Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 04 – Shooting You Down With a Smile

Tanabe wants to see Misuzu smile, but Jun sees her smile all the time. It’s just her sadistic smile; the pure smile Tanabe imagines doesn’t exist. But true to her acerbic self, Misuzu gets Tanabe stop fooling around and approach her seriously. She then promises to shoot him down with a smile, one of many great lines uttered with sardonic perfection by Hidaka Rina.

Misuzu also isn’t all that into a lot of physical contact with friends, but Tomo watches other female classmates glomping and embracing and wants a piece. Carol offers herself as Tomo’s hugging partner first, and the feel and smell of her has Tomo briefly wondering if she’s a guy after all; Misuzu simply assures her “that one’s made special.”

After hugging Mifune and Ogawa (and giving them similar feelings as she got hugging Carol) Tomo notices that Misuzu is mad; she knows the very subtle changes in her expression, as well as her change in aura. Carol, who has been constantly clinging to Tomo, suspects she’s to blame, and apologizes by slamming her forehead against Misuzu’s desk. Misuzu then  finally lets the former gather her into her ample bosom, and they make up.

This leads to Misuzu asking Tomo if she’s tried glomping onto Jun; lord knows he isn’t shy about initiating contact. When she tries it, he pulls her off, and I thought for a minute Tomo was going to fall (and need Jun to swoop in and catch her). But she regains her balance, because she’s a jock! I liked that little detail. Jun declaring that he can initiate contact but she can’t earns him a well-deserved right hook!

Jun once again asserts his long-standing familiarity by being in Tomo’s room when she wakes up the next morning (her mom let him in). This leads to a big loud fight that wakes her mom. Tomo then makes breakfast for Jun: rice balls filled with dried sardines for strong bones. Jun’s reaction suggests they taste…interesting, but he still eats every bite.

In the dojo, Tomo’s dad demonstrates how he can still pass out from lovesickness at the sight of his wife. But in a nice scene with Tomo and Jun, she says that her dad has and will always protect her mom no matter what.

Back at school, Carol and Misuzu tell Tomo they are having lunch without her, so she has an awkward lunch alone with Jun. In addition to wanting to supplant Tomo as Misuzu’s #1 best friend, Carol also wants to show Misuzu firsthand what she’s dealing with in regards to the guy she likes.

That guy is Misaki, and Carol’s problem is he doesn’t see her as a girl or potential mate, but as a little sister due to their long history together. Misuzu suggests Carol “take life more seriously” if she wants to succeed with Misaki. Fat chance of that!

In the final segment, Mifune and Ogawa come to Tomo with boy problems. Specifically, like, a Don Juan-type upperclassman has his eyes on Ogawa, and like, won’t take no for an answer? Tomo agrees to be with her when she turns him down. When he fails to act in a gentleman-like fashion, Tomo lays him the fuck out with a thunderous kick to the solar plexus.

The girls warn her that the guy has four equally unsavory buddies, but Tomo coolly promises that she’ll deal with all comers, and won’t hesitate to protect them, before striding away like a badass. Mifune and Ogawa can only swoon.

The five pricks never get a chance to exact any kind of revenge on Tomo, because Jun overhears them plotting to go after her, and delivers a very similar kick to the leader’s chest that Tomo scored. We don’t see him fight the other four, but when all five of them approach Tomo, it’s to prostrate themselves and apologize.

On their walk home together, Tomo wonders why they did that, and why the four she never met were already beat up, and why Jun has a bandage on his cheek. He says he “fell”, but we know he was inspired by what she said about her dad protecting her mom, and wanted to do the same for Tomo. Even if, like Tomo’s mom, she probably didn’t need help!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 03 – Youthful Indiscretion

Naturally, Tomo is shocked and feels betrayed by the fact she’s only now hearing about Jun and Misuzu going out. Misuzu only kept it from her because she herself preferred if it never happened. Jun asked her out on a whim, and they dated for a grand total of three days. I’m also convinced Misuzu calls it “youthful indiscretion” since that was practically Hidaka Rina’s character Yume’s catchphrase in My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex.

We also learn that Jun avoided Tomo for the entire first year of middle school, and they didn’t reconnect as best buds until he’d dumped Misuzu. Like her, I don’t think that’s a coincidence. It’s likely that Jun asked Misuzu out because he was trying to avoid the fact that he had developed a thing for Tomo, and wasn’t ready to deal with that.

It’s become ever clearer that Tomo is not the best judge of whether Jun sees her as a girl, since the moment Jun learns that she’s in the boy’s karate club, he freaks out, and is particularly hostile towards Misaki. The two end up bonding (somewhat) on a bus ride when Jun admits that in a fight with rules like karate, he can’t beat Tomo either; she’s “too incredible”.

The next day after school, Jun asks if Tomo is free to hang, but she has plans with Misuzu and Carol to get tea. She runs into Ogawa and Mifune, who are harboring some very confusing feelings about Tomo and are so shocked by the sight of her in pants that they flee. Misuzu warns Tomo that she can’t keep blowing him off, and shouls arrange a date.

Tomo is dubious that Jun will be as pliant as Misuzu predicts, but when she does take the initiative and ask if he’ll hang, his reaction is just like that of a golden retriever who found out he’s going on walkies. Misuzu and Carol decide on the best outfit for Tomo, one that’s a bit girlier than her usual garb, but not so girly she’ll be too self-conscious.

The resulting white pullover, gaucho pants, and white sneakers ensemble really hit the mark, though Jun doesn’t let Tomo know how cute she looks, the swine. What he does do is let the two of them slide right back into their normal hangout routines: going to the batting cages and bowling. Each time, Tomo is certain she can’t hit a 160 kph fastball or roll a 16 pound ball, but in both cases, she’s still right on Jun’s level.

She then asks Jun if they can go to karaoke, and immediately acts like he said know when he actually said yes, leaving Tomo in a bit of a spot, as she hadn’t thought any further than “going to karaoke.” The place is a lot more intimate than she expected, and since the only songs she knows are children’s songs, that’s what she sings … and Jun records her.

