Cardcaptor Sakura – 33 – A Thawing of Relations

Winter has arrived, as has the first freeze, and as Sakura’s class will be going on a field trip to the ice skating rink, she tries to get some practice in on her blades, only to fall on her bum. Any soreness is forgotten when she learns Yukito is spending the night at her house to study for exams with Touya. She even has a couple “anyahns” for Yukito, something she’d previously saved for Mizuki-sensei.

That night, however, she doesn’t dream about Yukito. Instead, she has the same dream she’s had several times now, only the details are becoming clearer and easier to recall upon awakening. She distinctly remembers a full moon and someone with long hair. While this figure resembles Mizuki-sensei, Kero mentions the name Yue, I believe for the first time. Could the reddish hue of the dream figure’s hair be a red herring?

Armed with a beautiful bento prepared by Touya and Yukito (such a nice couple), Sakura hits the rink with her class. While she’s not sure on her feet at first, she quickly gets the hang of it (as Tomoyo predicted) thanks to some pointers from Mizuki-sensei. Syaoran also figures it out…just a tiny bit slower than Sakura. Meiling, meanwhile, bundles herself up like a button-cute Matryoshka doll, not used to Japan’s cold winter.

Turns out she doesn’t just have a ridiculously low tolerance for cold; temps throughout the rink and cafe soon drop below zerc degrees C, and soon everyone except Sakura and Syaoran are encased in ice, in one of the more overtly frightening scenes CSS has turned out. As expected, it’s the Freeze Clow Card. If they want to free everyone, Sakura will have to seal it.

Turns out Freeze is a hugely aggressive dick, and even with the heightened agility of Jump, Sakura takes a bit of a beating. Thankfully Syaoran is not only there to catch, shield, and protect her, but doesn’t get bashful about all the close contact. He even hacks away at the ice that starts to gather around her, then shows off his newly-learned skating skills to distract Freeze and allow Sakura to seal it. Since he made the sealing possible, Syaoran earns the card’s loyalty.

After Freeze is sealed everyone thaws out and no one is the wiser. As Sakura hands out hot drinks to everyone, her eyes meet Syaoran’s and she gives him a cheerful smile, and Syaoran can’t help but blush…again. Unfortunately for Meiling, he’s well on his way to having a crush on her. I’m not sure how Syaoran will eventually wrest Sakura’s primary affections from Yukito, we’re not even halfway through the show’s run—so he’s got time!

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.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 16 – Swapped Dreams and Foretold Trouble

Railgun is back…again…AGAIN again…and it’s lost none of its charm. With the Level 6 unpleasantness behind her for now, Mikoto is approached by Misaki’s lieutenant Hokaze Junko, who might just have the best hair of any Raildex character. Junko, who wrongly assumes her Queen and Mikoto are friends, just wants to be friends with Mikoto as well. It’s very sweet.

Like Mikoto, Junko is on the swim club, so has a chance to approach Mikoto about something else they have in common: they’re both Gekoers. While a bicker-session between Mikoto and Misaki erupts, Junko eventually gets a word in and offers Mikoto an “Indian Poker” card. Saten informs Mikoto of a new underground trend of recording dreams and sharing them like baseball cards.

The color of the card Junko gave Mikoto suggests a happy, pleasant dream, and that is indeed the case when Mikoto is approached by all of her favorite Gekota characters. However, the dream takes a turn when Mikoto is led to the castle to meet the queen…Misaki.

While I’ve no doubt Junko finds the prospect of a dream in which she gets to serve and pamper her queen extremely appealing, it amounts to a goosebump-inducing nightmare for Mikoto, who wakes up more exhausted than when she went to bed.

Junko invites Mikoto and Misaki to tea in an ill-advised effort to help the two become closer friends (something they’d never admit they were, even if they actually were). She hopes to use the poker cards to facilitate this, but Misaki shuts Junko down, telling her to stop playing with the cards and to tell her other followers to stop too.

Junko obeys without argument, irking Mikoto. Despite her own feelings about the cards, she doesn’t think it’s fair for Misaki to lord over people like Junko. But Misaki’s claims about the game being childish are put in stark relief when the three women overhear three fanboys worshiping the S-ranked “Dream Ranker” BLAU for his dreams involving real-life women they’d never normally be able to…er…interact.

When BLAU mentions how he has dreams available involving the two Level 5s from Tokiwadai, Mikoto and Misaki are suddenly allied in a way Junko couldn’t have forseen, though it does dawn on her how powerful the two would be if they combined their forces of destruction, coersion, and memory alteration. Maybe one day we’ll get a spin-off to this Index spin-off about the two doing perfect crimes!

They do just that when Mikoto zaps BLAU’s dream cards and Misaki alters the boys’ memories. She doesn’t mind a boy dreaming about a girl he fancies, but passing those dreams around for others is where she draws the line. Mikoto, meanwhile, is simply against all of it. When the wonderfully oblivious Junko asks what the two are on about, they both make excuses to take their leave.

