The Fire Hunter – 02 – Precious Goods

Maiden Train Arc

Touko’s adventure starts out rough, with her vomiting and passing out, no doubt due to the fact she’s never been on a moving vehicle. When she wakes she’s greeted by two kindly women, Hotaru and Benio, who are also getting a ride on the collection truck, to be married off.

Hotaru and Benio are resigned to their fate, which is the result of their villages believing sending them away will lift curses. But a third bride-to-be, Kaho, is manifestly not resigned and not taking it in stride. A shot of her right next to a window makes it obvious: if she finds an opportunity, she’s going to run for it. The forest may be full of fiends (and various ruined artifacts from before this world’s fall), but not an unwanted husband.

Unlike the brides who are confined to their car, Touko is given a brief tour of the truck and given toilet-cleaning duty. It’s hard work and it stinks, but Benio would prefer work to being cooped up and twiddling her thumbs. The episode is full of vividly-rendered postcard memories to accentuate certain scenes. When Touko is back in the brides’ car for lunch, Benio shows a growling Kanata who’s boss by basically asserting that she wont put up with his continued hostility.

That night, Kaho comes to Touko’s bed, telling her she’s talking and groaning in her sleep, but also to give her something he dropped. It turns out to be a spirit stone with her adoptive sister Rin’s name carved into it. Touko’s happy reaction to his indicates it was Rin’s intention, despite her harsh words, to send Touko off with a good-luck talisman, and the mask she wore was indeed to conceal her sad face.

Lightning in a Bottle

Nighttime is a good segue back to the Capital, where Koushi walks past unhoused orphans huddled together in the rain. Koushi may be apprehensive about his future with his mother dead and his father away, but this little shot is a good reminder that he is a lot better off than most.

Koushi makes his way to the ornate mansion of Yuoshichi, who knew his father, Haijuu—Haijuu, of course, being the fire hunter who was killed saving Touko’s life. Yuoshichi feels firmly indebted to Haijuu, and following the death of Koushi’s mother has decided to welcome both him and his little sister into his home, not as a servant or factory worker, but as members of his family.

Yuoshichi would rather Koushi focus on his studies, and begin research on the skyfire his father had collected over the years. The moment Yuoshichi mentions that the current government is on its last legs and that skyfire can be used as both a fuel and an explosive, I knew his intentions vis-a-vis Koushi weren’t entirely altruistic. When the winds change, he wants to be ready, and Koushi is key to that.

Runaway Bride

When the collection truck stops for “fuel”, the fire hunter onboard conscripts Kanata to work beside his own good boy, Izumo the hound. He doesn’t bother asking Touko for permission, and Kanata tentatively follows. When Hotaru reports that Kaho has gone missing and must have left the truck, Touko also exits to go look for her.

She finds Kaho in the clutches of a black beast that the fire hunter and dogs are in the midst of hunting. It’s a chaotic and frought scene of multiple perspectives all captured on the screen at once in the battle’s climax.

In the end, Kaho and Touko are fine, as are the dogs, and the truck has ample fiendfire from the slain beast. But Sakuroku tells Touko that her leaving the truck is unacceptable. He summarily decrees that he can no longer keep her on the truck, and will be dumping her off at the next village along with one of the brides (though which one isn’t revealed).

If Sakuroku doesn’t change his mind (and something about him tells me he won’t), it looks like Touko’s journey to the capital—and rendezvous with the son of the fire hunter who saved her—will be delayed. There’s also the possibility the village won’t accept her, or try to betroth her to someone.

In any case, this episode did a lot of heavy lifting showing how despite the apocalypse that has left the world in this state, humanity’s innate bad habits of using one another as currency and tools have not abated.

Spy x Family – 25 (Part 2 Fin) – The Front Line

Disguised as a professor, Loid assesses the current situation as the Eden College Social Gathering commences. There is no way to infiltrate the gathering without actually belonging there. Since Anya earning enough Stella to become an Imperial Scholar is probably out, that leaves Plan B.

Like Loid, Damian longs to be in the presence of his father (for obviously very different reasons). But while his older brother says he’ll tell their dad Damian wants to see him, he also tells Damian not to get his hopes up. Damian probably doesn’t need to be told this. But he has to try.

Anya has to try too. She can read Loid’s mind since he’s in range, and doubles her efforts to be close to Damian so that she can face the “final boss.” Of course, this gives both Damian and Becky the impression she’s stalking him. And she’s not not stalking him.

