Hai to Gensou no Grimgar – 04

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This week’s HGG starts out gently and quietly, with Manato and Shihoru returning from a dawn errand. Shihoru stops to feed the birds, and invites Shihoru to help. She’s startled by the birds, slips, and falls, but Manato catches her, protecting her from harm.

When she thanks him, he admits how glad he is to be talking with her again. Their interactions speak volumes. Manato is someone Shihoru can relie on to protect her; to catch her if she falls. Little did I know that this would be the last time they’d be alone together.

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Back in the ruined city, Haruhiro reports how each one of the party has gained a new skill, which when combined with their improving teamwork that covers one anothers’ weaknesses, results in a goblin-slaying bonanza; they can now take on three at a time, and are no longer squeamish about finishing off their quarry.

There’s a triumphant tone to this sequence, with our party kicking ass, taking names, and looking good doing it, all to some very upbeat, energetic battle music. The gang is finally getting the hang of it.

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When they settle in for lunch and some rest and relaxation, Yume goes off on a very long tangent about the deity she prays to and offers part of her food in order to keep her safe. The rambling irks Ranta, who wanted her story to have a point, but this is another example of simply passing the time, shooting the breeze, and gradually learning a little more about each other – and themselves; they are still amnesiacs – every day.

The casual joy of the scene is not lost on Manato, who proceeds to praise every other member of the party for their contributions, and how he’s happy they’re become a respectable party due to filling in each other’s gaps. He doesn’t get to talk about Haruhiro, as the party has to move on, but Haruhiro is sure he’ll have any number of chances to ask Manato what he thinks of him. Only, as it happens, he won’t.

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Haru sees a glint from the top of a building, and manages to save Manato from a sniper, taking the arrow in his shoulder. Soon, he gets another in his leg, and all hell breaks loose. Goblins of various sizes and skill sets come out of the stonework and ambush the party, who have to beat a speedy retreat to the forest.

As he runs, Manato, the party’s healer, vanguard, and glue, gets an arrow to the back, which pierces his vitals. He attempts to heal himself, but has lost too much blood, and passes out. Neither stopping the blood nor giving him mouth-to-mouth has any effect.

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His stunned, desperate party members take him to the priests to see what they can do, but there’s nothing they can do. No phoenix down; no Life spells; no respawning. In Grimgar, dead is dead, and that’s what Manato is. Worse, if his remains aren’t properly cared for within three to five days, he may rise as a zombie. Utterly dejected, you can taste the venom in Haru’s mouth as he asks whether the cremation costs money, then categorically rejects the priest’s charity.

What follows is an excruciatingly long and hard few scenes where Haru, Yume, Shihoru, Moguzo and Ranta simply sit or stand around, defeated, filled with grief, as they say goodbye to their friend and the one who bound them all together and never doubted them. In addition to huge holes in their hearts, they now have a gaping hole in their party with no more healer, a stinging irony.

Their first goblin kill was one of the first times we felt along with the party the full weight and stakes and cruel unyielding harshness of the world they now found themselves in without explanation. But Manato’s death was another first, and one that will be far tougher to recover from. There is no rage or talk about revenge in the end; only heartache and anguish.

In the first three weeks of Grimgar of Fantasy and Ash, we had no shortage of fantasy wrapped in a unique and refreshing realism, with all the horrors and joys of real life. Now, we’ve seen the ash, how far the realism goes, and a major death getting the weight and solemnity it deserves. Now all we can do is wait with nervous apprehension to learn how the party will carry on.

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Dimension W – 04

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I was initially intrigued by this week’s change of setting and mansion murder mystery theme, but Kyouma and Mira end up caught up in a frustratingly convoluted web of plot that features a little bit of everything presented with a “more is more” philosophy that turns out muddled and unfocused. It doesn’t help that this episode was mostly setup for a part-two payoff next week.

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You have a mysteriously drowned horror author, a mansion full of random people who would normally be the suspects, you have Albert tagging along on this one, being all buddy-buddy with Kyouma while bringing up their shared Dark Past. There’s even a gothic lolita collector who doesn’t really do much.

Then you have Mira (who Kyouma seems to have nicknamed Ponkotsu, or “piece of junk”) seeing “ghost” that could really be people involve in the past disaster that claimed many lives 21 years ago, being layered onto the real world due to the use of a Number delving into Dimension W.

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While ostensibly a soft sci-fi anime, one can feel the strain of combining so many different genres. Mira’s ability to build the world of the author’s book she can perceive in three dimensions in order to find clues is a neat idea, but somewhat overshadowed by the fact she’s either naked or in a little towel at the time; the camera’s fetishization of her body continues apace, and she ends up in a pretty standard horror movie chase.

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There also seems to be a recurring trend of Kyouma leaving Mira off on her own with mixed results; it worked out when she found the robotic pigeons, but last week she was almost exposed (which would have likely meant Kyouma, Mary, and Koorogi’s deaths), and this week she becomes a chained damsel in distress. At some point you hope Kyouma will keep better tabs on his partner.

