3D Kanojo: Real Girl – 03 – An Honest Girl Magnet

“Something about changing and getting so happy is scary,” Hikari tells Itou. So much so it makes him overly self-conscious and embarrassed about how intensely his heart beats whenever Iroha is near. Unfortunately Hikari still has much to learn about communicating his feelings good or bad, so he ends up ignoring Iroha and even pushing her hand away.

The only answers he can give her are “sorry” and “it’s nothing”, as if she wouldn’t understand. He’s still too stuck inside himself to trust someone else, especially with emotions he’s never had and can’t begin to explain. So it causes a rift.

Almost simultaneously, a girl slips on a banana peel and Hikari helps her up. It’s his classmate Ishino Arisa, whose first instinct upon realizing who helped her is to call him “gross” like all the others do. But later, she doesn’t run away or dismiss him when he tries to seek advice from someone who doesn’t make his heart pound.

Because Ishino also likes someone, their common ground on which to lay the foundation for a conversation. Part of her is worried this gloomy dude will commit suicide if she leaves him alone, but part is just as receptive to talking about the strange feelings people get for one another, and because neither of them share those feelings for each other, there’s no pressure.

Ishino decides a good step to take is for Hikari to lose the bangs as part of a larger effort to look more presentable (and less gloomy), but she can’t take a single snip of hair (with craft scissors) when Iroha arrives and declares that Hikari “belongs to her.”

Hikari thought she hated him for how he snubbed her, but her rudeness with Ishino is ample proof that’s not the case. Nor does Hikari hate her; they’re merely misunderstanding each others’ discomfort with the new and complicated emotions they’re feeling, as just about anything new makes people uncomfortable.

Speaking of comfort, on both the advice of his mom and the fact Iroha likes the same show, Hikari gets into baking as a means of both expressing his affection for Iroha and releasing pent-up stress (with which, as we all know, eating sweets can help).

Iroha is contrite towards Ishino and before long, Hikari is one of a circle of four. Iroha may claim to “not need” friends, but what else do you call four kids at school sharing each others company (and cookies) and talking to one another about themselves?

When asked, Ishino mentions things are going okay with her boy Shun, but the others soon learn he finds Ishino “convenient” in the way she lends him money and doesn’t mind the sight of other girls’ clothes in his room. He’s a cad, but Iroha doesn’t feel its quite their place to intervene, and Hikari and Itou aren’t about to disagree.

However, Iroha breaks her own rules and pummels Shun with her bookbag, not necessarily to defend a friend (she’d still say Ishino wasn’t one), but because he was pissing her off by calling Ishino stupid within earshot of Ishino. Ultimately Ishino decides to break up with Shun, but her stoic face is quickly soaked in tears; she’s not happy about it, even though she thinks it was the right thing to do.

To help dry his new friend’s tears and reduce her stress levels, Hikari suggests they head to the roof and eat the cheesecake and donuts he made. When Iroha gets some chocolate on her face he wipes it off with his hand, and Ishino declares that while she wan’t jealous of them before, she is now.

Hikari marvels at how there are only honest girls around him, but he doesn’t know how lucky he is. It’s up to him to be just as honest with them, as well as Itou. I’m not saying fake or deceptive people are lame, but I don’t think Hikari is compatible with them at all. He’s someone who needs things said to him straight, and hopefully he’ll pick up the habit.

And so, up there on the roof, trying not to worry too much about what the future might bring, Hikari is simply happy he can be a “normie”, and interact with these very exotic creatures called 3D human friends. It might feel weird, but he’ll surely get used to it.

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Citrus – 12 (Fin)

The Citrus finale ends predictably, but starts with a bit of a surprise: Nina’s brute strength is all but neutralized by Yuzu’s sheer force of will. Nina realizes she can’t hold Yuzu back from doing something she may regret the rest of her life. But that doesn’t mean she won’t tag along when Sara summons Yuzu.

Nina has always seen her sister as someone who will put her own happiness last, and when she and Yuzu arrive, Sara appears to be doing just that by giving Yuzu a chance to confess to Mei. But letting Mei go and supporting Yuzu does make Sara happy. She can tell they’re a better match; they just need to work harder at understanding each other.

Sara is also happy because she has a little sister who cares about and protects her so much. And she has no intention of ceasing to be friends with either Yuzu or Mei. When you put it all together, Sara gained more than she lost.

As Yuzu takes the long walk to the shrine where Mei is waiting, her friends give her a wide berth. Matsuri wanted to inject herself into Yuzu’s trip, but resists the urge to bother her.

Harumin and Himeko spot Yuzu running like a bat out of hell, and both admit that her whirlwind nature is what draws them to her. Harumin has never minded supporting Yuzu as much as she has because she has so much fun watching her figure things out (that, and she’s a natural mama bird).

Night has fallen by the time Yuzu finds Mei on one of those bridges where confessions usually happen, but Mei is not in a receptive mood, and bolts when Yuzu tries to press the issue. Not quite sure if the ensuing chase was absolutely necessary, but it does add to the dramatic mood, especially when it ends with an accidental full-body tackle by Yuzu.

By the time Yuzu has Mei down by contact, she’s said a lot of the things she hadn’t said before but needed to, like admitting a lot of what Mei says and does just doesn’t make any damn sense to her, but also knows Mei feels the same way about her. She goes through the times Mei tried to reach out with her feelings when Yuzu was only thinking about her own.

Yuzu regrets putting Mei through those things, but it doesn’t change the fact she loves her and wants to do better, so if Mei loves her too, she should give her a kiss. Suddenly too bashful to do so, Mei has her mini teddy bear kiss Yuzu instead. Yuzu, in turn, gives Mei a kiss.

