Golden Kamuy – 30 – The Flag-Bearer

The dead Russian doesn’t just have a wanted poster with a sketch of Kuroranke, but Wilk as well, as we learn the two worked together to kill the emperor. Ogata’s game of cat-and-mout with Vasily concludes when he makes the Russian shoot first—at the wrong thing.

Vasily saw signs of covered footprints leaving the unmoving cloaked figure, which led to an Uilta coffin in a tree. But it turns out the coffin was the decoy, and when Vasily shoots it, thats when Ogata, the cloaked figure after all, shoots Vasily through the face.

Ogata masked his breath by eating snow, but hours of that and sitting in the bitter cold take their toll, and he end up with a horrible fever. He starts to have delirious dreams of the past when he was still trying to recruit his ultra-pure of blood and heart half brother Yuusaku, the flag-bearer for their unit.

There’s a superstition in the army about the flag-bearer being a virgin as a form of protection from the bullets. Ogata never cared for that, but he can’t really complain when Asirpa and Shiraishi participate in an Uilta healing ceremony designed to draw out the “wicked thing” causing his fever—in his case, lingering memories of his failed attempts to corrupt Yuusaku.

During the ritual, Shiraishi meets with Asirpa outside, telling her it’s not safe for her in Russia, particularly when their guide killed the emperor. Kiroranke leaves the tent too and comes as clean as you’d expect, telling them his old name was Yulbars, and he and Wilk killed the emperor who forged a treaty that threatened all far-east minority peoples. Asirpa decides not to run away, hoping to find the gold “when the killing is done”.

Ogata’s dreams resolve in a revisiting of the episode 19, when we first learned of Ogata’s unfortunate family situation. When Ogata notes Yuusuke hasn’t killed a single Russian during his tour, he offers up a prisoner for him to execute, but Yuusuke refuses. The next time he marches into battle bearing the flag, Ogata shoots him in the head, ending the failed mission to bring him into the fold with Tsurumi and negating the superstition of the flag-bearer’s invincibility in the same shot.

Because ultimately, Ogata is right: surviving bullets on the battlefield has nothing to do with chastity, nobility of one’s blood or the purity of one’s heart or soul. Yuusuke may have been the most moral man on the battlefield, but that made him an easy target for any bullet, not just Ogata’s. When his blood spilled, it was just blood, like anyone else’s.

After an Uilta fortune-telling ritual involving reading the cracks in burnt reindeer shoulder blade (that apparently goes well), Asirpa joins Kiroranke and a recovered Ogata further north, but Shiraishi is poised to stay behind. They say their goodbyes, but when Shiraishi remembers Sugimoto urging him to keep Asirpa safe, he runs after them.

When we first saw the bone cracks indicating “someone approaching from behind”, I took it to mean Sugimoto’s group was closing on them and they’d eventually meet up. But here it’s revealed Shiraishi, was the person from behind foretold by the bone. Then, after they leave, more cracks appear on that same bone, turning the good sign into a bad one.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Cardcaptor Sakura – 25 – Double Trouble

Sakura is grocery shopping for dinner, but once she’s bought everything she needs, she heads home…only for a second Sakura to appear, wearing a face that’s just…just wrong. It’s a sly smirk, an expression Sakura rarely wears. Kudos to the animators for making such a subtle change, and for the music to capture that strange otherness about her doppelganger.

Of course, Sakura doesn’t know there’s someone who looks just like her about to wreak havoc; she comes home to find Yukito cutting Touya’s hair. This is, by the way, an episode packed with so much Yukitouya shipping fuel you could circumnavigate the earth five times over!

As her doppel trashes retail displays (and her girlfriends, Syaoran and Meiling bear witness), Sakura is having a great day, having Yukito give her a trim, then helping him make dinner. I loved Meiling’s line about the possibility Sakura just suddenly decided to become a “bad girl”—even she doesn’t sound that confident about it!

At school, Sakura’s friends confront her about the girl they saw trashing stuff, but Sakura denies everything and they obviously believe her. Syaoran is ultimately saved by the school bell before he has to offer his two cents, but it’s clear he doubts the girl he saw was Sakura.

Desperate for answers, Sakura comes to Kero-chan, who teaches her how to do fortune telling with the Clow Cards. After arranging them just so and doing the special incantation, she determines the three cards she has that are closest to the card she seeks, and also senses that the card is after Touya.

Sure enough, the fake Sakura lures Touya into a wild goose chase for some unspoken missing item, while the real Sakura races to the area where she senses a Clow Card…only to lose the signal. Not sure where to search and becoming anxious about the possibility of her brother getting hurt, Sakura starts to lose heart. Thankfully, Syaoran arrives, having sensed a card himself.

The Clow Card Sakura ends up getting Touya to fall off a cliff and break his foot, but is surprised when he doesn’t give up, but tells her he’s determined to help her find what she’s looking for, if she would please stop impersonating his little sister! I assume he believes her to be a ghost who can’t ascend to heaven until she’s found that thing.

Thanks to Syaoran’s compass and Fly, he and Sakura find Touya, and Sakura confronts her double. When neither Windy or Watery work, Kero-chan concludes it’s a “special” card, which will only revert to its card state if it’s name is spoken.

Considering the three cards it was closest to are Watery, Shadow, and Illusion, and the fact the double starts mimicking her actions, Sakura deduces that her name is Mirror. Before being sealed, Mirror kisses the passed-out Touya and apologizes for the harm she caused.

Touya needs a cast and is laid up in bed for a while, but Sakura is dedicated to taking care of him, including cooking meals he ends up feeding to Yukito (more ship fuel, that). She apologizes to Touya, but when he asks what for she simply says never mind, just “sorry” all the same.

Mirror may have ended up being contrite for hurting Touya, but Sakura can’t rule out more unruly cards possibly hurting her family or friends, and she’s also weary of the “catastrophe” Kero brought up when she first became a Cardcaptor. He comforts her by saying that depending on the person it may not be a catastrophe at all, but privately he says it might be worse than the earth going “boom”.

In any case, Sakura resolves to collect all the cards before they can cause too much trouble…double or otherwise. The episode ends with a mysterious redheaded woman in sunglasses outside the Kinomoto residence…I wonder what she wants?

Golden Kamuy – 14 – Mine Madness

Tsurumi’s new pet insane taxidermist Edogai has completed the fake skins for his master, and even found the time to create a Tsurumi “doll” with “spare parts”, much to the consternation of his two minders, Maeyama and Tsukishima.

Things shift from lighthearted fun with body parts to real danger when Ogata kills Maeyama while Tsukishima is away. Edogai makes use of one of his bearskins to disguise himself and escape, making for quite the spectacle. We know Edogai doesn’t get out much, which explains why he remains in the bear outfit throughout his escape.

As a result, it doesn’t take long for Ogata to spot and catch up to him, but Tsukishima is very good at his job (keeping Edogai safe despite himself) and snatches him up in a mine cart. Sugimoto and Shiraishi, who arrived to inspect Edogai’s house (and where Ogata met Shiraishi in the room of corpses and reminded him of his obligations to Hijikata), give chase in another mine cart.

They catch up, but become separated again when the tracks split. Ogata himself follows in a third card, but after some dynamite, the release of firedamp, and several gas explosions, the entire mine becomes even more of a deathtrap than when it was functioning normally. Edogai’s leg is crushed under rocks so he gives his humanskin bag to Tsukishima, entrusting him with getting the fake skins back to Tsurumi.

Sugimoto tries his damndest to break through the wooden barriers the miners made to stop the airflow, but lacks the strength. Fortunately, none other than Ushiyama spotted Sugimoto and Shiraishi heading into the mines via cart, and when things turn pear-shaped, he rushes in to save them both, to Asirpa’s relief.

With that, you have two of the three major factions of the show suddenly sharing a meal together, Last Supper-style: Hijikata and Sugimoto are officially introduced, Ogata is revealed as having betrayed Tsurumi (which doesn’t sit well with Sugimoto, who is, after all, a soldier himself), and Shiraishi’s secret of passing info to Hijikata is not exposed…for now.

As for Tsukishima, he makes sure Edogai didn’t die in vain. The skins reach Tsurumi, as well as Edogai’s last word: “iron.” Tsurumi learns that you can tell a fake skin by the tannins Edogai used, which make the skin turn black when wet and in contact with iron—an interesting parallel to the Huki leaves Asirpa and Sugimoto munched on last week.

Unfortunately for those two, Tsurumi is the only one who knows what’s fake and what’s real. He’s achieved his goal of making life far more difficult for anyone else seeking the treasure.

Golden Kamuy – 13 – The Taste of Spring

I take over Golden Kamuy reviewing duties from Preston as the last vestiges of summer fade and the colors start to turn, but it’s springtime in Hokkaido. It’s in the town of Yuubari where Lt. Tsurumi (himself very odd) meets perhaps the oddest and most colorful character yet on a show full of ’em: Edogai Yasaku. Whomever conceived of such a character has a twisted mind. Edogai seems normal at first, but it’s gradually made clear he’s anything but.

For instance, he doesn’t live with his mother, or anyone else, despite him hearing voices from a number of people in the back room. In fact, he’s just hearing voices, and the “people” are corpses he, a master taxidermist, has stuffed. He’s got a whole goddamn Signing of the Declaration of Independence in there. Is Tsurumi freaked out about this? Quite the contrary; he’s ecstatic: this guy is just who he needs to add more chaos to the tattoo hunt for his opponents.

After indulging Edogai in a hilariously macabre “human skin fashion show”, he tells him the plan: to create clever copies of the tattoo map skins he’s brought, covered in “nonsense” that will lead its readers astray. Edogai is eager to please his newest client, but when he can’t get the color of the skin just right (since its not fresh skin), he has a bit of a temper tantrum, riding his stuffer polar bear in one of his pieces of couture and exposing his arrested development.

So yeah, Edogai isn’t the most stable individual, but Tsurumi only needs him until the job’s done, even if it’s not done to Edogai’s exacting standards. Meanwhile, Asirpa and Sakamoto immediately avail themselves of the lush bounty of spring vegetables and fresh salmon, along with Shiraishi and Kuroranke.

But in Asirpa’s village where Tanigaki is still recovering, Inkarmat arrives with ill tidings: Asirpa’s life is in danger. Someone in her party will betray her, and it’s looking like it’s Kuroranke (if Shiraishi doesn’t do it first, of course). She joins Tanigaki on a mission to warn Asirpa, or to protect her from the threats she faces.

In her dreams, Asirpa remembers her father before his face was ruined, telling her she’d not only be a new kind of Ainu woman (which she certainly is), but one day be their outright leader. For that second prediction to come true, she’ll have to remain alive in an increasingly dangerous Hokkaido. But I wouldn’t bet against her.

Dagashi Kashi – 12 (Fin)

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Here it is: the last episode of the Winter for RABUJOI, ending it with, well, not a whimper, but not really a bang either. The show was clearly never interested in brining the candy shop succession plot to any kind of resolution, and so instead stuck to its usual formula of crafting a slice-of-life skit around particular brands or types of candies.

Specifically, Saya is momentarily freaked out by the possibility of having a yuri moment with Hotaru, who asks her about the “flavor of love”, but she’s only talking about a cherry candy with a poem on the package called Sakuranbo no Uta. Meanwhile, Koko and Tou have a very over-dramatic exchange about the proper use of fortune-telling Taberun Desu Hi candies.

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The next skit is devoted to Morinaga Milk Caramels, with Hotaru sitting in the smoking section of Saya and Tou’s family cafe as a kind of acknowledgement that they used to be marketed to adults as a tobacco substitute.

Mind you, before she comes in Koko is worried about “tying down” Hotaru with his indecision about succeeding the store, which Saya incorrectly imagines to be bondage. But Hotaru leaves impressed that Koko fulfilled her expectations, talking about the caramel’s history and mentioning its many flavors, including coconut.

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The final skit is notable for its visual beauty as well as the transformation of the weather from beginning to end. While running after Hotaru to talk to her about his concerns, it starts to rain hard, and the two end up sheletering at a bus stop. There, Hotaru tries to break open a tin of Sakumashiki Drops, but can’t get it open; Koko pries the top with a 10-yen-coin, amazing Hotaru.

Then he tries to put the peppermint flavor drop he gets back in the tin, which Hotaru stops him. He tries it, and it turns out to be much better than he thought, which is again what Hotaru wanted him to realize: one has to try new things to be surprised.

As for tying her down and keeping her from her own business, Hotaru tells him that’s simply not the case: she’s in Koko’s town not just because she wants to recruit his father and get him to succeed the shop, but because she enjoys hanging out there; that’s all. He’s been overthinking things, and like overthinking this show, that gets you nowhere.

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Kotoura-san – 02

Kotoura and Manabe are recruited into the ESP Society by upperclassman Mifune Yuriko and meet its president, Muroto Daichi. Mifune, daughter of a clairvoyant who committed suicide after beoming hated and feared wants to scientifically prove the existence ESP to mankind and protect psychics from their prejudices. Manabe constantly spending time with Kotoura irks Moritani Hiyori, who likes him, so she and her friends start bullying her as payback. Mifune hears of this an informs Manabe, who confronts Hiyori, chastizes her, and admits he likes Kotoura.

Just because Kotoura’s made one, two even three friends up to this point (or one friend and two senpai), things aren’t getting any easier for her, or anyone else with ESP who lives amongst the normals. We meet the rest of the core cast, which includes Hanazawa Kana as Mifune, doing a normal voice. We could see her doing Kotoura with her shy-mode, but she makes a good senpai too, and in any case, after her nicely layered performance as Yui in Kokoro Connect, we have every confidence in Kanemoto Hisako. (As for Daichi, it’s good to see midget representation this season!). Mifune may not have ESP like Kotoura, but her mother did, and it was literally the death of her. Mifune may have a selfish reason for wanting to enlist Kotoura, but it’s an honorable one; trying to clear her mom’s name, and Kotoura stands to gain from the situation too.

As for Moritani, she and her goons are tremendously nasty bitches this week, transmitting so many awful thoughts to Kotoura that the poor thing barfs, making her even more an object of derision and mockery. She’s so used to it, she doesn’t make a peep about it to Manabe, which is where Mifune comes in. Proving her worth, she makes up for putting Kotoura in that position in the first place by making sure Manabe hears about the bullying, and when he brings the hammer down on Moritani – confessing to liking Kotoura for good measure – it’s very satisfying. Manabe may not be psychic, but he’s no fool; he knows there’s no way the bullying wasn’t hurting Kotoura, and wasn’t going to let those responsible get away with it.

That said, both the OP and ED suggest that Moritani won’t remain so vicious, and while her actions this week are inexcusable, they don’t come out of nowhere (another example of characters’ actions having clear origins). She too knows loneliness (though not nearly to Kotoura’s extent), and Manabe was one of the few guys who wasn’t offput by her family running a dojo. Now he’s preoccupied with Kotoura, and she can’t help but feel like she stole him…even if she never officially had him to begin with. In any case, we hope Kotoura has an episode down the road where she doesn’t have to suffer so terribly…though considering all she’s been through, the fact she’s kept on living is proof she’s far tougher than she looks.


Rating: 8 (Great)