As for the trio of suspicious characters from the lobby when Mira and Kyouma first arrive – they are operating under the assumption the present owner of the hotel’s dreams are connecting one world to the other, so they kidnap her, perhaps in hopes of retrieving the Numbered coil for themselves (or their client). So throw heist and a competing collectors themes into the mix! This DimW threw a lot of pasta at the wall, but not a lot of it stuck. Maybe the resolution will be more satisfying than the setup…

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Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 17

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As news of the failed uprising on Dort 3 spreads, other Dort colonies’ workers mobilize for war, just as the “Regulatory Bureau” intended. Those workers soon discover their weapons have been rendered useless and the main Arianrhod fleet lies in wait just beyond the colonies to mop up. All Tekkadan can do is watch it all on TV in the space port.

That is, until Kudelia makes a bold decision that changes the course of every iron-blooded orphan under her employ, as well as her own. She can’t retreat and continue on to Earth after witnessing all this. She’s done running; she’s going to become the hope these downtrodden people need. And she’s issuing new orders for Tekkadan to assist her.

It’s been a long time coming, but now that Kudelia fully understands what’s going on, she is compelled to act.

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In a stroke of luck, the crack Dort news team that has been covering the uprising and subsequent bombings is ordered to cease their reporting by the Reg Bureau, determining the reports are not conducive to maintaining public peace and calm.

The news team isn’t particularly okay with that, so when they spot some “workers” sneaking around, suddenly Kudelia and Tekkadan have exactly what they need: a means off the colony, and a means to get her voice out there, to both the workers and masters everywhere.

Orga informs Naze of the change of orders, and while the Turbines can get involved, they give Tekkadan their blessing, and Akihito sorties in his recently-finished Gundam. The Isaribi sends Barbatos out for Mika, who EVAs out alone to meet it.

Naze seems frustrated that he’s so “soft” on Tekkadan, but also that he can’t join such an interesting and noble battle. Mika remarks how amazing Kudelia is, and he’s frustrated too – perhaps he feels he hasn’t done enough yet (even though, let’s face it, he’s done plenty to be called amazing himself).

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Mika stops some of the helpless workers from getting massacred, but is soon challenged by Gaelio and Ein, the former piloting his shiny family heirloom, Gundam Kimaris, which McGillis recognizes, observing the battle from the bridge of his own ship.

Like Barbatos and Gusion, Kimaris has no beam weapons, and is armed with a good old-fashioned spear with which to crunch into his foes. Kimaris is very fast, sometimes overwhelmingly so, but it’s not a game-changer; the combat here remains wonderfully primitive and visceral.

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When Gaelio and Ein notice Mika’s true intent – to shield the news launch – I felt a quick pang of Flay-end-itis, but the Isaribi meets the launch and the crew make it back safe and sound. Akihito and Shino join Mika in battling Gaelio, Ein, and the other Gjallarhorn forces, with Shino re-naming Crank’s Graze “Ryusei-go”, which raises the eyebrows of the mechanics in a funny little aside.

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Mika comes close to taking out Gaelio, but Ein shields him with his own suit, getting damaged in the process. With the main fleet closing in, Gaelio and Ein retreat as their “further intervention will become a problem.” As all this is going on outside, Kudelia Aina Bernstein, Maiden of the Revolution, dons her own armor – her stately red dress.

After contacting Nobliss Gordon (a move that intrigues him greatly), she begins to broadcast using the news team’s camera and feed signal, to tell everyone out there what’s really going on in the Dort Colonies. If she’s to have any credibility on Earth or Mars, she must own the fact that she was here when everything started to boil over, and shed a light on what’s going on.

With her decision to take up the mantle of authority bestowed to her by the powers that be and actually run with it, Kudelia may have just proven to Nobliss she has the potential to becomes something more than a pawn in a plot, and thus is worth more to his goals alive, even if it’s just to continue to be surprised and entertained by what he observes.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 04 (28)

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Chikage’s confrontation with Masaomi and the Yellow Scarves looked like bad news, but he’s only there on behalf of himself, and wants to use them to smoke out the “purge” Dollars who hit Kodata. But because this is a meeting of gang leaders who don’t mind the occasional rumble, it comes to fisticuffs, and we see Masaomi in actual action for the first time in a long while.

I assumed he had some skill to be the leader of a color gang (even one as wishy-washy as the scarves), but I didn’t expect him to hold his own so well against Chikage (though he isn’t able to do any damage, he’s able to dodge his attacks well enough). Still, the “blood is thicker than water” title/theme applies here, as Chikage is loyal to Kodata through the bond they forged in righteous, honorable combat.

