To Your Eternity – S2 06 – The Church of Heavy Metal

When Parona!Fushi mentions how they’ve been reading up on the concept of marriage and the “fluffy feeling” she gets from Kahaku and others, he embraces them, and that’s when Fushi becomes nauseous. As it happens, even if Fushi were open to becoming Kahaku’s wife, that’s not something Parona would tolerate. The very touch of Kahaku repels Parona, who was murdered by Hayase. Bon orders Kahaku to stay away from Fushi for the time being.

The campaign to gain Fushi followers continues in the next city, but this time many of the townsfolk have heard rumors that Fushi can now resurrect the dead. While true in the case of Anna, this comes as a surprise to Fushi, since Bon never told them. Fushi is shunted off into an alley, where a Bennett priest warns them that Bon is to be arrested and executed for heresy, but if Fushi surrenders willingly, their friends will be spared.

Fushi agrees, but neither Kahaku nor Todo buy what the Church is selling. Bon, when approached by Bishop Cylira, he grudgingly agrees to give Fushi up in exchange for a recommendation from the Church that Bon ascend to the throne of Uralis. It’s not what he wants, but it’s what’s best for his kingdom, and also what he’s been working for his whole life.

Todo whips up the crowd, and a town guard captain seemingly has Team Fushi’s back when he insists the church prove Fushi is a demon and not a servant of God. Cylira does so by giving Fushi a test: if they can’t revive a recently-deceased bishop, the church will have its proof.

Fushi, who at this point is still convinced they can’t revive anyone, copies the bishop’s corpse but is unable to revive him. They’re seized, and when Bon, Todo, and Kahaku try to intervene, Todo is stabbed by a sword and Bon is knocked out.

Bon comes to in an open-air cell suspended above a canyon, stripped of his gramps’ heirloom armor. Fushi is arguably worse off, as they’ve been sealed in a solid iron box. Fushi transforms into Gugu and breathes fire on the circular hatch, but can’t quite get it hot enough to melt the iron. After several attempts, Fushi starts to feel winded and nauseous.

The Beholder tells him he’s missing something they need (I’m guessing fresh air), and no matter who he transforms into, the bad feeling doesn’t subside. Then the hatch opens and molten metal starts to pour on them. The Beholder starts counting to see how long Fushi can last in a constant state of immolation and regeneration.

Of Team Fushi, only Kahaku and a handful of Guardians remain free. When they try to free Fushi from the cell in the dead of night, Pocoa emerges from her barrel and urges caution, and asks Kahaku to have faith in Bon and Fushi’s luck.

She might not be wrong, either! Todo, at least, survived the sword strike thanks to her embroidery stopping the blade before it could pierce her. Bon and Todo realize they’re in adjacent cells; perhaps they can work together. And even after over 100,000 seconds (over 27 hours), Fushi the immortal’s body still has form. All we can do is wait and see if that’s enough.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Chainsaw Man – 07 – Loosening the Screws

When Kobeni accidentally stabbed Aki, Himeno started to lose it, because she felt like she was going to lose the latest in a long line of unfortunate partners. But while she despaired, Denji scoffed. He didn’t ask Aki to save him, and is done owing anybody anything, so he happily dives into the fell eldritch mass that is the Eternity Devil and pulls his ripcord.

It doesn’t take long for Denji to start losing some serious blood, but once he starts drinking the devil’s blood, he basically becomes a self-healing “perpetual motion machine”, boasting that he, not Power, will be the one to win that Nobel Prize.

In a flashback, Himeno visits her parents’ graves with her master; like Aki, she lost them to the Gun Devil, which is why she joined the force. But her master warns that a devil hunter cannot be too earnest straight-laced—devils know exactly how to fuck with and kill those kinds of people. All of Himeno’s previous partners died because they were too sane, and feared the devils, and devils love fear.

Her master “loosened the screws” by drinking heavily on occasion. Knowing that Aki is another upstanding lad, she tried to get him to quit the force and follow her into the safer private sector, but he refused. But as she watches Denji, Himeno sees what the ideal devil hunter is like: window-lickingly insane, unpredictable, and immune to the devil’s mind games.

When Denji’s motor cuts out, Himeno uses her ghost arm to pull his cord, and for three days he tears at the Eternity Devil until he finally reaches its core. By then, it is pleading for its life, but Denji slices it in two. Just like that, the hunters are off the eighth floor and out of the hotel.

No sooner do they leave the hotel than Denji passes out, but Himeno is there to carry him on her back to the hospital. Later, during a mission with Aki, Himeno proposes the whole squad go out for drinks to break the ice … to loosen the screws. Also, bury the hatchet vis-a-vis everyone trying to kill Denji.

Leave it to Chainsaw Man to make the izakaya where the 4th division meets up look like just the place I want to be on a Friday night. The beers are tall, cold, and frosty, and the snacks look delectable (so much so that Power systematically hoards them).

We meet a couple other division members, one of whom recently lost his rookie subordinate, just like that. A haunted look washes over Kobeni as she reckons with the fact that people in their line of work live short lives.

Denji brings up the kiss Himeno promised, but she tells him she needs to drink more first. Things get complicated for Denji when Makima arrives fashionably late wondering what all this talk of kissing is about.

When Aki asks Makima straight-up why she’s so interested in Denji, she says she’ll answer, but only if he can outdrink her. As expected, he can’t, as both he and Himeno fall to her indomitable tolerance. At this point, Himeno’s screws have been sufficiently loosened that she decides to bestow her promised kiss upon Denji’s lips.

It’s his first kiss, with tongue … and also with Himeno’s vomit. Turns out she loosened the screws a bit too much. Denji swallows some of it and gets ruinously drunk (it shocks everyone to learn he’s only 16). He and Arai have a bonding moment when he helps Denji boot—Arai having experience helping his alcoholic mom.

With the hour growing late and everyone sufficiently lubricated, the 4th division departs from the izakaya. Himeno manages to sneak of with Denji, and when he comes to, it’s on her bed, underneath her. She gives him another kiss—this time of beer, not barf—and proposes that they bone. Denji is growing up fast in the 4th Division.

The soft bluish-purple light, Himeno’s fluid movements, and her seiyu Ise Mariya’s gently seductive voice lend an almost sacred beauty to an otherwise profane scene. But it’s also a sad one, because Himeno is clearly compensating for her crippling grief and loneliness, not to mention her part-familial, part-romantic feelings for an Aki who only has eyes for Miss Makima.

Then again, maybe Himeno just figures she could die tomorrow—or later that night—such is the fate of all devil hunters. That being the case, one must take their fun when and where they can get it.

P.S. Every episode of Chainsaw Man has a unique ED and theme, and this one might’ve been my favorite, as it’s a 4:3 standard-def retro-gasm. Reminded me of one of the best OPs of all time, the retro Koimonogatari OP “Kogarashi Sentiment”.

To Your Eternity – S2 05 – Good Fortune is Fragile

En route to the village of Libu from the capital of Uralys, Parona!Fushi prepares explosive arrows for use on Nokkers, but also demands that the prince stop using poor Todo as a chair. When Bon says that’s what Todo was hired for (chair is an “elite position”), Fushi insists, spilling the beans that Todo’s in love with him.

That gets poor Todo demoted to the sock department. Fushi learns from Todo that sometimes it’s painful to love someone, as he doesn’t expect Bon to love him back, he just wants to be near him. We also learn that Princess Pocoa, starved for excitement, stowed away to join her brother.

In Libu, Bon demonstrates Fushi’s ability to replicate weapons, and when Fushi says he can’t replace a villager’s leg, Bon shows him the prosthesis he had made for one of his soldiers. Fushi’s able to replicate that and Bon’s team adjusts it to fit the villager.

When a Nokker finally attacks, Bon notices it almost as quickly as Fushi, due to the face Fushi makes. Thanks to Kahaku’s Nokker arm Bon doesn’t lose any soldiers, while Fushi goes underground and blows up the Nokker with a bunch of explosive arrows. You can tell Bon loves all of his men, and knows them all by name.

In one city, the lord’s daughter is deathly ill. When Boy!Fushi visits her, he can feel her death approaching and has to flee the room. Bon follows him out and finds he’s transformed into March to climb a tree. Later, they see the lord’s attendants carry the daughter’s body out of the manor.

Fushi goes back at Bon’s urging to show the lord that he can only make a lifeless shell of his daughter, not resurrect her. But what Fushi doesn’t witness is that later, that lifeless shell … comes back to life. Fushi can resurrect the dead (or at least the recently deceased), he just doesn’t know it.

Bon wonders why the Black One, who surely knows Fushi can do this, has kept it a secret all this time. He then tests whether it’s a good idea to tell Fushi himself, by asking what he’d do if those companions of his came back to life. When Fushi answers honestly: he’d go with them, not stay with Bon, Bon stays silent.

When a bored Pocoa demands they visit another city, Fushi asks Bon on her behalf, and to the city they go (with Pocoa arguably more conspicuous as she hops about in her barrel). Kahaku is hoping to spend some time with Parona!Fushi, but she ends up hanging out with Todo and the barrel instead.

When Fushi spots an adorable doll in a shop window, she asks the shopkeep if she can touch it, which enables her to create a copy. It’s love at first sight. Speaking of which, we meet Todo’s family, and learn that he’s actually a girl named Iris, who concealed her true gender so she could serve as Bon’s chair. The things we do for love.

Fushi is snug as a bug in her tent as she reads a novel Kahaku gave her with her new doll in her arms. When she tells Bon the doll is her lover, Bon explains that a lover should ideally be a human being. A lot of Fushi’s adoration of the doll seems to come from the fact she knows March would have loved it as well.

The episode ends with a proposal—from Kahaku to Parona!Fushi, asking if she’ll be his wife. Observing her during this expedition has apparently convinced him that Fushi is truly a female who is gradually discovering her femininity, but the reality is that Fushi can be whoever (or whatever) they want to anyone they encounter, at (and in) any time.

To assign a single form or gender to Fushi is to limit Fushi, but Fushi had been limiting himself for many years as the older version of the Boy. We’ll see how he feels about the first leader of the Guardians who didn’t immediately try to seduce or possess him suddenly wanting to marry him.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Chainsaw Man – 06 – Endless Eight

After battles that took place in spacious warehouses and the open city streets, Chainsaw Man shifts to an initially innocuous but increasingly menacing and claustrophobic hotel floor. All stairs, windows, and floors lead to the same place: where they are.

Kobeni loses it almost immediately, convinced they’re all going to starve and die in this closed, timeless place. When she falls to pieces saying how the 4th Division wasn’t her choice (apparently it was this or sex work), Power laughs it up, because human fear fuels devils.

Himeno is a lot more calm and collected, as this isn’t her first rodeo. Also, she has cigarettes. But as she lights up her last one, she tells Denji how she “taught Aki the taste” of cigarettes, being intentionally suggestive with the phrasing.

