Aho Girl – 10

First up, Eimura again demonstrates that she’s the Worst Gal Ever by the fact she hasn’t had her ears pierced yet, and makes a tremendously dramatic meal over the fact that she’s about to.

Enter our Aho Girl, who at first has no idea why Eimura wants to pierce her ears, then lays out in great detail the very worst-case scenario, before offering her hands to steady Eimura’s. She manages to pierce one ear…I think? But Eimura decides to postpone the piercing of the other one indefinitely.

The next segment is Aho Girl in top form, as Yoshiko takes Dog for a ride and ends up in a manga-style race on a mountain road with a super-competitive motorcyclist who ends up lost in their dust. His serious commentary of the race is hilarious and the art is fantastic in its starkness and illusion of motion.

Yoshiko has both feet on the ground, in a sandbox, in the next segment, where she bothers the little kids again, this time by playing dolls with them. Yoshiko betrays her older years by making things between “Michael” and “Micca” get way too dark and real, but the girl runs with it and has Michael come back to life and live happily ever after, further baffling the lads.

Finally, Fuuki tries to get closer to A-kun by befriending his lil’ sister Ruri, who is upset over having scored another zero on a test (further indicating Yoshiko’s influence on her). Fuuki is thwarted by Yoshiko’s mom Yoshie, who obviously has the inside track, having known Ruri and A-kun for years.

Before long, Ruri completely fades away in the midst of an increasingly heated battle between Yoshie and Fuuki, in which Yoshie unhooks Fuuki’s bra, then steals her panties to show Ruri that she’s a pervert; when Fuuki tries and fails to steal Yoshie’s panties, she ends up stealing Ruri’s, so quickly neither Ruri nor Yoshie noticed, and puts them on herself before Yoshie can expose her to Ruri.

It’s a very, er, wrong sequence, but in the end, Yoshie is humbled and decides she needs more “training”, giving their ridiculous exchange the air of a sincere martial arts duel. I sincerely hope another round is in the cards!

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Tsurezure Children – 10

Motoyama has to endure the extreme wussitude of his friend Yamane Kurihara, the girl who likes him. She made pudding for him, so asks him behind the school, but Yamane take Motoyama along, and once he’s there, Kurihara doesn’t want him to leave either!

When he finally does, Kurihara simply hands the pudding over to Yamane and the two depart just moments later. An exercise in futility, as long as Yamane continues being so low on himself.

Kamine and Gouda are faring much better, but there are still things Kamine wishes her boyfriend would improve upon, like not being so sudden, calling her by her first name, and not holding hands with other girls—even if it’s to arm wrestle with the foreigner Patricia. (Opening bottles is okay, but if he’s nice to another girl he has to be nicer to her).

Gouda takes all of this in stride, not minding at all that she’s being a little needy and selfish because, well, he likes her, and thinks she’s only gotten cuter since they became a couple.

When a passing Kana and Chiaki spot the happy couple doing things they never imagined Kamine or Gouda would do (especially in public), you could say they are inspired, and try to have their first kiss right there.

Unfortunately, it is interrupted by…Kamine and Gouda, and the two couples exchange ‘what are you doings’ with ‘aw nothings’ and that’s that. Only Kana and Chiaki actually did nothing.

So it was exciting to see the show stay with Kana and Chiaki for the final segment, though in hindsight I might be sorry I wanted such a continuation. Chiaki invites Kana to his otherwise empty house with the express intention of kissing her before she has to be home by 8.

After a lot of awkward interactions, he decides to do a skit—one in which he pretends to be drunk. Chiaki assumes he drank something, and would rather their first kiss be something they can remember with fondness, even if it isn’t a big deal.

Then Chiaki reveals he’s just acting and surprise-kisses Kana, then invites her to ‘play along’ as if it were another one of their skits…and she is NOT into it. In fact, she storms out in tears, declaring their duo over. Is it really over? I hope not, but Chiaki had better apologize!