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The Saika family reunion continues, with Anri stating her reservations about manipulating people she holds dear with Saika as Haruna does. It comes down to them having different values. Kasane lays it out thusly: one can either entirely enslave their Saika or allow their Saika to entirely enslave them. Anri is trying to be nice to “both sides”, which Kasane believes is untenable.

Of course, she’s driven by the desire to acquire Saika from Anri, which would mean extracting her, but that can only happen if Anri truly doesn’t want Saika anymore. Anri still feels she owes Saika for saving her from her father, among other things. But Kasane remarks that Anri is too hard on herself for believing herself a parasite, or somehow not or less than human.

Letting go of Saika could perhaps mean returning to “normal” humanity in a biological sense, but she’ll always be one of the “family” by virture of her flesh, her blood, and her past. It’s a fascinating discussion between three very different personalities. Erika lightens the mood effectively both by inviting Kasane to a cosplay event and announcing Dotachin has come out of a coma and can see visitors tomorrow.

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Masaomi and Chikage’s duel continues, with Chikage ending up falling off the building when Masaomi bails out. Just then, Izumii Ran shows up with a gang of men and his mallet, looking to continue his revenge tour.

His taunts easily provoke Masaomi into attacking him, but a fierce punch to Izumii’s head only results in Masaomi breaking his hand. Will Chikage, who was just fighting Masaomi, get back up to that roof and help him stay alive against another superior opponent?

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Like Dotachin, Shizuo has been mostly an inert element this cour, as he’s in jail after a woman pressed charges against him for assault. An obvious Saika plant in the cell neighboring him wants him to tear up the joint so they can make off with the head in the commotion, in exchange for the charges against him being dropped.

However, this Saika plant seems to be too late with his proposal, as Shizuo is released without having to do anything after the woman drops the charges. No sooner is he free to go than some kind of rocket or missile hits the police van carrying Celty’s head. Varona of all people makes off with it, staring down Shizuo momentarily before zooming off on her bike. Shizuo assumes this is more of that wretched Izaya’s handiwork.

Prior to this to-do, around dusk, presumably after Haruna left Kasane and Anri, she is kidnapped by a Saika slave and brought to her former boyfriend Takashi, who has plans for her, none of them good.

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All the news of Celty’s head being out there, exposed to the world, causes her nightmares. She wakes up to find an understanding and supportive Shinra, who has spent the day trying to deal with the Yagiri siblings under control (mostly through sedation).

When Emilia says a girl with glasses is at the door, Shinra assumes it’s Anri, but it’s not; it’s Kasane, who is apparently not done wheeling and dealing. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was the one who hired/compelled Varona to snatch Celty’s head.

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 04

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This week we stop in on Bon and Shin as they’ve moved out of the master’s house and into their own apartment together. Shin has a job serving women he charms without trying and pinches every penny, while Bon spends all his non-rakugo time drinking away his earnings.

Shin continues to struggle to find his own rakugo, while Shin oozes confidence on the stage and has every crowd before him eating out of his hand immediately, including Bon. He’s even given himself a new name: Sukeroku. These two continue to be completely different in every way, yet they remain friends.

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It’s also this week that one of the few things that could strain their long-standing and deep friendship/brotherhood is formally introduced – by their master, no less. I speak of the lovely Miyokichi, whom the master has taken as a side-project, getting her a job as a geisha, likely in exchange for, ahem…other favors.

Miyokichi takes an instant liking to the serene, doll-like Bon, and isn’t subtle about her desire to meet with him alone, using a dance lesson as an excuse. Even in a show chock full of marvelous voice acting, Hayashibara Megumi (who voiced both Ayanami Rei and Faye Valentine) stands out; every line from those red lips oozes sex appeal.

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I’d say Bon was immune to her charms, either due to having lost his first love many years ago, or due to being so preoccupied with how he’s going to continue to do rakugo whilst his roommate rubs his apparently effortless yet immense success in his face every day. But he isn’t immune. Few would be.

He returns to Miyokichi’s (a rare subject that shuts Shin – sorry, Sukeroku, up), where he gives her a dance lesson, plays the shamisen while she sings (beautifully), and share some sake. Bon becomes more and more desirable as the evening progresses, as Bon’s not the typical kind of man she deals with, which must be refreshing.

Bon leaves before things get that far, but when she insists he promise to return again, he cannot resist drawing her closer. I don’t think the master introducing him to Miyokichi was an accident. Bon needs to learn to loosen up and have a good time if he’s to make any headway with erotic rakugo. What better way to do than in the company of a beautiful, complex, charming woman who may well actually want him?

Miyokichi, like his rakugo, is something Bon is still trying figure out. But if Sukeroku’s reaction to his interest in her is any indication, this is probably going to lead to some conflict between the brothers.

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Dagashi Kashi – 04

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Rather than explore a combination of various confections, Dagashi Kashi focuses on only two this week; and one at a time. First is fugashi, the brown sugar-coated wheat gluten snack for which there are countless varieties. Hotaru decides she and Kokonotsu will do a blind taste test.

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What with the blindfolds and the bound hands and the stuffing of cylindrical things down each others’ gullets, the exercise definitely has a suggestive, kinky quality to is, as Kokonotsu points out in his thoughts early on, but that’s tempered by the fact Hotaru is so darned innocent and oblivious and purely interested in the candy and the competition.

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The second part is dedicated solely to Glico, a little box containing caramels that will each provide enough energy to run 300 meters. When Kokonotsu leaves his sketchbook at Saya and Tou’s cafe (containing an incriminating sketch of Saya that Tou edited to point out her slight chest) Hotaru suggests they use the caramels to fuel the 1,500m run to retrieve the book.

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Nothing kinky about this segment, but like the fugashi competition, the proceedings grow very dramatic as they progress, with Hotaru and Koko performing great feats of athleticism while crunching the nitty-gritty numbers. However, they eventually tire, and Koko remembers Glicos only come four to a box, leaving him one short of the cafe.

Hotaru gives him her last one and demands he leave her behind to accomplish his goal. He reaches the cafe, but unfortunately, it’s too late; Saya sees the sketch, and no amount of explanation will quell her rage.

Poor Coconuts…never any luck! Were it not for Tou’s “adjustments”, Saya would have likely been moved by the portrait. Then again, a gorgeous rich girl constantly wants to hang out and do stuff with him, so maybe he’s not so unlucky after all…

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GATE – 16

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Considering how last week ended, one would think we’d be in store for some adventures with the party of Inami, Tuka, Rory, Lelei and Yao, right? Wrong. We only see them for less than five minutes this week. The rest of the episode somewhat disappointingly checks in numerous other plotlines, darting from one place to another for the apparent purpose of making GATE as complicated as possible.

We see more Yanagida than Itami this week, as he explains Itami’s actions to the General, then convinces another one (far easier than he expected) to mobilize a unit to support Itami. Then he meets with the old dude who gave Itami advice last week, who turns out to be a king, and negotiates a deal for tax-free non-currency mining rights. If this all sounds a bit dry, you’re not alone.

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Things get a little spicier when Yanagida’s various dealings intersect with Tyuule’s order for her spy in Arnus, Delilah, to assassinate Noriko, who has learned her family is missing and presumed dead and isn’t that upset when an assassin crawls out of the shadows.

Yanagida stops Delilah, but her being an extremely adept warrior, she’s able to dodge his bullets and plunge her knife into his side. He responds by emptying his clip into her. I suppose this is some kind of commentary on the combat prowess (or lack thereof) of “administrative” soldiers like Yanagida. In any case, Tyuule’s plot is foiled. I wonder what she’ll try next.

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I’ll admit, while it’s kinda random, I still enjoyed watching the pair of F-4 Phantoms messing around with the Fire Dragon, whom they intercept without much trouble, test its speed, maneuverability, and intelligence, then duck out before it barbecues them.

I know, Itami needs the dragon alive so he can show Tuka the thing that kill her father and hopefully snap her out of her psychosis, but wouldn’t it have been more prudent to simply fully arm those fighters, sortie a couple more, and take the big guy (or gal) out? I guess they’re not willing to risk losing a plane or a pilot on a dragon that, at the end of the day, isn’t threatening JSDF assets…yet.

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The five minutes of the core gang go by far too quickly, but they’re an exciting five minutes, as the dragon comes before them, Rory and Lelei do their thing to keep him busy, and Inami puts an RPG launcher in Tuka’s hands and tells her to fire. She misses, and the dragon skedaddles, but perhaps the experience will make her more lucid?

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Working!!! – Special – Lord of the Takanashi

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A few months back I voiced my frustration over Working!!!’s apparent reluctance to deliver a proper resolution to the Inami x Takanashi romance, instead ending on a “To Be Continued.” Well, this hour-long special is that promised continuation…and baby, it delivers. All is forgiven.

I still think this could have gotten done in the last couple of episodes of the threequel, but in hindsight, I didn’t mind the material we got instead, as well as this special that gives the resolution plenty of time and space to unfold.

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Because while there are lots of other good things going on in this special—Yamada coming to grips with being reunited with her mom; Popura trying to be the best future chief she can be; Nazuna preparing to take over the world one day—most of the time the focus is where it should be: on our main couple.

Takanashi continues to cross-dress on order from his mother, who would deny him both romance and manhood as long as he’s dishonest about his feelings.

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Yachiyo is concerned about Takanashi (mostly because he’s a good worker and she needs the labor) so when Inami beseeches her for a time when she can run into Takanashi (who had his schedule adjusted to avoid her), the boss is happy to comply.

Inami lies in wait and confronts Takanashi, who is very reasonable with her, and seems to be on the cusp of saying what he should have said a long time ago, but yet again a parent butts in and delays the catharsis; his mother, again, not allowing a son who lies to date anyone.

