Lycoris Recoil – 13 (Fin) – Deciding for Themselves

Chisato ends up alone with Majima at the top of the Enkuboku for a final round. Majima makes things even more interesting by activating a 60-minute timer on a bomb that will presumably bring the tower down. Why Chisato doesn’t just repeatedly shoot Majima right next to his ears is unclear, but the duel that ensues is pretty evenly matched.

Meanwhile, the power goes out on the whole tower to ensure no hackers, friend or foe, will be able to interfere with Majima and Chiato’s fight. The elevator still has aux power, so Fuki heads down with a seriously injured Sakura while Takina asks her to let her climb back up to help Chisato. Fuki decides that she and Takina should get to decide what they want to do for once.

After pulling off a particularly tricky acrobatic move on Majima, Chisato suddenly finds her artificial heart starting to give out. Majima, who may be a jerk, has no interest in fighting her in this state, so he shoots open a vending machine, offers her a juice and the two have a short break. Chisato want him to stop the clock, but he won’t.

Whither Mr. Yoshi? Helped along by Himegama, he continues his retreat, but is confronted by Mika, who actually doesn’t have a bum leg. Himagama charges him, but he wallops her with his cane, then riddles her with non-lethal bullets. Left unprotected, Mika has come for Yoshi’s briefcase, to tell him it’s time to let the kids make their own choices, then kills the man he clearly never really stopped loving.

After engaging it some philosophical sparring regarding who is the hero, who is the villain, and what constitutes a properly-lived life (Majima is resolved to restore “balance”, Chisato is fine with the status quo) their fight resumes. Chisato is feeling better but still far from 100%, and the clock is still ticking.

Eventually one of Majima’s many bullets grazes Chisato, and she goes down. Majima steps on her and prepares to shoot her, but just then Takina appears, and Chisato uses the moment of distraction to pull Majima head-over-heels.

The two hit the glass, which cracks and then shatters (in reality, glass in a tower like this would be several inches thick, like that in the CN Tower, but whatever); the two begin to fall. We don’t see what becomes of Majima, which means he’s clearly not dead, while Takina ensnares Chisato with her restraining wire.

The phone countdown hits zero, and the “punishment explosion” turns out to be a massive fireworks display, which was likely meant to cap off the Enkuboku opening anyway. Majima, while likely not dead, is at least out of their hair for the time being, and both Takina and Chisato are alive.

In the first of two epilogues, Sakura has made a full recovery and is back to her exuberant, poop parfait-lovin’ self, Fuki is still meekly deferent to Mika, and life at LycoReco has returned to normal,  except that Chisato has not been around, while Takina is out on a job.

That job turns out to be traveling to Miyako to find Chisato, but the mission is first portrayed as her tracking down and eliminating a target. The two end up trading gunfire in the forest and then shooting each other with restraining wire, and when they realize they’re…each other, they hop into each other with joy (while also scolding each other for coming at each other so hot).

Takina explains to Chisato how a regular café patron happened to capture Chisato in the background of a photo of her and her boyfriend, and so even with no internet or cameras, they were able to find her. Takina also notes that she’s glad Chisato is alive and well.

Chisato actually slipped out of the hospital and traveled to Miyako not sure about the nature of the operation she underwent. Turns out Mr. Yoshi was lying; the heart wasn’t in his chest, but in the briefcase. Now that it’s in Chisato’s chest, she’s going to live a long, healthy life.

The scenes at the seaside café and then on the beach are some of the most richly-colored and beautiful of the series, and really lend a lovely gravitas to what these two have been through…and what they mean to each other. When asked what she should do with the extra life she’s been given, Takina proposes she do something she’s always wanted to.

That brings us to the bonus epilogue: LycoReco Hawaii! No doubt thanks to Kurumi’s skills, the whole gang is able to travel to the states and set up a café truck by the ocean. Everyone seems to be doing their part and having fun, and we also learn their side hustle of helping people out is still going on as well, only now in adorable Hawaiian garb.

It’s a cute and satisfying all’s-well-that-ends-well ending. Sure, there are still a lot of guns still in Tokyo, and a heavily-bandaged Majima out there egging people. The moral quandary that is Lycoris and the DA is still hanging out there too.

But Chisato and Takina are where they want to be, doing what they want to do. They who were tools for the adults are now free to live their lives how they see fit. For that reason alone, I can walk away from this show with a smile.

Lycoris Recoil – 12 – Spider Lily Shuffle

Takina’s heroic arrival means Chisato’s finally able to maneuver herself into position to fire her gun near both of Majima’s ears, incapacitating him long enough for her to blast him with her concussive rounds and for Takina to shoot him with binding rounds.

He still gets in a couple of kicks, however, so as the girls recover by lying on the ground for a bit, Chisato asks why Takina there, Takina says she quit, and Chisato says she’s a big ol’ dummy. Takina won’t disagree, but between the DA and Chisato, there was no choice.

Chisato proceeds to find Mr. Yoshi, who expresses immediate disappointment when he learns she didn’t kill Majima. When Chisato tells him that she’s already plenty happy helping people, he says he “didn’t wind up the spring of a dying doll” for that. He can’t stress enough that Chisato can only fulfill her purpose by taking lives.

Takina, who is listening in the hall, has heard enough. If Chisato won’t shoot this guy, she will. Especially when they learn he’s had the advanced artificial heart put in his chest, making it so that he must die for Chisato to live. While that’s perfectly okay for Takina, it’s not at all okay for Chisato, who stops Takina from killing him.

Yoshi’s sidekick drops in and kicks Takina out of the tower and almost to her death, creating yet anoher cruel game for Chisato: kill his sidekick before she kills Takina. When Takina is holding on to a beam for dear life and Yoshi starts shooting at her hands, Chisato begs him to stop. When he won’t she finally pulls the trigger and sends a real bullet into his chest.

Fortunately for her, it goes straight through him and misses his vitals. Takina survives her bout with Yoshi’s sidekick (albeit with a half-bloodied face to show for it), and unloads a clip at the two as they retreat. Chisato tells her to stop and holds her as she says even if they killed Yoshi to save her, she wouldn’t be Chisato anymore. The time comes for farewells for everyone, but she’s not gone yet.

As Mizuki and Kurumi arrive in a helicopter to pick them up, Chisato and Takina learn about the next crisis: now that they’ve been outed to the public, the director has decided to eliminate all of the Lycoris (with the male version, LilyBell). Mizuki flies them to Enkuboku, while Kurumi gives them a USB dongle to put in the Enkuboku servers. Fuki and Sakura go floor to floor gathering up the wounded Lycoris, with Erika having their six, filling in for Takina.

When the three bite off more than they can chew with two of Majima’s bigger thugs, Chisato and Takina come to their haughty colleagues’ rescue once more, and then they proceed to the server room, where Sakura points out how Fuki and Chisato’s arguing sounds a lot like flirting.

Once the USB is in the server, Kurumi, AKA Walnut, proves she was and is the world’s best hacker, creating a new cover-up for the Lycoris (announced to the city as an immersive crisis adventure simulation…though that doesn’t explain the guns dispersed among the public) and leading the cops straight to Robota’s hideout.

With the Lycoris given fresh cover and Chisato dodging LilyBell’s bullets, the director orders them to retreat. Lilybell’s 1st glares at Chisato on his way out, and Takina isn’t sure whether she should be unsurprised or jealous. Probably both. Takina and Erika get another nice little moment, as Takina shows how a little Chisato has rubbed off on her by ribbing Erika for being “awful” for taking her placed at the DA.

It looks like all’s well that ends well, until Kusunoki is informed that the cleaners responsible for retrieving Majima have gone silent. The elevator doors are about to close when Chisato spots her bookbag and runs out to get it. Majima then sprays a clip into the elevator (all bullets absorbed by an airbag thanks to quick thinking from Fuki). But the elevator doors close on the Takina, Fuki, and the others, leaving Chisato all alone with Majima for a final round.

Majima’s plan to turn the public against the government failed, and he’s lost Robota, the only means of attempting to do so again. So this is clearly just him wanting to either kill or be killed by his finest and most interesting opponent. As for Chisato, she seems resigned to her fate, and unless there’s a third fake heart out there somewhere, Takina may have to be too.

But when that elevator descends to the ground floor, dollars to donuts Takina’s going right back up to the top to be back beside Chisato, as long as she possibly can, until the farewell.

Lycoris Recoil – 11 – Dance in the Dark

Kusunoki is barely two minutes into breifing the Lycoris for the Enkuboku operation when Takina interrupts her after spotting Chisato’s name on one of the rosters. She realizes something’s up and leaves the bus to go find her. Chisato and Mika are being led by Robota exactly where Majima wants them to go.

Mizuki and Kurumi are at the airport lounge, and part ways “forever” without much fanfare, only for Kurumi to deplane from her luxurious first-class seat (Mizuki got stuck in economy) when her turbo-hacking reveals there’s a second artificial heart out there.

Takina arrives at LycoReco to find it abandoned and Chisato and Mika’s phones left behind. Then she gets a call from Kurumi about the second heart: it’s an improvement on the one Chisato has, which suggests she could live a full life with it.

The person in possession of this second heart? Yoshimatsu Shinji, naturally, who Kurumi shows Takina has been taken captive by Majima at the old tower where he and Chisato first crossed paths. Takina, who had been in the middle of the operation with Fuki & Co., excuses herself, even if it means she’s done with the DA. Fuki even lets her go, knowing that’s the best move. But before she leaves, Erika gets to have a nice moment, hugging Takina and thanking her for saving her.

Takina’s reason for abandoning her DA duty is simple: she can’t save Chisato from the Enkuboku. She’s in the wrong tower. So she runs with everything she’s got to the other one. Majima, meanwhile, is able to get back on the airwaves thanks to Robota, who uses Radiata’s heavy defenses against itself with thousands of simultaneous hacking attacks.

This enables Majima to officially expose the Lycoris by showing video footage of them walking around the tower with guns near pools of blood. When he tells those who found the guns he left for them to find to watch out for Lycrois, there’s a confrontation that results in both Lycoris and civilian getting shot. Kusunoki’s failure is quickly becoming a bloody fiasco.

Chisato arrives at the old tower, goes inside, rides the elevator up as high as it will go, then heads outside for a bit of acrobatics. She not only has to maintain her own balance to keep from falling to her death, she also has to make sure the thugs she shoots don’t fall to theirs.

Because Chisato doesn’t kill anyone she encounters, it makes sense that she’d act and talk so casually, even playfully while dispatching them non-lethally. She’s not just making her way to Mr. Yoshi, she’s having fun while doing it. Then the fun suddenly stops when Majima drops the shutters and leaves Chisato without her most powerful attribute: her sight.

The two empty multiple clips at each other, but Chisato’s dodging ability isn’t too hampered, while Majima’s supernatural hearing enables him to dodge her wild shots and sneak up on her from behind multiple times. As the two twist and tussle in the dark, it’s clear the fun is back: two realtively evenly-matched opponents are going at it.

Then , just when it looks like Majima is about to get the upper hand, Takina literally smashes through the metal shutters and comes between him and Chisato, packing live ammo. Right now, the DA being exposed and the potential destruction of the new tower doesn’t matter. Takina’s there to save Chisato and Yoshimatsu make it out of there alive, which means Majima is simply in the way.

Lycoris Recoil – 10 – Beyond the Tower of Lies

When Chisato catches Mizuki and Kurumi researching some kind of solution for her artificial heart problem, she can tell they’re not looking forward to their own paths. She urges Mizuki to go to that ripped hunk she met online, and Kurumi to move to Germany, which she believes to have the strongest board game game.

Takina is back at DA as one of the worker bees, but is still Takina and still has only one goal in mind while she’s there: find Yoshimatsu and a means to repair Chisato’s heart. Of course, Yoshimatsu is now a captive of Majima, who feels bad for the raw deal Chisato got.

Majima may be focused on getting rid of the DA, but Alan is next. and while Yoshimatsu is fine with Majima raising hell since he’s living up to his full potential as Alan planned, he’s not about to reveal any information about the Institute, even if it helps Majima progress further into the perfect villain he was apparently always meant to be.

The last we see of Mizuki and Kurumi, they give Chisato an understated goodbye, then sit in their airport-bound taxi. I don’t believe for a second they’re going to hop on any planes, particularly if either of them catch wind of the news-making events that follow in the episode.

Takina uses both her rebellious streak nurtured by Chisato and her former firing “for killing too many people” to visit and question one of the captured arms dealers, who lets her know that “Alan” wanted the guns to begin with. Could this be a super-long game being played by Alan, with Majima as their ideal puppet, despite thinking he’s simply doing what he wants?

Kusunoki makes a rare appearance in the field with her Lycoris when they raid Majima’s hideout, but he’s already gone, and verbally and philosophically spars with Kusunoki about how true peace cannot be thrust upon a society by a Machiavellian leader, but earned by its citizens.

On the day of the Enkuboku Tower completion ceremony, we learn when Robota helps him hijack the tower’s first broadcast that he intends to prove that theory with a game of sorts. The thousand guns he acquired have been distributed throughout the city, and once they’re all found by those who have no idea what to do with them, blood will flow and force a pampered society into entering the crucible of chaos needed to achieve true peace, free of shadow organizations like the DA or Alan.

Throughout all this, Chisato and Mika have simply been hanging out at the closed café, where Mika presents her with her coming-of-age gift: a gorgeous yukata, as well as some coming-of-age truth: Yoshimatsu only agreeed to save her life if Mika promised to make her into the ultimate hitman. He never told her the truth because her love and idolization of her “Mr. Savior” was what helped fuel her rise into the finest Lycoris, as well as one of the finer people Mika’s ever known.

Chisato takes the news well, and assures Mika that no matter who Mr. Yoshi truly is or always has been, her love and respect and gratitude for her two dads will never fade, and nothing she learns will ever change that. But she does want to meet Yoshi one last time and hear the truth from his mouth. For this reason, just as Takina is back with the DA for Chisato’s sake, Chisato accepts Kusunoki’s call to deploy, puts on her red battle uniform, and heads out for perhaps her final mission as a Lycoris.

Kusunoki called Chisato under pressure from her boss that she was losing control of the situation and risking the exposure of the Lycoris to the public. Majima’s broadcast may have been cut off, but not before damage potentially fatal to the DA’s secrecy is done. Chisato is believed to be the only Lycoris who can stop Majima, but I suspect her strict orders to kill him will not be obeyed to the letter.

Going forward? After last week’s final date that felt like closure, it’s still very much uncertain if Chisato’s heart will be fixed (or if she’ll get a new one) and survive to the end of the show. It’s also uncertain that Mizuki and Kurumi are off the board for the remainder, while it’s a good bet Chisato and Takina will fight side-by-side on the battlefield before all’s said and done.

Hell, there may even be a reversal where Chisato survives and Takina is the one to lose her life in the ensuing final battle with Majima. Or maybe the DA and/or Alan will be exposed and stay exposed, which may be ultimately for the best for the long-term health of Japan’s society. With this tower showdown comes a tower packed with possibilities. While ever weary of who might be lost on the way, I look forward to watching how it all shakes out.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Lycoris Recoil – 09 – God Is Whimsical

No sooner does Chisato not pick up than Takina is racing to the clinic like a bat out of hell. She enters the OR gun blazing, forcing Himegama to make a hasty retreat out the window, but the damage is already done. Chisato eventually awakens from the sedative, but the electric shock overloaded her heart’s battery, which can no longer be recharged. Chisato now has just two months to live.

Both Chisato and Takina are true-to-character in their reactions. Chisato basically shrugs it off as two months and ten years longer than she would have lived, and accepts her fate. Takina doesn’t want accept it, and doesn’t like how her best friend is so quick to.

Chisato heads to the DA for what she believes might be the final time, and when Kusunoki asks her to return to DA for the operation to bring down Majima, her condition is that Takina be reinstated. Sure enough, Fuki and Sakura are at LycoReco delivering Takina’s reinstatement.

After another routine mission where this time Takina apologizes for making Chisato run (she wants the battery to last as long as it can), Takina and Mizuki end up arriving at LycoReco in the middle of a private conversation between Mika and Kurumi, who has dug up enough online that Mika is compelled to tell her the story of Chisato.

Chisato had a singular talent for killing and avoiding being killed (at least by guns), but had a congenital heart condition. Yoshimatsu Shinji struck a deal with Mika, who also happened to be his lover at the time. Chisato would be fitted with a bleeding-edge artificial heart by Alan Institute, and Mika would see to it she fulfilled the promise of her talent.

Shinji made clear that even with this tech, Chisato would probably only lie to 18 – typically the retirement age for a Lycoris (if they live that long). Before the procedure, Chisato encounter Shinji in a hallway on accident, and immediately pegged him as her “Mr. Savior”, giving him a hug of gratitude. Shinji accepted the hug but soon left both her and Mika’s lives for a long while.

Having overheard Mika’s tale, Takina resolves to do everything she can to extend Chisato’s life. If that means leaving LycoReco, returning to the DA, and helping capture Majima, so be it. But before dropping this news on Chisato, she decides to take her out for what might be their last day off shopping and having fun.

Takina makes up a long and detailed schedule and keeps Chisato on it to the very minute with phone alarms. But despite being whisked from one place to another and having to move on just when she’s getting comfortable, Chisato still admits that she’s having fun, because that’s what happens whenever she’s with Takina.

The final leg in Takina’s fun day off itinerary is sitting on a bench at a hilltop park with a view of the city just when it’s supposed to start snowing. The snow doesn’t come at first, but Chisato can tell without Takina saying anything that this is about her returning to the DA. After all, it’s what Chisato told the DA would be a condition of her own return.

But for now, Chisato and Takina are to part ways. The snow finally comes while they’re still in view of one another, and they exchange bittersweet smiles of mutual affection. Chisato may have accepted the fact she only has two months left, but Takina is going back to the DA not because it’s what she wanted, but because it’s what she thinks she needs to do to give Chisato a chance she herself isn’t worrying about.

Takina is returning to the DA just as Majima and his henchmen capture Shinji and Himegama. Can Majima still be a possible ally in getting Shinji or Alan to cough up the needed tech to repair Chisato’s heart? Will the heart give out once she reaches adulthood anyway? With four episodes left, I’m hoping Takina, with help from the rest of the LycoReco crew, DA, and maybe even Majima, can save Chisato. If they can’t, that would suck!

Lycoris Recoil – 08 – Poo Parfait

One day Takina takes a look at LycoReco’s books and it’s not looking good, so she takes command of the cafe’s finances. This applies to both creating efficiencies and instilling discipline in the café as well as while on Lycoris missions. From keeping the fridge closed and plates unbroken to weaning Chisato off her love of firing lots of bullets, Takina goes to town and takes care of business.

There’s a bright and breathless energy to this extended sequence as Takina creates a new menu item that looks suspiciously like the poo emoji—something she is oblivious too until it’s explicitly mentioned on social media. But now that LycoReco feels like a home and Chisato & Co. her family, Takina resolved to make it as strong and successful as possible, and in this she succeds, demonstrating she’s more than just a capable assassin.

Throughout all this, Chisato repeatedly dodges attempts from her doctor to get her to come in for her routine physical. When Takina orders her to go, Majima surprises her at her safe house, and she isn’t able to go. Majima isn’t there to kill her, just to learn more about his fellow Alan child, whom he saw as an unkillable monster back during the Radio Tower incident.

They share a distaste for authority and a love of the Die Hard movies. (Appropriately, Powell is Chisato’s favorite character, since he too isn’t about killing unless absolutely necessary). We learn that his talent is enhanced hearing, so he can tell when Takina is approaching and gets the jump on her when she’s about to enter. He leaves peacefully but I’m sure he’ll be back.

After that, Takina sets up a phone ring code that Chisato is to follow to the letter precisely. She surprises her with a gift from the preschool she wanted (a cute doggie strap) and then once again orders her to go get her physical. Chisato admits that a fear of needles has kept her away thus far.

The next day, when Chisato finally goes in for her physical, Himegama, Yoshi’s assistant, is posing as a nurse, and injects Chisato with a sedative, all but validating Chisato’s innate distrust of medical facilities. Having promised to “be gentle” with Chisato, Himegama hooks electrodes directly into her artificial heart and starts feeding it electric shocks.

When Chisato doesn’t answer after three rings, Takina goes after her, but I’m sure Himegama and Alan are at least a step or two ahead of her. As for what these shocks are going to do to Chisato, I can’t rule out the fact it’s a means to control her into doing Alan’s bidding, rather than the “make-believe” lifestyle she’s been leading thus far.

Yoshi is adamant that Alan children cannot chose their path in life; it was chosen for them. If force is needed to get Chisato back on hers, so be it. I just hope whatever’s being done to her won’t cause permanent harm, and Takina can manage to rescue her. Or maybe the Chisato we knew is now gone. In any case, it’s a hell of a cliffhanger after 8/10ths of the episode was so lighthearted and fun.

Lycoris Recoil – 07 – Bar Forbidden

We start things off with some levity, as both Chisato and Takina prove as horrendous at drawing as they are spectacular at gun-fu in trying to draw Majima for the DA. Chisato is closer with the green hair, but I’m not sure what the heck Takina was looking at.

Later at the café while on a bathroom break, Chisato catches the slightest glance at a message on Mika’s phone. It’s for a meeting the day after tomorrow at 9:00 PM at a “Bar Forbidden” about her “future”. Chisato comes to suspect this means the future of LycoReco is in question.

Chisato shares this suspicion with Takina, Mizuki, and Kurumi, and the latter quickly locates the members-only Bar Forbidden and forges entry for Chisato and Takina so they can get to the bottom of whatever’s going on. But in the meantime, Majima and Robota are planning another strike.

This time they assault a police station, with Robota providing cover for Majima’s team by creating dummy bomb threats that diver the Lycoris and spread them thin. While tomorrow’s news reports it was a yakuza attack, Fuki and Sakura arrive at the café with fresh footage. Chisato and Takina are able to positively ID Majima, while it’s confirmed Fuki has a mondo crush on Mika (and thus barking up the wrong tree).

The night of Mika’s secret meeting arrives, and Chisato and Takina finally have an opportunity to dress to the nines for their little spy mission. Chisato wears a glamorous backless red dress and ostentatious hat while Takina goes for a smart black three-piece suit. It’s clear and present ship-bait, and I’m A-OK with it.

When they spot Mika, and then see Mr. Yoshi meet him there, both Chisato and Mizuki arrive at the conclusion Mika is actually on a date, which neither Takina or Kurumi get because they didn’t know Mika swung that way. The girls start to head out, but then Chisato overhears the lads talking about her surgery, and can’t help but confront them.

Takina gives Chisato all the time she needs, but neither Mika nor Yoshi have anything of note to say to her. Yoshi is clearly upset that Mika allowed Chisato to tail him to what was to be a secret meeting. While nothing is explicitly stated, it’s clear from what Yoshi does say to both Mika at the bar and Takina outside: he intends greater things for Chisato.

For him, that means using her talent for killing to its full effect, which I’d guess he believes to be underutilized at LycoReco. But even if he was responsible for the heart surgery that saved Chisato’s life, she didn’t ask for that, and so even if she’s grateful to him, the life she was given should be hers to do with what she pleases. And we know that means helping people, not killing them.

The other question is whether Majima, an apparent fellow Alan Child, has perverted his Alan mission, or if he’s doing exactly what he’s meant to do. Whatever the case, this Tokyo’s version of the Sky Tree is at risk, and Chisato and Majima are on a sure collision course.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Lycoris Recoil – 02 – Gathering Acorns

LycoReco takes on a job involving two feuding hackers. Robota wants to be the top dog in Tokyo, so he hires a semi-pro assassination team to take out his rival Walnut. It’s Chisato and Takina’s job is simple on paper: Keep Walnut Alive.

Takina watches in bemusement as Chisato treats this serious, hazardous mission like she treats any other day: with casual cheer, playfulness, and joie de vivre. A jelly drink packet may be quick and efficient, but it’s no substitute for a limited express bento.

When they approach the parking lot and find a very loud red Lexus LFA, Chisato is excited and really wants to drive, only for Walnut to arrive in a modest (and far less conspicuous) Honda City. Less conspicuous is Walnut’s squirrel mascot suit.

When Robota hacks the Honda (sidebar: not sure why, a car that age shouldn’t be connected to the internet at all, but I guess in this particular world it is), Walnut works to undo the hack while Takina’s marksmanship is again tested as she must take the drone out while the car is airborne.

Walnut manages to mess up the Robohack just before the car plunges into the ocean, but once everyone exits the car it slides into the water. They head into an abandoned supermarket, which is a perfect place for the kill squad to ambush them. Fortunately for Takina, Walnut’s suitcase containing all worldly possessions is also bulletproof.

Takina and Walnut alike proceed to watch in awe as Chisato not only dodges machine gun fire, but walks towards it and takes out the baddies one by one with her non-lethal rubber rounds. But when their leader (who has no love for Robota, just their money) suffers a serious wound, Chisato has Takina and Walnut go ahead as she administers triage.

Neither Takina nor the wounded guy understand why Chisato is doing this, because both of them feel like getting wounded or killed is part of the game. Not so for Chisato; a mission isn’t a true success unless it ends with no one dead. Unfortunately, there are still members of the kill squad outside when Walnut stupidly walks out first…and gets riddled with bullets and dies in a pool of blood.

The mood is somber on the ambulance, as all the fun Chisato was having now feels wholly inappropriate and unprofessional. It’s Takina, however, who apologizes for letting Walnut go out first, only for Chisato to tell her it’s not her fault. Sometimes things just go wrong. You can’t win them all.

Except…Walnut isn’t dead.

Suddenly they start moving and pulls off the squirrel head to reveal Mizuki, who was posing as Walnut all along. The suit is not only bulletproof, but full of bloody squibs to put on a convincing show. The real Walnut is a tiny girl who was hiding in the suitcase all along; she’s safe and sound while their adversary believes she’s dead. The mission is a success and no one is dead, which means it’s a win in Chisato’s book too.

It was a fun switcheroo, as like Chisato and Takina Mizuki and Mika had me going right up until she pulled off the squirrel head. The mood back at LycoReco is thus happy and laid back, only briefly interrupted by Yoshi-san, a regular at the café who also ordered the hit on Walnut, and Walnut herself, AKA Kurumi, who is now living at the café in exchange for her hacking services.

While I’m sure Yoshi has nothing good planned for the Lycoris, I admire Chisato for simply living her life and doing her job on her terms. It almost went sideways, but as she tells Takina, their “enemies” on this job were only the enemy today. They could be clients, allies, or even friends down the line. Valuing life in every interaction is in their stragtegic interests.

The episode ends on a mischievous note as Takina removes a hair tie and prepares to playfully fire it at Chisato, only for Chisato to dodge and the band to hit lil’ Kurumi square in her big forehead. It’s good to see Takina letting her hair down a bit (literally and figuratively), and the addition of Kurumi to this quirky little family is a welcome one.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Princess Connect! Re:Dive – S2 07 – Foggy Memories

On their way to the tavern for a meal after tending some fields for a job, the Gourmet Guild encounter Ayane and Kurumi, who live at Sarens orphanage. Kurumi is extremely cute and shy, while Ayane carries around a staff with a seemingly sentient bear named Pikuchi on the end of it (though Karyl suspects ventriloquism).

The Serendia girls join the guild, but they soon encounter Chika of Carmina looking very much the worse for wear. Kokkoro heals her in the tavern, but she seems to have lost her memories and forgotten who she is. This tracks with the cold open of her running through the forest from what sounds like a laughing spirit, cursing herself for unsealing it.

Chaos reigns in the tavern when Kurumi’s memories are manipulated, turning her into a girlfriend who slaps the shit out of Charlie and demands he leave his (nonexistent) wife. Then Chika’s memories change again, and she starts to exhibit animal-like behaviors like licking and biting. But she also saves Ayane from getting hit by an errant bottle.

This clues Ayane in to the fact that somehow her beary good friend Pikuchi is inhabiting Chika, and helps the real Chika to surface so she can explain what’s going on. Her, Ayane, and the tavern owner’s strange behavior is due to memory manipulation by Foggy, the great trickster spirit of memories. Chika was trying to help Yuuki get his memories back, but instead all this happens.

Peco and Karyl are dispatched to the spring where Foggy’s seal lies; on the way Karyl twists her ankle, but Peco is happy to carry her the rest of the way. Its nice in the midst of an episode packed with so many characters that these two get a little alone time; their first since the two found themselves at the bottom of that pile of golem wreckage. As Karyl picks burrs out of Peco’s locks, Peco likens her to a big sister, with Kokkoro as their mom and Yuuki as their litle bro.

A helpful bird points them to the location of Foggy’s seal, and soon they’re back in town, revealing Foggy’s true form. When Peco slices Foggy in to, it splits into four Foggys, but Chika, who is herself again, sings her signature song of spirits, and Nozomi backs her up in taking care of the trickster spirit.

Before that happens, however, Foogy launches an attack at Peco, whose Princess Strike split it into four. When Yuuki shields her, he’s hit by a sudden rush of memories of a previous life he shared with a totally different family-like guild, led by a girl named Yui. The five-person party is preparing to go to the Sol Tower. Just the latest chapter in Yuuki’s mysterious and complex backstory.

With Foggy dealt with and everyone back to normal, Ayane and Kurumi set up a lemonade wagon, treating their new friends and local kids alike and showing that Saren really is the best orphanage mama. That said, it was some kind of tawdry romance novel Kurumi found at Saren’s orphanage that was the source of her switched out memories, so…maybe hide those from the kids!

As everyone enjoys their lemonade, Yuuki keeps looking up at the Sol Tower that looms high in the sky over Landosol, as if looking at it long enough may help him to remember more of that life. Kokkoro, who’s always been most attuned to Yuuki’s behavior, can sense something’s wrong, but even Yuuki probably couldn’t tell her exactly what. Perhaps more answers will come in time, but even if they don’t, there’s plenty to love about the family he has here and now.

Gakkou Gurashi! – 12 (Fin)

gg121

Though Yuki is the only one who can save everyone, I appreciated that she didn’t have Kurumi’s zombie-smiting strength, as her first target doesn’t even feel the force of the aluminum bat she swings. She’s not going to get it done with brawn, but she does get it done with a bit of luck, as well as the relationship she’d cultivated with Taroumaru all this time.

He’s loose again, but rather than bite her, he chooses to bite the zombies cornering her, remembering just enough of his pre-zombie life to instinctively protect his friend, just as Megu-nee did by staying in the basement. It gives Yuki the moments she needs to slip into the broadcast room.

gg122

There, she makes a P.A. announcement that school is out, along with a moving speech that mirrors her monologue in the first episode. Only now, her eyes are wide open, and she’s aware that the ideal school she speaks of is no more. The announcement works, and the zombies disperse, freeing Miki, who rushes the medicine to Kurumi in time to save her. Thank goodness!

gg123

But there is a price for Yuki and Miki succeeding and Kurumi recovering, in the form of the show’s biggest gut punch yet. Taroumaru is doing much better than he was, but he can’t eat and only drinks a little bit of water before letting out one last little yip before dying in Miki’s lap. Needless to say, this was a heartwrenching and tearful scene, but like Megu-nee’s end as seen in flashbacks, and Yuki saying goodbye to her “specter”, the sendoff further demonstrates this show’s devotion to giving its doomed characters a proper, unblinking sendoff.

The girls bury Taroumaru next to Megu-nee; two protectors who gave their lives to save them, and when Miki says she’s fine, Yuki lets her know it’s okay to not be fine; to not bottle up one’s grief, but let it flow out without reservation. This is sage advice coming from someone who once broke from reality rather than face what was going on, but eventually opened her eyes.

gg124

With the school’s utilities trashed and provisions dwindling, the School Life Club must disband and depart from the school for a more suitable shelter. Megu-nee provided locations of other shelters on a map, and though the group doesn’t know what kind of survivors (if any) they’ll encounter, they have little choice but to take their chances out there.

The graduation ceremony they have isn’t some empty gesture, but is carried out with the same decorum and formality as the real thing would have had most of the school not been zombified—Yuki even neatens her hair! They are literally graduating from one kind of life, one of relative safety and routine and contained within the walls of their beloved but now-broken school, and striking out into the vast, unknown world, full of as many possibilities as hazards.

gg125

But I have no doubt that they’re ready, if they stick together, they’ll do fine. And when Kurumi fires up the Mini Cooper and they pull away from the school, even when Miki catches a glimpse of one last zombie who may well be her friend Kei, she doesn’t insist they turn back, because they can’t turn back.

Megu-nee, Taroumaru, and even Kei may be lost to them, but they wouldn’t be alive without them, and aren’t going to squander the product of their noble sacrifice. We also get a glimpse of the puppy Taroumaru saved; an upbeat parting shot of the school grounds.

gg126

After the gang heads off into the horizon and the credits roll, there’s one last ambiguous scene imparted with GG!’s signature sneakiness, in which a glasses-wearing girl we’re not familiar with (but who definitely isn’t a zombie) approaching a field of debris (though it looks more like building rubble than car wreckage) finds Yuki’s childish drawing of the School Life Club members with the message “We Are Happy”.

Is this something Yuki left behind, like Miki’s note to Kei on the blackboard, for anyone who might come past, like this girl? Or is this drawing all that’s left of them? The latter possibility is too dark and ghastly for me to contemplate any further, so let’s say the latter and call it a day, shall we? After all, it’s School-Live, not School-Die,right?

…Right? O__O

9_ses

Gakkou Gurashi! – 11

gg111

After multiple events at the end of last week’s episode piled upon each other like so many zombies, spelling imminent doom for the School Life Club, this week starts off with a continuation of that despair, with no shortage of intense terrified close-ups of Rii-san and Miki. But Yuki’s expression is different. It’s not existential fear…it’s an awakening, which comes in the form of a sudden flash as she sees her former choker-wearing classmate as she truly is.

That awakening continues gradually and painfully throughout the episode, as more and more, it becomes clear Yuki is the only club member who can save everyone. Her emotional scars are re-opened and reckoned with, and the same voice in her head that’s taken the form of Megu-nee for so long steps into high gear, putting Yuki not only in a position to stay alive, but help the others, starting with Miki. Now that she finally sees again the danger she and her friends are in, she doesn’t crumple into a ball; she picks up a shovel.

gg112

Nostalgia, despair and hope go hand in hand (…in hand) this week. Rii-san remembers promising to “do what must be done” if Kurumi were to get infected, and as she’s being slowly driven mad by Kurumi’s increasingly horrifying moans and screams, with a knife in her lap, Rii-san starts to contemplate fulfilling that promise. Meanwhile, the zombies are everywhere, including the roof, where a lightning storm ignites the zombies, who then ignite the crops and Megu-nee’s grave marker.

gg113

With all this grimness, Yuki’s strength in this time of ultimate crisis, and her desire to have more fun times with the club in the future, inspires Miki to action, after she was briefly paralyzed by her grief over Taroumaru. She then use’s Kei’s discman to try to sooth/distract the zombies at another barricade as she heads to the basement to find medicine. As that gorgeous music first we heard in episode 4 plays, we return to the day the club drove out in Megu-nee’s car and ended up saving Miki.

On the drive home, Kurumi and Rii-san (the only two still awake) talk about whether the zombies are still “aware”, and Kurumi hopes they aren’t, after all the terrible things she’s done to them. She says she had no choice—it was them or her—and she’s right. But that doesn’t make what she’s done, or not knowing the true nature of the zombies, any easier a pill to swallow.

Back in the present, Rii-san prepares to stab Kurumi to death…but just can’t do it, thus avoiding the possibility of Miki getting the antidote, only to return to find Kurumi is dead. If Rii-san isn’t already FUBAR, she certainly would be under that scenario.

gg114

But Miki is still a long, long way from getting that antidote to Kurumi. It’s by no means a sure thing. She encounters Megu-nee down there, gets cornered by her and pays her respects, cognizant of the possibility the teacher’s stayed down there all this time in order to prevent hurting her still-living students. Despite that apparent awareness Kurumi mused about (and hoped wasn’t true), Megu-nee is still, ya know…a zombie, and grabs Miki’s ankle, forcing Miki to take her out.

Just then, as if there was a chip in Megu-nee tied to the school (though probably a coincidence what with the roof generators going haywire), an alarm sounds and red lights come on, and a P.A. system announces emergency power has been activated for the shelter (which probably means batteries, which aren’t going to last). All that noise attracts hordes of zombies to Miki’s location, and she ends up trapped in a room, unable to act, just like when she was at the mall.

gg115

Thus Yuki becomes the only one who can save everyone. She does so by finally opening her eyes to “the hard stuff” she left to the others for so long, even before she went into her dissociative state, because she deemed herself clumsy and weak. But she’s able to use a vision of Megu-nee to get to the place she needs to be, have one last conversation with her through a door before opening it, and seeing, finally, that Megu-nee is no longer around, that she’s gone, and now it’s up to her.

It’s not easy, nor is it painless, but it’s what has to be done, or, Yuki knows, the School Live Club is finished. Her smile and her silly optimism sustained the club for so long, but now she has to do more, by breaking out of the protective shell she created in her mind, facing the reality of her situation, grabbing a bat, and getting to work. Everyone is counting on her.

No matter what happens, everyone will be scarred by this day they’re having. But can Yuki stand strong and act; protect and guide as Megu-nee did; be the new guardian angel, so that she and the others can live a little longer? I hope so.

10_sesRABUJOI World Heritage List

Gakkou Gurashi! – 10

gg101

Fun Time is officially over as shit hits the fan on all fronts in this taut, slithering, devastating, unforgiving powerhouse of an episode. It starts quiet on a rainy morning. Miki laments that she’s finished her book—at the end of which its implied the dog comes to a bad end—Rii-san informs her why she’s so down: this is the same kind of day when they lost Megu-nee, their sensei and caring protector. Ever since then, Rii-san has been trying to fill the void Megu-nee left, and the strain shows this week as pretty much everything that can go wrong, does.

gg102

Kurumi, the muscle of the group, confidently strikes out to find the escaped Taroumaru, assuring Rii-san she won’t do anything rash. She ultimately can’t abide by that assurance, first locating a zombified Taroumaru, then Megu-nee herself, in the previously un-explored basement. Why she goes alone is beyond me, but like I said, she’s a tough one, so I guess Rii-san felt she could trust her to come back safe and sound on her own.

gg103

As soon as she spots both Taroumaru and Megu-nee, Kurumi knows what she has to do; it’s just a matter of being able to do it. She was able to kill her would-be boyfriend before he killed her back when this all started, but her hesitation results in Taroumaru running rampant until she can trap him in a room (with a non-sliding door he can’t open). And when Megu-nee raises her face, Kurumi can’t help but see her memory of her warm, beautiful, heroic teacher, not the shambling monster before her.

gg104

She loses her nerve, and Megu-nee bites her. Damn, that was fast. Kurumi gets back to the safe zone, but it isn’t long before the wound starts to fester, and it becomes pretty clear that things are not going to go any better for her than they went for the dog or the teacher. It’s only a matter of time.

gg105

During this time, as she screams in her sleep, we go inside her head, where she’s trapped in a nightmare in which countless zombies stalk her from just behind the walls of a classroom she’s in.

When they break through, her mind will be lost and she’ll be one of them. The only glimmer of hope she can be saved comes when Miki consults the emergency manual, which indicates there’s medicine—an antidote?—down in the basement shelter.

Rii-san doesn’t want Miki to go alone, but she doesn’t have much choice; she has to be there if and when Kurumi turns. As for Yuki, her bubbly obliviousness is more of a liability than ever. Miki and Rii-san are going through emotional issues of their own, and they have no time to babysit her.

gg106

Miki finds Kurumi’s shovel, but also spots Taroumaru’s still-full dog bowl and collapses into tears, remembering how Kurumi lamented that she’d “failed”, and believing she too had failed to protect Taroumaru, just when they had kinda become friends last week.

Miki claims not being close to Megu-nee (who we see sitting down there, “writing”) will make it easier to take her out, but the dog’s down there too, so her task to grab the medicine—before Kurumi turns—is not going to be easy, to put it mildly.

As for Yuki, when she stops in the hall to remark to herself how today is like “that day”, and she then asks herself what “that day” is, and then feels the cold rain hitting her on the face. She sees the broken window now, just as the zombies burst through the ground floor and start bringing the barricades down.

We can imagine what she’ll see next week. The question is: how will she react to her sudden awakening? Will she be able to play a role in her own and everyone else’s survival, or are they all doomed?

10_ses

Gakkou Gurashi! – 09

gg91

For all its foreboding teasing of the evacuation plan and the possibility the school was built almost in expectation of a zombie apocalypse, with the exception of the closing minute this is the first episode of GG! that truly felt like more idle stalling than its usual expert mood and tension-building. That’s not surprising, considering the episode adopts the tried and in most cases tired trope of the ol’ Pool Episode—only the pool is a rooftop biotope.

gg92

Mind you, it does seem to be summertime, and the girls are still girls, so they make it a point to try out the swimsuits they acquired at the mall to put their minds off all the zombie business and have some fun. But the fact both they and the episode simply set aside the zombie threat—without so much as a groan from down below in the yard where all the zombies are shuffling around—sapped the show of  its usual gripping dread. I kept expecting a ball or Frisbee would fly off the roof and garner unwanted attention…alas, no such peril ever materialized.

gg93

It isn’t until everyone has showered, had a light meal, and gone off to bed that Taroumaru hears something with his dog ears, slips out of his lead, and strikes out to investigate. While the girls were spared any unpleasantness this week, that’s sure to change soon, as Megu-nee is still up and about—though decidedly neither alive nor well—in the sub-basement they’re preparing to explore tomorrow.

Considering in the chronology of the show there hasn’t actually been a zombie confrontation since they found one in the library way back in the second episode, I’d say we’re due for some fresh menace—this time of a far more personal kind—and of a kind that’s not going to do Yuki’s (or anyone else’s) mental state any favors.

7_ses

%d bloggers like this: