Fruits Basket – 43 – Having Nothing in the End

Hiro is talking with Kisa about his yet-to-be-born sibling, whose gender will be a surprise, and with his klutz of a mom when he spots Rin in her school uniform. He’s concerned about her ashen appearance, but she gives him basically the same treatment as everyone else who tries to reach out: Buzz off. Go have your happy life with your nice parents and leave me alone with my misery.

Flashing back to when Rin approached Shigure, we learn that she seeks a means of lifting the Zodiac curse, just like Tooru. She’s willing to give him her body for the info, but Shigure—in a rare instance of not being a total piece of filth—rejects her offer. He refuses to help in any way, while stating he’ll enjoy the benefits Rin’s and others’ efforts, because, as he says, he is the worst.

Spurned by Shigure, who may or may not have the answers she seeks, she goes through a Souma storage room in hopes of finding something, anything related to the curse and a way to lift it. Exhausted and nauseous, she collapses on the ground, and remembers one of the happiest moments in her life—in bed with Hatsu post-coitus, wishing she could be his heart—followed by one of the worst—her parents telling her they “don’t want her”.

Around dusk, she returns to Shigure’s house, strung-out almost beyond belief, but nobody’s home…until Tooru comes through the door. Even the act of opening a door on her sends Rin into a hysterical fit, repeatedly begging Tooru not to yell at her. Tooru being Tooru, she does the only thing the situation calls for in that moment: giving Rin a warm, gentle hug to try to calm her down.

Shigure may believe he’s the worst, but delving into Rin’s horrific childhood gives new dimension to the title. By all accounts, Rin’s parents tried for years to put on a happy, fun facade as they raised her. It wasn’t until it started to feel like a performance to her, and she asked them why that was, that they snapped.

Verbal and physical abuse followed, until one day Rin collapsed from the injuries that were hidden by her clothes. Kazuma and Haruhatsu are with her in the hospital, and that’s when her parents tell her they no longer want her. Hatsu responds not by turning into Dark Hatsu, but simply by getting extremely pissed off with the parents, and lays into them, getting no response in return.

From then on, Rin lived with Kagura’s family, and the mere fact it was a genuinely happy household caused her intense emotional and physical pain, since she wonders “what she did wrong” to cause her to lose her own home. The only person in whom she found comfort was her white-haired knight Haruhatsu, who eventually confesses his love, and she reciprocates.

For the only person with whom spending time was not painful to be another Zodiac member only adds further fuel to the all-consuming flame of misfortune that is Rin’s life. Akito finds out, and when Hatori’s eye is brought up, Rin declares that she was the one who seduced Haru.

Akito doesn’t hold back on the verbal or physical wrath, calling Rin wicked and devious (“like all women”) and calling her flowing black hair “repulsive”. Seemingly feeding off Rin’s fear by grabbing her, telling her she has no value other than “filling one of the [Zodiac] slots” before tossing her out the window. This “incident” is witnessed by Hiro, without whom Rin might well have bled out. Instead, she’s still alive—and wishes she wasn’t.

For all of those times I misinterpreted Rin’s standoffish, quick-to-anger nature in the few scenes in which she interacted with others, I can only beg for the character’s forgiveness. She’s had every right to actthe way she has. It’s now crystal clear she broke up with Hatsu in order to save him from Akito’s wrath, as well as her own belief her love for him would be so heavy it would one day crush him.

I can only breathe a sigh of relief that Rin is now in the safest possible place: in Shigure’s house and in Tooru’s care. She may act like every bit the wounded horse upon coming to, and stubbornly reject any and all offer of help from Tooru, but the fact is the two share the same goal, and they’ll need each other if they’re going to make any progress.

So ends the darkest and most devastating episode of Fruits Basket to date, an absolutely unrelenting look at the destructive effects of the Zodiac curse on its members. Few episodes of anime hit me as hard as this one. Rin is at absolute rock bottom, neither wanting nor feeling she is deserving of love, happiness, or anything at all. If anyone can help her, it’s Tooru. As long as Rin is alive, there is still hope. And I hope to hell she gets the redemption she needs and deserves.

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 03 – My Castle, My Rules

Misha may be clear that she likes Anos because he’s kind, but Sasha is more hesitant to come right out and say it. All she knows is, he’s the first person she’s met with eyes like hers, and the only person other than Anos to look straight into her eyes was Misha, who’d take her hand and smile when Sasha was in the darkest of places.

Just all ’round great sistering, which results in all kinds of warm and fuzzy sibling feels that endure and last right up to the point they’re cut short without warning, like a rude record scratch.

When Ivis Necron, one of the vaunted Seven Elder Demon Emperors created by the “Founding Ancestor” visits class to give a lecture on great magic, Anos greets him like an old friend, making his teacher go apeshit. Ivis is more forgiving, especially after Anos uses magic to extract his lost memories from 2,000 years ago.

Anos isn’t sure what Ivis’ deal is (and vice versa), but Anos is intrigued by the name “Avos Dilhevia”, whom Ivis says is the Demon King of Tyranny who created him. An impostor who tampered with the Emperors’ memories, or the result of a two-millennia-old game of Telephone?

