Kakegurui – 06

Following her stunning victory, Mary is approached by her former entourage, who offer a half-hearted apology…that she accepts, and things are back to the way they were before she became a Miké.

She doesn’t seem to hold a grudge for how they treated her; written or unwritten, they abided by the rules and traditions of the school with regard to treatment of livestock.

But they also revealed something about the school’s enrollment: one need not be in debt to be livestock. These three girls aren’t technically Mikés, but they are another kind of livestock: they never lead; they only follow, even unto the slaughterhouse.

Momobami and the council seem interested only in those who break out of that mold; in someone like Yumeko, who has yet to pay her debts and be relieved of Livestock status even though she has the funds…and like Mary, the “girl who became a human.”

No one truly knows why Yumeko maintains her Miké status, but it’s assumed its so she can challenge the council to another offical match, and it’s assumed the one she wants to gamble with the most is the president, Momobami Kirari. But she doesn’t get Momobami; not this time.

Instead, she’s intercepted and arrested by the council member she’ll have to play with first in order to get to Momobami; Beautification Committee chairman (and noted gun nut and lunatic) Ikishima Midari.

Midari has her stylish gal-goons take Yumeko (and Ryouta) to a dank interrogation chamber in the bowels of the school, where they’ll play an “ESP card game” in which they guess which cards will be drawn in the adjacent room. Each correct guess means a point, and the person with the most points gets to fire one of two .357 Magnum revolvers loaded with anywhere from zero to six bullets.

Knowing what we know about Midari, it’s a very Midari game (what with the large amount of pure chance involved), and if Yumeko is worried, she doesn’t let on, keeping her calm, cool face throughout. However, Midari also sees in Yumeko a slightly more buttoned-up version of herself: a pervert who gets off on gambling to fulfill her appetites.

Making Ryouta deal the cards that he believes will determine the fate of two women is a great exercise to toughen him up (or just make him a nervous wreck), while Midari agrees that if she loses, she’ll pay Yumeko a cool billion yen ($9 million).

Following a fairly routine pattern in this show, Yumeko loses the first of three rounds by one point, giving Midari the first shot. Since she fully loaded her pistol, Midari has at least a 50-50 chance of shooting her. If Yumeko loaded any bullets into hers, the odds are better. Of course, either of the guns could backfire, which could be why Yumeko warns Midari not to fire when the time comes.

Yumeko always seems to gamble like her life (and certainly her enjoyment) is on the line, so as theatrical and wild as Midari is, this is simply a more raw and concentrated version of the feeling Yumeko craves. I forsee both parties coming away from this not only alive, but…satisfied.

As for Mary, she’s the one intercepted by President Momobami, who doesn’t mince words over tea: she wants Mary to join the council. Clearly, she sees potential in her. Mary may not be as nuts as Yumeko, but she’s definitely going places.

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Kakegurui – 05

I may have bristled at least week’s structure (spend the entire first half introducing Ikishima, someone not involved in the second half’s gambling) but it was a blessing in disguise, putting a welcome kink in the gamble-a-week rhythm of the show to this point. Also, a poker game this layered with lies, deceit, and glorious twists needed more than two halves of an episode; it needed three.

Liberated from the need for setup (ably achieved in the first half) the crazy-faces showed up early and often here, as did the twists, the most important one being that the moves of the seemingly superfluous fourth player, Tsubomi, are being controlled by Kiwatari, the only non-livestock in the game.

Tsubomi and Mary are aware of this (Tsubomi isn’t so great at hiding the cheating), but in the tenth and final game, when Kiwatari tells Tsubomi she’s not allowed to beat him, Tsubomi does her stuff: painstakingly picking and peeling back the emotionless facade Tsubomi had built to repress the trauma of losing her beautiful locks of hair, roughly hacked off by Kiwatari himself once she became livestock.

Tsubomi tells her that losing intentionally here, when she has a perfect opportunity to prove she’s not “lifelong livestock”, would be like a “motionless pig in an open cage.” Unable to accept that, Tsubomi’s facade cracks, beats Kiwatari in the round, and becomes a human again.

The game would have ended with Tsubomi in first place, if the chip count, which we’d been getting from Kiwatari, was accurate. Turns out that is the last and final twist in the game: Mary and Yumeko falsified their debt reports (just like Kiwatari did), then swapped them, so the boards in front of them at the card table gave Kiwatari the wrong figures to do his math throughout the game.

It’s a total defeat brought on by Kiwatari’s confidence in his control over Tsubomi, as well as his hard-headed belief he can judge everyone as if they were cut from the same cloth. Meanwhile, Tsubomi may still technically be livestock, but regained her will to live and fight for solvency.

The council secretary Igarashi worries about what Pandora’s Box President Momobari (whom she seems to love) has opened by allowing someone as inscrutable as Jabami Yumeko to roam free. However, when Igarashi says “the usual things” that one can use to control a person don’t work on her; she’s not entirely right.

I have no doubt if Yumeko’s friends were threatened, she wouldn’t stand by and do nothing. And now Yumeko has two friends—Ryouta and Mary—who may be leveraged against her in the future. We’ll see how she deals with that as she faces off against more and stronger opponents.

Kakegurui – 04

Gentleman that he is, Ryouta offers Yumeko a small contribution of 1 million yen ($9000 US) but she tells him she’s got cash on hand; the council hasn’t yet come to collect her massive debt. Instead, she, Mary, and other livestock are presented with “Life Plans.”

