Spy x Family – 05 – Loidman Saves the Princess

The Forgers seem to be encountering every omen of bad luck on their way to view the posted lists of those admitted to Eden College. And while Loid doesn’t buy into any f that superstition—even Anya stepping in poop—Anya’s name is nowhere to be found. The mission then, has failed before it could truly get off the ground, hasn’t it?

Not so fast…Henderson takes the Forgers aside and shows them that Anya happens to be at the top of the waiting list, which means once there’s a withdrawal—and there are several every year for myriad reasons—she’ll be officially admitted. Yor has to fight back designs to murder the father of a student who got in, while Henderson isn’t sure he’ll be around to teach after slugging his colleague.

The waiting list turns out to be nothing but a formality for creating extra tension leading up to the phone call that comes in announcing that Anya has indeed been admitted to Eden. Loid is ready to celebrate with a party popper in his pocket. His colleague Franky joins them for a feast, Yor gets her drink on, and Loid is backed into a corner after promising to do “anything that is doable” for Anya as a reward for getting into Eden.

That something turns out to be the family and Franky acting out an episode of her favorite TV show Spy Wars at the castle where it was filmed, which is now a theme park. Loid borrows a floatplane and pilots them there himself, making for a thrilling arrival. However, after running around the castle a little, Anya is suddenly sad, because aside from them the joint is deserted.

That’s soon remedied thanks to a call to Loid’s agency, who puts out an APB calling for every agent in the vicinity to descend upon the castle for a Rank SS mission for Twilight. Most of the agents either idolize (in the case of the younger agents) or respect (in the case of the older ones) him as one of their country’s best spies. And so the stage is set.

Franky continues to enable Anya’s increasingly ambitious plans, as Loid becomes “Loidman” who must save “Princess” Anya from Franky, AKA Baron Scruffy. Loid has to wear the mask and gloves and run through a number of obstacles complete with colorful non-lethal weapons, Hollywood-quality pyro, and last but not least, Yor’s literally drunken combat style.

Loid isn’t sure he can keep up with her, but fortunately she breaks a heel and falls asleep. With one swift knockout punch to the villain, Loidman rescues Princess Anya and receives a rousing applause from his fellow agents and a DisneyWorld-scale fireworks show to cap it all off.

You could say the plot of this Spy x Family episode pretty much ends once the Forgers get the call that Anya has gotten into Eden. But the ensuing celebration and lengths to which Loid goes make Anya happy is crucial to the Family part of the show, while the role-playing conceit makes full use of both Loid’s abilities and the resources of his agency.

There’s every indication school life at Eden is going to be tough sledding, so I’m glad Anya got to have a little…hell, a lot of fun for fun’s sake before commencing the next stage of Operation Strix.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Komi Can’t Communicate – 12 (Fin) – …But Not Because She Doesn’t Want To

The Maid Café (and Komi) are such a smashing success for Class 1-1 that Najimi can’t suppress their enterprising spirit. They start divining new and ever-more-pricey (and niche) services for the maids to perform for the customers…until the faculty advisors shut them down. Sufficiently chastened for the time being, Najimi instead markets the café by simply having Komi walk around the school.

With Maid!Tadano by her side, Komi navigates all of the different things to see and do at the festival, from a haunted house to rooftop confessions. She rejects Ren’s confession with silence, but her own confession she’s only able to get a tiny “meow” out, which most of the crowd indicates Komi is a cat maid. As usual, most of her peers don’t really “get” her, because in a communication vacuum they divine their own interpretations.

Fortunately, there are at least four peers who more-or-less “get” Komi: her first two friends Tadano and Najimi, along with newcomers Onemine and Kaede. As Komi dons a French bun and glasses for a more sophisticated maid look, she’s both a roving advertisement for the café and soaking up the festival. Having Onemine and Kaede but no Najimi in this walkabout gives it a much more casual vibe, which I think both Komi and Tadano appreciate.

Thanks to Najimi’s racketeering, Class 1-1 is disqualified from a slam-dunk Grand Prize win in the overall class contest. Najimi’s attempts to gloss over their role in the DSQ don’t go over well, but when Komi indicates via notebook that she had fun, everyone’s on board. At the after-festival dance, the torturously-dense Tadano goes out on what he thinks is a tenuous limb in asking if Komi wants to dance, even though dancing with him is the one thing Komi wants to do most.

Tadano’s translator still has its blind spots, but at the after-dance karaoke, even he can recognize his only fan—Komi with maracas—in a crowd of otherwise distracted friends and classmates. I like how we only get the first beat of the songs everyone sings, and that Komi doesn’t suddenly show off a beautiful singing voice…sometimes it’s not about the having, but the yearning, ya know? ;)

Speaking of yearning: throughout these whole twelve episodes Komi has struggled to form connections, but not because she didn’t want them. With help from Tadano, Najimi, and the others, she’s become ever more comfortable with social interactions and communicating her thoughts. As she prepares for a much-deserved post-festival rest, she writes the names of all of the friends she’s made, then cradles the notebook with great reverence.

