The Executioner and Her Way of Life – 04 – The Only Bad Guy

You need people like me so you can point your fuckin’ fingers and say, ‘That’s the bad guy’.—Tony Montana

As Akari naps on her shoulder, Menou reflects on how she got to this point, on a train to the execution of what seems like a perfectly ordinary and nice young woman but for her potential to end the world with her unchecked powers of time manipulation.

We’ve seen where Menou’s old life ended and where Flare found her; a haunting blanched world of pure white destruction. The first half of this episode expounds upon that scene, and how the landscape was very much reflecting Menou’s own state at that time: a blanched, blank slate.

Like Fushi in To Your Eternitythis Menou didn’t feel anything; she was simply there…until Orwell assigned Flare to look after her. Her first words to Flare were “who are you?” which might as well been a question to herself. Flare’s response, that she’s a “pure, just and strong” priestess, is delivered with a villainously twisted face and dripping with sarcasm Menou takes at face value.

Menou came to learn that Flare was an executioner of otherworlders and other enemies of the Faust, and is eventually taken to an entire continent of nothing but salt slowly dissolving into the sea, the result of one of the Four Human Errors. Upon learning the solemn duty of people like Flare, Menou decided on the spot that she wanted to be one of those people.

To this request, Flare warns Menou that executioners like her are little more than villains to be loathed and discarded when at the end of their usefulness, someone willing to do anything to anyone, good or bad, man or woman, in order to keep the world safe. Someone strong, but bereft of purity or justice. A tool.

When Menou says she wants to be one anyway, Flare takes her to a monastery to train with other young girls. They learn how to fight and kill, and also learn about the otherworlders and how they influenced this world and threatened its very existence at least four times in history. The iconography on display in the classroom is wonderfully dark and medieval.

It’s here where Menou learns that she must “speak of friendship, whisper words of love, be dirty and underhanded” in order to kill one’s targets. She also meets the younger Momo, who like some other girls is not taking the indoctrination into merciless killing machines smoothly. Menou comes to Flare, who seems to be sleeping uneasily in her dark and musty chambers.

There, Menou asks her to make her “the only bad person” so the girls who don’t want to don’t have to be. It’s clear their hesitance is a result of past experiences Menou no longer has due to the calamity she survived. Flare proceeds to evaulated Menou’s strengths and weaknesses, adding up to a “slightly below average” candidate for such a role.

Then Menou surprises Flare (something I’m sure doens’t happen often) by  taking her face in her little hands and asking her not to make her like her, but to make her her. A little Flare. A Flarette.

Flare, long ago resigned to her fate as a loathsome villain who will never find vindication or peace, is half-lamenting and half-admiring in stating that a “twisted personality” has emerged from Menou’s “blanched out soul”, and that one day she’ll surpass her when all of it is destroyed by happiness and she still survives.

That segues nicely into the present, with Akari waking up from her nap to see Garm growing larger through the window. She’s too distracted by the big shiny capital city to noticed Menou’s pained expressions, the result of having time to herself to reflect on her past and present. Flare knew Menou would come to this point, when happiness threatened to destroy the villain she’d become.

Menou promises to go on a sightseeing date with Akari, but they first pay a visit to the Faust cathedral (which is right next to the Noblesse’s fortress…keep your enemies close). The ceremonial hall that will “take Akari home” is there, and Akari meets Archbishop Orwell, who says the hall will be ready in two days.

Akari is apologetic and appreciative, the only person not in on what is really going on. Orwell plays the role of kindly grandmother figure to a T, while Menou does not flinch in the presence of this deeply upsetting charade. She also agres to take on a side job for Orwell investigating missing women in the city in exchange for funds for taking the pilgrimage route once her business in Garm is finished.

The fact that this job conflicts with the promise Menou made to Akari to go sightseeing together, and also looks ahead to the time when Akari is back “home”, irks Akari to no end, and she makes her anger plain once the two are set up in a fancy hotel room. She storms back inside to take a bath, slamming the door behind her.

Menou is seemingly taken aback by Akari’s anger, forgetting that while she’s always kept a professional remove due to her ultimate mission to eliminate her, Akari considers Menou a friend, and for Menou to treat her like a “stranger who will be gone soon” truly hurts, even if Akari is being a little immature about it.

While Akari bathes, she has a chance to reflect on how she reacted, and concludes she was indeed too harsh on Menou, who has many responsibilities to juggle. To whit, while she’s in the bath Menou meets with Momo on the balcony, and basically delegates the investigation job to her.

As she was on the train, Momo is obedient to the big sister she loves more than anything, but also very weary of Menou’s continued interactions with someone she deems an extremely dangerous otherworlder. Menou laments forcing “the messy stuff” on Momo’s plate, but still does it, because she needs and wants to keep Akari happy.

Upon going back into the room, Akari meets her there, having emerged from the bath in a towel, and apologizes for how she acted, saying she’ll sightsee on her own while Menou takes care of her duties. Menou in turn says their sightseeing date is back on, and Akari embraces her, loing her towel in the process.

As much as Akari may like Menou, the fact of the matter is she’s being lied to, and proverbial knives are being sharpened for her demise, not her return to Japan. Menou is using their nascent friendship to keep Akari docile and content until the knife can be slipped in. It’s heartbreaking, compelling character drama.

Next week’s episode is titled “Goodbye”. Will it mark the departure of Akari, or Menou’s departure from villainy? Judging from her past, the latter seems more likely. But then again, she’s never met an otherworlder quite like Akari.

