Summertime Render – 15 – Shadow and Flame

No sooner does Shinpei loop back to the kitchen does Ushio arrive with Mio to fill him in on what happened: the enemy got to Nezu and used his own sniper rifle to kill Shinpei. We also learn that the creepy vision Shin keeps having is a visualization of his situation.

The past is crumbling behind him, and should he loop back where there is no more solid ground, he’ll fall into nothingness. He figures he has one loop left, if that. If they’re going to make their stand against the Shadows, it’s now or never.

Shinpei’s plan involves using himself as bait, since Haine wants to kill him until he’s out of loops and no longer a threat to her plans. The part of Mio’s personality Shadow Mio copied can’t help but admire how cool her big brother is by doing this, but forgets that Ushio can transform into a watch.

Ushio transforms and runs with Shin in her arms as an angered Mio gives chase. The real Mio, Sou, and Tokiko block her path, with Tokiko using two Shadow Babies Ushio freed from Haine’s control for defense and offense. Hizuru gives herself over to Ryuunosuke, who takes on “Shiori’s” corrupted family and friends.

When Haine and Shide get involved in chasing after Ushio and Shinpei, Ryuunosuke takes a bullet for them, buying them enough time to regroup in the gymnasium. Back outside, Shadow Mio shows off just how graceful and diabolical she can be by merging her body into one of the babies, but ends up getting burnt by her original and shot with nails by Sou.

Back in the gym, Ushio narrowly avoids getting shot to shreds by Shide and his trusty revolver, taking the stage as Tetsu switches on the stage lights to keep Haine and Shide’s attention on her. Haine and Shide, always convinced they have the advantage, are sorely mistaken in this case.

Still floating just over them are Ushio’s hairs, which are transformed into six masses of gasoline that then fall and soak the two. Then Shinpei, who was lurking on he balcony above them, tosses a match that starts a conflagration, then brandishes a revolver of his own. It’s a very cool action movie scene.

Hell, everything in this episode is incredibly cool and cinematic. A great deal of time and effort went into the animation; clearly STR was holding a large chunk of its budget for this episode (and probably a couple of future ones). While some suspension of disbelief normal “civvies” in Shin’s group survive as long as they do, great care is taken to ensure the weaker (Shinpei, Tetsu, Sou, and Mio) are protected by the stronger (Ushio, Tokiko, Nezu and Hizuru).

Thanks to their preparation, coordination, and vast amounts of misdirection, along with exploiting the arrogance of the enemy, Ushio is on the cusp of deleting Haine…only for Haine to use Shiori’s face, voice, and tears as a psychological weapon that cause Ushio to hesitate for just a moment. In that moment, Shide, who was playing dead in the fire, shoots Shinpei in the chest several times, then grabs Ushio and pulls her into the flames.

Shide intentionally missed Shin’s vitals so that Ushio would die before he did, and all the information on the previous loops will die with her. But once again Ushio pulls a fast one on him, as the body he grabbed was just a dummy. The real Ushio, in shell pendant form, reforms into a human and stabs Shide through the heart, promising to delete him.

Shide is only saved by Haine pulling off the most impressive Shadow stunt to date: deleting all of the air in the gym, killing the fire, causing Shinpei and Tetsu to nearly asphyxiate, and blowing out all of the gym’s windows from the air outside, allowing Haine and Shide to escape.

When Ushio collapses, a distraught Shinpei rushes to her side, but she’s fine; she’s only exhausted from all the copying she did. Like Haine and Shide, Ushio laments that Shinpei has been mortally wounded by the gunshots and doesn’t have much time left, but he reveals that a homemade bulletproof vest under his shirt protected him.

At the sight of the vest and upon realizing her Shin is okay, Ushio pulls him into what must surely be a very painful (due to the bullet impacts) but also very welcome hug. It’s an incredibly sweet and moving hug, the reward for going through a literal trial-by-fire.

While Haine and Shide are still out there and sure to regain their strength soon, it’s about as good an outcome as you could ask for. None of Shinpei’s friends or family were killed, and they’ve even captured Mio, whom the real Mio says Ushio should hack so she can become one of them.

Along with Toki’s Shadow Babies, Ushio’s hacking looks to be the potentially decisive key to victory: being able to turn enough of Haine’s minions to their side so they can fight on more even terms. The only problem is time.

Vanitas no Carte – 14 – Nu au Coin du Feu

Jeanne’s complex relationship with Vanitas gains a new layer as she rescues him from dying of exposure, finds a cabin, and orders him to disrobe. The two sit by the fire together, naked under a blanket. While she’s most often disgusted by his usual arrogance and terseness, she can’t help but find this vulnerable side of him refreshing…even cute.

On the surface, nothing she does for Vanitas is with romantic or amorous intent—even feeding him water with her mouth—she’s just helping to save someone who helped her. But it’s impossible to ignore their history together thus far—all their scenes here are sexy as hell. Vanitas even tells her that they want different things: he wants to save the Beast and she’s been ordered to execute it.

