Mieruko-chan – 09 – The Joy of Being Able to React

The arrival of Toono Zen as her substitute homeroom teacher is an extremely vexing proposition for Miko. There are an inordinate number of intense cat-demons constantly surrounding the guy, who doesn’t seem to notice. At least he doesn’t seem to remember her from the stray cat encounter, while Hana can’t quite place the guy and Miko encourages her to believe she’s mistaking him for someone else.

Still, Zen’s demon hangers-on creep out Miko to the point she retreats to the bathroom, only to encounter another gigantic ghoul who climbs out of the toilet in her stall. Miko uses the fact there’s no TP to retreat, only to find Yulia eating her lunch in the stall next door. Mind you, Miko is only alone because Hana went to buy bread to eat after she ate her regular lunch.

Miko is of the mind that no one should have to eat their lunch in a bathroom stall, so invites Yulia to join her and Hana outside. Yet when she spots their teacher once again walking down the halls, Miko’s eyes suddenly fill with tears, concerning both Hana and Yulia.

The bulk of the remainder of the episode consists of a test of courage in the form of a haunted house set up by the local donut concern; if customers can brave the house and get their card stamped, they’ll receive 20 free donuts. Hana is an incurable scaredy-cat, but Miko simply loves the opportunity to be able to react to scary things by screaming. The fact that she smiles as she screams is particularly disturbing to Yulia!

Miko ends up seeing a real ghoul among all of the haunted house monsters, but she’s still able to react because the ghoul can’t be sure who she’s reacting to: the genuine article, or the artifice of the haunted house. When all’s said and done the three friends end up going through the ringer but coming out of it closer than ever…not to mention 20 donuts richer!

Mieruko-chan – 08 – Let Sleeping Moths Lie

While shopping with Kyousuke for a birthday gift for their mom, Miko comes across a very cute dress and decides to try it on, since she and her mom are pretty much the same size. Unfortunately, a ghoulish store rep who says “It looks great on you!” kinda ruins the mood…not to mention Miko wears the dress out of the store, basically nixing it as a gift for mom.

While she and Kyousuke find another gift, the trip home is less than stress-free, thanks to a spectral axe murderer walking down the subway car, swinging its axe right into peoples’ heads. Miko has every right to be scared about what the axe might do to someone like her who can see them.

Thankfully, the axe only hurts other ghouls, and goes right through her head without incident. We don’t see Miko and Kyousuke giving their mom the gift of couple mugs. Rather, we watch as their mom makes two cups of tea with them: one for her, and one for her dearly departed husband.

The balance between creepy/gross/spooky/sinister ghosts and benevolent ones continues when Miko and Hana see off their pregnant homeroom teacher, learning that the child she’s carrying is her second try. This explains the odd white specter that’s so interested in the teacher’s belly: it’s the ghost of her dead child.

This was one of the best and most powerful segments of Mieruko-chan to date, because it once again subverts expectations. At first I thought the ghost was a threat like Miko did. But when we see how it interacts with his mother’s hand, it’s as if we and Miko can see the healing love emanate from her. I was well and truly choked up.

Contrast that with just regular choking due to one of the grosser ghouls Miko has come across. With a dozen slithery three-nostriled tusks leaking snot and some unsettling googly eyes, this particular specimen is not the first ghost Miko decides to face “head-on”. Perhaps she’ll face a less gross one later. For now, Miko joins Senpai’s Futaba as a Fall 2021 character who is partial to canned oshiruko.

The final segment brings back two very different cat people. First, Miko and Hana’s substitute homeroom teacher is Toono Zen, the guy Miko wouldn’t let adopt the stray kitten. Between those nasty demonic cats surrounding him and his blood red eyes, I wonder if he has “the sight” like Miko and Yulia, and knows that Miko can see too?

