Fruits Basket – 07 – On the Outside Looking In

Tooru arrives for her mysterious meeting with Hatori and is brought to her office by Momiji. Hatori doesn’t mince words: when most of the members of the Souma clan aren’t aware of the Zodiac members’ secret—only around fifty “insiders” do—it’s an “outrage” that Tooru knows, and she should leave the Soumas and never have anything to do with them again.

It seems like a classic case of trying to scare someone off by making things sound far worse than they are, but when Momiji explains why Hatori is so resolute. He once had a girlfriend named Kana, who was a Souma but an “outsider.”

They loved each other deeply, and asked Akito for permission to marry, but Akito blew up at them, resulting in Hatori being blinded in one eye by glass from a shattered mirror. Kana blamed herself, and that blame turned into an obsession and an illness. The only way Hatori could save her was by wiping her memories of loving him.

Tooru is empathetic of Hatori’s position, but doesn’t want to leave Yuki, Kyou, and Shigure, the latter of whom suspected Hatori was up to no good and comes to put Tooru’s mind at ease, as Hatori is prone to over-drama. Still, he and Momiji have New Years-related matters to attend to, so Hatori escorts Tooru back to the front gates.

While doing so, Tooru gets lost in thought and slips down some stairs, and Hatori catches her, which technically means hugging her, and transforms into his zodiac animal: a dragon. But not a big dragon; a tiny, defenseless seadragon. As Tooru rushes to get him in water, he remembers this is exactly how Kana first reacted when she learned his secret.

That takes us down memory road, to when Hatori’s ice-cold heart was warmed by Kana’s warmth. A man who neither knew nor felt he needed love suddenly found himself not just receiving it, but giving it back in return. Kana accepted him for who he was, and if anything only loved him more because of it.

Things went seriously pear-shaped when they attempted to ask for Akito’s approval, an absolute must, considering he’s the boss. But Akito sees Kana as nothing but an outsider, not someone who would do anything about “the curse.” He says a great many terrible things to Kana that day, including that she’s to blame for Hatori if he goes blind.

That sets Kana on a downward spiral that leads to her memory being wiped, which was probably what Akito was going for. I must say in my limited exposure to him I’m not a fan of Akito…but hey, I wasn’t a fan of Hatori last week and here we are, seeing him in all his humanity, passion, and tragedy. Perhaps Akito’s story is even worse than Hatori’s!

Hatori comes to on a bench beside a worried Tooru, who then runs off to find his shoes that she dropped. While she’s gone, a newly-engaged Kana walks past as her friends congratulate her. From her perspective, Hatori never loved her, but it doesn’t change the fact she finds him more handsome than the man she’s going to marry; his dream man.

Tooru returns, it starts to snow, and when Hatori asks what Kana told her, she has the same answer Kana had: when snow melts, it doesn’t simply  mean water, but that Spring is coming. Tooru reminds Hatori of Kana on more than one occasion; he just hopes she doesn’t suffer the same fate.

As for “the curse,” Tooru tries to ask Shigure about it but he demurs, stating it’s not quite time to tell her, should he choose to do so. Then again, she wasn’t supposed to learn the Soumas’ secret; perhaps she’ll learn about the curse through plain happenstance…

Advertisements

Kuromukuro – 13

kuro131

Two Efidolg knights seem to have “gone rogue” in order to pursue their own personal ambitions against Earth. The first is Mirasa, who fights the Black Relic and GAUS units to a draw and escapes into the woods to regenerate. The second is “Muetta”, whose hair immediately indicated is Yukihime, or at least some kind of Efidolg clone of her.

kuro132

As Takeyama High prepares for their cultural festival in the interests of maintaining normalcy and taking a break from studies and battles alike, Yuki looms over the episode like a silent wraith, crouched and ready to strike.

Yukina’s class decides to do an “Efidolg Forum”, what with three UN pilots in their class. Unfortunately, everyone else at the base is too busy to join the forum, so it’s just Yukina, Ken, and Sophie.

kuro133

In a particularly clever bit of plotting, because one of the activities at the school festival is cosplay (with Mika switching her usual school uniform for another), Muetta is able to slip into the school without any trouble. Indeed, she’s commended for the craftsmanship of her armor and arms.

kuro134

While Muetta closes in, Yukina and Ken have a grand old time at the festival, with Ken remarking that modern life itself has always felt like a festival to him, but this takes it to another level. Yukina asks him what he plans to do once he avenges Yukihime, because he has his whole future ahead of him (dundundunnnn).

Almost immediately after Yuki mentions how everyone has two doppelgangers, her Efidolg doppelganger leaps on the stage and charges at Ken, who is so shocked by the sight of her (having just seen her in the digitally altered photo of Yukina), he lets his guard down and gets run through.

kuro135

The show, knowing we knew who this was all along, still expertly kept most of Muetta’s face out of the frame right up until the very end, when showing it had the most impact. And the camerawork of the stabbing is great stuff, with an extreme closeup of Muetta cutting to a dumbfounded Ken, who then falls to reveal an equally shocked Yukina.

Where goeth things from here? Hard to say. I wonder if Sophie can somehow suppress Muetta, and why Muetta stabbed him. Perhaps, like him, her memories had bene lost on Earth those centuries ago, but now they’re back and she’s punishing him for betraying their people?

In any case, this was quite the exciting cliffhanger to place between Kuromukuro’s two halves: the moment Ken’s two princesses met.

16rating_9

P.S. The rock band in the auditorium is playing the show’s opening theme, a cover of “Distopia” by GLAY.

Kuromukuro – 12

kuro121

As the Gezon-Reco of Efidolg decide to send another of their own (Nouet) down to Japan to deal with the Black Relic that’s been ruining their plans, the school term has given way to Summer break for Yukina, Ken, and Noelle, as well as Akagi, Mika, and Kaya.

Yukina boasts that she needn’t participate in extra lessons despite her deplorable marks, since she’s already been enrolled in what amounts to boot camp at Kurobe, with the always pleasantly profane Tom Borden as drill sargeant and Noelle, Shenmei, and Seb joining both out of solidarity and to stay sharp. Akagi also joins, in hopes of becoming a geoframe pilot.

kuro122

What ensues is your standard boot-camp/training episode, with Yukina predictably bad at pretty much everything early on. Indeed, after the first day of exertion she’s skipping dinner to throw up in the sink, but Shenmei grabs her from behind, throws her on the bed, sits on her, and…gives her deep massage and reiki. We’ve seen precious little of Shenmei, but I like how she’s so quietly supportive during Yukina’s descent into her Summer of Hell.

kuro123

To add insult to injury, Seb is assigned by her teacher to make sure she and Ken don’t fall behind on lessons. But the training is a long time coming now that Yukina is committed to co-piloting the Black Relic with Ken: she can’t rely on him to rescue her from every little thing.

That being said, Ken still saves her on numerous occasions, whether it’s a hand or word of encouragement, or something more dramatic like saving her from drowning when Tom shoves her into a pool in full kit.

kuro124

Ken is punished for “babying the Princess”, but thanks to Tom not thinking when activating the shock collar, Yukina and Noelle also get zapped, and the three zappees get a day off while Shenmei and Tom test the experimental GAUS water-walking system.

The unusual-for-Kuromukuro level of fanservice continues when Noelle shares photos of Mika in sexy fantasy cosplay that Ken can neither resist voicing his outrage and snapping a pic of the pic for his own, erm, records.

When the water-walking GAUS goes literally sideways and water starts leaking in the sinking frame, Shenmei remains almost comically (but also impressively) cool as a cucumber.

kuro125

The training continues, with Ken having to push Yukina less and less since she’s pushing herself (though Noelle notices how much he stares at Yukina), and things get easier as she grows stronger and more confident. Where once she couldn’t shoot with her eyes open, now she at least opens one, so it’s only a matter of time before she opens both.

For his continues heroism and lack of betrayal, Ken is rewarded by having his sword returned to him (by Yukina) and his collar removed (also by Yukina), resulting in some very close proximity between the two.

I’m enjoying the slow burn of their mutual attraction and respect, even if it doesn’t go far. Like it or not, Ken has found a new “princess” in Yukina, and thus a new commitment and purpose.

Yukina tells him he gets the sword on the condition he won’t seek his death with it through reckless action. And as the episode closes with a descending Nouet, Yukina’s newfound skills and stamina will be put to the test very soon.

16rating_8

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 20

garo201

First of all, I enjoyed how subtly the fact Leon and Ema have slept together is treated this week. They don’t even interact all that differently, as they’ve always been a pair that bickered. Prince Alfie, who invites them to the palace to discuss Mendoza, is content not to pry, but does notice Ema’s new hairstyle.

garo202

And good for Alfie, he also at least somewhat suspects Octavia, because not only does she look really really suspicious with that look of constant guilt and worry on her face, but because he saw her sneaking around the church late at night. Now, Alfie isn’t the sharpest tack on the board, but Octavia seemed due for some kind of slip-up this week, so I gave it even odds she’d be found out…whatever it is she’s actually up to.

garo203

Alfie, Leon, and Ema use a neat trick by hiding the sound of a horror-detecting bell by rining a regular bell to bring in wine for the King, who is still bedridden but on the mend. It at least determines Octavia isn’t a horror, but it isn’t the end of Alfie’s suspicions.

garo204

But that’s all he has to that point: suspicions, because Octavia has proven very adept at staying out of trouble, even as she smuggles food to master Mendoza, who faked his death after all, but his body seems to have paid a price; it’s aged and frail. Still, he’s the same old Mendoza, confident no matter how much snooping around those punk kids do, they won’t be able to stop him.

Considering the Garm has Herman serving Mendoza in capacity, it’s hard to argue with him; the only question is what is he up to? Is he making another play at the throne, or does he have further villainy in store for the world? Whatever the case Octavia will do anything to serve him, including give up her life.

Not so fast, Mendoza says: he doesn’t want her to be in a hurry to die for him, because that would trouble him. These are truly two trod-upon hearts warped by loneliness and despair into kindred creatures raging against the world and the god that forsook them both. Their designs may be dark and twisted (we’ll see, won’t we?), but one has to appreciate the mutual devotion on display here.

At the same time, the fact they’re up to good always keeps the idea allive in my mind that while he says he’ll never toss her aside, he may still do just that when he no longer needs her.

garo205

The show had us for a second, too, when Stakeout Alfie confronts the cloaked figure who emerges from the secret underground passage…but it’s only Laura, a young maid serving under Octavia, gathering purer water for the King. It’s an innocent enough reason to be down there, but there’s a hint of recitation in Larua’s explanations, as if Octavia were using her as a decoy to throw Alfie off her trail. Laura also teases a potential love interest for Alfie, who is the only guy in the main cast who hasn’t yet had any.

garo206

Still, the trio continue their investiagtion, springing a thread trap that Octavia, bouyed by a premature sense of security, snags, throwing her into Survival Mode. As I said, Leon and Alfie aren’t tactical geniuses, but Ema is, and Octavia was due for a slip up. What I didn’t expect was how expertly she’d pull out of her nosedive not only totally above suspicion, but with the King and Alfie’s warm regard for her courage and devotion. In other words, in a stronger position than ever.

garo207

That tenacity was born of her upbringing. The other members of her family were devout worshippers who believed God would save them from anything as long as they prayed; even if they didn’t pray, as Octavia’s Laura-like little sister remarks. But unquestioned faith in God can be a tricky thing if things don’t go well in life, which they don’t for the skeptic Octavia.

For all their prayers, a pack of wolves devours her family in front of her and none of her fellow villagers lift a finger to stop the slaughter. From that point on, Octavia was officially through with whatever God her doomed family believed in, and put her faith and her life in her savior Mendoza’s hands. He hasn’t let her down yet.

garo208

And he continues not to when he presents her with a talisman she should use when she’s in trouble. While on the run from Ema’s trap, she activates it, summoning a horror beast that obeys her every command, spoken or thought. She has the beast consume Laura, who was by the dozing King’s bedside (Yikes…R.I.P. Laura ;_; ), then rouses the King, warns him that Laura turned into the beast, and has the beast attack her for good measure, biting off the right leg Ema’s string is connected to.

garo209

When Alfie, Leon, and Ema arrives, it is plain to see that Octavia is valiantly protecting the King with her own life. It’s a phenomenal ploy by Octavia, and it shows that behind that worried face, she possesses great stores of courage and faith in her Mendoza, all of which is rewarded when the knights she hates so much turn their suspicious gaze away from her.

garo210

It’s not as if Octavia wanted to get attacked by her own horror beast and lose her right leg, but she did what she had to do to stay in the game and, as Mendoza bid her, stay alive at all costs. The last thing she wants to do now is die, not only disobeying her master but making him grieve for her. Like I said, they have a great dynamic, not so much the one-sided manipulation it looked liked in the past.

With Octavia cleared, the case remains open for the Scooby Gang, but Herman suddenly arrives to curtail their sniffing around. Leon doesn’t take kindly to this interference, and he and his shitty dad draw their swords to do what knights do in such situations: fight it out. There’s still every indication Herman is simply obeying orders, but one also senses a glimmer of pride in his calmer, more mature, more badass son.

8_mag

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 19

garo191

The amount we didn’t know about Ema Guzman had always outweighed what we did, and while that made her more cool and mysterious, it also kept her at arm’s length. Whenever she’s darted into Leon’s story, she’s made an impact, but she’s never been on screen long enough. That injustice is corrected this week…and then some.

garo192

All the while Leon and Herman and Alfie have been through a diverse array of adventures, Ema’s basically been on the same single mission: she’s hunting for a powerful horror named Luciano Guzman. When Garm tells Leon Ema is going to die, Leon goes after her, which is a good move, because had he not intervened, she may well have died. Not because she’s too weak to defeat Luciano, but because she doesn’t particularly care if she dies.

garo193

That’s because Luciano was once a man, a fellow Makai Alchemist, and her beloved lover and husband. As a pair they were unstoppable, but Luciano wanted more than to just hunt horrors; he wanted to save them. When not out fighting, he was in his lab, working furiously to find the spell that could prevent humans from turning, or turning them back, but got nowhere. The pain of his powerlessness eventually overcame him one night, when he sprouts giant black wings and disappears into the night…

garo194

…Leaving poor Ema crushed by the wreckage in his wake. More than anything, she wants to take out the horror who did this to him, put him out of his misery, but the Makai knights she worked beside wouldn’t let her, only to end up slaughtered. She deems ending Luciano as her right and duty, and no one else’s.

Leon trades Zaruba’s knowledge of Luciano’s whereabouts for this story. Little does Ema know that, as it did for me, that story only made him care about her more and want to protect her, both from Luciano and her own obsession to destroy him even at the cost of her life.

garo195

She doesn’t dare show a softer side to Leon, but privately, after sewing up her own abdominal wound (this chick is seriously badass), she seems intrigued, flattered, and a little impressed with Leon’s words. She caught a glimpse of him with Lara, but she still regarded him as naught but a boy, untouched and untested by the true horrors of the world. And we know that’s not true. Leon is no longer a clueless whelp. Now he has the strength of body and conviction to back up his big words.

garo196

The night of the final showdown with Luciano commences, and to my surprise, it’s a thrilling aerial battle, calling to mind Last Exile or Pilot’s Love Song. Familiar vibes aside, Ema’s elegant system of gliders she hops to using thread and hooks, and the sleek alien stealth fighter design of Luciano’s horror form, are all very creative touches.

garo197

The fact the battle weaves between cloud systems and is lit by the full moon gives it that much more of a dramatic, artistic flair. Ema has always been an acrobatic fighter, so it stands to reason when she gets really serious she takes to the sky itself. Especially when Luci opens up a barrage of red particle weapons at her, this is mostly just immensely fun stuff to watch.

garo198

And Just as Garm foresaw, Ema does end up in a position where she really should have died. Using a spell of her own, she’s able to awaken a part of Luciano that still loves her, and he catches her before she’s impaled on a church spire. But he’s still a horror, and Ema doesn’t possess the ability to change him all the way back, any more than he did, so as he prepares to eat her, she’s ready with a giant sword made out of her thread. With the only thing keeping her suspended over that spire, killing him means her death too…if it weren’t for Leon, that is.

garo199

A younger, less seasoned-by-life Leon would have surely tried to put an end to the fight before it began, but especially after hearing her story, he holds back until it’s over, only swooping in to save her after Luciano is gone. He does it because Ema is a friend, and she is someone he can protect, so he does. 

But his actions means more to Ema than he knows. She was willing to give up on her own life to release Luciano, he wasn’t. All of Ema’s disdain for Makai Knights was borne from the way they’d always swoop in like scavengers while undervaluing what she and Luciano did, and more importantly, when those same knights detained her, preventing her from taking care of Luciano a long time ago.

garo1910

But Leon is proof that not every Makai Knight is necessarily a shithead. He tends to her wounds and comforts her. In every encounter, including the early ones this week, Ema had mockingly referred to Leon as a boy, but suddenly, in that dimly lit room she realizes he’s no longer that boy in her head, but a man; the first man she could truly let her guard down and trust in a long time.

It’s a huge epiphany for her, which is why I don’t remotely begrudge her going in for a kiss. This new matured Leon proves her instincts were right by neither blushing or recoiling but kissing her right back, even taking things further, the risk of wounds opening be damned. It’s a very sexy scene,  and a great note to close on…and it’s earned.

For so long on this show Ema stood apart, out on the periphery, with us not knowing exactly what she was after or why. Now we not only know what she wanted to do; but she did it. Leon saved her, finding someone new to protect in the process. Now they’re standing a lot closer together, and the show is all the better for it. The question now is, do the two go separate ways the next day, or stick together for a time?

9_mag

Stray Observations:

  • With Lara, Ximena, and now Ema, we are officially in Garo’s Feminist Period. Seriously, it’s loaded with badass women.
  • On that note, let’s not forget Octavia, who’s still lurking in Alfie’s palace. Wonder if she’ll get a fleshing out.
  • I’ll admit, there were a couple poorly-drawn moments, but the episode more than makes up for it with that dogfight along with its usual stylishness.
  • Ema’s thief’s outfit in the flashback reminded me of FFXIII’s Lightning’s Ignition garb.
  • Ema kinda has to tell Leon about Luciano, since Zaruba is in a particularly chatty mood this week. “I’d rather say it myself than have a ring blab about it!” I LOL’d.

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 18

garo181

First, I must give kudos to Garo (Kuros?) for sticking to its guns with Lara’s death. As much as I wanted her to wake up and start coughing in Leon’s arms, she’s dead dead, and not coming back. Leon’s only comfort was that she stayed alive long enough for him be the last thing she saw. Now he’s in the very unenviable position of having another excuse to go all apeshit on the world again.

garo183

Prince Alfie lends him a sword and returns to the capital, but regrets leaving Leon alone and seeks Herman’s advice. J/Ximena hasn’t seen him, but when she goes back inside, there he is, but only to pay her for his stay and be off. Ximena doesn’t let him leave so easily, and Herman gives her what she wants: a kiss. Leon may have been content to live with Lara forever, but as much as he cares for Ximena, Herman’s latent transience, and his Makai duties preclude him from such a future, as nice as that would be.

garo184

Umm…you might want to dig that hole a little deeper, kid.

garo185

Ridiculous shallowness of the grave aside, carrying Lara to the field, digging it, and placing her in is hard to watch, suffused as it is with loss and grief. Throughout the process, a voice within urges Leon to embrace the flames once again—the flames within him that have never truly left ever since he was born in them. Hatred and revenge; the shade says this is his nature.

garo186

But this time, Leon resists. When he thinks of the light and the flowers and all the beauty in the world Lara will never see again, he doesn’t let the flames get the better of him. He seeks out Alfonso, in the same place where a raw, angry Alfie himself trained, and asks him to give the Golden Armor back to him.

garo187

Alfie agrees, but only if he proves himself worthy, leading to an intense, frenetic duel between the two, accented by setting of the ruins at dusk. Throughout the fight, Alfie is just waiting for Leon’s flames to burst out again—whereupon Leon has instructed him to cut him down—but it doesn’t happen. Leon has matured. Even if he lost Lara, he still has something to protect: her memory.

garo188

After night falls, Herman leaves the site of his lovemaking with Ximena and slips out, as his his tomcat wont, leaving a flower as a goodbye. Still, the way he looks back at that inn (and man, that is a pretty city), he may not be back.

garo189

I figured he was off to deal with Leon one way or another, but Alfie already did that. All that remains is for Leon to prove he has the strength to bear the Golden Armor again. A spriggan-style horror terrorizes a couple of kids, he does the legwork so Alfie (in his Gaia armor) can land the finishing blow. Teamwork!

garo1810

Once the horror is gone, Leon looks back at the elation and gratitude in the girl’s face, and can’t help but see Lara’s smile, causing him to shed a tear while still wearing his armor. No one said this would be an easier path than going on another rampage, but it is the right path. Garo is back.

garo1811

Zaruba judges that Leon has once again become worthy of him, which pleases German, who was watching from the shadows. Then he drops a big duhn-duhn-duuuuhn on his son and nephew, telling them he’s off to help out Mendoza, just as Garm ordered him too.

His explanations to them and me are hardly adequate, but I’m going to give Garo the benefit of the doubt on this for now. ‘Dozer’s return explains why we got his torment-filled backstory after his apparent demise, but it will still take some doing to make me feel anything but contempt for the bastard going forward.

8_mag

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 17

garo171

“People may not understand what they don’t experience themselves,” says Prince Alfie, in during his surprise visit of the lands where Leon has settled into a new life. Let me preface this review by noting that I’ve never experienced so much harrowing emotional turmoil from an episode of Saturday morning animation in my life. That alone would have warranted a high score, but it’s far from all Garo No. 17 has to offer. 

garo172

I will also admit, despite all the evidence suggesting Lara would remain by Leon’s side for some time to come ever since her story didn’t end with one episode (as is usually Garo’s M.O.), every scene with the two was tinged with dread, like there was a target on Lara’s back, as well as the members of her family.

garo173

Alfie doesn’t visit Leon’s village for him; he had no idea he was there. That being said, their meeting in the lord’s manor is a fantastic scene for both of them. There’s no chest-thumping or rancor; only reminicing and apology. Leon recalls how sheltered and oblivious he though Alfie was (and Alfie admits, he was), but now he admits he was just as clueless. Furious at the world he was meant to protect as a Makai knight—because that world allowed his mother to burn—Leon didn’t feel he had anything worth protecting, which is why he failed.

garo174

Now he’s just a regular man, but he’s finally found something to protect. Lara, her family, her farm, and her simple, peaceful way of life. Speaking of which, hey, why’d you leave her out in the cold? At least invite her in for a cup of tea!

garo174a

When Lara sees that Leon knows frikkin’ Prince Alfie, she’s filled with dread that he will leave her for bigger, more important things, but she’s misread the situation: Leon has no intention of going anywhere. He’s going to stay right here, with her. My heart lifted when Lara’s face brightened up at this news.

garo175

In what would tragically turn out to be their final day together, Leon and Lara spend the eve of dusk on the roof of the house, where Leon no longer sees “nothing.” They’re no that high up, but in the countryside where buildings are scarce, there’s still a unique thrill to being up there, having a more commanding view. He sees the world he belongs in, and the person he wants to protect.

But just as Lara’s visible breath portended, the first fluffy flakes of winter snow begin to fall, heralding the worst night in Leon’s life, and a pretty shitty one for Alfie too.

garo176

Alfie is here to hunt a burrowing horror who has been eating villagers. One night Leon and the dog get a bad feeling, and the horror appears on the doorstep of Lara’s house. And the age-old irony takes form: just when Leon has found something to protect, he is powerless to actually protect it.

garo177

He begs Lara and the others to race to the fairy mound—which is really an anti-horror barrier where they’ll be safe, while he races to warn Prince Alfie. But then the horror sets the barn and house aflame and threaten their stores of food for the winter—which are no less than their very lives, to say nothing of paying off debt. Lara’s grandfather races back to their home, regardless of the futility, and Lara and the others follow her.

garo178

So often in anime buildings are leveled and crops burned and entire cities or even planets wiped out, but it’s rare when the destruction of something so relatively small as this family farm carries so much emotional weight, but it does. These buildings prove to really be not only the entirety of Leon’s new world, but the entirety of their inhabitants’ lives.

When the buildings burn, so does Lara’s family, and Lara herself is burned and crushed under the rubble. We saw that target on their backs, clear as day, but couldn’t have predicted such a bitterly awful, merciless end for them.

garo179

Even then, I held out hope that because Leon found Lara, her injuries could be healed, and they’d leave this place in search of a new home, together. But it isn’t in the cards, as Leon is forced to say goodbye to the girl he never confessed his love to, nor her to him, but at the same time never really had to, because it was plain. Lara feared Leon would leave her for somewhere far away, but it ends up being her who leaves him, and at this point my tears were falling as steadily as the snowfall.

garo1710

The final shot is of Lara and her family’s would-be refuge, the fairy mound the villagers had forgotten the true power of because their home had become so peaceful, and instead assigned a folktale to it. At this point Leon could blame throwing his powers away for this tragedy, but the truth is he wouldn’t even be here if he hadn’t fallen. And even Alfie, a full-fledged Makai knight, couldn’t be everywhere or protecting everyone at once. But the brothers must not lose heart, even though they’re broken along with mine.

10_magRABUJOI World Heritage List

GARO: Honoo no Kokuin – 16

garo161

Garo remains fresh and watchable well into its second cour by continuing to experiment with new storytelling angles and different character focuses. As last week showed, the end product is not always a masterpiece, but I appreciate that the show commits to whatever particular story it tells with the utmost conviction. It succeeds best when it’s able to integrate an element of the main cast into its story-of-the-week, exploring every facet of their duty as both royal and Makai.

garo162

Last week’s “Horror” was just a bear the townsfolk were able to deal with. This week we meet the traveling Doctor, Fabian, renowned throughout the kingdom for his skills. But instead of portraying him as benevolent and unmasking him later, we get his full story in an efficient cold open: the old Fabian is dying of plague, so a young man in the latest town he visits, who had promised his now-dead parents he’d find a cure, kills the old Fabian and takes up his mantle. That means becoming possessed by a horror that lurks in Fabian’s book.

garo163

His next destination is Santa Bard, and Himena, the innkeeper’s daughter whom Herman has befriended ever since his Full Monty Day, is eager to assist the doc with the rush of patients, the first of whom is Herman, whose head hit the floor when Himena roused him from bed.

Just like Leon with Lara, scenes between Herman and Himena are the highlights of the show; there’s such nice warm chemistry and gentle flirtation. Father and Son are both benefiting from having mature relationships with strong, kind women.

garo164

The show takes our fondness for Himena and then threatens to snatch her away, by putting her in such obvious danger with Dr. Fabian, who heals dozens if not hundreds of townsfolk, but also eats the occasional one when they’re just at the point of recovery (when they’re most delicious)…almost like an obeisance from Darker than Black. The young man who became Fabian was given great gifts, but he also became a monster. And Himena is his next meal.

garo165

I also like how Himena may be in the dark about a great many things regarding Herman, but she’s not an idiot like the floozies (or horrors in the guise of women) he typically attracts. She even follows him one night and is shocked to find him not only meeting with Prince Alfie (Hi Alfie!) but the prince bowing his head to Herman. Who is this guy crashing at her inn? She suddenly becomes super-formal with him, as if she is undeserving of his presence…but then she becomes ill, not long after using the hand cream Fabian gave her.

garo166

Fabian assures Herman she’ll be fine and bids him goodnight…but Herman is no idiot either (well…at least sometimes). He connects the dots of the new missing people to the doc’s daily “meals” (which the doc says is exercising restraint, as binge-eating is bad for one’s health…hear that, Rize?) and decides to shut down the practice, Garo-style.

garo167

Fabian’s defeat is a relatively brisk, foregone conclusion, as most Makai battles tend to be, but with a twist this week: when Fabian (now in full horror mode; an interesting design with a apothecary cabinet for a sternum) beats Herman down, he feels the compulsion to heal him, even going so far as to restore him to perfect condition, even better than before the battle!

Within that horror beats the heart of a doctor, and the young lad in the beginning probably hoped to cure the plague, but this was the wrong way to do it, and good intentions do not excuse all the patient-eating. So it’s good night, Dr. Fabian. The people will get by without help tinged with evil.

garo168

To my relief, Himena recovers as Fabian said she would (he never really lied about his true nature so much as keep it hidden), and Herman even does his best to assure her he’s not the fancypants aristocrat she thinks he is, and that she needn’t be deferential or ashamed of how she’s acted thus far. Eventually, Himena puts away her commoner mentality and they get back to interacting on even terms.

Then Garm summons Herman and tells him he’s going to be “working with Mendoza.” Uh, what now? Isn’t that cat dead? I guess we’ll find out soon, but that troubling possibility doesn’t invalidate all the good this episode had going for it.

8_mag

Space Dandy 2 – 12

sd121

Space Dandy has spoofed a great number of things, but never a courtroom drama until now. What I appreciated was just how polished and professional a courtroom drama it came up with, which still managed to include Dandy trademarks such as a plethora of strange-looking aliens, crazy plot twists, and a story that starts out about as simple as you can get but gradually expands into much more.

sd122

The trial also served as a kind of unofficial retrospective of Dandy’s journey thus far. Despite the fact he, Meow and QT are friends, the “defendant’s affidavit” is a lot more harsh and impersonal about their relationships, while Scarlett is forced to admit from the witness chair that he’s never brought in a particularly rare alien. As the incident of the transdimensional batted ball gets more strange, we enter into the quantum and metaphysical qualities that often surround Dandy. That, and his love of Boobies.

sd123

What made this episode so good was its dedication to telling a story in a calm and orderly fashion within the courtroom confines it established, not matter how crazy the particulars of the incident get (and they get plenty crazy). The prosecutor is big, flashy, and intimidating, yet respectful, while the defender puny and more reserved but just as tenacious in his desire to learn the truth of things. Dandy, notably, doesn’t say a word through the trial.

sd124

Finally, it was just a gas to watch how the twisting trial wove all the individual well-spun threads of the case. A multitude of scenarios presents itself, but the story of the incident is constantly being revised as new information comes to light. Turns out a kid on a faraway planet went a little too far and batted a ball with such murderous intent that it transported the ball into the victim’s apartment and into his head.

sd125

Despite the fact there was ample evidence and motive established to convict either Dandy or Rose (or both of them) of conspiring to kill Guy, all of that turned out to be totally peripheral to the true crime. This episode emphasizes the crucial importance of the presence of reasonable doubt. Ironically, it’s a tweeting juror who happens to be on the boy’s feed that flips the whole case upside down. Oh, and the victim wasn’t dead after all, so no harm, no foul.

sd126

Dandy is free to go, and his buds, while mildly perturbed he described their roles in his life so callously, are glad he’s back…and then, outside the courthouse, there’s an alien army waiting for him. The episode closes with a “To Be Continued”, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the final episode of Dandy doesn’t bother picking up on this. I could just be one more reminder that the twists and turns in a story never stop, and it’s time for the next adventure.

sd127

The super-serious end credits were pretty awesome too.

9_ses

Space Dandy 2 – 11

sd111
That’s not a box…it’s a tesseract!

In its more bizarre yet creative outings, Space Dandy has a knack for imbuing abstract concepts with a recognizable specificity in order to tell an conventional story. Last week and this week were both conventional romances, told in completely different ways. Last week Scarlett hired Dandy to pretend to be her boyfriend, then fell for him for real. This week we see one of the “couple hundred or so pasts” Dandy’s had that he’d rather not re-live, in this case a transdimensional love triangle.

sd112
Little bit of Aubrey Beardsley in this composition, oddly enough.

The cold open set us up to expect a standard tale of a fire going out in a relationship, but it’s good that we don’t see Catherine in this scene, because it would give away the fact that Catherine is a 4D being represented by a tesseract with a beating cartoon heart at its core, which would have killed the mood a bit, at least at first. In the normal 3D present, neither the cat or the robot get what Dandy ever saw, but Honey understands completely: love is love, and it takes all forms and, apparently, dimensions.

sd113

The third member of the triangle is Paul (a simple name for a complex character), who has arrived in the third dimension within his 2D universe, which resembles a full level map from Nintendo Power, which turns anything it touches into 2D. It’s not Dandy who first encounters it, but Dr. Gel and Bea. The Gogol overlords treat it as an invasion, but Gel is a man of science before he’s a man of war, and relishes being transformed into 2D, because he gets to experience the unknown.

sd114

It’s interesting then, that what is a total unknown for a venerable scientist is old news for Dandy. It’s just taken on faith that somehow, he entered into a romantic relationship with a 4D woman, without going into detail exactly how that works, because, after all, love is just as inscrutable between 3D lovers. Cathy’s 4D/2D fling with Paul is even more inexplicable, but it doesn’t matter; the dimensions may as well be different countries, and the lovers’ dimensional differences a matter of differences of perspective.

sd115

Of course, the concept of a romance “just not working out” is a lot easier to quantify in this story: of course things “just wouldn’t work out” for beings of fundamentally different spacial dimensions! But we still see from the way Dandy treats Cathy that there’s still affection there, even if it’s more of the “just friends” kind. The fact they can still be friends and that Dandy would help Cathy out with Paul goes to show that while their past breakup was painful, it was more an act of evolution than destruction.

sd116

Our heads thus firmly wrapped around the love story, the presentation and mechanics of the clashing dimensions is a lot of fun, as the 2D visuals are accompanied by suitably retro 8-bit sound effects. Several video games are loosely represented in the 2Dverse including Space Invaders, Civ, SimCity and Zelda, and the fact of the universe folding itself up like a newspaper, only to be punched through by the Aloha Oe’s giant scissors (an idea that came from Honey) is another crazy but clever way of the dimensions going at it. Gel and Bea’s eventual devolution into zero dimensions is also funny, if a bit chilling (though I’m sure Gel’s lovin’ every minute of it).

sd117

Finally, while Meow and QT often just served as the skeptic and reporter this week, Honey got some nice screen time. Cathy likes how Dandy is now hanging around someone as positive and “spunky” as Honey, while Honey shows off a bit of her self-interest by accompanying the others out of the perceived possibility of scoring with Paul, who is a 2D prince. In the end though, love can’t always overcome looks, as Honey considers Paul’s simple crowned blue rectangle form a deal-breaker.

9_ses

Koimonogatari – 06 (Fin)

koimo61

Sengoku traps Kaiki in a enormous mass of snakes. Kaiki starts to talk himself out of dying, telling her he knows about her dream to become a mangaka. He tells her that nothing is irreplaceable for humans, not even her love for Koyomi, and if she remains a god she will never be happy. She eventually cools down and the snakes disappear.

Kaiki implants a slug oddity to extract the snake talisman. Koyomi arrives; Kaiki tells him to take the exorcised Sengoku home and disappear from her life. While departing from town, he is ambushed and beaten to death by someone he believes to be a junior-high victim of his past con, who mentions the same name Sengoku blamed for her predicament: Ougi.

koimo62

“Then do you want to become a manga artist?”

Sengoku has seen through all of Kaiki’s intricate lies and preparations. He’s beaten, and he knows it. But those seemingly innocuous, small-talky words above, he changes course. Armed with fresh insights on Sengoku’s situation, he abandons his previous strategy for a new one. In this regard, he practices what he preaches to her: nothing should be so important that it can’t be replaced. Humans can re-do anything at anytime, be it god-deception plans, romances, or dreams.

Half-forget what we said last week: Kaiki doesn’t quite regard Senjougahara a daughter, but  as a past love. One who was as useless with him as Sengoku would be with Koyomi; some people fit others better. In their last phone call before Kaiki’s demise, Senjougahara expresses satisfaction that she was able to deceive him into believing she loved him. We read that as her saying in her very Senjougahara way that she’s glad her (genuine) feelings reached him, even if only for a time, and it didn’t work out.

koimo63

Even if we never learn the truth—be it about Senjougahara and Kaiki or the conspiracies that Kaiki contemplates before he dies—in future series, we can say with certainty and with no intent to deceive whatsoever that this was our favorite arc of the series, which transformed Kaiki into the anti-heroic, romantic, ultimately tragic human being the arc’s retro opening portrayed.

9_superior
Rating: 9 (Superior)
Final Cumulative Rating (26 episodes): 7.957
MyAnimeList Score
(as of 12/30/13): 8.79

Stray Observations:

  • Now we see the reason for the retro OP: the retro-styled half is the romantic ideal of Sengoku’s secret manga, while the contemporary-styled half is the harsh but human reality. Very neat.
  • We’ll admit that for someone ruthless enough to casually add to her kill-list, Sengoku sure keeps Kaiki alive for a long time, doesn’t she? Perhaps she didn’t gag him with snakes because part of her was giving him the chance to talk her out of godhood?
  • Sengoku blamed Ougi for her becoming a god. The kid who killed Kaiki got his/her info from Ougi. We suggested that Ougi was related to the darkness that dispatched Mayoi; was all this Ougi’s way of dispatching Kaiki?

Tonari no Kaibutsu-kun – 01

Mizutani “Dry Ice” Shizuku eschews friends for grades. When she is asked to deliver printouts for the delinquent Yoshida Haru, her high school life is set on a totally different course. He insists they’re friends, and has an innocent personality but is quick to violence and treats everyone roughly, including her. When he finds out his friends are just using him like she said, she tells them off and provides a shoulder to cry on. He agrees to come back to school, and confesses his love for her.

He follows her around, and she finds out he was the only one with higher grades than she, pissing her off since he doesn’t study. Upperclassmen take her hostage as revenge, but when he arrives to rescue her and she tries to calm him down, he punches her, and she’s through with him. Midterms come, and she comes out ranking first, but isn’t happy. She goes to his house (an arcade) to tell him she doesn’t hate him, and they start hanging out again. Breaking from studying to get monja, he steals a kiss, reiterating his love.

This series doesn’t waste a lick of time, spanning days, weeks, even months, and creating an entire arc of the cold-hearted Shizuku and the wild, naive Haru, who go from complete strangers to pseudo-friends to rivals to enemies to the makings of a couple. Shizuku gets pinned, accosted, threatened with rape, has orange soda thrown on her head, gets kidnapped, and gets slugged really hard in the face. And yet despite all this, she falls for Haru. Indications are he’s her first friend and she’s his, and all of a sudden good grades aren’t enough to make her happy – much to her consternation.

Is Haru a bit of a stylized manic pixie dream boy? Perhaps, if you ignore all the domestic violence. The guy is equal parts five-year-old, brawler, and math whiz; a personality polymath. And Shizuku is the only one who seems to be able to handle him – hence all the chain imagery in the OP. But these two crazy kids and this episode reminded us of some of the best rom-com anime we’ve seen, from Whisper of the Heart (another bookworm Shizuku! Loves a guy she initially hates!) to Kare Kano (academic rivals gradually falling in love! lots of earnest inner monologue!) Also, it’s a Brain’s Base piece that looks and sounds great, and Tomatsu Haruka kills it as the voice of Shizuku.


Rating: 8 (Great)

Nazo no Kanojo X – 01

One day, a girl named Urabe Mikoto transfers to Tsubaki Akira’s class. She’s a strange girl who’s branded a weirdo her first day for laughing out loud in the middle of a lesson and sleeping through breaks. One day after waking her up to leave, Akira tastes the drool she left on the desk. The next day he gets sick. Mikoto visits him at home and gives him more of her saliva, which cures him. It turns out, he’s lovesick. She continues ‘supplying’ him until he confesses to her and asks her out; she agrees.

Ah, now this is more like it: a romance series we don’t have to make any excuses for. It’s the best of its genre we’ve yet seen this Spring season. There always seems to be a series we hadn’t originally planned to watch, but give a shot anyway – that’s how we came upon Penguindrum, and it’s how we ran into this. Just an innocent taste of the proverbial drool on the desk. And we found it sweet. So what makes it good? Well, beyond all the glistening saliva, it’s a beautifully presented, sincere, unpretentious story. Efficient too: not a line of dialogue is wasted. The retro character design is also pretty sweet.

The chemistry between Akira and Mikoto is effortless and watching them interact is sheer joy. They’re the only two characters in this episode; everyone else is in the background (which makes sense, since they only have eyes for one another). The quirky but warm Mikoto (very well-voiced by rookie Yoshitani Ayako) is so lovably weird, you have to root for Akira to try to win her, and he does – in the first episode, without any silly games. Hell, we were half-expecting him to offer her his own finger drenched in spit, but a torn-up photo of an old crush suffices. If this all sounds very odd…it is. But it’s good odd. Like Akira, it will have to continue to prove itself, but it’s off to a fine start.


Rating: 9 (Superior)