Koi to Uso – 12 (Fin)

Ririna doesn’t simply say she’s willing to abandon their arranged marriage for Yukari and Misaki’s sake; she lays out in a very detailed and realistic way exactly the way it’s going to happen, and it involves her and Yukari pretending like they hate each other’s guts—in other words, lying.

Yukari doesn’t like the sound of that one bit, as he doesn’t want to even pretend he doesn’t like Ririna. But Ririna appeals to Yukari’s deep and inspiring love for Misaki—without which Ririna would never have come out of her shell—and is able to get him to agree to her plan.

That means, at some point, if all goes as planned, Ririna will have herself “recalculated” to find another partner to marry, and asks Yukari to ‘show her what to do’, so to speak. The practical excuse aside, both Ririna and Yukari are lying here as well.

Ririna loves both Misaki and Yukari, so she doesn’t want to hurt either. What she fails to realize is that Misaki and Yukari have the same exact reason they don’t want to hurt her: they love her too. Forget about levels or tenure; love is love, and especially during one’s youth it can be extremely hard to distinguish one form for another.

As a result, Yukari initially stays away from the wedding dress fitting, convinced he’s hurt both Ririna (by agreeing to her plan) and Misaki (by kissing her in the chapel), and not wanting to cause any more pain to either. Nisaka shows up and lays it out as only Nisaka can: people who are hurt by loving him is not his problem; it’s theirs.

Nisaka speaks from experience here; he knows he’ll never have Yukari or even get him to look at him the way he wants…but he’s not going to bother him about it. He tells Yukari that when it comes to love, you have to look out for number one.

In Yukari’s case, he doesn’t feel comfortable living life without Misaki or Ririna. At the chapel, Misaki assures Ririna that her plan is impossible, because she, Misaki, loves both Ririna and Yukari. She couldn’t let Ririna drop her marriage to Yukari any more than Yukari or Ririna wanted to hurt Misaki by getting married.

It’s quite the conundrum! And certainly one for which there are no long-term answers. Presumably, Ririna and Yukari will one day marry, just as Misaki will marry her match (we finally learn definitively that she hasn’t received her notice yet). It would seem that love is not a problem for any of the three; it’s just a matter of learning what kind of love that is, and how that will (or won’t) jibe with cultural and societal norms.

Is this finale a cop-out that lets everyone off the hook by delaying a concrete decision on who marries whom? Sure is. But I asked for someone to win last week, and it would seem that, for now at least, everyone wins…Except Nisaka!

Ultimately, this show lacked the teeth that I had expected of a premise in which people were, if not outright forced, very strongly nudged into arranged marriages. As I’ve stated in earlier reviews, Japan’s appallingly low birth rate is a crisis that threatens the nation’s very existence. Drastic societal measures are needed that the notoriously unreliable bureaucracy likely won’t even begin to tackle until it’s too late.

Koi to Uso was initially, and could have remained, a fascinating look into the “what-if” scenario. But ultimately, The Yukari Law was little more than window dressing for a watchable but otherwise by-the-numbers youth-love-polygon show. It could have been much more, but would have had to go to darker places it clearly wasn’t interested in going.

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Koi to Uso – 11

With Yukari, Ririna, and Misaki making little progress in discerning who’s going to end up marrying whom, the three (plus Nisaka) end up at…a wedding. Subtle. Ririna and Misaki are also recruited by the ceremonial hall’s marketing rep to model wedding dresses. Also subtle.

The wedding itself is highly scripted and a bit stiff, with all the usual traditions and nothing in the way of really breaking the mold. The individuals actually getting married seem a bit lost in the procedure of the thing.

Still, a wedding is a wedding, and Misaki and Ririna have a blast, and are glad they were able to attend together. Misaki echos Arisa’s assertion that Ririna has become more open and easier to talk to, and Riri attributes this to her time with Misaki and Yukari.

Misaki also says she’d love to see Ririna’s wedding, all but surrendering Yukari to her. But Ririna can probably sense the lack of conviction in those words, especially when she peeks in on Yukari comforting a crying Misaki with a big long kiss.

I’m sorry, but at this stage, Yukari is being a big fat jerk here. I’m sure Yukari didn’t like seeing Misaki cry, but kissing her will only provide the briefest relief if he ends up marrying Ririna, which, that’s the case, he shouldn’t be kissing other girls. Get your fucking shit together, man!

Ririna seeing Yukari kiss Misaki casts a pall over the rest of the episode, as Ririna and Yukari’s families join forces to mudge their betrothed kids a little closer together at a splendid hot springs inn, even putting them in the same room together.

Their tour of the town demonstrates their easy chemistry with one another, and the fact they both genuinely enjoy each other’s company. They’re not exactly setting the world on fire with their romantic passion, but who cares? They’re a nice, cute couple!

So after witnessing Yukari and Misaki kiss, and Yukari telling her how he’s the person he is today because he followed Misaki and admired her from afar like a goddess…in the night, Ririna decides to tell Yukari she thinks he should choose Misaki over her.

If Ririna and Misaki weren’t such good people and good friends, they wouldn’t be falling over each other trying to sacrifice their happiness for that of the other’s, but Yukari’s persistent indecision—and his appalling indiscretion where Misaki is concerned—has also led us to this point.