Juding from the OP, the poker cards and Dream Rankers will play a far larger role, but this is a useful introduction to how the process works and how it can be used for nefarious purposes. From there the episode transitions to Uiharu and Kuroko’s Judgment duties, and Uiharu informs Kuroko of a new “treasure hunt” style app that uses augmented reality to show not just where accidents have occurred, but where they will occur.

Six out of six such “foretold” accidents ended up happening, leading Kuroko to suspect an esper with precognitive abilites is behind the app. The pair decide to stake out the site of a seventh future accident. A boy is nearly run over by a truck, but the boy is missed. A different car has to avoid the truck and almost hits a girl, and she’s the one Kuroko saves. Had she not been anticipating something to happen, she might’ve made the wrong move and things could have gone far worse.

Kuroko suspects someone was watching things from a high vantage point, and sure enough, she encounters a 10-year-old fourth-grader named Li Syaoran Miyama Shaei, and takes him back to the Judgment office. Miyama tells them the app was developed to analyze psychic photography espers like him, as he’s able to use a camera to take pictures that eventually develop into future events…but only accidents, in his case.

The app is a means of him concealing his identity, since like the poker cards his ability can be hazardous in the wrong hands—and we know there are a whole mess of underground groups in Academy City eager to be those hands. Miyama was actually hoping to gain the attention of an esper capable of altering the fates his abilities predict. Judging on how she handled the latest incident, he believes Kuroko is that esper.

This first episode back since Spring may have been absolutely stuffed with new plot points, they were all handled carefully and in the context of the characters we know and love. I think it was kinda the point to overwhelm us a bit with new information, but it was still all clearly laid out. There isn’t yet a concrete threat for this new arc, but all the elements and players are present for some mischief. I’m mostly just glad Mikoto is back on the board, stamping out dirty boys’ dreams.

Extra Stuff in No Particular Order:

  • I love how Mikoto doesn’t recognize Junko, who I don’t believe had been formally named yet, until she removes her swim cap to reveal those luxurious lilac locks. Junko is the undisputed Hair Queen.
  • Kuroko gives the first long-winded bedroom monologue in a long time as Mikoto sleeps, offering her body to her as she has so many times before. Unfortunately, when Mikoto yells “NEVER” in response to her Misaki-infected dream, Kuroko misinterprets it as a rejection, and is down in the dumps until the precog stuff surfaces.
  • Saten is the useful voice of explaining the “Indian Poker” cards, which I’ll be referring to as “poker cards” or “dream cards” going forward.
  • Saten also does a patented Uiharu skirt flip, but it happens entirely off-camera.
  • BLAU’s *bleep* laden description of his dreams involving Mikoto and Misaki make what he’s talking about sound much dirtier than if nothing had been bleeped…which works in the scene’s favor!
  • Preston is deep into OG Cardcaptor Sakura, hence me likening Miyama to fellow precocious fourth grader Li Syaoran.
  • I love how much Uiharu is looking forward to finally having someone in the office who will call her senpai. Kuroko is just worried she’ll dote on the rookie too much.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 09 – Once More Unto the Brooch

Sakura is feeling low after her humbling encounter with Syaoran Li. Tomoyo assures her she’s doing her Cardcaptor duties beautifully, but Sakura isn’t entirely sure she’d have fared as well against Thunder without Syaoran’s advice.

When she inevitably has to face him in class, she thanks him for his help and also mentions that she saw his green robes in a dream. Confirming Kero-chan’s later accurate assessment of him as a “despicable brat”, Syaoran demonstrates how he can turn any nicety into an opportunity to viciously neg Sakura.

Both Tomoyo and Rika want to cheer Sakura up, so they take her to a new shop that sells all manner of cute knickknacks, and the three girls end up buying brooches before going to Sakura’s house for tea and homemade pudding (which looks delectable BTW).

The pleasant decompressing takes a turn when Rika puts on her sword-themed brooch, her eyes go blank, and the brooch turns into a rapier with which Rika starts attacking Sakura and Tomoyo. Clearly, it’s a Clow Card, and Kero confirms as much when he comes down (but is also pissed about not getting any pudding!)

Kero warns Sakura that anyone with Sword card in their possession becomes a master swordsman. Thankfully, Sakura is able to dodge her strikes with her not inconsiderable agility, but Rika’s attacks are so fast all she can really do is defend.

That’s where Syaoran comes out of nowhere to insert himself into the battle. Worried he’ll hurt Rika in pursuit of the card, Sakura grabs him and uses Jump to keep him away from her friend. Sakura has let this kid get away with a lot, but when it comes to her friends, she’s not someone to be trifled with!

All that’s needed to break Rika from Sword’s spell is for her to momentarily drop the sword. To accomplish this, Sakura employs Illusion to conjure the image of their homeroom teacher on whom Rika has a crush. While she’s distracted Sakura knocks the blade out of her hand, then successfully secures the Card…all without Syaoran’s help.

Kero-chan makes sure Syaoran doesn’t interfere by biting him repeatedly, but when Yukito suddenly appears, it isn’t Sakura’s staff or Kero or the unconscious Rika that catch his attention; it’s the bite mark on Syaoran’s finger. When Yuki asks if he’s okay, Syaoran blushes like a beet and scurries off.

When Sakura arranges to meet up with Yukito the next day to give him a thank-you gift, Syaoran is already there, and quickly produces a gift of his own. As Tomoyo makes clear to her, Sakura now not only has to deal with a rival in her Clow Card capturing, but in romance too, as Syaoran seems as smitten with Yukito as she is. Unfortunately for both of them, he’s already spoken for…

Nine episodes in CCS has proven adept at shaking up the weekly formula. Sakura may not have had a battle costume this week, but she did use Illusion for the first time. Her friend Rika had a larger role, while her multi-vector rivalry with Syaoran developed further. We’re also introduced to Yamazaki—he of elaborate invented stories.

Finally, Kero-chan’s post-credits omake segment is always a delight, with him pointing out some detail of Sakura’s costume, or in the case of this week, Syaoran’s. His justifiable hostility towards “that kid” shines through brilliantly in the terse rundown of his ceremonial garb.

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – 12 – The Lost Princess

It’s been pretty clear since the start that Pecorine was a runaway princess, but chose to conceal that from her guildmates, no doubt so as not to burden them. But as we see from her dark dream in which her royal mother and father don’t recognize her before disappear, there’s a lot more going on in her head than the next meal. With the Shadows literally amassing, it’s only a matter of time before she must take up the mantle of her nation’s protector.

You—not to mention Yuuki, Kokkoro and Karyl—would never know that judging from Peco’s bubbly breakfast attitude. Still, Karyl notes the unforgivable lack of bread, which Peco uses to segue to a quest to defeat a monster that’s blocking the flow of supplies into the city. Karyl (grudingly) lures it away from the bridge and Peco finishes it off with a Princess Strike. Easy Peasy!

While Yuuki is filling out the activity reports at the main guildhall, he inadvertently writes part of his name in Japanese, confusing the others but proving that his memories of another life are in there somewhere. The gang celebrates the completed quest with crepes from the very first stall Yuuki and Kokkoro visited, which also now employs Yuuki’s “sisters”.

That night, memories and possible pasts and/or futures continue to surface Yuuki’s dream, including visions of past and present comrades falling before the might of an evil cat lady. Ames, the guide at the gate to the world of PriConne who still knows Yuuki better than he knows himself, makes another appearance to cite her trust in him and encouraging him to stay strong when the time comes.

Yuuki asks Peco to train him in swordsmanship, something she’s both eager to do and very much up to the task. But in the middle of a large “training” meal, the Mega-Shadow Karyl saw her master create attacks the town. Peco springs into action, but to her shock, even Princess Strike isn’t enough to bring the monster down. And while Peco doesn’t seem to notice it, Karyl hesitates when she’s asked to support her, not wanting to make that master angry.

Faced with two roads, Karyl stands still, but Peco doesn’t read anything into it, and just assumes Karyl is injured and/or terrified, and continues to attack the monster while protecting Karyl from harm, even giving her a shoulder guard for extra defense. Peco’s ultimate attack cleaves the shadow in two, but she loses consciousness before she can defeat it. Yuuki steps forward to take over, and chaos—and several powerful magical attacks—ensue.

When Yuuki comes to and the smoke clears, he finds himself in a field of wreckage, and is confronted by none other than the red-headed crepe stall lady, Labyrista. She stopped the monster from killing him and transported his friends to safety, so perhaps she’s on their side against the Cat Lady and her Shadows? One can hope, because she’d be a powerful ally!

The ultimate fate of Pecorine and Karyl is left up in the air, but Kokkoro ends up in the royal palace at the center of town, and comes across a portrait of the Eustanian royal family: the king and queen and their daughter…who looks just like Pecorine.

This must be a shock for Kokkoro, who had thought of the Princess as a fairy tale only to learn she was beside her all along. This episode had a little of everything, with the usual adventure comedy fare dotted with foreboding visions and transitioning into awesome no-holds-barred action and the potential for some serious character drama. We’ll see how things shake out in the finale—and see if there’s a second season in store.

Rascal Does Not Dream of a Dreaming Girl (Bunny Girl-Senpai Movie) – Heart of the Matter

From June 2019 (a much simpler time) comes the continuation of the Bunny Girl-Senpai anime, the broadcast of which ended without answering key questions about the nature of Sakuta’s first crush, Makinohara Shouko (Minase Inori). Don’t bother watching this movie without having seen the anime, my reviews for which you can read here.

Our titular Rascal Sakuta is actually doing fine with Mai as his busy actress/model girlfriend Mai. But one day a college-aged version of Shouko arrives at Sakuta’s apartment, ready to move in with the man she loves. Anxiety about the future from a much younger Shouko from the fourth grade led to her Adolescence Syndrome that created her future self in the present.

