Appare-Ranman! – 13 (Fin) – Crossing the Finish in Style

It’s Final Boss time, and the battle with Gil takes on a decidedly Final Fantasy flavor, in no small part due to everyone’s outrageous costumes and the fact that Gil remains one tough customer even outnumbered nine to one. There’s a lot of bullet-dodging and slicing and Xialian and Al hitting nothing but the air around the speedy Gil, but thanks to a well-placed firecracker Gil is sufficiently softened up for a final showdown with Dylan and TJ, the latter finally revealing his steely gaze!

While the Thousand Three go at it, the others chase down the runaway train packed with explosives headed to Chicago. Al and Xialian leap aboard and take out the guards, but the train has no brakes and Al can’t break Sofia’s chain. Their only hope is for Appare’s ramshackle boat-car to take a position in front of the train and give his hybrid engine everything it’s got, slowing down and stopping the train just in time to avert disaster.

Like the anachronistic outfits and music, you just have to suspend disbelief in terms of physics. If people can dodge and slice bullets, it’s not a stretch for a car to stop a train without derailing it. Dylan and TJ end up defeating Gil but spare his life, giving him to the police like their Claudia would have wanted. Two months later the race is back in operation, and Appare & Co. narrowly beat out Xialian, Al, Dylan and TJ with a thrilling photo-finish that involves going airborne in the final corner.

With the race won, the racers go their separate ways. Kosame is all ready to return to Japan, leaving Appare and Hototo in NYC, but at the last second decides to simply send a letter instead. When Appare does the rom-com last-minute chase for his love and sees the ship has already sailed, he gives a very uncharacteristically heartwarming monologue about how building an airplane and moon rocket won’t be as much fun without Kosame…only for Kosame to sneak up behind him, having never left.

Back in Japan Kosame and Appare’s relations learn that not only are they okay, but thriving in America. All’s well that ends well, and so ends a wonderfully quirky fun adventure series that captured both the thrill of a race on a grand stage of sprawling America and the way the racers grew into a family that banded together to defeat the super-charismatic Big Bad. It truly was…[puts on anachronistic sunglasses]…a gas.

The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED – 11 (Fin) – The New Boss

“Final Boss” Shigemaru leads Daisuke and Haru on a wild goose chase to the bowels of the Kanbe summer home. There, they not only find the allodium lab and his father’s research data, but a secret underground tube train that shoots them all the way back to Daisuke’s house, where Shigemaru is waiting for them. That is, until Daisuke remarks that his father was left-handed and this guy is right-handed, and the gig is up.

“Shigemaru” removes his mask to reveal he was an imposter all this time. Grandma Kikuko sics the guy on Haru while she and Diasuke discuss the future of the world over a cup of tea. Gran considers Allodium too dangerous to allow in any other hands but the Kanbes; it’s why she had Daisuke’s mother killed and Shigemaru framed. Haru eventually brings down the imposter, but not before he gets a bullet in the thigh.

Haru’s victory, and the fact the imposter was not given orders to kill him, end up mattering quite a bit. Daisuke is ready to transfer the Allodium research to scientists around the world, but hesitates in the powerful presence of his grandmother. Haru ends up making the choice to transfer the data for him, but by pressing the button on accident as a result of slumping over Suzue’s control panel.

This was never about Daisuke defeating the final boss, or even taking his rightful place on the throne of the Kanbe Empire, but making that Empire his own. To that end, he rejected generations of secrecy and lets the spread of Allodium information take place…then arrests his granny.

Weeks pass, Haru recovers, but turns down a return to the First Division, citing he can be a detective and dish out justice no matter where he is. He and Daisuke then proceed to do just that, tracking down all criminal activity regarding Allodium and stopping it in its tracks, with the help of HEUSC and Daisuke’s Unlimited Balance (The Second Division misfits also get full access to HEUSC, and of course use it for silly things like porn and sweets). On Daisuke and Haru’s particular mission, Suzue is on a well-deserved vacation.

In a nice bit of series symmetry, Daisuke’s brash, expensive actions end up blowing up part of the Manhattan Bridge, and Haru, even wearing one of those ASV suits, finds himself hanging on a ledge. Last time Daisuke let him fall because he neither trusted nor thought he needed Haru. Now the two are partners and pals, so Daisuke offers his hand…only to playfully pull it back, letting Haru fall in the drink once again. Same action, completely different motivations.

Blending James Bond and Batman billionaire tech and backstory with procedural detective stories and a uniquely Japanese keiretsu element made for a sleek and entertaining eleven episodes. If you’re into any or all of those and love a good rich family drama mystery full of bodacious crime-fighting toys, Fugou Keiji is a solid viewing choice.

Season Average: 8.55

Fruits Basket – 50 (Second Season Fin) – Feather Brain

Despite all of the chaos and craziness of These Times, leave it to the trusty Fruits Basket’s second season to end one year to the day after the first season ended in 2019. And it doesn’t end with a whimper, but a one-two punch that will leave your pulverized heart slowly stewing in your stomach, even as the brightest rays of hope yet shine upon Tooru’s mission.

