The Duke of Death and His Maid – 12 (Fin) – Spring at the Latest

Not entirely surprisingly considering the pace of the storytelling so far, there is no miracle insta-cure for Bocchan’s curse this week. Instead, he heeds his mother’s summons and comes home for the first time in years. Upon meeting with his mother after all that time, she simply tells him it’s too late and they’ll talk tomorrow. Viola and Walter assure their bro that Mom was actually being “kind” tonight.

Thankfully for Bocchan, Alice tags along for his awkward trip to the main house, and is an immediate hit with the house staff, who are amazed what a spitting image of her dearly departed mother Sharon she’s become. Bocchan’s mom even mistakes Alice for Sharon, with whom she was very close and was never the same after her death by as-yet unexplained circumstances.

Bocchan’s mom may be too tired to talk late at night, but Alice is delighted when Bocchan stops by to chat. Alice assures him the staff treated her kindly, and she’s very happy to hear Bocchan was able to speak to his mother normally, even if briefly. When it looks like Alice is dangerously close to touching his lips with her own, Bocchan retires for the night, and Alice lies in the warm spot he left.

The next day, Viola takes Bocchan to the grave where he was cursed by a woman in white. They cross paths with their mom, who tells Viola not to stand so close to her brother and again insists she start dressing like a proper lady; Viola pays her no mind.

The night of the big dinner, Bocchan’s mom has him seated at the far end of the table. Turns out she only summoned him there to inform him that due to his father’s deteriorating health (oddly we never see him) Bocchan must break the curse by Spring or Walter will be named the family head.

When Bocchan insists on discussing another matter and brings up Alice, his mom thinks he’s joking if he thinks he’ll be able to marry the one he loves. But Bocchan won’t stand for her calling Alice a “lowly maid”, nor will he have what he’s talking about mistaken for japes. He forcefully tells her that Alice was the one who pulled him out of the abyss, and he’d be dead were it not for her.

Further, he, Walter and Viola aren’t her things, they’re her children, and sometimes there are things more important than wheeling and dealing. He storms out of the room without finishing the soup course, and Viola and Walter also excuse themselves to show him out. None of them see their mother smile, as she’s impressed and proud that Bocchan has grown into a strong young man who can talk back to her.

There’s a sense of triumph in seeing Bocchan flanked by his siblings in the hall. Unlike their mother, they no longer see him as a freak or monster, but simply as their brother, who had some misfortune. At the same time, they also envy him for having been able to live outside of the harsh stern structure of the main residence. He’s been able to live his own life with Alice and Rob.

That said, the curse remains, and Bocchan is still determined to get rid of it, hopefully by his mom’s Spring deadline. As they play cards by the fire, Bocchan tells Alice that she’ll always have all of his love, even if he doesn’t come right out and say he told his mother he’d be marrying her. When he later falls asleep at the card table, Alice lays a blanket over him and says “I love you.”

So we’ve reached the end of the first part of Bocchan and the Black Maid’s story of finding light, hope, and love in the darkness…but only for now. With the promise of a sequel at the conclusion of the episode, I’ll surely be watching when its pure, sweet, charming central couple returns.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Oregairu 3 – 02 – This Has to Be Done Now

The tipsy Haruno invites everyone upstairs so Yukino can say what she wants to say, and even pops out some solo champagne as she listens. The  operative word there is listen: she actually does so, now that she can tell Yukino has something to clearly say.

Haruno says she’ll support Yukino in her efforts as a big sis should, but warns that if she goes back home, she may not be able to leave for a while. Yukino already knows the difficulty of what she’s doing, but she can’t win (her independence) if she doesn’t play, so she’s decided to finally take the field.

As Yui stays over to help Yukino pack her things, Haruno walks with Hikigaya, and expresses her astonishment over her little sis finally making herself clear. The ol’ Haruno cynicism is still there, citing that “nothing will change” whether thing works out Yukino or not, but that giving up on “various things” is part of becoming an adult, and it’s good to see Yukino take those first steps.

She also confides in Hikki that she’s not actually drunk, even though her face is flush and she’s favoring his shoulder. The flushness suddenly fades and she stands straighter, and her demeanor and voice suddenly more closely resemble Yukino’s.

No matter how much Haruno has drunk, a part of her has always been able to stay calm and observe and temper herself. And she has a sneaking suspicion Hikki is the same, whispering “you can’t get drunk” in his ear.  Whether it’s alcohol…or love.

The next day at school, after a slight problem unlocking the club room, the trio are back at their places sipping tea when Isshiki Iroha makes her first appearance this season. She hooks up a portable projector and plays a TV drama, but not to just goof off. Instead of the end-of-year “thank you” party for grads, she wants to throw a prom, like Western high schools.

With so little time to prepare, it’s going to be a close call whether Iroha can actually get such an undertaking off the ground, and it wouldn’t even be for her class, but she’s determined to make it happen, stating her desire to be Prom Queen to be her primary motivator.

When Yukino tells her she’ll be queen for her own prom in two years even if she doesn’t “lay the groundwork”, Iroha stands her ground, insisting the prep is crucial to achieving her goals. Left unsaid is that within her selfish motivation there likely lies a desire to see Hikki, Yukino and Yui have a prom.

Yukino can probably sense this, and considering she has a lofty goal of her own, she’d be hypocritical if she pooh-pooh’s Iroha’s. So she agrees to help Iroha, but as an individual, not a Service Club member. She also tells Yui and Hikki they’re under no obligation to help her since it’s not an official request, but a personal one.

While they realize she wants to try to do this on her own, they’ll always be around to help out when needed (which is certain to be the case).

When Yui comes home and sees the photo of her between Yukino and Hikki, she frowns, and tells herself to forget the thing she saw while helping Yukino move: a photo of Yukino holding Hikki’s arm on the water ride, hidden behind the stuffed animals on her bed. Of course, Yui can’t forget what she saw, because it’s just another confirmation of the “place she can’t get into”, no matter how many times she stands in front of the door.

She interprets Yukino’s treasuring of that photo as further evidence she has feelings for Hikki. Yui has feelings for Hikki, but also loves Yukino, thus leaving her perpetually on the outside looking in. She’s had to be content with that limbo, in which her and Yukino and Hikki’s genuine feelings—and the conflicts they create—have been left unsaid, clearly or otherwise.

But with Yukino starting to speak clearly, that’s coming to an end. There’s an unavoidable element of destruction inherent in all acts of creation—in this case Yukino’s New Start, but also the overarching physical and psychological transition into adulthood. Yui sees that on the horizon and fears she’s unprepared…but isn’t everybody?

Rifle Is Beautiful – 01 – (First Impression)

Kokura Hikari loves rifle shooting and aims to refine that love up to Olympic levels. However, her school’s Rifle Club Four girls is discontinued the day she tries to join it and blah blah blah a new club of four girls comes together before the mid point of the first episode.

Active Shooter on Campus is a shelter in place it’s so bad because it’s so generic Girl’s Club anime. It is visually competent, with crisp line work and broad color, but there is nothing else positive to say about it. The cast has no depth or interesting motivations. The humorless story telling and setting has no gimmick or novelty. At 22 minutes, this is absolutely not worth your time.

Granbelm – 02 – Pretty. Bad.

Like we the viewers, Mangetsu begins this episode not sure why or how she ended up nude in Ernesta’s bed. Meanwhile, Mangetsu’s family panics and calls the police to report their daughter’s disappearance. While a literal hand wave (of magic) fixes the situation, I can’t help but feel like a more interesting plot line was waved away with it.

What follows is a by the numbers plot where Ernesta joins Mangetsu’s class as a transfer student, demonstrates or explains more about magic, and the source of Mangetsu power remains a mystery (and she continues to grow more powerful).

Side characters are developed a bit on the edges, such as a now magicless Rosa being kicked out of Anna Fugo’s mansion, and twins being introduced in Hong Kong, but those elements each felt isolated and inconsequential to the main plotline.

Granbelm’s broad color pallet, use of gradient fills, and subtle audio style make it pleasant to watch. However, these same qualities emphasize how frustrating its utterly incompetent narrative structure is at the same time.

Mangetsu has a Mary Sue quality, as seen by her natural immunity to magic and substantially higher powerful when casting magic. However, Mangetsu’s absence of personal flaws and lack of immediate challenges to overcome are more frustrating. She’s passive, too kind, and too removed from the magic world. The resulting character feels generic and the pairing narrative doesn’t have stakes. It’s underwhelming.

At its core, Granbelm is a show that could easily be a lot better. Replacing the short and scattered side character ‘check in’ scenes with a clear B-plot would have given the episode more focus.

Ernesta would make a stronger protagonist because she has stakes in the magic battle, relationships to build upon, and her point of view would structure the mystery about Mangetsu’s power as an actual mystery.

From Mangetsu’s dull characterization, to her lack of agency, to her lack of interest in her own mystery, to her apparent OP magic status, nearly everything  Granbelm idea feels wrong. Anna’s declaration at the very end of the episode gives me a sliver of hope — that Mangetsu is a demon could be an interesting twist on the demon lord and magic girl genre conventions — but it’s just a sliver of hope.

Tsuki ga Kirei – 06.5

After Chinatsu’s request to confess to the same boy Akane is dating, Tsuki ga Kirei hits the pause and rewind buttons for a “the road so far” recap. BAH!

The only thing to note is that after six episodes of a highly-filtered live action Shinto cultural dance sequence in the middle of the OP, it looks like they finally got around to animating it (see above).

Alas, there’s no new story until next week. Booo :(

Sin: Nanatsu no Taizai – 01 (First Impressions)

The Gist: Lucifer falls to hell but passes her blood to a mortal on the way down. Then she meets the seven deadly sins, which are demon lord ladies that want to kill and or do her or both. None of it makes much sense and none of it is voice acted or presented in an interesting way, but she beats them and sets a story min motion…

The Verdict: it’s slightly sexy, in so far as the uncensored version has nipples and touching between girls with huge breasts but it is not coherent nor H-enough to fill that kind of thrill. If you need an nonsensical christian’ish themed girl touching show… honestly, you can do better than this?

I mean, I know why it was made and who it is for and it is higher quality than your typical ecchi girl-touching fight genre show, but not by much. Seriously, just hang out at a bar till closing time and take whatever desperate hook-up that’s left home with you. You’ll feel less dirty in the morning…

 

Tiger Mask W – 01 (First Impressions)

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The Gist: imagine a world where WWF from the 1980’s was really real and the absurd backstories of its actor/wrestlers were harsh and traumatic. Now imagine that world is crudely drawn, quickly (but incoherently) paced, and you have Tiger Mask W.

The plot is about two boys who enter wresting to take revenge upon the man who destroyed their father/ father figure. Each boy ends up wearing a tiger mask, but for different organizations and will, probably, have a show down with each other at some point in the season.

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bad figures, color pallete, composition and scale… at least it has a picture of a motor cycle in the middle of it…

The verdict: Tiger Mask’s plot is almost terrible enough to be funny but it’s too convoluted to engage. The whole Global Wrestling Monopoly Conspiracy is weird and distracts from the initial thrust of the story, and I’m not even getting into the whole gym of under dogs that somehow get rolled into ‘Monopoly’s plan to take over Japanese wrestling.’

Maybe I’m too old for this? But, even if I liked wrestling, animation this ugly and narratively slapped together would probably be a turn-off.

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