Fruits Basket – 22 – An Answered Prayer

Or: Why Kids Are Total and Complete Trash, Volume #3,692

Present-day Hanejima Saki’s “Waves” aren’t just a rumor about her, or some kind of occult quality she happens to believe in. They are an actual power, like ESP. I shouldn’t be surprised—this is a world where people turn into adorable animals when hugged by the opposite sex—and seeing how much a younger Saki suffered from the inability to control those powers really puts the person she now is into perspective.

But here’s the thing: she didn’t become a different person. She’s always been the same person: quiet, kind and gentle, and loyal to those who love her. Her problem in the past was, she feared her powers, and when human laws couldn’t be employed against her, she decided that whatever horrible bullying she received was punishment she was due.

Kids bullied the hell out of Saki, and it wasn’t until two shitty boys were holding her down to make her eat a live newt that she finally thought I want this boy to die that her ability had a physical effect, knocking the kid out for hours.

While its understandable for her to fear her power and even hate herself for it, that position totally ignores the fact that the little shit instigated things, and bears most of the responsibility. If he’d simply treated her with kindness, he wouldn’t have been hurt.

This week we also learn the extent to which Hanejima’s family loves her. It would be all too realistic for her mom and dad to one day reach their breaking point, but that never happens, and their love, protection, and desire for her to be happy never fades for an instant, even when she starts considering herself nothing but a burden to be discarded.

When the environment at school gets too bad—she has to sit and be burned and fight with everything she’s got not to fight back lest she hurt her bullies—the entire family moves, and urge her not to give up. Her devoted little brother Megumi wears all black in solidarity, and prays that one day someone will come who will love Saki as he does and end her crushing loneliness.

That day comes at her new school, where there’s no black in the uniforms, so she paints her nails black as a “mark of sin”, that original sin of harming the boy that she’ll never forget or forgive herself for. While in line for lunch, Honda Tooru chats her up. Little does Saki know that Megumi’s prayer has been answered in the form of this odd, ditzy, extremely polite and upbeat girl.

Of course, back then Tooru and Arisa were already hella tight, so they invite Saki to lunch with them, and won’t hear any objections based on her low self-worth. They make it clear to her that no matter how strange she may think herself to be, they’re just as strange, and welcome her company.

For the first time, a peer tells Saki “see you tomorrow,” and to her delight, they say “good morning” to her the next day, another first. As much as Saki tries to stick with her M.O. of staying away from people, she finds herself with Tooru and Arisa all the time, until even the once-oppressive sun seems to take on a gentler color.

All her progress with her new friends is suddenly threatened when two classmates ask her about her old school, having heard nasty rumors. But while Saki isn’t the one who burned a girl’s arm, she does own up to almost killing that boy, and for that reason, she believes Tooru and Arisa should distance themselves from her before they get hurt.

Needless to say, Tooru and Arisa..don’t do that. Not two minutes go by after Saki flees that Tooru catches up and declares that no matter what she does or doesn’t know about Saki, she loves her, and doesn’t want to stay away. Arisa joins them and asks simply: Does Saki want them to stay away? Of course, she doesn’t, and so they won’t.

The rest is history! In time, and probably in large part to emotional support not just from her family and two BFFs, Saki learns how to control her power, and the voices vanish. Now, as we know, she only uses it “a bit” to teach shitty people a lesson, but isn’t in any more danger of losing control.

But even if she’s more or less cured from a malady that was as life-debilitating as it was mysterious, she still wears all black, as it keeps her calm, while Megumi keeps wearing black for the same reason. His prayer was answered, but more importantly, Saki never gave up.

Tokyo ESP – 01

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With Tokyo ESP it looks like we have a rare case of me agreeing with a lot of Franklin’s assessment: this wasn’t the worst-looking show (though it did seem like they were proud of their floating Diet building), but the visuals weren’t what I’d call stand-to-attention impressive.

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ESP’s more irksome flaws were in its simple good-vs.-evil milieu and overabundance of characters. It didn’t help that I’ve recently seen X-Men: Days of Future Past, which also featured bands of mutants on a rampage and city landmarks floating around. Call ’em espers, call ’em mutants; it’s much the same thing, and feels a bit stale.

