Summertime Render – 25 (Fin) – Good Karma

After all the trials, blood, death, loss and increasingly complicated “rules” of the Shadows that Shinpei has endured, it all culminates in a hard reset to the beginning, with him on that boat with Hizuru. From her perspective, they’ve never met, but she’s clearly intrigued (and a little disturbed) that he somehow knows her pen name.

When Shinpei arrives on the pier, he feels a sense of deja vu. When Mio comes streaming towards him on her bike, he instinctively prepares to catch her…but her brakes work fine. Mio’s fine, as are Tokiko and Sou. Shinpei knows he felt worried about them, but doesn’t quite know why; they’re understandably confused and a little hurt by him saying this!

And then there’s Ushio, who remains very much alive, because a Shadow never copied and replaced her. In this timeline there are no Shadows, and never were. He was brought back to the island by a voicemail from Ushio, which he somehow could sense had the same sense of uncanny worry he himself was experiencing.

He stops by the Kobayakawa konbini, which Shiori is minding (and yelling at the other kids to shut the dang ice cream chest). It’s just good to see her not as an instrument of dismemberment and death, ya know? She also says Ushio has been talking about him for a while now, insisting he was coming this year. The kids also note that the upcoming festival is lining up with “Haine’s” birthday.

After visiting the shrine, where an elderly (and not unnaturally youthful or evil) Karakiri is passing the role of fire-lighter to his son Yamato, Shinpei heads to the beach, where Ushio happens to be standing in a long white dress, looking lonely. When she spots him, Shinpei promptly apologizes for how he suddenly left the island.

Ushio admits that she too didn’t handle things right, and that the voicemail she sent was sent because she was suddenly desperately worried about him. Their making-up session is capped off by Shinpei fortuitously spotting her lost shell pendant in the sand. Ushio lets him tenderly tie it around her neck. All is well with the two now; water under the bridge.

At the Kofunes’ café, which is not Shinpei’s home and never was, since his parents are still alive, he discusses his “dream” with Hizuru, who is the only one on the island weird enough to think there might be something to it, like a shared memory of the island or memories from parallel worlds (in truth, it’s a little of both).

It’s here where we meet Haine, who is a grown Ryuunosuke’s daughter and friends with Shiori. Mio comes down in her yukata and Ushio in her portable shrine garb, and the whole gang poses for a photo. Many among the group throw up peace signs, but they could also be victory signs.

That night at the festival, Hizuru is typing up a storm while laughing creepily and stuffing rice into her maw; Shinpei’s regaling of his “dreams” have cleared her writer’s block; we see her writing a novel called Summertime Render. Sou works up the nerve to confess to Mio—again—while Toki watches from the shadows. This time, Mio doesn’t automatically say no?

Shinpei meets Ushio on the beach with the takoyaki she ordered him to bring. When she sees he only brought two trays for the two of them, she recalls a promise he made when they were trying to “get through the little gap in the hospital”—something that might not have even happened in this world. They recite the promise in unison, that he’d “buy her 10 or even 100 pieces”, and a galaxy of fireworks erupt around them.

Whether in that moment they suddenly remember everything they went through to get to this time and place, or they’re simply glad they’re together again after two years in this timeline, they lean into one another in elation and relief. After lifting a three hundred year curse, they goshdarn earned a happy ending as a reward. They deserve it, and I couldn’t be happier that they got it.

Lycoris Recoil – 13 (Fin) – Deciding for Themselves

Chisato ends up alone with Majima at the top of the Enkuboku for a final round. Majima makes things even more interesting by activating a 60-minute timer on a bomb that will presumably bring the tower down. Why Chisato doesn’t just repeatedly shoot Majima right next to his ears is unclear, but the duel that ensues is pretty evenly matched.

Meanwhile, the power goes out on the whole tower to ensure no hackers, friend or foe, will be able to interfere with Majima and Chiato’s fight. The elevator still has aux power, so Fuki heads down with a seriously injured Sakura while Takina asks her to let her climb back up to help Chisato. Fuki decides that she and Takina should get to decide what they want to do for once.

After pulling off a particularly tricky acrobatic move on Majima, Chisato suddenly finds her artificial heart starting to give out. Majima, who may be a jerk, has no interest in fighting her in this state, so he shoots open a vending machine, offers her a juice and the two have a short break. Chisato want him to stop the clock, but he won’t.

Whither Mr. Yoshi? Helped along by Himegama, he continues his retreat, but is confronted by Mika, who actually doesn’t have a bum leg. Himagama charges him, but he wallops her with his cane, then riddles her with non-lethal bullets. Left unprotected, Mika has come for Yoshi’s briefcase, to tell him it’s time to let the kids make their own choices, then kills the man he clearly never really stopped loving.

After engaging it some philosophical sparring regarding who is the hero, who is the villain, and what constitutes a properly-lived life (Majima is resolved to restore “balance”, Chisato is fine with the status quo) their fight resumes. Chisato is feeling better but still far from 100%, and the clock is still ticking.

