Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 11 – Love is In the Air

Elaina arrives in Qunorts to find that the Curio Company from the Niké stories has been revived. Townsfolk say mages are once again at risk, so she dresses like an ordinary, non-magical traveler to avoid any hassle. However, it’s because she appears to be a random NPC that she is targeted by Curio.

Specifically, Curio’s aged leader shoots both Elaina and the newly-arrived Saya with balls of magical dust that cause them to swap bodies. Elaina opens the mystery box Saya was delivering on behalf of the Association, and a massive cloud of love potion spreads across the town, causing the complex situation of Saya’s little sister Mina falling madly in love with Saya while Elaina is in Saya’s body.

Much hilarity ensues, and both Hondo Kaede and Kurosawa Tomoyo demonstrate their talent by wonderfully mimicking the voice styles of Saya and Elaina while in opposite bodies. Having been caught in the love cloud while looking at the reflection of Elaina, Saya is even more in love with her senpai, while Elaina in Saya’s body is decidedly Not Amused.

Fortunately, the Curio Company’s grand plan was as sloppy as it was dependent on numerous suppositions to succeed, and because Elaina is a witch, she and Saya have no problem rounding up the company before they can cause too much damage. When the captured leader gloats about dozens of her cohorts still out there, Fran and Sheila finally make their appearance, having mopped up the remaining bandits.

The love potion is returned to the box, while Elaina, Saya, and Mina eventually return to normal. Sheila reveals she’s Mina’s teacher too, and the one who forced Mina and Saya apart lest they fall into a codependent spiral. Saya for one is glad Mina loves her so much, while an embarrassed Mina would prefer if the subject were changed.

One subject that doesn’t come up is whether Elaina is aware that Niké and her mother are one and the same. This latest adventure in Qunorts should have provided all the clues she’d need to make that determination, yet when the four witches part ways, she remains coy about the revelation. Elaina promises Fran that she’ll return home to see her parents at some point, but as Niké had five volumes of adventures, she remains committed to writing at least six of her own.

That means a lot more traveling and a lot more situations, both fun and trying. As to the latter kind, I was disappointed but not particularly surprised the show swept her time travel trauma under the rug. In its place  was another fun and hopeful outing. Her closing monologue and broom ride into the sunset felt like the end of this particular volume with one episode to go, while hinting at the possibility of a second cour—something to which I certainly wouldn’t be opposed!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Re: Zero – 30 – Partners in Crime

First of all, it’s classic Natsuki Subaru to compliment Echidna on her school uniform! Second, Re:Zero finally deigns to air its opening credits! After they roll, Echidna didn’t really send Subaru back in time; both her uniform, the classroom, and his parents were illusions created from his memories. After some rather half-hearted attempts to trip him up. Subie doesn’t take the bait; he’s now fully faced and accepted his past and is ready to move forward.

Echidna declares he has passed the trial…but it was only the first of three. Subaru stops her right there: Freeing the Sanctuary is Emilia’s job, not his. Unfortunately, when he comes to back in the ruins, Subie finds an unconscious Emilia enduring a terrible nightmare, and she wakes up in an acute state of panic. If she was facing her past, it’s clear she’s having a much tougher time than Subie.

Ram makes sure Emilia is comfortably resting, while Subaru and the others talk barriers. Otto wonders if those who can pass through it can simply carry those who can’t across while they’re unconscious. That idea is shot down by one Ryuzu Bilma, the elfish girl Subaru briefly spotted in the forest, who turns out to be extremely old (a “loli hag” as Subie artfully puts it).

Anyone of mixed blood who crosses the barrier will have their body and soul separated, leaving the formless soul within and a shell of a body without. In other words, the only way out for them is the lifting of the barrier. Subaru then stays beside Emilia’s bed until she wakes up in the morning, and unconsciously puts her hand on his arm, a gesture she immediately walks back.

Later in the morning Subaru warns Ram that not everyone within the sanctuary wants the barrier to fall, and he must be vigilant against any threats to Emilia from those elements. She also believes Frederica could have some kind of plan in mind she didn’t reveal to Subaru. That night, Emilia attempts the trial again, and while she’s not denied a second chance, it too ends in failure. Afterwards, Roswaal has Subaru meet with him in his room while Ram stands by.

The Margrave finally admits that he allowed everything regarding the Witch’s Cult attack on the village and manor to happen as kind of political gambit, knowing the villagers’ opinion of Emilia would improve if she saved them. Subaru is pissed, mostly because so much of Roswaal’s plan depended on Subaru not being “complete trash” and coming through. But Roswaal had faith in him then, and has faith in him now.

Subaru doesn’t tell Emilia any of this, respecting Roswaal’s wishes (and deferring to political acumen). Like Roswaal with Subaru, Subaru may not have the most concrete evidence that Emilia can and will pass the trials and free the Sanctuary, but he has faith nonetheless. Emilia is grateful for the belief in her and trusts Subaru, but asks him to simply continue believing in her—without “spoiling” her.