With these, the council is “collecting” by taking ownership of Yumeko and Mary’s futures and planning them out accordingly, stripping them of all human agency. In Mary’s case, she’ll marry a lolicon Diet member and have three kids, grow old, and die. Yumeko is likely in for a similar fate.

We also learn there’s yet another downside to being livestock: non-livestock like towering brute Kiwatari feel empowered to demand, say, that Yumeko strip in a dark corner of the school.

When she refuses, he threatens to violate her. With Kiwatari and his two goons to deal with, the noble Ryouta is hopelessly outmatched, but still looks ready to try rescuing her.

That’s when the “fun” is interrupted by piercing and accessory-laden student council member and Beautification Committee chairman Ikishima Midari. Rather than outright stop Kiwatari’s assault, Ikishima challenges him to a round of Russian Roulette with a massive revolver. Kiwatari retreats, so she retires to a bathroom stall to play alone.

Ikishima (voiced by unhinged-girl extraordinaire Ise Mariya; see Aku no Hana), like Yumeko, literally gets off on the thrill of gambling, but takes it to a very visceral extreme, playing with her very life rather than chips or cards. Yumeko promises she’s repay her for saving her, and Ikishima seems very excited at the chance to collect.

That first half is to introduce Midari, but she plays no role in the remainder of the episode, which is given over to the “Debt Adjustment Assembly.”

Livestock are invited to play Blind Man’s Bluff (AKA Indian Poker) in order to try to transfer their debt to someone else in exchange for a lower sum—a much lower sum in Yumeko’s case. And just Mary’s luck: she ends up in Yumeko’s group…and Kiwatari’s there too.

Two issues: First, so much time was spent on the intro of Kiwatari and Ikishima that this game is left unfinished. Unless Ikishima plays a role in this gamble next week, it would have made more sense to save her intro for later, establish Kiwatari as a rapey dick quickly and efficiently during the game, and have the whole game contained within this episode.

Second, while BMB is a fairly simple game, the way it’s employed here, and the way it’s explained, threatens to sap all of the enjoyment out of the proceedings. It’s very convoluted and requires a lot of words—too many, in fact—to get the point across of what is going on.

Still, I enjoyed watching Mary utterly reject the life plan the council (and that stupid “kiddy” council member in the bunny suit) laid out for her, as no matter how comfortable and happy a life it might be, it’s not a life she chose. This motivates her to put in an effort to try to claw out of her situation.

She even breaks out her crazyface, as does Kiwatari (the latter looking for all the world like he wouldn’t be out of place in Attack on Titan), but Yumeko doesn’t join the party. She remains quite calm as the episode pretty abruptly ends without any resolution.

Surely more wrinkles will be added to the game as things escalate, but of all the ways Kakegurui could shake up its formula, giving half an episode over to two character intros and then rolling credits before a game can finish didn’t quite work for me, especially when the game itself required so much narration to lay out.

Kakegurui – 03

Upon watching the “official match” between Mary and porcelain-faced council member Nishinotouin Yuriko, Yumeko becomes excited at the prospect of the chouhan bakuchi style game they play, in which swords are used rather than dice, and how they land determines the distribution of chips to a wild extent.

It’s not a gamble for the weary, but as Yumeko is a compulsive gambler, it’s perfect. However, if I didn’t know better, I’d say there was more to her facing off against Yuriko than simply wanting to play or win, and that gets back to Saotome’s humiliating, devastating loss to Yuriko in the episode’s opening moments.

Yumeko takes exception to Yuriko “showing a weakened human a glimmer of hope than beating them into despair” and calls the councilperson a loan shark, the lowest of the low, and a piece of shit to her face. She even messes with the characters in her distinguished name to show that her favorite numbers are right there, but missing a couple in the middle, a “perfect name for an airhead.”

This is Yumeko exercising psychological warfare on a highly accomplished and studied opponent—and largely succeeding. And while there is a practical purpose for getting Yuriko riled up, I don’t doubt Yumeko also takes satisfaction in putting Yuriko in her place, suggesting she won’t let people like her have their way with livestock unchallenged.

Add to that the fact that, naturally, Yumeko’s opponent is cheating (with the dealer using magnets to manipulate one—but only one—of the metal swords), and it looks like this gamble will take the same shape as the previous two, with Yumeko prevailing at the last second and Yuriko’s mask finally cracking and breaking.

However, we get a different outcome, and notably no overt “gamblingasm”. Instead, Council President Momobami enters with two other council members, to oversee the result of the sword toss, which is something neither Yumeko or Yuriko expected, and puts Yumeko 310 million yen (over $2 million) in debt to Yuriko.

Momobami’s presents makes Yumeko suspect she was not only the victim of magnets, but a “badger”, and that this was a multifaceted cheat that may have required the ignorance of both players. Yuriko may have won, but she certainly doesn’t look or seem to feel like she won. Meanwhile, despite her immense new debt, all Yumeko is focused on is facing off against Momobami, which is her right as newly-minted livestock.

As for the hazing and bullying that results from her initiation into the livestock, it runs off Yumeko like rain from a fireman’s hat; when they call her the common cat name “Mike”, she simply gets on her knees and starts talking and washing herself like a cat, completely immune to the students barbs and, on the contrary, scaring them off with her bizarre antics. Here’s hoping this is a preamble to Yumeko becoming an inspiration to all livestock.

