Dororo – 05 – A Beautiful Soul in an Ugly World

Hyakkimaru may have his hearing back, but at least initially it’s more of a curse than a blessing. Even in an eerily quiet forest he’s assaulted by what he perceives as an intolerable din of creature sounds, not to mention Dororo’s voice. Determining that something has to be done until he gets used to hearing, Dororo wraps his ears in several layers of fabric to lesson the suffering.

When a bird monster suddenly attacks, it’s clear that Hyakkimaru’s newfound hearing is also messing with his ability to fight. He gets a few licks in, but the bird gives as good as it gets, seriously injuring Hyakkimaru. It it isn’t for Biwamaru showing up to finish it off, it probably would have been curtains for Hyakkimaru and Dororo.

Biwamaru fixes him up as best he can, but Hyakkimaru will need medicine to recover properly. He’s also being very stubborn about accepting the fact he can now hear. Biwa compares him to a beast holed up in its cave; he’ll have to come out sooner or later. The boys have run into Biwamaru because the old priest has had to turn around after entering lands in which a war is currently being fought between the Sakai clan and the ally it betrayed.

In the morning, Hyakkimaru hears a sound he’s never heard before: a woman singing a sweet and gentle song. He follows the song and finds its owner, a beautiful young woman, washing her kimono in the river. While some might find the sight of Hyakkimaru frightening, she is concerned…especially when he nearly passes out in her arms.

The songstress, who goes by Mio, invites the three to the ruins of a village where she cares for a group of small war oprhans, most of whom are missing limbs like Hyakkimaru. Dororo meets a lad near his own age in Takebo, who serves as Mio’s second-in-command of the little ‘uns. Takebo also insists Mio get her sleep, as she works all through the night and needs to have her energy. Dororo doesn’t ask Takebo to elaborate.

Meanwhile, Lord Kagematsu’s wife Nuinokata impresses upon her husband the seriousness of recent unfortunate events that have befallen them, from landslides to drought to the betrayal of the Sakai clan. Tahoumaru overhears, and probably thinks he can do something to ease his father’s troubles. Of course, we know that as long as Hyakkimaru keeps killing the demons who stole pieces of him, the demons will continue to seek reparations from Daigo.

As Biwamaru searches for a safe path along which to continue, Mio goes to work when the sun sets. When she returns in the morning, her kimono slightly askwer, Hyakkimaru is waiting for her. She gets the feeling he can not only see her, but see deeper than most; Dororo tells her she’s right; he can see souls.

In both her selfless actions, charity towards both the orphans and her new guests, and the beauty of the song she sings, Hyakkimaru is now able to ascertain with both sight and sound that Mio is a particularly good soul. He signs that wants to hear her song again, and she obliges.

Seemingly invigorated by the song, Hyakkimaru wastes no time heading off when Biwamaru informs them all that there’s a safe area to which to relocate, provided they can defeat the tough demon that dwells there. But with his wounds still held together with hope and still dealing with his new sense of hearing, Hyakkimaru loses a step. He defeats the demon, but loses his one real leg below the knee. Defeating this demon unlocks his voice, and he uses it to cry out in what must be excruciating pain, while Biwamaru looks at him like he’s already got one foot in the grave.

Later that night, while following Mio to town where she hopes to do business with both sides of the conflict to fund her little group’s relocation, Dororo loses track of her. When he finally finds her, it’s due in part because she’s singing, but the reason she’s singing gives Dororo pause: she’s singing while being raped by three soldiers.

Once again Dororo takes a cold hard look at the casual brutality and injustice of feudal Japan. It takes a particularly dim view of lords and the samurai they wield as tools of terror and death. In this time and place wars can pop up at the drop of an obi, leaving children without their parents or even their very limbs. They are only able to survive because poor Mio sells her body every night.

I would hope that Hyakkimaru, Dororo, and Biwamaru could do something to help them, but with Hyakkimaru’s new horrifying injury, it’s hard to believe he’ll be doing anything anytime soon.

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Koi wa Ameagari no You ni – 02

Yoshizawa takes a job at the restaurant where Akira works, but never gives him the time of day, nor should she feel obligated to. If, indeed, he only got the job there to get closer to her, he’s barking up the wrong tree! He’ll have better luck with Yui, who considers him more her type.

Speaking of Yui, on a slow day, she and Akira engage in a game of telling one another what makes their hearts flutter. Yui lists a number of tasty foods, while Akira names things like pansies, shoes with ribbons, black-and-white cats, lotion, etc…obviously without mentioning the person who makes her heart flutter the most.

In addition to the work small-talk, we also get a momentary look at the change-making register of the restaurant. I for one love the little touches that make the restaurant setting feel so realistic and cozy.

When a customer forgets their phone and leaves on a bike, Kondo thinks he’s SOL, but Akira takes the phone and bolts, showing Kondo the form and speed that once made her a distinguished member of the track team. Kondo, for his part, is very impressed, as well as happy to see another side of his employee. And Akira is impressive.

However, her ankle injury flares up, and Kondo has no choice but to help her up into his car so he can take her to her clinice for evaluation. Little does he know Akira is absolutely loving every moment she gets to spend alone with the manager, in addition to him demonstrating once more what a kind and caring fellow he is.

Against a goofball like Yoshizawa, you can’t really fault her for developing a thing for Kondo. And of course, she isn’t fazed in the slightest by all the evidence of his son in the backseat; they got along just fine, after all.

At the clinic, Kondo suggests having Yoshizawa bring her things, since he’s her boyfriend at all, causing Akira to emphatically correct that gross misunderstanding (causing the doctor to apologize to his other patients, the same way Kondo apologizes when his staff is rowdy or breaks something).

It’s when Kondo starts staring at Akira’s foot before she removes her sock that she sends him off to take care of the restaurant. But when she comes back later to grab her uniform and bookbag, she catches a glimpse of Kondo in the window and is momentarily spellbound.

Back home, she lounges on her bed, remembering how it felt to be held by Kondo, and then receives a call from an unfamiliar number…which turns out to be Kondo’s! He calls to makes sure she’s alright, and to tell her she can call him anytime if she needs anything. Yes, now Akira has his number. She’s very happy about that.

The next day, feeling a bit cooped up, Akira heads to a konbini on her crutches, and who should she encounter on the sidewalk but Kondo, searching for her house so he can properly apologize to her parents. Her mom (note no mention of dad) is at work, so Kondo treats her to a parfait at a local restaurant instead (and I really got a kick out of Kondo checking out another restaurant’s displays and setup).

When Kondo catches a glimpse of her pink toes (painted last night after his call to her, and perhaps the reason she didn’t want to show him her foot at the clinic) and wonders whether it’s due to the blood pooling in her toes. She simply tells him it’s a pedicure and laughs at his misunderstanding.

Then, quite suddenly, and even to her own surprise and shock, she confesses to Kondo she likes him, right then and there. And Kondo takes it exactly the way you’d expect a decent guy of his age to take it: as a compliment, while also expressing his relief she didn’t hate him like he feared.

Obviously, he’s taking her “I like you” to mean “as a manager, colleague.” Having either dodged a bullet or struck out, Akira merely sets to work on her tasty-looking parfait, while Kondo, happy to hear his employee doesn’t hate him, orders more food.

Koi wa Ameagari no You ni – 01 (First Impressions)

Tachibana Akira is a quiet, soft-spoken high schooler who works part-time at a family restaurant. Despite one of her older co-workers always shitting on the manager, Akira actually has a thing for the guy, even though he’s much older. Where others see weakness or spinelessness, she sees kindness and gentleness.

The manager is divorced and also a dad, and when the kid is hanging out in the break room, Akira shows the kid how to play the recorder properly, noticing he has his dad’s eyes. It’s here we see that Akira is every bit as warm and kindhearted as the manager, and that, if she was, you know, an adult, they might be a fine match for each other.

While Akira’s school friends are fixated on the dreamy soccer captain, Akira doesn’t give that guy a second’s look, and when asked what her type is, basically describes the manager, open fly, loud sneezing and all. They kinda laugh it off, unable to relate to her taste. We also learn that Akira has been working at the restaurant since a leg injury forced her to retire from the track team prematurely. Still, she and Haruka, her former track captain, remain close.

The episode allows us a moment with the manager, as Akira brings up “types” with her co-worker Yui, then brings up the manager as a possible type, and Yui dismisses that possibility immediately, complaining that the manager has a weird smell. The manager accidentally overhears this, and later makes a note to be mindful of the smells he emits as well as take care not to eavesdrop on conversations.

Finally, we learn how Akira and the manager met. Akira, fresh off her surgery, gets out of the rain, and the manager gives her a free cup of joe while she waits. It was just a little gesture, but well-timed Akira was likely feeling very lonely and down, from having to quit track.

Presumably, she applied for a job at the restaurant to get closer to this kind older man, and despite the fact he caught her smelling his shirt, he’s still very much unaware of her feelings, and when he spots an annoying stalker-y classmate who bothers Akira, assumes the prick is her boyfriend.

I’m sure she’d like to tell the manager how she is, but is obviously apprehensive due to the extreme age difference. No doubt this show will explore her attempts to get to a place where she can do so, or failing that, be content with the way things are.

I’d describe this show as fresh and breezy, and yet also warm and very thoughtful. Despite the controversial nature of the premise, it’s handled with all due delicacy and respect so far. The aesthetic is crisp and detailed; everything from the clouds in the sky to the steam on the food, there’s a keen realism to everything, which plays off the somewhat retro character designs nicely.

Kekkai Sensen & Beyond – 05

In Blood Blockade Battlefront you can be assured you’ll get a fun, action-packed romp – with the added intrigue of having no alterworldly idea where that action is going to come from or what mission it will serve.

This week’s focus is on Klaus’ venerable, dutiful combat butler, Gilbert Franke Altstein, who is picking up some supplies with Leo when he’s suddenly snatched up by a giant flying eel-monster, breaking his back clean through.

Gilbert is a comically tough old dude, so he’s mostly fine, but his back needs time to fully heal or it will keep breaking. Head Maid Bates quickly dispatches the young combat butler Phillip Lenore to take over for him.

Leo’s first impression of him is of a “loud and oppresive” presence, but to Zapp and Chain’s shock, Lenore makes a cup of tea Klaus will drink, and while out in the city, Philip notices a monster trying to snatch Leo’s wallet—which Leo tells him is a frequent enough occurance for him to carry nothing but spare change, keeping his cash elsewhere on his person.

Phillip, like any sane or normal person, thinks it unbelievable someone like Leo could survive in HSL, but as we know, not all parts of the city are dangerous all the time. Not to mention he has powerful friends looking out for him (even if help arrives late).

While pondering whether he could ever truly succeed Gilbert over a drink at a bar with a cute bartender, the entire establishment is suddenly swallowed by the friend of the pickpocket, and they extract Phillip’s brain. Turns out he shouldn’t have been worrying about Leo, but himself.

When Gilbert notices Phillip is missing an eye and his brain (which the criminals are using to see through his other eye), he refuses help from Klaus (as a butler, Phillip would regret putting his master in danger for the rest of his life), and asks Leo to use his eyes to find the brain…which he does.

Zapp, Zed, and Leo join Gilbert in his ultra-trick motorcar and the brainless Phillip to help retrieve the brain. Gilbert gives the baddies three options, one of which (hand it over without a fuss) would prevent the need for any further conflict; the other two (we’ll take it, or if you destroy it, we’ll kill you)…don’t. The crims don’t take the old man seriously…to their peril.

It never gets old when B3 turns up the volume, ratchets up the action, and gets down to business, and Gilbert’s raid on the criminals is no exception. While numerous and heavily armed, the bad guys are no match for Gilbert, his car, and the two Z’s, all while Leo leads them to the brain with his eyes.

After getting the car airborne and turning it into a kind of motorcycle (scrunching the four guys in the back seat even more), a good number of explosions and enemy casualties, the glass bulb containing Phillip’s brain and eye are safely retrieved. Oh, and Gilbert reveals he’s a Regeneratore when he’s literally cut in half but not killed.

While recovering in the hospital, Gilbert tells Phillip, whose face is now half metal as a result of his ordeal, finally has a “face for this city,” for which he should be proud. As for actually joining Libra (and thus automatically making his brain worth millions to the criminal underground), Phil is “thanks, but no thanks.” He needs a bit more seasoning. Meanwhile, Klaus does just fine without any butler at all!

Shuumatsu no Izetta – 04

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Word of Germanian defeat and rumors of a reborn White Witch travel all the way to Neu Berlin (where it seems they successfully built the Volkshalle) and the Germanian leader, who is excited by the news of a witch in modern times.

For the record, these guys don’t seem as bad as Nazis, but they are most certainly bad guys: arrogant bullies who pick on their weaker neighbors as part of a larger plan to dominate the continent and likely the world. Their power must have a check to avoid wholesale death and suffering.

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So far, the show seems intent on keeping that potential check, Izetta, as modest and grounded as possible, befitting both her past status and her debt to Princess Fine for saving her from a mob. Izetta takes nothing for granted: not the bed she wakes up in, or the cheerful maid Lotte who is assigned to her.

Little does Izetta know that just by being there, she’s basically threatening to usurp the right-hand-woman position currently occupied by Bianca, who is still suspicious of Izetta’s abilities and motives. However, when Lotte slips off her stool and Izetta gets konked on the head by a stone jug, Bianca feels responsible for the injury.

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This episode lacks any big battles, but sets the stage for an entirely new battle Eylstadt must fight—and win—to have any chance at peace: the PR battle.

To that end, Fine appoints her Grand Couturier, Lady Elvira (Hanazawa Kana in an adult role)—a kind of alternate-WWII version of Effie Trinket—to help polish Izetta’s image as the famed White Witch and saviour of the country. Elvira is also very handsy; quite inappropriately so.

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Izetta reveals to Fine and her war council that her powers don’t come from within, but are dependent on a network of ley lines distributed through the lands. In some places, like the old capital, she cannot use her magic at all; in the old capital, the lines are dense, and the depths of the old castle they find a helpful map so they’ll know where she’ll be most effective.

That being said, Fine is keeping it the highest of state secrets that Izetta has any weaknesses at all: winning hearts and minds of both her own people and potential allies abroad is dependent on the lie that Izetta is invincible, and that is part of the burden both women must bear on top of  actually fighting and winning more battles.

With the enemy not only well aware of Izetta’s existence but having previously had her in captivity, we’ll see what countermeasures they’ll come up with. In the meantime, Fine succeeds her recently deceased father as Archduchess, with Izetta the White Witch by her side. There’s no turning back.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 03

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Eylstadt’s antiquated, outmatched defenses are brought to the brink against the mighty modern Germanian war machine, and Izetta places us right in the trenches to experience how dire the situation is. A young private is tense before the action even starts; and then all of a sudden his commander is dead, the landscape has changed, and the air is full of cries of pain and despair.

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Fine’s forces are receiving a drubbing, and a rout is all but certain. Her frustration with the ineffectiveness of their defense is compounded by her heartbreak that so many must give their lives, simply to buy time. Yet she has the presence of mind and the discipline not to send the forces she still has out to die in a blaze of glory. She may not like how she has to pay for it, but she needs time for the civilians to evacuate and for new lines to be established.

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It falls to Izetta to do something about this horrible, hopeless situation. Against Fine’s wishes, Izetta enters the battle, and quickly turns the tables, using old jousting lances from the medieval castle as projectiles to take out the Germanian Stuka dive bombers one by one. She manages to take out the last plane with the lance she’s riding, timing it just right so she lands on the stump of it rather than fall to her death.

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She’s stunned by the landing, but quickly springs back into action, right around the area where the private we met is fighting. He, along with the other surviving soldiers, bear witness as Izetta moves her assault on the Germanians to the ground, fighting with a desperate intensity that buoys their spirits.

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This is the best battle of Izetta yet, showing the witch using her powers in creative ways, employing ancient weapons to bring down marvels of modern warfare. The Elystadt armed forces simply can’t compete by playing by the same rules as the Germans. So it’s good their patron saint has arrived to flip the game board over and shred the rulebook.

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Thoughout the Germainian advance, stall, and eventual defeat, we cut to their headquarters, where army and air force generals keep a bottle of champagne on ice for the eventual announcement of their certain victory. But Izetta has thrown their entire prosecution of the war into chaos. A who squadron of Stukas and a company of tanks are simply gone. They popped the cork too early; one general’s glass falls to the ground and shatters.

Meanwhile, after enduring so much death, destruction, and despair, the troops rally around Fine and the second coming of their White Witch, their morale and hope for the future suddenly restored. The nervous private who watched it all leads the men in singing a powerful anthem of victory. Fine didn’t like how Izetta risked herself and defied her wishes, but she can’t deny the results were tremendous.

I imagine relatively “easy” victories such as this will be few and far between; the Germanian leader and those scientists are unlikely to let the military be caught off guard again. And as powerful as she is, Izetta is not invincible; it only takes one well-place bullet to kill her, just like any other girl. But for now, let the men sing.

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Shuumatsu no Izetta – 02

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Thanks to Papika Izetta, Princess Fine is free from the Germanians, but they’re not out of the woods. An enemy patrol spots the smoke plume from their transport and before long the two girls are locked in an alpine dogfight that’s a feast for the eyes.

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Izetta sees no other choice but to break taboo and her promise to her granny and use her magic openly. The results are an astounding demonstration of her potential as a weapon against the Germanians, taking out three planes, but she runs out of mana before the lead plane is downed.

Enter a still-bleeding Fine, who reminds Izetta she’s not riding a broom, but a giant rifle, which they use to take out the last plane. After the sustained battle, Fine is out cold, Izetta’s tank is empty, and she has to ditch the gun and make for the Eylstadt fortress on foot.

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By good fortune Izetta encounters a force of retreating Elystadt survivors led by Major Obermeyer, and their suregon fixes Fine up while also tending to Izetta’s wounds. Izetta is loath to accept any help, favor, or comfort, and it all has to do with the old scar the doc notices on Fine’s side, for which Izetta blames herself.

As the first episode hinted, Izetta and Fine had met before, and it wasn’t a dream. Izetta isn’t some scientific specimen or non-corporeal supreme being…she’s just a girl. A girl who happened to be the last in a line of witches. Her grandmother noted she was the most powerful in generations, despite being the last, and so had to take extra care not to get tangled up in trouble.

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Things just didn’t work out that way, but it wasn’t all for naught: Izetta and Fine meeting was the best thing to happen to either of them, because they were the only ones who saw each other for what they were: not a witch to be feared or a princess to be fawned over, but two girls in need of best friends.

Fine received her side wound defending Izetta from an angry mob, doing as she’s always done: value the lives of others as much if not more than her own. She wants to save Izetta again by sending her away rather than using her, but Izetta won’t hear of it. She wants to be used, and she wants Fine to be the hope that drives her, just as it drives the desperate armies and subjects of Eylstadt.

Beginning with a thrilling aerial battle, leading to some vital backstory, and concluding with Izetta’s vow not to leave Fine’s side in the coming battles, this episode had a little of everything, and was as efficient in its storytelling as it was entertaining and moving.

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ReLIFE – 10

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Both gifted and cursed by immense natural athletic talent that made her peers resent her and take her for granted, Honoka turned down all the powerhouses and sought refuge at Aoba High, a prep school not too serious about sports, where no one knew who she was.

But when she tried out for the team, someone knew who she was, and was angry she didn’t give it her all. She makes Honoka spike a ball at her as hard as she can, knocking her down, but she gets up laughing, her suspicions confirmed. Her name is Kariu Rena, and she wants to play volleyball with Honoka.

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For three years they played and had fun, but one thing that goes unmentioned is that the rift caused by her ankle injury wasn’t helped by the fact she never really caught up to Honoka’s level, and trying to stand beside her on a still-tender ankle felt impossible.

So Kariu said some very mean things and retired from the team, two actions she felt she could not undo, no matter how much she wanted to. She didn’t realize just how genuinely worried her friends were, and how they’d let her undo whatever she said or did if she’d just…play and be friends with Honoka again. It’s what everyone wants.

Hishiro’s role in the talk with Honoka is masterful, chronicling all the times she transferred and introduced herself with less and less enthusiasm, “giving up on knowing people” as her heart gradually numbed. The bond between Kariu and Honoka makes her jealous. She won’t let it crumble needlessly.

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Kariu is caught listening in on Honoka, and maintains her stubborn iron guard. Oga remains to assure Honoka she didn’t mean the things she said (again), and Honoka is in agreement. Kaizaki, basically acting as Hishiro’s backup thus far, surveys his friends and Honokas; they’re all of the same mind. They give Kariu time and space, trusting her to show up for the tournament.

When she doesn’t, Hishiro is pissed, and vows to drag Kariu there if she has to. Yoake helplfully provides Kaizaki with Kariu’s address. An points out to Yoake that he’s getting more involved these days, because he likes how things are changing. So does she. Kaizaki & Friends exploits are changing them too.

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Hishiro almost makes the rookie mistake of stating her name after ringing Kariu’s bell. Kaizaki shushes her and pretends to be a delivery man, Kariu answers the door, and they barge in. She’s in her tracksuit, with her uniform on underneath. It would appear their trust in her was not misplaced, only their confidence in her ability take the step of going to the tournament on her own. She’s still stuck at home.

Kariu calls Hishiro dense, that she can’t possibly understand how she feels, but Hishiro doesn’t care. Kariu’s her friend; she’s allowed to be worried about her. She’s come to fulfill her own selfish desire: to make Kariu play with Honoka again. She takes Kariu’s head in her hands and ask her what her selfish desire is.

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Turns out, it’s the same thing; Kariu was just afraid it was too late to achieve, but it wasn’t. All their selfish desires align. All that’s left is to act. Kariu accompanies Hishiro and Kaizaki back to school. Kariu enters the gym, and the match. Honoka stops looking, as Hishiro puts it, “ugly” and “dead.” They play, and have fun, like they’ve played for three years.

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They also lose, and are eliminated, and are officially done with high school volleyball for good. But as they both share a good cry behind the gym (with Hishiro sitting between them, a choice she initially regrets), Honoka makes it clear that winning without Kariu would not have been fun or made her happy. Losing is fine if it means she has Kariu back. And Kariu points out they can still play volleyball in college. Duh!

They exchange apologies before turning their gratitude and affection on Hishiro, who couldn’t be happier herself. She’d only just become friends with these two, and she was going to be damned if she was going to let their bond crumble. So she worked her butt off and it paid off marvelously, to the joy and relief of all. Stellar stuff.

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ReLIFE – 09

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Much like the way Kariu fell on her ankle, things have gotten very awkward between her and Honoka post-spraining. Kariu has elected to keep her distance, partly because she’s ashamed for what she said to her friend. Honoka sits with Hishiro, who instantly notices she’s looking “uglier” (due to the crying).

Inukai hates to see Honoka like this, wants to force Kariu to apologize; the more diplomatic Asaji holds him back. When two people on ReLIFEare out of balance, everyone is affected adversely. The question is, what to do about it?

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Someone I didn’t mention above is Kaizaki, who all but sat out last week, and is paying the price for not being more attuned to things. He knows something’s up with Kariu, however, and thinks the best thing for it is to leave Oga alone with her and let youth do the rest.

In addition to placating Oga x Kariu shippers, Kaizaki also taps into Oga’s chivilrous nature, sticking around specifically to help Kariu walk home, and not leaving even when she yells at him. She’s not surrendering to his kindness here so much as cutting him some slack. It’s difficult and scary to be honest with one’s feelings, and the truth is she does appreciate Oga.

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Two really great things about ReLIFE: it always finds ways to involve characters who aren’t in the present spotlight. Take Kaizaki and Hishiro, united in their need to figure out what’s up with their friends and what to do about it. Or take Yoake and An, who monitor Kaizaki’s talk with Hishiro. An grows closer and closer to Yoake as the conversation grows more personal and, well, dark.

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The fact is, both Hishiro and Kaizaki ended up heeding peers’ demands they stay out of a bullying situation. Hishiro’s friend left school; Kaizaki’s senpai…well, it sure looks like something awful happened that scarred Kaizaki emotionally. Suicide, I’m guessing.

In any case, the discussion triggers that memory, and for a moment Kaizaki mistakes Hishiro for his poor doomed senpai, and embraces her tightly. Before he does, Hishiro is very concerned for Kaizaki, and comes this close to touching his face before he hugs her.

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True to character, Hishiro doesn’t freak out by the close contact. On the contrary, I daresay she probably enjoyed it, as yet another step toward growing closer to others. But she’s not going to sit back and let what happened to her friend and Kaizaki’s senpai happen again. She wants “revenge”, against the mistakes of her own past self.

Neither she nor Kaizaki would have been able to act were it not for each other and their united front. Taking that next step to actively help your friends, without being asked or even when they specifically tell you not to do anything, is scary as well. They’re essentially each other’s courage.

Hishiro’s friend and Kaizaki’s senpai put Hishiro and Kaizaki before their own well-being and happiness, successfully compelling them to stifle their instincts to act. No longer. Hishiro and Kaizaki corner Honoka and get her to tell them what’s up.

In an interesting assist by Inukai, he tracks down Kariu and brings her to the closed door of the locker room where Honoka is talking with Hishiro and Kaizaki. The first thing Kariu hears shocks her, but not so much me: Honoka never wanted to play volleyball to begin with.

Next episode: Kariu/Honoka flashback! Till then, glad to see Kaizaki’s finger back on the pulse of things, and working so well with Hishiro. It’s been a joy watching these two grow as friends—and as people—side by side.

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ReLIFE – 08

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From the preview, I suspected for some reason that Tamarai Honoka would become interested in Kaizaki, but I was mistaken because I got his room confused with Inukai Akira’s, her childhood friend’s. That being said, Honoka does bond with Kaizaki a bit this week, as he becomes someone she’s comfortable confiding in on matters of volleyball, Kariu, and whether Onoya likes Oga (she doesn’t!).

And while ReLIFE continues its recent trend of focusing on a different character each week, this time Honoka, Kaizaki still gets a key scene in with Hishino, who expresses her envy of Honoka and Kariu’s close friendship. She also seems happy to walk to the station with Kaizaki, indicating her feelings for him are on a steady simmer in the background.

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The foreground this week, however, is all Tamarai Honoka, Volleyball Ace. She’s painted as a victim of her own immense athletic talent, as her coach tells her she’s pivotal to the team (and worries she lacks “appetite”), and her teammates talk about her behind her back like she doesn’t have to actually work to be as good as she is.

Honoka is disheartened when she overhears those teammates, but when Kariu hears them, she storms into the locker room and sets them straight, as Honoka listens around the corner, so happy she has such a good friend, she can’t help but cry. Kariu is absolutely honest about her feelings toward Honoka, including occasional envy and frustration, but she still loves the girl.

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Unlike Kariu, Honoka also has to deal with make-up tests after failing most of her midterms (which is how she comes to befriend Kaizaki), but her ever-loyal childhood friend Inukai Akira (whose older sister is the school nurse, as it happens) helps her study through the night.

Kaizaki is also studying, on his own, even, when Yoake calls to encourage him. An is with Yoake, causing Kaizaki to think the same thing I thought last week: Yoake and An like each other…right?

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The intense studying results in Honoka passing her make-ups (Kaizaki, alas, does not), but she’s exhausted and pale, and even blacks out during practice. Not long after getting back up, Kariu has a spill of her own, trying to avoid a ball that wouldn’t have gone her way had Honoka not blacked out.

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This episode is called “Rift”, and I assumed it meant some kind of rift between Kaizaki and someone else, but it turns out to be one between Honoka and Kariu, sparked by Kariu’s sprained ankle. Nurse Inukai estimates she’l need 2-3 weeks to fully heal, which Kariu takes to mean she’ll miss the last tournament they’ll play in high school. It’s a crushing blow.

But Honoka tries to be optimistic: if the ankle heals in two weeks, Kariu can play! Kariu rebukes her; even if it did, she can’t play without practice. And that’s when it comes out: Kariu says she’s not a “genius” like Honoka; she can’t just run out onto the court and ball like it’s nothing.

In this moment, Kariu is vulnerable and devastated and pissed off, and ends up saying the same things Honoka has heard from other teammates and friends—former teammates and friends—in the past, but never thought she’d her from Kariu, who made volleyball fun for her again.

And so the rift is open. Honoka has Inukai’s and Asaji’s shoulders to cry on, but that rift ain’t gonna repair itself. I’d say Kaizaki could moderate some kind of detente as he did with Hishiro and Kariu, but with Hishiro seemingly growing ever more enamored of him, he may have his own fish to fry.

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Tanaka-kun wa Itsumo Kedaruge – 08

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Ohta is injured, so Tanaka must fend for himself! In theory, of course. In reality, Tanaka can’t quit his dependance on help cold turkey, and asks (kinda demands?) Echizen help him instead.

Because Echizen is a kind and decent person, she agrees to direct Tanaka to her neighbor Ohta’s house, and while she carries her usual unpleasant demeanor, it doesn’t change the fact that she helps him nonetheless.

She’s clearly also helped out a bunch of other people, as evidenced by the numerous times she’s stopped on the way home by people thanking her for helping them.

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Even when Echizen successfully gets Tanaka to Ohta’s, she sees how happy Ohta is that Tanaka made it there “himself” that she hides so Tanaka can take the credit. This begs the question, for Tanaka as well as me: Why exactly is Echizen a delinquent? Does she, in fact, only dress like one? It sure seems like it, but that contradiction makes her only more endearing.

The next day Ohta returns to school, but is limited due to an injured foot. Tanaka tries to abandon his listlessness that he might be Ohta’s “conveyance” the way Ohta is his most of the time, but to no avail. He has the will; he just doesn’t have the way.

That being said, Tanaka does let Ohta put some of his weight on him on the walks to classes, where Ohta imagines how great it would be if the floors, stairs, and doors were all automatic. With his injury, Ohta is being given a taste of the difficulties moving Tanaka deals with everyday, so it’s only logical that he’d start thinking of ways to make life easier.

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Tanaka seems to do Ohta a solid by purchasing his usual sweet pan for lunch, but he gets tired on the way back, remembers that sugar can help with energy, and eat’s Ohta’s pan, leaving Ohta with Tanaka’s savory sandwich. Tanaka’s “various reasons” rationale (complete with face covered in crumbs) is hilarious. And who’s there to bail both out but but Echizen, adding to the mystery of why she’s a delinquent.

The day is more energy-draining than usual, making it hard for Tanaka to stay awake during unsupervised self-study, during which he must complete an English worksheet. He half-assedly puts down answers in Romaji letters (not English), then wonders why, if only about 80 countries speak English, they couldn’t “reform” them and make Japanese a global language.

Note there’s no megalomaniacal ambitions or malice here; Tanaka is just thinking of the most complicated way possible of eliminating English classwork so he can sleep more. The cut to the various people he could potentially ask for help was a wonderful sequence of unique personalities, none of them useful to his immediate needs.

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The day ends with a fire drill that demonstrates how Tanaka’s dependence on Ohta could be hazardous to his health, as two classmates help Ohta out but Tanaka gets lost in the school during the evacuation, so used to being carried by Ohta that he is. It’s a similar problem as taking the bus or taxi or Uber someplace all the time, but never driving or walking there yourself – writ small.

When the day ends (with scenes of the town at sunset as gorgeous and tranquil as any show airing today), Tanaka thanks Ohta for everything, even going so far as to name a day after him, which, combined with his “Tanaka Antoinette” line, suggests he considers listlessness a kind of oblesse noblige or higher calling.

The next morning, he gives Ohta an Ohta’s Day gift: a booklet of coupons enabling Tanaka to walk by himself between classes. Tanaka’s attempts to be magnanimous again goes awry because his ability can’t quite match up to his good intentions, and Ohta must swoop Tanaka up and dash to class before the bell rings.

Clearly, Ohta needs to find a more useful way of reciprocating Ohta’s kindness, but at the end of the day, Ohta is simply happy that Tanaka is trying. It’s the thought that counts…but hey, some light physical training wouldn’t hurt, right?

16rating_8

Chihayafuru 2 – 22

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Chihaya uses her right hand to face off against Shinobu, eventually removing her bandage, and even manages to take her best card, but Shinobu still wins by 23 cards. Chihaya thanks her profusely for not going easy on her, even though Shinobu considered doing so. Tsukuba makes it to the semifinals, but Sumire loses in the third round. Taichi also makes it to the semifinals, and has to play Retro-kun.

No need for a lengthy summary here: Chihaya gets creamed, and it isn’t even close. And let’s face it, even a perfectly healthy Chihaya would have had a hard time taking more than a handful of cards from the dominant Queen. Always a reticent girl, there was a time when Shinobu let kids her age win so that they’d be nice to her, but that’s all over now. There’s still maybe a little remnant of that little girl inside her who doesn’t like kicking Chihaya when she’s down, but she doesn’t let it influence her game.

For that, Chihaya is glad, and rather than giving Shinobu the stink eye, she tearfully thanks Shinobu for the fair, square drubbing. And Chihaya’s loss didn’t discourage her from aiming for the Queen match. She stayed in the tournament as long as she could, and might’ve even been able to take a lesser opponent with her left hand, but she just got unlucky, being stuck with the Queen and a bum finger. And hey, she took her best card, so it wasn’t a total loss. Now we move on to Taichi, who’s looking to finally move up to Class A.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)