Fune wo Amu – 04

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Nishioka not only has the unhappy task of relaying the rumor their department’s ship may be scrapped before it gets out of drydock, but also comes up with a solution that might prevent the scrapping from taking place.

That solution requires him to use the skills that make him invaluable to the department outside its dusty walls: the ability to pound the pavement; schmooze and flatter; wheel and deal.

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The idea is, the more rumors spread about The Great Passage, the harder it will be for the publisher to cancel it without causing harm to their reputation. It also sound like a fine way to get on said publisher’s bad side.

The montage of everyone doing their part while Nishioka does his is…a bit sedate, but that’s the point. Like everything in this department, getting favorable result requires intense preparation, attention to detail, and patience. Those results don’t come fast…if they come at all.

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While on a well-earned day off, Nishioka opens up to his girlfriend about the “predicament” he’s in: a normal guy in a weird, “masochistic” job that will keep him busy until he’s bald, sharing an office with a weird guy who seems almost too perfect for the job of writing dictionaries.

I like how his girlfriend is mostly like “Uh-huh, that sounds rough bae, BRB need another beer!” but it’s an interesting and very different peek into Nishioka’s personal life that contrasts sharply with Majime’s in almost every way.

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I say almost because right not Majime also has not one but two women in his life: an old landlady trying to get him to court her granddaughter. Kaguya is pretty and seems nice enough, but she has yet to engender in me the same awe she does in Majime.

And sure, they share a desire to keep fighting for something even though it’s not quick or easy, and do make the episode’s titular “steady progress” by actually having a conversation, but it’s still a bit too steady (and early) for me to buy their romance.

Then again, love has many forms and colors, and theirs just may not be the flying-sparks variety, but something quieter, subtler, more outwardly mundane but inwardly profound.

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Hai to Gensou no Grimgar – 09

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This week wasn’t under any illusions about what it was: a day off, slowing the life of Haruhiro and his party to a crawl as they all take to the day in different ways. Ranta is off early to fish; Moguzo makes breakfast like he always does, and plans to see to his armor and sword maintenance; Shihoru feeds the birds (like Manato used to do); Yume sleeps in.

Haru is a little restless. After all that fighting and action and the routine they had established, he’s not sure what to do with this sudden glut of free time. So he visits Mary, who he finds resplendent on the balcony of the women’s lodgings, where men are okay to be.

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Mary recommends if the party members move out of the ratty default volunteer lodgings, the girls should come live with her. It’s hard to argue; it’s a sweet place. But she still thinks fondly of the old lodgings as the place where she started out with her previous party.

While waiting for a bite in the river, Ranta spots a figure on the cliff face: Yume is mountain climbing. Is this a skill she picked up as part of her hunting job, or is this a relfection of a hobby she had in her previous life? Regardless, Ranta looks spellbound, and along with Haru’s newfound comfiness with Mary is more evidence of how the couples would pair off.

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After wordlessly admiring the sun setting into the sea, Mary and Haru join the rest of the party at Sherry’s Tavern to plan their next move. Demuro is out for various reasons, and Haru is worried too much of the same thing could breed boredom and carelessness.

He’s thinking like a volunteer soldier: don’t get too comfortable, don’t get soft; find new challenges and become stronger. However, the place that comes to mind as a suitable new hunting grounds is the Cyrene Mine, and the mere mention of the place gets Mary upset to the point she has to leave.

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Whereas many times before he would have let her go, Haru is now in the habit of following Mary, not letting her think she’s alone in anything. When he comes, she’s clearly glad, but worries she’s become a burden to the party. Like Haru with the place where Manato was killed, a part of Mary wants to forget the mines ever existed.

But she also wants to move forward and face the mines, for herself and for the party. She just doesn’t think she can do it alone. If she had help from others, she might be able to do it. And she wants it to be him and the others. When she says she’s just causing trouble, Haru actually starts tearing up, though not, he thinks, because he’s sad.

Rather, he’s happy Mary wants the same thing he does, and she’s only mistaken if she thinks it’s not possible. When he brushes the tears away and says he feels stupid, Mary tells him he’s “fine just like that,” and thanks him for his support. Sorry shippers, no hug or kiss.

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The bulk of Haru’s physical contact this week, rather, comes from his master, Barbara, who beats the hell out of him in order to teach him her Spider technique. In the process of all the wrestling (and while sitting on him even as he takes a breather), Barb tells him to make one of the girls in his party his, preferably all of them.

Haru changes the subject to his ability to see enemies’ weak spots, and perhaps out of frustration from his inability to candidly talk about love, she goes at him even harder. Presumably some time passes and he masters the Spider skill, because the next we see the whole party in the mountains, poised to enter the Cyrene Mine.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 03

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Akabayashi Mizuki doesn’t like drugs. He doesn’t like them so much, in fact, that when some kids taking after Dollars and using the net for their rootless drug-dealing operation set up shop in the bathroom of an Awakusu Group nightclub, he feels the need to impress the lesson upon said lads: drugs are bad. Don’t sell them. Don’t do them. Flush them down the toilet. They and their jonesing customers will be better off; he’s sure of it.

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Why is he sure of it? Because drugs ended up killing the woman he loved, who happened to be Sonohara Anri’s mother, Sayaka. He fell for her when she slashed his eye with Saika six years ago, and though she had to refuse him because she already had a husband and family, her affection for her endured. When Sayaka’s husband became a violent drug addict (thanks to Akabayashi’s boss) and started abusing his family, including Anri, Sayaka killed him and herself, leaving Anri alone.

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When his boss, a particularly nasty piece of human garbage, shares his plans to adopt and pimp out Anri, it’s too much for Akabayashi to bear, to the point that when Sayaka’s kid brother shows up to stab his boss, Akabayashi does nothing to stop it, and his boss’s death is a victory for all decent humankind.

These events six and five years ago transformed Akabayashi from the wild “red demon” he was known as to a far mellower fellow, and it’s not hard to see why: after spending so long on the side of the night, Sayaka showed him the day, and he liked it. Now, in the present, he walks the thin line between night and day, protecting not only Anri but Awakusu Akane as well; and never passes up a chance to teach misguided youths that they do not want to be walking in the night.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 02

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This episode is called “Life is But a Dream”, which may not come from the most sophisticated or subtle song, but does manage to encapsulate the lives of Harima Mika and Yagiri Seiji. Considering everything these two have been through, having an ordinary life where they can go see movies and eat sushi together must feel like a dream. Too bad for Mika, then, that Namie isn’t done trying to wake her beloved brother up from that dream, and turn Mika’s into a nightmare.

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This episode also focuses in on the Namie-Seiji-Mika triangle that wasn’t really visited in the Shou cour, telling a relatively self-contained story that nonetheless depends on little assists from the rest of Durarara!!’s sprawling cast who are periphery this week. With Izaya in the hospital and his sisters feeding her good intelligence about her brother and Mika, Namie decides the time is right to lure Mika into another dark warehouse where she can rid herself of her once and for all.

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What neither Namie, nor I, expected was for Mika to put up such a good fight. Not only is she more athletic than either of us thought, she’s a lot shrewder, self-aware, and well, abnormal, to the point that Namie accepts her as a worthy rival rather than just trash. She ends up on top of Mika and is about to pour acid on her face, but Mika is able to keep her distracted long enough (by reciting all the secrets of the show, the protection of which keeps everything status quo) so that Seiji can figure out where Mika is, rescue her, then give Namie a calming not-kiss and scold her for “going too far.”

The status quo is maintained, Seiji and Mika remain an item, and Namie is appeased by the not-kiss for the time being. But both Namie and Seiji (and we) are also now more aware of what kind of person Mika is: the kind of person who would eat Celty’s head if it meant being able to stay by Seiji’s side.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 01

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It’s appropriate that I watched this particular episode of Durarara!! x2 on a national holiday like Independence Day, because this week pretty much everyone in the Drrr!! universe has the day off as well, as befits the day after all that excitement transpired.

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It’s a lazy, sprawling episode that checks in on almost everyone, even a few people I didn’t expect. It not only explores what it is to have a day off. Normal people go out and do something to experience something “abnormal”, while people who are abnormal every day (like most of the characters in this show) either don’t have days off or try to find even more abnormal experiences than they normally would.

Then we have Shingen warns CEO of Yagiri about getting too close to the likes of Yadogiri Jinnai, who may be shaping up to be the big bad after stabbing Izaya. He certainly seems to have his hands in all things abnormal. They’re just glimpses of these peoples lives, resulting in a scattered but eclectic “character flight” upon which to nibble before things get started in earnest.

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Fittingly for a down episode, we’re introduced to a character who considers her plight and her mission to be of the utmost importance, but to everyone else is about as insignificant as one of the extras walking Ikebukuro’s streets. This girl, who holds a murderous grudge against Izaya for getting her involved in that suicide business under his alias “Nakura”, learns about Izaya’s stabbing from The Great Connector—local TV—and decides tonight’s the night to exact her revenge.

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Izaya joked during his long and boring time recovering in the hospital that with enough properly placed rumors about Shizuo, some less informed individuals with bones to pick might get the idea that he’d be vulnerable to attack. Thanks to the news report, it’s Izaya who is the “sitting duck”, or at least appears that way, but even if this disgruntled girl prepared her body and mind for this night, she’s still no match for even a recently-stabbed Izaya.

But even though the girl fails, the fact she saw the news and came to Izaya’s hospital room to murder him inadvertently serves as the latest example of why Izaya loves the humanity he observes so much. Even with everything he’s seen and experienced on the superhuman or non-human side of the world, sometimes ordinary humans can surprise him too.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 08

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Aw, sucks to be the only Norma who has to stay on duty…

I won’t lie…I was kind of dreading this episode. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, it wasn’t that bad at all. But why don’t I let Ange herself give us a quick synopsis, speaking as the mascot “Perolina”:

It’s the long-awaited swimsuit episode, pero. But there were only a few slurpy scenes, pero. Running pigs, stinky outfits, and a great escape, pero! Do they really know what a swimsuit episode is, pero? You’re just making me make funny noises, aren’t you? Pero!

I love Ange’s little meta commentaries after the episodes. In addition to being funny, they prove the show has a cheeky sense of awareness that knows when it’s being exploitative and knows when to pull back on the fanservice throttle, for instance, and give us some meat and potatoes.

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Yes, even in Hell, there’s a day off for hope, fun, and happiness, if only one. I’m not averse to this concept; at some point, all the Norma in Arzenal will snap and go nuts and probably cause a great deal of damage…if not given some kind of release valve. Granted other valves already exist — from the marketplace to spend one’s earnings to tacitly permitting conjugation. But the Festa is a day long deep-scrub of all the crap that’s been built up. I daresay the ladies deserve it.

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Ange mentioned a great escape, though. There are actually two that take place this week, and these events thankfully push the Festa into the background where it’s more than tolerable. The first is borne out of Ange’s totally understandable depression over the plight of her sister Sylvia. Initially she believes there’s nothing she can do, but an opportunity presents itself when Misty Rosenblum, whose family administrates Arzenal and who once played lacrosse with Ange a lifetime ago, arrives on the island to meet Ange.

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Ange isn’t the only one not into the spirit of the Festa. Emma seems to resent giving these filthy barbaric Norma a day of sun and fun, and stays stubbornly in her duty uniform, as this isn’t her festa. I liked this little exchange while she was searching for Ange, because it underlines her disapproval with this whole exercise.

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Ange, meanwhile, has shrewedly hidden herself within the Perolina suit, wanders off to the flight deck, scares off a couple of lovers, and broods in peace. Then she spots the Rosenblum crest on the transport ship and hatches a plan: she’ll take Misty hostage and force her to fly her off the island, so she can find Sylvia.

This is important for Ange not just because it’s her little sister, but because Ange blames herself for paralyzing Sylvia when she fell from a horse during a ride. When she though Sylvia was dead she was content to be Ange, but she’s not, so she has to try to save her.

But Ange wasn’t the first person to come up with this plan: Hilda, who has been just as sullen at the Festa, has been waiting for this day to escape.

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Contrast that with Ersha, who suited up as Pero first and then gets a massage, or Salia, who avails herself of the cinema, pop culture aficionado that she is. And then there’s Chris and Roselie, who deal with Hilda avoiding them after they ‘betrayed’  her, in different ways.

Roselie washes her worries in gambling, but Chris decides to put everything into winning all the sporting events and a fat prize check so she can spend it with Roselie…and Hilda. It’s a great character beat for Chris, who we haven’t seen much of, but who genuinely cares about Hilda.

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Speaking of cash, Ange leaves enough to cover the weapons she’s taking aboard the ship (which are guarded by a dog easily bribed by a tub full of cheeseburgers, the functional equivalent of diverting a pursuing dog with a string of wieners).

Ange and Misty arrive at the ship to find Hilda and Momoka already there, and that’s when Hilda suggests they team up, for a better chance of getting away. Ange grudgingly agrees when Hilda points out the arresting locks need to be unlocked to take off.

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After a nifty, carefully-coordinated operation in which they wait until the noisy fireworks start, they get the transport moving. Now Hilda just needs to catch up with it and jump aboard…something Ange isn’t so sure she wants to allow after all.

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“CURSE YOUR SUDDEN BUT INEVITABLE BETRAYAL!”

When Ange starts goading Momoka to take off without Hilda, something that doesn’t sit right with the still morally pure maid, Hilda forces the issue and makes a desperate leap onto the ramp, and we learn the truth about Hilda: everything she’s done, from becoming Zola’s plaything to befriending Roselie and Chris to planning this escape, she’s done to get back home to her mother. She’s going to get off this rock or die trying. At the last moment, Ange lends her an outstretched arm to prevent her from dying, and their alliance holds. And all this in flip-flops!

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Once they reach land, they ditch Misty and the transport quickly, Hilda unearths her motorcycle, and then heads off on her own to the Enderant Union to find her mom, but not before an exchange of respectful looks and promises not to die. While they were bitter enemies at Arzenal, finally putting aside their differences led to their freedom. But how long will that freedom last?

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