Fruits Basket – 04 – Boarish Manners

That meek, soft-spoken girl at the door who wants to see Ryou? Uh, she’s not so meek once she sees him for the first time in four months. She delivers upon him a beatdown the likes of which we’d yet to see if this series, far beyond his sparring with Yuki. Turns out that’s just how Souma Kagura expresses her affection…with extreme prejudice. Her two-sided personality is voiced by the supremely talented Kugimiya Rie.

Kyou’s two years older, self-professed fiancee (based on a promise he made at knife-point when they were kids), Kagura demands to know where she stands, and doesn’t like how there’s another woman living in his house, albeit one who can’t hug him without making him turn into a cat. Since they’re both Soumas and Zodiac animals, she can hug him freely.

Kagura is clearly much stronger than Kyou, and so basically rolls himself into a ball and endures her savage beatings, but he dares to silence her when she starts mentioning his “true form” to Tooru. As someone who hasn’t yet found her first love, Tooru can’t help but feel a little jealous that Kagura loves someone as deeply as she does.

Repairing the substantial damage to Shigure’s house takes up much of the day (especially with Shigure and Yuki pointedly not helping), and before long, Kyou’s stomach starts to grumble. Tooru offers to start dinner, as is routine, but Kagura stops her in her tracks. Tonight, she’ll be the one to feed her beloved Kyou. The resulting feast reduces the food supply in the fridge to nothing, but as seems to be Kagura’s M.O., she got a little carried away.

As good as the food looked, part of me expected it to taste vile or some such, but nobody even gets to eat any of it, as Kyou snaps at Kagura when she says it’s ready, and she responds by driving him through the floor and onto the feast, ruining it all. With no other food to cook, Kagura heads out to the grocery store in a huff.

It isn’t until she’s at the checkout that she realizes she left her purse at home, but Tooru bails her out by paying for her, and the two women walk home together. When asked, Tooru specifies her “love” the sign of the Cat more than overt romantic love for Kyou himself, and is “humbled” by the extent of Kagura’s love.

Here we have another example of Tooru not judging someone as volatile as Kagura, but rather believing in her and her long-standing love for Kyou. Kagura in turn thanks Tooru for coming for her, and the two make hamburger steaks together. This time, when everything is ready, Tooru climbs up to the roof to tell Kyou.

Up there, she tells him how lucky he is that someone cares for him and worries about him so much—not surprising, coming from someone who was loved by her parents, but lost them far too soon.

She also brings up peoples’ dreams, whether Kagura’s dream of marriage to someone she can truly embrace, to Kyou’s love of martial arts. Tooru sees another side of Kyou as he lights up talking about martial arts. It’s clearly not just about beating Yuki, but becoming better and better at it.

When Tooru gets Kyou to come down to eat, Kagura presents him with a hamburger steak a little different from the others: his has a fried egg on top, like the fried egg he was drawing in the sand when they first met, which was when Kagura basically fell for him. Kyou tastes his dinner and through his sheepish silence expresses his approval and thanks.

The next morning, Kagura has to leave, and bids Kyou farewell with a big hug, followed by one last beatdown. Kyou says some unkind words, and Kagura responds by punching through the front door…and straight into the chest of the paperboy.

Yuki manages to distract the civilian, but Tooru finally learns that Kagura is the sign of the Boar—very appropriate considering her propensity for charging headlong towards her goals. When Tooru compliments her as the cutest boar anyone could ever ask for, she transforms back into a woman—a naked woman, on Kyou’s back.

That brings us to a cliffhanger that threatens the relative peace of the last four episodes, as well as the status as Tooru’s new home and life. She gets a call from her grandfather, and the contents of the message are enough of a shock for her to drop the gardening books she checked out. Is Tooru doomed to lose everything once more, after an all-too-brief taste of happiness?

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 07 – The Victory Gardener

When Naofumi’s trader friend sends him to a village in dire need of a huge order of herbicide, he, Raphtalia and Filo soon find out why: What started as a “miracle seed”, ironically provided by the Spear Hero Motoyasu to end a famine, grew into a scourge of a vine that not only overruns the village but infects its children like a parasite and breeds plant monsters that mere adventurers can’t defeat.

Naofumi goes above and beyond his duty by not just delivering the herbicide, but healing the kids with his potion lore, and with Raph and Filo providing the offense while he provides defense and support, defeats the central plant monster, leading to the destruction of the network. It honestly isn’t that difficult a quest, now that Naofumi and his two wards are so powerful.

Having cleaned out the village elders’ entire supply of cash, he agrees to take the rest of his payment in trade; specifically, the fruits he himself developed by altering the seeds so they won’t cause anymore trouble, just bear profitable fruit. With that, Naofumi returns to the trader with the merchandise, and he in turn offers another delivery job, this time to a hot springs village.

Here, the rivalry between Raphtalia and Filo for Naofumi’s attention kicks into the next gear, with Raph learning the romantic qualities of the bath she’s in only to learn Filo is already sharing her bath with Naofumi, or when she brings milk to share with Naofumi only to find him combing Filo’s hair. Raphtalia considers Filo an interloper: she was there first, and Naofumi is hers.

She tries once again to win Naofumi over once and for all by going off on her own to find a crystal called latium (an ingredient in love potions) that can be obtained from the nest of a certain native bird, only to find Filo is on a similar quest to make Naofumi her “mate”…and collect some eggs for eating. But when Filo almost falls off a cliff, Raph catches her, and when the giant silverback they landed on chases them, Filo transforms and has Raph jump on so she can jump to safety.

The trip to the birdsnest is short and unproductive, again due to the silverback, but Raph and Filo decide not to let the boar boss them around anymore. They work together to slay it, trade it in to some villagers for cash, and use it to purchase an expensive metalcrafting hammer for Naofumi, as a token of their mutual gratitude. Insofar as Naofumi can be touched by anything, he seems touched by the gesture.

Raph and Filo can be pretty irritating when competing, but thankfully far more fun to watch when collaborating. As for Naofumi, he’ll probably never see either of them as anything other than kids…and if you think kissing will get you pregnant, you kinda are a kid.

Juuni Taisen – 01 (First Impressions)

“My, such a new building, completely abandoned.” A curious opening line, as the entire city surrounding the building is similarly abandoned. The building, and the city, have been prepared for the Holy Grail Zodiac War, and this lady, “The Boar”, is one of its twelve participants, all with an animal aesthetic matching a certain sign of the Chinese Zodiac.

My immediate thought was this is a Fate-style Battle Royale, with anthropomorphized Zodiac signs instead of historical figures. There’s a (mostly) civil opening ceremony (only one person is dead before the official start) with an “Observer” named Duodecuple. Rather than command seals, each warrior gets a black jewel they must swallow. Whoever collects all eleven jewels (presumably by cutting them out of people) will get one wish of their choice.

We’re even introduced to The Boar as her backstory cuts in and out of the present-day festivities, explaining how she, and not the little sister her abusive asshole father chose, is the Ino Family representative in the Juuni Taisen. Basically, she ordered her sister to kill more and more people in more gruesome ways until she finally went mad and killed herself. So we know this Boar lady is someone who won’t even let blood get in the way of achieving her goals. She’s also, well, pretty goddamn evil.

We only get the slightest bits and pieces from the other eleven members, (whose character designs range from boring and obvious to outrageously wacky) through Boar’s lens, though she clearly has it in for Monkey, who has a Class Rep aura about her, and asks if anyone will help her win so she can wish to bring everyone back. Ultimately only the narcoleptic and the singularly crazed, half-naked Rabbit-Boy (who already killed someone) join her.

Then the ground literally opens up around the twelve, resulting in a bit of chaos Boar thinks she’s prepared for, what with her dual automatic rifles with unlimited ammo. However, she didn’t consider that Bunny killed the guy so he could turn him into a zombie thrall, which is what he does because he’s a necroman”tist” (not “cer”).

All of a sudden, the one character we’ve spent any meaningful time with, and the only one whose thoughts we’ve heard, is on the edge of death at the very beginning. She pegged herself as one of the top 3 challengers in this battle, but…here we are.

Juuni Taisen is, in a word, serviceable. It looks very nice, with imaginative and often just-plain-weird design by the creator of Arakawa Under the Bridge and some very smooth and competent combat animation.

Cons include the Boar not being that likable a character and there being nothing about this premise that’s particularly original or exciting. But as it airs on Tuesday, which is, in my experience, usually a light day for anime, so…we’ll see.

Ore Monogatari!! – 10

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It’s another unapologetically, unrelentingly feel-good episode of My Love Story!! as Takeo and Rinko have their first big adventure as a couple. Making up for not spending her whole birthday with her, they go on a picnic to the woods, but it ends up much more of a hike, as in, up a mountain.

Ironically, it’s the very shiny and elaborate pin Takeo got for Rinko that gets them into trouble: a bird tries to steal it, and the sweater attached to it; Rinko leaps out to grab her precious gift from her boyfriend, and is about to fall off a huge sheer cliff. Takeo plucks her out of the sky, but the two end up falling all the way down to the bottom.

Do we believe he would be able to fall such a great distance on his back? Sure, why not! Especially when doing so offers such great sight gags.

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There was a little Re-Kan! in my Ore this week, as Rinko lets out quite a few little ghosts of romantic excitement/embarrassment. She’s basically on cloud nine as Takeo performs feat of strength and manliness after feat of strength and manliness, even though all of it comes naturally to him.

To him, the things he does for her are simply his duty as Rinko’s boyfriend. She rewards him by being cute and providing a delectable lunch. But I also like how often she assures him that she’s “all right”, she’s not going to shatter in a million pieces if Takeo isn’t careful; she’s tough too!

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I really enjoyed the cuts to what everyone else was up to, from Takeo’s no-nonsense mom “he’ll show up eventually!” and dad (now we see where he got his rugged good looks), to Rinko’s gaggle of friends, who can’t quite accept that Takeo is hotter than Suna as Rinko believes, but won’t deny he’s plenty manly. When Rinko’s mom calls one of them asking where she is, they assume she’s spending the night with Takeo, and do what friends in this situation do: cover for her.

Not that she’s really up to anything that untoward. Takeo and Rinko are stranded in the woods as a matter of circumstance, and make the best of it. Rinko is nervous about being with Takeo, but also feels safe, particularly when Takeo plucks a charging wild boar off the ground and tosses him into oblivion.

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There’s a bit of confusion as to what’s going on with the sky, as first it’s pitch dark, then the full moon comes out, and then there’s lots of stars. But no matter; I don’t watch this show for astronomical accuracy. I watch it for moments like when Rinko notices Takeo has drifted off, and as thanks for all of his hard work (and also because she just plain wants to), she plants a tender kiss on his cheek. It’s her first, but surely not their last.

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In the morning, Takeo wakes up to find a sleeping Rinko, completing the circle, and also gets to watch her arise from her slumber in the cutest way possible. Takeo’s general comfort in the wilderness is underscored by the fact he’s surrounded by birds and small mammals who feel as safe around him as the most important small mammal in his life; the one with the pigtails.

They continue their trek until they find the road and a bus, and head back to civilization. Rather than upset, Takeo’s mom is just like “Oh, the mountains. okay!” (She’s so awesome) and Rinko’s mom isn’t going to be mad because her friends covered for her, and want all the details of her night with Takeo.

Rinko’s vague phrasing (“my first time”, etc.) excites her friends to no end (right up until she mentions the boar, that is) while Takeo demands Suna show him how to send emoji to Rinko so he can properly express emotions he can’t easily put into words. Still, the words both in his head and in hers, which we as the audience are privy to, remain clear as crystal: these two love each other so much, and it’s an absolute JOI to watch them.

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Ben-To – 02

You and Hana join Sen’s club, and learn many crucial rules of the game: always wait for the God of Discounts to finish; Never take more than your fill; have respect and pride. But these are the rules of wolves; there are other beasts to content with, like a boar who breaks all of the rules, or a storm of pigs who would clean the place out. With help from the Wizard, You successfully wins the Bento with the honor seal, and thus the day. But Oshiroi’s obsessive friend Ume Shiraume has taken her hostage and won’t let her befriend anyone else.

Another fantastic effort for a series that looks to be extremely strong as the fall season progresses. This week we learn supermarkets are not only arenas, they are jungles; ecosystems with well-defined hierarchies, and each member of that system has its roles, strengths and weaknesses. After essentially being swept into the club (he had to sign while Sen had him in a choke hold), You has definitely gotten into the swing of things. It’s likely up to this point his life has been dull and monotonous; this new element is just the thing, awakening and reinforcing values in him like honor, pride, and respect – things he’ll need if he wants to rise from dog to wolf. Values true wolves always put first.

I’m a little surprised what a good fighter he is; he is able to pile through a rugby team without getting knocked out requires a certain suspension of disbelief, but who cares. As for Oshiroi; she seems to have been game from the start, but in her case, it seems she wants to make new friends besides the one she has – Ume, who is naught but a clingy bully. You is yet again at the recieving end of her physical and verbal abuse. Considering the strength and endurance he exhibited winning a half-price Bento later on, one has to wonder if and when he’ll ever stand up to her. One last comment: Taku Iwasaku is in the house, lending an excellent score to the proceedings.


Rating: 4