DanMachi IV – 15 – Hope Reforged

As Ryuu sleeps and dreams of the past, DanMachi is content to gradually inch us along a tale of unfathomable woe. Ryuu can only watch as her comrades—her family—decide to head down to the Lower Floors to investigate, unaware it’s an Evilus trap. Meanwhile, Bell successfully scares a skull sheep away. They may be ugly bastards, but they’re intelligent.

The reinforcement squad composed of Tsubaki and Ryuu’s former co-workers Anya, Runoa, and Chloe reach the 24th Floor and find it in shambles. Tsubaki correctly suspects a Floor Boss rampage, but whatever happened, they believe they’re too late to help. That doesn’t stop Anya from leading the charge to scale down the walls to the lower floors in order to meet up with any survivors.

Speaking of survivors, other than Bell and Hestia Familia, Bors is the only survivor of the Ryuu elfhunt. Aisha, Welf & Co. rescue him, but he is the bearer of bad news: he fears even Bell and Ryuu were among the massacred. Lili more than anyone won’t accept this, but it’s Aisha who calmly gets Bors to admit he didn’t see Bell’s corpse, and indeed saw Ryuu healing him. So the mission objective remains the same: find Bell and Ryuu.

But they’ve already met heavy resistance from all manner of lower-floor baddies, and Welf is down to one slash from his fire dagger. Remembering Hephaistos’ pep talk, he decides to set up an ad hoc workshop in a dead end where the familia is catching their breath. He uses the last swipe of his dagger to light his portable hearth and prepares to hammer out some adamantine he found along the way.

All everyone else has to do is guard the entrance to the area they’re in and make sure nothing gets to him, as he’ll obviously be a sitting duck while crafting. But considering they don’t have the weaponry to continue much further anyway, the best move they’ve got is to stay put and let Ignis cook.

DanMachi IV – 14 – Towards the Sunrise

As she and Bell take turns keeping watch, Ryuu begins to experience flashbacks to when she met Alise and was part of Astraea Familia. It’s a reminder of all the people she’s lost, but also a rallying point for her: she’s going to make sure Bell survives this, even if it costs her her life. It very nearly does too soon when three beasts attack, but Bell wakes up in time to kill the one Ryuu isn’t able to.

Meanwhile, much further up, both Mikoto and Haruhime announce that not only are they not dead, but their spells give their comrades the opportunity and power boost they need to finish of Amphisbaena. Mikoto demonstrates what a fool I was to think being underwater and surrounded by piranhas would be enough to do her in, by casting her biggest spell yet: Futsu no Mitama, which freezes the boss in place.

While it’s not clear how Haruhime survived the brunt of the boss’ breath attack, she’s able to dig deep and cast Uchide no Kozuchi. Ouka, who had used an ice ramp created with the last Welf’s magic sword to climb up into the ceiling of the chamber, brings his axes down on one of the boss’ heads and slices it clean off with Kokuu, while Aisha leaps right up to the remaining head’s mouth and unleashes a mega-Hell Kaios.

Cue victory fanfare…or rather a few blessed moments when the party is able to catch their breath. Aisha tends to Haruhime and Chigusa and Ouka tend to Mikoto, who are unable to walk. Then tremors begin, and the entire cavern threatens to collapse on top of them: the “coffin” from Cassandra’s premonition is still in play. Aisha and Daphne urge the party to flee up to the 24th floor like Turk and his team.

Cassandra, however figures out that “towards the life-giving sun” doesn’t mean a person or a place, but a cardinal direction: East, the direction of the sunrise. That happens to be through a recently opened tunnel down to the 26th floor. Daphne doesn’t believe Cassandra’s premonitions, but after Cassandra pleads with her and sheds tears, Daphne decides to believe Cassandra, the person.

Lili and Welf were already prepared to descend in order to locate Bell, so now everyone is in agreement. And with absolutely no time to spare, either, as the party witnesses what would have happened if they had gone the way of Turk & Co. The branches they were climbing collapsed, and then they were buried in stone, crystal, and plant debris.

It’s the rare instance where the 26th floor is a lot safer than the 25th, because it’s the place where they’re all still alive. They’ll have to keep descending quite a bit to get close to where Bell and Ryuu are. Perhaps they can meet in the middle? But I don’t want to forget what an impressive boss victory the party managed to pull off without Bell.

That win should give them confidence that, even in their weakened, battered state, as long as they stick together, they have a chance to find Bell and Ryuu and make it out of there.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

The Eminence in Shadow – 13 – The Beast Girl, the Witch and the Wardrobe

In the white void, Alpha sits back while Delta does her think as the “token musclehead”, rejecting the fact that being closer to the center of the sanctuary makes them weaker and Nelson stronger, donning a skimpy slime bikini, and summoning a gargantuan meat cleaver with which she splats all of Nelson’s clones in one go. It’s good to finally see Delta in extended action.