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As Franklin also said, the Good Guys are really just generic good guys, and even say “not all espers are bad” to a surprisingly receptive crowd. They may be good, but the espers who are bad are having a field day with the city. You’d think there’d be a lot more panic among the masses than we see here.

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I also wasn’t at all pleased with the random insertion of the Little Girl+Speeding Truck™ trope, drawn out to a torturous, molasses-slow pace. For a loud enormous truck that looks like its moving at 120mph, it sure takes its time getting to that girl, who’d you’d think was deaf and blind, judging from her reaction to it.

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For an episode that mostly eschewed plot and character in order to serve up some chaotic “in the thick of it” action, some odd choices were made, and there was so much going on around the city it seemed the episode itself had trouble deciding who and what to show us.

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Finally, the person who’s hyped as the savior of the city, who only shows up in the final moments, is the umpteenth Special White-Haired Girl™ (well, sandy blonde). Will she mosh across the masses as they chant “Mhysa”? I think I’ll leave it to Franklin to find out.

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RDG: Red Data Girl – 01

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One morning, the shy, passive Suzuhara Izumiko decides to cut her bangs. At school, it gets mixed reviews, and when her class must gather info on the net using computers, she ends up using them as a conduit to video-chat with her father in America, then disables power to the whole school with her mind. A helicopter lands and Izumiko is taken away by Sagara, who turns out to be a mountain monk charged with protecting her. She learns that she is the “Himegami”. Sagara orders “reinforcements” in the person of his son Miyuki, who isn’t keen on hanging out with the dull Izumiko.

This episode starts off establishing the beautiful environs of a village in the Kumano mountains. We found out this was directed by Shinohara Toshiya, who also helmed The Book of Bantorra, but while that series was awesome, it was a bit lacking in production values; not so here. Like Tari Tari and the excellent Another, this series not only looks, but sounds and feels fantastic. Despite all the natural beauty, there’s a deep melancholy about the beautiful but unpopular Izumiko (appropriately voiced by Hayami Saori), which stems partially from her never having made a decision for herself. If her life is like the river in her village, she’s never once paddled against the current…until she decides to cut her hair and makes a stand about where she wants to go to high school.

What’s also engrossing about this series so far is that it doesn’t come out and explain exactly what makes her so special. We see an awesome sequence where she finds herself underwater in the computer lab, and then she knocks out the power in said lab when she snaps out of it, and we hear a lot from Sagara, but not too much. Like Izumiko herself, we’re still mostly in the dark about who the Himegami is and why she must be isolated and protected. But we certainly feel her pain. Sure, she has nice friends who defend her from bullying, but they don’t even have her phone number, and she doesn’t even have a phone. She wants to take control of her life, but isn’t sure how. Her dubious “manservant” Miyuki doesn’t have high hopes for her, but who knows: she may just surprise him, herself, and a lot of others when all’s said and done.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Car Cameos:

 

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 12 (Fin)

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Saotome plans to change the future in which espers revolt by using a hypnotized Yuugiri to assassinate New York’s new pro-esper mayor, starting riots and causing anti-esper sentiment to spread. Hyoubu penetrate’s Saotome’s elaborate lattice of illusions to get through to Yuugiri and break her hypnosis. His use of Unlimited causes his power to go out of control, but Andy and Yuugiri won’t abandon him: Andy uses his eye to stop the power overload. Hyoubu tracks down Saotome and erases his memories. Andy sets off on his own, but is made an honorary member of PANDRA.

If this is the end, it isn’t such a bad one.

Whoa, there, Hyoubu: we’ll be the judge of that! The finale ends in New York City, pretty much the last place you want ESP bombs like Yuugiri or Hyoubu going off, unless it’s your intent to cause mayhem. Saotome has clung to life just as Hyoubu has so that he can change the future he saw. He thought the survival of humanity required the subjugation of espers. Not surprisingly, his ethos loses out, thanks to Hyoubu’s persistence and Andy’s magic eye. Everyone else sits this out, with only token scenes of farewell, but the focus on Hyoubu, Saotomne, Andy and Yuugiri was as good a place as any to end things.

To its credit, this series doesn’t go longer than the twelve promised episodes, and manages to bring everything to a satisfying close. Hyoubu is ready to finally give in to the grim reaper, but his family stops him. He lives on to realize a future of equal rights for espers. One could say the doomsday Saotome warned is still in the cards, but screw that old man; his alternative future that curbs the freedom of an entire people wasn’t a future worth saving. Maybe a revolt has to happen if equality is ever going to be a reality.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • The BABEL chaps arrive right at the nick of time to save Andy from getting arrested. Good timing, right? 
  • If the Children want to be treated more like adults, maybe they should stop sleeping in the same bed, eh?
  • We were surprised Kaoru didn’t really do anything here, but maybe they’ll make a spin-off show about the older her. Maybe! 

Kotoura-san – 10

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Moritani is arrested under suspicion of being the perpetrator of the random attacks. The rest of the ESP Society visit her at the police station, and Kotoura gets through to the investigators, but they won’t accept her help. Yuriko and Kotoura decide to try to catch the criminal on their own to free Moritani. Muroto stands by Yuriko, but Manabe is staunchly against it. He and Kotoura get in a fight and he storms off, and another attack occurs that exonerates Moritani, who is released. Still wanting to redeem her mother, Yuriko decides to use herself as bait to lure the criminal, and succeeds…

As normal as Kotoura has been acting lately, she still believes she is somehow a bad person who doesn’t deserve the friends and love she’s gained thus far. This has been ingrained in her both by her parents and by everyone she’s accidentally hurt with her ability. It’s every bit as much about her inability to discern which thoughts to outwardly respond to and which not to that has gotten her into trouble so many times. And indeed, she is unable to have a conventional relationship with a boy simply because she cannot help but read his dirty, adolescent mind. It’s usually played for laughs, but its also somewhat tragic.

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Because she feels she doesn’t deserve friends, she decides to do whatever she can to help Moritani, even if she gets hurt in the process. Manabe is reliably protective of her, and with damn good reason: Kotoura’s gift of telepathy is rivaled only to her gift for self-destruction. Just because she can help doesn’t mean she needs to; that’s what police are for. But Kotoura’s guilt for having what she believes she doesn’t deserve, combined with her knowledge of Yuriko’s mother issues (we learn she was present when she hung herself…rough), compels Kotoura to act, regardless of the danger she puts herself in.

Manabe, to his credit, does not bend; he wants no part of Yuriko’s vigilante plan, and…he isn’t. He disappears for the rest of the episode and he and Kotoura don’t speak. Not long after their first date, it’s their first fight…which isn’t resolved by episode’s end. In fact, nothing is; we unfortunately get another cliffhanger with Yuriko about to be truncheoned in the head by the attacker. Though we’re pretty sure this series isn’t going to kill one of the main characters, and we’re almost positive Manabe won’t go back on his promise to stay by Kotoura’s side. For one thing, her gramps would put out a hit on him…


Rating: 9 (Superior)

P.S. Sorry for  the long review, but this episode was packed. We had to mention the Yuriko/Daichi relationship, how he always stays by her side (out of pity, obligation, loyalty, love, or a combination of these, we don’t know) no matter what, and a really nice close up of his hand taking hers, and her trembling stopping. These two clearly mean a lot to each other, even if they’re not remotely romantic.

P.S.S. We enjoyed Kotoura’s scenes with the old detective (though his secret thoughts were awfully stereotypical homicide detective) and Tsukino (who is a bit of a blunt airhead), and how she’s saddened by the fact Tsukino has no friends.

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 08

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In the continuation of the flashback, Captain Saotome Eiji picks Hyoubu to duel with the new Zero prototype fighter, piloted by the officer Fujiko knocked over. Hyoubu is able to shake off his father’s misgivings and summon the power to defeat the Zero. Just then, an American submarine enters Japanese waters, chasing down three dolphins who use telepathy to request asylum. The ESP team and Hyoubu save them, but a few years later, when Japanese surrender is imminent after the first atom bomb is dropped, Eiji shoots Hyoubu in response to one of the dolphins’ premonitions. Hyoubu doesn’t die, kills Eiji, and swears revenge against all normal humans.

Watching Hyoubu’s past, we can’t help but look back to Muv-Luv Alternative, which wasted no time painting the picture of Yui’s horrible, bloody past and engendering our emotional investment and sympathy for her character throughout the series. Rather than tell Hyoubu’s story early in the series, The Unlimited chose the middle of this cour, putting the present-day story on pause. We’re not sure we’re on board with this order. Don’t get us wrong; the last two episodes were great backstory, but it came at the expense of the present story’s momentum. Muv-Luv’s Yui’s story being told before we meet her as an adult was a clear calculation to put us firmly in her corner.

Perhaps this was also a calculation: show us Hyoubu the Bad Guy first and let us form our own opinions, then show us his past to either reinforce or subvert those opinions. In any case, everything we’ll see of Hyoubu (and Fujiko) from this point onward will be informed by the knowledge he was built up and then discarded by the military, and was powerless to stop the defeat of his country. Things went downhill for him so fast; and Eiji’s decision to eliminate him before he could muster an ESP army and destroy mankind…that was a rough hand to be dealt. But just because we’re kinda sympathetic to Hyoubu doesn’t mean he’s not every bit the threat to humanity Eiji believed.


Rating: 6 (Good)

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 05

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PANDRA is in Tokyo, repairing the ship and stocking up on supplies. While keeping an eye on Yuugiri in Asakusa Andy discovers Minamoto and Tsubomi are watching him. They know he’s an American spy. They want to arrest PANDRA en masse, and want his help in exchange for keeping his secret. The meeting is interrupted when Yuugiri comes afoul of policemen after helping a lost boy with her ESP. Andy arrives before things get out of hand. Meanwhile, on his birthday, Hyoubu sneaks into BABEL to perform medical scans, and learns that he’s “running out of time.”

A mass murderer and an esper savior…which is the true Hyoubu?

Can’t he be both? Hyoubu is a legitimate savior of espers, and they love him for it. When Momiji tells Andy the harrowing tale of how Hyoubu saved her from a certain, cruel death, you can’t help but sympathize with him and PANDRA. But normals despise espers, he despises them right back in kind, and isn’t going to lose any sleep if some normals have to die to save espers, or in service of revenge for their mistreatment. A “No Espers” sign, an ESP detector at fun park, and the normals’ reaction to Yuugiri serves as a stark reminders that distrust and resultant oppression of espers is rampant.

If an esper cannot be used as a tool or weapon for their own purposes, they are simply hunted down. Hyoubu is doing his part to create a world where espers don’t have to fear anything, but it’s obvious that his time is limited. BABEL is breathing down PANDRA’s neck, Andy’s cover is in danger of being blown (even if Hyoubu knows, it’s possible the others don’t), and his medical scans aren’t encouraging. Before returning to the ship for a surprise party that further illustrates his “children’s” devotion and esteem for him, the Major checks in on Kaoru, whom we’re reasonably confident he wants to replace him one day. That day may have to come sooner than he’d like.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Kotoura-san – 04

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Manabe, Mifune, and Muroto set out to find Kotoura, starting at a town where train station cameras caught her. The three spend the night at a temple whose head monk knows Kotoura, and directs them to her house in town. After chasing her around the house, they finally catch her, but she doesn’t want to go back for fear she’ll hurt one of them again. Moritani arrives outside Kotoura’s house to apologize and convince her to come back to school. She agrees, and life returns to normal, only “a little better”.

Kotoura’s ESP bestows her with a bit of arrogance, as if reading the random thoughts of people is enough to know what kind of people they are. Having heard Moritani (who became an emotional wreck) and Manabe (who was beaten up), she decided unilaterally to cut ties with them all and disappear, believing it was all her fault. But what she needed to realize is that it’s not just her fault, or her choice. Her friends get to have a say in whether they shoulder the risk of being friends with her. Manabe made a promise to stay by her side, and that’s what he’s going to do, and rather than continue as an adversary, Moritani wants peace.

While we could have done without the perverted grandfather (seriously dude…WTF), he was the only unsightly blemish on a very nice episode in which Kotoura’s friends – and her rival Moritani – take the initiative in preventing her from retreating back into her shell of loneliness  They don’t want her to settle for that life, they want to share theirs with her, and whatever bumps in the road might come, they’ll face them together. As for Moritani, she should thank her lucky stars Manabe isn’t pressing charges, cause she was totes an accessory to assault!


Rating: 8 (Great)

Zettai Karen Children: The Unlimited – Hyoubu Kyousuke – 04

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PANDRA travels to Japan where Hyoubu Kyousuke wishes to check on his “queen” Akashi Kaoru, one of the Children who work for BABEL. Minamoto sends her along with Nogami Aoi and Sannomiya Shiho to impound the Catastrophe and arrest all of PANDRA. Andy is stuck in the middle, but ultimately helps Hyoubu defeat BABEL. The Children use their Triple Boost ESP to control the Catastrophe, but Hyoubu counters with his Unlimited power, and PANDRA escapes.

We were just saying last week how we were bummed that so far Hyoubu and PANDRA were punching so far below their weight class. This week, our concerns are addressed, as they face off against their arch-rivals. We meet the Children from Zettai Karen Children for the first time, and they’re a force to behold. It’s almost scary how quick, efficient, and coordinated they are, which is good, because for once PANDRA actually has to break a sweat. If it weren’t for Hyoubu and Andy, they’d all be in Japanese prison.

Hyoubu wants to create a world where espers aren’t treated like second-class citizens. He’ll always put an esper above a “normal”. So in this regard, the espers of BABEL aren’t really his enemies, only misguided comrades to be converted. The one he’s most bent on converting is Akashi Kaoru, the most powerful of the Children and the one he wants sitting on the Throne as queen of the new world he wants to build. Of course, she and her two colleagues are still just kids (and sore losers to boot), so Hyoubu will do what all good antagonists do and bide his time.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)

Kotoura-san – 03

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Kotoura and the ESP society go to Karaoke, her first time. Yuriko thinks Kotoura should tell Manabe how she feels, or at least start making his lunch. A bitter, enraged Moritani tells her dojo members to “rough up” Manabe, telling them he’s a stalker. He misses school and is in the hospital. Kotoura knows Moritani’s responsible, but doesn’t snitch. She rushes to the hospital, and hears Manabe thinking he’s glad she wasn’t with him when the beating happened. Afraid of hurting him more, she leaves school and moves out of her apartment.

This show keeps getting better. Sure, there’s the familiar fact that Kotoura knows Manabe likes her, but he doesn’t know she knows, so the balls in her court and…well, she doesn’t play ball. She doesn’t sing either, and is (refreshingly!) tone-deaf even when she gains her confidence. Manabe remains extremely into Kotoura (his high jump reaction is frikkin’ awesome), to the extent he’d rather take a beating for her than let her experience any more pain that she already has up to this point. The show does a great job building up the tension, and it’s not immediately clear who’ll come afoul of the dojo-mates. And though they never show him fighting, Manabe also gives almost as good as he got, despite being outnumbered.

But it’s Manabe. We thought when she first got the new of Manabe’s beating she’d think it was because she is the curse so many people told her she was, but she doesn’t, because Moritani makes it clear (in her thoughts) that she ordered the heavys to rough him up (though we can’t blame them, they thought they were protecting Moritani). But once Kotoura is in the hospital, peeking in at a battered Manabe, thinking about how he doesn’t mind getting hurt for her sake, she chokes, and decides to run (though, obviously, not for good). What she has yet to learn is that part of letting people get close to you is accepting that sometimes they’ll get hurt, and so will you. It’s not her fault, nor anyone else’s. It’s just life.


Rating: 9 (Superior)

Kotoura-san – 02

Kotoura and Manabe are recruited into the ESP Society by upperclassman Mifune Yuriko and meet its president, Muroto Daichi. Mifune, daughter of a clairvoyant who committed suicide after beoming hated and feared wants to scientifically prove the existence ESP to mankind and protect psychics from their prejudices. Manabe constantly spending time with Kotoura irks Moritani Hiyori, who likes him, so she and her friends start bullying her as payback. Mifune hears of this an informs Manabe, who confronts Hiyori, chastizes her, and admits he likes Kotoura.

Just because Kotoura’s made one, two even three friends up to this point (or one friend and two senpai), things aren’t getting any easier for her, or anyone else with ESP who lives amongst the normals. We meet the rest of the core cast, which includes Hanazawa Kana as Mifune, doing a normal voice. We could see her doing Kotoura with her shy-mode, but she makes a good senpai too, and in any case, after her nicely layered performance as Yui in Kokoro Connect, we have every confidence in Kanemoto Hisako. (As for Daichi, it’s good to see midget representation this season!). Mifune may not have ESP like Kotoura, but her mother did, and it was literally the death of her. Mifune may have a selfish reason for wanting to enlist Kotoura, but it’s an honorable one; trying to clear her mom’s name, and Kotoura stands to gain from the situation too.

As for Moritani, she and her goons are tremendously nasty bitches this week, transmitting so many awful thoughts to Kotoura that the poor thing barfs, making her even more an object of derision and mockery. She’s so used to it, she doesn’t make a peep about it to Manabe, which is where Mifune comes in. Proving her worth, she makes up for putting Kotoura in that position in the first place by making sure Manabe hears about the bullying, and when he brings the hammer down on Moritani – confessing to liking Kotoura for good measure – it’s very satisfying. Manabe may not be psychic, but he’s no fool; he knows there’s no way the bullying wasn’t hurting Kotoura, and wasn’t going to let those responsible get away with it.

That said, both the OP and ED suggest that Moritani won’t remain so vicious, and while her actions this week are inexcusable, they don’t come out of nowhere (another example of characters’ actions having clear origins). She too knows loneliness (though not nearly to Kotoura’s extent), and Manabe was one of the few guys who wasn’t offput by her family running a dojo. Now he’s preoccupied with Kotoura, and she can’t help but feel like she stole him…even if she never officially had him to begin with. In any case, we hope Kotoura has an episode down the road where she doesn’t have to suffer so terribly…though considering all she’s been through, the fact she’s kept on living is proof she’s far tougher than she looks.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Kotoura-san – 01

Kotoura Haruka was born with ESP, allowing her to read minds. But as she always blurted out what others were thinking, she became and object of loathing and inadvertently pushed away both her parents and everyone who ever met her. In the present she lives alone and transferred to a new school, but doesn’t escape the backlash of her powers. However, the boy seated next to her in class, Manabe Yoshihisa, reaches out to her, impressed that she can read minds. Haruka warns him to stay away or be hurt, but he rejects her notions and declares them friends.

We really liked this. The premise of this show is exceedingly easy to lay out: Girl who has struggled with her telepathy all her life finally meets someone who wants to be her friend anyway. And yet, we were surprised how deeply this show delved into her past turmoil, and how affecting it was. Like Muv-Luv did with Yui, this series wastes no time establishing just how fucked-up and horrible of a life Kotoura has had to endure thus far. The prologue gradually gets darker and darker (visually and dramatically) as Kotoura grows up and starts destroying everything around her, simply by being honest with people. It’s hard to watch, and we don’t mean that it a bad way – despite her utter lack of tact (she’s a kid, what do you want?), you can’t help but sympathize with her. Her telepathy is a curse, while everyone around her thinks she’s a monster.

Would her parents really so callously abandon her? Would absolutely everyone she meets up to high school (with the exception of her kindly grandfather) really find her so repellent  For the purposes of this series, yes and yes. The end of this episode marks the first bright spot in her life, like, ever, when someone, Manabe, finally reaches outto her. When she reads his mind, sometimes it’s dirty, but it’s never mean like everyone else. Her insistence that she stay away is well-grounded in what we’ve seen; she may not mean to do it, but she has ruined lives. At this point, she’s given up ever connecting with anyone, because she’s afraid she’ll just push them away and hurt them. But even before she uses her power to save Manabe’s life, he doesn’t consider her a monster or a curse. He considers her a new friend. We may have just found our dark horse of the Winter!


Rating: 8 (Great)