Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 11

saks111

A night at Sakurako’s moves Minami to tell her Hitoe’s location, and when they find her covered in butterflies the worst is feared. Alas, “only” her dog is dead and attracting the insects; she merely took a non-lethal dose of sleeping pills and soon wakes up. Not shortly thereafter, Hector barks from outside, announcing he’s found what Sakurako was hoping to find: more bones. Specifically, the bones of a young woman; Minami and Hitoe’s friend Futaba. And that’s far from all that’s unearthed this week.

saks112

Minami recounts the tale of how Futaba showed her and Hitoe this abandoned cabin in the woods, and they made it their home, their place where they belonged. All three of them had their problems, but Futaba was the worst, and soon wanted to enter a suicide pact with the other two. Hitoe agreed, but Minami didn’t want to die, so she ran. When she returned later, Futaba was dead, having hung herself, while Hitoe injured her hands trying to save her.

saks113

Minami buried the body, and that was that. Only…Sakurako-san wasn’t born yesterday by any stretch, and Futaba’s bones tell her a far different story. Not a story of Futaba hanging herself as Hitoe struggled to stop her, but a story of being strangled to death, as indicated by bones that would not have been broken by hanging, and the dubiousness of dying while hanging so low her feet touched the ground.

saks114

Hitoe can’t keep up the fiction any longer, though she kept it hidden within her memory for so long, it flows out like a river through breached dam, all anger and despair. Futaba gave her an ultimatum: she’d either help her kill herself, or she’d kill her, then commit suicide. It was an impossible situation for Hitoe, who comes out and blames Minami for running. Had she been there, maybe Futaba would have kept it together a little longer (though considering both she and Hitoe were already considering suicide when Minami fled, I doubt it).

Isozaki is able to calm Hitoe, and puts all the blame on himself, not for failing to see the pain his three students were in, but for seeing the pain, and turning away, not wanting to be hurt himself.

saks115

After burying Futaba, Minami and Hitoe drifted apart, partly because Hitoe started seeing other friends, partly because Hitoe reminded Minami of what happened to Futaba. Then she met Hanabusa, who she waxes poetic about as if her mind had been programmed to say these things. But it wasn’t; she simply fell victim to the honeyed words of a criminal mastermind, just as Hitoe would, and just as many other victims have.

Sakurako knows Hanabusa never loved Minami—that he’s incapable of loving anyone unless they’re bleach bones—and that Minami was just another pawn in his game. The thing is, she doesn’t really need to be so blunt about all these things at this particular time. For someone so good at detecting, she fails to read the room, and turns her back on Minami, who can’t handle what she’s saying and tries to stab her with a palette knife.

But Sakurako doesn’t get stabbed, because Shoutarou comes between her and Minami, catching the knife in his side. Remembering her brother, who apparently drowned in a rainstorm, she shouts out Shoutarou’s name.

saks116

But it’s all okay; the stabbing wasn’t precise, nor was it lethal. Shou will be fine. But Sakurako isn’t. It was too close a call for her. As she hits the home stretch on tracking down the “abyss” that is Hanabusa, Sakurako has unilaterally decided she and Shou must part ways. It almost feels like a breakup…because it is, and Shou is heartbroken. But the bottom line is, Hanabusa is a dangerous, brilliant son of a bitch, and while Sakurako loves bones, she never wants to see Shoutarou’s.

Will Shoutarou really accept this? He’s too shocked and overwhelmed to protest here, but once he’s discharged, I wonder how Sakurako will keep him away, and whether he’ll honor her selfish desire to go it alone with Hanabusa. I’m hoping he won’t, because as the tear Sakurako sheds indicates, these two people belong together. Call them soul mates, if you will.

9_mag

Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 10

saks101

While on a bonehunt with Sakurako and Shoutarou, Isozaki-sensei gets called away by news that his former student Hitoe has disappeared. Sakurako offers to give him a lift, but is really interested in the mystery sticking with him offers. Hitoe is the second of three once-inseparable friends who were students in Isozaki’s homeroom.

Saku instantly notices how personal he’s taken the disappearance of the first and how he couldn’t bear to lose another. He also sees how he atones for not being able to do anything about the first girl who disappeared, Minami. When they visit Hitoe’s rich and haughty parents who know nothing about their daughter, Saku is disgusted, gathers all the clues she can about where Hitoe may be headed (a few days’ clothes and a phone battery away) and gets the hell out of there.

saks102

We finally see Hitoe, the girl from last week’s cold open, still in a kind of trance, or possibly drugged, with her little dog and a bed covered in bandage wrappers, talking to her “sensei” about her “wings.” Shou learns from Yuriko that Hitoe modeled for a painter and was rumored to be dating him as well. So there’s the “sensei.” (Speaking of senseis, Yuriko makes sure to apologize for her harsh words to Isozaki, now that she knows he does know what it’s like to suddenly lose someone.)

