Owarimonogatari S2 – 03

The first two 40-odd-minute episodes of this second “season” of Owarimonogatari, were good, but seemed to be lacking in something very crucial to an “Endstory” – an ending. So it’s just as well I was mistaken that there would only be two episodes, because this, the third episode, provides that ending.

And what a frikkin’ ending it is! Few series have been so painstakingly fastidious in their careful preparation of a nearly all-encompassing conclusion to the story of its protagonist than Monogatari has been with Araragi Koyomi. It’s only fitting that if indeed his story is over—a story in which he’s helped save so many cute young women, one after another—that the last person left for him to save is…himself.

At Shirahebi Park, formerly the site of Shirahebi Shrine and the town’s god, which was obliterated along with the lake by Kiss-Shot Acerola-Orion Heart-Under-Blade landing there 400 years ago—a site of so many conversations between Koyomi and those girls—Izuko lays out the minimum requirements of victory.

First, that Hachikuji Mayoi be enshrined a the new god of North Shirahebi shrine, so that she has a purpose in the material world and won’t be swallowed by “the darkness”. Second: that Oshino Ougi be eliminated. Mind you, Izuko isn’t certain who or what Ougi is, only what she isn’t (i.e. Meme’s niece.)

That Ougi is a near-total unknown makes her a threat to the spiritual and physical health of the town, so she has to go, just as any of the other harmful apparitions that have cropped up.

As Itsuko convinces Koyomi (and me) of Ougi’s need to go, Ougi picks up Tsukihi (who is actually a phoenix in human disguise) from Nadeko’s house, where it was being underscored how much Nadeko thinks about and is working towards a finite future, whereas Tsukihi is content to simply live with others in an everlasting present.

I must admit, it felt for all the world like Ougi was either taking Tsukihi hostage (out of an abundance of caution in case Araragi didn’t join her side) or attempting to recruit the phoenix as a kind of last-ditch ally. In any case, the person Ougi is with quickly transitions from Tsukihi to Koyomi in that iconic ruined cram school classroom, who tells Ougi he’s ascertained her identity.

Ougi is, and always has been, him. She is he.

Eager to clearly explain everything, Owarimonogatari steps back a bit to the original meeting between Itsuko, Koyomi, Kiss-Shot, Mayoi, and Ononoki, and explains to Koyomi how Ougi is really him (all while everyone plays cricket in the park, after having played baseball earlier).

Ougi, originally introduced to Koyomi as a “fan” of Kanbaru, explains her name Ougi. Itsuko’s older sister (Kanbaru’s mother) faced a similar “unknown”, the “Rainy Devil”, who was the materialization of her self-control, and the left arm of which was passed to Suruga, her daughter.

When that arm came in contact with the First Minion’s energy drain, it connected the Devil, Koyomi, and Kiss-Shot, and by that route Koyomi’s desire to criticize himself for his actions were materialized into Oshino Ougi, or “Dark Koyomi.”

It’s a complex yet surprisingly elegant and satisfying explanation that ties together so many threads of the Monogatari mythos. Ougi is a fundamental product of all of Koyomi’s victories saving the girls in his life; victories that didn’t come without a great deal of self-doubt about the rightness or wrongness of the methods he used.

Itsuko used the immortal Tsukihi as a lure to draw Ougi out so Koyomi could do the same thing he’s done all along: “killing himself for the sake of others.” Ougi represents Koyomi’s adolescence, and it’s time to end it, and her.

It’s no coincidence that Koyomi is faced with having to “kill” his adolescence on the eve of graduation from high school and entry into college and adulthood. But when the true “darkness” opens up and is about to swallow Ougi, Koyomi finally goes against the grain and saves himself. 

He loses his right arm (and isn’t a vampire at the moment, so that’s a big deal), but Ougi is saved, and with it his adolescence (both his doubt, unfair self-critique, and love of young ladies)—even if it makes him “the worst” to put himself first.

Ougi is tickled, but saving Ougi only means he’ll be swallowed along with her by the “darkness”—until, that is, Hanekawa finally comes through, bringing Meme to the ruined classroom with only moments to spare, to declare that Oshino Ougi is his niece, and Koyomi has pushed her down and may not have the most honorable intentions with her.

These are lies, but the acknowledgement, like the words in a spell, are what were needed to legitimize Ougi’s existence in the world, and close the darkness. From that moment on, Ougi is no longer Dark Koyomi, or any part of him.

His adolescence is gone, replaced by nothing more or less than Meme’s ‘niece’. His lesson, all along, was that love isn’t forsaking yourself for the sake of others. He’s gotta think about number one from time to time.

But, as the epilogue illustrates, it’s not the end of Koyomi as we know him. He’s still him, which means if a young woman needs help, he’ll come to her aid and do anything he can. The difference is, that “anything” will now have a limit; “anything” is no longer “everything.” Koyomi can save and protect without sacrificing himself.

This is why the new god of North Shirahebi Shrine in Hachikuji Mayoi bows to him rather than the other way ’round; why an otherworldly powerful, fully-restored vampire in Kiss-Shot decides to return to the form of a far less strong young girl in his shadow; and before the graduation ceremony, Hitagi and Tsubasa let him go do his thing when he spots another young woman in distress.

And that’s it for Owarimonogatari! As I said, quite an epic ending; and one that covered a lot more than previous, “smaller” arcs. Chronologically speaking, Ougi Dark covers the second-latest Monogatari events adapted to TV, with only the already-released Hanamonogatari taking place later on the timeline.

I’ve yet to watch last year’s Koyomimonogatari ONA side-story, or the Shinobu-centric Kizumonogatari film trilogy that takes place at the very beginning of the chronological spectrum. Once I do, I’ll have watched everything Monogatari has to offer; a total span of 97 episodes. Of course, there are many novels that have yet to be adapted, so this remarkable run is most likely not quite finished.

Kimi no Na wa. (Your Name.)

Simply diving into a review immediately after watching a film as devastatingly gorgeous and emotionally affecting as Kimi no Na wa is probably not a great idea, but this is an anime review blog, so here goes.

Kimi no Na wa isn’t just a charming body-swap rom-com, or a time-travelling odyssey, or a disaster prevention caper, or a tale of impossibly cruel temporal and physical distance between two soul mates, or a reflection on the fragility and impermanence of everything from memories to cities, or a tissue-depleting tearjerker.

It’s all of those things and more. And it’s also one of, if not the best, movies I’ve ever seen, anime or otherwise.

After a cryptic prologue, Kimi no Na wa starts out modestly: Miyamizu Mitsuha, Shinto shrine maiden and daughter of a mayor, has grown restless in her small town world, so one night, shouts out tot he night that she wants to be reborn as a boy in Tokyo.

This, mind you, happens after an odd incident in which Mitsuha essentially lost a day, during which all her family and friends say she was acting very strange and non-Mitsuha-y…like a different person.

That’s because she was. She and a boy from Tokyo, Tachibana Taki, randomly swap bodies every so often when they’re dreaming. As such, they end up in the middle of their couldn’t-be-any-different lives; the only similarity being that both of them yearn for more.

Despite just meeting these characters, watching Mitsuha and Taki stumble through each other’s lives is immensely fun. And because this is a Shinkai film, that enjoyment is augmented by the master director’s preternatural visual sumptuousness and realism. Every frame of Mitsuha’s town and the grand vastness of Tokyo is so full of detail I found myself wanting to linger in all of them.

