Fruits Basket – 05 – Rescuing the Princess

This episode’s cold open moved me to tears. Tooru’s grandfather has informed her that his house is sufficiently ready for them to move back in. Just like that, her new life with her unique new friends has been snatched away from her.

There’s a palpable atmosphere of gloom and emptiness to the scene in which she tells the others, before realizing she hasn’t started dinner. Then, while in the kitchen, her mom suddenly walks in the door, and she’s in her old kitchen, making dinner despite suffering a fever.

When she tells her mom she couldn’t just stay in bed while she’s working so hard, her mom simply hugs her, and says sometimes it’s okay to be discouraged or selfish, once in a while. It’s as if she almost did too good a job raising her daughter!

When the kettle whistles she’s brought back to the Souma house, and declares that no, she’s okay. It doesn’t matter if she can get discouraged, she won’t get discouraged. Gramps’ newly renovated house may well be fine; and definitely better than her tent!

But for someone who’s come so far in so short a time, it feels like moving backwards, and that she’s deferring her happiness in order to go with the flow. Trying to convince herself she and the Soumas can’t be family when they already are just that.

It’s heartbreaking and yes, tear-jerking. It remains so as she tells herself she was never the brightest bulb, hearkening back to grade school when she played in the “Fruits Basket” game that gives this series its name, and in which she was cruelly excluded by being declared an onigiri.

She declares it foolish to ever believe she could join the Fruits Basket group of Zodiac animals that is the Souma clan. But she’s wrong, you see. She’s foolish to think she was or is foolish. It’s when she’s welcomed “home”, where her grandfather can’t even get her fucking name right, when I thought to myself it can’t end this way.

I’m not alone, as a melancholy Yuki and Kyou recall all the good times they had with their dear friend Tooru, whom they allowed to depart without any resistance, and suddenly sport defiant looks on their faces. They’re on my side; they’re not gonna let it end this way.

Every second Tooru is in that hellish house with those trash people, it made my blood boil. Being asked to hurry up and unpack her meager two shopping bags of effects. Her mother’s older sister hiring a P.I. to investigate where Tooru was living to protect her son, who’s going to be a police officer and can’t have any bad apples in the family mucking that up. Calling her sister a bad seed and declaring “like mother, like daughter.” Tooru’s asshole of a cousin, leering at her while asking if the men she lived with did anything indecent.

Gramps may confuse Tooru with his daughter, but he’s still sharp enough to slap his would-be cop punk of a grandson for speaking to “Kyouko” that way, and condemning his family as a bunch of “unpleasant people”…which they most certainly are! Go Gramps! He concedes that he has to put up with them, but tells her that she doesn’t. Her late father said Kyouko deserved to live where she could “spread her wings,” so if there’s a place where she’s happier, she should go there.

Still, Tooru resists. She doesn’t deserve “more.” She has to be grateful with what she has. She’s “blessed”. She shouldn’t say “I want to go home,” and home not be her gramps’. She can’t say “I didn’t want to leave!” If she did, that would be selfish, and mean she’s too soft on herself? “Yes,” replies Yuki, suddenly in the living room, dazzling the stage.

Flashback to before his surprise appearance; he and Kyou are taking out their frustration on each other, as per ususal, with Shigure in the middle. Yuki notices the note with Tooru’s address on the table, and excuses himself to take a walk. Kyou has the same thought, but is just a step behind.

He catches up, and after walking around in circles, remember the exterior walls of the house aren’t finished. They knock on the door but no one answers, then watch the scene we just saw unfold and wait for the right time to swoop in. When that moment arrives, Yuki is there, followed closely by Kyou, who escorts her out while Yuki grabs her things and calls her cousin a lowlife.

Kyou tells her he’s been on edge since the moment she left, and now knows why: she didn’t want to leave. It’d piss him off to indulge someone’s daily selfishness, but in Tooru’s case, it’s okay once in a while, repeating the words her mother said to her. So she finally lets herself be selfish, and declares she wants to go home to where he and Yuki and Shigure are.

Yuki and Kyou take her hands and do just that. Finally, in the Fruits Basket game of her life, the onigiri has been chosen. Her new tribe may not be perfect, and their house always on the verge of being destroyed by familial strife, but she’s home, with her family, where she belongs. As the cameras pan up from the exterior of the house to the dusk sky, it’s never looked more beautiful.

