Call of the Night – 05 – Feel Them for Me

This week starts off with a day/night in the life of Nanakusa Nazuna…at least before the sun goes down. It’s not even 17:00 when she sun wakes her (but notably does not burn her). The ensuing events are a glorious festival of boredom as she tries to fill time she’d normally be asleep.

When she’s sick of video games and TV and considering cleaning, she heads out into the night (at just 20:00), plays with a kitty, then hits up a not-busy-at-all bathhouse where she finally releases her lilac locks from her trademark braid loops and laments her inability to see her reflection.

While she asks the desk guy to tell her when her watch beeps, his reflexes are no match for hers (though for a split second when she threw open the bath door he saw her nude, the next split second she’d wrapped herself in a towel). Her coat, sneakers, and long hair make for an entirely new, cute look Kou isn’t ready for.

They head back into the bath (on separate sides, natch) and an inner monologue from Kou ensues. His nights of late have been fun and amazing, but his “heart is always busy” with thoughts good and bad, conflicting and confusing. He’s so busy sifting through those emotions he completely blanks out…until Nazuna gets right in his face.

That’s when he asks her to drink his blood. Because as it turns out, when she does, it clears his head, calms him down, and allows him time to assess the feelings he normally couldn’t untangle. He gets his blood sucked to know his own feelings. But precisely because he’s so riled up, his blood tastes so good Nazuna drinks more than usual.

Not in a discriminating mood due to his fatigue, Kou suggests they rest as the nearest place that says it’s for “rest”…which turns out to be a love hotel. The pink neon lights were a dead giveaway to me, but I didn’t just get my neck drained, now did I? That said, once they’re in the room, the fact Nazuna is jumping on the bed like a kid makes things a little less tense.

Nazuna then reveals to Kou that when she drinks his blood, she can also get an idea of what he’s thinking and feeling from the taste, including the desires he has when he looks at her, a woman. Kou tells her it feels “immoral” to feel that way with a “friend”, but she retorts that enjoying the night the way they are is immoral to most.

Nazuna reminds them they have a deal because his blood tastes so good, and now he knows why: because of the intensity and diversity of emotions hanging out with her creates. She wants to taste all of his fun, pain, joy, sadness, and everything in between.

Another night, Kou’s mind starts churning again, deducing that because she finds his blood so tasty, it means she’s drunk the blood of others in order to compare. Even if he weren’t an open book, Nazuna knows his feelings through his blood, so she teases him for being jealous, but also makes it clear it’s a much more businesslike affair for other men and women since she makes her living…as a professional snuggler.

The whole idea of this is super raunchy, but that’s reductive thinking for someone who has only begun to enjoy the call of the night. She offers a friend’s discount for her services, and he orders the massage course. Not only does he learn something new about Nazuna, which he’s always eager to do, but he learns she’s actually quite good at massage, and using various pressure points to redirect blood and oxygen flow.

Nazuna is about to transition from massage to blood drinking (and the lights in the room suddenly go dark and everything is suffused with that intense, intimate red light) when there’s an unexpected ring of the doorbell: one of her clients. Nazuna has not been working since she met Kou (resulting in her being a little light on funds, but after working on Kou, she’s tired, so she asks him to take care of the client.

…The twenty-four-year-old, raven-haired, stressed office worker client Shirakawa Kiyosumi, that is. Kou is worried about not knowing what to do (among other things), but Nazuna tells him just to emulate what she did to him and he’ll be fine. Also, since she knows a healthy measure of his thoughts and feelings every time she goes to the red well, she offers him the reward of another kiss if he does this for her.

Kiyosumi may ether be throwing her money away tonight, or Kou may be a natural at massage and just not know it. The bottom line is that both the night and Nazuna are opening new doors and new experiences for Kou.

Aharen-san wa Hakarenai – 11 – What Does Normal Mean?

Ever since that camp kiss I’ve been itching for some kind of confirmation of what was said between Aharen and Raidou, and why she ran to her tent in tears after kissing him. Unfortunately the show has zero interest in elucidating those matters, so the key to enjoying the episodes that follow has been tabling that curiosity and not letting it curdle into frustration.

