Tokyo Ghoul:re – 04 – It’s Party Time

Oh man, I do love a good big Tokyo Ghoul raid. This week, we get the start of a doozy. Things start out quietly yet ominously, as the pageantry of the Eyes Wide Shut-style human auction commences with a washed up actor and then Tooru in disguise.

As a one-eyed Ghoul, Tooru induces a huge 200 million bid, much to the scantily-clad Nutcracker’s delight. That winning bid belongs to the Doves’ primary target tonight: Big Madam, just beating out Master Shuu’s servant.

One of the trio of Ghoul “Clown” MCs whispers to Tooru that no one is coming to save him, but that’s nonsense, as the very next lot is Juuzou, who’s already seen enough of the auction and decides to get the real party started, unleashing a fusillade of daggers at all the Ghouls around him.

Outside the venue (and shouldn’t the Ghouls have picked a less conspicuous place?) The CCG raiding parties are ready to commence the operation, including the Quinx Squad. Their primary goal: Eliminate All Ghouls—but Big Madam in particular—and rescue any human captives.

As Juuzou ditches the wig and attracts the attention of Rabbit (now Ayato, not Touka), Tooru sheds the Nutcracker and runs, but is pursued not just by Master Shuu’s servant, still sore over losing the bid, but by Torso, who splits off from Ayato (and Hinami, who’s with Aogiri Tree now) who simply wants Tooru’s torso all to himself.

What we don’t see much of at all is the Quinx Squad in action. What we do see is pretty much everyone else. We see how the new young blood among the Doves are the source of some resentment from the old “fogeys”, but when a young hotshot over-confidently rushes into the Clowns and gets himself killed, it’s up to the fogey to clean up the mess, even though he’s also killed by the sudden arrival of Owl.

There’s a lot of pieces being set up this week, as new and old faces prepare to go at it. The whole raid is crackling with electricity. And this is just the beginning, with no clear victor yet in sight. Should be a fun resolution.

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Golden Kamuy – 03 – An Ainu Girl for a New Era

We begin this week with another demonstration of Ainu field cuisine, with Asirpa whipping up a sumptuous soup out of rabbit meatballs, mushrooms and leeks. All it needs, in Sugimoto’s opinion, is a bit of miso paste, but when he takes it out Asirpa mistakes it for poop—a perfectly reasonable reaction considering she’s never seen it before!

After that light fare, the morning brings heavier troubles: Asirpa spots something else she’s unfamiliar with—the glint of binocular lenses—and she and Sugimoto find themselves on the run from the 7th Division, who close in on them quickly thanks to their skis. Sugimoto decides he and Asirpa will split up, and if caught she’ll not resist and pretend to know nothing.

Asirpa is caught, and as Sugimoto assumed, the soldier isn’t interested in harming a little Ainu girl…until he learns she was hiding treasure maps and can understand Japanese (her initial dialogue with him involved telling the soldier in Ainu that the man she was with puts poop in his soup and eats it). Fortunately, Asirpa’s Ezo wolf buddy Retar comes to her rescue.

Meanwhile, three men surround Sugimoto, who has no choice but to bet on his Immortal status and believe Asirpa’s assertion that a bear won’t kill a man who enters its den by diving right in. When the soldiers fire into the opening, the bear pops out and mortally wounds them all before dying.

While both the bear and wolf CGI stand out in a not-so-good way, it’s not enough to pull me out of the action; both seem very much ferocious threats to the humans.

Sugimoto emerges unscathed and reunites with Asirpa (giving Retar a nice belly rub for his assistance), but he’s worried she won’t let him keep the orphaned bear cub he carried out of the den. Rather than eat it like he fears, she decides they’ll take it to her village, or kotan, where they often raise orphan bears.

There, Sugimoto finally steps out of the wilderness and into a different world entirely—the world of the Ainu. Asirpa’s grandmother is the most venerable member of the kotan, and the villagers are more curious about Sugimoto than scared of him.

Granny promptly asks him to take Asirpa for his wife so she can die happy…but she says it in Ainu, and her interpreter, Asirpa herself, does not translate for him.

