Sakamoto desu ga? – 02

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First it was delayed by an earthquake and then my review was delayed by a visit from Bernie Sanders—but don’t get the wrong idea! Sakomoto desu ga?’s first episode was so brilliantly terrible that episode two was at the absolute top of my list.

And episode two does not disappoint! From Sakomoto talking to an empty birdhouse, to solving a bullying problem by getting himself and the bullied boy a job at “WcDonalds”, to the bullies from the first episode embarrassingly asking Sakomoto for a “smile to go” at the cash register, the first 5 minutes are packed with nonsensical nonsense. (and I’m loving it!)

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The second act is dedicated to Kuronuma Aina, who foreshadowed her intent to trap Sakomoto in a love trap last week. As you can guess, this doesn’t go well.

Step 1. Get into his personal space…fails because Sakomoto writes with both hands at the same time, which makes a barrier she can not break.

Step 2. Call him by his given name…fails because his given name is never visible and other girls claw at chalk boards to drown out his answer when Aina asked.

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Step 3. Intimate his actions…fails because Sakomoto makes a complicated pencil shaving holder out of cut paper so accurate no human could hope to copy.

Then Aina turns to an Ouija board-like Kokkuri-san game and fails immediately because Sakomoto is possessed by a fox spirit. Possessed, he demands a 6-foot arch be made, which Aina and the other girls do, and all becomes well again. All of the girls are friends and Sakomoto’s bizarre experiment is over.

Roll Credits!

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As with last week, I don’t know if Sakomoto is terrible, brilliant, or average. It’s dumb humor, produced so over the top I cannot help but chuckle. More importantly, the show is smart enough to keep building out from what it did last week and, even if it is still the same joke (Sakomoto is perfect) it’s so different and strange each time as to be new and refreshing.

Ultimately, It absolutely must be watched. if for no other reason than I need help processing how good or terrible it is.

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Noragami Aragoto – 09

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Because Yato is in a charitable mood and possibly harbors guilt for the things he did with her, he goes along with Hiiro’s idea to go into the underworld to rescue a conjurer, despite the fact he could very easily get trapped down there by it’s queen, Izanami. When that conjurer turns out to be Ebisu (who is absent for the latest colloquy, correctly suspected, and for whom an arrest warrant is issued), suddenly Yato’s personal dilemma is intertwined with the overarching threat of Ebisu.

For a supposed Big Bad, it’s surprising how casual Yato and Ebisu are when they meet. Perhaps it’s because Yato trusts a far more famous god, or because hasn’t always been the most scrupulous fellow himself (as his continued entanglement with Nora attests) but he doesn’t really protest Ebisu’s use of Masked Ones as “phantom regalias”. In fact, we get a lot of Ebisu’s silly, eccentric side, rather than any goofy evil face-twisting. It’s a nice change of pace; I like it.

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While Yato, Hiiro, and Ebisu tread deeper into the underworld, Hiyori is snagged by her high school friend into a triple date at Amagi Brilliant Park some Capybara-themed park. Notably, Tenjin stops Tomone (curious about where Yato went off to) from getting Hiyori’s attention in the street; it’s been established Tenjin wants Hiyori to stop hanging out with gods an regalias and live a normal living high school girl’s life.

Now it looks like that might be happening. We don’t know her friends that well, but their meeting up and pairing off at the park is very well done. It’s amusing to see the girl who arranged everything ended up pairing up with a different guy, leaving the handsome, well-spoken Fujisaki (who caught her from falling last week) to Hiyori, and the two have instant chemistry, courteously apologizing to each other for putting one another out.

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When Yato and Ebisu encounter Izanami, everything seems arranged to keep them by her side. She takes the form of people they care about—a very forward Hiyori, in Yato’s case—and she constantly offers food, drink, friendship; all of which will keep them stuck in the underworld as her “friend” forever. Hiiro actually does Yato a solid by protecting him from “Hiyori’s” kiss; let it be said that Yato and Hiiro really do make a good team; it’s just that being in that team puts serious strain on Yato’s newer relationships in the living world.

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Yukine, for his part, has very little to do this week, but he continues to train and become stronger in body and mind under Kazuma’s wing. Kazuma notes that Yukine is also trying to remain strong for Yato’s sake, even though he’s worried about him.

He should be, it would seem: when Izanami says she’ll only give them the brush if one of them stays behind, Ebisu picks Yato to stay with the logic that he’s the more famous god with a lot more at stake. Obviously, Yato takes exception to this—he has as much a right to exist as Ebisu, regardless of his past—so they fight.

But it all turns out to be an elaborate distraction. When Ebisu “beats” Yato by snatching Hiiro from him (she once served him as well, taking the form of a pistol), Izanami celebrates the fact Yato will be her friend. But then Ebisu uses his little masked phantom bat to snatch the brush, and he and Yato high-tail it together as Izanami fumes.

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As they flee, Yato thinks only of getting back to the near shore and to Yukine and Hiyori, whom he cares for so much. Surely this is the end of his dealings with Hiiro, right? He’ll pop back at an awkward time during the date and Hiyori will be embarassed but relieved and happy at the same time, right? Right?

Well…no. As the date progresses, Hiyori continually remembers someone who’s name and face she can’t place, and it starts to eat at her, until it’s clear to her date Fujisaki that something is very wrong. But Fujisaki reads her demeanor as something that can be remedied by taking her hand and kissing her in front of the hugely-romantic fireworks parade.

His instinct isn’t wrong, nor could he possibly be aware that by being kind and charming and comforting to Hiyori all but snaps the thread connecting her to Yato. Who was the one she wanted to take to the park so badly? Wait…she’s at the park with someone now. Does it matter? 

This is what Tenjin – and Hiiro – wanted. Will that kiss really work, or will Hiyori become even more troubled by her inability to remember? Will someone be able to jog her memory before it’s too late?

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Noragami Aragoto – 08

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As a fully committed Ebisu creates more masked ones, Yato continues to bask in the elation of finally having a real shrine to call his own, along with all the honors and privileges that come with it, from official registration to a plot of land and admittance to Takamagahara. He also wastes no time lavishing an excessive amount of attention on Hiyori, who probably didn’t realize when she made it how big a deal a little shrine could be for a god who had never had one.

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That importance is driven home when Hiyori encounters Manabu at school (the bullied kid who appeared in last season’s episode 8), but he only thanks her, he doesn’t remember anyone named Yato. Gods are created from the wishes of humans. No wishes, no gods. Meanwhile, Yukine takes advantage of his new resident status to look up Kazuma and beg him to help him become a better exemplar to Yato.

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Because as annoying as Yato has been, Yukine and Hiyori both are glad to see him so happy. He’s so happy, he doesn’t even know what to do, because as he says while drunk in a rare glimpse into his deep past, his “father” told him he’d never need a shrine. This is because Yato is a god of calamity. His clients would never be long-lasting, but due to human nature, there would always be clients for his kind of services.

With his blessed vessel and shrine and Hiyori, Yato wants to leave that past behind and hold tight to these new gifts, and even arranges to release Nora AKA Hiiro, believing he no longer needs her, and since she has many other masters, she doesn’t need him either. But Hiiro reminds Yato that he made her a Nora, then sics her phantom dogs on him to demonstrate how much he needs her to continue existing.

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From there, Nora pulls him off the wagon altogether and back into the life they used to lead, with her as the sharp sword of not-always-righteous retribution. Yato sinks back into the rut all too easily, like a drug he thought he kicked. Because as long as he’s fulfilling the dark assignments of the damned, he continues to exist. It was instilled in him long ago that he needed Nora for that.

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In this way, a full month passes during which neither Yukine nor Hiyori see or hear from Yato. Hiyori goes to Tenjin asking if he’s seen him, and Tenjin reiterates his concern that she’s gotten caught up in too much god stuff and needs to spend more time enjoying her adolescence. Almost on cue, as she’s worrying about whether Yato’s continued absense will cause her to eventually forget him, she trips on a flight of stairs and a strapping young lad catches her.

And as Ebisu recovers from a bad reaction to his latest masked creation and Bishamon and Okuninushi are apparently ambushed in a parking garage, Yato is off in some house with Nora, playing out the same old destructive patterns. Only thoughts of Hiyori bring him out of his complacent trance and he demands he be allowed to leave. The door opens, Nora appeals to their “father”, who gives them one more job before letting him go: rescuing a conjurer from the underworld.

Something tells me neither Nora nor this father figure are anyone Yato can trust, but at the same time, they were and continue to be a part of him, and his perceived obligation to them isn’t something easily cast aside, no matter how much progress he’s made reforming himself. Even for a god, old habits die hard.

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Ushio to Tora – 11

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Ushio to Tora takes yet another detour in Ushio’s journey to Hokkaido to find out more about her mother, but this was a very worthwhile one, checking in on Asako and Mayuko, who miss him. Asako misses him more, and is sighing all the time. All her girlfriends and Mayuko no why, though she won’t come out and admit it.

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Meanwhile, Ushio is back with the kamaitachi siblings, and happens to see an alarmed Asako crying out Mayuko’s name in a mirror formed by a still pond. When he tells Kagari and Raishin what he’s seen, they take him to a youkai who specializes in mirror portals so he can go rescue them. Before they’re in trouble, Mayuko gets Asako to kinda-sorta admit she misses Ushio, recalling the story of how Ushio rescued a handicraft project the two girls worked on from a wild dog and carried Asako home.

Asako, of course already remembers this memory well, having recently dreamed of it. Mayuko’s assertion is that Ushio will come back, just as he always does. I’ll just remark at how adorable Asako and Mayuko are, both in younger-kid flashback mode and wistful reminiscing mode.

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It’s not all peaches and cream though, as an deranged, woman-loving youkai emerges from Mayuko’s antique mirror and lunges at Asako. Mayuko puts her body in the way, and she gets glomped up. But it isn’t long before Ushio and Tora show up (thanks to another mirror, which is awfully darned convenient, but who cares!). Asako tags along on their journey into the mirror demon’s mirror world, and wrest a naked, passed-out Mayuko from his clutches, all in less time than it takes for water to come to a boil.

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Again, Asako finds herself being carried by a scratched up Ushio, realizing it’s him with the spear and long hair, as it was the last time in the belly of that giant youkai a few weeks back. Yet again, the girls are so woozy and disoriented, they seem to dismiss the events merely as strange dreams they had. That doesn’t mean those dreams were reflective of their real affection for Ushio and Tora; it just means that when the time comes for sleepover girl talk, they’re too embarrassed to mention their “dreams” to each other!

Overall, a very warm and cute episode that underscores how close these three characters are and makes it very clear why they care for each other so much. Even in an episode where the girls get saved by the guys once again, Mayuko showed her own heroic side by stepping between Asako and the youkai, while Asako showed guts by following Ushio into the mirror to save Mayuko. I was also just missing Asako and Mayuko, so this episode was just what I needed!

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Nagi no Asukara – 17

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Kaname returns (also naked like the Terminator), and through him we get a fresh look of what has changed and what hasn’t since he went into hibernation. His situation’s a little different from Hikari’s, in that his true love isn’t still somewhere under the sea; instead, his true love is now five years his senior and living with Tsumugu, the two acting like an domestic couple on the same wavelength, what with their well-practiced kitchen maneuvers.

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But like Hikari, he both pines and is pined for: Sayu enters the vortex of one-sided loves. Honestly, I’d forgotten she’d taken a liking to him, and remembered there was a surface girl who also liked him, but there’s no sign of her still being in town. But Kaname made his feelings plain for Chisaki, and lets her know that he—and those feelings—haven’t changed. The ball is in Chisaki’s court, though she has two other balls to juggle.

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Kaname’s return also makes things tricky for Miuna in her quest for Hikari’s heart. That Kaname returned has increased the chances that everyone else will wake up soon; Hikari’s beloved Manaka included. Tsumugu’s research is also adding fuel to that fire. With Manaka increasingly on Hikari’s mind, Miuna’s chances are as slender as ever.

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But when she overhears Hikari and Kaname having a chat by the pool their schoolmates maintained in their absesnse, she’s reminded she’s not alone in liking someone who likes someone else. Just as Kaname’s flame for Chisaki continues, so does Hikari’s for Manakas. Initially this deflates Miuna, but I think it inspires her to stay true to her feelings.

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Sayu is similarly deflated. After Kaname left, she vowed to remain alone forever, but when he returns and doesn’t immediately remember her name, she sinks into despair, saying the proper thing to do is to give up on her childhood crush, and either wait to fall for someone else, or settle for someone just to avoid lonliness. Horrified by Sayu’s words, Miuna shouts it out for anyone to hear:

“I don’t care if I’m sick. I don’t care if it’s a manga. Even if it’s gross or pathetic, I’m not changing!”

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When Sayu crosses paths with Kaname again, and he calls her by name and treats her affectionately, Sayu admits to herself that she’s “sick” too, and doesn’t want to change either. The ones they love may still be far away, but they won’t stop trying to get closer. To that end, Miuna makes use of her newly-formed ena to lead Hikari to Shioshishio, his home she’s never seen, even if they end up finding Manaka.

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Nagi no Asukara – 16

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This episode focuses in on the growing item that is Hikari and Miuna. Hikari may not see her as a love interest, but this episode gives Miuna ample opportunities to, if not overtly express her feelings, to at least spend some time close to him. When he bristles at the prospect of just the two of them going into town to order him a school uniform (he’s also in her class now), Miuna invites Sayu as a sort of chaperone.

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Little does she know by doing so, she turns Sayu, who has probably seen little of her friend Miuna since Hikari arrived, into an unwitting, awkward third wheel, as well as a captive audience for Miuna and Hikari’s near-constant flirtation. I personally reveled in their interactions—even though Hikari and Miuna have very different ideas about what such actions mean—but I can totally understand how it would irritate Sayu, until she can’t hold her tongue anymore.

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Hikari may not know what’s going on yet, but he does know Miuna well enough to be able to locate her at the abandoned shipyard where they bonded five years ago. Little does he know by going after her, he makes it that much worse for Miuna to let go of the possibility of being with him. When a rusty crane collapses and she’s thrown into the icy drink, half of me feared for the very worst and the other half knew Hikari would rescue her, possibly leading to a confession.

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Hikari does dive in after her, but surprisingly (as much to her as us), she doesn’t need rescuing: she grows an Ena, enabling her to breathe and swim like Hikari. Sayu is only half-right when she yells at Miuna (in their fight that ends as quickly as it starts): quite a few good things have happened to Miuna, but they’re tempered by a couple significant things that are, from her perspective, decidedly not good, namely the fact the guy she loves is her step-uncle, and isn’t interested in her in that way.

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The episode ends with a naked Kaname wandering through the town, not dead after all. That will certainly complicate matters for Chisaki (see org chart), but also means that at some point Manaka may return as well. These last three episode have me rooting for Miuna to the point where I’m dreading the date of Manaka’s return almost as much as she must be, for that could be the day all hope of Hikari ever coming around on Miuna dries up.

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Sword Art Online – 07

The energetic blacksmith Lisbeth meets Kirito, who requests a custom weapon, accidentally breaking the finest she’s ever made in the process. To forge a sword that will meet his needs, the two venture to the alpine 55th floor, where a crystal-eating dragon lurks. Kirito fights it off, but the wind from its wings throws both Liz and Kirito into a deep pit – the dragon’s nest. After spending the night, the nocturnal dragon returns, and Kirito grabs Liz and they ride the dragon out of the pit. Liz develops feelings for Kirito, and when she forges an excellent sword, she’s about to confess to him when Asuna arrives. She’s dejected to learn they know each other and runs off, but Kirito finds her and thanks her, promising to end the game for both their sakes.

What’s that? Another love interest who’s dead meat by the end? Nah, they wouldn’t do that again. Still, our scrawny dark knight is proving quite the lady’s man, though this romance starts out a little rough, with him destorying her prized creation right before Liz’s eyes. Her first impression of him as a haughty, arrogant little prick is well-earned – Kirito looks down upon her from a great height. She also insists she’s not an amateur in battle, than pulls an amateur move by coming out of hiding before the battle is over, nearly getting them both killed. Even so, Kirito isn’t one to let someone die alone, so he joins her down in the dragon’s pit, where they eventually engage in some pretty heavy hand-holding.

Kirito shows Liz that he has a softer side, and he quite literally sweeps her off her feet after collecting the dragon poop. Liz is a girl who’s found a niche in this imaginary world, but has been longing for something real, and she finds that in the warmth of Kirito’s hand. He shows her his prowess in combat, survival, and excitement, and she shows him her skill in, er, smithing by forging a kickass new sword, Unfortunately, after learning Kirito knows Asuna and listening to what could be construed as a lover’s quarrel, she gives up all hope of winning his heart, which is a bit of a needle scratch, but overall Liz is reasonably well-acted and well-voiced (by Takagaki Ayahi) at least she’s still alive. Perhaps they’ll reunite in the real world, when and if he beats the game.


Rating: 7 (Very Good)