Urusei Yatsura – 15 – Airing of Grievances

In an effort to woo Rei, Ran buys a giant bag of bean-filled taiyaki and dresses in her best Barbarella outfit. It seems to work when Rei thanks her for the food by planting a tender kiss on her cheek. Ran declares it the happiest moment of her life.

She invites Lum to her place to gloat about it celebrate her newfound happiness. Considering Ran’s personality changes at the drop of a hat, Lum is initially unsure why she’s there, as more often than not Ran treats her like an enemy these days. But when she hears about the kiss she gives Ran and Rei her blessing.

It’s odd, then, when she returns to Ataru’s house, Rei is there waiting for her. Ran also shows up for more girl talk, and finds Lum in Rei’s arms. When the giant cat (who is also there for some reason) gives Ran a commiseratory taiyaki, she scarfs it down…and Rei kisses her again. Turns out he’s eating the bean crumbs off her face. Classic Rei.

Another day, Ran invites Lum out for coffee and pudding, declaring that Lum will be treating her. She unleashes a litany of events from her past, giving us adorable Lil’ Lum and Lil’ Ran. From pinning the blame on Ran when Lum wet the bed during sleepovers, to Lum being a lousy liar when trying to cover for her, Ran blames Lum for causing her to develop her current volatile personality—though her intense mom probably deserves more blame.

Lum doesn’t remember these events in quite the way Ran does, though why would she, when Ran casts her as the bad guy in every one? Even so, when Ran completes her exhaustive rundown, Lum can’t help but feel somewhat responsible. Ran has given her a lot to think about…and she thinks about it so strongly, she ends up leaving the café before Ran, thus leaving her with the bill! I guess there’s no changing this frenemyship dynamic…

The final segment involves Lum and Shinobu spotting Sakura roasting a newt. When Sakura lists all the traditional medicines it’s used for, they lose interest and start to walk away…until she mentions love potion. Sakura, who swears she’s never used it herself, nevertheless agrees to whip up a batch for Lum (for use on Ataru) and Shinobu (Mendou).

Ataru is the first guinea pig, and while he initially starts behaving affectionately (and monogamously) towards Lum, much to her delight, as soon as they interact with other people he starts spouting blatant, elaborate lies. Then he spots Shinobu and starts acting like she’s the only one in his heart. Clearly something is off about the love potion, and they head back to Sakura.

Sure enough, she made the “loud” potion, the recipe for which is right next to the love potion, and causes those who take it to lie, loudly. That certainly doesn’t bode well for Lum or Shinobu, but in particular it’s a step backwards in Lum and Ataru’s relationship. But just like Ran, and Rei, and Lum, Ataru is a creature of habit—in his case being an unrepentant horndog lothario. No potion can cure him of that, only time patience, and luck.


Rating: 4/5 Stars

In / Spectre – 15 – So Generous, It’s Creepy

This episode was an emotional roller coaster! It begins by rewinding from Yuki-onna’s request to Kotoko to the police detectives questioning Masayuki. Their reasons for suspecting him of murdering his ex-wife are numerous: Mahiru left a note accusing him should she die suspiciously; the beginning of his name scrawled on her hand; and camera footage of Masayuki with a woman that looks just like her.

The police have reasonable cause to suspect, but not arrest Masayuki, and his failure to definitively state he had no alibi doesn’t help his case. But what choice does he have? He can’t tell the police he was having tempura and drinks with a yuki-onna on the night of Mahiru’s murder. Why, they’d think he was nuts…even though it’s the truth! Days pass and the police don’t bother Masayuki again, but it’s still looknig bad.

Then Yuki-onna, who was present in rabbit form for the entire talk with the police, asks him if she looks like his ex-wife, and he admits that she does, so it was Yuki-onna in the camera photo. Hers was the face of the one person in his life who didn’t betray him, but he admits he felt bad for marrying for whom he was otherwise unsuited.

Masayuki decides he’ll head out and try to find the real culprit, but Yuki-onna tells him to wait, and when he keeps going with a full head of steam,. she freezes him in his tracks—literally! 

Yuki-onna correctly diagnoses this as Masayuki being impatient and restless and wanting to prove his innocence at any cost, but with no leads and nothing to go on, the best move is to stay put, eat some food, get some rest. Then she remembers that her Ladyship, the Goddess of Wisdom, is just the person to solve this case, so she reaches out to her.

Yuki-onna flies Masayuki deep into the mountains to a cave where Kotoko is waiting. Rather than her going right into the particulars of the case, Masayuki gets a better taste of who Kotoko is, namely someone still quintessentially human despite her status as a goddess to supernatural beings near and far. That’s because Kotoko is upset that Kurou blew her off and she had to get cold pork cutlet from the local konbini.

I was so happy to see my favorite goddess of wisdom meeting my new favorite human-yokai couple, about to dish out the solution to their problems. But that’s where the roller coaster starts hurtling down to the earth, as Kotoko points out that not only does Yuki-onna’s wishy-washy sense of human time make her a poor alibi, but Masayuki might have capitalized on that poor sense to manipulate her into trusting him implicitly.

With Yuki-onna’s unwavering trust, Masayuki could kill his ex-wife one night, have tempura with Yuki-onna, and say they were doing the latter on the night of the murder, thus making him look innocent in her eyes and persecuted by the police. He could even convince her to kill the business partners who betrayed him.