When their class participates in a dungeon treasure hunt at Demon Palace Delsgade, Anos takes his sweet old time, since he’s confident only he can reach the lowest level of the palace where they’ll be able to retrieve a scepter that will give them a perfect score. Why is he so confident? Well, first of all he’s the Demon King Reincarnate, but also Delsgade happens to be his old crib.

He knows where all the treasure is, and also the location of all the “secret passageways.” I put that in quotes because when he reaches a solid stone wall, he simply casually walks through it and it crumbles around it. It’s the only major gag in the whole episode, but I was rolling since it was so damn unexpected.

On the way to the scepter altar, Anos learns from Misha that it’s almost Sasha’s birthday, and she wants to give her a gift. Distracting Sasha with the scepter, he leads Misha to a room packed with magical treasures. Sasha finds the perfect gift: the Phoenix Robe.

When Anos asks her if she’d want anything—it’s her birthday too, since she and Sasha are twins—she smiles and says she doesn’t want anything. She repeats that when she presents Sasha with a gift and her first response is to lament she didn’t get anything for her. Seeing Sasha happy makes Misha happier than she’s ever been.

When Anos goes into the next room so Sasha can try the robe on (which is odd, as she doesn’t actually remove any clothing), he returns to find Sasha has stabbed Misha and is preparing to flee with the scepter. She revokes their Zacht (something Anos didn’t think possible) and tosses a barrage of insults at the “magic doll” and her skin-crawling sentiments.

Sasha puts up an okay performance, but it’s clear she’s not as mustache-twirlingly heartless and evil as she’s presenting herself. For one thing, Anos considers her method of killing Misha to be well below “entry level.” Two, Sasha’s Demonic Eyes of Destruction are an open book, showing Anos exactly when she’s sincere and when she’s putting on an act.

Sasha is about to flee when Anos grabs her hand, deactivates her Rent spell, and reveals that he’d healed Misha the moment he saw her stabbed; the wounded Misha Sasha saw was only an illusion. Considering Sasha wasn’t sincere about the things she said about Misha, he wants to know her true feelings.

Only Misha comes to and tells him to let her sister go. Sasha flees with the scepter and likely the top score for the dungeon, but it’s unlikely that’s what she was after. Misha is finally ready to tell her first and only friend Anos the truth: at midnight on her fifteenth birthday, she’ll disappear. More than that, she never really existed in the first place.

Was Misha created in that dark place so Sasha could learn to live with her Demonic Eyes? Now that she’s coming of age, does that mean Misha’s work is done? Has Sasha been hostile to Misha in order to deny she has feelings for someone she’s destined to lose? The possibilities are many. This certainly wasn’t the funniest episode of DKA, but it was the meatiest, from a plot and character perspective.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 22 – Enter Sandcard

It’s probably for the best that CCS decided to take a break from Meiling and Syaoran to return the focus to the impressive Kinomoto family. When Touya and Sakura’s dad has to work long nights on a tight deadline for a manuscript, the siblings put aside their petty squabbling and do all of their dad’s share of chores, without him having to even ask! If that doesn’t show you he raised some good kids, I don’t know what does.

Sakura wants to extend her helping hand, so she visits her dad at university with Tomoyo, and his lab assistants let her peek in on one of his inspiring and sought-after history lectures. It’s great to see Sakura beam with pride over her father’s work, and wants to do everything she can to make his life easier. Unfortunately, there’s a Sleep Clow Card determined to render her dad and his team unconscious!

Sleep is another one of those mischievous “catch me if you can” cards that wreaks as much havoc as possible before being caught—it even manages to knock Kero-chan out! But thanks to a combination of Jump and Windy, Sakura is able to dodge the magic sleeping dust and disorient the card enough to seal it. However, in the process Sakura causes a lot of damage in her father’s office—and breaks his laptop!

Sakura is beside herself with guilt, but by now we know her father would much rather miss a deadline than watch his only daughter cry, so he forgives her on the spot and urges her not to worry about it. Of course, since Sakura is such a good girl, she can’t help but lose sleep over the accident.

Her dad finds a way to cheer Sakura up the next day: by enlisting her and Touya as his final night assistants. By the time morning comes, Sakura has nodded off but the manuscript is complete. He even has time to make Sakura a lunch with a note urging her to do her best, mirroring the lunch and note she made for him. What a beautiful, love-filled episode!

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 02 – Anything You Can Do He Can Do Better

This week begins back in the Mythical Age, where Demon King Voldigoad expresses his weariness with endless war between humans and demons. He makes a deal with the human hero Kanon: he’ll sacrifice most of his magical power in order to isolate the four realms and “snuff out the spark of war.” Kanon takes him up on this, and two thousand years of peace follow.

Fast-forward to about a month before the present, baby Anos opens his eyes for the first time, and just as his parents are about to begin considering a name, he says his name—in his stern adult Anos Voldigoad voice. I swear, if I had taken a drink of anything prior to hearing that voice, I’d have surely done a spit take all over my screen! It was exactly the comic sting needed after such a serious and sincere prologue.

