Kotoura-san – 12 (Fin)

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Yuriko disbands the ESP Society, and starts a new one with the mission of having fun with Kotoura. Before going out for karaoke, Yuriko apologizes to her for using her. Kotoura realizes that Manabe has never directly said he loves her, and it weighs on her mind. She arrives home to find her mother there, and in the middle of dinner they have it out, and when her mom falls asleep she learns of her tremendous guilt ever since walking out on her. After seeking advice from Moritani and Muroto, on Christmas Eve while with Manabe, Kotoura casually declares her love. Genuinely unaware he’d never done so out loud, Manabe does the same.

Everyone at some point or another wishes they could read the minds of others, but like few other works on the subject, Kotoura-san proves such an ability carries its own set of pitfalls and complications, and makes life more difficult, not less. While telepathy is a supernatural power, this series stayed grounded in reality (aside from that stupid theme park), and was utterly dedicated to painting portraits of likable, sympathetic characters. The attacker arc having concluded last week, this episode had room to breathe and tie up all the loose ends that had accumulated, and ties them up brilliantly, one by one.

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First, Yuriko does what she believes is necessary by prostrating herself before Kotoura for the selfish agenda she pursued for most of the series. But from Kotoura’s POV, she’d already apologized every time she looked at her, and whatever Yuriko’s intentions, Kotoura made found a place where she could be herself thanks to her, so there was good in her bad. Moritani has a weight of her shoulders, and perhaps most surprising was that Kotoura’s mom showed up of her own accord, and Kotoura learned things about her mom reading her mind in one night that erased years of misconception about her. Their cathartic pillow fight and reconciliation is a highlight of the episode.

It would’ve been the highlight, but for the loosest end of the series, which was left until the end: the verbal confirmation of Kotoura and Manabe’s mutual love for each other, and the official start of their romantic relationship. We like Muroto’s quick but sage advice to simply let it slip out naturally and avoid overplanning, as planning breeds overthinking, and as he points out, Kotoura has a knack for self-destruction. We love the simplicity, warmth, and sweetness of their declaration. It was what we’d been waiting for. It was the perfect way to close the year’s top dark horse; a series we hadn’t even planned to watch this Fall, but were very glad we did.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Obervations:

  • Muroto may be wise, but not when it comes to himself, as he’s seemingly content to be Yuriko’s childhood friend. Yuriko needs to take a page from Moritani and Kotoura and take the initiative.
  • Kotoura’s mom is awesome this whole episode, winning us over at the last minute. There was a reason her face always looked so pained; she never forgave herself for what she did, even if she feigned indifference and scorn towards Kotoura for years.
  • Manabe’s thoughts precisely echo his words. This really is the guy for Kotoura.

Kotoura-san – 11

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Muroto takes the attacker’s blow for Yuriko and is knocked out. Moritani fights him but he easily dispatches her and flees. Kotoura blames herself for the entire incident and runs off. Moritani confesses to Manabe, but is turned down. Kotoura ends up in the park where she talked with Tsukino, whom she bumps into again. She invites Kotoura to her house to patch up her scraped knee, have dinner, and spend the night, but turns out to be the attacker. Muroto wakes up and connects the dots, and directs Manabe to Tsukino’s apartment building, where he arrives just in time. Kotoura talks Tsukino down, and Tsukino turns herself in to police.

Sometimes penultimate episodes leave you hanging for the finale, while others, like this one, resolved a lot, allowing the finale to breathe. We have to say, we like the latter as many anime series, particularly one-cour ones, feel compelled to wait until the bitter end, and so the endings feel rushed. Not here. This episode does a superb job balancing the plot resolution requirements, but ditches the pervert humor altogether and doesn’t for a second forget about any of the characters. Everyone gets great scenes, big moments, and grows in this episode. Balancing all that isn’t an easy feat, but this episode made it look easy.

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First, we like the simplicity of Moritani’s confession and the swift rejection by Manabe. Better to tie up loose ends early. Moritani doesn’t seem bothered until Manabe leaves, and then she starts bawling. Hey, rejection hurts, no matter how strong you are. But before he leaves, she segues immediately to how much she loves Manabe and Kotoura as a couple, how they seem right for one another, about how she worried when they got in a fight. Moritani has come a long way from bullying and putting out hits on people.