Kakegurui – 02

Yumeko considers Ryouta a friend—even to the point of first-name terms—but he doesn’t seem like her romantic interest. At the moment, that seems to be gambling itself, with only the highest of risks giving her any kind of pleasure. But the OP strongly suggests a very close relationship to come with the yuki-onna-looking student council president, Momobari Kirari.

In a bit of necessary exposition, Ryouta tells Yumeko that ever since Mombari rose to power (winning her position from the predecessor with gambling, natch) the bullying of the “livestock”—the 100 or so students with the least luck and hence most debt—has intensified exponentially. Thanks to Yumeko’s gift, Ryouta is no longer a “Fido”, but after her defeat Mary is a “Lassie”, and doesn’t take to it well.

But Yumeko has little time to concern herself with those she’s already beaten; she seeks a stronger opponent, and this week they come to her: the youngest member of the council, first-year Sumeragi Itsuki, daughter of a multi-billion-yen toy company CEO.

Itsuki challenges Yumeko to a game of “Double Card Memory” involving two freshly-opened decks of cards provided by Itsuki and—as I figured—also manufactured by her dad’s company so that she can cheat people.

For the second straight week, it would appear that those at the top of the pile at Hyakkaou Academy aren’t there by playing by the rules or even being exceptionally lucky—it’s more a matter of creating a way to make your own luck.

In the case of Sumeragi Itsuki, she uses a tiny part of the back-of-card design to let her know which deck is which on the table. Once she beats Yumeko in the first match—winning the 20 million she fronted Yumeko—Yumeko tearfully begs her for a rematch, even agreeing to go along with what Itsuki wants Yumeko to front: her fingernails and toenails, which Itsuki obsessively collects and decorates. Ew!

Unfortunately for the freshman, Yumeko not only has exceptional memory, but saw through her trump, and never gives her an opportunity to flip a single card in the rematch. It’s only when Itsuka goes a bit mad that Yumeko gladly joins in the madness. And when she recommends Itsuka wager her nails, it reduces her opponent to big soppy tears.

Yumeko responds to the shameless display with disgust; after a second “gamblinggasm”, Yumeko has been made officially “bored” by the simpering Itsuka. On to the next victi-er, opponent.

President Momobari quickly hears of Sumeragi’s defeat and Yumeko’s quick rise, and instructs the rest of the (very eccentric) student council to start “meddling in her affairs,” clearly intrigued by this newcomer and eager to test the limits of her prowess—if they indeed exist!

Ryouta accompanies Yumeko to the after-hours games at the traditional culture research club, and come upon yet another pathetic scene: Saotome Mary digging her debt-hole over 49 million yen deeper. I wonder if this will be an ongoing thing with Mary losing more and more, or if Yumeko will find it in her heart to save her first victim the same way she saved Ryouta, who was only ever nice to her.

In any case, I’m enjoying the friendliness and politeness with which students challenge one another, a facade which gradually devolves into face-contorting madness, over-the-top posturing and yelling, and the aforementioned “gamblinggasms.” Kakegurui can be thick on the explaining, but is generally just flat-out fun.

Orange – 07

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Orange continues to be a particularly hard show to assail, which explains all the 10s I’ve been doling out. It is without question First in Feels, that ahs affected me like no show since AnoHana.

Like many mysteries in fiction, I believe like my RABUJOI comrades that less is more in terms of explanation. To that end, Orange has kept away from explainin how the future letters work. What matters is that they are a means for Kakeru’s salvation, and now Naho is no longer alone in that struggle, and never was.

Suwa suggests they coordinate their moves in order to share the load of saving Kakeru. They do so by finding out his birthday and then asking him what he wants. Not only to Suwa and Naho do this, but the others as well who (as far as we know) are unaware of the letters.

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But because Kakeru and Taka want to support Naho’s pursuit of Kakeru, even being out of the loop doesn’t stop them from helping the cause. Taka finall gets to directly threaten Ueda, but stops short of assault and instead promises the school will know of the scorned girl’s continued bullying if it persists.

It’s still troubling that Ueda continues to pop up on the edges, since she still represents a wild card in the grander scheme of saving Kakeru, but good to see the united front against her. I daresay I’m also starting to feel bad for Ueda. Awful a person as she is, it’s true Kakeru dumped her pretty  fast, and if she’s going to be dumped, then Naho needs to—and forgive the crude metaphor—piss or get off the pot.

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Back in the old future, Naho, Suwa & Co. are still visiting Kakeru’s room, and the others reveal to Naho that Kakeru always loved him. Naturally, Naho’s instinct is to blame her inability to give a response contributed to the spiral of depression that led to his demise.

This time, they remember his birthday, Naho gets him a flashy sports bag—to replace the one his mom threw out in an act of possessiveness, an important symbol of moving on. Suwa gets Kakeru flowers, like he jokingly asked for, but just as Suwa does in his place in the future, Kakeru immediately gives the flowers to Naho, as an even stronger symbol of his feelings.

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Their friends file out and allow Kakeru to properly confess his feelings for Naho, though he doesn’t expect an immediate response. That’s just as well, because it takes some nudging from her friends for Naho to summon the courage to answer him.

Not only that, it takes a letter dated September 23, the day Kakeru attempted suicide after his friends from Tokyo visited and laughed off his stated desire to die. Neither Naho nor Suwa are going to let that happen. Suwa joins Naho and Kakeru for one of the tensest and most emotionally intense scenes in the show so far.

