Vinland Saga – 24 (Fin) – The Prelude Hath Ended

I tell you, gentle reader, I was not ready for the epic-ness this episode dished out, nor the way it completely exploded my idea of where I thought this show might be headed in a rhetorical second season. But I don’t watch shows to have my feeble theories proven right; I watch to be entertained and surprised, which I very much was. Though in hindsight, it was folly not to expect absolutely anything from Askeladd.

Last week we saw Askeladd dreading the corner into which he’d been pushed. On one hand, he must make nice with King Sweyn in order to keep the longer-term plans for Canute’s ascent viable. On the other, Sweyn seems to have deduced Askeladd’s Kryptonite to be Wales, and aims to mercilessly exploit that weakness.

Sweyn entertains Askeladd’s boldness after he attempts to dissuade the king with logic: Wales just isn’t worth it. But in exchange for his lenience, he draws in close to Askeladd and gives him a choice: Canute or Wales. He can only save one. Sweyn twists the knife by telling Askeladd the only good export from Wales is slaves.

Out at the port, Thorfinn boards Leif’s ship—the very same ship he dreamed of boarding as a boy so he could join Erikson on his adventures hither and thither. Finally he’s been given permission to embark, but Thorfinn’s attention is captured by a seabird preening then taking flight into the bright blue sky.

It almost looks like a metaphor for Thorfinn’s present state of freedom and potential for more, but it turns out to be an omen. The bird isn’t his freedom, but the lodestar to which he’s hitched his wagon these past eleven years, about to take off without him. Thorfinn suddenly vanishes from the ship, to Leif’s unyielding dismay.

Let it be said that Askeladd is, as Thorkell puts it, “good with words.” It’s why he had his own loyal army for so long, and why he’s able to openly question the king’s judgment.  But he’s always had deep thoughts to match behind those words, as well as decisive action to back them up. But had thought long and hard for a scenario in which Sweyn would make him choose between his homeland and his chosen heir to the throne?

Hard, perhaps; long, hard to say. “Plan B” happens in a hurry, because Askeladd would never get as good a chance as he had in that moment. So he draws his sword and beheads Sweyn with one swipe before the guards can come near. If he and Sweyn were playing chess, this is Ashy flipping the board and letting the pieces clatter on the ground in chaos. He also reveals his true birth name, Lucius Artorius Castus, offering it as proof he is the rightful King of England.

Askeladd, to most in the hall, appears to have gone quite mad, and the extremity of his rambling continues as he carves through the guards, who it is notable to mention follow orders from Prince Canute. Askeladd isn’t really mad at all; he simply surveyed the board and knew he wouldn’t win without sacrifice. When Canute tells Thorkell of Askeladd’s “act”, Thorkell makes it clear that it must be Canute who executes his father’s murderer.

Canute manages to do so, plunging his sword into Askeladd’s heart, impressing the old man with the precision of his first killing strike. Thorfinn is too late to stop it. The plans surrounding who will rule the Danes and England proved too large and important to pay any bother to his personal vendetta, something that had gone on so long it had soured into a pathetic futility; a source of pathos, not fear.

When a stunned Thorfinn suddenly lashes out at Canute, cutting his perfect cheek, the new king’s loyal subjects line up to kill his would-be assassin. But Canute interrupts their attempts to win favor with the new boss; Thorfinn still isn’t that important. Canute immediately cancels any incursions into Wales, and as everyone assembled bends the knee, he orders his armies to prepare for English revolts in the wake of his father’s death.

The conquered must be made to understand that the new king has no intention of giving up what has been taken. Thorfinn could potentially have a part in that, thanks only to Canute’s surpassing charity, which saved his life. It would be too easy to say Canute did a disservice to Thorfinn, even if the kid’s life has never looked bleaker.

There he sits, beside the fresh corpse of his surrogate father and nemesis, unable and even possibly incapable of even considering how he’ll live the next five minutes, let alone the remaining years of his life. Before he dies, Askeladd begged Thorfinn not to let himself get stuck in “such a boring place” as he currently inhabits.

As he’s carried away, Thors’ dagger falls out of his son’s hand, the past twenty-four episodes of Vinland Saga thus far rapidly unfold, reflected in the blade. Then we’re teased with new locations and new characters, but no explicit announcement of a second season. While it seems highly likely one is coming, questions abound: Will Thorfinn be a part of it, or will his story conclude in an upcoming film?

Whatever the case, this finale was a brilliant culmination of the events that have unfolded thus far, with the stories of old players like Sweyn and Askeladd coming to a close and the stories of young players like Thorfinn and Canute still up in the air. More than anything, it left me wanting more, and hoping to get it as soon as possible. After all, if such a tremendous work was merely the prologue, how does that bode for the story proper?

