Kabukichou Sherlock – 09 – Not Who They Seem

Irene has a target on her back now courtesy of Jack, who wants the egg USB drive back. It’s decided that she should stay with Sherlock for the time being for her own safety, which means Watson has to move out.

The episode plays on Sherlock’s obvious attraction to Irene, as well as Irene’s general fitness as a domestic partner—she even gets him to eat ordinary food! She also has fun teasing him, because apparently when it comes to women Sherlock is thirteen years old.

The same goes for Kyougoku, who his head-over-heels in love with Maki-chan and has a plan to woo her that’s straight out of a middle-schooler’s mind.  He places her on an impossibly high pedestal and showers her with gifts, including a diamond ring to hold her hand, but all Maki-chan wants is a boyfriend with whom to go on ordinary dates.

Maki gets her wish, and they eventually end up in a hotel, where Kyougoku presumably learns Maki’s secret down below. The outcome of this particular plot is ambiguous and not particularly compelling. That the success of Kyougoku’s plan somehow inspires Watson to serve as a lookout for Irene (once Sherlock’s place is ransacked and they move her to a former yakuza hideout)—it’s a bit thin, motivation-wise.

Much is made this week about him having nothing to do, which makes you wonder whether he’ll ever bring up his case with Sherlock, or if it’s a running gag that he never will. Matters are made worse by the fact Watson is terrible at keeping Irene safe. On her first night in the theater, she gets stabbed, while Sherlock runs after a decoy. He’s not even a good doctor, as he fails to administer any kind of first aid, but just kneels beside her, gawking.

It isn’t until later, when Sherlock gives word that Irene has died of her injuries, that Watson realizes Moriarty—who was with Irene just before he arrived—shouldn’t have known where Irene was. Many clues in this and previous episodes point to Moriarty as Jack. I’m also not convinced Irene is really dead. Sherlock may just be saying that in earshot of Moriarty because he’s already pegged the kid as the culprit.

Sousei no Onmyouji – 10

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Remember English Tea Lady? Turns out she’s not English, and her name is Mitejima Subaru. Benio’s former master shows up unannounced and the Twin Star Exorcists wastes no time asking her to train them (since Seigen’s too busy). I for one was glad to hear Sawashiro Miyuki, and her sidekick Tatara was pretty funny with his bread crusts and emoticon face veil.

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Subaru agrees to train them…almost too easily, and we learn why pretty fast: they never stipulated HOW she should train them to become stronger, so she institutes her own regimen, one based on getting the “newlyweds” closer, from dressing them up in sharp threads to challenging Rokuro to properly compliment Benio (which he can’t).

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Subaru pulls up dangerously in her stunning Talbot-Lago to check on the non-lovebirds’ progress (or lack thereof), and before long even Benio’s blind faith that her master knows what she’s doing erodes, once she remembers Subaru mostly talked about how awful most men are, and how to defend against them. That being said, the romantic tension between Roku and Beni is wonderfully palpable, even with something as “easy” as holding hands.

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Things escalate from hand-holding to heart-pancake-feeding to flat out kissing, and Rokuro taps out, with a disillusioned Benio joining him in withdrawing from Subaru’s “training” for the day. These two just don’t do well when being forced, but their chemistry is such that they can coexist just fine on their own. Rokuro gets Benio some ohagi (on Arima’s dime), and Benio offers him one (of hundreds). Roku also seems genuinely charmed by Benio while she’s blissfully gorging.

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Naturally, some Kegare have to show up, and the effects of Rokuro’s encounter with Yuto means his gauntlet is still… a bit unruly. But rather than ignore it and fight on her own, Benio spends a good deal of her mana in order to calm his right arm.

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But because she’s so spent from the effort, Rokuro has to face the huge horde of Kegare on his own while protecting her, which means, without thinking, he draws her close and holds her. Still, things look grim, but just as naturally as Kegare always show up on SnO, someone shows up to bail out the original combatants.

This time Roku and Beni are the rescuees and Subaru showing off her impressive arsenal of spiritual firearms, a shtick that owes much to Mami from Puella Magi Madoka Magica (much like Magano’s aesthetic). “Scatter, Endless Rhapsody – Disperse beautifully” are some pretty slick callouts!

