Koi to Uso – 11

With Yukari, Ririna, and Misaki making little progress in discerning who’s going to end up marrying whom, the three (plus Nisaka) end up at…a wedding. Subtle. Ririna and Misaki are also recruited by the ceremonial hall’s marketing rep to model wedding dresses. Also subtle.

The wedding itself is highly scripted and a bit stiff, with all the usual traditions and nothing in the way of really breaking the mold. The individuals actually getting married seem a bit lost in the procedure of the thing.

Still, a wedding is a wedding, and Misaki and Ririna have a blast, and are glad they were able to attend together. Misaki echos Arisa’s assertion that Ririna has become more open and easier to talk to, and Riri attributes this to her time with Misaki and Yukari.

Misaki also says she’d love to see Ririna’s wedding, all but surrendering Yukari to her. But Ririna can probably sense the lack of conviction in those words, especially when she peeks in on Yukari comforting a crying Misaki with a big long kiss.

I’m sorry, but at this stage, Yukari is being a big fat jerk here. I’m sure Yukari didn’t like seeing Misaki cry, but kissing her will only provide the briefest relief if he ends up marrying Ririna, which, that’s the case, he shouldn’t be kissing other girls. Get your fucking shit together, man!

Ririna seeing Yukari kiss Misaki casts a pall over the rest of the episode, as Ririna and Yukari’s families join forces to mudge their betrothed kids a little closer together at a splendid hot springs inn, even putting them in the same room together.

Their tour of the town demonstrates their easy chemistry with one another, and the fact they both genuinely enjoy each other’s company. They’re not exactly setting the world on fire with their romantic passion, but who cares? They’re a nice, cute couple!

So after witnessing Yukari and Misaki kiss, and Yukari telling her how he’s the person he is today because he followed Misaki and admired her from afar like a goddess…in the night, Ririna decides to tell Yukari she thinks he should choose Misaki over her.

If Ririna and Misaki weren’t such good people and good friends, they wouldn’t be falling over each other trying to sacrifice their happiness for that of the other’s, but Yukari’s persistent indecision—and his appalling indiscretion where Misaki is concerned—has also led us to this point.

The only satisfying way Yukari can respond to this by either accepting or rejecting Ririna’s concession. I’m fine with both, honestly. I may have sounded like a Ririna x Yukari shipper of late, but I’m fine with either girl “winning.” As long as someone wins, dammit!

Oh, and throughout all of this, why haven’t Misaki and Nisaka received their notices? Are Yukari and Ririna really that much older than them? The fact we have no idea who their assigned spouses are leaves me worried the show’s withholding that info for a last-episode cliffhanger—perhaps even a prelude to a second season I neither want nor need.

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Koi to Uso – 10

I probably say this too often…but that’s more like it! Interaction between Yukari and Ririna is bascially why I watch this show. I’m not a rigid follower of the orthodoxy of the Yukari Law, but they were deemed the best match, and everything I’ve seen of them suggests that despite a few bumps in the road, they’re realizing that too.

But what about that damned Shuu? What did she mean about notices and fated partners? Both Yukari and Ririna want to find out, so they call a “truce” and arrange a meeting. Yukari tries first but fails, and Ririna comes to comfort him while he’s feeling low on himself, and sure enough, she knows the kind of burial mound he’s building in the sand.

Ririna doesn’t have any trouble arranging a meeting, but when she comes right out and asks Shuu what she meant (in her usual Ririna straightforward way), she demands a change of venue to a cat cafe. There, while playing with badly-drawn cats, Shuu underscores her one and only goal: to protect Misaki.

Shuu didn’t use to think much of Misaki, until she found out she was in love, and has been awe of that part of her ever since, noting the way she “shines.” But while Shuu’s grandmother designed the Notice system and she herself is some kind of genius and tech whiz, Shuu is still simply taking a side based on her own feelings, which is not what the system is all about.

Yajima, who tracks them all down, makes Shuu understand in no uncertain terms that love between government-matched individuals can’t really compare to two people who just naturally fall in love…but that’s not the point and never was. Surely, for instance, there are other matters of compatibility she’s discounting.

Indeed, The System, in its dispassionate way, seems able to discover pairings that would never have naturally happened, such as that between two people as different in personality yet alike in their isolation as Yukari and Ririna.

And what do you know, paired together and given the chance, they seem to be doing quite well. So much so, that their affection for one another is starting to take precedence over the third party’s happiness, even if neither is interested in hurting her.

Misaki herself has already said many times she’s willing to live with the fact she wasn’t chosen. I wish Yukari would hurry up and state for the record who he’s choosing. But it’s good to see the episode begin and end with him and Ririna back on good terms, having come out of the first true conflict in their still-new relationship none the worse for wear.

Kimi no Na wa. (Your Name.)

Simply diving into a review immediately after watching a film as devastatingly gorgeous and emotionally affecting as Kimi no Na wa is probably not a great idea, but this is an anime review blog, so here goes.

Kimi no Na wa isn’t just a charming body-swap rom-com, or a time-travelling odyssey, or a disaster prevention caper, or a tale of impossibly cruel temporal and physical distance between two soul mates, or a reflection on the fragility and impermanence of everything from memories to cities, or a tissue-depleting tearjerker.

It’s all of those things and more. And it’s also one of, if not the best, movies I’ve ever seen, anime or otherwise.

