Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 18 – Show-Off Always Shown Up in Showdown

With her newly-attained Magical Girl-esque powers and new light-blue threads, Saurva believes she’s perfectly prepared to finally defeat Jahy and become the new Number Two. However, she is thrown completely off her game by the fact that Jahy can’t for the life of her remember who Saurva is, beyond the girl she cheered up in the park in her child form.

Saurva, tired of being ignored and mocked, unleashes a flurry of direct strikes with her glowing golden sword, but all she manages to do is improve Jahy’s circulation, along with tickling her and giving her an itch. Shocked and pained by the fact that the bargain she made with that glowing golden being didn’t actually, Saurva runs away in embarrassment, unable to accept Jahy’s pity. She vows to defeat Jahy with her own power…later.

Little does Saurva know that the worst thing you can do to Jahy is ignore her without explanation. That’s exactly what Kokoro does when she runs from Jahy. In wallowing in frustration, Jahy reveals to the landlady that yes, she has made a friend whom she doesn’t call an underling. The manager tells Jahy to open her heart to Kokoro and they’ll be able to make up. Sure enough, Kokoro isn’t even mad at Jahy; she just has a toothache and doesn’t want Jahy to catch it.

The golden being that briefly gave Saurva the illusion of power becomes a rumor among ordinary humans like the landlady and manager, describing a ghost that asks its victims if they want power and sucking out their souls if they say or even think that they do. Jahy thinks it’s all a bunch of codswallop…though considering the things she’s done and been through, she’s not exactly the best judge of codswallop.

That said, the golden ghost—or whatever it is—confronts Jahy on her way home. She insists she doesn’t want even a smidgen of power, but the being charges towards her before she has time to transform into adult mode. Fortunately Druj swoops in and saves her, reporting to Jahy that she’s been hunting the being ever since she became aware of its existence. Jahy determines the best course is for her and Druj to join forces to defeat this thing…whose horns and voice definitely suggest it could be a form of the Demon Lord.

The Faraway Paladin – 03 – Guardians of the Seal

Last week I was just complimenting Paladin for not wandering down the same seedy allies as Mushoku Tensei, but as Will is growing closer to adulthood, Blood decides to get him drunk and then try to spy on Mary undressing. There are a lot of problems with this—mostly that Mary is for all intents and purposes Will’s mom—but thankfully they fail, Will gets a swift slap in the face, and it’s over.

The next day is the day of the big duel between Will and Blood, and the combat animation and modeling was, if I’m being generous, a little rough. The surroundings at least were pretty, but the duel was not. It was also over seemingly as soon as it began, with Will figuring out that he has to bounce off Blood’s sword to get close. I will say Will’s trick of getting his opponent’s blade stuck in his ribs is a clever one…it just makes no sense that there’s black between those ribs.

The remainder of the episode has Blood and Mary basicaly giving Will a big old infodump of all the things they kept from him until he was old enough to hear and understand it. The two of them plus Gus were once humans, but in order to rid the city of demons loyal to the High King of the Eternals, they made a deal with the evil god Stagnate, and became undead guards of the seal keeping the High King at bay.

That was 200 years ago. At some point Will appeared in their lives, and Mary and Blood decided to raise him like a son. But now it’s time to say goodbye, and not just because Will is of age. Stagnate, it seems has come to take what’s left of the three in exchange for the peace they’ve enjoyed. He also probably wouldn’t mind having Will too.

Then Gus arrives and tells Will to take Mary and Blood and get out of there, presumably so he can engage in epic battle with Stagnate without worrying about collateral. I gotta say I’m not optimistic about that battle being any more impressive than this week’s duel, but I do care about what happens to this family.

The Faraway Paladin – 02 – Hero or Die

There’s not much of a sharp edge to Paladin, and yet it’s anything but soft. It’s as wholesome as Mushoku Tensei is raunchy, but it never feels too sweet. In fact, despite three of the four on-screen characters so far are a skeleton, a mummy and a ghost, there’s a profound realism to the proceedings. It’s a wonderfully balanced show that draws you effortlessly into its world.

William could easily have come off as boring or far too squeaky-clean for his own good. But he’s just such a goshdarn nice kid, you just want to protect and root for him. Now that he’s thirteen, the fruit of his three surrogate parents’ labor is starting to show: the kid is a badass. Blood knows this, which is why he leaves Will in the dungeon below the ruined city without escort. He’ll be fine!