The only satisfying way Yukari can respond to this by either accepting or rejecting Ririna’s concession. I’m fine with both, honestly. I may have sounded like a Ririna x Yukari shipper of late, but I’m fine with either girl “winning.” As long as someone wins, dammit!

Oh, and throughout all of this, why haven’t Misaki and Nisaka received their notices? Are Yukari and Ririna really that much older than them? The fact we have no idea who their assigned spouses are leaves me worried the show’s withholding that info for a last-episode cliffhanger—perhaps even a prelude to a second season I neither want nor need.

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I probably say this too often…but that’s more like it! Interaction between Yukari and Ririna is bascially why I watch this show. I’m not a rigid follower of the orthodoxy of the Yukari Law, but they were deemed the best match, and everything I’ve seen of them suggests that despite a few bumps in the road, they’re realizing that too.

But what about that damned Shuu? What did she mean about notices and fated partners? Both Yukari and Ririna want to find out, so they call a “truce” and arrange a meeting. Yukari tries first but fails, and Ririna comes to comfort him while he’s feeling low on himself, and sure enough, she knows the kind of burial mound he’s building in the sand.

Ririna doesn’t have any trouble arranging a meeting, but when she comes right out and asks Shuu what she meant (in her usual Ririna straightforward way), she demands a change of venue to a cat cafe. There, while playing with badly-drawn cats, Shuu underscores her one and only goal: to protect Misaki.

Shuu didn’t use to think much of Misaki, until she found out she was in love, and has been awe of that part of her ever since, noting the way she “shines.” But while Shuu’s grandmother designed the Notice system and she herself is some kind of genius and tech whiz, Shuu is still simply taking a side based on her own feelings, which is not what the system is all about.

Yajima, who tracks them all down, makes Shuu understand in no uncertain terms that love between government-matched individuals can’t really compare to two people who just naturally fall in love…but that’s not the point and never was. Surely, for instance, there are other matters of compatibility she’s discounting.

Indeed, The System, in its dispassionate way, seems able to discover pairings that would never have naturally happened, such as that between two people as different in personality yet alike in their isolation as Yukari and Ririna.

And what do you know, paired together and given the chance, they seem to be doing quite well. So much so, that their affection for one another is starting to take precedence over the third party’s happiness, even if neither is interested in hurting her.

Misaki herself has already said many times she’s willing to live with the fact she wasn’t chosen. I wish Yukari would hurry up and state for the record who he’s choosing. But it’s good to see the episode begin and end with him and Ririna back on good terms, having come out of the first true conflict in their still-new relationship none the worse for wear.

Koi to Uso – 09

A nervous Yukari spins his wheels the whole episode cursing himself for doing more in a school festival that does little more than take up time better spent with him and Ririna making up. Ririna barely has three lines, occupying the margins of the episode with her new buddy Arisa.

While the school play scenario was tolerable last week, another entire week of contrived “Romeo & Juliet” dot-connecting went a bit too far, and some last-second shenanigans from whassernam, the Yuki-Onna…Igarashi, mark a return to the plotting issues of the first episode, and make for a tedious, meandering episode.

I get it; Yukari’s in a weird place right now, and he’s hesitant to do or say anything that will make that place any weirder, and neither Nisaka nor Misaki make it any easier for him (not that they should).

But honestly, I felt like I was caught in an endless circle of Yukari milling around, worrying about things, not to mention his ultra-weak flyer game. Nisaka and Misaki seem to be putting on their performances for Yukari’s sake, as a means of openly expressing how they truly feel through the lines of their roles.

Unsurprisingly, the two knock it out of the park due in part to the real emotions and conviction they put behind their acting. When it’s over, Yukari is back to wandering around the school like a headless chicken, and runs into Igarashi, who drops the bombshell that calls the notice that names Ririna as his future wife into question.

Igarashi tells Yukari that Misaki, not Ririna, is his “destined partner,” and JUST THEN Ririna just HAPPENS to walk by and hear that bit, and like Yukari, demands to know what Whitey-chan means. We’ve seen her in a control room doing tech stuff for the Ministry, but if you ask me, it doesn’t matter anymore which girl is supposed to be his chosen future wife.

We’ve got a love triangle between them regardless, not even counting Nisaka, and that’s not going away just because all doubt of the notice’s veracity has been extinguished (which may not even be possible). Fewer plot contrivances from tertiary characters—and a little more time inside Ririna’s head—would be greatly appreciated.

Sousei no Onmyouji – 02

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Oji-san has passed SnO to me (he was not a fan), but I’m a little more amenable its jaunty juxtaposition (or sometimes, smashing-together) of super-serious and super-goofy tones. But hey, it’s hump day; I don’t need to be transfixed by high art or anything (that’s Sunday!)

I find SnO competent enough in what it’s trying to do, which is capitalize on the success of similar ‘dark-and-funny’ shows like BleachBlue Exorcist, and Akane ga Kill! to entertain without too much thinking. It is not as good as any of those, but I found myself charmed enough to sit through the entire episode.