To that end, Subaru decides to appeal to Garfiel to free the villagers. Since Garfiel has Emilia working on the barrier, the villagers are no longer necessary, so he agrees. Garfiel will escort Subaru and the villagers back to Arlam. Subaru leaves with Emilia’s blessing and one last tidbit from Roswaal, via Ram: if he runs into trouble with Frederica or anyone else, turn to Beatrice, and tell her “Roswaal said to ask the question”.

En route to Arlam, Garfiel tells Subaru he can tell he went through a trial, and wonders why he can’t simply complete them in Emilia’s place.  Judging from how she acts whenever she fails an attempt, it’s clear to Garfiel what I mentioned earlier: that Emilia is having a hard go with facing her past, probably because a part (or all) of her doesn’t want to.

After a brief stop in the village, Subaru goes on to the manor, which is oddly empty and bathed in blood-red light—never a good sign on this show! As he desperately runs through the halls searching for Rem, we hear an odd squishing sound and he trips and falls…on his own bowels. As he lies in a pool of blood and guts, his assailant reveals herself: Elsa, his very first nemesis in this other world.

Talk about a blast from the past! We last saw her back in 2o16, retreating after being wounded but not killed by an all-out attack from Reinhard. I wrote “the fact she’s still out there with her chilling desire to disembowel everyone else is certainly disquieting, as is the fact that such a huge attack didn’t kill her.” Well, now she’s back, and Subaru is almost certainly primed to Return by Death. I wonder where and when he’ll end up?

Gleipnir – 11 – Like Nothing Ever Happened

This episode is full of one-on-one visits to the alien, the first of which is Elena. It’s clear she’s tired of this nightmare, wants it to end, and when the alien gets a little too cute marveling at her sister’s group’s recent ingenuity, threatens to kill him. The alien tells her he’s as mortal as his human form suggests, but killing him won’t undo everything that’s already happened, nor everything she’s done.

Following the slaughter of Madoka’s crew by poison fire, Sayaka’s group decides to let things cool for the time being, and return home for now. Shit just got a bit too real. As Sayaka laments to Aihara (while also declining an offer to comfort her), her lofty ideals led to the same carnage and destruction she’d hoped to avoid all along. Isao remarks to Yota how frighteningly calm Claire and Shuuichi were; as if they were used to doing such things.

As Shuuichi walks home with Claire, he wonders if everyone in Madoka’s group was really dead. He’s come around to thinking if it means keeping her and the rest of the group safe, it’s better if they’re all dead, so no one will come for revenge.

Claire pulls Shuuichi into an apologetic hug, but Shuuichi doesn’t blame her for getting him into this. In fact, Shuuichi’s been feeling a stronger and stronger desire to use his power to fight, not just to get his memories back, but to truly become one with her.

Clair tries to lighten the mood by suggesting they go see a movie, or alternatively renting one, watching it at her place, and fooling around. Time was this would sound like Claire teasing him, but she genuinely loves and cares about him. If they’re going to hang on to their humanity together, well…one assumes they’d become one the conventional way at some point.

Shuuichi returns to school and his normal life, and the first day goes by without any threats upon his life or those of the group’s. He and Claire finally notice Chihiro attends their school, and Shuuichi warns Chihiro to pretend they don’t know each other in case any of Madoka’s guys are also classmates.

And then there’s his friend Abukawa, whom he saw hanging with unsavory looking sort a while back. He’s been absent since the fire, and Shuuichi’s classmate Izumi tells him she heard about his burned body being found by the river. Shuuichi grapples with the realization that in order to save Claire and the others, he may have inadvertently murdered his friend.

Shuuichi stops by the alien’s spot (a rare daytime visit) eager for answers he’s certain the alien has. Whether Sayaka’s desire to preserve their humanity or Madoka’s desire to create a tight-knit misfit family, he knows people have come to the alien seeking the power to make their lives and those of others a little bit better.

The alien admits that the current form of the “game” wasn’t what “they” imagined, but now it’s a force of nature that can’t be stopped, only observed until it reaches its conclusion on its own. Shuuichi is welcome to try to take back his lost memories and the normal lives he and Claire once had, but the alien can only provide the raw materials; it’s up to Shuuichi to determine precisely how to pull that off.

It’s a testament to Shuuichi’s evolution that he so calmly allows himself to be watched and followed from the alien’s spot to a junkyard, his keen sense of smell making him aware of a potential enemy. It turns out to be the only surviving member of Madoka’s crew, who is eager to avenge his boss and brother.

This guy assumes that without the girl inside him, Shuuichi will be a pushover…but ever since the fire in the forest, he’s been a whole new Shuuichi, capable of handling himself even against a katana specialist. He tells Shuuichi he must not have known who Abukawa truly was; everyone has at least two faces; Shuuichi only ever saw the kind one.

Just as the last Team Madoka member urges Shuuichi to finish him off, Claire calls him on the phone, worried. Shuuichi assures her everything’s fine; he’s got this. And then he kills the guy.

The third alien visit of the week is from the past. A high schooler named Honoka is his very first visitor. Honoka proposes he ask other humans to help him find his companions, and set up a vending machine to grant their wishes as a reward.

Honoka is hesitant to provide a wish of her own for the alien to grant, but shows him a photo of her five friends, telling him they’re good people who would be willing to help him collect coins. Among those friends are Shuuichi and Elena, along with two other guys and a third girl.

It’s the clearest picture yet of Shuuichi’s social situation prior to gaining his powers and losing his memories. As the alien reflects back in the present on how kind and ruthless humans are, we cut to the lion-haired lad from the photo in the present, along with Honoka, who clearly gained powers at some point despite her initial hesitation. He uses her power to kill a group of gatherers, declaring this his story.

It’s a late introduction to two more of Shuuichi’s old circle of friends, but a fascinating one, especially considering Elena, like everyone else, was drawn into this mess by a well-meaning Honoka. The show is steadily gathering momentum and I’m looking forward to the final two episodes filling a few more gaps in Shuuichi’s memory, as well as further developing his bond with Claire.

Hamefura – 05 – A Town Where She Lives

Catarina is on great terms with Maria—better even than any of the conquerable guys—and yet the heroine still feels…distant. Cat’s inner council determines the best way to keep the doom flags at bay is to spend even more time with Maria outside of the StuCo offices.

This leads to Cat encountering Maria once again being bullied, by characters who in the game are working under Catarina herself! Cat shifting from chief tormentor to chief defender of Maria has left these bullies leaderless, and they’re easily dealt with.

Little does Catarina know that she just stole another event from a conquerable guy; in this case her own brother Keith, who in the game was the one who saved Maria from Cat and the bullies. The council determines this is no big deal, since only bad things can happen to her if Maria falls for any of the guys.

As things stand, it’s not only Maria who likes Catarina best, but Mary and Sophia feel the same way. In her relentless quest to eliminate any and all death flags, Cat still seems reluctant to rest on her laurels, despite how safe and favorable a situation she’s created for herself.

Cat’s relationship with Maria shifts into overdrive when, after spending the day in the fields learning more about farming (something else Game Cat would never ever do) she pays an impromptu visit to Maria’s hometown and house with Keith in tow. It should be an encouraging sign to her that she can bring one of the main love interests along without worrying about him and Maria falling for each other.

While Catarina makes use of her farming skills to shape up Maria’s family’s little field, Maria starts to bake more sweets to fill her stomach. All the while, Maria’s mother is dumbfounded by the sudden and dramatic positive change in her daughter’s demeanor.

You see, when Maria’s light power awakened (she used it to heal a friend’s leg injury), her fellow commoners in her hometown started to spread rumors that she was the illegitimate daughter of a nobleman. Even if it wasn’t true, it tore through her family until her father left and she became a pariah at school.

Remembering how happy she and her mom and dad were when making sweets, she decides to learn how to bake for herself. But when she presents the product of her hard work, her classmates turn their backs in unison and leave her alone, refusing to even look at her.

With Catarina in her life, Maria seems to have left that pain in the past. Her mother is so surprised because Maria stopped baking after being rejected at school. Cat may have done a lot for Maria to get her to like her, but it was enough for Maria just to be seen, not as a bastard daughter or bad news, but as a normal, kind, and generous girl who deserves all the friends in the world.

Her mother realizes how cruel she was to get lost in her own troubles and stop looking at Maria. So she dusts off the old cookie cutters and bakes with her daughter, and starts to feel better herself. It’s a beautiful moment of catharsis when Cat and Keith depart and Maria and her mom exchange gazes. It’s like they’re looking at one another for the first time, recalling the warmth of better times, and realizing they can get that warmth back.

All thanks to Catarina, who has now gone way past preserving her own life and staving off potential exile. She’s making the lives of everyone around her better day by day. Now all she has to worry about is her sinister dirt-hating mother!

RikeKoi – 02 – Love is the Secret Ingredient

This episode is told mostly from the point of view of Himuro and Yukimura’s kohai Kanade, who takes us through a typical day for a fourth-year undergrad at Saitama National University’s department of Information and Computer Science. The two lovebirds continue their dubious research into love, with Himuro calculating their hear rates while she sits on his lap and when he pets her head, activating her prehensile hair.

Then their senpai Ibarada Ena wakes up from her long slumber (she’s up all night playing up to three games at once) and tears down their experiment by pointing out it lacks a control. Who is to say anyone would raise Yukimura’s heart rate when they sit on his lap? When Ibarada sits on his lap and Yukimura pats Kanade’s head, very similar data is returned. Himuro is not happy, but I fear she’s too focused on one particular biological reaction.

Changing course, Himuro and Yukimura use the lab’s communal kitchen to test the theory that food made with love will taste better to the person eating it. Himuro cheats by writing a love message on one omelette but not the other, and Yukimura takes the hint and picks the “correct” dish, thus re-entering Himuro’s good graces. For putting up with their nonsense, Kanade is rewarded with a home-cooked hot meal to accompany the piles of papers she must read.

RikeKoi No. 2 lacks the novelty and energy of the first episode, and the show’s insistence on teaching us scientific jargon while rarely hewing to scientific accuracy is counterproductive (and occasionally patronizing). If you’re going to do a silly love story about two clueless science nerds, don’t bother trying to educate the audience—just go all out and have fun with it!

Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 08

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Hwelp, I’m an idiot. I was pretty darn sure the end of last week was the beginning of the end of Kayo–again–but I was mercifully mistaken: it was only a very, very close call. That’s not to lessen the seething tension of the episode’s first moments when Kayo isn’t sure what’s going to happen, but a lot of that weight I talked about (not all, but a lot) was lifted. Who the shit cares if I read the scene wrong, or the show “tricked” me by deviating from its usual pattern? Kayo’s still free and breathing!

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This means Satoru gets to see Kayo again, and is able to provide her with lunch thanks to his mom, who was up even earlier than he was preparing meals. One for him, another for “lunch”, but really for Kayo, as the note in the bento box confirms. At this point, Kayo’s mom has a pretty good idea what her son is up to, and is letting him keep his secret for now, having faith he’s doing the right thing and silently supporting him.

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At school, Kayo’s consecutive absences draw the attention and conjecture of the whole class, and Satoru asks the Yashiro of this timeline to act once more. Turns out he already has contacted social services, and accompanies them to Kayo’s home.

Kayo’s mom managed to sneak out just as they arrived, meaning it’s not yet time to rest easy, but at least the proper authorities are aware of the situation and intend to get Kayo away from her mother as soon as they can.

Satoru, Kenya and Hiromi keep Kayo company that night, giving her the opportunity to present Satoru with his belated birthday present: a pair of mittens she knit for him. Considering what became of the mittens back when Satoru failed to save her, I’m not surprised Satoru can’t help but tear up with joy and relief at the sight of them.

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The previous night’s intrusion didn’t result in Kayo’s demise, but it did spell the demise of the bus as a viable hideout, especially when they discover the contents of the backpack the man left behind, which Satoru instantly recognizes as the tools of the serial murderer, including that damnable spray bottle used to accelerate hypothermia.

I don’t think he noticed future first victim in Nakanishi Aya as he walked past her that morning, but with Hiromi as the second victim, it’s abundantly clear the bus and its environs are the nexus of the tragedy he hopes to avoid. They all have to get the hell out of there. But where will he stash Kayo? Why, at his house, of course.

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Such is Satoru’s knowledge of and faith in his loving mother, he knows bringing her there is the right move, and a move she’ll gladly accept. She’s seen Kayo and knows the miserable, loveless life she’s been forced to lead until meeting her son.

Nowhere is it clearer how raw her wounds from that life still are when Kayo instinctively recoils at the sight of Satoru’s mom’s approaching arm. Were it her own mom’s arm, it would have meant a strike; instead, her head is gently patted.

After feeding everyone and sending Kenya and Hiromi home, Sachiko calls Yashiro to inform him of what he expected – Kayo is safe and sound with Satoru. When she asks if Kayo really has to go away, I thought about the possibility of Sachiko adopting her, so she could have some constancy in her life.

Sachiko then goes out of her way to make sure Kayo feels as loved as possible on this night. The hot dinner with friends, a hot bath, having her hair washed, being given new, fresh pajamas, drying her hair properly, and sharing a warm futon with Satoru and his mom (lying strategically between the two) – everything is a new and wonderful experience for Kayo.

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That morning, Sachiko cooks her a hot multi-course breakfast, so far removed from the lazy, thoughtless breakfasts of cup ramen, bread, or spare change her “mom” provided, and Kayo can’t hold it in anymore.

She starts bawling at this attention and care and love she’s never gotten before. The 11-year-old Satoru might’ve taken this kind of treatment from his mom for granted, but the 29-year-old knows better, and understands Kayo’s tears as well as his own good fortune.

Later, Kayo knocks on her own apartment door, and her furious mother, who was in the process of trashing Kayo’s room, answers, winds up for a vicious slap, but stops in her tracks when she notices Kayo isn’t alone. Kayo and Sachiko flank her like bodyguards. Hopefully Kayo will never have to be alone with her pathetic coward of a mother ever again.

This was a generous episode not just because it didn’t kill Kayo in the beginning, but because it ends not on a note of uncertainty or imminent disaster, but on a note of potential triumph. Certainly, a lot of setbacks can occur in the four remaining episodes, but for now those possible troubles feel far away.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 07

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As expected, shortly after Satoru is arrested he’s able to activate another revival (there wasn’t much he could have done in a jail cell), but despite knowing it was going to happen an infectious wave of relief still washed over me, just as it washed over Satoru upon realizing he was back in the museum with a very alive Kayo. This time he thinks out loud and means it, and starts responding to Kayo’s “Are you stupids” with “Yeah!”

This time Satoru is doing away with all pretense and restraint. If he’s suddenly acting strangely for a kid of his age to people around him, so be it. No matter what the consequences are for him, he won’t let Kayo die again…and he’s operating under the assumption this is his last revival, having already been given an unheard-of third chance.

As such, the relief soon washes away, replaced with the weight and suspense of everything he must accomplish in the next couple of days; a weight that never lets up.

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For a moment at school, I thought he was in trouble again, because I still can’t bring myself to fully trust Kenya, but again I was all but proven wrong for suspecting him of anything but the noblest of intentions. He’s simply a good enough friend to know when Satoru has completely changed.

When he asks Satoru “Who are you?”, Satoru gets to think out loud on purpose again: “A superhero.” He hopes to become one, anyway, but as far as Kenya’s concerned, he already is one, even if he doesn’t have the results yet.

I loved how Satoru’s plight is filtered through the prism of two kids talking about friends and heroes. It doesn’t feel like material that should be over the kids’ heads because we know Kenya isn’t your typical 10/11-year old, and Satoru is an adult.

Another tense scene was with Satoru at Yuuki’s place, where he probes Yuuki in preparation to give him an alibi, so that whatever happens, his life won’t be ruined by the events to come. What’s striking, and highly disturbing in its ambiguity, is Yuuki’s initial reaction to hearing that Kayo is in Satoru’s group of friends now.

This was the first time since siding with Satoru on Yuuki that I thought both of us might be being overly naive, and that Yuuki’s odd interest in Kayo could have been something going on for a while now.

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Regardless, Satoru takes Yuuki’s secondary reaction – one of joy – to mean he’s still good, so he proceeds to duck out on his birthday party to toss a rock through Yuuki’s dad’s window so that the cops will come, securing Yuuki’s alibi.

After that, Satoru spots Kayo’s mom, and seriously considers pushing her down a flight of steps to her death, but he’s stopped by Kenya, who has been following him. Kenya agreed to help him out, and he realizes he may have to get his hands dirty, but killing Kayo’s mom will only create new problems, and Satoru was too close to the situation to see that.

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From there, Satoru starts walking Kayo to her house as before, but this time, in another magical little back-and-forth, he announces his intent to “abduct” her, and she consents to let him. Satoru takes her to an abandoned bus hideout with a heater and blankets.

I understand the plan: simply keep Kayo out of the equation altogether; away from those who might kill her. But unless someone is with Kayo the entire time, it also looks like the perfect place to kill her where no one would notice. What makes it a great hideout also makes it a great grave.

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The first time she’s left alone, however, that doesn’t happen, allowing me to lower my guard just a little. She’s knitting away when Satoru calls on her, and they have a hot meal and fall asleep huddled together (something they’re embarrassed about upon being woken up by Kenya in the morning…they are kids, after all.)

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It worked for a day…but so did Satoru’s first plan. And that crushing weight I was talking about didn’t go away just because Satoru brought not just Kenya but Hiromi into the hideout. Kayo makes a neat little adjustment Satoru hadn’t though of: that she was the one who instigated all of this, thus absolving everyone involved of blame whatever may happen.

Rather than pick Satoru’s Joker, she takes an Ace to match her last card. She wins here, but the foreboding at this point is almost unbearable. I couldn’t help but wonder why the guy smirking under the umbrella in the present was so emotionally invested in Satoru’s downfall, or Yuuki’s bizarre reaction, or the ominous scenes of Yashiro noticing Kayo gone in class, then making a phone call in the faculty lounge.

It’s also just the seventh of twelve episodes, so it’s clearly not all smooth sailing form here. Sure enough, when an adult with a backpack pays a visit to the bus, not knocking the way Satoru would or saying a word, but just entering, Kayo under her blanket already looks like a body under a shroud, and the bus a cold, dark tomb.

Once again, the show mercilessly cuts to credits just before confirming that Kayo has in fact been lost to us once more. That leaves us simmering with a tiny shard of irrational hope for another week, knowing we know that hope is irrational, but not being able to let it go.

In reality, all I can realistically hope is that Satoru can engage revival and try again. Because if I put my heart aside and use my head, this isn’t going to go well for Kayo.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 06

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The events of this episode reveal that the antagonist of BokuMachi doesn’t have any particular desire to erase everyone in Satoru’s life before erasing him. If he did, he’d have made sure Airi was killed. Instead, Satoru manages to rescue her, only to find he’s too weak to carry her out. But he only foils the enemy temporarily.

Enter the pizzeria manager to take over (and claim the credit), though this time he lets Satoru leave rather than screw him over again. But in a crucial moment of consciousness, Airi sees who really saved her – Satoru – and slips her phone into his pocket.

So begins the first episode of BokuMachi that didn’t totally bowl me over in rapt awe (hence the 8), but did begin the necessary work of establishing the basics of what’s going on, who’s doing it, and why – much like a detective starts piecing photos together on a cork-board.

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The phone shows that the arsonist meant to frame Satoru for the crime. When he contacts his mother’s colleague Sawada, a bigger picture takes shape than a simple comprehensive destruction of Satoru. He’s only the latest in a string of innocent men framed for the crimes of the criminal who killed Kayo and the other two youths.

His M.O. is to manipulate the crimes in order to divert police suspicion on those innocent men. The more they investigate, the further from the truth – and from the actual culprit – they get. This is a very intriguing crime story, though I did feel the show lag a bit as a lot of information was dispensed in very straightforward fashion.

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When talk moves to Airi, who is in the hospital under somewhat incompetent guard, Satoru suspects she wasn’t targeted just to strengthen the case for his guilt in his mother’s murder. Instead, the culprit was someone who know both his and Airi’s schedules – someone who was at the pizzeria. Obviously, not the manager, but the suited fellow whose face we didn’t see is the obvious choice.