But while Blood is passive in his instruction, teaching Will a lesson through the absence of his big, burly, protective person, Gus pushes Will to the absolute emotional limits with some truly diabolical mind games. Will doesn’t know if Gus is serious about trying to kill him, nor does he know if the dungeon and the city of death above it are somehow controlling Gus. All he knows is he’d rather die than hurt his “grandpa”.

With a father figure in Blood, a mother figure in Mary, and a gramps in Gus, Will has quite possibly the coolest and most loving families anyone could ask for, alive or undead. And yet questions like who his blood parents were and what happened to them and the city trouble him. He becomes more self-aware, introspective, and curious as he nears his fifteenth year, which in this world means you’re an adult.

Before the coming of age rituals that are certain to come, Gus and Blood show Will a more mischievous side by having him collect coins in the dungeon and then gamble over backgammon. This draws the ire of Mary, but both misbehavior and scolding are equally important lessons as Will will soon strike out into a world that will try to prey on his kindness and relative naïveté.

But the march of time is relentless, as is Will’s drawing nearer to the line between child pupil and adult paladin. He’s to swear an oath to one of the gods and thereby gain their divine blessing (along with a degree of hardship in exchange), and at some point Blood will challenge him to a serious one-on-one duel. There’s the bittersweet feeling that Will’s three parents don’t want him to leave the nest, but it’s inevitable that he’ll have to, and essential that he’s thoroughly prepared.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Faraway Paladin – 01 (First Impressions) – Enduring the Holy Flame

When we meet Will, looking every bit like the little brother of Chise and Shirayuki (which is very apropos), his world is very small. There are only three people in his life: Gus the ghost, Mary the mummy, and Blood the skeleton. You will note that none of those creatures should necessarily classify as “people”, but here they do, because they’re raising a little boy they could have easily killed…or left to die.

While I know if I was three years old I’d probably be scared out of my mind by the presence of three monsters in my life, but that’s only because I was raised by human parents. Will has never known anything in this world other than these three. The twist is, he’s not originally from this world, but from ours. This adds a wrinkle to a premise that, frankly, could have been just fine without the Isekai angle.

That’s because the idea of these three classic enemies of humanity were responsible for leveling the nearby human city taking pitting on the sole survivor and raising him like their own child is an attractive one. Unlike, say, Golem in Somali and the Forest Spirit, they all have a good grasp on humanity and raising children because all three of them used to be human.

Of course, Gus, Mary and Blood are not simply emulating three human parents; they’re imbuing Will with the wisdom and experience only three undead beings can. Gus helps Will unlock his affinity for magic; Blood toughens and hones him into a man who can kill when he needs to (for survival) and defend himself so he won’t die. Mary teaches him everything else about life—including empathy and unconditional love.

Inevitably, Will grows older (eight to be exact) and his curiosity about what his three adoptive parents haven’t disclosed or are currently hiding from him grows exponentially, as does his ability to investigate. Again, this is nothing different from what regular human parents go through—you try to hold off on explaining certain concepts until the kids are old enough to properly understand. But Will is already at that point, whether they like it or not, and it’s due in no small part to how well they’ve raised him.

To that end, when he spots Mary sneaking into the chapel to pray and finds her surrounded by white flame, Will runs in and grabs her to try to pull her out, causing severe burns that may scar his hands and arms for life. But when he comes to and Mary apologizes for keeping secrets, Will apologizes right back, for prying.

Mary also tells Will that she keeps praying to the goddess Mater she betrayed after death because she still reveres her, and because Mater provides bread to sustain Will. By all indications, Will didn’t live the best life back in our world, but these three undead monsters seem to be teaching him to be a better human.

Good-natured, charming, optimistic, possessing just the right hint of darkness lurking beneath the surface (that city looked pretty dead) and a kick-ass English title, The Faraway Paladin is promising slice-of-life Isekai, perhaps different enough from Mushoku Tensei to keep it on my watchlist.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Slime 300 – 06 – The Gang Meets the Demon King

Beelzebub shows up at Azusa’s place to announce that the Demon Realm has awarded her a special Medal of Honor in recognition of ending the conflict between the Red and Blue dragon tribes. It will be awarded in the Demon Realm, which means Azusa and her suddenly quite large family will have to take a trip. They’ll also need some nice dresses to wear.

The problem is, because Rosalie isn’t corporeal and her clothes are simply an afterimage from her life, she’s unable to change into a dress. Shalsha consults a friend who researches ghosts, and Azusa eventually uses her Create Magic to invent a spell that will enable Rosalie to wear whatever she wants. With that issue sorted, Beelz arrives with their ride to the realm: a massive leviathan.

That leviathan happens to be carrying a five-star hotel and spa on her back, making her far more hospitable than the White Whale from Re:Zero. She also has a sister in Vania who serves as chief steward in human form. The two switch off their roles, and when Azusa & Co. meet her, she’s in the baths while on the clock, irking Beelz.

But what Vania lacks in modesty, she makes up for with tremendous culinary skills, preparing a lavish multi-course meal with the highest class ingredients. After dinner, Azusa’s brood luxuriates in the baths, with the warning that if they stay in the water for too long they may melt.

That night, Rosalie, who never sleeps, is joined on the balcony by Halkara, who can’t sleep. When Rosalie thanks her and says she’s in her debt for freeing her from the factory, Halkara tells her there’s no debt to forgive; as her master Azusa would say, they’re family now. It’s why the next morning everyone is so concerned that Halkara melted when she went off for a midnight dip. Turns out she was simply sleeping under the bed rather than on it.

The Leviathan finally arrives in the Royal Capital of Vanzeld, and the group is dropped off at the Demon King’s central castle. Azusa is understandably weary about meeting someone with such a sinister title, but Beelz assures her that the Demon King is kind of heart, and will not be offended by minor breaches in etiquette.

Upon entering the Demon King’s throne room, both Azusa and Halkara mistake the diminutive child for someone other than the Demon King she actually is: Provat Pecora Allieres. Halkara is mortified upon learning this, but when Provat tells her not to bow to her and promises never to harm any of them, Halkara shoots up a bit too fast, smacking Provat in the head and knocking her out.

With that, the King’s guard swarm and surround Halkara and the others, and when Azusa appeals to Beelzebub, Beelzebub admits that Halkara will, in all likelihood, be executed for assaulting the Demon King. Hopefully Provat will wake up and this can all be cleared up—and even if it isn’t, Azusa is probably powerful enough to spring everyone. But until further notice, Halkara is placed behind bars.

Slime 300 – 05 – Who Ya Gonna Call?

Azusa and the others get the wrong idea that Halkara is preparing to move out, so they arrange a surprise party, only to learn she was only looking for a new location for her energy drink factory. The fact remains, she’s working long nights and Azusa is concerned. Turns out the reason is that there’s a ghost at the new factory that has scared away all of Halkara’s local employees.

In order for Halkara to start coming home at a reasonable time, the “bound spirit” must be dealt with. Azusa summons Beelzebub for this purpose, though because her incantation is a little off, Beelz ends up in the bathtub full of cold water (for the crops…it’s eco-friendly!) As Azusa and Halkara cower and tremble behind her, Beelz quickly finds the ghost and makes her visible.

Her name is Rosalie (voiced by Sugiyama Riho, Minare from Wave, Listen to Me!), and she’s the ghost of a girl who took her own life centuries ago after her parents were preparing to sell her off for “chump change”. In the ensuing years, she “went bad”, which explains her rudeness (and makes Sugiyama a great choice).

Rosalie has wanted to leave the factory for a while, but without success. After her offer to erase her without a trace is shot down, Beelzebub suggests that if she possess one of them, she’ll be able to relocate. Halkara seem the most suitable vessel as she has the most “weak points.” The possession is successful, and Rosalie!Halkara strikes a samurai pose as she accepts Azusa’s kind offer to live in her house.

A problem arises when Rosalie arrives at Azusa’s to find she isn’t able to separate from Halkara’s body; apparently they were ridiculously compatible! After a number of attempts to shake, shock, and spook Rosalie out of Halkara’s body, Azusa gets the idea to make her drunk (easily done with Halkara’s tolerance). When Rosalie passes out, Halkara’s personality surfaces.

That just leaves the matter of how to exorcise the dormant ghost from her body. Beelzebub has a solution: toss her into that eco-friendly cold bath water. Rosalie pops right out from the shock, and is now successfully separated from the location of her death.

With that, Azusa arranges for Rosalie to meet the townsfolk to prove she’s a friendly ghost, and she’s happy to use her ghostly telekinesis to do chores for people to build goodwill. Rosalie announces she’s Halkara’s newest employee at the factory, and nobody needs to fear her. And that’s how Azusa’s family grows by one once more.

Great Pretender – 22 – PRETENCEPTION

The preparations for the 100-billion-yen swindle are complete; all that’s left is to execute. Everyone on the team who isn’t Laurent or Makoto are wise to assume that one of them—if not both of them—are going to pull something unexpected that could throw the whole job in to chaos. Laurent has his vendetta against Liu, while Makoto may have found a new mom in Suzaku.

The thing we the audience need to watch out for is what twists the episode is going to throw our way, and the clues that precede those twists. Those don’t just include Chekhov’s Poison Ring and Chair Sword, but the very tight framing as everyone travels to the meeting…or the fact the hallway smells like fresh paint.

As these things tend to go, the meeting, while initially extremely tense, goes quite well. Suzaku doesn’t shake Liu’s hand, her survivalist instincts sensing the ring, while Liu seems to sense the concealed sword. Unfortunately, those instincts don’t serve either of them when they both realize something must have been lost in translation, because they’ve both brought 100 billion with them…

That’s when the fake SWAT unit bursts in—Laurent and Makoto’s co-conspirators in disguise—and confiscate both the check and the briefcase of cash (or stock certificates, it would seem). Suzaku and Liu are at the mercy of their interpreters who have suddenly clammed up. Suzaku smells something rotten: the timing of the police arriving is too perfect.

It would seem our crew have the baddies right where they want them, but then Laurent seemingly takes his revenge by sticking Liu with the poison ring. Liu panics, but notably does not die; either he was simply freaked out about being pricked or it contained some other drug that made him wig out.

When “Officer” Kudou tries to arrest Suzaku, Makoto whips out the sword and stops him, and orders the check and briefcase returned to the desk. Then an entirely new group of guys with automatic weapons (real ones, in their case) bust in, led by none other than American gangster Eddie Cassano.

Makoto apparently made a side deal with Cassano, with the sole purpose of finally getting one over on Laurent. He rants about everyone working together to avenge Dorothy while his mom rots in her grave, then points the sword at his dad and starts to stab him with it. Laurent tries to stop him, urging Edamame to stop “screwing up.”

Then something else unexpected happens, that shouldn’t have been unexpected: after Laurent disarms Makoto with a kick, Oz grabs the sword out of mid-air and slashes his son across the chest, creating a fountain of blood that makes Suzaku freak out. Did she just witness the demise of her beloved new surrogate son? Hard to tell; we’ve already been taught by the show not to accept any “death” at face value.

And all this is before things get truly weird. After Makoto is slashed, Cassano’s men open fire. Ishigami gets Suzaku the heck out of there, while Chen grabs Liu (who is okay after all). They wait in the hall for an elevator that never comes, and there’s curiously no cell reception. Then the sounds of the shootout abruptly end, and they carefully peek back inside the meeting room.

There, Suzaku spots a lever located where the windows were, and when she pulls it, the entire room begins to descend like one big elevator. Once it reaches the bottom, two large metal doors open on their own to reveal…the sea. The entire multi-story building was just an artifice, and soon crumbles into a pile of debris. The camera pulls back to reveal Suzaku and Liu’s crews are stranded on a small remote island.

W, T, and—I can’t stress this enough—F? This is the weirdest, wackiest development yet. Was Makoto’s ranting just an act, and his death faked via a fake sword and blood pack in his suit? Where did he, and Laurent, and Cassano, and Cynhia, and Abby, and everyone else who was in that room go? And why bring back Eddie at all?

Those are only a couple of the several dozen questions I have; I’m just glad the particulars of the job-within-the-job weren’t explained before it was pulled off. I’m sure the final episode will at least partially explain what the hell just happened and how, but one thing I’m confident of is that the job was a success for our con artists.

Great Pretender – 21 – Language Barrier

After learning how his last princess-trafficking job went south and cost Laurent the love of his life, we return to Cynthia’s island, probably not long after Makoto returned to Japan. There, Laurent informs Kim, Cynthia and Abby of the next job—perhaps their most dangerous yet—and introduces them to Oz the Wizard.

Naturally, no one elects to back out, and we watch what unfolds after Cynthia, Abby, and Oz are shot off Suzaku’s boat. All three were wearing bulletproof vests with squibs, and were retrieved from the sea by Kim apparently a diving expert even in her old age.

Why not simply tell Makoto about the whole plan? Easy; because he’s Makoto. They all know him from their previous jobs. The less he knows, the less chance of him accidentally messing up the job. And even then, he can be unpredictable.

Laurent heads to Shanghai to reunite with his old boss, Liu. Liu is happy his old Mahjongg opponent is back, while Chen believes the fortune teller was spot-on about an interpreter falling into their lap after the loss of Oz. Oz, meanwhile, visits Makoto, alive and well, and tries to explain that he abandoned him and his mom for their own safety. Makoto isn’t convinced.

