Made in Abyss – 07

Just as Habo is telling Nat and Siggy about the badass White Whistles (who kinda remind me of the Espada) and wondering if he should have gone against Riko’s wishes and accompanied her and Reg after all, Riko and Reg face their toughest challenge yet: An Ozen the Immovable as their enemy.

But while both kids get beaten within an inch of their lives, it isn’t physical punishment that cuts the deepest—it’s Ozen’s utterly curel and tactless presentation of the giant white cube, which turns out not to be merely a vessel that repels curses. Ozen reveals to Riko that she was stillborn, and upon being placed in the vessel, she was brought back to life.

Ozen further explains that she put some of the meat she uses for dinner in the vessel, and it came back to life as well: that weird, threatening-looking but also bumbling and pitiable thing that made Riko wet the bed. The final twist of the knife? Before long, the thing turned back into lifeless meat, and Ozen wonders when Riko’s time will come to turn back into a corpse.

This is harsh, merciless stuff, but Ozen is just getting started. When she threatens to hurt Riko, Reg intervenes with his arms and ties her up, but she frees herself effortlessly, noting how the arm cables are made of extremely tough stuff. She then proceeds to try to pound Reg into dust, and when Riko tries to stop the madness, a light flick of Ozen’s finger sends her flying across the room, knocked out and bloodied.

Goddamn was this shit hard to watch. Reg tries to break out his Incinerator, but while trying to narrow the focus his beam so he doesn’t blow up the whole camp, the bitch grabs his still-charging cannon and points it at the out-cold Riko.

Where it not for a last-second kick of his own arm out of harm’s way, Riko would be gone. Fortunately, she’s not, and the hole his arm blasts in the ceiling doesn’t cause any serious structural damage. But using his cannon makes him pass out, and when Riko comes to, she sees Reg bruised and bloodied, the result of Ozen continuing to beat his unconscious body.

And yet, after three-quarters of an episode of the most heinous, villainous, evil-ass conduct one could imagine, the other shoe drops: Ozen was TESTING Reg’s strength, as well as Riko’s resolve. And let me tell you, she got me, just as she got them.

I never thought for a moment that she wasn’t simply being the evil monster the build-up to her appearance portended. Marulk ‘saved’ Reg and Riko by calling Ozen’s band of cave-raiders to her in…something Ozen both thanks her apprentice for and promises to string her(?) up for.

Frankly, I didn’t know what she was thinking. It’s another way she’s “immovable”…as in unable to be “moved” by anything … except, perhaps, by the prospect of learning more about the Abyss. Riko on her own would never, ever have gotten this far, let alone any further, without becoming, as Ozen says, “poor meals, little seedbeds, or a stain on the ground or some wall.”

And yet while her approach underscores how far from her humanity Ozen has strayed, it also makes perfect practical sense: the Abyss is fundamentally not a place for little kids. Beasts far tougher, crueler, and more cunning await them in the lower layers.

And as flashbacks prove, Ozen isn’t as emotionally “unmovable” as she appears, as she recalls the first day a Red-Whistled Lyza asked to become her apprentice. In virtually no time, Lyza had earned her Black Whistle, and credits her quick success to Ozen, who may have an “irredeemable” personality, but is still the “best mentor ever.”

Does Ozen truly “despise” Riko? Could it be because she sees Riko as Riko saw that meat? Is she, dare I say…scared of what Riko is and might become as she draws nearer to the bottom? With Ozen, deep questions abound.

One thing’s for certain: as much as she has changed (her armor and the 120 or so implants in her body make her cut quite the menacing figure), there’s still some humanity in there; the humanity that lets Riko know the grave she found was empty; Lyza could well still alive and waiting for her daughter.

In the meantime Reg might might might just be tough enough to protect Riko as she continues her descent, but Ozen isn’t willing to send them on their way yet, she needs to gather more ‘data’. She takes the kids out to the far edge of the layer, far from camp or anyone else, and tells them to survive with the supplies they have for ten days.

Furthermore, Reg is forbidden from using his cannon, as the hours she’s determined he shuts down for would likely be fatal to Riko…unless, of course, he manages to bring down whatever threatens them. It’s the toughest of tough love, but in a world where kids are regularly punished by being strung up naked, I guess it’s par for the course.

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Made in Abyss – 06

After a tense moment when Reg’s arms are thrown away by Ozen, she eventually has the gondola lowered for them. Even this relatively short ascent causes deep discomfort to Riko, who has to hurl. She doesn’t make a great impression with Ozen, who chides the kids for going where they’re not allowed, then handing them off to her apprentice Marulk, claiming she has “other matters to attend to.”

Ozen may be a cool, even cruel customer—repeatedly telling Riko how she thought about abandoning her as a baby years ago, and how she probably should have—but hey, she doesn’t kill Riko or Reg, so she can’t be that bad!

Also, Marulk is downright lovely person, proof that even someone who has spent virtually all her life so far from the surface in near-solitude, can not only be reasonably well-adjusted, but friendly and affable as well. I guess it’s ’cause she’s still a kid. It’s too late for Ozen.

The question of whether Marulk is a boy or girl is left unanswered, though Marulk and Reg express identical bashfulness when Riko once again demonstrates no modesty whatsoever after bathing.

No matter: Marulk is genuinely happy to have Riko and Reg in her care, and enjoys talking with them. She also notes the difference between relics that are sent up to Orth and more complex “grade-4 relics” that stay there. These egg-shaped relics remind me of the Precursor Orbs you had to collect in Jak & Dakster.

After a meal, Marulk even suggests Riko and Reg stay at the camp a while longer to cave raid for relics of their own finding. Riko initially excited by the offer, but turns it down, as she’s not sure whether she should be in a hurry to go see her mom, so she has to be in a hurry. I felt bad for poor kind, meek Marulk, for whom Riko and Reg are the only children her age she’s seen or may ever see.

When Riko has to go pee late in the night, she can’t find the bathroom, but does encounter something else: some kind of strange creature that may or may not be threatening, but also seemed a bit clumsy. While a part we saw resembled a face, it also looked like a headless torso with a spine sticking out. I immediately thought of Reg, and wondered whether this was another android…in a less advanced state of completion.

The next morning, while drying Reg’s sheets (she hid in his bed and wet it), Reg and Marulk are present when Ozen drops the hammer on Riko: Lyza is dead; her journey ends there; she found her White Whistle at a grave on the Fourth Layer. Ozen seems to take a kind of sick joy in telling Riko this, but to her credit Riko doesn’t get upset like she did with Nat back in Orth.

Instead, she and the other two follow Ozen to her “chamber”, a foreboding place where we see books, what looks like a second Ozen body, and most perplexing, a very smooth, white, somewhat iridescent cube, which reminded me of the monolith in 2001. The episode ends there, with what exactly this chamber and cube are left unanswered until next week.

My educated guess (which probably isn’t anything special) is that Ozen has been researching and developing robots like Reg, and possibly using that same technology to make her “immovable”, i.e. give her superhuman strength.

I’m far less certain whether I should believe her when she says Lyza’s dead, but then again I realize Riko’s been operating on some pretty large assumptions with paltry evidence to back them up. You know, as kids do. Yet even a bit of Riko probably knew there was a possibility her mother isn’t waiting for her much much further below ground. But like her, I’d want to see for myself nonetheless.

Hibike! Euphonium 2 – 11

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All we needed was the slightest look from Reina to know, with relative confidence what was amiss and why: Thanks to Hashimoto, Reina learns that Kumiko knew about Taki’s wife before she did, and she’s angry Kumiko never told her.

Whether Kumiko was busy with Asuka and the other girls, and was going to eventually tell Reina, we’ll never know. But we do know that Kumiko hesitated as long as she did because she didn’t want to hurt Reina.

During Reina’s suitably elaborate procedure for confronting Kumiko – by going to the summit of the mountain that seems to accentuate Reina’s beauty – Reina yells at the top of her lungs, asks Kumiko why, and gets the answer she already knew.

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Reina turns out not to be that mad at Kumiko after all, but at herself: at the weakness she exhibits upon hearing this news; the fact she didn’t know. Her armor has cracked just as the Nationals approach, and while she can say she’s going to “forget about it” until they’re over, it’s likely she’s not 100% sure she can follow through.

Kumiko, for her part, tells her she’s still rooting for her, making sure Reina hears that Taki isn’t married anymore, even if it’s hard both to say and hear. She’s almost making up for not telling her to begin with.

It’s another wonderful scene between the two friends, and a very welcome one after Reina’s presence had dwindled in recent eps. Both the animation and the voice performances soar.

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In a quick flashback, we see a young Reina first lay eyes on Taki and fall for him right then and there. She quickly finds how hard it is to follow through, having an elaborate, warm daydream in which Taki compliments her playing and gives her a piece just for her to play.

She’s ripped from her reverie by the real Taki-sensei calling her playing “weak.” She needs to get it together. But how?

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Reina finds a way. While delivering the practice room key back to Taki at the end of the day with Kumiko, Reina asks him about his wife. Not about where she went to school or who she knew, but what she was like.

Taki opens up to her, and confirms what Reina had suspected, but wasn’t ready to face until now, when her playing is being effected by the doubt. There is not doubt; Taki still loves his wife, and he very likely became their director for his wife’s sake. He wants to go to the Nationals and win Gold for her sake.

And so, we see both Reina and Taki at their most vulnerable and emotional this week. I guess Christmas came early!

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Having gotten all the answers and confirmations she needed for the time being, Reina returns to normal, and starts playing the way she and everyone else have come to expect. Niiyama gives her the location of Taki’s wife’s grave, where takes Kumiko and prays.

That flashback was the beginning of Reina wishing time would move faster for her, so she could catch up to Taki. But now she has another goal to set her sights on, something that she wouldn’t have been able to accomplish if she was his age: She’s going to help Taki win Gold.

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ReLIFE – 11

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Well, I guess even ReLIFE can have an off-day.

Perhaps it’s unfair to watch this episode on the heels of a terrific episode of Orange—or indeed, the momentous previous episode of ReLIFE—but I just wasn’t feeling this one. Which is a shame, because for all its momentum-killing flashbacks, it marked a significant leap forward for Kaizaki by the end.

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This week Kaizaki asks Yoake for another pill to make him 28 again, so he can properly visit his senpai Saiki Michiru’s grave. She committed suicide after continued harassment from her peers, which only intensified when Kaizaki ignored her wish for him to “grow up” and not to involve himself.

I guess my main problem with this storyline—important as it is for how Kaizaki ended up with ReLIFE to begin with—is that I don’t buy that an office would be that awful. I’m not saying office jobs can’t be that awful, just that I didn’t feel that scenario was portrayed carefully, convincingly, or realistically enough here.

This show’s always better when working with shades of gray—everyone has selfish desires; that sort of thing—but Kaizaki’s former job seems like a ridiculously cartoonish hell; a “black company” not just full of sexist pricks, but borderline sociopaths.

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Then there’s the two kohais from his company, who Yoake and An arrange to bump into Kaizaki. It’s good there are people who feel as he does, even if they didn’t have the courage to quit as soon as he did, and their admiration of what he did certainly lessens his regret somewhat and convinces him quitting was the right thing to do.

That’s all fine and dandy, but I’m still not sure why Yoake chose the anniversary of Saiki’s death to do this. It means for four months he kept information from Kaizaki that could have helped him deal with his trauma. But why so long? Was he simply waiting until a time when he knew Kaizaki would ask for a re-aging pill?

Finally, Kaizaki says he wants the pill so he won’t run into trouble if someone he knows shows up at Saiki’s grave. But that begs the question: how has he been able to avoid being spotted people he knows for four months? It’s a can of worms the episode presents that’s best left closed for the purposes of suspension of belief.

At any rate I’m glad Kaizaki is feeling better about the choices he made that led to his joining ReLIFE. Now I’d like to see him get back to that ReLIFE.

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Steins Gate – 21

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To have leaped back through time so much and sacrificed the wishes of so many others, it now falls upon Okabe Rintarou to decide who will die: Mayushii or Kurisu. Okarin has to go down in the annals of anime as being possessed of some of the most unenviable positions imaginable.

But he’s not convinced there isn’t a third path to take, one that can save both of them. So he cancels the CERN database cracking plan and…tries to think of something.

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Worn down considerably by his ordeals thus far (and the repeated traumatic witnessing their gory consequences), this new conundrum causes Okrain to revert to his state of hiding hard truths from the others simply because they’re hard to say. He won’t tell Kurisu why they have to find another way, and he won’t respond to her entreaties for more information, so that she can help him.

He’s repeating bad habits; going it alone never bore any fruit, it only caused him considerable emotional damage. It’s probably for the best S;G doesn’t explore any physical consequences of repeated time-leaping; the psychological effects are more than adequate.

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Okarin accompanies Mayushii to Comiket, but he’s so preoccupied with coming up with a way to save her before she dies at 8:00 PM, he doesn’t hang out with her at all, causing her to wonder why he came with her at all. For a time, I entertained the possibility that she wouldn’t be killed at the usual time; that perhaps disrupting FB had more far-reaching changes in the timeline.

Alas, while walking home, Mayushii’s watch stops again, a car races at them again, and even though Okarin moves her to safety, in a moment of madness tries to get hit himself, and Mayushii shoves him out of the way and gets hit anyway. Seeing her dying in his arms was no less heart-wrenching this time, but what got to us even more—and to Okarin as well—were her final words, expressing gratitude she could finally be useful to him.

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Okarin and I also share the refusal to believe that the only way Mayushii can be useful to him is by dying while saving his life. Surely she knows any world without her in it would be intolerable for him? Ignoring a note from Kurisu about wanting him to talk to her, Okarin goes back to the moment before Daru starts cracking, and this time his face betrays to Kurisu that something’s definitely up.

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She confronts him on the roof, curious where his hotshot mad scientist attitude went. For the first time, he admits, loudly, that it’s all bullshit, but that’s no revelation to Kurisu, who knew it was all bullshit five seconds after meeting him. But she still wants to hear what’s bothering him, as she always does, every time he goes back. When she grabs him from behind to keep him from tossing his phone off the roof; the closest they’ve ever come to embracing.

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So he tells her about the first d-mail, which sent them from the Alpha to the Beta World Line, and prevented her from being stabbed to death. And for the first time, after telling her what’s wrong, she has no answer. Their silence, perhaps the most devastating silence they’ve ever shared, lingers as the cicada song crescendoes, interrupted only by the buzzing of Okarin’s phone. Only then does Kurisu speak—but about nothing related to what he just said; simply to tell him to answer it.

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It’s Mayushii calling, after Daru told her Okarin was acting odd. She apologizes for being so busy at Comiket, wants him to tell her if she’s ever a burden, and to call her if there’s anything she can ever do for her. The call only serves to exacerbate Okarin’s anguish over the choice that faces him. But Kurisu, still with no words about her own predicament, but having heard Okarin’s side of the phone call, insists he go to Mayushii.

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I may be a rabid Christina shipper, and see Mayushii as more of a little sister figure, but that doesn’t mean I’d want Kurisu to have to step over that sister’s corpse to get Okarin. And damn it all if Mayushii’s extended monologue at her grandmother’s grave wasn’t one of the most moving things yet in a show that’s brimming with them, accompanied as it was by visuals of Okarin and Mayushii’s early days, when it was just them, in a far more spartan lab, simply hanging out, not even saying much to each other but simply enjoying each other’s company.

This scene only complicates things for me, because this is the monologue of someone who sees Okarin as something more profound than an adoptive big brother, and something more like a soul mate. The most chilling part of the monologue, however, is the fact that a part of Mayushii has remembered each and every time she has died in Okarin’s failed time leaps. She calls them “dreams” while admitting they seem real and she doesn’t like them one bit. Neither to we, dear.

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Even before she was killed by Moeka that first time, there’s been an otherworldly “knowingness” visible behind Mayushii’s gentle smiles and casual conversations. Now we know she doesn’t just suspect something’s amiss by Okarin’s recent behavior, but has clearly made the connection between that behavior and her dreams, in which he rescues her each time.

She may think that she’s being a burden to Okarin, but as a “mad scientist” and her “captor”, it’s his duty to look after his hostage, and he promises to tell her everything “when the time comes”—a somewhat cruel thing to say to someone who time has marked for death.

Okarin may not have found the solution to saving Mayushii without killing Kurisu (though finding out who killed her and why would be a start), but his time with both of them this week reinforces his determination to keep searching. Meanwhile, Kurisu visits the very place where Okarin found her stabbed to death, either starting just such an investigation, or contemplating making the decision Okarin won’t. Christina, I beg of you: Don’t get any strange ideas.

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Sora no Method – 07

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As Nonoka, Yuzuki and Koharu near the gravesite of Nonoka’s mother, the day turns cold, cloudy, and grey. I just so happened to myself watching it on a cold, cloudy grey day. While it was just a coincidence for me, for Nonoka the weather reflects her mood; she hasn’t visited her mother’s grave in some time, because she’s been afraid.

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And not because her mother was a mean-spirited, fearful woman — precisely the opposite: she was as kind and loving a soul as one could ever hope to meet, and a wonderful mother to boot. But then she got sick, and didn’t get better, and they moved to Tokyo where she could get care, but she died anyway, leaving a massive hole in Nonoka’s heart.

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Nonoka patched that hole, which was causing so much grief and pain, by essentially letting go of her life before her mother died, and moving forward as if none of it ever happened. In the process, she forgot about a great many other things, like her promise to her friends; something Shione still hasn’t forgiven her for, though Koharu and Yuzuki surely have, and now probably feel a bit silly for ever being angry at Nonoka for moving, something she had to do suddenly for her mother’s sake.

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In the B-plot, Noel, who can’t accompany Nonoka because the cemetery is out of saucer range, sticks with Souta, who is again stuck minding Koharu’s family’s store. Noel breaks the monster photo board thingy, and breaks it again while trying to fix it. After some little-kid negotiations, Souta convinces Noel to assist him in fixing the monster. As with Nonoka’s psyche, the repairs are quick and imperfect, but unlike Nonoka, it doesn’t matter; just as the monster was originally built by Souta, Koharu and Yuzuki as a labor of love, repairing it was a similarly rewarding experience between Souta and Noel, and when Yuzuki and Koharu see their handiwork, they approve.

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As for Shione, she’s in an unenviable situation where she’s held Nonoka to task for so long over lying and breaking her promises that now, even if Nonoka or the others were to explain the very understandable circumstances surrounding what Nonoka did, Shione still seems too proud — or too scared, or both — to lose face by softening her stance or letting Nonoka back into her life. After all, intentional or not Nonoka hurt her deeply.

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It was Nonoka’s mother who allowed Nonoka to become friends with Shione in the first place, by reminding her to smile when meeting new people, especially shy ones like Shione. And yes, it was Nonoka’s mother who indirectly drove the two apart by being the reason Nonoka had to move away and abandon Shione. But when a snowflake melts in Shione’s hand at the cemetery, and when she arrives at places just before or just after Nonoka was there — they’re signs that Shione is ever-so-gradually warming to the idea of reconciliation. She just won’t be rushed.

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Nazo no Kanojo X – 13 (Fin)

Urabe bumps into Tsubaki’s sister Youko and has coffee with her, learning that their mother died. Tsubaki, his sister and his father visit and tend to her grave. When Tsubaki tells her more about his mom, she wants to go with him to her grave. That day, she arrives in her Sunday best, with flowers and an offering of food she made herself. Tsubaki insists he doesn’t really remember his mom, and thus doesn’t miss her that much, but when he and Urabe exchange saliva while he’s touching her gravestone, tears well up in both. Urabe wanted to “meet” his mother and seek her approval, and wants to continue being part of Tsubaki’s life.

While it’s certainly not an absolute necessity, most people seek the approval of their significant others’ family. As unconventional and mysterious a girlfriend as Urabe Mikoto is, she’s no different in this regard. Learning about Tsubaki’s family draws her closer towards eventually becoming part of that family. So Urabe surprises Tsubaki by not only meeting and chatting with his sister, but expressing a desire to visit his mother’s grave. He sees it as an unexpected but touching gesture on her part, but it’s more than that. In her mind, knowing where Tsubaki came and who shaped his life up to this point, is another step in their relationship. This is a pretty good way to end the series, if it has to end with thirteen episodes (we’ve heard nothing about a sequel, though we’d welcome one).

No major drama; no second girl or second guy; no Oka or Ueno side-story; no panty scissors or nudity. Just Urabe, Tsubaki, and his family. It’s a calm, mature finale. It was an interesting choice for Urabe to not admit to Youko that she’s dating her brother, but we suppose Youko will figure that out eventually, and in any case, it’s something Urabe would need to discus with Tsubaki first, so they could coordinate such an announcement. Instead, Urabe is content that his sister likes her and she got to “meet” his mother. As the cherry trees start to blossom and spring arrives, Tsubaki and Urabe keep steadily, believably moving forward in their romance, one we’re sad to see go. Romance series this good don’t come around every season.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Aquarion Evol – 14

Yunoha locks herself away in her room, invisible and in despair, during Jin’s funeral. Fudo sends Mikono to flush her out, and the class travels to Neo-Stanley for Jin’s interment. When he’s buried, Fudo orders Andy to dig holes for all everyone, for “Special Training of The Grave” Everyone except Mikono is buried alive with only a bamboo snorkel. Their thoughts of attachmend, wickedness, love, stubbornnes and hatred all become jumbled until Mikono uses her power of connection to bring everyone back. They emerge from cocoons of energy, reborn…even Kagura.

Well, now…that was a bizarre episode. No battles. No flirting. The skies over Neo-Deava are grey and dreary for the first time. Jin is dead. Kagura…isn’t. And as for everyone else save Mikono, well…Fudo wanted to teach a harsh lesson, and there was apparently no time to lose. As soon as Jin is buried, while the pain is still fresh in everyone’s minds, he has Andy dig graves. By himself. It seems to take the better part of the day. Everyone else just stands around. Like we said; Bizarre.

But that’s not the half of it. The ground in which everyone is buried seems to be reflecting all their thoughts into one another. Down there, six feet under, you’re mano-a-mano with yourself, and the minds wander. All kinds of inner philosophizing ensues. It may seem to be downright cruel and unusual training, but Fudo has a plan. Mikono refuses to be buried, and it’s a good thing, because she’s the one who ends up bringing them back from the edge of life with her element power. And just when you thought the training was over, boom, Kagura appears, good as new. This series is edging toward sadism vis-a-vis its characters!


Rating: 3.5

Usagi Drop 8

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

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

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


Rating: 3.5