Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 05

Souma beat Kuga in sales on the fourth day, but there’s still one day left, and I, fool that I am, thought that that would be the main thrust of this episode. Instead, the final day goes by in montage form, and Kuga ends up taking first place in total sales in their section.

It’s a disappointing result for both chefs, especially since we learn Kuga lost a secondary bet with 1st Seat Tsukasa Eishi: a second Shokugeki if he leads in sales all five days. What happened in the first? When Kuga was coming up, Tsukasa cheerfully accepted his brazen challenge, then proceeded to crush him without mercy.

That Souma was able to best Kuga in sales one of the days and maintain his composure despite considerably psychological warfare on Kuga’s part basically tells Kuga what Kuga’s 5-0 loss told Tsukasa: that his challenger has lots of talent and potential, they just need growth.

2nd Seat Kobayashi Rindou (voiced with gusto by the great Itou Shizuka) is the only Elite Ten member to not have a booth (Eizan is managing twenty), instead choosing to visit all 120 booths and stuff her face.

Impressed by his one-day defeat of Kuga, Rindou invites Souma and Megumi to the Yamanote Area for a very special nine-course dinner personally prepared by Tsukasa. His “booth” is really a super fancy restaurant with only three tables, suggesting Rindou was probably planning this, and her interest in Souma wasn’t merely due to his connection to Kuga.

It’s a real eye-opener for Souma to watch, see, smell and taste something on an entirely different level that he is. Forget leagues, Tsukasa is out of Souma’s galaxy, and to his credit, Souma knows it. He may be a brash, confident fellow, but he knows when he’s outmatched.

Naturally, the clothes come off Souma, Megumi, and Rindou upon tasting his food, and Tsukasa’s title of “White Knight of the Table”, pledging absolute loyalty from his ingredients and getting absolute loyalty in return, adds to the legend that is 1st Seat Tsukasa Eishi.

Meanwhile, at her “booth”, Erina still waits for Souma’s dad to come and sit at the table. In her thoughts she makes it plain that he’s the only reason she’s come this far. It was heartwarming to see Lil’ Erina so smitten, but the atmosphere of the scene, as well as the very scope of the episode and show itself, suddenly changed upon the sudden, unexpected arrival not of Jouichirou, but Erina’s sinister, vampiric dad Azami (voiced by the same guy as Toosaka Rin’s dad!).

It’s obvious beyond doubt that Azami is Just Plain Bad News; his presence is immediately upsetting and overwhelming to Erina, and Hisako is at a loss at how to help. Azami throws his weight around, shitting on Erina’s customers and telling her that serving these clowns is beneath her.

Just then, to Hisako’s relief, Souma barges in, pepper bun in hand, asking Erina if she has a free table (which, until her father showed up, she did). Not reading the room at all (as usual), Souma saunters up to Azami, asks if it’s possible to share his table, and Azami withdraws.

Souma to the rescue, right? Eh, not quite. Remember when I said Souma had a lot of growing to do? He and his friends are going to have to grow up quick, because mere minutes after arriving, Nakiri Azami completely upturns the power structure at Totsuki.

His father, Erina’s gramps, shows up to demand Azami leave at once, and they enter a little philosophical argument. Suffice it to say, Azami’s standards for both accepting students and serving customers at Tosukis are far stricter than his father’s.

One would think “Well sure bro, good talk, but you’re not in charge, so get back to your coffin before the sun comes up!” But by the episode’s closing moments, Azami IS in charged, as decreed by six of the Elite Ten: 4th Seat Akanegakubo Momo, 5th Seat Saitou Soumei, 6th Seat Kinokuni Nene, 9th Seat Eizan Etsuya, and in a twist I did not see coming, 1st and 2ns Seats Tsukasa and Rindou.

It’s a COUP, baby…and Rindou wants Souma to join their side, the side of Azami, and “crucial reforms” that will stamp out the “anyone can be a great chef” mentality that had defined the school to that point. This is bad guys! And absolutely crazy. This is some Captain Aizen-level shit right here! And I, for one, am stoked at the possibilities.

I would imagine that rather than join the Dark Side, Souma will ally himself with Erina, and perhaps the three other seats who didn’t vote for Azami – Megishima Tousuke, Isshiki…and Kuga. They’re outnumbered and possibly outgunned. It’s looking like Rindou’s booth-hopping was a means of deciding who stays and who goes in the purge that is sure to come.

If having Souma sample Tsukasa’s cooking was some kind of a means of luring him to their side…they don’t know Yukihira Souma! He’s loyal to his friends, even if they’re not—especially if they’re not the strongest.

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Juuni Taisen – 05

Juuni Taisen has so far worked best when it’s focused—say on one character or one battle. This week gets off to an uninspiring start involving a big meeting room full of literally faceless VIPs and a unsolicited speech by Duo-whasisface.

He says the Zodiac War is a proxy for far costlier global conflict, but I’m not buying it; there’s clearly plenty of war in this world, both that which Monkey cannot prevent through negotiation and in which all of the other warriors fight when they’re not in a battle royale.

The “no betting until half the field is gone” rule made no sense to me either. In a a horse race, every horse is bet on, not just the half of the field that pulls ahead halfway in. This was just needless babbling that took me away from the actual battle, involving nobody I cared about.

Next up is the start of the much-anticipated duel between Usagi and Sharyu, which turns out to be a bit of a stalemate, as every blow or zombi bird Usagi sends Sharyu’s way is parried or otherwise countered, as Sharyu continues to ask Usagi to reconsider her offer of cooperation. I know she’s Monkey, but I fear she’s barking up the wrong tree.

Unfortunately, her fight with Usagi not only comes to any kind of resolution, but what we do see of it comes in fits and spurts, constantly interrupted by the episode’s A-plot involving Sheep, his backstory, and his plan for victory involving partnering with mid-level warriors (unaware of who has died besides Snake).

Bouncing between his admittedly impressive tale of his life as a warrior (including fighting a previous Juuni Taisen aboard a space station—why couldn’t we watch that?) and the Sharyu-Usagi duel serves neither storyline. I fail to see why they had to be intertwined in this way rather than have one flow into the other.

Much of Sheep’s time is spent looking at and sorting toy versions of the animals that represent the other warriors. Considering the thrust of the duel happening concurrently, it almost feels like stalling, especially when he’s working with less info than we have regarding the remaining players.

As if the episode weren’t packed enough, we have the subplots of Nezumi being chased by Zombie Snake (great band name, BTW) and Ox resuming his battle with Horse, which he presumably left temporarily to kill Niwatori, and can saunter right back and continue wailing on Horse because Ox is just badass like that.

It’s just another case of staggering the storylines for little to no narrative gain.

We’ve now gone two episodes without anyone else being killed, adding to a sense of stagnation throughout the episode. Nezumi and Sharyu may as well be running/fighting in circles. When Ox suddenly comes after Sheep, Sheep withdraws, and the first warrior he encounters turns out to be Tiger, ranked the weakest (and likely tied for the most scantily-clad with Usagi).

The way this episode ended—with everything just kind of pausing in the middle—was more frustrating than satisfying. I look forward to learning more about the next warrior next week, and I’m really not opposed to the show mixing things up or jumping from warrior to warrior within an episode…just not for its own sake.

There’s a right and wrong way to doing these things, and it wasn’t done quite right this week.

Kujira no Kora wa Sajou ni Utau – 04

Suou is brought before the council of elders, named the new Chief of the Mud Whale, and given his first and last orders: to prepare the people to “return to the sea of sand” from whence they came; in other words, they want the entire remaining population to commit suicide en masse.

Wait, why are these clowns in charge again? Even Suou can’t accept that fate, and while trying to talk to the eldest elder of them all (who seems senile but seems to speak the truth nonetheless), gets knocked out by the captain of the guard and thrown into the Bowels.

Meanwhile, Chakuro is carving words into a cliff face when approached by Ginshu, who seems to be moving quickly after Sami’s demise, offering to help “Cha-kki” learn to use his Thymia better for the next defense of the Whale, obviously unaware of the elders’ decision.

While gazing out into the sea, Nelli comes to Chakuro, and transports him into a series of visions involving those who have passed away, including Sami and Taisha, both of whom make clear that it’s not time for Chakuro to give up hope and join them; nor is it time for the Mud Whale to vanish.

It’s heartbreaking to see Sami anew, especially as she says she wanted to be Chakuro’s wife. She was never able to say this while alive, and so Chakuro never got to return her feelings.

These visions fly in the face of the elders’ wishes, but they—with the exception of one of them to whom the others no longer listen—have lost hope, and want only to give their people honorable deaths rather than let them be needlessly slaughtered.

Newly invigorated by the visions from Nelli (who seemed oddly possessed by someone else afterwards until snapping back into regular Nelli), Chakuro learns what happened to Suou, and seeks help from Lykos, Ouni, and Ouni’s gang (what’s left of it).

They come afoul of the guards, but Chakki is able to seduce Ginshu into letting them pass. They descend into the deepest parts of the Mud Whale where they’ve never been before, until they find Nelli with what looks like a Nous sitting in a giant…rocking chair?

I’l say this: with his primary role as one who must bear witness, Chakuro isn’t the most thrilling protagonist, but at least he’s working to save the Mud Whale and its people. He hasn’t given up. And whatever the heck is going on at the end, I’m definitely intrigued and want to see where this is going.

Weekly OP: “Ugoku Ugoku”

Whenever you have a show that sometimes goes to dark places, it’s nice to have an upbeat/hopeful opening to start things off. Girls’ Last Trip is on one level fundamentally depressing, what with there seemingly being only a handful of people left in a sprawling, once-advanced civilization that may have simply grown too far too fast and imploded. And yet, these two girls are alive, and plan to stay that way, with each other’s help. That the girls’ seiyus Minase Inori and Kubo Yurika provide vocals further demonstrates an underlying thread of hope and perseverance.

Houseki no Kuni – 04

When Master Kongou finally wakes up from his slumber, it’s from a strange dream in which he is in the center of a mob of Lunarians, and destroys them all with a kind of chakra. He regrets sleeping too long.

Jade, Bort, and Diamond then brief him on everything that’s happened, including the snail eating Phos, mining and reconstructing Phos from the snail’s shell, and the fact that only Phos can understand what the creature is saying, leading everyone to think Phos has gone crazy.

In defense of Phos, we can hear the creature too; their name is Ventricosus, king of of the Admirabilis, and in her current form, she’s pretty cheeky (she’s also voiced by Saito Chiwa).

Despite the indignity of a tossed Ventricosus landing on his head just right, Kongou not only believes Phos, but uses Phos as an interpreter to initiate a dialogue with the creature. He orders Phos keep the creature close while continuing work on the encyclopedia (at present, the amount of work Phos has done on that is…naught).

When Phos speaks on Cinnabar’s behalf, Kongou interrupts, stating that not only is he still working on the matter (and has yet to find a solution), but that it was Cinnabar’s decision to go on night watch to begin with, going into exile rather than sit around HQ doing nothing. It’s not ideal, but Kongou maintains the best way Phos can help Cinnabar is by doing what he ordered: work on that encyclopedia. Later, Phos and Venty get to talking, and Venty mentions that there is someone who resembles the Gems back in her homeland under the sea.

Phos, not making any progress on the land with Cinnabar, decides it’s work a look, and prepares for the trip by applying a salve to the “skin” that should protect the finish from the saltwater. Rutile tattles on Phos, and Kongou categorically forbids such a trip, reminding Phos to do what he asked and not worry about Cinnabar for now.

When it’s clear Ventri isn’t getting the proper nutrition she needs away from the sea (Phos even believes Ventri has died momentarily), Phos and Ventri have a very in-depth discussion on the nature of death (something neither the immortal Phos nor any Gem may can fully grasp the finality of), then Phos breaks the rules once again and heads underwater.

Once on the sea floor, Venty suddenly transforms into a beautiful jellyfish-queen form, and here is again where the 3DCGI fluidity really shines. Now closer to home, Venty starts to remember certain information; a kind of oral history about a race called “humans” who walked the earth.

Things happened, and humans split into three distinct forms: flesh (Admirabilae like Venty), bone (the Gems) and soul (the Lunarians). “Vague stories” also point to the fact that the Lunarians are seeking a revival of humanity by uniting the three forms, capturing them by force.

While that’s their goal, the “flesh” in the equation are content with their existence under the waves, while the “bone” would clearly prefer not being attacked from the sky all the time.

Alas, Ventricosus is hiding something, and exploits their newly-formed bond to deceive Phos. There is no malice in her actions, but her brother is being held by the Lunarians, and she means to offer Phos in exchange for his freedom.

With the sun almost down and Phos greatly weakened, the Lunarians prepare to capture Phos, smashing Phos’ arms and legs. But I’m sure Venty’s betrayal hurts far more than Phos’ loss of limbs, and the fact that Phos once again needs rescuing after disobeying Kongou’s commands to try to help Cinnabar.

It isn’t just the animation that’s beautiful in HnK, although it certainly is that; it’s also very well-written and performed, with a wealth of clever quips in the dialogue and some surprisingly profound discussion on the varying natures of existence of the three kinds of beings.

It remains a mystery what happened to humans, or what exactly Kongou is besides caretaker to the Gems, but if we take Venty’s stories at face value, we now know a lot more about why things are the way they are in this world, and have a clearer picture on the Lunarians’ goals.

Not that that puts them in the right; despite being human myself (I think), there’s something sinister about eliminating three new forms of life that emerged naturally for the sake of reviving one. It seems reckless and hubristic; akin to swimming against the waves of evolution.

3-gatsu no Lion – 25

After Matsumoto and Smith mess around with the towering Kumakura’s huge shoes, we see a shogi den settled down for lunch in June…when I guess it’s to hot to eat outside? As he munches on his healthy yet high-class meal, Nikaidou rants about how Rei must get to the finals of the Newcomer Tournament so they can face one another, then proceeds to analyze Rei in a manner that’s far too accurate for Rei’s taste.

When Nikaidou tells him it stands to reason he’d know his deepest depths like no one else, because they’re not just rivals but best friends, Rei, a paragon of stoicism to that point, freaks out and books it out of the room. “Leave him be,” an older player says, “it’s funnier that way.” And to a geezer like him who was one, teenagers are funny, with their needless emotional outbursts and poor organization of priorities.

But what I took out of the first half of “June” is that Hey, Rei is his Nikaidou and Nikaidou is Rei’s. Rei has a friend. Not the only one, either! That fact might embarrass him, but that’s progress, and it took a lot for him to get to that point.

In the second half of “June” we get a welcome cut to the Kawamoto residence, where Grampa makes his first appearance this season (his love of and fawning over Momo will never get old, because let’s face it, Momo deserves all the love). He’s holding a brainstorming session for new sweets after the success of the last one.

When Momo is asked what goes in the water, she first says “duck”, but a duck on top of an agar sweet could easily fall off, while a duck encased in that agar would look like a dead one. Then Momo suggests a sandal, recalling a time she lost one while Akari was walking with her near the water. Gramps instantly declares her a genius and a prodigy.

But there’s something off about this scene: Hinata. She doesn’t say a word, and has her head down as she scribbles into a notebook. At bathtime, Akari finds her sitting alone on the stoop, and when asks what’s wrong, Hina says “nothing” and shows her sister a smile that’s probably forced, because it’s gone again when she’s alone in the bath, looking up at the moon.

So what’s up with Hina? I can guess, considering she’s entering adolescence, but little did I know the next segment would serve as a dark preface to that question’s answer. In the present day Rei notices a plant with the same leaves as a “ladybug bush” he noticed when he was a little kid being teased, bullied, and ostracized at school.

As we know, Rei chose shogi to please his stepfather, willing to endure the hate from the man’s biological children because he had no choice. Now we know to the extent Rei, Shogi Prodigy is not the product of a nature or nurture, but pure, elemental survival.

Rei had no safe haven from the hatred of classmates or stepsiblings. He made himself more invisible and indifferent to prevent escalation at school, but trying to ingratiate himself with his stepparents and not feel like a burden only intensified his siblings’ resentment towards him.

As much as Kyouko’s been humanized in the present, the villainous version reappears in these flashbacks, as someone who couldn’t give a shit Rei’s problems, either the loss of his family or the continued abuse he faces at school. He’s a creepy eyesore to her. No wonder it’s still hard for him to talk to her today!

Shogi wasn’t a dream or aspiration, it was a life raft. Instead of reacting to the horrible things in his life, he buried his nose in shogi books, studied feverishly, and played like his life depended on it, because he thought it did. A perfect and devastating visual is of him desperately treading water in a dark sea, with nothing to cling to but a floating shogi board.

Things are much better for Rei now; he has friends, a surrogate family that loves him unconditionally, and even a place to hang out at school—but though he still carries wounds and scars that may never heal. More importantly to the closing act, a product of his ordeal is that he can spot the warning signs of others enduring the same from a mile away, as he instantly does when Hina enters the room.

She’s missing her left shoe (in a weird, prophetic echo of the shoe Momo suggested for the dessert), the sock is filthy, and her face is a raw mess of tears. For the show to so quickly and concisely reassert all the crap Rei had to go through, only to visit it upon one of the kindlest, gentlest souls in the show in Hina, is almost too much to bear, especially when the episode ends before we’re able to learn the details or see her be comforted.

I guess the details don’t matter; it would seem she’s now going through the same thing Rei did. I can only hope that if she cannot find a solution at school, at least going home won’t just add to her shit sandwich. Unlike Rei, who only had shogi, she has Rei, Akari, Momo, and Gramps. Being a teenager is usually terrible for everyone, but it’s still worse for some than others.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 04

It’s a Chain episode! I love Chain. She’s my hero. She’s so badass, and her perching game is unsurpassed. She’s one of the five members of the Werewolf Squad, whose relativistic superhuman power to alter matter (including their bodies) at the subatomic level make them perfect covert operatives and infiltration specialists.

After a mission to intimidate a general who wants to create a Blood Breed army (something Libra can’t allow), Chain is overjoyed to get a supportive phone call from her long-time crush, Steven A. Starphase.

Chain seriously needs a maid (or a maid squad), but she seems to have a pretty nice life, bounding from skyscraper to skyscraper, helping Leo’s friend remember things with a notepad, getting into drinking contests with bullies.

But all that seems to be at risk when we see a shadowy figure in contact with the pro-BB-weaponization generals, apparently willing to screw up the Werewolf Bureau and Libra’s plans to maintain balance.

The Chain slice-of-life also includes office life, in which she uses Zapp as a surfboard when he tries to go for the breakfast she got for Gilbert. Zapp yells at her and threatens to use her boobs as punching bags, and gets a LOOK that freezes him in his tracks. As tough as Zapp is, Chain’s tougher, and you can tell he respects her power.

The Werewolves are suddenly pressed into service when the bureau catches wind of a plan to launch a missile armed with what could be a Blood Breed Virus-tipped warhead. It’s a Mission Impossible homage with a BBB twist…Mission Chainpossible.

That mission begins with the five wolves emerging from the full moon, carrying out a high-altitude freefall penetration. When the missile already launches, their mission changes to telling the missile to ditch in the sea. Once in the building, the wolves phase through ceilings, floors, walls, piping, wiring, and all the lasers and sensors that comprise the security network, which would work just great against ordinary humans.

Once in, the five set to work hacking the five redundant computer systems that guide the missile. Everything is going swimmingly…until Velved, a disgruntled former member of the Werewolf Squad, intervenes.

Having teamed up with one of the 13 Kings who specializes in “hypersensitivity”, Velved manages to locate and restrain four of the five wolves. Chain, however, is a cut above the others, and no matter how many levels of sensitivity Velved kicks things up, she cannot find Chain, who keeps diving deeper and deeper into physical obscurity.

The other wolves worry Chain could go too far and not be able to return after diluting her existence so much. But that hardly matters to Chain, who clearly feels she must do everything she can to assure the success of the mission, which she does. She materializes her gun, shoots Velved, and the four freed wolves shut the missile down. Crisis averted!

But what of Chain? Is she gone for good? Ha, hardly. But there is a very specific protocol to “bring her back”, which is different for every werewolf. It’s called a “token”, the one thing in the world that will always draw them back to their life; kind of like the totems in Inception that tie people to reality.

In Chain’s case, the token consists of Steven A Starphase (who has no idea what’s going on) knocking on her door and announcing he’s come to visit her. Chain reappears instantly, which is unfortunate for her, because her place is still a nightmarish mess!

So as thanks for restoring her existence, Steve gets the same thing Zapp did – a smack in the face. But later, we see she’s cleaned her place up, and still happy Steven stopped by.

Mahoutsukai no Yome – 04

Before waking up with her head in Elias’ lap on a train “not meant for humans”, Chise has a dream about a sickly woman in bed, telling her cat how she wishes she could have one of its nine lives. From there, a messenger appears in the form of a cat. No wait; it’s just a regular cat…who can talk.

To be precise, Chise learns cats can converse with mages and other magically-inclined people, including her. Like people, they have countries, and their king, a female named Molly, has a task for Elias and Chise in Ulthar – a land where cats are loved and cared for by the humans living there.

There is a growing mass of “corruption” on an islet in the heart of the lake, which will soon wreak havoc on cat and human alike.

As soon as Molly tells the tale of a man who once tortured and killed scores of cats—who was ultimately killed by a whole mess of cats organized by the first Cat King—I began to suspect the source of the corruption had something to do with that cat-hater.

A suspicious hooded woman snatches Chise, carries her into the air, and drops her in the lake.

At the bottom of the lake Chise meets Mina, the sickly woman from her dream earlier. Mina’s husband Matthew turned into the corruption, with her at its core; she begs Chise to kill them both so they can be free.

Oh, and Matthew? He hates cats, and they hate him. HMMMMMM. He’s clearly hiding his dark inclination from Mina, who rarely leaves her bed and probably hardly ever leaves the house.

Chise wakes up in Elias’ arms (again), and he has another task for her: to don robes and perform a cleansing ritual with the help of Ariel; something he with his incompatible shadow concentration cannot do himself.

Chise starts to walk out to the corruption, with Mina’s plea ringing clearin her head, and worried about Elias losing faith in her if she fails. Then she’s suddenly captured again by the red-hooded woman. She’s joined by her master, the sorcerer Renfred, who doesn’t want the corruption cleansed.

Renfred also ridicules Elias (whom he refers to as Pilum Murialis) for “putting a collar” on Chise and using her as his “latest experiment”, without telling her the fate that awaits all Sleigh Beggys—early death.

Not that I blame Elias for taking it slow with Chise, but it now looks like a rift could form based not upon lies, but omission. Unless…as he grooms Chise he’s also looking for a way to prevent her from sharing the fate of her kind.

Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou – 04

On this installment of Girls’ Last Tour, a foreboding title if ever there was one, Chito and Yuuri mess around with the digital camera Hanazawa gave them as thanks for sharing their food. Now on a much higher level, the scenery is all new, and we’re treated to vastly wide shots of the dwarfed Kettenkrad trundling along, Chi driving as Yuu tries to capture it.

Throughout this new abandoned cityscape are numerous curious stone columns with faces, kind of like idols. As Yuu is trying to take a picture of Chi, they crash into one and knock it over, but there’s no harm done to their ride save a small dent in the fender – and Chi’s pride as a driver.

That night Chi corrects Yuu that the camera’s capacity can be filled up, albeit after 50,000 photos have been taken. Yuu marvels at such a number, and how even if all of the things they take pictures of crumble and fall, the pictures will still be there as a record they existed.

With that sentiment in mind, Chi fires up the camera’s timer walks over to Yuu’s side, gets just a little bit closer, and says “Hi Chizu,” as is the tradition; a cute little moment of friendship, and a desire to capture it for posterity.

In the second half, the girls arrive at the central building that seemed to glow at night. Upon entering they find it very dark and full of the tall stone idols; Chi deduces it must be some kind of temple; a house for a god. When Yuu asks what a “god” is, we get this priceless, perfectly delivered exchange:

“A god is like…I dunno.”
“Can you eat it?”
“You can’t.”

When Chi’s lantern goes out, Yuu suddenly feels very alone. She calls out to Chi, but there’s no answer. I shared her tension as she stood there, in the impenetrable pitch black darkness, musing at what she’d do if she lost Chi. Then she bumps into Chi, who was beside her all along, and admits she didn’t answer Yuu because her reaction was hilarious.

You could also call it a bit of revenge for making her crash the bike. Chi may be serious and strict most of the time, but she has both a mischievous and a sentimental side.

Suddenly, the blinding light they witnessed outside suddenly switches on, and they finally see where they are: the central nave of the temple, where a giant idol stands tall among giant chimes, below which glass pools of fake water, lilies, and fish.

Chi seems impressed, but Yuu is disappointed…mostly because the fish are fake, but also because she wonders why they’d try to make “paradise on earth” (as the wall carvings described) with a bunch of fake stuff. Chi explains that even a fake paradise must give people comfort, solace, and hope in a world that’s sometimes dark and lonely.

For Yuuri, the thing that gives her comfort, solace, and hope in the dark isn’t a thing, it’s Chito. She wonders if Chi is a god…until Chi demands an offering of food; then Yuu names herself a god.

It’s always been clear that between Chi’s smarts and Yuu’s shooting skills, it’s always been best for the two to stick together to survive. They left their home together, and haven’t split up since.

These two stories continue building their relationship as not simply two people putting up with each other for the sake of the greater good, but because they’re friends, and want to explore, eat, sleep, and laugh together. It scarcely matters that there’s virtually no one and nothing else around; they have each other.

Kino no Tabi – 04

This week KnT switches things up a bit, following Shizu and Riku’s Journey rather than Kino and Hermes’. We saw a moving country on the land last week; here, it’s a moving country on the sea; a Ship Country.

Shizu is invited aboard and brought before the ruling “Tower Clan”, who look like black mages. They offer him a choice of roles while aboard: serve them as a kind of rent-a-cop, or join the common people. Unsurprisingly to us, the humble prince chooses the latter.

He meets a cute, tiny girl named Tifana, or Ti for short, who doesn’t speak, but takes him and Riku all over the ship (despite choosing manual labor, he never has to do any). The general sorry state of the ship, periodic shaking, and numerous flooded compartments tell the tail of a ship that has long been neglected and may not even be afloat much longer.

As per usual, KnT doesn’t skimp on the gorgeous environment; quite a departure from the clean, gleaming, well-maintained Moving Country. When he finds what looks like a long-abandoned control room, he has Ti point out all the places where there’s flooding. The situation is dire, and the rulers of this country have much to answer for…or so he thinks.

Ti, meanwhile, conveys so much despite never speaking; she takes a liking to Shizu, and doesn’t seem to have anyone else. It’s a lovely, immersive moment when Shizu shields her from a sudden rainfall with his jacket and the two quietly listen to the nice, calming sound of the rain hitting the fabric.

Ti then takes him to the country’s roof, and the endless ocean sprawling out before him makes him feel like he’s flying above it. After experiencing this unique and exhilarating sight, he turns to the tower at the country’s center, and remembers that this could all end up under the see unless he does something.

That “something” means confronting the Tower Clan, and when they rebuke him, readies his sword. But another traveler arrived aboard the country who chose the opposite path: that of serving the leaders. When this traveler lifts their mask to reveal Kino, I was nearly bowled over. There‘s Kino!

She and Shizu aren’t on opposite sides long, as the clan quickly accuses her of plotting with Shizu, changes course, then sentences the two to remain aboard to die with the other people.

Shizu and Kino quickly answer by storming the tower and easily overpowering its haughty occupants. When they reach their Jedi Council-like observation deck, Shizu is asked by their leader if he wishes to be the new king, to which he says if necessary. With that, the black cloaks and hats fall to the floor, no longer occupying bodies.

It’s Shizu’s country now, and he promptly points it towards land, opens the gates, and has everyone come out. He tells them that the days of the country functioning properly, or at all, are numbered, something he may well be right about. However, he didn’t consider the fact that the people don’t care. They don’t want to live on the land; they never have. They’d rather die at sea. In trying to be the hero, Shizu only made himself the villain.

When Shizu turns Ti away to join the others, she suddenly stabs him in the gut with a knife, cursing him for leaving her nowhere to return to (as she says, speaking for the first time.

Hermes fills Kino, Shizu, and Riku in on who Tifana really is: the abandoned daughter of passing travelers who shares her name with the ship itself. Hermes also describes the country’s inhabitants as the descendants of children whose parents were killed by a plague, leaving them alone and with no one to lead or take care of them; enter the Tower Clan.

Now that he knows the truth, Shizu commits to taking care of Ti from now on, for which she’s very happy and grateful. But as Shizu, losing blood, starts to pass out, Ti fears he’ll die and leave her alone again, and pulls the pin on a grenade to end them both.

Fortunately, Kino’s there to shoot the grenade away and tend to Shizu’s wounds. Once he’s healed enough, she and Hermes take their leave, hopeful they’ll cross paths with Shizu, Riku, and Ti again. I hope so too; they make a fun team.

Net-juu no Susume – 04

A new series of cute loot and a bonus point campaign spur Morika, already in high spirits upon becoming partners with Lily, to splurge a little. Only a happy circumstance takes place at the convenience store as she has to wait a few minutes for the store’s e-money system to boot.

Those minutes are spent suddenly learning that the store clerk is also a fan of Fruits de Mer, and goes on and on about it in a way Morioka find very fulfilling. They have so much fun talking, the clerk neglects the fact there’s a guy who needs his cigs!

Even so, it was exhilarating for Morioka to finally talk with someone about MMOs in real life. In the game, Hayashi encounters Kanbe and Lilac, the latter of which has just gone to the loot outlet and picked out some stuff that’s very fluffy and cute, but Kanbe prefers what she usually wears.

We also meet Lilac’s real-life player, who both laments not having snatched up Hayashi as her partner and seems to have a bit of a spark with Kanbe. Hayashi manages to score both rare and common loot, but lucky Lily takes the cake by scoring the whole set.

When in-game, NjS packs a lot of neat details, like the way Lilac sees Hayashi as a sensitive guy (compared to Kanbe) rather than what he actually is—a she; Pokotarou suddenly spawning in the same space as Lilac, obscuring her avatar; or Himeralda’s player playing as her husband, who plays Pokotarou; a surprising and clever occurrence.

But NjS makes good use of both of its worlds, and seems really balanced this week. Sakurai is depressed about not being able to see Morioka, and as he lists off all the ways he’s tried, Koiwai rightly suspects him of stalking, which isn’t good.

But then…Koiwai stakes out the convenience store, bumps into Morioka as planned, and works his businessman magic. Morioka is initially like, “why is this guy talking to me?!” and rightly so, even if she weren’t naturally shy; but once they get to talking they establish a quick rapport, though Koiwai comes off as a little pushy in gaining her contact info.

When Koiwai shows Sakurai what he’s done, how he managed to get a date with Morioka, Sakurai’s expression is of shock, which if the camera had lingered would have surely turns to dejection. Is Koiwai simply helping Sakurai out, or does he want to date Morioka? I hope it’s the former; besides seeming like a nice guy, what kind of friend would stab him in the back like that?

That brings us back into the game, where Hayashi goes to a, yup, dejected-looking Lily, who reminds them that since they’re partners, he can come to her to talk any time. Morioka, through Hayashi, words things very carefully in telling Lily the story of how she ended up in the hospital on an IV all the way to accepting a date from a former work colleague.

The coincidences are far too many, and Sakurai is no fool; he connects the dots, flipping Hayashi’s gender to make her Morioka. Now all he needs to do is believe the deduction he’s just made and proceed from there. After all, despite thinking he’s had no contact with Morioka, all this time he’s had all the contact, and they’re already partners, for gosh sakes. It’s high time the RL players need to catch up to their MMO counterparts.

Weekly ED: “Keshin no Kemono”

Is it Friday already? You know it is (unless you’re in a different timezone and it’s already Saturday).

In any case, here’s one of the many catchy ending themes we’ve been treated to this Fall. Like Fate/Zero, we see the various warriors in their “regular lives” before entering the Zodiac War.

It’s set to a song called “Keshin no Kemono” (“化身の獣” directly translated as “Beast Incarnate”) by a group called Do As Infinity, featuring tight, precise instrumentation and some nice crisp vocals that are allowed to shine with few effects; just a light reverb.

When it first starts, I feel like I’m getting ready to play Sonic CD!

Enjoy the weekend, everybody.

Just Because! – 04

I’ve got some nice variety in my Fall watchlist. Food Wars is chugging along, with Souma scoring a big win thanks to his friends; MMO Junkie our elite NEET seems to be where she wants; and in ShoBitch we’ve had a steady, happy couple since the first episode, with all the comedy coming out of their mutual inexperience with being in a relationship.

That leaves Just Because!, the Fall show I’m watching in which people seem to suffer the most without much in the way of payoff. Just take Natsume’s interactions with Souma, trying to be a good friend by helping him get closer to Morikawa, despite the fact she still harbors feelings for him.

An experienced anime watcher it’s clear Natsume is in pain, but Souma’s your typical oblivious guy, and combined with Natsume’s silence on the matter and apparent interest in helping him with Morikawa, there’s really no way for him to question her smiles, even if she’s forcing them.

As a photog, Komiya knows all about smiles…and other expressions, like the one on Izumi’s face as he’s looking at Natsume in a candid photo Komiya took of them. Even after failing her last mission with Izumi (she brought a cat instead of a dog), she says she’ll delete the embarrassing shot if Izumi tells her something he likes about Natsume.

When she says “her awkwardness”, Komiya laughs, because it’s such an earnest, unflattering answer. It is itself an awkward answer, coming from someone just as awkward as Natsume (and, like her, unable to get his feelings to reach the one he likes).

Komiya then proposes another deal with Izumi: she’ll support him in trying to go out with the (former) president, and in exchange he’ll let her submit that photo she took of him, which she believes will win her a award and keep the photo club alive.

Of the five, Komiya is the hardest to read; she comes right out and says “I like you” to Izumi, throwing him off, before finishing with “…as a person”, inviting his ire. She’s clearly there to provide a yang counterbalance to Izumi’s yin main love interest and present multiple possible routes for the various characters.

When New Years comes around and it’s time for a shrine visit, Souma and Morikawa’s friends conspire to flake out on the visit, leaving the two alone. The two have a nice time, though Souma is often at a loss for words due to his stress over the task at hand.

That stress would seem to have been justified, for no sooner does he finally get the words “I like you” out and ask if Morikawa will go out with him, Morikawa…gravely declines. 

Ouch…that’s gotta be a fastball to the gut of Souma; all that preparation and anticipation, and at the end of the day, it wasn’t whether he could confess, but whether Morikawa would say yes, and she does not. Another sign Just Because! isn’t interested in doing things the easy way or taking the pressure off its characters.

After several instances of having someone—either Natsume’s plucky older sister or Yoriko—be a third wheel, Izumi and Natsume finally find themselves alone, and they continue to circle one another warily, putting on antagonistic airs to conceal the fact both of them have basically the same problem: their first choice likes someone else.

The fact that Souma was rejected is irrelevant here. Whether he wanted her to or not, Izumi is inspired enough by Komiya’s encouragement to at least broach the subject blocking any possible move in Natsume’s direction: her crush on Souma. She brings up exams again and again, which he calls nothing but an excuse.

That angers Natsume, who says the worst thing she can to Izumi in that moment: that it doesn’t involve him. That he doesn’t matter at all in this. Izumi sets the record straight: he’s always “cared about her”, so she can’t say it doesn’t involve him.

This may well be news to Natsume, and she’s definitely affected by the look on Izumi’s face as he passes her by to head home. Elsewhere, Souma also retreats following Morikawa’s rejection. Lots of emotions to sort through and pieces to pick up for everyone involved.