That makes them foes in this enterprise, and she’d be better off letting him die. Of course, Jeanne isn’t going to do that. Instead, she tells Vanitas why she feels responsible not just for getting Vanita’s wounded by a poisoned blade, but for the whole Beast of Gevaudan affair. When she was a little girl, she met the vampire Chloé d’Apchier while left in the care of the Marquis d’Aphcier. Chloé was like a big sister and Jeanne loved her, but that no longer matters: she’s killed scores of people, and must now answer for it.

The reason Jeanne is here is that she failed the first time, but Ruthven gave her a second (and probably last) chance to do it. The next morning, when Jeanne is far more flustered than the fully-recovered Vanitas by the previous evening’s activities, she finds him speaking with Johan, and eventually Dante shows up as well. After threatening both Dhams to tell him everything about this Beast situation, he bids the four of them make haste to the castle to retrieve Noé.

Vanitas is right to worry—Noé wakes up in an unfamiliar bed with the tiny vampire lying on top of him sucking his blood. Despite Chloé being tiny, Noé is so weakened from the battle that he can barely move, leaving him completely at her mercy. If she wants another taste of his blood (and the memories it reveals—though that’s not touched upon here), there’s nothing stopping her…

Except for her attendant, Jean-Jacques, who scolds her for sucking someone’s blood without their consent while also expressing deep loathing for the owner of the other neck she bit. That said, JJ presents Noé with a safe-and-sound Murr and his freshly cleaned and mended clothes. When Noé meets Chloé and JJ in the banquet hall, they’re accompanied by a troupe of musical automatons…along with Naenia.

It addition to being its usual sexy self, this episode of Vanitas added texture to what had initially been labeled a simple mission of kill-or-save the Beast. Chloé is an intriguing potential antagonist, but despite her apparent alliance to Naenia doesn’t come off as pure evil; she was kind to Jeanne, after all.

Instead, as is typical of ancient vampires, she seems to float over everything and everyone, seeking nothing but entertainment and satisfaction out of this scenario…a balm for the ennui of the centuries.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Mushoku Tensei: Jobless Reincarnation – 14 – The Dedoldia Redemption

Rudeus begins this episode by giving us a wonderfully sarcastic tour of his not-so-luxurious, insect-infested accommodations in the Ewok demihuman village in the trees. It’s yet another gorgeous, awe-inspiring environment where he is content to sit tight and wait for rescue, but then one, two, three days pass , and he soon grows bored…and a little worried (mostly for Eris).

Did I mention he’s totally naked for the extent of his incarceration? Well, he is. But despite this, he manages to bring his new cellmate Geese to heel with the force of his confidence. Geese’s crime is a lot less severe than “attacking the Sacred Beast”. The two quickly bond, but the days still pass, and there’s no Ruijerd, no Eris, and no rescue.

Just when Rudeus is ready to burn the whole forest down, a band of smugglers end up doing it for him. He drops the helpless act, uses magic to fashion a key to escape. The smugglers are there to capture beast children to sell to the rich; Geese is not okay with this, but unlike Ruijerd, Rudy isn’t automatically inclined to help them.

For one thing, part of him is glad to see those who wrongly accused and imprisoned him getting their comeuppance. For another, getting back to Eris is paramount. But when one of the beast children captured by the leader of the smugglers—Gallus, “The Cleaner”, who also happens to be a “North Saint”—cries out for help, Rudy can’t just ignore it. With crucial assists from Geese and the Sacred Beast, he’s able to best Gallus and save the beast children…though he passes out in the process.

He comes to Dorothy-style, surrounded by friends both old and new. Eris and Ruijerd were delayed (in much the same way Gandalf was, as it wasn’t that bit of a deal for them), but now she’s heard of his heroics, Eris is as enamored of the little brat as ever. Those who captured him, now known to be members of Dedoldia Village, apologize for how he was treated.

Eris looks forward to telling her gramps of their exploits, but we cut back to her home continent, where Sauros Boreas Greyrat is relieved of command of Fittoa and summarily executed for allowing the mana disaster. Looks like returning home will only open a new can of geopolitical worms…

To Your Eternity – 10 – The Grand Gugupest Hotel

When the Enemy is about to attack Gugu, Fushi springs into action and shields his brother from the twisting branches by creating a number of spears to parry them. I guess he has learned a few things since his last battle! Gugu wants fight beside him, but is very lucky to survive when the Enemy throws him across the forest.

It may just be the still Booze Man installed in his stomach that saves him, as he proceeds to barf out all of the liquor stored there. When his torch ignites the liquor-vomit, Gugu gets an idea for how he can help Fushi, and races home. On the way, he turns completely red, drunk off the liquor that escaped the still, while Rean is about to be carried off by her helicopter parents.

Drunk Gugu is naturally a less inhibited Gugu, so he doesn’t mince words about loving Rean more than anyone, no matter to whom she’s betrothed. In any case, he’s not there to solve her family drama, but to get a refill of Booze Man’s best booze.