Loid, who is far better than Anya at staying hidden, watches Damian head to the place where he said he’d be waiting for his father. But when Damian reconsiders since he’s so sure his dad won’t show, he can’t do anything about it.

But Anya can. She tells Damian she can tell he’s scared (and he suspects she can read his mind…which he can…) just as she was scared to show her dad her low test scores. But she also knows her dad loves her, even when he’s mad at her, so she’ll keep showing him her tests scores. While he tsunderes Anya off, Damian gets her, and heads to the meeting place after all.

Anya waits with him from afar, and Becky waits with her, assuming she’s in love with Damian and wants to meet his dad. But Anya soon falls asleep. As Becky has Martha carry her to the car to take her home, Loid walks past in his professor disguise, carrying the same keychain she has on her backpack.

It’s that keychain that provides Loid the excuse to speak to Damian. He planted it in the meeting place for Damian to find, then takes the opportunity to take a knee and profusely apologize on behalf of his daughter, being nothing but submissive and deference.

While he’s apologizing, Desmond shocks his son by arriving. Loid then introduces himself formally apologizes. In these first critical moments, he takes as much of the measure of Desmond as he can, while formulating the right conversational path to get the most out of their encounter.

Once, then twice, Desmond cheerfully tells Loid that he needn’t go so far to apologize for a trifling quarrel between children. Loid knows not to push further against such a man as cautious and wily as Donovan, so he doesn’t. But Damian is another matter.

Loid proceeds to elegantly and expertly make use of Damian and his justified daddy issues as a conduit to open a meaningful dialogue and make himself memorable and appealing enough for Donovan to take notice. Damian is angry his dad isn’t angrier, but Loid and Donovan bond over their shared inability to truly know or understand what their kids or thinking.

Loid doesn’t really agree, but Donovan’s comments help him to better understand Donovan’s political philosophy, which is the first step to steering him towards one less likely to lead to the East-West cold war going hot. He even gets a solid dig in by assuming Donovan makes time for Damian when he’s never done any such thing.

Even so, Donovan notes that this is an oversight he hadn’t considered, but acknowledges. After Loid showers praise on Damian for a report about his father that he claims Anya really liked, he prepares to take his leave. His final request to Damian is that he try to be friends with Anya, as she likely wants to be his friend. In an unguarded moment, Damian says he feels the same way…before turning beet red and rejecting the idea.

Once Loid departs, Donovan turns to Damian and asks what he wanted. Damian says it’s nothing, but then remembers Anya’s words about having to show your test scores, and stops his dad to tell him all of the good things that have happened to him so far in class.

Then, to Damian’s surprise and boundless elation, his father says “well done, keep at it.” Simple and boilerplate they may be, hearing his father say them absolutely makes Damian’s year. And if he’s on better terms with his dad in no small part thanks to words from both Anya and her dad, then perhaps in future he’ll be less inclined to call her a stubby-legged uggo stalker.

That helps Loid’s cause. But what’s so great about his discussion with the Desmond is that he’s not simply operating as a heartless agent of the state trying to manipulate an enemy VIP and his son. I mean, he kinda is, but he’s also uses his experiences as Anya’s father, not a spy, to actually improve the relationship between Damian and Donovan.

It works like a charm, and it was thrilling to watch. As for Anya, she must’ve needed to catch up on some sleep, since she’s still out cold when Loid comes home, her having been delivered there like a package by Becky earlier that afternoon.

The long-awaited first meeting of Twilight and his primary target marks the end of Spy x Family Part 2, ending on a high note. Whenever Part 3 comes around there will be plenty to chew on, from the continued development of the Forget family and Anya and Damian’s friendship, to the potential for the family’s mutual secrets to be revealed to one another. I shall eagerly await Part 3—and hopefully not fall asleep on a stoop as Anya did while staking out Damian.

Love Flops Dropped

The third and final episode of Love Flops I watched focused on Amelia Irving, who starts the episode under Asahi’s covers trying to put his toeprints on a wedding license. Why yes, she’s not wearing pants. Her obsessively hypercompetitive personality hits a snag when a kanji test looms. She starts to learn, but only the symbols she finds in pornographic literature. Asahi helps tutor her, and her test scores improve drastically.

While Amelia is the most interesting character by dint of having an episode centered around her, and I heart her seiyu Taketatsu Ayana always and forever (and appreciate that she needs to pay the bills), I’m content with just three episodes of this mostly dumb mess and calling it a day. If I need tutoring rom-com, I’ll wait for We Never Learn S3.