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In it, Suwa tells Kakeru no to hang out with his Tokyo friends, but with them, and goes further, saying he doesn’t want to just laugh with him. He, and Naho, want to know what’s really troubling him. Suwa’s firmness gets Kakeru to admit he wants to die all the time because he regrets breaking his promise to his mother and thinking her texts were “pain.”

As Suwa rightly puts is, Kakeru did nothing wrong. Everyone at some point feels the way he felt. It wasn’t his fault his mom died, and they don’t want him to continue blaming himself for everything. Not only that, Naho chimes in at the right time to deliver her unequivocal response: she loves him, and doesn’t want him to go away.

Kakeru’s joyful tears and smile are still tinged with melancholy, but Naho is in. She did what her past self could not, and she and Suwa, with their friends’ help, changed the future once more for the better. Now that Kakeru and Naho know how they feel about one another, the question becomes what comes next, and how to keep the good going.

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Orange – 06

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This week, as Naho and Kakeru grow closer and Naho learns more about the future, the enormity of her “mission” begins to weigh on her once more, and she again starts to doubt her ability to make the changes that needs to be made to save Kakeru. After all, she’s already failed the letters twice: when she invited Kakeru to hang out the day his mother died, and when she let him start dating Ueda-senpai.

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Since those failures, and the extra problems they created, Naho has been careful to carefully follow the bullet points in the letters. They are saying she has to watch the fireworks with Kakeru alone by the pool, and so that’s what she aims to do.

Knowing that these two are gradually becoming a couple and eager to help them out when they can, Azu, Tako, Hagita and Suwa all work to assist the two in getting together in the ideal time and place. Kakeru brings up his past regrets when asking Suwa if it’s really okay to be in love with Naho and to pursue her.

Suwa’s answer is that it has to be, because being in love isn’t a choice (and also because he has a pretty good idea how Naho feels).

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The consequences of Naho’s second failure almost derail the entire op, but Azu and Tako thankfully find Naho on the steps lugging Ueda’s contest prizes and take over the task, while Suwa and Nagita keep Ueda away from the pool in a way that will surely mean Ueda isn’t done fighting with the group. If she can’t have Kakeru and be happy, no one can. That could prove deadly to Kakeru later on.

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But we’re allowed to forget about Ueda and all her bullshit for a few wonderful, beautiful moments, as Naho and Kakeru are united before the fireworks end. In the courageous mood her future self told her she’d be in, she answers his question about which boy she’d most want to as her out (him), and he in turn answers hers (via Azu): that he’d want her to ask him out. The night ends as one neither will forget for the rest of their lives.

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Future Naho asserts that Kakeru’s regret stems from being unable to save his mother, while her regret comes from not being able to save him from the accident. Wondering why she can’t simply save Kakeru on the day of the accident, Naho reads ahead, and learns it wasn’t an accident – Kakeru rode his bike into a speeding truck on purpose, so he could go to where his mother was and apologize.

Knowing when it happens is irrelevant. Naho can’t save him from something his mind is set on anyway. Her true mission is to save his heart. That means learning more about his regret, which means asking about his mother. When Naho and Kakeru’s friends again arrange it so the two are alone for the Matsumoto Bon Bon, she gets plenty of opportunities, while also enjoying each other’s company.

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Despite their ongoing denial about not being a couple (at least not yet), the two look the part, and the camera captures them in a number of gorgeous isolated shots. Most affecting is when they pray to the shrine, which gives Naho her in.

After he evades her question of what he said to his mother at the shrine, Naho resolves to get him to answer her properly, even if he ends up hating her. Saving his heart is more important than preserving their romance, underscoring Naho’s role as a reluctant heroine.

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Turns out, Kakeru doesn’t hate her for pressing, though it’s clearly a painful subject to discuss. Indeed, he was worried she’d hate him if he told her the truth: that his mother, psychologically unstable, committed suicide the day he blew her off to hang out with Naho. That makes Naho’s first failure the reason Kakeru carries the regret that will ultimately destroy him if unchecked.

It’s an overwhelming blow for Naho, who can’t muster the words to comfort him. Suddenly, saving Kakeru’s heart seems like an impossible feat, especially all on her own. So she boldly reaches out to Suwa about her mission, and he seems to already be in the loop. You see, he also got a letter. BOOM.

That’s an explosive revelation right there, delivered with impeccable timing right at episode’s end. But it’s not so shocking, because we’ve seen Suwa and the others working so hard for Naho and Kakeru’s sakes.

I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone had letters, but it stands to reason if Naho could write a letter to her past self, she’d also write one to her future husband. It also explains why Suwa isn’t challenging Kakeru. In any case, now Naho knows his isn’t a mission she has to undertake all on her own. Everyone wants to save Kakeru’s heart.

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Orange – 05

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Last week’s episode ended on an optimistic note that I’m glad was carried through. Naho will never stop worrying or going over things in her head, but on multiple occasions this week, she says and does the things she needs to do to keep changing her (and Kakeru’s) future for the better. Note I said her future, as well as Kakeru’s…not her future self (more on that later).

On a rainy day when Kakeru forgets his umbrella, Naho is prepared not with a handkerchief, but a bath towel. Her friends, who know exactly what’s going on, get her and Kakeru can walk home together, and take a detour into a park with a picturesque view of the city. There, Kakeru gets Naho to close her eyes as he gives her a hair clip and snaps a photo of her wearing it.

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The letter said everyone would walk home with Kakeru, but here in the present it’s just him and her. The letters are from a static future, one that she’s not changing. But she is changing her own future, which means the people around her are starting to say and do things differently than the future Naho’s past.

We learn categorically that Kakeru and Ueda have broken up, and all I have to say about that is GOOD. But more importantly, in a somewhat on-the-nose side-lecture by the science teacher, Naho learns (or at least learns about the theory) that going back in time and changing things creates a parallel world containing the new future, branching off from the future that was, which remains intact.

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That lecture really got Naho down, because such a theoretical system means there’s nothing she can do about her future self’s regrets, nor Kakeru’s loss in that world. BUT, and this is key, she CAN keep herself from going down the same road she went down before, so there is absolutely value in continuing her mission.

A letter eventually informs her that some of her words and actions will erase memories good and bad, including an instance of Kakeru asking Naho out to the fireworks, just the two of them. When Kakeru no longer asks her that, Naho takes it upon herself to ask him, and leaves no room for misinterpretation: she wants to be with him and him alone.

It’s a phenomenal leap for Naho, who is surprised herself that she managed to say such words for the first time. This is what I was hoping for: that Naho would start to grow and take her future in her own hands.

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Obviously, the consequences of her more aggressive pursuit of Kakeru is that Suwa ends up the loser, as the entire circle of friends (other than Naho) are aware he likes Naho, even Kakeru. Suwa, a jock, takes this like any soccer match he’d lose against a superior opponent: c’est la vie.

Time will tell if he’s truly okay and even happy as long as Naho is happy (even if it means she’ll be happy with Kakeru and not him), but for now he seems sincere, and when Azu and Taka confront him about their intent to side with Naho, he tells them he’s on their side too.

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So they’re all in agreement: Naho x Kakeru will be supported and encouraged as much as they can, without getting to intrusive. That means Suwa swapping duties with Naho at the cultural festival so Naho can be with Kakeru.

Unlike Suwa, Ueda isn’t quite ready to concede defeat quietly, nor does she have the slightest intention of rooting for Naho. Rather, she takes the smaller girl aside into a dark corner, and asks questions that are none of her damn business while flanked by her stooges, generally intimidating the hell out of Naho, who finds herself in the unwanted kind of uncharted territory.

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Things seemed ready to spiral out of control when Naho slaps one of the girls away, but thankfully Ueda chose a corner with a window that offers Suwa (who just happens to be walking by with some girls who like him) a clear view of what’s going on and ample time to put a stop to it.

I shudder to think what would have gone down had Suwa not arrived, and breathed a big sigh of relief when he came between the girls, towering over even the statuesque Ueda, and leading Naho out of the combat zone.

I hope this is the last time Ueda pulls something like this, but I won’t hold by breath, as the more conflicts Naho has to face only adds to the overall drama. No one said this would be easy.

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Suwa makes one last gesture in favor of Naho x Kakeru by slipping the latter some bandages to put on Naho’s scratched hand. Kakeru makes it clear Suwa gave them to him, and Naho makes sure to do what the letters also directed: thank Suwa for looking out for him.

Present Naho had gotten into such a groove with Suwa (not to mention Azu and Taka) that she’d started to take Suwa’s kindness for granted. Future Naho married Suwa, but only after the first choice was lost to her. That being said, they seem like a happy enough couple, and they’ll continue to be a couple in the parallel future our present Naho is now separate from.

Sure enough, Suwa does appreciate being thanked profusely by Naho, to the point of tears of joy…and, maybe, also tears of resignation and sadness that Naho is out of reach. But this isn’t Suwa’s story. It’s Naho’s. You wanna make an omelette, you gotta break some Suweggs (I’ll show myself out).

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My Hero Academia – 02

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While on their brief flight through the city, the bottles containing the goop villain fall out of All Might’s pockets, and Kocchan kicks one of them, releasing the monster in a shopping district. Meanwhile, just as Izuku is hoping for inspiring words about how he can become a hero even without a Quirk, All Might deflates into a grotesque husk of his usual public self.

Turns out, this is his true form—more heroin than hero—the result of a near-fatal injury sustained in a battle years ago that limits him to three hours of heroic duty a day. Like the doctors and mother who told him about his limits, Izuku gets another grim dose of reality from All Might, who can’t simply say he can be a hero.

Kocchan, being tougher than Midoriya, is able to stay alive far longer in the villain’s clutches, but he can’t defeat the thing, and none of the heroes who show up have to proper skill sets to defeat it either.

I love the practical snags that result from the super-specialization of these heroes, be it the guy who only shoots water, the tree guy who can’t be near fire, or Mt. Lady, who doesn’t have enough room to work.

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When Izuku and the emaciated All Might arrive (seperately) at the scene, things are bad; everyone is waiting for someone to show up and save the day. Then, something happens to Izuku that apparently happens to a lot of heroes early in their lives: he moves without thinking, after seeing fear in Kocchan’s eyes and what he thinks is a wordless cry for help.

There’s very little Izuku can do besides run at the monster, scream, and throw his effects at it, but it doesn’t matter, it’s his heroic gesture that inspires All Might to pump himself back up, rescue Izuku, and knock the villain out with a right fist so hard he creates a pocket of precipitation above the city.

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Afterwards, All Might gets all the credit, Kocchan is praised for hanging in there…and Izuku is scolded by the other heroes for acting so recklessly. But both Kocchan and All Might know who is really responsible for saving the day, and it’s Izuku.

Kocchan may not have been trying to look desperate, but he did, and All Might wouldn’t have acted had Izuku not acted first. He doesn’t thank Kocchan, but you can tell he’s pissed about Izuku being more than just talk and kiddy dreams. That being said, All Might can’t keep this up much longer, so the obvious thing to do is to train Izuku to be his successor.

There are no guarantees, as Izuku still has no Quirk of his own, but he’s gotta try, and if nothing else, Izuku’s crazy actions proved to All Might that he can be a hero, with a little help. And then, as a little surprise, Izuku’s voiceover informs us this is actually the story of how he became the greatest hero. So he won’t be weak and unheralded for long.

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Kiznaiver – 01 (First Impressions)

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Hmmm…now this is more like it: a bold, brash, imaginative, absorbing counterstrike to the comparatively staid, restrained Kuromukuro. Space Patrol Luluco isn’t all Trigger is up to this Spring; in fact, that’s just an appetizer for this, the main course…KIZNAIVER.

Rather than beating around the bush, Kiz gets right down to brass tacks: this is a story about youth, pain, and the ability or inability to fell and share in it, as part of a larger plan to eliminate interpersonal conflict in the world, which has been around since we were in caves.

Rather than a literal cave, Agata Katsuhira inhabits an figurative one that protects him from physical pain at the cost of not feeling any emotional pain either, to the consternation of his friend and classmate Takashiro Chidori.

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His insulation from the work and from true bonds with other humans makes him a ripe target for bullies, since he offers no resistance to their blows or demands for money.

One such instance of this happens immediately after Chidori storms off (disgusted by Kocchan’s passivity) but another classmate, the Kamina-esque Tenga Hajime, steps in to rescue him unsolicited with the kind of stylish action Trigger is known for.

It’s here where Tenga learns Agata literally can’t feel pain, and starts having fun successfully testing that claim…when a striking, silver-haired class prez type appears.

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Agata comes to on a roof with the girl, one Sonozaki Noriko, who asks him if he’s heard of the Seven Deadly Sins. He has, of course, but she believes those sins have evolved along with humanity since their inception in biblical times.

Rather than pride, greed, envy, wrath, gluttony, lust, and sloth, she names new-style sins such as “The Cunning Normal”, “High-and-Mighty”, “Goody-Two-Shoes”, “Eccentric Headcase”, “Musclehead Thug”, and “The Imbecile (g/udon)”.

These aren’t just “sins”, they’re the actual personalities of five other classmates: Yuta Tsughuhito, Maki Honoka, Chidori, Niiyama Niko, Tenga, and Agata himself. The show does not shy away from specific, elemental personality types because it is the uniting of those disparate types that is to be Kiznaiver’s core dynamic.

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“Everyone wants to carve their scares into someone else…connect with someone else,” says Sonozaki. Agata’s inability to do so to this is the reason he’s…the way he is, but that’s about to come to an end.

In Agata, Sonozaki has found the missing piece in her plan to make the union of personalities official. She does so by shoving Agata down a flight of steps, an act of violence he’ll likely feel, even with his formidable pain threshold.

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After the town mascot “Gomorins” wheel an injured Agata through a disco ball-festooned hospital, he awakes to find Sonozaki, along with all of the five “sinners” she “quickly and precisely secured” (i.e. kidnapped) and performed identical operations on, installing something called the “Kizuna System” into their bodies.

She goes on to inform the other six that Sugomori City has always been an experimental testbed for the system, but she is implimenting it for the first time here and now. Kizuna System allows separate people to share one another’s pain. She says Agata only survived his fall because the pain of the trauma was spread among the other five.

She hopes that if pain and wounds were divided evenly and everyone could feel the pain of others, it could lead to peace in a battle-ridden world. The six she’s assembled are the first step. Notably, it doesn’t seem like she’s a part of this union.

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The other five subjects take off, unwilling or unable to comprehend what Sonozaki has told them. But when Niko suggests she’s just having a weird dream, and Tenga threatens to grope her, she smacks him with all her might, and all six subjects feel the sting of her strike, including Niko herself. After a couple more tests, it’s clear: they are now sharing their pain. This is no dream. “All for one and one for all” is their new motto.

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Not only that, but Agata is feeling pain now, something a girl in the very red cold open told him would come to pass one day. That day has arrived, now that he and the other five have the Kizuna System within them, making them…KIZNAIVERS.

The combo of Trigger and Okada Mari is an auspicious one, it’s fun to hear Boom Boom Satellites score an OP again (their OP in Xam’d is still one of my favorites), and the cast is stacked with talent.

Brisk, funky,stylish, and full of beautiful lighting, settings, and animations, Kiznaiver is a top Spring pick out of the gate, and may well bump a couple shows off my list going forward.

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My Hero Academia – 01 (First Impressions)

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A world where humans develop superpowers and a government-sanctioned hero industry that battle villains? With a comedic bent? We’ve seen this premise before. We’ve even seen this art style applied to this premise before, with One Punch Man, a bona-fide future classic covered by Zane last Fall.

Of course, that might be a dumb statement: most premises of new anime are premises we’ve seen before. Anime’s been around a while, and there are some premises that endure and continue to be relevant as long as there are talented people to put a new twist or their personal touch to them.

Does the well-worn familiarity hamper the freshness of My Hero Academia a little? Yes; that’s unavoidable. But if it doesn’t contribute anything new or groundbreaking, is it at least diverting entertainment? Most assuredly; and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

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We’ve seen weird heroes fighting weird villains before (and heroes fighting each other for the credit). But we haven’t seen these weird heroes and villains, vying for attention through the use of brute strength, speed and maneeuverability, or plain ol’ sex appeal.