The opening images herald what’s to come. As soon as I saw a young, bewildered Kureno surrounded by floating feathers and a positively terrified Akito cowering behind him, I knew the big secret Shigure has known, and would be dying to reveal were it not up to Kureno himself later: Kureno is not a Zodiac member. He hasn’t been for years. His bond with Akito was severed; the curse lifted…only to be immediately replaced by a new curse of his own making.

To the part about his curse being lifted, it’s the best news yet that Tooru’s dream of lifting it for all isn’t pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking, but a reality waiting to be realized. Of course, Tooru doesn’t know anything about this at first, and nor does Rin: but the fact that Rin will remain in a room and talk with Tooru (but leave the moment Yuki shows up) may well foreshadow future collaboration between the two. I certainly hope so, anyway!

For now, Tooru is happy for a new year with Yuki and Shigure and oh yeah, Kyou, who doesn’t appear in this episode, since the exploration of his and Tooru’s failure to confess to one another is best left to a future season for it to be done justice. Instead, most of the episode is given over to the truth about Kureno, and how he’s always seemed “off” to both Shigure and Hatori.

Kureno manages to steal away from a sleeping Akito’s side deep into the night, and plays the Cinderella-ish DVD given to him by Tooru c/o Momiji Both of them pray he’ll watch it, and he does. The scene with Tooru and Kyou was so powerful I almost forgot Arisa also bore her whole damn heart in the play.

First she castigated Prince Kyou for not acting on his feelings when there are “people out there (like her and Kureno) who can’t see the ones they wish to see.” When Arisa cries out “I want to see him!” Kureno can’t help but reach out. But his image of a smiling Arisa in her work apron is juxtaposed by a hysterical younger Akito begging him “Don’t abandon me!” and the dimensions of Kureno’s own personal prison come into clear focus.

The moment Tooru returns home to Shigure’s, he sends her out on an errand to buy envelopes, knowing full well she’ll do it immediately and with a smile (this is Tooru, after all). He also knows it will take her past a certain park where Kureno is waiting. Before noticing him, Tooru approaches a flock of sparrows, who naturally aren’t afraid of her what with her gentle soul and calming aura.

Then Kureno approaches her, and the birds scatter. This confuses Tooru to no end since she’s seen rabbits, rats and cats naturally gather around Momiji, Yuki, and Kyou, respectively. Then the absolute kicker: Kureno draws Tooru into a hug…and nothing happens. He tells her plainly: he’s different. His curse is broken. He isn’t a member of the Zodiac.

It would have been one thing if his burgeoning love for Arisa had broken the curse, but it happened long before they met, and to this day Kureno couldn’t tell you exactly why. All he knows his how he felt when it happened. At first he was sad upon realizing he’d never fly again. But he also felt a happiness and a freedom and a sense of humanity he’d never felt before.

Even so, he says, upon returning the DVD, Tooru’s present “was for nothing”, as he doesn’t intent to see Arisa again, and will instead remain by Akito’s side as he has done. It seems like a firm declaration, but as he tries desperately to rationalize two simple insignificant meetings with Arisa as easily forgotten with time…he just can’t do it.

There’s no supernatural or spiritual bond keeping him by Akito’s side. It is more pity than love, along with years of trying to make it something it hadn’t been since the curse broke. Upon realizing their bond was broken Akito lost it, taking Kureno aside and threatening to kill anyone else who approached. And then she sobbed and begged and pleaded for him not to leave her. And Kureno, being younger than Tooru is now and not knowing any better, gave in.

Things are even more different now than they were then. Kureno resolved neither to go too far into the outside world nor seek anything there, but he’s fallen in love for the first time since the curse broke, since he “became human”, as he puts it. And as much as he may want to stay by Akito’s side, just as back then, something has happened that cannot be undone.

Kureno might have been able to deceive the other Zodiac members for a while, but I doubt he ever deceived Akito. And yet despite knowing the curse was broken, his staying probably signaled to Akito that their power still held sway, which turned out to be true, only if psychologically and not supernaturally.

As Tooru tries to comfort the long-tormented Kureno, he tells her without self-pity, hatred, or regret, that he made his choice to live only for “the one who cried until sobs racked their body. Weaker than anyone…more fragile than anyone. For the one…so afraid…for a sorrowful girl.”

Akito wakes up before Kureno returns, and notes that it’s the first time he’s left without permission. After ordering their attendants to find him, Akito takes a bath, and when their robe slips off in the mirror, it is finally officially confirmed that Akito is a woman. This had already been heavily implied, both in design, choice of seiyu (Sakamoto Maaya), and in other subtle ways. But that doesn’t lesson the impact of learning the truth explicitly.

Immediately upon Tooru learning Akito is a girl, the second season ends, having answered so many questions and yet left us with so many more about what’s to come. Will Tooru (and Rin, and other allies) succeed in her quest to lift the curse for all? Will she even continue the quest, knowing how much pain it will cause Akito to take her remaining Zodiac members away? Will Tooru ever allow herself to love someone more than her mother? Will Kureno and Arisa meet again? Will Akito escalate her grudge against Tooru?

Lots to ponder, for sure. And that’s even before we get into how we’re supposed to feel about Akito, who regardless of gender has been a pretty consistently selfish, cruel, dispicable character from the start. It goes without saying she’d have a tragic past of her own to match her myriad psychological issues, and while I can empathize, goddamn is it hard to sympathize, when weighing the suffering she’s caused the others.

For all of that food for thought, and yearning for the next season, and the expert direction and framing and pitch-perfect music throughout, I found this one of the best episodes of Fruits Basket yet, which at this point is saying something, and it will be very very hard to wait for what’s next.

P.S. Additional food for thought: the reason Akito cherishes Kureno so much is because he is there by his own free will, and not due to any binding curse, something I hadn’t considered until we learned he’s no longer a Zodiac member. Ultimately this is the way all her companions should be: there by choice and not force. Of course, she’d have to be much nicer to them…

Want to read more? Read Crow’s thoughts here.

Appare-Ranman! – 12 – Showdown at Stone Hill

Holed up in a ghost town chapel, Gil once again demonstrates how ridiculously EEEEEEvil he is by forcing two of his three hostages to shoot the other if they want to go free, then shooting the “winner” in the back anyway. That leaves Sofia as his only hostage, warning her he’s the only thing standing between her and his men making sport of her. Meanwhile, the cars are all repaired thanks to a sharing of resources and skills.

The race as it was has been postponed, and the rules have changed: the ten of them vow to go into Stone Hill, rescue Sofia and take Gil out come hell or high water, which means they’re all on the same team until that’s all been done. Kosame’s wound is still tender but he decides to join the others, but it won’t be easy: Gill has one hundred men in that ghost town.

Even so, there’s never any doubt that the numbers advantage would be irrelevant, especially with two of the Thousand Three as the vanguard. For some reason Gil has his hundred men scattered randomly throughout the town, or his numbers would have worked a little better for him. Instead, the Ten Braves split up into complementary pairs and fight smaller groups of Gil’s men. Chase is the first to reach the chapel after pretending to be shot dead.

Everyone else gets their chance to shine, although it’s clear Al Lyon is the worst of the fighters in both firepower and good judgment. He allows Gil’s one woman fighter to goad him into charging her and almost gets killed. Thankfully that leads to an absolutely badass martial arts contest between Xialian and Gil’s henchwoman, a bout that’s sharp, focused, and simply fantastic fun to watch.

Appare has to use his trump card (an electrified net gun) early and Kosame’s wound reoopens, but most of the henchmen are dealt with by the time Chase sends up a flare, indicating where the others should head. But when they hear gunshots, they fear the worst as Gil learns the ransom is fake. He ordered his men to “slaughter” the racers, and the fact they didn’t obey him makes him extremely cranky. Hopefully the climactic rematch will go a little better for the good guys!

The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED – 10 – The Hero Returns

With a powerless ASV suit, Daisuke is at a distinct disadvantage against a seasoned bodyguard in Frantz Weinski armed with a mini-railgun-like weapon. Then Daisuke spots Haru in the shadows and has him drop a shipping container about as close to Frantz as possible without crushing him. Even after Haru saves him and patches him up in the galley, Daisuke still thinks Haru should have killed the guy, but Haru is a civil servant, not a secret agent, i.e. no license to kill, even in international waters.

Suzue isn’t sleeping on the situation, as she launches an armada of drones at the ship. They’re all shot down by lasers, but out of their wreckage emerge even smaller drones, one of which makes it to Daisuke with a new earring. Now no longer blind or on his own, Daisuke has Suzue map out the route to the engine room, where the Allodium reactor itself is interfering with his ASV suit.

Daisuke is somewhat slowed by his wound, but he still insists Haru go topside to serve as a diversion while he goes to the engine room alone. This means Haru has to run around and attract the attention of Frantz and the guards but not let them get close enough to kill him. Ultimately Frantz sees what Haru is doing, then races to the engine room to give Daisuke the “lesson” Shigemaru paid him for.

Haru isn’t far behind, and he has his gun…he just can’t shoot it. Not until Daisuke, remembering what Hoshino said and all the adventures they’ve been on, tells Haru that his job is to “make justice happen!” A simple civil servant won’t do in this situation…a hero is what’s needed. Haru’s hand steadies and he shoots the right wire that interrupts the cooling system and shuts down the drive.

With the drive down, Daisuke’s ASV is back online, which means he can be the superhero and incapacitate Frantz with ease. Then the drive blows and the ship starts to sink, so Suzue sends a chopper to rescue them. Daisuke heads to the bridge first, and Haru follows him.

There they find his dad, who has nothing to say for himself. Rather than take care of “family business” his own way, Daisuke holds out handcuffs for Shigemaru to take. He may have tossed his badge earlier, but still he intends to make justice happen, not revenge.

Unfortunately, Shigemaru gives them the slip, using HEUSC to fire a laser at Daisuke and then escaping on a hoverbike. But rather than chase him, the two detectives first do their jobs, loading Frantz and the crew members onto the chopper and taking them back to shore.

Only when their captives are safe do Daisuke and Haru head back to the chopper. When Hoshion asks Haru where they’re headed, Haru tells him, with a smile and glint in his eye that the final boss still needs to be caught. Hoshino grins at that; thanks to Daisuke, the hero is back.

Fruits Basket – 49 – Wishing for Change

When Kakeru brings up ranger colors, Yuki surprises Machi by asking her what her favorite color is. No one has ever asked her that, and she doesn’t know anyway. She gets up to leave when Miki organizes a lunch meetup, but Yuki doesn’t let her slip away wordlessly, giving the cell phone-less Machi a written note of the time and place of the lunch.

