Osamake DROPPED

It was a real struggle to get through this episode. As soon as Momo proposes a contest to see who can make the better sports drink commercial—a bunch of high school kids or a professional agency—complete with all kinds of rules and small print and secret conditions and hidden motives…I was pretty much checked out.

The completely irrational amounts of plot layered on top of plot absolutely suffocated the outing, and that’s before we get into Kuro’s half-assed fake amnesia, or Momo and Tetsuhiko’s convoluted plots, or the fact Shun is Tetsuhiko’s father, or Momo’s inevitable transfer to Haru’s class.

There was a time I was enjoying a show that promised in the title that the childhood friend would win. But as the show completely lost interest in its characters and tangled them up in a grotesque mess of plot points and twisted motivations, I’m afraid that time has now passed.

Osamake – 05 – Making a Comeback

While it’s no match for Super Cub in my book, Osamake takes itself out of last week’s tailspin by getting back to what it does best: illustrating the enduring relationships between Sueharu and the people closest to him. When Kuro’s sisters Midori, Akane and Aoi inform him that Kuro has lost all memories after he rejected her confession, it’s because they consider him their big brother, and only he can make things right.

It’s fun to see three different aspects of Kuro reflected in her little sisters, from Midori’s frankness and assertiveness and Akane’s affinity for analysis and logic, to Aoi’s pure virtuous femininity. They’re not just there to ask Haru to help; they’re there to remind him why he should want to help; Kuro is too precious to him to leave alone.

The youngest sister Akane says it best when she says if he returns to show business she’ll be “proud, but also sad”. She just insists that whatever choice he makes, he makes it from a positive mindset, and not “run away from love.”

As her sisters indicated, Kuro meets  Haru outside his front door the next day, ready to apologize for who from her perspective is her future self she has no memory of. She can’t fathom why she’d reject Haru when she loves him so much (it’s a boon to this series that this fact is never in doubt), and wonders if he still likes her even after she did something so awful to him.

When he recoils from her, she realizes how much that other Kuro fucked up, but she desperately wants him to trust her again. She feels they simply “started buttoning up from the wrong hole”, which is a hell of a metaphor! She wants to start over form the first, correct button-hole, It’s another boon to the series that Haru’s affection for Kuro hasn’t lessened in the least, as he asks her to stay by his side.

Haru and Kuro may have messed up a lot to this point, but they’re still too close and care about each other too much to let everything that’s happened ruin their close, deep relationship. It’s gratifying to see them make up like this, even if it’s marred by Shiro showing up in her car. Her intentions are at least somewhat altruistic, as she came to take Haru to school by car to avoid the press. And yet, she also believes Kuro doesn’t really have amnesia.

Haru decides to test this the best way he knows how: by attempting to feed Kuro a food she knows had traumatized her in the past: octopus weiners! When she eventually lets him feed her one and she doesn’t react as she should, he concludes she must have some amnesia.

And yet, the fact she doesn’t remember encouraging him to do his best for his cultural festival performance brings tears to his eyes, because he wouldn’t have been able to achieved what he did without her. She may not remember that particular instance of supporting him, but she still knows when her childhood friend is troubled and crying for her, so she embraces him warmly in thanks, and tells him she’ll keep supporting him in whatever he decides to do.

Turns out all of this was recorded by Shiro, who busts in to break up the love-in. But Tetsu is there too, and he wants to come up with a way to satisfy all parties. If Shiro wants Haru back in action, he suggests they work through his entertainment club to produce WeTube videos that will surely be popular because they’ll star Haru and will be written by Shiro, the person who can bring out the best in him.

Tetsu personally thinks that Haru can always get back into big-time show business as an adult, but should really enjoy his high school years while he can, because they’ll never come again. It’s actually a pretty well though-out compromise and Haru is definitely intrigued. He’s still going to talk to the agency, but recognizes he’ll have a hard choice to make.

The next day, Haru arrives at the agency where Maria is waiting for him, and we get a nice, efficient little scene that accentuates the bond these two have for each other. When they first met, Maria wouldn’t give him the time of day, and always thought him boring. But when she watched him act, she was captivated by his pure talent for entertaining people.

The only problem is, the agent Haru deals with while Kuro, Shiro, Maria, and Tetsu in tow is…a bit of a dick. He tries to entice both Haru and Kuro with lofty amounts of money he guarantees they’ll make if they sign with him. But when Haru firmly declines multiple times, and the agent mocks her for possibly not being raised right, Haru pours his expensive red wine on his head.

With that, it seems he’s made his choice: performing in videos written by Shiro, possibly co-starring Kuro, for Tetsu’s entertainment Club. I for one am with Tetsu: you’re only a high schooler once. Spend the time having fun with the people you care about, not putting your nose to the show business grindstone. Money can’t buy happiness!

I must mention: at times, probably most times, this episode looked like absolute crap. However, I still consider it a comeback from last week because it got back to why I liked the show in the first place: the chemistry between Haru and Kuro—which even a bout of amnesia couldn’t dull—as well as an enticing way forward for our once and future acting king.

