Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 12 (Fin)

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Edogawa Jou and Arahabaki execute a plan to summon Kuzuryuu to further her plans for world conquest. Tamamo-no-Mae uses Kagami’s natural counter to defeat her, a barrier is cast upon the island, locking out Tsurugi and her brother, and Jou drugs Tama and “eats” her. Tamamo-no-Mae appears before Tama as a golem, and through Tama implores Sasami to save innocent lives by swearing to become Arahabaki’s priestess and earthly liason in the new world they’ll create.

Sasami is only stalling for time, as she has placed her entire house within Tama and is therefore within the island’s barrier. Kagami reveals she hid herself within Tamamo’s golem. She defeats her and undoes the damage done to the island, and Sasami and her house materialize. Tsurugi’s brother stops by to defeat Kuzuryuu as he tries to escape, and Jou and Sasami are thrown into the sea. They wash up on the shore and Sasami declares them friends, at least until the day Jou kills her.

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At long last, here is our review for the final Winter finale, for a series that we’ve had trouble at times following along with due to all of the references to Japanese mythology, overt or otherwise, but this was a great episode that accomplished a lot more than we expected it to. It went in the not unpredictable direction of making Edogawa Jou a legitimate threat, while maintaining her new-found humanity, and therefore, our connection with her, right till the end. As opposed to being a random, one-dimensional evil threat, she is redeemed…mostly.

In one of her best moments, she confesses to Sasami she was a little scared of succeeding, because conquering the world would make her alone and unable to live as a normal human. Sasami’s desire to simply exist in the world she was born in, without any desire to lord over it, or any obligation to protect it; her desire to sleep in all day and goof off on the internet; her desire to make friends and share experiences – this desire is contagious. Her influence brought the Yagami sisters “down to earth”, so to speak, and it works for her would-be nemesis, too.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Stray Observations:

  • We liked how the scene in which Tamamo-no-Mae corners Tama as a Golem was done in a 16-bit JRPG style. She was a boss, after all.
  • We weren’t sure who Tsurugi’s bro was supposed to be…but we probably would if we knew our Japanese gods and goddesses. In any case, his homing death beam is a nice piece of kit.
  • Two aesthetic choices reminded us of Evangelion: first is Edogawa’s arm puffing up and then popping off; second is the scene where she and Sasami wash up on the shore, much like Shinji and Asuka in that famous final shot of EoE.
  • A very nice touch with the ED: after a whole season of chatting, goofing-off and tone-deafness, the song is finally sung properly and in full. It’s actually quite a pretty song, and it was great to finally hear the whole thing! You can listen here.

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 11

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Still on their class trip, Sasami (using Tama) tries to become closer friends with Edogawa Jou, who believes she has ulterior motives. As they spend more time together, Kagami grows depressed. On the night of the summer festival, she storms off, and Sasami chases her. Kagami believes she’s broken because she isn’t happy about Sasami being friends with Jou, but Sasami assures her its a very human way to act. Switching to Tsurugi’s body, Sasami enjoys the fireworks with her brother on the beach.

This was a quiet, pleasant little episode before the finale in which Sasami continues her use of Tama to experience more of normal high school girl existence, which includes class trips. Ironically, while she’s striving for an ordinary life free of the burdens of her previous station as vessel of Amaterasu’s power, the friends she’s made thus far are anything but normal. Kagami is still coming to grips with what being a friend means (as opposed to just a “practice doll”), while Edogawa Jou sees everyone as either enemies or servants (and to her, a lover goes in the latter category).

Frankly, it’s okay that Kagami and Jou are so weird. We also like how being with Sasami has made Kagami so much more human, as she expresses jealousy and lonliness. Kagami has grown quite a bit right along with Sasami. Jou seems far denser, as everything has a meaning other than its simplest interpretation to her, but we enjoyed hearing her less-aloof servants (not friends of course!) Foxie and Babysitter try to steer her right, even if they don’t always succeed. She may consider herself Sasami’s arch-nemesis (and she may yet prove why in the finale), but for now, Sasami (and Tama) are fine with being her friend too.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • We liked how Sasami’s trip was documented via strange postcards that her mom and Micchan recieve.
  • Edogawa doesn’t have a dick anymore. Good for her!