Not surprisingly, we’ll be getting a second season. We’ll see if Komi starts speaking more (and giving Koga Aoi more to do), if Tadano ever realizes that Komi sees him as more than a friend, and which as-of-yet not formally introduced colorful characters she’ll befriend.

Komi Can’t Communicate – 11 – KokkoFest

There was a beach episode and a sports day episode, so a cultural festival episode was almost inevitable. Due to being a class full of very specific weirdoes, the class is unable to decide on what they’re going to do. They’re stuck in an 12-way-tie largely, with everyone imagining how Komi will participate in all those various activities.

While everyone makes a big racket, no one is asking Komi what she wants, until Tadano does. Turns out she wants to do the first thing suggested: a maid café. That’s right: no one is forcing her to this; it’s her choice. Everyone changes their vote to match hers. But when it comes time to start preparing, no one will let her lift a finger. She’s supposed to simply sit on the throne provided and be Komi.

It takes a “space cadet” like Otori Kaede to ask Komi if she’ll join her on a supply run to the home improvement store. Between Otori’s unreliability and slow reaction time and Komi’s taciturnity, Onemine decides to be a big sister chaperone for them both. When Komi asks (via notebook) why Otori chose her to accompany her, Otori simply says she wanted to be friends, which works out just fine for Komi!

Next task: marketing the festival to the Itan community. Najimi, Tadano and Komi go from business to business distributing flyers. Komi succeeds thanks to the salon owner being as good a Komi translator as Tadano, and the ramen shop owner and her being kindred spirits who don’t need words to understand each other. When they knock on the door of a busy mom with a crying babe, Komi instantly silences him by stealthily making a face at him. He then calls Komi “Kokko”, a nickname both Tadano and Najimi proceed to try out.

The night before the festival, a lot of the class stays late to complete the prep, and soon run out of energy. That’s when Komi and other classmates present them with some homemade onigiri for recharging. While the workers guess which rice balls are Komi’s and take those, it’s the perfect cube of rice Tadano takes that was pressed into being by her hands. She seems particularly happy that he likes it!

The big day arrives, and a self-professed “Maid Expert” Akido Tatsuhito just happens to choose their cultural festival maid café as his spot for the day. He’s impressed by the attention to detail and diversity of personalities (this is Itan High), but like many people, he’s intimidated by Komi’s resting expression, and he mistakes her as an “ice queen” maid when really she’s the warmest and sweetest maid of the bunch. Books and coves, man!

Najimi can’t help but suggest Tadano try on the short-skirted maid outfit Komi rejected. Tadano doesn’t want to, but Komi really wants him to, so he relents. It’s just his luck that both Komi’s mom and brother and his sister show up to see him in all his pink-haired cross-dressing glory. But dressing up just might have been worth it, as Komi tells him he looks really cute, and the two sit two chairs apart, the atmosphere suddenly awkward. To Be Continued…

My Senpai is Annoying – 12 (Fin) – All Grow’d Up

The Fall’s cutest, sweetest, most life-affirming series ends on a suitably cute, sweet, life-affirming episode all about Futaba and Takeda. With Sakurai and Nakama’s relationship status in a good place, it made sence to focus on the main couple, who have been a lot more on the fence about where they stand despite their obvious chemistry and mutual affection.

Futaba’s growth as a salesperson, which she largely attributes to her senpai’s care and guidance, results not only in her scoring a good deal, but gives Takeda the confidence to send her off on a solo presentation that she then nails. This allows him to score a company-saving deal, and he’s soon surrounded by impressed ladies who want to throw a drinking party for him.

Not really in a hurry to watch other women fawn over her senpai, Futaba still insists Takeda join them at the party while excusing herself. With everyone else off doing something, Futaba ends up going to the usual izakaya alone. She immediately realizes it’s not nearly as fun there without Takeda, which…girl I’m sure if you asked him out so it was just the two of you, he’d have agreed in a heartbeat!

As the draft beer flows, Futaba reminisces on her first day at the office when she was a green(-haired) rookie. She immediately makes it clear to Sakurai that she’s not some doll to fawn over, while Takeda buys her a can of soup but then mistakes her for a junior high student, making their introduction as senpai and kohai thoroughly awkward.

Still, Futaba marvels at how far the two of them have come. She probably loathed the man who thought she was a little kid, but now that she knows Takeda and he’s helped her so much, that’s not the case anymore. Color me 100% un-shocked that Takeda blew off his own party as soon as he could to join Futaba, and just in time to keep a drunk salaryman from pawing her.