As the body-swapping continues, the two decide to lay down “ground rules” when in one another’s bodies—albeit rules both either bend or break with impunity—and make intricate reports in one another’s phone diaries detailing their activities during the swaps.

Interestingly, Mitsuha makes more progress with Taki’s restaurant co-worker crush Okudera than Taki (she like’s Taki’s “feminine side”), while the more assertive Taki proves more popular with boys and girls when Taki’s in her body.

Taki happens to be in Mitsuha’s body when her grandmother and sister Yotsuha make the long, epic trek from their home to the resting place of the “body” of their Shinto shrine’s god, an otherworldly place in more ways than one, to make an offering of kuchikamisake (sake made from saliva-fermented rice).

While the three admire the sunset, Mitsuha’s granny takes a good look at her and asks if he, Taki, is dreaming. Just then he wakes up back in his own body to learn Mitsuha has arranged a date with him and Okudera—one she genuinely wanted to attend.

Okudera seems to notice the change in Taki from the one Mitsuha inhabited; she can tell his mind is elsewhere, and even presumes he’s come to like someone else. Taki tries to call that someone else on his phone, but he gets an automated message.

Then, just like that, the body-swapping stops.

After having cut her hair, her red ribbon gone, Mitsuha attends the Autumn Festival with her friends Sayaka and Teshi. They’re treated to a glorious display in the night sky, as the comet Tiamat makes its once-every-1,200-years visit.

Taki decides if he can’t visit Mitsuha’s world in his dreams anymore, he’ll simply have to visit Mitsuha. Only problem is, he doesn’t know exactly what village she lives in. Okudera and one of his high school friends, who are worried about him, decide to tag along on his wild goose chase.

After a day of fruitless searching, Taki’s about to throw in the towel, when one of the proprietors of a restaurant notices his detailed sketch of Mitsuha’s town, recognizing it instantly as Itomori. Itomori…a town made famous when it was utterly destroyed three years ago by a meteor created from a fragment of the comet that fell to earth.

The grim reality that Taki and Mitsuha’s worlds were not in the same timeline is a horrendous gut punch, as is the bleak scenery of the site of the former town. Every lovingly-depicted detail of the town, and all of its unique culture, were blasted into oblivion.

Taki is incredulous (and freaked out), checking his phone for Mitsuha’s reports, but they disappear one by one, like the details of a dream slipping away from one’s memory. Later, Taki checks the register of 500 people who lost their lives in the disaster, and the punches only grow deeper: among the lost are Teshi, Sayaka…and Miyamizu Mitsuha.

After the initial levity of the body-swapping, this realization was a bitter pill to swallow, but would ultimately elevate the film to something far more epic and profound, especially when Taki doesn’t give up trying to somehow go back to the past, get back into Mitsuha’s body, and prevent all those people from getting killed, including her.

The thing that reminds him is the braided cord ribbon around his wrist, given to him at some point in the past by someone he doesn’t remember. He returns to the site where the offering was made to the shrine’s god, drinks the sake made by Mitsuha, stumbles and falls on his back, and sees a depiction of a meteor shower drawn on the cave ceiling.

I haven’t provided stills of the sequence that follows, but suffice it to say it looked and felt different from anything we’d seen and heard prior in the film, and evoked emotion on the same level as the famous flashback in Pixar’s Up. If you can stay dry-eyed during this sequence, good for you; consider a career being a Vulcan.

Taki then wakes up, miraculously back in Mitsuha’s body, and sets to work. The same hustle we saw in Taki’s restaurant job is put to a far more important end: preventing a horrific disaster. The town itself may be doomed—there’s no stopping that comet—but the people don’t have to be.

Convincing anyone that “we’re all going to die unless” is a tall order, but Taki doesn’t waver, formulating a plan with Teshi and Sayaka, and even trying (in vain) to convince Mitsuha’s father, the mayor, to evacuate.

While the stakes couldn’t be higher and the potential devastation still clear in the mind, it’s good to see some fun return. Sayaka’s “we have to save the town” to the shopkeep is a keeper.

Meanwhile, Mitsuha wakes up in the cave in Taki’s body, and is horrified by the results of the meteor strike. She recalls her quick day trip to Tokyo, when she encountered Taki on a subway train, but he didn’t remember her, because it would be three more years before their first swap.

Even so, he can’t help but ask her her name, and she gives it to him, as well as something to remember her by later: her hair ribbon, which he would keep around his wrist from that point on.

Both Taki-as-Mitsuha and Mitsuha-as-Taki finally meet face-to-face, in their proper bodies, thanks to the mysterious power of kataware-doki or twilight. It’s a gloriously-staged, momentous, and hugely gratifying moment…

…But it’s all too brief. Taki is able to write on Mitsuha’s hand, but she only gets one stoke on his when twilight ends, and Taki finds himself back in his body, in his time, still staring down that awful crater where Itomori used to be. And again, like a dream, the more moments pass, the harder it gets for him to remember her.

Back on the night of the Autumn Festival, Mitsuha, back in her time and body, takes over Taki’s evacuation plan. Teshi blows up a power substation with contractor explosives and hacks the town-wide broadcast system, and Sayaka sounds the evacuation. The townsfolk are mostly confused, however, and before long Sayaka is apprehended by authorities, who tell everyone to stay where they are, and Teshi is nabbed by his dad.

With her team out of commission, it’s all up to Mitsuha, who races to her father to make a final plea. On the way, she gets tripped up and takes a nasty spill. In the same timeline, a three-years-younger Taki, her ribbon around his wrist, watches the impossibly gorgeous display in the Tokyo sky as the comet breaks up. Mitsuha looks at her hand and finds that Taki didn’t write his name: he wrote “I love you.”

The meteor falls and unleashes a vast swath of destruction across the landscape, not sparing the horrors of seeing Itomori wiped off the face of the earth—another gut punch. Game Over, too, it would seem. After spending a cold lonely night up atop the former site of the town, he returns to Tokyo and moves on with his life, gradually forgetting all about Mitsuha, but still feeling for all the world like he should be remembering something, that he should be looking for someplace or someone.

Bit by bit, those unknowns start to appear before him; a grown Sayaka and Teshi in a Starbucks; a  passing woman with a red ribbon in her hair that makes him pause, just as his walking by makes her pause. But alas, it’s another missed connection; another classic Shinkai move: they may be on the same bridge in Shinjuku, but the distance between them in time and memory remains formidable.

Mitsuha goes job-hunting, enduring one failed interview after another, getting negative feedback about his suit from everyone, including Okudera, now married and hopeful Taki will one day find happiness.

While giving his spiel about why he wants to be an architect, he waxes poetic about building landscapes that leave heartwarming memories, since you’ll never know when such a landscape will suddenly not be there.

A sequence of Winter scenes of Tokyo flash by, and in light of what happened to Itomori quite by chance, that sequence makes a powerful and solemn statement: this is Tokyo, it is massive and complex and full of structures and people and culture found nowhere else in the world, but it is not permanent.

Nothing built by men can stand against the forces of nature and the heavens. All we can do is live among, appreciate, and preseve our works while we can. We’re only human, after all.

And yet, for all that harsh celestial certainty, there is one other thing that isn’t permanent in this film: Taki and Mitsuha’s separation. Eventually, the two find each other through the windows of separate trains, and race to a spot where they experience that odd feeling of knowing each other, while also being reasonably certain they’re strangers.