Asirpa further explains the way of life of her people, which is largely shaped by their belief in kamuy, or gods, coming to them in various forms, including animals. If they come across a baby bear, for instance, they take it as a sign that the bear should be loved and cared for, and eventually “sent back” to where the kamuy reside.

In exchange for the sending, they get the bear’s meat and pelt, while the care they gave the bear prior to the ceremony is to convince the kamuy to keep returning and providing resources. In this way, it’s not a matter of offerings or sacrifice, but of merely assisting the kamuy in their travels back and forth between the two planes. It’s all quite fascinating and engrossing.

I just hope that Asirpa’s village will survive what could well be a good deal of collateral fallout from her and Sugimoto’s dealings with the 7th Division, as well as the prisoners themselves who seek the treasure of gold.

There’s a lot of competing interests in play, and among their rivals are characters with colorful personalities, from Tsurumi (missing the front of his skull, but otherwise a picture of health) to Hijikata (still a boy with a sword at heart, with no qualms about interrupting his comrade’s, er…lovemaking). Sugimoto and Asirpa will certainly have their hands full.

Golden Kamuy – 02 – Something They Carve Together

As Asirpa prepares traps to ensnare delicious nut-fed squirrels for dinner, Sugimoto determines the prisoners will avoid small villages where they’d stand out. The pair head into the booming port and commercial city of Otaru to canvass the places where they’d expose their tattooed skin: the baths and the brothels.

While questioning sex workers, the tiny Asirpa gets nabbed by the brothel owner, but quickly demonstrates she’s not worth his trouble, considering her skill with a knife handle and the “immortal” company she keeps.

Ultimately, they manage to snag their first prisoner the same way they catch squirrels: with a snare that traps him by the neck. Asirpa is adamant that they’ll kill nobody needlessly, and instead uses the pencil and paper acquired in Otaru to draw their captive’s tattoos. Fun little human moments like Asirpa drooling over squirrel meat or her shock at Sugimoto’s “rubber pencil” trick are effective at keeping the mood from getting too heavy.

This prisoner escaped from the others when they suddenly started killing each other, not realizing that absent drafting skills (or pencils), completing the map meant quite a bit of skinning. However, before this prisoner can give them any more information, he’s shot right through the brain, darkening the mood anew.

Sugimoto tracks down the gunman and identifies him not just as a fellow soldier, but one of the much-feared and respected Hokkaido 7th Division, known as the Guardians of the North for their tenacity in even the toughest battles. In other words, a division Sugimoto would be right at home in, had he not been dishonorably separated from the army.

The two share a couple moments as fellow soldiers to prepare for battle, and when the soldier asks if Sugimoto is tracking down the prisoners for money, he corrects him by saying it’s for love…which isn’t far off. After all, the money is for the family of the friend he loved, not for himself.

This time, Sugimoto’s foe is too tough to go easy on, and when the choice becomes letting him go to inform his superiors and stopping him, Sugimoto tosses the butt of his rifle at the guy, hitting him in the head and sending him tumbling off a cliff and into the freezing river, where he and Asirpa presume he’s dead but rather sloppily refrain from confirming it.

That error could be a result of hunger, but “We’re alive, so of course we get hungry” Asirpa has the solution for that when they return to her hunting tent, which is also her kitchen, There, she skins the squirrels they caught and lets Sugimoto eat the brain of one raw, which is supposedly the best part.

She finely minces the remaining meat and bones into chitatap, a kind of dish that sounds like the way you make it (incidentally, one should say “chitatap” while chopping the meat). In a concession to Sugimoto’s Sisam tastes, she forms balls with the meat and cooks them in broth for a sumptuous meal, and uses the Ainu saying “Hinna, hinna!” instead of “Itadakimasu!” to give thanks.

There’s no such thing as eating too much out here in The Grey, so after nabbing and sketching their second prisoner in as many days, Asirpa gets a bead on a rabbit and pounces on it. Unfortunately, this prisoner is an escape artists who coughs up a razor with which to cut himself free.

While chasing him down, he and Sugimoto end up tumbling down a cliff and falling into the drink, which is a death sentence for those who don’t get their freezing clothes off and warm up in front of a fire within ten minutes.

There’s a black comedy of errors as the prisoner succumbs to the various symptoms of hypothermia, but once he gets Sugimoto’s assurances he’ll spare his life, he coughs up a bullet they can use to spark a life-saving fire.

Having survived their dance with death, the two bond, casting aside their conflict, and the prisoner, Shiraishi, shares more intel with Sugimoto, including the fact that the leader of the prisoners is a grizzled and immensely-skilled samurai veteran from a war fought thirty years prior.

Meanwhile, the 7th division private also survived his hypothermia (perhaps Sugimoto’s immortaliy rubs off on people) and soon wakes up, meaning his commanding officer, who himself  seems to have survived having a large part of his face peeled off. As tough and resourceful as Sugimoto and Asirpa are, the characters they’ll have to deal with to achieve their goal are no slouches!

Golden Kamuy has established itself as one of the best best of the Spring, despite taking place in a bitterer Winter than the one we’re still struggling to escape in real life. So far it’s sported some great characters of almost mythical ability, offered some creative combat and survival skills, integrating elements of Ainu culture wherever possible. The OP and ED are also tight as hell. More than anything, Golden Kamuy has attitude, but isn’t so serious it won’t crack jokes where appropriate.

Nil Admirari no Tenbin – 03 – Tsugumi’s First Suitor is a Book Burner

After Tsugumi spoils the lads with breakfast of a quality far higher than they get at the cheap restaurant down the street (and they all ask her to sing for them more), they go on their daily patrol…which the show skips entirely, probably because it knows it’s boring. Not to mention, it seem like having four people in a patrol is an awful lot, unless you expect a lot trouble every time, which seems paranoid.

And yet, even with four, they’re unable to stop a suspected cursed tome from being burned in a nighttime incident in which the thugs get away. Tsugumi can tell the book isn’t cursed, and meets its owner, doctor (and dreamboat)-in-training Sagisawa Rui, who comes out of left field to be her first (un-)official suitor of her new partoling-librarian life.

After Fukurou is assigned a police liason, Tsugumi hits the town on her own, visiting the flirty shopkeep who rudely propositions her once again despite the fact she has no interest (though his weird fluffy pet Perry is a hell of an icebreaker). Hey guy, maybe tone it down a bit!

She bumps into Sagisawa again, who is delivering his homemade kaleidoscopes for the shopkeep to sell, because in addition to being a sweet young doctor-in-training he also creates kaleidoscopes, which let you “look at the world in a different way”. Ack!

Oh and a guy with an actual cursed tome runs past, and before Fukurou can chase him down he ends up splatted by a subway car. Again, for a four-man patrol they’re sure aren’t very good at catching people they want to catch!

Furthermore, what could have been an opportunity to test Tsugumi’s toughness in the face of blood and death was squandered. Why present such a gruesome death as part of her job, then not have the MC react to it at all?

They suspect the book has been made cursed intentionally by a group they’re simply calling “Karasu” due to the crow feathers they leave behind as a calling card. That group is in opposition to Kagutsuchi, a group that seeks to find and destroy (rather than purify) all cursed tomes…and if a couple of uncursed tomes get burned, so be it.

Sagisawa Rui invites Tsugumi to a more intimate rendezvous in the park where he gifts her a kaleidoscope, and then gets into a rather unsubtle debate about whether to preserve or burn cursed tomes that betrays his beliefs on the matter to be in opposition to Tsugumi’s.

That night the police liasion informs Fukurou that Kagutsuchi is meeting on the eighth floor of a building in Ginza…but the building only appears to have six floors, not including the roof! Huh…

Anyway the leader of Kagutsuchi turns out to be Sagisawa. Why he put on that whole performance to Tsugumi before with the burning non-cursed book or the kaleidoscopes, I have no idea, but in the end the first lad who seemed to be a nice fit for her turns out to be a bad guy, at least from Tsugumi’s book-loving perspective.

After she declines his offer to join Kagutsuchi, he burns the tome in front of her and then leaps out the window, which would have been cool if we didn’t see him land on a tablecloth his henchman stretched out for him. For some reason that seemed really lame and caused me to laugh out loud.

So yeah, Tsugumi’s job seems pretty boring and tedious and full of unwanted passes by men…until it’s suddenly not, and even then gets rather silly because as I said, hot pursuit is not Fukurou’s forte. Maybe lose those bulky overwrought uniforms and…I dunno, run faster?

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 15 – A Phone Call, Daidouji Videos, and a Quake

After yet another ominous scene with Akiho, her (still motionless) rabbit, and Yuna D. Kaito reminding us that there’s Something Up With Those Three, we return to Sakura’s house where she’s braiding Meiling’s hair.

Talk turns to how Sakura’s dad has always cut her hair, Yukito cuts her brother’s and her brother cuts her father’s…but when Syaoran comes up, Sakura can’t mask her worry.

Meiling’s solution is to simply call him, and then hands the phone off so the two lovebirds can talk. Syaoran says he’s fine (or at least he says he is), so Sakura is able to continue her day without worrying about him.

That day consists of Sakura, Meiling, and Akiho meeting up to visit Tomoyo’s mansion, and are welcomed at the door by her mother,  who finished a bunch of phone calls early and cancelled her schedule just to be able to greet her beloved, adorable Sakura. Far from feeling hurt about this, Tomoyo is on the same page as her mom: Sakura IS adorable!

Tomoyo then drops a big surprise on Sakura: she’s invited them to try out her new super-deluxe home theater, where she proceeds to play the Nadeshiko festival play in which Sakura and Syaoran starred—another nice callback to older iterations of the series.

The chemistry between Sakura and Syaoran is apparent not just in their on-stage performance (which was interrupted by an earthquake) but behind-the-scenes footage of them learning their dance steps.

Sakura is mortified beyond belief by all this footage—she doesn’t like to be on display, despite her occupation—but Tomoyo is merciless, and Akiho and Meiling also get a kick out of all of the heartwarming film…as did I!

Sakura tries to get revenge by mentioning Tomoyo singing, and Tomoyo has no choice but to play it for Akiho, but their viewing party is suddenly interrupted…by another earthquake. Sakura hides behind a chair to release her staff, then puts Akiho, Tomoyo’s mom, and the house staff to sleep with Snooze lest too many learn her identity. With that, she uses Flight to sprout wings and survey shaky ground from a safe height.

Considering Akiho described exactly what happened last week as being a chapter from her white clock book, with Sakura in the role of “Alice”, it’s a good bet the next chapter involves an earthquake. We’ll have to wait until next week to learn how Alice manages to resolve the situation, as the episode ends on a bit of a cliffhanger.

Golden Kamuy – 01 – The Weak Get Eaten, But These Peeps Ain’t Weak (First Impressions)

It’s 1904: The Russo-Japanese War, three years before my older grandfather was even born. Sugimoto Saichi is in the trenches, and earns the nickname “The Immortal Sugimoto” for…well, refusing to die. Bullets always miss or glance off him. He’s never in the path of a cannon or mortar.

His vitals always manage to avoid enemy blades. Even when he rushes the Russians head-on yelling “JUST TRY AND KILL ME!”, they fail to kill him. One might say this particular quality of his is a blessing, but all it means is he gets to live on as everyone around him dies.

Among the dead who leave him behind is his old friend and war buddy, who is survived by a wife with failing vision and a child. Sugimoto nearly killed a superior, so he’s cashiered out of the service, and must try to scrape together a living in a place where the gold rush has long since run dry.

While panning in a river for the dregs of that rush, an old drunk keeps Sugimoto company, telling him what initially sounds like a tall tale about a man who stole a mass treasure of gold from the native Ainu and killed a bunch of them. He was imprisoned, but tattooed pieces of a map to the treasure on other prisoners who then escaped, promising them a half share.

When the drunk realizes he’s said too much and tries to kill Sugimoto, Sugimoto clobbers him and forces him to flee…but now Sugimoto is more certain the man wasn’t just telling tall tales. That’s confirmed when he later finds the man’s corpse. He was killed and buried by a bear, but his body bears the map tattoos.

Of course, it’s not that simple: a bear returns, apparently to reclaim its meal, and Sugimoto isn’t ready…but thankfully someone is. Up until now things like timing, physics, and coincidence had served The Immortal Sugimoto, but here and now he finds himself face-to-face with the personification of his luck and salvation: a petite Ainu woman who introduces herself as Asirpa.

Out there in the wilderness, I’d much rather have Asirpa by my side than Sugimoto, especially considering its him, not me, who’d more likely escape death once again. She not only determines that the bear they just killed wasn’t the one who killed the prisoner, but that the man who tattooed him never intended to share the treasure. That man also killed Asirpa’s father to get the gold in the first place.

Because this is just barely the 20th century, and Sugimoto isn’t wealthy enough to own a camera (and the cameraphone is a century away), the only way to preserve the parts of the map they now have is to skin the man. (I suppose he could make a drawing, but lacks the materials) But that will take time, and night waits for no one, not even the Immortal Sugimoto.

Instead, he and Asirpa keep a fire going and use the corspe to lure the megabear to them. He gets the jump on Sugimoto and extinguishes the flame, accelerating their plans somewhat. Then Asirpa’s guardian angel, a white wolf that may well contain the soul of her late father, joins the fray, protecting her and giving Sugimoto an opportunity to shoot the bear.

The bear doesn’t go down that easily, and requires a well-placed blade to its heart to kill, but Sugimoto survives, and impresses Asirpa with his warrior instincts. That being said, she can have no part of the bear she helped kill, as it ate human flesh and was sent to a special form of hell. She, by the way, doesn’t want to shed human blood either.

After Sugimoto skins the map from the map (gross), he vows to be the one to do the “dirty work” while she’ll continue to provide the wisdom and support she has so far, and without which he’d have already been killed by now. Together they’ll find the other pieces of the map (even the skin he has is a patchwork of disconnected map fragments), she can get revenge for her father, and he can get gold for his friends’ family.

Sounds like a good win-win deal, and a strong finish to a hell of a strong and intriguing story set deep in a place utterly inhospitable to humans who have lost touch with nature, and starring two people who are immensely badass in very different yet equally fascinating ways. Hat tip to tombeet for the recommendation!

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 03

Urie lies and gets his enhancement, confident he can become stronger than Haise and remain in control. Something tells me his internal isolation from his Quinx-mates and massive chip on his shoulder suggest he’ll probably fall flat on his ass again and need bailing out from the people he’s constantly looking down upon in his thoughts.

But meanwhile, there’s an op, and Quinx Squad needs to be at full strength. That means Shirazu, Mutsuki and Urie must join forces to draw Saiko out of her physical isolation, both from them and the rest of the world. Urie ends up convincing Saiko that she’ll be fired and thrown out on the street if she doesn’t do her job.

This is another lie; even if she retired tomorrow the fact she agreed to be in the Quinx squad means the CCG will always look after her…she just doesn’t know that because she didn’t read the handbook!

Regardless, while Urie and his aloofness are kinda bumming me out, I kinda love Saiko. She’s got a great energy…or I should say lack of energy to her, and is utterly unapologetic in her desire to live the NEET’s life of leisure. Whether she’s still hiding heretofore unseen wondrous powers or talents as an investigator or is simply meant to be comic relief…we shall see.

In any event, the whole Quinx Squad is mustered for the briefing about the Nutcracker. Specifically, Haise’s Squad will join two others and Division II in raiding an underground auction for young women the Nutcracker collects at clubs. While Urie goes off for some “tests”, Haise, Mutsuki, Shirazu and Saiko hit up the club, the former three posing as women.

It’s ultimately Mutsuki who manages to make contact and get on the auction list (after a little—or a lot—of liquid courage), so they have their in. Our old weird friend Suzuya Juuzou is also involved in the operation, and will pose as a woman for sale at the auction beside Mutsuki—no doubt to back up the far less-experienced investigator if things go pear-shaped.

After about a week of training (which Urie mostly stays out of), Haise’s squad and the others are all ready to execute the plan, and move in. Meanwhile, Ayato is tasked with bodyguard duty for the Class AA Ghoul “Big Mama”, who will also attend the auction, and has a very Mutsuki-obsessed Torso tag along.

Did I mention our other old friend Tsukiyama Shuu is gravely ill and no longer seems to have any “gourmet” sense, much to his servant’s distress? Well, he doesn’t, so I guess he won’t be at the auction. But with all the parties who are involved, plus a few who may not have shown their faces, it’s shaping up to be quite an op.

Nil Admirari no Tenbin – Teito Genwaku Kitan – 02 – Welcome to Fukurou

NAT continues to be watchable if unexceptional in its second episode, which is largely an introduction to Fukurou’s facilities and the attractive yet often eccentric men who live and/or work there.

They include a former houseboy of the Kuze family with whom Tsugumi is acquainted, a mask-wearing researcher, and an odd-eyed kid who likes to hang out up in trees. She also sees the repository of cursed tomes, which is, from her perspective, lit up like Christmas from the various auras.

Tsugumi is also shown her own apartment, a first for her, and is also chatted up in the alley by someone who turns out to be her brother’s favorite author, Migawa Shizuru, who lives at Fukurou.

He joins Tokimiya, Hayato, Akira, and Hisui for a welcome banquet of sushi, and immediately Hayato and Shizuru start making preparations to stake their claim on the right to woo the newbie, with Hisui in the middle trying to keep things calm.

The next day Tsugumi heads out for her first patrol with Hayato, Akira, and Hisui, donning her Fukurou uniform which features a skirt of a short length she’s not used to. She’s also not used to walking beside unmarried men, and so almost instinctively keeps her distance.

They visit bookstore after bookstore, but none of the old Japanese-style books they encounter has any aura, which disappoints Tsugumi, who hoped to make more of an immediate difference.

One bookstore tender even calls her “another useless good-for-nothing,” while another asks if she wants to be his lover “or sweetheart”, to which she states, for the record, she’s not interested in men or marriage at the moment. (She also meets the living stuffed animal Perry, whose reason for existing other than being the show’s mascot escapes me).

At one bookstore run by a particularly panicky and paranoid owner, Tsugumi’s failure to find a cursed tome actually makes the poor guy’s year, and Hayato points out to her that doing her job isn’t just about finding books, but putting people at ease when they learn they’re not in possession of them. So it was a good day’s work.

Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card – 14 – Forest of Illusion

CCS:CC is a show replete with beautiful pastels and idyllic scenes of Sakura’s lovely, happy life, but from its first moments this is an episode that throws a number of strange and even unsettling images into the mix, starting with Sakura waking up to find Meiling and Kero-chan right in her face, trying to compete to see who has the more intense face (it causes the first of ten Sakura “hoeees!” in the ep).

Sakura with her new ‘do and Meiling meet up with their friends at a shrine market, but Syaoran is running late because he’s doing some rather intense magical training, no doubt to be able to support Sakura when the going gets tough.

It’s a fun and pleasant day as usual, until Sakura and only Sakura starts seeing animal ears and tails on all of her friends. They even start “talking” like the animals they represent, until the very environment around them starts to blur and twist and Sakura finds herself in a great grassy valley with a planet in the purple sky.

This is one of the trippiest cards since the Escher-esque labyrinth, and Sakura doesn’t have a clue where she is and how to change her increasingly animal friends back. She can’t even catch up to them, as they scatter and run when she approaches, eventually settling down at the base of a massive baobab tree.

Sakura is scared, and things suddenly get scarier. A storm swoops in, and a lightning bolt splits the tree in pieces, causing it to burst into flames. As it begins to fall on her animalized friends, time suddenly stops, and Syaoran literally tears through the fabric of the environment to join Sakura.

The time magic he used has gassed him, and the magic won’t last long but he still manages to calm a panicking Sakura down with a big hug, urging her to control her breathing and think about the situation. Sakura realizes she wanted to go to the zoo, so the card turned her friends into animals. When she became scared, it made things scarier.

Once sufficiently calm, Sakura is able to break out of the illusion and secure the “Mirage” card that caused all of the trouble. Everyone ends up back at the shrine, none the worse for wear save Syaoran, who is still exhausted from his use of powerful magic.

Meiling acknowledges her cousin Syaoran doing his best for Sakura’s sake (and the fact he calls her “Sakura”), while expressing her aggravation that she has no magic with which to help out. Still, neither Meiling nor any of Sakura or Syaoran’s friends need magic to support them; their friendship is something worth becoming stronger to protect.

I imagine Sakura will have to grow stronger still in order to face whatever nefariousness Yuna D. Kaito is up to.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 02 – Death by Ham

Sasaki Haise bails out his subordinates when Urie bites off more than they can chew with Orochi. Heck, even Haise has to take off the kid gloves, and eventually loses control when the Kaneki Ken within him tries to take over.

Akira herself has to take him out, with help from other CCG officers. Orochi gets away, as does Torso. Everyone’s alive, but the mission is a failure.

For his recklessness, Urie is removed from the leadership of the Quinx Squad, and Shirazu is promoted in his place. Urie gets in a “you’re just a ghoul” dig at Haise, but it doesn’t matter; Haise’s word is law in the squad, so his climb to the top just hit a serious snag.

Later, Urie assures a concerned Kuroiwa that Haise will be fine, all while cursing him and hoping he’ll just go die. This Urie guy’s carrying a lot of resentment and hate.

We also get our first sighting of Saiko, but just long enough for her to grab a little ham from the fridge and run off back to her room, presumably to scarf it down.

I’m not quite sure why we’ve seen so little of her (besides the fact she’s, well, a shut-in), but something tells me despite her uninspiring demeanor she might be the strongest of the Quinx other than Haise—if we don’t count Urie’s current (and possibly ill-advised) campaign to increase the strength of his kagune.

Finally, we get the biggest of the cameos from past TGs as Haise, Mutsuki and Shirazu go to the Re: cafe where a slightly older Kirishima Touka works, and seems to recognize Haise (or the Ken within him).

Meanwhile, Touka’s brother Ayato is apparently the new “Rabbit”, still affiliated with Aogiri Tree and apparently letting Torso join as well, which puts him out of the Quinx Squad’s jurisdiction. Instead, their next assigned target is red-light district ghoul nicknamed “Nutcracker,” who does precisely what her nickname says. Quinx could use a win after Orochi and Torso; maybe this will do the trick.

Nil Admirari no Tenbin – Teito Genwaku Kitan – 01 – A Cursed Tome Frees a Caged Bird (First Impressions)

The intense first cold open of Nil Admirari no Tenbin, depicting people committing suicide while cops chase down a guy with a book, did not impress me as much as the opening sequence, with its catchy club beat and stage show extravaganza milieu.

I have a soft spot for OPs and EDs in which the cast “puts on a show” (see also Soremachi and the ending of Kekkai Sensen’s first season). But I’ll admit I also worried this was one of those shows whose OP writes checks the show itself can’t cash (DRAMAtical Murder’s Goatbed-led OP was outstanding; the show was a snooze).

Fortunately, after getting pumped up by the OP, I wasn’t let down by the briskly moving story centered on Kuze Tsugumi, the eldest daughter in an aristocratic Taishou Era family in dire financial straits. Tsugumi has known for a while that in order to save her family she must marry whomever her father can scrounge up. Her little brother Hitaki echoes the suppressed voice in her head saying “what about what you want?”

Tsugumi is short with Hitaki, whom she admits she’s spoiled too much anyway, but when she returns from town with olive branches including a new book and eclairs, she and the family butler find him doused in oil, lighting himself on fire while holding a book.

Fortunately, Hitaki isn’t killed, but his burns require isolation to heal (considering the era, I’m somewhat surprised he survived). Tsugumi and her butler are approached by two hotties in unusual uniforms, which is because the’re from an unusual bureau:  the Imperial Library Intelligence Asset Management Bureau, or simply Fukurou (though I personally kinda like “ILIAMB”.

The men from Fukurou explain that Tsugumi’s brother likely fell victim to a “cursed tome”, a handwritten Japanese-style book containing the emotions—in this case suicidal-by-fire—of its author. When the butler brings the men the book Hitaki was holding when he self-immolated, Tsugumi is shocked to find it has flames emanating from it…but no one else can see them.

The more forward of the two guys, Ozaki Hayato, tells Tsugumi that she’s one of a very rare number of people who can see the “auras” around cursed books, and begs her to join Fukurou right then and there. After the incident with Hitaki her father postpones her marriage, so Tsugumi decides to take the job, essentially being freed from the birdcage of her destiny by cursed tome that nearly killed her brother. She also aims to help stop further incidents form occurring to others.

As the sultry parade-of-shirtless-dudes ED suggests, Tsugumi is not only pivoting from family bargaining chip to empowered modern working woman—an interesting premise in and of itself—but is also an unmarried woman joining a bureau staffed by mostly unmarried men. So we’ve got ourselves an otome anime with a reverse harem. I’m willing to see where this goes for the time being.

Persona 5 the Animation – 01 – You Meddling Yet Stylish Kids (First Impressions)

Amamiya Ren has a lot going on. After a casino heist that goes perfectly according to plan…until it doesn’t, he finds himself arrested, his mugshot taken, and thrown in an interrogation room where he’s beaten and drugged.

Finally, something of an advocate arrives in Niijima, who assures him no one else in his crew was caught, but if he wants safety she’ll need honest answers to questions about the reason for the heists, along with what he knows about the “other world”, and how its possible to “steal hearts.”

Then a blue butterfly descends and informs Ren that while he’s a “prisoner of fate” whose future has been all but sealed, there’s still a slight hope of victory if he meets certain conditions regarding the “memories of his bonds” and the “promise of the truth” he and his friends tried to achieve.

That’s all painfully vague gobbledygook if you’re neither a dedicated Persona fan or haven’t played the Persona 5 RPG, being spouted from a butterfly, talking to an MC who is defined not by any outwardly discernible personality traits but simply by the circumstances that unfold around him and the choices he makes within them (in other words, the generic RPG protagonist).

I’m no Persona expert, so I came into this fully prepared not to know much about who anyone is or what the heck was going on, but I feel a perspective neither informed nor influenced by the source material to be useful in assessing whether an anime adaptation can stand on its own as entertainment.

In that regard, Persona 5 The Animation has its appeal. The production, led by A-1 studios, is clean, crisp, and vivid. The setting is confident; the Tokyo it depicts feels like a real, churning metropolis in which individuals can easily get lost and where reality itself may bend just around a corner. The soundtrack contributes to the immersive experience.

If I were to guess, the person who stops a man from assaulting a woman in a brief flashback just before the six month rewind was the incident that got Ren in trouble and kicked out of his own school. He’s gotten a year of probation, and during that time, an old geezer named Sakura who runs a cafe of the same name has offered him a room to live during that time.

All Ren has to do is keep his head down and his nose clean for that year and he will be back on the path to respectable adulthood.

Naturally, our Prisoner of Fate has trouble staying out of trouble, thanks to a suspicious red app icon appears on his phone, which he opens to reveal the otherworld that exists in the same space as the ordinary one. He also dreams of the Velvet Room (which is in the form of a prison), and meets briefly meets a gobliny dude, Igor, whom I remembered from P4.

Additionally, the new school he’s attending has a gym teacher who is not a good guy, even if one of Ren’s female classmates has no trouble accepting a ride from him. Ren also meets a blonde male classmate who spouts a bunch of stuff about kings and castles, which the weird app on Ren’s phone records.

Before long, the two classmates are in a castle, locked up in a cell, and ordered to be executed by the castle’s king, the gym teacher in an utterly ridiculous get-up. When the “king” tries to kill the blond guy, Ren has a choice: run or fight, and after some hand-wringing, decides to fight (naturally), summoning his Persona, Arsene.

Because I had almost identical impressions to this first episode as the 00 preview special “The Day Breakers”, I’ll simply repeat my verdict from that review, in keeping with P5’s penchant for timing back and forth through time:

Watchable and mildly diverting, but all surface. I can imagine myself spending dozens of hours as the bespectacled protagonist in the P5 RPG; I could even probably watch a good portion of its anime adaptation, should it get a full cour or two down the road. I’m just…not sure I either need or want to.

Basically, as good as the show looks and sounds, there’s not quite enough to keep a non-Persona fan/player like me around. Your mileage may vary.