Osamake – 04 – Piling On

Osamake reiterates the fine mess that has been made as each vertex of the Shiro-Haru-Kuro love triangle wallows in misery in their dark bedrooms. Haru blames himself, Kuro blames Haru, and Shiro blames Kuro for the mess, but they’re all pretty much equally responsible.

Tetsu doesn’t make things easier for any of them the next day at school when he announces that his video of the whole horrific fiasco was watched by over a million people on “WeTube”, though his primary goal wasn’t to humiliate anyone but promote Haru’s potential comeback.

The video has the unexpected effect of attracting another woman from Haru’s acting past: the now famous and beloved star Momosaka Maria, who stakes out her territory immediately by coming into Haru’s class and glomming onto him. When Shiro and Kuro try to complain, she dismisses them as, respectively, the woman he used to like and the woman who rejected him about as publically as anyone could reject someone.

Bottom line, Momo-chan considers them to be in Haru’s rearview mirror, while she represents his future. Haru was this little sister figure’s first love, and she’s determined to hitch her star to his wagon, so to speak. After she departs for the time being, Tetsu treats Haru to an apology pizza, only to reveal it was procured by his “jack-of-all-trades” fixer, Asagi Rena, who smells “good money” on a Haru comeback.

But Rena’s intro is interrupted by Shiro, who with her friend Meiko’s help invites Haru to come to her house sometime, ostensibly to meet with her father again. When Kuro tries to intervene, the mere sight of her triggers Haru’s trauma over being rejected and he literally turns into a tiny monkey hiding behind Shiro, who lets Kuro have it on his behalf.

Haru doesn’t like how things ended with Kuro there, but he’s more distressed about the mess he helped make as a result of not fully understanding how Kuro felt despite being so close to her for so long. He talks with Tetsu on the phone about it, unaware that Tetsu has him on speaker and Kuro is listening. Tetsu asks what Kuro is going to do, but she doesn’t respond.

Meanwhile, Momo continues her campaign to conquer Haru and cut the other two out of his life by letting herself into his house and cooking him all his favorite dishes, which she learned of from his late mother way back when. Haru realizes that the press crush and online calming must’ve been Momo’s doing, while Momo admits that the video was the trigger to finally approach him about rejoining the agency where they first met, now run by Shun Hardy, son of its former boss, “Auntie Nina.”

She has two cards: one for Haru and one for Kuro, but then this development is interrupted by another: Kuro’s three sisters are at Haru’s door to report that…Kuro has developed amnesia. As sudden bouts of amnesia (especially those unexplained by an accident or other physical trauma) are my least favorite anime plot device, I sincerely hope this is another ruse. But even if it is a ruse, it’s simply one too many things going on. The gorgeous mess has become an ugly one.

Shiro’s continuing attempts to make Haru fall for him again, the viral video kickstarting Haru’s acting career, the sudden appearance of Momo and Rena, whatever Tetsu still may be planning, and now Kuro apparently has freakin’ amnesia? It’s needlessly, discouragingly too damn much. Combined with the increasingly apparent meh production values, the shine is starting to wear off Osamake. I’m morbidly curious to see what becomes of this amnesia issue, but the show needs to settle down and focus soon, or I’m out.

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 12 (Fin) – The Multitudes of Me

Elaina’s final trip takes her to the suspiciously foggy “Country That Makes Your Wishes Come True”. Elaina enters the country wishing to become rich, and is utterly mystified when she happens upon a landscape comprised of all of the places from her travels thus far.

Things get even stranger when she enters Mirarosé’s palace to find no less than fifteen alternate versions of herself. Some of them represent individual personality traits she possesses, while others are just random like the gel and ghoul versions.

Hondo Kaede has a blast voicing all these different one-note versions of Elaina, but I have to admit…it’s all a bit much. The intros were fun, but the gimmick wore quickly. This wasn’t one of those dreaded Recap finales, but it did borrow elements from the previous episodes, without adding much new or compelling, which gave it the sheen of a recap.

Deemed “Protagonist Me” by her intellectual version, Elaina sits down on the throne and orders the others to go out and investigate, but all of a sudden the “Violent Me” everyone else had been avoiding bursts into the palace.

Violent Me’s hair is still short from being cut by the ripper, as apparently she never emotionally recovered from the events at the town with the clock tower. All the other versions kind of hang around while the Protagonist and Violent Elainas fight to a draw (as expected).

Only when both are completely exhausted of magic and can no longer fight does Elaina try to calmly discuss things with her violent self. While we heard Elaina wish to become “rich” back in the beginning, it seems the country interpreted that as becoming rich with different “experiences”.

As such, all of the versions Elaina has now encountered represent different paths and possibilities available to her on her journeys. She also believes her other selves wished for the same thing, which brought them all together to pool their stories into a single book: Wandering Witch.

Elaina then wakes up in a meadow; the whole ordeal with her versions was just an elaborate dream. She hops back on her broom and continues her travels, cognizant of and excited for all of the possibilities and choices those travels will present.

In an epilogue that seems to preview a second cour of Elaina I’m not sure it earned, Elaina (in plain clothes) bumps into someone with similarly ashen hair but green eyes. They’re both holding red books, and when they bump into each other, those books get switched. This person’s name is apparently “Amnesia.” Um…alright then!

It’s a curious yet also fitting way to end a show that was never quite sure what it wanted to be: episodic or serialized; lighthearted and comedic or dark and dramatic. It started strongly and had a couple of powerful episodes, but that lack of decisiveness and focus in the stories it wished to tell ultimately dulled its impact.

Read Crow’s episode 12 review here!

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 07 – A Brand New Sister

When a mysterious unmanned vessel is shipwrecked by an apparent Huge attack, who should be first on the scene but Yuyu and Riri’s legion, while on a routine beach patrol. They discover the remains of a Huge, while Riri finds a strange pod and inadvertently sends a tiny shock of energy through it with her CHARM.

Before she knows it, a beautiful girl with lilac hair has emerged from the pod, and immediately embraces Riri. She is brought to the infirmary and made everyone’s immediate object of intense curiosity. That’s right: it’s time for Assault Lily’s “Mysterious Amnesiac” episode.

Not surprisingly, the girl, identified as a Lily, “imprints” on Riri, whether due to the fact she made first contact, due to Riri’s natural charm, or both. She also has the precise “Skiller Value” as Riri, which can’t be a coincidence. In a fraught conference call with a concerned Security Committee brass, Yurigaoka’s Acting Chairman asserts the academy’s autonomy in matters of Lilies.

Due to the girl’s attachment to her, Riri is compelled to step back from her usual studies and Legion responsibilities to become her full-time caretaker. Yuyu and her comrades are understanding, supportive, and admiring of Riri’s compassion…but Yuyu’s restless leg betrays a tinge of jealousy—something Kaede knows all too well and is amused to see in the “lone wolf” Yuyu.

With Riri by her side, the girl not only learns to talk (again…?) but stand, walk, and eventually run, making great progress in a short period of time. When Riri finally reunites with Yuyu, her new “ward” is in tow, making a Yuyu sandwich. All their other comrades crowd together to get a look at the adorable new face. As for her name, she seems to like Yuri, the couple name Fumi gave to Yuyu and Riri, but also apropos in this case as it’s almost as if Yuri is the “fruit of their love.”

They can welcome Yuri (registered under Riri’s surname of Hitotsuyanagi for now) as the newest member of their Legion because the Acting Chairman Takamatsu agreed to make her a full-fledged Lily, complete with uniform and academy admission. StuCo president Izue Shinobu wonders if that’s rash, but the concern from the brass means “people are snooping in the shadows” over Yuri, and Takamatsu wants to draw them out.

The mysteries that surround Yuri herself are also, well, legion: Did she lose her memory, or is she a newly-awakened Lily? How much did Riri’s initial interaction with the pod influence how she’d awaken? Are Riri and Yuri now inextricably connected? Was Yuri some kind of experiment in mass-produced Lilies? Will Riri, Yuyu, and the academy be able to protect her from whomever seeks her out? Hopefully we’ll get insight into these matters next week as Yuri settles into her new life.

Wandering Witch: The Journey of Elaina – 04 – The Princess and the Cook

Elaina begins a love story—complete with ornate storybook illustrations—though aside from her love for her parents, it’s not something she knows a lot about. That makes the next stop on her journey potentially quite edifying. At first, a grand city looks to be in ruins, smoldering and covered in snow and ash.

The palace is the last building standing, and within she finds the last person in the city, Princess Mirarosé—a princess without subjects who looks exactly like her painting, as if it were painted that day. Curiously, aside from her name, Mirarosé isn’t sure about much of anything, as she’s suffering from amnesia.

Elaina joins the princess for a cup of tea (without mentioning the front door she broke), and Mirarosé shows her a letter she found that provides some but not all answers. There is a monster, Javalier, who appears at sundown to wreak destruction upon the city and eat its subjects. Elaina gets a first-hand look at the monster in action.

As a magical barrier prevents Javalier from attacking, Mirarosé and Elaina are safe. But the letter beseeches her to go out and slay Javalier with all due haste, as it will never stop chasing her or cease its reign of destruction until it is no more. Mirarosé, who has recently learned she is a witch, resolves to take it out.

Elaina basically says “Good luck with that!” but will be watching from a safe distance and nothing more. Mirarosé respects and even appreciates her plain, almost curt honesty: it is true Elaina stands to gain nothing from risking her life to help.

That said, Elaina does avail herself of a guest room for the night—complete with a soft fluffy bed that gives her no shortage of pure joy—as well as a sumptuous (and lovingly animated) breakfast of bacon, eggs, and fresh-baked bread. While they eat, the princess tells Elaina how she can feel the hatred in the author of the letter, and is starting to feel the same way.

As thanks for Mirarosé’s hospitality, Elaina agrees to help her prepare for the battle, if not help her fight it. We watch Elaina’s considerable magical talents on display as she charms an army of doors, buckets, and stuffed animals (of dead kids no less) to dig a massive hole in the city’s central square. Elaina offers to make dinner for Mirarosé when she’s done, and kindly asks her not to die.

When the sun falls, Elaina can’t help but leave the safety of the palace to help in case Mirarosé needs it. Even though she’s only spent a day with the princess, she doesn’t want her to die, and so will do what is necessary (without putting herself in danger) to prevent that from happening. I appreciate Elaina’s change of heart while maintaining her pragmatism.

At this point the episode certainly seems to be setting Mirarosé up for a glorious but inevitable death. Of course, I should have expected Elaina would have something more interesting in mind for the climax, which follows one hell of a beautifully choreographed and animated battle between Mirarosé and the raging Javalier.

She isn’t just a witch, she’s a hella powerful witch, employing wind, fire, ice, lightning attacks as well as red plasma beams and summoning thousands of swords like Gilgamesh. And by the time she beheads the trapped, exposed, and wounded Javalier, she’s recovered her memories, which brings us back to the cold open story of the Princess and the Cook.

When Mirarosé’s father found out she was carrying the child of the lower-class cook, he ordered the cook’s torture and execution…as Mirarosé watched. In response, she cursed her father, transforming him into a monster that would destory his city and eat his subjects—while still being fully aware he was their king. She wanted him to feel the same helplessness she felt when she lost the thing she loved most.

After cursing her dad (who presumably killed the queen during one of his nightly rampages), Mirarosé wiped her memories but left a letter for her future self to discover. The rest of the story, we know: Mirarosé succeeded in every aspect of her plan, fully avenging her lover—who taught her how to bake—and her child, the fate of whom is only implied.

When Elaina takes her leave, she watches as Mirarosé lays out breakfast for her long-departed lover and speaks with him as if he were there. It would seem the combination of her trauma and subsequent trials, and the crushing loneliness of her present situation have conspired to drive her mad. And yet she seems content, and at times even giddy.

As for the departing Elaina, well…her expression is worth a thousand words. In the cold open, she asked “Why do they call it ‘fall’ in love?”, which sounds like love is a trap, which is kind of is…it’s just that ideally falling in love won’t result in your lover’s summary torture and execution. And hopefully, should she ever fall in love, Elaina will fare better than poor Princess Mirarosé.

Kakushigoto – 12 (Fin) – Lifting the Veil

Kakushigoto’s finale is truly a crowd-pleaser, and I mean that in the best way. It spends its entire runtime in the “future” and painstakingly reveals all of the mysteries and answered all of the questions we might’ve gathered from the slow trickle of information throughout the season. It expertly released and justified all that built-up anticipation to deliver one satisfying reveal after another—including several secrets we didn’t consider!

For one thing, neither we nor Hime had any idea Kakushi was the love child of a kabuki actor and his mistress (though it explains a lot!). We didn’t know he had a half-sister, who had a son the same age as Hime, who visits her at the Kamakura house.

Among the other blanks of Kakushi’s story are also filled in, we learn that for ten years after his wife was lost at sea he spent a significant amount of his income on continued searches, not believing she was gone. When Hime was in middle school the tabloid article came out that killed his confidence in ever being able to make readers laugh again.

After finishing Tights and putting his pen down for good, Kakushi took on a number of menial labor jobs, culminating in perhaps the most ironic and symbolic accident imaginable: in a forklift accident he was crushed by a palate full of the very manga publication he quit drawing for.

Kakushi has been in a coma for over a year, but he same day Hime’s cousin visits her, he regains consciousness, and Ichiko and the Detective Agency escort Hime to the hospital, where they learn that he has amnesia—specifically,  he has no memories of the last seven years.

For Hime to finally see her father awake only for him to not recognize her seems almost too cruel, but I was confident Kakushigoto would find a clever way for things to eventually work out. Sure enough, the key to restoring Kakushi’s memories is the thing he loved doing for a living, despite keeping it secret from Hime.

Kakushi’s seven-year gap means he’s stuck in the time when Hime was ten (i.e. all those episodes that felt like the present at the time but are now the past). As such, he believes Tights in the Wind is still in publication…and he’s eager to get back to work.

His old team of assistants (including Rasuna, who is now an accomplished mangaka in her own right, with Tomaruin as her editor) gets back together, and turn the hospital room into a studio. Assuming Hime is a new assistant, he asks her to go to his house and make sure his daughter isn’t lonely. Of course, her daughter will always be least lonely when she’s with her dad.

Seeing her dad working for the first time is momentous for Hime; so much so that seeing him so happy doing what he loves makes her hesitant to continue efforts to restore his memories. He’ll get back the good times in the last seven years, but also all the heartbreak and despair.

What ultimately sways her is when she asks him if he’s happiest being able to continue drawing his manga, and he says no; the one thing that makes him happier than anything would be Hime growing up big and healthy. Hime rushes back to Kamakura, the Detective Agency in tow, and returns to the room with all of his manuscripts of the last seven years.

As Kakushi looks them over and remembers drawing them, he also remembers moments of Hime’s life that took place when he drew them. As the veil on those seven years of memories is pulled back, he watches Hime grow into the 18-year-old woman before him and finally recognizes his daughter. His first instinct, of course, is to try to hide the manga from her; to maintain the secret.

Now, as Kakushi prepares a comeback (perhaps with a story very similar to what we just watched…very meta!), we see the tables have turned: Hime has secrets of her own, like the fact that while she’s an accomplished and award-winning painter following her mother’s father’s footsteps, she also has a passion for drawing manga, something she’ll keep secret from her dad for a while. It’s only fair!

Kakushigoto was a beautiful blending of the clever, sometimes goofy, sometimes artfully intricate “miscommunication” humor of author Kumeta Kouji with genuine and powerful emotional stakes. It never felt too melodramatic or goofy because the drama and levity were always so well balanced. Indeed, that made it feel more real, despite how convoluted some of the mysteries and secrets turned out to be. The wit was sharp, while the heart was always warmed.

No matter how many walls or veils or feints Kakushi put up to keep his precious daughter from the truth of his livelihood, he couldn’t hide his true passion from her forever. Nor could the truth that whether he could feed that passion for a living or not was immaterial in the face of his overarching priority: ensuring Hime had a stable, happy childhood full of laughter and fun.

Hime is as stunningly awesome and beautiful an adult as she was an adorable, air-headed kid, and she has a bright future whether she pursues painting, manga, both, or neither. It can be said without reservation: Papa did good.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 04 – Cleans Up Nice

While Shironeko frustrates, PriConne delights, never more completely as this week, which leans heavily into slice-of-life to great effect. The Gourmet Guild’s new hall is a big mess on the inside, and takes the leadership role in making it into a home they can be proud of.

When Pecorine and Yuuki take all the furniture out, Peco discovers something important to their guild is missing: a big table at which to dine together. So she sets to work chopping down a tree to build one while Yuuki joins Karyl on deep-cleaning duty.

Kokkoro heads into town to buy some sundries, and meets former knight, now orphanage director Saren and her clumsy but loyal maid Suzume. Like every other character so far, both are effortlessly attractive in their design and style.

Saren seems much like Pecorine: someone from on high who has come down to live a life worth living, while Kokkoro bonds with Suzume over their appreciation of and devotion to their respective lords. Other nice details: the donkey is CGI, which is better than a badly-drawn donkey in my book!

It’s here where I’ll admit I love episodes in which a big mess is cleaned up. One of my favorite examples is the interior of Howl’s Moving Castle. Karyl seems to share my love of cleaning one’s abode in order to reflect one’s clarity of mind, and takes great pride in evicting every bug an snake and eradicating every spot of dirt or dust from the hall until it gleams.

However, there are still one or two bugs when she’s spotting Yuuki as he cleans the high windows from a stack of chairs. When Karyl panics and thrashes about, Yuuki takes a spill and is briefly knocked out. This is when he meets the host avatar from the first episode.

She’s pleased he’s managed to find so many companions who will help him grow, but warns him to be careful, as “the enemy” knows of his existence. It’s appropriate that the first person he sees when he comes to is Karyl, as he learned she’s having the “toughest time”.

With Yuuki back on his feet, Peco announces the table is done. It’s a beaut, too: sturdy, welcoming…and too big to fit in the doorway. I loved watching the trio attempt different formations and angles to no avail, but it’s not the end of the world. After all, if Peco could build such a fine table in a day, she can easily modify it so it will fit through the door.

While traveling home, Kokkoro and Suzume get lost in the forest and then the donkey runs off. Fortunately, they meet someone both useful and entertaining in Rima, a stylish, anthropomorphic llama, who is able to quickly deal with some bandits before eating a Metamorapple” to transform, mahou shoujo style, into an equally stylish woman. I’m sure we’ll meet her again, but even if we don’t, she certainly made an impression!

Kokkoro finally makes it home to find the filthy hall she left has become a cozy, spotless home. Pecorine has just whipped up a huge pot of tasty beef stew to celebrate a day’s hard work and commemorate the Gourmet Guild’s first night in their hall. The potential future trouble the host warned Yuuki about when he was out couldn’t feel further away.

That new table is a place you can’t help but want to have a seat at, just as these are people you can’t help but want to be friends and comrades with. It’s slice-of-life with a twist of fantasy done absolutely right, and like Peco with food of all types, my appetite for this kinda stuff is nigh boundless!

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 01 (First Impressions) – Beautiful Candy

From the director of KonoSuba comes an anime that also takes place in a beautiful fantasy world. I’d argue it’s slightly prettier as a show, but lacks the “bite” and “spark” of its isekai counterpart. That said, there are some well-timed jokes, particularly involving two mangy wolves who can’t keep their jaws off the protagonist.

That said, the characters of Princess Connect! could easily populate the world of KonoSuba, what with their detailed and elaborate outfits. Unfortunately aside from the “amnesiac” protagonist, the “eager-to-please” elf guide, and the “space cadet” onna-kishi, there’s just not much to define these characters. They’re just…nice. Just nice people. Where’s the fun in that??

That said, it is nice for a change to have a protagonist who simply shuts up and lets things unfold around him. In Yuuki’s case, that’s because he remembers almost nothing about his first go-round in this world, and his vocab is limited. So no snarky narration either!

Mostly, Princess Connect! draws you in with its exquisitely lovely scenery and lighting. Whether it’s a grassy field at mid-day, an ornate cityscape at sunset, or forest-nestled ruins, the eye candy is strong, it is everywhere, and it screams “quality” to an extent I didn’t really get from Shironeko Project.

When things heat up, PC also demonstrates a keen eye for action, as the onna-kishi, ditzy as she is, demonstrates some awesome offensive power. She reminds me a lot of Darkness if she wasn’t a masochist and her aim was better. That the episode ends with her tripping balls on mushrooms is pretty great though!

Where Shironeko had a strong (and very urgent) narrative thrust that made its environments secondary to the characters occupying them, PC is content to relax and take its time, often pulling far back from the characters to admire their lovely settings. While this didn’t knock my socks off, I’ll stick with it for now, since it’s hard to walk away from such luscious visuals. I just wish it leaned into the comedy more.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 24 (Fin) – Better Late Than Never

The last two weeks of 3D Kanojo: Real Girl have been odd and honestly a little frustrating. First of all, with Iroha facing a potentially life-and/or-memory-threatening medical operation, Iroha and Hikari basically break up, saying their final goodbyes.

The question I had at the end was, why? Why is Iorha cutting Hikari loose now? Certainly not to spare him the pain of losing her! And why is Hikari okay with this, and not insisting on staying by her side so she doesn’t have to face this trial alone? Then, last week, without providing a satisfying answer to that question, the show simply moves on with a HUGE leap in time, after which we learn Iroha survived the operation, but her memories didn’t.

That’s all well and good, but when they broke up, neither Iroha nor Hikari knew with 100% certainty that this would be the case. Iroha could have emerged from the operation with her memories intact, allowing them to remain the loving couple they clearly wanted to be. More troubling is the possibility that even though she lost her memories post-op, she might be more likely to regain them with her lover present (another reason I questioned them breaking up when they did).

Alas, none of that happened. And that was a little strange! But hey, sometimes things don’t work out the way you expect. I’m sure Hikari is well versed in this concept early in the episode, as he ponders whether it’s time to finally forget about Iroha. Who would have thought that Iroha’s brother Chika of all people would be the one to actually make the right choice at the right time?

If he wanted, Iroha would move back to L.A. and live with him. He obviously adores her. But his love is not the kind that would deprive her of that which she needed most, just for his own benefit. So after six months of being a total dick to Hikari in high school, he pulls a 180 (seven years later, for some reason) and tells Iroha why she feels there’s a big hole in her heart she’s unable to fill: there’s a guy out there who knows and understands her better than he.

So Chika arranges for Hikari and Iroha to meet—something that should have happened ages ago, mind you—and Hikari is his usual self-flagellating self. While he’s happy beyond belief that she’s alive, he stops short of giving his name. He’s prepared to let her go all over again, content that she survived. But then Iroha sees the strap on his bag that matches hers, and she suddenly remembers Tsutsun.

Hikari was ready to let her go because he feels he didn’t deserve to have her remember him (always nailing himself to the cross, Hikari). There’s definitely a case to be made for why he didn’t fight harder to stay by her side…or even suggest it for that matter, but one can chalk that up to Hikari being a romantic naif. But that hopelessly kind side of him is what finally causes Iroha’s memories of him to surface.

Fast-forward to Takanashi and a very pregnant Ishino’s wedding, where we’re introduced to 25-year-old Itou (who’s not that different), but no Ayado (it’s as if she was written off the show!), and during which Hikari of all people accidentally catches the bouquet. That’s right about when Ishino discovers one of her wedding guests is none other than Iroha.

It goes without saying that she, Takanashi, and Itou are beyond elated to see her, and simply by reuniting with them, Iroha is able to remember bits and pieces of her old friends (which, again, if only she’d done this years ago her memories would already be back!)

At the reception, we finally learn that Ayado married someone else, and simply couldn’t make it to the wedding. After the reception, Hikari tells Iroha they should get together again sometime, even if she’s going back to L.A. That’s when Iroha tells him she’s remembered more—a lot more—about the person she was, and how she was once terrible.

At first, dating him was only about curiosity than actually caring about him, but that soon changed when she got to know him, and being with him changed her as well, for the better. She now remembers those six months with him were the happiest of her life. Hikari feels the same way, and if he ever found out she was alive again, he’d always hoped she’d fall in love with him again.

Hikari doesn’t want her to go back to Los Angeles after all, and so does something he should have done seven frikkin’ years ago, and what he needs to to do stay by her side: he tells her not to go back. As Iroha feels the same way, she wholeheartedly agrees.

Fast-forward to another wedding, this time, that of Iroha and Hikari. Ayado is there—with long hair! Everyone’s doing the opposite length of what they had in high school, apparently—and not only that, she’s recently divorced! Itou, in his eternal awkwardness, sees this as an immediate opportunity to ask her out to dinner!

Thankfully poor Ayado is spared having to respond when the bride and groom appear. Hikari’s family is there, and even Kaoru is blushing a bit while their folks are crying tears of joy, and Chika is there too, good sport that he is—heck, Hikari and Iroha owe their joyful reunion entirely to him not being a total dick for once.

I still shrug at the point of the seven-year gap, which in hindsight seemed only to inflate the drama of the lovers’ inevitable reunion, but it happened so fast it didn’t quite land. Also in hindsight, I appreciated the ambition that went into such a development.

Let’s say Hikari and Iroha didn’t break up, and Hikari stayed by her side throughout the operation and immediate recovery. I posit there’d still be plenty of drama to be mined from the period immediately following the surgery when Hikari would have to wait and see not only if Iroha would live, but would return to being the Iroha he knew and loved. That would have been a smaller-scale denouement, but still effective.

Still, had it stayed in their high-school years we wouldn’t have witnessed their wedding, or that of Ishino and Takanashi, or their little one, or see Itou ask the recently-divorced Ayado out on a date at a wedding! So I’m content to say MEDETASHI MEDETASHI.

 

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 23 – No Way But Forward

Hikari is, understandably, a wreck post-Goodbye to Iroha. He is indeed such a wreck that he stops caring about school—or anything else, for that matter—all together. Adding insult to injury is the fact everyone thinks Iroha simply dumped him before splitting town.

After a blow-up with Takanashi, Itou meets Hikari on the roof and gets the scoop—it’s not like Iroha swore him to secrecy about it. One by one his friends and family learn about Iroha’s illness, and can then not only sympathize with him far more, but curse themselves for initially being too hard on him.

The last person to hear the truth is Hikari’s mother, who immediately delivers a swift dropkick to her firstborn. However much pain he’s in, Iroha’s in more, and his mom thinks she’d be even more sad if she knew what became of him.

Hikari fully agrees, and starts to shape up. He returns to school and studies night and day, much to the relief of his friends. When he learns he got into Tokyo U, he shows no emotion, leading the others to think he didn’t get in, and are there to support him. Turns out he did get in, but he hasn’t a clue where to go from here. Hearkening back to his last night with Iroha, Hikari remembers the final promise Iroha asks of him: “forget me.”

It’s a promise he hasn’t been able to keep, and more to the point doesn’t want to. But Iroha at the time is certain that someone as blessed as Hikari has been—with a loving family and dear friends—he’ll make so many happy new memories in the future, they’ll hardly be any for…his first love? Uhhhh…that’s wishful thinking right there, Iro-han! Still, there’s only one way, and it’s forward.

Fast-forward—seven frikkin’ years!—and Hikari is now 25 and a salaryman at a trading company on the rise. A number of female co-workers admire his combination of work ethic and humility and seem interested in him, but he always seems to dash off after work.

On this particular night, it’s to catch an anime, but not just any anime: one in which Itou did the mechanical design! He then gets a call from Takanashi inviting him out to drinks with “Arisa” and Itou in his usual Takanashi way that brooks no argument. Turns out there’s a good reason for that: Arisa and he announce that she’s going to have a baby.

Hikari, clearly far more comfortable in his 25-year-old skin, confidently picks up the check when he has to leave to fix a problem at work. His friends are impressed by how far he’s come; Takanashi even goes so far as to call him amazing!

And he has, especially when you consider the pain he carries from losing his first and only love. Ezomichi pays him the first visit in ages, but despite the pain in his heart—which he carries gladly rather than face an alternate past where he never met Iroha at all—there’s really no need for her to counsel him, and she vanishes—possibly to wherever poor Ayado ended up…the show has cut her out of the circle of friends! T_T

Someone who vanished seven years earlier, on the other hand, makes a semi-triumphant return to Japan, alive and well, which is wonderful to see. Unfortunately, in exchange for her life, she’s seemingly lost all of her memories, and can’t recall anything about the family home, neighborhood, or school.

Her brother chooses this place to profess his love for, and to promise he’ll be by her side no matter where she chooses to live out her re-charged life. Not picking up on anything worth staying for, Iroha says she’s fine returning to L.A. which for seven years has been far more of a home to her.

