Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 03 – Heads Up, Tails Down Bad

Kashiwagi P.I.

Kaguya-sama is to my mind never a show that has to scape the bottom of a barrel, because it has a whole cellar full of barrels that are always full. Take the oft-sampled scenario of the romantically inept Student Council having to give advice to the far more experienced Kashiwagi Nagisa. In this case, Nagisa has come suspecting her boyfriend of cheating on her with her friend.

Nagisa proceeds to confess to a number of actual crimes of privacy invasion before making the ludicrous statement of hiring a P.I. because she trusts her man, but every time Miko tries to point out how rashly Nagisa is acting, Kaguya steps in to support Nagisa’s theories. When Miko says going to karaoke with someone is cheating does Kaguya say it isn’t (due to what happened with Miyuki and Hayasaka). Miko is feeling so bad she has to listen to her self-affirmation audio.

Ultimately by talking things through with Kaguya and Miko, Nagisa works up the courage to confront her boyfriend directly. When he reiterates that he likes her and gives her a gold heart necklace, all is forgiven. Miyuki and Yuu believe the guy made a slick move, while Kaguya, Miko and Chika all agree the necklace is lame as hell! Then Nagisa and her bae start making out, and we’re reminded that it’s the student council that’s lame to cast aspersions about gifts when none of them are officially dating.

Lovesick Heart of the Nation

The second segment involves the other side of the love triangle: Nagisa’s old friend Shijou Maki (a dynamic Ichinose Kana). After pretending not to care about Nagisa telling her not to hang out with her BF so much, she walks home slumped over like Charlie Brown (or George Michael Bluth). Yuu and Miyuki are chatting spiritedly when the latter suddenly steps on the prone Maki’s head, accompanied by a sound effect for the ages.

Just as Kaguya and Miko had to counsel (i.e. endure) Nagisa, Miyuki and Yuu are pressed into service as advisors to Maki, who is a particularly haughty member of a Shinomiya branch family, is possessed of incurable tsundere-ness, and can flip the cuteness on and off like a plasma globe. She goes to some dark places but you can tell it helps just to have someone to listen to, even if she deems them (mostly Yuu) an ignoramus.

The two boys agree to help her steal Nagisa’s boyfriend in large part due to this ability to come across as unbelievably cute and sympathetic. Yuu also admires her unvarnished honesty about everything but her love of Nagisa’s bae (finally admitting she does after denying it ten straight times).

After a tense, hostile interaction with her “auntie” Kaguya, Maki says both boys said she was cute, which has Kaguya in Miyuki’s face like stink on shit. But Miyuki can’t very well say he finds Maki cute because she reminds him of Kaguya, not can he?!

Polygraph-Enhanced Fun

In the final segment, Kaguya, still curious about what exactly happened at that group date, asks Chika what goes on at such functions. Chika hasn’t been to one either, but is aware of group date games like one played with 10-yen coins and revealing yes-or-no answers that are kept anonymous by a handkerchief.

Like most seemingly innocuous little games Chika suggests the council plays, this one becomes a battle of wits between everyone to get the others to admit to something they wouldn’t normally admit to. Chika naturally wants to know who is currently in love (three of the five of them…but who’s the third?).

Yuu wants to know who hates him (only one…but it might not be Miko?) Miko wants to know that she’s necessary and wanted (five yesses…even from Yuu). When Kaguya notices that you can tell whose answers are whose by the mint date of the coins, she tries to trap Miyuki into a confession, with the added protection of Chika insisting on a polygraph if any lying is suspected.

Of course, she’s giving Miyuki too little credit not assuming he’d have a defense—in this case a second coin in his pocket that has the same mint date as two others. Unfortunately, his counterattack, to reveal Kaguya has been using the mint numbers to get a leg up, fails when two others admit to doing the same.

When Miyuki and Kaguya are alone in the more dramatically-lit office after school (one of my favorite kinds of Kaguya-sama scenes), Miyuki asks Kaguya if she had group dates on her mind because she heard he went on one. He then clears the air by admitting he did, but didn’t do anything frivolous, and says he wants “at least her” to believe her. When he asks if she does, she doesn’t answer verbally, but sneakily leaves her answer—yes—in coin form on the desk.

While this didn’t pack the emotional or dramatic punch of last week’s masterpiece, it was still a strong episode that followed up on the aftermath of that group date while bringing back Nagisa, a model of romantic honesty, and introducing the intriguing, imperious Maki as a kind of “Kaguya-Lite”. It also looks like the Starship Troopers ending wasn’t a one-off…Good!