The thing is, he’s not recording for blackmail purposes (though the minute Misuzu and Carol hear he has footage of her singing they want it). He was thrown off how…different Tomo was that day. But not thrown off in a bad way. Clearly it’s a side of Tomo he’d like to see a little more of.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 02 – Enemies Becoming Friends

When Tomo boards a bus with Jirou and sits right beside him, the closeness makes her heart race too much, so she stands, bitter that he doesn’t conside her a girl enough to be equally flusterd. However, he shows he’s very much aware she’s a girl when he spots a pervert groping her and puts a stop to it.

Unfortunately for Tomo, his solution is for her to stop wearing skirts, because they “look wrong” on her. What Jirou isn’t sharing with Tomo is that the reason it looks “wrong” is because Jirou is still uncomfortable with his “best bud” being a woman—especially one with legs to the damn moon!

After slugging Jirou, Tomo reports this injustice to Misuzu the next day. She determines that the problem isn’t the skirt, but the bike shorts underneath. She tells Tomo that the key to a skirt is basically the reality that there’s nothing but underwear underneath. In other words, no half-measures allowed.

Misuzu arranges for Tomo to walk home with Jirou (who is eager to make up), but without the bike shorts. Misuzu’s original observation that the skirt is simply too short to wear on its own without errant winds rendering her unmentionables visible. It’s doubly a shame this happens during an otherwise romantic sakura-strewn sunset stroll.

They later make up again, with Jirou rightfully apologizing for presuming he can tell Tomo what to wear. That said, he doesn’t think she should wear anything she doesn’t feel comfortable in. But as we see from his version of a blush, the main reason he’d rather Tomo wear slacks is because he’s just not ready for those endless gams.

The second part of the episode introduces Carol Olston, a blonde student from Britain. Half of the boys in class are in her thrall, while the other half prefer Misuzu’s cool beauty—we know Jirou is interested in neither. She’s also voiced by Sally Amaki, who is bilingual, so I was a little disappointed she didn’t have any English lines.

Carol is introduced to Tomo via Misaki, and Carol is quick to declare that she and Misaki are engaged and have in face already been married three times. Misaki clarifies that they’re childhood friends, hence all the weddings, but it’s clear Carol considers their engagement legally binding—and views Tomo as an enemy who might steal her Misaki away.

This is only half-true and half-nonsense; the latter because Tomo doesn’t like Misaki that way and has eyes only for Jirou, and the former because Misaki does seem to have a little thing for Tomo. In any case, Carol is sharper than her cotton candy looks and ditzy affectation suggest.

When Tomo reports her encounter with Misuzu, it’s plain as day to Misuzu why Carol keeps calling her a baaaka. Then Carol gathers intel on Tomo by speaking to both Misuzu and Jirou, demonstrating her genral oddness by sitting on Misuzu’s desk and hiding in Jirou’s locker.

Carol ends up hiring Jirou to help get her into shape “to defeat an enemy”, but on the surface, and unbeknownst to him, it totally looks like the two are going steady. Tomo is genuinely freaked out by this, and Misuzu, shit-stirrer that she is, sucks up all that sweet sweet energy.

Watching Carol utterly fail to run more than ten feet or do even one push-up or sit-up is amusing, but not as hilarious as a distracted Tomo unknowingly and lazily turning Misaki—who is likely no slouch, karate-wise—into a pretzel.

Misuzu egged Tomo on to confront Jirou and Carol partly for her own amusement, but also because she wants Tomo to display more urgency in trying to win Jirou over, which means defending her claim to him.

But when she does confront the two, it only takes a moment for Carol to read Tomo’s reactions and conclude that she is absolutely no threat to her vis-a-vis Misaki, as she’s only interested in Jirou.

That afternoon, Carol invites Misuzu out for coffee and cake in what Misuzu calls an “unnecessarily long car” as thanks for her advice. Carol confides that she doesn’t have a single friend, so Misuzu suggests she reach out to Tomo, who will surely be glad to have her as one.

The next day Carol thinks about all the times her open hand of friendship was rejected by those who thought she was too pretty, or too rich, or too weird. But just as Misuzu said, Tomo welcomes Carol’s friendship, and thus appears to her like an angel. Misuzu also agrees to be Carol’s friend, because Carol is loaded, and can likely also help her in even more complex and entertaining schemes to make Tomo and Jirou squirm!

Speaking of, the episode ends with Tomo learning for the first time that Jirou and Misuzu briefly dated years ago, which not only explains their cool-yet-close attitude towards one another, but also draws another parallel between Hidaka Rina’s Misuzu and her character Yume from My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tomo-chan Is a Girl! – 01 (First Impressions) – One of the Girls

Aizawa Tomo (Takahashi Rie) is big, tall, strong, boisterous, and a girl. Her childhood friend Jun (Ishikawa Kaito) once thought she was a boy due to those traits. Now that they’re both in high school, she doesn’t want to be his “bro” anymore. But it’s not so easy to shift such a long-standing dynamic.

This is a dirt-simple premise and the show drops us right into this close-yet-distant relationship. Close because Jun is far more comfortable (and physical) with Tomo than he’d be with any girl or guy. Distant because Tomo still doesn’t feel Jun sees her as a girl or potential romantic partner.

Just having these two bounce off one another would be too simple, so there are some key supporting characters like Gundou Misuzu, another childhood friend of Tomo who is now on bad terms with Jun despite the fact the three basically grew up together.

Misuzu (Hidaka Rina) is a lot of fun as the acerbic meddler of the trio, who makes it her goal to help Tomo get noticed by Jun the way she wants. Tomo is eager for advice but not so great at executing it. But whether she succeeds or fails, Misuzu will be entertained.

There’s some early hope for Tomo when Misuzu arranges things so neither she has to walk with Jun under an umbrella. Tomo is too bashfull to get too close to Jun, and eventually runs off. But because Jun is if anything more athletic than her (they do karate at her family’s dojo), he catches up to her easily.