Back to the present, leaders and teams are chosen for the team competition in a week’s time. The homeroom teacher declares that no students in white suits can be team leaders, so he proceeds to not only pass her test, but point out that it is flawed to such an extent, a simple adjustment by him doubles its power. He also meets Misha’s big sister Sasha, who does not care for Misha.

In fact, she considers her little more than a “soulless, lifeless doll animated by magic.” Pretty harsh! This spurs Anos to defend his new silver-haired friend, telling Sasha she should be peering deeper into the abyss. When Sasha lashes out with Demonic Eyes of Destruction, Anos easily deflects them with his own.

Anos offers to let Sasha join his team, even though she’s the leader of the other team. Instead, Sasha makes a bet with Anos: if he wins the team competition with just Misha on his team, Sasha will join them. If he loses, he’ll become Sasha’s property. Obviously, Anos agrees.

Just as Sasha and her team are setting up their Castle, Anos has Misha stay back at theirs and then walks right up to Sasha’s. He breaks through their communications and all of the castle’s defense magic, then lifts it out of the ground and launches it into the air.

He catches it with one hand before it falls, than spins it around like a carnival ride before launching it into the forest. That he does all of this without breaking a sweat makes for an utterly awesome bit of ownage. Like baby Anos talking in an adult voice, I simply did not see him treating the castle like a stony volleyball!

In a last-ditch effort to defeat Anos, Sasha decides to unleash Jio Graze, the most powerful fire spell that requires the unique skills and magical power of the entire team in unison. In response, Anos unleashes the weakest fire spell, Grega, though with his superior power it’s more than enough to dissipate Jio Graze and blast the remains of the castle to smithereens.

Sasha, initially ungracious in defeat, promises to one day kill Anos, a threat that amuses him, because killing him isn’t enough to make him die. Since they entered into a Zacht (a magical contract) she can’t go back on her word, so she joins Anos’ team. When he tells Sasha that Misha wanted her on their team, her stance on her little sister softens. When Anos tells Sasha that her demonic eyes are beautiful, she swoons.

That night, Anos brings both Misha and Sasha to his parents’ for another celebratory feast. The super-hyper folks are elated that he’s already brought home “Bride #2”, and Sasha is just as charmed by their extraness as Misha was.

Anos ends up walking the sisters home, and Misha and Sasha notably hold hands the whole time. I’m actually a bit surprised their rift was repaired so easily, considering Sasha didn’t even see Misha as a human or a sister at the start of the episode. Maybe beholding Anos’ power made Sasha reconsider a lot of preconceptions she’s had.

Sasha also makes it a point to ask if Misha likes Anos—and Misha answers plainly and clearly “yes”. Sasha then waits until Misha goes into their house to thank Anos for helping her make up with her, and give him a “kiss from a friend”. Those aren’t usually on the mouth in most cultures, but hey, what’s the harm of a little Demon King Love Triangle?

The Misfit of Demon King Academy – 01 (First Impressions) – Three-Second Rule

Now that’s more like it! While Lapis Re:LiGHTS felt sterile and lacked oomphThe Misfit has style, passion, and confidence in the story being told, and manage to mix some appealing character moments in with the obligatory introductions. It also teaches an essential lesson about being kind to others, especially family, and not judging books by their covers.

Within two minutes of arriving at the titular academy, our initially nameless MC makes a new friend and gains an enemy. During the entrance trials, that enemy learns that despite looking like a normal new student without a drop of royal blood, the MC makes sport of their duel, killing and resurrecting him at will until he loses the will to go on.

Contrast that with his attitude toward his new friend Misha, whose letter he picks off the ground before they met, can sense his immense power, and whom he invites for dinner at his loving, doting, conclusion-jumping folks. Those folks, by the way, reveal that their son is only a month old.

It’s abundantly clear before he says his name or reveals his true self that the MC is the reincarnation of the Demon King of Tyranny, Anos Voldigoad, and to its credit the show doesn’t over-explain anything. Instead it lets the cozy chemistry and quiet friendship between Anos and Misha play out organically, with her patting his head unbidden when he lists all the horrible names he’s been called.

Their instant easy rapport contrasts nicely with Anos’ absolute ruthlessness in the arena, be it a school-sanctioned trial or in the case of his would-be rival’s brother’s case, a sudden ambush. Where Zepes Indu was a cocky little shit, his brother Leorg throws racism into the mix, deeming only those of pure blood to be worthy of the Demon King’s power.

Before telling Leorg who he is, Anos simply shows him, by letting the older brother’s origin magic bounce right off (since Anos is the origin) then zombifying Zepes and forcing Leorg to reconcile with his brother in order to face him together. It’s interesting that this reincarnated Demon King isn’t so much concerned with toying with far less powerful opponents (though he does) as much as he wants to make them stronger so they can give him a fight!

Anos sensed from the start that as his descendants, the apples have fallen very far from the tree, but perhaps the first step to making them stronger is by strengthening the bonds of family. After all, he’s got himself some very fine parents, while Misha’s guardian also adores her (though her folks are apparently busy, she also has an older sister whom we’re sure to meet soon).

As Anos strikes down all comers, Misha stays by his side, heartened by his kindness and his offer to be comrades and friends, and there to tell him when his two-millennia-old jokes won’t cut it—an amusing quirk of Anos’ that isn’t overused.

Misfit of Demon King Academy is fun to watch but also gratifying because it feels infused with the enthusiasm of its creators, rather than feeling like an exercise of efficiently going through the motions. Most importantly, Anos is one cool, sassy dude; a nice complement to Misha’s understated charm. I’m definitely down to watch more of this!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 11 – The Eraser is Mightier Than the Sword

This week on Cardcaptor Sakura, Sakura visits Tomoyo’s house for the first time, which is surprising considering they’re BFFs and even related by blood (since Sakura’s and Tomoyo’s mothers were cousins). I believe we get the first instance of Kero-chan airlifting a lost Sakura into the expansive Daidouji Estate, the reveal of which is set to Takayuki Negishi’s truly sublime track Yume ni mita date, which is the musical equivalent of walking on clouds on the loveliest day ever.

Tomoyo invites Sakura and Kero-chan in and they go up to her room, which includes a screening room for all of Sakura’s Cardcaptor exploits. Tomoyo brought Sakura to her home for a specific reason, but that’s sidetracked when her mom Sonomi shows up and suggests the three of them have tea al fresco with some cake she brought, leaving Kero-chan all by his lonesome.

Sonomi shares her daughter’s adoration and idolatry of Sakura; the intensity of her infatuation is only matched by her dislike of her father, and frustration with the fact that Nadeshiko had to marry him so Sakura could be born. Obviously Sonomi cherished her cousin as deeply as Tomoyo loves her cousin’s daughter.

Still, when Sakura earnestly asks Sonomi to talk about her father back then, Sonomi considers him a “disgusting man”…but only because he doesn’t have a single flaw. Meanwhile, Sakura’s dad sneezes while hanging with Touya and Yuki, and suspects someone’s talking about him.

When Sakura and Tomoyo return to the latter’s room, Tomoyo presents Sakura with her original reason for inviting her: a treasure box that cannot be opened, even with the key. Kero-chan determines that it is the Shield card, which is always drawn to deeply cherished treasures.

That said, there’s nothing Sword can’t cut through, so Sakura summons it for the first time in order to secure the Shield card. This “battle” wasn’t any tougher than Flower card last week—and didn’t involve any dancing! Also Tomoyo manages to record this capture, though she forgot to make Sakura change into a battle costume.

With Shield lifted, the box can be opened, and reveals the well preserved sakura bouquet from Nadeshiko’s wedding. Sakura were Nadeshiko’s favorite flower, and since she and Sonomi were little she vowed to give the name Sakura to her daughter if she had a girl.

If that weren’t touching enough, the second treasure in the box is a bunny eraser, which was the first item Sakura ever gave Tomoyo. Tomoyo treasures it like a religious relic, and a symbol of the warmth, kindness and generosity her best friend exudes at all times. Honestly both Tomoyo and Sonomi make pretty good audience surrogates: Sakura is the kind of friend you’d be lucky to have, and not just because she possesses magic!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 10 – Flowers and Family

It’s Sports Day, which means it’s truly Sakura’s time to shine. She wows classmates and parents alike with her running speed, and while she accidentally lets a baton land on her head, she looks positively adorable while doing so.

When the time comes for the obstacle course race, Sakura and Syaoran find themselves beside each other in the starting blocks, and both are equally excited that Yukito is cheering them on. But while Sakura stays focused on winning, Syaoran looks over at Yukito one too many times and trips over his feet, letting Sakura win.

No sore winner, Sakura invites Syaoran to join her, Tomoyo, Touya, and Yukito for lunch, and Syaoran accepts when he hears Yukito is there and then marvels at the amount of food the kid can put away. Then Sakura’s dad arrives, as does Tomoyo’s mother Sonomi, who was his wife Nadeshiko’s cousin and protector.

She’s never forgiven him for stealing her away and then allowing her two die so young (sadly she was in the 27 Club). When Sonomi demands to know why he’s so cool about it, he tells her he promised his wife not to cry. Instead, he’s raised two great kids in an environment of love and happiness.

Even so, Sonomi won’t pass up another opportunity to challenge Sakura’s dad, so they both enter the parent’s 100m race. But as he’s mopping the floor with her, what had been a light dusting of flower petals becomes a veritable torrent, forming an increasingly thick carpet in the school’s main quad. Sakura and Syaoran simultaneously suspect a Clow Card, but the latter can’t leave the medical station in case there are injured.

Thankfully, this is not the toughest Clow Card. Sakura and Tomoyo learn from Kero-chan via Daidouji-brand cell phone that Flower is a fun-loving but gentle card who tends to show up around celebrations or other fun events, like sports days. When Sakura first approaches her, Flower pulls her into a joyful dance, but Sakura is eventually able to return her to card form before everyone in the quad is completely buried.