Eventually one of Majima’s many bullets grazes Chisato, and she goes down. Majima steps on her and prepares to shoot her, but just then Takina appears, and Chisato uses the moment of distraction to pull Majima head-over-heels.

The two hit the glass, which cracks and then shatters (in reality, glass in a tower like this would be several inches thick, like that in the CN Tower, but whatever); the two begin to fall. We don’t see what becomes of Majima, which means he’s clearly not dead, while Takina ensnares Chisato with her restraining wire.

The phone countdown hits zero, and the “punishment explosion” turns out to be a massive fireworks display, which was likely meant to cap off the Enkuboku opening anyway. Majima, while likely not dead, is at least out of their hair for the time being, and both Takina and Chisato are alive.

In the first of two epilogues, Sakura has made a full recovery and is back to her exuberant, poop parfait-lovin’ self, Fuki is still meekly deferent to Mika, and life at LycoReco has returned to normal,  except that Chisato has not been around, while Takina is out on a job.

That job turns out to be traveling to Miyako to find Chisato, but the mission is first portrayed as her tracking down and eliminating a target. The two end up trading gunfire in the forest and then shooting each other with restraining wire, and when they realize they’re…each other, they hop into each other with joy (while also scolding each other for coming at each other so hot).

Takina explains to Chisato how a regular café patron happened to capture Chisato in the background of a photo of her and her boyfriend, and so even with no internet or cameras, they were able to find her. Takina also notes that she’s glad Chisato is alive and well.

Chisato actually slipped out of the hospital and traveled to Miyako not sure about the nature of the operation she underwent. Turns out Mr. Yoshi was lying; the heart wasn’t in his chest, but in the briefcase. Now that it’s in Chisato’s chest, she’s going to live a long, healthy life.

The scenes at the seaside café and then on the beach are some of the most richly-colored and beautiful of the series, and really lend a lovely gravitas to what these two have been through…and what they mean to each other. When asked what she should do with the extra life she’s been given, Takina proposes she do something she’s always wanted to.

That brings us to the bonus epilogue: LycoReco Hawaii! No doubt thanks to Kurumi’s skills, the whole gang is able to travel to the states and set up a café truck by the ocean. Everyone seems to be doing their part and having fun, and we also learn their side hustle of helping people out is still going on as well, only now in adorable Hawaiian garb.

It’s a cute and satisfying all’s-well-that-ends-well ending. Sure, there are still a lot of guns still in Tokyo, and a heavily-bandaged Majima out there egging people. The moral quandary that is Lycoris and the DA is still hanging out there too.

But Chisato and Takina are where they want to be, doing what they want to do. They who were tools for the adults are now free to live their lives how they see fit. For that reason alone, I can walk away from this show with a smile.

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 12 (Fin) – Weaving a New Tale

As predicted, Yume knocks it out of the park with her festival yukata and hair, but it’s her who wants a picture of Mizuto in his the second she sees it. Instead, he snaps a pic of her, and happens to know her phone’s password.

In her thoughts, Yume admits to feeling considerably lighter after having a good cathartic cry. Now she can hold hands with her stepbrother without embarrassment, and mimics Madoka’s treatment of Chikuma by helping “steady” Mizuto during the shooting game.

Just when the fireworks are about to start, Mizuto disappears, something Madoka says he always does around this time. All of his relatives have told her to make sure to look after him, like he wouldn’t be able to “survive” without someone watching over him. But as she volunteers to go find him, Yume celebrates how she’s been able to see all these new facts of Mizuto since becoming family.

When they were merely in puppy love and dating, she idolized and glorified him, projecting her ideal of a BoyfriendTM without looking deeper. Meanwhile, while sitting alone at a shrine, Mizuto muses about how he considered the world of books to be the true reality, and the outside world a mere illusion.

The first thing in the world that felt real was Ayai Yume, who was also the first person to evoke the same sentiment everyone had for him: that he would not survive if left alone. That’s why Ayai Yume still occupies that “slot” in his heart that even Isana could never hope to replace.

Yume finds Mizuto at the shrine, and the two have the mother of all passive-aggressive verbal duels with one another, all the while happy they were on the same wavelength. She recounts the phone call they had that he ended abruptly, and she gathered that he called her from this very shrine.

Yume also gathered that Mizuto knew her phone code because it’s 1027, the day of their first kiss, a day they both remember with fondness. Then Yume asks Mizuto why he went out with her, and he says it really just amounted to her finding a seat next to his in a game of musical chairs.

Sitting side by side as the fireworks begin—the fireworks they never got to see together until now—what initially stirred in Mizuto towards Yume stirs again. A tear falls down his cheek before Yume takes his face in her hands and kisses him.

It’s her second first kiss, and with it comes a vow that she, Irido Yume, will eventually win him over, defeating Ayai Yume for that single slot in his heart. The next morning, and then back at school, the two are back to their playfully adversarial selves.

The happiness of the past will never leave either of them, etched into their souls as it is, and they will never feel that particular novel happiness ever again. But that doesn’t matter, because now that they’re both a little older, wiser, honest, and clear-eyed they can now achieve a new happiness; weave a new tale together.

The Devil is a Part Timer!! – S2 E05 – Change of Scenery

After last week’s huge battle, you’d think a laid back rest episode would be in order…right? WRONG! On the very same day, Maou learns he’ll be without a job as their MgRonald is closing for two weeks to be remodeled (though apparently not with those horrid self-service kiosks that sap vital jobs!) and that he’ll be without the Devil’s Castle for the same period of time due to the need for repairs.

Even worse, Maou would have known about this much earlier, but he was too distracted by the potential of having lost Alas Ramus forever that he paid no attention to the warnings about these changes. That said, his globetrotting landlady sent him a mysterious package wrapped like a mummy, which only Emi has the balls to open, revealing…a VHS tape??

Chiho’s family still has a functioning VCR, so she invites Emi and Maou to her place to watch the video. In so doing, she can’t avoid having her mother finally meet Maou, on whom she’s well aware her daughter has a crush. The video is of the Landlady telling Maou about an opportunity to work for room and board at her relative’s beach shack in Choshi City, Chiba.

Maou calls the number on the video, and by the end of the call he’s got himself a job, as well as Ashiya and Urushihara. Maou returns home with the good news, while Chiho’s mom can tell that Chiho is worried about Maou leaving her behind. She tells Chiho that she can do as she pleases as long as she does things “the proper way”.

Chiho, who knows all about the ongoing feud between Maou and Emi, would prefer that all her friends got along. That said, she also wants to be useful to Maou, even if she can’t fight like Emi or Suzuno. She calls her mom and is granted permission to go to Choshi…with Emi and Suzuno, on a girls’ trip.

Emi and Suzuno are all too happy to go along with the pretense, as they were as uneasy as Chiho about the status quo changing. After a ride on a charmingly retro train, they arrive at Choshi and are picked up by the Landlady’s relatve, Ohguro Amane.

When they arrive at the beach shack, it is in horrendous condition after an off-season, which suddenly turns right the ef back on tomorrow. Needless to say, she’s in a bit of a pickle, and Maou, Ashiya, and whatever manual labor they can get out of Urushihara may not be enough.

Demonstrating that at the end of the day they’re both angels, Emi and Chi-chan pitch in to bring the shack back into presentable professional condition. Maou impresses Amane with his ability to organize and delegate tasks, a product of both his past as an overlord and his experiene at MgRonald.

Emi purchases supplies needed at cut-rate prices, Chiho polishes the beer taps, and Urushihara removes the foam from the stools so they’re more inviting. Even Suzuno, who serves ostensibly as Alas Ramus’ babysitter during the cleaning, reveals a heretofore unknown-to-Maou talent of building perfect elaborate Japanese sand castles, which he knows will be a draw for customers.

Working together as a unit, the denizens of both Heaven and Hell manage to restore Ohguro’s to peak beach season condition, while Maou secured a bonus from Amane if he could fill the shack to full capacity. That night the group kicks back with fireworks on the beach, but are suddenly unnerved by the foghorn of the nearby lighthoue, along with strange lights on the ocean horizon.

Amane tells them the story of dead sailors creating those lights in hope of making “new ghost friends”, but considering the presence of Maou, Emi, and Alas Ramus, the fog that suddenly rolls in could also spell additional trouble for our pals.

That said, this was a fun outing that shook up the status quo. Unfortunately, it loses a half-star for being distractingly janky-looking throughout its runtime. I honestly don’t remember the first season’s animation being so rough…fortunately, I love these characters enough to mostly overlook it.

A Couple of Cuckoos – 15 – Alliance of the Engaged

This episode sidesteps the cliffhanger of Hiro wanting to know why both Nagi and Erika called Sachi their sister, and for most of its running time focuses primarily on Nagi and Erika’s time together at the festival, which was encouraged by Nagi’s parents.

Erika’s never experienced a festival like this, and while she tries to pay for goldfish scooping with a credit card (even though she actually has a wad of cash!) it’s clear she’s having hella fun. Even if Nagi would rather be having this date with Hiro, he can’t deny he’s having fun too.

Of course, they’re not having this festival date in a vacuum. Sachi’s friends tease her for having a brother complex, since they peg Nagi as a drab studyholic (pretty close to the mark!). Erika’s InstaStans also notice her at the festival and try to chat her up again.

Nagi doesn’t want to cause a scene by beating them up again, so he grabs Erika and runs until they lose their pursuers. They happen to stop on a pedestrian bridge with a perfect view of the festival fireworks, another first for Erika.

That’s when Hiro shows up, having finally finished the work her family had her doing. She again broaches the topic of them both saying Sachi was their sister, so they take her to a family restaurant to sit her down and tell her the truth: that they were switched at birth, and that they’re now engaged.

Erika worried Hiro would hate them if they told the truth, but Nagi knows her a little better and knows Hiro wouldn’t be like that, and so she isn’t. In fact, as she’s “engaged” herself thanks to pushy parents, she feels a kinship to the two of them. If anything, they’re now closer than ever thanks to this new knowledge.

When Erika suddenly rushes off to buy a gift for Sachi at the festival like she promised, Nagi offers to walk Hiro home, but she says she’ll be fine, and they part ways for the evening…or so Nagi thinks. No sooner does he turn his back than Hiro grabs his sleeve and solemnly tells him: “No more secrets.” With the look Hiro has in her eyes, Nagi can only promise this.

Sachi happens to watch this scene unfold, and suffice it to say she’s not a fan of it. Her brother being engaged to Erika is one thing; Erika is her blood sister, and her parents arranged it. But Nagi being all lovey-dovey with this third girl? That’s something that sticks in Sachi’s craw. That sad, Erika loves Hiro too, so there’s no easy answers for how to simplify or untangle this romantic web.

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 08 – Esteem in the Bloodstream

Toubaru-sensei has taken note of the supreme squeeness of AhaRaidou and its deleterious effects on her health, which is why she’s made a habit of imagining the pair in all manner of adorable romantic situations while safe in her bed at night. Unfortunately, the real thing proves far more esteemed than she could imagine, as she watches the “nuclear esteemed family” dynamic of the two plus Ooshiro play out on the rooftop.

It is fortunate that Toubaru’s, or should I say Momo’s friend and fellow teacher Miyahara-sensei is well-equipped to deal with her reactions to the pure innocent romance she watches unfold. That night, she tries to imagine ever more ludicrous scenarios (with Aharen and Raidou’s characters changing completely) and almost bleeds to death in her sleep. Thankfully Miyahara had a spare key!

Ishikawa and Satou may not be the most dynamic side characters (honestly they’re bland as wallpaper paste, and probably intentionally so to serve as amiable straight men. But one thing they do do is give Aharen and Raidou an opportunity to go to a festival together, so they’re not all bad! Aharen looks appropriately angelic in her yukata.

She’s also appropriately ravenous, visiting every food stall and spending all her money before Raidou can finish explaining his grand strategic plan for “winning the festival”. Meanwhile, Toubaru and Miyahara-sensei also attend the festival, and Toubarou proceeds to lose a lot of blood for the second day in a row.

Otherwise it’s a perfect evening for our main couple, until it’s not; Raidou not only loses his phone, but Aharen, as Futaba ended up holding his hand believing him to be her dad. After taking Futaba to the lost child desk and reuniting her with said dad (after which she properly expresses her gratitude for once) the gods smile on our couple, as Aharen appears right beside him at that very lost child desk (naturally, the guy assigned to the desk assumes Raidou is her guardian.

Aharen is so happy and relieved to see Raidou, she sheds a tear. After all this dilly-dallying though, the two have to book it to get a good fireworks viewing spot. Ultimately, any spot is good for the nearly 2-meter-tall Raidou. When Aharen can’t see due to being small, he hoists her onto his shoulders, and she experiences a whole new world.

Later, after he daintily repairs her broken sandal strap, he offers his hand so they can go find the others. She hesitates, but ultimately takes it and proceeds to blush profusely. She’s grabbed him so many times, but in this time and place, it feels different. If the show is serious about progressing these feelings further, I’m looking forward to watching it happen…while making sure I’m more prepared than Toubaru-sensei was this week!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shikimori’s Not Just a Cutie – 06 – There’s Always This Year

Izumi is still recovering from the sunburn he incurred at the river, but he’s still not missing the fireworks festival for the world. Shikimori says yes before he can even ask her to join him, and to his credit he doesn’t invite their other friends; this is a Capital-D date. Turns out Shikimori gets a little tangled up with her obi, but her brother helps her out. It’s a side of her we don’t often see.

Izumi comes fully prepared for a number of potential mishaps (including three separate wallets!) but nothing goes wrong as he gets to behold Shikimori in all her majestic pink glory. They take in the sights, and Izumi gets some cotton candy. It’s a bit too sweet for Shikimori, but she’s come around on sweet things since she and Izumi started dating.

When Izumi tries and fails to win a wolf plushie for Shikimori, she takes the rifle and vows to give it a try, engendering a chuckle from the attendant. She quickly avails him of his sexist belief by flashing the eyes of a huntress and shooting not only the wolf but everything else on the shelves. Her serious look is followed up by one of her biggest, sweetest smiles.

After spending a bit (but not too much) time with Neko, Inu, and Yui, misfortune strikes, but it’s Shikimori, not Izumi, on the receiving end: the strap of her sandal breaks. Izumi is able to fix it, but her feet end up covered in blisters. Izumi admits he wanted to take her somewhere special to view the fireworks, but it’s a bit of a walk and he doesn’t want her walking anymore. So he stoops down and tells her to hop on his back.

