Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 11

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A night at Sakurako’s moves Minami to tell her Hitoe’s location, and when they find her covered in butterflies the worst is feared. Alas, “only” her dog is dead and attracting the insects; she merely took a non-lethal dose of sleeping pills and soon wakes up. Not shortly thereafter, Hector barks from outside, announcing he’s found what Sakurako was hoping to find: more bones. Specifically, the bones of a young woman; Minami and Hitoe’s friend Futaba. And that’s far from all that’s unearthed this week.

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Minami recounts the tale of how Futaba showed her and Hitoe this abandoned cabin in the woods, and they made it their home, their place where they belonged. All three of them had their problems, but Futaba was the worst, and soon wanted to enter a suicide pact with the other two. Hitoe agreed, but Minami didn’t want to die, so she ran. When she returned later, Futaba was dead, having hung herself, while Hitoe injured her hands trying to save her.

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Minami buried the body, and that was that. Only…Sakurako-san wasn’t born yesterday by any stretch, and Futaba’s bones tell her a far different story. Not a story of Futaba hanging herself as Hitoe struggled to stop her, but a story of being strangled to death, as indicated by bones that would not have been broken by hanging, and the dubiousness of dying while hanging so low her feet touched the ground.

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Hitoe can’t keep up the fiction any longer, though she kept it hidden within her memory for so long, it flows out like a river through breached dam, all anger and despair. Futaba gave her an ultimatum: she’d either help her kill herself, or she’d kill her, then commit suicide. It was an impossible situation for Hitoe, who comes out and blames Minami for running. Had she been there, maybe Futaba would have kept it together a little longer (though considering both she and Hitoe were already considering suicide when Minami fled, I doubt it).

Isozaki is able to calm Hitoe, and puts all the blame on himself, not for failing to see the pain his three students were in, but for seeing the pain, and turning away, not wanting to be hurt himself.

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After burying Futaba, Minami and Hitoe drifted apart, partly because Hitoe started seeing other friends, partly because Hitoe reminded Minami of what happened to Futaba. Then she met Hanabusa, who she waxes poetic about as if her mind had been programmed to say these things. But it wasn’t; she simply fell victim to the honeyed words of a criminal mastermind, just as Hitoe would, and just as many other victims have.

Sakurako knows Hanabusa never loved Minami—that he’s incapable of loving anyone unless they’re bleach bones—and that Minami was just another pawn in his game. The thing is, she doesn’t really need to be so blunt about all these things at this particular time. For someone so good at detecting, she fails to read the room, and turns her back on Minami, who can’t handle what she’s saying and tries to stab her with a palette knife.

But Sakurako doesn’t get stabbed, because Shoutarou comes between her and Minami, catching the knife in his side. Remembering her brother, who apparently drowned in a rainstorm, she shouts out Shoutarou’s name.

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But it’s all okay; the stabbing wasn’t precise, nor was it lethal. Shou will be fine. But Sakurako isn’t. It was too close a call for her. As she hits the home stretch on tracking down the “abyss” that is Hanabusa, Sakurako has unilaterally decided she and Shou must part ways. It almost feels like a breakup…because it is, and Shou is heartbroken. But the bottom line is, Hanabusa is a dangerous, brilliant son of a bitch, and while Sakurako loves bones, she never wants to see Shoutarou’s.

Will Shoutarou really accept this? He’s too shocked and overwhelmed to protest here, but once he’s discharged, I wonder how Sakurako will keep him away, and whether he’ll honor her selfish desire to go it alone with Hanabusa. I’m hoping he won’t, because as the tear Sakurako sheds indicates, these two people belong together. Call them soul mates, if you will.

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Taimadou Gakuen 35 Shiken Shoutai – 11

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Takeru is categorical with Kiseki: He’s not going to kill her. And if someday he’s forced to, it will be the day he dies too. One might think Kiseki would prefer if her brother lives on with the life she never got to live, but Takeru’s a stubborn mutha. He may also be a fool; but I also have a sister, and I don’t think I’d feel any differently than he does, so I’m a fool too.

His words are enough of a comfort that Kiseki promises she’ll try to hold out longer, but it isn’t long until the siblings are cornered by Kirigaya and Yoshimizu, who is now apparently his relic eater. Then their duel is interrupted by Kurogane and Director Ootori, who retain custody of Kiseki and put Takeru in solitary to cool his jets.

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While Takeru and Kiseki were enjoying normal life, some very big things were going down. The war between Inquisition and Valhalla goes into full swing, with the latter eager to capture Kiseki (whom they regard as one of their own—a “harbinger of chaos”—and they’re not entirely wrong), and the former setting up several decoys to misdirect them. In this whole big peripheral chess game, Takeru is but a pawn, but Kiseki is the King. But I will say, while there have been Preston and Zane episodes, this one is definitely up my alley: packed with action.

