Attack on Titan – 74 – A Whole New Ballgame

First, a recap of what transpired in the final act of last week’s episode, which was cut short: We check in on the training corps, with Keith Sadies delivering another tough-love drill sergeant speech while some young trainees are muttering about why they’re even talking about fighting Titans. One of them, Surma, blurts out what a lot of them are thinking: they should align themselves with Eren and the Jeagerists in order to secure a future for Eldia.

Right on cue, Floch arrives with the captive Hange, and asks any and all trainees who wish to join them to step forward. He then orders them to prove their loyalty by beating the shit out of Sadies until he can no longer stand…and they proceed to do just that. Looks like the next generation of Eldian fighters are on board with the change of leadership.

Eren looks on from a window as his former comrades sit in a jail. We then check back in on Levi, who successfully captured Zeke. Just as he’s coming to, Levi informs him the detonator for the lightning spear lodged in his chest is connected to Zeke’s neck with a rope, so no quick movements.

He then starts hacking away at Zeke’s feet and ankles, ensuring his Titan healing will keep him from moving around too much. Zeke asks a seemingly mundane question: whether Levi happened to know what happened to his glasses. We learn the distinctive specs once belonged to a Mr. Ksaver, with whom Zeke used to play catch.

That brings us to the next episode, in which Zeke takes his mind off the pain he’s currently experiencing and looks back on his life, starting with the first day his parents took him outside the walls of Liberio. An initially friendly Marleyan janitor tosses his bucket sludge on Zeke and his parents when he spots their Eldian armbands, claiming they’re defiling the clock tower and cursing them for daring to procreate.

Marleyans shout epithets as the Yeager family walks through the streets. Turns out Zeke’s parents intended to show him that his is what it’s like on the outside world, and why Eldians need to fight so their children and children’s children won’t be thus oppressed. Their plan involves making Zeke a warrior candidate…but it doesn’t go well.

Zeke is undersized for his age and not particularly athletic, so despite his best efforts, he falls behind and risks washing out, ruining his father’s plans. Their relationship sours and Zeke falls into depression as someone shunned both by his candidate instructor and his parents. Meanwhile, his father never once just played with him; it was always about business…about the grand plan.

There was only one person in Zeke’s life who didn’t shun him for not shaping up: Tom Ksaver, who happens to be the Beast Titan. Zeke caught Ksaver’s eye when he was struggling with training, and Ksaver reached out to him with nothing but a baseball and the offer to play some catch whenever he wanted.

In Zeke, Ksaver saw a kindred soul; one not inclined for military duty but thrust into it nonetheless. While he’s the Beast Titan, he’s also a researcher, and didn’t seek glory in becoming the Beast, but answers to the mysteries of the Subjects of Ymir, which to him make all the hatred and war in the world seem trivial.

Ksaver impresses upon Zeke that there’s nothing wrong with him just because he can’t walk the path his parents laid out for him. The two of them are simply “decent people, a real rarity” in their world. And because Zeke is constantly overhearing his parents engaging in seditious activity and won’t heed his wish that they stop “doing dangerous things”, Zeke comes to Ksaver with the knowledge his folks are Restorationists.

Zeke was right to trust Ksaver, who tells no one else what he hears, but he also tells Zeke there’s no choice but to turn his parents in. If Zeke does that, he’ll save himself and maybe his grandparents. Ksaver makes it clear that it’s not Zeke’s fault; his parents chose their traitorous paths and there was no saving them. Had they acted a little more like his parents and less like operators, maybe Zeke wouldn’t have done it. But by the time he fingers them and they’re sent away, Ksaver has already been more of a father than Grisha.

That relationship continues as Zeke grows up, and he learns how Ksaver once made the mistake of trying to live his life without an armband. When his wife found out he was Eldian, she slit their son’s throat and then her own. Ksaver has been “running from his sins” ever since, all the while believing it would have been better to have never been born at all. Hearing his Ksaver’s story, and his desire to retake the Founding Titan and save the world, Zeke resolves to inherit the Beast Titan from his mentor.

Near the end of his term, Ksaver shares his findings regarding Zeke’s function as the key to the lock that can break the Eldian vow renouncing war. Before passing the Beast to Zeke, he tasks him with finding that lock: the Founding Titan. Zeke also inherits Ksaver’s distinctive glasses, which is why they were so important to him that he asked Levi about them.

Time passes, and after the scouting mission to Paradis, Reiner and Bertholdt inform Zeke of the identity of the Founding Titan—Eren Yeager, Zeke’s own half-brother. He learns Grisha wasn’t turned into a Titan upon reaching Paradis, but remarried and had another son in hopes of salvaging his plan.

More years pass, and Zeke finally meets his half-brother at the hospital in Liberio, where Eren is posing as a wounded veteran. Eren already heard the gist from Yelena previously, but Zeke reiterates his plan for Eldian euthanization, in which the Founding Titan’s power will be used to sterilize all of the Eldians in the world. If successful, within a century there will be no more Eldians for the rest of the world to hate, and no more Eldians who will have to suffer that hatred.

It’s the equivalent of taking the ball and going home, only the “ball” is their very existence as a race of people. It’s a tough pill to swallow, but history hasn’t been kind to any of the alternatives, to say the least. Eren tells Zeke how he experienced the memories of Grisha slaughtering the wall’s royal family, and could even feel the heads of the children his father killed in his hand.

