Chainsaw Man – 07 – Loosening the Screws

When Kobeni accidentally stabbed Aki, Himeno started to lose it, because she felt like she was going to lose the latest in a long line of unfortunate partners. But while she despaired, Denji scoffed. He didn’t ask Aki to save him, and is done owing anybody anything, so he happily dives into the fell eldritch mass that is the Eternity Devil and pulls his ripcord.

It doesn’t take long for Denji to start losing some serious blood, but once he starts drinking the devil’s blood, he basically becomes a self-healing “perpetual motion machine”, boasting that he, not Power, will be the one to win that Nobel Prize.

In a flashback, Himeno visits her parents’ graves with her master; like Aki, she lost them to the Gun Devil, which is why she joined the force. But her master warns that a devil hunter cannot be too earnest straight-laced—devils know exactly how to fuck with and kill those kinds of people. All of Himeno’s previous partners died because they were too sane, and feared the devils, and devils love fear.

Her master “loosened the screws” by drinking heavily on occasion. Knowing that Aki is another upstanding lad, she tried to get him to quit the force and follow her into the safer private sector, but he refused. But as she watches Denji, Himeno sees what the ideal devil hunter is like: window-lickingly insane, unpredictable, and immune to the devil’s mind games.

When Denji’s motor cuts out, Himeno uses her ghost arm to pull his cord, and for three days he tears at the Eternity Devil until he finally reaches its core. By then, it is pleading for its life, but Denji slices it in two. Just like that, the hunters are off the eighth floor and out of the hotel.

No sooner do they leave the hotel than Denji passes out, but Himeno is there to carry him on her back to the hospital. Later, during a mission with Aki, Himeno proposes the whole squad go out for drinks to break the ice … to loosen the screws. Also, bury the hatchet vis-a-vis everyone trying to kill Denji.

Leave it to Chainsaw Man to make the izakaya where the 4th division meets up look like just the place I want to be on a Friday night. The beers are tall, cold, and frosty, and the snacks look delectable (so much so that Power systematically hoards them).

We meet a couple other division members, one of whom recently lost his rookie subordinate, just like that. A haunted look washes over Kobeni as she reckons with the fact that people in their line of work live short lives.

Denji brings up the kiss Himeno promised, but she tells him she needs to drink more first. Things get complicated for Denji when Makima arrives fashionably late wondering what all this talk of kissing is about.

When Aki asks Makima straight-up why she’s so interested in Denji, she says she’ll answer, but only if he can outdrink her. As expected, he can’t, as both he and Himeno fall to her indomitable tolerance. At this point, Himeno’s screws have been sufficiently loosened that she decides to bestow her promised kiss upon Denji’s lips.

It’s his first kiss, with tongue … and also with Himeno’s vomit. Turns out she loosened the screws a bit too much. Denji swallows some of it and gets ruinously drunk (it shocks everyone to learn he’s only 16). He and Arai have a bonding moment when he helps Denji boot—Arai having experience helping his alcoholic mom.

With the hour growing late and everyone sufficiently lubricated, the 4th division departs from the izakaya. Himeno manages to sneak of with Denji, and when he comes to, it’s on her bed, underneath her. She gives him another kiss—this time of beer, not barf—and proposes that they bone. Denji is growing up fast in the 4th Division.

The soft bluish-purple light, Himeno’s fluid movements, and her seiyu Ise Mariya’s gently seductive voice lend an almost sacred beauty to an otherwise profane scene. But it’s also a sad one, because Himeno is clearly compensating for her crippling grief and loneliness, not to mention her part-familial, part-romantic feelings for an Aki who only has eyes for Miss Makima.

Then again, maybe Himeno just figures she could die tomorrow—or later that night—such is the fate of all devil hunters. That being the case, one must take their fun when and where they can get it.

P.S. Every episode of Chainsaw Man has a unique ED and theme, and this one might’ve been my favorite, as it’s a 4:3 standard-def retro-gasm. Reminded me of one of the best OPs of all time, the retro Koimonogatari OP “Kogarashi Sentiment”.

Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War – 07 – Night of Fallen Souls

The last battle between the Gotei 13 and the Quincy looked a lot like the current one, only in reverse. Yamamoto’s thirteen captains back then were vicious, savage killers who made quick work of the Quincy … yet Yamamoto wasn’t able to take Yhwach’s life.

That day of slaughter is memorialized in a painting in Yamamoto’s dojo, as seen by a young Shunsui. Yamamoto warned Shunsui that if the subject of the painting ever returned to Soul Society it would be a dark day indeed. And so it is, with Yamamoto being sliced in half by the real Yhwach after expending all his energy fighting a fake one.

With the Head Captain defeated, Yhwach orders the Stern Ritter to summon their foot soldiers to complete the slaughter of shinigami. The soldiers meet little resistance, mowing down their opponents with east and leaving Soul Society dark, burning, and drenched in blood.

It would appear Yhwach and the Quincy have had their revenge, but after being unable to simply stand by and watch countless lights of souls in Soul Society wink out, Ichigo manages to power his way out of Quilge’s prison and completes his journey through the Garganta.