They then visit Minami’s apartment, a far more downscale affair than Hitoe’s, and Sakurako gets a lot more out of Minami’s mom, who is at least in tune with her daughter’s life than Hitoe’s mom, even if she doesn’t know the full picture. When Saku finds the painting Minami modeled for—with a butterfly on her back just like a painting Hitoe modeled for—that picture starts coming together: we have a predatory artist who lures girls in with the promise of “wings” that will take them away from their awful homes and lives.

saks103

Saku finds multiple receipts for a particular restaurant (not Wagnaria) in Minami’s dustbin, and that leads them right to her, where she’s anemic, exhausted, and clearly still traumatized by what she’s been through. Still, she tries to hold onto her secrets as long as she can, though Sakurako sees through her physical tics and decides a change of venue is better.

She takes Minami into her house and has Gran fill her belly. Perhaps, when she’s ready, she’ll be able to say more about Hanabusa-sensei, the painter both she and Hitoe loved.

saks104

After a day when he got a good look at Sakurako’s ass when she was rummaging under Minami’s bed, Sakurako continues to surprise Shoutarou by personally inviting him for breakfast in the morning, a first for her. But in his monologue as the episode ends and we see the butterfly design etched into the showering Minami’s flesh with a painter’s knife, a future Shou recalls that while he was happy about Saku’s invitation, he had no idea at the time what her true intentions were, and the bones she truly sought.

This was another strikingly different episode from an anime that has always confidently blazed its own trail, exploring unique specific themes such as friends from different backgrounds, how friendships crumbled when they desired the same thing; the differences in their relationships with their mothers; the fact that ennui, depression, and the desire to rebel stretches across class and status.

This episode took a look into the secret world of young people most adults including their parents never see nor hear, and so may as well not exist to them; entire galaxies of hidden ideas and dreams, and one insidious little mini-cult of three, all worshiping this Hanabusa fellow who still lurks about in his coat and hat. He has much to answer for.

8_mag

Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 10

kk2101

This episode features the unlikely but increasingly tolerable pairing of Nanami and a somewhat humbled (and therefore more reasonable) Brother Jiro, as they search for the Sojobo’s soul. He’s still stern and no nonsense, but he doesn’t prevent Nanami from following him down into a secret cavern.

k2102

Jiro even tells her this was where Shinjuro got into trouble with a thunderbolt beast, and where Suiro lost his ability to fly by rescuing him. But when Jiro drops into a deeper chasm, even when lightning shoots up, nay, because it does, Nanami goes in after Jiro, not because she doesn’t trust him, but because he had the bearing of a man going to his death.

kk2103

The beast rears its head for Nanami first, and while she’s able to fire off a barrier against evil, it counterattacks with a massive lightning strike. It’s in this moment Jiro finally understands why Suiro saved Shinjuro and regrets nothing: the despair of losing his ability to fly was small compared to the despair of losing someone he loves.

Before Suiro knew it, he was moving to save Shinjuro. And before Jiro knows it, he’s moving to save Nanami, whom he admits he’s fallen for, and can’t bear to watch die.

kk2104

I love how over-the-top Shinjuro’s reaction to learning the soul is hidden in the same place where he was traumitized, but he quickly composes himself, knowing that not only is he a far stronger tengu now, in part because of that experience, but he’s also not alone: Tomoe is with him and Nanami is further in.

kk2105

Tomoe dispatches the “kitten” with his superior fox fire, but he isn’t able to bask in the light of Nanami’s gratitude for saving her as he usually does. Nanami is too concerned with Jiro, who is badly injured and loses consciousness.

kk2106

In a really nice icebreaker, the defeated thunderbolt beast, suddenly not so fearsome-looking anymore, coughs up the Sojobo’s soul like a hairball. Kamisama Kiss has always been great at tempering or punctuating its more serious scenes with lighter fare. Unlike, say, Violin girl, its slapstick never ruins the mood, but rather keeps it in check.

kk2107

Nanami’s continued concern for Jiro irks Tomoe, because he doesn’t like the idea of Nanami, whom he likes, worrying about another man. Still, he’s able to comfort her by assuring her Jiro will happily bear whatever consequences he must, because he got to save Nanami. He speaks form his own extensive experience: saving Nanami is always worth it.