Pioran, the only other person to have witnessed the terrifying power of Fushi’s Enemy, insists that Booze Man do as Gugu says. The old man fills Gugu up with his strongest stuff and sends him on his way, while Pioran stops Rean’s parents from taking her and leaving…because it’s not safe out there.

Gugu, having sobered up, arrives to find the Enemy has absorbed Fushi’s Giant Bear form, and there is no sign of Fushi. But it’s soon apparent that the Enemy, essentially being made of wood, is vulnerable to fire, and Gugu has a fresh bellyful of fuel to play with.

Using his boozy fire breah, Gugu burns the Enemy to the ground, freeing Fushi, who is only flowing light and energy before transforming into a rock, his first form. When Gugu picks him up, he transforms into a wolf dog, and the two tussle mirthfully…though Fushi keeps his promise to bite Gugu if he came back!

The next morning Gugu and Fushi return to the Booze Man’s house where everyone is very confused about what happened (though Pioran probably has a pretty good idea). Gugu celebrates his return by cooking up a feast so delicious, Rean’s parents deem him better than their professional chef.

Fushi, back in the same clothes and with the same rope as the boy when he died since he “reset”, greets his maker, whom no one else can see or hear, outside. The creator tells him in order to become stronger, he cannot be sedentary, but like Rean with her parents, Fushi protests. He wants to stay. The creator tells him that’s also an option.

Back inside, Rean prepares to leave with her folks, and Gugu dispenses some precocious wisdom: The people who keep us alive aren’t necessarily good people, but we aren’t so weak that we can’t endure it. Granted, he’s had to endure a lot more than Rean, but it’s all relative!

Fast forward…four years. Gugu is no longer a pot-bellied boy, but a swole young man, having never stopped his fitness regimen. He continues to assist the Booze Man and feed him and Pioran (who still starts eating before everyone comes to the table). Rean still “runs away” from home on the regular, to see Gugu and Fushi.

And Fushi, having watched Gugu and Rean grow, has himself grown “older”; his hair growing longer and even gaining a slight stubble on his face. He also speaks a lot more naturally, which isn’t surprising considering his teachers and how long he’s been with them. The tenth episode of a planned twenty ends on Fushi’s new family happily enjoying a meal together. If only that happiness could last…

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 19 – The Unseverable Fire

Shinobu praises Zenitsu for holding out administers the antidote to the spider’s poison, Giyuu ties the injured Inosuku up for his own good, and that’s literally it for those four characters. The remaining runtime is spent exclusively on Tanjirou, Rui, and Nezuko, resulting in Demon Slayer’s finest episode to date.

After getting his head cut by Rui’s threads, Tanjirou tries to get close once again, refusing to take back what he said about Rui’s familial bonds being false. Rui reveals he is one of the Twelve Kizuki and unleashes a web of threads, forcing Nezuko to leap out of her box to shield her brother from wounds that would surely kill him.

This changes the entire complexion of the battle, as Tanjirou is no longer on his own, and now that Rui knows that Tanjirou actually does have such an unassailable bond with his sister, he carries her with him even though she’s now a demon. Naturally, Rui wants that kind of bond, but knows no way of attaining it except by stealing Nezuko.

When both Tanjirou and Nezuko protest and fight back, Rui suspends Nezuko in a web of threads that squeeze her limbs so tightly they threaten to slice her into bits, pulling tighter when she won’t settle down until she passes out.

Of course, Tanjirou can’t bear to see his sister so viciously treated—especially under the guise of Rui asserting his newly-established familial “bond” with her. Tanjirou digs deep into his Water Breathing and manages to unleash the Final Form, which is just enough to slice through Rui’s threads.

The only problem is that the threads are not at their maximum strength, and even if they were, they’re not as tough as Rui’s skin. Tanjirou simply cannot spin the water fast enough to be a considerable threat to Rui; worse, the attempt only makes Rui grow tired of the battle, and he strengthens his threads with his own blood to ensure Tanjirou will get sliced.

With Nezuko out cold and those deadly threads about to close around Tanjirou, his life flashes before his eyes, something Shinobu told Zenitsu earlier could be a person’s way of trying to find some way, any way, of delaying death by looking back on one’s life.

In Tanjirou’s case, he looks back to when he and Nezuko were happy little kids, both watching and imitating their father’s Hinokami (fire god) Kagura dance. Despite being frail, their dad was able to dance beautifully in the freezing cold thanks to a specific type of breathing which, along with his distinctive earrings, he vowed to pass to his eldest son.

Tanjirou only remembers that he has inherited Hinokami Kagura Breathing now because he has to; because otherwise death is imminent. Blue water turns to red fire which Tanjirou uses to slash away Rui’s reinforced threads on his way to the demon’s neck. However, he needs one more push, courtesy of a familial bond Rui doesn’t have, and thus could never truly defeat the Kamados.

That bond is expressed when Tanjirou and Nezuko’s mom urges the unconscious Nezuko to wake up, because she has to save her brother. In another first, Nezuko unleashes her own Blood Demon Art, “Exploding Blood”, which is exactly that. Her blood travels along the threads until it reaches Rui just as Tanjirou makes contact with his neck.

The combined powers of true loving brother and sister successfully decapitate Rui, who never knew what hit him. ufotable pulls out all of the visual and musical stops, from dad’s fluid Kagura dance to the climactic decisive strike. It all plays out like the crescendo of a full-length feature film, complete with epic orchestral score, and transitions into a unique credit sequence with images of the Kamado family united as one.

Kemono Jihen – 03 – Good Fox Girl

This week Inugami sends Kabane to the woman he spoke to at the end of last week: Police Superintendent Inari Yoko, performed by Kana-Hana in her most imperious ojou-sama voice. Inari may as well be Empress of the Police, as she has every officer in her thrall.

Shiki and Akira escort Kabane to the Shinjuku police station, but the desk officer claims not to know about their appointment. Then a blonde girl their age with a fox-ear hoodie comes for Kabane and only Kabane, then takes him to a waiting Inari, who immediately asks to see his lifestone necklace.

Once Inari has the stone, she has the girl, Kon, slice Kabane’s head off, then has police officers seal the head in a case and take the body away for disposal. When Kabane returns to the lobby with the case, Akira and Shiki sense something is off about him.

Kon, voiced by Hanamori Yumiri (who often voices maids or other dutiful characters) lives only for Inari to tell her she’s a “good girl”, disguises herself as Kabane to shoo the other boys away. But when Shiki insults her beloved Inari-sama, she drops the disguise and prepares for a fight.

Because Kon, like her mistress, is a kitsune, she can shoot fireballs from her tail, and does so…a lot. Shiki uses his silk to pull a bunch of furniture together to form a shield, then snatches the case from Kon, who’s too concerned with burning everyone and everything to keep a firm grip on it.

Shiki opens the case to reveal the real Kabane’s head, the shock of which causes Akira to faint. Kabane instructs Shiki to throw him at Kon, and he’ll deal with her. Shiki is dubious, but sure enough Kabane is able to disable the enraged fox girl with a bite to the shoulder.

With Kon out cold, the lobby returns to normal; all the fire was just an illusion. Free from the case, Kabane grows his body back from his neck down in a very cool (but far more casual) Titan-style transformation. Shiki can’t deny Kabane got the job done and saved him and Akira, and after giving him his jacket to cover up, offers his fist for Kabane to bump…which he does wrong of course.

Inari, who thinks she just pulled off a neat little theft, watches the lifestone transform into a tanuki figurine in her hand, then gets a call from Inugami, who has just picked up the kids. He’s not surprised things went down like they did, and says she owes him for her treachery. He also warns her that the lifestone is Kabane’s, and if she tries to take it again she’ll have to deal with him.

I for one like how Inari and Inugami never got into a fight, or even showed their true forms; handling things on the phone like regular humans and threatening with words is enough to maintain their territorial balance. That said, Kon didn’t get the memo, and is still wandering the streets trying to retrieve Kabane’s head for her mistress.

Kon ends up approaching the others after they have a Kabane-welcoming meal of Chinese and pancakes, only to immediately pass out from exhaustion and hunger. Inugami brings her into the agency and feeds her pizza, but at the first sight of Kabane she lunges at him with a beheading strike.

Inugami, realizing the proper way to deal with her, tells Kon that Inari wouldn’t be happy if she knew her “good girl” wasn’t minding her manners. No standing on the table, no leaving leftover food out, and no beheading hanyos. While not technically in her thrall, Kon’s daughterly devotion to Inari is absolute, and so she behaves herself.

This episode was a lot of fun, giving the three kids more time to gel in both casual and hectic situations, introducing the adorably dutiful Kon (who is a lot like Kabane) and her haughty mama figure. I like how Shiki is slowly warming to Kabane, and if Akira had a real Twitter I’d definitely follow. This is the kind of show where your protagonist gets beheaded one afternoon, but you know he’ll probably be fine and ready for pancakes that evening.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jujutsu Kaisen – 07 – Volcano Head

I’ll say this for Jougo, AKA “Volcano Head”: he’s a confident sonofabitch. Ambushing Gojou on a deserted roadin the night, he immediately engulfs him inflames, only for Gojou to emerge unscathed. Even when Jougo is sure he’s touching Gojou, he’s really only touching the “infinity” (mugen) between himself and Gojou. The closer Jougo’s hand goes into that infinity, the more that hand slows down. It’s like an invisible suit of impenetrable armor.

It’s extremely irritating to discover that not only is Gojou far stronger than Jougo imagined any human could possibly be, but Gojou has no problems whatsoever blatantly demonstrating the sheer chasm in power between them. Gojou is even able to stop by the school bunker and smuggle Yuuji out (while he’s in the middle of Lord of the Rings) so he can observe a high-level battle between a special-grade cursed spirit and the world’s strongest Jujustu sorcerer.

Jougo’s smoldering frustration is ably expressed by veteran seiyu Chiba Shigeru, as the spirit uses “Domain Expansion” to create an Innate Domain around himself, Gojou and Yuuji. Were Gojou not there, Yuuji would have probably died (again), but while the domain looks hella cool, it doesn’t do much against the sorcerer, who then easily nullifies it with his own domain, Infinite Void. He achieves this by removing his mask to reveal surpassingly piercing blue eyes.

While Jougo isn’t about to tell Gojou anything about who sent him, he’s in very real danger of being exorcised. Getou, who was watching from afar, leaves it up to the Groot-like Hanami to save Jougo, and he does so by conjuring a huge field of beautiful flowers, then grabbing Yuuji with a vine, forcing Gojou to rescue him while Jougo escapes.

Getou, Hanami, and Jougo all meet back up at what is apparently the cursed spirit boss’s beach hideout, and we meet their apparent boss, the stich-faced, odd-eyed Mahito. Jougo may be a hothead, but with cooler and more powerful heads among the baddies, Gojou and Yuuji shouldn’t rest easy. For his part, Gojou intends to personally spar with Yuuji in between movie viewings so he’s ready to dominate in the Kyoto Exchange Event.

Jujutsu Kaisen – 06 – Wax On, Wax Off

I wondered how long JK would dare go on insisting Yuuji was dead, but it turns out not long: he’s revived in the first seven minutes of this episode. Turns out he was being kept alive within Sukuna’s Innate Domain. In what is basically his mind, Sukuna lets Yuuji challenge him to a duel. If Yuuji wins, Sukuna will heal his heart without conditions.

If Sukuna wins, there will be conditions, like him being able to take over Yuuji’s body for a minute whenever he says “Extension”. One of those conditions is that upon waking up, Yuuji won’t remember what conditions he promised to. We never learn who won the duel, and Yuuji wakes up just seconds before Ieiri Shouko begins the autopsy.

Meanwhile in an unassuming Tokyo café, the sorcerer/priest guy whose name we learn is Getou continues his chat with the Curse Jougo. One of the waiters flees the café before shit goes down…and shit does go down, with Jougo sets everyone in the café on fire and leaves them to die horrible deaths…just ’cause he feels like it.

Getou estimates Jougo’s power to be equal to roughly eight or nine of Sukuna’s fingers, meaning at this point in time he’s presumably three times stronger than Sukuna!Yuuji. He also recommends the use of the special-grade cursed object, Prison Realm, to seal Gojou’s power away. Jougo takes Getou up on that.

After visiting the dead inmate’s mother and presenting her with his nametag as proof of death, Megumi joins Nobara and the upperclassmen on the school athletic field to train for close combat and other forms of battle neither of them are accustomed to. If nothing else, Maki, Inumaki and Panda seem to be doing a good job keeping the first-years too busy to be sad about Yuuji’s death.

Of course, no one knows Yuuji is alive except for Gojou, Ijichi, and Ieiri, and Gojou intends to keep it that way. He’ll train Yuuji in how to maintain cursed energy levels in preparation for the Kyoto Exchange Event, but won’t reveal that he’s still alive until he makes his appearance there. That’s not just for dramatic effect; it’s so those who “tactfully” arranged for Yuuji’s death at the detention center, including the Jujutsu brass, can’t target him again before he’s ready.

And ready is what Gojou intends to make Yuuji. Using the innovative method of spending all of his waking hours watching movies while accompanied by one of the principal’s cursed dolls, who will punch the shit out of him if he doesn’t maintain a constant stream of cursed energy—not too high or too low. Being able to maintain that stream even under duress is key for someone like Yuuji who, at least for now, doesn’t have any cursed techniques.

Gojou leaves Yuuji in his isolated bunker to train up, but in the middle of his ride home he tells Ijichi to stop and he gets out of the car. Not long thereafter he’s ambushed by Jougo, who knows he needs Gojou out of the picture if the grand plan of replacing humans as the dominant species on earth is to come to fruition.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higurashi: When They Cry – Gou – 15 – Scratch Off

After coming so close to a good ending only for a crazed Ooishi to kill everyone, Rika is buoyed by her friends to try five more loops before using the fragment of the weapon she can use to kill herself for good. I figured the loops would gradually unfold in the next few episodes. Instead, we get all but one in one go!

This new loop starts out promisingly, with Ooishi and Keiichi getting along famously over their shared love of mahjongg (stop trying to teach us mahjongg, anime!) Ooishi’s mahjong buddy also makes an appearance: Akasaka, who is introduced with a soft filter and angelic light.

Back in 1978, one of Rika’s predictions saved his wife Yukie’s life, and he’s come to return the favor. Rika asks him to stay for the entirety of the Watanagashi Festival, and he agrees. Rika is genuinely happy and hopeful about this development!

Then there’s a smash cut to her covered in stab wounds and bleeding out on a tatami mat. Akasaka is the crazy killer scratching his throat out. Even as she burns Rika laughs out loud at how whimsical fate is, puts up her hand, lowers one finger, and snaps.

The episode doesn’t bother with the lighthearted fluff; we just fast-forward directly to the killing, as Mion and Shion’s mother is this loop’s crazed slasher, and she uses her katana to behead her own daughter, vowing to erase their family’s blood for good. Rika lowers two fingers and snaps just as her shoulders are relieved of her head.

In the next loop, Kimiyoshi is the killer, and drags Rika by a rope, rows her into the middle of a swamp, and tosses her overboard with a rock to drown her as a sacrifice…but not before Rika has to endure way too much unhinged monologue and bad breath for her taste. As she sinks into the swamp, she lowers three fingers and snaps.

Just when we’re wondering what ridiulous hell-scenario Rika will end up in next, there are columns of riot police outside the cosplay cafe, where a very itchy Keiichi is bludgening everyone to death, including Rena, who can’t get him to wake up from the bad dream. Rika gets Keiichi to end her life quickly by telling him the secret to getting rid of the “maggots in his neck” is to bash her skull in and eat her brains. She lowers four fingers and snaps.

These loops have become the most unbearably hellish torture for Rika, who is trapped in the goriest version of Groundhog Day ever. It is by far the bloodiest and hardest-to-watch episode of Gou to date. Those scratching sounds…Jesus. If Rika keeps to her plan, she’ll only have one more life to endure before ending it by her own hand. But will that really work?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 09 – New Digs, New Threads

As  foreshadowed last week, Nasa doesn’t lose much when they return home to find the apartment building burned down. All his valuable paperwork and data is either at the bank or in the cloud, and he not only has renter’s insurance, but a full grasp on what’s needed to make a claim. Tsukasa marvels at how much Nasa keeps proving why she loves him so much.

It’s not just because he keeps a cool head and doesn’t express anger or regret in the face of what would be a disaster for most people. It’s that the first thing on his mind is that everyone else in the building was okay (they are). The only possession that survived was the tree commemorating their marriage, which can easily be transplanted.

When Nasa and Tsukasa head to the bathhouse to have a nice long soak and consider what’s next, Kaname ends up offering a detatched house on their property where they can stay until they find a suitable new place. Nasa thinks it’s good luck, but Tsukasa knows otherwise: by being someone so kind and well-liked, people are quick to help someone like Nasa.

Kaname does consider one potential problem: now that Nasa and Tsukasa are staying on the Arisugawa’s property, the time will come when Aya finally realizes Tsukasa isn’t just any “relation” of Nasa’s, but his wedded wife. In the end, no amount of hints can crack Aya’s Airhead A.T. Field, but Kaname and Aya’s mom just comes right out and says it.

Aya starts to go into a flashback about Nasa, her first and only love, but her mom cuts her short. As someone whose own husband cheated on her and left her for a younger woman, Aya’s mom wants her to do whatever she needs to do—cut her hair, go to school abroad (on her own dime), whatever—to get over it and move on.

Aya knows that in times of heartbreak one should hold their head high, so she does so and congratulates Nasa and Tsukasa, then considers becoming a YouTube idol…an idea quickly shot down by everyone.

Nasa and Tsukasa may be set with a new place to live for the time being, but Tsukasa did lose quite a bit of her wardrobe in the fire. That means it’s time to go to the laundromat, but the new husband and wife quickly become embarrassed over the prospect of handling one another’s…unmentionables.

They decide to go to the ‘mat together, and watch their clothes mingle in the wash together, something that’s so mundane and yet also so intimate. Tsukasa also lets slip that under her tracksuit she’s not wearing any underwear, since it’s all in the wash. Not wanting to make a big public display of affection, Nasa instead snaps a picture…and draws Tsukasa’s ire.

At the end of the day, what’s called for is a clothes shopping trip, and not to the department store’s discount clothes section, but to Harajuku, a place Nasa has neither ever been to shop. He gets to see Tsukasa try on one cute outfit after another, and even a few outfits he picks out for her, revealing his girly side.

When the time comes to buy underwear, Tsukasa initially holds Nasa’s hand, but changes her mind and deposits him on a bench, instructing him to simply not look like someone who should be arrested. When their shopping is done, Nasa makes, as Kaname calls it, another manly “move”, asking Tsukasa if, at some point, he, her husband, would be able to see her in her underwear.

She turns beet red and turns away, but doesn’t reject the request out of hand; in fact, she says he can see “as much as he wants”. Of course, that won’t be much for the foreseeable future; the two are so embarrassed by the subject being broached that they drop it immediately so they can then shop for clothes for Nasa. Still, it’s a good thing those questions are being posed. They are married, after all!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Cardcaptor Sakura – 35 – Christmas Inferno

After having the Tokyo Tower dream again—this time while in class—Sakura wakes up with Mizuki-sensei looking right at her, giving further credence to the theory that she’s the shadowy figure. But never mind that; it’s Christmastime! Since Yukito birthday is Christmas, Sakura wants to give him a nice gift. She approaches Meiling, who instinctively assumes Sakura is about to kidnap her in order to steal all of Syaoran’s cards, a scenario we watch in brilliant “MeilingVision”!

Meiling assures Sakura that if the recipient of her gift doesn’t hate or fear her, she has nothing to worry about; it’s more about the feelings behind the gift than the object itself. Buoyed by this advice, Sakura works up the courage to call Yukito fiddles with the cell phone Tomoyo gave her until Kero-chan redials Yukito. She asks if he’d go to the amusement park with her, and he accepts.

Sakura is dressed to the nines and on cloud nine as Yukito is obviously the perfect gentleman as their date commences. Unbeknownst to either of them, Tomoyo is recording their date for posterity, which is a little creepy and stalkery until you remember…hey, it’s Tomoyo. Kero-chan is with her too. Then Sakura spots Syaoran on a (forced) date with Meiling.

From there it becomes a double date, with the two couples going on various rides in various combinations. Meiling correctly deduces that Yukito is the gift recipient for whom Sakura asked her for gift advice. Meiling is glad her advice helped, but also probably relieved Sakura is busy with another guy. Touya makes an appearance as a waiter, as he works absolutely everywhere.

A bizarrely burning wreath was foreshadowing for the Clow Card-of-the-week: Fiery. By the time Syaoran and Sakura both sense the card, it’s already set little fires all over the amusement park. Syaoran uses Time to freeze all the bystanders and Sakura uses Sleep to put them all to sleep, but when she uses Windy alone it only fans the flames. Firey is true to his name, and as an elemental is the equal of Windy: any clash between them will end in a stalemate.

That means Sakura must do something rarely done by Cardcaptors: use two Clow Cards…simultaneously. While Time saps Syaoran, she’s got the magical power to summon both Windy and Waterywho quickly restrain Firey and allow Sakura to seal it. It’s a gorgeous sequence, and maybe Sakura’s most bad-ass moment yet—she doesn’t even break a sweat! In an added bonus, since Kero-chan is related to the sun, gaining Firey restores some of his powers, though he’s still stuck in plushie form for now.

With Firey all sealed up, all that’s left is for Sakura to give Yukito his birthday/Christmas gift, which she presents while they’re on a huge Ferris wheel. She ultimately decided to give him a doll…of himself…that she made by herself. You do you, Sakura! Yukito is happy for the gift, and Kero-chan makes their view a little more magical by using his power to bedazzle the night sky.

With that, Cardcaptor Sakura’s marvelous first season comes to a close. I thought Clear Card was great, but the original is some next-level shit. I can only imagine how bowled over I’d have been had I watched it when it first came out, considering how well the animation holds up in 2020. I’m very much looking forward to continuing this magical cardcapturing journey.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 17 – Miyama-ty Report

This episode considerably scales back the complexity of last week’s outing and focuses on the precognitive abilities of Miyama Shaei, and their role in transforming Kuroko into even more capable and efficient Judgment Officer.

He starts by predicting a girl falling into the water—Chisa, whom I believe injected an ampule of fertilizer into a tree last week. Where before Kuroko would not have learned of her predicament until after it happened and it was reported, thanks to Miyama’s prediction she can rescue Chisa seconds after she falls in.

One after the other, Miyama predicts mishaps and Kuroko is able to teleport in the nick of time to save the would-be victims. Be it a girlfriend with a knife, a falling sign, or bullies, Kuroko is on the scene and Getting Shit Done.

Like the previous arc where she lost her memories, it’s never not great to see Kuroko operating in fully bad-ass non-comic relief mode. Mikoto and Saten don’t even appear this week, but I didn’t miss them because Kuroko can carry an episode any time she wants.

With the combined help of Miyama’s ability and Uiharu’s handy hacker skillz, a pattern of incidents are predicted in a public park, and the imagery points to a raging fire, so the girls recruit their superior Konori Mii and other members of Judgment to lock the park down and prepare for anything.

Since Kuroko has been at the center of so many incidents with happy endings, the other Judgment members don’t bristle at the odd request. However, Miyama eventually reaches his physical limit and has to be hospitalized with blood cell damage from ability overuse.

While there, he dreams of how he was ostracized at school by popular girls lke Okawachi Megumi for having such a “creepy” ability. She changes her tune when he predicts she’ll fall victim to a mishap, and promises her he’ll try to prevent it. Of course, since this was well before he met Kuroko—the only person who can change the fates he sees—Okawachi is badly injured and curses the day she met him.

When he predicts the first and earliest of the incidents to occur in the park, it involves a stray dog with whom he is close, and starts to wonder if Okawachi is right—if bad things happen to people who know him like her and Perro—as a result of his ability, a chicken-and-egg dilemma that would be stressful for an adult, let alone a grade-schooler.

Night comes, and with them predicted raging fires, an extremely clever and complex sequence of events involving both the park’s vending machine (which may have a frayed power cable due to Mikoto having always zapped it) throwing a short that ignites dry leaves and grass and eventually causes Chisa’s ampules to violently detonate.

Of course, Kuroko, Uiharu, and Judgment don’t panic; they planned for this, and Kuroko is outfitted with both a HUD monocle and breathing tube for a sequence of quick teleports into and out of the fire, rescuing imperiled parkgoers each time. Again, I cannot underscore how much enjoyment I get out of Kuroko simply hunkering down and doing her job extremely well.

A panicked Miyama races to the park to try to rescue Perro on his own, but in his childishness (he is still just a kid after all) he wrongly assumed Judgment wouldn’t bother saving a random stray dog. Kuroko heads back into the inferno with Konori and her X-ray vision and eventually find the dog, a bit limpy but none the worse for wear. Miyama can’t help but blush and tear up, and Kuroko tells him its okay.

Later, we learn that Miyama has arranged for Okawachi to adopt Perro, and that she’s ready to apologize for how she treated him. In a chat with Kuroko, he worries his predictions will only involve those close to him, but she doubts that will be the case, since he’s like her: devoted to peace and justice for all.

She also believes that in time his power will grow to the point he can use it more often without risking his health. And when he does, she’ll be ready and willing to receive more intel so she can do some more rescuing. I love how Kuroko faces away from him to hide her blushing, no doubt a bit embarrassed she shares the same values as a little kid, while also casually mentioning a certain “champion of justice” she looks up to.

The big question last week was if and how the shared dream fad and Miyama’s mishap prediction plot would connect, and the answer comes in a very small detail at the very end: those ridiculously hazardous nutrient ampules that Chisa used? They were meant to allow the cherry blossoms to bloom year-round.

Chisa and her friends got idea to use the ampules…in a shared dream. With the additional brief mention of a “mass unconsciousness outbreak” this week, is it possible Chisa was unknowingly directed to plant explosives, or was it an innocent accident? Considering the potential for abuse of the shared dream system and the large number of troublemakers populating Academy City, I’m not ruling anything out.

Gibiate – 02 – Lights Out

Remember my comment about being able to feel the enthusiasm of the assembled talent emanating from the first episode? Yeah, that wasn’t the case this week, as Gibiate joins the list of anime I won’t be continuing this Summer. It’s a disappointing, but unavoidable cut considering its misfires.

However, things start out okay, with Kathleen recording Sensui for posterity, then sparring with him to determine his ability. He’s pretty good, and is even trained in Western swordsmanship. If only he had a more worthy opponent than the Gibia.

I also like the explanation both for Sensui and Kenroku’s RPG glow-up and Kathleen’s own cheerful attire: in such dark times, one must look as awesome as possible. This means Sensui not looks very much like a lone-wolf FF protagonist. Kenroku now rocks blue hair, making the two more discernable from a distance.

There’s also a beat where Kathleen’s mom—an Edo-period history buff, which is kinda convenient—informs Sensui how his lord and guardian ended up dying. Sensui carries the guilt of not being by his lord’s side at his end…ignoring the fact the lord sent him off into exile for his own missteps. I imagine Sensui didn’t even consider that betrayal.

Despite a relatively solid first half involving character interactions in the light, Kathleen and Senroku mostly remain ciphers while Sensui is your typical stoic honorable samurai. Then the lights of the camp go out and all hell breaks loose…and unfortunately not in a good way.

First, the ease of the Gibia’s attack calls into question how this camp even survived as long as it did. This night doesn’t seem any different than previous nights other than the fact Sensui and Senroku have joined the survivors, so I guess that’s when the plot decides it’s time to expose the camp’s many many logistical and tactical flaws.

“No backup lights or power” is pretty egregious. “Guards firing off all their ammo in all directions” is another. The supposedly brilliant Yoshinaga deciding to burn the camp to create light that will repel the Gibia, only for fire to be too dim to make any difference. Of course, all of this is overridden by an unavoidably fatal flaw: the Gibia designs and CGI is embarrassingly horrible.

This camp looks utterly doomed if it wasn’t for Sensui stepping up with the katana Maeda finally gets to him, but only after the old man suffers wounds we know will eventually turn him into a Gibia. When there’s a Gibia with armor too thick, Senroku tosses a grenade at it. Oddly, the blast disables the Gibia but doesn’t hurt Sensui—who was standing right there.

The Gibia attack that must have claimed at least a quarter of the already fewer than 100 survivors. And yet only one person gets a hero’s sendoff, complete with cheesy Casino keyboard music: Maeda, who we barely knew. There’s no accounting for how many others were lost or whether this whole camp thing can continue.

There’s also the little matter of Gibia being a virus, and that by slashing them left and right like a crazed banshee, Sensui gets their blood and guts and other fluids all over the damn place. Isn’t that, like, a problem? Never mind; this episode has killed by enthusiasm for continuing with Gibiate. Which is a shame, because the first episode had so much potential.

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