Nobody ever paid any attention to Kuragi Machi. She passes through people and places as if she is invisible. She has no favorite color or preferred restaurant. She calls herself dull, a void, and a defective doll. Her apartment is a mess, because why bother keeping it clean if no one ever visits? She’s watched Yuki and how he’s changed, but can’t see if or how she can do the same.

Still, she took the simple maple leaf Yuki gave her and made it into a lovely bookmark, and possibly also a talisman; a reminder that change is not just possible, but necessary. Just as she’s wondering if her existence is necessary, Yuki answers that question by flagging her down; in her half-asleep stupor she happened to end up at the meeting spot for an even she had no intention of attending.

I’d been hoping for more Machi material, and this week we get lots. Despite her claims of dullness I find her a fascinating example of a non-Souma with Souma-like baggage, and thus an intriguing potential partner for Yuki, whom we’ve learned never had particularly romantic feelings for Tooru. Her problems are also an opportunity for Yuki to pay forward the progress he himself has made.

New Year’s is here, and there too are changes from last year. Yuki will be attending in addition to Shigure, so Tooru and Kyou will spend the holiday at Kazuma’s house, where Tooru is perhaps overly excited to learn that Isuzu is staying as well as she continues her recovery. Unfortunately Rin isn’t in the mood for Tooru’s exuberance.

Considering the line they independently drew between themselves, I’m not surprised Tooru and Kyou are fine with not spending New Years alone together—even though that delays the inevitable. That said, it’s still a hoot to watch them interact, with Tooru playfully hitting of Kyou with the pompom of her new scarf easily making the list of Top 10 Most Adorable Things Tooru Has Ever Done.

Meanwhile the banquet appears to be going off without a hitch. After Hatori performs a dance we sadly don’t get to see and Ayame entertains the others with his magnetic personality, Akito and Yuki seem on the cusp of a détente, with Akito deigning to forgive Yuki his past insolence now that he’s here.

But Yuki, as bold in front of Akito as we’ve ever seen him, deigns to forgive him as well, then goes on about how he’s done blaming others for his problems, and has resolved to be more aware of his flaws and areas in his life which he can improve. Yuki is essentially talking about change, which is anathema eternal Zodiac god like Akito.

Akito likes Yuki the way he is—or rather the way he thinks he is, which is in reality no longer the way he was. Yuki isn’t back because he was cowed or came to his senses or is admitting he was wrong; he’s back as a simple courtesy, which must feel patronizing to Akito. So Akito breaks a ceramic pot across Yuki’s face, and just like that, Yuki’s past and future absences from the banquet are handily justified.

It’s not a severe laceration—just a small cut on the scalp—but if anyone from Prince Yuki had seen their beloved Yuki’s beautiful face thus marred I’m not certain Akito would have made it out of the room in one piece! To Yuki, it was probably worth it to say something to Akito that in a perfect world all Zodiacs would be able to say to Akito: It is YOU who is a useless piece of shit who should just disappear. Mind you Yuki doesn’t actually say this; but it’s implied!

When Hatori cleans up the cut, Yuki also makes sure to apologize to him for blaming him for erasing the memories of his childhood friends. He now knows better, and that Hatori too was young and had to obey Akito. Hatori tells him, quite rightly, that there’s nothing to apologize for.

Tooru and Kyou actually end up alone together anyway, as Kazuma steps out and Rin has an early night. Hatsu stops by, but to be with Rin. Explaining Shisho’s mention of Kyou and Rin’s propensity to stare each other down as kids, Kyou tells Tooru that he felt like he stole Shisho from him, and so came to not like her.

As for Tooru’s New Year’s wish (which Kyou asks her for before he tells her his), while last year she wished for Kyou and Yuki to get along (and by their standards, they pretty much do now) this year her wish is arguably more ambitious: for the curse to be broken and happiness to come.

Against a Zodiac system that has endured for centuries without change, Tooru is wishing for change…for revolution. And by golly, if anyone can move the gods in the heavens to grant that wish, it’s Tooru. If they don’t, they can expect no quarter in the scarf pompom-thrashing to come!

Want to read more about episode 49? Check out Crow’s review here!

Appare-Ranman! – 11 – A Break in the Clouds

The Bad Brothers managed to survive having a train car derail on top of them, meaning they have the one working car with which to rush Kosame to the hospital. The bullet is removed and bleeding stopped; all that’s left is for him to wake up, but the doctor cannot say when or even if he will.

Appare simply cannot fathom why Kosame lunged in front of him to take the bullet; it defies all logic to him. But with Kosame possibly out of the picture, Appare also loses all will to fix his car or continue the race. Declaring himself useless, he wanders the town, unsure what to do.

Al knows what he must do: get his car fixed at all costs so he can rescue Sofia. Typical youthful hot-headedness; he does remember how Gil utterly owned everyone’s asses, right? No, it will take a plan, not mere passion, to defeat Gil. Also brakes. Gotta be able to stop your car!

Hototo stays by his savior’s bedside, while Dylan and TJ recount their rivalry over the heart of Claudia, which ended for TJ when she chose Dylan. It only takes a couple of stills to learn these two were once friends and partners in noble crime.

