Summertime Render – 24 – Everything Mattered

Ryuu and Shinpei are able to catch Ushio before she falls to her death, and she’s reverted to a child since her hair wasn’t quite enough to fully restore her. She’s well and truly out of gas and can no longer fight, but has one more ace up her sleeve.

If Ryuu and Shinpei can buy her two minutes, she’ll turn herself into a hacking shotgun shell that, once fired at Shide, will sever his connection to Hiruko and delete him. While stalling that long won’t be easy, it’s far from impossible, especially as Shide is the loquacious type and enjoys toying with his prey.

Ryuu and Shinpei do battle with Shide, who in addition to being very annoying with his monologues is also a tough customer due to three centuries of honing his shadow skills. Neither of the boys can match him for pure creativity, and Shin can tell they’re not going to make it if they don’t do something drastic.

That something is having Ryuu possess Shide’s armor, depicted as Ryuu literally wrestling with a mass of mud with eyeballs, resulting in Shide being frozen in place. The downside is that now that Ryuu is out of Shin’s body, Shin can feel all the pain Ryuu was suppressing. He nearly passes out, and then his body starts to disintegrate.

However, all this rash, all-or-nothing action pays off, as Ushio is able to finish the hacking shell. This leaves Shin having to get to the shotgun two meters away before Shide (who isolates Ryuu and tosses him away in a glob of mud) can charge and kill him.

He won’t make it, and Ushio can’t move the shotgun as she’s the shell inside, but Haine can, and moves the gun right into Shinpei’s hands. Ushio helps him hold it steady, they get the shot off, and Shide finally, finally bites the dust. His plans to both cause and witness the end of the world come to nothing.

This leaves Shinpei, Ushio, Ryuu, Haine, and lil’ baby Hiruko, whom Ushio attempts to delete. Instead her and everyone else’s data is transported to the real world of over 300 years ago, the very day that the original Haine finds the dead whale that is Hiruko on the beach.

Realizing that Hiruko sent them back to break the cycle, Shinpei scares Haine off before she reaches the whale, and then Ushio deletes it. Baby Hiruko vanishes, finally able to rest. Haine vanishes shortly thereafter, hoping that she and Ryuu can be friends again somewhere, someplace.

That just leaves Shinpei and Ushio on the beach, and what we know must be one more tearful goodbye. Ushio is a shadow, after all, and with Hiruko gone she’s not far behind.

Shinpei wants to disappear with her, but she throws a characteristic “dummy” his way; the time they got to spend together in the past few days made her—made them both—so happy, but she wants him to live on. Not to mention everyone is waiting for Shinpei back home in 2018. Ushio vows to use her remaining power to transport him back to his proper time, but that’s not all she aims to do.

It would seem she’s inherited at least some of Hiruko’s power, with which she plans to overcome the loops and re-draw the summer. So as Shinpei ends up on the boat to the island, his face landing in Hizuru’s chest, maybe it’s not goodbye, but more of a see you later situation. We’ll find out in the finale.

Spy x Family – 13 – The Dog Borfs for Thee

After a brief recap of the premise and a nifty, breezy new OP, SpyFam gets right back into the swing of things, as Loid and Yor take Anya on an ooting to adopt a dog as a reward for her gaining her first of eight Stellae. The first pet shop is also the location of his contact, who has a new mission for him. Loid feigns digestive distress and tells Yor and Anya to go ahead while he’s whisked away to meet with Handler.

There’s a plot by terrorists at Berlint University planning to assassinate the Foreign Minister of Westalis in hopes of starting a war, but one of them has already been caught, and Loid barely pulls off the disguise of his leader Keith to get the kid to spill the beans about their operation and hideouts. Turns out they’re going to use…dog bombs, which doesn’t seem like the most efficient means of assassination.

One of these dogs is a gigantic fluffy white dog that doesn’t say “woof” or “bark” but “borf”, which is a lovely bit of onomatopoeia. But this is no ordinary dog, but one with the power of precognition, able to save a running child from a falling sign. Even without some hints that this dog was gong to join the family, it’s clear he and Anya are destined to meet.

That first meeting happens through glass as Anya is in a dog adoption event in a convention area with Yor. But she can tell there’s something about that dog; she sees her family when she reads his mind, and despite Yor telling her not to wander off, wander off is what Anya does.