But where both his father and he (at the time) were wrong is that those children were killed so that they could live. Eren, like Zeke and Ksaver, would rather Eldians didn’t live than have to suffer under the heel of the Marleyans. So he agrees to help Zeke end two millennia of Titan domination. Rather than shake hands to arouse suspicion, Zeke simply tosses Eren a baseball.

Zeke wakes up in a cart driven by Levi through the pelting rain and mutters “Eldia’s sole salvation is its euthanization”. Zeke’s final words are “Mr. Ksaver? I hope you’re watching!!” before triggering the thunder spear detonator and blowing himself up.

Even if Levi survived the blast, he’s probably in pretty bad shape. Meanwhile, I could just make out Zeke’s torso falling to the ground. If there’s enough of him left for the Titan healing to work its magic, and Levi is too injured to keep him restrained, then there’s no longer anyone standing between him and Eren; between the royal blood and the Founding Titan.

The question is, will Eren really carry out Zeke’s monstrous, genocidal plan to relieve Eldia of the “injustice of life?” Or does he have something else in mind? One thing’s for sure: final episode of the final season will be a busy one.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 21 – Naisupitchi!

Guy with the sword with a hand for the grip—who I’ll just call “Guy”—is retreating from the academy through an underground tunnel when a severely injured Hanami smashes through the walls. Guy is ready to put Hanami out of his misery when Mahito appears, telling him that as a human he shouldn’t act alone.

Back on the beach, Hanami and Mahito rejoin Jougo and Getou (and … er … Zoidberg? is still swimming in the ocean). Getou explains to Jougo how Mahito was able to get past the academy barrier maintained by a sorcerer named Tengen: by placing a charm made of Mahito’s Cursed Energy on the finger of Sukuna they collected.

Suffice it to say, thanks to the successful raid on Jujutsu High, their plan is right on track, with Getou setting October 31 and Shibuya as the day and the place they want to unleash the “bomb” that is Sukuna. Meanwhile, the higher-ups of Tokyo and Kyoto meet and agree to keep the theft of the special-grade objects a secret among them, still unsure what the enemy is about to achieve.

We then shift to the infirmary where Yuuji and Nobara are visiting Megumi and eating pizza. This is a momentous occasion, because it’s the first time since Yuuji came “back from the dead” that the three friends have been able to simply kick back! So of course “Big Bro Aoi” has to muscle his way in, leading to him chasing Yuuji around the academy campus.

That brings us to the question: What of the Exchange Event? Rather than be cancelled, everyone agrees it should continue, though with the group event of the first day over, most expect the second day to take its typical form: individual battles. However, when the form of competition is drawn from a box, it’s baseball, so we get a baseball game!

I love baseball, particularly the unique style Japan brings to the game, so I was fine with this! Maki, as you’d expect, can both pitch and hit at an elite level, while Nobara can man the hot corner and beat out a grounder. Kamo Noritoshi (who really should be wearing a helmet) uses the opportunity to speak to Yuuji, who until a few hours ago he was trying to murder.

When Nori hears that the reason Yuuji became a sorcerer, he’s surprised to find it largely matches what his own ostracized mother said to him before they parted ways: save a lot of people so they’ll help you in turn, or even just be with you at your end. After a Nobara hit (off a Mechamaru pitching machine) and a perfect sacrifice bunt from Megumi, Maki socks one out of the park, only for the flying Momo to catch it—which is allowed because they’re short on players.

Maki gets her revenge when Aoi steps to the plate, beaning him as he’s telling Yuuji how he hopes he’ll pitch to him someday, which…there’s just no way to say that without it sounding like something else entirely. (Everyone casually saying “Nice Pitch!” when Maki plunks Aoi is *chefs kiss*.) When Yuuji comes to the plate, the two principals discuss the Yuuji conundrum. The strict interpretation of their laws says he shouldn’t exist, and Gojou’s selfishness kept him alive at the cost of many lives.

At the same time, there’s no denying that Yuuji’s being alive has saved lives that would have otherwise been lost. They tentatively agree to simply continue watching him as they weigh the pros and cons. After all, if they kill him for good they can’t undo it…again…I presume! It’s fitting that Yuuji is the one to hit the homer that puts Tokyo up 2-0, which ends up being the final score thanks to Maki’s lights-out pitching.

The show proved that it can animate baseball (or at least baseball-ish) action just as impressively as it does its battle scenes, while the on-screen graphics were full of great jokes, like the fact that Mei totally stole the ripe mango Kasumi was saving from the fridge…and that despite being able to actually say the word “rice”, Inumaki prefers bread for breakfast.

If there’s one mild complaint I have about Jujutsu Kaisen, it’s that the main trio have been apart more than they haven’t. The preview indicates Yuuji, Nobara and Megumi will be working next case together, which is just what I was hoping for as this second cour starts to wind down.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 09 – Never Make Her Cry

We reset back to before everything turns to shit, but as we’ve learned from the previous arcs, there’s plenty of shit lurking just beneath the shiny happy surface of Keiichi & Co.’s daily life in Hinamizawa. Having had Rika and Mion/Shion-centric arcs, now it’s time for the focus on Satoko.

When Mion brings in fancy leftovers, Mion and Keiichi agree to a cooking duel, but Keiichi is abysmally bad at cooking. Seriously, he’s so clueless he almost burns his house down. Luckily Satoko and Rika are there to not only put out the fire, but salvage his dinner, and Kei-chan is thankful for both.

As Rika puts it to Kei before biking home for the night, Satoko is in need of someone Rika can’t replace: her big brother Satoshi, who ran away from home under myterious circumstances. Despite, or perhaps because of their sibling-like combative manner with each other, Kei makes for the perfect surrogate nii-nii.