It’s here where he notices that yes, his “bro” Tomo isn’t just a girl, but a beautiful, busty young woman in a soaked uniform, so it’s his turn to flee. Tomo doesn’t understand what’s up with him, but if she thought about it with both of her brain cells, she’d realize he just felt the same awkward excitement she feels when he gets a little too close.

Aside from Misuzu, we have Misaki, Tomo’s senpai in the karate club (she murdered all the girls so she’s in the boy’s club). Misuzu has a little thing for Tomo, and when she expresses her exasperation and claims to be “a failure of a girl”, he can’t help but rebut the assertion.

When he says she has plenty of “feminine charm” and she crowds him, asking for specifics, Misaki-senpai wisely tells her the truth: there’s no need for her to change, or to be more classically “girly.” She’s plenty charming just being who she is. I gotta agree with him!

Misaki also happens to be a very pretty young man who attracts a couple of gyaru-ish classmates. When they spot Tomo, they invite her to an after-school meet-up. Tomo, naturally, assumes a fight is afoot and is all for it. Misuzu has to break it to her; they’re interested only in verbal sparring, not the kind with fists.

Tomo, not one to back down from a fight, meets the girls at the appointed time and place, and strikes a fighting stance just in case. The girls then tell him how they’re interested in Misaki, and she delightfully misunderstands that they approached her for love advice since she knows him. She’s all too eager—giddy, even—to take them under her wing!

That shows us it’s not just guys like Jun, but girls other than Misuzu who don’t treat her like “one of the girls”. We tend to want what we don’t have, so even though many a girl would be envious of Tomo’s relationship with both Jun and Misaki, she wants something else. Something it will take no small effort to obtain.

And there you have it. I should mention that watching and listening to Tomo is an absolute blast thanks to Takahashi Rie, who really brings it. Jun’s a jolly meathead who, while clueless about Tomo’s true feelings, is clearly not totally unaware of the fact she’s a girl. The only question is how much romantic progress they make in the 12 episodes to follow.

Made in Abyss – S2 12 (Fin) – The Cradle Falls

As tends to be the case with momentous episodes of Abyss, I’m still a bit overwhelmed with emotion, but I’ll do my best here. As a resurrected, better-than-ever Faputa and a game Juroimoh prepare to battle the invading beasts, we’re taken back to simpler, more innocent times, when Faputa first found Gaburoon.

Buried and covered in flowers, Faputa brought bits of scrap to him to enable to repair himself, while he tought her language, specifically that of her mother Irumyuui. What looked like an upside-down person turns out to be the symbol for haku, or that which matters most to someone. We watch, this time from Faputa’s perspective, as she encounters Riko, Reg, and Nanachi.

Gabu teases Faputa for resorting to subtler, more indirect methods that only served to confuse our lead kids—call it a measure of the shyness she inherited from her mother. Back in the present, while Faputa presses the battle, a transformed Majikaja serves as an escape vehicle for Riko, Reg, and Nanachi, as well as Moogie, Pakkoyan, Maaa, and other Hollows.

Maji takes them to Wazukyan, from which Vueko has already escaped and who is near death. In his usual friendly way he warns Riko that there is nothing ahead for her but despair, but she tells him as he crumbles to dust that things won’t necessarily go the way he’s foreseen.

As Riko is reunited with another page from her mother’s journal, the freed Vueko ascends a staircase while thinking about the one solid decision she made in her life: the choice to become Irumyuui’s mother. Unfortunately, she forgets the Sixth Layer’s curse is loss of humanity.

A quick-thinking Pakkoyan sacrifices herself to keep Vueko from being killed, but she is still transformed into a non-verbal hollow. Nanachi takes Vueko and brings her aboard Majikaja with the others.

Reg shocks Faputa by joining him in battle—this time on the same side—and apologizing for challenging her. Riko blows Prushka once more (causing her to pass out with a bloody nose), and Riko goes into Overdrive, allowing him to dispatch one of the two turbinid dragons who pose the greatest threat to Riko and the others.

This also gives Faputa time to go to Moogie and the other surviving hollows with the goal of consuming them and their value so she can do what she came here to do: put her long-suffering mother to rest. Just as they had no problem giving parts of themselves to resurrect Faputa, they have no problem becoming the nourishment Faputa needs.

After sending the black-turned-white goo throughout the structure of IruBuru, causing it to crack and shatter, Faputa is drained of energy an no longer able to fight. A piece of falling rubble wallops her and she begins to fall. She thinks of Vueko, the one person she has no memory of. She also thinks that the end is near; that she’ll die when she reaches the bottom. But she doesn’t; Reg snatches her with his extend-o-arm.

The rubble does a number on Majikaja’s body, and when he can no longer move, his true, semi-gaseous form emerges and briefly possesses Faputa. When he too passes, Faputa is able to come face to face with Vueko, her spiritual grandmother, and while Vueko can no longer talk, Faputa can hear her lucid thoughts.

Vueko tells her the kind of girl Irumyuui was, how Faputa is similar and how she’s different, before passing away peacefully, full of nothing but love and gratitude for the little girl that changed her forever. Faputa sheds tears for Vueko, despite her not “belonging” to her, and Riko, Reg, and Nanachi gather around to offer comfort.

The village borne from Irumyuui is now a pile of rubble, and Faputa’s mother is finally free. Following the customs she learned from Gabu, Faputa gives Vueko a proper burial, then sets up some companions with some smooth rocks so she won’t be lonely. After this, Faputa seems unsure what to do next, freed from “value” and now having been given the choice to live her life as she sees fit.

Reg suggests she join them. While he still can’t remember her or the details of their promise, he still wants to know her now, and go on an adventure with her. Faputa isn’t at all opposed to this, but does not agree right then and there. That’s to be expected of someone who has only very recently discovered such a thing as free will beyond an now-fulfilled genetic duty.

What I’ve described so far are the myriad events that unfolded in this double-length season two finale, but there’s no substitute for experiencing this episode and all of its nuances for yourself. It was one of the finest episodes of anime I’ve had the privilege to watch, and like Vueko with Irumyuui, I’ll never forget it.

