HenSuki – 02 – Kohai Master

Keiki flatly turns down Sayuki’s request that he make her his pet—he’s just not sure if he’s into S&M, and probably never thought about it. But that doesn’t stop her from hanging around him, even in the library, where she gets too close and draws the ire of their mutual kohai, Koga Yuika. When Keiki admits he took Sayuki out for a parfait and performed a romantic wall slam, she’s angry, but he can cure that anger by taking her on a date.

Keiki does everything right thanks to some pointers from his little sister Mizuha: Arrive early, compliment often, go to a movie she likes, have a relaxed lunch, match her pace, let her shop till she drops. He even has the opportunity to rescue her from some leering mall trolls. Yuika gives Keiki a pat and kiss on the head as thanks and then falls asleep on his shoulder on the train home. All in all, it’s a wonderful first date for the both of them.

Yuika always kept to herself in the library and was hard to approach (which he chalks up to her mixed heritage, which…okaaay), but he was persistent in his friendliness and kindness, and her suspicion and “ice in her eyes” gradually melted away to the point they’re now much closer. But is she “Cinderella” who included a pair of underwear with her love letter? The jury’s still out.

What becomes painfully clear, however, is that Yuika is not like Sayuki, and she does not want to be his pet. In fact, when she asks him to meet her in the library storage room, she reveals that she wants to be his master, and wants him to be her slave. As an incentive, she removes her underwear and offers them to him. When he doesn’t immediately take them, she punishes him by stuffing them into his mouth. Yikes!

Suffice it to say, this development comes as something of a shock to Keiki. He was so enchanted by their conventional date, he would have been content if he died the next day. Instead, he finds himself passed out in a closet with Yuika’s underwear in his mouth, and a commando Yuika sitting astride him. They’re tricky, those tides of fortune!

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Hensuki – 01 (First Impressions) – A Short Leash

Kiryuu Keiki gets to hang out with three cute girls in the Shodou Club (four if you count his imouto, which he doesn’t), but he wants a girlfriend. So imagine his shock when he finally receives a love letter from a secret admirer…along with a pair of underwear.

From there, Keiki tries to investigate which of the three girls (excluding his sister) could be the “Cinderella” to his Prince: the cool, mature senpai Sayuki (Taketatsu Ayana), the adorable blonde kohai Yuika (Hidaka Rina) or the approachable classmate Mao (Nomizu Iori).

In his interactions, the girls exhibit what could be construed as signals indicating they are the culprit, in addition to having feelings for Keiki beyond mere friendship, but nothing concrete until Sayuki happily accepts a date offer he accidentally makes when thinking out loud.

When he asks Sayuki straight up if “she has a secret” she’s not telling him about, she flees, and spends the entire next day at school very obviously avoiding him. Mao suggests he employ the “wall slam” tactic (much more effective in anime than IRL), which he does when he spots her walking home.

He tells her he knows her secret (assuming its the note and underwear); when she asks if that means he dislikes her now, he tells her it’s quite the opposite; after the initial shock, he was glad. Mind you, he makes no mention of what he’s talking about.

The next day, Keiki reports to the clubroom as requested, Sayuki makes him close his eyes, and when he opens them, she’s wearing a collar and leash,  exposed her bra, and asking to be Keiki’s pet. That’s when Keiki knows he’s in for something a lot stranger than he bargained for!

Hensuki is another show that would probably benefit from being 12-13 minutes instead of double that; the “investigation” drags on too long even if it’s also meant to introduce the main players. While a decent-looking, this show is utterly by-the-numbers and generic except for the twist at the end, which doesn’t definitively answer the question of who gave him their underwear.

This will be the story of a guy whose female acquaintances each have their own unique kinks, which they’ll reveal to him because he’s a kind and understanding dude. It is notable that the show so far exhibits a particularly soft touch when it comes to its ecchi element. But where this goes from here—and whether and how the premise can be sustained for 12 episodes—very much remains to be seen.

Fruits Basket – 14 – A Selfish Wish

On the one-year anniversary of her mother’s death, Tooru announces her plans to visit her grave, but pointedly doesn’t ask anyone to join her, in another demonstration of her fanatical desire never to trouble anyone. Still, Yuki asks if he can come, while Kyon is more tentative…for some reason.

Naturally, Arisa and Saki will also be attending, as Tooru’s friends and effectively, her surrogate parents. Saki notes how Tooru can be so cheerful after losing her dear mother just a year ago, and can only chalk it up to very, very hard work for which Tooru should be praised.

As if Tooru didn’t have enough on her plate, a seemingly innocent question about which one of Momiji’s parents is German turns into a whole thing. Momiji’s mother is German, and he looks just like her, but she doesn’t remember him. When she gave birth to him (two months early, as is typical of zodiac births), both her body and mind rejected him (which can also happen).

The only way to save Momiji’s mother from suicide was to wipe all her memories of Momiji, something his father told him had to happen, and that he’d love him enough for the both of them. Rather than forget himself what happened to his mom, Momiji long ago decided to carry every memory, no matter how heavy. He would have preferred if his mom had “stuck with it” and tried to accept him, just as it seems Tooru had wished to be there when her mom died—but they both consider those “selfish wishes.”

The day of the grave visit arrives, and Uo is resplendent in the “Crimson Butterfly” bike gang coat she inherited from Kyouko. Yuki also learns why Tooru was so upset about him catching cold: Tooru the tragedy magnet’s dad died of complications from a cold. And yet despite losing both parents, rather than radiate despair, she’s always smiling and exuding cheerfulness. He just doesn’t get it, but he’s glad to be close to such a person.

As for Kyon, he acts super-shifty and suspicious throughout the grave visit. When he stalks off, Saki follows him, and he asks her if she can talk to ghosts (she can’t). She proceeds to explain the difference between waves (to which she’s attuned) and spiritual energy (of which she has none), and she can sense from his waves of “chaos” that he feels some kind of regret in this place.

Uo and Saki are glad Tooru is doing so well with Yuki and Kyon, but the two lads’ minds remain “ruled by dark troubled thoughts” which will, for the interim, prevent either of them from romantic thoughts (which is fine with Saki as she’s not yet ready to give Tooru away as a bride).

Kyon’s actions later that day seem to bear that out. As the wind blows the hat either Yuki or Kyon gave to Tooru off its perch, Kyon leans in close to Tooru’s face, not to kiss her, but to tell her he’s “sorry”. About what? Did he, perchance, have a part in Kyouko’s death? Is that why he had waves of regret at the cemetery, and why he feels the need to apologize?

As many mysteries still swirl around Yuki and Kyon’s past, present, and future with Honda Tooru, the one constant is that she’s not going to let anything keep her spirits down. Not losing both parents, and probably not learning someone close might’ve had something to do with one of those losses.

Senryuu Shoujo – 06 – My Daughter’s a Yankee!

Nanako’s Papa needs to watch what he reads in the papers, as he starts to compile a list of signs his Nanako is rebelling based on poor data. First, he she glares at him in the morning and ignores him, but she has earplugs and no contacts.

Then she won’t answer when he knocks on her door, but she’s already gone out. Finally, her brother says she’s out with her thug friend and might stay out later. Pops envisions Nanako in classic delinquent garb, nail bat and attitude, but the same sweet voice threatening in haiku. I agree with him…that would be pretty dang funny if true!

Of course, her dad is overreacting—he’s a good dad and has raised Nanako right (his instances of “being too harsh” show a laughably light touch), and Eiji isn’t a thug, he just looks like one (and Eiji may have a former thug for a dad, as he steers Nanako away from coming to his house lest his dad ask for her measurements).

Nanako is just out to meet Eiji’s big fat rabbit, who poops constantly. His little sister tags along, and immediately pegs Nanako as girlfriend material, for which she’s flattered (she also invites Eiji to sit on her lap). Her next stop is a friend’s house for a baking session, and when she gets home, her dad is fully prepared to cut ties with her forever, only to be presented with a freshly-baked cake just for him.

He had no reason to fear rebellion. Nanako is rebel-proof!

One Punch Man 2 – 05 – Reverse Seeded

How long do we have to wait to get the martial arts tournament started so Saitama can start plowing through the brackets? Apparently another half-episode, as we focus on a growing preponderance of monsters and demons throughout the lettered cities.

As for Metal Bat, he seems to get more “pumped up”, and his attacks faster and stronger, the more Garo beats him up, but ultimately the fight is called on account of Bat’s brave, protective little sister Zenko. Garo may claim to be a monster, but he’s not about to hit a kid.

Shortly after taking his leave, Garo is approached by three monsters hoping to recruit him into the “Monster Association,” but he’s having none of it. Class S Rank 6 Metal Knight comes in to take care of the giant centipede, but even he just can’t summon enough firepower to dent the thing, making the battle a draw.

The jellyfish, phoenix and rhino-themed baddies make off with the rich kid, while other monsters start fighting—and beating—heroes they’ve chosen specifically because their heroic attributes favor them, the monsters. The Hero Association (still pitting their hopes that King will be a factor) are starting to panic.

Meanwhile, yes, Super Fight 22 finally commences, with the eighteen challengers being introduced; and they’re all quite the colorful characters, with equally colorful-sounding martial arts schools.

Zakkos is Saitama’s first opponent, but there’s a match before theirs. Sourface reveals he’s twenty—younger than Saitama—which explains both his pre-match nerves and his thin skin when Zakkos rips into Bang’s dojo.

Saitama, older and wiser, simply lets Zakkos say what he wants; he’s here to fight, not argue. Oh, and Saitama apparently doesn’t have to hide his face, as Sourface seems content that he is indeed Charanko and not some impostor.

When a particularly sexy monster, Super S, starts whipping heroes and making them her love slaves, it’s up to Hellish Blizzard and her crew to sort things out. As for Saitama’s first “match”, it’s a laugher; Zakkos was all talk and is in fact incredibly weak; so weak that the person he was to propose to didn’t even bother showing up to watch him. Bummer!

As for one of the higher-seeded martial artists in the fresh-faced Suiryu, he recognizes that Zakkos had some okay moves, but his opponent “Charanko” was just too strong. He looks forward to seeing him in the final.

While it’s always fun when someone comes around who can either absorb Saitama’s punch or deliver a blow that actually bothers him—wait…has that ever even happened?—I doubt he’ll meet his match here, especially considering how easily he dispatched Garo. Still, watching him effortlessly wail on guys is never not fun.

Kaguya-sama: Love is War – 08 – Study Long, Study Wrong

Three stories this week! Story the First: Kaguya encounters a cute visitor who she remembers is really Miyuki’s little sister Kei, StuCo treasurer of the middle school division. Kaguya gets it into her head (deep, deep into her head) that if she suceeds in nurturing a close friendship with Kei, she’ll look at her as a sister, giving her the familial love she craves and bringing her closer to Miyuki.

Heartbreak strikes when it turns out Chika (whose imouto is in Kei’s class) is a shitload closer to Kei than Kaguya could ever imagine. But the true twist is that the end, when we learn Kei is actually infatuated with Kaguya, and laments to her oblivious bro that she wasn’t able to close the distance between them. Thus Kei loses.

Story the Second:  With final exams approaching, both Miyuki and Kaguya engage in elaborate games of lies and deception, both of them absolutely determined to claim the top student ranking with their grades. They manage to convince Chika that she doesn’t need to study to do well, but neither of them particularly care one way or another about Chika’s fate, only their own.

When the scores and rankings are posted, Miyuki has prevailed once again, with Kaguya finishing a close second. Internally, Kaguya wants to roll around in the pool of blood that threatens to shoot out of her eyes, but she keeps her composure and congratulates the President, noting that he must be pleased.

At the same time, Miyuki claims that he can’t feel any joy over such a close and hard-fought victory, only relief…but when he retires to the men’s room it’s a different story, as he’s so overjoyed he starts shadowboxing for no reason…as one does. Winner: Miyuki.

Story the Third takes place a week before the finals. Kaguya is aware that the next exam Yuu fails will force him to repeat the grade, a black mark against the honor of the StuCo she as its veep cannot allow. To that end, she grabs his hand and spirits him away to a dark supply closet where she commits to making sure he studies enough not to fail, on her honor as a Shinomiya.

Yuu is initially as terrified of Kaguya as usual—she makes him do the two things he fears most, after all: studying, and eating tiny dried sardines—but when two classmates spot the two in the library and look primed to spread weird rumors, Kaguya stands up for Yuu, telling them she doesn’t judge people by what others say, only by her personal experiences with those people.

Yuu ends up passing, and rising a number of spots in the rankings (up from second to last), but Kaguya is still furious that he only barely passed after all the hard work she put in. Miyuki drops his guard in assuring Yuu that while Kaguya may seem cold-hearted, she is someone who can always be relied upon to follow through. For his unsolicited flattery of his opponent in the War of Love, Miyuki loses the round.

Bunny Girl Senpai – 13 (Fin) – Everything is Going to Be Alright

Upon the return of her memories, Kaede doesn’t really seem to grasp why this is all such a big deal; from her perspective, she was never actually ever “gone.” But it’s a huge shock and a gut punch to Sakuta; bigger than he could have expected or was prepared for.

“Kaede”, the entirely new personality he’d loved and cared for as his little sister for two years, isn’t just gone; it’s as if she never existed, and that deletion of her existence occurred just when she was starting to take her biggest steps yet towards living a normal life. It’s enough of a shock for Sakuta to simply lose it upon leaving Kaede’s hospital room.

He simply wasn’t ready to lose Kaede. Even the three huge slash marks reopen and bleed. And just when Sakuta needs someone—anyone, but also not just anyone—most, who should appear but his first crush; the girl no one else can see: “Shouko-san.”

Shouko-san takes the soaked and suffering Sakuta home, gets him into a hot bath, and proceeds to read Kaede’s diary to him. While this may seem like a gross breach of privacy, this is mitigated by the fact that the Kaede that wrote the diary is now gone, and thus the diary is the only link to her Sakuta has left.

Through the diary and Shouko-san’s words of support and reassurance, Sakuta learns that both Kaedes never stopped loving him, and while it might’ve seemed only natural to regret not helping her back when she was being horribly bullied, she never held that against him, and thus there was never any reason for regret, self-hatred, or the physical manifestation of those emotions, his chest slashes.

Knowing that we’ll never see or hear Kaede as we knew her ever again, its a particularly poignant diary/farewell letter, narrated in both Shouko-san and Kaede’s voices. More importantly, it finally gives Sakuta, who had been so busy helping others to help himself for so long, a kind of catharsis and closure. The next morning, Shouko is gone, leaving only a note behind.

Sakuta has no other way of reaching Shouko-san, and can’t even reach the younger Shouko on the phone. He does finally call Mai back, and fills her in on what happened, without really getting into his whole ordeal in the bathtub. When she surprises him by coming over, prepared to spend the night with him, she finds Shouko’s note.

Since this is Mai we’re talking about, there’s no way she’d get jealous over such a note, or that she wouldn’t believe Sakuta’s explanations; rushed and verbose as they are, everything he’s saying is the truth. But Mai is still hurt, and has to leave as soon as she arrives.

Part repaying a debt, part helping out her sister, and part being a good friend, Nodoka meets with Sakuta and tells him to make things right. It’s Mai’s birthday, after all. Sakuta double-times it onto a bullet train to catch up to her in Kanazawa.

Things are chilly both inside the car in which Mai and her manager give Sakuta a ride, and outside, where some snowflakes start to fall. But once Sakuta shares his coat with Mai, the ice is broken and they both proceed to apologize to each other. What caused Mai to say the things she did and leave wasn’t jealousy, but frustration that she wasn’t able to be with Sakuta when he needed her the most; “Shouko-san”, whoever she is, filled that role instead. She feels bad about that and apologizes.

Of course, there’s nothing to apologize for; Sakuta is just happy to have Mai by his side whenever he can, even if it wasn’t at a crucial time this time. She’s his girlfriend, and he loves her, and that’s more than enough for him. She almost leans in for a kiss, but instead gives his cheek a yank, remarking that being “punished” is probably the ideal thing for him anyway.

All is well that ends well, as Sakuta introduces Mai to his parents and re-introduces her to Kaede, continues hanging out with Tomoe and Futaba and Nodoka, and re-bonds with his little sister, who is ready to go to school and ready to see some pandas with her big brother for the first time…again.

While the Kaede and Sakuta arc wasn’t my favorite, it was still a solid way to bring the anime to a close. It’s a shame we couldn’t see more of the “new old” Kaede as herself, or going back to school, and it’s also a shame there was so much mystery surrounding the nature of the Shouko(s), but it sounds like at least the latter will be covered in an upcoming film.

I for one wouldn’t mind returning to this pleasant, charming world where people who feel so alone it starts to do weird things to them are saved by friends and family whose help proves that they’re not alone after all, and never were.

Bunny Girl Senpai – 12 – Trying Your Best ‘Till You Disappear

Sakuta tells Mai and Nodoka the story of Kaede he’s never told anyone, but now that Kaede is making friends and thinking about going back to school, he can’t hold it off. It’s also the story of himself and the rest of his family. When Kaede suddenly enters a dissociative state as a result of online abuse, she loses her memories and becomes the “Kaede” we know.

Other than her outward appearance, everything about her is different, to the point she could have switched personalities with someone the way Mai and Nodoka did. She walks different, talks different, eats different. Kaede’s Mon can’t deal, and due in part to being a big brother who is utterly powerless to stop whatever Kaede’s going through, the slash marks on his chest appear one night.

The doctors believe they’re self-inflicted, as “Adolescence Syndrome” isn’t a theory they’d subscribe to. But Sakuta gets sick of the hospital and sneaks out, finds himself on the beach, and meets his “first crush”, Shouko. Shouko tells him “life is here for us to be kinder”, and she strives every day to become a little kinder than she was the day before.

Sakuta adopts that credo; one could say it’s all thanks to Shouko that he’s able to do any of the stuff he does to help his friends later on. But here, before he meets Nodoka or Tomoe or Mai, we see that the first person he helped was Kaede. He helped her simply by acknowledging that she was Kaede. She didn’t have to be the old Kaede. He was the first and only one to accept her, not as an anomaly, but a person.

Back in the present, where Kaede is on the cusp of “leaving the nest”, Sakuta gives her a book the old Kaede apparently lent to her friend. In it is a note expressing that friend’s wish to be friends with “Kae-chan” again. Tears well up, and Kaede suddenly faints.

She wakes up in the hospital, none the worse for wear, but the doctors believe that her dissociative state may be wearing off. The note was apparently the trigger. The Kaede we’ve known all this time is still there, but she overhears Sakuta reporting to Mai that he doesn’t know how long she has.

Kaede accelerates her plans to go to school, even risking her well-being to do so (the dark red bruises appear when she gets overly stressed, and rushing things when it comes to going back to school is definitely stressful. Sakuta, hoping there’s something he can do for her as her big brother, promises he’ll show her the school.

But first they go to the zoo and watch the pandas, tigers, giraffes, elephants, meerkats, and all the other animals, all just “doing their best to live their lives”. Like Pandas with their not-very-nutritious bamboo diet, Kaede—specifically this Kaede—has it rough. But all she can do is keep doing her best.

That night, before heading home, Sakuta delivers on his promise to take her to school: an empty school at night. It proves just the thing. Having seen the place in the flesh for the first time, Kaede is more optimistic and motivated than ever to go to school during the day. Not because she might be out of time in her current state, but because it’s the next natural step.

Her opportunity to go to put that optimism and motivation to the test never comes. The Kaede who wakes up is the old, pre-breakdown Kaede. You can tell, too: Kubo Yurika totally switches up her voice. She remembers Sakuta, but doesn’t remember going to the zoo, and doesn’t speak in the third person. “Kaede” is gone.

Will it be for good…and isn’t that okay? It’s not like Kaede died, after all. Sakuta may feel like he lost someone precious—and in a way, he did—but that person was never going to be around permanently. We’ll also have to see how the “original” Kaede reacts to everything in her life, from her parents, friends, even her room layout, being different from how she remembers. Will Sakuta seek to bring back a part of “Kaede” to help bridge the other Kaede’s gap of experience?

Bunny Girl Senpai – 11 – #KaedeGoals

That little cliffhanger about Mai (actually Nodoka in Mai’s body) being seen with Sakuta by a photographer? No biggie; the director of her upcoming film decides to spin it into a marketing opportunity, while Mai admits to the relationship and is candid not only in how it occurred (a kohai confessed in front of the entire school) but why it matters (were it not for him she wouldn’t be back in show business).

Now Mai and Sakuta get to hang out without any problems, and the two are on cloud nine. Then Sakuta gets a letter from “Shouko” whom he later confirms is not the middle schooler of the same name who hasn’t come by the house in a while, but rather his “first crush.”

When he confides in Futaba seeking advice, Futaba texts everything he tells her to Mai, making her status as a confidant now somewhat suspect! It’s all good, once more: Mai is fine with him meeting Shouko, as long as he’s back by six so she can make him dinner. He doesn’t get a kiss, though.

The main dilemma this week isn’t Sakuta and Mai’s relationship or the return of “Shouko”, but Sakuta’s little sister Kaede, who’d kinda served as the show’s mascot up to this point. Still, as a victim of such intense bullying she and Sakuta had to move and she stopped going outside, it was clear the show was going to promote her to the lead in an arc at some point.

Sakuta is about to go to the beach to meet with Shouko, but he’s delayed by the sudden appearance of one of Kaede’s classmates, who saw Sakuta in a magazine tracked him down. She wants to meet with Kaede to apologize for not doing more to stop the bullying, now that the ones who bullied her were themselves bullied out of the school. Back home, the numerous visits from the other girls Sakuta has helped has convinced Kaede that she can’t remain stagnant, and begins compiling a list of goals to become more independent.

Her first small step is to answer the phone when someone other than Sakuta is on the line (in this case, Mai), but the stress of doing that for the first time in a long time causes her to nearly faint. Even more distressing, when Kaede is resting to recover from a fever, Sakuta notices a dark red blotch on her neck; no doubt another symptom of adolescence syndrome, much like his own chest slash marks.

However, Kaede recovers, the blotch disappears, and she keeps taking smal steps, aided in no small part by an extremely kind and understanding Mai, who offers a number of cute outfits she wore in magazine shoots for Kaede to wear when she goes outside.

The day finally arrives, and Sakuta comes home to a fully resolved sister. Still, it takes Sakuta lying about how far outside of the entryway they’ve strayed to get Kaede to follow through; call it one last little nudge to get her where she herself wants to be. It’s a truly triumphant, emotional moment that’s a long time coming; even Sakuta can’t help but tear up.

Kaede was scared of the outside, where the love of their home, like a security blanket, wasn’t out there to protect her. She still is. But she’s far more scared of staying inside, so even though her brother tricked her, she’s grateful.

From there, Kaede takes larger and larger steps until she’s able to roam around outside without clinging to Sakuta. He decides to surprise her by taking a trip to the beach, along with Mai and Nodoka. They have a grand old time, and Kaede is having fun…until her friend arrives, and she retreats behind Sakuta once more.

This friend doesn’t understand why Kaede doesn’t remember her, but Sakuta has an explanation, and it’s something he’s been waiting for the right moment to tell Mai too: Kaede has no memories. I suspect that is to say, no memories from after whatever psychological break she suffered as a result of her bullying.

Obviously, that’s still objectively not good, and looking back at Kaede’s behavior, it has seemed like a part of her was missing beyond the part that could go outside and interact with people. The stagnancy she fears isn’t just about remaining shut in, but about that yawning gap in her memory.

The two main questions are 1.) will and how will Sakuta & Co. help Kaede get those memories back, and 2.) where do “Shouko” and Makinohara Shouko” fit into this equation, if at all?

Hanebado! – 06 – Not Just One More Match

Prelims are upon us this week, and it’s Izumi Riko’s turn to be angsty. It’s her last year and last prelims, and she wants to win. The only problem is, her first opponent is her childhood friend Nozomi, who also happens to be one of last year’s final four. Riko is not confident she can hang with the likes of Nozomi, and even though Nagisa tries her best to fire her up, Riko ends up frustrated and the two part ways for the evening on a bad note.

The day of the matches arrives, and Riko and Nozomi are cordial but cool, as imminent opponents must be. The team rocks their slick new one-piece uniforms, and Riko’s four cute siblings are in attendance, but she still manages to stink up the joint in the first half of the first set overwhelmed by her own lack of confidence as well as Nozomi’s unbeatable aura.

When the interval comes, Riko knows she has to do something…so she goes over the shots of the match so far, analyzes them, and finds that Nozomi is avoiding her backhand. Riko goes on the offensive and gets a point or two before Nozomi re-adjusts. It’s a beautifully-animated, fast-paced story told through the smooth, graceful, yet powerful motions of the players; a chess match of adjustments and counter-adjustments.

Riko still loses, but she makes Nozomi work for her win, going against her opponent’s strict coache’s insistence she conserve her stamina. It was just another match for Nozomi; a stepping stone to the next round. But for Riko, it was the match; the only match left in her high school career. And as her coach directed, she had fun out there.

Whither Ayano? Well, for most of the episode she seems to be putting up a strong front of Everything’s Okay, and may even believe she’s past worrying about her mother or Connie. But these prelims are uniquely equipped to not let Ayano escape her troubles so easily. Not only is she facing Serigaya Kaoruko in the next round, but her mother will be in attendance to watch their rematch. That should be interesting…

Hanebado! – 05 – The Discarded Daughter

Ayano lived her childhood absolutely idolizing her mother and soaking up every bit of badminton know-how she could. Other than Elena, there was virtually no one else in her life she cared about. In other words, her mom was her family…until she took off, and Ayano has felt alone ever since (sorry, Elena).

Or, at least she had felt alone. Now that she’s been welcomed and embraced by her team, she feels like she can keep playing with their support. Riko offers as much at the end of their first game which they lost to Connie, 21-12. Kentarou resets the defense so Ayano has the run of the back 2/3rds of the court for the second game.

By throwing her out of the frying pan and into the fire, Ayano eventually picks up her game, returning shots that she’d previously let drop. Her sly persistence starts to frustrate Connie, who in turn steps up her game, and all of a sudden their respective teammates are treated to one hell of a grudge match, with neither Ayano nor Connie believing defeat to be an option.

Connie draws from her own childhood, which looks as lonely as Ayano’s post-mom time, while Ayano gets all Sadako-y like she did when she beat Nagisa in the nationals. The two competitors are so focused on each other, Connie ends up getting a cramp in her leg, and her partner leaps in to score the winning point, catching Ayano and Connie alike off guard and leading them to declare the result of the match corrupted.

Both go off skulking, only to be picked back up by the very people she felt were unnecessary (in Connie’s case) or the people whom she felt she’d let down (in Ayano’s). Sora, who’d been pretty quiet up to this point, confesses that she hated Ayano for seeming not to care despite being so talented, but has revised her feelings about her after seeing how far she went in that match. The two girls end up spending the evening having fun with their teammates.

The next morning when both teams are set to return home, Ayano confronts Connie, who tells her what I (and probably everyone else watching) had suspected last week: Connie is the girl Ayano’s mother replaced her with as daughter. Connie’s goal is to prove to her “mama” that she’s the better player by beating Ayano.

As I mentioned last week, one would assume the question of “who is best” had already long been settled by the fact Ayano’s mother f-ing abandoned her biological daughter for Connie. I guess Connie just isn’t satisfied with her mom’s decision, but wants to be sure she’s better than Ayano. As for Ayano, on the bus ride home she breaks out her crazy face once more, declaring that she “doesn’t need” her mother any more.

While that’s a depressing sentiment, somewhat creepily delivered, I can hardly blame her for wanting to give up on the person who gave up on her. But I still feel there’s a reconciliation story brewing here. Simply stating she’s done seeking her mom’s approval doesn’t magically make it so…right?

Hanebado! – 04 – A New Challenger Approaches

After her playground epiphany, Ayano joins the badminton club, and before she knows it she’s on a bus with the rest of the club to a summer practice facility. While on the ride, the classically alone Ayano has her hair tended to by Yu, resulting in a photo and a warm feeling of belonging; of finally not being alone, but part of something bigger: a team.

But wouldn’t you know it, the facility is already occupied by another badminton team, and not just any team, but the “FreGirls” of Frederica, one of the country’s top teams. One of their players wanted very much to play Ayano’s school. Ayano heads out to a konbini to buy water, but ends up lost thanks to Nagisa’s kiddy, nigh worthless map.

While lost, she meets a foreigner who’s also lost: a blonde from Denmark who offers her a lolly when they make progress with the map.

Things are going swimmingly until the foreigner learns the identity of the cute little girl she’s walked with. The moment she hears the name “Hanesaki” she freezes and drops her change, then accuses Ayano of playing mind games with her by “pretending to be friendly.”

The next they meet, the tall blonde, Connie C, is one half of Ayano and Riko’s doubles opponents, and promises to show her how “meaningless” Ayano’s “team” is. She warns her partner not to interfere and let her play alone. Clearly, what she really wants is a one-on-one match against Ayano.

When her partner does interfere, Connie quits in a huff, letting the other girl struggle alone in a two-on-one match until she basically taps out. Connie doesn’t believe in teams, after all; she’s a team of one, and gets what she wants. As for why her captain and coach do nothing to stop her selfish behavior, who knows?

Connie takes over, effortlessly turning a 10-3 deficit into an 11-10 lead with mammoth vertical leaps and a smash that even the guys doubt they could return. Neither Ayano or Izumi can do anything. It’s Serigaya Kaoruko all over again.

Only…it’s actually worse than Kaoruko. “Connie C” Is Connie Christensen, a Danish prodigy who has already won the world championship in her age group. In every physical measure pertinent to badminton, she’s Ayano’s superior, and wants to make it clear she’s superior in every other aspect of the game as well. Tachibana knows her, and doubts Ayano will be able to hang.

Connie is also the blonde girl in the magazine article in which Ayano learned her mother had basically replaced her as daughter, which makes this even more fucked up. Connie even ties back her hair the same way as Ayano’s mother, adding insult to injury.

Apparently not satisfied with everything she’s already taken from Ayano, Connie now seems to want to crush Ayano’s spirit, such that even being in a fun high school team won’t give her joy or relief. That said, she relied on an awful lot of coincidences to end up in the match. Among them:

  • She knew Ayano had joined the badminton club, even when Ayano herself wasn’t sure until very recently;
  • Her school’s team ended up at the same facility as Ayano’s club;
  • Ayano ended up going out for water, and ended up meeting Connie first;
  • They ended up playing against each other.

Coincidences aside, one has to wonder what Connie’s true motive is, and why she is so intent on psychologically crippling a stranger. I mean, isn’t the fact that Ayano’s mom abandoned Ayano for Connie enough proof for Connie that’s she’s better? Did she really travel all the way to Japan just to beat someone who had already ‘lost” to her? Apparently! And that makes Connie a garbage person…until further notice.

Tokyo Ghoul:re – 10 – The Things We’re Taking are Lives

Eto confronts Kanae and proceeds to read them like the open book they are. She seems intent on changing Kanae’s fruitless course to make Shuu love them. Eto offers them an apple, or “fruit of knowledge”, in the form of one of her “bones.”

This will likely make Kanae more powerful and thus capable of taking away that “something precious” from Shuu—namely Sasaki Haise—in order to take their place as Shuu’s “precious person.” It’s also sure to come at a heavy cost: Kanae’s remaining humanity, sanity, et cetera. Like Rize and Ken, the deal seems a bit…Faustian.

We also learn the core of Shirazu’s hesitance to use Nutcracker. The final words of the first ghoul he killed echoed what his sister said, once what had been a mole under her eye turned into a life-changing growth: “I want to be pretty.” He’s in CCG and the Quinx Squad only to make enough money for her considerable care.

Fura comes upon him, and relays to him the commonality of investigators having trouble with quinques from their first kills. He says it’s perfectly normal, and even healthy, as someone who felt nothing for taking another life is probably not a great way to start one’s CCG career.

As we’ve seen, the opinions on morality vis-a-vis ghouls within the organization run the gamut from “ghouls are people” to “ghouls are targets to be eliminated.” Shirazu would seem to be oriented more towards the former; S1 investigators Ui and Ihei the latter.

As Haise deals with his worsening identity crisis, he continues to do his job, wanting both himself and Quinx to be useful to S1 in the operation to take down Rose. To that end, Ui allows him and Quinx to don the masks Uta made them (or in Haise’s case, made for Ken) and mingle with the ghouls for intel.

They learn that all the ghouls on the street are uneasy, guarded, distrustful of newcomers, and in Haise’s case, deathly afraid of his mask, which is that of the “Eyepatch Ghoul.” He learns the name “Kotarou Amon”, then meets with Shuu, wanting to learn more about Kaneki Ken so that he can accept him.

But despite having been restored to health by Haise, Shuu has no idea what to tell him about Ken, and ends up running away. Besides, his hands are full; his servant Yuma is still being held by Kijima. In a sickeningly brutal scene that shows where on the spectrum Kijima falls, he executes an already brutally tortured Yuma.

As Ui receives permission from CCG Chairman Washu to implement the Tsukiyama Family Eradication plan (with S2 head Washu breathing down his neck), Haise searches the archives for more info on Kotarou Amon and the Eyepatch Ghoul, fearing that in reality he was the latter and murdered the former. Akira draws him into a hug, comforting him without confirming any of his (correct) assumptions.

That night, Shuu’s Papa Mirumo gives him a cup of coffee, which makes him pass out instantly. The Doves surround the mansion, and Mirumo greets them in the grand foyer, claiming he does not intend to fight or resist, but only asks that he and his family be left alone and allowed to live out their lives as people, as they have done. Ui isn’t having it.

When Shuu wakes up, his world has been inverted. He’s in a car, being driven by Matsumae at top speed away from the mansion, where Papa and all the other servants are making a stand for Shuu’s sake. Shuu wants to go back; Matsumae won’t comply. It’s imperative Shuu survive.

They arrive at the headquarters of one of the Tsukiyama Group’s many subsidiaries, where an army of Ghouls loyal to Shuu’s Papa stand ready to fight to the last man to keep him safe. All Shuu can do is admire the greatness that inspired such loyalty, greatness he likely doubts he himself possesses.

The three Tsukiyama veterans in charge of the defense get prepare for what may be their final night alive, as a smug-as-hell Ihei orders the commencement of the extermination operation.

As the aggressors in this latest conflict, led by those who made the decision long ago that Ghouls are not to be empathized with or shown mercy, the Doves definitely felt like the Bad Guys this week—which means Haise and our Quinx Squad are fighting on the wrong side.