Meanwhile, Epsilon’s group encounters a memory that she’s able to purify, and they discover a library that holds all the knowledge on the possessed children held in the Sanctuary, as well as the means to open an exit. Epsilon briefly loses her falsies, but her underlings know better than to say they saw it.

Finally, there’s Cid and Aurora, who are like two peas in a pod and gradually build a genuine bond as they continue to explore her dark memories. Cid continues to treat her like no one else, neither as an adversary, underling, or hassle, but as a pal.

The two buds end up dead ended at the door that leads to the magic core. Cid knows his sword can’t break the chains, and also knows it will require a descendant (presumably of Olivier) to pull the key-sword out of the floor, Excalibur-style.

But while they kill time playing tic-tac-toe and pondering their next steps, Delta’s unhinged violence manages to shatter Nelson’s white void, leaving him no choice but to summon Olivier herself. That’s when Epsilon’s group meets up with Alpha’s to report their findings, and Alpha orders a withdrawal.

It speaks to just how damn powerful Alpha is that not only was her slime outfit not visibly effected by the power drain, but one stern look at Delta instantly cows the beast girl into leaving her prey and coming along. Alexia and Rose accompany Alpha, Beta, Epsilon, and the others through the exit.

Nelson receives an alert about Cid and Aurora, and meets them where they are with Olivier by his side. He orders her to kill Cid and while she’s extremely strong and is able to draw blood, she fails to do so. Cid, meanwhile, wears an involuntary smirk on his face. Nothing like a worthy opponent to lift the spirits.

Only Cid doesn’t necessarily consider Olivier that worthy; after all, she lacks a heart, and is simply a tool Nelson is using to try to kill him. Nelson tries to cut a deal with Aurora that will save Cid, but he rejects it, asking them to kindly not decide the outcome of his battle with Olivier before it’s over.

Nelson says fine, and sends Olivier to deliver a killing blow through Cid’s chest. But again, he merely smiles, and finally opens the right eye he’s kept closed this entire time, and not just because that’s what many anime characters do: he was suppressing an even greater power within him, which he will likely use to neutralize Olivier and continue assisting Aurora.

The question is, is Nelson right when he says the witch is just deceiving Cid and she’ll lead him to his doom once her memories are all back? It’s worth thinking about considering the Aurora with whom he’s gotten along with so famously is missing large chunks of her former personality…

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Chainsaw Man – 12 (Fin) – Not a Bad Life

Last week introduced a bunch of new fiends who will surely play a role in any future seasons, but this week stripped everything back to Aki and Himeno and Denji and his wretched childhood—with a bit if Power and Kobeni being themselves for garnish.

First up, the Ghost Devil actually disobeys Sawatari and does not choke Aki to death. Instead it releases him, and in the moments he’s out, he recalls the day Himeno offered him a cigarette for the first time. Since he was under age, she promised to save it for him.

The Ghost Devil reaches out one of its countless arms to produce that very cigarette, with “Easy Revenge!” written on it. How exactly the Ghost was tamed after Himeno died isn’t important; what is is that Aki is able to destroy the Ghost, and he and Kobeni take Sawatari into custody.

Denji and Power really are the brother and sister to Aki’s big brother in their little found family, and even on the elevator ride to meet with Katana Man they can’t help but bicker over something petty. Power then gets off on the wrong floor because it’s full of zombies, and Power fucking loves killing zombies.

Denji carries on to the floor where Katana Man is. Unlike Sawatari, he’s given an opportunity to voice his grievances to Denji. Whatever the circumstances were, he blames Denji for the death of his gramps and others he cared about, and wants satisfaction.

As has been established, Denji himself is a little unnerved by how easily he was able to get over Himeno’s death, as well as all the other terrible things that have happened of late. But in this case? He couldn’t care less. This guy’s gramps tortured and enslaved him as a child just because he could. He can burn in hell. Katana Man don’t like that, Denji’s game for a rematch.

The two blast out of the building, onto rooftops, and finally onto a moving train, making for a particularly fun and cinematic setting for the final big battle of the season. Unlike the dark warehouse there’s plenty of light and dynamic backgrounds to soak in along with all the sparks and blood.

Katana Man also at least tries to understand what Denji is after, and isn’t impressed when Denji tells him it’s simply to preserve his new comfortable (by his standards) life and be praised by his boss. There isn’t enough nuance in their talk for Denji’s opponent to sympathize with his plight and why that life is such a precious thing to him; no doubt Katana Man lived a damned comfortable life as the grandson of a yakuza.

Their fight spills into one of the train cars and the innocent bystanders scatter (since this isn’t guest directed by Paul Verhoeven, they all escape unharmed). Denji has improved, but he’s still supposed to be fighting with Power beside him, and Katana Man still has his samurai move where he wooshes past Denji and lops off both his arms.

When he tells Denji to yield if he wants a quick death, Denji says he still has a chainsaw on his head, and charged him. Katana Man aims for Denji’s head as he rushes him one last time, but that’s exactly what Denji wanted. Borrowing a lesson he learned from Kishibe, he tells a suddenly cleanly sliced in half Katana Man never to trust someone he’s hunting.

Katana Man eventually reverts back to human form, and Denji chains him to the stopped train to await backup. Aki is the first to arrive, and Denji, who is not quite satisfied with having simply captured their target, proposes a contest…of nutshots. Whoever can make the guy scream more wins.

Aki initially seems reluctant to play along—it’s against their mandate and he’s not sure Himeno would want it—then he takes out the cigarette that saved his life, puts it back away, and declares that he’s game after all.

In the beautiful, sublime, cathartic scene that follows, we cut from the aftermath of the successful operation to a positively giddy Denji and Aki kicking the shit out of Katana Man’s nuts. Aki asks if Himeno can hear the nutshot requiem they’re playing for her up in heaven.

After that, Makima delivers her report to the bigwigs: Sawatari was captured, but apparently automatically killed as part of her contract with the Gun Devil before any intel could be extracted. RIP Sawatari; we really barely knew thee, and I still maintain that’s a shame. On the plus side, the 4th Division now has enough Gun Devil flesh that it’s moving towards the main body. So now they generally know where to look.

As the low-key credits are displayed, we watch Denji, Power and Aki simply hanging out together like the three best roomies, chasing cats, swinging on the swings, and going to the grocery store to buy stuff for dinner. There’s no audio to these scenes, only music, which makes them feel more intimate and resonant. It’s also quite heartwarming to see that after all they’ve been through, they can still live life and have fun like three ordinary young people.

After the trio make dinner, eat it, and enjoy some down time around the table, Denji and Power fall asleep, and we get one last zen balcony moment with Aki as he lights up his “Easy Revenge!” cigarette and smokes it, providing a measure of closure and relief from his deep loss.

Denji, meanwhile, dreams a dream he says he always dreams and then forgets: walking through a dingy alley to a door, hearing Pochita on the other side of that door, then going for the doorknob, only for Pochita to say, with finality, he can’t open that door. The final scene is the most cryptic of all, with a heretofore unseen/unheard young woman with dark hair asking Denji what’s better: a city mouse or a country mouse.

Who this mystery woman is, how she’ll fit in to the ongoing search for the Gun Devil, and a host of other matters will provide fertile ground for a second season of Chainsaw Man. While none has been officially announced, I can’t see one not happening. But this was a pitch-perfect stopping point.

The Eminence in Shadow – 12 – Through the Red Door

That big red seal-looking thing? It’s a door; a door that won’t stop following Cid no matter where he flies. Since it won’t go away, he decides to go through it. His Shadow Garden maidens have the same idea, and make their appearance at the arena before Alexia, Rose, and Archbishop Nelson.

Beta does a terrible job pretending to be her comrades’ hostage, while Nelson’s assassin Venom attacks Epsilon but only manages to slice off her fake boobs. She quickly re-forms them with her slime suit, and in any case everything happens too fast for the princesses to notice. Shadow Garden jump through the door, and Alexia and Rose follow, bereft of anything better to do.

They arrive in a strange and oddly futuristic sci-fi place that is the true Sanctuary the church has hidden from the rest of the world. In this inter-dimensional space there’s a statue of the real Great Hero Olivier, who was not only a woman, but looked just like Alpha (since they share blood). Alexia and Rose are rightfully very confused.

Rather than meeting up with Shadow Garden, Cid ends up in a different “section” of the Sanctuary, in which the real legendary witch Aurora has been incarcerated for centuries (she’s also voiced by Eureka herself, Nazuka Kaori, who possesses one of the more ASMR-triggering voices).

After exchanging pleasantries and freeing her from her straitjacket (she’s nude underneath but he doesn’t so much as blush), Cid agrees to help Aurora get out of this place, which is apparently constructed out of stored memories, among them a young Aurora crying, whom the older Aurora slaps.

Meanwhile the ladies find themselves in the main research facility of the Sanctuary, where the Diabolos Cult experimented on children with “Diabolos Cells” in order to create “Diabolos Beads”, a drug that can make members of the cult immortal and invincible.

Olivier was one of the few who survived the experimentation, a brutal affair carried on with the banality of a congenial modern office. One of the lead researchers was the not-so-good Archbishop himself, Jack Nelson. Alexia wrongly but hilariously surmises that hair loss was a side effect of the beads.

Alpha correctly surmises that Jack Nelson is one of Diabolos’ twelve Knights of the Round, which rings a bell for Alexia since her betrothed longed to become one of them. With no further need to hide his identity, Nelson starts to gloat, only to be impaled and cast into a pool by Delta.

Delta is ready to be scolded by Alpha for disobeying orders not to kill him, but turns out Nelson is made from stiffer stuff. He wipes away the reality of the research facility, leaving a white void where he proceeds to create copies of himself. But both Alpha and Delta are more than game for a fight.

This episode was a mind-bending trip and a half, introducing a real sci-fi underbelly to the fantasy surface world where Cid ended up after dying. It’s notable that much of the episode doesn’t involve him at all. It makes one wonder how much longer he’ll insist this is all a game!

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Golden Kamuy – 41 – Ainupocalypse Now

We’re back with the main gang in the present day, and with time to kill before Tsurumi meets up with them, Sugimoto and Asirpa hang out in the woods while she performs Ainu rituals and hopes a wolverine will come her way so she can taste its brains. They then encounter something completely new: a two-man film crew with a cinematograph.

When a wolverine pounces on the back of one of the men, Sugimoto and Asirpa spring into action with bow and rifle, and the cameraman captures it all. Asirpa gets to taste her wolvy brains (and watch Sugimoto taste them too), but they probably didn’t think much of the little wooden box with the crank until its owner takes it back into town.

There, he explains it’s a relatively new French invention to which he owns the Japanese rights. He then proceeds to play some of the footage of Aniu he’s taken, and everyone is unexpectedly amazed by the dancing pictures. Asirpa, who is of late extremely preoccupied with preserving her culture, decides to don a director’s cap, and Sugimoto reminds the filmmakers that she saved their asses.

Everyone chips in on the ensuing production, which starts with simple folk stories involving dicks and dick copycats (the copycat always dies in the end like the moron he is; Asirpa’s casting of Shiraishi as said moron is an inspired choice).

When she’s not satisfied with how the production is going she shifts from comedy to drama and a story of three brothers, one of whom turns into a bird kamuy. The seriousness is somewhat undone by a nearly-naked Tanigaki bursting out of the bird suit, but Asirpa is happy with the shoot.

Koito arranges for them to screen Asirpa’s masterpiece in a theater, and seeing themselves in the moving pictures is surely an invigorating experience. Then the filmmakers decide to surprise Asirpa with some footage they took ten years ago. In it, she gets to see her father Wilk before his face was lost, and also gets to see her mother for the very first time.

While I laughed during the goofy dick-filled filmmaking scenes earlier, I teared up when I saw Asirpa’s family, and especially her desperately beautiful and powerful mom, from whom she inherited so much without ever knowing her. Kiroranke also makes an appearance in the footage, but it’s her mom who seems to cast a spell on her and everyone in the theater.

But then, as was a not-so-uncommon occurrence in the early days of cinema, the projector light set the film on fire and burned it, not only destroying the all the footage Asirpa & Co. took that day, but also the only images of her mother to ever exist. The first time she saw her was also the last. Utterly dejected, Asirpa walks out into the cold night alone.

Sugimoto follows her to ensure she’s alright, but she’s not. Film, she says, is a wonderful invention, but it’s not nearly enough to keep her people’s culture alive. And she’s right. Literally seeing it through a lens is totally different from learning and living it from other Ainu. The footage was enlightening, but also cold, especially relative to her warm memories of her father telling her stories.

Asirpa is definitely putting far too much of a burden on her slender shoulders to save the Ainu from certain cultural oblivion, and yet she can’t stop. Sugimoto calls it a “curse”, for while much of it is her own will, she can’t deny that will was shaped in her formative years by the likes of Wilk and Kiroranke, who all but forced her to carry on their legacies.

Whatever she has to do to achieve her goals, Asirpa knows it will require gold, and lots of it. But Sugimoto knows that with gold comes blood. He admits to her that part of him wants to preserve the innocence he lost by protecting her, but he also knows that he already inhabits a kind of hell of his own making; a hell he assures Asirpa she won’t like. Nothing will change her more from what she should be than killing.

Leave it to Golden Kamuy to gradually build up our Sugisirpa withdrawl for three straight weeks and then pounce on our back like a wolverine with a gem of an episode that’s both bawdy and fun, and part heartbreaking and redemptive.

Summertime Render – 25 (Fin) – Good Karma

After all the trials, blood, death, loss and increasingly complicated “rules” of the Shadows that Shinpei has endured, it all culminates in a hard reset to the beginning, with him on that boat with Hizuru. From her perspective, they’ve never met, but she’s clearly intrigued (and a little disturbed) that he somehow knows her pen name.

When Shinpei arrives on the pier, he feels a sense of deja vu. When Mio comes streaming towards him on her bike, he instinctively prepares to catch her…but her brakes work fine. Mio’s fine, as are Tokiko and Sou. Shinpei knows he felt worried about them, but doesn’t quite know why; they’re understandably confused and a little hurt by him saying this!

And then there’s Ushio, who remains very much alive, because a Shadow never copied and replaced her. In this timeline there are no Shadows, and never were. He was brought back to the island by a voicemail from Ushio, which he somehow could sense had the same sense of uncanny worry he himself was experiencing.

He stops by the Kobayakawa konbini, which Shiori is minding (and yelling at the other kids to shut the dang ice cream chest). It’s just good to see her not as an instrument of dismemberment and death, ya know? She also says Ushio has been talking about him for a while now, insisting he was coming this year. The kids also note that the upcoming festival is lining up with “Haine’s” birthday.

After visiting the shrine, where an elderly (and not unnaturally youthful or evil) Karakiri is passing the role of fire-lighter to his son Yamato, Shinpei heads to the beach, where Ushio happens to be standing in a long white dress, looking lonely. When she spots him, Shinpei promptly apologizes for how he suddenly left the island.

Ushio admits that she too didn’t handle things right, and that the voicemail she sent was sent because she was suddenly desperately worried about him. Their making-up session is capped off by Shinpei fortuitously spotting her lost shell pendant in the sand. Ushio lets him tenderly tie it around her neck. All is well with the two now; water under the bridge.

At the Kofunes’ café, which is not Shinpei’s home and never was, since his parents are still alive, he discusses his “dream” with Hizuru, who is the only one on the island weird enough to think there might be something to it, like a shared memory of the island or memories from parallel worlds (in truth, it’s a little of both).

It’s here where we meet Haine, who is a grown Ryuunosuke’s daughter and friends with Shiori. Mio comes down in her yukata and Ushio in her portable shrine garb, and the whole gang poses for a photo. Many among the group throw up peace signs, but they could also be victory signs.

That night at the festival, Hizuru is typing up a storm while laughing creepily and stuffing rice into her maw; Shinpei’s regaling of his “dreams” have cleared her writer’s block; we see her writing a novel called Summertime Render. Sou works up the nerve to confess to Mio—again—while Toki watches from the shadows. This time, Mio doesn’t automatically say no?

Shinpei meets Ushio on the beach with the takoyaki she ordered him to bring. When she sees he only brought two trays for the two of them, she recalls a promise he made when they were trying to “get through the little gap in the hospital”—something that might not have even happened in this world. They recite the promise in unison, that he’d “buy her 10 or even 100 pieces”, and a galaxy of fireworks erupt around them.

Whether in that moment they suddenly remember everything they went through to get to this time and place, or they’re simply glad they’re together again after two years in this timeline, they lean into one another in elation and relief. After lifting a three hundred year curse, they goshdarn earned a happy ending as a reward. They deserve it, and I couldn’t be happier that they got it.

Summertime Render – 24 – Everything Mattered

Ryuu and Shinpei are able to catch Ushio before she falls to her death, and she’s reverted to a child since her hair wasn’t quite enough to fully restore her. She’s well and truly out of gas and can no longer fight, but has one more ace up her sleeve.

If Ryuu and Shinpei can buy her two minutes, she’ll turn herself into a hacking shotgun shell that, once fired at Shide, will sever his connection to Hiruko and delete him. While stalling that long won’t be easy, it’s far from impossible, especially as Shide is the loquacious type and enjoys toying with his prey.

Ryuu and Shinpei do battle with Shide, who in addition to being very annoying with his monologues is also a tough customer due to three centuries of honing his shadow skills. Neither of the boys can match him for pure creativity, and Shin can tell they’re not going to make it if they don’t do something drastic.

That something is having Ryuu possess Shide’s armor, depicted as Ryuu literally wrestling with a mass of mud with eyeballs, resulting in Shide being frozen in place. The downside is that now that Ryuu is out of Shin’s body, Shin can feel all the pain Ryuu was suppressing. He nearly passes out, and then his body starts to disintegrate.

However, all this rash, all-or-nothing action pays off, as Ushio is able to finish the hacking shell. This leaves Shin having to get to the shotgun two meters away before Shide (who isolates Ryuu and tosses him away in a glob of mud) can charge and kill him.

He won’t make it, and Ushio can’t move the shotgun as she’s the shell inside, but Haine can, and moves the gun right into Shinpei’s hands. Ushio helps him hold it steady, they get the shot off, and Shide finally, finally bites the dust. His plans to both cause and witness the end of the world come to nothing.

This leaves Shinpei, Ushio, Ryuu, Haine, and lil’ baby Hiruko, whom Ushio attempts to delete. Instead her and everyone else’s data is transported to the real world of over 300 years ago, the very day that the original Haine finds the dead whale that is Hiruko on the beach.

Realizing that Hiruko sent them back to break the cycle, Shinpei scares Haine off before she reaches the whale, and then Ushio deletes it. Baby Hiruko vanishes, finally able to rest. Haine vanishes shortly thereafter, hoping that she and Ryuu can be friends again somewhere, someplace.

That just leaves Shinpei and Ushio on the beach, and what we know must be one more tearful goodbye. Ushio is a shadow, after all, and with Hiruko gone she’s not far behind.

Shinpei wants to disappear with her, but she throws a characteristic “dummy” his way; the time they got to spend together in the past few days made her—made them both—so happy, but she wants him to live on. Not to mention everyone is waiting for Shinpei back home in 2018. Ushio vows to use her remaining power to transport him back to his proper time, but that’s not all she aims to do.

It would seem she’s inherited at least some of Hiruko’s power, with which she plans to overcome the loops and re-draw the summer. So as Shinpei ends up on the boat to the island, his face landing in Hizuru’s chest, maybe it’s not goodbye, but more of a see you later situation. We’ll find out in the finale.

Made in Abyss – S2 12 (Fin) – The Cradle Falls

As tends to be the case with momentous episodes of Abyss, I’m still a bit overwhelmed with emotion, but I’ll do my best here. As a resurrected, better-than-ever Faputa and a game Juroimoh prepare to battle the invading beasts, we’re taken back to simpler, more innocent times, when Faputa first found Gaburoon.

Buried and covered in flowers, Faputa brought bits of scrap to him to enable to repair himself, while he tought her language, specifically that of her mother Irumyuui. What looked like an upside-down person turns out to be the symbol for haku, or that which matters most to someone. We watch, this time from Faputa’s perspective, as she encounters Riko, Reg, and Nanachi.

Gabu teases Faputa for resorting to subtler, more indirect methods that only served to confuse our lead kids—call it a measure of the shyness she inherited from her mother. Back in the present, while Faputa presses the battle, a transformed Majikaja serves as an escape vehicle for Riko, Reg, and Nanachi, as well as Moogie, Pakkoyan, Maaa, and other Hollows.

Maji takes them to Wazukyan, from which Vueko has already escaped and who is near death. In his usual friendly way he warns Riko that there is nothing ahead for her but despair, but she tells him as he crumbles to dust that things won’t necessarily go the way he’s foreseen.

As Riko is reunited with another page from her mother’s journal, the freed Vueko ascends a staircase while thinking about the one solid decision she made in her life: the choice to become Irumyuui’s mother. Unfortunately, she forgets the Sixth Layer’s curse is loss of humanity.

A quick-thinking Pakkoyan sacrifices herself to keep Vueko from being killed, but she is still transformed into a non-verbal hollow. Nanachi takes Vueko and brings her aboard Majikaja with the others.

Reg shocks Faputa by joining him in battle—this time on the same side—and apologizing for challenging her. Riko blows Prushka once more (causing her to pass out with a bloody nose), and Riko goes into Overdrive, allowing him to dispatch one of the two turbinid dragons who pose the greatest threat to Riko and the others.

This also gives Faputa time to go to Moogie and the other surviving hollows with the goal of consuming them and their value so she can do what she came here to do: put her long-suffering mother to rest. Just as they had no problem giving parts of themselves to resurrect Faputa, they have no problem becoming the nourishment Faputa needs.

After sending the black-turned-white goo throughout the structure of IruBuru, causing it to crack and shatter, Faputa is drained of energy an no longer able to fight. A piece of falling rubble wallops her and she begins to fall. She thinks of Vueko, the one person she has no memory of. She also thinks that the end is near; that she’ll die when she reaches the bottom. But she doesn’t; Reg snatches her with his extend-o-arm.

The rubble does a number on Majikaja’s body, and when he can no longer move, his true, semi-gaseous form emerges and briefly possesses Faputa. When he too passes, Faputa is able to come face to face with Vueko, her spiritual grandmother, and while Vueko can no longer talk, Faputa can hear her lucid thoughts.

Vueko tells her the kind of girl Irumyuui was, how Faputa is similar and how she’s different, before passing away peacefully, full of nothing but love and gratitude for the little girl that changed her forever. Faputa sheds tears for Vueko, despite her not “belonging” to her, and Riko, Reg, and Nanachi gather around to offer comfort.

The village borne from Irumyuui is now a pile of rubble, and Faputa’s mother is finally free. Following the customs she learned from Gabu, Faputa gives Vueko a proper burial, then sets up some companions with some smooth rocks so she won’t be lonely. After this, Faputa seems unsure what to do next, freed from “value” and now having been given the choice to live her life as she sees fit.

Reg suggests she join them. While he still can’t remember her or the details of their promise, he still wants to know her now, and go on an adventure with her. Faputa isn’t at all opposed to this, but does not agree right then and there. That’s to be expected of someone who has only very recently discovered such a thing as free will beyond an now-fulfilled genetic duty.

What I’ve described so far are the myriad events that unfolded in this double-length season two finale, but there’s no substitute for experiencing this episode and all of its nuances for yourself. It was one of the finest episodes of anime I’ve had the privilege to watch, and like Vueko with Irumyuui, I’ll never forget it.

There is sure to be another film or a third season that will continue Riko, Reg, and Nanachi’s journey still deeper into the Abyss, into darkness warm and cold, cursed by love and longing. This sequel had large shoes to fill and filled them ably. So too will the next sequel.

RABUJOI WORLD HERITAGE LIST

 

Summertime Render – 23 – Realm of the Dead

Haine has devolved into an eyeless, helpless child that Shide apparently has no further use for. But he does want her Observer’s Right Eye, which is now in Ushio’s head. He provokes Ushio and Shinpei into following him to through a tear in the cave wall into another dimension.

Ushio tells Shinpei if he goes in he’s not coming out, but with both Ryuunosuke possessing him and her by his side, he’ll be fine. But even if things go pear-shaped, he hastens to tell Ushio he loves her, he wants to be with her, and he will never leave her side again.

The remainder of the episode takes place in a thoroughly weird—and hauntingly beautiful—dream world: Haine/Hiruko’s true home. As a result of Ryuunosuke pushing his body too hard, Shinpei’s right leg is ruined, but Ryuu offers to control his body and taking on the pain.

This enables Shinpei to walk, which he needs to do to find Ushio, whom they know is both still alive and no more than 50 meters away due to the shotgun she printed still being whole. Shinpei and Ryuu come upon a ball—Haine’s handball. They follow it into a Hitogashima frozen in time from when Haine lived.

There they find Ushio, apparently in great pain and in contact with Haine. But this Haine is different: she’s just a kind little girl like the one Ryuunosuke’s sister befriended years ago. Assured there’s no threat, Ushio introduces Haine to Shinpei and Ryuunosuke.

Haine tells them they’re in the realm of the dead, Toyoko. While the power of the awakened Observer’s Eye can only be fully utilized in the real world, Shide has brought Ushio here to steal the eye from her. Once he has the eye, he will transcend to a still higher dimension…and destroy the world.

Right on cue, Shide uses Baby Hiruko to summon one of Haine’s memories of her island being firebombed by a squadron of B-29s in World War II. Ushio’s hair shield protects them while Haine prepares to use her innate power to suspend the memory, giving Ushio a shot at attacking Shide. Without Hiruko in his possession, his armor will disappear, and she can kill Shide’s inner body within.

As you can tell from the screenshots, this episode is a trip, packed with gloriously detailed, imaginative, gorgeous, and frightening imagery, and an even more heightened reality when it comes to action, with Ushio using falling bombs as steps up to the plane where Shide is.

But as cool as this sequence is, it still isn’t enough to stop Shide, because the body she attacks is a hollow one – nothing but an empty suit of mud armor being controlled remotely through Hiruko. Gaining this new piece of information may prove costly, as Ushio passes out and starts to fall.

If any of this is wrong, I apologize, but the plot mechanics and rules of Summertime Render become more and more baroque with each passing episode. But this is such an engrossing spectacle and I’ve come to love these kids so much, I don’t really mind the growing complexity.

Engage Kiss – 13 (Fin) – Bless This Mess

Shuu, Ayano and Sharon are fighting as a cohesive unit, but against Kanna the best they can do is maintain a stalemate. Enter Tabula Rasa Kisara, who despite having no memories decides on her own not to let what seem like nice people die in a battle with a not-so-nice person.

The addition of Kisara to the battle definitely gives Team Shuu an edge as Kanna starts to flounder a bit, but then she summons three powerful demons, which means all of the other demon hunting contractors spring into action, for the city that’s the only home they have, for honor and glory, and money too.

When even Kisara can’t quite get to Kanna’s heart to seal her, Shuu lends her power in the form of a kiss. Turns out their old contract terms work just fine, and the newly re-Hot Topic’d Kisara has a stiff second wind at her back. She keeps Kanna occupied enough for Shuu to fire his demonic bullet. Asmodeus flees from Kanna, and Kisara carves her into ribbons, sending her back to whence she came.

In the aftermath, while some demons made it to the city, there were no civilian casualties, so the contractors call it a victory. Sharon admits the Abbey will still be coming for Kisara, but at least today, Sharon won’t be the one to kill her. Wondering where a demon girl fits in a human world, Kisara gets a supportive hug from Ayano.

The Hachisukas continue their sibling rivalry for control of the city—and international coverup to maintain their autonomy. Sharon makes a joke to Ayano about spending the night with Shuu before boating off to face inquisition. Shuu visits his parents’ grave and promises his work isn’t done, but he’ll do it the right way this time.

As for Kisara, she wants Shuu to teach her all the memories she lost, which apparently includes fulfilling the role of his girlfriend. Things are about to get hot and heavy in his apartment when the lights come on to reveal Kanna gobbling up all the food in the place. While the authorities kept her restrained in the bowels of city hall, this is only the latest of several escapes.

Those escapes result not in her unleashing demons on the city or causing any damage, but inserting herself back into Shuu’s home and life and voicing her disapproval of Kisara. Now Kisara has in Kanna what Ayano has in her: a younger rival for Shuu’s attention.

With Kisara, Ayano, and now Kanna all pointing weapons at him and asking whose side he’s on, Shuu’s in the messiest mess yet. And frankly, that’s the best way for this series to end: never taking itself too seriously and gleefully embracing the mess.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Summertime Render – 22 – Red-Eye

Ushio returns better than ever, and demonstrates how her hair-blades can erase Shide’s armor, leaving his inner body vulnerable. But while Shinpei appreciates her enthusiasm, Shadow Mio stops her from charging in, then transmits the careful plan Shinpei has set up. We get a little flashback to the morgue where Toki explains how they can use Guil to hide Haine’s handprint, making it impossible to track him.

