Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 10 – Reina’d-Back Camp

When Ishikawa and Satou suggests that their group of friends go on a camping trip, Reina is as excited-looking as Raidou can remember seeing her. Miyahara-sensei is happy to transport them to the campground and pick them up at the end of the trip, drifting her minivan along the way just for shits and giggles. Reina offered to bring all the ingredients for dinner and comes with an overstuffed backpack that turns out to contain no food.

No matter; the group fishes and forages for their supper, making sure to check with the campground manager that everything is safe to eat (nobody wants to go on a camping trip). Reina whips up a sumptuous feast that’s probably all the more satisfying because all of the ingredients were procured with their own hands. When Ooshiro turns in early, keeping to her sleep schedule, the others go on a bit of a test of courage.

Ishikawa and Satou, revealing that they are as invested in Aharen x Raidou as the audience, strategically withdraw to leave the lovebirds alone together. The two stargaze, and Reina is on the cusp of saying something important when a beast rushes them; it turns out to be Nui with the food she forgot.

Later that night Ooshiro wakes up to find Reina hasn’t slept a wink. Reina wants advice on how to tell Raidou how she feels without ruining what they have. Ooshiro has watched Reina and Raidou long enough to confidently assure her that everything will work out fine.

When Raidou emerges from his tent for some midnight ramen, Reina follows Ooshiro’s advice and joins him. After they split the cup ramen, Reina says…something that is obscured by a sudden breeze, which also keeps us from hearing Raidou’s response. All we see is Reina leaning in to kiss Raidou, her eyes filling with tears, and running back to her tent.

While we’re left to ponder what was said and the meaning of Reina’s tears, things more or less return to normal, which is probably what Ishikawa, Satou, and Ooshiro should have expected. These two have never made a big deal about being the couple they so clearly have been for some time; it stands to reason they wouldn’t make a big deal out of making it official (if that’s indeed what happened).

One thing’s for sure: the two are as close as ever, and possibly even closer, as observed by master esteem detector Toubaru-sensei, whose throes of esteem overload twist her into increasingly romantic positions with her friend and colleague Miyahara-sensei, further adding fuel to their side-ship. Will the remaining episodes address what was said under the stars that night, or the kiss and tears that followed? I sure hope so!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 09 – An Assembly of Aharens

When Raidou is feeling under the weather one day, he just happens to resemble the love interest in a shoujo romance novel. We know Aharen to be sensitive to how Raidou looks at her, especially after their tender moment at the fireworks festival, so his misleadingly amorous face is almost more than she can take. As for Raidou, he passes out from his fever and goes home early.

The next day Raidou is fully recovered (as one would expect of one with such a hardy build as him), but Aharen is out sick. He’s asked to deliver printouts to Aharen (a time-tested but by now obselete practice in the ageof the internet) and ends up encountering a third member of the Aharen clan: Reina’s much taller little sister, Eru (Hidaka Rina).

Eru exhibits certain tsundere qualities, treating Raidou with initial hostility but later admitting to her sister that she finds him “interesting” and “doesn’t dislike him”. She also has somewhat extreme notions of cooking what with bringing a whole tuna home and cutting it up with what could only be a katana.

Reina is very grateful Raidou came by, but he doesn’t impose further on the Aharens by staying for dinner. Eru watches as her big sister clings to him. While bathing with Ren, Eru admits that she suspects Reina to have “special feelings” for Raidou, but whether they’re actually going out remains a mystery to her.

Lil’ Ren sets out on a shopping trip and runs into Raidou, perhaps for the very purpose of finding out for sure whether he’s dating his big sis. When Ren realizes he’s lost his wallet and all the money for the groceries he intends to buy in order to help his sisters out, Raidou produces his wallet, only to find it’s empty too.

Thankfully, the Aharen dog Nui produces Ren’s wallet with the cash needed, but before Eru can get a straight answer out of Raidou about his relationship with Reina, Reina appears, and the discussion is tabled for now. Sure enough, in the presence of two Aharens Raidou effortlessly calls Reina by her first name, making her steam and blush.

Maybe there’s nothing Raidou could say to Ren or other curious parties to satisfy them. Maybe he and Reina simply defy specific labels.

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

The Genius Prince’s Guide – 11 – Rare Beast

After scoring some impressive political and economic wins last week, it’s time for Prince Wein to take his medicine, as he encounters conflicts and the potential for treachery as a result of Delunio’s (correct) accusations that Imperial goods are being distributed to the West through Natra and Marden.

Sirgis, Prime Minister of Delunio, demands an explanation, and when Zenovia doesn’t give him one, he demands it of Wein. And while Wein bails Zeno out and scores some points for the ensuing verbal sparring, the meeting ends with Sirgis promising they’ll rue the day.

With uppity kingdoms like Delunio seemingly itching for a fight, Wein decides to forge an alliance with Soljest’s King Gruyere. The military and economic benefits for both sides are clear, but Wein finds himself up against the most formidable leader he’s yet encountered, one who makes a huge meal of being carted around on a palanquin even as he speaks coridal words.

Speaking of meals, Gruyere insists that all important affairs of state must be discussed over one, and this is when we meet Gruyere’s adorable daughter, Princess Tolcheila. While both the OP and her unique twisted smile suggest she’s up to something, all she really does is cheerfully describe each delectable course of the meal.

Wein is utterly defeated by this meal, ending up eating far too much and saying far too little to the king. As Ninym rubs his back (another lovely little moment that speaks to this couple’s bond) Wein resolves to strike up a talk with King Gruyere. But the next day, every attempt to interact with Gruyere results in him being brushed off or outright ignored and avoided.

It’s enough for both Wein and Ninym to suspect treachery in the form of an assassination…but then why is Gruyere delaying? They’re about to set a contingency plan into action when Gruyere welcomes them to his private veranda to have the very talk Wein wants, not only expressing his belief that all people, including flahms, should be treated equal, but agreeing to an alliance with Natra.

It feels all too easy because it’s not true. As soon as Wein returns to Natra, he learns that the Mardenian borders are being attacked by Delunio, who are staking a claim to lands they loaned to the crown Marden in perpetuity. Whether that’s an excuse or a genuine desire, Delunio has an alliance with Soljest, and so Soljest has delcared war on Natra.

It’s an unusual place for Wein to be—on the wrong side of a doublecross. He remains a genius who had always suspected something like this would happen, but also shows that he often follows his passions, and the charming King Gruyere’s genuine-sounding entreaties snagged him hook, line, and sinker.

It’s a lessoned learned for a prince who may be brilliant, but doesn’t have half the experience playing the game of an operator like Gruyere. And we learn that Gruyere isn’t doing this just because he’s evil, but because Wein is a worthy opponent, a “rare beast” Gruyere is looking forward to devouring. Even if he loses, he’ll still be glad to have tried to go up against the Genius Prince.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 15 – Shokugeki no Jahy

With the Dark Lord restored and her nemesis now her pawn, Jahy wants a reward for all this progress in the form of her dear friend Kokoro’s company and praise. Unfortunately, Kyouko is still following Jahy around like a lost puppy. When Jahy takes Kokoro and runs, Kyouko assumes it’s a game of tag and chases after them with her Magical Girl Speed.

When hopes of Kyouyko being carted off by the cops are dashed, Jahy finds herself in the awkward position of having to admit that Kyouko (whose name she just learns now) is a friend. Not only that, she has to come to terms with the fact that Dear Kokoro belongs to no one, and she is biologically incapable of not becoming friends with someone.

Thus, Jahy must adjust to the fact her playdates will consist of both Kokoro and Kyouko. Yet when she heads to work looking forward to being away from her, she learns Kyouko has responded to a flyer for a part-time job, and the manager hires her on the spot. Now Kyouko is her friend and co-worker.

At first, Jahy is happy for the prospect of extra help—she’s asked for it in the past—but as expected, Kyouko is as big an accident-prone klutz serving customers as she is defeating evil as a magical girl. Jahy only salvages the situation by wowing the customers with feats of balance and dexterity…catching everything Kyouko drops.

Kyouko is discouraged when Jahy orders her to stop doing…everything and just stand back and observe, but the manager assures her it will be okay. Jahy, after all, was horrible when she first started, but as the manager has come to learn, Jahy will give something she cares about her all.

Thanks to Jahy’s diligent training, Kyouko ends up learning the ropes fast and finding her footing. It also has to help that Jahy found a tiny mana crystal in Kyouko’s hair, which must have been causing at least some of her serving mishaps.

Jahy exhibits her typical snobbishness in foisting something the manager wants help with on Kyouko, only to parkour herself over to the dining area with fork and knife in hand when she learns that something is a taste test for new menu items, starting with stewed flounder.

While Kyouko offers gourmet criticism that wouldn’t be out of place in Food Wars (and must indeed be a nod to that franchise), Jahy is more cryptic, both because she’s not so well-versed in food critic-speak, but also because she wants to use this opportunity to eat tasty food for free…which is truly the feral demoness we know and love.

As a result, Jahy is able to sample ginger pork and then cubed Wagyu steak. Eating meat revitalizes her like nothing else, as she’d become so used to bean sprouts due to her low budget. But the steak gives her a full-on Food Wars-style foodgasm, metaphorically stripping her clothes off and sending her straight to steak nirvana.

What makes all this indulgence possible are two key qualities of the manager and Kyouko: the former has been overthinking her menu so much she’s not thinking straight, while the latter is so deferent and adoring of her first and best friend that she’s not thinking straight either. In the absence of better judgment, Jahy is able to feast to her dark heart’s content.

Unfortunately someone who does have better judgment (at least when she’s not knocking back booze) arrives in the form of the landlady, who stops this charade by very clearly identifying what’s going on here (Jahy just wants food) and vetoing the choice of steak on the menu (since they’d never make a profit).

Then the Demon Lord shows up out of nowhere, drawn to the pub by some combination of her meal ticket Kyouko, Jahy’s mana crystals, and the smell of delicious food. She polishes off all the food and wants more, but Kyouko cuts her off before she can cause lasting damager to the manager’s business.

The lord is upset, but Kyouko mitigates that by promising she can have her choice of anything at the konbini on their way home. Jahy has to watch in outrage as her Demon Lord walks away hand-in-hand with Kyouko. If Jahy could out-feed her superior, she could defeat Kyouko in this fresh predicament. Alas, bean sprouts aren’t going to get it done…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 14 – Second in Command, but Third to Food

Here it is: the epic battle between light and dark that Jahy has been looking forward to, but only recently become powerful enough to fight: a duel with the Magical Girl. As they fight, Kyouko says Jahy knows nothing about her, about the loneliness she’s felt, and her calling to erase all misfortune from humanity. But even when she disarms and bests Kyouko, this new Jahy tempered by human kindness and generosity stays her hand.

She’s not too proud to admit that she would never have collected the crystals she needed, or even survived in this strange new human world, were it not for the help and love of others, from Manager and Landlady to Kokoro and Druj. Kyouko being utterly alone in both her life and mission is the reason Jahy can defeat her, but also the reason she won’t: no one person should have to bear everything alone.

So thetwo make peace, and Kyouko embraces “Jahy-kun” as her first and only friend. Since she’s so rusty in social skills, her manner of trying to get Jahy to hang out borders on stalking and harrassment, but the promise of the all-important snacks finally wears Jahy down. That, and the fact she assumes Kyouko to be loaded and have a nice place.

She does not. Her house, while large and grand, is run down and “riddled with calamity”. Floors and ceilings crumble above and below even the tiny Jahy’s feet. It’s no surprise the house is in this state: this is where Kyouko has stored all of the crystals she’s amassed. One wonders how Druj’s employees dealt with the misfortune of handling and sotring industrial levels of crystals.

The epicenter of misfortune is the crystal storage room itself, which Kyouko warns Jahy has been haunted by a “shade” after dark of late. Jahy, spooked but determined to get to the bottom of this, opens the door to reveal…Maou, The Demon Lord. Jahy later explains that the mana crystals themselves represent the Demon Lord, and Kyouko must’ve simply collected enough to bring her back into being…albeit in lil’ squirt-sized form like Jahy herself.

Jahy is absolutely over the moon to reunite with her one and only superior, and Kyouko provides tea, snacks, juice, and eventually a huge spread of delivery delicacies for the celebration. Maou says nothing and only eats and drinks. Even when she eats everything, leaving Jahy nothing, Jahy is happy, as her lord was only just restored and needs her energy. There’s a little bit of Druj in Jahy’s demeanor towards Maou, in that Maou can do no wqrong in her eyes.

Kyouko has already stated that she harbored no ill will towards the Dark Realm itself, and regrets destroying it. Her journey as a magical girl began when she rescued a drowning kitty, only to fall into the water herself. Rather than dying, she was met by a bright light and a benevolent voice, that made her into a magical girl and gave her the mission to free humanity from misfortune by collection all the mana crystals.

I loved how beautiful and dramatic this sequence was, contrasted with Kyouko’s and the show’s usual goofiness. It strikes the right balance of helping us learn about and empathize with Kyouko’s own plight, while still maintaining that she is, and always will be…just a lot.

This means if the Dark Realm is going to be restored and stay restored, that mysterious voice must be identified and dealt with. In the meantime, while Kyouko wishes to dedicated every waking moment of her life to being by Jahy-kun’s side and assisting her, Jahy is content to simply go back to her home with Maou. Only…Maou doesn’t want to go with her.

On the contrary, she runs over to Kyuouko and hugs her instead! And why? Simple: Kyouko gave her food. Was that the secret to gaining the Demon Lord’s favor all along…just keeping her fed and happy, like a stray kitten? If so, it isn’t mana crystals Jahy needs, but cash to buy more delicious snacks. In this endeavor, it would probably be wise to join forces with Kyouko rather than try to compete.

The aquatope on white sand – 18 – How to Raise a Boring Office Worker

The gang is back to work at Tingarla (fine, that’s what the sign says), and all are encouraged to come up with big event that will increase enthusiasm for marine life.

The winning idea comes from Akari, a part-timer who has been very upfront about this being Just A Job and not having any particular passion for aquariums. When Kukuru pushes for Akari to lead the way on her fish cosplay event, Akari declines.

After work Kukuru and Fuuka share another lovely waterside moment together, with Fuuka letting Kukuru rest her head on her shoulder and vent ever so briefly about something she’s needed to come clean about: she really misses being an attendant.

Fuuka also reminds Kukuru that like Akari, she wasn’t that into aquariums either until the beauty and wonder of the sea life, the smiles of the guests, and the enthusiasm of Kukur and the others caught her hook, line, and sinker.

Fuuka’s point is that not everyone ends up in a job doing what they love, and whether its marketing or tending penguins, you can’t argue that there’s nowhere Kukuru’s better suited to be considering her lifelong passion for the sea.

It’s not “too late” for Akari to become enamored of it, but even if she never is to Kukuru or Fuuka’s extent…that’s totally okay! Everyone’s different and it’s okay! There; that’s the thesis of this show.

Akari still feels a bit bad about how relatively harshly she shot down the notion of taking charge of the cosplay event, even if she was simply being honest. This job isn’t her life, at least not at the moment. She’s got college and other friends.

We get a really nice pairing with her and Karin having dinner at the restaurant where Udon-chan works—and has made improvements to the menu based on the feedback at the party—Karin tells her she didn’t invite her to talk about Kukuru, but to enjoy some tasty food with a friend. No need to sweat anything!

Akari and Udon-chan actually build a lovely little bond as two people outside the whole Fish Thing. Akari initially thought people like them were always having fun doing what they love all the time, and kind of envied that, since she just…wasn’t particularly enthusiastic about anything.

But seeing Kukuru work so hard and sometimes crash against Suwa, or Kaoru often worrying about her fish dying on her because she couldn’t tell they were in pain…Akari learns that sometimes doing what you love can be miserable.

When Kukuru realizes too late she hadn’t sent the email order for the fish stickers (rewards for the kids who identify the fish they’re cosplaying), but left it in Drafts (something I sometimes have nightmares about), the clock strikes five; Akari’s time to clock out.

But it’s not even a clock out that causes Akari to decide to return to the aquarium to help Kukuru and Karin make their own stickers. It’s because her friend had to take a rain check on their date. That, and Akari had nothing else going on, so why not help two people she likes as people, even if she doesn’t quite get their aquarium obsession?

The three work overtime to get the stickers done, and the next day, we get a day at Tingarla that’s very appropriate considering Halloween was just last Sunday: not only does the staff dress up as specific fish species, but also mermaids (in the case of Fuuka, Marina, and Chiyu) and pirates (Karin and Akari).

But nothing is more heartwarming and sweet than Kaoru dressing up as one of her favorite fairy tale characters: Urashima Tarou…with Kuuya as the sea turtle and Umi-yan as the comely Otohime. The fact that Kaoru loves the tale with a passion and has dreamed since childhood of being Tarou…it’s just the tops.

And hey, what do you know, the festivities even lead to Akari correctly identifying her first fish—the four-striped damselfish Kukuru is cosplay as. Kukuru notices the way Akari looks into the tank at the fish…it’s just a more subdued version of how Akari saw Kukuru look at the tank.

No longer apathetic about her workplace, Akari is well and truly charmed by it, but in a subtle, Akari-like way. Yasuno Kiyano really nails that breezey subtlety just as she does as the heroine from Saekano. I’m glad she got almost a whole episode in which to shine.

The aquatope on white sand – 17 – Pure bliss

Who could have predicted that one of the most fun, heartwarming, and overwhelmingly joyful episodes of Aquatope would come after Gama Gama closed down? After Kukuru reached détente with Kaoru and Chiyu in short order, it was only a matter of time before they had an opportunity to hang out on their time off. When Fuuka, Kukuru, and Udon-chan’s days off align, they decide to throw a hospitality party for their co-workers.

The three pull out all the stops. Fuuka gives Marina and Akari some skincare treatment tips she got from her idol stylist. Udon-chan whips up a varied menu of tasty dishes, and gets the constructive (and sometimes excessive) negative feedback she asked for. Kuuya comes over with Karin, drinks some plum wine, loosens up…and vanishes!

But nothing tops Kukuru luring Chiyu in to Fuuka’s apartment and giving her a back massage, which Chiyu is happy for, even if Kukuru sucks at it! Chiyu ends up giving Kukuru a proper back massage, noting that Kukuru’s lack of muscle knots is a sure sign of someone ill-equipped to remove them from others.

Kaoru came with Chiyu and her little boy Shizu, then Kai and Eiji arrive, having collected a still-plummy Kuuya who had passed out on a nearby bench. A takoyaki party breaks out, with Kuuya and Eiji having a friendly blind-sea life-takoyaki filling competition that eventually devolves into just everyone stuffing themselves with delicious takoyaki. Note Kai’s look of distress masking his delight that Kukuru sat next to him.

When lil’ Chizu does that typical little kid thing where they make a big stink about not wanting to go home, Fuuka and Kukuru break out the fireworks to put a sparkly capper on a perfect day. Everyone has fun, with no exceptions. Drunk Kuuya even scores a ride home with Umi-yan! It’s just so nice to see everyone outside of Tingaara, together, taking a break from all their troubles.

When Kukuru and Fuuka return to their adjacent apartments, two delectable mango parfaits are waiting for them in the fridge, courtesy of Udon-chan. The two best friends savor the treats on the balcony, talking about all the fun things that happened. I can’t tell you how much it swells my heart to see both of them so content. They’ve come a long way, baby!

To Your Eternity – 09 – Gugunrise Kingdom

Fushi has rescued, reunited and made up with Gugu, and for the first time he uses his powers…strictly for fun. For the sheer thrill of scaring the shit out of random townsfolk or thrill-seeking teenagers. Gugu has no intention of going back to the house of a man who put a still in his body without his consent, and Fushi doesn’t care either way s long as he’s with Gugu.

As time passes, the penniless Gugu grows hungrier and weaker. Fushi, obviously, needs no sustenance other than stimulation. But his stimulation thus far has prepared him for this eventuality, as he is able to create the pear-like fruit March fed him, along with dango and fish, thus saving Gugu from starvation.

When Meer, who obviously knows Gugu’s scent at this point, shows up at his tent, Fushi calls the sickeningly cute and good boy Joaan, the name the boy gave to his wolf-dog. Fushi describes to Gugu how “his first person” stopped moving and “became empty”, so he “became” him. Gugu hypothesizes that both physical and emotional pain affect his bizarre friend.

He posits that if he were to die and Fushi became upset, he would become him. Gugu thinks this is seriously cool…because, well, it is. But for him specifically, it would mean even if he died, Fushi would still think of him. Gugu describes a life where he had three square meals a day, a soft bed, twin older siblings to play with, a mother and father to care for him, and an older brother to look up to.

Gugu is describing his early childhood, when, for at least a few beautiful, fleeting years, he thought he was part of just such a family and living that kind of life, where a lot of people were thinking of him. As he grew older, he began to realize he and his brother were merely the children of servants to that family. When those servants moved on to a new job, they didn’t take Gugu or his brother with them.

Gugu asks Fushi, the only one who came for him and the only one he can call family, to become him if he dies, then passes out and stops moving. For a second there, I thought that was well and truly the end of Gugu—perhaps succumbing to the nasty side effects of having a still in your gut. Fushi even seems to contemplate absorbing Gugu’s form for a hot second.

For a certainty, To Your Eternity wanted you to think Gugu had died. Then Rean pokes her head into the tent, having finally found the two runaways, and Gugu springs back to life, blushing. Turns out Fushi wasn’t the only one thinking about him or the only one who came for him. Rean tries to drag Gugu out of his ragged tent and back to the Booze Man’s house, but Gugu doesn’t wanna.

Of course, Rean’s motivations aren’t 100%honorable. She says she, Pioran and Booze Man love Gugu, but really they need to bring someone back who knows what they’re doing in the kitchen. But you know what? As someone who likes to cook for my friends and family, I’m fine with part of the reason people love me is that I cook them good food. It makes me happy when they like my food!

Rean is also unconcerned with Gugu’s appearance, and insists that he show her what he really looks like. Gugu doesn’t acquiesce to this, which means Rean doesn’t get a real look at him. It may be because of this she can reveal her own horrible disfigurement and declare with a straight face that if he casts his gaze upon it he’ll see that his own wound isn’t that bad.

The thing is, Rean’s horrible wound is nothing more but a tiny, fading scratch on her arm no more than three inches long.

It is a rare show indeed that makes me laugh and cry with such intensity, but this might just have been the funniest episode of To Your Eternity yet. Of course, tragedy and comedy have gone hand-in-hand since the dawn of storytelling itself, it’s just gratifying to see it so effortlessly pulled off here. Just like Fushi, the stronger and more diverse the viewer’s stimulation, the more is learned.

Rean goes on to tell a story that, for her, is a tragic tale of a girl who was never given agency or independence; a girl assigned a role and personality for which no expense was spared to maintain, despite the fact she had zero say in it. It is an obvious mirror image of Gugu’s sob story, told from the POV of the child of the employer, not the employee.

Even so, I do not doubt that from Rean’s perspective, she has suffered, because just like Gugu but through very different (and cushier) circumstances, she was denied the chance to be the best her she could be, which is the one she wanted to be. The grass is always greener, etc.

When Rean tells Gugu how she got her wound—saying that someone pushed her from behind out of malice—Gugu is crestfallen, as this girl misinterpreted him rescuing her from a runaway log as having assaulted her to get back at her family—simply because she never saw the log.

But just as Rean doesn’t care how it looks that someone as rtich and privileged as her is complaining that her life is too comfortable, she also doesn’t gcare whether Gugu is a monster or a human. To her, he’s just Gugu, a weird little boy she’s taken a liking to, so he should come out of the tent and enjoy the wind with her. And if he wants to cover his face, she brought him a pot with eye-holes to wear.

With Fushi having run off to find Gugu’s original mask, he and Rean agree to go looking for him. Their search takes them into town, where Rean is promptly snatched up by a goon hired by her family to retrieve her. Gugu, who later states he doesn’t care about his “circumstances” anymore, commits to simply being himself.

That happens to be someone who will barrel into someone twice his size, catch the falling Rean, and lead her by the hand to safety. As he does, Rean smiles, not just because Gugu is being Gugu, but because she’s living precisely the dream she hoped to live after running away from home. I am seriously loving this tender story of young love, which reminds me of Moonrise Kingdom, itself likely inspired by rom-com anime.

Fushi ends up finding them after retrieving Gugu’s old mask (it’s nice when you can transform into a wolf-dog, complete with a wolf-dog’s sense of smell) and locates Gugu and Rean, who is now wearing the pot to hide her identity from those sent to find her. It isn’t long before they come across a maid who is most definitely not fooled by Rean’s disguise.

It’s here where Gugu and Rean rely on Fushi to cover their retreat, which he does non-lethally by assuming the form of March and writhing on the ground before the maid, who sees the little girl’s arrow wound and has no choice but to tend to her before going after Rean.

While searching for Gugu’s mask, Fushi’s creator paid him a brief visit, warning him to keep his guard up. As the maid carries March!Fushi, he’s suddenly snatched up by a tentacle of the “unspeakable” enemy he was warned about. His creator even narrates that this was bound to happen, as Fushi has failed to gain any sophisticated tactical skills since his last scrape with the enemy, and thus the enemy was always going to strike first.

Even so, something happens that neither the enemy nor indeed the creator might have foreseen: Gugu coming to his rescue. I’m not sure what he can possibly do when he’s just a small human boy and even Fushi seems helpless before the enemy’s power. Indeed, as we’re reaching the halfway point of the 20-episode series, Gugu’s days are surely numbered. But even if resistance is futile, I’m glad he’s there for his friend and brother.

To Your Eternity – 08 – Gugu Unmasked

“Skip Intro” is a well-established and often useful feature to our world of streaming entertainment, but I make it a point to watch every second of To Your Eternity’s OP every week. I can’t not, and not just because “PINK BLOOD” fuckin’ whips. Every time I watch I go through the heartbreak of losing both the arctic boy and March as well as Parona’s trauma all over again. The OP continues to grow more powerful as Fushi progresses on his journey and we meet more of the faces it presents.

Two of those faces are of Gugu (or rather his distinctive mask) and Rean, and the latter (voiced by Iwami Manaka, the voice of Honda Tooru) suddenly decides she’s going to live and work at Booze Man’s place from now on. Gugu isn’t sure what to think about this, because while it will be nice to see more of Rean, the fact she likes Fushi and not him will make things uncomfortable, if not painful.

Then again, pain promotes growth. When Gugu asks “what else” Fushi can do besides transform, he creates a spear. Gugu cuts him with a knife, and after healing, Fushi creates a duplicate knife. When Gugu burns him with a torch, Fushi can only create the stick, not the flame…at least not yet. In reaction to all this “experimentation”, Fushi produces a Marchface, indicating he doesn’t like this.

When Rean shows up bright and early, Fushi still hasn’t come in for work; we later see he’s assumed his wolf form and is sleeping away the day. Gugu asks Booze Man for something Rean can use on her wound, and the coot unexpectedly uncorks part of Gugu’s face and bumps out a strange liquid. When Gugu learns the Booze Man gave him a “new organ” where liquor is stored and ferments (hence his distended belly), Gugu is furious, and runs off.

As usual, the old people are only thinking about themselves. Booze Man wants the valuable booze inside Gugu back, while Pioran is worried about who will cook their meals. Rean is loath to go looking for Gugu since she’s not yet an established part of the “family”, while Fushi outright refuses, still sore over how Gugu treated him in the kitchen, and rightfully scared of the forest besides. He volunteers to cook, but ends up simply boiling a daikon with no salt.

Still, no one comes to look for Gugu, who returns to the tattered tent he and his brother once shared. He gets his job tilling the land back from a kindly father who even invites him to join his family. Unfortunately his kindness and empathy weren’t inherited by his sons, who know about the rumors around town that Gugu is a monster.

Gugu agrees with Chan that he can’t be in a family if the members can’t love one another, and removes his mask to determine if they’ll be able to love what they see. It goes about as well as you’d expect. Later that night while sulking outside, some older kids steal his mask and throw it in the stream, but after realizing the mask doesn’t actually do anything, he throws it right back in, walking through town the next day. Let the people gawk in horror…the faces they make are funnier than his!

Fushi’s attempts to cook, clean, mind the shop, and work the fields all end in failure, but when he asks Pioran (by name!) to teach him those things, she soundly refuses, not moved by the March-inspired dirt balls he offers as tribute. For one thing, she’s got better things to do with her time—sitting around drinking her lover’s excellent booze, for example. For another, she doesn’t want to spoil him, and the best teacher he could ask for isn’t her. It’s Gugu.

Gugu settles back into a routine and puts on a little muscle working in the field, but Chan visits his tent and splashes water on him, telling him not to come back, saying it’s because his dad is such a good man that he doesn’t want Gugu causing trouble with his freakishness. Without work, Gugu runs short on funds, but remembers he has the ring Rean gave him.

It’s clear from the look of the merchant that it is indeed worth enough to ensure Gugu never has to sell produce again, but Gugu can’t see what a monster like him would do with that kind of wealth. So when he discovers his drunk, emaciated brother lying in an alley, he gives the ring to him. Even in his current state he’s better off with the ring than a monster. But while he gives Shin the ring, he doesn’t acknowledge him as his brother. He doesn’t have a brother anymore.

Of course, that’s just not true…he has Fushi! Fushi needs Gugu, and as we see when Gugu is scooped up in the night by bandits prepared to sell him to people a taste for freaks and the cash to spend on them, it becomes apparent Gugu needs Fushi as well.

Fushi bowls into the bandit carrying Gugu in his wolf form, and when the guy and his partner stand their ground, he transforms into the Bear, who, let’s be honest, no one other than Hayase would ever think about fucking with!

With that, the Monster Brothers Gugu and Fushi are reunited. Gugu resented Fushi for being admired by Rean, while Fushi resented Gugu for cutting and burning him willy-nilly, but they’re able to get past that, because that’s what brothers do—well, good ones, anyway…

To Your Eternity – 07 – What’s Lost is Lost

Note: This episode was originally mislabeled as episode 6. It is episode 7. Apologies for the mix-up!

To Your Eternity simply knows how to spin a damned good yarn, no matter the characters or setting. This week shifts the focus to Gugu: a cheerful, energetic, enterprising young lad who lives in a tent with his brother down by the river. The two save up money to one day live in a big mansion they can see in the distance.

While working at a produce stall in the town market, Gugu notices a cute young lady wandering around, looking for something…or someone. That evening an adorable powder-puff of a doglet approaches him and he offers half his dinner to the little guy.

For his generosity, the dog approaches him the next day at the market, and just happens to be who the wealthy girl was looking for. She rewards him with a ring she got as a gift from her father which she says he can sell and never work at a produce stall again.

Gugu clearly appreciates her taking his hand in hers and looking right at him with her stunning amethyst eyes more than any trinket. When he trots home on cloud nine with the ring and a bag full of coins from selling produce, he finds his brother has gone off with all of their money to “pursue his fate”—one of which he clearly didn’t consider Gugu a part.