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There’s a kind of cheekiness to watching Benio— her pride hurt by someone who has all the ability but none of the interest in being an exorcist that she has—shuffle off after exchanging names…then ending up at Rokuro’s house, where she’s to begin living. It reminds me of Rukia helping herself to Ichigo’s closet…she even has a fiery familiar who could well be a friend of Kon’s.

Rokuro didn’t steal all of Benio’s power the way Ichigo accidentally did to Rukia, but like Rukia she’s a rich, privileged, mildly arrogant kid whose kegare-killing parade was rudely rained on. Seeking redemption (and some restored confidence) she goes with Rokuro’s roommates to Magano, but is disappointed to find a far weaker foe than Rokuro took out.

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Naturally, since they’re now living together, Rokuro walks in on Benio, but she’s all covered up with a towel, not nude, and she responds not by screaming, but by arming herself and going after Rokuro, whom she’s already established is tough enough to endure such behavior.

Rokuro ends up plowing into a dude in his underwear who turns out to be Head Exorcist Tsuchimikado Arima. Believe it or not, I’m not done referring to Rukia yet, because just like her Arima uses crude but expressive crayon drawings to explain things, like why he’s inj his underwear (prior to arriving he was caught in flagrante delicto with a yakuza’s girl, and had to split sans threads)

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But while his manner of arrival is silly, the message he bears via oracle is not, and he summons both Benio and Rokuro (along with their grizzled guardians) to the subterranean Five Mirror Chamber. There, he presents the two as dual candidates for the Miko, the savior of exorcists over the Kegare. Then he makes them duel.

Rokuro wants no part of this, but Arima eggs him on by spuring his dead friends (the once who caused him to cast off exorcising in the first place) and he joins a fierce battle with Benio. Seriously, the best part of this show is its stylish, quick, and punchy combat, as demonstrated here. A steady helping in each episode will go a long way to mitigating the well-worn character traits and plot elements.

What’s also interesting: Arima never intended for one “candidate” to kill the other, making the survivor Miko. No, he intends to marry Benio and Rokuro together, and the child they produce will be the Miko. I didn’t expect they’d be anything other than grudging allies who gradually form a bond. This raises the stakes and makes things a little more interesting, if a bit neat and tidy.

In spite of an already heavy workload which includes another superior show I’m far more invested in, Ushio to Tora, I shall tune in at least one more week, then attempt to peel myself away.

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Punchline – 04

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P[anty]line continued its trend of creating more questions than it answers. It tosses a lot of plot and character elements out, hoping some of them stick to the wall, and some of them do. But its small successes are undermined by a stubborn lack of focus, and its underlying. There’s a lot of juicy intrigue lurking beneath the surface, but PL doesn’t seem that interested in letting us in. It’s un-ironic propensity for showing panties for panties’ sake doesn’t inspire confidence it ever will.

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Part of our frustration stems from Yuuta’s molasses-slow progress. Sure, he’s now able to manipulate objects and even briefly possesses and talks through Rabura, but this progress is meaningless if he doesn’t capitalize on it. All he manages to do in his seven minutes as Rabura is thoroughly confuse the girls.

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For the rest of the episode, Yuuta is back to being an inert observer. Instead we’re treated to a weird date Rabura set up with a gentleman caller she claims is from Gliese 832c, who turns out to be an NSA agent who was only using Rabura to try to initiate contact with Daihatsu Meika, whom the U.S. believes is the best person to try to eliminate the virus enabling the Qmay Group to prevent the launch of orbital nukes at an approaching asteroid. If the agent is to be believes, Qmay is actively trying to eliminate the human race. So I guess they’re nihilists?

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Rabura isn’t happy about being used, but still protects “Gliese-sama” when he’s attacked by “Miya-ken”, which brings me to my next grievance with this show, along with its scattered nature: I really don’t like Miya-ken. After Samurai Flamenco, I’m all hapless Super Sentai’d out. He helped out last week, but his presence here is baffling, and not in the way that makes me want to find out.

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I liked how the NSA agent created a rift between Rabura and Meika, with the former taking out her frustrations on the latter. There’s a familial vibe to their drying-off around the kontatsu scene, but then Rabura’s frustration leads her to lash out at Ito, who then turns on Mikatan, mocking her efforts to be the “good girl” and “hero.”

All this fresh clashing of obviously very different personalities is welcome, but it all feels a but rushed and inorganic, especially considering what we’ve learned from these characters thus far via flashbacks. Speaking of those, in the one in the cold open, we see a young Mikatan as one of many captive child test subjects. But it left on the back burner the rest of the episode, like Yuuta’s half-assed possession attempt.

This show is full of enticing tastes of things, but at the end of the day it’s just a bit too all over the place.

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Punchline – 03

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Punchline has generally a lot of fun to watch, but I’ve found myself struggling to like it as much as I want to, mainly due to its erratic personality. Rather than simply straddle various genres, it tries to operate in every genre, which is a tough proposition for any new show on the block, because it risks not offering enough of one thing to satisfy anyone. It’s throwing everything but the kitchen sink at us, but I’m almost too busy dodging it all to appreciate when something sticks.

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It’s one thing to keep your audience guessing or on their toes; it’s another to frustrate them by constantly tripping them up. So, did this third episode do anything to put the show’s meandering milieu into focus? Yes and no.  It offered perhaps more randomness than previous two episodes, but it gradually built the foundation of something recognizable and admirable, which is this: Korai House is no ordinary teanament.

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“Yeah, we kinda figured that,” you say, but while we knew everything was weird, we didn’t know why until now. Korai house, in fact, is the headquarters for a force for good, in a world that may be ending on the 31st of December. As such, it has drawn numerous seemingly disparate individuals into its walls.

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This all comes to the fore when, in a random attack by some weird masked commando with a turtle biting his junk destroys Mikatan’s mask in an effort to kidnap Ito’s pet bear cub, revealing the secret identity Mikatan worked so hard to keep from Ito, Mrs. Doubtfire-style, before.

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Another “freak” appears in a spandex bodysuit, who is ineffectual against the commando at first, but beats him back with authority after a brief trip into Korai House to do…something that powers him up.

We also get the reveal that Meika is a robot built by a famous genius inventor who told her one day a girl (Mikatan) would come to Korai and Meika would raise her up to be the superheroine she is now. I’m guessing bodysuit guy’s a robot too.

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How the scientist knew all that, along with how the bear healed from a bad knife wound so quickly, and how, if ever, Yuuta will get his body back, are questions that remain unanswered this week. But even though there was still a lot of volatility in the storytelling, I came away from this third episode with a slightly clearer picture of what’s going on.

What still concerns me, however, is the humor, which can be juvenile and obvious at times. Meika and Mikatan’s easily misinterpretable chat elicited some chuckles, but Yuuta blowing up the world at the slightest glance at panties is wearing thin fast.

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Yuri Kuma Arashi – 12 (Fin)

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Chouko and her bear extermination squad arrange an elaborate ceremony for a bound Kureha to exclude the evil by killing her friend Ginko. Ginko does the only thing she can do in her present situation to try to protect Kureha: try to reject her as a friend, saying she’s only there to eat her.

But Kureha knows that’s a lie; they are friends. And this week we find out how far their love really goes.

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When Kureha wakes up after being beaten for consorting with a bear, she decides the only thing to do in a world of severance between humans and bears is to make the bear she loves a human; that way it will be easier for everyone. So just as Ginko went to Severance Court to offer to give up Kureha’s love for her to make her human, we see Kureha also went to Court, offering to give up Ginko’s love for her.

Now, with Ginko’s death by the Invisible Storm imminent, and her own not far beyond, Kureha finally remembers how things went down, and what she needs to do to be with Ginko forever.

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She places the star pendant around Ginko’s neck, then tells Lady Kumaria she has a wish. The Judgemens fly off and join her growing light, their work apparently done.

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Kumaria comes down…and it’s Sumika. To borrow the vernacular of Kureha’s classmates, that’s way weird, but also way apropos. Could it be that while Ginko was out of Kureha’s life, Lady Kumaria herself took human form to befriend Kureha and teach her about the true love that awaited her across the wall? Is this an Ursus Desu Ex Machina?

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Whatever the case, Kureha asks Kumaria to make her a bear, and she does…and an adorable bear she is! Ginko became a human for Kureha, and now Kureha becoming a bear for Ginko; it’s the very symmetry symbolized by the girls in the story facing their reflections in the mirror—and destroying themselves to make a new being; that of tow joined hearts.

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Chouko still orders the other invisible girls to open fire, and then we cut to the world and the school back to normal, with no active bear alerts and Chouko giving a speech congratulating the exclusion of one evil, and opening the voting on who will be their next target.

But one girl, the one who operated the Konomi cannon, remembers that day on the rooftop, when she saw GInko and Kureha hand in hand, about to ascend a ladder into the heavens. Whether she was witnessing their death, or something more miraculous, I’m going to have to think on that for longer than I have!

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What’s clear to me, though, is that this girl was moved by that scene; so much so that she’s turned a deaf ear to Chouko’s bile, and seeks out the discarded “defective” Konomi. When she finds her, takes her paw in her hand, joyfully announcing she’s found her.

Even if Kureha and Ginko are no longer of this world, they inspired someone else to find their true love and not give up on it, and a new cycle begins, resisting the invisible storm in which they live.

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In an interesting framing device, the storybook tale of Kureha and Ginko is being read by Lulu to her brother Prince Milne, who may or may not be in some kind of afterlife. Milne’s take on the whole story is that considering Lulu ended back together with him )(because she’s dead?) he could have given her his promise kiss all along. Lulu says they’ll be together forever; Milne says he loves her, and oh no, that hornet thing comes back, circling both of them!

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The closing message of Yuri Kuma Arashi is: Change and awaken the world with your own love. It’s a lesson each of our characters learned through the course of the show, after much time and hardship.

It’s also a lesson absorbed by the girl who found Konomi, and even if she and Konomi face are threatened by ostracization or exclusion, if they don’t give up on love, someone will learn from them as well. Perhaps in that way, brick by brick, one day the Wall of Severance will come down.

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Kantai Collection: KanColle – 12 (Fin)

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Well, you have to hand it to KanColle, it wasted no time whatsoever declaring it was going to pour all of the compelling drama and peril and promise of the previous episode down the drain. Within the first thirty seconds, Fubuki arrives in the nick of time to save Akagi, as does the main battle force led by Yamato.