While a pretty dense fellow, Takeda has never been one to mince words or obfuscate about his general feelings towards Futaba. And yet he’s certainly not one to realize his feelings are romantic, nor is he bold enough to come right out and say that. What he can say, and Futaba can easily accept (with no small amount of blushing) is that he knows drinking with her is a lot more fun than drinking with anyone else.

He takes this a step further on their walk to the train station, after both he and Futaba have had a little too much beer. Nevertheless, it’s the perfect amount for him to be able to say that no matter who Futaba “ends up with” (in a general sense), he promises to always be there to protect her “until then”. Mind you, I’m sure both he and Futaba would be just find if that “someone” ends up being him!

After that lovely little nightttime scene and the credits, we get one more cute scenario—the famous Umbrella Walk. Futaba forgot hers, but Takeda’s is more than wide enough to accommodate her beside him. When she gets self-conscious and moseys over to the end, he draws her closer with his beefy hand. She freaks out, and calls her senpai annoying, but in truth there’s no one she’d rather be with under an umbrella.

Komi Can’t Communicate – 10 – 200 Degrees

It’s Sports Day, which means a good half of the episode is spend outdoors, rain or shine. Komi meets the fiery upperclassman Netsuno Chika, who assigns specific temperatures to people. Netsuno regards Komi as “chilly” and hopes she won’t hurt her class’s chances, but as we know, Chika is misjudging a book by its cover.

Komi’s austere beauty is intimidating and aloof, but beneath that exterior is one of the warmest and kindest souls you’d ever want to meet. That soul yearns to break free of her social anxiety, and on some brief occasions, succeeds…like when Komi verbally cheers Tadano on from the crowd, giving him the boost he needs to place third in his race.

When there’s a sudden rainstorm and Komi’s class meets her mom Shuko, she’s understandably embarrassed, especially since her classmates initially mistake her mom for her and are amazed she’s talking. When the rain stops and the big relay race completes the day, Komi slips and gets covered in mud, but responds to her classmates cheering her on and completes the race, finishing second only to Netsuno, who admits she misjudged her.

The next segment involves another new character, Onemine, seemingly moving in on Komi’s man. The narrator says people with social anxiety tend to get jealous when one of their friends talks to another they don’t know, but add to the fact Komi likes Tadano, and the effortlessness with which Onemine interacts with him, and it’s doubly troubling to her.

The thing is, other than Tadano, Onemine seems like one of the most normal characters in the school. She’s a genuinely kind, decent, nice person with absolutely no ulterior motives. But like Netsuno she’s only seen Komi from afar, and worries that Tadano is stressed out by being with Komi all the time. Tadano assures her that’s not the case, and if she spoke to Komi she’d feel the same way…but when Onemine tries, Komi runs away.

Later, when Onemine is settling in to help Tadano with more class rep paperwork, Komi is more assertive and communicates via notebook that she wants to help too. This is when Onemine gets to watch Tadano and Komi interact naturally, then reads the room and makes up an excuse to leave the two lovebirds alone, later telling Komi she’s rooting for her. As I said, she’s just a nice girl!

We close out the episode with another hanging-out segment, this time with Komi, Tadano, Najimi and Ren going to a photo booth and taking some adorable photos. I particularly like how Komi is “filterproof”—any supposedly appearance-enhancing filters would only make her look less perfect than she already does. But on two occasions, Tadano notices Komi gazing at a crane game.

The next day at school, Tadano surprises Komi with the gift of a kitty keychain he won (on the first try!) at that crane game. Turns out Komi already played the game and won a kitty keychain of her own, but the two then decide to trade, so they’re giving gifts to each other. After school, Komi is so happy with Tadanos gift, she rolls around her bed and kicks her feet in the air in pure unbridled joy—a moment her mother dare not interrupt with a dinner announcement!

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 20 (Fin) – Festival Fever

Ryou-chan leads a confused Jahy to the pub to find that the Demon Lord twins assisted in its repairs, and everyone decided to throw a surprise farewell party for Jahy. In all of last week’s excitement, she completely forgot she told everyone she was quitting the manager’s pub forthwith and opening her own.

When Druj comes by and shows Jahy a quote for a twenty million yen spot for the restaurant, Jahy decides to leave everything to Druj, who of course is all too happy to take it all on and impress her Jahy-sama. No longer burdened with the details of her new restaurant, Jahy announces she’ll be continuing to work at the manager’s pub for a bit longer. The manager gathers her in a loving hug, and the farewell party becomes a welcome-back party.

The rest of the episode is given over to another kind of big bash: a shrine festival that takes over the shopping district. Jahy is once again in the dark about it, and declines when Kokoro asks if she’d like to join the kids shrine carry, since it sounds like a hassle. But when she learns there’s shop freebies and a prize to be had, and two boys are mean to her and Kokoro, she gets really into it, and ends up winning the childrens’ prize despite being a “grown-ass adult”, as Ryou-chan puts it.

Saurva makes a spectacular series curtain call by crashing the festival hoping to depose Jahy as the Number Two once and for all, only to get just as swept up in the festivities as Jahy was, only moreso. Unable to say no to the lovely manager, Saurva joins the adult shrine carry and keeps time at the front, then joins Ryou-chan in beating the shrine drum, and learning that Ryou-chan is as nice as her sister.

By the time Saurva encounters Jahy again and remembers what she originally came for, she’s decked out in full Brazilian Carnival get-up, marching down the streets, having the absolute time of her life. Their showdown is once again delayed…but it doesn’t really matter.

Later that night, Kokoro takes Jahy’s hand and leads her through the golden-lit festival stalls. Druj, Kyouko, Saurva, the manager, Ryou-chan, and the twins all spot Jahy and Kokoro as they pass, and follow them.

This results in the entire gang gathering atop a hill, the perfect vantage spot for the festival fireworks and a perfect way to end the series: with Jahy surrounded by friends and people she cares about, having fun by night and working hard by day. It’s all enough to make Jahy forget her original goal to restore the Dark Realm…even though it’s still written on her oversized shirt.

Komi Can’t Communicate – 09 – Compliance-Wise That’s No Good!

This week’s wonderful and varied Komiucopia of segments starts off with a New Character Alert: Inaka Nokoko, who has a complex about being a country girl. Her “glow-up” consisted of hiking her skirt to just three centimeters below her knees instead of her usual five! No doubt she’s also self-conscious about her dialect, so she rarely speaks lest these cosmopolitan kids learn her dark secret.

Nokoko all but worships Komi-sama, the class god—though not to a creepy degree like Yamai. As she follows Komi (and Tadano follows her, wondering what’s up. Doublestalk!) into a Subway where Komi has been given another very long order from Najimi, she misinterprets Komi’s demeanor, actions and thoughts over and over, to Tadano’s amusement. In reality, she and Komi are a lot alike…I just wish they’d have actually met. Maybe next week!

Part II involves an established character in the chuunified Nakanaka, who invites Komi to her house on a whim and to her shock and amazement, Komi agrees. Before she knows it, Nakanaka is sharing her room with the Great Komi—her first guest since elementary school. The two sit in tranquil silence for a bit before Nakanaka breaks out the video games, something Komi doesn’t know a whole lot about.

Nakanaka gets so nervous about boring a “normie” like Komi such that she’d never return to her house, she invites Najimi over, who too Nakanaka’s surprise also brings Tadano over. The four end up playing a Super Smah Bros. game, with the show going into the game and giving the four characters Mario-esque identities. Watching Komi try to figure out her controller is a delight that brought back memories.

In the next segment, Najimi has conscripted both Komi and Tadano (who hides in a bear mascot) to assist with their part-time job at a Docomo analogue. Their task? Hand out 5,000 packs of tissues during their shift. It proves to be a fine science, as everyone reacts to Komi in different ways based on how they interpret her behavior and mood and whether they notice her at all.

After multiple Firings-up and Re-Firings-Up, quite possibly the person most in need of a tissue in the whole city crosses paths with Komi. At first the lady is weary of asking outright, while Komi feels weird tissuey vibes from the lady. But her first pack of tissues goes right in that lady’s hand, it the catalyst Komi needs to start handing them out to everyone who passes. Yamai even sets up a line for her! (This week I learned Yamai is best enjoyed in small, brief appearances).

The final segment starts with a harrowing dream Komi has in which one by one all of her friends show up with a black sesame seed stuck to the same part of their face, but Komi has no idea what it is, how to communicate it’s there, and even whether these are even her friends! Again, it’s only a dream, but I’m glad the show reiterated that Komi’s anxiety extends to nights alone.

Back in the waking world, Tadano actually has a sesame seed stuck to his face. Hearing Tadano call Najimi Najimi, she asks if he’d call her Shouko. Najimi urges Tadano on, but he’s utterly unable to do so. Then Najimi turns the challenge on Komi, asking her to call Tadano Hitohito.

Komi only gets a tiny “Hi-” out before she gives up as well. Like Komi meeting Nokoko, them actually saying each others’ names would have been lovely to behold, but maybe the show is saving that for later. For now, this was still an immensely fun and hilarious variety pack of segments.

Komi Can’t Communicate – 08 – Last of the Summer Juusu

Obon has come, so we get to spend some time with Komi’s family, both immediate and extended, talkative and taciturn. Turns out she’s even nervous about what to pray about and so has nothing to say to her ancestors, but she bonds with her middle school-aged cousin, and gets to lay her head in the lap of her granny, who is glad she’s having fun and making friends…but who is this Tadano Hitohito fellah on her phone?!

From there we move on to the next Summer Event: the festival. Najimi has Tadano arrive in a yukata, and he gets to be the first to see Komi in hers, looking tremendous as usual. Komi tries to get some actual words out, but only manages a staccato “Ta-“ until she finally hunkers down and says Tadano looks good too, which is the response to his compliment of her yukata hours ago. Better late than never…and always good to hear Komi speak.

When the two get separated from the rest of the gang, Tadano remarks at how fun it is with everyone. Komi writes with a twig in the dirt how it’s also fun when it’s just the two of them, but Tadano isn’t watching as she writes, so when he prepares to glance over, she wipes it all away. Komi, if you like Tadano, you’re going to have to be very obvious about it, because he’ll never believe it otherwise!

With the end of summer break comes the last dash to get summer homework done. Najimi invites themself over to Tadano’s, and Komi and Yamai also come, which means Tadano’s sister Hitomi gets to meet the two main women in her brother’s world.

She gets the wrong first impression of Komi, but by the time they’re reminicing on all the fun things they did and Komi tearfully presents her notebook saying how she wish it wouldn’t end, she gets it: this is a sweet gal whom her brother would be immensely lucky to snag.

Shin no Nakama – 10 – It’s Nobody’s Fault

Like last week, this episode featured a lot of what I love about Shin no Nakama—Red, Rit, Ruti, Tisse, Mr. Crawly Wawly, and more of the slow quiet life. But it also came with a near-constant tension over Ruti’s present drug problem.

Surprisingly, that’s not revealed to Red yet, and he doesn’t infer it on his own, but to be fair, he’s a little overwhelmed to suddenly have Ruti back in his life saying the party’s adventures haven’t gone smoothly, and she wants to move to Zoltan to be near him.

In his new world where he’s chosen free will over his Blessing (and Rit has done the same), who is Red to tell Ruti she can’t do as she pleases? Eventually she’s going to run out of drug and the Blessing will once again assert control, but even as the Hero, Ruti would be happier with Red back in the party. In fact, she believes they can’t defeat the Demon Lord without him.

Red makes it clear very early in his reunion with Ruti that he doesn’t intend to rejoin, which would suggest he’s made his choice between the slow life with Rit and the fast one with the Hero. But it’s not that clear-cut. I think a lot of the reason Red doesn’t ask any questions about Ruti’s sudden change is that as the person who loves her most in this world, he’s just so glad to see Ruti like this.

Red and Rit put their blooming romance aside this week, and to the episode’s credit, it doesn’t go off-character with Rit and Ruti at each other’s throats. Tisse can still feel the tension, and fears the worst could happen if she’s not vigilant, but just as Mr. Crawly Wawly asked her to “look closer” when Ruti tried to pet him, he also shows Tisse a way forward.

As the title of this post says, it’s nobody’s fault Ruti became the Hero, but when she reminisces about her first battle against a giant owlbear—a battle she had to fight because her Blessing compel her—it kinda makes me wish the Almighty who bestows Blessings were a character in this show, so Red  could slug them in the face.

What Mr. Crawly Wawly and then Tisse discover is that it may be up to them to keep Ruti on the straight and narrow. Ruti is in love with her past when she could feel heat and cold and taste honeyed milk better and could sleep and be with her brother. But as much as Red loves Ruti, he also loves Rit, and he can’t live both lives with both of them at once.

It’s nobody’s fault things got this way (well, maybe Ares), but Tisse believes if anyone can save the Hero by helping her to move forward with her life and her destiny, it’s her. In that regard, the fate of the world may rest on the tiny silver-haired soft-spoken assassin…well, the shoulder that isn’t occupied by The Mister Crawly Wawly.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Komi Can’t Communicate – 07 – Pool Girl

Most of this episode is made up of a pool episode, chronicling Komi’s very first trip day at the pool with friends. Unfortunately, it’s a bit crowded: Originally it was just going to be Komi, Tadano, Najimi, and Agari, but Ren invited herself and five of her friends, since she’d been stalking Ren and learned of the plan. Problematic! Still, it’s Ren who makes sure Komi buys a proper bikini rather than using her school swimsuit.

After the lads give scores for the girls (all the girls get 10s, except Komi who gets 100 million, school suit or no) it’s off to the water slide (which Komi wants to go on multiple times with Tadano), then a breath-holding contest that nets Komi nine cans of soda, since everyone else goes up for air after seeing her face underwater. Komi is so excited, she runs near the pool, slips, and scrapes her knee.