No Guns Life – 10 – Tomorrow Never Knows

From the moment he prepares to leave on his job, which turns out to be blowing up a train full of Berühren officials for Spitzbergen, Colt is prepared for this to be his final day. He’s not thinking about tomorrow for himself, only his bedridden mother and his two little sisters.

They’re slowly starving, looking as if they’ve come straight out of Grave of the Fireflies. The life in their eyes is fading, but Colt hopes to give them a future in the form of money, even if he won’t be around to enjoy it with them. It’s a simple yet powerful look into the marginalized lives Berühren grinds under its boots every day to further its own ambitions.

When Tetsuro comes to the arranged place and time, he and Mary soon learn what Colt is about to do. When Mary is almost arrested by a security bot, Tetsuro takes it over, and when they find Colt about to carry out his plan, he initially mistakes the bot as an enemy until realizing it’s Tetsuro.

Regardless, as much as Tetsuro (lawful good in this case) pleads with Colt (chaotic good) not to commit a crime that will hurt people (even lawful evil people), Colt sees this as the only option left to him that will secure a tomorrow for his family. He’s committed to being the means to and end—the end of their suffering—and nothing more.

Colt’s plan is turned on its head when a higher-level Berühren heavy shows up and tells him there are no targets on the train he means to bomb: only innocent protesters and children. Now not only will Colt not get paid, but Spitzbergen will be tagged as mindless terrorists who’ll just kill anyone.

Not about to let that happen, Colt leaps to the car where the bomb is and extracts it, but before he can toss it away, his meds give out and he can no longer move. That’s when Tetsuro ups his Harmony, giving his security bot a second wind, and tosses the bomb away, saving Colt and the innocents.

Colt took quite a bit of damage to both his cybernetic and organic parts, and all Tetsuro can do is use Harmony to help get him home. Alas, he dies of his injuries right outside that home, before he can say goodbye to his family. We also learn it’s doubtful he’ll even be paid, as the Spitzbergen contact is arrested by Juuzou and handed over to the Security Bureau’s Chief Rosso.

I worry for Colt’s mom and kids, especially as they’re only three in a city of thousands in such a hopeless situation. Will Mary, who never found out anything about Victor, bring them into Juuzou’s place? There’s only so much they can do, especially when a new danger in Pepper is waiting for Juuzou as soon as he returns to his office. It’s just one thing after another, and any one of those things could mean no more tomorrows.

BokuBen 2 – 10 – Naming A New Star

Nariyuki wakes to find he and Fumino have the house all to themselves. Fumino is by the sink preparing breakfast like an idyllic wive. It turns out she’s terrible at cooking (and cleaning), but Nariyuki doesn’t care, and neither would I. As with her studies, Fumino is working hard at something she’s not great at, and her energy and enthusiasm are contagious.

But while Nariyuki appreciates Fumino’s heartfelt efforts to be a good guest (and quasi-housewife), he’s still worried about the rift between her and her dad. She’s working so hard to pay back his family’s kindness, she comes into the bathroom to wash Nariyuki’s back—and falls asleep on it! When she wakes up, and won’t go back to sleep, Nariyuki suggests they go on a date.

He takes her to a spot with a great view of the stars, and reminds her how inspired he was when he heard her talk profusely about them when they spent that night in the hotel. She may think all hope of reconciling with her father is lost, but he suggests that if she conveys her passion for the stars to her dad the way she did with him, she might reach him.

He also takes her hand (after she almost slips and falls) and, in a kind of quasi-confession, assures her that he’ll always support her with everything he has. It’s definitely one of the more beautiful and touching moments between these two…I just wished it was more explicitly romantic. I mean it looks and sounds romantic, I just don’t know if Nariyuki’s is thinking that way in the moment—that this is the woman for him. That’s a shame, because she so is.

Fumino confronts her father, who opens their conversation with another harsh barb about her lack of resolve, but Nariyuki’s pledge of support keeps Fumino strong and on point. After telling him why she loves astronomy so much and wants to keep at it, he still won’t budge…so she suggests they ask mom.

She produces the laptop, the password to which turned out to be her father’s name, “Reiji.”  There’s no golden thesis on its hard drive, just a single video file of their wife and mother. On it, she apologizes to Reiji for the lack of a thesis, but as it turns out, she was as bad at math when she was young as Fumino is. Her love for Reiji that helped drive her to work hard enough to succeed.

Furthermore, she makes it clear that she wants Fumino to do what she loves, not what she might be naturally good at. Reiji learns the password is his name because Fumino wanted to discover a new star with her mother and name it after someone they both loved more than anyone else: “Reiji.”

Fumino’s mom’s third apology is to her daughter, since she knows due to her ill health she may one day make her very lonely. But the urges Fumino not to despair, for one day someone wonderful will come around who will support and inspire and drive her to excel at her passions, just like she did with Reiji.

For Fumino, we know that person is Nariyuki…obviously. Sure enough, he’s loitering outside her house, too eager to see how things went to wait for her to return to his place. They sit on a bench together, and she tells him everything that went down, and she simply lets herself have a few moments gently leaning against him. He thinks she’s nodded off again, until she says, perfectly, “I’m awake.”

Reiji ends up attending the parent-teacher conference with Fumino, and agrees to her future plan to become an astronomer. We also learn from Nariyuki that Reiji was in contact with Nariyuki’s mom, both to apologize for letting his family business spill out into her home and to ask earnestly how Fumino is doing. He brings up the one and only time he struck her, and felt ashamed and perplexed ever since.

Nariyuki’s mom, a widow herself, basically gives Reiji advice similar to what her son gave Fumino: confront her, and convey to her the truth: that he’s terribly worried about her, and that his objections come from a place of love. Only by knowing each others intentions and emotions behind their words and actions can the two come to a mutual understanding.

Speaking of which, Nariyuki and Fumino sadly remain in denial about the state of their relationship, at least when Reiji directly confronts Nariyuki about it. It’s still the case that Fumino doesn’t want to rock the boat for Rizu or Urara, but she’s proven she not them, could be the best match for Nariyuki. She’s more than earned a little selfishness.

BokuBen “Best Girl” Power Rankings
As of Episode 10

  1. Fumino
  2. Uruka
  3. Rizu
  4. Kirisu
  5. Asumi
  6. Sawako
  7. Mizuki

BokuBen 2 – 09 – She Can Go Her Own Way

It’s bad enough that Fumino’s father fails to show up for parent-teacher conferences. It’s quite a bit worse when he does come to her school to court Rizu for her mathematical prowess, since he’s the professor at the open campus.

We learn he’s very much against Fumino’s dream to enter the sciences, calling it “the ignorant fantasy of an incompetent person” and saying she’s free to leave his house if she wants to pursue it. That’s when Nariyuki, already physically in the middle of this family squabble, says he’ll take Fumino into his house for now.

If Uruka was the protagonist last week, Fumi obviously fills that role here. She’s always worked to steer Nariyuki towards the two girls who have the strongest feelings for him (Uruka and Rizu) while undervaluing her own. Now we know why: since her mom died, she’s never felt like she’s measured up.

That’s why I’m so glad to see that circumstances conspired to bring her closer to Nariyuki than anyone else, almost as a challenge to her insistence on putting herself third (or worse) in the running. The two once had to share a hotel room together, which led to one of the more poignant moments of the series.

Now, with the endorsement of his mom (who adores Fumi) and the disapproval of his little sis (who may only ever consider herself worthy of him), Fumi becomes a temporary member of the Nariyuki household. That warmth and familiarity is echoed in a scene where the two are brushing their teeth together, and both note (Fumi in her head, Nariyuki aloud) that it’s like they’re newlyweds.

Despite Uruka being his childhood friend, her feelings are so intense that situations like the ones he shares with Fumi could never be possible without her quickly overheating. Fumino, who always tries to keep Nariyuki at a romantic remove, slips into domestic bliss as easily as Uruka swims a lap.

While studying together as the rest of the family sleeps, Fumino tells Nariyuki that her mother was a famous mathematician whom her father placed on the highest of pedestals. When she suddenly died, his grief was so great that he’d sooner slap Fumi across the face—and stop even looking directly at her—rather than properly deal with the fact his wife was gone.

Instead, Fumi’s face was a constant reminder of what he lost, and her attempts to “do math” in her stead only made him more bitter and angry. Sorry you lost your wife, dude, but that’s no excuse to be a complete and utter SHITHEAD to your precious only daughter!

While hiding (in very close quarters) from her dad after he came home unexpectedly (they were there to pick up *some* of her clothes), Fumino finds her mother’s laptop, which contains her password-encrypted thesis. I’d bet the password is “FUMINO” but because it’s that, her father never managed to unlock it.

But Fumino’s done feeling bad for her father for shit that wasn’t her fault. If she can only pursue her dream by leaving him and her home, so be it. It may not be the safest or most practical route, and all too easily dismissed as impulsive youthful rebelliousness, but…let’s not forget: her dad is a diiiiick.

Astra Lost in Space – 12 (Fin) – Lost No Longer

We’re blessed with a double-length Astra finale, which really gives the show time and space to breathe and finish telling the story it’s apparent it always wanted to tell, and more importantly treated a loyal audience to a proper sendoff of the characters we’ve gradually come to love—and who have grown to love one another—one by one.

The first half, itself the length of a normal episode, is devoted to the return trip home. With Charce’s suicide plan foiled and Kanata down an arm but otherwise fine, the work of restocking the ship for the journey back to Astra. Kanata has to rest while the others work outside, but Aries quells his loneliness and FOMO by keeping him company.

Once they’re off Planet Galem, there’s ample time for the crew to assemble and hear Charce’s story of the history of their world—the real history, corroborating and continuing the story begun by Polina. Turns out the plan to relocate humanity’s population was so fraught with conflict, half of that population was killed in bitter wars for land on the new planet before the migration even took place.