Taki almost walks away, but turns back and asks if they’ve met before. Mitsuha feels the exact same way, and as tears fill their eyes, they ask for each others names. Hey, what do you know, a happy ending that feels earned! And a meteor doesn’t fall on Tokyo, which is a huge bonus.

Last August this film was released, and gradually I started to hear rumblings of its quality, and of how it could very well be Shinkai’s Magnum Opus. I went in expecting a lot, and was not disappointed; if anything, I was bowled over by just how good this was.

Many millions of words have been written about Kimi no Na wa long before I finally gave it a watch, but I nevertheless submit this modest, ill-organized collection words and thoughts as a humble tribute to the greatness I’ve just witnessed. I’ll be seeing it again soon.

And if for some reason you haven’t seen it yourself…what are you doing reading this drivel? Find it and watch it at your nearest convenience. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry; you’ll pump your fist in elation.

Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans – 42

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I may have railed a lot against Jasley as a villain, but in exchange for putting up with him, I got to behold one of the most visceral IBO battles yet, so good in part because there’s no foreplay and no dawdling. All our Tekkadan boys are stone-faced and businesslike in their hugely satisfying, meticulous taking-down of Jasley’s larger fleet. We start in the middle, when things are already going badly for ol’ Jazzers, but he still holds out hope Iok will come to bail him out (he won’t).

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Hush gets to do some stuff in a new suit, and I kinda liked while he held his own, he wasn’t out there dominating or anything. He also got to crack a smile. When he and Shino return to the ship to refuel, reload, I also appreciated the scenes of out-of-breath pilots taking a breather and grabbing a quick bite and drink while they can.

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Also fun is the fact that from the very start of the episode, the Jasley we’re shown seems…different. He may have the bigger fleet, but they’re all unreliable mercs, and he somehow looks smaller and more vulnerable on his paisley-lined bridge, swapping his pimp duds for the same spacesuit as everyone else.

As things go worse and worse for him and his defensive line begins to crumble, he keeps yelling mostly to himself about how none of this makes any sense: he’s a good earner, he deserves the top spot he’s trying to take from McMurdo. He’s simply unprepared for the intense level of resolve the foes he so easily made are carrying with them. He’s literally kicked a hornet’s nest.

He sends out human debris pilots, in hopes they’ll be a match for Tekkadan. Zack asks if it’s really okay with Chad and Dante to be fighting…their ‘own kind’. Chad get one of the better lines in an episode full of them: “Our standings and backgrounds don’t matter. Everyone with a weapon is equal. We just crush them.”

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All hope of the cavalry arriving is lost when Jasley contacts McMurdo to try to work something out, to get him to call off his Tekkadan dogs. But McMurdo turns out to be a lot less old and out of touch than we might’ve thought last week when Jasley was able to undermine him so easily.

No, Iok isn’t coming; McMurdo had a talk with Rustal, who is keeping Iok in check and ignoring Teiwaz affairs in exchange for Teiwaz forgetting about the Iok’s attack on Turbines. And since Tekkadan isn’t part of Teiwaz anymore, the only person Jasley has to sort out his problems is…Jasley. It’s a great little phone call…so devastating.

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Does he jump in his souped-up mobile suit and take the fight to Tekkadan? No; when Tekkadan is close enough to start taking potshots at his flagship, he calls Orga to surrender. I guess Orga could work out a pretty sweet deal with Jasley, but it’s clear Orga just wants to watch him beg, and isn’t even that entertained by it.

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With that, he sends in Mika, who asks Orga what to do, standing over Jasley’s bridge with his weapon drawn. Orga says crush ’em; Mika crushes them, and that’s that. With Jasley gone, and Naze, Amida, Lafter, and all the others he killed avenged, Orga breathes a deep sigh of relief.

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Everyone agrees that while the departed probably aren’t too happy with what they did (and what they had to give up to do it), they still did the right thing. Now Tekkadan can truly move forward towards kingship of Mars. And they don’t need Teiwaz anymore.

Instead, they’ll be joining the Gjallarhorn revolution that announces its existence not long after Tekkadan finishes things with Jasley. McGillis has rightly pinned the blame for the SAU-Arbaru conflict with Rustal, and now that Teiwaz and Rustal seem to have an understanding, it’s possible Tekkadan might fight against Teiwaz in the future. And now that Tek’s cut ties with Admoss as well, Kudelia finds herself on the outside looking in.

But for now, they have a powerful ally who shares their ideals, and will fight beside him as he roots out the rot of corruption that has plagued Gjallarhorn too long. Orga and McGillis’ original deal still stands. In hindsight, Jasley never really had a chance to disrupt it.

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Orange – 07

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Orange continues to be a particularly hard show to assail, which explains all the 10s I’ve been doling out. It is without question First in Feels, that ahs affected me like no show since AnoHana.

Like many mysteries in fiction, I believe like my RABUJOI comrades that less is more in terms of explanation. To that end, Orange has kept away from explainin how the future letters work. What matters is that they are a means for Kakeru’s salvation, and now Naho is no longer alone in that struggle, and never was.

Suwa suggests they coordinate their moves in order to share the load of saving Kakeru. They do so by finding out his birthday and then asking him what he wants. Not only to Suwa and Naho do this, but the others as well who (as far as we know) are unaware of the letters.

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But because Kakeru and Taka want to support Naho’s pursuit of Kakeru, even being out of the loop doesn’t stop them from helping the cause. Taka finall gets to directly threaten Ueda, but stops short of assault and instead promises the school will know of the scorned girl’s continued bullying if it persists.

It’s still troubling that Ueda continues to pop up on the edges, since she still represents a wild card in the grander scheme of saving Kakeru, but good to see the united front against her. I daresay I’m also starting to feel bad for Ueda. Awful a person as she is, it’s true Kakeru dumped her pretty  fast, and if she’s going to be dumped, then Naho needs to—and forgive the crude metaphor—piss or get off the pot.

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Back in the old future, Naho, Suwa & Co. are still visiting Kakeru’s room, and the others reveal to Naho that Kakeru always loved him. Naturally, Naho’s instinct is to blame her inability to give a response contributed to the spiral of depression that led to his demise.

This time, they remember his birthday, Naho gets him a flashy sports bag—to replace the one his mom threw out in an act of possessiveness, an important symbol of moving on. Suwa gets Kakeru flowers, like he jokingly asked for, but just as Suwa does in his place in the future, Kakeru immediately gives the flowers to Naho, as an even stronger symbol of his feelings.

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Their friends file out and allow Kakeru to properly confess his feelings for Naho, though he doesn’t expect an immediate response. That’s just as well, because it takes some nudging from her friends for Naho to summon the courage to answer him.

Not only that, it takes a letter dated September 23, the day Kakeru attempted suicide after his friends from Tokyo visited and laughed off his stated desire to die. Neither Naho nor Suwa are going to let that happen. Suwa joins Naho and Kakeru for one of the tensest and most emotionally intense scenes in the show so far.

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In it, Suwa tells Kakeru no to hang out with his Tokyo friends, but with them, and goes further, saying he doesn’t want to just laugh with him. He, and Naho, want to know what’s really troubling him. Suwa’s firmness gets Kakeru to admit he wants to die all the time because he regrets breaking his promise to his mother and thinking her texts were “pain.”