The first Quincy to encounter him falls quickly by his sword, but before engaging Yhwach, Ichigo pays a visit to Kuchiki Byakuya. Before the sixth captain dies, he takes solace in knowing Rukia and Renji are still alive, and asks Ichigo for a final favor: protect Soul Society—what’s left of it, that is.

Yhwach is surprised but not totally shocked to see Ichigo before him, having defeated Quilge’s prison. It only reinforces the fact that Kurosaki is one of the five special threats that stand in the way of total victory over Soul Society. Ichigo, meanwhile, is already bloodied and battered and not in the best shape to face off against the Quincy king.

That said, he still puts up a hell of a fight, even if Yhwach is likely holding back from killing him. Their ensuing battle is nothing like the flame-wreathed inferno of Yamamoto vs. Yhwach. Things get downright 2001 trippy with the colors and patterns created by the sheer force of their attacks upon one another. But in the end, Yhwach puts his blade in Ichigo’s throat.

Confident he’s disabled but not killed Ichigo, Yhwach prepares to take him back to their realm so that he can revive him and turn him to his side, But he encounters another surprise: Ichigo is still conscious, Yhwach’s stunning strike blocked by a Quincy technique: Blut Vene.

Yhwach surmises that Ichigo’s persistent contact with Quilge’s prison when he busted himself out caused the Quincy’s spiritual pressure to mix with Ichigo’s, enabling him to unconsciously use the Blut to save himself. Yhwach takes off the kid gloves and surrounds and restrains Ichigo with rocks.

But then, just like that, he gives the order to withdraw. It isn’t a retreat, merely a break in the invasion that will be resumed again soon. The Quincy have only a limited timespan in which they are able to function outside of their realm, and that time comes sooner than Yhwach expected due to a little illusory fuckery from his brief encounter with Aizen.

Speaking of fuckery, Yhwach gives Ichigo something to chew on while heals up and awaits his return: the fact that he’s … a Quincy? Or, at least, possesses Quincy blood. It’s why Yhwach hesitates to refer to himself as Ichigo’s “enemy”—as far as he’s concerned, Ichigo is family: a prodigal son to be brought back into the fold. But something tells me Ichigo won’t be going quietly.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Chainsaw Man – 06 – Endless Eight

After battles that took place in spacious warehouses and the open city streets, Chainsaw Man shifts to an initially innocuous but increasingly menacing and claustrophobic hotel floor. All stairs, windows, and floors lead to the same place: where they are.

Kobeni loses it almost immediately, convinced they’re all going to starve and die in this closed, timeless place. When she falls to pieces saying how the 4th Division wasn’t her choice (apparently it was this or sex work), Power laughs it up, because human fear fuels devils.

Himeno is a lot more calm and collected, as this isn’t her first rodeo. Also, she has cigarettes. But as she lights up her last one, she tells Denji how she “taught Aki the taste” of cigarettes, being intentionally suggestive with the phrasing.

When the family member of one of her past partners took it out on her by slapping her, Aki followed the person and stuck gum to their clothes as payback. From that point on Himeno knew she had someone special. She finally got Aki to smoke a cigarette, which he said would be his first and last, but as we see in the present, that’s far from the case.

Himeno’s point was that no Devil Hunter lives a long life, so you might as well enjoy the little pleasures like cigarettes. But Aki doesn’t intend to die anytime soon, which comforts Himeno. Their host, the “Eternity Devil”, appears in the form of a horrific mass of faces and limbs, and offers the hunters a deal.

If they give it Denji, dead or alive, it will let everyone go. Kobeni, whom Himeno had knocked out when she tried drinking toilet water, comes to just in time to hear this, and rushes Denji with a knife. To his surprise, Aki stands in front of him and kicks the knife out of her hand. As far as he’s concerned, no one’s killing Denji. Himeno has his back.

But time passes, and Power eats all of the food they’d scavenged from the abandoned rooms. When Himeno tries her ghost limbs she’s able to injure the Eternity Devil, but it simply grows larger and then chases them through the halls, making the spaces they occupy even smaller.

Finally, the angles of the hallways (which are really the walls of the devil’s stomach) start to shift, adding to the increasing sense of disorientation and dread. With the devil closing in, it’s time to either give it Denji or die. There is another option: the sword on Aki’s back. But when he goes for it, Himeno paralyzes him with her ghosts.

Her reason is that using the sword shortens Aki’s life, and he has “too much to live for”. Also, Himeno clearly cares for (if not outright loves) Aki and doesn’t want to outlive yet another partner. But her plan backfires, as Aki manages to overpower the ghosts and takes Kobani’s knife to the ribs to protect Denji. His reason is that he can’t kill the Gun Devil without people like Denji.

As he starts bleeding out, Himeno finally loses it, making Aki, Denji, and Power the only ones with their heads on their shoulders. Power uses her blood manipulation power to try to keep Aki alive (even though she’s best at controlling her own), while a panicked Himeno asks Aki what the plan is.

