Horimiya – 10 – Pure White Snow

First of all, I’d like to simply make the observation that for a show called Horimiya, which is short for Hori-san to Miyamura-kun, there sure hasn’t been a lot of the title characters! They show up in the beginning for a brief comedy bit in which Hori is more worried about Miyamura being stolen from her not by girls, but guys like Tanihara and Shindo.

Miyamura’s growing discomfort with Hori’s kink isn’t addressed, and so simply continues to hang there in the background without a satisfying resolution. Hori simply hasn’t been a very likable character lately, and doesn’t help her case with her biphobia this week. Instead, the episode is dominated by Yoshikawa Yuki, who for me was always a character best enjoyed in small portions.

To be frank, Yuki’s crisis isn’t compelling enough to me to carry a whole episode, and starts to grow repetitive as she continues her M.O. of running away from her problems. Unlike her sister, I don’t mind her turning down Yanagi, as she barely knows the guy, and likes Tooru. What I do mind is just about everything else she does and says.

While we don’t hear her say the actual words, it’s later clear Yoshikawa comes clean to Remi about her feelings for Tooru at least to some degree, and in exchange Remi agrees not to correct Kouno’s misunderstanding about Tooru and Yuki dating. Yuki doesn’t like lying or pretending, and wants the lie to be real. She’s just too scared to put herself on the line.

As such, she runs away from the problem, staying home from school for four whole days and stewing in her present state of frustration simply because she fears feeling something far worse if she were to take action: the sting of knowing for sure that Tooru doesn’t like her “that way”, shattering the limbo in which she resided all this time.

Yuki’s sister points out something it’s logical for a big sister to know, but which we already knew from watching Yuki: she never tells anyone what she wants, and almost always regrets it. Yuki is also hung up symbolism surrounding her name, which means “snow”, while “sakura” means the beautiful things that bloom after the snow melts.

Still, when her sister requests she make more of the “snow white” cookies she baked, Yuki at least finds the courage to turn her phone back on. As she suspected, she’s confronted with hard truths, as one of the dozen texts she got is from Tooru telling her that Sakura told him she likes him.

Yuki returns to school but pretends like nothing is wrong, but Tooru wants to talk about it. Yuki assumes he said yes, and that this is the end of their game of pretend, but Tooru surprises her when he says Sakura didn’t ask for a response; she just wanted to get it off her chest. More to the point, Tooru considers Sakura way out of his league, and is certain she’ll find someone better than him.

Yuki ponders the effort Sakura must’ve mustered to bake cookies for Tooru everyday, and the courage she amassed to tell him how she felt. Meanwhile, she just runs, at all times terrified of rejection. Sakura is warm cherry blossoms in the spring while she’s “gross, muddy, freezing” snow, like her name.

Then Yuki exhales, and Tooru notes he can see her breath, and says if it’s going to be this cold it could at least snow, as he was bummed it didn’t snow as much as usual this year. Yuki lists all of the negative aspects of snow and why no one wants it, particularly the part where it ends up melting in the spring.

Tooru surprises her again, saying the snow doesn’t melt because it’s spring, but because it decides to melt…to recede…to run, even when there are some (cough) who want it to stick around. It doesn’t melt because the cherry blossoms ask it to. Hearing all this from Tooru makes Yuki happy, as does when he gently takes her index finger in his hand and leads her back inside where it’s warmer.

For the first time, Yuki hopes it will snow…the pure-white kind. And then it does. Sengoku doesn’t make the symbolic connection, instead asking Remi what’s up with Sakura, as she seems to be acting especially happy. All Remi says is that it’s “the exact opposite” and heads out for tutoring. Sakura arrives in the office, notices Remi didn’t open the window.

She walks over to open it and spots Yuki and Tooru together outside, clearly enjoying each other’s company. Suddenly Sakura has to go, but Sengoku stops her to ask what’s wrong. Going by what Remi agreed to do for Yuki, we can assume Sakura believes Yuki and Tooru are dating, which means she was rejected before she had a chance to ask the guy out.

Sengoku calls this guy a complete idiot and moron who should be expelled—who wouldn’t want to be with her? I’m sure he considers this the right thing to say, and Sakura is grateful for his compliments, but there’s really nothing he can say to stop her from dropping to the ground and sobbing, because her heart was just recently broken. She’ll get over it, but right now it sucks.

That said, if Yuki and Tooru have come to an understanding, they never did come right out and say it. Does Tooru know how Yuki feels about him? Does she know he feels the same way? The next time we see them will they be the way they always are, with neither having explicitly confessed to the other? Can they graduate from pretend dating to the real thing? I hope so, considering all the time we’ve spent on this triangle—and not spent on Hori and Miyamura!

Fruits Basket – 50 (Second Season Fin) – Feather Brain

Despite all of the chaos and craziness of These Times, leave it to the trusty Fruits Basket’s second season to end one year to the day after the first season ended in 2019. And it doesn’t end with a whimper, but a one-two punch that will leave your pulverized heart slowly stewing in your stomach, even as the brightest rays of hope yet shine upon Tooru’s mission.

The opening images herald what’s to come. As soon as I saw a young, bewildered Kureno surrounded by floating feathers and a positively terrified Akito cowering behind him, I knew the big secret Shigure has known, and would be dying to reveal were it not up to Kureno himself later: Kureno is not a Zodiac member. He hasn’t been for years. His bond with Akito was severed; the curse lifted…only to be immediately replaced by a new curse of his own making.

To the part about his curse being lifted, it’s the best news yet that Tooru’s dream of lifting it for all isn’t pie-in-the-sky wishful thinking, but a reality waiting to be realized. Of course, Tooru doesn’t know anything about this at first, and nor does Rin: but the fact that Rin will remain in a room and talk with Tooru (but leave the moment Yuki shows up) may well foreshadow future collaboration between the two. I certainly hope so, anyway!

For now, Tooru is happy for a new year with Yuki and Shigure and oh yeah, Kyou, who doesn’t appear in this episode, since the exploration of his and Tooru’s failure to confess to one another is best left to a future season for it to be done justice. Instead, most of the episode is given over to the truth about Kureno, and how he’s always seemed “off” to both Shigure and Hatori.

Kureno manages to steal away from a sleeping Akito’s side deep into the night, and plays the Cinderella-ish DVD given to him by Tooru c/o Momiji Both of them pray he’ll watch it, and he does. The scene with Tooru and Kyou was so powerful I almost forgot Arisa also bore her whole damn heart in the play.

First she castigated Prince Kyou for not acting on his feelings when there are “people out there (like her and Kureno) who can’t see the ones they wish to see.” When Arisa cries out “I want to see him!” Kureno can’t help but reach out. But his image of a smiling Arisa in her work apron is juxtaposed by a hysterical younger Akito begging him “Don’t abandon me!” and the dimensions of Kureno’s own personal prison come into clear focus.

The moment Tooru returns home to Shigure’s, he sends her out on an errand to buy envelopes, knowing full well she’ll do it immediately and with a smile (this is Tooru, after all). He also knows it will take her past a certain park where Kureno is waiting. Before noticing him, Tooru approaches a flock of sparrows, who naturally aren’t afraid of her what with her gentle soul and calming aura.

Then Kureno approaches her, and the birds scatter. This confuses Tooru to no end since she’s seen rabbits, rats and cats naturally gather around Momiji, Yuki, and Kyou, respectively. Then the absolute kicker: Kureno draws Tooru into a hug…and nothing happens. He tells her plainly: he’s different. His curse is broken. He isn’t a member of the Zodiac.

It would have been one thing if his burgeoning love for Arisa had broken the curse, but it happened long before they met, and to this day Kureno couldn’t tell you exactly why. All he knows his how he felt when it happened. At first he was sad upon realizing he’d never fly again. But he also felt a happiness and a freedom and a sense of humanity he’d never felt before.

Even so, he says, upon returning the DVD, Tooru’s present “was for nothing”, as he doesn’t intent to see Arisa again, and will instead remain by Akito’s side as he has done. It seems like a firm declaration, but as he tries desperately to rationalize two simple insignificant meetings with Arisa as easily forgotten with time…he just can’t do it.

There’s no supernatural or spiritual bond keeping him by Akito’s side. It is more pity than love, along with years of trying to make it something it hadn’t been since the curse broke. Upon realizing their bond was broken Akito lost it, taking Kureno aside and threatening to kill anyone else who approached. And then she sobbed and begged and pleaded for him not to leave her. And Kureno, being younger than Tooru is now and not knowing any better, gave in.

Things are even more different now than they were then. Kureno resolved neither to go too far into the outside world nor seek anything there, but he’s fallen in love for the first time since the curse broke, since he “became human”, as he puts it. And as much as he may want to stay by Akito’s side, just as back then, something has happened that cannot be undone.

Kureno might have been able to deceive the other Zodiac members for a while, but I doubt he ever deceived Akito. And yet despite knowing the curse was broken, his staying probably signaled to Akito that their power still held sway, which turned out to be true, only if psychologically and not supernaturally.

As Tooru tries to comfort the long-tormented Kureno, he tells her without self-pity, hatred, or regret, that he made his choice to live only for “the one who cried until sobs racked their body. Weaker than anyone…more fragile than anyone. For the one…so afraid…for a sorrowful girl.”

Akito wakes up before Kureno returns, and notes that it’s the first time he’s left without permission. After ordering their attendants to find him, Akito takes a bath, and when their robe slips off in the mirror, it is finally officially confirmed that Akito is a woman. This had already been heavily implied, both in design, choice of seiyu (Sakamoto Maaya), and in other subtle ways. But that doesn’t lesson the impact of learning the truth explicitly.

Immediately upon Tooru learning Akito is a girl, the second season ends, having answered so many questions and yet left us with so many more about what’s to come. Will Tooru (and Rin, and other allies) succeed in her quest to lift the curse for all? Will she even continue the quest, knowing how much pain it will cause Akito to take her remaining Zodiac members away? Will Tooru ever allow herself to love someone more than her mother? Will Kureno and Arisa meet again? Will Akito escalate her grudge against Tooru?

Lots to ponder, for sure. And that’s even before we get into how we’re supposed to feel about Akito, who regardless of gender has been a pretty consistently selfish, cruel, dispicable character from the start. It goes without saying she’d have a tragic past of her own to match her myriad psychological issues, and while I can empathize, goddamn is it hard to sympathize, when weighing the suffering she’s caused the others.

For all of that food for thought, and yearning for the next season, and the expert direction and framing and pitch-perfect music throughout, I found this one of the best episodes of Fruits Basket yet, which at this point is saying something, and it will be very very hard to wait for what’s next.

P.S. Additional food for thought: the reason Akito cherishes Kureno so much is because he is there by his own free will, and not due to any binding curse, something I hadn’t considered until we learned he’s no longer a Zodiac member. Ultimately this is the way all her companions should be: there by choice and not force. Of course, she’d have to be much nicer to them…

Want to read more? Read Crow’s thoughts here.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 60 – You’re Not The One

For Syaoran there are three constants in life: death, taxes, and Sakura not knowing he likes her unless he tells her. Tomoyo knows how hard he tried last week before Kero interrupted him, but Syaoran realizes there’s something he has to do before confessing, and that’s have an in-person chat with Meiling.

Rather than wait for him to go to Hong Kong over winter break, Meiling makes her triumphant return to Japan now. Sakura’s over the moon to see Meiling again, but her return is marred by yet more Hiiragifuckery, this time in the form of all the penguins in Penguin Park rising up and attacking Sakura, Meiling, Syaoran and Tomoyo.

Meiling puts her martial arts skills to good use, stunning the penguins and then suggesting Sakura use Freeze to freeze them all. After that, Syaoran zaps them with lightning. The group deduces that someone with immense magic power must have not only animated the penguins, but made it so no passersby would witness the lively battle.

During that battle, Syaoran calls Sakura by her first name, which is Meiling’s first hint of what’s coming. That night when he tells her he found someone he loves most, she officially breaks off the engagement, then runs to sob into the lap Tomoyo, who’d offered her lap in advance like the saint she is.

The next morning, Syaoran is there to see Meiling off, and she urges him to stop being so slow about it and confess to Sakura already; she’s not going to be pleased if things don’t go well, considering it was her heart that was broken! Later she writes to Syaoran, Tomoyo, and Sakura, declaring them all dear friends.

Meiling urges the “spacey” Sakura to stop and take a careful look around more often, lest she miss something important. Whether Sakura gleans Meiling’s true intent of that advice is, er…unlikely, but it’s not impossible Sakura takes it, and even possibly realize on her own how Syaoran feels.

Darling in the FranXX – 11 – As Partners Swap, Dread Looms

We’ve had Hiro episodes, Ichigo episodes, a Gorou and a Zorome episode, and now, before the halfway-point of DFX arrives, we get an episode centered on three of the “secondary” parasites: chiefly Mitsuru, but also Ikuno, Kokoro, and Futoshi, elevating them beyond the one/two notes they each played: Cool & Distant (Mitsuru) Passive & Doubful (Ikuno), Kind & Gentle (Kokoro), and Always Eating (Futoshi).

Mitsuru is having issues again. His performance scores are dipping. He dreams of when he and Hiro were kids, when he looked up to him. But at some point Hiro “betrayed” him, leaving him to adopt his “no one needs anyone” attitude that is now getting him in trouble, since he actually does need others, and others need him.

Meanwhile, Futoshi x Kokoro are adorably lovey-dovey as usual, but ever since finding the pamphlet on child-rearing, Kokoro has been less enthusiastic by their routine. Still, when Futoshi asks if she’ll promise to be his partner forever, she agrees all too causally for it to not bite her in the ass later.

Eventually Mitsuru hits his breaking point, and we learn his troubles may also be a result of the fact he received an “Elixir Injection” when he was little to enhance his parasite abilities. He was the only child to survive such an injection. However, some drugs and bed rest get him out of the woods, and he immediately wants to get back in a FranXX.

Hachi and Nana gather everyone to propose an elective partner shuffle, and those who volunteer shock everyone. First, Ikuno requests a pistil-pistil partnership with Ichigo, to determine if it’s viable in case they lose a stamen in battle. She no doubt also wants to prove to herself that she’s not bogging down Chlorophytum.

Even more surprising is Kokoro, who requests Mitsuru as her stamen. When Futoshi protests and reaches out to her, Kokoro’s look is all you need to know to conclude his clinginess has clearly lost its luster with her. He’s just…too much. Zorome’s idea of why she left mirrors that…and he also says Futoshi could stand to lose some weight.

The results of the initial partner shuffle tests are interesting: Ichigo and Ikuno’s connection times out without any success, confirming Ichigo’s belief a boy is needed…but Ikuno isn’t so sure Ichigo’s attitude and unwillingness to embrace a pistil as her stamen didn’t affect the test. Mitsuru and Kokoro fare much better, reaching the minimum acceptable parasite level and keeping it stable in Genista.

Futoshi acts the way you’d expect someone like him to act after getting dumped by his dream girl: like a whiny little bitch. Mitsurudoesn’t like the hassle Kokoro’s “betrayal” caused, but Hiro, at least, can appreciate Futoshi’s feelings, which he describes as a tightness in the heart that’s now started to hurt.

Mitsuruand Kokoro bump into each other in the conservatory once more, with Kokoro wondering why humans stopped having children, and Mitsuru offering his usual “we don’t need others to live.” Before Kokoro can challenge Mitsuru’s attitude, an alert sounds: a Gutenberg-class Klaxosaur is approaching.

Zero Two charges in but her assault only demonstrates that this is a modular Klaxosaur, and any pieces cut off will turn into smaller Klaxosaurs, with the remaining mass closing any gaps. Hiro tugs on the reins and defers to Ichigo for a plan, but it’s Kokoro who suggests close-range projectile fire.

She and Mitsuru take Genista in, but when Hiro offers encouragement, Mitsuru shuts down. Just when Genista is about to get stomped on, Futoshi and Ikuno fly to their aid in Chlorophytum.

Still, Mitsuru doesn’t see the point in continuing. He’ll never measure up, after all. He placed his hopes in Hiro, getting him to promise to pilot a FranXX with him, only for Hiro to later completely forget that promise. In turn, Mitsuru doesn’t see himself as anyone to be relied on; he’ll only let everyone down.

Kokoro hears him, but to dwell on something like that for so long isn’t any way to live. People hurt each other all the time, but that doesn’t cause them to stop interacting with each other. Kokoro admits she’s not the kind, gentle girl everyone sees her as; after all, she betrayed Futoshi and broke a promise in the blink of an eye.

“These things happen”, she states, and complaining, blaming, and searing hatred can only go so far until they consume someone. With that, she attempts a solo connect with the FranXX, almost going into fatal Rampage Mode before Mitsuru pulls her out of her seat. In that moment, Kokoro needed someone, and Mitsuru was the only person who could save her.

Reckless as it was, it snapes Mitsuru out of it. The two reach maximum parasite level and blast a hole in the Klaxosaur big enough for Strelizia to access and pierce the core. The partner shuffle would seem to have been a success.

When Mitsuru emerges from Genista with Kokoro, he stands and takes Futoshi’s punch without complaint, promising he’ll take care of Kokoro from now on. Futoshi is enraged and distraught…but he’ll live.

As all that carrying-on as a result of partner-shuffling takes place, Zero Two, who continues to be mum on what’s troubling her, hugs Hiro from behind, assuring him they’ll always be together “until the day we die”, adding a touch more fuel to my theory that Zero Two might buy it before Hiro does.