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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kemono Jihen – 04 – The Iceboy Cometh

The next case with Kabane and now Kon on board involves Yoruno, a young man who has fallen in love with a woman who is actually a nekomata or cat youkai/kemono. In addition to learning the basic concept of love, Kabane also learns that Inugami’s former partner once ran the bar, and that it’s a somewhat sensitive subject. Inugami has Akira sit this one out, knowing he’ll have trouble with the dirty alleys and rodents.

Kabane and Shiki soon track down Mao-chan in her cat form, and learn she’s transformed other men into her cat servants. Kon ends up pouncing on Mao and neutralizing her, Mao ends up releasing the servants and starting a new life with Yoruno, and Kon leaves with Kabane’s head as payment from Inugami—or rather an orange given the appearance of Kabane’s head. Let it never be said Kon isn’t a good girl.

After Kabane rescues Akira from a roach in the bath, he decides to start serving as Kabane’s apprentice. Inugami doesn’t hesitate to give them a case with the potential to be far more disgusting than the first, but Akira is insistent. This leads to him suiting up in full hazmat gear for the trip into the sewers below Shibuya, though later downgrading to a chic mac and wellies.

There, where the original river is being broken up and diverted, various frog kemono have forgotten reason and become feral, monstrous man-eaters. A tanuki appears to lend a helping paw, but once dozens of the frogs appear, Kabane has his hands full while Akira is overwhelmed and freezes up…until he freezes OUT.

We learn officially that Akira is a yuki-otoko, the incredibly rare male version of the yuki-onna tribe who live in the snowy mountains of Aomori. We also learn Akira came to Inugami searching for his twin brother, who always told him to leave things to others because he’s so weak.

Akira is tired of being the weak one who only screams kya while the others do something, so with a sudden summoning of his powers of ice, he ends up taking out all of the rabid frog kemono at once. The tanuki turns out to be Inugami, who is thanked by the super-chill frog elder, while the social media-obsessed Akira celebrates his first great success with, what else, a selfie.

So far I’m digging the case(s)-of-the-week interspersed with downtime that shows us a wide variety of critters while also providing the opportunity to learn more about the cast, in this case Inugami and the always-adorable Akira. While not as battle-oriented as Jujutsu Kaisen or epic as Demon SlayerKemono Jihen is the cozier, comfier, more mellow of the three monster shows I’m watching. Its understated charm and likeable cast keeps me coming back.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Dropped: Kabukichou Sherlock – Case Closed

This was a tough one, but as we always say, when you know you’re done with a show, you just know. Sherlock seems content to continue its lighthearted and zany cases-of-the-week while, meanwhile, a teenager is in prison for murdering a monster who tore out and ate his invalid twin sister’s reproductive organs.

The tonal dissonance has grown too intense. I can’t enjoy the new cases while I know Moriarty is being abused behind bars. I realize there’s no getting around the fact he committed a murder himself, but he deserved a break. Sherlock shoulders some of the responsibility for getting a child and a victim so involved in the case, but when it came time to deal with the culprit, he lost control.

Even if Sherlock reckons with that failure and Moriarty is given early release, the show’s fast-and-loose attitude towards narrative seriousness has poisoned my emotional investment in the show beyond repair. It was a decent enough first cour; I just wish the show had ended with one.—Preston

Kabukichou Sherlock – 13 – Holes in Their Hearts

A dreary pall of despair is immediately cast on the second half of Kabukicho Sherlock as Watson, Sherlock, and Mrs. Hudson visit James in prison. He’s trying to keep a brave face, but there are clear signs he’s receiving beatings from other inmates.

It’s gut-wrenching to see such a bright kid of such potential to help people behind bars, but he doesn’t try to run away from the fact he chose to murder Jack, and this was the consequence.

Mycroft pays a visit to Holmes’ house and thoroughly examines it, while a client-of-the-week arrives with a murder case. As Sherlock starts to unravel the case on the spot, Watson is happy his friend is able to stay busy.

Mycroft tells Watson how Holmes left his accomplished family for Kabukichou because he was missing something very profound at home. It was a void he was able to at least partially fill in his new role as detective and performer of mystery-solving rakugo.

It turns out that rakugo was James’ idea, suggested to Sherlock soon after the two met quite by chance (the fact that Sherlock’s brother was James’ father’s secretary for five years was mere coincidence). When his mother took her life and even before losing his twin sister to Jack, James had a similarly large hole in his heart that Kabukichou and the people in it managed to fill.

Now he feels alone again, as his attackers in prison grow more brazen and one of his protectors being beaten half to death and being released early. It’s just a horrible situation all around. No matter how many cases Sherlock solves, as long as James is in prison (and danger) the emptiness and despair will always creep back into the spaces between the cases.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 12 – One for the Cats

As one could have reliably predicted, Sherlock ends it’s first half by following up its most serious, hard-hitting, emotional episodes with one of its weakest, a calm after the storm, if you will. All of the detectives are feeling down since Moriarty was hauled away for murder, but Mrs. Hudson has a new case for them: Pipe the Cat is missing and possibly catnapped. The reactions of the detectives mirror my own enthusiasm for the case.

Don’t get me wrong, I love cats, especially comically huge ones like Pipe, but watching the detectives chase after him wasn’t particularly thrilling, nor is Sherlock’s innovative solution to catching him: a trail of strawberries. The detectives and Irregulars celebrate the retun of Pipe with a big party that raises everyone’s spirits somewhat, and while Irene leaves Sherlock’s life, Watson becomes his official assistant. With Jack gone, I wonder what overarching case will occupy the second half—and if Moriarty ever gets out of prison.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 11 – Hiding in Plain Sight

Before returning to the alley, Kabukichou Sherlock goes back to the night of poor Alex Moran’s murder. James visits her in her room, planning to help her sneak out of the house to meet his friends at the Detective House. We learn “Moriarty” is just a nickname for the East Side.

On the West Side, he’s James Moran, son of the Ward Mayor and Alex’s twin brother. James is delayed by their father (who is hosting a Christmas party), and by the time he catches up in the tunnel between West and East, Alex is already dead. From that night, James swore the murderer would pay.

Back to the alley, where Irene reveals she indeed faked her death. She, James and Sherlock get Watson caught up. When it was determined Jack wanted the USB, they let him believe Irene succumbed to her injuries, then used Watson as a “hook” to bait him.

Kyougoku Fuyuto is the one who tried to get the drive from Watson, and Sherlock intentionally frayed their friendship so that Watson would be more likely to steal it. But Kyougoku isn’t Jack, nor was he willingly working on his behalf.

For the rest of the reveal, Sherlock breaks out his rakugo routine, this time on the stage at Bar Pipecat. He doesn’t have to get far into his story before one detective after another realize how Kyougoku was compromised by love, fed Peyote, and manipulated by the real Jack, turn around to find that Maki-chan, who had been sitting at the bar, has vanished.

Sherlock continues his rakugo while he and Watson race to the spot where they believe they’ll run into Maki-chan, who is, in fact, Jack. A psychopath who murdered and took what he himself desperately wanted, but didn’t have: female reproductive organs.

Once Sherlock’s explanations make it impossible to continue his “Maki-chan” persona, Jack cracks, revealing his true voice and sick, twisted personality. Sherlock makes sure to catch his ravings on a voice recorder, wrapping up the case with a nice neat bow.

Only it seems Jack won’t get to face a trial by jury, as James can’t stop himself from slitting his throat. Mind you, Jack tries to fight the compulsion for revenge, but the final provocation from Jack was that he ate the part he cut out of Alex, as was his M.O.

By murdering Jack in cold blood, James no doubt faces criminal charges for murder himself, unless of course the assembled witnesses to the crime all agree it was a justified killing. I’m leaning towards him spending at least some time behind bars.

I honestly didn’t suspect Maki-chan in the least…until the scene of her in bed with Kyougoku. What at first looked like a virgin having his first ride was actually the effects of the Peyote, while Maki-chan’s brief smirk of satisfaction was a sign something else was afoot.

That said, it wasn’t until Sherlock’s rakugo began that I realized Kyougoku was being used by Jack, and the pieces began to fall snugly and satisfyingly into place. Very nicely done.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 10 – The War They Left for Us

John Watson is haunted by the death of Irene Adler. He’s constantly looking at his forearm which she grasped with her blood-soaked hand. The blood was washed away, but he can still feel it on his skin. She tried to tell him something, but all we heard was “Jack.”

Ever since then, Watson is visited upon by a ghost—the ghost of Irene. We see her body in the morgue, so the show is pretty insistent that she is, in fact, dead. Her ghost seems to imply Moriarty did it, and Sherlock is next, but Sherlock just wants to be alone.

We spend the whole episode all swept up in Watson’s suspicions, which might just curdle into paranoia by the time he’s openly accusing Moriarty of being Jack the Ripper. Moriarty laughs it off and then shares the joke with the whole gang, but we share Watson’s continued gut feeling that something is not quite right about Moriarty.

Even when Watson chases Moriarty, who is following Sherlock and even pulls a knife menacingly, it’s Watson whom Sherlock begins to suspect. He told Moriarty about Irene’s hideout, because he believed and still believes the kid can be trusted. Compared to him, Watson is a stranger. Still raw from the loss of Irene, Sherlock banishes Watson from his sight..

While sharing another drink at the bar (Watson drinks a lot this week, adding to his unreliability), Kyougoku Fuyuto proposes a way for Watson to get back into Holmes’ good graces: unlock the USB drive and find the proof about Jack’s identity. The first warning sign is that Fuyuto “knows someone” who can crack the password, so all Watson has to do is steal it from Sherlock and give it to him.

Perhaps sobering up a bit in the process of finding the drive (Sherlock hid it in a baggie in a can of peaches), Watson also gets cold feet about handing over the drive, but Fuyuto insists…with a knife. Turns out Fuyuto is obsessed with being the one to catch Jack, perhaps out of a need to prove to Maki that he’s worth marrying? In any case, a struggle ensues, interrupted by Moriarty and Sherlock, the latter of whom thanks Watson.

Was the whole plan to expose Fuyuto’s true colors? Is Irene really dead, or was her death faked to draw out Jack? Like Watson this week, I thought I was on to something about Moriarty, but now…I’m not so sure about anything!

Kabukichou Sherlock – 09 – Not Who They Seem

Irene has a target on her back now courtesy of Jack, who wants the egg USB drive back. It’s decided that she should stay with Sherlock for the time being for her own safety, which means Watson has to move out.

The episode plays on Sherlock’s obvious attraction to Irene, as well as Irene’s general fitness as a domestic partner—she even gets him to eat ordinary food! She also has fun teasing him, because apparently when it comes to women Sherlock is thirteen years old.

The same goes for Kyougoku, who his head-over-heels in love with Maki-chan and has a plan to woo her that’s straight out of a middle-schooler’s mind.  He places her on an impossibly high pedestal and showers her with gifts, including a diamond ring to hold her hand, but all Maki-chan wants is a boyfriend with whom to go on ordinary dates.

Maki gets her wish, and they eventually end up in a hotel, where Kyougoku presumably learns Maki’s secret down below. The outcome of this particular plot is ambiguous and not particularly compelling. That the success of Kyougoku’s plan somehow inspires Watson to serve as a lookout for Irene (once Sherlock’s place is ransacked and they move her to a former yakuza hideout)—it’s a bit thin, motivation-wise.

Much is made this week about him having nothing to do, which makes you wonder whether he’ll ever bring up his case with Sherlock, or if it’s a running gag that he never will. Matters are made worse by the fact Watson is terrible at keeping Irene safe. On her first night in the theater, she gets stabbed, while Sherlock runs after a decoy. He’s not even a good doctor, as he fails to administer any kind of first aid, but just kneels beside her, gawking.

It isn’t until later, when Sherlock gives word that Irene has died of her injuries, that Watson realizes Moriarty—who was with Irene just before he arrived—shouldn’t have known where Irene was. Many clues in this and previous episodes point to Moriarty as Jack. I’m also not convinced Irene is really dead. Sherlock may just be saying that in earshot of Moriarty because he’s already pegged the kid as the culprit.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 08 – Adult Swim

Irene doesn’t know the password for the USB drive, so it seems like she and Sherlock will part ways for a time…only for her to end up at Bar Pipecat, ordering the other detectives to do chores and maintenance while Mrs. Hudson is laid up with a bad back (or as she calls it, “that time of the month”). When a new client comes in whose ex is trying to gain custody of their young daughter through blackmail, Irene decides to take the case, picking Watson as her partner.

When the girl’s mother suffers a fainting spell, Sherlock is left to babysit her, and while things start out rough at first (rice bowl with fried egg and a chocolate bar? NO GO) the two come to a sort of truce. Meanwhile Irene proves an astute investigator and gatherer of information, making more progress than all the other detectives and locating the blackmailer ex’s home, at the night swimming pool right next to the district’s famous Elephant.

Turns out the guy is a serial blackmailer, manipulator, and trafficker of underage women—a super bad dude. A woman Irene used to co-star with, who is also being blackmailed, ends up giving Irene the clue she needs to find the safe containing all of the compromising information, including the client’s.

At this point Sherlock joins the investigation (his rakugo is quickly dismissed by Irene as too slow), and the two end up sharing a tanning bed as a hiding spot, only for the blackmailer to be murdered by the actress in a crime of passion. Irene lets her get away, since she’s suffered enough, but when she returns to her hotel room, Irene finds the actress’s ear in a box. Jack the Ripper has apparently made Irene his next target.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 07 – The Itchy Wives

The nature of Kabukichou Sherlock’s setting and cast is that it can go just about anywhere and focus on anyone it wants, and has to its credit been doing so. But we’re back to the titular detective this week, in an episode that dusts off a couple more very familiar names: Sherlock’s older brother Mycroft, and the beautiful, brilliant Irene Adler.

In this alternate universe in which Holmes hangs out in Kabukichou, Tochou looks way different (and more expensive), and Tokyo is split in two, instead of lines for the next iPhone, there are lines for the latest version of the AI wife doll. Oh, and the ward mayor lost a USB drive containing sensitive information, and believes Adler is the one who stole it.

Mycroft knows his brother well, and so knows the best way to get him interested in a case he’d rather not take is to sweeten the 15-mil deal with a rare rakugo trading card he desires. Still, Sherlock sends Watson in to deal with Adler as a kind of useful idiot. I was also a bit skeptical that Adler’s boyfriend hadn’t previously consulted with many doctors before building so many wife dolls.

As for those dolls, dear lord, it’s never explained why Irene is okay with having them not only resemble her, but stored in closets in her soon-to-be-former house. I guess she’s not going to stand in the way of progress and profit, huh? In any case, Watson gets a text that the USB is under the skirt of he French version of the “Wives of the World.” Turns out Sherlock was there, in disguise.

After a quick rakugo sesh to detail how he deduced that, they check the USB, and it’s video footage of the two of them sneaking around Irene’s house. In other words, she played them both. She’s at the bar (Mrs. Hudson is an old friend) and tells Sherlock the USB is already safely in France, but better luck next time, and departs.

After stewing for a bit, that next time comes far sooner for Sherlock. As she’s waiting for a taxi, Irene is accosted on the street by a thug demanding the USB at knife-point, but Sherlock arrives in time to rescue her. In the moment she’s in his arms he snatches the real USB drive from her pocket, realizing she’d worked too hard on the fake never let it out of her sight.

In another twist, Sherlock hands the damaged fake USB to Mycroft, and when Irene comes by wanting the real one back, Sherlock plugs it into his laptop and asks Irene for the password. If thugs are being hired to accost her, there just may be something more important on it than revenge porn.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 06 – Cuttin’ The Sun

No mystery to be solved nor rakugo to be performed this week, just a heaping helping of Kabukichou slice-of-life featuring former yakuza Kobayashi and the Irregulars, a gang of kids with nowhere else to go that he helps to keep fed, even when they steal his clothes and draw on him when he passes out from overdrinking. There’s a connection with those two things: Kobayashi left the yakuza because he was too nice.

“Nice” isn’t how you’d describe his former associate, a mid-level thug named Sugimoto who is always in and out of prison. More like, Sugimoto is a deeply weird dude, as demonstrated when the kids find him trying to “cut the sun,” and a lot of other erratic behavior.

He also has an affinity for rapping about himself and “Tama”, as he calls Kobayashi (i.e. “kitty”, referencing his kind heart). When one of the kids steals Sugimoto’s protection money, Sugimoto and his massive brawny pal go after the kids.

Moriarty manages to locate the kids’ HQ, an old bowling alley, and Kobayashi rushes in under another moniker: Torataro. The night Kobayashi “betrayed” his fellow yakuza was when he took pity on a struggling mangaka who owed money.

He was just happy someone in the world cared enough to dream about something bigger. That inspired Kobayashi to become a detective, while his kindness inspired the mangaka to write a story that got published, featuring Kobayashi-like character who protects the weak.

Kobayashi ends up in a potential self-sacrificing spot, but he’s bailed out by Moriarty, Watson, Sherlock, and Kobayashi’s former boss Kaneko and his men, who put Sugimoto in his place. It’s chaotic elements like Sugimoto that underscore the fragile equilibrium of Kabukichou.

That balance of crime and kindness, of trouble and fun, is something that must be protected and maintained lest it slide too far to one end to the other. It’s why Kobayashi intends to give the candy shop owner his protection money back and treat the kids to whatever they want…even if they steal his clothes and draw on him again. You can’t cut the sun, but you can shine a little into the shadows.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 05 – Straight and Narrow Lady Lu

After last week’s dullness I’ll admit I was prepared to drop Sherlock after this fifth episode, but I’m pleased to say the quality improved greatly, thanks in part to a refocusing of the narrative upon the Morstan sisters. Rather than be separated, Lucy took Mary and ran away, making Kabukichou their home. It was and is a tough life, and there’s never enough money, but in exchange they got to remain a family.

We learn that Lucy has a soft spot for a particular aging sumo wrestler named Omiyama, and delivers some daifuku for him as a token of her esteem. Later, Mary asks Lucy for help paying tuition for a cram school to the tune of 2 million yen (~$37,000), so she gets a loan for the amount from yakuza Boss Kaneko, who warns that if she doesn’t pay it back in two weeks, she’ll have to work at one of his red light district businesses.

On her way home to give her beloved little sister the cash, Lucy and Moriarty encounter a large man in pink robes seemingly ready to jump off a balcony. Turns out he’s her favorite sumo wrestler’s attendant, Bunmaru, who got drunk, passed out, and lost the money meant to repair their team’s headquarters. The amount? Two million yen. She has to go back to Boss Kaneko and doubles her debt.

When Omiyama and Bunmaru come to the Pipecat to offer their heartfelt thanks, Sherlock, sitting at the bar, notices something. Later, Kaneko has a chat with Watson about Lucy, and he drags her to Sherlock, begging him to lend her money to pay the boss back. But Sherlock says there’s no need: the one who took Bunmaru’s two million hasn’t spent it yet. He explains in rakugo form, but Lucy only has to hear the part about the daifuku putting you to sleep before running off to confront Omiyama.

Lucy’s regard for Omiyama goes back to the day she and Mary arrive in Kabukichou, when some bad men were about to abduct Mary, and Lucy was too small to fight them off. Mary is rescued by Omiyama, who leaves Lucy with a bit of advice: stay on the straight and narrow and you’ll do fine here.

Fast forward to the present, and Omiyama is facing demotion and retirement…so he drugged the daifuku Bunmaru ate so he could steal the two million repair fund and use it to fix matches.

Lucy tries to fight Omiyama to no avail, then exposes his crime, and he is contrite. Clearly moved by Lucy’s ability to stay on the straight and narrow all this time like he advised years ago, he accepts retirement and returns the cash to his attendant.

Lucy doesn’t take that cash back, even though it’s owed. Instead, she goes to work for Boss Kaneko. When Mary hears about this she’s distraught and busts her way into the business, but it turns out to be nothing too untoward: Lucy just had to dress up in drag and be a lot for the “Stud Farm” auction, where she’s naturally a sensation.

In the end, the “tuition” Mary wanted wasn’t for classes at all, but a beautiful dress she wanted and which she ends up wearing to the auction. In that regard, this episode doesn’t make Mary look that great (especially if Lucy ended up having to do something worse to pay back the boss), but demonstrates Lucy’s incurable weak spot for her little sister, and her fierce commitment to her happiness.

Kabukichou Sherlock – 04 – Animals at the Public Bath

Moriarty lures Sherlock out of his filthy apartment to go to the public bath house with the promise of a rakugo performance later in the night; Watson is also invited, perhaps so the three can do a little bonding. Instead, Moriarty spends most of the time telling Watson what he’s doing wrong (there are a lot of rules and practices in a bath house, after all). Things start to get weird when Watson spots one animal-headed guy after another.

Turns out they’re members of a band that wears animal masks, and one of them is missing, which…I guess is the mystery here? The cold open shows two band members getting into an alteraction, and we eventually learn that “Pheasant” punched “Peach” (the missing guy), and wasn’t aware that he later died. “Dog” then hid the body, leaving “Baboon” the only band member who didn’t know about the body.

I have to say, there isn’t much for Sherlock to do here, and his Rakugo: Nude Variation and Watson’s fish out of water antics at the bath can’t really save this episode from being a bit of a snooze-fest. You’d hope with a show that features Sherlock would have more interesting mysteries, but right now they’re the least interesting part of the show, after the setting, colorful characters, and rakugo. Kabukicho remains a weird, cool place to spend time, but I hope some of that time is better spent in future episodes.