As clouds gather and rain starts to fall in sheets, Appare’s mask of numbness falls away, and he bawls like he’s never bawled before. The blood on his clothes washes away, and then Hototo locates him and tells him to come back to the hospital.

There, Appare finds Kosame with a cloth over his head…but then Kosame, who has woken up, blows the cloth off his face. The preview was a complete fake-out! I assumed the show wouldn’t go so far as to ax him permanently. While getting his ability to use his sword marked the end of a character arc for him, he I still want to see him return home to his family someday.

Thanks to modern medicine, he can. Kosame tells Appare that the new idea of blood transfusion defied Gil’s will to kill him. They’ll defy him again, but not alone. The drivers meet to discuss how dire the situation is, but the clouds part just as Appare returns, back to his old self.

He tells Al he’ll help him fix his car (including making him new brakes) and they’ll get across the Missouri no matter what. GM exec Seth Carter decides to deploy his mechanics to assist everyone, as teams don’t matter right now. This is about saving the hostages and foiling Gil’s attempts to stop the race—their race.

The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED – 09 – Old Tricks Are the Best Tricks

This episode begins encouragingly, with Haru and Daisuke in the same room together. Unfortunately, they’re soon separated again, as Daisuke refuses to return to the station and tosses his badge, telling Haru the case is a personal family matter he’ll be handling in his own way, i.e. ostensibly alone, but really with the help of Suzue and his bottomless purse.

Back at the station, the Second Division is on the job, even as the First Division now led by Hoshino takes Haru in for questioning. No doubt awakened by his old friends’ deaths, Kiyomizu shows his underlings that the dice Cho-san always had on him were in fact a nifty transmitter-receiver set, and Cho-san’s last act before being killed was planting the transmitter on Shigemaru. Natural Po-lice to the end.

After mostly goofing off for most of the show, it’s awesome to see the Second Division misfits pull off through pure pluck and resourcefulness what it costs Daisuke hundreds of millions of yen to achieve. Even deprived of official cars, under the pretense of “going out for lunch” they slip out one by one to the “kabob truck”, actually an old surveillance van with an antenna.

As the lanky Kamei contorts himself on the van’s roof to get the antenna into position, Saeki works her computer mojo to attain a clear enough signal to hear. It’s the boat-loving Yumoto who first recognizes a marine motor, and then they hear sweagulls and a huge steam whistle. That means in the 10km-range of the die, the Oura Wharf is the only place Shigemaru could be.

Haru isn’t able to participate in this awesomeness, but he tells Hoshino the whole truth and nothing but the truth, which Hoshino can’t really believe because he still resents Haru for washing out of the First Division. However, upon searching Takei’s desk, he find’s Haru’s letter of resignation from two years ago; after killing the bank robber’s accomplice he’d become unable to fire his weapon. Thanks to Takei, he remained a detective with the Second Division.

Daisuke’s much more expensive solo investigation bears fruit when Suzue finds Shigemaru’s car, but assumes it’s a trap…and it is. Upon entering the car to read a letter bearing his name Daisuke is hit by nerve gas; thankfully he was wearing a protective mask.

As Suzue tracks surveillance footage of Shigemaru, HEUSC starts painstakingly deleting all the camera data in the city. With their video trail suddenly dried up, Daisuke suggests they create their own surveillance network with the power of Balance: UNLIMITED.

As Haru and a newly convinced and contrite Hoshino head to the wharf, he gets a video message offering cash prizes to anyone who turns on their video camera and spins around in place. In addition to reminding be of the excellent Gatchaman:Crowds in clever hijacking of mass technology, it’s a wonderfully whimsical workaround.

But the fact is, it is almost totally unnecessary. Had Daisuke kept in touch with Haru and his police colleagues he would have learned the position of his father a little bit quicker and with none of the cost. Haru actually beats Daisuke aboard the huge cargo ship in the wharf where Shigemaru’s signal is located.

Hoshino is there to tell Daisuke Haru is aboard, much to Daisuke’s surprise. He also tells Daisuke about Haru’s past, and that while he’d “stopped being a hero” after the bank incident, thanks to Daisuke he seems to have gotten his spark back. Daisuke listens as he puts on a Black Panther-like nanotech suit Suzue calls an “Active Support Veil”, one of the highest-tech toys we’ve yet seen.

Plunging his apparently amphibious Bentley Continental into the sea, he catches up to the ship and stows aboard, using his suit as camouflage until he locates Frantz Weinski, bodyguard of an international arms dealer and apparent accomplice of his not-dead dad.

But while Daisuke gets the jump on Frantz, upon confronting his dad, who stares down at his son from the bridge, an “Allodium antenna” is activated that causes EMP-like burst, deactivating Daisuke’s suit and thus his tactical advantage. Frantz smashes his earring and Suzue loses all contact; I wonder if she’ll stay away or take a helicopter out to sea.

Before his phone is fried by the Allodium burst, Haru gets a text from Suzue asking him to look after Daisuke. Just like that, the two detectives are back together, having chased the same trail by very different means. I liken those differing means to two very different consecutive James Bond films.

In Die Another Day the spy tech reached its peak of goofiness with the cloaking device-equipped Aston Martin “Vanish” (a pun on the car’s real name, Vanquish). Casino Royale, on the other hand, was a return to basics, and Bond’s “toys” were similarly stripped down, until by Skyfall he had the same old DB5 with an ejector seat.

If Daisuke was Die Another Day Bond when he boarded the ship, now he’s just a well-dressed man with no tech at all. Haru is unable to immediately rescue him from Frantz because he still can’t fire his gun. But he’s there, and Shigemaru pointedly says his son is not to be killed. It’s a big ship, and if there’s a way to save his partner that doesn’t involve cloaking suits or revolvers, I’m confident Haru will find it.

Fruits Basket – 48 – Love is In the Air…and On the Stage

Just like that, it’s the day of the festival and the class play, totally reworked into something “Cinderella-ish”. After Kisa and Hiro arrive to join Momiji and Haruhatsu in the crowd, the first two-thirds of the episode is given over to the play…and it’s wonderful.

The scriptwriter did a masterful job rewriting the script to complement the cast, from making Tooru kind and meek stepsister to letting Saki just be “Sakirella”, regarded by the crowd as “sassy” and “a boss”. The crowd favorite is Yuki, who is resplendent as the Fairy Godmother—Ayame and Mine knocked it out of the park with the costumes.

By the time the big ball scene arrives, Saki is far more interested in Yakiniku than dancing with the prince (her first wish was to burn the castle down, but she settled for Yuki making her dresses for her stepsister and mother). As for Prince Kyou, the actor’s general reluctance to participate is used in the story, making the prince reluctant to find a princess despite his fellow prince (Arisa) helping him out.

Midnight comes, and Black Cinderella must flee, leaving a glass slipper behind and wishing she’d eaten more. At Arisa’s urging, Kyou visits every house in the kingdom until she comes to Cinderella’s house. Saki asks if he’s there to marry her sister (Tooru), which causes Kyou to explode. This works in the context of the play, but is another among many instances of reality seeping into the play.

When Saki launches into a dark monologue about the prince continuing to deceive himself and lock himself away in the castle forever, Tooru is compelled to speak out of turn, yelling “I don’t want….!” Of course, it’s not just her character who doesn’t want the prince to be lonely. This is Tooru expressing her objection to Kyou being locked away by Akito just for being the Cat…as well as her objection to Kyou being okay with it. Their dialogue’s close proximity to their real-life situation isn’t lost on either Tooru or Kyou.

After a deliciously feminist ending to the play (Cinderella doesn’t marry anyone and opens a yakiniku business with Tooru), the play is over, and Kyou couldn’t be happier…only to find that his Shisho is there, but Saki is flirting with him hard, using her sweetest demeanor and most dignified diction while around him.

Tooru meets up with Kisa, Hiro, Haru and Momiji, the last of whom capture the play on his camcorder. Tooru is glad for this, because it means Kureno will get to watch the DVD of Arisa. However, when Hiro lashes out at Haru (despite his efforts not to lose his temper), Kisa gets the wrong impression that Hiro likes Rin (Isuzu).

Released from his acting duties, Yuki checks in on the StuCo and is placed on patrol duty by an angrier-than-usual Nao. He overhears Machi being hassled by members of his fan club for her comments about Yuki not being a prince. He’s about to intervene, but Kanabe wisely restrains him; this is something Machi needs to work out for herself.

Eventually she does speak up for herself, first offering a curt apology when it is demanded, then elaborating on her read on Yuki, which is not only far deeper than the fans’ shallow infatuation, but also resonates with Yuki a great deal. She alone can tell that despite being around so many people, Yuki seems lonely. She can tell because she’s lonely too. Yuki blushes in the way a man blushes over a woman.

Kyou ends up joining Tooru with the others, but before they do, they share a quiet moment with each other, with that scene in the play still vivid in both their memories. But right at the edge of acknowledging their mutual feelings for one another, the two withdraw, neither allowing themselves to think about “it.”

If this were a one or two-cour romance, I’d say they were spinning their wheels, but Fruits Basket will continue for at least an entire third season and I’ve heard it could even extend into a fourth. So it’s so far so good with these two with two episodes left in the second season. I also continue to be intrigued with the Yuki-Machi connection, though I do hope they get to actually interact more down the road.

Check out Crow’s thoughts on the episode here!

Appare-Ranman! – 10 – Snakes on a Train

Their respite over, it’s time for the racers to get back to work, this time racing a train out of Nebraska with Big Boss hoping to prove the era of the automobile has come. Richard is Sofia’s companion aboard the train, and every moment they chat is skin-crawling, because we know Richard is Gil T. Cigar just waiting to strike like the snake he is, and Sofia has no idea, thinking she’s pegged “Richard” as too kind to stay in the race.

When the train baron calls Gil back to his ornate caboose to lecture him like an employee, Gil casually throws him and his chair out the side of the train before returning to the car and telling Sofia her prayer for a safe race won’t be answered. With that, his henchmen rise up from among the passengers and slither through the train, killing the crew and marshals, tossing bombs, and taking hostages.

Gil brings the train to a stop on the bridge over the Missouri River, then runs out to confront the racers he’s blocked. He runs towards them in a fake panic as “Richard”, but Dylan & Co. soon realize something’s not right. They’re too late, as Gil reveals who he is and produces Sofia’s hat, stained with blood, to indicate his cruel intentions.

Nobody, not even TJ and Dylan, can hang with Gil long in a fight. His demands are simple: he wants the 1.51 million in prize money for the winner of the race, and he’ll let the hostages on the train go. Chances are even if they get him the cash, more if not all of them will die anyway; we’re dealing with a butcher, after all. When Appare tries to voice his outrage at Gil’s villainy, Gil shoots him—but it’s Kosame who takes the bullet.

After trashing all of the cars, Gil and his crew take off on the train. Al chases after Sofia in vain. Xialian tries to stop the bleeding, and Appare tries to start his car, but both fail, and a very wan Kosame passes out after declaring proudly that he’s glad his buddy is okay.

You could scarcely ask for a more extreme shift in mood and stakes than from last week’s joyful rest episode to now, when Kosame may be dead, Sofia is a hostage, and the racers have nothing to drive. But like Kosame, I’ll put my faith in Appare: surely he can use parts of all the damaged cars to build something that can get them moving again.

The Millionaire Detective – Balance: UNLIMITED – 08 – Much Ado(llium) About Something

19 years ago Chou-san’s fruitless obsession with the Kambe Sayuri murder began. But Daisuke actually witnessed his father killing as a lad. Far from joining the force to protect the Kambe family and its interests, Daisuke is as eager for answers about the murder—and his fathers suicide—as Chou-san.

Haru, who has basically been swept up in all this by Chou-san and Daisuke, thus becomes a willing member of their re-investigation team. While he’s initially tasked with what appears to be busy work—poring through piles of family files, it’s clear Daisuke is counting on Haru’s detective’s instincts to find something.

Meanwhile, Chou-san is served weird rich people food while he conducts an interrogation of Takei in a secure location within the Kambe residence, offering Takei expensive whisky as no sake is available. Unfortunately, Takei seems too scared to say anything more than they learned with the VR machine.

Daisuke’s grandma similarly stonewalls his efforts to acquire any further information about his parents’ deaths and the “third laboratory” where they both worked and where the mysterious Adollium was researched—a lab now suspiciously missing from the Kambe org chart.

When Suzue tries to bypass an uncooperative HEUSC by basically scouring the internet for mentions of Kambe’s father and the lab, an informational page suddenly shoots a 404 error and the remaining search results are suddenly reduced to zero before her eyes.

She clandestinely informs Daisuke that not only is HEUSC refusing any questioning, it’s now actively working against them, using their own voices and body language to keep them one step behind. She does this by taking a very confused Daisuke by the hand, throwing him on the bed, and covering the two of them with the sheet.

When Haru sees them slightly disheveled, there’s a whole lot he could say considering Daisuke told him Suzue is related to him; but more importantly, he’s found a clue in a photo of Daisuke and his folks that indicates a mountain summer mansion was the location of the Third Lab.

Daisuke and Haru head to the lab, with the latter serving as a auto-missile-chucking diversion so the former can infiltrate the lab. It’s good to see the two working side by side on the same case again, even if Haru was left in the dark about the exact nature of the heavy pack on his back.

As Daisuke gains access to the lab, Suzue reports an intruder back at the residence, who is having success breaking her firewalls in order to gain access to Takei’s cell. Stranger still, the computer identifies the intruder as Kambe Shigemaru, Daisuke’s dad. When the power to her control center is knocked out, she heads off the intruder, only to be knocked out cold.

The intruder than enters the cell, but despite being given an emergency escape route, Chou-san has no intention of crawling to safety like a rat. After one last drink of expensive liquor, he takes out his handcuffs and prepares to confront the knife-wielding intruder head on, and Takei stands beside him. It doesn’t go well.

So, things are a bit clearer now: Daisuke’s dad never committed suicide, but his death (and dental records) were faked…perhaps so he could continue his work without further interference. His wife clearly expressed moral and ethical objections about that work, but they were ignored. It’s possible Shigemaru snapped when Sayuri left him, and he certainly remains snapped to be able to slash two detectives to ribbons.

That said, there must be a method to his madness. He could be behind HEUSC working against Daisuke and Suzue, and he clearly exhibited the faculties to infiltrate the highly secure residence and its network. Whatever the state of his mind (and, incidentally, his research), Haru blames Daisuke for not coming to the doomed detectives’ aid sooner.

That said, Daisuke did give Chou-san an out from the start, but he made his choice (as did Takei). Chou called the Kambe Sayuri case his “life”, but now the case has outlived him. Here’s hoping his and Takei’s sacrifice wasn’t in vain, and Daisuke and Haru will be able to complete Chou-san’s 19-year search for the truth…and for justice.

Fruits Basket – 47 – Nothing Like a Prince

Yuki continues to open up to Manabe, expounding on the evolution of his relationship to Tooru. First she was a wierd classmate who lived in a tent, then he saw he could use her to rebel against the Souma clan. At some point, he started to realize strong maternal vibes coming off of her as a result of her showering him with unconditional love and kindness.

It started when she told him to become friends with her again even if her memories were taken by Hatori. And Yuki panicked when he felt this way, and immediately tried to deny and suppress those feelings, even trying to interact with her more “like a man does a woman,” creating a love triangle with Kyou even though the two men weren’t seeking the same thing.

It’s the first time Yuki’s able to talk at all about this being about more than competing or not being able to “beat” Kyou for Tooru’s heart, but rather feeling something other than romantic attraction and being okay with her and Kyou as a couple; after all, he’s observed the two together and is pretty confident they love each other.

The one thing Yuki doesn’t want is to waste the kindness and warmth Tooru gave so freely. He wants to use it to move forward and discover his own “special purpose in life.” He’s buoyed by being able to discuss it so candidly with Kakeru—who he notes is also a kind (in his way) person to listen without judgment. However, Yuki wisely doesn’t discuss any of this with Todou Miki!

Yuki sees a day coming that he’ll be able to tell Tooru how he truly feels and about the purpose he’s found thanks to her love and support. Until then, he’ll keep watching over her, as he does right after casually confronting Kyou about the hat, which causes Kyou to withdraw into his room.

Before Yuki came home, Tooru and Kyou were having a flirt-fight in the entryway over his confiscating of her Cinderella script after she let Shigure know about it. Kyou still hasn’t committed to even participating in the play, and he certainly doesn’t want Shisho to know about it.

There’s also the matter of Tooru simply not being able to act like anything resembling an evil stepsister, as expected. She promises to work hard and even go without food in order to master the role, but it seems hopeless. With Ayame and Mine sure to provide some unique takes on Cinderella costumes and both Kyou and Saki also seeming miscast, the scriptwriter decides to scrap what she has and write a script that better fits the actors.

I’m all for that, and it’s great to see Ayame trying to support his brother in any way he can, once again making up for all the neglect Yuki suffered in the past, including from a then-indifferent big bro. It’s also fun watching Yuki’s classmates react to finally meeting his very different brother—while I’m sure Mine probably felt like she just struck gold upon meeting Saki and Arisa!

When Yuki goes off to look for Kyou for Tooru, he finds him sulking on the staircase. Kyou is going over what he said to Yuki when his hat was offered back to him. Remember: Kyou still considers Yuki not only a rival for Tooru’s heart, but the underdog, even if the truth is he’s running more or less unopposed.

As such, Kyou interprets Yuki bringing up the hat and the fact he gave it to Tooru to be another instance of looking down on him. When Yuki dares bring up Tooru (specifically why Kyou is making her worry by ditching rehearsal), all of Kyou’s insecurities come pouring out.

He lists all the ways he sees Yuki as better—having a living mom and dad, being needed and praised by others, surpassing him easily as he desperately struggles, etc. Had they ever deigned to open up to one another, Kyou would know all those things Yuki has “over” him are more curses than blessings. What I’d give for Kyou to watch last week’s episode and the first half of this one!

Instead, Kyou sees Yuki’s expression—one not of anger but of sadness, almost on the brink of tears—and sees it as yet another instance of looking down on him. So he punches a window and storms off. This results in another welcome interaction betweeen Yuki and Machi, as Machi contradicts her classmate saying he’s the least prince-like person she knows—again, because she knows Yuki’s pain.

Kyou finds Tooru sitting in the classroom after everyone else left, and his thoughts stray towards what she was thinking about before he arrived, when she was alone. When she excitedly presents Kyou with the revised script, I was fully prepared for him to dismiss it out of hand, or even slap it out of hers, like the old Kyou; like the Kyou who might’ve resurfaced after his rant to Yuki.

Instead, he draws ever so close to Tooru, and then agrees to do the play, warning her not to laugh at him! The two share blushing looks before heading home together. The now-explicit contrast between Yuki’s and Kyou’s feelings for Tooru paves the way for potential happiness for all three of them in the future. I’m also not discounting the potential for a relationship between Yuki and Machi—stranger things have and will happen!

Appare-Ranman! – 09 – Taking a Load Off

The car companies decide that despite the threat of Gil, the race will go on. The route to the next supply point is adjusted for the safety of the race staff. That means all of the racers have a day off, and this episode is all about how they spend that day, which means it’s all about Appare-Ranman’s colorful cast of characters.

This episode features a formidable number of character pairings and groupings, from Hototo an Dylan to Appare and former engineer Seth Carter to Hototo and the Bad Brothers. Appare spends much of the day lost in deep calculations about his hybrid drive, but everyone else basically kicks back.

We learn a lot of little details during this slice-of-life excursion: TJ and Al have a drinking contest, but Sofia easily drinks both of them under the table. Xialian and Kosame spar, and the former brings up how her father taught her kung fu to protect herself. Little things here and there that bring the ensemble cast to life.

Naturally there’s a fair amount of comedy in the episode, from the lost-in-thought Appare collecting objects until he’s riding on a donkey’s back in a barber’s smock with display pennants and a ragdoll hanging from him and his foot in a bucket.

The donkey eventually bucks him straight into a building occupied by one Thomas Edison. There’s even a hot springs session with the whole gang, and Kosame and Appare learn about American modesty the hard way. Sofia discusses Al with Xialian while the boys play an increasingly spirited game of jan-ken-pon.

It’s all a lot of fun despite the fact there’s no racing, and by sunrise the next day Appare’s hybrid system is in good working order, such that he deems the “real race” about to begin. But as Sofia boards the train that will follow the route of the race, she’s accompanied by Richard Riesman, whom we already know to be the real villainous Gil. No matter how much liquor Sofia can hold, that can’t be good!