DAYS – 05

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The Gist: we’re introduced to Seiseki’s striker Kasahara this week. He’s a third year who puts more work into the game than anyone else, but this will be his last tourney before he must leave the school and care for his ailing grand mother.

Tsukamoto is a huge fan and helps Kasahara train for the inter-murals… only to be picked over his senpai in a surprise move by the couch. This choice does not become obvious until their first game, where nerves keep the team stiff until Tsukamoto is sent onto the field. His clumsiness lightens the mood and his intense dedication (and stamina) saves the ball.

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He’s still terrified by the end and has now idea how helpful he was until seeing the video from the stands. His team mates point out how relaxed the team becomes, and how Tsukamoto’s tempo keeps them racing.

Watching Tsukamoto watch the video on the train home is Indou Kaoru, Saku High’s team captain. He’s moved to tears by their support but rappidly shifts to a challenging stare. He wants to play against Tsukamoto.

Roll Credits…

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The Verdict: The fake out with Kasahara was a good choice. Sure, it was obvious when the couch paused on the final pick and he hadn’t been picked yet, but it’s still a nice twist. Having Tsukamoto lead a counter charge was a good payoff too.

I am dinging the score down a notch this week because it was a little uglier than usual and it feels more emotionally disposable than the previous weeks. The narrative moved and we’ve met a valuable opponent for our hero but… this was more a step than a complete thought on its own.

Also I hate Tsukamoto’s damn cheek circles still. ARGH!

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Handa-kun – 04

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The Gist: This week Handa-kun continued to hit its stride with another trio of silly nonsensical situations. First we meet a Handa-kun cosplayer with terrible teeth, then students misunderstand Handa’s mom to be his girlfriend, and last Handa tries to make small talk because his parent teacher meeting doesn’t go well.

The Verdict: Handa-kun’s shortcomings as a show remain the same but so do its strengths in comedic timing. This leaves me with little to say beyond summarizing the episode, unfortunately. Fortunately, I was laughing most of the way!

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 18

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In which Subaru truly does return to “Zero”, and this show continues to surprise

Other than a thorough and devastating dressing-down by MegaPuck (during which time Subie slowly freezes solid and shatters) and another Return by Death, this episode consists exclusively of one conversation between Subaru and Rem, presented only with intermittent flashes from the past.

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lot is covered, with a great deal of emotion flying around. It takes a great deal of attention to sit through and absorb, but if you like Subaru (or are at least rooting for him) and you like Rem, you probably liked this episode a lot, I for one was riveted.

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There’s also a good deal of rejection in their long, sprawling discussion, which takes place in a very pretty part of the city with a lovely view, on a clear, crisp day. First, Rem rejects Subaru’s desperate plan to run away together, because it would mean giving up on the Subaru she fell in love with.

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Rem can’t possibly know how much Subaru has been through already, and how he finally decided to give up after much suffering. But damn it all if I don’t get soppy-eyed as she beautifully describes the perfectly fine future they’d have together if she went with him. But again, she’s not ready to give up on him, even if he’s given up on himself.

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Initially in the talk, I was on Subaru’s side, because I was right there with him when Rem, Ram, and Emilia died again and again, often in awful, horrifying ways. Like him, I’m from the real world, where I, unfortunately, am not a hero. If I ended up in a fantasy-RPG-style world like he did, I might think for a time, that I had suddenly become one.

But Subaru learned the hard way that he is, as Puck put it, useless. That every time he’s talked big, he’s come up short in the quest to save everyone. It’s hard to argue, considering this is the most persistent impasse he’s come to, which has led to the darkest places…and there’s only so much a dumb do-nothing kid from the modern world can take, right?

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Subaru tries, with the same passion he ranted at Emilia, to drill into Rem’s head all the ways he is a complete and utter failure of a living thing. But she simply doesn’t buy it. She comes back with all of the reasons she loves him, and describes in detail how she felt when he rescued her from herself. Not only did she fall in love with him then, but he restarted a clock that stopped for her when her village burned. He is her hero.

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Rather than run away from everything, she’s going to stay right where she is, and so is Subaru. Whatever troubles they have, they’ll figure it out together; support each other; make up for each other’s weaknesses. Do what they’ve done up to this point. Rem makes her love for him plain as the blue sky above them.

