To Your Eternity – S2 10 – Eko From the Beyond

Fushi has been hard at work training on the beached galleon, but is running into problems replicating something so big and complex. He’s able to summon forth each and every part of the ship, but not the ship in its entirety. The Beholder advises him to develop better “awareness” that the objects he creates “belong to him.”

Prince Bon and Kahaku are also hard at work, defeating Nokkers and warning the crown princess of Renril that a Nokker attack is coming. While the masked, obscured princess refuses to abandon the castle or town, she does agree to an alliance. Taking a break from training, Fushi discovers a town.

There he finds new fruits and vegetables at the market, and pays for them with money. He then finds poor and starving people and gives them the food he bought, but when he tries to give money to a woman and her kid he’s met with resentment and suspicion. The woman won’t let him “control” them with his money.

Fushi then senses intense pain coming from a filthy girl with big eyes who is trapped in a cage in a circus tent. He breaks her and her little brother out in the middle of the night and rides back to his galleon base, but on the way the boy dies and he buries him.

Back aboard the ship, Fushi ensures the girl doesn’t meet the same fate, as he feeds her, shows her his menagerie, sews her a dress, bathes her, and cuts her hair. Since the only word she says is “-eko” in response to the presence of a cat (neko), Fushi decides to address her as “Eko.” She stays aboard while he continues his training.

When she senses her falling after trying to plug a leak, he transforms into her brother, and is able to communicate with her through her clay pot, which is apparently a particular ability of her people. This experience helps him to better understand the Beholder’s advice, and he rejects the idea that he “controls” anyone or anything.

Rather, he has to look at things as having always been a part of him. Everything he sees or has ever seen is not merely a collection of possessions, but his very existence itself. He surrounds the ship with an elaborate tangle of vines from his body, and from his spot below deck is able to achieve a number of tasks remotely.

After a while without any contact, Kahaku and Bon decide to return to the beach to check on Fushi, and find that he’s essentially created his own little mini-world. His face covered and body constrained by vines, Fushi confirms that everything within a 3km radius of him…is him. 

He’s also able to teleport, after a fashion, by creating an ambulatory copy of himself through the network of vines. He prepares tea and pastries for his friends and introduces them to Eko, whose people Kahaku is aware of. Fushi communicates with her again as her brother, and learns she has no home to return to, so she’ll be accompanying him on their mission to protect Renril. She seems fine with that!

Bon heads to Uralis to try to find “Immortal allies” that will help them, while Fushi, Eko, Kahaku and Horse head to the beautiful and imposing palace city of Renril, where they’ll likely meet with the crown princess and some of her trusted officers.

Considering her prominent presence in the ED, I was looking forward to Eko’s introduction, and was not disappointed. She rivals March and Rynn for cutest character in TyE, and I feel both we and Fushi have only just scratched the surface of her clay pot abilities.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Eminence in Shadow – 10 – Advent of Chaos

Eminence in Shadow? More like boxtease in shadow. Left and right girls are trying to get Cid to notice them or hang out with him, but he ain’t interested. He’s too lost in the pretend game he thinks he’s playing in this world. And the next stage of that game calls for a trip to the Sacred Lands and their capital, Lindwurm.

So Epsilon can augment her figure with slime, and Beta can write all the aspirational doujinshi she likes, and the two can compare their busts at Shadow Garden HQ, but Cid/Shadow could not care less. They’re not women to him so much as valued, loyal underlings.

That certainly extends to his non-Shadow Garden women in his life as well. Claire clearly wanted to have a fun summer day with her brother, but he hit from her. Alexia, who is also headed to Lindwurm, stops by Gamma’s modern department store and is introduced to thongs, and subjects her big sis a wall slam to prove her commitment to wearing one to win him back.

Then there’s Rose, who we learn found Cid alive and well in a flashback to the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attack. Since he gave her her life, she’s decided to return his feelings and give him her heart. He runs into her at the train station and from that point on she’s constantly clinging to him. Cid doesn’t want thongs or drill tails. He just wants some space and some intrigue!