Her search for the large pup takes her across the street, where she not only finds him (and a host of other poor good boys and girls), but stumbles upon the latest hideout of Keith and his minister-wasting dog bombers. When they realize she’s heard all of their very loud plotting, Keith wastes no time brandishing a pocketknife with which he intends to silence her.

That’s when the ol’ borfer bites through his leash and puts himself between Anya and the bad guys. Yes, he wimps out and later hides behind her, but his precognitive ability saves them both, as he uses the distraction of a phone call (warning the terrorists that someone leaked their plot) to get Anya away.

Anya, who is tiny, is able to ride the great pup like a horse through the streets, and while Yor overhears Anya’s voice and Anya asks the dog to go back to the adoption place, the dog just keeps on running, and Anya starts to revel in the excitement, determined to crack the case as Starlight Anya.

Alas, the dog’s sense of direction is poor, and they end up running right back into the baddies’ clutches. Keith delegates the killing of Anya to his henchman, who tells her no hard feelings and reaches out, presumably to strangle her. That obviously doesn’t happen because Mama Yor arrives and kicks him so hard he pinballs against the alley walls ten times.

Keith is gobsmacked by this sudden feat of strength, while Yor has the wrong idea: in her mind, these aren’t assassins trying to silence a witness to their dirty deeds, but a band of creeps trying to kidnap Anya and make her their bride. No doubt Keith will soon wish he never antagonized the diminutive coral-haired young lady. Or as she might say, he’s in deep shit.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 24 (Fin) – Part of the Flock

Cuckoos eschews any more huge revelations or decisions and instead opts for a laid back finale full of warm family vibes. We begin with Nagi, Sachi, and Erika receiving a gaudy invitation to Papa Yohei’s birthday, a celebration that he prepares and executes all on his own. It’s never explained why, mind you, but it’s safe to say Yohei’s a good and cool dude, so his wife and kids let him have his fun.

I find it odd that it would slip Sachi’s mind that her brother and Erika share a birthday as they were switched at birth, and even odder that Nagi would only now do the math and realize he was conceived before his folks got married. Among the annual family portrait, there’s a pale-haired kid who goes totally unexplained…maybe she’ll show up if this gets a sequel.

The biggest takeaway for Nagi and Erika (and Sachi, who later reports it to Erika’s dad) is that their folks simply want Nagi and Erika to be happy, and for Erika to be in their lives like she is now. They no longer believe they have to follow through on their engagement and get married to maintain that.

Of course, by putting the onus on whether to get married or not, Nagi and Erika actually have to think about it beyond something being forced upon them. Sure, on the bus ride home they worry that Erika’s dad might not agree with Nagi’s folks, but in his head Nagi wonders whether Erika being able to convince him means the “end of their relationship for good.”

The episode then segues into Erika’s Dizzy Fever Day, as she suddenly collapses in the middle of a study session. Sachi and Hiro take her to bed, take her temperature, and prepare to change her into her PJs to rest more comfortably, and of course Nagi barges in while they’re disrobing her.

But while Sachi and Hiro bar Nagi from Erika’s room while she’s sick, they let their enthusiasm and drive to help her recover as fast and completely as possible ends up simply overwhelming her. They look up remedies like sake and leeks tied to the head, and develop the crazy eyes as they go on about how they’ll make Erika better than new.

When all of that fails to lower her fever, Nagi decides to step in and offer her a hot meal to regain her strength. Erika claims not to be hungry, but her grumbling stomach betrays her. Nagi also took exception when Erika told the others “sorry for being a bother”, as she’s been nothing but that for him since they met.

That being said, he doesn’t dislike that Erika, and so wants her to get better so she can get back to being that Erika. He knows that since Sachi and Hiro started living and coming ’round all the time, she’s worked herself hard to keep up with the energy level and it took a physical toll. It’s all well and good to want to be present and active in the group, but not at the cost of one’s health!

When Erika asks why he knows her better than herself, he says simply that they’re engaged. ‘Nuff said. For all of Sachi and Hiro’s good intentions, it’s his job as her fiancé to take care of her, and vice-versa. Hearing Nagi acknowledge their engagement and how it’s still important to him even when his parents have all but given them cover to break it off gives Erika a smile. What was thrust upon them at first has become something neither of them want to give up anytime soon.

When Papa Yohei delivers a copy of the latest family photo, it has Erika front and center. It’s a photo full of love and joy (or, er…RABUJOI) celebrating the addition as the gift that it is. Nagi, Sachi, and their folks are as happy Erika is part of their family as she is to be part of it. The fact that the episode ends with Nagi and Erika nagging each other over house chores just goes to show how close they’ve gotten.

