Insomniacs After School – 04 – Chemical Reaction

This week’s IAS features both Isaki and Ganta hanging out with their friends and separately realizing that that they feel a certain way about each other. When Nono tells Isaki how the upcoming fireworks festival would make for a perfect date, Isaki’s response makes it sound to Nono like she already has someone in mind (because she does). There’s a realism to the interactions and banter between the friends that matches the naturalism of the visuals.

Ukegawa has also caught on to how much time Ganta has been spending with Isaki and only Isaki, and uses it to distract Ganta so he can beat him at shogi and hava Ganta buy him ramen. Afterwards the boys cross paths with the girls, and while Isaki and Ganta can only make out the tiniest sounds of greeting before Ganta pedals off, it’s clear as a starry sky to Ukegawa that Ganta likes Isaki, and it’s not a stretch to believe she feels similarly about Ganta.

Ukegawa tags along with Ganta to Yui’s so she can critique the night photos he’s taken so far. She’s strict, but that’s the way Ganta wants it, as he wants to do it right. When he climbs into the tent he set up as practice for the class’ seaside camping trip, Yui heads off to work, and Ukegawa makes a tactical retreat. You see, Isaki has arrived and he doesn’t want to be a third wheel.

It’s Isaki who greets Ganta when he emerges from the tent, and for the first time since they met, the two are nervous and self-conscious around each other, owing to all the talk about dates and such. Ganta still manages to ask Isaki out to the fireworks festival, but he unfortunately qualifies it as saying its for astronomy club work. C’mon, man, she’d have said yes even if you said it was a date! Hopefully it will end up being one anyway.

For the next few days Ganta is unable to practice his photograpy since the weather is too bad. He also gets grouped up with Haida, a guy he calls a “joker” who just rubs him the wrong way. During home ec, we see that Kani is eager to beat Ganta at something, be it a test or an apron. Is she simply being competitive, or is there more to it? I guess we’ll see!

As for Haida, he mentions to Ganta that he spotted him out late at night. He’s not going to snitch since that would incriminate him too, but that happens anyway because their teacher Hakui-sensei is also in the bathroom. The two bow and apologizes, but when Hakui tells them to take steps to get better sleep because people who can’t are “messed up”, Ganta takes it as an insult to Isaki and calls his teacher an asshole.

While that probably endears him to the ne’er-do-well Haida, it puts him in the teacher’s doghouse, which combined with the shit weather, his slow progress with camerawork, and the fact he’s forbidden from taking pictures on the camping trip leads him to say that nothing’s going right. He says this while Isaki is hanging teru teru bozus around the observatory, which he tells her is futile; the forecast says it will rain the whole trip.

Isaki walks up to him, puts her hands on his face, and pushes his cheeks up, turning his hangdog frown into a smile. She says they should hope for it to clear up at least one night, and make a promise that if it does, they’ll meet on the beach under the starry sky.

Not only does this cheer Ganta up, but it also calms him down to the point he can fall asleep. Isaki again approaches him, curls up next to him, and places her head on his back. His heartbeat, which she states is “the best”, lulls her to sleep. I love these doggone cute kids so much!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Insomniacs After School – 03 – Laid-Back Astronomy Camp

By signing their names to a sheet, Ganta and Isaki bring the Astronomy Club back to life, but as cool as Kurashiki-sensei has been about all this, she warns them the form is not just a formality. As president, Ganta will have to attend the school club budgetary meeting and not only report on legitimate club activities, but compete for school funding.

While Kurashiki is happy to serve as club advisor, she has nothing to advise on the day-to-day activities of the astronomy club. However, she does point Ganta and Isaki to someone who does: Shiromaru Yui, an alumnus and the last member of the astronomy club before it was shut down. Ganta and Isaki take a train out to rural Wakuraonsen and traverse seemingly endless rice paddies to find this Shiromaru.

When they finally find her workplace, it’s an arcade with a deafening din. At first, Yui asks these two minors what they’re doing there after school, but she then recognizes their Kuyo High uniforms and deduces that Kurashiki-sensei sent them, and that they’re seeking her council.

Yui invites the pair to her cargo container converted into a pretty awesome apartment, and even treats them to some carbonara (and a brief look at her unmentionables). Yui looks through Ganta’s camera and determines that he still needs to learn the basics of night photography (she also sees photos Ganta took of Isaki, which are informative in another way).

After dinner, Yui takes the kids out, where it’s now dark and a new moon, perfect for shooting pics of stars. She shows Ganta how to use manual focus and adjust the f-stop and ISO levels. These pointers result in him taking his very first in-focus photo of stars, and he and Isaki are so jazzed that Yui herself can’t help but smile. While she’s been a loner for a long time and may even prefer it, she’s clearly a kind, sweet, and generous individual.

That’s confirmed when Yui takes an active interest in these kids’ resurrection of the astronomy club by paying a visit to the observatory. When Isaki arrives after swimming practice with a bad case of the yawns, she’s revitalized not just by the presence of Yui, but of a tent in the observatory. It, along with a camp chair and other comforts, are crucial for a successfull night photography session.

