Citrus – 06

My first thought about Mei’s Dad showing up is Please don’t be a creep. But once it’s clear he’s not, it’s also clear what else he’s not: Mei’s strict “sensei.” Mei’s ideal of her father is who he was, not who he is or who he’ll ever be again. He chose to leave the academy and won’t go back.

That decision left Mei alone on a path she thought they’d share forever. Her father’s absence has only made things worse, as by not opening his letters she could convince herself there was still hope he’d come back to that path.

Now that Yuzu knows the score from both sides, her goal of bringing the two together has gotten a lot more complicated. Mei is so distraught and fatalistic, she seeks an easy escape in fooling around with Yuzu. Yuzu is understandably insulted and pained if Mei thinks the only way Yuzu can “accept” her and “be the one that needs” her is to submit to commiseratory sex.

After an awkward morning where Mei slips out without breakfast, Yuzu’s Mama adds another piece to the puzzle: she calls her husband a “tsundere”, able to spread education and love to kids the world over, but finds it almost cripplingly difficult to do the same with his own natural daughter. And yet, he accepts that maybe he’s just not cut out for it, and that it might be too late, and asks Yuzu to be the support Mei needs in his stead.

While attempting to ascertain what Mei needs and how to support her, Yuzu gets some very welcome emotional and logistical support from Harumin, who strikes about the right balance between being almost too perfectly helpful and being a character in her own right.

When Yuzu gets word from Mama that Papa is leaving for abroad in less than two hours, Harumin takes Yuzu to school on her bike so she can find Mei, not wanting her dad to leave with things the way they are.

When they just miss each other in the chairman’s office, Yuzu hijacks the P.A. system to get a message to Mei: that she’s done a good job; that she shouldn’t blame herself anymore; that she’s pushed herself enough for someone else’s sake.

Yuzu snatches up Mei and they race to the station, which Mei thinks is another example of Yuzu acting without thinking. But Yuzu has thought about it a lot, and this is what she’s decided to do: cultivate a situation in which Mei is able to let go of “sensei”, embrace her father for who he is, choose her own path, and move forward.

They get to the station right on time to catch Mei’s dad. After they share some words, they have a cordial goodbye, and Mei actually calls him “father” for once. It’s certainly a bittersweet moment, but it also must be exciting and relieving for her; she really will inherit the academy, because it’s what she has decided to do.

That night, she opens and reads all of her father’s letters to her with Yuzu by her side. Yuzu is so relieved and happy that Mei has made so much progress that she can’t help but tear up a little. That, in turn, brings Mei’s face close enough to hers for a kiss, and they do kiss, but it’s not anything like any of the other kisses they’ve shared before. For one thing, neither forced it on the other.

With Mei’s daddy dilemma largely resolved, we immediately move on to this next stage in their relationship, just as Yuzu’s pink-haired, conniving, scheming, manipulative childhood friend remembers her and plans to “get back in touch”, which could well mean an attempt to ruin Yuzu’s life for her own amusement. Should be fun!

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Citrus – 05

Mei has no time for Yuzu and Himeko’s little competition for her, as she’s busy with both student council duties and filling in for her grandfather, the chairman. She orders the rivals to eat lunch together instead, and neither dare disobey.

Thus starts the first of many of the kind of interactions I was hoping for between Yuzu and Himeko: ones in which they put their gloves down for a second and simply exist adjacent to one another, as they must due to their associations with Mei.

Harumin serves as a great mediator in this venture, even suggesting the three of them and Mei go to Amagi Brilliant Park (well, something like it). Both Himeko and Yuzu doubt Mei will agree, but Yuzu will give it a try.

What Yuzu does manage is to get a day alone with Mei when they’re not at school; when Yuzu lies and said Mama would also like it if she accompanies Yuzu to visit her Papa. Note that Mei probably would have refused if Yuzu hadn’t lied, but it’s a good thing she did.

At first, Yuzu treats this like her first date with Mei, and tries to “cross a line” like Himeko claims to have done, first by breathing on Mei’s ear in a packed train (at first an accident, but repeated once she notices Mei’s reaction), then licking it.

When Mei asks her what the heck is up with her, Yuzu mentions what Himeko said, and Mei sets her straight: Himeko tried to do something weird to her and she scolded her. There’s nothing between them. This really puts a spark in Yuzu’s idea of her chances.

This leads to her trying to get an indirect kiss out of Mei by having a bite of her crepe, only for Mei to have only finished it. Mei delivers revenge for the ear-licking by wiping some cream off Yuzu’s face and eating it slowly, causing Yuzu to nearly boil over.

All these sensual gestures, combined with the simple pleasure of hanging out with Mei alone, gets Yuzu all worked up; she wants to kiss Mei and shout her love from the mountaintop more than ever.

But when she’s about to ask if they can hold hands (incremental steps), Himeko pulls up in her S-Class Benz and starts attacking Yuzu.

With a cruel, icy calmness, Mei basically tells Himeko to buzz off, and beckons for Yuzu to keep going. Mei and Yuzu walk away, leaving Himeko standing there, stunned, alone, and hurt.

It’s not the first time I felt for Himeko, but I’d never felt for her more before this moment. Even Yuzu can’t help but turn back, not to gloat, but with a pained, empathetic look.

It was around the time I was thinking “when the heck are they going to meet Yuzu’s Papa” that Yuzu brings Mei to a graveyard. It never occurred to me he was deceased, as I (wrongly) assumed her mom was divorced, not widowed. Mei also seems both surprised to have been brought there, but also honored.

It’s a very solemn, touching scene when Yuzu says all the good and bad things about Mei when introducing her and Mei doesn’t challenge any of it; this isn’t the time or place. Even more touching is Yuzu’s reaction when Mei silently prays at the grave. Yuzu is about to muster the courage to say something she needs to say…but Mei beats her to it.

The letters Mei gets from her father (whom she calls “Sensei”), one of which Yuzu jokingly threatened to open? Mei has never opened any of them. She’s afraid to, because if any of them contradict her long-standing hope that he’ll come back one day and everything “will be the way it was”, she’d be crushed.

When a shaken, tearful Mei asks Yuzu if such an outcome is really possible, Yuzu says the tactful thing, even if it isn’t something she can guarantee: everything will be fine, and she’ll help her in any way she can, like a sister should. The smile Mei gives Yuzu drives the point home: Mei doesn’t need love; at least not right now. She needs family.

As Yuzu cries out of Mei’s sight, Mei seems to be laboring to maintain consciousness, and sure enough, she collapses on the stairs at school the next day, right in front of Himeko. Trying to force herself up, she runs down Himeko just as Yuzu enters earshot, and, whatever bad shape she’s in, Yuzu doesn’t let Mei’s cruelty towards Himeko go unanswered.

What she does do is order Himeko to take Mei’s place at the various meetings she meant to attend, while she takes Mei to the nurse’s office. The two drop their rivalry for Mei’s sake, because Mei has not been looking out for herself properly enough, and their childish rivalry has blinded them to the toll Mei’s overwork has taken.

In the nurse’s, there’s no makeout scene, but a scolding scene. Mei explains how driven she is to become a worthy successor to her grandfather, especially now that his health may be failing. Yuzu wonders out loud why Mei’s father doesn’t take over, and Mei, for once, agrees with Yuzu’s  “nonsense”, which she likens to a broken watch—right twice a day.

And just to bring things around, Yuzu and Himeko have a nice little scene together in which Yuzu scolds her for overwork as well, tells her to be more honest, and the two come to a kind of detente.

That detente is sealed, in a way, when while walking to school the next day, Yuzu urges Mei to go ahead when they spot Himeko. Mei apologizes for being such a bitch to her and taking her for granted, and Himeko is instantly in tears, hugging her tightly, probably telling Mei she has nothing to apologize for.

That night, Mei’s father shows up, just like that. Yuzu has no idea who he is, and gets skeeved out when he hugs her and doesn’t let go (which, yeah guy, don’t hug a girl who doesn’t know you). Mei’s reaction to seeing her father again—as well as his reaction to seeing her—tells me things aren’t going to be the same in the Aihara household…but they’re definitely not going to be boring!

In the meantime, I really enjoyed both Himeko and Yuzu’s growth in this episode, the continued casual, reliable support role Harumin plays, and how Mei and Yuzu drew closer together not in a romantic way, but as family. Most importantly, Yuzu is now consciously weighing her own desires with what is actually best for her “little sister.”