The younger Shouko reveals to Sakuta and Mai that she’s been in and out of the hospital all her life with a bum ticker; she wasn’t even expected to survive past middle school, hence her anxiety. The older Shouko was created to live out all of the plans her younger self couldn’t write down in that elementary school “future plans” exercise.

Those plans include not only graduating middle and high school and being admitted to college, but meeting the boy of her dreams, confess to him, and eventually marry him. For all those things to happen, Shouko needed a heart transplant, and while she’s doing a “trial run” wedding at a venue in a gown, Sakuta notices a scar on her chest and realizes it was he who gave her that new heart.

According to Rio, Shouko’s will was likely split between one who was resigned to dying young and one who sought to continue her life. Now the future Shouko tells Sakuta about a car accident that will claim his life and allow his heart to be donated to her. She gives him the choice between spending Christmas Eve with her or with Mai.

The wounds on Sakuta’s chest are the result of the contradiction of his heart being both in his chest and in that of the older Shouko. Now that Sakuta knows one version of his future and the doom that befalls him, it means he can act to change it. Preventing his accident spells doom for Shouko, but letting the accident happen means leaving Mai all alone.

Sakuta is desperate to try to have his cake and eat it to, but the bottom line is he simply can’t. And while it’s a tough choice, it’s not an impossible one. He visits the younger Shouko in the hospital to tell her that the both of them have done all they can.

For her part, Mai wants Sakuta to choose a future with her, and follow the older Shouko’s instructions to celebrate Christmas Eve at home where it’s safe. She even tries to lead him on a train journey to take them as far away as possible from a situation where she’d lose him, urging him to share the pain of choosing to live on with his girlfriend.

After paying young Shouko one last visit (she’s in the ICU), Sakuta has a change of heart, especially when he realizes Shouko knew he’d pick Mai. He rushes to meet with Shouko instead, and is almost run over by a van, but he’s saved by Mai, who dies in his place. This is a lot of story to keep track of, but it all unfolds relatively organically, and it’s all appropriately heartrending to behold.

Sakuta lives out a few more days after this Bad Ending partly in a numb daze, partly wracked in grief. His chest wounds are gone, which means Shouko never got his heart, and seemingly the entire region mourns the loss of the famous actress who was taken from them far too soon.

Sakuta wanders off, asking someone, anyone to save Mai, to not let things end this way. Then he’s approached…by Shouko. He may not have given her his heart, but she received Mai’s in secret and survived. Now she’s come to help him visualize the time they’re in as the future so he can travel back to the present and save Mai himself.

Sakuta falls asleep in a bed in the school infirmary and wakes up on Christmas Eve. He manages to find someone who can see and hear him (Koga Tomoe, who had a dream about him needing her in just such an occasion) and then reunites with Mai, the loss of whom is still so raw and fresh that he loses it upon seeing her.

Sakuta tells his past self that there’s nothing he can do for Shouko and that any attempt will cost Mai’s life, but as Sakuta is a stubborn ass, he doesn’t initially hear him. Meanwhile Mai tells him she was resolved to rescue him all along, and knows the other Sakuta would never save himself if it robbed Shouko of her future.

When the fateful moment at the icy intersection occurs this time, Sakuta is rescued by his future self (wearing a bunny mascot suit so his self won’t recognize him and cause a paradox). The future Sakuta then vanishes, merged with the present Sakuta…and Shouko vanishes as well. He then returns to a relieved Mai’s side.

Sacrificing Shouko still doesn’t sit right with Sakuta, however, so he and Mai agree to try to do what they can to help her, starting by visiting her in the ICU where she’s near death. But young Shouko tells Sakuta not to worry about her anymore; she’s seen everything that’s happened in her dreams, and intends to create a future where he and Mai won’t have the painful memories of her.

All the way back in the fourth grade, Shouko manages to fill out her future plans, resulting in a future where Sakuta and Mai indeed do not remember her, and seem to be far more at peace for it. They visit a shrine for the new year, and Sakuta prayed for less weird things to happen to him…a bit ironic considering that’s how he met Mai!

All the same, while discussing a movie in which Mai stars in a role identical to Shouko’s near the beach where Sakuta once dreamed of his first crush, he and Mai spot a girl running along the sand with her parents. It’s a young Shouko, alive and in good health. Suddenly memories of Shouko flood back into Sakuta’s head and he calls out her name…and she calls out his.

Dreaming Girl’s ninety minutes equate to five new episodes and a final arc that ties all of the anime’s storylines togethers. It’s a satisfying conclusion to as well as a dramatic elevation of the TV show; an emotional roller coaster that knows just which ways to twist and turn for maximum heart-wrenching. And it’s absolutely essential viewing for any Bunny Girl fan.

LISTENERS – 01 (First Impressions) – The Day After the Music Died

In a world where “Players” pilot “Equipment” and fight “Earless” with music, Echo Rec lives in the sleepy town of Liverchester, which shuns all of that—or at least the grouchy Mayor does. That’s probably due to the massive crater of destruction left by Players ten years ago.

Echo is content to sift through the mountains of junk, looking for treasures he uses to build his own Equipment as a hobby. One day, he finds a sleeping young woman partially buried in the junk with an input jack in her lower back—the mark of a Player.

Echo takes her home—a bar called Oasis run by his big sister Swell—and after being yelled at by the mayor, he takes her upstairs. When he tells her he’s fascinated by her she momentarily thinks he’s coming on to her, but he’s actually geeking out about her status as a Player, even if she doesn’t remember that, or even her name.

When he tells her his dream of building an Equipment that a Player can use to fight the Earless, she wonders why he doesn’t just stand up and live that dream. But Echo doesn’t think that’s possible; for his young age, he’s an old soul and a pragmatic one who, dreams aside, has set limits for himself.

The girl is put off by his lack of ambition, and heads to the train station (where she spends all night outside?) while Echo falls asleep finishing his Equipment (which has the resting form of a VOX amp, prized by professional rockers). The next morning, the Earless attack—giant versions of the black shadow monsters of ICO—Echo races to the station.

The girl has already saved the Mayor’s life, then dives in to a pit of junk Echo trips and falls down. Rather than dying, she hooks the amp into her jack and it transforms into a somewhat retro mech. With the girl and Echo riding on its shoulders controlling it, the mech defeats all of the Earless.

Echo’s dream thus realized in record time, he gives the girl a name—Myuu—and the two jump on a train bound for more interesting places than quiet Liverchester, without any luggage or supplies. The giant “Monument of Admonition” topples, the Mayor somewhat awkwardly reiterates the themes of the show to no one in particular, and one of three sinister Player sisters declares that she’s “found” Myuu, setting up a Player clash next week.

LISTENERS has an interesting setting but a somewhat confusing premise: there’s no concept of music in this world? Like, at all? I’m not sure that was that clearly explained, or even accurately depicted. This wasn’t A Quiet Place territory where any sound would attract monsters. There was music playing on the TV-jukebox thingy at Oasis!

Stylistically speaking I kinda liked the clashing of Eureka Seven futurism with industrial north-of-England dinginess, but in both look and sound I’ll admit I found Echo a bit annoying while his and Myuu’s wardrobes were overly baggy. Dialogue is oftentimes overly hoaky, wholesome, or repetitive. The CGI…looked like CGI, competently rendered but lacking weight and inventiveness and pulling me out of the fantasy rather than in.

I’m also not what you’d call a music buff; it’s always been something in the background to either help me dance or work. I also gave up on Carole & Tuesday when I just couldn’t do it with the sappy English lyrics anymore. But unless I’m missing something, this first episode’s connection to music, and rock-in-roll in particular seemed…tenuous? It’s a good-looking (if a bit gray) and fun enough opening. I just wasn’t convinced I need Listeners in my life.

ID: INVADED – 13 (Fin) – The Right Person in the Right Place

ID:INVADED put a lot of ideas and mysteries out there, but it was never that coy about the Big Bad being the perpetually closed-eyed Chief Hayaseura. That the start of the final showdown with John Walker came down to a one-on-one physical fight—with Narihisago literally kicking at him as he blocked with his cane—almost felt like a surrender at first.

Then Hondoumachi arrives on a huge shark and bites off part of Hayaseura’s face. This is going to be two-against-one, at least in the Id Well.

Hondoumachi steals Hayaseura’s hat and she and Narihisago lure him on a chase to retrieve it that leads back to the first Id Well we ever saw: Fukuda’s world-in-pieces. The three meet on a platform, Hayaseura has a seat, and they talk it out, with Hondoumachi analyzing her former chief as having a God complex, hence all the sevens.

Seven serial killers with seven victims each. When Hondoumachi  counters that Narihisago was the eighth, she parries with the fact that Narihisago isn’t a true serial killer, but a serial “suicide inducer” whose only victims were serial killers. If he’s the “Cornerer”, the last person he was meant to corner was Hayaseira himself.

What Hayaseura doesn’t know his adversaries already have him right where they want him. The seat is actually a cockpit placed there courtesy of Fukuda, and Hondoumachi traps and neutralizes him in a well-within-the-well. But that still leaves her and Narihisago trapped in a well.

To get out, they’ll have to put their hope in a “third pillar” they’re not even aware of—Momoki, in the iso suit in the real world. Asukai’s powers have grown in intensity, testing both his body and the limits of his suit. Mitsuoka just manages to bring him back to life after his lungs fill with vomit and his heart stops.

He eventually finds Asukai, who is initially happy someone has come to help her, but then she sees the gun in Momoki’s hand. Asukai laments that when she was first found, she asked to be killed and put out of her misery, and that that remains to her the best and only solution. The thing is, Momoki can’t do it, and when she tries to, the gun doesn’t work in her hand.

Instead, Momoki has her return to the Mizuhanome pool, which will at least contain her expanding powers. He can’t promise they’ll find a solution that would enable her to leave that pool without murdering her, but they’re not going to murder her, nor are they going to stop looking. Before the Kura is released from her powers, Sakaido meets Kaeru in a beautiful well—seeing her alive for the first time, and bidding her farewell.

Everything related to Hayaseura, his John Walker persona, Asukai and her remaining comatose dreamers are buried from the public, as is Kura’s way, and everyone basically gets back to work. Presumably the difference is that Hondoumachi is now a full-time id well diver beside Narihisago (who may or may not still be a prisoner). The two even participate in joint dives, since they worked so well together to bring down the chief.

This was a solid, good if not great finish to a show that borrowed a lot of ideas from sci-fi and psychology and managed to merge them into a mostly cohesive and original story. Compared to the ambition of the earlier issues it raised, the ending falls a bit short, but the show is still to be commended for not completely coming apart at the seems, and for being ambitious, confident, and smart in the first place. It’s a story I’d love to return to, should favorable circumstances align.

ID: INVADED – 12 – Just Wait, Cane Bastard

All along, the Kura and Mizuhanome have been made possible by, essentially, the superpowers of a mutant: Asukai Kiki, who ensares anyone around her in her dreams. Once she’s released from her holding tank, there’s nothing keeping everyone in the Kura from falling into a coma and waking up in various dreams—a kind of ID:Invaded Greatest Hits scenario.

Such was the plan of Chief Hayaseura, AKA John Walker, AKA Brilliant Detective Unaido (whew). He has a “want and omelette, break some eggs” logic to this scheme, wherein many serial killers were caught and brought to justice at the cost of creating a few; but in the long run it will be a net plus for society. As for facing justice, the chief shoots himself several times while in a cockpit programmed to inject him into his own Id Well.

Narihisago and Hondoumachi manage to dive in after him in time, and find Hayaseura in a dream world full of masks, each of them an id well. He eludes them by putting on Hondoumachi’s (the drill world), and then tries to neutralize her by revealing her true name, causing a well storm.

As Kura employees are killed (and the Wellside team run from boulders), Brilliant Detectives like Sakaido, Hijirido and Unaido can teleport between the wells. Narihisago keeps up the chase and ends up in his own id well again, where he spots his wife and daughter and gives them a nod goodbye.

Fukuda, despite not being in Brilliant Detective mode, is still able to catch Hondoumachi in mid-air and free her from her well storm. Back in the field of masks, Fukuda is shot by a Inami Nahoshi, as payback for Hondoumachi killing Kazuta. As Hondoumachi gives a somber goodbye (or see-you-later) to Fukuda, Nahoshi travels to her id well, where the half-Kazuta is still there clinging to life, but she’s promptly stabbed to death by Hayaseura.

Narihisago returns to the mask world, reunited with Hondoumachi, and both of them agree to stop Walker and get everyone—including themselves out of this mess safe and sound. It’s good to see both of them with something to live for, not giving in to despair or Hayaseura’s cruel games. And it’s possible dying in the id wells doesn’t automatically mean death, as some of the nurses at Asukai’s hospital eventually woke up from their comas.

Out in the real, Momoki and Mitsuoka have a plan of their own. Momoki will don an isolation suit, walk into the compromised Kura, and neutralize Asukai, preferably by inserting her back in the Mizuhanome tank. If she refuses, Momoki is prepared to kill her, for there are too many other lives at stake to indulge her. The question is, even if he’s willing to kill her, will he be able?

ID: INVADED – 11 – Three is a Nice Number

Whether the outline of John Walker in the sandy winds was a literal phenomenon or artistic license, the grit of the well storm makes the facts of the case clearer to Narihisago. Fukuda trapped him in the well hoping Narihisago would kill him in a rage…but Narihisago can tell this is another manipulation by Walker, and asks Fukuda for his help instead.

Fukuda used to be a whiz with numbers, and in this well his hole is gone, bringing back the arithmomania he drilled out in the real world. Narihisago pieces this together from Fukuda’s past three-stage gestures and even his outfit, which is packed with threes. As the storm churns, the Mizuhanome continually updates, and the cockpit from the lightning version of the well is transported to the desert version. The two of them start digging, hoping to find Hondoumachi.

Meanwhile, still in Kiki Asukai’s dream world, Hondoumachi checks the work Narishisago did while he was there for a year, and comes up with another important number: seven. The dates and times when victims’ bodies were found seemed random, but the M.O. of all the killers was to cause gradual, rather than instant death.

When she records the dates of the killing blows, rather than the times of death, everything matches up neatly: each of the seven serial killers have a designated day when they kill. If Walker arranged it this way, it could be an allusion to the seven days it took to create the world—or in his case, his new one.

Hondoumachi pays the Fukuda of that time a visit in order to get the final piece of the puzzle. After proving she knows things about him she normally couldn’t possibly know, as well as revealing her head-hole kinship, thus gaining his trust, she’s able to get the precise dates and times when he dreamed of John Walker.

Whoever Walker is, they visited Fukuda in his dreams during that time. The one time that’s out of place with normal sleeping hours occurred not while Walker was asleep at work, but in off on a business trip, in a different time zone. The member of the department who was on that trip the day of Fukuda’s dream was Chief Hayaseura, whom she calls to confirm it.

Back in the real world, Togo has Mitsuoka check out Momoki’s house again and carefully observe everything. She notices a picture that was not there last time she visited, and has him scan it. He finds cognition particles, but they’re not Momoki’s. They come from a photo of Narihisago with his wife and daughter. In other words, it was a plant and Momoki was framed as a diversion.

In another demonstration of her almost scary luck, Hondoumachi is ejected from the cockpit moments after confirming Walker’s identity. She informs Narihisago and Fukuda of her findings, and the storm clears sufficiently to allow Togo to have all three extracted. For now, the well-in-a-well shenanigans would seem to be over, at least for these three.

The well storm also ended up working in their favor, and even being a crucial to their success. While the storm was raging, no one from outside could observe them, meaning the outside and inside times weren’t synched. Of course, now that they’re back in the world, it will be a mad dash to detain Hayaseura, who may know from the activities at the Wellside that it’s only a matter of time before he’s caught.

Indeed, just as Togo is ordering an arrest warrant, the Wellside goes dark, and Hayaseura heads to a chamber where Asukai Kiki has been asleep since vanishing from the hospital, serving as the totemic “Kaeru” in Narihisago’s cases. Only now it’s apparently time for her to wake up. No doubt he has a use for her that will further his plans.

At the end of the day, even a casual detective such as myself could tell there was no way Momoki was Walker, and that the most likely candidate among the staff was Hayaseura. I just wish we knew his character a little better, to give the revelation more weight. That said, bringing the mastermind behind the death of his family to justice is what Narihisago deserves. No doubt he’d die to gain that outcome, but with Hondoumachi and Fukuda by his side, it may not have to come to that.

ID: INVADED – 10 – Things Fall Apart

Narihisago makes it his mission to excise each and every one of Kiki’s tormentors from her dreams by apprehending and inducing the death of all of the serial killers in the waking world. This is a process that takes over a year, and in that time he forgets this isn’t the waking world. Doing police work, catching criminals, spending time with his family; he starts to feel like the past events when he was Sakaido in the Mizuhanome were all one long elaborate dream.

But no matter how much progress he makes, Kiki doesn’t recover. In fact, she only grows more frail, and in her final meeting with Narihisago, she tells him catching Walker won’t save her; there is no saving her. The killing in her head won’t stop.

Kiki has two options: slowly lose herself, dissolve, and warp the world with the violence and corruption within her dreams…or have Narihisago end her suffering now, while she’s still recognizably human. Even though she frames it as a necessary act to save the world, Narihisago refuses.

A month or so passes, and one day Kiki vanishes, leaving a pile of unconscious nurses in her wake who later recall sharing the same dream. It would appear Kiki’s prediction about “dissolving” came to pass. That means it’s only a matter of time before the world falls apart.

While about to deal with the Perforator, whom he’d “forgotten”, Narihisago encounters Hondoumachi. By her count she’s only been in the well-within-a-well for twenty minutes, which means even though it’s felt like more than a year to Narihisago, in reality he’s been in the well for less than twenty minutes. Talk about time distortion in dreams.

Narihisago doesn’t want to pick up what Hondoumachi is putting down, and considering how long this has been his reality, who can blame him? Still, when the meeting of the two detectives is followed by the world starting to come apart at the seams, he can no longer deny that none of this is real.

He calls his family, first to ask them to get away, but eventually, to say goodbye in his own way. Suddenly, and heartbreakingly, his memories from the real world rush back into his head in sequence, from the day he married Ayako, chronicling the birth and growth of Muku, and ending with Muku’s death at the hands of Challenger and Ayako committing suicide.

These images, the initial ones being the photos on the wall of his cell, all speak for themselves, so the very loud and melodramatic song felt like overkill. Perhaps it was more the fact the lyrics were in English—and very obvious and bad—than the music itself. It was still a moving scene. It could have been better with more restraint.

With the time in this dream world dwindling rapidly, Narihisago suggests he and Hondoumachi do as much investigating as they can, but his time is up, as Anaido extracts him from the well after ten minutes. He then tells Sakaido that he identified the body in the quicksand. It’s…Narihisago Akihito, someone Sakaido doesn’t know due to the protective amnesia of the Mizuhanome…but due to the condition of his brain, the amnesia function doesn’t work on Anaido/Fukuda.

The Wellsiders didn’t know that, which means Fukuda is up to something, likely under the direction of Walker. When Fukuda shows Sakaido the photo of Narihisago and his family (which he took from the corpse), things…take a turn. This desert isn’t Momoki’s id well at all, but the “end stage” of Narihisago’s. Remembering himself in his own well produces a “well storm”, depicted as a literally wind storm, as a fail-safe to protect the conscious from the unconscious…and Walker’s form appears in that wind.

ID:Invaded is starting to get very tricky with its Inception-style premise, but with the Big Bad finally making a decisive move that would seem to have Narihisago in check, it sure seems like more answers are forthcoming. Somehow, this all manages to hold together. Here’s hoping Narihisago can similarly keep it together, or if he can’t, if Hondoumachi can save the day.

ID: INVADED – 09 – You Can Not (Not) Redo

When Sakaido wakes up in what he assumed would be Asukai Kiki’s Id Well, Kaeru’s dead body is nowhere to be found. Instead, he’s flanked by his very much alive wife and daughter. He remembers he isn’t the Brilliant Detective Sakaido at all, but Narihisago Akihito.

He hugs his family, who react as if he’s acting weird. But as far as Akihito is concerned, if being able to go back in time, fix what broke, and protect those who mattered most to him is “losing it”, then he doesn’t want to have it.

Without dwelling too much about what this reality is, Aki starts by paying a visit to the Challenger. Since this is before Muku was murdered, no one in this world has caught on to his depravities, except Aki, who comes in with outside knowledge from this reality’s version of the future.

Instead of rushing into Challenger’s house in a revenging rage, gun blazing, he challenges the Challenger to a “fair and square” fight, for which the killer is obviously more than game. Aki gets the absolute shit kicked out of him, but he manages to get the upper hand just as Momoki, the only backup he requested, arrives.

With the Challenger in custody, Aki directs Momoki to check out the basement, where a still-living victim sat bleeding in the “arena”. The woman turns out to be Asukai Kiki, and when Aki visits her hospital room, he’s perplexed by the fact she looks just like Kaeru. Kiki tells him how her thoughts have a way of broadcasting themselves to people around her.

Turns out Aki is in Kiki’s dream, because not only is there no sign of her injuries in the waking world (or whatever it is), but in this dream world of hers, serial killers like the Challenger come every night to kill her, with each night designated for a certain killer.

Aki soon wakes in his own bed with his worried wife and daughter by his side, while Momoki informs him the incident with the Challenger is being considered self-defense (a welcome change from the premeditated murder charge of his first “go-round”). He meets with Kiki—for real, this time—but can’t get her, an inhabitant of this “reality”, to explain what the reality is.

What she can tell him is that the person who has been letting one killer after another into her unconscious dreams every night matches the description of one John Walker: top hat, tails, and cane. This not-quite-Id Well-within-an-Id Well scenario created as many questions as it answered, and Hondomachi is still AWOL, but I am nevertheless deeply intrigued.

Magia Record – 05 – The Ones They Lost

Unsurprisingly, the Seance Shrine isn’t so much a means of reuniting with someone you’ve lost as it is a magical girl trap. “Ui” looks like Ui, but the moment she starts talking the illusion is broken for Iroha, as the girl can only string together a few words in various combinations over and over again: “If you want to change your fate, come to Kamihama City.” Iroha is understandably disappointed; her search has hit a dead end.

Meanwhile, “Mifuyu” is far more convincing to Yachiyo, to the point Yachiyo is entranced. But while Mifuyu can draw from the memories they share, she is singlemindedly dedicated to making sure Yachiyo stays put right there, assuring her she’ll perfectly fit the hole in her heart. The whole time both Iroha and Yachiyo convene with their lost people, the chaotic visual cues of witches dance on the margins.

Iroha is able to break Yachiyo from Mifuyu’s hold, but when a witch arrives and neither they nor Tsuruno can easily defeat it, Iroha fights too hard, her soul gem becomes murky, and she transforms into a second witch and fight viciously attacks the first. This felt like a huge deal when it happened, and like the protagonist of the show was going to die in the first five episodes.

Iroha is “rescued” by none other than Mami, marking the first time characters from the two shows meet. Only Mami had no intention of saving Iroha, but to finish her off, assuming she’s a witch in human form. Yachiyo is able to get Mami to stand down and take her leave without further harm to the unconscious but unharmed Iroha, but not before warning Yachiyo and Tsuruno not to trust Iroha, as she’s still “hiding something.”

Iroha comes to at Yachiyo’s house. It’s too late for her to catch a train home so Yachiyo suggests she spend the night. Iroha take her up on the offer and returns to bed to rest, grateful for the hospitality (it’s apparently been a while since anyone has cooked for Iroha—I guess her own folks are too busy).

When Yachiyo checks in, she notices Iroha has been crying, and has a short vision of Mifuyu, whose room this likely once was. I imagine that despite her initially cold attitude towards Iroha, Yachiyo is happy to be hosting someone in that big lonely house.

That brings us to a post-credit sequence that is all over the map, with Kaede encountering both Momoko and Rena passed out while she takes the form of a witch. She isn’t any more sure what’s going on than I was, which is comforting, but it’s clear trouble is brewing for this magical girl trio.