Ganta and Isaki head home that night extremely excited at the prospect of planning a Perseid meteor shower viewing party in August. Ganta is less confident of not embarrassing himself by submitting an entry for a national astrophotography contest, but as Kurashiki says, it’s a small price to pay for the potential reward of prestige—and more funds from the school.

Later that night, Yui pulls a Shima Rin and engages in a full-bore iyashikei late night photography session, even bringing along her awesome cat Rollo. As her camera takes a long-exposure shot of a torii gate, she makes a fluffy pancake with her camp stove. The resulting shot is so pretty, she can’t resist wanting to send it to Ganta and Isaki, but hesitates since it’s pushing 2 AM.

Of course, we know Ganta and Isaki are most likely wide awake at home around that time, and apparently so does Rollo, as he nudges Yui’s finger so it presses the send button. She freaks out, but only for a few moments, as she gets immediate, enthusiastic replies from her two kohai, who are clearly night owls.

As I said, it’s clear Shiromaru Yui has adopted a number of tools that enable her to not just survive but thrive in her somewhat monastic life of solitude. But it’s clear from the numerous cute expressions she makes throughout the episode that she’s hardly opposed to social interaction.

In fact, she was eager to share the beauty of the night sky with others, since sharing it only enhanced her enjoyment. It’s a triumphant introduction of another endearing addition to the cast, voiced with a wonderful humanity and nuance by Tomatsu Haruka. Between her and Kurashiki-sensei, Ganta and Isaki are in good hands!

Insomniacs After School – 02 – Going Legit

After waking up and making himself and his dad lunch, Ganta arrives to find Isaki’s friends wrapping her in the classroom curtains. When she suddenly emerges, she looks like a perfect princess. Ganta desperately wants to say good morning, and she prepares to do the same, but he gives her the cold shoulder.

It’s not that he suddenly doesn’t like Isaki—far from it. He explains through texts that it’s in both their best interests not to draw too much attention to their sudden buddying up. Rumors could spread like wildfire, both about them, their hideout, and their insomnia. Isaki agrees, and everything stays their little secret.

The two agree that the observatory could be comfier, however, so Isaki brings a bunch of games and toys and such that will create an environment conducive to sleep. On the physical comfort level, they luck out when a cushy red leather chair and couch are due to be tossed. They start with lugging the chair up to the observatory, which proves so taxing they don’t bother with the couch.

Of course, that means playing rock-paper-scissors to determine who gets the chair first. Isaki wins, and immediately wants for a leg rest. As gunta is pulling a table towards her, she playfully rests her legs on his back, briefly using him as an ottoman. He protests, but methinks he doth protest too much. If a girl is comfortable enough to rest her legs on you, you’re doing something right!

When they hear the door to the observatory creak, they hide behind the chair, wondering if it’s an intruder (or a ghost), but it turns out to be a bicolor cat who has been wandering the school grounds. It makes itself at home on the chair, and Isaki draws close to admire one of the “grandmasters of sleep”. My own cat was in a nearly identical sleeping position not three feet from me as I was watching this.

Isaki buys ice cream for herself and Ganta at the school store, but while she’s gone, the cat returns to the observatory with a piece of lettuce … from Kurashiki-sensei’s sandwich. That brings her to the door that Ganta is currently repairing, and just like that, they’re discovered.

Ganta at first takes full responsibility, saying he acted alone, but when Isaki happily returns with the ice cream, Kurashiki-sensei not unreasonably asks if they’ve been having sex up there. Ganta tells her the truth: this is the only place the both of them can get proper rest.

But even if their intentions and actions are totally innocent and Kurashiki-sensei agrees it’s a hell of a hideout, it’s still her job to report this to the faculty and their parents. Absolutely crestfallen, the two eat their melted ice cream in silence, with Isaki unable to hold back tears.

So that’s it, right? After just two episodes, the dream is over, right? Well…not quite. When Kurashiki-sensei mentioned that the school was considering reviving the observatory for astronomic purposes, Gunta is quick to offer to join the astronomy club. But she questions his motives, and the next day he and Isaki are called to the faculty lounge fearing the worst.

Luckily for them, Kurashiki-sensei is cool. She told her higher-ups that the two of them offered to revive the astronomy club, which is exactly what those higher-ups wanted to hear. The vice principal also remarks that this will put to rest rumors about the student who died haunting the observatory…ya know, the rumors Isaki started.

The news that they’ll still have their palace of seclusion causes such a release of stress and tension that as soon as the two leave the lounge, they start running down the hall smiling and laughing their asses off. It’s a testament to the character design, quality of animation, writing and voice acting working in unity that after so little time I am totally invested in these two adorkable kids and would glad fight a war for them.

That said, they actually will have to do astronomy stuff, so Ganta obtains a basic toy telescope and assembles it on the roof to observe the moon. Isaki repeats her earlier praise for Ganta’s affinity for mechanical stuff, but wait till she learns the guy’s a great cook too!

