Golden Kamuy – 21 – The Naked Truth

While visiting Asirpa’s relatives, the crew learns of a band of blind bandits who were once sulfur miners on Mount Iwo. Those who weren’t killed by the acid ended up sightless, and attack anyone they can in the dark. They’re led by a former Abashiri inmate, Toni Anji, who also has tattoos. They head to a local hot spring, but while all the guys are relaxing in the bath, the blind bandits snuff out all the light and attack.

As a result, Sugimoto, Tanigaki, Ogata, Kiroranke, and Shiraishi have to fight an enemy they can’t see with their dicks out. The enemy can “see” them just fine thanks to echolocation by tongue-clicking; a clever tactic that also creates an unsettling atmosphere.

As with the aphrodisiac sea otter incident, the beefcake is strong with this episode, with tasteful angles and shadows preventing everyone’s manhood from being exposed. Only Asirpa and Inkarmat remain clothed. Golden Kamuy has proven quite adept at creating compelling action set pieces, and taking away both the clothes and eyesight of the combatants is yet another example of that proficiency. It’s also pretty hilarious.

While she’s still weary of Kiroranke, Inkarmat still joins him and Tanigaki on a boat to try to escape the bandits, but Toni and his cohorts toss stones to gauge distance before he opens fire, shooting Tanigaki and capsizing the boat. Inkarmat can’t swim, and starts to sink, and even has a vision of a circle of bears coming to claim her soul.

But Tanigaki, who was only shot through the butt, dives into the lake and rescues her, and she rewards him with a kiss. She thought for sure she was a goner, but he showed her that the fate her fortune-telling portends can be changed.

As dawn starts to peek out of the horizon, Sugimoto and Ogata (the only one of them with a gun) infiltrate the bandits’ hideout, but soon find the windows are all nailed shut, and another ambush ensues in the pitch black. Toni goes after Sugimoto, and the two grapple and come to a standoff.

That’s when Hijikata suddenly appears to greet his old fellow inmate, and Ushiyama tears through the walls to let the sun in. The threat is over, with Sugimoto & Co. leaving Toni Anji to Hijikata & Co., provided he can get a copy of the tattoos he bears.

As the now fully-reunited supergroup heads into town to take their pictures taken, of all things, Tsurumi “punishes” his Abashiri mole, Private Usami, by drawing stick figures on his symmetrical face moles (a mole with moles, heh heh). Usami, like so many young men, is so smitten with the Lieutenant that it’s hardly punishment at all.

As for Sugimoto, he is compared to a young Hijikata by the old man’s photographer friend: “like a demon, but also kind.” But while locked in battle in the darkness, Toni Anji said sensed something else those with sight couldn’t: that Sugimoto could never return to who he was. I guess we’ll find out.

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Grand Blue – 12 (Fin) – The Final Binge

Grand Blue finishes up with the club traveling to Miyakojima, which despite being part of Okinawa Prefecture is a 190-mile flight away from that island. The far-flung locale is not only home to the tradition of “Otori” (endless drinking) but some great diving spots, which the gang reaches by powerboat—only Iori can’t join the others since he missed his chance to get certified with Aina and Kouhei.

Chisa can see that Iori seems down and left out, and so stays behind on the third of three dives to cheer him up. Turns out he’s not that blue; he’s green from seasickness aboard the boat. Even so, the two have a nice time together.

That night, with the planned restaurant closed, Ryuu, Shinji, and their heavy-drinking compatriots set up an impromptu Otori, with everyone adding their chosen alcohol to a huge earthenware pot to share throughout the night. Iori and Kouhei aren’t really up to this level of drinking, but their senpais emphatically insist, and won’t allow them to dilute the concoction with water.

They soon run out of booze, and so the only non-buzzed member, Aina, heads out to buy more. She conscripts Iori to help her with the load, but he hops in the van wearing nothing but boxers, which even on the tropical island elicits a stop by the police.

Upon returning to the party Aina accidentally takes the wrong cup from Azusa and downs it in one gulp. Turns out it’s the near-lethal Otori Juice, and she instantly becomes tanked, losing her inhibitions and going after Iori and Kouhei’s boxers.

While briefly escaping her clutches, Kouhei curses Iori for tricking him into joining the club, but Iori points out to him that by joining he actually got what he wanted: a fun, exciting, almost dream-like first year of college. Just before Aina leaps out from the darkness Kouhei considers it more of a nightmare.