Whatever his deal, homeroom is not going to be pleasant for Miko for the foreseeable future. As for the tough yakuza-looking guy, he takes his time finding just the right cat food and cake to celebrate his late wife’s life, their anniversary, and the lives of their two beautiful white cats, who continue to watch over his new fuzzy companion as benevolent spirits. Mieruko-chan continues to spook me out and melt my heart.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mieruko-chan – 07 – Tunnel Visions (of Horror)

Things are only getting spookier for Miko, and it’s largely Hana’s fault! When Hana’s photo gets a lot of likes on Instagram (666, to be exact) she believes it’s her calling to be a photographer, and buys a Polaroid to take more. Yulia, waiting for an opening to exact her revenge on Miko for humiliating her/choking her out, eggs Hana on by suggesting a bus trip to the mountains for some prime photo spots.

Yulia’s motivations aside, this is the first time in a long time, maybe ever, she’s gone on a trip with friends. That said, she sticks to her mission, getting Hana to enter a tunnel known to be haunted so Miko will have no choice but to admit she also sees ghosts, and deal with them. Of course, at first it’s normal stuff that gets Hana spooked: the darkness and a sudden drop of water falling on the back of her neck.

When Miko trips in the dark, then dusts off her hands, Yulia believes her rival is setting up some kind of supernatural barrier. Because of the discrepancy between the types of ghosts Yulia and Miko can see, Miko’s gestures seem to coincide with the ghosts Yulia can see shriveling up and vanishing, as if Miko exorcised them. But Yulia can’t bigger and much more horrifying monster that is devouring the ones she can see.

Yulia makes things worse by trying to get Miko to admit she can see the ghosts too, totally unaware the biggest and baddest instantly reacts to the sensation that the humans can see them. Miko has been operating under the assumption that this is, as Egon once said, “very bad”. The monster prepares to swoop down on the three girls, but is stopped and defeated by the shrine spirits, who once again protect Miko.

Hana takes Miko and Yulia’s defeated, exhausted expressions on the ride home as shared disappointment in not getting to the end of the tunnel to the photo spot. So she gathers the two close for a selfie. That ends up making Yulia’s day, as it’s established her belief in ghosts cause other classmates to ostracize her, but she’s finally found new friends.

As for Miko, she’s just trying not to overthink why some spirits protect her while others want to kill her, Hana, and now Yulia, or what one of the ones protecting her meant by “three times”. But as the preview says, things are going to get spookier before they become less spooky, so Miko will likely need all the spectral allies she can get!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mieruko-chan – 06 – Aw, No…Hana!

While there’s equal or greater Miko at either end, the middle of this episode is All Hana, All The Time, starting with her waking up to find her clock stopped, eating a giant stack of pancakes for breakfast, and lights flickering and going out around her. This is because one of the bigger and more grotesque ghouls to appear in Mieruko-chan is following Hana around, even using her dazzling aura as a kind of grill to sear smaller ghouls to snack on!

I love that as sinister and deadly as this monster looks, the only thing we know for sure is that he loves barbecue…that could be the only reason he’s haunting Hana! For while he gets awfully close to Hana and messes with lights and clocks around her, he doesn’t seem capable of actually hurting Hana, even when she braves a haunted abandoned building to retrieve a crying boy’s dog.

Once both boy and dog are happily home, Hana swears she’ll never put herself through something that terrifying again. And Hana didn’t actually see any ghosts! Like most people, she was simply scared of the unknown in the darkness. It’s probably for the best she can’t see what’s actually there, like Miko.

This proves especially true when Miko takes Hana to a shrine with an ulterior motive: pray to the local deity to do something about the monster still haunting Hana’s steps. While Hana soaks in the Ghibli vibes (even humming a bit of a tune from Nausicaa), Miko watches all paranormal hell break loose…or is it heaven?

Why not both? The black shadowy monster seemingly bests the two golden fox deities, only to be destroyed by what seems to be their big, big brother.

After the shadow monster is pulverized, the golden monsters converse in a strange language neither we nor Miko understand, then the larger of the three does…something to Miko while saying the one thing we do understand: “Three times,” then vanishing with a gust of wind.

Did this deity protect Miko from three future hauntings? Both we and Miko will have to wait to find out what, if anything, these deities did. All the while, Hana grabbed some sweet Insta pics that don’t even need filters!

Mieruko-chan – 05 – Of Moms and Manjuu

Mieruko-chan sticks to two main stories, one in which Niguredou Yuria is finally introduced as a third character who can see ghosts and ghouls—more clearly than the old fortune-teller but less clearly than Miko. As we’ve seen on the margins of past episodes, she’s been watching Miko, convinced she can see what she sees.

The thing is, Mieruko is still committed to not disclosing that she can see them, especially when a much larger and spookier ghoul is in the gym storage room that Yuria can’t even see. Her solution for not discussing it is to use a signature submission move of her favorite wrestler, Badger: a serpent drop. It’s not surprising Yuria thinks Miko is threatening her in the nurse’s office later, but it’s just a bit of miscommunication.

Meanwhile, Miko is now seeing so much that others can’t that sometimes she can’t tell ghouls from humans, as she mistakes a tiny, ancient, but very much still alive granny on some steps. She carries the lady to her house, where her daughter proceeds to thank her by going in the house to grab some manjuu. That’s when a creepy business suit-wearing ghoul approaches Miko and she just wants to leave.

The thing is, the ghoul keeps repeating the same four-digit number, which Miko finally types into her smartphone and shows the old lady. Suddenly, like a switch flipped, the granny, whose daughter said had serious dementia, is lucid again. She uses the code to open her safe, use the comb within her departed husband gave her to put her hair up, and prepares to make some pork miso soup.

The granny invites Miko to join them, but seeing what amounts to a mother-daughter reunion (with the ghoul of the father thanking Miko before shambling off), Miko is eager to get home to her family. She makes sure to text her mom she’s on the way home, and when her mom sends a goofy sticker back, Miko can’t help but smile.

Once again, in a very real and meaningful way, Miko’s ability has allowed her to help improve the lives of others. Even if it wasn’t entirely intentional, she helped that lady home and typed that code into her phone. Yuria may want to be a spiritualist, but Miko seems to already be a kind of saint—an individual performing unexplainable deeds for the betterment of others.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mieruko-chan – 04 – Chestnut Pudding

First of all, a ghost haunting the konbini Miko frequents adding three percent tax to the items the living cashier is ringing up, and Miko’s dry observation of it, got a huge laugh out of me. I just loved the creepy, absurd, yet mundane nature of it.

You’d think Miko would want to watch something, anything other than paranormal TV shows, but either she’s being a good big sis by watching with her little brother Kyousuke, or she genuinely likes ghost stories…she just doesn’t like being able to see said ghosts.

Something spooks Miko into going to the nearest vending machine, where she finds tiny little spirits when she drops her 500-yen coin. Oddly charmed by these bitty, seemingly harmless little guys, she follows one as he skitters away, only to end up in an alley with a giant ghost who eats the little ones like a snack. When she tries and fails to pick up the coin, a crow bails her out by stealing it.

Mieruko-chan once again proves its horror movie bona fides by giving us the classic situation of being visited by a ghost in one’s most vulnerable state: while naked in the bath. This is apparently the first time it’s happening to Miko, and she’s genuinely voicing her limits. She thought she could rely on the bathroom for solace, but now that’s no longer true.

This time her savior is Kyousuke. Worried she’s dating some dude (she’s not) wants to get in the bath with her, and she enthusiastically offers to wash his back. If he’s in there with her, the ghost isn’t as scary.

Every morning, Miko tells us she makes a wish to no longer “see them”, but that wish is seemingly ignored day after day, as she’s seemingly seeing more ghosts in more places all the time. She’s not even given a moment’s peace to eat breakfast with her family thanks to ghosts swarming the table and breathing on her food.

Throughout the episode, Miko had been all gung-ho about procuring some chestnut pudding. In addition to sounding freakin’ delicious (seriously, I need to find a recipe and make some if I can’t find some at the Japanese grocery store), I figured it was one small way Miko copes with her ghost sightings.

Then the episode throws us a twist by showing that the chestnut pudding has special significance: it’s not for her, but as an offering for her dad…who was dead all along! It’s a hell of a twist that builds on the fact Miko can see more than the ugly invasive ghosts, but ordinary ones too.

The post-credits sequence is a replay of the first segment in which Miko was watching TV with Kyousuke, only this time we see what Miko saw, and why that shampoo commercial freaked her out enough to go out for drinks.