There is sure to be another film or a third season that will continue Riko, Reg, and Nanachi’s journey still deeper into the Abyss, into darkness warm and cold, cursed by love and longing. This sequel had large shoes to fill and filled them ably. So too will the next sequel.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

Classroom of the Elite – S2 12 – Introduction to Fear

I didn’t give Karuizawa Kei enough credit last week. Yes, she does come ever so close to giving up and descending into an abyss of despair. But at a certain point, she decides that no matter how much torture Ryuuen doles out, she’s not going to tell him the name of the mastermind. Period. Even soaked and freezing, the fire in her eyes mocks Ryuuen’s efforts. Fine, he says; he’ll just keep going.

Kiyotaka and his friends are about to go into the karaoke parlor, but he craps out at the last second, citing fatigue from an all-nighter. Like the ANN reviewer of this show, I was not particularly looking forward to an entire episode of Kei getting tortured (even if it wouldn’t get Ryuuen what he wanted), so I was relieved that after informing both Chabashira Sae and former StuCo President Horikita Manabe of the situation, Kiyotaka arrives in the lion’s den.

At first Ryuuen, Mio, Ishizaki and Albert are amused by the notion this guy is a.) the Class D mastermind and b.) dumb enough to come there alone. However, they are the ones who should be scared. They may think they’re lions, but Kiyotaka is a dragon, and a particularly unemotional one. Ryuuen sends Ishizaki and Albert at him to test him, and both underlings go down in seconds.

At no point does Kiyotaka raise his voice or break a sweat taking down two of the toughest motherfuckers in the school. But they’re only tough compared to everyone else. There’s no comparing anyone at the school to Kiyotaka. Kei can only sit in the corner, shiver, and enjoy the show, just as gobsmacked as her torturers by Kiyotaka’s skill.

Mio, more pissed off at the situation and by how fucked up both Ryuuen and Kiyotaka  are, does her duty as the next opponent, and while her kicks are impressive, she is absolutely no match for Kiyotaka, who knocks her out with a well placed hand to her neck.

Yet Ryuuen still doesn’t panic. Why would he? he believes himself to be the school’s foremost expert and wielder of violence. It’s likely none of his underlings would last five seconds in a fight with him, but the gap between him and them might as well be the length of a car, compared to the gap between his strength and Kiyotaka’s.

Ryuuen hangs in there only because his fighting style is unique to him, developed from a life of fighting. Unpredictability and raw talent in the place of formal training and discipline will serve you well…right up until it doesn’t. Ryuuen’s fatal flaw isn’t that he thought he could win in a fight against Kiyotaka…it’s that he could evoke any emotion at all in their fight.

Even as Kiyotaka is fighting back yawns while he meticulously bashes Ryuuen’s face into paste with his deadly fists, Ryuuen talks about how he’s never felt fear, and how even if he loses this fight, he’ll be around every corner, 24/7, waiting to spring on Kiyotaka. Instead, Kiyotaka not only gives him a much-belated introduction to fear, but shrugs off his “victory” as a “mundane task” that would never inspire the slightest bit of emotion from him.

Once Ryuuen has stopped moving, Kiyotaka covers Kei up and holds her as she shivers and weeps. When asked why she didn’t give him up, she says, simply, “for myself.” It was loyalty to Karuizawa Kei, not Ayanokouji Kiyotaka, that fueled her resolve until he arrive. That’s not to say she’s not happy he came, and that she wasn’t wrong to believe he would.

As Manabe told Chabashira, Kiyotaka went into that lion’s den to “end the war” all by himself. I can’t imagine Ryuuen will be able to hide the marks of his fight anytime soon, nor do I think he’s in any hurry to tell anyone who was able to beat him so thoroughly. Class C has been dealt a serious blow, but as he always ruled with violence, I imagine plenty of Class C would welcome his downfall.

While in general I abhor violence as a means of solving problems (it usually only begets more violence), this situation is rather unique, due to the fact that a villain like Ryuuen was never going to be defeated by any other means but superior force, and the fact that Kiyotaka took no discernable pleasure in the victory.

That said, he does express regret for making Kei suffer so much to achieve this result, and reiterates his promise that should she ever find herself in trouble again, he will rescue her without fail. After what she witnessed, I daresay Kei can trust in those words. But to answer a question she raised in her monologue, yes, Kei, you are extremely effin’ cool.

Made in Abyss – S2 11 – Royal Awakening

Due to Reg’s “foolishness”—i.e. not wanting to kill a dear friend he’s only now coming to remember—Faputa ends up knocking him out, and asks Juroimoh to hold him down while she deals with her next target: Riko, the one who “made Reg this way”.

All White Whistled out, Riko is in no shape to stand, and Faputa could go right through her Hollow defenders. But even her best punch can’t go entirely through Gaburoon, who stops her from killing Riko in order to “protect her future”.

Gabu collapses, and Faputa reaches deeper into the darkness: if she simply destroys everything, then everything will end. Returning her attention to Riko once more, she is once more stopped by an outside force: this time Belaf, accompanied by a Nanachi resplendent in their new Mitty Armor.

Their weapon of choice? A purple goo that resides within Belaf and contains memories of Faputa’s mother. These “smelly” memories represent Belaf’s ultimate treasure, but instead of perishing with him, they seem to unlock something in Faputa.

Overwhelmed by the intense visceral power of the memories of people and things completely unknown to her, Faputa pauses her carnage. Wazukyan takes this opportunity to flee with Vueko, while Nanachi wonders if this was all part of Wazukyan’s plan to use Faputa’s wish-granting power to make a village of out Riko like he did with Irumyuui.

But then the consequences of Faputa’s more recent actions take center stage: with the barrier down, the layer’s beasts waltz right in and help themselves to a Hollow buffet. Left and right, Hollows are stalked, torn apart and gobbled up by the beasts.

Faputa attacks the beasts, justifying her protection of the surviving Hollows as merely not letting anyone else have her prey. Po-tay-to, Po-tah-to, I say. But soon it’s clear her fight, while valiant (and bloody as hell), is as hopeless as the Hollows’ fight against her had been.