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Fruits Basket – 04 – Boarish Manners

That meek, soft-spoken girl at the door who wants to see Ryou? Uh, she’s not so meek once she sees him for the first time in four months. She delivers upon him a beatdown the likes of which we’d yet to see if this series, far beyond his sparring with Yuki. Turns out that’s just how Souma Kagura expresses her affection…with extreme prejudice. Her two-sided personality is voiced by the supremely talented Kugimiya Rie.

Kyou’s two years older, self-professed fiancee (based on a promise he made at knife-point when they were kids), Kagura demands to know where she stands, and doesn’t like how there’s another woman living in his house, albeit one who can’t hug him without making him turn into a cat. Since they’re both Soumas and Zodiac animals, she can hug him freely.

Kagura is clearly much stronger than Kyou, and so basically rolls himself into a ball and endures her savage beatings, but he dares to silence her when she starts mentioning his “true form” to Tooru. As someone who hasn’t yet found her first love, Tooru can’t help but feel a little jealous that Kagura loves someone as deeply as she does.

Repairing the substantial damage to Shigure’s house takes up much of the day (especially with Shigure and Yuki pointedly not helping), and before long, Kyou’s stomach starts to grumble. Tooru offers to start dinner, as is routine, but Kagura stops her in her tracks. Tonight, she’ll be the one to feed her beloved Kyou. The resulting feast reduces the food supply in the fridge to nothing, but as seems to be Kagura’s M.O., she got a little carried away.

As good as the food looked, part of me expected it to taste vile or some such, but nobody even gets to eat any of it, as Kyou snaps at Kagura when she says it’s ready, and she responds by driving him through the floor and onto the feast, ruining it all. With no other food to cook, Kagura heads out to the grocery store in a huff.

It isn’t until she’s at the checkout that she realizes she left her purse at home, but Tooru bails her out by paying for her, and the two women walk home together. When asked, Tooru specifies her “love” the sign of the Cat more than overt romantic love for Kyou himself, and is “humbled” by the extent of Kagura’s love.

Here we have another example of Tooru not judging someone as volatile as Kagura, but rather believing in her and her long-standing love for Kyou. Kagura in turn thanks Tooru for coming for her, and the two make hamburger steaks together. This time, when everything is ready, Tooru climbs up to the roof to tell Kyou.

Up there, she tells him how lucky he is that someone cares for him and worries about him so much—not surprising, coming from someone who was loved by her parents, but lost them far too soon.

She also brings up peoples’ dreams, whether Kagura’s dream of marriage to someone she can truly embrace, to Kyou’s love of martial arts. Tooru sees another side of Kyou as he lights up talking about martial arts. It’s clearly not just about beating Yuki, but becoming better and better at it.

When Tooru gets Kyou to come down to eat, Kagura presents him with a hamburger steak a little different from the others: his has a fried egg on top, like the fried egg he was drawing in the sand when they first met, which was when Kagura basically fell for him. Kyou tastes his dinner and through his sheepish silence expresses his approval and thanks.

The next morning, Kagura has to leave, and bids Kyou farewell with a big hug, followed by one last beatdown. Kyou says some unkind words, and Kagura responds by punching through the front door…and straight into the chest of the paperboy.

Yuki manages to distract the civilian, but Tooru finally learns that Kagura is the sign of the Boar—very appropriate considering her propensity for charging headlong towards her goals. When Tooru compliments her as the cutest boar anyone could ever ask for, she transforms back into a woman—a naked woman, on Kyou’s back.

That brings us to a cliffhanger that threatens the relative peace of the last four episodes, as well as the status as Tooru’s new home and life. She gets a call from her grandfather, and the contents of the message are enough of a shock for her to drop the gardening books she checked out. Is Tooru doomed to lose everything once more, after an all-too-brief taste of happiness?

Qualidea Code – 06

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Qualidea Code reaches its halfway point on a nice streak. Despite being the worst-looking show I’m watching, I find myself more and more invested in this weird world full of mysteries being kept secret from the children protecting what’s left of it…even if those mysteries seem deeper and darker than they’ll eventually turn out to be.

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This week Hime leads the charge against a huge Unknown aerial force in Tokyo. A new type of Unknown, which I’ll call Cudgel-class, fall from the sky in swarms, smashing students like ants. As the losses mount, Hime tries to keep everyone together, and gets a nice little vote of confidence from her “mom”, Officer Yunami.

But Yunami is worthless on a battlefield, so Hime puts her on one of the non-combat evacuation trains to safety, having her look after her pocket watch. Both that gesture, Hime’s lines, and the flashback to when Yumemi first woke up in the present world, all feel like death flags being flown.

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Yumemi lets Hime visit her old, ruined family mansion, where she finds her heroic grandfather’s jacket, which goes on to be her trademark oversized cloak. We also learn the “worlds” or special skills of kids are determined by the worlds they saw before they went into cold sleep, as well as the dreams they had while in it.

Hime’s dreams were all about her and Hotori living happily in a peaceful world, and so she developed a “world” strong enough to make that happen. She orders a retreat and dismisses her devoted underlings, certain Hotori will show up like she promised.

But Hotori is late, busy with her own Unknown swarn after crossing the no-entry zone. Hime gets injured while damaging the Unknown lead ship, but still refuses to board the train A legion of more humanoid-looking Unknown troops advance on her, and Hotori is still not there.

Can Hotori, or the Suguha siblings get to her in time? Or will she be the second main character loss in just seven episodes?

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Shokugeki no Souma – 03

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Food Wars episode 3 opens with a quick profile of the third main character, after Souma and Erina: Tadokoro Megumi, who isn’t much like either of them other than the fact she loves cooking. But she just barely eked into the high school division, and if she receives one more “E” or failing grade, she’ll be expelled, and have to return to her home village in shame.

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During the opening ceremony, Megumi and everyone else learns what kind of person Yukihira Souma is, when he’s given the stage to state that he’ll be one of the students one can count on one’s hand who will remain from the thousand first-years presently assembled. It’s cocky, but in reality TV parlance he’s not there to make friends, but win. It’s up to them to answer that challenge and beat him back…if they can. Whining and steaming over his audacity won’t do any good.

Erina doesn’t understand this, because she’s an entitled garbage person who is insulted when Souma talks to her like a fellow human being and classmate rather than the goddess-on-earth she believes herself to be. I wouldn’t be surprised if her gramps didn’t just let Souma into his school because he deserved to get it, but also to give his granddaughter, who is way to comfortable and haughty, a worthy challenger to her primacy.

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Megumi is confident she’ll be okay if she simply keeps her head down and doesn’t make herself conspicuous, but fate chooses a different path, as she’s paired up with Souma, the last person someone who wants to blend into the background wants to have for a partner. This means a lot of the splashback of the very strong hate directed at Souma inevitably lands on Megumi, simply due to her proximity to their object of loathing.

Even so, Souma simply engages her like a normal person would, introducing himself and stating he’s looking forward to working with her. He’s able to tease the reason for her anxiety without any trouble, but from where he’s standing, as long as Megumi’s on his team, she won’t have to worry about expulsion, because failure isn’t even in his mind.

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Even so, Megumi is not optimistic, as by foul luck she and Souma also landed one of the academy’s toughest instructors, Chapelle, who only grades pass/fail. The class has two make boeuf bourguignon, which like eggs, is a very good test of a budding chef’s skills and instincts.

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Things don’t go well at first: Souma’s never made the dish before, and a rival pair resorts to sabotage to knock Souma out (with Megumi presumably a reasonable collateral victim) by dousing their pot with salt, ruining the meat.

Souma detects the sabotage, but with only 30 minutes, there isn’t time to start over and make the dish the prescribed way. So he doesn’t: he massages the meat with honey, which not only contains protease, an enzyme that breaks down proteins to achieve the desired tenderness, but also has a long shelf life (properly-sealed honey can last centuries).

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Thanks to this innovation that Souma had once read about and studied on his own, without any fancypants instruction, saves the day, just when it looked like Game Over for Megumi. The boeuf bourguignon not only transports Megumi and Chapelle to a sylvan paradise where they’re enrobed in and swim naked in lakes of pure honey, but also makes the “chef who never smiles” smile. They get an “A”, but Chapelle mentions he’d rate them even higher if he could.

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Also, this is a show about justice, and the saboteurs get their comeuppance by burning their sauce and then accidentally dropping salt into their own pot, resulting in an “E” grade and possible expulsion.

Souma is Megumi’s uber-confident knight, which is fine, though I wish she hadn’t been presented as such a helpless damsel in distress. I wonder what her beef would have faired had those goons not sabotaged her. I also think sticking around Souma will help her gain confidence in her own skills, which combined with moral support from her home village, should be able to sustain her through these tough three years.

Of course, just when Megumi is thinking Souma isn’t so bad, he goes and shoves honey-pickled squid into her mouth, resulting in a very similar food-fantasy to that other ill-fated classmate Souma fed peanut butter squid to. Almost too similar, really.

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When Erina hears from her lieutenant Arato that Chapelle aced Souma, she doubles down on her shitty attitude, forbidding Souma’s name from being spoken in her presence, and so forth. She’s not interested in acknowledging his resourceful, innovative gastronomic mind, to say nothing of entertaining collaboration, which may enrich both young chefs.

No, she just wants to CRUSH him like the insignificant bug she regards him as. Here’s hoping she fails spectacularly, and someday learns how to properly treat others. And here’s hoping Megumi is able to stand on her own two feet in future battles.

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Shokugeki no Souma – 02

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SnS keeps the energy pot at a rolling boil this week, delivering another gemstone to be played with by a dog such as myself. I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun staring at a glowing screen. Probably because I stare at glowing screens too much. But one thing’s for sure, SnS has got it goin’ on.

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Souma’s dad ships him off to transfer at Totsuki Teahouse Culinary Academy, telling him from the dining room of a swanky hotel in Manhattan (where everyone from congressmen to monks would give their left nut to eat his food) that if he can’t get in and graduate, he has no business harboring dreams of surpassing his dad.

Souma doesn’t question any of that, but he knows it will be an uphill battle, as he sticks out like a sore thumb on a campus full of pompous, entitled asses, all of them with some kind of elite pedigree in the food industry.

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The most pompous of them all has been chosen to evaluate the transfer applicants, including Souma: the arrogant, imperious Nakiri Erina-sama (Taneda Risa), whose superhuman palate has earned her the nickname “God Tongue,” which if ever taken out of context, could really give some people the wrong idea…especially when you consider she has no problem using her power to melt the hearts of smitten subordinates like Arato Hisako.

Erina has been rejecting food since her first words decried a dearth of flavor…in her mother’s milk. Her whole life story is probably embellished, but the point is, she knows food, and she’s at the top of the food chain. And Souma’s at the bottom.

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Even though all the other applicants, dozens of them, flee upon being given permission to do so from Erina (so as to spare themselves being finished in the food world forever if she were to shoot down their food), Souma stays, because he’s got a job to do: surpass his dad. That means he needs to get in, so he mostly ignores the eccentric behavior of all these rich dummies, remains calm, and starts cooking.

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The exam revolves around the use of the egg, which is simultaneously the easiest food to prepare and the easiest to mess up royally. You want to know if someone can cook? Ask them to make a simple fried egg or omelette. This is essentially what Erina does, and while she maintains a strict dubiousness that this shaved gorilla from the muck will ever hope to excite her royal palate, his white rice seasoned with chicken wing/bonito aspic and egg does just that.

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Erina is the queen of bizarre flavor metaphors, from being hit with a jukebox under a waterfall, to baithing in a hot spring with a gorilla, to being tickled by angel feathers in heaven. But when those angels in her “ha-food-cination” start to bear the commoner Souma’s visage and they start to get all grabby with her sheet, she’s suddenly turned off.

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In this case, Souma’s food really did excite her palate, and indeed her whole body, but it’s interesting to see that everything is relative in SnS. It was far easier to tear the evil developer and her goons’ clothes off than those of one of the most refined palates in the world. On top of that, no matter how phenomenal Souma’s food is, Erina is simply too prejudiced against his bottom-feeder background and his tendency to, uh, treat her as an equal human being (how dare he!).

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Simply put, she doesn’t like him, so she fails him. While certainly a setback for our hero, there’s zero doubt he’ll find his way into the academy with or without Erina’s approval…probably without, which will mean the beginning of a tense rivalry between them. Still, for at least a time, Souma has to stew in the gross injustice of being rejected despite not only facing a formidable foe with unblinking eyes, but actually impressing her. What’s a bloke gotta do to get some respect around here?

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Fortunately for Souma (and us), Erina doesn’t run the academy; her grandfather does. And he happened to eavesdrop on Souma’s exam, and sneaks a taste of his rice. And because he’s not a stuck-up brat, he’s able to dive fully into the flavor and let it wash over him, leading him to shed a bit of his clothing in clear approval. Souma’s back in!

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No Game No Life – 07

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Following up the best outing of the show so far is no easy task, yet this episode succeeded admirably, in part by changing gears: No game this No Game. The Warbeasts continue to be built up as an exceedingly formidable enemy, so it wouldn’t have made sense for Sora and Shiro to rush headlong into battle without knowing anything about them. The Elves challenged them four times and lost all four, and even defeated Jibril’s Flugel. Worse still, when they lost the games they also lost all memories of said games.

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Sora and Shiro value information above all else, so the prospect of facing an opponent that has absolute control over it is immensely frustrating. When Jibril shows them that Dora’s grandfather inexplicably challenged them eight times and decimated Elkia’s territory, he grows even more irate: How could a king be so foolish? In the heat of the moment, he spews harsh things he shouldn’t have, causing Steph to flee in tears. Lest we forget, Sora and his sis aren’t the most sociable or tactful creatures.

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After much harmless teasing and messing with Steph, Sora’s crossing the line makes her question whether she should give him the “Key of Hope” her gramps entrusted to her, to give to the person who shows up later in her life to whom she can entrust Elkia. But how can she trusts someone who calls all humanity “crap?” Jibril rustles her from her brooding to return to the library, where Sora and Shiro are still hitting the books hard. There, without knowing Steph is listening, Sora gradually changes her mind.

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Once he calms down and tries to find a method to the old king’s seemingly foolish actions…he finds one: the king knew he couldn’t win all along, but fought the Warbeasts again and again anyway to gather information, wagering strategically marginal resources each time. Certain the king would never beat them, the Warbeasts didn’t bother wiping his memories, but made him pledge never to tell anyone as long as he lived. The king used that loophole to fill a journal with precious info on the Warbeast games, then locked it away with his porn stash in a hidden chamber, for a future king to use.

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It’s an awesome unraveling of a mystery and causes an immediate reversal in Sora’s opinion of Steph’s grandfather: he was a great man who created a legacy of foolishness so that his successors could defeat the enemies he couldn’t. And that will be Sora, because his moving speech—about the mankind’s potential and the rare “real deals” like Shiro (and Steph) who embody that potential and propel all humanity—convinces Steph to give him the key. I’ll tell you what else was the real deal: this episode.

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Stray Observations:

  • Jibril is a great addition to the cast. Steph can be a bit much in too-large quantities, but Jibril’s presense naturally breaks those quantities up.
  • We also like how her arrogant consdescention of humanity is softening in Sora and Shiro’s presence, and how she realizes Steph likes Sora, even though her love spell wore off.
  • Lots of anime references in this one, including Sora as that finger-tenting bastard Ikari Gendo; the Giant Warriors of Nausicaä, and Sora as Mr. Despair. The king’s secret room also resembled Nausicaä’s. 
  • We enjoyed the brief time when Steph thought the key was to her gramps’ porn stash after all, thus rendering her life a mistake!
  • When Sora first met Shiro when she was three, her first words to him were “You really are empty”, a play on his name “sky” and the fact he was fake-smiling. Sharp gal.
  • As you can tell from the shots above, this was yet another sumptuous-colored episode in a sumptuously-colored show. The environments are consistently gorgeous and imaginative.

Space Dandy – 05

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Even though he ends up mired in them almost all the time, Dandy doesn’t like complications, or things that will tie him down or threaten his transitory nature. He does what he wants and doesn’t do what he doesn’t; taking orders from no one. While he may ‘sign’ every other line with “baby”, an actual baby would be anathema to Dandy. The moment someone starts a family they cease to be the most important person in their lives, and they cease to be their own boss to boot. That’s partly why Dandy doesn’t have a family; just a robot and a layabout cat-alien for company. This week, if only this week, that formula changes with the addition of Adélie, an alien who’s been humiliating alien hunters with a huge price on her head. Turns out she’s just a little girl looking for her family, and finds a fleeting one in Dandy.

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This is almost the inverse of Michiko and Hatchin, in which a wronged mother seeks out and snatches up her daughter (we really need to get back to that show someday…): Dandy had no intention of hanging out with a little brat, and indeed, he doesn’t seem he’d be guardian material, considering all the sleazy places he hangs out at, and the dangers his vocation lends. But with the Aloha Oe impounded, the 8 million Woolongs are worth a space train ride to the registration office with said brat. But like Hatchin, Adélie proves a match for Dandy’s robust personality, which is after all so much bluster and bravado…and boobs. At first they can’t even agree on the proper condiment for eggs, but they gradually warm to each other, and have fun adventures on their journey.

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We’ve said that Space Dandy never fails to put on a hell of a show with whatever genre-of-the-week it decides to focus on, and this kind of story is no different, hitting all the right comedic and dramatic notes. Of course, its effectiveness could have suffered had too harsh or bratty a voice been selected to play Adélie. Fortunately she’s voiced by Kanazawa Hana, provides a perfect balance of cheek, angst, and vulnerability. We imagine anyone would be eager to play such a beautifully-fleshed out, believable character even for one episode (though who knows, she may be back), who just happens to have stingers that can transfer peoples’ consciousness to plushies—a power that’s always used cleverly. More than anything, this episode redeems Dandy as someone with a heart of gold, which is beautifully revealed as his emotional stake in Adelie grows along with ours.

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After checking into a motel, Dandy announces he’s going out for a night of Boobies (which we know to be his church), leaving Adélie to stew alone. Our hearts literally soared when it turned out he was feverishly investigating the whereabouts of her grandfather, her only living relative. The reunion at the station goes delightfully un-smoothly when Adélie bristles at their apparent parting; accusing Dandy of abandoning her because she’s inconvenient; being no different from the other adults. Dandy’s daring rescue of her from the scorned alien hunters—while stuck in a stuffed penguin—was truly inspired. In the end, they do have to part ways, but not after changing one another’s preconceptions. Dandy met a decent kid and got a taste of fatherhood. Adelie met a decent adult and got a taste of daughter-hood. Hell, for all we know, Dandy IS her real father…


Rating: 10 (Masterpiece)

RABUJOI World Heritage List

Samurai Flamenco – 05

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Hazama is fooled by a group trying to collect the reward for revealing his identity, but he’s saved by Mari, who once again uses excessive force. When Sumi gets him an acting gig, Hazama tells Mari he won’t be joining her on evenings forthe time being. An angry Mari goes solo and her terrifying brawls lead to the police setting up a Vigilante Counseling Unit to reassure the public.

Hazama is frustrated on the set of the superhero show, but he returns home to find a package scheduled to be sent to him on his twentieth birthday. In it is a letter where his late grandfather passes the legacy of Samurai Flamenco on to him. Energized, he bails out Flamenco Girl once more, but then they split up. Mari coerces Mizuki and Moe to join her, forming the “Flamenco Girls.”

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Last week seemed to be pointing to a reigning in of Flamenco Girl’s reign of terror, but that wasn’t the case this week, as she’s as merciless as ever. Her idoling job has become secondary to her nightly vigilantism, and she derives almost too much pleasure from kicking her defeated foes when they’re down. Suffice it to say, her philosophy doesn’t jibe with Hazama’s more idealized brand of justice, and they both conclude that because of that, they can’t keep working together, or they’ll eventually become enemies.

That brings us to why Hazama is a superhero in the first place. When his parents died, his grandfather created the Samurai Flamenco cheer up and inspire him. Even when Mari’s antics and the jadedness of the hero tv set have brough Hazama as low as he’s ever been, his grandfather’s well-timed posthumous package is just the kick in the pants he needs to keep going, while ditching the oppression of Mari. No more sidekicking or baiting; he’s going to make grandpa proud. We’ll see if he can stick to that!

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Kaname Joji ditches Hazama once more; but he does get Hazama thinking about how Samurai Flamenco was born.
  • More trouble in paradise: Goto’s girlfriend rebukes him for cancelling on her – and talking about Hazama too much. Will Mari ever confront Goto about her feelings? Will we ever see his girlfriend?
  • Did Sumi simply get that superhero acting job for Hazama because of the auspicious slot, or because she’s picking up on his love for that kinda stuff? Maybe a little of both…
  • There was something kinda melancholy about Mari alone in her too-brightly-lit apartment, rolling around with her cop-pillow.
  • Mari had to train her ass off to become Flamenco Girl, so when we first saw Mizuki and Moe flanking her, we wondered: will she be toughening them up as well, or just using them like she used Hazama?

Kotoura-san – 06

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Kotoura invites Manabe, Mifune, Kuroto and Moritani to her family home for summer vacation. Upon arriving in the town they are escorted via limousine to an abandoned hospital, within which is “Kotouraland”, a theme park her grandfather built. The next day they relax on the Kotoura private beach, and Manabe saves Kotoura from the ocean current, and finally gets to eat one of her homemade lunches. They end the night with fireworks, and Kotoura thanks everyone for coming. Her mother watches from the distance.

This very special episode of Kotoura-san was an in-depth investigation of the tremendous disparity between the super-rich and the middle class of Japan. Kotoura’s grandfather possesses seemingly infinite wealth, and it’s left up to our imaginations exactly how that wealth was amassed. Regardless, his creeper factor is bumped up a couple of notches by wanting to involve himself in every aspect of these kids’ summer vacation, including dropping them off at a spooky run-down building then revealing he meticulously designed and built a bizarre theme park featuring mascot versions of Kotoura and her friends. It’s all…a bit much.

While this episode doesn’t go as far as Sket Dance did in illustrating just how filthy rich the Unyuu family is, it still goes pretty far. In our opinion, all the opulence and all of Gramps’s ludicrously excessive gestures only harm what is at its core a lightweight but pleasant portrayal of Kotoura’s first summer vacation spent with actual friends and not alone. But her nightmare shows that Kotoura is still not quite over her past traumas. The appearance of her mother, an ice cold bitch who told her daughter she wish she hadn’t given birth to her, is not a good sign, unless of course she’s there to reconcile with said daughter. Judging from her expression, we’d think not…


Rating: 6 (Good)

Kotoura-san – 04

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Manabe, Mifune, and Muroto set out to find Kotoura, starting at a town where train station cameras caught her. The three spend the night at a temple whose head monk knows Kotoura, and directs them to her house in town. After chasing her around the house, they finally catch her, but she doesn’t want to go back for fear she’ll hurt one of them again. Moritani arrives outside Kotoura’s house to apologize and convince her to come back to school. She agrees, and life returns to normal, only “a little better”.

Kotoura’s ESP bestows her with a bit of arrogance, as if reading the random thoughts of people is enough to know what kind of people they are. Having heard Moritani (who became an emotional wreck) and Manabe (who was beaten up), she decided unilaterally to cut ties with them all and disappear, believing it was all her fault. But what she needed to realize is that it’s not just her fault, or her choice. Her friends get to have a say in whether they shoulder the risk of being friends with her. Manabe made a promise to stay by her side, and that’s what he’s going to do, and rather than continue as an adversary, Moritani wants peace.

While we could have done without the perverted grandfather (seriously dude…WTF), he was the only unsightly blemish on a very nice episode in which Kotoura’s friends – and her rival Moritani – take the initiative in preventing her from retreating back into her shell of loneliness  They don’t want her to settle for that life, they want to share theirs with her, and whatever bumps in the road might come, they’ll face them together. As for Moritani, she should thank her lucky stars Manabe isn’t pressing charges, cause she was totes an accessory to assault!


Rating: 8 (Great)

Chihayafuru – 05

Chihaya drags Taichi with her to Fukui to confront Arata. She’s carefully crafted what to say, but when they’re finally in his house, she pulls out karuta and suggests they play, infuriating him. They find out from his neighbor, Yuu, that his grandfather suffered a stroke, and relapsed while Arata was at a tournament to reach Class A. Blaming himself, he forswore Karuta forever. But Chihaya left her notes and letter to him behind, which make him see the error of his ways. As Chihaya and Taichi pull out of the station, Arata chases them in his bike. Taichi agrees to help her start the best Karuta club in the world.

We knew this was going to be a special episode, but it still managed to eclipse all expectations. It was quite simply some of the best 22 minutes of drama of the entire year, certainly of the Fall. Every moment was simply brimming with emotion and the characters were firing on all cylinders. The soundtrack was soaringly awesome as always. And all the little gorgeous details, like Chihaya’s chocolate wrapper notes. Everything was masterful. We can’t believe how much we now connect and sympathize with Taichi now, who has clearly fallen for Chihaya. Those moments when he was about to take her hand kicked so much ass. And hey, she is frikkin’ gorgeous.

Arata’s grandfather used to tell him about a “karuta god” who whispers the next syllable into those deemed worthy. But rather than the Gods forsaking Arata, perhaps he was meant to be playing Karuta when his grandfather died – the god challenging him to see to his own future and realize his limitless potential. He quit instead, but it would seem Chihaya’s words snapped him out of it. His grandfather certainly wouldn’t have wanted him to quit. Quite separately, Chihaya refers to Arata as a karuta god in her letter. Meaning she worships him, or at least her idea of him up to this point. It’ll be tough for Taichi to compete with that! Hard to believe this is just the fifth episode.


Rating: 4

Ao no Exorcist 20

The attacker of Rin and Yukio’s monastery is a masked stranger who writes in Polish and uses a nasty spider-web like silk to envelop his victims. When Rin gives chase he immediately has his ass handed to him, and has to be saved by Yukio, who continues the chase and runs into Professor Neuhaus, originally believed to have retired.

After a “rest” episode, it was good to get back to the main story, but I feel like most of this episode was simply rehashing what’s already been said, done, and/or established. Rin should know by now he can’t just rush headlong into threats he doesn’t understand. He almost gets killed in the first five minutes thanks to his impatience and hardheadedness. He should know by now he can’t just do what he pleases – the Vatican has him on a tight rope as it is. All this just…seemed to have slipped his mind this week. At least later in the episode he finally gets the candle training right, and uses his flames like a scalpel, not a sledgehammer, to remove the webbing from his allies.

The enemy-of-the-week is also pretty boring at first. I mean, spiders crawling across his face? Seriously? Rin has already fought the Paladin and the Earth King…after those bosses this guy never seems like much of a threat. Things do get a little more interesting when a hostage standoff ends with the Paladin arresting Pheles for suspected illegal research, while Neuhaus shows up again, claiming the then un-masked woman is his wife. Yukio, getting more angsty for not being able to protect Rin, is suddenly summoned by…his grandfather, of all people. One we didn’t know he had…


Rating: 3

Usagi Drop 8

It’s mostly back to just Daikichi and Rin this week, as the ep opens with a typical late summer morning. Rin has started summer vacation and her birthday is imminent. O-bon is also near, so Daikichi decides they’ll take the day to visit the grave of Souichi, his grandfather; her father (and yes, she’s starting to figure out that she’s his aunt).

Meanwhile, we see a lot more Masako, who looks like she hasn’t slept in a long time. When her not-quite boyfriend tries to comfort her, calling her a girl, she spazes out; when one is a mangaka, one cannot be anything else and expect to succeed, in her mind. That includes being a girl, or a girlfriend, or a mother. It probably applies to being a daughter or sister, but the series doesn’t show her family. In any case, she’s fun to watch, as she averts her gaze and fidgets.

However, she still visits Souichi’s grave on the same day, and Daikichi eventually makes his presence known, after some rather bizarre hiding behind lampposts. He’s a little perturbed by her (at least appearing to have) a boyfriend, but still tells her Rin is with him, and welcomes her to watch from afar. Also, Daikichi, I don’t care how bright and sharp Rin is, hold the girl’s hand when you’re walking by the road!


Rating: 3.5