3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 20 – Opening The Door To A Frightening World

“Never mind, I don’t care,” Takanashi lied. That’s where he finds himself at the beginning of this week: in denial of his feelings for Ishino and the feeling that he’s letting her slip away in his friend Sakurada’s arms. This week Sakurada is revealed as less of a character (or viable love interest to Ishino) and more of a catalyst for Takanashi to stop playing games.

When his mom ends up in hospital with a mild concussion, Takanashi hits the supermarket so he make hijiki for Anzu, and on his way out, he runs into Ishino, who can just tell something’s up. Takanashi resists the urge to tell her to butt out of his business (in fact she’s the one to bring up her meddling), but does tell her he doesn’t need her pity.

That grinds Ishino’s gears, as it should: forget never giving her the time of day: Takanashi has a serious habit of acting cool to hide his emotional struggles. He relents and asks Ishino to join him at his house, since she knows how to make hijiki.

Ishino also has a problem: it’s virtually impossible for her say “no” to Takanashi, no matter how selfish or mocking his request. But this isn’t about him playing games; it’s about him actually making some kind of effort, in his way, to let her know that her help at the house would be tolerated, appreciated…even preferred.

Meanwhile, someone who would prefer it if Hikari were to fall into a ditch and die is Iroha’s brother Chika, who has heard about the two of them going on an overnight trip. Hikari insists nothing will happen (which isn’t exactly fair to Iroha, if she wants something to happen!) and that the trip had to be postponed anyway; Chika gets his lick and death threat in anyway.

That feels like the first real ripple in Hikari and Iroha’s relationship in ages, and even then it’s due to a third party, not any conflict between the two of them. Back at Takanashi’s it’s pure domestic bliss—complete with spousal bickering, something Anzu probably isn’t used to considering they have a single parent.

Their argument is over whether Takanashi is justified in limiting Anzu’s exposure to Kaoru, or whether he’s just being  overprotective and even petty. Ishino and Takanashi make up in front of Anzu to calm her, but it isn’t long before they’re at it again, and this time it’s when he brings up Sakurada.

He asks, and almost orders Ishino not to go on the date with Sakurada, a serious request that he treats with his usual teasing jocularity (doesn’t want anyone taking his “pet”). While Takanashi is again trying his best to say what he wants to say, the fact is his best isn’t quite good enough. He has to be better.

He runs after a crying Ishino to apologize, and also properly explain his feelings: he feels like she’ll be an important part of his life, and if he lets her go on a date with his friend, he will regret it. So he asks if she’ll be his girlfriend, a question Ishino has been waiting for so long it barely feels real.

It’s been a recurring joke for him to immediately reject her when she asks him, but when he finally asks her, she’s just as quick in saying “yes.” Then he kisses her, daring to open a “door to a frightening world”, but opening it nonetheless. I have no doubt he’ll still tease her (and she’ll tease him back) but at least now there’s no doubt about his feelings.

Shifting from Newly-formed couples to Recently-formed couples, Itou ends up alone at Ayado’s house when something “comes up” with her parents. After four hours of wholesome video game-playing, Ayado can’t take it anymore: she wants to make out.

Itou worries that he’d be betraying her parents’ trust in him if he did anything with her, but Ayado disagrees. Ayado wants him to do something, and will be dejected and miserable if he doesn’t. You’re good, dude…Carry On. And carry on they do…though the episode is somewhat coy about how far.

Back to the couple that inspired all these new doors being opened: Iroha comes over for dinner with Hikari’s whole family again and has an absolute blast, as always. She loves how kind his family is, and how it explains why he’s so kind. Case in point: he offers to walk Iroha home, but she declines.

I can’t have been the only one to think that slightly awkward goodbye was foreboding, and what do you know, the next day Iroha is at the hospital talking with the doctor Hikari thought she was dating back in the beginning, telling her “it has to stop,” presumably due to her undisclosed health condition.

While new doors have been opened for the others, it looks like Iroha and Hikari’s is going to start closing. It’s something both of them have known would eventually come to pass. I just wish we had more of an explanation about why there’s such a seemingly firm clock on her life expectancy. At least Hikari deserves to know, even if it crushes him.