If there’s a sequel that ties up the loose ends (Sosuke, that mystery kid in the photo, whether Nagi and Erika actually marry, etc.) I’ll be sure to watch it out of the affection for this colorful flock of cuckoos.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury – 01 – Rich Kids Are Scary

Fast-forward over a decade from the prologue, and Ericht Samaya is now the teenaged Suletta Mercury, pilot of Gundam Aerial, arriving at the Asticassia School of Technology, where she has just transferred. While surveying the giant space station, she spots someone floating free in a spacesuit and executes a rescue operation. The person she rescues, Miorine Rembran, doesn’t want to be rescued.

She was trying to escape, and was about to succeed but for Suletta’s sharp eye and impeccable timing. Now that I know where these two end up by episode’s end, one could call it kismet. I also hasten to add that Miorine is the daughter of Delling Rembran, the man whose actions led to the death of Suletta’s dad and destruction of her family’s home. Obviously Miorine didn’t play a role in that, as she was only four at the time.

Upon arrival at her new school, which is full of rich, stuck-up jerkwards, Suletta is quickly treated like a Mercurian “country bumpkin” and also given the cold shoulder by Miorine. That said, she also meets a potential first new friend in mechanics student Nika Nanaura.

All of a sudden, all of the fake blue sky is replaced by clear windows out to space, and the campus is transformed into the ground for a duel between Guel Jeturk, son of one of Delling’s top business generals, and some nobody who dared to call him “a man with a runaway bride”.

Jeturk, an unrepentant preening jackass of the highest order, is Miorine’s fiance, a decision made not by either of them but by their parents. Her father, however doesn’t even bother to review the bodyguards assigned to his daughter, as he’s too busy financially destroying a business partner who posted too many quarterly losses.

As Suletta learns by following her like a puppy, Miorine would prefer to be left alone with her garden that emulates earth environs, and even lets Suletta sample a tasty real tomato before downloading the map app of the school and sending her on her way. But before Suletta leaves, Jeturk and his clique of syncophants arrives to declare that Miorine will live with him at his family home from now on.

When Miorine protests, Jeturk starts wrecking her garden. When she tries to stop him, he shoves her aside. Suletta, who has a stutter and is clearly not great with social situations, nevertheless knows very well between right and wrong,. What Jeturk is doing is wrong, so she spanks him. She even gets giggles from his patsies when she calls him a “pushy suitor”.

Jeturk doesn’t take these affronts lightly, and suggests that if Suletta has a problem with him, they can settle it with a duel. Despite learning he is the school’s undefeated “Holder” (i.e. Ace) with a 26-0 record, Suletta doesn’t hesitate to accept the challenge. Jeturk tells her if he wins, she’ll be kicked out of the school. Meanwhile, Jeturk’s dad intends to speed up his and his son’s ascension by arranging to assassinate Delling.

When the duel commences, both Jeturk and Suletta are surprised to find that Miorine has commandeered Suletta’s Aerial, having gained access when she had her school handbook. That said, she has no idea how to pilot a mobile suit, let alone a Gundam, and Jeturk proceeds to make quick work of her.

With an assist from Nika, Suletta is able to get to Aerial before Miorine loses the duel, and those observing the duel accept the second change of Jeturk’s opponent back to Suletta. Having been head-butted when they first met, Suletta returns the favor and takes over in the cockpit, asserting that she and Aerial grew up together (indeed, when she was four, she considered her a little sister).

No one can pilot her but her, and as long as she’s piloting, Aerial won’t lose to the likes of Jeturk. She maintains that running away gains you only “one” by not losing, but going forward and rising to fight gains you “two” – experience and pride…as well as trust (so many three?).

Jeturk repsonds to that insult with a charge, but he’s totally out of his league. His beam weapon is reflected by Aerial’s shield, which then disassembles into a swarm of drones that tear Jeturk’s suit to pieces, giving Suletta a clear path to behead him with her energy sword.

As one would expect of a high-class Sunrise flagship production, the battle is absolutely top-notch in design and execution, fast, fierce, and gorgeous, accompanied by Ohmama Takashi’s stirring cinematic score that calls to mind Hans Zimmer with its blend of classical and futuristic electronic orchestration.

After the episode wasted absolutely no time showing what a sonofabitch Jetark is, I was literally cheering and laughing at the television as Suletta effortlessly put him in his place.

Again, Suletta’s timing is impeccable, as she defeats Jeturk just moments before his dad is about to press the detonate button on Delling’s transport. His aid quickly informs him that Jeturk will inherit neither Miorine nor her father’s company, because he was just defeated in a duel for the first time.

To the victor belongs the spoils, so Suletta not only wins the title of Holder of her very first day, but also becomes Miorine’s new fiancé, effective immediately. When Suletta points out that she’s a woman, Miorine tells her that unlike the apparently more conservative Mercury, such things are commonplace here. Suletta’s look of bewilderment says it all: these rich kids are crazy.

The Witch from Mercury follows up its thrilling, bittersweet prologue with an equally impressive opening sortie, establishing Suletta as a meek but determined and clearly immensely talented heroine (the first female Gundam lead), Miorine as her frenemy-cum-fiancée, the current financial and political power dynamics in play, and the system of duels that determine far more than they probably should. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for us next week.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 23 – Breaking Bad

Having come up with butkis in the search for Sousuke, it’s time for the crew to head home. But just as Erika and Sachi pile into their car, Hiro takes Nagi’s sleeve and declares that they’ll be taking the train home instead. On the ride home Erika tells Sachi about how Hiro said she wanted to “have” Nagi, and neither they nor their driver are convinced they’re not concerned.

As for Hiro, one reason for staying behind with Nagi is to visit a local shrine and collect another shrine stamp (naturally both these stamp nerds have their books on them). While Nagi prays for academic success with the occasional smidged of romance, Hiro admits to not praying for anything in particular, only expressing her gratitude that they made it there.

She could also be grateful for simply having Nagi to herself, a time that heavy winds and rain extend when the station is closed. With no buses home and a taxi too expensive, the two decide to spend the night in an inn. Sachi and Erika panic when they see Nagi’s text to this effect.

Nagi is a little out of his element too. It’s clear he and Hiro are being bad here, not just because they’re both engaged, but because they lie about being 22-year-old newlyweds (much to the delight of the inn staff). That said, youth is the time for being bad and testing boundaries.

This episode is replete with cute Hiro faces and poses, as she is in particularly playful mood, no doubt out of the aforementioned gratitude and contentment that comes with being all alone with the boy she likes. After the two bathe (in separate baths) and change into warm robes, they play the word chain.

Then a lizard (or gecko?) appears in their room and Nagi wigs out. Hiro moves towards it but trips on her robe, and the two end up in a very amorous position. Not only that, a flushed Hiro weaves her fingers into Nagi’s and asks him if, after a day of doing bad things, why shouldn’t they…keep going?

Nagi locks up, and Hiro then waves away the proposition by saying she wanted to go buy liquor, having placed a 1000-yen bill in Nagi’s hand. Nagi is scandalized, but understands Hiro’s desire to break free of her Model Student binds on occasion. That said, he’d rather they not get tore up. Hiro compromises and says she just wants sake.

Then a firm knock at the door comes, someone calls “POLICE!”, and Nagi indeed sees a Police badge through the peephole. Turns out it’s Erika and Sachi in sexy cop cosplay, complete with Sobasshi ID and pink cuffs. This is as Nagi was starting to change in preparation to make a run for it. I won’t linger on the questionable logistics of how the girls got there so damn fast.

Suffice it to say, their arrival prevented Nagi and Hiro from getting up to any more no good than they actually did, and on the ride home Nagi passes out after barely getting any sleep the night before. Erika asks Hiro what they did, and Hiro replies “just…stuff”, and cryptically declares that Nagi “really is a boy”.

Regardless of her lack of detail, Erika and Sachi now know Hiro is serious about Nagi. We’ll see if this spurs any action in them in the final episode, or if we’ll have to wait for another cour for any kind of break in the logjam.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch from Mercury (Prologue) – Rise and Shine

This prologue for the newest full-length anime installment in the venerable, 43-year-old Gundam franchise is a perfect balance of worlds small and large. In the former, the Samaya family (mother Elnora, father Namid, and their four-year-old daughter Elricht) are just living their lives, trying to make  space more habitable for humans through the development of the newest Gundam suit Ifrith (i.e. Ifrit).

Their asteroid base home’s name has mythic resonance: Folkvangr, the field ruled by Freyja where half of those who die in war go, the other place being Valhalla). It’s a small, tight-knit group, and it’s little Eri’s fourth birthday. But beyond this little haven that may just hold the hope for mankind, the larger world is scheming to eliminate them and their efforts—the classic Ominous Circle of Old Dudes in a Dark Room.

The Samaya family are cought between a council that has ruled that further development of Gundams must cease immediately. To his credit, the leader of this effort, Delling Rembran, believes that merging man and machine the way Gundams do is an affront to the natural order of things. He does not celebrate violence, murder, or war, but insists that human hands do the killing.

Of course, in his condemnation of Gundams as a technology that claims the lives of its users as well as its targets, he kind of elides humanity’s history of necessary sacrifice, on scales both large and small, for the benefit of scientific advancement. Regardless of how lofty his ideals, the bottom line is he’s sugar-coating a plain old massacre of civilians at Folkvangr.

Mother, father, and child are all separated when the siege commences, with Delling’s Dominicus (i.e. dogs of God) units carrying out the slaughter. Elnora, the pilot of a still-in-progress Ifrith, reunites with Eri in the cockpit, where Dr. Carbo Nabo, Elnora’s savior, mentor, and Gundam project lead (as well as Eri’s “granny” had been showing Eri around.

Eri’s dad Namid sorties in a less sophisticated LF suit and is soon followed by Wendy, who wishes to avenge her colleague who was murdered in the Dominicus raid. We see how the GUND tech takes a physical toll on their bodies, and the enemy’s ace mobile suit Beguir-beu is has a power-draining ability that leaves Wendy’s suit powerless before blowing her up.

Delling’s ultimate goal is to blow Folkvangr out of the stars, and with it all of Carbo Nabo’s new Gundam tech. But the raiders miss the most important target: Ifrith itself, where mother and daughter reunite. To her mother’s surprise and horror, her little Eri’s biological signature is able to “awaken” Ifrith to Level 33, enabling full functionality.

Using Ifrith as an escape pod, Elnora sorties with Eri, and the show’s flagship Gundam dazzles the stage. Eri, who considers Ifrith her “little sister” is just happy that sister finally turned in bed woke up—on Eri’s birthday, no less—but once leaving the warm, safe confines of the asteroid, Eri and Ifrith are officially in the crossroads between big and small worlds.

Thanks to Eri’s inadvertent input, Ifrith puts on a show, making quick work of the enemy’s less mobile suits. When Beguir-beu draws in close and starts to do its power-drain thing, Namid comes between them and goes into fatal overdrive to force Beguir-beu away, giving his wife, his child, and maybe the only hope for sustained human survival in space a chance to escape.

It’s the kind of noble heroic sacrifice ordinary people make every single day in our world, even if it will end up robbing Elricht Samaya of her father so early in her life, the alternative would have seen Eri dying too. Namid tearfully singing “Happy Birthday” and Eri singing along, provides a heartbreaking capper to this, the first act of what felt like an epic, operatic film.

A glance at the MAL page shows that the show proper will likely pick up with Eri a woman grown, carrying on her parents’ and granny’s legacy. This isn’t about developing weapons, which the likes of Delling believe are the only good, right, or just use for Gundam tech. Without this tech, Elnora would have died and Eri wouldn’t be born.

No doubt Eri will be the champion of the underdog, the little guy in the little world, the engineer or scientist who just want to make life better, even if the costs are excruciatingly high. And no doubt she’ll butt up against that big yet small-minded world trying to stamp that out to protect their own narrow and ultimately self-defeating ideals. In other words, it’s an all-new Gundam, and I am hyped up.

DanMachi IV – 11 (Part 1 Fin) – The Banquet Continues

When we last saw Bell he looked…pretty dead! Fortunately, Ryuu soon finds a pulse—the Goliath Scarf Lili and Welf gave him saved his life. Ryuu keeps him alive by tying off his arm and healing him, but he’s still unconscious when Bors and what’s left of his party arrive and become the Juggernaut’s next targets.

Ryuu saves Bors by coming between him and the beast’s initial strike, and she’s even able to kinda fight it, though she soon suffers too many wounds to continue. There also apparently isn’t adequate time to warn Bors & Co. that their magic will be reflected back onto them. When the dust clears, only Bors is still alive, and only thanks to a magic dagger that is now dust.

The force of the reflected magic sends Bell rolling into the river, where he’s found by Marie. Would it be nice if Marie were more than just a plot device with fins? Sure, but that will have to suffice, as she uses her magic mermaid blood to reattach his severed arm and heal him.

The last episode’s one saving grace is that it truly raised the stakes by having Bell taken out so easily. I thought he’d have to deal with having only one arm at least until he returned to the surface where it could be treated by higher healing. So while Marie’s healing powers have been demonstrated, this frankly feels like a cop-out.

Regardless, it at least puts Bell back in the fight, and this time he knows how to fight the Juggernaut: with numerous precise strikes to its legs to slow it down. Ryuu, who is still out of commission, can only watch and marvel at how much stronger “Cranel-san” has become since they last crossed paths.

She yells to him when it looks like he’s going to repeat his mistake of launching a Fire Bolt at his foe, but this time he uses the Goddess Blade to absorb all of the magic the Juggernaut reflects back, which he then uses for an all-or-nothing coup-de-grace.

Unfortunately, when the dust clears, the Juggernaut isn’t defeated; it’s merely stunned and wounded. Worse, this is exactly what Jura (remember him?) wanted, as it enables him to attach a beast-taming magic stone to Juggernaut. After a little more maniacal laughing, he cracks his whip, hoping to finish Bell and Ryuu off once and for all. But Juggernaut either can’t be tamed, or just can’t be tamed by someone of Jura’s level.

It turns on him immediately slicing him clean in half. Let it never be said that the Juggernaut never did anything right, and let us hope that’s the end of the maniacal laughing. Unfortunately, it’s far from the end of the ordeal, and Jura’s final whip-crack attracts a still-alive Lambton, who then proceeds to swallow up both the immobile Ryuu and a Bell lunging after her.

Back up at the 25th Floor, Cassandra is doing everything she can to keep Lili and the others from descending any deeper without spilling the beans about her premonition. But while her vision seemingly didn’t factor in Marie’s clutch assist, it turns out the banquet of tragedy is only getting started. The 27th Floor’s Boss, Amphisbaena, an impressively huge two-headed dragon, is now Lili’s crew’s new opponent, and there’s seemingly nowhere to hide.

As for Bell and Ryuu? He blasts them out of the Lambton’s stomach, but they only end up out of the frying pan and into the freezer. Remembering Eina Tulle telling him different parts of the Dungeon have different colored walls, he notices the walls here are white, which means the Lambton transported them all the way down to the Deep Floors, an area known as the White Palace where death is around every corner even for the most elite (and unwounded) adventurers.

So yeah, Bell and Ryuu are in deep shit, and Lili and the others aren’t that much better off. I honestly don’t know how they’re going to get out of this one, but I very much want to find out, so both cliffhangers can be considered an unqualified success!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S. Looks like that’s it for this cour! DanMachi IV will continue in Winter 2023.

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

 

Overlord IV – 13 (Fin) – Princess Front-Renner

We open on Mare, perched on a rooftop, surveying the Royal Capital, and suddenly he starts to weep. Is the meekest, gentlest Floor Guardian lamenting having to kill every last man, woman and child in the city? Of course not….he’s anxious about his destructive magic not being up to snuff and a few of those men, women and children surviving and escaping. Lest we forget: our pals from Nazarick are supervillains. Granted, some of them are adorable.

Princess Renner sure didn’t seem concerned about the impending invasion of the Sorcerer Kingdom, did she? Clued in as we the audience are not only to the twisted personality she conceals, as well as her dealings with Albedo, explain her attitude, but not the actual means by which she manages to slither out of this crisis and turn it to her advantage. Climb proves his loyalty by declining an offer from the King both he and Renner wouldn’t mind: approving a marriage of the two.

While Aura dispenses with Old Samurai Dude before he can even introduce himself, then leaves the others to her beasts before strolling into the capital’s repository of magic items, Climb takes a rucksack filled with the Royal Crown, heirloom tomes, and other items that are a part of the royal legacy, and hides them away in the warehouse district.

On his way back, he encounters Mare, who is kind enough to tell him to run away if he wants to live. Remembering Renner’s order for him not to fight, but run—the better to return to her side safely—Climb does just that. But as he turns toward the palace, he finds it’s already been encased in Cocytus’ ice.

The Snow Maidens grant him access to the throne room, where he finds Ainz, Albedo, Demiurge, and Cocytus, along with a frightful sight: Renner kneeling beside her father, who is lying dead in a pool of his own blood, some of which is on Renner’s hands. Demiurge commands Climb to prostrate himself, and Climb figures they used mind control on Renner to make her kill the king.

Ainz tells Demiurge to release Climb, and even allows him the privilege of fighting him one-on-one. Climb’s a tough customer, but it’s safe to say he’s no Gazef, nor is he Brain, and we know how things went for those warriors. So Ainz is just toying with him. That said, Climb manages to pull off a move that impresses Ainz before using “Grasp Heart” to kill him.

…But this is not the end of Climb. He wakes up, to find a relieved Renner leaning over him, but something’s different. The dialated pupils, the sharp black nails, the fangs and little wings. Renner explains that she pledged her allegiance to The Sorcerer King, and was transformed into an immortal demon. She asks Climb if he’ll become a demon and pledge allegiance to Ainz as well, so that they can be together for eternity.

This may be a lot all of a sudden for Climb, who had only just been resurrected from death, but I wasn’t surprised when he assented to Renner’s offer without hesitation. After all, he’s sworn to be her shield, whether she’s a princess or a demoness.

After meeting with and thanking her new superior Albedo, Renner celebrates having gotten everything she wanted for the low low price of betraying and sacrificing her kingdom.

She does so by singing a hauntingly beautiful song while dancing with herself and laughing maniacally in a gorgeous and stunningly animated sequence, which was both a complete surprise and a season highlight. Renner—the real Renner—has never looked more radiant, and will fit right in at Nazarick. I’d be ride-or-die for her too if I was Climb.

Whither Lord Philip Montserrat? Well, his last pleasure in life is getting to gaze upon the loveliness of the Lady Albedo when she deigns to visit his family manse. She then presents him with the heads of his family members before killing him. An inauspicious demise for a character who was never anything but an arrogant but disposable pawn.

In the center of the ruined capital of the fallen Re-Estize Kingdom, Ainz Ooal Gown sits upon a impromptu throne of rubble, flanked by Albedo, as Marquis Raeven and the other great nobles kneeling before him, pledging their allegiance. Raeven assures his new king and overlord that the destruction of Re-Estize will serve as an abject lesson to other nations not to mess with the Sorcerer Kingdom; a lesson that likely won’t be forgotten for millennia.

Citing this as a very good justification for what has been done, Ainz lets himself be satisfied and content. To make the land as sweet as honey, he had to burn part of it down. But there’s much more to be done, which will no doubt be chronicled in the forthcoming third Overlord film, along with a presumed fifth and possibly final season.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Classroom of the Elite – S2 13 (Fin) – Pax Kiyotaka

In a nice change of pace, this episode starts from Ibuki Mio’s perspective, of all things, as she visits Ryuuen’s dorm and then tracks him down. The swelling has gone down, but Ryuuen has abandoned all plans to continue the fight; he’s done. Mio doesn’t like it, and gives him a kick in frustration, but there’s no changing his mind. Clearly Kiyotaka’s beatdown had a lasting effect.

Kei wakes up realizing, in spite of knowing what kind of person he is, that she has developed feelings for him as a result of his white knight act. The cheeks don’t lie. She’s then ambushed by Maya, who like everyone else thinks she’s some expert on boys and dating due to her fake relationship with Yousuke. Maya asks for advice on her first date with Ayanokouji, even proposing a double date.

That night, Kei gets a call from Maya’s crush, but is slightly disappointed when it’s yet another business call. Still, she’s glad to be getting calls from him again, even after he’d terminated their arrangement. He wants her to investigate Maya and find out as much about her as she can.

As is appropriate for a season finale, Kiyotaka also checks in with the other major players, making an opening proposition for Suzune to join the StuCo, though he doesn’t push too hard. Kikyou spots them from a balcony above and gives them the stinkeye.

Most notably, Kiyotaka meets up with Ryuuen, who fully accepts his new role as former tyrant. He even demonstrated a measure of honor and selflessness by copping to a crime that wouldn’t get his whole crew expelled. But Kiyotaka made it so even he wouldn’t get the boot, because now that Ryuuen has been properly cowed, he is a valuable asset in his coming battle to get Kikyou expelled.

It’s not often that someone gets one over on Kiyotaka, so it’s pretty amusing that Maya turns out to be one of those people. Shortly after meeting him for their date, Kei and Hirata arrive, seemingly by coincidence, and Maya and Kei suggests the double date they wanted from the start.

Kiyotaka is a go-with-the-flow kinda guy in these situations, and so that’s just what he does as the quartet goes to see a movie and then heads to a café for some refreshment. Maya asks Kiyotaka about his future, and he says he’ll probably just go to college. Throughout the date, Kei shoots subtle little looks Kiyotaka’s way, but they either go unnoticed or ignored.

The two couples eventually split around dusk, when Maya plans to make her big confession. Kei may not be experienced in dating, but she’s 100% correct that it is both intense and a bit ludicrous to ask someone out after a first date on Christmas day. Kiyotaka turns her down how you’d expect: matter-of-factly and dispassionately, and she runs off accepting of his decision, but in tears.

That’s when Kiyotaka tells Kei to come out of her hiding spot, or she’ll catch cold. It starts to snow just as the two have a seat in the park. When she asks why he rejected Maya, Kiyotaka simply says she was a poor substitute for Kei.

Of course, he means as a pawn and informant, but Kei also happens to be a much more interesting (and after recent events, much stronger) person in general. The contrast is clear: Maya liked an idealized version of him; Kei likes the real him.

Kei casually offers Kiyotaka a Christmas gift, and is surprised when he gives her one in turn. While it’s just cold medicine, it’s the thought that counts, and she’s flattered that he worried about her to that extent, even if only in a purely practical way.

As they walk back to the dorms, Kiyotaka reveals that his abrupt termination of their arrangement, as well as rescuing her at the absolute last moment, galvanized Kei’s genuine trust in him, making her all but betrayal-proof. As he puts it, a good chunk of him has never left the White Room, where people are only tools to be used and discarded.

Those thoughts are apropos of the encounter that follows him and Kei parting ways for their respective dorms, as Sakayanaki Arisu. She greets him as if they’d known each other long ago, then references the White Room by name, notes that he, the “False Genius”, is his father’s “ultimate masterpiece”, and states that the role of “burying” him should fall to her.

So the curtain falls on a second season that ended in relative peace, with the promise of ever more intense personal battles to follow in next year’s Season 3. Whether it’s continuing his quasi-romance with Kei, making use of his new tool Ryuuen to bring Kikyou down, convincing Suzune to join the StuCo, or fending off whatever Arisu serves up, Kiyotaka will have no shortage of work to do.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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.

Engage Kiss – 13 (Fin) – Bless This Mess

Shuu, Ayano and Sharon are fighting as a cohesive unit, but against Kanna the best they can do is maintain a stalemate. Enter Tabula Rasa Kisara, who despite having no memories decides on her own not to let what seem like nice people die in a battle with a not-so-nice person.

The addition of Kisara to the battle definitely gives Team Shuu an edge as Kanna starts to flounder a bit, but then she summons three powerful demons, which means all of the other demon hunting contractors spring into action, for the city that’s the only home they have, for honor and glory, and money too.

When even Kisara can’t quite get to Kanna’s heart to seal her, Shuu lends her power in the form of a kiss. Turns out their old contract terms work just fine, and the newly re-Hot Topic’d Kisara has a stiff second wind at her back. She keeps Kanna occupied enough for Shuu to fire his demonic bullet. Asmodeus flees from Kanna, and Kisara carves her into ribbons, sending her back to whence she came.

In the aftermath, while some demons made it to the city, there were no civilian casualties, so the contractors call it a victory. Sharon admits the Abbey will still be coming for Kisara, but at least today, Sharon won’t be the one to kill her. Wondering where a demon girl fits in a human world, Kisara gets a supportive hug from Ayano.

The Hachisukas continue their sibling rivalry for control of the city—and international coverup to maintain their autonomy. Sharon makes a joke to Ayano about spending the night with Shuu before boating off to face inquisition. Shuu visits his parents’ grave and promises his work isn’t done, but he’ll do it the right way this time.

As for Kisara, she wants Shuu to teach her all the memories she lost, which apparently includes fulfilling the role of his girlfriend. Things are about to get hot and heavy in his apartment when the lights come on to reveal Kanna gobbling up all the food in the place. While the authorities kept her restrained in the bowels of city hall, this is only the latest of several escapes.

Those escapes result not in her unleashing demons on the city or causing any damage, but inserting herself back into Shuu’s home and life and voicing her disapproval of Kisara. Now Kisara has in Kanna what Ayano has in her: a younger rival for Shuu’s attention.

With Kisara, Ayano, and now Kanna all pointing weapons at him and asking whose side he’s on, Shuu’s in the messiest mess yet. And frankly, that’s the best way for this series to end: never taking itself too seriously and gleefully embracing the mess.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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