Planet With – 02 – Dearth of Enthusiasm

As the “Citizens’ Safety Center Special Defense Division: Grand Paladin” deals with the aftermath of losing one of their seven fighters to the enemy (which is called “Nebula”), Souya doesn’t so much as get real meat as a reward for his victory.

He lashes out at both Ginko and Sensei and skips school, then encounters Torai, the guy he just beat last night. Now lacking Photon Armor, he’s on investigation duty, but his memories of meeting Souya are fuzzy, so it’s a cordial exchange. Then another, even weirder UFO arrives.

Sensei clarifies that while he and Ginko are with Nebula, they’re with the pacifist faction that only wants to relieve humanity of the power the Photon Armor, which they’re using Souya to do (the “Sealing” faction wants to take it a step forward and actually keep humanity from ever evolving to a point where they develop such power).

Inaba Miu, the youngest member of Grand Paladin, is the star of the show, defeating the UFO after getting stuck in an illusion involving her and her friend and comrade Harumi in a judo match. But shortly after winning, Miu and Harumi are confronted by Souya and Sensei, and a 2-on-1 fight ensues.

Once Souya gets the hang of operating his “Sensei Armor”, he manages to defeat Miu and snatch away her power, but gets greedy and wants to go after Harumi too, against Sensei and Ginko’s order to withdraw. As a result, the rest of Grand Paladin show up and surround them. Could the gig be up just 2/7ths of the way into their mission?

Planet With episode two has the same shortcomings as the first: a whiny protagonist; loose-sketch supporting characters; goofy-looking anonymous UFOs. The CGI fights come with some decent SFX but are otherwise fairly standard 2018 fare. But with no strong characters or ideas to get enthusiastic about, the show feels very color-by-number so far.

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Planet With – 01 (First Impressions) – Unidentified Rooting Interest

What Planet With lacks in originality (weird mecha fighting an even weirder enemy is a tale as old as time) it makes up for in polish, panache, and, well, specificity. Kuroi Souya isn’t just one such mecha pilot; he’s an orphaned amnesiac transfer student who lives with a green-haired maid and giant purple cat-man that only eats lettuce/cabbage.

Despite the best efforts of his charming class rep (and occult research club member) Takamagahara, Souya ends up splitting off from his class when massive UFOs start appearing close to coastal cities, including his. A band of seven superheroes transform into mecha to meet the extremely bizarre object.

Souya isn’t among them. In fact, the maid (Ginko) and cat-man (“Sensei”) meet up with him and instruct him not to take out the UFO, but the seven superheroes, one of whom (Torai) manages to enter the core of the UFO. Just like a JSDF fighter pilot earlier, Torai is transported to an elaborate illusion, given the chance to save his mom who he couldn’t save in real life. He manages to break through the illusion and destroy the UFO, and the others explode with it around the world.

Before his mecha can be repaired, he’s confronted by Souya, who ends up piloting “Sensei”, who transforms into a vaguely feline mecha. Souya manages to defeat Torai’s far larger mecha and steal the source of his power; a vial filled with silver star-shaped particles. Souya laments that he may have been taken in by Ginko and Sensei in order to fight as their soldier…though at least this time, he’s won over by the promise of a meat (though not beef)-filled dinner.

And that’s where we leave things. The question is, who is the good guy here? Souya all but admits he’s the two weirdos’ weapon, while after the credits, whoever is in charge of the seven superheroes (who Torai claim are protecting the planet) hardly looks like the benevolent type.

Everything looks and sounds great in Planet With, but take away the spectacle and there’s not much to invest in here…at least not yet. As with Souya and the promise of meat, I’ll settle for spectacle for now. But meat alone isn’t a meal; hopefully some potatoes are forthcoming.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 11 – Forest of Thorns

Tsukiyama’s underlings will do everything they can to keeping him alive as long as possible—no easy task when you have some of CCG’s finest after him. Having already lost so many people, Shuu all but begs Matsumae to make him a promise to come back alive along with Mairo, but she can’t keep it.

Kijima and Ihei await Matsumae and Mairo, while Shuu ends up encountering Sasaki on the rooftop helipad. Sasaki urges Shuu to surrender. Shuu doesn’t comply. He can’t. His life is no longer his own, if it ever was. Shuu has decided that honoring the sacrifices made in his name by living is more important than trying to wring Ken out of Sasaki Haise. So they fight.