Kotoko is so precise (as always) in laying out this theory that it even had me questioning if Masayuki really did have such a diabolical plot in motion, and had pulled the wool over Yuki-onna’s eyes with food, drink, and companionship. But you know who didn’t suspect Masayuki, even after hearing all this? Yuki-onna herself. She prostrates herself, says Masayuki has a truly kind heart, and demands that her Ladyship reconsider her stance.

Kotoko responds to Yuki-onna’s display by making it clear she’s all too aware that Masayuki isn’t the culprit, and that everything she uttered about otherwise was a lie. Among the reasons she trusts Masayuki? He’s been refusing Yuki-onna’s sexual advances! If he’d wanted to gain her trust quickly, he’d have swept her off her feet.

While Kotoko’s theory of Masayuki being a yokai-manipulating criminal mastermind was harsh and at times cruel, it was still crucial for her to say what she said, so she could enlighten Masayuki to the fact that Yuki-onna trusted him so much, she was even willing to defy her goddess for his sake.

By underscoring the courage Yuki-onna demonstrated for him, Kotoko hopes Masayuki will make the effort to regain some of his own courage. Even if this criminal investigation is all tied up with a neat bow and he gets off scot-free (as he should), Kotoko suspects that won’t be the end of Masayuki’s troubles.

A new start is in order. Masayuki owns up to being terrified of interacting with people—that lack of interaction is why he doesn’t have a human alibi—and tenderly gathers Yuki-onna’s cold white hand into his to thank her for going to bat for him. As for the true culprit of his ex-wife’s murder? Naturally, Kotoko already knows that too!

In / Spectre – 14 – Youkai Alibi

In/Spectre can really spin a good yarn. This week we meet Muroi Masayuki, who is pushed off a mountain by his best friend. As he lays contemplating his imminent death, a spunky yuki-onna (Yuuki Aoi) pays him a visit. She’s not there to kill him, though she does think long and hard about it when he knocks her looks!

Yuki-onna subverts Masayuki’s idea of her kind by building an conjuring an igloo around him so he’ll last the night, then flying him down the mountain in a princess carry, all for half of the cash he’s carrying. Once back in town, he’s able to walk in on his former friend lying about what happened and finger him for attempted murder.

Eleven years pass, and Masayuki moves back to the town by the mountain where he met the Yuki-onna. As luck would have it, he doesn’t need to search far for her, as she’s enjoying soft serve in human form. When he tells her about the time he met a yuki-onna she’s initially furious he broke his vow of silence, but he’s sure she’s the same person, so he technically isn’t.

Masayuki is coming off a divorce from a woman who cheated on him and tried to kill him, as well as the hostile takeover of his company by another former friend. Understandably distrustful of future human interactions, he sought her out. Yuki-onna is eminently interested in human food and drink (and cars!), so he agrees to buy her booze and cook for her at his bachelor pad.

An adorable, mutually beneficial friendship ensues. The connection to the In/Spectre we know finally comes when Yuki-onna speaks glowingly about her lady and Goddess of Wisdom, Kotoko. Yuki-onna cleared befriending Masayuki with Kotoko, and even got approval for sexual relations with him should things go that way (as long as they use protection!)

The good vibes suddenly sour when detectives come to Masayuki’s door to inform him that his ex-wife has been murdered, but that’s where Kotoko comes in. Yuki-onna reports that she knows for a fact Masayuki wasn’t the culprit because she was with him at the time of the murder. The problem is she can’t go to the cops and Masayuki can’t say the source of his alibi is a yokai.

It looks to be a fascinating case, and one that has a lot more resonance now that I’ve come to know and become quite fond both Yuki-onna and Masayuki. They make a surpassingly cute and charming couple whose playful banter and cozy chemistry rivals Kotoko and Kurou, and if anyone can get this out of this legal dilemma, it’s the Goddess of Wisdom.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

In / Spectre – 13 – Things That Go Thump in the Night

When In/Spectre last aired, I said I’d hope we’d get more of the adorable duo of Kotoko and Kurou as they investigate and resolve more supernatural cases. Thirty-three months later here we are. There’s a lot of expository dialogue between a ghost and two youkai that bring us back up to speed on what this show is about, and Kotoko and Kuro’s abilities.

This is the same old In/Spectre, which means it is absolutely packed with scenes of people doing nothing but sitting or standing and talking. If that was fine with you in the first season, it will be fine here, as it is with me. There are three things that makes this not only tolerable but enjoyable for me, and that’s Kotoko’s magnetic charm, Kitou Akari’s firm yet affable voice, and Manabe Akihiro’s beautiful accompanying score.

The spook-of-the-week initially seems to be artificial, Kotoko tells the ghost and youkai discussing it that the scary thumping in the night wasn’t a supernatural phenomenon, but the sounds of an escaped monitor lizard illegally owned by the building manager. The truth is that an ancien cursed sumo doll was making the sounds.

Kotoko not only works out a deal with the manager that gets Kurou a cheap new place for them to live, but she and Kurou take the doll out to the isolated woods. There, she instructs Kurou to fight with the four-armed, horned sumo demon that manifests. This doesn’t go well at first, with Kurou suffering a number of gruesome deaths.

Of course thanks to eating of both mermaid and kudan flesh, Kurou is immortal and can see and choose the future. In between death and revival, the future he picks involves basically pinning the sumo down, exposing his back and enabling Kotoko to stab him through the throat with her cane.

It’s a victory, but not an ideal one for Kurou, who had hoped Kotoko could have been kept out of harm’s way. But Kotoko remains steadfastly unafraid of dangerous situations, and knew she could score an easy blow against a being that would not attack her due to her goddess status.

All of the various supernatural beings that dwell in the woods come out not just to gaze upon their kawaii Goddess of Wisdom, but thank her for dealing with the sumo doll. They all still consider Kurou a terrifying monster, but as long as he’s by Kotoko’s side and she’s vouching for him, they’ll accept him.

As for me, I’ve long since accepted that this is one of the talkier anime out there, and that more often then not that’s an asset and not a liability. And with all the reintroduction out of the way, next week’s dialogue will be less about what we already know and more about what we don’t.

Rent-a-Girlfriend – 22 – More than a Lie

Kazuya probably feels like Ruka’s kiss, complete with tongue and the requisite saliva strings, lasted the entire week between the last episode and this one. But Ruka felt threatened by Chizuru and didn’t want to lose, so she marked her man. She also hastens to notify Kazuya that it was her first kiss, and despite the saying that the first taste like strawberries or lemons, hers just tasted like booze.

A frankly obscene amount of Kazuya inner dialogue ensues as he tries to deal with having been wall-slammed and made out with by Ruka only to have to return to the table with his mom, grandma, and Chizuru, who can all tell something’s off about both of them. Gran then produces her gift to Chizuru: her heirloom engagement ring. Chizuru says she couldn’t possibly accept it, as one does, but Gran and Kazuya’s mom insist.

Having seen how backed in a corner and desperate Ruka is and seeing Chizuru struggle, Kazuya decides he’s going to come clean, right then and there, or at least say what needs to be said to shatter the charade. Both Ruka and Chizuru can tell he’s about to say something to the effect of “Chizuru and I broke up”, but before he can get the works out, Chizuru gets a call…from the hospital.

Her gran is unconscious, so she, Kazuya, and Kazuya’s gran take a taxi to the hospital, where they find Chizuru’s gran not unconscious, and her usual tough, cheerful self. The grans have fun talking about their young grandkids, and when the doctor asks Chizuru to come with him to talk, she leaves them in Kazuya’s care in a very relationship-y way.

After torturing Kazuya a bit, the grans send him to a konbini for snacks, and he meets Chizuru in the dark corridor, where she tells him that things aren’t great, and despite her smiles and laughs she doesn’t have much time left. Kazuya asks if she’s okay, and she puts on a brave front. When he heads to the hospital room to finish coming clean and making things right, Chizuru grabs his sleeve and tells him not to.

She knows her gran is worried about her being along when she’s gone, so telling her she and Kazuya broke up on her deathbed simply isn’t something she’s willing to do.  I don’t think she’s using this as a pretense to remain in…whatever it is she and Kazuya have.

But when she says that whatever is now “more than a lie”, it feels like she’s saying that more for just her gran’s sake. She and Kazuya head home and go their separate ways, and Kazuya curses himself for not being able to do more for her, while also finding himself in a spot where revealing the truth will cause more harm than good.

That said, the lie is still doing harm to Ruka, but when she and Kazuya go on a grammable pancake date, she shows genuine empathy when she asks about Chizuru and her gran. She also decides to call a truce, as with Chizuru’s family situation it’s just not an appropriate time to continue her “offensive”.

That said, she’s now convinced that now that they’ve had their first kiss, they can now kiss whenever. Kazuya’s not so sure about that. He’s also even more flummoxed that not only Chizuru but also Ruka have decided that the status quo should be maintained until further notice. And that’s even before he’s aware of whatever it is best girl Sumi is planning to celebrate his birthday…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Engage Kiss – 02 – Don’t Bite the Hand that Feeds You

Demonstrating her competence but also her codependence, Kisara wastes no time using her newly acquired spare key to at least try to get Shuu’s home and business in some kind of discernable order. That means meals composed entirely of bean sprouts. Kisara’s classmates, who clearly aren’t aware she’s a demon, are worried about her boyfriend…and bandages.

There’s also their senpai Mikhail, who is the mayor’s son and claims to be the next mayor. Despite being handsome and rich, no one can stand him for more than 30 seconds, and we also learn his claims are false; he has two older half-sisters clearly jockeying for their father’s job.

Realizing he and Kisara will legit starve if he doesn’t do something, Shuu visits Ayano at the gym with hat in hand. Ayano, a pushover and enabler of the highest order, gets him a job with AAA as a subcontractor, even though she sees Kisara’s photo in bed with him.

The job in question involves running security for a gala celebrating the 25th anniversary of Bayron’s founding. There’s no auction because there’s no confirmed Demon Hazard, but the deputy mayors are fine with having security who can deal with demons if necessary, especially as there’s threat of a radicalized citizen seeking to assassinate their dad.

While Ayano complains about how hard it is to move in her fancy dress and an adorable Kisara trying to get some of the buffet food into tupperware and avoid Mikhail, Shuu runs into Miles, a cop and old acquaintance whom we learn Shuu lived with for a year after his parents were killed by a demon.

During the mayor’s speech, which is filled with political platitudes, hypocrisy, and outright lies, the demon terrorists pops out of the wall to strike…but Kisara is right there to stop him.

She pulls the demon out of the auditorium and into a quiet hall where they can minimize collateral damage (though with the tallest skyscraper on the island now a teetering ruin, you’d think the damage has been done!). Ayano joins her with her troops, and when she trips on her dress she shoots it so it’s shorter and ditches the heels.

With Kisara, Ayano, and Shuu working with a measure of coordination, it isn’t long until the perp is cornered, with neither French kissing nor Kisara transforming into Demon Mode remotely necessary. That’s for the best, as Shuu and Kisara learn from their boss that the suspect is to be taken alive.

Here’s where the true demon of the on-the-fly logistics and financial sensibility of Shuu rear their ugly heads. With no non-lethal capturing gear, he orders it online at great expense—100% of the $3K they stood to make on this job. To add insult to injury, the delivery van arrives so promptly it does the job of pacifying the low-level demon, rendering the purchase (which is no doubt non-refundable) completely unnecessary.

But before that fun and creative set-piece where the Amazon of this city wins the day, the baddie tries and fails to say his piece and try to get Shuu of all people on board. It’s amusing that Kisara and Shuu are too busy bickering over finances to listen to him, but after the job is complete they confirm they did hear a bit of what he sad about the governments lies and secrets, which led to the loss of Shuu’s parents.

Shuu’s response is that he has no choice. He tried going independent, but it’s a dog-eat-dog floating island, and the very government that messed up his life by keeping the existence of demons secret is the same one he works for in order to eat. He doesn’t like it, but it is what it is. The question is, how long will that remain so?

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kaguya-sama: Love Is War – Ultra Romantic – 04 – The Eyes that Propelled Him

YUU CAN’T DIE

No sooner is Yuu shooting death lasers at Kashiwagi and her bae once they leave the office and talking about how students should be focused on their studies (stated while playing video games) than he’s melting into a puddle of goo when his crush, third-year Koyasu Tsubame stops by to drop off some foreshadowing…er, an application for the upcoming cultural festival.

I’m pleased as punch Tsubame is back, she and Yuu had great chemistry, and it was only near the end of that momentous sports fest arc that we even saw her eyes. But is Yuu simply infatuated with her because she’s nice to him, or does he have an actual chance? Ever the pessimist, he’s certain it’s the latter.

Kaguya won’t suffer Yuu’s moping about what can and can’t be done; she’s been in a slog of a romantic stalemate with her crush for over two damn cours, it’s as much sage advice as a warning that it’s best to come out and confess sooner rather than later. Unfortunately, Yuu’s “innate creepiness” has him imagining a flower-a-day at Tsubame’s desk or an album of himself with a note are good ways to do it.

Kaguya, as inept as she’d been with her own romance, continues to prove her value as an advisor to Yuu, steering him away from certain disaster and putting him on a long but doable path to not only making his feelings known to Tsubame, but realizing his potential to be someone Tsubame likes.

Since Yuu is neither strong, rich, or popular, Kaguya sends him on the path of academic achievement, assisting him in studying for the lofty goal of scoring in the top 50 of his grade in the upcoming exams. The next segment is tied to the first, as each of the other four StuCo members agree with Miyuki’s suggestion that they go on hiatus so that everyone can study from home.

Everyone is hiding ulterior motives (and A-1 faces): Miyuki can’t study in the office because he’s too distracted by Kaguya’s beauty; Kaguya can’t study at home because she’s too distracted by her new smartphone; Iino, like Miyuki, wants to keep her #1 ranking, and Chika…Chika already gets double allowance so she stands to lose the least here.

As for Yuu? No lies and no face; he’s already hard at work studying at home. But when the exams come and go and the rankings are posted, he doesn’t make it to the Top 50. Kaguya suspects he rose about 20 spots from his  previous position near the bottom of his class. A tremendous improvement, but also a crushing defeat too.

Yuu pretends he’s not bitter about it to Kaguya and shuffles off to the boy’s room to stew in abject bitterness. Fortunately, Kaguya didn’t buy his act, and brazenly violates the bathroom rule to confirm that, indeed, Yuu is super pissed-off, and that he’ll take this small step forward as merely the loss of a battle for which expectations were naturally high. If love is war, losing this first battle can, and must, motivate him to keep fighting on.

Super Butler Herthaka-kun

With the show showering so much darma and character love on Yuu, who now has two potential love interests (like Miyuki with Kaguya and Ai), Chika is now, by default, the least developed and most mysterious member of the StuCo. Maybe that’s on purpose due to her simplistic nature, but one wonders if there will be room for her to have a major character-defining arc this season.

For now, she presents an open dinner invitation to Kaguya, Miyuki, and Kei in appreciation for their help and friendship. With exams out of the way, Kaguya is pumped up for a dinner party and sleepover, if for no other reason than the opportunity for Miyuki to nod off on her shoulder. She wants to do it that night, but Chika’s dad is out of town.

Chika suggests an alternate site for the sleepover: Kaguya’s place! There, Chika is met by “Herthaka-kun”, Ai’s…(deep breath) gay-male-crybaby-war orphan-Harvard graduate butler persona. While Kaguya scolds Ai for weaving such rococo lies, Chika simply stands in awe of “Super Butler Herthaka-kun”…yet another potentially awesome Kaguya spin-off.

Kaguya and Chika proceed to have a lovely girls night together, and while Miyuki and Kei can’t make it to the sleepover, they are offered a window into it when Chika calls him up. She’s able to do this not only without Kaguya’s objection but her encouragement because Kaguya rarely stays up past 11, and Chika’s prattle has now kept her up past midnight.

This has the effect of rendering Kaguya into a state not dissimilar from drunkenness, where her usual inhibitions drop and her judgment is compromised. She’s in full Go-with-the-Flow Mode, so Chika FaceTimes Miyuki and asks him straight-up if he’s in love with someone.

Kei happens to be in the room when Miyuki receives the call, and becomes fully engaged in the conversation when she spots Kaguya and Chika-nee on his screen. After adorably picking up the place even though they’re not there, Kei confirms to Chika that her brother is definitely in love, because he’s always LINEing with “someone named “Herthaka.”

When Chika hears this name, and she turns to face Herthaka-kun the butler, who is presently texting, her nose bleeds and she excuses herself from the segment.

That leaves Kaguya and Miyuki on the call together. Kaguya sleepily declares her furiousness at him right now for sending texts to someone else, but says she’ll forgive him if he tells her who he’s in love with. When he hesitates, she says she’ll go first…only to fall asleep before saying the name.

Miyuki is left with female Herthaka on his screen telling him Kaguya is asleep and she’s hanging up, but not before Kei gets a good look at the girl her bro is apparently courting. Kaguya wins the round because despite her fatigue she doesn’t let slip who she loves, but in my book both she and Miyuki lose the round because they’re still stuck in an endless slog.

Maybe the cultural festival will progress things further. I’m not saying I need a confession from either or both of them for this season to be a success—it’s the ride, not the destination that counts, and this is the Rolls-Royce of rides—but it would be nice for these two to join Takagi and Nishikata in the “Official-At-Last” corner.

Attack on Titan – 76 (S4, E17) – The Paths Not Taken

The drip-drip-drip trickle of Titan’s final season resumes, and while Part 2 leaves open the possibility of a Part 3 down the road, I’m just going to assume the anime will be wrapped up sooner rather than later. That said, while this episode picks up where last March’s Part 1 finale left off…not a ton of movement actually happens this week. Instead, the episode establishes where we are and sets the table for what comes next.

It’s confirmed Zeke is very much alive and in play (his “dream” about being rebuilt from sand in “The Paths” had a haunting beauty to it), while Hange manages to slip away from Floch with the still barely-alive Levi. As for the big Marleyan strike against Eren, he’s not particularly impressed, considering their tactics “desperate”.  That said, he ignores Yelena’s plea for him to revert to human form and hide, preferring to do battle on the surface. Eren may be ostensibly on Zeke’s side, but he’s mostly on his own side.

This results in him having to battle both Porco in the Jaw and Reiner in the Armored Titans, though with the power of the War Hammer he acquits himself well. The problem is, while he’s mocking Marley for not having enough information about what he is capable of, he and the Jaegerists fall into yet another Marleyan trap.

Pieck transforms into the Cart Titan and takes Gabi to relative safety where General Magath is staging his forces. His men help her mount a new-and-improved turret, and while Reiner and Porco keep Eren distracted, Pieck gets off not one but two headshots that shut down the Founding Titan’s motor skills, leaving Eren immobile and vulnerable to being eaten.

After quite a bit of thrilling action, the final act is a lot of standing around and talking in the citadel’s stockade. Onyankopon, who insists he and the other volunteers didn’t know about Zeke’s Eldian euthanization plan, begs Eren’s former friends to help him help Eren avoid being eaten. Connie in particular has had it with his comrades betraying him, but it warrants discussion as anything is preferable to being kept imprisoned.

For her part, Mikasa wants to help Eren, but for the first time in her life, considers that merely a factor of her Ackerman blood. Armin, despite what Eren said and did to them, believes Eren lied about that, in order to maintain his uneasy alliance with Yelena and Zeke. As long as they think he’s their ally, he can move and act far more freely, even if it meant being awful to his friends. But is that really the case? Barring further extensions, we’ll find out soon.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Irina: The Vampire Cosmonaut – 12 (Fin) – Moonlight Dreamers

Having watched Irina and Lev risk their lives so many times for each other and their country (very much in that order), Anya has decided it’s her turn to put everything on the line. And boy, does she ever, drugging the guards and sneaking off to the ceremony in the Zirnitran equivalent of Red Square.

There, a seemingly obedient Lev is giving the speech he was told to give…until suddenly he’s talking about how he actually isn’t the first cosmonaut, but the second, after a 17-year-old vampire girl! As he gives her her proper due by describing everything he loves about her, she breaks from the crowd, and with help from Anya (using herself as a missile!), manages to reach Lev before the sun knocks her out.

I expected there to be some bittersweet way Irina and Lev would be reunited. I did not think it would be in front of 200,000 Zirnitrans, Chairman Gergiev, and a TV and radio audience of 3 billion. In front of the largest audience in human history, Lev decided that lies wouldn’t do. He made his estranged parents, and more importantly Irina, proud. He told the truth. Then he hands the mic to the true Hero of Zirnitra.

A lot of the crowd is not initially open to listening to what they perceive as an evil monster to say, but the more Irina talks, the more she sounds like just a young girl who dreamed of reaching the stars, and frikkin’ did it. Later, Gergiev uses Lev’s and Irina’s modifications to the ceremony to tell the world that, actually, Zirnitra is the progressive, tolerant nation of the future, and these two crazy kids are proof positive!

Lev makes a stink about being used as a pawn by Gergiev and Harlova, but it ultimately doesn’t matter that much because a.) somehow, Lev and Irina (and presumably Anya) escape any kind of consequences for basically committing high treason—at least in the country that had been portrayed to this point—and b.) they’re both alive, together again, and the twin faces of hope for a better world, and a future where they travel to the moon together.

Did this ending strain credulity a bit? Sure. But is it a cold Monday, the second-shortest day of the year, and this was exactly the fun upbeat ending I both wanted and needed? ALSO SURE. All it was missing was a first kiss…though their first “bite” a few weeks ago arguably already achieved that!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Higehiro – 09 – The Things She Carried

Like Sayu, I was dreading the day someone from her family finally found her and forced her to come home…but that isn’t what happens. It turns out Issa is just as decent and kind a person as Yoshida, and doesn’t jump to conclusions even when Yoshida and Sayu greet him at the door in their PJs.

Instead, he’s the latest in a long line of refreshingly reasonable, level-headed human beings that populate Higehiro and make it feel more real. He’s not simply doing their mother’s bidding; he wanted to be the one who found Sayu, because he loves her and is worried about her.

Issa is greatly relieved Sayu managed to find a good soul who took her in without asking for anything inappropriate, and takes both of them at their word when they say nothing’s happened. As a high-achieving corporate type, I imagine Issa trusts his instincts when it comes to reading people.

But that’s not all: Issa can also tell, even if Sayu can’t, that she’s taken some important steps forward as a person. He notes how she’s more able to speak her mind, as she explains why she needs a few more days to think about things. He’s proud and caring n a way only a big brother can be, and grants her one more week.

I have to say, I never imagined in a million years that Issa would be such a good guy, especially considering the uncomfortable way the series has handled the bastard who took her in for sex and ended up her co-worker. But it’s not the show’s fault I automatically expect the worst…it’s because men, and especially anime men, are so often just that…the worst.

Of course, women are the worst too, as we learn when Sayu invites Asami over and sits her and Yoshida down to finally tell them about everything that’s happened that led her to run away. In effect, she’s unloading all of the burdens she’s carried before two friends who are all too happy to help share that load. Her first step in getting ready to go back is telling the people important to her about where she came from.

Sayu and her mother never got along. Her mother put all of her hopes and aspirations into her firstborn son Issa, and never had a kind word for Sayu. Because she never received love, Sayu didn’t bother putting any effort into anything, be it academics or socializing. She was alone, emanated a “stay away” aura, and came to prefer it that way.

But along came another outcast in Yuuko, for whom Sayu’s repelling aura had the opposite effect. Yuuko always told Sayu she was pretty and cool—as pretty and cool as Yuuko claimed not to be—and the two became fast, close friends. But Sayu’s looks and unimpeachable “goodness” kept the other girls from bullying her directly when she turned down a guy one of them liked, so they started bullying Yuuko instead.

Yuuko always said Sayu looked best when she was smiling and happy. But as the bullying intensified and Sayu dug in her heels, determined to stand beside Yuuko and fight for her, she stopped smiling and laughing, and was always depressed, because she felt responsible for her friend’s suffering and felt powerless to stop it.

Yuuko, however, felt differently. When Sayu told her she’d support her and fight for her against the bullying, it hurt Yuuko more than anything, as she believed she was ruining Sayu’s happiness by deigning to become friends with her in the first place.

So one day, Sayu found Yuuko standing on the wrong side of the balcony, waiting for her. Yuuko told her what happened was her fault, but it would be better if she were no longer in her life. Before leaping to her death, Yuuko asked Sayu to keep smiling, obviously in no mental state to realize how hard that would be if she killed herself.

Witnessing her first and only friend commit suicide for her sake would have been plenty of trauma for any teenager or adult to bear, but that wassn’t the end of Sayu’s suffering. As the Ogiwara household became besieged with press and stories and rumors of the true cause of Yuuko’s death, her mother did all the exact wrong things, only exacerbating Sayu’s despair.

Rather than support her daughter and help her grief, she blamed her for their predicament, and even went so far as to ask, seriously, if Sayu really did kill Yuuko. That despicable question is the last straw for Sayu, and you really can’t blame her for not wanting to spend one more second inside that house with that despicable woman. Instead, it’s Issa who offers Sayu a shoulder to cry on as she prepares to run away on foot.

Demonstrating he was just as empathetic and kind back then as he is in the present, he actually helps his sister get the distance and time she needs, giving her $3000 for a decent hotel and food for two weeks, if she promises to call him if she ever gets into trouble. If there’s a right way to run away, this was it: acknowledging and respecting what Sayu needed, but building checks into the arrangement.

But even with those measures in place, Issa would still need Sayu to actualy call him if she got in trouble, and she never does that. As she burns through her cash, she continues to be crushed by isolation and self-loathing, with no one there to help pull her out of her downward spiral. Issa’s mistake wasn’t getting Sayu away from their mom, it was sending Sayu away all by herself when she was in no condition to be entirely alone.

The episode includes a scene we previously saw only a flash of, in which Sayu masturbates and looks down at her hand afterwards. As this happens before she first sleeps with a man, I’m not sure why such a graphic scene was included, except to underscore that there was really not much for Sayu to do during this time but sleep, eat, and pleasure herself, and none of it was helping.

When Issa calls Sayu to check on her, her battery dies, and she tosses her phone out, believing in that moment that his kindness was merely pity she didn’t want or deserve. She wanders the streets, bumps into a man, and when she explains her situation he offers her a place to stay. He eventually asks for sex in return, and Sayu gives in, though doesn’t even remember the name of her first. She then went from guy to guy, trading sex for shelter, until ending up on Yoshida’s doorstep. The rest, we know.

The first to speak after her tale of woe is Asami, who gives Sayu the affection she needs and tells her just how hard she hung in there all this time. Having gotten all of this out, Sayu breaks down, having a much-needed cathartic cry. Once she’s calmed down and in bed, Asami asks Yoshida on the balcony what he’s going to do about her.

Yoshida says it’s up to Sayu’s family to figure this out and it’s not his place to interfere. Asami points out that’s not what she asked, idiot, and again asks: what does he want to do? He may say he’s a stranger, but he’s not; he and Asami are as much family to Sayu as Issa, and certainly more than Sayu’s mom.

What they want matters too, especially if it aligns with what Sayu herself wants. But first those things must be said, just as the things Sayu carried needed to be said to fully understand where she’s been, and determine what she should do. It’s not just Sayu who needs to think about things in the week she has left.

Higehiro – 08 – Such Sticky Sweet Sorrow

In hindsight, it was already over for Sayu the moment Issa showed up at her workplace. A man of her brother’s means and drive surely wouldn’t rest until his little sister had been found. Even though Sayu knows this this, and understands this is probably It for her months-long excursion, she’s understandably shaken by the close call, and freezes up. Rather than take immediate action to soften the inevitable blow, Sayu retreats to her happy place: buying snacks for her and Yoshida, who will be at the office late.

But more to the point, Sayu once again places someone or something—in this case Yoshida’s work and her obligation to handle the chores—before herself, even though well within her rights to insist upon being the priority. Her brother finding her also affects Yoshida quite a bit, and in more ways than one—psychologically, legally, etc.—yet Sayu keeps quiet. She doesn’t bother Yoshida.

Thankfully, just as her brother and his employee are about to spot her, Sayu rings into Yuzuha, who, after hearing that Sayu doesnt want to be found, helps hide her. We learn she does this as much to help Sayu out as she does to take the temperature of Sayu and offer some unsolicited but very much needed advice; even some tough love.

In yet another example of how Sayu’s youth has not gone the way most kids her age have, Yuzuha learns Sayu can’t sing with her, because she doesn’t know any songs, because she never had any friends with whom to go to karaoke. Yuzuha surely sympathizes with Sayu, but she’s also more concerned with giving her a thorough reality check than sparing her feelings.

As such, she sits down next to Sayu and asks her, if her pursuers are already here, and she has so little time left, what is she doing shopping? I don’t think Yuzuha is right when she says Sayu “doesn’t get it”, but she is right that Sayu isn’t taking this as seriously as she should. Not just that people are looking for her, but that she and Yoshida seem to have become co-dependent.

One can argue as a practical matter whether Yuzuha the character has really spent enough time with the two of them to make that determination so confidently, but that doesn’t really matter to me, because as much or as little as Yuzuha is assuming, she’s absolutely correct that Yoshida and Sayu have become far too comfortable with their arrangement.

I gave Yuzuha grief in an earlier episode for essentially reading both Yoshida and Airi the riot act for the way they’re going about their lives, but while her little stalking incident is still a mark against her, I for one am glad Yuzuha is here as the voice of reason. Sure, she has a massive conflict of interest in being literally in love with Yoshida (which is its own can of worms), but Yuzuha is no kid.

At this point I trust her more than anyone else to see the forest for the trees. That’s why she can love Yoshida, see the way he looks at Sayu when he arrives, and stay behind in the karaoke room to cry her eyes out, while still being very much in the right about how tremendously unprepared either Yoshida or Sayu are for what isn’t coming down the pike—but has already freaking arrived!

The remainder of the episode sets to work painstakingly validating Yuzuha’s concerns. I can’t blame her taking a rain check considering her feelings for Yoshida, but it really would have been better if Yuzuha had joined them for dinner. At least then, she might’ve been able to steer Sayu towards telling Yoshida that she’s close to being found.

Instead, Sayu says nothing to Yoshida about her brother, choosing to ignore her fate. The two see a poster for the Summer Festival, and in one of the more awkward transitions of the show, the episode cuts from one night to the next night, with Sayu resplendent in her pink yukata,gold obi, and geta. 

Then they go on a date that would be adorable, except for the fact that it’s an indulgence neither of them can really afford at the moment. I can’t really blame Yoshida—he’s in the dark about Sayu’s brother and wants Sayu to have another “normal high school girl” experience.

At the same time, I can’t really blame Sayu for not suddenly turning to Yoshida and saying the jig is up. After all, she hasn’t been to a summer festival since she was a little girl, wasn’t allowed to eat cotton candy even once, and has never been as close to fireworks as she and Yoshida end up being.

The temptation to forget about her imminent doom for just one night proves too strong to resist, but like a yukata rental, the quickly-melting cotton candy, and the fleeting light from the fire fireworks, the trappings of normalcy in which she seeks refuge are all too temporary.

Their interactions throughout are charged with romantic tension. When he sheepishly compliments her yukata, she asks, just under her breath so he can’t quite hear, if it’s prettier than Gotou-san’s. She feeds him some of her cotton candy. When a kid bumps into her, of course Yoshida takes her hand to keep her from falling, and she decides they should keep holding hands throughout so they won’t get lost.

Yoshida knows that were it not for Sayu, he’d have never gone to the festival. Images of his past life without her flash by in his head; it’s a place he’s not ready to return to. When he exits those thoughts, Sayu is no longer holding his hand, and he calls out for her. She’s right behind him, and teases him for thinking she’d disappeared, but we cut to his five-o’clock shadow as he asks, also just under his breath, if she’s really going home.

Even after the fireworks are over, Sayu keeps looking up at the sky. She recalls how she gave all the other guys an alias, but when she met him, her real name just came out. The moment arrives that has arrived in so many romantic anime where there’s either a confession and/or kiss or a failed/thwarted attempt at either.

Instead of either, Yoshida wisely gives Sayu a nice, platonic head pat. Sayu looks disappointed, but quickly smiles. She knows, even if she wasn’t a teenager, Yoshida is sure would have taken her in…and just as sure they wouldn’t have had sex.

Of course, while she knows this, and Yuzuha and Airi and Asami know this, the person to which that very crucial distinction matters most does not know this, at least not yet. That means when Yoshida comes to the door in his pajamas and Sayu is standing behind her in hers, Issa has absolutely no way of knowing Yoshida wasn’t sleeping with his sister.

Even so, Ogiwara Issa’s entire character as we know him thus far is that he’s polite but determined to find her, and now he has. His brief smirk seems more out of relief to have succeeded than a reaction to just how screwed Yoshida is. But that smirk soon straightens into a more serious face as he announcesnot proposes—what’s going to happen. He’s taking Sayu home.

Yoshida may have something to say about that, and Issa may be open to hearing him out, but because this is there first interaction, depending on the level of assumptions Issa is willing to level against him, I can’t imagine anything Yoshida says will move him. I guess we’ll find out eventually, but with next week’s episode entitled “Past”, we may have to wait longer than we should.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Higehiro – 07 – What Then?

It’s telegraphed from the beginning of the episode: someone who knows Sayu (or is working for them) has found her. There’s no other reason a suspicious black car would keep showing up at the konbini where she works, and Sayu is right to be weary. After all, she’s committed to working towards a future for herself, but hasn’t had enough time to figure out what that might be. Simply going home now would solve nothing.

This week marks the return of Mishima, whom I castigated for literally stalking Yoshida the last time we saw her, but the more I think about it, the more she’s the most realistic of the bunch. She invites herself to lunch with Gotou to express her frustration with her supervisor’s boss: if she’s in love with Yoshida, why is she just sitting around when Sayu could “take” Yoshida from them any day?

Gotou says she simply doesn’t see the point of artificially forcing anything with her and Yoshida. If it happens, it happens, but she’s not going to pretend she can control the feelings of others. Mishima says flat out that Gotou is simply scared to stick her neck out, while she’s far more scared of losing what she could’ve had because she didn’t do anything.

Neither Mishima nor Gotou are presented as the person with the “correct” philosophy…and that’s okay! Anybody who says they have all the answers is trying to sell you something. But Mishima is determined to try her way, and so asks, nay, demands Yoshida’s contact info. Yoshida is taken aback, because he doesn’t consider himself “attractive enough” to be worth giving his contact info for no special reason.

At this Mishima snaps at him for deciding everything by his standards, including his own appeal. She says he has a bad habit of doing what he wants to do while convincing himself its for the sake of others. Then she confesses her love for him (“a little”) and texts him a request to go out for a movie when Sayu isn’t making something special for dinner. He texts back a sheepish “sure”, which lifts Mishima’s spirits.

The next day when Yoshida is off work, he’s just kind of sitting around while Sayu cleans around him. He offers to help, and she pushes him into his bed, tripping in the process and landing on him. Their resulting position is lovingly drawn and lit the way a romantic scene would, and Sayu lingers there before Yoshida asks her to take the wet rag off his shoulder.

After this awkward scene that appears to play right into Mishima’s worst fear —that Sayu has the inside track on winning Yoshida’s heart—Sayu decides to go through a box of stuff in his closet (with his okay…but it’s still hella random!) and finds his high school yearbook, along with a photo of him and his gorgeous senpai girlfriend.

I for one am willing to give both parties the benefit of the doubt regarding the bed incident, but then Yoshida starts talking about how that girlfriend called him “clingy” and that she didn’t want somebody who cared about him so much. Again his standards come through, as he tells Sayu it’s only natural to care about someone, to want them to smile and be happy, and to be the one who makes that happen. Sayu mutters “what about me?”, but Yoshida doesn’t hear (naturally).

Back at work at the konbini, Sayu ends up sharing a shift with her former attempted rapist, which is never something you want. When the mysterious guy in the black Lexus comes in and reveals he’s Sayu’s big brother (and clearly loaded), Yaguchi tells Sayu to hide in the break room and then covers for her.

While I appreciate the show’s dedication to showing the good and bad in people, I really didn’t need this guy performing a remotely redemptive act, and it frankly sours the whole scene, especially when Sayu thanks him. Now, if he actually owned up to what he actually did and earnestly apologized, maybe I’d feel a bit different…but probably not!

As for Ogiwara Kazuto, well…it’s interesting that this President and CEO of Ogiwara Foods is Sayu’s brother and not a parent. I’d also guess he’s about Yoshida’s age. The look on Sayu’s face when she realizes who he was was, and then upon realizing that she may not get to decide when she goes home, is heartbreaking. I’m hoping Kazuto is reasonable and doesn’t just drag her into the car, but Sayu ran far, far away from these people, so all bets are off.

%d bloggers like this: