TenSura – 40 – Here We Don’t Go Again

One third of TenSura’s second season’s second cour has now been one long glorified infodump, featuring nothing but people standing and sitting around discussing things. There’s even a brief recap of last week’s talking, before we go right back into the next stage of talking. Who in their right mind would think this is acceptable method of storytelling?

Ramiris, who showed up and fell asleep last week, finally wakes up and offers some details about the threat to Tempest that probably isn’t any threat at all. Considering what happened the last time an enemy tried a coordinated attack on Tempest, it went…poorly. That, along with this constant parade of drab meetings, saps any potential drama or peril regarding another attack.

If there’s one improvement to this episode over the previous three, it’s that at least Rimuru & Co. go somewhere other than the conference room or gazebo. They hang out in the hot springs, then have a meal in the spa’s dining room. And as annoying and grating as Ramiris is, it is exceedingly cute watching Treyni and her sister pamper her.

With the announcement that Clayman may be launching an attack on Eurazania and not Tempest, and that Rimuru & Co. are too far away to lend any timely aid to the refugees there, there finally seems to be some momentum towards actual things maybe possibly happening next week. But I’ll still expect more meetings and more talking until shown otherwise. I’ve already been fooled for the better part of a month. Enough’s enough!

TenSura – 39 – The Slime’s Gambit

Amen, Gobta. Gobta is me right now, after enduring another interminable episode packed with people standing or sitting around talking about everything they’re going to do instead of actually doing anything. A full quarter of Slime’s second season’s second cour has been nothing but exposition. When I think of how much To Your Eternity gets done every three episodes, it really puts TenSura’s leisurely start into relief.

I like to see Gobta dozing through the endless talking as a sign even the producers know this is a bit much…but that didn’t stop them from making these episodes! When I go through all of the information I received, I can’t help but think it could have been presented a different way. A cutaway or two to illustrate the scenarios brought up, perhaps? This ain’t rocket science, it’s anime production!

The best part of this episode is when it ended. Yes, it was nice to see Ramiris again, but despite the episode being called “Ramiris’s Warning” Rimuru doesn’t take her warning seriously, and she spends the remaining 90% of the episode lying unconscious on Veldora’s leg.

It’s also downright odd to hear Rimuru cheerfully planning on intentionally causing a civil war in Falmuth that will probably claim the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. That’s some villainous shit, discussed with upbeat music in an idyllic English-style garden. But I won’t mind Rimuru committing any number of further atrocities…if he and his pals would just leave that frikkin’ gazebo and do something!

TenSura – 38 – In Conference

Holey moley, I hope you like people sitting around either introducing themselves talking about stuff that’s already happened, or planning what’s going to happen next, you’re gonna love this episode. MAL clearly does! As for me, it left me fairly cold, in contrast to last week’s warmer, more familial atmosphere.

We start with the return of Kagurazaka Yuuki, still flipping through the manga Rimuru made for him, who is hanging with Kagali, formerly the Demon Lord Kazaream now in a new Elven body, and Laplace, member of the most annoying bunch in all TenSura, the Harlequins. I honestly forgot the guy, but he and his friends have plans for “the squishy one”.

Speaking of His Squishiness, Rimuru commences a great meeting under a big gazebo that resembles the meeting where the Fellowship was forged in Rivendell. As if admitting there are just too many damn people at the meeting, both Dwargo and Elalude have a private meeting with Rimuru in his office, after learning Veldora Tempest is now free and has human form.

Rimuru explains everything that happened since he was reincarnated as a slime and met Veldora, and both leader decide they’ll back Rimuru’s play. After all, he’s essentially a Demon Lord and BFF to the Evil Dragon; if it were my kingdom, I’d probably hitch my wagon to Tempest too!

With that settled, the meeting moves back outside, but switching the setting back and forth doesn’t change the fact that this is an interminable episode. There are some interesting notions brought up here and there, but at the end of the day it’s all talk. The only action is recycled from previous episodes, like Rimuru’s battle with Hinata, which only serves to remind us what TenSura is capable of when its not dragging its feet.

This method of slowly, deliberately building up the stakes and having long meetings to discuss What Must Be Done is absolutely nothing new to the series. It’s always a little sluggish out of the gate. I was almost ready for a little nap when Ramiris splatted on the glass gazebo roof, then approaches Rimuru to warn him that his capital is “doomed to fall”.

I’m not under any illusions this will suddenly lead to an action-packed third episode—it will probably start with Ramiris elaborating while everyone stands around and listens—but it is at least something.

Durarara!!x2 Ten – 07 (19)

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With the stalker—scratch that, stalkers—initiating their attack on Ruri’s acquaintances, it’s Mikado who takes charge, warning Celty to get to the severely beaten Shinra post-haste, as well as dispatching Blue Squares to foil the stalkers targeting Shizuo (whom Kida is with) and Anri (keeper of the kitten). In this way, the damage the stalkers do is mostly minimized, but a lot more suddenly comes to light that breaks this cour wide open.

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Adabashi, for instance, manages to get Anri where he wants her, but is so fixated on killing the cat that he leaves Anri alone to chase it, and ends up tangled up with a bunch of Blue Squares. He’s more than capable of tossing the relatively weak amateurs aside, but didn’t count on Kida being their to deliver a professional crotch kick. He even manages to recover from that and turn on Kida, but one of the masked Blue Squares sets Adabashi’s back on fire, forcing a retreat.

Kida, who has seen texts from both Mikado and Aoba, assumes his benefactor is the latter, but then Mikado, his nose broken and his forehead split open, removes his mask and reveals himself to Kida. This is Kida’s first encounter with “the New Mikado”, and it shakes him to the core, especially when Mikado asks his friend to wait a little longer for the time when he can make Ikebukuro a place where Kida and Anri can live.

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Kida had worked so hard for so long to keep Mikado out of the fighting, but in his absence Mikado has rendered all that work moot, placing everything on his shoulders. I was expecting Mikado to even ask Kida for help, but he doesn’t: he tells him it’s best if they don’t see each other until his self-imposed ideal conditions have been met.

Kida is shocked, but then turns around and tells Anri the same think Mikado told him: to just hold on and wait a little longer. Clearly, Kida senses, this isn’t the right time to come clean to his two estranged friends about everything he did as leader as the Yellow Scarves prior to his exile.

In the meantime, we see a new face in a pipe-smoking, monocled fellow who seems to be Yadogiri Jinnai’s immedtiate superior. This villainous-looking fellow wants Celty, Anri, and Ruri for his own purposes, and won’t accept failure; if Jinnai can’t get it done, he’ll find someone who can.

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We only saw a brief glimpse of Izaya last week, but he is already working towards reasserting his primacy in the goings-on of Ikebukuro. He’s recruited a number of familiar faces—including the tomboy dojo instructor, a heavily bandaged Sloan, the girl who tried to murder him in the hospital, and the badly-burned Adabashi, plus at least six others who don’t look like people you want to mess with.

Izaya has welcomed them into the Dollars just as Mikado is attempting to purge the group of unwanted or unstable elements. But something tells me re-introducing instability and chaos is high on Izaya’s to-do list, no matter how much that agenda might clash with the Dollars’ founder. And you know what? I’m glad Izaya is back, about to raise hell that will test Mikado’s resolve.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 06 (18)

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Yadogiri Jinnai is the undisputed Big Bad of this second cour of Drrr!!x2, and he calls in a favor from Adabashi, the stalker all the Dollars are talking about. In this episode that largely puts pieces into place for the big stalker arc payoff, we’re given new insight into Ruri-chan’s dark past (and present), Yadogiri’s hold on both her and her family, and her desire to protect her kitten, but Kasuka, even if it means sacrificing herself, knowing full well she may not  have the right to desire such things after all the murders she’s committed as Hollywood.

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Those who adore Ruri the idol want the stalker taken out ASAP (some, like Togusa, are perfectly happy to take him out themselves). Mikado tells Kadota he’s still very much in the Dollars, but now believes part of the absolute freedom of the group includes his freedom to want to restrict the freedom of members he believes aren’t meeting the same standards of quality Dollarhood people like Kadota and Celty meet.

Meanwhile, Izaya, whom Jinnai had stabbed as a message that he can do whatever he wants whenever he wants, has been discharged, and the extend of Jinnai’s hold on Ruri, and his possibly intentionaly nurturing of the monsterous blood within her, adds new depth to the arc.

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First and foremost, Ruri and Kasuka give their cat to Anri (who, through Saika and along with Celty, senses something strange about Ruri’s aura), and then have former stalker Mika test their door locks (the locks fail miserably). Ruri shows Kasuka the side of herself that is drugged and laid out on a table as rich old men in masques poke and prod her with scalpels and watch her wounds heal instantly.

Their manager seems to believe it’s a kinky adult video, but Kasuka, not shaken by these new truths about his companion, doesn’t rule out the fact the yellow-afroed dude might know more. In any case, despite the lock-testing and big bodyguards, and especially the fact that Ruri is a super-strong oddity herself, everyone seems highly vulnerable to the stalker this week.

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Ruri and the stalker story dominate, rendering Kida’s return to Ikebukuro almost a footnote, but I like how casually the episode turns to his independent quest to right wrongs and clean up burned bridges. It doesn’t take long for him to spot someone on the streets he needs to apologize to: Shizuo, who’s with Tom and Varona. Shizuo barely remembers how Kido wronged him, but it’s water under the bridge after a powerful forehead flick. I can’t wait till he meets the New Mikado.

Finally, Shinra’s lock quandary becomes moot when Adabashi, failing at posing as a delivery man, helps himself in and beats the everloving shit out of Shinra. Shin knows plenty of people who can probably easily take on Adabashi, most of all Celty, but she and they can’t be of any service if they’re not there when shit goes down, as it certainly does here.

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Durarara!!x2 Ten – 05 (17)

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Chat rooms are abuzz with rumors about masked Dollars/Blue Scarves purging the gang of unwanted members. A combat training-obsessed loon is stalking Hijiribe Ruri. And Celty, having rescued a client’s beloved pet snake, comes home still upset about the white rider. How do all these disparate events connect? The people involved in them, and their myriad degrees of connection to one another.

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While there are a lot of developments involving newer characters and illustrating the rot around the edges of Ikebukuro are slowly spreading, this is an episode that puts the main trio of Mikado, Masaomi, and Anri front and center (as much as a sprawling ensemble show can do so). Their connections have changed, and they know it, but all three seem to be preparing to make a new go of things. Ikebukuro’s fate seems tied to these three, even if they may not have major roles in many episodes.

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Ostensibly, this is an episode about people coming to talk to other people; those connections we mentioned being crucial to them figuring out what’s going on and receiving counsel on how to proceed. Shizuo’s bro Kasuka and Ruri come to Shizuo seeking a connection to the Dollars, a member of whom is believed to be stalking her. Shizuo is no longer a member, but he knows someone who does/is in Shinra and Celty, so Kasuka and Ruri don’t come up empty. They also pawn Ruri’s Scottish Fold kitten off on Shizuo, fearing the stalker may harm it.

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Celty arrives home from her latest exciting, death-defying mission to find Anri wants her and Shinra’s counsel regarding Mikado. Anri, who knows him as well as anyone, thinks he’s acting strange, mostly because he’s so upbeat and confident in his own power, which is decidedly not what Mikado has classically been about.

While walking home, he even tells Anri he doesn’t care about her secrets (some of which he’s seen, but neither has spoken of); he only cares about “creating a place for her” in Ikebukuro, as well as a place everyone else. It’s what he intended when he founded the Dollars, and it’s what he’s trying to translate into the real world.

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Celty recalls a past visit from Kuronuma Aoba asking about an email address that they ended up giving to him. Shinra compared Aoba to Orihara Izaya in his greediness and need to feel the whole world in the palm of his hand, or to put it another way, his compulsion to bat a ball of yarn around and revel in its unraveling. Aoba hates the comparison because he hates Orihara, but also because he knows he comes across as a younger knock-off of that more famous troublemaker.

How much Aoba is influencing Mikado and how much of this is Mikado’s will is still unclear, but at least on the surface, and despite Anri’s reservations, Mikado does seem to have a good handle on things, and he’s using the Scarves to get rid of the nastier members of the Dollars who undermine his desire to create a place for everyone. It’s a nasty conundrum: excluding those who exclude in order to preserve inclusivity.

We see Masaomi preparing to return to Ikebukuro, with Saki’s blessing, at a time when, again, on the surface, Mikado needs him the least, but deeper down, may need that old connection to return now more than ever before he loses himself. In any case, I’ll bet Masaomi will be every bit as unnerved by New Mikado as Anri is.

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Oregairu 2 – 07

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In shopping list she slipped into her brother’s bag, with whom she’s on good terms again, Komachi writes that what she wants most is his happiness (and detergent). But he’s increasingly unsure of how to get that happiness. All he knows is that saving people with his methods hasn’t quite done the trick.

Something is missing: “His responsibility…the answer” he needs. And as much as he doesn’t want to admit it, there may be no more answers in the Service Club, which he now attends increasingly for Yui’s sake, haunted by what would happen if he wouldn’t and Yukino’s “smile of giving up.”

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He may not realize it yet, nor does she, but Hikky’s answer may lie in Iroha, and hers in him. He is someone she can be herself with, after all, and who insists on carrying her bag even though it’s not heavy. I initially thought Iroha’s presence on the show would lead to cliched conflict, but we’ve instead been blessed with a far more complex and satisfying dynamic as the two tentatively circle one another.

The way the camera stays on the other side of the street as they cross and make the bag hand-off had just as much power as past close-ups of said hand-offs, if not more. Hikky isn’t just settling for handling Iroha’s tough stuff; he wants to support her in the little things too.

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If only it were that easy. Hikky hasn’t been this earnestly hands-on a “service client” like this before, nor has he faced quite as formidable and opaquely frustrating an opponent as the other school’s talky president, who continues to spew unproductive bullshit as the clock ticks on the Christmas event. Among the elementary kids they’ve recruited to assist is Tsurumi Rumi, whom I think I’ll call “Mini-Yukino” due to her not-at-all-not-coincidental resemblance to Hikky’s emotionally estranged club mate.

The council quagmire is the challenge he’s facing now, but Rumi is a symbol of someone he saved before with non-ideal, imperfect methods: sabotaging the bonds of the peers who bullied her so they’d no longer trust one another or level coordinated attacks on her, while leaving her just as alone in the end.

Later that night Hikky is treated to someone on the other end of the spectrum: Saika, who thinks it’s cool the way Hikky’s always working hard for others without complaint. Saika’s opinion is valid from his point of view, though he’s not in on the whole picture.

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Someone else who doesn’t have the whole picture is Orimoto Kaori, who bumps into Hikky and Iroha on the streets and, perhaps due to her proximity to her classmates, her vague language about her past with Hikky pique Iroha’s interest. Is it just me, but it feels like Yukino and Yui fade out of focus whenever Hikky is with Iroha, and having Kaori around makes a triad—a new triad.

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In fact, when Iroha very overtly puts her hand on Hikky, it looks every bit like a gesture of possession, not idle flirtation, in the presence of another girl Hikky may have had “dealings” with. “This is my man now,” so to speak. She seems happy that such a scenario may have occurred, though, because it reinforces the part of her that sees Hikky as a suitable mate. Whoa, sorry for gettin’ all Discovery Channel there!

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Bag hand-offs and arm-touching aside, in semi-public Iroha still plays her rapid-rejection card when she senses Hikky is flirting with her, but like Hikky, she’s maintaining a facade that doesn’t express her true feelings about the way Hikky is treating her.

That facade always mentions some quality she believes Hikky doesn’t possess or never will, in the process painting the picture of an ideal guy she’s never met, and maybe never will. Meanwhile, here is Hikky, staunchly by her side, worried he may be carrying too much of Iroha’s load with regards to the event, but still feeling responsible for her being there to begin with.

I should also mention that Hikky reaches out to Rumi even though he doesn’t have too, simply sitting with her and helping with decorations so she won’t be alone, then encouraging her to go to the others. If Hikky were the guy his facade less and less convincingly attempts to assure us he is, he’d never bother, but he can’t help it, especially with someone he feels an obligation to be nicer to after providing only an imperfect solution to her problems.

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Which brings us to an understated but ultimately pretty heartbreaking closing scene as Hikky bumps into Yukino. He’s been nothing but submissive, contrite, and polite to her since she’s been able to occupy the same room as him, but he only told her a half-truth about being busy with Komachi’s exams. In reality, he’s busy with Iroha, and enjoying it as well. Yukino knows this, and knows there’s little she could contribute.

She also believes Hikky is only still attending club out of obligation. For Shizuka, who brought them together, but tellingly has been nowhere to be seen of late—maybe the experiment is over, with mixed but still valuable results? For Yui, who not only wants to walk to the club with him, but wants to be seen walking with him by others.

But Yukino, without any hint of bitterness, tells him he doesn’t have to beg her pardon or ask her permission or force himself to attend. Yukino’s analysis may be right—Hikky is certainly deriving happiness from helping Iroha—but she also walks away before Hikky can at least attempt to respond to it. Maybe he just likes attending club. Or maybe it’s time to move on.

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