Ushio to Tora – 35

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Now that Ushio, his Mom, and Mayuko have gotten the skinny on Tora, as well as the knowledge that all previous wielders of the Beast Spear have become Azafuse, they can start to move forward (Saya also starts to add her power to the game). As Hakumen starts terrorizing city after city in Japan, the shards of the shattered Beast Spear that saved Ushio start taking their own journey.

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Those shards pierce each and every person who lost all memory of Ushio, including Asako, and just like that, she and everyone else remember him, and as a result, they start to rally all the frightened people around them and tell them that things are going to be okay.

Ushio dons his bone armor, meets up with the cloud of East/West youkai (who also remember him now and feel really bad about opposing him earlier), and begins the hunt for Hakumen; perhaps the final hunt.

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Tora gets to Hakumen first, but his attacks have no effect on him; apparently he has no memory of ever having raised Hakumen within his shoulder. No matter: as the calming words of Asako and all of Ushio’s other friends spreads, and Ushio’s own words spread, the fear across Japan weakens, and Hakumen starts to smell the Beast Spear re-gathering power.

Ushio to Tora has become so serialized at this point, it’s probably a better idea to binge-watch the rest rather than review individual episodes that are only pieces of a larger connected whole. That being said, I’m damned glad everyone has their memories back…that makes things a lot less dire for Ushio!

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Ushio to Tora – 34

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Things aren’t quite as bad as last week’s closing events indicated: Asako is safe (for now), Kouhamei is still kickin’, and Tokisaka has brought Kirio back from a past where he learned about the origins and weaknesses of Hakumen no Mono.

Ushio needs to rejoin the battle ASAP, but before that happens he takes a deep plunge not just into the ocean, but into the head and heart of a man named Shagakusa, who led a far worse life than Ushio, eventually becoming the Tora he knows.

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This show involves so much inexplicable magic that I didn’t really have a problem with Ushio going back 3,000 years to live Tora’s cursed life through his eyes (instead of drowning or being finished off by Hakumen in the present), but it still seems awfully late in the game to be digging into Tora’s past; not to mention somewhat momentum-killing.

That being said, I felt Tora’s hate and pain build as awful things kept happening, and even when he found happiness in his friend Raama and Raama’s kind and pretty sister, that small surrogate family of his was always bound to be doomed, adding fuel to the fire of hatred within him.

This constant “foregone-conclusion” feeling, combined with paper-thin supporting characters and intentional but still cheap-feeling animation, made it hard to get fully invested. And what’s all this about “hiding in Shagakusa’s mouth?”

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Raama’s sister, who tilled the earth and planted seeds so they’d bear fruit, warned Shagakusa that hatred breeds nothing. She wasn’t entirely right, as Shaga’s hatred eventually gives birth to Hakumen, a seed that had been planted in him as an infant when a shooting star fell upon his home and family, leaving only him alive.

There, in Shagakusa’s shoulder, Hakumen fed off of all that hate, until his corporeal body was strong enough to emerge. With the only people he ever loved dead, Shagakusa devoted the rest of his life to tracking down and ending Hakumen, including with the Beast Spear.

Now the spear is in shards in the sea with Ushio, but those shards form wings around him and help him rise to the surface. Now that his own hatred has passed for the time being, and he’s seen how ineffective that kind of tack is against Hakumen, Ushio is ready to return to a battle he now realizes has only begun. Those who love him are still alive, and they’re waiting for him. Hatred won’t work…but hope might.

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Ushio to Tora – 33

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Looks like last week lifted our spirits only to utterly crush them here, as Hakumen no Mono rises out of the ocean, and its tails take the form of monsters Ushio already defeated, reminding him of how much he lost, and how much hatred has built up inside of him after enduring all that loss.

His mom tries to slap him out of his spiral of hate, but that only makes things worse. Whether she’s there with him now, for the majority of his life she was lost to him, and he has very little time to be with her now. Ushio dredges up all of that accumulated hatred to launch a counterattack, but he’s going about it entirely the wrong way.

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But Ushio won’t listen to reason from anyone. Not his mother, and not even Tora. Especially when Tora admits he killed Nagare and doesn’t bother explaining the extenuating circumstances. He doesn’t bother because he knows nothing he’ll say will change the fact that Ushio told him not to kill Nagare, and he killed Nagare.

The Kouhamei Sect awakens from their stone slumber and comes in force to set up a barrier, but they, and apparently the prison where Asako was waiting, are easily destroyed by Hakumen. He destroys an entire island, killing untold thousands, in the blink of an eye. And news cameras get it all on camera, spreading the fear across Japan and further fueling the demon.

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Did I mention the stone pillar the JASDF fleet destroyed had kept Japan from sinking into the sea? Well, that happened to. The triumphant return of Mayuko isn’t triumphant at all; it’s an afterthought, as nothing anyone can do can snap Ushio out of his berserk hatred-mode.

But he can’t fight hatred with hatred, and when he tries to stab Hakumen in the head with the Beast Spear, the spear shatters into a million shards. So yeah, this was not a feel-good week for Ushio and Tora; not at all! Ushio lost; Hakumen won, Asako could be dead…it’s all over. Japan is hosed. 

Except it isn’t, right? There are at least six whole episodes left! So even with no spear, no hope, and nothing but seething hatred in his heart, we can’t rule out a come-from-behind win. But I have to salute this show for letting things get so very FUBAR before that happens. This Hakumen guy is one tough little shit!

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Owarimonogatari – 02

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As Ougi pointedly remarks toward the end of this normal-length episode, This Is Different. Not only the fact that Owarimonogatari shifts the focus from her in the first episode (essentially an hour-long prologue) to Oikura Sodachi, who is suddenly back at school and asking Tsubasa all kinds of questions. Araragi is confident he can clear the air with Sodachi before Tsubasa gets back from the teacher’s lounge, but that doesn’t happen, because Sodachi, like Ougi before her, is different from every other woman he’s dealt with.

Different, because Sodachi hates Araragi. She despises him, and people like him with the heat of a thousand suns, as if he’d killed her parents (assuming she loved them, of course). So the smooth, easy reunion Araragi expected crashes and burns with equal force, as he can feel the hate suffusing every surface of the classroom, pushing all the desks and chairs back. No water under the bridge here. More like Sodachi wants to throw Araragi off a bridge, into that water, then burn his wretched corpse to ashes.

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So why does she despise Araragi so much? We can hazard a guess from last week, but according to her, it’s because he’s ungrateful for the life of smooth sailing he’s enjoyed, because he’s happy without knowing why he’s happy; because he “doesn’t know what he’s made up of” in ranting that evokes chemistry more than mathematics, though the former requires quite a bit of the latter (which is why I got a “D-” in chemistry :P):

“I despise water that thinks it boiled itself on its own.”

Araragi’s usual charms and ability to take control of an encounter are utterly overthrown in Sodachi’s seething atmosphere of hate. When he tries to calm her by putting his hands on her shoulders, she quickly reaches for a mechanical pencil and stabs him in the hand. She won’t be calm. Within her is a storm that has been brewing for years. But how many, exactly—two, five, or more—is one of the mysteries this episode posits.

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Sodachi’s stabbing of Araragi brings a new element to the equation: a highly displeased Senjougahara, comically dragging a diplomatic Tsubasa behind her, who arrives with a line that’s both eloquent, hilarious, and wink-ily meta-referential:

“I’ll kill you. I’m the only one who can stab Araragi with stationery. Even though I’ve gotten rid of that character trait, I can’t stand having it reused.”

Sodachi greets Senjougahara by lamenting “how far she’s fallen” since the time she was a sickly girl she often took care of, since she’s now dating Araragi, a man who will never credit anyone other than himself for his happiness. But both of Sodachi’s barbs imply a desire in Senjougahara for some kind of repayment for her affections or efforts, where no such desire exists.

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Senjougahara concedes that Sodachi may be right about Araragi’s ungratefulness, but she doesn’t care. She likes Araragi and wants to go to college with him. She’s not looking for anything in return, nor is she keeping score; two more traits on which she and Sodachi differ. Sodachi applies math to all, and in the equations that express Araragi’s wonderful life, sees herself and others as crucial variables. For that, she demands recognition and renumeration, yet Araragi, she believes, pretends those variables don’t exist; that only the sum—his happiness—matters.

Sodachi’s comeback to Senjougahara’s admittedly condescending response to her protests is to slap her in the face (doing a scant 15 Damage), which only incurs a brutal counter-punch from Senjougahara (1479 Damage + KO). Proving she is The Best, Senjougahara then passes out herself and tells Araragi to handle the rest. If this cameo is her only appearance in Owari, she sure made the most of it!

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From there, Ougi’s role returns to the foreground, as she accompanies Araragi to his middle school and finds three envelopes marked “A”, “B”, and “C” in his shoe locker (why they end up in that particular place is explained by the Loki-like Ougi using gorgeous Escher-style imagery with SD versions of her and Araragi).

Araragi recognizes these envelopes as a “Monty Hall problem“-type quiz: Three doors, behind one of which is a car; you choose Door 1; you’re shown what’s behind Door 3 (a goat), and you’re asked if you want to switch your choice to Door 2. Switching to Door 2 gives you a 2/3 chance of getting the car, compared to 1/3 sticking with Door 1.

I liken Ougi to Loki because she’s very much a trickster, neither good nor evil, who has revealed next to nothing about herself while having an intense power to draw out quite a bit from Araragi. She’s also a lot like Monty Hall, a game show host (note the flashing checkered lockers), not only nudging Araragi to choose which way to go next, but also hosting a kind of This Is Your Life for him.

(I’ll also note, Ougi takes a good long look at Nadeko’s shoe locker, both a callback to Nadeko’s arc, and another reason why Ougi is so hard to figure out).

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I say Ougi nudges him, but really, she’s pretty actively leading him deeper into his past, opening rusty gates and kicking in doors. That past is somewhere they both agree is the only place they have a chance of learning for sure why exactly Sodachi despises him so deeply. Ougi rules out the class assembly, as the exact timing of Sodachi’s return to school suggests she knew Komichi-sensei was the true culprit, not Araragi.

Ougi surmises it may be more the fact that Araragi has “forgotten his roots”, though she admits a lot of people do that and aren’t automatically despised for it. Her comments about who she was in grade school and middle school being “far beyond the boundaries of oblivion” and the feeling she was “born very recently”, which Araragi likens to the five-minute hypothesis, are both enticing nuggets about her, but don’t come close to painting a full picture.

But it is the further exploration of that cloudy past, when Araragi’s childhood thought process and actions were strange, mysterious, suspicious, and scary all at once, where he and Ougi hope to excavate some answers and avoid future stabbings.

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Sora no Method – 05

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With help from Koharu and Noel, Nonoka starts to implement her plan to bring everyone back together and apologize for breaking her promise, by making a new promise to Yuzuki: that they’ll launch fireworks from the lake in a week’s time.

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Yuzuki is dubious and quick to run away from Nonoka, Koharu, and Souta, an action that’s grown somewhat repetitive these last two episodes, to the point that if you took a shot every time she ran away in a huff, you’d be pretty boiled. But Nonoka and Koharu’s concerted efforts to make the fireworks happen ultimately manage to draw out what’s been eating Yuzuki all along.

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Even Shione agrees to come in a week…if Nonoka can make the fireworks happen, which she doubts, meaning she thinks Nonoka is lying again, because she’s a liar. Shione has been feeling lied to an abandoned for so long, it’s formed a cold, hard, cynical crust. But we learn her and Yuzuki are not angry for the same reasons at all.

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Yuzuki has really been angry at herself, ever since she ran away from home with fireworks and Souta rode off, desperately looking for her. In the process, he crashes his bike and badly hurts his leg, ending up in the hospital. Yet when their parents ask what he was doing, he protects Yuzuki and shoulders the blame himself.

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Even before that, when the five friends were to meet at the pier for fireworks, nobody was able to make it. Yuzuki and Souta got separated at the festival, while Shione and Koharu stayed home. The only one who actually got to the pier was Nonoka, who was at the waterfront with her mom. When Yuzuki sees the dated photo proving she was there, she’s compelled to apologize to her too.

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I for one am glad Yuzuki figured stuff out and there was finally a cathartic reunion. Even more significant, the four friends together (minus Shione, who’s still loitering around nearby, ever at a distance) actually get to see fireworks courtesy of Noel, who projects them off the saucer. This time, Nonoka was able to keep her promise. She’s made up with Yuzuki; but is that enough to move Shione?

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Sora no Method – 04

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Having everyone back together in the spot where they once played doesn’t have quite the effect Noel was expecting, and Nonoka suddenly remembering calling the saucer with everyone and leaving without saying goodbye doesn’t suddenly make Shione or Yuzuki. In fact, Yuzuki is so pissed off, she slaps Nonoka in the face and storms off.

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But this episode isn’t primarily about Nonoka, our ostensible protagonist. It’s mostly about Yuzuki, with a hearty helping of Koharu, whom hasn’t had much to do until now. The truth that Nonoka is that Nonoka sends her into a bitter rage, suggesting her problem with the Saucer is about far more than fireworks. It’s about something more painful…something in a hospital.

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We don’t know the details, nor does Nonoka. But whatever the saucer did to Yuzuki, it’s haunted her incessantly ever since. She’s worked tirelessly to try to dissuade tourists from visiting the saucer — and in vain. And since every other business has banned her, her last outpost of Quixotic anti-saucer protest is Koharu’s family’s store. When customers complain, Koharu has no choice to shut her friend down.

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Meanwhile, mindful that she’ll need to learn more before approaching Yuzuki again, Nonoka meets with her very different twin brother Souta, to try to get some perspective. If he knows what’s really eating away at Yuzuki, he doesn’t let on, but he tells Nonoka not to worry about her; it’ll only cause her trouble.

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He said practically the same exact thing to Koharu, who tried for a long time to stand beside Yuzuki and support her as she tilted at windmills. Yuzuki was in earshot when Koharu couldn’t say with certainty that she didn’t think Yuzuki’s efforts were pointless. Since then, Yuzuki has harbored that non-answer as evidence Koharu may only be on her side to be nice and avoid confrontation.

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After Yuzuki happens to spot Nonoka talking with Souta, she races back to the tourist area and physically blocks a road full of buses, and Koharu is again forced to choose between her friend and the reality of the situation. Yuzuki brings up Koharu’s talk with Souta, and Koharu finally admits to her face that her actions serve no purpose. Yuzuki declares her hate and storms off again. It’s rough.

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Yuzuki hates Nonoka Koharu, and Souta; while Shione hates Nonoka and she and Souta would rather not be wrangled back into this hot mess; they’ve moved on with life. That leaves the two subjects of the others’ hate: Nonoka and Koharu. Neither of them want things to stay the way they are, but neither is strong enough to change anything alone. Maybe working together they can make something happen.

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