Mahoutsukai no Yome – 02

This week, Chise gets a better idea of what her new life will be like, though she still dreams about the awful life she used to lead; a life she was willing to discard because she didn’t think it had any value. Now people treat her gently and with respect.

Silky, Elias’ “landlady” cooks and cleans and provide Chise with clothes. After watching her mother commit suicide after telling Chise she shouldn’t have been born, this kind of care seems welcome.

Chise accompanies Elias to London—an up-to-date London that includes The Shard—and while there he swaps his “bony” face for a human one—a handsome one, at that.

Elias takes Chise to the shop of another mage, Angelica, who has some issues with how Elias procured his new apprentice, and is taken aback when a simple rookie mage test—turn a crystal into one’s favorite flower—nearly gets out of hand, with Chise transporting herself to a memory of her and her mom in a field of poppies.

Elias tells Angelica that Chise is a Sleigh Beggy, an individual for whom the miracles that comprise the practice of magic come far more frequently than they would for someone less attuned to magic. After seeing the crystalline growths that populated Angelica’s arm, I felt nervous about Chise’s feet upon creating a partial landscape of her memory from that crystal.

Angelica doesn’t blame Chise, though; she didn’t know Chise is a Sleigh Beggy—something Elias didn’t tell her because that’s a dangerous nugget of information in their line of work. But like Elias, Angelica can tell that, like her own daughter, Chise will make a fine mage one day; it’s just a matter of proper training. Chise and Elias head from London back to the countryside.

After meeting with the local priest, who more or less gives Elias and Chise his blessing and an offer of assistance, Chise and Elias head to Iceland, a a land of dragons—and Chise almost immediately gets kidnapped by one said dragon.

Again, this show makes me recall Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, whose redheaded heroine was kidnapped more than once and had to be rescued (though during captivity she helped facilitate that rescue). We’ll see if Chise manages to use her newfound magical powers to attempt escape from her captors, if it once again falls mostly to Elias to rescue her. At this early stage in her apprenticeship, I won’t hold it against her for needing a hand…especially against a dragonrider!

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Mahoutsukai no Yome – 01 (First Impressions)

When we first meet Hatori Chise—who both resembles and sounds like the heroine Akagami no Shirayuki-hime, or perhaps her long-lost, much-maligned sister—she’s pretty much at rock bottom, having seemingly lost the will to live, signing away her human rights so that she can be chained and presented as an object to be purchased at an auction before some Eyes Wide Shut-ass muhfuckahs.

But holding true to the episode title “April showers bring May showers”, as well as the axiom “it’s always darkest before the dawn”, in this, her darkest hour, she is met by, and purchased with a winning bid of five million pounds, by an imposing man in a black cloak wearing a big antelope skull on his head (unless…that is his head).

Chise, fully prepared for whatever horrible fate might befall her upon being purchased (let’s face it, the kind of guys who would buy teenager girls in an auction are likely to be…not so great!), quickly finds that despite his fearsome appearance, her buyer Elias Ainsworth doesn’t want her to be his toy, but his apprentice. He’s a mage, you see; the “real deal”, and he believes Chise, who is what in his trade is called a “sleigh beggy”, can live a fulfilled life of purpose as the newest member of a dying breed of mages like him.

Teleporting her to his super comfy-looking country estate, swapping her chains for an protective adder stone, and showing her kindness she’s never known, Chise ever-so-gradually starts to learn that despite all of the hatred, abuse and suffering she’d endured her entire life up to this point, this place just might be different.

For the first time, she’s told she has a home and actually feels welcome there, and is told she’s family and someone to be protected and nurtured rather than spat upon and discarded.

Thus, when Chise is lured out for a midnight stroll by faeries who later show their true colors by trying to further lure her into their realm, Chise repays Elias’ kindness—and in doing so decides to trust someone for perhaps the first time in her life—by resisting the faeries until Elias arrives to shoo them off.

It’s then when, while princess carrying her home, Elias also confesses he doesn’t aim to merely make Chise his apprentice, but his bride as well. Her reaction to this information, as well as other instances of lighthearted humor, provide a nice ice-breaking contrast to the darker themes initially at play, giving way to a hopeful future in a real home with a real family that cares for them; things every child deserves. A very strong opening.

Made in Abyss – 07

Just as Habo is telling Nat and Siggy about the badass White Whistles (who kinda remind me of the Espada) and wondering if he should have gone against Riko’s wishes and accompanied her and Reg after all, Riko and Reg face their toughest challenge yet: An Ozen the Immovable as their enemy.

But while both kids get beaten within an inch of their lives, it isn’t physical punishment that cuts the deepest—it’s Ozen’s utterly curel and tactless presentation of the giant white cube, which turns out not to be merely a vessel that repels curses. Ozen reveals to Riko that she was stillborn, and upon being placed in the vessel, she was brought back to life.

Ozen further explains that she put some of the meat she uses for dinner in the vessel, and it came back to life as well: that weird, threatening-looking but also bumbling and pitiable thing that made Riko wet the bed. The final twist of the knife? Before long, the thing turned back into lifeless meat, and Ozen wonders when Riko’s time will come to turn back into a corpse.

This is harsh, merciless stuff, but Ozen is just getting started. When she threatens to hurt Riko, Reg intervenes with his arms and ties her up, but she frees herself effortlessly, noting how the arm cables are made of extremely tough stuff. She then proceeds to try to pound Reg into dust, and when Riko tries to stop the madness, a light flick of Ozen’s finger sends her flying across the room, knocked out and bloodied.

Goddamn was this shit hard to watch. Reg tries to break out his Incinerator, but while trying to narrow the focus his beam so he doesn’t blow up the whole camp, the bitch grabs his still-charging cannon and points it at the out-cold Riko.

Where it not for a last-second kick of his own arm out of harm’s way, Riko would be gone. Fortunately, she’s not, and the hole his arm blasts in the ceiling doesn’t cause any serious structural damage. But using his cannon makes him pass out, and when Riko comes to, she sees Reg bruised and bloodied, the result of Ozen continuing to beat his unconscious body.

And yet, after three-quarters of an episode of the most heinous, villainous, evil-ass conduct one could imagine, the other shoe drops: Ozen was TESTING Reg’s strength, as well as Riko’s resolve. And let me tell you, she got me, just as she got them.

I never thought for a moment that she wasn’t simply being the evil monster the build-up to her appearance portended. Marulk ‘saved’ Reg and Riko by calling Ozen’s band of cave-raiders to her in…something Ozen both thanks her apprentice for and promises to string her(?) up for.

Frankly, I didn’t know what she was thinking. It’s another way she’s “immovable”…as in unable to be “moved” by anything … except, perhaps, by the prospect of learning more about the Abyss. Riko on her own would never, ever have gotten this far, let alone any further, without becoming, as Ozen says, “poor meals, little seedbeds, or a stain on the ground or some wall.”

And yet while her approach underscores how far from her humanity Ozen has strayed, it also makes perfect practical sense: the Abyss is fundamentally not a place for little kids. Beasts far tougher, crueler, and more cunning await them in the lower layers.

And as flashbacks prove, Ozen isn’t as emotionally “unmovable” as she appears, as she recalls the first day a Red-Whistled Lyza asked to become her apprentice. In virtually no time, Lyza had earned her Black Whistle, and credits her quick success to Ozen, who may have an “irredeemable” personality, but is still the “best mentor ever.”

Does Ozen truly “despise” Riko? Could it be because she sees Riko as Riko saw that meat? Is she, dare I say…scared of what Riko is and might become as she draws nearer to the bottom? With Ozen, deep questions abound.

One thing’s for certain: as much as she has changed (her armor and the 120 or so implants in her body make her cut quite the menacing figure), there’s still some humanity in there; the humanity that lets Riko know the grave she found was empty; Lyza could well still alive and waiting for her daughter.

In the meantime Reg might might might just be tough enough to protect Riko as she continues her descent, but Ozen isn’t willing to send them on their way yet, she needs to gather more ‘data’. She takes the kids out to the far edge of the layer, far from camp or anyone else, and tells them to survive with the supplies they have for ten days.

Furthermore, Reg is forbidden from using his cannon, as the hours she’s determined he shuts down for would likely be fatal to Riko…unless, of course, he manages to bring down whatever threatens them. It’s the toughest of tough love, but in a world where kids are regularly punished by being strung up naked, I guess it’s par for the course.

Made in Abyss – 06

After a tense moment when Reg’s arms are thrown away by Ozen, she eventually has the gondola lowered for them. Even this relatively short ascent causes deep discomfort to Riko, who has to hurl. She doesn’t make a great impression with Ozen, who chides the kids for going where they’re not allowed, then handing them off to her apprentice Marulk, claiming she has “other matters to attend to.”

Ozen may be a cool, even cruel customer—repeatedly telling Riko how she thought about abandoning her as a baby years ago, and how she probably should have—but hey, she doesn’t kill Riko or Reg, so she can’t be that bad!

Also, Marulk is downright lovely person, proof that even someone who has spent virtually all her life so far from the surface in near-solitude, can not only be reasonably well-adjusted, but friendly and affable as well. I guess it’s ’cause she’s still a kid. It’s too late for Ozen.

The question of whether Marulk is a boy or girl is left unanswered, though Marulk and Reg express identical bashfulness when Riko once again demonstrates no modesty whatsoever after bathing.

No matter: Marulk is genuinely happy to have Riko and Reg in her care, and enjoys talking with them. She also notes the difference between relics that are sent up to Orth and more complex “grade-4 relics” that stay there. These egg-shaped relics remind me of the Precursor Orbs you had to collect in Jak & Dakster.

After a meal, Marulk even suggests Riko and Reg stay at the camp a while longer to cave raid for relics of their own finding. Riko initially excited by the offer, but turns it down, as she’s not sure whether she should be in a hurry to go see her mom, so she has to be in a hurry. I felt bad for poor kind, meek Marulk, for whom Riko and Reg are the only children her age she’s seen or may ever see.

When Riko has to go pee late in the night, she can’t find the bathroom, but does encounter something else: some kind of strange creature that may or may not be threatening, but also seemed a bit clumsy. While a part we saw resembled a face, it also looked like a headless torso with a spine sticking out. I immediately thought of Reg, and wondered whether this was another android…in a less advanced state of completion.

The next morning, while drying Reg’s sheets (she hid in his bed and wet it), Reg and Marulk are present when Ozen drops the hammer on Riko: Lyza is dead; her journey ends there; she found her White Whistle at a grave on the Fourth Layer. Ozen seems to take a kind of sick joy in telling Riko this, but to her credit Riko doesn’t get upset like she did with Nat back in Orth.

Instead, she and the other two follow Ozen to her “chamber”, a foreboding place where we see books, what looks like a second Ozen body, and most perplexing, a very smooth, white, somewhat iridescent cube, which reminded me of the monolith in 2001. The episode ends there, with what exactly this chamber and cube are left unanswered until next week.

My educated guess (which probably isn’t anything special) is that Ozen has been researching and developing robots like Reg, and possibly using that same technology to make her “immovable”, i.e. give her superhuman strength.

I’m far less certain whether I should believe her when she says Lyza’s dead, but then again I realize Riko’s been operating on some pretty large assumptions with paltry evidence to back them up. You know, as kids do. Yet even a bit of Riko probably knew there was a possibility her mother isn’t waiting for her much much further below ground. But like her, I’d want to see for myself nonetheless.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 10

Ever wonder how Jeanne d’Arc went from Captain of the Orleans Knights to mother of El/Mugaro and prisoner in Charioce’s dungeon? This episode tells that tale, starting seven years back. Things start to go wrong when Jeanne fails to save a young girl from a demon, and she starts to lose respect among her men—not all, mind you, but some is all that’s needed for a kind of rot to set in.

Once he takes the throne (without the help of the Gods, a first for kings of Anatae) Chariorce gives Jeanne a choice: play ball and help him get the more god-loyal subjects in line, or face exile. Jeanne chooses the latter, and is eventually made to bear a child through the divine power of Michael—no hanky panky or months of pregnancy needed.

Jeanne lives a simple life off the land, and she raises her winged son El well and he proves to be helpful, but they can’t escape from the worsening conflict between men and gods for long, and soon Jeanne comes to harbor an injured Sofiel from the dastardly Ebony Knights.

When the knights come looking for Sofiel and attack Jeanne, El uses her powers for the first time to neutralize them. They report El to Charioce, who orders Jeanne and El caught dead or alive. Jeanne clips El’s wings and hides him amongst demon corpses, then runs off with one such corpse to lure the knights away from her son.

Jeanne gets captured and hasn’t seen El since, but Nina, who has heard her whole dreadfully horrible tale, is now convinced that Mugaro is El (despite her beliving Mugaro was a girl) and promises Jeanne they’ll be the first two to escape the imperial prison. Here’s hoping.

Shingeki no Bahamut: Virgin Soul – 09

Throughout this episode everyone remains imprisoned, affording time for Kaisar and Favaro to catch up, while Nina impresses by making hard labor look comically easy and ends up befriending Jeanne. Both Kaisar and Favaro know Nina, and both Nina and Jeanne know Mugaro.

What could have been a static table-setter is infused with bottomless sources of magnetism thanks to the official infusion of Favaro (and Jeanne) to the arc, and a measure of “freedom” is lent by taking us back to when he came to make Nina his apprentice.

That story provides some of the best laughs of the series, as Favaro and Nina prove to have fantastic comedic chemistry. Favaro arrives at the dragon village to eat, drink, and screw away his earnings, but the second Nina hears that he’s a bounty hunter, she wants in…and Nina gets what she wants through boundless perseverance (read: Favaro gives up trying to run away from her).

Nina’s feats of strength impress Favaro, but her more fine skills such as marksmanship and whipcraft leave a little to be desired. When Favaro enjoys the village’s famed hot springs, he ends up learning about Nina’s transformation ability when she dives in not knowing he’s there.

Favaro only agreed to have Nina as an apprentice while he’s in the village, so when he leaves, he decides there’s no more he can teach her—which…wasn’t all that much to begin with. After all, you can’t teach most of what makes Favaro Favaro. Still, Nina receives her bounty hunter’s bracelet with solemn pride and excitement, and promises to “probably” not forget her master, and takes to heart his words about “the wind blowing to tomorrow”, despite not really getting them.

The story of how Favaro ended up in the imperial prison is far briefer than how he met and trained Nina: in the first town over form the dragonfolk, he passes out drunk, is ratted out by a woman in exchange for gold from Onyx Guards. His magnificent afro is shaved, and he undergoes all manner of suffering under Charioce, only to be left to rot in the prison.

As Kaisar starts to rot beside him, his Orleans Knights try to deal with the loss of their captain…by getting drunk in a club surrounded by pretty demons, including Cerberus, who convince Al that he’s the captain (though whether he’ll remember in the morning is dubious).

Meanwhile, Jeanne befriends Nina, and when Nina explains why she’s in the slammer, Mugaro comes up. The child Nina describes is clearly the same person Jeanne suspects, but it’s funny that she’s initially unclear because Nina refers to him as a girl when he’s really just a very pretty boy.

Still, Nina’s arrival and news of Mugaro serves as the catalyst for Jeanne to decide the time is right to break out. Nina, wanting to make up for not saving Mugaro before, is eager to assist her, and in Nina Jeanne has a powerful ally.

And as I mentioned last week, things are not so dire, as not everyone is currently in prison. Rita isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them to rescue themselves; the end of the episode has her taking flight by umbrella into the night, ready to do some rescuing of her own, or at least assistance with same.

I’m stoked about the pairing of Nina and Jeanne and the reunion of Kaisar and Favaro, and look forward to seeing what the four of them plus Rita (and maybe an assist or two from a demon or god) manage to come up with to defy the evil (yet as we know, also complicated) King Charioce.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 12 (Fin)

Its first season shows us the past, and most of its second season showed us the present. This week is all about the future, both of the Yakumo and Sukeroku names, the families connected to them, and of rakugo itself. In all cases, that future looks bright, thanks to the inspiration of those who came before.

First, we have a Shin in his late teens or early twenties, and he’s the spitting image of his grandfather Yakumo, even though they’re not related by blood…or are they? The resemblance is uncanny, Konatsu is committed to taking the truth to the grave, as is her prerogative.

In other news, Konatsu has become the first female rakugo performer in history, which is awesome, because it’s something we know she’s always wanted to do, and she’s also very very good at it (sadly though, we don’t get to see her perform).

Interestingly, it doesn’t seem her and Yotaro’s daughter (and Shin’s little sister) Koyuki is interested in following the path the rest of her family has walked, and is content to listen to them work their craft.

As far as Shin is concerned, Yotaro, now the Ninth Generation Yakumo, is his Dad—he helped raise him, after all. That is very clear in a quiet, private scene between the two. As it’s very possible he carries both the blood of Sukeroku and Yakumo, Shin seems to strike a nice balance between their two extreme styles. And the little boy Shin we’re accustomed to comes out when his dad encourages him before one of the biggest performances of his life.

That performance is part of the grand re-opening of the Uchikutei theater, which had burned down years ago but now has been completely rebuilt (only now, no doubt, is up to code). Seeing the new Yakumo IX on the stage with his wife and son (and Master Mangatsu) is a triumphant moment, and the full crowd suggests Yotaro has succeeded in restoring rakugo from the brink it was dangling from when Yakumo VIII died.

Now it’s a more inclusive, less stodgy, and more welcoming place, without sacrificing the things that made it unique. Even Konatsu realizes she was foolish in her earlier thinking that she’d upset some kind of “harmony” by entering the world of rakugo.

It must be that much more encouraging for Matsuda, the only character to inhabit all three timelines. He’s 95 and wheelchair-bound, but seems as warm and cheerful as ever.

After Shin opens with a very good performance that demonstrates why he will be an excellent Sukeroku and/or Yakumo one day, Yotaro performs “Shinigami”, a Yakumo VIII original, as a tribute. And what do you know, the old man visits him at the climax of his performance, leading me wondering momentarily if Yotaro had been taken to the far shore himself!

Thankfully, Yotaro is fine, and he and his family and friends celebrate after the show with a flower viewing by the riverside. Matsuda mentions how he saw his master to the far shore (apparently during a near-death experience of his own back then), and Higuchi waxes poetic on Yotaro’s contributions to helping prevent rakugo from dying with Yakumo.

Yotaro, however was never concerned that rakugo would go anywhere, with or without his help. It’s too good for that. And I tend to agree: various humans can argue over whether the art of rakugo is something that must be vigilantly protected from disappearing, like tending a delicate fire.

But fires can be rebuilt and reignited, and there will always be those who want to sit in an old theater (or a newly rebuilt theater) and hear someone tell a funny, raunchy, or moving story that will transport them somewhere else. Rakugo is eternal.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 11

For all the sorrow and tragedy and pain in his life, things turned out pretty well for Yakumo, AKA Bon, and as it turns out, he really did die under ideal circumstances: he died in his sleep, peacefully, painlessly, surrounded by those who loved him, listening to his grandson doing rakugo.

This episode, perhaps the finest in the entire run of the show, takes place entirely in the purgatory-like place the recently deceased go before crossing the Sanzu River to the hereafter. This requires a fare, which, big surprise, Sukeroku hasn’t been able to afford yet.

The show had always teased an interest in depicting a more fantastical world than that of the living, and in this place people can change their age at will, time is kinda hard to put a finger on. Yakumo is initially annoyed that once again Sukeroku is sponging off him, even after death, but once he’s a boy again, he quickly falls back comfortably into the very deep brotherly bond they shared.

The afterlife is suitably lush and otherworldly, but also borrows heavily from traditional Japanese aesthetics, which makes sense considering the characters we’re following. Sukeroku makes sure Yakumo understands how grateful he is for raising Konatsu.

The reunions don’t stop with Sukeroku, as Miyokichi died at the same time. While she’s cast away the “role of a woman”, she and Sukeroku are still a married couple, working together to earn fare across the river. It feels like, from their perspective, they only recently got here, just like Yakumo.

Yakumo wanted more than anything to apologize to Miyokichi for dumping her so heartlessly, but she holds no grudges in this place. In fact, she can now reflect on the mistakes she made in life, namely latching onto one person rather than rely on, and be there for, others. She’s also amused to no end by Yakumo talking like an old man, since he died as one.

The three travel together for a bit along that seemingly endless scaffolding, and Yakumo mentions the food is tasteless and unsatisfying. Sukeroku says it’s because they’re dead, but if he wants to be satisfied, he knows just the place: the very theater that burned down two episodes ago has arrived in the afterlife as well. It had a soul, after all. Even better: it’s a packed house with the biggest billing ever: All the masters of all generations…and Yakumo is on the bottom. He’s gone from grizzled old master to fresh new arrival in this place.

Sukeroku decides to warm the place up with a performance that really does seem to give flavor to the sake, meat, and onions he pretend-drinks and eats (never has his jaunty entrance theme, which Yotaro inherited, sounded better or more significant). “You can’t take this taste with you when you die!” also has new meaning. He’s still got it, in this place, which has gone back to exactly the same as it was in the old days.

There’s also a magic cushion (I’ll allow it) which brings the person from the living world the performer wants to listen the most. In Sukeroku’s case, it’s his daughter Konatsu, who appears the age she was when he and Miyokichi died. For Yakumo, it’s his grandson Shin, about the same age as his mom, and just as enthusiastic to hear Yakumo’s rakugo.

Yakumo takes the stage as his old self, but has never looked happier, beaming at his reunited family and full of energy. In a playful mood, he performs “Jugemu”, and Miyokichi and Shin “sing” along the comically long name. His story continues as the camera leaves the old, drafty, but brightly glowing theater, which slowly fades out of focus.

Yakumo then finds himself in a fine boat, packed and ready for his journey across the Sanzu. Sukeroku sees him off, and Yakumo makes him promise he and Miyokichi will join him soon, once they save up enough for their fare (the one thing he apparently can’t share with his friends, even if he wanted to). That could be a year from now, or it could be yesterday.

While en route, the ferryman reveals himself as Matsuda, who may have followed his master into death after nodding off himself, and he couldn’t be happier to be by his side again, chaffeuring him to the very gates of heaven.

It’s a fitting end to Yakumo’s story, and a achingly gorgeous episode full of joyful and tear-jerking moments, from Miyokichi first seeing Yakumo, to Konatsu hugging her mother, to Yakumo taking the stage one last time and meeting Matsuda on the boat.

The preview indicates the last episode will be an epilogue that jumps forward in time, perhaps to an older Shinnosuke with a red-haired young woman who may be his younger sister. That should be fun, even if it doesn’t come close to approaching the greatness of this, Yakumo’s farewell.

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu 2 – 10

While there are certainly important stories to be told, the true genius of SGRS is the realism and intensity of the world in which those stories take place. While there was a soapy vibe to Yakumo’s inadvertent arson, this week grounds the even for what it was: something that was likely to happen to the tinderboxy theater sooner or later, regardless of who or what started it.

Even if Yakumo was trying to deal a blow to rakugo by sending the place up, the fact is, the theater is just a thing. You don’t really need it to perform rakugo. All you need is people to perform, people to support those performers, and an audience. And those things can be found anywhere. They’ll be okay…even the kid who worked at the theater to try to get closer to rakugo.

When we see Yakumo in the hospital, Shin and Matsuda are crying by his side, but Konatsu is sitting off at a distance, with a look that conveys both suspicion (both she and Yota had to stop him from jumping off a bridge, after all) and uneasiness.

As much as she has always hated her adoptive father for killing her birth parents, the window for hashing things out with him once and for all is quickly closing. Sooner or later Yakumo, like the theater, is going to go up-either by his own hand or by nature.

Still, even as Yakumo lies there in bed with a hell of a face burn, we know that when it came down to it, he’s terrified and not at all interested in dying. He’s not ready to leave the family he’s made, which we learn is about to get larger: Konatsu is pregnant again, and this time it’s Yota’s.

Since Yota is always calling Konatsu “nee-san”, its easy to forget that these two are married, let alone sleeping together. But I loved the way Konatsu drops the news—by mentioning how she craves sweet things when she’s expecting. I also loved Yota’s total obliviousness until she actually spells it out for him too.

You can feel the love and joy in this little scene. The RABUJOI, if you will ;)

As for her scene with Yakumo, it’s steeped in a combination of loathing and tenderness. It’s not the same love that she has for Yota at all, but it’s still love, and arguably a deeper one. As she helps him into the sun and combs his hair, he tells her how his mind wanders to things he never thought about when rakugo was his life, like how he never planted a cherry tree in his garden, or all he missed out on for rakugo.

Konatsu doesn’t let the opportunity to ask him why he never followed her parents to the grave, and there’s no need for any more pretense: Yakumo was too busy raising her to think about killing himself, and in any case, being a parent has a way of simultaneously overwhelming and soothing you. Raising Konatsu kept his regret at bay, and made it possible to live as long as he did.

Upon hearing all this, Konatsu softens, her eyes well up, and she does something it’s probably been very hard for her to consider doing: thank Yakumo, for not abandoning her.

Of course, she’s very welcome, and doesn’t even have to thank Yakumo, since she did as much for him as he did for her by being in his life. It’s a marvelously executed and acted scene; the epitome of bittersweet-ness.

Then Yota comes on the radio, Shin pops out of the bushes and recites the story Yota is telling (while tossing sakura petals in the air), Konatsu asks Yakumo if she can be his apprentice, and he says “yes” without any pushback whatsoever.

Yota and Shin’s story is accompanied by a montage of imagery that matches their words, though that imagery is coming not from the imaginations of the listeners, but in the city and world living and breathing around them during a warm, pleasant sunset. It looks like a moment of almost perfect contentment for Yakumo…

Which also makes it the perfect time to leave that world, if he was going to do so. When petals on the floor are suddenly picked up by a sudden wind and dipped into darkness, Yakumo wakes up on the planks of zig-zagging, seemingly endless boardwalk flanked on either side by countless candles. Sukeroku greets him, and this time welcomes him to the land of the dead.

Tellingly, Sukeroku doesn’t tell him he’s not yet supposed to be there. So is this it for Yakumo? Did that perfect moment signal his exit from the living world? Did he agree to train Konatsu to avoid stirring rancor so close to his end?

Flying Witch – 08

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Makoto Chinatsu and Kei just be chillin’ like vanilla villains playing violins in a villa. Put less poetically, they spend the entire episode hanging out in the cafe, meeting its owner (mistaking her for her nearly identical daughter at first), are formally introduced to Hina the ghost, and also meet some of the cafe’s regulars.

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Yet no matter how insectoid (the thistle-eating ladybugs), vulpine (the cherry-loving fox), or intimidating (the Veil of Darkness and Bringer of the Night, everyone they meet is nice, welcoming, and friendly, even if Chinatsu is being a bit nosy or intrusive.

The overall feeling is that this definitely a cafe where I’d like to spend some time, sip some tea, and munch on some pastries. Anzu’s mom’s comment about Kei not having to worry about being “normal” (because he hangs out with witches) was pretty funny, too.

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While the others are at the cafe, Akane is hard at work on a potion, but for what we don’t learn until after the credits roll, Marvel-style. She teleports with Kenny all the way to otherworldly, picturesque Ha Long Bay in Vietnam, where she accidentally turns the entire landscape monochrome.

It’s temporary, though, so rather than panic, Akane teleports back to Aomori, grabs a half-asleep Makoto, and has her snap a photo of her and Kenny…which Akane later remembers as a strange dream. But that’s life as a witch: sometimes things get a little surreal and dream-like, and ya just gotta roll with it.

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Flying Witch – 07

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It’s another lovely day in Aomori, perfect for going on a lovely hike in the lovely forest. But before they set off, Nao manages to insult Chito by asking if she’s put on weight. She also learns that she’s seventeen—older than all the humans around her on the trip—making her and not Kei the true senpai. That familiars live longer and age slower than regular pets its another interesting tidbit of witching wisdom.

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Once in the forest, Makoto gets really giddy, as is apparently typical of witches. There’s so much energy in the trees and water and grass, and so many resources from which to make other things. It’s basically a witch supermarket, and they collect things like ostrich ferns and victory onions. Another great tidbit: those onions make your farts smell terrible. Keeping bears away by scaring Nao with frogs is also a little mean, but ultimately beneficial.

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Once back home, we enter Kei’s Kitchen, as he expertly toasts sesame seeds and tosses them with the blanched ferns. Makoto finds them immensely tasty, but Chinatsu, little kid that she is, still has too unrefined a palate to find the taste appealing. Everyone assures her when she gets older, she will. They certainly looked scruptious to me!

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Akane recommends Chinatsu cleanse her palate with some cake from an off-the-beaten-path cafe. Makoto worries Kei has gotten them lost for once when there’s nothing but a decrepit ruin of a house at the address provided. Makoto is on it; by praying as if at a shrine like Kenny says, the spell on the house is lifted, at they see a well-kept mansion.

Once inside, the lack of a verbal welcome is conspicuous, but they find a note and learn from Akane that while the cafe’s proprietor is a witch, the waitress is a Meiji-era ghost. Seeing the notes and ice water suddenly appear, like the house suddenly transforming, are all great demonstrations of Flying Witch’s subtle but effective brand of magic.

While we don’t catch the waitress’ name, Akane uses a magic circle to make her visible, at first, without her knowledge. When she realizes they can see her, she turns beet red and finally gets a few words out, but it’s clear she’s very very shy and shouldn’t be teased too much, as she’s doing her best.

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Flying Witch – 06

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This may not make much sense, but Flying Witch felt like it was almost trying too hard to be about nothing all last week, which pulled of took me out of its world. But this week it returns to its effortless coziness. Like the magic it contains, Flying Witch is not usually flashy, but it can be powerful.

Just seeing Mako in the air on her broom again was a sight for sore eyes, and Akane’s suggestion that she not try to ride a broom she is levitating, but levitate herself along with the broom, provides invaluable insight into the ways of witching.

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While Makoto figures out how to ride properly, Chinatsu is satisfied she’s seen enough: she wants to be a witch too, and formally requests Akane take her on as an apprentice. Akane entertains the request, waiting until the young child is out of the room when she tells Kei that it’s a difficult, possibly life-changing path for one who was not born a witch.

But young and impulsive as Chinatsu is, there’s no arguing with her assertion Akane and Makoto are cute and amazing. And Chinatsu’s fantasies of how she’d use her powers are just as cute.

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Akane drives home the point that magic isn’t always about telekinetically manipulating toys, transforming cars into pumpkin carriages, or creating candy houses that eat people. The basic stuff is subtle, and yet still requires precise preparation to work at all.

Akane proves to be a good teacher, precise in her directives while maintaining her pupils’ faith throughout, in spite of evidence of the spell working. I like how Kei, meanwhile, is simply sitting on a bean bag watching dumb movies. Hey, after that weeding, he earned a break!

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When the spell is finally complete, and Makoto eats the newly-enchanted Pocky, I perked up to see what, if anything, would happen. Turns out the lesson also served as a prank, which is it’s own lesson about the power of even minor spells. Makoto ends up crying at everything for about an hour, while Chinatsu ends up laughing at everything

Cats be all like “humans be crazy”, Kei’s movie is interrupted by their noise, while Chinatsu and Kei’s mom has a little fun making her daughter laugh (though I dunno about letting Makoto handle a knife while crying uncontrollably). As for their dad, he eats both snacks and is domed to spend the next hour laugh-crying over everything. Magic, man: You gotta respect it.

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P.S. One issue I wish would be addressed, but probably won’t be: the music. There seems to be one main musical theme to FW, and it’s used every week, usually more than once. It was cute and matched the mood, but it’s totally played out. More musical variety, please!

Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 06

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This week Tanaka catches cold from getting soaked several times by the rain, even though he had an umbrella. He thought the rain wasn’t heavy enough to justify opening it, and by the time it was it was too late. He also tries to develop a rain barrier by standing out in the rain, but that doesn’t go so well.

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Shiraishi looks at the rainy day and sees an opportunity for the cliched but still desirable experience of walking with a loved one while sharing an umbrella. When she actually gets her wish, she’s a bit frazzled by how suddenly it happened.

She’s also a bit to excited for Tanaka to get any closer to her, and she’s content she’s as close as she is. Unfortunately, that means half of Tanaka is exposed to the rain, and the next day he comes in with a hoarse throat, a bad cough, and a mask.

Shiraishi sees this as another opportunity to take care of Tanaka, but he doesn’t want her to catch his cold, so asks her to stay away in a manner that could be construed as cold if we didn’t know who was saying it. The thing is, we don’t see Shiraishi again the rest of the episode, so she obeyed his wishes!

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Instead, the second half of the episode is dominated by Echizen, who is an awesome delinquent with a gentle heart and old-fashioned notion of romance. In one of Sick Tanaka’s numerous attempts to communicate wordlessly to save his voice, he is loath to write Echizen’s name in Kanji, and instead writes a note asking if she could change her surname to Ohta or Tanaka.

Echizen sees this as nothing less than a proposal and a demand for her to choose one of the two guys, and she stresses over it immensely. Indeed, she shows her more tender, vulnerable, bashful side, one previously only seen when interacting with Miyano.

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She weighs the pros and cons of marrying Ohta and Tanaka, and almost cuts her long skirt. She worries about being too tall for Tanaka, but then he says he likes her height. She worries about not being able to see Ohta as a man, but then he saves her from tripping and carries her when she falls down the steps.

The fact that Echizen becomes a completely uncoordinated klutz when worrying about these things further deepens her character into something far more than your run-of-the-mill Yankee. But the show smartly doesn’t let the misunderstanding extend beyond this week, as Echizen comes out and explains her bizarre behavior as the result of Tanaka’s note.

Tanaka and Ohta explain he was sick and only suggested the name change because he was too lazy to write “Echizen.” But they both decide it’s easier anyway to simply address her as Miyano does, as “Ecchan,” thereby perpetuating her smittenness.

While Shiraishi+Tanaka and Echizen+Ohta make the most sense, it was fun to see the doors open for other possibilities, even if they were one-sided and the result of a misunderstanding. And I’m never going to complain about the occasional doe-eyed Echizen!

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