Once the telescope is assembled, Ganta and Isaki take turns looking at the moon, even bumping heads due to lack of coordination. But when it’s Ganta’s turn to look Isaki aligns herself so the moonlight hits her just right, and she’s a magical princess again, this time telling Ganta “If I end up on the moon, then I’ll wave down to you.”

Ganta at first thinks she’s joking about the ghost again, but Isaki shoots him a far more serious and earnest face than he was expecting. I gotta say, it was the first time I worried this show might eventually enter Your Lie in April territory with Isaki, but I prefer to be more optimistic and upbeat with these too. After all, they fought the law and won!

The Ice Guy and His Cool Female Colleague – 01 – Baby It’s Lukewarm Outside

Fuyutsuki is a cool beauty who lives with her cat. On her way to her first day at her new office job, she encounters a handsome fellow with silver hair; his legs frozen in a block of ice of his own making. His name is Himuro, and he’s descended from a yuki-onna.

When pouring her hot tea on the ice doesn’t break it, Fuyutsuki offers some tea for him Himuro to drink, and combined with the cherry blossoms, he calms down enough that the ice cracks. He thanks her and they go their separate ways, each of them charmed by their encounter.

Of course, that’s not the last time they meet, or there’d be no show! They meet again immediately, as they’re employees at the same office—their desks are even adjacent. Neither of them mind this arrangement.

One of their co-workers is descended from a fox spirit, and sprouts ears and a tail when excited. Himuro, meanwhile, causes a little mini-snowstorm in the office every time he gets fired up or blushes over Fuyutsuki. Unfortunately, the gimmick grows a little repetitive as the episode goes on.

While it’s competently made, features decent character designs (I particularly dig the leads’ eye colors), a cute kitty, and Ishikawa Yui, Ice Guy ultimately lacked sufficient energy and verve to propel me to keep watching. To be brutally honest, it was just a bit dull.


Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 03 – It’s a Nishikata Thing

It’s a hot October morning, so much so that both Nishikata and Takagi arrive at school early, and find themselves the only ones there. When Nishikata proudly whips out a fan and starts fanning himself, I knew it would only be a matter of time before he was fanning Takagi.

First she asks him straight up to fan her. When he won’t, she makes up a game to see who can move her eraser across her desk further with the fan. Nishikata, like a dolt, furiously fans the eraser, causing it to move…a few millimeters. In the process, he fans Takagi. Then Takagi beats him by pushing the eraser further than him with the fan.

That said, Takagi repositions herself for his fanning so that a.) he gets a bit of the cool air too, and more importantly b.) she can be closer to him!

Takagi’s desire to be closer goes beyond physical proximity. She knows Nishikata and his friends love a new baseball manga, so she baits him with a ping pong ball, then uses a broom to play the role of hitter to his star pitcher. Nishikata allows the fantasy of the manga to wash over him, with the rest of the cast playing the roles of other characters.

Takagi swings through the first pitch, but Nishikata isn’t even able to get her into an 0-2 count as she belts his next pitch “over the wall” for a homer. She said she wouldn’t tell anyone what she saw if he struck her out, and he couldn’t, but when he asks again nicely for her not to tell, she says fine; in exchange, lend her the baseball manga. She wants to know as much as possible about what he likes!

After an interlude featuring the three girls and a supposedly stuck fat cat who turns out to just be fluffy (and I loved that cat’s design and voice), the final segment—simply called “Rain”—has Nishikata in the driver’s seat. Before class is out it starts to rain, but he forgot his umbrella.  Moments after the bell rings, he rushes to the lost-and-found and is in luck: there’s one umbrella left.

He heads home alone with the borrowed pink umbrella, eager not to miss a minute of the baseball/soccer anime crossover where the two teams play kickball. But in his haste to secure an umbrella for a dry walk home, Nishikata neglected to ask Takagi if she had one, and concludes that he can’t be sure she didn’t forget her’s—especially when it’s happened before (back in 2018!).

Sure enough, Takagi is waiting out the rain by staying at school and doing her homework, when Nishikata enters and is surprised to find he didn’t worry needlessly: she did indeed forget her umbrella again. So Nishikata, blushing like a tomato the whole way, manages to ask her if she would “like to go together”. We only see the bottom half of Takagi’s face when the sides of her mouth turn up as high as they’ll go.

Takagi teases him about wanting to “get cozy” under his umbrella again, but checks herself, seeing as how he was kind enough to come back for her. She even knows he missed his special anime episode for her sake, and when he asks her how she knows that, she replies “that’s easy. Because I know everything about you.” She then plans to forget her umbrella next time it rains, too.

The title card parting shot of them walking together under the umbrella is a snapshot of where they stand right now as a couple: Takagi is all-in and having a gas, while Nishikata, all flushed cheeks and elusive gaze, can’t quite temper his self-consciousness. But he’s under the umbrella—this time of his own volition. He went back for her! He put her before anime! I tell ya, the kid’s learning.

The Duke of Death and His Maid – 02 – Moonlight Waltz

The third member of Bocchan’s family, Rob, makes his first appearance, and proves to be your typical jovial, dependable old butler who might just be a bit long in the tooth for the strenuous work of maintaining a mansion. Even so, he gives it the old college try, which incidentally leaves Alice with little to do but toy with her beloved duke.

She eventually agrees to behave herself and sit quietly as Bocchan plays some of the new piano piece he’s working on, which is indeed both somber and beautiful. Alice’s rush of emotion during the piece precedes the good duke telling her he composed the piece for her; as a reward she leans in to kiss him, her lips stopping only an inch from his.

Bocchan may be relatively content with Alice and Rob, but a member of his original family does come to visit him now and again, treating it like a special service and act of welfare on her part, but visiting him nonetheless.

Viola (Minase Inori in Adorable Squeaky Mode) may not be as overtly honest as Alice about how she feels about her brother—she wants him to break the curse so he can return home—but it’s clear that unlike her mother she does care.

When a black cat appears in the mansion, Bocchan is terrified, not because he’s scared of cats but because he’s scared of killing it if it touches him. So he runs from the cat, Rob mistakes him for the cat, and Alice makes much of the fact the cat tore her dress in just such a way.

They find a note with that cat—”Forgive Me”—that Bocchan takes to mean it was abandoned, as he was. As for me, I wondered if that black cat wasn’t sent by the witch as a messenger; maybe the curse wasn’t intentional? It would explain why it was cast upon a five-year-old boy who no one had reason to curse.

The pièce de résistance of the outing is the ending, as Alice finds Bocchan in the deserted ballroom and the two dance inches from one another under the gorgeous, massive full moon, a scene lifted from a storybook. Like the music Bocchan composes, it’s sad, beautiful, and with just enough of a touch of hopefulness.

Vanitas no Carte – 01 (First Impressions) – Airships and Airheads

Bones usually does a good job, and Vanitas is no different: it’s a slick, classy, attractive, crowd-pleasing steampunk vampire caper with airships and a healthy sense of humor and great sense of comic timing. It can also be dark and bloody and downright distressing when it wants to be. Vanitas, like its namesake antihero, can and does essentially do whatever it wants whenever it wants, and does it with the utmost style and swagger.

It is also super playful with its reveals in its first episode. I assumed the crowd in the opening were in a town square, only to pull back on a massive ornate airship straight out of Final Fantasy. I was pretty sure the white-haired Noé was a vampire, but that fact is only revealed for certain when it has to be, which is when Vanitas goes after him for protecting Amelia, another vampire who spends much of the episode not feeling so swell at all.

Noé may be a vamp but he’s also a good dude, and whether Amelia is a vamp or not he’s not about to let Vanitas get a clear shot at her with his knife. Another reveal comes when we learn that not only is Vanitas not bent on destroying all vampires like his namesake, but he’s not even a vampire—he’s just a human who is extremely hard to kill thanks to the book he carries.

The show looks great from start to finish, the action and magical artwork is seamlessly integrated, and Murr the Cat is cool. Everything about this production screams consummate professional. The classical music adds more class, and the ED absolutely WHIPS. In fact it’s one of the best anime themes I’ve heard since Dororo’s OP. Its smooth, slick, futuristic production perfectly compliments Vanita’s brassy retro aesthetic.

Vanita’s last trick is framing the entire opening episode as an entry in Noé’s memoirs, which he ends by saying that despite how chummy they seem to be, Vanitas will one day die by his hand. The show can be pleasantly goofy at times, but it’s declarations like that that make the hair on the back of my neck stand up. I’m in!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Fruits Basket – 61 – The Cat Was Right

Totally Invincible

When Tooru leaves the hospital and first sees Kyou, whom she loves, nothing goes as planned. Even as her mind and heart want to go to him and smile, her body runs away as fast as it can…which is, of course, not nearly fast enough to lose the rather athletic Kyou! While Yuki visited, the mere mention of Kyou’s name brought tears to Tooru’s eyes that she quickly slapped away, risking further damage to her head.

Yes, Tooru isn’t running from Kyou because she’s afraid of him, but because of the usual: she’s afraid of being a burden; being unnecessary; causing people pain simply by being around them. She’s afraid of Kyou being disappointed in her. This is what happens when you say your piece and flee like Kyou did. It was a shit move, especially when he knew full well Tooru would take every one of those harsh words to heart.

So it’s as heartlifting to see Kyou get down on one knee and apologize and take back what he said as it was heartbreaking to hear him say those things in the first place to a desperately vulnerable Tooru who was ready to bear her heart but was met with a wall of stone. Kyou has learned a lot from being with Tooru, and one of those things he learned is being more aware of how his words and behavior affect people.

He knows how lucky he is to see Tooru again to apologize, and humbly asks for one more chance with her, because if he’s going to live, he wants to live with her by his side, because he loves her. Tooru responds by asking if it’s really okay for her to stay by his side, and hold his hand, and he points out she’s already holding it, gently places his hand on her face, and gives her her second kiss—the first being when he wasn’t sure he’d have this second chance.

When Kyou laments that being with him means suffering because of his “weird body” (let’s not forget, without that rosary he’s an odd, smelly beast), but Tooru simply tells him she loves him, that that love is “totally invincible”, and he starts thinking maybe he’s invincible too. They hug, both fully expecting him to transform. But he doesn’t, because the curse has been broken.

The Original Promise

It broke because Tooru was able to make a new connection with Akito, and show her that it was going to be okay even if it broke, and that it ultimately be better for everyone, including Akito, if it broke. We thankfully get to see a bit of Akito visiting Tooru in the hospital, where she confesses it all came down to her being jealous of Tooru and how goshdarn pure and pretty she is.

Rather than rightfully reply with a “guilty as charged”, Tooru is Tooru, saying she’s neither pure nor pretty, and if it isn’t too much trouble she’ll thank Akito not to sort people into categories based on “things like that” and use them to keep her distance. If Akito thinks Tooru is pure, then she believes Akito is pure too, and never more than she was when she approached in the rain.

As Tooru and Kyou hug without him transforming, Akito thinks about that visit, and how Tooru repeated her heartfelt desire to be her friend, and Akito’s willingness to be that, resulting in a new beginning, something she never thought possible all her life until meeting Tooru. She feels the hand of the original God on her head, and we’re sent back to time immemorial, and the genesis of the Curse, which was originally not a curse at all.

What it was originally was an effective coping mechanism for the crushing loneliness of the original God, living in his house on top of a mountain, too strange and different to interact with the humans below. The first being to ever visit him was the Cat, who promised to stay by his side and kept that promise.

The cat taught the God that perhaps others who were “different” would be willing to be his friends. He sent out invitations, and twelve other animals responded. The moon quietly watched over the banquets shared by those who were different—what a beautiful collection of words—but eventually the first of them, the Cat, became ill and neared death.

The God enchanted a sake cup that would make the bonds between him and the thirteen animals eternal; that even if they died, they’d be reborn and reunited. But the dying cat neither needed nor wanted eternity, which the other animals saw as a rejection and admonished the Cat.

But the cat was on to something, even back then, at the very first collection of the Zodiac. He beseeched God that they accept that things end, that mortality, while scary and lonely, is what makes life life, and makes love love. The Cat said to God he was fortunate to be with Him for even a moment, but after he died, the other animals ignored his calls for acceptance.

Still, they were still mortal, and one by one died, until only God was left, his house a ruin reminiscent of one of the deserted huts in the Boy’s village in To Your Eternity. Then God died, but was reborn with the others and the eternal banquet resumed. This original memory, which occurred so long ago, was forgotten by all…until it was told to us by the incomparable Iwami Manaka, whose voice moved me to tears on several occasions this week.

Cry With Me

But the promise endured, until present events now have Akito asking the original God if it’s okay for her to stop being special or a god, and just become Akito…to end the eternal, set down the extinguished torch, and begin her life.

As she asks this of her progenitor, the answer is revealed, as one by one the remaining Zodiac members are released from their eternal bonds. For many, like Kisa and Rin, it happens beside Hiro and Haru, respectively—those who already felt the pang of intense and all-encompassing sadness and loneliness that comes with the breaking of the curse. But Kisa has Hiro, Rin has Haru, Ayame has Mine, and Kyou has Tooru.

The coping mechanism is no longer needed. Both the animals and the god are now free to live among one another and with humans who love them and want to live with them. Free to make new beginnings and free to create new bonds. To commemorate this moment, Kyou rips the rosary off his arm and nothing happens. He’s now free to be Kyou, not the Cat, and free to love Tooru, who loves him more than she loves anyone else.

Thank You

All Akito asks as the curse is lifted is for everyone to “cry with her”, but they do more than that. Still sore from the breaking of their bonds, they are actually drawn to her—to Akito, not the God of the Zodiac—and when they do file in one by one, what had been a cold, foreboding, oppressive Souma compound is bathed in warm light.

As the original God states, it would be a long, long time before the cat’s words about eternity not being the answer and the preciousness of mortality became true. But they finally did. Akito may not be a god anymore, but she’s not alone. Tooru makes sure she knows that when she visits with Kyou and the others.

It’s telling that the first person for Akito to embrace post-the breaking of the curse isn’t a former Zodiac member, but the first and best friend of her new non-divine existence: Honda Tooru, who it turns out freed Akito as much as everyone else from bonds none of them ever asked for, and never needed. It is true we mortals must accept that things end, even if that thing is Fruits Basket. But I can’t think of a better or more satisfying ending than the one we’re getting.


Talentless Nana – 10 – Just Your Typical Little Girl

When Nana breaks free of her icy anklet, Jin uses Moguo’s fire Talent to stop her in her tracks, but apologizes for going too far. Still, her phone’s “potential kill count” messages cause him to suspect she’s a “crusader” like someone from his class who believed he was sent to kill the “minions of Satan.”

Jin isn’t interested in using others’ Talents to force Nana to talk. He wants to patiently build trust with her, human to human, something he wasn’t able to do with his class, whom he dehumanized all too easily when he used their own Talents to kill them.

Badly burned and about to lose consciousness, Nana gives Jin a little of what he wants: insight into who Hiiragi Nana is. She tells him she had an older brother she was too young to remember, and a mother and father who were murdered one night by an Enemy of Humanity.

Before passing out, she smiles when he asks if she sees Talented as Enemies of Humanity, then he carries her back to the dorms, warning her that now that the bodies are starting to pile up, the psychopaths among the current class will soon “come out of the woodwork”. Basically, she’s not the only murderer on this island.

When Nana comes to it’s in Michiru’s dorm; Jin left her at her dorm and Michiru did what Jin knew she’d do: take Nana in and heal her. Michiru also mentions that an impostor went to class when she was too tired to go (due to Jin drugging her). Nana realizes if she’s more open with her traumatic past, her reckless actions will be more easily explained by her “noble vendetta.”

Michiru wants Nana to know she’s always there if she wants to talk. As Nana talks to her about how her house was broken into and her parents killed, Michiru exhibits all the qualities of an empathetic, caring, even loving friend. But after revealing Yuuka’s true colors, she can’t help but still wonder if even sweet Michiru has a dark side.

In the meantime, memories of that horrible night well up and haunt Nana. As she ponders her next move in her dorm, Jin pays her a visit. He agrees to return her phone to her if she’ll “share more of her soul” with him via more information about her past. Then Michiru shows up , and Jin disguises himself as the kitty Nana saved.

Michiru and Kitty!Jin listen as Nana gives details about what kind of “typical little girl” she was. She loved games of skill like Chess, Shoji, and Go, and was so good at them that other kids didn’t want to play her. She also made a mess of all the games in her rooms, and played long into the night, often slipping out past midnight to go to the konbini to buy manga, another passion.

Her parents always told her to make sure her window was locked, but one night she fell asleep without doing so, and that was all a burglar needed to gain entry. The next morning she found her parents brutally murdered, and she carried her father’s head out in public. Nana begins to break down over the guilt of being the reason the murderer targeted their house and got inside, but Michiru offers her hand in support.

At some point, Nana falls asleep at her desk, and wakes up the next morning to find Michiru sitting on her bed, awake and oddly alert. Before she can say anything, Kyouya bursts in and asks the two girls to come with him. There’s been another murder: a male student’s throat has been slashed, apparently by a sliding dorm window.

It’s clear Nana didn’t do it this time, which means there is indeed another murderer on the island. But who? The camera lingers on a girl with bangs and a pony tail whose eyes are always shut—according to MAL, her name is Sorano Fuuko. It could be her—whoever she is—or it could be someone else.

For all we know, it could even be Michiru, who may have left Nana’s dorm to kill after Nana fell asleep. That goes against everything we’ve learned about Micchy so far, but if this show has taught me anything, it’s not to trust anyone or anything!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Talentless Nana – 03 – What’s This F-Boy’s Deal?!

With two enemies of humanity eliminated in short order, Nana knows she must be careful not to incite panic or draw suspicion upon herself. But that’s hard when Onodera Kyouya is snooping around, especially when he’s almost if not as good as her at deduction, as evidenced by how he knows the Ice Prince is dating.

She can’t have this guy breathing down her neck, so she makes him her next target, and begins the process of learning his talent and weakness. But following him leads her to discover he’s the kind of guy who goes out of his way to give warm milk to a stray cat.

As Nana tries to figure Kyouya out, he invites her into his dorm, which is a bit of a mess, but is also full of potentially useful clues. She seems to spot them, but she’s also consistently kept off balance by Kyouya, even going so far as to call him a “low-level f-boy”.

What’s fun about these two interacting when we only have access to Nana’s thoughts is that we’re not sure if Kyouya is putting on a big act for Nana, just as she’s putting on an act for him. This is only heightened when Kyouya produces an issue of the manga Humanity’s Girl, which is obviously Nana’s favorite, because she considers herself humanity’s savior.

Kyouya also pulls the power move where Nana thinks she’s about to leave scot-free, only for him to say “Oh, one last thing…” and then whipping out Nanao’s fancy Rolex. Nana can’t hide her true shock at seeing the Velben good in Kyouya’s hand, since it means Kyouya has been busy.

He also tells her about how it’s strange that the government set up a “training” facility where very little structured training goes on. Since agents like Nana are the Talentless’ last chance to get rid of the Talented, any Talented as curious and suspicious as Kyouya have to go.

Just to confirm her suspicions, we finally hear Kyouya’s inner voice. In a way, that’s a shame, since now we know for sure he’s not already 100% on to her. But he’s definitely getting there!

The next day, Nana sets a clever trap based on Kyouya’s weakness, gleaned by observing his dorm: he’s an anosmiac. That means the next time he heats up the milk in the abandoned janitor’s shed, he doesn’t detect the gas leak, or the closed window, until it’s too late. BOOM.

Bye-bye  Kyouya, right? Wrong. He may have no sense of smell, but that’s not a weakness one can use to kill him, due to his Talent: he’s freakin’ invincible. The explosion covers his body in burns, but he quickly heals, and when Nana runs to the wreckage, she all but confirms to him that she was the one who caused the explosion. Who else knew he was here but Nana, who mentioned the cat earlier?

Even so, Kyouya isn’t totally convinced, and so doesn’t retaliate against Nana…yet. After all, he can’t discount the fact she knew he was in the fire because she read his mind. His parting words to her—“I’m so glad we’re friends.”—is a clear threat. It’s almost like he could out her now if he wanted, but would prefer to keep their cat-and-mouse game going.

Now we know for certain that Kyouya isn’t a fellow Talented hunter like Nana. And Nana definitely has no taste for games; she’s here to do a job as quickly and efficiently as possible. The question is, how is she going to find his real weakness and kill him now that his defenses are up?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Cardcaptor Sakura – 31 – Sakurazilla, Queen of the Kaiju

Touya does it almost every morning: Calling Sakura a kaiju for stomping down the steps and being too loud. One day, Sakura vows to grow tall enough to “stomp” her mean big brother. Little does she know that half of that wish will come true in the service of her Cardcaptor duties.

What’s odd is that despite her friend Naoko finding a book that is clearly a Clow Card (though not a Clear Card) at a used bookstore, Sakura senses the presence of a card elsewhere entirely.

When Sakura comes by later that night when there’s no one around, Tomoyo is with her, and dresses her up in a bold blue battle costume and has her camcorder at the ready to record some cardcapturin’. But they’re not alone: Syaoran and Meiling are also on the scene, and determined to get to the card first.

Unfortunately for Syaoran, cats love him, and when Sakura and Tomoyo manage to Fly to safety after a gigantic cat chases the four of them, he ends up the cat’s focus of attention. Kero-chan determines from the big cat that the Big card is on the loose. Sakura confronts Big, who doesn’t really put up a fight when Sakura moves to seal her.

That would be all, except that Naoko unknowingly has a second Clow Card in her possession in the form of a fantasy book that has blank pages at the end which are meant to be filled in by the owner. Naoko obliges, and the things she imagines and writes down take physical form, from flying animals that wouldn’t normally fly to a 10-story purple dragon. Kero identifies it as the Create card at work.

Faced with the prospect of a literal kaiju wreaking havoc on Tomoeda, Sakura has no choice but to use Big…on herself! Growing to immense size ironically makes her even more adorable, especially as she tries to cower in embarrassment. Even with her greater stature, the dragon is still bigger and stronger and unlike Big puts up quite a fight.

Thankfully Sakura (and, incidentally, the city) is saved when Naoko decides to put the quill down, close her book, and go to bed. Just like that, the dragon evaporates, and Sakura seals Create, and returns to normal size. But the next morning, when Touya teases her about being a kaiju once more, she takes comfort in the knowledge that she could grow to the size of a real kaiju and intimidate her brother anytime…if she wanted to!

So ends another high-concept—very high-concept!—episode that plays as the complement to the episode in which she shrunk down. But whether she’s big or small, Cardcaptor Sakura will always get the job done.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 24 – HOEEEny, I Shrunk the Cardcaptor

One afternoon Sakura watching Tours of European Castles while wistfully dreaming about living in one, Touya reads a magazine beside her. He ribs her for not being “princess material”, and she inadvertently gives his argument credence by kicking him in the knee. It’s such a lovely, natural brother-sister interaction.

Touya also warns her that dealing with too big a house can be a major pain, foreshadowing things to come. The next day, a newly twin-tailed Tomoyo comes by Sakura’s house in order to—what else—re-measure Sakura (who is apparently in a “growth spurt” so she can tailor her battle costumes just right. Tomoyo brings a homemade strawberry tart as  thanks for indulging her.

Appropriately enough for the events to follow, Sakura’s newest costume resembles Alice’s iconic blue dress in Alice in Wonderland. Both she and Kero-chan sense the presence of a Clow Card, so Sakura releases her staff and has the other two hang back while she investigates.

Sakura’s Clow Card sense leads her to her father’s room, where she encounters a tiny glowing dot bouncing on the bed. It touches her, and before she knows it, she’s less than three inches tall, and her staff has reverted back to a key, which didn’t shrink.

The carpet is like dense, tall grass, the bed an immense mesa. A slight breeze sends her flying out the window, and cats and preying mantises are huge monsters trying to hunt her. The art and animation are extremely effective at conveying just how tiny and helpless Sakura is, despite the fact nothing other than the scale of her surroundings has changed.