That’s right: Izumi may not look it but he’s pretty strong; certainly strong enough to carry his squeeze the required distance to the secluded spot. Shikimori is initially worried she’ll “snap him in two”, but she’s not as heavy as she thinks, nor is Izumi as weak as she thought. It’s a wonderful reversal for a show that so far has Shikimori providing most of the muscle. Izumi is unlucky, but not inept, and quite capable when it counts.

Sure enough, they’re all alone up at the top of the shrine grounds, and have a seat at a bench perfectly positioned for viewing the remainder of the fireworks. Shikimori has never seen them live, and Izumi admits that last year he was to scared to ask her to see them.

They were just friends at the time, and he was worried it would ruin what they had. Turns out Shikimori was waiting that whole night for him to call and invite her! But it doesn’t matter whether they didn’t go together last year. They’re there now, together, and they’ll be back next year.

As for the long walk back down those steps, Izumi doesn’t get far without slipping and falling with Shikimori on his back. Fortunately, his very stealthy dad swoops in Shikimori-style to save them both. Turns out Izumi’s folks came to the same spot to view the fireworks, and were sitting on a blanket just behind the lovebirds. Izumi’s dad was once strong enough to carry four people according to his mom, so he and Shikimori are no problem.

All in all, it’s another solid, sweet outing for our purple-and-pink-haired power duo. I feel an opportunity was missed for a kiss, or transition to a first-name-basis, but it was otherwise such a lovely time I really didn’t mind.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Love After World Domination – 06 – Beauty and the Beach

Summer’s here, and Desumi wants to do summer dating stuff with Fudou. Fudou’s completely on board, but doesn’t know if he can handle Desumi in a swimsuit (even though her villainess uniform is basically occult lingerie). But if anyone can arrange it so their respective teams have a battle on the beach, it’s these two.

Back at Gekko’s cafeteria (which I stress is not an evil cafeteria, just a regular cafeteria…which is great) We get more of Beast Princess and Desumi interacting, which is never not fun times. Beast is basically an earlier version of Desumi before she found love, but while Beast thinks Desumi should mind her evil image, she also seems to idolize her from afar.

That said, they’re both the same rank of Princess, which is below the boss-level Monster rank (Culverin Bear is technically Desumi’s boss). So it comes as a great and sudden shock when Bosslar gathers both ranks together to announce the creation of a new unit: one that will be lead by Desumi once she undergoes genetic merging with a Mountain Gorilla. She’s being promited to Monster…and all Monsters were once humans.

The downright strange ramifications of these are too simply much to go into in this brief recap, but suffice it to say I love how the show went there, and simultaneously treats it as a goofy joke and also deadly serious when it comes to Desumi. We also go in-depth into her family life as they call to congratulate her. But Desumi doesn’t want to be a monster. She wants to be a girl…Fudou’s girl.

All it takes is answering her phone in her native Hakata dialect for Fudou to sense something’s up, and like the Perfect Boyfriend he is, rushes right over to meet her on her roof. She asks him what he thinks she should do, but he tells her it doesn’t matter; she should do what she wants. He’s been with her long enough to know that while there’s no one kinder than her, she needs to turn that kindness inward more.

Desumi doesn’t want to be irrevocably transformed into an eldritch abomination, and never did, so she turns it down. Instead, she informs Bear that she got a tip (from Fudou) that Gelato would be doing test runs in part of the tokusatsu mech Gelato Robo. The Bear, Steel, and Beast and their underlings thus don beachwear and stake the place out. On the Robo Submarine, Misaki and Haru are also in a beachy mood.

In a brilliant sequence of misunderstandings about what she’s watching, Beast, whose real name is Majima Kiki, witnesses Desumi emerge from their hiding spot to take Red Gelato on, bury him in the sand to torture him (actually just for fun), smash his head in (actually a watermelon), and infiltrate the enemy (going to say Hi to Haru and meet Misaki). Because she’s not wearing her usual getup, no one knows she’s Reaper Princess.

Instead, Misaki simply realizes the truth: whoever this Desumi is, she and Fudou are dating, and she’s made Fudou a better and more open person. It’s probably the first time Desumi has been told she’s had a positive impact on Fudou, since she is usually fixated on the positive impact he’s had on her.

After some barbecue, fireworks, and sparklers, Big Gelato prepares to fire the big finale, but accidentally closes one of the missile hatches. Kiki, who had been being chased by Blue Gelato (who is apparently a cad) the whole time, witnesses the resulting explosion just as Desumi is rejoining her, laughing the whole time.

Of course, Kiki mistakes Reaper’s giddy laughter over what a fun day at the beach she’s had as sadistic pleasure in the wake of the destruction of the Gelato submarine. Desumi’s true superpower seems to be tremendously good luck, such that she doesn’t even have to hide how she acts and feels; her comrades will simply assume something else entirely.

Summertime Render – 04 – Ushio Deux

Last week Shinpei encountered Ushio on the beach, dramatically backlit by the festival fireworks. But it’s only this week that she says anything, and actually tackles Shinpei. Nagase Anna has such a refreshing voice that’s perfect for Ushio: crisp, clear, and full of exuberance.

Considering his previous encounters with doppelgangers of people he knows, Shin is understandably weary, as this Ushio must be a shadow. But she’s different from the others. For one thing, she’s not evil. For another, she doesn’t know she’s a shadow (or what a shadow is). As far as she’s concerned, she’s just Ushio. She wished for Shin to return, and he did, so she wastes no time confessing to him.

Shin still doesn’t fully trust this Ushio, but she’s talking and acting so much like Ushio, it’s a complete trip. When she runs off and joins the festival—still in her swimsuit—he chases her down, takes her to a quiet storage area and insists she stay put, lest someone see her and wig out. Incidentally, the only person we see spot her is Shadow Mio.

Shinpei gets back to the gang in time to join Tokiko in witnesseing Seidou totally crashing and burning in his sudden confession to Mio. Tokiko knows full well who Mio really loves, and that her brother is doomed to fail. Mio friendzones Seidou so fast his head spins.

That’s when he’s comforted…not by Shin or Toki, but but someone wearing a magical girl mask. Everyone instantly recognizes Ushio’s voice, and thus she’s found out even faster than Seidou was rejected by Mio. But when Mio sees Ushio, she naturally wigs out…because this Ushio is a monster…or is she?

For the moment, no; Ushio remains a compelling enigma: a shadow somehow gone wrong. When Shin first takes hold of her, I assumed he was going to scold her or lead her back to her hiding spot. But then he grabs her so hard it hurts her, and even causes her to bleed, and that’s when the shoe drops: this isn’t Shinpei.

But wait, when Shin returned, Mio said the code word and he gave the right response, right? Right; but as we see, Shin is jumped by Shadow Mio on his way back to his friends, and Shadow Shin updates his memories. Not only does he know his code with Mio, but now the shadows know he’s experiencing time loops. Shadow Shin’s solution to that? Don’t kill him…at least not until “everything is done”.

Shadow Mio obeys Shadow Shin, who heads to Shin’s friends. Regular Shin may be badly hurt, but even when Mio breaks his arm, he keeps trying to crawl to the real Mio to keep his promise to protect her. Shadow Mio is about to break his leg as well when her head is blown off by two shotgun blasts from none other than the woman on the Ferry.

The engaging mystery of “New Ushio” and her lived-in rapport with Shin combined with the added suspense and peril of the evil shadows and one hell of a switcheroo return Summertime Render to rare rating air.

My Senpai is Annoying – 09 – Once More Unto the Beach

Futaba initially thought she’d be going on a trip to the beach with just Sakurai and her brother Yuuto, but Sakurai also invites Kazama (of course), Takeda, and Natsumi to make things more “fun”…which is to say, more interesting. What results is the two core couples having a blast together, with the added thrill of showing more skin.

As expected, Takeda is a mountain carved out of granite, but it’s to the show’s credit Futaba doesn’t show up in a school one-piece, but a cute polka-dot halter/skirt combo. While towing her really far from the shore, then teaching her to swim, Takeda makes it clear her outer characteristics aren’t as important to him as how hard-working and kind she is on the inside. At the same time, he says she looks cute.

After a day working up an appetite on the beach, the group heads to the inn for a sumptuous feast where Futaba fills Takeda’s oft-empty rice bowl, but shushes him when he talks about Futaba’s cooking. Clearly, he availed himself of her offer to make him Hamburger Steak. Meanwhile, fifth wheel Natsumi keeps herself entertained by watching Futaba and Takeda get along and making sure Yuuto, the only kid there, gets some attention.

That night, after fireworks, Sakurai and Natsumi try to get Futaba to admit that things are “going well” with Takeda, considering how close they are, but Futaba, embarrassed, just wants to sleep. Meanwhile their room is close enough to the guys’ that Kazama can hear them, and between that and Takeda’s snoring, doesn’t get any sleep. That morning, he and Futaba eavesdrop on Takeda and Sakurai talking about them in a way that makes their ears red.

On their last day on the beach, Kazama is too fatigued for more activities, so Sakurai stays with him under the umbrella, then suggests they head to a konbini for drinks. She also picks up an ice cream, and when it reminds Kazama of old times, she offers him a sip, which is really offering him an indirect kiss. He declines, but Sakurai, knowing Kazama well, had a second ice cream just for him.

As the sun gets low, Takeda and Futaba end up tiring themselves out to the point the latter is curled up on the arm of the former, giving their friends an opportunity to document with photos how close they truly are. Those photos probably aren’t 100% okay with the HR department, but then again they aren’t in the workplace. Besides, Sakurai and Kazama don’t mean any harm. They’re happy to see their co-workers happy.

The next morning back at work, Futaba is embarrassed to reveal how tanned she got at the beach, having previously been accustomed to being shaded by her gramps’ umbrella. When Takeda arrives just as tanned, it confirms to the whole office that these two had a lot of fun together on their summer break. That said, with both Takeda and Futaba intent on maintaining that they’re merely “senpai and kohai”, who knows if anything further will come of it than what we’ve got…which really isn’t so bad!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

86 – 08 – We Weren’t Ready

A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it.—Kay, Men In Black

The Alba are right: the Eighty Six aren’t human. They’re better than that. The humans who populate the serene Republic of San Magnolia blindly accept the government’s policy of ethnic cleansing as the cost of peace, order, and harmony. Lena, like the Eighty Six, knows there’s a wrong, but isn’t prepared to do more wrong to right it.

It’s why when Lena discovers the orders basically sentencing what’s left of Spearhead to their almost certain deaths, she wants to rescind them. Annette pulls her out of the records room for some tea and biscuits, but when Lena once again says it’s wrong not to try to do anything, all of the simmering resentment within Annette finally comes to a caustic boil.

Annette isn’t merely “pretending” to be a bad person; she’s fully embraced the role, heart and soul. She doesn’t need an excuse to do nothing; her inaction has already caused the death of her former neighbor and friend (who it’s pretty clear from the suspenders was none other than Nouzen Shinei) while her research is built upon the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of Eighty Six.

Like the vast majority of people would in such a situation, Annette chose not to fight a force that could not be beaten, but to join them. Even though her father committed suicide after the suffering he caused developing the Para-Raid, Annette carried on his work. She might’ve scared herself when she first called her friend a “filthy colored” like her classmates did, but that fear soon dissipated into acceptance.

After everything she’s been through and done in the name of not being able to do anything else, Annette doesn’t want to hear one more idealistic word out of Lena’s mouth. After all, the Para-Raid that enables Lena to speak to Shin and the other members of Spearhead was the product of involuntary human experimentation and state-sanctioned suffering. So is her comfy bed, her crisp uniform, her tasty coffee and sweets. It’s all tainted by evil.

Annette tells Lena she hates her and never wants to see her again. I mean, we already new full well Annette wouldn’t join any potential crusade against injustice Lena might concoct, but this really twists the knife, as Lena doesn’t even have a pretend friend in the capital in which to confide.

When she confronts her uncle before the statue of San Magnolia, he tells her the orders sending Spearhead to their deaths cant be recinded because it is the will of the republic that evry Eighty Six not only die, but be forgotten and erased from having ever existed. The only way San Magnolia will avoid becoming a pariah state after the war is if the atrocities they committed against the Eighty Six never come to light.

When Lena begs her uncle to remember the spirit of Saint Magnolia, he tells her their republic was never anything other than a country full of fools and villains who executed Magnolia for their wealth and greed. She says that’s just his despair talking, but he doesn’t consider his despair any different from her hope.

If Lena werent already having one of the worst days of her life, Shin also bids her farewell, fully accepting his suicide mission. Lena deduces he’s going after his brother, but Shin doens’t want her to hear his last words. Instead, he warns her that once the Shepherd is destroyed, the Legion is temporarily thrown into chaos, .

He urges her to head for the Eastern border, where she won’t hear the Legion’s voices and go mad. He and the others will buy her some time. With that, he signs off, for what seems like the last time. Now all Lena has is her tears.

With Lena left very much at rock bottom, we return to Spearhead, now only five strong: Kurena, Anju, Theo, Raiden, and Shin. They clean up their barracks, polish up their Juggernauts, have a final meal, and then set off on their deep recon mission with their heads held high.

As we’ve learned, they’re not just doing this because the alternative is summary execution. They’re doing it for their fallen comrades, and because just because they were always called pigs doesn’t mean they’ll become them. There’s a biting sense of inescapable dread and crushing unfairness to their scenes. More than anything, they feel like five kids who shouldn’t have to be anywhere near a battlefield.

Post-credits, we get one more taste of despair in the absence of anything else, in the form of the complete flashback of Shourei choking Shinei. He had been barely keeping it together before that point, crushed by his powerlessness to do anything about the loss of his parents. In a moment of weakness, he let himself blame Shinei for everything, and nearly killing him until someone pulls them apart.

A roboticized, Legionized Shourei narrates this final scene, lamenting that he couldn’t protect Shinei before. But this time, as Shin and his four companions approach him and his Legion unit, Shourei says he’ll protect his brother forever. All he has to do is come to him…which is what he’s doing.

All I can say to any of this is damn…this is some good shit, but it is also incredibly heavy and upsetting. I can only hope that we’ll get some glimmer of light at some point before the end…but that’s hardly a sure thing.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

SSSS.Dynazenon – 09 – Teamwork Makes the BEAM Work

This week’s Dynazenon has a little bit of everything, which is only fitting because it’s about the merits of simply jumbling everything together. It begins with a much-anticipated laser focus on Chise, who has a surreal dream that perfectly visualized how she felt when she attended school—she was off, lost in her gorgeous, intricate doodles.

She wakes up in her cavernous, modern bedroom as an Alice stand-in, finding all of her possessions are either far bigger or far smaller than they should be. Turns out that’s the handiwork of a little golden kaiju born from the growth she found and carried with her all this time. Because the kaiju has imprinted upon her and has come to know her heart, it obeys her wishes. She names it Goldburn, after a band.

There’s a fireworks festival soon, and while neither Yomogi or any of his friends are that interested, Yume wants to give it a go, so Yomogi is in too. Chise is trying to tell Koyomi about the “hypothetical” good kaiju in her suitcase, but he’s distracted by Yomogi’s call inviting them to join them. When Chise then tries Gauma, he’s firm in his belief all kaiju must be defeated.

As she wavers over what to do, her friend suddenly grows in size, scooping her up and taking her on a ride through the skies over the city. It’s fun until it suddenly isn’t—when Chise spots her school. Goldburn almost obeys the momentary emotions in her heart wishing the school wouldn’t exist, but she’s able to steer Goldburn out of a potentially destructive dive.

Yume is walking home with her friend, who is curious whether she and Yomogi are dating, when Yomogi calls her back to school, reporting that Kano’s ex-boyfriend Futaba has arrived to talk to them. If Yume was hoping for some kind of groundbreaking revelation from him, then she’s bitterly disappointed by the resulting talk.

Futaba claims that while he heard about Kano being bullied in the chorus club, he never witnessed it first hand. When Yume asks then why Kano committed suicide, Futaba repeats the official line that it was merely an accident, and that “Kano wasn’t like that”, offering no further explanation. His answers not only don’t impress Yume, they downright upset her.

But just when she is overcome by emotion, they get a call from Gauma about a new kaiju, and she clams up for a moment to assure Yomogi that she’s fine, they should go, and she’ll be right behind him. Meanwhile, Chise is considering what to do with her enormous friend when Goldburn suddenly flies off on his own.

Yomogi arrives to find Gauma, Koyomi, and Gridknight in dire need of someone with wings to lift them off the suddenly soft and undulating ground (due to Juuga’s kaiju’s power) Yomogi ain’t that. When he tells Gauma what went down with Yume, the captain orders him to go back and get Yume, you jackass, because you’re the only one who can bring her back.

With Goldburn off on his own, a lonely, left-out looking Chise locates Yume perched atop the tower where her sister died. When Chise asks what’s wrong, Yume tosses out her boilerplate “it has nothing to do with you”, adding that “nothing good” comes of it whenever she fights. But Chise has tried to fight hard alongside everyone all this time, so she does not want to hear that it’s nothing to do with her.

Right on cue, Goldburn arrives, but of course both Yume and a quickly approaching Yomogi assume its foe, not friend, and Chise doesn’t have time to properly explain, because Yomogi is coming in hot to save Yume. Chise asks Yume who else would fly in to save her like this, and tells her she “doesn’t know what she’s got.”

But the wind from Dyna Soldier blows Yume’s ankh puzzle out of her hand and over the edge, and she dives off the tower after it with no regard for her safety. Yomogi lunges toward her to catch her in midair, but just misses. Fortunately, Goldburn is listening to Chise’s heart in this moment, and pluck Yume up by her cardigan mere feet from the water.

Chise, Yume, and Yomogi arrive at the scene of the battle where Gauma, Koyomi, and Gridknight are getting their asses beat by Juuga’s kaiju. Fortunately, with the aid of flight, a lot of the enemy’s advantage is lost.

More to the point, the minute Gauma, Yomogi, Yume, Koyomi, Chise, and Gridknight decide to all join forces into one big, beautiful kaiju-mecha melange, it spelled the beginning of the end for the Eugenicists’ chances of victory.

In an absolutely bonkers, virtuoso combination sequence paired with the most lavishly bombastic orchestral accompanied yet, Dynazenon merges with both Gridknight and Goldburn to create a big, brash, bulky and beautiful Super Dragon King Kaiser Gridknight, which is a mouthful of name for a framefull of robot. He’s even got a sheer purple cape, the better to dazzle the stage.

There’s nothing Juuga can do once all of his adversaries got “all lumped up”, which makes them stronger and faster and able to counter any attack thrown its way with tenfold force. After doing a little parkour off flying skyscrapers, Yomogi’s Dynamic Cannon delivers the beam-de-grace, and the team victory is immediately celebrated by the fireworks display amazingly not cancelled by the kaiju attack.

The ending scene is the perfect cool-down sequence after all that high-octane mecha madness. Much to Chise’s delight, Gauma accepts Goldburn as an ally despite being a kaiju, and while the whole team—including Gridknight and Second—make a run for it, they still miss the entirety of the festival. No matter; they all buy fireworks and have their own festival on the waterfront.

Yume takes her leave, promising she’ll be back, but I already knew exactly what she was up to, so there was no need to be wary. Sure enough, she returns resplendent in her gorgeous yukata, which understandably took a while to put on, but was worth it. While she plumbed the depths of despair after interviewing Futaba, here Yume rises to new heights of joy as she and Yomogi and everyone else enjoy each other’s company, all lumped together, and all the better for it.

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