Finally Denji, who never asked Aki to take a knife for him, decides to bite the bullet and jump into the devil’s gullet. Only once he’s in he’ll break out his chainsaws. He figures the one thing the devil is scared of most is him, which is why it wanted the others to kill him first. That ain’t happening; Denji’s going in on his own terms, and I like his odds.

This dark and nervy Chainsaw Man really showed how a hopeless situation can bring out the devil in anyone. Kobeni is probably a nice enough girl, but in a situation like this has no qualms about murdering another to save her own skin. Even Himeno abandons the tenets of her profession due to her personal affection for Aki. Aki keeps his composure, but he’s fueled by vengeance. But as horrible and nightmarish as this place is, it’s not that bad compared to what Denji’s already been through.

The beds in the hotel are so nice he curls up and naps in one like nothing’s the matter. All the talk of starvation must sound extremely quaint to someone who barely ever had enough to eat. Maybe that’s why Kobeni turned on him so fast: despite being a fellow human, his attitude was so different form hers in this situation that she became able to see him as an other, a devil to be sacrificed.

Chainsaw Man – 05 – Don’t Die on Me

Well, color me surprised: Denji doesn’t chicken out. When Power sits there waiting for him to obtain his reward, after some hesitation and heavy breathing, he places his hands on her chest and gives them a squeeze. When he does, foam pads drop from under her shirt. Without skipping a beat Power asks him to go in for seconds, then thirds. And just like that, it’s all over.

Power heads to bed with Meowy, and Denji stands paralyzed in the toilet wondering … Was that IT? Achieving his dream was far more underwhelming than he expected, and it sends him into a haze of confusion, as he’s now suddenly utterly bereft of his primary source of motivation. It might’ve been better to never cop a feel at all than to have copped a feel and felt so … so little.

While perhaps Power’s smaller-than-advertised bust size was probably one factor in his disappointment, the fact is touching a boob is an incredibly small dream to base your life off of, just like wanting a soft bed or a warm meal. When Makima sees something’s up and asks him, and he pretty eloquently verbalizes what’s up, she takes swift action to re-motivate her favorite new tool.

Makima tells Denji that sex and the contact that leads up to it feels better when you truly understand the other person. Makima then demonstrates this by sensually caressing Denji’s hand (phenomenal animation, that), giving one of his fingers a nibble, then showing him that not all boob grabs are created equal. Then she offers to make any dream of his come true—and that means anything—if he can defeat the Gun Devil.

The Gun Devil is no bat or leech, but an uber-devil created on this world’s equivalent of 9/11. Once it appeared, the Gun Devil killed millions, including Aki’s mother, father, and a sickly little brother with whom he was only starting to get along. The flashback switches gears from family warmth to utter destruction so fast we’re left in as much horrified shock as young Aki.

The key to finding the Gun Devil is to use pieces of its flesh it has dropped, which are drawn to it like magnets. Aki leads a six-person team of Denji, Power, and himself along with his senpai Himeno and two rookies, Kobeni and Arai, and the flesh leads them to a hotel. When Himeno tries to offer a kiss to whomever gets the Gun Devil, Denji parrots some of Makima’s words, only for Himeno to up her offer to a French kiss.

Himeno’s informal, happy-go-lucky attitude belies her past, as Aki is her sixth partner. She makes sure to clarify that the other five didn’t die because of anything she did or didn’t do, but because they were all useless. Himeno alone senses the first devil they encounter: a head that moves with a hand and foot that leaps at Kobeni, but is held in place by Himeno, allowing Power to slash it in two.

When Power, who as always yearns for blood, casually threatens to kill Kobeni, Himeno demonstrates her ability on her, specifically her throat. Himeno contracted with a Ghost Devil and is able to control a ghost hand (that is, an invisible hand Power cannot touch). Lesson learned: Let’s all get along!

Teamwork will indeed be needed for the coming trials, as the group suddenly finds themselves in a M.C. Escher-style loop, ending up on the same floor they killed the Head Devil even though they went up a flight of steps. Going down a flight gets Arai nowhere. Looks like we’re dealing with a Devil that can either morph reality or morph others’ perception of it. Pretty wicked.

Bleach: Thousand-Year Blood War – 05 – Old Man Yama’s Fire

So sooner does word reach Soul Society that Kurosaki Ichigo is on his way, and everyone starts to celebrate, than Akon learns that Ichigo is currently trapped in Garganta, and the glimmer of hope fades as fast as it arrived Akon tries calling Ichigo, but when Ichigo picks up all he hears are screams.

The 12th division gets torn apart by Jidanbou, one of the gatekeepers a Quincy apparently brainwashed to do his bidding, which is a good trick. Back in Hueco Mundo, Quilge is about to murder Orihime and Chad when a bolt of red light cuts him in two. We’re left to wonder who it could be … an Espada, perhaps?

Back in Soul Society, Byakuya’s Quincy opponent notes that the shaking of the good captain’s hands isn’t due to any kind of poison, but plain old fear, something Byakuya hasn’t experienced in centuries. Specifically, fear without cause, which has no limits and cannot be overcome by experience.

Renji can only stand and watch while Byakuya is torn to ribbons by his own bankai. Renji is about to unleash his when a second, dumber Quincy hits him so hard he flies clean to the other side of the city. Honestly, it’s the best thing that could have happened to Renji.

The Quincy King and Blondie are looking for more serious opposition, and finally appear to find some in 10th Captain Zaraki Kenpachi, one of my favorite captains because he just doesn’t give a shit about anything but fighting the strongest motherfuckers he can. It’s why he and Ichigo are such good buds.

Zaraki arrives with the bodies of three Stern Ritters he defeated in simple yet poetic ways. Heck, the way he describes defeating them kinda sounds like a poem. But when Zaraki rushes the King and swings his chipped zanpakuto, the King manages to block it … with his bare arm. That might be worrying for some other shinigami, but a block like that is what Zaraki lives for.

Ichigo, completely isolated from both Soul Society and Hueco Mundo, can only rage within his cage of lightning. Either he can summon enough power to blast his way out and open the Garganta back up, or he’ll need help from Kisuke, Orihime, and Chad’s mystery savior.

That brings us to the battle where the tide is finally turned in Soul Society. 9th Lieutenant Hisagi Shuuhei is about to be murdered by a Stern Ritter when the latter’s attack is blocked by Head Captain Yamamoto-Genryuusai. When the Quincy unleashes the late 1st Lieutenant Sasakibe’s Bankai, it takes Yamamoto back to the distant past—the last time he saw it.

Then, Yama’s hair and trademark ‘stache were black, and Sasakibe, still wet behind the ears, didn’t have a ‘stache at all. He also went by Ejisai since the scar on his head looked like the character eji. Sasakibe pledged himself to Yamamoto not as a student who would mimic him, but a right-hand man who would complement his captain’s abilities.

Sasakibe used his bankai against Yamamoto, and it gave him a scar that changed the symbol and thus his nickname. Yamamoto ended up altering it to Genryuusai. And now we know why the cat’s name is so damn long and where he got it from: his trusty lieutenant.

The grief he must feel for outliving his young comrade must surely fuel Yamamoto’s rage as he laughs at the pathetic excuse for an imitation of Sasakibe’s bankai the Quincy throws his way. Yamamoto’s robes are tattered by the blast of lightning, but otherwise he’s unharmed. The Quincy isn’t so lucky: Yamamoto’s counter burns his flesh and bone away, leaving nothing but ash.

Yamamoto turns to a flabbergasted Hisagi and tells him there’s no further need for concern, as he will be personally murdering each and every Quincy invader. With that, he launches up into the sky like a rocket and screams across it like a burning mustachioed phoenix. It’s one of the coolest and most badass displays of power I’ve seen in Bleach … and he’s just getting started.

Sensing their head captain is angrier than they’ve ever seen him, the captains (both those with and without their bankai) and their lieutenants suddenly feel their second wind, and a resurgence of confidence after the initial onslaught of despair. Captain Shunsui in particular feels like Old Man Yama is scolding him for feeling so down on himself.

After the credits we see King Quincy, whose name is Yhwach, having no trouble at all with Zaraki. He has him in a chokehold and is ready to wrest the life from him when Yamamoto blazes in to announce that his true opponent has arrived. Very soon, the two will cross swords for the first time in a millennium. Should be fun. Ichiwho?

Chainsaw Man – 04 – Three Squeezes

As Power reflects on her life as a feral devil in human form living meal to meal, she wonders why, when Meowy was taken, did she not only run after him but work with humans to try to save him?

It all comes down to the warmth of Meowy, like the warmth of blood, being like nothing else. The calls it a “foolish reason”, but one moment she’s in the stomach of the Bat Devil with Meowy, and the next, they’re both back in the sunlight—and in Denji’s arms.

Power’s first question is, no unreasonably, “Why” he saved her. His answer is simple, and just as “foolish” as her desire for Meowy’s warmth: he wants to cop a feel. Considering he repaid her deception by saving her and Meowy, she’s fine with him doing so.

But Denji dithers, and as he raises his arm in celebration, it’s swiftly chopped off by an even nastier devil than the bat. She’s “Batty’s” woman, but finds Denji cute enough that she’ll spare him if he flees. But the girl and cat? They die.

Power can’t move yet and Meowy is helpless in a cage, so it’s up to Denji to protect them, but he’s low on the blood that fuels the chainsaws, and only a single tiny Pochita-like blade emerges from his forehead when he rips his cord. No matter; he puts up his remaining duke and fights the giant leech monster with everything he’s got.

He drops potshots and makes spinning slashes while dodging the leech’s punishing blows. Eventually the Leech stops messing around and impales him with her tongue, but with one hand signal and one word from Hayakawa Aki, a giant fox demon appears and glomps the Leech stright back to hell.

Aki finds Denji’s arm and he makes a full recovery. When he wakes up, Aki is there, with perfect little apple bunnies he’s not ready to relinquish until Denji answers some questions. Having found a fellow pet-lover who, more importantly, will let him fondle her chest, Denji sticks to his guns and covers for Power.

