Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 05

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It was probably present before, but this week more than others I noticed the common theme between the two “couples” in Subete ga F: Shiki and Shindo in the past; Saikawa and Moe in the present. In both cases, the men are unfulfilled, wanting more freedom but being tied down; fearing the very freedom they crave because of what it might cost.

And by the end of the episode both couples arrive at a turning point, as well as a philosophical impasse of sorts. The apparent murder case, so prominent last week, takes a back seat to how being in the Land of Magata Shiki is affecting Saikawa and Moe, even as they act out a very similar scenario to that of the now-dead couple.

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Suffering vivid dreams of the day her own parents died, Moe ends up pumping Shindo’s still-in-shock widow for information. Losing her husband has left her untethered, floating free; but she doesn’t know what to do with herself, so she bakes too many cookies and is happy to tell Moe whatever she wants to hear about the day Shiki’s parents were killed.

But no matter how many details Moe learns, she comes no closer to understanding Shiki or her crimes, to say nothing of accepting them. It’s when she confers with Saikawa that a rift starts to form between them: the playful flirting replaced by increasingly harsh debate over who and what Shiki was.

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Bright as she is, Moe wears her heart on her sleeve and owns herself. She doesn’t feel “tied down” by having one personality she settled on as she grew and matured as a human. Saikawa, however, feels more trapped, both by his job and by the decision most all people make when they grow up to eliminate the contradictions and choose one personality with which to interact with the world…and fit in.

He admires Shiki for never doing that even as she grew up; he even believes she was fulfilling more of her potential as a human than he or Moe or hardly anyone else. He even goes so far as to call her “pure”, which considering her murders and fooling around with her uncle, would sound strange to anyone with conventional ideas of love and ethics…ideas Moe happens to have.

To Moe, when Saikawa starts waxing poetic about Shiki, even though he’s making no direct judgments on her, she feels rejected; it’s as simple as the guy she likes liking another girl more than her. But Moe does have one variable in her favor Shiki lacks: she’s still alive.

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The bookend-ing of flashbacks completes with Shiki purchasing a survival knife for Shindo, calling it “a tool to free oneself.” That could mean many things. Shiki’s parents clearly are unaware of the affair she and her uncle are engaged in. “Freeing oneself,” in that case, would mean making sure that affair stayed secret. Cutting the ropes that tie you down, to be with Shiki, the one who glides over all.

That knife could be the weapon that killed Shiki’s parents, and the doll in the room is Machiru, one of the personalities she carries. By gifting him the knife, Shiki is also forcing Shindo’s hand one way or another; asserting her authority over all these adults in her life by the primacy of her intellect, not things like familial bonds dictate who’s in charge.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 05

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It’s not all that uncommon for an anime to come along that appeals to all three of us here at RABUJOI, be it the military action and combat I love, magical milieus that are Preston’s purview, or Zane’s favored school, romance, and comedy themes. TG35 is one of those shows.

This week was definitely a Zane Week, focusing on the relationships and motivations of the characters while bringing the unlikely Saionji Usagi into the dramatic spotlight. This episode excelled at all of those things, enough so that I thoroughly enjoyed it despite the lack of action. That action will surely come when the Witch-Hunting Festival begins in earnest.

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Usagi is in a bind: unlike Ootori and Mari, she doesn’t have a dark past, but a dark future: in order to capitalize on her heiress status and due to her bad grades, Usagi’s “family” wants to marry her off as soon as possible, so they’re pulling her out of Taimadou in a month. Worse, her fiancee is Executive Committee Chairman Tenmyoji Reima.

Watching how he treats a clearly overwhelmed and hyperventilating Usagi, it’s clear this is not a nice guy. He calls her a “belonging” and says “he can’t wait” for her to be his forever. Gross. Now, Takeru is a dense mofo, but he knows something’s not right, and when she faints, he watches over her dutifully, and makes it clear he’ll do everything in his power to help her.

I wouldn’t have guessed the show was going to suddenly shine a light and give dimension to Usagi, who had been mostly comic relief up to this point, but the episode succeeds in efficiently getting her dilemma out and showing both how it weighs on her and how unwilling she is to drag her platoon mates into it.

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When Takeru doesn’t want Usagi to be alone that night, he invites her to his place, which in her current state of mind she takes entirely the wrong way. Takeru’s intentions are as pure as ever, but as she bathes, she considers having a child with him so that she can be freed of her contract with Reima. Something tells me he wouldn’t care either way, but she’s a desperate young woman, and would rather her first be Takeru than that creep.

Unfortunately, she makes her surprisingly touching advance (asking him to spare her further embarrassment and get on with it) just as the other platoon-mates Takeru invited over help themselves in, and while the haremy reaction and gang-beating is pretty pat, I still loved the very true-to-character lines delivered by Mari (You already have me!), Ootori (I can’t believe you stooped this low!), and Suginami (Why didn’t you invite me?!).

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Also, the enmity doesn’t last but for a moment. Once the others hear Usagi out, they understand the situation and want to help as much as Takeru. Not because Usagi is a delicate little flower they like keeping around, but because she’s goddamn family; a girl who’s saved all their lives many times, who is essential to the platoon’s success and happiness. She needs to get it in her head that she’s worth all the effort they pledge to put into rescuing her.

How will they do that? Not by having Takeru marry her, but by winning enough points in the festival and getting her grades up high enough that the Saionji’s will reconsider pulling her. It’s a long shot, but like I said, she’s worth it. They’ll have the four members of the 23rd Platoon assisting them.

On the other side, we learn both through the president who lost most of her team and from the last shot of the episode, that Reima is more than just the organizer of the festival and a creep who aims to “own” Usagi—he could also be a form of the demon Mephistopheles, classically a soul-collecting servant of Satan. Bring him down, 35th. Do it for Usagi…and for money Takeru can use to pay off his parents’ debts.

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Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 05

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Just as Sakurako assembles piles of bones into completed skeletons, she assembles piles of clues into solved mysteries. And this week she wastes no time revealing Fujioka’s “curse” by applying a hefty dose of science. All the rain and humidity caused mold to grew behind the frame of his painting; a mold that reacts to the arsenic-based Sheele’s Green paint to generae diethyl arsine gas.

Fujioka’s banded nails and cough were symptoms of arsenic poisoning, from being in close proximity to the painting in his closed-off room. She “lifts” the curse by opening a window, hopeful the fresh air and truth will set Fujioka at ease. But when Fujioka goes off to smoke his last cigarette, Sakurako senses this skeleton isn’t quite complete: more bones lay scattered whose proper place must be found.

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Among those bones: the fact Fujioka was fine having both a dog and a painting he believed to be cursed nearby; the fact he closely researched the causes and age of deaths of all his male relatives and printed out the results; the large life insurance policy he took out on himself; it all points to him looking to off himself and make it look like an accident; another victim of the family curse.

It almost works, too, but thanks to an alert Hector and a razor-sharp-minded Sakurako, his plan is foiled. She turniquets the leg he wounded with an axe, and as they wait for the ambulance, he confesses that after the global financial crisis, he’s broke, and could see no other way to provide for his wife and child than by sacrificing himself. But as someone who was “left behind” herself, Saku is personally offended by such an attitude.

Being alive and with his family is far more important to them than solving money troubles. So they sell the big black house—black, Saku believes, not because of that color’s association with death, but because of its psychological healing power: those in mourning who wear it aren’t merely expressing their grief, but fighting their fear of death.

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We hear bits and pieces of what becomes of Fujioka and his family: his leg on the mend, he gets a job at an IT company; they sell the house and move into a small apartment; and Sakurako adopts Hector so he can have the proper space to run around. Despite being taken down a couple of pegs, it’s still a happy ending for Fujioka, because his wife’s hope that they’ll grow old together and see their great grandchildren remains.

Sakurako remains weary of the art appraiser who insisted Fujioka get close to the painting with his wife and son, believing he may have had sinister intentions toward the family. Ultimately, his manipulation of Fujioka, and all the heightening anxiety it entailed, may have been the real curse that threatened to kill him. Hopefully, it’s gone now. But Saku still carries her own curse; one pile of bones she has yet to touch, and which Shoutarou continues to remind her of. I wonder when we’ll learn how those bones fit together in earnest—those of the titular ‘corpse under Sakurako’s feet’.

Last week’s episode felt a bit too deliberate and hesitant, but the resolution (imperfect as it is in typical Sakurako-san fashion) more than made up for it, using every bone laid out last week to construct a beautiful skeleton. Saku’s science-y deductions continue to make this one of the smartest shows of the Fall, and references to the Great Recession firmly ground it in reality.

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