Mahoutsukai no Yome – 23

Whether he feels bad about trying to sacrifice Stella or not (I would guess not), Elias can’t accept Chise leaving him. He wants her back, and wanders aimlessly in search of her. When he kills part of the forest he’s in, Spriggan springs into action and takes him down.

Titania and Oberon show up, willing not just to help him find Chise, but to invite them both to the land of the faeries (always with the ulterior motives). Elias declines that particular offer, but Titania still helps him find Chise.

Titania’s powers reach far and wide, and practically everyone Chise has encountered and/or befriended on her various adventures notices those powers. As for Chise herself, she now finds herself watching a young Joseph’s memories.

Joseph was the son of a witch and gravedigger and much hated by the villagefolk for those qualities. But when he finds Cartaphilus half-buried in the woods, he takes him home out of pity, and resolves to heal his extensive injuries using the skills he no doubt learned from his mom.

Only Cartaphilus never gets better, no matter what treatments Joe tries. He doesn’t get worse either, which means the conditions that would allow Joseph to leave the town he hates so much never materialize. Joe snaps, and decides that drastic measures are the only answer: he “becomes one” with Cartaphilus.

The newly merged individual travels (presumably) to London, collecting body parts from innocents to replace the ones that no longer work, and learns from a mage that the ancient curse he has cannot be lifted.

With that, Chise comes out of it, and Cartaphilus almost immediately tries to rip her arm off, hoping it’s the final piece to the puzzle of ending his suffering. It doesn’t look good for Chise until Titania, Elias, Spriggan, and Ruth arrive in the nick of time to save her.

Renfred and Alice arrive as Cartaphilus unleashes his grotesque menagerie, and a big battle occurs in the small space. Still, Chise is laser-focused on Cartaphilus, and when he creates a portal to escape, she follows him, but not before shooting an angry look at Elias.

Elias and Ruth follow her, and they end up in a foggy London alley with Chise, just as a fleeing Cartaphilus bumps into Mariel, who just happens to be in that very same alley. Mariel, hoping to help in some way, transforms herself into a bull for Chise to ride.

They find Cartaphilus sitting on the same fountain we’ve always seen during the second-cour credits. Can Chise end his suffering, while also saving herself?

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Mahoutsukai no Yome – 22

Chise makes the only deal she believes she can make, not just to save Stella, but her own life as well. That deal puts her in the lion’s den, and Joseph, the lion, makes it clear he still hates her, even if he’ll honor the deal.

The process starts with the two swapping eyeballs—a particularly icky sequence—and when his body doesn’t reject it, he prepares to remove her cursed left arm.

While Chise was awake for the eye-swap, Joe locks her in her memories for the next phase—childhood memories she thought lost forever, in which she and her dad and brother were together and she was a normal, well-adjusted girl.

After painfully bittersweet images of their nearly perfect family life flash by—among them her dad fighting off some kind of demon or faerie—a form of Joseph appears that isn’t so much Joseph, but the piece of him that has now made itself at home in her body—his eye.

One night, the perfect family situation dies. Chise’s father gets out of bed with his infant son, walks out the front door, says goodbye to Chise, and never returns. One could explain his course of action as cutting his losses—perhaps having had enough of living with two Sleigh Beggys—and perhaps he simply did what he felt he had to in order to protect his non-Beggy son.

Whatever the reason, it’s a huge betrayal, and Chise’s mom cannot make up for her husband’s absence. That doesn’t mean she doesn’t try: she works any and all jobs she can to scrape by, but because so many monsters are attracted to her no one else can see, she cannot hold those jobs for long, and she slowly drowns in debt.

Like Chise, her mother had a frail body, and when keeping up with everything simply became too much for it, her mind snapped as well. In a moment of weakness, she listened to the voice that told her it would be easier if Chise weren’t around.

She chokes Chise awake, telling her the words Chise never forgot: “I shouldn’t have given birth to you,”, but in this context she isn’t talking of Chise’s inadequacy as a daughter, but the fact that she exists at all. Her mother knows that her curse is her daughter’s curse. It’s more an act of misguided mercy and desperation than malice.

That’s why her mother snaps out of it before she kills Chise, and overwhelmed by shame for what she tried to do, throws herself out the window. After that day, Chise forgot everything that came before, and it was the genesis of her belief she was worth so little even her mother regretted having her.

But that villainous mother, devoid of the context of her torment or the lengths she went to to keep their family of two together, was nothing but a creation in Chise’s mind. Her real mother didn’t really wish her dead; on the contrary, she decided she’d rather die than live on knowing she even made the attempt.