Golden Kamuy – 40 – His Mother’s Eyebrows

If you told me we’d be getting a Lt. Koito origin story this week, I would have been dubious, but, well, here we are, and while it’s completely divorced from the present day story and our core couple of Sugimoto and Asirpa, it’s still a ton of fun, blending geopolitical history, family strife, and the usual Kamuy zaniness.

At fourteen, Koito Otonoshin is an aimless, willful 14-year-old, a spoiled rich kid whose father has basically washed his hands of him. But when he runs a man down with his mini-motorcycle, he gets more than he bargained with, as that man turns out to be Lt. Tsurumi, in full possession of all of his skin.

Tsurumi can tell young Koito has skill and potential, but needs direction. He also learns—or rather already knew—that Koito has a complex about his 13-years-older brother who died valiantly in battle. Basically, he wishes he was the son to die. Tsurumi tells Koito he’ll enjoy his move to Hakodate, and that if they meet again, it will mean the heavens want them to be friends.

Two years later, Koito is still a rich little shit put-putting around town, but is suddenly kidnapped by Russians. Tsurumi arrives as a representative of the army to deal with the hostage situation, meeting with the grizzled Captain Koito and his wife. Finding his son will involve using the telephone exchange to trace the kidnapper’s call—the town only has 50 or so non-public phones, but that’s still too many to go door-to-door.

On one of many hunches, Tsurumi and Koito stake out the abandoned Russian embassy and await a phone call. But Captain Koito makes clear that if the Russians want him to dismantle his fleet in exchange for his son’s life, that’s not going to happen. Yet when the kidnappers call and put the captain’s son on, Koito is already prepared to die, tells his father to forget he was born, and starts fighting with his captives over the phone.

Papa Koito may be stern and honorable, but he’s not heartless, and his son’s gesture propels him to go after his son once the location of the phone—an abandoned fort six klicks away—is found. The horses are too scared of the steep hills, so Koito races off on his son’s motorcycle, with Tsurumi catching up with his Terminator speed and hopping on.

A thrilling little chase ensues, with one of the kidnappers pursuing the motorcycle. Tsurumi helps them get around corners by leaning to the side, surprising a couple of local townswomen and giving them a wink. He then swings around so he’s facing the captain and shoots and kills their pursuer.

However, Captain Koito ends up crashing the bike into a trolley and sending them both flying, losing just enough clothing to look like they’re members of a queer bike gang. They arrive at the old fort, the Captain distracts the kidnappers by striking a rock star pose, but he’s knocked out, and his son is tied up to a post again.

Koito hears gunshots behind the closed door and fears the worst, but when the door opens it’s not his captors, but Lt. Tsurumi, in all his sexy masculine glory. Koito’s dad comes to, and the three enjoy a good laugh while Tsurumi’s underlings—a younger Kikuta, Tsukishima, and Ogata—deal with the bodies of the dead kidnappers.

Clearly smitten with the always-charming Lt. Tsurumi, and also finally possessed of a sense of duty to both father and country, Koito takes the army officer test and passes, and even though his father is a naval man, he’s proud of his son whether he fights on land or sea. Tsurumi takes him under his wing, and Koito and Ogata exchange glares, the start of their long and colorful history together.

Left ambiguous is whether Tsurumi planned all of this: meeting the young Koito in Kagoshima to get the measure of him, arranging the kidnapping, facilitating a reconciliation between him and his dad, and eventually claiming him as one of his loyal 7th division officers. Or was it simply fate that brought them together?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Love Flops – 02 – Menage a Cinq

Asahi is so distracted by Aoi’s, er, display, he completely misinterprets her confession to him as a confession to going commando. When she asks him what he thinks and he says he might give it a try and isn’t one to judge others for their preferences, Aoi gets embarrassed and runs off. Not five minutes later Ilya confesses to him, Mongfa runs off and gives him hickeys when two men in black come by, and both Karin and Amelia try to ambush him with a spontaneous wedding.

After a day of absolute madness, Asahi is glad to be home…only to find it full of the mad ones. There they are, all lined up to welcome him home as if they were his five wives. His annoying robot plays a message from his father, who arranged all of this and is hoping Asahi ends up picking one of the girls (or the guy) to marry for real.

The audacity of having his house doubled in size in the few hours he was away from it is weird enough, but now we learn that his dad is undoubtedly someone of considerable means. We also learn that all five of his would-be brides (and one groom) are way too enthusiastic about asserting themselves.