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3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 19 – Tabasco In The Orange Juice

From Iroha slapping her brother with a wet towel when he accuses her geeky boyfriend of dragging her down to his level, to Hikari showing that he’s grown into a far better boyfriend than Iroha’s boyfriend could imagine, I loved every minute of this episode.

It was full of instances of friends leaning on one another in times of need, quickly sorting out misunderstandings, and, of course, Ishino gettin’ some legit attention from a guy other than Takanashi! The only major mark against this episode is that there’s no Ayado, but that allows the episode to maximize its time with everyone else.

First, a brief rift between Itou and Hikari emerges when Itou asks Takanashi for advice on how to proceed with Ayado. Hikari knows he’s not the one to go to for advice of that nature, but is still embarrassed enough to avoid Itou, until Itou himself calls him out and they sort it out together.

Itou assures him every couple goes at its own pace, and that if Hikari doesn’t even intend to go all the way with Iroha (as Itou suspects he will with Ayado, very soon), Itou respects and will support him. It’s some very mature conversation between best mates, clarifying that this isn’t a race!

Speaking of early bloomers, Kaoru comes to Takanashi’s house to apologize for keeping Anzu out late, but manages to pierce Takanashi’s innate distrust and loathing for All Things Tsutsui with a heartfelt monologue about why he loves Anzu and wants to help her big brother keep her safe. Still, Takanashi is frustrated enough with Kaoru’s shrewdness that he decides to take it out on Hikari, who after all only wants some of the same advice as Itou.

While heading back downstairs from the roof, Takanashi very clearly tries to get the attention of Ishino, and ask her if she’s free for…something. But his friend, who met Ishino at the maid cafe, asks her out first, having already gotten a half-hearted okay from Takanashi to pursue her. It’s clear despite his aloof attitude, Takanashi doesn’t like his friend spending all this time with Ishino. Sometimes you don’t know what you’ve had until you’ve lost it!

Hikari and Ishino have been just humming along, but with another three-day weekend coming up Iroha wants to go on a trip…an overnight trip—to eat and see the sights in another town. But Hikari is overwhelmed by the possibility that they may end up doing it, and gets so stuck in his head he appears outwardly opposed to and stressed out about going on the trip, and Iroha drops the issue and heads home.

For her part, Ishino told Hikari before he met with Iroha to just get fucking laid already…though at the same time no one reinforces Hikari’s own insecurities and sense of non-worth than Ishino, even though she’s just messing around.

But Ishino now finds herself in a bit of a love triangle. I doubt this new guy (I didn’t even hear his name) is anything other than a means to show Takanashi that he actually does requite Ishino’s feelings, at least to some degree, whether it’s true love or he’s simply pleasantly accustomed to having her around.

Ishino assumes the worst; that he’s some kind of playboy just trying to get in her pants. I’m not 100% convinced that’s not the case either. Good luck, Ishino! As for Takanashi, he should take after his friends and reconcile his feelings.

Hikari, good man that he is, doesn’t spend days worrying about what a shit he is, and corrects himself almost immediately, actually taking the time to look at the travel books Iroha marked, then running after her, embracing her from behind, and agreeing that it will be a fun time. He just had to get out of his own head, and put himself in her shoes: she must have been excited to tell him about the trip, and was looking forward to it since the last three-day weekend.

Unfortunately, due to Iroha’s poor test scores, she has to take remedial classes over the weekend, but Hikari assures her they’ll go the next time. Here’s hoping there is one—it would be a great step forward for their relationship.

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 07 – Iroha and Hikari Grow Closer as Triangles Form

When Iroha sees Hikari with Ayado after telling her to stay away from him, Iroha is jealous. While she almost immediately regrets asking Ishino for advice, Ishino makes some good points.

Just because Iroha may not have ever told someone “the way she wants it to be” doesn’t mean she “has no right” to do so. In this case, it’s not imposing her will on Hikari so much as expressing how she feels to him, considering he’s not the world’s most perceptive man.

The situation resolves itself in a satisfying way, when Iroha witnesses Ayado being accidentally soaked then openly mocked by classmates, but turning the other cheek. She sees a lot of Hikari in her, someone who is kind and gentle, but also someone who perhaps gives too much without asking for anything in return. Hey, Ayado has a lot of Iroha in her too!

