Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 09

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ookami Shoujo to Kuro Ouji – 08

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 08

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This week’s Herman-centric episode was as good as last week’s Leon-centric episode was bad. Because both took place over the same period of time, Garo could have structured it as a more integrated two-parter, in which Herman’s and Leon’s scenes would be woven together. But if that had been the case, this second episode would have suffered for it.

One way to think about it is that Leon lost, and learned he’s not as ready as he thinks he is, so it stands to reason his episode would also lose to Herman’s in terms of story, action, and especially comedy. This week repaired all the damage to my faith in the show last week caused.

Keeping the two sides separate let us experience All Herman, All the time. Mind you, if Herman’s horny roguishness and rubs you the wrong way, you probably didn’t enjoy this episode any more than last week’s…but I did.

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I really like how comedy was such a persistent presence this week, in contrast to the stiff joylessness of Leon’s dealings. One source of that comedy is the fact Herman is naked as his name day for most of the episode. Ironically, Herman was talking last night’s conquest about how he prefers his birthday suit to any clothes, let alone armor.

Then universe grants his wish, along with one hell of a taxing day in which he just can’t seem to stay out of trouble.

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Mind you, the trouble he gets himself into is all his fault, for letting his little Herman lead him around. No one makes him disrobe; he does it of his own volition once he’s confident the pretty damsel in distress he rescued from three goons will sleep him…which isn’t the most unreasonable assumption, but it is an assumption; made in haste in hopes of satisfying his libido.

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The damsel turns out to be in cahoots with the goons and rob him blind, and since he already helpfully removed his clothes, they decide to go ahead and take those too. Thanks to some quick thinking and resourcefulness (as a Makai knight, he’s used to fighting larger opponent) he manages to escape.

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But must escape naked, which gets him into trouble fast in the busy city. It’s great how fast his plight escalates, until there’s literally an army chasing after the guy. Mind you, this is really just one drawn-out hassle for him; he’s not about to take any of this misfortune as some kind of lesson in being more cautious with women. Herman is who he is, and sometimes shit like this is going to happen.

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This is illustrated perfectly when Herman borrows a sheet from a washerwoman’s line. A crossbowman with terrible aim corners him and accidentally loses a bolt, and Herman catches it before it hits the lady. In effect, this was a transaction: Herman takes the lady’s sheet, and pays for it by saving her life. Though he put her life was put at risk in the first place, I still think she got the better end of the bargain.

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Herman loses his sheet almost immediately while being chased by mounted soldiers, but is rescued by Emma, who always seems to show up at the right time. But she doesn’t just vanish in ten seconds like last week; she reports to Herman what she witnessed: Leon losing to the Black Knight, Bernardo Dion.

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With that name drop, the mood gets more serious (you almost forget he’s nude but for a junk-covering pink bonnet), as you can tell from Herman’s and Emma’s Serious Faces above. Knowing Leon is alive, however, Herman isn’t in a hurry to go to him; he’s a teacher as well as a father, and a teacher can’t always be bailing out his student when they run into adversity.

Heck, part of him is relieved Leon lost; after all, he was never going to believe his carefree horndog dad telling him he’s not ready to storm the castle. And Leon didn’t just fall short in strength here; a Makai knight’s duty is to protect, not fight or to dream of taking revenge and defeating nemeses. A Makai knight must float above all that, or risk being turned by the darkness inherent in their business; ‘one who studies horrors is studied by horrors’, and such.

Anyway, below is the exchange that ends the episode’s A-part, and from the delivery of the lines to the pause between them, followed by an abrupt cut to commercial, it’s pretty much goddamned perfect:

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I Lol’d.

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Herman ends up paying a visit to Garm, someone we haven’t seen in a while but seems to be a kind of Makai Supervisor who never wants for fruit. She also knows a lot more than Herman does, which pisses him off when she doesn’t inform him Dion turned ‘dark’ and attacked Leon.

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This is important because he and Dion were once on the same side, despite being complete opposites in personality-wise. Herman was pretty much the same outwardly carefree horny guy back then, while Dion was sterner, more serious, and the look of being weighed down by something. Herman, Anna, and Dion stuck together as the witchhunts raged, and one night when the three were cornered, Dion stayed behind to cover the escape of the other two.

It’s a valiant, honorable thing to do, but it spells doom for Dion, as in order to save his friends, he puts himself in the position of losing himself to the darkness he always felt lurking within him (that ‘weight’ I mentioned). Herman and Anna may well have been the last two people Dion protected as a Makai Knight. Now he works for Mendoza.

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I didn’t think we’d ever return to that barn where Herman was cockblocked and robbed, but we do, and this time Irene is genuinely upset and in need of rescuing, as one of her associates has turned into a Horror. He’s not a particularly tough horror, and Nude Herman is able to dispatch him without even donning his armor.

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Heck, when he ends up back in a situation where he must protect Irene — for real this time — and it’s suggested they sleep together after all, it’s as if the universe is balancing things out, just as he expected they would. Though he still needs to go pick up his clothes at the pawn shop, which means he needs coin, and last week’s final scene of a naked Herman is thus fully explained.

Yes, I much preferred separation Herman and Leon’s stories to their being meshed across two episodes. I’m glad Leon’s story was over and done with so it didn’t have to stink this up. Throughout most of last week I was frustrated, lost, and a little bored, to the point of wondering “Hey, I wonder what his dad is up to!” Now we know. We got the Full Monty, and it was glorious.

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