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The only way this stalemate will be broken is if Inami sallies forth to rescue Takanashi as his knight in…his own work uniform. I love the idea and the symmetry of Inami dressing as a boy to save the one she loves dressed as a girl (especially the little dig Yamada gets in about her wrapping her chest).

But the outfit won’t be enough: Inami must face a gauntlet of Takanashi’s sisters, deployed by her mother to test her. The first challenger is Kazue, but Inami gets past her accidentally by congratulating her on her re-marriage. Okay…maybe this won’t be so hard after all…but that doesn’t mean it isn’t funny!

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Izumi is next, but she’s actually glad Souta ended up with Inami, so forfeits their fight, accepting a forehead flick as defeat even though said flick never reaches her forehead. Just when it looks as if Kozue has Inami’s number (revealing Inami can only fight against men), when her buds show up looking for her, she totally flakes out.

But like Izumi, she’s on Inami’s side. So is Inami’s final challenger Nazuna, who instead tests how nice a person she is by refusing to fight her even though Nazuna seems to be rearing for one.

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Nazuna later becomes a powerful advocate for Inami at their home, where her mother remains unconvinced Souta should be freed. When we see the photo Nazuna produces of her mother as a 17-year-old arguably even tinier and cuter than even Popura, it’s concrete proof of how much people can change, if you just give them the opportunity to do so.

The clincher for Souta’s mom is when Popura shows up, and she realizes her son has changed: he went for the ordinary-sized girl over the tiny one.

Also extremely amusing is the fact Takanashi’s mom keeps that picture of her around her office because despite loathing how tiny she once was, she shares the same love of tiny cute things as her son, which is why she takes an instant liking to Popura, using her as a prayer offering, then attempting to kidnap her as she returns to work, satisfied Souta is on the right track.

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Takanashi brings up his intense affection for all things cute and small, which Inami initially and wrongly mistakes for a soft rejection. Takanashi goes on to say he doesn’t just want to be someone who can proclaim loudly and proudly that he loves tiny cute things; but that he can proclaim that he loves all the things he loves – like Inami.

He finally, finalllllly confesses, she says she feels the same way, he says he’s known that for some time, and she lets him take her hand the way lovers do, without creepy CGI grabbing wands. THANK GOD.

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After that wonderful exchange, and all the fun and hilarious stuff that led up to it, I stand fully propitiated. Working!!! took a while to get to where it ended up (three cours and a special, to be exact), but it got there. It didn’t let me down.

Hell, it almost makes me want to go all the way back to the beginning, this time without the stress of not knowing when or even if things will work out…because they did. So I guess there’s nothing left to say but Thank you, Working!!!, for all the laughter-food!

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 04

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In theory, Satoru’s task is simple: if he remains in close contact with Kayo consistently for one more week, and they can celebrate their birthdays together at his house, he believes he’ll be able to change history by preventing her kidnapping and murder.

He makes it a point to try to hang out with Kayo on a Saturday date to the museum, hoping to get her away from her home so her mother won’t be tempted to beat her. And in another amusing instance of Satoru-29 thinking out loud, Satoru doesn’t mince words in asking Kayo on a date.

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Kayo’s mother proves a formidable obstacle to that day of bliss – were it not for Satoru’s truly heroic mother stopping Kayo’s mom from striking her after she admits she wants to go out. With Sachiko there (who knows exactly what kind of person she is), Kayo’s mom, concerned with appearances, weighs her options and decides to allow the date.

Thank goodness after Satoru and his mom left the episode didn’t cut to Kayo’s mom taking out her anger on Kayo. When I saw Satoru and Kayo standing before the stuffed bear, I breathed a sigh of relief.

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Of course, this being far more than just a slice-of-life romantic tale, it’s not all peaches and sunshine at the museum. On numerous occasions, Satoru gets deja vu-style flashes of Kayo saying and doing things she’s already said and done, leading him (and me) to believe that he hasn’t yet taken Kayo off the path that leads to her death, and the future won’t be changed so easily.

The film reel pattern in the letterboxing and the visualization of the various timelines as a tangle of said film is effectively used but not overused, particularly when both fast-forward to the same outcome: Kayo’s funerary portrait and total defeat.

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Satoru sticks to the plan, his courage buoyed, not cowed by his sense of duty to protect and save Kayo. He thinks out loud, in front of the whole class, that Kayo is pretty (her reactions to these slip-ups are priceless), he walks her home before being intercepted by her mother, and he tells her he’ll be at her house in the morning – the morning of Day X, which will decide everything – so they can walk to school together, which they do hand in hand.

If one were to liken Satoru’s quest as a war, we would call his 29-year-old self a grizzled veteran, hardened by the despair of the bad future that didn’t just affect him and Kayo negatively. Yuuki’s in prison and his mom is dead. There’s a lot riding on his success, but his previous 10-year-old self would never have been able to achieve what he achieves during this week, because he lacked that foresight, that loss of innocence, that ability to see beyond himself. This Satoru can.

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So he only very grudingly breaks contact with Kayo on this last day, seeing her right to her door, getting up before midnight to watch over her house and wait for the stroke of midnight. This entire day and in particular those last moments of it, are positively brimming with suspence, so much so I had to make sure to control my breathing just in case something awful transpired.

The episode also made sure to show us what Kenya, Yashiro, and Kayo’s mom – all persons of interest with regards to her potential disappearance – but none of them are anywhere near Kayo, and aren’t doing anything suspicious. When the second hand ticked past the twelve, I felt I could relax a little…but only a little.

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Seeing Kayo in her jammies receive a waiting Satoru at her door was a moment of triumph, as well as another perfect use of her unofficial catchphrase “Are you stupid?” As the hours and minutes until their birthday party ticked away, the suspense started to build all over again, especially when Yashiro told the two to do cleaning duty after school.

Turns out both that, and the suspicious-at-the-time meeting between Yashiro and Kenya that ended last week, were perfectly innocent: Satoru’s friends planned a surprise party for him and Kayo. Isn’t that something? Gee, it’s really dusty in here…or maybe there’s an raw onion nearby? *sniffle*

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The joy and mirth of the festivities are matched, and then some, when the episode inevitably, mercilessly brings the hammer down. At some point Satoru has to walk Kayo home and wish her good night, she promises to give him his birthday present tomorrow, and waves goodbye wearing the mittens he got her.

The promise is never fulfilled. The next morning at school, Kayo is absent. Satoru was able to change the future, but only by one day. I’d say I can only imagine what became of her in those evening hours they were apart…but I honestly have no freakin’ clue.

When confronting Kayo’s mother, Satoru exclaims, beyond the years of his physical body, “when it comes to saving a friend, there are no gains and losses!” And he’s absolutely right. Just as he wrongly thought getting past the X-Day was a victory, he’s wrong if he thinks this latest development is a loss.

Even if it is, and even if he doesn’t have ready acces to an IBN 5100, the results of those past battles don’t matter. The war goes on. It has really only just begun.

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HaruChika – 04

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I decided to go out on a limb and watch one more episode of P.A. Work’s generally disappointing HaruChika, intrigued that we might find a chink in the perfect Haruta’s armor in the guise of his family. I did so knowing it could well be a trap that would lead me to keep watching, despite the fact I should have learned from Glasslip that the show isn’t really ever going to actually go anywhere, only tease.

And it was a trap. But while I’m still committed to dropping this, I didn’t dislike my final look. Once one gets used to the look of HaruChika, it really does show good command of animating characters and creating awkward situations for comedic effect. And I liked Haruta’s eldest sister,who’s far from the hell-beast Haruta made her out to be. In fact, her presence and his discomfort with it made Haruta a lot more tolerable.

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We learn that Haruta is only one of an entire family of talented people; Mimami is an architect (and a pretty nifty drifter in her Civic Type R), while his other two sisters are an illustrator and a chiropractor. So certainly there’s both pressure on him, the baby, to perform, as well as do whatever his three sisters want. I only have one little sister, so I can’t quite relate, but his discontent with his lot in life is at least more understandable now that I know he comes from a home practiclaly bursting with ability.

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In any case, when he was evicted from his old apartment, Haruta took to living with the chickens and being cared for by the animal club. This won’t do, so Minami is there to help him find a new apartment; Chika volunteers to help out (especially when she learns the alternative may be Haru staying at Kusakabe’s place), and drags Miyoko along. When the seemingly perfect place’s only flaw is that it might be haunted, Miyoko’s scaredy-cat side comes out, and it’s fun to watch Chika mess with her at every turn.

The thing is, an exploration into Haruta’s family suddenly turns into another very random mystery-of-the-week involving the recently deceased landlord’s nephew, who believes his prank-loving uncle left the house to him to cause him trouble: the tenants always complain about what sounds like a priest’s staff in the night, and the inheritance tax is more than he and his pregnant wife can afford.

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Haru ends up staying at Maren’s house (thanks to an assist by Miyoko that Chika praises her for…wait, wasn’t Chika terrorizing Miyoko all day?) and he puts all the clues that were laid out together. My first thoughts on hearing about the nature of the ghost sound, combined with the will written on the blueprints and mentioning “precious metals”, was that the walls were full of coins.

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Mind you, I’m not usually too skilled at solving mysteries before the show reveals them, but this was one of those instances, leaving me tapping my foot a bit, waiting along with Chika and the others for Haru to make yet another big show about what a frikkin’ genius he is. All Hail The Glorious, Perfect Haruta…(farting noise).

