Shokugeki no Souma 3 – 13 – The God Tongue Officially Joins the Rebellion

…Aaaand we’re back. Good! I missed my Food Wars. The Fall cour of the third season ended with Erina learning that the irritating pest and hack chef Yukihira Souma’s father is none other than her beloved Saiba-sama.

Eishi gives a school-wide address about impending Advancement Exams that will no doubt drive this cour, and makes it clear in no uncertain terms that those who stray from Central’s edicts won’t make the cut. The morale among Polar Star’s ranks sinks at the news.

Erina, to her credit, doesn’t go on an “avoiding Souma” binge to forestall telling him what she’s learned. Instead, she comes to his room, in her nightgown, no less! She has something to say, wants Souma to hear it, and it can’t wait.

What she essentially tells him is that she’s lost. As God Tongue from a young age, tasting and cooking were merely tasks to be performed, and she never derived any fun from any of it…until on a rare day off she got to sample some of Saiba’s cooking. From then on, she got it: cooking could be fun and good enough to win over the God Tongue!

But not long after experiencing that fun, her father began her “education” in “good food is only what I say it is” culinary orthodoxy. She cannot easily cast aside that conditioning, even if she wanted to, and part of her understands the need for standards to be set and followed, even if Azami goes about it in far to harsh and oppressive a way.

As such, she’s torn between two opposing philosophies. Souma decides to try to put his finger on the scales, so to speak, and get back at her at the same time for telling him his food was disgusting the first time she tasted it. He wants to make something quintessentially Yukihira, to remind her of those fun yet refined flavors Azami tried to condition away, along with her passion for cooking.

Souma’s Polar Star peers worry he may be up to something, but Megumi assures them he’s on a mission to make her understand not only his philosophy, but all their philosophies. The rewards of “awakening” Erina to culinary freedom may be the key to Polar Star’s survival.

Souma ends up preparing a tempura egg rice bowl, the process for making which neither Erina nor the eavesdropping dorm-mates understand, until Souma lets them in on the secret: freezing the egg before coating and frying it. And not just any egg: a low-quality egg that was on sale at the local shops.

Not only does Souma achieve an aroma, texture and flavor that have Erina imagining countless tiny Souma-chickens gently pecking her naked body (yikes, that’s a foodgasm for the books), but he manages to debunk Erina’s firm belief that only the finest, rarest, highest quality ingredients can make a great dish. In this case, a finer egg would be too overwhelming due to the freezer’s effect on the protein.

As expected, Erina never actually says “delicious” as Souma bet he’d make her do, but he does remind her of Saiba, not just in his style of cooking, but how he talks about it. Cooking isn’t about following a book, it’s about taking risks. To paraphrase Julia Child, great cooking requires a multitude of failures. It takes risks that sometimes won’t pan out. And taking those risks is what makes cooking fun.

So even though Erina craftily takes her leave before giving Souma any answers about the taste of his bowl, the effects of the meal inspire her to call for all of Polar Star to assemble out front the next morning. It’s cold, and her first words to them are cold as well, rattling their cages before praising them for helping to teach her that not only is their value in cooking food that is “free”, but that such innovation-through-failure is essential to stave of culinary stagnation.

To that end, she challenges each and every Polar Star member to keep doing what they’ve been doing—cooking free food, failing, learning, and improving—and she’ll summon the full powers of her God Tongue to see to it each and every one of them pass the Advancement Exams. And so, Erina has officially taken a side against her Azami and Central.

I have no doubt that if the dorm-mates can cook food that impresses her, they’ll impress any and all impartial exam judges. The question is, how are they going to get non-Central-sanctioned food to the judges’ table? The Rebellion Continues…

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Kino no Tabi – 11

This episode was both illuminating—due to the light it shed on Kino’s origin—and dark, because of the particulars of that origin. Our Kino, it turns out, isn’t the first Kino, nor is Hermes the first Hermes.

The original Kino was a traveler too, and when he visits the Country of Adults, he approaches the future Kino II, a girl of twelve whose original name we never learn, and the daughter of innkeepers.

The girl helps name the derelict motorrad Kino is fixing behind the inn, giving it Hermes, the name of one of Kino’s friends.

In the girl’s country, all children get “surgery” at the age of twelve to make them “proper adults” overnight, (evoking dark shades of FGM) whereupon they inherit the jobs of their parents, as is their one and only job in life. What about what she wants to do, like singing, which she’s really good at? Not allowed.

Her country has a very strict idea of what an adult is and when a child becomes one, and this girl is trapped. Kino is sympathetic, but his transitory nature means that whatever happens, it has nothing to do with him; he’ll be on his way to the next country after his three days are up.

Only Kino never leaves the Country of Adults, because the girl can’t stop pondering his words about adults being able to do things they enjoy, like traveling and being free. When she tells her parents, in the company of the preist and other townsfolk, that she doesn’t want the surgery, they explode at her with manic rage.

The girl’s father confronts Kino, but the priest pleads for peace. They ask that Kino take his leave, but when the father produces a knife with which ti kill his “defective” child, Kino leaps in the way and is stabbed to death before the girl’s eyes. Shocking. A voice familiar to us as Hermes urges the girl to get on and tells her how to ride him if she wants to live…which she does.

And so off she goes, like a bat out of hell. The Kino we know and love was born that day, named the new Kino by Hermes. In the present, Kino and Hermes find themselves in the same field of crimson flowers where she stopped to rest when old Kino’s blood still fresh on her cheek.

In a lovely transition from past to present, Yuuki Aoi treats us to her pipes with a stirring a capella performance. Free of her nightmarish home country of control and stifling of individuality, Kino is now free to be the adult she wants to be. Like Tifana and Photo, she came from a dark place, but now she glows with joie de vivre.

Kuromukuro – 16

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This week, there’s almost equal time spent between the “good guys” and the “bad guys”, as Muetta and Mirasa fall from the sky to infiltrate the Kurobe Lab in search of the “Pivot Stone.” It’s a daring and professional operation led by Muetta, with Mirasa never quite matching her precise moves. For instance, Mirasa hits the water too hard on their landing, but Muetta saves her. By the end of their op she’ll wish she hadn’t.

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Another healthy chunk of “good guy” time is taken up by more Ken and Sophie, with which I have no problem. Its fun to watch the moment Ken realizes Sophie is trying to become a samurai, which she sees as swapping one form of bondage (doing as her parents say and going home) for another (being bonded by loyalty to her fellow warriors in Kurobe).

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What of Yukina? She’s plays only a bit role here, tagging along for Mika’s cosplay film with Akagi, Kaya, Carlos, and the nurse Marina. In a nice bit of narrative symmetry, Muetta and Mirasa also “cosplay” by dressing up in UN maintenance unis that will help them move further into the enemy base. But while Mika & Co. are just trying to have some fun, these two are grinding like their lives depended on it…because they kinda do.

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By sheer coincidence the Efidolg pair end up taking the same lift as Ken, and the smell of blood on the orange jumpsuits (another blunder by Mirasa) gives them away. Thus we’re offered another confrontation between Ken and “Yukihime” far earlier than I expected, and it goes pretty much how I imagined: Ken prostrates himself before the princess, hoping against hope he can jog her memory.

Alas, Muetta claims to have never heard of him, though interestingly she calls him a “peasant” later on. It’s very much up in the air whether she’s playing another role like Mika and Marina, fully brainwashed, or a true and loyal daughter of Efidolg.

Speaking of loyalty, when, in a hostage situation, Muetta seems prepared to kill Ken, it’s Sophie who fires the bullet that knocks the knife from her hand. When Ken shields a retreating Muetta and Mirasa, Sophie makes up her mind: she can’t trust Ken’s brand of loyalty with keeping him alive. She’ll stay in Kurobe and make sure he stays safe.

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In this regard, Sophie takes on a role similar to Yukina, another person intent on saving Ken from his own reckless impluses. It’s also a huge victory for the show, because getting rid of Sophie, or declawing her by giving her scenes in France, would not have been something I particularly wanted to see.

As for Yukina, the cosplay story, beyond being a parallel to the costumes Muetta and Mirasa don, doesn’t come to much other than “Yukina is special now and her normal high school life continues to suffer from that specialness.”

IMO a bit too much time was spent on this plot, though I commend Mika wanting to cheer everyone, including Yukina and Marina, up a bit (plus the costumes and locales were cool).

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Then there’s Mirasa. She started this thrilling, action-packed infiltration op following Muetta’s lead and calling her “sister” with deference and loyalty. She ends it by suddenly but inevitably betraying Muetta, shoving her knife in her belly so she can go home and take all the credit for finding the stone.

It’s another demonstration how bad and fundamentally immoral and messed-up the Efidolg are, more an advanced form of the everyday cruelty and brutality from feudal times much (though certainly not all) of the modern world has left behind.

But Mirasa’s treachery also forces a new choice upon Muetta / Yukihime. Assuming she survives her Fugitive-style jump off the dam (a good bet), she’ll be hurt pretty damn bad, and she’ll be alone.

Chances are the UN finds her first, and they’ll treat her. I wouldn’t even rule out such a fall ringing her bell to the extent some memories of Ken return (if they’re there, and if she doesn’t have them already). In any case, it will be Muetta’s turn to make a choice.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 06 (30)

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This relatively spare (and almost entirely supernatural-free) episode focuses on the major players once more: Mikado, Masaomi, Anri, and Izaya, with Chikage narrating as he learns more about the state of things in Ikebukuro.

While much of that state can be attributed to Izaya, who has Chess, Shoji, Go, and Othello pieces scattered on his game board as he builds a house of tarot cards (a bit too much game imagery here, frankly) he’s correct in stating no one person is to blame, because everyone played little roles that added up.

At this point, he’s super-excited about Mikado’s state in particular, and interested in what he’ll do next, even if it means he himself becomes a pawn. He also wants this to be a humans-only game from here on out, which means taking Anri, Kasane, Celty and Shizuo out of this stage.

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Still, it’s Anri’s human side that shines in her first meeting with Mikajima Saki, which cam as a surprise to me, considering how long this show has gone on. Saki has come prepared for war if Anri was to express feelings for Masaomi. While she heard from her boyfriend that Mikado was crazy about Anri, she wanted to meet her one-on-one to get her own impression of her.

What she finds is a cute, charming, mild-mannered young lady who has convinced herself that she’s a parasite who neither knows how to love anyone nor believes she deserves to love or be loved. It’s a much more nuanced situation than Saki imagined. The reality is, she’s no more certain of what love is than Anri, but being a parasite (or a puppet, as she once was) doesn’t automatically disqualify them from love and happiness.

Mika decides to further explain her relationship with Masaomi by going into her past with him; to a time Anri wasn’t present for. Despite having made a promise to the guys that they’d reveal their respective secrets upon meeting again, Anri is intrigued and lets Mika proceed.

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Izaya’s efforts seem intended to pare down the players, especially limiting them to those who are only plain old flesh-and-blood humans. Mika’s efforts seem intended to enlighten her about the love triangle in which she’s been the fourth vertex for long enough.

And then Chikage, who is titularly “in for a penny, in for a pound”, breaks Masaomi’s dilemma down to brass tacks: He wants to see Mikado and save him (either by punching him or being punched, in the simplest possible terms). Blue Square is in the way, so Chikage will help Masaomi get close. If Mikado won’t answer a call from Masaomi’s phone, then Chikage will call him on his. Easy peasy, right?

…Perhaps not. Izumii Ran visits Mikado (much to Aoba’s consternation), they proceed to have a very civil conversation, Izumii gives Mikado some kind of “gift” hidden in his arm sling, and then leaves in the car of Awakusu’s Aozaki, activity that Aozaki’s rival Akabayashi learns about pretty quickly.

These are presumably the “grown-ups” Chikage is worried about getting tangled up with. His basic plan could work if he could just get two old estranged friends in the same room together to hash it out, but with an apparently important object now in Mikado’s possession that probably wasn’t given to him so he could pull out of his tailspin, it may already be too late for basics.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 05 (29)

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I misread Kasane’s intent last week: she didn’t come to Shinra’s intending to make a deal. Instead, she’s only implementing the next step in her comprehensive Celty research. She takes control of Shinra with a long kiss, plucks him out of his wheelchair and jumps out the window into the night.

Celty goes berserk, transforming into a big black ball of rage and gives chase just as Kasane intended. We see a lot of emotions going through the darkness of Celty’s mind, but the one that stands out the most is Shinra, Shinra, Shinra. And so her body moves instinctively to retrieve him.

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As Varona stands by a car with Celty’s head inside, Kasane leads Berserk Celty through the skies of Ikebukuro, periodically firing blades to slow her down. Meanwhile, Chikage accompanies Masaomi to his Yellow Scarves hideout after saving him from Izumii earlier in the day, putting their fight on hold for now.

Masaomi, for his part, is shocked to hear Izumii is fighting on Mikado’s behalf as a member of the Dollars, while Chikage wonders what version of the Dollars he’s encountered truly represents them.

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Kasane eventually meets up with Varona, who is this week’s narrator, and unlike everyone else running around this week has a lot of time to think about things. She admits she felt the euphoria that comes from gaining power when she stole the head; but it didn’t last long, and she realizes that it’s because her cover was blown instantly, and by Shizuo, no less.

Varona remains a deeply wounded and scarred young woman, but Ikebukuro and Shizuo have definitely had a profound – and I believe positive – effect on how she looks at the world and her role and values in it. She isn’t denying her feelings, only trying to figure out what they are and why she has them, and it all comes back to Shizuo and the peaceful daily life she enjoyed. She concludes it’s too late to go back now; that life is gone. But is it?

As chance would have it, after teaching some punk kids a lesson, Shizuo ends up with another bike on his shoulder when he encounters Celty’s horse. In the funniest and coolest scene of this entire Ketsu arc, the horse goes through various forms of transportation for Shizuo to ride it until settling on the bike, which he mounts and is then propelled at very un-bike-like speed.

While I’m unsure how interconnected Celty and her horse are, or whether they’re one and the same, it did seem like the horse was acting more reasonably than the mindless black ball of rage being messed with by Kasane. Whatever the case, it’s a given that the horse and Shizuo are on a direct course to the car with both Shinra and her head in it, which just so happens to be driven by his former adoptive protege.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 04 (28)

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Chikage’s confrontation with Masaomi and the Yellow Scarves looked like bad news, but he’s only there on behalf of himself, and wants to use them to smoke out the “purge” Dollars who hit Kodata. But because this is a meeting of gang leaders who don’t mind the occasional rumble, it comes to fisticuffs, and we see Masaomi in actual action for the first time in a long while.

I assumed he had some skill to be the leader of a color gang (even one as wishy-washy as the scarves), but I didn’t expect him to hold his own so well against Chikage (though he isn’t able to do any damage, he’s able to dodge his attacks well enough). Still, the “blood is thicker than water” title/theme applies here, as Chikage is loyal to Kodata through the bond they forged in righteous, honorable combat.

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The Saika family reunion continues, with Anri stating her reservations about manipulating people she holds dear with Saika as Haruna does. It comes down to them having different values. Kasane lays it out thusly: one can either entirely enslave their Saika or allow their Saika to entirely enslave them. Anri is trying to be nice to “both sides”, which Kasane believes is untenable.

Of course, she’s driven by the desire to acquire Saika from Anri, which would mean extracting her, but that can only happen if Anri truly doesn’t want Saika anymore. Anri still feels she owes Saika for saving her from her father, among other things. But Kasane remarks that Anri is too hard on herself for believing herself a parasite, or somehow not or less than human.

Letting go of Saika could perhaps mean returning to “normal” humanity in a biological sense, but she’ll always be one of the “family” by virture of her flesh, her blood, and her past. It’s a fascinating discussion between three very different personalities. Erika lightens the mood effectively both by inviting Kasane to a cosplay event and announcing Dotachin has come out of a coma and can see visitors tomorrow.

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Masaomi and Chikage’s duel continues, with Chikage ending up falling off the building when Masaomi bails out. Just then, Izumii Ran shows up with a gang of men and his mallet, looking to continue his revenge tour.

His taunts easily provoke Masaomi into attacking him, but a fierce punch to Izumii’s head only results in Masaomi breaking his hand. Will Chikage, who was just fighting Masaomi, get back up to that roof and help him stay alive against another superior opponent?

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Like Dotachin, Shizuo has been mostly an inert element this cour, as he’s in jail after a woman pressed charges against him for assault. An obvious Saika plant in the cell neighboring him wants him to tear up the joint so they can make off with the head in the commotion, in exchange for the charges against him being dropped.