It’s a bloody outing, as expected. The two new recruits Shimoguchi reluctantly accepted into his “cursed” squad are taken out by a masked Kanae; killed protecting him, who did nothing but shit-talk them till the end. Ihei is simply having fun fighting Matsumae…until she fails to mind her surroundings, slips on some blood, and gets run through.

Noro, one of Aogiri’s top ghouls, has also arrived, and the Quinx squad along with some others are unlucky enough to face his constantly-regenerating ponytailed ass. And get this: Saiko actually gets to demonstrate her power for once, rather than just stand there with her giant hammer waiting to be rescued (though she does that too, and her big attack has no effect on Noro).

Somewhat surprisingly, two of the most cocky and confident Doves in Ihei and Kijima meet most inauspicious and gruesome deaths; Ihei by a last minute suicide assist from Mairo; Kijima by his own chainsaw quinque, which happens to land right down the middle of his oddly-proportioned head. I wont miss either of them?

When everyone’s in deep shit and there’s seemingly no answer for Goro’s regenerating, Shirazu volunteers to cast away his fear and wield Nutcracker, but like Saiko’s kagune, it’s a lot of sound and fury signifying (and settling) nothing. Noro is simply blown into tiny pieces that are reformed into something even more grotesque and deadly.

Back up on the roof, the Eto-coached Kanae joins the fight, relieving Sasaki of his arm. Sasaki, for his part, was able to correctly predict every move Shuu made, though he didn’t dodge them. We learn that like Shuu is now, Kanae was once a girl, and the last living member of her family, but shed the gender of her birth in order to take on the Rosewald mantle.

But whether Sasaki, remembering Arima’s tough-love training, will show Kanae or Shuu any mercy is up for debate. And we have another ghoul incoming who will shift the momentum once more. But so far this is turning out to be a win for no one.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 10 – The Things We’re Taking are Lives

Eto confronts Kanae and proceeds to read them like the open book they are. She seems intent on changing Kanae’s fruitless course to make Shuu love them. Eto offers them an apple, or “fruit of knowledge”, in the form of one of her “bones.”

This will likely make Kanae more powerful and thus capable of taking away that “something precious” from Shuu—namely Sasaki Haise—in order to take their place as Shuu’s “precious person.” It’s also sure to come at a heavy cost: Kanae’s remaining humanity, sanity, et cetera. Like Rize and Ken, the deal seems a bit…Faustian.

We also learn the core of Shirazu’s hesitance to use Nutcracker. The final words of the first ghoul he killed echoed what his sister said, once what had been a mole under her eye turned into a life-changing growth: “I want to be pretty.” He’s in CCG and the Quinx Squad only to make enough money for her considerable care.

Fura comes upon him, and relays to him the commonality of investigators having trouble with quinques from their first kills. He says it’s perfectly normal, and even healthy, as someone who felt nothing for taking another life is probably not a great way to start one’s CCG career.

As we’ve seen, the opinions on morality vis-a-vis ghouls within the organization run the gamut from “ghouls are people” to “ghouls are targets to be eliminated.” Shirazu would seem to be oriented more towards the former; S1 investigators Ui and Ihei the latter.

As Haise deals with his worsening identity crisis, he continues to do his job, wanting both himself and Quinx to be useful to S1 in the operation to take down Rose. To that end, Ui allows him and Quinx to don the masks Uta made them (or in Haise’s case, made for Ken) and mingle with the ghouls for intel.

They learn that all the ghouls on the street are uneasy, guarded, distrustful of newcomers, and in Haise’s case, deathly afraid of his mask, which is that of the “Eyepatch Ghoul.” He learns the name “Kotarou Amon”, then meets with Shuu, wanting to learn more about Kaneki Ken so that he can accept him.

But despite having been restored to health by Haise, Shuu has no idea what to tell him about Ken, and ends up running away. Besides, his hands are full; his servant Yuma is still being held by Kijima. In a sickeningly brutal scene that shows where on the spectrum Kijima falls, he executes an already brutally tortured Yuma.