When the family member of one of her past partners took it out on her by slapping her, Aki followed the person and stuck gum to their clothes as payback. From that point on Himeno knew she had someone special. She finally got Aki to smoke a cigarette, which he said would be his first and last, but as we see in the present, that’s far from the case.

Himeno’s point was that no Devil Hunter lives a long life, so you might as well enjoy the little pleasures like cigarettes. But Aki doesn’t intend to die anytime soon, which comforts Himeno. Their host, the “Eternity Devil”, appears in the form of a horrific mass of faces and limbs, and offers the hunters a deal.

If they give it Denji, dead or alive, it will let everyone go. Kobeni, whom Himeno had knocked out when she tried drinking toilet water, comes to just in time to hear this, and rushes Denji with a knife. To his surprise, Aki stands in front of him and kicks the knife out of her hand. As far as he’s concerned, no one’s killing Denji. Himeno has his back.

But time passes, and Power eats all of the food they’d scavenged from the abandoned rooms. When Himeno tries her ghost limbs she’s able to injure the Eternity Devil, but it simply grows larger and then chases them through the halls, making the spaces they occupy even smaller.

Finally, the angles of the hallways (which are really the walls of the devil’s stomach) start to shift, adding to the increasing sense of disorientation and dread. With the devil closing in, it’s time to either give it Denji or die. There is another option: the sword on Aki’s back. But when he goes for it, Himeno paralyzes him with her ghosts.

Her reason is that using the sword shortens Aki’s life, and he has “too much to live for”. Also, Himeno clearly cares for (if not outright loves) Aki and doesn’t want to outlive yet another partner. But her plan backfires, as Aki manages to overpower the ghosts and takes Kobani’s knife to the ribs to protect Denji. His reason is that he can’t kill the Gun Devil without people like Denji.

As he starts bleeding out, Himeno finally loses it, making Aki, Denji, and Power the only ones with their heads on their shoulders. Power uses her blood manipulation power to try to keep Aki alive (even though she’s best at controlling her own), while a panicked Himeno asks Aki what the plan is.

Finally Denji, who never asked Aki to take a knife for him, decides to bite the bullet and jump into the devil’s gullet. Only once he’s in he’ll break out his chainsaws. He figures the one thing the devil is scared of most is him, which is why it wanted the others to kill him first. That ain’t happening; Denji’s going in on his own terms, and I like his odds.

This dark and nervy Chainsaw Man really showed how a hopeless situation can bring out the devil in anyone. Kobeni is probably a nice enough girl, but in a situation like this has no qualms about murdering another to save her own skin. Even Himeno abandons the tenets of her profession due to her personal affection for Aki. Aki keeps his composure, but he’s fueled by vengeance. But as horrible and nightmarish as this place is, it’s not that bad compared to what Denji’s already been through.

The beds in the hotel are so nice he curls up and naps in one like nothing’s the matter. All the talk of starvation must sound extremely quaint to someone who barely ever had enough to eat. Maybe that’s why Kobeni turned on him so fast: despite being a fellow human, his attitude was so different form hers in this situation that she became able to see him as an other, a devil to be sacrificed.

Akiba Maid War – 06 – The Batmaid

Rather than a stinger that shows some kind of absurd situation our Oinky-Doink maids find themselves in, we get some narration about the delicate balance struck between the Creatureland and Maidalien groups. Ranko’s slaughter of Wuv-Wuv Moonbeam upset that balance.

When Crimson Supernova returns from seven years of prison to Maidalien’s HQ, she smells weakness and smashes it with her red bat. Whoever wiped out Wuv-Wuv will also taste that bat, which is why it’s ironic that she hits it off with Ranko at the ramen spot they both love.

Because Wuv-Wuv also wiped out Maid Sheep (never mind the sheep started it), Creatureland’s brass instructs Tenchou to take on Maidalien … all by themselves. It’s clearly meant to be a mission that will result in Oinky-Doink’s destruction, but they’ll also be destroyed if they refuse.

The increased tensions ripple through Akiba’s streets, and even Nagomi and Nerula are on edge; the distance between them symbolizing their allegiances to the opposing sides of the coming war. But when Tenchou lays out the situation, Nagomi refuses to fight Nerula.

Tenchou suggests that Nagomi and Nerula take an Oath of Sisterhood that will bind them together. For a moment I was worried Nerula would reject Nagomi’s outstretched hand, either out of loyalty to her group or fear of reprisal, but she turns out to be true blue, and before the ramen guy and Tenchou, they take their oath and exchange name cards.

When Tenchou tries to persuade Nagomi into spying on Maidalien through Nerula, Nagomi is truly disgusted … but Nerula takes the initiative, warning her new sister that her group is coming for Oinky-Doink, and even tipping off the cops to her violent new “acting” boss Manami’s plan.

Nagomi is terribly worried when Nerula goes to ground, but thanks to the ramen guy she and Ranko manage to find her hiding in an alley, not far from where her fellow Maidalien maids are hunting for her. Nerula is happy to see her sister “one last time”, a phrase Nagomi doesn’t like one bit.

But like Ranko (and unlike Nagomi), Nerula is clear-eyed about what it means to be a maid in Akiba. She betrayed her group, and is ready for the consequences when Manami and her right-hand maid show up to deal them out.

Only if Nerula is going to go down, she’s going to go down trying to take Manami with her. Manami is nothing but an agent of chaos who wants to flood Akiba’s streets with blood (never mind that Ranko kiiinda already did this in the first episode, thus creating Manami’s motivation for going after Oinky-Doink).

Nerula doesn’t let Nagomi interfere as she lunges at Manami with a dagger, hitting nothing but air. When Manami beats her down with her bat, she gets back up, which is when Manami pulls a gun and puts several bullets in Nerula’s midsection.

Ranko pulls her sidearm and reminds the Maidaliens of the code, and Manami and her colleague depart before the coppers come. But the die is cast and the war has begun, even if the first casualty is not from Creatureland. None of that matters to Nagomi in the moment; she’s just trying to stop Nerula’s bleeding.

Nagomi is heartbroken and devastated when Nerula raises her bloodied hand to her sister’s cheek before breathing her last. Ranko warned that oaths of sisterhood don’t always work out, but if there’s any consolation to Nerula’s death, it’s that she died never having to fight her sister.

AMW is no stranger to goofy, absurd, over-the-top climaxes to its episodes, but this is the first one that’s played absolutely straight for drama, and it succeeds. Could this tragedy be what finally motivates Nagomi to take up arms to prevent anyone else she cares about from being taken?

Or will Nagomi take Nerula’s last words to heart, resolving to stay the maid she is: a maid of peace and non-violence? Whatever path she takes, the goofy fun times are done.

Chainsaw Man – 05 – Don’t Die on Me

Well, color me surprised: Denji doesn’t chicken out. When Power sits there waiting for him to obtain his reward, after some hesitation and heavy breathing, he places his hands on her chest and gives them a squeeze. When he does, foam pads drop from under her shirt. Without skipping a beat Power asks him to go in for seconds, then thirds. And just like that, it’s all over.

Power heads to bed with Meowy, and Denji stands paralyzed in the toilet wondering … Was that IT? Achieving his dream was far more underwhelming than he expected, and it sends him into a haze of confusion, as he’s now suddenly utterly bereft of his primary source of motivation. It might’ve been better to never cop a feel at all than to have copped a feel and felt so … so little.

While perhaps Power’s smaller-than-advertised bust size was probably one factor in his disappointment, the fact is touching a boob is an incredibly small dream to base your life off of, just like wanting a soft bed or a warm meal. When Makima sees something’s up and asks him, and he pretty eloquently verbalizes what’s up, she takes swift action to re-motivate her favorite new tool.

Makima tells Denji that sex and the contact that leads up to it feels better when you truly understand the other person. Makima then demonstrates this by sensually caressing Denji’s hand (phenomenal animation, that), giving one of his fingers a nibble, then showing him that not all boob grabs are created equal. Then she offers to make any dream of his come true—and that means anything—if he can defeat the Gun Devil.

The Gun Devil is no bat or leech, but an uber-devil created on this world’s equivalent of 9/11. Once it appeared, the Gun Devil killed millions, including Aki’s mother, father, and a sickly little brother with whom he was only starting to get along. The flashback switches gears from family warmth to utter destruction so fast we’re left in as much horrified shock as young Aki.

The key to finding the Gun Devil is to use pieces of its flesh it has dropped, which are drawn to it like magnets. Aki leads a six-person team of Denji, Power, and himself along with his senpai Himeno and two rookies, Kobeni and Arai, and the flesh leads them to a hotel. When Himeno tries to offer a kiss to whomever gets the Gun Devil, Denji parrots some of Makima’s words, only for Himeno to up her offer to a French kiss.

Himeno’s informal, happy-go-lucky attitude belies her past, as Aki is her sixth partner. She makes sure to clarify that the other five didn’t die because of anything she did or didn’t do, but because they were all useless. Himeno alone senses the first devil they encounter: a head that moves with a hand and foot that leaps at Kobeni, but is held in place by Himeno, allowing Power to slash it in two.

When Power, who as always yearns for blood, casually threatens to kill Kobeni, Himeno demonstrates her ability on her, specifically her throat. Himeno contracted with a Ghost Devil and is able to control a ghost hand (that is, an invisible hand Power cannot touch). Lesson learned: Let’s all get along!

Teamwork will indeed be needed for the coming trials, as the group suddenly finds themselves in a M.C. Escher-style loop, ending up on the same floor they killed the Head Devil even though they went up a flight of steps. Going down a flight gets Arai nowhere. Looks like we’re dealing with a Devil that can either morph reality or morph others’ perception of it. Pretty wicked.

Overlord IV – 13 (Fin) – Princess Front-Renner

We open on Mare, perched on a rooftop, surveying the Royal Capital, and suddenly he starts to weep. Is the meekest, gentlest Floor Guardian lamenting having to kill every last man, woman and child in the city? Of course not….he’s anxious about his destructive magic not being up to snuff and a few of those men, women and children surviving and escaping. Lest we forget: our pals from Nazarick are supervillains. Granted, some of them are adorable.

Princess Renner sure didn’t seem concerned about the impending invasion of the Sorcerer Kingdom, did she? Clued in as we the audience are not only to the twisted personality she conceals, as well as her dealings with Albedo, explain her attitude, but not the actual means by which she manages to slither out of this crisis and turn it to her advantage. Climb proves his loyalty by declining an offer from the King both he and Renner wouldn’t mind: approving a marriage of the two.

While Aura dispenses with Old Samurai Dude before he can even introduce himself, then leaves the others to her beasts before strolling into the capital’s repository of magic items, Climb takes a rucksack filled with the Royal Crown, heirloom tomes, and other items that are a part of the royal legacy, and hides them away in the warehouse district.

On his way back, he encounters Mare, who is kind enough to tell him to run away if he wants to live. Remembering Renner’s order for him not to fight, but run—the better to return to her side safely—Climb does just that. But as he turns toward the palace, he finds it’s already been encased in Cocytus’ ice.

The Snow Maidens grant him access to the throne room, where he finds Ainz, Albedo, Demiurge, and Cocytus, along with a frightful sight: Renner kneeling beside her father, who is lying dead in a pool of his own blood, some of which is on Renner’s hands. Demiurge commands Climb to prostrate himself, and Climb figures they used mind control on Renner to make her kill the king.

Ainz tells Demiurge to release Climb, and even allows him the privilege of fighting him one-on-one. Climb’s a tough customer, but it’s safe to say he’s no Gazef, nor is he Brain, and we know how things went for those warriors. So Ainz is just toying with him. That said, Climb manages to pull off a move that impresses Ainz before using “Grasp Heart” to kill him.

…But this is not the end of Climb. He wakes up, to find a relieved Renner leaning over him, but something’s different. The dialated pupils, the sharp black nails, the fangs and little wings. Renner explains that she pledged her allegiance to The Sorcerer King, and was transformed into an immortal demon. She asks Climb if he’ll become a demon and pledge allegiance to Ainz as well, so that they can be together for eternity.

This may be a lot all of a sudden for Climb, who had only just been resurrected from death, but I wasn’t surprised when he assented to Renner’s offer without hesitation. After all, he’s sworn to be her shield, whether she’s a princess or a demoness.

After meeting with and thanking her new superior Albedo, Renner celebrates having gotten everything she wanted for the low low price of betraying and sacrificing her kingdom.

She does so by singing a hauntingly beautiful song while dancing with herself and laughing maniacally in a gorgeous and stunningly animated sequence, which was both a complete surprise and a season highlight. Renner—the real Renner—has never looked more radiant, and will fit right in at Nazarick. I’d be ride-or-die for her too if I was Climb.

Whither Lord Philip Montserrat? Well, his last pleasure in life is getting to gaze upon the loveliness of the Lady Albedo when she deigns to visit his family manse. She then presents him with the heads of his family members before killing him. An inauspicious demise for a character who was never anything but an arrogant but disposable pawn.

In the center of the ruined capital of the fallen Re-Estize Kingdom, Ainz Ooal Gown sits upon a impromptu throne of rubble, flanked by Albedo, as Marquis Raeven and the other great nobles kneeling before him, pledging their allegiance. Raeven assures his new king and overlord that the destruction of Re-Estize will serve as an abject lesson to other nations not to mess with the Sorcerer Kingdom; a lesson that likely won’t be forgotten for millennia.

Citing this as a very good justification for what has been done, Ainz lets himself be satisfied and content. To make the land as sweet as honey, he had to burn part of it down. But there’s much more to be done, which will no doubt be chronicled in the forthcoming third Overlord film, along with a presumed fifth and possibly final season.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 20 – Just a Lone Child

After slicing Shide to bits only for him to reform, Hizuru tries to get Haine to scan her so she can destroy her Shadow Shinpei vessel. Only Haine realizes that Hizuru was granted immunity by Mio. Haine also betrays her inherent inability to understand why Hizuru is doing what she’s doing: trying to save those lives that haven’t been lost after getting her brother killed.

Hizuru switches to Plan B, which is to transfer Ryuunosuke from her body to Shide’s mud armor of “nothing”. It succeeds, Ryuunosuke emerges from the mud, exposing Shide’s vulnerable human body just as Tokiko arrives aboard Ros, ready to pound Shide into the stone age.

By the time Shinpei and Shadow Mio make it to Alan’s garden, Shide’s clone tells them they’re too late; Mio and Sou are probably already being devoured by Shide in her cave. Shadow Mio confirms her original is dead, and she figures it’s time for Shinpei to loop.

A badly wounded Tokiko then arrives, having successfully escaped from Haine and Shide thanks to Nezu and Tetsu. She’s there only to warn Shinpei to go to Torajima Island to help Hizuru. Rather than go there in this loop, Shin assumes that like Mio and Sou, the others are dead, or will be before he and Shadow Mio arrive. So he shoots himself with Dr. Hishigata’s Derringer, and loops back to 10:10 AM.

Thanks to Shadow Mio’s speed, she and Shinpei are able to intercept Mio and Sou before they meet their doom, and redirect them to protect the kids. Mio has a chance to confess to Shinpei, but instead wishes him well before they part. He rides on Shadow Mio’s back as she glides through the forest and then takes to the sky to avoid enemy Shadows.

They arrive in style just as Shide is dispatching Ros, and he and Shadow Mio join Tokiko, Tetsu, Nezu, and Guil. Unfortunately, they’re just a little late to save Hizuru, whom Shide stabs in the heart and looms over menacingly.

Haine!Shinpei senses something…off, a brilliant glowing emanating from Shinpei’s pocket (the shell that is all that’s left of Ushio), and then tells Shide that they’re withdrawing for now. While the immediate threat to everyone has passed, Hizuru is in a bad way.

Shinpei prepares to shoot himself and loop again, but Hizuru doesn’t want him to, and Mio stops him from doing it. He’s no longer in the position to save everyone. For her part, Hizuru doesn’t fear her impending death, and considers she’s getting a better death than most.

Before she dies, she tells Shinpei to remember that at the end of the day, Haine’s base personality is still that of a lonely little girl who loved to be spoiled. She’s also certain that Shide and Haine’s goals are different, and that at this point Shide is likely using Haine. Just before breathing her last breath, she transfers Ryuunosuke to Shinpei.

I doubt she’ll be the last person to die who Shinpei can’t bring back by looping, but Hizuru’s dying words should prove vital in any eventual victory. Her returning to the island is the reason any of the others are still alive with a fighter’s chance of winning.

It’s looking like that chance will rely on creating a rift between Haine and Shide, shattering their bond so they’re isolated and weakened. Considering that bond has lasted centuries, that’ll be no easy task.

Summertime Render – 19 – Haine-ous Affair

No sooner does Shinpei wake up in what might be his final loop does Haine swoop down on him in the form of a mocking, gloating crow. She copies the little girl, seemingly just to mess with him, then raises a whole mess of shadow minions that surround him and the kids.

But just when it seems like it’s all over…she stops the attack, and withdraws. Shinpei, who had instictively reached into his pocket, pulls out the contents: a single seashell—presumably all that’s left of Ushio. But if there’s still a shell, can she still raise hell?

Haine apparently isn’t content to simply kill and/or eat Shinpei and his friends. She insists on messing with him, which seems like a bad idea, because it raises the chances of her enemies to mount a comeback from zero to less than zero. It’s as if the number of remaining episodes, rather than logic or common sense, are driving Haine’s actions.

Nevertheless, she uses the copy of Shinpei she had stowed in her back pocket to call all his friends while the real Shinpei has no bars. Mio and Sou go to Alan’s Garden where an all-too-suspicious Karikiri is waiting for them, while Hizuru, Nezu, Tokiko and Tetsu go to a remote island accessible on foot during low tide.

The real Shinpei comes home to find Mio pinned Shadow Mio out of fear Ushio’s hack died with her, but Shadow Mio is still on his side. With her offensive power, they definitely have a chance.

Hizuru, smelling a trap, heads to the island alone with a sledgehammer after saying her maybe-goodbyes to Nezu & Co. She meets Haine!Shinpei, doesn’t fall for her charade for a second, and is then confronted by Karikiri.

Ryuunosuke and Karikiri/Shide have a little game-recognize-game moment, and then have at it there on the beach, with Haine transmitting Ryuunosuke’s two-second foresight—which was, it turns out, a glitch that occurred shortly after she copied him way back when.

Ryuunosuke still manages to put up an impressive fight, but the bottom line is Shide has an infinitely regenerative armor of corpses, while he has…his sister’s regular human body, which he knows he’s slowly tearing apart by making her fight.

Hizuru takes over and reminds him that this is probably their last stand, and there’s no reason to hold back. In fact, if he doesn’t hold back for her sake, they’ll lose. But she assures them they can still win. How exactly they’ll do that is a matter for next week.

Summertime Render – 18 – Final Fantasy MDCCXXXII

Hizuru tells the story of a famine in 1732 that threatened to wipe out Hitogashima’s population, until a whale washed ashore. The whale was a shadow, and it copied the first human to come close to it: a little girl named Haine. Back in the present, Karikiri offers Shinpei some cold barley tea and conversation. While initially presented as a friendly or at worst neutral party, there’s a tension and building dread to the ensuing one-on-one chat.

The thing is, Shinpei already knows that Karakiri is really Hishigata Shidehiko, AKA Shide. He’s not a Shadow, but he’s not quite human either. In previous loops, Hizuru and Dr. Hishigata’s information paints the picture of how Haine birthed a child with Shidehiko, and the resulting child grew into a perfect clone of Shidehiko.

He then had Haine transfer all his collected memories into the clone, thus making him indistinguishable from himself and enabling him to live for over 300 years. Considering how crafty he must have grown in those years, it’s pretty impressive Shinpei and his pathetic band were able to get this far.

While in the loop flashbacks we see that Shinpei’s group gathered all the information they can and prepared the best they could for a confrontation, with Shinpei insisting that he wanted to know why Shide killed his parents before deciding whether to kill him. After all, if he’s human he can’t be reasoned with, right?

Wrong. Shin made a critical error in confronting Shide in human form, and especially in letting Ushio accompany him. Sure, he’d have easily fallen into Shide’s clutches without her protection, but when she’s had enough of Shide’s blathering and slices half his head off, Shide gets exactly what he needs, all because Ushio insists on doing the dirty work so Shin’s hands remain clean.

When Ushio is on the phone, a copy of Ushio casually plunges a spear into her shadow, and then slices upward, killing her. Shinpei empties his gun, but Shide puts up his Shadow Armor and catches the bullets, then throws the spear at Shinpei, impaling him and sending him flying out of the temple and into a tree.

Shin loops back to when he and Ushio saved the kids from the Shadow that took the form of their old teacher, only this time Ushio isn’t there. She’s gone, presumably for good. That’s a punch to the gut, but as Ushio said, she was happy for the “bonus time” after her human self was killed by Haine, and she and Shinpei got to reunite and kick some ass together.

The episode closes with Shin crying blood, wallowing in despair. But even if Ushio isn’t coming back in any form, the fact remains she’d want him and the others to finish the job and save the village. They can’t turn Shide, but they still have a Shadow Mio, two Shadow Babies, and guile. It’s not Game Over quite yet.

Summertime Render – 17 – Hands Not for Hurting

Since we’re now only 17 episodes into a 25-episode series, it was only a matter of time before the momentum slowed a bit and our intrepid band of shadow hunters took a bit of a rest. This week we get a calm-before-the-storm episode that allows for moments that deepen our understanding of these characters, as well as give them an opportunity to bond more, for better or worse.

Ushio worries she may go crazy like Haine did in the memory of Hizuru’s she saw, but Hizuru promises she’ll kill her if that happens. Shadow Mio, who knows all the little ways Mio Prime hates herself, urges her to tell Shin her feelings before it’s too late. Sou’s pops hid the truth from him because he knew his son’s heart was too good to bear the darkness. Tokiko suggests that Shin, who has developed pronounced bags under his eyes, to catch some shut-eye while he can.

That night Nezu tries to sneak out but Ushio catches him and insists on accompanying him. Turns out Nezu is putting the last of his affairs in order before shit starts going down. Ushio learns that he keeps the Shadow of his wife Kaoru pinned in his garage, having not had the heart to kill it until now.

Shadow Kaoru is beastly like so many of the Shadows, but Ushio urges Nezu to hold his fire, as her hacking might be able to restore her. Nezu’s not interested; Ushio may still be Ushio, but his wife is gone; this is his “wife’s enemy” who copied her body. So Ushio gives Nezu his privacy, and sheds tears for two more lives among the countless ruined by Haine’s appetites.

The next morning the group splits up to investigate various family homes in hopes of reducing the number of Shadows as much as possible before the festival. The two Mios are put in the same team, and Shadow tries to egg Mio on, but she clutches onto Sou as a sign she won’t let Shadow push her buttons.

Mio also has a thoughtful gift for Ushio: hairs from her original body that she found around the house. Ushio is able to use them to restore the length of her hair (adorably done with a Sailor Moon-like aesthetic) and, perhaps all too death-flaggy, tells Shin she has something to say to him when he and Ushio return.

Shinpei and Ushio end up having to kill the Shadow of their old teacher, nicknamed Bucchi, and Ushio remembers when she beat up a couple of bigger boys teasing her for her blonde hair. Bucchi, ever the gentle soul, told Ushio her hands weren’t for hurting people, but for holding hands, patting heads, and the like.

Unfortunately, Ushio doesnt’ really have a choice in her present scenario, though it’s arguable that the Shadow’s are “people” so much as unrelenting killing machines bent on wiping out the village. So she and Shin work together to save three kids from Shadow Bucchi and her two Shadow sons.

The little kids mock Ushio and Shinpei for looking like a classic couple, to which they respond in unison that it’s “not like that.” Isn’t it though?

In a creepy moment, Ushio seems to be taken over by…someone, neither Haine nor Shide, but maybe another deity observing what’s going on and briefly using her as a vessel. The two teams then regroup and report on their investigations. Turns out the Shadows don’t seem to be preparing a direct attack on them, but are primarily focused on the upcoming festival when the great slaughter and feast is to commence.

Naturally, if the festival can be cancelled, there won’t be a convenient huge group of people ripe for the picking. To that end, Shin heads to the shrine maintained by Karikiri—a place where he just happened to die the first time. Karikiri welcomes Shin warmly, but whether he’s a friend, foe, or neutral party in this struggle remains to be seen. I just hope that’s Ushio on Shin’s wrist, and he’s not really alone up there.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 16 – One Mio, Two Mio, Red Mio, Blue Mio

Once successfully hacked by Ushio and disconnected from Haine’s control, Shadow Mio is no longer a killbot, but retains her distinct deadpan delivery (in contrast to the real MioCoy’s higher, more bubbly lilt). As with Hikasa Youko and the two Minakatas, credit is due to seiyu Shirasu Saho for producing two distinct Mios.

Times may be desperate, but there’s still room in STR for a little bit of comedy as the two Mios act like opposing twins (and seriously throw off Sou, who as we know is in love with Mio). Mio II offers further insight into the nature of Shadows. Since she’s a “child”, she can only birth one child Shadow, and if Mio I doesn’t die in six days, Mio II will revert to black goo, essentially dying.

Mio II also has a little fun with Shinpei, whom she’s killed perhaps dozens of times, but points out she hasn’t killed him nor does she wish to. She also knows that Mio I is in love with him, and almost spills the beans but for the arrival of the truck. It’s interesting how there are aspects of Mio I’s personality baked into II, but she’s also her own person. She even asks Shin if he has a girlfriend in Tokyo, something Mio I could never ask.

Bottom line, Mio II is now on the good guys’ side, which is certainly a boon, and she promises she’ll keep her original safe. Shin decides their next objective is to track down Tokiko and Sou’s father and confront him about Haine’s true plan. That means heading to the clinic, which is also the Hishigatas’ home. They find all the furniture has been erased, as if the Shadows were trying to hide something.

While the Mios, Tetsu, and Nezu wait in the truck, the rest of the group heads deeper into the bowels of the dark abandoned hospital, freaking out Ushio even in Wristwatch Mode. These scenes have a great atmosphere and dread; if last week was a gory thriller, this is a slithering horror movie where you never know what might creep up behind you.

They find Tokiko and Sou’s mom’s wheelchair, but in the basement morgue where Ushio’s body is supposed to be, the body has vanished, and along with it the possibility of Ushio recovering fully from the battle. They follow an alternate underground tunnel to Haine’s nest, and find Tokiko and Sou’s mom lifting their dad by the neck and choking him out…never something kids need to see their parents doing.

Ushio runs up to the mom and hacks her, releasing her from Haine’s control, and she passes out, but the dad isn’t breathing. Tokiko and Sou show they’re doctor’s kids by administering CPR, and for their trouble their dad knocks the little Derringer out of an enraged Sou’s hand and shoots Tokiko with it for being disloyal. At first I was like “Oh no, they didn’t kill Tokiko again…”, but turns out it isn’t Tokiko…it’s Mio II.

Tokiko let Mio copy her, probably well aware her dad might pull the very shit he tried to pull. Back in the truck, Tokiko tells Mio that when a Shadow copies you they copy everything—right down to the depths of a person’s heart—but she’s fine with it. She’s done with secrets and hiding things. She’s lkely glad that one of the Mios truly understands just how much she means to Tokiko.

Having saved everyone, Mio II asks Shinpei if he trusts her now. He says he does, and if she doesn’t believe him she can copy him. But there’s no way Mio II would do that, as learning the inner depths of Shin’s heart would confirm to her that while he loves both Mio and Ushio, he’s only in love with Ushio.

Even after he’s been defeated, Sou’s dad keeps ordering no one in particular to kill for him. Then Mio tries to copy him but fails, because he’s already had a Shadow of himself made and died, giving him immunity. This comes as a shock to him. Then his assistant Negoro appears deeper into the cave, carrying Ushio’s body.

Ushio wants to go after her, but Shinpei tells her to stop, as she’s clearly trying to bait them on behalf of Haine and Shide. Shin’s been through enough that he’s not going to fall for the usual tricks anymore. Now that Tokiko and Sou’s dad knows the Haine have released the Hishigatas from her service, he has no further reason to hide anything, and reveals the location of a buried safe, which they dig up.

Back in the morgue, Ushio gives both of Tokiko and Sou’s parents all of the amassed information from the loops, as she did with everyone else. Now the mom finally knows she’s a Shadow. Pops reveals Haine’s ultimate goal is to “go home” with her amassed Shadow family, to a place far beyond the ocean where time doesn’t exist. He and his wife, and eventually Tokiko and Sou were to all become Shadows and join her in that eternal country.

He also tells Shinpei that if he achieves his goal of killing Haine, all Shadows will die, including Ushio. In response to this, Ushio says she’s ready to die if it means eliminating the threat to her family, friends, and island. She considers the time she’s lived since being killed to be “bonus time” anyway. It’s such a noble, selfless, and brave sentiment that Shinpei is ashamed for thinking his Ushio would feel any differently. It’s probably a big part of why he loves her.

Dr. Hishigata’s wife Chitose tells him that even if she dies, he still has his children and the people of the village to care for. Dr. Hishigata also isn’t done revealing secrets. Inside the safe is a list of all the people he diagnosed with “Shadow Sickness”, but actually became food for Haine. That list includes Shinpei’s parents, who discovered Haine’s cave and were killed for threatening to expose it.

Finally, Pops also knows the true identity of Shide: he was once his ancestor Hishigata Shidehiko, the founder and first director of the Hishigata clinic. Family ties, indeed. One Mio stronger in number and armed with all this information, it’s going to be an interesting final nine episodes spanning the final two days before the Shadowpocalypse.

Summertime Render – 13 – The Rules Have Changed

When Ushio materializes beside Shinpei, she pounces on a confused Hizuru. Nezu prepares to aim his rifle at Ushio, but Shin asks him to stand down. Then Ushio takes Hizuru’s hand, sees everything she’s seen, and knows that even though she’s a Shadow, Ushio is their ally.

She’s always been their ally, ever since she printed the looping eye and brought Shin to the island. And since she’s a novelist, she’ll consider the incredible credible, and the unreal real. Shin believes their worst mistake last loop was splitting up, and having heard she died, Hizuru concurs.

They head to the Kobayakawa home just like before, only this time they have Ushio, and after Haine tried to corrupt her, she now believes she has the ability to erase a Shadow if she wants to. Since Shiori is Haine’s way of moving about outside the cave, she’s hoping erasing Shiori will eliminate that way at worst, and destroy Haine at best.

Hizuru cedes control to Ryuunosuke, who heads into the house…and gets their ass handed to them. The “four-armed one” smashes Hizuru’s head in with her own sledge, and Haine!Shiori reveals that thanks to the brand on Shinpei’s arm, whenever he shows up in a new loop, she can find him “lickety-split”.

With Hizuru already dead and Nezu following shortly thereafter, it looks very bad for our heroes. Then the four-armed one wraps those arms around Shinpei, and PreCure Ushio swoops in and beheads him with her hair. So ends the fifth loop; we hardly knew ye! In the timeless corridor between loops, Shinpei thanks Ushio (in wristwatch form) for her quick thinking.

He laments how he let his naivete get Hizuru and Nezu killed so quickly and let another loop go to waste…but there’s no time for sulking. Ushio reports that when she tried to scan four-arms she found no data, but he “smelled” like Haine. She also believes Haine is using the brand to pull her along with him through the loops.

Both agree that in the next loop they’ll have to be a lot smarter and more careful, since they no longer have much of the element of surprise. But to their surprise, they appear not on the 22nd as usual, but in front of their family restaurant, in the rain. Two students walk past—the twins Hizuru and Ryuunosuke.

Shinpei follows them inside with Watch!Ushio and learn that this is most definitely the past; back when the restaurant was celebrating ten years, and both of Shinpei’s marine archaeologist parents were still alive. Hizuru tells Asako and Ryuu that she’s met a friend…up at the clinic on the mountain.

Shinpei/Ushio follow the three (he’s not visible to anyone in this projection, which is one of Hizuru’s memories), and when Hizuru’s friend doesn’t appear, Ryuu and Asako split. Then the light in the window comes on as usual, and Haine (with two identical red eyes) greets Hizuru.

I thought we were going to spend some time in the fifth loop, but it’s smart for the second cour to subvert expectations and up the ante when it comes to the dangers Shinpei and his family and friends face as they continue to meddle. Even more ominous, Sou’s dick of a dad is aware of Shinpei and Hizuru snooping around where they shouldn’t, and also knows Ushio’s shadow is causing trouble.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

P.S., The new OP is…fine, and I even find myself not skipping it for future episodes, but it’s no first cour OP, which really captured the heat and bittersweet longing of summer. This new theme (and the ED, for that matter) sound a lot more generic.

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