As Suwa rightly puts is, Kakeru did nothing wrong. Everyone at some point feels the way he felt. It wasn’t his fault his mom died, and they don’t want him to continue blaming himself for everything. Not only that, Naho chimes in at the right time to deliver her unequivocal response: she loves him, and doesn’t want him to go away.

Kakeru’s joyful tears and smile are still tinged with melancholy, but Naho is in. She did what her past self could not, and she and Suwa, with their friends’ help, changed the future once more for the better. Now that Kakeru and Naho know how they feel about one another, the question becomes what comes next, and how to keep the good going.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 18

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In which Subaru truly does return to “Zero”, and this show continues to surprise

Other than a thorough and devastating dressing-down by MegaPuck (during which time Subie slowly freezes solid and shatters) and another Return by Death, this episode consists exclusively of one conversation between Subaru and Rem, presented only with intermittent flashes from the past.

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lot is covered, with a great deal of emotion flying around. It takes a great deal of attention to sit through and absorb, but if you like Subaru (or are at least rooting for him) and you like Rem, you probably liked this episode a lot, I for one was riveted.

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There’s also a good deal of rejection in their long, sprawling discussion, which takes place in a very pretty part of the city with a lovely view, on a clear, crisp day. First, Rem rejects Subaru’s desperate plan to run away together, because it would mean giving up on the Subaru she fell in love with.

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Rem can’t possibly know how much Subaru has been through already, and how he finally decided to give up after much suffering. But damn it all if I don’t get soppy-eyed as she beautifully describes the perfectly fine future they’d have together if she went with him. But again, she’s not ready to give up on him, even if he’s given up on himself.

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Initially in the talk, I was on Subaru’s side, because I was right there with him when Rem, Ram, and Emilia died again and again, often in awful, horrifying ways. Like him, I’m from the real world, where I, unfortunately, am not a hero. If I ended up in a fantasy-RPG-style world like he did, I might think for a time, that I had suddenly become one.

But Subaru learned the hard way that he is, as Puck put it, useless. That every time he’s talked big, he’s come up short in the quest to save everyone. It’s hard to argue, considering this is the most persistent impasse he’s come to, which has led to the darkest places…and there’s only so much a dumb do-nothing kid from the modern world can take, right?

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Subaru tries, with the same passion he ranted at Emilia, to drill into Rem’s head all the ways he is a complete and utter failure of a living thing. But she simply doesn’t buy it. She comes back with all of the reasons she loves him, and describes in detail how she felt when he rescued her from herself. Not only did she fall in love with him then, but he restarted a clock that stopped for her when her village burned. He is her hero.

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Rather than run away from everything, she’s going to stay right where she is, and so is Subaru. Whatever troubles they have, they’ll figure it out together; support each other; make up for each other’s weaknesses. Do what they’ve done up to this point. Rem makes her love for him plain as the blue sky above them.

So when Subaru rejects her because he still loves Emilia, it stings quite a bit, but for Rem, better to have a Subaru around than not, whether he loves her the same way back or not.

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So when Subaru puts forth his plan to move forward and try to save Emilia and asks for Rem’s help, Rem humbly accepts, but makes sure to tell him how cruel it is to ask such a thing of someone you’ve just rejected. Subaru, in turn, reminds her she rejected his running-away plan first. Touché!

They both have a good laugh – it’s been a long, exhausting talk, but look at what it has wrought! Subaru, who had been brought so low, he was starting to think—like me and Franklin—that he really was immensely over-his-head with this whole hero thing.

He had bags under his eyes, he was utterly done with everything. And now he’s back in the game, in far higher spirits, and even smiling and laughing. Quite the transition in one talk!

Time will tell if Subaru is simply grasping one last time onto the hope of one (Rem) who is, at the end of the day, ignorant to his past failed attempts, and doesn’t understand just how weak and ineffectual he is.

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Is this a glass-half-empty or a glass-half-full show? I’m still not sure, but it’s a half-full episode, which rejects what I’ve been thinking throughout this second half: that Subaru simply can’t cut it in this world, as much as he and I and Rem may want him to.

I’m looking forward to seeing what, exactly, returning to “zero” means for Subaru, and if somehow all the insights he and Rem gleaned from this long heart-to-heart will help them. Until then, this was a powerful episode, despite not much physically happening.

What did happen was Kobayashi Yuusuke and Minase Inori delivered some powerhouse performances that really drew me in and restored my faith in the possibility of a happy (or at least happier) ending. Mind you, Re:Zero may just be setting us up for more dark times made darker by the fact everything said here may end up being lost. But I hope not!

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Orange – 03

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Mother of God…this show. The emotional hold it has over me was maintained this week; in fact, it only tightened and intensified its formidable grip on my heart. I have to tip my cap to any show that is able to make such an relatively small, personal drama and tragedy feel like a world-reaching epic.

Naho seemed so confident and resolved to change the future, and so convince it was happening, and so happy that her efforts were bearing results.

And then Ueda-senpai happened. I know, right? A “prettier” love interest moving in on the heroine’s man…Naho will surely prevail, because it’s true love between her and Kakeru, right?

This shouldn’t be such a big deal, and yet it is. It’s a huge deal, because Kakeru has no future if he dates Ueda. The two things are firmly intertwined.

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This isn’t just about Naho getting the guy. It’s about saving him from oblivion.

Sure, I care far more for Naho’s happiness than anyone else’s (which is as it should be), but the specter of that increasingly bleak, almost nightmarish future considerably raises the stakes for Naho to win the Kakeru Sweepstakes.

Naho’s fatal flaw now—and in her future self’s original past—was that she cares for others before herself. She questions whether it’s right to trample on Ueda’s feelings to satisfy her own desire. She hesitates, and before she knows it, what had been an iron resolve to save him last week starts to rust and bend.

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What’s so impressive is just how goshdarned fast just a little bit of hesitation can get Naho into such serious trouble. Kakeru asked her flat out if she likes anyone; she couldn’t answer. He asks her “what she wants” before going to get drinks; all she can say is “orange juice.” In both cases, Kakeru is, consciously or not, reaching out to Naho, and it’s either not the appropriate time, or she just can’t muster the words she needs to.

So she ends up behind the curve, and Ueda steals a march on her with the tools Naho desperately needs to develop in a hurry: Directness. Persistence. Initiative Guts. She gets his hidden eraser note too late. She writes her reply to the question of whether it’s okay if he dates Ueda (Hell No) and sticks it in his shoe locker, instead of running to Kakeru herself and yelling “NO!” at the top of her lungs in front of him and Ueda.

Instead, Ueda corners Kakeru, and both overwhelmed by Ueda and absent a clear answer from Naho, Kakeru says yes, he’ll date Ueda, and go out during the break. I was so devastated by this development, even though it was sure to come along, I had to pause the TV and pour a glass of water to calm myself. It wrecked me.

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The only, and I mean only faint glimmer of hope comes when Kakeru finds her “No.” But I imagine he’s too nice a guy to dump someone so enthusiastic about dating him so soon after saying yes, so it could well be that Naho’s response was too little, a hair too late.

As expected, Naho is so crestfallen by the events of the day, she can’t eat, let alone pretend to hide her feelings to her mom. She goes up to the bed, pulls out the juice box Kakeru bought her before everything turned to shit, and drinks it as tears fall from her eyes. Sweet, sour, sorrowful…and utterly devoid of solace (Sorry, Suwa…)

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There are a couple of “post-apocalyptic” shows out this Summer, but none of their dystopias have been as and desolate and dismal as Naho’s future in Orange. It’s still, cold, desaturated, and the trees are leafless. Kakeru’s friends find that his note isn’t to himself, but to all of them.