Once that’s done, one can enjoy the first fallen snow of the season, which Aharen uses to build a giant Shirorin igloo where she dresses up as a maid and lovingly prepares a fancy marinated steak for Raidou’s breakfast. “Official” or not, it’s clear Aharen cares enough about this galoot to go to these lengths.

When she invites him back to the Café Aharen after school, they find it has collapsed, probably due to the heat of that day’s sun. Raidou comforts Aharen by waxing philosphical on the impermanence of all things and offers to help her rebuild. This results in the construction of a Godzilla igloo…for some reason.

After their efforts, Raidou notices Aharen’s hands are red and shivering, so he takes them into his and warms them up. Lest there be any doubt about Aharen’s feelings for Raidou, she warms up extremely quickly while the redness becomes localized in the facial area.

The next day Aharen greets and walks so stiffly, Raidou wonders if she’s turned into some kind of Mega Man. They go to the nurse’s office, but neither the nurse nor Ooshiro are there, so Raidou volunteers to help her stretch. Turns out she can take quite a bit more force than he expected, as his efforts to go easy on her only lead to her wanting more.

When Aharen notices Raidou is also stiff in the back and shoulders, she agrees to walk on his back. She’s worried she’s “too heavy”, but he says he’s not that delicate, and indeed she’s the perfect weight an her steps the perfect rhythm to lull him to sleep. Aharen tries to use this to steal another kiss, but the nurse arrives at just the wrong moment.

It’s comforting to know I am not the only one curious about what happened at the camping trip; audience surrogates and “normal kids” Satou and Ishikawa are trying to determine the same thing.

In the process, Satou and Ishikawa have a nice little one-on-one chat where she notes that everyone around them is so weird she wonders if she’s not normal for being normal, while Ishikawa, her childhood friend, tells her he likes the variety, and also thinks she’s interesting too. Maybe these two normies should be looking in a mirror as to who is dating whom!

The next day is the weekend, and without explanation we see Raidou in street clothes waiting for Aharen, who was up late deciding what to wear. This is clearly date stuff, but neither of them comments on it, because they probably aren’t aware.

Raidou assumed Aharen wanted to participate in the blade spinner tournament at the mall, but for much of their date she seems to be surveying all the available food, leading him to wonder if she’s secretly a hotel tycoon. Aharen clears things up; she’s going all-out for her family’s New Years dinner.

Just when Raidou is starting to realize this might be, if not a date, a very good day, Futaba and Akkun show up. Akkun sees Aharen clinging to Raidou and challenges the “junior apprentice” to a blade spinner duel at the tournament. Both lose in the first round, while Aharen wins her fifth straight Ultimate Division belt. Turns out she stayed up late customizing her spinner after choosing what to wear!

Finally, the definition of their day comes down to the mouths of babes, specifically Futaba. When Raidou describes what he and Aharen have done, she informs them that that’s, like…a damn date. With that realization, Aharen once again turns red and starts steaming.

Even if we’re not getting any straight or normal answers, it’s pretty clear these two are an inseparable pair, and actions matter more than definitions. As for why Ooshiro was absent this entire episode? She’s been training her mind and body for what seems to be a final challenge to Raidou.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Fabiniku – 10 – It’s Only Natural to Help

Without having really thought through a promise like “I’ll do anything for you!”, Tachibana proceeds to serve as Yugrain’s sister-in-arms in the burgeoning rebellion against her father. Men loyal to the king proceed to list the particular type of woman who would sway him to their side, and when Yugrain can’t be that girl, Tachibana picks up the slack. Before you know it, they have a huge army!

Just as Tachibana and Jinguuji stumbled upon a captive Premier a couple episodes back, Tachibana just happens to encounter Maria, whom we know failed her intelligence mission, tied up knots that are almost too specific, like someone well-versed in rope play was simply showing off. Tachibana is distracted and only makes the knots worse rather than loosen them…which kind of describes her and Jinguuji’s fight this week!

Yugrain’s Head Maid, who on the one hand crafted both the cute idol costumes and strategy for the princess’ rebellion, seems to be hiding contempt for Yugrain, and is revealed to be an agent (if not general) of the Demon Lord when she gives Tachibana an otherworldly massage after a tough day of rabblerousing and worried about people seeing up her way-too-short skirt.

Clearly the Head Maid intends to turn the power of Tachibana, the hero of the Goddess of Love and Beauty, to the Demon Lord’s advantage. While working on Tachibana, she falls asleep and dreams of the day she first met Jinguuji. Tachibana was the victim of bullying, but Jinguuji put a stop to it with his overwhelming strength and sense of honor. Tachibana wonders if all along she was simply causing more trouble for him.

Back at the palace, Jinguuji is distracted from being worried about Tachibana for at least a little while by the arrival of Schwartz, who Lucius has taken under her wing. Schwartz may not know much about court etiquette, but he and Lucius are there to help the king put down his daughter’s rebellion, preferably without bloodshed.

Schwartz ends up harnessing the newly-recovered holy sword Gram by slicing through not only the rebels’ weapons and memories, but their clothes as well, sending them into confused retreat. Lucius only lets him bask in the light of his own magnificence for so long before giving him a punch back down to earth.

Schwartz may also still be a bit high on his victory when he teases Jinguuji, saying he’s this out of sorts after Tachibana “cheated on him” just a little. Even a joking implication sends Jinguuji into a heretofore unseen bloodlust as he tries to extract further intent from a terrified Schwartz’s jibes. However, this interaction is interrupted by an earthquake felt by all…are the demon lord’s minions making their move?

Fabiniku – 08 – Night Pool

Jinguuji makes Tachibana make her first kill—a rabbit so they can eat—but it’s not just the two of them on their journey to the capital. They’ve picked up a hanger-on, Shen, who claims to simply want some company as they’re headed in the same direction. But Jinguuji suspects treachery afoot.

Sure enough, Shen drugged Jinguuji’s rabbit stew, making it hard for him to move. When Tachibana emerges from the apartment after a call of nature, she finds two strapping lads shirtless and ready for a donnybrook. Jinguuji insists Tachibana flee and he’ll figure it out, but to their surprise, Shen isn’t interested in Tachibana at all, nor does he find her cute in the slightest.

Tachibana, who believes her “only identity” in this world is her cuteness, is rarin’ for a fight, but as she bickers with Shen Jinguuji only grows more immobile, at which point Shen moves in for the…well, not kill, but back massage. Turns out Jinguuji was seriously fatigued and Shen just wanted to work on him. Of course, that doesn’t justify drugging people (in Tachibana’s case, with laxative!)

After Jinguuji and Tachibana institute a ten-meter rule with Shen, they arrive at Ishurna, the royal capital. After a brief tour and a bite to eat, they head to the supposed location of the prophecy they’re after: the Temple of the Goddess of Love and Beauty. When a fully-clothed, angelic priestess greets them, Jinguuji is extremely thrown off, having expected some kind of “night pool party”.

But once the priestess lures them in and asks them to change into extremely skimpy swimwear, they learn she herself is sporting a purple slingshot bikini under her robes, and takes them to the main area of worship—the very pool party/bacchanalian of Jinguuji’s imagination! It’s here where the priestess, who let the two wear their clothes, insists that they take if off and show the goddess what they’ve got.

When the priestess does reveal Tachibana in her microbikini, she also notices the seal on her neck, and everyone at the pool immediately loses their chill and starts talking about whippings and prison islands. That’s when Jinguuji takes some heat off Tachibana by tearing into their “crappy goddess”, then plowing through their feeble attacks.

He seems ready to give the slingshot priestess one of Brock Lesnar’s F5s when a well-dressed redhead busts into the temple and issues a “royal command”: the two weirdoes were summoned by the goddess and are not to be harmed! Could this woman be an oasis of sanity in a night pool of chaos, or simply guide our couple from one crazy scene to another, different but equally crazy scene?

The aquatope on white sand – 17 – Pure bliss

Who could have predicted that one of the most fun, heartwarming, and overwhelmingly joyful episodes of Aquatope would come after Gama Gama closed down? After Kukuru reached détente with Kaoru and Chiyu in short order, it was only a matter of time before they had an opportunity to hang out on their time off. When Fuuka, Kukuru, and Udon-chan’s days off align, they decide to throw a hospitality party for their co-workers.