Tokyo 24th Ward – 03 – Cross Purposes

The Third Annual Gourmet Festival is upon us, but Shirakaba-sensei’s daughter Kozue won’t be attending. Presumably as a result of the fire that claimed Asumi’s life, she been loath to leave her room. But that doesn’t stop her dad from checking in to make sure she’s good. He says he’ll wait as long as it takes.

As for the GourGes, Mari’s family’s restaurant has a problem: their competiton at the Takara Mall has bought up all the fancy cabbage they need for their okonomiyaki. When RGB locate the vegetables, Ran is ready to take a crowbar to the storage unit and have at it. Kouki, basically a kind of cop-in-training, vetoes the idea. It’s up to Shuuta to keep the two from bickering with each other and keep them focused.

Thanks to ‘Kaba-sensei, they’re able to acquire the needed cabbage without resorting to breaking and entering. Unfortunately, that isn’t the only dirty trick the gangsters try to pull, going so far as to place weights in their box of chopsticks to ensure they’ll win GourFes. They threatened Kaba-sensei by ensuring Kozue would get kicked out of her school for not attending, but he exposes their cheating anyway.

It just so happens to be the same day Kozue decides to leave her room and go to GourFes, to see both her Dad and her friend Kinako. But after a simultaneous phone call fakeout earlier in the episode, the real thing happens to RGB again: an “Asumi” gives them a choice: lead people across the bridge when a tornado hits the island venue of the festival, or help them into cargo containers for shelter.

One plan will result in the deaths of the weak, the other in the sacrifice of the courageous. Naturally, RGB needs to find a third way that saves everyone, and there’s every indication they will…until it all goes pear-shaped. Oh, it starts out well, with both Ran and Kouki ordering Shuuta to clear the bridge of traffic by literally pushing cars into Tokyo Bay, which honestly looks like a lot of fun.

From there, however, Ran and Kouki’s plans diverge, and without proper communication, they end up working at cross purposes. Ran hacks some tractor trailers to shelter the weak, while Ran persuades those who are able to hurry across the bridge…just when the trucks arrive. Shuuta has to try to clean up the resulting mess, but ends up blocking the bridge.

As the tornado rages, RGB does what it can, but the damage caused by their lack of teamwork is done: 21 deaths, over 130 wounded. Among the presumed dead is Kaba-sensei, though Shuuta was able to rescue Kozue, now she has to deal with a fresh round of crippling trauma. Looks like the first episode’s train dilemma was just a warm-up; the difficulty level has officially been ratcheted up.

While I’ll admit I missed both Mari and Asumi as the focus of the show, I also knew that this episode was probably going to return that focus to RGB. I wrongly assumed they’d save the day without anyone getting hurt, but it wasn’t to be, and that was a particular downer, just as it’s a downer that the Asumi we met last week is gone forever, no matter who is on the other side of RGB’s phones.

As for the bizarre Danganronpa-looking Carneades taking over the television feed to declare he is the one “thrusting choices upon the world for the future”, well, his aesthetic is certainly…a choice.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 11 – There Are No Heroes Here

With the lake drained of water (holy or otherwise), the multi-pronged fight between Anos and his cohorts and four reincarnations of Hero Kanon’s sources, including their secret weapon, the mute, petite, first-ranked Zeshia. As the fight commences, one hears a dread voice in the air saying kill the demons—even though this is supposed to be a friendly class competition!

As expected, the demons fare well, as the hero reincarnations possess far more arrogance than actual talent. As Misha builds a sturdy castle within their barrier, Sasha makes the jock hero wither in despair while Ray bests the self-style sword ace of the heroes. They only protest harsh treatment when they get a taste of their own medicine.

That leaves Zeshia and Four-eyes against Anos, and let’s be honest, it was always going to end up with Anos winning walking away. Zeshia’s acrobatics are impressive, but even when the heroes summon all of the love of the ten million people of their city, it only takes the eight girls of Anos’ Fan Union to counter that magical enhancement. Quality over quantity.

The heroes’ primary misconception is that demons cannot love, when it’s obvious that the relationships between Anos and his friends and family are suffused with the stuff. When Eleanor summons Anos to the shrine, vowing to help them stop Zeshia, he sends Misha instead, and she’s brutally stabbed by Diego, who has gone absolutely mad with hatred for all demons, vowing to exterminate them all here and now.

Anos doesn’t allow Misha to suffer long, disabling Diego before healing her wounds, then killing Diego, bringing him back to life with the hilarious line  “If you have time to be dead, answer me.” Diego has been using his students as puppets and “Kanon” fodder to carry out his vendetta, proving to Anos that he has nothing to do with the true Hero Kanon, who would rather suffer the destruction of six of his seven sources than allow anyone to sacrifice themselves for his sake.

Gathering a still-woozy Misha in his arms, Anos proceeds to a chamber where he finds a nude Eleanor within a bubble of light, and she declares that she is…”magic.” And here I thought she was just a friendly upperclassman and helpful school tour guide! In any case, she’s not necessarily an enemy of Anos & Co., so I’m eager to learn what her deal is.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 10 – Magic Cheaters Never Prosper

Just because the Demons are in hostile territory doesn’t mean they all start getting along. When top-ranked third-year Royalist Revest Aynie learns how early Anos arrived, he suspects cheating, but Anos doesn’t rise to his provocations, instead praising Revest for requiring so little time himself.

Yet when Revest is chosen as the first Demon Academy student to compete in a magical competition against a Hero student, he can’t even cast a spell on a mouse, much to the amusement of the extremely arrogant and haughty Hero Academy’s headmaster, Diego.

Anos reveals that the humans cheated, casting an anti-demon magic spell. This becomes a common refrain this week: the Hero Academy blatantly cheating at every turn, while the Demon Academy’s Royalist faction shoots themselves in the foot for refusing to maintain a united front with the Anos and their Hybrid comrades.

In Melheis’ report to Anos, he cannot find a mention of Hero Kanon being murdered by a human in the legends, but does interpret a passage he found to foretell that when the Demon King returns to Azeshion—i.e. Anos right now—the Hero will return with the Spirit God Human Sword Evansmana in hand: the holy sword forged to destroy him anew.

Sasha and Misha aren’t about to let Anos spend a quiet evening to himself in his room…not when there’s a night festival to attend! As the three walk the stalls together, Anos spots Ray and Misa, but Sasha urges him not to approach them.

That’s because she can tell they’d only be intruding. Ray, grateful for Misa’s help in saving her mother, wants Misa to cheer up and forget the problems with their academy factions for one night, and accept a shell necklace he won at the shooting game. I for one am fully aboard this adorable ship!

The next morning the Hero and Demon Academies participate in the main inter-academy competition, which involves a battle beneath the lake where there are underwater ruins and caverns, a truly awesome setting. Less awesome is the fact the Humans are cheating again.

The very water in the lake is mixed with Holy Water, which increases their magical ability but is toxic to demons. It’s even more toxic for Revest and his pureblooded elite Royalist team; had he drawn upon the ranks of Hybrids, they might have stood a better chance in the face of the Human cheating.

Instead, Revest & Co. are utterly defeated by the trio of Hero reincarnations, and he and his team have to be rescued by Anos. Menou-sensei, a longtime mentor and friend of Revest who knows how kindhearted he is and how hard he fought for his top-ranked position, tries to heal him, but her magic has no effect since he has a stigma caused by Holy magic.

Among the Demon Academy contingent, only Anos has the power to heal the stigma, and despite Revest hating Anos with every bone in his body, accepts Anos’ help for Menou-sensei’s sake. Perhaps this is the first step towards the Demons finally forming a united front and dispensing with the infighting that falls right into the Hero Academy’s hands.

Having stayed on the sidelines, Anos, accompanied by the Necron sisters, Ray, Misa, and the Fan Club, challenge the Hero trio to a round two, but not in the Holy Water-infused lake. When one of the heroes jokingly says they’ll wait while the lake is drained, Anos proceeds to…drain the motherfucking lake, using a massive fireball to steam all of the water away, creating an even more dramatic venue for the next battle.

Diego and his Heroes were able to steal a couple of cheap wins this week, but the tide has not just turned, but vanished into thin air! I imagine even if and when the Humans deploy their secret weapon (described only as “that” and appearing as a young lady with black hair), Anos will be ready and able to deal with it. And if not, he’s got all his allies by his side to support him.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 11 – The Other Side of the Story

The Cheer Squad’s cross-dressing skit goes off without a hitch, pleasing Yuu, who feared everyone would think he was gross. He starts to finally think about enjoying life more instead of dwelling on past regrets and failures…only for the greatest regret of his life to show up to anti-cheer him.

Just as Yuu is drafted to fill in for an injured Kazeno as anchor on the club relay race, all of the past unpleasantness rushes back into the forefront of his mind. All his ears hear around him are the discouraged and annoyed voices of the crowd cursing his name and everything about him.

The mystery girl who arrives is Otomo Kyouko, who was neither a crush nor a friend in middle school. She was just a kind classmate who’d look out for him whenever she could. She was a good person. Then she started dating Ogino Kou, whom Yuu soon learns is cheating on Kyouko with other girls.

Honestly I don’t remember middle school being this sexed up, but Kou further demonstrates how pure a scum he truly is by refusing to stop cheating, then using footage of Kyouko on his phone to threaten Yuu into silence.

Not about to let a good person, even someone who’s barely an acquaintance get hurt by a bad one, Yuu’s sense of justice curdles into rage before the despicable Kou, and he punches the shit out of him in the middle of class. He aimed to ruin his face so no girl would approach it again, but Kou quietly threatens to abuse Kyouko if Yuu doesn’t stand down.

If that wasn’t enough, Kou also loudly professes that Yuu is a stalker. To both her and everyone else around, it looks like a crazed Yuu is beating up her boyfriend because he’s jealous and obsessed, and he’s too shocked by how badly things are going for him to defend himself, though I doubt it would have helped.

For the assault, Yuu is suspended for a month and ordered to write a letter of apology to Kou, but despite writing and erasing over the paper hundreds of times, he’s unable to write a single word of anything; neither a false apology nor an indictment of Kou’s own misdeeds. In his absence at school his reputation as a creep crystallizes.

Back in the present, the relay anchors are ordered to their marks, but Yuu is so out of it he forgets what color team he’s on…until Miyuki puts his red headband on his head and offers him words of encouragement and a pat on the back. This mirrors Miyuki’s eventual visit to Yuu’s house to present the “Student Council Secret Report” he prepared with Miyuki and Chika.

While Miyuki doesn’t judge whether Yuu’s actions were right or wrong (merely that they could have been better), he cannot deny that Yuu’s ultimate objective was to protect Otomo Kyouko, and that objective was achieved when Kou broke up with her days after the beating. Turns out all those months of refusing to apologize made Kou paranoid, and he released his grip on the poor girl.

However, Kyouko never saw this report, and still has the same idea of what went down. She still believes Kou to be a good guy and blames Yuu for their breakup. She came to the festival specifically to “unload” on Yuu, but rather than continue to wallow in despair, Yuu draws strength from the knowledge someone—specifically Miyuki, Kaguya and Chika—learned his side of the story and supported him.

So before running his leg of the relay, Yuu responds to Kyouko’s heckling with the same words Miyuki wrote in thick black permanent marker way outside the gridlines of the apology letter stock…so hard that to this day the ink residue is embedded in the desk: GO TO HELL, DUMBASS.

As the race progresses, Yuu is determined to win. He believes he has to win to prove he truly “shake Kyouko off” and move on with his life. Kaguya and Miyuki and Chika cheer him on, hoping the good person they know can overcome adversity. Kobachi loudly cheers him on, while Miko, who helped get Yuu reinstated, cheers for him almost under her breath—but with no less conviction.

Yuu ends up losing by a hair. Like the lack of a forced reconciliation with Kyouko, the defeat is an excellent subversion of how these races usually go. But the fact is, he still tried his best and his cheer squad comrades appreciate that. Koyasu, the pink-haired girl, even tears up, so moved by his genuine frustration. Rather than calling him a loser and failure and weirdo like he feared, they tell him he did good.

Suddenly, as his tears give way and his field of vision clears, he can finally see the EYES of the cheer squad members, a pack of Normies with whom he thought he’d never get along and inherently distrusted due to past traumas. But there they are in all their glory. We’d never seen their eyes either because Yuu never looked at them properly. Now he does, and he’s elated to discover they’re all good people.

As Kyouko departs, she tells her former classmates she was glad to be able to give Yuu a piece of her mind, and leaves Shuchiin with fun memories despite how things turned out. As Kaguya and Ai observe, she’s blissfully ignorant, but the smile she wears as she leaves is the very thing Yuu worked and suffered to protect, and he succeeded.

That Yuu would do that for a classmate he barely knew, at the cost of so much personal turmoil and with no reward, then he must be the very best quality of person. It’s no wonder he was recruited into the StuCo. This episode of Love is War had virtually no jokes or gags, but it didn’t matter. What it offered instead was masterful character drama, further cementing its status as Anime of the Year.

Gleipnir – 08 – Filling In the Shadows

Claire and Yatou find Shuuichi and Chihiro (and Chihiro’s wallet), then return to the hideout where there are finally formal introductions of the remaining members. One of them, Isao, is a mild-mannered plant-lover who just happens to remember Shuuichi playing with friends at Yamada Cram School.

Shuuichi just happened to dream of the school, but woke up before he met any of his classmates. And yet Shuuichi insists to Isao that he was the only student at the school, which aside from being very odd (wouldn’t he just have a tutor?) reinforces the idea that his memories have been supremely messed with.

Claire is naturally suspicious of Chihiro, and doesn’t believe she doesn’t remember anything about the battle after she and Shuuichi were smushed. This scene is akin to your typical high school drama confrontation between romantic rivals, just as entering Shuuichi is akin to sex.

Claire insists she’s “irreplaceable” as Shuuichi’s partner, but Chihiro speaks with some authority that the two will never “become one” before walking away. Claire’s fear Chihiro might just be right—and dread of the loneliness that could result from that truth—likely conspire to keep her from taking a shot at Chihiro.

On the way home for the day, Claire brings up Shuuichi’s “experience” with Chihiro, including asking straight up if she was “better” than her, and even half-jokingly proposing real sex with him as a means of reasserting their exclusivity. What’s so heartbreaking is that the truth is, from a combat perspective, Chihiro was better.

Because Chihiro and Shuuichi shared the same goal in that moment (perhaps nothing more than a desire to survive their smushing), she was able to exact a transformation—and a closeness to Shuuichi—Claire hasn’t come close to achieving. She can say “you and I are one” all she wants, but Shuuichi and Chihiro really were a single entity.

As is expected of such a non-confrontational fellow, Shuuichi remains passive in this brewing love triangle for now. He seems destined to continue having women slip into his zipper as long as he ends up in situations where he needs to become stronger. Claire is right on one count: Shuuichi needs someone around to spur him to decisive action.

Who is best for that role depends on what he wants his role to be. And whether it’s encountering his classmate Abukawa burying a dog that was (allegedly) run over, or fixing Mifune’s bike, he wants to use his power not for himself, but to protect normal, powerless people like them. (Incidentally, Ikeuchi is spying on him when he’s with Mifune, and concludes he’s an inveterate womanizer.)

That night, Chihiro calls Elena, using the number she found on Shuuichi’s phone. She’s desperate for answers about what happened to the two of them, and Elena generously explains that what happened is Shuuichi’s special power, and how only someone who shares his goals can fully join with him, as Chihiro did.

Chihiro, it turns out, not only remembers the entirety of the battle while she and Shuuichi were joined, but was privy to all of his memories, many of which were full of “shadows,” or unnaturally erased details memories. Whether it’s the fact he had classmates at cram school, to the fact he and Elena were clearly in some kind of relationship, Chihiro is new link to memories Elena thought were lost.

I’ll just add that this episode was full of great dialogue between seiyus Hanazawa Kana and Ichinose Kana, whose voice many compare to a younger Hanazawa.

Chihiro could glean from those memories that Elena wasn’t a bad person, and pleads with her to join them. She’s assuming Elena is that same not-bad person, and it’s clear she isn’t; people change. Still, Chihiro’s revelations could pave the way for a possible redemption of Elena, provided a lot of conditions are met.

The next day the Weak reassemble and set out in search of more coins, with Sayaka noting the pattern of their locations indicates the path of the alien ship, which is their ultimate goal to 100 coins. Elena, meanwhile, told Chihiro “someone” (either her or someone she’s aligned with) already has 100 coins. So the Weak certainly have some catching up to do.

Speaking of coins, Claire ends up taking her own, which she told Shuuichi she’d never use on herself, out of its hiding place and staring thoughtfully out the window. She may not know for sure what we know about the extent of Chihiro’s connection to Shuuichi (or how much “better” it was), but I’m sure she suspects the worst, and might feel like she’s suddenly being left behind. Things continue to get very messy indeed.

Gleipnir – 07 – Fell Deeds Awake

Claire’s pact with Sayaka, the leader of the Weak complete, so Sayaka tells her how she knows Elena. When she transferred to a new school after her lover committed suicide, Sayaka withdrew into herself, but Elena was always friendly, kind, and determined to draw her out. Sayaka sees Elena has having had a positive change in her wretched life, so she can’t simply can’t fathom the murderous demon-woman Claire describes.

Thanks to Ikeuchi’s voyeuristic recording abilities, Claire learns of Shuuichi’s whereabouts, but if she reacts to Chihiro climbing into Shuuichi, she sure doesn’t show it outwardly. Since Chihiro is involved, and Claire is now one of them, Sayaka sees their retrieval as a matter for the whole group, and has the best fighter of them, a fresh-faced 19-year-old named Murakami Yota, to join Clair in the search.

When Shuuichi and Chihiro pick up the scent of her wallet in the hands of Elena’s overpowered allies, Shuuichi decides he’ll make up for letting Hikawa die by facing the threat head-on rather than thinking only of saving himself. It’s a classic case of not knowing when to run. Shuuichi’s fear didn’t kill anyone; it kept him alive. What good can he do to anyone dead?

When Subaru, a blonde kid who can summon a two-headed beast he addresses as “mom and dad”, sneaks up on Shuuichi, the ensuing battle isn’t really a battle, but someone smashing a mere bug between their hands. It’s a sickening scene that took things to the Worst Case Scenario so quickly my head was spinning. It looked for all the world like Yoshioka Chihiro was history, being horribly smashed within Shuuichi’s body.

But it’s not the end for either of them. Instead, their bloody remains merge into a single berserk avenging form. Shuuichi is the raging id, lashing at Subaru’s “parents” and actually making a fight of it; Chihiro is the superego assessing things from a distance and attempting to reel her counterpart’s surging anger. It’s phenomenon we haven’t seen yet, but it has the effect of helping us understand more the bond between Shuuichi and Elena prior to his transformation.

As it turns out, the two were friends, and possibly more. Elena was apparently the one who first found the crashed alien ship, while Shuuichi was the first one to drink the energy shot that transformed him. This means Shuuichi’s memories of Elena are either lost forever or suppressed, and it took a third party in Chihiro to excavate them from his unconscious.

The fight with Subaru ends in a stalemate when Elena arrives to stop the fighting. She insists Subaru save the full extent of his abilities for when they’re needed. Threats from Subaru ring hollow, as Elena is certain that she won’t be allowed to die until this is all over.

The merged being eventually reverts back to an unconscious Shuuichi in Mascot Mode, and a fully-healed Chihiro sleeping inside of him. This is how Claire and Yota find them. Will Chihiro remember what she saw, and more importantly, will she be able to tell anyone? Will Claire be angry with Shuuichi for letting someone else “in”, or just be happy he’s alright? Things just keep getting more interesting…

Gleipnir – 06 – Turnabout is Foreplay

Thanks to the phone of Sudo, the green monster Tadanori killed last week, Claire is able to contact the Weak, a group of peculiar monsters who have allied together to collect coins in hopes of ending the sick game they’ve been forced to play. When the leader Sayaka asks Claire to transform, she climbs out of Shuuichi and agrees to join on her own, with Shuuichi only joining if it turns out to be safe.

Sayaka, like several of the Weak, has the same body and face as her normal form, which means the alien doesn’t grant people a different appearance if that’s not that person’s particular complex. In Sayaka’s case, she sought the means to ensure she could punish those who failed to keep her secrets, as her friend did when she snitched about her sleeping with a female teacher. She also takes a particular interest in Claire’s body, laying her on the bed and groping her.

Meanwhile, Shuuichi waits in dog mode with the other weak, one of whom, a meek girl named Yoshioka Chihiro, takes a pointed interest in him, She’s an animal lover, so her transformation gives her cat ears.

Chihiro recruits Shuuichi to help him find her wallet in the woods (which sounds like a huge risk for the two to take considering who’s in those woods). She also insists on disrobing and climbing into Shuuichi—something about which I’m sure Claire would have a couple things to say!

When Claire asks if sleeping with her is part of the ceremony to join the group, the woman apologizes and halts her advance, then proceeds with the actual pact. But it’s clear her advances were in part an intimidating and dominating tactic—a more stark and refined version of Claire teasing Shuuichi with her body, now used against her.

The pact involves tying a choker made from her the woman’s hair around Claire’s neck. If she betrays her, the choker will tighten and off comes her head. It’s a very specific ability borne from a very clear vision of what she wanted, and it’s enabled her to build a coalition of people she can trust without hesitation.

And…that’s pretty much it. Sure, Shuuichi and Claire have their separate intimate moments with other people—which may or may not have ramifications for their relationship—but other than that it’s a lot of sitting, standing, and lying around talking or waiting.

There’s no urgency to the Weak or Sayaka’s actions, which is surprising considering they’re at a significant strength disadvantage even with Claire and Shuuichi on their side. I was hoping the duo would reunite in this episode following their respective “dalliances,” but no dice.

As for the wallet search, it seemed more than anything an excuse for someone else to climb into Shuuichi and doesn’t make much sense in the logic of a group on the run from a vicious enemy. Sure enough, that enemy finds Yoshioka’s wallet before she does. I kept thinking Yoshioka was somehow setting Shuuichi up, but it never happened, I’m sure he could’ve sensed any treachery once she was inside him.

Isekai Quartet 2 – 04 – Time Cheaters

In a light, brisk episode that flies by even quicker than most IQ half-episodes, Roswaal informs the class that The Test is nigh, so they’d best study. Among the most nervous is Ainz, who in real life didn’t even finish middle school, and Aqua, who challenged Ainz to a bet to see who gets the higher score. Meanwhile Subaru feels nostalgic studying with Rem and Emilia, even though he can’t recall ever doing it.

The day of the test arrives, and a panicking Ainz stops time in order to copy someone else’s answers. However, Aqua is immune to the magic due to her goddess status, and both Subaru and Tanya also aren’t affected. When he sees Aqua blatantly cheating Ainz reconsiders doing the same and resumes time…before Aqua can get back to her desk. An unfrozen Roswaal makes her wait outside, while Ainz takes the chance that the answers on the test form the shape of its creator, Pandora’s Actor.

Unfortunately, the characters from Shield Hero don’t even appear this week after only the briefest glimpse of them last week. Hopefully they get something meaningful to do at some point…

Vinland Saga – 04 – The Warrior Without a Sword

Even Askeladd’s biggest, toughest warrior Bjorn, tripping balls on “berserker mushrooms,” can’t make Thors so much as draw his sword. He defeats an entire boatfull of Askeladd’s men with his bare hands, then smells him out as the leader and challenges him to a duel.

Askeladd shows why he commands such a large group of unruly pirates—he’s really good in a swordfight, relying on speed, surprise, and trickery to get the upper hand. When Thors starts wearing down Askeladd’s sword at the cost of his own, Askeladd takes the bait, swinging wide and paying for it.

If Askeladd were an honorable warrior like Thors, he would have accepted defeat. But things aren’t that simple. Thors is outraged that the rules are being broken, but Askeladd has clearly made a life out of doing just that—not to mention Thors also broke the rules by deserting in the first place.

Now, while it’s been great hanging out with the Troll of Jom and seeing the awesome things he can do, we’ve known pretty much since the start that he wasn’t going to last long, and sure enough, as Thorfinn watches helplessly, he’s run through with a good number of arrows from above.

In the end, Thors was as much a victim of his own pacifist ideals, and the expectation everyone he dealt with would follow the warrior’s code to the letter, than those arrows or any cheating on Askeladd’s part. Men like Askeladd almost always outlast men like Thors because they understand that rules don’t mean a damn thing if you’re dead.

In Thors’ case, he’s also incredibly lucky that Askeladd decides to honor Thors’ duel victory by withdrawing and sparing the rest of Thors’ crew. But his one final miscalculation was that Thorfinn would go quietly back to Iceland after watching his father cheated and killed before his eyes.

Thors’ death now sets up Thorfinn’s quest for vengeance, as he stows away the villagers’ ship Askeladd’s crew took as a prize and basically stares the man down, promising he’ll kill him. Askeladd is unimpressed, and tells his men to leave him to starve. If he manages to survive, he could be useful down the road. After all, his whole crew saw the fire in the kid’s eyes.

I won’t lie; it was tough to blast through three fantastic episodes of Vinland Saga in the first week, then wait three weeks for the fourth, especially when we knew full well Thors was doomed and his son is going to join Askeladd’s crew. It would have been better if this introductory arc had been completed before the long hiatus, but alas. Still, while telegraphed, Thors’ death was still well-executed. Now we move on to the next phase.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 05 – Lute Grand Prix

We haven’t yet seen Queen Melromarc, as she’s currently in another castle, but it’s clear she’s staying on top of things, as evidenced by the detailed report given by one of her ninja (for lack of a better word).  That report also confirms that Malty has been putting her father up to some actions of which the Queen is not a fan. Say, continuing to treat the Shield Hero like garbage based on Malty’s false accusations of rape.

The King tries to cheat Naofumi out of his 500 silver-piece Wave reward (only an eighth of the Spear Hero’s take) by charging him for removing Raphtalia’s slave crest. Once again Amaki and Kawasumi come to Naofumi’s defense—or at least the side of justice and fairness. Thanks to their protests, Naofumi gets his 500 pieces and, at Raph’s urging, peaces out.

Their first errand upon leaving the palace is for Raphtalia to get a tattoo have her slave crest re-activated, at her request, as a symbol of his faith in her. One would think if he had faith he wouldn’t need a real crest, but Raphtalia is insistent. Naofumi also buys a gatcha-style lottery egg, from which either a filolial (chocobo) chick hatches.

Naofumi also learns that some of the merchants in the capital had connections to Lute Village, and even if they’re still on the fence with him as a person, they can’t deny he saved their loved ones. Their personal honor demands they reward him, whether it’s with a book on advanced medicines (which he can’t yet read) or a magical grimoire (which the mage warns will be tough to learn).

The filolial chick, whom Naofumi somewhat unimaginatively names “Filo”, eats ravenously and quickly grows to full size within two days, enabling him to ride her. They travel to Lute Village, and not soon thereafter Malty and Motoyasu also arrive.

Malty is clearly in control here as she reads a royal decree that anyone who enters or exits the village will have to pay an exorbitant amount (equal to 100 nights at the inn, food included). Naofumi is there to make a stink about it, but Malty wants her tax, and Motoyasu isn’t about to deny her.

Who does swoop in to deny her, however, are her mother’s ninja. They deliver a scroll to Malty that pisses her off when she reads it, and takes it out on Naofumi by challenging him to a race: her Motoyasu’s dragon vs. Naofumi’s filolial.

Motoyasu mocks Filo right up until Filo kicks his balls halfway to the next kingdom. Filo looks supremely confident she can beat the dragon, so all that remains is to what extent Malty will try to hamper that victory by cheating.

And once the race starts, boy does she ever cheat. Her soldiers cast magical spells that benefit Motoyasu and his slow-ass dragon three times, and Flio still manages to win by a beak. I gotta say, I’m quickly growing weary of Malty’s shtick: all she needs is a mustache to twirl.

Thankfully, Malty is taken down a peg or two this week, both when the other two heroes help Naofumi, and when the Queen’s ninja confirm that she and her men cheated. Her comeback is that “We’ll leave for now, but this isn’t over!” Groan. Naofumi needs better antagonists, or for the existing ones to find a new tune.

As for Filo, she balloons in size right after the race. Rather than have rumors spread of taking Lute’s rebuilding funds, Naofumi accepts an old wagon as a reward—a wagon that Raphtalia has trouble riding in without getting motion sickness. They rest beside a tree for the night, but when morning comes it brings with it a surprise: Filo has transformed into a human—a loli, no less—who is, predictably, hungry. And then there were three.

Grand Blue – 06 – Diving Cures All Ills

Iori remains on bad terms with Chisa, which ends up hurting all the other lads in his German class who were depending on him getting to see her notes. As a result the lads must cheat in other ways, all of which are either discovered by the teacher or ineffective.

While I’m not opposed to episodes made up of isolated segments (see Tsuugakuro, Chio-chan no) I’d prefer if Grand Blue didn’t stray so far from its core themes. This bit felt more like high school than college. Thankfully, we get back on track when Aina is officially initiated into Peek-a-Boo.

Between the binge drinking, the gratuitous nudity, Chisa’s perceived sadism towards Iori, and Nanaka’s perceived fixation on Chisa, Aina quickly learns that no one in the club is remotely normal (including herself; one doesn’t have the nickname “Cakey” bestowed upon her otherwise).

In this regard, the cast is a lot like that of Working!!; everyone has their quirks that make them unique and hopefully, compelling to watch as those quirks bounce off of each other.

Still, the women, particularly Chisa, are pleased and excited that Aina joined because she found diving interesting. It’s here where Iori and Kohei act as a kind of audience surrogate by stating it’s not like they never go diving, but it sure doesn’t seem like they’ve done it in a while…which is very true! It’s been less Grand Blue and more Gorge Booze…

Speaking of, when the party runs out of alcohol, Aina and Chisa volunteer to go out to buy more, and as the saying goes, when the cat’s away, the mice will play.

Despite Aina’s insistence everyone remains clothed and civil for her welcome party, old habits die hard and the lads can’t help themselves from devolving into debauchery in Chisa and Aina’s brief absence.

As for substituting a big log for Pocky in a game between Iori and Kohei, it’s a shade too credulity-stretchingly absurd, even for this show.

While it doesn’t really matter whether Iori and Kohei learn perfect German, it is imperative they memorize all the underwater hand signals, as it could end up saving their life or that of their comrades. So it’s disconcerting to see they don’t know the hand signals any more than they know “rheumatoid arthritis” in German (btw it’s the same, except for an “e” added to make “rheumatoide”).

They end up learning them when a different kind of threat emerges during the party: Nanaka learns her beloved Chisa is dating Iori. This makes Iori fear for his life, and he uses hand signals to alert Kohei and the others. However, Nanaka isn’t certain whether they’re actually dating or whether it simply looks like they are.

So the next day, when the club finally, finally has an actual diving session, she pairs up Iori and Chisa. At first Iori thinks Chisa is angry at him as usual, but she’s really only serious about diving, and not just the safety side, but the fun and wonder of it as well.

Before he knows it Iori is swept up in Chisa’s enthusiasm for the world under the sea, and when he tells her how much fun he had down there, she can’t help but smile. I will always prefer this joyful Chisa to the scornful one dishing out verbal or physical punishment on Iori for acting the goat (however in the right she may be).

Sadly Grand Blue will apparently never let these two remain in a state of detente for long, preferring to built them up and then tear them down for a cheap laugh. As such, Iori ruins it by commenting on the fineness of Chisa’s ass, leading her to blow her top at him. Why can’t we have nice things?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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