So when Subaru rejects her because he still loves Emilia, it stings quite a bit, but for Rem, better to have a Subaru around than not, whether he loves her the same way back or not.

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So when Subaru puts forth his plan to move forward and try to save Emilia and asks for Rem’s help, Rem humbly accepts, but makes sure to tell him how cruel it is to ask such a thing of someone you’ve just rejected. Subaru, in turn, reminds her she rejected his running-away plan first. Touché!

They both have a good laugh – it’s been a long, exhausting talk, but look at what it has wrought! Subaru, who had been brought so low, he was starting to think—like me and Franklin—that he really was immensely over-his-head with this whole hero thing.

He had bags under his eyes, he was utterly done with everything. And now he’s back in the game, in far higher spirits, and even smiling and laughing. Quite the transition in one talk!

Time will tell if Subaru is simply grasping one last time onto the hope of one (Rem) who is, at the end of the day, ignorant to his past failed attempts, and doesn’t understand just how weak and ineffectual he is.

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Is this a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full show? I’m still not sure, but it’s a half-full episode, which rejects what I’ve been thinking throughout this second half: that Subaru simply can’t cut it in this world, as much as he and I and Rem may want him to.

I’m looking forward to seeing what, exactly, returning to “zero” means for Subaru, and if somehow all the insights he and Rem gleaned from this long heart-to-heart will help them. Until then, this was a powerful episode, despite not much physically happening.

What did happen was Kobayashi Yuusuke and Minase Inori delivered some powerhouse performances that really drew me in and restored my faith in the possibility of a happy (or at least happier) ending. Mind you, Re:Zero may just be setting us up for more dark times made darker by the fact everything said here may end up being lost. But I hope not!

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Orange – 05

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Last week’s episode ended on an optimistic note that I’m glad was carried through. Naho will never stop worrying or going over things in her head, but on multiple occasions this week, she says and does the things she needs to do to keep changing her (and Kakeru’s) future for the better. Note I said her future, as well as Kakeru’s…not her future self (more on that later).

On a rainy day when Kakeru forgets his umbrella, Naho is prepared not with a handkerchief, but a bath towel. Her friends, who know exactly what’s going on, get her and Kakeru can walk home together, and take a detour into a park with a picturesque view of the city. There, Kakeru gets Naho to close her eyes as he gives her a hair clip and snaps a photo of her wearing it.

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The letter said everyone would walk home with Kakeru, but here in the present it’s just him and her. The letters are from a static future, one that she’s not changing. But she is changing her own future, which means the people around her are starting to say and do things differently than the future Naho’s past.

We learn categorically that Kakeru and Ueda have broken up, and all I have to say about that is GOOD. But more importantly, in a somewhat on-the-nose side-lecture by the science teacher, Naho learns (or at least learns about the theory) that going back in time and changing things creates a parallel world containing the new future, branching off from the future that was, which remains intact.

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That lecture really got Naho down, because such a theoretical system means there’s nothing she can do about her future self’s regrets, nor Kakeru’s loss in that world. BUT, and this is key, she CAN keep herself from going down the same road she went down before, so there is absolutely value in continuing her mission.

A letter eventually informs her that some of her words and actions will erase memories good and bad, including an instance of Kakeru asking Naho out to the fireworks, just the two of them. When Kakeru no longer asks her that, Naho takes it upon herself to ask him, and leaves no room for misinterpretation: she wants to be with him and him alone.

It’s a phenomenal leap for Naho, who is surprised herself that she managed to say such words for the first time. This is what I was hoping for: that Naho would start to grow and take her future in her own hands.

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Obviously, the consequences of her more aggressive pursuit of Kakeru is that Suwa ends up the loser, as the entire circle of friends (other than Naho) are aware he likes Naho, even Kakeru. Suwa, a jock, takes this like any soccer match he’d lose against a superior opponent: c’est la vie.

Time will tell if he’s truly okay and even happy as long as Naho is happy (even if it means she’ll be happy with Kakeru and not him), but for now he seems sincere, and when Azu and Taka confront him about their intent to side with Naho, he tells them he’s on their side too.

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So they’re all in agreement: Naho x Kakeru will be supported and encouraged as much as they can, without getting to intrusive. That means Suwa swapping duties with Naho at the cultural festival so Naho can be with Kakeru.

Unlike Suwa, Ueda isn’t quite ready to concede defeat quietly, nor does she have the slightest intention of rooting for Naho. Rather, she takes the smaller girl aside into a dark corner, and asks questions that are none of her damn business while flanked by her stooges, generally intimidating the hell out of Naho, who finds herself in the unwanted kind of uncharted territory.

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Things seemed ready to spiral out of control when Naho slaps one of the girls away, but thankfully Ueda chose a corner with a window that offers Suwa (who just happens to be walking by with some girls who like him) a clear view of what’s going on and ample time to put a stop to it.

I shudder to think what would have gone down had Suwa not arrived, and breathed a big sigh of relief when he came between the girls, towering over even the statuesque Ueda, and leading Naho out of the combat zone.

I hope this is the last time Ueda pulls something like this, but I won’t hold by breath, as the more conflicts Naho has to face only adds to the overall drama. No one said this would be easy.

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Suwa makes one last gesture in favor of Naho x Kakeru by slipping the latter some bandages to put on Naho’s scratched hand. Kakeru makes it clear Suwa gave them to him, and Naho makes sure to do what the letters also directed: thank Suwa for looking out for him.

Present Naho had gotten into such a groove with Suwa (not to mention Azu and Taka) that she’d started to take Suwa’s kindness for granted. Future Naho married Suwa, but only after the first choice was lost to her. That being said, they seem like a happy enough couple, and they’ll continue to be a couple in the parallel future our present Naho is now separate from.

Sure enough, Suwa does appreciate being thanked profusely by Naho, to the point of tears of joy…and, maybe, also tears of resignation and sadness that Naho is out of reach. But this isn’t Suwa’s story. It’s Naho’s. You wanna make an omelette, you gotta break some Suweggs (I’ll show myself out).

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Tales of Zestiria the X – 04

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Sorey wakes up, ReZero-style, in an ornate room, with Lailah and Mikleo by his bedside and a relieved Alisha not far behind. Wanting to provide more than a simple thank you for taking on the mantle of Shepherd, she provides him with some dope Shepherd threads. Now the hero looks the part.

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What continues to be an refreshing twist on the RPG party-gathering is that Alisha can’t see or hear two of the party members. But she does believe, and her faith is affirmed when Lailah sets it up so Sorey, blocking his senses and holding his breath, can serve as a conduit through which she and Mikleo can speak to Alisha, and she an hear them. I loved how her eyes sparkled at this revelation.

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From there, after a brief tour of Ladylake (where everyone has raised flags of the Shepherd in celebration of his rise) Alisha splits off from the other three, to meet with the council and refuse Lord Bartlow’s demand she “hand over” Sorey to them.

Surely she suspects the not-so-good lord had a part in the hiring of that assassin last week, even if there’s no proof. Meanwhile, Sorey, Lailah and Mikleo go down a Zelda-style staircase into a dungeon, towards the source of a large amount of nausea-inducing malevolence.

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There, they encounter a swarm of bats who have turned into hellions, which coalesce into one giant bat that serves as a miniboss. The enemy is frightening, but the battle goes relatively easily for Sorey thanks to backup from his fire-and-ice-aligned Seraphim comrades.

Lailah also shows him that now that they’ve contracted, she can turn into a ball of light and retreat into his body when not needed, and also tells him he’ll be contracting with more Seraphim before long. It’s crucial for him to travel the world in order to gain wisdom and strength to fight the big bad: the Balrogesque Lord of Calamity.

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After discovering a charnel house filled with malevolence-filled bones of defeated rebels, things get a little more hairy, as malevolence starts to seethe from beneath their feet, blowing bits of the dungeon floor into the air, creating action-RPG-style obstacles to avoid.

When they surface, a great dread storm has arrived in the city, complete with a massive swirling twister. Surely the Lord of Calamity hasn’t already arrived? Whether it is or not, it looks like a pretty bad situation.

Sorey will have to hold close to his comrades absent the wisdom and strength he has yet to amass, while Alisha must deal with both political and existential threats to her monarchy.

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