Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku – 03

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On Cloud Nine after her upset victory over Himi, Eruna is already prepared to take over the school and the world with the power she just awakened. She also believes she’s already won the heart of Mikagura Seisa, whom she fantasizes about embracing her like a lover in her trademark delusions.

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Last week we saw a glimpse of Eruna’s potential, but she’s clearly jumping the gun, so this week she gets a sobering, but not devastating, dose of reality. Seisa invites Eruna and Himi to her mansion and her room and even indulges Eruna by praising her and patting her on the head, a gesture Himi mimics, to Eruna’s elation.

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Seisa is right: Eruna really only won because Himi let her guard down and didn’t go in for the kill before her opponent’s power could awaken. If they faced off again, Himi would almost certainly win. Eruna isn’t so sure, and in her hubris, agrees to a practice battle against Seisa herself, but she’ll be kicked out of the “Going-Home Club” (is that really even a club?) if she loses.

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Prior to her battle, Eruna soaks in another practice battle, between Imizu Asuhi (telescope boy) and Akama Yuuto (drama club rep) Unlike Himi with Eruna, the experienced Akama doesn’t waste any time dispatching the rookie with ease. It’s an effective warning to Eruna not to take a peactice battle against a veteran lightly.

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Well, it would be effective, if Eruna weren’t so gosh-darn cocky and sure she’ll be able to take out one of Seisa’s crystals. Just as it covered her first fancy breakfast at the school, the very on-top-of-things newspaper club prints a very timely extra about the Eruna/Seisa clash, complete with bikini shots of Eruna that get her cousin very excited.

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In the battle that followed, Mikagura showed that Eruna isn’t going to pull off a win and get her way every week just because she’s awakened her power. She manages to fly all over the field of battle like lightning, but when she lands a blow on a crystal her hand goes right through it, and her beam fails to manifest. Eruna doesn’t even see Seisa snatch her crystals out of the air and smash them with her bare hands. It’s a total, utter defeat, and Seisa isn’t particularly nice about it, either: “Nice try. Too bad.”

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Thus chastened, kicked out of Seisa’s club, and served generous portions of humble pie, Eruna retreats to a quiet corner of the school to lick her wounds and munch on that pie. She’s joined by Kuzuryu, who offers her milk and a light kick in the bum, but to his surprise, Eruna can’t drink milk and haughtily requests something else form him, preferably in the 300-yen range. It’s a nice senpai/kohai moment that cheers Eruna up and gets her thinking about her next steps.

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With no existing clubs up her alley, Eruna decides to form her own, the nature of which is TBD (Seisa Fan Club doesn’t count, I imagine). But in an act of defiant perseverance, she marches up to the walls of Seisa’s giant mansion, builds a “clubroom” out of cardboard, and prepares to spend the night in it, promising Seisa (who happens to be listening from her window) she’ll keep growing and improving (a rookie battle she might be able to win is coming up), so she can one day face off against her once again.

Seemingly moved by Eruna’s determination and pluck, she meets her out in the rain and lets her move into her mansion, if only the hallway where she’ll be allowed to set up her sleeping bag. Eruna wanted to take big huge leaps to greatness, but smaller steps and more incremental goals are going to be the way to go. It’ll be tough, but no one’s ever going to accuse Eruna of not being tough!

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Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku – 02

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I’m really digging Mikagura’s reverse-gender shonen story and its boisterous, manic energy. But as rowdy and enthusiastic as Eruna is, she remains homeless and hungry, and joining the Going Home Club only netted her an extra minute in the shower and a tiny portion of natto. She has to start winning battles…but how?

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Eruna decides to visit all the high-ranking clubs seeking advice. Kuzuryuu ignores her, Himi will only help if Eruna buys her dessert (which she can’t afford), Seisa doesn’t even let her in the house, and while Imizu Asuhi is so cute and feminine Eruna could swear he’s a she, she ends up accidentally setting off his telescope gun. The recurring theme of these encounters is clear: this is something she needs to figure out for herself, as they did. If she can’t, she doesn’t deserve to be there.

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With no direction whatsoever, Eruna takes a game Shigure up on his offer to assist her, and while she comes up with cool names for the moves she tries on him, at the end of the day, she’s only hitting him with her bookbag and sleeping bag, then getting pulled back into her dating sim and her beloved 2D GF Yuriko (the timing of this joke is great). The rest is merely her delusions…and she knows that…but she’s not sure what else to do.

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When she crosses paths with Seisa, she delivers a confession of sorts; that the whole reason she came to the school was because she wanted to hang out with a lovely person like the girl in the brochure, and she’s committed to trying her very best to make her proud of her.

The exchange reminds me of what a male character of similar background and personality might say to the girl he likes (if he had he the guts to do so), only Eruna happens to also be a girl (and does have the guts). She’s just a super-likable character I can’t help but wanna root for. I know, that’s the point, but she show hit the mark well.

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But as her battle neared, and Eruna showed no signs of being remotely prepared, I’ll admit I started to feel a little apprehensive. Eruna can imagine whatever positive outcome she likes and delude herself that’s it’s going to happen, but she gets a cold dose of reality when what she considers a pretty clever ambush attempt is foiled easily by the experienced Himi. Himi is also pretty cocky, remarking how she wants to wrap this dawdle up soon so she can go eat some snacks.

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Just when the weight of what defeat would mean begins to slowly descend upon a limping, winded Eruna, she comes across a door covered in seals that release when she touches it. Inside is a room full of light where a slightly more throwback version of herself tells her to awaken her power; the power she had inside all along, but just didn’t know how to tap into. After this encounter, a switch goes off, and suddenly Eruna is dodging Himi’s attack with ease and flying through the school like a bat out of hell.

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As Eruna’s strength, speed, and agility rise exponentially, she’s overcome by a combination of disbelief and excitement, and the animation of the episodes gets bolder and jauntier to keep up with her. With a great beam of light emanating from her index finger, she shatters all three of Himi’s crystals simultaneously, earning her a decisive upset win.

Perhaps her delusions of greatness were really an expression her hidden power trying to emerge. Now they have, and that greatness is no longer just a delusion.

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It’s a win the whole school watched from their smartphones, including Seisa, who certainly looks impressed with what she saw, and all of a sudden Eruna is no longer the over-fantasizing, hapless rookie underdog…but an imposing upstart who’s only just cracked the surface of the potential her bloodline has passed down to her.

Perhaps most important, people will start to stop looking down on her; not just because she can soar high into the sky now, but because she made the same breakthrough all of them made before her. Now she really is one of them.

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Mikagura Gakuen Kumikyoku – 01 (First Impressions)

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My watchlist has suddenly become stuffed with halfway-decent coms, be they rom or not. The latest to grace my LCD is MGK, which delivered a dense, crisp, madcap romp around the suddenly far-more-interesting life of the orange-haired spark plug that is Ichinomiya Eruna, who dominates the episode. This is not a bad thing.

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Just as there are many moods and sides and expressions to the show in which she stars, Eruna is a satisfyingly-realized, complex goofball of a girl who gets lost in her dating sims (in which she dates girls, whom she seems to prefer), and we get lost in them right along with her. She occupies a very interesting character zone: like girly than Sakura Chiyo; less hulking than Onizuka Hime; less…male than Katsuragi Keima (Did I mention I love all those guys?), and yet far more than the sum of her parts.

She’s sorta like a chuuni with her delusions, which are a means of relief from the mundane world in which she live. She’s the dashing heroine in her daydreams, but looks and acts like the dashing heroine in real life too—complete with her cape-like scarf—only that life isn’t taking her seriously. She longs for a place that does…a place where she can spread her wings and have some fun.

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Eruna’s cousin Shigure (who seems to have a one-sided thing for her) manages to pique her interest in Mikagura High where he attends, but because of the fact their uniforms kick ass. And you know what? They DO. Not only that, Eruna decides if Mikagura is the kind of place she can meet gorgeous angels like Mikagura Seisa, the principal’s granddaughter…well, where does she sign up?

Having established that Eruna is not really just shallow, but yearning for a more interesting existence, Mikagura feels like a good fit right off the bat. For one thing, everyone customizes those awesome uniforms just like she does with her yellow scarf. For another, the clubs battle each other with their club skills in exchange for more favorable living conditions, pride, and other perks.

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Mikagura is full of colorful characters who flaunt the dress code. Eruna is beside herself with glee at the sight of all the cuties, who she meets in a kind of gauntlet of cute. To her credit, she manages to express her excitement in different ways each time. She’s truly a girl of a thousand expressions.

When she learns the rough side of the coin—that she’s starting at the bottom of the pile with nothing, she doesn’t despair. So what if right now all she has is a sleeping bag in the drafty hall, side dishes for dinner and navy showers? She has a feeling she’s going to have fun here…and she won’t be on the bottom forever.

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To her delight, she also gets to meet the cover girl herself, Mikagura Seisa, the water to Eruna’s fire if ever there was one. Eruna watches in awe as Seisa calmly douses a minor dispute between Mr. Artiste and some green-haired (literally), green-horned (figuratively) whelp.

When Seisa approaches Eruna, whose enrollment was recommended by the floating cat Bimii (well, that’s what Eruna calls him), things get even better, as Seisa personally invites her to join the illustrious and exclusive “going home” club, on the condition that she sub for her in the next club battle. Eruna is, not surprisingly, SO DAMN OKAY WITH THIS.

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That brings us back to the show’s cold open. The tense atmosphere, dark aesthetic, and scenario of one student fleeing another who corners and appears to waste her with a camera flash initially had me thinking this might be more of a Braverade number, a la Akuma no Riddle. Only when Eruna met her in the end did I learn the girl chased and flashed was Seisa.

Was this a flashback or forward? Was this a taste of some heavier things going down in the future, or just a tease? Considering the bright, playful tone of the episode that followed, I’m inclined to think the latter, but that’s okay. I’m fully on Eruna’s side, and whatever club activity she ends up choosing, watching her stumble, fall, get back up, dust herself off, and kick some ass should be fun.

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Steins Gate – 17

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Hmmm…Well, that didn’t work. At least not all the way.

Steins;Gate may twist time into knots, but it never wastes it, snatching away Okarin’s (and my) sweet relief that Mayushii is safe in the first thirty seconds. Okarin stopping his past self from stopping Suzuha from going back to the 70s before the storm damaged her time machine (whew) only delayed Mayushii’s death a little; it didn’t prevent it. For that, he’s going to have to get that divergence number closer to 1.0. Much closer.

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So it’s back to the drawing board for Okarin. Thankfully, he has the adorable genius Kurisu on hand to help him decide what to draw up next. She theorizes that because sending one D-mail to cancel another made incremental progress, cancelling other D-mails that ended up changing the past will lead to further progress.

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It’s a good theory, but undoing D-mails will have a profound interpersonal cost on the lab members, touched on when Kurisu laments she won’t remember Okarin calling her Kurisu (not remembering the first time he did it). But that kind of change is peanuts compared to The last D-mail Okarin undid, which caused Suzuha to never meet her father. The next D-mail he has to undo is the Feyris sent; the one that somehow prevented Akiba from becoming an Otaku Mecca.

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That “somehow” is key, because Okarin can’t change anything if he doesn’t know what Feyris actually did. When he tracks her down, she’s slightly occupied; on the run from a gang of over-zealous Rai-Net Battler gamers sore over her beating them at a tournament. If Okarin wants to talk to her, he’s going to have to keep up.

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The difficulty of prying the truth from the frazzled Feyris is aggravated by his talk with her being constantly interrupted by bursts of chasing, but Okarin eventually able to get her attention by mentioning “May Queen”, the name of her cafe that never was, and a name no one but her should know.

Okarin goes so far as to bring Feyris to the site where her cafe was (or should be), and something very unsettling and haunting occurs: the area briefly shifts back and forth between its current abandoned state and the May Queen, causing Feyris to nearly faint. Even before this happens, the atmosphere is so thick you can cut it with a knife.

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This is a phenomenon I don’t believe we’ve seen before, and I think it has something to do with the effect of Okarin’s Reading Steiner “leaking”; making those he’s in close contact with remember along with him, at least to a degree. I’m interested to see how far this “leaking” goes and if it’s permanent or merely fleeting.

When Okarin tells Feyris that Mayushii’s life is in danger, Feyris is, surprisingly, still hesitant to cooperate, but she turns out to have a very good reason: she sent that D-mail to save the life of her father, who died ten years ago in the original world line.

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This explains why he so suddenly appeared in her apartment after she sent the D-mail, and fully re-inserts Feyris, whose D-mail had far-reaching effects on the timeline but who had been largely sidelined since episode 9, right back into the thick of things, showing just how deep a bench this show has. It also introduces the unenviable but  inevitable choice of saving one person’s life at the cost of another but not being able to save both.

But before they can determine how to proceed, the crazed Rai-Netters corner them, and we get a tense, stark scene in which they beat Okarin bloody and prepare to take Feyris away to their deranged leader for God-knows-what manner of unpleasantness.

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Even in his beaten-down state, Okarin is able to stall the thugs long enough for help to arrive in the most unexpected form imaginable: Feyris’ dad’s chauffeur squeezes his S-Class limo through the alley and scares off the thugs.

Call it a deus (or patrem?) ex machina if you must—it was quite a strange sequence of events—but the fact the thugs’ boss on the other end of the phone is promptly arrested suggests a coordinated, quick-response security system is in place to protect Feyris, a system necessitated by the fact she’s a celebrity in her own right, but also the daughter of a rich and powerful man and thus a target for kidnapping.

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But even with such a system, Feyris would have been in big trouble had Okarin not been there to delay them. That isn’t lost on Feyris or her dad, who agree to tell Okarin what became of the IBN 5100 he used to own, in a very slick segue. Ten years ago, while preparing to board his flight for work ten years ago, her dad received a text that his daughter had been kidnapped, and as he was not as wealthy back then, had to sell his IBN in order to afford her ransom.

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This talk is followed by Feyris paying Okarin a visit in the guest room where he’s resting after a day of running and being beaten up. Okarin has had many exquisitely tender, moving scenes with Kurisu, Mayushii, and Suzuha; now it’s Feyris’ turn…or I should say, Akiha Rumiho’s turn.

She drops their usual chuuni code and nicknames in order to thank him properly, and to tell him everything she couldn’t say in front of her father, in one of the most sharply written and powerfully-acted scenes of the series thus far. Not bad for a character we’ve barely seen for eight episodes, but always liked. Considerable props to Miyano Mamoru and Momoi Haruko.

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Ten years ago, Rumiho was so angry and bitter at her dad for going on his trip, she told him she hated him before he left. That was the last time she ever saw him, as he was killed in a plane crash. When Okarin let her send a D-mail, she sent the false kidnapping message, which kept her dad off that flight and brought him home by train, which led to the current world line. It was a selfish choice, but a perfectly understandable one. If the means to save a dead loved one you didn’t part ways with amicably was in the palm of your hand, who wouldn’t make that choice?

Now that she knows that D-mail may well have sealed Mayushii’s doom, she voices her willingness to send a D-mail undoing it. When asked if she’s “sure about this”, she answers honestly: not at all. But now she can see both the world as it is and as it was, and she is sure of one thing: her father loved her dearly as she loved him, and nothing she said or did would change that fact. Having her father back was a “beautiful dream”, but it isn’t something she’s willing to continue at the cost of Mayushii’s life. Her father died on that plane. He was supposed to die. Now she’s at peace with that. Mostly.

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But more than that, after what her “Prince” Okarin went through to protect her, she feels compelled to return the favor by helping him. She’s always admired and idolized Okarin (ironic as she herself is an idol to many others), but here that admiration takes a turn for the romantic. Calling him her prince, I half-expected her to steal a kiss, but she settles for a behind-the-back hug and permission to cry. It’s just beautiful all around.

Now Okarin finds himself in a situation with Feyris similar to the one with Kurisu: anytime he has these wonderful, powerful moments with either, he travels back in time and everything is lost. Here, Feyris hopes she’ll remember the experiences and words they shared. Okarin tells her she almost certainly will remember, but he expresses far more confidence than he actually has on that front.

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Once Feyris sends her father a D-mail telling him the kidnapping was just a joke, the past changes again. Okarin finds himself in the lab, and Feyris comes up behind him. When he puts his hands on her shoulders, ready to ask if she remembers anything, both Kurisu and Mayushii remark that he’s being awfully lovey-dovey with their friend.

I interpreted Feyris’ response to them — about her and Okarin fighting side by side as lovers in a past life — no less than three different ways. One: She remembers nothing, and is merely talking in their usual chuuni code, which she often uses to express her fondness for Okarin and only coincidentally describes their past dealings. Two: She remembers something, but the memories have to be triggered, as Okarin triggered her memory of the maid cafe before. Three: She remembers everything, and is telling Kurisu and Mayushii the truth.

I’m sorta leaning towards door number two. But whatever the case, Akihabara has returned to its proper state, Rumiho’s father is dead, yet the whereabouts of the 5100 remain unknown. This was still only one step on a very long stair. But it was a fantastic one.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 12 (Fin)

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InoBato delivers a crisp, clever, neatly-paced finale that is an admirable study in ‘less is more’ where superpower action is concerned, and despite Jurai not making a decision about which girl to choose, the romantic/emotional side of the show is still brought to a satisfying stopping point.

The episode wastes no time picking up from last week, where Hatoko looks to be in some serious trouble. But in the space of a few moments, Chifuyu erects a wall to protect her while Tomoyo transports everyone to a different time and space. The gang hasn’t used their powers much, but when they do use them they make it count. 

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Furthermore, Jurai’s chuunibyou compelled him to formulate countermeasures in case someone with Mirei’s powers was to fight them seriously again. He may not have a useful power himself, but he spearheaded the whole three-second maneuvers that saved everyone.

As the gang hides in a karaoke bar (worried they’re taking things too lightly) their attacker, “F” remnant Hagiura Naoe, who has stolen Mirei’s body and powers (along with Hatoko and Chifuyu’s), confers with Sagami, apparently eager to prove her mettle by knocking off “Virgin Child.”

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Without any better ideas from the others, Jurai decides to call Hagiura and arrange a meet-up in the clubroom, where she’s created a portal to an otherworld. Hagiura is disappointed Jurai didn’t bring the others, and inflicts various kinds of pain to try to get him to cooperate, warning that he only invites a lingering, lonely death.

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Far from yielding, Jurai breaks out his secret weapon: a bluff. Well, a sort of bluff. He makes “Dark and Dark Stage Two” out to be the Best Power EVAH, even though it’s just as useless as it was…

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…Which Hagiura doesn’t realize until she’s stolen and replicated it. But here’s the thing: in this particular case, Stage Two is not only useful, but crucial to him having a chance at victory. It’s useful not in any conventional GIGA DRILL uber-power kind of way, but because once the flames are summoned, they’ll burn eternally.

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Not only that, they really burn their user, and can’t be put out, something Jurai learns when they first awakened; a scene InoBato artfully skipped over so it could show us here. The only way the gang put them out last time is by Chifuyu summoning a guillotine, slicing his hand off, and then repairing it with Sayumi’s healing powers. NOW we know why they insisted he never use his powers again.

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When Hagiura realizes she’s been played, she leaves Mirei’s body, leaving Mirei and Jurai with eternally burning hands. Fortunately, Sayumi, Tomoyo and Chifuyu are standing by….

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…And then, as they go through that horrifying ordeal again, only this time with two ‘patients’, I’m not surprised everyone is crying, even though everything goes according to plan, it’s still traumatic chopping friends’ damn hands off! Hagiura fumes, but she and Sagami are found out by Hajime, who isn’t too happy they tried to involve Virgin Child.

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The gang got a great brush with danger, but pulled out of it with no harm done, thanks mostly to Jurai’s planning, quick-thinking, and, well, there’s no other word for it: recklessness. Sayumi cannot believe she let him go through with such a crazy, dangerous plan, and yet if given the choice, she’d go along with it again. Mirei can relate; both girls strive to be paragons of perfection, but when it comes to the man they both fell in love with, all bets are off…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

On a day out together, Tomoyo buys Hatoko a light novel she can understand (unlike most of the stuff Jurai gives her). Tomoyo remarks how she’s now come to understand what someone (her bro) once said to her about “all outcomes are predetermined”, and people seek “ways they can accept to explain it.” In Tomoyo’s case, she knew she loved Jurai, and now is finally able to say it to Hatoko.

Hatoko also now knows what Jurai meant by a reading of a character being both “friend” and “rival”, because that’s what Tomoyo is. Far from giving up in Jurai, Hatoko promises her friendrival that she won’t lose; Tomoyo promises the same.

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Their target, meanwhile, is being ‘charmed’ by Chifuyu, who he’s worried about being caught up in another battle, in addition to being out in the sun too long. Chifuyu assures him in her usual adorable lilt, “she’s surprisingly tough”, and will continue to stay by his side, protecting him. Jurai consents, but only if she promises not to use her powers to hurt people, or to make people happy.

Superpowers are cool, but that’s all they need to be. It’s a sentiment in keeping with the show thus far, which has strived to underplay the importance of the powers with only a few exceptions. The friendships formed and love grown as a result of them having powers has always been more important.

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In making his point, Jurai activates Dark and Dark (though not Stage Two), just as Tomoyo and the others arrive. Tomoyo is understandably angry, not just that he’s ’embarrassing’ her, but more likely because she’s worried he’ll hurt himself again. The two start fighting in their usual way, because when two people get along and just work, it means they’re able to fight like that. And honestly, I could watch them fight all day! I’ll miss you, Virgin Child. I’ll miss InoBato too.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 11

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InoBato surprises us this (or at least me) this week by showing us a flashback of the day Jurai crossed paths with Tomoyo, and we see that there was a precedent to her placing her fist against his heart as she did during the Hatoko crisis. She convinced him in their brief encounter not to give up on Chuuni. To this day he doesn’t know it was Tomoyo.

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We go from that flashback to the present and the family vacation. Hatoko has studied her love manuals thoroughly and is making a concerted play for Jurai, determined not to let this perfect chansu slip away.

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Unfortunately, she ends up hewing a bit too close to said manuals and overdoes things, resulting in her nearly passing out from sunstroke/exhaustion. The beach scenes are a vivid showcase for the tendency of InoBato’s character design to be both sexy and goofy as conditions dictate. Last week, Sayumi was definitely a knockout, but Hatoko’s no slouch either.

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Knowing where Jurai is, who he’s with, and how Hatoko feels, the same day is a bit of an ordeal for Tomoyo. After dreaming about how she first met Jurai, she decides not to waste both tickets and go to Sealand alone; a decision she almost immediately regrets, but goes through with it anyway. Her scenes are steeped with lonelieness and longing; a kind of lost daze.

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When Hatoko recovers she gets another golden opportunity to confess her feelings, but decides instead to come at it from another angle, semantically…something InoBato is certainly no stranger to exploring how wording and phrasing affects understanding.

Jurai remains grateful she ‘saved’ him, and considers her ‘more than friends’ and ‘special’. While I would have liked a straight confession out of her, Hatoko’s wistful looks at the stars indicate that his words constitute a sufficient rejection in terms of romantic love.

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That assessment looks even more accurate considering Jurai calls Tomoyo and asks her out on a date right after talking with Hatoko. From there, Tomoyo begins her clinic of cute/bashful/happy facial expressions, as she’s not only clearly over the moon that Jurai called, but that he seemed just as in a hurry to see him again as she was.

It’s a cute date too, as Tomoyo, feeling bad about him offering to treat her again, suggest they decide who will pay fair and square with a shooting game. She kicks his ass and he has to pay anyway, but it was a nice gesture, along with a way to impress him with her marksmanship.

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When Jurai leads Tomoyo to a secluded spot to talk, Tomoyo gets a little excited, but it turns out Jurai wanted to create a situation in which she was free to talk to him, after he heard how Hatoko said she was ‘mean’ to her. Tomoyo doesn’t get into that, but does tell him about her light novel failure.

Jurai basically says all the right things in response to hearing about that, and leads Tomoyo to bury her face into his chest just as the fireworks launch right above them.

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It really couldn’t get any more romantic, and Tomoyo is again reminded of meeting him, along with a quick montage of all the close moments they’ve had. But Tomoyo still doesn’t say “I love you.” She says “I love this”. It would seem Tomoyo remains the frontrunner after all, and while I really wish she’d said the magic words (as I wished Hatoko had), that’s just not InoBato’s style.

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That brings us to the abridged final act, which is…a bit maddening. Here we’ve had a show that’s been 99% about characters and relationships, with neary a hint of superpowers or the war going on outside the sphere of the lit club. Then it decided to suddenly dump a steaming load of plot and peril at the very end.

The woman Hajime’s associates caught on camera does something to Mirei (who we haven’t seen in ages); Mirei calls the club to school, pretends her arm is burning, and when Hatoko uses her power to summon water, Mirei steals her superpower, summons flame, and launches it at Hatoko.

Sorry, but hWAAAAH? What the heck am I suppsed to do with that? Is Hatoko going to be incinerated? The preview clearly indicated next week is the final episode. I’m wondering how the heck the show is going to resolve this crisis and give us a satisfying conclusion to the harem plot.

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 10

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After staking (or not staking) their claim on Jurai, this week the girls start to press those claims (or non-claims). We start with Tomoyo, who we’d thought was at the top of the running despite her average test scores, but suffers a triple defeat in the first couple minutes: she’s eliminated from the novel competition, she loses an excuse to hang out with Jurai more, and she ends up being the last one to ask him out.

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The one who gets first dibs on Jurai is Chifuyu, of course, but we watch those two interact through the suspicious eyes of her friend Cookie, who tagged along as a chaperone. She decides to make the day all about trying to sabotage Jurai’s standing with Chifuyu, but he only ends up making Cookie into another admirer.

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Jurai shows Cookie he isn’t the creepy pervert she thought he was. Far from being ‘interested’ in Chifuyu (or her for that matter), he wants to make sure Chifuyu has a friend after he and the others graduate and part ways. He comes right out and says he doesn’t think he’ll be by Chifuyu’s side forever. It’s good that Chifuyu is fast asleep, because if she heard him say that, it would have probably broken her heart. But hey, Jurai just doesn’t see her that way, so that’s that.

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Next up is Sayumi, who is actually operating under the tutelage of Sagami, whose true motives remain unknown. I like the look Jurai makes when he realizes Sayumi brought him to the same place Chifuyu did the day(?) before, but he can hardly complain now that he has a gorgeous, perfect date his own age.

Sagami messes with her by giving her a revealing white bikini than claiming it will become see-through if it gets wet. This leads to a phenomenal athletic performance by Sayumi, who clears every aquatic obstacle course in the park without getting wet, before finding out it doesn’t become see-through after all.

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But the bikini, and the rest of Sagami’s proposed tactics, are all based upon the idea that she isn’t going to win the Jurai sweepstakes by playing clean and fair. Sayumi rejects his suggestion she devalue herself and washes her hands of him. Sagami isn’t that miffed, as he contacts a former member of “F” right after Sayumi leaves.

But like his day with Chifuyu, there isn’t anything to suggest the girl made any progress whatsoever with Jurai. He may be aware she totally rocks her bikini and has a great figure and even recognizes when she’s acting under the influence of someone else…but he doesn’t seem into her. He treats her like a platonic friend.

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That brings us to Tomoyo, who finally gathers the courage to call Jurai up and ask him out…but she’s far too late. The days she could have spent with him, he spent with Chifuyu and Sayumi. And even if they proved not to be that much of a threat, she still has Hatoko to deal with, and Hatoko has Jurai for the next couple days (and one night!) as their two families go on their annual vacation.

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So, ‘oh no,’ Tomoyo’s in trouble, right? Hatoko could do all manner of things to him in that stretch of time. Well…not necessarily. Hatoko may well use her opportunity well, but that doesn’t mean Jurai sees her or will suddenly come to see Hatoko as a potential love interest.

Even though he only had that one somewhat distant phone call with Tomoyo, he still thought of buying a book for her. Tomoyo’s down, but definitely not out. Still, that phone call was rough. I felt so bad for her!

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 09

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Hajime’s crew and the wider world of people with superpowers were revealed last week, but the Lit Club was successfully kept out of the fighting, which is probably for the best this late in the game. Instead, we return to the Lit Club’s own internal struggle: the initially friendly, but increasingly heated battle for the tainted heart of Andou Jurai.

Things start when Jurai reveals to Tomoyo that when he was in the eighth grade, he considered retiring from Chuunidom, after meeting a “really crazy girl who referred to herself by an archaic expression”, who was, of course, Tomoyo. Even then, they had that connection and shared understanding of Chuuni.

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Interestingly enough, during a study session when the exam score rankings are revealed, we essentially see a list that’s the opposite of the Jurai Heart picture. While Mirei and Sayumi are at the very top, they’re the furthest from contention, while Tomoyo is at the bottom despite being the frontrunner. Hatoko, not surprisingly, is the closest in score to Jurai, as she’s been the closest to him period.

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Still, Tomoyo is embarrassed by her low test score, and when Hatoko offers to give her personal tutoring, she doesn’t refuse. It also gives Hatoko an opportunity to probe her rival (Tomoyo really does seem to “understand” Jurai more than her) while starting what will be a trend this week of Hatoko making things sparkling clear and unmuddied by verbal embellishment, code, or white lies.

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As Summer vacation approaches and Sayumi goes through mountains of paperwork so fast she’s seemingly borrowed Closed Clock, she finds Jurai’s original application form to join the club. Everyone gathers ’round Jurai and Tomoyo has a good laugh at his colorful language.

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One thing that sticks out for Chifuyu is the claim on his form that he has “no emotion”, which she rightly points out is a lie, because he admits to liking her. If nothing else, it’s cute having this grade schooler back him into a logical corner…though the lightning strike at the end is confusing, in that I thought Hatoko was the element user? At the same time, there’s nothing saying Chifuyu can’t summon whatever she wants out of the either, including the elements.

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While joining him to take out the trash, Chifuyu has an odd question for Jurai about what the nature of curry is. She opines that it’s only a liquid, and that it requires rice to become a meal. Unlike Jurai, I can kinda see where she’s getting at, since they just had a conversation in which he confessed to liking her. But ‘like’ is like curry, it needs something to make it ‘a meal’; in this case, hanging out with her over the Summer.

When she reports symptoms similar to arrythmia to Cookie, Cookie is understandably concerned, until Chifuyu tells her she only feels this way when around Jurai. So yeah, Chifuyu is in love with the guy. After all, puberty does seem to be arriving earlier for girls these days.

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Meanwhile, Sagami Shimizu barges into the ladies’ room and snatches away Sayumi’s glasses. Wait, WTF? Sayumi should have claimed two or three of his ribs for such a brazen offense, but she’s not able to before he opens his mouth, confirming that she’s in the back of the pack in the running for Jurai, and offering to help her grab the inside line. Why? I’m not sure, other than the fact Sagami likes an underdog story.

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It occurs to me I don’t even remember the last time Hatoko used her elemental powers, but that’s not really a concern, because far more useful, at least in terms of moving things forward in the Jurai competition, are her powers to tell things like they are, which is exactly what she does with Tomoyo.

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Hatoko asks Tomoyo a straight question: “Is there anyone you’re in love with?”, to which Tomoyo responds with an equally straight but still untrue answer: “no one.” Hatoko then answers her own question, both clearly and truthfully: She loves Jurai. She wants to know more about him and go out with him, all of it.

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Hatoko gives her the chance to revise her answer, because not acknowledging she loves Jurai isn’t fair to Hatoko, or Jurai, or herself. Before we get Tomoyo’s answer (Damn!), we cut to Jurai sneezing because people are talking about him…but naturally he has a chuuni way of describing that particular phenomenon.

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Jurai’s Consiliatory Monologue

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“Hatoko. Um, well…I know how it may seem, but I’m really grateful to you. I don’t know how many times I’ve been saved by the way you’ve always cheerfully listened to me. I was really happy that you understood me. So, um…I know I’ll probably continue to say lots of nonsensical things, but still…y-you and I…There is no path before me, and no retreat behind me! I am destined to advance on an endless road, over rivers of blood and mountains of corpses! However, even for me, it would be hard to travel that road of suffering alone. Therefore, I need companions. Let us walk together, Kushikawa Hatoko. I need you.”

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 08

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Whoa…now that was one roundabout, unexpected, novel way to propel the story forward! This was a very tricky episode that, at first, made me think the show was going to forget all about Hatoko in lieu of introducing an entirely new group of young people with superpowers, led by Hajime…which is exactly, what it did…at first. This was an episode that asked for our patience, and then rewarded it handsomely.

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First…Fallen Black, Hajime’s “gang”, is much like the literary club, only they’ve been on the front lines of a war for some time; a war between humans with superpowers, ostensibly fought for the enjoyment of…fairies. That’s right, fairies are responsible for giving everone powers.

That…well, was definitely unexpected, and more than a little ridiculous, but there it is. I’m willing to accept it, if only because it makes Hajime’s baffling phone call back when he had lunch with Jurai make perfect sense! Nice bit of continuity there, and demonstrate’s the show’s willingness to veer from a linear timeline when it’s called for.

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Ultimately it doesn’t really matter how these people got their powers or why. What matters is that Jurai and the others aren’t alone in possessing superpowers, and this episode greatly expands the show’s world. Those others with powers aren’t simply sitting on their hands worried about why they have them or what to do next; they’re using them in furtherance of this war against “F”.

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We also see Hajime in his element as Fallen Black’s leader, and there’s a lot of similarities between him and Jurai, including the fact his powers aren’t necessarily the most powerful, but he’s definitely the most charismatic and the others feed off of that. Just take Hajime’s second-in-command Hitomi (kind of a green-haired Tomoyo), who rushes into a situation without fully assessing things, and almost gets into big trouble with a feral urchin, when all she needed to be pacified was some candy!

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But what the heck does this have to do with Hajime and his cohorts suddenly accosting Hatoko last week, do you say? What evil plans did they have in store fore her? Well, that’s pretty cleverly weaved into this Fallen Black story, as the attack from the little girl actually does injure Hajime.

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Knowing that one of the members of the heretofore ‘unblooded’ (i.e., non-participants in the war) literature club, which he refers to as “Virgin Child” has a healing power, he asks Hitomi to use her power of hypnosis to let him avail himself of that power.

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Only…they get the wrong girl: Hatoko rather than Sayumi. That’s right, there was never any ill intent; that was all our conjecture. So yeah, these guys may have a few battles behind their belts, but they’re not perfect!

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What is perfect — maybe too perfect, verging on overly tidy, considering the weight of last week’s conflict — is how the Hatoko dilemma is resolved. As promised, Sayumi awakens the next stage of her power, interestingly enough starting by taking roll. With Hatoko missing, the club is not complete, so she uses Route of Origin, Ouroboros Circle to restore the club to wholeness, meaning Hatoko teleports back into the club room safe and sound.

Hatoko is woozy, but it’s not as if she forgot everything that happened. Still, she’s much like the Hatoko we’d known before that rant, which isn’t surprising since she’s the kind of person who suddenly blows up and then is all better again. Her frustration did boil over as a result of her feat that Jurai was being taken away from her.

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Tomoyo senses this and fesses up to having started writing light novels, and had been asking for Jurai’s advice. Not that that was all it was, but for the purposes of appeasing Hatoko and avoiding another incident like last week, she’s going to say that’s all it was!

Jurai also apologizes to Hatoko, who apologizes to Jurai, who apologizes back, etc., and voices his gratitiude for her always listening. As far as he’s concerned, she’s always ‘understood’ him, with ‘understanding’ in this case meaning more than just getting what his word salad means.

In any case, a lovely example is offered when Hatoko takes Jurai’s hand into hers and notes that it’s warm. Jurai has a very chuuni explanation for that warmth, but Hatoko corrects him/translates: it’s warm because he’s Ju-kun. Bawww.

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This episode started out in Bizarro-InoBato Land, in an entirely different time and place and people than the previous seven episodes, but gradually eased back into the show we knew. Of course, last week was also totally different in that it suddenly created what looked like a potentially very serious rift in the group and a new external threat.

Turns out the rift wasn’t that big of a deal and mostly repaired once everyone, you know, actually talked with one another openly and honestly. And while the ‘threat’ wasn’t quite that, Fallen Black’s actions led to Jurai and Hatoko making up.

All’s well that ends well, and this episode ends with the next stage of Jurai’s power awakening after exerting himself trying to open a bag of chips of all things. Sooo random.

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Hatoko’s Rant

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“I don’t understand. I don’t understand! I don’t understand a single word you say, Ju-kun! I don’t understand what’s good about the things you call good! I don’t understand! I can’t understand! What’s so cool about “Bloody”? I don’t like blood. Bleeding just hurts! What’s so cool about “madness”? I don’t understand what’s good about being crazy! What do you mean by “sinful”? What’s so good about having sin? Is it cool being a criminal? And what’s with “chaos,” anyway? Chaos? What about it? What about “darkness”? You want it to be dark? Between justice and evil, why is evil better? Why do you prefer evil? Isn’t it evil because it’s wrong? What’s so cool about your right arm aching? “I love the feeling of being unable to control my power”? What’s that? That just makes you a fool! It’s much cooler when you have control! THAT’S worthy of respect! What’s so awesome about hiding your power all the time? That’s just slacking off! It’s much cooler to face things head-on, at full strength, without hiding anything! Why do you give everything nicknames and aliases? Having so many different names only makes them hard to keep up with! Don’t use English or Katakana for everything! I can’t remember those! Don’t write “elegy” and read it “requiem”! Don’t write “forbidden” and read it “taboo”! Don’t write “holy war” and read it “jihad”! Greek myth, the Bible, Norse myth, Japanese myth…Don’t start talking about them just because you did a little research! If you don’t properly explain it, I can’t understand what you mean! If you’re going to teach me, teach me right! Listening to explanations about mythological weapons is not fun! Gungnir, Longinus, Excalibur, Durandal, and Ama-no-Murakamo-no-Tsurugi all mean nothing to me! I don’t understand what’s cool about them! All your other terminology is confusing, too! Original Sin, Ten Commandments, Book of Genesis, Book of Revelations, Armageddon…What do you mean by “their names are cool”? It’s impossible for me to “feel it by their atmosphere”! Relativity, Schrodinger’s cat, universal gravitation…Don’t act like you understand them because you read a little on the net! I can’t understand them at all if you give half-baked explanations! Don’t quote Nietzsche or Goethe! When you start quoting people I don’t know, I can’t understand what you’re trying to say at all! Talk to me in your own words! I’m begging you, speak so I can understand you! What is “chuuni”? What does “chuuni” mean? I don’t understand, I don’t understand, I don’t understand, I don’t understand! I don’t understand! I don’t understand a single word you’ve ever said at all, Ju-kun!”

[storms out]

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 07

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This week it’s Kushikawa Hatoko’s turn to be the focus, and her story is simple, and very sad: of all the girls in the lit club, she’s known Jurai the longest. As his childhood friend, she’s been by his side almost constantly. And yet, for all that closeness for all that time, she fears she understands “Ju-kun” the least.

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Now in high school and no longer kids, Hatoko is finding it harder to get her share of Ju-kun Time. She thinks she’s gotten just that, at least for a day,  when Jurai invites her to his house to cook for him and his sister. That’s right: despite her agreeing to cook for him, he won’t so much as walk home with her, so concerned is he about Tomoyo’s writer’s block. As he grows closer to Tomoyo, he drifts further from Hatoko…

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But as a couple of flashbacks indicate, as much as she’s been by Jurai’s side, she’s rarely been able to understand all the crazy things he says, or the weird literature he recommended. For years and years she laughed it off, pretending not to care about the lack of connection with him, but each time she did that she bottled up a little more stress.

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Jurai’s increasing attention to Tomoyo, combined with his own refusal to tell her what’s going on because “she wouldn’t understand”, increases that pressure to critical levels, and the sweet, kind, caring Hotoko simply…SNAPS, unleashing a free-wheeling three-minute-long tirade with no breaks about how she’s never understood a single thing he’s ever said to her, before storming out of his house in her slippers and apron, without her cell. I guess she just hit her limit.

Big kudos to her seiyu Hayami Saori for really belting it out; moreso, if she did it in a single take. This was a properly epic rant, and it was even a little meta, for those who may have been a little exhausted by this show’s intricate use of language.

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Jurai is…stunned. He had no idea Hatoko was anything other than nice and happy and stress-free, as bright and cheerful as the sun she cosplayed as a couple episodes back. He doesn’t even realize to the extent he’s ignored and devalued her lately, so immersed has he been with Tomoyo. A chance encounter with Sagami while he’s looking for her doesn’t help matters: he admits it’s always been tough for him and everyone else to watch him and Hatoko, so bad a fit they’ve always been.

Jurai gets depressed and falls down a hill, but Sayumi comes to heal him and help look for Hatoko, and Tomoyo comes too, giving him a slap in the face and telling Guiltia Sin Jurai to get it together, because she doesn’t like seeing him like this. She’s paying him back for helping her out of her light novel funk. I have to say, these two are coming along rather nicely.

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Speaking of chance encounters, Hatoko runs a very long way in those slippers and that apron, and comes upon Hajime of all people by the riverbank. She airs her troubles to him, and he gives her some very good advice, which calls back to his excellent discussion with Jurai about the inherent paradox of being a Chuunibyou. If you can’t understand it, don’t worry; you’re a necessary force in his life precisely for that reason, even if Jurai himself never thought of her that way.

Chuunibyous seek happiness like everyone else, and happiness is more than just love, but being chosen, which Hatoko wasn’t, which is why she’s so upset. But it’s only natural that she, the person who doesn’t understand him, would have an uphill battle against Tomoyo, the person who does.

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Sagami finishes up his lovely Chuuni explanation/pep talk by…oh yeah, knocking Hatoko out with some kind of superpower than calling all his conveniently close-by compatriots to gather round her.

Whoa. So…they all have powers too, right? You gotta hand it to this episode: it wasn’t satisfied with merely exploring Hatoko, but using the escalation of her drama as a catalyst to forward the overarching story, introducing a new force of people with powers…and unknown intentions.

Hatoko may not just need to be found and given a hug and an apology…she may need to be frigging rescued!

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Inou-Battle wa Nichijou-kei no Naka de – 06

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InoBato’s sixth outing tables the exploration of the potential rift between the girls as a result of their shared feelings for Jurai to take an entirely different Route: the one from Jurai to Sayumi, the tall, proper, raven-haired beauty who hasn’t had an episode devoted to her yet, while also revealing that she tried to use her power to erase everyone’s powers (including her own), ten months prior.

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When she feels under the weather after doing most of the work making a video game for Jurai’s birthday (a very sweet gesture on the part of the whole club, though Jurai’s in-game fantasy can’t touch Chu2Koi delusion for pizazz) Sayumi stays home for the day to rest. Jurai visits and learns she wears glasses and has a little sister nothing like her, and is generally happy to see her home-ier side. Then, while flipping through her middle school yearbook, he asks her why she didn’t try to become StuCo president in high school. She abruptly asks Jurai to leave.

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Combined with flashbacks – ostensibly from Jurai’s POV – of he and Sayumi having a fight over whether she should erase everyone’s powers, it seems clear he struck a nerve. But the fact is, Jurai is mistaken, and spends the entire episode worrying and investigating Sayumi and blaming himself needlessly. Sayumi doesn’t blame Jurai for anything…on the contrary, she’s grateful for the way things turned out.

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Sayumi, you see, strove to be the perfect, “proper woman”, as her strong, stern grandmother told her to. She still does. But in middle school, as StuCo Prez, that obsession made her lose sight of her friends. And when her powers awakened, she was frightened and didn’t know what to do – both natural, imperfect reactions to gaining seemingly boundless powers.

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She’s grateful because Jurai was essentially her hero on both counts. First, she helped put Sayumi’s mind at ease by setting a boundary to her powers. He does so with a daring gamble: fighting an unwinnable physical fight (because he won’t hit a girl) and letting her use her power…and it doesn’t work. She can’t use her powers to erase their powers. They’re stuck with them, but Jurai assures her and the others that he’ll watch over them.

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Sayumi and the others (except maybe Chifuyu) realize he’s likely just blowing smoke…but heck, they have these crazy powers…the possibility isn’t zero Jurai could actually be right. His tireless optimism galvanizes, cheers, and buoys her and the rest of the club. Thanks to him, she has friends she’d never have made had she joined the StuCo for selfish reasons.

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Sayumi is very different from Tomoyo and yet this episode did a great job making her almost as suitable and plausible a love interest for Jurai as the crimson-haired light novel author. The early, rigorous establishment of the Jurai’s distinct bonds with each of the girls is most welcome, and crucial to my being emotionally invested if and when the implied future conflict between said girls is revisited…or should Jurai have to make good on his boasts of being able to stop them should their powers go haywire. Either way, or both — I’m properly on board.

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