Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 13 (Fin) – Lost and Found

Pecorine tells Kokkoro that they’re in Landosol Castle, and that the painting is of her, Eustania von Astrea, Princess of Landosol. When she came of age, her parents sent her off on a solo adventure to see and hear her people firsthand and return a better, wiser leader from the ensuing experiences.

However, upon returning home, Eustania found that an impostor—Karyl’s mistress—assumed her identity, and no one in the castle, not even her parents, know who she is. Barely escaping the cat woman’s magical attacks, Eustania left the castle once more and became friends with Kokkoro, Yuuki, and Karyl, and the rest is history.

Even so, her past trauma made Peco believe that one day she’d lose her new friends just like she lost everyone else before; that the closer she got, the more distance they’d keep from her. Kokkoro immediately puts that assertion to bed with a long nurturing hug and head-pat, assuring Peco that whatever her name or past, their time together has formed an unbreakable bond.

Karyl was listening in to all this through the doorway, and feels the same way, even though she feels wrong for defying her “Majesty”, who it’s clear took advantage of Eustania’s adventures away to steal her throne and alter everyone’s memories.

Karyl doesn’t know what to do about that any more than Peco, but here and now she’s going to help her friend by facing the Shadow Boss. Of course, when Karyl’s about to be killed, Peco swoops in to protect her and selfishly continue to ask that she fight by her side.

The Shadow Boss is more powerful than any one member of the Gourmet Guild—even Peco—but once Yuuki returns from a protective null space created by Labyrista, and gathers a few more memories as well as the powers within him, the four friends create a united front and defeat the monster in a gloriously colorful and chaotic final battle.

When it’s over, the quartet is transported back to the tavern where all of their friends are hugely relieved and ecstatic to see them after fearing the worst had happened. The false Eustania still reigns as Princess, but rather than press her claim, Pecorine is content to let the impostor hold her throne, at least for now.

I too would be loath to give up the life she found outside the castle walls: full of loving friends, a cozy home, exciting adventures, and of course, delicious food. And from the look of Karyl when Peco pulls her into a big hug, the others are just fine with things the way they are too. When the time comes to get back what’s hers, I’m sure the Gourmet Guild won’t hesitate to support her.

Princess Re:Dive was similarly content to tell small, fun cozy stories throughout much of its run, but like our heroes proved that when things start getting more dramatic and perilous, it could deliver the goods, and then some!

Fruits Basket – 38 (S2 13) – Council of Troublemakers

It’s a new cour, and a new term for Tooru, Yuki, and Kyou, and while Arisa and Saki make a quick appearance at the beginning (confirming that Arisa has had no further contact with Kureno), this episode is not about the main crew at all. It’s all about Yuki, and his ability to lead the Student Council, which as was hinted at far earlier in the season is packed with some colorful personalities.

First there’s VP Maname Kakeru, who sleeps often, calls the council the “School Defense Force” and does little work. There’s secretary Todou Miki, who looks like Tooru’s twin sister, sounds like cutesy Kagura, but is a first-class stirrer of shit. The high-strung, irritable Sakuragi Naohito and the taciturn treasurer Kuragi Machi round out the crew.

Wrangling these misfits would be a tall task for any president, let alone one who was tortured by a god-child cult leader for years into thinking he’s lower than scum and devoid of hope. Yuki may be committed to a new, more honest and take-charge self, but he still has trouble interacting with people who aren’t family. Heck, he still has trouble with family!

Not only that, Vice President Manabe has a bright, charismatic personality and people are naturally drawn to him, which not only reminds Yuki of his big brother, but also social butterfly Kyou, two people “inner Yuki” has always compared himself to, and found himself wanting. He’s just not sure what to do around a guy like Kakeru, so he withdraws within himself.

When a StuCo session is commandeered by Manabe for the sole purpose of assigning Power Ranger-like colors to each member, Naohito fume, Machi simmers, and Miki eggs everyone on, and Yuki has no idea how to maintain order. The chaos washes around him, even as Manabe names him “Red” simply because he’s the leader, taking the more aloof “Black” for himself. No doubt Yuki sees it the other way.

Things come to a head when, while Yuki carrying seedlings for the gardening club after school, Kakeru confronts him about the nature of his relationship with Tooru. He spotted Kyou walking home with her and judges the guy to look more like Tooru’s boyfriend, and “happier” looking in general. That sets Yuki off, and he unleashes a tirade at Kakeru condeming his apparent hobby of weighing the happiness of others for his own amusement.

Surprisingly, Kakeru kicks the tray of seedlings out of Yuki’s hands. Not one to back down from a confrontation, he calls Yuki out for lecturing him so brazenly. The two bicker, and Yuki eventually admits he was really just lecturing himself, because comparing himself to others is what he always does…or rather did, and wants to stop doing so much.

The StuCo may be full of troublemakers, but Yuki considers himself the biggest of all. Kakeru’s stance softens significantly, and he admits that he’s actually jealous of Yuki for having more empathy and understanding the feelings of others before needlessly hurting them.

Having only just started spending time with Kakeru, it was easy to box him into a caricature, but Yuki learns there’s more to the guy, including a desire to grow and change—even if he naps a bit too much to actually do so! While he was initially weary of the StuCo and his ability to lead, now he looks forward to spending time with Kakeru and the rest of these weirdos.

While I’ve honestly missed Tooru and the rest of the crew these past two weeks, Fruits Basket once again demonstrates it can tell a solid story from anyone’s perspective, and with any combination of main, secondary, and tertiary characters, without breaking a sweat.

Check out Crow’s episode 13 review here!

Gleipnir – 13 (Fin) – The Truth is Out There…Not Here

As Honoka/Aiko’s “Ghost” “erases” another classmate (perhaps involved in the bullying that caused Aiko’s suicide) in front of Elena, Shuuichi and Claire ask Sayaka’s gang to give them all the coins they collected so they can go back to living normal lives while the two of them “end the game” for good. It’s a neat strategy, but unfortunately we never get to see it realized in this frustratingly incomplete finale.

Claire finally gives Shuuichi an ultimatum: either they hang out at one of their houses or they’re through, having had only this one summer together before going their separate ways. It’s a bit out of left field, but the result is Shuuichi invites her to his house, which is filthy and no place for a makeout session. When Claire tries to get answers, a repressed memory of Elena in the same position surfaces, and in a panic, Shuuichi nearly assaults Claire before returning to his senses.

Ultimately, Sayaka’s gang decides they’ll give their coins to Elena and not Shuuichi. Chihiro makes the exchange, but is interrupted by the arrival of Shuuichi, whose memories continue to surface. He now knows that Elena used her ability to erase his memories so Honoka/Ghost Aiko wouldn’t go after him. In effect, she did the same thing to him that he and Claire want to do for Sayaka’s crew: shoulder all the burden.

Shuuichi wants more answers, but Elena is elusive, and a fight ensues, that while technically impressive and exciting, doesn’t really amount to much. With his memories returning Honoka/Ghost Aiko appears and prepares to erase Shuuichi altogether. While he’s busy with “ghost clones” Elena slips behind him and uses her ability, locking the memories of her back away and saving his and Claire’s lives.

And that’s pretty much where we leave things: a stalemate with no time left; an ellipsis. Kaito and Ghost Aiko guard the landing site that Shuuichi and Claire are still determined to reach, reuniting with Sanbe for that purpose (Hey Sanbe). Sayaka and the others go back to their lives.

Mifune, perhaps the most ineffectual character of the entire series, is resigned to moving on from Shuuichi, who was never aware of her feelings. But the power couple is still in the game, and still determined to end it. It’s just unsatisfying that we probably won’t see that end in anime form. Thirteen episodes should’ve been enough to tell this story.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 12 (Fin) – Adjusted for Inflation

After the thrilling but nearly completely comedy-free Ishigami Sports Festival denouement, Love is War returns to its bread-and-butter with a relatively understated slice-of-life, life-goes-on finale. We get two stories, the first of which is by far the most emotionally engaging.

The Principal wants to snap photos of the StuCo, but Shinomiya family policy forbids Kaguya’s face from being distributed in any media, so she sits out the shoot. The Principal quickly pulls Miko out of her shell, but gets on Kaguya’s bad side when he pairs Miyuki and Chika as a dating pair.

While Kaguya once looked down on other girls who took pics with their phones, she’s nevertheless come to enjoy documenting her life with the StuCo on her antiquated flip phone (full disclosure: my landlord still has one, and she’s not planning on giving it up anytime soon!).

When the other members insist on including her on a private rooftop shoot, her phone falls off the roof during the exchange with the principal, and it is destroyed, along with all of the data (since it’s not only old, but a weird proprietary phone with no SD storage).

Crestfallen, Kaguya and Ai head to the store to buy the latest smartphone, but she’s thoroughly down that all of her precious memories were lost. The rest of the StuCo picks up on that, so Miyuki finally starts a StuCo LINE group with a shared cloud album, having held off until Kaguya got a smartphone, not wanting to leave her out. Suddenly, her phone, so sad and lonely when new and empty, starts to burst with brilliant 4K HDR photos of the StuCo’s hijinx.

This also serves as a curtain call for some of the most indelible images from this marvelous season. Kaguya’s blank look of quiet despair becomes a gleaming smile, and the five StuCo members pose for another group photo. Needless to say, Kaguya wins, having lost a low-res flip-phone album but gained a much more comprehensive hi-res one.

The majority of final segment feels like a stakes-free epilogue that could also have aired at any point this season. It makes a point to demonstrate that despite all the development these characters have gone through, they can still fall into their old habits, whether it’s Miyuki worried about Kaguya saying “How Cute” to Yuu losing his nerve.

The premise is easy enough, and starts out as a very direct double entendre involving pumping. Chika has a big balloon leftover from the sports fest, and pulls everyone into an increasingly stressful game in which each player must pump at least once, but if the balloon bursts, they lose. Chika actually gets poor obedient kohai Miko to pump the most, but lets her stop before it bursts.

This leaves Miyuki and Kaguya as the last two to pump, and they too survive, but when Chika gets a drop of tangerine juice on the paper-thin rubber, a cataclysmic explosion occurs that destroys the entire academy. As the credits zoom horizontally from right-to-left (a la Chihayafuru), both Kaguya and Miyuki, who survived the blast, are determined to get the other to take their hand.

What sets this interaction apart from so many past ones is that for once their wavelengths are perfectly aligned and they each get what they wanted, which was to hold the other’s hand without saving face or enduring mockery. It’s the perfect way to wrap up this momentous second season, while creating hope for a third one.

Still, I’d be very surprised (and delighted!) if a potential third episode surpassed this second, which goes down as one of the best second seasons of anime ever. MAL has it at #22 all time, and I think that’s a little low. I’ve savored every minute, and now that it’s over for now I shall miss it dearly!

Tower of God – 13 (Fin) – Just Climb, Baby

“‘Be sure to drink your Ovaltine’. Ovaltine?! A crummy commercial?! Son of a bitch!”—Ralphie, A Christmas Story

I thought of that quote from a movie I watched a ton growing up when I watched this finale, because over and over I’d heard that this adaptation was nothing but a pale shadow of/introduction to the sprawling webtoon, something I’d never seen, and was more of a commercial than a product in its own right.

Don’t get me wrong: both Ralphie and I should have known that at the end of the day anime—like radio—is a business. Unless it’s original content, part of its raison d’etre is to sell its source material, be it a manga/manhwa, novel, or game. Much like Bam, I can’t say Tower of God “tricked” me into watching it only for it to be a glorified prologue. Like Rachel’s attitude towards Bam, its true nature was always apparent.

But I only watch anime for anime’s sake. Any product that tries to steer me towards something that isn’t anime is never going to succeed. I watched Tower of God simply for the characters it introduced, the story that was told, and the setting in the title…which, it turns out, we never really got to see. There was never any actual climbing…that doesn’t begin until the very end.

Up top you see Rachel’s look of relief as she says “Finally,” her long ordeal with Bam is over (at least for now). One mark against this finale is how little new content it contains; much of it is a recap of past events with Rachel’s narration providing fresh context, right up to when she shoves Bam out of the bubble and to his apparent death.

We start with Rachel arriving at the base of the Tower, meeting Headon, and being told she’s too weak to climb it. But she’s eventually able to convince both him and Hansung Yu to let her make the attempt anyway, but only if she completes a special test: She must kill Bam. They even provide her with a Rak-sized bodyguard, as well as guidance from the redhead Hwaryun.

In Rachel’s mind, what she must do is never in dispute, so much of her ordeal throughout the training sessions is convincing her body to respond to her mind’s intentions. Climbing the Tower and becoming a star, not just seeing them, is her primary objective, and Bam is an obstacle.

She watches and stews with envy and resetment as he gains everything she wants with hardly any effort: an amazing weapon, a tight-knit circle of loyal friends who believe in him, the ability to summon and manipulate shinsu at an elite level.

But finally, the incident with Hoh puts her in a position to get rid of Bam, but tying him to her more closely than ever. Bam was never going to abandon her not matter how badly she treated him, so when she loses the ability to walk, he offers to stay by her side and be her legs.

Throughout all of this, Rachel has no illusions about who and what she is. She’s no savior, she’s nothing special; only something “extra”. She’s not a star, but at best a shadow cast by one. But that doesn’t mean the shadow won’t try to take the star’s place. If she climbs the Tower and becomes a star, perhaps the self-loathing within her will go away.

Yu and Hwaryun arrange things so Rachel is found by the others in a puddle of worm slime, and when she comes to she has no idea what happened to Bam. Anything could have happened, but the theory they’re left with is that he was probably eaten by a fish. In any case, he’s gone, Rachel is free of him. Climbing out of bed with very functional legs, she stands by the window and laughs a villainous laugh.


That’s because despite no longer having Bam to lean on, all of his friends (except maybe Parscale, who goes along with the group anyway) believe that helping Rachel in Bam’s place is what he would have wanted. They’re not wrong, either—even though Rachel played them all.

She continues to pretend she’s disabled, and while Khun most definitely has his suspicions about Rachel and what went down in that bubble, what he doesn’t have is proof, so he holds his tongue as Yu transports the surviving examinees up to the Tower to begin their clumb.

As for Bam, he’s not really dead, but was held in a bubble of shinsu until everyone else was gone. Then Hwaryun releases him and offers to continue training him to climb the Tower, if he still seeks answers at the top. Bam responds that he doesn’t think there are any answers up there, but he’ll search for them as he climbs anyway, because…well, what else does he have going on?

That’s honestly a lot of vague cliched “what will you do” platitudes at the end there, which aren’t very enticing considering how relatively little happened in these past thirteen episodes, and how no Tower climbing at all took place. There’s a certain feeling of arrogance that an audience will simply keep letting itself get strung along a la Attack on Titan, season after season, year after year…and as a newcomer to the series ToG just didn’t develop the clout to do that.

That said, I don’t see what will possibly stop me from tuning back in if and when the anime adaptation of ToG continues. Perhaps this really does mark the end of the beginning, and that an end—teased at the very end with what I assume to be an older, longer-haired Bam standing triumphantly near the corpse of a monster with a color palette similar to Rachel’s—may someday come.

I just won’t hold my bread that we’ll see that end in that next season. But perhaps we’ll finally see the Tower, a bit of climbing, and learn more about why those things are so important. Also Rak eating more chocolate bars. Till then, I’ll be sure to drink my Ovaltine.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 12 – The Lost Princess

It’s been pretty clear since the start that Pecorine was a runaway princess, but chose to conceal that from her guildmates, no doubt so as not to burden them. But as we see from her dark dream in which her royal mother and father don’t recognize her before disappear, there’s a lot more going on in her head than the next meal. With the Shadows literally amassing, it’s only a matter of time before she must take up the mantle of her nation’s protector.

You—not to mention Yuuki, Kokkoro and Karyl—would never know that judging from Peco’s bubbly breakfast attitude. Still, Karyl notes the unforgivable lack of bread, which Peco uses to segue to a quest to defeat a monster that’s blocking the flow of supplies into the city. Karyl (grudingly) lures it away from the bridge and Peco finishes it off with a Princess Strike. Easy Peasy!

While Yuuki is filling out the activity reports at the main guildhall, he inadvertently writes part of his name in Japanese, confusing the others but proving that his memories of another life are in there somewhere. The gang celebrates the completed quest with crepes from the very first stall Yuuki and Kokkoro visited, which also now employs Yuuki’s “sisters”.

That night, memories and possible pasts and/or futures continue to surface Yuuki’s dream, including visions of past and present comrades falling before the might of an evil cat lady. Ames, the guide at the gate to the world of PriConne who still knows Yuuki better than he knows himself, makes another appearance to cite her trust in him and encouraging him to stay strong when the time comes.

Yuuki asks Peco to train him in swordsmanship, something she’s both eager to do and very much up to the task. But in the middle of a large “training” meal, the Mega-Shadow Karyl saw her master create attacks the town. Peco springs into action, but to her shock, even Princess Strike isn’t enough to bring the monster down. And while Peco doesn’t seem to notice it, Karyl hesitates when she’s asked to support her, not wanting to make that master angry.

Faced with two roads, Karyl stands still, but Peco doesn’t read anything into it, and just assumes Karyl is injured and/or terrified, and continues to attack the monster while protecting Karyl from harm, even giving her a shoulder guard for extra defense. Peco’s ultimate attack cleaves the shadow in two, but she loses consciousness before she can defeat it. Yuuki steps forward to take over, and chaos—and several powerful magical attacks—ensue.

When Yuuki comes to and the smoke clears, he finds himself in a field of wreckage, and is confronted by none other than the red-headed crepe stall lady, Labyrista. She stopped the monster from killing him and transported his friends to safety, so perhaps she’s on their side against the Cat Lady and her Shadows? One can hope, because she’d be a powerful ally!

The ultimate fate of Pecorine and Karyl is left up in the air, but Kokkoro ends up in the royal palace at the center of town, and comes across a portrait of the Eustanian royal family: the king and queen and their daughter…who looks just like Pecorine.

This must be a shock for Kokkoro, who had thought of the Princess as a fairy tale only to learn she was beside her all along. This episode had a little of everything, with the usual adventure comedy fare dotted with foreboding visions and transitioning into awesome no-holds-barred action and the potential for some serious character drama. We’ll see how things shake out in the finale—and see if there’s a second season in store.

Fruits Basket – 37 (S2 12) – One Fine Day

And now, we take a short break from Tooru’s mission to break the Souma curse to check in on Shiraki Mayuko AKA “Mayu”, a teacher at Tooru’s school who is also best friends with Kana. You’ll remember Kana as the woman who dated Hatori, provoking Akito to injure him. Kana went mad, Hatori had to erase all her memories of ever loving him, and Kana married someone else.

Throughout all of that, Mayu was in madly love with her best friend’s boyfriend Hatori. She could never get rid of those feelings—even to this day. She tried to date Shigure when he sensed she was lonely, but that only made Mayu feel more lonely, since she didn’t really feel anything for him. He was a placeholder and happy to be such.

It never occurred to Mayu that she’d ever get a legitimate, consequences-free shot at Hatori, and yet that’s exactly what happened when Kana’s memories were wiped. Heck, when Kana recovers from her mental breakdown, she laughs at the prospect of dating Hatori, and thinks Mayu is an ideal match for him. But Mayu never made a move. Even if it was fine with Kana and Shigure and even Hatori, it never felt right for her.

That brings us to the present, and Shigure has a scheme afoot. First he stops by to ask about a book he ordered from Mayu’s family’s bookstore, but it won’t be there until tomorrow. Then Hatori himself comes, clad in a stuffy suit, having been told by Shigure the book (which was for him) would be there. The next day he comes back, this time without the suit (so Mayu wouldn’t “sweat” while looking at him). When Mayu’s mom starts to sparkle, she grabs him and heads for a more private spot.

When Mayu remarks Hatori doesn’t “exude happiness” the way he did when he was with Kana, he laments that happiness might just not be for him. That causes over two years of Mayu’s pent-up frustration to suddenly burst out in a torrent of bawling. It reminds Hatori of a boy at the Souma estate also crying, and the doctor in him realizes the health benefits of a good cathartic cry, such that he thinks he could use one himself!

With that, the other shoe of Shigure’s scheme drops when Hatori tells Mayu that he actually has no current girlfriend (the woman Shigure mentioned was Hiro’s mom). He then causally asks her out to lunch, his smile returning at the realization of what a fine day it is. It’s the first step in both of them finding new happiness, as Kana already has.

Just as the first episode of Furuba’s second season started with the focus on a tertiary character in Motoko, its twelfth episode does the same. While I can’t say going in I was itching for a Shiraki Mayuko episode, like Motoko’s episode this was still a strong outing in its own right and a welcome follow-up to the first season’s episode 15. Now hopefully Mayu can stay far, far away from Akito…

P.S. Read Crow’s review of episode 12 here.

Gleipnir – 12 – Cram School Curse

For those like myself who were eager for answers, the penultimate Gleipnir delivered in a big way, taking us back to the halcyon days of the Yamada Cram School gang, which consisted of Kaito (the lion haired lad), Naoto, Aiko, Honoka, Elena…and Shuuichi. Things would not go well at all for these five friends as the years progressed, and the Alien and his coins only made things worse.

Fast-forward to a few months before the present day, and the friends meet up for a reunion. Only Honoka isn’t there. Only Kaito doesn’t know why: Honoka’s dad murdered someone, she ended up living with relatives, they didn’t get along, and she just…disappeared. Aiko things they should just let things be, since Honoka didn’t tell any of them and so probably doesn’t want to be searched for. Pretty cold stuff.

The thing is, Naoto has noticed Aiko (who is his girlfriend) acting a bit off lately, and when Kaito sees her twirling her hair the way Honoka used to, he follows her and meets the alien. Then Kaito gathers everyone else to explain what happened: Honoka used a coin to transform into Aiko. Kaito believes Honoka did it out of a desire to have “everything” Aiko had…including Naoto, whom she loved.

To Kaito’s frustration, no one wants to do anything about this, and insists that things “stay the way they are.” But that doesn’t sit well with him. He confronts Honoka!Aiko at the cram school, sitting before of the real Aiko’s grave. Believing Honoka killed the real Aiko and took her place, he takes a rope and strangles her to death. It’s a shockingly rash action from someone who had to that point been a normal high school teen, and timing for such rash action couldn’t have been worse.

Shortly after killing her, Kaito learns from Naoto that Aiko’s will was found and addressed to Honoka. Aiko, who had a strong sense of justice and defended other kids being bullied at school, became the bully’s new target, and eventually she succumbed to the despair and hung herself.

Honoka, filled with regret for being unable to save her best friend and was the only one to get a note from her, went to the alien with a coin and asked to become Aiko, believing no one would care if she disappeared, but would be sad if they learned the truth about Aiko.

What’s so heartbreaking is she was pretty much right—everyone was willing to go along with the “new” Aiko despite eventually learning what Honoka did. Only Kaito didn’t want Honoka to disappear, and wasn’t okay with everything the way it was. From this point forward, Kaito disowns Naoto, Elena and Shuuichi, and vows to make them disappear to see how they like it.

He goes to the alien with a coin to make that happen, and in the present we learn he’s the one who has collected 100 coins, no doubt enlisting the aid of the “glowing lady” with Honoka’s form. Elena and Naoto are part of the team attempting to defeat him, but they’re clearly at a disadvantage.

That brings us back to the day Shuuichi encounters and murders the last survivor of Madoka’s gang in the junkyard. We knew Claire called him and he assured her everything was taken care of, but now we learn Claire had gone to the abandoned cram school to investigate Shuuichi’s past on her own.

There, she finds the little stuffed dog that was the inspiration for Shuuichi’s form. It’s concrete proof not only that he was there, but that his memories have been messed with. Months before, Shuuichi assured Elena and Naoto that if Kaito was plotting something, he’d use a coin to respond.

It’s starting to look like Elena didn’t force him into anything, but it will be up to the finale to present the actual moment he got transformed by the alien, and show why he broke from Elena and Naoto and lost his memories.

Arte – 12 (Fin) – The Firenze She Made Along the Way

Matei pays a visit to Arte to apologize for his rude comments. Especially once he sees her gorgeous portrait of Lady Sofia, he admits to harboring an “ugly jealousy.” Arte replies that if his jealousy is ugly, the jealousy she’s had for male artisans is ugly too. He urges her to always treasure the talent that comes from her unique position, and to continue to cultivate it.

Matei helps Arte realize that she has unique talent and value as a female noble artist, and she doesn’t want to become tied down by a patron just yet. On top of that there’s much she still wants to learn from Leo, so she turns Yuri down and prepares to return to Florence. Yuri respects and even admires her decision; she and Katarina leave on good terms as well, committing to being friends from now on and vowing to write one another.

Upon returning to Florence, Arte finds Leo’s workshop empty. Darcia informs her that he’s come down with a fever and is resting at Ubertino’s house. Ubertino believes Leo will be fine, but is more concerned with the fact the ceiling mural he started won’t be finished by the Easter deadline. As a member of Leo’s workship and with Ubertino’s approval, Arte rolls up her sleeves and vows to complete the ceiling herself.

When the timeline proves impossible for any one person and Arte nearly collapses from exhaustion, Angelo steps in to assist with the painting while Darcia resolves to keep them fed and healthy. Eventually a group of other apprentices Arte has met and befriended join the team. With all the extra manpower the ceiling is completed on time.

Leo and Arte don’t end up meeting until the mural is unveiled, and while her “light calculations” are still in need of some seasoning, he’s nevertheless grateful for her help. When he asks why she came back, Arte says she wants to paint paintings that encourage people, like the triptych of the Virgin Mary encouraged her while she was in Venice. Leo’s glad to have her back, even if he’ll have to get used to the extra noise and energy all over again.

Finally, Arte’s mother accepts an invitation to the unveiling, and shows that she’s big enough to admit when she was wrong. She was sure that despite her late husband’s encouragement, a woman only had two paths: marriage or the convent. Arte proved she could forge her own path, but she didn’t do it alone, and made sure to honor everyone in her life—including her parents—who aided her in her journey by painting them into the mural (in heroic garb, of course).

It’s a touching gesture, and a fitting end for an anime with a lovable heroine in a very unconventional time period and setting, but a timeless message: Believe in yourself and your abilities, work your ass off, rely on friends and allies when needed, and you’ll eventually convince the skeptics and soar to success. Brava, Arte!

Hamefura – 12 (Fin) – Doom Averted!

Hamefura borrows the dark, bleak tone of Re:Zero, swapping its usual pansexual harem desert gorging party and fake-snake R&D for a look back at “Sirius Dieke’s” inky-black past. Turns out he’s not really Sirius, but his half-brother, the illegitimate son of Marquess Dieke and a maid. Sirius’ mother the Marchioness devises a dastardly plan where they sacrifice the maid to acquire dark magic, then transfer the dying Sirius’ memories into the healthy bastard son’s mind. YIKES!

Turns out “Sirius”, whose name is really Raphael, was misled by the bad guy who performed the procedure. The real Sirius’ memories were false, as was the Raphael’s mom’s dying wish for him to avenge her. What she really wanted was for him to live a happy life, which hadn’t been going so well until Catarina shows up, promises to be by his side and refuses to leave it until he feels better.

Raphael fights the shadows until they dissipate—no Maria light magic necessary. He then decides to join the Department of Magic and make a new life with his birth name and identity, while Marchioness Dieke and her accomplices are arrested for their crimes. Catarina has managed to avoid Fortune Lover’s worst ending and certain doom for all…but she’s still not convinced she can rest easy!

Her final trial is the graduation party, which is where Game Maria eventually chooses the guy she loves and wants to spend her life with. This also leads to Game Catarina either being killed or exiled. Catarina prepares for both eventualities, while completely ignoring the obvious: neither of those things is going to happen, because thanks to her efforts, Maria doesn’t love any guy, only her. All the others echo their undying love and desire to spend the rest of their lives with Catarina.

Cat realizes she’s reached the rare “Friendship Ending”, though it’s clear the romantic competition for the one and only spot by her side will go on; she’s seemingly just determined to remain oblivious to it! In any case, she’s arrived in territory far outside the bounds of the original game’s script.

That means we’ll be getting a second season of Hamefura in 2021! Whether there it will introduce still more love interests and/or new sources of potential doom, who can say. All I know is I’ll be delighted to spend more time with this charmingly obtuse young woman with a heart of pure gold!

Sing “Yesterday” for Me – 12 (Fin) – Life Goes On

Rou is his usual puerile self upon discovering Shinako with Rikuo (though you can’t really blame him!) and runs off in a tizzy, Shinako chases him down and tries to explain. She valued their relationship and was afraid of ruining it.

To his credit, Rou takes the high road, telling Shinako all that mattered was her happiness, and he was a “chump” for not noticing her feelings for Rikuo. Despite telling her “it will take time” for him to comes to terms with it but that he gets it now, Shinako assumes she’s just ruined everything with Rou forever.

The next time Shinako and Rikuo meet, its at a park bench, and as they analyze what they are to each other and how things went with Rou and Haru, the meeting gradually morphs into a more-or-less mutual breakup.

It’s only natural; things haven’t quite felt right because Rikuo hasn’t been able to properly tell her he loves her, but when he asks her simply “me or Rou”, she can’t help but summon much more emotion for Rou, who is family.

Rikuo owns up to becoming terrified of the happiness that suddenly rained down upon him when he found himself in a relationship with Shinako, but perhaps the reason it never felt 100% real for him is that…it wasn’t. He and Shinako had a natural distance from their long friendship that could not be closed, no matter what either party tried.

At the same time, Rikuo assures Shinako that Rou, who is still mostly a kid after all, will eventually come back around to talking with her. He just needs time to cool off, and as we saw, he already exhibited the self-consciousness to admit the mistakes he made. The two cordially shake hands, committing to maintaining what they know works: their friendship, and just like that, Shinako x Rikuo is dead.

Despite this breakup occurring in the last episode, there’s nothing rushed about it. After all, these three had been milling around for three months without the slightest romantic progression, which all confirmed that they’re not meant to be in that kind of relationship, however logical it might’ve seemed.

Meanwhile, Haru notes how little has actually changed in the world since what she felt was a categorical rejection by Rikuo, but still can’t help but wear a gloomy face as she fries vegetables, much to her mom’s dismay. It turns out she’s only taken some time off from Kyouko’s cafe and moved back in with her mom and stepdad. She spends the time away contemplating what love and happiness are to her, not

Rikuo ends up securing Haru’s address and bus route from Kyouko, and sets off to meet with and talk with her about what’s happened, if she’ll have her. During his long journey we get all of his naysaying inner thoughts in real time, negative and dismissive sentiments he must force his way through in order to take action.

He doesn’t like how things ended with Haru, and despite not knowing how she’ll react to seeing him again (or even if she’ll agree to do so), he’ll never forgive himself for not making he attempt, even if it makes him look selfish and foolish.

When he finally crosses paths with her (kudos to Kansuke for keeping her off the bus he just got off!) she’d been remembering when she met him and fell for him in middle school, assumes he’s just another vision, and proceeds to punch him. But when she realizes he’s real, she regrets the assault…but not too much.

