Senryuu Shoujo – 03 – Bemusement Park

President Amane is all about trying to get Nanako and Eiji together, which includes eavesdropping on a truly bizarre game of charades in which Nanako somehow makes the upward wind you get on a roller coaster. I would have barged in too…where did that come from?

It’s a 4-koma kind of playful comedy that doesn’t always have to, say obey the laws of physics. Or something absurd, like when younger Nanako had temper tantrums, she still wrote senryuu to express herself. Amane’s challenging of Eiji asserting what a “manly man” he is was also amusing.

This all leads to the three making plans to go to an amusement park, but Amane bowing out at the last second in order to make it a date for Nanako and Eiji. The latter is your typical mostly-oblivious fella, who is almost appallingly late on the uptake despite the fact Nanako is flirting with him in writing.

I enjoyed the little white lies Nanako employed to try to get a little closer, whether with the shared soda cup or informing Eiji that her shoelaces broke, possibly implying that the only way for her to go home would be if he carried her.

Alas, Eiji notices she’s wearing shoes that don’t have laces. As with Nanako’s inexplicable wind-summoning, Amane can’t help but spring out from her hiding spot to protest Eiji’s denseness.

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Carole & Tuesday – 02 – Discovered by Fate

The narrator again refers to the “Miraculous 7 Minutes” before we return to the story of how Carole & Tuesday got there, starting with Tuesday’s first morning waking up somewhere other than her mansion. While Carole is out of there not long after 7, it takes much longer for Tuz to wake up, and when she does, immediately demonstrates her utter ineptness when it comes to cleaning.

Meanwhile, Angela finishes up a photo shoot at a studio where everyone applauds and gushes over her, something she’s obviously taken for granted all her life. When she arrives at Artience Lab, she doesn’t get that treatment she’s so used to. If anything, Tao (voiced most imperiously by Kamiya Hiroshi) treats her like a nuisance. But as long as he creates the perfect song for her, she doesn’t care.

If Tuesday is terrible at cleaning, Carole proves equally terrible at holding down jobs. Hired as a professional mourner at a funeral, she ends up laughing hysterically when a butterfly lands on the priest’s head, earning her her second pink slip in as many days. It’s clear if Carole can catch a break with her music, she’d be a better fit for that than either crying or serving burgers to misogynists.

That night, Carole remarks that if she goes to bed in the wrong state of mind she’ll have nightmares, so she and Tuesday exchange mentions of things that they like, and find they’re both big fans of both Cyndi and Crystal. Carole also learns Tuesday is a total rich girl, complete with a limitless black credit card—but Tuz can’t use it or her family will find her.

The next day, Carole and Tuesday are out on the town on a mission: use the real grand piano at the Martian Immigrant Memorial Hall’s main stage, where DJ ERTEGUN is already setting up a future show with one of his producers, Roddy.

On the way, Tuesday sees her mom on TV—turns out she’s the governor of Herschel state, and potentially running for president—but doesn’t let Carole in on that nugget of information.

Back at Artience, the rocky road continues as Angela is subjected to a mechanical chair of torture as she sings scales for Tao to analyze. When she hits the chair in anger, Tao seems to have more compassion for the machinery than her, whom he calls “a bigger piece of junk than expected” under his breath but over enough for her to hear.

When she asks if he’s really human an AI, he replies that he gets that a lot, then gives her a bone-chilling smile that proves her point all the more. This is a dude who has been surrounded by technology, he’s basically lost the basic skills that make us a social species. At the same time, he’s not wrong that 99% of music is AI-generated and most people can’t tell the difference, so Angela is at a distinct disadvantage trying to force her way into the industry.

C&T arrive at the music hall, and when they’re turned away by an assistant, they barge in anyway, take the stage, tune up, and play their first song, “Lonliest Girl,” with full lyrics and much grander acoustics. It’s a lush, soul-stirring sequence, reminding me of the performances in Your Lie in April. The animation is G.O.R.G.E.O.U.S. Like the OP, it gave me goosebumps.

More importantly, it pretty much destroy’s Tao’s assertion about “the warmth of humanity” being a lie. Roddy records the guerrilla performance on his phone, basically falling in love with the duo in the process. Moments after they finish, security starts to chase them around the hall, and Roddy captures that too! None of Tao’s fancy AIs can hope to replicate the anarchy or spontaneity of two young women eager to make a name for themselves.

Running off once more, C&T have no idea what just happened, but are simply enjoying the adrenaline rush of getting in, playing on the big stage, getting out, and getting away with it. Roddy uploads the footage of them, and the video quickly goes viral, making me wonder when Tuesday’s brother will see it (because there’s no way she’s going to stay hidden from them for long).

Even the drunken ex-music producer hears it. He’s so drunk, he initially yells at the woman at the bar to shut it off, and very nearly gets into a fight with her man. But when he stops and listens some more, he’s absolutely smitten, and apologizes for his behavior before running off and getting his old friend Roddy on the horn.

Through Roddy we learn this guy’s name is Gus, and he wants to know who those two girls were. Thankfully for him, Roddy has The Mad Internet Skillz, and in less than half a minute has not only found C&T’s Insta, but pinpointed their address as well, as the location data of their rooftop photo wasn’t hidden. Oops!

