The “WestShopRangers” make their debut in the district. Their tempo and timing are off, but the improve with each performance, going up against “baddies” – the shop owners in disguise. When the vice principal takes them to task for having a job, they remind her she approved it, and keep doing it. Wakana goes back to ask the vice principal, Naoko, how her mother wrote songs, just when “Nao” is remembering the only time she visited Mahiru before she died. She repeats what Mahiru told her: song isn’t work; it flows from the heart. During a show, Konatsu’s purse is snatched by a cyclist. Wien chases him down on foot, and the rest of the rangers back him up. They get the purse back and teach the guy a lesson through song. Wien writes Jan of their victory.
We like how Wien propels the others into rushing straight into their ranger show. They’re nervous and uncoordinated, but they get the job done. Even funnier is watching the old owners battle the rangers, and one throws his back out, which pits Sawa against her mother Shiho. It’s all great fun and you can totally see shoppers getting into it – most especially the kids. Also, they get better with each performance. There’s no mention of the nature of the drama they’ll be putting on for the White Festival, but it seems like it would be easy to make that a Rangers-based narrative – almost as if these shop performances were practice.
In between these shows we delve into Naoko’s memories – even in high school she was a serious girl who rarely smiled – but she shared a love for music with the more outgoing, outwardly passionate Mahiru. There’s a scene when Mahiru tells Nao she’s not going to make it that makes us tear up – it’s pretty grim statement, but as it turned out, a true one. Now Mahiru’s daughter is at Nao’s school – like a little Mahiru – and while she won’t show favoritism to a friend’s child, Nao does offer solid advice – don’t overthink, have fun, and the music will come. We also get a taste of Wien’s near-obsessive determination. He simply doesn’t quit, pursuing a thief across half of town and even taking a couple punches. For a second there, we thought he’d be defeated, but then the other rangers showed up. It was a great victory – and this was a great episode, with a little of everything.
Rating: 8 (Great)
Car Cameos: Cars passing by in the shopping district include a JDM Honda Odyssey, Mitsubishi eK, Suzuki Swift, Toyota Vitz, Mercedes-Benz C-Class (W203), Nissan March, and a fourth-generation Toyota HiAce.
Konatsu, Sawa, Wien and Wakana attend Taichi’s badminton match. He loses and fails to advance to the Nationals. Wakana is preoccupied by memories of her mother’s last days, in which she wasn’t the best daughter she could have been. She has her dad arrange to have the piano in her room removed, along with boxes of other junk and a memento her mother made her. She regrets having never said goodbye, sorry, or thank you before her mother passed.
Thanks a lot, Condor Queens…thanks to that letter, you made Wakana – already a walking frown – descend into despair this week. This episode gets good marks for plumbing the depths of grief and guilt Wakana bears, while getting us to feel a bit of it with her. In her mother’s last days and weeks, Wakana’s frown was a perpetual scowl, as she was that age when her mother was suddenly no longer her best friend, but an annoyance and eyesore. Little did she know that she’d never have a chance to make up for all that harsh treatment – she took her mother’s love for granted and is almost lost without it.
Wakana can’t stand the fact she was a self-centered brat more concerned with getting into a good school than her mother’s illness. Right up to the point when she got the news of her death – while in the middle of her school interview. Now it’s as if Wakana doesn’t want to let herself have fun or be happy anymore, which is why she avoids Konatsu and the others. Maybe she thinks she doesn’t deserve happiness as punishment for her past transgressions. But from what we saw of her in memories, her mother was a joyful person who wouldn’t want her daughter to waste her youth wallowing in despair.
Rating: 7 (Very Good)
Car Cameos: On Wakana’s sad walk home, the background traffic includes a 5-door Suzuki Swift, a first-generation Honda Fit, a Nissan March, and the Audi A4 sedan we’ve seen before.
While returning from the store with Kyoko, Yachiyo finds Otoo’s long-lost wife, but is too slow to catch her, and she vanishes again. She becomes very sullen, which everyone notices. She asks Satou if he likes her while Mahiru is listening, and she becomes aware of the love triangle. Satou makes her promise not to tell everyone, but she feels so bad for Satou, Takanashi starts to think Mahiru likes him. Satou takes Yachiyo aside and promises her no one will ever hate him, including him, and she tells Otoo, who shrugs it off. Takanashi confronts Mahiru as well, and she allays his fear she likes Satou.
Yachiyo, Satou, and Mahiru act a little off this week, and it’s a testament to how well the staff knows each other that they almost instantly sense when they are off (Well, aside from that one waitress we still haven’t met…we wonder what the deal is with her.) Yachiyo, as usual, has the lowest possible opinion of herself, just over some little thing completely out of her control (a wife emerging from a manhole cover than vanishing as if she had disapparated, for instance). Her sudden inquiry to Satou was surprising though, she’s not the most forward person, after all. The ridiculously long pause was classic Satou.
Satou’s an interesting case: on one hand, you could say he’s a fool for not making his feelings perfectly clear to Yachiyo, who is so socially inept anyway. Whatever subtle signals he’s thrown out (and there haven’t been a lot), she’s not going to pick them up; he has to be firm and clear; loud and proud. But his reservations don’t just lie in his fear of rejection or his own shyness, but consideration for his boss, Kyoko. He feels like Yachiyo is off-limits. And in any case, falling in love with someone at work is tricky enough. Actually trying to have a relationship where you see each other all day and work with each other is trickier still.
Kukuri, singing the song it sung when Kyohei was its seki, saves Hibino and Kyohei and destroys Magatsuhi. Mahiru flees. While unconscious, Kyohei dreams of the past with Aki, Mahiru, and Senou. After he found Aki with a dead Senou, he threatened to kill him with Kukuri, lashing out at anyone who interfered, but without trying, Utao took control of Kukuri from him. He wakes up proclaiming Hibino is his, and Hibino just happened to be by his side. On the roof of the hospital, they kiss, and Hibino tells him not to worry about involving her in his troubles. Utao can no longer move Kukuri. Aki pays him Kyohei a visit, telling him he’s headed to the village, where he and the Elder Hyuga will reawaken the giant monster he defeated in the past. Kyohei takes the challenge.
Oh, wait, what? A second season is forthcoming? Well, ya’know what, that’s okay with me. After all I’ve invested in this excellent cast, I’d hate for it to end so abruptly. Once Magatsuhi was dealt with and everyone was out of danger, this became a much more laid-back, relaxed episode, almost as if it were winding down in preparation for hibernation (I’m unsure whether it will continue airing during the Fall season, or if it won’t be back until next year). That’s fine though. Cliffhangers aren’t mandatory by any means.
For all the trials ahead for our man Kyohei, and despite the fact Mahiru’s kakashi was wasted and Utao lost control of hers, this was also a surprisingly upbeat episode. Kyohei and Aki’s final scene together was awesome; these two can never escape the fact that they’re brothers, any more than they can escape Kurakami. This wasn’t the time for a final duel with tons of shouting; that’s yet to come. And Kyohei and Hibino finally lockin’ lips, with Hibino making the first move? Well, better late than never!
Kuuko springs Aki and frees Hibino. Hirashino corners Kuuko and Hibino, but Kuuko pushes Hibino outside and grapples with Hirashino, killing him with his own gun in a struggle. Hibino is met by Mahiru on the roof, who has a bone to pick with her vis-a-vis Kyohei. She gets carried away and throws Hibino off the roof with Magatsuhi, but Kukuri catches her in the knick of time. Utao and Mahriu have a sustained duel, ending when Kukuri lands a blow that makes Mahiru lose control of her Magatsuhi. Now out of her control, it grabs Hibino again. Kyohei saves Mahiru from its swipe, then rushes to Hibino’s aid, only to be ensnared himself. As it crushes them, he remembers the day he told his parents he’d be leaving the village, then meeting Hibino in school. Entering the battle, Kirio accidentally knocks Kukuri out. The episode ends with Kukuri waking up, but rather than singing Utao’s song, it’s singing Kyohei’s.
Rape threats…gun grappling…seki duels, kakashi group battles…flashbacks…this episode had a little of everything. Once again, Mahiru takes the lion’s share of screen time, and she’s still a horrible selfish brat, but she becomes a little more sympathetic once Utao manages to beat her Magatsuhi. Cornered, beaten by a little kid, she’s an emotional wreck. When she loses control of her Magatsuhi, she panics. As I said, bringing her in so late was a bold move, but I’m still glad it was done; her presence and her feelings for Kyohei help get both Kyohei and Hibino thinking about what they are to one another. It also forces Kyohei to stop trying to escape the village.
I thought a lot more was to be done with the diet member, but his death makes me question what his purpose was. Also, while she’s really fun to watch and listen to, Kuuko is again really only around to kill him and save Hibino. Her only goal at this point is to be involved in all this intrigue – the embedded journalist, as it were. But she did kill a man in the middle of Tokyo – one would think there’ll be consequences. The cliffhanger was well-played: it would seem empty kakashis respond to whichever seki is projecting the strongest emotions, in this case, Kyohei’s. I just hope that after all this soul-searching and exposition, the finale will me more than just another episode of Save Princess Hibino.
Mahiru learns from Aki that Kyohei has a girlfriend. Furious, she kidnaps Hibino and ties her up in a hotel room, then visits Kyohei to learn the truth of things. She crushes cookies Utao baked specially for Kirio, leading to a brief fight, and Mahiru teleports away again. Utao, Kyohei and Moyako take Kukuri and pursue her. Meanwhile, Shiba threatens to rape Hibino.
With a title like “Hibino Kidnapped”, it’s pretty obvious what was to in the 24 minutes that followed, but I was expecting…more. I mean, look up a the first paragraph; not a lot happened. Worse still, Mahiru is not the most interesting character to watch for the majority of an episode; she’s only good in short spurts. Here, she yells far too much, repeating a lot of what has already been established. Most notably, she’s in love with her hero, Kyohei. We knew this last week. She’s also threatened by Hibino. We assumed that.
Her idea to unite the Kuga and Hyuga clans by marrying Kyohei and wiping out the old ways makes sense in theory, but isn’t without its problems. For one, Kyohei isn’t a seki anymore, and he has no intention of returning to the village, which is what Mahiru asks him to do here. But all of this could have been done much faster; I feel the momentum has been hurt by spending too much time on the psycho Mahiru, who lost most if not all of the goodwill gained from her first episode. Most frustrating, there are no further developments on precisely what the Diet member has planned, and how Mahiru and Aki fit into that plan. In all, this episode was a regression.
Mahiru of the Hyuga clan arrives in Tokyo unbeknownst to Koushiro or anyone else, and immediately makes her presence felt. Kuuko has put Aki before the diet member representing Kurakami village, who believes it’s time for the village to change with the times, which means eliminating the elders. He’s called Mahiru for the same purpose, though she insists she only came to see Kyohei, whom she loves and idolizes ever since a terrifying incident covered in a flashback.
So…yeah, introducing a character as volatile as Mahiru this late in the series was a bold move. She didn’t make the best first impression on me, but I had to remember, she’s essentially a princess, and she is a pretty powerful seki – some swagger comes with that. She’s also loud, highly irrational, prone to mood swings, and even a little sadist (she zaps Kuuko with her own stun gun just for the heck of it). In a word: unhinged. Seiyu Kana Hanazawa’s performance is feistier than I’ve heard her in a while – kind of a Kuroneko taken up a couple notches – I like it. Mahiru grew on me as the episode progressed and I learned more about her.
In a character- and action-packed flashback, Kyohei puts his life on the line numerous times to save Mahiru’s – and Aki’s – lives, when the three stumble upon a sekiless monster kakashi. It was an incredibly traumatic experience for all involved, but Kyohei saved the day, though he says it was the day he “lost his sanity.” Whatever happened, Mahiru still adores him for it, and despises Aki for being as helpless as she was, and a pain-in-the-ass to boot (he was ‘good’ back then, but the warning signs were there). Along with Hirashiro – the Diet guy – and his plans to uproot the old way in the village, there’s now a whole new layer to the series’ story. More to the point, do we care if those dusty elders get offed? Do I smell a second season…?
Moyako arrives in Tokyo, tagging along with Koushiro and Kirio, and hangs out with Kyohei, Utao and Hibino. The next college term is starting up, and Kyohei reflects on leaving the village. Aki remains at large, but is actually crashing at Kuuko Karahari’s house. Her dad the detective is snooping around everywhere, and she herself has discovered Kurakami village. Finally, a new character is introduced – Mahiru, who instantly attaches herself to “Kyohei-sama”.
Not a ton of earth-shattering stuff this week nor any action at all (save a brief flashback) but still a very solid episode all-in-all, full of great character interactions. Kyohei struggling with his worth and his feelings for Hibino, Utao nervous about Karahiri, Kuuko teasing Aki, Kirio making nice with Utao – good stuff, all. Mahiru (finally revealed in the ending sequence as the shadowy figure) looks to add an interesting dynamic. Also on full display was the series’ attention to setting detail – the stonework on the ground at the West Shinjuku station promenade and the park next to city hall were great to revisit in anime form.
Considering this is Tokyo, I’m not that surprised the growing group of sekis can’t locate Aki, though it might do them some good to pay another visit to Kuuko’s, if he goes back there. She’s an interesting wild card. For his part, Aki is sick of the person he’s become, and believes the only way out is to utterly destroy Kurakami village, thus avenging his lover and his beloved pet. That’s a big task, but he does have a kakashi and gobs of angst – I have no doubt he can get it done if no one stops him. Kyohei won’t be able to stay on the sidelines if and when Aki tries something.