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Of course, all that action wouldn’t be worth much if it didn’t have something compelling to back it up, and when we see Takeru’s flashback, which he dreams while in solitary, we get that something. Not long after learning Kiseki was his sister and a powerful immortal demon, she killed the rest of their family and household. But his father didn’t order him to kill his sister. Instead he offered him the choice: kill her, or protect her. That’s what Takeru chose to do—in fact, it’s all he could do—and he’s stuck to his guns ever since.

When he wakes up, he hears Ootori in the adjacent cell, apologizing for getting him in this situation (even though he’s eager to thank her, not blame her). She wants to share his burden the way he pledged to bear have of hers. Why? Well, because he changed her life, and changed her. Without him, she wouldn’t have the “peaceful life” she has now; she’d still be consumed by revenge. It’s no confession of love, but one of intense admiration, gratitude, and hard-earned fondness. Ueda Reina knocks it out of the park here.

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The two lament more can’t be done, but then they’re broken out and given the opportunity to do just that, thanks to some help from their friends. While Takeru promised to share the future or ongoing burdens of Usagi, Mari, and Suginami, the fact of the matter is, thanks to his past deeds, they’re pretty set at the moment, and have no qualms about inverting the deal without delay.

One aspect I like about this team’s chemstry and how far they’ve come is that they know Takeru so well, they’re shocked when he doesn’t tell them he doesn’t want to involve them out of concern for their safety. Mari and Usagi immediately start suspecting something went on with him and Ootori in solitary to change his standard tune. Which is kinda true, but not in the way they’re imagining; the way that makes Ootori blush.

When Valhalla troops attack Kiseki’s transport, Kurogane and Kirigaya fight them off. Then a Valhalla leader, Orochi, shows up, and Kurogane orders Kirigaya to clear out. We don’t see their fight, but the buildup to it, whether we end up seeing it next week or not, was very well done. The music direction remains exemplary, as the scene practically hums with the potential power of the two fighters, expressed not with overly bombastic orchestra, but a relatively low-key electronic track that nonetheless emanates gravitas.

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Then Kirigaya’s face contorts, as he’s sick of transporting one of the “heretics” he hates so much and wants to exact revenge upon, and he opens up the back and prepares to kill Kiseki. Of course, Takeru arrives in the Nick of Time to stop him, but even with Ootori and Usagi backing him up, he and Kiseki aren’t out of the woods. Kiseki herself is starting to involuntarily overflow, and at the worst posssible time, the cavalier, flamboyant Haunted shows up (who is, at least, less boring than Kirigaya).

Announcing he’s here to bring Kiseki back to Valhalla with him, for her own good, impaling Takeru on multiple thorns only accelerates her overflow. If Takeru isn’t dead (and I doubt he is), he’s certainly out of commission for the time being, leaving the rest of the 35th to deal with Haunted (assuming Kurogane gets his money’s worth with Orochi and is delayed).

By being taken out here and now, Takeru has placed his burdens completely on the shoulders of his friends and comrades. But they won’t shrink from their duty. This should be quite a finale.

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Prison School – 03

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Three episodes, in, and I’ve been subjected to three sickeningly funny, pants-shittingly good outings by Prison School…and hope is still alive that Kiyoshi will have his date! But while there’s plenty of sex and toilet humor, and enormous boobs to be had, there’s also taut, witty dialogue, tremendous voice performances, and a solid narrative replete with “cause and effect” situations. And holes. Lots of holes.

Cause: the guys peep on the girls. Effect: they’re thrown in Prison School. Cause: Kiyoshi escapes the scorn of his sweetheart. Effect: the date is still on, he just needs to break out. Cause: Kirihara also has a secret he needs to conceal. Effect: Kiyoshi’s Plan A fails, and he’s forced to move to a more daring Plan B.

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But those are just the main plot points. There’s also the fact that Shingo, Andre, and Joe start getting suspicious when Kiyoshi and Gakuto start spending so much time together, while they start to suspect Shingo is on to their escape plan. Then Shingo catches them in the shower in a couple of very compromising (but ultimately innocent) positions, giving Shingo the idea that his two friends have begun a physical relationship. And while his initial reaction is shock and horror, he accepts Kiyoshi for who he is. What a nice friend!

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As for the holes I mentioned, a change in their duties the day of his date means Kiyoshi must find an alternate covert route to his hole in the wall, so he uses a drainage channel. While hiding there, he comes across an even smaller hole, through which he can watch Shiraki doing Hindu squats, as is her wont, from the most favorable possible angle.

But again cause and effect rear their ugly heads: due to his position, when Shiraki’s stiletto slips and falls through a hole, it goes right into Kiyoshi’s hole. The resulting blood makes his friends, who’ve been told about him and Gakuto by Shingo, think he pitches as well as catches. But Shingo makes the excuse to Shiraki that Kiyoshi has hemorrhoids.

That segues nicely into Gakuto’s revised plan for Kiyoshi to escape: using an audio recorder with sounds of flatulance to serve as a diversion for Kiyoshi while he’s away. Only their internet access is restricted, so he must record those sounds himself.

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The Three Kingdoms-obsessed Gakuto is always extremely formal and archaic in his speech patterns and vocabulary, so when he and Kiyoshi discuss the pros and cons of what he’s about to do, it’s given all the pomp and heft of a far nobler venture than intentionally shitting oneself in computer class. Yet Gakuto sells the ever-loving shit out of it, cutting loose and producing the necessary audio to aid Kiyoshi—who is, after all, getting him his ultra-rare 3K figures.

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Cause and Effect strike again, when a weak-willed Kurihara, having dug up the booty pics he buried, re-buries them in concrete, he also patches up Kiyoshi’s escape hole. But Kiyoshi doesn’t despair long; he decides he’ll break out by dressing as a girl (snatching a uniform from the laundry truck that will come Friday) and walking out the front gate with the other girls. This is a very old, very stupid bit, but I have full confidence in Prison School to put its unique mark on it when the time comes.

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That confidence is even further buoyed by the final dramatic set piece of the episode, a masterpiece of movement, timing, and ecchiness. Gakuto, who seems a little more weary of Kiyoshi’s chances of success, seemingly goes nuts when he’s supposed to lay low, getting up in Shiraki’s crotch, being smothered in her bust, and finally pulling down President Mari’s skirt. What is his deal…has he lost it? Or is this another plan? Is he creating a cause for some intended effect? We shall see, my friends.

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Attack on Titan – 21

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AoT’s pacing during its building up can be foot-tappingly sluggish, and it’s a show that loves to have its characters explain every last detail of what’s happening ad nauseum, but it can still stage one hell of an intense payoff, as it does this week when the She-Titan pilot takes out Gunter, transforms back into a Titan, and then kills off Erd, Petra, and Oulo in quick succession. All Eren can do is watch, as he made his decision to place his belief in his friends over his belief in himself.

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It proves to be the wrong decision, just as his decision not to fight the She-Titan when he first encountered it was the wrong decision. I thought that Levi looked somewhat surprised when Eren decided to press forward, allowing him to lead the Titan to Erwin’s trap. But the trap was the wrong decision, too.

Sure, you’re supposed to believe in your comrades, and perfectly-executed traps are supposed to work, but Erwin and Eren both learn that doing things that seem most reasonable aren’t effective when dealing with the Titans, especially this one. I knew some shit was going to hit the fan, but the shit was so thick it stopped the fan blades in their tracks. Gunter, Erd, Oulo, or Petra? Sure, one or two were bound to die. But all of them? That’s some rough carnage.

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But one good thing comes out of that carnage: it provokes Eren into a murderous, vengeful rage, transforming into full-on Titan Mode (no partial manifestation) and getting into the best Titan-on-Titan battle yet, an epic struggle in which Eren’s brute force intermittently finds purchase with the slick, slippery She-Titan, who also packs a punch due to her ability to harden her skin.

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Throughout this battle all the way until the end of the episode, my heart rate went up and my adrenaline didn’t stop pumping. But while it’s clear now who’s inside the She-Titan, Eren doesn’t pick up on it. He doesn’t realize someone used these kinds of moves on him before, in human form. No, he’s too goddamn angry to think about anything other than beating her into oblivion.

That proves his undoing, however, as he blasts his own fists away and has to wait for them to heal. Also, after appearing to walk away from the fight when he’s down, the She-Titan turns back and blasts Eren’s head off, exposing the human within, which she swallows. Now, we’ve been here before, so again, Eren clearly isn’t dead, but he definitely lost a fight I thought he’d win. He just lacked the experience in his Titan form and over-relied on his brutality. The way of water beat the way of fire here.

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As if this episode wasn’t awesome enough, Mikasa shows up just in time not to save Eren, but watch him get glomped by the She-Titan. Her sudden transition from shocked-and-fragile Mikasa to Pissed-and-Lethal Mikasa was wonderful to behold, as is her ultimately futile attempt to get Eren back immediately by chasing the She-Titan and slashing the shit out of her.

Like Eren, Mikasa falls victim to lack of experience when she goes for the nape only to hit the She-Titan’s crystalline shell. She took her shot and missed, but looks fully prepared to go at it again, but we can guess how it would have ended: out of gas, out of blades, and with no Eren to save her. Instead, Levi grabs her from death-by-blaze-of-glory, and we’re glad for it. Let them try it his way, if he has one.

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Next Week: My AoT Retro Reviews come to an end, just in time for Christmas.