The survivors of the conflict vowed never to let anything like that occur again, and so abolished nations and religions on Astra. Furthermore, the first generation to move and live there was the last to know about the true history of Earth; an alternate history of WWIII was fabricated, and the very timeline of humanity turned back 100 years.

All this time, the crew thought they were living in the year 2063, when it has actually been 2163; over one hundred years since the migration was successfully completed. It also means Polina wasn’t asleep for twelve years, but one hundred and twelve—yet doesn’t look a day over 29!

The crew decides that the world can’t go on living with a false history, but understands that telling the world the wrong way could be disastrous, not just to them but to the world.

Ulgar suggests they contact a trustworthy police lieutenant, and an detailed message is sent to him through Aries’ mom, including photos and videos of the still very much alive crew of Camp B5 and the log Aries has been making throughout the show (a nice touch).

By the time the Astra reaches orbit of Planet Astra, Lt. Grace is already at work arresting the King of Vixia, as well as his successor for his role in Princess Seira’s murder. Nothing a cop likes more than a bonanza of hard evidence. Very satisfying to watch these jerk-ass crooks made to pay for their heinous crimes.

The kids are met by an armed fleet in orbit, but after a few tense moments, contact is made and they identify themselves as friendly escorts, reporting that their originals have been apprehended and they are free to land. This is one of those instances where the extra length really counts, as we get to savor the crew’s arrival home and their ship’s final landing.

Once they arrive, and they get to tell their story to every media outlet on the planet, the crew become instant celebrities. Kanata and Charce tell the higher authorities about the need to spread the truth, something the higher-ups ultimately go with.

That bitter pill of truth is washed down without excessive unrest due in no small part to the charm of the crew, including the humanizing memoir about their five-month odyssey written by Kanata…not to mention the modelling chops of Quitterie and King Charce.

The length of the episode not only means it gets to take its time with a happy ending, but jumps seven years into the future, when the bulk of the crew is now 24. Everyone has changed their look a bit, but remain themselves and more importantly, remain good friends with one another, as you’d expect from what they went through. Yunhua sings a song inspired by those experiences, which essentially plays the series out.

Quitterie is married to Zack, while Funi is in high school and looks just like Quitterie (and has Polina as a teacher). Ulgar is now a serious journalist, while Kanata has achieved his goal of becoming a captain in seven years. His new ship is his old ship; buying the over 100-year-old Astra with funds earned from his book and fame.

With his past and present trusty mates Zack and Charce, they take off to chart the exit points of the wormholes and beyond, but they’ll be back. After all, Charce has kingly duties to get back to; Zack has a wife to get back to, and Kanata has to get back to Aries so they can marry and have a daughter they can name Seira.

And there you have it: Kanata no Astra, not just an epic survival story of a group of extraordinary kids, but herald to a bold new truth for humanity. One could say almost too much befell these kids; that they’re too special. But to that I say…what do you expect? They are, after all, the clones of people rich and powerful and ambitious enough to, well, clone themselves.

They were always destined for greatness, but it wasn’t going to be given to them; they were literally left for dead. But their originals made one critical blunder, forgetting about the presence of one last ship in old Earth’s orbit, the chariot of their downfall and their clones’ salvation. In the end, the clones surpassed their originals to become entirely different people—better people.

People who, rather than lying and cheating and stealing their way through life, scratched and tore and screamed to break the bonds of their origins, united together in love and fellowship, and changed the goddamned world. Hell of a story if you ask me.

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 2 – 07 – Wandering Stars

Nishikata has big plans for teasing Takagi on the camping trip, no doubt hoping a change of scenery will restore some of his mojo. During the class photo, he plans to make a half-peace sign that will look like a creepy hand behind her back. Alas, no matter where the two are, Takagi is always a step ahead, flashing a face funny enough that not only does Nishikata miss his chance, but he’s in the midst of laugher camera shutter clicks.

The show pulls out of the photo, presumably into the future, to a grown-up, smiling Takagi. Something tells me that isn’t the smile of someone who didn’t end up getting her man when all was said and done and the teasing and games turned to straight-up love.

Takagi and Nishikata end up paired up again when Mano needs a rest and they both make sure Nakai stays with her. It starts to rain suddenly (they’re in the mountains, where weather actually is that fickle) and end up alone in a small shelter together, watching that rain (not, as Nishikata points out, for the first time).

He decides to challenge Takagi to another game, involving blind tasting of the snacks they’ve brought. Clearly he didn’t think this through, because Takagi all-too-easily exploits his opening to make him feed her, his hand to her mouth. Even when the rain stops, Takagi wants one more game…so she can feed him.

After that, it’s time for the old Japanese school camping trip standby of homemade curry. Yukari cuts her finger, so Mina and Sanae have to do all the cooking among them. Nishikata, meanwhile, is too preoccupied with how he can stem what is so far a complete rout of him by Takagi in the teasing department.

When she approaches him, correctly observing he’s thinking of a way to get back at her, she presents him with game that all too easy to win: all he has to do is hold her hand. Nishikata bristles at such a potentially embarrassing gesture, but then remembers that hand-holding between sexes is all too normal during the folk dance ’round the bonfire that night.

To make things a little more difficult for Nishikata, Takagi is arranged in such a way that it takes a good long time for them to come around to each other. As Nishikata sees Takagi holding hands with other boys and smiling, I couldn’t help but notice a tinge of jealousy in his face, along with the thought that Takagi actually wants to hold hands with him.

Both are shocked when the music stops just when they’re about to pair up; their hands remaining an inch apart as the other kids disperse. “That’s too bad, Nishikata” she says to him before joining the other girls for a bath. “Just a bit more and we would have fallen in love,” referring to the school legend.

The thing is, Takagi and Nishikata don’t need any help from bonfires or folk dances to enjoy spending time together. Fate seems to already paired them up; all Nishikata needs to do is grow up a bit more. After lights out, when Nishikata can’t sleep, he encounters her making a wishing on the stars. When the patrolling teacher approaches, they have to hide in a very small cave, huddled closely together.

When the teacher finally leaves, they stay put for a little while, ostensibly in case he comes back, but also because it’s just frikkin’ nice. As they gaze up at the stars together, Nishikata asks what she was wishing for earlier. She tells him she wished for exactly what she ended up getting: to go stargazing with him.

While he may consider that more teasing, one look at Takagi’s face makes it clear she was being completely honest. My wish is that Nishikata will realize that one day.

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!

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 13 (Fin) – Back to the Future…In Color!

The structure of the Irodoku finale is simple: Everyone says their goodbyes before Hitomi heads off back to her proper time. Shou (“I loved…your photos”), Chigusa (“Uhh…Smile more, I guess?”), Kurumi (“Don’t make me cry!”), Asagi (“I don’t care, I’m crying!”), and Kohaku (“See you in 60 years!”) each get their turn as the star sand matures, but when it’s time for Yuito, both he and Hitomi hesitate to say everything the want to say, despite the fact this may be the last time they see each other.

Turns out Hitomi, or rather Hitomi’s unconscious magic, isn’t going to be satisfied with their sedate, half-assed goodbyes. The magical device starts to malfunction, and Hitomi is swallowed up into another full-dive illusion. Only Yuito jumps into the stream and ends up in the same place. He rushes about looking and finally finds her, devoid of color, and they embrace.

They thank each other for having such profound effects on each other’s lives before confessing their love to each other, saying all the things left unsaid before. Yuito was all but done drawing before she showed up, and Hitomi couldn’t see colors. Both had shut themselves into dark, gray corners, but now the walls of those corners have shattered and given way to brilliant colors.

But as I predicted, love is the answer here. Saying she loves Yuito and hearing that he loves her back is enough to restore color to her world; this time, permanently. In the moments before she’s sent back to the future, she can see everyone and the town in color for the first time.

Kohaku privately remarks that it wasn’t her time magic that sent Hitomi back; it was Hitomi’s own unconscious magic simply wearing off. Shortly after Hitomi disappears, Kohaku gets a text from “Kohaku Level 77” in the year 2078: Hitomi has returned safe and sound.

Her life-changing journey thus at an end, Hitomi finds herself on the same hill where she left her granny, and they embrace tearfully. Kohaku (she insists Hitomi call her that rather than “Granny” since they became such good friends in the past) then presents Hitomi with a time capsule containing all the photos they took together.

It was probably already there, buried in the yard, before Hitomi left; Kohaku always knew she’d become a great enough mage to send Hitomi back. She’s just glad her action led to Hitomi finding happiness. Finally, she shows Kohaku the children’s book she read as a child—the only thing she saw in color. Turns out, it was written by Aoi Yuito.

After leaving flowers at her mother’s grave, Hitomi, brimming with the confidence her time in the past awakened, reconnects with her friends with school and starts an all-new Magic Photography Arts Club. As for where the 70ish-year-old Yuito and the others are…the show does not disclose that, nor does Hitomi seem in a hurry to seek them out.

That seems strange, since one would’ve thought Kohaku would have kept in touch with one if not all of them, and one would think that due to advances in technology people would live longer than they do in 2018. Alas, this finale wasn’t about Hitomi reconnecting with her friends from the past (other than Kohaku), nor her rather uninspiring romance with Yuito.

It was about Hitomi leaving that dark corner where she shut herself off, embracing all of the new colors in her world, and resuming her life in her time. She got what she needed in the past. Now it’s time to build a new happy future for herself.—MagicalChurlSukui

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 04 – Fewer Colors, More Understanding

When Kohaku arrived she looked so bright and confident I feared her light would completely envelop Hitomi. But instead of a bright sun blinding everything else in its vicinity, Kohaku proves to be a warm sun, embracing Hitomi just as her granny would…because she is her granny. She takes that role very seriously without pulling herself out of her own present.