The most “conventional” superhero also happens to be the top hero in the business, All Might, an amusingly grotesque Superman caricature who is blonde, burly, and perpetually grinning from ear to ear. This is the guy who inspires our protagonist, the pint-sized, “quirkless” Midoriya”Deku” Izuku.

He wants to be like All Might. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the genes. A third-year in middle school, he still has no powers, and doctors have told him not to hold his breath. Still, he takes careful notes of all hero/villain clashes and studies hard in hopes that he can enroll at the prodigious U.A. High (which no longer prohibits quirkless).

Izuku doesn’t just have his lack of powers to contend with, but also the universal general awfulness and cruelty of his peers, chief among them Bakugo Katsuki. Your typical bully with his corps of toadies, Katsuki wants to be the only one from his school to get into U.A. High, so threatens Izuku to forget about following him.

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That’s a nakedly petty position that is sure to set up a scenario in which Izuku somehow ends up with the power to oppose/surpass his Katsuki (or possibly lead to the two developing a grudging friendship).

The first brick in the foundation of Izuku’s rise is laid by an unexpected (and thoroughly disbelief-suspending) encounter with All Might himself. Izuku is wobbly-kneed in his presence, but is still able to grab on for dear life as Might flies away to his next gig.

Here, we see All Might cough up some blood, suggesting A.) his heroing days may be numbered and B.) Izuku is uniquely positioned to possibly succeed him. We must be content with this first brick, for My Hero Academia chose not to convert its loser MC to hero status in the first episode. But it’s a very promising first brick in what looks to be a fun Spring romp.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 03

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We bear witness to some truly dark, viscerally awful events in this episode from which my heart is still hurting, but also glimmers of brightness, joy, and hope, even as a vice seems to close around an unwitting Satoru. He may be 29 in a 10-year-old’s body, but there’s still so much he doesn’t know about Kayo’s disappearance, those glimmers can’t quite cut through the gloom of his predicament, especially considering this could be it; his last chance.

He will have to do his absolute best in order to save Kayo, something he does not do when he intentionally slows and lets his athletically-superior classmate beat him in a skating race, repeating the same mistake he made the first time he lived in this time. Everyone who worships the other kid just assumes it was a close race, but had Satoru won, they would have accused him of cheating, so he took the easy way out.

This, after promising to Kayo (doing her best to cheer for him, in her way), that he’d do his best. Afterwards, when he asks what Kayo’s birthday is, she accuses him of lying to her…which he did. And Satoru must think at this time: if he repeated the skiing mistake, what else would he repeat that would doom Kayo a second time? The variables are seemingly endless.

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However, the possibilities do thankfully narrow considerably for Satoru. Kayo’s body wasn’t discovered until Spring, but she hadn’t turned 11 when she disappeared. He’s determined the day she disappears is between March 1st and her birthday, and learns her birthday is the same as his: March 2. He has eleven days to save her. Will it be enough?

He learns, by the way, by checking the ledger of his teacher, Yashiro Gaku, one of the first people other than Kayo’s mother whom I suspected of being responsible for Kayo’s disappearance. This is due to Satoru’s observation that he’s a sharp, observant guy, but also because the camera lingers on him suspiciously.

Satoru learns more about Yuuki (whom he’d also save from Death Row if he stops the kidnappings), both good and bad. Turns out he wasn’t just some unemployed kid; he worked early hours at his dad’s bento store. He also has porn, which embarasses the 10-year-old in Satoru (who seems to take over a little more while he’s hanging out with Yuuki). But having a porn stash is normal; it certainly doesn’t make Yuuki a bad person, and it’s far from evidence he’s a murderer.

But Satoru, and I, for that matter, simply was not ready for the horror of discovering a skimpily-clad Kayo laying in a shed, exposed to the elements, covered with marks from a truly vicious beating from her nightmare of a mother.

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Forget 10-year-olds; this is hard for anyone of any age with any morals to witness and allow to stand. And yet, Satoru’s body betrays him. Were he 29, he could scoop Kayo away right there and then, take her to the police and tell them what he found. But he’s a puny little kid, and the mother tosses him aside like a ragdoll. Satoru can’t do anything right now, and it sickens him.

Back “home”, Kayo’s mom proceeds to shove Kayo’s head in icy water so the swelling of the wounds will go down in time for school. There’s both desperation and cold, evil calculation in the mother’s methods; perhaps she went further than she usually does with Kayo. The “man” watching TV in the living room, rather than act like an actual man and stop this, warns Kayo’s mother to save some ice for his booze. Truly disgusting people. Kayo is in hell.

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And yet, the marks and swelling is all covered up (as much as can be, anyway) the next day. Kayo is late, but she comes to school. Most of her classmates don’t notice the marks because they’re not really looking at her. But Satoru’s gaze goes straight to the welt on her neck.

When lunch money is misplaced, one girl, Misato, immediately accuses Kayo, because she’s “poor and hungry” all the time. Kayo’s mom may be a dispicable brute and a coward, but Misato is like a larval version, attacking with caustic words that spread across the class.

Satoru isn’t having it. He shuts Misato, making her cry (oh, boo-freakin’-who–brat!), but also restores Kayo’s faith in him. Satoru was able to do something (unlike before with her mom) and he did it, without worrying about how it would cause trouble for him.