kk2108

Kamisama Kiss puts on a romantic comedy/drama clinic this week, perfectly balancing Nanami’s joy and relief when Jiro comes to (thanks to her peach pills) with the embarrassment of walking in on a nude Jiro being bathed by Suiro.

kk2109

Tomoe initially playfully teases Nanami, but as usual goes a little bit farther than he should due to his own frustration of holding in his true feelings for the lass. When he tells her it makes no difference to him whether she goes back home with him or stays with Jiro to get to know him better, it clearly wounds Nanami, who contrary to Tomoe’s jealous suspicions, hasn’t simply flipped her love switch from Tomoe to Jiro.

kk21010

Still, Jiro did manage to do one thing Tomoe hasn’t been able to yet: clearly confess his feelings for Nanami. So at the cherry blossom tree viewing/Sojobo & Jiro recovery party (that’s a mouthful), Nanami is receptive to Jiro’s own attempts at courtship, which aren’t bad for someone who’s never laid eyes on a woman before.

kk21011

The beauty of the restored cherry tree makes for about as romantic a locale as one could hope for, but as much charm and respect Jiro has for Nanami, when she tells him how precious the peach pills she used to save him are, and how she wants Tomoe to have them if anything ever happens to her, it becomes clearer to him that he’s barking up the wrong tree.

Consider: when he flew her up into the tree, in a moment of fear Nanami called out for Tomoe. Also, when she has too many high-proof sake-filled steamed buns and gets wasted, she repeats his name again and again. With the walls of sobriety down, she also lowers her toughing-it-out mask. The only one she wants is Tomoe, and she’s far more happy being carried on his warm comfortable back than being in the middle of a cherry tree with Jiro.

kk21012

She even unabashedly lets off an “I love you”, not her first nor her last directed at Tomoe. And perhaps knowing she’s passed out and won’t hear it, he says he loves her too out loud. It’s a small step, but he knows it’s a necessary one.

As Shinjuro tells him, it’s precisely because human lives are so short, that if you have to say something, you’d better say it before it’s too late. Tomoe has technically said what he needs to say, but this time doesn’t count. Can he do it when Nanami is conscious? We’ll see.

10_mag

Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 09

kk291

I had a feeling this “heist” episode was going to be a good one, but I wasn’t prepared for how much ass it kicked, much of it courtesy of our heroine Nanami. It’s quite simply one of her finest hours. It’s all because she has to be herself, which means tapping into her stores of morality, decency, and emptahy along with her increasingly potent divine powers.

kk292

But first of all, I just want to reiterate that Tengu Nanami just made my year. He/She is so friggin’ cute she makes Botanmaru look like a pile of puke! The spiral glasses are a particularly nice touch. But along with that cuteness comes great strength.

kk293

But anyway, the reason Nanami is able to steal the show is that the (somewhat) carefully orchestrated operation doesn’t go according to plan. Kurama had hoped to get Jiro drunk on mundane world medicinal alcohol, but the bull has formidable tolerance.

Tomoe, furious that Jiro hurt Nanami, tries to work his magic, posing as a slightly sultrier Nanami to throw Jiro off his game (helped at least a little by the booze). It works for a time; at least long enough for Nanami to find the Sojobo.

kk294

Kurama and Tomoe are undone when Tomoe breaks character and brings up Nanami, the maiden Jiro met, and even threatens violence. Kurama stops his “familiar”, but Jiro imprisons them both in a strong, anti-yokai barrier prison. With these two out of commission, it’s Nanami’s game to lose.

kk295

She doesn’t lose. The plan fails mostly because she and the others weren’t aware of the existence of a yokai under Jiro’s employ (Yatori), or the fact the Sojobo has been petrified as a result of his soul being extracted.

kk296

Nanami, in top heroine goddess form, doesn’t cower in fear before the bombastic Jiro. In fact, when he smacks Botanmaru, she gives him a stern scolding, one he probably hasn’t heard in a long time, if ever, and sorely needed. He blames Botanmaru for being weak, but Nanami points out Jiro hasn’t been running this mountain himself, all alone. Even the strongest have people they rely on.

kk297

Jiro doesn’t know how this litle whelp of a tengu knows about such stuff, because he doesn’t know he’s talking to a human land god. When Nanami brings up Sojobo’s soul extraction, Yatori butts in a shoos Jiro away. In case you were wondering, yes, this guy is up to no good, and is simply using Jiro to secure an army for Akura-oh.

