Re:Creators – 21

Thanks to Magane, Souta was able to create a miracle in bringing Shimazaki Setsuna back to reunite with her creation Altair. But early in the reunion, I was filled with a constant uneasiness—and was no doubt meant to be—would the all powerful Altair truly accept this?

If not, how long would it take before the spell was broken, she breaks the train station world, and returns to the real world. What the heck will Team Meteora do then? Everything is on the line here.

Well fortunately, there are no further twists or turns or defeats for Souta and the team; this really is it, and as soon as Setsuna speaks, Altair is well and truly neutralized as a mustache-twirling, world-ending villain. She becomes something far more complicated and interesting; something she only could have become by meeting her creator.

Setsuna doesn’t transparently beg Altair not to destroy the world. Instead, she starts by apologizing for making Altair carry the burden of “curses” she carried with her until death and transferred to Altair. Without judging her, Setsuna earnestly thanks Altair for her efforts, even if they were ultimately misguided.

Setsuna also impresses upon Altair the fact that she is no longer simply her creation; she’s become accepted and loved by everyone as a “king” or “knight of the weak” who took her weaknesses and made them strengths. Altair will always have power, and never be alone, as long as those others exist.

So, realizing her presence is a miracle, but a “twisted” one that shouldn’t be (at least in her world), when the train alarm sounds, she walks to the same spot where she walked before and leaps out over the tracks. Only this time, because she’s not alone, Altair rushes in front of the train and destroys it with her Holopiscon.

When she finds no matter how much she hacks at it, the train will still come in a fraction of a second, Altair redirects the infinite power Setsuna and the world has bestowed on her, into creating Setsuna’s story from now on.

That means creating a world where she and Setsuna can live—them, and no one else, it would seem. Altair is no longer interested in destroying worlds, only creating one world where she and Setsuna can be together, and where her story can continue. They’re basically gods now.

There, in the water, Altair finds a pair of glasses, but they’re not Setsuna’s—they’re Souta’s. Setsuna recognizes them as such, and without saying his name, tells Altair that she was drawn in the first place because of Souta, and others who liked her creations and wanted to see more.

Whether the Setsuna we saw was a combination of who she really was and Souta’s own interpretation of who she was, or one or the other, Souta poured his own heart and soul into creating her, which makes her basically the opposite of Sirius.

All Souta wanted was to “see the same world” as Setsuna. And he did, thanks not just to his own efforts, but to those of the other Creators, their Creations, and the people whose acceptance made them endure.

With one more strum of her Holopiscon, Altair and Setsuna are transported away to their own little infinite world, leaving the normal world safe and bringing a happy (if somewhat bittersweet) ending to Chamber Festival. The hosts sign off, the stadium roars with approval, and the creators and Meteora stand in the control room, basking in the knowledge they saved their world.

While Altair’s transformation was quite sudden, and doesn’t fully absolve the fact that she was fairly one-dimensional up to this point, the means by which she transformed were credible and even, at times, genuinely affecting, for which a lot of the credit goes to seiyus Toyosaki Aki and Ohashi Ayaka.

I also appreciate that the main conflict of the story came to a climax and was resolved with one episode to go, which means there’s time for a closure-giving epilogue.

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Ao no Exorcist: Kyoto Fujouou-hen – 04

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Bon is our eyes and ears for most of this episode’s first half as he follows Renzou’s bro Juuzou, suspicious of his movements (and of the trail of bodies in his wake), until it’s revealed those exorcists were knocked out by Mamushi, not Juuzou.

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Having been told about the eye when she was a student of Todou’s, her general argument is that neither Saguro Tatsuma nor her own father can be trusted; that they are the real traitors, and she’s acting in the best interests of the Myoda Sect.

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I for one am glad the obviously more sinister-(and awesome!)-looking suspect, while indeed the traitor, at least has halfway viable reasons besides “I’m just evil BWAHAHA!”, though it does take quite a bit of exposition to get her somewhat complex positions and accusations out.