They’re all over him and won’t leave him alone, and while this is clearly a fantasy for some, the episode does a good job heightening the sheer anxiety of dealing with five caffeinated wannabe waifus in a relatively small space. When Asahi escapes to the quiet blue night, it’s as much a relief for me as him!

Aoi ends up finding him at a shrine, and tells him how all of them are simply excited to finally meet their potential future husband, and it resulted in them being a little too overeager to please. With her gentle touch she’s able to convince him to come home and give this thing a try, while she and the others will “do their utmost” to tone it down a bit. Somehow I doubt that!

With that, Asahi’s wacky new home life begins. I’m honestly still not sure what to make of this, and will take at least one more episode to determine if it’s something I’ll watch to the end. So far it’s like train wreck from which I can’t quite look away!

Classroom of the Elite – S2 10 – Farewell My Lovelies

“The game is rigged, but you cannot lose if you do not play.” —Marla Daniels, The Wire

Paper Shuffle came and went with no students being expelled, and thanks in no small part to Class D’s increased unity and harmony, they picked up quite a few points on Class C. Ascension seems imminent, they just need to remain focused. When Kiyotaka’s study group spots 1-A’s Sakayanaki Arisu chatting with 1-B’s Ichinose Honami, whom Haruka deems “too perfect”, as someone has to have some flaws to be likable. Kiyotaka notices someone is hiding behind a pillar eavesdropping on them.

While walking along with Maya, Kei notices she’s being tailed by a large and unpleasant Class-C student; on their nightly call Kiyotaka tells her she can safely ignore the tail as it’s unlikely to escalate further. But how can he be so sure, and will he be in a position to keep his promise to protect Kei if the harassment does get worse? Meanwhile, Kei snapped a photo of the girl stalking his study group; she’s from Class A, suggesting she was doing so on Arisu’s orders.

In class, more reports of Class-D students being messed with by Class-C, suggesting the class is desperate with D about to supplant them. Suzune asks Kiyotaka if he’ll keep helping her bring their class to Class A. In a nice bit of foreshadowing, he says “as long as it remains necessary”, and then she gives him a book called Farewell My Lovely to check out at the library, as he’d stated his interest in it.

While at the library, Kiyotaka exhibits a measure of chivalry by taking a book off a high shelf for the petite Class-C student Shiina Hiyori; the two have a pleasant little chat about books. Kiyotaka is then taken aside by Chabashira-sensei, who tells him he has a visitor: his father.

Papa Ayanokouji doesn’t mince words: the White Room has resumed, and he wants Kiyotaka, who has strayed from the path laid out for him, to sign a letter expressing his wish to withdraw from the school.

Kiyotaka refuses, Mr. Ayanokouji threatens, and their stalemate is broken by a very unexpected party: Mr. Sakayanagi, Ayanokouji’s former secretary, the current school chairman, and Arisu’s father.

He explains that this school puts a high value on the independence of its students, and he won’t allow a parent to bully one of them into withdrawing against their will. That is that, as Mr. Ayanokouji leaves, but only for now. His mission to bring Kiyotaka, his “most prized possession”, back into the fold has only begun.

Kiyotaka learns that Sakayanagi was the one who recommended him for enrollment, having had his eye on him for some time and seeing his potential (no doubt Arisu sees it too). It’s also clear that Chabashira never knew Kiyotaka’s dad. He considers this a betrayal, for now it’s clear Chabashira has only been using him to try to advance her class to Class A.

That’s something that no longer interests him. He’s content to leave Suzune, Hirata, and the others to continuing those efforts, and he won’t get in their way, but he’s personally done trying to advance the class to Class A. What he’ll do instead remains to be seen, but one of his first calls is to Kei. He apologizes for getting her mixed up in so much trouble, but when he abruptly tells her they’ll no longer be having these phone calls, she’s shocked and genuinely hurt.

Watching him interact with and even seemingly befriend other students of late might’ve softened his image, but we know this kind of brutal coldness is Kiyotaka’s normal M.O. He’s never come out and named any of the people he’s interacted with friends. He even uses the “transactional relationship” label to him and Kei.

While he might not be 100% wrong on that note, the fact is their relationship has evolved to something beyond that, and his inability to see that or act accordingly is one of the flaws that make him likable, despite him acting like such a cold jerk most of the time. I can only imagine Suzune’s outrage at his sudden decision to walk away from the game.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

RWBY: Ice Queendom – 04 – Her World, Her Rules

If you’re going to go three weeks between episodes (since the first three were available in week one) following with a character-centric bottle episode is probably the way to go. We don’t see how Weiss is discovered or how the rest of her team takes her before Shion; instead we’re right beside Ruby inside Weiss’ nightmare world as she tries to find her bearings and rescue her still-new comrade.

