to exist, even if it’s not for much longer, due to the fact she only exists at all due to some strange brain glitch as a result of an accident that will pass with time.

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But things may not be so black and white. There are at least three Yukis to consider: the one before she met Kyon, t one who is in love with Kyon, and her current self, who stands between them, with bits of both mixing with her.

It would seem as though her brain injury fractured these parts, and that their “natural state” is combined into one; the one that, thanks to the linear passage of time, loves Kyon.

Yet that doesnt’ make it any easier for New Yuki, who considers herself a separate entity within the same body—a body she doesn’t necessarily want to surrender.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 12

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Hannah: You know Zane, there wasn’t even a battle in this episode, but I was still bowled over by how much power lay in the deliberations, judgement and, aftermath, along with the surprise resolution that actually served both parties, thus transcending the typical Good Guys Win, Bad Guys Lose formula. A Food Wars episode without a Food War might sound transitory, but it sure didn’t feel that way. Instead, what it felt like was a masterpiece.

Zane: I’m inclined to agree, Han, that was an emotional spin cycle right there! Even with the cookoff concluded, it still had all the elements I’ve loved from previous previous showdowns, what with the highly-detailed analysis of the dish and its unique, metaphorical effect on the alumni-judges. At least in this Shokugeki, 7 > 9!

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Hannah: I like that; and I’m no math whiz, as you know. I also liked how the warm, earthy, nurturing flavor of Megumi’s terrine each evoked a different benevolent deity forthe judges. It spoke to them in different ways, but it spoke to them all, touching their hearts in a way Shinomiya’s simply didn’t.

Zane: Yeah, those Megumi gods were the best! I also appreciated how Megumi decided her best option was to try to put forth the best damn veggie terrine she could, freed of the limitations of Shino’s recette. Her Mature-vs.-Fresh treatment impressed the judges, and also laid the groundwork for the excellent character work to follow.

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Hannah: Was your heart, just warmed by the effect of her food when she’s on her game, suddenly cleaved in two upon the sight of those three coins on Shinomiya’s plate, indicating our heroine’s defeat? Even though I knew this wouldn’t be the end for her or Souma, mine certainly was.

Zane: Absolutely. I also knew Shino’s far more technically proficient, real-world-tested, award-winning cuisine was going to blow Megumi’s earnest but sloppy effort out of the water. I mean, the guy has the Pluspol. The PLUSPOL, fer cryin’ out loud! And yet, the suddenness of the judgement, and the look on Megumi’s face as she realizes she’s done, still had impact.

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Hannah: That brings us to the Deus Ex Doujima [Gin], which turned out not to be what I thought. When he put his coin on Megumi’s plate, breaking the rules of the Shokugeki, I thought we were in for a predictable-ish 12 Angry Men scenario in which he convinces the other judges to change their votes one by one. What happened instead was…much better.

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Zane: It was…it so was! Last week Doujima opined that Shino was holding back against a student, and now we see why: he graduated from Totsuki, moved to France, and became the chef-owner of a restaurant, i.e. got to the top so frikkin’ quickly, he finds himself at the top of a precipice, unsure of his next move.

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Hannah: You gotta stop agreeing with me…it’s kinda freaking me out. Anyway. His stagnation is regression. He’s moved forward so forcefully by sheer will and talent, he’s left the heart behind…a heart he finds when he finally takes a bite of Megumi’s cooking.

I’m glad to see the tripartite Megumi-deities show up again, but I’m even more impressed that rather than a goofy ridiculous fantasy played for laughs, which is often how people react to Souma’s food, Megumi’s food creates a pang of nostalgia for Shinomiya, transporting him back to a simpler, safer time, before he was on a “knife’s edge.”

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Zane: It’s a beautiful memory, to be sure. And as you say, the other judges don’t change their votes. Doujima puts his coin on Megumi’s plate, followed by Shino himself. He scoffed at Doujima’s apparent “pity vote” for the loser, but now sees that the power of Megumi’s food must be acknowledged. …Then Hinako, who isn’t even a judge, puts a 500-yen piece (these guys are rich, after all!) on the plate, making the Shokugeki a tie. The rules are bent, but Shino not only approves of the bending, but is a dang part of it.

