SSSS.Dynazenon – 09 – Teamwork Makes the BEAM Work

This week’s Dynazenon has a little bit of everything, which is only fitting because it’s about the merits of simply jumbling everything together. It begins with a much-anticipated laser focus on Chise, who has a surreal dream that perfectly visualized how she felt when she attended school—she was off, lost in her gorgeous, intricate doodles.

She wakes up in her cavernous, modern bedroom as an Alice stand-in, finding all of her possessions are either far bigger or far smaller than they should be. Turns out that’s the handiwork of a little golden kaiju born from the growth she found and carried with her all this time. Because the kaiju has imprinted upon her and has come to know her heart, it obeys her wishes. She names it Goldburn, after a band.

There’s a fireworks festival soon, and while neither Yomogi or any of his friends are that interested, Yume wants to give it a go, so Yomogi is in too. Chise is trying to tell Koyomi about the “hypothetical” good kaiju in her suitcase, but he’s distracted by Yomogi’s call inviting them to join them. When Chise then tries Gauma, he’s firm in his belief all kaiju must be defeated.

As she wavers over what to do, her friend suddenly grows in size, scooping her up and taking her on a ride through the skies over the city. It’s fun until it suddenly isn’t—when Chise spots her school. Goldburn almost obeys the momentary emotions in her heart wishing the school wouldn’t exist, but she’s able to steer Goldburn out of a potentially destructive dive.

Yume is walking home with her friend, who is curious whether she and Yomogi are dating, when Yomogi calls her back to school, reporting that Kano’s ex-boyfriend Futaba has arrived to talk to them. If Yume was hoping for some kind of groundbreaking revelation from him, then she’s bitterly disappointed by the resulting talk.

Futaba claims that while he heard about Kano being bullied in the chorus club, he never witnessed it first hand. When Yume asks then why Kano committed suicide, Futaba repeats the official line that it was merely an accident, and that “Kano wasn’t like that”, offering no further explanation. His answers not only don’t impress Yume, they downright upset her.

But just when she is overcome by emotion, they get a call from Gauma about a new kaiju, and she clams up for a moment to assure Yomogi that she’s fine, they should go, and she’ll be right behind him. Meanwhile, Chise is considering what to do with her enormous friend when Goldburn suddenly flies off on his own.

Yomogi arrives to find Gauma, Koyomi, and Gridknight in dire need of someone with wings to lift them off the suddenly soft and undulating ground (due to Juuga’s kaiju’s power) Yomogi ain’t that. When he tells Gauma what went down with Yume, the captain orders him to go back and get Yume, you jackass, because you’re the only one who can bring her back.

With Goldburn off on his own, a lonely, left-out looking Chise locates Yume perched atop the tower where her sister died. When Chise asks what’s wrong, Yume tosses out her boilerplate “it has nothing to do with you”, adding that “nothing good” comes of it whenever she fights. But Chise has tried to fight hard alongside everyone all this time, so she does not want to hear that it’s nothing to do with her.

Right on cue, Goldburn arrives, but of course both Yume and a quickly approaching Yomogi assume its foe, not friend, and Chise doesn’t have time to properly explain, because Yomogi is coming in hot to save Yume. Chise asks Yume who else would fly in to save her like this, and tells her she “doesn’t know what she’s got.”

But the wind from Dyna Soldier blows Yume’s ankh puzzle out of her hand and over the edge, and she dives off the tower after it with no regard for her safety. Yomogi lunges toward her to catch her in midair, but just misses. Fortunately, Goldburn is listening to Chise’s heart in this moment, and pluck Yume up by her cardigan mere feet from the water.

Chise, Yume, and Yomogi arrive at the scene of the battle where Gauma, Koyomi, and Gridknight are getting their asses beat by Juuga’s kaiju. Fortunately, with the aid of flight, a lot of the enemy’s advantage is lost.

More to the point, the minute Gauma, Yomogi, Yume, Koyomi, Chise, and Gridknight decide to all join forces into one big, beautiful kaiju-mecha melange, it spelled the beginning of the end for the Eugenicists’ chances of victory.

In an absolutely bonkers, virtuoso combination sequence paired with the most lavishly bombastic orchestral accompanied yet, Dynazenon merges with both Gridknight and Goldburn to create a big, brash, bulky and beautiful Super Dragon King Kaiser Gridknight, which is a mouthful of name for a framefull of robot. He’s even got a sheer purple cape, the better to dazzle the stage.

There’s nothing Juuga can do once all of his adversaries got “all lumped up”, which makes them stronger and faster and able to counter any attack thrown its way with tenfold force. After doing a little parkour off flying skyscrapers, Yomogi’s Dynamic Cannon delivers the beam-de-grace, and the team victory is immediately celebrated by the fireworks display amazingly not cancelled by the kaiju attack.

The ending scene is the perfect cool-down sequence after all that high-octane mecha madness. Much to Chise’s delight, Gauma accepts Goldburn as an ally despite being a kaiju, and while the whole team—including Gridknight and Second—make a run for it, they still miss the entirety of the festival. No matter; they all buy fireworks and have their own festival on the waterfront.

Yume takes her leave, promising she’ll be back, but I already knew exactly what she was up to, so there was no need to be wary. Sure enough, she returns resplendent in her gorgeous yukata, which understandably took a while to put on, but was worth it. While she plumbed the depths of despair after interviewing Futaba, here Yume rises to new heights of joy as she and Yomogi and everyone else enjoy each other’s company, all lumped together, and all the better for it.

The Saint’s Magic Power is Omnipotent – 07 – All About Aira

SMPO pulled off a clever trick: By having Sei’s story monopolize the first six episodes, we became wholly invested in her happiness, her growth, and her success as the true Saint. Prince Kyle and Misono Aira were always off-camera, and so neither of them really had a chance against someone as charming as Sei—not to mention her seiyu Ishikawa Yui.

But while we were always pretty sure Prince Kyle was a big ol’ asshole for picking Aira and spurning Sei, there was always a lingering feeling that there was more to the story, and in any case Aira was as innocent as Sei in this whole business, having also been summoned there against her will.

The show finally rights a wrong by explicitly placing Aira front an center in her own episode, which is bookended by an instance of Aira encountering Sei in a hallway, who is too preoccupied talking to Liz to notice her. But Aira notices her, and you can’t help but feel a yearning in her; a desire to reach out and know this person.

But first, Aira’s beginning. The daughter of two busy parents, she’s about to head out for a solo dinner when she’s summoned to Salutania and quickly whisked away by Prince Kyle. Her visceral shock over the sudden change of world is beautiful and heartbreaking in its presentation

When she’s told there’s never been an instance of a Saint returning to her home world, she finally breaks down. Here’s where we learn Prince Kyle isn’t a complete shithead, as he displays genuine remorse over putting Aira in such a position. That said, he is convinced the survival of his kingdom and his people will depend on her.

Like Sei, Aira is cast into a den of maids who present her with a variety of dresses to try. Just as her parents did for their family portrait, a “cutesy” pink dress is chosen for her, rather than her being vocal about wanting the more subdued color.

When Kyle sees that Aira still can’t quite believe any of this is real, he springs her from the palace to walk among the masses in the capital. This raises her spirits, and is also when she sees that Prince Kyle is not altogether beloved by his people.

While on a balcony overlooking a gorgeous view of Salutania, Kyle’s friend anf advisor Damian confirms what Aira had suspected: to uphold the Kingdom’s peace, they must be “strict” with its people, even if it doesn’t endear them to said people. Kyle also vows to do whatever he can to find a way to send Aira home once the threat has passed.

Aira tells the “self-centered, awkward…and direct to a fault” prince that she’ll do her best. Shortly thereafter, he presents her with a wand, a robe, and all the other supplies she’ll need to attend the magic academy. There, we see she begins to thrive, all while enjoying the company of spoken-for lads.

Due to her forwardness with said lads, Aira is shunned, resented, and ostracized by the other women, who are in the margin of every shot in her training montage, visually expressing their disapproval. this whole time, I wished Sei would enroll at the academy and give poor Aira a damned hug.

There’s no more heartbreaking, lonely scene than when Aira and a classmate end up sheltering from the rain beside each other. The other girl seems receptive to talking, but before Aira can get a word out, two more girls show up and offer the girl an umbrella, completely ignoring Aira.

Thankfully, Damian shows up with an umbrella, distressed by how soaked Aira is, only for Aira to demonstrate her extremely precise magic by gathering nearly all of the rain that was on her skin and clothes into a single orb suspended over her finger.

But while watching it unfold makes Aira a much more sympathetic figure, I could have imagined this was the life Aira had been living while Sei enjoyed a comparatively easier road. The real twist of the episode concerns Prince Kyle’s decision, in light of rumors Sei is the true Saint, to accept his mistake as having been born of his stubborn pride.

Kyle took Aira’s home away from her, so he feels it is his duty to find her a new home. If it’s inevitable that Sei will supplant Aira as the Saint, he plans to continue playing the role of “incompetent, stubborn crown prince”, hoping the court will take pity on her. He’s proves he’s not just playing lip service; he truly cares about Aira and doesn’t want her to suffer because of his fuck-up.

Not every woman hates Aira’s guts, of course. That one girl in the rain would have likely talked to and even befriended her had those other girls not shown up. Likewise, Elizabeth is ready and willing to become friends with Aira, only for Kyle to step between them and forbid it, saying he alone will look after her.

It’s another misstep for Kyle, who is being overprotective in this case. He may think his fiancee is jealous of Aira, but we know that Liz isn’t that kind of perosn. One would hope the crown prince would get to know his future queen a bit better!

As for Sei, she and Aira still haven’t so much as uttered a single word to each other, nor has Sei even looked directly at Aira since the two were summoned. That remains hugely frustrating, especially when I think of how much tension could be released by their meeting and sharing of experiences. There’s no good reason for them to be on opposite sides of anything. Hopefully this wrong is righted soon!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 15 – Leaving the Nest

Nino insists Fuutarou take a shower to thoroughly wash off the river, but mostly wanted someone to talk to and break the monotony of her solitary hotel life…plus she felt bad that he looked so depressed! She gets Fuutarou to tell the full story of his encounter with Kyoto Mystery Girl…which lasted far longer than I had originally thought!

Sleep-deprived or not, there’s virtually no way “Rena” was a hallucination, yet remains an baffling enigma. She asks him to tell her about the students he’s tutoring as if she’s not one of them, but then why does she not only look just like one of them, but blushes when he describes them one by one with perfect accuracy?

Rena tells Fuutarou he seems like someone who is “needed” now, and takes her leave, returning his student ID but keeping the photo of them, because, as she says, “they’ll never meet again.” She tosses him a rolled fortune and tells him to open it when he’s learned to “accept” himself. When he tries to follow her, he falls out of the boat and into the river.

The story moves Nino to tears, and she assures him “at least one person on this planet” would fall for an “insensitive guy” like him. Right on cue, she notices he’s wearing nothing but a tiny towel and is scandalized…yet can’t help peer through her fingers! Fuu learns she taped his study packet back together and has been working on it.

She apologizes to Fuu for her behavior, but won’t go home and make up with Itsuki, who had never slapped her before. Itsuki, meanwhile, has become way too comfortable at the Uesugi residence for Fuu’s taste. The next day, Fuu shows up at Nino’s hotel again, and she tells him about how she feels like her four sisters flew away from their nest, leaving only her behind—it’s why she keeps her hair the same length it was five years ago.

Fuu tells Nino that you can’t change how people change, but have to accept that change and whatever it brings. One part of Nino’s past she isn’t ready to forget is her brief time with Fuu’s cousin “Kintarou,” so she changes gears by having Fuu arrange for them to meet again.

A classic sitcom scenario then plays out, with Fuu having to spend the day with Nino as Kintarou and answering her phone calls for advice about his “cousin”. He slips up more than once, calling Nino by her first name, letting slip he knows she’s a good cook, then finally telling her he doesn’t care about their exams, but just wants the five of them back together.

Nino doesn’t ever let on that she knows Kintarou is Fuu in disguise until he’s ready to confess. She claims to Fuu at the first-floor café that she thinks Kintarou was about to ask her out. She then holds out her hand to give him a handshake of gratitude, only to pull up his sleeve to reveal the bracelet she just returned to Kintarou.

Whether Nino thinks the previous Kintarou she met was the real one, or she knew Fuu was Kintarou all along isn’t 100% clear, but what is clear as day is her expression of hurt and disappointment, which is the last thing Fuu sees before succumbing to the drug she slipped in his iced coffee. While it was played for laughs when she drugged him in the first season, it hits different here, especially after the heart-to-hearts they’ve had since then.

It’s an abrupt end to the Nino storyline, as she ends up checking out of the hotel, leaving Fuu in the lurch. I do wish he had had the chance to make clear there never was any Kintarou and properly ask for forgiveness, but Nino seems to have made her own ruling on the matter, and so we move on to the other sisters.

After forcing Itsuki to wake up on time (she forgets where she is and thinks Nino is trying waking her), the two of them try to get a bead on Yotsuba’s situation with the track team. Her coach doesn’t care about exams, and is willing to use Yotsuba as long as she lets herself be used…which is always.

Fuu has to resort to running with Yotsuba while quizzing her, ultimately resulting in him tripping over his own feat and into Yotsuba’s caring arms. She uses that as an excuse to get him to stop running. Then we learn Ichika also wants to help her little sister, even going so far as to brush her teeth like she used to do when they were little.

Ichika makes it clear that as the eldest, she wants to be there for Yotsuba and the others, and furthermore, tells Yotsuba it’s okay to quit if she wants. Yotsuba seems to want to quit, but doesn’t think she can, because it would mean causing trouble for the team.

Little does Yotsuba know that Ichika has been on the phone with Fuu and Itsuki throughout their conversation. She tells them she’ll be meeting with the track coach tomorrow. Hopefully the three of them working together can help “free” Yotsuba from a prison of obligation.

As for Miku, she arrives at Nino’s new hotel, having worn Nino’s spare butterfly ribbons to pass as her sister. Fuu had his change to try to bring Nino back into the fold and only got her angry by pretending to be someone he wasn’t. Now it’s time for Miku to have a go!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Episode Three Quintuplet Ranking:

  1. Nino: Not much of a contest here. Nino totally ruled the roost this week. We got Caring Nino, Sensitive Nino, Real-Talk-with-Fuu Nino, Crushing-on-Kintarou Nino, and, most controversially, the return of Criminal Nino. Don’t drug people! Total Points: 14 (1st)
  2. Itsuki: Total Points: 12 (2nd) Not as much screentime as last week, but it’s clear she’s become a capable, productive surrogate member of the Uesugi family, yet is also capable of faces like this upon waking up:
  3. Yotsuba: Nice to see number four again! Unfortunately, she’s pretty one-note, with her usual conflict of trying to please too many people. Total Points: 6 (Tied for 4th)
  4. Ichika: That was the most, uh, interesting toothbrushing scene since Nisemonogatari. Glad to see Ichika actively trying to help Yotsuba rather than continuing to float above everything. Total Points: 7 (3rd)
  5. Miku: Yout can’t score points if you don’t show up! Total Points: 6 (Tied for 4th)

Rena (Unranked): The show wants me to think she’s a sixth and separate person, but I still don’t know what to think. I was intrigued by the fact Nino is the only quint to retain her original hair length from five years ago. Could Rena be Nino in disguise, getting back at Fuu for his Kintarou deception? To be continued…

Warlords of Sigrdrifa – 12 (Fin) – Sending Odin to Bed Without Supper

Looking our live Big Board, Assault Lily narrowly beats Sigrdrifa as the higher-rated of the two Top Cute Girls Doing Military Stuff shows I watched this Winter. Both shows had their flaws, and while combining the best bits of both into one show would result in a superior product, I won’t pretend either was groundbreaking or life-changing.

That said, Siggy has always been more interesting and consistent than Lily with its character work, and it also happens to deliver a more satisfying and beautifully animated finale. Our four Valkyries have never been closer or more comfortable in their own skins and cockpits, and once their sights were set on victory, their dad Odin never had a chance.

Odin’s heel turn was sudden, but actually made sense when you consider he was declaring war on a world that had forgotten him and everyone he ever loved. Odin gets the second Ragnarök he wanted, but he ends up on the losing side. Claudia may remember the words to the song of Valhalla, but she doesn’t sing it for him, or for the past.

She sings it for her friends and for herself, and this week we hear a new arrangement of the song with full orchestration that makes for some absolutely kick-ass final boss music, in addition to Claudy’s singing ending the interference and revealing the location of the Pillar’s core. She destroys Odin’s illusory ideal of the attentive daughter who will stay by his side forever.

Odin is lonely and miserable in this post-mythology era, and it’s no coincidence he’s taken the form of a small child. Letting his grief pour into the human world and wreak destruction is pure petulance; a divine temper tantrum from a petulant kid in desperate need of a time-out.

In one of the best-animated scenes of the series, Azuzu is the first to crash into his god cave. He’s able to overpower her and knock her gun out of her hand, but it was never the plan for him to shoot him, only to distract him until “her hero” Miyako arrived to cleave the Pillar’s core in two with her katana. This is after Miko had already splashed Thor with her Ultra Hero Cannon. She was busy this week!

With the core—sorry, the Vandrande destroyed, the Pillar disappears, giving the Takayama command crew an unmarred view of Fujiyama for the first time in a long while. Moe and Kurumi tow Sono (who awesomely jettisoned her floats to destroy a Dark Valkyrie), Azuzu gives Miko a lift in her Wing, and Claudia joins them in a loose formation as they head home victorious.

The battle wasn’t without cost, as the Shield Squadron sacrificed themselves to ensure Miko could take out Thor. The four Valks pay their respects after the eager younger Shield Squadron successors vow to carry on their legacy for being loud, somewhat inappropriate bros. Moe and Kurumi are subjected to Satomi’s toenail clipping (it’s been a while!) and then get an official tour from their four Valkyrie senpais.

The six young women then take flight once more, dedicated to taking out the last secondary and tertiary Pillars that still threaten humanity, but armed with the knowledge that they’ve prevailed over the worst of it. All’s well that ends well in a well-executed, action-packed, and thoroughly satisfying finale.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

TONIKAWA: Over the Moon For You – 05 – Any Old Ring Will Do

Tsukasa and Nasa’s marital bliss is suddenly, sharply interrupted by Tsukasa’s realization that Nasa doesn’t own a television. On one level, that’s quite admirable for a studious young man; on the other, if he’s going to be married to Tsukasa, there’s going to have to be a TV in the house, because she’s a TV and movie buff, with particular enthusiasm for the oeuvre of one James Cameron. But like her futon, she doesn’t need the best; a god cheap TV will do just fine.

While waiting for Tsukasa at the baths, Nasa tells Kaname that he proposed, though they don’t have rings yet. Kaname stops Nasa before he spews one of the three main husband clichés she so wonderfully proceeds to recite: that their wife doesn’t care about fancy trips, going out for fancy food, or fancy jewelry. Yet when Tsukasa emerges fresh from the bath, both she and Nasa exchange looks that suggest rings really aren’t necessary.

Nasa has to go in to work, which means leaving Tsukasa alone for the day. He feels bad about this, and can sense that she’s feeling a little lonely when they stop to sit on a lakeside bench in the park. That’s when the two both lean in for a long, sweet kiss—just as Chitose’s maids are ready to pounce on them anew. Where this scene kicks so much ass is that the kiss isn’t interrupted at the last second, and the maids don’t interfere. In fact, they aren’t seen again!

Instead, the balance of the episode centers on Nasa’s insistence he procure not one or two but three rings—an engagement ring for Tsukasa and wedding bands for the two of them—to serve as reminders of one another and symbols of their enduring love. The ever-practical Tsukasa only sees it as a waste of money…but just how much money remains unknown to Nasa.

She takes him to the fanciest jewelry store in a fancy district to try to dissuade him from his crusade, but Nasa harbors the foolish belief the brilliance and cost of the diamond must be proportional to the amount of love he feels for Tsukasa. The attendant’s sales pitch is so strong he almost liquidates all his assets. Worse still, when Tsukasa takes him to a budget jewelry store, he starts to think ¥680,000 is “cheap”—which I guess it is, after seeing ¥9,000,000 rings!

When Tsukasa discovers that Tsukasa is doing this far for her, so she won’t be lonely, she kisses him and tells him, essentially, that if they absolutely must have diamond wedding rings, the cheapest ones will do. They settle on a pair costing a total of ¥32,000—which is still a lot of money for “little rocks!”

But Nasa need not despair that the rings aren’t worthy of symbolizing their love. Tsukasa tells him every time she’ll look at her new ring she’ll remember the day he bought it for her, how kind he is, and how much he takes care of her, and those thoughts will make give the ring a surpassing shine that won’t fade. Nasa never had to buy the moon for Tsukasa. It’s the thought—and his love—that counts!

Fruits Basket – 49 – Wishing for Change

When Kakeru brings up ranger colors, Yuki surprises Machi by asking her what her favorite color is. No one has ever asked her that, and she doesn’t know anyway. She gets up to leave when Miki organizes a lunch meetup, but Yuki doesn’t let her slip away wordlessly, giving the cell phone-less Machi a written note of the time and place of the lunch.

Nobody ever paid any attention to Kuragi Machi. She passes through people and places as if she is invisible. She has no favorite color or preferred restaurant. She calls herself dull, a void, and a defective doll. Her apartment is a mess, because why bother keeping it clean if no one ever visits? She’s watched Yuki and how he’s changed, but can’t see if or how she can do the same.

Still, she took the simple maple leaf Yuki gave her and made it into a lovely bookmark, and possibly also a talisman; a reminder that change is not just possible, but necessary. Just as she’s wondering if her existence is necessary, Yuki answers that question by flagging her down; in her half-asleep stupor she happened to end up at the meeting spot for an even she had no intention of attending.

I’d been hoping for more Machi material, and this week we get lots. Despite her claims of dullness I find her a fascinating example of a non-Souma with Souma-like baggage, and thus an intriguing potential partner for Yuki, whom we’ve learned never had particularly romantic feelings for Tooru. Her problems are also an opportunity for Yuki to pay forward the progress he himself has made.

New Year’s is here, and there too are changes from last year. Yuki will be attending in addition to Shigure, so Tooru and Kyou will spend the holiday at Kazuma’s house, where Tooru is perhaps overly excited to learn that Isuzu is staying as well as she continues her recovery. Unfortunately Rin isn’t in the mood for Tooru’s exuberance.

Considering the line they independently drew between themselves, I’m not surprised Tooru and Kyou are fine with not spending New Years alone together—even though that delays the inevitable. That said, it’s still a hoot to watch them interact, with Tooru playfully hitting of Kyou with the pompom of her new scarf easily making the list of Top 10 Most Adorable Things Tooru Has Ever Done.

Meanwhile the banquet appears to be going off without a hitch. After Hatori performs a dance we sadly don’t get to see and Ayame entertains the others with his magnetic personality, Akito and Yuki seem on the cusp of a détente, with Akito deigning to forgive Yuki his past insolence now that he’s here.

But Yuki, as bold in front of Akito as we’ve ever seen him, deigns to forgive him as well, then goes on about how he’s done blaming others for his problems, and has resolved to be more aware of his flaws and areas in his life which he can improve. Yuki is essentially talking about change, which is anathema eternal Zodiac god like Akito.

Akito likes Yuki the way he is—or rather the way he thinks he is, which is in reality no longer the way he was. Yuki isn’t back because he was cowed or came to his senses or is admitting he was wrong; he’s back as a simple courtesy, which must feel patronizing to Akito. So Akito breaks a ceramic pot across Yuki’s face, and just like that, Yuki’s past and future absences from the banquet are handily justified.

It’s not a severe laceration—just a small cut on the scalp—but if anyone from Prince Yuki had seen their beloved Yuki’s beautiful face thus marred I’m not certain Akito would have made it out of the room in one piece! To Yuki, it was probably worth it to say something to Akito that in a perfect world all Zodiacs would be able to say to Akito: It is YOU who is a useless piece of shit who should just disappear. Mind you Yuki doesn’t actually say this; but it’s implied!

When Hatori cleans up the cut, Yuki also makes sure to apologize to him for blaming him for erasing the memories of his childhood friends. He now knows better, and that Hatori too was young and had to obey Akito. Hatori tells him, quite rightly, that there’s nothing to apologize for.

Tooru and Kyou actually end up alone together anyway, as Kazuma steps out and Rin has an early night. Hatsu stops by, but to be with Rin. Explaining Shisho’s mention of Kyou and Rin’s propensity to stare each other down as kids, Kyou tells Tooru that he felt like he stole Shisho from him, and so came to not like her.

As for Tooru’s New Year’s wish (which Kyou asks her for before he tells her his), while last year she wished for Kyou and Yuki to get along (and by their standards, they pretty much do now) this year her wish is arguably more ambitious: for the curse to be broken and happiness to come.

Against a Zodiac system that has endured for centuries without change, Tooru is wishing for change…for revolution. And by golly, if anyone can move the gods in the heavens to grant that wish, it’s Tooru. If they don’t, they can expect no quarter in the scarf pompom-thrashing to come!

Want to read more about episode 49? Check out Crow’s review here!

Fruits Basket – 48 – Love is In the Air…and On the Stage

Just like that, it’s the day of the festival and the class play, totally reworked into something “Cinderella-ish”. After Kisa and Hiro arrive to join Momiji and Haruhatsu in the crowd, the first two-thirds of the episode is given over to the play…and it’s wonderful.

The scriptwriter did a masterful job rewriting the script to complement the cast, from making Tooru kind and meek stepsister to letting Saki just be “Sakirella”, regarded by the crowd as “sassy” and “a boss”. The crowd favorite is Yuki, who is resplendent as the Fairy Godmother—Ayame and Mine knocked it out of the park with the costumes.

By the time the big ball scene arrives, Saki is far more interested in Yakiniku than dancing with the prince (her first wish was to burn the castle down, but she settled for Yuki making her dresses for her stepsister and mother). As for Prince Kyou, the actor’s general reluctance to participate is used in the story, making the prince reluctant to find a princess despite his fellow prince (Arisa) helping him out.

Midnight comes, and Black Cinderella must flee, leaving a glass slipper behind and wishing she’d eaten more. At Arisa’s urging, Kyou visits every house in the kingdom until she comes to Cinderella’s house. Saki asks if he’s there to marry her sister (Tooru), which causes Kyou to explode. This works in the context of the play, but is another among many instances of reality seeping into the play.

When Saki launches into a dark monologue about the prince continuing to deceive himself and lock himself away in the castle forever, Tooru is compelled to speak out of turn, yelling “I don’t want….!” Of course, it’s not just her character who doesn’t want the prince to be lonely. This is Tooru expressing her objection to Kyou being locked away by Akito just for being the Cat…as well as her objection to Kyou being okay with it. Their dialogue’s close proximity to their real-life situation isn’t lost on either Tooru or Kyou.

After a deliciously feminist ending to the play (Cinderella doesn’t marry anyone and opens a yakiniku business with Tooru), the play is over, and Kyou couldn’t be happier…only to find that his Shisho is there, but Saki is flirting with him hard, using her sweetest demeanor and most dignified diction while around him.

Tooru meets up with Kisa, Hiro, Haru and Momiji, the last of whom capture the play on his camcorder. Tooru is glad for this, because it means Kureno will get to watch the DVD of Arisa. However, when Hiro lashes out at Haru (despite his efforts not to lose his temper), Kisa gets the wrong impression that Hiro likes Rin (Isuzu).

Released from his acting duties, Yuki checks in on the StuCo and is placed on patrol duty by an angrier-than-usual Nao. He overhears Machi being hassled by members of his fan club for her comments about Yuki not being a prince. He’s about to intervene, but Kanabe wisely restrains him; this is something Machi needs to work out for herself.

Eventually she does speak up for herself, first offering a curt apology when it is demanded, then elaborating on her read on Yuki, which is not only far deeper than the fans’ shallow infatuation, but also resonates with Yuki a great deal. She alone can tell that despite being around so many people, Yuki seems lonely. She can tell because she’s lonely too. Yuki blushes in the way a man blushes over a woman.

Kyou ends up joining Tooru with the others, but before they do, they share a quiet moment with each other, with that scene in the play still vivid in both their memories. But right at the edge of acknowledging their mutual feelings for one another, the two withdraw, neither allowing themselves to think about “it.”

If this were a one or two-cour romance, I’d say they were spinning their wheels, but Fruits Basket will continue for at least an entire third season and I’ve heard it could even extend into a fourth. So it’s so far so good with these two with two episodes left in the second season. I also continue to be intrigued with the Yuki-Machi connection, though I do hope they get to actually interact more down the road.

Check out Crow’s thoughts on the episode here!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 16 – Light Side of the Rainbow

The Kinomotos and Yukito travel to a quaint country house for vacation, an intro that carries with it the potential for a competition between Sakura and her big brother for the silver-haired glutton’s attention—not to mention a Clow Card hunt. But CCS throws us a curveball: neither of those things happen. Sakura barely spends any time with Yukito or Touya.

Instead, while on a walk she meets a kindly old man who invites her to tea, and Sakura decides to pay him another visit the next day, with her dad’s permission. The old man shows her a room full of stuffed animals where his departed granddaughter used to stay, and where she once painted a rainbow from her veranda. Sakura really takes a shine to the lonely old man, and vice-versa.

The next thing you know, she’s playing tennis with him in a tennis outfit he must have provided, then dresses her in his dead granddaughter’s favorite dress. With these visits CCS challenges its viewers not to let cynicism or negativity get the best of them, because there are definitely some moments that feel a bit, well, creepy—despite there being precisely zero evidence the old man has any sinister motives.

When it’s time for Sakura to go home, she bids the old man farewell, but not before asking him to go out onto the veranda. Using Rain, she replicates one of the rainbows he loves so much, and which his granddaughter painted for him. It’s a lovely, heartwarming, bittersweet means of saying goodbye.

We then learn that the old man’s granddaughter was Sakura’s mother Nadeshiko, which makes him her great-grandfather, thus explaining why her dad was okay with her spending so much time with him. It turns out Sonomi, another one of his grandchildren, was at the house the whole time, stealthily ensuring Gramps and Sakura were well-supplied with tea and sweets.

While a pleasant diversion from the weekly card hunt, this outing begs the question of why all the subterfuge—Why can’t Sakura’s great-grandfather (or her dad) just come out and tell her they’re family, even if she likely sensed it on some level? And why did Sonomi have to remain hidden the whole time?

Then again, considering Sakura’s dad had the Clow Card book in their basement, and she hasn’t told her family about her new calling, I guess secrets are kind of a family specialty!

Cardcaptor Sakura – 15 – A Little Time Apart

Fresh off the loss of the Storm card to Syaoran, tempers flare between Sakura and Kero-chan. Kero is irritated by Sakura’s “moronic” voice, while Sakura is outraged that Kero threw all the contents of her desk drawer on the floor to make a home for himself. Their bickering puts Sakura in such a lousy mood her footsteps shake the whole house and even the normally mocking Touya is cowed by her dark aura!

The two don’t leave things in a good place, so when Kero-chan opens a package containing alcoholic chocolate, he eats it all and checks out of the Kinomoto residence altogether, leaving Sakura wondering where her familiar went off to.

Kero ends up sleeping one off on a couch in an alley, and is found by a little girl named Akane. When he wakes up to find himself in her home, he quickly learns that her dad has passed and her mom is busy at work, so she’s usually home alone and lonely. Kero’s heart is too big to ditch her so he adopts her name for him—Chau—and keeps her company.

Since Kero is also the responsible and technologically savvy sort, he sendsa facsimile—that’s right kids, a FAX!—to Sakura letting her know he’s fine. Tomoyo quickly uses her hacker skillz to pinpoint Kero’s location based on the fax number, just as Akane learns Kero can fly and starts to float out her own window. At first it’s fun, but soon Kero realizes the Float card is causing Akane to fly to dangerous heights.

Thanks to Tomoyo Sakura is able to Fly to the vicinity and catches Kero just as he runs out of gas trying to catch the ascending Akane. Sakura seals Float, then uses Wood to grow a tree that cushions Akane’s fall. Akane then moves away with her mom, who switched jobs to spend more time with her, meaning she won’t be lonely anymore.

Kero returns to Sakura’s, where she prepared a neat little mini-apartment in her drawer, acknowledging his need for privacy. However, their reconciliation is curtailed when he breaks the cardboard bed she made for him and he questions the craftsmanship. But as the past day’s events proved, they’re much better working as a team than apart!

Kakushigoto – 03 – The Accidental Harem

I came into Kakushigoto hoping it would be a lightweight feel-good slice-of-life father/daughter comedy. Yet every time it jumps to a future where an 18-year-old Hime has apparently lost her father pushes it into striaght-up drama territory. Everything in the present and 10-year-old Hime exhibits a thin layer of wistfulness, lending even mundane or comedic scenes more emotional weight, like the shading of a manga frame.

This week only begins (and doesn’t end) with a time leap, so we can still ease into the present-day slice-of-lifeness. But we learn something definitively that I had been suspecting: the house at the top of the hill is the exact same plan as the one 10-year-old Hime lived in. Kakushi apparently had a copy of the house built to the exact specs of the older one…where perhaps he and his wife lived before Hime?

In Mangaland, Kakushi’s entire staff has injuries, a stroke of bad luck and coincidence, so his editor hires a substitute replacement. The regular assistants are impressed with his speed and efficiency, but Kakushi deems him “too efficient” for an assistant.

That confuses them at first—how could an assistant be too fast and efficient?—until they find that assistant published his first work. Once an assistant has reached a certain level of skill, there’s nothing stopping them from striking out on their own, without even mentioning how he worked for Kakushi for a few days or so!

As for the curious design of the house, Hime’s friends wonder out loud if Hime and her dad are poor (of course, one of them has an elevator and concierge in her house, so wealth is surely relative). Hime had never thought about finances before, but takes it upon herself to pinch every penny.

Kakushi comes home on a hot summer day to find the A/C suspiciously turned off and Hime pressing her body against the nice, cool floor. He proceeds to tell her he makes far more than the average salaryman, almost betaying that he’s not really a salaryman before recovering and saying he’s more like upper middle management. He also almost explains why the house looks the way it does, but stops himself.

Since Hime found not only clothes but age-appropriate cooking recipes in her 10-year-old box (her mom really went the extra mile), Kakushi allows Hime to cook with the housekeeper. Turns out the housekeeper is from Indonesia, and so puts an Indonesian flair on the recipe. This mirrors a situation at work where the studio is digitized and they receive a rainy day from a remote artist, only it’s an Indonesian day, not a Japanese one.

Hime’s school sports festival arrives, and Kakushi tries to get himself in shape should he have to do anything athletic. There’s a fun bit discussing the various muscle groups used while reading manga. Then he has trouble drawing a high school girl character aspiring to be an idol, only to come home and find a high school girl aspiring to be an idol in his house, the guest of her first-ever fan, Hime.

The girl, Senda Naru, is so surprised that an adult (and a man) is so eager to hear her story (because Kakushi needs material for his manga), that by the time they part ways she’s developed a bit of a thing for him. She won’t be the first!

As Kakushi openly expresses his worries about his daughter not having a mother around, he inadvertently compliments both his cooking teacher You and the local florist Kumi. When the clothier sells his salaryman disguise and he has to go out in public in white tie like a groom, he runs into Rokujou, who assumes he’s proposing and wigs out.

By the time the festival rolls around, Hime has an entire cheering section composed of her dad, and his rather sudden but diverse harem: You, Kumi, Rokujou (who turns into a demon when she sees Kakushi with the other women), and the aspiring idol Naru. Yet Hime is more bemused than appreciative; for all of Kakushi’s worries, Hime isn’t missing a mother in the slightest. If anything, she’d rather spend more time with just him!

The fact she’s so naturally mature about these things at ten years old (not to mention how quickly she learns how to clean and cook) makes be believe that despite having neither parent alive, 18-year-old Hime is going to be just fine. That means Kakushi did a great job, despite his insecurities … which makes the time leaps a little less sad.

Jibaku Shounen Hanako-kun – 08 – Turning Nothing into Something

As Steve Zissou said: “That was a goddamn tearjerker.” I had no idea that would happen. The opening minutes of Mitsuba Sousuke were horribly grating, with the ghost spewing endless random insults as Kou intermittently shocked him with his exorcist’s staff. But then we learn a little more about Mitsuba…and a little more. And before I knew it, I cared about this girly, cocky, moody guy.

And you know what? So did Kou. It’s almost as if Kou was my emotional surrogate in this episode: initially super-irritated with this ghost, but then extremely empathetic of his plight. Even Kou wasn’t prepared to hear that Sousuke was in his class and had introduced himself. Alas, worried about being bullied for being too much of one thing or not enough of another, Sousuke became neither…and was forgotten altogether.

Kou gradually warming up to Sousuke and vice versa has some lovely yaoi undertones, and it’s a testament to the writing, voice acting, and direction that such a close and meaningful bond is formed in such a short period of time. All Sousuke wanted was a friend, so Kou offers to be his first, encouraging Sousuke to simply be himself. It starts to feel like there could be something to Kou’s less adversarial approach to the family business.

And then Hanako’s dark twin Tsukasa ruins everything, plunging his arm through Mitsuba’s chest, and everything turns to shit. Just as Hanako-kun grants wishes to the living, Tsukasa does the same to the dead, and in befriending Sousuke, Kou inadvertently provided Tsukasa with the answer he needed to grant Kou’s wish, something he was duty-bound to do. To quote the Oracle: “We’re all here to do what we’re all here to do.”

With an assist from Sakura on the school radio, a new rumor is formed before Kou’s eyes, of the broken-necked kid in the entrance who reaches out and tries to befriend people. Sousuke adopts a Picasso-esque grosteque, Picasso-esque form and can no longer talk, but sheds a tear as he is forced to attack Kou. He comes within an inch of killing him when Hanako-kun intervenes. (Throughout this sequence I was practically yelling “Where the fuck is Hanako-kun??”)

Unfortunately, all Hanako can do is stop Sousuke from killing Kou. Before disappearing, Tsukasa twists the knife by telling Hanako “it was great” to be killed by him. A visibly shaken Hanako then gravely informs Kou that there’s no bringing Sousuke back. Dead is dead, and the living shouldn’t be too kind, because there’s no future for the dead. “Nothing new begins.” Their only salvation is “annihilation”. Kou can’t believe it. He doesn’t want to. He’s sure there’s more he could have done…can do.

When Kou repeats all of his insults at Sousuke before telling him he’s his friend, I thought for a moment that the kid would actually come back; Kou has supernatural powers, after all. But he doesn’t. He’s gone, and all that’s left his his camera and the photos he took, including a candid one of his friend Kou.

Late into the night Kou stays up, remembering the friend everyone else forgot, grieving for that friend but not disheartened in his belief exorcists like him can do a little more than nothing about The Way Things Are regarding life and death.

Nene didn’t utter a single line and all we see of her is from behind for a couple seconds, but it doesn’t matter. This was the best, most affecting, most devastatingly beautiful episode of Hanako-kun to date.

Somali and the Forest Spirit – 03 – When Their Journey is Over

It’s clear Golem has been made more human by having Somali around. Heck, he only got her near the very end of his millenium-long life, meaning he’s already been bestowed the limited mortality of a human. He’s been good at keeping her safe and her true identity hidden, but he still has a long way to go when it comes to maintaining her emotional welfare.

This is evidenced by the sudden speed and urgency of their journey, which leads to the gorgeous, fantastical Anthole City. Golem learns the meager loot he carries fetches only a modest price. To keep Somali fed and to gather the supplies needed to continue the journey, he needs more money.

He finds a source when Kokilila, the owner of a cafe, needs a waiter. Golem institutes a strict agreement with Somali: she’s to stay within the cafe, under his supervision, at all times while he’s working. Even with Kokilila’s son Kikila as a fluffy playmate, she gradually grows bored and restless (as does Kikila).

However, for Golem the need to make as much money as possible overrides Somali’s need for recreation stimulation. He knows it’s not ideal for her to be cooped up in the cafe all day, but as he doesn’t trust anyone else to watch her and isn’t certain others will be okay at all with the fact she’s a human, there’s no choice.

Even when Golem isn’t working, his tendency to count his earnings is not lost on Somali either, and absent any explanation for her dad’s haste, she begins to believe he wants to end their journey and part ways with her as soon as possible. Sure, it might well trouble her more to learn he’ll be dead in less than two years, but at least she’d know it wasn’t because he didn’t want her around.

Because that’s what she gleans from his behavior, when Golem finally allows her to join Kikila on a simple errand, Somali grasps onto the city legend about yozame flowers and their ability to grant a wish. That leads the two kids (and fast friends finally sprung from their cafe prison by their guardians) to the city’s majestic but perilous subterranean caverns.

Of course, the moment Somali left Golem’s supervision, a knot formed in my stomach. This early in the show I’m still not sure how far it will stray to the dark side and present situations in which Somali is in true peril (like, say, Abyss, which was merciless to its young characters). We get a slightly clearer picture here, as Somali’s innocent plucking of a flower awakens an toothed eyeball mushroom monster.

She is rescued from said monster not by Golem or Kikila—who let us just say truly failed in his mission to keep her safe—but by a big, gruff, crossbow-wielding wolf-man who may be able to tell she’s a human from her smell. He could even be a member of the clan that originally put her in chains before she got separated and found by Golem.

In any case, Somali is now in serious danger. I just hope Kikila can keep the wolf at bay until Golem can find them.

Carole & Tuesday – 01 (First Impressions) – Looking for What’s Missing Together

Tuesday is sick of feeling alone, unfulfilled, wasting away in her family’s massive manse in Herschel. She wants to make music, so she packs up her Gibson guitar and autonomous suitcase, slips out the window, and hops on the midnight train to Alba City.

It’s an elegant opening sequence that shows us everything we need to see without excessive exposition, and shows us the details of this intriguing future civilization on Mars, full of nifty tech and gleaming buildings, but also goats. There will always be goats.

The moment she wakes up and lays eyes on the city for the first time is also very well done. I was a little worried for Tuesday doing what Cyndi Lauper did and going for broke on a dream, but also immensely excited.

Meanwhile, in Alba, it’s hard for Carole to go for broke when she’s just flat-out broke. She at least has an awesome loft thanks to a kindly landlord, as well as a nifty uni-hoverboard to weave through the city churn to her awful fast food job where she’s berated and propositioned in equal measure.

Like Tuesday, we learn a lot about who Carole is not merely by listening to her monologue, but by watching her live. I also love her robotic pet/alarm clock owl, Ziggy, as well as her take-no-shit face upon being hit on by a rude customer.

Tuesday’s great first day in the big city goes about as well as you’d expect; her luggage is quickly swiped as she stands still taking everything in, just after Carole tells us that Alba is a city that will chew you up and spit you out if you don’t stop moving. Incidentally, after two customers spit out food Carole served up as a measure of revenge, the restaurant spits her out, and she’s suddenly jobless…and not for the first time.

As perky on camera as she’s surly off, Angela fires her human manager for booking her nothing but shit jobs like dressing up like a giant durian for a soda ad. She feels she’s above such bullshit, and like Tuesday is trying to take the next step.

After a shit day, Carole sets up her Nord keyboard on a bridge and starts tapping and humming out a pretty, sad, lonely little melody to complement the sunset, assured that no one will stop, listen, or be moved.

So it is most fortuitous that Tuesday finds herself on that bridge just as Carole is playing, and she stops, listens, and is moved. She even comes up with lyrics for it on the fly, which Carole likes.

When a cop shows up to break up her busking, Carole splits, and Tuesday follows. They introduce themselves, and perhaps a part of both of them know right then and there that their lives have been changed forever by their meeting.

As Tuesday’s emotionally distant workaholic mother delegates Tuesday’s running away to her son and gets back to whatever work she does that makes them so rich, Angela’s battleaxe of a mother and manager takes her to see Tao, a music producer who has only worked with AI “talent” until now. If Tuesday feels lonely and Carole feels trapped, Angela is straight-up bored, both with her career and her life. Tao’s warnings don’t deter her from persuing a singing career by any means necessary.

We’re then introduced to the first male character, a former music industry participant (performer? producer? both?) drinks himself into a stupor, asks for the music to be shut off, then promptly passes out on the floor.

At Carole’s super-cool crib, something magical happens. Tuesday whips out her guitar, and Carole her keys, and the slowly, tentatively start dipping their toes into the pool of musical collaboration.

It’s a wonderous thing to see unfold, and like Tuesday’s runaway scene, it’s a picture of narrative elegance and purpose. As they get more and more comfortable singing and playing together, they emit an aura of rising warmth. And they feel it too: this is what both of them were missing: each other.

Carole takes Tuesday to an utterly gorgeous city vista on the rooftop, where they make their first collab official by taking a selfie and posting it to an Instagram story called “Carole & Tuesday”, which is a great name for a musial duo. They’re going for it, and one more look at our drunken ex-music producer suggests that he’ll be instrumental in helping them climb out of obscurity and into the big time, just as Angela is entering a new chapter of her life in that same space.

In the first truly excellent episode of the Spring, Bones, Wantanabe Shinichiro, seiyus Ichinose Kana and Shimabukuro Miyuri, and the all-important Wantanabe anime element of richly-integrated music (which doesn’t skimp on the always-lovely diminished sevenths) all conspire to create a epic, heartfelt genesis of a friendship, partnership, and evolution of the lives of two young women who, as Cyndi said, Just Wanna Have Fun. And I am here for it!