After much groping (literal and figurative) in the dark, the sisters are finally sure about one thing, even if Mei says she needs to date Yuzu to find out for sure. With that, they hook back up with Sara and Nina, Nina gives Mei and Yuzu her blessing and tells Mei to try to be more selfish at times, and they part ways with a promise to take a trip to Kyoto again, just the four of them.

Sara also said she’d “forgive” Mei for choosing Yuzu if Mei held Yuzu’s hand as they headed back to the hotel. On another cold night, Yuzu is thankful for Mei’s warm touch, leading to them sharing another kiss on another romantic bridge.

Back at school, Mei, Yuzu, Harumin and Himeko make a fine quartet, and Mei shows how much Yuzu’s confession meant by holding hands with her, even there on school grounds. Whatever the future holds for Yuzu and Mei, they’re going to enjoy their present.

That’s nice! I’m glad the stepsisters aren’t on tenterhooks and are moving forward with an attitude of honesty, openness, and a desire to understand each other more. With friends like Harumin, Himeko, and Sara (and…okay, fine, Nina too) supporting them, who at times threatened to steal the show away from the core couple, they’ll be just fine.

Sora yori mo Tooi Basho – 05

I only realized at the end of last week’s episode, with the camera lingering on a sad and lonely-looking Megumi, that she might not be particularly pleased about Mari actually going through with her Antarctica trip; especially without her.

This week, in an emotional powerhouse of an episode, all of the resentment and negativity that had been festering within Megumi comes to the forefront; but while there are constant signs she’s Had It, Mari doesn’t realize until the very last moment: the morning she leaves for Australia.

Before that, the show strikes a scintillating balance between being excited for Mari and thinking she’s being an awful friend to Megumi. Case in point: while packing for three months (she’s only allowed 100kg, including her own weight), she finds the game she once borrowed from Megumi under her bed (another sign of the friendship she took for granted)

She invites herself to Megumi’s house to play the game, but Megumi couldn’t be any clearer about how few fucks she gives about the game. When Mari can’t take a hint, Megumi pulls the plug, pretending to have slipped, and that’s the end of it.

It’s really quite brilliant what goes on here, because I honestly can’t even blame Mari for being such an oblivious ditz, because that’s the friend Megumi cultivated all the years they’ve known each other. Compound that with her very understandable building excitement and anticipation for a life-changing adventure, and it’s all too devastatingly obvious why Mari can’t respond to or even sense Megumi’s growing miasma.

Meanwhile, there’s just such a grand sense of occasion to the quartet of new friends finishing up their packing. They may only be going abroad for three-odd months, but it feels like they’re packing for much more than that. It feels like they’re packing for a new chapter in their lives, in which they’ll see and experience things they never have before.

The episode proceeds to throw everything it possibly can towards the goal of pissing off Megumi as much as possible, as Mari and Shirase (whom Megumi continues to stubbornly, scornfully call “Antarctica”) suddenly become a big deal at school. And it IS a big deal for high schoolers to be going to Antarcitca, for crying out loud!

But for Megumi, it’s just a constant and unyielding reminder that Mari is “leaving the nest”, so to speak. Megumi fires back by bringing up rumors going around about Mari, Shirase, and the depths they sunk to to acquire the funds to go on the trip. Megumi is then almost immediately punished when Shirase herself shows up, along with Hinata.

When Shirase hears of the rumors, she wants blood immediately. Three Cheers for the wonderfully mature-when-it-matters Hinata experly talking her down by being the adult in the shrine. Yet even she seems to inadvertently take a dig at Megumi’s macchinations with her latest self-quote: “Sometimes, people are just mean. Don’t fight mean with mean. Hold your head high.” Almost a haiku!

The torture of being outnumbered by Mari’s new friends wasn’t enough, apparently, so poor Megumi has to be dragged along to karaoke, despite the fact she is in no mood to hang out with anyone, especially Mari, but especially her new friends. Still, here more than elsewhere she seems able to mask her contempt.

It must very much take Megumi aback, then, that despite Mari’s complete inability to pick up the signals, she is still able to speak surprisingly candidly and eloquently about how she sees this turning point in her life.

First, Mari assumes Megumi considered the fact they hadn’t been hanging out a lot lately a “relief.” Then, Mari talks of how she always wanted to go far away, how she hated being where she was, and how she hated herself.

Megumi’s long acceptance of Mari as someone who would always cling to her had the unintended side effect of driving Mari to become someone who wouldn’t have to cling. Someone with worth of their own.

After parting ways, Mari comes home to find her entire family cooking their butts off to celebrate her imminent departure. Mari’s reflex is to send Megumi a photo message and an invite…but Megumi never responds.

The morning of departure comes, and what a morning. First, we watch Mari get up, wash her face, brush her teeth, comb her hair, get dressed, and give herself a final check.

All very routine morning activities given monumental status by the fact they’re the last such activities she’ll be doing for some time. And to be perfectly candid, when Rin gave Mari a big hug, I had already started to tear up, just like Mari’s dad.

And that was before a dark, brooding Megumi confronts Mari, who is just SO freaking ready to tear the world a new one, and tells her she came not to say “see you later”, but to break up; to cease being friends.

At first, Mari has no idea what’s happening, but once Megumi starts to list all the things she and she alone has done—spread false rumors, told the bullies about Shirase’s cash; told Mari’s mother before Mari could told her herself—it all comes into focus. All Mari can say is “Why?”

All those things—and even going there in the morning to confront her—were all meant to return the pain she felt from the feeling that Mari was abandoning her, and that it wasn’t Mari who had been clinging to her for some time now, it was the opposite. Without Mari, Megumi considered herself nothing, and if she was to be nothing, she didn’t want Mari to have anything either.