Vanitas no Carte – 23 – La Liberté de la Solitude

We’re into Unstoppable Force vs. Unmovable Object territory, with seemingly no good outcome that can emerge from Vanitas and Noé fighting. If Vanitas gets through Noé and harms Misha, Domi will jump to her death. But Vanitas doesn’t care. Neither Noé nor Misha have the whole story, and Vanitas is resolved to keep it that way—Noé and Domi’s lives are expendable to him.

This enrages Noé, but it doesn’t take long to figure out that Vanitas is intentionally provoking him to throw him off and force him to use too much of his strength. After all, he can’t get Vanitas’ memories from his blood if Vanitas is dead. The last thing Noé wants is to kill Vanitas, but he can’t lose Domi, either. It’s just a shitty situation all around…Thanks OMisha!

Vanitas’ little brother also tells Noé that Vanitas has hypnotized himself for one purpose: killing anyone who tries to suck his blood. Whatever genuine feelings of friendship or love for anyone or anything have been temporarily taken out of the equation, which combined with his considerable Chasseur skills (not to mention the freaking Book of Vanitas) make him extremely dangerous.

Unfortunately, it also saps his agency. This isn’t the Vanitas we know doing and saying these things: he’s basically in Fail-Safe Mode; his will and ego replaced by a rigid set of directives. He did to himself what Misha did to Domi, but Inner Domi throws a little wrench in Misha’s machinations by jumping without him telling her to, in hopes taking herself out of the equation will keep Noé from getting hurt.

Physical harm aside, nothing would hurt Noé more than losing her, but fortunately she’s unable to follow through on her suicide attempt, as Jeanne arrives and snatches her out of the air. She isn’t quite sure what’s going on, but her orders from Luca are to keep Domi safe, and she’s going to do that. Even if Misha is able to nullify her main weapon and Domi is still under his spell, Jeanne’s intervention allows Noé to focus on Vanitas.

Vanitas may go on about how Noé knows nothing about him, and that might’ve been true when they first met, but Noé is confident he’s been with Vanitas long enough to know what kind of person he is. For instance, he knows Vanitas considers solitude to be freedom, which is why he vows never to set Vanitas free.

That seems to break the hypnotic hold Vanitas placed on himself, but the episode ends abruptly without revealing the result of their fall. I understand having to save something for the finale, but it felt less like a cliffhanger and more like the episode just…stopped. That said, the second half should be something.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Fabiniku – 07 – A God This Delicious

When Tachibana ends up a captive of the squid worshippers, such is the Premier’s vanity that she commits herself entirely to a beauty contest between her and Tachibana regardless of the fact the winner will be sacrificed to a giant squid. Even so, she loses to Tachibana.

Jinguuji and a village trader (who develops a thing for him) soon find and free the Premier, and they discuss strategy over her first hot meal in days (she’s been through some shit). The Premier agrees to work with Jinguuji to kill the Giant Squid God and save Tachibana.

Alas, any admiration or affection she might’ve been developing for Jinguuji is dashed when he uses her as literal floating bait for the squid, whom we learn is very particular about the girls he eats. After a whole day, the squid finally takes the bait at dusk. All the while, Jinguuji has noticed his strength has been sapped of late.

As Tachibana is carried in a cage litter for the seaside sacrifice, she curses the fact she and Jinguuji chose now to have another big fight. She remembers the first one, when she (or rather he at the time) fell behind in his studies and got mad at Jinguuji for not being an easy tutor.

The “useless eggplant” moniker was born, and the two friends didn’t speak for days. However, present-day Tachibana isn’t about to die before she can make up with Jinguuji, so she busts out of the cage and manages to wrest loose her tiara, thus instantly charming the men holding her captive.

This plan backfires when the wives and lovers of those men threaten to kill Tachibana before the squid can. Jinguuji tries in vain to pull the giant squid out of the water with his diminished strength, but regains that strength and then some when he hears Tachibana give an honest and heartfelt rant to the villagers about not judging people by appearances and taking responsibility for themselves.

Jinguuji rips the giant squid out of the water and impales its head on the statue of itself where Tachibana is clinging to dear life. Wounded but still alive, the squid notices Tachibana and attempts to eat her, and the Premier, soaked in black ink, almost helps by pulling Tachibana in.

But then Jinguuji tosses her his trusty Damascus steel kitchen knife, and the Premier, who you thought could sink no lower, pulls what in Demon Slayer parlance could be called a “Sleeping Zenitsu”, which is to say that for a brief moment she does something incredibly impressive and cool—in this case lopping off the squid’s tentacles and rescuing Tachibana in style.

The timing couldn’t be better, because up until this point the Premier had been little more than a walking joke and punching bag. Here, she plays a crucial role in ensuring Tachibana is safe…and goes a step further by grilling the village’s god and having a feast. Her actions are so audacious, the villagers agree to give up their power struggle make her their new leader.

Naturally the Premier isn’t interested, and as she runs from the villagers, Jinguuji and Tachibana make up. It’s not surprising that Tachibana even forgot she was mad at him, considering how much happened to her over the course of a day.

The episode ends with them basically exchanging vows: Jinguuji is to never take his eyes off Tachibana, while Tachibana is to never leave him again. Unfortunately, the Demon Lords generals have now learned that Jinguuji’s power is diminished when he and Tachibana are separated. Their vows will be more important than ever as they draw closer to the capital.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Faraway Paladin – 12 (Fin) – Illness of the Strong

Last week Will hit rock bottom as he fell into the same trap as countless other heroes, anime, isekai, or otherwise: trying to go it alone out of fear of getting others hurt. Fortunately, his beautiful first and best friend and brother Meneldor’s head is harder than it looks, and he’s not about to let Will slink off in the rainy night. Their first fight ensues, with Will even going so far as to break Menel’s arm so he can’t follow him.

He would’ve needed to break the other arm—and both legs, because Menel doesn’t give up. He employs the gnomes to knock Will on his ass so he can use his good arm to help Will up. Will surrenders. Reystov calls what befell Will to be the “illness of the strong”—an instinct to isolate oneself and take all the burdens on one’s shoulders—and knows many who succumbed to it and died.

Thanks to Menel, Will is able to realize the error of his ways. He can’t go it alone against the Chimera and demon forces trying desperately to keep the Beast Woods in chaos. He’s just one in a whole slew of variables in the equation necessary to break the demons’ hold on the region. Through careful scouting and preparation and by rallying his band of adventurers and priests, Will is able to attain a victory he’d never reach all by his lonesome.

Even the final boss chimera isn’t someone Will can take one by himself. Sure, he detects the monster using invisibility and even trying to trick them into lowering their guard, but Menel’s mastery of faeries, nymphs and gnomes provides decisive backup in the Chimera battle. With its defeat, Bee writes new songs of their heroic deeds to be spread throughout the lands.

As the party celebrates their triumph, Menel points out something that had totally escaped a naïf like Will all this time: that he is at this point the new de facto Lord of the Beast Woods. This is where Will learns another axiom common to heroes: true leaders don’t seek power, but it is thrust upon them. Will must either rule his new realm or choose some trusted people to do it for him as he continues his adventures.

And make no mistake: there will be more adventures. A second season of Paladin has already been announced, something I never felt was in doubt (though I’d also like to see second seasons of Shin no Nakama and World’s Finest Assassin). Will also has an ultimate goal: turning the City of the Dead into a City of Living—thus making Blood, Mary, and Gus proud.

SAKUGAN – 07 – FEAR AND LOATHING IN LAS SUEÑAS

After the last few episodes took place in colonies or on a mission in a stationary place, this week is all about the journey. Memenpu, Gagumber, Zackletu and Yuri embark upon a road trip that soon grows monotonous in both scenery and routine. Yuri tries to spice things up a little with some lovely red flowers.

The only problem is, he picked flowers that look just like the flowers he wanted to pick, but these flowers happen to have psychotropic effects. As such, things get a little Hunter S Thompson, as the higher the rest stop numbers get, the higher Gagumber, Zackletu, and Yuri get. Memenpu, the one who is most with it, gets rid of the flowers and uses a native cactus to whip up an anecdote.

Alas, Memenpu mistakes the cactus for one that looks just like it that only makes the symptoms of the flower worse. This is hilariously depicted as everyone continues to get nuttier, with the three acting like they’re at the Mad Hatter’s tea party. They repeat the same lines but their words get more and more slurred. Their driving gets more wild and reckless. They can’t stop barfing.

Memenpu determines the only way for the other three to recover is water, rest, and luck. They do eventually find themselves (after she slaps them in the face several times) but Memenpu is having her own rough time. When under the influence of the flowers her dream got psychedelic, but when she buried the blooms they got more intense and violent, depicting Gagumber bleeding out and dying in the flower fields of her dream.

When Memenpu tries to get the others to hurry up and get to the place, Gagumber tells her to chill out and stop taking her dreams so literally, even saying “I thought you were smart.” When she tries to climb aboard their mech on her own, he pulls her knapsack and she loses her footing and falls hard, getting all scraped up.

Gagumber doesn’t apologize an the two drift apart as the trip continues, but Memenpu’s dream of him dying is obviously extremely upsetting, and she believes the only way to prevent it is to go there and check things out, and possibly meet Urorop, who always appears in the dreams. Only Urorop is already there, at their camp.

Is she just there to watch in the shadows, or will she engage with the others? The chaotic goofiness of the drug tripping combined with the dark turn Memenpu’s dreams have taken made this an edgy, unpredictable episode—befitting a proper road trip.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 11 – Odd Couple

When Jahy’s manager starts growing cherry tomatoes outside the pub, Jahy follows suit, planting seeds in a pot and basically trying to assert her old Dark Realm authority to compel them to sprout. Initially it doesn’t go so well, but with enough water, sunlight, and bug repellant, her plant soon flourishes and bears fruit…in the form of red-hot habanero peppers.

Jahy’s solitary apartment existence is suddenly upheaved when the landlord has a fight with her sister and moves in with Jahy. When Jahy asks why she doesn’t just move into the vacant apartment next door, the landlord says she’d be lonely. Jahy can’t turn down an offer of free rent, but the landlord soon proves to be an unruly roommate, making messes and stealing blankets left and right.

Jahy gets a reprieve from her landlord roomie when she joins Druj at a fancy cafe for a meeting over the progress of collecting mana crystals. Druj has actually collected quite a lot of crystal shards large and small, but believes her rather impressive progress to be woefully insufficient for her dark mistress (Druj is the queen of optimistic assumptions).

Even when Jahy’s lie about defeating the Magical Girl is immediately debunked by the sight of her, Jahy simply declares the flashily-dressed girl as her newest underling, which only makes Druj want to work harder to prove she’s superior to a lowly human.