The next morning unfolds much like the previous one: Carole getting up and Tuesday…not. Carole punishes her laziness by placing guitar picks on her eyes, but before she can snap a funny photo Gus starts trying to knock her front door down, bellowing like a loon about the “gig being up” and ordering them to let him in.

Turns out this is yet more evidence that not everyone in this world knows how to properly express their intentions, as he ends up coming off as way more of a threat than a boon to the girls, who are scared out of their wits until he mentions he’s their new manager, and their fear instantly turns to bewilderment. And that’s how Carole & Tuesday were discovered! It happened pretty damn fast too, considering there’s twenty-two episodes remaining! This is going to be epic.

Carole & Tuesday – 01 (First Impressions) – Looking for What’s Missing Together

Tuesday is sick of feeling alone, unfulfilled, wasting away in her family’s massive manse in Herschel. She wants to make music, so she packs up her Gibson guitar and autonomous suitcase, slips out the window, and hops on the midnight train to Alba City.

It’s an elegant opening sequence that shows us everything we need to see without excessive exposition, and shows us the details of this intriguing future civilization on Mars, full of nifty tech and gleaming buildings, but also goats. There will always be goats.

The moment she wakes up and lays eyes on the city for the first time is also very well done. I was a little worried for Tuesday doing what Cyndi Lauper did and going for broke on a dream, but also immensely excited.

Meanwhile, in Alba, it’s hard for Carole to go for broke when she’s just flat-out broke. She at least has an awesome loft thanks to a kindly landlord, as well as a nifty uni-hoverboard to weave through the city churn to her awful fast food job where she’s berated and propositioned in equal measure.

Like Tuesday, we learn a lot about who Carole is not merely by listening to her monologue, but by watching her live. I also love her robotic pet/alarm clock owl, Ziggy, as well as her take-no-shit face upon being hit on by a rude customer.

Tuesday’s great first day in the big city goes about as well as you’d expect; her luggage is quickly swiped as she stands still taking everything in, just after Carole tells us that Alba is a city that will chew you up and spit you out if you don’t stop moving. Incidentally, after two customers spit out food Carole served up as a measure of revenge, the restaurant spits her out, and she’s suddenly jobless…and not for the first time.

As perky on camera as she’s surly off, Angela fires her human manager for booking her nothing but shit jobs like dressing up like a giant durian for a soda ad. She feels she’s above such bullshit, and like Tuesday is trying to take the next step.

After a shit day, Carole sets up her Nord keyboard on a bridge and starts tapping and humming out a pretty, sad, lonely little melody to complement the sunset, assured that no one will stop, listen, or be moved.

So it is most fortuitous that Tuesday finds herself on that bridge just as Carole is playing, and she stops, listens, and is moved. She even comes up with lyrics for it on the fly, which Carole likes.

When a cop shows up to break up her busking, Carole splits, and Tuesday follows. They introduce themselves, and perhaps a part of both of them know right then and there that their lives have been changed forever by their meeting.

As Tuesday’s emotionally distant workaholic mother delegates Tuesday’s running away to her son and gets back to whatever work she does that makes them so rich, Angela’s battleaxe of a mother and manager takes her to see Tao, a music producer who has only worked with AI “talent” until now. If Tuesday feels lonely and Carole feels trapped, Angela is straight-up bored, both with her career and her life. Tao’s warnings don’t deter her from persuing a singing career by any means necessary.

We’re then introduced to the first male character, a former music industry participant (performer? producer? both?) drinks himself into a stupor, asks for the music to be shut off, then promptly passes out on the floor.

At Carole’s super-cool crib, something magical happens. Tuesday whips out her guitar, and Carole her keys, and the slowly, tentatively start dipping their toes into the pool of musical collaboration.

It’s a wonderous thing to see unfold, and like Tuesday’s runaway scene, it’s a picture of narrative elegance and purpose. As they get more and more comfortable singing and playing together, they emit an aura of rising warmth. And they feel it too: this is what both of them were missing: each other.

Carole takes Tuesday to an utterly gorgeous city vista on the rooftop, where they make their first collab official by taking a selfie and posting it to an Instagram story called “Carole & Tuesday”, which is a great name for a musial duo. They’re going for it, and one more look at our drunken ex-music producer suggests that he’ll be instrumental in helping them climb out of obscurity and into the big time, just as Angela is entering a new chapter of her life in that same space.

In the first truly excellent episode of the Spring, Bones, Wantanabe Shinichiro, seiyus Ichinose Kana and Shimabukuro Miyuri, and the all-important Wantanabe anime element of richly-integrated music (which doesn’t skimp on the always-lovely diminished sevenths) all conspire to create a epic, heartfelt genesis of a friendship, partnership, and evolution of the lives of two young women who, as Cyndi said, Just Wanna Have Fun. And I am here for it!

Senryuu Shoujo – 02 – Close Enough

The Lit Club begins an initiative aimed at improving Eiji’s bad-boy image with the rest of the school, though Nanako likes him the way he is, even when his eyes roll back in his head when he’s deep in thought! That’s when Eiji’s beautiful “big sis” Ootsuki Koto shows up to thank Nanako and Amane for taking care of him. Turns out she’s just his childhood friend two years his senior. Then, while having a meal together, Eiji notes how much Nanako eats—not with malice, mind you—and Nanako starts to fear she’s gaining weight.

When her little brother teases her for eating as much as a sumo wrestler, Nanako resolves to go on a diet, but Koto offers to train her instead, using her military self-defense skills to whip her into shape. Time passes, and an excited Nanako takes Eiji’s hand and places it on her stomach…which would be quite forward if we didn’t know her true intentions were honorable. Instead, Eiji has to mention how he’s never felt a girl’s stomach and thus has no basis for comparison for Nanako to realize her faux pas.

Still, one think Nanako shouldn’t be ashamed of is that she likes Eiji—a genuinely nice guy—just the way he is. If others get to know him, they’ll learn the same thing. Koto already knows this, but when Amane asks if she likes anyone (if she had to give her a name, it would be Eiji), she says she doesn’t; not the way Amane means, anyway. Koto is fine with her and Eiji just the way they are, even if it means him getting closer to Nanako.

As it is, SS is a school slice-of-life with romantic undertones that just happens to integrate haiku wherever it can. And like that show about women enjoying various alcoholic beverages after work, it succeeds at its limited domain just as much as it needs to—which is to say, it’s fine.

Senryuu Shoujo – 01 (First Impressions) – Five by Five, With Seven in Between

Senryuu Shoujo is a tonic for a long, stressful day. Its heroine Yukishiro Nanako is also the antithesis of the non-studying Ao-chan, the first episode of which was most notable for its catchy OP. Rather than assume the worst of anyone, Nanako embraces her classmate Busujima Eiji, a nice book with a rough cover, as a fellow devotee of senryuu, a kind of haiku.

Unlike Eiji, Nanako doesn’t talk. We hear Hanazawa Kana’s voice, but it’s only in Nanako’s head. She communicates with senryuu, gestures, and body language…and gets by pretty well! The idea of someone developing senryuu as a means of organizing one’s thoughts and expressing them with a manageable, reliable structure, is an enticing one.

But more than that, Nanako is just adorable as all get out, and her unlikely friendship with a former delinquent—who got his scary face bandage from his cute little sister—is most endearing. And at an economical twelve minutes, we may have a lightweight slice-of-life keeper here.

SSSS.Gridman – 12 (Fin) – Power of the Finite

“Anyone who can make kaiju is a kaiju themselves,” says Alexis Kerib, after transforming Akane herself into an enormous monster that wails out a terrible lament as it destroys what’s left of the city. Still temporary allies, Gridman (dwelling in Yuuta) asks Anti to deal with the Akane-kaiju, as he and Rikka have something else they need to do.

Akane isn’t feeling particularly good about herself, which is probably what enables Alexis to transform her and control her so easily: he thrives in the corruption of the heart, in hatred, disgust, and aloofness. He chortles when Rikka calls Akane “her friend” not because Rikka is only Akane’s programmed creation, but because he doesn’t believe there even is such a thing as friends.

Right on cue, Rikka’s friend Yuuta-Gridman picks her up in Sky Vitter (to Alexis’ bemusement), and they return to the hospital to snap Shou out of his funk. Regardless of how useless or normal he thinks he is, Yuuta tells him that Junk needs everyone there to work. The Gridman Alliance is more than just a cool nickname for their little circle, it’s the key to unlocking Gridman’s full power.

Anti succeeds in freeing Akane from her kaiju prison (which seemed to be filled with some kind of clear LCL), but Akane wonders why he bothered with someone as terrible as her. Anti fully owns his “failed creation,” since the fact he failed meant he’s more than just a kaiju, but a human.

Alexis makes no distinction between kaiju and human, or anything else, since to him it’s all below him. Because Akane is still in a bad state, he exploits her negative emotions and literally consumes her to become a kind of “Alexisman”—but the Alliance are back at the Junk Shop, and when they activate the new acceptors that appear on their wrists, a new, final form of Gridman appears: less armored and more like, well, a giant guy in a suit.

This new Gridman fights Alexis in order to free Akane once more, and has some success…until the halved Alexis simply auto-repairs. He is immortal and infinite, so however many times Gridman tries to destroy him, he will just keep coming back forever. Since Alexis has everything “of value” in Akane’s world—that is, Akane herself—he decides to head back to his realm…after killing Gridman.

But before he can skedaddle or kill Gridman, Gridman discovers a new power, and possibly his most important: The pink Grid Fixer Beam, which repairs not only the city Akane created and then destroyed, but succeeds in rescuing Akane’s heart from Alexis’ clutches. The Fixer Beam basically deletes him from the world.

Finally, free, Akane worries about what comes next. “A big world’s too much for me!” she laments, because she’s such a weak, pathetic coward. Rikka, Yuuta, and Shou tell her that no one’s perfect, which is why they—which is why everyone—relies on others.

Her world afforded her godhood and a kind of immortality, but it’s run it’s course, and now it’s time to return to the world of mortality and the finite. Akane’s grateful to Rikka for saving her, but also wracked with guilt over the things she’s done that cannot be undone with any Fixer Beam.

Rikka tells her not to sweat it, and gives her the gift of a wallet that matches her own (and also happens to be the same color as Akane’s hair). Rikka wants Akane to stay in the world and be together with her, but tells Akane not to let that wish come true. No one can force Akane to leave; she has to want to do it; to return to her real life.

With that, Akane disappears from Rikka’s side. Gridman & Co. say their goodbyes to Rikka and Shou before returning to the Hyper World, and not long after that Yuuta wakes up in the junk shop, the Gridman Alliance now just a friendship of three kids. The puckish humanoid kaiju who once guided Yuuta heals Anti, who is grateful, and now sports both a human and a kaiju eye—his past and present.

Finally, in the real world—as in, a live action world—a girl with long black hair much like Rikka’s slowly wakes up and rises from the bed, the Akane-colored wallet on her dresser. This, it seems, is the Real Akane, who left the world where she was a god (i.e., her dreams) and returned to the world she thought she couldn’t handle.

Now the ending with Rikka and Akane makes more sense: Akane made the purple-haired Akane to be her ideal avatar, and made Rikka, who more closely resembled her real-life self, to love her. Ergo, in her world, she loved herself. But Rikka taught her the power of friendship, and the need to wake up from dreams and not sink into Alexis-like abysses of darkness and despair.

A lot of this might sound corny, but the show expresses these well-worn ideals so earnestly and powerfully, it all comes together and works pretty well, which can be said of the show as a whole. Despite only catching a tiny portion of the references to Gridman and Gridman-esque works, SSSS was never not a pleasure to watch and listen to.

The ending could be said to be too neat and tidy, squandering a universe of potential alternate directions. But at the end of the day the lesson holds: just as friendships have value because we aren’t infinite or immortal beings, an imperfect finite ending will do just fine.

SSSS.Gridman – 09 – Don’t Wake Up! , Or: The Intolerable Dilemma of Shinjou Akane

This week things start out different…and weird. Well, weird-er by SSSS standards. A new kaiju appears in the city, from the POV of a random passerby on the phone. We know there’s something fishy going on when Yuuta wakes up in Rikka’s apartment and Akane is there instead, even calling Rikka’s mother her’s.

There’s too much fog; too little activity; and in the glare of many a shiny object, Gridman can be seen for an instant, but goes unnoticed by a confused, amnesiac Yuuta, who at first takes it on face value that he and Akane is dating.

Meanwhile, at school, Rikka goes to the nurse’s office to find Akane already there. The two are friendly together, as friends are (and much like the end credits unfold), then Akane takes her to her house, as friends do. There are no parents, just Alexis, whose odd appearance Akane explains away as elaborate cosplay.

Then, in a repeat of an older scene, Akane strikes up a conversation with Shou in the bookstore about mecha and kaiju and the two hit it off, much to Shou’s delight. While walking home to or from school, we see Akane happily walking with Yuuta, her watch on his wrist. She leans in to hold his hand…and everything pauses.

These three scenarios involving Akane and the three members of the Gridman Alliance are all occurring in dreams. In “real life” (whatever that is) the three are unconscious on the couch in the junk store. The kaiju stands menacingly outside, striding about, but isn’t destroying anything.

As Anti learns when he tries to attacking it (being told by Neon Genesis that its keeping Gridman from appearing), it is a kaiju out of phase: unable to affect anything; unable to be affected. Akane is atop a construction crane with Alexis, watching the dreams…and hoping.

Not hoping to defeat Gridman, or kill someone she doesn’t like…but hoping these three can be re-made to be her friends, as they were originally programmed by her to be.

But the longer the three dwell in the dream, the more they feel like something’s not right. In a graveyard, in the glint of the gravestone of the family of one of the classmates Akane killed, Gridman appears again. In a flash, Yuuta’s memory has returned; at least the bit where he can be confident he’s currently in a dream.

After showering him with attention and rare swag, and about to be invited to Akane’s place to spend the night, Shou also snaps out of it; this is all just too good to be true; too ideal. On the bus, Rikka also quietly comes to the realization she’s not on a real bus and this isn’t her real life…and Akane just might not be a real friend.

She pleads for all three not to wake up; not to go. But they go. Three times she must watch someone get up and three times she must hear the sound of receding footsteps. Three times she’s left alone. Three times her hopes are shattered. The friends she made for herself have abandoned her and allied with each other. No matter what she tells them, or what she gives them, they’ll leave her for each other.

As the kaiju materializes and begins its march of destruction in the real world, the three friends run toward one another, and towards Gridman, in his time of need. Neon Genesis mobilizes on their own, de-scaling and combining into a kind of “substitute hero mecha” to bring down the kaiju.

What’s left is a cloud of dust, and Akane, in her created world, still profoundly, intolerably alone. She asks no one in particular what she should do before jumping from the tower and plummeting hundreds of feet. She lands on her feet, physically unharmed but clearly mentally spent.

At first, Akane was a one-dimensional villain: create kaiju to defeat Gridman every week. But after who-knows how many iterations of that scenario, Akane seems tired, worn out, and above all, lonely and miserable. If it was Alexis who gave her the powers she possesses, perhaps she was excited about having them….at first.

But now those powers have created a cycle without end with no friends to comfort her. A dream from which she cannot wake. A prison from which there is no escape—not even suicide.

As Yuuta, Rikka, and Shou wake up in the shop, and thank Gridman for bringing them out of their dreams, Gridman informs them there’s still a fourth human who must wake from their dream. Then Rikka tells everyone there’s something she wants them all to hear. I for one can’t wait to hear what that is.

So ends the best Gridman episode to date; one that harkens to the weirdest headspaces and corners of Evangelion (the background sound of clanging we hear at one point is straight from Rei’s ‘hood); and even one that seems to take some steps in its own directions after drawing from Gridman lore for so long.

Even if this is more of that borrowed and reimagined mythos, you couldn’t ask for a more gorgeous, cerebral, unnerving, and ultimately  heartbreaking execution. I’ve never felt more for Akane’s plight than I do now, which is quite a feat considering the wrongs she’s committed. And I hope that Rikka, Yuuta and Shou can help her escape her prison and wake from her dream.

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 09 – Shou Breaks the Logjam

Ah, Photography Club: where there are always plenty of photos of the members looking at one another to determine who likes who. Shou can see how good Hitomi and Yuito look together, while Asagi can tell Shou likes Hitomi. Neither of them are particularly happy about that! If only Shou would look Asagi’s way…and neither Hitomi or Yuito existed…

In high school, time moves a lot slower than adult years, making it feel like you have all the time in the world. But Shou, a senior, is out of time, and can’t afford to wallow in indecision. So he offers to take Hitomi on a picture-taking trip around town, just the two of them.

It’s not overtly a “date”, but it’s a big enough deal that Shou feels it only right to inform Yuito of the plans, which of course imply other plans. Yuito, whose mother worries is too aloof like his dad, isn’t one to suddenly ask a girl out. But he takes the “not relevant/doesn’t matter” route with Shou’s pursuit of Hitomi. HE AIN’T MAD, FOLKS.

The trip goes very swimmingly, if platonically by necessity—Hitomi is not under any illusions she’s on anything other than a photo-taking trip with her senpai—though Shou certainly seems to be enjoying the fact that it very well could be a date.

Chigusa and Kurumi (who seem to be spending the day together like NBD, bless ’em) spot the two, but also shrug it off as not a date. Shou and Hitomi even climb to the highest vantage point in the area at sunset and exchange flattering compliments of each others’ personalities.

It’s not until Hitomi turns to walk home that Shou confesses and asks if she’ll go out with him; fortunately the train doesn’t prevent her from hearing him. Unfortunately she’s so shocked and startled from the confession she bolts away, and spends the rest of the night and the next day in a haze.

At first she tells Kohaku nothing, but between skipping meals, putting her shoes in the locker wrong, and running away again when Shou says good morning, Kohaku can tell there’s definitely something off.

Hitomi finally comes clean, by hypothetically asking Kohaku if there’s anyone she likes or if she’s ever been confessed to. She asks these questions in earshot of the whole class—a high school violation if ever there was one—but when they’re alone Kohaku tells her that ultimately the choice is hers to make, based on her feelings for the ‘rhetorical guy.’ For Kohaku’s part, she’d rather be rejected then not given an answer, even if it hurts.

Asagi can tell Shou is being uncharacteristically gloomy as they look at the pictures he took of places they’d been to countless times. When Asagi asks Hitomi if she’s coming to club, Hitomi has the same questions for Asagi she had for Kohaku, and Asagi spots the photo on Hitomi’s camera of the same place Shou was.

The gig thus well and truly up, Hitomi says she doesn’t “deserve” either to be liked or to like someone, something Asagi characteristically rejects. She urges Hitomi to do something lest “that person” get hurt, then storms off to club.

To Hitomi’s credit, she doesn’t let this uncertainty linger, nor allow Shou to suffer longer than this episode. On the roof she formally rejects him, stating there’s someone else (even if she’s unsure of the true nature of those feelings).

It’s clear to Shou about whom she’s talking: Yuito, who joins Shou on the roof and witnesses him shouting at the top of his lungs in a kind of release. Both the confession and the scream amaze Yuito; both are things he can’t imagine doing himself.

Later, Hitomi tracks Asagi back down, but before she can say anything, Asagi tells her that the person she liked (past tense) was Shou, the person Hitomi just rejected. Then she runs off and crumples into a little ball on a playground. What a fine mess we have here!

SSSS.Gridman – 08 – Stealing a Kaiju March

When Neon Genesis shows up at Yuuta, Rikka and Shou’s school—with outside shoes—and risks being reported or escorted away, you know something big is brewing. Akane has dusted off the first kaiju she built to defeat Gridman and souped it up into a kind of mega-mecha-kaiju.

She’s also not shy about her role in the kaiju-making. Assuming Yuuta has caught Rikka and Shou up, she tells them upfront that she designed her latest kaiju especially to attack the school’s cultural festival. If they don’t like it, well, they’re just going to have to try and stop her…if they can.

How to proceed creates a rift in the “Gridman Alliance”, which I only put in quotes because in the midst of said rift Rikka calls into question whether it’s an alliance at all, since only Shou has been insisting that’s what they are. Shou thinks they need to fight at all costs, but Rikka is far more hesitant—Akane is her friend; she doesn’t want to fight her friend.

When Shou accuses her of letting her emotions rule, Rikka wordlessly stalks away, and Shou knows he’s stepped in it. At school, Yuuta and Shou again try to get through to Akane, asking if she’ll have the battle somewhere else where their classmates won’t get hurt. But Akane hates the festival, and suspects the two of them wouldn’t mind if it were interrupted by a cool kaiju battle. There’s nothing left to say; she ain’t budging from her plans.

Back at the junk store an extremely hungry, one-eyed Anti shows up looking for Rikka…then passes out. Rikka’s mom feeds him and he goes on his way without incident.

In one of the more unsettling scenes of the entire show, Rikka is alone on a bus with Akane, hoping to change her mind about attacking. But Akane hugs her from behind, lauding her for being such “a good girl,” and assuring her no matter what she does, Rikka will never hate her, because she’s been “set up from the start” to like Akane like everyone else in the city.

Akane is convinced she is a god and there’s no one to prove otherwise, even though I wonder how far she’d get without Alexis’ help. Rikka leaves the bus, no doubt creeped out at the prospect of having been born programmed to be Akane’s friend.

She meets with Yuuta and reveals another reason she’s so upset about the whole situation: she feels she hasn’t contributed anything to the Gridman Alliance. All she feels she’s done is be related to the people who own the junk store and computer. But Yuuta tells her she’s wrong: she has contributed vital moral support throughout this whole ordeal.

Yuuta draws courage and strength knowing she and Shou are cheering him and Gridman on. Sadly, when Yuuta tries to use the opportunity to say more about how he feels personally towards her, she interrupts by saying she’ll apologize to Shou tomorrow, saying it would be folly to think Shou would apologize first.

Her mention of “going first” illuminates a light bulb in Yuuta’s head, and suddenly he has the right plan for the festival: Gridman will invade the school first, forcing an evacuation before Akane can mobilize her kaiju. He also has Gridman summoned at only half-size in order to allow all the Neon Genesis to sortie at once and combine to form Full Combo Gridman, who is of a size with Akane’s mega-mecha-kaiju.

The ensuing battle takes place outside of the school, leaving the festival untouched, which Akane is very upset aboutin addition to being outmaneuvered when Gridman appeared first, the opposite of how it’s always gone.

More frustratingly for her, even her new upgraded kaiju isn’t much of a match for the Combo Gridman, who pulls of its head, launches it into the stratosphere, tosses it down to the earth, then cleaves it with a gold-plated finishing move.

In the midst of the battle both Rikka and Shou are by the computer, watching and cheering Yuuta on as usual, and that’s how they get over their previous rift. After all, they all tried their best to dissuade Akane and she simply wouldn’t listen. Friend or not, her attack had to be stopped lest more people die.

After the battle the three participate in their class’ “reverse gender cosplay cafe”, resulting in Maid Shou apologizing to Sea Captain Rikka while a pleased Schoolgirl Yuuta looks on.

As for Akane, who was so sure that this time she’d win and that she couldn’t lose, stays home, lying on the floor of her filthy house, in the dark…a fallen god. Maybe she’s just done with this…one can only endure so many defeats until it’s just not fun anymore.

Alexis isn’t mean or anything, but he’s very firm in his belief that she can “do better” than this. However she feels here and now, Alexis isn’t done with her, and intends to keep relying on her inimitable “talents.” More and more it’s looking like it’s ultimately not the city that must be saved from Akane’s kaiju, but Akane who needs to be saved from Alexis.

Attack on Titan – 49 (S3 Fin) – To The Basement

The bigwigs decide that the serum Kenny gave Levi should stay with Levi, to use if, when, and where he deems necessary. Where Levi bumps up against the brass is when Erwin insists on leading the battle to retake Wall Maria.

Even when Levi threatens to break his legs, Erwin is adamant about being present when they learn the truth, and if they retake the wall and gain access to the basement of Eren’s house. If he dies before that, so be it; Hange will take command in his place, and someone else if she dies.

The night before the battle (which is kept secret from the public) is to commence, the Scouts are treated to a morale-boosting feast that includes meat, something that’s been in short supply since Maria fell.

The mere sight of the meat on the table sends Sasha into an uncontrollable berserk mode, and she has to be tied up. Meanwhile, Eren and Jean start heartily going at it, at first with words, then with their fists…but no one stops them, at least until Levi kicks their asses and orders them to bed.

Mikasa and Armin decided not to interfere in Eren’s fight with Jean, both due to his quick healing, and the fact that it’s just nice to see Eren being “spunky” again, rather than moping or skulking or wallowing in despair. No doubt his experiences with Historia have changed his perspective and narrowed what he deems his responsibility.

He’s no longer trying to do everything on his own, or feeling like he needs to. Rather, he now accepts that nobody, not even Mikasa and Levi (of whom he always jealous for their ridiculous strength and skills) can accomplish much alone. Individuals have to find what they can do, and then rely on others for the rest.

The next morning, it’s quickly apparent the embargo on news relating to the battle for Maria was broken by Flugel, whose company provided the meat for the scouts the previous night.

As a result, the regiment gets perhaps its warmest and most enthusiastic sendoff, with the crowds below cheering as the scouts scale the wall, and Erwin pumping them up with battle cries and an order to commence.

It’s all very triumphant…but I couldn’t help but feel uneasy. It’s not going to be easy to retake a whole wall, after all, and it’s certainly not going to happen this third season.

Rather, we’ll have to wait for a fourth, and judging from the little teaser we get mid-credits—in which a bloodsoaked Levi slugs Eren and ends up with Mikasa’s blade at his throat—it’s clear that all of the hardships overcome this season will be replaced by a whole new batch of new ones.

And then there’s the nagging question of whether we’ll ever see that dang basement—or if it will continue to endure as one of anime’s longest and most frustrating teases. Until next year (or whenever), farewell, AoT.

Bunny Girl Senpai – 02 – Can You See Me? Can You Hear Me?

Sakuta buys Mai some food, and she rewards him by taking his arm in hers. However, they’re still technically “having a fight,” so it’s not all Cloud Nineness. He asserts she’s not being honest with herself about wanting to get back to showbiz, and reveals he knows why, and she slaps him.

But he’s right: it’s not showbiz she hates; it’s her manager/mom, who forced her still middle-aged daughter to pose in a swimsuit against her will. She’s used that to try to justify her hiatus, but in her heart she wants to keep working…it could even be why she’s now invisible to everyone.

Mai intends to spend one of her last precious Sundays out of showbiz with Sakuta in Kamakura, something she insists isn’t a date but puhleeeeze. Sakuta will surely be on time, but he encounters a lost child, then a busybody who mistook him for a pedo, and then the two have to go to the police station to explain why he was kicking her in the ass (because she kicked him first).

It’s quite a story, and so out there it almost couldn’t be made up, and Mai decides to believe that’s why he was over an hour and a half late (she also lied about bailing if he was only one minute late).

While on the train, Sakuta tells Mai why he’s helping her and won’t give up on her; because there was once someone who didn’t give up on him, and he wants to be for Mai what Makinohara Shouko was to him…even if there’s no record of Shouko ever existing except in his memories.

Mai brings Sakuta along on a quick errand to properly inform her mother of her impending change of agencies, but her “Adolescence Syndrome” has advanced so far her own mother can neither see nor hear her. And it’s worse: neither she nor anyone else has the slightest clue who Sakurajima Mai is; not even the announcer who promised not to publish his chest scar.

This starts Sakura on a quest to find out if anyone still remembers her, a quest on which she tags along to a faraway town. There, they check into a cramped business hotel room, and as Mai showers, Sakuta starts calling people. Finally, he learns that his classmates at the high school still remember Mai. Futaba promises to look into it.

After a quick trip to the store to buy Mai new underwear the two awkwardly share the tiny bed. Mai gives Sakuta an opportunity to steal her first kiss, but the window closes. She asks what he’d do if she broke down and cried about not wanting to disappear, he tells her he’d hold and comfort her and tell her it would be alright. Before bidding him good night, she thanks him for not giving up on her.

So far Bunny Girl has been a focused and compelling budding romance, albeit involving a guy with the distinct advantage of being the proverbial “last guy on earth”—though that’ll change if/when they return to the school where some still know her. The clever and playful banter between Mai and Sakuta is a constant joy, and I really felt what they must feel at times: like the two of them are all there is in their world, and maybe all there needs to be.

Attack on Titan – 48 – A Story Utterly Useless to Humanity

Since ascending to the throne, Queen Historia seems to have led a very modest lifestyle, preferring to run an orphanage in the countryside than sitting on some gilded chair in a stuffy hall. The people call her the “Cattle-Farming Goddess”, and it’s not at all meant as an insult.

Also, as both she and Eren continue to adjust to their new roles they are spending a lot of time together, side-by-side, and some of that time they are engaged in what some could call flirting, and I am THERE for it. I am also there for Mikasa shutting such instances down with a glare for the ages.

Speaking of glares, all of the scouts we’ve followed realize how much they’ve been through in the last few months, and how they’re no longer newbies or rookies or greenhorns. They are veterans, and their ‘resting grave faces’ practically scream “we’ve been through some shit” to their “juniors” in the 104th who relatively speaking haven’t seen much action. They certainly haven’t seen their former comrades and friends turn into Titans.

But whatever shit they’ve been through pales compared to Eren, who has been through some truly existential, philosophical shit. As Jean remarks, he’s always off in the corner muttering weird shit to himself, like whether those who are Titans are merely being tormented by some kind of nightmare (Ymir’s word for it) that takes a terrifying physical form.

However, thanks to the flashes he’s been getting, he now knows who to talk to next about his father: no less than the cadet corps commandant (i.e. hardass drill sergeant) Keith Sadies. He, Levi, and the other scouts in their circle return to where their training began. Keith can tell how much they’ve been through, and how they’re no longer the maggots who crawled into his camp not too long ago.

Still, he doesn’t know how helpful he can be to Eren & Co., other than telling them the story of how he first met Grisha Yeager twenty years ago, at the gates of Shiganshina, dazed confused, and lacking memories of how he got outside the wall.

Grisha eventually remembers he is a doctor, and starts serving the people of the district in that role curing them of plague and other maladies—including the bar waitress Carla, in whom Keith seemed interested, but who would later become Grisha’s wife and give birth to Eren.

Keith also distinguished himself, rising to Scout Regiment commander (Erwin’s predecessor). He was well-suited for scouting, as life inside the walls always felt too cramped for him. But he also could sense that he wasn’t “special” enough to do much with his position or his life outside the walls, something all but confirmed when he led an assault on the Titans that ended in defeat and an embarrassing retreat that harmed the Scouts’ reputation with the people.

By the time he returns from this defeat, he, Grisha, and Carla, once so close, had drifted far apart, and Carla had little Eren. Carla and her husband worry about Keith and when his next mission will kill him, but Keith angrily tells her that he’s not like the other multitudes of people within the walls, utterly lacking imagination and unashamed of living “useless” lives producing “nothing but shit.”

It’s perhaps too harsh a diatribe to subject to a mother holding her young child, but considering what he just returned from, his rage and exasperation were understandable.

By the time the Colossal and Armored Titans breach the wall at Shiganshina, Keith had already stepped down as Commander. Lacking that “special” quality he felt to be absolutely essential, Keith felt he had accomplished nothing, because that’s all normal people can do. All he could hope for was to be a “bystander,” not a leader or agent of change. He joined the flow of those he once despised, feeling he had no other choice.

Hange is disgusted by what she sees as nothing but puerile self-pity on Keith’s part…but being pretty damn special herself, she can’t really ever relate to how he felt in the past when he gave up his title, or how he feels now.

In the aftermath of Shiganshina, he and Grisha crossed paths once more, but not for long. Rather than avenge Carla as Keith suspected he would, Grisha took Eren away and fashioned him into his instrument of vengeance.

The utter hatred for and desire to kill all Titans that Eren possesses at the very beginning of the series was instilled not only by what he witnessed, but also at the urging of his father. And Keith was the one to find him unconscious in the woods, with Grisha, who’d likely injected him with the power of the Titan earlier, nowhere to be found.

Eren too has also come to believe he’s not special either, merely the son of someone special. He was chosen, sure, but by that father. Everything he is and does, he became because of that father’s choices.

It’s a somewhat narrow view that ignores the fact he had to make his own choices along the way, but never mind; his mother Carla never cared whether his son was “special” or “normal”; instead, she felt it was special enough simply to be alive, and to be able to survive.

Out of worry for his ultimate well-being, Keith worked hard to keep Eren from getting into the Scout Regiment. But Eren was able to overcome everything he threw at him, including sabotage to his ODM training gear. But it wasn’t that Keith Sadies couldn’t do anything because he was’t special; it was because he was Keith Sadies.

Bunny Girl Senpai – 01 (First Impressions) – Fighting Against the Atmosphere

Azusagawa Sakuta wakes up on the morning of May 29th and opens a notebook entry from three weeks ago, when he supposedly met a “wild bunny girl.” But he doesn’t remember. Rewind to May 6th (my sister’s birthday), and while at the library, Sakuta indeed encounters a girl in a bunny suit no one else seems to notice.

He recognizes her as the famous and prolific child actor/model Sakurajima Mai, who also happens to be his senpai at school. Sakuta, derided by some as the class loner (he’s even told to stay away from a girl’s boyfriend so as not to tank his popularity), decides to open a dialogue with her, despite her telling him to forget all about what he saw at the library.

Actually, Sakuta helps her out a bit, deflecting a gawking photo-taker. Even if she’s “used” to such occurrences, he can tell they’re the kind of thing that wears one down. Sakuta is partially ostracized due to a rumor about him putting people in the hospital. Rather than dispute or fight for himself, he gave in to the “atmosphere” he believed is was pointless to fight, like trying to fight back ocean waves.

Mai confides in Sakuta that she’s been becoming increasingly invisible to the people around her, such that even when she’s standing right in front of them and talking, it’s as if she’s not there at all. Sakuta identifies her predicament as “Adolescence Syndrome”, something that, while scientifically dubiuous, is still something that is clearly going on with Mai.

It happened to Sakuta and his sister Kaede as well. Kaede suddenly received bruises and cuts after being bullied online; Sakuta woke up one morning with a huge gash as if from some kind of three-clawed monster; it put him in the hospital, and the “hospitalization incident” rumor took root from there.

When Sakuta digs too deep too soon into Mai’s situation, she flees in a huff, and he ends up interacting with a television announcer eager for his attention and a science-y girl whom I’m assuming is a childhood friend of his. The latter brings up Schrodinger’s Cat—seemingly obligatory in these kind of shows—but reiterates that Adolescence Syndrome is something she can’t get behind, simply because science won’t support it.

Of course just because something is beyond the ability of science to explain doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist, just as Mai doesn’t not exist simply because people can’t see or hear her since she went on hiatus. But there’s an ominousness to knowing even the Sakuta of May 29th has all but forgotten Mai; hers is a continuously worsening condition.

It’s already so bad it’s hard to buy food…and she can prance around as a bunny girl without anyone noticing. But at least for now, in early May, Sakuta does notice. Perhaps if his future self keeps reading his past self’s account, he will remember her.

I honestly didn’t know what to expect of Bunny Girl Senpai; only that anime with such long titles often aren’t that good. But I can state with reasonable certainty that it’s not bad at all. It offers a clean, crisp presentation with an immersive soundtrack, natural dialogue that doesn’t get too lofty, and intriguing supernatural elements within an otherwise ordinary world. Color me intrigued!