All of Rikuo’s inner dialogue was a fight with himself over whether he should even be attempting to reconnect with Haru, which means when Haru is finally there in front of him, he has almost no plan for how to describe his feelings. He initially comes off as having only come to her because Shinako dumped him, but when he elaborates on the details Haru can sense it was more nuanced than that.

Rikuo comes out and says what we all know: he likes it when a woman is nice to him, and for a long time, he thought that was love…until he took the next step with Shinako and it didn’t work out. Then an “incomprehensible, bothersome chick” came along, and Rikuo didn’t realize until recently that love was staring at him all along from the opposite end of the konbini counter.

He thinks everything he thought about love and feelings up to now had been mistaken, but he knows one thing for sure: he thought Haru was cute, and that all of the time she was suddenly away from him, and all hemming and hawing on his way to seeing her, mean that he’s in love with her. It’s something he can come out and relatively easily say to her, while he could never say it about Shinako.

Seeing the shock, embarrassment, joy, and relief wash over Haru’s face is a season standout, as is her instinct to immediately embrace Rikuo and give him a kiss before he knows what hit him. Then she allots only 35 points to his confession and orders him to give another one. After three futile months and so much overthinking, I was astounded and delighted by how comparatively easily the distance between these two was closed!

A little time passes, and Rikuo and Haru prepare to go on their first official date together. Haru, always one to wear her heart on her sleeve, is clearly on cloud nine as she glides around the cafe where she returned to work. Meanwhile as Rou’s classmates celebrate him moving in to his own place, Shinako pays him a surprise visit.

This isn’t exactly how I thought things would end up between these four, but I can’t say I’m not satisfied. The events of this last episode, in hindsight, didn’t even feel at all like sudden twists, but a logical, necessary, and welcome corrective to the awkward confusion of previous alignments. It made me immediately giddy and excited for a Haru x Rikuo future. Not a bad trick for a show based on a 23-year-old manga!

For those asking “Wait, weren’t there going to be eighteen episodes, not just twelve?” Alas, that was an unfortunate miscommunication. Turns out the final six episodes are streaming-only shorts, so this is the final episode, with an anime-original ending. That’s obviously extremely disappointing as I was watching this show unfold as if it had six more eps to work with, but oh well…at least it ended on an upbeat note!

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 11 – The Other Side of the Story

The Cheer Squad’s cross-dressing skit goes off without a hitch, pleasing Yuu, who feared everyone would think he was gross. He starts to finally think about enjoying life more instead of dwelling on past regrets and failures…only for the greatest regret of his life to show up to anti-cheer him.

Just as Yuu is drafted to fill in for an injured Kazeno as anchor on the club relay race, all of the past unpleasantness rushes back into the forefront of his mind. All his ears hear around him are the discouraged and annoyed voices of the crowd cursing his name and everything about him.

The mystery girl who arrives is Otomo Kyouko, who was neither a crush nor a friend in middle school. She was just a kind classmate who’d look out for him whenever she could. She was a good person. Then she started dating Ogino Kou, whom Yuu soon learns is cheating on Kyouko with other girls.

Honestly I don’t remember middle school being this sexed up, but Kou further demonstrates how pure a scum he truly is by refusing to stop cheating, then using footage of Kyouko on his phone to threaten Yuu into silence.

Not about to let a good person, even someone who’s barely an acquaintance get hurt by a bad one, Yuu’s sense of justice curdles into rage before the despicable Kou, and he punches the shit out of him in the middle of class. He aimed to ruin his face so no girl would approach it again, but Kou quietly threatens to abuse Kyouko if Yuu doesn’t stand down.

If that wasn’t enough, Kou also loudly professes that Yuu is a stalker. To both her and everyone else around, it looks like a crazed Yuu is beating up her boyfriend because he’s jealous and obsessed, and he’s too shocked by how badly things are going for him to defend himself, though I doubt it would have helped.

For the assault, Yuu is suspended for a month and ordered to write a letter of apology to Kou, but despite writing and erasing over the paper hundreds of times, he’s unable to write a single word of anything; neither a false apology nor an indictment of Kou’s own misdeeds. In his absence at school his reputation as a creep crystallizes.

Back in the present, the relay anchors are ordered to their marks, but Yuu is so out of it he forgets what color team he’s on…until Miyuki puts his red headband on his head and offers him words of encouragement and a pat on the back. This mirrors Miyuki’s eventual visit to Yuu’s house to present the “Student Council Secret Report” he prepared with Miyuki and Chika.

While Miyuki doesn’t judge whether Yuu’s actions were right or wrong (merely that they could have been better), he cannot deny that Yuu’s ultimate objective was to protect Otomo Kyouko, and that objective was achieved when Kou broke up with her days after the beating. Turns out all those months of refusing to apologize made Kou paranoid, and he released his grip on the poor girl.

However, Kyouko never saw this report, and still has the same idea of what went down. She still believes Kou to be a good guy and blames Yuu for their breakup. She came to the festival specifically to “unload” on Yuu, but rather than continue to wallow in despair, Yuu draws strength from the knowledge someone—specifically Miyuki, Kaguya and Chika—learned his side of the story and supported him.

So before running his leg of the relay, Yuu responds to Kyouko’s heckling with the same words Miyuki wrote in thick black permanent marker way outside the gridlines of the apology letter stock…so hard that to this day the ink residue is embedded in the desk: GO TO HELL, DUMBASS.

As the race progresses, Yuu is determined to win. He believes he has to win to prove he truly “shake Kyouko off” and move on with his life. Kaguya and Miyuki and Chika cheer him on, hoping the good person they know can overcome adversity. Kobachi loudly cheers him on, while Miko, who helped get Yuu reinstated, cheers for him almost under her breath—but with no less conviction.

Yuu ends up losing by a hair. Like the lack of a forced reconciliation with Kyouko, the defeat is an excellent subversion of how these races usually go. But the fact is, he still tried his best and his cheer squad comrades appreciate that. Koyasu, the pink-haired girl, even tears up, so moved by his genuine frustration. Rather than calling him a loser and failure and weirdo like he feared, they tell him he did good.

Suddenly, as his tears give way and his field of vision clears, he can finally see the EYES of the cheer squad members, a pack of Normies with whom he thought he’d never get along and inherently distrusted due to past traumas. But there they are in all their glory. We’d never seen their eyes either because Yuu never looked at them properly. Now he does, and he’s elated to discover they’re all good people.

As Kyouko departs, she tells her former classmates she was glad to be able to give Yuu a piece of her mind, and leaves Shuchiin with fun memories despite how things turned out. As Kaguya and Ai observe, she’s blissfully ignorant, but the smile she wears as she leaves is the very thing Yuu worked and suffered to protect, and he succeeded.

That Yuu would do that for a classmate he barely knew, at the cost of so much personal turmoil and with no reward, then he must be the very best quality of person. It’s no wonder he was recruited into the StuCo. This episode of Love is War had virtually no jokes or gags, but it didn’t matter. What it offered instead was masterful character drama, further cementing its status as Anime of the Year.

Wave, Listen to Me! – 12 (Fin) – Don’t Stop the Signal

The final episode of Wave begins with a high school-aged Mizuho conferring with Kureno about her future. Specifically, she only dreams of becoming an assistant director for a radio station, as she’s more “behind the scenes” in nature. Kureno warns her that most stations won’t give someone with such small (if realistic) goals the time of day.

From there we go back to the present, and to another radio station entirely, where—bombshell—Makie turns out to be “Joker Skonsky”, making her first in-studio appearance. It’s something she keeps to herself, even when Nakamura finds her celebrating by herself with a couple drinks. And why not? After having her life controlled by her bro for so long, she absolutely deserves to go out there and do things by herself and for herself.

Nakamura doesn’t pry, he just tells her he’ll be opening his own restaurant soon, and if she ever needs a paying job, she’ll have one there. It’s a very sweet exchange that never feels the need to get too romantic or dramatic. What it feels like is two good friends on the same wavelength.

Later that night, Minare’s latest Wave broadcast begins with her reading listener submissions from the website and Twitter, responding to them, and eventually picking a winner. It’s actually a pretty standard bit for a show, but since it’s the first time her normally abnormal show is doing it, it has potential to be fresh.

Minare only makes it two minutes in until a 6.8 earthquake rocks the entire island of Hokkaido, knocking out power everywhere. Naturally the station has backup power, so Matou directs Minare to change gears and offer emergency information. At first I thought the shaking was dramatic license, but then suddenly it dawned on me that “oh shit it’s an earthquake!”

In other words, I had the exact same reaction as the first time I experienced an earthquake for real. It’s so strange and disorienting on a primal level, I can’t imagine having to not only keep a radio broadcast going but staying on message and not messing up.

Indeed, you can tell Minare is a bit off initially. Even though she’s pretty dang good at improvisation, she literally never saw herself as a news-reader, which is essentially what she becomes until people start sending messages about their current state.

Matou shows her a note to stop acting like an amateur, and she snaps out of it, returning to her “normal” energetic radio voice as she reads and reacts to the messages.

There’s a sense of community and solidarity continuing the show helps to cultivate even in times when the power’s out and no one knows when it will be back. People need to be comforted, and Minare’s in a unique position to comfort them simply by keeping things as breezy and mundane as possible. It surely means a lot to those who reached out to be personally reassured on the radio!

Meanwhile, the first thing Makie thinks of when the lights go out is “how can we help others?” The answer is heading to Voyager and cooking up some hot food for those who will need it. She and Nakamura get approval from the boss (who was out with Makie’s brother and wants the Gagarin curry out of his freezer anyway) and get to work. Nakamura and Makie really do make a great team.

Before she knows it, Minare’s typically 20-minute program is extended to 90 minutes, finally ending at 5:00AM when Madoka arrives to relieve her and provide relief with her celebrity voice. She even puts on a classic song about looking up at the stars, because what else are you gonna do when the lights are out in the city?

Minare heads to the nap room feeling great about her future in radio, but when Makie and Nakahara flag her down to give her a ride to Voyager to help out, she realizes she can (and should) keep room for a day and night job to make ends meet.

So ends Wave, an anime that marched to the beat of its own drum with its unique and assertive voice and thoroughly fascinating heroine. However accurate it is to real-world radio industry, it certainly felt (and sounded) more than sufficiently convincing for someone like me who doesn’t know a lot about it going in.

It was a strong and surprisingly cozy ending, demonstrating that whatever content you bring to the broadcast table, what’s most important is keeping the signal going, speaking clearly, and connecting with your listeners, making them feel heard and making sure they know you know they’re listening. Whether it’s a Terry Gross interview or the Shipping Forecast, there’s really nothing quite like radio.