Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 12 (Fin) – Becoming Less Terrible

After being deposited in the middle of a strange wasteland he eventually learns is a battlefield, Makoto is battling two tough cookies in Sofia Bulga (Sawashiro Miyuki!) and Mitsurugi AKA Lancer (Saitou Souma).  An excellent balance of aggressive offense and iron defense, Makoto is initially caught off guard, and were it not for his Dwarven clothes and accessories, he might’ve died right there and then.

However, for much of the start of the “battle” Makoto is holding back…like, a lot. And what a battle it becomes, as Tsukimichi clearly saved some of its animation budget for this exciting and dynamic showdown. It doesn’t really mattet who Sofia and Lancer are. The point is they are two of the many reasons Makoto needs to pull his head out of the sand and learn more about this world, and the people in it who can cause harm to his people.

But like I said, Makoto eventually lets loose, destroying one Dwarven ring afrer another and unleashing a massive flare of mana that literally changes the landscape while giving him the time he needs to escape his persistent pursuers. Even lying half-dead (and in Sofia’s case, naked to boot) in the middle of a suddenly picturesque lake Makoto’s magic created, the two are still determined to kill him next time they meet him. While I look forward to the attempt, I doubt they’ll ever catch our boy that off-guard and unprepared again.

The plans to attend Magic Academy and for Shiki to accompany him are still on, as he finds himself back in the Demiplane—and with Tomoe and Mio sleeping beside him in various stages of undress. After what happened (Shiki thinks it could have been the goddess trying to force Makoto to fight), the ladies want to go with him, but he insists they stay put. They’re his trump cards. When “the time for violence” comes, he promises he’ll call on them.

In other wrap-up news, Tomoe created a new fragment of herself, who Makoto names Komoe. She also enrolled the forest ogres into taming training for the Demiplane Ranking. the Illusory City is open for business, and Makoto’s general store in Tsige is booming on its very first day thanks to Tomoe, Mio, and Beren’s excellent marketing skills.

The night after the store’s grand opening the Demiplane has a huge celebration for both the opening and the Young Master’s goodbye. It should be clear to everyone by now that a second season is already in the works, as in addition to the typical finale recap/summing-up moments, there are a number of peeks at who and what that second season might involve.

After an extremely uneven penultimate episode, this one returned to that specific balance of serious and comedic that kept me into the show to that point. That is to say, the ship is righted, and I’m looking forward to more of Makoto & Co. down the road!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 11 – Playtime’s Over…Unfortunately

TRIGGER WARNING: This episode contains a sequence of graphic violence.

The last nine episodes and change of Moonlight Fantasy have largely consisted of Makoto, Tomoe, and Mio basically goofing off while demonstrating their immense powers in this world. Then, just when he’s gained a third companion in the newly-humanized Lich he names Shiki, Tomoe starts bleeding profusely and keels over.

Like most of Moonlight’s cliffhangers, I expected this one to be resolved in the first five minutes, possibly in a comedic way. It…didn’t. Shit suddenly got real at the end of last week’s episode, and it stays real and very dark for the vast majority of this week. It’s almost as if Moonlight wanted both Makoto and us to experience the sudden realization that we don’t really know the first thing about this new world.

The adventurer woman and her two associates raid the Illusory City, and the magical ring Drahpnir explodes in an ensuing fight, killing an orc who was just doing his job as well as Tomoe’s Fragment, hence her keeling over. In response, and after reading her deeply prejudiced memories, Makoto takes his revenge on the adventurer woman by stalking her, cutting off her forearms, and then stabbing her through the throat. Fuckin’ Yikes.

It is without doubt the most dark and disturbingly violent this series has ever gotten, and it doesn’t spare the blood. Like Tomoe’s collapse, it comes out of nowhere, but maybe that’s the point: this show is done taking it easy on Makoto, and is now treating him more like Re:Zero treats Subie: like the new world he’s in is always trying to kill him and those he holds most dear, and surviving is a constant struggle.

While it’s laudable for Moonlight to take a chance at going dark, it kind of undermines that a bit by throwing us back in its usual goofy comedic milieu before we’ve even had sufficient time to process the shocking gore we just witnessed. Makoto brutally murdered a woman, and is back to being the straight man in between Mio and a recovering Tomoe bickering. After a memorial service, it’s just tonal whiplash. It’s…odd.

But while things return to “normal”, the reset button is not hit on Makoto’s psyche. His experience that night changed him forever, and also told him that if he wants the Demiplane to be safe, he’s going to have to learn a lot more about this world. For him, that means leaving Tomoe and Mio and enrolling at a university in the neutral town Rembrandt told him about.

But in the first instance since the first episode of the Goddess interfering in his existence on this world, when he goes through a mist gate to the city with Shiki, he ends up materializing alone in the middle of another wasteland, and is immediately attacked by Sophia and Mitsurugi, who don’t just look like a couple of tough customers…the former is able to lop off a couple of Makoto’s fingers!

The shit truly hit the fan at the start of  this episode, and by the end Makoto finds himself just about neck-deep in it. I appreciate the show’s ambition in picking the path of grim drama, but I can’t deny my neck still aches from that sudden direction change. All that said, this episode, the second-to-last of this cour, makes the previous ten feel like an extended prologue to the real story. Not sure that’s a good thing!

P.S. It remains bizarre that nearly all humans think Makoto without his mask is some kind of hideous monster, when his character design just doesn’t read that way. The show could at least show us how they see him through their eyes…

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 10 – Underlord

After two straight cliffhangers involving the two forest-dwelling sisters, Eris and Aqua (which does sound like a sports drink!) are effortlessly defeated by Makoto and Mio. The weaker adventurers are teleported to the Illusory City, which is apparently an actual physical place…albeit a foggy one.

Eris and Aqua are fun enough in their quirky/serious sister act, but when they take Makoto and Mio to the “Forest Ogre” village is when the episode really starts to bog down. I honestly cannot tell you how many village elder scenes I’ve sat through in my day, but it’s a lot.

Most of them put in more effort than Moonlight Fantasy here. It’s all very by-the-numbers listless, aside from Mio’s adorable envy at Eris and Aqua’s shisho holding Makoto’s hand a second longer than she got to

The obligatory village banquet takes place, and again, it’s just kinda there, not really distinguishing itself in any way. Thankfully, Ains Ooal Gown’s freakin’ cousin crashes the party and livens things up. Yes, the lich has more vitality than the anonymous, homogenous villagers. The lich talks a big game, but obviously Makoto ain’t losin’ to no skeleton.

Rather than kill him, they take him to the Demiplane to hear his story. He’s been striving all his life (and death) trying to become a “Grant”, a rare and special human that can travel between worlds. [Nudges your side hard] Sounds familiar, mmmmm? 

Tomoe, demonstrating a knowledge of other worlds that surprises Makoto a bit, says Grants are Grants not for what they are, it’s more bestowed upon someone by dint of having found a passage between worlds.

Lich (I didn’t hear a name) ends up forming a contract with Makoto, and gains a ripped bishounen body, which combined with seiyu Tsuda Kenjirou being particularly velvety, makes the Lich the third member of Makoto’s now unisex harem. But no sooner does he gain one member than he seems on the brink of losing another!

Without any explanation whatsoever, Tomoe keels over and starts bleeding out. It’s the highest stakes we’ve ever seen in this show. And while I’m fairly tired of these cliffhangers-for-the-sake-of-cliffhangers, I need to know dear sweet dashing Tomoe will be okay. Wait…what’s that? The next episode is titled “Goodbye?!” 

Shiiiiiiiiiit…

Tsukimichi: Moonlit Fantasy – 09 – Into the Woods

As two forest-dwelling sisters named Aqua and Eris bring ruin upon any intruding adventurers, Makoto celebrates the anniversary of the establishment of the Demiplane by meeting one-one-one with its denizens, from Akina the Alke (who has learned to perfectly mimic humans) to Liddy the Lizardman (who still looks like a lizardman). He also learns that when he pats the head of Tomoe’s fragment, she feels it too.

After a night of meeting, greeting his many admirers from Demiplane society, Makoto goes off on his own to practice his archery. Only both Tomoe and Mio suddenly feel his presence vanish, and find that by focusing on archery, he’s dying and being reborn over and over again. By being continually reborn, his mana continues to expand, as does the demiplane. Tomoe worries it will lead to the Goddess ordering his elimination.

Thus Makoto must learn to mask his enormous mana even more, both with his own magic and the gear the dwarves make for him. In the meantime, he still has a business to get up and running, which means returning to Tsige, where he helps a demihuman in need who also happens to look  a bit like him.

A prostitute witnesses his kindness and decides to reward him with a night of fun, but a jealous Tomoe and Mio come out of nowhere to drag him off. He doesn’t want to tell them he loves them like family—as the ED indicates, they’re basically surrogate sisters. But by not saying so he creates a misunderstanding, and both women feel they need to make him a man immediately. Thankfully, he cools them off with an ice spell before they can assault him.

The next day Tomoe, and Mio in particular, regret how aggressive they were, and Makoto lays down some boundaries. That said, he’s happy to have Mio accompany him to Tinarak Forest to check out the ambrosia flowers that grow there. Makoto slips into the habit of his previous life in his world by offering to “hold handsies” with Mio, like he once did with his sister. Mio, obviously elated, takes his hand without hesitation.

Alas, she only gets to bask in the loveliness of that moment for 31 scant seconds before she and Makoto are rudely interrupted by two different parties: a trio of human adventurers led by the prostitute, and the pair of forest-dwelling sisters. Obviously Makoto and Mio are more more than a match for either, so it will really come down to how Makoto will de-escalate the situation and come to an understanding.

SSSS.Dynazenon – 12 (Fin) – E Pluribus Gundum

Gauma is in a bad way and Second can only ease his pain, but with Gridknight and Goldburn losing ground to Shizumu, Yume and Yomogi know what to do. Juuga, Mujina and Onija notice the new Shizumu Kaiju, realize they can’t control it, and instead allow him to swallow them up. This makes things even more difficult for Knight-kun.

Koyomi’s Dyna-car just happens to land near enough to him that he can simply hop in and join the battle; ditto Yomogi, who gets to make a dramatic leap over a cliff of debris into his Soldier. Yume trips and falls, but Yomogi soon tracks her down and offers to take her to her Wing. Gauma even manages to pilot his Dyna-thingy with Second, so all six pieces of the puzzle are there to fight the Eugenicists.

It’s here where we get a lot of those trademark super-intense Trigger Faces, as Juuga curses (and confesses?) to Gauma (who tells him to “shaddap!”), Mujina curses Koyomi (who loudly apologizes), and Yume and Yomogi get the silent treatment from their former classmate Shizumu. But once Yomogi realizes he can Instance Dominate the enemy with his Kaiju user power, the battle is pretty much over.

There’s a number of different Dyna-combinations, all of which are great fun to watch as the pilots shout in unison. The coup-de-grace comes from the old standby Super Dragon Dyna Rex (carrying a combo of Gridknight and Goldburn on its back) firing off the most verbose attack yet: Blazing Hot Inferno Burning Grid Rex Roar.

The Eugenicists glimpse their impending deaths and accept their fate (again), but so does Gauma, who passes away shortly after claiming victory. None of them are particularly upset about this; Mujina even thinks it might be “better this way”, while Juuga is certain the time of Kaiju will still come someday. As for Gauma, he finally understands why the Princess didn’t revive with him: because she entrusted Dynazenon to him. And he did good.

Three months later, as the silent credits roll (no OP or ED in this finale, but the opening theme did make an appearance during the battle, as is its wont), we get a very wide shot of Yume and Yomogi walking slowly across a bridge, Yume stopping Yomogi going back for her, and the two continuing on. I don’t know about you, but to me this feels like Yume wordlessly giving Yomogi her answer.

The two join Chise and Koyomi to take one last look at Gauma’s home under the bridge and bid farewell to Knight and Second, who are taking the now-inert Dynazenon and Gridknight with them. It must be tough, but Chise accepts that the best and coolest friend she ever had doesn’t belong in the world of logic and reason.

Speaking of which, Chise is back in her slick street clothes, since her school was one of the casualties of the climactic battle. That’s a pretty cool touch. As for Koyomi, he looks so different three months later with his haircut and well-fitting suit, I assumed at first he was a last-minute cameo from the Gridmanverse. Chise has also ditched her sleeve, revealing a Goldburn tattoo that was there all along. Looks like her friend will always be with her after all.

That leaves the inevitable cultural festival scene. Yomogi and Yume’s class is doing a horror café, and their shift is about to start but Yume is trying to shirk her duty. After pointing his mom and new stepdad—whom he seems to have accepted and even get along with— to the tickets, he is selected by his friends to track Yume down.

After seeing Mai’s photo exhibition (she decided to use photos of Yume after all which…why would you not), Yume finds the highest place in the school and sings a song in tribute to Kano. Then, as she was probably expecting, Yomogi finds her. She reaches out her hand and, after he recalls a final convo with Shizumu about how he was rejecting a future as a fellow kaiju user, but he was okay with that, he takes her hand and helps her onto her feet.

You can really feel the weight of he characters and the touch of their hands thanks to the animation and sound. She then scolds Yomogi for using her last name Minami, Yomogi relents and calls her Yume while blushing all the way, and Yume lets out a cheekily mirthful laugh.

Once they’re done their shift (as a bloody corpse and mummy, respectively), Yume and Yomogi pose for a photo with the others, and notice they still have their scars. Yume hopes they’ll never lose them, since they’re precious reminders of how they found themselves, found other, and learned to find happiness in their lives. These crazy kids are going to be alright.

The final scene is of Knight and Second arriving back in what I’ll call Akane’s illusory world. I’ll go ahead and assume Yomogi & Co.’s world was pretty much our world. While this is pretty cool to see, it’s not as huge or goosebump-inducing as Gridman’s live action mic drop. IN fact, you could probably make a case that Yomogi’s world is also a fake, simply because everyone looks like they’re in an anime.

That’s further food for thought, but in the end, my cerebral stomach is feeling pretty satisfied already. SSSS Dynazenon was one hell of an eclectic, sumptuous meal, a brilliant and epic melding of the absurd and mundane, both impossibly fantastical and piercingly real. I’m really going to miss this gang of misfits, but assuming Trigger isn’t done with robots, kaiju, and alienated, flawed, and immensely charming characters, I look forward to the next entry in the Gridman Universe.

Higehiro – 08 – Such Sticky Sweet Sorrow

In hindsight, it was already over for Sayu the moment Issa showed up at her workplace. A man of her brother’s means and drive surely wouldn’t rest until his little sister had been found. Even though Sayu knows this this, and understands this is probably It for her months-long excursion, she’s understandably shaken by the close call, and freezes up. Rather than take immediate action to soften the inevitable blow, Sayu retreats to her happy place: buying snacks for her and Yoshida, who will be at the office late.

But more to the point, Sayu once again places someone or something—in this case Yoshida’s work and her obligation to handle the chores—before herself, even though well within her rights to insist upon being the priority. Her brother finding her also affects Yoshida quite a bit, and in more ways than one—psychologically, legally, etc.—yet Sayu keeps quiet. She doesn’t bother Yoshida.

Thankfully, just as her brother and his employee are about to spot her, Sayu rings into Yuzuha, who, after hearing that Sayu doesnt want to be found, helps hide her. We learn she does this as much to help Sayu out as she does to take the temperature of Sayu and offer some unsolicited but very much needed advice; even some tough love.

In yet another example of how Sayu’s youth has not gone the way most kids her age have, Yuzuha learns Sayu can’t sing with her, because she doesn’t know any songs, because she never had any friends with whom to go to karaoke. Yuzuha surely sympathizes with Sayu, but she’s also more concerned with giving her a thorough reality check than sparing her feelings.

As such, she sits down next to Sayu and asks her, if her pursuers are already here, and she has so little time left, what is she doing shopping? I don’t think Yuzuha is right when she says Sayu “doesn’t get it”, but she is right that Sayu isn’t taking this as seriously as she should. Not just that people are looking for her, but that she and Yoshida seem to have become co-dependent.

One can argue as a practical matter whether Yuzuha the character has really spent enough time with the two of them to make that determination so confidently, but that doesn’t really matter to me, because as much or as little as Yuzuha is assuming, she’s absolutely correct that Yoshida and Sayu have become far too comfortable with their arrangement.

I gave Yuzuha grief in an earlier episode for essentially reading both Yoshida and Airi the riot act for the way they’re going about their lives, but while her little stalking incident is still a mark against her, I for one am glad Yuzuha is here as the voice of reason. Sure, she has a massive conflict of interest in being literally in love with Yoshida (which is its own can of worms), but Yuzuha is no kid.

At this point I trust her more than anyone else to see the forest for the trees. That’s why she can love Yoshida, see the way he looks at Sayu when he arrives, and stay behind in the karaoke room to cry her eyes out, while still being very much in the right about how tremendously unprepared either Yoshida or Sayu are for what isn’t coming down the pike—but has already freaking arrived!

The remainder of the episode sets to work painstakingly validating Yuzuha’s concerns. I can’t blame her taking a rain check considering her feelings for Yoshida, but it really would have been better if Yuzuha had joined them for dinner. At least then, she might’ve been able to steer Sayu towards telling Yoshida that she’s close to being found.

Instead, Sayu says nothing to Yoshida about her brother, choosing to ignore her fate. The two see a poster for the Summer Festival, and in one of the more awkward transitions of the show, the episode cuts from one night to the next night, with Sayu resplendent in her pink yukata,gold obi, and geta. 

Then they go on a date that would be adorable, except for the fact that it’s an indulgence neither of them can really afford at the moment. I can’t really blame Yoshida—he’s in the dark about Sayu’s brother and wants Sayu to have another “normal high school girl” experience.

At the same time, I can’t really blame Sayu for not suddenly turning to Yoshida and saying the jig is up. After all, she hasn’t been to a summer festival since she was a little girl, wasn’t allowed to eat cotton candy even once, and has never been as close to fireworks as she and Yoshida end up being.

The temptation to forget about her imminent doom for just one night proves too strong to resist, but like a yukata rental, the quickly-melting cotton candy, and the fleeting light from the fire fireworks, the trappings of normalcy in which she seeks refuge are all too temporary.

Their interactions throughout are charged with romantic tension. When he sheepishly compliments her yukata, she asks, just under her breath so he can’t quite hear, if it’s prettier than Gotou-san’s. She feeds him some of her cotton candy. When a kid bumps into her, of course Yoshida takes her hand to keep her from falling, and she decides they should keep holding hands throughout so they won’t get lost.

Yoshida knows that were it not for Sayu, he’d have never gone to the festival. Images of his past life without her flash by in his head; it’s a place he’s not ready to return to. When he exits those thoughts, Sayu is no longer holding his hand, and he calls out for her. She’s right behind him, and teases him for thinking she’d disappeared, but we cut to his five-o’clock shadow as he asks, also just under his breath, if she’s really going home.

Even after the fireworks are over, Sayu keeps looking up at the sky. She recalls how she gave all the other guys an alias, but when she met him, her real name just came out. The moment arrives that has arrived in so many romantic anime where there’s either a confession and/or kiss or a failed/thwarted attempt at either.

Instead of either, Yoshida wisely gives Sayu a nice, platonic head pat. Sayu looks disappointed, but quickly smiles. She knows, even if she wasn’t a teenager, Yoshida is sure would have taken her in…and just as sure they wouldn’t have had sex.

Of course, while she knows this, and Yuzuha and Airi and Asami know this, the person to which that very crucial distinction matters most does not know this, at least not yet. That means when Yoshida comes to the door in his pajamas and Sayu is standing behind her in hers, Issa has absolutely no way of knowing Yoshida wasn’t sleeping with his sister.

Even so, Ogiwara Issa’s entire character as we know him thus far is that he’s polite but determined to find her, and now he has. His brief smirk seems more out of relief to have succeeded than a reaction to just how screwed Yoshida is. But that smirk soon straightens into a more serious face as he announcesnot proposes—what’s going to happen. He’s taking Sayu home.

Yoshida may have something to say about that, and Issa may be open to hearing him out, but because this is there first interaction, depending on the level of assumptions Issa is willing to level against him, I can’t imagine anything Yoshida says will move him. I guess we’ll find out eventually, but with next week’s episode entitled “Past”, we may have to wait longer than we should.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Don’t Toy with Me, Miss Nagatoro – 07 – Senpai Unleashed

Naoto knows there’s a summer festival going on, and he knows he wants to go with Nagatoro, but instead of simply texting or calling her, he plays video games and waits for something to happen. When that doesn’t work, he goes to the festival alone, hoping to run into her by chance.

For his passivity he is punished with Gamo-chan and Yosshi for company, though if you ask me, he lucked out, as the two of them are cuties in their own right, even if they insist on putting a literal leash on him. They send a pic of the captured Paisen to Nagatoro, knowing she won’t be able to resist rushing over to reclaim her “pet.”

Of course, “pet” is just a code word for “boy she likes”, and Gamo is well aware of this, making Nagatoro fight to get Paisen back by playing various festival games. While shooting corks at prizes, Nagatoro wonders out loud if Senpai was waiting for her to invite him, then says very directly that if there’s somewhere he wants to go with someone (her), he could always try asking them (again, her).

After Gamo doesn’t accept Nagatoro’s win “by quality” for winning the biggest prize, Nagatoro bribes Yosshi and the girls part ways for the evening. Really, Gamo and Yosshi are giving their friend some time alone with her pe…the boy she likes. She swipes some of his takoyaki; she pops some cotton candy in his mouth…it feels like a date.

Naoto thinks dating requires people to “go through the proper procedures”, but the only procedures are if the two people like each other and want to hang out alone together for the purposes of learning more about each other. That’s really it; it’s not complicated!

He’s saved by the bang of a firework from having to overtly take Nagatoro’s hand when she holds it out, but when she almost gets swept away by the crush of people, he takes her forcefully by the wrist and leads her to a viewing spot he remembers from elementary school, the last time he saw fireworks live. Nagatoro is surprised….and flustered.

When she tries to mess with him by accusing him of taking her somewhere dark to do “something”, Naoto, who knows she has a tendency to be shy at times, nails her down, asking what, pray tell, she might be insinuating, exactly. It’s the first time he counters her virgin-shaming by pointing out that she’s not exactly Gene Simmons either!

When she says “grabbing hold of her and kissing her”, it basically confirms her bark is stronger than her bite when it comes to sexual stuff. It’s a most welcome challenge from Naoto in what’s steadily becoming a more balanced relationship with each passing episode.

And just in case anyone thinks Naoto is mistaken about Nagatoro’s shyness regarding hanky-panky, when she moves in to force a kiss on him, a giant red heart-shaped firework reveals other couples fully making out, the two are equally scandalized and skitter away.

The final sequence involves Naoto passing by when he notices Nagatoro having lunch with her whole “family”, including the rarely-seen, also tanned Sakura. He observes them from behind a tree like David Attenborough watching jaguars, but then two eyeless guys roll in and try to get Nagatoro to go out. One even  puts his arm around her, and she’s clearly not into it.

Naoto tries to move in for a closer look, but steps on a twig, a sound all the others notice. While he initially wavers like a wind dancer at a car dealership when asked what he’s doing there, he steels himself, looks straight at Nagatoro, and says “Let’s Go!” When the guys try to get him to repeat himself, Nagatoro returns the favor for getting her out of an uncomfortable situation, and replies “Let’s go, Senpai.”

Gamo is also all about getting out of there, and Yosshi—who we see is also clearly not interested in those guys in the least—follow Nagatoro’s lead and head out. Sakura has no choice but to abandon the guys and follow her girlfriends.

Naoto may feel like he doesn’t “fit in” at all with these loud, brazen, slightly boorish girls. But it’s clear they don’t feel the same way. They’d much rather hang out with him—whether to mess with him or not—than those boring,  faceless goons. Even Sakura notes his weird “aura”, while Nagatoro goes along with all of the ragging on the boy the four of them explicitly chose over two others who weren’t as fun.

But all Naoto needs to really pay attention to is Nagatoro’s expression when their eyes meet. She couldn’t be happier he rescued her, and that he’s by her side right here and now. This was another instance of things just working out, but hopefully in the near future he works up the nerve to actually ask her to go somewhere. If she’s free, here’s no way in hell she’ll ever say no!

Episode 7 “Senpai” Count: 22 (+8 “Paisens”)
Total: 257

Kemono Jihen – 05 – Don’t Let the Bugs Bite

While Kabane is cleaning the back room, he’s pulled into a room Inugami told the kids never to enter. That’s because the room is the domain of Mihai, a vampire. As with other anime, he’s defined by immense strength and cunning equaled only by his crushing ennui and desire to be both served entertained.

Kabane is tailor-made for both, going right along with it when Mihai declares him his slav—er, waitperson. Shiki protests, so Mihai says they’ll settle it with an arm wrestling contest. He beats both Shiki and Kabane easily, causing Kabane to mope in the park about not being strong enough.

That’s when everyone’s favorite kitsune good girl Kon falls out of a tree. She’s not there to take his head again; when she presented the last one to Inari, the lady didn’t even look in her direction. Thus shunned, she’s hung out in this park, eating small prey.

Feeling a little self-conscious after losing to Mihai, Kabane challenges Kon to a fight in a totally non-aggressive way. Kon goes all out, but she ends up flat on her back with a bloody nose.  Tears well up in her eyes and she starts to sob, but Kon takes her hand and stays with her until nightfall.

When she wakes up, he proposes she come live with him at Inugami’s, but she rules that out because I guess kitsune and tanuki classically don’t get along. Instead, she proposes Kabane move to the park with her. He still needs to buy stuff for dinner at Inugami’s, but he promises he’ll be back before too long.

Unfortunately that’s all we see of Kon, whom I adore, as Kabane is drawn into a new case that Mihai says Inugami is letting the kids take on alone. We then find that Mihai has locked Inugami in his lair. The case involves a sudden drop in suicides at an electronics factory from over a dozen to zero in an unnatural time.

In this very Foxconn-style facility, we learn that whenever the workers have had their fill of the repetitive, monotonous labor, they are escorted to the “employee counseling office” where their damn brains are sucked out by one of the three Kaga sisters, who are kanonba, or mosquito kemono.

Shiki, who has learned how to use his silk as camouflage, infiltrates the factory along with Kabane and Akira. Mihai determiens the kanonba sisters are only sucking brains, not organs or blood, thus keeping their automaton-like workers alive. Having gotten the intel, Shiki tries to sneak back out, but Mihai intentionally rams his RC recon car against the door of the womens’ office, causing a racket.

Shiki is discovered by one of the sisters, but the RC car she picked up electrocutes her; Shiki was just serving as bait for Mihai. When Mihai observes Shiki totally losing it with fear, he deduces that Shiki’s cautious, rational, boring way of doing things is a front for deep-seated trauma. Being an eternally-bored vampire, Mihai is way too excited to continue messing with him.

I’m hoping Inugami can break out and put a stop to Mihai’s sadistic mischief, but even if he doesn’t, perhaps Kabane, Shiki, and Akira can wrap this case up on their own, despite the high level of difficulty. In any case, he’s another colorful addition to the cast. I just hope Kon doesn’t worry about Kabane taking longer than expected…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Horimiya – 05 – Breaking Through the Noise

I knew when Shindo was conveniently blocked out by Miyamura’s head that there would be trouble. Souta spots him with another girl and mentions it to Hori, who is already better but taking another sick day to avoid Miyamura post-his “I love you”.

To hear the words so clearly when she was meant to hear them has had a paralyzing effect, as Hori fears their relationship changing in any way from the lovely way it is. Only her inability to text or even face Miyamura for the next day and a half proves there’s no going back; the relationship has changed. There’s no putting the proverbial toothpaste back in the tube.

In a way, Souta’s extremely vague “other girl” report gives Hori leave to speculate that Miyamura is cheating, thus justifying their distance. But she can’t avoid him forever, and as soon as he has her alone by the lockers, he reiterates that he said he loved her knowing she was still awake.

Hori diverts to talk of the other girl, and Miyamura says it’s just Chika-chan, Shindo’s girlfriend, who was leaning on him because she twisted her ankle (Shindo was leaning from the other side because he too twisted his ankle, which is hilarious).

Hori buys the explanation, but is still angered. Why? Because Miyamura won’t stop saying “Chika-chan”. She throws two books in his face and runs off, but before long he’s at her place, calmly returning the books to her in case she had homework that night.

But Because this is Horimiya and not a lesser romantic show that would drag this conflict out over an episode or more for cheap drama, Hori interrupts Miyamura’s apology with her own for the misunderstanding. The awkwardness and tension fades away, and they return to being soothing presences in each other’s lives.

As they share a chair, Hori confirms she was awake when he confessed…which comes as no surprise to him. He apologizes again for springing something like that on her then running away, as he was more scared of how she’d respond than whether she would.

I wish they had more time in this moment to talk more, but they’re suddenly interrupted…by Hori’s dad, Kyousuke. She calls him by his name rather than “dad”, perhaps because he’s a total man-child, but he takes an instant liking to Miyamura, and—this is key—when he asks his daughter if he’s her boyfriend, Hori steps up to the plate and says “yeah, got a problem with that?!”

This, more than anything else Hori says or any other look she gives him, seems to affect Miyamura most powerfully. Just as he blurted out a confession not once but twice in the midst of a bunch of mundane conversation, Hori takes a page out of his book and essentially gives him a response to his confession by telling her dad he’s her boyfriend.

When their mom comes home and is worried not by Kyousuke’s presence, but the fact they won’t have enough dinner (though didn’t Hori just feed her dad?), Miyamura takes himself out of the equation so the whole Hori fam can eat together. Hori walks him home, apologizes for how annoying Kyousuke is, and casually starts holding Miyamura’s hand, blushing all the way.

Miyamura weaves his fingers into hers and they walk like this, affirming their desire to learn more about each other little by little. When they release to part ways, Miyamura takes her arm once more and thanks her, both for being her and for what she told her dad. When Miyamura texts Tooru about these developments, Tooru allows himself to despair a bit over losing to him.

The skies aren’t all cloudy for Tooru, however, as he has the normally serious and highly capable Kouno Sakura going into a daze while admiring him from inside the school. Remi notices Sakura’s uncharacteristic behavior and asks what’s up, but when Sakura sees Remi, she sees someone who is cute—unlike her—and so wouldn’t understand what’s bothering her. Remi, in turn, is bothered by that assertion.

Remi and Sakura have been nicknamed “Beauty and the Beast”, and that label has clearly affected Sakura’s self-esteem. She’s always stayed in her lane, but now that she has a crush on Tooru, she finds herself changing. It’s in the brief time after she ran away from Remi Sakura realizes that having “Beauty as a best friend” is more blessing than curse. When she next sees Remi, she tells her about her crush. Remi notes that Sakura is making a blushing face she’s never seen before…and it’s very cute.

Of course, Tooru is still 100% oblivious to Sakura’s feelings, but that’s not entirely his fault; he’s still feeling the sting of Hori’s rejection compounded with the fact that Miyamura and Hori are all but officially an couple. Still, Tooru doesn’t want things to get awkward, and insists to Miyamura not to worry about it. His pain is his to bear, and he’ll get over it.

The episode closes with another lovely cozy moment with Miyamura and Hori studying. Hori suddenly says “Izumi-kun”, and MIyamura assumes she’s calling him by his first name. Turns out it’s just Souta’s friend’s last name, but the truth is Miyamura would like her to call him by his first name.

She tries it, but amends it with a Baka, then descends into a baka spiral just as Souta comes home, causing his friend Izumi to ask if his family’s okay. Trust me, it’s just fine, kid! As for Miyamura, I’d advise him to start calling Hori Kyouko if he wants her to call him Izumi!

Horimiya – 04 – Not Going Anywhere

After a particularly cute scene with StuCo member Kouno Sakura, Tooru meets up with Miyamura, who has ice cream courtesy of Hori (not present). Unfortunately, the other ice cream is melon, which Tooru can’t eat. Thankfully they run into President Sengoku, and soon the boys are comparing tongue color and length, as guys do!

When Sengoku invites the two to stop by the (blessedly air-conditioned) StuCo office, they show up with Hori and Yuki, making for a full house. They use janken to determine Horimiya should grab everyone drinks, but when they’re gone too long, Tooru gets worried about what they’re “up to”. When they’re back, there’s a misunderstanding, but Kouno is there to help set him straight…and with a towel to clean his soda, which Miyamura dropped.

Back at her house, Hori apologize for the A/C not working, but Miyamura says he doesn’t mind. When the subject of his sleeping in underwear comes up, Hori impulsively asks to see his tattoos, and he immediately strips. This throws her off, but it shouldn’t, she’s seen them before. She wonders what if anything makes him blush or get flustered, and he assures her…there’s plenty!

For one thing, his middle school friend Shindo, who he bumps into while in town. Shindo has seen Miyamura with Hori enough to assume they’re dating, something that flusters Miyamura. Then Shindo sends him a photo of him with his GF and suggests a double date…a text Hori doesn’t get to see.

What Hori does see is Miyamura getting flustered and raising the volume of his voice, but calling Shindo just to yell “PISS OFF!” As with every time she sees a new part of him, Hori is fascinated…and also a little sad that there’s still so much about him she doesn’t know. Only one thing for that, Hori: keep asking!

Next time Hori’s in town, she’s approached by Shindo, not having a clue who he is. Miyamura spots them while he’s walking with Tooru, and he immediately charges Shindo and starts punching and slapping him. The thing is, Shindo barely reacts at all to this, meaning it’s just their dynamic. Like Hori, Tooru is fascinated, and the four decide to do lunch.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to see that lunch, but we do get a glimpse into Miyamura’s middle school life, thanks to a very effective smash cut to the past. He was shunned for being gloomy and depressing by everyone except Shindo, who was super-popular with the class, and soon befriends him.

When his other mates tell him to avoid Miyamura, Shindo shuts them right down, saying they’re just mad because they think Miyamura stole him from them. Now we know: Shindo’s a decent guy, like Miyamura, only more gregarious and approachable. It’s only natural they’d be friends. I just hope we meet his girlfriend soon, because we know she’s got a keeper!

Earlier in the ep we got Hori’s Chekhov’s Cough, which she denied was a sign of a cold, because “only morons get colds in the summer.” Well, one morning she has a temperature over 100°, and who should stop her from leaving the house and put her back in bed but her awesome kid brother Souta, who is growing up fast!

Souta also contacts Miyamura, who is in Hori’s room with water, sports drink and meds when she wakes up. She has a feverish dream about her mother having to leave a previous time she was sick in bed. Her mom praised her for being so good at “toughing things out”, but what Hori didn’t tell her mom is that she didn’t want her to go.

After giving Hori a wet towel, Miyamura gets up to leave so she can change, and Hori panics, rising out of bed only to collapse from the fever. She grabs Miyamura’s arm and asks what she could never ask her mom—“Where are you going?”  Miyamura knows what she means is “Please don’t go”. Taking her hand in his, he answers: He’s not going anywhere until she doesn’t need him anymore, or is sick of his face.

He helps her back in bed, then tells her to drink some water while she’s lying on her side away from him. He also tells her he’s in love with her, and has been for a while now, and to call or text him if she needs anything. He’ll be right over. A few beats after he leaves, Hori leaps out of bed, her fever momentarily broken, thinking “WHAT did he just say?”, even though she already knows.

She wonders if she pretends not to have heard it, the two of them can “stay like this for a little while longer.” But he said it—albeit in the middle of a bunch of “boring stuff”—and she can’t un-hear it. Especially with her abandonment issues in mind, I can understand her desire to maintain the status quo. But she shouldn’t pretend out of fear of losing what she has when she could have so much more. The more she waffles, the greater the chance Miyamura will return to thinking she doesn’t have the feelings he has. It seems the ball is in her court. No pressure!

Horimiya – 03 – Just a Couple of Hand-Lovers

Throughout elementary and middle school, Miyamura exuded a gloomy aura and was always the last to be picked for partners or groups, because everyone thought he was “weird”. Yet it doesn’t seem like he stayed away from others because he wanted to be. He pierced his ears in an apparent act of coping, or possibly controlling a part of his life when so much seemed outside his control.

Miyamura learned of Hori Kyouko’s existence the same day she learned of his; the two were assigned together due to their seating positions. Yuki mentions his gloominess to Hori, but once she actually meets and talks to him, she smiles declares him perfectly normal. Now, in their current state, Miyamura is a Part of the Group, with Yuki, Tooru, and Hori all pushing their desks into his without him having to move.

They’re all relieved they’re back in the same class for the new term, and Miyamura and Tooru end up going to the roof to apparently “affirm their friendship”. Tooru repeats the same descriptor of many past classmates, when he calls Miyamura “weird”, but the key difference is that he adds “but that’s okay.” Weird isn’t bad. It’s going to be okay, Miyamura thinks. He just wishes he could’ve told his younger, lonelier self.

Hori ends up at the cafeteria earlier than expected, and ends up sitting with Remi. Remi has noticed that Miyamura is “pretty hot” and asks Hori if he’s her boyfriend. When she says no, Remi asks if she can have him. When Hori doesn’t strongly object, Remi says fine, then “he’s mine”. That’s when Hori gets legitimately upset, envisioning Remi and Miyamura laughing together. She revises her position, telling Remi in no uncertain terms that Miyamura is hers and she’ll never let her have him.

With Souta now in grade school, Miyamura and Hori see less of him, which means they’re spending more time alone together. Part of that time is spent watching cheesy horror movies that Hori clearly likes getting Miyamura flustered about. But they also just hang out, talking about anything, letting their conversations peter out and not getting hung up on the lack of stuff to say.

Miyamura notices Hori’s index finger is double-jointed, something Tooru mentioned when he and Hori were comparing hands. But while Miyamura warned Tooru that he’d better not grasp her hand if he wants to live, here she gently weaves her fingers into Miyamura’s larger ones without hesitation, and quietly says “I love you”, before revising it to say she loves his hands. He tells her the feelings mutual, and as they sit there, their hands intertwined, he quietly says he loves her too.

They both heard each other. No one else needs to hear or know. Their love is right there and plain to see. It’s all over their faces, and they just fit together so perfectly and effortlessly. But school, as Miyamura once declared, remains “hard.” It’s hard because Tooru overhears Remi talking to Sakura about how Hori blew up on her for joking about taking Miyamura.

The next day, Miyamura arrives at class with a bruised cheek from a fight. Then Tooru arrives in even worse shape; I love how he’s no match for Miyamura in a scuffle, despite him asserting Miyamura was “prettier than most girls” with his hair up. Yuki pairs off with Miyamura while Hori talks to Tooru.

It started last night when Tooru told Miyamura that Hori was in love with him. When Miyamura denies this, insisting they’re still just friends, Tooru asks him what he’d say if it were Hori himself telling her…which of course we the audience just witnessed during their movie night. Their spirited verbal sparring turns physical, and Miyamura utterly squashes Tooru.

When both Tooru and Miyamura take the blame for beating each other up, Hori is perplexed, but Yuki less-so, because Miyamura told her straight up that they were fighting about Hori, but told her not to tell Hori.

If this all sounds like some drama is starting to stir, you’re not wrong. But it’s the kind of realistic drama that tends to crop up in close friend circles at school. Tooru may not be 100% opposed to Miyamura being with Hori, but it’s more Miyamura’s equivocation about their status that stokes his frustration.

Miyamura is called “weird” many times this week, with both derision with affection. In high school, a girl and guy hanging out and occasionally muttering I love you to one another and sitting in quiet bliss together and yet not outright “dating” might count as being “weird”…but it’s also okay!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Our Last Crusade or the Rise of a New World – 05 – Hindrances to Her Chosen Fate Arise

Much to the surprise of the mages on guard, Alice and Rin show up at the new vortex site unannounced, and are soon joined by TuxedoLord Mask and his younger Zoa relation, Kissing, whom he considers to be on a power level close if not equal to Alice’s. He assures the princess they’ll be enough to protect the vortex from the Empire’s forces. Alice is troubled that the Zoa family seeks all-out war—and if she hadn’t come, they’d have exploited the vortex to towards that goal.

Meanwhile, Mismis locates the vortex—which wasn’t hard, as its a giant pillar of light on the horizon!—but they’re not the first on the scene. Their unit is confronted by Shanorotte’s, but when Mismis runs over to hug her, Noro-chan reveals her true colors: she and her unit are and always were loyal mages of the Sovereignty. She shocks Mismis with magic and prepares to take her away as a POW.

That’s when Nameless, who was nearby all along, de-cloaks and wounds Noro’s fellow mages. Nameless prepares to send a sword at Noro which will go through Mismis, but Iska deflects the blade. Nameless threatens to bring Iska up on charges for insubordination, but he doesn’t have time for him. He must return to the Imperial Base so he can bomb the vortex, which is a lost cause now that it’s firmly in enemy hands.

Back at the vortex, Noro presents her captive Mismis to Mask and Alice, who fears Mismis will recognize her from the Neutral City. Thankfully, Rin knocks Mismis out before she can say anything that could incriminate Alice. Mask and the Zoas are hawks, after all; the crown princess meeting with the enemy could be all the excuse they need to move against the Lous.

As it is, Alice simply asks Noro where the enemy base is, as she’s eager to meet back up with Iska as the fortune teller foretold. Only Iska has Nene and Jhin hang back while he infiltrates the enemy base, headed to the place Alice was just as she’s leaving.

Iska is able to easily wrest Mismis back from Noro’s sadistic clutches, but Noro is bailed out by Kissing, who attacks with summoned thorns that take on a variety of forms. Iska, who recognizes Kissing as a strong purebred, is able to hold out until Noro uses the thorns to destroy, then reconstruct an incoming Imperial missile.

That explosion is seen by Alice after she returns to the Imperial base. Nameless is waiting for her there, and manages to cut both Rin and Alice, but then Alice goes all out with Ice Calamity, forcing Nameless to flee. The blast in the distance convinces Alice she should never have left the vortex zone; she must’ve just missed Iska.

Iska is able to slip past Kissing’s thorny offense-defense and knock her unconscious with a non-lethal blow, but then Mask shows up to carry her away, shoving Mismis into the vortex to buy time for their escape. Iska jumps in after her and eventually grabs hold of Mismis. Alice returns just in time to watch him leap in, and she leaps in after him.

The ensuing scene is highly amusing for its informality considering the situation. Despite descending through a column of surging astral energy that apparently has no bottom, Alice blushes at the sight of Iska and treats him as if he stood her up at the base. Still, she agrees to help him and Mismis out of there if he agrees to fight her as soon as they’re back on the ground.

Iska agrees, and the two join hands just as the astral energy surges further. Suddenly they hear a fell voice in the din—an astral spirit’s chant—and the column detonates and dissipates, separating Alice and Iska and dispelling them to different remote areas of the surface. Rin meets back up with Alice, who is annoyed her next battle with Iska has again been postponed by outside forces. Nene and Jhin pull up to find Iska and Mismis, none the worse for wear all things considered.

With the vortex gone, there may be nothing left for either side to do, but more vortices are sure to crop up. We’re left wondering if it was Alice and Iska’s holding hands that caused the vortex to close, which could portend an interesting possible destiny for the pair. If astral vortices are akin to nuclear weapons, or at least sources of atomic-esque energy that can bring about great death and destruction, it falls upon these two to ensure those sources never fall into the hands of either side’s warmongering factions.

I may be off-base with that theory, but it fits with both Alice and Iska’s reluctance to escalate the conflict and desire to bring about a lasting peace. This week’s events underscored the difficulty of that goal, with players like Noro, Kissing, Mask, and Nameless all unwittingly conspiring to hinder Alice and Iska’s continued interaction. The more they fight, the more they’ll understand and trust one another, and the better positioned they’ll be to save the world.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Adachi & Shimamura – 03 – Chipping Away

Shimamura isn’t sure why Adachi suddenly ran away from her, but it looked to her like she had something to say but couldn’t say it. Unlike Adachi, who is increasingly obsessing over Shimamura in her inner thoughts, Shimamura is more introspective about herself, whether it’s the way she keeps “having regrets” or starting to “catch on to [her] lack of interest”.

Is Shimamura naturally just not interested in anything? Could Adachi be changing that part of her? When Adachi is absent for school and doesn’t answer her texts, Shimamura heads to her house. On the way, she meets the astronaut girl without the spacesuit, who thinks it’s “fate” that they keep meeting. Thankfully the spacegirl splits—I still honestly don’t know what her purpose is—and Shimamura’s unannounced visit is rewarded by seeing Adachi in her jammies.

Shimamura agrees to Adachi’s request to go out on Saturday—though Adachi’s original intent was to ask Shimamura to formally go out with her. Unfortunately the spacegirl is already with Shimamura when Adachi arrives, and proceeds to be a glittery blue-haired third wheel the whole time. Due to her little sister-ish size and demeanor, Shimamura can’t ignore the spacegirl’s attempts to grab her attention, which means Adachi gets less attention.

Moreover, the fact Shimamura so readily engages with the spacegirl makes it seem to Adachi that she’ll “take care” of anyone small and cute—including her—without thinking much of it. Adachi is thinking very much about Shimamura and Shimamura only, yet Shimamura is cognizant of everyone she spends time with.

That leads to a somewhat dark ending where she admits she allows “pieces” of herself to chip off in an attempt to keep herself “afloat”. These are the things she should be telling Adachi! I wish spacegirl would either explain her business with Shimamura or go away and give the main couple some space.