Just as he hid from Claire, he hides from Rose’s attempt to sleep with him (he believes she’s trying to convert him to her religion) and two days later they arrive in Lindwurm. There, they have a sightseeing date, where he learns from Rose that the demon Diabolos lost his left arm to the Great Hero Olivier in the Sanctuary, a place just outside the capital.

He also learns that Rose is a huge fan of Natsume-senpai, a famous and popular author. One glance at Natsume’s novels, and Cid knows it’s someone blatantly plagiarizing works from his world (including Eminence in Shadow—nice fourth wall break, that). He’s disappointed to learn the author is Beta, with whom he’d shared those stories in hope she’d be inspired to, ya know, right something original.

A few episodes ago we saw how playful and flirty Alpha could be (and how utterly unaffected Cid was), but here she’s all business, investigating the gruesome assassination of Archbishop Drake. Shadow Garden is already well into the case when their leader arrives.

He ends up intercepting the assassin in an alley and parries his sword strike with a little wooden ice cream spoon (Cid seems to be channeling Riddick here). Then the assassin is swiftly dispatched by Epsilon the Accurate. She and Shadow exchange a few words, Epsilon’s fake boobs bouncing emphatically the whole time. But Cid has no time for boobs…there’s adventure afoot!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 18 – Final Fantasy MDCCXXXII

Hizuru tells the story of a famine in 1732 that threatened to wipe out Hitogashima’s population, until a whale washed ashore. The whale was a shadow, and it copied the first human to come close to it: a little girl named Haine. Back in the present, Karikiri offers Shinpei some cold barley tea and conversation. While initially presented as a friendly or at worst neutral party, there’s a tension and building dread to the ensuing one-on-one chat.

The thing is, Shinpei already knows that Karakiri is really Hishigata Shidehiko, AKA Shide. He’s not a Shadow, but he’s not quite human either. In previous loops, Hizuru and Dr. Hishigata’s information paints the picture of how Haine birthed a child with Shidehiko, and the resulting child grew into a perfect clone of Shidehiko.

He then had Haine transfer all his collected memories into the clone, thus making him indistinguishable from himself and enabling him to live for over 300 years. Considering how crafty he must have grown in those years, it’s pretty impressive Shinpei and his pathetic band were able to get this far.

While in the loop flashbacks we see that Shinpei’s group gathered all the information they can and prepared the best they could for a confrontation, with Shinpei insisting that he wanted to know why Shide killed his parents before deciding whether to kill him. After all, if he’s human he can’t be reasoned with, right?

Wrong. Shin made a critical error in confronting Shide in human form, and especially in letting Ushio accompany him. Sure, he’d have easily fallen into Shide’s clutches without her protection, but when she’s had enough of Shide’s blathering and slices half his head off, Shide gets exactly what he needs, all because Ushio insists on doing the dirty work so Shin’s hands remain clean.

When Ushio is on the phone, a copy of Ushio casually plunges a spear into her shadow, and then slices upward, killing her. Shinpei empties his gun, but Shide puts up his Shadow Armor and catches the bullets, then throws the spear at Shinpei, impaling him and sending him flying out of the temple and into a tree.

Shin loops back to when he and Ushio saved the kids from the Shadow that took the form of their old teacher, only this time Ushio isn’t there. She’s gone, presumably for good. That’s a punch to the gut, but as Ushio said, she was happy for the “bonus time” after her human self was killed by Haine, and she and Shinpei got to reunite and kick some ass together.

The episode closes with Shin crying blood, wallowing in despair. But even if Ushio isn’t coming back in any form, the fact remains she’d want him and the others to finish the job and save the village. They can’t turn Shide, but they still have a Shadow Mio, two Shadow Babies, and guile. It’s not Game Over quite yet.

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 08 – Heart to Heart

It’s What the Public Decided

I was initially going to give this episode a lower score simply because it precedes the long-awaited “goods”—i.e. our main duo confessing to each other. But not only would that not be fair, it would be disingenuous. I personally loved the slice-of-life segments this week, forgiving them for “delaying” said goods and appreciating them for what they are: treasured moments of relative mundaneness before the season and series kick into final gear.