Simple things like shopping for ingredients, cooking them, and sharing meals together clearly brightens Satoko’s day immeasurably. Similarly, when Satoko needs someone to cheer her on in a crucial at-bat, Kei arrives just in time, and as a result, she hits the winning home run and wins her team free BBQ.

At this BBQ, during which everyone has fun, Kei meets someone new: Irie, who loves Satoko’s smile, and while he can’t adopt her for “various legal reasons”, has no qualms about citing his plans to eventually ask for Satoko’s hand in marriage when she comes of age. Shion is similarly enamored of Satoko, considering herself a big-sis figure.

Irie’s words to Kei—never make Satoko cry—sound like his prime directive for this arc, which he’ll have to follow to avoid disaster. But that will surely come anyway, since Kei overhears two boys talking about how Satoko’s brother Satoshi was a victim of Oyashiro’s curse.

The destructively-curious Kei is eager to pick at this particular scab, and while Rena will have none of it, Mion tells him more: Satoko’s parents were the leaders of the pro-dam movement, as the gov’t offered big payouts to anyone who agreed to move out of the village. They died falling off an observation deck, which is super-suspicious, while Satoshi is believed to have run away to avoid the curse, but could also have been “demoned away”.

In any case, part of “not letting Satoko cry” means keeping all this under wraps, especially around her. And as we learn, and as I’ve suspected since that unsettling end credits image of her looking frightened as a man in a Hawaiian shirt looms over her, Satoko already has enough to cry about.

As we see the loud, drunk, boorish “Uncle Teppei” lead her into an isolated house, It’s almost a certainty some kind of physical and/or sexual abuse is taking place. For all the people who love Satoko and are watching over her, there’s clearly a huge gap in their blanket of protection. However explicit the arc gets about this, I hope Kei & Co. can manage a way to free Satoko from this particular hell…assuming they ever learn about it.

The Day I Became a God – 01 (First Impressions) – O Ye of Chibi Faith

From Maeda Jun and Key (Air, Clannad, Angel Beats!, Charlotte) comes a new show with a wonderfully simple premise. Ordinary high school senior Narukami Youta encounters a little girl in nun cosplay claiming to be a god, Odin specifically. She doesn’t explain why she’s approached Youta, just that she has, and that the world will end in 30 days.

Their dynamic is pretty predictable, and your mileage may vary on its level of irritating, but Youta is understandably skeptical of this kid with apparent Chuuniboyou, and his attempts to treat her like a kid are met with shrill tantrums. It works for me, and Ayane Sakura and Hanae Natsuki have good comic timing and chemistry. Then you have Youta’s childhood friend and unrequited love, Mikasa Ack–err, Izanami.

“Odin” hacks away at Youta’s doubting bit by bit, first by predicting rain, then a bus getting stuck in traffic, and finally the entire order of a horse race on TV. Youta removes her from the ramen stand and demands an explanation, but he’s already given him one: she’s an omniscient god.

Now that she’s with him, he has the power of the gods. When asked for his wish, Izanami’s heart comes to mind. Odin can’t make her fall for him, but she can help him to become someone she will fall for.

They start with her love of baseball, with Youta challenging the entire team to a one-out game. Odin correctly predicts every pitch but he strikes out looking since she was unaware you only get three strikes. When he approaches Izanami, who was watching, and asks her out with a dramatically gorgeous and romantic backdrop…she rejects him.

Youta remains in a heap as the sun sets, and Odin eventually says they should be heading home. When Youta declares his parents would never take her in, she has him call them, and his mother swiftly approves once he says she’s an grade schooler in a nun outfit. Does his mom know something he doesn’t?

All of Odin’s predictions indicate she’ll also be correct about the end of the world in 30 days. Maeda Jun’s works usually make you laugh at first and then cry a lot later, so the world’s end may be unavoidable. Perhaps the goal is not about preventing the apocalypse, but Youta simply living the last thirty days to the fullest, with the help and power of a god by his side. We shall see!

Isekai Quartet 2 – 01 – Make that QUINtet

You heard that right: characters from a fifth Isekai join the already huge ensemble cast of Isekat Quartet. The first of them, Iwatani Naofumi AKA Shield Hero, is introduced immediately when he peeks into the class where all the other MCs are. He’s not transferring to their class, however: their only transfer student seems to be Megumin’s familiar, Chomusuke…who unlike Puck, has “student” status.

Raphtalia suddenly encounters Kazuma and Ainz Ooal Gown in the hallway and immediately assumes the latter is a monster that needs to be defeated, but Kazuma calms her down and they join her search for Naofumi. Filo, meanwhile, ends up in the pet area with Hamusuke and Death Knight. Raphtalia and Filo are reunited with the Shield Hero when he protects them from a particularly hard-hit baseball from the bat staff of Mare.

That’s pretty much it! The episode’s only eleven minutes, after all. Naofumi decides that while he’s not 100% sure what’s going on, he and his party will try to settle into a school life of following the rules along with the others who have been teleported. It will be interesting to see if he befriends the other lads from Japan…and here’s hoping Melty, Malty, or others from his world show up at some point!

Oresuki – 12 – The Problem is Ongoing

A week after involving Hose, Cherry, and Tsukimi, the library has been saved. But while the more bustling atmosphere doesn’t bother Pansy, continuing to deal with Hose does. Joro hasn’t figured out a way to help her in this matter, so reaches out to Tampopo.

He’s learned through Asunaro that she’s in love with Hose, and thus worked hard to get Pansy a boyfriend so she’d be off the board. She’s too busy with baseball to visit the library after school, so advises Joro to ask Pansy out immediately.

Joro still isn’t emotionally equipped to do that, and so the problem lingers and becomes more complicated. We learn that Sun-chan’s exchange with Pansy last week was to ask her to be his girlfriend if his team made it to Koushien. In the library, when Joro asks to talk to Pansy she tells him she’s accepted Sun’s offer, to the shock of both Hose and Joro. She also tells Joro to stay away from her…”for a while.”

When Joro meets with Sun-chan, his best friend confirms what Pansy said, adding that he’s been a good best friend thus far, and now it’s Joro’s turn to return the favor and “do what he’s supposed to do.” Tsubaki overhears this and grasps the situation, but Joro is still lost in the weeds.

He stays away from the library, working at Tsubaki’s family’s restaurant, he still gets to interact with her, Himawari, Cosmos, Asunaro, and yes, even Sasanqua (who works up yet more courage to offer support to him, but just can’t quite help herself from going Full Tsundere whilst around him).

Joro rightly considers this to still be a pretty sweet deal, and resigns himself to a Pansy-less life. The thing is, Joro read Pansy wrong in this case, and the ever-reliable Tsubaki is there to set him straight. Pansy may have called him a useless nuisance, but she said that and agreed to Sun’s offer to protect him from getting caught up in her problem.

It’s Joro’s choice whether to get caught up, and the “for a while” (rather than “forever”) was a small SOS to invite Joro to choose to help her despite the trouble. And he does just that, strolling into the library as the arrogant jerk Pansy fell in love with in the first place, just as Hose asks her out in the even Sun’s team doesn’t make the cut.

As expected, the unflincingly loyal Cherry and Tsukimi run interference for Hose, but Joro powers through, and Pansy lets him speak. Joro devises a challenge to Hose, giving each girl one of the excess barrettes Tampopo acquired while trying to win his heart. The barrettes represent votes: the girls should give the barrette to the guy they think should be with Pansy.

Predictably, this backfires for Joro, and he’s the only one who didn’t see it coming. Cosmos, Himawari, and Asunaro give their barrettes to Hose, not Joro, and take the opportunity to profess their love for Joro. Since he gave them the choice, none of them are willing to be runner-up. Cherry and Tsukimi actually inspired them to strive for love and friendship.

Hose also rescinds his friendship with Joro, as he cannot be friends with anyone who would keep him from Pansy. That’s kind of false equivalence, however, as it’s Pansy who doesn’t want to be with Hose, and has made it pretty clear! If Pansy and Joro love each other and want to be a couple the two of them need to break some hearts, full stop.

Hose, Cosmos, Himawari, and Asunaro need to be rejected in no uncertain terms. Sadly, so does Sasanqua, while Joro and Pansy need to clearly define their relationship going forward as one of a boyfriend and girlfriend. There can be no more half-measures creating hope for the others.

Will they take those difficult steps in the series-concluding OVA? One can hope. Joro wants to “leave all rom-coms in the dust.” One surefire way for Oresuki to stand out from a crowd is to have an unambiguous final couple.

Oresuki – 11 – Stifled by Righteousness

After Joro dispatches Tampopo for running another kooky op—this time on him with Pansy’s cooperation—Cosmos rushes in to tell them the bad news: the school is shutting down the library. I won’t go into how bizarre and random a development this is…but it’s as bizarre and random as Tampopo’s ops!

Turns out there IS a way to save Pansy’s haven, but it might be a case of the cure being worse than the disease. It’s nice if her friends all tell their friends to start packing into the library, but isn’t the whole point for Pansy that it’s a place of peace, tranquility, and (present company excepted) relative solitude?

Oddly, this quandary isn’t really addressed, and it suffices that the end of the library remaining open will justify whatever means are used. It could also mean that having been warmly welcomed into Joro’s circle of friends, Pansy is ready to graduate to larger social networks.

Instead of exploring whether the rescued library will still be a place for Pansy, the episode instead ruminates on who is helping with the rescue, and why. Enter Hazuki “Hose” Yasuo, the seemingly perfect buddy who helped Joro out in a previous episode. Joro lacks a large group to call upon to help with filling the library, but he does have Hose.

Hose comes to Joro’s school with Sakurabara “Cherry” Momo and Kusami “Tsukimi” Luna, his StuCo president and childhood friend. It’s like “Bizarro” version of Oresuki, with Hose as Joro, Cherry as Cosmos, and Tsukimi as Himawari. They’ve come to help with the library problem in any way they can.

Joro could have probably predicted the resulting interactions would threaten to supplant him as MC. What Joro doesn’t know until it’s a problem is that Hose, Cherry, and Tsukimi all went to middle school with Pansy. Hose is the boy everyone in class wanted her to date, eventually leading her to disguise herself for high school.

At the end of the day, after Joro orders Asunaro to take Pansy to her house to talk newspaper story on the library (so that a visibly uncomfortable Pansy doesn’t have to walk home with Hose), Cherry and Tsukimi meet with Joro, Cosmos and Himawari. They come right out and say it: they’re both in love with Hose, but are putting their friendship with him and each other before those feelings.

They also know he loves Pansy, so they’re dedicated to getting them together. As the wheels turn in Joro’s head, he can’t help but conclude that there’s nothing inherently wrong or malicious about the two girls’ positions. Tsukimi even directly asked Joro if he liked Pansy. When he reflexively responds in the negative, she takes it as the truth.