Chise breaks free of this vision of her mother as the real one, and says goodbye before letting her go entirely in a dreamy field of flowers. She even goes so far as to thank this false artiface of her mother, as she was the reason Chise ultimately ended up meeting so many wonderful people, among whom she still counts Elias, despite what he did to Stella.

With her “dark mother” gone, replaced by the whole picture of how things went so damn wrong with her family, Chise is left with the portion of Joseph’s curse of eternal life embedded in his left eye. That curse promises to be a blessing to Chise for as long as she wants to live—meaning that the moment she wishes to die, it will be a curse.

Joseph is not the first to have hosted this curse, and won’t be the last, but all of them have said the same thing to it throughout the centuries and millenia—”Help me.” Chise, waking up on the operating table, grabs Joseph by the throat and tells him she’s going to do things his way, diving into his past to find out how he became is the person he is—to make sense of his truth. Even if he hates her.

Darling in the FranXX – 07

After last week’s epic battle, the 13th gets some well-deserved R&R on a real beach, which makes this a respite episode and a beach episode. It’s a good time to let us spend more time with the pilots as they interact in non-life-or-death situations for once.

The other big news is that 002 and Hiro are officially partners and Zero Two is now a member of the 13th. The higher-ups pulling the strings assign extra surveillance to her and seem to want Hiro to safely “deliver” her somewhere specific. Hiro also meets a fellow young man who’ll be the one doing the surveillance.

But for now, splashing and floating in the ocean are the order of the day, and the male gaze is in full force, with even a “goody-two-shoes” like Gorou thanking the powers that be for such a wonderful experience.

Hiro got to meet Dr. Franxx, who warns him not to let 002 “consume his emotions” if he wants to always be her partner. That is obviously a challenge, since Two is extremely flirty whenever around her Darling, even leaning in for what Hiro thinks is another kiss before she licks his cheek.

Zorome, Goro and Futoshi are in the dark about what all this “kissing” is about, and when Hiro grudgingly describes it and how it feels, Zorome is so eager to experience it for himself he tries to kiss Hiro. Mitsuru and Ikuno don’t participate in the other girls’ and boys’ fun, but Ikuno also makes it clear that doesn’t make them alike.

Then Mitsuru finds a path and leads everyone through it, and they find an abandoned ghost town not unlike the one they appear in during the typical end credits (we get a girls-in-swimsuits sequence this week).

It’s a place that’s gorgeous in its decay, where nature is taking over what was once civilization. Kokoro finds a book on child-rearing, something I’m sure is not done anywhere near the way we know about in our world, considering the ignorance of the parasites—or maybe it is, but since it has nothing to do with their duty to protect humanity, they were never taught about it.

002 tries to tease Ichigo about the fact that she’s kissed Hiro, but Ichigo mostly stands her ground without revealing she kissed him too. In any case, she’s far from ready to surrender Hiro to Two.

After enjoying a lovely sunset on an outcropping, the squad returns to the beach to find a sumptuous barbeque awaiting them. There, Ichigo and the others officially welcome Hiro to the 13th. They welcome 002 as well, but she runs off to swim some more, and seems miffed her Darling did not follow her.

That night, Ichigo gets some much-needed alone time with Hiro as they both wake up in the middle of the night and take a nice starlit stroll along the beach. Seeing Ichigo step into each of Hiro’s steps ahead of her was a really adorable move on her part, and she has a lot of nice closeups of just how much she’s enjoying being with Hiro and Hiro alone.

Ichigo eloquently expresses her feelings, from telling him not to give “all his attention” to 002 “look at her too”, to how much their kiss meant and her desire to be with him forever. She’s relieved Hiro still remembers the “Ichigo Star” in Orion he once pointed out to her.

Unfortunately, Hiro interrupts her, but it’s because a shower of shooting stars breaks out, further adding to the magic of the evening. Ichigo sees them as a good omen; the light they give off looking to her like rays of hope. Rather than repeat herself to Hiro, she playfully calls him baka for not listening when he had the chance. As exotic and alluring as 002 is, Ichigo shows no signs of relinquishing her Best Girl status.

Kino no Tabi – 04

This week KnT switches things up a bit, following Shizu and Riku’s Journey rather than Kino and Hermes’. We saw a moving country on the land last week; here, it’s a moving country on the sea; a Ship Country.

Shizu is invited aboard and brought before the ruling “Tower Clan”, who look like black mages. They offer him a choice of roles while aboard: serve them as a kind of rent-a-cop, or join the common people. Unsurprisingly to us, the humble prince chooses the latter.

He meets a cute, tiny girl named Tifana, or Ti for short, who doesn’t speak, but takes him and Riku all over the ship (despite choosing manual labor, he never has to do any). The general sorry state of the ship, periodic shaking, and numerous flooded compartments tell the tail of a ship that has long been neglected and may not even be afloat much longer.