As Ui receives permission from CCG Chairman Washu to implement the Tsukiyama Family Eradication plan (with S2 head Washu breathing down his neck), Haise searches the archives for more info on Kotarou Amon and the Eyepatch Ghoul, fearing that in reality he was the latter and murdered the former. Akira draws him into a hug, comforting him without confirming any of his (correct) assumptions.

That night, Shuu’s Papa Mirumo gives him a cup of coffee, which makes him pass out instantly. The Doves surround the mansion, and Mirumo greets them in the grand foyer, claiming he does not intend to fight or resist, but only asks that he and his family be left alone and allowed to live out their lives as people, as they have done. Ui isn’t having it.

When Shuu wakes up, his world has been inverted. He’s in a car, being driven by Matsumae at top speed away from the mansion, where Papa and all the other servants are making a stand for Shuu’s sake. Shuu wants to go back; Matsumae won’t comply. It’s imperative Shuu survive.

They arrive at the headquarters of one of the Tsukiyama Group’s many subsidiaries, where an army of Ghouls loyal to Shuu’s Papa stand ready to fight to the last man to keep him safe. All Shuu can do is admire the greatness that inspired such loyalty, greatness he likely doubts he himself possesses.

The three Tsukiyama veterans in charge of the defense get prepare for what may be their final night alive, as a smug-as-hell Ihei orders the commencement of the extermination operation.

As the aggressors in this latest conflict, led by those who made the decision long ago that Ghouls are not to be empathized with or shown mercy, the Doves definitely felt like the Bad Guys this week—which means Haise and our Quinx Squad are fighting on the wrong side.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 09 – Awful Superheroes

Tsukiyama Shuu……is BACK, YA’LL! He knows Kaneki Ken when he sees him…and “Sasaki Haise” IS Kaneki Ken and Shuu will have him. He’ll chase him round the Moons of Nibia and round the Antares Maelstrom and round Perdition’s flames before he gives him up!

Even if he doesn’t know who he is. That means striding right up to the pack of young Doves that surrounds him…and having to be scooped up and whisked away by Kanae. No matter; it’s great to see the Gourmet has his appetite and vigor back…all thanks to Hori Chie (Kanae seemed particularly clueless about how to quell their master’s slump).

The Quinx are in that ward because Kan…er, Sasaki wants to have them all fitted for masks at Uta’s shop, so they can infiltrate ghouls. Uta is glad to be of service, and has a high opinion of every Quinx member. Kori officially denies Sasaki’s request to go forward on such a plan, but cannot deny it’s a good idea considering how similar the Quinx are to Ghouls.

Meanwhile, creepy-looking Kijima has released a gruesome video of him torturing a member of Shuu’s household staff, presumably out securing food for him. Kijima is dangling his captive as bait, no doubt hoping to snag more important Ghouls. Not the most pleasant methods!

Within a day or so, Shuu’s Kaneki-fueled recovery is complete. The kid’s alive, and so he can keep on living. The hard part will be to get someone who’s forgotten who they are to remember who he is.

Shuu arranges for a number of “chance encounters”, but if we’re generous, he’s basically just stalking Sasaki, and coming to the same roadblock every time: the pesky Quinx kids that keep him from being alone with Kaneki.

Kanae hires a team from Aogiri Tree, including Torso, to eliminate the Quinx Squad so her master can have what he wants (Kanae also gives Shuu a second photo, at which point a much more lucid Shuu realizes his little friend Hori is supplying the pics for his benefit).

Quinx ends up scattered, with Sasaki taking on the bulk of the Ghouls in a parking lot; Tooru and Saiko go one way, while Urie and Shirazu go another. Among the mercs is the “Grave Robber”, who is a fan of burgundy nail polish and, presumably, stealing quinques from the Doves she’s killed.

When up against Kanae, Shirazu’s kagune is damaged and he has to use Nutcracker…but he just can’t. He’s still not okay with how things went down, and especially not okay with using what amounts to her corpse as a weapon. Luckily, a stronger Urie is up to the task of forcing Kanae to retreat, and then intervenes in the battle between Tooru and Grave Robber.

Saiko, who was told to hide, is found by…someone, who proceeds to try to choke her out until she’s saved by…someone else. So many new (or old?) faces to keep up with! Her vague description of her savior causes Sasaki stare into space thoughtfully, as Eto, who we know wants Kaneki to get his memories back, perches atop a building not far away.

Kuromukuro – 16

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This week, there’s almost equal time spent between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”, as Muetta and Mirasa fall from the sky to infiltrate the Kurobe Lab in search of the “Pivot Stone.” It’s a daring and professional operation led by Muetta, with Mirasa never quite matching her precise moves. For instance, Mirasa hits the water too hard on their landing, but Muetta saves her. By the end of their op she’ll wish she hadn’t.

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Another healthy chunk of “good guy” time is taken up by more Ken and Sophie, with which I have no problem. Its fun to watch the moment Ken realizes Sophie is trying to become a samurai, which she sees as swapping one form of bondage (doing as her parents say and going home) for another (being bonded by loyalty to her fellow warriors in Kurobe).

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What of Yukina? She’s plays only a bit role here, tagging along for Mika’s cosplay film with Akagi, Kaya, Carlos, and the nurse Marina. In a nice bit of narrative symmetry, Muetta and Mirasa also “cosplay” by dressing up in UN maintenance unis that will help them move further into the enemy base. But while Mika & Co. are just trying to have some fun, these two are grinding like their lives depended on it…because they kinda do.

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By sheer coincidence the Efidolg pair end up taking the same lift as Ken, and the smell of blood on the orange jumpsuits (another blunder by Mirasa) gives them away. Thus we’re offered another confrontation between Ken and “Yukihime” far earlier than I expected, and it goes pretty much how I imagined: Ken prostrates himself before the princess, hoping against hope he can jog her memory.

Alas, Muetta claims to have never heard of him, though interestingly she calls him a “peasant” later on. It’s very much up in the air whether she’s playing another role like Mika and Marina, fully brainwashed, or a true and loyal daughter of Efidolg.

Speaking of loyalty, when, in a hostage situation, Muetta seems prepared to kill Ken, it’s Sophie who fires the bullet that knocks the knife from her hand. When Ken shields a retreating Muetta and Mirasa, Sophie makes up her mind: she can’t trust Ken’s brand of loyalty with keeping him alive. She’ll stay in Kurobe and make sure he stays safe.

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In this regard, Sophie takes on a role similar to Yukina, another person intent on saving Ken from his own reckless impluses. It’s also a huge victory for the show, because getting rid of Sophie, or declawing her by giving her scenes in France, would not have been something I particularly wanted to see.

As for Yukina, the cosplay story, beyond being a parallel to the costumes Muetta and Mirasa don, doesn’t come to much other than “Yukina is special now and her normal high school life continues to suffer from that specialness.”

IMO a bit too much time was spent on this plot, though I commend Mika wanting to cheer everyone, including Yukina and Marina, up a bit (plus the costumes and locales were cool).

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Then there’s Mirasa. She started this thrilling, action-packed infiltration op following Muetta’s lead and calling her “sister” with deference and loyalty. She ends it by suddenly but inevitably betraying Muetta, shoving her knife in her belly so she can go home and take all the credit for finding the stone.

It’s another demonstration how bad and fundamentally immoral and messed-up the Efidolg are, more an advanced form of the everyday cruelty and brutality from feudal times much (though certainly not all) of the modern world has left behind.

But Mirasa’s treachery also forces a new choice upon Muetta / Yukihime. Assuming she survives her Fugitive-style jump off the dam (a good bet), she’ll be hurt pretty damn bad, and she’ll be alone.

Chances are the UN finds her first, and they’ll treat her. I wouldn’t even rule out such a fall ringing her bell to the extent some memories of Ken return (if they’re there, and if she doesn’t have them already). In any case, it will be Muetta’s turn to make a choice.

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Qualidea Code – 08

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This week QC demonstrated its adeptness at extinguishing its own peril and momentum. After blowing open a huge door last week, building upon all my suspicions about the world the kids inhabit, it allowed that door to partially close, albeit leaving it open just a crack.

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The apparent “deaths” of Hime and Hotaru created a desperate situation, and yet Kasumi and Aoi are able to goof off on an extended inspection “date.” That desperation is more or less quandered so we can witness events that do little but reiterate the deep bond we always knew existed between Kasumi and Asuha. While we haven’t seen Asuha following her brother on a fake date, I’m not sure we needed to, especially now.

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Suffice it to say, the two are good siblings to one another when it counts, so when the evil adult superior Ookuni tries to convince them to transfer further inland, and both outright refuse, and Ookuni tries to corner Kasumi and kill him in the clumsiest way possible, Asuha is right there to bail him out.

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What Asuha doesn’t know yet is that her brother has already peeked through the door opened last week. He can see bits and pieces of the “real world” the codes on their necks seem to be suppressing. In her generic villain speech before trying and failing to kill Kasumi, Ookuni provides a little more insight: that she considers the kids “livestock” who need to be kept asleep to serve her needs.

Well, Kasumi isn’t fully asleep anymore, and Ookuni is dead (and there’s nothing left of her, thanks to some overkill by Asuha). Asuha is still “pure” in that her code is intact, but if there’s anyone she’d believe if they told her the secret they’ve discovered, it’s Kasumi.

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Qualidea Code – 07

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Hotaru lives only to serve Hime, so she’s going to do whatever it takes to fulfill her promise to return to her side when needed. This week we learn more about why, as Airi attempts the close the gaping hole in the sky and Hime desperately holds off wave after wave of humanoid Unknown.

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Hime didn’t like the idea of being put into cold sleep in separate shelters, but Hotaru promised it would be okay. It wasn’t; when Hotaru awakened, she had “lost herself.” For ten years, she served as an elite assassin, until her last target was her old friend, who never stopped believing she’d come back. She did, and they’ve remained the closest of friends ever since.

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When it looks like Airi isn’t going to be done closing the hole, and Hotaru isn’t going to be able to get to Hime before she runs out of gas, Hotaru enlists the help of Kasumi, Aoi, and Asuha to fashion a sky bridge out of frozen Unknown carcasses. As Hotaru mentions, it’s a great bit of inventiveness from Kasumi, who feelings aside knows full well how boned they are if they lose the Kanegawa head.

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The lonely battle Hime fights as everyone while to help her grows increasingly tense and frought, as one small slip-up could mean her sudden heartbreaking demise. Indeed, she seems only a split-second away from having her head crushed when Hotaru finally arrives, keeping her promise by rescuing her.

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Not long thereafter, Airi successfully re-activates the barrier, the hole starts to close, and the Unknown retreat. If things had ended with a couple of tender lines between Hotaru and Hime on their way home, this would have been a great wrap-up to a solidly 8 episode.

But that’s no what happened. The end of the battle marks only the beginning of…something else. Airi notices Hime’s vitals throwing errors, and Hime tells Hotaru “something’s not right”, stopping her from defeating the last Unknown charging them.

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Hime asks Hotaru to trust her before shattering the Code on her neck, the way her’s was shattered moments before. And just like that, the door to a huge new Pandora’s Box creaks open, as we see from Hotaru’s POV that something is, indeed, not right at all. 

It’s made clearer than ever that these kids are not living in the real world, but an artificial one, governed/regulated by their (admittedly vulnerable) Code chips. By episode’s end, Hime, Hotaru, and Kasumi have been released from those chips, and see the world for what it really is.

The former two also allowed themselves to get swallowed up in the big Unknown, and now they’re “gone” from the world they knew. Perhaps they’ll end up where Canaria and the other “dead” kids went.

This is a huge development; the show is confidently headed exactly where I hoped it would ever since it showed that seagull disappearing, and I’ll be watching with great interest to see what comes next.

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Ushio to Tora – 33

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Looks like last week lifted our spirits only to utterly crush them here, as Hakumen no Mono rises out of the ocean, and its tails take the form of monsters Ushio already defeated, reminding him of how much he lost, and how much hatred has built up inside of him after enduring all that loss.

His mom tries to slap him out of his spiral of hate, but that only makes things worse. Whether she’s there with him now, for the majority of his life she was lost to him, and he has very little time to be with her now. Ushio dredges up all of that accumulated hatred to launch a counterattack, but he’s going about it entirely the wrong way.

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But Ushio won’t listen to reason from anyone. Not his mother, and not even Tora. Especially when Tora admits he killed Nagare and doesn’t bother explaining the extenuating circumstances. He doesn’t bother because he knows nothing he’ll say will change the fact that Ushio told him not to kill Nagare, and he killed Nagare.

The Kouhamei Sect awakens from their stone slumber and comes in force to set up a barrier, but they, and apparently the prison where Asako was waiting, are easily destroyed by Hakumen. He destroys an entire island, killing untold thousands, in the blink of an eye. And news cameras get it all on camera, spreading the fear across Japan and further fueling the demon.

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Did I mention the stone pillar the JASDF fleet destroyed had kept Japan from sinking into the sea? Well, that happened to. The triumphant return of Mayuko isn’t triumphant at all; it’s an afterthought, as nothing anyone can do can snap Ushio out of his berserk hatred-mode.

But he can’t fight hatred with hatred, and when he tries to stab Hakumen in the head with the Beast Spear, the spear shatters into a million shards. So yeah, this was not a feel-good week for Ushio and Tora; not at all! Ushio lost; Hakumen won, Asako could be dead…it’s all over. Japan is hosed. 

Except it isn’t, right? There are at least six whole episodes left! So even with no spear, no hope, and nothing but seething hatred in his heart, we can’t rule out a come-from-behind win. But I have to salute this show for letting things get so very FUBAR before that happens. This Hakumen guy is one tough little shit!

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Ushio to Tora – 32

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“Mother” – such a simple title for an episode positively bursting with powerful, complex emotions; frustration, loneliness, and powerlessness among them. Ignoring his fearful young colleague, the Undine’s grizzled pilot Goro is willing to take Ushio where he needs to go now that he knows what Ushio wants to do once he sees his mom, which is to give her a stern talking-to about how devastating her absence from his life has been.

But nothing, nothing can prepare Ushio, who has been through so much, for the singular occasion of being in the presence of his mother for the first time since he was barely crawling. He doesn’t even remember her face, and for one horrifying moment I thought a monster or corpse would be all he would find. The episode really does a good job building up this, one of the most important moments both of Ushio’s life and for the show as a whole.

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The sights and sounds of his journey to his mother’s side is filled with a sense of quiet awe and grandeur. And to my relief, his mom is just a regular woman…who happens to have been sitting in the same place for nearly Ushio’s entire life. She may have freakishly-long hair, but she also has Ushio’s familiar dark eyebrows above warm, kind eyes. There’s no doubt about it: this is Ushio’s mom.

And look a how all of the things Ushio wanted to say to his mom melt away, replaced by love, gratitude, and relief. He’s in awe of his mother and her own meekness and contriteness. Her first act upon seeing him is to bow her head. But before he lets her ask his forgiveness, he assures her, by showing her all of his various scars and wounds—some acquired fighting monsters, others just doing stuff kids do—that it’s no big deal; and it’s true.

While she’s been here, the love she put into Ushio endured and sustained him, and made him into the fine young man he is today. He knows that, and he no longer has any hard feelings on the matter. How can he, when his mother sacrificed so much?

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Her look when he starts dusting her off, and the laugh they share when he bashfully askes for miso soup (there’s no kitchen there, bub!), it’s all wonderful. Finally, goddamnit, Ushio gets to see his mom, and she’s not terrible! What is terrible is the impending situation, in which the shit hits the fan before his mom can pat him properly on the head.

The East and West youkai have arrived up at the surface (in giant amalgamated forms), with the former keeping the latter from attacking Hakumen by fighting them. The navy fires its torpedoes and destroys the stone pillar, as Hakumen had planned. Ushio’s mom’s barrier finally fails after 700 years of continuous activation.

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It’s the end of the line for Ushio’s mom as far as being the Oyakume goes, which begs the question: where the heck is Mayuko at? Isn’t she supposed to pick up where Ushio’s mom left off? I hope she gets there soon, because it becomes clear Hakumen isn’t going to stay put.

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Indeed, after ignoring Ushio’s mom’s warning that he’ll be dealt with by Ushio and the others soon enough and has no reason to celebrate, Hakumen still appears to be very happy to be free, and does celebrate by tossing the entire sub fleet into the air and impaling the East youkai, then vowing to destroy everything in the world.

All poor Tora can do is watch! I do hope his girl Mayuko arrives soon with a barrier, or some other somebody comes out of the woodwork to lend him and Tora a hand. I also hope that while her Oyakume days are over, Ushio’s mom doesn’t have to die; at least not until she gets to see her son defeat Hakumen no Mono once and for all.

Then she gets to pat Ushio head, and they get to spend some time as mother and son, with worries about saving the world far behind them. But I’m getting ahead of myself…the next episode’s title isn’t vague at all: “Beast Spear Destroyed.” Nuts!

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Ushio to Tora – 31

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Ushio’s previews are never anything than a listing of the (usually vague) title of the next episode accompanied by the sound of the Beast Spear striking something. As such, we’re always in the dark about what exactly will come next. I’ve always kinda liked that.

It meant I didn’t know if Asako would somehow end up encountering a HAMMR humvee on the street, and be taken to the floating dock by helicopter to Ushio’s side, right after he’s thrown in the brig with two civilian researchers who built the Undine submarine who let him take them hostage to escape.

That’s…a lot, but the bottom line is, Ushio and Asako are reunited. But as is usual with these two, it’s not that simple: Asako’s memories aren’t fully back, and they may never come back. That doesn’t matter, as she’s confident this is the boy she loves anyway, especially after he literally plucked her from the fire, along with the bits and pieces of memories still rattling around.

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This leads to one of the most raw and poignant scenes between these two. Asako begs Ushio not to go, lest he lose himself. Ushio insists he has to go, and he’ll be back “in a little while.” It’s the most comfort he can offer, because he knows there’s a good chance he won’t be back at all. He can’t promise anything.

But seeing Asako, even regarding him as a stranger, act in this way, and remembering everything they’ve been through and everything she’s meant to him, their last exchange is an exchange of I love yous…only because of the sub’s thick glass, neither can hear the other’s confession.

At this point, I just want more than anything for Ushio to get the job done and come back safe. No matter what else happens, Asako deserves that much.

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As Ushio goes down in the Undine to perhaps meet his ultimate fate, Tora stays topside to give Nagare what he’s always wanted, and what he betrayed Kouhamei and Ushio to get: a serious, no-holds-barred fight with Tora. Tora doesn’t disappoint, though at one point Nagare nails him to the deck and rants about another reason he had to betray Ushio: in order to show him, and his painfully naive eyes it grew so hard to look at, what he really is: a traitor and a wretch.

Tora doesn’t buy it, breaking out some ruthless chortling and mocking. If Nagare is afraid of that little twerp’s EYES, there’s no way he can beat a dyed-in-the-wool monster like him.

It’s moments like this that I’m reminded that perhaps Tora truly plans to eat Ushio one day, just that he’s in absolutely no hurry to do so. That, I guess, makes him a monster. Also, whatever else he is, he’s a being who can do things Nagare simply can’t, even when he hulks up and digs deep into his bag of spiritual tricks.

But for all his insistance that he’s the baddest mofo-in’ monster around, Ushio was still trying to obey Ushio’s wishes by not killing Nagare—only for Nagare to make him go far enough to kill him anyway.

I don’t see Tora being genuinely contrite enough to convince Ushio it was an accident, and I don’t see Ushio (if and when he returns, or if and when Tora goes to him) easily forgiving or going back on his promise that Tora will regret it. But hey, who knows: the preview, as always, won’t show even a glimpse of what is to come.

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Ushio to Tora – 30

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With Mayuko doomed to live the rest of her life replacing Ushio’s mom, Asako in the hospital still growing her skin back, and a lot of people either dead, turned to stone, or unable to remember Ushio, this entire second season has been one big fat DOWNER.

There seems to be no end to Ushio’s torment, as one thing after another crops up to make his life that much more dark and tragic. Just take Nagare, who “frees” Ushio and Tora from a JASDF transport taking them who knows where.

As was teased previously (by his evil grin), Nagare is now on Hakumen’s side. There’s no explanation why, nor why he retreats as suddenly as he appeared when a HAMMR helicopter approaches (he sliced an armored humvee in half; he can’t take out a chopper?)

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So yeah, there’s been a lot of piling on this season, and each episode has dug deep into the vast repository of Ushio to Tora characters from the first season, dusting them off and putting them back on the game board, like the two HAMMR scientists who didn’t die.

All the negativity of compounded ordeals early on made it hard to enjoy this episode, but the show does,to its credit, throw us a few bones of both hope and levity, which are much appreciated—though Asako getting out of bed and wandering around town with her skin still healing, looking like a damn mummy, is definitely not one of those bones. For the love of God, Asako, go back to the hospital!

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Rather, Ushio’s first bone is the Rock Eater armor HAMMR procured from the Kouhamei Sect before shit went down. They believe it will help them in the latest trial he must face: stopping the JASDF, all the brass of which have been fooled by a false Jei Mei, to launch missiles at the stone pillar at the bottom of the sea where Hakumen is (barely) being held.

It’s pretty obvious by how she speaks and looks that this Jei Mei is not Ushio’s mother, but a Hakumen fake, and it’s just as clear destroying the stone pillar will have the opposite effect of destroying Hakumen’s power.

You know you’re in a plot-heavy show when a fleet of submarines makes an appearance in your supernatural action fantasy shounen rom-com-a-drama! So much stuff going on.

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After Nagare’s tease and HAMMR, Ushio decides to stop by at home to…clean his room for some reason. Naturally, he runs into an ambush by more agents of Hakumen determined to crush the stone Azafuse before they revive and join the fight.

In the process, Ushio’s house is fucking destroyed (I can’t believe that hasn’t happened like five times already, considering all his dangerous adversaries!), and even when he dons his arguably badass Rock Eater armor, he and Tora end up in a tight spot.

So it falls to the shattered bits of petrified Azafuse to glom onto Tora like armor which, while lamer-looking than Ushio’s, enables Tora to take out the baddies with ease.

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After that, all that’s left is for Ushio to collect a couple of mementos from previous episodes and go down to the cellar to re-enact the scene where he first met Tora, which was….weird. I guess it speaks to how on-the-same-wavelength these two are—and how desperate for a moment of fun and levity among all the destruction and despair—that they’d do such a goofy thing.

However, after seeing Asako wander the streets in her bandages, I was really hoping she’d end up at Ushio’s place, even if, realistically, she’s still probably too frail to make it there. But she didn’t, which sucks, because now Ushio is off to the Okinawan Sea to stop those JASDF subs from doing something stupid.

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Ushio to Tora – 29

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With the East and West youkai still not remembering Ushio (but admitting he and Tora are probably their best hope), Mayuko gone off to relieve Ushio’s mom, and Asako healing in the hospital, Ushio and Tora…don’t have much to do this week. Instead, they learn a couple of new nuggets of information and run into an old acquaintance. A pretty quiet, often lumbering episode.

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That old acquaintances is Hyou, who we haven’t seen in who-knows-how-long. He doesn’t get much of a chance to explain why he’s at Ushio’s house when another unexpected visitor arrives: Guren, the black Tora working for Hakumen.

Hyou gives Ushio and Tora the scoop about Guren, whose name used to be Sokuei when he was a human thief who loved to kill, found the Beast Spear in the mountains, used it to make money, and eventually let it corrupt him and consume his soul (Ushio got close to a similar fate, but his friends saved him).

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Anywho, Guren continues to do what he wants, which in this case is doing the bidding of Hakumen. However, Ushio doesn’t fight Guren, and he tells Tora not to either. That’s because Guren also happened to be the sonofabitch who killed Hyou’s family.

That gives Hyou a better claim to fighting him, and he does…but I’ll be honest, it’s not the most thrilling or consequential fight. It doesn’t help that it doesn’t even end decisively, with Hyou managing to survive and leaving a knife in Guren’s body to track him later.

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The other big news is that Tora himself was once an ordinary human whose soul was corrupted by the spear, which is news to Ushio. A lot of other Tora-like monsters showed up for Hyou and Guren’s duel, but they didn’t do any more than Ushio and Tora, which was watch.

Anyway, Ushio patches Hyou up as best he can and lets him help himself to the house sake, which is apparently the best thing to drink after a big battle, win or lose, in order to “wash the hate out.” Hyou is also confident that not only will he defeat Hyou eventually (not caring what happens to him) but that Ushio and Tora will eventually defeat Hakumen.

That may be because Hakumen is fueled by the fear of its enemies, and Ushio and Tora are too busy bickering with each other to have much fear. Still, they’d better not come at Hakumen with anything resembling fear, or they’ll likely be toast.

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