The three pull out all the stops. Fuuka gives Marina and Akari some skincare treatment tips she got from her idol stylist. Udon-chan whips up a varied menu of tasty dishes, and gets the constructive (and sometimes excessive) negative feedback she asked for. Kuuya comes over with Karin, drinks some plum wine, loosens up…and vanishes!

But nothing tops Kukuru luring Chiyu in to Fuuka’s apartment and giving her a back massage, which Chiyu is happy for, even if Kukuru sucks at it! Chiyu ends up giving Kukuru a proper back massage, noting that Kukuru’s lack of muscle knots is a sure sign of someone ill-equipped to remove them from others.

Kaoru came with Chiyu and her little boy Shizu, then Kai and Eiji arrive, having collected a still-plummy Kuuya who had passed out on a nearby bench. A takoyaki party breaks out, with Kuuya and Eiji having a friendly blind-sea life-takoyaki filling competition that eventually devolves into just everyone stuffing themselves with delicious takoyaki. Note Kai’s look of distress masking his delight that Kukuru sat next to him.

When lil’ Chizu does that typical little kid thing where they make a big stink about not wanting to go home, Fuuka and Kukuru break out the fireworks to put a sparkly capper on a perfect day. Everyone has fun, with no exceptions. Drunk Kuuya even scores a ride home with Umi-yan! It’s just so nice to see everyone outside of Tingaara, together, taking a break from all their troubles.

When Kukuru and Fuuka return to their adjacent apartments, two delectable mango parfaits are waiting for them in the fridge, courtesy of Udon-chan. The two best friends savor the treats on the balcony, talking about all the fun things that happened. I can’t tell you how much it swells my heart to see both of them so content. They’ve come a long way, baby!

Demon Slayer: Kimetsu no Yaiba – 24 – Getting Back in the Game

While rest and recovery are the order of most days at the Butterfly Mansion, relaxation is most certainly not. That’s not just because of Zenitsu’s constant bellyaching, but the fact that Shinobu wants to begin their rehabilitation training ASAP, starting with Tanjirou and Inosuke. The training is handled by Kanzaki Aoi, Tsuyuri Kanao, and three pint-sized masseuses.

Zenitsu is perturbed when he sees the two returning from their first session as if they had just been beaten to a pulp, but Zenitsu soon finds out the score for himself, and he’s very disappointed in his companions. Why, he raves like a madman after taking them aside, are the complaining about getting massages, playing cup games, and light sparring, all with cute girls?

Zenitsu has no trouble with the massages or with beating Aoi at cups or tag, but Kanao is another story. She beats them at everything, and handily, as befits Shinobu’s apprentice. Zentisu and Inosuke are so frustrated that they stop showing up, but Tanjirou is determined to become strong enough to beat her.

The three little lady masseuses, who have really taken a shine to the sweet, wholesome Tanjirou (let’s be honest, Zenitsu’s a creep and Inosuke’s a forlorn beast) offer him some key advice. Kanao, along with Shinobu and all the other Hashira, are practicing Total Concentration Breathing … continuously. That is, every breath, morning, noon, and night.

The girls present him with a small, extra-hard beginners gourd he’s expected to break with nothing but his breath; Kanao can break a gourd over ten times its size. But while he clearly has a lot of grueling work to do (even short bursts of breathing wear him down), Tanjirou knows he can’t save Nezuko unless he’s stronger, so he puts the work in.

His efforts don’t go unnoticed by the lady of the mansion, Shinobu, who visits him on a rooftop while he’s practicing and even getting him to blush due to her close proximity and striking beauty. Shinobu is rooting for him because she too would like to live in a world where humans and demons got along.

It’s just, unlike him, she’s growing tired of believing that will ever be possible, having been ground down by battle after battle with lying, deceiving demon opponents. Tanjirou can smell anger behind her smile, which surprises Shinobu, causing that smile to briefly fade.

She tells him how her older sister, pure of heart like him, fought for peace with demons even when they ended up killing her. Due to her love and admiration of her sister, Shinobu promised to always carry the smile her sister loved, no matter how much she might want to frown or cry.

Knowing how much it sucks to lose a sister, she implores Tanjirou to keep Nezuko safe with everything he’s got—and there’s no reason to think he won’t. While I enjoyed this episode and the added depth given to Shinobu, Nezuko’s total absence is both conspicuous and disappointing—especially with only two episodes remaining.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Kaguya-sama: Love is War 2 – 07 – The Aquarium

LIW’s second season continues to take anime comedy to dizzying new heights and unexpected places. There’s literally no telling what it’s going to throw at you next, and that unpredictability combined with top-notch execution at every level of production means this is a show that keeps getting better and more entertaining.

We begin with Chika and Kaguya learning that Yuu is a briefs man, followed by his passionate assertion that boxer-brief men are nothing but “man whores.” Kaguya is determined to learn what kind of underwear Miyuki wears, she formulates an entire perverted plan in her head before rejecting it, showing just how demented by love she’s become.

Naturally, that same derangement compels her to ask Miyuki the question casually while serving tea, and Miyuki naturally assumes she’s talking about his preference in girl’s underwear. Not wanting to come off like a cad, he proceeds to describe girls’ bloomers (since anything he’d pick for Kaguya would be hot), but the same traits apply to mens’ boxer briefs, Kaguya loudly proclaims Miyuki is a man whore!

Suffice it to say, this is not proper behavior in the StuCo office of a prestigious school, but this is where Kaguya, Miyuki are. So it’s most inauspicious that Iino Miko should come through the office door just as Kaguya is yelling this, and Miko runs off in fear Miyuki will attack her “next”.

In the next segment, Kaguya offers to give Miyuki a hand massage as an apology for disparaging him. Her true motive, however, is to use the pressure points in his hand to secrete “prevent-men-from-cheating” hormones of the type released during “se-“.

Note that Kaguya can never complete the word “sex”, but only utters the first half of the word in a high-pitched voice that Hayasaka can’t help but imitate while explaining sex hormones to her.

The resulting hand massage is a stirring tale of two nervous systems. While Kaguya’s hands are small and soft, they’re causing extreme pain to Miyuki’s hand, releasing stress hormones like beta-endorphins and cortisol. Simultaneously, love hormones like oxytocin and vasopressin are being secreted in Kaguya’s brain. It’s as if the StuCo office has suddenly turned into a biochemistry lab!

With all those love hormones suddenly swimming in Kaguya’s already love-addled head, she gets a little more comfortable and offers to do Miyuki’s back. She ends up on top of Miyuki on the couch, which is again the precise moment Miko decides to enter the StuCo office.

Combined with all of the misleading things she hears from them (“If I feel any better than this I’ll die!”) the mere sight of two students going at it in the sacred StuCo office is enough to cause Miko to flee in terror once more. Miko’s minimal usage in these first two segments is truly inspired.

Not only is it a means of gradually easing her into the office (if she ever manages to set foot in there, of course!), but it shows just how unprepared an outsider like her truly is for the demented antics of that room. One does not simply walk into that room!

The opening moments of Segment #3 would seem to hint at a shift to a Kei-focused story, but she’s only there in order to pass on an accursed shougo manga that is 100% guaranteed to make you weep uncontrollably no matter how much or little you like manga or the shoujo genre.

A skeptical Miyuki is converted that very night, and decides that introducing the manga to Kaguya is the perfect strategy for getting her to ask him to go out with her so they can enjoy a flowey, lovey-dovey shoujo manga-like romance.

But as has been established from her taste in eyes, Kaguya doesn’t really go for common romantic archetypes, and proves a tough nut to crack even as Miyuki has both Yuu and Chika in full agreement that the manga is a must-read tearjerker.

The trio’s enthusiasm for the story causes them to leak too many details and spoilers, and the second-hand synopses still fail to move Kaguya. Heck, she can’t even understand what they’re saying once they’ve all covered each others’ mouths to stop blabbing.

It’s at this point when Miko enters the office a third time to find something strange and horrifying waiting for her. Then as the narrator declares the result (everyone loses but Kaguya), Miko asks if this is really “what happens at the end?” of segments, in a lovely breaking of the fourth wall.

However…this is not the end.

At this point the episode had a solid-“9” in the bag, but there was still a ton of time left after the end credits, so I was curious and excited about where it would go for the finale. It turns out Kaguya did end up reading the shoujo manga the previous night, and joins the ranks of her StuCo comrades (sans Miko) in the Shoujo Manga Brain club.

The next day is presented as an entirely different anime, one that is a straight-up high school shoujo romance with Kaguya as the heroine and Miyuki and Yuu as competing love interests. It’s as ambitious as it is hilarious.

Everyone’s character design has been “beautified” and their voices either more lovey-dovey (in the case of Kaguya) or more “cool-sounding” (the boys). Heck, even the damn narrator has “gone goofy!”

Once Chika arrives at school, we learn that the change in her personality is negligible, but she interrupts what was about to become fisticuffs between Miyuki and Yuu for the right to take Kaguya to the aquarium.

In the end, Miyuki wins out by insisting on valiantly escorting Kaguya to the infirmary hand-in-hand. He then manages to ask Kaguya to go to the aquarium with him, only for her to decline since, so overcome by longing for love, she already feels like she’s at the aquarium!

So Miyuki and Yuu go instead, and end up having more fun than they thought they would! Note that at no point did Miko set foot anywhere close to the StuCo office for this latest bout of nonsense. You know what they say: “Once bitten, twice shy…thrice traumatized.”

Classroom of the Elite – 08

This week begins with a production of Icarus in an unfamiliar venue—did the school have such a sumptuous theater?—and an ultimatum from Chabashira-sensei to Ayanokouji: try, actually make an effort to get into Class A…or be expelled. Someone outside the school wants him gone, but Chabashira is willing to let Ayano stay around—but only if he plays ball and makes it worth her while.

We then learn the entire school is not at school at all, but aboard a gargantuan luxury cruise ship. The luxury part comes naturally to the higher-ranked classes, but Sudo and his crew stick out like sore thumbs, while still others (Ichinose and Hoshinomiya-sensei) avail themselves of the fanservice spa facilities.

The only two people neither having a good time nor trying to have a good time are—you guessed it—Ayano and Horikita. They’re weary. This whole cruise has been free and there’s been no explanation for its existence…so what’s the catch?

While the two are sitting at a bar alone together, pondering that question, Ryuuen shows up and calls Horikita out for the camera prank that saved Sudo. Ryuuen is overly familiar and grabby, and returns Horikita’s disgust with a promise she’ll be seeing a lot of him.

They are interrupted by a very ill-tempered classmate of Ryuuen’s who is apparently sick and tire of “how he does things.” She’s flung aside by Ryuuen’s bodyguard Albert, but doesn’t give Ayanokouji anything when he asks what’s up, so all he and Horikita know is that there is tension within Class C.

Some use the cruise as an excuse to try to nab a romantic partner: Ike with Kushida (he chokes and settles for first-name terms), Sudo with Horikita (never gonna happen), and Sakura with Ayanokouji (she hesitates and is interrupted by Kushida).

Because Sakura can sense Kushida is hiding something behind her public image, she skitters off, and before long, Ayano also tires of her friendly girl act and starts to take his leave.

Kushida then changes tone for the first time since the first time, but doesn’t threaten Ayano, just gets him to acknowledge he’s weary around her, while she’s…well, she just doesn’t like being left alone so soon after showing up.

The episode’s title, “Abandon all hope, ye who enter here” from Dante’s Inferno, provides some early insight into what we and the students are in for. Those are the words inscribed on the gates of Hell, and Hell, albeit in the form of a gorgeous island, seems to be their destination (though none of these kids are anywhere near the middle of their lives).

Once they spot that island, the faculty announces a week-long survival test will take place on the island. I imagine then, that we’re in for some Lord of the Flies kid self-rule adventures next week, with all of the different character and class dynamics touched on this week and in weeks prior will come into play in an all-new, less academic setting. I look forward to it.

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