Ikebukuro West Gate Park – 12 (Fin) – The Troublesome Troubleshooter

With Takashi out of commssion the G-Boys are rudderless and eager for revenge, and Kyouichi isn’t above acquiring guns from the yakuza in order to gain the advantage in an otherwise bats-and-clubs fight. Meanwhile, we meet one of the usually unseen victims of the fighting, a young girl whose brother was injured who will play a larger part in the episode’s climax.

Makoto remains in the shadows, relying on his trusted friends in Saru and Lin to get a bigger picture about what’s going on. He learns the Kyougokukai Group from Kansai is trying to make a move against Ikebukuro and the Hidaka Group, providing firearms to both Red Angels and G-Boys. The kid gangs will soften each other out, and Kyougokukai, will stomp them all out and take over.

Makoto still has allies in the G-Boys, including Masaru, who owes him a debt for helping him save Mizuki, only for Mizuki to end up in trouble and missing now. When some less friendly G-Boys spot him and give chase, he’s saved by a more unlikely ally in the recently banished Hiroto.

Hiroto is setting up new turf outside Ikebukuro, but can’t stand by and let his old turf go to shit, especially if it’s due to the machinations of outside yakuza groups. We later learn he and his men, like the little girl, have a crucial role to play in the endgame.

Then there’s Isogai, quite obviously the mastermind behind everything based on clues from last week’s episode. Makoto gives him a call still believing he’s someone who can be trusted, and they meet by a secluded shrine. Isogai gives him a new phone, which Makoto quickly checks for the spying app that confirms Isogai is indeed the mastermind.

Isogai goes on to explain his motivations. A native of Ikebukuro, he was bullied in school and had to stop going to classes. He ended up joining the Kyougokukai, and knowing their interest in Ikebukuro, volunteered to serve as a sleeper agent until the conditions were right to blow everything up.

For all his hatred of punks both red and blue, Isogai still sees value in Makoto as a good guy and troubleshooter, and asks him to join him, Makoto refuses, there’s a scuffle, and Isogai ends up putting five bullets in him. At the same time, Takashi wakes up in the hospital, wondering what’s keeping Makoto.

The two sides form battle lines in West Gate Park, and Takashi not only makes a surprise appearance, but starts a fight with Kyouichi despite still bleeding through his bandages. It would seem all the pieces are arranged on the board the way Isogai and his Kyougokukai superior Yoshimatsu want (the latter, Glasses Guy from last week, even watches the battle from his car).

The G-Boys and Angels are about to slam into each other when suddenly a video starts playing on the park’s Jumbotron: a video expertly recorded by Makoto’s film director buddy, capturing Makoto’s entire incriminating conversation with Isogai, exposing him as a traitor to the Angels and Ikebukuro itself. Everyone stops fighting, takes in the scope of Isogai’s treachery…and stews.

Isogai responds by pulling out his gun and shooting Makoto again, but as with the last time he shot him, it was with harmless blood rounds (lent to him by his director friend). Makoto switched the guns out when they scuffled at the shrine. Kyouichi delivers a  devastating, balletic kick to Isogai’s head and threatening to dance on him until he’s a pile of crushed bones—but Makoto begs him not to go too far.

As Hiroto’s men deal with Kyougokukai’s Yoshimatsu, who is invited to a nice chat with Saru of Hidaka Group, Makoto tries to do what he does best: call for all the warring parties to stand down, go their separate ways and think about whether they really want to fight a battle they were manipulated into fighting. Also, the riot cops are about to come in an arrest everyone.

He urges everyone to remember that while can sometimes lie and hurt each other, they also have the capacity to forgive. Everyone stands down…except that wild card little girl whose brother was injured. She isn’t satisfied until she’s able to stab Takashi, and he lets it happen, drawing her into a hug even after she sticks him in the kidneys.

Because Takashi is so gentle with his would-be killer, the avenging girl must sense that he had forgiven her before she even stabbed him, and thus can forgive him and those who cause her brother’s injury. Before passing out, Takashi tells Makoto to take over the G-Boys if he doesn’t make it.

While that would have been an thoroughly interesting development, Takashi pulls through, and even has the sister and her recovered brother visit him, completing the cycle of forgiveness and healing. Kyouichi disbands the Red Angels and moves into a house his parents left him just outside the Yamanote Line.

Makoto’s mom re-opens the produce stand, where Guo continues to help out. And finally, Makoto sits in West Gate Park when he’s approached by someone who has a problem that needs solving. In other words, life goes on in the town he loves. It’s not often a series concludes by bringing together most of its previous narrative elements into a satisfying whole, but IWGP pulled it off beautifully.

Don’t believe the low MAL score or lack of ANN reviews: IWGP was a strong Fall 2020 dark horse candidate. ambitious in its concept, resourceful with its protagonist and setting, involving at every turn (one iffy Youtuber episode aside), and realistic in its depiction of the complex social structures that make up a town, and the importance of maintaining relationships and balance.

Ikebukuro West Gate Park – 11 – Nightmare on Sunshine Street

If I haven’t already, I’ll go on record now: Thus far I’ve always enjoyed the IWGP stories that aren’t directly related to the G-Boy/Red Angel dispute, like when Mikoto gained a sister in Guo, or last week’s dive into restorative justice. That said, if the show wishes to close things out by refocusing on the Red-vs.-Blue divide, there are far worse ways to do so than what we got.

This week takes what had been a volatile tinderbox and blew it up with a few bold strokes. What keeps this episode out of four-and-a-half star territory—aside from the fact it’s only part one of two-part story—is that it takes a step back from the earnest urban realism and relies on predictable action-drama anime tropes.

Red/Blue tussles are becoming more frequent ever since the Angels helped the G-Boys put quell an internal dispute. A border dispute on Sunshine Street could quickly escalate into full-on gang warfare, so Makoto does his thing: works with Kyouichi and Isogai to arrange a peaceful meeting with King.

As soon as the Angels’ hotheaded number 3 Utsumi is introduced, we’re invited to believe he’s trying to up his team’s aggression against the G-Boys, just as King’s underling Hiroto tried to do the opposite. But there’s the additional element of a young Watanabe Kazumasa looking like he wants to say something to Makoto, but hesitates…then ends up with a knife in his heart.

The border dispute meeting is off, as the Angels are convinced the G-Boys killed their kid. Mikoto learns of the murder on TV, and rushes to meet with Takashi, who assures him he didn’t order the hit, while not ruling out that a hot-headed underling might have.

Then a bad-case scenario gets even worse when a drugged and clearly out-of-it Mizuki guns Takashi down and flees. As Takashi checks for vitals and calls an ambulance, a man in a white suit and glasses sits in a car watching while someone in the back seat snaps photos of Takashi standing over the gunned-down Takashi…someone with Isogai’s hairstyle.

Takashi is alive but unconscious in the hospital, but the misleading photos are posted online, and the general consensus among G-Boys is that Makoto betrayed their leader and tried to kill him. Their retribution is swift, as some of them launch a van at Makoto’s family produce stand, hitting his mom and nearly hitting him and Guo.

Guo, knowing her brother didn’t shoot Takashi, urges Makoto to start running and find out who’s responsible for this. That brings us to the episode’s cold open, in which Makoto felt like he was having a bad dream. While hiding from various roving bands of G-Boys, he gets a call from Makoto, who uses the call to get a fix on his location.

Judging from the look in his eyes, at this point I was convinced Isogai was responsible for Kazu’s murder, Mizuki’s drugging, and Makoto’s framing. By using Kyouichi and Utsumi’s rage over Kazu’s death, he creates a fine smokescreen in which to freely operate while all hell breaks loose.

As blood starts to spill on the streets, Chief Rei insists Makoto come to the station for questioning, as he was at the very least a witness to Takashi’s shooting. Makoto isn’t ready to do that quite yet, as he won’t be able to solve this riddle from the police station.

Meanwhile, as a satisfied man in white lounges on the bed of a hotel room enjoying a (possibly post-coital?) cigarette, Isogai takes a shower and grins like an evil villain. Which, fine…it’s an interesting turn for a somewhat dull but likeable character, but I was kinda okay with him being somewhat dull and likeable? Not to mention the unpleasant undertones of the only gay guy in the show being the big bad…

Makoto meets with Zero One in their usual café—which seems odd considering all the G-Boys are after him—but then again, most of the G-Boys are probably busy fighting Red Angels. Here is where Makoto is portrayed as perhaps a bit too ignorant of modern smartphone technology, as the hacker explains the spy app that allow his pursuers to pinpoint his location.

They’re interrupted by Detective Yoshioka, who politely asks Makoto to come with him for questioning. Makoto gets in Yoshioka’s car and explains what he knows so far, but instead of going into the station, he asks that Yoshioka let him go to track down the culprit as only someone with his skills and connections can. Yoshioka doesn’t endorse Makoto’s actions, but also can’t exactly legally detain him.

So off Makoto goes, through dark alleys and across the neon-lit boulevards of Sunshine Street, in the middle of a nightmare from which there is no waking. His mother and his best friend are laid up, and thanks to a devious setup job his neutrality has been utterly destroyed. While this episode took some sensationalist leaps to get to where it is, everything that has unfolded so far remains not only plausible, but inevitable.

I’m just not particularly elated about Isogai being the presumptive Big Bad, because this was a show that didn’t really need one, and in fact always thrived in the gray area between good and bad that best reflected real life.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Cardcaptor Sakura – 56 – Kero-chan v Suppie: Dawn of Plushtice

In a tale of two teams, Kero-chan is excited about Sakura’s upcoming bazaar, because it means a good deal of tasty sweets will be on hand, while Spinel Sun is far less enthusiastic, as Eriol hints that “something” happens when he eats sweets. Spinel is as calm and subdued as Kero-chan (not to mention Nakuru) is brash and excitable. His voice is very soothing, without a hint of a dialect.