So, is that it? Are Hikari and Iroha going in different directions, never to cross paths again? Or will a chance encounter with him be the one thing that can rouse her memories, kinda like Your Name.?

Zombieland Saga – 12 (Fin) – We’re All Zombies, We’ve All Died

Even after Tatsumi’s big speech, Sakura remains skeptical that she’ll be able to pull off the Arpino show, believing she’ll only be a drag on the others, even as practicing reveals she still has the muscle memory of the dance moves. After those demoralizing failures in her life, she’s given up all hope of ever succeeding at anything, and would rather be left alone.

Of course, her friends don’t leave her alone, in large part because she never left them alone. That is to say, she never gave up on them when they were at their lowest. Junko, Ai, Lily, Saki—without Sakura, none of them would be where they are today, on the cusp of their biggest show yet. They fully intend to repay that debt, and a well-timed slap from Yuugiri is the sign they won’t take no for an answer.

They remind Sakura that she’s not the only one who had a rough life—they all died young and tragically—and would rather fail on stage together than have a perfect show without her. If she’s not beside them, it’s not a success, bad luck be damned.

The night before the show, Tatsumi reminisces about the past; specifically, a certain red-haired classmate at school whom he admired. That classmate turns out to be Sakura, which explains why he recruited her. She may not have been a legend in her time, but he’s determined to make her one after her time.

The day of the show, a huge winter storm approaches (thankfully isn’t named, because naming winter storms is asinine). The group rehearses, prepared to perform in an empty venue of necessary, but to their surprise and delight most of the 500 who bought tickets show up; a who’s-who of characters whose lives they touched throughout the series run.

They all go out on stage, with Sakura as the center, full of vim and vigor, and get off to a good start—only for Sakura’s bad luck to rear its ugly head in the cruelest of ways: the snow and winds crash through the windows and collapse the stage and lights, leaving Franchouchou in a pile of debris and dust.

Then Tatsumi starts slowly clapping, breaking the stunned silence of the crowd. Sakura gets up and keeps singing, and the rest of the group follows suit. The techs get enough lights and speakers working so they can continue the show (albeit under extremely hazardous conditions for the still-living crowd).

No matter, the idols dazzle the stage (what’s left of it) and earn an encore, while Sakura gets her memories back. It’s a great victory, but it’s only the beginning of Franchouchou’s quest to conquer Saga—just as the journalists start to connect the dots about their shouldn’t-be-possible resurrection.

Whether that’s a legitimate teaser for another season or these twelve are all we get, Zombieland Saga was a pleasant, at times side-splitting, at times surprisingly poignant diversion. Vibrant, rootable characters, an irreverent tone and Miyano Mamoru made for a pretty solid combo.

I’d have liked to learn more about Yuugiri and/or Tae’s past, particularly the latter’s inability to talk despite nailing all the dance moves and expressing emotion during her attempts to bring Sakura back in the fold. But I’ll settle for what we got!

Zombieland Saga – 11 – The Girl Who Tried, and Died for Her Efforts

In a nearly shot-for-shot recreation of her first night in the mansion, Sakura wakes up and discovers her fellow zombies, only they’re all “awake” now (except for Tae of course). Their roles have reversed; she’s the one with no memories of what’s happened since becoming a zombie.

Instead, she only remembers her life when she was alive. As for that life, well…let’s just say the opening minute of the first episode was not an accurate depiction, except for the getting-hit-by-a-car part.

The other idols are hoping they can get Sakura back on board with the show, but her memories of them isn’t all she’s lost; she’s also lost her will to do, well, anything. Her motivation is shot, as if that truck accident caused it to spill out onto the asphalt instead of blood (as she no longer has any).

She lacks motivation because she remembers her life, which followed a depressingly predictable pattern: she’d always try really hard and give a task or goal her all, only for all that hard work to go to waste due to a last-minute mishap or accident.

The last time she decided to give something a try one last time, it was because she was inspired by Mizuno Ai of Iron Frill, who said she doesn’t hate failures or mistakes, since they help her learn and become even better.

But Sakura was denied the opportunity to even mail her audition paperwork to the idol agency, thanks to that truck. Now she’s dead, and a zombie. Nothing ever works out for her, because, as she says, she doesn’t “have what it takes.” She says this something like ninety times.

And I guess that was part of why I felt kinda meh about this episode. I feel for someone working so hard again and again only to fall victim to impossibly bad luck, but at this point she literally has nothing to lose. I understand the “main” character getting her miniarc last before the finale, but for her dilemma to be couched in such mundane, repetitive angst kinda saps the momentum of the show.

Maybe that’s the point, and maybe Tatsumi’s speech to her about him having what it takes (something, er…”big and impressive”) so she doesn’t have to will snap her out of her malaise and get her back on track. But right now Sakura is the first of the idols I liked better before we learned more about her.

She thinks the universe is out to keep her down, despite the fact she was brought back to life to be what she dreamt to be before she died. If that’s not a sign the cycle has been broken and thus cause for optimism, I don’t know what is!