He didn’t write to himself because he knew he didn’t have a future, which obviously insinuates he may have taken similar steps as his mother rather than suffer an accident. At the same time, no one’s dreams for the future came true, even his wish that they were all still close.

Tears well up in everyone. They shed those tears not just for Kakeru, but a bit for themselves, past and present: This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be.

Despite all that went awry for Naho and how steep a hill she must climb, I have to believe things can be made right; that a more hopeful future can be made. I may well end up even more disappointed and disheartened than I am now, but so be it.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 15

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I honestly didn’t think a second cour episode of Re:Zero could match the cinematic majesty of episode 7, but, well…here we are, eight episodes later, and this show is still topping itself. My expectations for the finale have now risen to unreasonable highs. But never mind that; we’ve got a long, long way to go, as does Natsuki Subaru.

Subaru doesn’t choose to commit suicide. He does die and Return by Death; but not by his choosing. He is slain in the most nightmarish way imaginable, having his fingers and leg cleaved off before freezing solid and cracking. Jeez, this show is rough on ol’ Subaru.

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Surprisingly, he respawns not in a bed, but at the vender’s cart, where he was with Rem seemingly an eternity ago (but in reality, early in last week’s episode). It isn’t long before he’s in a bed, however, as he’s so traumatized by what he witnessed and experienced in his last life, he is still in shock and barely able to speak.

Felis can’t do anything about his mental condition, so Crusch lets Rem take him home to Roswaal’s manor, hopeful being with Emilia and Ram will help him recover. Crusch also asks why Rem is so devoted to Subaru, and she responds “because he’s special.”

Once again, they fail to reach manor without incident, even though it’s Rem and not Subie’s choice to head there.

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The hooded baddies—witch cultists—ambush the cart, bloody a furious Rem, and take Subie captive.

Subie wakes up in chains, still unable to speak, and comes face to face with the grotesque and thoroughly insane Betelgeuse, who would be a goofy character for Re:Zero if we didn’t already have his less evil counterpart, Roswaal.

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Oh, and if this guy wasn’t fucking threatening and terrifying as all Hell, and merely a subordinate to “The Gospel”, and presumably, The Witch. Betel is a high priest of “sloth”, and initially calls Subie “pride” (perhaps why the cultists bowed to him last week?), and while his plans for Subie aren’t precisely clear, he’s intent on finding and killing Rem as soon as possible.

Rem all but grants his wish by busting into their cavern hideout, hopelessly outnumbered and surrounded. For all her power and combat ability and heartfelt desire to save her beloved Subaru, she’s still quite messed up from the initial ambush, and when she gets too close, Betel strings her up in mid air and breaks all the bones in her body, then twists her extremities in the opposite direction just two twist the proverbial knife.

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Betel heads off to prepare for “The Ordeal”, but Rem is amazingly still alive enough to scoot towards Subaru and free him from his chains, and from what is certainly to be more horrible torment at the hands of that monster and his master.

She tells him to live, and that she loves him, then passes away in his arms. While Rem has died before, as has Subaru, I just wasn’t prepared for this. She was found dead suddenly last week, but here the death is drawn out, as is Subaru’s apparent helplessness.

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Not sure what else to do, and still clearly foggy from his multiple ordeals, Subie continues his trek to Roswaal’s manor with Rem’s body in his arms. Again, he finds signs of a massacre, dead villagers, children, and Ram.

He doesn’t get anywhere near the front door before a colossal dark beast with glowing yellow eyes orders him to “sleep now, like my daughter.” Subaru’s head pops of with a splash of blood…and the blood-red credits start to roll as he’s buried by the snow. There’s no merciful fade to black. The camera doesn’t budge. The stirring, soaring, relentlessly tragic score blares.

By God…that was one of the darkest, cruelest, most hopeless endings I’ve ever seen. But this is Re:Zero, where endings usually lead to new beginnings. Still, it still felt like everything was over and there would be no victory, ever. 

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Sure enough, Subie respawns with Rem at the vendor’s. He’s not catatonic this time. He embraces Rem; alive again; in love with him. The vendor tells them to take a hike and stop scaring customers with their PDA.

Subaru takes Rem’s hand like he never intends to let go of it again, and she’s all to happy to hold his as they walk peacefully, quietly down the street.

But Subaru’s smile slowly vanishes as the camera pans up to his face. It’s a beautiful day, but there’s a storm brewing in his eyes. They’re not the dead eyes of defeat. They’re the fanatical eyes of a demon, and Betelgeuse is his prey.

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Orange – 02

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I never like awarding 10s and RWHL certifications willy-nilly, but I was compelled to give this episode the score it deserved, which was, to me, the highest score possible. This episode was an emotional roller coaster that sucked me in and wouldn’t let go. It contained no less than All The Feels. And it made missing the next episode, or indeed the rest of the run of the show, seem like as big a mistake as Naho not listening to her future letters.

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Naho is a good girl. She has a gentle, generous heart, but she also lacks confidence, and sometimes isn’t able to say or do what she wants. The letters she’s getting say in no uncertain terms that if the behaviors that come naturally to her in the present persist unchanged, Kakeru will be out of her life in ten years. Naho is currently falling in love with Kakeru, so she really doesn’t want that to happen.

So when the letter tells her to make Kakeru a lunch, she plans to do so. She doesn’t tell him when it seems like the best time to do so, hesitating until the latest possible moment in the day, and only after her friends tell Kakeru she makes her own lunches and Kakeru “jokes” about wanting her to make one.

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Saying it was just a joke, and worrying about “bothering” Kakeru by foisting her unworthy slop upon him (well, she’s not that harsh on herself), vex Naho terribly. Interestingly, her thought process mimics her mom’s.

Initially, she casts my heart into the cellar by deciding against making a lunch for him. But thankfully she reconsiders, and gets “fired up” making the best damn lunch Kakeru will ever have tasted.

For a second, I thought she was making lunches for everyone to provide cover and hold back rumors of favoratism. Of course, to all her friends, including Suwa, who likes her, they already know the score with her and Naho.

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But making the lunch is only half the battle for Naho. She must inform Kakeru she’s done so, and deliver the meal to him at the proper time. The time between when she nervously greets him to the lunch bell is tortuously long, as demonstrated by the montage of various teachers giving lectures intercut with quick shots of Naho and the bag containing the lunch.

But when that lunch bell rings…she CHOKES! My heart, having just started back up the stairs, ends up in the sub-basement. I was literally banging my fist on the coffee table, furious by her self-defeating inaction. But then, she waits after school for Kakeru to be done soccer practice with Suwa. And again, Kakeru gives Naho the fresh opening she needs, offering to walk home with her—and only her.

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Naho engages in idle conversation meant to learn more about Naho in basic terms: where she lives; what she does when she gets home, her hobbies. Naho’s truthful answers are nothing flashy, but Kakeru still seems to enjoy them.

Then Naho starts to ask him questions, but gets more specific…like where he was and what he was doing those two weeks he was absent. Because Kakeru has feelings for Naho, he wants her to know, but also clearly exhibits some courage of his own by coming out and saying it:

The very day of their opening ceremony—the day the future letter warned Naho not to invite Kakeru to hang out with them—his mother committed suicide. With that, my heart busted through the floor of the sub-basement and into a subterranean aquifer.