I’m always saying how Love is War could spawn numerous solid spinoffs, and one focusing on the family dynamics of the Shirogane clan could certainly be one of them. I particularly love Kei’s two-sided attitude towards her brother, one side being embarrassed and another being proud of how cool and capable he is.

It’s why she spends the birthday cash he gave her to make sure he dresses as cool as he is, even if she’ll never admit to her fawning classmates that she at least half-agrees with them! The fact that Miyuki’s wardrobe is that of an eighth grader because he wanted to save the family money so Kei could look good speaks to how Miyuki is just as proud of his little sister.

No Interest in the Fanciful

Another staple of Love is Wardom is the scenario of Kaguya being dismissive or stoic about something right up to the point it could present an opportunity for romantic success with the President. This time it’s a little heart charm that’s part of the culture festival merch. Tsubame recounts the thousand-year-old Hoshin legend that gives the festival it’s name and burning-heart theme.

Whether a valiant young man really did give his heart to the ailing daughter of a lord or the legend was simply cooked up to give the lord authority doesn’t matter. What matters is that Tsubame tells Kaguya that if you give something in the shape of a heart to someone you like during the festival, it will mean eternal love, and Kaguya believes her, because she wants to believe One Simple Trick will get the job done.

In reality, Kaguya is still wavering between wanting to confess and being too scared or proud to do so—even if it’s in a stealthy way like serving President a pie filled with heart-shaped fruit. But both we and Ai are in shock when suddenly, out of the blue, Kaguya declares to her, while clutching her foot in bed, that she does indeed like Miyuki. She’s done denying it…it’s just a matter of taking one last step.

Culture Festival Magic

Ai tells Kaguya she’s at a crossroads. Whether being the first to confess is the loser or not (the narrator points out this is the theme of the show…duh!) there are only two choices: hold onto her pride and continue suffering in limbo, or confess and experience the relief that comes with it. Even admitting she likes Miyuki to Ai is a great weight off her shoulders. Admitting it to Miyuki is a whole other matter entirely.

As the culture fest is in the final stages of preparation, Kaguya wonders how people find the courage to confess to the ones they like when the cost of rejection is so high. Miko’s friend Kobachi answers that by casually admitting she’s now dating the Cheer Squad Leader: capitalizing on “Culture Festival Magic” when a flurry of confessions and new couples emerges.

News that the Cheer Squad Leader is dating Kobachi is a cause for elation from Yuu, who had considered the possibility the guy was dating Tsubame. Now, there’s a good chance his crush is single. Will he take advantage of the magic and confess to Tsubame, or forever be her kohai and teammate? Kaguya urges him to do the former ASAP, lending him the very courage she thought was so elusive.

Ultimately, the unrelenting march of time must provide the courage Kaguya requires in order to confess to Miyuki. If she can’t go through with it, Miyuki will confess instead. Or maybe they’ll find a way to do it at the same time? One scenario I will not abide is neither of them summoning the courage to confess, or for Miyuki to move to America for college without any confessions at all.

If there’s a fourth season in the mix, I don’t want this one to end with heartbreak. I want it to be the beginning of the evolution in their relationship they’ve sought all along even while constantly denying themselves of it. By rights, they could have been a couple for years. The series ipping the rug out from under us, while dramatically justifiable, would just be cruel. Kaguya and Miyuki are so close to what they want…what would be so wrong with giving it to them, and us?

Karakai Jouzu no Takagi-san 3 – 08 – 415 Steps

“Side Trip, Pts. 1-4” involves three different couples and the three girls climbing the 415 Steps to a shrine and a commanding view of the ocean. Nishikata climbs the steps with Takagi, chatting the whole time, hoping he’ll win the contest of guessing the number of steps. But Takagi already knows the exact number, because these steps are famous.

Specifically, they’re famous for having romantic powers, as the characters for “415” can be read as “sweet love”. Nishikata may not have known that, but after the school roof segment he’s shown a knack for accidentally picking super-romantic spots. Next up are Houjou and Hamaguchi, an example of a couple that aren’t quite there yet.

Contrast that with the most lovable couple after the main one, Mano and Nakai, who are so damn cute precisely because they have long been extremely upfront and honest about their feelings for each other. When Nakai refuses to write her name in the book (which means you’ll be with that person forever) it’s only because he’s already written it there!

Naturally the girls join in, and since Yukari knows the meaning of the steps, she assumes Mina and Sanae have both found lovers. In reality, Sanae wanted to run up a long stair, and Mina wanted some sunset selfies. Yukari may not yet be able to gossip with her girlfriends about guys, but she definitely wants to go back there with her future guy.

The episode shifts to something completely different: Nishikata joining Takagi at a book and video store…remember those? Takagi notices a magazine touting the upcoming 100% Unrequited Love movie, as well as a “special gift for couples,” only available Christmas Eve an Christmas. When the two agree to rent DVDs for each other to watch, Takagi initially looks at scary horror movies, but one look at Takagi and he picks a movie he’d actually want her to see (a sci-fi western).

Since he owes her a reward for winning their last contest, Takagi almost asks Nishikata for something. I’m pretty sure she means to ask him out to the Christmas movie for couples. But she can’t do it, instead suggesting they each rent a second DVD for each other. After they part ways for the day, we get a rare moment with Takagi’s thoughts, as she curses herself for not having the courage to make use of all the opportunities.

Considering Nishikata’s density, Takagi has nothing to be ashamed about, especially since she manages to get her message to Nishikata anywhay through the power of LINE. As he’s sobbing over the credits of the action drama she picked for him (being good at picking movies is yet another Takagi skill), she sends him a pic of the 100% UL movie, and asks, simply, “How about it?”

Nishikata doesn’t hesitate in his reply: “I would appreciate if you’d go with me.” And just like that, their next date is set—and it should be a damned good one!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Yuru Camp△ – 07 – Good Neighbors

The identity of Cool Campin’ Gramps is quickly revealed: he’s Rin’s grandfather, which makes sense as Rin must’ve caught the camping bug from him. It also explains why Rin has a loop-style tent rather than the commercially ubiquitous sleeve-style; we learn it’s a hand-me-down from her gramps. As for camping, she’s been doing it since her first year of middle school.

Rin and Nadeshiko have the lakeside to themselves but for one other couple: a friendly young lad (or possibly lass) with a wealth of fancy cooking gear and a woman in a hoodie surrounded by cans of beer and flanked by twin bottles of rum. While walking around to take some photos, Nadeshiko introduces herself but doesn’t pry too much, assuming they’re a couple couple and repsecting their privacy.

Nadeshiko returns to find Rin surrounded by a dark miasma—she’s used all of her firestarter but has no fire to show for it. Turns out starting her new grill isn’t as easy as the videos indicated. Nadeshiko immediately proves her value and asks the lad she met earlier to help them out. He lends them a couple instant-light briquettes to get the more fussy Binchoutan coals going.

They thank their camping neighbor and start cooking immediately, starting with grilled skewers and haddock hot pot. We learn from their conversation that the woman accompanying the lad is his older sister, who will soon start work as a high school teacher. If it’s at Rin and Nadeshiko’s school, I can see her ending up the Outclub’s faculty advisor…she’s certainly got Laid-Back down!

As thanks for helping them start their fire, the girls head back to their neighbors to offer some of their completed food, and the lad in turn offers some of his jambalaya, as too much was made for just two. The older sister offers rum, but her brother asks them to ignore her. They’re both pleasantly surprised by the high schoolers cooking skills.

After stuffing themselves on skewers, kalbi, and Hamburg steak, Rin uses the still-glowing coals to start a little wood fire to warm their bones before bed. Rin then learns Nadeshiko is originally from a town near Hamamatsu, where she had a view of Fuji-san, but he was tiny. The day they moved to Yamanashi, she fells asleep in the car and missed a much closer view, which is why she biked up to the campground where she and Rin met.

Now we know that were it not for Nadeshiko’s nodding off, they wouldn’t have met at Lake Motosu and had that lovely first taste of camping together that they’re now fully realizing. The hour grows late, and Rin starts nodding off first, so she heads into her tent, refusing to let Nadeshiko sleep with her as it would be too crowded. I dunno…it looks pretty roomy in there!

After sharing some face lotion with Nadeshiko, knowing from experience what campfire dries out the skin, Rin turns in, but thanks Nadeshiko through the tent for inviting her to go camping. Next time, she’ll be the one to invite her.

Rin wakes up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and is rewarded with a gorgeous and serene view of the lake at night. All of Nadeshiko’s talk about the bull oni that sometimes appears on the lake causes Rin to mistake the drunk, vomiting sister for the oni, causing her to  freak out and book it back to the campsite.

And so, even though Rin wouldn’t let Nadeshiko sleep in her tent, a spooked Rin ends up slipping into Nadeshiko’s. The next morning, Nadeshiko wakes up first, notices Rin is there, and rolls herself over so they’re closer together, in what could be the cutest moment of the show to date. Once they’re both up and ready to break camp, Rin elects to go back the way they came, while Nadeshiko rents a boat to get to the other side. To each their own!

Talk of bull oni aside, this was a particularly laid-back and relaxing Yuru Camp. Other than the brief scene with Rin’s mom and granddad it’s just Rin and Nadeshiko plus their amenable camping neighbors. With their chemistry, there was never any doubt that Rin and Nadeshiko would make great camping companions. I also tend to agree with Rin that while all camping locations have their charms, there’s no substitute for the unique coziness of a wooded lakeside.

Cardcaptor Sakura – 23 – Songs After Dark

Sakura is in a very good mood one morning, which can almost always be attributed to Yukito (all other instances are likely food-related). Sure enough, he’ll be spending the night at her house as he and Touya plan for the athletic festival (sure…why not?).

Despite whispering this to Tomoyo, Syaoran overhears, and then Meiling inserts herself in the conversation. Then Sakura’s mood is totally destroyed by talk of a creepy singing voice coming from the music room late at night—possibly the voice of a g-g-g-ghost!

Even though it’s more likely to be a Clow Card singing in there, the mere fact people are talking about the possibility it’s a ghost sparks Sakura’s crippling phasmophobia, such that she outright refuses to go to school late at night, bowling Kero-chan over.

The thing is, she doesn’t want to leave home anyway because Yukito will be there. But no sooner do he and Touya arrive that he mentions the rumor about the singing voice, and notes how it’s apparently a beautiful voice that he’d love to hear if he could.

Yukito’s request is all Sakura needs to steel herself sufficiently to sneak into school at 10PM with a voice recorder. Tomoyo meets her there and she changes into a pink music-themed battle costume. That said, she’s still extremely on edge, such that when Syaoran and Meiling suddenly appear, she lets out her loudest HOEEEEE yet.

Before long they can hear the voice, and the nearer they get to the music room, the more scared Sakura is, such that she’s constantly asking Tomoyo to assure her it isn’t really a ghost. The strange thing is, the voice sounds a lot like Tomoyo’s. Kero-chan explains that it must be the Song card, which records and mimics the best singing voice it can find.

I knew I was going to run into a number of CCS “firsts” since this is the original series and all, and this episode is no different, marking the first time Tomoyo contributes directly to the sealing of a card. She does so by singing what is admittedly a very pretty song, and Song can’t resist joining her in a duet. Much later, Tomoyo will sing a duet with Akiho while Syaoran accompanies on the piano, leading to the capture of the Record card.

Once the song is over, Song becomes visible, enabling her to seal it. Only her other main objective of the night—recording the voice for Yukito—wasn’t achieved, since she was busy capturing and Tomoyo was busy singing. No biggie; Tomoyo simply needs to sing the song once more, and Song will join her, enabling Sakura to record it and gain some additional EXP.

Fate/Grand Order: Absolute Demonic Front – Babylonia – 06 – Though Our Battlefields Differ

Other episodes of F/GO have presented bigger earth-(and history)-shattering events, but this was the first one I felt best brought all of the series’ myriad elements together. All the adventure, history, action, comedy, and romance levels were set just right so that they complemented each other rather then got in each others’ way.

This was also the episode in which I most felt the humanity of the characters. It’s apropos the cold open should feature the origin of the current Ishtar. It also had the most one-on-one interaction between Ritsuka and Ushiwakamaru. She’d always seemed drawn to him, and I should have known it was because they’re both Japanese.

Among the many servants with whom he interacts, Ushiwakamaru is the only one Ritsuka sang songs of as a kid, something that both astounds and flatters her. He was a real person, after all, and his story is an amazing one. One of the low-key great things about Fate is that it nudges you to learn more about these historical and legendary figures.

As such, wonderful to see these two countrymen assert their bond of friendship as people, not any Master-Servant contract. Ushiwakamaru also sports one of the more awesome costumes in a show positively bursting with them. Like this episode, it’s a satisfying balance of elements—a little cute, a little sexy, all bad-ass. Not to mention Hayami Saori is perfectly cast as Ushi’s voice—warm, caring, and determined.

Another thing I’m enjoying about F/GO is that while there is a larger overarching story arc, it doesn’t get in the way of smaller, more self-contained episodic stories. Last week felt like a road trip with Gilgamesh; this felt more like a good old-fashioned fantasy quest. Their mission couldn’t be simpler: go to the city of Kutha and recover the Tablet of Destinies.

(In a well-placed moment of comedy, Ritsuka asks why Gilgamesh doesn’t remember what he himself wrote on said tablet; Gilgamesh response is Pure Gilgamesh: “Why do I have to retain in my memory a clairvoyant premonition I wrote in a dream?” #DemigodProblems)

Sadly Ushiwakamaru can’t join them, but the party of Ritsuka, Mash, Merlin and Ana is more than adequate. On the way to the city, whose entire population seemingly died peacefully in their sleep, the party encounters the collateral damage caused by Ishtar’s Cautious Hero-style demonic beast extermination, and she’s been making off with the gems of those she “saved.”

The night before they enter the city, Ritsuka has a nice chat with Merlin about how even though he’s just an ordinary human, he has to do what he can to the best of his ability, which means a strict workout routine to stay in shape. From her tent, Mash seems disappointed Ritsuka thinks she only chose him because he was virtually “the last man on earth.”

Once in Kutha, the party splits up to look for the tablet…simple enough, though Mash was weary of Ritsuka going off with only Fou for protection. Turns out her intuition was correct: Ritsuka suddenly strays into the Underworld, which in this age is a very real place people stray into all the time (and in Gilgamesh’s case, even went on a quest there).

The hostile undead who surround Ritsuka are eventually dismissed by a man Ritsuka seems to recognized named Ziusu-dra, who castigates Rituska for entering the Underworld while still alive; a big no-no. Still, he sees Ritsuka is a nice guy and so lets him off this time, sending him back to Kutha.

He awakes to find Mash shedding tears of joy and relief after she shed tears of panic and worry for his safety; going back to what he said to Merlin last night, Ritsuka may well not quite grasp just how much Mash cares for him, and is not merely resigned to serving him. And what do you know, the Tablet of Destinies is in his hands. Looks like he was meant to stray into the Underworld, if only briefly.

Of course, the mission was never going to be quite that simple: Ishtar suddenly arrives like a fighter jet; Chaldea only warns the party four seconds before she attacks. She’s there to “save” them just like she saved the ranchers whose lands she ravaged and pockets she picked, and intends to collect payment in the form of the tablet.

Ritsuka’s not about to fail Gilgamesh, so they must fight. And what a fight. From Ishtar’s concussive kicks to Mash’s shield and her graceful gliding through the sky, to Ana’s decisive chain-assisted counterattack, we’re treated to a beautiful, deadly dance. My only complaint is that it’s over too fast, but I’m also glad it didn’t go on too long.

Going back to the cold open, we learn Ishtar was summoned using ahuman girl as a vessel. Despite nearly all Mesopotamian gods being blonde as a rule, Ishtar retained her vessel’s black hair, since the human girl’s will merged with Ishtar. That goes a ways towards explaining her peculiar behavior that both saves and hurts humans.

It may also explain why she’s willing to cooperate when she wakes up finding herself tied up, surrounded by Ritsuka’s party demanding answers. She explains that the other two goddesses were drawn there by Gilgamesh’s Holy Grail. The three of them decided to enter a competition whereby the first to defeat Gilgamesh and claim the Grail shall rule his lands. They also entered a three-way non-aggression pact, so Ishtar won’t go so far as to tell Ritsuka the true names of the others.

The party fails to connect the ease with which Ritsuka entered the Underworld to Kutha’s status as a place where undead congregate and dwell…until they’re surrounded by massive horde of skeletons. With the tablet in hand they make a run for it, but not before Ritsuka frees Ishtar from her binds. Having been treated so kindly despite her hostility (and perhaps motivated by her human half), Ishtar returns the favor by obliterating all of the skeletons with a single all-out arrow burst, sparing the party a tough battle.

When Ritsuka earnestly thanks her before turning back to Uruk, the blonde goddess half of Ishtar wonders if perhaps he’s “a sacrifice too good for the other goddesses.” I enjoyed the ambiguity of that line, just I enjoyed the entirety of this splendidly balanced episode.

Kuma Miko – 07

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Another Tuesday, another mediocre Kuma Miko: Machi cuts fire wood with an axe. Then she lights the kitchen on fire because her anxiety prevents her from using the rice cooker properly.

Then Yoshio has Natsu perform a ritual, except Yoshio’s granny didn’t leave instructions and no one actually knows what the ceremony is for or how to do it.

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Nothing of consequence happened this week but, unlike the average episode of Flying Witch, there’s nothing warm and comfortable about Kuma Miko. Mentally ill or not, Machi is an unpleasant character who’s self-fulfilling idiocy brings the misfortune in the most telegraphed, dull, way possible.

Meanwhile Yoshio is portrayed as a simpleton, just going through the motions and Natsu is shown as loving Machi, but not always able to express it without insulting her. And his love hasn’t really been returned by Machi these past few episodes, making the relationship (and Machi herself) less bearable.

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The verdict: the punchline is everyone has mental illness, obliviousness, and a nihilistic outlook for the aging people of the mountains. Old people are stupid, deaf, and the few offspring they’ve culturally trapped through bumpkin-ism are resentful about the meaningless and smallness of their lives, and they retaliate through lazy destruction and not taking their jobs seriously.

Being technically competent is not enough to save Kuma Miko from its dull, repetitive stagger off my review list. It’s not worth hating but the formula isn’t funny or charming enough to get me through the rest.

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Kuma Miko – 06

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This week Machi tried to go to a novelty bookstore but a self-hatred-fueled freakout rampage prevented her from doing so. She also met a boy, although that doesn’t appear to be relevant to the narrative.

Later, still gripped with terror/embarrassment/self-loathing, Machi freaks out at Natsu. But then she has a fever and Natsu feels bad about making her go to the bookstore. He tries to make her feel better by cooking a meal and taking the blame for her troubles. Eventually, after savagely beating him for a night, Machi feels better and goes to school.

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So… that was awful. Ignoring the complete lack of content, set backs to Machi’s arduously slow growth, and reliance on girl punches guy humor, episode six was simply dull. The lack of new situations was also emphasized by Machi being ‘saved’ by the boy on the escalator, only for the episode to drop him completely out of the narrative.

Hibiki existed only to name drop this week’s business for the show to visit; Yoshio existed only to move Machi from space to space and strike his ‘you got this’ pose; Machi existed only to hate herself, and Natsu only existed to flash us back to Machi being a nice caring girl when she was younger and for some bear slap-stick cooking mishaps.

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The verditc: abusive, childish, tantrumming and self hatred are not the strongest themes for comedy. Nor are they good anchors for ‘lite’ casual watching. If not for Natsu’s predictable but — yes — still adorable kitchen antics, this episode would be a total failure.

Good job show. If your goal was to make me not like Machi this week, you were very successful. Why you would want me to hate your protagonist though… uh… yeah why would you want that??

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Kuma Miko – 05

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Unwinding Kuma Miko’s narrative is a little harder than unwinding this week’s underlying theme: a person’s surface traits only obscures an opposite underlying reality.

Machi’s keen observation and ‘possessed’ knowledge obscures her lack of real work understanding, Natsu’s kindness masks a deep frustration with the ‘dumbness’  of people, Hibiki’s violent demeanor simply hides her bashful love, and Yoshio’s constant scheming is only a pretense for a deeply simple man with a deeply simple brain…

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What happened? The girls flaunted their new clothes, Hibiki’s motives for helping Machi were implied to be due to Yoshio asking, and that Hibiki has a strong love for Yoshio.

Also, a little boy was locked in a cave with Natsu to scare him straight and there was a lot of blushing. Honestly, nothing that really matters narratively beyond Hibiki liking Yoshio…

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Was it good? Sure! Kuma Miko’s blend of unexpected yet simple humor is as often comforting as it is truly funny. Natsu is incredibly likable, and his rare annoyance with everyone being so simple–even after he tries to explain things simply–is understandable.

Kuma Miko is ultimately harder to deep critique beyond that point. It’s a good slice of life and characterization with gentle humor and blush-blush yuck-yuck gentle romance. Sure, it wouldn’t be much without the weird central characters and a talking bear, but even then, it would be completely watchable.

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Kuma Miko – 04

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I never expected Kuma Miko to carry last week’s costumes over to a second episode and, coupled with the village ceremonies, the village men chatting about the costumes they preferred, and watching Machi and Natsu eat sushi together, the first act is a master class in slice-of-life as world-building.

It was slow, comfortable, almost joke-free but still enjoyable. The fact Machi gets more character designs and the in-show world responds to it is a nice play on anime convention.

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Then the second act comes out of nowhere and introduces Yoshi’s childhood friend Hibiki and goes off on a tangent about the Shimomura clothing retailer. Hibiki aside, the Shimomura segment is a lot like last season’s Dagashi Kashi, as I have no context for this company and have no idea why the writers felt a possessed Machi rambling off factoids about this company would be funny or even interesting.

Because Hibiki is introduced to us abruptly, and Machi is wearing her ‘flashback’ school clothes AND because we’d seen flashbacks in the first act, I initially though the entire scene WAS a flashback. Put it all together and the second half is a confusing mess.

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Last week I called out Kuma Miko for being overly safe and relying on it’s central relationship’s quirkiness for all it’s humor. I’m not sure that is still true this week, with the introduction of Hibiki and Machi’s relationship.

However, the second act is so random and disconnected from the show that playing it safe may be all Kuma Miko is able to do? Definitely watchable, strange, but not really ‘good’ as an alternative.

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Kuma Miko – 03

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Kuma Miko is a remarkable safe, enjoyable comedy that relies on the goofiness of its setting and central relationship for most of its humor. Previous episodes have hung close to Machi’s urge to leave her small rural nest and her challenge she must overcome to do so.

This week took an unexpectedly interesting look at how heritage itself must face the modern world. The result was clever, even if it wasn’t any funnier or more dramatic than before.

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In the opening act, Machi notices she’s gained a weight and attempts to co-opt ritual dance into exercise – complete with gym-coach style one-two-one-two dance music.

Natsu finds this a little sacrilegious at first but eventually bumps it up a notch further with a bear-based DJ session…that results in angering the mountain gods and bringing the rain.

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In the second act, the towns people have made 4 summer-style costumes for Machi to wear at the shrine. Machi is initially very excited by the prospect of seeing a new take on Ainu tradition, but quickly learns the costumes are all embarrassing to wear and make minimal nods to tradition.

The second costume in particular includes bear ears and a tail…

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What stood out: the bear clubbing session was fun and it added nuance and supportive nature to Natsu’s character. Some of the animations of Machi moving around on the floor were also above average. The throw away gag about learning the history of electricity at the open was also entertaining.

Over all, Kuma Miko is a low 8 but still an 8. It isn’t remarkable in many ways, as it generally plays it safe, but the humor and core relationship has a good hook.

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