Tate no Yuusha no Nariagari – 02 – Surviving Together

Shunned by virtually every human in this new world, Naofumi turns to a demi-human slave in Raphtalia, sold to him by the slave merchant for 30 silvers; a bargain. The little raccoon girl is terrified with good reason: she’s been through a lot in her short life and she has no reason to believe Naofumi won’t be cruel and awful to her.

But despite his scary face and bad attitude, Naofumi isn’t awful to Raphtalia. I mean, he wouldn’t be much of a rootable MC if he did. Sure, she’s bound by her contract not to defy him and gets shocked if she does, but he makes sure she has proper clothes and a dagger. She’ll provide the offense he needs to become powerful enough for the next Wave of Catastrophe.

Raphtalia soon learns that she not only need fear Naofumi, but that it’s okay to have things she wants. He’ll take care of her, but she has to fight for him. Of nights Naofumi learns the “mental illness” her buyer warned him about: she has PTSD and nightmares from having witnessed her parents sacrifice themselves to a Cerberus so that she could live during the First Wave.

In a montage made all the more satisfying and significant (like the show itself) by the wonderful score by Kevin Pankin (Made in Abyss), Raphtalia learns to trust and even become fond of her master, who treats her more like a ward than a slave. The more monsters she defeats, the more the two of them level up, and the more money they make.

Raphtalia butts up against adversity when a rabbit attacks Naofumi and she has to draw blood, which she’s quite justifiably afraid of considering her traumatic past. But when Naofumi lays out the stakes vis-a-vis the impending Waves, Raphtalia’s resistance (which causes the shocks) fades away, and she resolves to fight and kill for Naofumi, for both their sakes.

Naofumi discovers he has a knack for medicine-making, and he and Naphtalia travel to a smaller town to sell their wares—popular due to the trying times. In a nice bit of good luck for a change, merchant he deals with apparently doesn’t know he’s the Shield Hero, and thus isn’t automatically against him like everyone in the city. He even points the pair to a mine where they’ll be able to make a lot of quick money harvesting ore.

The catch is that since the First Wave the mines are crawling with monsters, and a two-headed dog very similar to the one that killed Naphtalia’s parents attacks them, she freezes in terror. Naofumi grabs her and escape the beast, but they have to kill it if they’re going to have any chance against future foes. When things seem to be going south and he offers to buy time so she can escape, she recalls her folks doing the same thing and getting killed for it.

So rather than let Naofumi repeat their sacrifice and leave her all alone once again, she draws her sword and plunges it into the beast. When it lunges at her in response Naofumi is ready with a shield to protect her, and she’s able to finish it off. When the fight is over they’ve gained a buttload of EXP, and she collapses crying into his arms, calling him “Naofumi-sama” for the first time.

I’m glad that after a double episode’s worth of Naofumi getting beaten down, he’s found something pure and good to protect, as well as the means of progressing in this game-like world while appreciating that it isn’t really a game, it’s a matter of life and death. It doesn’t hurt that Naphtalia is adorable as all get out, but also tough and capable when she needs to be. No doubt when and if he encounters the other heroes they’ll get the wrong idea, but this looks like the beginning of a lovely partnership.

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Made in Abyss – 11

Thanks to the careful ministrations of Nanachi the Hollow, Riko’s arm is stabilized and she’d given another 12 or so hours of life to play with.

Turns out Nanachi had been shadowing her and Reg since they reached the Fourth Layer, but only revealed herself out of pity for Reg, who mewled like a “lost little kid” when Riko went blue.

She warns Reg Riko is far from out of the woods: to save her life, he’ll have to go back out into the Goblet to collect a number of items within those 12 hours.

Then another sound comes from the tent, and Nanachi introduces Reg to OH GAAAAAAAH JESUS CHRIST WHAT THE HELL IS THAT … THAT THING? Honestly, after the “meat” Ozen brought back to life and last week’s gruesome ordeal, you’d think I’d be more desensitized to the horrors of the Abyss, but “Mitty” provides another, well, layer of darkness and dread.

Nanachi makes it clear that Mitty in her current form (which is barely a form at all) is nearer to the rule, not the exception, where Hollows are concerned. Both Nanachi and Mitty ascended from the Sixth Layer. Both were changed irrevocably, but only Nanachi maintained her humanoid form and mental faculties – an “exception among exceptions.”

