Re:Creators – 08

I found last week’s episode a bit plodding and tedious, but as Altair’s identity is discovered by all and a confrontation of ideologies mounts, this week’s sequence of emotionally-resonant conversations and its closing confrontation earns it a higher grade.

The briefing to the group proper on what they know about Altair so far kinda goes off the rails when Yuuya’s creator appears with a dismissive, aloof atitude, and Yuuya, sees it as provocation to sic his esper on him. Blitz’s artist is also there, but these are merely intros for people who may or may not play key roles later.

Showing Yuuya as an unpredictable hothead was nothing new, but I appreciated Meteora’s meet-up with Souta, in which she senses he’s trying to get something off his chest and tries to make it as easy as possible.

Souta still dances around matters far too much for my taste, but it’s definitely a start, and Meteora shows how she’s morphed from a fish-out-of-water game character to a warm, patient, understanding person who considers Souta a friend and hopes he feels the same.

Despite their wildly clashing worldviews (and for the record, Alice’s take on the “world of the gods” isn’t all that unfair or inaccurate) Mamika continues to embrace Alice as a dear friend; one she believes in an hopes will believe in her.

Alice does, and can, as she can tell from her words and actions that for all her naivete Mamika has a strong and pure heart. But Alice is caught off guard when Mamika suddenly jumps off the skyscraper they’re both perched on (Tokyo City Hall) and heads off on her own, indicating it could be the last time the two friends see each other, either on the same side, or at all.

Chiku’s been busy tailing Souta during his meetings with Mamika and Meteora, and she’s pretty sure not only that Souta knew Altair’s creator, but that the creator is dead, and Souta feels at least partially to blame. Not willing to wait for him to spill the beans, she used what he’d given others to paint a larger picture for herself, and Souta’s reaction makes it clear she’s spot-on.

As such, Chiku now has leverage on Souta, and isn’t about to let him get away with avoiding the reckoning she feels should surely await the protagonist of a world as messed-up as Souta’s. So she swaps contact info and promises him they’ll go on a “date” soon. Unless he wants to be exposed, he’ll do as she says.

As for Mamika, her ultimate destination this week is Altair’s lair (an ‘Altlair’, if you will) to confront her with the knowledge she’s gained, affirm that she considers her a friend too, and offers to help “save her soul”, and that of her creator. For all the talk of creators and/or creations expressing their affection for one another, Altair is having none of it.

She hates everyone and everything and wants to destroy it all, and her response to Mamika’s olive branch is to launch a fusillade of sabres into Mamika’s body. If talk failed, Mamika was always prepared to do what was necessary to stop Altair from destroying anything or anyone else, so she casts Magical Splash Flare in a thrilling finish to the episode. No matter who emerges from the resulting conflagration, things will never be the same.

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Alice to Zouroku – 05

(In an attempt to balance our workloads, I’ve taken over Alice to Zouroku reviewing duties from Preston.)

In this episode apparently brought to you by SNICKERS® (You’re not you when you’re hungry. Eat a SNICKERS®.) Minnie C doesn’t easily give up her captives, so she and Ichijou Shizuku enter a long, sustained battle full of CGI effects that holds together reasonably well, considering the show itself has never striven for ufotable-level precision.

Minnie C puts on a good fight, but Shizuku eventually wears her down due to her superior power: the ability to summon any number of 666 weapons and 13 grimoires from a magical storeroom derived from an anime she used to watch.

That’s not as satisfying a powers-origin story as, say, Minnie C, but the major difference is that Shizuku is fighting for others, while Minnie is only fighting for herself, angry at the world for taking away her darling. When she runs out of energy and Shizuku stands triumphantly over her, I really feel for Minnie C when she apologizes to her husband for continuing to be alive, because she’s completely wrong: her husband wants her to live. That means finding another reason for living beyond being with him.

Meanwhile, the now-freed (and largely static during the battle) Alice celebrates and underscores her and Zouroku’s new freedom by floating with him high up into the sky, something he’s fine with after being cooped up on that container ship so long. He’s also fine that Alice is accepting of his and Sanae’s love and invitation to join their family, no matter what kind of being she truly is.