As per usual, KnT doesn’t skimp on the gorgeous environment; quite a departure from the clean, gleaming, well-maintained Moving Country. When he finds what looks like a long-abandoned control room, he has Ti point out all the places where there’s flooding. The situation is dire, and the rulers of this country have much to answer for…or so he thinks.

Ti, meanwhile, conveys so much despite never speaking; she takes a liking to Shizu, and doesn’t seem to have anyone else. It’s a lovely, immersive moment when Shizu shields her from a sudden rainfall with his jacket and the two quietly listen to the nice, calming sound of the rain hitting the fabric.

Ti then takes him to the country’s roof, and the endless ocean sprawling out before him makes him feel like he’s flying above it. After experiencing this unique and exhilarating sight, he turns to the tower at the country’s center, and remembers that this could all end up under the see unless he does something.

That “something” means confronting the Tower Clan, and when they rebuke him, readies his sword. But another traveler arrived aboard the country who chose the opposite path: that of serving the leaders. When this traveler lifts their mask to reveal Kino, I was nearly bowled over. There‘s Kino!

She and Shizu aren’t on opposite sides long, as the clan quickly accuses her of plotting with Shizu, changes course, then sentences the two to remain aboard to die with the other people.

Shizu and Kino quickly answer by storming the tower and easily overpowering its haughty occupants. When they reach their Jedi Council-like observation deck, Shizu is asked by their leader if he wishes to be the new king, to which he says if necessary. With that, the black cloaks and hats fall to the floor, no longer occupying bodies.

It’s Shizu’s country now, and he promptly points it towards land, opens the gates, and has everyone come out. He tells them that the days of the country functioning properly, or at all, are numbered, something he may well be right about. However, he didn’t consider the fact that the people don’t care. They don’t want to live on the land; they never have. They’d rather die at sea. In trying to be the hero, Shizu only made himself the villain.

When Shizu turns Ti away to join the others, she suddenly stabs him in the gut with a knife, cursing him for leaving her nowhere to return to (as she says, speaking for the first time.

Hermes fills Kino, Shizu, and Riku in on who Tifana really is: the abandoned daughter of passing travelers who shares her name with the ship itself. Hermes also describes the country’s inhabitants as the descendants of children whose parents were killed by a plague, leaving them alone and with no one to lead or take care of them; enter the Tower Clan.

Now that he knows the truth, Shizu commits to taking care of Ti from now on, for which she’s very happy and grateful. But as Shizu, losing blood, starts to pass out, Ti fears he’ll die and leave her alone again, and pulls the pin on a grenade to end them both.

Fortunately, Kino’s there to shoot the grenade away and tend to Shizu’s wounds. Once he’s healed enough, she and Hermes take their leave, hopeful they’ll cross paths with Shizu, Riku, and Ti again. I hope so too; they make a fun team.

Hajimete no Gal – 03

As expected, Yukana’s very tan best friend Honjou Ranko inserts herself into her relationship with Junichi by writing him a love letter then mounting him behind the school. After a brief feint, Yukana laughs off Ranko’ actions as just messing around with Junichi…but Ranko seems determined to break them up.

A very predictable development, combined with a lot less comedy (a lot of it recycled jokes that don’t hit as hard, or at all, the third or fourth time around) made for a less-than-stellar Hajimete no Gal.

While out on a shopping trip, Junichi learns more of the challenges of dating a gal, like the need to properly choose which clothes look better on her, or defending her from man-sluts. In both cases, Ranko tries to upstage Junichi, finally meeting him at his house to talk.

She mounts him again, assuring him she’d rather take his virginity then let him get with Yukana, whom she’s secretly in love with. Ranko’s kinda all over the place, and Kitamura Eri does fine voice work, she doesn’t have much to work with here.

I guess I should be glad Ranko’s not in love with Junichi, but he still gets off the hook way too easily. Indeed, Junichi moves at the speed of a sloth throughout this episode, which I suppose is par for the course considering his self-image as a loser, but it’s still pretty annoying.

This week he did next to nothing—other than halfheartedly trying to tell off the guys hitting on Yukana, which failed—to deserve all the attention he’s getting. Next week it appears will involve more Kashii Yui, who was obviously going to be more than just the Miss Perfect Junichi believes her to be. She looks particularly pissed watching Ranko tease him.

Hajimete no Gal – 02

After Yame accepted his request to go out with her, Junichi is in a bit of a daze, not sure whether it’s all a prank or not, considering what he believes to be the logical fallacy of a cute gal dating the likes of him. His loser friends commit to standing by him come what may, only to immediately turn their backs on him when he receives a sexy selfie from Yame.

Despite this, Shinpei still offers advice to Junichi: take Yame to karaoke, which is how popular kids “get a room” for sex. He elaborates on the process with his “Karaoke XXX Rule”, before “dying” from exasperation that karaoke parlors have become indistinguishable from dens of ill repute.

Later that morning, Yame proves she’s not messing around by announcing to the entire class that she’s dating Junichi, then fielding questions. Both Kashii Yui and his “little sister” are dumbfounded. Junichi tries to ask her out to karaoke, but never finds the right opportunity until she asks him out after school to that very thing.

Corrupted by Shinpei’s overblown theory about karaoke parlors (which seems to be confirmed by a sign), Junichi is initially weary of their date, but once he sees how much fun Yame is having, he stops overthinking things and has fun himself. To his surprise, she even knows anime songs; the only kind he can sing.

But after Shinpei’s three tenets of the Karaoke XXX Rule are fulfilled (Yame singing a suggestive song; the two singing a duet; Yame removing her sweater), Junichi re-enters his head for a conference with all his various alter-egos, including ‘Good’, ‘Pessimistic’, ‘Horny’, and ‘Cool’, with ‘Cool” him eventually convincing the others that if he’s a true man, he’ll give her a kiss before moving on to sex.

Junichi tries to kiss Yame, only for her to point out an errant hair sticking out of his nose and excuse herself. Out in the hall, she regains her composure, certain Junichi just tried to kiss her. Far from the easy girl for whom sex is no big deal Shinpei, his friends, and Junichi himself believe her to be, Yame isn’t the kind of girl to even kiss someone so easily. She’s more like Junichi than he presently realizes.

Hopefully he’ll find this out in time, and stop interacting with Yame with misconceptions about who and what she is, just as she seems to be embracing him for who he is, not assigning a silly label. As for Yame’s friend Ranko, it appears we’ll soon learn how she feels about this new boyfriend.

Kiznaiver – 10

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After the seven Kiznaivers recovered from their collective “overload”, they decided to stay away from each other for the rest of the Summer. When they return to school, no longer bearing Kizna scars and no longer connected, Yamada seems to rub salt in the wound by describing all the crazy experiences they had over the Summer, even if things got a little too intense at the end.

Hisomu isn’t able to stay away from Katsuhiro, rightly worried he won’t properly feed himself (not that Hisomu does either, with those cans), and despite everything that’s happened—nay, because of it all—Nico still loves everyone and wants to stay connected. The pure joy she exhibits upon taking the hands of Hisomu and Kacchon, spinning around giddily, was infectious.

These three can be friends again without major issues. But what about the others? Harder to say. Tenga hopes that if Chidori gives him a strong, unambiguous rejection, she’ll feel better…but she knows she won’t. We barely see Yuta and Honoka, as the latter won’t talk or listen to the former.

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Then there’s Sonozaki. The mayor informs her of an imminent investigation, and in the meantime, the Kizuna Experiment is being shut down, meaning everything she’s worked for in her life is about to go down the drain into a sea of futility. She can’t bear that outcome, and so races to the nearest ledge, and as she seemingly falls, Kacchon feels her pain in his newly-appeared chest scar, as strong and horrible as ever.

His desire to find and help her leads him to the secret subway station to the school, where he finds an Urushii who, perhaps feeling a bit of guilt right about now, is receptive to giving him, along with Hisomu and Nico, more answers about what exactly they were a part of.

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This project isn’t just about pride for Sonozaki; it’s about her life, and the lives of those she lived with. Once she was connected to eighteen other kids, including Kacchon, she began to feel all of their combined pain as well as her own, multiplied nineteen times. Only with the use of harsh drugs that dull all her senses allow her to function.

Worse still, her body never returned any of the sensations she absorbed form the others, leaving some the ones who are still alive as serene mannequins, unable to function at all. Once Kacchon hears they’re still alive, is allowed to meet with them, and sees the hollow husks they’ve become, he breaks down and cries, as if Sonozaki’s hold on his emotions was weakened or suspended.

Kacchon clearly wants what Sonozaki wants: to undo what’s been done to their friends, as well as to end her suffering. The Kizuna System, it would seem, was always critically flawed and untenable. But maybe there’s hope for the unfortunate souls involved.

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Kiznaiver – 09

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What started this spiraling closed loop of intense pain that took down six of the seven Kiznaivers, leaving them writhing in the rain? Kacchon left Chidori. He left her at a critical time; when she was oh-so-close to telling him her past love for him is still present.

Worse, Kacchon left her to go after Noriko, whom she always suspected was a rival but now has to deal with the devastating reality that he chose Noriko, not her. He did it without even knowing what it would do to Chidori.

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Yamada twists the knife by getting the other six Kiznaivers into an A/W room and playing a live feed of Kacchon’s talk with Noriko, as they discuss whether he likes her. He’s not sure, but he can’t stop thinking about her, and the little girl in the dream he has has become clearer since he was Kizna’d. He knows it’s her now.

It’s too much for Chidori to watch, and seeing her so hurt makes Tenga pained and angry. Nico, in turn, is pained and angry by Tenga’s concern for Chidori and not her. But both Tenga and Nico decide to go to that gym, Tenga hoping something can be done, Nico so she can “get hurt properly.”

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Some shit is going down in that gym. The closer Kacchon gets to Nori, the more memories come flowing to the surface; the names of the other child subjects—those who weren’t so lucky—combine with Noriko’s rhythmic ball-bouncing that is a kind of heartbeat to transport Kacchon to that time.

A second Kizna scar, on his chest, glows just like the one on Noriko’s neck. These two are connected; they always were; long before the other connections. As his dream promised, Kacchon wonders if he’s finally getting his pain back. In any case, he can’t stop holding Noriko.

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At this point, the others arrive, and it goes about as well as you’d expect. Chidori runs off; Tenga sucks it up and tells Kacchon to go after her; Nico runs off; Yuta tells Tenga to go after her; and Tenga learns for the first time Nico loves him. It’s a mess, and it’s wonderful how quickly a couple of initially cute love polygon vertices start to fray at the edges and become twisted into something far darker.

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Urushii can tell this isn’t going to end well, but Yamada insists the experiment continue, seemingly unconcerned with whether the subjects undergo full mental breaks. Thankfully, Urushii remembers a man’s weak spot and heads out.

She might be too late; the damage is done in the soupy, pounding rain tinged with industrial light; a striking venue for the things that transpire. At this point the Kizna scars turn blood red, and everyone can start hearing each others’ hearts. Chidori tells Kacchon to let go, but her heart wants him to hold her.

He listens to her heart, but that only makes things worse, since she knows he’s not doing it sincerely as with Noriko. Tenga, rather than go after a distraught Nico, starts beating the crap out of Kacchon. Nico and everyone else shows up, and the combined emotional pain starts coming in intolerable waves.

It’s even enough for Maki to reconsider getting any closer to anyone…and who can blame her, under such extreme, torturous circumstances? But what’s so sad is that Maki things this is what will always happen if people try to grow closer and closer.

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She forgets that they’re all young people, and what seems like world-ending emotional distress can be seen as frivolous to an adult, like, say, Yamada. How many teenagers have screamed through their parents’ hallway, before slamming the door to their room, something along the lines of “MY LIFE IS OVER”?

Even so…this situation looks pretty damn bad, no matter what your age. It’s interesting, though, that Kacchon outlasts everyone in staying upright. Is his pain lessened by the fact he’s also connected to Noriko, and has been already through something similar to this for years?

All I know is, our would-be friends came face-to-face with more secrets about who has feelings for who, things have gotten very weird and dark, and I would hope, with three episodes left, this is rock bottom. As to how things get better or how they’ll wear the wounds they sustained this week, I can only conjecture.

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Kiznaiver – 08

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The Kiznaivers have never been closer, even if they still tend to snipe at each other, they also all show up when Nico invites them to the mall to hang out take booth photos together (which is what regular friends do) even during a typhoon warning.

Back at Kizuna HQ, Yamada and Urushi are licking their chops at the opportunity to move the experiments to the next level, and the conditions are perfect, so they use the Gomorins to bring the team in.

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Before they do, the sight of an outdoor playcenter reminds Kacchon vividly of the time he was test subjects with Noriko. When Yamada nonchalantly explains more about the Kizuna Project and how they even went so far as to experiment on researchers’ and sponsors’ own children, it’s pretty clear what’s coming: some kind of epiphany between the currently frustrated Noriko and a Kacchon who is “disappointed” in her.

I must say, I’m not a big fan at all of Yamada or Urushi, who are way too laid back about the fact they essentially tortured children who had no say in the matter, not to mention all the adults who suffered from early experimentation. Morally speaking, the ends don’t usually justify the means…and they don’t even have any ends yet.

All they have are seven youths who have already demonstrated that they not only share each other’s physical pain, but also strong emotions, be they negative or positive. And Yamada and Urushi want to delve deeper into the positive by pairing everyone off. Again, it’s a bit icky, but they’re committed, as is Noriko, to ensuring the experiment is completed – regardless of how the subjects feel.

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The chart of Kiznaivers relationships reminded me of the character charts Zane used to spend way too much time making, but once they were complete really gave a concise picture of who liked whom (One instance that was at times a closed circle of one-sided relationships was Nagi no Asukara).

Here, Urushi lays out the obvious: Yuta likes Honoka; Honoka still likes Ruru; Nico likes Tenga; Tenga likes Chidori; Chidori likes Agata, and Hisomu likes pain. Noriko can figure out the last one for herself, to the surprise of the adults: Agata likes her.

She’s known for a while that he had strong emotions, but didn’t know they were romantic. Now, all of a sudden, the pieces are falling into place for her, and she heads to where the others are to “kickstart” the experiment.

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As Noriko purposefully makes her way, time runs out for Chidori to properly confess to Kacchon, despite the two being all alone for an extended period of time. Kacchon’s attention is turned elsewhere, quite suddenly, by a stronger sensation, and either the symbolic visualization or straight-up hallucination of his younger self and hi fellow test subjects leading him to where he needs to be.

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That precise time and place turns out to be crucial, as Kacchon arrives at the place just in time to save Noriko from being crushed by a falling statue just as she emerges from an abandoned metro station. Just like that, Noriko’s experiment has taken a huge step forward.

Why? Simply put, Kacchon has achieved a kind of “spidey-sense” vis-a-vis Noriko. Or rather, he’s always had it, and it has finally fully re-awakened. That explains the cryptic visions of the younger Noriko. It isn’t that her feelings reached him in time. She is a part of him and vice-versa.

To confirm, Noriko removes her choker to expose the Kizuna scar on her neck, glowing brighter and purer than any of the others’ wrist scars. That’s Kacchon in there, and that’s huge, as it not only progresses the experiment, ill-begotten as it was, but marks the loosening of a knot that had been festering in Kacchon’s heart for years. I for one am intrigued.

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Kiznaiver – 07

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While Ruru wasn’t literally killed by Maki (obviously), her mother is glad Maki feels guilty for abandoning her as a friend, making her write the final chapter by herself. Half the house is a shrine to Ruru, so the tension runs high in the mother’s presence. They may have known Ruru was going to live a short life due to her chronic illness, but that doesn’t make the pain any less difficult to bear.

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This week we also learn how Maki and Ruru —two loners—met for the first time and became more dear to one another than anyone else. They filled in each other’s manga weaknesses (Ruru’s writing, Maki’s art), and rose quickly as their audience soared.

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But it seems Maki was never a fan of Ruru “joking” about jumping off high ledges, faking a seizure, or getting more romantic with her. Though the last one, Maki knew, wasn’t a joke, nor was she not interested.

Ultimately, it seems more like Maki cut herself off from Ruru in order to be spared the even greater pain she’s endure if Ruru died when they were lovers. This is a very tense but lovely scene because it’s so intimately shot, but also interspersed with art from their manga depicting the same actions.

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The other Kiznaivers don’t know most of this…because Maki hasn’t told them, but also because they haven’t come out and asked. They come up with a plan to become her friend at all costs, not leaving her alone until she realizes there’s no point in resisting any longer; it’s six-against-one, after all.

It’s just really nice to see how much these six have gelled as a group, and how they basically became friends through osmosis, without even realizing it. Chidori in particular notices how Kacchon is changing, but for the better, and how he doesn’t simply allow Tenga to walk all over him, but rather likes having him around.

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As blue and lost as Maki is right now, the six still want her around too, especially Yuta, who tries to use the manga to learn more about what happened. The final chapter is one that Maki never read, and she assumes Ruru “cursed” her to love her and no one else forever and ever.

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That turns out to not be the case, as Ruru, treating the final chapter she wrote alone as a kind of indirect letter to Maki, telling her if remembering her ever gets too painful, it’s okay to forget, because she loved her smile and wouldn’t want her to stop using it.

Yuta manages to get Maki to come out for fireworks, but she’d rather watch everyone swim in the ocean instead. To everyone’s shock, Yuta doesn’t hesitate in running as fast as he can into the water and splashing around like a goon.

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Once Maki has read and understood Ruru’s wish for her, the smile returns to her face, the first smile we’ve seen that wasn’t sinister or fake. And the Kiznaivers feels something that isn’t pain – a weight being lifted from Maki’s heart. She can’t be friends with any of them, she says—because they’re already far closer than friends or lovers.

I enjoyed the resolution to Maki’s impasse with the other Kiznaivers. It felt earned and realistic that these people who so badly want to be her friends would eventually pull her out of the darkness and into clarity, closure, relief, and understanding. It’s also neat how the story of these last couple episodes serves as a real-life extra chapter to the manga Maki and Ruru made together.