Jahy returns home to find that the landlord has done precisely none of the housework she was supposed to do, and learns that the landlord is in fact terrible at housework, since she live with her big sister who takes care of it. When her sister calls her, Jahy forces the landlord to take the call, and after a few minutes, the ordeal is over and the landlord moves back in with her sister.

Turns out their “big fight” was about the manager wearing her shirts and stretching them out with her ample bosom. But Jahy was right: when you have a home to go home to and someone waiting for you to return, it’s just selfish not to go back. As for Jahy, she longs to restore her home, and that of the Dark Lord, of whom we catch a glimpse for the first time this week.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kageki Shoujo!! – 09 – A Beautiful Frame

Even Kouka has a sports festival, and every ten years it’s a grand sports festival; since this will be the centennial festival it’s even more significant. For instance, Kouka’s “Superiors” will be heavily involved in the festivities.

Since Ai, like us, has no idea what that meants, Sawa helpfully explains they’re venerable veteran actresses who don’t belong to any one troupe and enjoy a higher rank than top stars and troupe leads. They are the creme de la creme, and the episode really sells that fact.

That said, the four top otoko-yaku in one room is a pretty awe-inspiring sight too. These ladies are very, very good at portraying men and boys, and the first years are understandably starstruck; Sawa even bleeds from the nose at the sight of them.

The four are not just there to look handsome and get fawned upon. Just as their individual troupes compete for the most and most passionate fanbases, they’re equally passionate rivals in the sports festival. Each of them intends to win and beat the others.

At one point Sawa needs some scissors, so Sarasa voluntters to grab some from the faculty lounge. There, she encounters Andou-sensei for the first time since he basically told her to forget everything she knew about acting to that point and start over.

I love how Sarasa shows Andou what he was hoping for: that she wasn’t going to let harsh but true criticism keep her down in the dumps forever. After summer break that fleeting disappointment is in her rearview mirror. She’s back and ready to put in the work.

Back in episode 6 I mentioned my wish to learn more about the Sawada Twins, Chika and Chiaki. The remainder of this episode grants my wish and then some, delivering what I believe to be one of the most beautiful and realistic depictions of the unique issues that befall twins; namely the realization they’re not the same.

Chika, the “darker” twin, resents when Chiaki easily befriends one of the Superiors, Mirai—whom we later learn was the top star that inspired them as children to become Kouka actresses. When Mirai mistakes Chika for Chiaki and calls her “Juliet”, Chika ignores her and walks away.

It’s Chiaki who later gets in trouble with Mirai when she next sees her, ruining the good vibes of the rehearsals….but Chika, the real culprit, keeps quiet. Ultimately it’s Sarasa and her good hearing who clears up the mix-up.

That night, the twin sisters have a fight that quickly grows in nastiness, with Chika spewing most of the venom. Later we’ll learn it’s the first time they’ve fought. Now Chiaki moves out of the dorm room they share, switching places with Sarasa.

As we’d expect, Ai neither knows how nor tries to get Chiaki to open up, but Sarasa and Chika are a different story. We learn that the two did everything together and even walked in lockstep, but when they both applied for Kouka and only Chika got in, that suddenly ended their run of identicalness.

Rather than attend as was her right, Chika felt bad for Chiaki, who wasn’t eating or sleeping and didn’t leave their room, and as her twin knew the only way to console her was to turn down her acceptance and try again with her sister next year.

That pulled Chiaki out of her emotional nosedive, but it came as a cost: the twins were always going to be out of balance due to Chika’s sacrifice, which is both something she decided on her own to do and something she felt she was obligated to do, out of loyalty to her twin. She chose blood over fame.

But that resentment lingered, and festered, and caused Chika to become someone who’d pass up opportunities again and again for Chiaki’s sake. She felt she couldn’t do things for her sake and eventually came to hate Chiaki for it.

When Chika gets the opportunity to apologize to Mirai for her rudeness, she explains the dark thoughts that had overcome her, and Mirai understands. Jealous befalls us all, but the key is to turn it into ambition, and not let it twist us into self-destructive choices.

Rather than be a haughty Superior, Mirai comforts her junior like a mother would comfort a daughter, assuring her that her desire to apologize and make up with Chika means she’s a good person, and this bad experience will ultimately make her stronger person.

I’m not an identical twin, so I can’t imagine how scary and lonely it feels to them when they come upon a “fork in the road” past which they won’t be the same in everything. That fork came earlier than they expected; the mere fact they had to expect it would happen really speaks to that unique turmoil.

Part of Chika was just as apprehensive about taking off ahead of Chiaki on her side that fork in the road as Chiaki was about getting left behind. The two have accepted that they can’t be the same anymore, but they’re not ready to drift apart forever, either.

There’s potential in the Kouka Revue for twin roles, and Mirai, now friends with both twins, tells them they can realize that potential if they become popular enough. Nothing in Kouka comes easily; it takes blood, sweat, and tears. But the Superiors, and the Top Stars below them, embody what you get for all that hard work: a kind of apotheosis and immortality. Chika and Chiaki could be Kouka’s Apollo and Artemis…or twin Juliets.

The Detective Is Already Dead – 08 – She’ll Steal Your Heart

This episode starts off with a gag—that the carrots in the curry Kimi made are too hard. They’re hard because he couldn’t find the kitchen knife, which Siesta confirms is still missing. Siesta is rather harsh and perhaps even a little possessive of her Sidekick when she informs Alicia that her services as substitute detective are no longer required. Kimi disagrees, and allows Alicia to continue investigating beside him.

Then sirens blare, and the next victim of the heart-stealer is revealed. Siesta, Kimi, and Alicia visit the grief-stricken mother of the woman, and regrets only taking and never giving to her daughter. Siesta is again harsh and clinical in questioning the grieving mother, causing Kimi to interrupt, while Alicia comforts the mother by assuring her that it wasn’t a one-sided relationship.

Siesta and Kimi have a tiff and go their separate ways for the day, but Alicia isn’t far behind, and Kimi presents her with a gift—the ring she liked at the curbside jeweler—and she asks him to slip it on her finger as a groom would. Siesta returns to apologize, only to see the two together, wish them every happiness, and storms off in a fresh barely-concealed huff.

Needless to say, Kimi has become quite fond and trusting of Alicia, in spite of the fact so much of her is still shrouded in mystery. In place of all the things he doesn’t know, he fills his heart with all the things he does, including that she’s a good person, and completely misses how she suspects she used to be a bad one. Turns out the ring was a tracking device, and Kimi soon finds a stabbed but not killed police officer…and Alicia on the ground with a gunshot wound.

It was when Alicia first said she was once bad that it first popped into my head she was Hel in a different form. That’s because everything I’d seen so far pointed to that. So I fully expected the episode to zag instead of zig, and pull something completely different out of nowhere; once again to prove it doesn’t really care about process or clues so much as the final twist.

Instead, it just zigged—Alicia is Hel, or at least the innocent, kind surface side of Hel. She’s been unknowingly switching into Hel Mode and stealing the hearts of the victims. Once she put the pieces together for herself, Alicia was left with nothing but the inevitability that her fun with Kimi had to come to an abrupt end.

Just as her reveal as Hell was earned, so is Alicia’s tearful goodbye to Kimi before turning into a knife-brandishing Hel. It was truly heartbreaking after all the moments—both tender and fraught—they’d shared, and become a kind of big-brother/little sister detective duo.

Again, Siesta comes in to do what is necessary, tackling Hel!Alicia before she can kill Kimi, then preparing to shoot her in the head before Kimi pulls his gun on Siesta. His heart may still be beating in his chest, but there’s no denying that Alicia stole it anyway. How else could he point a gun at Siesta?

Kimi was emotionally compromised. He’s a human being; it happens. Siesta doesn’t hold it against him, nor does she impose some kind of punishment for him losing objectivity. On the contrary, Siesta admits that Alicia was so trustworthy to her that she didn’t start suspecting her until the most recent victims, meaning she didn’t have the knowledge to act before anyone was killed. Call me crazy, but I like the fact that while Siesta is legendary, she’s not perfect.

But as both Kimi and Siesta were trying to do the right thing and were momentarily at odd with one another like never before in their three-plus years together, they’re soon reunited when Chameleon abducts Hel!Alicia and dares them to follow him to his not-so-secret private island base (which…what a stock villain move). They have a comrade to save, and they’ll do it the best way they know how: together.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bokutachi no Remake – 04 – A Talent that Shines

After filming on a beach specifically for purposes of fanservice, new member of Team Kitayama Plus Kawasegawa Eiko learns that Kyouya broke the rules a little in order to get the equipment they needed for longer than first years can check it out. Another senpai, the diminutive Tomioka Keiko, overhears this, but promises not to say anything…but now they owe her.

But thankfully this episode isn’t really about bikinis or lolis or…sigh…an impending arts festival. It’s about Kogure Nanako, and how she’s pursuing acting, something she’s not fully serious about, because she’s not passionate about it. Their team wins the competition with a better overall production, but everyone—including Nanako—agrees the acting in their competitor’s film was ten times better.

As the team celebrates their win, Eiko can tell Nanako is faking her cheer—even at that, she’s not the best actor—and Kyouya can’t disagree. But then Nanako is given a mic, everyone who isn’t Kyouya hears her powerful but tone-deaf singing for the first time and are kind of in awe of it. It even makes Eiko angry, because it’s clear to her Nanako’s true passion isn’t acting at all.

Eiko is so honest and forthright that she abandons all delicacy and tact and really lets poor Nanako have it. She says it’s a terrible waste of talent for Nanako not to take her vocal training more seriously and instead dither away in acting, afraid of failing at her true passion. Nanako, who only just manages to hold back a slap before running off, is so devastated by what Eiko says because it’s true.

The next day, Eiko prepares to resign from the team, but Kyouya won’t have it. While she could have broken it to Eiko more gently and at a later time, it’s clear she told Nanako something she needed to hear. She may still be depressed—devastated, even—but Kyouya admits that’s her problem to work out.

Eiko does actually feel bad about how she put it to Nanako, but when she saw how much Nanako shined when she was singing—even the raw, out-of-tune version of it she heard—yet pretend not to care about it simply made her too angry to stay quiet. Kyouya promises he’ll help pull Nanako out of the abyss, and while Eiko doesn’t have the empirical evidence she usually demands, there’s something about Kyouya’s words that make her believe him.

As for believing in himself…Kyouya’s not quite there yet. In a scene at the fine art club that goes on a bit too long (and introduces that damnable art festival), Keiko sneaks up on him and offers him a job directing a game for her doujin company. Just like that, he’s been given another opportunity to pursue his passion for video games.