That truth is all she needs to know that even if Pansy loves him, she’ll eventually have her heart broken, thus their nudging her towards someone who actually has feelings for her. But there’s a piece of this seemingly even-steven puzzle Joro feels is missing.

That piece is revealed and confirmed when he speaks with Pansy about it: Hose “doesn’t understand the other side of people’s feelings,” and his good intentions unintentionally hurt people. He’s hurting the two girls who love him, but he’s so good and kind and righteous that they feel compelled to put his feelings before their own. And he hurt Pansy too, even if he never meant to.

Pansy likens him to a demon. Even when he resisted his own feelings for her in order to protect her from others in middle school, he was only tackling the surface of her feelings. Joro has seen how conveniently things always seem to work out for Hose, but that’s only because, unlike him, Hose simply isn’t seeing the whole picture. His Bizarro counterpart is a cautionary tale: paths of least resistance can still cause great harm and even suffering.

Joro vows to make sure Pansy won’t be hurt or made uncomfortable any more, but while he’s off doing so, Pansy is confronted by Sun-chan, who for some reason thinks his “chance has finally come around,” following that up with an uncouth smirk. I knew they should have excommunicated this dirtbag when he threatened her back then!

Oresuki – 10 – Mission Creep

This week, Joro ends up back on the Bench from Hell, this time sharing it with a new girl. Well, not entirely new, as we caught a glimpse of her when she refused to participate in the Flower Dance. She’s baseball coach Kamata “Tampopo” Kimie, and right off the bat (pun intended), she exudes arrogance and egotism to match any New York Yankee (or Yomiuri Giant).

Joro at least knows full well by now that no good can come from whatever Tampopo wants during their bench chat. Turns out she wants him to help her hook up Sun-chan and Pansy, so Sun-chan will play better baseball, so their school will Win It All and increase Tampopo’s own notoriety.

Tampopo is so confident of her cuteness, she offers Joro a racy picture of her as payment for his services, which he accepts. But Asunaro happened to spot Joro being pulled into the science lab with Tampopo, and so inserts herself into this little venture. In exchange for being able to observe and write about their progress, she’ll also write a glowing article on Tampopo.

Asunaro loves a good story, but she’s also rooting for Pansy to get hooked up with someone other than Joro, which will increase her chances with him. Of course, that still leaves Cosmos, Tsubaki, and Himawari in the way. And while the episode almost forgets about poor sidelined Sasanqua, I won’t—though her brave attempt to ask Joro out to an amusement park while her clique watches…doesn’t go so well. The frikkin’ Queen Bee of his class wants to date him, and he doesn’t see it!

After a very ill-conceived quasi-military operation crashes and burns (earning Tampopo the deserved moniker “Commander Crazypants”) Joro offers a counter-scheme. To serve as the romantic rival Tampopo believes is needed to bring Pansy and Sun together, Joro will come right out and confess to Pansy behind the school. But that’s just what Joro says will take place.

At first I was worried that Joro was again playing games with people rather than being honest and confronting conflicts when they exist (as he’s done thus far in his happy little library group), thus inviting further ire from Pansy. However, that’s not the case! He actually brings Pansy in on this, with the new information that Tampopo and Pansy went to the same middle school.

Back then, before she disguised herself, Pansy was often pressured into getting a boyfriend by her peers. With this scheme, Tampopo hoped to get her a boyfriend by using Joro as an indirect catalyst rather than repeating the direct pressure of the past. She was thinking of Pansy. Tampopo’s baseball connection with Sun was just a happy coincidence.

Pansy then tells Tampopo that she’s already in love with Joro (AKA “Slipper Man”). When asks why she went through so much subterfuge when telling the truth from the start would have been fine, Tampopo hesitates then runs off before telling “the truth.” Is that truth that she actually likes Joro, and was getting Pansy out of the way?

Regardless, this was a mostly self-contained episode designed to introduce yet another girl to Joro’s already sizable cadre, but at the unfortunate cost of marginalizing another (Sasanqua), not to mention stop Himawari’s recent developments in their tracks. It didn’t really feel necessary.

Then there’s Cosmos, whose pained looks this week might be less about being neglected of late, and more because she’s the only one who knows the school is planning to close the library—Pansy’s sanctuary and their sacred meeting place—and not even she as StuCo President can do anything about it. I’m just hoping that on a show now brimming with relationships, a non-relationship plot development won’t get in the way in the last two episodes.

I also hope there’s a second season!

Programming Note: Just as there was no Oresuki episode last week, there’s no Cautious Hero episode this week.

Oresuki – 02 – Golden Sombrero

You’d be forgiven for thinking that Joro’s thankless parallel missions to help both Cosmos and Himawari win the heart of the same guy would continue on for a number of episodes, but this week that’s just a small part of a much bigger picture, as the plot progresses farther than I could have anticipated. Lesser shows might’ve have kept the cupid act going longer, but Oresuki sweeps it all aside in favor of something new. It has more to say. Much more.

It also reveals something I touched on last week: the intentional repetition of situations and dialogue that lend the show an appealing poetic rhythm. While Cosmos and Himawari are equally terrible in executing the plans Joro lays out for them (due mostly to how nervous they get around Sun), their particular ways of bombing are both unique to their characters. It takes a lot of hands-on involvement from Joro to get the two definite dates with Sun.

But it’s not just the girls’ ineptness that makes things hard for Joro. Either consciously or not, Sun is simply hesitant to go on a date with either Cosmos or Himawari, and on Pansy’s urging, learns that there’s a girl Sun already likes. In a third “Darth Bench” scene, Sun confesses to Joro that he’s in love with Pansy, adding further complexity to an already unwieldy love polygon. His story is also very similar to the girls’, as there was a third exit from which he encounter Pansy, who encouraged him after seeing him cry.

This scene with Sun features some subtle yaoi undertones, such that until he specifically said “girl” instead of the vaguer “someone,” I thought Sun might confess his love for Joro. Not only that, after the way Joro genuinely blushes when Cosmos and Himawari mentions his strong bond with Sun, I had to remind myself that Joro was interested (at least initially) in those girls…and hence not into Sun.

Joro refuses to help Sun with Pansy, claiming not to know her well enough (partly true, but also partly a lie) but when Sun brings up a baseball metaphor, Joro responds with advice as if it were about baseball and not love. Sun’s confession of love for Pansy ups the danger for Joro exponentially, since that bombshell renders not just one but both of his cupid missions futile.

When Sun sees Joro talking with Pansy about Sun, and Pansy gets angry for Joro cruelly pushing his friend on her when it’s him she loves,  he gets suspicious. But Pansy of all people bails Joro out, confirming Joro’s claim that they’re not close and were only talking about official school business.

Still, Joro keeps Cosmos and Himawari in the dark, clearly overestimating how much time he has before they find out on their own…which of course they do when Sun does the same thing to the two of them that they did to Joro: ask them to help him get closer to someone else…in this case, Pansy!

That brings us to the Golden Sombrero, a baseball term for when a batter strikes out four times in a game. In this episode, Joro strikes out once when he’s not entirely honest with Sun vis-a-vis Pansy, once when he’s callously dismissive of Pansy, and twice more when he tries to explain to Cosmos and Himawari why he kept Sun’s true feelings from them.

As a result of Joro’s Golden Sombrero, his friendships with both Cosmos and Himawari are in the toilet, all because he took Sun’s words about baseball literally and inadvertently advised him to do what he thought best, which was to ask the two girls he went on a date with about another girl. His friendship with Sun seems secure for now, but Joro is still keeping him in the dark about who Pansy really likes.

That brings us to his latest scheduled meeting with Pansy in the library after some time off, which I assumed was to get a possibly-still-suspicious Sun off their trail. Instead, Pansy comments about how “interesting” things have gotten now that Joro’s plans for the girls have gone up in smoke and the girls are now doing what Joro did for them: supporting someone they love in their quest to be with someone else.

Early in the episode, I wanted to take Joro to task for being so unceasingly hostile towards Pansy in all of their interactions, since we hadn’t really experienced enough of Pansy as a character to justify that attitude. And yet, here we are, with Pansy effortlessly manipulating people and having a gas doing it! She even brings Cosmos, Himawari, and Sun to the library in order to find out how much more interesting things can get.

While that final twist feels very Jerry Springer-esque, it’s entirely earned by the events that preceded it. Sun may be the school’s ace pitcher, but when it comes to twisting people into knots with change-ups and curveballs off the diamond, Pansy wins walking away!

Attack on Titan – 53 – The Ones Who Will Remember

It’s pretty impressive that after 54 episodes—probably about double the number required to tell a complete and satisfying tale—Titan is still bringing it. Armin freezes up after his hunch about Hoover turns out to be wrong, and so defers command to Jean, at least to decide their next course of action.

The thing is, while Jean probably wanted command, he tells Armin striaght up that it won’t be enough to get them out of this. When the rubber meets the road they’ll be relying on Armin’s strategic know-how, even if he’s finding it hard to focus, he’ll have to. Outside the wall, Erwin loses three whole squads in quick gory succession to the Beast Titan’s new tactic of hurling fastballs of rock at his forces.

Jean decides everyone will climb aboard Eren and attempt to distract the Colossal Titan, but screaming at him accomplishes nothing; he keeps heading towards the wall. Eren has to bum rush one of his legs and attempt to knock him down, but the Colossal simply kicks him off, sending him flying to the top of the wall.

Jean, Mikasa, Armin, Sasha and Connie all launch off off Eren before the rush, but instead find themselves confronted with a very alive and very pissed-off-looking Armored Titan. Looks like Hoover’s distraction bought Braun enough time to heal up.

Irwin and Levi spot Eren atop the wall, and Levi suggests his commander take the horses and survivors and withdraw with as many people as he can. Only the new recruits have survived, and the constant rock bombardment is starting to make some of them crack, including one who gives a lengthy monologue about their entire cause being hopeless and pointless, and no one really piping up to argue with him.

Erwin and Levi have an extended (and very moving) talk in which Erwin laments he won’t ever get to see the basement he longed to see his entire life. He also looks around and sees his fallen comrades all around him, watching him, wondering if they were sacrificed in vain. He asks Levi if it was all a sad delusion.

Levi is respectful, thanking Erwin for getting them this far, but it’s time to give up on the dream, lead the recruits into hell, and die. If he does, Levi will have that much better a shot at taking down the Beast Titan.

Still, Levi wonders how he can even reach the Beast when he’s on on a wide open field. In this, the Beast’s vanity and desire to present a show of devastating force leads to him making a critical tactical error: all of the large Titans spread out on either side of him provide the perfect ODM path for Levi.

That leaves Erwin to fire up his shaky, demoralized recruit squad, and shows why he was born to lead with a rousing motivational speech for the ages, which he starts up when one of the recruits asks why it matters whether they die fighting or cowering in a corner:

No matter what dreams or hopes you had, no matter how blessed a life you’ve lived, it’s all the same if you’re shredded by rocks. Everyone will die someday. Does that mean life is meaningless? Was there even any meaning in our being born? Would you say that of our fallen comrades? Their lives…were they meaningless? No, they weren’t! It’s we who give meaning to our comrades’ lives! The brave fallen! The anguished fallen! The ones who will remember them are us, the living! We die trusting the living who follow to find meaning in our lives! That is the sole method by which we can rebel against this cruel world! My soldiers, rage! My soldiers, scream! My soldiers, fight!

Hell, I was ready to charge into battle after that. By splitting into three groups and launching smoke flares simultaneously, Erwin hopes to affect the Beast’s accuracy enough to draw out the charge as long as they can, giving Levi the time he needs to reach his target. Unfortunately, Erwin is pierced through the torso in the first moments of the charge, which likely means his time is finally up.

So, did Erwin believe what he told the recruits to motivate them? Is he confident he gave his fallen comrades’ lives meaning, and does he trust those who outlive him to give his life meaning as well? We’ll see. But whatever happens to him, the Scouts, and the mission, let it be said that through his actions Erwin Smith rebelled against the cruel world until his final breath.

3-gatsu no Lion – 28

Hina is the focus again this week, and the show is all the better for it; it’s good to see that while he still has plenty of doubts, in this situation Rei is the one who isn’t emotionally at sea, and even has a concrete path he’s following for the sake of the girl who saved her. Hina has been all but a co-protagonist this season, giving Hanazawa Kana some really good material to work with and simply letting her do her thing.

In case her middle school life can never return to its former normalcy (and even that was a bit of a charade), Rei continues to familiarize Hina with shogi, which served Rei well in the past as an escape from unfavorable conditions, and is now the game that pays his bills. Rather hilariously, Rei proves as bad at going easy on Hina (even though he’s trying) as he is good at competing professionally.

Sitting alone with Hina in her room (for the first time), Rei feels it’s a suitable time to ask Hina to tell him, in small bits, in her own time, what’s going on at school. Hina describes, among other things, an oppressively awkward and hostile atmosphere and “an invisible hierarchy” in which “your ranking decides how loud you can laugh or how much freedom you’re allowed.” In other words, every damn middle school classroom, ever.

Of course, not all classrooms are like that, but by no means an uncommon atmosphere, and both Hina and Chiho are partly victims of bad luck, and partly victims of their own selfless personalities. While changing that atmosphere may be nigh impossible, it’s much easier to bypass it.

Takahashi asks for Hina by name and invites her to play catch with him during lunch. He tells her Rei came by his house to play shogi with his dad and granddad—a granddad usually bedridden, but a spring chicken before Rei and a shogi board.

In any case, Takahashi understands the situation, and tells Hina if the classroom is ever too much, they can simply play catch. Hina is overjoyed.

The joy—and the prudence of Rei involving Takahashi—is short-lived, and the bullies escalate by scrawling slurs on Hina’s desk (albeit in chalk; these girls aren’t yet to the point where they’re gouging the wood).

Their leader also calls Hina a bitch under her breath, but Takahashi seems to hear it, or at least can read the room, then invites the three hellions to join him and Hina in their game of catch.

Before I could ponder whether Takahashi was trying to quell the conflict through inclusion, he unleashes some game-level heat at the fawning bullies, sending them running off.

Then Takahashi tells Hina why he did what he did: Chiho once gave him half of her lunch when his bento box fell in the dirt. He knew then, as he knows now, that anyone who shares their food with you is a good person, and he doesn’t think Hina should be afraid to show she has allies in this war.

It’s sweet, sweet revenge and a wonderful sentiment, but I knew its effects would be temporary, and perhaps even cause further escalation. That night, while playing shogi with Hina, Rei apologizes for introducing another element into her problem so recklessly.

But Hina is grateful for everything Rei has done, and is happy he is always asking her what she wants. She’s just frustrated that she doesn’t know…or that she does know, but knows there’ll be no turning back if she does that, because two wrongs don’t make a right and such, right?

Rei has always felt that Hina is stronger than him, and he’ll never surpass her in that regard. The bullies may be having their fun drawing awful stuff on the chalkboard, but they’re not just causing Hina pain…they’re making her madand toughening her. Rei realizes that his pacifist nature may not apply to Hina, and that simply becoming invisible, shuffling off to stare at bushes or play shogi may not be the best options for her.

So when the teacher asks Hina for an explanation, she stands tall, proud, and tearless, and tells the truth: she doesn’t know; she didn’t write that; it was written there before she came to class. The teacher seems to remember the Chiho situation she handled so badly (Chiho is now in psychological rehab, unable to even respond to Hina’s letters). One can hope she’ll handle things a little better this time.

Just Because! – 06

Morikawa’s Sunday request to Souma for a chat goes unanswered into Wednesday. Why? Souma is weary of breaking the “stalemate,” unaware of what someone who outright rejected him could possibly want to talk about.

While that’s festering, Komiya continues her campaign to become Izumi’s friend, believing it will net her the benefit of him giving permission to use the photo. Rather than absense, she’s hoping her constant presence will make his heart grow stronger.

They have lunch in the depressing office where Izumi studies alone, and Souma catches him being fed by Komiya. “It’s not what it looks like!” Izumi protests. Maybe not, but things seem to be moving in that direction!

Souma and Izumi have a talk about Morikawa’s text, and Izumi suggests they settle it with baseball…again. If he hits a homer off Izumi, Souma must respond. If Izumi strikes him out, he’ll “be clear” with someone whose name he’d rather not say (though I’m assuming it’s Natsume; isn’t that why he’s studying; to get into a college near hers?)

Once more, Souma and Izumi’s two-man, one-out game becomes the focal point on which all others are focused, from Komiya (literally focused with her camera) and Natsume (who can tell Izumi’s doing his best) to Morikawa, who almost, almost breaks out her trumpet, remembering Souma liking it, even though she thinks she sucks.

The next day, Komiya gets some reasonable advice to back off from Izumi since getting closer isn’t working, but it becomes immediately clear Komiya isn’t capable of backing off in a realistic manner, and even if she did, it would have no effect on Izumi.

Natsume, inspired by both Izumi and Souma, gives Souma an eraser as thanks for him lending her one years ago. Souma is understandably confused, and unfortunately Natsume leaves it there without any further information, forcing Souma to, as Izumi says “figure it out for himself.”

Later, one of Natsume’s friends (one of three all rooting for her and Souma) asks straight-up if Natsume even likes Souma. Natsume doesn’t know anymore. She’s torn between the elation of that eraser lend in the past, and the presence of Morikawa in the present, and of course, the tests that will determine her future.

Souma, meanwhile, finally gets back to Morikawa, only for her to procrastinate over responding to him. These damn kids, I tellya! Fortunately, Inui kinda forces the issue by telling Souma where to find Morikawa, who is practicing trumpet by the river. She plays for him, and it only makes him repeat how much he likes her. Her playing! But her too.

Then Souma gets a victory (well, he’d call it that) he never saw coming: Morikawa wants more time to give him a final answer; he’s not rejected. His raw elation upon hearing this was palpable. They come to a detente; planning a celebration when Natsume’s tests are done. But they dare not hang out one-on-one…why, I don’t know.

Meanwhile, Izumi is jogging when he comes upon Komiya, who has been busted by the cops for taking photos of someone without permission. The sequence is chopped up a bit, but it’s apparent he came to her aid, and he offered to ride her home on her moped.

Natsume just happens to spot the two, looking every bit like a couple to the untrained eye, before they motor off. Could Izumi actually be warming to the more accessible girl? Or is he just being the good friend Komiya wanted him to be? Whatever the case, it’s pretty likely Natsume will see what anyone else would see: Izumi and Komiya looking very close.

Just Because! – 05

It’s a new year and a new semester; the last for all of our main characters (save Komiya). So why is everyone so bent out of shape (save Komiya)? Well, the events of last weeK—Natsume and Izumi having a fight and leaving on bad terms, and Morikawa shooting Souma down—had lasting repercussions.

Neither Izumi nor Souma want to go to school, and who can blame them? But now that Izumi and Natsume had time to cool down, both realize the error of their ways and wish to apologize to one another, because they really do care about each other. If anything, the fight demonstrated to both of them that they cared more than they knew.

Unfortunately, the reconciliation isn’t prompt; Natsume finally finds Izumi (who studies by himself in his own room…?), but Komiya is already there, monopolizing him, so Natsume bails with Morikawa and Noriko, and she ends up telling them what transpired with Izumi, and how she wants to fix it.

Morikawa also wants to fix things with Souma. Even if her rejection would ultimately stand (nothing’s 100% certain), in hindsight she believes she brought the hammer down too hard; it was her first confession, and one could say she panicked. It’s not that she dislikes Souma, she just doesn’t think she knows him well enough to start dating.

Natsume, putting Morikawa’s feelings ahead of her own in this matter, encourages her to talk it out with Souma; he’ll probably be happy for increased dialogue, and come to understand Morikawa’s position as more nuanced than “you’re trash.”

It’s not just Morikawa’s rejection that has Souma down in the dumps. This is his last semester, then it’s off to the factory, where he thinks he won’t be able to have fun anymore. A senpai invites him to a factory baseball game, and he’s shocked to see how into it the old fogies are.

Thanks to Izumi being in the right place at the right time, he’s able to produce the glove Souma tossed in the dumpster (the incorrect dumpster, mind you!), and Souma immediately makes an impact on the game that endears him to his future comrades.

On his way home, Souma runs into his mom, also on her way home. We see that Souma has been looked after by his grandparents, as his mom is really frikkin’ busy at work. But in a really sweet scene between the two, she tells him it’s worth it.

In a day’s time, Souma is feeling much better about himself, life, and the future…and that’s before Morikawa reaches out to him so they can talk more.

Having given Morikawa advice that talking things out properly is best, Natsume can’t very well not practice what she preaches! In a particularly romcom-ish coincidence, she and Izumi encounter each other at the monorail stop, and have the whole train to themselves.

Natsume tries to break the ice by joking about what book he bought (he says it’s manga, but it’s really a college prep book), but it backfires, so she says sorry, and then says she’s sorry about the other night as well. Izumi, in turn, apologizes back.

And while she says it’s not because of him or anything, she’s going to make a concerted effort to make her feelings clear to Souma, and face whatever’s to come after that. However, they part ways before it’s clear to Natsume why Izumi said what he said, nor is it clear to Izumi if Natsume realized how he actually felt about her.

There’s still lots of work to do…but everyone’s either talking again or about to talk again, so there’s hope that more will become clear in time.