Crestfallen and suddenly alone, Gugu continues on, but as he watches a primitive train loaded with logs pass, he contemplates—just for a moment—jumping in front of that train in order to “change”. He immediately dispels that thought as madness, but just then one of the logs flies off, and misses hitting him by an inch.

When the train driver runs off to get help, he asks Gugu to watch the log, but the shrub holding it in place gives way and it starts to roll down the hill, where the girl in the green dress happens to be picking flowers by the riverbed. Somewhat incredibly, she hears neither the log nor Gugus yells of warning.

He manages to shove her out of harm’s way, though she takes a tumble and loses consciousness. The log comes right down on his head, smashing it…but miraculously, he doesn’t die. He just changed…just as he wanted to, only not like this!

The spirited old coot who asked Gugu for seeds at the market discovers him some time later, and takes him to his home—ironically, the giant mansion Gugu and his brother envied so. Gugu wakes up on a slaughtering table, with a variety of masks and a helmet staring back at him.

He looks in the mirror and sees that he’s become disfigured. He has a pot belly now, and his nose and face are ruined and grotesque. But the old man, a brewer, says he can still eat, and is incredibly lucky, so he should keep on living. He offers the expressive helmet to Gugu, who slips it on and becomes “a kind of monster” that isn’t him.

Three months later, Fushi and Pioran arrive at the Brewer’s house, and we are where last episode left off. Despite the episode only spending half of its time on his backstory, at this point I was already fully emotionally invested in Gugu as a character, and eager to see how he’d help Fushi change and evolve…until inevitably dying and having his form copied by said Fushi.

But before the pain , some joy, as Gugu revels in meeting a new brother figure, even though he seems to possess the intelligence of a baby and his clothes stick to him in a very odd fashion. Gugu teaches Fushi the ropes as he goes through his busy yet oddly fulfilling routine of hard work leading to a warm and cozy family dinner.

Amusingly, both “Booze Man” and Pioran are eager to profit on Fushi’s uncanniness, but Gugu won’t let them sell or exploit him, and they seem to respect the kid’s wishes, likely glad he’s found a friend.

Then something happens that was always inevitable, but comes as a shock to Gugu: the return of the girl in green, for whom he gladly sacrificed his face to save, even though she hasn’t the slightest clue she was saved by the same boy who found her dog, or that that same boy is manning this shop.

Blushing through his helmet the whole time, Gugu recommends some non-alcoholic provisions that could help the girl with the wound she’s still nursing from three months ago. When the girl blushes in return and asks for his name, he tells her, before she says “not you, him”, referring to the tall, light, and handsome Fushi she proceeds to flirt with. Her name, incidentally, is Rean.

Poor Gugu can’t ever seem catch a break! He also never gives up, but just keeps on grinding. Even if he feels he can never show his face to a girl like Rean, he’ll at least try to make the rest of him attractive, so he starts anm intensive fitness regimen.

Fushi joins in, because he doesn’t sleep and has nothing else to do, and the Brewer laughs his old man laugh, glad that once more Gugu is shaking off heartbreak and pain, and should grow into a good man. Fushi picks up on the old man’s laugh and mimics it, until the two of them and Pioran are all laughing together.

In an arc that’s almost certain to end in tragedy like its predecessors, I will surely take the joy with which this episode ended while I can. March and Parona are still my Mommy and Daddy, respectively, but this new arc will do just fine. It felt like wrapping oneself in a new blanket with a slightly different smell and feel than the old one you were used to. One gets used to the change, just as all of us must.

To Your Eternity – 06 – A Grand Objective

Note: This episode was originally mislabeled as episode 5. It is episode 6.

The original March may be deceased, but she lives on in Fushi, in the same way parents live on in their children…only different, because it’s Fushi, who can take on the physical form of his found mama. Thankfully, it’s not just her climbing ability he’s inherited, but a measure of her profound humanity.

There’s no doubt that March taught him generosity and gratitude, which he pays forward when he reunites with a stranded and hungry Pioran quite by chance. Pioran is her usual sardonic self, but isn’t beneath trying to take a literal bite out of Fushi in his boy form, causing him to switch to his defensive wolf form.

Eventually he becomes March again, climbs a tree, tosses Pioran some fruit, then says “Thank you” in a way that sounds like “This is what you say.” Pioran, in turn, starts to teach him more words, as well as how to write his name, as well as her own, March’s, and Parona’s.

The two make a good traveling team, and Fushi learns more and more, so by the time they arrive at a port town and board a boat to Pioran’s homeland, he’s able to communicate in a more-or-less conversational manner, a far cry from crudely mimicking sounds out of context. The youthful vigor of the late March as well as the seasoned wisdom of Pioran have quickly made Fushi more human than ever.

So it’s terrifying when he’s ambushed one night in the woods by mysterious tree golem-like monster who literally steals Fushi’s boy form, along with most if not all memory of the boy’s life. The narrator arrives and tells Fushi the score: the tree monster is the enemy, and if he wants the boy back, he’ll have to fight…and win.

Fushi transforms into the wolf, but the monster steals the wolf. He transforms into the giant bear, but the monster steals that too. In terms of corporeal forms, he’s down to just March, who while tiny and relatively weak, is quick and agile enough to dodge the monster’s bear form, enter its hollow chest, and grab the core that enables the golem to move.

This is a simply breathtaking action scene, marred only by the low light, which isn’t even that big a deal since it leds a great gloomy atmosphere to Fushi’s building panic at losing his forms. Like the drawings in the boy’s hut (which are updated in the card between the A and B parts), they are Fushi’s family, and he’s clearly distressed about losing them.

Fortunately, his March form is enough to grab the core, give it a good squeeze, and the wolf, boy, and bear flow back into him. He smiles in relief, and the mysterious cloaked narrator introduces himself as Fushi’s creator. He created him with a grand objective in mind: preserve the world before “the coming end”. The tree monster was their enemy, unable to take a true animal form and bent on impeding their objective.

That said, the Creator can tell Fushi can’t quite understand these concepts, and so parts ways with him until later, when he’s lived a little more in the world, and gained a few more forms. Pioran takes him to her hometown and the house of her lover, who is apparently a scholar who might be able to make heads or tails of Fushi. The house is also home to a boy wearing a distinctive mask that hides his face. Pioran rather rudely introduces Fushi as an “immortal freak.”

Rating: 4/5 Stars

To Your Eternity – 05 – A Family

Parona frees March, Fushi, and the old lady Pioran, but before they escape the prison, she wants to cut off a chunk of “Oniguma-sama” as proof to Ninnanah he was defeated. She even has a wolf toy ready to placate March, along with the justification that it will save the lives of many girls.

But March, who had just washed the great bear’s wounds and watched him die, won’t allow it. So Parona reconsiders. She’ll convince the villagers some other way—one that doesn’t require another life.

Parona proves as bad a wagon driver as she is an archer, but thanks to her asking March what she wants to do when she becomes a grown-up, it offers March a chance to set a death flag or three. Right on time, the casually relentless Hayase and her Yamone warriors close in on their fleet donkeys.

Hayase assures them she’ll spare their lives if they give up the dog, but Fushi is family, so that ain’t gonna happen. Parona gives a valiant effort to fight them off, but she has to be saved from an arrow by March, who declares “I can do something too” before saving her beloved husband.

Immediately after March is shot, Fushi leaps towards Hayase, transforming in mid-air from wolf to giant bear, wounds and all, and rakes her across the face. Then we take a look back at how Parona and March met. Parona watched from a distance as March played with her fingers in the dirt, imagining them as her kids.

When March approached her wondering why she was always alone, Parona presented her with a doll she made, and March returns the favor with a “thank you meal” that, while inedible, Parona still “eats” and voices how delicious it is. March suggests they become a family; her new doll can be their kid, she’ll be Mommy, and Parona will be Daddy.

Fast-forward back to the wagon, and March is fading fast. Parona finds another “thank-you meal” with which March was going to surprise her. March asks Parona to become a mommy in her place, then asks if Fushi is near, and as he causes a rampage in the city, Parona says that he is. Then March draws her last breath.

Between this and Fruits Basket’s tearjerker earlier today, I’ve gone through half a big box of tissues crying my eyes out. But Parona wears a smile as she approaches Fushi and tells him to stop; there’s no longer any need to fight.  He returns to human form, while Parona finds Hayase lying in a pile of rubble, wounded but alive. She picks up a nearby broken blade, telling March “Let’s go home together.”

In the space between life and death, March envisions returning to her village with Parona and leaping into the arms of her elated parents. She dreams of growing into a beautiful young woman with lots of stuffed “kids” made by Parona. But then March notices this isn’t really happening, and that she’s not really there, or anywhere. She doesn’t want to be nowhere, not when there was so much more she wanted to do.

She sees Parona with the blade, seemingly pointed at Hayase, but Parona, who is unwilling to live in a reality where she outlived March, turns the blade on her throat and prepares to plunge it in, thus “going home together” with her little wife. She can’t hear the spectral March pleading for her to stop…but Fushi does hear her, and stays Parona’s hand, all the while pouting like March. He takes her by the arm and transforms into Oniguma, and the two ride back to Ninnanah.

Once there, Parona approaches March’s parents and presents them with the “letter” containing only March’s handprint, which Parona translates as “March is doing great.” That, along with Parona’s demeanor tells the parents all they need to know. But rather than shun her like her parents did when she dared to live, March’s mother embraces Parona, thanking her for everything she did—and tried to do—for their March.

As the watch announces the Yanome are coming, Parona tells a suddenly far more expressive Fushi to flee before the enemy arrives. After all, life is never merely given, it must be won. He transforms into a wolf and departs.

Using an arrow that’s served her well for more than half a year and a heavy bow borrowed from a watchman, Parona takes aim at Hayase as she aims at Fushi, and her arrow goes right through Hayase’s hand. Even so, Hayase merely smiles, and Parona admits she missed her intended target, which was no doubt meant to be fatal.

As for Fushi, as the narrator says: “In meeting its mother and parting with her, its humanity increased.” Not only that, he can now take March’s form, and does so in order to grab one of the fruits his mommy once so generously fed him. So ends the most moving episode of To Your Eternity yet, in my books surpassing even the sublime first episode.

If I’m honest, I always knew March would be a goner and probably end up another one of Fushi’s forms. And yet the show kept serving up hope she might have a future, right up to her act of self-sacrifice. Parona may not have to live with the loss of March and her sister, but she’ll keep living all the same. It’s what her wife would have wanted.

GODDAMN TEARJERKER™ CERTIFIED

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