Since no one died (and quite a few bystanders told him to thank Denji on their behalf), he lets it slide, and so does Makina when he makes his report. I love the way he neatens himself before entering her office, dude’s got it bad for the boss.

Aki lets everything slide on one condition: Denji has to do what he says. Makima also lets everything slide, but then has Power join him and Denji in his cramped but tidy apartment, which becomes far more cramped and less tidy.

The wordless sequence of Makima’s morning ritual and balcony serenity before all hell breaks loose was a thing of beauty, and while power wears clothes now, she’s still quite feral by human standards, and in dire need of domestic training.

But if her hygiene and diet leave much to be desired, her memory works just fine, as well as the importance of her word. She told Denji he could feel her up, but the Leech Devil interrupted them. Now that they’re living together, she wastes no time giving him the opportunity to collect his reward.

Shutting them in the bathroom, she allows him three squeezes: one for saving Meowy, a second for slaying Bat Devil, and a third for protecting her from “Topknot”. Power is a picture of cuteness and badassdom as she awaits Denji’s hand. The question is, now that he’s so close to his dream, will he actually be able to execute?

Spy x Family – 17 – If You Have Love, You Can Fly (But Jets Work Too)

Anya’s initial attempt to impress Damian with news of her new dog failed, so she’s brought a new family portrait to “accidentally” drop when Damian is passing by, hoping he’ll see it and marvel at Bond’s grand floofiness.

Unfortunately it doesn’t go as planned, as Damian and his toadies ignore the photo. It flies off and is picked up by Becky, who is immediately smitten with the hot guy and asks Anya if he’s “seeing anyone”. A dismayed Anya responds “Papa is married to Mama!”

In a stroke of luck for Anya, she and Damian are paired off for and arts-and-crafts project: making an animal. Becky ends up making a model of Loid with a “battle suit” from her dad’s company, and when substitute teacher Mr. Henderson tells her the assignment was animals, she once again demonstrates her precociousness by stating “In the end, humans are animals too”, something our mustachioed paragon of elegance cannot dispute.

Anya doesn’t fair so well, as she’s as bad at arts and crafts as her Mama is (or at least was) at cooking. When she reads Damian’s mind to make a griffin, the heraldic beast of his family, she magnanimously offers to assist, but proves absolute rubbish, building legs with jet engines and uneven feathers. Damian is so pissed by her uselessness he makes her and another girl cry, inviting a scolding from Mr. Henderson, who exclaims “Not Elegant!”

Henderson understands Damian probably wants to impress his father, but he tells Damian there’s no need to rush; all he can do is what he can with the resources he has. The resulting “griffin”, with Anya’s interpretation of a griffin beside it, looks like a disaster, but it invokes patriotic fervor in one of the bigwig judges, and the pair end up winning first prize.

The griffin is proud-looking despite its sorry state, while what is interpreted as “the corpse of an innocent baby griffin” moved the judge to strong emotion. It’s a great bit of still art.

Unfortunately, Anya doen’t really make any progress in her friendship to Damian, nor does the prize include any Stella. But as big of a jerk as he often is to Anya, I couldn’t help but feel bad when he called home and had to settle with talking to the butler Jeeves, since his father is away in more ways than one, and generally disinterested in his second son.

The episode switches gears to do a brief profile of Sylvia Sherwood, AKA Handler, AKA Fullmetal Lady, so-called due to her flawless performance as a spymaster for Westalis. Varying cinematic shots of her walking down the street create a sense of paranoia, but her tail turns out to be a couple of easily-fooled guys who never considered she’d use the public pool locker rooms to change into a disguise and give them the slip.

We witness two separate meetings between Sylvia and Loid, with the episode underscoring that every meeting threatens both of their lives. So it’s amusing both that Loid makes sure not to tell the Fullmetal Lady that the tag on her dress is still on, and also that his “report” to her on Operation Strix involves Anya’s athletic progress.

The final post-credits skit, basically an omake, is a flashback to when Anya would cook dishes for Yuri to eat (all of which are pixelated and feature worryingly unnatural colors), and Yuri scarfs it down with a smile in between projectile vomiting. When he tells her she’ll make a great wife, she gets bashful and slaps him so hard he bounces off the floor and spins horizontally to the far end of the room.

This combination of being repeatedly poisoned and thrashed about due to his sister not knowing her strength is what makes Yuri the excellent operative he is today. He’s been toughened to such an extent that getting his by a truck is of absolutely no consequence. After all, Yor’s tougher than a truck.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Chainsaw Man – 03 – Getting Attached

I was looking forward to an entire episode of Power, and I was not disappointed. This week is another combination of absurd action and gore and genuinely moving character drama. Turns out the devil Power slew belonged to a private hunter, which is a no-no and typically an arrestable offense.

But as Denji witnesses, Makima is like the mother who never yells or even raises her voice. She never has to. When Power insists Denji made her kill the devil and the two bicker, it only takes a couple softly spoken words from Makima to bring Power to nervous attention. She insists the two get along and work together from now on. No need for an “or else” either; that’s inferred.

When Denji mentions that even grabbing a drink from a vending machine is a dream come true for him, Power explains why she “fell into Makima’s clutches”: the possibility of rescuing her beloved cat, Meowy, from a demon. She’ll get along with Denji and even let him cop a feel if he helps her.

So Denji checks Power out for the day—she isn’t allowed to leave HQ on her own—and the two take a trolley and then bus out to where the demon who stole Meowy is located. Denji mentions that he had a pet devil he’s sad he can’t pet anymore, but who lives on in his heart.

Power tells him that’s nothing more than “miserable self-comfort”; she’s unaware that Pochita isn’t just in his heart, but is his heart. Meanwhile, their boss Makima goes before her bosses with a progress report. She mentions her new “pup” is “interesting” and they warn her not to get too attached to her hunting dogs.

Aki questions Denji’s utility relative to the amount of rope Makima is giving him, but Makima reminds Aki that the more powerful a devil’s name is, the more powerful the devil. A “coffee” devil isn’t that strong, but a chainsaw devil—especially one that can return to being a human—is most certainly interesting.

As soon as Denji and Power arrive at the outskirts of the city, I was already feeling apprehensive; such was the muted, incredibly bleak look of the place. But as Power closely followed Denji right up to the house and he asks if she should even be in sight considering the demon will use Meowy as a hostage, she pauses and then says she “misspoke”.

Denji draws his hatchet quickly, but still not fast enough to stop Power from summoning a sledge from her blood, with which she brains him. Meowy’s kidnapper is a giant bat devil, and Denji is the payment for getting Meowy back. The bat grabs Denji and squeezes him, as human blood will heal his wounded arm, but he tosses Denji aside when his blood tastes terrible.

I can’t really blame Power for making this deal, especially after getting a look at the adorable Meowy trapped in a birdcage, and after a flashback to a far wilder Power who saved a starving, shivering Meowy from a bear. Meowy became her constant companion, one of the only voices she heard that wasn’t screaming.

But just as she betrayed Denji, the bat devil goes back on his word, swallowing Meowy, cage and all. As he lets out a loud gulp, Power turns to the battered Denji and tells him now she understands how he feels, having lost her beloved pet. She’s so distraught, in fact, she doesn’t resist when the bat grabs her and tosses her down his gullet headfirst.

The healed bat devil then takes to the skies to have a multi-course meal of various kinds of humans in the city. But he notices Denji dangling from his leg, surprised he’s still alive as like Power he assumes he’s just a normal human. The terrible taste of Denji’s blood should have clued him in.

Denji recalls one night when he couldn’t find Pochita, and looked everywhere for him in a panic. He finally returned home to find him crying in the corner—just as scared and worried about their separation as he was—and he fell asleep with Pochita in his arms.

Just as Power had a moment of empathy for Denji before being swallowed, Denji considers how Power felt each and every night Meowy was in the devil’s clutches. He’s also frustrated by the lack of copping feels thus far, so he pulls his cord, transforms into Chainsaw Man, and tears the Bat a new one.

Landing in a school, Denji encounters the first of many innocent bystanders he must urge to run away (and not, ya know, reach out and touch them, which would tear them to shreds). While the show’s first big battle took place in a self-contained dark warehouse, it’s exhilarating to get a fight that takes place out in the open, first in the sky and then in the middle of a busy city.

Denji saves a driver from a car thrown his way by the bat devil, and then shoves the car right back in the bat’s face. The bat uses a supersonic attack that drives Denji several dozen feet back into a cloud of dust and rubble, but is again surprised when Denji emerges not harmed, but simply pissed off about not being able to cop any feels.

In a final bloody fluorish, Denji charges, one of his blades catches on the bat’s arm, and he cuts the arm clean in half, before delivering a spinning attack that sends the bat’s guts flying everywhere. Power, and hopefully an undigested Meowy, dwell within those guts, and maybe she won’t be so quick to betray Denji next time.

Golden Kamuy – 40 – His Mother’s Eyebrows

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

 

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 24 (S2 Fin) – Dream On

All of Chizuru’s aspiring acting peers marvel at how hardworking and dedicated she is, but the truth is she’s a surging ball of doubt and anxiety. If she doesn’t pass auditions and get this next role, her dream of having her grandmother Sayuri see her performing on screen before she dies is in serious jeopardy of never coming true.

One night, she gets one more friendly rejection text, cries in her dark apartment, and asks the picture of her late grandfather Katsuhito to stop smirking and tell her what she should do. We then go seven years into the past, to when Chizuru was a surly seventh grader with no real driving force except “men are idiots”.

Chizuru’s gran was once an up-and-coming actor, and when Chizuru watches a rented DVD of her performance, that’s it: the dreamless kid suddenly has a dream: she wants to be an actor too. Her gran starts warning her just how goddamn difficult that will be, but her gramps is all optimism and gumption…remind you of someone in her present day life?