She arrives in a harsh winter wonderland with an psychedelic sky, but at least she can use her weapon as a snowboard, and spends coins in order to communicate with Shion, create shortcut doors, and bring up the map of where she’s been. Considering she only has a finite amount of coins, I’d say she’s actually way too liberal with their use early on.

After witnessing a Schnee-brand train being attacked and derailed by White Fang, Ruby follows the tracks to an Orwellian nightmare of a city, packed with statues and portraits of Weiss’ father. The city is populated by a bunch of patrolling robots who salute with “Big Nicholas” (instead of Big Brother) and laborers who might as well be automatons with their highly structured, joyless days working to fatten their boss’ pockets.

When blending in doesn’t work (I mean look at her), Ruby tries to climb the vast walls of the city’s central tower, but is pushed back by magical brambles. She then encounters a “Silly Prison” for “dummies” depicted as members of JNPR who meow kind of like cats a a pet shop. Ruby is a little disappointed Weiss sees their comrades like this.

As for Weiss herself, she’s been given an Esdeath-like makeover. Her sister is a bat who alerts her to Ruby’s movements, while her always-looming father orders her to take care of the intruder. Wanted posters appear instantaneously, and before long Ruby is cornered and finally comes face to face with Weiss.

As you’d expect, Weiss isn’t in any hurry to go anywhere, and in any case regards Ruby with nothing but disgust and contempt. Seeing all this trippy shit inside Weiss’ head, Ruby is compelled to believe that all the time Weiss was trying to make nice, she was actually harboring hatred for everyone else, including her.

Shion tells her it’s not that easy; that the Nightmare itself casts a sinister shadow over everything. Ruby is an intruder, and so the Grimm will use everything at its disposal from Weiss’ mind to throw Ruby off her game. But it’s clear that Weiss’ existence prior to joining the rest of RWBY has been harsh, cutthroat, and above all devoid of love and warmth. Hopefully Ruby can heat things up a little and bring the ice princess back from the brink.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 10 – Cup Ramen and Foie Gras

When Erika takes off to hang out with her mom (the one who raised her) Sachi doesn’t waste the sudden opportunity to hang out with her Onii. She ostensibly wants to buy a gift for their mom, but both of seem to agree their mom isn’t much of a gift receiver, so you have to think part of her just wants to see what it’s like to go on something like a date with Nagi.

The two settle on an apron (and sure enough, their mom could take or leave it) but when Sachi comes upon the idea, Nagi rewards her with a head pat, which pisses her off to no end. As much as she pretends not to stand him, Sachi wants Nagi to see her as a girl, not an imouto. Alas, he’s utterly oblivious. He just wants to study and win Hiro, which is why he’s probably none too pleased about suddenly being yanked out of the house by Erika.

Erika, who herself was blissfully reveling in her first cup ramen, got a text from her dad saying he’s coming—no discussion, not argument, he’s just coming and that’s that—so she ditches both wallet and phone, grabs Nagi, and heads out. Where doesn’t matter; that even she’s not sure is the point. No GPS or purchase history means even someone as rich and powerful as her dad can’t find her if she doesn’t want to see him.

Instead, Sachi is person who encounters her dad making himself at home in the house. She initially thinks he’s a burglar, but she should have called the cops anyway, considering he later lures her out and plys her with foie gras. I’m with the wait staff of his restaurant: it’s weird that he suddenly takes Sachi out to dinner.

Sachi is there for the foie gras, and also considers it equitable to tell Erika’s father about how she and Nagi are getting along. She probably doesn’t realize she’s being a snitch, because she’s distracted by the fact this is another opportunity for her: if she says they’re terrible together, she could potentially be able to swoop in and have Nagi to herself (again).

But Sachi is not a bad person, so she tells Erika’s father the truth: as mismatched as their personalities seem, Erika and Nagi definitely have a spark—je ne fois gras, if you will. Their chat is interposed between scenes of Nagi showing Erika a good time with zero yen thanks to a steep hill and a piece of cardboard.

As for Erika’s increasingly creepy dad, he heads into his office to admire a framed photo of him and Erika’s dad with Erika…and Nagi, looking like older toddlers. This is strange, as my understanding is they were separated at birth; this suggests they were reunited at some point. It also gives credence to the fact the “certain someone” Erika is trying to reach through SM is, in fact, Nagi, and the two of them simply somehow forgot they knew each other as kids.

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform – 08 – Feels Like Summer

Exams are over and the athletics festival is nigh. President Tanigawa and Vice President Tatsumori Ai assign everyone the sport(s) in which they’ll be participating. Not only is Akebi (as well as Tanigawa) in the cheer squad, but also on the relay swim team. She’ll be swimming with Ohkuma, Tatsumori and anchor Minakami Riri, voiced by Ishikawa Yui affecting a Kansai dialect. Erika suggests Akebi should also be considered for the anchor position

It’s decided that Akebi and Minakami should race, one-on-one. Minakami makes it interesting: if Akebi wins, she’ll do anything Akebi wants. If she wins, she gets Akebi’s sailor uniform. It’s the closest thing to conflict and discomfort that Akebi has yet faced, and as her mother is prepping a summer sailor uniform for her, she can tell her daughter is troubled. I mean, the anime’s title might have to change!

If Minakami believes that since Akebi smiles too much she won’t take this seriously, she has another thing coming. Akebi ranked fifth in exam score in the whole class simply by studying hard, having never been ranked. She’s also never measured her times, but the focused, defiant look she gives Minakami says it all: she’s not surrendering that uniform!

The race commences, picking up where the cold open left off, and as expected, the water and swimming animation is a cut above. It’s almost not fair how good this show looks doing whatever it wants; I almost wish the school had a spaceship in addition to a pool! Erika’s role in this episode is small but important; the race might not have happened had she not spoken up for her friend, and she alone starts to cheer for Akebi, loudly and proudly.

In the end, Minakami wins, but it’s bang-bang at the wall due to her quicker wall touch, a product of her experience. Akebi’s eyes fill with tears, but Minakami stretches across the lanes to give her a hug, overjoyed to have been so seriously challenged. I mean, she was in the nationals, and even going all out Akebi almost beat her. When Akebi mentions the uniform, Minakami puts her hands together in apology: she was just joking about that; rattling Akebi’s cage to ensure she’d give this her all.

Minakami is more pumped up than ever to compete beside Akebi, Ohkuma and Tatsumori. The only problem is, unlike them, she did horribly on her exams, and needs some help. Cashing in her win over Akebi, she asks her to help tutor, but Tatsumori and Tanigawa also help, and Minakami presumably passes her make-ups, meaning she can train with the others for the festival.

It was nice to see Akebi make friends in a different way; with Minakami initially starting out as the closest thing to an antagonist before revealing that she meant well all along and is truly looking forward to swimming with—and being friends with—Akebi. After the credits, her mom finishes the summer uni, and her dad and sister are blown away—as Akebi says, it’s a “whole new level of cuteness”!

But the cutest and most heartmelting moment is saved for the end, when Kao sneaks into Akebi’s room to try on her sailor uniform. When Akebi comes in to tell Kao their bath is ready, she sees Kao, swimming in the huge pullover and looking very blue because she “doesn’t look as cool” as her big sister.

Akebi, once again demonstrating what a good big sis she is, promises Kao that when she’s a little bigger she’ll definitely look cool in a sailor uniform. Until then, she ties her winter bow around Kao like a scarf, so she can look cool right now. Now if you’ll excuse me, I must step out into the cold so my completely melted heart can re-solidify!

Love of Kill – 04 – Noble Pursuit

Chateau, off-duty and on probation, returns home to visit her mother and to visit the grave of her father, content to be rid of Song Ryang-ha for a bit. Naturally, he follows her there, and it’s probably a good thing too, as she wasn’t sufficiently prepared for the assassins who come for her.

While Song deals with the cut-rate killers, Chateau runs back to her father’s grave, where Hou, the guy she met after her car crashed, is waiting. Once again, Chateau is overpowered, as her stun gun is ineffective against Hou, whose nerves are a bit fried from the drugs he’s taken throughout his life. He knocks her out, again, turning her into a damsel in distress in need of rescue, which is a bit of a downer.

The frustration of Chateau constantly getting her ass kicked is somewhat tempered by a look back at her past, when one Detective Dankworth, one month from retirement, finds her sleeping in a car driven by a boy, apparently dead, named…Song Ryang-ha. Dankworth and his wife end up adopting her, as they’re the only ones she trusts. Let it be said without hesitation that Lil’ Chateau is cute as hell.

