HaruChika – 04

hc41

I decided to go out on a limb and watch one more episode of P.A. Work’s generally disappointing HaruChika, intrigued that we might find a chink in the perfect Haruta’s armor in the guise of his family. I did so knowing it could well be a trap that would lead me to keep watching, despite the fact I should have learned from Glasslip that the show isn’t really ever going to actually go anywhere, only tease.

And it was a trap. But while I’m still committed to dropping this, I didn’t dislike my final look. Once one gets used to the look of HaruChika, it really does show good command of animating characters and creating awkward situations for comedic effect. And I liked Haruta’s eldest sister,who’s far from the hell-beast Haruta made her out to be. In fact, her presence and his discomfort with it made Haruta a lot more tolerable.

hc42

We learn that Haruta is only one of an entire family of talented people; Mimami is an architect (and a pretty nifty drifter in her Civic Type R), while his other two sisters are an illustrator and a chiropractor. So certainly there’s both pressure on him, the baby, to perform, as well as do whatever his three sisters want. I only have one little sister, so I can’t quite relate, but his discontent with his lot in life is at least more understandable now that I know he comes from a home practiclaly bursting with ability.

hc43

In any case, when he was evicted from his old apartment, Haruta took to living with the chickens and being cared for by the animal club. This won’t do, so Minami is there to help him find a new apartment; Chika volunteers to help out (especially when she learns the alternative may be Haru staying at Kusakabe’s place), and drags Miyoko along. When the seemingly perfect place’s only flaw is that it might be haunted, Miyoko’s scaredy-cat side comes out, and it’s fun to watch Chika mess with her at every turn.

The thing is, an exploration into Haruta’s family suddenly turns into another very random mystery-of-the-week involving the recently deceased landlord’s nephew, who believes his prank-loving uncle left the house to him to cause him trouble: the tenants always complain about what sounds like a priest’s staff in the night, and the inheritance tax is more than he and his pregnant wife can afford.

hc44

Haru ends up staying at Maren’s house (thanks to an assist by Miyoko that Chika praises her for…wait, wasn’t Chika terrorizing Miyoko all day?) and he puts all the clues that were laid out together. My first thoughts on hearing about the nature of the ghost sound, combined with the will written on the blueprints and mentioning “precious metals”, was that the walls were full of coins.

hc45

Mind you, I’m not usually too skilled at solving mysteries before the show reveals them, but this was one of those instances, leaving me tapping my foot a bit, waiting along with Chika and the others for Haru to make yet another big show about what a frikkin’ genius he is. All Hail The Glorious, Perfect Haruta…(farting noise).

Now, I did enjoy details like 1982 being the year the 500-yen coin was first put into circulation, and that all the coins in the walls are 500-yen coins, as well as the warm, casual Christmas flavor that suffused the episode. As for Haru and Chika ending up in Kusakabe’s arms, lying on a pile of cash, well…that was just goofy, and a useful reminder that I need to step away from this show while I still can!

I do so with one final unsolicited, uninformed prediction: Haru and Chika will not be a couple by the end of the show. I know that’s not necessarily the point of the show, but c’mon now. I may check in on the last episode to see if I’m proven wrong.

7_ses

HaruChika – 03

hc31

Haruta and Chika’s lame love triangle continues to be an ongoing problem with HaruChika. If it were a classmate they both loved, male or female, that would be one thing; the fact their object of affection is a teacher all but eliminates the possibility of anything actually going anywhere. It doesn’t help that said teacher is a walking snooze-fest. I simply ain’t buying what either the show or its two title leads are selling.

But hey, at least that triangle is only a peripheral element of the story. This week, the show once again focuses on a new character, Sei Maren, who doesn’t get off to a stirring start with an opening line like “Where is the step I should take to move forward?” Whoa there, Proust.

He also has a whole built-in story, with a Life Box he opens sometimes to stoke his angst! Haru, Chika, and Miyoko encounter him in drama club, looking lost (and not at all good at drama, as the leader Nagoe admits frankly).

hc32

So this Sei guy has a personal problem, and people are worried about him (particularly Miyoko, randomly). So what does Haruta do? Write a play that will “make everyone happy.” Only Nagoe rips it up, and the drama club and brass band get into a little exchange of unfriendly words, resulting in a challenge that will be settled on the stage.

The subsequent dramatic “exit game”, in which Haru, Chika, and Miyoko square off against Nagoe, Sei, and their star actress Yaeko (who does a fair impression of Princess Mononoke), is actually the niftiest part of the episode. It has all six “actors” essentially straddling two different worlds, gradually adding to the complexity of their setting and situation in order to get one of their opponents’ actors to exit stage right.

hc33

Of course, it ain’t perfect. Haruta shows yet another skill he’s good at – acting and improvisation, as well as being nigh telepathic about Sei’s personal concerns, not helping his annoying Gary Stu status. Many of his lines in the exit game are a little too on the nose, to the point of being cruel to Sei. But more than what he knows and probably shouldn’t, it’s just deeply troubling how meddling this guy is!

He’s such a busybody, interfering in others’ lives and being as coy and dramatic about it as he can, in this case literally. They also somehow stole Sei’s Life Box from the closet in his room! WTF? (Note: I don’t want to hear a rational explanation for this; it’s just silly.) And Sei’s feelings about abandonment are far too easily quelled by Haruta and Nagoe’s intrusive charade.

As for Miyoko’s apparent feelings for the guy, well, she must see something I don’t, which is to say she sees…something, period.

Haruta also didn’t have to keep Chika in the dark…but of course he did, because he’s a jerk! So when Chika kicks him and sends him careening to the earth, it’s highly satisfying. I LOL’d. It’s like she’s kicking the little twerp not just for her own sake, or for Sei’s, but for all of us.

5_ses

HaruChika – 02

hc21

There are elements of HaruChika that I enjoy: the character design (particularly the eyes); the playful sibling-like interactions of Haruta and Chika; and in the case of this week, some legitimate emotional resonance towards the climax, as the tiny band attempts to recruit talented oboist Narushima Miyoko, who flat-out refuses.

hc22

That’s where my reservations about HaruChika start to rear their ugly head. Only a week removed from the revelation that Haru and Chika are in a love triangle with their band instructor Kusakabe, practically nothing more about that plot point is explored, aside from the two perking up like meerkats every time Kusakabe enters the room.

I’m not saying the triangle should be the focus of every week, but it was disorienting to have a brand new character’s story (compelling and cathartic as it turned out to be), totally dominate only the second episode of the show, when we’ve just barely gotten to know the titular characters. Heck, we don’t even know why Chika likes Kusakabe enough to justify her as a legitimate vertex in a love triangle; at least Haruta gave something of an explanation last week.

hc23

Another problematic element of HaruChika? The mysteries, and in particular how they’re solved. Sure, it’s all well and good to eliminate abnormalities in all sensory inputs (the strange smell tipped Haruta off to the idea of painted sides on the Rubik’s Cube).

But two weeks in Haruta has been pigeonholed into two very narrow spaces: his apparent infatuation with Kusakabe, and his vast knowledge of…well, whatever knowledge is needed to solve the mystery of the week.

As in all of the knowledge. And as with last week, he made a point to delay the reveal of his findings until such as time as it would deliver the biggest dramatic punch. It feels a bit like the writers trying to hide behind Haruta’s intellect and vanity.

hc24

There’s also an element of pushiness and intrusion into the life of someone who didn’t ask for such intrusion that left a bad taste in my mouth, despite the ends mostly justifying the means. I’m as happy as Chika that Miyo decides to play the oboe again, but they had to put her through the wringer in order to get her to that point.

Who is Haruta to say it’s time for her to stop grieving and move on? Who are Haru and Chika to use Miyo’s middle school friend to infiltrate Miyo’s house against her express wishes to be left alone? I’ll tell ya who: they’re people who put their brass band’s regional eligibility above the privacy of their classmates.

“Haruta knows best” was a key takeaway. He may, and it all worked out, but it can be a little unseemly at times, whether he’s opening a wound that gets him slapped around by Miyo, or sneaking in a dig against Chika at almost every opportunity.

Next week’s preview hints at another member being recruited—they have a lot to go before they can compete in earnest—but while there may be another intricate mystery involved in bringing that new member into the fold, I fear it will be another instance of neglecting a love triangle that requires further development sooner rather than later for me to stay engaged.

6_ses

HaruChika – 01 (First Impressions)

hc11

After a cold open that shows how far the characters we haven’t met yet have come, we start back at the beginning with Homura Chika‘s first day at Shimizu High, wanting to re-invent herself into a refined, maidenly “cute girl” by taking up the flute, complete with pink case.

Immediately she starts to run into a few problems, like her “uncouth” sneezing, and the fact the volleyball team is stalking her, hoping to recruit her. But she’s been down that road, and wants to spend her youth another way. She also has crazy colorful eyes.

hc12

Her third and perhaps most problematic roadblock to her reinvention (besides the fact she isn’t really the person she’s trying to be) is her unexpected reunion with her former neighbor and childhood friend, Kamijou Haruta.

On first glance, Chika describes Haruta in very feminine terms (an early clue to the show’s romantic structure), but more importantly, knows exactly who she really is and is quick to note how little she’s changed since nine years ago, when she used to put pro-wrestling moves on him, eat his snacks, etc.

hc13

Chika is a true beginning flutist in the scant five-member (including her) brass band, but everyone sees…something in her and welcome her. They’re also dealing with a minor mystery: a message written in musical notation on the chalkboard with red paint.

Haruta, perhaps taking belated revenge for all of Chika’s past terrorizing, seems to lord his superior musical and historical knowledge and detective skills over her, as well as admonish her for failing to carefully mind her surroundings. What we have here are two very different people who know each other very well and feel comfortable around one another, even after all this time.

hc14

That brings us to the ending twist: despite the title, Haruta and Chika may not be the central romantic item in this show; rather, they’re only two parts of a love triangle, with both Haruta and Chika liking Kusakabe Shinjirou, the brass band’s conductor.

Gay main characters in anime are very rare indeed, but I’m very bit as intrigued as my shippier half is disappointed by this change of romantic perspective. To its credit the show doesn’t waste any time revealing this twist, insinuating that holding one’s breath for Haru X Chika all season probably won’t be a profitable enterprise.

All in all, a solid first episode. I’m less enthused with Kusakabe and the gimmicky twins, and the first mystery, while novel from a technical standpoint, was a bit dull, but Chika is a very fun and vibrant female lead, and Haru is an excellent foil. A “Fine”, then, sounds about right.

6_ses

Binan Koukou Chikyuu Bouei-bu Love! – 12 (Fin)

bk120

Binan Koukou comes to a fantastic close, totally “More Better” than I ever could have expected. While not a 10, the last episode captures all the wonderfulness that made this my favorite series of winter season.

From its double-down on the Absurd Aliens Vs. Sailor Boys plot, to the boys’ continued embarrassment about following anime tropes, to the anime final episode conventions the episode does follow and the ones it makes fun of not following, everything is here.

bk122

As I suspected, Binan High School’s students are unwitting participants in alien TV programming. It isn’t even a good show by alien standards, which explains all the conventional story telling elements and cheap production values the Battle Lovers have seen along the way.

However, the double wrinkle is that this is a sequel…

bk121

Yumoto’s firewood chopping brother was Earth’s hero in the original series, which actually caused that show to be canceled because, from the Alien’s perspective, he was the villain their invasion force was supposed to defeat. Since he always won, the show lost its focus and then its ratings.

It was great watching the Battle Lovers just gape as the reveal is dumped on them. The student council too, which is horrified to realize how empty their domination plot is, and how embarrassing “being the popular tsundere” is to the president…

bk123

Leading us to the next story convention, Yumoto’s Bro becomes the near final boss and can not be defeated until the Battle Lovers upgrade their abilities to “More Better” levels, which they find eye rolling as usual.

And of course the show’s director is the final boss, complete with a giant purple space mech which requires former-enemies to join forces, all Much Better Better come together and More Battle Love Shower for the victory.

bk129

My only criticism is that Binan Koukou stays so true to the format it’s making fun of, parts of the episode dragged. The jokes were well timed and well played and the action was surprisingly fun too. But lengthy info dumping between action is what it is, even if its bad pacing is the point.

bk128

Binan Koukou earned my respect by taking itself seriously (in that it wasn’t very serious) to the end. The boy’s personalities had a wonderfully believable response to the silliness around them, including the obvious BL nods.

If you missed it, I’m not going to tell you to dig back and find this one. It’s not on the level of Gekkan-shoujo-Nozaki-kun or Sabagebu but it showed how far a simple idea could be taken without wearing out its welcome.

8_ogk

Junketsu no Maria – 12 (Fin)

jnm12_1

Junketsu no Maria closes with a story book ending. Maria and Joseph literally ‘live happily ever after,’ according to the narrator, all of the villains are punished and everyone who was nice along the way escapes without a scratch.

Maybe it was a little long winded and maybe it was a bit silly on the philosophy front but, over all, I found it satisfying and a thorough farewell to the cast.

jnm12_5

To sum up: Michael and Maria have their final show down but the action doesn’t last long. Even with the witches, the old gods, and Joseph all supporting her, Michael  is untouchable.

However, instead of killing team Maria, Michael psychically interviews all of the show’s side characters and ascertains that Maria is ultimately a good neighbor. Her opposition to conflict is so basic that he could even say she is part of the natural order now, which makes her out of his realm of responsibility.

jnm12_3

However, he can’t let Ezekiel’s regular opposition go unpunished and so he banishes her from heaven… to be reborn as Maria’s child. Similarly, Le Comte eventually accepts Joseph’s love for Maria, and accepts Maria herself I guess because he’s not a totally bad bad.

Meanwhile, Bernard loses his mind and tries to start a new religion … but explodes into a pile of sand when he freaks out at Michael during their psychic interview. Gilbert is emotionally scared by all of this but, as he’s not really been a figure for evil during the story, his punishment is limited to witnessing the explosion and having to burn Bernard’s documents after the fact.

Oh and Garfa gets nothing for his greed, other than some coins and to live.

jnm12_6

What didn’t work? Well… most of the dialog is gibberish. Not that a show of this complexity should be expected to weave a coherent philosophical explanation for itself but Maria dug its mumbo-jumbo hole pretty deep.

That said, presenting Maria’s narrative out as God accepting her as a ‘good neighbor’ was perfectly fine. It also gave a continued connection between Maria and Ann’s grandmother, and the village by extension.

jnm12_9

Maria was a very fun show to follow. Strangely, none of the grounded, historical tech and technique made it into the final episode but that’s besides the point. The finale was all about the characters and for us to see them off — and see them off happy.

And for all the darkness those characters endured along the way, thats the best, most cathartic way to leave them.

7_ogk

Junketsu no Maria – 11

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.21.15 PM

Picking up hot on last week’s tale, Edwina takes Maria to the battlefield and reveals that she was the source of paralysis gas (and Garfa’s arm). But the little details aren’t the point of this episode, even though there are a ton of gems sprinkled throughout.

No, the point of this episode is making sense of everyone’s feelings and bringing a close to the hostilities between France and England. At least, within geographic reach of Maria.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.26.40 PM

ignoring why Joseph is there in the first place, he makes a good point about Garfa: He’s the same as Maria. They are both strong, strong willed to the point of being stubborn, and use their strength to pursue the purpose they have assigned to their lives.

This does not go well and at last lends some coherent emotion to the nicely animated fight. (which, in the tradition of the show, is the opposite of over-the-top in rendering and style)

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.54.54 PM

Meanwhile Gilbert confronts Bernard about the witches medicine, which Bernard admits he knew he was using to help the people. Rules be damned, anything in the world can make the world a better place. (and to better the church’s position)

This declaration also doesn’t go well. However, unlike Garfa, Gilbert doesn’t try to run anyone through in a haze of frustration. That said, I get the feeling Bernard is about to get an unexpected smack down from the inquisition…

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.33.11 PM

Continuing to tie in all the loose threads, the Old God tries to make Ann forget Maria, possibly to force Maria onto his side, but it doesn’t work. Ann’s support is iron clad, much as the Church fears it to be, and when Joseph finally defeats Garfa, Maria’s tree house (and powers) are quickly restored.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.28.45 PM

As to Joseph’s victory… let’s just look above at the hilarious take down assist brought to him by Maria. She’s so unabashedly hard core about it that I can hardly fault Joseph for his lengthy banter and refusal to accept his worth in her eyes.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.43.11 PM

The resolve, starting with their exchanged vows and ending with the tree-ification of the castle, was all quite nice. As with everything this episode, the visual details were all unique and really lent to the wonder and excitement of their coupling.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.38.52 PM

And then the couple is summoned by Arch Angel Michael and who knows where the series is headed for its final episode? Honestly? I don’t care at all — it’s been a lovely ride all along and, typically sluggish middle or note, it was well worth all of our attention.

9_ogk

Junketsu no Maria – 10

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.49.56 PM

Episode 10 asks a leading question: is human emotion better or worse than God’s lack of emotion… or is there any distinction between the two in the first place?

Certainly Michael’s violence isn’t as base as Garfa’s but it’s easy to argue that Michael’s mixture of intervention and indifference put Garfa (and his many victims) in the situation in the first place. If humans only exist to suffer before death and transition to the afterlife, and that no amount of prayer will change the degree of their suffering nor bring about otherworldly protection (except from Maria), the shows depictions of greed and violence become an understandable offshoot of survival of the fittest.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.49.17 PM

And that’s saying nothing of Michael’s direct acts of violence. First with Maria and now, nearly killing Viv for calling him out on being an empty automaton.

While I suppose this is all rather heavy handed, I appreciate that JnM is subtle enough to leave the question unanswered. Ezekiel is emotionally broken (though it’s not clear why she has emotions in the first place) and humans are particularly violent for much of the episode.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.51.17 PM

Bernard’s total lack of attention even mirror’s Ezekiel’s. He’s said his piece, feels the rules are being followed, and moves on content to let the masses do whatever they want.

In a pleasing twist of events, Edwina shows up and saves Maria from burning at the stake and Gilbert, Bernard’s underling, recognizes Edwina’s cat/girl familiar as the source of the church’s medicine… which causes his own internal conflict.

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.50.14 PM

Unfortunately, the episode suffers from Joseph having garbled reasons for being away at war and Garfa being pure evil. I just don’t get how we’re supposed to buy into Joseph going to war for glory to… use his glory to save Maria? It doesn’t make any sense.

Similarly, Garfa has gone from being an interestingly gray character to some smirking, knife handed, “gonna kill you in the church” jackal. I suppose I ‘buy’ that he could turn out this way but I don’t find it very interesting…

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 12.51.46 PM

It’s worth noting that despite all the animation in this episode — and there was a lot with wonderful technical detail — it was not animated very well. Scenes jerk together with no transition sequence, walk cycles are choppy, and many of the characters look… off.

8_ogk

Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 12 (Fin)

kk2121

Kami-Haji wastes no time piling on the adorableness in its final episode. Lil’ Nanami is button cute, just the kind of person you want to hold and squeeze and protect for all time. But we learn along with Tomoe that that cuteness is tempered by a steely resolve to look out for herself and be wary of men; advice given by her mother, who herself could not escape a life of bad luck with a crappy excuse for a man. We also learn that the women in her family only ever bear more women, all of them beautiful.

kk2122

Tomoe is positively transfixed by this educational foray into Nanami’s past, and even though Mizuki tries on numerous occasions to nudge him to put an end to it, Tomoe watches on, even as things go from bad (Nanami’s mother dying, as expected) to worse (Nanami living with her awful dad, who does nothing but goof off and burn their house down). The things that happen to Nanami are almost comically cruel, but for all the slapstick mixed in with the narrative, the episode never makes light of her plight.

kk2123

It also makes it clear these are the experiences that made Nanami the young woman she is today, and that something great and beautiful can come out of all that suffering and hardship. With that, Mizuki again confronts the lil’ Nanami to try to coax her back to the present, and again, she flees from Mizuki, who if we’re honest doesn’t have the most trustworthy aura about him.

Tomoe is different, though. Even though he’s a man, Nanami seems to trust him implicitly. Is it the connection she has with him in the present shining through here, or the connection between her family lineage and the god who granted them beauty at a heavy yet bearable and character-building cost?

kk2124

Tomoe isn’t just a fan of lil’ Nanami because she’s adorable. He also likes the fact that everything she desires is clear to him here in her flashback world, as things she concentrates more on appear with more detail and in greater focus. Seeing everything she wants to clearly, and having the power to grant it all, Tomoe’s devotion for her grows. Here, when asked if he truly loves her and is someone she can count on, he can answer directly: yes he does.

Heck, he even proposes marriage, and she accepts…but when the grown Nanami wakes up, she’s seemingly forgotten everything about her dream, which deflates Tomoe quite a bit, because he thought he’d actually made progress.

kk2126

He laments the fact that the happy-go-lucky yet delicate girl he was able to confess to so easily was lost in the twelve years since, especially when she’s able to single-handedly convince the zodiac sheep to allow the new year god to shear him. Then Nanami surprises Tomoe again and makes him rethink everything when the Year God furnishes her with a photo of her mother.

Now, that wouldn’t seem such an impactful gift, but considering her mother died when Nanami was very young and all photos of her were lost in the fire (a heartbreaking fact), it means multitudes for Nanami to finally see her face clearly. And in doing so, Tomoe sees that neither Lil’ Nanami nor her mother really vanished; they’re still within Nanami.

kk2125

Back at the Shrine, Nanami is back to work on her talismans, and Tomoe is back to work denigrating their poor quality, earning her defiant scowls. But when relaxing after a long day ushering in the new year for worshippers and the like, Nanami settles down for some tea and TV with her shrine family, whom she’s been with now for a year.

When she steps outside, the falling snow reminds her of what a shadowy figure once said to her in a half-forgotten memory of the past (which we know to have just happened at the Torii gates), in which Tomoe tells her younger self she won’t always be alone and wary, but be “the lady and mistress of a household more rowdy than she could wish for.”

And so it’s come to pass. She has a family, without having resorted to marriage she’d sworn off. And yet, when asked again, Nanami adds the qualified “probably” to that swearing-off, opening the door for Tomoe, if he wishes to walk through it.

9_mag

Yuri Kuma Arashi – 12 (Fin)

yuri121

Chouko and her bear extermination squad arrange an elaborate ceremony for a bound Kureha to exclude the evil by killing her friend Ginko. Ginko does the only thing she can do in her present situation to try to protect Kureha: try to reject her as a friend, saying she’s only there to eat her.

But Kureha knows that’s a lie; they are friends. And this week we find out how far their love really goes.

yuri122

When Kureha wakes up after being beaten for consorting with a bear, she decides the only thing to do in a world of severance between humans and bears is to make the bear she loves a human; that way it will be easier for everyone. So just as Ginko went to Severance Court to offer to give up Kureha’s love for her to make her human, we see Kureha also went to Court, offering to give up Ginko’s love for her.

Now, with Ginko’s death by the Invisible Storm imminent, and her own not far beyond, Kureha finally remembers how things went down, and what she needs to do to be with Ginko forever.

yuri123

She places the star pendant around Ginko’s neck, then tells Lady Kumaria she has a wish. The Judgemens fly off and join her growing light, their work apparently done.

yuri124

Kumaria comes down…and it’s Sumika. To borrow the vernacular of Kureha’s classmates, that’s way weird, but also way apropos. Could it be that while Ginko was out of Kureha’s life, Lady Kumaria herself took human form to befriend Kureha and teach her about the true love that awaited her across the wall? Is this an Ursus Desu Ex Machina?

yuri125

Whatever the case, Kureha asks Kumaria to make her a bear, and she does…and an adorable bear she is! Ginko became a human for Kureha, and now Kureha becoming a bear for Ginko; it’s the very symmetry symbolized by the girls in the story facing their reflections in the mirror—and destroying themselves to make a new being; that of tow joined hearts.

yuri126

Chouko still orders the other invisible girls to open fire, and then we cut to the world and the school back to normal, with no active bear alerts and Chouko giving a speech congratulating the exclusion of one evil, and opening the voting on who will be their next target.

But one girl, the one who operated the Konomi cannon, remembers that day on the rooftop, when she saw GInko and Kureha hand in hand, about to ascend a ladder into the heavens. Whether she was witnessing their death, or something more miraculous, I’m going to have to think on that for longer than I have!

yuri127

What’s clear to me, though, is that this girl was moved by that scene; so much so that she’s turned a deaf ear to Chouko’s bile, and seeks out the discarded “defective” Konomi. When she finds her, takes her paw in her hand, joyfully announcing she’s found her.

Even if Kureha and Ginko are no longer of this world, they inspired someone else to find their true love and not give up on it, and a new cycle begins, resisting the invisible storm in which they live.

yuri128

In an interesting framing device, the storybook tale of Kureha and Ginko is being read by Lulu to her brother Prince Milne, who may or may not be in some kind of afterlife. Milne’s take on the whole story is that considering Lulu ended back together with him )(because she’s dead?) he could have given her his promise kiss all along. Lulu says they’ll be together forever; Milne says he loves her, and oh no, that hornet thing comes back, circling both of them!

yuri129

The closing message of Yuri Kuma Arashi is: Change and awaken the world with your own love. It’s a lesson each of our characters learned through the course of the show, after much time and hardship.

It’s also a lesson absorbed by the girl who found Konomi, and even if she and Konomi face are threatened by ostracization or exclusion, if they don’t give up on love, someone will learn from them as well. Perhaps in that way, brick by brick, one day the Wall of Severance will come down.

9_ses

Koufuku Graffiti – 12 (Fin)

kg121

This is it. The Final Battle. Who lives? Who dies? Who ends up in whose bed? Who is able to exact their revenge, and who ends up burning in hellfire for all eternity?

Ehh, this isn’t that kind of show. Nor did it need to be. When I look back on Koufuku Graffiti, I’ll remember a warm, happy, and taste bud-enticing show; the feel-good show of Winter 2015.

kg122

Don’t worry, all of this is in Kirin’s dad’s head.

kg123

Hey, it’s 2016 in this show. We’ve been watching the future.

kg124

Ryou and Kirin pass their exams, so they’ll be going to the same high school as Shiina next year, along with a couple other classmates who are eager to befriend Kirin, who never had a thing to worry about in the friendsmaking department because she’s kind and sweet and makes a cute pok-pok sound when she walks.

kg125

Then, terror strikes in the form of a depraved house invader. Oh wait, it’s just Akira, trying to surprise Ryou and succeeding, but in the wrong way, getting a bonked nose for her trouble.

kg126

Akira actually has a nice gift for Ryou, who’s thinking a lot about her grandmother, who was there for her opening ceremony, which feels like yesterday. The gift is an apron made from her grandma’s apron, so in a way, whenever she wears it, it will be like cooking with her grandma, or as Kirin maturely puts it, she can look forward to making new memories rather than simply dwelling on past ones.

kg127

Ryou decides to christen the apron by preparing the same meal her grandma made to celebrate her entry into middle school three years back. It’s the same meal she made in the first episode, but it tasted bad to her back then because she was alone and still thinks it’s mising something when she tastes it alone.

That changes when Kirin arrives with all her luggage and samples the meal, and deems it one of Ryou’s best yet. Even Ryou notices an improvement in flavor after Kirin arrives, proving that food really does taste better when it’s shared.

kg128

Everything on the shelf above the sink stayed in the exact same position all those years. That’s some precision right there.

kg129

Ryou is in for one last twist when Kirin explains all her luggage and mentions movers are on the way…because she’s moving in with her, something neither Kirin nor Akira ever told Ryou, though they thought they did.

kg1210

Ryou seems to have a problem with this, though it’s more about being left out of the decision while everyone else from Shiina to Akira to Kirin’s parents know about it, yet she doesn’t; for all we know even Yuki downstairs knows! But now that Ryou knows too, she’s happy Kirin is moving in, Kirin cries tears of joy and relief, and everyone helps her move in.

kg1211

Looks kind of like Laputa, doesn’t it?

kg1212

Ryou started out alone, with her important parents far away, her aunt busy at work, and her grandmother dearly departed. But now her home is full of life and love and energy, and even when everyone leaves, Kirin will still be there. Ryou looks like she couldn’t be happier.

As the credits roll, we get an epic supercut of every foodgasm in the show, putting into perspective just how much delicious food was stuffed into the last twelve episodes, and getting me that much more excited for another cooking show, Shokugeki no Souma this Spring. I’ll also have to track down some yellowtail and daikon!

8_ses

Aldnoah.Zero – 24 (Fin)

az241

I knew every Orbital Knight wouldn’t immediately heed Asseylum’s out-of-the-blue call for an end to hostilities, but that didn’t matter: as long as some of them stopped to see which was the wind was blowing, it was going to be a huge blow to Slaine’s power base, drawing things that much closer to an endgame.

az242

Neither Lemrina and Harklight want Slaine to give up, but neither of them have the benefit of his experience, all of which runs through his head in the corridor, where he has a clear view of the death and destruction taking place in his name. From there, he decides to evacuate Lemrina and order Harklight and the rest to surrender while he blows the Moonbase up.

az243

Harklight isn’t going down quietly, however, and neither are his Stygis comrades. They end up changing Slaine’s mind, at least insofar as he’d rather go out dueling Inaho one last time then dying in that control room. And so their final battle begins.

az245

When Inaho engages Slaine and asks him (via radio channel…SEE, Gundam G? Mecha pilots CAN communicate with each other once in a while), Slaine assumes Inaho wants to fight him as much as he wants to fight Inaho. But Inaho’s “different objective” isn’t that.

az246

Asseylum had her big badass announcement that turned the tide of the battle, so even though we know this has to be about Inaho and Slaine at this point, it’s a bit disappointing that all she can do here is clasp her fingers together, watch, and wait, hoping the boys don’t succeed in destroying each other.

az247

They very nearly do, too, exhausting their ammo, snapping all of their swords, and finally just pummeling each other like rock-’em-sock-’em robots. But Inaho, even without relying on his magic eye, is the better tactician, and he manages to neutralize Slaine as a threat and serve as an ablative shield for their mutual re-entry into the atmo.

az248

Once back on good old Earth, Slaine again gets the wrong idea, thinking he’s in a reversal of last season’s finale and that Inaho is going to put a bullet in his head. Inaho might want to do that, considering everything Slaine’s put him and Earth and Seylum through, but I knew he wouldn’t.

az249

That brings us to the epilogue, in which Empress Asseylum activates the first Terran Aldnoah Drive as a gesture of goodwill, and EYEPATCH INAHO visits Slaine, who is believed dead by the public, but remains alive in a creepy lucite prison cell.

az248a

Not that the creepy cell is helping, but he’s not in a great place emotionally, and not eating his meals. He’s still waiting for Inaho to finish him, to exact justice upon him for all of his sins. But while Inaho has been many things throughout the run of this show—Mary Stu; know-it-all; humblebragger; cyborg; savior of mankind—but he’s no executioner, and he entrusts Slaine’s fate to the one most equipped to properly judge him: Seylum.

az2410

Slaine taught Asseylum a lot of things about Earth (some of them, like why the sky is blue, weren’t accurate, but still). But it’s Asseylum who teaches Slaine something about Vers that he may not have picked up on while hanging out with all those Orbital Knights: pages can be turned, people can be forgiven, and lives can be redeemed in time.

8_brav2

Durarara!! x2 Shou – 12 (Fin)

dr2121

Everyone seeks purpose and relevance in life, and everyone has a code; boundaries they won’t cross to attain those things. Drrr! is largely about what happens when the interests and the methods of a great number of people clash, which is almost always immensely entertaining, especially when some of those people can carry sportbikes on their shoulders.

dr2123

The book on Chapter one of three of Drrr!x2 comes to a close with “Adversity Makes a Man Wise.” Shizuo is the force that ceases the brawl between the Rogue Dollars and Saitama, as well as Anri and Varona. Non’s kidnapper is punished, and both sides are satisfied and withdraw.

dr2122

Also, Walker opens his eyes. I would too if I saw Anri handling Saika.

dr2124

But that’s far from the end of the adversity. Mikado watched firsthand (while his vision wasn’t wreck from that flash grenade, that is) what the gang he founded has become. He doesn’t like it, and wants to do something about it; no more hanging back.

But first, Varona meets the unstoppable, nigh invincible Shizuo, who unlike Celty or Anri, is a full-blown human being, which both astounds and frightens her, because nothing she throws at him seems to work, nor can she get away with Sloan and Akane.

dr2125

Shizuo sets his mind to rescuing Akane, so after some car soccer, instant automatic weapon disintegration (IAWD), and box truck punching, he succeeds. Akane is confounded he’d save his would-be assassin, but he’s just glad she wasn’t hurt, and a new, unlikely friendship is forged, with a helmet-scratching Celty as witness. This was Varona’s first defeat this week, but by no means her last.

dr2126

Mikado, meanwhile, tracks down Chitage and Non to formally take responsibility as founder of the Dollars. Chitage doesn’t think he’s lying, but isn’t entirely impressed either, and believes the few moments of time he has to look over Mikado is sufficient to conclude Mikado has no business running the Dollars, and advises him to give it up at his earliest convenience and settle into “the ordinary life” he seems better suited to.

Little does he know that ordinary life is the very thing Mikado escaped his hometown and founded the Dollars to avoid. If he were to quit on them now, it would “negate his being.” He may be better suited for ordinary life, but he doesn’t want to live that way. He wants to be in the thick of it.

dr2127

Mikado isn’t the only one patronized and not taken entirely seriously. Varona is too, after her quiet meal with Sloan is suddenly interrupted by Aozaki and Akabayashi. Like her, I thought she was tougher than these guys due to her military training, but they bring her and Sloan down with grim efficiency, only to reveal that Varona’s dad has struck a deal with their organization to secure her safety and retrieve her.

dr2128

Dennis, Simon, and Egor arrive to pick her up, and point out that, after all, she’s “still a little girl” who hasn’t “hardened” yet, remarking that kids liker her can still “change in all kinds of ways.” She may have become an assassin at a very young age, but she’s not necessarily destined to be one forevermore. And the yakuza ambush really put her skills into perspective; up to that point, she’d depended heavily on firepower, stealth, and surprise. Not to mention her youthful exuberance over Ikebukuro dulled her senses.

dr2129

Speaking of hardening, that’s what Mikado aims to do, and furthermore, what he has to do to preserve the Dollars as he envisioned them. All the adversity he’s faced really has made him wise to the truth of his situation: to be able to take control of a group with no rules, he needs power, so he accepts Aoba’s offer to become the leader of Blue Square along with the Dollars, even forming a blood contract by uncharacteristically stabbing Aoba through the hand with a pen. Then again, Mikado is pissed Anri was put in harm’s way, so he’s mad.

dr21210

But once that contract is signed, he snaps back to his usual chipper self, even offering to dress the wound he just gave Aoba. In a way, he owes Aoba one for opening his eyes to the fact that he shouldn’t fear being left behind by all the strange and exciting things in the city, because he hasn’t caught up to it yet. His journey is incomplete, and this was never a static situation. He’s going to fix the Dollars and stay in the mix.

dr21211

We close with one more person being one-upped at his own game, as Varona was: Izaya, who had been slipperier than teflon throughout the show. Like Mikado, even he didn’t realize the full scope of his actions, and ended up stepping on the toes of one Yodogiri Jinnai, who didn’t want Shizuo and the Azuki group getting mixed up. For that, Jinnai literally takes Izaya out, leaving him lying in a pool of blood in a crosswalk. A provocative and enticing teaser for Chapter 2, to air in July.

8_brav2