After a cryptic prologue, Kimi no Na wa starts out modestly: Miyamizu Mitsuha, Shinto shrine maiden and daughter of a mayor, has grown restless in her small town world, so one night, shouts out tot he night that she wants to be reborn as a boy in Tokyo.

This, mind you, happens after an odd incident in which Mitsuha essentially lost a day, during which all her family and friends say she was acting very strange and non-Mitsuha-y…like a different person.

That’s because she was. She and a boy from Tokyo, Tachibana Taki, randomly swap bodies every so often when they’re dreaming. As such, they end up in the middle of their couldn’t-be-any-different lives; the only similarity being that both of them yearn for more.

Despite just meeting these characters, watching Mitsuha and Taki stumble through each other’s lives is immensely fun. And because this is a Shinkai film, that enjoyment is augmented by the master director’s preternatural visual sumptuousness and realism. Every frame of Mitsuha’s town and the grand vastness of Tokyo is so full of detail I found myself wanting to linger in all of them.

As the body-swapping continues, the two decide to lay down “ground rules” when in one another’s bodies—albeit rules both either bend or break with impunity—and make intricate reports in one another’s phone diaries detailing their activities during the swaps.

Interestingly, Mitsuha makes more progress with Taki’s restaurant co-worker crush Okudera than Taki (she like’s Taki’s “feminine side”), while the more assertive Taki proves more popular with boys and girls when Taki’s in her body.

Taki happens to be in Mitsuha’s body when her grandmother and sister Yotsuha make the long, epic trek from their home to the resting place of the “body” of their Shinto shrine’s god, an otherworldly place in more ways than one, to make an offering of kuchikamisake (sake made from saliva-fermented rice).

While the three admire the sunset, Mitsuha’s granny takes a good look at her and asks if he, Taki, is dreaming. Just then he wakes up back in his own body to learn Mitsuha has arranged a date with him and Okudera—one she genuinely wanted to attend.

Okudera seems to notice the change in Taki from the one Mitsuha inhabited; she can tell his mind is elsewhere, and even presumes he’s come to like someone else. Taki tries to call that someone else on his phone, but he gets an automated message.

Then, just like that, the body-swapping stops.

After having cut her hair, her red ribbon gone, Mitsuha attends the Autumn Festival with her friends Sayaka and Teshi. They’re treated to a glorious display in the night sky, as the comet Tiamat makes its once-every-1,200-years visit.

Taki decides if he can’t visit Mitsuha’s world in his dreams anymore, he’ll simply have to visit Mitsuha. Only problem is, he doesn’t know exactly what village she lives in. Okudera and one of his high school friends, who are worried about him, decide to tag along on his wild goose chase.

After a day of fruitless searching, Taki’s about to throw in the towel, when one of the proprietors of a restaurant notices his detailed sketch of Mitsuha’s town, recognizing it instantly as Itomori. Itomori…a town made famous when it was utterly destroyed three years ago by a meteor created from a fragment of the comet that fell to earth.

The grim reality that Taki and Mitsuha’s worlds were not in the same timeline is a horrendous gut punch, as is the bleak scenery of the site of the former town. Every lovingly-depicted detail of the town, and all of its unique culture, were blasted into oblivion.

Taki is incredulous (and freaked out), checking his phone for Mitsuha’s reports, but they disappear one by one, like the details of a dream slipping away from one’s memory. Later, Taki checks the register of 500 people who lost their lives in the disaster, and the punches only grow deeper: among the lost are Teshi, Sayaka…and Miyamizu Mitsuha.

After the initial levity of the body-swapping, this realization was a bitter pill to swallow, but would ultimately elevate the film to something far more epic and profound, especially when Taki doesn’t give up trying to somehow go back to the past, get back into Mitsuha’s body, and prevent all those people from getting killed, including her.

The thing that reminds him is the braided cord ribbon around his wrist, given to him at some point in the past by someone he doesn’t remember. He returns to the site where the offering was made to the shrine’s god, drinks the sake made by Mitsuha, stumbles and falls on his back, and sees a depiction of a meteor shower drawn on the cave ceiling.

I haven’t provided stills of the sequence that follows, but suffice it to say it looked and felt different from anything we’d seen and heard prior in the film, and evoked emotion on the same level as the famous flashback in Pixar’s Up. If you can stay dry-eyed during this sequence, good for you; consider a career being a Vulcan.

Taki then wakes up, miraculously back in Mitsuha’s body, and sets to work. The same hustle we saw in Taki’s restaurant job is put to a far more important end: preventing a horrific disaster. The town itself may be doomed—there’s no stopping that comet—but the people don’t have to be.

Convincing anyone that “we’re all going to die unless” is a tall order, but Taki doesn’t waver, formulating a plan with Teshi and Sayaka, and even trying (in vain) to convince Mitsuha’s father, the mayor, to evacuate.

While the stakes couldn’t be higher and the potential devastation still clear in the mind, it’s good to see some fun return. Sayaka’s “we have to save the town” to the shopkeep is a keeper.

Meanwhile, Mitsuha wakes up in the cave in Taki’s body, and is horrified by the results of the meteor strike. She recalls her quick day trip to Tokyo, when she encountered Taki on a subway train, but he didn’t remember her, because it would be three more years before their first swap.

Even so, he can’t help but ask her her name, and she gives it to him, as well as something to remember her by later: her hair ribbon, which he would keep around his wrist from that point on.

Both Taki-as-Mitsuha and Mitsuha-as-Taki finally meet face-to-face, in their proper bodies, thanks to the mysterious power of kataware-doki or twilight. It’s a gloriously-staged, momentous, and hugely gratifying moment…

…But it’s all too brief. Taki is able to write on Mitsuha’s hand, but she only gets one stoke on his when twilight ends, and Taki finds himself back in his body, in his time, still staring down that awful crater where Itomori used to be. And again, like a dream, the more moments pass, the harder it gets for him to remember her.

Back on the night of the Autumn Festival, Mitsuha, back in her time and body, takes over Taki’s evacuation plan. Teshi blows up a power substation with contractor explosives and hacks the town-wide broadcast system, and Sayaka sounds the evacuation. The townsfolk are mostly confused, however, and before long Sayaka is apprehended by authorities, who tell everyone to stay where they are, and Teshi is nabbed by his dad.

With her team out of commission, it’s all up to Mitsuha, who races to her father to make a final plea. On the way, she gets tripped up and takes a nasty spill. In the same timeline, a three-years-younger Taki, her ribbon around his wrist, watches the impossibly gorgeous display in the Tokyo sky as the comet breaks up. Mitsuha looks at her hand and finds that Taki didn’t write his name: he wrote “I love you.”

The meteor falls and unleashes a vast swath of destruction across the landscape, not sparing the horrors of seeing Itomori wiped off the face of the earth—another gut punch. Game Over, too, it would seem. After spending a cold lonely night up atop the former site of the town, he returns to Tokyo and moves on with his life, gradually forgetting all about Mitsuha, but still feeling for all the world like he should be remembering something, that he should be looking for someplace or someone.

Bit by bit, those unknowns start to appear before him; a grown Sayaka and Teshi in a Starbucks; a  passing woman with a red ribbon in her hair that makes him pause, just as his walking by makes her pause. But alas, it’s another missed connection; another classic Shinkai move: they may be on the same bridge in Shinjuku, but the distance between them in time and memory remains formidable.

Mitsuha goes job-hunting, enduring one failed interview after another, getting negative feedback about his suit from everyone, including Okudera, now married and hopeful Taki will one day find happiness.

While giving his spiel about why he wants to be an architect, he waxes poetic about building landscapes that leave heartwarming memories, since you’ll never know when such a landscape will suddenly not be there.

A sequence of Winter scenes of Tokyo flash by, and in light of what happened to Itomori quite by chance, that sequence makes a powerful and solemn statement: this is Tokyo, it is massive and complex and full of structures and people and culture found nowhere else in the world, but it is not permanent.

Nothing built by men can stand against the forces of nature and the heavens. All we can do is live among, appreciate, and preseve our works while we can. We’re only human, after all.

And yet, for all that harsh celestial certainty, there is one other thing that isn’t permanent in this film: Taki and Mitsuha’s separation. Eventually, the two find each other through the windows of separate trains, and race to a spot where they experience that odd feeling of knowing each other, while also being reasonably certain they’re strangers.

Taki almost walks away, but turns back and asks if they’ve met before. Mitsuha feels the exact same way, and as tears fill their eyes, they ask for each others names. Hey, what do you know, a happy ending that feels earned! And a meteor doesn’t fall on Tokyo, which is a huge bonus.

Last August this film was released, and gradually I started to hear rumblings of its quality, and of how it could very well be Shinkai’s Magnum Opus. I went in expecting a lot, and was not disappointed; if anything, I was bowled over by just how good this was.

Many millions of words have been written about Kimi no Na wa long before I finally gave it a watch, but I nevertheless submit this modest, ill-organized collection words and thoughts as a humble tribute to the greatness I’ve just witnessed. I’ll be seeing it again soon.

And if for some reason you haven’t seen it yourself…what are you doing reading this drivel? Find it and watch it at your nearest convenience. You’ll laugh; you’ll cry; you’ll pump your fist in elation.

Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 09

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Sakurako-san holds back from revealing more about it’s titular character’s central mystery, while hinting at some similar themes that drove whatever it was that happened. The wonderful Yuriko returns, who bumps into Saku and Shou at the pastry shop and solicits the detective’s help in determining which painting her departed grandmother would have chosen to give her on the occasion of her wedding. Note that Yuriko isn’t actually getting married (though let’s not forget that Saku is technically betrothed).

What follows is a wonderful train of thought as Sakurako explains the choices she made based on the information she knows. Her best bet for Yuriko is a painting of Kamuishu Island, which means “God-Grandmother” in Ainu. Sakurako refers to the story that the island is actually the remains of a grandmother who collapsed looking for her lost grandson. Her body gave out, but her spirit never will.

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Sakurako believes it’s best because it reflects Yuriko’s grandmother’s desire to always watch over her with love, while dismissing the whole painting enterprise as “pointless sentimentalism” she claims not to understand. Shoutarou chastens her after a fashion, telling her some things have value because they are pointless.

That’s a remark that Sakurako is able to return to Shoutarou, when the young lad pays her a visit on a rainy day with the gift of several flavors of his favorite brand of pudding, embarrassed both Saku and her Gran laugh at the oversized clothes he has to borrow to dry off, but well aware of Saku’s well-honed sweet tooth.

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Like Yuriko’s story, Shou reminices about his grandmother, who in his case was dying of bone cancer. He recalls coming to visit her in the hospital, and how she’d always ask him to pick up pudding beforehand, which perplexes him, because she never liked the stuff before. But Saku’s Gran figures it out even before Saku. No surprise there, since her life experience more closely matches Shou’s gran.

While Yuriko’s mystery involved which painting would bring her closer to her gran, Shou’s mystery of why her gran wanted pudding for their visits is solved by taking both what is known about the subject and what one’s own wisdom and experience provides. Gran and Saku settle on the notion that Shou’s gran asked him to buy pudding because it would allow her painkiller injection time to kick in before he arrived.

Just as Yuriko’s happiness was her gran’s happiness, so too was Shou’s. Shou’s gran left this world on her own terms, spending time with someone she loved. Shou can’t initially fathom how his presence at his grandmother’s bed did any good or had any point, until Saku repeats his line about pointless things having their own value.

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Saku’s detective skills can’t help but notice her own gran’s back is ailing, and tells her they’re going to the hospital. But that ain’t happening; her gran, like all the other grans before her, aren’t going to be pushed around by youngins. Speaking of gran, she seems to be aware of Saku’s deep dark secret, and the significance of Shou’s name.

As for Sakurako, she seems to have gotten quite a bit of something pointless yet valuable from Shoutarou, but makes mention of bringing it all to an end, which this show has to do soon. The “cold ending”, if you will, does not do much to clear up her mystery, as we watch a girl who looks similar to Saku but whose name is Hitoe tighten up her boots and head out as her parents loudly argue about her, and she looks at the moon and momentarily grows butterfly wings as she tells her “sensei” she’ll “fly up to him.”

I have no earthly idea what any of this is about, only wild speculation, but as usual, I’m interested to learn the truth.

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Sakurako-san no Ashimoto – 03

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Sakurako-san is a weird one, preferring bones to people and all, but she’s full of wisdom and thinks and looks like no one else around her. Yet she also has her own brand of empathy, seeing even emotions like happiness, relief, and comfort as brain chemistry reacting to external stimuli.

She’s also quite human and thus fallible herself, which is what makes her so endearing as a character. She persists in calling Shoutarou “boy” (shounen) as a way to distance herself from him, despite their growing bond that, at times, treads into romantic territory.

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Sakurako persuades her self-professed “guardian” to accompany her through some caves, then to a park where they’re pointed in the direction of human remains by a far more normal couple. Saku’s delighted at the find, and gives a beautiful description of how a corpse out in the open is briefly a “paradise of life” as flies lay eggs, maggots feed, and predators feed on the maggots, etc. She has a deep appreciation for the circle of life and the food chain, things humans don’t need to think about in daily life.

When Shoutarou does the responsible thing and phones the police, it doesn’t stop Sakurako from offering her expert opinion on who the corpse was and what happened. The police, however, aren’t so much impressed by her expertise as annoyed by her interference and what they perceive as arrogance (and hey, she is a bit arrogant).

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Back home, when Shou thinks Saku is sulking, she’s actually concentrating on building a skeleton. That’s when she finally tells him what he’s been meaning to ask about: her dead little brother, Soutarou, just one syllable removed from his name. It’s not much, but it’s the start of a dialogue and a sign she’s willing to gradually let Shou in.

The next day, Shou goes to a cafe at the request of his classmate Kougami Yuriko. Her purpose is to thank him for helping to find the corpse, which was that of her grandmother, who the police believe jumped to her death. When she invites both Shou and Saku to her house to thank them properly, we learn her grandma was taking care of her husband, who was suffering from severe dementia and required round-the-clock care.

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That burden is something the police used as a motive for Yuriko’s grandma’s suicide, and Yuriko even understands and doesn’t hold it against her. On the contrary, she’s ashamed she and the rest of her family didn’t see how tough it was for her until it was too late. But when she asks Saku to show her where and how her grandmother died, she gets an entirely different and more plausible story than the police came up with.

When they return to the site where her grandmother’s remains were found, Sakurako presents that story, which is this: her grandmother didn’t go there to die, she went there to live. She just stumbled and fell off the cliff in an unfortunate accident.

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The reason she left in the middle of the night was so that she could reach a certain spot so she could see the same sunrise her husband painted back when he was healthier. Sakurako points out how exposure to the morning sun releases serotonin, which calms and soothes the mind. She tempers her conclusions as mere speculation, but they fit the facts, the timing, the motive, and the details.

These conclusions also provide comfort and closure to Yuriko. Now that she knows her grandmother didn’t give up on her grandfather, she has that much more reason to be strong and provide care in her granny’s place. Another satisfying mystery that respectfully delved into a specific (yet under-represented in anime) circumstance in modern human society—caring for those who can’t care for themselves—and built logically to a life-affirming finish.

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Ushio to Tora – 10

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Another week, another supernatural task-of-the-week for the titular Ushio and Tora. This time, while bathing in a healing hot spring, they encounter a beautiful white-haired girl whom they accidentally startle away. That girl, Saya, is the latest in a long line of white-haired women who have served as intermediary between the wealthy and powerful Takatori family and their “household god”, in truth a zashiki warashi being held against her will.

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Saya is very sickly and frail, and prone to fainting spells, which is how Ushio meets her next: saving her from one of anime’s patented Killer Vehicles. Saya is prone to overapologizing, and when Ushio learns the reason why—a life of being used as little more than a tool to keep her shithead father and grandmother rich and comfy— he’s very pissed off and wants to do something to help.

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It just so happens that Omamori-sama, the captive zashiki warashi, had been expecting a lad with a spear since Saya’s dad was young, warning him when such a lad arrived, it would mean the end of his prosperity and good fortune and the beginning of his ruin. Omamori is also sick of watching white-haired woman after woman life and die “consoling” her, and would prefer at this point to die herself when the barrier is broken rather than continue this vicious cycle. Saya brought Ushio and Tora to talk about freeing her, but she’s obviously against Omamori dying.

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As Tora (once a captive himself) surprises Omamori with his relative kindness and loyalty to his human by opening a temporary tear in the barrier, Omamori convinces Saya to seek a better life than the one she has; aiming higher than being a servant her lazy cheat relatives. The barrier breaks, the househould literally crumbles, and Omamori floats away in a gorgeous ethereal way.

Saya and her family now have nothing, and it will be tough going, but at least she’s now free to live her life and explore heretofore untapped strength and ability…like the ability to stop reflexively apologizing and tell Ushio an idiot when he flirts with her! I’m a little disappointed Saya and Omamori don’t accompany Ushio and Tora on their quest, but the whole point after all is for them to stand on their own two feet. Maybe they’ll show up again down the road.

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OverLord – 09

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This was probably the best OverLord episode yet, not just due to the sheer shattering of expectations just like so many skeletal dragon bone shards, but also because of how goddamn FUN it was to watch. I was laughing out loud hard at the master-level pwnage going on this week. Even though I knew full well that as big as they talked, both Khaj and Clem were dead meat; I just wasn’t prepared for just how dead a meat they turned out to be.

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What’s so great about the pwnage is that by the end, we’re actually empathizing with the two human opponents, loathsome they may be. Clem is a superior  warrior, and I believe her when she says there are only a handful of humans alive who can hang with her in battle. She shows off her terrifying speed and strength by blasting at Momon numerous times, and is even able to smudge his armor.

But in the end, Clem is human, and Momon isn’t—he may as well be God on this world. Against the Lord of Nazarik, she’s as defenseless as a baby mouse in the clutches of a cat, and Momon is merely keeping her alive long enough to learn something about martial arts on this world. And if he has a little fun with some evil showmanship, so much the better.

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It’s also worth noting that Momon isn’t the only one fighting with a handicap (though he’s mostly just standing around); Narbarel is fighting as “Nabe”, yet still holding her own. But when Momon gives the order, she sheds her alias with relish, and calmly and glibly explains to Khajit just how fuckin’ screwed he is before vaporizing his dragons in the blink of an eye and turning him into a steaming stain on the ground. His five years of evil toil over and done with, just like that. That’s the power…of one of Momon’s mid-level attendants.

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Having ordered Narbarel to quit messing around and finish up, Momon decides to do the same, setting his swords aside and letting Clementine buff herself up and come at him with everything she’s got, “fully prepared to die,” because while she thinks she has the upper hand against this “meathead”, death is all that awaits her once she enters his reach. She takes her shot, stabbing Momon through both eyes and blasting him with lightning and fire, but to no avail.

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…Then Momon grabs Clem, and things stop being funny for a couple minutes. Fear finally registers on her crazed countenance as she realizes no matter how much she flails and struggles and lashes out and sheds her teeth biting Momon, she cannot free herself, and he’s not going to let go. The plates attached to her outfit fall one by one and clank on the ground; her death knell.

This is Clem at her absolute most pathetic and sympathetic, but then Momon reminds us she took her time killing his adventuring companions, so he takes his time with her, squeezing harder and harder until she just…pops. Yikes. But hey, at least there’s still a body left, unlike Khajit. R.I.P. Clementine: I will miss your craziness, but it would have gotten old eventually.

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Their human opponents thus dealt with, Momon locates Nphirea, destroys the Crown of Wisdom, and carries him out, as Nabe collects the equipment of the defeated. For their trouble, they both get upgraded from Copper to Mythril plates (though they hoped for Orichalcum), and Momon arranges for Nphirea and his grandmother to move to Carne to make potions for him.

Then he checks his messages and learns of the next crisis in his quest to dominate this world: According to Albedo, Shalltear Bloodfallen has rebelled against him. Now, that sounds like bad news, but among the possibilities, Albedo may just be exaggerating about her rival for Momon’s heart, or Shalltear, while powerful, is still no match for Ains Ooal Gown and his remaining followers. But no matter how bad it ends up being, I’m certain of one thing: it will be fun—and occasionally disturbing—to watch Ains deal with it.

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OverLord – 08

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Given that the show had built Clementine up to be one of the toughest baddies yet to appear, it was pretty clear Nphirea was going to end up being captured, even with the Swords of Darkness defending him (one of which, who I thought sounded like a girl, turned out to be a girl). In the time it takes for Momon to register Hamusuke, Clem takes care of the lot of them, not just killing them, but turning them into zombies whom Momon has to put out of their misery. But before she does, she details her great plan, as villains are wont to do:

“…Although it’s impossible to control all the undead we summon, we’ll be able to lead them in various general directions! IT’S THE PERFECT PLAN!”

love this monologue by Clem, because she prefaces her assertion that her plan is perfect by pointing out that it’s not perfect. But Clem is strong and evil enough not to care that much about the details. As long as the world is on fire, she’s happy to watch it burn. Yuuki Aoi continues to breathe life into the “inhuman warrior” with her zany, gusto-filled performance.

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When Momon learns all his former comrades are dead, just like that, he is “displeased”; he doesn’t wig out or scream or fume like your average shonen hero. This is the undead OverLord, people; and Clem’s victims were above all “tools to raise his name,” not friends. His beef with her is the fact she destroyed his tools, not that she cut his close human bonds.

Furthermore, he treats Nphirea’s rescue as a transaction; his granny agrees to pay him everything she has to save Nphi, and Momon has no cumpunction whatsoever about exploiting a grandmother’s unconditional love. Notably, there’s a lot less internal monologue from Momonga this week, suggesting an ever-greater comfort in his new, apparently permanent overlord skin.

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Like Clem’s imperfect plan, even in an episode where most of the characters from the last couple of episodes have been murdered finds places to infuse moments of comedy, such as when Nabe has to carry Hamusuke on her back as she flies over the undead army in the cemetery.

Between that and all the scroll spells they cast to locate Nphirea, there’s a firm practicality to Momon’s course of action, which isn’t ideal due to the time constraints. He may not know the bad guys’ plans, but he knows Nphi isn’t long for his world if he dawdles. But in taking out the bulk of the zombie army before several city guard witnesses, he’s already succeeded in furthering his name. He just has to stick the landing by defeating the bosses.

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Finally, Momon and Nabe come face to face with Clem and Khaj, and I’m reminded of the cocky Slane army with their formidable-looking mecha-angels. Clem and Khaj aren’t exactly shaking in their boots, and Nabe’s first lightning spell, while taking out all of Khaj’s subordinates, only manages to give him a small scratch. So either Nabe’s going too easy on him, or he’s the first truly tough customer she’s had to deal with.

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Similarly, Clementine, she of the many tones of voice and twisted facial expressions, is confident she can take Momon, because she only knows of a few people who can hold their own in a fight with her. Of course, since one of those names is Stronoff, we know for a fact Momon will have no trouble eliminating her…eventually.

So it’s less a matter of if he defeats Clem, but how. Just to turn things around and piss her off, Momon declares he’ll implement a handicap in fighting her, refusing to go all out on her, no matter what. We’ve only seen playful, confident Clem up to this point, but I’m certain next week we’ll see her truly pissed off and on the defensive for perhaps the first time in her life. But one thing I can’t believe is that Momon will lose. If he does, it’ll be because he wants to.

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Koufuku Graffiti – 12 (Fin)

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This is it. The Final Battle. Who lives? Who dies? Who ends up in whose bed? Who is able to exact their revenge, and who ends up burning in hellfire for all eternity?

Ehh, this isn’t that kind of show. Nor did it need to be. When I look back on Koufuku Graffiti, I’ll remember a warm, happy, and taste bud-enticing show; the feel-good show of Winter 2015.

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Don’t worry, all of this is in Kirin’s dad’s head.

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Hey, it’s 2016 in this show. We’ve been watching the future.

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Ryou and Kirin pass their exams, so they’ll be going to the same high school as Shiina next year, along with a couple other classmates who are eager to befriend Kirin, who never had a thing to worry about in the friendsmaking department because she’s kind and sweet and makes a cute pok-pok sound when she walks.

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Then, terror strikes in the form of a depraved house invader. Oh wait, it’s just Akira, trying to surprise Ryou and succeeding, but in the wrong way, getting a bonked nose for her trouble.

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Akira actually has a nice gift for Ryou, who’s thinking a lot about her grandmother, who was there for her opening ceremony, which feels like yesterday. The gift is an apron made from her grandma’s apron, so in a way, whenever she wears it, it will be like cooking with her grandma, or as Kirin maturely puts it, she can look forward to making new memories rather than simply dwelling on past ones.

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Ryou decides to christen the apron by preparing the same meal her grandma made to celebrate her entry into middle school three years back. It’s the same meal she made in the first episode, but it tasted bad to her back then because she was alone and still thinks it’s mising something when she tastes it alone.

That changes when Kirin arrives with all her luggage and samples the meal, and deems it one of Ryou’s best yet. Even Ryou notices an improvement in flavor after Kirin arrives, proving that food really does taste better when it’s shared.

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Everything on the shelf above the sink stayed in the exact same position all those years. That’s some precision right there.

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Ryou is in for one last twist when Kirin explains all her luggage and mentions movers are on the way…because she’s moving in with her, something neither Kirin nor Akira ever told Ryou, though they thought they did.

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Ryou seems to have a problem with this, though it’s more about being left out of the decision while everyone else from Shiina to Akira to Kirin’s parents know about it, yet she doesn’t; for all we know even Yuki downstairs knows! But now that Ryou knows too, she’s happy Kirin is moving in, Kirin cries tears of joy and relief, and everyone helps her move in.

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Looks kind of like Laputa, doesn’t it?

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Ryou started out alone, with her important parents far away, her aunt busy at work, and her grandmother dearly departed. But now her home is full of life and love and energy, and even when everyone leaves, Kirin will still be there. Ryou looks like she couldn’t be happier.

As the credits roll, we get an epic supercut of every foodgasm in the show, putting into perspective just how much delicious food was stuffed into the last twelve episodes, and getting me that much more excited for another cooking show, Shokugeki no Souma this Spring. I’ll also have to track down some yellowtail and daikon!

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 11 (Fin)

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I appreciated that the last episode of Psycho-Pass, possibly ever, featured more Akane kicking ass and taking names – in a metaphorical sense, and less over-the-top than some previous episodes where she was a bit too Bruce Willis-y. Here, she uses her clear coefficient as an effective shield in the face-off with both Togane Sakuya and Kamui, arresting the former and accompanying the latter to Sybil’s core.

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Still, a number of troubling adjectives surfaced while watching this episode; adjectives like ‘neat’, ‘tidy’, ‘convenient’…even ‘hasty’. Nothing you particularly want in an episode of Psycho-Pass…especially a finale. And yet it was probably inevitable, with a ton of material set up and just eleven episodes to resolve it.

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Of course, one could spin those adjectives to something more positive: this was a breathless, efficient finale; not a minute was spared, and no one can say it didn’t Get Things Done. Not too far into the episode, Chief Kasei is lethally eliminated by a Dominator, something that would be utterly unthinkable in the show’s first season.

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Yes, there’s a rather convenient subterranean shortcut from the subway lines where Akane and Kamui were to the bowels of the MWPSB HQ where Sybil lives. But who cares? This is where they were going to end up one way or another. And when Kamui points his Dominator at Sybil itself, Sybil basically surrenders, eliminating a good deal of the brains that make it up in order to clear its coefficient. This is odd, considering I thought they were criminally asymptomatic, but I guess conditions changed that.

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This is very much an Akane/Kamui episode. There’s a fair amount of Togane in it, but after he’s unable to turn Akane black, he kinda just makes ridiculous faces, which makes me wonder why he was such a big deal in the first place. Clearly he didn’t know who he was messing with. And then there’s Mika, who listened to him and obeyed him…she’s not feeling to great about that now, even if she has no love for Akane.

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After Sybil made immediate changes to its composition, Akane has designs to arrest Kamui, but Togane crashes the party to make one last attempt to ‘darken’ Akane, rubbing in the fact that he killed Akane’s frail grandmother. For a second there I thought Akane’s coefficient was going to rise to enforcable levels, but Kamui is there to calm her, and even if he wasn’t, Akane has a firm enough grasp of the law, justice, and society to overcome any personal demons. She’s just awesome that way.

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Togane shoots Kamui (though we don’t see him explode) and vice-versa, with Akane in the middle. A wounded Togane creeps away and eventually bleeds out, with Mika standing over him. All of a sudden, we’re fresh out of bad guys. All the threats kinda just flew by without that much of a struggle.

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When Akane meets up with Ginoza and her other colleagues there’s another moment when we’re not sure if she’s in trouble or not, but her coefficient remains as clear as ever, and Sybil saw fit to reinstate her just a short time after Sakuya’s mom rescinded her inspector status. Another Kasei cyborg replaces the old one, and warns Akane that they’re on a dangerous new road. Akane assures her – them – that even if that road leads to hell, she’ll walk it with them regardless.

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So it’s Akane’s victory: she neutralized Kamui, but also used him to make Sybil evolve. A ‘collective’ psycho-pass is something the system will now consider for implementation henceforth. Existential threats to society have been averted. And Inspector Tsunemori Akane will continue to not-smoke cigarettes and live a happy and virtuous live as one of the people who protect society, rather than the other way ’round.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 10

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On this exciting episode of Rail Wars! Psycho-Pass 2, Kamui ‘gets to work’ on his largest operation yet: diverting several subway trains into an isolated area, giving him hundred of trapped, scared hostages whose psycho-passes he knows will rise due to the stress of the situation. He’s counting on it.

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He has no particular plan to ‘save’ this particular group of five hundred-odd passengers: they are merely a collective tool for him to get closer to Sybil, by overloading the system with a huge amount of Dominator discharges, and thus PP data, exposing a lower-security backup network which his team will hack to locate Sybil’s physical location.

Pretty intricate plan, but let’s not forget, he himself is a collective being, which explains why he’s okay with all the sacrifices. Well, that, and the fact that until the world is freed from Sybil, all of the people under her control are legitimate targets.

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Aoi and Naoto aren’t in this show to help out with the train, so it’s up to Akane to Do Something. Only Chief Kasei has placed her on standby in the wake of her grandma’s kidnapping. Togane, just barely keeping up his charade (or at least thinking he is), gets in her way, but doesn’t block her entirely.

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Togane lets her visit Kasei, who is really his mom. The Chief suggests Akane slake her restlessness by being a good little inspector and kill Kamui. Doing so would get rid of Sybil’s increasingly serious problem, and also would turn Akane into a criminal, at which point Sybil can finally judge her too.

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Interesting how Sybil doesn’t particularly care how Kamui is killed, but very much wants to go by the book where Akane is concerned. Kasei tries to ‘motivate’ Akane by reporting the sad news that her grandma was found beaten to death.

Learning of this certainly shakes Akane to the core, who starts screaming in the thankfully empty office. But after a quick chat with the Kogami in her head (?) she takes a deep breath and springs back into action. She’ll deal with the Kamui threat…her way.

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Akane and Kasei get into a meaty little philosophical debate that was once the norm of this show, during which Akane applies the Omnipotence Paradox to both Kamui and Sybil. Both entities are collective in nature and thus neither can judge the other without being judged itself. But Akane tells Sybil (not just Togane’s mom) that this is a perfect opportunity for it to ‘evolve’ beyond its flawed operation and false facade of perfection.

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Akane makes arguments Sybil can only refute by basically saying stuff on the level of “shut up, you don’t know us!”, but that’s not too surprising since A., it’s Togane’s mom and not all of Sybil addressing her in this instance, and B., Akane is one smart cookie. She drives really slow, though. 70 kph? C’mon, this is the FUTURE, not to mention an emergency operation…put your penny loafer down.

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Akane is so bright, that she basically does all the same work and thinking off-camera that we watched Mika do on-camera, only Akane does it properly and doesn’t settle on the conclusion that Kamui seeks revenge against the Togane Foundation. That’s right: Freckles’ research not only doomed her to spend the rest of her existence looking over her shoulder…it wasn’t even such great police work after all, at least not compared to what we’re used to from A-chan.

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Division 3 fails to carry out the Chief’s orders to blow up the trains Kamui and his people are on (killing the hostages in the process) because they acquired the bombs outside the law, giving them criminal coefficients and allowing Shisui to pick them off from above. Then Kamui releases the hostages, and Akane goes after him, but is blocked by Togane, whom she’s suspected all along. You can’t get one over on ol’ Akane, Son. Well, young Akane…

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And because this is such a popular underground junction, Kamui ends up crossing paths with the two. Here’s one guy trying to expose and destroy Sybil, another whose mom is part of Sybil trying to paint Akane black. Akane always finds herself caught between two very strange men, isn’t she? Well, that may be just one, if Kamui is successful in killing Togane. We only hear the trigger being pulled, so that’s hardly a certainty. In any case, it would certainly be meh ending for Togane.

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PSYCHO-PASS 2 – 09

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So, while it looks like Mika was S.O.L. last week, it turns out the world’s worst mother-son pair isn’t done with her. Kasei (actually Mrs. Togane) tells her the whole truth about Sybil being composed of the criminally asymptomatic, and Mika responds with applause, whether out of genuine admiration and approval or straight up primal fear. 

To drive point home that the Toganes aren’t the most savory sort, we’re treated to a flashback in which Sakuya’s mother provides him with puppies to slaughter.

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I’m sure many of you were waiting patiently for the proof that Akane isn’t actually a boy, and this week the show gives us a rare glimpse at her bod. Not sure why, as the closest she’s ever come to being portrayed as anything resembling a sexual being was when Shion hugged her once, but I often find it easier to think things through after a nice shower, and Akane definitely has things to think through.

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As she does, Dr. Masuzaki is killed, by a Dominator, while in custody. Mika suspects Sakuya had something to do with it, but is being forced to bear many a secret, including the fact that she’s now in league with people who are working to turn Akane’s hue black. Not that there’s anything she can do about it; she was never one to put her life before others, and she fell into their clutches fair and square. Every day she’s not dead is a victory for her.

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This week was also a return to the Psycho-Pass tradition of digging up the most effed-up scum of the earth who have way too much time and money on their hands, and are involved in some kind of bizarre ring involving humans, holos, and zoo animals.

Kamui is at this dinner, along with his host Kuwashima Koichi, a former classmate who transferred just before the plane crash who was later saved from latent criminality by Kamui. The whole night is really just an elaborate way of taking out trash that is no longer needed for their plans.

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Once that’s done, and an entire hall in Chiyoda goes up in flames, the MWPSB arrives right on queue, led by Akane. Kuwashima meets her there, as willingly as Masuzaki did, but he has a gift for her: the ear of her grandmother, the one person I suspected could raise her coefficient. Again, Mika knows Sakuya has something to do with it.

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Just as Mika dug up too much on Sybil to be left alone, so too has Akane with regards to Kamui. Kamui personally doesn’t seem to care one way or another, and actually wants her to “witness the judgment” that’s about to come. But the grandma thing sure makes it look like Kuwashima and Sakuya are in cahoots to mess with Akane, and I daresay they succeeded. Then again, I may be underestimating Akane’s grit.

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Yozakura Quartet: Hana no Uta – 10

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In the first half, Ao and three classmates take care of Hime when she falls ill. Vice Principal Uzu visits to deliver the elders’ offical request that she resign as mayor as she’s “not suited for it”, though he himself believe she’s doing a great job. In the second half, Hime, Kana and Mina visit Juri, but she’s asleep. She dreams of when she first arrived in Tokyo, eager to grow into an adult so she can silence her ancestor’s detractors. She meets Hime’s grandmother Machi, who takes Juri to the empty lot where her descendant ran a clinic. There Machi tells her she can take her time, and introduces her to Hime.

This week is even lighter-weight than last, starting with a sick-day slice-of-life that confirms what’s already quite well-established: the quartet are tight, devoted friends. Hime is beloved as the mayor. Everyone depends on one another. Ao wears shimapan. Then we were treated to the origin story of Juri, a minor character in the previous YQ anime, but is being given a lot more to do here. The thing is, just as the elders aren’t sure Hime is suited for mayorship, we’re not sure Juri is suited to such prominence in the show. She’s got a great bod and all, but the Frankenstein story is just a tad ridiculous. We’re not sure why that particular name from literary history had to be dropped (suddenly, like a mic) into a story primarily about human-youkai relations.

It doesn’t help that past Juri’s a dull, bull-headed, angsty high school student who wants to kick all the adults’ asses for making all those libelous movies about her many-great-grandfather(?). However, we can forgive half the episode being about her if it meant finally meeting Hime’s granny, who’s just as magnificent as we imagined (we also catch a glimpse of adorable Lil’ Hime). Machi is a quiet but immensely strong old woman who makes everyone around her better—as a mayor must. She has no trouble at all setting young Juri on a more peaceful,  life path not dominated by hatred. Be they loud or soft, Juri’s words won’t change anyone’s minds, but her actions will. As she wakes up in the present, her honorary little sister curled up beside her, in the clinic she built to help the townsfolk, we’d say that they have.


Rating: 6 (Good)