Cop Craft – 05 – A Brief Dream Before the End

Suddenly up against an ancient lauden neiven—vampire in the common tongue—Tilarna nearly finds herself outmatched, but gets some backup from her partner, who makes use of a fire extinguisher to disorient the baddie. Tilarna relieves the vampire of one of her arms and Kei fills her with bullets, but she still escapes.

Tilarna feels responsible for Chapman’s death, as she should have known sooner what they were dealing with; Kei does his best to assure her it’s not on her, it’s just the job. Using both K9 units and Tilarna’s excellent sense of smell (at least when it comes to latena), they continue the search.

After the vampire kills a truck driver, causing him to crash, witnesses recall seeing her wearing a dress that looked like black flames—Tilarna recognizes it as a magical illusion spell that provides clothing when naked (and scolds Kei for thinking about her demonstrating it). But it’s also clear the vamp has some of her power back.

The duo heads to the mall where she lies in wait. Kei ends up thrown off a high balcony into a fountain and gets knocked out, while Tilarna is captured. When she awakens both she and we get more of a feel for their adversary, who after all is extremely disoriented in this strange new place. However, she’s sharp enough to know of the “greater gate” in the “Book of Niba,” a prophecy that has apparently come true.

That being said, she’s still a vampire, which means she can’t resist an easy meal—particularly Tilarna’s delicious noble blood. Unfortunately she delays her dinner a hair too long, as Kei and a SWAT team storms the location and rescues Tilarna.

The wounded vamp once again gives the cops the slip, but Tilarna remain hot on her trail. Tilarna suggests they try to take her alive “if possible” so they can try to learn something from her, but Kei very much doubts they’ll be in a position to hold back.

A strange voice leads the vamp down into the subway tracks—the voice of a wizard, who like Tilarna wants to extract some knowledge from the vamp if he can. But between the feeling she finds herself in hell to the belief she comes to that she’s merely in a brief and very bizarre dream before her end, she’s not interested, and instead drains the wizard dry to recharge.

Tilarna and Kei arrive, and once again have a hard time bringing her down. She pounces on Kei, warning him no man has ever walked away from three battles with her, unless he’s some kind of prophesied warrior. Ultimately, the vamp’s ignorance of the fatal effect of a subway train hitting her leads to her demise, while Tilarna leaps to Kei’s rescue at the last second.

Naturally, Kei doesn’t properly thank Tilarna for saving him again, which really steams her beans, so she starts viciously kicking him in the back. It’s an oddly perfunctory ending to what had been to that point a rather thoughtful and intriguing story.

After all, the vamp wasn’t necessarily pure evil—a gal’s gotta eat—but as the episode progressed, she was more a subject of pity than disdain. She simply didn’t belong, it would have been extremely hard for her to try, and she didn’t even seem to want to stay, almost preferring oblivion to such an unfamiliar land.

ReLIFE – 17 (Fin)

Aw HELL yeah! I didn’t ask for much, just a happy yet satisfying ending that felt earned, and ReLIFE delivered exactly that. Initially framed by Yoake’s final report, things start out in the afterglow of Kaizaki and Hoshiro’s confessions. All their friends are super-excited for them, but they keep it very cool and low-key, which is just like two teenagers who are actually adults.

They’re both simply savoring every day they have left together, because they don’t have a lot of them. It makes you wish they’d gotten together much sooner…but then again, I couldn’t have asked for a better way for them to finally realize their feelings for another, and their love only deepens as the days pass, as evidenced by their late night phone call when simply messaging on LIME won’t cut it.

Graduation Day comes, and Kanzaki manages to graduate by the skin of his teeth (thanks to Oga). There’s goodbyes, notes of goodwill, flowers, smiles…and tears. But there are no tears more bitter than those shed by both Kanzaki and Hoshiro.

He finally gives her a hug, just when she needs one most, and it turns out he needed that hug just as badly. He says it feels like a break-up, even though they’ll see each other at the start of the college term. Hoshiro thanks him for being such a transparent yet kind liar.

And that’s the last they see of each other in their respective ReLifes—with a tearful embrace, assuring each other they’ll never forget each other, even if they know they can’t keep that promise.

Yoake congratulates Kanzaki for a marvelously successful ReLife, telling him he can look forward to very promising job placement in exchange for his cooperation with the experiment, and should hold his head high. Meanwhile, Onoya has her exit interview with Hoshiro, who never really warmed up to her newer support.

Describing her ReLife, Hoshiro describes how her heart is “ripped open” by getting close to people only to lose them, but admits she does feel like she changed “a little.” After taking her pill and falling asleep, Onoya accidentally discovers a marker Hoshiro used to write “I was in love with Kaizaki Arata”, and breaks down at Hoshiro’s failure to hide it better, as once Onoya sees it, she has to get rid of it along with all other evidence. It’s her job, after all.

Fast-forward to a bit of time after Kanzaki regains his 28-year-old appearance and starts interviewing for the jobs ReLife provided. Ultimately, however, he wants nothing more than to help others as he was helped, so he requests a job with ReLife, and is accepted. Now he is the one visiting shut-ins and other wretches, offering a way for them to find themselves again.