But he respectfully declines, because he doesn’t believe he has what it takes. This is Kyouya reflecting on his future failures and acting in a less reckless way than someone his actual age might (though someone as old-souled as Eiko certainly would!) but it’s also Remake showing us that those failures are scars he still bears, and here they cause him to pass up a great opportunity.

Still, it’s not only because he feels he needs more directing experience before attempting to go pro (again); he does have a full plate. He promised Eiko he’d help Nanako, and it just so happens to be one of Keiko’s extremely well-produced doujin group’s games that gives him a “Eureka” moment.

Specifically, when hearing the quality singing in the game reminded him of how he had to stay up all night to digitally adjust the notes of a singer in one of his company’s games. Thus inspired, he approaches Nanako’s door, behind which she sulks in a monochromatic malaise…and plays her a recording of her voice…only in tune.

Kyouya didn’t have to do much—just tweak some of the tones—to let Nanako hear a taste of her potential through the door. That he had to do so little is a testament to her vocal power and talent, and he needed her to hear it before talking about how she has “nothing” and “everything’s been smashed completely.”

Nanako emerges from the room in tears of joy and a tentative smile—and really this whole episode has been a clinic of detailed facial expressions and animation, which combined with Terakawa Aimi’s vocal performance really lends an emotional kick to this scene. She always loved singing but hated how she sounded, but with his magical laptop Kyouya has opened her eyes to a new way forward.

When Kyouya takes her hands into his without thinking, Nanako blushes, but also doesn’t recoil. On the contrary, she leans forward with a hopeful smile as she declares she’s going to trust Kyouya. It’s starting to look like maybe he does have what it takes—at least in terms of production, direction, and encouraging and inspiring the creatives—who also happen to be his friends.

It’s extremely fun to watch Kyouya do his thing, and it helps that he’s a genuinely good, earnest person who isn’t imbued with snark for snark’s sake like so many MCs in similar scenarios.

Fruits Basket – 60 – Moving Toward that Someone

After starting with Shigure wishing he could be less of a meddling shitstain (fat chance), we thankfully shift to two of my very favorite Fruits Basket characters in Arisa and Saki. Upon visiting Tooru in the hospital they meet Akito for the first time, who claims responsibility for Tooru’s injuries. Saki, the true God of Fruits Basket, says Tooru doesn’t believe anyone is to blame.

Then there’s the matter of Kureno, whom Akito confesses to have stabbed , after emotionally tying him down and trampling on him for years. She’s at a loss about what to do, since neither Tooru nor Kureno will blame her for anything, and that’s when all the years of being raised as a boy are shattered by Saki, who causally, correctly identifies Akito as female. Then Arisa gives Akito a hug, because Akito needed one.

It doesn’t change the sting of Arisa now knowing that she’s been nothing more than a brief blip in Kureno’s life up to this point; that she’s been “polishing a single day’s memories like they were some diamond”, which, goddamn that’s some pretty writing right there. But here’s the thing…what if they were some diamond?

When Arisa visits Kureno in the hospital room, and he says he thought she wouldn’t come because he didn’t deserve her, nothing matters to Arisa anymore but the love she’s feeling. Whatever Kureno wants to do; wherever he needs to go to “leave the sight” of Akito as one final kindness, Arisa will be by his side without fail. She’s done not being a participant in his life. The diamond is nice, but she wants the mine, and she’ll have it, because she’s Uotani Fucking Arisa.

The screen is once more soiled by Shigure’s presence as he and Yuki encounter Haru at his house. Haru notes how Rin has been “impressively worried” about her BFF Tooru, but he’s likely there because he’s worried about Kyou, who hasn’t once visited Tooru in the hospital and is rarely seen leaving his room.

Yuki admits Kyou has “his own pain and his own reasons”, but he also doesn’t give a shit about them. He’s done being Mr. Nice Ratboy, and storms upstairs, where he’s even more incensed to find Kyou packing to leave before Tooru comes home. Kyou says listlessly that his being there would hurt her, that he can’t protect her, and that she’s better off with Yuki.

Yuki then kicks Kyou through the damn door, mocking him for thinking he has to be some kind of superhero plucking Tooru out of midair or save her from getting hit from a car. Of course he’s not that—he’s just a stupid cat—but he doesn’t need to be a superhero.

Kyou admits to Yuki that he always wanted to be him, which in turn causes Yuki to admit that he always wanted to be him. Of course, neither of these facts comes as a surprise to us, but Yuki and Kyou have been so mired in playing out their respective Zodiac roles they failed to notice how much they admired and envied one another.

But here’s the thing, Kyou can’t be Yuki and Yuki can’t be Kyou; Kyou has to be Kyou and Yuki has to be Yuki (though Shigure should probably stop being Shigure). From how Yuki’s seen it, Kyou has protected Tooru just fine by being Kyou; by simply loving her being the one she loves; by being the only one of the two of them to make her truly smile.

Yuki leaves a stunned Kyou with the words “Get your damn act together!”, and Kyou is moved, though not, at first, to the hospital. He has to take care of something first, namely standing up to his grotesque, loathsome creature of an audiophile father. As he heads to his dad’s place, we get a cute little scene of Hiro and Kisa discussing how Hiro breaking the curse hasn’t changed their affection for each other.

When Kyou quietly concedes that his mom’s death was his fault as his “dad” claims, said “dad” tells his maid to call the main house to have him dragged away to the Cat’s Cottage. Kyou, tasting the stew of hatred, fear, and grief he’s got going, refuses to go there. He’ll live outside, because there’s someone he wants to be with.

While listening to his ranting, Kyou comes to recall that his dad said horrible things to his mother, so while Kyou might still claim some responsibility for her depression, it’s much more likely his dad was the one who put her into a state where she decided to “throw herself away.” Well, Kyou won’t do the same thing. He’s going to live.

Akito gets the call, but tells the long-serving attendant to ignore it. She’s decided to free Kyou of his impending sentence, tear down the cottage, and quit this wretched place forthwith (hopefully to go stay with Shigure, as the two unassailably deserve each other). The attendant laments how unlike all these young people, poor old her can’t just start over in the outside world. Oh, cry me a fucking river, you deeply despicable woman. Akito certainly won’t…and good for her!

Kyou has adopted the philosophy of continuing to stand on your own two feet, accepting what you are, and moving toward something—or in his case, someone. After his pep talk with Kyou, Yuki is sulking in the dark when he gets a call from his someone, Machi. It doesn’t matter what she wants, he just wants—needs to see her. Tooru? More like Toor-who?!

Just as Arisa’s anxious racing thoughts of how insignificant she was in Kureno’s life melted away at the sight of him, the gears of Kyou’s feline brain are also spinning furiously with questions like Will she still accept me? Do I still love her? Why? How much? The answers are: Yes (eventually), Yes, Because, and A Lot.

Those questions are meaningless as soon as he spots her leaving the hospital and thos big brown eyes. But then, because this is not a show afraid to crack a joke even in a moment like this, Tooru gets spooked and gives Kyou a taste of his own running away medicine. Unfortunately for her, Kyou can run much faster than her, and quickly gives chase as Arisa and Saki look on approvingly.

Everywhere you look, love is in the air, and I am here for it. And let me reiterate: I’ve never read the source material, so I have no problem with the direction or pace of the adaptation. The way I see it, I’ve been invested in this anime for sixty episodes totalling twenty-five hours over three years, and so far this is the ending I both want and deserve. Keep it up, Furuba!

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

To Your Eternity – 08 – Gugu Unmasked

“Skip Intro” is a well-established and often useful feature to our world of streaming entertainment, but I make it a point to watch every second of To Your Eternity’s OP every week. I can’t not, and not just because “PINK BLOOD” fuckin’ whips. Every time I watch I go through the heartbreak of losing both the arctic boy and March as well as Parona’s trauma all over again. The OP continues to grow more powerful as Fushi progresses on his journey and we meet more of the faces it presents.

Two of those faces are of Gugu (or rather his distinctive mask) and Rean, and the latter (voiced by Iwami Manaka, the voice of Honda Tooru) suddenly decides she’s going to live and work at Booze Man’s place from now on. Gugu isn’t sure what to think about this, because while it will be nice to see more of Rean, the fact she likes Fushi and not him will make things uncomfortable, if not painful.

Then again, pain promotes growth. When Gugu asks “what else” Fushi can do besides transform, he creates a spear. Gugu cuts him with a knife, and after healing, Fushi creates a duplicate knife. When Gugu burns him with a torch, Fushi can only create the stick, not the flame…at least not yet. In reaction to all this “experimentation”, Fushi produces a Marchface, indicating he doesn’t like this.

When Rean shows up bright and early, Fushi still hasn’t come in for work; we later see he’s assumed his wolf form and is sleeping away the day. Gugu asks Booze Man for something Rean can use on her wound, and the coot unexpectedly uncorks part of Gugu’s face and bumps out a strange liquid. When Gugu learns the Booze Man gave him a “new organ” where liquor is stored and ferments (hence his distended belly), Gugu is furious, and runs off.

As usual, the old people are only thinking about themselves. Booze Man wants the valuable booze inside Gugu back, while Pioran is worried about who will cook their meals. Rean is loath to go looking for Gugu since she’s not yet an established part of the “family”, while Fushi outright refuses, still sore over how Gugu treated him in the kitchen, and rightfully scared of the forest besides. He volunteers to cook, but ends up simply boiling a daikon with no salt.

Still, no one comes to look for Gugu, who returns to the tattered tent he and his brother once shared. He gets his job tilling the land back from a kindly father who even invites him to join his family. Unfortunately his kindness and empathy weren’t inherited by his sons, who know about the rumors around town that Gugu is a monster.

Gugu agrees with Chan that he can’t be in a family if the members can’t love one another, and removes his mask to determine if they’ll be able to love what they see. It goes about as well as you’d expect. Later that night while sulking outside, some older kids steal his mask and throw it in the stream, but after realizing the mask doesn’t actually do anything, he throws it right back in, walking through town the next day. Let the people gawk in horror…the faces they make are funnier than his!

Fushi’s attempts to cook, clean, mind the shop, and work the fields all end in failure, but when he asks Pioran (by name!) to teach him those things, she soundly refuses, not moved by the March-inspired dirt balls he offers as tribute. For one thing, she’s got better things to do with her time—sitting around drinking her lover’s excellent booze, for example. For another, she doesn’t want to spoil him, and the best teacher he could ask for isn’t her. It’s Gugu.

Gugu settles back into a routine and puts on a little muscle working in the field, but Chan visits his tent and splashes water on him, telling him not to come back, saying it’s because his dad is such a good man that he doesn’t want Gugu causing trouble with his freakishness. Without work, Gugu runs short on funds, but remembers he has the ring Rean gave him.

It’s clear from the look of the merchant that it is indeed worth enough to ensure Gugu never has to sell produce again, but Gugu can’t see what a monster like him would do with that kind of wealth. So when he discovers his drunk, emaciated brother lying in an alley, he gives the ring to him. Even in his current state he’s better off with the ring than a monster. But while he gives Shin the ring, he doesn’t acknowledge him as his brother. He doesn’t have a brother anymore.

Of course, that’s just not true…he has Fushi! Fushi needs Gugu, and as we see when Gugu is scooped up in the night by bandits prepared to sell him to people a taste for freaks and the cash to spend on them, it becomes apparent Gugu needs Fushi as well.

Fushi bowls into the bandit carrying Gugu in his wolf form, and when the guy and his partner stand their ground, he transforms into the Bear, who, let’s be honest, no one other than Hayase would ever think about fucking with!

With that, the Monster Brothers Gugu and Fushi are reunited. Gugu resented Fushi for being admired by Rean, while Fushi resented Gugu for cutting and burning him willy-nilly, but they’re able to get past that, because that’s what brothers do—well, good ones, anyway…

TenSura – 25 (S2 E01) – Brandy in the Bath

TenSura returns after a rambling first season finale, multiple OVAs, and full-length recap, only to give us a tedious, redundant, and lazily-executed clip show (it’s literally just clips of past events flying by), followed by a woefully generic opening theme. Thankfully things look up from that rough start, but it’s clear TenSura remains quite unconcerned with exercising airtime discipline in between big arcs.

Once Rimuru leaves the five kids in the care of Tiss-sensei, the main order of business is establishing diplomatic relations with the Animal Kingdom of Eurazania. Rimuru tries on a number of outfits to send off his delegation, led by a much-matured Benimaru, and when his speech is too short, he adds a bit more to the end of it, somehow moving Rigurd and Gabiru to tears.

With Benimaru’s delegation properly sent off, focus shifts to preparing the assembly hall for the arrival of Eurazania’s delegation. Vesta uses his noble background to help ensure all the diplomatic “i’s” and “t’s” are dotted and crossed, while underlings like Treyni announce that the Eurazanians are five days away.

That means they won’t arrive before Youm and his two buddies, who have aligned themselves with Rimuru and Tempest and have been spreading the word to other humans that the monsters of Tempest are nothing to fear. Rimuru welcomes them with brandy and a hot bath, again demonstrating that comfort and relaxation are chief tenets of the Tempest lifestyle.

The next day, Rimuru and his retinue welcome the Eurazanians, who arrive in a procession of gaudy carriages drawn by giant fluffy tigers. The delegates who have come on behalf of Demon Lord Carrion are the Three Beastketeers: Albis, Suphia, and Grucius. Among the three, Suphia is the most outspoken, and the anti-slime insults fly with abandon.

Rimuru asks Youm to fight the rude and fiery Suphia, but Shion steps forward and fights her instead, without her sword, resulting in the episode’s first cool fight between overpowered warriors. The second fight begins shortly thereafter when Grucius, “runt” of the Beastketeers, takes on Youm in a daggers-vs.-sword duel.

Rimuru had hoped things would go a little more smoothly and less violently, but there can be no diplomatic progress without mutual respect, so it becomes necessary to prove to the Beastketeers that the warriors of Tempest should be respected. Or as Seraph from The Matrix Reloaded once said: “You do not truly know someone until you fight them.”

Cardcaptor Sakura – 15 – A Little Time Apart

Fresh off the loss of the Storm card to Syaoran, tempers flare between Sakura and Kero-chan. Kero is irritated by Sakura’s “moronic” voice, while Sakura is outraged that Kero threw all the contents of her desk drawer on the floor to make a home for himself. Their bickering puts Sakura in such a lousy mood her footsteps shake the whole house and even the normally mocking Touya is cowed by her dark aura!

The two don’t leave things in a good place, so when Kero-chan opens a package containing alcoholic chocolate, he eats it all and checks out of the Kinomoto residence altogether, leaving Sakura wondering where her familiar went off to.

Kero ends up sleeping one off on a couch in an alley, and is found by a little girl named Akane. When he wakes up to find himself in her home, he quickly learns that her dad has passed and her mom is busy at work, so she’s usually home alone and lonely. Kero’s heart is too big to ditch her so he adopts her name for him—Chau—and keeps her company.

Since Kero is also the responsible and technologically savvy sort, he sendsa facsimile—that’s right kids, a FAX!—to Sakura letting her know he’s fine. Tomoyo quickly uses her hacker skillz to pinpoint Kero’s location based on the fax number, just as Akane learns Kero can fly and starts to float out her own window. At first it’s fun, but soon Kero realizes the Float card is causing Akane to fly to dangerous heights.

Thanks to Tomoyo Sakura is able to Fly to the vicinity and catches Kero just as he runs out of gas trying to catch the ascending Akane. Sakura seals Float, then uses Wood to grow a tree that cushions Akane’s fall. Akane then moves away with her mom, who switched jobs to spend more time with her, meaning she won’t be lonely anymore.

Kero returns to Sakura’s, where she prepared a neat little mini-apartment in her drawer, acknowledging his need for privacy. However, their reconciliation is curtailed when he breaks the cardboard bed she made for him and he questions the craftsmanship. But as the past day’s events proved, they’re much better working as a team than apart!

%d bloggers like this: