The Promised Neverland – 08 – Things Never Go Smoothly

More than once, Don hopes out loud that the inspection plan goes smoothly, and whenever a character hopes something like that, chances are it won’t come to pass. Things certainly don’t go smoothly for Sister Krone! Turns out she’s not fired, she’s just been named the new Mom of Plant Four. Only there’s one thing more important to Krone than becoming a Mom, and that’s ruining Isabella.

That turns out to be her downfall, as had Krone left quietly for her new assignment, it’s possible she would have been fine. Or maybe not; when she presents her evidence to Grandma of the high-quality kids’ escape plan, it’s utterly shrugged off because the kids are still “under control.” As for Krone ever having a chance of replacing Isabella, that was never in the cards.

And so, as Krone’s life in the farm and training to become a sister flashes before her eyes, Grandma sics a demon on her, and plants the flower that causes instant death. Rest in peace, Sister Krone: you certainly never had any in life. Her last thoughts are of her hope that the kids are successful in escaping—something she could never do.

Ray isn’t aware that Krone is no longer in the picture until it’s too late and the inspection mission is already underway. Isabella, calling out his treachery, suddenly and unexpectedly terminates their arrangement, locks him in a room, and uses her tracking device to detect Norman and Emma.

When Don and Gilda see Isabella leave the house, but no sign of Ray, Don races into the house, busts down the door and frees Ray, and the three of them head to Norman and Emma’s location as quickly as they can. But as has ever been the case since even Ray first thought of resisting this system, Mama is simply too many steps ahead.

She encounters Norman and Emma and rejects their fake smiles, dropping the pretense that she’s maintained for ten years. She also makes a seemingly heartfelt (though one questions if she has a heart to feel) plea for them to stop resisting and simply accept their fates. They can live happy, full lives until their shipment days, at which time their deaths will be instant.

Even if Isabella empathizes with her livestock in knowing that the worst kind of suffering for them would be to take her up on her offer and give up, they’re too valuable to her as meat for her to ever consider entertaining their desire for freedom. One wonders if Isabella, like Krone, was once in their position, and thus has already concluded resistance is pointless.

Whatever the case, when Emma and Norman reject Isabella’s ultimatum,  Emma rushes Mama and hugs her tight so Norman can get to the rope…and Emma pays for it, big time. Mama snaps her knee like a twig, then lovingly applies a splint and carries her back to the house.

No matter how spunky and determined Emma might be, there’s no way she’ll be able to escape now; at least not on her own two legs. Oh, and just to twist the knife, Isabella informs a horrified Norman that his shipment date has been set. Far from smooth, things have gone just about as awfully as possible for our pee-wee heroes. I honestly don’t know where they go from here.

Orange – 13 (Fin)

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Naho vows to give Kakeru chocolates on Valentine’s Day and make sure he knows her feelings, but even though her letters state all of the various opportunities, she still manages to blow by almost all of them without success, which is obviously done to heighten the tension. It works!

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But this isn’t like the squandered opportunities of the past. This is it, with just a day before he commits suicide in the original timeline. She has to get those damn chocolates to him, or at least make up with him. A particularly one-dimensionally evil Ueda Rio provides one last obstacle to Naho, but she doesn’t back down, and by the end of the episode’s first act, victory is hers. It’s a satisfying scene that cuts through a lot of the murk that had built up.

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With apologies, hugs, and tears thus shared, Naho and Kakeru are back to normal; no, better than ever, and all the happier for it. Kakeru even blurts out that he loves her, and she doesn’t blush and run off.

But the hour of his past death is still ahead of them, and the circle of friends remains concerned enough to consider either breaking his bike or waiting at the site of his once-and-hopefully-not-future demise.

Again, we see the future friends planning out the logistics and agreeing to send their letters to the past. Again, it seems a little odd to call so much attention to such a mysterious and hard-to-swallow process that is never fully explained anyway (because it’s time magic).