Fuuka – 02

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There’s something…annoying about ready-made, built-in love in a show like this. We’re introduced to Hinashi Koyuki, the famous idol (Hayami Saori!), who damn near has a crisis upon hearing back from Yuu, whom we know she hasn’t seen in years. So she’s been madly in love with him all this time, or was it just a spark that was lit when contact was made after so long? I don’t know, but it’s too neat and tidy.

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Fuuka attempts to be coy, but she’s not fooling anyone; she could’ve gone with anyone to the Hinashi concert, but chose Yuu, who had to turn down Koyuki’s offer to come, only to end up there anyway. More coincidences = more frustration there’s very little emotional legwork going on on either side. It’s like Yuu’s in a very formulaic dating sim.

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Caught between the blue-haired wild child who seems to be sizing him up for boyfriendship (and is apparently the spawn of Suzuka, though I never watched that show) and the famous celebrity idol childhood friend Fuuka adores, Yuu stays cool. After all, he hasn’t the slightest notion of just how infatuated with him Koyuki is, nor how much elation she expresses when he says things she wants to hear.

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But a reckoning is coming. Surely at some point some combination of Yuu, Koyuki and Fuuka will meet, and not only will Yuu have some explaining to do to Fuuka, re knowing Koyuki, but he’ll face an impossible choice. That being said, considering the title of the show, Fuuka seems positioned to win, though I can only speculate about how Yuu will react if and when he finds out about Koyuki’s feelings. I shouldn’t, as he’s wont to do, jump to the wrong conclusions here.

Oh yeah, and after hearing her sing (she’s pretty good), Yuu suggests maybe Fuuka get into music, and she starts a light music club (ugh) at school, like, a day later. Am I supposed to believe she never considered getting into music until Yuu made that glaringly obvious observation?

I dunno man…this show could be trouble.

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Qualidea Code – 05

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QC stuck to its guns b confirming Canaria is dead, as were all the other students who went through the no-entry zone. Ichiya is off in a cloud of grief, leaving Tokyo rudderless. Hime leads the way in stepping in to pick up the slack, initially putting forth policies intolerable enough that she hopes Ichiya’s own people convince him to come back.

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Hime shows a lot more depth this week, as more than simply the hyper overpowered princess we’ve seen her as so far. We see the true reason Hotaru cares for her so much. Ever since Hotaru saw Hime’s hands trembling as she told adults she was fine after her parent’s death, she knows when Hime is hiding her true emotions, which she must to in order to try to restore some semblage of morale in Tokyo.

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Unfortunately, neither the friendly nor the more hard-line tack do much good against the nearly catatonic Ichiya. She misjudges just how much Canaria meant to him by scolding him for “freezing every time one person dies.” Canaria wasn’t “one person”, she was the person to Ichiya. We also learn that one person managed to survive the post-no-entry purge: Aoi, but only because the adults took out her old Code and installed a new one, with very little explanation other than “you’ll be fine now.”

We know that going into the zone marked Canaria and the others for death by surprise Unknown attack. But we don’t know why, and the adults don’t want anyone else to know, either. That being said, Hotaru still wants answers, and if she can’t get them from the adults, she tries to lead Aoi back to the no-entry zone for clues, all but forcing her to explain why they simply cannot go back there.

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As expected, it’s Kasumi who manages to get Ichiya back out into the sunlight, but he’s still a zombie who doesn’t do anything other than grieve and lament his plight this week. This had the effect of giving the other heads and subheads more screen time, and while the Chigusa siblings were their usual half-bored selves, Hime and Hotaru shined.

QC is doing the right thing by keeping its cards close vis-a-vis the Unknown. Typically, the more details one learns about an initially mysterious/inscrutable villain or evil force, the less frightening they become, since there’s nothing scarier than the unknown.

The fact we still know very little about what the Unknown are and what motivates them adds to their creepy mystique, leads us to flex our imaginations searching for theories, and mitigates their uninspired designs.

But it’s inevitable we’re going to learn more about them, especially when the very sky turns red as the largest Unknown force yet amassed seems poised to wipe out the three cities once and for all (a great Oh Shit moment). I just hope we don’t learn more than we need, thus the threat become devalued.

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Qualidea Code – 04

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Qualidea Code is a flawed show, but it’s showed signs of incremental improvement in the last two episodes. Lask week solved the “not enough peril” problem; while this week fixes Ichiya’s “boundless bluster” problem, delivering a much-needed dose of Canaria’s humility.

Indeed, while the turnabout in his personality was, uh, rapid, rapid change is possible in the midst of the person he cares more about than anyone else getting seriously hurt in a battle he instigated.

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As the exterior peril intensifies, internal strife fades away for the good of the whole group. Thus Ichiya’s improved personality raises all boats, showing that when the going (finally) gets tough, he can count on his fellow heads and their subheads.

Ichiya presents this new-and-improved, common sense-armed self to the adult bosses, who endorse his plan to ally with Kanagawa and Chiba to defeat the Leviathan properly.

He’s learned his lesson, and hopefully retired his tired catchphrase “I’m all we need.” Clearly both he and they need more than just him; they need each other, working together.

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His new plan for attack is neither nonsensical nor reckless; it is actually pretty by-the-book and straightforward, with each city playing to its strengths in an effort to distract, misdirect, and get through the armor of the Unknown.

Ichiya also leaves Aoi in charge of keeping an eye on Cana, who wakes up shortly after he departs for battle. She immediately sits up and gets dressed to catch up with him, but while Aoi tries to stop her, her fellow Tokyo broom-riders suggest a shortcut and for Aoi to accompany them.

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Kazumi uses explosives and something called “dead space” to suspend their assault train into a position from which the ground forces can attack, while Hime surfaces her submarine carrier right beside the enemy to deliver a blow that still isn’t quite enough.

Turns out, the five fighting the battle can’t defeat the Leviathan without their sixth, Canaria, who comes in singing and buffing everyone around her. Realizing he’s stronger with everyone than all alone, Ichiya scoops up Hime and flies her to the spot she needs to get to to take out the Leviathan.

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Remember what I said about QC being flawed? Well, while the peril is nicely pitched and the characters have gotten more interesting…the animation during the climax of the battle stinks, with the frame-rate dropping until it’s just a Powerpoint deck of still shots.

The show tries to pass this off as a “slowing of time” effect for enhanced drama, but actually has the opposite effect since at the end of the day, things weren’t really animated at a crucial part of the episode. The result was underwhelming and sloppy.

However, the episode makes up for that a bit with the aftermath, when Ichiya takes Cana back the hospital on his back and everyone celebrates a great victory….only for tragedy to suddenly, unexpectedly strike once more.

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A post-credits scene with Ichiya and Cana has all the makings of a quiet epilogue to close the episode out, but for Asanagi’s shocked, pained reactions to seeing something on Aoi’s neck, indicating she, Cana, and the others who broke Cana out of the hospital went through a “no-entry zone.” We also see flashing red lights in the ocean, and one of those foreboding seagulls gets killed in the sky.

Just as Ichiya is telling Canaria he’s asking for a demotion that would swap their ranks, making her head, and telling her how he doesn’t care about anyone in the world as much as her, a huge mass falls out of the sky and smites Canaria. One moment, she’s there smiling, the next, a perfectly circular hole in the ground, and a spot of blood in the water.

I’m not sure exactly what happened here, and it surely adds to the mystery of what the adults aren’t telling the kids. But whatever we learn or however Ichiya deals, killing off a likable main character in the fourth episode is a bold move.

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Ushio to Tora – 09

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Last week’s Fusuma side-story is followed by another side-story on Ushio and Tora’s journey to Hokkaido, and the show continues to prove it’s imminently competant at entertaining standalone stories that are part and parcel of Ushio’s new role in the world as a keeper of balance.

This week’s tale involve a family of fox-like Kamaitachi youkai siblings, two of whom are trying to reign in their wild, murderous brother Juurou, whom we meet as he rips the roof off a Honda, lopping off the heads of its occupants in the process. Kagari and Raishin are the sensible, older siblings, who test Ushio then bring him to their home in the forest.

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They don’t mince a bunch of words: they want Ushio to kill Juurou, before he kills enough humans to incite a reaction that will wipe out all kamaitachi. That being said, it’s never clear whether these three are all that’s left of their kind. All we know is, Raishin and particularly Kagari are immensely proud youkai, and while they love their brother (Kagari lops Tora’s arm off when he speaks ill of him), killing humans without reason is wrong.

Of course, when Juurou shows up, looking every inch the troubled, rebellious baby brother, he gives his reasons: every time he and his siblings are settled and content, the humans come and build something, destroying their home in the process and making them flee. He’s sick of it, and he’s become consumed by hatred, both of humans and for himself for not being strong enough to stop them. All he can do is lash out indiscriminately, treating all humans as guilty.

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Ushio can’t let that stand, so he rushes Juurou, but runs into a spot of trouble when he’s FRIKKIN’ KILLED. The look on Tora’s face when he realizes Ushio has died, and the panic that seems to course through him until Kagari heals him, is more evidence that Ushio and Tora are Best Frenemies Forever. I also like how Ushio dies, if only temporarily, even in a side-story episode. His life is a lot more dangerous. Fortunately, he’s an extremely tough kid, and they come right back at Juurou before he can kill any more humans.

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Once Ushio has met Juurou, he can relate to the hatred of having something he loved taken away—in his case, a “dangerous” jungle gym that was dismantled after a kid fell off it. Ushio’s always been the kind of guy who learns lessons by falling off or into things, perhaps not entirely sensitive to the frailer youths around him. But I can imagine being his age and losing something that cool would be devastating, even if it’s not the same scale as the Kamaitachi losing multiple homes to human development.

The site of the still under-construction freeway becomes a battlefield, but a sequence of events, from Juurou tearing off a big side of a rocky cliff to a truck falling on Kagari and Raishin and its gas leaking out, to the construction workers accidentally igniting the fuel with his cigarette, the situation just grows more and more tense. But Ushio and Tora keep the rock and truck from crushing Juurou’s family, and even a few construction workers hear Ushio’s pleas for help and are able to lift the truck off the Kamaitachi.

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It’s a night that shows Juurou the better side of humans, and that morning Ushio vows to find him and his brother and sister a new place to live where they’ll be safe. Juurou says that would be great, but leaps out to attack Ushio anyway, getting stabbed through the heart with the Beast Spear in the process.

There’s no happy ending here for the family of Kamaitachi, as perhaps Juurou believed it was too late for him, after all the killing he did and pain he endured. But hearing Ushio simply acknowledge the magnitude of what humans did to him, and earnestly apologizing, helped Juurou die a marginally happy youkai.

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Tari Tari – 11

Konatsu has written a script for the musical drama, and sets the club to work preparing. Wakana is writing the song, Sawa is doing the choreography, Taichi the sets, and Wien the props. However, the principal finally makes an announcement to the teachers, parents, and eventually students: the White Festival is being cancelled and the school is being shut down to make way for luxury condominiums. The club drifts apart as construction vehicles descend on the school, but one afternoon they all meet by chance in the hall. Wakana announces she’s finished her song, and wants everyone to sing it.

In Hanasaku Iroha, the Kissuiso inn was a character in and of itself: old and unappreciated by the winds of change, but beautiful, traditional, and warm. With five lively characters to keep track of, it could be easy to overlook the school they attend, but when we think back, it’s also a gorgeous building, with its gleaming hardwood floors, intricate outside tiling, ample natural light, neat half-moon sliding doors. We’ll bet the students took the beauty of this place for granted, and are only now appreciating it now that news has come down that it will be taken from them. This is something hinted at for some time, but it comes as a complete surprise to all.

The meek pushover principal procrastinates far too long, and culture fair preparations are already in high gear when he belatedly brings the hammer down, and a cruel hammer it is. In a painfully ironic scene, he cites Japan’s declining birthrate as Mrs. Takahashi’s newborn is crying, as if in defiance. For as big and beautiful as the school is, higher-ups have deemed it too big and occupying too valuable a property to allow a dwindling student body to continue using it. They want rich people living there. That baby isn’t the only one protesting: festival or no, Wakana wants her song heard, and the club is willing to sing it with her.


Rating: 8 (Great)