Prison School – 11

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It’s cruch time for the inmates, and Gakuto quickly devises a fresh challenge for the Vice President—butt-wrestling—only to find Mari has replaced her, not due to doubt over Meiko’s loyalty or competence, but simply because she suspects the boys have caught on to her pattern of behavior and are planning to exploit her once more…which is exactly what is going on.

Their latest greatest plan thus foiled before it could get off the ground, it falls to Kiyoshi to use Meiko’s replacement Hana to regain access to the office. When he mentions the grudge Hana holds against him (without going into the tawdry details), they protest what could end up a very painful, bloody path, but he sees it as an opportunity to do right by the lads he wronged. They forgave him, but he hasn’t forgiven himself.

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As I suspected, Kiyoshi makes use of Chiyo’s message exchange to gain outside help, and while Chiyo is caught, it’s by Anzu, who shares her desire to get the boys un-expelled. The girls of the Underground StuCo may be the source of all their suffering, but girls also happen to be instrumental to their salvation.

When Gakuto’s quick thinking gets him and Kiyoshi in the office, then ends up alone with Hana, he’s expects the worst for his “eryngii” when she pulls out a pair of shears. Alas, Hana is no butcher, nor is she criminally insane; she merely uses the shears to cut the top off a bottle for him to pee in. Her plan for revenge remains the same; it has not escalated.

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But once Kiyoshi quickly removes his pants, then boxers, he realizes Hana is no less embarrassed by the intimacy of the situation than he is, so he steels himself and tries to win the emotional battle. When Hana realizes what’s happening, she too steels herself, removing her leggings and shimapan and turning the tables. Considering all the messed-up stuff these two have been through—largely through no fault of their own—this is par for the course.

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Kiyoshi doesn’t give up, however, and manages to unlock the door that must be unlocked for the larger plan to succeed. Then she kicks him for being too close, and he catches a glimpse of her “precious area”, which he calls her “medusa”, and then “turns to stone.” Yikes, that’s a lot of double entendres!

Just when Hana is about to pee on him, they’re startled by the commotion when Meiko captures a girl outside the prison. Everyone is dejected that Chiyo has been caught until Shingo recongizes the voice of Anzu, selflessly serving as Chiyo’s decoy and getting captured for the good of the mission.

Kiyoshi gets another accidental peek, and when he explains himself with those entendres, including the use of the term “medusa”, he causes Hana to start bawling. Why did he give it a name? Why does the first person to see her have to be him? Why did it have to turn out this way?

Kiyoshi offers his apologies, and offers to let her hit him as much as she wants…and she does. But hitting him won’t make them even. Instead, in keeping with her eye-for-an-eye sense of justice, she takes from him something he’ll never get back: his first kiss with a girl.

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Almost delirious with the justice she’s doled out, Hana gets Kiyoshi to admit he likes Mari’s little sister, and for that reason, Hana is resolved to do everything to him he doesn’t want her to do, no matter how embarrassing it might be. So as Chiyo sneaks around outside, fighting for Kiyoshi’s sake, Hana continues to purposefully make out with him.

Even if Chiyo doesn’t catch them in the act (something Kiyoshi could probably explain anyway), Kiyoshi won’t forget this evening in the prison office. The thing is, neither will Hana. I can’t believe this encounter won’t stay with her, and that she feels absolutely nothing genuine from it.

Amidst all the totally weird and wrong interactions they’ve had, there’s also been a sliver of chemistry and mutual attraction…it’s just a matter of neither knowing what the heck to do with such things.

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Mekakucity Actors – 10

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It’s been abundantly clear for some time now that Mekakucity isn’t particularly interested in presenting a linear narrative, preferring to blend episodes of the present with glimpses of the pasts of the characters involved in that present, for us to better understand, or more to the point, care about said characters.

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This week, the present is mostly placed on the back burner in favor of Kozakura Marry’s backstory. Wouldn’t you know it, she’s the granddaughter of the “monster” in the fairy tale. One day, fearful townsfolk come to kill the monster, but she fiercely protects her husband and daughter Shion—Marry’s mom—before leaving them, and the world.

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Marry was raised to believe her eyes would turn others to stone, just like her grandmother Medusa, but her life of lonliness grows intolerable, and she can’t help but cry out for help. Help arrives in the form of Seto Kousuke, who has eyes just like hers, even if they’re embued with a different power. In any case, a connection between two kindred spirits is formed, and the rest is history.

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The entire flashback is neatly framed by a dream the present-day Marry is having while nodding off, when she’s supposed to be keeping an eye on Amamiya Hibiya. This leads to her finding Konoha and bringing him back to HQ, and after seeing Marry’s mom and dad, we couldn’t help but wonder if Honoka’s resemblance to them was intentional. In any case, Akiyuki Shinbou certainly has a thing for manipulative asshole snakes…and now that we know where Marry is coming from, we care about her more than we did before.

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Witch Craft Works – 11

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Ah, the Penultimate Final Battle Buildup Episode…we know them well. If there’s still a fair amount of information to convey to the audience, a PFBBE is the time to do it, so that there’s time for both the resolution of said final battle and a proper cool-down period that checks in on everyone one last time. Cram too much into the end, and the end can feel rushed and unsatisfying. We still consider the second episode to be the best of this series, and we’ve been legging it out in hope of a strong ending.

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After this week, we’d have to say there’s still a good chance of WCW pulling it off, since this PFBBE packs a lot of setup and exposition, identifying the final threat—Weekend will blow up all the people in the city if she doesn’t get Honoka—and fielding the force that aims to thwart her: Ayaka, drawing from Honoka’s power. Honoka’s little dreamworld excursion is suitably trippy, and Mikage-sensei provides enough info for us to get the jist.

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While there’s a lot of talking, there’s also a lot of fighting, first between Kasumi and one of Weekend’s underlings in another giant teddy battle, and we will state for the record we have officially seen enough giant teddy-fighting. We’re also a bit astounded at how ineffective Tanpopo’s crew is this week; they literally just stand around. Fortunately for them their master Medusa managed to escape from her captors and takes the enemy out with some badass petrification.

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As Honoka convalesces, Ayaka leaves him in Atori’s care (she talks through a puppet…HOW KOOKY.) and tries to take her “prey” Weekend on alone, but Weekend has been planning this op for more than a year, and has more than enough magic stowed away to repel her. It takes a feverish Honoka voluntarily going to Ayaka’s side (showing he’s been practicing his broomflying) to charge her back up. So the stage is set for the final battle. We wonder if the powerful Chronoire and/or Kazane will have anything to contribute to it, or if it’ll be strictly an Ayaka/Honoka-vs.-Weekend affair.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Witch Craft Works – 10

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We asked last week if Weekend could keep the good guys on their toes for more than an episode, something no other villain in the show has been able to do as of yet. After the events of this week, the answer seems to be yes. This is an episode bustling with activity in which pretty much everyone is out of their comfort zone and has to improvise in the midst of all the chaos Weekend has caused.

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You have Rinon and the workshop witches trying to pick up the pieces and negotiate with Weekend, who has wrecked the city, injured several witches, and strapped bombs to others that will go off in a half-hour if they don’t bring Honoka to her. Kasumi has enlisted the aid of the Tower witches living in her house (who can still use magic, since they’re not Workshop), while Chronoire is pissed that her house is wrecked but intrigued by Weekend’s power and gets ready to face her.

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Meanwhile, after witnessing Weekends handiwork (for which Honoka briefly freaks out but then composes himself) Ayaka leads Honoka further below the city to its very core, which kinda resembles the Forest of the Deer God. In order to restore the good guys’ ability to use magic, Honoka himself must form a new contract with the city. On the way to the core (a pretty epic journey in its own right), they meet the stone golem witch Gibraltar, but Ayaka deals with her, not with magic, but with muscle, showing her mother taught her well.

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Honoka gets the magic flowing again just in time for Rinon & Co. to save the hostages, punch Weekend in the face, and capture her, and it looks like another bad guy has been foiled. But then Weekend reveals that, like Ayaka, she doesn’t rely on magic alone, using conventional grenades to blast her way out of her cell. She lost this week’s battle, but the war is still on, with both Kazane and Chronoire likely to enter the fray in the near future. This show’s in good shape to have a strong finish.

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Rating: 8 
(Great)

Witch Craft Works – 09

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Ayaka finally heeds Honoka’s insistence she teach him how to fight properly, unsealed seals or no. She throws him into a regime of unsuccessfully taming fire demons and being dropped off of skyscrapers, certainly run-before-he-can-walk situations. For his part, Honoka does conjure a gigantic translucent Ayaka in a nurse-miniskirt to catch him before he falls to his death. Doing so saps all of his magic, and he passes out; something we’ll call “amagica” (rather than anemia).

We also get a strange and very beautiful dream Ayaka used to have when she was younger, in which Honoka tells her they’ll be together, providing further evidence they were destined to be together, even though Honoka never saw it coming. Most gratifying about this episode, though, is that it finally ends without an enemy being easily defeated or becoming another mouth to feed in the Takamiya household. That’s right: the real leader of the Tower witches, “Weekend” (Hirano Aya) finally reveals herself and executes the scheme she’d been carefully preparing.

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She does so by rather cleverly neutralizing the town’s most powerful Workshop witch—Kazane, whose status as a Crafting/Workshop Witch means she’ll always put the protection of the townspeople ahead of all other considerations. When Weekend sets off massive explosions all over town, Kazane’s magic is drained saving the innocent from harm. By the time she’s all recharged, Weekend plans to be very far away with Honoka, the vessel for the Princess whose power she seeks. In crisis mode, the other Crafting Witches (including Rinon, interestingly) meet with Ayaka and Honoka in a lavish secret bunker

Here, the couple is promptly taken captive and thrown in a dungeon, ostensibly to keep them out of Weekend’s clutches until Kazane can recover. Weekend still finds them, but Ayaka uses her message plushie to blow a hole in the wall, and off they go. But as we said, Weekend isn’t simply brushed aside like previous threats. The battle to protect Honoka is far from over, and Ayaka remarks it will have to be fought without magic, at least for a time; an enticing prospect. Weekend may so far be your typical smug, aloof villain, but at least she’s got the good guys’ backs against the wall. We’ll see how long she can keep them there.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

 

 

 

Witch Craft Works – 08

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Witch Craft Works pulls gracefully out of its nosedive with a solid episode in which we learn about Ayaka’s history and Honoka gets to stand on his own two feet, however briefly. The first part introduced Ayaka’s two middle school handlers, Hoodzuki Kanae (Taichi You) and Hio Touko (Asumi Kana) two decent sorts who, as Honoka will later, are persecuted for their closeness to the Princess. The present Ayaka may be an incredibly stoic individual, but she’s made a lot of progress since middle school, when she wouldn’t react to anyone or anything.

Kanae and Touko do what they can socialize her, and when the delinquents gang up on them, Ayaka raises their body temperatures, neutralizing the threat. We also enjoyed witnessing the genesis of her obsession with Honoka, staking out every middle school in the prefecture until she found him. The entire flashback is played off as Honoka’s dream as Ayaka lies in bed beside him; we return to a Takamiya residence in which Tanpopo and her four fellow Tower Witches are embraced as family. Considering how ineffectual they were at fighting Ayaka, it makes sense to go over to their side, though if they do end up stabbing her in the back, she’ll look as silly as she did standing like a statue on a tennis court as balls whizzed by.

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The present day situation, in which Honoka is student council president, deteriorates rapidly as n’er-do-well Otometachibana Rinon—a handful in name and in person—stages a revolution. Within minutes the school becomes a graffito-strewn den of chaos. But Honoka answers the challenge and faces Rinon one-on-one, successfully dodging her punch precisely when Ayaka tells him. Ayaka, hidden from the assembled students’ view by her cape, mops up. Student support for Honoka skyrockets after his “defeat” of Rinon. Rinon turns out to have been a mere pawn of the former president, who fed her lies to her about being assaulted and tossed aside by Honoka.

It was a plan she actually went over with Ayaka—whom she still adores—beforehand, in another flashback. The non-linear progression of the story, as well as the scale of chaos that went down and was just as quickly snuffed out, all contributed to what was a pleasantly rambunctious offbeat outing. More importantly, it successfully legitimized the notion that Honoka isn’t a useless wuss. After all, it takes strength to accept one’s weakness and dependence on stronger parties, while resisting the urge to wish for more power, which is readily available but will lead to the breaking of more seals.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Witch Craft Works – 07

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The elephant (or rather various assorted circus animals) in the room—Ayaka’s harboring of Medusa and her underlings—is dealt with this week…sort of. Because the six fugitives have knowledge about Honoka’s seals being broken, and her mother’s unhealthy passion for vigorous interrogations, Ayaka is certain moms’ll find out if she gets ahold of them, and so does everything in her power to stop that from happening.

To that end, she merges with Medusa through the sharing of an “Apple of Ignorance”, resulting in perhaps Ayaka’s coolest-looking battle mode getup yet (seriously, girl’s got more dresspheres than Yuna). But it doesn’t do any good, as Kazane breaks easily out of her petrification. Honoka draws upon his powers, but only succeeds in him and Ayaka switching bodies (and clothes, the full effect of which we don’t see). They’re both locked in a dungeon deep beneath the school, but soon escape when Ayaka does something intimate with Honoka again—specificially, clean out his ears with a Q-tip.

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While it’s nice to see the bond between the two so close, and we salute Honoka continuing to try to do what little part he can in protecting Ayaka as she protects him, this episode still had a couple problems. First of all, if Ayaka really didn’t want Medusa & Co. to be found, why the heck did she keep them in an unlocked room in Honoka’s house? When they got bored, they predictably broke out and got discovered by Kazane, who kept coming over (but brownie points for Mei and Kotetsu’s refreshing lack of modesty throughout the confrontation). Another problem: Kazane apparently releases Tanpopo and the others before interrogating Medusa, then has her snatched away by other witches.

So in the end, while she was in a perfect position to learn about Honoka’s secret (which Ayaka warned would mean the end of their normal high school life), but came up totally empty, which is kind of silly considering what a powerful badass she is (though apparently not enough of one to wrench the truth out of Chronoire. Then the episode started building up to this big epic duel between Ayaka and Kazane, only to fizzle out when Kazane refused to fight and sent her daughter home. That was kind of funny and unexpected, but in the end it was an annoyingly inconsequential episode in which no one looked particularly competent.


Rating: 5 (Average)

Witch Craft Works – 06

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To a casual observer it may appear that Honoka is indeed a burden to Ayaka, both as a result of the power sealed (and now unsealing) within him, and in the growing school unrest with his constant proximity to her. But neither he nor the student body get to decide who’s a burden to Ayaka or not; only Ayaka can—and we know she’s never going to do that. As far as she’s concerned, she exists to protect him, and derives quite a bit of pleasure in doing so.

When the student council’s factulty advisor, Mikage, uses magic to trap Honoka in a fantasy world at the president’s behest, after swiftly defeating him Ayaka realizes they need to try to make Honoka more palatable to the students. Her hastily-prepared plan involves flexing the authority given her by her title as school idol or “Princess”: she sacks the existing president and installs Honoka, then bribes the Vice President into giving up her job. While the coup doesn’t endear Honoka with his fellow classmates, he forgoes Ayaka’s threatening cue cards and simply asks them to bear with the situation and withhold judgement until they’ve given him a chance.

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Their new titles will make them provisionally acceptable to the school, but Kasumi is tired of Ayaka edging in on her precious brother time. This week she does a fair impression of a Tower Witch, acting with only her own interests at heart, with the guise of protecting Honoka. She pulls no punches taking Ayaka down with a burning car and tranq darts, but she doesn’t get far on her magical plane when a powered-up, pissed-off Ayaka appears to exact punishment in a fairly thrilling aerial battle.

With Medusa and her crew holed up in Honoka’s house, and no signs of Chronoire after Kazane captured her, the major threat facing Honoka isn’t external, but internal: the white princess gaining power within him. Honoka hasn’t told Ayaka about it, but it’s only a matter of time, and it’s likely Kazane already knows, as she’s coming to his house to talk to his mom/would-be wife. The time may come when Honoka looks with fondness upon such comparatively trivial matters like fostering amity at school or being kidnapped by Kasumi. We hope it happens soon, as we’re growing weary of the general lack of peril.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Witch Craft Works – 05

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Honoka decides to move to Ayaka’s house, and after meeting with his family (and his cliched “Loopy Mom”), they arrive at her manor, which is 41 stories tall and rivals the Unyuu residence in extravagance (though isn’t nearly as big or absurd). Just when we thought we’d be in store for more rom-com hijinx as he enters her room for the first time, the show throws something totally different at us: the escaped Medusa is in there waiting for them.

It’s a welcome surprise, and Medusa initially packs quite a whollop, requiring Ayaka to transform into a semi-beast-like state, a la Howl. She insists that Honoka flee while she fights her off, but Honoka, knowing his proximity will give her invincibility, stays right where he is. Then Ayaka gets petrified—which tends to happen when you’re up against Medusa—but Honoka stays by her side, his mind racing at what he can do, until he remembers that pill Chronoire gave him.

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He knows it’s probably not a good idea to take this forbidden fruit; he knows it’s most likely a trap; he knows there will be consequences down the road, and most importantly, he knows Ayaka doesn’t want him to take it. But with Ayaka a statue and Medusa staring him down, his options are limited, so he downs the pill. Doing so summons the demon White Princess Evermilion—perhaps the reason Ayaka calls him “Princess”?—who’s a bit of a character.

We like how Evermillion isn’t there to do all the work for Honoka, but rather to tell him where he screwed up (failing to believe in Ayaka’s strength actually diminishes her strength) and how to revive Ayaka (by kissing her like Sleeping Beauty.) She’s polite enough but sounds put out, warning Honoka not to summon her too often, perhaps for his own good. So while Medusa wasn’t the mortal threat we were expecting-yet, at least-her arrival required Honoka to take one more step closer to the deep end of the witches’ pool.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Stray Observations:

  • Honoka’s mom is a bit loopy, but she righteously calls her daughter out on her brother complex.
  • She also reveals she used to be Ayaka’s mom’s girlfriend. Because they couldn’t marry, they promised each other that their kids would instead.
  • Being from a family of means, Ayaka was able to have custom Honoka stress dolls made, which she hides too late for Honoka not to notice.
  • Ayaka’s kiss in the nurses office was pretty sweet, and there was a lovely surrealism to her pulling back the curtain to reveal Medusa and her five henchwomen just chillin’.
  • Another example this show has trouble fielding capable villains: Chronoire brainwashes all of the tower witches in town, only to be apprehended and imprisoned instantly by Ayaka’s mom. Where’s the challenge?

Witch Craft Works – 04

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Takamiya Honoka’s innate magical power is so great that when he’s in Kagari’s proximity, she’s virtually invincible. This begs the question: why hadn’t Honoka ever been attacked while Kagari wasn’t around? They’re close, but they’re hardly inseparable. This episode answers that question, both for us and the Tanpopo-led Tower Witches who make another ill-fated attempt to attack Honoka: someone else is protecting him. Namely, his little sister Kasumi (a very sharp, indignant performance by Kayano Ai).

In hindsight, we should’ve known Kasumi would step out of the shadows and margins of the frame and have a bigger presence, but we didn’t think it would be this fast or this big. Frankly, we liked the idea of keeping her in stealth-stalker mode for a few more episodes, but the whole reason she was doing that turns out to be because Kagari was stepping on her toes by hanging out with Honoka on a weekend. Kasumi is a jealous, possessive imouto who is resolved to protect her brother, who while slightly taller is far weaker in the magical tactics department.

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Faced with the intolerable prospect of more of her precious time with her beloved brother being sapped away by the Princess, Kasumi takes action, subjecting Honoka to a tense bathroom interrogation, then (successfully) guilt-tripping him by mentioning she’s being picked on by the masses at school upset with his closeness to said Princess. But when Tanpopo’s crew distract Kagari, it’s up to Kasumi to save Honoka, arriving atop a gargantuan stuffed bear. Tanpopo counters with a giant rabbit, and a huge, silly fight ensues, resulting in much destruction of property, but ultimately not as fun as last week’s broom ride.

Yet again, the baddies look like hapless fools, with two exceptions: Chronoire, low on mana after her first encounter with the “King and Queen”, smartly uses Tanpopo’s crew as pawns to keep the pressure on, and later collects all 30-odd Tower witches in town for a powwow. All the while, Tanpopo’s crew’s boss, Medusa, has escaped from SuperMax confinement, meaning we could soon see an “if you want something done right, do it yourself” scenario. Still, after their impressive displays of power and collective devotion to Honoka, we don’t expect Kagari or Kasumi to shrink in the face of whatever evil threats are converging.

7_very_goodRating:7 (Very Good)

Otorimonogatari – 04

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Koyomi orders Nadeko to put the talisman down, but she swallows it instead, reviving the serpant god with her body as its vessel. Fast-forward to the shrine, where Nadeko quickly dispatches Koyomi and Shinobu. She converses with the serpent – i.e. herself – about how she came to be in this situation. When she’s about to kill Koyomi, Senjougahara calls his phone. Nadeko answers and agrees to a half-year truce before killing her, Shinobu, and Koyomi, in that order. The episodes ends with a “trailer” for the battle that takes place in half a year, with Nadeko taking on Koyomi, Senjougahara, Shinobu, Kanbaru, and Hanekawa.

Monogatari likes to mess with our expectations. After an arc about time travel, Nadeko’s story starts at the climax, when she’s about to kill pretty much everyone we know and then, who knows, chill at that shrine for a few millenia. Things come full circle this week, but instead of a conventional resolution, the arc lobs another curveball. Most of this episode is simply Nadeko, in the moments just prior to her final victory, reflecting on how she got here. Koyomi and Shinobu just lie there bleeding as she talks to herself, and in the end, none of the contemplation really matters. She was just lost in thought.

Except that it does, because that amount of time she was ruminating ended up delaying Koyomi’s death just long enough to allow Senjougahara to call and postpone Nadeko’s plans. Had she not called, Nadeko would have killed Koyomi before killing Shinobu, which wouldn’t have been good for anyone (see last arc). And then the series switches gears again with that bizarre post-credits trailer, presented by Nadeko, who, at least from her own perspective, has that final boss battle in the bag. But that confidence might be premature. After all, she gave the enemy a half-year to prepare for her.

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Rating:7 (Very Good)

Otorimonogatari – 03

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Expecting to find Koyomi in his bed, Tsukihi is surprised to find Nadeko there. They have a heart-to-heart, in which Tsukihi suspects Nadeko takes comfort in persistently loving someone who will always be unattainable. Bored with that stance, Tsukihi snips Nadeko’s bangs. The next day at school, Nadeko is as different a person, confidently, angrily chewing out her teacher and classmates. She leaves school early, and asks Kuchinawa to tell her where his object of worship is so they can part ways quickly. The object is at Koyomi’s house – a talisman hidden in porn. When Kuchinawa asks her what she wants (other than her bangs back) in return for helping him, she asks if he can make Koyomi fall in love with her. Koyomi enters the room and says no.

Well, Nadeko’s “honeymoon” with Kuchinawa is over; and by episode’s end she wants a separation. After an immersive, somewhat wall-crumbling talk with (and haircut by) Tsukihi, Nadeko becomes a new person at school. To that end, Hanazawa Kana dispenses with her cutesy affectation and goes into full Bimbougami-ga mode, firing with both barrels. Nadeko shocks her teacher and classmates, but she, Kuchinawa, and we all know that this wasn’t a case of Kuchinawa taking over her mind and body. This was a look at the Nadeko within – prodded by the oddity and enabled by Tsukihi’s frustration with her. Disheartened by the realization all she’s been has been cute, in one day she upturns that persona – without even thinking.

We think she scares the crap out of herself, leading to her suggestion to split with Kuchinawa at the earliest possible convenience. Her desire for alacrity suits Kuchinawa just fine, since he’s after his object of worship…which just so happens to be in the house of Nadeko’s long-time object of desire. Once Kuchinawa offers to do more than simply restore her bangs, Nadeko contemplates doing what those bangs allowed her to do: take the easy way. Instead of looking straight at people and speaking her mind, she’d always look down and apologize. Instead of going after Koyomi’s heart the hard way (like Tsukihi wished she would), the shortcut tempts her. And then Koyomi catches her in his room. We’ll see if the jig is finally up.

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Rating: 9 (Superior)