While I personally wouldn’t let a little scrape keep me out of the pool (the chlorine might sting but it’s disinfecting!) in this scenario, Komi becomes the equivalent of the pool leper. Najimi insists everyone else have fun without her, lest she feel bad for ruining the mood. But Tadano sits beside Komi and assures her she didn’t ruin anything for everyone, and she doesn’t have to worry about her friends “hating” her.

Najimi and the others end up bringing the fun to Komi in the form of a water gun battle royale. Komi gets to have a blast without worrying about getting her knee infected, and ends up nodding off on the evening train ride home, which is always a surefire sign you had a great time.

Following the pool antics, the remainder of the episode is a sequence of shorter skits, starting with Komi being escorted to the library by her similarly taciturn (and good-looking) dad. The two stop in for some shaved ice, but the dad just wants to know she’s doing well at school. Komi momentarily pretends it’s hell before softening her demeanor, and her relieved dad tousles her hair. Minimalist communication at its best!

At the library, Komi finds a book she likes but is unable to check it out since she feels the awestruck gazes of many fellow readers locked onto her inadvertent radiance. When a little baby nearby starts crying, she first silences it with what is meant to be a kind smile but looks like a murderous glare to the kid. Komi mixes it up by using her fingers to pull the ends of her mouth out, and the baby becomes transfixed. Tadano, returning books, just happens to watch the “precious event”, forgetting to return his books.

Finally, after the library Komi walks by a playground and decides to use it for what it’s for: playing. From the too-small swing and slide to the surprisingly high jungle gym and surprisingly tiring monkey bars, Komi has a great time all by her sweet, adorable self. When she works up a thirst, she makes use of the public fountain. Tadano witnesses this second “precious event”, forgetting to return his books again.

So while not without its cute and even moving moments, they don’t make up for the fact that the pool segment was too crowded with ill-defined tertiary characters and Ren is still a creep, which makes this the first sub-9 episode of Komi Can’t Communicate.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Shin no Nakama – 09 – Warm Hands, Full Hearts

Ruti takes Tisse and their Fisher-Price airship and head for Zoltan to break an alchemist out of jail. Why is the Hero abandoning the rest of her party to do crimes? Because the goatman gave her a sample of the Devil’s Blessing, which weakens her Hero’s Blessing and makes her more human.

She wants a steady supply of the drug, and she trusts Tisse. We get more time with the tiny assassin than all previous episodes combined, and thanks to the legendary Kugimiya Rie (Tisse’s seiyu) and the adorable Crawly Wawly, all of that time is a delight. This is an episode full of jokes that keep things light, unlike the last two weeks where all the self-serious plotting got on my nerves.

I also said the last two weeks that all I really care about is the main couple, but that’s not true; I always cared about Ruti and was fascinated by the curse of her Blessing, and now I care about her and Tisse, who hides the fact that she’s a sweaty bundle of nerves beneath her cool exterior.

Speaking of cool, Winter has come to Zoltan, and business at Red and Rit’s is slow since people don’t want to leave their homes. Rit suggests Red craft a hand warmer similar to the ones form Loggervia, and they’re a big hit in town. Rit saves one warmer for her and Red to share, strolling until they find a private park bench where they  can cuddle and smooch.

That’s the good stuff right there: the Quiet Life of the show’s very long title that both OP and ED promise and that drew me to this show to begin with. That said, that coziness blends well with the gently building tension as Ruti and Tisse get closer to Zoltan, but don’t run into Red and Rit immediately.

In fact, both Ruti and Red end up dealing with the same bridge knight seeking to challenge anyone who crosses. Ruti easily dispatches him into the river where he loses all of his possession. When he challenges Red in nothing but his bear boxers, Red does the same thing, and he loses he boxers too.

Tisse encounters Red first, not knowing who he is when they’re sitting beside each other at a very chill udon stand. As both are seasoned professionals, they quickly but discreetly size one another up and determine that they could be trouble; Tisse because she’s a capable assassin, and Red because Tisse can tell he’s a far stronger knight than the one who lost his drawers.

As expected, Ruti has no trouble at all executing a prison break and extracting Godwin, the alchemist, who will make as much of whatever Ruti wants if she just stops staring at him. The next morning Tisse wakes up to find Ruti didn’t sleep…but you get the feeling if she had enough Devil’s Blessing, she could, and she wants to.

What leads Ruti and Red to finally cross paths at the very end of the episode is nothing contrived, but a practical matter of Ruti not wanting to heal Godwin’s wounds with her Hero’s magic lest her cover be blown. For that, she needs an apothecary, and Tisse, who had already scouted the whole place, knows where the best one is.