With that, the gang heads back home, passing the time looking at photos of their time in Miyakojima, which bring smiles to all, even Chisa, for whom the antics of Iori, Kouhei & Co. have warmed to her somewhat. It’s as good a place to end as any; Grand Blue was in danger of too often repeating its themes without sufficient development of relationships to justify more episodes.

Ultimately, while the actual diving scenes were certainly beautiful and aspirational, they weren’t the most numerous, and always took a backseat to the drinking, arguing, and weird, exaggerated distorted closeups of peoples’ faces. It wasn’t without its share of laughs and heartwarming moments, including Chisa’s final smile.

Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 04 (28)

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Chikage’s confrontation with Masaomi and the Yellow Scarves looked like bad news, but he’s only there on behalf of himself, and wants to use them to smoke out the “purge” Dollars who hit Kodata. But because this is a meeting of gang leaders who don’t mind the occasional rumble, it comes to fisticuffs, and we see Masaomi in actual action for the first time in a long while.

I assumed he had some skill to be the leader of a color gang (even one as wishy-washy as the scarves), but I didn’t expect him to hold his own so well against Chikage (though he isn’t able to do any damage, he’s able to dodge his attacks well enough). Still, the “blood is thicker than water” title/theme applies here, as Chikage is loyal to Kodata through the bond they forged in righteous, honorable combat.

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The Saika family reunion continues, with Anri stating her reservations about manipulating people she holds dear with Saika as Haruna does. It comes down to them having different values. Kasane lays it out thusly: one can either entirely enslave their Saika or allow their Saika to entirely enslave them. Anri is trying to be nice to “both sides”, which Kasane believes is untenable.

Of course, she’s driven by the desire to acquire Saika from Anri, which would mean extracting her, but that can only happen if Anri truly doesn’t want Saika anymore. Anri still feels she owes Saika for saving her from her father, among other things. But Kasane remarks that Anri is too hard on herself for believing herself a parasite, or somehow not or less than human.

Letting go of Saika could perhaps mean returning to “normal” humanity in a biological sense, but she’ll always be one of the “family” by virture of her flesh, her blood, and her past. It’s a fascinating discussion between three very different personalities. Erika lightens the mood effectively both by inviting Kasane to a cosplay event and announcing Dotachin has come out of a coma and can see visitors tomorrow.

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Masaomi and Chikage’s duel continues, with Chikage ending up falling off the building when Masaomi bails out. Just then, Izumii Ran shows up with a gang of men and his mallet, looking to continue his revenge tour.

His taunts easily provoke Masaomi into attacking him, but a fierce punch to Izumii’s head only results in Masaomi breaking his hand. Will Chikage, who was just fighting Masaomi, get back up to that roof and help him stay alive against another superior opponent?

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Like Dotachin, Shizuo has been mostly an inert element this cour, as he’s in jail after a woman pressed charges against him for assault. An obvious Saika plant in the cell neighboring him wants him to tear up the joint so they can make off with the head in the commotion, in exchange for the charges against him being dropped.

However, this Saika plant seems to be too late with his proposal, as Shizuo is released without having to do anything after the woman drops the charges. No sooner is he free to go than some kind of rocket or missile hits the police van carrying Celty’s head. Varona of all people makes off with it, staring down Shizuo momentarily before zooming off on her bike. Shizuo assumes this is more of that wretched Izaya’s handiwork.

Prior to this to-do, around dusk, presumably after Haruna left Kasane and Anri, she is kidnapped by a Saika slave and brought to her former boyfriend Takashi, who has plans for her, none of them good.

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All the news of Celty’s head being out there, exposed to the world, causes her nightmares. She wakes up to find an understanding and supportive Shinra, who has spent the day trying to deal with the Yagiri siblings under control (mostly through sedation).

When Emilia says a girl with glasses is at the door, Shinra assumes it’s Anri, but it’s not; it’s Kasane, who is apparently not done wheeling and dealing. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was the one who hired/compelled Varona to snatch Celty’s head.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 03 (27)

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Mairu and Kururi sorta narrate this episode, but only sparingly, but they have a couple funny moments despite never appearing in the episode (even through chat): First, Mairu interrupts just before a masked man tells Shijimi his name. Second, Mairu wonders if some kind of world revolution is afoot, and Kururi calls that “a stretch.”

That’s certainly true, since Durarara!! has virtually strayed outside Ikebukuro’s borders, nor has there ever been any indication that the things that go on there have any effect on the outside world. But what if Ikebukuro was the world, in it’s entirety, as for all intents of purposes, it is in the show? It would mean the world really was in the midst of upheaval.

All the characters who dot Ikebukuro’s landscape are the players who shape Ikebukuro World. Rather than gangs, the Dollars and Yellow Scarves and mafia are nations; their leaders world leaders. And Saika isn’t just a parasitic demon, but an ideological movement. Anri, Niekawa Haruna, and Kujiragi Kasane are three different “schools” of Saika, and those schools butt up against each other this week.

Ever since Anri cut Haruna, there have been two Saikas inside her mingling, and since Anri’s Saika is older, it’s a form of control that’s also opened Haruna up to other emotions and ways of thinking – as well as Anri’s confused feelings for Mikado and Masaomi. Haruna wants to join forces – Anri will help her attain “real love” with Takashi; and in return she’ll help Anri with her romances.

 

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Anri declines, because she doesn’t want to use Saika for nefarious purposes, only to protect; which provokes Haruna into fighting her. That’s when Kasane, who was hanging out in the park the whole time, neutralizes and chastises the “daughter” Haruna for raising a hand to her “mother” Anri (speaking in Saika terms, of course.)

Of course, this doesn’t mean Kasane is on Anri’s side. In fact, Kasane is somewhat surprised by how little Anri has mastered or even used Saika; which frustrates her more now that she knows how good having freedom feels. So she breaks out a proposition, just as Haruna did. No joining forces; rather, she’ll take Saika off Anri’s hands for a handsome, fair sum. I mean, if she’s using it so little, she doesn’t really need her, right?

The only problem is, while Anri certainly hasn’t mastered Saika, she has more or less accepted her as a part of her, not to mention relied on her in times of trouble; she’d likely be dead without her. Losing her wouldn’t necessarily make her human (a human would never have had Saika to begin with), so I’m doubtful she’ll make the deal. However, I’m also doubtful Kasane will give up easily.

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Despite the rarity with which she needs or uses it, Anri has become dependent on Saika as a form of defense in a dangerous Ikebukuro World; a weapon to keep sharks off her in that world’s roiling waves. Meanwhile, Mikado tells Izaya in a lengthy but wonderful phone call that he wishes to remain in a boat, detached from those waves, but able to watch them ebb and flow and be entertained.

That’s the “interesting world” he first sought when he arrived in Ikebukuro World (an arrival akin to a birth). It’s why he founded the Dollars. And it’s why he’s evolved into someone who isn’t the slightest bit surprised by the face Celty’s head is in a bush (though he is relieved by Mika’s hilarious voicemail message about it not being her head).

Now he’s put himself in a position to press the reset button on the Dollars, hoping he’ll catch lightning in a bottle once more. He and Izaya are revealed to be a lot more alike than I ever considered, as the two may use different metaphors, but both seem willing to act as both arsonist and firefighter in order to mold the world into something interesting.

I’d say Mikado differs in that he has empathy for humans and has a few he actually cares about and doesn’t want swept up in those waves…but I doubt Izaya wants his sisters hurt, either. It’s also interesting in this particular situation, that Mikado knows something – that Celty’s head was found in the park – before Izaya.

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That’s a rare moment of someone having the upper hand over Izaya, which is always nice. And knowledge is definitely power in Ikebukuro World; just look at which Saika dominated the other two, and why. That being said, there’s nothing Izaya adores more than humans acting unpredictably.

The Saika trio and Mikado-Izaya phone call are the A/B plots, but the episode still managed to fit in a C and a D: There’s the hiding Shijimi, who is approached by a masked man who was in the passenger seat of the car that hit Dotachin, offering to bring him in on some kind of heist of Yadogiri Jinnai’s fortune.

Then there’s Chikage confronting Masaomi and his Yellow Scarves, 1 on 8, and giving them a choice: let themselves be taken over, or be destroyed. And we know there’s no one among those 8 scarves who is a match for Chikage alone. Mairu is right: the time of revolution, war, and global upheaval is nigh in the Ikebukuro World.

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