Call of the Night – 13 (Fin) – Let’s Talk About Love

While Nazuna plays video games alone (a typical night for her before meeting Kou), Kou is invited to Suzushiro Hatsuka’s apartment, where they’re greeted by three of Hatsuka’s offspring who are completely in her thrall, so much so that they simply stood around eagerly waiting for her return.

It isn’t until they’re ordered to leave and Hatsuka takes a shower and forgets a towel that Kou learns Hatsuka isn’t a woman, but a very, very pretty man. Suddenly Kou has a distraction from the night, which had been turned into a disappointment by his encounter with Anko.

Nazuna heads to the rooftop lounge vamps to report that she may not be turning Kou into a vampire after all. Niko tells her that wasn’t their agreement. Nazuna asks that they spare Kou’s life, but Niko is furious. It’s one thing for her and Kou to take their sweet old time, but to abandon the whole enterprise? Niko won’t stand for it—which means violence is sure to follow.

Hanging out with Hatsuka turns out to have a great deal of value, as he learns that just like humans don’t really know that much about humans, vamps don’t know much about vamps either. For what it’s worth, he doesnt’ believe Nazuna was withholding anything from her, but also doesn’t think it’s likely he’ll fall for her, being an adolescent kid and all.

So he proposes a compromise: Kou will become one of his offspring, so he won’t have to be killed and Nazuna won’t have to face consequences. As far as “falling” for him, Hatsuka will simply use his vampire power to “glamor” Kou, as he did with his other children. But this isn’t about gender for Kou—he simply only wants to fall for Nazuna.

As Kou gets up, Hatsuka asks him what he hopes to do by inserting himself betwen Nazuna and a clearly enraged Niko (the others text him a picture of a destroyed table). Kou simply says he doesn’t want Nazuna to be bored. He wants The Night to remain theirs.

When he arrives at the rooftop lounge, it’s clear a huge fight has taken place, but Nazuna just left. Niko declares ominously that Nazuna “won’t be capable of proper conversation for a while”, and doesn’t want to see Kou. Kou doesn’t care. He wants to see her, and he’ll brave any vampire fracas or cop-infested pedestrian bridge to track her down.

When he does, a forlorn Nazuna is buying a beer at the same vending machine where they first met, with their positions reversed: Nazuna lit by the machine’s greenish light, and Kou looking sinister as hell in the shadows. We learn that all Niko “did” to Nazuna was insist they talk about love, because that’s what Niko likes best.

Niko makes a deal with Nazuna: she and the others will go all out and root for her and Kou, and she’ll do whatever it takes to make Kou fall for her. As long as Nazuna can honor this, they won’t lay a finger on Kou’s feathery little head. And as proponents of vampire propagation, this works out better for them too.

Nazuna insists that “it’s over” but Kou takes her by the shoulders. He tells her he thought life was boring too until he ventured out into the night and met her. Even if she “acted like a know-it-all” who only knew how to have fun, masking her ennui, it doesn’t change the fact that the two of them had a heck of a lot of fun together.

Nazuna admits that she’s had so much fun she’d forgotten the boredom that had been gradually crushing her for decades.By dint of Kou being by her side, even things she’s done before feel new and exciting. Kou says they should then simply keep finding new things to do; he’s determined not to let her ever get bored again.

In response to this, Nazuna gives him a kiss—not a vampire’s kiss to the neck like usual, but an honest-to-god kiss on the lips like the climax of a romantic movie. She’s never been the most comfortable with romance, but in Kou she has a kindred spirit, and they can navigate those uncharted waters together as she vows in her head to become “a vampire worth falling for.” Of course, Kou would be the first person to say she already is.

While this episode could certainly serve as a series finale, I hope that’s not the case. Not only is there apparently plenty more manga to adapt from, but this was by all accounts a very popular and well-regarded anime. I’m hopeful it gets a second season where we’ll have more of Kou and Nazuna feeling their way through what it means to be together.

Made in Abyss – S2 12 (Fin) – The Cradle Falls

As tends to be the case with momentous episodes of Abyss, I’m still a bit overwhelmed with emotion, but I’ll do my best here. As a resurrected, better-than-ever Faputa and a game Juroimoh prepare to battle the invading beasts, we’re taken back to simpler, more innocent times, when Faputa first found Gaburoon.

Buried and covered in flowers, Faputa brought bits of scrap to him to enable to repair himself, while he tought her language, specifically that of her mother Irumyuui. What looked like an upside-down person turns out to be the symbol for haku, or that which matters most to someone. We watch, this time from Faputa’s perspective, as she encounters Riko, Reg, and Nanachi.

Gabu teases Faputa for resorting to subtler, more indirect methods that only served to confuse our lead kids—call it a measure of the shyness she inherited from her mother. Back in the present, while Faputa presses the battle, a transformed Majikaja serves as an escape vehicle for Riko, Reg, and Nanachi, as well as Moogie, Pakkoyan, Maaa, and other Hollows.

Maji takes them to Wazukyan, from which Vueko has already escaped and who is near death. In his usual friendly way he warns Riko that there is nothing ahead for her but despair, but she tells him as he crumbles to dust that things won’t necessarily go the way he’s foreseen.

As Riko is reunited with another page from her mother’s journal, the freed Vueko ascends a staircase while thinking about the one solid decision she made in her life: the choice to become Irumyuui’s mother. Unfortunately, she forgets the Sixth Layer’s curse is loss of humanity.

A quick-thinking Pakkoyan sacrifices herself to keep Vueko from being killed, but she is still transformed into a non-verbal hollow. Nanachi takes Vueko and brings her aboard Majikaja with the others.

Reg shocks Faputa by joining him in battle—this time on the same side—and apologizing for challenging her. Riko blows Prushka once more (causing her to pass out with a bloody nose), and Riko goes into Overdrive, allowing him to dispatch one of the two turbinid dragons who pose the greatest threat to Riko and the others.

This also gives Faputa time to go to Moogie and the other surviving hollows with the goal of consuming them and their value so she can do what she came here to do: put her long-suffering mother to rest. Just as they had no problem giving parts of themselves to resurrect Faputa, they have no problem becoming the nourishment Faputa needs.

After sending the black-turned-white goo throughout the structure of IruBuru, causing it to crack and shatter, Faputa is drained of energy an no longer able to fight. A piece of falling rubble wallops her and she begins to fall. She thinks of Vueko, the one person she has no memory of. She also thinks that the end is near; that she’ll die when she reaches the bottom. But she doesn’t; Reg snatches her with his extend-o-arm.

The rubble does a number on Majikaja’s body, and when he can no longer move, his true, semi-gaseous form emerges and briefly possesses Faputa. When he too passes, Faputa is able to come face to face with Vueko, her spiritual grandmother, and while Vueko can no longer talk, Faputa can hear her lucid thoughts.

Vueko tells her the kind of girl Irumyuui was, how Faputa is similar and how she’s different, before passing away peacefully, full of nothing but love and gratitude for the little girl that changed her forever. Faputa sheds tears for Vueko, despite her not “belonging” to her, and Riko, Reg, and Nanachi gather around to offer comfort.

The village borne from Irumyuui is now a pile of rubble, and Faputa’s mother is finally free. Following the customs she learned from Gabu, Faputa gives Vueko a proper burial, then sets up some companions with some smooth rocks so she won’t be lonely. After this, Faputa seems unsure what to do next, freed from “value” and now having been given the choice to live her life as she sees fit.

Reg suggests she join them. While he still can’t remember her or the details of their promise, he still wants to know her now, and go on an adventure with her. Faputa isn’t at all opposed to this, but does not agree right then and there. That’s to be expected of someone who has only very recently discovered such a thing as free will beyond an now-fulfilled genetic duty.

What I’ve described so far are the myriad events that unfolded in this double-length season two finale, but there’s no substitute for experiencing this episode and all of its nuances for yourself. It was one of the finest episodes of anime I’ve had the privilege to watch, and like Vueko with Irumyuui, I’ll never forget it.

There is sure to be another film or a third season that will continue Riko, Reg, and Nanachi’s journey still deeper into the Abyss, into darkness warm and cold, cursed by love and longing. This sequel had large shoes to fill and filled them ably. So too will the next sequel.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

Summertime Render – 23 – Realm of the Dead

Haine has devolved into an eyeless, helpless child that Shide apparently has no further use for. But he does want her Observer’s Right Eye, which is now in Ushio’s head. He provokes Ushio and Shinpei into following him to through a tear in the cave wall into another dimension.

Ushio tells Shinpei if he goes in he’s not coming out, but with both Ryuunosuke possessing him and her by his side, he’ll be fine. But even if things go pear-shaped, he hastens to tell Ushio he loves her, he wants to be with her, and he will never leave her side again.

The remainder of the episode takes place in a thoroughly weird—and hauntingly beautiful—dream world: Haine/Hiruko’s true home. As a result of Ryuunosuke pushing his body too hard, Shinpei’s right leg is ruined, but Ryuu offers to control his body and taking on the pain.

This enables Shinpei to walk, which he needs to do to find Ushio, whom they know is both still alive and no more than 50 meters away due to the shotgun she printed still being whole. Shinpei and Ryuu come upon a ball—Haine’s handball. They follow it into a Hitogashima frozen in time from when Haine lived.

There they find Ushio, apparently in great pain and in contact with Haine. But this Haine is different: she’s just a kind little girl like the one Ryuunosuke’s sister befriended years ago. Assured there’s no threat, Ushio introduces Haine to Shinpei and Ryuunosuke.

Haine tells them they’re in the realm of the dead, Toyoko. While the power of the awakened Observer’s Eye can only be fully utilized in the real world, Shide has brought Ushio here to steal the eye from her. Once he has the eye, he will transcend to a still higher dimension…and destroy the world.

Right on cue, Shide uses Baby Hiruko to summon one of Haine’s memories of her island being firebombed by a squadron of B-29s in World War II. Ushio’s hair shield protects them while Haine prepares to use her innate power to suspend the memory, giving Ushio a shot at attacking Shide. Without Hiruko in his possession, his armor will disappear, and she can kill Shide’s inner body within.

As you can tell from the screenshots, this episode is a trip, packed with gloriously detailed, imaginative, gorgeous, and frightening imagery, and an even more heightened reality when it comes to action, with Ushio using falling bombs as steps up to the plane where Shide is.

But as cool as this sequence is, it still isn’t enough to stop Shide, because the body she attacks is a hollow one – nothing but an empty suit of mud armor being controlled remotely through Hiruko. Gaining this new piece of information may prove costly, as Ushio passes out and starts to fall.

If any of this is wrong, I apologize, but the plot mechanics and rules of Summertime Render become more and more baroque with each passing episode. But this is such an engrossing spectacle and I’ve come to love these kids so much, I don’t really mind the growing complexity.

DanMachi IV – 10 – Game Over, Man

When Marie hears the shouts of agony from the Dungeon itself, all she can do is stay below the water and cover her ears; later, she wishes she was by Bell’s side again. But unfortunately for most of this episode, Bell and Ryuu are simply standing around as they express outrage at what Jura has done.

Jura, in turn, laughs maniacally as he describes his diabolical scheme, then laughs some more. Rinse, repeat. It got to the point I actually said to the TV “Alright already, enough build-up…let’s get to it!”

Not helping matters is that the static, repetitive scenes of Bell, Ryuu, and Jura are interspersed with scenes of Ouranos delivering exposition to Fels via magic telephone. It’s all very dull and plodding, not what you want when trying to build tension for the Dungeon’s most vicious beast.

When Bell’s party starts to hear the screams from below, Lili prepares to head down to see if they can help, which is quite possibly the dumbest thing she has ever attempted. Thankfully, a weeping Cassandra stops her and tells them they’re only alive right now because they’re here.

The beast itself is…kinda weak looking? Like some kind of giant emaciated, skeletal horse-mutant. Maybe that’s the point; even Bell notes that it has barely any armor, even as a well-placed strike from his sword simply bounces off. It does kill a great number of the adventurers in the Ryu hunting party through slicing in half, dismemberment, and straight-up glomping, but the vast majority of its victims are nameless NPCs.

It isn’t until Bell says enough and charges at the beast that we truly learn just how deep into the shit everyone is. Bell is level four, and has learned a lot in his short time on these lower floors, but against the Juggernaut, as it’s known, he might as well be one of those scores of Bors’ adventurers getting cut in half. None of his attacks have any effect, and Juggs is far faster than he anticipated.

By the end of the episode, Bell’s right arm has been sliced off, he’s been thrown across the cavern like a ragdoll, and the life is fading from his eyes. Considering he may be the strongest adventurer down there, that’s not a good sign. He’s no longer in any condition to even dodge the Juggernaut’s next attack, which begs the question of who (or what) will come to save the day—or at least get him and Ryuu to safety?

Call of the Night – 12 – Part of the Ordinary

Nothing like watching a starving vampire die with your friends to put a damper on your fun, huh? That tension pervades this episode as well. While Mahiru speaks alone with Anko in her very classic noir detective office, Kou twists and turns in bed, and when he goes to Nazunas and she prepares to feed, he finds himself pushing her away.

After talking things out (she promises him she’s in no danger of becoming like that starving teacher) they go on a walk, and Kou feels a little better, especially after Nazuna sucks his blood. He was suddenly confronted with the dark side of vampirism, but feels now that he’s identified that fear he can manage it.

I also like the subtle ways Nazuna’s new maid café pay allows her to buy a new top and shoes, switching up her usual all-black style. Switching up her wardrobe makes her feel more, well, human, and less of the evil villainous monsters Anko believes all vamps to be, who would of course always wear the same outfit.

Either later that night or on another night, Kou and Mahiru hang out, Kou finally meets Mahiru’s older friend, and Kou can’t take his eyes of her, despite her not being a vampire (as far as we know). But Mahiru’s true reason is to get Kou to reconsider becoming a vampire, asking him to at least explain why he needs to be one so bad.

Hearing his old friend say these things, and bring up the very frightening prospect of either him or Akira getting hurt, sends Kou’s anxiety and doubt rushing back. He’s so out of sorts, when he next visits Nazuna, he simply needs her to hold him quietly for a bit. Sensing a change of scenery might help, she invites herself to his house, where his mom is out (and his dad’s been gone).

As Nazuna performs at thorough porn search, Kou realizes she’s the first girl he’s had in his room and on his bed; Nazuna notes how the bed smells like him, adding to the raunchiness. But then they turn to real talk, and she tells him it’d be weird if he wasn’t unsure about being turned after what he witnessed.

Kou says he wants to become a vampire because he loves the night and all its freedom and strangeness. He also likes Nazuna, who acknowledges all his emotions and is at the end of the night a decent person, vampire or no. But he can’t discount the potential for hurting his friends, so he wavers. When he then adds that Nazuna is “that eager” to make him her offspring, her resulting expression makes it feel like an uncalled-for low blow.

Nazuna expands on Kou’s love of the night, believing he truly loves it because it’s out of the ordinary. She asks him to compare his first night out to his latest, and Kou can’t deny the excitement has waned some. Then she says that she’s lived for decades as a vampire and felt nothing but boredom (or to be more precise, ennui*).

Rather than try to convince him to be a vampire, Nazuna can’t help but discourage him, since in her experience it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. She tried to make things as fun and exciting for him because that’s how she wanted to be, and how she wanted him to think vampires were like.

These two are no longer strangers to setting jokes aside and  saying what’s in their heart, but in this case, the truth hurts. It’s also not altogether surprising; immortality is bound to get dull once you’ve seen and done everything and nothing is new or exciting; when everything becomes ordinary.

Just as Nazuna turns to leave, Kou trips on his chair, drops the remote to the light, and falls onto the bed, on top of her. The bleak light of his room becomes a deep, dark purplish blue, and motes of dust sparkle in the moonlight. Just one little stumble, and suddenly things are exciting and extraordinary again.

Nazuna rises as if to kiss him, but her lips pass his and go to his ear, asking if he thought she was going to kiss him, then licking his neck marks and disappearing through the window.

One night, Kou decides to meet with Anko, curious about how exactly she kills vampires and why, and to basically learn more about her. But Anko isn’t the kind of person who is easy to get a read on, especially if you’re a middle school boy. She batters him with faux flirting and deductive reasoning. She messes with him the way a cat messes with a mouse.

And like a cat, her end goal is to destroy: not Kou, but Kou’s designs on becoming a vampire. In the beige, drab night (I love how the environment changes when she’s around) she offers him a stark black and white choice: abandon his plans, or be killed by her hand as soon as he becomes one.

His attempts to counter her arguments by describing the vampires he’s met fall on deaf ears; Anko doesn’t want to hear it. Vampires are evil and shouldn’t exist, period, and any human traits or behavior they adopt is in the service of feeding on and killing humans.

When Kou asks how he’ll avoid being killed by the other vampires if he decides not to become one, Anko simply says she’ll kill every last one. It’s chilling to hear someone with such resolve speaking Nazuna’s name. When he refuses to choose, she simply plays dirty, calling the police and reporting a middle schooler hanging out late at night.

Kou runs from Anko, but it will be hard to run away from her will, and now the night is tinged with that fear he thought he could control: the fear of losing the night where he feels most free. When a cop car turns on its lights and sirens, bathing him in red light, the paranoia briefly takes over, and he seeks shelter in a playground slide.

It’s here, where he wants nothing more than to be with Nazuna, talking with her about nothing of import, where he’s approached by Suzushiro Hatsuka. Hatsuka doesn’t seem there to threaten or hurt him, but simply to talk, having possibly smelled Kou’s fear and/or anxiety.

Don’t get me wrong: vampires shouldn’t be allowed to go around murdering people, or drinking their blood without consent. But the world has more than enough people out there who would gladly offer their blood to vampires, as Kou does with Nazuna.

Dismissing peaceful coexistence while shrugging over the awful things humans do to each other seems not only reductive but hypocticial. Then again, she could simply be an anti-vamp zealot, perhaps after losing a loved one. In any case, she’s definitely got her hooks at least partially in Kou (not to mention Mahiru), and is unlikely to loosen her grip anytime soon.

Summertime Render – 22 – Red-Eye

Ushio returns better than ever, and demonstrates how her hair-blades can erase Shide’s armor, leaving his inner body vulnerable. But while Shinpei appreciates her enthusiasm, Shadow Mio stops her from charging in, then transmits the careful plan Shinpei has set up. We get a little flashback to the morgue where Toki explains how they can use Guil to hide Haine’s handprint, making it impossible to track him.

Shinpei shoots himself while holding Ushio’s hands, creating a tenth loop inside Guil, who is in Hiruko’s Cave. They know Haine and Shide—both Shides—will find out soon enough where they are and what they’re up to, so they use the festival fireworks to blast through the mud barrier Haine created to get to where her main body is located. Shin’s team is truly humming like a well-oiled machine.

The closer they get to the main body, the louder and harsher Haine’s transmitting signal is to the ears of Shadows. Since he’s now hosting Ryuunosuke, that signal is particularly excruciating for Shinpei, but Ushio manages to help him by transmitting her signal at the same wavelength, neutralizing Haine’s. While Shide attacks Ushio (who uses her hair as a shield), Sou manages to ambush Haine (in her Shinpei form) and pins her, not with a shadow nailgun, but with the original she was unable to sense.

But while both of Haine’s inner bodies are killed and Haine’s body is sliced in half, it’s apparently not over. Ushio turns around to reveal she now has a red right eye like Haine’s, and Shin has one too. Shide reappears, ready to start some shit, and Shinpei has to ask himself: is he freakin’ immortal?

Even the best laid plans in this intricate chess game of feints and diversions are bound to face some setbacks, and the fact that killing Shide and Haine didn’t kill them is…problematic, to say the least. Not sure what they can do about that, especially with all their moves in this plan exhausted and no more loops to make a new plan.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

DanMachi IV – 09 – Somebody Set Us Up the Bomb

Will Bell have to fight his friend in order to stop her from murdering Jura? Well…no, because after Ryuu insists she didn’t kill Jean, it only takes a couple of “gotcha” questions for him to determine that Jura has been setting Ryuu up this whole time. Right on cue, Jura sports a villainous smirk and (somewhat forced-sounding) cackle.

Jura, a monster-tamer, has a surprise for Ryuu and Bell: a Lambton, which is not Lamb-themed Reggeton but a giant burrowing snake from the lower floors. Jura is controlling it with a magical stone around its collar that responds to a similar magical stone on Jura’s whip. A second Lambton attacks Lili, Aisha, Welf, and the others.

The Lambtons’ movements seem erratic, but once Ryuu discovers a pattern, she asks Bell to back her up while she brings it down. When the great snake tries to go to ground, Bell stops it with a Fire Bolt, and Ryuu finishes it off with a Luminous Wind.

Bell’s Party defeats their Lambton by having Haruhime cast Level Boost on Welf and Ouka to serve as the party’s shield while the archers riddle its head with arrows, and finally Aisha chops off its head with a Hell Kaios. They got the tools, they got the talent. It’s Miller Time.

But Cassandra is worried. This can’t be the disaster that causes a “banquet of tragedy”. Sure enough, it’s just the appetizer: Jura and the Lambtons were just stalling for time while Turk and the other anti-Ryuu squad mined the entire level with blazerocks. Once ignited, Jura helpfully explains that the Dungeon is made “delirious”.

This, in turn, awakens “Despair”, which like the Lambton has glowing red eyes. While Ryuu has fought Lambtons before, one look at her face, equal parts shock, anger, and fear, says it all: this guy is trouble. Unfortunately, this episode didn’t feel like much more than what it was: stalling for time before the main course.

Call of the Night – 11 – Here Comes the Morning

Nazuna has put her sudden influx of maid café income to good use, procuring a new bed, floor lamp, a shelf for things, and houseplants (hopefully of the kind that like shade). She hopes the bed in particular will help her cuddle buddy/massage gig. But in what is one of her more questionable requests of Kou, she sends him, a middle schooler, out into the night to find “tired-looking” new customers.

He finds a particularly tired-looking lady on a bridge. The de-saturated palette, trench coat, and smoking habit all point to her being a private eye. Her name is Uguiso Anko, and she’s willing to hear Kou’s sales pitch. They go to a café to chat, and Anko immediately creates an uneasy atmosphere by reciting verbatim the labor laws his boss is breaking, then asks about Akiyama Akihito, quite out of the blue (or in this case, taupe).

When Kou lies that he’s never heard of him, Anko slams on the table and draws in close, the line of smoke from her cigarette twisting in a threatening spiral. Clearly she can smell a lie (and see the bite marks on his neck). Needless to say, Kou is way out of his element here! Fortunately, she backs down and leaves, but also leaves him her card.

When Kou returns without a customer but having hung out with another woman in a cafe, Nazuna is cross, so he’s unable to tell her any details about who he met or who she was looking for. Another night, Mahiru leads Kou and Akira on a fun night out together as good friends, feeling like that hasn’t happened enough since they were all small.

The three sneak into the school and explore the “seven mysteries”, then decide to investigate an eighth, regarding a teacher who went missing ten years ago. Upon opening a classroom door on a lark, they actually find this missing teacher, who loooks haggard as hell and extremely volatile. Combined with the tension of Kou’s sit-down with Anko, this is already easily the least chill episode of Call of the Night.

Shit officially shifts into the horror genre when the teacher repeatedly curses the fact these kids showed up, states how he’s unable to “hold back” any longer, and then pounces on Akira. Mahiru tries to pull him off, and after freezing for way too long, Kou finally clobbers Akira’s attacker with a chair (and those school chairs hurt, lemme tell ya).

The ghoulish teacher is only stunned, however, and as the three ponder what to do in the hall, the vivid blues, pinks, and purples suddenly give way to the near-monochromatic palette that seems to emanate from Uguiso Anko, Private Detective. After lighting a cigarette, she beckons for the man, who is a vampire, to come at her.

But when he drinks her blood he finds it disgusting. Anko says her working theory is correct: this guy hasn’t drunk human blood for all his ten years as a vampire. The man says he was tricked into falling in love with one and then turned into one. Anko simply embraces him with empathy and understanding.

Then she places what looks like a silver ring in his hand, tells him not to let it go, and then dawn arrives, the setting sun causing him to crumble into dust. It’s the first death of a person—undead or not—that the three kids have ever seen, and as you’d expect, they’re in something of a state of shock. Not so for Anko who explains that some of her cases involve vampires.

When Kou asks her why he had to die, her answer is simple: why let a monster live? She then moves in close and grabs Kou by the scruff, warning him that she won’t let him achieve his “dream”, because he doesn’t have the slightest clue about vampires…not really. As the sun rose and the long-suffering, starving vampire fell, so too have the chill vibes.

Kou walks home not necessarily considering Anko an automatic enemy, but suddenly feeling crushed by the weight of what he doesn’t know. Of course, he’d been operating under the ludicrous assumption that everyone who is a vampire wanted to be one, because vampires are cool. It’s a splash of ice water to the face, for sure, and Anko is a formidable and fascinating antagonist, thanks in no small part to Sawashiro Miyuki’s powerful performance.

Made in Abyss – S2 11 – Royal Awakening

Due to Reg’s “foolishness”—i.e. not wanting to kill a dear friend he’s only now coming to remember—Faputa ends up knocking him out, and asks Juroimoh to hold him down while she deals with her next target: Riko, the one who “made Reg this way”.

All White Whistled out, Riko is in no shape to stand, and Faputa could go right through her Hollow defenders. But even her best punch can’t go entirely through Gaburoon, who stops her from killing Riko in order to “protect her future”.

Gabu collapses, and Faputa reaches deeper into the darkness: if she simply destroys everything, then everything will end. Returning her attention to Riko once more, she is once more stopped by an outside force: this time Belaf, accompanied by a Nanachi resplendent in their new Mitty Armor.

Their weapon of choice? A purple goo that resides within Belaf and contains memories of Faputa’s mother. These “smelly” memories represent Belaf’s ultimate treasure, but instead of perishing with him, they seem to unlock something in Faputa.

Overwhelmed by the intense visceral power of the memories of people and things completely unknown to her, Faputa pauses her carnage. Wazukyan takes this opportunity to flee with Vueko, while Nanachi wonders if this was all part of Wazukyan’s plan to use Faputa’s wish-granting power to make a village of out Riko like he did with Irumyuui.

But then the consequences of Faputa’s more recent actions take center stage: with the barrier down, the layer’s beasts waltz right in and help themselves to a Hollow buffet. Left and right, Hollows are stalked, torn apart and gobbled up by the beasts.

Faputa attacks the beasts, justifying her protection of the surviving Hollows as merely not letting anyone else have her prey. Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to, I say. But soon it’s clear her fight, while valiant (and bloody as hell), is as hopeless as the Hollows’ fight against her had been.

There are simply too many beasts, and they’re very big and strong. It takes one last blast from Gabu before he dies to deter a Turbinid Dragon from curb-stomping her, but she still gets flung over halfway across the village.

Her scuffles with the beasts have left her all chewed up, missing limbs, coughing up blood, and immobile. She passes out believing she has no value because she failed to do “what she was born to do.” But she wakes up surrounded by Hollows, each of whom chops off a a small piece of themselves for her to eat, until their unlikely savior is not only fully healed, but…I’ll go ahead and use the crude but apt term “souped up.”

Faputa also suddenly finds herself surrounded by things she didn’t know, from her mother to Gabu, to Reg, and this leads her to ponder just what else she might not know. What is beyond her duty, which she believed to be her only value? Well, as Belaf said as she absorbed the memories he willingly offered her as she destroyed him, the time would come when she’d decide her own value.

That time has now come, and it once again unlocks something in her as a weird green glyph glows in her golden eyes. The Scorching Sun, once a volatile may have just evolved into a more mature star, poised to defend her sundry satellites from the incursions from outer space with her golden light.

Summertime Render – 21 – Everything Ends Tomorrow

The OP of STR’s Spring cour features a shot of Ushio looking alone and forlorn, which stands to reason: she started out the show having already died. But the OP of this Summer cour features her and Shinpei side-by-side in the sunlight, triumphant and proud. Ever since Ushio was killed by Karikiri, that new OP mocked me with its optimism, but no more.

While this episode starts of on a gloomy, rainy beach, hope is far from lost. Shinpei is still getting the hang of having Ryuunosuke possessing him, but being able to see two seconds into the future is sure to come in handy. As for the little seashell, Shadow Mio tells him it contains all of Ushio’s memories, but only Ushio can scan them. Shinpei then remembers: on the night of July 24th, another Ushio with no memories washes up on the shore…and she will again.

The night of the 23rd could still be anyone or everyone’s last, so the confessions come fast and furious. When Sou confesses to Mio, she initially pretends to be Shadow Mio, only to light up like a beet when Sou correctly guesses that she loves Shinpei. No biggie; they’ll still be friends. He just wanted it off his chest.

That inspires Mio to finally confess to Shinpei on the moonlit roof of their house. As expected Shinpei thanks her, but he has feelings for Ushio, while Mio will always be his little sis. Saying the words are a huge weight off Mio’s shoulders, though she still has to cry into Toki’s bosom while Shadow Mio points out that if they win and defeat Haine, Ushio will disappear and Mio will have her chance again.

But that’s putting the cart before the horse. In the early morning of July 24th, Shinpei first runs a quick explanation for the looping by the gang, explaining how there are two Ushios and then showing them the shell that actually points them towards her sea-bound doppel. Everyone has their role in his plan, but bottom line: getting Ushio back is crucial.

Haine and Shide know that too; after all, Haine copied a good deal of Shinpei. As the shrine festivities commence, the two mutter possibilities to each other, resulting in Haine sending Shide’s doppel into the sea with a fleet of shadows in hopes of finding and destroying Ushio before Shinpei can get to her. Shide fails.

Before opening her eyes, Ushio relives those painful moments on the day Shinpei left. But then she hears Shin calling out to her and opens her eyes, and finds both Guil (with Shinpei inside) and Shide’s double bearing down on her. Guil scoops her up, surfaces, and leaps into the sky. Shide slices Guil up, but the Ushio scans the shell and slices Shide up good with her lethal Rapunzel hair.

Yes, Ushio is back, she knew Shinpei would bring her back, and she’s ready to kick some ass. I’m ready to watch! It’s about time the good guys got a solid win, and while I’m sure another setback (or sacrifice) is in store, I’m hoping the promise of the OP with that shot of Shinpei and Ushio together in triumph holds true to the end.

DanMachi IV – 08 – Elfhunt

Bell joins Bors’ party as they descend to the 27th floor, and proves his Level 4 mettle by making quick work of both a lead merman and laser-shooting foes. He learns that some of the party members actually understand why Ryuu is going after those who caused the destruction of the rest of her familia…but the 80 million in bounty is far more pressing to all of them.

When he gets a chance, Bell breaks from the party to find the source of the singing everyone hears. He knows it’s Marie, who is extremely spooked when he encounters her. Something is down here that shouldn’t be, and it’s powerful enough to make huge holes in the Dungeon walls that don’t quickly heal.

Marie also helps lead Bell to Ryuu’s location, and their encounter is pretty cut-and-dried: Ryuu doesn’t want someone like Bell, a gentle soul from a gentler part of her life, to be anywhere near this place. Bell wants her side of the story but she has no time for him, and flies off.

Meanwhile on the 25th floor the rest of Bell’s party waits, which Cassie believes is the key to keeping everyone alive. That said, Turk, the werewolf who pinned the Rivira murder on Ryuu, insists on searching the floor for Ryuu. Some of the hunting party stay put per Bors’ orders, but Bell’s party decides to follow Turk’s, if only to keep an eye on him, as Bell asked.

Bell reunites with Bors’ party just as they end up afoul of Ryuu, who is targeting the last survivor of the Familia that contributed to the destruction of hers. Letting him survive simply isn’t an option to her. She makes quick work neutralizing everyone who comes after her, but Ryuu keeps up the chase, until it’s just him, Ryuu, and her prey.

For the first time, Ryuu raises her wooden sword, warning Bell that she won’t hesitate to cut him—even him—down to get to her target. Bell, who did not come to capture Ryuu or collect a bounty, simply wants everyone to get along and be happy. But it would seem he’s out of his element here. How can he hope to quell Ryuu’s murderous rage when he’s never experienced the trauma of losing his entire Familia?

Can he say he’d remain the kind-hearted live-and-let-live Bell Cranel if that fate befell him, as it does in Cassandra’s premonition? But with that giant evil snake slithering around, it’s looking more and more like Ryuu isn’t the cause of that particular “banquet of tragedy.”

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Call of the Night – 10 – Arisa in Selfieland

Last week was a Seri episode, and from the first scene it looks like this one’s going to be a Kohakobe Midori one. Midori’s in a bind: one of her co-workers at the maid café called out, so she needs someone cute who won’t hit it off with guys and threaten her “Number One” position among the maids.

Naturally, just that person crosses her path in Nazuna. And while Nazuna looks predictably killer in her maid uniform, her way of speaking and the way she carries herself leave much to be desired. It’s nothing like the polished-yet-unembellished grace and cuteness of Midori, causing Ikari Gendo-like reactions in one of her regulars.

Why this isn’t strictly a Midori-centric episode, however, comes down to the maid serving Kou. It’s neither Midori nor Nazuna, but Arisa, who is bright, cheerful, but also quite down-to-earth and earnest, saying she was once the café’s Number One before Midori showed up, but she lauds Midori as amazing. She also notes how even when she’s off she loves to visit other maid cafés to visit her favorite maids.

After closing Midori prepares to take some selfies with her and Nazuna for the café’s social media, and discovers peeping tom photos of the maids have been posted. Midori asks Kou if he’ll investigate and he agrees, always eager to please (even if she’s still a firm “no” for him romantically speaking). While inspecting the photos, all of which are of Arisa, Kou is startled by the sudden appearance of Arisa behind him.

This episode shows that once Kou says he’ll do something for someone, he really hunkers down and gives it his all, meticulously inspecting the photos and determining most were taken in the break room, then lining up the angles where a tom could snap secret pics. I love how he has Nazuna “give him a hand” by flying him up to the otherwise inaccessable balcony.

When Nazuna remarks that only a vampire could come up here to snap pics, and thus Midori must be the culprit, Kou has her pose as a stand-in for Arisa in a test photo…and since it was taken quickly and Nazuna wasn’t quite ready, it’s an awful photo of her. That’s when the light bulb goes off for Kou.

While his confidence that he’s cracked the case plummets with every word out of his mouth, he tests his working hypothesis by staking out the break room from a locker, where he ends up stuffed in with Midori since only one locker is unlocked. There, he tells her all the photos were taken after hours, when Arisa was alone, with no other staff or customers around.

Then they watch through the little locker slot as Arisa sets up a selfie stand at the window, and Kou busts out of the locker. Arisa is caught red-handed. When asked how Kou knew, he says simply that the photos were too nice; too much care was put into their composition and lighting; nothing like the quick and often blurry shots an actual peeping tom might take.

He also notes the lack of truly scandalous shots showing underwear. Sure, he’s incriminating himself as a guy here, but all in the service of justice, so he swallows his pride. But while his male gaze and male perspective helped him pick Arisa, his blind spot is the “why”.

But Midori knows why: Arisa, supplanted as Number One, sought recognition; the means to show she was still popular. But while Midori initially sounds cruel, even calling it an “illness”, Midori says all humans have one such illness or another (like Kou skipping school and staying out late), but it’s okay to be ill.

For one thing, it’s okay because at the end of the day, Kou makes a new friend in Arisa, who stops by the café when she’s not working, both to see her favorite maid (Midori) and to chat with him. Arisa admits to being so obsessed with selfies she’s spent an entire day seeking the perfect shot.

In the back of her mind, she always thought there was something wrong with that, so it was nice for someone (Midori) to say it wasn’t. Call it a vampire’s perspective. She caps off the episode on a heartwarming note, with a group selfie of her, Kou, Nazuna and Midori.

Both Oozora Naomi and Oonishi Saori do yeoman’s work as the voices of Midori and Arisa, respectively, as Arisa shows Kou that there are all kinds of people who go against the grain as he does. I appreciated that things never got catty, but that Midori understood and accepted why Arisa was doing what she did without judgment.

Made in Abyss – S2 10 – The Scorpion and the Frog

Belaf can sense it: the storm that is Faputa has come to finally punish him and the others for what they did to her mother. In preparation for this, he entrusts all of his memories and value to Nanachi, and then releases them. However, he warns Nanachi that once they take Mitty past the barrier of the village, she will disappear, like all things born within it.

While Nanachi loves Mitty and wants to be with her forever, they still aren’t prepared to sit by and do nothing for the rest of their life, especially if it means abandoning Riko and Reg. So Nanachi decides to say goodbye (or at least “see you later” to Mitty on their own terms, in hope that one day Mitty’s soul will return to them.

The little Hollows who had taken a liking to Nanachi and Mitty follow them outside to their doom, but not before presenting Nanachi with a new headpiece that resembles Mitty, so in a way, Nanachi can always carry her with them. This entire harrowing, heartrending, tearjerking scene takes the place of the OP, so I knew right away this episode was going to be special.

Reg wakes up to find that he, Riko, Maaa, and Moogie are being protected by the giant Interference Unit from the carnage going on inside the village proper. We aren’t spared the visuals of said carnage, as Faputa darts around like a lethal fluffy spear, making bloody mincemeat out of every hollow in sight. They try to protect one another from her wrath, but it’s abundantly clear they haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell against her.

Reg knows that he is the only person strong enough to stop the mayhem. He also understands that he might be the only person Faputa cares enough to listen to, especially in her hopped-up state. Their clash in the present is intercut with the day they met centuries ago, when Faputa was grieving the then-damaged Gaburoon (the big robot).

Eventually, Faputa came to trust Reg because he wore a helmet similar to the Gabu’s design, and protected her until Gabu self-repaired. In the present, she thrashes whales on him, trying everything to get him to remember. When she thrust her extremely malleable limbs into his mouth and began to inflate him, I feared for the worst.

All hail Kuno Misaki, who turns in a tour-de-force of a vocal performance as the two Faputas, making her a wide-eyed, bubbly, joyful figure in the past and a bitter hateful one in the present.

What she’s never not is sympathetic, both due to the circumstances that led to her birth and the life she led up to that point. So when Riko blew into Prushka, Reg transformed, and it looked like this would be over soon, I was fully prepared to weep for Faputa’s imminent demise.

That demise never comes, but the tears did. That’s because Reg never stopped being kind to the point of foolishness. It isn’t in his nature to kill anyone or anything, most especially someone who he is only still starting to learn played such a crucial role in his earlier days.

As their increasingly violent (and beautifully animated) duel continues, we witness the day Reg began the ascent from the Abyss find his “HAKU”, or “number one precious thing”, when he promises to return to her. But then, as now, Faputa wasn’t just a lonely girl who took a liking to Reg. She was rage and vengeance incarnate.

Just like the scorpion couldn’t help but sting the frog before they crossed the river, Faputa cannot help but carry out the mission she was created for: to be the feet and arms and claws and teeth her mother had lost ages ago, all of them to be turned onto those who hurt her again and again to save themselves.

Reg and Faputa both being unable to fight what they are means that at episode’s end, she has the upper hand against him, and seems poised to put him down for good. The questions that abound: Can Riko blow the whistle again to give Reg a boost? Is there any reasoning with Faputa? Will Nanachi and their new headpiece and inherited memories and value save the day? Is saving the day even an option?

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

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