At a ReLife company dinner, Kanzaki arrives a bit late, but a space was saved for him. Turns out the seat he takes belongs to Hoshiro, but it’s no big deal or anything, as someone from another part of the restaurant is calling for her. As she turns to walk away, Kanzaki notices the strap on her bag…

At the end of the dinner (well, the first round, but the only round recommended for newbies), it starts to rain, but Kanzaki doesn’t have an umbrella. Just then, Hoshiro appears once more and opens the very same green umbrella the two shared just after confessing. She offers to share it, but Kanzaki politely declines, and she starts to head off on her own…but turns and says she heard the higher-ups calling him a test subject.

She then mentions her own stint as a subject, how it lasted two years, and how her supporter pushed for her to get a job at ReLife, and she took a position in the pharma section. Kanzaki asks if she’d tell him about her ReLife, and she compares it to…fireworks, like the ones she saw at the festival with her friends.

They both latch onto the spectacular yet fleeting nature of fireworks, and eventually both remember flashes of that night when Hoshiro told Kanzaki he was like fireworks. I tellya, I got an absolute thrill out of watching them gradually put the pieces together in their heads.

You could say the fireworks…sparked their memories, heh-heh. Once he recalls Hoshiro in her red yukata looking up at the sky, Kanzaki calls her by her name. Hoshiro needs just a little bit more, but she eventually remembers writing the note on her hand as she cried after taking the pill. And that’s it: in spite of the lab’s efforts, they found and remembered each other…and it didn’t even take that long!

Now, while the ReLife procedures were concluded with all due diligence, I’d like to think both Yoake and Onoya played roles in facilitating a reunion. Yoake accepting Kanzaki’s request to work for ReLife; Onoya predding Hoshiro to work there as well…even telling Kanzaki that Hoshiro’s seat was his in the restaurant.

But while the supports made the conditions more favorable for a happy ending, at the end of the day they were just that, support. It took Kanzaki and Hoshiro being friendly, open, and honest with each other, and especially Hoshiro bringing up how she heard he test subject, like her, at that crucial moment.

If she hadn’t they might have gone their separate ways, perhaps forever. But I’m immeasurably chuffed she did, and the resulting re-connection was nothing short of mesmerizing. Time for some #Adulting!

ReLIFE returned quite out of the blue to rip my heart out with the prospect of tearing apart two lovely people who had only just found each other…only to painstakingly reconstruct that heart, and fill it back up with love until it almost burst all over again, only in a good way!

Of course, you’re mileage may vary, depending on whether you read the entire web manga (I did not) and your particular emotional investment. Clearly, my investment was significant, and one and a half years of time away didn’t dull it in the slightest. This was a big win.

ReLIFE – 16

Well THAT escalated quickly! Christmas is approaching, and after Kaizaki recommends an almost too-pure-for-the-world Oga to just take Kariu anywhere and they’ll have fun, he suddenly finds Hoshiro not only avoiding him, but bolting away like a scared chipmunk whenever he makes eye contact.

Kariu and Tamarai kinda already know what’s up; both Kariu and Oga previously pegged Kaizaki and Hoshiro as being in love, so they convene in the locker room to get it from the horse’s mouth. Yet all Hoshiro can say about her feelings is “I don’t know.” Kariu, suddenly the mature one to provide the advice, tells her “I don’t know” isn’t going to cut it…not when she’s just “one step away.”

Later, Tamarai simply advises Hoshiro to ask Kaizaki on a date, just as Oga advised Kaizaki to ask Hoshiro. But just when Kaizaki thinks their distance couldn’t be any greater, Hoshiro sneaks up behind him and asks him if he’s free on the 25th and to expect further details by LIME.

That night, Kaizaki is a nervous wreck, but finally gets those details, along with another silly Hoshiro cat sticker. Hoshiro makes it clear it’s a date and she’s looking forward to it. After getting the all-green from Yoake, Kaizaki isn’t about to turn her down, even if he believes it will “ruin her Christmas” when she inevitably forgets all about him.

The date starts out a bit stiff, but both parties seem to be enjoying themselves immensely as they mill around the mall doing date stuff. In an adorable little detail, Hoshino, completely unaware that “Christmas” dates typically happen on Christmas Eve, set the date for Christmas day, but that ends up working out just fine, as it’s a lot less crowded.

The montage of their date is a somewhat creepy montage of photos taken by Yoake and Onoya, who are keeping a respectful distance but still watching and listening to their charges like hawks…while trying to get in some Christmas chilling of their own.

When Onoya acknowledges with a somber look that both of the lovebirds will forget all about their wonderful date, Yoake, always trying to find the silver lining, says that won’t mean it never happened…which, fine, but dude, that’s not the same of having a date and remembering it! The latter is much better, and these two deserve much better!

Yoake, having at least a sliver of heart, sends a quick message to Kaizaki informing him it’s actually Hoshiro’s birthday. When she gets him a present for Christmas, he gets her one for both Christmas and her birthday, bringing a warm and appreciative smile to her face.

When the two go up in a Ferris Wheel, Hoshiro asks Kaizaki what his birthday is. He tells her it already passed in August, and both get very troubled and pained when they say they’ll just have to celebrate it next year, knowing full well (at least at this point) that next year won’t happen for them, and saying they’ll never forget today. It’s hard to watch, I tellsya!