While alone in his hotel room, Laurent is fiddling with Dorothy’s good luck ring when he’s suddenly visited by her ghost. This is the one job in which Laurent has the most personal stakes. Its success determines whether Dorothy is properly avenged. It’s akin to Worf & Co. trying to get Jadzia Dax into Sto-vo-Kor.

Makoto plays his role well, and as was the case with his father, the role he’s playing and the person truly he is have started to blur. Makoto seems to harbor legitimate affection for Suzaku, and as a son who lost her mother connecting with a mother who lost her son, there’s good reason for that.

The logic and legitimacy of their bond makes the con that much more convincing, but ultimately the entire job leans on the inability of Suzaku and Ishigami to understand Chinese, and the inability of Liu and Chen to understand Japanese.

In their remote video meeting, Makoto and Laurent are the interpreters, and they invent a fictional dialogue their bosses can only assume is an accurate interpretation of their adversaries’ words. As such, both bosses believe the other is about to pay them ¥100 billion in cash.

This is right on the edge of what either side can afford (especially Suzaku’s side), and if Laurent’s crew ends up handling that ¥200 billion, it won’t just be their biggest score ever and a worthy victory for Dorothy’s memory, but ruin both Suzaku and Liu’s organizations.

What definitely seems to not be part of Laurent’s plan is the fact that both Liu and Suzaku intend to murder each other when they meet in person. Ishigami had a sword concealed in Suzaku’s chair, while Chen has a ring that can inject poison into whomever’s hand is shaken.

Laurent probably included the potential for treachery on both sides in his calculations, considering both Suzaku and Liu have no qualms about selling kids (As Sloan once said to Dr. Bashir: “These are not nice people we’re dealing with here.”). If everyone plays their roles as expected, the job will succeed where it failed last time.

But will Makoto play the proper role? At the onsen in Japan where the rest of the crew is lying low, Abby worries he’ll go off-script as he has in the past—only this time it might cost him his life. One key question is whether Makoto is merely pretending to care about Suzaku or has come to truly care about her? She did gift him an adorable kitty tie (continuing this arc’s synergy with the end credits), after all.

Unlike his father, Suzaku is there for him, and has always been upfront about who she is. Meanwhile, Oz once told his son to “always be lawful”, “contribute to the world”, and “be a respectable person” while doing none of those things. We also see him making a mysterious phone call from his moonlit apartment. So we’ll see!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 11 – A Drop of Morning Dew

Apprently, there is no separating Yuyu from Misuzu. Wracked by grief and guilt in the third and sixth episodes, Yuyu went on rampages and Riri was able to calm her, probably by using her Rare Skill Charisma. But that seems to have only been a temporary fix, as some lingering version of Misuzu continues to haunt and influence her.

As Riri’s Legion decides to throw a “ramune party” for Riri, Moyu reports the findings of her research, which suggest that not only did Misuzu possess the Rare Skill Charisma (like Riri), but that Charisma has influenced the Huge and caused them to evolve.

Moyu, an old friend of Yuyu’s, isn’t able to get much of anything useful out of Yuyu, as the Misuzu in her head seemingly tightens her hold on her, making her less useful and responsive. Moyu knows something is wrong, but unless Yuyu says something, she cant help.

Instead, Yuyu keeps returning to her past with Misuzu, who comes off like a young Anakin Skywalker, slowly being consumed by the fear and anger her powers are creating, and thus talking about things she wouldn’t say to anyone else. Young Yuyu is so glad to be loved, she doesn’t seem to realize Misuzu is serious about wanting to be killed if she “goes too far”.

When Riri tries to bring Yuyu back into the here or now, she’s unsuccessful; Yuyu’s simmering pain and the influence of the Misuzu in her head are too overwhelming to bother with Riri or parties. Misuzu wonders if it’s Yuyu with the Charisma. Just then, three bright lines streak up into the sky from the Huge Nest.

Those three objects eventually land, creating craters and forcing the evacuation of the academy. The three objects become active and combine their Magie into a single object. Even the Acting Chairman seems unsure if they’re going to be able to get out of this one. All of the Lilies discover their CHARMs have no Magie; the objects created some kind of dampening field. Only Riri’s CHARM works, and she heads off to find Yuyu.

Yuyu, who has all but Gone Bye-Bye, reliving a disturbing memory of Misuzu comparing her to a drop of morning dew. Misuzu is fighting with every fiber of her being not to destroy Yuyu like she did that beautiful but ephemeral drop…to hold back “wicked feelings.” Very Dark Side-y. It’s confirmed when the developing Huge flashes the same Rune Misuzu flashes when she uses Charisma to silence Yuyu in the flashback.

It’s clear Misuzu controls Yuyu still, as Yuyu tries to enter Lunatic Tracer mode to attack the developing Huge. When Riri arrives to try to take her out of harm’s way, Yuyu accuses her of trying to control her like Misuzu did. Riri, noting Yuyu’s CHARM has no Magie, she smacks it out of her hands, ruining it in the process.

Riri assures Yuyu that the Misuzu she’s seeing and interacting with isn’t the “real” Misuzu…but how can she know that? She then heads off, again, on her own…again. How did that work out for Yuri, again? The rest of the Legion may be all but powerless, but they’re still united in their desire to help Riri…somehow.

As for Riri, she comes face to face with the biggest, meanest, most advanced Huge yet; a Huge whose evolution has seemingly been sped along to near-perfection by Misuzu. Back in the dorm, Yuyu calms herself enough to remember there’s a CHARM she can use: the Dainsleif in the research lab. Sure enough, its Magie is still active. But will Yuyu use it to help Riri fight the Huge, or will she simply fight Riri?

Assault Lily gets super dark this week, building on a lot of bandied-about ideas about the similarities between the Lilies and their Nemeses the Huge. But I can’t help but feel like we’re treading on worn ground with Yuyu and Misuzu. I like all the dark new revelations that surfaced this week, but Yuyu’s previous struggles lend these events an air of repetitiveness.

The Yuri arc, on which considerable time was spent, doesn’t seem to offer much to all of this, or at least the show isn’t making a potential connection clear, other than possibly Misuzu chose to be a Huge while Yuri chose to be a Lily. I almost wish the Yuri story had been excised in favor of more development of Yuyu and others.

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 10 – Four-Leaf Clover

The big question going into this week was “What Now?” Would Riri and her Legion try to find a way to bring Yuri back, or would she accept and process her loss? This is answered pretty quickly: Yuri is gone, and she’s not coming back. As a formality, Riri is serving a week in solitary confinement.

Even her Schutzengel Yuyu can only visit her for ten minutes. It’s clear Riri’s building a hard shell in which to put all of her regret and sadness, and Yuyu wants to do something about it. So she asks the rest of the Legion to help her look for her missing four-leaf clover hairpin, which she lost in the battle.

They all think of ways their perception-based rare skills can be combined and experiment over the next six days, but without success. They mostly end up exhausting themselves and requiring long soothing baths to recover, but no one wants to give up.

During one of those bath sessions, other Lilies learn what Riri’s Legion is up to, and they want to help contribute if they can. Meanwhile, Kaede seems busy using the crafts workshop to create a new four-leaf clover for Riri.

On the seventh and final day before Riri is released, Yuyu and her Legion are shocked to find virtually the entire school has come out to the beach so they can all combine their magie into one massive ultra-precise search net.

It works: the location of the pin is determined, and Kaede rides on Thi Mai’s back and they race out to the open water to recover the pin…at the cost of getting very cold and wet and needing to sit by a fire afterwards.

When Riri emerges from her cell, she’s surprised to find not just her Legion members, but all of the other Lilies who helped out and were concerned about her. Kaede presents the four-leaf clover she made, and Riri recognizes it as a fake, as hers always had a crack in one leaf.

Kaede owns up to having found the genuine article early in their weeklong search, but it was so badly damaged she feared presenting it to Riri would do the opposite of cheer her up, so she spent long nights crafting a new one from scratch.

Kaede is contrite for duping everyone, but Riri gives her a big hug, thankful for her and everyone else’s efforts on her behalf. Then, despite being happy, tears start to fall, and before long she’s bawling her eyes out. Yuyu is glad she’s letting it all out; its a catharsis Riri’s imprisonment had unnaturally delayed.

Now that she’s free, Riri can finally visit Yuri’s grave and pay her respects, and the subject of Yuyu’s Schutzengel Kawazoe Misuzu comes up, with regard to how Yuyu managed to get over her death. Yuyu says it simply takes time and the acceptance that the past can’t be changed. Then the “ghost” of Misuzu appears and speaks to Yuyu (Riri can’t see her).

This is an odd coincidence, because a CHARM has been recovered from inside a Huge five months ago, and Moyu determines that its owner was…Kawazoe Misuzu. Is the ghost just in Yuyu’s head, or is it a product of Mizusu’s CHARM somehow “influencing” the Huge?

Cardcaptor Sakura – 23 – Songs After Dark

Sakura is in a very good mood one morning, which can almost always be attributed to Yukito (all other instances are likely food-related). Sure enough, he’ll be spending the night at her house as he and Touya plan for the athletic festival (sure…why not?).

Despite whispering this to Tomoyo, Syaoran overhears, and then Meiling inserts herself in the conversation. Then Sakura’s mood is totally destroyed by talk of a creepy singing voice coming from the music room late at night—possibly the voice of a g-g-g-ghost!

Even though it’s more likely to be a Clow Card singing in there, the mere fact people are talking about the possibility it’s a ghost sparks Sakura’s crippling phasmophobia, such that she outright refuses to go to school late at night, bowling Kero-chan over.

The thing is, she doesn’t want to leave home anyway because Yukito will be there. But no sooner do he and Touya arrive that he mentions the rumor about the singing voice, and notes how it’s apparently a beautiful voice that he’d love to hear if he could.

Yukito’s request is all Sakura needs to steel herself sufficiently to sneak into school at 10PM with a voice recorder. Tomoyo meets her there and she changes into a pink music-themed battle costume. That said, she’s still extremely on edge, such that when Syaoran and Meiling suddenly appear, she lets out her loudest HOEEEEE yet.

Before long they can hear the voice, and the nearer they get to the music room, the more scared Sakura is, such that she’s constantly asking Tomoyo to assure her it isn’t really a ghost. The strange thing is, the voice sounds a lot like Tomoyo’s. Kero-chan explains that it must be the Song card, which records and mimics the best singing voice it can find.

I knew I was going to run into a number of CCS “firsts” since this is the original series and all, and this episode is no different, marking the first time Tomoyo contributes directly to the sealing of a card. She does so by singing what is admittedly a very pretty song, and Song can’t resist joining her in a duet. Much later, Tomoyo will sing a duet with Akiho while Syaoran accompanies on the piano, leading to the capture of the Record card.

Once the song is over, Song becomes visible, enabling her to seal it. Only her other main objective of the night—recording the voice for Yukito—wasn’t achieved, since she was busy capturing and Tomoyo was busy singing. No biggie; Tomoyo simply needs to sing the song once more, and Song will join her, enabling Sakura to record it and gain some additional EXP.

Kakushigoto – 10 – Prayers, Secrets, and Ghosts

Kakushi gets his team to aim for completion of a new issue in order to score a longer period off, but he only becomes truly motivated when Hime wins an Izu hot springs trip for the period he was aiming for. We get a glimpse at the class division between artists (who can only manage “cheap, close, and short” vacations) and editors (who can go overseas, like Tomaruin to Hawaii). Kakushi ends up working so hard for Hime’s sake, he comes down with a fever, something not at all uncommon among artists who put their work before their health.

When Hime wrote the kanji for “crab” a hundred times and then won a vacation that includes all-you-can-eat crab, Kakushi’s friends decide to draw up some sutras, choosing to believe in the power of prayer. Mind you, Hime wasn’t trying to write a prayer, but punish herself for eating all the chocolate butter biscuits (which, for the record, never last long in my house). But the crab connection was too enticing to ignore particularly for Kakushi’s three suitresses, whose sutras are marriage themed.

Once the Gotou party of three arrives at the Izu onsen (the inn graciously allows pets, so Roku gets to come), the dog starts growling at the adjacent room, which has a suspicious “under renovation” sign and strange aura. Kakushi is also anxious about Hime going to the woman’s side of the baths all alone, and so recruits Rasuna and Ami to accompany her. Only when they’re about to go in, Hime comes out, having already enjoyed a nice bath, and showing that she’s a more responsible girl than her dad gives her credit.

Kakushi observes that inns such as this that once hosted classical Japanese writers and other people of note must have its share of secrets. However, while in the restaurant he watches as everyone starts confessing their secrets one by one, from revealing they’re older or have had work done or that a dog is a mutt and not a Chihuahua. Peer pressure starts building around Kakushi, but he’s saved by a scream from Rasuna, who saw a creepy shadow in the empty room where the famous writer died.

