Bocchi the Rock! – 08 – Everything Is In Reach

The sky is dark, the rain falls hard, and the lone and level sands of the empty STARRY stretch far away. P.A. hopes Kessoku Band aren’t too heartbroken by the small crowd. Seika says “real” bands get “screwed over by life” all the time, so it’s a teachable moment. But form the way Seika is hiding her face, P.A. can tell she’s hiding tears, and offers a hanky.

Seika’s little sister Nijika, whom she wanted to shine so badly tonight, tells her bandmates they just need to take this in stride. Her cheerful exhortations inspire Bocchi to be her best self for this concert. In turn, Bocchi’s goofiness with her star sunglasses and fake mustache lighten the otherwise somber, almost funereal mood.

Then we hear the door to the club open, and what do you know, the first person to arrive is our favorite bass chaos gremlin, Hiroi Kikuri, who as it turns out was Seika’s kohai at college, and at least to her has somehow become an even larger pain in the ass. But when Kikuri showed up, my spirits soared; she’s so awesome, it would be fine if it was just her, Seika and P.A.

But the door to the club opens again, and my dopamine levels rose still higher as the two yukata girls kept their promise to watch Bocchi play again. Of the twenty tickets Kessoku Band sold, the only three who show are the ones who heard Bocchi play. The other seven who show for a total crowd compliment of ten came for the band that plays after them. They’ve never heard of Kessoku Band, and dismiss it as “a waste of time.”

Sadly, Kessoku Band plays down to those expectations in their first song. It’s an unmitigated disaster, and Bocchi points out all of the ways they utterly fail, from Nijika being a beat too slow with the drums, and her and Ryou oddly being out of synch, to Ikuyo playing far worse than she did in practice.

It’s as clear as the day is dark that the band is letting the typhoon and the mostly disinterested crowd get to them, shifting them out of the good vibes and camaraderie they’d built up to that point. After their first song, they look and sound lost and defeated, and not a single person claps when the song mercifully comes to an end.

It’s at this point in the concert, with the first song over and the second yet to begin, where for once Bocchi doesn’t fear and expect the worst case scenario and descends into a pit of despair with the others. Instead, she recalls how amazing it felt to play in front of people on the street with Kikuri and watch their faces become laced with joy.

She decides, on her own, that she won’t let this concert stay the way it’s been so far, and opens up a defiantly wicked string of riffs that zap her bandmates back into coherence. At first Ikuyo, Nijika, and even Ryou simply watch their guitarist shred epically, but then they see the wave she’s built up and jump on and ride it.

Bocchi’s abject refusal to let their concert bomb lifts the rest of the band, and their second song lifts every face in the audience from their phones. The most introverted and neurotic member of the band is the one who forces these ten people to pay attention, because there is fucking rocking going on.

The ensuing progression of the song to its completion comprises some of the very best minutes of anime I have ever seen in terms of pure emotional resonance and intensity. Bocchi rages against the dying of the light, drags the others with her, and they pull out their best performance ever. Polite and thoroughly surprised applause ensues.

While I would have been fine hearing their third song, we really didn’t need to; the second song, in which Bocchi got everyone back on track, was the crucial one, and it ruled, hard. Instead the episode skips to the afterparty at an izakaya, where Hiroi Kikuri’s name is finally uttered on camera as she introduces herself as a genius bassist and unparalleled bass lover.

Not surprisngly, fellow bassist Ryou has been to some of Kikuri’s shows, which tend to be what she calls “blind-drunk concerts” where at one point Kikuri stepped on Ryou’s face. What’s more cot-damn rock-and-roll than that?! Seika asks Ikuyo why she Instagrams so much, and Ikuyo actually gives a very apt reason: “it’s like giving people a piece of the fun” she’s having.

This is Bocchi’s very first time in an izakaya. She’s surprised to find they’re quite fun, and when she wonders if they’ll be more fun when she’s old enough to drink, she notices a pair of salarymen at the bar (in a very different and more severe art style), one of whom suspects his wife is cheating because he works such long hours. In an episode full of great lines, Bocchi’s reaction to this scene—“Is life just an unrelenting hell?” might just take the karaage.

She then slips into Bocchi Time, complete with a stop-motion Game of Life analog and another peek into a bad future where she lives in her dark closet and chugs shochu. This busts Bocchi, but her friends are able to pull her back to reality. Ikuyo’s name is also finally uttered—by Ryou of all people—exposing her complex about her name sounding like a pun: “I’m here! Let’s go!” The afterparty is a brilliant collection of character moments and interactions.

Kikuri actually heard Bocchi’s ramblings about supporting herself with a guitar and becoming a NEET, and encourages her to simply chill out and enjoy herself. P.A. and Seika add their voices to this approach, as keeping the “weight of success” on one’s shoulders constantly will only cause misery. It’s important to enjoy the process; the ride.

When Bocchi notices Nijika isn’t around, she steps outside and finds her standing alone, getting some fresh air. This felt like another big step forward for Bocchi, who is able to take enough of a break from all the shit going on in her head to notice that someone might be up with one of her friends.

When Bocchi started righteously shredding earlier, Nijika says she realized Bocchi was “guitarhero” from YouTube. Cornered, Bocchi admits she is, even if she considers herself far from a hero, and wanted to wait to tell Nijika and the others until she “fixed” herself.

Nijika then opens up to Bocchi like she never has before, saying how her mom died when she was little and her dad was never around, so her sister was her family. Her love of music sprouted form attending Seika’s concerts out of necessity, and she believes she inspired Seika to quit her band and opened the club in part for her sake.

Nijika then tells Bocchi her dream isn’t just to play at the Budokan, but to create a band popular enough to make STARRY famous. And since she’s started that venture, every time things seem like they’re at their worst, Bocchi is the one who “breaks through it” for them. Nijika tells Bocchi that she was unassailably a hero to her today.

This sharing leads to Bocchi sharing back: her dream is to make Kessoku Band the best band it can be…and become successful enough that she can quit school. Nijika appreciates Bocchi’s honestly, giving her a sun-bright smile as she heads back to the party, telling her she hopes Bocchi will keep showing them more of “Bocchi’s Rock”—or “Bocchi the Rock!”

Following that titular line is a cut to black and a vertical crawl of credits over a new ending theme. And honestly? This could have been a fitting end to the series. But I’m glad it’s not. I want to see more of Bocchi’s Rock too! I don’t know if what follows will ever be as good as this, but I sure am looking forward to finding out!

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

Chainsaw Man – 07 – Loosening the Screws

When Kobeni accidentally stabbed Aki, Himeno started to lose it, because she felt like she was going to lose the latest in a long line of unfortunate partners. But while she despaired, Denji scoffed. He didn’t ask Aki to save him, and is done owing anybody anything, so he happily dives into the fell eldritch mass that is the Eternity Devil and pulls his ripcord.

It doesn’t take long for Denji to start losing some serious blood, but once he starts drinking the devil’s blood, he basically becomes a self-healing “perpetual motion machine”, boasting that he, not Power, will be the one to win that Nobel Prize.

In a flashback, Himeno visits her parents’ graves with her master; like Aki, she lost them to the Gun Devil, which is why she joined the force. But her master warns that a devil hunter cannot be too earnest straight-laced—devils know exactly how to fuck with and kill those kinds of people. All of Himeno’s previous partners died because they were too sane, and feared the devils, and devils love fear.

Her master “loosened the screws” by drinking heavily on occasion. Knowing that Aki is another upstanding lad, she tried to get him to quit the force and follow her into the safer private sector, but he refused. But as she watches Denji, Himeno sees what the ideal devil hunter is like: window-lickingly insane, unpredictable, and immune to the devil’s mind games.

When Denji’s motor cuts out, Himeno uses her ghost arm to pull his cord, and for three days he tears at the Eternity Devil until he finally reaches its core. By then, it is pleading for its life, but Denji slices it in two. Just like that, the hunters are off the eighth floor and out of the hotel.

No sooner do they leave the hotel than Denji passes out, but Himeno is there to carry him on her back to the hospital. Later, during a mission with Aki, Himeno proposes the whole squad go out for drinks to break the ice … to loosen the screws. Also, bury the hatchet vis-a-vis everyone trying to kill Denji.

Leave it to Chainsaw Man to make the izakaya where the 4th division meets up look like just the place I want to be on a Friday night. The beers are tall, cold, and frosty, and the snacks look delectable (so much so that Power systematically hoards them).

We meet a couple other division members, one of whom recently lost his rookie subordinate, just like that. A haunted look washes over Kobeni as she reckons with the fact that people in their line of work live short lives.

Denji brings up the kiss Himeno promised, but she tells him she needs to drink more first. Things get complicated for Denji when Makima arrives fashionably late wondering what all this talk of kissing is about.

When Aki asks Makima straight-up why she’s so interested in Denji, she says she’ll answer, but only if he can outdrink her. As expected, he can’t, as both he and Himeno fall to her indomitable tolerance. At this point, Himeno’s screws have been sufficiently loosened that she decides to bestow her promised kiss upon Denji’s lips.

It’s his first kiss, with tongue … and also with Himeno’s vomit. Turns out she loosened the screws a bit too much. Denji swallows some of it and gets ruinously drunk (it shocks everyone to learn he’s only 16). He and Arai have a bonding moment when he helps Denji boot—Arai having experience helping his alcoholic mom.

With the hour growing late and everyone sufficiently lubricated, the 4th division departs from the izakaya. Himeno manages to sneak of with Denji, and when he comes to, it’s on her bed, underneath her. She gives him another kiss—this time of beer, not barf—and proposes that they bone. Denji is growing up fast in the 4th Division.

The soft bluish-purple light, Himeno’s fluid movements, and her seiyu Ise Mariya’s gently seductive voice lend an almost sacred beauty to an otherwise profane scene. But it’s also a sad one, because Himeno is clearly compensating for her crippling grief and loneliness, not to mention her part-familial, part-romantic feelings for an Aki who only has eyes for Miss Makima.

Then again, maybe Himeno just figures she could die tomorrow—or later that night—such is the fate of all devil hunters. That being the case, one must take their fun when and where they can get it.

P.S. Every episode of Chainsaw Man has a unique ED and theme, and this one might’ve been my favorite, as it’s a 4:3 standard-def retro-gasm. Reminded me of one of the best OPs of all time, the retro Koimonogatari OP “Kogarashi Sentiment”.

My Senpai is Annoying – 12 (Fin) – All Grow’d Up

The Fall’s cutest, sweetest, most life-affirming series ends on a suitably cute, sweet, life-affirming episode all about Futaba and Takeda. With Sakurai and Nakama’s relationship status in a good place, it made sence to focus on the main couple, who have been a lot more on the fence about where they stand despite their obvious chemistry and mutual affection.

Futaba’s growth as a salesperson, which she largely attributes to her senpai’s care and guidance, results not only in her scoring a good deal, but gives Takeda the confidence to send her off on a solo presentation that she then nails. This allows him to score a company-saving deal, and he’s soon surrounded by impressed ladies who want to throw a drinking party for him.

Not really in a hurry to watch other women fawn over her senpai, Futaba still insists Takeda join them at the party while excusing herself. With everyone else off doing something, Futaba ends up going to the usual izakaya alone. She immediately realizes it’s not nearly as fun there without Takeda, which…girl I’m sure if you asked him out so it was just the two of you, he’d have agreed in a heartbeat!

As the draft beer flows, Futaba reminisces on her first day at the office when she was a green(-haired) rookie. She immediately makes it clear to Sakurai that she’s not some doll to fawn over, while Takeda buys her a can of soup but then mistakes her for a junior high student, making their introduction as senpai and kohai thoroughly awkward.

Still, Futaba marvels at how far the two of them have come. She probably loathed the man who thought she was a little kid, but now that she knows Takeda and he’s helped her so much, that’s not the case anymore. Color me 100% un-shocked that Takeda blew off his own party as soon as he could to join Futaba, and just in time to keep a drunk salaryman from pawing her.

While a pretty dense fellow, Takeda has never been one to mince words or obfuscate about his general feelings towards Futaba. And yet he’s certainly not one to realize his feelings are romantic, nor is he bold enough to come right out and say that. What he can say, and Futaba can easily accept (with no small amount of blushing) is that he knows drinking with her is a lot more fun than drinking with anyone else.

He takes this a step further on their walk to the train station, after both he and Futaba have had a little too much beer. Nevertheless, it’s the perfect amount for him to be able to say that no matter who Futaba “ends up with” (in a general sense), he promises to always be there to protect her “until then”. Mind you, I’m sure both he and Futaba would be just find if that “someone” ends up being him!

After that lovely little nightttime scene and the credits, we get one more cute scenario—the famous Umbrella Walk. Futaba forgot hers, but Takeda’s is more than wide enough to accommodate her beside him. When she gets self-conscious and moseys over to the end, he draws her closer with his beefy hand. She freaks out, and calls her senpai annoying, but in truth there’s no one she’d rather be with under an umbrella.

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 06 – Two Drunk Besties

After her harrowing encounter with the enormous Magical Girl, Jahy is spooked by the mere word “maho”, whether it’s a student’s name, or Mahogany wood, or some kind of mantra. This segment plays with depth of field to subtly show Jahy retreating headfirst into a garbage can.

She ends up losing her precious giant mana crystal, but Manager ends up finding it for her. It’s at this point Jahy determines she can’t move forward if she continues to rely on the kindness and generosity of others. The seriousness of her farewell is quickly undermined by the Manager urging her to take a bath immediately.

Jahy later encounters a young woman carrying a mana crystal just like hers, and assumes she’s just some weak human. Turns out it’s the Magical Girl in disguise. She wants Jahy’s mana crystal, and no matter how much misfortune befalls her as a result, she’s able to bear the punishment due to her Magical Girl super strength and toughness.

This results in the Magical Girl making off with Jahy’s giant mana crystal along with her own. It’s a huge loss for Jahy, basically putting her back at square one. Just imagine if the Magical Girl had an actual brain rattling around inside her skull…Jahy would be well and truly fucked!

Jahy proceeds to use her original mana crystal to transform into adult mode so she can wash away her sorrows, one liter of beer at a time. The Manager doesn’t necessarily approve, but she doesn’t stop pouring the beer, either. Then her sister Ryou arrives, and rather than continue their rivalry, drink Jahy tells her to park her keister next to her and start drinking.

Ryou proves every bit as rambunctious a drunk as Jahy, and the two complement each other perfectly, with Jahy lamenting all her flaws and Ryou countering them with heartfelt praise. She tells Jahy she’s proud of her for managing to get by in a foreign land. The two proceed to have a rager of a night, dancing, hugging, holding each other, and generally having a swell old time.

The next morning, Jahy wakes up naked next to a sleeping Ryou on the floor of the bar where Manager left them. That nefarious Manager also happened to snap a whole bunch of photographic and video evidence of Jahy and Ryou not just getting along, but getting along famously like absolute best buds. Jahy demands immediate erasure, but the Manager will surely save a couple of choice shots to remember that night.

Finally, in the disconnected omake following the credits, we get several mini-episodes of a cooking show starring Jahy, where the only recipe ever prepared is stir-fried bean sprouts with various seasonings. By the end of the segment Jahy’s bubbly enthusiasm has totally evaporated, and if she looks at another bean sprout in a hundred years it’ll be too soon. So naturally, Ryou arrives with a big bag of fresh sprouts.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 05 – Jahy’s Dizzy Fever Day

This show will certainly let Jahy have it at times, and when it comes to the atrocities she committed in the Dark Realm, well…ignorance is bliss. But I like how Jahy, despite once being someone for whom servants did everything, is actually really good at her job at Craft Pub Maou. If only she didn’t insist on leaving work dressed in the peak of Dark Realm fashion, which in a residential neighborhood apparently gets the cops on your back.

The flashbacks to Jahy’s previous AACAB (All Anime Cops Are Bastards) moments are wonderful, as is the twist that she wasn’t the suspicious character reported. There’s then another twist when Jahy is certain the other character is the Magical Girl who destroyed the Dark Realm, only for it to be some Math Teacher blowing off steam in Magical Girl cosplay. Also gratifying is seeing her boss and landlady picking her up from the station.

In the next segment, Jahy acts like a real pill, mocking the landlady for bundling up after she catches cold due to the sudden change in weather. But the landlady isn’t there to fight (or collect rent): she’s there to warn Jahy not to wear nothing but what she wears, whether it’s the belt top in big form or her breezy t-shirt in kid form. Jahy laughs at the landlady’s concerns…how could The Great Jahy catch cold?!

Well, quite easily, as it turns out, especially since Jahy makes no effort to adjust her wardrobe for the seasons. She spends one miserable, half-delirious night lamenting her plight, but also lamenting how alone she feels. The next morning she finds not only that the boss has come over to make her rice porridge, but the landlady went out to buy her medicine. These two women really do care for Jahy, and can tell she’s been through a lot.

No sooner do they leave, however, than the notorious Magical Girl shows up at her door. Jahy is struck by how daggum huge the girl is, but luckily the Magical girl doesn’t see her as Jahy, but just a little girl. When the girl asks Jahy to cough up the mana crystal, it dawns on Jahy how overmatched she is.

Not only is she in tiny mode; she’s running a fever. If the Magical Girl wanted to take her crystal, she could have….were it not for the Landlady to the rescue, calling the cops on the very tall, very suspicious young woman in maho shoujo cosplay

Not only does the Landlady save Jahy’s skin, she even sits guard beside her bed so Jahy can rest easy. And it works; while Jahy is nigh inconsolable with tears over how scared and helpless she felt, those tears soon subside and she’s able to get the rest she needs to get better. The Landlady really showed me something this week, as she and Jahy are now less enemies than sisters.

Just to push that point home, the omake segment involves Jahy and Landlady as gaudy pro wrestlers. And here’s the key part: even if two wrestlers look like they hate each others’ guts and want to tear each other limb from limb, rarely is that beef genuine. Rather, both wrestlers are playing roles in an elaborate choreographed performance.

Due to the physical punishment involved, it requires not only talent but mutual trust and respect to pull off an exciting, and more importantly safe match…even if it ends in a tie, as it always does for these two.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 04 – Living A Day In Her Shoes

This week marks the introduction of The Magnificent Salwa (also spelled Saurva), Jahy’s self-professed rival for the Number Two spot in the Dark Realm pre-ruin. Now that Salwa has found Jahy and spent three months working on a potion that will increase her power thirtyfold, she’s determined to bring Jahy down, steal her mana crystal, restore the Dark Realm and rule it as its new leader. Things don’t go as planned, as she runs into Jahy way too easily, drops her potion, and then a puppy laps it up and grows thirty feet tall.

After Salwa is rescued by regular folk from that giant puppy’s jaws, she changes up her tactics, Wile E. Coyote-style. She downs a pill that lets her transform into Jahy, so she can ruin Jahy’s reputation with her “associates.” Unfortunately for Salwa, the landlady already holds Jahy in particularly low esteem, and is so intimidating that Jahy!Salwa cowers and pays up.

Jahy!Salwa also predictably ends up slinging drinks at the izakaya (while the real Jahy in child form oversleeps back home). In Jahy’s stead Salwa gets really into the work and goes above and beyond, impressing the manager. Salwa is so proud she can’t help but fall into the manager’s bosom and weep tears of joy over a job well done. In this display and the one with the landlady, Salwa seems totally ill-equipped to supplant Jahy.

…That is, until the next segment, when Jahy, in child form, has only 306 yen to her name. She confidently strikes out for the nearest shopping district to make more money…somehow. Instead, she ends up spending 300 of the 306 yen on tasty street food; the vendors happily taking her for literally all she’s got.

Jahy goes to work as usual, but the manager can tell she’s off. For one thing, she’s serving empty glasses of beer to customers who didn’t order beer; for another, her face is gaunt, indicating malnutrition. Back in the break room Jahy confesses to having less yen to her name than fingers on her hands, and the manager offers to give her an advance on her pay just this once.

Jahy knows she didn’t save every yen she had, but thanks to the manager, she won’t starve, and has hopefully learned a lesson not to splurge too much. She also ends up sobbing into manager’s bosom just one segment after Jahy!Salwa did the same. We should all be so lucky to have such a kind and caring boss.

Jahy-sama wa Kujikenai! – 03 – Keeping Up Appearances

Jahy has herself a huge mana crystal that puts a serious pep in her step. Not only can she maintain her adult form, but she can work till last call without getting tired. Well, without getting physically tired.

Emotionally, she seems to wear down as she starts to question why she’s working at this izakaya. Her manager only makes things worse by having Jahy use the crystal to clean the place. Jahy has fun…until she reverts to her child form.

It’s here where we see how much “Hy-chan” of the human world differs from the Jahy-sama of the Dark Realm. While there she was at the top of the pyramid and often idle, here she’s just barely making ends meet as she works herself to the bone.

The fear and doubt that enter her mind are at least partially soothed by Druj’s fanatical sycophancy. But even that bubble is broken when Druj assumes Jahy’s crystal is just a small piece, then shows her a literal truckload of crystals she’s collected in the meantime.

It’s such an intriguing choice to have someone who will probably never see Jahy-sama as below her end up not only landing on her feet in the human world, but thriving. But we shouldn’t feel bad for Druj not realizing her and Jahy’s roles have reversed, because in her twisted dark realm mind, they haven’t, not matter how suspicious Jahy gets.

I was reminded of Fraiser and other classic sitcoms in the segment where Jahy pretends she’s the owner of the izakaya. As much as she flails about and lets slip about the reality of the situation, Druj simply will never suspect her God Queen is just an ordinary girl in this world trying to make rent. There’s a bittersweet purity to that notion.

But if Jahy hadn’t been outside hanging the open sign when Druj happened to be walking by, Jahy wouldn’t have received the affirmation she so sorely needed to keep moving forward. Watching Druj have an absolute blast drinking and scarfing down over a hundred bucks worth of beer and food she served to her, Jahy starts to get it.

Sometimes it just feels good to serve, especially if it’s someone you care about. Druj cares about no one more than Jahy, and while her masochism and idolatry can be excessive, let’s not forget she came from a place called the Dark Realm.

While Jahy and Druj’s power dynamics undulate in the human world, the post-credits omake puts Jahy back in command…as a space pirate! Druj is her only crew, while the Landlady warps into their vicinity to demand Jahy pay the rental fees on the ship.

I’ll admit this was a fun and unexpected departure from reality, and I could probably watch a whole cour of this, but Jahy’s continuing voyages back down on earth are far more compelling. While Druj remains the same loyal-to-a-fault servant no matter where she is, Jahy’s sudden shift in fortunes have forced her to adapt and evolve into a more complete person.

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