Chainsaw Man – 01 (First Impressions) – Exactly What It Says on the Tin

Denji has almost nothing. I say “almost” because he does have a couple of things. He has over 38 million yen (US$260K) in debt inherited from his dead dad, and he has Pochita a trusty pet chainsaw “dog”. The latter is called a devil, which Denji (voiced by Toya Kikunosuke in his debut) uses as a weapon to hunt other devils to pay back the debt.

But it’s never enough. The yakuza he works for squeeze Denji for every last finder’s fee and admin charge until a ¥400K job only nets him a measly $1,800 … which he has to stretch for a month. He’s sold all his redundant organs from his eye to his nut, but he’ll still eat a cigarette for a ¥100 coin … or at least pretend to eat one.

If that didn’t put you on this poor wretch’s side, his backstory would. His dad’s body was still warm in the ground when his debtors told Denji to get them ¥700K (almost $5K) by tomorrow, no matter what he has to do or have done to him. As he sits by his dad’s grave in the rain he first meets Pochita, who is mortally wounded. Pochita makes for a perfect fantasy animal, equal parts adorable and fearsome, and as sympathetic here as Denji.

Denji offers to let the little guy bite him (blood heals devils), if the devil agrees to let him use him as a weapon for hunting. The two have been inseparable ever since, and it’s a genuinely touching boy-and-his-mutant dog tale. He and Denji live off of slices of bread in a corrugated shed. Denji dreams not of having it all, but having enough—a normal life. Meals, a girlfriend, things of that nature. Then he coughs up blood, like his mom who died of a heart condition.

He’s too hungry to sleep, and even if he did, his yakuza master arrives to take him to his next job. As Denji puts it, they won’t even let him dream of a normal life. But after a beautifully depicted car ride to a remote dilapidated warehouse, Denji learns this isn’t another job, but the end of the line. The yakuza has decided to make a similar “deal with the devil”, only on a grand, grotesque scale.

He’s become a giant horrific monster with a horde of zombie devils at his beck and call. Denji is no longer needed, so he has the zombies stab and slice him to pieces and throw him in a dumpster. It’s a needlessly cruel and violent end, on the level of the martyrdom of a saint in one of the bloodier biblical tales. But on another level, maybe it’s for the best; maybe death is a welcome release from Denji’s lifelong torment.

In the dumpster, blood drips from Denji’s lifeless body … and into Pochita’s mouth. It heals the little devil enough for him to remember what Denji told him on a better day in the past, when they were felling trees and cutting logs. Denji knew he probably wouldn’t live to pay off his debt, but if he couldn’t have the normal life he dreamt of, he wanted Pochita to have his body, life that normal life, then die a normal death.

But Pochita doesn’t accept Denji’s sacrifice. From the gloomy day he was saved by Denji’s blood, Pochita owed Denji a solid. So instead of possessing Denji’s body, he heals it, and then becomes Denji’s new heart, replacing the defective one that was going to claim his life sooner or later. In a touching idyllic scene in the suddenly fully-lit dumpster, Pochita speaks (with Nanachi’s voice). In exchange for his heart, Denji is to show him his dream.

When Denji wakes up, he’s fully healed, and Pochita is gone. All that’s left is his familiar ripcord tail, which is now lodged in Denji’s chest where his heart once was. The zombie devils spot him and start shambling over to attack him again, but this time he’s not having it. He pulls the ripcord and vows to kill them all.

The zombies surround and pile on top of him as their zombie devil king assumes he’s being devoured and won’t come back. But then the muffled sound of a two-stroke motor emanates from that pile, which is suddenly shredded and turned into a messy blood fountain by Denji, sporting a chainsaw lodged between his eyes and on both arms.

This man of chainsaws—let us call him Chainsaw Man—goes to town on the hapless zombies, cutting through them like a Wüsthof through flan. They’re dumb, so they keep coming, so he keeps cutting through them, then turns his attention to their boss, who whimpers and cowers and lashes out with his gross fleshy tendrils to absolutely no avail.

Nothing made of flesh is any match for a chain of blades spinning at 10,000 RPM. Denji gives himself to the bloody gory spectacle, living in a state of pure vengeance. It’s a hard watch, but it’s also cathartic, and a long time coming. It’s a scene that would make Tarantino proud (and that he’d have to film in black-and-white to avoid NC-17 rating).

Dawn breaks, and a Toyota Century slowly pulls up to the warehouse. Three figures in long black coats make their way inside: two men with fedoras and a young woman with rose-colored hair. They see all the yakuza zombie devils already killed—the job they came to do.

Then they see who did it: Denji, still in Chainsaw mode, standing motionless in the middle of the bodies, spattered with their blood. The men posit that he’s another devil that’s still alive, but the woman says no; he doesn’t smell like a devil.

She approaches Denji, who lets out two words: “hug me.” The woman, named Makima (Kusunoki Tomori), obliges, giving Denji perhaps the first hug he’s ever been given by anyone. His chainsaw attachments melt away, reveailing he’s still human. Makima smiles and introduces herself as a member of Public Safety who came to do the job he already did.

She tenderly eases him into her lap, and gives her a simple choice: she can kill him like a devil, or she can keep him as a human. Keeping him means being fed properly. When he asks what that entails, she lists a whole bunch of foods he in his long-standing destitution would consider lavish: bread with butter, with jam; salad, coffee … dessert.

Makima just describing a normal meal. But for Denji, she’s describing a dream—a dream she can easily make true. Freed from the bondage of the yakuza, Denji has been offered a new life doing honest work for fair compensation. He’s been offered a chance to show Pochita his dream. And damnit, he’s going to take it.

* * *

Chainsaw Man is the best premiere of the Fall. It’s possibly the best premiere of the year. It’s about as flawlessly executed an episode of anime as one could ask for, and made me immediately want to watch it over again as soon as the credits ended. Its premise is so simple and elegant, yet contains multitudes of human suffering and redemption.

It explores the brutality and beauty inherent in humanity, the malice and the mercy. Earlier I likened Denji to a saint and a martyr. His new chainsaw body is a terrible miracle, and so is the show in which he stars. It gives you exactly what’s in its title, and so much more.

 

A Couple of Cuckoos – 24 (Fin) – Part of the Flock

Cuckoos eschews any more huge revelations or decisions and instead opts for a laid back finale full of warm family vibes. We begin with Nagi, Sachi, and Erika receiving a gaudy invitation to Papa Yohei’s birthday, a celebration that he prepares and executes all on his own. It’s never explained why, mind you, but it’s safe to say Yohei’s a good and cool dude, so his wife and kids let him have his fun.

I find it odd that it would slip Sachi’s mind that her brother and Erika share a birthday as they were switched at birth, and even odder that Nagi would only now do the math and realize he was conceived before his folks got married. Among the annual family portrait, there’s a pale-haired kid who goes totally unexplained…maybe she’ll show up if this gets a sequel.

The biggest takeaway for Nagi and Erika (and Sachi, who later reports it to Erika’s dad) is that their folks simply want Nagi and Erika to be happy, and for Erika to be in their lives like she is now. They no longer believe they have to follow through on their engagement and get married to maintain that.

Of course, by putting the onus on whether to get married or not, Nagi and Erika actually have to think about it beyond something being forced upon them. Sure, on the bus ride home they worry that Erika’s dad might not agree with Nagi’s folks, but in his head Nagi wonders whether Erika being able to convince him means the “end of their relationship for good.”

The episode then segues into Erika’s Dizzy Fever Day, as she suddenly collapses in the middle of a study session. Sachi and Hiro take her to bed, take her temperature, and prepare to change her into her PJs to rest more comfortably, and of course Nagi barges in while they’re disrobing her.

But while Sachi and Hiro bar Nagi from Erika’s room while she’s sick, they let their enthusiasm and drive to help her recover as fast and completely as possible ends up simply overwhelming her. They look up remedies like sake and leeks tied to the head, and develop the crazy eyes as they go on about how they’ll make Erika better than new.

When all of that fails to lower her fever, Nagi decides to step in and offer her a hot meal to regain her strength. Erika claims not to be hungry, but her grumbling stomach betrays her. Nagi also took exception when Erika told the others “sorry for being a bother”, as she’s been nothing but that for him since they met.

That being said, he doesn’t dislike that Erika, and so wants her to get better so she can get back to being that Erika. He knows that since Sachi and Hiro started living and coming ’round all the time, she’s worked herself hard to keep up with the energy level and it took a physical toll. It’s all well and good to want to be present and active in the group, but not at the cost of one’s health!

When Erika asks why he knows her better than herself, he says simply that they’re engaged. ‘Nuff said. For all of Sachi and Hiro’s good intentions, it’s his job as her fiancé to take care of her, and vice-versa. Hearing Nagi acknowledge their engagement and how it’s still important to him even when his parents have all but given them cover to break it off gives Erika a smile. What was thrust upon them at first has become something neither of them want to give up anytime soon.

When Papa Yohei delivers a copy of the latest family photo, it has Erika front and center. It’s a photo full of love and joy (or, er…RABUJOI) celebrating the addition as the gift that it is. Nagi, Sachi, and their folks are as happy Erika is part of their family as she is to be part of it. The fact that the episode ends with Nagi and Erika nagging each other over house chores just goes to show how close they’ve gotten.

If there’s a sequel that ties up the loose ends (Sosuke, that mystery kid in the photo, whether Nagi and Erika actually marry, etc.) I’ll be sure to watch it out of the affection for this colorful flock of cuckoos.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Made in Abyss – S2 12 (Fin) – The Cradle Falls

As tends to be the case with momentous episodes of Abyss, I’m still a bit overwhelmed with emotion, but I’ll do my best here. As a resurrected, better-than-ever Faputa and a game Juroimoh prepare to battle the invading beasts, we’re taken back to simpler, more innocent times, when Faputa first found Gaburoon.

Buried and covered in flowers, Faputa brought bits of scrap to him to enable to repair himself, while he tought her language, specifically that of her mother Irumyuui. What looked like an upside-down person turns out to be the symbol for haku, or that which matters most to someone. We watch, this time from Faputa’s perspective, as she encounters Riko, Reg, and Nanachi.

Gabu teases Faputa for resorting to subtler, more indirect methods that only served to confuse our lead kids—call it a measure of the shyness she inherited from her mother. Back in the present, while Faputa presses the battle, a transformed Majikaja serves as an escape vehicle for Riko, Reg, and Nanachi, as well as Moogie, Pakkoyan, Maaa, and other Hollows.

Maji takes them to Wazukyan, from which Vueko has already escaped and who is near death. In his usual friendly way he warns Riko that there is nothing ahead for her but despair, but she tells him as he crumbles to dust that things won’t necessarily go the way he’s foreseen.

As Riko is reunited with another page from her mother’s journal, the freed Vueko ascends a staircase while thinking about the one solid decision she made in her life: the choice to become Irumyuui’s mother. Unfortunately, she forgets the Sixth Layer’s curse is loss of humanity.

A quick-thinking Pakkoyan sacrifices herself to keep Vueko from being killed, but she is still transformed into a non-verbal hollow. Nanachi takes Vueko and brings her aboard Majikaja with the others.

Reg shocks Faputa by joining him in battle—this time on the same side—and apologizing for challenging her. Riko blows Prushka once more (causing her to pass out with a bloody nose), and Riko goes into Overdrive, allowing him to dispatch one of the two turbinid dragons who pose the greatest threat to Riko and the others.

This also gives Faputa time to go to Moogie and the other surviving hollows with the goal of consuming them and their value so she can do what she came here to do: put her long-suffering mother to rest. Just as they had no problem giving parts of themselves to resurrect Faputa, they have no problem becoming the nourishment Faputa needs.

