The Detective Is Already Dead – 06 – Monsters and Maidens

Once Siesta busted through the walls of the huge complex beneath the Houses of Parliament, I knew we were in for some gleefully bizarre action. After explaining how she really doesn’t care about her sidekick enough to beg the government for a top-secret humanoid weapon, she puts Kimi in the only seat in the cockpit and sits on his lap as the pair go up against Hel and her eldritch abomination.

While in theory this would be a pretty cool battle, the execution greatly suffers, with both storyboarding, animation and sound contributing to an underwhelming spectacle. Rather than sitting on the edge of my seat, I was distracted by the fact the show had just written checks it could not cash. To borrow a Top Gear phrase: ambitious, but rubbish.

What keeps this sequence from bottoming out all together is the huming chemistry and always entertaining (if sometimes florid) banter between the Legendary Detective and her sidekick. Yet even as they remind us not to take the mecha/monster battle too seriously, the peril and urgency is suddenly ratcheted up when the battle takes to the skies of London.

It’s here where I kept thinking this could be it; when the Detective who is Already Dead…would die. She even ejects Kimi from the mecha and collides with Hel and her monster in a big explosion as the two combatants fall to the ground in a cloud of dust, smoke, and flame. Somehow, Kimi is able to meet right back up with Siesta, and gives her a hug, telling her never to do that again.

In a heartbreaking moment considering what we know, Siesta promises Kimi she’ll never suddenly willfully die without telling him anything. Then she defeats Hel rather easily by using a pocket mirror—one of her special “tools”—to cause her to stab herself with her own sword. She’s about to finish her off with a bullet when Hell yells “Chameleon!” and then vanishes. Clearly, she had a sidekick…so I guess Kimi was going to be her second?

Hel may not be dead, but neither is Siesta; instead she’s suffered a broken leg, which results in a cast and her and Kimi cohabitating so he can take care of her. She’s loving how much he’s loving this suddenly intimate situation, even if he tries valiantly to hide it. Why else would he head out to buy juicier apples?

It’s that little shopping trip that leads our trouble magnet of a sidekick to the next case, this one involving his discovery of a twin-tailed loli in an Alice dress and striped stockings sleeping in a wooden crate on the sidewalk. Voiced by Kugimiya Rie, the girl’s name is even Alicia, but other than knowing she’s Kimi’s age despite looking ten years younger, she doesn’t remember who she is or why she woke up in a box.

Kimi comes home to a Siesta who was not only wearing an apron (thus fulfilling Kimi’s lifelong dream), but preparing to bake a pie with the apples he was supposed to come home with. Instead, he comes home with an amnesiac girl who ate all those apples, and Siesta’s understandably a bit-miffed.

No matter; Siesta, Kimi, and Alicia discuss the situation over Darjeeling tea and apple-less apple pie. Siesta decides that this is their next case, but since she’s laid up with her injury, she asks Alicia to be the Detective in her place (she doesn’t pick Kimi despite his experience because he just has “the face of a sidekick”). Alicia agrees when she learns she can boss the sidekick around all she wants.

But just as this case gets started, a new one rears its head: Detective Kase barges in without knocking and smokes indoors while reporting that the heart-harvester has struck again: Hel is still at it. I guess we’ll see how Alicia fares as the Substitute Legendary Detective…or maybe the show will switch gears entirely and return to the present. I really don’t know anymore, and I guess, for now, that’s part of the fun.

Read Crow’s episode 6 review here.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 20 – Tantamount to Love

This week Fuutarou learns why there’s a Fake Itsuki when he finds four of them in one room. As Yotsuba explains, she was the first of the quints to change her appearance (with her bunny ribbon). At some point they all agreed to look identical whenever they visited their grandpa, so he wouldn’t worry about them drifting apart.

Gramps ends up coming in their room, so Fuu has to hide under the kotatsu, and identifies the real Fake Itsuki who spoke to him in the lobby by the bruise on her leg. However, because all of the quints in the room are disguised as Itsuki, he doesn’t know to which quint that leg belongs!

As Fuu continues his investigation, Nino takes Ichika aside to to bathe together, hoping to pick Ichika’s brain about what next steps to take with the guy she likes, describing with wonderful self-awareness how she came to love her “prince”. Of course, Nino is blissfully unaware that Ichika also likes him, and heard her confession to him.

Even Ichika’s best attempts to slow her down end in failure, as Nino makes it clear she’d step over whoever else liked Fuu to get with him. Would she say that if she knew Ichika (or Miku) were that other person? At present, Nino is committed to doing more to get Fuu’s attention, including meeting with him that night and hugging or even kissing him.

Ichika feels powerless to stop her, and even agrees to run interference for their dad so Nino can slip away! She asserts to herself that because she’s such a “coward”, her love for Fuutarou is no match for Nino’s. It’s basically her lowest point yet, where she’s actively working against her interests in deference to someone who made it clear she wouldn’t do the same. That’s when Yotsuba finds her in the hallway, crying.

The two climb up to the roof—an old hiding spot of theirs from years past—and when Yotsuba sneezes from the cold, Ichika lends her her robe. Yotsuba reminisces how Ichika was once the prank-pulling “mean bully” who’d always takes things from the others with impunity—basically the opposite of what she is now: feeling afraid and unworthy of taking Fuu from Nino.

Then their mom died, Itsuki was hit hardest, and Ichika decided there and then that she had to be The Big Sister. Yotsuba tells Ichika how she’s always saw her as her dear big sister, and how she wants her to do what she wants. For Ichika, right now, that’s for things to remain in the “comfort zone”, where Fuu isn’t “taken” by any of them.

Buoyed by Yotsuba’s words, the last two things Ichika does are in her own interest: taking back the robe she lent Yotsuba, and not distracting their dad so Nino can talk to Fuu. We’ll see if Nino shrugs off Ichika not coming through for her at what for her was a crucial opportunity to impress her feelings upon her Prince.

That brings us back to Fuu himself, who has noticed the quints’ grandfather has no trouble telling them apart. When pressed, Gramps tells him there’s no silver bullet or trick to it, it’s just a matter of learning their mannerisms, voices, and subtle habits, which he says are basically “tantamount to love”. This, of course, leads gramps to ask him why he needs to tell them apart. If he truly can’t, can he honestly say he has the “commitment to face them in good faith?”

Fuu accepts that challenge the next morning, when unbeknownst to him, Miku has already come clean with Itsuki about being the Fake Itsuki. She wanted to end their student-teacher relationship so it could change into something new. Unlike Ichika, she doesn’t want to stay in the comfort zone. So Itsuki tells Miku to meet Fuu one more time as Fake Her.

Fuu uses the process of elimination to narrow it down to Ichika or Miku, and when she gets her to say “Itsuki-chan”, he guesses she’s Ichika, because only she uses “-chan” with Itsuki. Miku pretends he’s right, holding back tears that then start to fall once her back is turned. But then Fuu realizes she is Miku, causing her to run into his arms so fast her Itsuki wig falls off and she tackles him to the ground!

Fuu then goes on to explain his further reasoning for why Miku might be mad—because he never got around to giving her anything in return after Valentines Day. Then he asks why she wanted him to quit, and she tells him to forget it. He’s a teacher, she’s a student, and that doesn’t have to change. She’s just grateful he guessed correctly.

That leads to another strange cliffhanger-like ending, where before Fuutarou and the Nakanos depart from the onsen, someone in white, almost wedding-like shoes runs at him at full speed, causing him to grab the nearby bell for support. This, after gramps confirmed his daughter, the quints’ mother, was named Rena—the same name as the mysterious girl he saw when he fell in the water. To be continued, I guess!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Eight Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Miku: Her bitterness about Fuu not guessing correctly, immediately followed by her pure unbridled joy, was one hell of an emotional roller coaster! She definitely caused Fuutarou to think about the “love” gramps talked about. Total Points: 22 (Tied for 3rd)
  2. Yotsuba: Who’d have guessed she was the maverick who first changed her appearance? In both explaining the Fake Itsukis and her heart-to-heart with Ichika, Yots seems content to let things with the others play out before making whatever move she has planned…if any. Total Points: 22 (Tied for 3rd)
  3. Ichika: I think she’s finally reached the bottom of her well of defeatism and may be starting to claw her way out. It’s still not looking good, but at least she hasn’t given up on what she wants. Total Points: 21 (5th)
  4. Itsuki: Was instrumental both in getting Fuu to find out why the others were upset, as well as hearing Miku out and having her try one more time. Just an all-around great sis! Total Points: 26 (2nd)
  5. Nino: As she was thwarted from doing anything more with/to Fuu, Nino was relegated to a passive role this week. If Fuu doesn’t make the next move—and he shows no signs of doing so—she may have to try something. Was that her in the white shoes throwing herself at him? Total Points: 29 (1st)

 

Adachi & Shimamura – 11 – Desiring the Future

Back when Shimamura was in P.E. and suspected Adachi was on the second floor, but didn’t go up to see her, Adachi was indeed on the second floor, and didn’t expect her to come up and see her. For a couple moments she thinks she might be proven wrong, but it’s not Shimamura, just a third-year (whom I believe is a Hanazawa Kana voice cameo) looking for a quiet spot to read.

Ever since their second year began, Adachi has witnessed Shima easily find new friends, and can’t discern between her smiles and laughs with them and those with her. She gets the (wrong) impression Shima doesn’t care about her, yet can’t help but bike to the mall where they made happy memories, or think of which puppy she’d like best.

That’s when Adachi and Tarumi bump into each other, unaware of their connection with Shimamura, and Adachi notices Tarumi dropped her strap. Like Tarumi, Adachi thinks it would be just the tops if she and Shima had matching straps. But when spotting a lonely but quiet puppy, Adachi realizes she’s looking at a mirror.

That attitude is nurtured by a very random and fortune-teller, who looks and talks as eccentrically as Adachi is normal. Her advice is solid: the future can’t really be told, it must be desired, which means no running away from what is needed to achieve them. She has nothing to say to Adachi that she doesn’t already know, she just needs a little push to be more assertive in seeking Shima’s attention.

That brings us to a shift in POV to Shimamura, picking up from last week with her “Finally, it’s Adachi” remark. Having not heard her voice since the term began, Shima seems surprised how much she welcomes Adachi’s voice. This new assertive Adachi sits on the same chair as her and shares yummy bread, and Shima just knows that as her fake friends fade, Adachi will keep burning bright.

Shima sees all of Adachi’s moves as a sign her friend has made up her mind that she is the only one she needs. But is the reverse true? Shima can see Adachi has the same interest in straps and need to hold her hand (albeit her other hand) as Tarumi. She envisions her hands being held by the other two, all three of them with straps, in a Shima sandwich.

But only Adachi takes Shimamura aside, draws her into a big hug, and exclaims “I think you’re the best!” and plans to call Shima at 7 PM. She doesn’t stick around long enough for Shima to tell her that’s her usual time, so Shima arranges to eat dinner early, knowing full well Adachi will call her at 7 PM on the dot.

Adachi doesn’t call to say anything specific, she mostly likes the feeling of having Shima all to herself while on the phone. Shima calls her possessive, but Adachi thinks it’s normal, and it is normal, for someone who has feelings for someone and has decided not to run away or equivocate any longer.

Shima admits it’s “not a bad feeling” knowing someone cares about her, and is caught off guard by Adachi’s over-the-phone tears. Still, with Adachi, Shima feels her “possibilities are fixed.” If, not when, she were to choose someone to walk beside, it would be whoever is “best for her”.

While Adachi opened this episode believing she wouldn’t officially graduate to her second year until she confronted Shima, she’s actually well ahead of Shima in terms of knowing exactly what’s best for her and what she wants.

Shima isn’t sure about either, and weary of “surrendering” to Adachi’s puppy-like whims. How can Shima know she’s choosing someone who has already so heartily chosen her? I certainly don’t know, but at the end of the day (and hopefully by the end of this series!), Shima needs to learn what kind of future she desires.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 05 – Any Gift Will Do

This week’s AL:B takes on a distinct slice-of-life flavor, no better illustrated than Yoshimura Thi Mai napping in the shade of a tree so peacefully, a cat Andou Tasuza was chasing curls up on her belly. The episode tries to draw out the uncertainty of Thi Mai and Tasuza being the two final pieces of Riri’s nine-Lily Legion, but the OP already erased any doubt.

Rather than focus on Riri, Kaede, and Fumi’s attempts to woo Thi and Taz, the episode pivots to Yuyu. She learns by chance when Fumi fires up a vintage tablet that Riri’s birthday is tomorrow. Between the spinning 3D model of Riri and the continued use of name tags for characters, it’s clear AL:B wants to sell some figures, but it was still fun to watch Riri try to run from her AR stats.

Yuyu thinks Riri has given her so much, it’s time to give back, especially on her birthday, but is concerned about giving too random or modest a gift. She talks with everyone but Riri, who has since gotten to know her better, and two facts become clear: that she’ll be happy with any gift Yuyu gives her, and that Riri loves Ramune. Only problem is, the store only sells Ramune candy; Yuyu would prefer to get some of the genuine article.

This leads to Yuyu taking a solitary odyssey to Riri’s hometown the next day. The dialogue-free traveling sequence is gorgeous to behold, and captures both the beauty of the world and, finally, the general peril of ordinary citizens, as Riri’s town is in a constant state of evacuation. Still, there are cold Ramunes for sale at the konbini, and when Yuyu samples one, it’s like learning a little more about her Schild.

Yuyu buys two more and keeps them chilled in a mini-cooler, but when she encounters two thirsty little kids at a station, she gives them both away like the kind and generous Lily she is. Upon returning to the station nearest the academy, she runs into Thi and Tax chasing cats, but can’t very well go lecturing them considering her trip.

Then they notice something glintnig behind some ivy, and discover a hidden Ramune vending machine that was in power-save mode. Now Yuyu can give Riri some Ramune. She might think her whole day-long trip was for nothing, but she ends up clinching Thi and Taz’s decision to join the Legion.

The nine Lilies assemble to celebrate Riri’s birthday, and as expected, she’s elated by Riri’s gift, but amusingly assumes she just went down by the station to buy it, rather than all the way to her hometown. The only other thing Riri wants is, well, Yuyu, and Yuyu offers herself up for a hug, before Yuyu shows how inexperienced she is at hugging back.

With nine members to the Legion and Riri happy on her birthday, Yuyu is flying high that night…until her roommate brings up the fact that the academy is investigating whether Riri’s Rare Skill is “Charisma”, an ability that draws everyone towards her and makes her a natural leader.

This doesn’t sit well with Yuyu, who contemplates whether what she feels for Riri is simply a matter of eating out of Riri’s hand as a result of some power, and not her genuine feelings. With a huge Huge battle coming up, her lingering conflict is sure to be as much a factor as the cohesion of the new Legion.

Assault Lily: Bouquet – 03 – Always Look Your Best

Riri is elated that Yuyu is officially her new Schutzengel, but Yuyu has no intention of going easy on her Schild, delivering no shortage of tough love in the training facility and continuing to be cold and aloof.

Riri also gets to watch the Alfheim legion work. The nine-lily team who work together to bring down a low-level Huge—basically the opposite of Yuyu’s go-it-alone strategy.

While bathing with Kaede an Fumi, Riri is approached by Alfheim members, who offer some explanation for why Yuyu is the way she is: in a battle two years ago her own Schutzengel was killed. She still haunts Yuyu, noting that she’s “scared” both for and of Riri, and thus quick to turn her away.

Eventually Riri manages to focus her Magie and parry her attack. Right afterward the pair are on duty, and Yuyu makes sure to fix Riri’s tussled hair and uniform: an Assault Lily must look her best on the battlefield.

When the Huge arrives, it is a Restored, a Huge that survived previous attacks and returned to its base for repairs. Its shell is lined with the broken CHARMs of dead Lilies, and Yuyu decides that Riri will sit this one out. She says it’s because she’ll be in the way, but really it’s to avoid a repeat of what happened with her Schutzengel.

You see, Yuyu’s “Rare Skill” is Lunatic Trancer, so called because it transforms her into a white-haired berserk killing machine who will fight friend or foe until her Magie is spent. Seeing the CHARMs of fallen Lilies triggers the skill, and Yuyu goes on an unfocused rampage.

Due to the threat she poses, none of the other on-duty freelance Lilies can lend aid, but once Riri learns the rest of Yuyu’s story—that she was initially suspected of harming her own Schutzengel while in Trancer mode—she decides that she’ll be the one to break her out of it.

Riri rushes in to meet Yuyu, but when they cross CHARMs a first and then a a second time, Riri holds firm, and their Magie touches through the blades. Yuyu dismisses herself as a despicable monster consumed by hatred, but Riri tells her she doesn’t care, she’s still her sister, and gives her a hug that pulls her out of her trance.

Together they finish off the Restored, which will be restored no more. Afterward, Yuyu takes Riri to the cemetery where her Schutzengel Kawazoe Misuzu is buried. Later, in the dark of her dorm, Yuyu remembers clearly when she came out of a trance to find she’d run Misuzu through with her blade, but even then her big sister urged her to forgive herself and move forward.

Her roommate Matsuri Hata comes in, turns on the lights, mentions that she heard Yuyu sortied, and says “good work”, Yuyu thanks her, which is apparently enough of a rarity for Hata to note that she can’t recall the last time Yuyu was so nice. Clearly, the Schutzengel is working out swimmingly so far for both her and Riri.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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.

Sword Art Online: Alicization – War of Underworld – 23 (Fin) – A Hug and a Sword

She may have put up a brave front for most of last week’s episode, Alice’s cracks show at a cocktail party and culminate in an escape from Rath altogether. Kirito just gets off the phone with Rinko when he receives a large package.

Sure enough, it’s Alice, who shipped herself to his house! It strikes just the right balance of hilariously ridiculous and tremendously sweet, especially when you consider Alice isn’t just any heartsick maiden, but an artificial life form.

Alice has been unfathomably lonely since awakening in the real world, and who can blame her? She’s literally the only being of her kind in that world. She’s lost and adrift, but the sight of Kirito—or rather the physical presence Kirigaya Kazuto—soon soothes her, especially when wrapped in a big hug. He also tells her she is his hope, and the hope of all decent people in the world.

But Kirito can discern that she needs more than a tour of his humdrum family home. He takes her to the nearby dojo puts a practice sword in her hand, and the two spar. After defeating him with a cheekily improvised move called “Iron Headbutt”, Alice’s confidence and sense of self is restored. All a knight needs is a sword and a cause, after all!

Alice stays the night, and gets to witness a rare sight for SAO: the entire Kirigaya family seated around the dinner table. After his dad asks him to once again apologize for stressing them out during his latest mission, Alice herself defends Kirito as a hero in her world.

To her surprise, her father responds with pride that he’s aware of Kazuto’s accomplishments, and that he’s already a hero in the real world as well, making his son blush. Kazuto also informs his parents of his new course in life: to earn a degree in electronic engineering and join the Oceanic Resource Exploration & Research Institution, AKA Rath.

That night, Alice sneaks into a sleeping Kirito’s room, but not for that. She received a strange message through the network, and with Yui’s help Kirito determines the message is code for a specific IP address in which to re-access the Underworld.

Kirito, Alice, and Asuna meet at the Roppongi facility where Rinko helps them log back into the Underworld, two hundred years after leaving it. The three are shocked to find they’ve spawned not on the Underworld, but in orbit of it, out in space!

There has clearly been some possibly Macross-inspired technological advances in those two centuries, because Tiese and Ronie (or two people very much like those two) are “integrity pilots” locked in a desperate space battle with an eldritch abomination called “The Abyssal Horror”, all eyes, mouths, and tentacles.

Since the pilots are in trouble, Kirito, Asuna, and Alice all pool their considerable offensive powers in order to freeze, impale, and utterly destroy the spacebeast, all while the pilots gaze in awe and recall that the trio are historical figures back in the Underworld. Unfortunately, we don’t get to see the planet surface and how things have advanced.

Granted, that would probably have been digging too deeply than what was required of this episode: a worthy send-off for Kirito, Asuna, and Alice, and a tantalizing sneak-peak at their next adventure, called the “Inter-Intellegence War.”

Whenever that new anime is released, I’ll certainly be there to follow our old friends as they hopefully manage to avoid falling into comas or being held hostage by perverts! Until then, I bid sayonara to the now-completed War of Underworld and ja ne to Sword Art Online. It was quite a fun ride.

Season Average: 8.55

Oregairu 3 – 11 – The Best Time to Buy In

“There are infinite ways to express a single word,” says Shizuka-sensei, literally illustrating that by writing all the rather harsh negative words she can conjure to describe her relationship with Hikki, then scribbling them all over until the word “love” remains. She tells Hikki if he can’t find a single word, use all the words he needs (he’s no stranger to this practice). If words aren’t enough, pair them up with actions.

This week, Hikki does just that. He finds his words—not the ideal words or the words easiest to understand—but the words that are at least imperfectly sufficient to get his point across, and he pairs them up with bold action. The next day after school Hikki shares an afternoon of nothing with Yui, and she tells him her wish is for Yukinon to be part of them.

With the end of the service club, that seems unlikely to be east or even possible for Hikki, who is so bad at expressing or responding to people’s feelings. The word he uses most is associated, as in he does not want to stop being associated with Yukino.

When Yui hears this, a heartbreaking display of emotions runs across her face, but to her surprise and pride, no tears come out. They do, however, come out once she comes home, and her mom is there to hug her. For all the words Yui and Hikki said, the ones that are meant are “Yui, it’s not you, I love…it’s Yukino”. What she knew all along.

On to Hikki’s action. With the prom over and the service club disbanded, he decides to take his fake decoy prom out of mothballs and make it an actual thing, lack of resources be damned. This provokes an emergency meeting with Yukino, Yukino’s mom, and Haruno, the latter of whom seems to finally be getting satisfaction from how Hikki is doing things.

In effect, Hikki is setting himself for abject failure…unless Yukino takes charge and “saves” him. As someone who ran the first prom so splendidly her mother acknowledged her, Yukino couldn’t save face if she turned this down, and the Yukinoshita family would suffer a blow to its vaunted reputation. So she accepts.

In return, Hikki says he’ll “take responsibility” for anything and everything that results from this supposedly ill-fated venture. Even though none of the words explicitly indicate it, the exchange sounds an awful lot like Hikki is asking Yukino’s mom for her daughter’s hand in marriage.

In the end, the PTO had no say in whether the fake prom became real, so Hikki wasn’t negotiating with Yukino’s mom or Haruno. It was all about creating a new opportunity to regularly associate with Yukino…and she took the bait. That night while walking home, Yukino is confused about what Hikki thinks he’s doing, when she told him to respect Yui’s wish.

Since Yui’s wish is for the three of them to remain together, Hikki tells Yukino he’s fulfilling Yui’s wish by doing this. This angers Yukino, who doesn’t like all the verbal gymnastics being used and wants to “get better at doing this”, but Hikki is more pessimistic: in the process of trying to get better, he believes they’ll drift further apart.

Hikki streamlines these sentiments with a pretty cool line: “If I let you go, I can’t grab hold of you again,” backing up the words by grabbing her hand as she power walks away. He then clarifies that saying he’ll “take responsibility” isn’t sufficient to express his true emotions about it. What he really wants is to have responsibility; for her to let him have it.

Initially Hikki hesitated in telling Yukino what he wanted, but Yui told him he had to tell Yukino anyway, even if it’s not the same thing she wants. So he does: he wants to remain involved with Yukino, not out of obligation, but desire. Putting it only the way Hikki can, he asks for the “privilege of distorting” Yukino’s life.

Yukino is a little put off by the innate harshness of such a word as “distortion”, but Hikki points out that distorting each other’s lives is not only unavoidable, but not a bad thing. And while he knows he doesn’t have a lot to offer her, he pledges anything and everything if he can be involved in her life.

A flustered Yukino tells him she’s troublesome and will cause nothing but problems and will eventually become more useless when she relies on him. He responds that he’ll just have to become more useless. After she play punches him and he tenderly takes her hand and holds it at his hear, she hugs him and asks her way: “Please allow me to have your life.”

“A bit stiff,” as Hikki says, but he’s hardly in a position to complain! And that, my friends, is how these two crazy kids confess to one another and ask to continue to be part of each other’s lives. I feel bad for Yui, but she’ll be okay. And that’s the point: no matter how much of a SNAFU their relationships have been or will be, they’re still young, and still learning what romance is and how love feels. They’re all going to be okay!

Fruits Basket – 44 – There’s Always Room for Kindness (and Jell-O)

For me this was one of most-anticipated episodes of Fruits Basket since Tooru saw Kyou’s true form. After learning the details of Rin’s life up to this point, I desperately wanted her to stay in that bed, or at least in that house with Tooru. If she just ran out in a huff, it would’ve felt like a major step backwards. I feel like there’s no more room for acting tough and aloof. Rin needs help, from others, now. She’s reached her breaking point.

Sure enough, she’s immediately unnerved and repelled by Tooru upon first seeing her, and when Hatori arrives to take her to the hospital for proper treatment, she damn near leaps out the window! She is every bit the wounded, stubborn Horse, kicking at anyone who tries to get close to her.

After Yuki has a brief chat with Rin (who tells her Haru still loves her very much), we learned that she learned about Tooru through Haru, who tells her Yuki and Kyou’s auras have mellowed considerably thanks to her kindness. When Rin first spotted Tooru at Shigure’s, it was everything she could do not to rush over, put her head in her lap, let her head be pat.

Tooru came off as that kind and caring and parental to Rin, making her Rin’s Kryptonite. Shifting from Haru’s kindness to Tooru’s just wouldn’t do; she doesn’t want to involve or trouble kind people, because she’s so predisposed on leaning on, yearning for, and taking advantage of those people.

If people hate her, Rin thinks, she’s doing it right; and so she continues to be dismissive and hostile towards Tooru. When Tooru realizes that Rin is also trying to break the curse, she wants to help, but Rin doesn’t want her to meddle, because “kind people should just live in their kind world”.

It’s not enough to dissuade Tooru; she’s long since decided that Yes, she WILL Meddle, thank you very much! Like Rin, she has things (and of course people) she can’t give up on. Kind people live in the same world as everyone else, and Tooru is kind precisely because she knows how scary it is to be alone in that world.

But Rin isn’t all alone, nor does she need to be. She’s not putting Tooru out by leaning on her, she’s making her elated just to be needed. Tooru believes she was put on this earth to care for people. She’s not perfect like Rin thinks, as that compulsion is a product of her own trauma. But it’s why Rin feels she can bury her head in Tooru’s bosom and let herself be cared for, at least a little.

Iwami Manaka and Toyosaki Aki are so damn good in this cathartic, multilayered scene, as is the dramatic staging and lighting, and Rin’s slowly falling hair as she launches herself into a hug. In gently breaking down Rin’s self-imposed barriers—built so high they threatened to literally kill her—Tooru proves her value as…Zodiac horse whisperer. I’m sorry; I had to go there!

Rin stops running for running’s sake, and goes to the hospital to recuperate. At school, Haru informs Yuki that he visited Rin, and considered her throwing her IV stand at him as a sign that she was on the mend. While he may not know about Tooru’s plans, he knows he can rest assured with Rin in her care, considering how well she’s done with Yuki and Kyou.

Tooru ends up surprising those two and Shigure by making Jell-O for dessert. Kyou, perceptive rascal that he is, makes the connection between Jell-O and the hospital, correctly guessing Tooru visited Rin. She saw that Rin wasn’t eating the hospital food, and Rin told her she likes Jell-O. Tooru contemplated just how much Rin had taken upon herself for so long, and how tormented her heart was, to clutch her hand so tightly when they hugged.

To Rin’s surprise, Tooru not only comes back, but with homemade Jell-O. Rin blushes a little but calls her baka, which Tooru laughs off as a tsundere tic. I think Rin will find her usual tricks won’t work against someone as resolute as Tooru, who joins her for a walk on the hospital grounds. Rin surrenders and tells her about the curse. Whatever it was hundreds of years ago, now it is nothing but a chain.

Rin also tells Tooru that Kureno will be of no help due to his loyalty to Akito—not even considering him “one of them” since he has no will to break the chain. Tooru still thinks she should talk to him, but Rin grabs her leg to stop her from doing anything too rash too soon.

Rin then asks Tooru why she wants to break the curse, what its it she can’t give up, and what is most precious to her. Tooru seems poised to answer…but the words don’t come out. Rin still understands, and for the first time sees that her and his strange normal girl’s goals are aligned. She doesn’t explicitly commit to it, but the two become a duo against the curse right then and there.

That night, Tooru dreams of lying in bed in her old apartment when her mother says goodbye for the last time, leaving her alone. No doubt her time with Rin—fellow “orphan by any other name”—dredged that semi-mythical memory from the depths of her psyche.

As she tucks into Tooru’s Jell-O, Rin senses that, like she’s tried to do for most of her life, Tooru hides “what lies beyond the door” from everyone, but everyone who does that eventually reaches a breaking point. Haru helped Rin gently open that door, and Rin hopes someone like that will come to Tooru—unaware that Kyou more or less that person.

The road ahead will be long and potentially vicious, but I can’t tell you how much joy and relief I derived from simply seeing Rin in the hospital, no longer running or building walls around herself. She’s as at peace as we’ve ever seen her. She’s in a place where she can accept tasty Jell-O from a silly, ditzy, profoundly kind girl who is far more reliable than she looks, aims to keep meddling, and won’t be denied.

Read Crow’s thoughts on the episode here!

Fruits Basket – 43 – Having Nothing in the End

Hiro is talking with Kisa about his yet-to-be-born sibling, whose gender will be a surprise, when he spots Rin in her school uniform. He’s concerned about her ashen appearance, but she gives him basically the same treatment as everyone else who tries to reach out: Buzz off. Go have your happy life with your nice parents and leave me alone with my misery.

The episode then revisits the time Rin approached Shigure, and we learn that she seeks a means of lifting the Zodiac curse, just like Tooru. She’s willing to give him her body for the info, but Shigure—in a rare instance of not being a total slimebag—rejects her offer. But he also refuses to help in any way, while stating he’ll enjoy the benefits Rin’s and others’ efforts, because, as he himself says, he is the worst.

Spurned by Shigure, who may or may not possess the answers she seeks, she goes through a Souma storage room in hopes of finding something, anything related to the curse and a way to lift it. Exhausted and nauseous, she collapses on the ground, then remembers one of the happiest moments in her life—in bed with Hatsu post-coitus, wishing she could be his heart—followed by one of the worst: her parents telling her they “don’t want her”.

Around dusk, she returns to Shigure’s house, strung-out almost beyond belief, but nobody’s home…until Tooru comes through the door. Even that act of opening a door sends Rin into a hysterical fit, repeatedly begging Tooru not to yell at her. Tooru being Tooru, she does the only thing the situation calls for in that moment: giving Rin a warm, gentle hug to try to calm her down.

Shigure may believe he’s the worst, but delving into Rin’s horrific childhood establishes some healthy competition for the title. By all accounts, Rin’s parents tried for years to put on a happy, fun façade as they raised her. It wasn’t until it started to feel like a performance to her, and she asked them why that was, that they snapped. This is not at all to blame Rin for breaking the façade; it was doomed no matter what she said or did. But it’s clear she blames herself.

Verbal and physical abuse followed, until one day Rin collapsed from the injuries the marks of which her clothes concealed. Kazuma and Hatsu are with her in the hospital, and that’s when her parents tell her flat out they no longer want her. Hatsu responds not by turning into Dark Hatsu, but simply by getting extremely pissed off with the parents, and lays into them, getting no response in return.

From then on, Rin lived with Kagura’s family, and the mere fact it was a genuinely happy household caused her intense emotional and physical pain, since she wonders “what she did wrong” to cause her to lose her own home. The only person in whom she found true peace and comfort was her white-haired knight Hatsu, who eventually confesses his love, and she reciprocates.

For the one person with whom spending time was not painful to also be a Zodiac member only adds fuel to the all-consuming flame of misfortune that is Rin’s life. Akito finds out, and when Hatori’s eye is brought up, Rin declares that she was the one who seduced Hatsu.

Akito doesn’t hold back on the verbal or physical wrath, calling Rin wicked and devious “like all women” and calling her flowing black hair “repulsive”. Seemingly feeding off Rin’s fear by grabbing her, Akito tells her she has no value other than filling one of the Zodiac slots before throwing her out the window. This is witnessed by Hiro, and if he hadn’t, Rin might well have bled out. Instead, she’s still alive…and wishes she wasn’t.

For all of those times I misinterpreted Rin’s standoffish, quick-to-anger nature in the few scenes in which she interacted with others, I can only beg for the character’s forgiveness. She’s had every right to act the way she has. It’s now crystal clear she broke up with Hatsu in order to save him from Akito’s wrath, as well as her own belief her love for him would be so heavy it would one day crush him.

I can only breathe a sigh of relief that Rin is now in the safest possible place: in Shigure’s house and in Tooru’s care. She may act like every bit the wounded horse upon coming to, and stubbornly reject any and all offer of help from Tooru, but the fact is the two share the same goal, and they’ll need each other if they’re going to make any progress.

So ends the darkest and most devastating episode of Fruits Basket to date, an absolutely unrelenting look at the destructive effects of the Zodiac curse on its members. Few episodes of anime hit me as hard as this one. Rin is at absolute rock bottom, neither wanting nor feeling she is deserving of love, happiness, or anything at all. But if anyone can help her, it’s Tooru. As long as Rin is alive, there is still hope. And I hope to hell she gets the redemption she needs and deserves.

Re:Zero kara Hajimeru Isekai Seikatsu – 26 (S2 01) – Sleeping Beauty, Weeping Hero

Allow me to indulge in a brief tangent: I’m playing Final Fantasy VII Remake at a more leisurely pace than most. I knew, as with Re:Zero here, it would be a while before we get the continuation, so I’d best savor what I’ve got, right? Anyway, I had just managed to defeat the much ballyhooed Airbuster boss at the end of Chapter 7, after which with Cloud falls through a church roof and lands on Aerith’s flowerbed.

Coming off such a long mission at the Mako Reactor culminating in a stressful, protracted boss battle, I expected a little respite to catch my breath. No such luck: within minutes Cloud is locked in a very tricky one-on-one fight with Reno. I went at him much the same way I’d fought Airbuster—and had my ass handed to me to the tune of four Game Overs before I got used to his patterns and found his weakness.

The point is, FF7R wasn’t ready to let me rest just yet, or even spend any time celebrating what had felt like a significant victory. It was immediately time to deal with the next crisis It’s the same with Re:Zero’s second season. Turns out watching the director’s cut wasn’t necessary, as the only unique scene it had—Emilia’s infamous “Who’s Rem?”—is the cold open of this first episode.

What we didn’t know is why exactly Lia suddenly forgot Rem. Was there another whale? Did the teleportation back from Isekai Quartet‘s “Chibi High School World” cause the amnesia? Re:Zero 2 wastes no time answering that question: Re:Zero’s Airbuster (the White Whale) may be defeated, but there’s no time to celebrate, because now its Reno is on the scene.

“Reno” in this case refers to not one but two new heretofore unseen Sin Archbishops of the Witch’s Cult: That of Greed, the smug Regulus Corneas, and Gluttony, the manic Lye Batenkaitos. The convoy that includes the wagon carrying Rem and Crusch is suddenly ambushed by the bishops, resulting in a huge amount of carnage.

Lye is a lot like Betel in his goofy over-the-top spiel, but Regulus is the more fearsome one to my eye and ear. He’s so calm, well-spoken, and put together, wasting no movement in his horrifically violent attacks. He looks more like Reinhard or Julius than a Sin Archbishop, which is somehow more unsettling.

When Crusch fights force with force, interrupting Regulus’ monologue, he is insulted by her lack of manners and relieves her of her left arm. After administering first aid, Rem breaks out her flail, but it’s telling that she makes it absolutely clear that she’s not the one they need to worry about, but the man she loves, her hero, The Hero, Natsuki Subaru.

That turns out to be a bad move, as neither archbishop considers Rem to be much of a threat, and as we saw what happened when she fought the Sin Archbishop of Sloth Betelgeuse, this battle was going to end about as well as my first tussle with the slippery Reno in FF7R. Emi’s question to Subaru meant the battle had already been decided, and Rem lost.

As steeled as I was to witness it firsthand, I was still not prepared for the devastating flashes of Rem and Subaru’s future before losing consciousness: sitting on a bench with their newborn second child; their firstborn standing nearby. Welcome Back to Re:Zero, where there is no limit to the amount of times your heart will get stomped on!

Once the convoys arrive at Crusch’s estate, Subaru is on the edge of panic as he restlessly searches the scores of dead and wounded for Rem. First he spots blue hair, but it’s not her. Finally, he finds her, unconscious. The healer doesn’t know who she is, and can do nothing for her. After lashing out at the man in anger, he quickly descends into crippling despair, grabs the nearest broken sword, points it at his throat, and kills himself.

Of course, Return by Death doesn’t take him back to a point in time before Rem is attacked; only to the back of the wagon with Emilia just before he mentions Rem. He’s too late to stop Rem’s attackers. He’ll have to save her after the fact.

Puck informs him that Gluttony literally devours not just memories, but someone’s very name. This is what was done to Rem, which means the girl lying in bed is an empty shell. She won’t wake up unless her name and memories are restored. I imagine killing Gluttony will do the trick, but who knows?

Meanwhile, everyone else has indeed never heard of Rem, while Crusch, the last person she was with, also had her memories eaten, to the point she doesn’t even know herself. At an impromptu meeting between Subaru, Emilia, Wilheim, Felis, and Crusch, Felis puts Crusch’s welfare first and proposes an end to an alliance with Emilia that no longer serves a benefit, only a burden.

Subaru bristles at that, and at Felis’ misplaced blame and selfish caution. Even though Crusch doesn’t really know who she is, she sides with Subaru, as does Wilheim. Gluttony, Greed, and the Witch’s Cult are threats to all (there are reports of others throughout the land falling victim to Gluttony), and so all of them must stay together to determine the proper path to defeating them.

Moving forward requires that Subaru accept that Rem is out of the picture for now, that there’s nothing he can immediately do about it, and going without sleep to stay by her bedside helps neither of them. Emilia comes to Rem’s room to say as much, and while she has no memories of Rem, she can tell she’s Ram’s sister. She’s also come to tell Subaru that she wants to help Subaru carry the weight of Rem. He saved her, and now it’s her turn to save him.

This causes Subaru to politely ask her to turn away so he can cry, but soon after bawling big sopping sheets tears, she wraps her arms around him in a hug of support. And so we start with the Hero at his lowest point (so far, at least…it can always go lower!), unable even to put on a Tough Guy act, and the Heroine promising to save him, starting with helping him process the situation so that they can begin to find a solution.

It’s a strong return to form for Re:Zero, which at this point is a known quantity in terms of how it operates and to never expect things to work out too soon without significant hardship and suffering on the part characters. Two new sniveling supervillains are here, and their Emilia-lookin’ Witch queen still looms.

Hopefully no one is starting their Re:Zero journey with this episode; that would be…interesting. Suffice it to say, if you enjoyed the first season, the second picks right up where it left off both in story, tone, and style. I’m eager to see and learn more. Thankfully, the wait is over.

 

Gleipnir – 10 – Partners in Grime

Special abilities and incredible strength aren’t what’s scary, says Clair. What’s truly scary is the people who use them. Madoka is one of those people, and after disarming Shuuihi and Clair with ease, he gives the Weak a simple ultimatum: either serve up one of their own for him to kill to make up for the man he lost, or he’ll kill every one of them.

As someone who, like Madoka, has the will to use the power she wields when within Shuuichi, Clair breaks it to the others that there may be no way out of this except by playing dirty to some degree, or otherwise choosing one of them to sacrifice. Clair is exempt from the choice, since Madoka recognized her as a kindred spirit.


It’s good to learn more about Madoka, and how he was a pitiable loner and self-professed “shithead” who couldn’t make anything work in his past life. Ironically, it was his tendency to always look down that led him to finding the coin that changed his life. All Madoka ever wanted was a group of friends, and now that he has that, he couldn’t be happier, and wants to keep it going. He says as much to the Weak, being far more reasonable than someone so powerful needs to be.

Clair hears those words and knows that if they’re going to survive the day without any of them dying, they’ll have to hit Madoka where it truly hurts: his friends. She has Isao grow huge bushes of poisonous oleander. Then Shuuichi shows up, and wants to help.

Clair tells him to stay out; it’s her job to get her hands dirty while he remains the “good boy”. But Shuuichi doesn’t agree. They’re one, which means she won’t have to bear her crimes and their consequences alone anymore. You can tell Clair really needed the hug he gives her, and to hear those words from him. This is a beautiful moment on a show full of ugly ones.

Once the oleander is set alight, the Weak escape upwind of the poisonous smoke, which envelops Madoka and his gang when they try to persue. Madoka can escape the fire on his own and kill the Weak, but to do so would mean abandoning all of the friends to die in a cloud of poisonous smoke and flame. So he remains to help them. Clair trusted her intuition that Madoka wouldn’t abandon his friends, and won.

Being able to gamble when the stakes are so high is also what makes Clair and people like her “scary” in her eyes. But after hearing Madoka’s thoughts on the matter, as well as Shuuichi’s words of support, Clair realizes that even the purest of heart can become utterly ruthless when taking action for the sake of another, as Shuuichi vowed to do for her.

In fact, it explains why someone like Elena, whom neither she nor Sayaka could ever imagine becoming an evil monster, became one anyway. Not only someone with terrifying powers, but the will to use them…but like Clair, she couldn’t hope to bear the weight of her crimes alone.

Sing “Yesterday” for Me – 10 – Making an Effort

First of all, thank goodness for the Fukudas, for hosting a party that doubles as an excuse to bring Rikuo and Shinako to see each other. Kozue even insists Rikuo give Shinako the moonstone pendant his boss gave him.

When he can’t hide the gift’s provenance, Shinako is still charmed by his honesty with her, and feels good about it being the first gift he’s ever given a woman. It’s a sign they’re starting to find some comfort in each others’ romantic inexperience. Rikuo’s gesture also enables Shinako to suggest they spend New Year’s Eve together.

It’s ironic, then, that the woman who ends up at Rikuo’s place that night isn’t Shinako, but Haru, who waited outside his door for untold hours in the cold. Rikuo isn’t so cold-hearted he won’t offer her the warmth of his apartment and something warm to drink. Haru’s been dealing with a lack of Rikuo so long she can’t help giving him a big hug.

While Rikuo’s slightly stronger insistence Haru stop “this kind of thing” makes for a heartbreaking interaction between the two—not to mention Haru settling for way too little in my book—there’s a nobility in her sticking this out regardless, even if she comes off as clingy or desperate, she’s making the effort to see him because she likes him, so he should cut her some slack.

Speaking of effort, neither Shinako or Rikuo call each other to make plans until New Year’s Eve. Rikuo eventually is the one to call her, and the call is awkward, but also appreciated. Both of them accept partial responsibility for the temporary communications breakdown, since both were anxious about what form their New Years Eve date would take.

Thankfully, once they end up at a restaurant together and have some drinks, the two hit it off splendidly, and are able to talk naturally, have fun together, and talk about one another in ways beyond mere small talk.

The romantic tension increases a hundredfold when Shinako finally  decides to take the initiative (again) and invite Rikuo to her place (again). Thankfully the show skips the long hallway walk and the door-opening and we finally have the two in the same apartment together after spending a wonderful evening together—an evening that marks a literal new beginning with the new year, but also a different kind of beginning for their relationship…hopefully!

Again, Shinako finds herself apologizing for so slowly realizing that it’s possible to experience a kind of love that’s different from her first; that of Rou’s brother. Expanding her view of what forms love takes makes it easier for her to avoid pitting those two loves against each other, and she makes sure Rikuo knows she wants to move forward and learn what forms this new love takes.

Even if she has to take it slow, it’s something she wants to do. Rikuo pulls her into a passionate embrace and the two come close to a kiss, but ultimately pull away amicably. Rikuo no doubt respects Shinako’s desire to take things slow and it probably makes a lot of sense for him as well—taking a long friendship to another place is tricky in the best of conditions.

We then shift somewhat abruptly from the beautiful tension of Shinako’s apartment to the dread of Haru alone in her vast accommodations after spending the evening with her mom and her new husband. Something goes bump in the night, Haru investigates, and then Rikuo gets a phone call he reacts to with shock.

A lot can happen in the remaining eight episodes, and it’s telling that the “Game Over” video game ED has already been replaced with a new ED that gives the four protagonists relatively equal treatment.

I’m worried that this cliffhanger-y final scene portends a sudden stamping-out of the slight but very meaningful progress Rikuo and Shinako made this week. Why introduce a “bump in the night” if Haru isn’t about to be in some kind of danger or trouble?