Meanwhile, Airi is upset about how things have turned out, and wastes no time breaking out of the hospital to continue helping Satoru. It’s clear she’s being watched, and when a hand comes down on her shoulder from behind, we expect nothing good. But then Sawada visits Airi in the hospital, only to find her mother, who was the one who grabbed her.

Her mom, still inspired by her daughters faith in her dad, is willing to believe in Airi here as well, and takes her place in the hospital bed to allow her to move freely. What a cool, nice mom!

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Airi meets Satoru, and Satoru says his embarrassing thoughts aloud not once but twice. I liked this little detail because it shows that even if he’s not a 29 in a 10-year-old’s body, he’s still an introverted guy whose communication skills aren’t the best.

However, the name Airi suggets could be their man – Nishizono – doesn’t match the list of suspects from Sawada’s files. He’s hit a roadblock, and at the worst possible time: turns out Airi was followed without her knowledge, and the police surround and arrest Satoru.

But before they do, Satoru tells Airi about an idea he had for a manga: a Grim Reaper who made a clerical error and killed a young boy. He resolved to fix his mistake, but only ended up drawing more and more people to their doom. When he compares himself to the reaper, Airi objects: both the reaper and he should have more faith in themselves, and not focus too hard on their subjective impressions of how their actions affect others.

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After all, Airi is still alive and unhurt. As Satoru is taken away and Airi’s cries of protest go ignored, Satoru turns around and says what he thinks a hero would in such a situation: that he can keep fighting because she believes him. Then everything freezes and goes black-and-white as Satoru spots the same suited fellow with red eyes who he saw on the balcony the night his mother was killed.

Considering there’s little Satoru can do in jail, I imagine this is a Revival. Assuming it is, I wonder when he’ll end up as we enter the second half of the season, and what he’ll be able to do differently in that time now that he has a much firmer handle of the situation, but also knowing his adversary is an extremely crafty son of a bitch.

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Shimoneta – 07

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I must admit, I have my doubts about the show introducing a new semi-rival sex terrorist group, along with a new character to add to what is quickly becoming the “SOX harem.” But at the same time, introducing the 10-volume “Okuma x Goriki” BL series is a delicious way of ensuring even when he’s trying to hang with Goriki to avoid Anna, there is no peace for our protagonist. Goriki may not read anything into spending their free time together and making Tanukichi lunch, but Ayame and Otome read a lot into it!

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And like I said, that’s when Tanukichi is trying to avoid Anna, which is inherently difficult because she’s a lot craftier and more devious than Goriki, and is able to send him off on pointless errands just to get Tanukichi alone. Her desires are evolving from wanting her would-be lover to “eat” her to her wanting to “eat” him, and since she’s so much quicker and stronger than Tanukichi, he doesn’t have much say in the matter, and he’s only saved by Anna having a premature “crisis”…all over his goddamn face. Naturally, Otome isn’t far away in the bushes, furiously committing the tawdry scene to paper.

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There is also something to be said for, in addition to concealing themselves form authorities, SOX is charged with keeping their brand credible, which is hard to do when rogue groups like “Gathered Fabric” (led by “White Peak”) pull stunts that fail to inspire the oppressed masses, and indeed do harm to SOX’s reputation and squander its political capital. Tanukichi doesn’t see them as a big deal, but Ayame believes GF must be “eradicated” like the damaging knock-off group she believes them to be.

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That brings us to Onigashira Kosuri, who’s father is a wealthy and influential part of the Establishment. Kosuri, long suffering ennui in such a stifling environment, has an earnest desire to stir the shit, as we see when she launches yogurt balloons at the morality cops. She also reveals her dual personalities—one playing a pure and innocent girl, the other an excited pervert; complete with differing hairstyles—in her first deakings with Tanukichi.

At first, she suspects he’s exactly what he is on the surface—a goody-two-shoes StuCo member. But when he proves to her he’s a SOX member, she literally latches onto him with abandon, completely ignoring the impropriety of him being so close to someone much younger than him.

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Tanukichi helps Kosuri convince Ayame that she’s worth having around, as she can supply funding and materials that can facilitate their work, so the addition of Kosuri makes sense, and Hocchan does an okay job with her voice(s), but I’m still not enamored of yet another girl who is basically another love interest for Tanukichi, whose presence can only subtract time better spent in the core triangle of Tanukichi, Ayame, and Anna. But hey, show, prove me wrong.

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Shimoneta – 06

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With the porn of Yotsuga Forest successfully distributed, Ayame decides the next issue SOX should tackle is the development and distribution of sex aids, from lubes to mechanical vibrators. These things have to be made/built from scratch because they’re no longer in store. Their task is akin to building the pyramids with only the original tech on hand.

It’s tiring work, most of all for Tanukichi, who has to endure a constant stream of dirty talk from Ayame and Otome, but is called “sick” and a “pervert” when he suggest they focus equally on male and female “products for health and beauty.” It’s a hypcrisy that persists in Ayame, who at the end of the day is more naive than Okuma, who had a father in the trade.

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Tanukichi also falls victim to a misunderstanding when he pays a visit to Hyouka to pick up the wireless, remote control mini-vibrators she built for them. Not only is Hyouka naked under her robe (after accidentally falling into a water tank), but she wants Tanukichi to repay him by showing her how his “cucumber prepares for battle.”

They’re very close when Anna barges in, and Tanukichi has to come up with a lie to satisfy her in a hurry. He manages to succeed by offering one of the two vibrators to Anna, calling it a “Power Stone.”

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Anna makes a blingy pendant of it, but when the remote malfuncitons, it’s stuck on, vibrating her bust, resulting in what can only be described as a hilariously ridiculous spectacle. It also turns Anna on, to the extent she dismisses Goriki, locks herself in the StuCo office with Tanukichi, and proceeds to hold him down.

Tanukichi, about to be raped by someone who has no idea what rape entails, finds his own member barely able to withstand the onslaught of Anna on top of him, but he manages to “preserve his chastity” until the vibrator breaks from overuse, ending the immediate crisis.

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The longer-term crisis for Tanukichi, of course, is that Anna immediately demands a new “Power Stone” to replace the one that broke. Worse, whenever he so much as looks or speaks to another girl, Anna grows violently jealous. SOX has truly created a monster.

With the daughter of a high-ranking Morality official getting excited about SOX’s terrorist activities, it looks like he’ll soon have one more girl filling his ears with dirty talk and threatening to incur more of Anna’s wrath.

What had been Tanukichi’s Boring World Where the Concept of Dirty Jokes Doesn’t Exist has now become an annoying, stressful, often life-threatening world where dirty jokes—and acts—are rampant and unpredictable. But definitely not boring.

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Shimoneta – 05

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Shimoneta does not hold back (no pun intended) on the continuing unfortunate results of Anna’s accidental first arousal by Okuma; she is absolutely out of control from start to finish, frightening due to the strength of her convictions (read: delusions), yet also a profoundly tragic figure; a walking, talking, drooling example of everything wrong with her mother’s hardline stance against sex education.

Her mother has kept her bottled up all this time, and now the flood gates are open. Yet so ignorant is she to the basic biology of sex, Anna refers to her discharge as “love nectar”, first mixing it in the dough for cookies made specially for Okuma, then trying to get him to drink it straight from a  bottle where she’s been collecting it. Anna’s complete inability to cope with her lust has turned her into a dribbling, chain link fence-cutting psycho.

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All the while, Anna is apparently lucid enough to keep this erratic behavior secret from her mother, who either trusts her daughter enough not to stick her nose in her business (pretty hypocritical, considering how evasive X Prohibition will be to the rest of the Japanese youths) or she’s simply too busy with the PR campaign to bother noticing Anna melt down.

Public Morals begins a crackdown on the school specifically to dissuade students from storming Yotsuga Forest where the porn stash is believed to be located. Yet Ayame goes anyway, willing to storm the place on her own, no matter the consequences, as a matter of principle, and in hopes she’ll inspire others.

Her suicide mission is interrupted by the cavalry: Fuwa Hyouka found Otome’s lewd drawings Okuma dropped in her lab when Anna was chasing him, and she distributed them to the student body, which came to the forest en masse. She uses all the boys as a diversion against the morality cops, and sends the girls in.

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Sophia’s rally at her daughter’s school is ruined, so Anna goes to the forest and locates both Blue Snow and Okuma (who is in a light disguise). Ayame orders Okuma to save himself, but even when he lands smack-dab in the Cave of Porn, he decides he’s not going to let Anna unmask and punish Blue Snow. He probably realizes the ideal life he imagined with Anna isn’t going to happen.

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He emerges wearing woman’s lingerie, and the sight of his package is enough to make Anna hysterical, as they used to say in olden times. Unaware it’s Okuma behind the pantymask, she’s so ashamed of her body reacting so intensely to another man, she literally jumps off a cliff and flies away, leaving a love nectar rainbow in her wake. That’s right, a love nectar rainbow. I sure didn’t see that coming!

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Even SOX are rendered bewildered and speechless, but at the end of the day, they successfully got all of their fellow students to storm the forest, and scored a huge haul of fresh and diverse porn with which Otome can be inspired to create an ever-richer catalogue of illustrations for distribution. They even manage to switch the signatures from other schools with those illustrations, and Sophia makes the mistake of holding one up without looking at it first while on a live nationwide broadcast with no tape delay.

It’s a huge coup for SOX, who were on the cusp of being wiped out, because the scandal essentially stops the X Prohibition Law in its tracks, as well as gets Sophia in trouble. Thinks are looking good for the ero-terrorists, but more challenges lie ahead, one of which is named Anna Nishikinomiya.

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Shimoneta – 04

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At first, Anna seems to be processing her “experience” with Okuma last week by clamping down on school indecency, tightening her grip on public morality as her mother prepares to make a speech at her school on her “final solution” for nipping lewdness in the bud and preserving the purity of Japan’s youth, saving them from their own base urges. Anna is also straight-up avoiding Okuma, making him think she despises him now.

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With a vote on the X Prohibition Law looming, Ayame briefs her SOX team of Okuma and Otome on their next mission, which is to storm a forest where hardcore porn is known to be located (the forest was once the property of a famous pornographer) with a mass of “cherry” boys and girls from school, overwhelming the authorities with numbers. SOX is not the only dirty terror group, but one of several all working to free Japan from the shackles of artificial sexual repression.

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Anna’s mom ends up surprising Ayame by announcing the student vote for X Prohibition will take place the same time control will be lifted from the porn forest. She also unveils the future of oppression: heavy-duty chastity belts that prevent any fooling around in that area by either sex, further closing off that crucial part of the human anatomy to youth a a crucial time in their development. The image is somewhat humorous, but the idea behind it is truly chilling.

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Ayame is pissed off about her plan becoming far more difficult, but she still thinks she can convince the student body to storm the forest IF she can get Otome out of her artistic funk. To do that, Ayame exploits Okuma’s new stalker, who has stuffed his mailbox with love letters and left puddles of saliva on his patio, by putting a note telling her to come in, all while Otome hides in his closet and observes.

Okuma is convinced nothing will happen and Otome will see nothing interesting, but he ends up about as wrong as it is humanly possible to be, as his stalker turns out to be Anna, who is extremely sex-crazed despite having no idea what sex is. She enters Okuma’s apartment, tears his and her clothes off, mounts him, and starts licking him. All she knows is that this feels good, so it must be good, and right, and pure.

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Clearly having no idea the note on Okuma’s door would be so successful, Ayame walks in on this spectacle, and Anna basically grabs her clothes and runs out in embarrassment, yet still in a kind of trance in which she doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with what she’s doing. Why would she? Her parents never told her about this kind of stuff. Yet the burning in her loins cannot be denied.

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It took an accidental kiss during a stalker dust-up, but Okuma’s beloved angel Anna has well and truly broken out of her shell. Her ignorance is such that rather than admit her harsher enforcement measures at school constitute gross hypocrisy considering how she’s been behaving on the side vis-a-vis Okuma, she absolves herself by proclaiming that “love is justice”, and that the more she doles out on others, the more love she’s able to give to Okuma.

Absent any kind of proper education on romance or sex, Anna is quite literally making it up as she goes along. Even more troubling, her authority and pedigree are such that few can dare challenge her improvisatory philosophy. She’s suddenly become quite the hedonist, but she’s playing with porn-burning fire.

Most surprisingly, Anna put her money where dirty-talking Ayame’s mouth is, taking debauchery to levels that make Blue Snow herself blush. Or in baseball terms (Hi Preston!), Ayame has been shouting slogans from the stands, but it’s Anna who rounded second base and slid into third, naked and drooling.

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Shimoneta – 03

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After top art student and school’s pride, Saotome Otome, caught a glimpse of Okuma and Ayame’s rooftop antics, she literally snags him on a chain and drags him away to her studio, where she presumes he can assist her with (or rather she can blackmail him into) helping her with a romantic problem that is making her art suffer. The subject of her affections? Anna. So when Okuma must tell her who he loves, he says the first girl’s name that comes to mind: Ayame, so as to avoid conflict.

But Otome’s artists’ block is merely a side effect of a much larger problem that afflicts not only her, but much of the population: a decade of PMs and oppression is leaving large swaths of the population unable to express their love, or even identify what they’re feeling as such. This isn’t surprising; dirty jokes and the sexual knowledge that makes them dirty are crucial to natural human interaction. Without them, there’s a large gap that is filled with whatever else people can come up with.

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For a certain unsavory admirer of Anna, that something is stalking and candid photos with threatening messages. Anna is shaken by this, but Ayame assure Okuma she’ll protect her while he tries to get Otome to join SOX, revealing that her friendship to Anna is genuine, even if the two are on opposite ends of the moral spectrum. Anna, after all, is person who made it possible for Ayame to exist in normal society; she’d surely be in jail without her. But with the very survival of the human race is at stake, and so Ayame must act against her best friend.

Anna, for her part, knows Okuma isn’t the stalker, despite Goriki’s suspicions (which are his own way of expressing his own love for Anna), and agrees to a sting in which Ayame will dress as a boy as they go on a date. At the same time, Otome plans her own rescue of Anna by the stalker, shaving Okuma’s legs and putting him in drag (for the second straight episode).

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As they wait in the bushes, Otome cannot help but compulsively draw Anna, her first real model, in her own unique way of expressing her love. The resulting sting is a pretty thrilling and complex bit of physicality, as not only does the stalker turn out to be huge, but there are three of them, and not everyone in a position to protect Anna is close enough to stop their attacks.

Fortunately, Ayame knows right where to kick the first stalker, and Okuma is in time to stop the next one with a devastating right. Interestingly, he moved out of instinct, but isn’t sure who he moved for: Ayame, whom he told Otome he loved on a whim? Or Anna? Heck, why not both!

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Whoever he was trying to protect, he loses his wig and takes a rock to the back of the head, and ends up not only landing on top of a stunned Anna, but his lips and legs end up locked with hers for a not inconsequential amount of time before he gets up, starts to apologize, and passes out from the rock blow.

As for Anna, that sudden closeness to a boy and the touch of his lips seems to awaken her libido with a vengeance. Again, she has no idea what’s going on, but she knows it feels amazing. Will this be an isolated incident eventually forgotten, or will Anna never look at Okuma the same again?

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