Phantom in the Twilight – 01 (First Impressions) – Supernatural Study Abroad

Just minutes after arriving in London for their study abroad, Bayrou Ton and her BFF (and secretary?) Shinyao are robbed of their luggage, passports, credit cards, and Ton’s heirloom ring. Ton is a girl of action, and so runs through London chasing the semi-transparent beast-like thief.

Despite arriving during late afternoon at the latest, this chase goes on until after midnight, when she finally realizes she’s lost and separated from Shinyao. She throws a paper airplane with a spell written on it, which flies right into a night cafe that just happens to have been founded by her great-grandmother, Sha Rijan.

At Cafe Forbidden, Ton meets three strapping young lads who knew Rijan, suggesting they’re actually very long-lived lads. here’s the aloof, prickly one (Vlad), the tall, dark, and quiet one (Tauryu) and the kiddy, friendly one (Luke). They believe the thief is a goblin, and race to Hyde Park to deal with it.

Ton follows them in a taxi (I guess she had some pocket money), and watches a very bizarre spectacle unfold. The three lads, decked out in their fancy black coats, do battle with a whole band of goblins, while Vlad confronts a Spriggan. Ton reveals herself to warn him, but he’s distracted and is briefly stunned.

Ton uses the heirloom ring a monocled stranger returned to her and told her to wear to pull some kind of magical chains out of the ground she uses to protect herself. Vlad pounces on the Spriggan from behind and kills it with a coup-de-grace. Rather than explain to Ton all of the straight-up weird shit that just went down, Vlad glamours her instead; replacing her memories with false ones involving a police chase. Luke later wonders if it was the right thing to do.

Ton wakes up in the park like nothing weird at all happened, gets in touch with Shinyao, and after credits that underscore just how much these two friends care about each other, Ton meets her at their new apartment…only for Shinyao to be immediately kidnapped. Well played, show.

So, not the bestest first couple of days for Bayrou Ton! She has a cool name, though, and she’s voiced by Hanazawa Kana, making it two characters in short red jackets she’s voicing this Summer! Other than that, and despite some competent animation and a decent soundtrack, I came away a bit less enthusiastic for this than the quieter, more thoughtful Holmes of Kyoto. Twilight has a likable heroine but is a bit all over the place so far.

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Tokyo Ghoul:re – 07 – Congratulations and Recollections

The sheer number of players big and small in the Tokyo Ghoul universe can make darting from one group to another a daunting task, especially for one not versed in the manga upon which :re is based. Still, the sight of all those myriad faces, most of them familiar, lend the world a lived-in, oddly comforting atmosphere.

Then there’s the new faces, our Quinx Squad, who come out of the great Auction Raid not only none the worse for wear (relatively), but having distinguished themselves to a man (and in Saiko’s case, to a woman). The raid ends abruptly—which I was hoping for. Sasaki takes Hinami into custody (after Arima allows it), and Rabbit and the other members of Aogiri Tree retreat.

Most of the surviving CCG investigators are promoted in a ceremony, with Tooru jumping from 3rd to 1st class for his conspicuous valor (no doubt irking Urie, who probably wishes he outranked his Quinxmate) Their leader Sasaki becomes a Senior Investigator at a very young age.

As the Doves celebrate their victory, Akira visits her father’s grave, eager new members join a “cursed” squad, Tooru is coached in knifesmanship by Juuzou, and a familiar green-haired lady leaves something in the Quinx Squad’s house’s mailbox.

The celebrations continue when Sasaki invites Akira and Arima over for a dinner party, preparing a sumptuous feast for them and his squad, and giving everyone gifts to commemorate their promotions (or in Arima’s case, just ’cause). After so much peril, blood, and death, I liked the return to the warm and cozy home life of the squad.

Even stick-in-the-mud Prince Urie, who manages to be both insufferable and sympathetic, chips in, while the higher-ranked investigators seem happy for the respite; there’s no other motive for Sasaki inviting them except perhaps to show them  how much his ragtag squad has gelled.

Then Sasaki opens the package addressed to him. It contains Kaneki Ken’s mask, as well as a novel by Takatsuki Sen (who also happened to be the deliverer of the package). If this is an effort by her to help Sasaki remember more about Ken, it seems to work in a very specific and poignant way.

As Shirazu visits his injured, unconscious sister in the hospital (something Urie also happens to see) Sasaki ends up in a cafe being served coffee by Touka at the Cafe :re, and thinking how familiar the coffee, the waitress, and the other patrons of the cafe feel.

Then walks past Anteiku in its prime, with Yoshimura looking on before walking in. Sasaki looks again, and the cafe is gone, replaced by a cleared lot and orange cone barriers. He must have been seeing through Ken’s eyes.

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 03 – A Day in the Life of Nyanko Big

Much of this week’s story is told by the Tada family cat, Nyanko Big, who is over ten years old and hence not only knows a few things about life and the Tada family, but has a very deep voice that commands respect. But he’s also a fat-ass glutton, and so cannot leap nearly as far as he thinks he can. The cat-POV premise is a bit twee/hokey, but never offensively so; it’s mostly just charming.

Nyanko Big observes Mitsuyoshi with Teresa and Alec, two human women even he can see are pretty special, but he knows the boy who saved him ten years ago has never been that into women. The universe seems committed to changing that, both by having Teresa and Alec live right next door to his home and family cafe, but have then help out at the cafe while his gramps is out.

We encounter both newcomers in a young nervous couple and regulars like an elderly couple and someone who gives off a hitman vibe but shares Teresa’s love for the Rainbow Shogun, and also has the reflexes to catch a pitcher of water Teresa nearly drops.

The group takes a break, during which time Mitsu makes everyone coffee, while Teresa provides “hot chocolate spoons” to dip in their cups. Mitsu nonchalantly takes a taste from Teresa’s cup, making it an unspoken indirect kiss, but he doesn’t seem to realize it.

Later, the photography club gathers at Hibiya Park for some Spring-themed photos, and not only does Ijuuin remember when Mitsuyoshi saved him from a “kappa” the river years ago, but Teresa remembers when Alec saved her after Teresa jumped in to retrieve the crown of flowers Alec made for her.

Nyanko Big, who had finished his patrol and was lounging in the park, encounters and falls in love with the local salon cat, Cherry, but once again his leap is far shorter than he’d like, and he ends up in the drink, then quickly up a tree.

But when he slips and falls, Teresa is there to catch him…and Mitsuyoshi is there to catch her. So far their romance has been extremely quiet and low-key, with no words at all said about it…save those of a cat. Whatever there is between Teresa and Mitsu, it’s clearly going to take some time.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 02 – Death by Ham

Sasaki Haise bails out his subordinates when Urie bites off more than they can chew with Orochi. Heck, even Haise has to take off the kid gloves, and eventually loses control when the Kaneki Ken within him tries to take over.

Akira herself has to take him out, with help from other CCG officers. Orochi gets away, as does Torso. Everyone’s alive, but the mission is a failure.

For his recklessness, Urie is removed from the leadership of the Quinx Squad, and Shirazu is promoted in his place. Urie gets in a “you’re just a ghoul” dig at Haise, but it doesn’t matter; Haise’s word is law in the squad, so his climb to the top just hit a serious snag.

Later, Urie assures a concerned Kuroiwa that Haise will be fine, all while cursing him and hoping he’ll just go die. This Urie guy’s carrying a lot of resentment and hate.

We also get our first sighting of Saiko, but just long enough for her to grab a little ham from the fridge and run off back to her room, presumably to scarf it down.

I’m not quite sure why we’ve seen so little of her (besides the fact she’s, well, a shut-in), but something tells me despite her uninspiring demeanor she might be the strongest of the Quinx other than Haise—if we don’t count Urie’s current (and possibly ill-advised) campaign to increase the strength of his kagune.

Finally, we get the biggest of the cameos from past TGs as Haise, Mutsuki and Shirazu go to the Re: cafe where a slightly older Kirishima Touka works, and seems to recognize Haise (or the Ken within him).

Meanwhile, Touka’s brother Ayato is apparently the new “Rabbit”, still affiliated with Aogiri Tree and apparently letting Torso join as well, which puts him out of the Quinx Squad’s jurisdiction. Instead, their next assigned target is red-light district ghoul nicknamed “Nutcracker,” who does precisely what her nickname says. Quinx could use a win after Orochi and Torso; maybe this will do the trick.

Tada-kun wa Koi wo Shinai – 01 – Meet Cutes and Coincidences (First Impressions)

“Oh Hai! I’m not weirded out by you taking my picture AT ALL!”

There are three basic kinds of anime rom-coms: those that do something totally unique and/or unexpected, those that hew close to the well-worn conventions of the genre, and those that stride the two extremes. From the moment Tada Mitsuyoshi catches his love interest Teresa Wagner in his viewfinder, it’s clear we’re dealing with the well-worn variety.

That means it’s up to things like the execution of the romance, the quality of the comedy, the likability of the characters, and the technical aspects that determine whether I’ll watch it. And if I do, I’m still looking for surprises somewhere to liven up an otherwise boilerplate affair. So let’s see what TKS has going for it, and what it doesn’t.

“We meet AGAIN? It’s almost like we’re supposed to be in the same anime!”

Regarding execution of romance, the title says it all: “Tada doesn’t fall in love.” That doesn’t mean he shouldn’tcan’t, or won’t, mind you; it just means he usually/typically/classically…doesn’t. But it’s almost immediately clear from the Imperial Palace Sakura Photo Meet Cute that Mitsuyoshi is struck by Teresa’s beauty, if nothing else. First impressions matter, and can make the difference between “doesn’t” and “could.”

Mitsuyoshi is most likely someone who has never fallen in love because a.) he’s young,  b.) hasn’t found the right person, and/or c.) he’s focused on photography and school. I’m glad he doesn’t fall head-over-heels for Teresa from the start—he knows next to nothing about her—but at the very least, the air-headed foreigner is an intriguing  new presence in his life.

Alec kicks the overcaffeinated sidekick (THANK you…)

As coincidences continue to pile up that bring the two together, Mitsuyoshi brings Teresa before his whole family, consisting of his cafe-running grandfather (who likes the same old samurai tv show as Teresa) and little sister/waitress Yui (obligatory Minasi Inori presence). The shrine in the Tada residence indicates the loss of one or both Tada parents, one of whom was a photog like Mitsuyoshi.

Before long, Mitsu’s best mate and self-professed “Adonis” Ijuuin Kaoru shows up and tries to put the moves on Teresa as soon as Mitsu tells him she’s not his gf, but he’s quickly thwarted, not just from the cafe cat Nyanko Big (who amusingly resembles a friend’s cat), but by Teresa’s traveling companion, Alexandra “Alec” Magritte, who assumes Kaoru is attacking Teresa and swiftly deploys her itchy trigger leg.

Alec and Kaoru look like a dead ringer for the “opposites attract” trope, but while I appreciate what Miyano Mamoru does with his voice at times, his performance as Kaoru feels a few notches too extreme for this milieu (which is probably intentional).

If you were surprised by this development, you don’t watch many anime rom-coms

Why, do you ask, do two Luxembourgish women in Teresa and Alec have perfect command of Japanese? I imagine it’s the same reason Teresa almost gives another surname other than “Wagner”, and why Alec is so well-versed in martial arts and is protective of Teresa: it’s likely she’s royalty, and Alec is her bodyguard/valet.

She’s come to Japan, likely her favorite foreign country, to soak it all in. That means transferring to Mitsu and Kaoru’s school, and even their class. Ye gods, the coincidences…

Of course, they don’t want to broadcast that fact, but it will be interesting if a.) I’m right about this and b.) it creates a conflict with Mitsu, because at this point, there are no conflicts beyond Mitsu’s general normalness and heretofore non-existent love drive. Maybe she has a betrothed? In any case, this was an establish and introduce episode, and for the most part I’m on board.

ReLIFE – 15

In this outing the Aoba Fest, with its maid/butler cafe and stalls and bonfire, comes and goes fairly briskly. Kaizaki and Hishiro alike try to make the most of their second chance at a pivotal time in high school life, but it’s a decidedly bittersweet experience.

It’s obvious why it’s sweet: the festival looks like a lot of fun, especially when much of it has Kaizaki, Hishiro, and their friends dressed to the nines. After Hishiro tried to get Yoake to slip up and tell her Kaizaki is also a subject, she tries to find out for herself by grabbing Kaizaki’s arm and drawing close to him, as if they were dating…with inconclusive results.

She could interpret him as being uncomfortable because he’s really an adult, or he could just be flustered because she’s acting out of the ordinary, which she kinda is. The bitter part comes when the festival ends, when Kaizaki laments that he’ll “vanish” when his ReLife ends.

Yoake corrects him by saying he has to take solace in knowing he left his “mark” with these high schoolers; things happened in their lives that wouldn’t have happened without Kaizaki.

Onoya has a similar chat with Hishiro, telling her to take pride in the fact she’s taken a “lovely step forward” by taking an interest in someone like Kaizaki. Whether it’s true love or not, that’s something the pre-ReLife Hishiro couldn’t do.

Yoake’s attempt to cheer Kaizaki doesn’t last when his class undergoes college counseling. Both he and Hishiro choose to go to Aoba U like Kariu and Oga, even though they know it’s “pointless” since in reality their ReLifes will end and they won’t be joining their friends, nor will their friends remember them.

Any way you look at it, that stings. That stings hard enough to wonder if it was a bad idea to do a ReLife in the first place, even when one considers how socially and emotionally improved it made them.

It stings enough for Kaizaki to ask Yoake if he really has to go back to his old life, and has to let all the friends he’s made forget about them. Yoake reminds him that Kaizaki didn’t become someone new in his ReLife, he regained the friendly straightforward person he was.

But that restoration couldn’t have happened if Kaizaki hadn’t lived his life as he had before ReLife, which he’s now asking to discard. Yoake tells him not to give up on “Original” Kaizaki; “High School” Kaizaki is, after all, only an illusion.