Landing on a flower gives us a good idea of how light she is. The bathtub is a lake, and the legs of the table and chairs in the dining area are like a great forest. Heck, even Touya looks and sounds like a kaiju from her perspective, which is ironic considering that’s what he’s always calling his little sister.

Touya comes home with Yukito while Tomoyo and Kero are searching for Sakura, leading Kero to hide. Tomoyo makes up an excuse for Sakura’s absence and has some tea with the boys before remembering her tart, then very hilariously faking a dizzy spell to retrieve Kero and sneak him out so he can keep looking.

Meanwhile, Sakura continues to pursue Little, the Clow Card who made her tiny. But since Little is both smaller and quicker and she can’t use any magic, sealing the card is going to be a…ahem…short order. [Slide Whistle]

Little hops up the steps which Sakura considers too tall and steep to climb on her own. Fortunately, that’s just when Kero-chan finally finds her, and let me just say, seeing him tap the shoulder of and tower over Wee Sakura is one of the best images I’ve yet seen in CCS…that is, of course, until we see Wee Sakura riding Kero-chan like a Pegasus!

Just as Little is about to shrink Tomoyo, Sakura swoops in on Kero-chan, touches Little, returns to normal size, releases her staff and seals the card, ending her “little adventure” with the latest, addition to her collection.

Sakura and Tomoyo celebrate by sharing the strawberry tart with Touya and Yukito, but the tart is so good there’s only a single strawberry atop a meager morsel left for Kero-chan, who after all made a major contribution to the card capturing this week. No worries; Sakura need only cast Little on him in order to shrink him down so his strawberry is the size of an igloo!

As soon as I saw the preview for this episode, I had a good feeling I was in store for another CCS Classic, and I was not disappointed. It also ends on a perfect note: with Sakura tuning in once more to Tours of European Castles, only to promptly change the channel. She’s had her fill of big houses for the time being, and doesn’t need to be a princess…she’s a Cardcaptor!

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 05 – Bow Before Your Ojou-sama

Like Biribiri herself, despite her personality quirks there are few people you’d want in your corner more than Kongou Mitsuko. This week on Railgun T she finally gets the much-deserved spotlight, demonstrating her value as a person, a young lady, and a friend, and that while three of Misaka’s best friends have been neutralized, there are plenty of others willing to help in her time of need.

After she overhears Kuroko talking like she doesn’t know who Misaka is, Mitsuko admits to Misaka that she knows it wasn’t her for the Balloon Hunter, but her “sister” who looks just like her; abilities aside, Mitsuko can just read people that way. When Misaka asks her to investigate the sister’s disappearance on her behalf, Mitsuko refuses.

This is because for all Misaka knows, Mitsuko could also be brainwashed. Therefore, rather than feed Misaka info that she has no way of knowing is genuine, Mitsuko takes it upon herself to personally find Misaka’s sister and bring her back safe and sound. All she asks is that Misaka keep Shokuhous minions off her back.

Mitsuko’s investigation is off to a good start when she locates Misaka’s frog mask and kitty. But in her rush to take the cat to Judgment so she can continue her sleuthing unfettered, she bumps into Wannai and blurts out exactly what she’s doing without a hint of subterfuge.

While ultimately Wannai is not compromised, one of Baba’s robotic recon dogs picks up the conversation. He wastes no time isolating Mitsuko and then demanding she tell him everything she knows about the Sisters, or else. He’s confident from watching her events that he knows her Aero Hand ability back to front and how to neutralize it.

That’s when Mitsuko proves him so very wrong, by unleashing Aero Hand in a manner and at an intensity of which he was totally unaware. We’re reminded that even a Level 4 can cause plenty of destruction if she wishes, as Mitsuko disperses the robo-dogs and brings down a huge parabolic antenna.

She’s not worried about collateral damage—she is exceedingly wealthy—only protecting Misaka’s sister’s innocent cat. It’s notable she’s also not particularly concerned with her own personal safety; despite her pompous manner, Mitsuko is True Blue when it comes to helping those she considers friends, as well as those whom those friends consider dear.

This ends up her undoing, however, as Baba decides to fight dirty by unleashing a robo-bug that delivers an immobilizing bite to her leg. When Mitsuko takes exception to Baba mocking her selflessness and insults Misaka for “using people”—even if she can’t stand, she’s not going to stand for that!—he starts kicking her until she’s bloody. But still, Mitsuko shields the kitty from harm.

Baba’s about to gather her up to his lair to conduct a drug-induced interrogation—dude is such a loathsome sack of shit—when Saten, Wannai, and Awatsuki arrive just in time. Baba insults Mitsuko as “human debris” their faces, so the latter two calmly ask Saten to take Mitsuko and the cat to safety so they can have some “words” with the dastardly scoundrel.

P.S. Misaka had some good moments this week, despite not being at the forefront. It was mostly just to add color to the group of minders, but I loved how their lilac-haired leader shares Misaka’s genuine love for all things Gekota, and that Misaka took note of how easily her passion could be used to lower her defenses. Her “accidental” train ride was also masterfully done, even if it was ultimately unsuccessful.

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