Now, I did enjoy details like 1982 being the year the 500-yen coin was first put into circulation, and that all the coins in the walls are 500-yen coins, as well as the warm, casual Christmas flavor that suffused the episode. As for Haru and Chika ending up in Kusakabe’s arms, lying on a pile of cash, well…that was just goofy, and a useful reminder that I need to step away from this show while I still can!

I do so with one final unsolicited, uninformed prediction: Haru and Chika will not be a couple by the end of the show. I know that’s not necessarily the point of the show, but c’mon now. I may check in on the last episode to see if I’m proven wrong.

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Musaigen no Phantom World – 04

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It’s very appropriate that this week’s episode of Phantom World begins with a binge session at a restaurant, as it’s Restaurant Week here and I just got back from stuffing myself. The episode then transforms into an all-you-can-eat smorgasbord of whimsy focused on the show’s resident eating champion, Izumi Reina.

After dinner, she splits from Haru and Mai and ends up boarding a very unusual bus that takes her…somewhere. Our first go-round with the process is very mysterious, because one minute she’s boarding the bus, the next, she’s outside the front gate of her house. The next morning, Koito (Hi Koito!) confesses to witnessing the whole thing, determining that Reina is possessed by a phantom.

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That assertion proves very true when Haruhiko boards the bus with Reina next time. She’s totally out of it, as if hypnotized, but he’s lucid as the bus transports them, in a sequence that (not accidentally) owes much to the train journey in Spirited Away, to another place; an idealized storybook home complete with adorable bunny caricatures of Reina’s parents (who are a lot stricter in real life.)

As is usually the case in scenarios such as this, eating the food is a bad idea, but Haruhiko realizes this too late, and grows his own bunny ears and a pastel texture to his character design that indicates he’s been “taken” by this place. He acts out Reina’s fantasy as his big brother, until the fantasy breaks and the two are back at the front of her real house, with her real father wanting to know who Haruhiko is. Reina sends him home, promising to explain everything later.

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Turns out Mai reminds Reina very strongly of her real big sister, who got tired of their parent’s tightassery and flew the coop. So after Haruhiko fails miserably in trying to sketch-seal the bus the next time (he’s still under the phantoms’ influence), Mai and Ruru board with Haruhiko and Reina, and end up in the fantasy world with them. Ruru, who is unaffected by the food, ends up accidentally gives Mai a taste, thus bewitching her too.

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It’s not until Haruhiko goes to the bathroom of all things, that he snaps out of it; I imagined the food he ate was the cause of the hypnosis, and when he shat it out, the effects dissipated. He refers to the bathroom as a portal between the real and unreal, or some such. In any case, he takes a chance and ends up successfully snapping Reina out of it by hugging her, a gesture that always elicits a reaction in the form of a martial arts throw.

Once she’s lucid, watching the still-bewitched Mai interact with her “phantom parents” Reina realizes the phantoms fed on her desire for her family to be whole again, creating a world where she could live happily ever after even without that sister.

When the phantoms tell her to make a choice, Haruhiko beseeches her to stay in the world in which she belongs, so she can be there if and when her sister returns home. Reina chooses to reject the phantom world and stay strong beside her senpais. All in all, a very lush, atmospheric episode with heavy Ghibli influence, which taught us a little more about Reina. Though we still don’t know where all that food she eats goes…

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Prince of Stride: Alternative – 04

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PoS (which is not a POS) follows up a big, exciting, official race with…another big, exciting, official race! Good form, especially if this is just a single-cour series. An anime about a game of speed should have a fast-moving plot. Especially since, well, most of the characters are pretty bland, so it’s best not to focus on them too long!

One notable exception this week is Ayumu, who may be the most knowledgeable in trivia and best shogi player, is the worst runner on the team. Far from being able to pull off “gimmicks”, he’s scared of them, taking him off whatever pace and flow he’s able to put together. But Ayumu doesn’t let that stop him.

He uses his frustration with being the worst at everything Stride-related (well, almost everything; more on that later) to fuel a steady, forceful improvement regime, helped out by Hozumi. And while he’s exhausted on the day of the race in hot-springy Atami, and Takeru doesn’t seem interested in his muscles in the bath (not necessarily a bad thing), he’s a lot more confident than he was.

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That is, until he meets his opponent on Mihashi High’s team, who is very friendly but also enormous, with a death grip for a handshake. It’s here where Ayumu hints that in order to survive in Stride (and more importantly to him, not let everyone down), he must flex his most developed “muscle”: his brain. To that end, he convinces his opponent he’s racing for his sister (though it kinda backfires when the guy promises he’ll give it his very best, rather than let him win).

Ayumu’s little conflict isn’t quite enough to sustain an entire episode, however, so it’s good there are a couple more things bubbling. You have the Kamoda brothers, for instance: the older, meeker Yuu only a “figurehead” relationer to the team’s ace, the younger, flashier Kei.

Yuu’s unique relationing style during the race positively baffles Nana (along with a no-radio-reception tunnel at a crucial moment, a rookie mistake). She’s even more troubled (and hence, distracted) when she learns that the runners aren’t actually even taking orders from Yuu.

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Still, Nana trusts in her runners and they make their relations; perhaps a bit sloppily here and there, but they make them. It’s another exciting race with the guys making the Road Runner whooshing sound when they take off running. I’ll only say that while in general I dig the super blue-heavy palette of PoS, the over-saturation tends to be overused at times.

When it’s Ayumu’s turn, the lead the previous three runners built against Mihashi quickly vanishes as the skyscraper blows past him. Unable to bear being the one who lost them the race, he takes a crafty shortcut that nobody expects, only because it requires a dangerous drop, which he does not stick. For a few moments when Nana couldn’t reach him, I feared he’d ended up in the drink, ending the race right there.

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Instead, he makes contact to Nana, and makes the last relation with Hozumi, who digs deep and regains the lead for Honan, resulting in their first win by a fraction of a second. No time for celebration, though, as Hozumi immediately turns around and races to Ayumu, who is later carted off to the hospital, banged up but alive.

After losing the race he so desperately wanted to win for Yuu, Kei decides he’s done usurping him as relationer, and for all the apologizing Yuu does, Kei knows he’s the one who should be sorry. Good for you, guy who looks way too much like Takeru!

Our last little wrinkle of drama is another peek into the whole “Riku’s estranged brother” story, where apparently after seeing his brother’s team win on the interwebs, Tomoe calls Galaxy’s relationer Kyousuke about maybe pairing up.

Kyousuke is noncommittal (he apparently had to give up Stride and doesn’t deserve to run anymore…so dramatic!), but something tells me one way or another we’re gonna see a clash of the Yagami brothers.

But here’s the thing: I just don’t think I’m going to have time to cover PoS every Tuesday going forward, so I’m afraid this is goodbye. But it’s a goodbye with a Robert Redford Nod of Approval.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 15

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After a brief introduction to Raj’s siblings Rona and Eugena, we see that things aren’t exactly going so smoothly between Raj and Shirayuki. It’s nothing dramatic; he just can’t seem to strike up a proper conversation with her, perhaps feeling the pressure of not saying the wrong thing. His difficulty contrasts sharply with Shirayuki’s effortless chat with Obi on the balcony overlooking her hometown. It’s the conversation she should have had with Raj, but couldn’t.

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The siblings were a hint that the whole of Scheherazade is singularly focused on Raj’s interactions with Shirayuki, which explains why he feels like he’s on the spot. So he decides a change of scenery is best, and wouldn’t you know it, the castle has a greenhouse, which is Shirayuki’s wheelhouse.

The only problem is, while Raj has gotten a little nicer and more considerate, he’s still inept at most things, such as finding his way through the labyrinthine (and booby trap-laced) vaults that lead to their destination. Raj is doing his best to seem on top of things with his authoritative snapping, but he soon gets the three of them lost – which surely doesn’t help his confidence.

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Meanwhile, as Zen meets with that island hottie Kihal and her awesome birds, Mitsuhide runs into Prince Izana. He decides to ask point-blank if he’s testing the lovebirds, to which Izana responds point-blank (to Mitsu’s surprise) that yes, he is. If Zen and Shirayuki are for real, this little forced separation in the midst of an at-large would-be kidnapper should be a walk in the park.

Meanwhile in Tanbarun, Obi starts to notice they’re being followed, and manages to catch Rona and Eugena (and show off his mad ninja skillz). That gives Raj a rare moment alone with Shirayuki, during which he expresses his (wrong) opinion that she knows this was all going to go pear-shaped, and that she’s only sticking around so she can “say she couldn’t do it and leave as soon as possible”.

Shirayuki rightly takes exception to that assertion. In fact, she legitimately wants to change her relationship with Raj for the better. She believes she was sent to him for a reason and she’s going to stick it out. Once Obi and the twins (who know a way out) rejoin them, Shirayuki praises Raj for looking her in the eye when speaking to her, a first.

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Once they reach the greenhouse, Raj could, ya know, escort her around the grounds and stike up some kind of conversation about plants, but he’s so exhausted he collapses onto a bench and leaves her to Obi. Still, he makes sure to apologize for his mistakes – another first, by his siblings’ reckoning, and when the sun sets, Shirayuki says she’ll see him tomorrow.

So sure, there’s room for improvement, but large strides have already been made between Raj and Shirayuki; strides forged in those vaults. If only things could stay this breezy; but it would appear Mihaya may be forming an alliance with Kazuki, who promises to reward him handsomely through his “villainous” associates.

I’d say Shirayuki is safe in Raj’s castle with Obi in a room right next door to her, but surely there’s a Shirayuki-napping quota to be met, and Kazuki (who isn’t bad at the mad ninja skillz himself) will find a way.

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