Hannah: The flashback of Shinomiya with Hinako and the others gives us a glimpse into how far back these guys go, and how they continue to want to look out for him. Doujima allows this shokugeki because he sensed Shinomiya was in a rut and crafted an opportunity to show, not tell, him what he was missing; what he lost sight of: caring for the customers. Showing hospitality, of which Megumi is apparently the goddess, at least in her class. Shinomiya found a way forward, while Megumi found her strength.

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Zane: Well said. I also enjoyed the little scene between Megumi and Souma on their way back to the hotel room. Free from the oppressive concrete and stainless steel of the basement kitchen, they now walk in a cool, soothing night, a great weight lifted. Megumi no knows without a doubt that Souma is a good person, someone she wants to keep cooking with for a long time yet, and thanks him for helping her get that opportunity.

Hannah: Yes, if it weren’t for his reckless gambit, she’d be packing her bags for home. But to his credit, Souma doesn’t take credit; he only provided a nudge—breaking through the light mesh of Shinomiya’s unfairness—in order to bust through the brick wall and inspire both the judges and the chef who would’ve expelled her, Megumi herself had to rise to the occasion and show what she’s made of…and she did.

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Zane: So, all’s well that ends well! Except when Megumi goes ahead, Souma expresses his intense displeasure with losing, smacking his fist against a wall so hard his friends notice it when he returns to the hotel room. However well things ended, he still drew, rather than beat, Shino, and Doujima saved both their asses. Even as the sous chef, he takes responsibility, and will likely take the draw as a bitter pill of wisdom: as we saw from Shino’s rise, you don’t always win.

Hannah: And that brings us to the midpoint of this awesome show that blends your love of cooking with my love of intense battles. I’m really looking forward to the second half, which I’m sure will be just as entertaining a watch.

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DanMachi – 12

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This week’s DanMachi was a bit of a two-face: starting with a bit of a plodding lull thanks to the low-danger surroundings, but escalating into more exciting RPG-style action, complete with a kidnapping, an unfair duel, and the arrival of the cavalry.

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But first, all the girls are nude, Wooooo! Seriously though, this wasn’t that exciting, but I was surprised and a little impressed that when Bell inevitably ended up in the midst of the girls, he didn’t receive a beating. The girls’ reactions range from quietly embarrassed to indifferent to downright glad (the latter in the case of the Sand Snake-like girls and Hesty, she of the ample bust).

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Also not particularly bothered by Bell (who is the victim of a prank by Hermes) is Ryuu, whom he finally gets a chance to thank for coming to his aid. Ryuu tells him she planned to come at some point to pay respects to her familia, who fell into a rival familia’s trap and were massacred.

Ryuu was the only survivor, and after she avenged her familia by single-handedly killing the other, she was banned from the Guild. Syr found her lying in the street and brought her to the tavern, where Mama Mia brought her in despite knowing what she did. It’s a nice bit of backstory from one of the more interesting characters in DanMachi, due to her complexity.

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Ryuu’s no saint, but she can tell Bell is a kind person worthy of her respect and friendship, who like her benefactors, can see the good in her, being good himself. But we see the other ugly side of people (not just humans, since Ryuu is an elf) in Moldo, a veteran adventurer disgruntled with Bell’s rapid rise. Wanting to put him in his place, he kidnaps Hestia and challenges Bell to a duel.

It isn’t until the duel starts that Bell learns Moldo has invisibility magic, which is a bit too on-the-nose dirty for the bad guy. He says he’s not shameless enough to hurt Hestia, but his tactics certainly seem cowardly. But that’s the thing: his tactics make him stronger, at least initially, in the fight, and his cohorts rally behind that power, despite the cowardice of it.

That’s because, well, they’re weak too, and opportunistic. Even though they outnumber Bell’s friends who come to break the fight up, they seem outmatched by them.

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That being said, neither side “wins” the battle, because Hestia unleashes her divine power to compel everyone to cease fighting. It’s cool to finally see her exhibit abilities beyond reading Bell’s back and pulling off a ridiculous dress like a rock star. As she emits and otherworldly glow, it’s clear no one wants to mess with her.

By the way, it looks like Hermes wants to test Bell’s abilities, or, as he says, teach him about the cruelty and injustice inherent in humanity. Not sure why he thinks Bell will learn such a lesson especially when Bell has plenty of really good people as friends and allies. The fact of the matter is, there’s good and evil in everyone.

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The second half of this episode makes up for the slower first, and even the first half had that nice interaction between Bell and Ryuu. And I especially liked how after Bell ran off to save Hestia, she ends up saving him and everyone else from a protracted brawl. It remains a very balanced relationship. Bell is still very naive at times, but he also happens to have the strength—and friends—to deal with the predicaments his naivete gets him into.

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Ore Monogatari!! – 11

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I used to dread beach episodes, but that was before I started watching great anime. I knew there was nothing to fear from an OM!! beach episode; on the contrary, I knew it would be a perfect opportunity for both Rinko and Takeo to take another step in their relationship: seeing each other half-naked.

One thing that’s so great about this show is that the straight-laced looking Rinko is the wild one, while the wild-looking Takeo is the straight-laced one. To him, the beach is about swimming and splitting watermelons and crabbing. To Rinko (and the rest of the guys), it’s mostly about the bods.

Rinko’s intense physical attraction to Takeo often overwhelms her, so it’s good she has a safety net of girlfriends who pick out an appropriate bikini for her, with the goal of getting his heart to skip A beat…not stop it!

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For all of Takeo’s words—both spoken and in his head—Rinko is convinced she must be at least as hot as she believes Takeo to be, or else she’s somehow not good enough. That inherent, presumed inferiority makes it tough for Rinko to reveal her swimsuit to Takeo. In fact, she reveals it to him when the sight of his rippling, sun-dappled muscles put her into a trance and she walks right into the line of fire of his watermelon-splitting stick. Thank God Takeo listens when Suna tells him to stop.

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When Takeo removes his blindfold to see what’s amiss, he catches a glimpse of his girlfriend in a bikini for the first time, and while Rinko doesn’t quite realize it, it’s Mission Accomplished. Takeo himself enters a wild hallucinatory episode, and only Suna’s calm words are able to snap him out of it. It takes effort for Takeo not to totally lose his shit over Rinko’s apocalyptic cuteness, and remind himself she’s dressed in clothes suited for the beach, just like him.

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Things continue to go bumpy for Rinko, though. When she daintily approaches him from behind at lunch, intending to snuggle up against him (something she both wants and her friends urge) his turn back at her causes her to execute Shunpo and retreat behind a column. Later, when she tries to casually grab his arm on the beach, she nearly steps on a sand castle.

Ironically, it’s Takeo who ruins the castle, when Rinko runs off, embarrassed. But thanks to Suna, whom the girls building the sand castle are more than willing to let take over, Takeo can go after his girlfriend.

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As the sun starts to set, Takeo finds her, sulking by the water. Rinko thinks she’s been “really bad” today, thinking only of herself and causing trouble for others. She’s obviously being too hard on herself, so it’s nice when Takeo sits beside her, she can stop worrying about that and draw one of those Japanese love umbrella things in the sand (which Takeo valiantly protects from the rising tide).

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Takeo doesn’t know if it’s the sunset, the swimsuit, or something else, but Rinko looks particularly beautiful to him there and then. The animation sells it, making great use of color, light, movement, and intimate close-ups. We see Rinko exactly as Takeo does, just as we saw how she sees him.

So in awe of the beauty before him, Takeo finally says not “I love her” in his head, but “I love you” out loud, to her face. She reciprocates the sentiment, adding the modifier “lots”, and if it wasn’t for Takeo’s asshole friends (not Suna mind you, who knew to stay the hell away), they’d have definitely shared their first kiss (with both of them awake) right then and there. That’s okay though; I didn’t feel cheated. That kiss will come.

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After fireworks, they board the bus home, and Rinko and Takeo make plans to hang out again, this time at a fireworks festival, where Rinko will try to get his heart to skip with a yukata, believing she failed to do so in a swimsuit. But she couldn’t be more wrong.

As Takeo looks on, he remarks to himself how these two are so rarely on the same page. Yet it likely doesn’t matter, because they’re both so happy. We the audience know that nothing in either of their heads would change that.

Part of what makes romance so exciting, especially early on, is not knowing everything going on in your lover’s head…and the later realization that what was in their head was everything you wanted anyway.

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Hibike! Euphonium – 11

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I’m not good. I just love it.

Those are the words Yuko remembered Kaori saying when she first told her senpai how good she was at trumpet. They’re words she tried to put out of her mind in the midst of her crusade to elevate Kaori to the soloist’s chair, but nothing she can do can change the fact that Reina is better than Kaori. Even she can’t deny it anymore.