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At this point, even though they were sitting down and Kakeru clearly expressed his hunger, Naho had not yet revealed she had made a lunch for him. But by hearing Kakeru tell her something so intimate and sad, and realizing what not listening to the letters did, Naho finally summons the courage she needs to present the lunch to him.

He accepts it with elation, having hoped she’d followed through on fulfilling his desire, even though he called it a joke at the time. My heart starts another long descent as she finds her footing, promising she’ll make him lunch every day from now on, and give him wake-up calls if he needs them, or any of the other things a parent does until you find someone you love who does them instead.

Returning to her letters, details emerge: Kakeru dies in an accident in the Winter of his seventeenth year, and she and the others always regretted not saving him when, as her future self sees it, they could have. Well, that’s that; Naho WILL save him, no matter what.

GO NAHO. (Sorry, Suwa.)

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 07

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Subaru is able to escape Rem by blinding her with his cameraphone flash, but only temporarily. She slices his leg off, heals it, then starts cutting him up until he’ll talk. She smells the Jealous Witch all over him, and so believes he’s a spy for Emilia’s enemies. She ignores his claims of innocence, and before he can tell her how much he likes her and her sister, she cuts out his throat, and he wakes up once more in that bed.

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Unsure of what will happen if he dies a fourth time, he tries to switch things up by telling Emilia-tan exactly what’s going on, but before he can get the words out, some vile spectral hand clutches his heart and threatens to burst it. The sad part is, Emilia would have likely believed every word he said, if only he was able to say them.

But he can’t, so he has to try something else. When Beatrice visits him in his room to apologize for the first time they met, he asks her to protect him, and she forms a binding contract with him right then and there. He spends the final night before all his previous deaths in the forbidden library with her, and awakes the next morning, elated to be alive and having broken the loop.

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But while the last time he broke the loop, everything turned out fine and dandy, this time Rem seems to die in his place, of the same energy-sapping spell that brought him down the first time he was murdered in the mansion.

While Rem was the sister who hunted him in the past loop to protect Emilia and her sister, this time an enraged Ram vows to avenge Rem by killing Subaru. Beatrice shows up to protect him, like he promised, and Emilia is willing to trust him as long as he explains himself…

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…But he just can’t. He knows now if he even tries to utter anything at all about his predicament, he’ll be killed by that evil force clutching his heart, literally choked with fear. All he can do is separate himself from the standoff, but running only makes Ram think he’s guilty.

All Subaru wants to do is get away. Away from that house, where everything he said and did there was always under the suspicious pall of the twin maids, due to a smell and an influence he didn’t even know existed and still doesn’t understand.

He hopes by offing himself voluntarily over a cliff, he can undo all the suffering that he caused, directly or indirectly. Beatrice tracks him down and confirms really what he wants. “What’s lost can’t be reclaimed,” she says.

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But…with Subie’s ability, can’t what was lost never becomelost to begin with, and thus not need to be reclaimed? And is that not just a roundabout way of reclaiming something, namely a happy future for the inhabitants of the mansion?

Subaru agrees there’s nothing he can do here, and as much as he hates it, he must endure the fact that the Emilia, Ram and late Rem of this loop simply can’t remember all the good times they had in other loops. But he does remember, and they’re the same Ram and Rem throughout them all; the Ram and Rem he’s fallen for. Now that he’s saved his own life, he’s going to take it, in hope that resetting of his own free will will enable him to save them. It’s a gamble, but it beats staying where he is.

Honestly, this show is so damn good. Breaking up its own pattern by making things worse even when Subaru breaks the loop, and giving him the added problem of not being able to properly explain what’s happening to him. The vice just keeps tightening for our protagonist, and while he hit some emotional lows this week, his old can-do self shined through at the end. I honestly don’t know how he’s going to save Rem and Ram, but I most eagerly await to opportunity to watch.

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GOD EATER – 10

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GOD EATER is back. Repeat: GOD EATER is BACK. And just when I was about to give up hope. Turns out they waited until the point in the season when the rest of the Winter shows were in their final quarter, either because they needed more time or because they didn’t want this show to end when everything else was at episode 4 or 5.

You know what else? My patience was handsomely rewarded. This was the best episode of GOD EATER (and one of the best of the entire Winter) yet, using Lenka’s ordeal with adjusting to a new God Arc as the framing device for a heretofore untold story of Lenka’s childhood, starting with when he was found in the mud by a kind family who tested negative for entry into Fenrir.

More than a story, it is an often horrifically heartbreaking tragedy that is epic in scale, stretching across the fifteen years that precede the show’s present day, and being far more emotionally powerful than any of the black-and-white flashbacks that came before.

A lot of this episode’s power comes from our amassed knowledge of the previous nine. And yet, this could very well have been the first episode of GOD EATER—or even a completely standalone short film—and still been effective.

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After Lenka was rescued and named by his new big sister Iroha, his family lived in a shanty town living off rations and constantly at risk of Aragami attacks. When his mother develops a cough and becomes bedridden, he and his sister strike out with other town members to find medicine, but are ambushed.

Lenka, who wants to become strong enough to protect everyone, hits an Aragami with a stick, but it has no effect. Still, he’s bailed out by a God Eater – Lindow, specifically. Lenka is both jealous of Iroha’s attention towards Lindow, and of Lindow’s strength to protect. Lenka’s father doesn’t like the Fenrir system in which “people choose people” and leave others to die due to limited resources, but that’s exactly what happens in the shanty town as well.

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When Lenka grows ill and there’s only one dose of medicine, Lenka’s mother demands it be used on him, for he is the future. That’s confirmed when they test him for the first time and he reads positive, making his dream to become strong a more real possibility. It’s Iroha who injects the drugs, as both she and their father weep uncontrollably over tacitly condemning their mother to die. They bury her not long after.

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A few years pass, and Lenka is on the cusp of fifteen, the age when he can join Fenrir. His older sister has also grown more beautiful, and still quite close and protective of her brother. But she’s also mature enough to slap Lenka when, after an Aragami attack, their father is trapped under wreckage. All they can do is escape on a motorbike their father prepared for such an eventuality. Like his mother, Lenka’s father died so that he could live.

But while escaping the Aragami on the bike, one manages to scratch Iroha’s leg. It doesn’t look that bad, but the wound bleeds and festers, and before long, she can no longer walk (an analog to a similar desperate journey he’ll go on with Alisa later on). Once they check the wound and it’s riddled with maggots, once more a choice must be made.

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Lenka can’t make that choice—Iroha is all he has left—so she chooses for him, by slitting her own throat, forcing him to leave her. Before they part, she tells him to go to Fenrir, because he tested positive, and always was positive. That didn’t do the family any good, however, because they weren’t related by blood. But no matter how Fenrir cruelly defines it, Iroha always considered Lenka her brother – she even named him, because like a lotus, they found him in the mud, where lotuses bloom.

To twist the proverbial knife once more, before and then in the process of being devoured by Aragami, Iroha briefly envisions the world she always dreamed of, a beautiful pastoral paradise where plants have returned, and where she’ll be together with her dear brother forever. She looks like a Studio Ghibli character in this fantasy, before a devastating smash cut to her being eaten. No point in trying to hold back the tears here; this was utterly dejecting. Rest in peace, Iroha.

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The Utsugi family, then, sacrificed themselves one after another to save a boy who wasn’t even related to them by blood. But if any of the three of them, including Iroha, had to do it all over again, I doubt they’d change a thing. The choices they made led to Lenka being in the position to “overturn” the world they had no power to change.

When Lenka stops re-living the memories of losing his family members one by one over the course of his life, he awakens to find the adjustments for his new God Arc are complete. All that’s left is to re-declare what he means to do with his newly-resotred (and likely greatly increased) power: to kill Aragami. But also, to be someone whom people can entrust their hope for a better world, the way his family was for him.

GOD EATER is back; with brutal, gorgeous, heart-rending, unyielding authority. Episode 11 has its work cut out for it.

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Prison School – 12 (Fin)

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I am sad that there is no more Prison School to watch, but it couldn’t have delivered a better finale, one that many an anime should look to for reference when it comes to delivering the goods, with interest in the ninth hour and satisfying on virtually every level, but not giving its wronged but not entirely innocent lads too easy a final result. No one is innocent by the end of Prison School. But that’s okay!

We begin the end with the “enhanced interrogation tactics” Meiko employs on Anzu (i.e., sitting on her face), just as Shingo and the guys figure out that it’s Anzu helping them by helping Chiyo. It’s good to know they know Kiyoshi isn’t the only one sticking his neck out for them (though that’s not to say he isn’t).

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Kiyoshi would be having the time of his life kissing a cute, well-bred girl after-hours in the corrections office…if Hana was a girl he liked, and if Hana liked him. That’s obviously not the case. Instead, as he realizes, Hana’s kiss is a very rigid and uncertain one; as if she’s as out of her element as he is.

They are both of them complacent in appropriating sexual behavior for reasons other than mutual stimulation (though that’s a side effect): Hana wants to exact perfect justice; while Kiyoshi, knowing Hana’s weakness whenever things have gotten too far, performs a “Flight of Shimazu” in Hana’s mouth, breaking through her dental defenses with his tongue, meeting hers, and engaging in furious combat until she’s defeated.

Thanks to her height and the design of the office window, Chiyo is thankfully spared the sight of this spectacle, and only sees the top of Kiyoshi hunched over (this is, to the end, a show where every inch and second matters). She’s also kept from walking in on them when Kiyoshi cries out “Not yet!” but that also wakes Hana up, who sends Kiyoshi back to his cell for lights out, despite still being very out of it.

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Mari and Meiko are satisfied the boys are indeed locked away in bed, and no longer up to anything, apparently resigned to their fate. But that’s exactly what Kiyoshi and Gakuto want them to think, and the next morning, the tables turn: they discover Joe is posing as Gakuto, while Chiyo is poising as Joe.

The real Gakuto makes quite the entrance, donning only his underwear (not wishing to sully the lovely Chiyo’s gym clothes), just in time for him and Kiyoshi to explain how they made a three-way switch when Hana let them use the bathroom.

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While Gakuto was free, he made full use of the time to restore and extract the DTO files, which he produces in the form of a thumb drive he was keeping hidden up his ass for safekeeping. I knew when he came in in his underwear this would be the case, but I wasn’t prepared for the super-serious yet also super-hilarious manly exchange between him and the chairman, and how the latter has no qualms about touching the drive. After looking over the files, he’s satisfied the Underground StuCo indeed set traps to get them expelled.

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When Hana realizes she’s the one who allowed Kiyoshi to unlock the door, she rushes at him with murderous intent. I must say, it has been an absolute joy listening to Hanazawa Kana play all the myriad sides of Midorikawa Hana, alongside Ohara Sayaka and Itou Shizuka as Mari and Meiko, respectively.

And it’s Mari who shields Kiyoshi from Hana’s punch taking responsibility for everything she put both her subordinates and the boys through. This final gesture suggests even she knows the gig is well and truly up. Though she believed it was for a good reason, she broke the rules, and lost.

But most importantly, Mari failed to see the boys as anything but scum. That unyielding prejudice was her undoing. Yes, the boys were guilty of peeping (God, that seems like eons ago), but they more than paid their debt to the school for that crime. Mari tried to ride her exclusionary agenda too far, and got burned.

There’s also the fact that she kept digital records of DTO rather than deal exclusively in burnable paper documents. She would have probably been victorious had Gakuto had no evidence to stick up his ass. But it wouldn’t have been a moral victory, no matter what Mari told herself later, and her relationship with Chiyo would have taken an even stronger hit.

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But she didn’t win; the boys did; the Chairman declares their time served and grants them their freedom. The sight of them in regular high school uniforms is a glorious sight for sore eyes, as is the extremely happy ending all the guys get, from Kiyoshi being fed by Chiyo, to Andre finding a group of girls who love his size, ears, and punchability; to Shingo and Anzu picking their courtship up where they left off; to Joe playing with his ants. Heck, even Gakuto reaches for the same 3K book as a very comely young lady who wears her hair in Chinese buns.

More importantly, rather than peep on the girls form afar, the lads (other than Joe) are engaging the girls; treating them not as objects to be admired and leered over from afar, but as fellow human beings to interact with on equal terms. It could be argued their incarceration actually improved them as men; they certainly appreciate their freedom.

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But not everything is peaches and sunshine at Hachimitsu. This is a show about reversals, and the most devastating one is saved for last, when a particularly wrathful redhead whom I assume is the regular StuCo president (as opposed to underground) comes to the Chairman (with her own agenda) and demands justice be doled out for Mari, Meiko and Hana. Wanting to avoid the specter of nepotism, the Chairman acquiesces.

That means throwing them in the very jail they once ran. And you know what? It doesn’t feel right. I don’t need the girls to get their “just desserts” in this manner. A direct turnabout like this wasn’t necessary, and it only feels bitter in my mouth—as I’m sure it does to Kiyoshi and the others—and as I’m sure it was meant to. After all, they know exactly what it’s like in there, and wouldn’t wish it on anyone…even those who originally put them there.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t mind a second season that explores further the relationships of Anzu+Shingo, or Gakuto+3K girl, or the Chiyo-Kiyoshi-Hana triangle (if that’s indeed a thing), or the possibility of Mari changing her mind about men, or Meiko growing a spine in the aftermath of her leader’s fall.

I’d also love to watch Kiyoshi, the other guys, and the girls who’ve befriended them (3K girl is one of the redhead’s lieutenants) work together to try to free their three former antagonists. Because no student should serve time in a prison in school. Normal detention and suspension should suffice!

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Prison School – 04

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It doesn’t take long to reveal what Gakuto intended by assaulting both the vice president and president: he wanted the latter to “punish and forgive” him. At first, this is played out as Shiraki sodomizing Gakuto with a pixelated vibrator…but turns out to be just harmless electric clippers (thank GOD), with which she shaves his head, the clippings of which Gakuto offers to Kiyoshi as the all-important pigtails he’ll need to complete his girly look. Gosh, what a friend! If only his powerful intellect were used to better humanity…

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His wig thus acquired, he must grab a girl’s uniform from the laundry; no mean feat. This show is a master of portraying suspense and stress, and dangling everything on whether someone comes out of a doorway, or turns around, or, later, spills tea on a backpack.

Thanks again to Gakuto (who literally pisses himself distracting the laundry service guy), Kiyoshi gets away with a uniform undetected. With that, he has everything he needs for the sumo date, and tries to get some sleep, promising he won’t fail Chiyo. Meanwhile, Chiyo seems super-psyched for tomorrow.

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The day arrives: so full of potential pitfalls and foreboding, but also ample hope that all will go according to plan. As Kiyoshi and Gakuto collect the purses of the girls of various girls who have come for track day, Chiyo makes huge amounts of onigiri for Kiyoshi, assuming all boys eat several times more than girls…not to mention believing Kiyoshi got permission to leave.

As Kiyoshi enjoys a bento and some “fine asses” as noon and zero hour draws nearer, a sense of calm seems to settle over the two. Everything has been set into motion, and everything they worked and shat and pissed and sweated and bled for is finally about to come to fruition. Kiyoshi also remarks on how close a friendship he and Gakuto have achieved in the last three weeks. Gakuto says its all for the Three Kingdoms figurines.

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The bell rings. Zero Hour. From this point on, Prison School becomes a taut, elegant thriller, complete with a first-person perspective of Kiyoshi placing the fartbox on the toilet, slipping out the window, into the drainage channel, through tunnels, beneath Shiraki beating his comrades, and out to his changing zone.

He’s barely done transforming into “Kiya-tan” when Shiraki, no longer busy beating the others, calls out to him. He has a choice: run and risk being exposed, or stay put and hope he’s a convincing enough girl from behind to fool the glasses-wearing Shiraki. Somehow, some way, it works, and Shiraki moves on. Is this fortune smiling on Kiyoshi’s Big Day?

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Oh no! Mari grabs him by the backpack before he can step outside of school grounds! But wait, she just wants “her” to take her backpack off her back. When she spots the tear in Kiyoshi’s jacket, she apologizes and lets him go, showing Mari’s empathetic side for once. After that, it’s smooth sailing till the rendezvous point.

Chiyo truly outdoes herself in the adorableness department, between her outfit, the way she sneaks up on an overjoyed Kiyoshi, and her intense enthusiasm over watching a student sumo match with him. Her seiyu Hashimoto Chinami is one of the few voices in this show I’m not familiar with, but she does a great job projecting Chiyo’s warm and genial personality, along with her excitement with the whole affair.

Kiyoshi and Chiyo are just plain infectious to watch here; it’s like he’s died and gone to heaven. Sure, he doesn’t give a shit about sumo, and she sucks at cooking, but HE DOESN’T CARE IT’S CHIYO, for cryin’ out loud. He eats every bite of plain salted white rice, and gets rewarded with a close-in selfie with her, as if they were already boyfriend and girlfriend!

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Then…heaven turns to HELL, and so heart-rippingly fast it made my head spin. I was rooting so hard for Kiyoshi and his success, but in the back of my head I still remembered that he’d done things for which a penance would someday be exacted. I just didn’t think it would happen so fast! From peeping to peeing to stealing and fleeing, to so easily allowing Gakuto to sacrifice his dignity and high school years…Kiyoshi is no pure angel.

And yet, it’s nothing in particular he does or says that leads to him so harshly receiving his “karma” and being driven into the ground. It’s something that just happens, as a result of what he’s already said and done, along with what he failed to do, like check to see whose uniform he stole.

Turns out, he stole CHIYO’S. And because he ate too much of the rice to be “nice”, and had to go to the bathroom (for real this time), he leaves Chiyo alone with his bag, and when she spills tea on it, she notices her uniform in that bag, and it’s over. It’s ALL OVER. She manages to get “You’re disgusting” out before storming off.

Meanwhile, back at the school, his cover is about to be blown, as Shiraki loses patience, goes into the mens room, and prepares to knock down the door where the now-malfunctioning m-poop-3-player sits. It looks like the boys are in for another month of prison. But far, far worse, Kiyoshi’s aspirations with Chiyo are in tatters. It’s going to be tough to come back from all that.

10_sesRABUJOI World Heritage List

Ushio to Tora – 17

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The temple elders are visited by a beautiful ghost, Jiemei (voiced by Hanazawa Kana) who reports that Ushio’s body has been overthrown by the Beast Spear, making him a true beast. The only way to save him involves his dad, the Kouhamei Sect, the comb that his mother gave him…and none other than all of the girls he’s saved on the way to Asahikawa.

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One by one, to my increasing delight, Jiemei pays a visit to those girls: Yuu, Saya, Reiko, Mayuko, and Asako. And when they hear their Ushio is in trouble, they don’t ask about the danger, or why a green ghost goddess is talking to them: they drop what they’re doing and GO. I should have known this was coming: after spending most of last season saving these girls, the time would come when they’d be able to return the favor.

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And let me just say, it’s a delight to anyone who’s been following the show closely and enjoying it to behold this episode assembling the “Dream Team.” Ushio is in rough shape, and it wouldn’t be as satisfying if some new priest or shaman or youkai stepped in to save him with some kind of miracle spell or ritual.

Ushio’s soul is under siege, and these girls who touched that soul are the best chance to break that siege. Naturally, Haniwa, Jun, Satoru, and Nagare are also on board. And let’s not forget Tora, who wants to restore Ushio to his human state so he can eat him…and because, c’mon, the big lug loves the guy.

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To save Ushio, the girls have to comb his hair with the heirloom comb, but the comb is on his person. Enter Izuna, the fleet green jackal-weasel-fox thingy who fights through Beast-Ushio’s black tendrils and snatches the comb up. Easy part over. As Ushio’s dad and the sect members prepare for an approaching Ushio (followed closely by a massive horde of hiyou), the girls introduce themselves.

The sudden melding of these girls’ personalities and histories with Ushio is exceedingly fun to watch, especially how Mayuko tries to kid around with Asako’s feelings, only for it to get more serious when Yuu reacts to Asako’s usual defense mechanism of running down Ushio and claiming not to care about him. Yuu calls her the hell out, causing Asako to cry and admit the truth: she’d have come running earlier had she known what was going on.

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Once Ushio arrives, Reiko is the first to volunteer to go at him with the comb. He tries to shove her aside, but she successfully gets the comb in his hair, tearing off a big lock. But once she’s done, Ushio is racing straight at the other girls. Saya trips trying to run, but Asako puts her body between her and Ushio. When the injured Asako thanks God no one else got hurt, Yuu realizes she was harsh on Ushio’s childhood friend. She’s the real deal.

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Hinowa manages to trap Ushio in a magic barrier, something Saya is able to punch through due to her status as a white-haired woman. Like Reiko, Ushio saved Saya from a life of despair and servitude, so she’s no less committed to freeing Ushio from his demonic prison.

She gets a lock off too, but Hinowa’s barrier breaks, leaving the next girl, Mayuko, exposed to Ushio’s wrath. That’s when ZZZZAP, Tora unleashes a lightning storm that half-destroys the bridge, saving his “future food” Mayuko along with Saya. Everything happens bang-bang-bang in this episode, and even when it doesn’t, the scenes are full of great character interaction.

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Like Asako and Yuu, Hinowa and Jun quickly get over their mutual animosity when the latter saves the former by helping her maintain the barrier on Ushio. While they’re not part of the group of girls who must comb Ushio’s hair, there’s no doubt Ushio saved Jun from a life of despair by saving her bro, while Hinowa can’t help but respect him, considering how many others are willing to put their lives on the line for him.

Yuu’s up next (Asako will probably be the last, for dramatic purposes and all), and she too is steeled by witnessing the love and devotion of the others. They may have been saved in different ways, but they were all saved by the same goofy, hard-headed, kind, selfless guy. And they’re going to get him back.

9_magRABUJOI World Heritage List