Chizuru spends her years of middle school and high school learning how to act, and seems well on her way, until Truck-kun claims her gramps’ life. Remembering how her grandparents told her the name “Chizuru” comes from a thousand paper cranes and that she was meant to be a talisman of good luck, she runs up and down the local shrine one hundred times to pray for Katsuhiro’s recovery.

He doesn’t make it, but he is conscious long enough to say his last words to her: dreams always come true. He knew this would be the worst moments of her life, and wanted her to know that she couldn’t give up no matter what; no matter how much frustration and tragedy and pain got in the way. But now, faced with yet another rejection for a role and her gran growing frailer by the day, Chizuru is wavering once more.

Enter Kazuya, who blessedly had no screen time or lines for over half of this episode, the better to make this all about Chizuru and not him (for once). He comes to her door with a proposal: crowdfunding a movie for them to make and for her to perform in. It technically would fulfill her dream, and there’s actually a better chance of pulling it off than of her getting a role in the same two-month time frame.

Chizuru retreats to her dark apartment to mull it over while Kazuya returns to his and wonders if he just made a huge blunder once again. Naturally, Chizuru sees in Kazuya the same idiotic optimism as her grandfather, but also realizes that his gramps happened to be right: dreams only truly die if you give up on them, and now life is offering her a chance to revive it just when she thought it was all but dead.

Kazuya hears Chizuru’s door open and close, her footsteps in the fancy shoes of her rental girlfriend outfit she has yet to change out of, and then a ring on his doorbell. She has one question: Can you really do it? And after thinking about it and saying that he, that they can, Chizuru has to cover her face to hide the flow of emotion. Her dream, now so cracked and fragile by the rigors of reality, is suddenly mended into something she can carry once more.

Kazuya, who took a suggestion of Sumi’s and rode with it, fully understands the hard work he’ll have to put in. When her gramps was injured, Chizuru knew she could do more for him than sitting around and crying in the hospital, so she ascended the shrine stairs one hundred times until her feet were scratched and black with dirt.

And in the end, the result of that effort was only fleeting—her gramps woke up for only a moment before expiring. Whether she’s conscious of it or not, the same qualities in her gramps are apparent in Kazuya seems like big part of why she’s falling for him as a romantic partner. But it could also be why she’s so hesitant to go down that road: what if she gave her heart to Kazuya, only to lose him? Truck-kun is still out there…

Getting a movie funded and actually making it is sure to make that running up and down the steps barefoot seem like a gentle walk in the park. Kazuya knows it. Chizuru knows it. It could end in failure too, but failure is all but assured if they give up. Kazuya (via Sumi) gave Chizuru the “loophole” she needed to scale down her dream into something more manageable than becoming a movie star before her gran dies.

Will that cause the already nascent feelings she’s developed for him to grow? Will they merely maintain the increasingly sturdy friendship they’ve forged this season? Whither Ruka, Sumi, and above all Mami, the last glimpse of whom is her smirking and asking herself if she has a life (she doesn’t)?

Will Kazuya get them involved in this “let’s make a movie” venture? Finally, who is that fifth girl, apparently moving into the same building as Kazuya and Chizuru? (At first I thought it was Ruka, but this person has an ahoge, and the blue in her hair is color, not a bow.)

We’ll have to wait for a season 3 to find all this out. Until then, I’m glad the focus was on Chizuru for this final episode, learning the full story of her dream, and that the Kazuya we get is a man who proposes strong and achievable action, not moping or fumbling about with his myriad romantic prospects in his head.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Stepmom’s Daughter Is My Ex – 09 – Bittersweet Symphony

This episode, which finally fully chronicles the height and eventual fall of Mizuto and Yume, begins simply, with the two sharing a tender kiss without fanfare during the golden hour on a quiet street. The look they share after said kiss may just be the only time in the entire episode that they are truly on the same wavelength with one another.

When Yume is invited to Mizuto’s house, room, and bed (to sit on) when his parents aren’t home, she gets understandably excited, only for the two to spend hours reading a book together. It’s pleasant, but it’s less than Mizuto hoped for; she was ready to take the next step. So was Mizuto. But it just…didn’t happen. And it never would.

The first sign of the couple drifting apart is when they find themselves in separate classes for the third year of middle school. They still meet in their treasured library after school, and make a pinky promise to make wonderful memories for Christmas and Valentine’s. But then Yume gradually opens up and makes friends in her class.

Mizuto is irked by her newfound popularity, and when they are together, all she talks about is her friends this or her friends that. Feeling like they’re drifting away from each other hurts, so he hurts her back by snapping at her. He fully prepares to apologize the next day, but when Yume first sees him in the library, he’s chatting with another girl…in her chair.

His apology goes right through her, as she feels he betrayed her in the special place where they met and shared so many memories. And that bitter memory of seeing him with that other girl haunts him. It’s just a fight couples always have, but they let it fester and see less and less of each other.

When they finally encounter one another, it’s by chance at a bookstore, and Mizuto suggests, and Yume agrees, that they should make up and put the rancor behind them. But it’s just words. Mizuto is still hung up on being accused of cheating, while Yume is vexed by how far ahead he’s walking.