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So, lesson learned: Rokuro and Benio are closer than they normally think, depsite being standoffish towards each other most of the time, when shit hits the fan they come together, and the closer they get, the stronger they’ll become, together.

And since Arima also sent Subaru in order to help get the couple’s romance flowing a little better, they’ll be stuck in her “training sessions” – including the intriguing “nighttime marital activities” department – for the foreseeable future.

That’s fine by me; I love watching the two squirm and blush as much as I love watching them kick Kegare ass. But most of all, I like it when they simply get along; not sniping, but just enjoying each other’s company.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 06

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Because she can be terribly vain sometimes and puts up with a little too much of Kyoya’s devaluing abuse (read: projecting), sometimes one can forget that Erika is a pretty good catch herself. She’s cute, she’s passionate, and she’s kind…to a fault, it would seem this week, as we meet they guy all the way in the back row of the promo art’s group photo: Kusakabe Yuu.

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For one thing, Erika can detect Yuu’s existence, something Aki and Marin aren’t able to do. Yuu apologizes for existing, but Erika’s persistent niceness affects him even stronger: being a details-oriented observant gal, she graciously points out the possible reasons Yuu is treated like a ghost and offers advice that pays off nicely. Then Kyoya notices her talking intently with Yuu and butts in, making Yuu revert to his old self in an instant.

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Because it’s Valentine’s Day, Erika makes chocolate cupcakes for Kyoya, when he says he won’t not accept something if she makes it for him (that’s about as nice as he allows himself to be in that exchange). Again, it’s the Code he uses, which suggests he couldn’t care less. When he sees Erika give Yuu a cupcake meant for him, it becomes abundantly clear he couldn’t care more. Also, I was horrendously premature in my assessment last week that Kyoya’s not a little boy anymore; for that I apologize!

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Rather, he’s a delicate little flower not above ruining everyone’s day if something displeases him, and seeing Erika pay attention to any other guy displeases him rotten. Poor Erika goes over in her head how things went so sour, and comes upon the fact that maybe she was too nice. She did mention to Yuu that if speaking truthfully, the high she gets from doing a good deed supersedes a kind of latent selfishness or moral purity. She got a little too hugh on those Yuu-helping vapors, and got burned.

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But at least her intentions were good (those the road to hell are paved with, right?). Kyoya, meanwhile, is just a petulant little shit for the duration. Another decent lad, Kakeru, despite being a male bimbo who wolfs down all the chocolate he and Kyoya got from girls, has the wisest advice Kyoya could hope to hear: there’s a limit to the abuse Erika can and will take before even she leaves him. They’re words already in Kyoya’s head, no doubt; hearing Takeru echo them probably only upsets him more. He’s dug a big hole and has no idea how to get out.

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Meanwhile, just as Kakeru foretold, Kusakabe becomes Erika’s sounding board for her troubles with Kyoya. When he learns the kind of person he truly is (and nothing Erika says is particularly exaggerated), Yuu finds his in and asks if she’d be willing to accept him. Yuu is all too aware of his surface shortcomings, but unlike Kyoya, he isn’t rotten on the inside, and vows to treasure Erika and never cause her to suffer or cry.

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His confession shakes Erika out of her spell, and she Yuu him for what he is: a kind and very comely guy. Tired from the effort she’s put into Kyoya with so little progress, she sees a path of less resistance with Yuu, and is in the emotionally exhausted position to seriously consider his offer.

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Back at school, Kyoya is surprised that Erika hasn’t spammed his phone and is nowhere in sight. He even almost asks Sanda where she is…have we ever seen him this flustered? 

Then he crosses paths with Yuu, the guy who has no chance against him, no chance, d’you hear? – and Yuu tells him straight up, with eyes un-hidden by bangs, another sentiment already rattling around in Kyoya’s head: “Erika is wasted on you. She deserves better. I’m awaiting her response.”

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Because the last thing he would do is show that this sudden turn of events has cut and distressed him deeply, Kyoya tells Yuu he hopes they make each other very happy in their pure and beautiful (not said: dull and predictable) life, and again asserts that Erika was only ever a way to kill time.

And because this is a small school, Erika overhears all of this, mixes it with all the similar crap he’s said to her recently, takes him at his outward words which she can’t keep form hurting her. Note how she doesn’t break the necklace Kyoya gave her.

She couldn’t explain to Yuu why she loved Kyoya, who made her suffer so. The why didn’t matter to her at first, but maybe now, halfway through Ookami’s run and realizing other options are available, it’s starting to.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 05

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Aki and Marin reminded us so much of futaba’s superficial friends of Ao Haru Ride, I thought Erika would eventually go on a similar “realness” trip and dump them, but to the show’s credit, they’re keeping them around, only their role has changed. Now instead of being slightly annoyed by them talking about their boyfriends, Erika is jealous of their happiness with pliable boyfriends, not hard to crack nut like Kyoya.

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Jeez, has it only been five episodes? Things are moving along so well on Ookami Shoujo. I feel like most shows like it take an entire cour to get to where Kyoya and Erika are romantically even though there’s still much work to be done and fresh obstacles on the horizons. I say “work”, but as the next episode music suggests, Erika’s struggle is a battle, one to wrench open Kyoya’s heart and conquer it.

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Making that happen starts with believing it can be done, because despairing at his imposing gates, believing their impregnable-looking surface, will only lead to defeat. While going over her ideal Christmas (which is pretty standard: cake, fried chicken, gifts, being together), Kyoya complains on more than one occasion that “women are a pain”, and Erika agrees. He’s not wrong; women are a pain…but so are men. Especially Kyoya.

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After touching cheeks during their staged Christmas selfie she promised to send to Aki and Marin (a promise she cares about keeping) and going to a cafe to warm up, Erika gets a stomachache, then asks Kyoya a direct question in an attempt to quell it: “What am I to you?” Is she nothing but a useful servant? A convenient toy? Does he care about her? Erika is essentially scrambling up Kyoya’s ramparts here, blind to all the defenses he has waiting for her at the top; defenses she’s seen before.

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Her own defenses drop completely when Kyoya gives her precisely the perfect response of her dreams: He likes her, always has, but has been to shy to come out and say it, and the nervousness that builds from that pressure led to all of the nasty teasing. When she asks him to have a silly cliche Christmas night with her, he agrees without complaint, saying that whatever will be fun if it’s done with her.

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I’ll admit, my defenses were lowered too, this went on so long. Then evil shadows form on his face and he admits to just messing with her, calling it a “monkey show” and mocking her gullibility.  In other words, he pours hot pitch down upon her, and she falls back down to the base of the wall. Kyoya gets a glass of ice water to the face. He’s a terrible piece of trash, Erika shouts, and she hopes he dies, storming out in a public display.

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Men aren’t just a “pain” to women (and vice versa) because they make you jump through hoops, or interpret things without sufficient information from your perspective: they’re a literal emotional and physical pain. A pain in the gut, A dull burning in the heart. Kyoya cuts deeper there than he ever had before, and I feel Erika’s pain clearly, having been there as we all have.

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Here’s the maddening thing about Kyoya: he cruelly passed his sweet and sincere confession off as false, but it wasn’t the content of the confession that was really false; only the florid presentation. Confessing like that isn’t Kyoya’s style; it’s far outside is comfort zone where he picks on and teases and runs down Erika because, almost like a little boy who likes a girl, he doesn’t know how to process what he’s feeling, and that frustration causes him to lash out. It’s pretty textbook stuff…but Kyoya isn’t a little boy anymore, and he knows he went to far.

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Erika’s parents are really chill. They didn’t even make the couple keep the door open!

But in fixing things, which is what he wants it wouldn’t do him any good to pretend he’s comfortable (yet) saying the kinds of things that made Kyoya so happy she cried. No, he atones in the most Sata Kyoya way possible: announcing himself as her boyfriend to her folks, coming into Erika’s room, demanding an apology for her throwing water and wanting him to die, and slapping a “collar” – or rather, a cute gold necklace, around her neck, so everyone knows she’s his. He resorts to his code.

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BAAAAAAAAAW. So f-ing cute. And hey, we finally learn Aki and Marin’s boyfriends are REAL!

The impregnable defense Kyoya maintains is as false and deceptive as the psych-out that got water thrown in his face. Erika hasn’t busted open the gates to brought her main force in yet, but she did sneak over the walls, and found that she’s always had a place there. He won the battle in the cafe, but she won the battle after that, when Kyoya comes to her and, in his way, apologizes and tries to make things right. Like me, Erika chooses to believe what Kyoya said, because that was him going out on a limb, before retreating and laughing it off as a joke.

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But, yeah, the war isn’t over. Post-credits, we see Kyoya returning home to a ringing phone. After the answering machine prompt, the caller hangs up without a word. Who was this? Kyoya’s parent? A stalker or ex-girlfriend-gone-bad? My two guesses: either a red herring cliffhanger to be quickly resolved next week (less likely) or…trouble (more likely). Trouble for Kyoya, trouble for Erika, trouble for Kyoya+Erika, and trouble for me.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 04

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“Back again so soon?”

It’s one thing to end the third episode with a confession, regardless of result, so much sooner than I expected. It’s another still for Erika to cross paths with the girl who was at Kyoya’s place before him, hears that “he’s done with girls because he has a dog now”, then rushes back for clarification! This is just outstanding initiative from Erika, who won’t let things stand the last time she was this door. But while she gets him to believe she really does like him, she doesn’t get a straight answer about his feelings for her (though the “got a dog, done with girls” comment to that other girl made it pretty clear to me).

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Letting a soccer ball hit Erika head-on, then punching the one who kicked it…that’s Kyoya for you

With the answer still ambiguous to her about whether Kyoya likes her in the same way, she decides to operate under the assumption he doesn’t…quite yet, and that it falls to her to do something about it. Enter Kyoya’s friend from middle school, Hibiya Takeru, who comes in and immediately makes a big impact on the show.

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Likely still too sore over Kamiya’s deception to talk to him, and with Sanda never talking to Kyoya, she needs an ally, and finds one in the muscular, boisterous Takeru, who is very gung-ho about helping her crack the infuriating nut that is Sata Kyoya. But enthusiasm and good intentions don’t necessarily translate into success, and they don’t here.

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Backfired!

In short, Kakeru give Erika terrible, terrible advice and goofy stunts that would never work in a million years. It might even be that not allying herself with Kakeru could have made her better off, because all his advice seems to afford her is the opportunity to make a fool of herself in front of Kyoya again and again.

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The contents of Kakeru’s mind would make great van murals

That said, I’m glad Erika now has another friend (and a guy, at that), who she can talk with about these things earnestly. His ideas for her may be cockamamie, but she carries them out to the letter regardless; after all, love makes fools of us all. She’s so desperate for results, she pretty much ignores the logical side of her brain telling her this is all a waste of time, effort, and dignity.

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Your advice is crap! GIVE ME MORE!!!

Fortunately for us, watching Kakeru and Erika in action also happens to be a hoot and a half. Not only because they have great comedic chemistry, but because they’re both romantics, and feed off each other’s energy where someone like Kyoya either sucks it all up or deflects it entirely. Kakeru may be a a bit of a Mimbo, and more chivalrous and devoted to Erika’s cause than the average joe would be, but he’s a heckuva lot more normal than Kyoya in how he interacts with Erika. He and Erika are on the same level.

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That’s refreshing after seeing Erika play the servile supplicant so frequently, even though I know it’s been her choice to do so. You probably know where I’m going with this: the more I watch Kakeru and Erika together, the more I’m thinking they’d make a better couple, to the point even both of them seem to get that vibe. Kakeru uses this for his last, and perhaps riskiest idea yet: calling both Erika and Kakeru out, saying he’s fallen for Erika, and forcing Kyoya to decide right then and there.

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Oh, man, look at that! It’s a triangle! So on-the-nose. But hey, it’s also covered in little “cracks”, which means it’s a brittle triangle. While the prospect of Kakeru being a legitimate rival for Erika’s heart, the reality is, he hasn’t really fallen for her. The triangle is only rhetorical, and that’s how Kyoya sees it, which is why his seemingly cold, assholish response makes perfect sense: He tells Kakeru to “do what he wants”, even though it breaks Erika’s heart right then and there, because he knows Kakeru isn’t serious. In other words, “Nice try, but this isn’t going to work on me either.”

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Erika’s heartbreak is short-lived, as Kyoya chases after her and gives her a real arm (not a plastic skeleton arm this time), and essentially tells her she’s just going to have to keep working at it if she really feels the way she does. He’s essentially asking for even more emotional commitment from her…but he is asking for it, about as nicely as he can. As he says to Kakeru, “I’ll decide when I’ve fallen for Erika.” Neither Kakeru or Erika can decide. He’s asking Erika to buy into the self-importance he’s placing on himself, like a leap of faith, not knowing where it will lead, but looking forward to seeing what happens.

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And just to put a final cork in the short-lived Kakeru+Erika route, in a post-credits scene Erika meets Kakeru at the riverbank to politely reject him; naturally, he forgot he confessed to her for real. He may not be a love interest, nor a particularly useful ally in Erika’s fight for Kyoya. But he is still a new, real friend she can treasure. And real is always valuable.

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Kiseijuu: Sei no Kakuritsu – 02

They may lack emotion, but they still know to pretend to be a Good Samaritan to get some alone time with dinner
They may lack emotion, but they still know to pretend to be a Good Samaritan to get some alone time with dinner

Humans think they’re real hot shit, don’t they? Even a quiet, mild-mannered, normal kid like Izumi Shinichi is utterly convinced the inviolability of human life is absolute, and that the grisly murders of people by “things” like his right hand must be opposed and the things responsible stopped. But his hand, which names itself “Migi”, doesn’t see a problem: his brethren are eating; that’s all.

It definitely a plus that Shinichi's love interest is Hana-Kana
It definitely a plus that Shinichi’s love interest is Hana-Kana

At least you know where evil and hatred stand, but there is no evil or hatred in the parasites; they’re merely carrying out their natural biological process. Humans just happen to be on the wrong end of the fork. Now they know how cows, pigs, and a multitude of other animals feel. But still, Shinichi thinks it’s different.

"YOU WON'T LIKE ME WHEN I'M ANGRY", or "MEIN FUHRER, I CAN WALK!"? How about both
“YOU WON’T LIKE ME WHEN I’M ANGRY”, or “MEIN FUHRER, I CAN WALK!”? How about both

And, of course, it is different. Humanity’s belief in its own primacy may well be just a matter of chemistry and biology itself, but like Shinichi, we are humans and so seeing so many of us turned into mincemeat, no matter how flawed they might be, its unsettling and just plain not okay. Especially when the next victim could be someone you care about.

Don't cross me, Shinichi. Don't ever cross me.
Don’t cross me, Shinichi. Don’t ever cross me.

For Shinichi, that someone is Murano Satomi (Hanazawa Kana), and she happens to like him to. After Migi sinks a half-court shot on the court, she formally forgives him and asks him out for pancakes. I’m really enjoying their fumbling yet tender courtship, and of the high school milieu in general; even in the midst of such grisly murders; it speaks to how mass media and the internet have desensitized us as a society to the horrors in the world.

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The sounds Migi makes when morphing are best described as…skin-crawling

But Shinichi’s interactions with Murano underscore to him and us just how much he stands to lose if he leaves the mincemeat murderers be. That all threatens to become moot when a full-body parasite encounters and corners him, then invites Migi to “transfer” to his body and share his host, which will enable them to live longer. Again, Shinichi comes just an inch away from dying. He may not look it, but he’s livin’ on the edge.

"Hop on, there's room for two!"
“Hop on, there’s room for two!”

And that right there is the first sign that these things have a semblance of community, even if they lack empathy for other life. Because they value their own lives, and joining forces will lengthen their lives, logic dictates that they should join forces; there’s no need for emotional input. Migi declines and instead kills his brethren, explaining he didn’t know the transfer would be successful, and stating once more: “I value my own life.”

Migi NOT saving Shinichi's life, only saving his own life...and Shinichi's too
Migi NOT saving Shinichi’s life, only saving his own life…and Shinichi’s too

While one could argue that a little of Shinichi’s empathy is seeping into Migi and a kind of rudimentary emotional bond is forming, we also can’t rule out that Migi will only continue to protect Shinichi as long as it serves his purposes. The enemy remains within as well as without, and as I said, it’s an enemy with no hatred or fear. Or anything. The parasites can’t very well be the “demons” Shinichi labels them without those things.

So pleasant...how long can it last
So pleasant…how long can it last

It’s really humans, or at least a lot of them, (or even everyone, at moments) who are the closest thing to demons, says Migi. Shinichi’s Adorable Pancake Date with Murano takes a dark turn when the encounter youths trying to hit a cat they buried in the sand with rocks. I couldn’t help but think Shinichi was thinking “Ya see? It’s little shits like you give our species a bad name!” before scaring them off and rescuing the cat in front of the animal-loving Murano.

Just go get eaten, punks!
Just go get eaten, punks!

Here’s the thing: the parasites aren’t punishing people for misdeeds; their targets are random. This isn’t karma, it’s merely nature. Even so, Shinichi wants to use Migi’s power to protect as much life as he can. He isn’t someone who can just stand by when he might have the power to do something. Migi is dubious; no doubt because of the risks involved.

For all the gross twisting and meshing of body parts, the show can still pull off something sweet like Shinichi and Murano holding hands for the first time with aplomb
For all the gross twisting and meshing of body parts, the show can still pull off something sweet like Shinichi and Murano holding hands for the first time with aplomb

Both after the basketball shot and after this incident with the rock throwers, Murano is warm and affectionate, but she also seems to need Shinichi to say he really is Shinichi. And to a casual observer, it would appear like he’s under the influence of some kind of love potion. She’s not used to him being so…capable, though it’s not as if she doesn’t like this new side of him.

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“I’m going to switch to your left hand, if you don’t mind. That okay?”

Two episodes in and I’ve now seen the show consistently excel at delivering both skin-crawling body horror (with philosophical subtext) and charming, realistic, but probably doomed romance. For all the gross stuff it does with body parts. The soundtrack also continues to distinguish itself, in that it always seems to bring the right music for the situation. I even heard a bit of Vangelis inspiration in there. It’s as quirky and eclectic as the rest of the show.

No...HUMAN BEING...makes love like this.
No…HUMAN BEING…would make love like this.

The final scene where to full-body parasites—a man and a woman—stand naked in the moonlight, about to perform a human mating ritual. It will be completely devoid of love (or any emotion at all), but they’re probably doing it in an effort to better emulate human behavior. In other words, if Shinichi wants to put a stop to them, he’d better hustle!

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Kami nomi zo Shiru Sekai – 01 (Revisited)

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Antisocial high school student and self-styled dating sim “God of Conquest” Katsuragi Keima unknowingly signs a contract with a demon from hell, Elucia “Elsie” de Lute Ima, to assist her in the retrieval of loose souls, which embed themselves within the hearts of troubled girls. To release the souls (and for Elsie and Keima to keep their heads) he must take their place in the girls’ hearts, i.e., make the girls fall in love with him. Their first target is his classmate and track team hopeful Takahara Ayumi, who looks down on Keima, calling him a “dweeb.”

Keima commences a campaign of intensive cheering for Ayumi, who initially thinks he’s mocking her. When her senpai accuses her of getting cocky after a fluke performance, Ayumi trips on a hurdle intentionally to take her out of the meet, so she won’t cause them trouble. Keima encourages her and confesses his love, and when he starts to fall down the stairs, Ayumi catches him and they embrace in a kiss, releasing the loose soul, which Elsie captures. Afterwards, Ayumi wins a medal at the meet, but has no memory of the “conquest.” Elsie enrolls in Keima’s class posing as his sister.

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With only one week until the completion of its third season, we thought we’d look back on the episode that started it all. We first watched and reviewed this episode way back on 8 October 2010, and gave it a 3 out of 4 on our old rating system, but aside from that date and rating, we decided not to read what we wrote back then until writing about our impressions this time around. From the perspective of those now very familiar with the franchise, you’d think we’d find highly introductory (by necessity, as it’s the first) nature of this episode would make it a bit of a bore to watch. Not so. On the contrary: we enjoyed it more the second time.

We were always impressed by the guile and confidence with which this series got out of the gate, which parallels Keima’s confidence in throwing himself into his very first mission, despite having never even held a real girl’s hand. We forgot that Ayumi was first conquered in just this one episode – a breeze compared to Keima’s present struggles in the Goddesses Arc. We also forgot that Elsie was prepared to give up and die with Keima after learning his experience was limited to dating sims, but Keima said ‘screw that’ and stepped up, not just to save his own head, but Elsie’s too. And the rest is history.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)