But Yatori is just as clueless about this tengu lad as Jiro, and when he threatens to off him and Botanmaru, the wig and gloves come off and Nanami enters Full Bad-Ass Mode, a mode she remains in for the duration of the episode.

kk298

With Mamoru by her side, she casts a barrier against evil that easily dispatches Yatori. One could say he’s dealt with too easily, but this has never been a show about long, drawn-out physical battles, but rather battles of wits, timing, and ideals. In any case, it’s awesome to see Nanami wield such power so comfortably and confidently, and we know why: the people she loves and cares are counting on her, and she won’t let them down.

kk299

Even in disguise, her words prove just as powerful a weapon against the big dumb mean bear that is Jiro, within whom lies a precocious but insecure boy desperate to earn the Sojobo’s approval.

When he isn’t watching where he’s going he bumps into the three adorable little tengu we met last week, who all expect to be reprimanded severely for getting in his way. But Nanami’s words echo through his head, and suddenly picking on a bunch of little kids seems stupid. Good for him. Better for Nanami!

kk2910

Jiro’s sudden crisis of the heart also means his hold on his “encampment” is tawdry at best, and Nanami takes advantage. Ignoring Yatori’s pleas to keep him around since he’s the only one who knows where the Sojobo’s soul is stashed, she decides to simply cancel out all of the barriers in the compound with one big barrier against evil, and find the soul herself.

As she “tears” through the place, she scares the bejesus out of various tengu who’ve never laid eyes on a woman before, and even leaves a gleaming golden trail in her wake. Once her barrier is cast, the whole place starts to sparkle. When Tomoe and Kurama’s prison fades away in the golden light, Tomoe knows exactly what’s up: his Nanami is demonstrating precisely why she’s worth falling for.

9_mag

Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 08

kk281

The tables are turned on the human Nanami early this week as for once she is the one being regarded as a rare and strange supernatural creature, a “celestial nymph,” by Jiro. He’s not the gentlest soul to her, either, roughly grabbing her arm and threatening to break it before Mamoru, true to his name manages to spring her.

Scared, trembling, and sporting a sore arm, the sight of the far gentler Tomoe is enough to make Nanami collapse into his bosom ing joyful relief. This is the side of Nanami that makes Tomoe want to protect her with everything he’s got. And I’m sure Nanami would always prefer for Tomoe to be waiting with open arms whenever she gets into such a state.

kk282

After being treated roughly and then gently, Suiro continues to talk to Nanami while facing Tomoe, as if her countenance is too awful to look upon. When she forces the issue, he admits he’s simply not used to interacting with women, especially, as he says, “beautiful maidens.”

After glimpsing his impossibly gorgeous face, Nanami has to wonder if he’s just being nice. Don’t get me wrong, Nanami is super-cute, and I wouldn’t call her plain, but it’s clear her’s is a more normal, casual beauty compared to all these magazine cover bishounen. 

kk283

Suiro, perhaps the most classically feminine of the characters in the room, has always mothered Shinjuro, and now that he’s back it’s as if nothing has changed: he still sees him as a little kid with mussed hair who can be placated with apples and promises “it will all work out.” Only Kurama isn’t a kid, and isn’t buying it. Nothing will work out this time unless he acts.

kk284

When Kurama storms out to cool his head, Suiro asks Nanami and Tomoe not just to leave themselves after giving the peach pills to give to Kurama’s sire, but to take Kurama with them as well. He can tell that Kurama left a lot behind in the mundane world to come to the mountain, and he shouldn’t be expected to abandon the life he’s lived for seventeen years.

k285

Nanami’s response is simple: she and Tomoe aren’t leaving until Kurama says he wants to go. They both find Kurama surveying Jiro’s heavily-fortified compound, and Kurama comes to the same conclusion Tomoe does: he can’t do this alone. Nanami volunteers to help in anyway they can, because she’s not just someone who runs scared into the arms of others. She’s both vulnerable and strong; scared and brave; all seemingly contradictory traits that perplex Tomoe so.

kk286

Kurama doesn’t even have to ask Nanami, but he does anyway as a courtesy; not an easy thing at all for him to do, considering he prefers to shoulder all the burdens himself. What’s so funny is the cliff they’re on is so windy, Nanami doesn’t quite hear him ask for her help, and Kurama is too bashful to ask again. Thankfully, Tomoe heard.

kk287

Meanwhile, within compound they intend to infiltrate tomorrow, it’s plain to Yatori—and us—that Nanami has had an effect on Jiro. You could say he’s been enchanted; his heart and mind are in disarray. His instincts made him act forcefully to a potential threat in the nymph, yet he cannot deny her presence in his mind has been all but constant ever since their meeting. You can call it puppy love, but no doubt he sees it as a weakness, one he’ll hide from his subordinates at all costs, even as he continues to cull young tengu who aren’t strong enough to pass muster.

kk288

This episode is immediately made better by frikking having Tomoe in it, saying more than one line; although a few of his lines are obviously defensive barbs loosed against the girl he’s fallen for flustering him simply by existing. As fate would have it, they share a bedroom that night.

kk289

Nothing really happens, despite what these images might suggest, but when coming back from the bathroom, Nanami accidentally curls up in Tomoe’s bed, and while initially freaked out, Tomoe is surprised to find himself embracing her, right up until she comes to. It’s all very “romawkward”, as one would expect from two people still on the very fringes of a romantic relationship, and still not comfortable openly talking about it or even acknowledging the mutual attraction exists.

kk2810

That morning, we see the plan that will get them into the compound: Kurama will pose as the land god Nanami really is, Tomoe will pose as his familiar instead of Nanami’s, and Nanami will pose as an apprentice tengu, which introduces us to Nanami Tengu Drag, which might be the most adorable thing I’ve seen all Winter.

8_mag

Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 07

kk271

Botanmaru’s wretched state (he passes out from the mundane world “poison” and has welts from lashings) convinces Kurama to return to his home mountain from whence he descended seventeen years ago, when he wasn’t much bigger than lil’ Botan. I like how he admits he’s far more into the mundane world scene because of all the cute girls.

kk272

One of those cute girls insists on tagging along in case she can support Kurama. Nanami constantly referring to her damn white talismans is a nice little running gag, but it’s also a more serious sign that she’s no longer one to sit on the sidelines as friends—or even mere acquaintances—face challenges. And fixing the problem on the tengu mountain is definitely a challenge.

kk273

Kurama didn’t just hesitate to return because there are no women on the mountain. When he says he’s a failure, he means it; and not only did he flee the mountain, but he fled after his beloved brother Suiro, who was the fastest tengu on the mountain, saved him from a cruel trial, costing his mentor his wings, which, for a tengu, are everything. The one who put Kurama thorugh that trial is now poised to succeed the dying leader.

kk274

The mountain is also covered in thick, nasty misasma in which evil spirits lurk, one of which exploits Kurama’s weakness and takes Suiro’s form. At first I was like “Okay, this guy is kind of lame for spouting all this exposition like this” but it turns out he was an imposter. The real Suiro is much kinder, though notably cold to Nanami, sending her on a trek to the outhouse.

kk275

The somewhat mannerless Yatori has slinked his way into Jiro’s court, which is troublesome, since we know Yatori aims to hand this mountain over to Akura-oh. As friendly as he’s being with Jiro, this guy is no ally. Jiro, all puffed-up and tough; the yang to Suiro’s yin, doesn’t see Yatori as a threat, which could prove fatal as the crisis on the mountain worsens.

kk276

The change of setting would be refreshing if it weren’t essentially a bunch of thick green-gray fog and dead trees. The mountain is a very dreary place right now, though Nanami is hopeful she can bring some light and joy, if only to a few wary fledglings, one of whom had his orphaned boar piglet slaughtered by Jiro while cradling it in his arms.

Jiro is all about tough love and strength; he has no time for the weak or sentimental. But it’s not at all certain Jiro is the right one to ascend to leadership—especially with Yatori hanging off of him.

kk277

Jiro is built up throughout the episode as a bit of an ass, but these are dire times and he has cause to put up a hard line. So when he spots Nanami under the cherry blossom tree she temporarily restored and seems to be instantly smitten (and why not; Nanami is a cutey), it’s clear this guy isn’t your normal villain/usurper. But while I realize this is the introduction to a more tengu-focused story arc, I was still miffed by Tomoe’s exceedinly scant presence.

7_mag

Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 06

kk261

Following the Divine Assembly, this week’s Kami-Haji is a bit of a disjointed grab bag, with some parts superior (in terms of my interest in them) to others. I’ll get right to my favorite part: the aftermath of Nanami’s talk with Mikage. Despite Mikage’s blessing, without knowing explicitly why Mikage wants Tomoe to “choose” her so badly (beyond wanting him to be free of him), Nanami remains hesitant in her courtship of Tomoe, especially when Lord Okuninushi recommends against it.

k262

Nanami even travels home separately from Tomoe in order to give her situation more thought, but thankfully, she gets another viewpoint, and one she should give more weight than Okuninushi, who as far as we know hasn’t ever truly loved a human. That other viewpoint comes from Himemiko. It only takes one look at Nanami to sense her uncertainty, and wastes no time setting her straight.

k263

Nanami thinks she’s being reckless and foolish to cultivate a romance with Tomoe because she knows she’ll die long before him, and thus knows she could break his heart when that day arrives. She’s doubly concerned with the fact this would be the second time in Tomoe’s existence that he’s survived a human lover. But I, like Himemiko, think Nanami has it all backwards.