What Ruti didn’t know is that the apothecary is the same guy who she met at the udon stand. Fresh from a fairy hamlet on Zoltan’s outskirts where he healed a very blue, very pretty, very naked undine from a cold-like curse that seems to be going around, there he is, welcoming new customers. When Ruti and Red lock eyes and realize that fate has brought them together, Ruti can’t conceal her overflowing happiness.

With tears of joy in her eyes and a huge smile, she pounces on her onii-chan with abandon. I suspect the beautiful reunion will be somewhat marred once Red learns Ruti is in Zoltan to procure drugs that make her a weaker hero. In any case, this week was a marked improvement on the previous two.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The aquatope on white sand – 04 – The girl with the red boots

Aquatope continues to meld stories of personal pain and growth, hints of romance, and slice of life in a unique setting with aplomb. This week we meet another employee of the aquarium, the gentle giant Umi-yan. He’s the first to realize that Fuuka is the Fuuka formerly of Yona Pro, and soon spreads the word to Udon-chan and Karin.

After work when Kukuru stops by Udon’s, she and Karin tell Kukuru while Fuuka sits in awkward silence with Kai, who just happens to flip to a channel on TV showing Yona Pro at an event. Just seeing the girl she let usurp her causes a visceral reaction in Fuuka, and Kai, also in on the big secret, quickly changes the channel.

The next morning, three old ladies are drawn into the aquarium before opening time to bask in Fuuka’s youthful beauty. The next day is a big one; the “Touch Pool” where kids get to touch sea creatures rather than just look at them.

Kukuru decides to give Fuuka more responsibility by being an attendant to the pools. While gathering creatures for the pool, Kai asks Kukuru whether Fuuka, who entered their lives so suddenly, will leave it just as suddenly some day.

Fuuka takes to her new job like a fish to water, taking voracious notes and adding her own cute little touches to make it a more colorful and fun experience. She even upgrades to bright red boots, surprising the rest of the staff. But considering they all knew she was an idol, should they be surprised?

When the day comes, things go swimmingly…at first. The kids love Fuuka and she crammed enough knowledge of the creatures to back her charm up with helpful knowledge. But then some older kids spot her, recognize her as the fallen idol, and prepare to snap pictures. Karin steps into their shot just in time, asking that they please not take non-consensual photos of the staff.

Umi-yan takes over the pool while a visibly shaken Fuuka, who tried so hard to buck up, is taken to the back by Kukuru to calm down. Kukuru apologizes profusely for getting so caught up in making the touch pool a success that she didn’t consider how Fuuka would feel.

But Fuuka doesn’t want her to apologize. She chose to be an attendant, and was happy when Kukuru put her to work and praised her. It’s here when Fuuka realizes that she wants to do a good job because she wanted to get to know Kukuru better and get closer to her.

Kukuru, in turn, realizes she wanted to give Fuuka more work so she’d fall in love with Gama Gama even more, so she could become closer to her. Pracicing what they preach to the kids about how touching a sea creature is worth a hundred words about it, Fuuka takes Kukuru’s hand and places it on her face, and Kukuru does the same with Fuuka’s hand.

Like Karin and Udon, I was absolutely slain by this scene, as it was surpassingly adorable and heartwarming in equal measure. It’s also to date the most overt expression of the show’s shoujo-ai overtones. Kai seems to have a thing for Kukuru but they’re old old friends; it’s different. Fuuka, on the other hand, inspires passion in Kukuru, and the feeling is mutual. They make each other better while helping each other heal from their wounds.

Fuuka returns to the touch pools with heightened confidence and poise, looking the older kids head-on and welcoming them to ask her anything…provided it’s about sea creatures. They look suitably chastened…how would they like it if someone took pictures of them when they were working?

After a long, exhausting, but ultimately successful and immensely fun day, Kukuru and Fuuka ride home, and before hitting the hay exhibit a far closer and more comfortable rapport, with lots of smiles and laughs. No doubt due to the exertions of the day, they end up oversleeping, but don’t sweat it. In fact, Kukuru decides to start the day by pouncing on Fuuka.

Naturally, someone had to piss in this blissful bowl of Cheerios, but thankfully the dread I felt as they approached the aquarium that those loan sharks had committed some kind of vandalism was mistaken. Instead, Fuuka’s stern-looking mom has arrived in Okinawa…and she doesn’t look happy.

Considering we’ve got twenty more episodes to work with, would the series dare separate Fuuka and Kukuru just when they’ve gotten so close? I dearly hope not! Instead it’s my wish that, as they pray to Kijimunaa each morning, as long as they keep doing what’s right, everything will work out.


Yuru Camp△ 2 – 08 – Wabi-Sabi Worrywart

Chiaki, Aoi, and Ena take the episode off this week, as aside from a sprinkling of Sakura it’s a totally Nadeshiko & Rin show, and every moment of it is superbly sublime. It may be my imagination, but this is also an episode that gets a little more creative with camera angles and techniques.