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Mayoiga – 03

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Dozens of people of every disposition and background suddenly isolated in a strange place full of mysteries…Mayoiga, I’ve decided, is the Lost of anime. This episode made that decision a lot easier, especially with the group’s need to hastily grope their way through some kind of rudimentary justice system after one of them tries to harm another.

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One reason “Jack” is looking for a new life is that he was heavily bullied in school, lost it, lashed out, and ended up in juvy. Just because he was released doesn’t mean all his trauma and neuroses are gone; so when Judgeness prods him too far, he lashes out again.

That gets him tied up, and ultimately it’s decided they’ll throw him in a creepy undergound prison for the night, even though some (cough-Lovepon-cough) wants him swiftly executed for his wrongdoing.

Meanwhile, Valkana searches feverishly for Yottsun after Masaki is found, with a story of him leading her along until he went off on his own an vanished. Valkana’s obsession with finding him stems from his absolute need not to be called a scapegoat—after just such a thing happened in his “previous” life as a systems engineer (ah, the flashback…one of Lost’s primary narrative devices).

That obsession makes Valkana very short-fused, and Koharun gets a taste of his wrath when she suggests deep down he’s lonely, otherwise he’d never embark on an adventure involving so many other people. The truth hurts some more than others.

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In case anyone was in doubt, Maimai kinda likes Mitsumine, despite her standoffish demeanor towards him. When they encounter one another on the bridge, she’s clearly flattered by his desire to keep her safe, even if that desire extends to, say, Masaki.

Lovepon, meanwhile, remains as loopy as ever about doling out swift justice to those who upset the balance or safety of the group. She believes Jack deserves execution, and anyone who stands in her way deserves it to, as she grabs Mitsumine, falls off the bridge, and tries to drown him.

She does not succeed, but while fighting her off, Mitsumine notices the drowned body of Yottsun floating down the stream. Did Masaki kill him when he tried to rape her, or did he just get killed by a bear? The mind races with possibilities based on the scant information we know. And once more, an episode ends with a hook I can’t quite escape from…

…AND YET, were I to keep saying “One more episode”, I may one day turn around and see that I’ve watched the whole thing, and wasn’t worth it. I committed to watching three episodes, and I’ve watched those three. As enticing as the mysteries ahead may be, I think it’s time to move on.

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Mayoiga – 02

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Mayoiga makes liberal use of its CGI bus model…until it careens down a muddy hill, leaving all the passengers to continue on foot…but not before tossing the bus driver all their wallets as compensation for getting them this far.

The thirty clean-slaters are all different, but they’re alike in one regard: they don’t much care about the driver’s dignity; or at least those who do don’t speak up strongly enough when it counts.

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We learn a little more about Mitsumune, like how Speedstar AKA Hayate is his classmate, friend, and long-time protector…and how he’s easily wooed by girls, due to not having much experience with them (all boy’s school).

With Koharun and her map, the group trudges through the forest, hoping to avoid bears (or bear-like monsters) and eventually come upon a bridge that leads to a village that matches the descriptive details Koharun has at hand. They’ve arrived at Nanaki Village.

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They soon determine that there’s nobody home, which is kind of strange to start. The village has been abandoned for at least a year. There’s no talk of food or lodging, just exploration in various random groups branching off from the whole.

Mitsumune had hoped to accompany Masaki, but he’s snagged by two other girls who seem to have plans for him. Speaking of plans, the sunglassed Yottsun seems to have unsavory ones for Masaki, and manages to end up alone with her. A strange shadow in the woods catches her eye, and that’s the last we see of either.

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Mitsumune, meanwhile, manages to ruin a potentially fun time with Maimai by congratulting himself on not getting so hot and bothered in her presence, which is a little insulting. Maimai then reveals she was only going to toy with him, but they’re interrupted by the sudden emergence of the bus driver from the woods.

Was the driver the shadow Masaki saw? And what did the driver see after everyone left him? Who sent Koharun the anonymous email telling her how to get to the village? And, of course, what happened to Yottsun and Masaki? Is this group only the latest of many who have inhabited this lost village, and have they suffered their first two losses?

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 12

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The day of the dual performance arrives, and the atmosphere is fizzing with anticipation. Sukeroku is noncommittal at first, even when Matsuda arrives, lonely after the passing of his wife. But Konatsu is super-excited at the prospect of getting to watch her dad do what he was meant to, while Kiku sees this little makeshift theater as the venue for re-stoking Sukeroku’s fire and enticing him to come back to Tokyo with him.

Matsuda isn’t the only lonely one. Miyokichi may be with Sukeroku, and Konatsu may be their child, but one gets the idea only one thing—one person—is on her mind, and that’s Kiku. It’s ironic that this theater was once a place for geishas like Miyokichi used to be. But now she’s in Western clothes and sneaking in incognito, and the room is now a place for a different kind of performance.

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We only see and hear snippets of Kiku’s whole performance rather than a single continuous story, as if to underscore the point that this episode isn’t really about Kiku’s performance He’s become one of the best performers alive; his talent is undisputed, and he’s a consummate professional. There was never any doubt he’d knock it out of the park. 

The real question is how a rusty Sukeroku will fare. He becomes more motivated after Kiku goes first (Kiku’s intention, no doubt), because by watching Kiku he was able to observe the quality of the audience, about whom he was initially dubious.

But Kiku’s rakugo was good not just becaue Kiku is good, but because the crowd is good. Rakugo is a far more collaborative process than it seems, with a performer feeding off the crowd as the crowd gets sucked into the performance. Notably, Miyokichi leaves before Sukeroku begins, and there’s never a shot of her listening in the hall, so I assume she really left.

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No matter: with Matsuda, Konatsu, Bon, and a good audience at his disposal, Sukeroku goes all out with a rare (for him) sentimental tale about an alcoholic fishmonger who finds a purse of cash washed up on the beach. He celebrates with a lavish party, but awakes from his stupor to learn he only dreamed of the purse, but not the party.

The contrite man promises his wife he’ll quite drinking and pay back all the debts he has, in addition to the added debt from the partying. For three years, works his ass off, until every debt has been paid off. Then his wife confesses the purse wasn’t a dream after all; she merely gave it to police, who held it for a year with no one claiming it before passing back to her.

The wife is beside herself with guilt for deceiving him for so long, but he’s not upset. In the past three years, her lie made him a better man, and when she offers him sake to celebrate, he puts the cup down without taking a sip, lest everything that happened turn out to be a dream.

The crowd leans in, laughs, cries…and leaned in, laughed, and cried. It was a powerful, mesmerizing performance, and at its heights gave me the same chills and goosebumps as the musical performances in Shigatsu kimi no Uso.

When it’s over, Kiku and Sukeroku spend some time relaxing like they used to do in their little apartment, only this time the latter’s daughter is sleeping on his chest, and the two brothers actually deign to agree on something Kiku says:

People can’t understand everything about each other. And yet people still live together. The love of sharing trivial, meaningless things with others is human nature. I suppose that’s why humans can’t stand to be alone.

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Being in this small, close-knit town, being with Sukeroku again, meeting Konatsu, and Sukeroku’s latest and maybe most soul-bearing performance—it’s all had a profound effect on Kiku. He once thought all he needed in his life was rakugo, but he’s human, and he doesn’t want to be alone anymore. Their late master’s house has fallen to him, but it’s too big for just him. He wants Sukeroku, Konatsu, and Miyokichi to move in with him.

But when Kiku is summoned to a room at the inn where Miyokichi meets him, we learn that all she wants in that particular moment is Kiku…and only Kiku. In all the time they’ve been apart she never stopped pining for him, and the fact he’s there gives her cause to believe he wants to change things, perhaps even make amends for knocking her and Sukeroku’s lives off track with his shortsighted insistence on solitude.

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Kiku can’t quite resist Miyokichi’s embrace, but things take a dark turn when she leads him to the open window and starts to push, contemplating both of them dying together.

That’s when Sukeroku barges in, and in a gesture that’s appreciated but perhaps too late to be worth much, promises Miyokichi he’ll get a real job, that he’ll do right by her by abandoning the rakugo that makes her feel so  insecure. He wants to be the husband in that tale he told with a happy ending, in a dream he doesn’t want to wake up from.

If he has to choose between Miyokichi and rakugo, he’s choosing Miyokichi. But the wooden balcony gives way, and Miyokichi starts to fall. Sukeroku dives after her, leaving Kiku to grasp him to keep the two from falling. But Sukeroku breaks his grip, and he and Miyokichi fall to their apparent deaths together.

Now Kiku is alone, and so is Konatsu—though we know he’ll end up taking her in. While it wasn’t as if Kiku took a gun and shot her parents, he most definitely played a role in their demise. No wonder he’s so bitter in the present day, and that Konatsu has always doubted his car accident story.

Yet, even without Sukeroku or Miyokichi, Kiku was able to continue performing excellent rakugo and being adored for it over the years. After all this talk about not being able to do it alone, one could deduce that it was the presence of Konatsu in his life that kept him going. And now, as we know, he has an apprentice, who brought back all these memories of Sukeroku in the first place. I’m eager to see how this ends.

10_sesRABUJOI World Heritage List