Megumi thought, even hoped that at some point Mari would catch on and get mad, but she never did, nor did her new friends. She considers that not just evidence of what morons they are, but that she wasn’t even worth being figured out; that Mari had moved on so much from what Megumi thought of her. That could only make someone feel even more worthless.

Mari begs Megumi to come with her, but Megumi is ready to take her “first step into a world without” Mari. In a way, she’s trying to do the same thing as Mari, Hinata, Shirase and Yuzuki: step into a world without any of the things they usually rely on; where they don’t know what lies around the corner; where they won’t know where they’ll be tomorrow.

Those sentiments are narrated by Mari as we watch scenes of the other three saying their goodbyes and taking those first steps. And then, before Mari joins her, she takes a few steps toward Megumi, hugs her from behind, and declares her breakup rejected.

Maybe Megumi wanted Mari to come to hate her that morning after all of the things she said and did without remorse. But sometimes people are just mean. Mari doesn’t fight mean with mean. She holds her head high. It’s an abrupt, almost brusque end to what had been an epic Friend Fight, and a clear instance of Mari having the last word.

But it’s also an acknowledgement that while Mari no longer sees Megumi as someone she must cling to at all costs or look to for guidance, that doesn’t automatically mean the end of a friendship. It just means that a change has taken place.

Now everything springs into action.

Houseki no Kuni – 10

Old Phos used to cause trouble and get in the way. New Phos holds court—with Alex (AKA Lexi) over detailed descriptions of Lunarians; agreeing to take on Jade’s patrols while Kongou sleeps; and even with Bort, who wants to team up with Phos.

But always not far from Phos’ thoughts is the ghost of Antarc. While Phos might initially hesitate over teaming up with Bort (a little of the Old “what a pain” Phos seeping out), it’s a step Phos has to take in order to get stronger and learn more about how to fight properly.

Phos’ only concern is how Diamond will feel; Bort is basically dumping Dia sight unseen; Dia hears it from Phos first. But Phos has Dia’s blessing; after all, it was Dia who told Pho she needed to change back when Dia was Phos’ only advocate.

That being said, Dia still seems awfully dejected, quietly picking flowers for a lonely-looking bouquet as Bort departs with Phos. Unfortunately for the pair, their first mission as partners is not an easy one, as an entirely new and powerful Lunarian emerges from a “double sunspot.”

Bort plays right into the Lunarian’s trap. Bort’s first strike only multiplies the apertures, through which more than four limbs emerge and grab Bort. Phos delivers a gold-plated assist, but the fuzzy white many-armed beast isn’t going to go down easily.

As “recklessness is for the inept”, Bort grabs Phos and falls back to HQ, then tosses Phos at the bell to strike it six times (an order for all other Gems to hold position). Bort’s plan involves luring the Lunarian to Kongou, who will hopefully awaken in time to destroy it.

But the Lunarian doesn’t follow Bort and Phos…it goes its own way, which turns out to be where Diamond is sulking. From here until the time Dia takes the upper hand, the episode takes on the flavor of a creepy horror movie where the protagonist must quietly hide from the monster hunting them.

Dia watching the flower vase jostle from the monster’s booming steps is a neat Jurassic Park reference, and some niftily subtle animation to boot (the way Dia gently arranged the flowers earlier was also an elegant moment).

Diamond eventually gets sick of hiding and decides to do what Bort always yells at Dia for: get reckless. This is Dia in full-on Badass Mode, without a care for how much bigger or stronger their opponent is.

Dia’s first strikes don’t do much (even a diamond limb-as-a-weapon doesn’t make a major mark), but Dia only needs one leg to rush the Lunarian, dodge its swipes, and deliver a killing blow before collapsing into a half-shattered pile—just as Bort is watching from outside the window.

But even that isn’t the end of things, as Dia’s strike only managed to cut the one big enemy into two smaller ones. With Dia out of commission, it falls to Bort to face the pair, which Bort does without fear, as usual.

But as tough as Bort is (tougher than nails, literally), I’d feel a lot better if Phos, other Gems, and hell, why not, Master Kongou arrived in time to assist Bort. I tell you, these Lunarians get nastier and more devious with each passing week.

Tsurezure Children – 11

There’s a lovely momentum to this week’s quartet of stories, befitting what may be the second-to-last episode (though I wouldn’t mind a second cour) – things seem right on the cusp of coming together for some of the more stubborn pairs, thanks in part to third parties.

Take Chizuru, who learns through Ayaka’s now active and thriving relationship, what it actually means and how it feels to be in love. There are too many coincidences for her to merely shrug this off, and too many who have heard the rumor Sugawara likes her.

As for what I consider the most emotionally close (if physically furthest away) relationship, Kana ignores Chiaki after the first kiss incident, and he thinks he’s been dumped. Kana’s friend tells her breaking up is a bit much for a muffed first kiss, and she knows that. It gets to the point where she thinks she’s ignored him enough, and starts to worry that he might hate her.

The two are so in sync, Chiaki decides to send one last message just as Kana decides to accept one last message, if he apologizes. Everything’s looking good…until she drops her phone in the tub! I’m not too too worried, though; if these two really love each other, they’re not going to let technological snafus keep them apart.

Still reeling from their technological snafu, Takase and Kanda are both still interested, but weary of making the first move, even to the point of asking for/offering pencil leads for final exams. Enter Minagawa, the third party, to tell Kanda to get them from Takase as a means to get closer.

She chickens out, but Takase, who has the easier job here, thankfully doesn’t. When Kanda runs out of lead, he tosses her more, and after the exams they’re on friendly speaking terms again; which is what they both want.

