Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 19 – New Friends, Good Fish, and Foul Play

While Kuroko and Uiharu are busy using the pre-cog app to prevent accidents, Ruiko ends up making an unexpected friend at the supermarket. Due to a fad going around claiming the fish helps increase good looks, Ruiko buys the last two cans, and Frenda Seivelun hounds her until she gives her one. When she accidentally blows it up trying to open it on the spot, she worms her way into dinner.

Ruiko is initially bemused by this odd, haughty foreigner, but the two end up becoming fast friends and message each other regularly. It’s strange having Frenda show up in a mostly comedic role considering we know she died a grisly death in the Index show, but to enjoy this episode you have to put her impending doom out of your head.

Things actually take a dark turn as Ruiko’s purchasing of a Dream Poker card that makes you an expert at “picking things up with chopsticks”, raises a flag with a member of SCHOOL, who believes it relates to the “Tweezers” their underground group is trying to acquire. The hacker kid has Ruiko abducted, not knowing she has absolutely nothing to do with the Tweezers. This franchise certainly asks its audience to remember a lot of parallel storylines.

Thankfully, Frenda spotted the toughs approaching Ruiko’s position, and tossed a tracking device on their clothes. Hamazura picks her up in his Mini and they catch up to the vans. Then Frenda uses explosives to block the vans and takes out the goons, thus rescuing Ruiko. SCHOOL hacker guy then contacts sniper Yumiya Rakko, who was about to hang out with her school friends when she was called away.

Yumiya’s persona changes drastically from shy and stuttering at school to a focused, sadistic killer in hunter mode. And make no mistake, she’s going to hunt Frenda to blow off the steam from missing out on her crucial social gathering.

If you ask me, Academy City has way too many crazed teenagers working for what amount to criminal gangs, whether ITEM or SCHOOL. It’s why poor civilians like Ruiko always end up in the middle of trouble not of their making.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 18 – The Legend of Bust Upper

When Ruiko proudly, flamboyantly shows Mikoto how much her kendama skills have improved (showing off like nunchaku) through Dream Poker, its to encourage her friend not to give up on the fad just because she had a bad first experience. Meanwhile, Kinuhata Saiai of ITEM (this arc takes place before the group was destroyed) has discovered that of the four female members she has the smallest bust, and is not okay with that.

Saiai and Mikoto, two young women overly self-conscious about their size, end up crossing paths at a street poker card street dealer. The one S-Class card in his stock happens to be the dream of a “long-lost but brilliant scientist” researching a certain matter near and dear to them. When the two learn it is called Bust Upper, they’re both on the cusp of starting an esper brawl when the dealer breaks them up and all the cards scatter.

Rather than fight, Mikoto and Saiai decide to each buy up half the cards and try them all out until they find the Bust Upper, which got lost in the pile. Yet neither end up dreaming with that card, only finding themselves in scenarios in which society and the world persecutes them due to their modest natural bust sizes. Both get so frustrated they end up waking up loudly ranting in the napping center, and are politely kicked out.

They continue searching the cards poolside (though not in swimsuits), and aside from an extremely cryptic, abstract dream involving a mysterious black-and-white-haired woman (of whom we certainly haven’t seen the last), they come up empty again. They part ways “ultra”-disappointed, but the Railgun and ITEM having enjoyed a truce over a shared lack of a burden (on their shoulders), and believing the dealer was simply telling tall tales.

However, the real Bust Upper card ended up snatched up by a crow while both were napping. When a cat startles the crow, it drops the card near the hand of a girl in the park with a modest bust of her own. The next day, as Rikou is showing Uiharu her new master pen-spinning skills (love her trend of only mastering useless skills), they unwittingly witness the results of Bust Upper, tying the episode up with a neat bow.

As far as Railgun filler goes, it rarely gets as filler-y as this, and takes the patently silly bust complex comedy about as far as it can go. But it’s nevertheless a fun time because it’s bursting (busting?) with Railgun charm straight out of the gate. It’s great to Mikoto enjoying some ordinary days before the next threat shows up, and especially nice to see ITEM during better days.

P.S. Considering how hard she worked the past two weeks, it’s understandable that Kuroko just wants to get some shut-eye when Mikoto, who is overly rested from all the napping, talks about her day. Kuroko doesn’t even react to the mention of Missy in a revealing outfit!

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 17 – Miyama-ty Report

This episode considerably scales back the complexity of last week’s outing and focuses on the precognitive abilities of Miyama Shaei, and their role in transforming Kuroko into even more capable and efficient Judgment Officer.

He starts by predicting a girl falling into the water—Chisa, whom I believe injected an ampule of fertilizer into a tree last week. Where before Kuroko would not have learned of her predicament until after it happened and it was reported, thanks to Miyama’s prediction she can rescue Chisa seconds after she falls in.

One after the other, Miyama predicts mishaps and Kuroko is able to teleport in the nick of time to save the would-be victims. Be it a girlfriend with a knife, a falling sign, or bullies, Kuroko is on the scene and Getting Shit Done.

Like the previous arc where she lost her memories, it’s never not great to see Kuroko operating in fully bad-ass non-comic relief mode. Mikoto and Saten don’t even appear this week, but I didn’t miss them because Kuroko can carry an episode any time she wants.

With the combined help of Miyama’s ability and Uiharu’s handy hacker skillz, a pattern of incidents are predicted in a public park, and the imagery points to a raging fire, so the girls recruit their superior Konori Mii and other members of Judgment to lock the park down and prepare for anything.

Since Kuroko has been at the center of so many incidents with happy endings, the other Judgment members don’t bristle at the odd request. However, Miyama eventually reaches his physical limit and has to be hospitalized with blood cell damage from ability overuse.

While there, he dreams of how he was ostracized at school by popular girls lke Okawachi Megumi for having such a “creepy” ability. She changes her tune when he predicts she’ll fall victim to a mishap, and promises her he’ll try to prevent it. Of course, since this was well before he met Kuroko—the only person who can change the fates he sees—Okawachi is badly injured and curses the day she met him.

When he predicts the first and earliest of the incidents to occur in the park, it involves a stray dog with whom he is close, and starts to wonder if Okawachi is right—if bad things happen to people who know him like her and Perro—as a result of his ability, a chicken-and-egg dilemma that would be stressful for an adult, let alone a grade-schooler.

Night comes, and with them predicted raging fires, an extremely clever and complex sequence of events involving both the park’s vending machine (which may have a frayed power cable due to Mikoto having always zapped it) throwing a short that ignites dry leaves and grass and eventually causes Chisa’s ampules to violently detonate.

Of course, Kuroko, Uiharu, and Judgment don’t panic; they planned for this, and Kuroko is outfitted with both a HUD monocle and breathing tube for a sequence of quick teleports into and out of the fire, rescuing imperiled parkgoers each time. Again, I cannot underscore how much enjoyment I get out of Kuroko simply hunkering down and doing her job extremely well.

A panicked Miyama races to the park to try to rescue Perro on his own, but in his childishness (he is still just a kid after all) he wrongly assumed Judgment wouldn’t bother saving a random stray dog. Kuroko heads back into the inferno with Konori and her X-ray vision and eventually find the dog, a bit limpy but none the worse for wear. Miyama can’t help but blush and tear up, and Kuroko tells him its okay.

Later, we learn that Miyama has arranged for Okawachi to adopt Perro, and that she’s ready to apologize for how she treated him. In a chat with Kuroko, he worries his predictions will only involve those close to him, but she doubts that will be the case, since he’s like her: devoted to peace and justice for all.

She also believes that in time his power will grow to the point he can use it more often without risking his health. And when he does, she’ll be ready and willing to receive more intel so she can do some more rescuing. I love how Kuroko faces away from him to hide her blushing, no doubt a bit embarrassed she shares the same values as a little kid, while also casually mentioning a certain “champion of justice” she looks up to.

The big question last week was if and how the shared dream fad and Miyama’s mishap prediction plot would connect, and the answer comes in a very small detail at the very end: those ridiculously hazardous nutrient ampules that Chisa used? They were meant to allow the cherry blossoms to bloom year-round.

Chisa and her friends got idea to use the ampules…in a shared dream. With the additional brief mention of a “mass unconsciousness outbreak” this week, is it possible Chisa was unknowingly directed to plant explosives, or was it an innocent accident? Considering the potential for abuse of the shared dream system and the large number of troublemakers populating Academy City, I’m not ruling anything out.

Toaru Kagaku no Railgun T – 16 – Swapped Dreams and Foretold Trouble

Railgun is back…again…AGAIN again…and it’s lost none of its charm. With the Level 6 unpleasantness behind her for now, Mikoto is approached by Misaki’s lieutenant Hokaze Junko, who might just have the best hair of any Raildex character. Junko, who wrongly assumes her Queen and Mikoto are friends, just wants to be friends with Mikoto as well. It’s very sweet.

Like Mikoto, Junko is on the swim club, so has a chance to approach Mikoto about something else they have in common: they’re both Gekoers. While a bicker-session between Mikoto and Misaki erupts, Junko eventually gets a word in and offers Mikoto an “Indian Poker” card. Saten informs Mikoto of a new underground trend of recording dreams and sharing them like baseball cards.

The color of the card Junko gave Mikoto suggests a happy, pleasant dream, and that is indeed the case when Mikoto is approached by all of her favorite Gekota characters. However, the dream takes a turn when Mikoto is led to the castle to meet the queen…Misaki.

While I’ve no doubt Junko finds the prospect of a dream in which she gets to serve and pamper her queen extremely appealing, it amounts to a goosebump-inducing nightmare for Mikoto, who wakes up more exhausted than when she went to bed.

Junko invites Mikoto and Misaki to tea in an ill-advised effort to help the two become closer friends (something they’d never admit they were, even if they actually were). She hopes to use the poker cards to facilitate this, but Misaki shuts Junko down, telling her to stop playing with the cards and to tell her other followers to stop too.

Junko obeys without argument, irking Mikoto. Despite her own feelings about the cards, she doesn’t think it’s fair for Misaki to lord over people like Junko. But Misaki’s claims about the game being childish are put in stark relief when the three women overhear three fanboys worshiping the S-ranked “Dream Ranker” BLAU for his dreams involving real-life women they’d never normally be able to…er…interact.

When BLAU mentions how he has dreams available involving the two Level 5s from Tokiwadai, Mikoto and Misaki are suddenly allied in a way Junko couldn’t have forseen, though it does dawn on her how powerful the two would be if they combined their forces of destruction, coersion, and memory alteration. Maybe one day we’ll get a spin-off to this Index spin-off about the two doing perfect crimes!

They do just that when Mikoto zaps BLAU’s dream cards and Misaki alters the boys’ memories. She doesn’t mind a boy dreaming about a girl he fancies, but passing those dreams around for others is where she draws the line. Mikoto, meanwhile, is simply against all of it. When the wonderfully oblivious Junko asks what the two are on about, they both make excuses to take their leave.

Juding from the OP, the poker cards and Dream Rankers will play a far larger role, but this is a useful introduction to how the process works and how it can be used for nefarious purposes. From there the episode transitions to Uiharu and Kuroko’s Judgment duties, and Uiharu informs Kuroko of a new “treasure hunt” style app that uses augmented reality to show not just where accidents have occurred, but where they will occur.

Six out of six such “foretold” accidents ended up happening, leading Kuroko to suspect an esper with precognitive abilites is behind the app. The pair decide to stake out the site of a seventh future accident. A boy is nearly run over by a truck, but the boy is missed. A different car has to avoid the truck and almost hits a girl, and she’s the one Kuroko saves. Had she not been anticipating something to happen, she might’ve made the wrong move and things could have gone far worse.

Kuroko suspects someone was watching things from a high vantage point, and sure enough, she encounters a 10-year-old fourth-grader named Li Syaoran Miyama Shaei, and takes him back to the Judgment office. Miyama tells them the app was developed to analyze psychic photography espers like him, as he’s able to use a camera to take pictures that eventually develop into future events…but only accidents, in his case.

The app is a means of him concealing his identity, since like the poker cards his ability can be hazardous in the wrong hands—and we know there are a whole mess of underground groups in Academy City eager to be those hands. Miyama was actually hoping to gain the attention of an esper capable of altering the fates his abilities predict. Judging on how she handled the latest incident, he believes Kuroko is that esper.

This first episode back since Spring may have been absolutely stuffed with new plot points, they were all handled carefully and in the context of the characters we know and love. I think it was kinda the point to overwhelm us a bit with new information, but it was still all clearly laid out. There isn’t yet a concrete threat for this new arc, but all the elements and players are present for some mischief. I’m mostly just glad Mikoto is back on the board, stamping out dirty boys’ dreams.

Extra Stuff in No Particular Order:

  • I love how Mikoto doesn’t recognize Junko, who I don’t believe had been formally named yet, until she removes her swim cap to reveal those luxurious lilac locks. Junko is the undisputed Hair Queen.
  • Kuroko gives the first long-winded bedroom monologue in a long time as Mikoto sleeps, offering her body to her as she has so many times before. Unfortunately, when Mikoto yells “NEVER” in response to her Misaki-infected dream, Kuroko misinterprets it as a rejection, and is down in the dumps until the precog stuff surfaces.
  • Saten is the useful voice of explaining the “Indian Poker” cards, which I’ll be referring to as “poker cards” or “dream cards” going forward.
  • Saten also does a patented Uiharu skirt flip, but it happens entirely off-camera.
  • BLAU’s *bleep* laden description of his dreams involving Mikoto and Misaki make what he’s talking about sound much dirtier than if nothing had been bleeped…which works in the scene’s favor!
  • Preston is deep into OG Cardcaptor Sakura, hence me likening Miyama to fellow precocious fourth grader Li Syaoran.
  • I love how much Uiharu is looking forward to finally having someone in the office who will call her senpai. Kuroko is just worried she’ll dote on the rookie too much.

Kakegurui – 05

I may have bristled at least week’s structure (spend the entire first half introducing Ikishima, someone not involved in the second half’s gambling) but it was a blessing in disguise, putting a welcome kink in the gamble-a-week rhythm of the show to this point. Also, a poker game this layered with lies, deceit, and glorious twists needed more than two halves of an episode; it needed three.

Liberated from the need for setup (ably achieved in the first half) the crazy-faces showed up early and often here, as did the twists, the most important one being that the moves of the seemingly superfluous fourth player, Tsubomi, are being controlled by Kiwatari, the only non-livestock in the game.

Tsubomi and Mary are aware of this (Tsubomi isn’t so great at hiding the cheating), but in the tenth and final game, when Kiwatari tells Tsubomi she’s not allowed to beat him, Tsubomi does her stuff: painstakingly picking and peeling back the emotionless facade Tsubomi had built to repress the trauma of losing her beautiful locks of hair, roughly hacked off by Kiwatari himself once she became livestock.

Tsubomi tells her that losing intentionally here, when she has a perfect opportunity to prove she’s not “lifelong livestock”, would be like a “motionless pig in an open cage.” Unable to accept that, Tsubomi’s facade cracks, beats Kiwatari in the round, and becomes a human again.

The game would have ended with Tsubomi in first place, if the chip count, which we’d been getting from Kiwatari, was accurate. Turns out that is the last and final twist in the game: Mary and Yumeko falsified their debt reports (just like Kiwatari did), then swapped them, so the boards in front of them at the card table gave Kiwatari the wrong figures to do his math throughout the game.

It’s a total defeat brought on by Kiwatari’s confidence in his control over Tsubomi, as well as his hard-headed belief he can judge everyone as if they were cut from the same cloth. Meanwhile, Tsubomi may still technically be livestock, but regained her will to live and fight for solvency.

The council secretary Igarashi worries about what Pandora’s Box President Momobari (whom she seems to love) has opened by allowing someone as inscrutable as Jabami Yumeko to roam free. However, when Igarashi says “the usual things” that one can use to control a person don’t work on her; she’s not entirely right.

I have no doubt if Yumeko’s friends were threatened, she wouldn’t stand by and do nothing. And now Yumeko has two friends—Ryouta and Mary—who may be leveraged against her in the future. We’ll see how she deals with that as she faces off against more and stronger opponents.

Kakegurui – 04

Gentleman that he is, Ryouta offers Yumeko a small contribution of 1 million yen ($9000 US) but she tells him she’s got cash on hand; the council hasn’t yet come to collect her massive debt. Instead, she, Mary, and other livestock are presented with “Life Plans.”

With these, the council is “collecting” by taking ownership of Yumeko and Mary’s futures and planning them out accordingly, stripping them of all human agency. In Mary’s case, she’ll marry a lolicon Diet member and have three kids, grow old, and die. Yumeko is likely in for a similar fate.

We also learn there’s yet another downside to being livestock: non-livestock like towering brute Kiwatari feel empowered to demand, say, that Yumeko strip in a dark corner of the school.

When she refuses, he threatens to violate her. With Kiwatari and his two goons to deal with, the noble Ryouta is hopelessly outmatched, but still looks ready to try rescuing her.

That’s when the “fun” is interrupted by piercing and accessory-laden student council member and Beautification Committee chairman Ikishima Midari. Rather than outright stop Kiwatari’s assault, Ikishima challenges him to a round of Russian Roulette with a massive revolver. Kiwatari retreats, so she retires to a bathroom stall to play alone.

Ikishima (voiced by unhinged-girl extraordinaire Ise Mariya; see Aku no Hana), like Yumeko, literally gets off on the thrill of gambling, but takes it to a very visceral extreme, playing with her very life rather than chips or cards. Yumeko promises she’s repay her for saving her, and Ikishima seems very excited at the chance to collect.

That first half is to introduce Midari, but she plays no role in the remainder of the episode, which is given over to the “Debt Adjustment Assembly.”

Livestock are invited to play Blind Man’s Bluff (AKA Indian Poker) in order to try to transfer their debt to someone else in exchange for a lower sum—a much lower sum in Yumeko’s case. And just Mary’s luck: she ends up in Yumeko’s group…and Kiwatari’s there too.

Two issues: First, so much time was spent on the intro of Kiwatari and Ikishima that this game is left unfinished. Unless Ikishima plays a role in this gamble next week, it would have made more sense to save her intro for later, establish Kiwatari as a rapey dick quickly and efficiently during the game, and have the whole game contained within this episode.

Second, while BMB is a fairly simple game, the way it’s employed here, and the way it’s explained, threatens to sap all of the enjoyment out of the proceedings. It’s very convoluted and requires a lot of words—too many, in fact—to get the point across of what is going on.

Still, I enjoyed watching Mary utterly reject the life plan the council (and that stupid “kiddy” council member in the bunny suit) laid out for her, as no matter how comfortable and happy a life it might be, it’s not a life she chose. This motivates her to put in an effort to try to claw out of her situation.

She even breaks out her crazyface, as does Kiwatari (the latter looking for all the world like he wouldn’t be out of place in Attack on Titan), but Yumeko doesn’t join the party. She remains quite calm as the episode pretty abruptly ends without any resolution.

Surely more wrinkles will be added to the game as things escalate, but of all the ways Kakegurui could shake up its formula, giving half an episode over to two character intros and then rolling credits before a game can finish didn’t quite work for me, especially when the game itself required so much narration to lay out.