But even if nothing romantic happens on the Ferris Wheel, things turn around on a bridge. Kaizaki impulsively reaches out and takes Hoshiro’s arm as if to hug her, but she draws back. Apologizing, she tells him how much he’s “on her mind”, and the more he’s on her mind, the less she understands what to do.

It’s all the opening Kaizaki needs. He tells her she’s on his mind to, and that he loves her. That in turn allows Hoshiro to take the one final step Kariu was talking about: she tells him her feelings for him are the same.

With that, it suddenly starts raining. Ever prepared, Hoshino breaks out her umbrella and holds it out for Kaizaki. He takes hold just above her hand, but she puts her hand over his before they walk away together into the dark sacred night.

I honestly have no idea where things will go from here, and I can’t rule out the possibility Yoake will have his way and their memory of one another will vanish, which would be an appalling tragedy. That’s why I wouldn’t have minded if this was the final episode.

After sixteen episodes of these two, things are exactly where I want them. Will I regret watching one more episode? Am I a fool for hoping some kind of happy ending is still possible? One, perhaps, in which they meet and hit it off as strangers? Hey, I’ll take a relationship respawn over a system failure any day.

Saekano 2 – 11 (Fin)

Megumi and Tomoya go on a date, not just because it seems like the thing to do after the rest of the harem has cleared out, but to cheer one another up. It’s clear it’s not a one-sided case of Megumi cheering Tomoya up from the look of a soundless flashback in which she reacts dramatically to Eriri’s news she’s moving on from the group.

Megumi also seems to take great joy in shopping for clothes and shoes with Tomoya around. Even if he has no fashion sense or money to speak of, his company is appreciated and their instincts—like the one to hold hands in the crowded section—are often in sync.

By the end of the trip, Tomoya is feeling much better, as is Megumi, and the former makes sure they stop by a hat store so he can get her the same white hat she was wearing when he first envisioned her as his main heroine, as thanks both for her company and for getting him glasses last time.

Megumi is touched by the gesture, and when they return to that fateful hill, she tells Tomoya “she’s not giving up”. It strikes me as having dual meaning, as she intends to move forward with the doujin group even without Eriri and Utaha…and intends to make Tomoya fall completely for her.

Tomoya agrees they should move forward, but when his laughter turns to tears of loss, she reaches out to embrace him, only to then pulls back.

Now sufficiently cheered up, cried out, and ready to move forward, Tomoya takes it upon himself to see Eriri and Utaha off, surprising them both on the platform of their train to Osaka. Their looks say it all; Eriri in particular can’t believe he’ll forgive them.

But it’s not about forgiveness at all for Tomoya; it’s about wishing his two dear and wonderfully talented friends good luck on their exciting new venture. And I don’t think he’s putting on airs—one doesn’t turn down something like Fields Chronicle, and he thinks their “god-tier” talent can make it the best ever.

This sendoff, complete with a Megumi phone call with the same positive, concilatory intent, is enough to bring Eriri, Tomoya, and even Utaha to tears. It’s a bittersweet moment, one perhaps made a bit more silly when after Eriri removes Tomoya’s glasses, intending to keep them, then leans in to kiss, it’s Utaha who steals a big, long smooth with Tomoya, and Eriri is forced to whip out her twintails for the first time in a long while. They also miss their train in the excitement.

But no matter; they’re on their way. Post-credits, Tomoya and Megumi are both on first name terms, now seniors in school, chattering away with their usual excellent chemistry and bonhomie. Then, to their surprise, Hashima Izumi appears, a recent transfer, and Tomoya understands Iori’s words about sending his sister to a place where her talents can be put to best use.

Will Izumi be the artist for Tomoya and Megumi’s game? Perhaps, but it’s a certainty that Michiru will score the music once again. Hey, remember Michiru? The show makes sure to let us know it’s in on the joke regarding her absence for the back half of the season (which, frankly, was fine).

But notably, Michiru is conversing with Eriri and Utaha, who are watching Tomoya from afar. Eriri is still enrolled in the school, but the graduated Utaha is there because “it’s a free country.” The more things change, the more they stay the same!

Macross Delta – 18

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I never thought it would happen, but Macross Delta actually made me care a little bit about one of the bad guys. A big part of why is because he’s unsure the direction his people are headed it. Cassim is on the wrong side of 25, and knows full well the king is now Lloyd’s puppet. Like Hayate and Freyja, whom he invites into a storehouse where he’s thinking things over, he’s not exactly sure what is the right thing to do.

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I especially liked when Freyja showed up first and they just shot the Windermerean breeze, so to speak. When Hayate shows up, he’s not hostile, but sees that these two like each other and worries for them, as he worries for the future in general, which for him, is far shorter than he’d like. He also worries for his son back home. Lloyd may be hell-bent on galactic domination, but Cassim just wants to die happy, assured his family will be safe and prosperous when he’s gone.

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It’s good to see Hayate and Freyja trying and largely succeeding in moving past the awkwardness of his father’s past, at least for now, and dedicating themselves to working to support one another, along with their respective teams, Delta and Walkure.

Freyja is back to her ebullient self when she joins her groupmates by the Protoculture structure for a tactical show kicked off by Mikumo, and the structure starts to react immediately. Interestingly, Lloyd lets them sing, which suggests…maybe they shouldn’t be doing something he’s okay with?

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Freyja’s fold waves mesh with Hayate and make him a better wind-rider, able to keep up with Keith in the skies. But the song and aerial battle get progressively more intense and chaotic, with both Freyja and Hayate seemingly going out of control—perhaps the very reason Lloyd let them play on.

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Even more troubling is that after Heinz sings his Song of the Wind, nearly causing Hayate to succumb to the Var, Freyja essentially shorts out after going into a trance. Then Mikumo goes into a trance of her own, recalling old, buried memories of being some kind of test subject (of course) before restarting a song so strong and assertive it even knocks out Heinz’s song—as well as his clothes— before she passes out.

The episode kinda leaves us hanging with her collapse, following it up with an ending sequence that looks for all the world like a Mikumo tribute. Is this it for Mikumo? What exactly did she and Walkure do that seemed to play right into Lloyd’s hands? Will Freyja, Hayate, and Cassim ever figure out what exactly is the right thing to do?

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Macross Delta – 17

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As the oldest Windermerean soldier smirks at the fact only Lord Lloyd heard Gramia’s last wish—to press their fight until all the galaxy is theirs—Lloyd becomes more interested in Freyja and Mikumo. Targets to take out, or backup weapons in case Heinz falls prematurely?

Whatever his plans, it’s back to work for Delta/Walkure, as Arad and Kaname announce a new plan to infiltrate Vordor (where Var-immune rebel forces are still holding out) and try to find a way to use the ruins to their advantage. Freyja, meanwhile, has totally fallen for Hayate, who sadly seems only a quarter-aware.

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Work Comes First this week, however, and it comes in the form of an elaborate Walkure network and media saturation campaign spearheaded by Reina as a huge, dazzling cover for hacking the galactic network in order to facilitate their infiltration of Vordor.

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It’s Walkure’s most aggressive “tour” yet, able to appear seemingly in every planet in the cluster, and they turn up the heat by, for one, exploiting their sexuality, Makina’s in particular.

While discussion of objectification may crop up in some circles, the fact is Walkure chose to go in this direction; the military didn’t make them. This was all Reina and Makina’s scheme, and it works,

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While watching Freyja sing and glance at him with a bright rune, Hayate starts to maybe-kinda-sorta pick up on all the lovey-dovey vibes emanating from Freyja. He gives her an, ahem, glowing review of her singing, and Freyja is this close to confessing her feelings.

What stops them? An elderly couple waving to her, before walking off, hand-in-hand. At that crucial moment, Freyja saw a future she’d never enjoy with Hayate. It’s the opposite of the Arwen-Aragorn tragedy, with Freyja leaving Hayate by death before he even reaches the middle of his life.

Things get more awkward when Hayate brings up how he hasn’t seen his Mom in a while, but it’s “no big deal” because it’s “just a couple of years.” That stings Freyja to the core, and her rune goes out like a candle.

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Still, her work continues, and with even Windermeran pilots (and Bogue) falling for their spell, Reina’s hidden virus reaches 100% saturation, clearing the way for the Vordor operation.

Before they set out, Hayate runs into the guy who knew his dad, and after getting nowhere answers-wise, Hayate storms the bridge and confronts Arad: He wants the truth, now.

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He gets it, or at least more of it than he’s ever gotten, and it’s nothing good: Wright Immelmann stole a dimensional weapon and dropped it on the NUNs garrison in Windermere, killing all the forces, a good number of civilians, and leaving that scar on the landscape.

Now he knows: his father was, at least according to the facts at hand, a mass murderer and war criminal, a realization that makes Freyja’s rune go darker than ever. It’s not a great place for either of them to end up after she’d gotten so close to telling him how she felt; now the love window has closed for the time being.

Freyja has her job, and so does Hayate. As Mikumo’s voice seems to be changing (and possibly weakening, suggesting she may be a secret Windermerean, nearing 30), Walkure will support Freyja while Mirage and Chuck will support Hayate. Because as long as King Heinz can sing, Lloyd’s not going to stop his galactic conquest.

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Macross Delta – 16

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Aside from a brief (and fairly pointless) visit to Windermere and a scene with Mikumo proposing they use the ruins to counter the Song of the Wind, this episode was given over completely to celebrating Freyja’s fifteenth birthday with a surprise party. As it’s the middle of a Windermeran’s lifespan, Maki and Reina wanted to make it special.

In other words, there’s no action whatsoever, nor is there any movement on the galactic war front. The episode is carried only by the characters, so how much you enjoyed it depends on how much you like and/or care about said characters when they’re not fighting (or singing) to save the galaxy.

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I went on record as saying I liked how desperate things had gotten a couple weeks back when the lights went off on the Island Ship, but now that Elysion is docked with it, there’s little difference between the ship and being on Ragna, which kind of undermines the peril.

That said, I did appreciate the efforts made to expound on the Freyja/Hayate/Mirage triangle in a less stressful environment. At the same time, Mirage’s shopping “date” makes it clear Hayate is “denser than a black hole”, as his stalkers put it.

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He’s aware that he has a special bond with Freyja (and even hears her song from afar), but he doesn’t come right out an call it romance, nor is he even a little aware of Mirage’s burgeoning feelings for him. Mirage plays the good friend to both, though, when the night of the party comes.

The party is when Freyja and the episode shine, as her story about when she discovered Earth music and started singing for her villagewas actually very moving. Her surprise and elation at everyone coming together for her sake was also infectious.

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Finally, Hayate is very late to the party, but for a good reason: after a lengthy but fruitless trip to the mall, he realized the best birthday gift he could give her was home, in the form of snow. And if he realized how close he was to Freyja before, their little moment in the snow was likely the final nail the coffin for poor Mirage and her unacknowledged, unrequited love.

Then again, there were moments for both Ranka Lee and Sheryl Nome when one thought the other had won the Alto Sweepstakes, and it ended up being a triangle that was never broken in Frontier. But in terms of who made the most of this brief respite from intergalactic warfare, I’m inclined to place Freyja firmly in the winner’s column.

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 05

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There’s no getting around it: these past two episodes, as fantastic as they were, had their peril somewhat dampened by the fact this is all happening in the past, and we know everyone will survive these events. They actually wouldn’t have made a bad first two episodes to GG!, but considering the shock the actual first episode delivered by delaying the story we get here (and feigning normalcy), I was more than willing to suspend my belief and dive into a good zombie mall episode. And it’s a good one.

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This episode is less about its inevitable destination (Yuuri, Kurumi and Yuki meeting Taroumaru and Miki) and more about the journey it takes to get there. The mall is dark and eerily silent, but Rii-san tells Yuki it’s because there’s a concert in session and they have to be quiet. Malls are usually so noisy with crowds and muzak, so in addition to visual impact of the trashed mall, there’s an aural impact from the white noise so unusual in such a place. And despite knowing she’ll be okay, watching Kurumi dart through the darker stores with her flashlight really does a good job isolating her in a hostile, threatening place that isn’t secure.

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I also liked how the girls spend a bit of time simply shopping like high school girls do, because that’s what they are. If they don’t want to be defined as simply survivors, they have to do more than just survive, but have fun when they can. Of course, that fun is cut short by a sound and their new ward Taroumaru’s yipping, indicating someone is near.

Because they’re on the fourth floor and the zombies have trouble climing steps, they consider the possibility it’s another survivor, but then Kurumi calls off the search when she peeks in a previously-barricaded theater packed with zombies. The wide shots peppered with quick close-ups and those horrible zombie noises accentuate the peril.

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The girls, led by Kurumi, blast through a gauntlet of zombies and hide in what looks like the child care room, which is apropos because Yuki is listing, exhausted from all the unexplained running. She also gets a couple of square looks at the zombies, and, at this point in the timeline, she’s still seeing partial flashes of what happened in her classroom the day of the fall, including an image of a blurry Megu-nee with a bloody arm, suggesting her teacher was infected.

As they rest, Kurumi thinks about the theater full of zombies—many of them kids—and shudders to think how their lives as humans ended, and how scared and alone they must have felt, before they were infected one by one. And in another unsettling juxtaposition of cheery high school girl life and the apocalyptic scenario, Kurumi makes Rii-san pinky-swear not to hesitate to kill her if she gets infected.

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Miki, meanwhile, has been sitting in her miniaturized, stifling little world, until she hears the yips of Taroumaru and is convinced they’re not in her cabin fever-addled brain. She braves the mall beyond her shelter, and immediately gets surrounded. She’s literally ten seconds from zombie lunch when Taroumaru, followed closely by Yuki and the others, come to her rescue.

Miki’s leaving the room and getting rescue shows her that survival isn’t just something to grasp  or hoard alone in a dark, stuffy room, but a gift to enjoy to its fullest, preferably with others. Before everyone piles into the Mini, Miki asks if the others saw anyone else, but it’s left up in the air what became of Kei. With Miki leaving the mall, it will be much trickier for them to ever reunite, but I for one hope she met a better fate than those kids in the theater, or Taroumaru’s owner.

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 04

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GG! has taken on a LOST-style narrative, in which the present is constantly being informed and updated by the pasts of its characters. This week it’s Naoki Miki’s turn. While helping Yuki with a hand-drawn yearbook, Yuki asks about one of Miki’s (very good!) drawings of her in a bookstore with another girl. It’s Kei, a good friend of Miki’s from before The Fall.

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An ordinary day at the mall turns into a life-upheaving nightmare for both of them. This is handled with the show’s usual deftness, with particular care taken to lighting, background sounds, camera angles and focus. Miki and Kei manage to hide from all the zombies and gain the puppy of an elderly woman who became one. Survival supersedes processing what the fuck is going on.

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They manage to make it to a safe room, where they hole up in a room with ample food and water. But Kei almost immediately grows curious about the outside world; about what’s going on, and worries that if they stay, they’ll never be found. Miki, on the other hand, is content to stay put and wait for help to come to them. Enough times passes that Kei’s patience runs out, and even Miki’s maneuver of tenderly taking Kei’s hand isn’t enough to keep her.

Kei promises she’ll be back with help, but right there and then, she’s abandoning Miki, who is too scared to leave the mall, or even that room. Her life has shrunk into a miniature, but she’s intent on holding on to what life it is, not risking it on the unknown beyond those walls. When Kei up and leaves, it’s a gut punch, but we knew it was coming, for no other reason than Kei doesn’t exist in the present.

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Meanwhile, at this time, Yuuri and Kurumi and Yuki are off on their own, having not yet met Miki (or Toromarou; we now understand a little more about why he’s a little standoffish with Miki in the present). Yuki spontaneously comes up with the idea for a school trip, using a loophole in the club rules prohibiting leaving school grounds by saying it’s a school function. Yuuri tells her to get Megu-nee’s approval, and she gets it, but we don’t see her get it, indicating Megu-nee isn’t alive at this point either, but just a delusion of Yuki.

That fact is reinforced when Kurumi volunteers to drive Megu-nee’s car. She and Yuuri are willing to maintain the Megu-nee delusion for Yuki’s sake, and must resort to loophole of their own (Megu-nee hasn’t driven in a while, and Kurumi insists she’s better, despite later confessing she only played racing video games).

Kurumi’s journey to the faculty parking lot, through a phalanx of vicious, but thankfully slow and dumb, zombies is breathless in its presentation. I know this is a flashback, but Kurumi still felt so vulnerable out there, especially when her trusty shovel was flicked away. But she gets to Megu-nee’s MINI Cooper, fires it up, and picks up Yuuri and Yuki (Megu-nee only appears in the car once Yuki’s in there, like anthropomorphic Hobbes).

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After a little bit of sliding around the schoolyard and hitting a couple of zombies for good measure, the car bursts out of the front gates, and all of a sudden the saturation of the episode intensifies, as if we were watching a visual manifestation of freedom itself. A quiet, gorgeous, haunting piece of music plays as the Mini drives through the desolate, ruined city, made beautiful by the vivid colors of the setting sun. It feels like a movie. If only it was only that, and they could walk out of the theater into a world where they didn’t have to fight every day for survival.

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That piece of music playing turns out to be on the Discman Kei left Miki before she left Miki. It wakes Miki up in that same room she’s been holed up in, and the contrast between her self-imposed captivity and the freedom being experience by the others isn’t lost on me. Nor is the open transom that indicates Toroumaru escaped, leaving Miki alone, though the dog may well be the one who unites her with the others.

The song plays through the credits, accompanied by black-and-white imagery from the episode. So lovely, mellow, soulful, and sad. This show just keeps getting better.

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Gatchaman Crowds Insight – 02

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As Gelsadra is welcomed to Earth (touted by Paiman as a potential facilitator of world peace) and Misudachi initiated into the Gatchamen, X reports to Rui an increase in GALAX de-installations as a result of VAPE’s mischief. Their leader even shows up in Rui’s living room, using a red Crowds as a conduit.

He doesn’t see VAPE as making mischief, only demonstrating the folly of giving the “ape-like” masses such powerful technology. He believes society is sure to abuse it, as VAPE does, while Rui still believes in the inherent goodness of people. In a way, VAPE is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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There’s a ceremony at a Nagaoka mall to celebrate Gel and Tsubasa, but it’s crashed by VAPE, whose red Crowds are soon challenged by the blue Crowds of bystanders looking to help the outnumbered Gatchamen. In fact, it’s just Hajime at the mall; Tsubasa isn’t able to reach the emotional intensity necessary to transform, or is possibly too nervous.

When she does try to intervene without transforming, the Crowds she incapacitates almost falls on a granny. She’s still got a lot to learn about the intricacies of heroism, and with the red Crowds intent on showing that all Crowds are bad news, she’s been thrown into the proverbial frying pan to train.

It’s a defeat for Crowds and Rui, because he had no choice but to forcefully terminate the blue Crowds accounts to stop the chaos.

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Tsubasa regrets indirectly injuring a bystander, but Hajime won’t scold or punish her, except by turning her head to face the gorgeous sunset. I like the dynamic of these two, with Hajime as the more mysterious/opaque personality and Tsubasa much more of an open book, devoid of vocal tics. It’s also clear that Gelsadra, the possible savior of the world based on her race’s track record upon arriving on worlds, must be protected both physically and mentally if she’s going to fulfill that promise.

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Rui manages to get the name of the orange-haired VAPE leader—college student Suzuki Rizumu—so I imagine Rui is eager to be the one to confront him for their next meeting and philosophical debate. Meantime, despite her early hiccup, Tsubasa is headed back to the city with Hajime to hone her Gatchaman skills and join the ranks of the heroes.

Her gramps (a part of whom I’m sure is proud of her, though he’d never show it) warns her she can’t shoulder the weight of peace. I take that to mean it must be shouldered by all. While she may be strong, she mustn’t fear the help and support of others, strong or weak, nor bite off more than she can chew.

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Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 06

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An ongoing theme in Tomoya and Utaha’s friendship has been mutual inspiration. In their first encounter (they’re classmates, but hadn’t interacted before) Tomoya expresses how much Utaha’s work inspires him the moment he steps up to her table at her book signing. His remarks leave an instant and lasting impression. Fast forward to that “fateful” snowy day when Tomoya declines to read her latest manuscript.

Utaha, you see, never come out and told Tomoya inspires her as he did with her. Offering him the manuscript is her way of showing it. But he rejects that approach, and even though it’s for perfectly understandable reasons—he’s a fan, and doesn’t want to influence her creative process any more than he wants a sneak peak at an unfinished work—it still feels to Utaha that he’s rejecting her, which wounds her deeply.

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Utaha had never quite forgiven him for that…until this week, which is another showcase of Saekano’s knack for placing its characters in relatively confined, intimate places. Even Tomoya’s date with Kato at the mall felt like it, since the crush of people made them have to stick that much closer together, and the mutual fun they were having made that crush blur and fade into the background, until it was just them.

The confined space here is more concrete: a hotel room, where Utaha was going to spend the night, but invites Tomoya in when he drenches himself in the rain in the act of what she deemed as chasing after her. It’s an assertion he can’t and won’t deny, though he wasn’t expecting to end up on a bed with Utaha, both of them in bathrobes and nothing underneath. The optics are a constant source of nervous titillation, but I frankly like how it puts the two on the spot.

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Bathrobes concealing nakedness and nervous joking aside, Tomoya cut his date with Kato short because he now knows what doesn’t sit right with him about her first scenario draft. He didn’t like how they left things in the club room, but at the same time, were it not for his date with Kato, he wouldn’t have been able to express his reservations anyway, which ironically reflect the positions Kato and Utaha occupy with regards to Tomoya’s life.

Utaha’s plot is much like her plot with Tomoya thus far: seemingly bound by fate, or from a past life; something sprawling and dramatic and epic, like spending the night in a hotel room (but this is all-ages, so…) And Tomoya likes that, but he’s found he also likes what Kato brings to the table: a steadfast decency wrapped in utter normality; the beauty of the mundane; the way a flat character can draw a reader when suddenly big suddenly happens. Kato isn’t bland; she’s universally relatable.

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God, the timing, framing, and sound effects of this little sequence were so deliciously awesome. Utaha types away in this new direction, but she’s clearly upset by it; it’s as if the romantic ideal she represents has been suddenly usurped by Kato. Reality and the fiction being discussed and created is inextricably linked in this show. But she and Tomoya do work all night, and the fact that she was able to summon this much passion and belt out something both of them can be proud of is a testament to the mutual inspiration I mentioned earlier.

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When Utaha gets dressed and prepares to set out for her busy day, she doesn’t hesitate to make a joke about post-evening afterglow, not to mention the fact she wickedly took a picture of her in bed with Tomoya while he was asleep and made it his background.

But while there wasn’t any of that kind of action last night, it was still a night Utaha will cherish, because it showed her, just as it showed us, that Tomoya is not only her muse, but has the makings of a great creator in his own right. She leaves that hotel room feeling a lot better about the two of them, but not just because of the progress they made with the plot, but in the battle for Tomoya himself.

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Rewinding to yesterday, Eriri “bumps into” Kato at the mall and sketches her, which is clearly her way of commiserating over the fact that Utaha is off somewhere with her Tomoya. Misery loves company, so it gives her great solace to see that when properly stimulated, she’s able to pull back Kato’s stoic mask just that little bit. Like Utaha’s “coup” this week, this not only makes Eriri optimistic about developing a good heroine from Kato, but also that she’s still in the running for Tomoya. Kato is adorable, but she’s not invincible.

10_sesRABUJOI World Heritage List

Saenai Heroine no Sodatekata – 05

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Tomoya’s promising dating sim circle is in place and hard at work, but progress is slow. Eriri is frustrated by Kato’s noncommittal expressions (noting that if she was expressionless, they could pass her off as an Ayanami Rei-type), while the only things Utaha types are orders for Tomoya to feed her Pocky sticks.

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What ironically (but also very fittingly) gets things going are Tomoya’s off-the-cuff prods to Eriri regarding what she’d do in a “hypothetical” situation where she’d be on a shopping date. Eriri offers advice—very good advice—and when Tomoya says it sounds boring, it’s because she offered advice for an “away game”, that is, an otaku on a date in the normal world.

When Tomoya inadvertently lets on that the date in question isn’t really hypothetical after all, it’s a creative spark for Utaha, borne out of her intolerance of any such non-hypothetical date not involving her. She begins to fill the white space with words.

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But even as Utaha found inspiration in an unexpected place, Eriri notes how difficult a subject Kato is; perhaps her toughest yet. But it’s precisely because she is a challenge that Eriri won’t give up, especially when it’s looking more and more like her beloved Tomoya is taking a liking to this Kato girl.

In a quiet but extremely sweet scene on the rooftop at night, Kato shows that despite the seeming noncommittalness in her words or expressions, she’s as serious as the other two, and practicing to be the best heroine she can be.

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Tomoya betrays something else when Utaha arrives at school with a thick scenario drawn up, the product of an all-nighter for the sake of the circle. When Utaha falls asleep as soon as her head hits the desk, Tomoya gives her a lingering look of pride and affection the other two girls pick up on: Eriri is suspicious, while Kato is bemused.

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The scenario itself is full of exciting twists, turns, and tropes, and it’s presented exquisitely in a slideshow-and-commentary format. I especially liked when Tomoya would periodically call for Kato to pipe up and say the heroine’s lines, which actually don’t sound half-bad even in her dry-run deadpan.

Also note that the handsomest guy Eriri could think of closely resembles Tomoya, but isn’t quite him, while Kato is Kato even in the scenario, because she is the heroine. It’s as if Utaha and Eriri applied their respective crafts to the basic template that was Kato Megumi to create “Kano Meguri”, through which Kato still manages to shine.

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And yet…while he can’t explain why, Tomoya’s not quite satisfied with the draft, to Eriri and Utaha’s consternation. (Eriri: “Subjective, feelings-based criticism like that doesn’t get us anywhere!” That should be RABUJOI’s slogan!) Utaha’s is deeper, seeing this as another case of indecision and inability to give her a straight answer.

On that note, the show helpfully flashes back to a moment still fresh in Utaha and Tomoya’s memory. If what I think happened happened, “no straight answer” is as good (or bad) as “rejection.” But Utaha seems to be hovering around Tomoya to this day, waiting for a straight answer anyway.

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Tomoya actually seems to become rather down by Utaha making that indecision connection to their past, to the point Kato tells him it’s okay if they postpone their date to the mall, but Tomoya isn’t having it; the date is on, and it’s yet another case of Kato really shining once out of the shadow of the other girls.

The huge, unruly crowds of “normals” throw Tomoya off, especially the proportion of couples (even though like it or not, he and Kato are one of them). In a brilliant turnaround, he decides to treat the shopping trip like a visit to Comiket: he plots the most efficient route to Kato’s stores, avoiding the longer-wait ones until things die down. When the crush of people grows thicker, Tomoya keeps Kato from falling and takes her hand without a second thought.

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While his otaku approach is hardly “normal”, it’s actually a boon to the otherwise normal date. Kato is duly impressed with Tomoya’s ingenuity, and decides to buy him a pair of glasses she thinks he looks good in (she thinks). 

Here, with her tender and very girlfriend-like gestures, all pretense of any kind of “practical experiment for research” falls away. This was a date, plain and simple, and a damn good one. Both parties had far more fun than they’d bargained for, and neither had to be anything other than themselves.

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Somewhat distressingly, the episode doesn’t end there, but pulls the plug on the good vibes when Tomoya laments he must ditch Kato without seeing her home, saying “there’s something he has to do” as we see Utaha waiting along, presumably for him. But whatever could he be leaving Kato for Utaha mean here? I think it’s a matter of obligation. It comes back to him not having an answer for her again.

Even in the midst of his lovely date (which he may or may not have gone into as an empirical and dispassionate exercise but definitely ended up falling for Kato’s charms once again…and who the hell wouldn’t?) perhaps Tomoya found an answer. Not to the past question Utaha asked, but to her scenario proposal. He owes her at least that much for her hard work.

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Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun – 07 (Take Two)

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Nozaki asks Chiyo out, but that turns out to be a reference gathering and art supply run. Frustrated but hopeful embarrassment ensues. 

During the “date,” Nozaki attempts to get Chiyo to pose in a sailor suit. Failing that, Nozaki tries to model in the sailor suit himself. Hilarious embarrassment and heaven-sent curses for being manly-muscular ensues. 

Mikorin, who is shopping in the same mall, is discovered in the naughty Bishoujo model isle and asked to model the sailor. Double embarrassment and exasperation ensues. (End Act 1)

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Mikorin refuses Chiyo’s request to model for the art club only to accept the request from another girl he doesn’t know. (and accept with great flourish he does) Chiyo is not amused.

At home, Mikorin prepares by posing in an S shape (the wrong way) and by mimicking his sexy Bishoujo figures but even he knows this is all wrong. (nicely looping us back to act one) If Chiyo were there, she would not be amused.

At Art Club, Mikorin takes many humorously specific pose requests, is humorously not rescued by Nozaki when he shows up and ultimately flirt-agrees to pose for art club again… next time in the nude. Miserably embarrassed with himself, Mikorin crumples in a terror ball and, again, Chiyo is not amused.

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I’m double-reviewing GSN-k this week in prep for Zane’s hand off next week — and what a week to start reviewing this lovely show! While I giggled like it’s 1493 during Nozaki’s sailor antics and Mikorin’s bedroom confusion, episode 7 is all about the romantic teen drama. Lite-Drama, to be sure, but the confusion and believable frustration felt by the two emotionally present characters is there at every turn.

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Because we view the show largely from Chiyo’s perspective (I could even argue we see Mikorin’s POV scenes as Chiyo would imagine them) we’re only getting her hopes and doubts about Nozaki liking her or not and, since Nozaki is extraordinarily weird AND stoic, it’s impossible for us to tell if he really does like her and is going about it in a Nozaki-be-crazy way, or if he only considers Chiyo a professional ally. Color me less entertained, laughs-wise this week, but I’m gonna stream this show until I get an answer!

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Meanwhile, team Mikorin has to wonder if he’s harboring confused interest in Chiyo as well. I may be reading too much into it, but Chiyo is the only only female Mikorin talks to seriously — the only one he ever show’s his embarrassment to — and he’s come to her for childish emotional support on more than one occasion. He went so far as to panic and tantrum at her after she left him alone in the art room (to get him a drink no less) this week. Who knows if that clinginess will turn romantic or not but, given GSN-k’s playful jabs at the genre, I expect at least an episode dedicated to the art of tragic romantic triangles.

Or squares.

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What continues to make GSN-k so much fun is how absurd the characters are — sincerely bizarre. Not absurdist plays on modern culture sprinkled with anthro-characters, just people with unusual ways of looking at the world and unexpected ways of behaving. It’s great and very effective at keeping us in the dark over what they all want (in relation to Chiyo) and, usually, keeps an amused smirk on my face while doing it.

GSN-k is taking it slow but, sometimes, slow is a good thing. If this were Love Stage!!, Chiyo would have raped Nozaki by episode 3 and I’d be all make the bad bad dreams go away mommy by now. And that’s something I can do without.

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