After sending the black-turned-white goo throughout the structure of IruBuru, causing it to crack and shatter, Faputa is drained of energy an no longer able to fight. A piece of falling rubble wallops her and she begins to fall. She thinks of Vueko, the one person she has no memory of. She also thinks that the end is near; that she’ll die when she reaches the bottom. But she doesn’t; Reg snatches her with his extend-o-arm.

The rubble does a number on Majikaja’s body, and when he can no longer move, his true, semi-gaseous form emerges and briefly possesses Faputa. When he too passes, Faputa is able to come face to face with Vueko, her spiritual grandmother, and while Vueko can no longer talk, Faputa can hear her lucid thoughts.

Vueko tells her the kind of girl Irumyuui was, how Faputa is similar and how she’s different, before passing away peacefully, full of nothing but love and gratitude for the little girl that changed her forever. Faputa sheds tears for Vueko, despite her not “belonging” to her, and Riko, Reg, and Nanachi gather around to offer comfort.

The village borne from Irumyuui is now a pile of rubble, and Faputa’s mother is finally free. Following the customs she learned from Gabu, Faputa gives Vueko a proper burial, then sets up some companions with some smooth rocks so she won’t be lonely. After this, Faputa seems unsure what to do next, freed from “value” and now having been given the choice to live her life as she sees fit.

Reg suggests she join them. While he still can’t remember her or the details of their promise, he still wants to know her now, and go on an adventure with her. Faputa isn’t at all opposed to this, but does not agree right then and there. That’s to be expected of someone who has only very recently discovered such a thing as free will beyond an now-fulfilled genetic duty.

What I’ve described so far are the myriad events that unfolded in this double-length season two finale, but there’s no substitute for experiencing this episode and all of its nuances for yourself. It was one of the finest episodes of anime I’ve had the privilege to watch, and like Vueko with Irumyuui, I’ll never forget it.

There is sure to be another film or a third season that will continue Riko, Reg, and Nanachi’s journey still deeper into the Abyss, into darkness warm and cold, cursed by love and longing. This sequel had large shoes to fill and filled them ably. So too will the next sequel.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

Made in Abyss – S2 11 – Royal Awakening

Due to Reg’s “foolishness”—i.e. not wanting to kill a dear friend he’s only now coming to remember—Faputa ends up knocking him out, and asks Juroimoh to hold him down while she deals with her next target: Riko, the one who “made Reg this way”.

All White Whistled out, Riko is in no shape to stand, and Faputa could go right through her Hollow defenders. But even her best punch can’t go entirely through Gaburoon, who stops her from killing Riko in order to “protect her future”.

Gabu collapses, and Faputa reaches deeper into the darkness: if she simply destroys everything, then everything will end. Returning her attention to Riko once more, she is once more stopped by an outside force: this time Belaf, accompanied by a Nanachi resplendent in their new Mitty Armor.

Their weapon of choice? A purple goo that resides within Belaf and contains memories of Faputa’s mother. These “smelly” memories represent Belaf’s ultimate treasure, but instead of perishing with him, they seem to unlock something in Faputa.

Overwhelmed by the intense visceral power of the memories of people and things completely unknown to her, Faputa pauses her carnage. Wazukyan takes this opportunity to flee with Vueko, while Nanachi wonders if this was all part of Wazukyan’s plan to use Faputa’s wish-granting power to make a village of out Riko like he did with Irumyuui.

But then the consequences of Faputa’s more recent actions take center stage: with the barrier down, the layer’s beasts waltz right in and help themselves to a Hollow buffet. Left and right, Hollows are stalked, torn apart and gobbled up by the beasts.

Faputa attacks the beasts, justifying her protection of the surviving Hollows as merely not letting anyone else have her prey. Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to, I say. But soon it’s clear her fight, while valiant (and bloody as hell), is as hopeless as the Hollows’ fight against her had been.

There are simply too many beasts, and they’re very big and strong. It takes one last blast from Gabu before he dies to deter a Turbinid Dragon from curb-stomping her, but she still gets flung over halfway across the village.

Her scuffles with the beasts have left her all chewed up, missing limbs, coughing up blood, and immobile. She passes out believing she has no value because she failed to do “what she was born to do.” But she wakes up surrounded by Hollows, each of whom chops off a a small piece of themselves for her to eat, until their unlikely savior is not only fully healed, but…I’ll go ahead and use the crude but apt term “souped up.”

Faputa also suddenly finds herself surrounded by things she didn’t know, from her mother to Gabu, to Reg, and this leads her to ponder just what else she might not know. What is beyond her duty, which she believed to be her only value? Well, as Belaf said as she absorbed the memories he willingly offered her as she destroyed him, the time would come when she’d decide her own value.

That time has now come, and it once again unlocks something in her as a weird green glyph glows in her golden eyes. The Scorching Sun, once a volatile may have just evolved into a more mature star, poised to defend her sundry satellites from the incursions from outer space with her golden light.

Made in Abyss – S2 10 – The Scorpion and the Frog

Belaf can sense it: the storm that is Faputa has come to finally punish him and the others for what they did to her mother. In preparation for this, he entrusts all of his memories and value to Nanachi, and then releases them. However, he warns Nanachi that once they take Mitty past the barrier of the village, she will disappear, like all things born within it.

While Nanachi loves Mitty and wants to be with her forever, they still aren’t prepared to sit by and do nothing for the rest of their life, especially if it means abandoning Riko and Reg. So Nanachi decides to say goodbye (or at least “see you later” to Mitty on their own terms, in hope that one day Mitty’s soul will return to them.

The little Hollows who had taken a liking to Nanachi and Mitty follow them outside to their doom, but not before presenting Nanachi with a new headpiece that resembles Mitty, so in a way, Nanachi can always carry her with them. This entire harrowing, heartrending, tearjerking scene takes the place of the OP, so I knew right away this episode was going to be special.

Reg wakes up to find that he, Riko, Maaa, and Moogie are being protected by the giant Interference Unit from the carnage going on inside the village proper. We aren’t spared the visuals of said carnage, as Faputa darts around like a lethal fluffy spear, making bloody mincemeat out of every hollow in sight. They try to protect one another from her wrath, but it’s abundantly clear they haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell against her.

Reg knows that he is the only person strong enough to stop the mayhem. He also understands that he might be the only person Faputa cares enough to listen to, especially in her hopped-up state. Their clash in the present is intercut with the day they met centuries ago, when Faputa was grieving the then-damaged Gaburoon (the big robot).

Eventually, Faputa came to trust Reg because he wore a helmet similar to the Gabu’s design, and protected her until Gabu self-repaired. In the present, she thrashes whales on him, trying everything to get him to remember. When she thrust her extremely malleable limbs into his mouth and began to inflate him, I feared for the worst.

All hail Kuno Misaki, who turns in a tour-de-force of a vocal performance as the two Faputas, making her a wide-eyed, bubbly, joyful figure in the past and a bitter hateful one in the present.

What she’s never not is sympathetic, both due to the circumstances that led to her birth and the life she led up to that point. So when Riko blew into Prushka, Reg transformed, and it looked like this would be over soon, I was fully prepared to weep for Faputa’s imminent demise.

That demise never comes, but the tears did. That’s because Reg never stopped being kind to the point of foolishness. It isn’t in his nature to kill anyone or anything, most especially someone who he is only still starting to learn played such a crucial role in his earlier days.

As their increasingly violent (and beautifully animated) duel continues, we witness the day Reg began the ascent from the Abyss find his “HAKU”, or “number one precious thing”, when he promises to return to her. But then, as now, Faputa wasn’t just a lonely girl who took a liking to Reg. She was rage and vengeance incarnate.

Just like the scorpion couldn’t help but sting the frog before they crossed the river, Faputa cannot help but carry out the mission she was created for: to be the feet and arms and claws and teeth her mother had lost ages ago, all of them to be turned onto those who hurt her again and again to save themselves.

Reg and Faputa both being unable to fight what they are means that at episode’s end, she has the upper hand against him, and seems poised to put him down for good. The questions that abound: Can Riko blow the whistle again to give Reg a boost? Is there any reasoning with Faputa? Will Nanachi and their new headpiece and inherited memories and value save the day? Is saving the day even an option?

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Made in Abyss – S2 09 – Edge Part is NOT Fine

Reg heads back to the Hollow Village we now know to be Irumyuui, while her daughter rides atop his head and asks for pats. Riko is there to greet him at the boundary Faputa cannot go past, but she sits just outside that entrance, glaring and quietly growling at the sight of Riko and the White Whistle she bears. Shortly after Reg enters with Faputa’s severed arm, the Balancing goo starts going nuts.

When Riko asks what’s up with the arm, he says Faputa gave it to him and promised to five him all of her if he kept his promise. Reg wants to try to use the arm to bargain for Nanachi and Mitty, but Vueko warns him that showing Belaf that arm might “break” him, only making things worse.

Wazukyan shows up, and despite having heard the things he did, Riko admits she likes the village and how she feels like she’s with her brethren: those who descended beyond the point of no return are a rare breed. Wazukyan also isn’t fooled by Vueko’s disguise, but is happy to see her.

However, Wazukyan only seems to be stalling, for Juroimoh eventually bursts out of the ground (named, we learned, after the “piece of trash” who took Vueko in long ago). As the guardian and will of the village, he lashes out at Reg and Faputa’s arm, which he sees as direct threats (he’s not wrong).

When Juroimoh melds with the Balancing goo and envelops Reg, Riko, and all the Hollows in the vicinity, he has no choice but to try to cut through it with his Incinerator, which can “change the laws of the Abyss”. He unleashes an attack that neutralizes Juroimoh, but also blasts a hole through the village walls.

And waiting just outside that wall that now has a gaping hole is Princess Faputa. Reg, who is minutes from passing out, won’t be conscious for what’s to come, but it’s clear Faputa is happy that he “made the choice” to grant her access to the village, even if she doesn’t know it was (mostly) unintentional.

It’s here where Kuno Misaki breaks out her creepiest, most eveil “REDRUM” voice as Faputa gives a little speech about how she won’t forgive one single iota of what the Hollows were, are, or have done, remarks how long she’s been waiting for this moment, and promises that there will be nothing left but dust of the lot of them. I assume that doesn’t mean Reg, but what’s worrying is that he’s not awake to make the case to save, say, Riko.

Juroimoh’s Balancing attach surrounds Faputa, but she changes the black goo to white and ends up completely healed from her previous self-mutilation. She then launches herself at the mass of Hollows, likely to cut through them like a hot knife through butter. Even Nanachi wakes up from their bliss to observe the roof of Belaf’s cave has been blown off.

Belaf tells Nanachi that it’s time to awaken, for starting now, it’s no longer a dream, and the episode ends with a new haunting Kevin Penkin piece, seamlessly blending modern synths with orchestral bombast and a lot of neat dissonance and syncopation. Trust me, I’m no musical expert, so suffice it to say it sounded awesome. But I fear for what’s to come.

Call of the Night – 08 – Date Night

Kou’s comment about falling in love with Nazuna “no matter how many years it takes” is met with the reaction it is because there’s a rule he hasn’t been told about: once their blood is sucked, a human only has one year to become a vampire. If they can’t by then, they’ll never become one.

Nazuna cheekily pretends she forgot to tell Kou this, then conveniently remembers the debt she owes him for working on Kiyosumi, and kisses him right in front of the other vamps before flying off into the sky. Kou tells Nazuna that he realizes she’s weird even for a vampire, but he’s glad he met her first.

That said, this new time limit is concerning, and it takes Akira spelling it out that after that year is up and he’s not a vampire, he’ll be killed to protect their secrets. Later, at school, Akira comes across Seki Mahiru sleeping at the top of the steps, zonked out from being, you guessed it, out all night.

We learn that Mahiru, who befriended everyone, befriended Akira and Kou when they were all little. That said, neither Kou nor Akira realized that they were actually friends with him, due to his gregarious nature. Speaking of gregarious, Kikyou Seri greets Kou again one night, and while he tries to run, she promises she won’t kill him, and only wants to start off on the right foot.

When Kou demonstrates his middle school innocence regarding romance, she can’t help but serve as his love coach, and suggests he kickstart his relationship with Nazuna by taking her on a date. Naturally, when Kou proposes this, Nazuna isn’t interested, and continues playing her video games. But Kou switches her PSOne off and insists.

The date plan Seri drew up for him would probably work for most couples, but Kou and Nazuna aren’t most couples. Nazuna won’t even pretend to be able to stand the romcom movie they go to, while at the café Kou tries to start a conversation about the movie even though he knows she hated it.

Nazuna suspects someone put an idea in his head, and after reading Seri’s list she snatched from him, decides this is all lame and goes home. Kou lies in bed forlorn, but soon Nazuna taps on his window, not liking how the evening almost ended and suggesting they at least get that bite with a night view.

Naturally, that means one of their patented late night flights, and the “meal” ends up being one-sided, as she sinks her fangs into him in midair for the first time. Nazuna tells Kou that he doesn’t need to over-plan or overthink; they’ve already been going on dates, and she’s enjoyed them. Her attitude makes me encouraged that Kou can indeed become a vampire within the time limit.

Another night becomes a reunion of Kou, Mahiru and Akira when Mahiru spots Kou while hanging out late at night with other peeps. Kou is surprised Mahiru recognized him, but Mahiru says of course he did; they’re friends. The two proceed to get very corny about their feelings when Akira joins them and asks that they please stop. It’s a fun and wholesome all-human interaction.

Mahiru bids the other two farewell as he must meet someone he’s come to like. Nazuna, while looking for Kou, happens to spot him walking hand-in-hand with a lady, and when Kou arrives, she decides that they should hold hands too, with the practical excuse of not losing track of one another.

While Kou idolizes Mahiru as a “perfect” person (his family even owns a flower shop!), it’s Kou who encourages Mahiru to continue his nightly pursuit of love with the story of how he’s been hanging out with his own late night lass. I love how the episode ends with a super wide shot looking straight down at the two couples walking in opposite directions while both experiencing happiness.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Made in Abyss – S2 08 – The Child

Reg wants to know what he promised Faputa long ago, and in response, she rips off one of her arms and ears and tells him she’ll “offer up her all” if it’s for the promise…which doesn’t really help Reg understand what it was, only how important it is.

From there we return to Vueko’s torrid tale. Wazukyan shows her what Irumyuui has become: a sedentary pink juggernaut that gives birth every day to larger and larger doomed young. Wazukyan now slaughters them live and they cure everyone of the effects of the living water.

While Vueko has more or less recovered fully, Belaf fares much worse, racked with guilt over eating Irumyuui’s young (and finding them tasty), and he always looks like he’s about to pull his face off. Wazukyan offers to show her how to prepare and cook the young, but she can’t bear it.

What follows is Vueko’s first attempt to kill herself, but Irumyuui is still in that hulking mass of flesh somewhere, and she convinces Vueko not to do it with her warm embrace. Eventually Irumyuui grows too large for the caves where they dwell. Vueko and the others follow her as she finds a spot out in the open, sheds her skin, and starts to devour the flying monsters they find there.

While at least one Ganja member gets carried off by one of the flying monsters, the end result is Irumyuui creates a green portal not unlike the lift that bore them all there from the higher Layer. Belaf, truly at the end of his physical and emotional tether, steps through the membrane and is instantly transformed into the snakelike creature of the present.

The others follow, one by one, shedding their human bodies and being transformed into the hollows that define their innermost desires. The only holdout is Vueko, who would rather jump off a cliff, but Wazukyan still has plans for her, and grabs her with an arm reinforced by one of the many Cradles of Desire he’s instructed the Interference Units to find.

When Vueko next wakes up, she’s naked, restrained, and kneeling in the mass of dark mud-like goo where Riko would discover her centuries later. Wazukyan tells her she’s now within Irumyuui’s brain, where she can commune directly with her. She accepts her new task of naming, singing to, and caring for the countless “children” of Irumyuui, deep in the warm darkness.

But gradually, quietly, Irumyuui was growing a different kind of child, a creature who we learn to be Faputa. When Faputa hatches, she goes on a rampage, for which Vueko is glad, since Faputa embodies all of the pent-up resentment and despair of her mother, who can no longer speak or move.

Back in the present, Vueko tells Riko that she believes Faputa’s ultimate goal is to destroy the village and free her mother, who, as it turns out, physically became the village. If and when I ever rewatch, those earlier episodes when Riko & Co. first find the village will hit different.

Did Reg promise long ago to help Faputa carry out her goal? We’ll obviously find out soon. In the meantime, Riko finds herself in the middle of a very volatile situation. Vueko’s only desire is that she not forget who Irumyuui was, and I don’t believe she’d miss it if it were Faputa’s (and thus Irumyuui’s) will for the village to die.

Call of the Night – 07 – What’s the Hot Vamp Goss?

While walking along lots of folks earlier in the night, Kou worries someone he knows will see him and wonder what he’s up to. Well, someone does, but it’s Kiyosumi, who fully understands what Kou’s up to and is grateful for his offer to turn her into a vampire. Even she’s surprised how much of a weight that lifted off her shoulders.

She gives him a Coke and the two part ways, and when it starts to pour, he finds shelter under an overhang and witnesses a high school girl getting hit on. She waves to him, and a moment later she’s right there in front of him. She tells him she’s there to get hit on, but it has to be the right person.

I was wondering when one or more of the bevy of unseen characters in the OP were going to show up in the cozy little world that so far has been just Kou, Nazuna, Akira and Kiyosumi, and this blondie is the first of them. The speed with which she sidled up to Kou also had me strongly suspecting her of being another vampire.

It doesn’t take long for that suspicion to be validated, as she lures him to a disserted underpass and starts talking about how things just aren’t exciting and haven’t worked out like she’d liked, and she has no one to talk to about it. Kou, ever the empath, tells him they’re the same.

The moment he says those words, a drop of water falls into a puddle, and the girl is embracing him. Then she says his name and bares her fangs…and gets her arm chopped off by a just-in-time Nazuna.

The light just started to glow purplish pink when the blonde (her name is Kikyou Seri, and she’s voiced by Tomatsu Haruka), and that color remains as Seri pops her arm right back on like it’s nothing and fights Nazuna. Despite her slight frame, Nazuna apparently has a reputation for brute strength.

That’s why Seri didn’t come alone to snatch away the new kid Nazuna’s been hanging around with. Another vampire appears behind Kou, and before he knows it he’s being shot up into the sky, bound who knows where, while Seri keeps Nazuna busy.

The where turns out to be an upscale but otherwise pretty sedate rooftop deck, where not one or two but three other vampires greet the fourth who brought Kou there (Honda Kabura, voiced by Itou Shizuka). They are redhead Hirata Niko (Kitamura Eri),the cutesy Kohakobe Midori (Oozora Naomi), and the neutral Suzushiro Hatsuka (Waki Azumi).

Kou is told the situation: now that he’s aware of the existence of vampires, he has two choices: become one himself tonight, or be killed. He also has the choice of which one of the four of them will turn him, and each one tries their own signature style of seduction while the other three do inner commentary and engage in girl talk.

Kou surprises them not just by not seeming scared in the least about his situation, but in his insistence that Nazuna, the weird, unpopular, unprolific, lilac-haired letdown of the bunch. The conversation is lively, and Kou mostly keeps up; I particularly liked him protesting everyone assuming he was a virgin, only to confirm that yes, of course he is a virgin.

The other vamps main problem with Nazuna is just that she sucks at making offspring, which brings down the whole clan and even threatens their survival. All of them have committed to whatever agreed-upon quota for making more vampires, while she’s kinda just messed around and rejected that whole system. She’s their prodigal daughter.

She hates how they always chat and gossip like a bunch of schoolgirls, while they’re miffed by how easily she blushes and how she hasn’t managed to create a single offspring. But while Kou tells them he’s not sure what liking someone means, he’s quick to dispell their presumption that he isn’t interested in becoming a vampire.

He very much is, and he doesn’t blush even a little when he declares firmly to all of them that his goal is to fall in love with Nazuna so she can make him one. Of course, Nazuna arrives that very moment and overhears, so even though she does an awesome superhero landing that shatters the deck, she can’t keep her face from turning into a tomato, so she just freezes.

It’s all well and good for Kou to want to fall for Nazuna, but the others want to know what she’s going to do to make that happen? She, who goes completely fluorescent at the mere mention of romance. This is where Kou steps up and articulates the mutually beneficial agreement they came to: she gets to drink his tasty-ass blood, and he gets to fall for her and become a vampire.

But Niko and the others still don’t trust Nazuna, given her aromantic history. They want to hear it from her. When she can’t say the words, Kou again says them for her, saying she said if he wanted to fall for her, then whatever; it’s fine.

The vamps agree to let him go, but when Kou says he’ll become a vampire no matter “how many years it takes” that their confusion returns. Something tells me they had a faster timeline in mind. And hey, the sooner the better, seeing as how Kou already has his first offspring lined up on Kiyosumi!

While it largely lacked the nice, laid back, expansive vibes of the earlier, less-populated episodes, this Call of the Night had its own merits, like the wealth of great voice acting and character design, the lived-in chemistry of the vampires, and beautifully composed combat. I also love how their ultra-speed is portrayed with quick cuts and slow-mo.

Last night Kou was in a tight little group of moody broody pals, but tonight he finds himself in a bigger, potentially more threatening, but also enticing world. I’m sure he’ll sleep well!

Made in Abyss – S2 07 – A Warm Darkness

After spending a good long while in the present with Riko, Reg, and Nanachi, we go back to when Ganja and the Three Sages first arrived in what would eventually become Iruburu. They used a Mitty-like hollow to activate the lift that took them down to the Sixth Layer, but soon learned that they would never be able to ascend again.

Faced with having to live down there the rest of their lives, they set out to find water. They also find a docile mammalian-like creature, showing them that living things can live down here. But while fighting off beasts, the creature, to whom Irumyuui had been incredibly attached, dies.

Of course, things soon get worse…much, much worse. That water they found? Not water, but an organism containing countless eggs or seeds. One by one, people come down with fevers and severe diarrhea and become bedridden. Then some begin to morph into bizarre forms.

Irumyuui, one of the first to get sick, is clinging to life when a glowing gold egg relic is found, and the Interference Units they befriended tell them it’s basically a wish-granting egg. It’s also apparently more effective if used by a juvinille as opposed to a more world-weary adult.

Vueko asks Wazukyan, and he agrees, that Irumyuui should have first dibs on the egg. In fact, he welcomes it being used on her, as he believes she will be the savior to everyone there. Vueko, looking deep into his eyes, believes him, because she believes him to be a divine prophet.

One morning, Vueko hears Irumyuui’s voice, and it’s full of mirth. Despite gradually metamorphosing into a hollow, she apparently feels no pain, and always has a wide smile on her face. Vueko is happy, but the others continue to grow ill, lie down, and never get back up.

One day, Irumyuui gives birth…after a fashion. But the “child” has no organs for taking in nutrition, and so it soon dies in her arms. She gives birth to another, and another, and another…all in fun colors, but all meet the same fate.

As Vueko can only be there and comfort Irumyuui in her continued moments of grief and loss, she also rues the day she gave the egg to Irumyuui. While it technically granted the girl’s wishes, it also twisted them, like a Monkey’s Paw, into something awful.

Then the day comes when Vueko becomes ill and can’t even get up to comfort Irumyuui. She seems resigned to her fate—the same fate countless others faced in this beautiful godforsaken place. But then suddenly she’s being fed a tasty-smelling stew, and before she knows it, she’s ambulatory and free of illness.

She walks out onto a promontory, where Wazukyan greets her warmly. As he promised, Irumyuui would end up saving everyone, and so she did. Was that stew made of Irumyuui’s body? Her stillborn offspring? I don’t know, but when you find yourself living within a legend, finding and keeping a foothold means making choices one might not have made on the surface.

This was one of the tougher watches of Made in Abyss’ run, but also a crucial one, lending us insight into the desperate choices a ragtag group of exiles made simply to continue existing. Vueko is right that she technically started this by putting Irumyuui and the wishing egg together.

In the present she might think she’s a “bad person”, but just like someone isn’t choosy about the “water” they drink when they’re dying of thirst, she, Irumyuui, and everyone else were doomed if they did and doomed if they didn’t in this place. Given the choice of death or chance, in the intrepid spirit that brought them this deep into the Abyss, they chose the latter. Only those others who’d been through what they did can stand in judgment.

Made in Abyss – S2 06 – Gooey Tokusatsu

When Riko starts seriously considering giving up her eyes or legs (she reckons she needs more than half of her organs), Majikaja and Maaa stop her from striking any kind of deal with Belaf. Both Maji and a briefly lucid Nanachi warn her “it’s all over” if she does, and Maji and Maaa drag her out screaming.

Once back outside, Vueko turns their attention to the start of a “Luring”, when the Hollows, who cannot leave the village, lure creatures in so they can hunt them. Only in this case the Hollows bit off more than they could chew with this creature in question, and it starts methodically slaughtering them.

When the creature nears the shop where Prushka is being worked on, Riko races there, but to her surprise the shopkeeper freely offers the whistle back to its original owner, as that’s the whistle’s desire. (The shopkeep also mentions having come while polishing the whistle, but that’s neither here nor there…)

The big goopy purple menace is soon confronted by Juroimoh, one of the biggest Hollows in the village and also one of the Three Sages (presumably the one who replaced Vueko). While Juro is as big as his opponent and he fights boldly, his attacks don’t have much effect on the creature.

When the creature threatens to destroy the market district, Riko, armed with more knowledge from Moogie (the restaurant lady), prepares a gambt to save the district and neutralize the threat. It all starts by souping up Majikaja by offering her trademark twin tails.

She rides hot rod Maji as they lure their purple foe away from the market and into an open space, where Riko prepared for Hollows with fire affinity to ignite the creature, then called upon another group to create a restraining web around the stunned creature, and then yet another group to poke and stab it until it’s dead.

The entire village rises in celebration and applause for Riko, who proves she’d make a good strategist in DanMachi. When she describes why she decided upon the course of action she chose, it only further demonstrates just how bright, resourceful, and quick-thinking this girl can be when the shit hits the fan.

When the party is suddenly interrupted by the purple goo monster reviving and then reaching out with tendrils to grab a number of Hollows, Maaa is one of the victims. But before Maaa is destroyed, Riko cries out, and Prushka hears her, and tells her to use her.

The whistle reverberates throughout the village and the Abyss, and in the blink of an eye, Reg is there, his helmet and necklace white instead of their usual black. He tells Riko that the moment he heard the whistle, he knew where he had to go and what to do. He asks her to keep directing him.

The creature is either dead or gone before Reg can attack it again. Wazukyan arrives, and explains that the creature wasn’t a single entity but rather a massive collective organism, a floating nest composed of millions of individual males around a central queen. When Riko asks him how she can trade for Nanachi and Mitty, he says a part of Faputa would do the trick.

Back at their accommodations, Riko tells Reg how Belaf would only trade Nanachi and Mitty for something equal or greater than the value of a human child. Vueko, in her most loquacious state in literal ages, proceeds to tell Riko who she really is, and how due to the time distortion of this layer, she couldn’t tell her how long ago she and Ganja first set out on the journey that brought them here.

While telling her tale and also talking of Faputa, Vueko’s inner voice asks Irumyuui if she brought these children here. She also noted her surprise Wazukyan could still “get that scared”, clearly seeing beyond his static outward appearance.

She tells Irumyuui that the time has come for her to dredge up her “existence, memories, and desires”, as Reg sets out to meet with Faputa again. Whatever the strange item is that the episode closes on, it must be the “embodiment of value” that trumps all else; and it’s most likely somewhere inside Faputa. Is she a time capsule? A time machine? A nuclear bomb? Or all three, or neither? The mind races…

Made in Abyss – S2 05 – Within the Eye

After his encounter with Faputa Reg is not only lost, but being tenaciously pursued by a turbinid-dragon, who is able to read his moves and even chip his metal arm. Reg is rescued by a fellow robot—AKA “Interference Unit”—who gives him a ride home.

The unit doesn’t know why Reg was built, only that it’s unheard of for units to ever cross layers, and that he’d prefer if Reg left as soon as possible, as he worries he could lead to the ruin of this delicate place. He honestly might not be wrong!

After briefly meeting Wazukyan, who seems friendly if a bit spacey, Riko takes the opportunity to learn the basics of the Hollow language from the bilingual proprietor of the canteen. Being a child, Riko picks it up pretty fast. She learns, for instance, that the name of the village, “Iruburu”, means 50% “village”, 40% “cradle”, and 10% “mother”.

Her language teacher also directs her to Doguupu, AKA “within the eye”, a place at the edge of the village where Hollows can’t go, but non-hollows like Reg and Nanachi might. Riko and Maaa head there, descend into a pit of sticky mud…and encounter Vueloeluko, AKA Vueko.

Riko is astonished to find another human, but Vueko is so out of it she’s initially not sure if she even is human. After all, can a human really live the 1,900 years since they found the island where Orth would one day be built? The fact she’s restrained by several tendrils also suggests to Riko she’s a “bad person”, and Vueko can’t really deny that.

She tells Riko a tale of how the origins of Iruburu “aren’t very nice”, and she was blinded by greed wanting to become somethng beyond human. So she leads her quiet dreary existence in this mud pit, naming the hollows who enact the “balancing”, singing, and basically just straight chillin’.

She also says that however awful its beginnings were, the village is now a relatively peaceful place full of children who lost their human bodies but whose souls remain carrying on. But bottom line, Riko wants to find her friends, so she frees Vueko, brings her up to the village, and gets her some clothes.

Vueko leads them to Belaf’s cave, but doesn’t go in there with them; clearly there was a falling-out between them and the present Belaf would probably prefer if Vueko stayed imprisoned in black goo forever. Belaf doesn’t threaten Riko—indeed, he’s in awe of a human child in this place—but he doesn’t spare her the weight of the present situation.

Nanachi is there, but they’re unconscious, put to sleep by “smoke”, as a distraught Majikaja puts it. He had no idea how important Mitty was to Nanachi, you see, so could not have predicted this would be the end of Nanachi’s journey. When Nanachi saw Belaf eating Mitty (who can be eaten infinitely and not die, but simply remains forevermore), they “sold” themself in exchange for Belaf giving him Mitty.

Riko recognizes Mitty and stares her in the eye like the time, and credits Mitty and her haunting eye in particular with saving her life when she was in a very bad way medically. Since this is a place of buying, selling, and negotiation, Riko asks Belaf what she’d have to offer in exchange for Nanachi and Mitty.

At first Belaf says he wants her entire body, but Riko reminds him how tremendously valuable she is in this place. Unfortunately, his final offer is for her to choose which of three things to give him that will satisfy him: both her eyes, both her legs, or half of her innards. Let’s just say I do not envy Riko’s predicament. I can’t help but think force (i.e. Reg) will be needed to free Nanachi…but then, do they even want to be “freed”, or are they free already?

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 11 – The Prince

Before Shikimori, Izumi was in a dark place. He tried to keep a brave face, but his propensity for misfortune isolated him. He prayed to God, asking if things would ever get better, and if not, if God could give him the strength to endure the pain and sadness, adding that he wished a hero would appear before him.

It’s as morose and heartbreaking as the show has ever gotten with Izumi’s condition, which has evolved from a joke to something more akin to a legitimate curse without cause. But if there’s no cure, there is a hero, and she comes with pink hair and the best Face Game this side of FLCL.

Shikimori and Izumi haven’t been able to hang out as a couple what with all the festivals, so Izumi suggests an amusement park. The ad he shows Shikimori shows a couple leaning in for a passionate kiss, so she’s in, in the worst way.

The question is, what to wear? Not that it matters; Izumi would think Shikimori was cute no matter what she wore. Shikimori’s older brother Fuji drives her to the mall, but doesn’t accompany her shopping. Indecisive about what to buy, she leaves the stores empty-handed and finds Fuji nervously sandwiched between two interested women.

She reluctantly rescues him from the situation, noting how he’s much shyer than he looks, and how maybe he’s the one who needs his hand held, after he teased her about when she needed to hold his. We’re then treated to some lovely Shikimori backstory, with a short-haired Micchon kicking older boys’ asses at karate.

Back home there’s an unnerving tension between her and her strict-seeming mother about whether she’ll be continuing with karate in middle school, even though she only started it because her brother did. Shikimori decides she’ll stick with it and lists the pros, and her mom smiles approvingly.

Shikimori starts being referred to as the “Prince” by boys who know they’d better not mess with her or the other girls. She rises to the top of the karate rankings, and even has the potential for the nationals come high school, but the one opponent she can never come close to beating is Fuji, who one rainy day suddenly announces he’s quitting.

Her karate friends are excited for her high school karate future, but she tells them she’s quitting too. Not because Fuji quit before, but because she discovered the magic of love through shoujo romance manga, and has decided to stop following others and choose for herself who she should be, which is a cute girl who will fall in love with a kind, handsome boy.

AND SO IT CAME TO PASS…but obviously not right away. First, Shikimori applies the same ferocious, focused work ethic to becoming a cute girl that she applied to become good at everything else she’s ever tried—she’s an extraordinary person—and is prepared to completely rebrand herself at high school, starting with entrance exams.

It is here where she and Izumi first meet, the latter’s exam ticket having been caught by the wind and lodged on a high tree branch. Shikimori was worried about mussing her hair not 30 seconds before, but when she sees Izumi’s distraught face (similar to the face he wore while praying for a hero) she climbs that tree and gets him the ticket. He expresses his heartfelt gratitude, but she’s too worried he thinks she’s weird to accept it.

The two meet again on the first day of high school, having both passed the exams. He thanks her again, and proceeds to explain why what she did mattered so much to him, explaining how he’s always been unlucky. He also says he’s glad he got to see her again just as the sunlight and wind and cherry blossoms make him look extra kind and handsome, and Shikimori asks for his name with a face so intense it kinda frightens him.

Of course, Izumi come to love those faces of hers, to the extent that he’ll feel a little jealous when others get to see them. But it’s so nice to finally see what Shikimori was like in her earlier years, how she and Izumi met, and how they were so perfect for one another right from the start. Fuji surprising her with the lipstick she liked was a perfectly heartwarming closing note. She’ll wear it to look cute, but also to give her courage.

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