GATE – 22

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This week everything inches incrementally toward some kind of final confrontation in the capital, where it’s quickly becoming clear to everyone interested in peace that Zolzal can’t be allowed to rule much longer. The Rose Knights continue to fight for his bedridden father, against men who don’t at all want to slaughter the women they respect, who were allies until today. But it’s either the Roses or their families.

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As for Lelei, the assassination attempts continue as she attempts to make a presentation for her promotion to master; a cat-woman under the apparent influence of the Pied Piper. This time, the attack is foiled by Lelei’s fellow mages, watching her back and prompting Itami to wish the JSDF had magic.

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Of course, it’s good old-fashioned dagger in the chest by someone unexpected that seems to get Lelei, as the opportunity for Shandy to strike presents itself, and she takes it.

Meanwhile, as the low-morale Imperial soldiers continue to be beaten back by the knights, Tyuule tells the Oprichnina leader to either gather more men and get the job done, or kiss his own position and life goodbye. All the while, the SDF awaits official orders to intervene in the Jade Palace siege.

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Speaking of inching along, Pina is a “free captive” for all of a day or so before Zolzal’s henchmen clap her in irons and a burlap shift and toss her roughly in a cell, dispensing with her status as a member of the royal family.

Tyuule takes great pleasure in seeing Pina wearing the same shift she wore, occupying the same cell she once spent an inordinate amount of time…perhaps enough time to drive her to her crazy, power and revenge-hungry state.

The thing is, she hasn’t referred to Zolzal as her ultimate enemy in some time; all she seems to be doing is doing his bidding, perhaps all in the name of bringing down the empire. Right now her priority seems to be remaining in power and taking sadistic pleasure in throwing her new-found weight around.

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Shandy, it turns out, was not under the Piper’s spell, but heard that Pina was in mortal danger and believed the only way to save her would be to bring Zolzal Lelei’s head. This is an incredibly naive and shortsighted strategy, so I’m glad she was foiled. But at least she’s able to relay the fact Pina is in a very, very bad way, and needs rescue before something terrible happens to her.

Fortunately, the SDF gets their orders, and a paratrooper unit is quickly mobilized for an operation to save the Japanese citizens and pro-peace asylum seekers. At the same time, Itami and his gang races to the Imperial Palace to free Pina.

Everyone still in play is moving into position, and hopefully their efforts will bear fruit in terms of stopping Zolzal/Tyuule’s reign of terror, which is benefiting no one.

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GATE – 21

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Pina’s Rose Knights fight, bleed and die, but ultimately prevail against the initial force of Gimlet’s cleaners, seeing as how the latter aren’t equipped with plate armor and aren’t exactly great fighters. Sherry, wasting no time demonstrating what a badass she is, stands and watches with unblinking eyes the violence and death she knows is of her making (though I wish she and Sugawara had retrieted within the Palace, lest, say, a stray arrow find one of them).

The knights managed to keep Oprichnina at bay and protect the embassy this time, but a bigger, tougher force will show up eventually, and they’re going to be woefully outnumbered. This leads the officials responsible for the diplomats’ safety to beseech a minister for authorization to rescue them, along with the pro-peace refugees.

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The civilian politician is, well, like pretty much every civilian politician in GATE: a weak weeny who is waffling about doing the right thing because he’s too concerned about his own career and upcoming elections.

He has reason to worry: Alnus is full of press and military officials from all over, and he doesn’t want to look weak. As if the waffling politician weren’t enough, we also have a self-important journalist who has a low opinion of the noble SDF, and makes no bones about his journalism not being totally objective, since at the end of the day it’s a business.

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Meanwhile in Rondel, assassins make another attempt on the lives of Lelei & Co., only they are foiled by Itami’s stuffed beds and a flash grenade. The assassins are far from pros, but they are representative of the M.O. of someone called the “Pied Piper”, who exploits those who are easy to convince of huge plots and conspiracies and lies; in this case, young inn employees were told Lelei & Co. were impostors and murderers.

The key, then, to stopping these attempts on Lelei’s life is to figure out who this Pied Piper is and take him out. At the same time, Rondel has learned through recent messenger of Team Itami’s exploits with the Fire Dragon. In particular, Lelei is lauded as the one who finished it off, furthering the Imperial position that a human and Imperial citizen get the lion’s share of credit for the feat, which doesn’t sit right with Lelei (her word for it is “nasty”).

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Because the Jade Palace-protecting Rose Knights are under Pina’s command, it isn’t long before Zolzal “kindly requests” that she order them to stand down, promising no harm will come to the diplomats (but making no such promises for Casel or Sherry). Naturally, Pina refuses, and attempts to set off for the Palace to see what’s what, but then, in the least surprising move yet by the Acting Emperor, he places Pina under arrest. Frankly, Pina should have sneaked out of the Capital ages ago.

With a force of Imperial regular army—the Rose Knights’ own comrades—over one thousand strong at the Palace gates, the situation is about to explode. So it’s a relief that the civilian minister finally gives the go-ahead for a rescue mission.

Like Sugawara last week, his professional training gives way to his humanity, and he makes the better of two bad choices. There were going to be consequences either way, but at least this way he won’t be sitting back and twiddling his thumbs while his diplomats are slaughtered, along with what’s left of the pro-peace movement.

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GATE – 20

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I often groan at GATE episodes that mostly or wholly omit the core gang of Itami & Co., but that’s a bit unfair, knowing that GATE is about more than just one man or one group’s adventures, but about an entire sprawling world of multiple races, political affiliations, and ideologies.

This week may have felt more like a Sherry & Casel spin-off than the GATE I typically like, but it was nonetheless a strong and surprisingly moving episode that gave the current political troubles and Japan’s involvement (or lack of same) a smaller, human scale.

Under Tyuule’s manipulation, Prince Zolzal has passed extraordinary laws and raised a paramilitary force called “Oprichnina” to oppress all pro-peace actors in the Empire. Among those is Senator Casel, who hoped to find safety with Sherry’s family, but are soon set upon by Orpichnina “Cleaners” led by the sniveling Gimlet.

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Sherry leads Casel out of the house, and her parents proceed to burn it down, presumably dying in the process but covering the escape of both their family’s and country’s futures. Of course, Tyuule is on the scene and aware of Sherry and Casel’s movements, and uses her porcine assistant to get the two to “dance for her.” Not sure why Tyuule is micromanaging things to this extent, but I do know her evil smirking is getting old.

Sherry, despite being only twelve years old, doesn’t show her fear as she finds herself out in the world with people after her and an adult senator to protect. She haggles with a villager for food and secures a room at the inn, but the only way they’ll both be safe is if they can reach and gain asylum at the Jade Palace, a territory that is technically Japanese soil by treaty.

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They get to the boundary of the de facto embassy easily enough, but are met by Princess Pina’s knights, who relay the Japanese diplomats are unwilling to harbor political dissidents at this time, thanks to a hard line from the ministry back home that doesn’t want to look weak or further embolden Zolzal by harboring doves. Even Sugawara, whom Sherry is in love with and truly believes she’ll marry someday, won’t let his personal feelings interfere with his diplomatic duties.

The Japanese refusal to accept Casel means as soon as Gimlet arrives with his Cleaners, they arrest the senator and prepare to take Sherry into custody too. It’s hard to watch her come so far, with so much childish faith in her shining Japanese hero, only to be turned away right before the finish line, and into the jaws of those who have already destroyed her family and likely have nothing good planned for her.

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At the same time, while I despised Sugawara as much as he probably despised himself when he refused to act, I also appreciated his duty to his country. People can’t just disobey orders all the time. I thought this would all come to a heartbreaking end, with Gimlet’s grubby mitts all over an increasingly pathetic Sherry screaming for Sugawara’s help.

Turns out, Sugawara couldn’t abandon Sherry to a horrible fate. He orders her brought over to the Japanese side. This obviously led to the desirable outcome of Sherry being safe (in exchange for Sugawara promising to marry her after all when she comes of age), but GATE doesn’t pretend such an action wouldn’t have messy consequences.

There are knots and kinks in this particular fairy tale: Just as Sherry’s parents gave up their lives to get her out, Sugawara may have sacrificed his career and complicated Japan’s position to a potentially disastrous extent to save her. He did something he didn’t have the authority to do. Zolzal and Tyuule wanted nothing more than to stir the shit with Japan, and Sugawara’s heroism did just that.

The Vice Minister, who previously respected his decision as a diplomat while loathing him as a man, is forced to reverse both positions: condemn his actions as a diplomat, but laud him for being a decent man who couldn’t let the screams of a child go unheard.

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GATE – 12 (FIN)

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GATE ends its first season with a somewhat transitional episode that takes stock of what’s happened (and all that Itami has done) and sets up some new storylines to come in the second season (whenever it airs). Sure, there’s a dark elf looking for help from the Green People to save her village and not having a lot of success, but there’s not much else going on here, and certainly not any kind of season-ending cliffhangers where anyone is in imminent danger.

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That being said, Yao Haa Dushi’s story is a good one, even if it’s familiar (it’s a lot like Tuka’s, only there are still survivors in her village). She comes in fully prepared to use her body to seduce the green people to help her, which comes off as a bit of a sexist move by her village elders, alone with sending her alone with no help. A lot of the time she has trouble with something as basic as language, and is wrongly accused of mugging one of the seedier elements in the Alnus town after she refused his advances.

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The refrain throughout the episode is twofold: the bureaucracy is bad because it keeps the JSDF from helping people (and because in Japan, the ASDF has to share airspace with civvies and the U.S.), and the question What Would Itami Do? It seemed like stalling a stalling tactic to make Yao’s first impression of Itami so poor (at the tavern last week), and even more of a stalling tactic to send Itami away on a random mission just when Yao finds an interpreter (in Lelei, who is starting to augment her magic with Japanese science).

Everyone who isn’t Itami and is still in town wants him to get back so he can do something, because surely he would in this situation. Which begs the question: how is he going to get past the General’s order not to help Yao? Sure, he’s got some privilege and pull in the Special Region, but there’s still the JSDF chain of command.

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The rest of the episode seems concerned with further stroking Itami’s ego and stoking his legend both in the Special Region and in Japan. Pina seems happy to receive a new supply of BL literature (AKA “Art!”), but it turns out to be translated articles from Japan singing praises of everything Itami has done. This is a bit odd, since Pina and her aide react like they didn’t already know all this, when in reality they were present for much of it! Also, it looks like Pina has a bit of a crush on Itami.

So yeah, this episode wasn’t perfect, but it wasn’t a fiasco, either. And it paves the way for an interesting second season. I don’t think it’s a matter of will Itami go off to fight the fire dragon, but when. His JSDF comrades would seem to welcome this, but it’s implied there will be further consequences involving the military brass and civilian government, both entities the show has shown pretty transparent contempt for.

As for me, Itami’s head may be getting a bit big for my taste, but between Rory, Tuka, Lelei, Pina, and now Yao, GATE has a solid cast whose future adventures and fates will have me coming back, and hopefully its more troublesome elements can be kept at bay long enough for me to stick with its second season to the end.

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GATE – 11

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This was a pretty good episode of GATE; a vibrant episode thankfully bereft of real-world leaders and full of transition and change, opening five months after Itami & Co returned to the Special Region. The area around the military base and refugee camp is now a bustling town and a melting pot of Special Regioners and JSDF.

Pina continues the diplomacy, bringing a minister from Japan to work with the Imperial elites to negotiate a peaceful resolution, and as an old elf continues to struggle in the present, there’s a new elf on the block who has a mission only the JSDF can pull off.

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First, Tuka: Itami’s subordinate Mari wants to do more to help Tuka, who’s spent much of the last five months wandering the new town, looking for her dead father. Mari wants to make Tuka see reality so she can move forward, but Itami basically tells her not to rock the boat, because Mari doesn’t know she will be around to support Tuka indefinitely. No one knows what the future holds, so Itami is content with the status quo for now. Mari is understandably frustrated with Itami, but agrees not to do anything.

Having checked in on the Tuka situation (and even more briefly on Lelei, who looks disheveled but content in her modern clothes) we shift to Rory, still stubbornly donning her gothic lolita garb and trying to sleep with Itami. Itami, while flattered, still has an issue with Rory looking like a child, even if she’s 27 times older than him.

Her evening plans are foiled for good by the appearance of a new dark elf character, who also mistakes Rory for a child. Interestingly Rory plays along by pretending to be a child, putting Itami in a spot and forcing him to beat a hasty retreat when the elf draws her sword. I like how Rory takes her frustrations out on both the elf and Itami.

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We learn this dark elf is named Yao Haa Dushi, continuing the show’s George Lucas-style approach to fantastical-sounding names. Her misunderstanding about Rory is forgivable because she’s on a noble quest to meet with the JSDF. Her village has been attacked by a fire dragon, and she needs the “green people” to help finish it off. She doesn’t intend for them to work for free, either: she’s brought a ginormous adamantite crystal as payment; a material that doesn’t even exist beyond the Gate in Japan, which makes it very valuable.

Yao spends the night in a beautiful forest on the town outskirts, dreams of the village attack, and then wakes up to the sound of practice-dogfighting JSDF fighter jets screaming through the sky. It’s a sight that’s full of awe and majesty, and convinces Yao the JSDF are indeed the people who can save her village.

She’s convinced again when she spots a dual-rotor cargo helicopter zoom overhead. Itami is aboard that chopper, which is packed with goods from Japan furnished by the ministry of foreign affiars, who regard such items as ammo in the fight to turn Imperial hawks into Senatorial doves.

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Gundam: G no Reconguista – 14

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Would Gundam take the Christmas week off? Not a chance! Besides, in the SU-Cordist calendar, Christmas is called Schmistmas and it takes place on Flancember the 46th!

Still, I found it highly amusing that while showing off their new threads Noredo mentions how there are ‘no decent stores’ because this is…ahem…‘holy ground’…

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…And the camera cuts to Aida’s new cocktail dress. First of all, Noredo was lying about there being no decent stores (unless Aida made that red number). Second: how is this appropriate dress on so-called holy ground? Maybe Holy Ground is the name of Sankt Porto’s hottest nightclub?

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Ya hear that, Bell? You gotta do better than “You look nice” when a woman goes to the trouble of contorting herself into a garment of that caliber.

The juxtaposition of Noredo’s holy ground line with the dress makes me wonder if each character’s dialogue is written by a different writer, not knowing what lines the others are writing. If this is the case it’s a novel process, if a bit of a crapshoot.

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I guess even Aida thought her dress was a bit risque for the diplomatic talks, so the next time we see her she’s dressed normally, even though Rara and Noredo are still rocking their new threads (or did the animator forget what Aida was supposed to be wearing?)

Never mind, though…the sight of the delegation from the Moon not only sparks Rara’s memories, but she starts talking in full sentences with proper syntax! This is an awesome development, because the non-talking Rara has become more of a shrug-inducing afterthought than Bellri’s compliments.

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I liked how the quartet left in the middle of the meeting, because it was so damn boring. They even bump into Manny, if only for a moment, in which she tells them she’s a soldier now and she has to go! Hey, you went up to them!

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Manny just wants to be close to Mask at all times, perhaps sensing he’s really her boyfriend Luin, or maybe just has a thing for masks. In any case, she gets a tender moment with him (about as tender as you can get when separated by glass), but then BARARAAA calls him over and the two have a little twirl and Manny is JELLY.

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Yes, only then will you get to spend even more time with that ineffectual blowhard, whom you’ll have to take orders from even though you’d probably by a better pilot. Aim higher, Manny!

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Manny has a point though…whether it’s Mask and BARARAAAA, Bell and Aida, or Klim and Mick here, all the couples seem to be mobile suit partners.

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Mick has even started emulating Klim’s in-cockpit monologue style…

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…though she’s a few decades too early to think about taking his throne in that arena.

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Meanwhile, back in his G-Self, Bell is all about the murderin’ this week. He even counts off his kills: “One horrific death, ah-ah-ah! Two horrific deaths, ah-ah-ah!” It’s all good; he can’t see the pilots inside. No nightmares for him!

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Although interestingly, one of the Towasanga pilots puts up his hands and drops his weapon, and Bell somehow manages to stop his killing blow in time to save him. That was close, as the pilot was out of his cockpit, and while Bell has no problem killing people, the sight of blood makes him woozy!

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Can’t argue with that! But what’s with the slingshot? What is she, Denise the Menace?

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Not sure what Bell was grabbing for there, but it’s seriously great news that as they approach her home on the moon, Rara is finally talking and identifying the others by name. It’s almost like she’s going to start being a character…instead of a vapid mascot!

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Oh great…another ambiguous romance. And does the blondie let his five-year-old niece cut his hair, or what? No matter. This was not a bad episode, and we have the whole moon to look forward to next time.

It even ended with one of the more pointed, true-to-character, Gundam-y exchanges between Aida, Bellri and Noredo, which I’ll leave you with.

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Well said, all of you! All that was missing was a hearty “Chuchumy!” from Rara, for old time’s sake.

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Ai Tenchi Muyo! – 29

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So now we know the school administrators (if there even are any) are so cheap, the leave the roof repairs to Tenchi. Tenchi does his best, but he’s no roofer. Meanwhile, down below his home harem prepares a barbecue to cheer him up.

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Normally no non-students are allowed on dorm grounds under any circumstances, but Sasami’s over-the-shoulder smile is enough to melt Touri’s heart, and allows the incursion.

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It’s not just a barbecue for Tenchi, but for everyone (presumably there are no vegetarians among the main cast), even the science club, who happens upon the party. Yuki tries to graciously retreat, not wanting to start another fight but Momo invites them to join them; the more the merrier. Not to mention Aoi can’t resist the smell of the meat, nor can Beni pass up the opportunity to duel with Ryouko — with meat (and without collateral damage) this time.

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It’s another gesture that speaks to Momo’s inherent decency, diplomatic skills, and desire not to be alone like she once was in the past. She never wanted war with the science club. It’s a lightweight but feel-good episode, and as is usually the case, the grilling meat made my mouth water.

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Arpeggio of Blue Steel: Ars Nova – 08

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When Kongou’s fleet surrounds Iwoto, Chihaya invites her and Maya ashore to talk. He serves them tea and throws a beach barbecue party, giving Kongou an opportunity to observe the other Fog mental models interact and even have “fun.” However, Gunzou’s “trap” to “contaminate” Kongou and Maya are for naught, as they are merely decoys; their cores remain aboard their ships offshore. They return and begin bombarding the island. When Hyuuga’s shields weaken, Takao, Haruna and Kirishima combine their strength to reinforce them.

Chihaya’s mission is to get that weapon to America in hopes it will ultimately create a situation whereby the Fog will be forced to negotiate and the human race will be saved, not take on Kongou’s fleet when he only has half the numbers. With that in mind, he does everything humanly possible to try to neutralize her without fighting. He may have failed this week, but not before a lot of valuable facetime (or at least decoy-facetime) with the stern, humorless, ruthless flagship. Despite her confidence her time with Chihaya and the misfit Fog had no effect, the fact is, Kongou saw and heard what she saw and heard. It seems to us that’s enough to plant a tiny seed of rebellion in her core.

When she felt the heat of the tea, watched Hyuuga and Takao fight over grilled meat, or Makie and Maya having fun taking away Haruna’s coat (she’s apparently quite attached to that coat), or took a nibble of that kabob, she was experiencing things for the first time, which should stay with her. Hell, the inviolable “Admiralty Code” she speaks of says nothing about meeting with humans, talking with them, or going through all of the seemingly pointless motions she went through this week. We’re not ready to give up on Miss Kongou; she’s merely a tougher nut to crack, that’s all. Of course, at the moment Chihaya and the Blue Fleet just needs to slip past her; not convert her.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Stray Observations:

  • As we suspected, all the Fog ships thus far have had female mental models because of the human penchant for referring to ships as female. That being said, watch Kongou’s superior be a dude…
  • So one of Iona’s special powers is that she can see into the future. Kongou also seems to think she’s responsible for that dream-like mental contruct the Fog use to communicate.
  • Maya doesn’t seem particularly swayed by Chihya’s tactics either, but only because there doesn’t seem to be anything in her head whatsoever.
  • It’s a shame Kirishima is still a teddy; we relly dug her regular character design. Still, getting heavy from the water was pretty funny.
  • It seems like Iona was “born” (or whatever) without the need to follow the Admiralty Code, but only her own code, which was to be Chihaya’s ship.
  • The cut from Iona to Takao suggests Iona fights for Chihaya because she “loves” him, but still can’t quite comprehend what that is. Maybe if she hung out with less cardboard humans?