Chio-chan no Tsuugakuro – 05 – When You Gotta Go…

Both of the two stories that unfold in this week’s episode are focused, polished, and consistently hilarious. Chio faces a dilemma we’ve all faced: having to pee really bad. She fortunately finds a bathroom, but doesn’t realize until after she’s gone in and relieved herself that she went in the Men’s bathroom, near a busy bus stop to boot.

As we’ve learned, Chio is far more proactive, resourceful, and athletic than a below-average high school girl would be, but that’s what makes her so imminently watchable. We’re there with her as she susses out the best way to escape, finally making use of “mysterious bright-colored balls” that one would never find in the ladies’ room (because they’re for urinals).

One of those balls excites the nearby cat, who starts playing with it in the street. Two girls in miniskirts lean over to watch the cat, and two older men lean over to watch the two girls in miniskirts, giving Chio the opening she needs. It’s a brilliant tactic that almost goes terribly wrong when Chio’s momentarily stuck in the window, but manages to get out.

She even explains away her sudden and surprising appearance to the two men and girls by pretending the cat is her pet “George”, who clearly has no idea who she is and runs off again, allowing her to follow and extricate herself from the situation as everyone shrugs it off as a girl really liking cats…which a lot of people do!

The next episode begins from the perspective of Shinozuka Momo, member of the Disciplinary Committee and deep admirer of its faculty advisor Gotou-sensei. In an effort to be “useful” to him, she takes it upon herself to discover what student(s) from their distinguished academy have been chronically misbehaving in the vicinity of the campus.

This leads to her tailing Chio and Manana, who at first appear to be carrying themselves with “calm and grace”…until Chio pulls a long root out of a flower bed and whips Manana in the bum, setting off a good old-fashioned plant duel. The mortified Momo continues shadowing the two girls, and watches as Chio climbs a wall to see if she can beat Manana up a hill.

She can’t, and Manana rubs it in by denying Chio water, instigating another grappling match. Momo can’t hold her tongue anymore, and orders the two girls to stop hanging out, as they’re terrible influences on each other, going on to describe “true friends.” That leads Manana to correctly assert that Momo…has no friends. Poor Momo!

They make a deal where if they can prove their friends, Momo won’t record or report what she’s seen today. And boy, do they ever prove it, performing a thoroughly embarrassing (and long un-practiced) dance of friendship they devised back in grade school. It moves Momo to unironic tears, and the girls get off scot-free.

In fact, Momo asks them for advice on how to get closer to someone they immediately infer to be Gotou-sensei. As we know, Manana isn’t the person to ask about such things as she has no relationship experienced, but Momo doesn’t know that! As a result, next time she’s with Gotou, Momo acts mysterious and attempts to keep her blondie rival in check…with mixed results. That closes the book on a pair of very strong stories.

ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 08

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ACCA had been teasing us for a while now about who exactly Jean and Lotta are, and last week finally answered that question: they are a prince and princess.

This week gives us more of what I yearned for—specifics—by taking us back 33 years, to when King Falke’s daughter Princess Schnee leaves the royal family and renounces her titles so that she can spread her wings and be, in her view, of more use to the nation, by traveling and learning more about it.

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The four people who arrange Schnee’s “detatchment” from the family (complete with faked death) are the king, Privy Council President Qualm, Schnee, and her loyal aide Abend, who looks a lot like a young Grossular.

The twist is that Abend isn’t the one Schnee falls for: he fades into the shadows and receives reports and photos from Niino’s father, which he then relays to Qualm, who relays them to the king.

Everybody seems to win in this arrangement: Schnee gets to live her life (and fall in love with a commoner, resulting in the birth of Jean and Lotta) out in the world, the king never had to “clip her wings”, and the president rids the royal family of a member who he deemed might’ve caused undue, possibly republican (small r) disruption to the crown.

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After she’s ensconced in Bodan and starts a family, Schnee and her kids are largely on the margins, Abend disappears altogether, and Niino and his dad are front-and-center. Niino’s dad is fiercely loyal to Abend, who in turn is fiercely loyal to Qualm and Falke.

He takes his duty to keep an eye on Schnee and her fam very seriously, but because it is essentially his life, he also takes the time to enjoy it, and imbues that sense of duty, and sense of enjoying one’s duty, into his trusty son. That, and we see where Niino got his sweet tooth.

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The idea is that King Falke was perfectly fine with his daughter leaving the palace, as long as tabs were kept on her. It doesn’t seem like he intended for Schnee and her issue to be some kind of “backup plan” in case his younger daughter’s issue (Schwan) wasn’t up to snuff.

When Jean enters high school, Niino’s dad sends him there to befriend him…even though Niino is ten years older (chalk it up to good genes). Niino also joins the photography club and makes use of the camera given to him by “Master” (Abend). It’s clear both Abend and Niino’s dad are grooming him for the role of Jean and Lotta’s next “royal observer.”

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When tragedy strikes, it isn’t just Schnee and Jean and Lotta’s father who perish, but Niino’s father, who was traveling with them, as well. Just like that, the torch has been passed. The episode then fast-forwards back to the present, where Niino is telling the adult Jean all of this, and Jean is trying to process it.

Jean doesn’t care about whether he’s eligible to the throne (technically he isn’t); he just remembers how Niino cheered him up back in high school after his parents died, and how that helped him be strong for his little sister, who looks more and more like their gorgeous mother by the day.

The end credits play as they always have, but finally in context: the woman isn’t Lotta, but Schnee, barefoot, plainly clothed, and free from the isolation of the royal palace. She gave up everything, but gained freedom and the run of the whole nation, both for her and her children.

Now that Jean (though, notably, not Lotta) knows the truth, what will he do now?

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 07

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All the clues and hints have been laid out, ready to be taken and fitted together to get the larger picture around Jean Otus, who for a protagonist halfway into a show remains either deliciously inscrutable or, as Franklin has said, exactly as vapid as his surface indicates.

Mind you, the larger picture of Jean and his sister Lotta only seem to be part of a yet larger picture, one that both Grossular, Niino, and his second mystery contact would seem to know about.

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For the whole run of the show, I’d been trusting my instincts, which told me Lotta was important. Why else would the King and prince be so naturally drawn to her, and why else would someone who looks an awful like her be the dancer in the end credits?

The blonde hair; the blue eyes, the affinity for sweets and the royal district of Dowa, and of couse, all the swirlings of a coup—all of it points to Lotta and Jean Otus being themselves royalty. The flashback threw me off the scent, but their parents who died on the train were the second princess and her guard Abend.

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That, as Mauve reports to Jean in her home district of Korore (which is both a strong matriarchy and a chocolate superpower) makes Jean Otus first in the line of succession for the throne of Dowa.

It also explains a great many things about how people have been treating him all this time. Naturally, Jean, who “never asks questions about himself” but merely carries on, didn’t have a clue.

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While this revelation is delivered the same way any information is—in a suble, natural, understated fashion—it still raises the stakes considerably. Even if Jean doesn’t care about his lineage and won’t get in Prince Schwan’s way, Schwan is still gunning for him, big-time.

Assumptions and suspicions will play a larger role than Jean’s actual intent or desires. Jean and Schwan are opposites when it comes to how much they care about how they’re regarded by others. And then there’s the fact that Prince Schwan has (probably) never left Dowa, but Jean has traveled all across the nation, never knowing it was, in effect, a royal tour.

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Now that Jean knows one more thing Niino knows, their relationship doesn’t seem to change much. Jean still relies on him to tell him the specific bakery where he can get snowballs Lotta requested (which happens to be where the King himself stops by for some sweets), or the best chocolatier in Korore.

But while the mystery of Jean and Lotta may be solved, the bigger mystery is what comes next. What will Jean do with this information, once it inevitably gets out? Who will be on his side, and who (presumably anti-ACCA parties) will support the more malleable Schwan?

Things are finally starting to heat up in Dowa…and I’m not talking about the warmth of fresh-baked pastries.

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 06

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If it were one of many other slow-burn shows, I might be itching for something to happen already near the show’s midpoint (assuming this only gets 13 eps – I may be wrong), even to the point of starting to hand out 7’s for lack of forward momentum.

And yet, ACCA continues to avoid such scrutiny with its unassuming, calm, quiet competence, all but unique this Winter as a show all about stopping to smell the roses…or freshly-baked bread.

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One of the most eventful things to happen happens right at the start, where Jean not only goes up to Grossular, but tells him he knows he’s being followed, denies any involvement in a coup, and expresses his certainty Gross isn’t involved either. Grossular, after all, was the ACCA officer in Rokkusu who made things right when a horrific train accident claimed, among many others, Jean and Lotta’s parents.

Jean meets Mauve at the bakery, but claims to have “nothing of note” to report to her. If he’s trying to stay in the director-general’s good graces, he could have at least told her about the attempted coup in Suitsu. I’d say that was pretty “of note.” Mauve immediately starts to doubt Jean’s usefulness…and loyalty.

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Things largely quiet down from there, as both the show, the nation of Dowa, and most of its inhabitants kick back and enjoy a New Year’s shindig in Jean and Lotta’s apartment building.

We learn about the businessmen Jean seems to help out during his auditing duties, and Lotta receives a cake from Rail, only for Owl to give her another cake minutes later.

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People seem drawn to Lotta, but there’s still no indication she’s anyone super-special…yet (the flashbacks also seem to eliminate some possibilities in that arena).

Officers note that the start of ACCA’s hundredth year in operation isn’t all that different from the start of previous years. Mauve has a pretty standard speech at an all-hands, and that’s pretty much it.

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Something notable does happen: Grossular joins the other four Top 5 officers in their common room, to ask Lilium why he leaked Crow to Jean. Lilium wanted Jean “to do something,” and while Gross may be right that such an action was reckless, Lilium does seem to win the argument by calling for a meeting of the five to discuss what Gross knows and how they’ll proceed together, no longer unilaterally. He gets that meeting; it should be a good one.

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Jean then heads to Hare, the tropical district where the ACCA uniforms are short-sleeved and informal and the district inhabitants live the longest lives in the nation, and live life with gusto accordingly.

After striking out with Mauve last time, Jean redoubles his efforts to get something, anything out of Hare’s chiefs. Yet, when he goes to meet Mauve at the bakery, she’s not there. Is it too late?

After Hare (one of Jean’s shorter audits), Jean heads to Dowa again, this time for an audit. Prince Schwan continues to try to force his grandfather’s hand in subtle ways like hanging his portrait in a place he spends lots of sittin’ time. Perhaps Jean will get more juicy info in Dowa.

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 05

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Two of Lotta’s stalkers bond over sandwich bread

I continue to be both bemused and delighted by the sheer obsession with food, eating, and dining in ACCA and the culinary minutiae therein. The fact that these characters need their three squares a day, plus the occasional snacks, really anchors them in the land of reality. It also mirrors real life in its lack of traditional “action”, but that lack hasn’t dimmed my enthusiasm for the show in the slightest.

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One of the most important moments of the episode—and of the show as a whole—surprisingly happens not during a meal, but during a car ride (which is also, in its utilitarian practicality, a tether to reality). In that car, Lilium basically lets slip to Jean that he has a tail, and the reason he can’t detect him is that he’s someone by whom he’s used to being watched.

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Jean’s a sharp guy, so it doesn’t take long for him to narrow it down to his friend the photog. And when he arrives in the wintry, hearty Birra district and Crow is already there with his camera, we finally see a look of shock on his face as Jean stops and turns back to look for…him. It’s not clear whether he sees him or not (Crow seems pretty far away, though he’s wearing black in the snow), but that look back is all Crow needs to know he’s been found out.

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“Could you two young brats flirt somewhere else? I’m trying to run a bakery here.”

Two elements of the episode that are a little more obscure in their intentions were the plotlines of Eidar very unsubtly showing up to see Jean, only to be crushed when he’s not there, and Maggie pursuing Lotta, only to learn where she lives, that her parents are deceased, and that she loves sandwich bread. I’m hoping we’ll find out soon what Lotta’s significance is, if there turns out to be any, of course.

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After a rather stern dinner with Birra’s ACCA supervisor, Jean walks into the tranquil, snow-covered forest to confront his tail, and the resulting confrontation is wonderfully offbeat. Jean doesn’t seem betrayed; on the contrary, he seems like he could care less…though he doesn’t wonder if all those times Niino got him drunk he was pumping him for information.

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Back home, Jean and Niino share a meal with Lotta like nothing happened, and Jean even makes him promise to stay with Lotta and take her out to eat every day he’s off on his next audit, this time of the Western-style Rokkusu District. Niino obeys, likely hoping he doesn’t miss anything good.

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The final scene during sunset in Rokkusu is full of intrigue, as is the little chat between Lilium and Pastice at the airport. Is Jean simply saying hello to a vaunted superior in his hometown, or is something else going on? Something…coup-y?

For the first time it looked like Jean was doing something counter to the person we’d seen up to that point; that he was finally showing us something he’d been hiding. I may be dead-wrong, but I’m having fun guessing as I enjoy the food-filled ride.

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 04

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ACCA steps back from the larger national coup plot to let Jean continue his inspection duties, this time to Suitsu, which may be the most isolated district in Dowa, seemingly frozen in time due to a noble class that insists on the preservation of “tradition and formality.” Not only are any outside forms of technology forbidden, those like Jean who come from outside are given a tight leash so as to limit cultural contamination.

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Not surprisingly, there are many in Suitsu who aren’t too happy about that, and have been organizing for some time. Jean happens to get scooped up by a group of them who believe he overheard their talk of a coup. Turns out their coup isn’t the same coup Jean’s mixed up in. These guys simply want to open Suitsu up, allow it the same freedom as the other districts to grow and develop, not simply fester like some dusty diorama.

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But apparently, the coup attempt that occurs when Jean is around isn’t the first of its kind by any means. All such former attempts were squashed and all records of them happening kept secret from the outside districts. Jean, for the record, seems sympathetic to the rebel cause here, even offering potential clients from his home to help Suitsu open up. But he stops short of getting involved, serving more as an observer.

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Unfortunately, all the adventures he witnessed will be subject to a gag order as a condition of his being allowed to leave, and anyone arrested in the coup attempt freed. It’s basically a hard reset, with one important difference: we saw how Jean reacted to being in the middle of a mini-revolution.

Did the cigarette he received in his hotel room and Crow/Niino’s intense surveillance of him indicate he’s involved in the larger coup? Or like his Suitsu excursion, is he merely being moved by forces outside his control, like a leaf in the wind?

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 03

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ACCA’s obsession with things getting done over dinner, drinks, and parties continues apace, as Mauve quietly invites Jean to an intimate dinner that, considering Jean’s blushing, almost feels like a date. In reality, it’s a business engagement.

Mauve has been told to stop investigating, but she wants Jean, with his 13-district-wide gaze, to keep his eyes and ears open for intel on the coup rumors. She’s also concerned that if the heir apparent Prince Schwan (a known puffed-up doofus) ascends, it could threaten the peace of the kingdom.

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As for the Prince’s grandfather the king, he seems like a pretty laid-back, kindly fellow, more concerned with the selection of sweets and fruits at the royal gala than anything else.

Schwan’s a pretty typical idiot prince, and it’s not that comforting to know how close he is to the throne, at which time he vows to disband ACCA, install a puppet privy council president, and do other not-so-cool things. Even his secretary Magi only seems to respect the dude so much.

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As for Jean, he’s one of the many ACCA-affiliated guests who are invited to the event, including Mauve, all five chief officers, and Niino, who brings Lotta along as his assistant (but seemingly really just so she can get a taste of the high life, I’m guessing).

As he floats about the palace, Jean can’t help but feel again like he’s being watched, and it’s because, well, he is. There are rumors all over about an impending coup, and there are enough hotshots in one place to actually make something like that a possibility.

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The thing is, Jean, as far as we know, isn’t an intermediary for the rebels planning the coup. At least, that’s not what Chief Officer Lilium thinks. He trusts his instincts, which tell him he can trust Jean. Groshular, on the other hand, is the one he believes is really behind the coup plot. He’s responsible for the rumors, after all – what better way to deflect attention?

Jean is seen as someone who is a big fan of order and preserving peace, concepts both Lilium and Mauve share, which is why they both come to him seeking an alliance with him. No doubt they’ll work and work quickly to stop a coup from happening, if they can. The question that remains is, is Jean really the person they (and we) think he is?

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ACCA: 13-ku Kansatsu-ka – 02

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Despite the threat of bad things on the horizon, the still-for-now peaceful world of ACCA is a very comfortable place to jump into and spend time, and the show continues a relaxed pace that draws you in rather than makes you nervous or impatient.

While we start with more frankly unnecessary explanation of Dowa and ACCA (though it’s good to now know what an ‘acca’ is), we suddenly find that the “mushroomhead” rookie officer Rail was never going to be able to frame Jean Otus for anything, because the well-informed Jean was on to him all along. It’s a nice demonstration of Jean’s towering competence that it’s important to establish for later on.

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The show keeps things grounded in reality and humanity by continuing to show Jean and others hanging around food and drink. This week we see Jean have breakfast, lunch and dinner, having lively discussions in each one.

Jean’s also often grabbing food for the house and his sister, which is how he bumps into Mauve, who has been ordered to cease her solo investigations, which had to deal with rumors of a coup d’etat plot.

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We also meet an actual not-work friend of Jean’s in Nino, who is a freelance reporter (and certainly looks the part). He’s on good terms with Jean’s sister Lotta too, so Nino is clearly a guy Jean trusts when he tells him not to worry about the feeling he’s being followed.

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I’m loving watching Jean’s far-flung travels between districts, and the way it isolates him from both home and office. He’s out there on his own, autonomous, soaking everything in, doing his job with what seems to be pride.

And yet…is the Jean Otus we’re seeing just an elaborate, near-perfect cover? Chief Officer Groshular believes Otus has something to do with the coup plot, so he has an elite undercover agent following him…who it’s hinted at earlier with a silhouette, then confirmed to be Nino, whom Groshular calls “Crow.” What a tangled web ACCA weaves.

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Right now, it seems just as plausible (if not more so) Jean is totally innocent, and his unorthodox behavior, combined with an inaccurate tip, has led Groshular to cast his suspicions upon him. But it’s intriguing to wonder if we’re only trusting Jean based on what we’ve seen and not the person Jean Otus truly is, hiding just beneath the surface.

Once he arrives in Jumoku, Jean almost looks like Alice, dealing with people and things far bigger (or smaller, in the case of “Tintin”) than they should be. It adds to the disorienting feeling of who is following whom.

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Nino/Crow is clearly perfectly comfortable observing Jean in plain sight; they go back 15 years to high school (though Nino cryptically says he’s been watching him for 30), after all. So is Jean oblivious to the fact his buddy is his tail, or is he well aware, and on his toes to avoid giving Nino anything to work with? Does Jean only pretend to get really drunk to lull Nino in a false sense of security?

It looks like the makings of a great noirish cat-and-mouse game thus far, presented with stylish art and a gorgeous soundtrack. ACCA exudes confidence without arrogance, telling a good yarn without getting too serious about it. But always present is that subtle background noise of looming dread in a peaceful world.

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Akagami no Shirayuki-hime – 15

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After a brief introduction to Raj’s siblings Rona and Eugena, we see that things aren’t exactly going so smoothly between Raj and Shirayuki. It’s nothing dramatic; he just can’t seem to strike up a proper conversation with her, perhaps feeling the pressure of not saying the wrong thing. His difficulty contrasts sharply with Shirayuki’s effortless chat with Obi on the balcony overlooking her hometown. It’s the conversation she should have had with Raj, but couldn’t.

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The siblings were a hint that the whole of Scheherazade is singularly focused on Raj’s interactions with Shirayuki, which explains why he feels like he’s on the spot. So he decides a change of scenery is best, and wouldn’t you know it, the castle has a greenhouse, which is Shirayuki’s wheelhouse.

The only problem is, while Raj has gotten a little nicer and more considerate, he’s still inept at most things, such as finding his way through the labyrinthine (and booby trap-laced) vaults that lead to their destination. Raj is doing his best to seem on top of things with his authoritative snapping, but he soon gets the three of them lost – which surely doesn’t help his confidence.

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Meanwhile, as Zen meets with that island hottie Kihal and her awesome birds, Mitsuhide runs into Prince Izana. He decides to ask point-blank if he’s testing the lovebirds, to which Izana responds point-blank (to Mitsu’s surprise) that yes, he is. If Zen and Shirayuki are for real, this little forced separation in the midst of an at-large would-be kidnapper should be a walk in the park.

Meanwhile in Tanbarun, Obi starts to notice they’re being followed, and manages to catch Rona and Eugena (and show off his mad ninja skillz). That gives Raj a rare moment alone with Shirayuki, during which he expresses his (wrong) opinion that she knows this was all going to go pear-shaped, and that she’s only sticking around so she can “say she couldn’t do it and leave as soon as possible”.

Shirayuki rightly takes exception to that assertion. In fact, she legitimately wants to change her relationship with Raj for the better. She believes she was sent to him for a reason and she’s going to stick it out. Once Obi and the twins (who know a way out) rejoin them, Shirayuki praises Raj for looking her in the eye when speaking to her, a first.

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Once they reach the greenhouse, Raj could, ya know, escort her around the grounds and stike up some kind of conversation about plants, but he’s so exhausted he collapses onto a bench and leaves her to Obi. Still, he makes sure to apologize for his mistakes – another first, by his siblings’ reckoning, and when the sun sets, Shirayuki says she’ll see him tomorrow.

So sure, there’s room for improvement, but large strides have already been made between Raj and Shirayuki; strides forged in those vaults. If only things could stay this breezy; but it would appear Mihaya may be forming an alliance with Kazuki, who promises to reward him handsomely through his “villainous” associates.

I’d say Shirayuki is safe in Raj’s castle with Obi in a room right next door to her, but surely there’s a Shirayuki-napping quota to be met, and Kazuki (who isn’t bad at the mad ninja skillz himself) will find a way.

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