Yuru Camp△ – 02 – Wide-Open Camp

This was never going to be a show just about two girls, so this week Nadeshiko joins her school’s Outdoor Activities Club, or Outclub for short. To my surprise, Shima Rin is not a member, which in hindsight explains why she always camps solo. The only two members of the club are Oogaki Chiaki and Inuyama Aoi. Aoi convinces Chiaki that if they increase the club to at least four members, they may be able to get a larger clubroom.

A lot of comedy is suceesfully mined from the current clubroom, which is more of a cloakroom. Its surreally absurd narrowness reminded me of the low ceilings at Lestercorp office in Being John Malkovich. But a good point is made: it doesn’t really matter how small their indoor clubroom is. Their true clubroom is the great outdoors!

Aoi shows Nadeshiko some tent magazines so she can become familiar with the pros and cons of various types, but Chiaki suggest they leave the cozy confines of their clubroom for the courtyard to put theory into practice. This is where Rin, reading in the library, finally spots Nadeshiko and realizes they attend the same school.

Unfortunately, the club’s super-cheap (¥980!) tent’s support poles snaps. Rin’s friend Saitou Ena asks if there’s a way to repair it, and just happens to have the little bit needed to do so, having “found it in lost-and-found!” After helping the other girls fix the pole, Ena makes it a point to point out “Shimarin”, and Nadeshiko is so excited to see her she rushes headlong into a plate glass window.

While it’s fun to meet Chiaki and Aoi and see how Nadeshiko fits into their club, the first half of this second outing was missing the sweet natural serenity of camping that drew me in. Fortunately, the second half makes up for that as Rin goes on another solo camping trip, this time in the wide-open fields of the Fumoto Campgrounds.

As Tateyama Akiyuki’s breezy guitar gently strums, Rin proceeds with her elegant, joy-sparking ritual. Never has watching someone set up a campsite felt so wonderfully relaxing. After exchanging some playful texts with Ena (and it’s absolutely 100% important to let a friend know where you’ve gone) and weighing the costs of a fire, Rin goes on a leisurely stroll, sees the sights, and snaps some photos.

As she settles in with a book and some tea, Fuji-san starts to turn pink from the setting sun—a breathtakingly gorgeous image that, as with all images of Fuji, doesn’t remotely do the real thing justice but is a fair facimilie. She thinks back to the other day at school when Nadeshiko approached her, and in response to her offer of a camping trip together she gave her a disgusted look.

Rin didn’t didn’t want her solo camp time to be threatened—and who can blame her…it’s bliss!—but realizes that it was “kinda crappy” of her not even try to hide it. But who should then appear at her campsite but Nadeshiko, bearing a big bag full of groceries!

Ena told Nadeshiko where Rin was staying. While this certainly wasn’t what Rin planned (like last time), she has grown tired of eating cup ramen. She’d hoped to try some real cooking, but none of the supermarkets on her way were open. Now that Nadeshiko is here, they can cook after all (and maybe split the cost of firewood and a stand). Trading solitude for al fresco hot pot—I think that’s a trade off Rin can live with!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 21 – Eyes On Me

Ichika announces to her sisters that starting next month everyone will have to chip in a fifth of the rent, or return to their stepdad’s apartment. There’s an opening at the bakery where Futarou works, but only one opening, leading to them both telling Fuu to “choose me.” Despite Miku’s chutzpah, it only takes one bake-off for the boss to hire Nino, who is objectively great at cooking and baking.

So why, as Nino puts it, does she feel like she lost? Because Miku doesn’t treat it as one. Instead, she gets a job at another bakery, having come to love making things and eager to get better at it. She’s also steadily working towards becoming someone Fuu would fall for, based on the sign he made of his top 3 qualities in a woman (“always cheerful”, “good at cooking”, and the top one yet to be revealed).

Ichika also wants to challenge herself by taking tougher and more serious roles that motivate her, not just any role to make a buck. That’s why she asked her sisters to try to get jobs, not out of any malice or resentment. Ichika worries that with everyone working they may end up drifting apart, but that’s proven wrong when all five sisters and Fuu end up in the same third-year class!

The quints are obviously a sensation with their classmates, who have no idea Fuu is in any way associated with them. The quints wished the class knew what a good heart he has, and so independent the larger war for that heart, they agree to think of ways to make the real Fuutarou known.

Yotsuba takes the most direct route by volunteering him to be the male class rep beside her. (I’ll also note that this is a good strategic move for Yotsuba as it ensures they’ll be able to spend time alone). Quite by accident, simply because he sees two classmates grab Miku thinking she’s Ichika, Fuutarou reveals that he’s an expert at telling the quints apart.

This is another instance of we the audience having to suspend disbelief they’re identical to everyone despite not looking or sounding so to us. This immediately ingratiates Fuu with the other girls, who cling to him hoping to learn more, drawing Miku’s quiet ire.

Miku is also the one to take Fuu aside in the hall to ask what he’d wish for if he had a magic lamp with five wishes. Top of the class he may be, but Fuu does not realize Miku is attempting to mine him for gift ideas the quints will fulfill for his birthday.

He says he’d wish for money, stamina, better sleep, faster recovery, and better luck. While they can’t provide those literal things (other than cash), they could get creative with a better pillow, weights, bath set, good luck charm…you name it! Or just give him cash!

Sensing that her lead in the Fuueepstakes may be dwindling, Nino reports for work in an exquisite pâtissière ensemble and her hair in a ponytail, hoping to catch Fuu’s eye, but he doesn’t give her a compliment when it’s due. If anything, she feels like they’ve grown more distant since her confession.

The day she starts happens to be the day a famous reviewer is stopping by for the boss’ new seasonal dish, so it’s all hands on deck. Nino initially impresses with her talents, but in the pace and chaos of a professional kitchen she screws up a batch of batter, and feels like she’s making everyone work harder.

While on a break with Fuu she expresses how she feels like she’s holding everyone back, but Fuu says it’s the boss’ fault for pushing so much work on a new recruit. He also shows her a box of 1,000 Christmas decorations when he was supposed to only order 100, as well as evidence of other mistakes he made that make hers look “trivial by comparison”.

Then, finally, Fuu brings up the confession, and when Nino least expects it: when he’s about as physically far from her in the break room as possible. He explains the delay in responding to her because no one had ever confessed their love, and he simply didn’t know how to talk to her about it. Still, he knows he owes her an answer, and so prepares to give it when Nino shushes him.

She says he has every reason to hate her, considering how nasty she’s been to him on-and-off since they met (not to mention all of the druggings). But now that they’re working together, there’s so much more she wants to tell him. She wants him to know her better, so he’ll understand how much she loves him. To all this, Fuu says “ah, so?” and flees the breakroom before her.

Nino is worried she failed to get through, but the boss notes that his face is red up to his ears, causing her to grin from ear to ear. She wishes him good luck, calling him “Fu-kun”, and even when they’re working with customers, she blows him a kiss that makes him blush all over again. As for the “famous reviewer”…It turned out to be Itsuki?

With Nino sitting pretty on top of the pack once more, we shift to Ichika as she tries to do what she wants. What she wants is for Fuutarou to only look at her—a most appropriate wish for an actress! But unlike Nino and to a lesser degree Miku, she still lacks the courage to launch direct attacks, and so she has to awkwardly manufacture a “chance encounter” outside the Starbucks.

Ichika is wearing big black-rimmed glasses in order to avoid unwanted attention from strangers after the screening of her film has made her a minor celebrity. That’s all too fitting, as Ichika is positively adorkable during this operation, which almost ends abruptly when they spot her four sisters.

Ichika doesn’t want him to go to them, or look at them, or talk about them, but keep his eyes and hears on her. She spontaneously grabs his hand to stop him, and says they should skip class together, and he declines instantly. Her failed insistence almost makes them late, making the operation an abject failure.

Even so, when the two arrive in class to find that all eyes are on Ichika, astounded that there’s a famous actress in their class, the praise that means the most to Ichika comes from Fuutaoru, who paid attention to her and remembered how she spoke of becoming a “good liar”.

Later that day, Ichika has to leave her fawning fans to join the study group, while Fuu runs into Miku in the hall. Only it’s not Miku, it’s Ichika, wearing the Miku disguise she’s been carrying on her. Fuutarou can’t believe Ichika’s movie already released, and Ichika learns that Miku was the one who told him about it.

That’s when Ichika, desperate for something to go right, employs another unconventional tactic: she pretends to be Miku when she tells Fuutarou that Ichika likes him, that she thinks they’d make a good couple, and that she’s rooting for them.

While I love Ichika, and you could say she’s playing to her strengths as an actress, I can’t see this as anything but dishonest, underhanded, frankly beneath her. Ichika!Miku’s crazed expression seems to confirm at least part of that, and yet she feels she’s gone too far to take it back. It’s certainly messy! I’m sure this definitely won’t blow up in her face…

Episode Nine Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: All hail. Crushing Miku on her turf to win the job at the bakery. Getting flustered in the kitchen, only to be revitalized when Fuu finally acknowledged her confession. Good on her for not letting him answer yet. Total Points: 34 (1st)
  2. Miku: She lost another battle, but Miku is committed to winning the war, and going about it as meticulously as Fuu goes about his academics. Total Points: 26 (3rd)
  3. Yotsuba: Had no trouble getting cleaning job, and also just might have some after-school time with Fuutarou, should she want to spend any of it trying to get him to notice her…If she’s even interested in him! Total Points: 25 (4th)
  4. Ichika: Climbed out of her pit of despair last week only to flail about wildly and resort to playing dirty. A stark contrast to Miku trying to carefully do things “the right way”. Total Points: 23 (5th)
  5. Itsuki: The only sister still saying things like “I can’t understand why anyone would love that guy” with a straight face, and the only sister who has yet to find a job (CORRECTION: she apparently makes money doing restaurant reviews??) In her defense, Fuu’s “tacky” comment about her hairpins was a low blow! Total Points: 27 (2nd)

The Promised Neverland – 20 – Emma

Instead of being slaughtered for meat, Norman was introduced to Peter Ratri, his “new father”, and asked to assist with his research. No matter how much they up the difficulty of the tests, Norman always scores perfectly.

Peter is trying to wrest control of the farms from James, presumably his brother or father. Norman also observes how gently he’s treated compared to the other children at the Lambda facility, who undergo all manner of horrific surgery and used as fodder for experiments.

Norman eventually meets Vincent, and together they clandestinely plan a prison break, which is initiated when Norman grasps the king while playing chess. He gives the surveillance camera a blank look, immediately followed by the blast of an improvised bomb.

Norman and Vincent rush through the facility, now in total chaos, and save what humans are still able to be saved, like Cislo and Barbara, the latter of whom asks Norman if he’s a “god” when he frees them. Standing over his great victory, Norman tells the captured demons he won’t stop until their kind has “died out from this world”.

I’m glad we were shown these events, as in this case where it’s important to see the horrors he saw, showing is better than telling. I only wish Norman and his comrades hadn’t spent so much of the last couple episodes spouting so much exposition, which in hindsight feels redundant.

Still, we get a very foreboding shot of a robed Norman at sunset, looking quite a bit like Anakin Skywalker after being seduced by the dark side. He doesn’t care if he has to be a god or a devil if it means Emma and the other children will be able to live in safety and peace.

This episode suffers from a considerably less interesting middle act involving the four days and change Emma, Ray, Gilda and Don are searching for Mujika and Sonju. They basically trudge from one point of the forest to the other in their demon disguises, coming up empty until they reach final search area.

Naturally, this area is crawling with those giant creepy wild demons, and naturally Emma almost gets her head bitten off not once, but twice. The first time, Ray shoots the demon in just the right eye to bring it down. The second time, Sonju and Mujika arrive In the Nick of Time.

But before Emma can even get out how they need the two demons’ help, there’s a blast from afar: Norman has started the operation a day early. Bombs detonate all over the town, releasing the degenerative drug in a sickly purple cloud. It spreads and affects the demons precisely as Norman calculated, turning them into wild vicious beasts that rip each other apart.

This creates a horrifying situation in which demons watch their loved ones degenerate, but beg other demons of sound mind not to hurt or kill them, only to themselves be killed by those transformed loved ones. Soon the streets are full of the cries of terrified children, their mothers and fathers either dead or transformed and about to kill them. It is the scene of hell.

As his comrades stand atop brick columns watching their vengeance unfold with glee, Norman enters the town square and finds one of the young demon girls alone, scared, and crying. Norman, determined not to waver, prepares to kill her with a sword, but he’s stopped in his tracks when her grandfather—the same elderly demon who visited the kids’ hideout—calls out the girl’s name: Emma.

A fresh cloud of the drug falls over the square, infecting the little one but not the old man, who Norman suspects to have devil’s blood like Mujika, and is thus immune. He stabs the old man, but he has Emma drink his blood, reversing her degeneration, and begs her to run.

Before Norman can re-commit to killing the old man or the demon Emma, someone calls to himhis Emma, with Ray by her side. Thanks to Sonju’s horse they managed to make it back to town just in time. When Norman sees Emma he starts to tear up, and when Emma sees him she sees him as the little boy at Grace Field House, in whose hands a bloody sword just doesn’t look right.

While Norman has the intellect to know what exactly to do, and that it may be the only way to save Emma and the others, and he even possessed the will to do the horrible things that needed doing, he still doesn’t have the heart to follow through, at least not without the wavering we saw.

I’ve heard many rumblings about how dissimilar and inferior this second season is to the first due to the fact it’s passed over large swaths of the original manga’s story and basically doing its own thing. I’ve also learned that this was apparently the author’s choice to do this, so it isn’t as if his work was getting short shrift against his wishes.

Whatever the case may be, a second season that takes place after escaping the farm was always going to be a thoroughly different kind of show, despite the same title, and that’s certainly proven the case. But now that Norman, Emma, and Ray are reunited once more in the epicenter of his grand plan, I remain thoroughly engaged and excited to find out where in the world things go from here!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Read Irina and Crow’s discussion of episode 20 here. They know their stuff!

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 22 – Tainted Love

Older Hanyuu lets Satoko basically fumble her way through the first few loops, no doubt trying to determine how far the “child of man” can get in trying to overturn Rika’s will to leave Hinamizawa absent any information. The answer: Not that far! 

First Satoko interrupts Rika’s dream spiel by leaving the bookstore, explaining how things will turn out, and then making Rika choose, right there and then: St. Lucia, or her. When Rika (notably in the voice of her older self) states that she can’t choose, Satoko jumps in front of a passing truck, painting her best friend’s face with her blood.

Having tried the aggressive route to refusing Rika’s dream, Satoko tries a more preemptive method, getting Rika up at the crack of dawn, showing her the beauty of Hinamizawa in hopes of swaying her. It doesn’t work, so Satoko slits her own throat.

In the classroom, she throws Rika’s exam prep book to the floor, then tears it in two, but Rika won’t stop studying, so Rika takes one of her pencils and stabs herself in the neck. Before long she and Rika are simply yelling at each other while wrestling, and both end up drowning in a canal.

All these loops do is frustrate Satoko. While the deity has been quite entertained, she decides to give Satoko the first key clue: Rika has also been living in loops. Not only that, but far, far moe than Satoko; one hundred years’ worth. Now Satoko understands how uphill her battle truly is, because Rika’s will has been reinforced by a century of failure and despair.

After being given a glimpse of one of Rika’s loops (the one in which Keiichi gets H syndrome and beats everyone to death with a bat), she determines that she needs to fully educate herself in order to have any chance of defeating Rika. That means watching all one hundred years of Rika’s loops…and I thought she detested studying!

Those horrific memories eventually go by and Satoko has seen it all. As with any huge and abrupt passage of time longer than the average human life, it’s hard to fully grasp what Satoko endured, but the her that exists in the “in-between” plane seems more mature, focused, resolved, and most importantly, informed.

When she hears that just before the victory over the Mountain Dogs Rika was at the end of her rope and ready to give up, Satoko realizes it is simply a matter of getting Rika to once again lose the will to go on, only this time make it stick. Like the games in their club, there can only be one winner.

It’s here where I take a step back and somewhat shudder at the notion of Satoko treating Rika like the enemy. Rika’s will is who Rika is, and by trying to destroy it, she’s trying to selfishly craft a new, more malleable Rika to her own specs. Rika, in turn, is trying to mold Satoko to fit her future dreams, and has a head start. It just doesn’t seem either of them love each other as much as they love their own wills. At this point, maybe they just…shouldn’t be friends anymore?!

What is missing is Rika’s awareness that Satoko is looping. So she asks the deity to make it so Rika’s memory persist through the loops, so Satoko is always dealing with the “same” Rika. The only thing Rika won’t remember is the cause of her death prior to Satoko’s, which she also intends to use in the battle of wills she intends to win, no matter the cost.