Then there’s the relationship between Mifune and Muroto. Since Mifune was young and bullied for being the spawn of a “liar”, Muroto has stood by her side and taken licks for her, and this week is no different. Daichi may be a little guy, but he has a huge, stout heart. He’s the Manabe to Yuriko’s Kotoura: he ain’t leaving her side. Ironically, it seems while Manabe remembers a particularly mean insult he threw at Moritani ages ago, he seems to have forgotten the promise he made her in the first place, though it seems to be a case more of absent-mindedness than malice.

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Finally, we come to Tsukino. When we saw the hair and the martial arts moves, we first though – wait – Manabe is the attacker?! But…he, or we should say she, was too tall to be him. Ever since we met her there have been subtle hints that there may be something off about her, and this week finally drops the hammer. A childhood of abuse by her peers caused her to develop a split personality: the kind ditz Kotoura can read the mind of, and a brutal cad who attacks people to blow off steam. Kotoura reminds her of her – someone different from the others (in this case, she’s huge) – only the fact Kotoura has friends irks her to no end.

Even she isn’t a merely mindless, cackling villain: she stops her attack, listens to reason, and decides to face the consequences of what she’s done. And after all those thoughts of wanting to not exist, when she’s finally facing the potential end of her existence, Kotoura learns she doesn’t want to die. Yes, she was lucky she was still sane enough to listen to reason, and very lucky Manabe somehow ended up finding them (does he have Kotouradar or something?), but as we’ve said, we don’t mind tidy endings as long as they’re well-executed and entertaining. This was that and more.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kotoura-san – 10

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Moritani is arrested under suspicion of being the perpetrator of the random attacks. The rest of the ESP Society visit her at the police station, and Kotoura gets through to the investigators, but they won’t accept her help. Yuriko and Kotoura decide to try to catch the criminal on their own to free Moritani. Muroto stands by Yuriko, but Manabe is staunchly against it. He and Kotoura get in a fight and he storms off, and another attack occurs that exonerates Moritani, who is released. Still wanting to redeem her mother, Yuriko decides to use herself as bait to lure the criminal, and succeeds…

As normal as Kotoura has been acting lately, she still believes she is somehow a bad person who doesn’t deserve the friends and love she’s gained thus far. This has been ingrained in her both by her parents and by everyone she’s accidentally hurt with her ability. It’s every bit as much about her inability to discern which thoughts to outwardly respond to and which not to that has gotten her into trouble so many times. And indeed, she is unable to have a conventional relationship with a boy simply because she cannot help but read his dirty, adolescent mind. It’s usually played for laughs, but its also somewhat tragic.

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Because she feels she doesn’t deserve friends, she decides to do whatever she can to help Moritani, even if she gets hurt in the process. Manabe is reliably protective of her, and with damn good reason: Kotoura’s gift of telepathy is rivaled only to her gift for self-destruction. Just because she can help doesn’t mean she needs to; that’s what police are for. But Kotoura’s guilt for having what she believes she doesn’t deserve, combined with her knowledge of Yuriko’s mother issues (we learn she was present when she hung herself…rough), compels Kotoura to act, regardless of the danger she puts herself in.

Manabe, to his credit, does not bend; he wants no part of Yuriko’s vigilante plan, and…he isn’t. He disappears for the rest of the episode and he and Kotoura don’t speak. Not long after their first date, it’s their first fight…which isn’t resolved by episode’s end. In fact, nothing is; we unfortunately get another cliffhanger with Yuriko about to be truncheoned in the head by the attacker. Though we’re pretty sure this series isn’t going to kill one of the main characters, and we’re almost positive Manabe won’t go back on his promise to stay by Kotoura’s side. For one thing, her gramps would put out a hit on him…


Rating: 9 (Superior)

P.S. Sorry for  the long review, but this episode was packed. We had to mention the Yuriko/Daichi relationship, how he always stays by her side (out of pity, obligation, loyalty, love, or a combination of these, we don’t know) no matter what, and a really nice close up of his hand taking hers, and her trembling stopping. These two clearly mean a lot to each other, even if they’re not remotely romantic.