The day of the bazaar arrives, and Sakura is cute as always in her handmade outfit (a Tomoyo original, natch). Tomoyo is nearby with her camera, Eriol beats Syaoran to complimenting Sakura, Yamazaki goes off on a string of rambling lies, Rika has a nice moment with Terada-sensei, and Touya tries to fight off Nakuru as Yukito eats a lot. Pretty standard CCS stuff, really.

What this episode offers that is unique and thus more compelling is the first meeting of Spinel and Kero-chan, though due to Spinel’s ability to completely mask his magic, Kero-chan doesn’t quite know what to make of the guy, but in any case doesn’t consider “Suppie” a threat…especially when he learns his name is “Suppie”.

We then learn why Spinel avoids sweets: they make him drunk, alternating between happy, goofy, crying, and vacuuming up all of the sweets in the school with no regard for whether he or Kero-chan are seen by witnesses. Spinel’s seiyu makes the necessary changes in their delivery for a convincing transformation.

Kero-chan decides to go to Sakura and implores her to convert Sleep and cast it in order to prevent exposure. Sakura is confused, but does so, and Kero eventually finds Spinel, who is now started “vomiting” his red laser beam. Kero counters with his fire breath and Spinel flees, essentially framing Kero-chan for the sweet-stealing spree, which Sakura assumes was his fault.

It was a close call for Spinel, but he was saved by Kero’s cluelessness. It’s also somewhat frustrating that Sakura and Kero still have no idea they’re being targeted by Eriol, Spinel and Ruby, and this episode failed to move that needle.

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?

Kabukichou Sherlock – 03 – The Ghost Behind the Mirror

When Moriarty’s 16th birthday party is interrupted by the arrival of one Tanaka Pu, on the run from the police, Mrs. Hudson (a weird but clever adaptation of the original landlady character) hears him out.

When Lestrade arrives to arrest him for murdering his Uncle Cosmos, Hudson intervenes by bribing Lestrade and giving the assembled detectives a job: prove Pu’s innocence.

Sherlock and Watson visit Pu’s house and interview his mother, but Holmes is really there to get the measure of who Pu and his family are by studying their living space. Kyougoku Fuyuto is also on the case, mostly because he’s a huge fan of Pu’s uncle’s “legendary rocker” friend B-zou, who says every eighth word or so in English.

It’s nice to see another side of the usually very uptight Fuyuto, but when he insists Pu is indeed the murderer based on the preponderance of evidence, Sherlock voices his disagreement, and delivers an alternative possibility based on the information he’s gathered.

In his now-trademark rakugo style, Sherlock deduces that Uncle Cosmos isn’t dead at all, but faked his death as a murder committed by his nephew. The charred remains weren’t him, but his brother, Pu’s father. In fact, this whole time Cosmos has been hiding inside a mirror mounted above the bed in his penthouse.

It’s another fun and zany enough case, though somewhat predictable; I was pretty certain the murderer was either B-zou or a faked death situation, and I’m usually terrible at such predictions. Watson’s cold-open narration of the events that led to him seeking out Sherlock felt tacked-on and somewhat clumsy.

Now that they’re officially roommates, perhaps he’ll soon get a chance to bring up his case.  As for Moriarty’s pressed clovers and the giant moth he kills…I got nothing, though someone on a forum suggested they represent Jack the Ripper’s victims. All I know is, classic Moriarty (AKA Ratigan) is Holmes’ arch-nemesis.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 19 – United Front

The Pope packs a whallop with his attacks, but turns out the first couple were just “trial runs”, to unleash the full power of the weapon he transforms it into a spear and draws upon the mana his holy army of followers, who number in the thousands despite not having any kind of supply train. Did these people just walk out here from wherever they came from without provisions of any kind? Seems like a logistical nightmare.

That weapon turns out to be a replica of the Cardinal Heroes’ own weapons, able to transform as needed. Melty is shocked to learn it still exists, believing it had been lost long ago, while Motoyasu condemns its use as “cheating.” As for Naofumi, he asks why, if they could make such powerful weapons, did they bother summoning heroes at all?

However, Motoyasu’s weapons, nor combo attacks by him and his party, have any effect thanks to Popey’s magical barrier, which enables said Pope to laugh and bray on about delivering judgment and such.  What he didn’t count on, however, were the Sword and Bow Heroes not being dead after all.

Turns out Itsuki and Ren never trusted the Three Heroes Church, and were investigating it when they learned that the church had possession of the weapon. They were led to a false shrine where the church tried to assassinate them, but failed. Now, with all the four Cardinal Heroes, assembled, it’s time to turn the tables as one unit…right?

Wrong. Naofumi isn’t fighting with other three. Not after the shit they gave him and the trouble they caused which he and his party had to clean up. And who can blame him? They’ve demonstrated they’re no better than the Pope, taking and doing whatever they want without regard to the lives they affect.

This results in roughly six minutes of the heroes bickering among themselves and pointing fingers before Naofumi finally gives in and joins the others, but only until they deal with the Pope and the Queen’s Shadow Punitive Force arrives (which, by the way, where the hell have they BEEN?), and because he promised Fitoria he’d at least try to make up with the other heroes.

However, by the time they’re ready to fight as one, The Pope has already prepared “Cathedral”, a high-level spell that encases the entire crater in a magical barrier that he maniacally declares will be their “final destination.” Somehow I doubt that. I have to say, I’ve had quite enough of our ambitious pontiff and his seemingly infinite supply of mana.

But at least his actions led to the other three heroes finally learning not only how wrong they’ve been about Naofumi, but how harmful their own actions have been. Here’s hoping the lessons stick, even if the alliance is only temporary.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 18 – Some Messed-Up Logic

I’ve probably said it before, but since it happens this week I’ll say it again: nothing is less entertaining than watching someone berate or attack Naofumi for actions we know for a fact he didn’t commit. The entire premise of the discussion or fight is faulty, so it just feels like we’re wasting time. I’m long since out of patience waiting for Motoyasu to realize he’s being manipulated by Malty.

Malty uses the made-up term “Brainwashing Shield” as her own version of “Fake News”—two words to dismiss whatever defense Naofumi may field. Her story is that Naofumi is responsible for the death of Rin and Itsuki. Motoyasu won’t listen to Naofumi, or Melty, or anyone else but Malty, so the reconciliation Naofumi promised Fitalia he’d attempt is just as impossible as he thought. Instead, Malty creates a Lightning prison around Motoyasu and Naofumi so her puppet can fight the “Devil of the Shield.”

This entire fight, which takes up a lot of time, is utterly pointless. These two have already fought before, and Malty should know from the last Wave that Naofumi & Co. are more powerful. Simply attacking him again and again under false pretenses when you know Motoyasu will lose is folly. And yet we, the audience, still have to watch them go through the motions.

Not even Penkin’s score could make either this fight, or the lead-up to it, interesting. We get some participation from Motoyasu’s other party members, but even 19 episodes in they’ve been given precisely ZERO personality, so I could care less about them.

Once Motoyasu and Malty are defeated, once again, as expected, they continue twirling their mustaches right up until Filo kicks them all into a pile and demands Naofumi conjure as much mass above them as he possibly can, because something’s coming. That something is very similar to the phenomenon that fell on Ren and Itsuki, and we learn it was produced by the Pope, who calls it “God’s Judgment.”

Popey McGee has bad news Naofumi and Motoyasu: using the receipts collected from their actual deeds, as well as those of Ren and Itsuki, they’re being eliminated as “false heroes.” He has bad news for Melty and Malty too: the church is staging a coup, tossing the Melromarc monarchy into the bin and presumably replacing it with a theocracy.

No doubt his forces are already in the process of capturing their mother Queen Mirelia, whose utter absence in, well, all of this remains almost show-breakingly baffling.

While we at RABUJOI are all card-carrying non-fans of the Lame One-Dimensionally Evil Religious Organization (LODERO) trope common to fantasy anime, the Pope crashing another lame fight with Motoyasu and Malty actually saved this episode for me. His evil is there for everyone in that pit to see, and directly contradicts the lies Malty was telling Motoyasu, who listened because she’s hot and he has a hero complex.

But the Pope’s plans also provide the first real opportunity for Naofumi to make some headway with Motoyasu, who as terrible as he is, is still necessary to defeat the Waves. I can’t really say much about the Pope’s coup—one would think the next move would be Mirelia’s—but it’s encouraging that circumstances have finally put Naofumi and Motoyasu in the same boat. If they want to live, they’ll have to row together. So…Thanks, Pope, I guess?

As for whether Ren and Itsuki are really dead…like Naofumi, I’ll need more concrete confirmation than the word of a power-hungry, coup-starting pontiff. One thing I know for certainty: If and when they all get out of this mess, Malty will still treat Naofumi like utter shit. Take it to the bank.

The Rising of the Shield Hero – 04 – A Companion in Hell

At a royal gala celebrating the defeat of the latest Wave of Catastrophe, there might as well be a black cloud hanging over Naofumi. He doesn’t want to be there any more than anyone there wants him to be there. Raphalia tries to cheer him by offering him food, but when the Spear Hero…[checks MAL] Kitamura Motoyasu sees her, he challenges Naofumi to a duel on te spot.

Motoyasu doesn’t like how Naofumi is using a demi-human as his slave. Even if it’s legal in this world, he doesn’t think it’s right. Of course, he’s coming from a position of great ignorance in terms of the actual nature Naofumi and Raphtalia’s relationship. Myne eggs him on, and even when Naofumi refuses to fight Motoyasu, King Melromarc intervenes, ordering him to accept the challenge and arresting and gagging Raphtalia.

Clearly there are two sets of rules in this world: those Naofumi must follow, and no other rules. A duel between two people shouldn’t be something that can be thrust upon an unwilling participant, even by a king. But Melro straight up abuses his power, and nobody stops him, because he is king. All the while everyone, from the heroes to the assembled nobles, practically pelt Naofumi with a hail of insults and exhortations of disgust.

But if he has to fight, Naofumi is going to fight to win, something that might actually be possible since he’s leveled up and gained so many skills, including several that transform the shield into an offensive weapon. He has Motoyasu off balance until Myne interferes with a wind magic spell. The blatant cheating goes utterly unnoticed by everyone but Naofumi, but as a result he loses, and “Myne” makes sure to rub it in his face.

I put “Myne” in quotes because that’s not her real name; turns out she’s Princess Melty, the king’s daughter. Naofumi goes over in his head how he was set up every step of the way by Melty, using the power of her pops and manipulating Motoyasu into thinking Naofumi was The Worst. Even the other two heroes…[checks MAL] Kawasumi Itsuki and Amaki Ren saw that Myne interfered, making Motoyasu the loser.

But no one else will speak up about the cheating, and however ill-begotten the Spear Hero’s victory was, it was still a victory. That means Raphtalia’s slave contract with Naofumi is terminated. As she turns away to leave, Naofumi is consumed by some kind of miasma. But she doesn’t really leave; she admonishes Motoyasu for freeing her when she never actually asked to be freed, and tells him the truth: that Naofumi has only ever been kind to her, and she owes him her life.

Some time ago, in a moment of vulnerability when Raphtalia broke down, Naofumi was there to hold and comfort him. Now it’s Raphtalia’s turn to comfort him. He may think he’s in Hell, where no matter what he says or does, everything will be stacked against him, but that’s only the case if he completely disregards one very important fact: Raphtalia is his sword, and if need be she’ll follow him through Hell itself.

As she embraces Naofumi she levels up, growing into a grown woman in the process (a quirk of demi-humans and one reason they’re oppressed). The miasma is lifted, Naofumi rises, and is free to leave not with his slave, but with his ward, companion, and sword.

Motoyasu still suspects Raphtalia is somehow being brainwashed, but Ren and Itsuki don’t see how he can think that after hearing Raphtalia pour her heart out so publically. The King skulks away, either disappointed the plot didn’t work out or disappointed in his daughter (or both).

Best of all, when Raphtalia gives Naofumi a sandwich she made and he tastes it…he can finally taste it. It’s as if she broke the curse that made everything taste like nothing for him, either through a passive practical spell, or simply by being there for him when no one else was. Even if they got off to a rough start, he was there for her too. And so they’ve saved each other.

This was a standout episode that really got my blood boiling when things started again piling up against Naofumi, but things more or less worked out in the end. There was definitely some catharsis to him finally being cut some slack. I’m still not quite sure why Malty is so obsessively committed to making Naofumi’s life hell. It’s because she’s just, well, bad, that would be slightly disappointing. But what else could it be? She barely knows him.

After being so pissed off with the other heroes that I didn’t even bother to learn their names, Ren and Itsuki showed promising signs that their opinion of Naofumi was improving, or at least that they’d entertain his claims of unfair persecution. Perhaps that’s the first step towards the four heroes eventually working more closely together for a future Wave.

Attack on Titan – 40 – Truth Desert

Titan is effective because the audience shares in the characters’ frustration that their world is shrouded in mystery and they have no idea what The Truth really is. They have to either be content with smaller truths— Historia’s identity as true heir to the throne, for instance—or theories, like the one where the false king altered the memories of those who settled within the walls, and altered history along with it.

As Historia is meeting her father for the first time in years, she goes over her own sad, well, history in her head. She had an objectively horrible mother who never showed her love, but with no frame of reference for what a “normal” mom-daughter relationship should be, getting violently shoved away for trying to hug her made her happy, because it was something.

The first words Tori’s mother said to her were basically the same as the those with which Tori’s mother left the world: words expressing regret she ever gave birth her. Rob Reiss was and in the present still isn’t proud of having to send his daughter away, but the alternative was her sharing her mother’s fate that one night, when the men in black coats and hates came.

Meanwhile, at the farm, Hange returns Sannes to his cell, and reveals to him that his friend Ralph didn’t sell him and the king out, he was simply used as a pawn to get Sannes to betray the king. Hange has very little patience for their weeping and moaning, and voices that lack of patience…emphatically.

Erwin meets with Pyxis to inform him of the coup he’s planning; after he has words, Pyxis agrees to lend his support when the time comes, but the Military Police is working even faster than they are, and when Erwin’s presence is demanded at the scene of Reeves’ murder, Erwin doesn’t hesitate naming Hange his replacement as commander of the scouts in his absence.

I’d congratulate Hange on her sudden promotion, but she just took command of an organization that is about to be unjustly branded an enemy of the state. What had once been a position of great esteem is now a thankless job. Not that that matters to Hange—she’ll do her duty to the fullest.

Erwin walks into what he knows to be a frame-job, but still makes sure to let Reeves’ family know he intends to avenge the man’s killers, and even though they’ve been carefully conditioned to blame him, Erwin’s pure charisma seems to have an affect on them. On the rooftops Kenny watches scouts all over the city get rounded up as criminals, but prefers to let Levi come to him.

Before being arrested, Erwin told Pyxis a story about his childhood, when his father used to teach his history class. Erwin asked a question his dad had to evade, but later that night explained his theory to his son. In a truth desert like the world in which they lived where others only encountered mirages, his father had found an oasis. But Erwin, young and stupid, blurted out his father’s theory in public until the wrong ears caught it, and that was the end of Erwins’ father.

Since then, Erwin had always suspected his father was killed by the government, and if that happened, it meant there was merit to what his father believed, so he came to believe the theory was fact. To get closer to The Truth, the current government and its fraud monarchy must be replaced, and Historia enthroned as the true queen.

With the military police prowling for any scout and the government on high alert, no part of Erwin’s plan will be easy. In the midst of all this intrigue, I’m sure a number of scouts are almost wishing for the days when all they had to do was…kill Titans. Of course, that (relatively) easier life was only possible because they were more in the dark than they are now.

Banana Fish – 02 – Nothing But Trouble

Ash seems like a do-things-for/by-himself kinda guy, so he goes after Skip and Eiji’s kidnappers all on his own…which is not smart. He’s captured immediately, unable to make a move lest the captors (Arthur and Marvin) kill either of their hostages.

While Ash may not possess the strongest strategic mind, he is able to outsmart Marvin, whom he convinces he’ll roll in the hay with but takes the guy down and steps over him. When he, Skip, and Eiji hit a dead end, Eiji reveals his hidden talent: he’s a pole-vaulter. LOL WUT.

He gets over what looks like a 14′-15′ wall, which is pretty good (the all-time record is 20′) but with no padding, Eiji is injured and eventually passes out in the street from blood loss. When he comes to, he gets word to the cops of Ash and Skip’s location, but Ash’s buddy Shorter and his friends make it there first.

In the ensuing fray between Dino’s guys and Ash’s, Marvin puts two bullets in lil’ Skip, and just like that, the kid I thought would be a mildy-annoying recurring sidekick is gone. A couple minutes later, at the end of a chase, so is Marvin—but not by Ash’s hands. He’s framed for murder by Dino’s many minions.

He’s wrapped in a neat-little murder package, what with the overwhelming motive of wanting to kill Marvin. A dirty cop owned by Dino happens to preside over the jurisdiction where Ash was arrested, and sees fit to play videos of porn involving Ash as a child (definitely not NYPD protocol), filling in the blanks of his past quite devastatingly concisely.

Ash knows he can plead innocence all he likes, but the bottom line is Dino has too many people in his pocket. Ash is refreshingly self-aware in his ineptness at staying on top of the game (even if he spent time there due to sheer will and charisma). Also, he fully admits even if he was framed and someone else killed Marvin, that person merely kept him from doing something he’d planned to do one day anyway.

Eiji is deployed by the cops in an attempt to get Ash to blab about Dino & Co., but Ash isn’t having it. He may hate his “dad’s” guts, but he still has his personal integrity to consider. Yet he doesn’t blame Eiji for being the transparent pawn he is; instead, he’s still goddamned impressed Eiji was able to vault himself over that huge wall!

Things continue to not go particularly swell at all for young Ash, as Dino gets a judge he’s friendly with to make Ash’s process as undue as possible, transferring him to a state prison where plenty of Dino’s men are waiting to kill him. (On the subject of men- unless I’m being grossly unobservant, I have yet to a single female character in these two episodes. I’m wondering if we’ll ever see one…)

The cops prepare to reach out to Max Lobo, the convict Eiji’s boss was planning to interview, who’s in the same slammer. I’m sure Ash would like to think he can take care of himself, but particularly in prison I hope he avails himself of any and all assistance offered him. In any case, dude’s an elite-level trouble magnet.

Classroom of the Elite – 04

Oh man, that elevator trip…so awkward…so much going on beneath the surface! To her credit, Kushida doesn’t break from her usual character once, not just there, but for the entire episode. It’s simply a given that she and Ayanokouji have this dark secret, and they have a deal, and he’ll honor it or else. We also never learn where Horitika stabbed him.

Everyone seems to be hiding the truth, both from others and from themselves. The truth seems like such a distant, unattainable thing now. And yet they must press on, and put one foot in front of the other. That pressing-on includes Ayanokouji moonlighting as reluctant romantic adviser to Class B’s idol, Ichinose Honami.

Still, the kid knows what he’s talking about, and talks to Ichinose about how someone in love suffers with trying to get the words out. Is he speaking from experience? In any case, he rejects her plan to make him her fake boyfriend (rightly so considering what an old cliche that is) and tells her The Truth is best. The girl who likes her is able to come out and confess, and Ichinose is able to gently reject her so that girl can move on.

That’s the end of act one, and while it may feel like a self-contained “mission” for Ayanokouji, in addition to the themes about hidden truths resonating in act two, Ichinose also incurs a debt to Ayanokouji that she intends to pay back. That will come in handy in act two, in which Sudou fucks up again, exposing the class to forfeiture of points.

The latest incident is another hidden truth: we don’t know what happened, just that Sudou was confronted by three Class C basketball players, and a fight ensued. He claims self-defense. Meanwhile, the incident has piqued Horikita’s brother’s interest, while at the club, one of Sudou’s accusers, Ryuen Kakeru, has an underling beaten up to help their case.

(I hasten to point out here that if Kushida was prepared to rely on fingerprint evidence to accuse Ayanokouji of raping her, I was left wondering later if a similar method could prove that Sudou didn’t beat up Ryuen’s co-conspirator).

Hirata, essentially Class 1-D’s male Kushida (only not secretly evil), decides to believe Sudou’s self-defense claim and an investigation ensues, with the class banding together to find witnesses and evidence. In this venture, Kushida teams up with Ayanokouji without any reservations, while Horikita is reluctant to participate.

They aren’t making much progress until Ichinose Honami hears about the investigation and offers to help out, citing that she owes Ayanokouji one. She even arranges an online venue where people can post information in exchange for rewards.

When someone posts anonymously, she isn’t sure how to transfer her points to the guy, so enlists Ayanokouji’s technical know-how…in the process, showing him her personal points balance to be in excess of 2.6 million yen ($23,000) immediately setting off alarms in both his head and mine.

Ayanokouji’s dorm room has apparently become the meeting spot for the three misfits, including Sudou, as well as Kushida. When Horikita stops by with info on a witness—one Sakura Airi, based on her body language in class—she’s quick to retreat once she sees Kushida there. (Now, of course, I totally understand why she’d rather interact with Kushida as little as possible!)

The case wears on Kushida, who visits Ayanokouji in the evening. They go on a walk and discuss it, leaving their own personal issues totally aside. Ayanokouji thinks he knows why Horikita is reluctant to help Sudou: because he never learns his frikkin’ lesson and keeps getting into trouble immediately after being bailed out of it. In a case with so little to go on, Sudou’s character makeup is a huge liability, and he can’t go on like this.

That leaves the very skittish Miss Pink Hair, Pink Camera, Sakura Airi. Kushida tries to gently ask to speak with her about what she might’ve seen, but Sakura panics and tries to run off, dropping and breaking her camera. While I’m sure the data chip containing potentially conclusive photographic evidence wasn’t lost, I still know far too little about her to know what she intends to do with it, if anything.

Was Sakura, for instance, the girl who cried out at the club before that guy got beat up for suggesting there was a witness? Horikita’s bro is clearly trying to sabotage Class D (and by extension his sister); will Ayanokouji’s suspicions about the cash-flush Ichinose prove to be justified?

A lot of truth has yet to be found, and many not only like it that way but are actively trying to distort it. And now I’m out of new episodes to watch…drat.

Re:Creators – 10

Believing Chikujouin’s lies about Meteora being Mamika’s murder, Aliceteria goes all out against the sorceress, who borrows several missiles but can’t connect on any of them. Alice also counters Meteora’s summoned weapons with sommoned warriors of her own, who surround Meteora menacingly and try to catch her in a tangle of red laser beams.

Souta calls Kikuchihara, but she and help may not arrive in time, so it’s up to him to try to stop Alice, and he actually gets her to at least pause by coming between her and a wounded Meteora.

He tells her that far from being entertained by the horrors in her world, he’s always felt sad about them, has rooted for her to win a better future for that world, and looks up to her as a lofty role model: a paragon of chivalry, courage and honor. I appreciated Souta finally putting his life on the line for his friend rather than staying on the sideline, even if he’s only armed with words.

Like so many creations now in Souta’s world, Alice doesn’t feel like the heroine Souta describes. She’s something different, and someone she believes doesn’t deserve his esteem. But however flawed and fallen a person she has become, she takes stock in the fact she’s still a knight, and will still avenge her friend’s death, come hell or high water.

While this is taking place, Mirokuji is fighting Chikujouin, who considers their sparring a form of flirtation, and gets him to agree to hand over his female samurai Hangaku (whom he calls a “curse”) if she beats him.

Once Alice has had enough even of the innocent Souta’s talk, she lunges at him, but this time it’s Meteora who gets in the way, taking the full force of her strike. It’s the only one Alice gets, however, before the timely arrival of Celestia. She’s to neutralize Alice, and Kanoya Rui is floating above it all in his Giga as a last-resort.

Just when we thought Rui was going to have to be the difference in this battle, Altair appears and attacks him with a clone of his own Giga, thus neutralizing him. Blitz takes his place by Altair’s side, and suddenly all the (living) players are on the field at once.

Altair also guides Alice’s weapon so it impales Celestia, delivering a seemingly mortal wound. It’s up to Matsubara to throw caution to the wind and quickly “revise” her character by having Marine post a new illustration of her, full of power and resplendent in flames.

The post catches fire itself, gaining thousands of likes and follows, thus imbuing Celestia with the power of that illustration, combined with his written words describing it. While it strains credulity for such a post to go viral so quickly, it’s neat to see the creator ability finally make a difference in a battle.

I also like how Matsubara considers it a matter of pride as a professional creative that his protagonist not lose to the creation of an amateur doujin artist (though it’s a dig at someone whose full story we’ve yet to see, so I’m still reserving judgment on her).

In the act of revising Celestia, Altair is somehow adversely affected, and seemingly shifts slightly out of sync with the world, the opposite of what she was going for. She beats a fast retreat, as the stars are “not yet in alignment” for her.

It would seem she’s been foiled, but only temporarily. Worse, once she dissipates, Celestia reverts to her pre-revised state, complete with acute blood loss and gaping chest wound; she’s rushed to the hospital where hopefully she’ll be okay.

And even worse still, We learn the end result Mirokuji’s battle with Chikujouin: she stole Hangaku from him, which surely drops him way down on the Creation Power Rankings. Still, everyone is still alive (for now) and the world still stands intact; that’s not nothing.

Re:Creators – 09

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While I’ll truly miss her if she’s truly dead, Mamika’s bleeding out marks the first time Re:Creators should be lauded to finally committing to something that will be very difficult to take back, assuming it sticks to its guns with her loss.

As luck would have it, the first one the dying Mamika encounters is Chikujouin, who hears the dying words Mamika wants Alice to hear, then doesn’t hesitate to rearrange them for her own entertainment, telling Alice when she arrives that it was Meteora, not Altair, who killed Mamika and is trying to destroy the world.

Normally I’d protest a character like Alice being so conveniently gullible and obtuse, but in this case I’ll allow it: in addition to being a rigid, noble knight, she’s in emotional turmoil after witnessing the untimely death of another friend; her only true friend in this world.

Felling she’s on a roll, Chikujouin calls in Souta, who arrives right on time at their meeting spot and buys her a soda.

This is a nice world. The food is delicious, the drinks are good, the sky is deep, the air is fresh and everyone is so stupid!

Just as Chiku is the perfect antagonist for generally moral people like Alice—or Souta—this world is the perfect playground for Chiku, and she can barely contain her glee with this fact. Sakamoto Maaya continues to  bring a playful, invigorating joie de vivre everyone else lacks, which gives her more serious, threatening moments more impact.

There’s a creepily predatory vibe to Chiku’s verbal and physical stalking of Souta, growing closer until her legs are wrapped around his head and he’s facing her crotch, subverting what would be the cause of blushing and/or a nosebleed in a comedy.

Still, Chiku seems to abandon Souta as a messenger to Selesia furthering the lie about Meteora being the villain, as she admits Altair is the true mastermind. Just when Chiku seems ready to do another number on Souta, Mirokuji Yuuya arrives. Chiku mockingly plays the troubled maiden before the “bad boy”, but Yuuya has a comeback even she has to admit is pretty cool:

“You’re not a person. You’re just a laughing peice of skin hanging over a bunch of lies.”

While Yuuya keeps Chiku busy, Meteora arrives to comfort Souta and apologize for not getting the truth out of her sooner. She tells him not to forget the mistakes he’s made, whether he was to blame for Shimazaki and Mamika’s deaths or not, because “the world requires choice and resolution”. It isn’t the time to give up and despair, wallowing in the rotting bath of past mistakes. Rather, he must keep learning from those mistakes; discovering and striving to do what’s right.

When Meteora tells Yuuya about Chiku’s cause-and-effect-reversing power, he uses his summon to counter it, but his battle with her is interrupted by the arrival of a furious—and grossly misinformed—Aliceteria February, who doesn’t look ready to stand around and hear all the whys and wherefores. In light of the impending confrontation, and what she told Souta, I wouldn’t rule out Meteora letting Alice kill her, if only to convince her she’s not the true enemy.

In any case, Chikujouin has made a fine mess that she’s quite proud of. She’s living the dream in this playground of a world, and regardless of her alignment (or lack thereof), it’s fun watching a master work.