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Satoru later speaks to Yashiro-sensei, who shares his concern for Kayo’s well-being, and may now have the evidence needed to have her removed from the danger by social services. During their talk, Old Satoru thinks out loud with his 10-year-old voice, talking beyond his years, but Yashiro doesn’t seem to think anything of it, instead agreeing that up to this point social services have been incompetent.

Also, Kayo’s mom is ruthlessly meticulous when it comes to hiding the abuse and not being around when they come to inspect the home). This is one of those glimmers of hope, but not knowing if Yashiro is hiding his true colors, they’re just that; glimmers. Besides, even if Yashiro is a saint, he won’t act to save Kayo as fast as Satoru knows she has to be saved.

Made up after he defended her in class (her memory about Misato’s stupid mechanical pencil was great, as well as underlying how terribly petty kids can be), Satoru invites Kayo to join him in the mountains to see a “Christmas tree”, after she also mentioned how she once went to Misato’s house for a Christmas party and saw a great big and beautiful one; obviously, there are no holidays in Kayo’s home; only blood and despair.

Satoru lets her forget about her everyday hell for just a little while, and when a pair of red foxes circle them numerous times, it almost seemed like part of the universe was placing some kind of protection on them. As for the real icicle-decorated tree, it’s not technically a real Christmas tree (leading Kayo to use her catchphrase “are you stupid?”), the grand sight of it does produce her first big smile of the show; a rare moment of pure joy that’s wonderful to behold. Kayo really needed this, and so did I.

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Unfortunately, there’s another part of the universe that has it in for Kayo and Satoru, as it’s all but confirmed that Yashiro may be up to no good, as the final shot of the episode features a camera looking through a murky window at Yashiro with his back turned to us, backed by a foreboding musical stab.

But it might be worse than I thought: Kenya is also there, with his black turtleneck; his eyes covered in shadow, and what looks like a smirk on his face. Old Satoru did say Kenya acted beyond his years. Could he and the similarly sharp, observant Yashiro be behind the kidnappings, and like Kayo’s mother, escaped justice in the original timeline? I know, I’m assuming the worst, but the episode isn’t making it easy not to.

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Prison School – 07

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It’s been interesting to watch the deterioration of Kiyoshi and Shingo’s relationship over the last seven weeks, but to Prison School’s credit, Shingo is not always just the bad guy. Or at least, there’s more to him than simply his feud with Kiyoshi, as nicely demonstrated this week when he’s released into the wild by Meiko. He meets the bold, lovely Anzu in an arcade, who says she’ll take him on anytime; in video games, but also, perhaps, more than that.

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Among the inmates who aren’t Kiyoshi, Shingo is definitely the most “normal”, and there’s nothing normal about being in prison school for two months, so it stands to reason he’d do anything even for fleeting instances of freedom and normal life. Meiko knows that, and milks him for all he’s worth. When Shingo presents the missing sword from Gakuto’s figurine (which no one else knows about except Kiyoshi), which he found on the bathroom floor, Meiko does some googling and snooping and not only finds the figuring in the bathroom closet, but deduces it must be Gakuto’s—or “Dirty Four-Eyes.”

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For his quite accidental informing, Shingo gets another few hours on the outside, and his flirtation with Anzu continues, from her playing video games over his shoulder to sharing their ice cream cones to her offering to take him to go see The Grapes of Wrath. The two have nice chemistry, and feel very natural and normal together. While I wouldn’t want this to be the whole show, it is nice to see Prison School successfully playing the romantic slice-of-life straight, without any ecchi mayhem.

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Of course, it almost seems to make up for that normalcy by having Mari and Meiko unveil their suspicions about Gakuto in the strangest, meanest, wrongest way possible, offering one snack kernel for each inmate, but putting the missing sword in Gakuto’s hand and testing his reaction.

When he doesn’t bite (even when she places the figuring in her cleavage),  she mounts the horse it came with, threatening to crush it with her ample frame. Gakuto scoops it from beneath her, but before Mari can finish her judgment, he smashes it against the ground all by himself, declaring he’s not into those kinds of things.

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Just like that, Gakuto’s seven years of life go up in tiny shards of plastic. But he did it so he wouldn’t waste his entire life putting trinkets ahead of his hard-won friendships. He also apologizes for shunning Kiyoshi. I daresay it’s one of the most honorable moments from Gakuto not involving soiling himself.

As for Meiko, her little scheme backfired, and Shingo blurts out where the sword Mari touched came from (the boy’s bathroom), causing Mari to faint from shock, then to shun a Meiko who desperately wants to be whipped, in a very clever ecchi Twister game of tea time.

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Mari’s punishment for Meiko is to wear a skirt and shirt that cover her breasts and panties, but which prove so unbearably restrictive, Meiko almost faints in the hallway. Chiyo is there to help her, and by hanging around the council office, she’s able to learn for the first time about her sister’s DTO operation, which she surely takes exception to, as she’s one, like Anzu, who don’t mind boys at the school.

Mari’s “final phase” of the plan to expel the boys, seems to involve Andre, who they know is a masochist who keeps a “slave diary” (with some very nice illustrations in it, I must add!), but also notable this week is that all the inmates other than Shingo have now forgiven Kiyoshi, and also forgive Gakuto after he smashed his figurine.

Now it’s not Kiyoshi on an island, but Shingo. Would he still be so eager to continue help Meiko if he knew it was in service of getting the boys—including him—expelled? Certainly, being able to hang out with Anzu certainly makes it easier, but if he’s expelled, they won’t go to the same school anymore. Quite the quandary.

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