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As such, this entire episode is, at its heart, a complete re-writing of history, which makes you wonder (or possibly not wonder at all) why the heck they bothered to set up battles with real-world parallels when they were only going to turn the result of those battles upside down.

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But revisionism aside, this was never that exciting an ending at all because that early taking away of the stakes came with it the knowledge that this episode wouldn’t even be sorta adhering to reality. The show failed to rise above its somewhat unsightly core reason for being: to promote the video game it’s based upon, as well as its sundry characters.

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Thus, the result isn’t just a foregone conclusion (the Fleet Girls win it all without suffering any casualties), but the battle itself feels pointless and needlessly drawn out, infused with setbacks we know will be overcome by the time the credits roll. It’s an extended victory lap, as well as a showcase for every Fleet Girl character.

As for the Abyssals, they disappoint to the last, as one finally actually says something, but only simply phrases like “SINK!” Gee, I sure wish a show in which the good guys fight the bad guys had bothered to, you know, give us something, anything, with which to understand what the bad guys were about. But nope, they’re just evil.

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Looking back, Mitsuki’s loss of Kisaragi was the only remotely significant casualty the Fleet Girls suffered, other than the fancypants Admiral we neither saw nor heard for the extent of the show, and therefore wasn’t any more a character than the Abyssals. I kept watching this show because it had the guts to take Kisaragi out. Unfortunately, that’s all it had guts for.

Still, this episode is saved from total inanity by some nice moments between characters who actually were characterized in the past eleven episodes. Bonds like Nagato and Mutsu, Akagi and Kaga, Kaga and Zuikaku, and the core trio of Fubuki, Mitsuki, and Yuudachi, while nothing particularly special, got some pleasant closing beats.

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As for this admiral dude, I’m just not sure why I should care about him, considering we never see or hear him. I guess the Admiral is really you and me, huh? Well, excuse me if I’m not going to get all that excited about myself, nor a great host of Fleet Girls getting all hot and bothered about me. Simply put, I’m not that special.

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Yuri Kuma Arashi – 11

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With only one episode after it (that I know of), not a lot of big mysteries or unturned stones remain, but we never really got any details from Ginko about what happened in between Kureha finding her on the battlefield, and Reia sending her back to the bear world.

This episode corrects that, and while we don’t gain a ton of new insight on Ginko’s motivations, the details help paint Ginko in a more sympathetic light, and we also learn that she regrets giving into desire.

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Kureha may have found Ginko on that battlefield, but it ends up being Ginko dragging an exhausted Kureha back to the human world (not known: what Kureha was doing there in the first place, and whether Reia knew). Kureha’s words saved Ginko, Ginko’s actions saved Kureha, and a fast friendship was formed.

Life was so fun and happy living with Kureha and Reia, Ginko wrongly assumed the human world had accepted her, when in reality only two humans had. The others are quick to pounce on Kureha and exclude her based on mere rumors she’s friends with a bear. There’s no grey area to these vicious young girls, and that makes their fanatical, tribal exclusion of Kureha that much more chilling.

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Realizing she won’t be able to live with Kureha as long as she’s a bear, Ginko goes to Severance Court to ask to become a human girl, and we know the rest from Lulu: they grant her wish in return for the utmost secrecy and the loss of Kureha’s love for her.

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As a result, we see that once Kureha wakes up, she has indeed forgotten she and Ginko are friends, and without the memory of them saving each other, reverts to the same instincts as the girls who beat her: with fear and revulsion.

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It surely wasn’t easy for Ginko, but she effectively blew up her beautiful life with Kureha and Reia to protect Reia from the other girls, and by extension, from the wrath of the world she lived in which, contrary to Reia’s storybook, wasn’t ready for bears.

Of course, whatever selfless effects her actions had, they were still in service of herself: so that one day, after waiting for years on the other side of the wall, she could come back, in human form, and re-spark what she’d had with Kureha; totally irrespective of Kureha’s life in the interim, which included falling for Sumika.

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Back then, Ginko was also so focused on Kureha that she failed to see that someone who loved her there and then was right there in front of her in Lulu. She merely accepted Lulu’s offer of support and treated her like a sidekick. Lulu never complained, because Lulu was and is awesome; giving Ginko all her love without asking for anything in return or even ever bringing up the inequity of their relationship.

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In the present, though she’s more overcome by desire than ever before, Ginko still admits in her narration thatshe took Lulu for granted. At the same time we know that Lulu wanted Ginko and Kureha to exchange promise kisses. To fail in that would make all of Lulu’s support and devotion be for nothing.

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Ginko’s desire fuels a rampage that claims several Yuri hunters, and Ginko seems poised to fulfill her desire’s wish to monopolize and devour Kureha. It’s the same destination that led Yuriika to her doom, just a slightly different route.

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On the roof of the school (where all the big stuff seems to happen on this show!) Chouko Oki tears Reia’s book to shreds. Oki considers the book, which reflects Reia’s philosophy of coexistence, is what got her killed…a la Grizzly Man

She also insists that There Is No God (like the Lady Kumaria the bears worship), only the “invisible atmosphere” that rules them. (For what it’s worth, Life Sexy does say Lady Kumaria was “lost” when she broke up in orbit in the form of a meteor.)

In this regard, the Yuri civilization is ironically painted in the cold, unforgiving light of untamed nature, driven only by the natural processes and instincts its participants possess, rather than any higher power.

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As Ginko nurses her anti-bear beam wound, she puts up a fight against her primal desire to possess and eat Kureha, because that isn’t true love. True love was demonstrated to her by the selfless Lulu, who gave up on love so she could make it happen for Ginko.

Kureha did something similar when she found Ginko, only to collapse from exhaustion and the cold. Both Lulu and Kureha put their lives on the line for Ginko’s sake. Ginko decides she’ll do the same thing, and break through her mirror, because that mirror only shows her herself, and her desire. Kureha’s on the other side.

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As she did with Lulu, Kureha uses harsh words to try to keep Ginko away, but like with Lulu, she’s lying when she says they’re not friends, because she doesn’t want to lose them. If she truly hated Ginko and won’t forgive her, she’d let Chouko take her shot without a fuss.

But just when Ginko has finally decided she must follow Lulu’s example of putting everything she has on the line for the sake of another, not oneself, Lulu performs one last selfless act by literally taking a bullet for Ginko—A LOVE BULLET.

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As Lulu dies a happy bear in Ginko’s arms, her final words are of gratitude for being able to help her, and her belief that Kureha has forgiven Ginko, and they can now be friends, not merely a quarry being sought by a hunter. It’s sad to see the purest soul in the show go, especially when we thought she’d be safe back in the bear world last week. But that’s how the cookie crumbles.

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The question that remains is, can they really be friends, or more? We close in the same place we did last week: with Kureha in Severance Court, about to have her crimes read. Do all of Lulu’s efforts end up going to waste? Can Kureha truly never forgive bears? Why is she alone in court; where’s Ginko? 

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Kantai Collection: KanColle – 11

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I’ll preface this review by stating I knew the result of the real Battle of Midway, and which ships were lost in it. Suffice it to say, it was a devastating defeat for Japan, one from which they would never truly recover. So I entered this episode wondering: how would KanColle play this?

They’ve been more-or-less faithful to history thus far, a few details aside. The ships may have pretty faces and cute outfits, and the creators may have a game to sell, but I hoped that wouldn’t lead to any major revision of that battle. It made sense in the context of the story so far, after all, that things should go very badly for the Fleet Girls.

What’s interesting is that KanColle seemed well aware of my foreknowledge and anxiety, and seemed to play off of them in the tense build-up to the battle.

Take the super-dark cold open, in which the battle unfolds just as it did in real life: Akagi’s task force is decimated and she is so badly damanged she has to be scuttled. The show even takes the unprecedented step of portraying Akagi as an actual listing ship.

It’s only Akagi’s (recurring) dream, but the episode immediately grabs our attention, announcing it knows what we’re expecting. What it doesn’t answer yet at that point is, how close will it stick to history? Is Akagi’s dream only one possibility?

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As the episode settles into Naval District life as usual, but Akagi’s nightmare, along with the imminent battle, casts a pall on the bright and cheerful surroundings with girls drinking milk to prepare.

The episode is also punctuated by titles indicating how many hours remain until the battle, accompanied by percussive booms that reminded me of Akira’s iconic, chilling opening. This isn’t just Life As Usual…for many, it’s most likely the last of it.

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Not one to shrug off such disturbing dreams, Akagi considers them a warning and an omen of what is to come should things unfold as planned. She takes her intuitive concerns to Nagato and recommends slight alterations in the order of battle, which Nagato approves.

Both elite Fleet Girls get the strange feeling like they’re drifting down a river fate, perhaps one they’ve even been down before. Akagi has seen her doom in dream after dream, but she intends to break that destiny. She wants that more than ever after her escort Fubuki thanks her simply for being so awesome and inspiring her to achieve greatness.

But while Akagi’s mods to the battle plan are meant to change their course in that river of fate, the fact remains she was fated to make those mods, which will lead her exactly the fate she aimed to avoid.

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The battle begins, and things take a turn for the worse almost immediately as the main assault force led by Battleship Yamato fails to rendezvous with Akagi’s four-carrier task force, sitting in dreadful weather. Aware that they could be spotted by the Abyssals at any moment, Akagi decides to proceed to MI without the main force, leaving an initially protesting Fubuki and Kongou to stay behind and wait for them.

Akagi’s force detects an “airfield princess” on MI, and they launch sorties that do her considerable damage at the loss of only a few planes. Things are going okay, but the force fails to detect the other Abyssal forces who sneak up from behind and throw everything they’ve got at them. Just like that, the ambushers become the ambushed.

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Just like the real-life battle, carriers Akagi, Kaga, Soryu, and Kiryu all take damage. Akagi’s bow breaks early on, so she can’t launch any planes to defend herself or her fellow ships. The girls’ eyes are full of bewilderment, fear, and panic as the explosions around them multiply.

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And for once, there’s no rescue in the nick of time by reinforcements. There’s no cavalry in sight, or even on the way, as far as we know. Last time we saw Fubuki and Kongou, they were still waiting to no avail.

Things look very very bad for Akagi in particular, who has a torpedo/bomb flying straight at her when the episode goes to black. Her nightmare, or rather vision, is coming true. She wasn’t able to escape the river of fate.

While this is awful on an emotional level, it’s also precisely the kind of episode I was hoping for: one that wouldn’t hold back on history just because it didn’t deliver a happy ending to the show’s good guys.

But the battle is only halfway through. The challenge that faces KanColle next week is: Will it maintain this faithfulness to its terrible but ultimately dramatically satisfying conclusion…or will it chicken out at the last second and let the Fleet Girls snatch victory out of the jaws of defeat?

I’m not saying I’ll automatically be put off by the latter possibility. But it will be a lot tougher to achieve, because the pull of that river is awfully strong, and this episode contributed mightily to that.

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Kamisama Hajimemashita 2 – 10

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This episode features the unlikely but increasingly tolerable pairing of Nanami and a somewhat humbled (and therefore more reasonable) Brother Jiro, as they search for the Sojobo’s soul. He’s still stern and no nonsense, but he doesn’t prevent Nanami from following him down into a secret cavern.

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Jiro even tells her this was where Shinjuro got into trouble with a thunderbolt beast, and where Suiro lost his ability to fly by rescuing him. But when Jiro drops into a deeper chasm, even when lightning shoots up, nay, because it does, Nanami goes in after Jiro, not because she doesn’t trust him, but because he had the bearing of a man going to his death.

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The beast rears its head for Nanami first, and while she’s able to fire off a barrier against evil, it counterattacks with a massive lightning strike. It’s in this moment Jiro finally understands why Suiro saved Shinjuro and regrets nothing: the despair of losing his ability to fly was small compared to the despair of losing someone he loves.

Before Suiro knew it, he was moving to save Shinjuro. And before Jiro knows it, he’s moving to save Nanami, whom he admits he’s fallen for, and can’t bear to watch die.

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I love how over-the-top Shinjuro’s reaction to learning the soul is hidden in the same place where he was traumitized, but he quickly composes himself, knowing that not only is he a far stronger tengu now, in part because of that experience, but he’s also not alone: Tomoe is with him and Nanami is further in.

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Tomoe dispatches the “kitten” with his superior fox fire, but he isn’t able to bask in the light of Nanami’s gratitude for saving her as he usually does. Nanami is too concerned with Jiro, who is badly injured and loses consciousness.

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In a really nice icebreaker, the defeated thunderbolt beast, suddenly not so fearsome-looking anymore, coughs up the Sojobo’s soul like a hairball. Kamisama Kiss has always been great at tempering or punctuating its more serious scenes with lighter fare. Unlike, say, Violin girl, its slapstick never ruins the mood, but rather keeps it in check.

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Nanami’s continued concern for Jiro irks Tomoe, because he doesn’t like the idea of Nanami, whom he likes, worrying about another man. Still, he’s able to comfort her by assuring her Jiro will happily bear whatever consequences he must, because he got to save Nanami. He speaks form his own extensive experience: saving Nanami is always worth it.

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Kamisama Kiss puts on a romantic comedy/drama clinic this week, perfectly balancing Nanami’s joy and relief when Jiro comes to (thanks to her peach pills) with the embarrassment of walking in on a nude Jiro being bathed by Suiro.

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Tomoe initially playfully teases Nanami, but as usual goes a little bit farther than he should due to his own frustration of holding in his true feelings for the lass. When he tells her it makes no difference to him whether she goes back home with him or stays with Jiro to get to know him better, it clearly wounds Nanami, who contrary to Tomoe’s jealous suspicions, hasn’t simply flipped her love switch from Tomoe to Jiro.

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Still, Jiro did manage to do one thing Tomoe hasn’t been able to yet: clearly confess his feelings for Nanami. So at the cherry blossom tree viewing/Sojobo & Jiro recovery party (that’s a mouthful), Nanami is receptive to Jiro’s own attempts at courtship, which aren’t bad for someone who’s never laid eyes on a woman before.

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The beauty of the restored cherry tree makes for about as romantic a locale as one could hope for, but as much charm and respect Jiro has for Nanami, when she tells him how precious the peach pills she used to save him are, and how she wants Tomoe to have them if anything ever happens to her, it becomes clearer to him that he’s barking up the wrong tree.

Consider: when he flew her up into the tree, in a moment of fear Nanami called out for Tomoe. Also, when she has too many high-proof sake-filled steamed buns and gets wasted, she repeats his name again and again. With the walls of sobriety down, she also lowers her toughing-it-out mask. The only one she wants is Tomoe, and she’s far more happy being carried on his warm comfortable back than being in the middle of a cherry tree with Jiro.

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She even unabashedly lets off an “I love you”, not her first nor her last directed at Tomoe. And perhaps knowing she’s passed out and won’t hear it, he says he loves her too out loud. It’s a small step, but he knows it’s a necessary one.

As Shinjuro tells him, it’s precisely because human lives are so short, that if you have to say something, you’d better say it before it’s too late. Tomoe has technically said what he needs to say, but this time doesn’t count. Can he do it when Nanami is conscious? We’ll see.

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Yuri Kuma Arashi – 10

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An opening flashback depicts Reia sending Ginko across the wall through the Door of Friendship to save the bear from exclusion (i.e. death), giving her her pendant as a love charm and telling her the day will come when bears and people can be bears forever.

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Eleven years later, that day Reia dreamt of has never felt more far off. After the Yuriika Incident, the girls have fully militarized, forming the “KMTG” and procuring a truck armed with an anti-bear beam cannon powered by a cyborgified Yurikawa Konomi of all things.

Even though Yuriika is dead, the insidious threat she represented is having far-reaching consequences. Intolerance, paranoia, and vigilance are at all-time highs. Thankfully, even their leader Chouko Oki doesn’t suspect Lulu, or at least lets on that she doesn’t suspect her, simply warning her to watch out.

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Meanwhile, Kureha joins her mother’s incomplete story with the ending she found in one of Yuriika’s boxes, and so she and we find out what happened to the moon and forest girls, hoping to find some insight as to her and Ginko’s future. Staring at their reflections and warned that breaking through could cost their lives, they both decide break through anyway with barely a moment’s hesitation.

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The shattered mirror of their reflections give way to…each other, and they also waste no time embracing and exchanging promise kisses (i.e. confessions of love), and Live Happily Ever After. It’s a hopeful ending consistent with Reia’s words to Ginko about “one day” people and bears being able to coexist and love one another. But it’s also a bit…naive, not to mention contrary to the real-life story of Reia herself and Yuriika.

Kureha’s reaction to this is rightfully muted. She feels a bit of a fool for hoping she’d get all the answers from what amounts to a fairy tale. After all, there’s nothing in it about an anti-bear SWAT team on the hunt, nor the moon girl’s love for another moon girl (Sumika) whom her forest girl (Ginko) insists she killed, or the fact she simply doesn’t remember her love for Ginko.

There’s simply a lot more complication in Kureha’s world that her mother’s optimistic story doesn’t even bother touching on, so it loses a lot of its power.

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When Lulu arrives on Kureha’s doorstep, it’s with amends in mind. She knows what she did (sell out Ginko) was selfish and wrong and not much better than what Ginko herself did, not to mention it was done for the same reason (jealousy). She offers Kureha Ginko’s (formerly Reia’s) pendant, which she uses to unlock the picture frame, revealing Ginko in the folded photo, proving they were friends as Ginko claimed.

When Kureha offers her bath to Lulu (who is filthy from searching for the pendant in the dirt), Lulu tells her why Ginko said, and believes, she killed Sumika. Like Lulu’s transgression, she did it out of an unwillingness to back down on love. But when Lulu asks if Kureha will forgive Ginko, she says she can’t. This isn’t a fairy tale, and there’s no denying the fact she lives in a world of severance.

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That fact is made abundantly and rudely clear when, after a phone call in which Chouko ascertains a bear is at Kureha’s house, she has the KMTG storm it. Rather than give up Lulu, Kureha runs to the door of friendship, they make a run for it.

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As they run, Lulu figures out why Kureha forgot about her love for Ginko, but nothing else form that time: Kureha’s love is what Ginko gave up in order to become a girl. But Lulu thinks she can get that love back, because she didn’t give up on love, her memories were taken as a consequence of the Judgemens’ Yuri Approval.

Telling Kureha all this has immediate consequences for Lulu: her Yuri Approval is revoked and she reverts to her bear form. In that moment, Chouko targets her with a scope, but that turns out to be another bear on the run.

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Kureha won’t let Lulu, a friend, get excluded, so she takes her to the same place her mother took Ginko: the Door of Friendship at the flowerbed. But unlike Reia, Kureha doesn’t express her desire or hope of bears and people ever being able to coexist. Instead, she tells Lulu to leave “this stupid world,” and warns her that she’ll be shot if she ever returns. The optimism of the flashback is replaced by the despair of the present.

I hope this isn’t the last we see of Lulu, because of the three girls at the center of this show, she’s been the most flexible and caring of the others, and is the one most likely to reconcile the other two. Maybe she’ll get RE-approved?

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Kureha is conflicted between refusing to call bears her friends and knowing in her mind that they were and are. Sending Lulu off saves the bear’s life, but it could have also been a crucial step to Kureha fitting back in with her peers. Could have, that is, if Chouko didn’t catch her in the act, which she does.

With a spotlight on Kureha, Chouko creates her narrative of Kureha’s crimes on the spot: accusing her of consorting with bears and killing their friends. Kureha denies these charges, but she’s at gunpoint and in no position to defend herself against a group that has already made their judgement. All that remains is the sentencing.

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To make matters worse, Ginko is lurking in the bushes, her eyes red with the desire not merely to love Kureha, but to eat her. She’s in a very similar position Yuriika was in; a possessive, conquering love devoid of regard for the object of that love. In other words, right now Kureha is no safer by Ginko’s side than she is in KMPG custody.

Interestingly, after the credits roll, Kureha finds herself not in front of the barrels of their guns, but before the three Judgemens. Did they intervene? Is this happening in Kureha’s head? Either way, Yuriika and Ginko and Lulu have been through their Yuri Trials, and now it’s time for Kureha’s, which means no more standing on the fence.

Even if she wants to reject all bears forever, the yuri world is rejecting her as we speak.

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