The third party in Ryouko’s case is the entire rest of her class. As she crams for the exam after so many months of slacking off like a yankee should, she gets super-self-conscious about how that class sees her, worried they’re all better than her because they studied more or something.

Akagi wants to offer support while she’s studying in class, but won’t (and orders the Prince kid to hit him if he does), since Ryouko will be alone for the actual exam, after all. We’ve seen precious little of Akagi without Ryouko around, and it’s nice to see his hands shaking in anxiety because he’s worried about his girlfriend.

Ryouko doesn’t have what you’d call a fun time during exams, but who does? When she drops her eraser, she’s even too self-conscious to raise her hand. Her classmate Patricia Shibasaki picks it up for her, and adds that she’s rooting for her. Her nerve restored, Ryouko can continue.

Tsurezure Children – 10

Motoyama has to endure the extreme wussitude of his friend Yamane Kurihara, the girl who likes him. She made pudding for him, so asks him behind the school, but Yamane take Motoyama along, and once he’s there, Kurihara doesn’t want him to leave either!

When he finally does, Kurihara simply hands the pudding over to Yamane and the two depart just moments later. An exercise in futility, as long as Yamane continues being so low on himself.

Kamine and Gouda are faring much better, but there are still things Kamine wishes her boyfriend would improve upon, like not being so sudden, calling her by her first name, and not holding hands with other girls—even if it’s to arm wrestle with the foreigner Patricia. (Opening bottles is okay, but if he’s nice to another girl he has to be nicer to her).

Gouda takes all of this in stride, not minding at all that she’s being a little needy and selfish because, well, he likes her, and thinks she’s only gotten cuter since they became a couple.

When a passing Kana and Chiaki spot the happy couple doing things they never imagined Kamine or Gouda would do (especially in public), you could say they are inspired, and try to have their first kiss right there.

Unfortunately, it is interrupted by…Kamine and Gouda, and the two couples exchange ‘what are you doings’ with ‘aw nothings’ and that’s that. Only Kana and Chiaki actually did nothing.

So it was exciting to see the show stay with Kana and Chiaki for the final segment, though in hindsight I might be sorry I wanted such a continuation. Chiaki invites Kana to his otherwise empty house with the express intention of kissing her before she has to be home by 8.

After a lot of awkward interactions, he decides to do a skit—one in which he pretends to be drunk. Chiaki assumes he drank something, and would rather their first kiss be something they can remember with fondness, even if it isn’t a big deal.

Then Chiaki reveals he’s just acting and surprise-kisses Kana, then invites her to ‘play along’ as if it were another one of their skits…and she is NOT into it. In fact, she storms out in tears, declaring their duo over. Is it really over? I hope not, but Chiaki had better apologize!

Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 09

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Things move fast this week, but most of the things that occur are basically foregone conclusions. Kikuhiko and Sukeroku both become Shin’uchi, but in his debut, Sukeroku sticks it to the association president by performing his specialty, “Inokori”, in which he must embody multiple sides of one character, Saheiji, depending on who else he’s talking to. It’s a challenging story, but Sukeroku pulls it off and gets the only approval he needs: that of the crowd.

Now a Shin’uchi, Kikuhiko is committed to shedding a woman he feels someone of his stature can no longer be with. It’s not pride so much as obligation to the structures he was raised into, which demand that a man put things above his own personal feelings. His breakup with Miyokichi had been telegraphed for some time, but that doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking when the hammer comes down.

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Miyokichi, as it happens, isn’t the only one who gets dumped: as a result of his insolence in his debut, Sukeroku is taken aside by his master, who informs him Kiku, not he, will be the Eighth Generation Yakumo. Again, the writing was on the wall. As well-intending as Sukeroku is, and no matter how much practical sense it makes, he was never going to be able to successfully convince the old guard of his “change or die” views of rakugo.

For the elders, including his master, change is death; there is no difference. Oral tradition cannot truly survive if it becomes a game of Telephone. Tweaking tradition is a slippery slope, one that the elders would rather fall to their death by clinging to rather than allow it to be propped up with new ideas.

Furthermore, Sukeroku was always hampered by his modest origin; he was always an interloper, a “stray dog” who clawed his way into this world. There’s no way the master would allow such a person to succeed him, no matter how unassailable his talent. There may be TVs now, but castes still matter.

When Sukeroku argues too forcefully, Yakumo expels him, throwing him out of his house. And that’s how our two dumped and dejected people find and comfort each other.

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Speaking of comfort, Kikuhiko isn’t experiencing it just because everything seems to be going his way. In his mind, Sukeroku is still better at rakugo than him, no matter how many elders or syncophants say otherwise. He’s particularly irritated when a dilettante-ish rakugo critic tears down Sukeroku in an apparent effort to curry favor. Kiku ends the interview right there.

Then Master Yakumo’s wife dies, and with mortality on his mind, he informs Kikuhiko that he intends to give him his name. Kiku’s initial reaction is that it’s a mistake; Sukeroku should get the name; he’s more skilled; he doesn’t have any skill compared to that raw talent. But Yakumo reproaches his apprentice.

It’s not Kiku’s place to tell him who he should give his name to, nor to say whether he’s better or worse than Sukeroku. Just like his brother, Kiku spoke out of place, but out of humility and inferiority, not arrogance and outsize obligation to take rakugo upon his shoulders and “save” it, as Sukeroku wants to do. There’s more to being Eighth Generation than being The Best At Rakugo. 

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As Kiku continues to thrive but derive no joy from anything other than doing rakugo, Sukeroku and the scorned Miyokichi quickly shack up together and become an item. Just as Sukeroku and Kikuhiko must embody different people to perform their stories to suit their audiences, so too does Miyo, a skilled and experienced geisha, know how to be exactly the woman a particular man wants. She could be classy and prudish for Kiku, whom she loved, but knows Sukeroku less propriety.

I’m glad Miyo doesn’t waste any more time than she needs to worrying about Kiku; what’s done is done, and she’s moving on with someone who actually wants to be with her. Sukeroku doesn’t know if he’s quite that person yet…but he does like boobies. There’s something sad and close-looped about the two being depressed about the same person—Kikuhiko—but they must make do with each other.

Also, she doesn’t have time to wait around or worry; she has a baby on the way, and wants to raise it in the countryside. Her geisha house is shut down, so she steals the till with the intention of running off with Sukeroku.

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He stops by Kiku’s not for money or a place to stay, but to say goodbye, even as Kiku urges him to make peace with the master so he can give him his name. Sukeroku knows what he has to do to get back in the good graces of their master, and he can’t do it. He tells Kiku about Miyo and the baby and the country, and Kiku is not happy.

What is Kiku going to do without Sukeroku around annoying him and challenging him to be his best? What is he going to do with Yakumo’s name when he’s certain his drunk, uncouth, stray dog of a brother deserves it more? Someone he wants to punch and embrace in the same moment?

These unanswerable questions (which must attempt to be answered anyway, one day at a time) sow the seeds of a bitterness and regret that will stay with Kiku for years, then made worse one day when Sukeroku loses his life in his prime. That bitterness will come to define the man telling this story to Yotarou and Konatsu in the present.

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Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu – 08

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As we return to Kikuhiko’s tale, he’s just finishing up his tour with Master Yakumo, having steamed up many an audience in Kyoto with his seductively funny rakugo. Talk of making him a shin’uchi is no longer presumptuous; as even his own master was too enthralled both with his performance and the reaction of the crowd to notice the mistakes he made.

Kiku is rapidly progressing on the steam locomotive to greatness, but there are sacrifices that need to be made on the way – both those imposed upon him, and those he imposes on himself.

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Back in Tokyo, Miyokichi sits in the back of another full house as Sukeroku performs and effortlessly drawing huge laughs. But she’s not laughing; she’s there to catch a glimpse of the man she loves who’s currently giving her the cold shoulder.

Her presence didn’t go unnoticed by Sukeroku (she was the only one there who wasn’t “ancient”), and he proposes a commiseration session: she gets to vent to him about a subject he’s very well versed in – Kiku-san – in exchange for buying him a drinkypoo.

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Their ensuing conversation, a thing of beauty, offers many insights into Miyokichi’s character and the nature of her love of Kiku. She doesn’t even like rakugo; she prefers movies. Hearing his voice is the only reason she goes to the theater. She endures the stodgy, old-fashioned practice she wouldn’t otherwise give the time of day…for Kiku. She also endures his constant brush-offs, including this most recent unannounced trip of his.

Miyo can endure this because she’s strong. She had to be. Abandoned by a man when in Manchuria, she had to sell her body to survive, until Master Yakumo brought her home. But because she’s become so tough, neither the good Master nor Sukeroku are her type. She doesn’t go for nice guys, she likes cold guys, and Kiku has certainly been that to her.

Miyo doesn’t want the moon; she just wants to be able to stand beside the man she loves and support him as a woman. But she suspects, and Sukeroku can’t convince her otherwise, that Kiku intends to break up with her. When she takes her leave on that somber note, Sukeroku, ever the nice guy, can’t help but draw her into a hug.

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It’s while she’s struggling to get out of that hug that Kiku appears, suddenly back as quietly as he left. His exchange with Miyo is brief and probably the coldest yet, but there’s a reason for it; Kiku indeed intends to break up with her, and doesn’t want to be cruel by being kind beforehand.

Kiku can admit to Sukeroku that he loves Miyo, but the Master has told him he needs to find a “proper woman” to settle down with a family. Disobeying would mean expulsion from Yurakutei, and in this case, with his rakugo future so bright and his identity and place in that world so clear…Miyokichi is second fiddle to all that.

In fact, Kiku would rather simply be alone than be with anyone, a sentiment that quickly evolves into an agreement for Sukeroku to move out of his apartment. Kiku relays to Sukeroku all of the flaws their master mentioned that are making it hard to promote him, but Sukeroku is in this business because he loves rakugo, and he has bigger plans than the Yurakutei orthodoxy could ever accommodate.

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His position is legitimized by the simple fact they’re in a packed jazz hall filled with Japanese in Western clothes, listening to American music. The times they are a changin’. He acknowledges that a part of rakugo must always endure, but that’s Kiku’s duty. Sukeroku intends to be the part of rakugo that evolves by changing to suit whatever the people want, which is never fixed.

Kiku is a traditionalist; Sukeroku the innovator. But they are alike in two important ways: they both love rakugo and they both respect each other’s place in that world. At the same time, Sukeroku didn’t want to end up like his previous “master”, the one from which he took the name Sukeroku, who ended up dying penniless.

That night, Master Yakumo celebrates with Matsuda his hard-won success in getting both Kikuhiko and Sukeroku promoted to shin’uchi, he takes the Yurakutei family record from the alter to let the past generations share in the celebration, even as he laments he wasn’t quite able to achieve what his forebears did.

Unaware of his promotion, Sukeroku roams the streets, gently kicked out of Kiku’s place, backlit by the bright lights and the winds of change. Kikuhiko, also unaware, but now alone in his apartment like he wanted, pauses his practicing to inspect the old fan Sukeroku gave him. They’ve started on very different paths for the same love of rakugo. It was an amicable parting, but that doesn’t make it any less sad!

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 17

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Parasyte continues its liesurely Winter stroll, in an episode that even to me, Princess Patience, felt sluggish and uneventful. Sure, there’s an interesting multi-vector battle between parasytes in the beginning, but it takes its time. And then the storyline shifts to the detective and things slow down even more.

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Nothing more unnerving than having a woman with half a face and a mouth that’s way too big for your body to ruin a lovely night out! But Tamiya Ryouko doesn’t have much of a choice; her former allies have turned on her, something she could probably have predicted based on her kind’s unswerving logic.

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But Ryouko is different. Not only does she have the kid, but a lot more knowledge of the parasyte body, which she uses to her advantage against her foes, making pretty quick work of them…but not until she thoroughly explains how she beat them. Franklin mentioned how while battling the parasytes are very static, and that was more evident to me here, especially when compounded with their emotionless-by-nature dialogue.

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Also, as macabre as it may sound, the fact no humans were harmed in this battle, even collaterally, lowered the stakes somewhat. Ryouko hasn’t quite earned the right to be someone I’d route for. I’d sooner they all destroyed each other and leave Shinichi with a couple fewer problems to worry about.

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Ryouko returns home to find her baby gone; kidnapped by Kuranomi, so she breaks into Shinichi’s house, goes through his baby pictures, and asks him to meet her at the same park where Kuranomi told her to meet him.

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Ryouko then exits Shinichi’s house just when Satomi happens to be outside, hoping for him to be home. It’s very understandable for Satomi to get the wrong idea here (especially when Ryouko says she’s not his mother), but Ryouko also screams “answers.”

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Then just as Satomi is wishing and hoping for Shinichi to come back soon, he passes right by her in a bus, and she just happens to see him, and then chases after the bus. Satomi’s luck continues when she arrives at the bus station to find Ryouko and then chases her down. Uhh, what? That’s a lot of timely coincidences to get Satomi involved in one day!

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Kuranomi and Ryouko meet at the park, though I’m not sure what Kuranomi wants, but he seems to think no matter what he does, Ryouko will simply shrug it off, because she’s an unfeeling monster. Despite this, he feels the need to have her experience an iota of the grief he has, so he prepares to toss the kid over a balcony, when Ryouko’s maternal instinct kicks in, kills him, and snatches the babe up, surprising not only him, but herself as well.

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So yeah, at this point Satomi is simply sitting around in the park. Unaware how much of the episode had progressed, I assumed one of two things would happen: she’d finally witness Shinichi in action (shocking truth!), or she’d get herself killed (far less likely). Surprise: Neither happens. Nothing happens, which was kind of deflating.

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Kuranomi is killed, but our time with him was so brief, and his choices often so idiotic (do not kidnap crazy monster’s infant or face he alone, ever), I can’t say I’ll miss him. Truth be told, we only saw his family for one brief scene. In terms of emotional impact, Kana he is not (Kana’s death still gets to me).

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Well, here we are: Shinichi and Ryouko facing off once again. Will this be another calm chat that turns more heated when Ryouko pushes Shinichi’s buttons? Will Ryouko tell him her buddies tried to kill her and now she’s alone with her baby and her philosophy? Will the blades come out and they’ll just start hacking at each other, when all of a sudden Satomi strays into their attack radius? I wasn’t able to say this before, but at this point, I’ll take anything, as long as it’s…something.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 15

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This week’s Parasyte starts off as many previous ones have—one of the titular monsters snatches up some lunch—with two key distinctions. First of all, he’s being watched and followed by an associate of the Kuranomi (the P.I.). Secondly, before that associate meets his untimely but inevitable demise, the parasyte has a lot more personality than we’re used to. With a wry grin and taunting self-scolding for letting himself be followed, he seems far less animalistic and far more like, an evil human villain.

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When Kuronomi recruits Shinichi to accompany him to the garage, they find another parasyte about to feed. Ryouko’s outwardly “civilized” crew have made the garage a discreet dining area. The activities may be different, but such a location is as suitable for humans to misbehave as parasytes.

Kuronomi films everything as Shinichi lunges out of the shadows and dispatches the parasyte (who isn’t quite as emotional as the cold open’s), but not before the monster kills the woman, with grim efficiency, in the blink of an eye. In case you’d forgotten: Yes, humans are very very weak.

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After witnessing that murder, and the monsters dueling, Kuranomi is OUT. Forget his high-minded talk of helping to save humanity, he has a wife and kid, and neither the strength nor courage he credits Shinichi with having. While I can’t blame him, at the end of the day he’s exhibiting It’s the typical “I’m just one guy, what can I do” attitude common to normal humans.

Shinichi knows he’s not a normal human anymore. Keeping Satomi at a distance and reaching an impasse with Ryouko; all of it has been to prepare for a war he has only a vague idea how to fight, against a foe he doesn’t know as well as he thinks.

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Shinichi believes himself well-informed on the evolution of parasytes—just because his right hand is one of them—at his peril. Ryouko’s crew initially has varying opinions (more human behavior), but they eventually come to the consensus, Ryouko included, that Shinichi is a threat that must be eliminated. Her only proviso is that they bring him back intact enough for her to dissect him; it would be a waste to destroy such an enlightening subject.

As one parasyte plays Chopin beautifully on the piano (in nothing but boxer briefs) a chilling spectacle, he and another discuss sending someone named “Miki” after Shinichi. Their demeanor suggests he’s a tough one.

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Speaking of chilling spectacles…Good GOD that was a creepy nightmare, where a pale, demonic parasite with Migi’s voice shows Shinichi his reflection, and he sees his face rotting away. I’m not going to read too much into this, but could that skeletal wight be Shinichi’s final form, once all of his humanity is sheared away? I shudder to think.

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Like I said last week, just because Shinichi is trying his hardest to make Satomi hate him doesn’t mean she’s going to cooperate. This is because she isn’t an idiot; she can connect the dots and arrive at the possibility that everything Shinichi is doing, including keeping her in the dark, is to protect her.

If she’s ever going to re-enter what’s left of Shinichi’s life, she’s going to have to force her way in. But she’s neither strong enough to break through the bars of that gate, forged by Shinichi to keep her safe, with the unfortunate but unavoidable side-effect of keeping them apart. If Satomi is with Shinichi, she is the very definition of unsafe.

But weak as she is, I’m inclined to believe it should be her choice. Calling Shinichi a paternalistic bastard is oversimplifying, but he is dictating how Satomi should live her life. She has every right to fight and die by his side rather live without him. It’s not logical or self-preserving, but love seldom is.

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I’m not saying having Satomi around is a good idea, of course. But the Ryouko crew’s carefully-implemented plan is executed just as Migi has to go to sleep, resulting in a four-hour period that’s both thrilling and oddly casual, as even without Migi Shinichi can still get away with the best of them.

When Migi does wake up in the nick of time, Shinichi learns that all three of the parasytes after him are really contained within the body of the single guy chasing him, a very expressive guy named “Miki” who is confident the battle is over and he’s won before it begins, but I doubt that’s the case.

With thrice the cutlery, Shinichi and Migi are suddenly up against their toughest opponent yet. I don’t doubt they’ll find someway to survive and possibly even defeat Miki, but there’s sure to be a cost.

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Franklin’s Take:

I remain a fan of parasyte’s world, characters, and disturbing emotional dilemmas. I especially enjoy Migi and his ongoing evolution towards a more human human than Shinichi (in current hybrid form) That said…

Meh? The animation has become a bit ho-hum, we’re retreading Shinichi’s emotional ground and nothing is really moving forward that hasn’t been put into place for weeks. It’s also a bit average, by Parasyte standards, we didn’t get a good fight or gore/terror injection this week. So, despite enjoying the show and the occasional bit of dark-black-humor, my verdict is much lower than Preston’s.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 14

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This week’s Parasyte was all about moving on. SatomixShinichi is no more; The private eye plot seems to be wrapped up, and Migi and Tamiya Ryouko both show signs of emotional growth, albeit in the opposite directions.

The last of these elements was most interesting, and possibly most horrifying as things with ramifications go, but everything that needed to happen did. SatomixShinichi especially needed to go. While entertaining, the distraction was holding the plot back and, until Murano is ready, there was no point in dragging it out longer.

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To quickly run down the events: Migi concedes killing every threat isn’t going to work, at least not work for MigixShinichi’s relationship, so they agree to trap and kidnap the P.I. and explain the situation.

Uda and “Joe,” his newly named parasyte, come and help. Ultimately, aside from driving a car and staying in the loop, they don’t really do much. Though I suppose Joe is there to show what a ‘pure’ parasyte is like, and how much Migi has evolved.

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How has Migi evolved? Certainly compromising his kill streak could be seen as same-old practical Migi. Likewise, when Migi berates the P.I. for being a lowly idiot of no worth compared to Shinichi, we could assume he’s just playing the typical ‘Migi Feels Superior’ card.

However, the plumb is in the details. Migi’s tone can read as exasperation, or even empathy for Shinichi’s struggle, which is definitely new.

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Later, Ryouko dismisses the P.I. and actually laughs about it, which is a change in her as well. Then she calls a stand-off with Shinichi on the roof of a university and they exchange barbs but have to break off before coming to blows.

Ultimately, there can be no peace between them. Shinichi’s rage over his mother and how terrible a mother Ryouko appears to be (human shield baby? Really??) not even his parasite can contain the rage.

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What was good: All of the developments were interesting, even the less spelled-out ones like the baby showing some signs of parasyte-like emotional control and response to a parasyte’s strong emotions.

It was also nice to see Uda and Joe again, if not because they are funny to watch.

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What could have worked better: Depends on what you want from Parasyte. This feels very mid-season as episodes go. A lot happened, but there wasn’t a strong overall arc and the developments were personal, character points, not plot developments.

Certainly this is understandable, and it didn’t feel like stalling (unlike some of the previous weeks). Even still, Parasyte faces the age-old challenge of filling two seasons’ worth of episodes without feeling plodding or bloated and this is creeping towards the plodding side of the spectrum.

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Over all, I enjoyed this episode more than the last two. Parasyte emotional development is more interesting than Shinichi’s devolution, after all.

I could use a car chase or a flashy love-interest offing tragic murder rampage though. Couldn’t you?

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Preston’s Take:

Ah, just when Migi has finally come around to Shinichi’s way of thinking—at least in terms of not killing everything in sight—Shinichi is provoked into a rage and wants to kill everything in sight. And just as Ryouko seemed to be trying to find a civilized solution to coexisting with humans and meets calmly with Shinichi on that roof, she kind of burns any potential bridges by mocking the murder of Shinichi’s mom with her newfound laugh.

As Franklin said, the parasytes are going in opposite directions, but I’d argue they’re both becoming more human as Shinichi becomes less. 

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I fully admit to being ShinichixSatomi shipper (even during the Kana Inkursion), even I agree the awkwardness reached critical mass. I do appreciate that his cold behavior was qualified this week by his desire to keep her safe, which wasn’t going to happen as long as she stayed close to him. Here’s the thing, though: when a guy tries to make a girl hate him, the girl doesn’t always cooperate.

I’ll also admit to liking the little scene of the P.I.’s home life. He’s not the best father or husband, but there’s love there, and it instantly made the previously annoying side character more sympathetic. But that the episode had the time to show us this speaks to the fact this show could be straining to fill 24 episodes.

“OUT OF THE WAY, HUMANS!!”

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 13

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Tamiya Ryouko is getting things done. She’s assembled a group of like-minded full-body parasytes willing to temper their primal urges and help her find more efficient ways to coexist with humans. Her baby is also coming along nicely, though the nanny she hired is freaked out when she touches the crying babe’s head and says “quiet”, and the baby just…shuts up. Just like that. Like flipping a switch.

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That ability to flip a switch on one’s emotions, both internally and externally and indeed without even knowing it, is what primarily troubles our unfortunate protagonist in this first episode of Parasyte’s second half (well, that and he’s almost discovered). I’ll be honest: I’m still pretty torn up about Kana dying, even if her death made perfect sense to the story, I had grown fond of her. So had Shinichi, but after that initial burst of fury that destroyed the parasyte that killed her, he’s been emotionally fit as a fiddle.

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His inability to remain pissed off is pissing him off, as contradictory as that sounds, so he heads to the scene of Kana’s death to try to muster up more…grief, or anger, or something. He desperately wants to, not just because it’s what normal humans do, but because he owes it to Kana.

But the private investigator Ryouko hired follows him, and Migi acts on his own on behalf of both him and Shinichi in attempting to kill the witness. Shinichi manages to hold Migi back until he falls asleep, but we learn two things: one, when push comes to shove, Migi can still act alone; and two: Shinichi has had it awfully easy thus far, as far as the risk of exposure.

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Kana aside (look at me, flipping a switch…I’m terrible), if you’re a SatomixShinichi shipper like me, this…was not a great episode in terms of progress. Satomi knows from rumors that Shinichi was with Kana and was the first person to find the body of the high school girl murdered nearby. But she still trusts Shinichi, and is hoping he’ll eventually tell her everything.

But after the incident with the P.I., Shinichi’s so on-edge about being followed or watched, he blows right by a making-an-effort Satomi. God, they’re so frikkin’ doomed.

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When a teacher snaps him out of his somewhat silly ‘what if his class discovered what he truly is’ daydream, Shinichi books it out of there and returns home, where he turns on his super-hearing and eventually senses the P.I., who is in a sling and on a crutch but still doing the job he was paid for. Shinichi wants to explain, but the dude, understandably petrified, flees on sight.

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Yet even this bout of paranoia recedes, far faster than it should. Shinichi is starting to get it: the human being he was is gone, and he’s something else now; something better in some ways and far worse than others. And one of the worse things is being almost utterly emotionally unavailable. To his credit, he meets with Satomi to do what he probably should have done a while ago: cut her loose.

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Satomi takes control of their meeting, however, by saying whatever he’s holding back, or trying to maintain, he can tell her; he can trust her. In his head, Shinichi is a storm, itching to tell her, show her evrything. But then the switch flips, and he won’t tell her anything. He smiles his fake smile and softens his empty gaze, and tells her “Really, it’s nothing.”

He knows she doesn’t believe him. He knows she has no reason to. But in pushing her away, he reveals an emotion he still has in spades, whatever his outward demeanor: fear. He’s afraid of what Migi might do without his leave; of being caught and becoming a lab rat; of being responsible for another friend’s death…and he’s especailly afraid of how Satomi might react if she knew the truth.

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Kimi no Iru Machi – 04

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Both Asuka and Kyousuke are concerned when they see a visibly forlorn Haruto. Kyousuke takes him on an exhilarating ride on his motorcycle as a distraction, telling him whether he decides to find someone new or snatch back Eba from her new boyfriend, he’ll support him no matter what. When Kyousuke is about to start his bike back up, he passes out. Haruto gets him to the hospital, where he learns Kyousuke has anemia.

Asuka rushes to the room and Kyousuke tells her about Haruto’s plans regarding his ex. Kyousuke mentions he had to persevere to get his current girlfriend, and when she arrives in the room, it turns out to be Eba Yuzuki. She and Haruto pretend not to know each other for Kyousuke’s sake, and Haruto leaves. While walking home with Asuka, Haruto says he’ll give up on his ex, which pleases her. Still, re-reading the break-up text Eba sent him and recalling what Kyousuke said in the hospital, Haruto suspects something fishy is going on.

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This week’s heart-sinking twist further cements this series’ status as a bonafide anime soap opera, deriving much of its appeal from creating moments of intense emotional drama between characters. As a result, it’s not for everyone, but we’re on board. The knife is twisted for Haruto when he suddenly learns that his best mate’s girlfriend is the same girl he came to Hiroshima to win back, something his mate is gung ho about helping him with. Things would have been cleared up pretty fast had Haruto and Eba come clean about their past relationship, but neither felt it the time or the place, which brings us to Kyousuke himself, who’s been dealt just as bad if not a worse hand than Haruto.

Sure, he has the girl he always wanted after much “desperate perseverance”, but if he knew that Eba was Haruto’s true love, he’d probably feel pretty bad, and conflicted to boot. If/when he does learn the truth, he’ll feel betrayed by both of them for keeping him from the truth. Add to that the illness he suffers from that may keep him from pursuing his dream to race motorcycles, and Kyousuke’s is hardly an enviable position. Except Haruto can’t help but envy him; he has her girl. And even though Haruto told Asuka he was giving up (which in her mind means she may now have a chance with him), Haruto still manages to find something fishy that compels him to run out of his sister’s apartment in search of more answers to why everything is so messed up.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)