Meanwhile, Rin is making progress with the candles on the roof when the whole earth shakes. He starts to run off but Shura catches him and forbids him from moving and acting on his own, lest he be “put down” as per the agreement that spared his life (for now).

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It’s also good to see Todou back so soon, even if he claims Mamushi is acting on her own (clearly he’s been manipulating her for some time). There’s something appealing about his frumpy, unexceptional, harmless functionary look; especially contrasted with everyone else’s more traditional garb (Shura aside). Mamushi grabs the eye, and she and Todou skedaddle.

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Tatsuma prepares to go after them, but Bon wants a goddamn explanation out of him, now. Tatsuma, for whatever reason, won’t or can’t give him one, only saying “it’s a secret” and other fatherly platitudes to stay out of trouble and be patient. It’s not enough, and Bon all but disowns him, warning if he runs away he better not come back.

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Those sentiments set Rin, who had been pretty passively in the background, off. Understandably so, as he had a similar falling out with his dad Shiro that was never able to be resolved, since Shiro died. Rin may want to repair his friendship with Bon, but trying to stop him from making the same mistake, something he’ll regret forever, takes precedence.

Of course, Rin gets so worked up, his blue flames come out, scaring the crap out of everyone who didn’t know about them and forcing Shura to knock him out with the shock collar-like ring on his tail, but not before he calls her a hag and tells her to buzz off. I admire Rin’s passion regarding Bon, but he really does need to realize how short his leash has become.

Honestly, I wanted to rate this episode higher, but it had a bit too much standing around talking/explaining, the flashbacks to the trial seemed redundant, and I’m bummed Mamushi’s pretty much a bad guy right now and it’s not certain at all whether she’ll be redeemed.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 09

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This episode’s opening act painted a rosy picture: with Germania not attacking, Izetta continues to build her image across the world by assisting the resistance movements of territories Germania has conquered, and the narrating Lotte is hoping the good times keep coming. Fine even tells Izetta a ceasefire could be in the making.

I didn’t buy this rosiness for a second, since it’s already been established that Berkman has Izetta’s number and has merely been biding his time for an assault, both the map and the crystal are in enemy hands, and even Muller AKA Sieg Reich simply isn’t giving off very trustworthy vibes.

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A reckoning, then, was inevitable, and it comes later in the episode after Izetta ends up on the wrong battlefront and must be quickly transported to the right one. There, the one tactical advantage Eylstadt has over Germania—the White Witch—is taken away, by Germania’s own White Witch, a clone of Izetta’s descendant, Sophie.

The path that led to her creation is hastily told, as Berkman learns of Division 9’s research and cloning methods, and Izetta’s blood is gradually used to “awaken” Sophie from the doll-like clone. Eylstadt’s own recklessness with Izetta’s personal security indirectly led to Berkman’s success.

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At first, Sophie tries to appeal to Izetta’s pride and duty as a witch, telling her what her own family told her: using her magical powers to help affect the outcome of war between non-magical countries is wrong.

But when Izetta insists she must fight for her archduchess and refuses to stand down, Sophie ditches the nice guy act right quick, turning on a dime into Izetta’s enemy, and the two duel in the sky as Germania’s superior military runs the Eylstadt forces roughshod.

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Sophie ends up nullifying Izetta’s magic at a crucial moment, causing her to crash, then for good measure, employs magic chain bondage to crush Izetta’s insides. She’s taken prisoner, photographed and filmed for pro-Germanian propaganda, which is likely to kill morale in Eylstadt as well as anywhere where people oppose Germania.

Now that their “nuke” isn’t unique anymore, or even a threat to Germania, they’re free to attack Eylstadt’s capital, even bombing Fine’s palace. But the lack of chivalry in the assault mirror’s Eylstadt’s own desperate but ultimately foul play: when they couldn’t win with conventional warfare they turned to magic.

They put all their eggs in that basket, and now that basket’s been crushed and burned. It’s not looking good at all for Fine, Izetta, or Eylstadt.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 08

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Pretty much the entire time I was watching this episode of Izetta, much of which centers on Berkman’s adjutant, Ricelt, as he parachutes into Eylstadt to gain access to the castle where the ley lines map is located, I thought to myself, “why do I care about this guy?”

While I’m cognizant of the fact that war usually isn’t as simple as black-and-white, or good-vs.-evil, I still couldn’t muster any sympathy for Ricelt and the fate he succumbs to. And that made it hard to get emotionally invested in this episode at all.

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Forgetting the fact that he just happens to fall in a river just as Fine’s maid Lotte and Bianca are driving past…you know what, I can’t forget (or forgive) a coincidence of that magnitude, and I won’t.

Even in tiny Eylstadt, it’s ridiculous and extremely incredible that Ricelt would end up so close to these two, let alone that they’d so easily buy his half-assed cover story. Ricelt is only able to get as far as he does thanks (in part) to Bianca’s stupidity. This is war; any and all strangers who suddenly show up must be suspected, not flirted with.

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Speaking of flirting, the show’s fascination with Fine and Izetta as some kind of quasi-yuri couple continues, with Fine dressing up as a dashing prince and Izetta serving as her girly date at Lord Redford’s lavish birthday party.

There, Berkman manages to not only meet up close with Fine and Izetta, but his “date”, who looks drugged and/or genetically manipulated in some way, even manages to draw near enough to Izetta to kiss her, drawing blood in the process (blood Berkman will surely use for research on how to neutralize Izetta).

That intel and security is so inadequate and lax that one of the German empire’s most dangerous men can get so close to Izetta, and vanish just as quickly, doesn’t bode well for the future of Eylstadt.

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As for Ricelt, he and an inside man manage to make it to the basement of Eylstadt castle, snap pictures of the ley line map, and retrieve some kind of magical stone…but Bianca finally gets wise and Ricelt is caught red-handed. He stalls for time to let his colleague get away; Bianca shoots him, and another royal guard shoots the colleague.

And so, like Jonas, another young character I thought would have a greater role to play ends up dead, though the trouble he whipped up remains. Bianca, for her part, seems shaken up about the betrayal, but it’s not like they were lovers or anything; she’ll surely get over it.

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As for that trouble, it would seem some random old man ends up with the camera containing photos of the ley line map, as well as the purple-pink stone. Yet again, someone is in just the right position at the right time to propel the plot forward…and I care even less about this old guy than I cared about Ricelt.

Keeping the pressure high is the fact the Atlantan (i.e. American) ambassador promises Fine and Izetta that he’ll recommend his government send troops, but doesn’t tell them that he considers Izetta to be nearly as great a threat to Atlanta as the Germanians, if not a greater threat. As such, those troops will be sent to take down both Germania and Eylstadt; not exactly what Fine wanted.

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ReLIFE – 06

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With Hishiro and Kariu now friends, and Hishiro looking up her feelings on Google (then scoffing at the result that it’s “love”) I was looking forward to the show pivoting to focus on the third girl in Kaizaki’s circle: Onoya An. This episode certainly did that, but not at all the way I thought.

Things start innocently enough, with the possibility of Kaizaki’s friends visiting his bachelor pad becoming a very abrupt reality when Oga and An arrive for a study session. It’s great to watch him squirm as he hides any evidence of his true age, even as I knew in his haste he’d forget something.

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Two things he missed: his MD player and a calendar with work stuff. The first can be explained away by the simple fact he’s a fan of vintage electronics; the second he sidestepped by using the calendar to “kill a bug.”

The true test for Kaizaki comes when Oga is called away for work, leaving him and An all alone in his apartment (which Oga is too dense/pure to notice could be a problem). Yoake, who has Kaizaki’s phone mic tapped, does, and races to Kaizaki’s aid when he believes his cover is at risk.

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What ensues plays out like a high school version of a spy thriller, with An removing her childish braids and glasses, revealing she fell in love with Kaizaki at first sight back when she saw him working at the convenience store, and starts coming on to him, all while Yoake navigates the busy streets to race to Kaizaki’s place.

The entire premise of ReLIFE seems a little creepy at first, until a scene like this comes around and you realize there’s nothing to be concerned about, because Kaizaki is a good guy who knows his boundaries. Even if An thinks he’s 17 like her, and even if consensual sex with her is legal, he’s not going to do that, and not just because he doesn’t love her.

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At the same time, An’s long look at the MD, probing, knowing questions, and her little hair-and-glasses trick were all clues that she’s not 17 either, but rather another ReLIFE agent like Yoake—a far more reckless and cavalier agent than Yoake, to boot. But this was a legitimate test on how to deal with romantic advances from high school girls, and Kaizaki passed with flying colors.

I liked this reveal, a lot actually, because it was earned. It explains why An was so friendly and close to Kaizaki all this time without ever being the main focus. It explains her equally awful test scores. It eliminates the love triangle with Hishino for the duration of the experiment, while also opening the possibility of Kaizaki and An remaining friends when the experiment is over, since she won’t be losing her memories of him.

Even the show’s poster was a clue about An. And she wasn’t even entirely lying about “love at first sight” either. When she saw Kaizaki’s case file, she knew she had her ReLIFE subject. Only she couldn’t be his support because her training wasn’t quite complete, hence the transfer to Yoake.

While the cat is out of the bag about her identity, the other four members of Kaizaki’s circle are still in the dark, which should make for an interesting new dynamic; it also makes the episodes with An in them worth another watch.

At the same time, a great many cats remain securely in bags, like the details of how Kaizaki was found and selected, why An really isn’t his primary support, and who the heck Sample #001 was, and how and why he failed. Heck, An could be Sample #001, for all I know. And what do you know: the next episode looks to be a prequel of sorts, so those mysteries may not be mysteries for long.

One thing’s for sure: I’m barrelling through ReLIFE like there’s no tomorrow…but I can’t help it. Show’s too damn good!

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Rokka no Yuusha – 10

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What’s this? Why, it’s a frantic Adlet pleading his case to a skeptical Fremy as she points her gun at him and barks in absolutes! What is this, the eighth time we’ve seen this scenario? Still, the words exchanged between these two is the overture for an episode in which almost every character takes a slight to major detour from their established character paths. In Adlet’s case, when warned he’ll be shot if he lies, he decides to confess his love to an utterly bemused Fremy. You can’t say the lad lacks guts!

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Then it’s Mora’s character’s turn to take a kooky turn, when she uses her mountain echo ability to spread a blatant, vicious lie to Tania, Goldof, and Fremy: that Hans is in critical condition after being attacked by the Seventh. I’m not sure what to think about her decision to condemn Adlet, because after ten episodes we still don’t really know who Mora is or what she believes in. Her character is much like the barrier: an amorphous cloud of fog that does whatever the plot needs it to do to up the drama. She lies to make things harder on Adlet, but why is she so convinced he’s the seventh?

Beyond Adlet, Hans is the only voice of reason—a welcome departure from his own blind suspicion earlier in the show, resolved because he knows Adlet is innocent. Mora orders Chamo to guard him, and when Chamo tries to kill him, Mora stays her hand with mere words and the threat of more than a spanking. As I thought, the only person Chamo fears is Mora, even though she’s technically weaker.

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That’s not even as ridiculous as the change that occurs in Nashetania once she hears Mora’s broadcast. She starts to laugh and smirk like a common villain—teasing the possibility she’s the seventh after all—before telling Goldof she’s looking forward to her latest new experience: killing the man who betrayed her: Adlet. After all the accusations thrown Adlet’s way, she chooses now to react so dramatically? Sorry, it doesn’t add up.

Negotiations once again go south and Adlet must flee a pursuing Fremy, but when Mora joins in and tries to kill an surrendering Adlet, Fremy fires a shot between the two, defending Adlet and pissing off the increasingly violent, unreasonable Mora.

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While Chamo, Mora, and apparently Tania and Goldof can’t listen to is reason, but not Fremy. And in the face of all the reason Adlet is throwing at her—even proving her innocence with his master’s fiend-detecting spray, like he promised—she’s not fighting reason like the other so much as fighting back her own heart. After her mother betrayed her, she vowed never to believe, and therefore love, anyone ever again. Adlet has all but forced her to change that policy, as she becomes the second person after Hans to essentially side with him against hotter heads.

As for Nashetania, who closes out the episode with a demonic stare and cloud of blades, she seems more brainwashed by Mora’s lies than particularly hot-headed. But her rapid change in personality also happens to reduce my suspicion in her being the seventh. If anything, Mora is looking more and more like the enemy of the six, what with her reckless manipulation of the others.

And now, as things currently stand, Adlet, Hans, and Fremy—the three scrappers of the group—are now in a loose alliance. I won’t count him or them out, even if I doubt he and Fremy will get the storybook ending.

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Rokka no Yuusha – 09

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Adlet and Hans end up defeating Chamot, though not killing her (it looks like Hans simply hits her with his blades in a way that knocks her out). But getting to her person was something Hans would never be able to pull off on his own; he relies on Adlet to throw enough distractions and misdirections as Chamot’s fiend shield to give Hans an opening, while Adlet needed Hans to buy time so he could think of the best tactics.

Chamot laughed off the possibility of people working together to beat her, but Adlet’s resourcefulness (and bag of tricks) prove to be the deciding factor.

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While I like how Chamot was ultimately brought down, I don’t like how it doesn’t really change anything. Chamot has already made clear she doesn’t really care who is or isn’t the seventh, so she’s a liability to the Braves no matter what, having vowed to kill everyone but Maura. If Maura is the seventh, that plays right into her hands.

But for all of the smarts Adlet needed to summon to beat Chamot with Hans, he took two steps back after taking one step forward, by splitting off from Hans and Chamot. At least when those three were together he posed a less tempting target and more convincing innocent party to Maura and Fremy. Going out alone when those two still think he’s the enemy is, frankly, idiotic.

And I say that even though Adlet is convinced he’s figured out the Seventh’s plan and convince Fremy to side with him. Fremy has tried to make it clear she trusts and believes in nothing and nobody, but even after she decisively debunks Adlet’s elaborate theory, the fact he’s still smiling and laughing and not giving up intrigues her too much to simply kill him. In effect, she’s starting to believe in something: him.

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Meanwhile, Maura, who split from Fremy (also probably not the best idea) ends up in the temple. She frees Chamot, and refuses to believe Hans when he says Adlet isn’t the enemy. In fact, Maura seems to change Hans’ mind back to suspecting Adlet by saying Adlet is “attacking their hearts”, which is frankly pretty vague accusation, just as Maura is a vague character.

I’d suspect Maura most at this point if it weren’t for the couple of odd and, on the surface, innocuous cuts to Tania and Goldof, the only two braves who didn’t encounter anyone else this week. First, Tania remarks how Hans seemed to know she was a princess when they first met, but then pretended to forget, calling her “bunny girl” instead, angering Goldof.

Then, after musing about how there’s “something different” about Adlet, she asks Goldof to look at her crest, confirming all six braves are still alive. If we’re splitting hairs, there aren’t seven petals on the crest, so if the seventh dies, the crest won’t change. But Tania takes it to mean Adlet and the others are still alive, that Adlet is working hard, and that she must work hard too.

The way she says all this, it’s unclear whether she’s looking ad Adlet as a comrade…or a worthy adversary. If Tania is indeed the seventh, she seems to be enjoying herself.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 09

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At this point, I know what makes Sata and Erika work, and I know it’s a strong bond forged in hellfire that isn’t going anywhere. The show is keen to reinforce that with “challenges” to their relationship that rarely last longer than an episode or two, rather than introduce threats for the sake of stoking drama.

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Not only does Kamiya Nozomi believe he can ‘convert’ Sata into someone like him, but his charisma and persistence make us believe he can, too, at least early on. He’s the kind of ‘final threat’ that could take a show right to the end.

Ookami, meanwhile, proceeds to demonstrate just how doomed Nozomi’s crusade really is, without creating yet another relationship dilemma for Erika and Kyoya. In fact, Erika is glad Nozomi is sticking by Kyoya’s side; she knows how nice it is to have normal friends like Marin, Aki, and Ayumi.

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Nozomi believes Kyoya is resisting his instincts, and so throws gorgeous girl after gorgeous girl at him in hopes of “waking him up.” In the process, Nozomi is callously using his admirers as tools and bait…and Kyoya isn’t biting. I felt bad for Miho, Nozomi chooses, because she’s an innocent bystander in this. Nozomi is presenting Kyoya as an unattached suitor, which isn’t the case.

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Nozomi doesn’t quit while he can, but rather turns to more extreme tactics. It only takes two seconds for the girls to respond in the affirmative to his request they sneak into his room that night, and he sets up a “Who’s the King” game with the specific purpose of getting Kyoya to kiss Miho.

Again, it’s a cruel use of both the girls and guys, and underlines the fact that it isn’t Kyoya who has ‘something wrong’ with him. Even when Nozomi takes things to a point where he thinks Kyoya has no choice but to be kissed by Miho, Kyoya shuts her, and Nozomi, down.

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Foiled yet again, Nozomi is increasingly desperate and seems out of ideas, going back to the fact that he has 500 girls’ emails, all of whom worship him and would do whatever he wants, which he equates with enjoying life 500 times more than Kyoya with his plain girlfriend.

To this, Kyoya offers his interpretation of Nozomi’s situation, with classic Kyoya ruthlessness: “It doesn’t matter how much trash you pick up; You’ve just got a pile of trash.” The wording is way too harsh on the girls, but the point is, quality (of relationships, not merely looks) over quantity. Not only that; Kyoya has already been down the road Nozomi is on. He knows exactly where it leads.

A case in point occurs just after Kyoya bits him goodnight, when one of Nozomi’s 500 shows up and he puts the moves on her, wanting comfort in his time of vulnerability and defeat. She recoils: someone asked her out (Kimura, from episode 2!), and she accepted, so they can’t hang out anymore.

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Now Nozomi has 499 girls…but the loss of that one was his awakening, because deleting her made him feel absolutely nothing. He looks at Kyoya and Erika, so devoted to each other and so embarrassing in their flirtation, and for the first time really sees them.

Now he starts to get excited about finding a girl — one girl — who could be as special to him as Erika is to Kyoya. A girl who would make him feel bad (or at least feel something) if she dumped him. I’m not saying Nozomi’s lifestyle is something to avoided, and I don’t think the show is trying to make that point either.

What it is saying is that it’s far to easy to convince oneself that that’s the life for you. Kyoya once thought so, but he, and now Nozomi, have learned that it isn’t.

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 08

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Our fake couple is now a real couple, but the show wastes no time blemishing their perfect cherry blossom date by teasing the next fly in the ointment: Kamiya Nozomi, the Red Prince.

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Oh, and about that date: Kyoya only agreed to go because he lost rock-paper-scissors. And once on this date, he feels he’s under no obligation to do anything with Erika other than look at the trees. His uncooperative, unromantic attitude sparks an argument with Erika after he refuses to go on a boat ride. Trouble in paradise so soon? But of course; this is Kyoya and Erika we’re talking about!

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Erika stubbornly takes a boat out by herself, and surrounded by happy-looking couples, arrives at two conclusions. First, Kyoya is a jerk. Second, she’s a jerk too, for being so pushy. She realizes that simply forcing him to do stuff because he’s her boyfriend isn’t fun.

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But that’s only half the story. While just as stubbornly sitting alone, Kyoya comes to the same conclusions. When he sees how happy another girl is when her date gives her a peck on the head, even though he didn’t want to, Kyoya starts to get it. He’d rather see Erika smiling sincerely. The two make up quite cutely over takoyaki, and all’s well in paradise once more. Compromise and give-and-take – the keys to any healthy relationship!

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After that, it’s back to school, and Erika is delighted to find not only Ayumi, Marin, and Aki in her class, but her beloved Kyoya as well. Marin and Aki call her out on her cockiness, as now it’s their turn to be jealous their friend gets to be so close with her boyfriend all the time.

Their line to Erika is hilarious but also wonderfully meta, as it acknowledges Marin and Aki are actually much more than just the “self-obsessed class bitches” they began the show as. Sure, they’re still shallow, but they do care about her and value Erika’s friendship. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be so annoyed.

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Speaking of annoying (along with tacky and charismatic), as Erika & Co. approach their classroom it’s revealed Kamiya Nozomi is also in their class, and has wasted no time getting the lay of the ladyland, literally blocking the door unless girls give their names. Just as he assumed in the park that Kyoya was with only one of his many girls, when he sees him with Erika, Ayumi, Marin and Aki, it reinforces that assumption, which makes Kyoya something Nozomi was hoping for: a worthy rival for the girls’ love.

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I can’t fault Nozomi’s misinterpretation at this point, because Kyoya really does give off that air of non-monogamy with his intense popularity with the girls. And with that misinterpretation in mind, his constant hitting on Erika also makes sense. She’s one of Kyoya’s girls, but he’ll make her his, and learn what’s so special about her. Erika, perfectly content in her monogamous relationship with Kyoya, is intermittently flattered and put off by Nozomi’s extremely un-subtle advances. She’s not buying the tacky sales pitch…mostly.

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But even deflecting that pitch gets her and Nozomi in trouble for talking in class, and they’re appointed the lead student organizers for the class’s upcoming orienteering trip as punishment. Kyoya goes home without her, in a wonderfully shot little sequence where the colors are so bright and washed out it’s like she’s being isolated in some kind of draconian medical facility!

In there, she must endure even more of Nozomi’s flirting, even inviting her out some ‘adult fun,’ right after getting off the phone with another girl, and Erika has to put her foot down, telling him the behavior she’s witnessed from him just…isn’t right.

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Still wrongly assuming Erika is one of Kyoya’s many girls, he clears something up to her: he has no girlfriend. He doesn’t believe in girlfriends, and deems monogamy a kind of tyranny that has no place in youth. For him, ‘Tis more fun to have all kinds of experiences with all kinds of girls, without getting tied down.

He’s either under the delusion that no girl will ever start feeling serious about him or ever object to him having other girls…or maybe he’s aware of those possibilities and his freedom is more important than that kind of stuff. There’s also the fact that every girl he’s with knows what they’re getting into, and so they’re the ones responsible, from Nozomi’s perspective, if things go sour.

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Erika cannot endorse Nozomi’s philosophy. It’s just not how she was brought up, but she also wants the institution of monogamous romance to succeed, for obvious personal reasons. But when she tells Nozomi she and Kyoya are dating exclusively, he can hardly believe it. Almost every chance he gets, he points out just how…plain and normal Erika is, and how that reduces her value as a person. That’s the reason I really dislike the guy; not his promiscuity.

Kyoya and Erika’s happiness is far less important to Nozomi than having a decent love rival to battle over girls with. To that end, when he gets alone with Kyoya (who decided to be the dutiful boyfriend and wait for Erika, which is sweet),  he probes him to see if he’s serious about just dating plain ol’ Erika by asking what quality made him sink so low. Surely it’s because she’s rich, or has dirt on him, or because she’s good in bed.

That’s the hit nerve that confirms to Nozomi the state Kyoya is in, which he considers ‘sad’ and ‘a waste’. He’s in love with a girl far below his standing, and needs to be shown the error of his ways. This doesn’t bode well for Erika, who Nozomi may continue to pursue, which could get Kyoya jealous. It just doesn’t bode well period...but who said high school romances were all takoyaki and boat rides?

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 07

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Erika and the episode waste no time after Kyoya’s latest apathetic remarks; Erika approaches him cordially with the decision that she’s no longer a Wolf Girl, and he no longer has to pretend to be her boyfriend. Yes: Erika dumps Kyoya. It’s a command performance for both, but as Erika later cries to herself on the way home, it’s clear her love for him isn’t all gone, nor is Kyoya as okay with this development as he seems.

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A bit of residual anguish is to be expected, but the next day Erika is determined to move forward. She basks in Yuu’s kindness and accepts his invitation to hang out at an arcade, under the condition San can come along. The whole time, San notes how hyper and happy she is, almost like she’s forcing things — and she is. But Erika’s attitude is to be expected of someone who has just had a huge weight lifted off her shoulders.

She’s free: free from torture and verbal abuse; free to choose someone anew, who really cares for and will treasure her. Only…she makes clear to San she’s not sure Yuu is that someone. San warns Erika she can’t lead Yuu on too long, otherwise she’s no better than Kyoya. Yuu needs an answer ASAP, even if he’s not forcing her for one.

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At school, Erika and Yuu can’t help but see Kyoya with other girls, but his black prince persona is leaking out of him, as he’s frustrated with his loss of Erika and with those girls so eagerly presenting themselves before him to take it out on. Kyoya seeing Erika with Yuu, whom he dismisses as a ‘wimp’ and a ‘huge step down’, pisses Kyoya off even more.

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Yuu arranges a White Day date with Erika at the aquarium (ZOMG axolotls!), where they proceed have a ton of fun…while Kyoya lays on his couch at home, defeated. Kakeru (who along with his crew looks like a bunch of disguised shinigami from Bleach) spots Erika having fun with another guy and calls Kyoya in a panic, like the good friend that he is, to ask him what his fucking problem is.

Kyoya hangs up on him. It was so easy to mercilessly berate a girl who genuinely cared about him; now that she’s gone, and Kyoya finds that dispite his assertions to the contray, he genuinely cares about her, suddenly he has a far tougher road ahead to fix things. Yet there he lies on the couch. Who is truly the ‘wimp’ here, hmmmm?

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I said last week that Yuu’s syrupy-sweet, unconditional, suffocating niceness would grow old for Erika quick, and not just because she’s used to being mistreated, and it does. Because of that past pain, she desperately wants to fall for Yuu, but it’s just not going to happen as long as Kyoya still draws breath, cad that he is. Not only that, Erika just isn’t the type of person to fall for Yuu. She thrives in the battle, and giving up on Kyoya would mean surrender and retirement.

For that reason, Erika does the right thing and promptly, calmly explains why she can’t return Yuu’s feelings. Yuu may seem a but over-yielding and understanding here, but let’s keep in mind just how delicate and worrying a guy he is. He knew this was a long shot all along, and has no ill will to Erika. If anything, their brief fling was an enlightening experience for him, which will pay dividends in his future dealings with both people and girls.

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It’s worth noting that the popular fountain that’s said to increase a couple’s love doesn’t actually activate or light up until Kyoya happens to show up, with as close a tail between his legs as he can muster, which translates to him possessively grabbing Erika by the arm and dragging her away from Yuu, even though there’s no call for that beyond saving face. Yuu warns him that this time he’d better ‘treasure her properly’, something Kyoya doesn’t respond to, but perhaps understands now.

When Erika demands to explain his actions, he silences her with their first kiss, saying “No more ‘Whys’.” But a kiss isn’t going to cut it for Erika, who’s been through enough with him to deserve a straight answer. Again, it’s only as straight as Kyoya dares, which means it’s still pretty damn roundabout:

I already said you belong to me…it means you aren’t just a way to kill the time…in general society, they’d usually call it love, right?

Yikes. Still, it’s genuine. Satisfied that he was close enough for her to claim victory this time, Erika kisses him back, then agrees to let him be her real boyfriend. He takes exception to who is letting whom do what, but the long and short of it is, these two have worked things out. I couldn’t be happier.

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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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