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 10

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Sasami finds out Edogawa Jou has a penis. Edogawa invites her entire class to a hot spring retreat at the Kuzuryuu (nine-headed dragon) Shrine. Sasami gets the flu and can’t go, so she disguises Tama as herself and shares all of her senses on the trip. On many occasions she helps Edogawa out, but Edogawa tells her they can never be friends because one day she’ll kill her.

Of all the series we’re currently watching, we’re just going to come out and say this may be the toughest to review. That’s not because it’s bad – most of the time it’s ver,y very good – but because it has such a unique style and intricate, esoteric presentation. Everything and everyone exists more for its own sake, but also represents some part of Japan’s rich mythology. But this week things are a bit simpler: Sasami is trying to make a friend. Ever since Edogawa Jou expressed her desire to be friends with Sasami last week, it’s been on.

Regardless of Jou’s true motives, and no matter how haughty or conceited or condescending she acts, Sasami wants to be her friend, feeding of that first encounter. She doesn’t even let the flu stop her, and uses Tama as her instrument to forge a friendship with Jou through kind deeds…and keeping her penile secret. Jou, the consummate tsundere, reject’s Sasami’s outstretched hand, mindful of her mission as her sworn enemy, but charmed nevertheless. Oh yeah, and Tsurugi sexually harassed pretty much everyone. She belongs behind bars.


Rating: 7 
(Very Good)

P.S. The “tele-divine channel” Sasami uses to stay in contact with Tama and the Yagami sisters is pretty nifty concept, combining divine powers with modern social media.

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 09

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The present Sasami, who inhabits Juju, is about to be squeezed to death by the killing stone golem, when she’s transported back to when she’s just a young girl. Tsurugi and Juju are waiting for her, and they begin traveling to the past, where mother and daughter work out their various regrets. When Sasami declares with conviction she no longer wants to be a shrine maiden, Juju accepts it. With no more regret, they return to the golem fight and with Micchan’s help, defeat it. Back in the present, Juju emerges from the obese Sasami, and Tsurugi is relieved of Amaterasu’s power. Student council president and evil occult society Arahabaki’s leader, Edogawa Jou, aims to steal the residual power from Sasami and rule the world with it.

When your opponent draws its power from regrets you have about the past, but you’re able to travel through time with the help of Tsurugi, well, it’s time to start time-traveling! It’s also an opportunity to bury the hatchet with her mother Juju, and exchange fresh insights about each other. Each time they bounce to also educates us. When Sasami and Kamiomi first flee the shrine, she still feels immensely guilty, but her brother’s ridiculous behavior kept her spirits up. When her mom tore up a picture Sasami drew, she was trying to toughen her, but still taped it back together and framed it. And we can’t help but admire Juju’s very direct manner of confessing to the guy she loves: by chasing him through the forest as if they were at battle. And lastly, Juju accepting Sasami’s choice once she realizes it was made with conviction, not on a whim.

On the tour of her and Sasami’s past, Juju comes to realize that no matter how hard she tried to prepare her daughter, she died too soon, and Sasami wasn’t ready for the weight placed upon her. She initially chalked up Sasami’s un-motivation to being spoiled rotten, but Sasami makes this more about just her and the normal life she wants. She thinks its time to give the power back to the gods and have faith that they’ll learn and adapt and be able to manage things without human intervention. It’s a plan that’s not without risk, but Tsurugi is willing to give it a try. Only immediately after Sasami’s problem is solved, a new one shows up: Arahabaki are just the kind of people Juju feared would wreak havoc if left unchecked. Sasami’s made her bed; now she has to lie in it.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 08

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Having grown incredibly corpulent as a result of an alteration by the myriad gods, Sasami seals herself in an Ama-no-Iwato (heavenly rock cave). Kamiomi, Kagami, and Tama attempt to penetrate it to see what’s eating her, but she deflects them with a barrage of weaponry. Tsurugi returns from Yomi by using the Ame-no-Murakumo, and sends Sasami into the past. In this time, Sasami witnesses her mother fight for a better world to pass on to her, while she goofs off downtown and contracts an illness that turns out to be possession by Tamamo-no-Mae ( a nine-tailed fox), who attacks her mother with a sessho-seki (killing stone golem) and is aware of the preent-day Sasami’s presence.

We’re almost embarrassed to note that most of our knowledge of Japanese mythology is coming from this series as we watch it, so we have no idea how faithfully they’re portraying it. Our gross ignorance aside, we greatly enjoyed this episode, in which Sasami is the victim of an alteration rather than the lucky recipient, has her barrier besieged by her brother and the Yagami sisters, and is sent to the past by Tsurugi to resolve it. We thought we’d seen the last of her mother Juju-sama after her defeat last week, but she returns here in her prime, as a woman torn between being a dutiful shrine maiden and a loving, caring mother. She cannot be both, but she still tries.

Seeing her mom in this time, still alive and non-evil, working so hard to make the world a better place for her, Sasami can’t help but feel guilt for what she amounted to. She sees what she did – casting away her duty as her mother’s relief – as a betrayal, and she doesn’t feel great about it. But at the same time, her mother longed to be the normal human mother Sasami wanted her to be. This week we’re also introduced to Micchan, a girl who has been spirited away and forgotten her name and family (she’s even dressed kinda like Chihiro!), who feels she and Sasami are both insecure by the superior capability and excellence around them. And as we know, Sasami ultimately gave up.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 07

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With Tsurugi trapped in the underworld, Tama tends to an injured Kagami. Back at the ruins of the Tsukuyomi complex, Sasami’s mother gives her drugged daughter one last chance to return to being a Tsukuyomi princess. Sasami refuses, so her mother drugs her further to make her little more than a tool to impregnate with a Tsukuyomi priest she’s procured, in order to bear a new princess to fulfill her duty. Kagami gains consciousness long enough to heave Tsurugi’s devine sword all the way to Kamiomi, who uses it to escape from the mother’s captivity and free Sasami. The mother confronts them, but Tama arrives and take several bites out of her. A portal to the underworld opens, and Tsurugi drags Sasami’s mom in with her.

Once again this episode does a superb job subverting all of our expectations. What were we expecting? For starters, we thought we’d see Tsurugi struggling through the underworld, as depicted in a psychedelic style Shaft is no stranger to. She’d come out stronger than ever, face off against Sasami’s mom, and send her back where she belongs. But Tsurugi hardly does anything this week, and we barely see her. Most of the gruntwork of saving Sasami is left to the grade schooler with the grown-up body, Tama. In the process, we get a bit of backstory about how Tsurugi wasn’t always the perfect older sister, and times were tough for both Tama and Kagami, as could be suspected of new and reformed gods.

The episode’s climax also involves Sasami herself performing a binding spell on her mother that was taught to her by that same mother long ago, as depicted in a flashback in the cold open. There, we see a little more of the mom she remembers, rarely smiling but always kind and curious and loving, like the mother she was pretending to be last week. And for all her twisted methods (drugging and promoting rape), she is utterly convinced all she does is for Sasami’s and the world’s own good. But she’s not Sasami’s mother anymore; she died, and the kindess died with her. The bloodstained plushie Tsurugi overnights to Sasami from the underworld is a symbol of that loss and a memento of that ordeal.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 06

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Sasami starts seeing her deceased mother in random places. One day while shopping she shows up and they spend the day together like an ordinary mother and daughter. But she has an ulterior motive: she’s made a pact with the god of the underworld and come back to make sure Sasami returns to her training to become a Tsukuyomi princess. The Yagami sisters are powerless against her; Kagami is stabbed and Tsurugi is pushed down the slope of Yomi. Before she can harm Tana, Sasami surrenders, and she and her mom are transported to another place, presumably to resume her training.

This episode was something. It had us thinking the myriad gods created Sasami’s mother as she remembered her to fulfill her wish to hang out with her more like ordinary people, not as Tsukuyomi princesses or nursing her when she was bedridden. And eventually the Yagami sisters would show up and tell her she’s just another wish fulfilled that must be put aside to move forward. Needless to say, we were dead wrong. The formula (such as it is) of previous episodes was roundly subverted this week. The priestess fish-out-of-water story is over, and we’re now in full Serious Mode, where everyone’s lives are at stake.

Put simply: the Moon believes it’s time for the Sun to step aside and let it rule the universe. To that end, Sasami’s mom has been sent to set her back on the path she strayed from. And Sasami’s protectors, virtually invincible up until this point, are dispatched with terrifying speed and ease by the mom, who was no slouch even when she was a human, and possesses a divine, god-slaying sword. (Both Tsurugi and the mom have some awesome dialogue throughout their dealings with each other). Anyone wondering if Sasami was going to one day face the consequences of walking away from her birthright…needn’t wonder any longer.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 05

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Sasami returns to school, but she has no friends, and so she chooses Kagami to be her first. Kagami seems unenthusiastic and annoyed, and a series of mishaps befall her. She tries to limit her contact with Sasami, telling her to leave her alone. Dejected, Sasami encounters Tama. After playing tag, Tama tells her how excited Kagami is about being friends, but has something to take care of. Sasami realizes the myriad gods are punishing Kagami for becoming her friend, and races to school, where Kagami is rooting out the evil gods who had amassed. Sasami reiterates their friendship and assures her she can one day become a human.

In this, the third-straight episode of something we’ve watched involving Hanazawa Kana, her character Kagami takes center stage as Sasami’s first friend since leaving her house. But Kagami proves a tough nut to crack, prompting us to conclude that befriending a devine robot isn’t the best way to reintegrate into society. Kagami is still coming to grips with having emotions at all, and the naive and socially inexperienced Sasami interprets Kagami’s demeanor imprecisely. Though when we saw Kagami chatting and walking off with a group of other girls, even we were wondering what was up with her.

Her coldness was in stark contrast with Tama’s warm, pet-like unconditional affection for Sasami. But as lovely as Tama is, she’s a child; Kagami is Sasami’s age, and she chose her. Just when we thought Tama was useless, she reassures Sasami (out of the mouth of babes indeed). Turns out, in a very roundabout but very efficient way, Kagami is only protecting Sasami, which is her (and her sisters’) raison d’être. When Sasami chose her, she forgot that every choice she makes has consequences – both good and bad. But when she does realize this, she makes sure Kagami knows she doesn’t just see her as a loyal protector, but a real friend…her first, no less!


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 04

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Sasami plays a DVD in Kamiomi’s room entitled “The Sasami Watch Project”, in which he and the Yagami sisters tail Sasami around town as she runs assigned errands meant to embarrass her. The Sasami watching doesn’t remember. When Sasami in the DVD ends up at a VA show, all the attendees reveal they’re of the Tsukuyomi clan, including Sasami’s father, who removes the sarcoma that gave her a third arm. Tsurugi and Kagami intervene, defeating him. The watcher of the DVD turns out to be the Sarcoma in Sasami’s form. Tsurugi made the DVD to appraise her of the situation. Tsurugi hides it sarcoma in the body of Kagami’s pet rabbit, Meat, for safekeeping.

We find ourselves becoming very engrossed with this freewheeling, eclectic, downright loopy carousel of happenings that is Sasami-san@Ganbaranai. It presents a dizzying array of information at a very brisk pace, but manages to bring it all together at the end. It also makes brief synapses tricky. But the whole idea of having Sasami snoop on her brothers stuff – learning he and the sisters documenting her just as she documented her – only for her not to be Sasami at all, is quite a twist, and one that makes perfect sense once you go over everything that had happened. The video is clever in that it’s a prank, a piece of voyeurism, and a record of past events all wrapped into one. It was fun watching “Sasami” (really the Sarcoma) watch and get more confused.

Also, despite more than half of this episode taking place within a previously-filmed video, we’re constantly diving into it, with the narrators Tsurugi and Kamiomi providing punchy commentary and criticism towards Kagami, who just barely manages to get the job done despite much dicking about and getting sleepy. If there’s a weak link to the episode, it’s Tama’s part of the story, in which she’s captured by aliens but eventually befriends them, helping them defeat government agents. It was fun and nutty and all, but pretty darned random and so irrelevant as to be a distraction to the A-story. Fortunately, the episode cut to Tama sparingly, while the much funnier Kagami had a wealth of lines steeped in dry, ascerbic wit.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 03

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Sasami types about her family, the Tsukuyomi clan, descended from the first human to have the power of Amaterasu. She was given intense training at a remote shrine to become the latest vessel for her powers, but she got sick of it and left with her brother. When a third arm comes out of her chest as she’s typing, it represents a part of her personality that was repressed as part of her training – a sense of desire. It tells her her brother has returned to the shrine. Sasami follows him, accompanied by the Yagami sisters, who destroy the shrine. Tsusugi reveals she is actually Amaterasu, and she and her “sisters” came into being because of Sasami’s wish. With that, Sasami learns she, not her brother, had Amaterasu’s power all along.

This episode finally provides some concrete context for what the hell has been going on in the first two. It contains a lot of exposition and backstory and revealed identities, but still contains just as much excitement and action as its predecessors. A ton of revelations are dished out, not the least of which is Tsurugi’s true identity as Amaterasu incarnate, and her sisters aren’t really sisters, but gods she created from parts of herself she tore off. Tsurugi, Kagami, and Tama are here because of Sasami. She desired a normal life free of the responsibilities of being a vessel Amaterasu’s powers, and they coalesced to protect that life.

Her brother was a MacGuffin all along, having no divinity at all. Instead, he remains her steadfast, loyal, obedient, loving brother, whose duty is to protect her from sadness and harm. Even knowing he has no divine powers, Sasami seems to give herself a kick in the pants and march outside to make her brother’s efforts worthwhile. It turns out a curse made her a hikikomori, so now she can go outside with ease. But how far will she “try at life” before she finds herself with responsibilities and duties once again? If that happens, the Yagami sisters will be there to stamp it out, preserving Sasami’s god-given right to be as lazy and useless as she cares to be.


Rating: 8 (Great)

 

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 02

Tsurugi notes that an unusual number of students are skipping school, including her colleague Kamiomi’s sister Sasami. Kagami believes they have become addicted to an MMORPG, so the Yagami sisters travel to Kamiomi’s home to investigate, using Sasami’s many computers. Worried they’ll shut the game down and erase all her progress, she attempts to sabotage their efforts, but fails. Eventually, everyone is sucked into the game, where a divine monster is keeping the game alive. Kagami deduces that the monster is the produce of Sasami’s wish for the game to never be shut down, as it was when the company was in financial trouble three years ago. She bids the monster rest in peace and the MMO is shut down.

After primarily showing last week, the beginning of this episode is all about telling. Specifically, that Sasami is most likely “unmotivated” beause she once possessed the powers of Amaterasu, the most powerful of the myriad gods that inhabit the world (In the Shinto religion, sheis the goddess of the sun and universe, from whom the Emperor of Japan is directly descended.) Emphasis on once. Now, apparently, her faceless brother Kamiomi has that power, and he accidentally used it to turn the world into chocolate last week. This week Sasami must deal with something accidentally done in service of her wish for an MMO game to never be shut down.The game was her escape three years ago, and all the other lesser gods heard that wish and made it come true.

It resulted in an unpopular game suddenly becoming all the rage, and that game’s central monster trapping the 10,000 players inside, thus the game will never end as she wished. From what little we see of it, it’s not the best game, and Sasami seems to realize that when the time comes to free all those people. Keeping the game alive was nice and all, but she didn’t need it anymore. And so we have another instance of the entire world being altered because of a misinterpreted whim made by those who just happen to have the powers of Amaterasu. or was this just the three Yagami sisters inviting themselves into Sasami’s house, messing up all her shit, and playing video games in the dark? It was both, and more.


Rating: 8 (Great)

 

Sasami-san@Ganbaranai – 01

Tsukuyomi Sasami (Asuma Kana) is a demanding hikikomori (shut-in) who has her faceless older brother Kamiomi do everything for her. When he goes to school, she uses the Oni-chan Kanshi (Brother Surveillance) System to keep tabs on him as he interacts with the three Yagami sisters – Tsurugi (Chiwa Saito), Kagami (Hanazawa Kana), and Tama (Nonaka Ai). When Sasami accidentally turns the world into chocolate, the three of them have to fight the chocolate and return the world to normal.

“Sasami@Unmotivated” is exceedingly bizarre and quirky, but also a heckuva lot of fun to watch, and beautifully rendered, with extensive use of watercolor washes for backgrounds and textures. We were reminded quite a bit of Arakawa Under the Bridge, and not just because Sasami’s brother is voiced by Whitey. Both revel in the absurd, whether it’s a shut-in girl being waited on hand and foot by her brother, or that he is absolutely devoted and obsessed with her, almost to a fault, or that the Sasami has a “brother surveillance system”, or the simple fact that the brother never, ever shows his faaaace. Perhaps most interesting: Sasami may have to stay inside to avoid altering the world.

And that’s only part of the nuttiness. For some reason, all the discussion of Valentine’s Day chocolates suddenly has the world itself turning to chocolate, much to Sasami’s dismay. And after Sasami hangs out with the colorful and eccentric Yagami sisters one by one (although really, everyone’s pretty equally eccentric here), they whip out superpowers and save the world by encasing Sasami in chocolate, which makes her brother ecstatic. Yup, it almost wouldn’t be a proper Shinbou joint without the complicated brother-sister relationship. Like we said, this looked great, sounded great, and moved at a good clip. We’ll see if this quality – and lunacy – can be sustained.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)