Immediately, Kohaku attracts a lot of attention, especially when she “transports” her class to England by casting an illusion spell that puts the class into a photo. It would seem her penchant for causing mayhem at school rears its head when an illusory steam locomotive covers everyone with soot and smoke.

That night, at the ridiculously awesome Tsukishiro residence, Hitomi and Kohaku talk before bed, about how Hitomi not knowing precisely why she’s there or for how long, in other words not knowing what will come next, is exciting. She also shows Hitomi a photo of a train that was in the album she held; the magic train was her doing; she has magic power, it’s just hidden and dormant, only coming out under certain circumstances.

And for all the havoc she’s wreaked over the years, Kohaku maintains that magic should only be used to help people and to make them happy. She considers magic to be a gift from God, and its the duty of every mage given such a gift to give it back to the world through happiness.

The photography arts club is a happy bunch, with Chigusa and Kurumi slowly growing together (though Kurumi puts on a front of loathing and Chigusa pretends to be aloof). They go on the high school roof at night to take photos of the skyline.

Yuito tells Hitomi that seeing only in monochrome can have its advantages. She’s able to see or understand things color normally obscures for everyone else. The gang also learns that Hitomi is Kohaku’s granddaughter from sixty years into the future…and they’re perfectly fine with it (for the most part).

The two Tsukishiro mages cap off the night by transcribing Yuito’s tablet drawing of a train into the sky. They’re using magic to help their friends by making them happy. The next day while going over their shots, Kohaku officially joins the club and adds “magic” to its name,  making it the “Magic Photography Arts Club.”

Rather than someone who was going to shove Hitomi out of relevance, Kohaku is a net positive to the group, strong and self-assured in every way Hitomi is not, but also warm, generous, and loving. Knowing Hitomi is from the future worries Yuito, because he doesn’t know if or when she’ll return there. I imagine such worries are premature; Hitomi still has a lot left to experience in the past.

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 03 – Someday Works Just Fine

Yuito’s words echo in Hitomi’s mind, as she now has a reason to explore her magic—so she can “someday” show it to him again, as he showed her his art. Each of them did something that made them vulnerable but came with the reward of growing just a little closer.

Still, the fact is Hitomi really isn’t that good at magic, even if she has the potential within her. To unlock it she’ll need to practice; her great-grandmother suggests she use a “wand” in the form of a Pocky to help focus while doing so. No harm in trying something new a little at a time.

She’ll also need practice finding a place at the school, which is practically fanatical about clubs. Both faculty and students insist she join one, but believes her achromatopsia precludes her from joining Yuito & Co’s photography arts club; conveniently forgetting the existence of black and white photography (though to be fair, she is from sixty years in the future).

When Yuito has her dive into the arts part of the club by painting a picture, her treatment of color all but confirms to him her inability to see them, at least as others do. Still, he’s quite sincere in his appraisal, and considering she’d “never drawn a picture” before, she did quite well!

From there she gets drawn more and more into the photo/arts club’s activities that day, from accompanying them as they recruit potential new members, to serving as a model during a dreamlike shoot at the pool.

While she fails to use the star sand that enables one to walk on water, she isn’t aware she picked the wrong color, and her own magic allows her to walk on it anyway…until one of the club members tells her she picked the wrong one, and she plunges into the drink.

Upon drying herself, Yuito comes to apologize, but she believes it just as much her fault for not refusing strongly enough (I don’t know, I thought she refused pretty dang strongly; they just ignored her!) Indeed, her tendency to so easily say there’s “no way” she can do something, or that she stay out of people’s way to make it “easier for everyone.”

Thankfully, she does decide that she can join the arts/photography club, and even helps them with their punishment of cleaning the pool into which they weren’t allowed to let anyone jump. Meanwhile, her grandmother Kohaku is almost home, and she seems to be someone who doesn’t just think, but knows she can do anything, and does it. In other words, she’s someone Hitomi could probably use in her life right now.

Iroduku: The World in Colors – 02 – A (Little) Star Is Born

Hitomi wants to see Yuito’s vivid drawing again, but he’s preoccupied with the fact she broke into his room. Fair enough; it is a crime, not to mention a hassle for someone who clearly hates hassles. Hitomi has no choice but to tell the truth—it’s the magic’s fault—and hope he believes her.

Fortunately, he does, and accepts her apology without further trouble. Unfortunately, he scoots off before Hitomi can ask about his drawing. In the meantime, Hitomi isn’t sure what to do now that she’s in the future past, so her great-grandparents enroll her at Kohaku’s high school for the time being.

We only see a still image of Kohaku, but I found it exceedingly amusing that the mild-mannered granny of Hitomi’s time was such a wild child menace sixty years in the past, her presence is felt even in her absence, like some kind of Sauron-like supervillain!