This episode really accentuated the sheer weight of Miko’s ESP, and how it’s adversely affecting her sleep, behavior, and appetite. Could the new character who’ll (finally) be formally introduced next week, be a fellow “seer” who might have some tips for Miko finding some relief? I hope so!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mieruko-chan – 03 – A Bus Ride, Don Juan, and Beads

It’s the weekend, and Miko is meeting Hana at a Starbucks ripoff, but she has to take a bus, and the bus is full of ghouls. She comports herself pretty well throughout the ride, only to miss her stop because she’s trying to distract herself from the monsters so much, she forgets to get off at that stop. Fortunately the airheaded Hana did the same thing without an assist from ghosts.

That means Miko arrives at the cafe first. There, she finds a dashing young man waiting for his date, but that doesn’t stop him from hitting on Miko before she arrives. He thinks Miko is staring at her, but she’s staring at a possessive ghost haunting him, while his girlfriend has a half-dozen ghosts haunting her, suggesting these two heartbreakers were made for each other. Miko’s solution for not drawing the ire of the lady-ghoul is to pretend she’s into super macho wrestlers on her phone.

Once Miko and Hana finally meet up, it’s time to buy some prayer beads. Only the first instance in which Miko has to use them, the elastic snaps and the beads go everywhere. Miko knows how much Hana attracts ghouls and wants to protect her, so she takes one for the team and walks through a particularly big and nasty ghoul in a yellow jumpsuit, so Hana doesn’t have to.

Seeking stronger beads leads Miko to a fortune teller whom we learn is just a petty scammer since we can hear her inner monologue. However, she can not only tell that Miko is haunted by ghouls, but that Hana has a dazzling aura that’s like frikkin’ catnip for ghouls. So the lady decides to give Miko a set of beads with what seems to be legit ghoul-repelling power…only for those beads to break too.

Ultimately, Miko decides to give up on prayer beads, as they seem to welcome more ghoulish attention. As for the fortune teller? She closes up shop and turns a leaf, accepting her kids’ invitation to move in with them. Little does Miko know the change she instilled…

TenSura – 02 – A Slimy New Hope

When some initial attempts to free Veldora the Storm Dragon fail, Satoru decides to envelop him in his stomach, but not before they give each other names: with Satoru being named Rimuru Tempest and the dragon Veldora Tempest. It works: the dragon is no longer a prisoner of the spell, but nor does he have physical form anymore. Rimuru, however, knows he’s in there somewhere.

For the next few weeks Rimuru sets to work gaining new skills, some of which he gains just by performing a new task; some of which he takes from the various beasts he defeats. It’s a very procedural sequence but it’s well-paced and always satisfying when he slays a new foe with the skills of the previous one.

In this way he gathers quite a bit of power, and eventually reaches the front door of the cave, which to his surprise opens to reveal three human adventurers. Rimuru slips out without them noticing, and the “disappearance” of Veldora changes the balance of power in the entire region.

For instance, Rimuru assumes Veldora, or at least his power, kept direwolves away from a village of (non-rapey!) goblins, whom are extremely frightened of the slime due to the intense magical aura he’s emitting. It seems even sealed away Veldora cast a big shadow in the area.

Rimuru hears out the goblin elder and decides to help out, considering how hopeless their fight is (there are only 60 goblins to 100 wolves, each of which requires an average of ten goblins to defeat, so they’re at least 940 short). In exchange, the villagers offer him their undying loyalty.

And so, not long after befriending and then absorbing a tsundere storm dragon, the Slime has now become a goblin leader. Never a dull moment here on TenSura.

Nil Admirari no Tenbin – 03 – Tsugumi’s First Suitor is a Book Burner

After Tsugumi spoils the lads with breakfast of a quality far higher than they get at the cheap restaurant down the street (and they all ask her to sing for them more), they go on their daily patrol…which the show skips entirely, probably because it knows it’s boring. Not to mention, it seem like having four people in a patrol is an awful lot, unless you expect a lot trouble every time, which seems paranoid.

And yet, even with four, they’re unable to stop a suspected cursed tome from being burned in a nighttime incident in which the thugs get away. Tsugumi can tell the book isn’t cursed, and meets its owner, doctor (and dreamboat)-in-training Sagisawa Rui, who comes out of left field to be her first (un-)official suitor of her new partoling-librarian life.

After Fukurou is assigned a police liason, Tsugumi hits the town on her own, visiting the flirty shopkeep who rudely propositions her once again despite the fact she has no interest (though his weird fluffy pet Perry is a hell of an icebreaker). Hey guy, maybe tone it down a bit!

She bumps into Sagisawa again, who is delivering his homemade kaleidoscopes for the shopkeep to sell, because in addition to being a sweet young doctor-in-training he also creates kaleidoscopes, which let you “look at the world in a different way”. Ack!

Oh and a guy with an actual cursed tome runs past, and before Fukurou can chase him down he ends up splatted by a subway car. Again, for a four-man patrol they’re sure aren’t very good at catching people they want to catch!

Furthermore, what could have been an opportunity to test Tsugumi’s toughness in the face of blood and death was squandered. Why present such a gruesome death as part of her job, then not have the MC react to it at all?

They suspect the book has been made cursed intentionally by a group they’re simply calling “Karasu” due to the crow feathers they leave behind as a calling card. That group is in opposition to Kagutsuchi, a group that seeks to find and destroy (rather than purify) all cursed tomes…and if a couple of uncursed tomes get burned, so be it.

Sagisawa Rui invites Tsugumi to a more intimate rendezvous in the park where he gifts her a kaleidoscope, and then gets into a rather unsubtle debate about whether to preserve or burn cursed tomes that betrays his beliefs on the matter to be in opposition to Tsugumi’s.

That night the police liasion informs Fukurou that Kagutsuchi is meeting on the eighth floor of a building in Ginza…but the building only appears to have six floors, not including the roof! Huh…

Anyway the leader of Kagutsuchi turns out to be Sagisawa. Why he put on that whole performance to Tsugumi before with the burning non-cursed book or the kaleidoscopes, I have no idea, but in the end the first lad who seemed to be a nice fit for her turns out to be a bad guy, at least from Tsugumi’s book-loving perspective.

After she declines his offer to join Kagutsuchi, he burns the tome in front of her and then leaps out the window, which would have been cool if we didn’t see him land on a tablecloth his henchman stretched out for him. For some reason that seemed really lame and caused me to laugh out loud.

So yeah, Tsugumi’s job seems pretty boring and tedious and full of unwanted passes by men…until it’s suddenly not, and even then gets rather silly because as I said, hot pursuit is not Fukurou’s forte. Maybe lose those bulky overwrought uniforms and…I dunno, run faster?

Nil Admirari no Tenbin – Teito Genwaku Kitan – 02 – Welcome to Fukurou

NAT continues to be watchable if unexceptional in its second episode, which is largely an introduction to Fukurou’s facilities and the attractive yet often eccentric men who live and/or work there.

They include a former houseboy of the Kuze family with whom Tsugumi is acquainted, a mask-wearing researcher, and an odd-eyed kid who likes to hang out up in trees. She also sees the repository of cursed tomes, which is, from her perspective, lit up like Christmas from the various auras.

Tsugumi is also shown her own apartment, a first for her, and is also chatted up in the alley by someone who turns out to be her brother’s favorite author, Migawa Shizuru, who lives at Fukurou.

He joins Tokimiya, Hayato, Akira, and Hisui for a welcome banquet of sushi, and immediately Hayato and Shizuru start making preparations to stake their claim on the right to woo the newbie, with Hisui in the middle trying to keep things calm.

The next day Tsugumi heads out for her first patrol with Hayato, Akira, and Hisui, donning her Fukurou uniform which features a skirt of a short length she’s not used to. She’s also not used to walking beside unmarried men, and so almost instinctively keeps her distance.

They visit bookstore after bookstore, but none of the old Japanese-style books they encounter has any aura, which disappoints Tsugumi, who hoped to make more of an immediate difference.

One bookstore tender even calls her “another useless good-for-nothing,” while another asks if she wants to be his lover “or sweetheart”, to which she states, for the record, she’s not interested in men or marriage at the moment. (She also meets the living stuffed animal Perry, whose reason for existing other than being the show’s mascot escapes me).

At one bookstore run by a particularly panicky and paranoid owner, Tsugumi’s failure to find a cursed tome actually makes the poor guy’s year, and Hayato points out to her that doing her job isn’t just about finding books, but putting people at ease when they learn they’re not in possession of them. So it was a good day’s work.

Nil Admirari no Tenbin – Teito Genwaku Kitan – 01 – A Cursed Tome Frees a Caged Bird (First Impressions)

The intense first cold open of Nil Admirari no Tenbin, depicting people committing suicide while cops chase down a guy with a book, did not impress me as much as the opening sequence, with its catchy club beat and stage show extravaganza milieu.

I have a soft spot for OPs and EDs in which the cast “puts on a show” (see also Soremachi and the ending of Kekkai Sensen’s first season). But I’ll admit I also worried this was one of those shows whose OP writes checks the show itself can’t cash (DRAMAtical Murder’s Goatbed-led OP was outstanding; the show was a snooze).

Fortunately, after getting pumped up by the OP, I wasn’t let down by the briskly moving story centered on Kuze Tsugumi, the eldest daughter in an aristocratic Taishou Era family in dire financial straits. Tsugumi has known for a while that in order to save her family she must marry whomever her father can scrounge up. Her little brother Hitaki echoes the suppressed voice in her head saying “what about what you want?”

Tsugumi is short with Hitaki, whom she admits she’s spoiled too much anyway, but when she returns from town with olive branches including a new book and eclairs, she and the family butler find him doused in oil, lighting himself on fire while holding a book.

Fortunately, Hitaki isn’t killed, but his burns require isolation to heal (considering the era, I’m somewhat surprised he survived). Tsugumi and her butler are approached by two hotties in unusual uniforms, which is because the’re from an unusual bureau:  the Imperial Library Intelligence Asset Management Bureau, or simply Fukurou (though I personally kinda like “ILIAMB”.

The men from Fukurou explain that Tsugumi’s brother likely fell victim to a “cursed tome”, a handwritten Japanese-style book containing the emotions—in this case suicidal-by-fire—of its author. When the butler brings the men the book Hitaki was holding when he self-immolated, Tsugumi is shocked to find it has flames emanating from it…but no one else can see them.

The more forward of the two guys, Ozaki Hayato, tells Tsugumi that she’s one of a very rare number of people who can see the “auras” around cursed books, and begs her to join Fukurou right then and there. After the incident with Hitaki her father postpones her marriage, so Tsugumi decides to take the job, essentially being freed from the birdcage of her destiny by cursed tome that nearly killed her brother. She also aims to help stop further incidents form occurring to others.

As the sultry parade-of-shirtless-dudes ED suggests, Tsugumi is not only pivoting from family bargaining chip to empowered modern working woman—an interesting premise in and of itself—but is also an unmarried woman joining a bureau staffed by mostly unmarried men. So we’ve got ourselves an otome anime with a reverse harem. I’m willing to see where this goes for the time being.

3-gatsu no Lion – 38

3GL is delivered in chapters, not episodes, so it’s not unusual for chapters that go long to pour into the next episode. That can sometimes seem random, but it also keeps the rhythm of the show fresh. And while we get three very different chapters, they all contain the same theme: Rei getting over his match and subsequent evening with Souya and rejoining mankind.

The Chairman gives Rei a call and is relieved both that Rei is fine and that he’s taking care of Souya. The Chairman throws a little dig at Rei for being so good at caring for others for his age, but he doesn’t know how much of an affect the Kawamoto sisters have had on him, and Rei may not even know he’s paying their kindness forward.

 

The Chairman also lets Rei in on a little-known fact: Souya’s hearing comes and goes, and the doctors can’t pinpoint anything other than “stess” as the cause.

There’s a great melancholy in the Chairman saying “just leave [Souya] alone and he’ll be fine”, but he’s proven right the next morning, when not only has Souya taken off before Rei, but paid for his room as thanks for assisting him yesterday.

Rei has a tendency to see Souya as some kind of god roaming the earth, unaware of its strange customs; one could also call him (shogi) royalty; a young king who has never had to live in the real world.

And when Souya is gone, the storm is gone as well, replaced by an almost fake-looking blue sky. The blinding white light of his “Souya Storm” match is back up in the sky, hanging there as the sun. It all feels like a weird dream, and Rei gets lost in it.

The sounds of school and other people around him gets muffled, replaced by the crisp sounds of the shogi pieces smacking against the board…almost like a tinnitus.

With the epic “White Storm” over, we get a titular—literal—”Restart” that gives us a fresh dose of the always-wonderful Kawamoto sisters.

Their half of the chapter plays like an after-episode omake, as they give us step-by-step instructions on how to make the perfect pork juice-marinated soft boiled egg, accompanying delectably tender braised pork.

It was nice to check into the sisters’ warm little world—particularly now that Hana (her hair up in a mature bun) is over her bullying ordeal and looking forward to seeing Chiho soon. But I couldn’t help but feel a bit worried by Rei’s text declining the dinner invite.

The last thing we need is him starting to follow in Souya’s footsteps, making the Fausitan deal of shogi divinity in exchange for utter and profound lifelong loneliness as the sounds of the world around him fades out. Let’s not go there, please!

When the chapter returns to Rei, who is so deep in the notes of his match with Souya Shimada has to stop him from getting trucked, my weariness for such a development lingered. However, once Shimada brings up Nikaidou, I was pleased to discover I had nothing to worry about.

Rei is at first shocked Nikaidou is already out of the hospital and playing matches, then worried for his classically shaky health. Shimada also tells him it’s likely Nik is feeling depressed since his absences have forced him to forfeit some matches, making rank demotion a possibility.

But Nikaidou isn’t depressed; he’s right where he wants to be, and when Rei checks in on him, he’s defeated an 8-dan with an all-new move he’s hopeful they’ll name after him. Seeing Rei there only compounds Nikaidou’s manic joy, and when Rei sees how wrong Shimada was and how happy his friend is, he can’t help but smile and laugh—something Souya could never do. I reckon Rei will be fine!

3-gatsu no Lion – 37

Rei has known Souya for years, but like everyone else, has regarded him as some kind of shogi diety, floating above the ground on a higher plane of existence…and shogi. But thanks to his win in the Newcomer Tournament, here he is, sitting opposite Souya, a real, living, breathing human being. Rei isn’t sure if Souya has strayed into his world, or if he has strayed into Souya’s.

As their commemorative match progresses, it’s pretty clear it’s the latter. And you know what? Rei likes it in Souya’s world! It’s a pretty chill place where he doesn’t feel the same pressures or emotions when facing previous opponents.

He’s in the eye of the white storm, where all is quiet, and where there is nothing but shogi, the next move, and the moves after that. Calm, tranquil, and refreshing almost to the point where Rei feels bad for insulting an opponent who defeated him.

And Souya does defeat him, mostly due to an error Rei knows he made the second he placed the piece. In the review, he makes the right move instead, and the Meijin nods. When Rei looks at the palm of his hand, Souya speaks the words “that’s what it’s like.”

Whether Rei can now feel the game through his fingers, the fact remains it was a good match. I’m glad Rei didn’t pull out a miracle win, because that frankly would have not lined up with all we know about Souya, mostly that he’s nigh unbeatable.

Rei doesn’t like losing, but at least he knows when a win simply isn’t in the cards; the gap is too wide, and he hasn’t figured out how he’ll catch up, if that’s even possible. And it wasn’t by any means an embarrasing loss; his match with Souya engendered much lively discussion among their shogi peers.

Last week Rei got his first taste of Souya-attempting-to-act-human at the pre-match reception, and was somewhat troubled by the fact Souya has always been profoundly alone.

Rei, as we know, has a fair amount of Kawamoto in him, and so when the bullet train service is suddenly suspended, he takes care of a disoriented Souya, who proceeds to follow Rei around like a lost puppy.

That being said, Souya has been on this earth longer than Rei, and so whenever Rei can’t find what he’s looking for among the chaotic crush of the station, Souya always seems to quietly point out the proper way forward, be it the ticket booth, finding an inn for the night, and finding an exit that won’t get them drenched.

But yeah, if Souya isn’t physically deaf, he’s certainly close to it…as if he cast off the need to hear sounds because sound isn’t required in shogi.