So is this Song the same Song who was found apparently dead in that car by Chateau’s eventual adoptive father? Or did the present-day Song simply take his name? I’m inclined to believe they’re one and the same, and that this is the reason Chateau got into bounty-hunting…so that she’d one day encounter him.

It could be he killed her parents, which would make him her arch-nemesis; someone to be killed. So I understand if she suddenly has conflicted feelings about killing him when he continually comes to her aid. Lame car bomb fake-outs aside, I’m intrigued by what Chateau is still hiding from us regarding her deadly admirer.

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform – 03 – Free as a Cloud

Akebi Komichi isn’t trying to stand out, she’s just being the best damn Akebi Komichi she can be. That Akebi is bereft of guile, devoid of ego…and runs fastest while barefoot. So fast, in fact, she posts the best time in P.E., and attracts three upperclassmen who want her to join their sports clubs.

Those upperclassmen burst in on Akebi’s class just before the bell, and have to be set straight by the class president, Tanigawa Kei. When she comes over to thank her, Akebi mentions how beautiful Tanigawa’s legs and skin are. Tanigawa isn’t sure what to make of Akebi quite yet, but she knows one thing: Akebi keeps talking to her.

After Akebi’s other three friends head home, she runs into Tanigawa again, and shares her earbuds with her as they listen to her favorite idol’s music, music Tanigawa is amazed Akebi can dance to. But Akebi doesn’t think anything she does is amazing; just the product of hard work, practice, and love of Fukumoto Miki-chan.

Tanigawa is amazed though, by how easily Akebi can do things she wants to do. It makes her want to come out of her shell a little, if only for Akebi. When they exchange numbers, Tanigawa even considers sending her new friend a selfie of her legs…and torso. She even ends up sending this rather risqué pic, albeit accidentally when her mom startles her. But Akebi is ecstatic to receive it, and believes Tanigawa has a real talent for photos. It’s another lovely new friendship forged.

Due to Akebi’s considerable athletic attributes, a sports club seems like a no-brainer. But after spending the day with Kojou checking out all the clubs,  she’s still not able to pick one.

She and Kojou are caught in the rain, and upon finding shelter, Kojou gives Akebi her warm blazer, which her thin sailor uniform lacks. Akebi finds one of Kojou’s book in a pocket, and decides to read to Kojou like she does to her little sister as they wait out the rain.

Kojou is impressed with Akebi’s ability to bring the characters in the book to life—she even does all the distinct voices like a rakugo performer—but it’s been a long day and she eventually nods off. She wakes up with her head resting in Akebi’s lap, looks up and sees Akebi wearing her glasses, and for a moment thinks it’s her mom.

The next day, Akebi learns Tanigawa has chosen the photography club, while Akebi announces that she’s joined the drama club. It’s a place where she’ll be free to employ all of her acquired talents, while utilizing her innate ability to draw attention and admiration.

Just about every frame of Akebi is a joy to watch, and not just due to the intense love, care, and detail put into the production by Cloverworks. I can’t stop watching because Akebi is such a gregarious, magnetic presence. She really is Cardcaptor Sakura without the card capturing!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Akebi’s Sailor Uniform – 02 – See You Tomorrow

Komichi is an uncomplicated girl with a simple love: to emulate her favorite idol, Fukumoto Miki, by donning a sailor fuku to school. There’s an elemental beauty to that clarity that embues the entire episode. We get to witness the fateful moment she fell for both Miki and the uniform while watching TV with Kao resting on her lap. She’s in such awe of Miki’s cuteness, a snack falls from her hand into Kao’s.

We’re hearing the same story Komichi’s class is hearing in her extended introduction of herself and why she appears to be the class libero (in volleyball) or goalkeeper (in soccer)—the one who stands apart from the others. She more than stands, she does an elegant acrobatic move that is meant to show everyone something funny she does for her sister…it’s just she really should have worn bike shorts underneath her skirt!

When the class splits into quartets for lunch, we learn Komichi is one of the only Roubai students to have never attended cram school—such was her single-minded devotion to getting into Roubai so she could wear the fuku, she studied so hard she didn’t need cram school. We also meet two new classmates, soon to be friends: the kindly glasses-wearer Kojou Tomono, and the mischievous shit-stirrer Usagihara Touko.

Komichi may have attended school to this point alone—the only other person in her tiny school being her teacher—but just as she got into Roubai her own way, she also manages to be naturally gregarious without even trying; simply by being her own cute quirky self. She captivates her new classmates by perfectly reenacting the idol Miki’s lip gloss finger kiss gesture.

At Touko’s bidding, Komichi goes on to do a number of cute poses that capture the entire class’ attention. Turns out she had nothing to fear from wearing a uniform different than everyone else. Everyone in the class is different and unique in their own way, and the rookie homeroom teacher believes that will make them a fun an interesting first class.

While Komichi dishes out no shortage of entertainment for Usagihara, et al, she also happens to be having the absolute time of her life on her first day. Never is she so full of joy as when Usagihara and Kojou say “see you tomorrow” when she’s headed home. Komichi doesn’t walk home, she dances, bounds, leaps, and soars home, through achingly gorgeous, idyllic surroundings.

She comes home to find her father is home for the first time in what seems to be years. Perhaps demonstrating where Komichi gets her quirkiness, he’s so self-conscious about interacting with her all grown up, he pretends to be asleep. But after her bath with Kao (who insists Komichi bring Kizaki home to meet her) she finds her father outside, and the two talk as father and daughter under the stars.

When she learns when he has to leave in the morning, she tells him she’ll make a point to be up and in her sailor fuku so he can see her. Flashing another multidimensional smile, Komichi tells her dad what her new friends told her: “See you tomorrow!” Some curious yet still lovingly rendered animated tangents aside, Akebi’s Sailor Uni is comfort food that’s earnest, pure, and sweet almost beyond belief.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

SAKUGAN – 12 (FIN) – THICKER THAN BLOOD

The Big Twist that starts the SAKUGAN finale is that Memenpu actually is a “Rainbow Child”, a child with an exceptionally advanced brain. This not only explains why she’s a genius, but what the “place in her dream” is all about: it was never a dream, it was a memory. Rainbow Children retain vivid memories even from their infancy. As Rainbow Children were bred to be the guardians of the Labyrinth, they are anathema to Shibito, who want them all dead.

Fortunately, Muro’s boss doesn’t let her kill Memenpu right away, even though it’s debatable what if anything he intends to do with her before killing her. This gives the remaining members of Team Memenpu the time they need to zero in on her location and rescue her. It’s definitely a team effort, with Yuri using a second-hand computer in a store to guide Gagumber and Zackletu, then Zack distracting both Shibito and the Bureau with sheer ballistic chaos.

Gagumber locates Memenpu, but by then she’s been placed in a bell jar, which soon shatters due to the Animus dripping on top of it. Memenpu seems to be immune to its deleterious effects due to her Rainbow-ness. But by the time her pops arrives, Muro’s boss (I don’t believe we got his name) has convinced Memenpu that she has no father. Whether their surroundings were meant to evoke that same father-y scene from Empire, I don’t know.

All’s I know is, this Shibito guy is a huge prick for messing with Memenpu’s head, and for all her advanced intellect, Memenpu betrays just how sensitive and naïve she his, simply accepting the guy’s words about Gagumber not being her father. She even puts herself between the guy and Gagumber, offering up herself in exchange for her not-dad’s safety.

Gagumber, rightfully so, says fuck that, treading through the shallow pool of Animus to reach Memenpu, melting away his boots and burning his feet. He tells her he is, always was, and always will be her father, and she is, always was, and always will be his daughter. Whatever she wants to do and wherever it leads them, he’ll be by her side on her journey. Memenpu, realizing she does have a dad in Gagumber after all, has herself a good cry in his arms.

Seemingly moved by this dramatic and cathartic exchange, the Shibito boss decides to let Memenpu and Gagumber go…for now. Gagumber recharges Big Tony and they take the shortest route back to Dream Colony proper—by drilling through the colony’s retaining wall. There, Gagumber zeroes in on Muro and blasts her through a hole in the floor for making his daughter cry.

There’s a ceremony honoring Team Memenpu hosted by Merooro, but when he produces arrest warrants and the team is surrounded by Bureau cops and bots, Memenpu unleashes a cloud of purple smoke from Tony and the quartet escapes with the Bureau in hot pursuit. Not sure why Merooro held a ceremony just to arrest them, but whatevs.

Back on the Labyrinth “road”, Memenpu leads her team on their original mission: to find the place in her dreams, come what may. It’s what she truly wants to do, and that’s more than enough for Gagumber to accompany her, and by extension Zack and Yuri. It’s been fun watching this found family iron out their warts and beat the bad guys…fun enough that I’ll likely give the expected second season a watch.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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