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In any case, because they’ve changed the future so much, the timing of Kakeru’s attempted suicide is altered somewhat, and because Hagita actually sabotages his bike, he’s on foot when a truck nearly hits him.

Kakeru is wandering the night wanting to die, just like last time, because of the power of the unsent text on his mom’s phone he found. But unlike last time, Naho and the others have had an equally powerful cumulative effect on him, to the point it doesn’t matter that they’re too late to stop him, because he stops himself. He doesn’t want to die after all.

From there, everyone runs to him, thinking he’s been hit but relieved to find he isn’t, and when they have to explain why they’re all there, they finally let him in on the future letters, even giving him letters from their once-but-no-longer selves. And there’s a big ol’ group hug, baaaaaaaw.

Those former selves are still chillin’ in the future, content that they did all they could to make Kakeru in an alternate world a better chance to stay alive, for the benefit of their alternate past and future selves. They created a new world, where Kakeru could live and be happily ever after.

 

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Parting thoughts: In its first three to seven weeks, Orange could almost do no wrong by me, so enthusiastic was I by a show that had the potential to be AnoHana or Toradora! quality, with Hanazawa Kana as its able lead.

But the show eventually regressed a bit as the angst was heightened, and my enthusiasm waned just when it was growing for those other shows. Orange could also be a little cheesy at times (I continue to have mixed feelings about the huge smiles of various characters),  and it never maintained the (in hindsight unreasonable) heights I envisioned for it, but it still really wowed and moved me for a solid half of its run.

I liked these earnest kids and their mission to save their friend, I’m glad they succeeded, and I look forward to the anime movie that continues the tale a little further.

Orange – 12

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This week we finally get glimpses of life from Kakeru’s perspective, both events Naho and the others weren’t present for, and in the re-telling of important moments we’ve already witness from the point of view of others. More importantly, we see the “initial” future that leads to his suicide. Here, Kakeru finally opens up, and it’s a dark, brooding place.

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Kakeru is clinically depressed, and can’t forgive himself for what he thought as sending his mom over the edge into suicide. It’s shocking to see him make an actual attempt, since it’s the realized fear of both us and Naho & co, who at the end of the day can only see a small part o Kakeru’s daily life, and only what he chooses to show them, which isn’t much.

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Even when he finds his mom’s old phone containing a lengthy apology for what she did to him and an explanation for her actions, he’s so stuck in his head on that bike ride he ends up getting killed, even if that wasn’t necessarily his desire at the time.

All the other events unfold as Naho’s letter said they would, bringing us to that sudden end. But the last thing he sees in his head is the face of Naho, whom he thinks would probably be sad if he were to die. But he can’t be sure, and in any case isn’t sure anything actually matters.

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That brings us back to the present of the “second” timeline, in which Naho and the others have worked so hard, unbeknownst to him, to keep him safe and happy. But like last time, the New Year’s fight with Naho is an open wound that’s hard to heal, even though Naho knows she must.

We check in on her alternate future self and the others deciding to send letters out to sea, hoping the black hole in the Bermuda Triangle will swallow them up and send them to the past.

This is…a pretty ridiculous plan; frankly I kinda wish they had kept the means by which they received the letters a mystery rather than try to clunkily lay out the practicalities of actually doing it. It’s enough that they wanted to reach out to their past selves to try to change things; I didn’t need the details.

In any case, Naho feels like she and Kakeru are drifting further and further away. The awkwardness and helplessness are palpable. So she goes for broke and asks that Kakeru wait until Valentine’s Day. She’s decided she’ll make her stand there. Whether it causes Kakeru to hate her or causes her pain is irrelevant. She’s not going to lose him again.

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Orange – 11

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After the sports festival ended with a kiss, the next hurdle in the battle to save Kakeru is Christmas Eve and New Year’s. Specifically, Naho wants to avoid a fight she believes may have led to Kakeru closing his heart and taking his own life not long afterwards. Suwa later comforted her that night, and also confessed to her, leading to the future where they married and had a kid.

It makes sense for Naho to want to avoid getting in a fight with Kakeru on New Year’s, but this time her letter was a lot more vague about what exactly she could do.

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After a relay race win that was a team effort for her and her friends, she’s on her own again, and Suwa is more concerned with keeping himself out of the equation all together: no shrine visit, no comforting, no confession.

Hagita wonders if changing the future to such an extent is really okay and right…but Suwa sees it another, more quantum way: the minute they got their letters from the future, they were no longer in the world that led to that future. They’ve on off on a tangeant that will result in a new future, while that old future will continue on unaffected.

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Temporal technobabble aside, nothing Suwa does or doesn’t do matters in the end. In the end, Kakeru wants to go home to his grandma, and Naho asks if he’d stay a little longer, assuring him his grandma will be just fine. That confident assertion sets Kakeru off. He rejects Naho’s notion one can simply decide things will be okay, because he thought that way about his mom before she took her life.

He still blames himself for her death, which means Naho is only able to do so much; she’s no therapist, and it’s possible no words she could have come up with, up to and including a prompt apology for angering him, would have done any good. Suwa comforts her again, but skips the confession, instead urging her to go after Kakeru.

But when she calls Kakeru, he smashes his phone, clearly fed up with talking. Naho, Suwa & Co.’s best just wasn’t enough to avoid history from repeating itself. Here’s hoping there’s still a way to salvage this mess.

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Flying Witch – 09

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All of the little adventures in FW form part of a bigger picture that’s always being added to. Chinatsu’s encounter with a real fox last week compels her to point out to her mom that the fox really says woof, not kon-kon, for her children’s book.

This also marks the return of Inukai in her day white, who was supposed to tell Makoto’s fortune but never got around to it.

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Inukai frames the rest of the episode by using her stone-throw divination to tell fortunes for Makoto, Chinatsu, and Kei, which we anticipate will come true at some point, we’re just not sure when. We also get to see “Pretty Inukai” when the sun goes down.

Another return to a previous story point: Makoto’s garden, which is really coming along nicely, including the mandrake root Nao refused and continues to refuse, as politely as she can.

There’s also a nice little high school rooftop lunch scene, with Nao announcing she’s on a diet and Makoto being particularly grandma-like with sayings like “a healthy body makes a pretty girl” and “guys like girls with a little bit of fat.”

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Nao meets Akane for the first time, though due to timing Akane mistakes Nao for Kei’s girlfriend when she wakes up to find them chatting happily.

Nao shoots the idea down so fast Kei actually seems hurt (especially since she calls him “that thing”, but the truth is the two do get along pretty well. And at any rate, Akane’s very unsubtle initial go-get-’em-tiger attitude is pretty funny.

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After enjoying some of Makoto and Chinatsu’s massive crop of radishes (which Makoto believes might have weight-loss properties), Nao goes home, and everyone retires to bed, something strange happens: an animate paper crane enters Makoto, Chinatsu, and Kei’s rooms and summons them to the living room, P.A. style.

It’s Akane, who is jet-lagged, can’t sleep, and wants to give the three her traditional travel gifts, this time from Burkina Faso, and in an unexpected way, those gifts fulfill the fortunes Inukai gave Makoto and Chinatsu, just minutes before that day ended.

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Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 09

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This episode was very good, as is to be expected of a show where even its off days are very good, but it couldn’t avoid the feeling of a bridge episode. Much of the very goodest-ness comes in the first half, which resolves the standoff with Kayo’s mom, Akemi.

An enraged Akemi takes a snow shovel to Sachiko, but the wound is thankfully superficial, and Satoru’s mom stands her ground. The trap has already worked; social services are right there, and Akemi’s inability to do anything about her missing 11-year-old daughter for three days is sufficient evidence to take Kayo away.

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Akemi tries to paint herself as the victim, grabbing Kayo and shuffling off to the police, but her estranged mother (whom I imagine Yashiro managed to contact) stops her in her tracks. It only takes a few moments for our abject hatred of Akemi to soften–just a little–when we learn that she too was a victim of abuse by her now-ex-husband after all.

Neither Kayo nor Satoru are as forgiving; after all, two wrongs don’t make a right. But Akemi’s breakdown and glimmer of the life she’s led at least makes her actions understandable. She’s not the sociopath I though she was; but took her frustration out on Kayo because it was easy,unlike so much else in her life.

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Akemi also accepts her mother taking Kayo away to live with her; it’s clearly better for both of them. Sachiko wants to believe even Akemi feels, at times, love for her daughter, and one could either call her acceptance of the handover proof of that love, though no doubt part of it is relieving her of a burden she clearly couldn’t bear on her own.

With that, Satoru and Kayo quietly part ways (with Kayo being borne away in Yashiro’s 4WD Toyota Sprinter Carib, AKA Tercel Wagon), with Satoru confident Kayo now has a future where she can make her mark. He saved her from her mom and from the killer.

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At this point, I thought he’d be sent back to the non-letterboxed present, where perhaps he could track down a lovely 29-year-old Kayo! But hold on now, there’s still two more victims to save: Hiromi and Aya. Satoru wastes no time starting his investigations on the other two, taking careful notes of their daily patterns.

The switch to “new cases” is a little jarring in its abruptness, but then again I guess there’s no rest for the weary (whose come from nearly three decades into the future to save three of his peers from a serial child-killer).

I also appreciated that the somewhat shut-in Satoru, even 29 years old, isn’t any better at knowing how to properly approach a girl than his 11-year-old version would be. Perhaps the older Satoru is even worse, considering he has a lot more on his mind than a kid would.

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One night, his Aya-following is cut short when he bumps into his mom, over-laden with discount groceries. By a second coincidence, Yashiro’s in the vicinity and offers the two a ride. Satoru rides shotgun, and notices Yashiro’s nervous steering wheel tapping.

When Satoru pulls at something sticking out of the glovebox and it bursts open to reveal a treasure trove of candies, for a second it felt like the show was selling–and I was buying–that something was very, FREE CANDYly wrong in Denmark Yashiroland.

Rather amazingly (and hilariously), the excess candy is excused away by Yashiro’s confession that ever since he quit smoking he’s satisfied his oral fixation with candy. And yet, I wonder what the show intended by giving me such a momentary fright!

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As for Kenya, who notices Satoru is at it again (it being super-heroics for another kid’s sake) and wants in, I’m 99.9% convinced he’s not a bad guy or a fellow time traveler, just a very bright and perceptive kid who will continue to be a valuable ally in Satoru’s efforts.

When Satoru tells him his suspicions about a serial child-killer, Kenya is 99% sure it’s all in his friend’s head, but he doesn’t discount the 1% possibility Satoru is telling the absolute truth (which he is) and is committed to believing his friend, just as Airi was in the present. Even Hiromi wants to believe him, though he doesn’t see the need to such excess caution where his personal safety is concerned.

When Satoru asks Kenya and Hiromi to accompany him “somewhere” after school, I’m guessing it has something to do with Aya. I imagine Satoru is eager to kill two birds with one stone, but knows that if he takes his eye of one would-be victim too long he risks losing the other.

But the lingering shot of Misato (the girl who accused Kayo of stealing in the previous timeline) also suggested that maybe Hiromi and Aya aren’t the only ones Satoru needs to watch and protect. By saving Kayo, did he inadvertently condemn Misato?

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Sidonia no Kishi 2 – 09

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So, here we are, and it’s apparent that Nagate isn’t going to read into Yure’s bizarre assignment for him at all, both because he’s primarily worried about getting his head blown off, but also because he’s got nothing but dust bunnies floating around inside that uncommonly hard skull. Or, to be more charitable, he simply doesn’t possess the means to express how he feels.

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His obliviousness doesn’t keep Izana from being charmed by the “code” he’s using to take her on a date (especially when he inspects Chekhov’s Bed), and Yuhata and Tsumugi are also convinced that they’re up to no good, and manage to locate a vantage point to spy on them.

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That point turns out to be a gorgeous (and expensive) zero-gravity onsen with an omnidirectional view of the stars outside. When Izana, bless her, takes off her jacket and asks for Nagate to join her in the bath, she’s also asking him to drop the pretense, not knowing there is none; this really is a mission for the dolt.

That’s made clear when Izana gets a peek at his tablet, which has her grandma’s scribbling all over it; this was all a setup orchestrated by her, with no input or even awareness on Nagate’s part. Rather than charmed, she’s pissed, and throws a couple of cybernetic punches at her would-be partner in frustration.

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Where she’s wrong, though, is that Nagate “doesn’t care about her at all,” as no matter how much punishment she dishes out, he sticks close to her, determined to apologize, and make things right. It’s also an opportunity to tell her exactly how he feels about her.

But we don’t get to hear it, or see Izana’s reaction, or any other part of their evening. Like Shirou and Rin in UBW, Nagate and Izana are two kids who really like each other and are always at risk of being killed tomorrow. But while the UBW couple had a tasteful if sedate intimate experience that we at least got to see.

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Instead, Sidonia leaves everything to our imagination, cutting from the onsen to Yuhata and Tsumugi, watching from afar, unable to hear, like us. The next morning is a little more telling of what happened: the two enter the house, and while on the stairs momentarily forgot they sleep in separate rooms, because last night, they slept with each other.

That’s my take on it anyway, and it’s supported later on in how both of them act. Your mileage may vary on what went on, but I think the show’s point is to think what you want to think, at least until more information comes to light.

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All I knew was, after their little vacation, things were almost certainly going to turn perilous again, testing the bond they just took to the next level. The show doesn’t do this in the most subtle way, but in this case, unsubtlety is welcome.  When a disgruntled pilot defects at the sight of the new hayakaze armor, which looks to her like a kamikaze ram for the Gauna, Izana is called up to replace her on the recon mission to the dark side of Lem system’s ninth planet.

The kicker is that Yuhata makes this call to Izana. Yuhata, who stayed up all night worried and likely also upset about what was going on with Nagate and Izana. Is she Yuhata only acting in her official capacity as XO, and Izana truly the best person for the job, or did Yuhata put Izana on this mission as some kind of payback? I certainly hope it’s the former, but the latter can’t be ruled out.

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As for the mission, it’s one of those rare instances when Izana is out there while Nagate is on standby, and Nagate is a nervous, pacing wreck, more than ever if it’s true that they’re now lovers. He’s also concerned because Izana is attached to a device he heard the deserting pilot call a death trap, and we know that Kobayashi plays favorites wouldn’t hesitate sacrificing lesser pilots for a second if it meant furthering her goals.

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So like Nagate, my heart was also in my throat the minute Izana left the (relatively) safe confines of Sidonia…especially with three redshirts. The cloaked Gauna they find in the rings of Planet Nine is a nasty customer, and promptly takes out one redshirt.

Please make it home, Izana—the last and most important moment you have with Nagate can’t have occurred offscreen…unless, of course it is, and we only revisit it in Nagate’s memory or dreams. Then again, if Hiyama is right about Kobayashi putting Sidonia on the wrong course, even if Izana makes it back, everyone’s doomed anyway.

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Re-Kan! – 03

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Last week Franklin mentioned the formula Re-Kan has gotten down: “Funny, Funny, touching, funny resolve!” This week it switches that formula up, to include a lot more touching with its funny in the form of some seriously moving drama. After the cold open I was convinced it would just be an episode about how un-used to cell phones Hibiki is, but I would end up being…dead wrong.

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Harumi may be being a tsundere about it, but she wants to be friends with Hibiki, despite her apparent connection with the dead, which creeps her out. Hibiki’s a good person, so when she hears Harumi is determined to get Yuuki, her terror of a younger cousin to eat the fried eggs she prepares, Hibiki offers to help out, sensing an in; she wants to be friends with Harumi, too, after all.

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Hibiki’s eggs are fantastic, but Yuuki still rejects them, deeming them “gross” and “wrong.” We’re thinking, ‘well, Yuuki’s just a petty little shit and an ingrate, isn’t he?’ Then we learn his dad was killed in an accident, and his very pregnant mom is in hospital, which is why Harumi is taking care of him. Just like that, the kid is sympathetic. This makes Hibiki want to help Harumi even more, but Harumi snaps at her, saying “it has nothing to do with her.”

When Harumi talks to Kana at school, she assumes Hibiki learned how to make eggs from her mom, but Kana tells her Hibiki’s mother died when she was very young. Harumi knows she was wrong to snap at Hibiki, but now she knows why Hibiki was so intent on helping with Yuuki.

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Harumi visits Yuuki’s mom, who can see the exhaustion in Harumi’s face as she lies about Yuuki being no big deal. When Harumi brings up the eggs, his mom tells her there was a way his dad used to make them for her, which is why no matter who makes Yuuki eggs right now, he’s going to reject them as wrong because they’re not like his dad’s.

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So where does Hibiki factor in, besides sharing Yuuki’s situation of losing a parent early in life? Glad you asked! As Hibiki is outside Harumi’s house, ready to help despite being yelled at, she gets a call on her brand-new cell phone, which she handles extra-carefully and daintily as if it were honed from delicate crystal. It’s Harumi, calling to apologize and ask for Hibiki’s help with the eggs again. Harumi is extra-impressed Hibiki didn’t stop caring about her and Yuuki just because Harumi told her off. It’s as if she knew Harumi didn’t mean it…because she didn’t!

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Hibiki proves especially useful to Harumi here because she’s able to commune with the ghost of Harumi’s Nana, who taught Yuuki’s dad how to make the eggs the way Yuuki likes so much. Hibiki interprets the instructions to Harumi, but leaves Harumi to do the actual cooking: her Nana wants her to learn after all, something she never wanted to do when Nana was alive because she thought it was too girly.

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The moment of truth: when Yuuki tucked in to the new, Nana-approved eggs, I knew some tears were going to come…from Harumi, from Hibiki, definitely from Yuuki when he tastes a taste he hadn’t tasted since his dad died—and from myself!

Yuuki actually ends up bawling his eyes out in a moment of catharsis, and Harumi lets him cry it out, which was the favor his mother asked of her, knowing it had to happen sometime, but Yuuki was holding it in, trying to be strong in preparation for being a big brother.

Even Yuuki’s mom tears up and has to turn away while asking Haurmi that favor; she is, after all, someone who very recently lost her husband and the father of her children, one who will never see his face. Despite her tears, she comes off as tremendously strong and brave for her family.

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Despite all the tear-jerking moments, this episode never felt sappy or maudlin, because it stayed true to its characters, tapped into their unexpected stores of emotion, and presented the drama simply and elegantly.

It even managed to stick a few jokes in the mix (While the perv-cat’s shtick is starting to wear thin, his voice actor Kujira sells the hell out of every line).

Hibiki and Harumi also emerge from this episode closer friends than ever, even calling each other by their given names. Re-Kan doesn’t just excel at comedy, but drama as well. It’s one of the better pure storytellers this Spring, and when it wants to, never fails to get you right here (points at heart).

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Koufuku Graffiti – 04

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This week’s KG cold open is the strangest yet, with Ryou biting the head off an Onigiri Girl in a toon-shaded dream sequence. It also heralds the beginning of the strangest episode of KG to date, though only really in terms of format.

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Ryou had gotten used to the routine of Kirin coming over on the weekends to eat her food and keep her company. But with classes cancelled for a week, Kirin ditching Ryou for her parents’ reservation to a three-star Chinese restaurant, and Shiina getting sick after getting drenched, Ryou finds herself all alone for the first time since the beginning of the show.

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That was when, if you recall, Ryou wasn’t very good at cooking, because she wasn’t putting any love into it. The scenes of Ryou alone in her house again (and even making a second serving of breakfast for a non-existant person) really do convey her profound loneliness and depression. And even though Kirin said she could text her anytime, she doesn’t respond to any of Ryou’s texts.

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Ryou wisely chooses to get out of that house before she goes mad, and decides to hit the library for some cookbooks. She hadn’t been there since her grandma used to take her, and it’s here where Ryou learns a dark truth: her grandma used to suck at cooking hardcore. It wasn’t until Ryou started staying with her that she checked out cooking for beginners books and honed her craft. She also modified the recipes in the books to cater to Ryou’s tastes, “cooking with love”, as it were.

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Ryou also hits up the corner store by the library where she and her grandma always used to go to indulge on pre-packaged food and drink. (The store has the same shopkeep who looks exactly the same). Overwhelmed by choice, she goes with her standby corner store lunch of onigiri, popcorn chicken, OJ, and a creme puff for desert. Not a bad set, if you ask me.

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As she goes to town, SHAFT-style, she realizes that the very same food she used to enjoy so much as a little kid is food she still enjoys today, only now, with her refined palate, she gains an even deeper appreciation for the tastes and textures. And while she may be eating alone, the mere fact she’s thinking of her loving grandma while enjoying the meal makes it that much tastier.

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The lunch cheers her up, and clears away the rain clouds. Ryou commits herself to becoming a great cook for Kirin the way her grandma became one for her, starting with predicting—correctly—that even though Kirin just had Chinese food, she’ll still want to try Ryou’s gyoza. Especially since the restaurant had tiny portions and Kirin is looking forward to Ryou stuffing her.

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DRAMAtical Murder – 06

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It’s ironic that DMMd brings up the concept of mind control, since that’s what one could call the effect that led me to continue to watch a show that isn’t quite up to snuff and probably never will be. Last week’s action was diverting enough, but only led to more of everyone gathered around the table as Grams talks, and talks, and talks some more. It was boring and tedious.

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The show had been stubbornly maintaing an atmosphere of mystery, and I’d been hankering for some answers, but this gratuitous infodump didn’t satisfy as I’d hoped. Brain research; human experimentation; brainwashing; conspiracies; accidents; latent abilities; it was too many cliches dropped on us too fast, and all kind of ran together.

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I also have found myself unable to ignore the show’s thoroughly lackluster animation. I’ve dropped shows with similarly iffy stories that have looked better than this in much less busy seasons. And the monocled villain and his goals are just…not interesting. I stuck around for six episodes, but there hasn’t been enough improvement to merit continued watching.

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Majimoji Rurumo – 05

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This week MMR keeps things simple with a pleasant, nice-looking “day in the life” episode with a “simple task becomes complex adventure” story. By now Rurumo’s general incompetence has been well-established, but the fact she was similarly incompetent in the magical world leads me to believe perhaps she’s developmentally disabled in some way.

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Nah, I’m just kiddin’! She’s just clumsy and forgetful of details that always turn out to be crucial. But this week she has an urgent desire to complete the task Kouta’s mother assigned her: to deliver a parcel to Kouta, who is at his grandma’s doing farm work. But Rurumo doesn’t get off to an auspicious start, getting lost and mistaking postage stamps for train tickets.

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Along the way she meets a couple of Kouta’s friends who are both into her, but she doesn’t remember who they are, a nice meta dig on their general blahness as characters. I also like she did remember something Kouta told her about saying “cosplay” when in doubt, as it gets her out of trouble with a “busty cop.”

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She does eventually end up in the village where Kouta is, but follows the map wrong and ends up lost in a beautiful field of sunflowers. Chiro, who had accompanied her and left her to her own devices (this is her mission, after all) decides enough is enough, and locates Kouta. That’s when we learn all of Rurumo’s work is to get a lousy wooden smartphone case to him so he can impress his cousin’s pretty friend Yuki.

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As a testament to his devotion to Rurumo, Kouta’s own silly mission falls by the wayside when he hears she’s gotten lost. She doesn’t stay lost long, as when he and Chiro return to the sunflower field, Rurumos’ raiment has accidentally magicked into a massive hat-shaped tree. Fortunately, Rurumo herself did not merge with the plant, as Chiro feared, and Kouta doesn’t have to expend any life tickets.

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For her trouble, Kouta totally strikes out with Yuki, but as thanks for completing her mission, he prepares and old-fashioned country bath for her, to soothe her bones after so much running around and falling down. After that, she dons a yukata (not sure how she got it on properly) and joins the others for some summer fireworks, and Kouta pats her head, so all’s well that ends well.

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DRAMAtical Murder – 05

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Aoba wakes up from his fist nap face to face with Mink, leader of Scratch and the guy who punched him…only to get beaten again for protesting the situation. I was right there with Aoba in his combined confusion and rage: damn it, show, what’s going on here?

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The show eventually relented, but only partially: Mink wanted information from Aoba; information he has now acquired. Mink agrees to help Aoba find Grams if Aoba agrees to do what he says. Mink is not the sort of guy you want to try to haggle with, and Grams comes first, so Aoba agrees.

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Returning home to find a worried Clear and Koujaku, Aoba has to play peacemaker between Koujaku and Mink, which is fine; it’s not as if opposing gang leaders are supposed to get alng. When Mink discovers Noiz has the house under surveillance, they invite him to join them in the operation to save Grams.

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The operation that follows is the first time the show has gathered so many disperate actors in a loose coalition, all helping Aoba out. Koujaku, Mink, and even Clear prove quite capable of dealing with the Morphine foot soldiers sent at them, many of whom are former members of Dry Juice.

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When Aoba arrives in the parking lot where Grams is being moved, there’s another surprise: Mizuki is the one shoving her into a truck. He clearly isn’t himself from Aoba’s perspective. Things get a little bit weird when Aoba suddenly involuntarily enters a virtual world where the “real” Mizuki describes how Morphine betrayed him.

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Then Aoba’s head starts pounding again, and an evil-looking “inner-Aoba” says “Destroy” again and again, causing Mizuki intense pain. Not sure what’s up with all that, but I will say this episode was never boring.

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DRAMAtical Murder – 03

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The past Aoba doesn’t even remember having is catching up with him, as a former Rhyme playmate of his pays him a visit. Noiz’s first visit to the junk shop is uneventful, minus a few weird stares. Then Aoba finds him in his room on his computer. Noiz wants to play Rhyme with Aoba again. If Aoba refuses, he’ll do something terrible to Ren. Hey, WHOA. LEAVE REN ALONE, you spiky bastard!

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Just then, Clear bursts into Aoba’s room, and Koujaku right after that, and suddenly it’s really crowded in there, with blood about to go on the boil. Noiz and Koujaku make a mess of the place with their rough-housing. Aoba and his Grams are able to calm the crowd with tea and biscuits (or something), but it’s clear Aoba isn’t about to have a Noiz-less future from here on in.

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The next day, Koujaku and Aoba visit Mizuki, who has been noticeably down of late (I forget the details). I’m thinking it was the voice actors laying the friendly sarcasm on a bit thick, but they have what sounds like a very stiff, almost forced conversation, perhaps reflecting the disquiet lurking just beneath their easy smiles.

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Speaking of tongues, Noiz returns to Aoba’s shop, this time dispatching the three kids who are always bothering Aoba, grabbing the girl by the scruff and kissing her hand, telling her “Rowdy girls aren’t cute.” Hey, who asked you, pal? That’s a matter of opinion! When the kids scurry off and Aoba mentions the inappropriateness of the kiss…Noiz kisses him.

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Was he trying to trigger Aoba’s lost memories? Did they have a thing? Aoba is drawn away by news his Grams is in trouble, but it was just her back giving out. He carries her home and she goes in her room…then before the credits roll we see another Grams in the back of a Rolls-Royce, with the driver saying “So he was alive.” A doppelgramser? Okay, Dmmd: I’ll bite. But damn, the animation quality was poor this week!

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