Kohaku, with her frequent destructive exploits, has single-handedly given all mages a bad name, so it’s only natural that the students at school would be weary of Hitomi. If only they knew how much she can’t stand magic!

Well, they get a slight demonstration of that contempt when, in front of dozens of witnesses, among them her new acquaintances with the photography club, Hitomi proves she’s a mage by creating a very tiny, dim star that only sparkles for a moment.

And yet, even that poor showing represented the best Hitomi had probably done in months if not years. As a self-styled loather of magic, she never practiced, so whatever natural magical ability may dwell within her, she stinks at it because it’s like a totally unused, atrophied muscle.

Hitomi finds Yuito drawing on the rooftop after school, and offers an apology for causing such a stir. Yuito apologizes right back for forcing her to prove she was a mage when he could have simply trusted her word. Hitomi is surprised by his contriteness, but also uses it to ask to see his drawing one more time, as it’s something “special” to her.

This week I came to identify both Hitomi’s latent magic and Yuito’s private drawings as representing parts of themselves they’re loath to reveal to others, as if they were parts of their hearts or souls. Even though Yuito loves drawing while Hitomi hates magic, both of them would rather not show it to others…right up to the point they met each other.

Now, as one of Yuito’s friends observes later, Hitomi might not find magic to be that bad after all, as she’s practicing her star-making and has clearly already improved markedly from her previous attempt. In her case and in Yuito’s, all about who you show it to, and why.

I’m kinda glad Kohaku didn’t appear for at least one more week; I feel like her blowing in like a storm would have disrupted the delicate initial bonds forming between Hitomi and Yuito, not to mention even more adversely affect her first impression at school. We’ll see how the dynamic shifts when young Kohaku returns.

Irozuku Sekai no Ashita kara – 01 (First Impressions) – Modest Magic

That term up top, modest magic, is used by the protagonist Tsukishiro Hitomi to describe her practice of repeating the same thing over and over in her head—in this case, that she’ll be fine alone—until it eventually comes true. It’s a spell, but a very simple one, and yet, it’s done all the time and it often works.

However, it doesn’t seem to be working too well for Hitomi; ever since her best friends in life left town, the color in the world has slowly drained from her sight. Even on a dazzling night of fireworks, she sees everything as a flat, even monochrome.

Classmates invite her to join the festivities, but Hitomi has promised to meet her grandmother Kohaku at a certain spot. There, Kohaku presents her with a device that will enable Hitomi to travel back in time. Why exactly she’s having Hitomi doing this (and why Hitomi doesn’t seem to have a say in the matter) are not explained.

But perhaps, like in Kiki’s Delivery Service, this is just the right time for a mage of Hitomi’s age to do what her granny is having her do; an initiation of sorts. The time travel is depicted as a ride aboard a bus driving through a glittering blue either of countless floating images.

Continuing the whimsical transition, after paying the strange magical creature that’s driving the bus a fare of cookie sticks (or something?) Hitomi alights and falls straight through the ground—which is made of clouds—and lands hard in the bedroom of some random guy (or is it random that she lands there?)

What doesn’t seem to be random is when she is. Her grandmother’s spell was aimed at sending her back to when she herself was in high school, which was about sixty years ago…in other words, our present year 2018. Once there, granny promised, Hitomi would eventually learn why she had to go, ostensibly by learning from her granny’s own high school-age self.

When the guy comes home and enters his room, Hitomi hides under the bed, and when he steps out, she escapes out the window (the mechanical latch for which briefly flummoxes the girl from the voice-activated future). While escaping, a classmate of the boy to which room belongs captures video footage, presuming the boy (whom she identifies as Aoi) was up to no good.

Once she escapes, it’s confirmed: Hitomi has traveled to the past. The glittering, skyscraper-packed skyline of her time has been seriously downsized. It looks a bit different, but it feels the same.

Those same classmates who saw her go out Aoi’s window spot her looking lost and confused, but don’t judge, and happily lead her to her destination: the town magic shop. Whatever the condition of the shop sixty years in the future, in 2018 it’s bustling, with folk young and old availing themselves of the wares.

Hitomi is disappointed to learn that Kohaku, her grandmother, is currently away on a trip to England, with no certain return date. But Kohaku’s grandmother—i.e., Hitomi’s great-great grandmother—is there, and believes both Hitomi’s letter and her story.

She sets Hitomi up in the spare room in the attic of the house, which Hitomi learns is practically brand-new in 2018. She remembers the house and the room as being much older of course, and a cozy, comforting place where she was once read bedtime stories.

There’s a coziness to the show at this point that pervades her interactions with her relatives. It may be a different time, but it’s the same family, and they’re just as warm and kind back then as they are in 2078.

The next morning, Hitomi sets off to initiate a search for her azurite earring. Turns out it’s already been found—by Aoi’s nosy mother, who heard rumors of a girl jumping out his son’s window. She’s not mad at Yuito (Aoi’s first name), but as a single mother would prefer her son’s girlfriend properly left out the front door. The thing is, Yuito has no idea what she’s talking about…and he’s not lying!

Yuito’s house is where Hitomi decides to start, but just as she approaches it he exits, and she decides to follow him instead. Keep in mind, her whole world remains stubbornly monochrome at this point…until she finds him sitting in a park, drawing on a tablet.

His drawing is the first thing in a long time she’s seen in color, and the shapes spill out and dance around, adding vivid color back to the entire world around her. It’s only temporary, however, and once she snaps out of it, Hitomi finds she was dancing and twirling in front of Yuito like a total weirdo, and he asks her who the heck she is.

Thus begins P.A. Works’ latest original series, which proves to be a different kind of modest magic, as many their works tend to be. Irozuku isn’t overly flashy (despite having literal fireworks in its opening moments), but rather so far is a quiet and delicate, yet rich and sumptuous affair. Animation, character design, and soundtrack are all top-notch; even KyoAni-esque.

Personally, the moment she saw color on the tablet caused goosebump-inducing. That was also the moment I was sold on this show. Its solid technical bona fides are there, but Hitomi herself isn’t as immediately charming as, say, Shirahane Yukina (though Ishihara Kaori has the chops to remedy that). In any case, I’m definitely going forward with this.

Steins;Gate 0 – 21 – Once More Unto the Breach, Dear Lab Members

Thanks to Maho’s improvements, the time leap machine can send Rintarou back 336 hours instead of 48. It’s truly a case of Salieri surpassing Mozart. But he’ll still need to make three thousand such jumps to return to 2011 in order to foil Leskinen, Stratfor, and Durpa and get Mayuri and Suzuha safely off in the time machine on the roof.

That’s a lot of jumps, but Rintarou is committed. Nobody in 2036 particularly likes how things turned out (Rukako has bought it, and soon all of them will), so they’re all for him changing the world if he can. The first jump goes well, but it and many many more after it will require that Rintarou wake up after a long coma.

He gets better and better at convincing Amadeus that he’s indeed from the future, and each time, his friends send him on his way. He even gets to see Lil’ Suzuha! Eventually, he reaches the time where two weeks earlier he’ll no longer have Valkyrie HQ to rely on to time leap.

It’s the day he’s captured, tortured, and allegedly killed. However, things go differently this time, as Amakurisu suggests he uninstall her program and ditch all other tech the enemy is using to track him, while all of his friends act as decoys.

The Leskinen of that time knows he’s lost this round, while the Daru of that time and everyone else sees Rintarou off as he…well, he kinda runs all the way back to 2011. Not sure how that happened, actually, but I’m assuming he didn’t actually run back in time, but managed to escape the enemy and find another means of time leaping.

In any case, when he returns, he’s indistinguishable from the Rintarou of that time, so Maho and Daru think nothing of him showing up in the lab. However, he demands that one of them punch him for being such a whiny little bitch for so long, and Daru does just that.

Daru had no way of knowing what his right hook (or whatever; not a boxing expert) would lead to…the Awakening of Hououin Kyouma from a deep slumber. It took twenty and a half episodes, but we finally get to hear that ridiculous mad scientist laugh. It’s a sight for sore ears.

Not ten seconds after awakening, he’s giving Maho a nickname (“loli girl”) and a weird alternate name (“Safina”). He also dubs her Lab Member 009 and calls an all-hands meeting of the other members, who are just as happy as Daru that their Fearless Leader Kyouma is back.

Maho eventually gets it too: this “Kyouma” fellow has charisma, and rather than dragging everyone and the mood down, he’s galvanizing it. And yet, the same old Rintarou dwells within him, it’s just that he’s done running and cowering, and whining. It’s time for ACTION.

After meeting with the lab members, Kyouma talks with Ferdinand Braun downstairs and makes a number of arrangements roughly a half-hour before Akiba became a war zone in the other timelines. This time, the woman in black with the helmet isn’t Kagari, it’s Moeka, who is on Kyouma’s side in this World Line. Talk about an awesome reveal.

Yep, it sure looks like Hououin Kyouma was the missing variable in the formula to foil Leskinen’s plans and ensure Operation Arclight went off without a hitch. It’s a triumphant, righteous moment. It doesn’t last long.

Even though Mayuri and Suzuha get in the time machine and set off far earlier than previous times, that damned attack helicopter still peeks out from behind a building, launches its missile, and destroys the machine in front of Kyouma and Moeka.

Apparently, not enough conditions were met to avoid the convergence. Clearly it’s not enough to neutralize Kagari and Leskinen; something has to be done about the helicopter. I feel bad for Rintarou having to start all over again right after his grand awakening, but no one ever said changing the world was easy or pleasant.