Sakura immediately puts Flower into use by giving both her father and Sonomi, who were in the midst of a quarrel, nadeshiko flowers. Nadeshiko Yamato is a Japanese term meaning “the epitome of pure, feminine beauty”; a floral metaphor for the ideal woman, whom Nadeshiko clearly was. Even Tomoyo’s long hair is a tribute to Nadeshiko’s flowing locks.

The two adults end up bonding over their shared love of her, while Sakura and Tomoyo profess their love for each other in turn. It’s all so wonderfully warm and fuzzy, there were moments I thought my heart might burst! Brimming with beautiful moments between family and friends, this was one of the most purely joyful CCS episodes yet.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 06 – Forest of Illusion

Sakura isn’t a fan of ghosts, like, at all. So when her friends suggest they investigate the forest behind the school for signs of haunting, she basically has to be dragged along. Sure enough, something appears in a flash of eerie blue light, but that something is different for everyone. Tomoyo sees a meat bun, but Sakura sees her mother Nadeshiko, who died when she was only three, and the anniversary of her death is approaching.

This is another case where Kero isn’t sure if a Clow Card is at work, but it’s enough of a possibility to visit the spot again, this time with Kero tagging along, Sakura in a kind of Italian opera bunny costume, and Tomoyo with her camera. When the spectre of her mother appears again, drawing Sakura closer, she steps right off the very sheer cliff she herself warned the others about.

Fortunately, Yukito catches her before she hits the ground, but she still passes out. She wakes up at his house, where he makes a point to mention his grandmother changed her clothes, not him, and that her “plush toy” is safe with Tomoyo for the evening. When Sakura contemplates whether who she saw was her mother, Yukito asks her: if it really were, why would she put her daughter in harm’s way?

When Touya comes to collect his little sister, Yukito tags along, and we learn that Sakura’s intense fear of ghosts comes from two things: her innate ability to sense (but not see) the real things, and Touya’s incessant teasing of her when they were younger. While he declares it his right as a big brother to mess with her, I could sense a tinge of regret in Touya’s telling, while Yukito suggests that maybe he can skip scolding her when she wakes up.

The next night, Sakura, Kero, and Tomoyo return to the forest, this time with Sakura wearing a very slick, futuristic, vocaloid-esque yellow costume. That’s two looks in the same episode for the first time! This time her mother beckons her to the cliff’s edge again, but Sakura snaps out of it, remembering Yukito’s words. Turns out it’s not the ghost of her mother, but a Clow Card called Illusion, which Sakura successfully captures.

The next morning, Sakura is ready to go back to school, but takes a moment to say hi to her mother, confident she’s not lonely by that cliff, but up in a beautiful place among the stars. Touya suddenly notices the real ghost of Nadeshiko appearing, however briefly, watching over Sakura and smiling.

This was the first truly heartstring-pulling episode of CCS, exploring how despite barely remembering her mother, she still loves her deeply due to the stories her dad and brother have told her, and in turn Nadeshiko is always watching over Sakura, no doubt immensely proud of her daughter’s new calling.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 10 – How A Net Feels

Just as it excels when it focuses on just one or two segments, Love is War is arguably even better at juggling a grab bag of stories in one episode. We get the latter this week and it’s all amazing, starting with Miyuki’s mistaken belief that Kaguya is avoiding him because she doesn’t like him. Kei wants to ask about his romance problems, but because she’s in her teenage rebellious phase, talking to him would mean losing face.

When their father comes home and asks Miyuki what’s up, Kei thinks she’s in the clear, but her father only makes Miyuki more tight-lipped and mad, so Kei has no choice but to offer a piece of advice: a girl can still like you even if it seems like they’re avoiding you. Sure enough, when Miyuki and Kaguya cross paths, she uses her calming ritual and the two walk side-by-side to the office. Miyuki had no reason to despair.

The next segment is the latest installment of the “Chika Teaches Miyuki Things He Sucks At” series, and, clocking in at around six miuntes, one of the quickest and most efficient. This time she’s trying to teach him the Soran dance his class will perform, but his idea of dancing looks more like an exorcism. When she finally loses her patience and storms out, Miyuki ends up relying on an Kaguya for pointers (Kaguya is more than happy for an opportunity to touch his body, the lecher!)

As Chika observes Kaguya’s strategy of simply getting Miyuki to replicate the moves irrespective of heart or passion, her honor as an artist must stand and protest, leading to a literal tug-of-war between the two girls. This mimics how historical Edo magistrate Ooka Echizen ordered two women resolve a custody battle for a child, with the winner being the first one to release the child when he was in pain.

In this case, no one’s letting go, but being pulled back and forth is exactly what Miyuki needed to learn what it was like to be the fishermens’ net, and performs a Soran dance that impresses both Kaguya and Chika.

Following two straight victories by Miyuki, we get a segment from the POV of Kobachi as she and Miko go on their DC rounds. Chika and the board game club doing something akin to LARPing, while they find Yuu playing video games at school. When he points out he’s in territory technically outside their jurisdiction, Miko ropes him and pulls him into it.

Kobachi can tell that while Miko and Yuu don’t get along, they’re a lot more alike than they realize. She knows about the rumors of how Yuu stalked a girl in their class in middle school, fought another boy over her, and got suspended, but notes that Yuu never told his side of the story. And because she knows he has a strong sense of justice and distaste for “irrational things” like Miko, his story is likely more complicated.

I’m sure Kobachi is as eager as me to hear that story someday, but for now, she’s impressed with the strides he’s made, including his participation in the Cheer squad, who unlike the majority of first-years were willing to bring him into the fold and give him a chance, as long as he was applying himself seriously, which he is.

The balance of the episode takes place during the vaunted sports festival. Miyuki and his class perform the Soran dance perfectly, but he’s discouraged to find his dad there rather than at work somewhere, snapping pics of Chika (though that was a request from Chika’s hot-shot dad).

What Miyuki wants to avoid at all costs is his dad getting anywhere near Kaguya, sure that nothing good could come with it. And yet his dad’s advice in the first segment for Miyuki to be the fastest runner, which he dismissed as grade school stuff, actually works like a charm on Kaguya, who despite being on the White team is passionately rooting for the President all the way!

That’s when Miyuki’s dad sidles up to Kaguya without introducing himself and belittles Miyki’s efforts. Kaguya, never one to let people cast aspersions on her beloved Miyuki, offers up all the ways Miyuki is actually a terrific person. When his dad shoots those down one by one, she gets increasingly flustered and annoyed, which leads him to ask not who Miyuki is, but who he is to her.

Kaguya responds with a beautiful monologue from the heart about how Miyuki showed her that not only to kind and wonderful people like him truly exist, but that there are others among her with those qualities (Chika and Yuu, for instance). Miyuki’s dad asks if she’s “romantically interested” just as Miyuki arrives, to which Kaguya compliments Miyuki on having such a “delightfully mischievous” father.

The Cheer squad leader ends up picking Yuu to be his partner in the final relay, and when they win, we cut to the brown-haired girl in the dark flashbacks in which Yuu was accused of stalking and assault.

This certainly lends credence to the theory that not only was Yuu not really stalking her, but that there might even have been mutual affection between them. Will we ever meet this mystery person, and if so, how will this “New Yuu” react? I can’t say, but I’d love to see it.

As it stands, Love is War has deftly and painstakingly painted fully-realized portraits of all four of its main characters plus Miko. It just happens to be both one of the most hilarious comedies in years and a riveting, heartfelt character drama. Shows this unassailably superb don’t come around often. It’s hard to not sound like I’m mindlessly gushing about it, but the excellence is there for all to see.

Elfen Lied – 13 (Fin) – A Brief Dream in This Hell

As Kouta wanders home in a daze, his memories returning thanks to the violent sights he’s seen, Kurama fishes Nana out of the water, saving his daughter once again and admonishing her for not moving much, much further away (though his instructions should have been more detailed). Lucy neutralizes Bando (though notably doesn’t kill him), and Shirakawa’s assistant keeps the dormant Mariko safe—and keeps her self-destruct safely in his hand.

Mariko’s powers return and she escapes her captors, and then she and Lucy find each other and have a duel. It’s a testament to Lucy’s experience and toughness in Diclonius combat that she manages to last as long as she does against a far superior opponent. But while she loses a horn and a fair amount of blood, Mariko fails to kill Lucy off…because her dad arrives in time to stop her.

Just as she could tell her “mother” was a fake, Mariko can instantly sense that Kurama is indeed her father, and is shocked when he pulls his gun on her. When she spots Nana with Kurama, and hears her call him Papa, Mariko’s jealousy spills out and she proceeds to beat Nana up with her Vectors.

Then Kurama drops his gun, draws in close, and wraps his real daughter in his warm embrace…for the first time. He carries her off while ordering the assistant to activate the device. This time the child whose life he takes is his own, but he goes out with her, assuring her that both her parents loved her to their last breaths.

The assistant is about to shoot Nana, but his head is blown off…by Lucy. She can’t go back home to Kouta after what she’s done, but Nana is innocent and good and kind, so she asks Nana to do what she can’t and live a good and happy life. Nana obeys.

Back at the facility, Kurakawa reveals he’s a wannabe Diclonius just like his son, while Arakawa quietly hides Kouta’s record, feeling bad for him. We’ll never know if she ever got that bath…

Then we have an extended and emotional goodbye between Lucy and Kouta, who finally realizes that she, Nyu, and the girl he met at the orphanage were all her. Lucy tells him the happiest days were the ones with him as a boy. They were a brief and beautiful dream in the hell that was her life, and she survived this long so she could tell him how sorry she was for what went down.

She turns to leave, but Kouta won’t let her go just yet. In fact, he wants her to stay, even if he can’t forgive her. They kiss and embrace, reenacting the Klimt painting, with Lucy flashing an El Greco hand. We then see Lucy on the bridge, facing a huge military force, and a battle ensues…with an intentionally ambiguous result.

Some time later, the household of Kouta, Yuka, Mayu and Nana is a happy one. Nana’s cooking skills are improving, and they have an extra place setting for Lucy. Then they hear Wanta barking outside, and Kouta goes to see who it is.

The silhouette behind the paper door looks a lot like Lucy in her dress, but before he can open the door to confirm it, the grandfather clock Nyu always messed with, which he could’ve sworn was permanently silent, begins to chime.

