The Quintessential Quintuplets – 05 – Flying Colors

As Ichika hides her face by locking herself in a warm embrace with Fuutarou, we learn that the mustache guy is not her date, but her co-worker on a film crew. But even that is a fabrication on Ichika’s part, desperate as she is to keep her secrets as long as she can.

She manages to deflect by asking Fuutarou why exactly he’s so invested in her and her sisters. When Ichika comments how it’s weird for them to be hugging so intimately despite just being friends, Fuutarou mentions how he’s not sure it’s right to call themselves friends, to which she responds he’s being way too picky about semantics!

Also, Ichika says she’s a little hurt by the notion he never considered them friends, and that gets Fuutarou thinking about his recent interactions with both Miku, who also looked hurt by the same assertion, and Itsuki, who said it’s so obvious what they are to each other it doesn’t actually have to be said!

Yet apparently it does! Especially when Ichika’s co-worker spots Miku—who is sporting a new hairstyle so Fuutarou will compliment her— and mistakes her for Ichika. Fuutarou and Ichika track the two down, and Fuutarou declares once and for all: he’s their partner. That’s when mustache guy blurts out that Ichika is actually an actress who has to get to her audition.

While that’s not the most surprising twist, it’s still a hella good one, which subverts Ichika’s previous reputation as cool, relaxed and lazy. It’s not that she can’t be all three of those things at times, but that’s not all she is. She’s held back, both from her sisters and Fuutarou, in case this audition thing goes south. But judging from Fuutarou’s reaction to their little line-reading session, it won’t!

When she turns to leave, Fuutarou takes her face in his hands and stretches it out, telling her to quit it with the fake smiles that hide her true emotions. He’s observed it what sets Ichika apart from the others, and it was confirmed when he felt her trembling while hugging him in the alley. Ichika is putting on an act with those false smiles, but Fuutarou isn’t convinced. He proceeds to come clean about their partnership, and that at the core of things he wants to “work for what he earns.”

Ichika is impressed he was able to discern such a subtle change in her behavior. Acting is her dream; her way to finally stand tall as the eldest sister. If she has to ditch the fireworks for a shot at her first big break—leaving the ensemble to explore a solo leading role—she’ll do that, apologize to the others later, and hopefully it will work out.

Ichika is super-late to the audition, but gets her shot, and doesn’t miss. From the first lines she utters, the casting crew stands up straight, like some rare bird had suddenly entered the room. There’s suddenly more conviction and resonance to her lines than when she said them to Fuutarou. Now I know why they cast Hana-Kana for Ichika—it’s such a powerful yet subtle performance, but she makes it look easy.

Later, Mustache Guy (who scouted her) presumes Fuutarou must’ve helped Ichika pull out a role-winning performance. Her role thus secure, Fuutarou escorts her to her sisters, who are waiting in the part with…Chekhov’s Fireworks Kit! Yotsuba bought the kit for Raiha, but there’s no doubt the wise-beyond-her-years imouto would have no problem donating it to a good cause.

Ichika bows and apologizes, but the others apologize right back, since all five played a role in the confusion that separated them. Where one sister messes up, the five of them overcome it together. Nino gets in Fuutarou’s face, but to his shoc k it’s to thank him for getting the job done—albeit in the most unconvincing tone imaginable! He then sits back and admires his work, shaking off the urge to go home and study.

When there are only five fireworks left, the sisters do a countdown before grabbing their preference…and Ichika and Miku pick the same thing. Ichika lets Miku have it, saying Miku “can’t let go of that one.” It couldn’t be any clearer that the “less flashy” firework represents Fuutarou, and despite Ichika’s generosity in this one instance a love triangle is officially up and running.

To confirm that, one need not look further than when Ichika approaches Fuutarou to tell him that as partners, she’ll be working hard to repay him for his support, but warns him not to think he’ll have an easy time with her. Alas, he’s asleep with his eyes open, so she gently rests his head in her lap.

This episode felt like a turning point when the dynamic of Fuutarou and the quints finally shifted from one primarily composed of hostility and discord to one of more cooperation and harmony. Sure, it may now only be something like 51-48 in cooperation’s favor, as there are surely many more conflicts to come, but it’s a long way from the utter chaos of the first episodes. Enough good faith and good deeds have been exchanged and motivations revealed that more progress can be made.

It’s been said in the comments, but it bears repeating after watching this episode: a harem rom-com about quintuplets has absolutely no business being this damn good. It’s as if creator Hariba Negi came up with a premise he knew sounded like tacky schlock, but said “Just watch—Imma elevate the FUCK outta this schlock!” And he did. I don’t often regret a decision to skip a show, but in the case of QQ I clearly missed out on a gem.

The Quintessential Quintuplets – 04 – Fireworks Factory

When Itsuki shows up to the Uesagi household, it’s on official business on behalf of her dad. She’s come to deliver Fuutarou’s payment so far: ¥50,000 ($469) for two days of work. Only Fuu doesn’t want to accept it at first, since very little in the way of tutoring has happened in those two days.

Still, Itsuki doesn’t agree that he’s done nothing, mentioning how his mere presence is starting to “change something” in the five of them. So the cash is his. Fuutarou decides to spend it on Raiha, and because no one can refuse Raiha’s shimmering Bambi eyes, Itsuki tags along on what turns out to be a fun trip to the arcade. I was impressed that the episode managed to pack an entire dating sim event’s worth of material in the first five minutes!

What was to be Fuutarou’s Sunday free of quints turns into half a day with one, followed by an evening with all five. No matter; he was thinking of them even when he was studying alone, indicating the “change” Itsuka spoke of goes both ways. They somehow(!) agree to finish all their homework before going out for the fireworks festival.

As if the quints weren’t resplendent enough in their school uniforms or casual clothes, they all show up in full yukata regalia. Itsuka even changes her hairstyle, leading Fuutarou to initially not know who he’s talking to when she approaches him. Yotsuba seems the most smitten with Raiha, to the point she jokingly considers marrying Fuutarou just so they can be legal sisters.

Meanwhile, Nino sees Raiha with a firm grasp on her big brother’s sleeve so as not to get lost in the crowd, and if anything seems jealous of Raiha. Miku explains to Fuutarou that fireworks were a big part of their shared memories of their departed mother (something they share with the Uesugis).

That also explains why Nino is so intent on keeping the tradition alive, this time in the role of the caretaker in her mother’s stead. She even rents out an entire rooftop so they don’t miss a thing, but it’s she who gets lost in the crowd, until she’s “rescued” by Fuutarou, and proceeds to grasp his sleeve as they ply through the crush, and head for the rooftop.

Unfortunately, Nino messed up: none of her sisters know the rooftop’s address. Fuutarou volunteers to head out and locate the others, starting with Ichika, whom they spot from the roof. However, once he approaches her, he’s stopped by an older man in a mustache from whom she’d gotten a call earlier that night. While Fuutarou is trying to determine the best way to describe his relationship with Ichika to the man the two vanish.

Apparently when life takes away an Ichika, it provides a Miku in return, and since Miku got her foot stepped on, Fuutarou lets her ride piggyback…for all of five minutes, until he declares her too heavy to get anywhere fast. He bandages her foot and she gives him a sarcastic thanks (what’s he doing bringing up a lady’s weight?). Regarding Ichika, Miku has seen her getting out of a mustachioed man’s car in the past, so whatever’s going on with them, it’s not the first time.

By episode’s end, only 24 minutes (equal to one more episode) of the fireworks remain, meaning there’s still time to wrangle the quints so they can share in the special tradition Nino so desperately wants to preserve. One could call Fuutarou’s mission akin to scooping five goldfish with the same net, with the prize of gaining at least some points with Nino.

The only problem is, the pool in which those five fish reside is a big one, time is wasting, and one of those fish, Ichika, has already escaped, making it plain she won’t be joining the others. Whether this is her own choice (part of a larger effort to become an independent adult), that guy’s choice (is this an escort date, a legit relationship, or something else?) we don’t really know. Ichika’s face at the end is a veritable enigma.

Still, one thing is clear: something is definitely troubling the cool, carefree Ichika, and Fuutarou can tell. And that’s what’s so engaging about the quints: just when you think you have one figured out based on their outward traits, something happens that reveals a whole new side of them, and you can’t help but want to learn more.

Shironeko Project: ZERO CHRONICLE – 04 – The Bodyguard

When the Prince and Adel arrive at the Kingdom of Light, the show isn’t quite sure what to do with them, so an interminable amount of time is spent in a standoff with Faios. While en route Adel decides he’ll play the role of envoy while the Prince plays his bodyguard, concerned that if the spotlight is on the air to the Black Throne he’ll be the first one cut down.

Adel may be a better talker, but shunting the Prince off to the side was misguided, in my view. We’ve seen him go through a lot in a short time, but now that he’s aligned with the snail’s pace of the Kingdom of Light, I’d hoped he and Iris would have some things to say. Instead, Adel takes the lead. There’s an increased sense of occasion when they finally meet, yet it almost immediately fizzles out when they go their separate ways.

More maddeningly, time that could have been spent with, say, the Prince and Iris conversing over a meal or some such, is instead utterly wasted on pointless side characters: a quartet of identical brothers goofing off in the hold of the skyship that ferried the Prince to the Kingdom of Light. I honestly don’t know what the point of this was other than some comic relief, but I would have preferred more A-plot for this comedy to relieve.

The Prince asks Faios about Iris only to be shot down, as his stated status as a mere commoner bodyguard makes him unworthy of even speaking the Queen’s name, in Faios’ eyes. The night passes, and the next morning Iris asks the Prince directly about the regular people of Black. The Prince’s response is barely an answer, but repeats Adel’s initial entreaties: this is about establishing a united front against Bahl, who is destruction incarnate.

In other words, this felt like a wasted opportunity, not helped by a host of iffy production values that are increasingly hard to overlook. The ending in which the Prince and Iris are so lovey-dovey almost felt mocking in the wave of such inconsequential first impressions. Iris has very little to go on other than the Prince seems to be reasonable. But they could have interacted a little more.

Elfen Lied – 13 (Fin) – A Brief Dream in This Hell

As Kouta wanders home in a daze, his memories returning thanks to the violent sights he’s seen, Kurama fishes Nana out of the water, saving his daughter once again and admonishing her for not moving much, much further away (though his instructions should have been more detailed). Lucy neutralizes Bando (though notably doesn’t kill him), and Shirakawa’s assistant keeps the dormant Mariko safe—and keeps her self-destruct safely in his hand.

Mariko’s powers return and she escapes her captors, and then she and Lucy find each other and have a duel. It’s a testament to Lucy’s experience and toughness in Diclonius combat that she manages to last as long as she does against a far superior opponent. But while she loses a horn and a fair amount of blood, Mariko fails to kill Lucy off…because her dad arrives in time to stop her.

Just as she could tell her “mother” was a fake, Mariko can instantly sense that Kurama is indeed her father, and is shocked when he pulls his gun on her. When she spots Nana with Kurama, and hears her call him Papa, Mariko’s jealousy spills out and she proceeds to beat Nana up with her Vectors.

Then Kurama drops his gun, draws in close, and wraps his real daughter in his warm embrace…for the first time. He carries her off while ordering the assistant to activate the device. This time the child whose life he takes is his own, but he goes out with her, assuring her that both her parents loved her to their last breaths.

The assistant is about to shoot Nana, but his head is blown off…by Lucy. She can’t go back home to Kouta after what she’s done, but Nana is innocent and good and kind, so she asks Nana to do what she can’t and live a good and happy life. Nana obeys.

Back at the facility, Kurakawa reveals he’s a wannabe Diclonius just like his son, while Arakawa quietly hides Kouta’s record, feeling bad for him. We’ll never know if she ever got that bath…

Then we have an extended and emotional goodbye between Lucy and Kouta, who finally realizes that she, Nyu, and the girl he met at the orphanage were all her. Lucy tells him the happiest days were the ones with him as a boy. They were a brief and beautiful dream in the hell that was her life, and she survived this long so she could tell him how sorry she was for what went down.

She turns to leave, but Kouta won’t let her go just yet. In fact, he wants her to stay, even if he can’t forgive her. They kiss and embrace, reenacting the Klimt painting, with Lucy flashing an El Greco hand. We then see Lucy on the bridge, facing a huge military force, and a battle ensues…with an intentionally ambiguous result.

Some time later, the household of Kouta, Yuka, Mayu and Nana is a happy one. Nana’s cooking skills are improving, and they have an extra place setting for Lucy. Then they hear Wanta barking outside, and Kouta goes to see who it is.

The silhouette behind the paper door looks a lot like Lucy in her dress, but before he can open the door to confirm it, the grandfather clock Nyu always messed with, which he could’ve sworn was permanently silent, begins to chime.

And so we say farewell to the brutal, haunting, and poignant Elfen Lied, a story as much about how some can continue to endure, love, and be loved after living through unspeakable suffering—and how some can’t—as it is about scientific arrogance and ambition gone awry. Heck, it’s about a lot more than that, and I’ll be thinking about its hard-hitting symbols and themes for a long time.

Elfen Lied was also a blast from the past in the best possible way. Anime character design and animation has evolved quite a bit in sixteen years, but like the Dicloniï that evolution wasn’t necessarily all for the better. I’ve also rarely seen a series mix body horror and comedy with such effectiveness. What could have been a tonal mess only draws you in deeper and made me care about the characters more. You feel every horrible act of violence and cruelty, just as you feel every pulse of warmth and kindness.

Finally, the series is greatly elevated by music from the duo of Konishi Kayo and Kondou Yukio (who’d go on to score House of Five Leaves and … sigh … Pupa). I don’t think I’ll ever see or hear an theme as hauntingly beautiful and sad as “Lilium”. Mine eyes welled up Every. Damn. Time. They truly don’t make ’em like they used to.

Elfen Lied – 12 – Total Recall

Shirakawa and the assault team can only stand around and watch in horror as Mariko continues to toy with Nana like a child rips wings off an insect. Only Nana is, horns and prostheses aside, a human being. Despite this, they allow 35 to have her way with Nana so she’ll be more cooperative. It’s frankly sickening to see other humans stand by and let this happen.

I know they see Dicloniï as an existential threat to humanity, but Shirakawa and the soldiers are abdicating their own humanity by allowing such sickening, wanton cruelty to occur. Lucy may be one thing and 35 another, but Nana is living, breathing proof that Dicloniï can coexist peacefully with humans. Mayu sees Nana and Nyu as sisters and Kouta and Yuka as their mom and dad.

And it’s Kouta who comes to Nana’s aid when no one else will, putting his own life at grave risk. Not only is Mariko eager to have more “fun” killing people, she resents the fact Nana has a friend, something Mariko didn’t believe was possible because, well, she’s been encased in a giant steel enclosure who whole damn life! I can’t blame Mariko for being the way she is, which is a direct result of the dehumanizing, self-defeating actions of the researchers at the facility.

Nana uses her remaining strength to keep him from being hurt, demonstrating she’s far more human than those who wish her dead. She ends up falling off a bridge into the water, and her fate is left unknown. However, when Nyu finally catches up to Kouta, she slips on a pool of Nana’s blood and hits her head. Lucy reawakens and kills Shirakawa and the soldiers one by one right in front of Kouta, whose long-repressed memories finally surface.

The story that unfolded in episode nine is thus completed, as Lucy followed Kouta’s family on the train out of Enoshima. Kanae claims to have witnessed a “girl with horns” killing lots of people at the festival, but Kouta doesn’t believe her. When Lucy appears, Kanae confirms she was the killer, but Kouta won’t hear of it, slaps Kanae, and orders her to apologize.

Kanae just wants to get Kouta away from Lucy, worried he’ll be her next victim and putting herself between the two, but Lucy snaps her in half, and then beheads Kouta’s father. When Kouta asks why she did these things when he thought they were friends, she calmly responds in her cold Lucy voice: “I didn’t kill you because we’re friends,” then vows to kill Yuka next.

Let me be clear: Lucy is this way because of humans. She killed the bullies because they bullied her; had they been nice to her she’d have been nice back. She punishes Kouta by killing those close to him because he lied to her. It may have been a white lie meant to protect her, but someone with her past didn’t make that distinction, and it doesn’t change the fact it was not the truth.

Back in the present, Kouta finally reconciles those newly surfaced memories with Nyu’s true identity, but he has little time to process them as Bando arrives ready to kill Lucy. She flees, baiting him to follow her, and urges Kouta to meet her at the stone steps. Kouta and Lucy have hurt each other gravely, but perhaps, like Shirakawa briefly hoped, there can be a resolution that doesn’t involve killing. Okay, that involves minimal killing. Bando obviously has to go.

Elfen Lied – 11 – Doing Whatever You Can

This week we meet AKIRA Number 35, AKA Mariko, who beyond the massive steel shutters is merely a frail five-year-old girl. Only one person has ever interacted with her in her lifetime: a researcher named Saitou, who likens Mariko her daughter and is eager to see her for the first time. Shirakawa has no choice but to unleash Mariko in order to deal with Lucy, and Saitou is the only human Mariko will trust and listen to.

Uh…yeah…that doesn’t go so well.

In the very likely chance Saitou was disemboweled, de-spined, and de-kidneyed by Mariko—who after all correctly assessed Saitou was not her mother—Mariko has bombs placed within her body that can be detonated if she refuses to come to heel. I was sure Shirakawa was a goner too, but in a last-gasp gesture, it’s Saitou (or at least the top half of Saitou that clings to life for a minute or so) who presses the button that blows off Mariko’s arm.

It’s good that Spring 2020 has its share of feel-good shows (Arte and Princess Connect among them), otherwise I’m not sure I’d quite be able to endure the unrelenting pitch-black darkness of Elfen Lied. It loves to show us idyllic moments in Kouta’s house as his little family of misfits begins to gel, knowing much if not all of that family could soon end up as expressionist splatter on the fusuma.

Nevertheless, I’ll take the good times while there are still good times to be had. They include Kouta officially welcoming Nana to the household not as a guest, but a member, and leaves her chore training to Mayu. Seeming similar in age (and both haunted by unspeakable trauma) Mayu and Nana continue to develop a friendship closely bordering on sisterhood. Then there’s Nyu.

When Kouta shows Nana a photo of his dead sister Kanae, memories well up in Nyu, and in those moments, Nana senses Lucy. Nyu then chops her hair off to more closely resemble Kanae so she can forgive Kouta for being mean to her just before she died. It’s looking more and more like Lucy killed Kanae and Kouta repressed the memory.

Yuka comes home from the grocery store just as Kouta is embracing Nyu and telling her he “likes her too”, sending a heartbroken Yuka off to sulk. That’s when she discovers the entire area has been cordoned off by police in preparation for Mariko’s arrival on the mainland, now in a wheelchair and escorted by Shirakawa. Kurama, meanwhile, is off on his own, and conscripting Bando to hell him kill Lucy.

Nana can sense Mariko’s arrival, as well as her overwhelming murderous intent. In order to protect Mayu, Kouta, Yuka, and yes even Nyu (whom she hopes stays Nyu forever), she runs off to meet Mariko face-to-face. Unfortunately, Nana is woefully outmatched and uninformed; she isn’t even aware of just how many vectors Mariko has, nor how far they reach.

Mariko proceeds to “have fun” by toying with poor Nana like a cat with a freshly-caught mouse. As far as Shirakawa & Co. are concerned it’s all good…as long as 35 ends Lucy as well. Feel-good this show is not…but it is damned compelling.

Shironeko Project: ZERO CHRONICLE – 03 – What a King (and Queen) Need

Well, SPZC has one thing going for it for sure: the story ain’t hard to follow! As with last week, a lot less happens on the light side that has to be stretched out. Queen Iris is troubled by the recent violence, but looks back to the time when she and Cima were still candidates.

Back then she managed to dispel a cloud of darkness on her own when the Rune answered her call. The look back reminds her of her duty not just to protect her people, but maintain the balance of Black and White, even if no one else understands that bit.

Indeed, the only person she can probably relate with on the matter of balance (as opposed to simply eliminating one’s enemy completely) is the Dark Prince. As I said, more happens to him, as he has yet to succeed the present King. However, this week eliminates the obstacle of competition for his spot as successor.

Like Iris, the prince’s commitment to balance causes him to act in a way the other candidates fight inexplicable, like helping one of them rather than letting them die. But the prince remembers the horrors that befell his village and has determined he’ll be a king who doesn’t just look after himself and his own power.

The competition is quick and efficient: after the larger group is whittled down in a beast battle, the last two standing duel each other, with the Prince beating Adel, who like Cima takes the loss very well and is willing to befriend the winner.

Groza bestows upon the Prince the symbol of his right of succession—the unimaginatively named Greatsword of Black—and his first mission: for him and Adel to go to the Kingdom of White as official envoys and deliver the news of their succession to the Queen of Light.

It looks like the fourth episode will be the one when Iris and Prince (God I wish he had a name) finally meet. I wish these first three episodes had delved a little deeper into who these two characters are besides their very simplified archetypes and shared ideals, but this isn’t that kind of show.

Instead, Iris and Prince are more symbols of hope in the idea that a lasting peace beneficial to all could be struck if they can come together. The stage is now set for that encounter. Will Cima and Adel stand by their friends throughout these efforts, or undermine them, more confident in the strength of their side than with the prospects of balance?

P.S. Here’s the poppy ED. It rips!

Elfen Lied – 10 – The Man Behind the Glass

Kouta and Yuka turn out to be fine; they left the bedroom before Lucy got up to leave. She and Nana prepare to fight, but Mayu comes between them more than once, and very nearly gets killed for trying to be the peacemaker. Mayu’s pleas remind Lucy of Kouta’s in the past, and she reverts to Nyu once more. Thanks to Mayu’s decency and diplomacy, Nana is welcomed to the dinner table.

From there we’re sent back to the past, when Kurama is first recruited out of college by his friend Professor Kazukawa. They managed to capture a young but murderous Diclonius and have commenced horrifically cruel experiments to test the strength of her Vectors. Kurama is initially not okay with this, but Kazukawa impresses on him how dangerous and unable to coexist with humans they are.

Kurama comes around when the Diclonius Three escapes and goes on a bloody rampage, and very nearly kills him before Kazukawa shoots her in the head with an armor-piercing round, killing her. After committing more than ten infanticides Kurama stops seeing them as simply humans with horns and starts seeing them as an enemy and a blight to be wiped out without mercy or humanity.

Poetic justice strikes when his own daughter is born with horns; he later realizes that Three infected him when she touched him with her Vectors. He aims to kill her like all the others, but his wife, not far removed from major surgery, fights for her daughter’s life with all the strength she has left. She ends up dying of blood loss in the nursery, but not before convincing Kurama to spare their child’s life.

Nana may not be Kurama’s daughter, but she was a proxy for the sliver of fatherly love he had left, which enabled him to free her. That hardly makes the horrible things done to Nana that resulted in her ending up a bloody naked mess (and having dreams about “naked crucifixion”) any less horrific. But on one side of him is Kazukawa, whose word is law, and on the other is the truth that Dicloniï seem to inevitably end up uncontrollable murder machines.

Needless to say, he should have never set foot in that god-forsaken facility. It’s sad that just before Shirakawa begins to unleash Kurama’s biological daughter, Number 35—the “most dangerous” Diclonius, sporting twenty-six visible Vectors—Nyu and Nana are happy as clams with Kouta, Yuka, and Mayu. (A bit of trivia: Akira was designated Number 28, so 35 is seven higher.)

I can’t imagine we’re headed for anything resembling a happy ending here, so I’ll take the happy, peaceful moments in this and future episodes where I can get them.

Elfen Lied – 09 – Unusual Animals

Since Lucy has only interacted with hateful bullies and traitorous two-faces, it stands to reason she’d have a problem with any other human who suddenly approaches her. But Kouta brings an olive branch in the form of a music box playing a pretty (but sad) tune and an offer of friendship, no strings attached. The appallingly lonely Lucy may not completely trust him, but can’t turn him down either.

For a few blissful days, Lucy gets to spend time with Kouta as an ordinary kid…in between squatting in houses whose occupants she murders. Kouta proves to be a man of his word when it comes to showing up. He thinks her horns are cool, but when he senses she doesn’t feel the same, he offers a hat to hide them on an extended date that starts with a visit to the zoo, where Lucy is delighted by the elephants and giraffes.

The pair end up cooling off in a pond, but Kouta instigates a splash battle that results in both having to strip down so their clothes can dry in the sun. This whole day is the last Lucy will get—Kouta is leaving the next day, after attending a festival with the family he was visiting. She tells Kouta it’s the most fun day she’s ever had, and while he’s sure she’s exaggerating, it’s heartbreaking that she’s not.

At points throughout the date, Lucy hears people chattering about the murders going on, and descends into her head where bandaged “clones” of her feed her negativity. When Lucy fears the cousin Kouta promised to go to the festival with is a girl, those voices intensify, and all of a sudden she’s choking Kouta on the bus. But Kouta is so guileless he shakes it off. The two end up humming the music box song as they watch the sun set, then part ways amicably.

That is, after Kouta tells her that his cousin is a boy, which is a lie. Lucy discovers this because she goes to the festival and spots Kouta with Yuka. A crowd forms around her, watching her, commenting on her, and the voices inside draw closer and become more determined to drive her to the dark side permanently…and she kills all of the people around her.

Kouta doesn’t witness it, but a little girl—perhaps his sister?—did, and described the killer. Lucy glares at Kouta and the girl from a rooftop, betrayed by his lie. A white lie he told to spare her feelings, but a lie all the same. Which makes him just like every other human she’s interacted with.

Back in the present, Lucy comes to, her memory restored. And who should be standing over her but Kouta the liar and his pretty girl cousin. Then we cut back to Mayu and Nana outside the house, where Lucy appears and leaves the premises. It’s ambiguous whether she killed Kouta and Nana inside, though the preview shows them alive and well, so more likely than not she simply left without harming them.

A Lucy this hardened by the years between her encounters with Kouta surely wouldn’t soften her stance on his status as just another liar in her life; someone momentarily interested in an “unusual animal” like her. Her inner voices—and Director Kazukawa—may be right in calling her next level of human evolution, and that her kind is predisposed to wiping out their inferior predecessors.

But what if Lucy is only the way she is because she was always around the wrong humans? If she had had someone kind like Kouta in her life the whole time, maybe things could have been different…

Elfen Lied – 08 – Doing Nothing Wrong

Nana’s visit to Kouta’s house is brief, as no one takes her side when she says Nyu is the bad person (referring to Lucy). Mayu takes her duties as new friend seriously by chasing Nana down.

As Nana describes someone Mayu has never seen (the violent Lucy), she admits that it’s strange that she can’t sense “Nyu”, and that it doesn’t feel right trying to kill someone who won’t fight back.

Even after Nana leaves and Nyu comes to, she’s running a high fever that concerns Kouta and Yuka, and wakes up as Lucy. Being cared for in bed reminds her of another time she had a fever, when she was at the orphanage as a child.

While there, Lucy was relentlessly bullied by boys while a girl was always a little too late to stop them, and her only friend was a puppy. She tells the girl about the puppy, and she leaks the info to the boys. You can guess what happened next.

Lucy never wanted to hurt anyone. She was a kind soul who shared her food with a weaker animal. But people around her—supposedly “normal” humans—kept pushing and pushing until she simply couldn’t control herself anymore, and killed them.

After that incident, while burying the puppy the bullies killed for no reason other than to try to make her less happy than they were (mission accomplished), she meets a young boy…named Kouta.

To be continued…

Shironeko Project: ZERO CHRONICLE – 02 – Marking Time

As befits a show shows central message is balance, this episode is evenly split between White and Black. First the White: elemental spirit-summoning Elf mage Alantia leads the defense of Metis against a Bahamut-style dark boss named Bahl. Queen Iris eventually shows up and puts on quite a light show, but isn’t really able to put a scratch on Bahl, which is concerning to say the least. She’s worried the Progenitor Rune is being taxed to its limit, and her kingdom can’t afford to lose it.

The would-be Prince of Darkness’s story is progressing at a much faster clip. This makes sense, as Iris is already Queen of Light so he has some catching up to do. Still, the difference in the pacing of the light and dark halves is noticeable…and not necessarily complementary. Valas impresses upon the young prince that becoming king is about more than just being good with a sword. It means learning how to govern and pitching in when needed (as presented in a montaaaage).

This “king of the people” angle is seemingly at odds with the present King of Darkness, who is little more than a smoke monster with a Sauron-like “cover everything in darkness” policy. He considers future generations like the prince to be unnecessary. Where “Egoism of the world” Bahl fits into this isn’t quite clear yet.

One assumes from the OP and ED that the prince and queen will meet someday, but for now, the prince settles for meeting Princess of Black Groza, AKA the “Gray-Green Demoness.” She’s a bit spoiled what with her squad of loyal troops, but when the Prince rescues her from a stray monster, she proves quite amiable to the lad, and tells him of the official competition with other potential successors in which he must participate in order to become an official Prince of Darkness.

After two episodes Shironeko Project: ZERO CHRONICLE remains perfectly watchable, if unexceptional and a bit sluggish. I continue to be driven to watch by the simple premise, Iwasaki Taku score, and promise of the eventual meeting of Iris and the Prince. Mainly I’m neither turned-off nor busy enough to drop it!

Elfen Lied – 07 – Let’s Be Friends

It’s fitting that the seventh episode of Elfen Lied is all about #7, or Nana, back from the (near-)dead. Shichi is another way to say seven in Japanese, but because shi means “death”, nana is more commonly used. In western culture seven is considered lucky, yet Nana is unfortunate enough to immediately cross paths with Bando on the beach.

He has a few new anti-Diclonius tactics—social distancing(!) and harder bullets—but his new arm crumbles from his gun’s recoil, and their duel ends in a stalemate. When he learns they both consider Lucy an enemy, he tries to give her his number (the same one he wrote for Mayu) but she doesn’t know what a “number” is, so he gives up.

Mayu doesn’t know much of anything about the outside world, but she is hungry. She watches people exchange coins for crepes, but doesn’t realize the stacks of paper in her bag are hundreds of thousands of yen. It’s another scene that comments on the dearth of general kindness and empathy in this society, as the crepe guy tells her to buzz off and the other women comment on her clothes. No one asks if she’s okay.

Even if Dicloniï didn’t possess the potential for lethal mayhem, they’d be ostracized simply for looking different. Nana understands this is not her world and never will be, so she considers destroying it and making a new one where she does belong. But for the time being, that’s beyond her abilities, and she could settle for a meal.

Nana isn’t done with chance encounters, as #2 involves Wanta leading Mayu to the spot where Nana and Nyu fought, and finding Nana there, warming herself by a fire made from the money. Most people in this town might be assholes, but Mayu certainly isn’t, and has very recently been in Nana’s shoes: nowhere to go and unsure what to do.

Mayu notes that at least someone (Nana’s “dad”) cared enough about her. They agree to become friends, and Mayu notes how Nana and Nyu both have horns. That makes it the second episode in a row where Mayu has told someone something she couldn’t that puts Kouta, and Yuka in danger…not to mention herself.

Sure enough Mayu invites Nana to her house, where Nana has her third change encounter of the day: one with her self-appointed nemesis. Notably, she cannot sense Nyu’s presence the way she can sense Lucy’s; her personality shift to Nyu apparently has the effect of nullifying her Diclonius signature.

The second she spots Nyu, Nana goes into attack mode, shocking Kouta and Mayu. Will Mayu’s hastily forged friendship with Nana be enough to calm her? Will Lucy wake up and just make things worse? Whatever the case, it looks like it’s going to be another long night for everyone.

Elfen Lied – 06 – Debts Paid and Unpaid

Kouta and Kakuzawa’s assistant Arakawa find the professor’s body (and head) in the basement. Arakawa isn’t particularly devastated by the sight of her lover beheaded, but perhaps she’s in shock. Not to mention she has no idea why he has horns like a Diclonius. A shaken Kouta returns home, but in the middle of talking with Yuka a switch seemingly flips in his head. He suddenly can’t remember what he was saying, and goes to bed.

Out on the street and still lucid, Lucy reaches into the head of a passing girl, either wiping her memory of seeing her…or killing her. The next day, Yuka insists on accompanying Kouta as he continues his search. The two end up taking shelter at a shrine, revealing their feelings for each other, and kissing. In a show with so much violence and cruelty, a tender scene like this is welcome, and Noto Mamiko’s voice emanates kindness and gentleness.

While walking to school, Mayu spots Bando on the beach, and makes the terrible mistake of approaching him. Mayu can’t help it; she was worried about the guy and is glad to see he’s alright, because she’s a good girl. To repay his debt, Bando gives her his number for her to call if she needs help. Ironically, when he learns she knows about Lucy, Mayu has to use that call immediately…on him. His honor forces him to let her go, but his toxic masculinity put her in that situation in the first place.

The rain stops, and Yuka’s lovey-dovey-ness turns to embarrassment, and then jealousy when she and Kouta encounter Lucy. They’re shocked to hear her form complete sentences, but when Kouta insists they return to his house, she tells him she doesn’t deserve his charity. She mentions something from the past that triggers a memory in Kouta’s head. Lucy herself remembers her and Kouta playing in the ocean as youths, before reverting to Nyu and cuddling with him.

I wonder if Kouta will continue to remember those repressed memories involving Lucy, and how he’ll respond to them. He’s thrown caution to the wind regarding “Nyu” to this point because he thought they had no prior connection. What if she killed his sister Kaede?

In the meantime, Kurama couldn’t kill Nana. We learn he’d already killed his birth daughter in the past (presumably for having horns) and lost his wife to suicide shortly thereafter. But if he wanted Nana to survive, you’d think he wouldn’t have left her on that god-forsaken beach, where Bando (who apparently lives there) can immediately find her. I’d have shipped her to the other side of the country, if not continent…