Golden Kamuy – 46 – Making the Mortar Dance

I didn’t know we’d delve into Tanigaki and Inkarmat’s situation so soon, but I’m certainly not complaining! Inkarmat keeps things light at the hospital where she’s being held, selling roots to Koito and using her clairvoyance to locate Nikaidou’s false hand. Tsukishima tolerates it all, but remains all business.

Ienaga Kano is there too, hoping to experience what he couldn’t when his mother fells down stairs and miscarried: the “perfection” of a mother. He also wants to eat the placenta, which…gross. As for Tanigaki, when faced with the choice of searching for Asirpa and Sugimoto or returning to his love’s side, he picks the latter.

Thanks to a flashy rich kid who also chews on roots, Tanigaki learns where Inkarmat is being held, and sneaks in under cover of darkness to reunite with her. Their reunion is soon stained with blood, as Tsukishima returns from his bath with his gun drawn.

Inkarmat uses her pregnant body to shield Tanigaki, having told him moments prior that she’s ready for danger. They both are; being together no matter what the consequences are. Thankfully fortune favors them; Ienaga drugs Tsukishima (and is shot dead in the process), and Koito, grateful for everything Inkarmat did for him during his convalescence, lets them go.

Tsukishima still manages to get a few shots off which graze Tanigaki and leave a trail of blood for him to follow. Needless to say, horseback is no proper place for a nine-months-pregnant woman. But when they rest in an abandoned house, Tsukishima is on top of them almost immediately.

They manage to slip away, but when Inkarmat’s water breaks, Tanigaki carries her the rest of the way, reluctantly shooting his horse in the bum so Tsukishima will follow the wrong blood trail.

By morning Tanigaki and Inkarmat are in Asirpa’s kotan, where Huci and Osoma’s mother are ready to take care of her. The latter tells Tanigaki that Huci has been delivering babies since she was nineteen, and even has a personal god behind her neck that helps her determine the babe’s gender, and thus the proper orientation for delivery.

Tsukishima arrives with gun drawn once more, but hot on is trail is Koito, who orders him to stand down. Tsukishima initially asks Koito whose side he’s on, but in this Koito is unequivocal: he’s on Lt. Tsurumi’s side, but doesn’t believe Tanigaki and Inkarmat need to be killed.

Tsukishima, initially remaining rigid as doing his job is all he has left, Koito appeals to the Tsukishima who gave up on his lost love Igogusa (covered in episode 27). Finally, he stands down. Inkarmat replies to the anguish in his face with an outstretched hand, but then her contractions start.

From there, Osoma’s mom starts barking out orders for the men to make themselves useful. We’re treated to a lot of details of Ainu neonatal care, from the use of sagebrush gauze, tar straps for bracing, antiseptic rasupakap, and Huci’s midwife chanting. The men also roll a mortar to aid the difficult birth.

Eventually, the cry of a newborn babe emanates from the hut. Inkarmat holds her new child in her arms, then offers it to Tanigaki, who makes the obligatory mistake of thinking the umbilical cord is a big dick. It’s a girl, and he couldn’t be happier.

In the aftermath of the successful delivery, Koito insists that Tsurumi must be a man concerned with more than a petty lust for power or willingness to sacrifice anyone and everyone for his own ends. He holds Tsurumi to higher ideals, even Tsukishima isn’t sure if Tsurumi even has any beyond burying his comrades and securing prosperity for Japan.

Koito resolves to believe in Tsurumi, and urges Tsukishima to believe in him in turn. A week later, Tanigaki, Inkarmat, and their daughter depart the kotan. We may not see them again, as their part in this story seems to be complete. Inkarmat offers to tell Tsukishima what she saw in her clairvoyance, but he declines to hear it.

Like the brand-new family whose freedom he and Koito are allowing out of nothing but compassion, he has everything he needs to move forward. So he doesn’t need to hear it.

Heavenly Delusion – 10 – Stone Cold

It was clear from the jump that this was a different kind of episode of Heavenly Delusion, but not due to its narrative content, which is almost its weakest aspect. Instead, it’s how that content was presented, which was with a dynamic, freewheeling style more reminiscent of Trigger anime.

That’s no coincidence, as Trigger’s own Ikarashi Kai is the guest storyboarder, director, and key animator this week. And the episode looked fantastic. So fantastic, it almost overshadows the fact that Juuichi…wasn’t lying about the “walled city” where women held men captive as breeding pigs!

Juuichi drives Kiruko and Maru to the former school where there’s a huge hole in the wall. The place is abandoned, but when a sudden rush of icy air threatens to kill Kiruko and Maru, Kiruko just manages to fire off a round of the Kiru-Beam and save both their lives. There’s a Hiruko in there, and it uses ice to freeze its prey. Both the visuals and sound design excel at portraying the extreme cold.

Kiruko doesn’t take too much time warming up, instead choosing to bum-rush the monster and fire the beam at it before it freezes them to death. The plan seems to work, and the beam cleaves the Hiruko in half, but the half with the core gets away, and thus the threat lingers.

From there, Juuichi is reunited with two of his fellow “boars”—men who were awake and escaped the women when the man-eater arrived. They brought with them a baby boy—Juuichi’s son. His reunion is so touching even a tough nut like Kiruko wells up a little bit.