Minnie C is shipped back to the states, and the organization that employed her and the other ability-users and pursued is dismantled by the police. Alice takes to the granddaughter role with gusto, further charming her new big sister Sanae, who has no end of plans to use Alice’s newly-restored energy to have “fun”, a concept once foreign to Alice.

Shizuku and Ryuu rest easy, knowing all’s well that ends well. Ryuu almost seems to want to will the next crisis into being by wishing another “incident” would come along, but until then, it’s nice to see Alice, Zouroku, and Sanae simply having a normal dinner on a normal night, in the normal lives they hope to maintain even after all that’s come to light.

In fact, this could be the finale to a five-part miniseries, as it leaves me wondering what the show has lined up next.

Sansha Sanyou – 06

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This week the girls go to the beach, if only, at first, to work at Sonobe’s beach dessert cafe. It’s not your typical beach episode, because it’s really light on fanservice, but as everyone has such fair skin, it makes practical sense to cover up.

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Yu arrives at the beach aboard his yacht, the landing of which strains credulity in a more serious show. But he simply wants to make things easy for his “betrothed”, which means eating way too many desserts and leaving no room for real food. For the first half-day of work, Yoko is dressed like Yoko…Ono!

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When a shark sighting keeps the girls from finally relaxing, Yu invites them to a private resort pool, only to run into his nemesis Sakura and become hospitalized from the emotional and physical stresses that result from the encounter. Akiyama also appears, but runs off soon thereafter.

That doesn’t stop the girls from enjoying themselves at the pool, where they finally break out their swimsuits. But again, the male gaze is mostly avoided. A nice running gag is Futaba’s weird tan that never gets evened out, but otherwise not a ton going on here.

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Sansha Sanyou – 05

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Sonobe adds to her collection of cute high school part-timers as Hayama and Futaba fill in for an exhausted Yoko-sama. In the process, Hayama learns her outwardly sweet personality works wonders for customer service, as does Futaba’s encyclopedic knowledge of pastries.

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When Hayama’s sister stops by wanting to bake sweets with her, she is politely shoo-ed off, but somehow gets one of her home remedies to the back room for Yoko to eat. The next day Yoko is full of energy, but perhaps too full, as she did not sleep last night and is still eerily alert, almost robotic. The mind boggles over what was in that purple sludge!

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The three friends learn they can work together at the cafe just as amicably, but when Kondou twists Nishiyama to come with her to the cafe, the Hayama-Nishiyama feud continues…something Sonobe tries to perpetuate for her own entertainment at every turn, invoking the wrath of Yamagi, who would prefer if she not play games with people’s lives in such a way.

The ensuing duel between Sonobe and Yamagi freaks out Nishiyama, but also creates an opening through which Hayama offers her pink-haired frenemy an olive branch: treats she made for her beloved cat.

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The next day, Nishiyama falls into Sonobe’s web, is put in a frilly pink maid uniform, and made to work a shift for the day; an experiment to see if she really can do everything Hayama can do better. Hayama does not revel in Nishiyama’s embarrassment, but when things get busy, she along with Futaba and Yoko, offer help with customers in their plainclothes.

Nishiyama leaves not quite sur ehow she ended up working at Sonobe’s cafe, but happy she has more treats for her kitty, and a little more money to go towards an SLR camera. As for Sonobe, she was able to collect many a photo of Nishiyama for use in promotional materials…or blackmail!

Another fine, breezy episode with some welcome sharp edges to the soft-focus pastel aesthetic, and a fairly genuine look at how frenemies are made and maintained.

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Sansha Sanyou – 04

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Sansha Sanyou is proving a consistently enjoyable low-effort watch because just when you think it’s getting too cute and soft and fluffy, its sharper, more sardonic or absurd sides spring up.

One such absurdity is the cat photo rivalry between Serina and Teru, which is called off when they both admit their cats are cute. The thing is, both are only imagining the cats are there, so they’re only petting air!

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Another is Yamagi, who could easily turn into a nuisance, but his preternatural stick-fetching skills, combined with the fact you never know from what angle he’ll pop up from, creates an amusing tension between him and the girls, who really don’t like it when he goes all ninja on them.

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For all its cynical or buzz-killing moments, SanSan also has a few tender ones mixed in, like when Hayama and Futaba join Yoko for her first visit to a fast food joint, thus fulfilling one of her dreams, which includes sitting in the McD’s “talking endlessly about vague and silly things!”

The joke is, they end up talking about isn’t vague or silly at all, with Hayama and Futaba learning that Yoko’s mother is deceased and her Dad is out in the world somewhere trying to get back what he lost. They re-double their devotion to her, assuring her they’ll be there should she ever need anything. It’s very sweet and unexpected.

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We return to silliness when Yoko’s young “betrothed” Yu shows up to re-establish his intent to marry Yoko someday, even if there’s no official arrangement between their families and Yoko has moved on.

We also meet Futaba’s cousin Sakura, who is cute…and knows it, not being the slightest bit modest in the fact she’s in the upper percentiles and has planned out her entire life, including her post-idol career and overseas retirement (a dream brilliantly visualized as an isometric RPG, complete with the recently-ruined Yoko in a wasteland far below Sakura).

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Yu seems like a well-cultured, polite, kind young man, but informing Yoko & Co. he’s still loaded was a warning sign of another side to him, which we see when he cruelly mocks Yamagi for “pretending to still be her servant.”

The truth is, Yamagi still is her servant regardless of whether he’s paid. And there’s honor and nobility in that Yu clearly lacks. Which is why I’m glad Sakura gloms onto Yu when the two cross paths. Those two twerps deserve each other!

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Finally, in a segment that wouldn’t be out of place in Koufuku Graffiti, Futaba finally proves to a dubious Teru and an eager Yoko that she has legit cooking chops, and isn’t just an eater. Yoko attempts to cook the splendid Wagyu beef Yu gifted to her, but ends up ruining it.

Enter Futaba, who treats the beef with all due care and respect and flashes her home cooking skills. By the end of it, the previously skeptical Teru is calling her “mom”, and Yoko is over the moon for having had her first meal with friends at her house, which likely feels more like a home now. She also vows to improve her cooking skills, lest future quality ingredients make the ultimate sacrifice.

Lots of variety this week, with diverse sources of laughs, and a good balance between cutesiness, cynicism, and warm sentimentality.

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Sansha Sanyou – 03

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A typhoon descends on the town, and with it comes a Marry Poppins-style maid flying in with a brolly…or is she simply riding the wind? In any case, when Futaba mentions she’s out of spending money and considering a part-time job, Yoko decides she’ll look for one too. Strangely, Yamagi is missing from his usual spot in the bushes.

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That leads girls to a quaint cafe called Secret Garden, where they find what looks at first like a murder scene—if this was Danganronpa, that is. Turns out it’s just a combination of jam and fatigue. The maid is Sonobe, and she used to work in Yoko’s household and is all too happy to give her former master a job.

As for Yamagi, he is not enthralled about the idea of making Yoko-sama work, and ends up fighting Sonobe with baking utensils. Naturally, Futaba and Hayama are frightened by the sheer weirdness of Yoko’s former servants.

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Still, the next day Yoko is working there, and to her friends’ surprise, not dressed as a maid; cosplay is just Sonobe’s hobby (though I was surprised to see the tomboy Futaba wearing a long skirt).

Sonobe shows off this hobby again the next day when she comes to Yoko’s school dressed in their school uniform, which she designed and carefully made the night before from memory.

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Despite her looks, Yoko estimates Sonobe to be in her thirties, so it makes sense for her to want to use her youthful looks to continue being in proximity to girls whose age she resembles, that she might “draw youthful energy” or some such from them.

To that end, she kills three birds with one stone by making sure Yoko’s new friends are taking care of her, delivering some mayo-heavy lunch, and using her disguise-not-disguise to hand out flyers for her cafe to Yoko’s schoolmates.

Sonobe’s definitely an odd duck, and her presence infused a bit of magical realism into these week’s proceedings, but we got a little too much of her this week; I prefer the focus to be on our reliable affable core trio.

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Koufuku Graffiti – 07

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Shiina’s family is always given way too much saury (AKA mackerel pike), leading to an infestation of cats. To prevent that, she proposes a cookout at her estate to cook the fish off. Ryou and Kirin agree immediately. But there’ll be a catch this time: Ryou won’t be doing any of the cooking or cleaning. She’s done enough; now it’s time for the other two to cook and clean for her.

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Their sensei in this enterprise is Tsuyuko, who is apparently an iron chef-caliber culinary master who just happens to be content as the maid of a wealthy family. Grilling saury is about as basic as it gets, which means even the slightest mistake in preparation and cooking is exposed.

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Tsuyuko is a firm yet patient teacher, showing Kirin and Shiina the simple yet very exacting way of seasoning and scoring the fish, and the importance of not making eye contact, even if the fresh fish’s eyes are mesmorizingly clear and sparkling.

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Throughout their trials, Ryou is forced to simply hang back and watch. Giving up control isn’t easy, but not because Ryou thinks the others won’t do as good a job. It’s more a matter of her having always either cooked for herself or others since her grandma passed away. It’s become a habit, and any habit is hard to suddenly break, but she does her best not to interfere.

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The finished product Kirin and Shiina present her with—a splendidly grilled fish with crispy salty skin and fluffy, succulent flesh—is a revelation for Ryou. She knew food tasted better when sharing it with others, but thanks to her friends, now she knows that having food cooked for you makes it taste even better…in most cases.

Some people, of course, just flat-out can’t cook, but lucky for her Kirin and Shiina aren’t bad. Now that she’s a recipient of their cooking, she now knows firsthand the joy her cooking has brought them, inspiring them to repay her.

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Naturally, later that night Ryou can’t help using some of the leftover saury in a dish with ginger, bamboo shoot and rice. The show thus far has been good at showing how the leftovers of one meal can lead to another, totally different second meal.

Kirin wants to cook, but so does Ryou, so they compromise and share the work, making it that much more fun and the food that much tastier, because a meal prepared together is the best of both worlds. And now I must keep my eyes peeled for some saury at my local Asian grocery.

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Koufuku Graffiti – 05

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I’ve been intentionally conservative with rating KG’s episodes thus far because, at the end of the day, while the artistry is clear and present and the presentation of food is deliciously creative, the story is as ultra-lightweight and fluffy as a marshmallow. But this show will still make you think a little more about what you’re eating, why you’re eating it, who you’re eating it with, and how it really makes you feel. It will also, obviously, make you hungry.

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I decided to be a little more generous this week because, of all weeks, this KG brought the house; compressing an entire notebook of Summer vacation activities (much of it involving eating) into one gorgeous episode. It’s all achieved thanks to Shiina, who finally invites her new friends to her house.

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“House” doesn’t quite do it justice; it’s more like a sprawling estate that looks like the countryside even though they’re still within the Tokyo Metropolis. It reminds me of Kabaru Suruga’s place, though like Suruga, Shiina isn’t the least bit stuffy, stuck-up, or spoiled as her luxurious quality of life would suggest.

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In this gorgeous, ornate new setting the painters and director can really let their hair down, and they don’t disappoint with Shiina’s digs. It’s also the kind of place where Kirin can start to cross off various items from her Summer Activity checklist, even if some are merely technically being fulfilled (animal traps for a zoo, etc.)

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The episode also fakes us out by first having Kirin meet Shiina’s quiet, kimono’d mom in her garden (who is actually the house maid, Tsuyuko), then showing us that her real mom is like a hyperactive version of Shiina, and just as warm and generous, dispensing ungodly amounts of sweets, and even inviting the girls to partake of flowing somen noodles, a whole big production that requires cutting down bamboo to make the track, before any cooking commences.

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Ryou and Kirin get a little overzealous with the manual labor, but once they’re in the kitchen they’re back in their element, and Ryou helpfully goes over all the sauces and condiments that go with somen, including an orthodoz kombu-and-katsuobushi dashi, which I have made from scratch only a couple times but is far superior to the powdered stuff. I also accidentally leave green onions connected on occasion, as Tsuyuko did.

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Yeah, that’s not how flowing somen works…

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Shiina’s mom gets a nice little meta moment when she expresses relief her daughter isn’t the only one who acts like this when she eats, what with the saturated color, slow-motion and eye-sparkling. As Kirin says in the cold open, eating is a serious duel between the eater and the eaten. In enjoying their noodles so thoroughly (and explaining in detail why), they do their food the attention and justice it deserves.

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While Shiina is inside, her mother thanks Ryou and Kirin for continuing to be her friend, as she was also worried her daughter didn’t have any. Now she notices that Shiina talks a lot more about her day, much of it involving the two of them. The girls react to this by being so overly affectionate to Shiina, she’s a little creeped out, but it’s all cute and charming as hell.

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And thanks to Shiina, Kirin could cross every last item off her checklist (in one way or another), not to mention create priceless memories, which was the purpose of the checklist. An episode that started with three miserable friends stuck in school drawing Summer became three elated, satisfied friends experiencing Summer to its fullest.

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ISUCA – 03

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On the realization that last week’s romp wasn’t that bad, I’ve decided to share reviewing duties with Zane. And this episode wasn’t that bad either. It wasn’t great, but it wasn’t bad. I can’t speak to how ISUCA compares to similar shows Franklin dropped, but I’m not willing to revisit those, and neither is Zane. Also, there are only seven episodes remaining, so it’s not like we’re wasting our lives here.

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Shinichirou (lets go ahead and shorten that to “Shin”) is excelling at his job as Sakuya’s trainer, to the point Nadeshiko has him move into Sakuya’s house full-time, something both of them are a little apprehensive about, because of the romantic tension and all. Their classmates can see the two have become an item; they’re just unaware of how strange an item they make.

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Anywho, we delve a little deeper into Sakuya’s family politics. Specifically, her cousin Suseri is going after her top spot. She’s also caught wind of Shin’s power, so despite being a sheltered girl unaccustomed to dealing with men in any way, it isn’t long after she introduces herself that she slips into his bath and starts washing his back with her boobs. She’s really sheltered.

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Okay, that’s pretty damn terrible, I know, but so damn cheeky and ridiculous that it circles back around to being kind of good, if that makes any sense (if it doesn’t, tough ^_^)

Also ridiculous and bizarre? When Suseri attempts to kidnap Shin (of course), her limo is suddenly pulled into another dimension where they are attacked by a pack of carnivorous gloom cars, the leader of which is a Honda S800 (thanks Zane). The badass Shimizu-trained driver is suddenly gooshed, raising the stakes nicely.

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Suseri isn’t strong enough on her own to defeat the Honda, so she demands Shin kiss her so she can power up. Before they can kiss, however, Sakuya looses an arrow between them, having broken through the barrier into this otherworld.

Nadeshiko then gets the bright idea to pile everyone into the limo, but doesn’t have the keys to start it (certainly a car that old could be hotwired?) Anyway, the Honda starts to crush them, and Sakuya conveniently ends up in the position where only she, not Suseri, can kiss Shin. When she does, the resulting powering-up destroys the evil Honda, and they return to the normal world.

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There, Suseri asks Sakuya once more if she’ll give her Shin. Sakuya refuses, but Suseri lets it go, but only for now; she still intends to usurp her. As for the man in the middle, Shin seems slightly more beholden to Sakuya, but if he had met Suseri first, I imagine he’d be more beholden to her. Still, as a high school guy with a cat-girl familiar who doesn’t wear underwear and two rich, powerful girls fighting over him, Shin doesn’t exactly have it that bad, does he?

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ISUCA – 02

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Every once or twice in a decade, the fates conspire to bring us a truly great and unique work of art that is so bowl-you-over astonishing, it captures the imagination of the entire planet. I think I speak to all who have experienced it that Isuca episode two is that…and more.

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High school girls undressing in the locker room? Pretty standard fare. But a carpet of rats suddenly bursting out of a locker, knocking the half-naked girls over, and proceeding to eat them alive as they’re sexually aroused? We’re at the pinnacle, ladies and gentlemen. Savor it…for it will never be this good again.

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Yes, that review above was just an illusion, borne from ISUCA sucking your life force right out of you. In reality, Preston has punted this to me. The thing is, it’s(uca) not as an excruciating ordeal as it sounds. This episode was mostly harmless, and surprisingly fun. Devoid of any semblance of weight or significance, yes; simple and innocuous, sure…yet sometimes rubbing up against something resembling slyness. In other words, it was a pussycat. A pussycat going commando.

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Tama, the two-tailed cat specter Sakuya is about to pierce with an arrow last week, becomes Asano Shinichirou’s familiar when he happens to learn her true name, after recalling a stray cat in a box that he must have cared for. She tries to help him deal with the Rat King baddie, but runs out of go-juice, AKA life force.

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Now that is simply a masterful landing, worthy of song; not to mention Tusk’s approval. To not only land face up from such a great height without breaking one’s back, but to have one woman’s face land on your crotch, and another girl’s crotch landing on your face, all inches from the bones of eaten classmates…I ask you: What else is there to say? #weareallasano.

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We learned from visiting her house that Sakuya is a hopeless slob, and so her and Shinichirou’s teacher (and associate of Sakuya’s family) appoints Shinichirou as her maid. But despite the squalor she’d lived in up to that point, she harbors an unreasonable fear or rats and cockroaches, rendering her fairly useless. This week she’s one of the people standing around while others do something.

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And that something is…making out, complete with tongue and drool. ISUCA would be a pretty workaday fantasy action joint, only it aims to distinguish itself by inserting sex pretty much anywhere it can, like a shoplifter stuffing Slim-Jims into their many trench coat pockets. This is not a new concept. But even with the silly ecchi elements, the danger has a nice sharp edge to it.

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Shinichirou’s life force turns out to be SURGE to Tama, who takes out the Rat King with laughable ease, and a fair amount of badassery. Only, when she’s back to her normal self, she’s holding her pray in her mouth like a cat, proud to be presenting a gift for her master (I know, it’s debatable whether that’s what cats do, but let me dream, man!). 

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So we have Sakuya the Slob hiring Shinichiru as her housemaid, and Shinichirou having Tama, whom he names “Tamako”, as his eternal retainer, who’ll have to periodically make out with him to stay alive, which is a pretty good deal, as they’ve each saved each others’ lifes at least twice at this point. That brings us to the fact that Tama is Special; a vessel for freakishly high-level spiritual power. And he makes a mean stir-fry.

Wait…is that RAT MEAT? WHAT IS THIS, SKYRIM?

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 10

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One reason I handed off Gundam-G review duties to Zane was that there was just too much going on, none of which made enough sense me to care, whether it was the endless parade of proper nouns or the endless arbitrary political machinations. Ange doesn’t make sense either sometimes, but it’s telling a far more cohesive tale that has actually drawn me in.

It’s also uncomplicated: by making the Norma out to be monsters, something not all of them are by a long shot) the arrogant, prejudice masses of mana-using humans are the real monsters, as demonstrated at the evening public whipping, mocking and hanging Ange must endure for basically causing ‘mild discomfort and unhappiness’ for a few people.

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Franklin: This is for you.

Yes, the people, including Ange’s former classmates, her brother, and even her little sister, are nothing but spoiled, petulant, hyper-sensitive shitstains and there’s nothing redeemable about them, nor is there meant to be anything redeeming about them. Uncomplicated.

Tusk also swoops in undeterred by any air defenses and actually takes his sweet time rescuing Ange like we knew he would.

The show doesn’t bother mussing its hair about details like ‘Ange did murder dozens of people’ (the scum deserved it), or ‘Tusk’s hoverbike is oddly quiet enough for Ange to give a “Fuck You” speech to the crowd’, and ‘its exhaust is cool enough not to burn her siblings on her way out’, or ‘Tusk buries his face in Ange’s crotch, making this kind of his running gag (which is terrible). Uncomplicated.

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Never mind how Ange and Momoka found the cabin attachment to Tusk’s paramail while he was unconscious, I think this is the question we all most wanted answered this week. While Tusk doesn’t have a satisfying answer, we must assume he either has extremely bad (or possibly in his case, good) luck, or is actually a pervert who targets Ange’s crotch any chance he gets.

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In any case, the joke is only used once, and our dealings with Tusk are thankfully limited to the first half. The rescue was ultimately swift and uncomplicated. And don’t say Jill doesn’t have a sense of humor, because when she locks Ange up for desertion, she has her share a cell with the also recently-recaptured (never mind how) Hilda.

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The balance of the episode are the two proud and tenacious women licking their wounds and laughing at their own pathetic stupidity, believing they could simply go back to the world like nothing changed. These scenes built up more reluctant camaraderie between Ange and Hilda, who in the end agree to form a loose accord to take on and destroy that world full of bullshit for fooling them both not once but twice.

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Of course, things won’t be quite the same at Arzenal, either, which didn’t stand still when Hilda and Ange deserted. Now they’re broke, possession-less, and at the bottom of the food chain. Chris takes over Hilda’s role taking over for Zola, which is an interestingly little twist as she always seemed so passive. But being betrayed changes people.

Salia and Ersha, Chris and Roselie; these are women who came to Arzenal as babies and have never seen the other world, let alone ever considered there was a place for them there. As such, none of them can quite fathom why Hilda and Ange did what they did.

Their isolation has also left them children on an emotional level, albeit children forced to fight. They put their trust into Ange and Hilda, and won’t forgive their treachery easily, if at all (Vivian already has).

Or maybe it will just take an episode. You know Ange; it likes to keep things…uncomplicated.

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 09

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Oh Princess Mecha Sexy Violent Exploitation Adventure: this was not one of your best weeks. You either tried to make everyone betray Ange and Hilda, on every possible level, in order to drive our sympathy for these rain-soaked girls to the maximum level, or you tried to make fun of anime that use such melodramatic ham to control our emotions.

In either case, you were a hopeless failure, sad girls crying in the rain and all.

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The Rundown: Hilda goes home to her mom and finds out her mom has had another daughter who she’s also named Hilda, everyone freaks out, Hilda runs away and gets beaten up by cops while crying in the rain.

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Meanwhile, Ange and her maid raid Ange’s high school lacrosse locker room but are discovered by Ahiko, a former team mate. Ahiko betrays Ange, twice, but Ange still manages to fight all the way to the castle, where she is then betrayed by her little sister Sylvia and captured by her evil brother Julio.

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The Good: if you’ve wanted to see people comically freak out over hot girls, then this week’s for you. Hilda’s Mom’s replacement baby, Hilda’s mom obviously calling the cops even though she has no reason to, Ange’s sister stabbing Ange in the arm, it’s all there.

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Likewise, if you don’t like Ange much, it was nice to see her tactics fail constantly. However, It was also fun to see Ange kill a decent number of people with no concern at all.

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The Not-So-Good: we got two flashbacks this episode, and one of those flashbacks was so absurdly soon after the event it flashed back to, it felt like a joke. Otherwise, the entire episode was a cheap mess of over-the-top acting, super betrayals and an out of nowhere evil plan by Ange’s big brother.

Really? The whole message to Arzenal was a trap to get Ange to…escape from Arzenal…so they could capture her? Oh shut up!

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The Verdict: This was a stupid episode fueled by cheap emotions and storytelling clichés and what’s even worse is it as much as tells us Tusk will save Ange from her fate next week because He’s The Man, Dog! Yay.

It scores extra points for Hilda’s mom throwing the cherished apple pie at Hilda but it loses as many for not thinking the details through. I mean, I can’t be the only one who wonders where Hilda’s dad is in all of this. EITHER Hilda’s dad, for that matter…

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Cross Ange: Tenshi to Ryuu no Rondo – 08

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Aw, sucks to be the only Norma who has to stay on duty…

I won’t lie…I was kind of dreading this episode. But it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be. In fact, it wasn’t that bad at all. But why don’t I let Ange herself give us a quick synopsis, speaking as the mascot “Perolina”:

It’s the long-awaited swimsuit episode, pero. But there were only a few slurpy scenes, pero. Running pigs, stinky outfits, and a great escape, pero! Do they really know what a swimsuit episode is, pero? You’re just making me make funny noises, aren’t you? Pero!

I love Ange’s little meta commentaries after the episodes. In addition to being funny, they prove the show has a cheeky sense of awareness that knows when it’s being exploitative and knows when to pull back on the fanservice throttle, for instance, and give us some meat and potatoes.

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Yes, even in Hell, there’s a day off for hope, fun, and happiness, if only one. I’m not averse to this concept; at some point, all the Norma in Arzenal will snap and go nuts and probably cause a great deal of damage…if not given some kind of release valve. Granted other valves already exist — from the marketplace to spend one’s earnings to tacitly permitting conjugation. But the Festa is a day long deep-scrub of all the crap that’s been built up. I daresay the ladies deserve it.

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Ange mentioned a great escape, though. There are actually two that take place this week, and these events thankfully push the Festa into the background where it’s more than tolerable. The first is borne out of Ange’s totally understandable depression over the plight of her sister Sylvia. Initially she believes there’s nothing she can do, but an opportunity presents itself when Misty Rosenblum, whose family administrates Arzenal and who once played lacrosse with Ange a lifetime ago, arrives on the island to meet Ange.

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Ange isn’t the only one not into the spirit of the Festa. Emma seems to resent giving these filthy barbaric Norma a day of sun and fun, and stays stubbornly in her duty uniform, as this isn’t her festa. I liked this little exchange while she was searching for Ange, because it underlines her disapproval with this whole exercise.

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Ange, meanwhile, has shrewedly hidden herself within the Perolina suit, wanders off to the flight deck, scares off a couple of lovers, and broods in peace. Then she spots the Rosenblum crest on the transport ship and hatches a plan: she’ll take Misty hostage and force her to fly her off the island, so she can find Sylvia.

This is important for Ange not just because it’s her little sister, but because Ange blames herself for paralyzing Sylvia when she fell from a horse during a ride. When she though Sylvia was dead she was content to be Ange, but she’s not, so she has to try to save her.

But Ange wasn’t the first person to come up with this plan: Hilda, who has been just as sullen at the Festa, has been waiting for this day to escape.

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Contrast that with Ersha, who suited up as Pero first and then gets a massage, or Salia, who avails herself of the cinema, pop culture aficionado that she is. And then there’s Chris and Roselie, who deal with Hilda avoiding them after they ‘betrayed’  her, in different ways.

Roselie washes her worries in gambling, but Chris decides to put everything into winning all the sporting events and a fat prize check so she can spend it with Roselie…and Hilda. It’s a great character beat for Chris, who we haven’t seen much of, but who genuinely cares about Hilda.

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Speaking of cash, Ange leaves enough to cover the weapons she’s taking aboard the ship (which are guarded by a dog easily bribed by a tub full of cheeseburgers, the functional equivalent of diverting a pursuing dog with a string of wieners).

Ange and Misty arrive at the ship to find Hilda and Momoka already there, and that’s when Hilda suggests they team up, for a better chance of getting away. Ange grudgingly agrees when Hilda points out the arresting locks need to be unlocked to take off.

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After a nifty, carefully-coordinated operation in which they wait until the noisy fireworks start, they get the transport moving. Now Hilda just needs to catch up with it and jump aboard…something Ange isn’t so sure she wants to allow after all.

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“CURSE YOUR SUDDEN BUT INEVITABLE BETRAYAL!”

When Ange starts goading Momoka to take off without Hilda, something that doesn’t sit right with the still morally pure maid, Hilda forces the issue and makes a desperate leap onto the ramp, and we learn the truth about Hilda: everything she’s done, from becoming Zola’s plaything to befriending Roselie and Chris to planning this escape, she’s done to get back home to her mother. She’s going to get off this rock or die trying. At the last moment, Ange lends her an outstretched arm to prevent her from dying, and their alliance holds. And all this in flip-flops!

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Once they reach land, they ditch Misty and the transport quickly, Hilda unearths her motorcycle, and then heads off on her own to the Enderant Union to find her mom, but not before an exchange of respectful looks and promises not to die. While they were bitter enemies at Arzenal, finally putting aside their differences led to their freedom. But how long will that freedom last?

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