Shinpei shoots himself while holding Ushio’s hands, creating a tenth loop inside Guil, who is in Hiruko’s Cave. They know Haine and Shide—both Shides—will find out soon enough where they are and what they’re up to, so they use the festival fireworks to blast through the mud barrier Haine created to get to where her main body is located. Shin’s team is truly humming like a well-oiled machine.

The closer they get to the main body, the louder and harsher Haine’s transmitting signal is to the ears of Shadows. Since he’s now hosting Ryuunosuke, that signal is particularly excruciating for Shinpei, but Ushio manages to help him by transmitting her signal at the same wavelength, neutralizing Haine’s. While Shide attacks Ushio (who uses her hair as a shield), Sou manages to ambush Haine (in her Shinpei form) and pins her, not with a shadow nailgun, but with the original she was unable to sense.

But while both of Haine’s inner bodies are killed and Haine’s body is sliced in half, it’s apparently not over. Ushio turns around to reveal she now has a red right eye like Haine’s, and Shin has one too. Shide reappears, ready to start some shit, and Shinpei has to ask himself: is he freakin’ immortal?

Even the best laid plans in this intricate chess game of feints and diversions are bound to face some setbacks, and the fact that killing Shide and Haine didn’t kill them is…problematic, to say the least. Not sure what they can do about that, especially with all their moves in this plan exhausted and no more loops to make a new plan.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

Engage Kiss – 12 – Atomic Tantrum

Kanna awakens from her brief nap at the crack of dawn and announces her intentions by attacking Bayron City’s airport. The airport is virtually abandoned, and the Hachisukas order everyone within a several-mile radius to evacuate, but since all that happens off-camera the stakes are localized to Shuu and the women in his life: Ayano, Sharon, Kisara, and of course Kanna.

Kisara is a complete amnesiac after severing her contract, having even given Shuu her memories from before they met. He calls her an idiot, but he won’t listen to the Kisara before the memory transfer, who told him to run and save himself. After all she’s done for him, she’s going to protect her this time, sealing that promise with a kiss on her forehead.

Sharon pulls up in her motorcycle to say goodbye to Ayano, since a church battleship is on its way and it won’t be sparing Kanna’s life, so they’ll be enemies next time they meet. However, between Sharon getting a call and Shuu receiving a new delivery, a plan is afoot.

For now, AAA and Ayano throw everything they’ve got at the approaching Kanna, who seemingly starts to target Ayano personally. She almost blasts her into oblivion from point-blank range, but Ayano is saved at the last second by Shuu swooping in to princess carry her away on his Eureka Seven-style hoverboard; the next-minute delivery he charged to Mikhail.

Shuu confirms to Ayano that all his memories are back and more by scolding her for seducing him when she knew Kisara would take those memories. But while Ayano is embarrassed, she’s also clearly elated that the Shuu she knows and loves is back and of sound mind.

As for why Kanna is targeting her, Shuu says he and Kanna have been connected through dreams throughout these twelve years, so she’s had to witness all of his romantic exploits without being able to affect them. As a result, she’s still three years old emotionally and scarred by those dreams. Since Sharon is also a target, she decides to come back and fight alongside Shuu and Ayano since Shuu called and apologized for forgetting her.

Flanked by Ayano and her bazooka and Sharon and her mech suit, Shuu flies up to meet Kanna and tries to play things softly at first, trying to appeal to her brotherly love and actually getting her to stop dead in her tracks. Shuu declares to her that he’s going to save her without losing anything—not his memories, and not any of the other people he loves.

Since saving her involves sealing her, Kanna can’t have that, and fights back. Shuu, Ayano, and Sharon make a great team and the battle looks great, but at the end of the day she’s still an S-Class demon, and none of them are.

Not only that, she’s clearly trying to kill them, while Shuu is determined not to kill her. When he’s about to deal a crucial blow with Kisara’s sword, Kanna shrewdly breaks out the waterworks, which causes Shuu to hesitate for a moment. That’s all she needs to blast him into the tarmac.

This happens just as Kisara arrives on the scene with a slight limp, but after how Shuu treated her in her hospital bed, not to mention the note on her hand written by her past self that says “Believe in him and fight together”, it looks like she’s ready to contribute if she can. She may not have any memories, but she’s still a demon.

I’m pleased that Shuu is now in such an optimistic place with all his memories back that he no longer wants to throw anything away in a lonely struggle to save his sister. With Ayano, Sharon, some form of Kisara, and presumably those other contractors who feel bad about sitting out the fight so far, Kanna is now the lonely one backed into a corner, and he’s got a fighting chance to get her back with minimal loss…assuming he survived that last blow, of course.

Rating: 4/5 Stars

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