Iroha’s jealousy dissipates as she learns Ayado is a good person, while feeling regret for insisting Hikari trust her while initially doubting him a bit in this case. Iroha also seems worried about coming off as overly hostile or angry all the time, but Hikari doesn’t mind; he wants her to feel she can talk to him about anything bothering her.

The next day Ishino acts as Iroha’s attack dog unbidden, but they’re interrupted by Ayado herself, who wins Ishino over as quickly as Iroha (noting how Hikari surrounds himself with such beauties). With both Iroha and Ishino thus approving of her, Ayado seems poised to join their circle of friends.

Itou, on the other hand, bolts upon being introduced, but that turns out simply to be his shyness, and once he learns what a nice person Ayado is, before long he’s offering her a handkerchief to wipe away the tears of joy she sheds upon being invited to a picnic with the others.

Later, Hikari touches Ayado’s hair while trying to pluck something out of it (it turns out to be a caterpillar, which he’s not into). But unbeknownst to Hikari, his careless gesture of intimacy has Ayado’s heart racing.

When the weekend arrives, Hikari spends some quality guy time with Itou in Akiba, after Iroha politely declines to join them, insisting “she’ll be fine.” Hikari’s been given significant funds to spend on making himself look less scruffy-looking, and who should appear but the stylish Takanashi, who is apparently only in Akiba for a “computer part” (the district’s original claim to fame).

Takanashi reluctantly tags along and offers Hikari tips, all the while wondering “why am I doing this?” It’s not that complicated: Takanashi is not a complete asshole; as such, he feels bad about what he did to Hikari at school, and this is an act of penance.

He is rewarded when he’s able to witness Hikari being a badass when Ayado—handing out tissues in a maid costume for a new cafe to earn money to buy a figure she wants—is harassed by young men who find her irresistible.

Hikari isn’t overly judgy or aggressive—he merely puts himself between Ayado and the lads and firmly informs them of proper Akiba etiquette regarding maids, and encouraging them to come back once they’ve done more research. This performance causes Ayado to swoon once more.

Hikari meets up with Iroha that evening to apologize for not hanging out with her, and Iroha reiterates that it’s fine, and they have a nice chat (and he shows her his new fashionably short pants). The next morning Ayado races past them, and while it’s plain she has a crush on Hikari, it’s not plain to him.

When Ishino suggests, no, assigns the group of friends to a camping trip at her relative’s cabin in the woods, Hikari is firmly against such a “normie” activity—until both Itou and Iroha express genuine interest. Ishino is entrusting Hikari with inviting her crush Takanashi, while Itou is considering inviting his new crush Ayado.

So Ishino likes Takanashi, who like(d) Iroha; Iroha and Hikari like each other, Ayado likes Hikari, and Itou likes Ayado. Should be an interesting camping trip!

3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 06 – Isn’t This Kinda Nintendo Hard?

Hikari seriously needs to get up out of his head, for real. He also needs to RELAX. Iroha is upset because she’s worried he still doesn’t trust her. He uses his “I’m a stupid antisocial otaku who can’t read the atmosphere” card as an excuse for not understanding her anger/concern.

Meanwhile, Ayado Sumie is the easiest person in the world to talk with, and gives thanks and praise to Hikari, along with a batch of fresh potatoes, for helping her “live on with pride in her body” and simply “talking to somebody.”

Between having Iroha as a girlfriend and Ayado as, well, an admirer (if not more), Hikari’s grows a big head without even noticing it, and when he spots Itou talking to a cat, he assumes it’s out of loneliness because he isn’t hanging out with him enough.

Itou rebuffs Hikari’s angle with extreme prejudice, and before he knows it, Hikari is alone, like he was before, only now it’s unbearable, even when he’s cooking. He recalls how he and Itou met, back when it was not only bearable, but natural.

Itou was constantly taken advantage of by the class thugs, and Hikari won’t give him the time of day, but when he recovers Hikari’s earbuds after said thugs threw them out the window, Hikari pays him back by not flaking out on an after-school art project foisted upon them.

When the thugs try to destroy Hikari’s 800-yen magazine he just bought, Itou snaps into action, “making his kindness into something that can be properly returned.” Itou gets slugged, but he gains Hikari as a friend.

After apologizing and making up with Itou, Hikari considers doing the same with Iroha…but chickens out. Still, he can’t bear her angry face, and so waits quietly outside her house like a stalker until he realizes how stalkery this all is and prepares to leave, but Iroha answers the door.

He gives her a peace offering of potato dumplings, and she invites him in, finally admitting she’s tired of being angry, as well as explaining why she was. Hikari responds that there’s no way he wouldn’t trust her; it’s just that he can’t believe how happy he is because of her.

After they kiss and hug, that feeling intensifies, and curdles into distrust not in Iroha, but his own animal urges, which he assumes are not wanted. He promptly—probably too promptly—flees, and the next day he’s incredibly awkward with Iroha once more, and warns her to stay away from him.

Once again, he finds it much easier to interact with his kohai Ayado than Hikari, and finds comfort in sitting beside her. He also gives her some potato dumplings, since she gave him the potatoes. This would all be fine if Iroha couldn’t watch them being so friendly from the windows.

When Arisa sees Iroha and asks what’s up, Iroha can only run into her arms, clearly distraught, and wonder “why it has to be this way”. Hikari isn’t trying to hurt her—in fact, he’s trying to do the opposite—but he needs to learn about boundaries with other girls while he’s dating one…especially if he’s going to run out on her when he’s at her house and run away from her at school.

Dude seriously needs to relax and stop committing unforced errors.

Saekano 2 – 07

It’s been two months since Winter Comiket, and Cherry Blessing has done well in both sales and critical reception. But with their first game released, Blessing Software is at a crossroads. Utaha is finishing up her newest novel, while Eriri is still blowing past art deadlines (what she’s painting, we never see).

Tomoya’s rival Iori surmises that Cherry was able to surpass his game in reviews (if not in sales) because both writer and artist grew and surpassed themselves. Now that the trio has been through it all together, the girls are far less careful about how they act at school around Tomoya.

Tomoya, Eri, and Utaha are all getting along swimmingly post-Comiket, but Tomoya has been unable to make any progress whatsoever in making up with Megumi. She gives him a listless “good morning” and doesn’t answer her phone when he calls her.

That ignored call is the beginning of Tomoya starting to actually stop and carefully consider everything Megumi had done for and with him, and the manner in which treated her in return. Because he took her commitment lightly and shut her out at a crucial moment, she’s not picking up now to discuss with him the pros and cons of a new, second game.

Valentine’s Day arrives, and when he brings up the possibility of giving her more work, Eriri simply wants more time to relax, not worry about such things, give him chocolate, take his arm and walk with him.

To her chagrin, he has lunch with Utaha, who also gives him chocolate, and offers to sign her real name (not her pen name) “all over his body”, in a classic Utaha tease that’s probably more sincere than Tomoya is willing to realize.

Utaha also released her latest novel, and plans to start another soon. Since she’s already in university, she won’t be coming to school anymore after today. So Tomoya asks her, almost desperately, if she’d write for him again.

Despite her resentment of Tomoya’s protectiveness with Eriri, she bashfully admits she wants to make another game with her. Eriri, out in the hall making sure Utaha doesn’t make any moves, hears Utaha’s warm tone.

If Tomoya can come up with an idea, it looks like Utako Kasumi and Kashiwagi Eri are all on board. Which leaves Megumi (sorry Hyoudou, you’re not a main!). Tomoya makes an effort to track her down, but she slips out just as school ends. He spots her eating alone in a cafe, texts her a request for a circle meeting, and watches her not ignore it, giving him hope that maybe their friendship hasn’t “run its natural course” quite yet after all.

Then he goes home, and late into the night, he plays Cherry Blessing through. Playing it brings up all of the memories he has of Megumi working tirelessly by his side to make the game such a success, and how little appreciation he showed in his words, actions, or lack thereof. So Tomoya curls up in shame. At last—a glimmer of self-awareness from the guy.

Thinking of her also inspires Tomoya to come up with a title for the upcoming game he’ll aim to release in time for Summer Comiket: How to Raise a Boring Girlfriend. Meta! Here’s hoping he can make proper amends—and Megumi is willing to take the fool back.

Saekano 2 – 06

Both the immediate (Eriri collapsing) and long-term (finishing the game) crises are resolved this week, with one major caveat: to rescue Eriri, Tomoya gave up on a full Winter Comiket release, even though that’s the reason Eriri ended up in such a state (that, and her obsession with quality with the threat of Hashima Izumi looming).

Ironically, it’s Izumi’s bro (and Tomoya’s chief rival) Iori who comes to Tomoya’s aid, offering a ride to Eriri’s villa. Tomoya finds Eriri really did get everything done, and more to the point, he believes it’s her best work and the best work he’s seen all year.

That brings a smile to the gradually-recovering Eriri, but she’s even happier to hear him say, categorically, that she’s his “number one;” that her new art is better than Izumi’s. She doesn’t mind that he doesn’t go so far as to tell her she’s beaten Utaha and Michiru, but she happily infers it.

After that, the two settle back into the same routine as when they were little kids: staying indoors, playing games and watching anime, which Tomoya both notes was because Eriri was so sick so often, but also doesn’t complain about.

He goes further in wanting to apologize to the others in Eriri’s stead, as he’s the director and all, but Eriri insists: if she can’t apologize properly, she can’t keep moving forward. So she does so, and the whole crew is on hand for Winter Comiket…albeit with only 100 hastily burned copies of Cherry Blessing.

It’s shocking how quickly all the work they’d done suddenly becomes a finished product, which sells out within 30 minutes due to lots of buzz about a new game with studs like Kashiwagi and Kasumi collaborating. At the market, Eriri also apologizes to Izumi for how she treated her, and explains why she did (fear of being surpassed).

Yet in the midst Eriri dispensing all of her apologies and the team dispensing every last copy of their game, something seems off. The camera uncharacteristically lingers on Megumi too often, and she seems to be hiding something that will certainly rain on the parade of the big release.

Content to quietly skip the post-release party and go home for the time being, when Tomoya forces the issue, she finally has a very Kato-ish “outburst”, one that cuts Tomoya to the quick, far more than if she had yelled or cried. In his haste to save Eriri, he neglected to tell her about anything that was going on, during the precise days she said she’d make sure she was available for him, no matter what.

Tomoya took her earnest promises and commitments lightly, and ultimately ignored them altogether and took everything on himself, keeping her in the dark until everything worked out. That is something Megumi cannot forget, nor easily forgive.

As happy as I am to see Tomoya and Eriri on such good terms again, I can’t say I blame Megumi. If getting out of the doghouse is even possible, Tomoya, with his famous lack of awareness, may find doing so even tougher than making a dating sim from scratch.

Fuuka – 04

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In what was for most of its running time the quietest and most emotionally engaging episode of Fuuka yet, Yuu gets caught in his web of omission, then the two have their first fight, as they both stumble over how to properly make up.

First of all, Fuuka has every right to be upset that Yuu was on a dock in the rain embracing her favorite idol. However close he is to her, Fuuka at least felt that at this point in their friendship he could tell her about Koyuki.

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Proving his inexperience in such matters, Yuu only makes things worse with his first attempt at an apology, inadvertently likening Fuuka to a “stranger”, which would be cruel if he weren’t so clueless.

For his inability to explain himself, Yuu gets the cold shoulder from Fuuka, making every moment of the day that follows a living hell where food tastes like ash and the beach at sunset is lonely as hell.

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Neither Yuu nor Fuuka want things to go on like this, so Mikasa takes Yuu aside and asks him to tell him straight up what’s going on. Yuu is able to articulate things, and also how upset he is he and Fuuka are fighting and how badly he wants to make up. Fortunately for him, Mikasa brought Fuuka along to eavesdrop, and she heard everything, and they finally exchange apologies.

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Fuuka also thanks Yuu for having her back when her track senpai shows up to harass her, then questions her designs on a band. Yuu has heard her sing and knows she’s good, and she proves it again when three of the five members of HEDGEHOGS (who were hiding in plain sight, including the restaurant owner) let her perform vocals while they play an impromptu trial concert that not only calls off the track senpai, but attracts a small audience from the beach.

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Fuuka even recruits the senpai as the drummer of the band, pegging Mikasa for the keys, herself for guitar and vocals, and Yuu for the bass (which he has no idea how to play…yet). All’s well that ends well, as Fuuka and Yuu, free of their row, are able to sit on the beach and admire the stars.

Fuuka even snuggles up beside him in his sweatshirt, but he panics, slips, and ends up with his hand up her shirt, ruining the lovely mood, both for Fuuka and me, the viewer, as I was enjoying the subtlety of their interactions to that point.