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On the eve of the second chance she nabbed Kaori—by besmirching Taki-sensei and devaluing Reina—and Kaori’s inevitable defeat, Yuko starts to realize she’s made a mistake. As Natsuki tells her, Kaori is the one who’s going to feel the worst when she loses to Reina a second time. Asuka, always businesslike in matter of music, can’t and won’t humor Kaori.

Kumiko, just as obsessed with Reina as Yuko is with Kaori, happens to be on the right side of objectivity as well. She sees Shuu practicing hard by the water on a part Taki warned him to get right tomorrow, only increasing her desire to get better herself. But notably, she doesn’t approach him, and not just because she doesn’t want to disturb him.

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For all the trouble she’s stirred up, Yuko isn’t quite done this week, as she tries to persuade Reina to take a fall in the audition for Kaori’s sake, reciting to her all the arguments for why Kaori should get the part, and is even willing to throw herself under the bus, telling Reina she can accuse her of bullying her, and she won’t deny it.

Kaori puts up a metered front: none of Yuko’s arguments have anything to do with her, and refuses her begging. Channeling Asuka, another no-nonsense musician, Reina assures Yuko that Taki will choose the trumpeter who plays best, even though she knows Yuko knows that, and is why she’s exploring…other options.

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The day arrives, with the two would-be soloists excused from set-up duty in their rented hall to practice and get in the zone for their auditions. Tension mounts, and their respective cornerwomen pay them visits. Notably, Asuka doesn’t visit Kaori, as she probably finds this whole exercise distasteful. Haruka does wish her luck, and even asks why Kaori is so obsessed with Asuka.

Kaori’s answer is clear: she feels like Asuka can see right through her and knows what she’s thinking, so she wants nothing more than to surprise her. This second audition affords her just that chance, but having heard Reina’s playing, it’s practically certain she’ll come up a bit short.

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That brings us to Reina, sitting alone in the gorgeously lit lobby of the concert hall when Kumiko approaches her. Reina’s had time to think about all of the things Yuko said about Kaori, and all of the things that will happen to her if she destroys her. She asks Kumiko if she’ll be upset if she loses, and Kumiko tells her she would: she is better than Kaori.

When Reina counters that winning would make her a villain, Kumiko promises to be a villain with her. Reina draws so very close to Kumiko, asking if she’ll really stay with her, and Kumiko tells her she can kill her if she doesn’t, stating her resolve as a confession of love, echoing Reina’s own confession up on the mountaintop.

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Reassured with Kumiko beyond doubt, Reina assures her that she never had any intention of losing anyway. But it certainly didn’t hurt to hear the strongest words yet of affection and solidarity from her dear friend. All Kumiko did was speak from the heart, but she said exactly what Reina needed to hear to take the stage with the utmost confidence.

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The tension builds again when the two trumpeters take that stage before the rest of the band, dwarfed by the massive music hall that still isn’t as big as the venue for the competition. Taki sets the rules: Kaori will play, then Reina, and the students will vote with applause.

Kaori really seems to rise to the occasion and plays beautifully, but when it’s Reina’s turn, the difference between them is considerable, even for these relatively untrained ears. Reina is crisper, louder, and seems far more in command of the instrument. Her solo fills the entire hall and resonates. It should be plain to any of the band members assembled that she’s the better soloist. It’s stirring stuff to boot; not even having to rely on weird trippy visuals like Violin Girl.

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Yet when it comes time to applaud, only Yuko and Haruka clap for Kaori, while only Kumiko and Hazuki clap for Reina: a tie. Taki, ostensibly the tiebreaker, calls Kaori’s name, asking if she’ll be the soloist for the competition. After a few moment’s introspection, Kaori herself refuses, saying it should be Reina.

Really, how could she not? As both Kumiko and I have remarked, Kaori is a good person. She’s taken things as far as she can, and knows when she’s been beaten. Even if a hysterical Yuko still can’t quite accept it, she must, as Kaori does. As for Taki-sensei, it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if he knew this was exactly how the audition would go down.

While no one other than Kumiko and later Hazuki volunteered to clap for Reina, nor did they clap for Kaori after hearing how good Reina is, choosing to abstain. I’m sure both Reina and Taki would have preferred not being accused of being the recipient and doler-outer of favoritism, but in the end merit and talent triumphed over sentiment and pity.

If Kitauji’s going to have a chance at the Nationals, this is how it has to be.

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