Fate / Zero – 22

For an episode preceded by such disturbing spectacle as a broken man murdering his best friend and making Rin an orphan, and followed by the casual malice of a born-again nihilist discarding his hostage before setting a foreboding trap, this episode has the most charming, heartwarming opening: an exhausted Waver finally arrives back home just before daybreak.

We know it’s not really his home, and he hypnotized its occupants into thinking he’s their grandson. But when his “grandpa” beckons for him to join him on the roof for a truly spectacular sunrise, something else dawned on me: Waver is Me. He’s the most normal, decent, well-adjusted participant in a war stocked with utter weirdos on all sides.

He seeks only simple glory and acknowledgement; the underdog raised high; his doubters and haters silenced. Sure, hypnotizing the couple was wrong, but how can I judge when even after the hypnosis wears off, the grandpa is not only forgiving, but wants Waver to stay. He’s a better grandson than they ever had.

On to the weirdos. While I more easily related to him early as a young kid having fun before all hell broke loose, and continue to recognize the emotions in his heart, support his goals (as laid out by Iri) and feel for his many losses, I simply haven’t lived a life as intense as Kiritsugu, so while I’m rooting for him, I’m on the outside looking in with Kiritsugu.

And Kiritsugu is alone again. It’s not ideal, but he’s not going to slow down or stop, even though he’s gone forty hours without sleep. He says “alone again” because, like Natalia, Maiya has left him. He doesn’t seem to count Saber as a person he can work with or trust, let alone a person at all; instead, she’s a tool to win the war, and he treats her as coldly as ever as she makes her report.

Kiritsugu probably also feels alone because Iri has been taken by the enemy, and he no doubt fears he won’t see her alive again. But a defiant Iri makes use of her captivity by Kirei to get in a number of barbs that cut the priest to the quick. Notably, that Kiritsugu isn’t an “empty man” like him; he seeks nothing less than the salvation of the world through the elimination of all violence and conflict.

Unsurprisingly, Kirei hears nothing but the naive utterings of a child in these words, but Iri does manage to give him something he didn’t have before he kidnapped her: Kiritsugu’s dream, which he will now proceed to destroy, along with the Holy Grail itself, which he can think of no use for. And since he gets all he needs out of Iri, he snaps her neck, seemingly killing her.

That I’m a bit fuzzy on how this whole Einzbern homonculus system works—and thus unclear whether Iri is dead dead or even ever alive—is irrelevant; it’s still absolutely gutting to see such a gentle, loving person treated with such contempt. Kirei is one hell of a villain, and his frustration and resentment for lacking something fundamental Kiritsugu seems to possess is palpable; he’s an almost pitiable wretch.

After that unpleasantness, what sure feels like the final day of the War transitions into the final night, and Waver awakes to find Rider in no particular hurry. Mage signals in the sky indicate that someone wishes to challenge them—Kirei arrranges for Archer to fight Rider while Berserker will keep Saber company—and Rider summons a horse, the backup to his chariot.

Waver has no intention of going along. As Rider said, only the strong remain, and Waver doesn’t consider himself strong. He’s Just A Guy, after all, the Everyman of Fate/Zero, with no business in the final battles. He even expends all of his Command Seals at once so he can say with certitude he is no longer Rider’s Master.

And yet Rider still picks him up by the scruff and dumps him in front of him on his horse. He wants Waver to accompany him as he has on all of their great battles thus far, not because he’s his Master, but because they’re friends and equals.

Having gone from gut-punch to heartwarm, the episode closes with a bit of a mindblower, as Iri, apparently not quite dead (or…whatever) after all, goes Beyond the Infinite.

In a surreal, bizarre and thoroughly unsettling sequence that calls to mind Akira, Evangelion, and Dalí, Iri sees hundreds of naked doll bodies piled up before her, one of which cracks a way-too-wide evil grin; then she has a touching scene with her daughter Ilya before an oozing black darkness encroaches upon them, and dozens of tiny arms grab at her and pull her down into the goo.

When she emerges, she realizes what’s happening: she’s in the Holy Grail. What exactly that means, and whether and how she can aid her beloved from there, remains to be seen. But I have to say I’m digging the extra metaphysical layer the show has revealed.