Both the shadow and Roku’s interest turn out to be an ordinary civet peeking in the window. In the morning, Hime learns of the ghost sighting, and while she maintains she’s scared of ghosts, she’s also glad they’re around. She then muses on the reason ghosts are rarely seen and can’t be touched, one of the possible reasons being there are so many ghosts of those who died the world would simply be too crowded for their corporeal forms. It’s Hime’s usual childish whimsy combined with a wisdom and a poetry beyond her years.

Speaking of beyond years…Future Hime remembers all the times her dad came through the veranda trying to put up a brave front, but her being able to sense that he was anxious or depressed about something. Now that she knows of his manga, she assumes that was the job he quit. Then we return to Future Tomaruin and Rasuna. Tomaruin mentions the book that said Kakushi quit because he wasn’t popular, but in reality, he put his pen down willingly.

Why? Simple: his wife was lost at sea in a highly-publicized accident. Rasuna posits that such a horrific tragedy was anathema to a gag manga artist’s mystique, and Kakushi came to believe he couldn’t make anyone laugh anymore due to the tremendous grief in his heart from the incident in his private life. Yet, as we see in the present day, he kept creating gag manga after his wife’s death, hid his grief from his readers (which obviously tracks with both his name and the show’s title).

So did the public reveal of his wife’s loss not come until the period between the present and future timelines? And if he’s not dead in the future, could he be searching for her? With two episodes remaining, some key connecting pieces of this bittersweet puzzle have yet to be revealed.

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 08 – Turning Nothing into Something

As Steve Zissou said: “That was a goddamn tearjerker.” I had no idea that would happen. The opening minutes of Mitsuba Sousuke were horribly grating, with the ghost spewing endless random insults as Kou intermittently shocked him with his exorcist’s staff. But then we learn a little more about Mitsuba…and a little more. And before I knew it, I cared about this girly, cocky, moody guy.

And you know what? So did Kou. It’s almost as if Kou was my emotional surrogate in this episode: initially super-irritated with this ghost, but then extremely empathetic of his plight. Even Kou wasn’t prepared to hear that Sousuke was in his class and had introduced himself. Alas, worried about being bullied for being too much of one thing or not enough of another, Sousuke became neither…and was forgotten altogether.

Kou gradually warming up to Sousuke and vice versa has some lovely yaoi undertones, and it’s a testament to the writing, voice acting, and direction that such a close and meaningful bond is formed in such a short period of time. All Sousuke wanted was a friend, so Kou offers to be his first, encouraging Sousuke to simply be himself. It starts to feel like there could be something to Kou’s less adversarial approach to the family business.

And then Hanako’s dark twin Tsukasa ruins everything, plunging his arm through Mitsuba’s chest, and everything turns to shit. Just as Hanako-kun grants wishes to the living, Tsukasa does the same to the dead, and in befriending Sousuke, Kou inadvertently provided Tsukasa with the answer he needed to grant Kou’s wish, something he was duty-bound to do. To quote the Oracle: “We’re all here to do what we’re all here to do.”

With an assist from Sakura on the school radio, a new rumor is formed before Kou’s eyes, of the broken-necked kid in the entrance who reaches out and tries to befriend people. Sousuke adopts a Picasso-esque grosteque, Picasso-esque form and can no longer talk, but sheds a tear as he is forced to attack Kou. He comes within an inch of killing him when Hanako-kun intervenes. (Throughout this sequence I was practically yelling “Where the fuck is Hanako-kun??”)

Unfortunately, all Hanako can do is stop Sousuke from killing Kou. Before disappearing, Tsukasa twists the knife by telling Hanako “it was great” to be killed by him. A visibly shaken Hanako then gravely informs Kou that there’s no bringing Sousuke back. Dead is dead, and the living shouldn’t be too kind, because there’s no future for the dead. “Nothing new begins.” Their only salvation is “annihilation”. Kou can’t believe it. He doesn’t want to. He’s sure there’s more he could have done…can do.

When Kou repeats all of his insults at Sousuke before telling him he’s his friend, I thought for a moment that the kid would actually come back; Kou has supernatural powers, after all. But he doesn’t. He’s gone, and all that’s left his his camera and the photos he took, including a candid one of his friend Kou.

Late into the night Kou stays up, remembering the friend everyone else forgot, grieving for that friend but not disheartened in his belief exorcists like him can do a little more than nothing about The Way Things Are regarding life and death.

Nene didn’t utter a single line and all we see of her is from behind for a couple seconds, but it doesn’t matter. This was the best, most affecting, most devastatingly beautiful episode of Hanako-kun to date.

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