P.S.S. We enjoyed Kotoura’s scenes with the old detective (though his secret thoughts were awfully stereotypical homicide detective) and Tsukino (who is a bit of a blunt airhead), and how she’s saddened by the fact Tsukino has no friends.

Kotoura-san – 09

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Kotoura recovers after passing out after having read the mind of a criminal who is killing high school girls, including one who attended their school. She’s scared and lets Manabe spend the night, but Moritani intervenes. The detectives on the case question the ESP society, but they know they wouldn’t believe Kotoura if she said she was psychic. Rumors spread around school that she knows who the killer is but is withholding the information to save her own skin. Her grandfather invites the society to a fancy dinner where they cross paths with Kotoura’s mother. She tells her she’s made friends and is doing well. Moritani is in an alley with a dead student, with blood on her hands.

This was a dense and nicely-layered episode, blending comedy and serious drama like a harmonious marble pound cake (that’s good). There’s a lot going on, and a lot to like, starting with Kotoura feeling she can trust and rely on Manabe at a time when she doesn’t want to be alone (and more to the point, shouldn’t be); unfortunately, a meddling Moritani foils their plans to stay together for the night. No matter how unlikely, if the serial killer is telepathic like Kotoura, she’s in just as much danger as his/her random victims. We were a little shocked at the cavalier-ness with which the rumors about the murders spread; everyone seems a bit to giddy about all this, but then we remember, these are high schoolers, many of whom are horrible, half-formed human beings who feed off the pain and misery of others.

It was also nice to show the pressure Kotoura is under while rumors about her spread (again, thanks to Moritani). But in both this situation and later when she bumps into her mother and freezes, she realizes that she’s not alone; her friends, in particular Manabe, have her back; literally, in the case of the restaurant encounter. It’s a nicely-choreographed scene in which she retreats backwards at her mother’s harsh words, but is “caught” by Manabe and Yuriko. We also continue to like how while her mother is still a total bitch, she’s not totally inhuman, and even steps up to defend her daughter when Manabe gets a bit too rowdy. As for the post-credits scene with Moritani in that alley with a body…well, frankly we knew she was no good the moment she ordered a hit on Manabe.


Rating: 8 (Great)

P.S. A hasty Yuriko believing Kotoura’s gramps will take them out to a fancy restaurant leads to a pretty awesomely hilarious visual when gramps initially them to a hole-in-the-wall, when she Manabe and Muroto are dressed for the prom. (she also rocks twin tails, a definite highlight of the episode XD).

Kotoura-san – 08

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Kotoura comes down with a  fever, and Manabe takes it upon himself to nurse her back to health. He discovers she can’t read his mind due to her cold, so he’s able to carry on with his fantasies without rousing her ire or embarrassment. When she returns to school she learns the truth, and to make it up to her, Mifune orders Manabe to take her out on a date. They enjoy themselves thoroughly, but at the end, her psychic ability suddenly returns in force, knocking her unconscious.

Well, it happens under some rather unusual circumstances…and under orders, but it finally happened: Manabe and Kotoura go on their first date. And pretty much everything about it is frikkin’ adorable: their surface insistence that it’s not really a date (sorry kiddos; it counts!), their reaction to everyone around them commenting on how first-datey they’re both acting; their little conflict when Manabe goes too far in the clothing store; their quick reconciliation; Kotoura’s little locket. It’s absolute bliss. Early in this date, they’re both extremely nervous, but as it progresses, they loosen up and revel in the fun they’re having.

Neither comes right out and admits they’re dating, but they don’t really need to. Prior to the date, when Manabe takes care of her, it really underlines how much tough he has it, not being able to have any private dirty thoughts about the girl he likes – a luxury all men not dating telepaths take for granted. We also saw that Mifune’s mission is still foremost on her mind: the whole point of the date is to stimulate Kotoura into regaining her psychic ability so she can use her later. And the ploy works, just in time to crash the cute, happy ending. Poor Kotoura-san…can’t even live one measly day as a normal girl unburdened by omniscience.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Kotoura-san – 07

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Kotoura & Co. wrap up their summer trip with a dinner, and Moritani makes food that makes her and Manabe hallucinate all night long. The Head Priest informs Kotoura that her mother Fumiko stopped by, but wouldn’t meet with her; Kotoura isn’t bothered, and she and her friends return home. Kotoura calls Manabe every day but gets no response, and is hiding his thoughts from her, so Mifune suggests they follow him to determine what he’s up to. After much hand-wringing, Kotoura finally learns that his secret was to set up a surprise party for her birthday that he learned from her uncle, while he worked a summer job to afford a gift for her.

The food trip is in our opinion a rare example of an underutilized anime trope, and the food trip this episode opens with is a doozy. Manabe and Moritani are whacked out of their gourds, and all their inhibitions melt away. They took the concept of Moritani being bad at cooking and wasn’t subtle about it, which we appreciate. After all, this show started with an extremely powerful (and equally un-subtle) story of Kotoura’s trauma prior to making friends. We also like her mature attitude towards her mother’s no-show; the show could have made the mom more of a villain, but there’s this mutual understanding that their relationship is just too intractable, and they’re better off going their separate ways.

While Kotoura has shown incredible growth, Manabe’s extended absense has her falling into old habits, remembering the cold words of her mother in a nightmare, telling her she shouldn’t have been born to this world (which I’m sorry, that’s just child abuse). But after hanging with Mifune and Moritani, she decides to trust Manabe, and when school resumes, he really does a solid, throwing a suprise party, just when Kotoura needed to know he cared, and then some. If this very loving and lovely gesture by Manabe doesn’t convince her he’ll never leave her side, we don’t know what will. Kotoura’s pervy uncle is geting really fucking annoying, but this episode’s ending was so nice and uplifting, we decided to be generous in our rating.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Kotoura-san – 06

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Kotoura invites Manabe, Mifune, Kuroto and Moritani to her family home for summer vacation. Upon arriving in the town they are escorted via limousine to an abandoned hospital, within which is “Kotouraland”, a theme park her grandfather built. The next day they relax on the Kotoura private beach, and Manabe saves Kotoura from the ocean current, and finally gets to eat one of her homemade lunches. They end the night with fireworks, and Kotoura thanks everyone for coming. Her mother watches from the distance.

This very special episode of Kotoura-san was an in-depth investigation of the tremendous disparity between the super-rich and the middle class of Japan. Kotoura’s grandfather possesses seemingly infinite wealth, and it’s left up to our imaginations exactly how that wealth was amassed. Regardless, his creeper factor is bumped up a couple of notches by wanting to involve himself in every aspect of these kids’ summer vacation, including dropping them off at a spooky run-down building then revealing he meticulously designed and built a bizarre theme park featuring mascot versions of Kotoura and her friends. It’s all…a bit much.

While this episode doesn’t go as far as Sket Dance did in illustrating just how filthy rich the Unyuu family is, it still goes pretty far. In our opinion, all the opulence and all of Gramps’s ludicrously excessive gestures only harm what is at its core a lightweight but pleasant portrayal of Kotoura’s first summer vacation spent with actual friends and not alone. But her nightmare shows that Kotoura is still not quite over her past traumas. The appearance of her mother, an ice cold bitch who told her daughter she wish she hadn’t given birth to her, is not a good sign, unless of course she’s there to reconcile with said daughter. Judging from her expression, we’d think not…


Rating: 6 (Good)

Kotoura-san – 05

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Kotoura returns to school. Moritani is nice to her and she joins the ESP Society, using her Moritani Fighting Style to snuff out candles as proof of “psychokinesis”. They have a sleepover party at Kotoura’s new apartment, and when Kotoura falls off the bed and onto Manabe, Yuriko snaps a pic. Manabe gives Kotoura an embarrassing picture of a young Mori to keep her cheered up, even after she falls while in a class relay that she practiced hard for.

Now that she’s at peace with her main rival, Kotoura slips back into the ideal of a high school girl’s life: friends, joking around, club activities, parties, sleepovers, and, eventually, being cheered on by her entire class on field day. This sounds utterly mundane, but not when you consider the hell Kotoura has been through. We are also still scratching our heads over how Moritani didn’t really face any serious consequences for putting a hit out on Manabe, aside from her own guilt.

After a few very emotionally heavy episodes, this one is a bit on cruise control, with very little in the way of new conflict, aside from Kotoura coming to grips with her feelings for Manabe. But what it has in spades is peppy comedy. The ESP society all know each other well enough to riff off one anothers’ qualities, and they do so consistently, though never with ill intent. Kotoura continues to show patience with Manabe’s perverse daydreams because she can tell at his core he’s a good person.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Kotoura-san – 04

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Manabe, Mifune, and Muroto set out to find Kotoura, starting at a town where train station cameras caught her. The three spend the night at a temple whose head monk knows Kotoura, and directs them to her house in town. After chasing her around the house, they finally catch her, but she doesn’t want to go back for fear she’ll hurt one of them again. Moritani arrives outside Kotoura’s house to apologize and convince her to come back to school. She agrees, and life returns to normal, only “a little better”.

Kotoura’s ESP bestows her with a bit of arrogance, as if reading the random thoughts of people is enough to know what kind of people they are. Having heard Moritani (who became an emotional wreck) and Manabe (who was beaten up), she decided unilaterally to cut ties with them all and disappear, believing it was all her fault. But what she needed to realize is that it’s not just her fault, or her choice. Her friends get to have a say in whether they shoulder the risk of being friends with her. Manabe made a promise to stay by her side, and that’s what he’s going to do, and rather than continue as an adversary, Moritani wants peace.

While we could have done without the perverted grandfather (seriously dude…WTF), he was the only unsightly blemish on a very nice episode in which Kotoura’s friends – and her rival Moritani – take the initiative in preventing her from retreating back into her shell of loneliness  They don’t want her to settle for that life, they want to share theirs with her, and whatever bumps in the road might come, they’ll face them together. As for Moritani, she should thank her lucky stars Manabe isn’t pressing charges, cause she was totes an accessory to assault!


Rating: 8 (Great)

Kotoura-san – 03

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Kotoura and the ESP society go to Karaoke, her first time. Yuriko thinks Kotoura should tell Manabe how she feels, or at least start making his lunch. A bitter, enraged Moritani tells her dojo members to “rough up” Manabe, telling them he’s a stalker. He misses school and is in the hospital. Kotoura knows Moritani’s responsible, but doesn’t snitch. She rushes to the hospital, and hears Manabe thinking he’s glad she wasn’t with him when the beating happened. Afraid of hurting him more, she leaves school and moves out of her apartment.

This show keeps getting better. Sure, there’s the familiar fact that Kotoura knows Manabe likes her, but he doesn’t know she knows, so the balls in her court and…well, she doesn’t play ball. She doesn’t sing either, and is (refreshingly!) tone-deaf even when she gains her confidence. Manabe remains extremely into Kotoura (his high jump reaction is frikkin’ awesome), to the extent he’d rather take a beating for her than let her experience any more pain that she already has up to this point. The show does a great job building up the tension, and it’s not immediately clear who’ll come afoul of the dojo-mates. And though they never show him fighting, Manabe also gives almost as good as he got, despite being outnumbered.

But it’s Manabe. We thought when she first got the new of Manabe’s beating she’d think it was because she is the curse so many people told her she was, but she doesn’t, because Moritani makes it clear (in her thoughts) that she ordered the heavys to rough him up (though we can’t blame them, they thought they were protecting Moritani). But once Kotoura is in the hospital, peeking in at a battered Manabe, thinking about how he doesn’t mind getting hurt for her sake, she chokes, and decides to run (though, obviously, not for good). What she has yet to learn is that part of letting people get close to you is accepting that sometimes they’ll get hurt, and so will you. It’s not her fault, nor anyone else’s. It’s just life.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kotoura-san – 02

Kotoura and Manabe are recruited into the ESP Society by upperclassman Mifune Yuriko and meet its president, Muroto Daichi. Mifune, daughter of a clairvoyant who committed suicide after beoming hated and feared wants to scientifically prove the existence ESP to mankind and protect psychics from their prejudices. Manabe constantly spending time with Kotoura irks Moritani Hiyori, who likes him, so she and her friends start bullying her as payback. Mifune hears of this an informs Manabe, who confronts Hiyori, chastizes her, and admits he likes Kotoura.

Just because Kotoura’s made one, two even three friends up to this point (or one friend and two senpai), things aren’t getting any easier for her, or anyone else with ESP who lives amongst the normals. We meet the rest of the core cast, which includes Hanazawa Kana as Mifune, doing a normal voice. We could see her doing Kotoura with her shy-mode, but she makes a good senpai too, and in any case, after her nicely layered performance as Yui in Kokoro Connect, we have every confidence in Kanemoto Hisako. (As for Daichi, it’s good to see midget representation this season!). Mifune may not have ESP like Kotoura, but her mother did, and it was literally the death of her. Mifune may have a selfish reason for wanting to enlist Kotoura, but it’s an honorable one; trying to clear her mom’s name, and Kotoura stands to gain from the situation too.

As for Moritani, she and her goons are tremendously nasty bitches this week, transmitting so many awful thoughts to Kotoura that the poor thing barfs, making her even more an object of derision and mockery. She’s so used to it, she doesn’t make a peep about it to Manabe, which is where Mifune comes in. Proving her worth, she makes up for putting Kotoura in that position in the first place by making sure Manabe hears about the bullying, and when he brings the hammer down on Moritani – confessing to liking Kotoura for good measure – it’s very satisfying. Manabe may not be psychic, but he’s no fool; he knows there’s no way the bullying wasn’t hurting Kotoura, and wasn’t going to let those responsible get away with it.

That said, both the OP and ED suggest that Moritani won’t remain so vicious, and while her actions this week are inexcusable, they don’t come out of nowhere (another example of characters’ actions having clear origins). She too knows loneliness (though not nearly to Kotoura’s extent), and Manabe was one of the few guys who wasn’t offput by her family running a dojo. Now he’s preoccupied with Kotoura, and she can’t help but feel like she stole him…even if she never officially had him to begin with. In any case, we hope Kotoura has an episode down the road where she doesn’t have to suffer so terribly…though considering all she’s been through, the fact she’s kept on living is proof she’s far tougher than she looks.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Kotoura-san – 01

Kotoura Haruka was born with ESP, allowing her to read minds. But as she always blurted out what others were thinking, she became and object of loathing and inadvertently pushed away both her parents and everyone who ever met her. In the present she lives alone and transferred to a new school, but doesn’t escape the backlash of her powers. However, the boy seated next to her in class, Manabe Yoshihisa, reaches out to her, impressed that she can read minds. Haruka warns him to stay away or be hurt, but he rejects her notions and declares them friends.

We really liked this. The premise of this show is exceedingly easy to lay out: Girl who has struggled with her telepathy all her life finally meets someone who wants to be her friend anyway. And yet, we were surprised how deeply this show delved into her past turmoil, and how affecting it was. Like Muv-Luv did with Yui, this series wastes no time establishing just how fucked-up and horrible of a life Kotoura has had to endure thus far. The prologue gradually gets darker and darker (visually and dramatically) as Kotoura grows up and starts destroying everything around her, simply by being honest with people. It’s hard to watch, and we don’t mean that it a bad way – despite her utter lack of tact (she’s a kid, what do you want?), you can’t help but sympathize with her. Her telepathy is a curse, while everyone around her thinks she’s a monster.

Would her parents really so callously abandon her? Would absolutely everyone she meets up to high school (with the exception of her kindly grandfather) really find her so repellent  For the purposes of this series, yes and yes. The end of this episode marks the first bright spot in her life, like, ever, when someone, Manabe, finally reaches outto her. When she reads his mind, sometimes it’s dirty, but it’s never mean like everyone else. Her insistence that she stay away is well-grounded in what we’ve seen; she may not mean to do it, but she has ruined lives. At this point, she’s given up ever connecting with anyone, because she’s afraid she’ll just push them away and hurt them. But even before she uses her power to save Manabe’s life, he doesn’t consider her a monster or a curse. He considers her a new friend. We may have just found our dark horse of the Winter!


Rating: 8 (Great)