It’ll do Nanami no good to conceal her love the rest of her days, or settle for someone she doesn’t love. Rather, she should treasure what time she has in the living world with Tomoe, expressing her true and unfiltered feelings, not letting those years go to waste and lead to regret. Himemiko speaks from experience: the pain of one day losing her human love Kota will pale in comparison to the regret she’d have in her heart had she never pursued him.

kk264

As great as Himemiko and Nanami’s day of shopping and love talk is, it doesn’t quite fill a whole episode, which is a good thing, as I preferred the montage (during which a lovely arrangement of the first season’s opening theme plays) to a more heavily-padded shopping scenes. Still, that means the balance of the episode must be filled, and in this case, it’s filled with less compelling stuff.

Kirihito/Akura-oh’s quest to restore himself has promise, but the introduction of Yatori is sudden and shrug-worthy. Sure, I dig Yatori’s Sia Wig and crazy green eyes, and the fact he’s aware Kirihito is really Akura-oh (and Kirihito believes him to be a fool, which he isn’t), makes for an interesting dynamic. But nothing happens yet; Yatori only promises to raise a force and begin a campaign against the tengu mountain of Kurama in Akura-oh’s name. Kirihito’s just, like…“um, thanks?”

kk265

The mention of Kurama calls to mind Nanami’s crow-tengu classmate and sometime-ally Kurama, who just happens to be having a concert that Ami invites Nanami to (Tomoe outright refuses). She then accidentally steps on a little tengu named Botanmaru who just happens to be looking for a fellow tengu who came down from the mountain seventeen years ago.

Botanmaru is specifically after this tengu because he doesn’t believe the commonly-held opinion among his peers that leaving the mountain made him a failure. He also looks up to him as an inspiration, because both of them are late-bloomers (Botan still can’t fly) and hopes he’ll be able to offer some advice.

kk266

To Nanami’s surprise, the one Botanmaru seeks is Kurama. With her extra ticket, she takes Botanmaru to his concert, where he’s in Full Fallen Angel Idol Mode, and not anywhere any guy, particularly Tomoe, wants to be. The episode concludes without the two tengu meeting yet, but it seems the next main storyline will be about this, and I suspect Tomoe will object to Nanami intervening in tengu affairs, for no other reason than it means having to hang out with Kurama.

Nanami’s observation at the end that Kurama never actually plays the acoustic guitar he breaks out on stage for his “ballad”—it was just a prop—is a funny way to close.

7_mag

Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 05

kk251

Nanami and Tomoe weren’t actualy apart that long these last two episodes, but as Nanami remarks, the netherworld had a way of skewing time, making it seem like far more than four days of separation, for her as well as me. Now Tomoe is a yokai again, and in prison. Is it Nanami’s turn to save him?

kk252

Well…he asks for space, insisting it’s his decision whether to become her familiar again. And in his yokai form, he’s a bit of a short fuse, so Nanami gives him that space and tries to focus on work as Tomoe sulks in the dark. But in fine dysfunctional courtship form, both of them can think of nothing but the other, as if they had cast spells on one another.

Mizuki tells Tomoe his feelings for Nanami won’t go away just because he’s no longer contracted with her. So what does Tomoe do? Break into her room at night and contract with her, with the customary kiss, and boom, just like that, the Tomoe Yokai Experiment is resolved.

kk253

The fact that a contract or lack of same had no effect on his feelings for her has a profound effect on Tomoe. It occurs to him he has fallen for her, but he can’t help but express that fall by yelling, scolding, bullying, and teasing. Matters aren’t helped by the fact that Nanami reiterates her love for him, but knows he’s not interested in her in that way at all. If he wasn’t, things would be much easier.

kk254

Just when you think he’s realized he’s gone too far and comforts her, he follows it up by trying to strip her! In any case, this is a classic case of someone reflexively taking their romantic frustration out on the very object of their affection.

Tomoe doesn’t like himself in this state anymore than Nanami does. But once the Divine Assembly officially concludes with a big divine party, Tomoe is able to be civil and even debonair as her escort. Then Nanami chases a familiar butterfly that leads her to Mikage.

kami255

Nanami’s duties at the diving assembly, which she was performing in Mikage’s stead, involved distributing strings of destiny to and fro with the other gods, deciding who will be matched with whom in the mundane world. What Nanami didn’t know is that a similar string connects her and Tomoe; a pairing facilitated explicitly by Mikage himself.

He knows Tomoe better than anyone else in any dimension. And so Mikage knows—and it has been confirmed time and again to us by Tomoe’s behavior towards Nanami—that Tomoe believes humans to frail and fleeting in their existence to devote his full soul to. He had done so once before with Yukiji, who passed away while he lingered. Human and yokai relationships are taboo because of the vast difference in lifespans.

kk256

Mikage brought Nanami to Tomoe to teach him that humans aren’t weak. Nanami was cast away by her family and gone through innumerable hardships, but never gives up, never hesitates to help others, and never fails to flash a big adorable smile when Tomoe is around…and not acting like a dick.

Mikage’s aim was to “rekindle Tomoe’s bond with humanity”, by choosing Nanami, taboo be damned. But while Nanami and Tomoe have yet to figure out how such a thing will work, but the fact he came back to and contracted with her unbidden by anything other than his love for her, proves there’s is no shortage of sparks at the heart of that kindling.

8_mag

Free! – 08

free8

Dejected by his defeat and unsure why, Haruka hides in the showers, but the others drag him out in time to watch Makoto, Nagisa, and Rin. No one advances to the finals, but Gou suprises them by announcing she’s entered them in tomorrow’s medley relay. The team goes to Haru’s house, doubtful he’ll agree to swim. When he comes home, everyone has left but Makoto. Haruka hears the voicemail they left him and agrees to swim. The next day Rin catches wind that Iwatobi is swimming again, and gets to watch them swim, recognizing their strokes from years ago.

Wallowing in what is obviously a rare loss, Haruka protests not becoming “free” after racing Rin. He wasn’t supposed to care about winning; he didn’t think he cared about winning. But he clearly does care. When Makoto, Nagisa and Rin bump into Rin in the hall, Makoto sees the attitude Rin has adopted and takes him down a peg by reminding him it was he who taught Haru that there was far more to swimming than winning. Rin snubs it off, but he knows Makoto’s right, and thus can’t even go the rest of the day feeling good about his win.

Rin was just as happy about winning as he was showing up Haruka, but the next day when Haruka is right back out there, ready to swim, it shocks Rin as much as losing shocked Haru. Worse still, watching Makoto and Nagisa dregs up memories of swimming with all of them, and he’s reminded how well he knows them all. He’s also disgusted by Rei’s “excuse” for a butterfly, and even a little jealous that Rei’s swimming in his place. We don’t see Haru swim, nor do we learn the result of their medley, but there’s a possibility Rin’s vow to never again swim with Haru may have been premature.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • In the individual events, Haruka and Makoto are close, but no one ends up advancing. Realism!
  • It was incredibly sweet for Haruka’s concerned friends to break into his house and hang out there awaiting his return. Those are some friends right there!
  • We love being reminded that yes, there remain some people just don’t give a shit about cell phones. Good for them; it’s an extraneous device (though one would have been quite useful to the protag in White Album).
  • Haru’s moonlight swim, like most of the swimming scenes, made us want to go swimming really bad! Unfortunately the public pool is closed for the season, so the creek it is!

Free! – 05

free5

With 48 days until the prefectural tournament, the Iwatobi Swim Club needs to train to build up stamina. Gou finds a training regimen from the old swim club that involves swimming between deserted islands. The Club has no budget, so they have to rough it. Makoto provides camping equipment, and Sasebe agrees to take them to the islands with his squid fishing boat. They aim to complete the 4-kilometer circuit three times, but only get halfway there on the first day. In the middle of the night, Rei goes out by himself and gets caught in a storm, and Makoto swims out to rescue him…

Sometimes it’s not enough to just go through the motions. Sometimes an adventure is called for. If you can’t afford to train at a 50m pool, then why not make things interesting by traveling to an island chain and training there on the cheap? That’s what Iwatobi does, and for the record, it looks a shitload more fun than Samezuka’s regimen in the stuffy-looking indoor pools. Leave it to Free! to make swimming between islands, which isn’t easy, look like one of the most fun things in the world…especially if pizza and mackerel is waiting for you on the shore! It’s not all shits and giggles, though. Makoto clearly has an unpleasant past with the ocean.

Someone must’ve died, and Makoto was either traumatized as a result, or feels responsible for that death. and when Rei is caught at sea in a storm, it’s as if Makoto is being tested again. Rin almost accidentally makes Gou privy to that traumatic event. When she bumps into him, sees that he cares about Makoto, then heads back to the other four guys, Gou wonders about why the five of them aren’t together, and why her brother says he cares more about beating Haru than swimming with his old friends. Maybe he’s moved on, or maybe he’s trying to renounce those old bonds as relics from a life when he was weak and unaccomplished.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Free! – 04

free4

When it gets warm enough to swim outside, the Iwatobi Swim Club starts their training regimen, with the priority of teaching Rei how to swim. Nagisa and Makoto try to teach him the breatstroke and backstroke, but he sinks like a stone. They go shopping for swimsuits, and Haruka bumps into Rin, who tells him he “can’t move on” until he and Haruka have a proper race. Haruka agrees, but only if Rin doesn’t cry when he loses. Newly motivated, Haruka tries teaching Rei free, to no avail. But on the last day he has, Rei finds he’s able to swim with the one style he hadn’t yet attempted: butterfly.

Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration

Amakata-sensei uses this famous Edison quote this week, and the whole episode is imbued with that age-old question of hard work vs. talent; artificial effort vs. natural ability. In the midst of the Iwatobi club’s concerted, seven-day effort to train Rei to actually swim so they’re not immediately eliminated at the regional tournament, the series elaborates on the source of Rin’s angst. It would seem that Haruka possesses more raw talent than Rin, which has always hung over Rin’s head throughout his development. He wants to be an Olympic swimmer, but won’t be able to make that leap without proving to himself he can beat Haruka in a fair race when they’re both in peak condition.

What irks him is, Haruka isn’t in peak condition. While he can’t let past losses go, Haruka is weary of grabbing on to them in the first place. But when Rin finally confronts him and they talk, Haruka gets it, and implies he’ll put more effort into things. Meanwhile, we never see precisely what (if anything) Haruka says to Rei, but he still seems to have an effect on him, to the point he finally figures swimming out. Gou believes her brother can better achieve his dreams if Haruka and friends help him out by swimming with him. She’s hoping all that perspiration will lead to the spark of inspiration he needs.

8_great
Rating: 8 
(Great)

Stray Observations:

  • Gou may have given up correcting Nagisa. Hooray!
  • Among the awesome little KyoAni moments in this episode: an impeccably-animated kitten; a litle bit of spray hitting Gou when Haruka dives in; a line of ants by the side of the pool, and the butterflies that land on Haruka, possibly inspiring Rei to try that style.
  • Continuing its trend of reversing typical anime gender roles, the boys go shopping this week and try on swimsuits so long, Gou gets bored. And no, Gou doesn’t try anything on.
  • When Rin pins Haruka to the fence to insist he swim “for him,” their brief, tense closeness reminded us of Chitanda and Oreki’s many close encounters in Hyouka.

Ben-To – 06

Tadaaki Endo AKA Monarch doesn’t care about food or territory, he wants the title of the strongest wolf, once held by his senpai Matsy, now God of Discounts at the Ralph Store. To do so, he must defeat Sen. Sen leaves her territory in You and Hana’s care and goes after Monarch alone, but when Shaga shows up to warn You, they rush to help the ambushed and outnumbered Sen. Their hunger proves stronger than Monarch’s and they win the day. Matsy disbands the Gabriel Ratchets.

One thing we noticed immediately this week was how firmly and confidently the episode was directed. The pacing was perfect and the characters moved smoothly and effortlessly from place to place, helped in no small part by Taku Iwasaki‘s phenomenal and deliciously conspicuous music. There were no gags or fanservice. Everyone knew the score, and knew what to do, and did it. The energy level never dropped, but kept building until perhaps the best battle of the entire fall season, a downright lyrical spectacle: Sen, Shaga, and You vs. Monarch and his gang.

Sen keeps the west and learns she’s no longer a lone wolf. Shaga redeems herself by warning You and coming to their aid. You gets Monarch back for the beatdown he recieved. Matsy, who along with Endo and Nikaido was very much like Sen in her youth, vows to clean up the mess she had left the East after retiring. Just as Sen was Wizard’s successor, Endo wanted to be Matsy’s…but he lost sight of the most important things; the thing that gives Sen and You their power: honor, pride…and of course, the food, and eating it with people you care about when the fighting’s done.


Rating: 4