Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku – 03

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On Cloud Nine after her upset victory over Himi, Eruna is already prepared to take over the school and the world with the power she just awakened. She also believes she’s already won the heart of Mikagura Seisa, whom she fantasizes about embracing her like a lover in her trademark delusions.

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Last week we saw a glimpse of Eruna’s potential, but she’s clearly jumping the gun, so this week she gets a sobering, but not devastating, dose of reality. Seisa invites Eruna and Himi to her mansion and her room and even indulges Eruna by praising her and patting her on the head, a gesture Himi mimics, to Eruna’s elation.

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Seisa is right: Eruna really only won because Himi let her guard down and didn’t go in for the kill before her opponent’s power could awaken. If they faced off again, Himi would almost certainly win. Eruna isn’t so sure, and in her hubris, agrees to a practice battle against Seisa herself, but she’ll be kicked out of the “Going-Home Club” (is that really even a club?) if she loses.

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Prior to her battle, Eruna soaks in another practice battle, between Imizu Asuhi (telescope boy) and Akama Yuuto (drama club rep) Unlike Himi with Eruna, the experienced Akama doesn’t waste any time dispatching the rookie with ease. It’s an effective warning to Eruna not to take a peactice battle against a veteran lightly.

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Well, it would be effective, if Eruna weren’t so gosh-darn cocky and sure she’ll be able to take out one of Seisa’s crystals. Just as it covered her first fancy breakfast at the school, the very on-top-of-things newspaper club prints a very timely extra about the Eruna/Seisa clash, complete with bikini shots of Eruna that get her cousin very excited.

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In the battle that followed, Mikagura showed that Eruna isn’t going to pull off a win and get her way every week just because she’s awakened her power. She manages to fly all over the field of battle like lightning, but when she lands a blow on a crystal her hand goes right through it, and her beam fails to manifest. Eruna doesn’t even see Seisa snatch her crystals out of the air and smash them with her bare hands. It’s a total, utter defeat, and Seisa isn’t particularly nice about it, either: “Nice try. Too bad.”

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Thus chastened, kicked out of Seisa’s club, and served generous portions of humble pie, Eruna retreats to a quiet corner of the school to lick her wounds and munch on that pie. She’s joined by Kuzuryu, who offers her milk and a light kick in the bum, but to his surprise, Eruna can’t drink milk and haughtily requests something else form him, preferably in the 300-yen range. It’s a nice senpai/kohai moment that cheers Eruna up and gets her thinking about her next steps.

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With no existing clubs up her alley, Eruna decides to form her own, the nature of which is TBD (Seisa Fan Club doesn’t count, I imagine). But in an act of defiant perseverance, she marches up to the walls of Seisa’s giant mansion, builds a “clubroom” out of cardboard, and prepares to spend the night in it, promising Seisa (who happens to be listening from her window) she’ll keep growing and improving (a rookie battle she might be able to win is coming up), so she can one day face off against her once again.

Seemingly moved by Eruna’s determination and pluck, she meets her out in the rain and lets her move into her mansion, if only the hallway where she’ll be allowed to set up her sleeping bag. Eruna wanted to take big huge leaps to greatness, but smaller steps and more incremental goals are going to be the way to go. It’ll be tough, but no one’s ever going to accuse Eruna of not being tough!

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Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku – 02

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I’m really digging Mikagura’s reverse-gender shonen story and its boisterous, manic energy. But as rowdy and enthusiastic as Eruna is, she remains homeless and hungry, and joining the Going Home Club only netted her an extra minute in the shower and a tiny portion of natto. She has to start winning battles…but how?

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Eruna decides to visit all the high-ranking clubs seeking advice. Kuzuryuu ignores her, Himi will only help if Eruna buys her dessert (which she can’t afford), Seisa doesn’t even let her in the house, and while Imizu Asuhi is so cute and feminine Eruna could swear he’s a she, she ends up accidentally setting off his telescope gun. The recurring theme of these encounters is clear: this is something she needs to figure out for herself, as they did. If she can’t, she doesn’t deserve to be there.

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With no direction whatsoever, Eruna takes a game Shigure up on his offer to assist her, and while she comes up with cool names for the moves she tries on him, at the end of the day, she’s only hitting him with her bookbag and sleeping bag, then getting pulled back into her dating sim and her beloved 2D GF Yuriko (the timing of this joke is great). The rest is merely her delusions…and she knows that…but she’s not sure what else to do.

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When she crosses paths with Seisa, she delivers a confession of sorts; that the whole reason she came to the school was because she wanted to hang out with a lovely person like the girl in the brochure, and she’s committed to trying her very best to make her proud of her.

The exchange reminds me of what a male character of similar background and personality might say to the girl he likes (if he had he the guts to do so), only Eruna happens to also be a girl (and does have the guts). She’s just a super-likable character I can’t help but wanna root for. I know, that’s the point, but she show hit the mark well.

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But as her battle neared, and Eruna showed no signs of being remotely prepared, I’ll admit I started to feel a little apprehensive. Eruna can imagine whatever positive outcome she likes and delude herself that’s it’s going to happen, but she gets a cold dose of reality when what she considers a pretty clever ambush attempt is foiled easily by the experienced Himi. Himi is also pretty cocky, remarking how she wants to wrap this dawdle up soon so she can go eat some snacks.

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Just when the weight of what defeat would mean begins to slowly descend upon a limping, winded Eruna, she comes across a door covered in seals that release when she touches it. Inside is a room full of light where a slightly more throwback version of herself tells her to awaken her power; the power she had inside all along, but just didn’t know how to tap into. After this encounter, a switch goes off, and suddenly Eruna is dodging Himi’s attack with ease and flying through the school like a bat out of hell.

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As Eruna’s strength, speed, and agility rise exponentially, she’s overcome by a combination of disbelief and excitement, and the animation of the episodes gets bolder and jauntier to keep up with her. With a great beam of light emanating from her index finger, she shatters all three of Himi’s crystals simultaneously, earning her a decisive upset win.

Perhaps her delusions of greatness were really an expression her hidden power trying to emerge. Now they have, and that greatness is no longer just a delusion.

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It’s a win the whole school watched from their smartphones, including Seisa, who certainly looks impressed with what she saw, and all of a sudden Eruna is no longer the over-fantasizing, hapless rookie underdog…but an imposing upstart who’s only just cracked the surface of the potential her bloodline has passed down to her.

Perhaps most important, people will start to stop looking down on her; not just because she can soar high into the sky now, but because she made the same breakthrough all of them made before her. Now she really is one of them.

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Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku – 01 (First Impressions)

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My watchlist has suddenly become stuffed with halfway-decent coms, be they rom or not. The latest to grace my LCD is MGK, which delivered a dense, crisp, madcap romp around the suddenly far-more-interesting life of the orange-haired spark plug that is Ichinomiya Eruna, who dominates the episode. This is not a bad thing.

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Just as there are many moods and sides and expressions to the show in which she stars, Eruna is a satisfyingly-realized, complex goofball of a girl who gets lost in her dating sims (in which she dates girls, whom she seems to prefer), and we get lost in them right along with her. She occupies a very interesting character zone: like girly than Sakura Chiyo; less hulking than Onizuka Hime; less…male than Katsuragi Keima (Did I mention I love all those guys?), and yet far more than the sum of her parts.

She’s sorta like a chuuni with her delusions, which are a means of relief from the mundane world in which she live. She’s the dashing heroine in her daydreams, but looks and acts like the dashing heroine in real life too—complete with her cape-like scarf—only that life isn’t taking her seriously. She longs for a place that does…a place where she can spread her wings and have some fun.

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Eruna’s cousin Shigure (who seems to have a one-sided thing for her) manages to pique her interest in Mikagura High where he attends, but because of the fact their uniforms kick ass. And you know what? They DO. Not only that, Eruna decides if Mikagura is the kind of place she can meet gorgeous angels like Mikagura Seisa, the principal’s granddaughter…well, where does she sign up?

Having established that Eruna is not really just shallow, but yearning for a more interesting existence, Mikagura feels like a good fit right off the bat. For one thing, everyone customizes those awesome uniforms just like she does with her yellow scarf. For another, the clubs battle each other with their club skills in exchange for more favorable living conditions, pride, and other perks.

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Mikagura is full of colorful characters who flaunt the dress code. Eruna is beside herself with glee at the sight of all the cuties, who she meets in a kind of gauntlet of cute. To her credit, she manages to express her excitement in different ways each time. She’s truly a girl of a thousand expressions.

When she learns the rough side of the coin—that she’s starting at the bottom of the pile with nothing, she doesn’t despair. So what if right now all she has is a sleeping bag in the drafty hall, side dishes for dinner and navy showers? She has a feeling she’s going to have fun here…and she won’t be on the bottom forever.

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To her delight, she also gets to meet the cover girl herself, Mikagura Seisa, the water to Eruna’s fire if ever there was one. Eruna watches in awe as Seisa calmly douses a minor dispute between Mr. Artiste and some green-haired (literally), green-horned (figuratively) whelp.

When Seisa approaches Eruna, whose enrollment was recommended by the floating cat Bimii (well, that’s what Eruna calls him), things get even better, as Seisa personally invites her to join the illustrious and exclusive “going home” club, on the condition that she sub for her in the next club battle. Eruna is, not surprisingly, SO DAMN OKAY WITH THIS.

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That brings us back to the show’s cold open. The tense atmosphere, dark aesthetic, and scenario of one student fleeing another who corners and appears to waste her with a camera flash initially had me thinking this might be more of a Braverade number, a la Akuma no Riddle. Only when Eruna met her in the end did I learn the girl chased and flashed was Seisa.

Was this a flashback or forward? Was this a taste of some heavier things going down in the future, or just a tease? Considering the bright, playful tone of the episode that followed, I’m inclined to think the latter, but that’s okay. I’m fully on Eruna’s side, and whatever club activity she ends up choosing, watching her stumble, fall, get back up, dust herself off, and kick some ass should be fun.

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