Onoya, having only just started becoming Hishiro’s support, has nevertheless been engaged with the whole crew for some time now, and unlike Yoake, hasn’t quite accepted what they’re doing and sees the end result as cruel, sad, and scary.

Continuing his role as comforter-in-chief, Yoake tells her ReLife isn’t about enjoying every moment to the fullest in a life that is fleeting by design, and all they can do in their capacity as ReLife staff is support them with everything they’ve got, without regrets.

That night, Hishiro resigns herself to the fact there’s really no way to find out for sure whether Kaizaki is a fellow test subject, and there’s no point in thinking about it…yet she can’t stop thinking about it. Could that mean it’s not so pointless after all?

The next day is class photo day, and Kaizaki and Hishiro both know that it’s a photo in which no one else in the shot, not even the good friends they’ve made, will remember them.

They’ll be like “ghosts” in such a photo. And yet, just as the shot is taken, they look in each others‘ directions, holding out hope that a fragment of a memory will still remain in someone’s mind when they look at this photo.

Must all of the dream-crushing things the vile Yoake says really come to pass according to plan? Must these two people really forget one another? I, like them, certainly hope not!

ReLIFE – 14

Well, this is a nice surprise on the second day of Spring when there’s a Nor’easter pummeling my coast: a bonus episode of one of my favorite shows of 2016, ReLIFE! These four new reviews won’t make much sense without watching the 13 that came before, which I highly recommend. You can catch up by reading my reviews here.

When we left the main couple of Hishiro and Kaizaki, we knew they were both subjects, but they didn’t know that they were, and so maintained a distance that was not bridged, since they both assume they’ll lose contact with the other forever because of the nature of ReLIFE.

Still, both have benefited tremendously from their experiences as high schoolers, and continue to do so. Meanwhile, real high schoolers Kariu and Oga are now an item, while Yoake is transferring Hishiro to his junior Onoya now that she’s entering an “unprecedented” second year.

Hishiro now rather strongly suspects that Kaizaki is a test subject like her, but Yoake will neither confirm or deny it, while warning her that if she learned that he was a subject, it would spell the end of his experiment and an immediate severance, and Hishiro would never see him again.

With that in mind, Hishiro treads carefully, but is still eager to learn the truth. To that end, when Kaizaki is made the class boys’ cultural festival officer, she volunteers to be the girls’ officer. They work tremendously well together and the paperwork flies off the proverbial desk.

Their work is momentarily interrupted by a problem Oga is having. He got in a fight with Kariu for shooting down the idea of her coming over to his place after a date, because he didn’t want to hurt his older shut-in brother and feared Kariu wouldn’t “approve” of him.

Kaizaki and Hishiro put on a veritable friend-cheering-up and advise clinic, with Kaizaki assuring Oga that the best way to act around family is naturally, without hiding anything, while Hishiro assures him if he just tells Kariu what’s up, she’ll accept it; in fact, she’s probably mad because he didn’t in the first place.

Afterwards, Kaizaki and Hishiro exchange words of mutual respect. Kaizaki, unaware that Hishiro is a fellow adult, continues to be astounded by her maturity and wisdom beyond her years, while Kaizaki’s very accurate suspicions persist.

The two continue festival prep, and Oga and Kairu make an appearance to show they made up nicely, but later in the day, when Kaizaki returns to the classroom to find Hishiro worn out and asleep at her desk, he resists the urge to touch her head in affection, while in his head admitting he’s fallen for her.

So, we’ve come a little further from the fireworks festival episode, in that Hishiro is on to Kaizaki (the level of her surety is up for debate, but the fact she’s right is indisputable) and Oga and Kariu are doing nicely as a couple. But both Kaizaki’s ignorance of Hishiro’s true age and Oga’s veiled threat prevented all the truth from coming out. We’ll see if that happens in the next bonus episode.

Momokuri – 03 + 04

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Momokuri sticks to is tried-and-true formula of getting comedy out of the fact that Momo isn’t aware of how head-over-heels infatuated with him Yuki actually is. Dialogue cuts to her saying outrageous things that are true to her feelings, but those responses are only imagined.

It creates a nice romantic tension, especially considering Yuki is just as oblivious to the fact that Momo is actually really into her too, just not in the same stalker-y way. He even chokes down black coffee to show how mature he is, a ruse Yuki sees right through but appreciates Momo doing it nonetheless.

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You’d think someone so obsessed with Momo would exert a good deal of energy keeping him away from other girls, but to my (and Norika’s) surprise, she couldn’t care less that the girls in his class are all over him, even on his birthday. It just means more opportunities for her to snap pics of his adorable expressions.

Yuki’s gift for Momo is a homemade cheesecake, but the show doesn’t make a big deal about her being good at baking; she just followed the recipe and it turned out…until she hit a pole and dropped it. Momo ends up giving himself a gift that doubles as a gift for Yuki: a simple holding of hands. He saw the opportunity and took the initiative.