And so we say farewell to the brutal, haunting, and poignant Elfen Lied, a story as much about how some can continue to endure, love, and be loved after living through unspeakable suffering—and how some can’t—as it is about scientific arrogance and ambition gone awry. Heck, it’s about a lot more than that, and I’ll be thinking about its hard-hitting symbols and themes for a long time.

Elfen Lied was also a blast from the past in the best possible way. Anime character design and animation has evolved quite a bit in sixteen years, but like the Dicloniï that evolution wasn’t necessarily all for the better. I’ve also rarely seen a series mix body horror and comedy with such effectiveness. What could have been a tonal mess only draws you in deeper and made me care about the characters more. You feel every horrible act of violence and cruelty, just as you feel every pulse of warmth and kindness.

Finally, the series is greatly elevated by music from the duo of Konishi Kayo and Kondou Yukio (who’d go on to score House of Five Leaves and … sigh … Pupa). I don’t think I’ll ever see or hear an theme as hauntingly beautiful and sad as “Lilium”. Mine eyes welled up Every. Damn. Time. They truly don’t make ’em like they used to.

Elfen Lied – 12 – Total Recall

Shirakawa and the assault team can only stand around and watch in horror as Mariko continues to toy with Nana like a child rips wings off an insect. Only Nana is, horns and prostheses aside, a human being. Despite this, they allow 35 to have her way with Nana so she’ll be more cooperative. It’s frankly sickening to see other humans stand by and let this happen.

I know they see Dicloniï as an existential threat to humanity, but Shirakawa and the soldiers are abdicating their own humanity by allowing such sickening, wanton cruelty to occur. Lucy may be one thing and 35 another, but Nana is living, breathing proof that Dicloniï can coexist peacefully with humans. Mayu sees Nana and Nyu as sisters and Kouta and Yuka as their mom and dad.

And it’s Kouta who comes to Nana’s aid when no one else will, putting his own life at grave risk. Not only is Mariko eager to have more “fun” killing people, she resents the fact Nana has a friend, something Mariko didn’t believe was possible because, well, she’s been encased in a giant steel enclosure who whole damn life! I can’t blame Mariko for being the way she is, which is a direct result of the dehumanizing, self-defeating actions of the researchers at the facility.

Nana uses her remaining strength to keep him from being hurt, demonstrating she’s far more human than those who wish her dead. She ends up falling off a bridge into the water, and her fate is left unknown. However, when Nyu finally catches up to Kouta, she slips on a pool of Nana’s blood and hits her head. Lucy reawakens and kills Shirakawa and the soldiers one by one right in front of Kouta, whose long-repressed memories finally surface.

The story that unfolded in episode nine is thus completed, as Lucy followed Kouta’s family on the train out of Enoshima. Kanae claims to have witnessed a “girl with horns” killing lots of people at the festival, but Kouta doesn’t believe her. When Lucy appears, Kanae confirms she was the killer, but Kouta won’t hear of it, slaps Kanae, and orders her to apologize.

Kanae just wants to get Kouta away from Lucy, worried he’ll be her next victim and putting herself between the two, but Lucy snaps her in half, and then beheads Kouta’s father. When Kouta asks why she did these things when he thought they were friends, she calmly responds in her cold Lucy voice: “I didn’t kill you because we’re friends,” then vows to kill Yuka next.

Let me be clear: Lucy is this way because of humans. She killed the bullies because they bullied her; had they been nice to her she’d have been nice back. She punishes Kouta by killing those close to him because he lied to her. It may have been a white lie meant to protect her, but someone with her past didn’t make that distinction, and it doesn’t change the fact it was not the truth.

Back in the present, Kouta finally reconciles those newly surfaced memories with Nyu’s true identity, but he has little time to process them as Bando arrives ready to kill Lucy. She flees, baiting him to follow her, and urges Kouta to meet her at the stone steps. Kouta and Lucy have hurt each other gravely, but perhaps, like Shirakawa briefly hoped, there can be a resolution that doesn’t involve killing. Okay, that involves minimal killing. Bando obviously has to go.

Elfen Lied – 11 – Doing Whatever You Can

This week we meet AKIRA Number 35, AKA Mariko, who beyond the massive steel shutters is merely a frail five-year-old girl. Only one person has ever interacted with her in her lifetime: a researcher named Saitou, who likens Mariko her daughter and is eager to see her for the first time. Shirakawa has no choice but to unleash Mariko in order to deal with Lucy, and Saitou is the only human Mariko will trust and listen to.

Uh…yeah…that doesn’t go so well.

In the very likely chance Saitou was disemboweled, de-spined, and de-kidneyed by Mariko—who after all correctly assessed Saitou was not her mother—Mariko has bombs placed within her body that can be detonated if she refuses to come to heel. I was sure Shirakawa was a goner too, but in a last-gasp gesture, it’s Saitou (or at least the top half of Saitou that clings to life for a minute or so) who presses the button that blows off Mariko’s arm.

It’s good that Spring 2020 has its share of feel-good shows (Arte and Princess Connect among them), otherwise I’m not sure I’d quite be able to endure the unrelenting pitch-black darkness of Elfen Lied. It loves to show us idyllic moments in Kouta’s house as his little family of misfits begins to gel, knowing much if not all of that family could soon end up as expressionist splatter on the fusuma.

Nevertheless, I’ll take the good times while there are still good times to be had. They include Kouta officially welcoming Nana to the household not as a guest, but a member, and leaves her chore training to Mayu. Seeming similar in age (and both haunted by unspeakable trauma) Mayu and Nana continue to develop a friendship closely bordering on sisterhood. Then there’s Nyu.

When Kouta shows Nana a photo of his dead sister Kanae, memories well up in Nyu, and in those moments, Nana senses Lucy. Nyu then chops her hair off to more closely resemble Kanae so she can forgive Kouta for being mean to her just before she died. It’s looking more and more like Lucy killed Kanae and Kouta repressed the memory.

Yuka comes home from the grocery store just as Kouta is embracing Nyu and telling her he “likes her too”, sending a heartbroken Yuka off to sulk. That’s when she discovers the entire area has been cordoned off by police in preparation for Mariko’s arrival on the mainland, now in a wheelchair and escorted by Shirakawa. Kurama, meanwhile, is off on his own, and conscripting Bando to hell him kill Lucy.

Nana can sense Mariko’s arrival, as well as her overwhelming murderous intent. In order to protect Mayu, Kouta, Yuka, and yes even Nyu (whom she hopes stays Nyu forever), she runs off to meet Mariko face-to-face. Unfortunately, Nana is woefully outmatched and uninformed; she isn’t even aware of just how many vectors Mariko has, nor how far they reach.

Mariko proceeds to “have fun” by toying with poor Nana like a cat with a freshly-caught mouse. As far as Shirakawa & Co. are concerned it’s all good…as long as 35 ends Lucy as well. Feel-good this show is not…but it is damned compelling.

Fruits Basket – 28 (S2 03) – The Desolation of Indifference

One of Fruits Basket’s biggest personalities in Souma Ayame pays a visit to Shigure’s house. He comes with fresh peaches and invites Yuki and Tooru to visit his clothing boutique. Despite how annoying he finds his big brother, Yuki wants to try to understand him better, so to Ayame’s surprise he takes him up on the offer.

Despite a nondescript front and somewhat suspicious sign, the shop itself is pretty straightforward. They sell sewing and handicraft supplies, but Ayame also provides a discrete “custom” tailoring service to satisfy any taste (i.e. cross-dressers/drag/fetish/etc). Ayame is in the back when Yuki and Tooru arrive, but they’re received by Ayame’s charming partner Kuramae Mine—voiced by Index herself, Iguchi Yuka!

While I’m sure Yuki was glad Tooru accompanied him, the bottom line is he’ll get nowhere in his efforts to learn more about Ayame unless the two sit down together alone and have a proper conversation. That means Mine tastefully takes Tooru to the back and subjects treats her to their ample stock of elegant dresses.

When Tooru laments hearing the brothers fighting, Mine assures her that fighting, in their case, is good—it means they acknowledge one another’s existence. Having witnessed a lot of this with Yuki and Kyou, Tooru understands how any communication is good no matter how aggressive initially is, because that’s the rough first step to understanding one another.

Yuki is in a bad mood to start since that very morning he woke up from a dream in which his mother is asking him why it matters if he’s a tool. The tension between him and Ayame dissipates when Ayame turns down his Noble Charisma Levels a couple of notches and lets a more sensitive and thoughtful side come through.

Ayame regrets how he treated Yuki in the past, most of all because it was an absence of feeling—an existence of nil, neither loving nor hating him. Yuki was part of the background of his life, and the one and only time Yuki reached out to him for help, he slapped his hand away like one would slap a gnat.

Ayame didn’t realize how much he contributed to Yuki’s misery until later in life, when it was far too late to undo it. He became overtaken by fear that Yuki would exact upon him the same total indifference he’d exacted on Yuki. Dressmaking became his way to show that he was more than a tool, but someone capable of creating something that wouldn’t have otherwise existed.

It’s clear Mine played a huge role in helping to guide Ayame to this calling, which has in turn led to his happiness and desire to mend the frayed bond with his brother, and to forgive himself. When Yuki hears Ayame talk, he can’t help but see a parallel to the garden he tends: making his mark on the earth; showing he exists and can create.

But it’s not just dresses or plants that can’t exist without Yuki and Ayame, respectively. It’s the people they have by their side who allow them to be the best version of each other. Mine is the Mine she is in part thanks to Ayame, and vice versa.

The same goes with Yuki and Tooru—who emerges from the back with Mine glowed up into a pure-and-lovely masterpiece! As long as they have those people—and each other—in their lives, they’ll never be just tools, wandering the desert of indifference alone.

There are always going to be times when Yuki and Ayame don’t agree, see eye to eye, or even understand why they’re doing or saying something. But like two brothers arguing, the fact that they can identify differences means, by definition, that they’re not indifferent towards each other. And like mountains of laundry, reaching understanding means taking things one small step at a time.