However, this Saika plant seems to be too late with his proposal, as Shizuo is released without having to do anything after the woman drops the charges. No sooner is he free to go than some kind of rocket or missile hits the police van carrying Celty’s head. Varona of all people makes off with it, staring down Shizuo momentarily before zooming off on her bike. Shizuo assumes this is more of that wretched Izaya’s handiwork.

Prior to this to-do, around dusk, presumably after Haruna left Kasane and Anri, she is kidnapped by a Saika slave and brought to her former boyfriend Takashi, who has plans for her, none of them good.

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All the news of Celty’s head being out there, exposed to the world, causes her nightmares. She wakes up to find an understanding and supportive Shinra, who has spent the day trying to deal with the Yagiri siblings under control (mostly through sedation).

When Emilia says a girl with glasses is at the door, Shinra assumes it’s Anri, but it’s not; it’s Kasane, who is apparently not done wheeling and dealing. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was the one who hired/compelled Varona to snatch Celty’s head.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 03 (27)

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Mairu and Kururi sorta narrate this episode, but only sparingly, but they have a couple funny moments despite never appearing in the episode (even through chat): First, Mairu interrupts just before a masked man tells Shijimi his name. Second, Mairu wonders if some kind of world revolution is afoot, and Kururi calls that “a stretch.”

That’s certainly true, since Durarara!! has virtually strayed outside Ikebukuro’s borders, nor has there ever been any indication that the things that go on there have any effect on the outside world. But what if Ikebukuro was the world, in it’s entirety, as for all intents of purposes, it is in the show? It would mean the world really was in the midst of upheaval.

All the characters who dot Ikebukuro’s landscape are the players who shape Ikebukuro World. Rather than gangs, the Dollars and Yellow Scarves and mafia are nations; their leaders world leaders. And Saika isn’t just a parasitic demon, but an ideological movement. Anri, Niekawa Haruna, and Kujiragi Kasane are three different “schools” of Saika, and those schools butt up against each other this week.

Ever since Anri cut Haruna, there have been two Saikas inside her mingling, and since Anri’s Saika is older, it’s a form of control that’s also opened Haruna up to other emotions and ways of thinking – as well as Anri’s confused feelings for Mikado and Masaomi. Haruna wants to join forces – Anri will help her attain “real love” with Takashi; and in return she’ll help Anri with her romances.

 

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Anri declines, because she doesn’t want to use Saika for nefarious purposes, only to protect; which provokes Haruna into fighting her. That’s when Kasane, who was hanging out in the park the whole time, neutralizes and chastises the “daughter” Haruna for raising a hand to her “mother” Anri (speaking in Saika terms, of course.)

Of course, this doesn’t mean Kasane is on Anri’s side. In fact, Kasane is somewhat surprised by how little Anri has mastered or even used Saika; which frustrates her more now that she knows how good having freedom feels. So she breaks out a proposition, just as Haruna did. No joining forces; rather, she’ll take Saika off Anri’s hands for a handsome, fair sum. I mean, if she’s using it so little, she doesn’t really need her, right?

The only problem is, while Anri certainly hasn’t mastered Saika, she has more or less accepted her as a part of her, not to mention relied on her in times of trouble; she’d likely be dead without her. Losing her wouldn’t necessarily make her human (a human would never have had Saika to begin with), so I’m doubtful she’ll make the deal. However, I’m also doubtful Kasane will give up easily.

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Despite the rarity with which she needs or uses it, Anri has become dependent on Saika as a form of defense in a dangerous Ikebukuro World; a weapon to keep sharks off her in that world’s roiling waves. Meanwhile, Mikado tells Izaya in a lengthy but wonderful phone call that he wishes to remain in a boat, detached from those waves, but able to watch them ebb and flow and be entertained.

That’s the “interesting world” he first sought when he arrived in Ikebukuro World (an arrival akin to a birth). It’s why he founded the Dollars. And it’s why he’s evolved into someone who isn’t the slightest bit surprised by the face Celty’s head is in a bush (though he is relieved by Mika’s hilarious voicemail message about it not being her head).

Now he’s put himself in a position to press the reset button on the Dollars, hoping he’ll catch lightning in a bottle once more. He and Izaya are revealed to be a lot more alike than I ever considered, as the two may use different metaphors, but both seem willing to act as both arsonist and firefighter in order to mold the world into something interesting.

I’d say Mikado differs in that he has empathy for humans and has a few he actually cares about and doesn’t want swept up in those waves…but I doubt Izaya wants his sisters hurt, either. It’s also interesting in this particular situation, that Mikado knows something – that Celty’s head was found in the park – before Izaya.

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That’s a rare moment of someone having the upper hand over Izaya, which is always nice. And knowledge is definitely power in Ikebukuro World; just look at which Saika dominated the other two, and why. That being said, there’s nothing Izaya adores more than humans acting unpredictably.

The Saika trio and Mikado-Izaya phone call are the A/B plots, but the episode still managed to fit in a C and a D: There’s the hiding Shijimi, who is approached by a masked man who was in the passenger seat of the car that hit Dotachin, offering to bring him in on some kind of heist of Yadogiri Jinnai’s fortune.

Then there’s Chikage confronting Masaomi and his Yellow Scarves, 1 on 8, and giving them a choice: let themselves be taken over, or be destroyed. And we know there’s no one among those 8 scarves who is a match for Chikage alone. Mairu is right: the time of revolution, war, and global upheaval is nigh in the Ikebukuro World.

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Durarara!!x2 Ketsu – 02 (26)

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This week’s narrator is Shingen, whose wise, matter-of-fact tone is somewhat offset by the fact his voice is slightly muffled by the gas mask he never takes off (He’d be right at home in a Gundam anime). And what does Shingen talk about all episode? Women. No, nothing so crude as how they be shoppin’ all the time, but how women are women, whether they’re human or not.

Just take Anri and Erika at the hospital when Chikage arrives with his harem in tow. The two girls donning black may as well be sisters, but only Erika is fully human; Anri is a vessel for Saika, her calm, timid facade concealing churning multitudes of power and potential for destruction. By comparison Erika can’t do much besides not call Chikage back after giving him her email.

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Later, then Izaya shows up to have his injuries checked out, he tries to lure Saika into losing her cool and proving she’s not human but just a pretender…and Izaya knows humans, loves them, and believes that gives him leave to mess with them all he likes.

His tortured metaphor of Mikado and Masaomi walking a tightrope with nooses around their necks connecting them, and all the various people trying to help or hurt him, is nevertheless enough to get Anri’s Saika blood boiling, until it’s all she can do to not kill him.

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The whole episode, Manami is walking around with a bag we later learn contains Celty’s head. She’s ostensibly working for Izaya but also trying to hurt him wherever she can after failing to kill him before. But Izaya has made it clear humans who hate him are free to try to kill him, but he’ll never stop loving and forgiving them. But that love means nothing to Manami.

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Erika consoles a very disturbed Anri; after all, it’s plenty human to feel like killing Izaya now and again. And just as Izaya will always forgive humans no matter what they tried to to to him, Erika will always love and forgive Anri, even if she becomes the dark instrument of the world’s destruction.

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As Celty, another non-human whose human friend (and lover) Shinra will always love and forgive even if she destroys the world, is run ragged getting all the freeloaders situated in the apartment, her “still unknown enemy”

Kujiragi Kasane shows that she isn’t always Saika, or the shadowy leader of an organization using body doubles as the now-dead Yadogiri Jinnai to conduct business, or Ruri’s mothers half-sister (as we learn from the gossipy Shingen). Sometimes, she’s just a woman who buys cat ears, takes her shoes off and relaxes in the park, contemplating cafes to try out.

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When Erika sees how Anri smiles and cries and feels such concern for her troubled friends, she can’t help but disregard “humanity” as some kind of requisite for being a good person. Anri is a good person, whatever’s stewing within her, and I think she has a crucial role to play in mediating the war between her two friends soon.

It’s a little heartbreaking, then, that just when Anri is accepting Erika’s words of encouragement (and going to buy cat ears for her, only to find they’re sold out), she runs into Niekawa Haruna in the street, who asks her to come with her, or else.

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As I said, Shinra, like Erika with Anri, sees Celty as a woman first and foremost, but a woman who, due to her non-humanity, is disposed to act even kinder than humans usually act towards one another, aware of the stigma of what she is and how hard it is to hide. Without even thinking, Celty is a passionate, warm, caring, generous woman, and all Shinra asks is that she not think any less of herself.

But like Anri with Niewkawa, Celty has her non-humanity thrown in her face, as Manami took her head from Niekawa and unceremoniously hucked it in the bushes for all to see. It even making the news, which after chatting with the twins is how Celty finds out. And when she sees her head, exposed and vulnerable; the very object she was made the head of a new guild to retrieve, she does something a woman is more likely to do than a dullahan – she faints.

Shingen completes his monologue about “women being women” human or not, telling the women listening he has nothing more to say, but warning the men they “can’t be too careful,” implying the woman you choose may be someone like Anri, Ruri, Kasane, Haruna, or Celty, who are all more than just women.

It’s less of a condescending warning to stay away, and more of a warning to make sure you’re worthy of such women, and are resolved and prepared to stand with them when things get tough.

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Prison School – 12 (Fin)

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I am sad that there is no more Prison School to watch, but it couldn’t have delivered a better finale, one that many an anime should look to for reference when it comes to delivering the goods, with interest in the ninth hour and satisfying on virtually every level, but not giving its wronged but not entirely innocent lads too easy a final result. No one is innocent by the end of Prison School. But that’s okay!

We begin the end with the “enhanced interrogation tactics” Meiko employs on Anzu (i.e., sitting on her face), just as Shingo and the guys figure out that it’s Anzu helping them by helping Chiyo. It’s good to know they know Kiyoshi isn’t the only one sticking his neck out for them (though that’s not to say he isn’t).

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Kiyoshi would be having the time of his life kissing a cute, well-bred girl after-hours in the corrections office…if Hana was a girl he liked, and if Hana liked him. That’s obviously not the case. Instead, as he realizes, Hana’s kiss is a very rigid and uncertain one; as if she’s as out of her element as he is.

They are both of them complacent in appropriating sexual behavior for reasons other than mutual stimulation (though that’s a side effect): Hana wants to exact perfect justice; while Kiyoshi, knowing Hana’s weakness whenever things have gotten too far, performs a “Flight of Shimazu” in Hana’s mouth, breaking through her dental defenses with his tongue, meeting hers, and engaging in furious combat until she’s defeated.

Thanks to her height and the design of the office window, Chiyo is thankfully spared the sight of this spectacle, and only sees the top of Kiyoshi hunched over (this is, to the end, a show where every inch and second matters). She’s also kept from walking in on them when Kiyoshi cries out “Not yet!” but that also wakes Hana up, who sends Kiyoshi back to his cell for lights out, despite still being very out of it.

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Mari and Meiko are satisfied the boys are indeed locked away in bed, and no longer up to anything, apparently resigned to their fate. But that’s exactly what Kiyoshi and Gakuto want them to think, and the next morning, the tables turn: they discover Joe is posing as Gakuto, while Chiyo is poising as Joe.

The real Gakuto makes quite the entrance, donning only his underwear (not wishing to sully the lovely Chiyo’s gym clothes), just in time for him and Kiyoshi to explain how they made a three-way switch when Hana let them use the bathroom.

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While Gakuto was free, he made full use of the time to restore and extract the DTO files, which he produces in the form of a thumb drive he was keeping hidden up his ass for safekeeping. I knew when he came in in his underwear this would be the case, but I wasn’t prepared for the super-serious yet also super-hilarious manly exchange between him and the chairman, and how the latter has no qualms about touching the drive. After looking over the files, he’s satisfied the Underground StuCo indeed set traps to get them expelled.

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When Hana realizes she’s the one who allowed Kiyoshi to unlock the door, she rushes at him with murderous intent. I must say, it has been an absolute joy listening to Hanazawa Kana play all the myriad sides of Midorikawa Hana, alongside Ohara Sayaka and Itou Shizuka as Mari and Meiko, respectively.

And it’s Mari who shields Kiyoshi from Hana’s punch taking responsibility for everything she put both her subordinates and the boys through. This final gesture suggests even she knows the gig is well and truly up. Though she believed it was for a good reason, she broke the rules, and lost.

But most importantly, Mari failed to see the boys as anything but scum. That unyielding prejudice was her undoing. Yes, the boys were guilty of peeping (God, that seems like eons ago), but they more than paid their debt to the school for that crime. Mari tried to ride her exclusionary agenda too far, and got burned.

There’s also the fact that she kept digital records of DTO rather than deal exclusively in burnable paper documents. She would have probably been victorious had Gakuto had no evidence to stick up his ass. But it wouldn’t have been a moral victory, no matter what Mari told herself later, and her relationship with Chiyo would have taken an even stronger hit.

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But she didn’t win; the boys did; the Chairman declares their time served and grants them their freedom. The sight of them in regular high school uniforms is a glorious sight for sore eyes, as is the extremely happy ending all the guys get, from Kiyoshi being fed by Chiyo, to Andre finding a group of girls who love his size, ears, and punchability; to Shingo and Anzu picking their courtship up where they left off; to Joe playing with his ants. Heck, even Gakuto reaches for the same 3K book as a very comely young lady who wears her hair in Chinese buns.

More importantly, rather than peep on the girls form afar, the lads (other than Joe) are engaging the girls; treating them not as objects to be admired and leered over from afar, but as fellow human beings to interact with on equal terms. It could be argued their incarceration actually improved them as men; they certainly appreciate their freedom.

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But not everything is peaches and sunshine at Hachimitsu. This is a show about reversals, and the most devastating one is saved for last, when a particularly wrathful redhead whom I assume is the regular StuCo president (as opposed to underground) comes to the Chairman (with her own agenda) and demands justice be doled out for Mari, Meiko and Hana. Wanting to avoid the specter of nepotism, the Chairman acquiesces.

That means throwing them in the very jail they once ran. And you know what? It doesn’t feel right. I don’t need the girls to get their “just desserts” in this manner. A direct turnabout like this wasn’t necessary, and it only feels bitter in my mouth—as I’m sure it does to Kiyoshi and the others—and as I’m sure it was meant to. After all, they know exactly what it’s like in there, and wouldn’t wish it on anyone…even those who originally put them there.

In all honesty, I wouldn’t mind a second season that explores further the relationships of Anzu+Shingo, or Gakuto+3K girl, or the Chiyo-Kiyoshi-Hana triangle (if that’s indeed a thing), or the possibility of Mari changing her mind about men, or Meiko growing a spine in the aftermath of her leader’s fall.

I’d also love to watch Kiyoshi, the other guys, and the girls who’ve befriended them (3K girl is one of the redhead’s lieutenants) work together to try to free their three former antagonists. Because no student should serve time in a prison in school. Normal detention and suspension should suffice!

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 11 (Fin)

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Subete ga F ni Naru was a fun, engrossing, and above all thought-provoking show from beginning to end. Even though the main mystery has been solved, this episode trudges onward with some very long but solid character interactions: first between Saikawa and Miki Shiki, then between Saikawa and Moe. By the end, has introduced a whole new brace of head-scratching mysteries to ponder during the digital end credits.

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Dr. Magata makes good on her promise she and Saikawa will meet again far sooner than Saikawa expected, considering she’s on the lamb, but something he said in their sensory deprivation meeting intrigued her to the extent she felt the need to visit him in person and chat a little, before surrendering herself to the police. That something was “You can’t smoke underwater,” and she opts to try one of cigarettes (her first ever).

They talk of life and death; her view (though she doesn’t say it’s the only view) that the latter is the natural state of things, while life itself is “a kind of illness” that death cures. She also considers the human compulsion to want to interfere in the lives of others—or to want one’s own life interfered with by another—is essentially what love is.

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As we see the ship at sea for the first time since the pilot, I pondered what it represented, as Shiki tells Saikawa that they have similar “structures”—other selves created to protect “the real him.” But Saikawa isn’t Shiki, nor does she believe he could ever become her. At least, he’d need “far more than one hundred years” to do so. It’s not meant as an insult, just a fact, and Saikawa accepts it as the two part.

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The Lego Shiki leaves him with is another question mark, but after pondering his encounter in his office (during which time Moe tentatively enters, makes coffee, and promises to leave right afterwards), he realizes the three “policemen” who surrounded her weren’t policemen at all, but guys she hired to act that way. Shiki is still out in the wind. Saikawa laughs out loud, not just because she got him once more, but because I think he’s happy she’s still free.

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His talk with her got him thinking: “love has no single shape.” It could be being killed, as it might have been for Shiki and her daughter. Or it could be solving the magic trick someone else loved outsmarting others with, then being the one who saves the life of someone who had no one else,  and telling silly jokes that make her irritated or tear up.

Saikawa makes no bones about him and Moe being very different people, but that doesn’t matter; two people don’t need to be the same to be in love. He’s willing to accept all of Moe’s “contradictions” if she’s willing to have him. This was a love that has been brewing for some time, but only his experience with Dr. Magata shook him out of the impasse they were in and take the next step into something like a romance, which Moe has been ready to take for some time.

The camera plays with the positions of Moe and Saikawa as they go on an apparent date together, only showing them separate from each other at first, not quite in the same location at once, until they are in the frame together. Moe also learns that Gido is Saikawa’s little sister, so she never had any competition to begin with (not to mention Saikawa never wanted to kiss her).

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On that happy note, we leave Saikawa and Moe, and shift to a time and place we know not when or where. Shiki is on a camel in the desert with her daughter, teaching her that even though humans do not really exist for the sake of people and things around them, they cannot help but assign such reasons to exist as for the sake of others, or to help everyone. “They always want an answer”, and that want drives them. We cut to the two of them in the kitchen of her locked apartment in the lab, where Shiki urges her daughter never to stop seeking those answers even after she is gone, which is strange, because the theory was that she outlived her daughter when she murdered her.

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The final shot is the most perplexing, but not negatively so: “Michiru” introduces “Kishio”, the apparent name of her daughter, in that seascape with the giant shipwreck. Where is this place? Did it ever exist, or is it just in Shiki’s mind? We saw Shiki interact with Saikawa in the real world, but these last scenes threaten to upheave all that came before. Then again, Shiki did speak of dying without suffering and not fearing death.

After getting so many satisfying answers and explorations of philosophy, existence, life, death and time…there are still more questions. But as is the case with so much in life, we must be content with the answers we have, and with the fact that we’ll never find them all.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 10

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Last week came as close as Subete ga F ever got to being a 9, but this, its penultimate episode, finally breaks the threshold. It’s a great episode, make no mistake, but it wouldn’t have been possible without all of the careful preparations laid out by the previous nine. In the parlance of Sakurako-san, this episode is the product of “good bones”.

It begins with Saikawa communicating with someone he claims is The Doctor Magata Shiki, who invites him to “meet” her in the sensory deprivation chamber, which seems to be more than that, since it’s “hooked up” to the lab’s system in some way. Moe tags along, but notably, the environment she perceives is very different from Saikawa’s.

Where she sees a standard interrogation room—she wants answers from whoever or whatever this is, and justice; she is her police uncle’s niece to the core—Saikawa sees a idyllic beach cabana, complete with wicker armchairs and fancy cocktails. For him, then, this isn’t the harsh grilling of a suspect, but a casual and stimulating conversation with a very unique individual whose intellect he admires at least as much as Moe admires his.

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Because “the game is over” now, Shiki is willing to answer whatever questions come her way, but would obviously prefer if Saikawa figured them out for himself; again, just as Saikawa prefers not to give Moe the answers. Saikawa finally determines what “Everything Becomes F” pertains to: in the hexadecimal code of Red Magic, “FFFF” is the highest number possible: 15 to the fourth power, minus one. This was the timer Shiki built into the system that allowed her crimes to take place.

And I say her crimes, because Saikawa is fully confident this isn’t Shiki’s daughter, though that’s who became her public face once she was old enough; and the face Moe saw in her interview. Instead, it was Shiki who killed her daughter, de-limbed her, then escaped (made possible when “everything became F”), went to the roof, and killed her uncle and lover, Shindo.

Why did she kill her daughter? She says she wanted to be “free”, as in completely bereft of all worldly or material considerations. The freest free there can possibly be (at least by human perception) is death; the release of whatever it is inside us from its vessel, or our bodies. The plan may have gone the other way, but when Moe asked her “Who are you” it caused her daughter to hesitate.

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“Becoming free” was also something Moe considered in her darkest hour, but she didn’t go through with that, because, for one thing, she had Saikawa with her. Shiki’s daughter had only a choice: be the seed that thrives as the flower that bore her wilts, or die so that the flower can live on.

Saikawa is in awe of her whole plan, along with the place she “takes him” next. After revealing to Moe that the real Shiki is likely communicating with them from some remote terminal, Moe is kicked out of the fantasy, and it’s just Saikawa and Shiki on a sandbar, then in a clear, deep blue sea.

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A part of Saikawa clearly feels kinship to Shiki in her “disinterest in the material world”, and wants to stay in that peaceful void with her forever. Shiki seems flattered, and impressed with how far he’s been able to figure out, but she eventually takes her leave of him, though promises she’ll “come to him” one day.

With that, Saikawa awakens to a worried, then relieved Moe. The autopsy of the body shows no signs of pregnancy, confirming the daughter was murdered.  Saikawa then asks Setsuko to describe the people she saw board the boat off the island. Looking back at episode 9, sure enough, a woman in a purple dress, Miki, was among those embarking. Only Saikawa now knows that Miki wasn’t Miki; “Magata Miki” never existed.

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Returning to the room where he conversed with her in English (as Preston said back then, and I agreed: the content of their talk was wonderful, it was the bad English that really hurt the scene), Saikawa finds a note from “Miki” drawn on the painting with lipstick: “See you soon — Dr. Saikawa.”  As we’d suspected, Miki was really Shiki with a haircut, and the fiction that her isolation had halted her growth and aging was perpetuated by using her daughter as a decoy.

All Saikawa can do is step back and admire Shiki’s genius, as we watch how it all went down: how Miki arrived on the rooftop, how Shindo received her lovingly and knew exactly why she was there; and how they shared one last kiss before she drove the knife into his neck. Then she hopped onto the next boat off the island and disappeared, only to resurface at a time and place of her own choosing. As Saikawa says, nobody ever had a chance against her.

When everything became F, she had the perfect insider.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 09

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This is Hannah filling in for the Magical Churl, Preston.

This week Magata Labs opens up; not only do the police arrive, but so does Moe’s rival in love, Gidou Setsuko, whom we hadn’t seen since the pilot. Not only does she make fast friends with Shimada (though later denies it as they get drunk together), but she also wastes no time effortlessly pushing Moe’s buttons by describing how Sohei uses her place “like a hotel.” Moe, a brilliant but very emotional young woman, finally purges the thought her man actually did as Gidou claimed.

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With the police there, and unwilling to maintain the fiction that Magata isn’t alive for a week, the time to solve the locked room murder mystery grows short. After looking at the video files and the code that recorded and compressed them, Saikawa has a pretty good idea what happened, and encourages Moe to deduce it for herself rather than telling her.

She comes up with the theory that Magata Shiki entered the room with child, and the child she’d give birth to was the one who murdered her. But he still doesn’t know how that child left the room, when there’s no record of it. That is, until Moe provides a spark to a new line of thinking, as she promises she’ll solve the case “more or less” by 7:00 PM.

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That “more or less” gets Saikawa thinking about how the release of Red Magic and the more recent blackout effected the labs’ clocks. Turns out they were delayed by a minute, so when the system went back on, a minute of footage was overwritten—the very footage of Shiki’s daughter leaving the room.

It was just a minute, but it was all she needed. Saikawa rushes to Shimada to confirm, to find her drinking with Gidou. And you have to hand it to Horie Yui and Hikasa Yoko, they know how to shoot the breeze while downing brewskis.

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One of the final pieces of the puzzle comes when he and Shimada do some hacker stuff (I’m no expert) and find some suspicious code many tens of thousands of hours ago governing Dr. Magata’s door. Saikawa then avails himself of Moe’s talents, asking her to multiply 256 by itself, then calculate how long ago 65,535 hours before 7:00 AM two days ago.

It only takes her a few seconds to determine it was Feb. 10, 4:00 AM, seven years ago: the day and time Red Magic version 4 came online. And that version was always meant to go haywire exactly when it did, orchestrating the events that led to the murder of Magata Shiki and Shindo. This is one of the always-adorable Moe’s finest moments, and she savors all the profuse praise Saikawa sends her way.

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When Moe’s uncle arrives at the lab, it’s past 7:00 PM and time for Saikawa to make his presentation on the locked door murder. Specifically, he intends to tell the killer herself, thereby inducing a confession due to said killer’s pride. That killer would be “Michiru”, the alternate personality of Magata Shiki, who now resides within the lab’s computers.

In effect, Shiki got what she always wanted: she shed her limiting physical body. And now she’s finally “meeting” Professor Saikawa. We’ll see if he’s able to impress her, as Moe impressed him (and me, and everyone else) with his brilliance. And let’s not forget this latest epiphany only came because Moe mentioned how it didn’t really matter whether his watch was off or not with regards to solving the case by or around 7.

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Subete ga F ni Naru: The Perfect Insider – 08

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After spending much of the previous episode apart, this episode almost revels in pairing up Moe with Saikawa once more. With dawn approaching and the police soon on their way, Moe believes she can get her uncle in the police department to keep Shiki’s murder a secret for the length of time the lab needs; that way no one has to lie. Moe goes to the roof to try to determine how Shindo’s killer could have gotten on or off the roof from the outside, but more than anything she’s just happy to be with Saikawa.

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As for that sunset, it’s a really lovely scene during which the sky gradually lightens and the sun comes up over the trees as Moe and Saikawa lean on the rail, enjoying each other’s company. Moe talks about how she hurt her when she lashed out in her mad grief all those years ago, but Saikawa never held it against her; “glasses can be fixed.” It was more important to him that Moe knew she wasn’t alone, even though her parents were gone.

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The pleasant domestic theme continues when Moe takes a shower and Saikawa makes a hearty breakfast of bacon & eggs, and then Saikawa lets Moe doze off for a few hours, then for the two to keep each other company during a slightly scary blackout as the lab’s computer is rebooted.

Saikawa notes how differently he and Moe think: he sees the path and carefully walks along it to find the answer, while Moe grasps at random facts and tries to make connections. Saikawa implies Moe has much to learn, but can’t deny that she presents ideas that he wouldn’t have come up with. They make a good team.

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With Moe, who feels much lighter since  by his side in the dark as he puffs away at a cigarette, Saikawa comes upon what he believes to be a truth that may turn everything on its head: the Magata Shiki Moe spoke to via teleconference wasn’t really Magata Shiki. The episode also brings up the possibility of passing Miki off as Shiki, despite being taller and more filled out…but what if Miki IS Shiki?

What if that whole English conversation Saikawa had was with Shiki? Could the whole “sister” thing be one long con? Or, even more distrubing, did Shiki cut off Miki’s longer limbs to pass her corpse off as her own, thus faking her death? Shiki considers bodies mere containers, so she’s definitely capable of it.

All this time I’ve been operating under the assumption Shiki was definitely dead, even if a part of her still existed in, say, the computer system. But now even that fact is in dispute. If Miki is Shiki, that’s a whole new ballgame.

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