Meanwhile, a short-haired girl lurks around the corner…

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Episode four is all about a study session that Yuki arranges with friends of Momo and Norika. Her motives are twofold: help Momo pass exams so she won’t lose him for two weeks of their Summer to extra classes; and the opportunity to visit his house, see his bed, pillow, air, etc.

Again Momo edits her thoughts when responding to one of Momo’s friends when they ask why she likes Momo. Instead of saying his a godlike being, she merely says he’s cute; something his friends agree on, becaue he’s so wee.

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The study session is an opportunity for Yuki to serve her cheesecake for Momo, and for the two to flirt in the kitchen (provoking a little light ribbing from his pals in the next room). During the studying, Momo notices one of his friends has grown pretty friendly with Yuki; while she’s not the nervous type, he apparently is.

The session goes well into the night, so the girls volunteer to head to the supermarket to buy stuff to make dinner. There, we see the short-haired girl int he track suit once more; this time near Yuki by coincidence.

Momokuri is sweet, funny, and uncomplicated, making it eminently watchable. Will the introduction of a new girl ruin that? I hope not.

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Gakusen Toshi Asterisk – 14

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I saved this episode for last today because (a.) I wanted to check out the Spring shows premiering today and (b.) with a big battle last week I had a feeling this was going to be a rest episode, and so it was. But it’s because AW has thirteen episodes behind its belt that it can do quieter second episodes like this that focus not so much on the upcoming battle with the Li twins, but on characters and longer-term plotlines.

But man, they really give Flora the floor early on this week, and her sqeaky voice is, to be frank, really frikking annoying. Seriously, if an anime needs a kid voice, they should really just hire Kuno Misaki, who sounds much more like a genuine kid; Flora’s seiyu is just doing a baby voice, and it’s baaad.

That being said, I liked the running idea of Julis’ mischievous brother using Flora as his instrument to indirectly embarrass the princess. As for Flora’s photo of Julis washing her hair, that’s just her own treasured memory…just not one suitable for Ayato to see! All the girls’ knowing looks toward Ayato when Flora brought up “Julis’ rivals” was also funny.

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Just a couple episodes ago, Ayato and Julis were locked in near-mortal combat with the Urzaiz sisters, but they came away from the battle as friends, which is why I so enjoyed Ayato’s nighttime Skype session with Priscilla and Irene. Irene in particular is one very adorable tomboy when she thanks Ayato for saving her life.

Naturally, Ayato says it’s no biggie…but it is, which is why not only is Priscilla want to cook dinner for him again, but Irene is willing to give Ayato all the intelligence he wants regarding her school’s president, Dirk “The Tyrant” Eberwein, including his control over Le Wolfe’s intel org Grimalkin.

In the morning, Ayato’s roommate returns after a long absence (seriously, I barely remember the guy), gives Ayato some advice on the Taoist Li Twins, and even suggests an out-of-the-way cafe for Ayato and Julis to go on their date, though Julis is emphatic that it’s Flora, not her, who requested the get-together.

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Flora presumably has something important she has to ask Ayato, but first Julis spoils her with a big meal and an even bigger parfait, showing her softer, kid-loving side (she’d make a great mom!).

Of course, not only does Flora inadvertently organize an indirect kiss between Ayato and Julis (which only Julis blushes about) but her ‘important questions’ were provided by Julis’ brother, and start with how far she’s gone with Ayato so far.

The fun is broken up by Korona, yet another new doll-like character with a high voice (though less annoying than Flora’s).

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Korona is Dirk’s secretary, and she leads Ayato and Julis (who won’t let Ayato go alone…probably a good call) to a custom Rolls-Royce Phantom limo where Dirk is waiting for them. It comes a slight surprise that Ayato and Dirk have never met, even though the latter has been plotting against the former and his school for some time.

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Too many times an anime cheaps out on car models, but in this case, AW got themselves a bitchin’ CGI Roller, and they aren’t shy about showing it off from several angles both in the sunset and in a tunnel. During the mobile meeting, Dirk takes the measure of Ayato and Julis and agrees to answer a question Ayato has if he’ll return the favor.

With a deal in place, Ayato asks what Dirk knows about his sister Haruka. Dirk knows precious little, but far more than Ayato: the last time he saw Haruka, she was an entrant in a seedy underground fight club for super-rich patrons called the Eclipse Festa, organized by those disillusioned with the ‘kid-glove’ nature of the official festas, but shut down years ago.

Dirk watched Haruka lose her match, but believes she survived (matches ending in a death or two weren’t uncommon). This gives Ayato simultaneous relief and pause. His sister may still be alive, but what state is she in? Dirk has no more answers; only his question, which relates to Madiath Mesa, who Ayato knows as Chairman of the Festa Steering Committee.

With that, Dirk drops Ayato and Julis off, after which Korona mentions Flora to Dirk, who is intrigued, likely because she can be exploited as a liability to Julis if and when the need arises to have leverage over her. Always churning, the Tyrant’s mind.

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Dagashi Kashi – 03

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On a hot day, as kids we’d usually go for a soda (or pop, depending on what state we were in), snowballs, soft serve, or frozen yogurt. It never occurred to me how great it can be to eat hot things when it’s hot out. Hotaru demonstrates this, I think, by firing up a stove to the shop and cooking up some tonkatsu Butamen; kind of a a mini ramen cup.

Tou, who’s back after a week off, put together what was going down and invited himself, knowing that in return for the intense heat, he and Kokonotsu would get to watch a cute girl eating noodles, not to mention getting so hot her dress gets see through. Naturally, Hotaru is totally oblivious to all of that.

Her only concerns are candy, snacks, and acquiring You for her father’s company. And that’s the other side of it: she doesn’t realize the power she has over Kokonotsu, courtesy of her looks and close casual manner with him. As far as she knows, the battle will be won with her convincing arguments for the primacy of candy.

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So rather than seduce him, which just isn’t in her character, Hotaru continues cockamamie plans, one of which involves You pretending to be a lifeguard to make extra bucks on the side, since the shop doesnt’ do. She’s unaware of her ability to seduce, so instead she tries to guilt trip.

She and You (also back after one week off) are awfully proud of their plan and are regarding one another in a better light all the time, but snagging him all comes down to her ability to convince Koko to take over the shop. Alas, an attempt to show the wonder of candy through strategic placement of kurukurubu jelly sticks in the pool backfires when Koko, Tou, and Saya see the “no food or drink” sign.

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The last segment is somewhat strange, in that Hotaru’s interaction with Kokonotsu is minimal. Like Hotaru with You in the previous segment, this looks like an effort to explore each two-person combination in the lean five-person cast. Hotaru curbs her suspicion that Tou is a pathetic confectionary tourist and shows him the proper way to deliver a Botan Rice Candy (with its edible wrapper) to one’s mouth: the same way one delivers a fastball to the plate.

Finally, after Koko shoos her off while the shop’s A/C is fixed (which seemed kinda mean; though Hotaru was somewhat in the way), Hotaru interacts one-on-one with Saya a little more. Just as Hotaru thought Tou might be testing her (though he wasn’t; he’s just an idiot), Saya sees Hotaru’s desire for “girl talk” that starts with a quesiton about Koko has her thinking Hotaru is testing her.

She is, but it has nothing to do with Saya’s crush, only the fact she’s never seen her with candy, something Hotaru cannot stand by and allow. She gives her some “Neon Seven”, a very cryptic kind of candy that Saya initially picks at wrong (both of their close-up expressions are hilariously rendered) but eventually learns to eat properly.

Saya is amazed and entertained by Hotaru’s wealth of knowledge (as anyone would be), and the two end up talking so long Hotaru never goes back to Koko’s…which kinda serves him right for shooing her off!

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Ore Monogatari!! – 06 (Caught Up!)

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Due to watching so many romantic anime in which little problems needlessly snowball into bigger ones, it was refreshing to see one resolved in relatively short order. My theory was also proven correct, thanks to the intervention of a somewhat nosy but increasingly understanding Ai. But I don’t want to underscore the difficulty Yamato had in presenting her case to Takeo, which is why she hesitated so much.

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I imagine he’s been operating under the assumption that she’s good and pure because she sees the goodness in his heart and loves him despite his looks. In truth, Yamato likes Takeo’s body, from his eyebrows and full lips to his broad shoulders, rippling pecs, and huge hands. She well and truly has the hots for him, and wants more physical contact, not less.

At first Ai confronts Yamato with suspicion, but ends up agreeing with all the things Yamato says about Takeo, and totally understanding Yamato’s situation, and tells her to go to him and tell him everything she told her; he’s not so fragile he’d cast her aside. Yamato runs off, a huge weight lifted from her shoulders.

Her sudden and adorable faceplant, from which she shoots back up after a beat before continuing on her way, really underscores how pumped up she is, so eager to get to Takeo that she forgets the rudiments of ambulation.

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It might have been better for Ai if her initial suspicions were right; that Yamato was deceiving Takeo or having an affair, because this is the episode in which Ai realizes she’s lost Takeo—not to a hussy, but to a genuinely good person in Yamato, and she hid her own feelings for him too long—partially because they’re three grades apart.

Still, their age difference didn’t matter when Takeo made a “from the mouth of babes” compliment on a beauty she didn’t know she had. She had a growth spurt long before he did, and her tall, lean frame was mocked by classmates as reminiscent of a school statue with the same build. Takeo didn’t know anything about that; to him, she resembled a calla lily. From that point on, Ai was smitten.

But like Takeo aimed to do with Yamato, she decided to wait for him to “grow up,” but waited too long. Ai can’t hold back how upset she is about this, and heads back to college early. She’s happy for Takeo, but devastated that her long-time love has found someone else; someone just as worthy as she is. Good on you, show, for making Ai more than the cliched rival, but a tragic figure in and of herself.

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Ai and Suna find Takeo rescuing a cat from a tree, and tell him Yamato is headed to his place, in tears. They don’t have to say another word, as Takeo demonstrates his impressive running speed and endurance. He meets Yamato in front of his house, where he tells her whatever has been troubling her, she can tell him; she can tell him everything. And she does: She wants to hold hands; he wants to be cuddled; she wants to be kissed by those lips that won’t quit.

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Those are all big steps for her and Takeo, but Takeo assures her they’re steps they’ll take together. Now that she sees she had nothing to worry about, Yamato opens up more to Takeo about how she’s not the good person he thought she was: she found his address by asking around his school, and even left her cell in his house on purpose.

Learning of these tactics doesn’t disappoint Takeo; in fact they make him happy that she went to such lengths to get closer to him. His reassurances move Yamato to tears, something Takeo promised he’d never make her cry again, but Yamato tells him happy tears don’t count. After spending the last few nights worried the truth would cost her Takeo, tonight she’ll be grinning ear to ear knowing the conflict they overcame ended up deepening their relationship. They’re in a good place again, thank goodness. On to the next crisis!

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In the hilarious omake that closes the episode, Takeo, anticipating a kiss in the near future, decides he needs to practice on real human lips; lips that will remain sealed about his practice. Naturally, those lips belong to Suna. I find it ironic that every girl in their school, along with most other women in public, want nothing more than to lock lips with Suna, but it’s Takeo who actually gets to do it—albeit through a layer of plastic wrap!

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Ore Monogatari!! – 04 (Belated)

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Gosh dang…it is indeed Spring…and that might be the best episode I’ve watched all Spring. There’s certainly no more adorable and rootable couple than Takeo and Yamato. I get on people for taking selfies, but Yamato is allowed, dammit!

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The episode starts off with Takeo still reeling over the happiness in his heart over snagging an honest-to-God girlfriend in Yamato who is herself utterly devoted to him. She derives as much joy from telling her friend on the phone “I’m with my boyfriend!” as Takeo derives from hearing the words.

Yamato asks if Takeo would be okay with doing a Single’s Meet with her; all he has to do is wrangle five of his single friends. He has way more than five, because he’s a great guy. And when Yamato’s five friends lay eyes on Takeo for the first time, their reactions are…understandable, considering they’re products of society, naturally attracted to Suna.

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Whether it’s saving Yamato from falling by plucking her up like a ragdoll, carrying huge loads in their way, or opening a non-twist-off bottle, Takeo’s feats of strength don’t impress them so much as…well, scare them. Like the mom with the baby whose stroller Takeo took to the top, the mom is scared of the big bad-looking guy, while the hot guy next to him gets all the love, even though he doesn’t want it. Suna only smiles and laughs in reaction to something Takeo is doing, which makes the girls swoon.

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Takeo is also a somewhat naive guy who thinks Yamato’s friends will be good people because she’s a good and genuine person. Suna warns him about such assumptions, and then they’re shattered altogether when Takeo and Yamato overhear two of her friends talking shit about him behind her back, calling him “barely human” and a “gorilla.” It’s cutting stuff, and to it’s credit the episode doesn’t hold the elephant in the room back. On the surface, to most people, Takeo is a frightening bear-man.

This is a fact Takeo knows all too well, to the point that the insults roll right off him; he’s heard it all, both to his face, behind his back, and in people’s eyes. He’s more upset about Yamato being hurt, causing her to exclaim to them “He’s really super-cool!” before running off.

Fortunately, Takeo is able to head her off in no time, as his gait is significantly longer, and assures her everything is fine. He brings out one of his simple yet powerful sayings, about their being “all kinds of people”, without whom they wouldn’t have met. Yamato, bless her, finally wonders if maybe she just didn’t properly explain to her friends how cool Takeo is, blaming herself for their ignorance.

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Then…the frikin’ cafe EXPLODES.

I must say, I really wasn’t expecting that, but there was foreshadowing earlier, what with the bucket and boxes blocking the hall and the locked emergency exit. This establishment has lots of fire code violations, which lessened the randomness of the incident. In any case, with the two girls who talked shit about him still inside the burning building, Takeo doesn’t hesitate to rush in to save them.

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He’s able to carry one of the girls out to safety, then uses his big body as a shield to protect the second from getting smashed by debris, allowing her to run out on her own. After calling fire and ambulance, Suna calls Takeo, and tells him he’d better come out of the cafe soon, because Yamato has to be held back from going in after him by her two friends.

There’s true love in action here, people. Not only between Yamato and Takeo, but Suna and Takeo, who tells him with a voice that almost breaks that his life will be too boring without him. Like the Hulk, Takeo summons an extra reserve of strength to slip out from under the debris and blast out of the cafe window in dramatic fashion.

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Yamato rushes over to him and is almost lost in his arms as they embrace, with Takeo completely oblivious that his back is still on fire. The girls he saved thank him, and all the girls’ hearts skip a beat when he shoots them a look of affirmation, in spite of themselves. Takeo may not be their type, but now they know he’s a great guy and the right match for their Yamato. And they know they were wrong to insult him.

I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to have a non-harem romantic comedy in my stable; one where the guy and girl don’t get lost in tangled webs of misunderstandings and omission and hesitations and love triangles. This couple is alright; heck, Suna sees them old and wrinkly talking about how much they love all four of the seasons.

But more than taking the roads less traveled, no other show this Spring captures how gosh-darn good it feels to be in love and be loved back. Food tastes better, the air smells fresher, and the sun shines brighter. Things that are indisputably awesome: Takeo; Yamato; Suna; and this show.

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Tokyo Ghoul 2 – 12 (Fin)

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Tokyo Ghoul Root A delivers a finale as still and austere as the previous episodes were flashy and frenetic. It was a hauntingly gorgeous episode so quiet and deliberate, every gesture and breath and ambient sound contained multitudes. Aside from the insert song, a stripped down version of the first season’s OP, there isn’t even any music telling us how to feel. It’s all in the artistry of the camerawork, lighting, and, of course, the characters we’ve come to know.

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More than anything, there’s a palpable feeling of finality to this finale, that a page is about to be turned. Ken starts in a kind of limbo, in the place that held so many happy memories for him. It’s as good a place as any for Hide to finally tell Ken that he knows he’s a ghoul.

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But Hide is in a bad way. The reveal of is injury is a masterpiece of careful unveiling, and the first sign that this truly is the end. Hide was an almost casual, neutral observer of everything Ken and Touka and everyone else have been through. Now that the show is ending, there’s no longer a need for such an observer, so in a way it makes sense for him to die here.

For Ken, his connection and lasting friendship with Hide, someone he had been estranged from going back to the first season, is the only bridge forged between ghoul and human. It was a bridge that was there from the start. If everyone in the CCG had a loved one turned ghoul, they’d likely all be a little more tolerant…and vice versa.

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Touka arrives at Anteiku to find it ablaze, apparently the work of Ken, again closing a door to the past before walking out with Hide. Touka sees his human eye and moves to meet him, but wreckage nearly crushes her; wreckage that came loose due to a ghoul’s weapon.

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Touka still follows Ken and finds him approaching the fortified CCG staging area bearing Hide, who may or may not be dead. At this point Touka’s path is barred again by Yomo, and my suspicion that Ken and Touka might never meet again is confirmed.

The episode really takes its time with Ken’s slow walk, both to and through the CCG ranks, but while it’s not perfect pacing-wise, it’s still some very powerful work, and it’s a credit to the show that it was able to slow things down so we could savor the end rather than choke it down.

Like a carefully-made cup of coffee, it takes quality ingredients, the proper tools, patience, and restraint, and TG exhibited all of the above with aplomb.

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Ken’s final scene is carrying Hide (echoing the show’s promo art) as various CCG soldiers gawk at him and helicopters swoop menacingly above him. These moments were suffused with thick tension as I pondered if and when the CCG would make a move.

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Ultimately, it falls to Arima to face Ken, who stops and puts hide down. But true to this finale’s minimalist atmosphere, we never see a fight, one-sided or no; only the click of the briefcase containing Arima’s quinque. I can’t imagine it’s a coincidence they both have white hair.

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Dawn rises upon Tokyo, Anteiku’s fires are out, and only Arima and a rapier-like quinque stand where Ken once was. The snow has stopped falling, the storm is over, and peace has returned to the city. Was it peace attained by Aogiri’s tactical withdrawal, in which case it’s only temporary? Was some kind of deal struck between Ken and Arima?

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“All we can do is live as we endure loss,” Yomo says to Touka as he stops her from going to Ken, who wasn’t coming back. And he’s right. You can’t just stand still and wallow in despair until it consumes you. The fact som many people on both sides did just that is what put them all on that costly collision course.

After the credits we see Touka has opened a cafe of her own. While cheerfully opening up, she allows a brief moment to gaze wistfully out at the block before her; perhaps she saw something or someone in the corner of her eye? But it’s only a brief moment that passes, and she goes on with her morning with a smile on her face, remembering, but enduring and living. Because that’s just what you gotta do.

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