Once inseparable, the two fall completely out of sync, and their relationship falls off the rails. Yume thinks of inviting Mizuto to the festival where he found her, but fails to send the invite text and goes alone, hoping things will just work out like they did a year ago, even though she knows they won’t. Then their one-year anniversary comes and goes with nary a text from him.

The Christmas and Valentine’s memories they promised to share become exercises in bitter solitude, as both Mizuto and Yume remain incommunicado for those holidays. Finally, when graduation comes along, Mizuto quietly suggests, and Yume agrees, that they should break up.

At that point it felt less like and end and more like a “liberation.” He couldn’t deny his affection for Yume, but couldn’t deny the building resentment either. Little things turned into big things and finally the only thing: pain and anguish. The rest, we know: their parents get married a few months later, and they are introduced to each other as stepsiblings.

Fast-forward back to the present, where Yume is helping herself to one of Mizuto’s many many books, and happens to land on the same one they read together the first time she entered that room. The two reveal to one another in reminiscing that they both had the same intentions that day: to take their relationship to the next step.

You could say that day was really the beginning of the end, since it led to “aged plagued with regret” for Mizuto and “wasted time feeling she was undesirable” for Yume. And yet, thanks to their parents, a new beginning was written; one that allows them to reflect on their past missteps while seeing each other in a new light.

It was powerful and affecting watching their bittersweet first relationship crash and burn so utterly. From the cozy warmth of their (presumably) first kiss to the stark chill of their breakup scene, it was a harrowing roller coaster of a tale that added fresh context, richness, and gravitas to their present-day dynamic.

Lycoris Recoil – 09 – God Is Whimsical

No sooner does Chisato not pick up than Takina is racing to the clinic like a bat out of hell. She enters the OR gun blazing, forcing Himegama to make a hasty retreat out the window, but the damage is already done. Chisato eventually awakens from the sedative, but the electric shock overloaded her heart’s battery, which can no longer be recharged. Chisato now has just two months to live.

Both Chisato and Takina are true-to-character in their reactions. Chisato basically shrugs it off as two months and ten years longer than she would have lived, and accepts her fate. Takina doesn’t want accept it, and doesn’t like how her best friend is so quick to.

Chisato heads to the DA for what she believes might be the final time, and when Kusunoki asks her to return to DA for the operation to bring down Majima, her condition is that Takina be reinstated. Sure enough, Fuki and Sakura are at LycoReco delivering Takina’s reinstatement.

After another routine mission where this time Takina apologizes for making Chisato run (she wants the battery to last as long as it can), Takina and Mizuki end up arriving at LycoReco in the middle of a private conversation between Mika and Kurumi, who has dug up enough online that Mika is compelled to tell her the story of Chisato.

Chisato had a singular talent for killing and avoiding being killed (at least by guns), but had a congenital heart condition. Yoshimatsu Shinji struck a deal with Mika, who also happened to be his lover at the time. Chisato would be fitted with a bleeding-edge artificial heart by Alan Institute, and Mika would see to it she fulfilled the promise of her talent.

Shinji made clear that even with this tech, Chisato would probably only lie to 18 – typically the retirement age for a Lycoris (if they live that long). Before the procedure, Chisato encounter Shinji in a hallway on accident, and immediately pegged him as her “Mr. Savior”, giving him a hug of gratitude. Shinji accepted the hug but soon left both her and Mika’s lives for a long while.

Having overheard Mika’s tale, Takina resolves to do everything she can to extend Chisato’s life. If that means leaving LycoReco, returning to the DA, and helping capture Majima, so be it. But before dropping this news on Chisato, she decides to take her out for what might be their last day off shopping and having fun.

Takina makes up a long and detailed schedule and keeps Chisato on it to the very minute with phone alarms. But despite being whisked from one place to another and having to move on just when she’s getting comfortable, Chisato still admits that she’s having fun, because that’s what happens whenever she’s with Takina.

The final leg in Takina’s fun day off itinerary is sitting on a bench at a hilltop park with a view of the city just when it’s supposed to start snowing. The snow doesn’t come at first, but Chisato can tell without Takina saying anything that this is about her returning to the DA. After all, it’s what Chisato told the DA would be a condition of her own return.

But for now, Chisato and Takina are to part ways. The snow finally comes while they’re still in view of one another, and they exchange bittersweet smiles of mutual affection. Chisato may have accepted the fact she only has two months left, but Takina is going back to the DA not because it’s what she wanted, but because it’s what she thinks she needs to do to give Chisato a chance she herself isn’t worrying about.

Takina is returning to the DA just as Majima and his henchmen capture Shinji and Himegama. Can Majima still be a possible ally in getting Shinji or Alan to cough up the needed tech to repair Chisato’s heart? Will the heart give out once she reaches adulthood anyway? With four episodes left, I’m hoping Takina, with help from the rest of the LycoReco crew, DA, and maybe even Majima, can save Chisato. If they can’t, that would suck!

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