A hot bath and a soft sofa later, Kiruko and Maru are planning to head to the Takahara facility the next morning, but before morning arrives, the Hiruko returns. Kiruko grabs Juuichi’s son and runs as far away as they can, only to find the cold is following them. That’s when Maru realizes that the kid is the Hiruko: capable of creating deadly ice to defend himself.

In this week’s seemingly cursory check-in at Takahara, Tokio remains isolated as she carries her child to term, while her friends are suddenly introduced to a new batch of “fifth year” kids who are shot in such a way as to look sinister, even evil.

That intro is juxtaposed with Juuichi gruesomely murdering one of his fellow boars with a circular saw while his son plays with blocks (the block sounds also accompany the shots of the creepy new Takahara kids). I don’t 100% know why, but I guess he believed the man he killed sounded the alarm that he was escaping?

Either way, something’s not quite right with Juuichi, but at least he’s reunited with his son, who has special powers like one of the X-Men. Since he has no more need to travel, he gives Kiruko and Maru his van, which breaks down ten feet from where they started off. Hopefully they’ll get it running again so they can get to the fireworks factory Takahara Academy to uncover more mysteries.

The Ancient Magus’ Bride – S2 09 – Cause for Worry

After the camping trip, Chise stops by home so Mini-Elias can be re-merged with Elias and Silky can even out her fly new short hair. But back at the College, Lucy remains in the infirmary, unconscious for ten days. Chise is worried about her, leading Elias to ask what “being worried” means.

When Chise explains it, Elias admits he was worried about her on the trip, but she did what a mage should have done, and nothing he wouldn’t have done. Chise too is worried about the power that awoke under the lake, and a visit to the always sleepy Cartiphilus, who confirms the voice came from inside her and kept her from getting killed.

What she doesn’t tell him is that it is the voice of a dragon gone mad after cursing her, and there’s now no going back. Not only that, when she uses her blackened hand to place a cloth on Lucy’s head as she starts twisting fretfully in her sleep, she has a vision of a young Lucy at the edge of a mass of corpses lying in a sea of blood. Then Lucy suddenly comes to.

When she does, it’s shortly after Seth Noel arrives. Chise knows Seth, but didn’t know he was Lucy’s brother. Lucy loses it upon seeing him, telling him she doesn’t need a “loser like him” to worry about her, and telling him to buzz of before passing out again.

Seth commits to staying by Lucy’s side so Chise can take a break. While on the stairs she can smell the potpourri she gave Philomena, and sure enough, Philomena lifts her cloak of invisibility to talk to her. She tells Chise that she’s not used to talking to other people, but it’s okay when it’s just the two of them. Like Lucy, Mena is gradually growing from an acquaintance to a friend.

As for how Lucy ended up the way she did, the College president convenes a faculty meeting to report that a forbidden tome called The Testament of Carnamagos was found crumbled into dust in it’s storage unit. The book, which Elias admits he’s read (an extreme risk for a normal human), can take the life force and magic power of others.

The latter happened to Lucy, so it tracks that the crumbled book was a fake, and the real one was stolen and is being used for nefarious purposes.

Tory introduces Elias to the other teachers, who are excited to meet a mage and impressed by his transformation abilities. Among them is Simeon Paladilhe, who tells Elias (and us) the story of the Webster family, who used to make a living making and copying books with the help of silk-producing spiders they kept.

Eight years ago, the entire Webster family was killed except for Lucy. As for Seth, since he lacked any magical power he was cast out of the family before its demise. Shortly after parting ways with Elias and Tory, Simeon is attacked with the missing book.

By the time Lucy wakes up again, Seth has fallen asleep while sitting on the stool beside her bed. She sees him and the gift he brought and cannot fathom why he’s there, as he must hate her (he probably doesn’t).

When a colleague who is waiting for Seth gets out of the limo, he’s quickly impaled through the chest by a mysterious masked creature with doglike legs and claws wearing human clothes. The creature tosses the slain colleague off a bridge, and is then joined by a second creature. With Seth’s protection eliminated, Seth is their next target.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Golden Kamuy – 45 – Love and Pieces

Tanigaki is ready to walk away from the entire gold-hunting affair when Tsurumi informs him that Inkarmat has been moved to another location. Tanigaki takes this for the threat it is, but Tsurumi goes on: Inkarmat is currently pregnant with Tanigaki’s child.

Tsurumi will let her go if Tanigaki delivers Asirpa to him. Unaware that one of their most dangerous rivals now has one of their most reliable allies wrapped around his finger, Asirpa, Sugimoto, and Shiraishi inspect Heita’s tattooed skin and resolve to continue the search for the gold.

By studying the gold dust Heita collected on his travels, Shiraishi reveals another Abashiri prisoner: a skilled diver and murderer named Botaro the Pirate, whom Heita had dive to the bottom of Lake Shikotsu to recover a cargo of gold Nopperabo was transporting.

Meanwhile, we check in with Hijitaka’s crew as Ogata reunites with them and reports that a woman named Sofia Goldenhand will be coming for Asirpa, and that Asirpa knows how to decipher the code for the skins. There’s also a tattooed prisoner with a mustache going around murdering prostitutes in Sapporo.

Famous author Ishikawa Takuboku reports to Nagakura on the activities of this prisoner, whom Hijikata notes is being way to flamboyant in his crimes, and thus will attract the attention of the “ruffians” of the 7th Division. Tsurumi sends Kikuta and Usami to Sapporo to deal with the prisoner.

Kukuta and Usami don’t like each other, and that’s when the episode turns back the clock to when Tsurumi was a guest instructor at his master’s dojo and Usami was just an impressionable young lad. Like many young lads who’d go on to serve him, Usami fell for Tsurumi’s good looks and charms hard and early.

Tsurumi basically groomed Usami into a lethal weapon, while Usami’s friend Tomoharu failed to win a single sparring match against him. On the day they both graduate from the dojo, Tomoharu begs Usami to spar with him one more time. Since the master closed the dojo, Tsurumi has them spar outside.

Usami beats Tomoharu once more, then stomps on his throat, crushing his windpipe. Usami always hated Tomoharu for being the son of a well-to-do soldier who was always stealing away precious time with Tsurumi.

While Tsurumi never explicitly told Usami to kill Tomoharu, the end result is that his murder cherry was popped, and they became bound by their story that Tomoharu was killed when Tsurumi’s horse kicked him. Usami is deeply moved that Tsurumi covered for him even though it meant drawing the ire of his superiors.

The tale of how Usami became one of Tsurumi’s chosen ones is framed by a chat between Usami and his sensei about what he learned in the war in China: that it isn’t hatred of the enemy or fear of death or even differences in politics or ideology that draws out a soldier’s drive to kill. It’s love.

He has carefully nurtured and inspired “interesting” characters like Usami not just to follow his orders because he’s their superior officer, but because they love him. Usami’s jealousy drove him to kill and unlocked the killer Tsurumi would need for his plans. Now he’s poised to use Tanigaki’s love for Inkarmat and her unborn child to drive him to betray Asirpa and Sugimoto. He really is quite the sonofabitch!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Heavenly Delusion – 09 – All Hands Meeting

Asura taught Kona how to use his powers, and used their powers to heal other children when they were hurt. Kona loved Asura, even if he didn’t really know what love was, because the adults didn’t teach him. One day, Asura told Kona they “knew what they had to do”, and ended up taking their life, something Kona was helpless to prevent.

Asura was the last member of Kona’s group, leaving him alone with his drawings. That is, until a young Tokio takes it upon herself to reach out to Kona, not to say anything in particular (she doesn’t have any more experience with love and loss than he) but just to be there for him. That first little interaction became what Asura told Kona would be a special other kind of love. And it’s that special love that has the facility’s director on the move.

This is an episode that jumps between “Heaven” and the “Hell” of the present-day world where Kiruko and Maru are still looking for the doctor, Robin, and “Heaven”. Maru’s tooth has grown back, which isn’t surprising considering his other abilities. They’re both surprised by a sudden earthquake – the first in ages – and head to a collapsed building where they find a scavenger who might have information.

What is Mimihime always looking at? Looks like it’s something no one else can see: the “ghost” of Asura, still hanging up there. She and Shiro head to class, where they learn from the robo-teacher that Tokio won’t be around “for a while”; we see her being carted off in street clothes by Dr. Aoshima, who the director later names assistant director, angering a colleague.

While office politics unfold in a human experimentation facility in the past, Kiruko and Maru are told some very colorful stories by the scavenger, who calls himself Juuichi. One that stands out is about a school surrounded by a wall; a matriarchal society within abducts men and use them as breeding pigs and slaves.

While the school itself resembles “Heaven”, the fact is this guy is pumping Kiruko and Maru for cash, having covered up a sign with his van that they’d have recognized: the bird logo on the gun, and the box at the stoner colony. They’ve arrived at Takahara Academy.

Well, not exactly…it’s one of eighteen branches and two facilities on a Takahara flier. Kiruko learns that it’s kind of an orphanage where children go willingly to rest and relax, but also learn. They imagine such a place would be tough, but then remembers their sister and friends and figures they would have probably adapted if they had the same family-like structure, found or otherwise.

Kiruko and Maru are headed to one of the two facilities, hoping to learn more. Meanwhile, at the all-hands emergency meeting at one of those facilities, which I’m assuming is in the past, the Director announces to the shock off all that Tokio is pregnant. This despite them not teaching the children of the nursery about anything related to sex or even gender.

My theory that Tokio is Maru’s mother remains intact for another week, assuming that time difference is roughly equal to Maru’s current age. That said, Tokio being pregnant is regarded by the boss as a “crisis.” Are they caring for these kids, or keeping them isolated because they know they’re potentially dangerous? Curiouser and curiouser…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Ancient Magus’ Bride – S2 08 – Mage-Snack Camp

Chise insisted that Elias not accompany her on her camping trip, because she wants to learn how to take care of herself. Elias proposes a compromise. He makes a smaller, dog-sized duplicate of himself that isn’t very strong. Chise shares her tent with Lucy, and while fetching water from the lake, meets an each-uisge, a white water horse that drowns anyone who tries to ride it. She makes sure to warn Lucy not to get on any horses she sees.

While Chise really wanted a more independent trip, she’s still comforted by the presence of both Ruth and Lil’ Elias, which quiets the voices she’s not sure are neighbors or those of her classmates. But there’s something out there lurking in the sea.

The next morning, Chise makes a Philomena sighting, but she scurries away after exchanging good mornings. Lucy doesn’t understand why Chise is bothering with Mena; Chise sees a bit of herself in her. Lucy, however, hates all sorcerers, which makes sense if they killed her family.

The last night of the trip comes before Chise knows it. Lucy says she has to study as soon as they’re back at the College. She says she has important things to do, “unlike” Chise, but Chise says there are things she needs to do too, only she’s not certain if she’ll ever be finished. Giving Lucy a taste of her own medicine, rather that say what those things are, Chise simply says goodnight.

Later that night after going to the bathroom, the pages of a magical book turn, and Lucy ends up passing out on her way back to the tent. Chise wakes up to a sudden magical disturbance and locates Lucy, who has been completely drained of magical power. Chise is a veritable font of magic, so simply holding Lucy helps her recharge, but she and Elias have bigger fish to fry: a nuckelavee, a giant centaur-like amphibious monster.

Ruth returns with the boys when Chise and Elias are running away from the nuckelavee, and while Zoe’s head snakes temporarily stop the monster, he soon passes out, and it’s on the move again. Lil’ Elias calmly reminds Chise that he’s in a form that can’t defeat something like this, so it’s up to Chise. That said, he can offer her advice and information on their opponent, who cannot touch fresh water.

Chise has Elias summon the each-uisge, and she and Rian hop on its back. This serves as an enticing lure for the nuckelavee, which gives chase all the way to the freshwater lake. The each-uisge dunks Chise and Rian, then kicks the nuckelavee in too.

It starts to disintegrate, as the fresh water is poisonous, but not before it’s able to grab Chise. It almost kills her, but in a gorgeous sequence, the dragon that dwells in her blackened arm awakens with one purpose: to destroy the “horror” before them.

The arm essentially has a mind of its own, and it confidently slashes the nuckelavee to bits. Chise swims to shore, where Rian is holding the each-uisge from attacking her with a magical axe. Chise isn’t about to let the water horse eat her, but she snips off her ponytail for it to each, and that appeases it enough for it to return to the depths of the lake.

On their way back, Chise isn’t just sporting a new-look with her hair, but her face. Only Rian recognizes the face, because he’s seen it many times before…in his mirror. It’s the face of someone who didn’t know what to do when things took a turn, and they certainly did take a turn suddenly here!

Chise was saved thanks to Elias’ knowledge of monsters, Rian’s brave stand, and most importantly that blackened dragon arm of hers, which certainly did know what to do. But this camping trip demonstrated that even when she’s not looking for trouble, trouble finds her, and she wasn’t in control when it mattered most.

The thing is, Chise shouldn’t be so hard on herself. That dragon arm isn’t going anywhere, for one. Even if Elias isn’t a a true groom, he’s still committed to being her lifelong companion. And she continues to bond with her new friends at College. The times when she’s ever going to be totally alone, able to rely only on herself, are vanishingly small.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Oshi no Ko – 07 – This Is Our Love Now

Turns out Aqua wasn’t the only one looking out for Akane: Mem-cho had been looking for her too. Not long after Aqua saves her, the two are confronted by a cop. Back at the agency office, Miyako, Kana, and Ruby discuss the abuse Akane is getting.

Kana tells Ruby that even she has days mentally when she thinks to herself “maybe I really will go and die,” so for someone with little to no tolerance, the abuse could be deadly, giving the illusion to the target that their life is over.

Miyako points out that over 50 actors in reality dating shows have taken their lives over the years, which Kana uses to estimate that ten times as many narrowly avoided that fate. Ruby hopes Aqua will be okay, but just then, Miyako gets a call from the police about him.

Of course, once she arrives and learns what happened, she’s proud of Aqua, even tussling his head like the mom she is. When Yuki and the other cast members arrive, they are unabashedly supportive of Akane. Sure, Yuki slaps her, but she then hugs her.

Aqua gets down to brass tacks: if Akane wants to quit, now is probably the time. Under the circumstances, the production company would probably be okay with letting her vacate her contract and walk away. A tearful Akane admits she’s scared, but she doesn’t want to quit. Aqua and the others respect her decision.

Aqua then pushes in his chips on what he sees as a good bet: leaking Akane’s suicide attempt to the press. He doesn’t just want to rehab Akane’s reputation, he wants to stick it to the production staff who put her in an almost deadly situation.

While the news causes she storm of Akane criticism to worsen, some people back down in light of what happened to her this is only phase one of Aqua’s plan. The other involves making use of all of the photos and videos Mem-cho has taken during production.

He intends to gather and edit these so they can tell their own, truthful version of Love Now, from their point of view. Mem-cho likes the idea, and is experienced enough with social media to know there’s a silent majority out there right now waiting for a reason to end their silence.

One key piece of candid footage is Yuki hugging Akane after getting slapped by her, which Yuki reveals was caught on one of the cameras (she even made sure she was at the perfect angle to be captured). I like how she can simultaneously be so professionally shrewd while also providing genuine comfort and affection to Akane.

The problem is, that and all the other B-roll footage is in the hands of the director, who tells Aqua flat-out he can’t give it up. He and the staff have a job to do, as did Akane. He essentially blames her for not speaking up when the show went in a direction she wasn’t ready for.

Aqua, who as we know is a lot older of mind than body, tells this 35-year-old director that Akane is only 17, and 17-year-olds are dumb kids always making mistakes. He then asks what kind of adult chooses not to protect a kid, and the director relents.

Aqua runs himself ragged compiling and editing the footage, with input from the other cast members and one of them even providing original music. When the homemade movie of their Love Now is ready to upload to Twitter, Mem-cho tries to manage expectations: they’ll know if it will generate sufficient buzz if it gets 100 retweets in the first minute

It hits that mark in just under a minute, causing the cast members to jump with joy and cheer. In the first day, it gets 74,000 retweets, not only rehabilitating Akane’s image and quelling the storm of hate, but also solidifying the popularity of Love Now, as it portrays all five of them as good kids.

Most importantly, when Akane watches it, she knows the others have her back, and her carved out heart is gradually filled back in by her colleague’s caring efforts. I love love love how they manage to go up against the cynicism of the industry and even manage to score a victory.

In light of the positive press, Akane prepares to make her triumphant return to the show. This time, Mem-cho suggests that Akane try playing a character, as a role separate from her true self will serve as a powerful armor against future hate, which will come as surely as the rising sun.

As Akane is a classically trained theater actor, Akane is open to this, but wonders what kind of character she should play. Mem-cho and Yuki turn to Aqua, the only guy in the room, and ask him what his ideal girl is. He goes on to list some very abstract yet specific characteristics. Mem-cho immediately pictures Ai from B Komachi.

Akane resolves to try being the kind of girl Aqua likes, not just for her own sake, but to repay him for looking for her in the storm and, well, literally saving her life. This is when we see Akane’s extremely detail-oriented, bordering on obsessive approach to character research, in which she extrapolates a frighteningly accurate study of Ai’s personality.

When Kana asks, Aqua tells her Akane has recovered from her ordeal and is poised to make her return to Love Now. Kana is glad Akane’s okay, but also a little disappointed she didn’t bow out, speaking strictly as a professional rival. Like Yuki, she checks herself for saying something that if typed into Twitter would have gotten her flamed.

On the first day of shooting with Akane back, she apologizes to the staff, who respond with applause, and Aqua walks ahead of her in preparation to begin the shoot. To his shock, Akane unveils the character she has spent her time away carefully crafting.

From the length of her stride and the curve of her smile to her suddenly confident yet bubbly voice (Iwami Manaka really changes it up) and her dazzling, suddenly starry eyes, Akane has transformed into Hoshino Ai Reborn, who I’ll henceforth refer to as Aikane. I can’t wait to see her light up the screen!

Golden Kamuy – 44 – Red, White, and Brown

Back in Hokkaido, Asirpa, Sugimoto, Shiraishi, and the foreigner they call “Mister Hood” soon come upon a kotan, where they come up with a broad-strokes plan to bring Hijikata and Tsurumi together and snatch their map skins while they fight each other.

Speaking of gold, the Ainu here tell them that a man panning for gold in the Uryu river has been getting rich, but there’s also talk of a vicious wenkamuy loose in that same area.

When the trio investigate, they save the life of a weird little man named Heita, who along with his father, brother, and brother’s beautiful wife, have been in this area for a while now. As thanks for saving him, Heita shows Sugimoto and Shiraishi how to hunt for gold in the river.

Furthermore, he tells them that the real riches of the river lie not in the “red” gold, but in the “white”: platinum, a mineral that classically has been a nuisance but now something for which modern folk are paying a premium.

But as Sugimoto and Shiraishi pan for gold and platinum, something is definitely off about Heita and his people. His brother’s wife invites Mister Hood, an adept artist, to draw her nude.

When his husband interrupts, she explains she wanted a drawing to remind her that she was beautiful. When she and her husband make out, Heita is in a tree, watching intently and wagging his tongue.

Later, Mister Hood almost steps into an amappo, or poison arrow tripwire trap. Heita keeps spotting the brown bear wenkamuy in the woods, but no one else can spot it. It then kills both his brother and his wife, whom Heita tries to kiss and grope before her face is ripped off.

Eventually, reality returns to normal and we learn that Heita is all alone in this forest. None of other people we’ve seen exist, except in his head. This is confirmed when we see Mister Hood’s drawing, which is of Heita himself posing seductively.

Warden Kadokura regales Kirawus with the story of one Matsuda Heita, an Abashiri prisoner who believed he had multiple people “inside” him, and was also convinced a bear wenkamuy was outside the prison, trying to break him out.

Clearly a sufferer of multiple personality disorder, but also having absorbed an incomplete telling of the wenkamuy legend, Heita would don a bear pelt and embody the wenkamuy, feeding on his human victims. That’s the Heita that attacks Sugimoto with unreal strength, until Sugimoto stabs him several times in the side.

Seemingly glad Sugimoto weakened the beast within him, Heita then trips another amappo and gets a poison arrow to the neck. All this time, he’s been trying to get rid of the wenkamuy who kept coming back ever since he lured a bear to his family’s home to kill them, to punish them for becoming so greedy over gold.

When he dies, the wenkamuy dies with him. Asirpa points out the importance of passing on the truth properly, as Heita had the wrong idea about wenkamuy all along: they don’t kill people to punish them, but because they were favored by the gods. In any case, having encountered another weird prisoner, they’ve obtained another piece of the map.

I liked how off-kilter this episode felt throughout, and how reality bent to the point we were essentially watching things unfold from Heita’s skewed perspective, until a switch flipped. It’s good old-fashioned Golden Kamuy weirdness, and I’m glad it’s back.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Heavenly Delusion – 08 – Behind the Curtain

Dr. Usami takes Kiruko and Maru past a gauntlet of people who want to ask him about their prosthetics and leads them to the room with the curtain. Beyond that curtain is a young woman being kept alive by machines, calling to mind shades of Akira. Usami wants Maru to try to kill her the way he did the dormant Man-eaters in the garage.

Why not just disconnect her from the machines? Because they’re not just keeping her alive—they’re keeping her from becoming a monster. This is how Maru and Kiruko learn that all Man-eaters began as humans. Maru places his hand on her heavily bandaged body, and discovers that she has a core. He can do what Usami wishes and end her pain. But what does she want?

Thanks to a tablet, the young woman Hoshio is able to communicate her final wish: to see the sky. She’s been in that dark, depressing room for God knows how long clinging to both life and humanity. Kiruko and Maru agree that they won’t do as Usami asks unless Hoshio can see the sky, so Usami makes it happen.

The episode lingers on the logistics and careful maneuvering needed to move her and all her machines and cables just a few feet to the balcony where a impossibly gorgeous azure sky opens up above them. She stares up at that sky with her single blue eye, takes a few breaths, and then Maru lets her finally rest. It is without doubt one of the most beautiful and heartbreaking scenes I’ve ever seen, and not by accident: this episode was guest story boarded by a KyoAni veteran.

After she’s passed, Kiruko and Maru discover that Hoshio left a few final messages on the tablet, thanking Usami for letting her die as a human, thanking him for giving her his eye, and for everything, and telling him she loves him. Usami’s mask slips and he breaks down in big sobbing tears.

As all this was going on, Mizuhashi was apparently killed hitting her head when a rock was thrown by an Immortal Order member. Liviuman storms the facility, and IO’s staff and patients evacuate. Kiruko asks the IO folks about the photo of their Dr. Usami and Robin, and they recognize Robin, much to Kiruko’s delight. They could be inching closer to finding him.

But just as Kiruko and Maru are getting ready to escort Usami after he buries Hoshio, he shoots himself in the head on the roof of the facility, cradling Hoshio in his arms. He’s also holding the same button as the kids’ uniforms in Heaven. Just as he no longer saw any reason to continue Immortal Order with Hoshio gone, he no longer wanted to live in a world without her.

Faced with a dead Usami with a dead Hoshio in his arms, Maru begins to despair, saying that unlike Usami or Robin, his hands “only bring death”. Kiruko hurries to him and takes his hands in theirs, telling him that’s not true. Those hands, my God. Countless people have been saved by him killing Man-eaters. He’s saved Kiruko more than once as well. That matters.

While what happened to Hoshio and Usami is tragic, I’m glad the episode ends on a less somber note, with Kiruko and Maru closer than ever. No matter what happens in this world, if they can just stay together and keep surviving, you get the sense everything will be okay.

Only the episode doesn’t quite end with them. It ends with Mimihime’s dream of being in a dark and scary place, before suddenly being joined by someone who offers their hand (probably her crush Shiro).

When Tokio sees her grinning on the balcony, she asks what the dream was about that made her so happy, and Mimihime says she’s already forgotten. But even if the details of the dream are gone, the emotions remain.

Similarly, the precise nature and timeframe of the “Heaven” where Mimi and Tokio reside remains shrouded in mystery and intrigue, but what matters is that I desperately want to learn whatever answers Heavenly Delusion is willing to provide in its final five episodes.


The Ancient Magus’ Bride – S2 07 – The Good With the Bad

While doing wall climbing in P.E. class, Rian remembers when Philomena helped him climb a tree. She knew exactly how to do it, how to tell him how to do it, and did it faster. She still exhibits climbing prowess in the present, but she smile she wore when Rian praised her is gone.

We learn that Elias makes himself invisible to sit in on Chise’s classes, which is a bit creepy, but I’ll give him a pass since he still lacks a good grasp on human behavior and boundaries. His fellow faculty member Adolf (Stroud, not Hitler) is old enough to remember coming home to Dresden after it was bombed into oblivion in WWII.

Elias wonders if having such memories is good or bad. As Chise is his official master, Elias is loath to absorb knowledge from others, but Adolf suggests he still try if he wants answers to such questions. Meanwhile, Lucy and Chise seem to be hitting it off, while Veronica asks (but doesn’t order) Philomena to try talking to Chise more.

Any efforts to grow closer to Chise are interrupted that night when a magical messenger falcon summons Philomena home to a gloomy castle. There, she’s greeted by spooky faceless guards in hoods with echo-y voices, and also teased by other young people calling her the child of a usurper, and her time at the College worthless.

The towering maid Alcyone is friendlier, as Philomena reports that a girl at the College sensed her presence. Alcyone tells her that even though their kind can mask themselves almost completely, there are still some mages out there who can smell the emotions and very souls of others; Chise must be one of them. Philomena still wants a countermeasure.

Within two minutes of entering her “grandmother’s” study, Philomena is smacked in the face with a cane for simply raising her head when not told to do so. She does so at the mention of a gift that her grandmother was “planning” to give her, but perhaps won’t. She reminds Philomena that she’s only allowed to attend the College due to Veronica’s “charity.”

The P.E. teacher, who seems to have transformed himself into some kind a water elemental through over-experimentation, is a lot more encouraging and supportive of his charge, in this case an Alice who is working her butt off to show Renfred that she can be useful.

Adolf, who despite being much older than Renfred considers him a senpai, shares a drink with him, knowing that the more he pushes Alice away, the more she’ll resist being pushed. Renfred knows Alice isn’t a child to be ordered around anymore, but doesn’t want her to end up like him or his dad.

The episode ends with some home ec cooking, followed by a rather sharp transition to a camping trip. The College’s curriculum includes such classes on top of P.E. so its students know how to survive and thrive in what can be a harsh and unforgiving world.

Chise demonstrates that her curse has endowed her with stamina on top of strength, impressing Lucy. She may need both, as someone or something is watching her from the brush…

Oshi no Ko – 06 – Making Her Mark

It’s full speed ahead with My Love With a Star Begins Now, with Sumi Yuki immediately making a big impact by announcing to the others on camera that she’s considering leaving the show do to the teasing she’s enduring at school. But when the cameras are off, she’s on her phone checking the reactions.

It’s not that she’s just acting or lying. She is being teased, and she has considered quitting. She’s simply taking those kernels of truth and amplifying them for greater dramatic impact, for the good of the show and her own standing within it. It’s shrewd as hell, and you can tell Aqua admires it. But it’s also Yuki’s only play. She’s in a contract. If she quits, her agency will probably dump her.

He admits to Ruby that he knew nothing about reality dating shows, but now that he does, he’s surprised how much less fakery there is in it; not much more, in fact, than completely normal daily social interactions between peers.

Yuki is in it to win it, and quickly positions herself as the alpha girl, becoming the object of both Nobu and Kengo’s affections. As that love triangle captivates the audience and online buzz, Aqua is content to flit around the background until it’s over, while Mem-Cho is just in this to funnel more fans to her YouTube channel.

And then there’s Kurokawa Akane, perhaps the most kind, pure, eager, hardworking, and deeply naïve member of the cast. She’s always furiously jotting down notes and advice from the others, but while everyone else can “egosurf”, as Kana calls it, she ends up causing little to no impact. For her, there are no waves to egosurf. She’s completely becalmed.

Having overheard her agency boss chew out her manager, Akane shoulders the responsibility for standing out and making a mark on the show; she’s not just doing it for herself. A producer suggests she play the “bad girl” and try to steal one or both of Nobu and Kengo from Yuki, thus making more of an impact.

The thing is, despite working her ass off, Akane is very bad at this. She just doesn’t have the on-screen charisma or magnetism of Yuki. It’s almost more depressing that Yuki doesn’t take Akane’s efforts personally, because she simply doesn’t see Akane as a viable threat. While doing nail art for Akane, she makes clear she has no intention of giving up the spotlight.

When Akane is pleasantly chatting with Kengo and Yuki blatantly steals him away to look at a dog, Akane tries to stand up for herself. She rushes Yuki, slaps or grazes her face, and is about to give her a piece of her mind when she notices that the very nails Yuki made pretty for her have slashed Yuki’s face. The day before she has to do a magazine photoshoot.

The cameras stop and the crew surrounds Akane to deliver first aid, and Akane begins to withdraw into herself and straight up lose it. But then Yuki rushes over and gives her a hug. She wants Akane to know that it’s okay, she didn’t mean to scratch her, and it doesn’t matter. Yuki knows she’s working hard. Yuki likes her. They’re rivals on the screen, but it’s not personal.

It’s a beautiful moment of reconciliation, but the show uses the footage, and turns Akane into an online whipping girl for flamers. Worse still, when Akane inevitably “egosurfs”, it’s more like doom-scrolling. She carefully reads every nasty comment about her—something no one should ever do—and even posts a heartfelt apology—which Mem-Cho warned you should definitely never, ever do!

Even though she and Yuki are fine, the internet doesn’t let the incident go. Some want her kicked off the show. Some want her arrested for assault. Some want her to just disappear. To die. Akane tries not to let it get to her, but she’s only human. It gets to her. She finds it harder to sleep, to eat. She overhears classmates talking shit about her at school. She purges in the toilet.

It was at this point, having watched the first feature-length episode of Oshi no Ko, that this was rapidly heading to a very, very dark place. All Akane’s cast-mates muster are intermittent texts inquiring about her health. She’s nearly catatonic when one of those texts asks if she’s eating enough, and she realizes she doesn’t remember the last time she ate.

So she walks to the store…in the middle of a typhoon. On the way home, she slips, falls, and drops her groceries while on a bridge. She’s tired. She wants to stop thinking; to stop worrying about so much. She wants to pain and suffering to end. So she climbs onto the bridge railing, where cars are racing by below her, and even throws herself off. Her feet have left the railing…but she does not fall, because someone catches her.

The person who catches her is Aqua, who was a doctor in a previous life. As an OB-GYN he had experience detecting, preventing, and treating the mental heath issues associated with pregnancy, expertise he could apply to people in general, as well as the will to not just do no harm (his father excepted), but prevent harm from being done.

While the other cast members texted well wishes, Aqua did what you have to do when you suspect them of developing suicidal ideation: you keep a fucking eye on them. He must have been watching her intently, as even she didn’t initially intend to attempt to take her life when she left the house. She was just going to buy food. But circumstances aligned and an opportunity presented itself, and utterly defeated and ground down into dust, she took it.

Thank goodness she wasn’t successful. While Akane initially freaks out, when she realizes it’s Aqua who caught her and is cradling her in her arms, she calms down. Everything may not be okay at all, but it will be. It can be. This isn’t about Akane winning and the internet losing. It’s about Akane having everything to live for, and not dying needlessly.

Needless to say, was an incredibly rough watch. Watching someone kind and sweet and well-meaning and earnest suddenly descend into darkness is never easy, or fun. But it is important, and accurate to what the industry is like—Akane almost met the same fate as Terrace House’s Kimura Hana.

It sounds cliché to say it chews people up and spits them out, unless it happens to someone you know. After this episode, I felt like I knew Kurokawa Akane. I cared about her well-being and didn’t want her to die. Thanks to Aqua, she didn’t.


If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, confidential assistance is available 24/7.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
or Call/Text 988

Golden Kamuy – 43 – A Far More Difficult Path

Over six months after it was postponed due to the passing of a key staff member, Golden Kamuy marks its stirring return with the long-awaited meeting between Asirpa and Lt. Tsurumi in Karafuto. While he’s cordial with Asirpa, his insistence that he fights for a happier world for all—including the Ainu—doesn’t convince Asirpa.

Before they meet, Tsurumi says under his breath that he’ll keep her detained indefinitely in a dark, filthy cell furnished with a bucket and a stool until they find the gold. At the sight of Asirpa’s dazzling blue eyes, so much like Wilk’s, he can’t stop leaking…er…fluid from the brain. So Asirpa makes a break for it, with Sugimoto right beside her.

Tsurumi’s men fan out and search the town, with Usami finding them first and Tsukishima training his rifle at them. When Sugimoto keeps running, he shoots him, but that only unlocks Immortal Sugimoto, who goes to absolute town on Koito and another 7th soldier.

Asirpa holds Sugimoto tight throughout his rampage, and while he was shot a few times, he assures her he’s not hurt bad enough for “his soul to escape his body”. Tsurumi shoots a disapproving look at Tsukishima for letting Asirpa get away, while she and Sugimoto encounter the hooded Russian sniper, who takes them away on a horse.

Shiraishi and Tanigaki catch up to them, but only Shiraishi hops on the horse. Tanigaki has to protect Inkarmat, so he stays behind. They make it onto the ferry back to Hokkaido, but a single 7th soldier follows Sugimoto’s blood trail. Asirpa tells him to shoot the soldier in the leg, but the sniper goes for the headshot, and they’re home free…

That is, until Tsurumi gives chase in his destroyer. The ferry captain, pissed off that a warning shot was fired at a ship full of civilians, agrees to help Sugimoto, even sailing the ferry directly at the ice floes. When Tsurumi’s destroyer opens fire, it blasts away the floes, allowing the ferry to slip past.

When the gap closes and the destroyer attempts to blast its way through, Asirpa, Sugimoto, Shiraishi, and the sniper disembark while wearing white sheets, making them invisible to Tsurumi’s men as they complete their journey on the ice fields.

When they first ran from Tsurumi, thus spoiling any potential deal they might have had with him, Asirpa tells Sugimoto not to tell her not to do things anymore. Instead, he should be thinking of things they can be doing together in the future.

On the boat, Sugimoto tells Shiraishi that he’s heard both him and Asirpa, and has decided to believe in her as she tries to protect the Ainu the best way she knows. He knows that this will be a far more difficult path than simply killing their way to the gold.

Asirpa, meanwhile, withholds the secret of the code to Sugimoto, believing that will keep him with her. Where he was once so obsessed with protecting her that he wanted to keep her out of the search for the gold entirely, now she is determined to be a “powerful shield” for him.

Our pals manage to encounter a group of Ainu on a wooden boat who take them the rest of the way to Hokkaido, but days after they fled Karafuto, Ogata manages to steal the dead soldier’s uniform and gun, along with some salted cod, and tells a sob story about coming home after being wounded in the war that the ferry captain eats right up. Always good to see Ogata lucid and focused.

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Swordsmith Village Arc – 06 – Fifth Wheel

So Genya didn’t suddenly turn into a mindless demon, he’s just…really jazzed up on rage? So much so that he’s drooling profusely? Genya is also determined to become a Hashira first by defeating an Upper Six. To his, Tanjirou, while being choked by Genya, bucks shounen hero conventions and says “Fine, whatever, become a Hashira! I’ll help you…just don’t slash my little sis!”

When the four emotion demons regenerate and the one with the leaf blows the smell of the hot spring’s sulpher away, Tanjirou can smell a fifth demon, one they’ll have to kill in order to truly defeat the others. As he and Nezuko fight the other four, Genya chases the fifth, who is tiny and quick as a Cactuar…and also strong enoguh that Genya’s blade snaps when he strikes him.

The episode is then paused with one of the bigger demon’s staffs inching closer to the back of Genya’s head, and Genya thinks of his incredibly tragic childhood, when his tiny mother became a demon and killed all of his and his brother’s siblings. When he saw his blood-covered brother standing over the dead corpse of their mom, he accused him of being a murderer.

Then we get a flashback within the flashback, which really is a bit much, to show what we’ve already been told: that after their dad was stabbed, they promised to protect the family. This was evident when they nodded without words before the brother went out to look for their mom, and a rare instance of showing and telling too much.

It’s repetitive storytelling, especially when we consider that our protagonist Tanjirou also had his whole family be killed save one sibling. Add to that some action sequences that aren’t quite as flashy as last weeks, the demons keep regenerating and have grown stale, Okamoto Nobuhiko’s tired shrill yelling shtick, and a complete lack of Mitsuri (and barely any Tokitou), and this was not Demon Slayer’s finest outing.

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