There are simply too many beasts, and they’re very big and strong. It takes one last blast from Gabu before he dies to deter a Turbinid Dragon from curb-stomping her, but she still gets flung over halfway across the village.

Her scuffles with the beasts have left her all chewed up, missing limbs, coughing up blood, and immobile. She passes out believing she has no value because she failed to do “what she was born to do.” But she wakes up surrounded by Hollows, each of whom chops off a a small piece of themselves for her to eat, until their unlikely savior is not only fully healed, but…I’ll go ahead and use the crude but apt term “souped up.”

Faputa also suddenly finds herself surrounded by things she didn’t know, from her mother to Gabu, to Reg, and this leads her to ponder just what else she might not know. What is beyond her duty, which she believed to be her only value? Well, as Belaf said as she absorbed the memories he willingly offered her as she destroyed him, the time would come when she’d decide her own value.

That time has now come, and it once again unlocks something in her as a weird green glyph glows in her golden eyes. The Scorching Sun, once a volatile may have just evolved into a more mature star, poised to defend her sundry satellites from the incursions from outer space with her golden light.

Made in Abyss – S2 10 – The Scorpion and the Frog

Belaf can sense it: the storm that is Faputa has come to finally punish him and the others for what they did to her mother. In preparation for this, he entrusts all of his memories and value to Nanachi, and then releases them. However, he warns Nanachi that once they take Mitty past the barrier of the village, she will disappear, like all things born within it.

While Nanachi loves Mitty and wants to be with her forever, they still aren’t prepared to sit by and do nothing for the rest of their life, especially if it means abandoning Riko and Reg. So Nanachi decides to say goodbye (or at least “see you later” to Mitty on their own terms, in hope that one day Mitty’s soul will return to them.

The little Hollows who had taken a liking to Nanachi and Mitty follow them outside to their doom, but not before presenting Nanachi with a new headpiece that resembles Mitty, so in a way, Nanachi can always carry her with them. This entire harrowing, heartrending, tearjerking scene takes the place of the OP, so I knew right away this episode was going to be special.

Reg wakes up to find that he, Riko, Maaa, and Moogie are being protected by the giant Interference Unit from the carnage going on inside the village proper. We aren’t spared the visuals of said carnage, as Faputa darts around like a lethal fluffy spear, making bloody mincemeat out of every hollow in sight. They try to protect one another from her wrath, but it’s abundantly clear they haven’t a snowball’s chance in hell against her.

Reg knows that he is the only person strong enough to stop the mayhem. He also understands that he might be the only person Faputa cares enough to listen to, especially in her hopped-up state. Their clash in the present is intercut with the day they met centuries ago, when Faputa was grieving the then-damaged Gaburoon (the big robot).

Eventually, Faputa came to trust Reg because he wore a helmet similar to the Gabu’s design, and protected her until Gabu self-repaired. In the present, she thrashes whales on him, trying everything to get him to remember. When she thrust her extremely malleable limbs into his mouth and began to inflate him, I feared for the worst.

All hail Kuno Misaki, who turns in a tour-de-force of a vocal performance as the two Faputas, making her a wide-eyed, bubbly, joyful figure in the past and a bitter hateful one in the present.

What she’s never not is sympathetic, both due to the circumstances that led to her birth and the life she led up to that point. So when Riko blew into Prushka, Reg transformed, and it looked like this would be over soon, I was fully prepared to weep for Faputa’s imminent demise.

That demise never comes, but the tears did. That’s because Reg never stopped being kind to the point of foolishness. It isn’t in his nature to kill anyone or anything, most especially someone who he is only still starting to learn played such a crucial role in his earlier days.

As their increasingly violent (and beautifully animated) duel continues, we witness the day Reg began the ascent from the Abyss find his “HAKU”, or “number one precious thing”, when he promises to return to her. But then, as now, Faputa wasn’t just a lonely girl who took a liking to Reg. She was rage and vengeance incarnate.

Just like the scorpion couldn’t help but sting the frog before they crossed the river, Faputa cannot help but carry out the mission she was created for: to be the feet and arms and claws and teeth her mother had lost ages ago, all of them to be turned onto those who hurt her again and again to save themselves.

Reg and Faputa both being unable to fight what they are means that at episode’s end, she has the upper hand against him, and seems poised to put him down for good. The questions that abound: Can Riko blow the whistle again to give Reg a boost? Is there any reasoning with Faputa? Will Nanachi and their new headpiece and inherited memories and value save the day? Is saving the day even an option?

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Heroines Run the Show – 02 – Oh My Crêpe!!

At first it looks like CEO Tamura and LIPxLIP manager Uchida have played a cruel prank on an unwitting Hiyori (whom Uchida misnames as “Hiyako”…maybe on purpose?!). Aizou and Yuujirou unleash a barrage of insults on her, but she absorbs them and fires back with some extremely rude and accurate retorts, and all three kids learn why the adults put them together: Hiyako’s got guts, and doesn’t care that they’re idols.

That she’s literally in their class is icing on the cake. In a rather oddly dimly-lit scene where her teacher Akechi-sensei offers her candy (don’t do it Hiyori!) and Hiyori climbs on top of the desk to whisper in his ear (what a dang goof!) she also gets an easy approval of her new job (thanks to Tamura) and also an assurance he’ll keep quiet about it. Hiyori, lovable hayseed that she is, is in awe of what most Tokyo kids would think was a humdrum teacher. He’s there to support her and everyone else in his class and make sure they enjoy their high school life.

She soon learns her job is to further support Aizou and Yuujirou on the idol side of their lives. This means, yes, being a personal assistant to a pair of pretty but ill-mannered cads-and-a-half. We feel every hour of Hiyori’s day that stretches out like the deserts in “Ozymandias”, waking up, studying, running, and then being a human coatrack and vending machine. Still, the pay is good, so while Hiyori hardly sails through her duties she does tough it out with a stiff upper-lip and some lovely withering inner dialogue about how much these two disagreeable fops grind her freakin’ gears.

While the idols suck, Hiyori at least initially isn’t all that good at her job, rendering some of their criticism valid, if indelicately expressed. For one thing, she simply allows girls to swarm the boys during a break, and even gets up to hang out with her friends when Yuujirou artfully reminds her it’s her job to get them out of these situations. That’s when she learns that Aizou is uncomfortable around girls, making him that much more amazing an actor. She knew Yuujirou can be apocalyptically surly, but Aizou confirms that it’s Yuujirou’s normal state.

Even so, Hiyori’s entire life, not even school life, is busied up playing LIPxLIP Service. We watch her steadfast determination to get to the lunch rush early, unto almost breaking the no-running-in-the-halls rule (a truly dastardly and prejudiced rule for, ya know, a runner!). We see her meeting up with Juri, who gives her good advice that nets her her first non-mooched lunch, which she savors accordingly. Then Chizuru casually asks Hiyori what shes been up to, and Hiyori has to lie (badly) because part of her job is keeping her job secret.

We also get a peek at Hiyori’s track life, as her senpai Hina is warm, supported, and extremely protective of her first-year, especially when her friend Koutarou narrowly keeps Hiyori from getting brained by a soccer ball. Hina quickly and expertly extorts free crêpes out of Koutarou, and by doing so inadvertently sparks one of Hiyori’s most heartfelt desires of coming to the big city. Alas, she cannot enjoy crêpes with her senpais … because she has work.

When the boys’ next gig takes them to a podcast recording by Rio and Yui, two members of an established rival idol group AT4, Aizou and Yuujirou play things safe with their sugary smiles and empty platitudes. They’re so perfect and dull that Yui goes off-script and tells them they’re lying about simply wanting to entertain people and make their fans happy. He might be on to something, but Rio stops recording and disciplines Yui. But while he apologizes to Aizou and Yuujirou, he also offers them candid advice: hollow smiles will only get them so far in this business.

Back at school, Hiyori is minding her own business when she hears hollerin’, and spots Aizou and Yuujirou at each others’ throats again. Since Uchida is paying her handsomely even while she’s at school, Hiyori comes between the two. When she stumbles on her landing, the easy play would have been for Hiyori to end up falling onto the boys, but instead she falls into them like a missle, shoving them back. When she warns them that they risk getting suspended, neither seem to care. In fact, attending school was the condition they had to agree upon in order to become idols.

Hiyori, who has always dreamed of going to a big Tokyo school, laments how it hasn’t turned out anything like she expected. That being said, she could quit anytime she wanted; her parents didn’t insist she work to pay for her living expenses (about that: let’s just assume Shibuya is far more affordable in the world of this show, shall we?). But of course, she’s not giving up, no matter how crêpe-deprived she gets.

Back at the studio, Hiyako is put to work sorting a huge box of fan mail and gifts, and she discovers cute hand-made letters from a particular fan, for both the boys and their manager. She delivers it to Uchida, who immediately identifies it as Chutan-san, one of LIPxLIP’s oldest and biggest fans…so big, she writes multi-page letters in perfect 10-point print on custom coorespondence stock for their manager. Inspiring that level passion and devotion is the power of idols, and shows Hiyori that they must have something.

As Hiyori watches the boys sweat, and fight, as they practice choreography in the next room, Uchida tells her that she’s doing fine if they show her their true selves. As to why they’re idols, Uchida tells her all they said at their audition is that they want to be on stage, with no further detail. But by watching them work their asses off in that studio, Hiyori comes to see that bein’ idols means to them what runnin’ means to her. There’s something all three of them want to do, and they’re never going to give up or back down.

Just when Hiyori is having more charitable feelings about the boys do they let her down once more by spurning her peace offering of food and their favorite drinks. But again, they’re quite correct that a manager should be offering water or sports drinks after their practice. So while Aizou and Yuujirou continue to piss Hiyori off, she at least understands them a little better, and appreciates that they’re being their true selves around her.

As for her true self…Suzumi Hiyori looks like a shoo-in for Best Girl of the Season. While I understand totally if her squeaky voice isn’t everyone’s cup of matcha, anyone who doesn’t want to protect her with their life might just be The Grinch. Just two episodes in and I’m completely in love with both her and her show, which as the title confirms, she runs.

Attack on Titan – 86 – A Good Time to Die

Floch’s reinforcements are already on the way when Hange, Magath & Co. finally meet up with the Azumabito. That’s when the world’s scrappy last hope against Eren learns that the flying boat usually takes a whole day to service before it’s ready for flight. At best, they can shave it down to half a day, but Hange estimates they only have four days to stop the rumbling from destroying the entire world.

Kiyomi proposes they tow the flying boat to the Marleyan coastal city of Odiha (the map of which looks a lot like Tokyo on its side) where it can get serviced faster and more safely, but they have to get to the cargo ship and get it ready. As the logistic pile up, Mikasa informs Annie and Reiner, who are just barely holding the line as it is.

The ensuing battle is a sickening Eldian-against-Eldian bloodbath, with the Titans getting battered with lightning spears as th Jaegerist soldiers are carved up by Mikasa, Hange, Connie, and Jean. It must no doubt suck to have to kill so many of their own kind, but if they hesitate they’re the ones who’ll be killed, and it will be game over.

They have to fight, and kill, and slaughter in order to get to the next step, even if they have no idea where Eren is located. That means when push comes to shove, even Falco and Gabi aren’t spared from the fighting, as the former transforms into the Jaw Titan for the first time, while the latter fires the shot that finally takes Floch down…but is he really out?

Prior to his final charge, Floch’s reinforcements are approaching on a train…which is promptly blown up. By who, we don’t know, but there’s no time to worry about it. Once all of the Jaegerist soldiers are taken out, the battered Anti-Eren Alliance limps aboard the readied ship, and they sail off to meet their destinies.

As for Magath, he stays behind to scuttle the docked  Marleyan cruiser before more Jaegerist reinforcements arrive. On the way, his life is saved…by Shadis, who followed the alliance here, his heart moved by seeing his former students think and act for themselves and for the good of the world. Shadis and Magath realize that their stories must end here, and indeed go out in a massive blast that takes the cruiser off the board.

I can’t rule out whether Floch managed to stow aboard the ship bound for Odiha (it’s hard to believe that’s the last we’ve seen of such an annoying antagonist) but one thing’s for certain: the alliance is too late to save Liberio, which means Annie’s reason for fighting is gone (though unbeknownst to her, her dad is already dead).

Hange once again demonstrates their leadership by telling Annie and the others that they’re on that boat because Magath trusted them to save people whose names he’d never know. So Annie, tears in her eyes, asks Mikasa once more if, when the time comes, she’ll be able to kill Eren, or let her kill him.

All Annie is sure of is that she’s tired of fighting—with Mikasa, even with Eren. Hopefully they’ll all be able to live to see a time when the fighting’s over and they can rest. It won’t be long now.

Attack on Titan – 84 – Kumbaya

While lying awake in bed, Jean envisions a comfortable future in “that prime spot in the interior.” He has a wife, a kid, and all the fancy liquor he can sip. He can have it all if he simply “stays put”, does what Floch says, and allows Eren to commit global genocide unchallenged. In other words, he has to give up on being a Scout.

Jean meets secretly with Hange and Mikasa prior to the botched execution of Yelena and Onyankopon that results in the three being eaten by the Cart, so we already know he’ll choose to stop Eren. This week we learn why he made that decision. First, Hange’s three simple but powerful words—genocide is wrong. Second, Hange makes him feel the eyes of all his fellow scouts who have fallen. He won’t forsake them. He tells Hange, simply, I’m forever a scout.

Fast-forward to the big meet-up of the Paradis and Marleyan Eldians (and Magath), and while last week there was a distinct super-heroic feeling to this eclectic band being brought together, it looks decidedly shakier this week, once they all, ya know, have to sit around a fire together.

The sparks start flying when Magath and Jean argue over who started this fight, at which point Hange, stirring the stew, says none of them should be talking about a past they weren’t present for.

Then Annie asks Mikasa if, when trying to convince Eren fails, would she really be able to hurt or kill him in order to stop him. When Mikasa bears arms, Annie responds with her needle ring, ready to transform. They end up cooling down then partaking in the hot stew.

Meanwhile, the reason Yelena is alive is so she can tell Magath and the others where Eren is. She won’t tell them, but she’s happy to stir the shit by going over how many people everyone assembled there has killed, and more importantly, what they did to each other.l

Honestly, why Hange didn’t insist on Yelena being gagged in such a volatile situation is beyond me. Yelena doesn’t spare anyone, getting it “all out in the open”. What sets Jean off is when she mentions Marco, and how Reiner and Annie took away his ODM gear so he’d get eaten by a titan.

It’s not that fact, but when Reiner adds that he killed the titan that ate Marco, and begs Jean not to forgive him, than Jean basically beats him to a pulp. When Gabi gets between them, she gets kicked, but she and Falco still beg Jean to help them save their families.

At dawn, after he’s calmed down, Jean wakes Gabi and Falco up, saying that he’ll help them. There’s a crispness and clarity to the look of the morning that suggests a great many things were burned away in that campfire, or at least set aside to the point where they can all work together towards a shared goal: stopping Eren’s genocide.

Unfortunately, before they reach the port where Azumabito Kiyomi says there’s an airship for them to board, Pieck reports that the port is already under Jaegerist occupation, and Lady Azumabito is among Floch’s hostages. The Stop Eren faction is off to a rocky start.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – Entertainment District Arc – 11 (Fin) – Into the Darkness Together

Gyuutarou’s auto-destruct causes a huge explosion, but Tanjirou survives, and Lil’ Nezuko wakes up to purge the poison from his body with her Blood Demon Art. She then puts the immobile Tanjirou on her tiny back and dashes him across the ruins of the district, eventually coming upon Zenitsu and Inousuke, whom she also heals.

Finally, Nezuko and Tanjirou find Uzui and his wives, who are bickering with each other rather than hearing the final words he has to say. But before any of them know it, Nezuko has sidled up and envelops him in her pink flames. The wives have no idea what is happening, but when Uzui’s poison wounds vanish and he pulls through, they envelop him in hugs and sobs of relief.

Nezuko and Tanjirou then search for the heads of Gyuutarou and Daki, and find them still alive, bickering with each other over their loss to the humans as their heads slowly dissolve. When their argument escalades into saying they aren’t brother and sister, Tanjirou intervenes, saying that even if the entire world is against them, they shouldn’t be against each other; not in these final moments.

Daki then directs her ire at Tanjirou for lecturing them, but an in-depth flashback narrated by Gyuutarou shows that Tanjirou was quite correct. Long before he became a demon, Gyuutarou was cursed for being an extra mouth to feed in the poorest part of the district. When his sister, whose original name was Ume, was born, he leaned into his ugliness, found his strength, and found work as a debt collector.

Sadly, once Ume turned thirteen she joined a run-down house where her body could be sold, and the defiant nature Gyuutarou baked into her backfired. She took the eye of a samurai she didn’t want to sleep with, and was bound and burned alive while Gyuutarou was out on a job. When he grieves over her body, he’s cut down by that same samurai, but not deeply enough, and Gyuutarou in turn kills the samurai and madam.

Gyuutarou always cursed the fact that for all of the misfortune he and Ume had to deal with, the world never once cut them a break and allowed them any good fortune. The nearest thing to providence came in the form of the former Upper Six, who gave Gyuutarou and Ume blood to drink, turning them into demons. Gyuutarou never regretted being one, but did regret that Ume could never live the life she should have. We see heartbreaking glimpses of that possible life.

Now in the void between worlds, Gyuutarou doesn’t want Ume to follow him any more, and is very mean about it, telling her to go in the opposite direction, towards the light, where perhaps she might be resurrected and have another chance at that possible life of comfort and fortune. But Ume won’t go that way. She pounces on Gyuutarou from behind and reminds him of his promise: they’d always be together. She’d rather follow him into the deepest darkness than step into the light alone.

While I’m usually not a fan of filling in character backstory after they’ve already met their fate, the postmortem backstory of Gyuutarou and Daki/Ume had ample emotional resonance, and gave this finale a quieter, calmer, yet still powerful rhythm, winding down the bombastic battle of previous weeks.

All’s well that ends well, with Uzui planning to retire and spend more time with his lovely wives, confident that Tanjirou is about to reach Hashira-worthy potential. Tanjirou, Nezuko, Inousuke, and Zenitsu also share a tearful group hug, reunited and in (mostly) one piece. Yet I’m sure Tanjirou’s joy is tempered by the “there but the grace of god go us” vibe from a brother-sister pair who weren’t as lucky as they are.

So ends the Entertainment Arc, where most other Winter shows have only hit their halfway point. What’s next for Demon Slayer? No official announcement follows end credits—an extended arrangement of the rippin’ good Aimer opening theme—but I can say with certainty the Demon Slayer anime will return (Update: it will!).

Kemono Jihen – 12 (Fin) – How to Melt a Frozen Heart

Nobimaru presses his attack on Yui, but learns he can’t even touch the nullstone without freezing and cracking his arm, as the thing literally feeds on life. Nobimaru, who is unquestionably loyal to Inari despite knowing full he’s nothing but a tool to her, allows himself a moment to stew in the knowledge that Inari knew about the damage the stone would do to him…and didn’t care.

But if Inari left him on his own to succeed or perish, Kabane won’t have it, and he steps in as Nobimaru’s flaming champion. The nullstone grabs still more power from Yui to give him an ice suit of armor, and just like that we’ve got a dazzling Ice Boy vs. Fire Lad duel. Kabane’s constantly burning and regenerating body provides some of the cooler images this vibrant series has yet offered.

Akira manages to use all the fog and steam the battle is creating to smash his ice cage and wastes no time coming between Kabane and Yui before either of them do any permanent damage. And it’s here where I must declare my undying love for any show whose MC crumbles into flaming pile of burning flesh and bones without anyone batting an eye.

Moments later, the nullstone has nearly sucked Yui’s life dry, and his own body begins to become brittle and crack. Fortunately, Kabane has regenerated enough to give Akira a hand pulling the nullstone out of Yui’s chest. Kabane then coughs up his lifestone, which merges with the other stone on contact, releasing it from Yui.

Right on cue, Inari arrives on the scene to snatch up the stone, but Inugami is right there to remind her that neither half of the stone is hers, so she an Nobimaru slink off. In yet another demonstration of empathy and fellow feeling, Kabane asks Nobimaru to go with them to the Ohana clinic where Aya can surely heal his ruined hand…only for Nobimaru to politely decline, intending to bear the wound as a warning not to get careless again.

As Yui recovers at the clinic (and Aya calculates the exorbitant bill), Kabane hangs around outside his door, waiting for him to wake up so he can ask him about his parents. Akira sees him out there and immediately apologizing for saying he hated him, which he obviously only did because he was afraid Yui would kill him. On the contrary, Akira reiterates his love for Kabane, and their little making-up dance in the hall is just precious as all get-out.

Yui eventually wakes up, and is ready to talk with Kabane, starting with the “Kemono Incidents”, a period of history forgotten by most humanity when kabane and humans were in devastating open warfare. An agreement was made to end the hostilities, and all the kabane higher-ups had stones like Kabane’s to maintain balance through the threat of force—the only way a group as fractured and ungainly as kemono could be controlled).

While this is a lot of exposition for a final episode, it provides welcome setup for a second season that, while not yet announced, seems likely due to strong manga sales and a studio that often produces sequels. It also includes Akira’s inner voice worrying about falling asleep during all this talking, which is a wonderful little moment.

As for the question of what’s to become of Yui, he’s content to shuffle off into the shadows and bear all of the horrible things he did. Akira won’t hear of it, and it takes a slap to Yui’s face to get him to listen when Akira says they’re brothers and twins and should share the burdens together. Yui is also heartened when Kabane forgives him, though the others know that’s just who Kabane is. He gives and forgives.

The gist of Yui’s stories (as well as Inugami’s contribution to the discussion) is that for Kabane’s parents to have had the lifestone meant they were either kemono chiefs themselves or found it themselves. The best way to learn more about his stone and all the others that are out there is to track down their owners, some of whom Inugami knows.

Meanwhile, Inari, in her appropriately noir-ish office at the police HQ, assures Nobimaru she’s not done trying to get her hands on either stone (now that they’re merged, which one she’d rather have is irrelevant). But she knows she can’t take from those the tanuki is protecting by force. So he tells Nobimaru to relay Kon’s next mission: to seduce Kabane and get him to give her the stone willingly.

While there’s nothing Inugami can do about that scenario, asking Kon to seduce anyone—particularly Kabane—seems doomed to failure. Neither Kon nor Kabane quite grasp the concept of love or romance quite yet, and Kabane clearly knows more since he now has more of it in his life.

But there’s no denying Kon is smitten on one level with Kabane, so it’s just as likely he’d seduce her to his side than she’d get him to give up the stone that—lest we forget—is crucial to keep him under control. As Akira goes on a trip with Yui and Shiki minds the shop, Kabane and Inugami prepare to head to Shikoku to meet the first of many stone-keepers.

Kon super-awkwardly inserts herself into their trip, and Kabane urges her to join them, which is fine with Inugami. He’s no fool, and so knows full well Inari sent Kon to try to steal the stone. But he also knows Kabane isn’t half as guileless and manipulative as he once was, and so he’ll probably do fine against Kon’s inept attempts.

The three board the shinkansen, bound for more adventures in search of answers to the mystery of Kabane’s folks. That should make for a heckuva second season, the announcement of which I eagerly await. Even if for some reason it never comes, I had a lot of fun watching this eclectic and lovable bunch of characters work through their dark pasts, and differences, grow closer as a family…and kick some monster ass together.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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