Mitty is…well, hollow. For most humans who undergo such a transformation, death by their comrades usually follows, but not in this case. Nanachi not only hasn’t put Mitty out of her misery, but keeps her around like a kind of pet.

Perhaps it’s an act of penance. In some flashes of the past we see what is probably a pre-ascent Mitty—a girl with eyes the same reddish hue as the eye of post-ascent Mitty—and a younger, post-ascent Nanachi being praised by the White Whistle Bondrewd the Novel, who is happy “the experiment” was a success. Perhaps Nanachi and Mitty were the subjects of that experiment, and only Nanachi survived (relatively) intact.

Reg collects all the items on Nanachi’s list without too much difficulty, only to learn that just one of those items—the purple mushrooms that grow on shroombears—was necessary to save Riko; the other things were merely for Nanachi to eat. But Nanachi makes a good point: she cannot forage for food while tending Riko, so someone had to.

Reg is also instructed to wash Riko’s soiled clothes at a nearby riverbank behind Nanachi’s hut. The utterly gorgeous verdant landscape he beholds is peppered with graves, somewhat souring the awe with melancholy.

But Reg starts seeing things – the field of flowers of fortitude, Blaze Reap marking a grave – and also hears his own voice speaking to Lyza. He wonders if he buried Lyza, but remembers Ozen said “no one was buried” there.

The thing is, “no one” could be construed as “nothing human”—i.e., a hollow—but when back in the tent, what’s left of Mitty suddenly approaches a sleeping Riko. Does this behavior suggest that Riko’s presence is somehow drawing out the humanity in Mitty, like the mushrooms are drawing out the piercer’s poison? Does Mitty recognize Lyza’s daughter?

ReLIFE – 07

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While we learned a lot more about An in the last episode, it was still mostly driven by Kaizaki’s reactions to those revelations. This time, it’s Yoake who gets top-billing as protagonist-of-the-week, in an episode that takes place while he’s still supporting Subject 001.

The truth about An gave us an glimpse of the world of ReLIFE Lab that this episode expands by setting Kaizaki’s story aside and showing us how Yoake came to support him instead of An (who we see is very enthusiastic early on about the prospect of being Kaizaki’s support).

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ReLIFE Lab is portrayed as very much like any other workplace, just as Lacuna in Eternal Sunshine is very much like any other doctor’s office; a neat amalgam of the mundane and the fantastical. There’s a kind of bizarre magic in what ReLIFE does, and yet Yoake still has to deal with a board of suits concerned with their branch’s rep and interested in results.

My one gripe about this otherwise lovely episode is that we don’t really get much in the way of info about Subject 001, which seems like a cruel tease. However, ReLIFE has been so good up to this point I’m willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt on this. Maybe they’re saving that 001 reveal for later (and 001 went to Aoba High just like Kaizaki) or maybe they’ll never reveal it.

As for Yoake and An, neither seem interested in the other romantically, but one can’t deny there’s have chemistry and warmness to their rapport. Maybe it’s just a senpai/kohai thing, or the fact that their peculiar line of work, what with all the masquerade and stalking, can be isolating. Their scene on the bridge in the rain was very nice; so many complex emotions going on.

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I also got the feeling that while An is obviously disappointed Kaizaki was transferred from her to Yoake, at least it was Yoake, whom she knows and trusts, who got him and not someone else. That, and she’ll be right there at school with both Yoake and Kaizaki.

The episode ends back in the present, with Yoake surveying all the people Kaizaki has changed as a result of gaining the confidence to act. In the past Yoake mentioned Kaizaki had the “trauma of losing someone”, and the uncertainty of knowing if he did enough when he should have led to present part-timer status.

Watching Kaizaki gradually overcome those issues through his ReLIFE is having an inspiring effect on Yoake, who is also pleased that he seems to have found a proper “distance” from Kaizaki that he lacked with 001. And so yet another ReLIFE character has been wonderfully rounded out and humanized, while the world has been further enriched without answering too many questions.

With everything going so well, I reckon it’ll be time to rock the boat again pretty soon!

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Dagashi Kashi – 11

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Any DK segment with a healthy dose of Endou Saya is fine by me, and we get that in this week’s first segment, as Hotaru has her and Coco hide under a box so they can observe firsthand why Coco’s dad is so amazing.

Of course, due the the close quarters (and their adolescence), initially all Coco and Saya can think about is the face they’re so close together in a dark, confined space. Naturally Hotaru thinks nothing of this.

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Somehow, Hotaru’s plan kinda works: You doesn’t notice that big box with peeping holes, but Coco comes to think a little higher of his old man after he sees how expertly he deals with a customer. Specifically, a young boy comes in with a girl he likes, but doesn’t have enough money to buy two pieces of Cola Gum.

Why doesn’t the boy just buy gum for her, then? I don’t know, but the girl seems ready to wash her hands of him right there when You suggests he unwrap the gum to see if he won another piece. He doesn’t, but he grabs the little insert and sayshe won, letting him take a second piece. The boy thinks he won, the girl is impressed; everyone’s happy.

This exchange reminds Saya of a time when she and Coco were that age, and she kept winning gum from unwrapping winning wrappers. She surmises that You was letting her win so she’d have more fun, but Coco knows better: Saya has scary good luck when it comes to candy; as good as Hotaru’s is bad. If only Saya had as good luck with Coco!

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The next segment starts leisurely with Coco and Hotaru waiting for the next train after just missing the previous one. Hotaru, in her typical blithely oblivious way suggests passing the time by “sucking on something.” Whoa there, Coco: she’s just talking about suckable kombu (seaweed).

While not technically a candy, neither are a lot of the snacks at Coco’s store. But Miyako Kombu was developed to be sold in a place with lots of people coming in and out all the time; i.e. a train station. After the history lesson, Hotaru’s mouth is parched due to all the talking she’s done, so breaks out a refreshing Ramune.

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After offering Coco some (and inadvertently, an indirect kiss as well), he mentions that “Ramune” is a Japanese bastardization of “Lemonade” brought to Japan by Commodore Perry back in the 1850s.

Underwhelmed by the roteness of his story, Hotaru takes the history lesson to the next level, in a hilarious reenactment in which Perry talks in the manner of a contemporary hoodlum, and in which she credits his ramune with convincing the Japanese to open their borders to international trade, despite having plenty of their own problems.

This was a ludicrously funny little bit, punctuated by the disturbing sight of Hotaru’s face morphing into Perry’s as she imitates his voice.

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All that aside, the reason for the train journey comes up. Coco needs art supplies; Hotaru wants to go on a candy shopping spree. As it turns out, only Hotaru boards the train, as if leaving for good, suddenly giving the scene—and the episode—a welcome bit of serialization.

Hotaru tells Coco she knows he has his own aspirations in life, and doesn’t want to force him to succeed his dad’s shop. But forcing and persuading are two different approaches to achieving the same end.

Having stayed in town these past eleven weeks (or however long it’s been by the show’s calendar), Hotaru quite suddenly decides to leave it up to Coco to contact her when he’s made a decision. She’ll be waiting…only she just didn’t bother to tell him where.

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Dagashi Kashi – 10

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This week’s DK starts off with a little mystery, as Tou is confronted by an out-of-breath, distraught Hotaru who has been running in her stocking feet, takes Tou’s hands, and begs him for help. But with what? What is her big issue? And where are her shoes?

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After the credits, we’re in Coco’s store, only Hotaru isn’t there. She hasn’t come by for two days, which to Coco isn’t just bizarre; it’s a little scary. When he doesn’t find her at Saya’s cafe either, the two pay a visit to Hotaru’s massive house for the first time, and find Hotaru in her pajamas and a surgical mask, looking very much the worse for wear.

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They mystery deepens as Hotaru seems to freak out whenever she sees Coco’s face. And while she seems interested in the snacks he brought for her, she always ends up recoiling in fear, and can’t complete a sentence without wincing in pain multiple times.

Turns out the mouth ulcer she had last week—and continued to torture with pop rocks and the like—has only gotten worse, swelling her cheek to a ludicrous degree.

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When pressed for answers, Hotaru tells them the tale that led to her encounter with Tou the other night. She used Pop-a-Fortunes to try to wish for her mouth to heal before a new Baby Ramen flavor release, but the candy instead tells her to go on an “outing”, which she goes on immediately (without putting on her shoes).

That led her to Tou, who gave her advice to abstain from candy until her mouth fully heals. That way, the candy will taste even better, since absence makes the heart (and stomach) grow fonder and all that. The only problem is, that abstinence has led to candy withdrawal.

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When Hotaru just can’t hold back anymore, she has to be physically restrained by both Coco and Saya. Her cuckoo clock snaps her out of her trance, letting her know to take her disgusting-looking but lovely-smelling homemade medicine.

That “medicine” turns out to be the culprit behind her increasingly huge mouth ulcer: it’s made from a combination of powdered pine, melon, and “American Cola” drink mixes. In other words, it’s pure sugar.

Upon learning Hotaru’s cure (and her candy abstinence) is a sham, they take off, leaving her to continuing drinking her nasty—and very harmful—witch’s brew. But what’s the daughter of a candy company to do?

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Dagashi Kashi – 06

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I kinda needed a week away from Dagashi Kashi, so last week’s hiatus was well-timed, allowing me to build back up a hankering for some fresh candy-cation. This week’s loose theme was “playing with your food”; specifically candies that you’re meant to play with before you consume them.

Hotaru brings the others to a shrine where she does a dance to the god of candy with a super-long gummi string, then breaking out a “Maken gummie” which comes in the form of a hand making one of the three rock-paper-scissors gestures. Tou learns another use for it is flipping a girl’s skirt, enabling Kokonotsu an unsolicited look under Saya’s, much to both their embarrasment. Saya promptly posterizes her brother.

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Hotaru tries to use the gummie string in a surprise competition that will determine if Koko inherits his dad’s store, but it fails, like most of her attempts to get him to commit to doing so. However, Koko inadvertently proves he was born to own a candy shop when she accidentally loses her grip on her gummie “nunchaku”, and without thinking he leaps into the air to catch the errant candy in hismouth before it touches the ground.

When Hotaru breaks out the ohajiki, Saya is naturally good at it without knowing the rules. Hotaru has noticed Saya is good at a lot of things she sucks at, and starts to think Saya would be a perfect fit working at Koko’s candy shop. She suggests as much to Saya, unaware of how much Saya likes Koko, and while Saya doesn’t give an answer, the thought of being that little bit closer to Koko lingers in her mind.

That takes us to the episode’s strongest and most heartwarming segment, a flashback to when Saya and Koko were still in elementary school, and she’d come by all the time to play.

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Back then, Koko was as enthusiastic about candy as Hotaru is in the present, and acts as a spokesman for combination candy and “nutritional good” Yoguret, a melt-in-your-mouth dairy candy that comes in blister packs like medicine, making it perfect for if, say, they were to play Doctor.

That was only an example, but Saya, who liked Koko as much back then as she does in the present, runs with it. But Koko makes her the doctor, and when she insists they switch, he always manages to get out of “examining” (read: touching) her by prescribing her the Yogurets as medicine. While comforting him when they’re all gone, the two stumble to the floor, holding hands and lying quite close.

It’s perhaps the first time in their lives they were quite that close to each other, and noticed each other as girl and boy. Cut to the present day Saya, all grown up, wondering why that particular memory suddenly surfaced, but sure that Koko probably forgot about it.

When she arrives at Koko’s shop, Hotaru announces the featured candy of the day is – yup – Yogurets. Both Saya and Koko instantly blush, and Saya retreats, but she’s clearly happy Koko remembered after all. Such is the power of candy. 

This episode clinched for me what I’d always suspected: Saya is the true star of this show, and the reason I’m still tuning in. Hotaru has her moments, but she’s a mostly static, cavorting jester, while Saya is a warm, vulnerable human being with whom we can empathize.

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 11

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After multiple events at the end of last week’s episode piled upon each other like so many zombies, spelling imminent doom for the School Life Club, this week starts off with a continuation of that despair, with no shortage of intense terrified close-ups of Rii-san and Miki. But Yuki’s expression is different. It’s not existential fear…it’s an awakening, which comes in the form of a sudden flash as she sees her former choker-wearing classmate as she truly is.

That awakening continues gradually and painfully throughout the episode, as more and more, it becomes clear Yuki is the only club member who can save everyone. Her emotional scars are re-opened and reckoned with, and the same voice in her head that’s taken the form of Megu-nee for so long steps into high gear, putting Yuki not only in a position to stay alive, but help the others, starting with Miki. Now that she finally sees again the danger she and her friends are in, she doesn’t crumple into a ball; she picks up a shovel.

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Nostalgia, despair and hope go hand in hand (…in hand) this week. Rii-san remembers promising to “do what must be done” if Kurumi were to get infected, and as she’s being slowly driven mad by Kurumi’s increasingly horrifying moans and screams, with a knife in her lap, Rii-san starts to contemplate fulfilling that promise. Meanwhile, the zombies are everywhere, including the roof, where a lightning storm ignites the zombies, who then ignite the crops and Megu-nee’s grave marker.

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With all this grimness, Yuki’s strength in this time of ultimate crisis, and her desire to have more fun times with the club in the future, inspires Miki to action, after she was briefly paralyzed by her grief over Taroumaru. She then use’s Kei’s discman to try to sooth/distract the zombies at another barricade as she heads to the basement to find medicine. As that gorgeous music first we heard in episode 4 plays, we return to the day the club drove out in Megu-nee’s car and ended up saving Miki.

On the drive home, Kurumi and Rii-san (the only two still awake) talk about whether the zombies are still “aware”, and Kurumi hopes they aren’t, after all the terrible things she’s done to them. She says she had no choice—it was them or her—and she’s right. But that doesn’t make what she’s done, or not knowing the true nature of the zombies, any easier a pill to swallow.

Back in the present, Rii-san prepares to stab Kurumi to death…but just can’t do it, thus avoiding the possibility of Miki getting the antidote, only to return to find Kurumi is dead. If Rii-san isn’t already FUBAR, she certainly would be under that scenario.

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But Miki is still a long, long way from getting that antidote to Kurumi. It’s by no means a sure thing. She encounters Megu-nee down there, gets cornered by her and pays her respects, cognizant of the possibility the teacher’s stayed down there all this time in order to prevent hurting her still-living students. Despite that apparent awareness Kurumi mused about (and hoped wasn’t true), Megu-nee is still, ya know…a zombie, and grabs Miki’s ankle, forcing Miki to take her out.

Just then, as if there was a chip in Megu-nee tied to the school (though probably a coincidence what with the roof generators going haywire), an alarm sounds and red lights come on, and a P.A. system announces emergency power has been activated for the shelter (which probably means batteries, which aren’t going to last). All that noise attracts hordes of zombies to Miki’s location, and she ends up trapped in a room, unable to act, just like when she was at the mall.

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Thus Yuki becomes the only one who can save everyone. She does so by finally opening her eyes to “the hard stuff” she left to the others for so long, even before she went into her dissociative state, because she deemed herself clumsy and weak. But she’s able to use a vision of Megu-nee to get to the place she needs to be, have one last conversation with her through a door before opening it, and seeing, finally, that Megu-nee is no longer around, that she’s gone, and now it’s up to her.

It’s not easy, nor is it painless, but it’s what has to be done, or, Yuki knows, the School Live Club is finished. Her smile and her silly optimism sustained the club for so long, but now she has to do more, by breaking out of the protective shell she created in her mind, facing the reality of her situation, grabbing a bat, and getting to work. Everyone is counting on her.

No matter what happens, everyone will be scarred by this day they’re having. But can Yuki stand strong and act; protect and guide as Megu-nee did; be the new guardian angel, so that she and the others can live a little longer? I hope so.

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Gakkou Gurashi! – 10

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Fun Time is officially over as shit hits the fan on all fronts in this taut, slithering, devastating, unforgiving powerhouse of an episode. It starts quiet on a rainy morning. Miki laments that she’s finished her book—at the end of which its implied the dog comes to a bad end—Rii-san informs her why she’s so down: this is the same kind of day when they lost Megu-nee, their sensei and caring protector. Ever since then, Rii-san has been trying to fill the void Megu-nee left, and the strain shows this week as pretty much everything that can go wrong, does.

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Kurumi, the muscle of the group, confidently strikes out to find the escaped Taroumaru, assuring Rii-san she won’t do anything rash. She ultimately can’t abide by that assurance, first locating a zombified Taroumaru, then Megu-nee herself, in the previously un-explored basement. Why she goes alone is beyond me, but like I said, she’s a tough one, so I guess Rii-san felt she could trust her to come back safe and sound on her own.

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As soon as she spots both Taroumaru and Megu-nee, Kurumi knows what she has to do; it’s just a matter of being able to do it. She was able to kill her would-be boyfriend before he killed her back when this all started, but her hesitation results in Taroumaru running rampant until she can trap him in a room (with a non-sliding door he can’t open). And when Megu-nee raises her face, Kurumi can’t help but see her memory of her warm, beautiful, heroic teacher, not the shambling monster before her.

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She loses her nerve, and Megu-nee bites her. Damn, that was fast. Kurumi gets back to the safe zone, but it isn’t long before the wound starts to fester, and it becomes pretty clear that things are not going to go any better for her than they went for the dog or the teacher. It’s only a matter of time.

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During this time, as she screams in her sleep, we go inside her head, where she’s trapped in a nightmare in which countless zombies stalk her from just behind the walls of a classroom she’s in.

When they break through, her mind will be lost and she’ll be one of them. The only glimmer of hope she can be saved comes when Miki consults the emergency manual, which indicates there’s medicine—an antidote?—down in the basement shelter.

Rii-san doesn’t want Miki to go alone, but she doesn’t have much choice; she has to be there if and when Kurumi turns. As for Yuki, her bubbly obliviousness is more of a liability than ever. Miki and Rii-san are going through emotional issues of their own, and they have no time to babysit her.

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Miki finds Kurumi’s shovel, but also spots Taroumaru’s still-full dog bowl and collapses into tears, remembering how Kurumi lamented that she’d “failed”, and believing she too had failed to protect Taroumaru, just when they had kinda become friends last week.

Miki claims not being close to Megu-nee (who we see sitting down there, “writing”) will make it easier to take her out, but the dog’s down there too, so her task to grab the medicine—before Kurumi turns—is not going to be easy, to put it mildly.

As for Yuki, when she stops in the hall to remark to herself how today is like “that day”, and she then asks herself what “that day” is, and then feels the cold rain hitting her on the face. She sees the broken window now, just as the zombies burst through the ground floor and start bringing the barricades down.

We can imagine what she’ll see next week. The question is: how will she react to her sudden awakening? Will she be able to play a role in her own and everyone else’s survival, or are they all doomed?

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Terra Formars – 02

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Well, I was right: the show entered its element, as after thirty-eight days of milling around, flirting, and playing catch, on day thirty-nine all hell breaks loose aboard Annex One, as terraformars appear out of nowhere and start wrecking up the place (and the people). Now it makes sense why U-NASA recruited a guy who could hold his own against a bear in a Thai cage match!

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But herein lies the catch, and it’s a pretty big one: this show wants to show a lot that the network censors won’t allow. As a result, so much of the dismemberment and gore is totally blacked out, you can barely tell what the heck’s going on, which kind of kills the intended intensity of those scenes. I’ve a strong constitution for television violence, and can’t help but feel like I’m not missing out on the creators’ vision.

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As for the terraformars, they’re exceedingly dumb-looking. They manage to be terrifying anyway due to their size, strength, and inability to be brought down by huge guns, but they’d be a lot more terrifying if they didn’t have such goofy designs. For the record, I prefer Aliens to Predators, because the Aliens are just less humanoid in characteristics, and thus scarier to me. Ditto the briefly-seen aliens of Independence Day.

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Still, once the bugs appear, things go downhill quickly, especially when they destory all the precious medicine required to fight them. It’s all very bloody and hopeless…and I reiterate: they’re not even on Mars yet! Meanwhile, back in Japan, U-NASA employee and JSADF Major Hiruma Shichisei, finds a researcher from the Bugs 2 Project tending bar in Saitama, seeking information he’ll use to “protect Japan.” Major, after seeing what those bugs can do, good luck – you’re going to need it.

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