Attack on Titan – 71 – Reshaping the World

Armin, desperate for answers, prepares to touch the crystal containing Annie, only to be scolded by Hitch, who is tasked with guarding her. But even if he had gleaned anything, it might not help solve the rapidly snowballing crisis in Paradis. Had Armin simply consulted the papers, he’d know the public is quickly losing faith in the military now that news of Eren’s imprisonment is out in the open.

A growing group of angry pro-Eren protestors surround military HQ, in support of a New Eldian Empire led by the younger Jaeger. When Hitch goes to help with crowd control, Armin meets with Mikasa and they head to Premier Zachary’s office, spotting three Scout recruits on the way.

Yelena tells Pyxis that it was she who met with Eren in secret to tell him “someone” had to light a fire under HQ to get the military moving against Marley. Of course, Eren himself. Just as Yelena and Zeke hoped, he delivered “divine retribution” the volunteers had wished upon Marley for years. Now Yelena plans to watch with great interests as the two brothers continue “reshaping the world”.

I’m not sure why Eren kept his plans from Mikasa and Armin, since now that he’s done everything he’s done all they want to do is ask him about it. But Premier Zachary forbids them from meeting with Eren, saying the situation is too delicate. After they’re dismissed, Armin comes to believe they’re not letting them talk to Eren because they’ve already given up on him and are preparing to pick the next Founding Titan.

They watch three soldiers enter Zachary’s office after them, and Mikasa wants to listen in to see if they can learn about their plans. Armin holds her back, telling her it’s too risky, and it’s a good thing he does, because moments later a bomb goes off in the office, sending the top half of Zachary’s torso flying out to the HQ’s gate. Armin and Mikasa survive the blast, but the crowd is even more whipped up.

In the immediate investigation that follows the bombing, it’s believed that Zachary’s special torture chair contained the bomb. While Mikasa and Armin didn’t see who exactly placed it there, the two did see those three out-of-place Scout recruits just before meeting with Zachary. This causes everyone in the room to develop those classic Titan face shadows.

Then more bad news for the military drops: Eren has broken out of his cell, likely to join up with Floch and 100 other soldiers and guards loyal to his cause who vanished from the prison. Nile labels this new group of insurgents “Jaegerists”. Now Eren is no doubt looking to secure both Zeke and Queen Historia.

With Zachary dead, Pyxis is de facto in command, and true-to-form, he gives a rather unexpected order: as much as he hates it, he’s to let Zeke and Eren have their way…for now. It’s not quite surrender, but he acknowledges they’ve already been thoroughly outmaneuvered—especially with a lot of the public against them. This no time for a civil war; not with an enemy like Marley across the sea preparing to attack.

With most of the Jaegerist defectors coming from the ranks of the Scouts, Hange is on shaky ground with the other bigwigs, but they have no reason to believe Hange is in cahoots with Eren, so they remain in charge of the regiment. Of particlar concern now is the fact that Yelena strategically placed Marleyan prisoners in odd places like restaurants, as we saw with Nicolo serving Roeg and his men.

But there’s also the restaurant where the Blouse family is getting a fancy dinner. Gabi and Falco are with them, and we see Pieck has already snuck onto the island. Did she see the Titan recruits go in? Mikasa, Armin, Jean, and Connie find themselves on the opposite site of Eren’s movement, and Connie isn’t 100% sure Mikasa won’t choose Eren when all’s said and done (what can you say, he knows her).

Everything’s a big mess, but there is one constant this week: Eren, and Yelena, and Zeke are all getting their way so far. The fact the Jaegerists have worked so fast in this episode suggests Zeke knows Reiner will be launching a counterattack on Paradis sooner rather than later. The Rumbling test run must be implemented ASAP.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 08 – Growing Up Fast

Two years have passed since Eris’ tenth birthday, which means Rudeus’s tenth birthday has arrived. He can sense scurryings and murmurings around the Boreas mansion, but he doesn’t expect much in the way of a celebration. For one, he’s a member of the Notos branch of the Greyrats, one of four main families.

For him to be under Boreas protection invites “unwelcome misunderstandings”, so they’ve kept it quiet. But when the day arrives, after discovering Ghislaine’s rock-hard glutes (she takes her diversionary role very seriously) while inspecting her tail, Rudy is shown to the main banquet hall where the entire Boreas household is gathered to celebrate his birthday.

Eris presents him with a bouquet, and Rudy reacts with tears he had practiced, leading an overly-moved Lord Sauros to start an inter-Greyrat war for his sake. Even Eris’ mom Hilda is moved, first offering to adopt Rudy, then insisting he marry Eris! The big secret Eris and Ghislaine were concealing from Rudy is Aqua Heartia, a superb magical staff made in Asura that must’ve cost a fortune.

As the party winds down and a tuckered-out Eris is carried to bed, Phillip explains why Hilda has been so cold to him these past years: his brother in the capital took Eris’ older and younger brothers, as all male Boreas are raised in the main household.

He makes a seemingly serious proposal for Rudy to marry Eris and take over the Boreas household, offering to handle the coup. Rudy, wanting no part of power struggles, leaves their discussion as idle chitchat over wine and retires for the night.

To Rudy’s surprise, Eris is waiting in his bed wearing a nightie and with silkier-than-usual hair, worried he’d be lonely the night of his birthday and offering to share the bed with him. So begins the most uncomfortable scene in the whole series, which begins with Rudy imagining doing something to Eris. The Eris in his head yells “no” and he ends his fantasy immediately.

Then Rudy warns the Eris outside his head that if she stays with him he might “try something dirty (ecchi)“, to which she replies that “just a little” is fine with her. Alas, Rudy goes way too far, attempting to do far more than “just a little” and immediately receiving a beatdown for it. Lying on the floor, Rudy is filled with regret for forgetting himself in the moment. Eris ends up coming right back, and he prostrates himself in apology.

She forgives him because it’s a “special day,” but warns him it’s far too soon for such things, urging him to “control himself” for five more years when he’ll be a proper adult —at least in this renaissance-analogous  timeline. Taking her words as a promise that they’ll be properly together one day, Rudy swears off “indulgences”, only to remember that Sylphie is no doubt waiting for him…

Back at his home, Sylphie visits the Greyrats, and we see that Norn and Aisha have grown into adorable toddlers. Sylphie has an item she wants send to Rudy, and Lilia promises to send it, along with a box which most likely contains the “holy relic”—payback for saving her from having to leave the home.

Paul, meanwhile, has been inordinately busy hunting an increased number of monsters in the forest, which kept him from attending Rudy’s party in Roa. The double-ringed red orb in the sky has grown, and seems to be responsible for an unusual accumulation of mana which even Roxy can see in the sky from her royal post.

She’s not the only one who notices this. There’s a very badass-looking guy on a mountain who is able to tame dragons; the much goofier-looking, Zvezda-esque “Great Emperor of the Demon World” with the Japanese name Kishirika Kishirisu; and of course, Lord Perugius in his ornate flying castle. Sensing someone could be trying to undo the seal on the Demon-God Laplace, he dispatches his lieutenant Almanfi to investigate.

The looks in on these colorful previously unseen characters greatly expand the world of Mushoku Tensei in a matter of minutes, but they are only teases; it will be up to the show to flesh out these new players and whatever factions or masters they serve. No doubt this convergence of mana will bring them all crashing together…and who else would be in the direct center of it than Rudeus Greyrat?

He’s come to a large open field with Eris and Ghislaine to test out his new staff and show them Cumulonimbus for the first time. But before he can complete the spell, the sky becomes sickly and miasmic in color and pocked with vortices and eddies. Almanfi teleports, and Ghislaine crosses swords with him. He believes Rudy to be the source of the “disturbance”, but Ghislaine rightly tells him he’s mistaken.

Because she is a true Sword King, Almanfi stays his sword. But who or whatever is causing the disturbance takes things to the next level, as a column of blinding blue light starts to expand across the landscape, swallowing up Ghislaine as she orders Rudy to take Eris and go. Eris loses her footing and Rudy shields her with his body just as the light washes over them, leaving us to ponder what the heck is in store for them next.

While I’m sure the series always intended to end this episode on a cliffhanger, the fact that the bedroom scene lingered on so long and past its welcome had the effect of compressing those glimpses of the bigger picture. Not that Rudy and Eris one day tying the knot isn’t critical importance…but they can’t marry if Laplace wakes up and destroys the world!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Read Crow’s review of episode 8 here!

Kemono Jihen – 08 – A Sister Richer

Right in the middle of Shiki considering killing his Uncle Akio with neither Inugami nor Nobimaru not standing in his way, a filthy Akira emerges from the woods having pissed himself with fear. Then a whole mess of Akio’s kemono creations arrive, surrounding the area. Akio informs Shiki that while none of them can produce the golden webbing, they’re still smart and can even speak—in Kumi’s voice.

When the monsters start to rush everyone, Inugami steps in, but his arm is poisoned, keeping him from producing a gun. Hearing his mother’s voice tell him she loves him through all the monsters paralyzes Shiki. Kabane’s lights up as he draws close to Shiki and asks once more “How can I help?” Inugami has Akira freeze his arm, but they’re saved from the charging kemono by the little girl Aya, whom they listen to.

When we cut back to Kabane, he’s already demolished all of the dozens of kemono protecting Akio, leaving Shiki free to kill him, or otherwise ask Kabane to kill him. Kabane is simply “happy to help”, as there’s apparently zero psychological cost to the carnage he causes.

The thing is, Shiki no longer wants his uncle to die. He wants him to live with the torment of all the things he meant to leave behind erased, and dying many years from now a forgotten man with no legacy. Aya doesn’t want Akio killed either, and not for sentimental reasons: he knows the location of a certain cocoon.

A bitter Akio refuses to tell her, but fortunately for her Inugami & Co. are detectives. Aya has no leads, but with one call to Mihai, they get a location: the same secluded spring in a patch of skunk cabbage where Aya had Inugami heal his arm. Aya prepares to plunge in, but Shiki goes in her place; she’s just a little girl after all.

At the bottom of the spring, Shiki finds something he’d never expected: his mother, still alive, encased in the cocoon. A bodyguard kemono attacks him but he defeats it and surfaces with his mom. Aya reveals that she herself is the golden webbing, and created the cocoon to keep their mother alive.

When Akio tries to rant more about “nearing mass production”, Shiki knocks him out with a slug to the face. Aya and the still-unconscious Kumi pile in the car with Shiki, Inugami, Kabane and Akira and they head back to Tokyo. Kabane noticed Nobimaru slipped away at some point, but Nobi doubles back give Akio at taste of his kitsune flames.

With his mom alive and suddenly possessed of a little sister in Aya, Shiki’s had a considerable turnaround in his fortunes. But Kumi still won’t wake up, so Inugami takes her to a clinic in Tokyo run by a diminutive ohana-basan—who doesn’t seem to mind the after-hours visit when she learns it’s Inugami.

If Kumi woke up fully restored, she could presumably pick up where she left off before falling into Akio’s foul enterprising web. That could mean Shiki and Aya would go live with her, either in their hometown or Tokyo. If the latter, Shiki could still work at the agency and hang out with Kabane and Akira. But this is all academic. First Kumi must be revived.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Horimiya – 08 – Reaching Milestones

I. Exclusion Zone

At some point after being with Hori, Miyamura has a dream in which he meets with his old socially awkward, and above all angry self, who was so tired of being left out and made to feel so pointless that he even considered dying. The older Miyamura urges him to hold off on the whole dying thing and hang in there, as he actually ended up doing IRL.

While telling him about all of the wonderful people waiting to be friends, and most importantly, a girl who he’ll need as much as she needs him, Present-day Miyamura takes stock of how far he’s come from those dark brooding middle school days before Shindou reached out. He wakes up with tears in his eyes, likely weeping for that old Miyamura, and wants to see Hori. Who wouldn’t want to see their lover after that dream?

II. Bestselling Tearjerker

From there, we shift to the relationship of Remi and Kakeru, who came as a pre-made couple at the outset. Remi waxes lovingly about why she loves Kakeru, who has never been strong or athletic but always strives and stuggles to be stronger for himself and for Remi, which in turn inspires her to be better. She remembers him being very different back when they first started talking.

Remi recalls a key moment in understanding Kakeru when she overheard his buds talking about the wildly popular Remi and her BFF Sakura as “Beauty and the Beast”. Kakeru refused to subscribe to his mates’ assessment, insisting the two girls both looked “normal.” He wasn’t so much defending Sakura, whom he didn’t know, but he wasn’t going to lie to fit in.

Remi ends up approaching Kakeru first, asking about the old-looking book he has. It turns out to be Goethe, who channeled his own unrequited love into his confessional novel The Sorrows of Young Werther. Assuming her interest in books is genuine (and it is!), he starts lending her and Sakura editions of all kinds, starting with Grimms’ Fairy Tails.

When answering Remi’s question of where all these books come from, Kakeru gives her the perfect opening to invite herself over. Remi finds a book on a high dusty shelf about the last day before the end of the world, and when he asks what she’d do, she says she’d indulge herself by eating desserts and whatnot. Kakeru notices she’s wearing her pigtails slightly higher, and Remi is clearly happy he noticed.

Back at school, Kakeru is grateful that Remi is talking with him on the regular, but makes mention that his friend Kamioka has a crush on her. Remi responds immediately with an indifferent “so” that notably lacks the usual stutter employed to indicate genuine interest. Basically, she doesn’t give a shit about Kamioka! She asks to come over to his house again, but he says he might “get the wrong idea” about her intentions.

Back in the library, Remi asks Kakeru what he’d do if the world was going to end tomorrow. Again, Kakeru cannot lie, and in any case doesn’t want to, as he says he’d tell Remi he liked her. Of course, by answering so truthfully (not to mention blushing like a beet) he makes it clear he does like her, giving her the opening to say she likes him, accompanying her confession with a beautiful smile.

In the present, Kakeru is loved and fawned over by girls and boys alike, and is the damn StuCo President besides. Remi loved him back when he wouldn’t get swept away by others, but she also loves him now, swiping a spider she’s not at all scared of (but he is) from her shoulder when asked.

III. Spicing Things Up

Hori and Miyamura may have slept together, but thankfully that isn’t the end-all, be-all of their relationship, only a key milestone on the long road ahead. While they know each other quite well by now, they’re also still learning. Miyamura uses the excuse of having some old polish lying around to paint her boyfriend’s toenails, a less violent way of marking her man than neck bites!

Through most of their time together, Hori has done most of the “messing around”, so while she’s painting his toes, Miyamura decides to get playful and put his foot on her head, as if stepping on her would make him “level up”. He immediately prostrates himself in apology, but Hori isn’t mad, just confused.

After all, the same Miyamura who rages at Sawada and beats up Shindou is always so calm and well-mannered around her, making her wonder sometimes if he’s “faking it” for her. He asked if he’d rather treat her like he does them, yelling at and hitting them, and in a purely rhetorical sense, Hori imagines it and is kinda turned on, simply because it’s so unlike how Miyamura really treats her.

The next day at school Hori basically has Miyamura act like the wild delinquent that pops out when Sawada Shindo are around, which includes speaking like one—which thoroughly spooks Tooru and Kakeru. When he drops the act and starts to cry, they immediately know: he’s indulging Hori’s whims.

When the couple find themselves in an empty classroom waiting for the next period, Miyamura realizes it might just be the time to bust out “Meanyamura” on Hori. As he yells at her, grabs her collar, and pushes her against the wall, two underclassmen pop into the room, and one look and “Huuuh?” from him send them running away screaming. How does Hori feel about all this? She’s entertained and turned on.

This segment walks a fine line between actual relationship abuse and the mere trappings as a means of spicing things up. Hori loves the kind and gentle Miyamura, but because he’s someone she loves, she loves all sides of him, including the theoretical or fanciful ones. Miyamura, in turn, goes along with her because he loves the big ol’ weirdo who gets a kick out of it.

IV. Love Needs No Stinkin’ Glasses

Another key milestone for lovers is a desire to share and spread that love, doing what they can when they can to help their lovelorn friends (if any). Yuki is asked out by some random guy in Class 6, but keeps quiet about it for four days until Hori and Miyamura both get involved. Knowing how Yuki has a tendency to let things she wants pass her by, Miyamura gets the ball rolling by having Tooru agree to be Yuki’s fake boyfriend.

Tooru is all for this, and even takes Yuki’s hand in a totally platonic way he’s always been with her, unable to see the signs that she likes him. Tooru is ready to help Yuki turn a guy down…up to the point he gets a look at the guy. Horimiya’s bishounen game continues to be solid, as the lad in question—one Yanagi Akane (even his name is cool!)—is so ridiculously gorgeous Hori says even her boy can’t compare!

Tooru is so intimidated by Yanagi’s beauty he utterly fails in his role of possessive boyfriend, but Yanagi senses he’s Yuki’s boyfriend anyway. Could it be he can sense their history, and even Yuki’s unspoken feelings for Tooru? But mostly, Tooru wonders why the heck she’s turning this guy down…if he asked him out he’d say “yes” in a heartbeat—after it stopped skipping, presumably!

While Yuki says Yanagi is “kind of too hot, you know”, the main issue is she just doesn’t know the guy, or why he’d be into someone he didn’t know. Yuki learns from Remi (in a welcome role as Hot Guy Knower) that in addition to being super-hot, he’s also “hilarious”, as evidenced when Yanagi repeatedly bumps into a wall. Turns out the kid is virtually blind without glasses he seems to have misplaced.

Yuki waits for Yanagi at the gate after school to tell him she believes he might’ve had the wrong girl, due to his poor eyesight. Maybe the one he wanted to ask out was Hori, whom she declares to be “much taller and prettier”. C’mon, Yuki. Yanagi says no, he asked the right girl out; he knows what she looks like, and surprisingly for a guy at this school, he doesn’t know Hori at all.

Hori, Miyamura, and Tooru eventually arrive at the gate, resulting in a bit where Yanagi can’t tell Miyamura from Hori or vice versa, even at close range. The others admit this is hilarious, as Remi promised, but it seems Yuki has a choice to make. She can dismiss Yanagi’s confession out of hand and remain in an unpleasant love triangle with Tooru and Sakura. Orrr she could go on a date with the one guy at school who knows her but not Hori, learn more about him, and see how it goes. Like if Tooru were asked out by Yanagi, the choice is clear!

 

Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House – 01 (First Impressions) – Always Giving Their All

Nozuki Kiyo and her best friend Herai Sumire moved to the Kagai district of Kyoto from Aomuri at sixteen. Sumire came to become a maiko (an apprentice geiko, the Kyoto version of geisha), while Kiyo found her place in the kitchen of the house where all the maiko live like a family. We meet Kiyo as she’s carrying a sherpa’s load of groceries for the next round of meals.

We meet Sumire when she sticks her head into the kitchen to say hi in between her extremely rigorous study and practice. After meeting with her sensei, she learns she’s been given permission to debut, making it official: she’s going to be a maiko. Kiyo hugs her and congratulates her from the bottom of her heart, and Sumire has to excuse herself to wash away her tears of joy. It’s a lovely moment between good friends on very different paths, who happen to be able to still live together.

While serving the sensei and Maiko House’s mother, Kiyo learns that Sumire is extremely special, and may have what it takes to become a “once-in-a-century maiko.” The sensei compares Kiyo’s cooking and baking skills unfavorably to her “truly impressive” friend, but Kiyo isn’t insulted or hurt…she’s in full agreement that Sumire is indeed amazing.

In fact, it’s precisely because Sumire is so amazing and always gives her all, Kiyo is able to work hard to provide the Maiko house with nourishing, savory, energy packed meals to sustain their packed schedules. Kiyo even goes a little overboard for lunch one day, serving over a half-dozen dishes that could each be supper by themselves.

While many of the maiko tap out before they can finish their portions, Sumire eats everything put in front of her, which is what Kiyo wants to see. If Sumire is going to give her all in becoming a maiko, Kiyo is going to give her all keeping her fed.

Then we meet a recently retired otokoshi, one of only a handful of men in the Kagai district who assist maiko and geiko with putting on their kimono, as well as doing heavy lifting and other manual labor the women either can’t or shouldn’t do (hernias are a bitch). In Kiyo’s case, she needs him to move the fridge so she can pull out the cookbooks that fell behind it.

Kiyo thanks the otokoshi by serving him coffee and a fresh-baked scone…a pretty good deal! Then Kiyo moves on to a matter of increasing concern for both her and the house mother: Sumire is working so hard, she’s skipping meals with regularity, and starting to lose weight.

Rather than, say, lasso Sumire and force-feed her, Kiyo plans to prepare some smaller dishes packed with energy so Sumire can quickly get the nutrients she needs to keep going. Her secret weapon is a local dish from their home prefecture of Aomuri: fried squid mince. A familiar taste of home is just what her hungry friend needs.

Kiyo in Kyoto: From the Maiko House is very straightforward, but with the subject matter it’s presenting it doesn’t have to be anything more than that. It’s also lovely to look at and full of lush blend of traditional and modern music. Hanazawa Kana and MAO are captivating as the voices of Kiyo and Sumire, and their little “Dish of the Day” omake bits provide fun punctuation between the three segments. It’s pure comfort food and a warm, soft blanket rolled into one, and I loved it!

Jujutsu Kaisen – 20 – Purple Boogie Woogie

In a brief but gorgeously lit and colored flashback, Toudou Aoi, only in third grade, is beating the shit out of a high schooler who mocked him. He catches the eye of a blonde sorcerer with a skeletal shikigami, and she asks him what type of woman he likes. Fast forward to the battle with Hanami, Toudou laments that while it’s time to unleash his technique, there’s no time to explain it.

That said, it doesn’t take long for him to demonstrate that technique, known as Boogie Woogie, in which he swaps positions with someone with the clap of his hands. He swaps with Hanami just as he’s about to land in a mass of spiked roots, so Hanami takes the damage. Yuuji was about to punch Hanami, but is about to punch Aoi instead.

Aoi uses Boogie Woogie with great effectiveness, swapping with Yuuji every few seconds to keep Hanami off balance, unsure which of them—with their, let’s say widely varying builds—to prepare for. We briefly check in with Nanami, who holds the record of most Black Flashes in one battle with four, including two consecutive.

As expected, thanks to Aoi’s tutelage, Yuuji’s able to easily break both of Nanami’s personal records, popping off three straight Black Flashe then a couple more for good measure. Hanami then unleashes an attack consisting of a enormous mass of cursed buds, too many of which could put either sorcerer out of commission (as they did Megumi).

Aoi, who claims to have an IQ over 500,000 (which, okay) retreats into his mind palace for a fraction of a second, which takes the form of the same high school drama where he and Yuuji became best brahs, and where Takada-chan is a classmate who turned him down flat. While Aoi initially prepares to defend the onslaught of buds with cursed energy, Takada helps him realize that’s exactly what Hanami is hoping for, so he reverses the energy and the buds bounce harmlessly off of him.

We also learn that Aoi has been strategically moving the battle back to the riverbed where Megumi went down, as before being carried away he told Aoi the three-part cursed staff is still lying the water. Since Aoi’s Boogie Woogie works on anything with cursed energy, he swaps Yuuji for the staff, infuses it with his own cursed energy, and smacks the shit out of Hanami, who suddenly has to resort to their version of Brazo Izquierdo del Diablo.

Just as Hanami’s arm collects all of the life energy of the surrounding forest in preparation for a Doman Expansion, the veil suddenly falls, and Gojou Satoru is floating up in the sky, mask off, ready to rumble.We cut to the other two battles going on just before the veil goes down, as Gakuganji shows Juuzou (the guy obsessed with turning Satoru into a coat rack) how his body serves as an amp for his guitar shredding.

We also catch Utahime about to square off with some cocky human who brandishes a sword with a hand for a grip, as made for him by Juuzou (which is how we learn the prolific cursed craftsman’s name). Utahime proves too quick for him, while Nobara and Mai soon arrive to back her up.

I’d have loved to watch them fight the hand-sword dude three-on-one, but then the veil goes down, and he skedaddles like his life depends on it…because it probably does. Juuzou doesn’t fare as well, as Satoru determines that he should be his first target to obliterate. While he “holds back” he still makes mincemeat out of Juuzou’s arms and legs, keeping him alive for interrogation.

Satoru then sets his sights on the retreating Hanami, determining he’ll have to launch a long-range attack mixing orbs of red and blue cursed energy(?) into one big mean purple blast that almost swallows up Yuuji and Aoi, but doesn’t. It looks like the sorcerers have won the day, but they don’t even know why these bad guys showed up in the first place.

Turns out the anti-Satoru veil and everything else about the attack amounted to one great big diversion, enabling Mahito to steal one of Ryoumen Sukuna’s fingers that was being held on Jujutsu Tech grounds. But assuming the Exchange Event is now over and won’t be started back up, hopefully the Kyoto kids will put their Yuuji knives away, as they all just went though some shit at the hands of their mutual enemies.

Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun – 08 – Number One Idiot

When Mimimi nods off while studying at home, she dreams of a middle school basketball match in which her team lost to Aoi’s. At school, Mimimi nods off and has to be woken up by the teacher. She’s overdoing it, again. Losing the election to Aoi only made Mimimi want to work harder to beat Aoi at something, anything, but what if she just…can’t?

In Fuuka’s only scene alone with Tomozaki—their movie date either hasn’t happened yet (good) already happens off-camera (not good!)—she tells him how it seems Mimimi is trying to compete with Hinami. No one told her, she can just imagine it. Because she’s a writer she can imagine all kinds of people’s feelings…and yet Hinami’s motivations are a mystery to her.

That Fuuka makes such a distinction between these two overachievers adds depth to her character as someone with unique insight, as well as underscores Tomozaki status as a perplexing outlier. I hope we get to dive into the underlying reasons for her actions, but this week focuses on the more immediate matter of Mimimi’s rapidly growing problem.

With both Fuuka and Tama agreeing that something’s not right, Tomozaki confronts Mimimi after school, making clear he’s coming to her as a friend who fought Aoi beside her. When he expresses his worry she’s overworking herself, Mimimi acknowledges that is sucks so bad she wants to quit…but will probably suck more if she does.

As a hardworking sore loser of a gamer, Tomozaki can relate to her position of not wanting to quit before putting in all the effort he can. So he says he’ll support her desire to keep going. At his next meeting with Hinami, Mimimi is the prime subject, and not in terms of a task Tomozaki is to complete. Hinami recalls the prefectural basketball game in middle school that might have started all this.

That said, Hinami doesn’t feel its her place to tell Tomozaki the details, so he relies upon Yamashita. Mimimi had put a middling team on her back to reach the prefectural final, which was mostly a battle of two aces. When they lost, Mimimi’s teammates were just glad to have gotten that far, while she was utterly crushed.

While Yamashita tells him this, we watch a montage of Mimimi continuing to come apart at the seams, studying and running so much she keeps falling asleep in class. When clouds gather and rain pelts the track, Tomozaki and Tama are relieved, because it means Mimimi can take a much-needed break. And yet who should be out there but Hinami, still practicing in raincoat, unwittingly rubbing her dedication in Mimimi’s face.

Tomozaki manages to catch up to Mimimi when she’s trying to slink home, and tells her what Yamashita told him. Mimimi tells him how she attended the nationals where Aoi came in second and couldn’t hide her bitter disappointment. The loss in itself didn’t cause Aoi to cry, but hearing the name of the school that took first place did.

While Mimimi changed her behavior to match the mood of her team, Aoi didn’t. It was then that Mimimi started to feel like “just an ordinary person”, while Aoi “shined” in a way she could never replicate, and yet could never stop trying to replicate. When Mimimi learned Aoi was her classmate in high school, it was when Aoi herself approached her, having thought a lot about their game back in middle school.

Mimimi has always been grateful for Aoi and looked up to her, but she’s also been the person she least wants to lose to, since doing so makes her feel so worthless. After all, Hinami is clearly of the opinion that if you’re not first, you might as well be last. So when Tomozaki tries to assure Mimimi she shines “pretty brightly” already, the words don’t reach her, and she makes an excuse to leave.

Turns out the timing of Tomozaki’s attempted second pep talk couldn’t have been worse, as Mimimi had already decided to resign from the track club. In their next meeting, Hinami says she and Tomozaki are the same in that they’re at the top of their respective games. But unlike Hinami, Tomozaki doesn’t see it so much as competing against the world as against himself.

After a morning in which both Hinami and Mimimi publically apologize to each other over her club resignation that seems to bring the whole class down, Tomozaki goes out on a limb and very publically asks Mimimi if they can walk home together…along with Tama. He wasn’t able to get through to Mimimi in a one-on-one matchup, but maybe Tama can, so he’ll rely on her.

Mimimi tries to keep things light by talking about how hot it is, but Tama makes things real with five simple words: “Do you hate Aoi now?” Mimimi responds by gushing over just how great and hardworking Aoi is, and how she actually loves her…or at least, she should. But with Aoi beating her at everything, Mimimi as come to feel jealous, and that Aoi’s “in the way”, and even that she wants her gone.

By thinking these awful things, Mimimi feels like she’s the worst, and if she stayed in the club, she’d keep thinking about them, including the notion that if Aoi really cared about her, she’d be the one to quit. Like Fuuka, more than anything she’s frustrated by how and why Aoi can work so hard like that. After hearing all of this, Tama bites Mimimi’s ear and takes her in her arms to comfort her.

Tama tells Mimimi that she can’t be “nothing”, because she’s her hero. Tama likes Aoi just fine, but Mimimi is her one and only hero, and if she wants to be number one, she can rest easy in the knowledge that she’s the world’s number-one idiot! Having been thoroughly cheered up, Mimimi embraces that title by sucking Tama’s outstretched finger and then pouncing on her.

All’s well that ends well, as Mimimi, realizing the error of her decision, re-joins the track club just a day after resigning. Tomozaki notes that her combination of gratitude, respect, and envy for Aoi have mellowed thanks to Tama—although Mimimi’s sexual harassment of Tama seems to have risen…

With Mimimi’s inferiority crisis more or less resolved to a point she’s no longer working herself to the bone, Tomozaki can move on to his own tasks, including giving Nakamura his birthday present and speaking to him for at least three minutes. Nakamura doesn’t make those three minutes easy, as his bemusement over Tomozaki giving him a gift at all leads to clipped, conversation-killing responses.

This leads Tomozaki to improvise in order to stretch out their talking time…by bringing up the rumor of Hinami and Mizusawa dating! This provides Hinami, Mimimi, and Tama a laugh while they’re at a café with Tomozaki after school—but it also leads to them asking Hinami straight up if the rumors are true. She starts with a fakeout, saying they are true, before revising her answer to “of course not.”

Assuming one cour of Jaku-Chara Tomozaki-kun is all we get, we’re now three-quarters through the series. My hopes for the final four eps include finally getting to see Tomozaki and Fuuka on that date, making more inroads with Mimimi (especially now that she’s in a healthier place), and of course gaining more insight into what Hinami tick. And hey, if a second cour is being considered, I most definitely wouldn’t mind!

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 20 – Tantamount to Love

This week Fuutarou learns why there’s a Fake Itsuki when he finds four of them in one room. As Yotsuba explains, she was the first of the quints to change her appearance (with her bunny ribbon). At some point they all agreed to look identical whenever they visited their grandpa, so he wouldn’t worry about them drifting apart.

Gramps ends up coming in their room, so Fuu has to hide under the kotatsu, and identifies the real Fake Itsuki who spoke to him in the lobby by the bruise on her leg. However, because all of the quints in the room are disguised as Itsuki, he doesn’t know to which quint that leg belongs!

As Fuu continues his investigation, Nino takes Ichika aside to to bathe together, hoping to pick Ichika’s brain about what next steps to take with the guy she likes, describing with wonderful self-awareness how she came to love her “prince”. Of course, Nino is blissfully unaware that Ichika also likes him, and heard her confession to him.

Even Ichika’s best attempts to slow her down end in failure, as Nino makes it clear she’d step over whoever else liked Fuu to get with him. Would she say that if she knew Ichika (or Miku) were that other person? At present, Nino is committed to doing more to get Fuu’s attention, including meeting with him that night and hugging or even kissing him.

Ichika feels powerless to stop her, and even agrees to run interference for their dad so Nino can slip away! She asserts to herself that because she’s such a “coward”, her love for Fuutarou is no match for Nino’s. It’s basically her lowest point yet, where she’s actively working against her interests in deference to someone who made it clear she wouldn’t do the same. That’s when Yotsuba finds her in the hallway, crying.

The two climb up to the roof—an old hiding spot of theirs from years past—and when Yotsuba sneezes from the cold, Ichika lends her her robe. Yotsuba reminisces how Ichika was once the prank-pulling “mean bully” who’d always takes things from the others with impunity—basically the opposite of what she is now: feeling afraid and unworthy of taking Fuu from Nino.

Then their mom died, Itsuki was hit hardest, and Ichika decided there and then that she had to be The Big Sister. Yotsuba tells Ichika how she’s always saw her as her dear big sister, and how she wants her to do what she wants. For Ichika, right now, that’s for things to remain in the “comfort zone”, where Fuu isn’t “taken” by any of them.

Buoyed by Yotsuba’s words, the last two things Ichika does are in her own interest: taking back the robe she lent Yotsuba, and not distracting their dad so Nino can talk to Fuu. We’ll see if Nino shrugs off Ichika not coming through for her at what for her was a crucial opportunity to impress her feelings upon her Prince.

That brings us back to Fuu himself, who has noticed the quints’ grandfather has no trouble telling them apart. When pressed, Gramps tells him there’s no silver bullet or trick to it, it’s just a matter of learning their mannerisms, voices, and subtle habits, which he says are basically “tantamount to love”. This, of course, leads gramps to ask him why he needs to tell them apart. If he truly can’t, can he honestly say he has the “commitment to face them in good faith?”

Fuu accepts that challenge the next morning, when unbeknownst to him, Miku has already come clean with Itsuki about being the Fake Itsuki. She wanted to end their student-teacher relationship so it could change into something new. Unlike Ichika, she doesn’t want to stay in the comfort zone. So Itsuki tells Miku to meet Fuu one more time as Fake Her.

Fuu uses the process of elimination to narrow it down to Ichika or Miku, and when she gets her to say “Itsuki-chan”, he guesses she’s Ichika, because only she uses “-chan” with Itsuki. Miku pretends he’s right, holding back tears that then start to fall once her back is turned. But then Fuu realizes she is Miku, causing her to run into his arms so fast her Itsuki wig falls off and she tackles him to the ground!

Fuu then goes on to explain his further reasoning for why Miku might be mad—because he never got around to giving her anything in return after Valentines Day. Then he asks why she wanted him to quit, and she tells him to forget it. He’s a teacher, she’s a student, and that doesn’t have to change. She’s just grateful he guessed correctly.

That leads to another strange cliffhanger-like ending, where before Fuutarou and the Nakanos depart from the onsen, someone in white, almost wedding-like shoes runs at him at full speed, causing him to grab the nearby bell for support. This, after gramps confirmed his daughter, the quints’ mother, was named Rena—the same name as the mysterious girl he saw when he fell in the water. To be continued, I guess!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Eight Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Miku: Her bitterness about Fuu not guessing correctly, immediately followed by her pure unbridled joy, was one hell of an emotional roller coaster! She definitely caused Fuutarou to think about the “love” gramps talked about. Total Points: 22 (Tied for 3rd)
  2. Yotsuba: Who’d have guessed she was the maverick who first changed her appearance? In both explaining the Fake Itsukis and her heart-to-heart with Ichika, Yots seems content to let things with the others play out before making whatever move she has planned…if any. Total Points: 22 (Tied for 3rd)
  3. Ichika: I think she’s finally reached the bottom of her well of defeatism and may be starting to claw her way out. It’s still not looking good, but at least she hasn’t given up on what she wants. Total Points: 21 (5th)
  4. Itsuki: Was instrumental both in getting Fuu to find out why the others were upset, as well as hearing Miku out and having her try one more time. Just an all-around great sis! Total Points: 26 (2nd)
  5. Nino: As she was thwarted from doing anything more with/to Fuu, Nino was relegated to a passive role this week. If Fuu doesn’t make the next move—and he shows no signs of doing so—she may have to try something. Was that her in the white shoes throwing herself at him? Total Points: 29 (1st)

 

The Promised Neverland – 19 – A Future Without Regret

By bringing up Mujika and Sonju, Emma clues Norman in on a major threat to his plan. He’s never met either, but heard stories about a mutation of demons who could maintain their human-esque form and intellect without eating meat. He thought they’d all been hunted down and killed by the Demon King and royalty committed to maintaining the status quo that lines their pockets.

With the “Evil-Blooded Girl” still out there, the demons presumably have a defense against his degenerative drug. Emma sees it the other way: instead of eradicating the demons, they can treat them all to be like Mujika and Sonju, so they won’t need to eat human meat anymore. But that misses the whole point: the Demons in charge would keep eating humans even if they didn’t have to, simply because they want to.

If that’s the case, then Emma thinks they should escape to the human world rather than committing demon genocide. Again, Norman has researched this, and the only gate he knows of is deep beneath…Grace Field House. It’s too dangerous and there are too many unknown factors, including whether the humans would even accept them.

Emma can’t accept a future she has to kill her friends and countless other innocents to achieve, in which she’d never be able to smile again. Norman knows the kind soul Emma is and always was, but here again they disagree: he says it isn’t “tough” to do what he’s doing, because he’s working towards the future he desires.

The debate would seem to be over, with the two sides at an impasse and Norman politely shuffling Emma and Ray out of there, but Emma proposes a deal: give her ten days to find Mujika and Sonju before proceeding with his plan. Norman gives her five…because he doesn’t expect her to succeed.

When Emma and Ray leave, Norman joins Cislo, Barbara, and Vincent in the bowels of their headquarters, and tells them that his siblings from the farm don’t want to annihilate the demons, and have also met with and are friends with the Evil-Blooded Girl. Just the thought of not eradicating the demons sends Barbara into a jar-shattering rage, leading to a “Lambda seizure”, which seem to be happening to her and the other two with increasing regularity.

They’re running out of time fast—just when Emma asked for more of it. Cislo is disgusted by Norman’s siblings’ “naive nonsense” but understands they’re good kids. So he asks Norman on behalf of the other Lambda survivors: Is Norman still on their side? Norman tells them he agreed to wait five days, but nothing else has changed. If Emma returns successful, Norman will kill the Evil-Blooded, but his plan will go forward without further alterations.

To show how far he’s come and why he can’t back down now, he shines his lantern on a massive Lilith-like demon, which he’s no doubt used for research and development of his anti-demon drug.

So now we know—if it wasn’t clear from the end of their conversation—that Norman has no intention of cancelling or changing his plan to commit genocide. Even if he wanted to, he has more than just Emma to think of. If the Lambda kids feel he’s betrayed them, he’s just as sure to die by their hands than demons’. And then there’s the matter of him doing what he did when he got shipped away: putting all of the burden on his own shoulders.

Of course, Emma thinks deep down the same Norman she knew and loved is still in there somewhere, and will honor his part of the bargain. Ray seems to want to trust Norman too; clearly being around Emma so much has blunted his cynicism. So they return to their mountain hideout, and there Emma presents her view and gets everyone onboard, even the terrified Gilda.

She uses the kids own grumbling bellies to drive home the point that killing all the demons would only spread more fear and hate, making the world a worse place. Emma can’t accept any other path but a peaceful one, but what she doesn’t yet grasp is that she’s already on the path Norman has paved for everyone—he just gave her five more days to pretend otherwise.

Back at Norman’s HQ, he suddenly coughs up blood into the same hand Emma took into hers when forging their doomed bargain. It would seem that whatever happened after he said goodbye to Emma to be shipped off, he didn’t fare any better than the other Lambda victims. His time grows short too, to the point even if Emma’s plan was most certain and logical, there wouldn’t be enough time to realize it.

Irina and Crow had a discussion on this episode. Check it out here!

 

 

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 21 – A Terribly Long Dream

Since Gou is my first foray into the Higurashi saga, I’m as confused as Satoko for much of the cold open, which consists of a Hanyuu-like woman saying various things and Satoko responding with lots of “Huh?”s and “What?”s. Bottom line: Satoko is being given the power to live through loops—whether she understands what that means or not—and told that if she lives through enough of them, her wish may one day come true.

Satoko wakes up back in June of 1983, and decides to shrug off the last five years as one long, awful dream. When she sees Lil’ Rika, she can’t help but run into her arms and start tearing up, she’s so happy they’re back where they belong. It’s only when events in the forest with Takano and Tomitake unfold precisely how they did before that Satoko starts to realize it wasn’t a dream, and she’s in a loop.

As such, one day a year and change later, Rika approaches her for a favor and they go to the bookstore to buy a study guide. This time, Satoko voices her hesitancy to join Rika at St. Lucia, but Rika makes it clear if Satoko doesn’t want to share in her new life-to-be, she’ll simply study on her own. Satoko caves and buys a guide, pleasing Rika.

Since she can’t convince Rika not to try to enroll at St. Lucia, she shifts her strategy to making it impossible for Rika to study enough to actually get in. She does this through various not-so-subtle means, such as physically placing herself between Rika and Chie-sensei, and even getting Rena and Keiichi to guilt-trip Rika into playing games with them.

It’s clear from the get-go this strategy would fail, for the same reason Wile E. Coyote’s schemes never pan out: because like the Road Runner, like Rika’s will, is the ocean: Fight against the waves and you’ll only get beaten up, or worse. Despite both Rika and Satoko being exhausted from club, Rika still gets up in the middle of the night to study. Satoko asks Rika if they can talk.

It’s here when I hoped Satoko would tell Rika precisely what’s happened to her, and how because of that she knows for a certainty how awful attending St. Lucia’s would be for her. Instead, she allows Rika to frame her concerns as rhetorical rather than empirical. Considering Rika is doing this because she’s lived through so many loops in Hinamizawa, you’d think she’d have been receptive if Satoko told her she’s now going through the same damn thing!

Instead, Rika hears what Satoko is saying, acknowledges them as legitimate concerns, but then promises to help Satoko should she struggle at St. Lucia’s. Whether due to Satoko’s love for and trust in her best friend, and/or belief that saying what she’s said to Rika will change the course of events for the better, Satoko takes her at her word.

Never let it be said Higurashi doesn’t possess brutally black comedic timing when it wants to, because just moments after Rika’s promise to Satoko, we fast forward five years and the two of them are right back where they were in the first loop: on opposite sides of the school wall, and on completely opposite social levels.

While the first time around, Satoko could forgive Rika for their drifting apart, but this time is different: Satoko was as explicit as she dared to be in telling Rika her concerns about St. Lucia beforehand. More importantly, Rika made an explicit promise, which Satoko believes she has broken. In Satoko’s view, her suffering in this loop isn’t the unfortunate consequence of miscommunication, it’s betrayal, pure and simple.

This time when Satoko confronts Rika, she calls her out for the “dirty liar” she is, only for Rika to counter her by saying when her grades start to slip, she did indeed keep her promise by offering a helping hand. It was Satoko who slapped that hand away. When Satoko says she didn’t want to be looked down upon, Rika says Satoko’s the one who put herself below her.

Satoko had hoped for a better answer from Rika than placing all the blame at her feet, but she doesn’t get it, so she has no further use of this loop. Embracing Rika tightly, Satoko makes a promise of her own: she won’t let Rika deceive her “next time”. With a dramatic flourish, she says “Good tidings to you, my treacherous Rika”, then snaps her finger. This brings the giant chandelier plummeting down on them, killing them both in a spray of blood, gore, and glass.

Goddamn, Satoko got the hang of this loop thing pretty quickly, didn’t she?! At least, I hope she did, and realized a promise from Rika isn’t enough, nor are further half-measures to keep her from entering St. Lucia. Instead, Satoko needs to take a hard look at either not joining Rika and parting ways, or telling her what’s really going on, and hoping she’ll believe her.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Re: Zero – 46 – What a Half-Elf Girl Wants, What a Half-Elf Girl Needs

Whereas last week felt at times dilatory and even inessential, it finished the careful cleaning and polishing of the table, allowing this episode to set that table with all the sundry flatware, silverware, and stemware. Subaru and Garfiel (who all along had beast blood thin enough to pass through the barrier) head to the mansion to stop Elsa. Before that, Subaru tosses the jewel containing Puck to Ram, saying she can “do as she likes” from here on.

Upon her emergence from the Graveyard, Ram is at the entrance to greet her and bends the knee and apologizes for not believing she’d get back on her feet. All Ram needs to see is Emilia’s straight posture, forward gaze, and steady hands to see she’s already become so much stronger. Emilia thanks her for supporting Subaru, but Ram sees it as having helped Emilia, since she was the one who convinced her that helping would be worthwhile.

Ram also has a request—the first she’s ever made of Emilia: to save her master, Roswaal-sama, who has been possessed by delusions and strayed from the proper path. To save him, Ram asks Emilia to win and assume the royal throne of Lugunica, thus fulfilling his wish. Emilia, wanting to pay Ram back for her help agrees to her request.

But who should suddenly emerge from the shadows but the very subject of their discussion: Roswaal! He’s arrived to offer his congratulations to Emilia for passing the first trial, but also to express his pity and sympathy for what he deems to be Emilia’s own curse: that of only knowing how to be loved by doing and saying what others expect of her.

When Emilia counters, Roswaal accuses her of using borrowed words and occupying places prepared for her by the will of others, forcing her to fit an ideal by being convinced she could do it. Roswaal says this is what Subaru did to get her to pass the trial, because he and Subaru are “two of a kind”, forcing their ideals on the women they love, and loving an ideal of her that doesn’t exist.

The old Emilia might have withered before such harsh words, but not the present one. Steadying Ram’s quivering hand with her own and taking a deep breath, Emilia responds with an excellent comeback: “Are you done?” She tells Roswaal how Subie said she was a pain in the ass, causing trouble for him when he’s done so much for her, and making it clear she was “weak, all talk, and insufficient in every way”.

But then Subie took her hand and helped her. If Roswaal calls what he said and did to be nothing but lies and deceptions, then she’ll turn them into truths, into wishes. That’s what she needs to do, and that’s what she wants to do.

Roswaal is impressed with Emilia’s growth, but still pities her, because he deems both the Sanctuary and the Royal Selection to be piddling concerns compared to the much larger matter: that the world is proceeding toward the “wrong destination”, and towards its end.

Emilia ignores this threat and proceeds into the Graveyard to face the second trial, but Roswaal maintains his pity and pessimism are justified; after all, he and Echidna “began” this; it stands to reason he’d be able to reckon when its end is near.

Roswaal then speaks to Ram, who be believes to still be fully “on his side”, having only been “putting on an act” with Emilia earlier about her request to her. He doesn’t mind that she assisted Subaru and Otto with Garfiel, as he’s glad she did what she felt was right. For now, he orders her to remain at the entrance for Emilia’s return.

This leads us to the one and only look backwards in time in this episode, when we’re shown the particulars of the bet Ram made with Otto, and why: because it was the best chance of getting her wish. She asks that Garfiel be taken down a peg, for Barusu do something about Emilia, and for Otto not to tell Barusu about their bet.

As a result of winning that bet—which she felt she would win due to Subie’s notoriously excellent timing—she finds herself where she wants to be: not at the Graveyard entrance as her master instructed, but in Ryuzu Meyer’s crystal chamber, confronting Roswaal with her wand in hand while he holds the Tome of Wisdom. She’s come to free him of the witch’s delusions.

Combined with Emilia eventual winning of the Selection, he shouldn’t have any complaints, and indeed he adopts an “I should have known” attitude towards Ram’s actions. After all, he assumes the long years in which she’s had to yield to him must have been “humiliating”, especially when her master was one of the men who destroyed her homeland.

Roswaal is in the chamber to use Meyer’s Crystal to focus and amplify his mana so he can make it snow in the Sanctuary. But because he once taught a younger Ram that “whatever on relies upon should be the thing that brings about their death”, whether it’s the sword, magic, or a demon.

But Roswaal asserts that Ram showed her hand a little too early, as she would have had a much easier time dealing with him once he’d already started setting up his snow day in accordance with his precious tome. But Ram didn’t want to face him as an empty husk, or in any kind of weakened state. That would have interfered with her wish for him to live for the future.

When Roswaal asks if Ram thinks she can win against him, she tells him she know she can’t, as her knowledge of his power is second only to Echidna’s. The thing is…she doesn’t have to face off against him alone, nor did she ever intend to. She produces the blue crystal and out pops Puck, a stray spirit who “happened to be passing by” and is all too willing to help Ram release the man she loves from his delusions.

Having seen what Puck is capable of, I like Ram’s chances, and I salute the expert maneuvering she did in order to end up in this position. But we’ll have to learn the result of their faceoff another time, as the episode’s final act shift’s to Roswaal’s mansion, where Petra is running and afraid. She wants to retrieve Ram and get her to safety, but she is cornered by Elsa.

There’s a heightened sense of danger and finality to this entire last act because if Subie is to believed there will be no more resets until this is all resolved. Whatever happens in these halls is going to stick. So yeah, I was relieved when lil’ Petra is rescued by Frederica, and warns her that she’ll be punished for disobeying her order to run away by herself.

This time, Petra does run away, and we only hear loud bangs from the battle between Petra and Frederica. Then Petra tries to locate Beatrice, hoping she’ll be able to help, but cannot locate her library among all the doors. That’s when Petra tears up and prays for Subaru come save them…and Subaru, who had just arrived, obliges, cheering a flabberghasted Petra up with his bright smile.

Elsa’s charge towards Frederica is suddenly arrested—by Frederica’s little brother Garfiel, parrying Elsa’s blade with the stout arm guards they used to play with. They have a frankly adorable little reunion where they express their wonder that they’re both so big now. Elsa lets them have some time together without attacking, probably because a.) she’s confident in her ability to beat them both, and b.) she’s got an ally in Meili running around somewhere nearby.

I hope Subie doesn’t forget about her, especially as he seems to be focused on the assassin duo’s third target: Beatrice. He’s there to “drag her out into the sunlight”, whether her precious tome told her he would or not. Things on any of the various fronts could go sideways in the blink of an eye, but it’s so far, so good with Subaru (and Ram)’s grand schemes.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TenSura – 31 – Bad News First

I never want to hear the good news first. The positive effects of hearing it would be nullified by the bad news, and who wants that? So here it is, a bad news-packed episode of the usually light and fancy-free TenSura with the title “Despair.” Subtle it ain’t, but the more serious shift in tone and heightened stakes are just the shot this show needed after a sputtering start.

First, kudos for presenting an opponent in Hinata so tough she not only makes Rimuru resort to the last trick up his slimy sleeve, but she seemingly obliterates him even in his final form with an apocalyptic Ultima-like spell. For a second there it looked like Rimuru had been taken off the board. While that was only a second, it was a wonderfully tense one!

We learn that when he summoned Ifrit, Rimuru made a doppelganger of himself to take the punishment, deeming retreat to be the better part of valor and turning out to be exactly right: had it been him under that Desintegration, he estimateshe’d have been toast, Holy Field or not. Ranga pops out of his shadow and greets his master like the good dog he is.

One detail we’ll just have to live with is the fact that someone as otherwise shrewd as Hinata simply left the scene without inspecting the crater where Rimuru apparently met his end for possible remains. Then again, she only told Rimuru she sold him short, not that he was anything to worry about. That arrogance led to her getting sloppy in this instance.

Rimuru and Ranga are perplexed when they can’t teleport to Tempest because the “destination doesn’t exist” due to the barrier. Instead they teleport to the nearby caverns, where he meets with Souei and his scouts, Gabiru, and Vesta, who explain the situation as they see it; Souei, bless him, immediately calls out Falmuth as one of the culprits.

We learn that the enemies have taken off, leaving the barriers in place, and while Gabiru’s men managed to save the young children, the city is wrecked and filled with casualties. Rimuru passes through the barriers without a problem, and is shocked by the sights he’s seen, which we must note he’s never seen…not against his capital, his nation, or his people.

Everyone seems to want to keep him away from something horrific in the central plaza, but before he can check it out he hears Benimaru’s attack. He rushes to the ally to find that Beni was attempting to capture Mjurran, but she was being protected by Grucius and Youm. Rimuru ends the confrontation before Beni can do any permanent harm, and when he’s told of Mjurran’s role, he asks to tell him exactly what she did.

She shows him instead, leading him to the plaza, strewn with dozens of dead goblins. Mjurran’s guilt over conjuring the barrier pales in comparison to the guilt Rimuru feels after having given standing orders to the Goblins not to attack humans. Mjurran seems to want to be the fall girl for everything, but Rimuru knows and the Great Sage confirms that there’s plenty of blame to spread around.

This Mjolmire guy from Blumund…he just puts off a very suspicious vibe, doesn’t he? The episode seems to go out of its way to make him far more prominent than he’d otherwise be. Sure, his task to send word to Blumund of Tempest’s situation is an important one; Rimuru should also contact Dwargon. But yeah…I wouldn’t be surprised if he betrays Rimuru at some point.

In an emergency meeting, Rimuru gets the remaining details about the situation, including the fact that the Knight Commander from Falmuth declared the capital “contaminated by monsters”, and that he’ll return accompanied by King Edomalis himself in seven day’s time to accept their surrender and dispersal from the city, or else be “eradicated.”

After his interactions with Hinata, it’s clear now to Rimuru that Falmuth and the anti-monster Western Holy Church have been conspiring to bring his nation down. Mjolmire points out the economic reasons Falmuth is determined to eliminate Tempest. Judging from that knight’s ultimatum, there could already be far too much distance between the two sides for anything other than all-out war.

But what of Mjurran? Rimuru demands to know everything she knows, and she’s happy to tell him, starting by telling him she serves the Demon Lord Clayman. As the ultimate puppet-master swirls his wine and smirks as he glances out the window of his gaudy castle, all the bad news has been laid out on the table and spilled over the edges.

It’s a long, hard road ahead for Rimuru & Co., but knowing they’re in a mess was the first step to getting them out of it. Soon it will be time to start making some good news, and it will be all the more satisfying thanks to the depths of despair plumbed here.

Wonder Egg Priority – 07 – Oyakodon (Parent-Child Bowl)

“Life is pain, highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”—The Dread Pirate Roberts

It’s Rika’s birthday. On one level, that’s a good thing: a cause to celebrate with her new friends, while also celebrating Ai’s retirement from shut-in-dom. Ai describes her sudden change of heart as having realized beating herself up at home wouldn’t solve anything.

On another level, Rika’s birthday also a reminder that she is one year older, one year closer to possibly becoming her lonely, alcoholic mom, and no closer to learning who her father was. Her mom agreed to tell her when she got into middle school, but she doesn’t know herself, and gives her five possible candidates. It could be one of them or none of them.

It’s instructive that Rika lives above a bar her mom owns. That bar has not only been the place where her mom no doubt met these many men over the years to try to quell her loneliness (and drown it in booze when she failed) but before Rika could enter her home she always had to walk past a gauntlet of drunk men.

Rika takes her birthday celebration as a chance to air some grievances, albeit with her usual irreverent tone that implies she doesn’t care. In truth, meeting her real dad is almost all she cares about. She believes her mother never wants her to meet him, since they might get along.

She calls her mom a “tragic heroine with a persecution complex” who has never apologized for anything and has nothing but her own pride. She thinks her mom believes she could have been happy if only she didn’t have her. Neiru, ever calm and logical and correct, asks rather tactlessly if Rika hates her mom too, and if “that’s what they call co-dependence.”

This angers Rika, who storms off, but she fully expects Ai to chase her, and she does. Ai is ready to continue the mom-insulting session, calling the two of them the “Single-Mother Girls”. As they wander the abandoned entertainment center and Rika swings and misses at the batting cages, “Serious Rika” comes out of her shell to talk about all the bad stuff that she remembered at once. As Ai listens, Rika wonders what the hell is even up with adults, who presumably bang and marry because they like it, yet end up like her mom.

Neiru and Momoe are worried about Rika, but when they hear her yell they’re confident she’s okay. Neiru wonders whether she’s too honest and direct for “female society”, but Momoe tells her she’s fine that way, as she hates when everyone pretends to agree. Neiru cops to being a straight-up orphan who never knew either parent, and notes it seems to have spared her “a lot of trouble.”

On the rooftop, Rika asks Ai about her dad, who she sees at least once a month, and thus is still her daddy even though her parents broke up. Rika can’t even remember her dad’s face—only his gentle voice when he once told her “a beautiful woman never needs a wallet.” After shedding a few tears of frustration from wanting to see him and not being able to, Rika declares “Moping Time” over and takes off.

The episode then shifts between Rika’s latest Wonder Egg battle and the battle she fights every day by having to cross a gauntlet of drunk men and her mom to gain access to her home. This Egg Girl and her family were members of a suicide cult, but still loves her Wonder Killer and wants Rika to join them in cosmic bliss.

She gives Rika the hard sell, telling her how her family was cursed by karma from their past lives, so they abandoned their attachments to the physical world. The Wonder Killer, whom the girl calls “the teacher”, talks of a flawed world “fixated on worthless appearances and hierarchies” in which the haves grow arrogant and the have-nots envious.

Once up in her dark room, Rika pulls out her box-cutter and draws it close to her arm. In the battle, the Egg Girl notices the sleeve on Rika’s arm covering her scars and tells her to “erase herself”, revealing more of the same scars on her own arm as a show of solidarity. The Egg Girl was once like her, hating, envying, and drowning in pain and despair, before becoming one with the teacher and becoming part of a “vast energy.”

Normally Rika might not be so easily taken in by this new age gobbledygook from the child of parents who bought into what someone was selling, but it’s her birthday, and “all the bad stuff” is still foremost on her mind. The pain of still not knowing her dad, the fear of becoming just like her mom; they weigh on her, and the Egg Girl and teacher’s offer to “erase her karma” sounds like a good one in the there and then.

In this psychologically vulnerable state, the Egg Girl and Wonder Killer are tag teaming her towards her doom. Aca and Ura-Aca even worry that they could lose her. Ai, Momoe and Neiru, sensing she’s in trouble, use their pendants to snap Rika out of it, but their voices fade out as the Wonder Killer tells her to relax and surrender herself to his “hug of life.”

The only thing that saves Rika from oblivion is the fact she too is a mother; a fact she’d forgotten in the haze of the cult proselytization. Her turtle guardian-child, Mannen, grows to full size and blocks the Killer’s hug, saving Rika. She realizes because he imprinted on her, he thinks she’s his mom, and that she almost turned into a “selfish, piece-of-shit” mother by giving up and abandoning her child.

Declaring death to all fake men who ask women for money, and partners with Mannen to give the teacher the “slice of death.” The Egg Girl is devastated, asking why Rika, who like her cut her own arm to endure the pain of life, turned down a chance at sweet release. But Rika wasn’t buying what the teacher was selling. Dying isn’t the answer; not for her. Even if it means hurting herself, she’s going to live.

Rika reunites with her extremely worried and relieved friends. Neiru doesn’t join in the group hug but makes it clear she’s glad Rika is okay. Later that night Rika goes downstairs, after the bar has closed, where her mom is where she always is, drinking herself to sleep. Rika takes the cake out of the fridge and has a bite, confirming her mom’s worry the cream has dried out.

Her mom laments having gotten “old” before she knew it. Rika points out she’s only 40, and her mom corrects her; she’s 38. She says she’s sure Rika will abandon her, too. Rika concurs, but after a pause, sais “…but not now.”

* * * * *

This episode shines as a heartwrenchingly sober examination of the duality of parents and children as both curse and blessing to one another, how they hate, blame, and envy or resent one another, and how society only seems to make things worse. And yet, life and all its pain is presented as preferable to the bleak, defeatist alternative rapacious charlatans have offered since time immemorial.

Rika may not know how to win, if winning is possible, or even what victory looks like in this painful, fucked-up world. But no matter how many cuts she receives—by her own hand or otherwise—or batting cage balls she swings through, one thing she won’t do is stop playing. If she does, she knows she’ll lose, and she wouldn’t be the only one losing.

If this is all feels a bit heavy and complex for a cold cloudy Tuesday afternoon…well, I can’t blame you. I’m just glad a show like this exists, frankly presenting such ideas about these girls’ lives juxtaposed with the mundane heartaching beauty of the world in which it’s lived. It’s the kind of breathless ambition and thematic richness all too many anime would rather not adopt, instead pursuing the easy buck and assured popularity.

Don’t get me wrong—there’s a time and a place for that stuff too!—but it’s shows like Wonder Egg Priority that confirm that murmurs regarding the decline of anime are grossly exaggerated. This isn’t just the best anime on the air. It’s the best television show, period.