Naturally, when Yuu returns home, who is in his house waiting for him but the triangle’s third vertex Koyuki, no doubt unwilling to let some loud blue-haired girl snatch away her Yuu.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 11

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Jean Arquinex appears far more frequently this week, but the episode remains at heart The Ikta Show, as even Jean concedes, though he doesn’t know the “brilliant general” he’s up against is only a first lieutenant. Presented with a mind equal to his own and with far inferior numbers, Ikta himself begins to doubt if he’s really his generation’s greatest hero, or if the “bloom is about to come off the rose.”

His inner thoughts, and his own doubting voice whispering inside is his head, are the latest in this show’s consistently successful efforts to humanize and deepen Ikta’s character. When he unwittingly tells the voice to shut up out loud (in earshot of Suya), Ikta snaps back into serious Strategy Mode. That voice inside may wonder if his plans will succeed this time, but it’s not going to stop him from carrying it out.

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When the Aldera army sends units down a narrow path, Ikta & Co. are ready, but they’re only 600 Imperials and 120 Sinack against 10,000; even slowing down such a force is a tall order, and one not without costs. When the Aldera put up barricades, Yatori and Nana agree that they have to go out and take them down.

Ikta lets Yatori’s unit and Nana’s Sinack detachment across the wall, but they suffer numerous casualties when Jean’s air rifle units open fire. Instead of letting the units get mopped up, Ikta decides to go out himself with everything they’ve got in order to protect the wounded before retreating.

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It’s a bold move, with Ikta and Yatori fighting back to back and working as one unit, and in the end, the Sinack and Yatori’s wounded are evacuated successfully. Ikta has a huge fire hit behind their retreat to seal the path, buying a little more time.

Jean is impressed by the enemy commander desperately making shrewd, effective moves to forestall Aldera’s advance. Suya, who loses two valued comrades, isn’t as enamored. She doesn’t see why they had to give their lives so the Sinack they were killing just days ago could live.

What kicks this episode from an 8 to a 9 was the ensuing exchange, which played out like, well, a play, with the stage populated by Ikta, Nana, Suya, Haro, and eventually, Yatori, who claims it is she, not Ikta, who should bear responsibility for the casualties incurred.

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Yatori asserts that Ikta ordered the charge because he knew she’d charge anyway to save her allies (a term she doesn’t take lightly). She also points out that feelings cannot interfere with a soldier’s duty. When Suya asks if Yatori would kill Ikta, I already knew the answer was yes before she opened her mouth, but she still said it in a very cool way (“That question is 300 years too late.”)

That cold assertion hangs in the air after Suya runs off, leaving Ikta to ask what would have to happen for her to actually be able to kill him if ordered to do so (though the word Ikta uses, is when). Yatori replies that she’d have to utterly destroy…Yatori first; leaving only the Igsem steel behind. It would be Igsem, not Yatori, killing him.

Ikta then tells her until the moment he died he’d think of nothing but how he’d lost her, bringing a tear to Haro’s eye (and almost one to mine as well). So if Ikta was to die, she’d die too, and she’d die first. That’s some heavy shit right there, and yet another layer to the already wonderfully rich, dense relationship that has been carefully built between Ikta and Yatori.

Things are desperate right now; the victories available are small and costly. But I know who I want eventually coming out on top, and it ain’t Jean Arquinex. So I have to believe Ikta, with Yatori, Nana, and everyone else’s help, will find a way.

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Alderamin on the Sky – 10

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This tenth Alderamin begins with a flashback from nine years ago, and the show is hardly timely in revealing that the fiery Sinack chieftain Nanaku Daru was childhood friends with Ikta.

It’s also hardly subtle in juxtaposing her paying a visit to Ikta’s bedroom of her own free will—but too young to know the true reason woman would do such a thing—with the present, where she suddenly finds herself in a huge heap of trouble, surrounded by three enemy soldiers who plan to rape her.

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Who comes to her rescue in the nick of time but her old friend Ikta, whom she doesn’t yet recognize? Ikta is pissed, not being one to suffer “beasts.” Nanaku is taken into safe custody. It’s a sobering glimpse of what war often boils down to, and what depths the battle-weary and under-supervised can stoop to when their enemy is demonized and dehumanized by their superiors.

The war is over between the Empire and the Sinack, but before they can even catch their breath, a new, mutual, and well-rested enemy arrives at their doorstep in the form of “La Saia Alderamin”, a once-neutral, highly religious country Ikta suspects is being used as a Kioka pawn as part of the wider conflict.

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What made this episode so strong, and, for me, eliminated any concerns about plot convenience or retconning, was how Ikta handled things with “Nana,” knowing they’ll need her help to cover their retreat from Aldera, and he’s the only one who can negotiate with her.

He gets her attention and reveals who he is by carrying out the Sinack tradition of cutting digits off one’s hand; a legend she told him about nine years ago. He cuts his entire left pinky off in a visceral, powerful scene, and you can tell he’s not putting on a performance, but dead serious about his role as agent of apology and olive branch.

That last part is important, since Nana agrees to help because she knows the religious Alderamin will never tolerate their “heretical” religion, but the Empire will. Obviously it’s not what she wanted (to be rid of both), but she has to compromise, because Aldera won’t.

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Our Knights all get promotions this week – Yatori and Ikta to First Lieutenant, the others to Second, and after Matthew and Haro protest, they agree to stick together in the force that will delay the Alderamin advance. That is achieved by creating a fire line at a crucial forest crossing.

But it would seem Ikta has finally met his match in the form of newly-introduced Kioka Army Major Jean Alkiniks, he of tirelessness to Ikta’s sloth; white hair to Ikta’s black. Both seem excited to have met strategists who will really challenge them for once.

One of the weaknesses of the show has been the appalling ineptitude of the brass, but Jean here is high-ranking enough to do what needs to be done at a larger scale. He’s come further than Ikta so far, but will no doubt be the catalyst by which Ikta continues to advance and progress to become the hero Princess Chamille believes him to be.

I also hope we get to see a little more Nana.

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Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 22

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With the White Whale(s) defeated, Subaru redirects his allied force towards the Witch’s Cult, which no one will be taking lightly despite the huge advantage they seem to have. This requires Subie more-or-less make up with Julius, who has arrived to help.

Subie still maintains he hates “Juli’s” guts, but the two still exchange apologies and words of gratitude. While Puck assures an exhausted Lia that she and the manor will be safe, Subie uses his stench to lure the cult members, who appear right on cue.

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It’s the return of Smug Subie, as he’s holding all the right cards this time, and it’s the cult and Betelgeuse who don’t have a clue what’s coming. Mimi and Hetaro swoop in and demolish Betel’s base with their shouts, then Old Man Wil bisects Betelguese from behind.

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It’s almost too easy, leading me to wonder when the other shoe will drop. Sure enough, in the midst of celebration and preparation to go after the ex-sin archbishop’s “Fingers”, Unseen Hands quite suddenly appear out of the woods and quickly kill five anonymous members of Subie’s allied force, then an arm drags Subie into the trees.

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There, he meets someone of indeterminate gender but the same exact manic way of speaking and biting their nails raw as Betelgeuse. Their only problem is they dawdle far too long before killing Subie, and Mimi, Hetaro, and Wil are able to arrive in time to kill them and save Subie.

Now that they know the remaining 99 or so cult members could all be Sin Archbishops, Subie laments putting everyone in such grave danger. Wilheim won’t hear of it: he asks Subie to keep fighting as long as he’s still standing. Not to become stronger, but simply to be strong. This guy speaks from experience, so Subie takes the simple but powerful words to heart.

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With that, the hunt for the remaining fingers, and the evacuation of the village and manor in Margrave Mathers’ lands continues. Just as Subie is heeding Felix’s suggestion that he should finish making up with Julis, he sees a blue petal float past his eye, and everything freezes.

He and his ground dragon are left alone in the blue, icy stillness, with a blue flower-clutching Ram before him. What fresh hell is this?

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Jurai’s Consiliatory Monologue

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“Hatoko. Um, well…I know how it may seem, but I’m really grateful to you. I don’t know how many times I’ve been saved by the way you’ve always cheerfully listened to me. I was really happy that you understood me. So, um…I know I’ll probably continue to say lots of nonsensical things, but still…y-you and I…There is no path before me, and no retreat behind me! I am destined to advance on an endless road, over rivers of blood and mountains of corpses! However, even for me, it would be hard to travel that road of suffering alone. Therefore, I need companions. Let us walk together, Kushikawa Hatoko. I need you.”