Sonny Boy – 09 – 3 Cats and a Kotatsu

I’m still thinking about Episode 8, so I knew it would be hard to top it…for anything to top it anytime soon. Episode 9 doesn’t come close…but it does begin with the three Nyamazon cats shooting the shit like three wise old farts under a kotatsu. It’s just the latest reminder that predicting what Sonny Boy will throw at you from one week to the next is like trying to predict every move in a chess game when you’re not in the same room.

The cats, famous lovers of warmth, are under the kotatsu because outside the kotatsu is a frozen, snowy world. Nozomi, Nagara, Yamabiko, and their human Mizuho have traveled there to try to settle a thousands-of-years-old battle between two twins over who has the most hairs on their head (one claims to have one more). But it’s also a look back at Mizuho, and how the white cat Sakura believes she can’t survive without the three of them.

Honestly, the twin story is a bit dull, but it at least ties into the concept of duplication, which we learn is to be Mizuho’s true power. Everything the cats deliver to Mizuho and the others is a copy of products from the original world they came from. While Mizuho’s inner circle certainly wouldn’t hold it against her, the cats, who have been with Mizuho since she was a kid and still believe her to be one, are determined to keep it under wraps.

It’s Yamabiko who approaches Sakura with his suspicion that everything the cats deliver is copies. Sakura then admits that Rajdhani had previously figured out that Mizuho had copied everyone from the world, and now they’re drifting as copies of the people they once were, both the same and different, like the twins. Mind you, this dawned on Rajdhani when two copies of a tick dating Game Boy game(!) arrived, even though he knows there was only ever one in existence.

Yet Rajdhani didn’t tell a soul, proving to the cats he had “a fine character, for being so hairless”. Two copies were made of Sou Seiji, like someone accidentally ordering two of something on Amazon by clicking twice.

Sakura is caught in a bear trap to be a sacrifice of one of the twins, but Mizuho and Yamabiko save her. When armed with a gold ray gun by the shit-stirrer Aki-sensei, the other twin ends up with another ray gun, resulting in a duel that ends with only one twin standing, only for that surviving twin to take his own life.

Mixed in with this is how Asakaze seems to be making a habit of lashing out at Nozomi for not liking him romantically, leading to her spending the night outside sulking. One of the cats keeps her company all night, and in the blood red morning Nagara joins them, thanking her for “showing him the light”, leading him to change.

In a world full of copies and sheep, Nozomi, Nagara, Mizuho and Yamabiko (not to mention Rajdhani) stand out as one-of-a-kind souls who all thank the likes of Aki-sensei or Asakaze to let them pick their own places.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Sonny Boy – 08 – Canis Dei

What if you befriended God? Yamabiko pretty much did, as he tells the tale of how he became a dog to Nagara and Mizuho as they sit beside campfires in wastelands and traverse various gorgeous landscapes. Kodama was special. She could “direct” all things, and so quickly became worshipped by all her classmates. She became their “whole world.”

Then, out of nowhere, their world became something else: a pandemic struck the class. Horrible red tumors grew on their bodies, including Kodama’s. But Yamabiko, ever her loyal subject, refused to say she was ugly. In fact, he felt very much the opposite: she was hard to look at because she had become too brilliant. When one of her tumors burst and her blood flowed, he lapped it up, and transformed into a dog.

Yamabiko never thought he did much with his human form, an ill-natured youth wandering the worlds alone and bitter. But one night he was pulled out of the literal muck by Kodama. He found himself in a “peaceful, easy world” where she and the others lived contentedly. But she admits it’s dull, as living their cut them off from new information.

Yamabiko couldn’t understand why anyone, much less someone akin to a god as Kodama, would be kind to him. It disturbed him, so he attempted to flee. Remind you of anyone Yamabiko is currently traveling with? Naga-er, Yamabiko tried to sail a raft across the sea, only for Kodama to catch up to him with a hot meal. When he tosses it over the side, she dives in and makes a giant goddamn soup fountain that Yamabiko couldn’t help but lap up.

The more time he spent with Kodama, the more he thought he had come to the end of his once endless wandering, to his destination. But then the pandemic struck, and a man appeared who seemed to fare worse than any of them. This man was the first and only person to call Kodama “ugly”. It both shocked and pleased her, that someone would tell her the truth. That was the whole point.

This mysterious man, named “War” (which…okay) indicated he was not the sole cause of the pandemic, but a side effect of the otherworld in which everyone dwelled. In this world, mental wounds became physical tumors. As for who made this world, well…when Yamabiko was pulled out of that muck, he was being pulled into a world of his own making, which is why Kodama’s godlike powers could not stop the pandemic.

Yamabiko learns to late that had he “changed” himself and flown voluntarily out of the shell he had created around himself, he could have saved Kodama and everyone else; even met them on the other side, in another world where the pandemic didn’t exist. But he couldn’t. Even when Kodama was the last one alive and all but consumed by the red crystal-like tumors, he stayed by her side like the dog he was…loyal to a fault.

Then Kodama died, and Yamabiko finally fulfilled his promise to Kodama by flying out. He’d stayed there till the end because he feared losing the light that she represented. As for actually flying out, it took him five thousand years to do so.

As Yamabiko completes his tale, he, Nagara, and Mizuho reunite with Nozomi, and learn that while they believe they arrived precisely on the day agreed upon, time moves two weeks faster for her. No matter; Nagara takes her phone and re-syncs their times.

That night, beside another fire, Nozomi catches up on what Yamabiko has told the others. He also tells them that this “War” fellow was trying to kill God. Nagara wonders whether it would make a difference even if such a thing could be done while roasting a marshmallow.

So yeah…Yamabiko’s been through some shit. Kodama immediatley asserted herself as one of the most impactful characters of the series in just one episode, and much of that is due to Taketatsu Ayana’s virtuoso performance.

Combined with Tsuda Kenjirou’s dulcet tones, a lush, moody futuristic soundtrack, all those gorgeous, painterly vistas, and some truly gut-wrenching moments, this Sonny Boy stands as the most raw, unrelenting, and personal outing yet. I’ll be watching this many more times in the future, no doubt gleaning new insights or noticing new details each time.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

Sonny Boy – 06 – Director’s Cut

When it comes to anime, or any television or film, really, I’d rather not quite know what’s going on and be entertained than know what’s going on and be bored. Sonny Boy is definitely the former variety, and this is its trippiest episode yet.

I honestly had no idea what was coming from one scene to the next, but was thoroughly enjoying the ride the whole time. Heck, it starts by revealing that the voice in Hoshi’s head that knows the future is none other than Dr. Strangelove, timeless avatar of contradiction and inscrutability.

It becomes apparent that Dr. Strangelove of Sonny Boy is this universe’s God, or at least one of them, and likely the God of whom Aki-sensei speaks and acts on behalf of. Heck, by manipulating Asakaze, she’s built something of an army on the island complete with barracks and barbed wire for the express purpose of tracking down Nagara and his co-conspirators before they bring about the end of the world. Shit got serious in a hurry.

Still, even in its creepiest or most reality-bending moments, Sonny Boy has never put the lives of its students in mortal danger. No one has died. The “penalties”, while essentially torture, did not result in permanent damage. There isn’t even a shortage of food or supplies, the usual problems with your students marooned on an island.

But then Mizuho encounters a big black dog named Yamada Kunihiko in the Costco where she’s grabbing lunch for Nagara and Rajdhani. Yamada was not only once a human, but a student at their school. Yet despite being three years younger than them, he’s been trapped in This World for five millennia. In that time he’s taken on the velvety lilt of Tsuda Kenjirou—who I’m a little surprised wasn’t chosen to voice God.

Yamada is certain it’s too late for him, but Nagara and the others still have a chance to get home. It’s not impossible; just improbable. That hope proves feasible when the gang stumbles upon a world full of film reels, including reels of the original world where they came from.

After fiddling around with the projectors and reels in this world, Nagara and Rajdhani figure out how to edit the reels and splice and layer them together to create a “director’s cut”. This is the latest and best hope of returning to the world: building it from the myriad parts at their disposal, along with Nagara’s ability.

They only have one, no, two…actually three problems: the three other factions. There’s Hoshi and the StuCo; Aki-sensei and Asakaze, and then Ace and his group of no-longer-it-people. Hoshi, who again has heard the future will be and that it doesn’t involve going home, has instead built an “ark” that will protect his faction from the coming “storm”.

Here’s when things get a little nutty, in the episode’s version of a “battle scene”, as Aki-sensei and Asakaze battle Nagara and Rajdhani’s adventurous director’s cut, all the while traveling aboard Hoshi’s cubic ark. The visuals become downright kooky as groups of people simultaneously stand around statically and fly through wildly undulating landscapes and psychedelic patterns.

By the time reality “settles” back into the world and the school they know, it soon becomes clear that it’s not actually their world; or at least not anymore. Time has gone on and their class is graduating, but there are changes, chief among them that Nozomi died. While other students observe their alternate future selves, no one can see or hear Nozomi, and she phases right through people. It’s a nightmare.

Dr. Strangelove eventually confronts Nagara (while standing, oddly enough), telling him he didn’t create any worlds, but only observed them, thereby opening a “box of possibilities.” The alternate world where Nozomi is dead exists because the Nozomi who lives is on the island, along with Nagara and Mizuho and everyone else. They have been sequestered, and judging from Yamada’s fate, that sequestration is meant to be permanent.

They are unneeded copies, not chosen to continue in the world they used to inhabit. This is just the luck of the draw, mind you; just like being born with natural talent or into money. They got the short end of the stick…or did they? The world they caught a glimpse of didn’t seem “all that great”, to borrow Nagara’s words when questioning Hoshi’s ability to read the future.

It’s certainly not a world Nozomi liked, considering she was dead, but it also might explain why she and no one else can see a light up in the sky; it’s the same light her other self must’ve already stepped into when she passed away.

While others may contemplate whether their lives are better or worse—Nozomi now knows that this life here is all she has. Then again, it’s all any of her classmates have too. They may have split into multiple facets, but they’re still on the same island, in the same boat, with identical status of not being chosen.

If that sounds like a huge bummer, I’m still not convinced it is, especially when I think of the friendships Nagara has forged and the exciting adventures exploring new realms with them. If there’s a set limit to how far they can travel before bouncing off the boundaries of the island, well…how is that any different than the bounds that, with vanishingly few exceptions, keep us fundamentally tethered to our world?

Yuru Camp△ – 11 – Campvengers: Sukiyaki War

Yuru Camp gets right down to the “final battle” of the season: the big unified Christmas Camping trip. After ten episodes of “forming a new team”, we finally get to watch them together in action, much like the Avengers was the culmination of numerous smaller stories. But first the team must meet at the appointed place and time: Asagiri Plateau Campgrounds, 2 PM.

There’s nothing like the beginning of these kinds of trips…so exciting and full of promise! Chiaki and Aoi are the first to arrive, having gotten a ride from Toba-sensei in her rugged-yet-cute Suzuki Hustler. They assure her not to worry about hiding her drinking, as she should enjoy the trip too. The next time they turn around, she’s tucking into her bacon and beer. It’s only noon, so they head to a nearby ice cream parlor.

Next to arrive is Rin via moped, who is also early. Even though she sees Aoi and Chiaki checked her in, they’re nowhere to be found (she fails to notice the sleeping Toba-sensei), so she sets her tent up where she feels is best, looking on her completed work with hands on her hips and a quietly spirited “Yosh!” A little later, “the hyper one” arrives, dropped off by her big sis.

Rather than join Aoi and Chiaki at the ice cream place, Rin whips up a tasty s’more-adjacent treat by placing stove-toasted marshmallows within chocolate sandwich cookies. Nadeshiko approves. When Aoi and Chiaki see that firewood is available for cheap, Rin takes her moped to their location to load it up…leaving one bundle for Chiaki to lug on her own.

Rin then gets a cryptic text from Saitou, saying she’s sent an “assassin” to the campsite. Turns out it’s just her fluffy Chihuahua Chikuwa, whom both Nadeshiko and Rin beckon to, only to be passed by in favor of the warm space beneath the sleeping Toba-sensei’s chair.

Everyone marvels at Saitou’s wonderful (and expensive!) down sleeping bag, then wander over to Rin’s spot to marvel at her setup. Rin isn’t used to the attention, but she doesn’t dislike it. Then the girls break out a frisbee and run around with the little kids, having fun and making the most of Asagiri’s wide open spaces.

As the sun starts to drop and the kids and their parents take off, the group has some hot cocoa—which of course Toba-sensei laces with rum. The group sits back and watch Fujiyama turn red, and then Aoi gets dinner started. Following the advice of her granny who told her to keep things simple when it comes to high quality beef (always good advice), she whips up a big pot of Kansai-style A5 beef sukiyaki.

When the sun is gone and it drops to freezing, Nadeshiko shows everyone her patent-pending “Blankiemonster” method of preserving body heat. Aoi delights in the different ways each girl reacts to the deliciousness of the dish, from Saitou and Rin’s quiet appreciation to Nadeshiko and Chiaki’s “full-body expressionism.” Toba-sensei cries because she forgot to bring sake, the perfect companion to sukiyaki.

Saitou then breaks out the Christmas trappings, including a little tree and Santa costumes for everyone and a reindeer headband for her pup. But Aoi isn’t done, using the leftover broth and onions and garlic fried in Chiaki’s skillet to make tomato sukiyaki, an altogether different experience.

When that’s done, she prepares for a third round of food, this time with cheese pasta. Only she and Nadeshiko seem game, but everyone else commits to no more than a bite or two, stuffed as they are. But disaster strikes: the stove runs out of gas, and Toba-sensei’s cylinder also runs out. Not only can they not use the range to make the pasta, but Nadeshiko won’t be able to make breakfast in the morning!

Nadeshiko starts to weep with despair, but Rin’s got this, changing back into her street clothes and heading out on her moped to a convenience store to buy more gas. Nadeshiko also asks her to buy a tube of ginger. Toba-sensei wants booze, but Rin’s too young to buy it, so tough.

As she heads out into the bitter cold night on her trusty steed, primed to return the hero of the group, a smile comes to Rin’s face: just as Saitou had said, it’s an entirely different vibe camping with a group, and especially so with this group of colorful characters. Rin admits that while it’s different fun, it’s still fun as hell—just as it’s ridiculously fun for the viewer to vicariously share in all their experiences.

Star Trek: Lower Decks – 07 – Boim Us Outta Here!

Tendi has science’d-up the ultimate dog that is more than a dog (a la The Thing and with shades of TNG’s “Aquiel”). Captain Freeman, Ransom and Shaxs go on a super-covert mission (a la “Chain of Command”). Rutherford’s experiments in raising the ship’s transport speed results in Boimler shifting out of phase (like Geordi and Ro in “The Next Phase”).

Star Trek: Lower Decks is proud of its encyclopedic knowledge of the franchise, and not afraid of mixing and matching a variety of references to past series and films and putting just enough of a twist on them different and say something new about the characters of this show, while crafting a story that, while ridiculous and weird, probably works even for those uninitiated in All [Good] Things Trek.

Fellow Trek maniacs Mike and Rich Evans over at RedLetterMedia recently listed their favorite TNG episodes, and “Chain of Command” is one of them because, in part, it totally subverts the “crew having to pull together to foil the evil outsider captain” trope. Captain Jellico isn’t a bad captain, he just does things differently than Picard. It ends up painting Riker in a particularly bad light—a pretty bold move for TNG!

Anywho, in “Much Ado About Boimler” the replacement captain is Ramsay, a good friend and academy classmate of Mariner’s. Seeing those four pips on young Ramsay’s collar is a wonderfully simple and effective symbol of Mariner’s wasted potential—she really should be a captain by now!

Meanwhile Boimler, so eager to impress the new captain, ends up being ordered off the bridge since a side-effect of his phasing issue is an extremely loud transporter droning sound. In a break from usual Trek routine of the ship’s doctor finding a cure to a crewman’s unusual malady, Boimler is transferred to Division 14, a shadowy Section 31-like Starfleet org focused on, among other things, medical oddities.

Mariner and Ramsay are super chummy at first, but as Ramsay witnesses Mariner continually slacking off or performing simple duties sloppily, the act gets old fast. That applies when they’re on a second-contact mission to fix some alien water filtration system, and when they encounter their sister ship Rebidoux to be infected by some kind of parasitic alien.

Since The Dog Tendi made is also of interest to Division 14, Tendi accompanies Boimler aboard the division’s super-sleek experimental ship en route to a facility ominously called “The Farm.” Once aboard they encounter a veritable freakshow of Starfleet officers having suffered all manner of space diseases and mishaps.

When power is restored to the derelict Rebidoux, the alien awakens and the very seams of the ship start coming apart. Mariner drops her slacker act and suddenly becomes competent, which irks Ramsay even more because it’s clear now that Mariner was looking bad on purpose so Ramsay wouldn’t recommend her for a transfer and promotion to the Oakland.

While Ramsay is understandably pissed by seeing how low her former elite classmate, the one everyone thought would make captain first, has fallen, Mariner also doesn’t like how captaincy has changed her friend. Both have valid points, though it’s really hard to argue Mariner shouldn’t still be an ensign!

While the other Starfleet officers aboard the Division 14 ship are convinced the ship itself is “The Farm” and they’re being held there because they’re “inconvenient” to Starfleet’s veneer of perfection, the truth is “The Farm” is a real paradise planet, and it’s spectacular, while the division chief is just a little eccentric and has a sinister laugh you shouldn’t read too much into.

Tendi says goodbye to The Dog, who gets up on hind legs, says goodbye back, then flies away. Turns out Tendi, who after all isn’t human, had a lot of misconceptions about what a dog could and should do. As for Boimler, the phasing issue wears off, so he is no longer welcome at The Farm and its sensual massages.

Mariner and Ramsay may not be the happiest about how their friend turned out, but the two work together to save the Rebidoux crew as well as their away team. That said, they’re ultimately saved by Rutherford’s upgraded transporter. Everyone ends up suffering the same phasing issue as Boimler, but they don’t care; they’re alive, and it will wear off.

Finally, the alien itself doesn’t kill anyone, and isn’t evil at all! Indeed, it emerges from the absorbed matter of the Rebidoux as a jellyfish-like space-dwelling alien very similar to those first discovered in the TNG pilot, “Encounter at Farpoint”.

Harkening back to a 90-minute episode that aired back in 1987, it’s amazing to see how Star Trek has evolved with the times. By modern standards, quite a few episodes of the previous series (particularly the original) feel glacially long and stretched out. In contrast, I honestly don’t think I’d be able to tolerate an entire hour of Lower Deck’s energy and pace. Twenty-five minutes is the ideal length.

After Mariner showed what’s she’s truly made of on the Rebidoux, Ramsay’s promotion and transfer offer are still on the table. Mariner is flattered and grateful, but ultimately declines. She may have the ability to be a captain someday, but right now she’s happy where she is, where she can still figure out what she wants. In this regard she’s much like Riker, who passed up many a command because he loved the Enterprise and his family.

Stray Observations:

  • Mariner mentions “phase coils” as the kind of nonsense Captains often mention to their subordinates. Coils of one kind or another are omnipresent in Trek technobabble.
  • Tendi calling her dog “The Dog” may be a reference to people often calling Wesley Crusher “The Boy” on TNG.
  • It’s always fun to see alternate Starfleet uniforms broken out, and here we see Starfleet waders for the first time!
  • The Division 14 ship is a veritable smorgasbord of references, none more iconic than the crewman in the same beeping wheelchair as Captain Pike in TOS’s “The Menagerie”.
  • I love how the senior officers’ secret covert mission involves…planting a plant, when given the go-ahead.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 17 – Miyama-ty Report

This episode considerably scales back the complexity of last week’s outing and focuses on the precognitive abilities of Miyama Shaei, and their role in transforming Kuroko into even more capable and efficient Judgment Officer.

He starts by predicting a girl falling into the water—Chisa, whom I believe injected an ampule of fertilizer into a tree last week. Where before Kuroko would not have learned of her predicament until after it happened and it was reported, thanks to Miyama’s prediction she can rescue Chisa seconds after she falls in.

One after the other, Miyama predicts mishaps and Kuroko is able to teleport in the nick of time to save the would-be victims. Be it a girlfriend with a knife, a falling sign, or bullies, Kuroko is on the scene and Getting Shit Done.

Like the previous arc where she lost her memories, it’s never not great to see Kuroko operating in fully bad-ass non-comic relief mode. Mikoto and Saten don’t even appear this week, but I didn’t miss them because Kuroko can carry an episode any time she wants.

With the combined help of Miyama’s ability and Uiharu’s handy hacker skillz, a pattern of incidents are predicted in a public park, and the imagery points to a raging fire, so the girls recruit their superior Konori Mii and other members of Judgment to lock the park down and prepare for anything.

Since Kuroko has been at the center of so many incidents with happy endings, the other Judgment members don’t bristle at the odd request. However, Miyama eventually reaches his physical limit and has to be hospitalized with blood cell damage from ability overuse.

While there, he dreams of how he was ostracized at school by popular girls lke Okawachi Megumi for having such a “creepy” ability. She changes her tune when he predicts she’ll fall victim to a mishap, and promises her he’ll try to prevent it. Of course, since this was well before he met Kuroko—the only person who can change the fates he sees—Okawachi is badly injured and curses the day she met him.

When he predicts the first and earliest of the incidents to occur in the park, it involves a stray dog with whom he is close, and starts to wonder if Okawachi is right—if bad things happen to people who know him like her and Perro—as a result of his ability, a chicken-and-egg dilemma that would be stressful for an adult, let alone a grade-schooler.

Night comes, and with them predicted raging fires, an extremely clever and complex sequence of events involving both the park’s vending machine (which may have a frayed power cable due to Mikoto having always zapped it) throwing a short that ignites dry leaves and grass and eventually causes Chisa’s ampules to violently detonate.

Of course, Kuroko, Uiharu, and Judgment don’t panic; they planned for this, and Kuroko is outfitted with both a HUD monocle and breathing tube for a sequence of quick teleports into and out of the fire, rescuing imperiled parkgoers each time. Again, I cannot underscore how much enjoyment I get out of Kuroko simply hunkering down and doing her job extremely well.

A panicked Miyama races to the park to try to rescue Perro on his own, but in his childishness (he is still just a kid after all) he wrongly assumed Judgment wouldn’t bother saving a random stray dog. Kuroko heads back into the inferno with Konori and her X-ray vision and eventually find the dog, a bit limpy but none the worse for wear. Miyama can’t help but blush and tear up, and Kuroko tells him its okay.

Later, we learn that Miyama has arranged for Okawachi to adopt Perro, and that she’s ready to apologize for how she treated him. In a chat with Kuroko, he worries his predictions will only involve those close to him, but she doubts that will be the case, since he’s like her: devoted to peace and justice for all.

She also believes that in time his power will grow to the point he can use it more often without risking his health. And when he does, she’ll be ready and willing to receive more intel so she can do some more rescuing. I love how Kuroko faces away from him to hide her blushing, no doubt a bit embarrassed she shares the same values as a little kid, while also casually mentioning a certain “champion of justice” she looks up to.

The big question last week was if and how the shared dream fad and Miyama’s mishap prediction plot would connect, and the answer comes in a very small detail at the very end: those ridiculously hazardous nutrient ampules that Chisa used? They were meant to allow the cherry blossoms to bloom year-round.

Chisa and her friends got idea to use the ampules…in a shared dream. With the additional brief mention of a “mass unconsciousness outbreak” this week, is it possible Chisa was unknowingly directed to plant explosives, or was it an innocent accident? Considering the potential for abuse of the shared dream system and the large number of troublemakers populating Academy City, I’m not ruling anything out.

Kakushigoto – 10 – Prayers, Secrets, and Ghosts

Kakushi gets his team to aim for completion of a new issue in order to score a longer period off, but he only becomes truly motivated when Hime wins an Izu hot springs trip for the period he was aiming for. We get a glimpse at the class division between artists (who can only manage “cheap, close, and short” vacations) and editors (who can go overseas, like Tomaruin to Hawaii). Kakushi ends up working so hard for Hime’s sake, he comes down with a fever, something not at all uncommon among artists who put their work before their health.

When Hime wrote the kanji for “crab” a hundred times and then won a vacation that includes all-you-can-eat crab, Kakushi’s friends decide to draw up some sutras, choosing to believe in the power of prayer. Mind you, Hime wasn’t trying to write a prayer, but punish herself for eating all the chocolate butter biscuits (which, for the record, never last long in my house). But the crab connection was too enticing to ignore particularly for Kakushi’s three suitresses, whose sutras are marriage themed.

Once the Gotou party of three arrives at the Izu onsen (the inn graciously allows pets, so Roku gets to come), the dog starts growling at the adjacent room, which has a suspicious “under renovation” sign and strange aura. Kakushi is also anxious about Hime going to the woman’s side of the baths all alone, and so recruits Rasuna and Ami to accompany her. Only when they’re about to go in, Hime comes out, having already enjoyed a nice bath, and showing that she’s a more responsible girl than her dad gives her credit.

Kakushi observes that inns such as this that once hosted classical Japanese writers and other people of note must have its share of secrets. However, while in the restaurant he watches as everyone starts confessing their secrets one by one, from revealing they’re older or have had work done or that a dog is a mutt and not a Chihuahua. Peer pressure starts building around Kakushi, but he’s saved by a scream from Rasuna, who saw a creepy shadow in the empty room where the famous writer died.

Both the shadow and Roku’s interest turn out to be an ordinary civet peeking in the window. In the morning, Hime learns of the ghost sighting, and while she maintains she’s scared of ghosts, she’s also glad they’re around. She then muses on the reason ghosts are rarely seen and can’t be touched, one of the possible reasons being there are so many ghosts of those who died the world would simply be too crowded for their corporeal forms. It’s Hime’s usual childish whimsy combined with a wisdom and a poetry beyond her years.

Speaking of beyond years…Future Hime remembers all the times her dad came through the veranda trying to put up a brave front, but her being able to sense that he was anxious or depressed about something. Now that she knows of his manga, she assumes that was the job he quit. Then we return to Future Tomaruin and Rasuna. Tomaruin mentions the book that said Kakushi quit because he wasn’t popular, but in reality, he put his pen down willingly.

Why? Simple: his wife was lost at sea in a highly-publicized accident. Rasuna posits that such a horrific tragedy was anathema to a gag manga artist’s mystique, and Kakushi came to believe he couldn’t make anyone laugh anymore due to the tremendous grief in his heart from the incident in his private life. Yet, as we see in the present day, he kept creating gag manga after his wife’s death, hid his grief from his readers (which obviously tracks with both his name and the show’s title).

So did the public reveal of his wife’s loss not come until the period between the present and future timelines? And if he’s not dead in the future, could he be searching for her? With two episodes remaining, some key connecting pieces of this bittersweet puzzle have yet to be revealed.

Gleipnir – 03 – Total Sunday

Claire is eager to learn more about Shuuichi’s beast mode, but since it’s a hot summer day, she strips down to nothing before entering him again. This is a bit too scandalous for Shuuichi (more than a girl climbing inside him, apparently), so they compromise: she’ll wear her school swimsuit.

It’s clear Claire has fun teasing him with her killer body, but I’d hardly call this behavior sadistic—”teasing” is an adequate description of it, especially when she tickles him with his own hands. Also, she probably wouldn’t do it as much if Shuuichi didn’t have such reliably amusing reactions.

Their relationship has softened considerably since their first fateful encounter, and it’s likely due to the fact they’ve become one more than once now. It’s no longer antagonistic, nor does it smack as “we have no choice” reluctant cooperation. It’s starting to feel more like a partnership.

It’s a lot more like…two high school kids who never really fit in, hanging out and figuring this stuff out together. Neither is prepared for when Claire unzips the sleeve containing her sister’s uniform. It’s soaked with the stench of blood and the death of untold number of people.

Still, Shuuichi is desperate to learn why he came to be in this predicament and if it’s possible to reverse it, and when he’s one with Claire he feels a measure of her fear along with his own. That empathy-through-communion steels his normally timid nerves, and he resolves to help her find Elena, no matter what dangers or horrors come their way.

Claire admits she didn’t expect him to grow a pair, even calling his attitude “cool.” She clearly sees him as more than a tool to be used, just as he still notices the high school girl in her when she inspects her face in the fridge door. Heck, during their stakeout, she even admits unbidden that she’s still a virgin, erasing an potential rich avenue of Shuuichi-teasing.

Remaining out of sight and utilizing Shuuichi’s strong sense of smell, they eventually encounter Elena coming off a train. While Claire’s original plan was to talk to her sister, to try to understand why she killed their parents, but that goes out the window when she’s in their sights. Claire pulls Shuuichi’s big gun and prepares to shoot her, but Shuuichi stops her at the least minute, exerting control in a moment Claire is acting on instinct.

Then things get weird. Elena appears to be a beast like Shuuichi, but she can take numerous forms, and her human form evaporates into her smoke demon form as she gloms onto the back of Shuuichi like a predator about to make a kill. Only…she stops, and suddenly adopts a much meeker personality. Hanazawa Kana handles both the good and evil Elena quite ably, mirroring her dual performance of Nadeko in the Monogatari Series.

This suddenly human-again, polite, contrite Elena tells them that she understands how they feel and doesn’t mind if they want to kill her, but that they should go somewhere out of the way so as not to bother bystanders. Once in an isolated field, she bows her head and apologizes. To Claire and Shuuichi’s surprise, she believes she’s talking only to Shuuichi, and is apologizing for making him take that form.

When Claire lets out a yelp of surprise, however, It’s no more Miss Nice Elena. She transforms back into a smoke monster, sensing Claire inside Shuuichi and furious about it. She declares that Shuuichi’s insides “belong to her” and rips off Shuuichi’s head, exposing Claire to mortal danger.

This was all but unavoidable. Neither Shuuichi or Elena could avoid searching for answers, even if it meant getting into this latest life-threatening situation. Whether or however they manage to get out of it, the handsome “alien” with the coins only living things can see got it wrong: the inhabitants of Earth are hardly “all good people.”

Elfen Lied – 08 – Doing Nothing Wrong

Nana’s visit to Kouta’s house is brief, as no one takes her side when she says Nyu is the bad person (referring to Lucy). Mayu takes her duties as new friend seriously by chasing Nana down.

As Nana describes someone Mayu has never seen (the violent Lucy), she admits that it’s strange that she can’t sense “Nyu”, and that it doesn’t feel right trying to kill someone who won’t fight back.

Even after Nana leaves and Nyu comes to, she’s running a high fever that concerns Kouta and Yuka, and wakes up as Lucy. Being cared for in bed reminds her of another time she had a fever, when she was at the orphanage as a child.

While there, Lucy was relentlessly bullied by boys while a girl was always a little too late to stop them, and her only friend was a puppy. She tells the girl about the puppy, and she leaks the info to the boys. You can guess what happened next.

Lucy never wanted to hurt anyone. She was a kind soul who shared her food with a weaker animal. But people around her—supposedly “normal” humans—kept pushing and pushing until she simply couldn’t control herself anymore, and killed them.

After that incident, while burying the puppy the bullies killed for no reason other than to try to make her less happy than they were (mission accomplished), she meets a young boy…named Kouta.

To be continued…

Gleipnir – 02 – Entering the Emptiness

When fellow “monster” Hikawa threatens Clair, Shuuichi freezes up, and Claire hits Hikawa’s eyes with pepper spray. Rather than fight, Shuuichi gathers Claire up and escapes out the window. We learn that Hikawa was her school’s ace runner, and became a “monster” by depositing the star coin in the vending machine and wishing to run faster.

Hikawa wasn’t prepared for the monkey’s paw-like downside of her wish, but now she seems accustomed enough to it that killing Shuuichi and Claire is no big deal. Did gaining monstrous physical traits make her into a monster, or was she one before those traits manifested?

Whatever the case, Shuuihi absolutely sucks at fighting, so when Claire finds a zipper on his back, she unzips him and finds nothing but a fleshy pocket inside. And while Shuuichi stopped himself from going to far with Claire after rescuing her from the fire, Claire dives right into that pocket and finds that it fits as snugly and comfortably as a glove.

As a result of “becoming one” with Shuuichi, Claire can now control his body, and her moves are a lot sharper than his was. Shuuichi finds he has no control over his body, but his thoughts and sensations are merged with Claire’s, forming a symbiotic pilot-vehicle pair. While this isn’t conventional sex, it’s definitely a weird supernatural analog.

A brutal fight with the berserk Hikawa ensues, and Claire gets better and better at controlling Shuuichi’s mascot body. Before long, Hikawa takes a couple of hard licks and wears down. Claire puts her leg in a hold and threatens to snap it if Hikawa doesn’t tell her everything she knows about the star coins.

Hikawa ain’t talking, so the leg goes snap, and then Claire draws the mascot’s gun—which is real, it turns out—and blows Hikawa away. Shuuichi’s desperate pleas for her to stop go ignored, and when the threat has passed, Claire emerges from the mascot’s interior a sticky but satisfied mess.

A week passes, and both Claire and Shuuichi go back to their ordinary lives without any developments. Whatever went down, it seems they weren’t seen and aren’t suspected by anyone. The two meet in private, and Claire tells him other “monsters” are out there and both of them individual lack the strength to fight them; they have to act as one.

Claire also has a personal interest in this whole mascot monster business—her sister Elena is one, and she’s eager to find her. She also promises Shuuichi that whatever happens, she’ll die with him so he won’t be alone. When he asks what she’d do if he wanted to die now? She leaps off a warehouse balcony, hoping to “see him soon”. Shuuichi is able to catch her, but if he hadn’t, she’d have died right there.

Half a year ago, Elena visited the vending machine, but asked the boy inside to give her wish to someone else…someone she “wants to be with.” The strap on her bag is a tiny version of Shuuichi’s mascot form. What’s the connection? Why him? And will Claire gradually wear down his basic decency and make him a monster, or will he continue to let himself be her puppet?

Gleipnir – 01 (First Impressions) – The Minx and the Mascot

Kagaya Shuuichi is ordinary, or rather wants to be perceived as ordinary, and takes great pains to maintain that ordinariness. He lets cute girls borrow his work, sneaks a peek up a girls skirt when opportunity knocks, and continues wearing glasses even though he doesn’t need them.

He also turned down a decent college recommendation to pursue … something else. A girl who seems to like him gets it instead, but knows he was the first choice. Unfortunately, what this poor girl doesn’t know about Shuuichi could fill volumes.

I guess it’s not so much what Shuuichi is pursuing that made him turn down college, but what he is enduring. He’s suddenly been granted a highly elevated sense of smell, like a dog, and when certain conditions are met (which I’m sure he takes pains to avoid) he transforms into a giant cartoon mascot dog.

One night he smells fire, and finds a pretty girl passed out in a burning garage. He transforms and rescues her, but seemingly enchanted by her smell, starts pulling her underwear down before stopping himself, transforming back to a human, and fleeing in a panic…without his phone.

Having potentially set back his program of maintaining normality for years, Shuuichi plays dumb at school until he comes face to face with the girl, his phone in her hand. Considering his refusal to own up to sexual assault on an unconscious woman, and that he considers gaslighting her, I’m not that sympathetic with his predicament!

The girl, first-year student Claire Aoki (Touyama Nao), has no intention of letting Shuuichi off lightly. The underwear aside, she was trying to kill herself in that garage (or so she says), and he ruined her plans. After kicking him off the roof to watch him transform, she indicates her intention to blackmail him.

Claire also seems committed to making Shuuichi uncomfortable as possible whenever possible, as exhibited when she takes him to her apartment and strips down to change right in front of him, threatening death if he moves. They’re interrupted by the invasion of a mysterious woman who is after the weird gold coin Claire possesses. The attacker can also transform into a part-woman, part-beast, and proceeds to kick Shuuichi’s inexperienced-in-combat ass.

Gleipnir is the name of a delicate yet immensely strong dwarven-made chain that holds Fenrir back until Ragnarok, when he’s free to devour Odin. If Shuuichi’s mascot mode represents Fenrir, his human form is that chain. But unlike its Norse namesake it’s quickly fraying, thanks in part to Claire helping it along. Or Maybe, ironically, maybe it’s Claire who is the true Fenrir here, a wolf in model’s clothing. Shuuichi broke the chain and unleashed her by getting rescuing (and assaulting) her. There’s no going back now!

Gleipnir looks and sounds great (thanks to composer Sakata Ryouhei and a great Mili ED), with a taut, tense and gripping story. The dread of Shuuichi’s misfortunes is weighed against the reality of Claire having a legit beef with him. The cuteness of his mascot form contrasts with the horrifying nature of his transition. We’ll see what hell she puts him through, and if it ever rises to the level of Aku no Hana pitch-blackness.

Elfen Lied – 03 – Unlucky Number Seven

When Yuka walks in on Kouta undressing Nyu, a lot of things must run through her head. While it makes sense to get soaked clothes off someone before they catch cold, Nyu is also a beautiful woman, and one with serious mental differences. Yuka’s initial thoughts probably dwell on how bad it looks. But on a more basic level, Yuka doesn’t want Kouta doing anything with another woman, whether it’s harmless or not. As far as she’s concerned, Kouta belongs to her.

A lot of questions ran through my head during Chief Kurama’s encounter with Nana in her detention cell. Like “why is she naked?” or “why is she drenched in blood?”, or “how long has she been like this?”. The exact nature of her situation is kept pretty vague, but suffice it to say Nana has lived her whole life in the facility, enduring what amounts to unspeakable torture with a smile.

As such, Nana knows no other life, and no other comfort but Kurama as her “father”. So she’ll do anything for him…except kill. Instead, she’ll try to detain Lucy for him if she can. All she asks for in return is his necktie, which she uses to conceal her horns.

Yuka tries to stay away from the house where watching Kouta with Nyu causes her so much discomfort owing to her Deep Feelings for him (incidentally, the episode’s title). But when she drops off some of her clothes for Nyu, she finds Kouta has caught cold from his beach excursion, and Nyu is absolutely helpless to care for him.

Back at the lab, Kurama speaks to Bondo about undergoing castration…which is probably not what he should have started off with. He then describes who and what it was that Bondo lost so badly to, and the reason castrating him might save humanity: Lucy can “reproduce” through her vectors, causing the mutation in whomever she touches with him. In that way, she and her kind could one day overrun humanity as we know it.

Yuka decides that if Kouta won’t take Lucy to the authorities, then she’ll just move in to keep an eye on both of them. She puts Kouta to work cleaning up the house, and Nyu is eager to pitch in. That’s when Mayu, the runaway girl with the dog, shows up with Kouta’s umbrella. He has many questions about that night on the beach with Nyu and the soldier.

Nyu ends up slipping and falling, and whether due to the impact of the fall or the music box that plays the show’s theme song (or both…or neither), she reverts back to Lucy. She comes this close to killing Kouta with her Vectors before a flash of a younger Kouta stops them dead. Lucy runs outside, and for a moment the show makes us wonder if she killed Mayu’s cute puppy. It turns out she just set it free, but it soon runs back to Mayu.

As Yuka tries to talk to Kouta about whether he has any feelings at all for her (he seems to have lost a lot of the memories of the two of them that she cherishes), Lucy wanders off, eventually encountering Nana, whom she sensed was coming. Kurama’s underlings don’t think Nana is any match for Lucy, but Lucy’s problem is she never knows when she’s going to devolve back into Nyu…and Nyu isn’t a match for anyone.

Golden Kamuy – 19 – Missing Something

The reunion of Tanigaki, Inkarmat, and Cikapasi with Asirpa and the others was facilitated by Ainu hunters who then invite the whole gang to their kitan as they perform a post-bear-hunting ceremony, in which they tell the other gods that the world of humans is a good place. Asirpa is once again the “tour guide” describing the Ainu concept of kamuy.

Tanigaki then tells her about Huci, but Asirpa can’t go home yet, not when she’s so close to Abashiri and learning the secrets of her father. Instead, Tanigaki decides to stay by Asirpa’s side and assist her in her efforts. Asirpa also gives Inkarmat a look that seems to ask  what does this woman want?, which is also something I’d like to know.

One of the Ainu hunters recognizes Tanigaki’s rifle as having once belonged to the hunter Nihei Tetsuzou, whom he once hunted bear with. At the time Tetsuzou revealed the purpose of the seven notches in the rifle: they were made by his only son, who died in battle.

He made a notch for every enemy he killed, but his father would never know whether he lost count or simply died once he’d reached seven. He just wishes he’d never gone to war and simply stayed with him and hunted bear.

Koito, who like the taxidermist is in love with Tsurumi, reports on his failure to keep a hold of Shiraishi, and Tsurumi thinks Koito’s consolation prize of the con artist’s tattooed skin has the wrong marks, suggesting it may be fake. He assigns Koito to henceforth assist him in hunting down those who would prevent the 7th from its glorious victory.

When Koito mentions how Ogata was with Shiraishi and the others on the airship, Tsurumi laments how someone he was sure would be loyal is no longer in the fold. He regails Koito of the tragic tale Ogata told him, of how he was the bastard son of the famous Lt. General Hanazawa and a prostitute who went mad hoping that he’d come back to her if she kept making monkfish stew.

She did that instead of loving her son, who one day poisoned his mother to end her suffering, and also to see if his father would come to her funeral; he didn’t. He then met his half-brother in the army and could tell that he had a family who loved him. He shot that brother in the head, again to see if his father would simply think of his other son and his mother.

Finally, with Tsurumi’s help, Ogata performs seppuku on his own father General Hanazawa, who curses him as a failure of a son who was always “missing something.” Whatever that “something” was, it couldn’t have helped that Ogata never had anyone in his life who loved him. The closest he got was Lt. Tsurumi’s attempt at seduction, which, unlike, say, Koito, didn’t interest him in the least.

Back in the present, when Sugimoto, Asirpa, and the gang reach the sea and jump for joy, Ogata is watching their backs with binoculars, still searching for that thing he’s missing. Could he one day find it by sticking with these folks?