We start with a very cinematic opening shot of Nadeshiko walking through a tunnel. It almost appears like Nadeshiko is walking down the tunnel to enter a Space Shuttle, but the drama is nicely subverted by her singing to herself about towns and the foods they’re known for.

In the middle of her uphill trudge, she stops to soak up the gorgeous view, only to stop herself lest she spoil the view from the campsite. Once she’s arrives, she revels in the wide open space, inspects the clean facilities, and says hi to a camping dad and his two kids.

Nadeshiko gets swept off her feet while laying out her ground cover, and bends one of her tent pegs (just like Rin did once), but is otherwise able to get her tent up without any trouble. She then breaks out all the groceries she bought and prepares for some culinary experimentation. The older of the two camping kids is bemused by this “loner girl”.

Meanwhile, Rin fakes out the audience by first lamenting another path closed for the winter (with another cool camera angle), but it’s a tunnel she already knew would be closed, which coincidentally leads to the Yashajin Pass, where she met the tea shop lady. After arriving in famously scenic Hayakawa and attempting to cross the suspension bridge over the lake, she continues on the Rindou Ikawa Amehata Line to the hot springs.

This also marks the first time a character in the show has uttered the term wabi-sabi, an aesthetic philosophy centered around the “acceptance of and appreciation for transience, imperfection, and incompletion”. In its depictions of Japan’s infrastructure and nature, Yuru Camp and its characters have been uniformly enthusiastic devotees of this worldview.

We get a Sakura sighting as she’s at a store that sells wild game considering whether to buy some deer or some bear paw, but after a quick Googling reveals a far-too-laborious process for cooking said paws, she goes for the easier deer. The final shot in the store is a novel fish-eye surveillance camera filming her from behind and at a distance.

After soaking in the pleasantly not-too-hot spring, Rin enjoys a spell in a massage chair, which must feel especially heavenly after all those hours in the moped saddle. She notices that Nadeshiko hasn’t texted her anything since the photo of her at the Tomato Mart, and decides to give her a call, only to get an automated “phone turned off or out of range” message.

That would be that, except that Rin is both a caring friend and feels responsible for Nadeshiko’s safety after getting her so interested in solo camping. Try as she might to put worries out of her mind, she instead envisions how she’d worry about her at various stages of her own camping trip.

She decides the only way to allay those fears is to take a slight detour and go check on her. Sakura seems to be on the same wavelength as Rin, as she uses the Find My Family app to discern Nadeshiko’s precise location.

Nadeshiko is actually doing just fine, having wrapped all of her veggies in foil and roasted them in a campfire she made inside the cooking pavilion. But when the two camping kids go to the pavilion to heat up their konbini dinners, again the older sister is bemused and a bit weary. Nadeshiko breaks out a little old country granny, further adding to the witch-like aura.

The little brother is the first to approach her, and learns that if she is a witch, she’s a good and kind witch, and one that’s great at outdoor cooking! She roasts a little bit of everything, with the tomato, potato, eggplant and sweet potatoes being particularly successful, the avocado less so, and the carrot gets over-charred.

Nadeshiko not only makes friends of the family, but also inspires the kids to cook next time they go camping, after finding out how easy it can be—literally just wrap a cheap sweet potato in foil, toss it into the flame, and wait! As they part ways, Rin arrives at the campsite to find that Nadeshiko is find, and cell phones just get spotty reception.

When she returns to the parking lot she encounters two glowing eyes and is scared shitless, but it’s just fellow worrywart Sakura, secretly checking in on her sister. The two decide, while they’re there, they might as well go up to the top to see the famously awesome nightscape. I mean, it’s a nightscape!

They do so—and the view is indeed awesome—but are almost caught but for the fact they could hear Nadeshiko coming from her singing to herself. They dash into the tall grass as Nadeshiko beholds the nightscape, takes a selfie, and then wanders around the area trying to find a bar with which to send it.

Rin and Sakura make it out of there without being seen, and as they drive off together, Sakura gets the selfie from Nadeshiko and has Rin stop so she can see it too, then offers to buy her dinner in town. As for Nadeshiko, she sets herself up in her cozy, toasty caterpillar-like sleeping bag on a bench overlooking the nightscape.

I for one am glad she didn’t spot Rin or Sakura, as it preserves the spirit, if not the letter, of the “solo-ness” of her trip, since she didn’t actually ask anyone to stop by and check on her, and there was no need to do so as she was perfectly fine on her own. That said, I’m sure she would have felt good knowing her friend and sister wouldn’t hesitate to do so, even if it diverted them from their own plans. That’s love, baby!

%d bloggers like this: