GATE – 14

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Here I thought the earthquake would be a major calamity for the Special Region, utterly unequipped to deal with a natural disaster that does plenty of harm even in modern Japan. But it’s “only a 4 or a 5”, by Itami’s reckoning, as he and Sugawara weather it calmly while Pina and her maid are shaking in their nighties.

The quake passes, but Pina knows she’s not the only one of her people who was scared shitless, so she rushes to the palace to meet with her father, bringing Itami and Sugawara along.

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Their coridal meeting is interrupted by the arrival of Prince Zolzal, who wastes no time at all confirming what a woman-hating creep his is by bringing in Noriko, a Japanese hostage from when their armies invaded the Ginza. Noriko looks as beaten-up and beaten-down as the bunny chief from last week, but Itami and Shino waste no time rescuing her from Zolzal’s clutchs and doling out swift punishment.

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When Zolzal orders his men to attack them back, Itami steps back and lets Shino take care of everything. She bayonets all approaching fighters, then guns down those with shields (the bullets go right through them and their primitive armor).

We’ve seen Shino-As-One-Girl-Wrecking-Crew before, but having her do her thing in the middle of the Imperial throne room sets a new high for audaciousness. It’s also never not fun to watch her go on a spree, even if, again, I’m not so sure SDF protocol is being followed here.

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But while it’s fun, and I’m glad Zolzal quickly gets his just desserts for all the shitty slimy stuff he’s done (and I’m sure he’s done much more we’re not privy to), and Shino’s fists carry with them all the manifest despair and loathing and suffering of Zolzal’s victims, being brought down upon him, it’s also a bit, well, easy. 

I mean, of course this guy is a loathsome little shitstain, and of course when someone actually fight starts whaling on him, he crumbles into a crybaby.

But I’m going to call this scene exactly what it is—Tarantino-esque revenge porn—and while I considered Shino’s actions justified (if a little over-the-top), it would have been more satisfying if there was a little more moral ambiguity to the exchange. The stark black-and-whiteness sapped the scene some of its power.

Interestingly, it’s Tyuule the bunny chief who stands between the prince and Itami, begging the LT not to kill her abuser. I’m thinking perhaps she has her own plans for him, plans for which she’s endured much suffering, and they won’t work if he’s dead. I look forward to the time she can repay him for everything he’s done, but with her people’s safety to consider, she’s playing the long game.

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The Japanese government acts swiftly upon news of Japanese hostages in the Special Region – by bombing the Imperial Senate, sending the message that they’d better release the others if they don’t want to lose anymore buildings.

We learn of the existence of another brother of Pina and Zolzal’s—Diabo, which sounds kinda like “diablo”, only he seems like less of a devil than Zolly…though he may just be better at hiding it. Zolzal also calls his sister a traitor, opening up the possibility he takes her prisoner, stripping her down and beating her, as is his M.O. with captive women.

They have a little chat about how Zolly knows he’ll be named emperor over Diabo, even though his father won’t actually give up all his power. Tyuule’s presence by his side and in his bed is starting to make more sense if she is indeed plotting against him, it’s best to keep your enemies close. And as we know with that tan elf chick who hasn’t shown up yet (Ducy), the warriors of other races resolve to do whatever they can to protect their people.

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Mochizuki Noriko is brought back to base and her injuries are treated. You can feel the traumas she endured in her eyes and the sound of her voice (not sure who the seiyu is, but she does a fine job); but also her relief and joy at being free, something she probably gave up on when she was one of Zolzal’s sex slave. But her troubles aren’t over; it’s heavily implied her family was killed in a Special Region raid while they were distributing flyers about her disappearance. Talk about a rough hand to be dealt.

And speaking of those missing family, Tuka spends the entire episode looking for her father, though again we only see her for a couple of beats. Next week’s episode is titled “Tuka Luna Marceau”, which bodes well for getting her more involved in a show that for the last two weeks has seriously snubbed her, Rory and Lelei.

However, I see that it did that for a pretty good reason: to remind us quite unambiguously that the SG isn’t just some charmingly primitive fantasy land. It’s brutal, and cruel, and dark, and sometimes the only way to deal with it is by knocking out a couple of its teeth.

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Dagashi Kashi – 02

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Dagashi Kashi continues to be Shidare Hotaru’s (and Taketatsu Ayana’s) world; everyone else is just living in it. Kokonotsu lives in a goldmine of candy classics, Hotaru has more passion for them in one of her brightly-painted nails than Koko’s whole body. There’s a tremendous enthusiasm gap here, but the hope is Hotaru will eventually wear Koko down into accepting succession of his father’s store (though who knows if it’ll happen).

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Until then, Koko can hardly complain about being bored with Hotaru around; there’s literally never a dull moment with her around, getting into a big lecture about the proper way to eat Kinako sticks, then breaking out tablets of non-alc Namaiki Beer she somehow proceeds to get piss drunk on (and Hotaru is possibly even more entertaining in this state).

In both cases, Hotaru, despite being so well put together fashion-wise, doesn’t seem to know some of her mannerisms and phrasing can be inadvertantly titillating for Koko. There’s this subtext of Hotaru growing up so fast into the candy and snacks savant she is now (she could probably run her dad’s company today), she never had either the time or the inclination for romance. And yet, she’s by any measure extremely happy and fulfilled.

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On the other hand, Koko, and Saya for that matter, are still very much kids at heart. Koko doesn’t want to give up on his manga dream and gets embarrased when Hotaru does or says certain things, while Saya likes Koko, but Koko is of course oblivious. I do appreciate that while there is a clear love triangle here, Saya’s the only one remotely aware of it, and in any case the show doesn’t push too far on the romance or triangle angle.

Instead, what would have been another quiet, hot, boring small town day for Koko and Saya becomes…something else entirely, thanks to Hotaru happening to pass by showing off her Ramune Whistling skils, then going on to recite the entire history of the whistle, telling it like some kind of school drama, and casting both Koko and his father in unsubtle attempt to try to convince Koko that following his father is the best path for him.

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To his credit, Koko stands his ground. Convincing him isn’t going to be easy, if it’s even possible, but if anyone can do it, Hotaru can. She even gets Saya’s blessing, since if Koko doesn’t take over the store, it might mean he’s leaving town; leaving her behind.

So now both Hotaru and Saya share a desire to keep Hotaru right there, in the Shikada Candy Shop that is his destiny. The episode closes out with some menko, a card-flipping game Saya turns out to be really good at despite having never played, to both Hotaru and Koko’s dismay.

The trio just seems to be having a ton of fun, and I’m having a ton of fun watching them. I didn’t really miss You or Saya’s bro Tou, though that’s not to say I’d mind if they show up next week. In fact, I like that the show can keep characters in its back pocket and still run the table.

The only character who must be in every episode is Hotaru; she’s the linchpin of this whole nutty operation.

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